All Fun and Ghosts
When a family wanted to do something together or two young lovers wanted to go on a date, they usually would pick one of three choices: go to the movies, take a road trip, or eat out at a nice restaurant.
The theaters were always showing something good and people kept silent while the movies were playing, out of respect for everyone else watching the same movie they were—and also because it was a rule to keep quiet in the theater when the movie started. However, there were some movies which weren't appealing to everybody, which was why people went to the theaters once in awhile as long as there was a particular movie they wanted to see. Plus the theaters could get really crowded when some movie with high stars was playing, making it tough to navigate through large crowds. Getting separated from one other was easy in a crowd, but that wasn't too bad if they knew who else was with them and where to meet up if they split up.
A road trip was a nice way for families and couples to grow closer to one another and they could pay a visit to some of the most breathtaking views of the landscape that the country offered them. Unfortunately, there was the risk of getting lost on the way to the planned destination or the ride back home, and people only took as much money as they thought they needed. Once that money was used up, people had to sleep in their cars when they couldn't pay for a room at a hotel or a motel. Furthermore, they would soon run out of gas and had to scavenge for food because they ate everything they had and spent all their money.
Restaurants were a much more favorable option since people could go to one more frequently than taking a road trip or heading to the movie theaters. The food at restaurants always tasted so good and it wasn't too expensive depending on how much was ordered. Not only that, but it was unlikely one could get ill from food poisoning as the food was constantly being checked for any bacteria or viruses that made people sick. On some occasions when somebody didn't have enough money to pay for the food, that individual would have to work in the kitchen for about a day until the debt was cleared. The benefits really far outweighed the risks.
Still, despite all the downsides of each option, they were all still good decisions to choose from.
But what if there was a less advertised choice? One which brought together some of the benefits of each option?
That's what carnivals were for. The attractions at a carnival were definitely a sight to see and anyone could partake in all the games there. There were small tents large enough to fit around twenty people or so for a movie or two being shown—or perhaps a magic show, or maybe even an hour of storytelling. Food was available at concession stands throughout the carnival which offered more than just the standard selection on the menus in restaurants.
The only problem was getting separated from the others at a carnival, just like at a movie theater, but this was usually remedied by having a rendezvous point where everyone could meet up at a certain time. Of course, people would sometimes split up into groups on purpose so they see all the attractions they liked without going to ones they didn't want to head towards.
It was here at the carnival where the adorable Asmodeus of the seven Stakes of Purgatory was enjoying a nice cone of cotton candy as she walked past several booths that were set up for games such as the toy shooting range, the dart toss, and fishing for plastic fish—when there was obviously a booth for catching live fish to keep as pets, though this booth offered stuffed animals as prizes instead of real animals.
As she munched on her cotton candy, Asmodeus wondered how all her sisters were doing. They must've been having as much fun as she was while they were off on their own at attractions that, well, attracted their attention. Last she saw of her four oldest sisters, Lucifer and Belphegor had gone over to check out some paintings that were being sold in one of the booths while Leviathan and Satan went to see the monster truck rally and demolition derby.
That had left her with Ange and her other two sisters, Mammon and Beelzebub, but the four of them had split up into two groups at an attraction known as the haunted house. Mammon and Beelzebub made a bet to see which of them could get scared first and the one who did had to pay for the food they'd eat later—which they would compete to see who could be able to eat the most. They did invite Ange and Asmodeus to go in the haunted house and participate in their little competition with them, but…
Well, due to a 'certain incident' that happened a few months ago in October on the night before Halloween, Ange and Asmodeus adamantly refused their offer and ran away before the two competitive Stakes could drag them into the haunted house.
It was most likely a good thing that Mammon and Beelzebub didn't immediately chase them down, though they could've been shadowing them all over the carnival, waiting for the right opportunity to grab them and take them through an attraction they didn't want to go in. Then again, it probably had been a bad idea to just run away for that very reason.
Furthermore, Ange and Asmodeus didn't want to take the chance that they might actually encounter something real in the haunted house, like say a vampire, a werewolf, or—worst of all—a ghost. Even though it would've been a good time for them to face their shared fear—well, it was more of a phobia, really—they weren't willing to do so, even if it wasn't a real haunted house like the one they spent the night in the night before Halloween three months ago.
In any case, now that they had split up from the competitive Stakes, Ange and Asmodeus could have some time to check out some of the other attractions and grow closer together as they continued to strengthen their sisterly bond. Their bond had already gotten strong enough to the point where Ange wanted Asmodeus to move into her room so they could share a bedroom. There were a lot of benefits to be gained from that, such as sleeping in Ange's bed with her so the two of them could snuggle together.
The only thing left to do in their relationship was for Ange to adopt Asmodeus into the Ushiromiya family so that they could become actual sisters and be with each other forever. Ange had already gotten strong enough with her magic to regain her witch form which would allow for her to remain with the Stakes of Purgatory—specifically Asmodeus—even after her human form died, plus the Stakes made her an honorary sister because of her sisterly bond with their youngest sister. That meant that Ange was now considered to be a Stake of Purgatory herself, even though she couldn't turn into a Stake like they could.
As she was walking through the dense crowds, savoring the cone of cotton candy Ange bought for her from one of the vendors, Asmodeus opened her eyes and looked up at all the rides in front of her. They were all so tall, and huge, and big as they towered over the lines of people waiting to get on each one.
Even though it was already late into the night—about nine o' clock for that matter—and the carnival would be over at ten, Asmodeus wanted to go on as many of the rides as she could possibly get on in a little over an hour. As long as the lines weren't long, she could go on quite a good number of them in that amount of time. Though she didn't want to go on them by herself; she wanted Ange to be at her side, sitting next to her on every ride they had time for.
"Hey, Ange, can we—"
But when Asmodeus turned to her right talk to Ange, she was surprised to find that the witch was no longer next to her.
How could that be? They were walking side by side throughout the carnival with their arms tightly linked together. They shouldn't have gotten separated that easily.
"Ange? Ange?!" Asmodeus called out as she began to get scared. "Ange, where are you?!"
It was no use; Ange was nowhere to be found among the crowd of people around her.
If there was to be any hope finding her, Asmodeus would have to look for her. A good place to start was the vender where they had purchased their cotton candy and go from there.
On her way back there, Asmodeus suddenly dropped the remaining bit of her cotton candy after she had stumbled when a few guys accidently jostled her. Regaining her balance, she looked back to see if those guys had noticed they almost made her fall, but turned away seeing as they hadn't.
It was to be expected when trying to walk through a crowded place like the carnival, even if it was somewhat surprising, but she shouldn't let something like that get in her way. Plus she was getting a little full since she ate quite a big meal with Ange at one of the concession stands, so it didn't matter too much that her cotton candy had fallen to the ground—besides, there hadn't been much of it left anyway.
She had to find Ange before she got hopelessly lost, so Asmodeus weaved her way through the crowd in search of the vendor.
"Ange!" she kept calling, "Ange, where are you?!"
Oh, where was that vendor they were at not even ten minutes ago? Wasn't he by the booth where all those books were? He was there, wasn't he? Or was he near the petting zoo, or the pony rides for the children?
It didn't take long for the realization to set as if it was making itself at home in her mind, but once it did, Asmodeus became really scared and started to panic a little.
She was lost, lost amidst a crowd of strangers she didn't know, and Ange was still nowhere to be seen. Where was she?
Had she somehow gotten kidnapped?
Asmodeus shook her head, desperately trying to keep herself from crying in the middle of the crowd surrounding her. If she started wailing like a little lost child, she'd attract attention from everyone nearby; although, she might also reunite with Ange that way if the witch investigated the source of the crying and found it was coming from Asmodeus. However, the only drawback to this was that she might attract unwanted attention to her, and even Ange, by sobbing. If they both wound up getting hurt, she'd be to blame for it.
So Asmodeus took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and started walking forward, heading in the direction she was sure the cotton candy vendor was in…
"Hey, did you hear that tonight is the anniversary?"
