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Marrend writes: Uchioniko

  • Marrend
  • 08/09/2020 02:30 PM
  • 860 views
This write-up of the game was somewhat inspired by Error's fan-fiction of Luxaren Allure. I don't know how far I'll get with it, but, what exists of it is hidden under the hide-tags.

Chapter 1

Momotami Ruri looked at herself through the mirror, beaming with excitement. Not because of the colors of the school uniform, as they were drab brown. It was because it was new.

Her parents had earned a promotion, as were moved up in their jobs to compensate. It meant moving physically too. While she was sad to leave her old life behind, the move presented it's own opportunities. To make new friends. To make even better memories than she had now.

"Ruri-chan! You'll be late to your first day of your new school!"

Whoops! Well, there was nothing else to it but to move!



Ruri made a quick survey of the contents of the classroom. Ruri was certainly no stranger to having crushes on boys and girls alike, and two people that caught her eye in that regard.

In the far right corner of the room was a blonde guy that seemed to Ruri a particularly aloof. She couldn't put her finger on it, but, there was just something about him that told her it was all for show, and that he was a really great guy underneath the facade.

In the far left of the room was a particularly pretty brunette girl. Yet, she had this aura of sadness about her. Like, it was obvious that something tragic happened to her that she probably doesn't want to talk about, but, that just made her all the more curious about it!

She broke out of her revelry just in time.

"Okay, class, listen up. Before I take role, I'd like to announce that we have a new student joining our class today."

The expected rumblings of the class sounded before the teacher, Terada Junko, settled them down with, "I'm not going to tell you to be on your best behavior, but I would like you to show our newcomer that we can be hospitable in Iwayama High."

Ruri made a slight bow, then said beaming with positivity and energy, "Hi! I'm Momotami Ruri! Let's be friends, 'kay?"

She saw some heads nod, then was asked to take a seat. As tempting as it was to take a seat next to one of her new-found affections, she decided to sit next to a blue-haired girl. She had this rough demeanor, wore her hair short, and just seemed to have this tomboyish air to her. Not that she minded that, of course. It can be cute, in it's own way.

"Right. Let's do the roll call, then. Hayashida Jin?"

"Whatever."

"Kazuyoshi Katsumi?"

"Here."

"After Ruri would be... Murakami Benjiro?"

"Yo."

"Nemoto Mayu?"

"Yeah, yeah."

The girl beside Ruri answered that one.

"Ooka Kozue?"

"Present."

That was definitely behind her. That guy she was eyeing up behind her! Kozue-kun <3

"Shirazu Izumi?"

There was silence, then, "Oh, right. She told me she'd be absent today."

Her eyes shifted up and down from the papers in front of her as if to confirm something. She nodded, and said, "One absentee then. Now, I know some of you might be curious about Momotami-san, but, let's at least try to focus on the task at hand?"

Something felt a little off to Ruri. She started counting on her hands, then just decided to put a note in her book to ask the teacher later about it. Class was happening, and she had other things to focus on. It would be the only way she'd remember.

Ruri was an okay-ish student. Certainly not the best, but, at least slightly above average. Terada did her best to make the lesson as easy to understand as possible, but there were certainly points Ruri didn't understand. So, she'd be bound to talk to her anyway about those points. At the end of the lesson, the teacher noted that their homework was on the board, and dismissed the class.

Ruri took her opportunity, "Sensei, I've a few questions."

"Of course. Meet me in my office in, say, ten minutes, and we can speak in private."

"Okay, thanks."

She half-expected something like that, but, it didn't hurt to ask. She then redirected her attention to the classmate she sat next to, "Say, Mayu-chan, why don't you introduce me to everybody?"

The girl was gruff, "Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't you introduce your goddamn self to everybody and leave me alone?"

Ruri pouted, "Ah, come on! I'll be fun!"

"How you figure that?"

"Because doing things with friends is always more fun?"

She felt like she was saying the most obvious thing in the world.

"We're friends now?"

She beamed Mayu a smile, and said, "Of course!"

She shook her head, then muttered, "Weird girl."

Ruri giggled, and responded with, "Of course!"

Mayu quirked an eyebrow, but proceeded to ignore her. Well, you can't win them all!



"So, Ruri! How are you acclimating to the school so far?"

The blank face was enough for Terada to know she went over Ruri's head, with the follow up question, "Acclimating?" as icing on the cake.

