The ice-cold water that was dumped onto Niko’s face was enough to shock the transfer student awake from his unconscious state.
More than enough, actually.
The teenager spluttered as he quickly sat upright in what appeared to be his futon, soaked straight through his white t-shirt. Apparently, the water had been filled to the brim with ice cubes, which were now sliding down his body causing a rather unpleasant sensation.
“See? Told you he’d get up” came Hanako’s voice as she threw the empty bucket into a corner of Niko’s room. “Hey, you okay?”
The answer to that question was pretty obvious.
“Do I look okay to you?” the transfer student replied, wincing a little at the throbbing pain coming from his head. “God, my head’s killing me…”
Niko suddenly remembered what had caused him to completely pass out. The monstrous strength of that punch…
“Ibuki! You can come in now!” Hanako shouted, shocking Niko as he wasn’t expecting it.
The sliding door to his bedroom swung open in a similar fashion to the one that Niko had seen before he’d been knocked out, almost breaking it; but not quite.
A familiar face walked into the room, striding over to the futon and sat formally directly in front of Niko.
“I, Ibuki Rinne, have come to apologise!” she announced loudly, head bowed.
“R-Right…” Niko replied, completely unsure of how to react to this situation.
Despite the fact that she was kneeling, Ibuki was still taller than the new tenant, which he couldn’t help but find a little intimidating. Her horn
“I assumed that you were an intruder from the human world trying to destroy Masahiro from the inside, like them”
‘That’s some assumption…’ Niko thought to himself.
“Anyway, I was hoping to get your forgiveness” Ibuki continued. “If it would make you feel any better, then you may hit me back as hard as you’d like”
“No, don’t worry about it…”
The tall girl sighed in relief and adopted a more comfortable position, legs stretched out on the flooring. She ran a hand through her long hair attempting to detangle it somewhat, but failing miserably.
“So” she began, smiling friendly at her fellow teenager. “What brings you to this side of the woods?”
“This side of the woods?” Niko parroted in confusion.
“Yeah, like, why’re you living at Masahiro? I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of places for humans to live out there? Why would you choose to live here?”
“Oh, that. Yeah, my dad set this whole thing up for me; I’m actually here to learn about my heritage, believe it or not”
“So, have you learnt anything?”
That one hit the nail right on the head.
“N-Not exactly…” Niko replied looking away, embarrassed by the accuracy of Ibuki’s remark. “But I’ll dig up something eventually!”
“Cool, go for it. So anyways, I heard from Hana that you’re a student at Ishimaku. What year you in?”
“Oh, then that makes you my upperclassmen then, Kamawari”
Despite the surprise of being older than her, Niko had been trying throughout the course of the conversation, to ignore the horn protruding out of Ibuki’s forehead; but it just diverted his attention too much.
“Something caught your eye there, Niko?” Hanako asked, smiling mischievously. “It’s rude to stare, you know”
“I wasn’t!” the transfer student retorted, glancing away for the second time that day.
“Curious about the horn, huh?” Ibuki asked, pointing to her most distinctive feature. “Can’t blame you, most people are…”
“Are you some kind of demon, Rinne?” Niko asked, his curiosity beginning to get the better of him.
“Yeah, I’m an Oni, to be exact”
“The human-eating kind?”
“The very same. Don’t worry; eating people is pretty much a last resort for me”
“Right, good to know…”
Niko glanced in Hanako’s direction. She was floating quietly, which was quite out of character. Despite knowing her for less than a week, Niko was used to the ghoul butting into his conversations or hitting him with snarky comebacks.
“Oh yeah, I never asked this, but…” He began, beckoning Hanako over to his bed. “What’s your story? How’d you end up as a spirit?”
The pale girl chuckled.
“My story? It’s pretty brutal, you know?” she replied, folding her arms. “Can you even handle it?”
“Easily, plus you never really talk about yourself that much, this’ll be interesting”
“Yeah, it’s been ages since you spoke about your death, Hana!” Ibuki chimed in, turning to face her. “Go on, start already!”
“Fine then, but don’t blame me if you can’t fall asleep tonight, you two”
The small spirit cleared her throat and adopted a more serious tone in her voice as she began telling her tale.
There is always two sides to one coin’
Somebody famous might have said that phrase, I’m not really sure, to be honest. All I know is that never was a quote so true. I say this, because this very phrase best described my parents back when they were alive. It’s almost laughable.
Sae and Kenta Hanamori always carried themselves with pride wherever they went. They possessed that pressure of a powerful and prideful family; one so intimidating that most of the common folk wouldn’t even come near them. Only people similar to the Hanamori family could even hope to be granted an audience with them. In other words, they were at the top of the food chain. They played the role of god in the small village of Ura, they decided whether people lived or died there and trust me, people definitely died…
The Hanamori clan had people everywhere though; Ura was just their main base of operations despite it being a rundown, old place in the middle of nowhere. It was probably because they knew that Ura was under their control and completely safe. Business people travelled to the village just to meet them and strike up some sort of deal. A carriage from Tokyo to Ura wasn’t cheap back in those days either, so you knew that they were loaded.
The other side to their coin was that they were extremely invested in growing the Hanamori Empire using whatever means necessary. Murder, fraud and threats were the most common ‘business practices’ used by the clan to gain the upper hand against other families and gangs in Ura and over in Tokyo.
Like most families back then, the Hanamori Clan seeked an heir to their continue their work. Typically, at the time, men were seen, as the smart, dominant type, where as women were simply seen as objects for them to vent their sexual frustration on and bare their children. In other words, Sae having a little girl was completely out of the question. But as luck would have it, I was born.
They kept me alive for about ten years, letting me live only because I could be pawned off to some other families’ snot-nosed son to improve relations with them and secure the Hanamori Clan’s future if the situation demanded it. In the meantime, Sae and Kenta kept fucking like rabbits in the attempts of creating an heir. But by this time, Sae had already had two miscarriages.
By the time, I was eleven, Kenta had grown tired of Sae’s ‘failures’ and attempted to wipe the slate clean entirely by ‘recreating’ the Hanamori Clan. In layman’s terms, it just meant that he was bored of Sae, wanted to take the clan’s money and leave it all in the dust.
He wasted no time in killing her. Beheaded the poor thing.
Naturally, I was next on his hit-list, but by this time Kenta had already decided to silence everyone in Ura as well as his own family. Permanently, of course.
By the time the crazy old man broke into my room, more than half of the townspeople were dead and the village was on fire.
I want to say that I put up a good fight, whilst struggling for my life; but I’ll be honest, I was an absolute wreck. Wouldn’t you be? I was eleven years old and the piece of shit that I recognised as my father was pointing a katana at me, fully prepared to kill me. I vividly remember begging him not to stab me, promising to be a ‘good girl’ and all of that, but that man was hell-bent on murdering me.
Quite obviously, that scum got his wish.
Was probably laughing his ass off when made off with all of that money, that sick fuck…
Well, there you go. That’s my story, satisfied now Niko? Ibuki?
Hey, wait…Are you two crying?