"The anniversary of what?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"Yeah, how could you not know about that candle shop by my house?"
"Oh, that place. Yeah, I know it. So tonight's its anniversary, huh?"
…before she opened her eyes upon hearing a conversation going on over by a nearby concession stand.
"Yep, it certainly is. Why, you want to celebrate, or something?"
Turning her head in the direction she heard their voices come from, Asmodeus peered through a small group of people walking by and noticed a few girls hanging out by the fortune teller's booth. It appeared they were talking about some shop's anniversary or something like that, if she had heard them clearly over the voices of all the other people around her.
Pausing for a moment to think about whether or not she should've asked them if they saw Ange, Asmodeus closed her eyes and shrugged as a small smile spread across her face. It didn't seem like a bad idea and those girls looked friendly enough, plus she could ask them what they were talking about and see if she and Ange could join them, so why not?
"Celebrate what? The anniversary?"
"How are we going to celebrate it? Throw a party or run around and let the whole world know about it?"
"No and no. I was thinking more along the lines of—"
"Excuse me?" Asmodeus politely asked, making sure to bow before them as a gesture of respect.
The three girls turned to face her.
"U-Um, sorry for interrupting you," Asmodeus apologized sheepishly, "but I was just looking for someone. Have you seen—"
"Well if you're looking for someone, I'd say you should just give up." One of the girls, a brunette with short hair, retorted rudely, smiling mischievously as she crossed her arms.
"Yeah, I bet whoever this person is left because he or she didn't want to hang out with someone wearing an outfit like that." Another girl, this one a blond with her hair done up in a ponytail, rudely stated while pointing at Asmodeus' clothes.
"Wh-Wha…" Asmodeus' mouth hung open as she took a step back and flinched. "What's up with my outfit? There's nothing wrong with it."
"Oh, yes there is," the girl with long blue hair stepped closer to Asmodeus and got right in her face. "Your clothes are just like what those girls who work for Angel Mort wear when they're serving food, though I've never seen a girl like you giving your uniform a more 'professional businesswoman' look, before."
Asmodeus could understand the reference this girl had made about her outfit because Amakusa once spoke of the restaurant, Angel Mort, while driving them to a New Year's party at Okonogi's just a few weeks ago. He had mentioned the uniforms as but a passing remark only once, not returning to the topic because Lucifer—and possibly one or two of the other older Stakes too—was very furious with how he had casually compared their uniforms to the ones the waitresses wore at Angel Mort.
But what Asmodeus couldn't get was why these girls were being mean to her because of her uniform. It wasn't like she had stolen the idea for the outfit in the first place; it was clearly Beatrice's idea, though she had been inspired by the waitresses' outfits. Lambdadelta had granted her permission to use it for Asmodeus and her sisters when she asked her—with a bribe of candy—as long as the top half of the uniform and the shoes were changed to something else so that the Stakes could be a little unique in their appearance.
"What I wear doesn't give you the right to be mean to me!" Asmodeus raised her voice, her eyes starting to get really watery. "I just came over to ask if you had seen a close friend of mine! The very least you could is point me in the right direction!"
"And what direction would that be in?" the blond inquired, "A major corporation so you can suck up to your boss by doing him 'favors'?"
"N-No, that's not—" Asmodeus tried to speak, but the brunette cut her off.
"Of course it's true, duh. That's why you're wearing such a disgusting uniform."
"Just admit it," the blue haired girl said while tugging on the white fabric at the bottom of Asmodeus' swimsuit-like outfit. "You're nothing but a young, corporate—"
"No I'm not!" Asmodeus cried, pushing the blue haired girl away from her, "I'll have you know that's not what love is! You don't even have a clue what love really is!"
Breathing heavily, Asmodeus now knew what it was like to feel extremely angry at someone for mocking her. That was why Satan got mad at all of her sisters for teasing her, even to the point where she actually made attempts to kill them, though Ange wouldn't allow that. Once she told the Stake of Wrath that if she ever harmed her sisters, she'd be kicked out of the house for good. The threat definitely worked, as did the therapy sessions Ange signed her up for to help her manage her anger.
Now that Asmodeus was being bullied by these girls over her uniform, she could understand how Satan felt those times when she was teased. Maybe her older sister's rage could serve as an influence for her so she could defend herself; it would be the first time the Stake of Wrath's anger was useful, and Asmodeus could perhaps tell her all about her encounter with these bullies. She could even tell Ange how she stood up for herself against them since she knew the witch despised bullies because she had suffered the same fate at St Lucia's.
"Is that so?" The blue haired girl sneered cruelly. "Then why don't you enlighten us. Go on, tell us your pitiful definition of love and we'll see if it's valid or not."
"After we punish you, of course," the brunette stepped forward, cracking her knuckles.
Asmodeus didn't like where this was going. Taking a step back, she swallowed a lump in her throat as she realized that she was outnumbered and couldn't materialize her blade or turn into her Stake form because of all the people around. Each individual had varying levels of anti-magic toxin flowing through them, but these three girls combined possessed an enormous quantity of it that it was difficult for the young Stake to tell how high it was. Her sisters might know if they were here, but as she was all alone, all by herself without Ange or any of her sisters for backup, Asmodeus felt like she had been abandoned to go up against something she couldn't handle. There was no way she could overcome this on her own.
Even so, she still had to be as brave as she could and not show others how scared she was. If her sisters were here seeing her admitting to a humiliating defeat, they'd all tease her and laugh about how utterly weak and pathetic she was. As the youngest of the Stakes of Purgatory, Asmodeus had to show her sisters that she was equally strong as they were—just as strong wasn't enough since they would still treat her like a baby, which was sort of expected because she technically was the baby sister.
She to teach these girls a lesson in being nice to others and not bully them because of trivial subjects—like her outfit, to name an example.
Though that would be difficult, given how the odds weren't in her favor. It was three to one in an environment inhibiting her magical abilities, so Asmodeus would ultimately lose unless someone stepped in to help her.
Trying to keep her cool just like Ange, Asmodeus opened her mouth to speak, but her voice was almost a whisper and she stuttered her words. "P-Punish m-me…?"
"Yes…" the blond came closer too and crossed her arms, smiling maliciously "You pushed our friend. We can't let you get away with that."
"B-But she was—" Asmodeus tried to argue, but was cut off by the blue haired girl—possibly as a way of getting back for Asmodeus cutting her off a couple minutes ago.
"Oh, please, I was just pointing out one of the rather obvious flaws with your uniform; a flaw that proves exactly what you are."
As the three girls moved to surround her, Asmodeus took a few more steps back while she started to tremble and turn pale with fright. Her confidence having been whittled away till none of it was left, all she could was cry out and hope that somebody would come to her rescue.
So, without further ado…
Asmodeus screamed just as the girls were closing in on her and…
…stopped just as another girl, this one with familiar red hair, ran in from behind the quivering Stake and grabbed her, pulling her close as she embraced her in a hug.
"Ange!" Asmodeus cried, looking up at her big sister through tear-filled eyes.
"Asmo, are you alright?" Ange inquired worriedly, gravely concerned that something really bad happened when she and Asmodeus had gotten separated. "I've been looking all over for you. I was so worried."
"Ange, I-I…" Asmodeus tried to talk, but her voice trailed away and died off as she clung to Ange for protection. Sniveling, the poor girl hid her face against the other girl's chest, trembling in fear.
Ange closed her eyes and rested her head atop Asmodeus' head, rubbing the frightened Stake's back in an attempt to soothe her nerves and calm her down. "Shhh…its okay, Asmo. I'm here now; everything's going to be alright."
"Aww, how touching," the blond said sarcastically, mocking Ange and Asmodeus by pretending to cry.
Ange opened her eyes and turned to the three girls, glaring at them as she got really angry. "What did you do to my little sister?" She growled furiously, hugging the Stake of Lust closer to her while the latter looked at the girls.
"Absolutely nothing," the blue haired girl replied in a sarcastic tone just like the blond, holding her hands up defensively while taking a step back. "We didn't do a thing to your precious 'little sister'."