The teacher tried again, "How well are you getting used to this school?"

"Oh! That! Eh, it's just the first day. I kinda figured things might be a little rough, but, I think I can manage."

"Glad to hear you have such a positive attitude about it. More students should have that kind of attitude."

"He-he. Thanks. Though, um, about the roll call?"

"The roll call?"

"Yeah. Like, when I was standing in front of the class, I could see six people. When you did the roll, and one no-response? The absent girl? It was seven names, including me. I dunno, something about that just didn't sit well with me, and I wrote it down so that I could remember to ask you about it later."

The teacher's previously smiling face drooped into sadness. "Ah. Yes. Of course."

"Wait, what's with that reaction, seneai? What's going on? What have I accidentally come into?"

Terada shook her head, a bit brighter, then said, "Sorry. This is a subject I cannot comment on. It's a matter of... I guess you could call it student-teacher relations."

Ruri was insanely curious about whatever this was. However, she decided to drop the subject for now. She'll have to dig around elsewhere for answers. Ruri didn't generally apply tact. She was used to speaking her mind, regardless of how much trouble that could get her into. Still, this subject seemed particularly sensitive.



After a long day at school, Ruri was walking to the train station to return home. The quickest way was through a park, and she used it previously to be on time for class today. Not really paying any attention to where she was going, she found herself literally bumping into another person.

"Oh my god, I am sooooooooooooo sorry! Lemme help you... up? Wait. Auntie?"

Her aunt dusted herself off, "I've had worse. You always walk that fast?"

Ruri giggled her response, "Of course!"

Shaking her head, her aunt responded with, "'Of course' she says. Well, perhaps this is fortuitous of me. I had business at school, but, there's something I wanted to give you as well."

"A present? My birthday isn't until..."

"Oh, it's got nothing to do with that! It's just... I have this feeling you should have it sooner, rather than later. Here."

She handed Ruri a pretty necklace with a stone in the center made of turquoise. There seemed to be an inscription on it, which she read aloud, "To the bearer, I grant the Will of Justice."

She looked up at her aunt, and said, "It's very pretty. I like it! What's with this inscription, though?"

Her aunt laughed uneasily, and said, "Oh, uh, never mind that!"

"Oooookaaaaaaay?"

She didn't 100% trust that statement...

"Listen, don't put too much thought in it right now and hurry on home."

...but was willing to drop the subject.

"Well... 'kay."

And off she ran.

"Wha? No, I was speaking figuratively when I said that! Ah, well. I just hope my premonition is wrong. That's why I was going to visit Jun in the first place."

She faced toward the school, swiping back some of her hair, and pushing back the emotions and painful memories that were flooding in.



The next day in school wasn't as lively as the last, except for one thing. The missing student from yesterday was present, and was yet another person Ruri felt a crush for. This girl had an air of intelligence about her, though, the fact that she wore glasses might have had something to do with that. Her hair was long and blue, and tied back in a ponytail. Immensely pretty. Maybe not in the same way the brunette was, but certainly had her own attractiveness.

She got the guts to try and spark a conversation with the brunette, but, she did not respond to her at all. All Ruri did was ask her name, but, all she did was shrug and look downward, embarrassed. That was cute, by itself. Still, her reaction wasn't terribly conducive to forward any kind of relationship. There may be another opportunity later, and she didn't want to push it too hard. She moved to the previously absent girl.

"You weren't here yesterday?"

She smiled at her, and plainly said, "This is true."

Ruri poked at her with a question, "So, what happened? Were you sick? Injured? What?"

She waved her hand as if to bat the question aside, "Oh, it's nothing, really. It's just that, sometimes, I'm called to work even when I have school, and I am not in a position to refuse the work."

"Oh, wow. That sounds rough. What do you do?"

It was a natural follow-up question.

"I do theater work, I guess? Well, let me put it this way. My responsibility is that the people on stage look good for the audience, and to let them be seen and heard."

Ruri was very impressed.

"Woah! That is just sooooooooo coooooool! Hey! Hey! Are you involved in the Sei-chan concert that's gonna happen!?"

The career of Kaza Sei has not been a particularly long one. However, in the brief time that she's been in the limelight, she has become among the most popular signer-idols in the business. To say that Ruri has fallen head over heals for, and a total, thorough fangirl, would be the overstatement of perhaps the decade. Her excitement of the prospect that somebody in her class might actually get to physically meet Sei was palpable.