"I'm finding that very hard to believe, seeing as how the three of you were ganging up on her just now," Ange said curtly, staring at the girls unblinkingly as if her stony gaze could petrify them, like when someone so much as caught a glimpse of Medusa.
"So you'd rather believe some pipsqueak in a ridiculous outfit over three perfectly sane people who are wearing clothes that are actually decent instead of indecent like hers?" The brunette challenged, leaning in close so that her face was just several inches apart from Ange's if she was standing on tiptoes.
"What she wears is of no importance to me. What matters is how long I've known her, and since I've only met you three just now, I'm taking her side over yours," Ange countered, "Especially after those rude comments you just made about her."
"But she has no proof whatsoever," the blond blew off Ange's remark like it was nothing.
"Yeah, if she has no evidence to support her claims—oops, wait a minute; she didn't say anything against us—then you shouldn't believe her," the brunette stated, head up high with her eyes closed as she crossed her arms.
"You're just wasting your time with her," the blue haired girl stated coldly.
By this point Ange was fed up with these bullies. They were just arguing in an attempt to prove they were right and Asmodeus was wrong, but that would end right here and now.
"You're right, I am wasting my time—but not on her. Rather, I've grown tired of conversing with the three of you as I'm just talking to a few brick walls three brains short," Ange retorted as she let go of Asmodeus and took her hand in hers. "Come on, Asmodeus, let's go find something to do."
As the two of them walked from the bullies, Asmodeus looked up at Ange and smiled. "Thank you for standing up for me, Ange."
"It's no problem, Asmo," Ange looked at the young Stake and smiled back at her. "It's a big sister's duty to protect her little sister."
Asmodeus giggled, moving her other arm closer so she could cling to Ange's arm. "I love you Ange."
"I love you too, Asmo," Ange said while letting go of the Stake's hand to hug her.
"Hold it right there, you!"
Ange and Asmodeus turned around to see the three girls they were just arguing with standing right behind them, looking really pissed off. Perhaps they were mad that they were just told off or because they weren't finished with them yet—probably a combination of both.
"You've got some nerve blowing us off like that!" The brunette yelled, bawling her hands into fists and placing them on her hips while she leaned forward.
"Yeah, we weren't done with you yet!" The blue haired girl shouted as she crossed her arms. "You think we're just going to let you walk away like that?!"
Yep, it certainly was both.
"Oh, you're all still here?" Ange inquired dispassionately, rolling her eyes and sighing in exasperation and maybe a little frustration too. "Look, just leave us alone so we can enjoy the carnival. We don't need you spoiling it for us, so go away."
"Yeah," Asmodeus chipped in, agreeing with her big sister, "we want to have fun! If you're going to keep us from that, then we'll…we'll…um…" Putting her finger against her chin, she tipped her head up to think of something Ange would say in a situation like this. "We'll call security!" She finally spoke up as an idea came to her.
"You're going to call security on us?" The blond taunted. "Big words for a couple of cowards like you."
"That's right," her blue haired friend added. "You think a big old security guard will come to your aid? Hah, just look around you; there aren't any security guards here."
"We could say the same for you," Ange stated as-a-matter-of-factly, to which the brunette sneered at her in response.
"And what's that supposed to mean, huh?"
Raising her hand up, Ange closed most of her fingers, save for the index finger, and pointed to something behind the girls. As the three of them turned around to find out what one of their victims was gesturing towards, their complexion turned pale at the sight of four security guards hanging around a hot dog stand just several feet away.
"Now who are the cowards?" Ange mocked with a small smirk. The tables being turned around in their favor was enough to make her and Asmodeus chuckle with satisfaction, but she didn't stop there. "If I were you, I'd back off now and go away; if you don't leave in the next five seconds, we'll scream for the guards to come and boot you from the carnival."
"Yeah," Asmodeus chimed in, "don't count the seconds away before time's up."
"Okay, okay, you've made your point," the blond admitted, disgusted with the fact she and her friends had been outsmarted.
"Good," Ange nodded, placing her free hand on her hip. "Now walk away; leave us alone."
"And don't come back!" Asmodeus chirped with a wide smile on her face.
"Fine, we'll go," the brunette said as she and the blond backed off and started to walk away, though that was until their blue haired friend grabbed their shoulders to prevent them from leaving.
"Where the hell are you going?" She asked fiercely, lowering the volume of her voice so the nearby guards wouldn't hear her. "Don't give up just yet."
"But we've already lost," the brunette quietly whined. "We can't afford to go against them when security is practically right next to us."
"We'll get kicked out after they report us to our parents and we'll be in so much trouble that we won't be able to attend the dance at our school this year," the blond protested. "Besides, my mom is taking me to that new department store tomorrow and I really want to go there."
"So you're both scared of being thrown out over the chance to make them pay for their behavior towards us?" The blue haired girl, apparently their leader, scoffed while her two lackeys freed themselves from her grip.
"Hey, don't blame us!" Asmodeus raised her voice as she spoke. "You started this whole thing to begin with!"
"Indeed," Ange wrapped her arms around Asmodeus to embrace her in another hug, "so stop wasting your efforts and go the hell away, now." Now she really had it; this blue haired girl was seriously persistent to get her way, and her determination was really starting to piss Ange off.
The blond and the brunette both looked back at them before going off without a final word, leaving the remaining remnant of their little trio to fend for herself.
Stomping her foot against the ground in anger, she whirled around to face Ange and Asmodeus, her long locks of blue hair whipping around her head so fast they might've ended up in someone's mouth if that person was close enough. "You think this is over? Well here's a newsflash for you: it's far from over. How dare you threaten my friends like that?"
"Buzz off," Ange responded unemotionally, raising her hand to gesture for the girl to leave. "The only reason why we hadn't called security yet was because your friends made the right choice so they wouldn't get in trouble."
"And here's a newsflash for you:" Asmodeus scowled, pointing her finger at the bully, "those security guards are still eating over there, and we can yell for them any moment now, so I think it's best if you tuck your tail between your legs and beat it."
"So what'll it be?" Ange asked, narrowing her gaze even more than it already was. "Leave on your own, or have your ass hauled away by security?"
"You'd better think fast," Asmodeus added.
The blue haired girl hunched over slightly and growled, disbelieving that these two girls were making a fool out of her, but then her eyes widened just as she stood up when an idea came to her. Narrowing her eyes, she smiled mischievously and snickered, looking like the sort of antagonist who stood waiting in the shadows behind the main villain. "Alright," her voice was calm and level as she spoke, "I'll freely go and let you both enjoy the rest of your time here."
Ange and Asmodeus both eyed the girl cautiously. The Stake of Lust began to feel nervous, not liking the bully's strange change in behavior, so she wrapped her arms around her big sister for comfort. The witch on the hand was more reserved in her reaction, trying to discern whatever the girl was planning. Wanting to protect her little sister, she embraced Asmodeus in a tight hug to hold her close so she could feel safe.
"What's the catch?" Ange asked suspiciously, wanting to find out what the girl had in store for her and Asmodeus. She could tell that this girl had something in mind as her sinister facial expression and the tone of voice she used clearly indicated that she had an unpleasant idea just waiting to be unleashed from its prison. It was so obvious that even someone who wasn't a detective could figure it out.
If the girl had added "on one condition" after pausing after she said she'd leave, then they could get right to the point and stop beating around the bush. As she hadn't, Ange and Asmodeus had every right to be a tad paranoid.
They could've called the guards right then and there to take the girl away…but for some odd reason, they hesitated. Why weren't they able to just open their mouths and scream to let security know they were having a problem? It was so easy; they shouldn't have been so uncertain like this.
Ange and Asmodeus weren't going to admit—at least not directly to this girl—that they were actually afraid of her, considering how creepy she was being right now. Asmodeus was already trembling a little, and Ange, despite her attempts at maintaining an aloof appearance, couldn't help but feel really scared deep down.
"Ah, very perceptive…" the girl nodded, noting that she was probably getting closer to their weak spot, though it was a gamble on her part. She was placing everything on this one bet; one wrong move and they'd shout for the guards. Although, her demeanor probably was what made them so nervously tense, but she just threw on the 'creepy girl' persona because that was essentially the nature of her idea. "Straight to the point…I like that."
"Just tell us what you want, already, and stop scaring my little sister," Ange demanded, feeling her fingers start to tremble. "You've got until the count of three to spill the damn beans or else I'll—"
"Yeah, yeah, you're gonna tell security on me, I get it already," The girl lightened up a tad bit, holding her hands up defensively, but she immediately returned to being creepy a moment later. "Jeez, you're so quick to finish what had begun when it's not even over. Ah…I'll leave you alone on one condition."
"Thanks, that really had to be pointed out," Ange said sarcastically.
"One…" Asmodeus held up one finger.
"You're welcome," The girl chuckled.
"Two…" Ange held up two fingers.
"Hold your horses, I'm getting there," the girl calmly stated.
"Two and a half…" Asmodeus held up two fingers and made sure to partially open a third.
The girl just continued to smile creepily as she crossed her arms.
"Two and three quarters…" Ange raised two full fingers and partially raised the third just a bit higher than Asmodeus' third finger—a little higher and it would've already made it to three.
"Go to the bridge over in the woods back there."
Ange and Asmodeus looked at the bully in surprise. "That's it?" The former of the two inquired in disbelief.
"Not quite, you see; there's a bit more to it than that," the girl kept one arm crossed, but raised the other with the palm of her hand face-up. "You have to cross the bridge and then come back over it."
Ange and Asmodeus looked at each other in confusion.
"Okay…" the Stake of Lust said, her voice a mix between nervousness and bafflement as she and the witch looked back at the girl. "And why must we do that?"
The girl exhaled a breath of air, sighing softly as she tipped her head down and closed her eyes. "You mean you don't know?" she asked, "About the murder that took place there years ago?"
Ange and Asmodeus shook their heads. "No, we haven't," the witch answered.
The girl stepped closer to them. "Once upon a time during the sixties, a sophomore at Tokyo University was walking along the path in those woods. As he was crossing the bridge, he was brutally murdered by a couple of his fellow students who had been hiding nearby. Later, one of them confessed to the killing, but they refused to talk when they were asked where the body was hidden." She opened her eyes. "Know where I'm going with this?"
Taking a step back, Ange and Asmodeus swallowed in unison. "Th-That…his body hasn't been found and is still missing?" The Stake of Lust asked fearfully.
The girl nodded. "Yes, that, and also…it's said that he still walks along the bridge to this very day. Some people who've crossed it on this very night say they've felt a hand on their shoulder, but saw nobody there when they turned around. Others say they've felt it too, but lingered long enough to see a hand on their shoulder. When they turned around again, they saw him standing directly behind them."
"But how is that possible?" Ange asked, now trying her best not to falter. "I mean, this guy's supposed to be dead. There's no way he could be there behind them; he died a long time ago."
"Oh, I'm sure you know," the girl closed her eyes again and chuckled, slowly walking behind the two of them as she snickered. "I believe the word you're looking for is…" Placing her hands on each of their shoulders as a sort of demonstration, she slowly opened her eyes part way.
Tremulously, Ange and Asmodeus turned their heads to face, unable to help themselves from feeling very scared right now. Their trembling started getting out of control, and their complexion was turning slightly pale. They knew exactly what the word was, but both of them were too frightened to say it.
Terrified, Ange and Asmodeus jumped away from the girl, quickly regaining their balance before they fell after having stumbled backwards a few steps
"N-No, th-there's n-no—th-that's i-impossible!" Ange stuttered, no longer able to hold in her fright.
"Oh, but it is," the girl casually went on. "It's quite possible in fact."
"N-No i-it i-isn't!" Asmodeus cried out timidly. "Th-There's n-no s-such th-thing a-as gh-ghosts!"
"Yes there is. Ghosts most certainly do exist. I should know; I read magazines on the paranormal."
"S-So you th-think th-that just b-because you read m-magazines you th-think you know th-they exist?!" Ange tried to regain her composure, but it was too late; she had already lost it and was now desperately trying to prove that she wasn't scared.
"You scared, girl?" The bully sneered, reveling in the pleasure of seeing the two of them cowering like little kittens when confronted by a big, scary dog.
"S-Scared?! N-No, of course not! We're not s-scared, r-right, Asmo?"
"U-Um…r-right…I-I g-guess?" Asmodeus nodded, terrified that she and Ange actually had to go through with this.
"Oh, we'll see about that, won't we?" The girl challenged, pointing over in the direction of the woods. "Just go out the eastern gate and keep going straight; the path is right there. When you come back, meet me and my friends by the northern gate and tell us what it was like meeting the ghost of the bridge."
"F-Fine, you're on!" Ange exclaimed as she took Asmodeus by the hand and led her off to the eastern exit.
"U-Um, Asmodeus?" Ange's voice was shaky as she and the young Stake now stood before the very bridge they were told to cross. "D-Do you th-think we sh-should've just called s-security in th-the first place?"
After they had left through the carnival's eastern gate, stopping by the ticket booth there to let the attendant know where they were going and that they'd would be back soon, the two of them walked halfway to the woods. By then they were already having second thoughts, but Ange timidly insisted they go on, lest the girl and her friends were watching them from behind.
Once at the entrance to the rather foreboding trees on either side of the path, Ange and Asmodeus turned to look at each other, then, swallowing heavily, they both took their first few steps into the woods just as a thick fog began to blanket the woods.
It had been an extremely nerve racking journey as they jumped in fright whenever they heard twigs and branches snap far off the beaten path and leaves crunch underneath the footfalls of something lurking in the shadows. Without a flashlight to guide them forward, or to even investigate what kept making those sounds, they had ever right to be completely terrified out of their minds.
The only way they could actually see the path in front of them was by the ever waning moonlight cast down upon the darkened ground, but with the trees so full of leaves and the fog shrouding the way from view, it was getting harder and harder to look where the path turned and zigzagged. So far the two of them had come quite far without getting lost, thanks to the small patches of light that were bright enough to be seen even through the fog, shimmering down through small openings between the branches up high every now and then.
Half an hour later they reached the bridge where the unfortunate college student from Tokyo University met his grisly end at the hands of his peers a couple decades ago. Thinking about what it had been like on their way over here, Ange and Asmodeus thought that it was going to be one of those short bridges that were only a little over several feet long. Although that did help ease their frayed nerves at first, they both weren't so sure anymore now that they actually arrived—or at the very least, as confident as they had been before coming here.
Truthfully, the bridge in question was very long, spanning well over nine yards on estimate. There were wooden railings on each side with bars four feet long connecting them to the floor and all eight wooden beams which held up a massive roof covering the entire bridge, slanting down both ways so anything that fell from the trees above rolled down to the dark river below. And just to put the cherry one top, the bridge was already in a decrepit state and slowly rotting away to the point where wooden planks were missing from the floor and the ceiling.
"Yes, th-that, w-would've been a good i-idea." Asmodeus nodded, clinging to Ange's arm as the witch clung to her. Looking up at her big sister, she swallowed heavily before speaking again. "U-Um, d-did we really have t-to come here, Ange?"
"N-No, n-not at all," Ange whispered, fearful of being overheard by anything that could've been hidden within the trees or underwater. "O-Oh, damn my hatred of bullies. I-If only we had just called for the guards, then we w-wouldn't have t-to come here t-to prove gh-ghosts d-didn't exist. I-I'm s-so s-sorry I-I got us into th-this mess, Asmo."
"I-It's a-alright, Ange;" Asmodeus forced herself to smile awkwardly despite the terror which ensnared her heart, "I-I'm s-sure we'll be f-fine as long as we're t-together, r-right?"
Seeing Asmodeus try her best to be brave, Ange did the same to try and convince herself that the bridge wasn't haunted—not all like the house they spent the night in before last Halloween, anyway.