Izumi laughed, and said, "You a big fan, huh?"

"Well, yeah!? She's coming to this very town! She's gonna hold a concert! But tickets are soooooo expensive!"

She laughed again, then said, with a finger on her chin, "I thought they were still trying to decide exact location for the venue for her concert? Still, I've also heard the rumors that she's coming to this town."

"Wait, what? Is that really true that they haven't figured out a venue? If it is, then... then...!"

"Yeah. Sounds like somebody might be trying to make a quick buck by scamming people into buying fake tickets. I guess her popularity has risen to that level."

There was something sad in her voice as she said that, but, Ruri took no notice. She was too distracted with thoughts of Sei-chan, and the possibility of actually seeing a live concert for once.



"...and that's how we arrive to that particular answer. Understand, now, Ruri?"

"Yes! You're the best, sensei!"

"Say, would you mind if I ask you a question?"

"Go for it."

"Where did you get than pendant?"

"Oh, this? It's pretty, isn't it? My aunt gave it to me yesterday."

There was a brief silence until Ruri asked, "Hey, should I ask her where she got it for you?"

Terada shook her head, then said, "Your pendant reminds of something that happened when I was younger. I guess it called forth some memories."

There was a still pause, then, "Memories that I thought I buried long ago."

Terada shook her head, as if to dispel something painful, then said, "Sorry. Forget I said anything. So! Were there any other questions you had, Ruri?"

"Nope. That was the last one!"

"Okay. Be careful if you use the park. A lot of our students use it to get to and from school, and I've been hearing that there's some kind of violence rising up in that area. I don't like the sound of them, and I'd rather prioritize the safety of my students over their inherent desire to be on time for class."



Ruri turned the corner, and saw maybe three guys surround a girl. Ruri's general position was that everyone was her friend unless something proved otherwise. There was definitely something about those guys that made Ruri think that they would not be her friends. To be fair, Terada-sensei had warned her about the park. Still, she choose to use it anyway. It was unfathomable to her that anybody would wish violence upon her, or anybody else. And yet, there was this scene before her.

"Oh come on! I don't wanna have to hurt such a pretty face!"

The girl attempted to retreat, only for her wrist to be grabbed by one of the guys.

"What's the rush, babe?"

Something snapped inside Ruri. No way. There is no way anybody should treat anyone like that and get away with it!

"Hey, you jerks! Pick on somebody your own size!"

It's the angriest she's ever been in her entire life. The ruffians directed their attention to the fuming Ruri.

"What the hell?"

"Heh. Looks like we're going to have to get rough after all."

They let the poor girl go, but started to surround Ruri instead. The words inscribed on her amulet rang in her head.

To the bearer, I grant the Will of JUSTICE.

Strong. Powerful. And she knew. It wasn't her that was being cornered. It was them. In her hand, she griped the Spear. What happened next...

"I see your weakness! Puncture!"

"Get outta my face! Areo!"

"Healing powers! First Aid!"

...she was not entirely cognizant of herself, or what she was doing. She only saw them retreat with a speed more common to what Ruri might call "walking", and others "running".

"That's what you get when you mess with my friend!"

The moment passed, she directed her attention to the girl, and finally recognized who it was. It's that cute, mute brunette that sits in the back of the room!

"H-hey? You okay?"

She helped the poor girl up. Of course, she refused to respond, but, considering what might have happened, Ruri didn't put too much stock into it. Still, Ruri was somewhat frustrated with the lack of communication, insisting, "Come on! Talk to me already!"

Silence, but, the girl, bowed, and folded her hands over hers. Ruri cocked her head, and noted, "I, uh, guess that means 'thank you'? Not totally sure. I think it'd be best if we walk together, though."

A smile flashed for the briefest of moments, then a head-shake.

"You really think you'll be okay for here? I dunno. Seems risky."

Another bow, then the girl turned around and moved off on her own. Ruri hesitated, but shrugged, and went her own way. Still, even if it was the briefest of moments, she would not forget that smile, and how utterly smitten she was by it.


Chapter 2

"Momotami-san?"

Ruri was temporarily confused. She's not used to such formalities.

"That's me! Call me Ruri, though! What can I do for ya?"

The girl adjusted her glasses, then spoke, "I've been hearing some interesting rumors about you. I guess I'm trying to figure out how many of them are true."