"R-Right, Asmo, I-I mean, i-it's n-not like we'll s-see a—"
"KYAAAA!" Ange and Asmodeus shrieked in unison as they jumped in fright, throwing their arms around one another's chest and pressing their bodies up against each other.
Burying her face in the front of Ange's shirt with her big sister's head resting on top of hers, Asmodeus whipped her head from left to right. "A-Ange, wh-what w-was th-that?!"
"I-I d-don't know, I-I—" Ange said rapidly, her breathing coming out in short jagged bursts as her voice trailed off and died away. She was trembling uncontrollably like Asmodeus was and their hearts were pounding against their ribcages almost as if they had wanted to burst out from their chests and run all the way back to the carnival.
Ange and Asmodeus were over half tempted to do that, but earlier as they were approaching the woods they had vowed to make an attempt to get over their shared phobia of ghosts, so they tried as hard as they could to calm themselves down. Though that was rather difficult given how the tension was just too high with it being late at night while the heavy fog had already engulfed them ten minutes ago.
But hopefully it would be fine; hopefully everything was going to be okay.
It wasn't like they had to sleep there overnight like at the haunted house. All they had to do was cross the bridge and then go back over. What more could possibly make this worse?
As soon as they settled down, Ange swallowed a lump in her throat, turning her head to look down the bridge. It shouldn't have taken that long to cross it; just a few minutes or so and they'd be on the other side, provided they weren't stopped by anything that would've prevented them from making the trip, such the whole bridge collapsing into the river—or the ghost, if it appeared right directly in front of them.
Still, they weren't going to get anywhere just standing around in front of it, so it was now or never.
"W-Well, Asmo," Ange let go of the young Stake and untangled her arms from around her waist, "I-I g-guess we better g-get g-going."
"A-Alright," Asmodeus stuttered, making sure she took Ange's hand in her own and held it tightly, not wanting to let go of her big sister. "On th-the c-count of th-three?"
Ange shuddered, feeling chills go down her spine as she remembered how they had both done that before they approached the ghost at the haunted house.
What if the same thing happened again? What if they walked right into the ghost without realizing it until it had manifested in their faces? That would certainly be quite traumatic for the two of them.
They still had plenty of nightmares after their ghoulish encounter in the cemetery behind the haunted house, which was why they were way too terrified to watch horror movies. In fact, for the first few weeks after spending the night over at the haunted house, they both spent every night in Ange's room until they felt it was safe enough to sleep alone in their own rooms.
Now that they shared a room, they didn't have to worry about going to bed by themselves if they were scared. What happened to them at the haunted house was partly why Ange wanted Asmodeus to move into her room with her in the first place—maybe they could reinforce that reasoning if they both came face to face with this ghost like with the first one they encountered.
"A-Ange?" Asmodeus looked up at her big sister in concerned fright.
Shaking her head to clear her mind, Ange tried to focus on the task at hand. She couldn't distract herself with such thoughts, even if they were scary. She and Asmodeus were here to cross the bridge and prove they weren't scared of ghosts. If this one showed up and they didn't get frightened, they would've accomplished that, as well as conquered their shared phobia of ghosts.
So Ange tried her hardest to put on a brave face and look determined to cross that bridge. It was long, but it was also simple; they just had to walk across and then come back and that was it. The girl at the carnival didn't tell them to linger there any longer; she just instructed them to cross it and then return—simple as that.
Swallowing another lump to clear her throat, Ange took a deep breath before turning to look at the Stake of Lust. "O-Okay, Asmo, we'll c-count t-to th-three." Her voice was still shaky and she continued to stutter some of her words, but for the time being she felt they'd be fine.
In unison, they both inhaled deeply and exhaled, mentally preparing themselves for the walk across. Swallowing heavily to clear their throats again, they drew closer to each other in the event the trip would become too nerve wracking for them to head over to the other side simply by holding hands.
Slowly, they started to count.
A somewhat gentle, yet cold breeze blew past them from the left, making them shiver as it brushed against their skirts and the exposed skin of their legs.
A frog croaked somewhere from the riverbank, nearly giving them a bad scare since they didn't know which side of the river it came from.
Turning their heads to look at one another, Ange and Asmodeus swallowed again before they spoke.
And so they both took a step forward and then another, inching closer and closer to the bridge. Right as they came to the first wooden board of the floor, they hesitated slightly, but ultimately stepped onto it. For them it was a major milestone as they were now on the bridge; if their confidence didn't dissipate and eventually dissolve away, they might just make it to the halfway point.
Looking around in all directions as they trudged onwards, the two of them made sure to look at each other from time to time so they'd know they were still side by side.
Frogs continued to croak and crickets chirped, but Ange and Asmodeus weren't too frightened because they could discern those sounds from the river flowing underneath the bridge to the snapping of twigs and occasionally branches through the trees.
What did scare them, however, was how isolated the area was from civilization. From the apparent rotting boards, some of which were broken while others were completely missing, it was obvious that the bridge wasn't cared for anymore. Maybe it once was, but then the general public probably decided it wasn't a good idea to waste money on something so decrepit when they could've just built another bridge some miles away, or create some sort of tunnel for the water to flow through and then bury it underneath a giant pile of dirt, soil, gravel, and anything that could be used. That likely explained the bridge Ange and the Stakes crossed over on the main roadway when they were heading to the carnival.
Without anyone to repair it so it'd stay in good shape, the bridge was gradually falling apart from left to right. The pieces of it that fell into the river would soon flow down into a nearby lake, where environmentalists would collect the debris and send it all to the junkyard so it would be destroyed like anything that had become garbage. In time, there wouldn't be anything left of the bridge to be thrown out, as it'd be gone forever—at least until a new one was erected, if anyone ever decided to use this space of land for a new road. If not that, then perhaps it'd become part of the grounds on which a building was established for whatever purposes the owners had in mind.
As they finally came to the halfway point, part of a board beneath Ange's foot suddenly broke and fell into the river to get washed away, causing her to shriek as she suddenly lost her balance and stumbled into Asmodeus. The Stake of Lust shrieked as well as they both nearly fell over the side railing when they both stumbled to the right. Luckily they managed to regain their balance just in time before they got that far. Though even if they hadn't, the railing might've been so brittle that it too would've collapsed once they fell against it.
"A-Ange, are you alright?!" Asmodeus cried as they paused for a moment to collect their bearings.
Breathing heavily, Ange settled down and took a brief glance over at the now missing piece of the plank they stepped on. "I-I'm o-okay," she said softly as she slowly calmed down, "Th-The board below me just c-collapsed, that's all."
Asmodeus wrapped her arms around Ange to provide a bit of comfort. "I-I guess we sh-should be more careful th-then, huh?"
"Y-Yeah, I-I th-think we sh-should," Ange stuttered nervously, now afraid they both might fall through the bridge and into the cold river below.
Looking down at the remaining half they had to cross, she bit her lip while fumbling with the purple bow at the top of her black jacket. It appeared as though the majority of the remaining planks over there were gone already, leaving just a handful left to cross. At least they still formed a tangible path to the other side, however weak it was; although, that would probably change for the worst in the event that side of the bridge suddenly collapsed completely.
Some of those planks were sticking up slightly from the floor, eager to trip anyone walking over it and make those individuals fall down; Ange and Asmodeus hoped those individuals wouldn't be themselves. If they tripped and fell they both could end up in the river if the boards beneath them gave way under their combined weight. The water was most likely really chilly at this time of night, plus the temperature for this week was chilly, but not as bad as in December last month when it was really cold.
So if they did fall in the river they'd probably get a bad cold or pneumonia from being in the water for a while. To make matters worse, neither of them knew how to swim, so it was also possible they'd drown depending on how deep the river was.
"Ange…" Asmodeus whimpered nervously as she too stared down the other side, cowering while taking her big sister's arm in her grasp again, "d-do we have t-to continue? C-Can we g-go back now?"
"Well, we c-came th-this far, r-right, Asmo?" Ange turned to the young Stake and wrapped her arms around her, pressing her body against Asmodeus so she could feel her little sister against her. "Th-The gh-ghost hasn't sh-shown up yet, s-so I-I th-think we c-can make i-it."
Looking up at Ange and then at the bridge again, Asmodeus turned back to her big sister one more time and nodded after a little bit of hesitation. "O-Okay, Ange, b-but, u-um…"
"B-But wh-what?" Ange timidly inquired, biting her lip again as Asmodeus looked down before finishing what she was saying.
"Y-You're holding me t-too t-tight. I-I c-can't really b-breath th-that much."
Somewhat caught off guard, Ange blushed in embarrassment when she realized her grip must've been a little bone-crunching. She couldn't help it, nor hide the truth about how scared out of her mind she was right now, well aware of how frightened they both were.
After all, she had gone to the haunted house with Asmodeus in October after Mammon bullied her younger sister into doing a stupid dare to spend the night in the haunted house. As time wore on while they were there, the tension had begun to eat away at Ange's confidence until she was really terrified like Asmodeus was. Although she had tried real hard to be brave, Ange couldn't help it when she gave off those little nonverbal cues, showing Asmodeus that she wasn't the only one who was scared.
However, Ange didn't verbally admit it until the following morning, when Belphegor had found her and Asmodeus underneath the covers of her bed with their arms wrapped tightly around each other's trembling form. That had been after the two of them had received another bad—and one might say embarrassing—scare when they both mistook Lucifer for a ghost, especially since the oldest Stake really had just come out of the shower.
That was why all six of the older Stakes now knew Ange shared a phobia of ghosts with Asmodeus.
To try and calm her little sister down, Ange took another deep breath as she thought about what she was going to say. She had to choose her words carefully and loosen her grasp to provide Asmodeus with some comfort without scaring her—or suffocating her, for that matter.
Being honest seemed like the only option she had, and Ange was so scared that she couldn't think of anything else. So she closed her eyes for a brief moment just to clear her mind, opening them a second later after regaining at least some, if not all, of her composure.
"T-To be frank," Ange whispered softly, stuttering her words while looking down at Asmodeus, "I-I'm afraid s-something b-bad c-could happen t-to you, and, u-um, I-I'm really s-scared t-to be alone, s-so, u-uh…I-I d-don't want t-to let g-go of you."
Despite her blatantly obvious fright, Ange had managed to express how she felt in the hope that it could explain why she was holding Asmodeus so tightly. If the two of them had been snuggling together, she was sure the Stake would understand the gesture, but only if they were curled up together at home.
The two of them just wanted this to end so they could put it behind them and forget about it. That was easier said than done since all they had to do was cross the other half bridge and go over the whole thing again before returning to the carnival.
In any case, Asmodeus could understand Ange's reasoning behind why her grip on her was so rigid, so she tightened her own grasp around the witch and pressed herself up against her as close as she possibly could before she finally spoke. "S-Same here;" her voice as soft as Ange's, "I-I d-don't want for anything b-bad t-to happen t-to you, Ange, and I-I'm also s-scared t-to be all by m-myself."
Hearing Asmodeus' words made Ange feel better and a little more confident that they could cross the bridge. It lifted her spirits—the pun being unintended—and managed to force a small, but awkward smile to spread across her face. With this new surge of bravery, the bridge seemed to be an easy foe to conquer.
Asmodeus could see that their connected feelings gave her big sister the strength she needed to partly get over her fears, and as she was gazing upon her and bask in this newfound courage, the young Stake too felt a sudden confidence stirring within her.
As long as they were together, nothing really bad could happen—at least that's what they felt.
So, like Ange, Asmodeus also forced herself to smile awkwardly to let the witch know she was fine.
Seeing the Stake of Lust make an attempt to be brave, Ange's smile grew a tad wider as her trembling gradually decreased in intensity while her pale complexion regained a bit of color. "W-Well, wh-what are we doing s-standing around here?" she inquired, still stuttering some of her words even though she was a little more confident, "D-Didn't we come here t-to prove th-that th-there's no s-such th-thing as gh-ghosts?"
"And g-get over our sh-shared ph-phobia of th-them?" Asmodeus asked, her smile also widening.
Ange couldn't help but sheepishly giggle at the thought of them no longer being terrified of ghosts. "Y-Yeah, th-that t-too."
"S-So wh-what are we waiting f-for?" Asmodeus let out a sheepish giggle too. "Sh-Shall we c-continue on?"
Ange nodded. "Y-Yes, let's."
And so, without further hesitation, the two of them took their first steps on the remaining half of the bridge and carefully made their way to the other side. The boards beneath their feet creaked slightly, but surprisingly, they held out despite the girls' combined weight.
Two or three more minutes passed before they had finally done it. They had reached the other side, and without seeing the lone ghost rumored to have roamed the bridge.
An accomplishment like that certainly warranted a reward of some sort, or a special celebration to commemorate the event.
Ange and Asmodeus felt they had done the impossible. Such a feat deserved some recognition, and maybe even a good old pat on the back.
Standing there, on the other side of where they had started, the two of them felt they could do anything they set their minds to. It was a true statement, and one that could definitely be applied here.
The worst part was already done. Now they just had to go back over the bridge.
Fortunately, after having already done it once, Ange and Asmodeus were no longer frightened of the big, scary bridge anymore.
If they could go over it once, they could do it again.
Only this time, they could do it without being terrified of what might happen.
As they began to head down the bridge again, no longer uncertain before even taking the first step, the two of them laughed at how much of a big deal they made it out to be when it was actually quite simple.
"I'm quite surprised at how easy this was," Ange laughed as they got a fourth of the way across.
"I know!" Asmodeus responded, holding her big sister's hand so she could pull her up if she suddenly fell through what was left of the wooden planks. "It certainly wasn't as hard as we initially made it out to be."
"Yeah," Ange said, carefully stepping onto the planks she believed were sturdier than others, "I honestly didn't expect it to be pretty straightforward. I really did think that ghost was going to show up."
"Same here," Asmodeus giggled as they were coming up to the halfway mark. "Maybe he really isn't here."
"It probably must've been some story that girl fabricated," Ange replied, wrapping her arm around Asmodeus' waist so she could pull her close and snuggle with her while they walked. "I have to admit, she sure had us fooled."
"I wonder what she'll say when we meet up with her and her friends back at the carnival," Asmodeus speculated, clinging to Ange's arm as a sign of loving affection. "I can't wait to find out."
"I have an idea."
"What is it?"
"Let's sneak up behind them and give them all a big scare," Ange whispered her proposal so only Asmodeus would hear her in case anyone—such as the three girls from before—was around. "Then we'll see who the real coward is."
"Oooh," Asmodeus marveled at the idea, "I like that."
"That'll teach her for messing with us, right Asmo?"
"Right, Ange," Asmodeus agreed as they reached the halfway point when Ange suddenly stopped walking and looked back. Seeing her big sister's confusion, she became just as befuddled as her when she turned her head to look down where they came from. "What's wrong, Ange? Did you hear something?"
Ange shook her head. "No…for a moment, I could've sworn I felt something on my shoulder just now."
"It was probably just the wind," Asmodeus closed her eyes and lightly brushed off Ange's concern, debunking it with the regular old case of 'the wind did it' explanation.
"Yeah, I guess you're right." Ange smiled as she turned to look at her little sister. "I mean, it's not like it was a ghost or anything of the like."
"Indeed." Asmodeus nodded in agreement while they started walking again…
…and then stopped as the young Stake was suddenly startled by something she felt against her own shoulder. Asmodeus was so frightened she very nearly jumped out of her skin as she stumbled away from Ange.
Seeing her little sister's obvious terror, Ange became really worried and hurried over to her to see what was wrong, catching her before she fell over the railing. "Asmodeus, what happened? Is everything alright?"
"I-I…" Asmodeus' voice had lowered down to a whisper again and it was as shaky as when they were scared only minutes ago. "S-Something just…t-touched my sh-shoulder."
Ange turned her head to look a few leaves that were being carried by the wind as it blew by. Perhaps that explained Asmodeus' sudden scare. "Look," she indicated by pointing towards the leaves, "the wind's blowing some fallen leaves around. That must've been what you felt."
"Nuh-uh…" Asmodeus nervously shook her head, "th-that felt like a-a real h-hand!"
Ange suddenly became very pale as she searched her mind for some sort of logical explanation that could hopefully explain how the Stake of Lust's claim.
They were the only ones out here right now, this far away from the carnival. There surely wasn't someone else with them and nobody could've followed them, right? Unless it was that girl from before, possibly bringing her friends with her, but Ange and Asmodeus were already a little over halfway across the bridge. There was no way those girls could've been behind them; their footsteps would've been heard as clear as day—or as a clear night sky, if this fog would just go away. It couldn't have been the ghost…could it?
Ange shook her head to clear her mind. It was impossible. The ghost didn't show up while they were going to the other side, and it definitely didn't show up now. Besides, she might've unconsciously placed her hand on Asmodeus' shoulder without realizing it, so that must've been what had spooked her little sister.
It sure was a logical deduction. How else could the young Stake feel an actual human hand touch her?
Although, there was a chance the hand actually belonged to the troll who lived under the bridge and collected tolls from anyone going over it, but that was just ridiculous. That was only in some fairy tale Ange forgot the name of. She had heard the story from her mother when she was a child, which was why she could make the connection. Trolls were fictitious creatures; they didn't exist unless they were created by witches and sorcerers who found them useful to have around—for whatever purpose, Ange didn't know, but she did know that a troll didn't live under this bridge. At least she thought a troll wasn't living under it. Who knew? Maybe it could suddenly pop right up in front of them now and demand they pay the toll.
With a small smile on her face, Ange easily brushed that somewhat hilarious theory aside and stepped closer to Asmodeus. Placing her own hand on the Stake's shoulder, she gestured towards it as she began to debunk Asmodeus' fears. "Look, it must've been my hand on your shoulder. I likely put it there and didn't know I had, so that should explain the 'mysterious hand', okay?"
Asmodeus looked uncertain for a brief moment as she considered Ange's logic. When she put it that way, it did make sense, so maybe the witch was right. Perhaps it was her hand after all.
"Y-Yeah, eh heh…" the young Stake giggled sheepishly and blushed in embarrassment, "I-I guess you're right, Ange."
"Exactly," Ange giggled too as she held her arm out to wrap it around Asmodeus and hold her little sister close to provide some comfort while the Stake of Lust did the same as they continued on their way. "I know I'm right. I mean, it's not possible for it to be a…a…Asmodeus…?"
But Ange never got to finish her sentence. She didn't get to, for as she was casually glancing down at the Stake beside her, she couldn't help but notice a hand on her shoulder.
And it didn't look like it was Asmodeus' hand.
"Y-Yes, Ange?" The Stake of Lust asked nervously, apparently having spotted a hand on her own shoulder as well.
"I-Is th-that…your hand…on my sh-shoulder?"
Already about to enter a full blown state of terrified panic, Ange tried to keep her composure and stay strong, but her confidence was fading fast. If that wasn't Asmodeus' hand…then whose…was it?"
"N-No, b-but…" Asmodeus swallowed a lump in her throat before she made an attempt to finish speaking, "i-is th-this one…yours?"
"Th-That's n-not my hand," Ange stuttered fearfully, staring at the pair of hands that were holding them back, keeping them from taking another step forward.
It didn't look right. The hand on Asmodeus' right shoulder was the left one, while the right hand was holding Ange's left shoulder. Furthermore, as the two of them kept their gaze on the hands, they could discern that they weren't a girl's hands. Rather, they appeared to be a boy's hands.
"And i-it c-certainly i-isn't mine…" Asmodeus' voice trailed off and died away, leaving her at a loss for words.
"W-Well i-if th-there n-not yours and n-not mine," Ange began, dreading to finish, "th-then wh-whose—"
But she didn't get to finish, for as Ange and Asmodeus slowly turned their heads around, already trembling uncontrollably while their complexion turned from pale to ashen, their eyes suddenly widened in horror as the pupils in the center of them dilated to about the size of a pin's head.
There, standing right behind them—directly behind them—so close that their faces were literally just several centimeters away from what they were facing…
Was a college student from Tokyo University.
But not just any college student from Tokyo University.
The college student from Tokyo University.
The one who was murdered by two of his peers.
And when that girl who told them about him being murdered back at the carnival…she meant it—vividly.
The right side of his head had been completely ripped off, cleaved away by whatever was big and sharp enough to cut through the bone of his skull. His whole chest had been ripped wide open—probably by the same weapon—and the left lung had been torn out, plus a big chunk of his heart got shredded to the point where it looked like the missing piece was ripped out—ripped definitely was the accurate word to describe what this poor guy's body had been put through.
And, just like the ghost they came face to face with at the haunted house the night before Halloween a few months ago, he had only one eye left. The only difference was that the woman's ghost in the cemetery behind the haunted house had her eye in its socket, while this guy's eye was dangling from its socket like a hook attached to the string of a fishing pole.
A similar contrast could be made about the lower jaw. The ghost at the haunted house still had hers hanging limply on one side, while the guy in front of them had no lower jaw at all because it had been completely ripped off.
Ange and Asmodeus could only stare in terrified fright as the ghost behind them gradually tightened his grip. They tried to shout at the ghost to make him release them from his grasp, but they were totally speechless. The two of them could only stand there, trembling uncontrollably as the ghost's face inched closer and closer to their faces until…
…touched their faces.
It was at that moment that Ange and Asmodeus finally screamed in terror as they broke free and ran as if hell itself was hot on their heels. They didn't stop, and they continued screaming from the bottom of their lungs as they ran through the fog-covered woods surrounding them.
At least they wouldn't have to report to the girls because, unbeknownst to them, the three of them had already left the carnival with their parents.
By now the carnival was already over and the six older Stakes were waiting just by the northern gate near the ticket booth.
Mammon and Beelzebub were just beginning to feel better after they had a bad stomach ache from overeating. All that food the former of the two had to pay for as a result of their earlier bet left them feeling slightly exhausted and short on cash because after they came out of the haunted house they blew it all on food at drinks at various concession stands throughout the carnival. At least their older sisters had some money to spare so Mammon and Beelzebub could purchase some souvenirs and play a few games—they couldn't go on any of the rides since they didn't want to throw up, but they were fine with that since they still had a good time.
As for the Stakes of Envy and Wrath, the two of them had fun at the monster truck rally, and Leviathan even won a prize for betting on the winning car in the demolition derby. They both still had some time to go on the rollercoaster and play a few games to win more prizes, so they did that until it was time to go.
The more responsible sisters of the six, Lucifer and Belphegor, had found some good portraits at the stall they went to first and purchased a couple for their rooms. After that, they then walked around the carnival for a bit, played some games, watched a movie in one of the tents that had been erected, and finally went on some of the more relaxed rides, like the Ferris wheel.
All in all, they had a great time at the carnival and were now discussing what they did after meeting up, but as the night wore on and still no sign of Ange and Asmodeus, some of them began to get a little worried.
"Where could they be?" Lucifer, the oldest of the six present, asked with her hands on her hips as she looked around the area for any sign of their youngest sister and the witch. "They should've been here by now."
"I think we should give them a few more minutes," Belphegor said while looking at her wristwatch. "It's nine-fifty already, so I'd say to wait a little before we look for them."
"Maybe they're not paying attention to the time because they're having too much fun," Leviathan suggested with a small smile on her face as she giggled at the thought of Ange and Asmodeus acting like complete schoolgirls, holding the giant stuffed bear she won from the demolition derby. "Or perhaps they found some romantic love interests; at least that's what I'd expect from Asmo."
Satan merely scoffed at her older sister's ideas, puffing out her chest and crossing her arms just as she closed her eyes and stuck her nose in the air like an aristocrat from Victorian England. "Hmph! I knew we should've left that little brat at home. That little bitch is obviously so much trouble. I don't even know why we brought her along at all."
"You're not exactly a little angel yourself, you know?" Mammon snickered, smirking as she and Beelzebub fist-pumped at the rather insulting joke she made about her older sister.
"What the hell was that?!" The Stake of Wrath angrily stomped her foot on the ground before slowly approaching the two little idiots she called sisters. "I dare you to say that again, and when you do, I'll personally turn you two into angels before throwing you into the fiery pits of Hell itself!"
"Ahh," Mammon cried out in mock fright, quickly grabbing Beelzebub to use her as a human shield, "I provoked the devilish beast! Save me, Beelze, save me! Save me before she turns me into a fallen angel!"
"N-No, you're just as guilty as I am!" the Stake of Gluttony exclaimed while struggling out of her older sister's grasp. "You're the one who started it!"
"And I'm the one who's going to beat you to a bloody pulp in the next three seconds if you keep this shit up!" Satan yelled as Lucifer tried to restrain her. "So I suggest you two little shits zip it!"
"Oooh, what foul, filthy language!" Mammon marveled at the Stake of Wrath's vocabulary in an attempt to enrage her even more.
"That's it! I'll—" Turning to the Stake of Pride, Satan tried her best to free herself so she could pound her little sisters into the ground, but Belphegor and Leviathan intervened to help hold her back. "Let go of me! I'm going to destroy them!"
"And have security come and drag you away until the police arrive?" Lucifer inquired, narrowing her eyes. "Yeah, I'm quite sure Ange's going to be extremely pissed when she finds out you got yourself arrested."
"Well those brats deserve to be the ones who get thrown in prison!" Satan protested, "Why is that whenever I do something, they get a free pass while I get in trouble?!"
"Because unlike you, they're not out to kill their sisters," Belphegor stated as-a-matter-of-factly, tightening her grip on her older sister's arm to make sure she didn't break away. "You're the only one out of all of us who's willing to go that far just to get back at us for teasing you even when we don't mean any of it."
"Indeed, and I'm sure Ange won't like it when she hears about this," Leviathan chimed in to add her two cents to the conversation. "What do you think she'll say when we tell her that you're misbehaving just like them? She might pull you from your therapy sessions and kick you out of the house!"
"Tch!" Satan looked down at the ground in annoyance. "Fine, I'll stop as long those brats get what they deserve."
"Fair enough." Lucifer nodded and let go of her furious sister before stepping towards Mammon and Beelzebub. With one quick motion, she snatched the bags of souvenirs and prizes they won out of their hands and handed them to Belphegor.
"Hey, those were ours!" Beelzebub whined in protest.
"Yeah, give them back you thief!" Mammon stood up from the bench she and the Stake of Gluttony were sitting on and tried to get her things back.
Lucifer pushed her younger sister back on the bench. "You'll get them back when Ange decides you both are allowed to have them. When she gets here, I'm telling her that you two provoked Satan again, and I imagine she'll be very disappointed in you both. Maybe you both should be kicked out too."
The two competitive Stakes just stared at their oldest sister for a couple minutes before looking down in shame.
"Okay, fine, I'm sorry," Mammon apologized as she closed her eyes and thought of what punishment Ange had in store for her later, "I won't do it again."
"Neither will I," Beelzebub agreed, slowly nodding her head while thinking about the exact same thing her older sister had on her mind.
Lucifer's eyes were still narrowed as she spoke, though her tone of voice had relaxed somewhat since she was going to change the topic. "Very well; now can we please focus on finding Ange and Asmo? It's getting really late, and I'm worried something could've happened to them."
"Yeah, we really need to get home before it gets too dark," Beelzebub nodded her head in agreement. "My favorite cooking show comes on at eight thirty tomorrow, and I don't want to miss it if I sleep in."
"Oh, come on, Beelze, all you ever think of is food," Satan complained, glaring at the Stake of Gluttony in annoyance. "Can't you just get your brain wrapped around something else for once, like finding Ange and our annoying little sister?"
"But I—" Beelzebub tried to protest, but was stopped when Leviathan held her arm out in front of her.
"Hey, I think that's them over there." She pointed over to another bench just nearby on the other side of the gate.
"Is it?" Belphegor asked, squinting her eyes a bit to get a better look at the two girls over there. "Yeah, she's right; there they are."
Satan sighed in frustration. "Finally! It's about time they got here." She cupped her hands around her mouth as she called out to them. "Hey Ange, Asmo!" Over here!"
Ange and Asmodeus didn't respond. They just kept sitting there silently.
"Ange! Asmo!" Leviathan called out to them, "We're right here!"
Still no response.
Lucifer put her left index finger on her chin and bit her lip, wondering why Ange and Asmodeus weren't replying to them. "Something's not right. Why aren't they answering us?"
"Do they even know we're here?" Belphegor inquired as she stared at the Stake of Lust and the witch with a concerned look on her face.
"Well, let's find out, shall we?" Mammon asked as she stood up and walked past her sisters, gesturing for them to follow her.
As they headed over to them and got closer, they could see that Ange and Asmodeus had their backs to them and were trembling, even though they had their jackets on.
"Ange? Asmo?" Beelzebub inquired when they were right behind them. "Are you okay?"
The two girls should've heard them, but for some strange reason they seemed to be acting like they hadn't. Why hadn't they responded to them when Satan and Leviathan had called out to them?
"Um, Ange? Asmo?" Leviathan asked as she placed her hands on their shoulders to try getting their attention. "Is something wrong?"
The moment they felt the Stake of Envy touch their shoulders, Ange and Asmodeus slowly turned to look at her hands.
Then, all of a sudden, they both screamed in terror as they jumped a few feet in the air and ran away, going in the direction where Ange's house was located.
The six older Stakes just stared after them in confusion.
"Uhhh…" Lucifer's mouth hung open for a few moments before she finally found the words she was looking for. "What just happened?"
It took a few long moments for her and the other Stakes to fully take that in, but they were still befuddled.
The only one who seemed to have some idea that would try to explain why Ange and Asmodeus just ran off for home while screaming in terror was Mammon.
"I think they went in the haunted house after all." She giggled.
Ah, I'm so glad this is finally done, and I'm happy it turned out pretty well.
In case anyone's wondering why a lot of the dialogue ends in commas, I just did that because I thought it was proper punctuation. Feel free to tell me what you think.
Also, this one-shot is actually sort of a sequel to the 'Grim Grinning Ghosts' arc of Suteki-Renahh-Desu's Being Dysfunctional Has Never Been So Much Fun one-shot collection because it does reference that arc from time to time. The arc was a suggestion I had given her to do as a Halloween special last year with Ange and Asmodeus as the character pairing and I had provided the details for how it was supposed to go—if you don't believe, read the author's notes at the bottom of the final one-shot in the arc. I'm glad it turned out well, and I deeply appreciate it that she did my idea.
So for this Halloween I had decided to do this idea, which I had originally given to Suteki-Renahh-Desu as a suggestion earlier this year, but she hasn't uploaded any new one-shots for Dysfunctional or published anything new in a while. That's why I took up the task of doing it (and other Ange/Asmodeus suggestions I was going to give her) so you all can see what it's like for Ange and Asmodeus now that they've seen their first ghost.
I know it might not be what you expected since Suteki-Renahh-Desu doesn't really focus too much on the sisterly bond Ange and Asmodeus share like I do, but that's the kind of relationship I see connecting these two characters together.
Another thing I wanted to point out was that the murder of the college student from Tokyo University is fictional in this story. I don't know whether or not it actually did take place in real life, though, but I didn't have too much time in getting this one-shot finished for Halloween, so I couldn't look up anything related to the murder that took place in this story.
One last thing I just wanted to say is that I'll be publishing this Halloween special early this year because of another upcoming problem that could cause me to lose power next week—for however long, I don't know—so I don't want to have to publish it any later like last year.
Plus I had to delete the old version of this one-shot from the site because there were a couple things I forgot to mention in the author's notes of the original version. The story is still the same; it's just that there's one more thing I had to mention in the author's notes and I needed to put in the disclaimer.
Disclaimer: I don't own Umineko; it's owned 007th Expansion.