The tomboy laughed, then said her own peice, "You already got a rep? I wonder what kind you got, and how."

"Yeah, I wonder what I did too."

The glasses were adujsted again, then, "Well, for one, you saved Shoko from som nasty goons?"

"Who?"

"That's the mute girl in the back, I think?"

"Right. Her."

"Oooooooooooooooooooooooh yeah, I guess I did beat up some thugs for her the other day!"

"The hell? You don't remember?"

"Well, not everything. I remember seeing those guy gang up on her, and treating her like dirt. And getting angry. After that, I dunno."

Izumi nodded, then said, "Maybe it was some kind of adrenaline-fueled moment for the both of you."

"A what now?"

"Well, it's kinda like acting without thinking. Heat of the moment. Instinct. Something like that."

"You really think so? I dunno. Ruri looks kinda wimpy."

Ruri laughed, then said, "Yeah, well, the only thing I'm good for is running. Usually. But that time was different."

The glasses were adjusted again, "It seems so. Though, the fact that the situation was so tense might also explain what Shoko saw."

Both Ruri and Mayu spoke simultaneously, "What she saw?"

Izumi nodded again, then added, "It might be better if we return to where it happened. Let's go there after school. Maybe going there might jog some memories for both of you? Saying that, I doubt she feels comfortable talking to you. Allow me to be an intermediary."

"An inter... what now?"



"...and that's how that war started in the first place."

"Hrm. Maybe because I think wars are stupid, I'm not quite getting it."

"For real life, that's somewhat admirable. Unfortunately, something like this might be on a test."

"Is that a hint, Terada-sensei? That this is going to be on the test."

The teacher giggled, "Perhaps."

She sighed, shook her head, then said, "Still, these rumors of Terakado-san being assaulted worry me."

"Who?"

She opened her mouth as if to answer, closed it again, smiled at her student, then said, "I think you already know. The rumor has it that you somehow saved her."

"Oooooh. You mean Shoko-chan? Yeah, apparently, I saved her bacon!"

"I won't ask for details. Though, I can understand why thugs might consider somebody like her an easy target."

"You're not even curious about it?"

"I can kinda take a guess as to what happened."

"Come on, let me have some bragging rights!"

"I'm sure you've been bragging about it since you discovered who it was that you saved."

Terada-sensei's smile was an understanding one. She was able to tell that Ruri had a huge crush on that girl. In so relaying this, there didn't seem to be any point in perusing the subject further.



Izumi walked towards the pair, waiting by a streetlamp. Mayu was the first to break the silence, "So? What's the scoop?"

Izumi sighed, adjusted her glasses, then relayed, "She swears she saw Ruri transform."

"Transform?"

The term wasn't entirely alien to Ruri, but, at the same time, the use and context made it alien. No, more like unbelievable.

"Yes. Transform. That might be why she, herself, was confused about how to describe to me what it was she saw. I had her attempt to draw it to better understand it, but..."

She trailed off, and presented with a piece of paper. Mayu looked at it first, contorting her face into visible confusion, "What the hell is this?"

Ruri looked at it next. Of course, she was shocked, but it was the sheer quality of the artistry that shocked her the most.

"This is... utterly beautiful. It's like I'm looking at a drawing done my a master. Like, I've never seen a picture quite like this! What's that phrase on the bottom, though?"

"Inside the girl lies a demon."

Izumi wasn't looking at it, but seemed to know what she was talking about.

"Demon?"

"I think she might be referring to the old legend of the Uchioniko."

"U-chi-oni-ko! Hey, I like the sound of that!"

"An old legend, huh?"

"Yeah. I don't recall all the details, but, as the legend goes, there were young women that were supposedly able to change shapes in order to fight an ancient evil. Or something like that."

"And Shoko thinks Ruri is a descendant of those women?"

"Maybe? Personally speaking, I don't think that's what happened at all. I think it was more a trick of the mind. I don't pretend to know what Ruri did, but, the fact remains that she saved Shoko. Perhaps, in so doing, she 'transformed' into... well, I guess it would be like a knight in shining armor?"

"Fuck, girl. That's pretty heavy."

"Whew! Well! That seems to solve that!"

"The mystery? Maybe. I'm not sure about Shoko's safety, though."

"Whaaa?"

"Dude, this is a gang we're talking about, yeah? If it gets around that they were beaten up by such a wimpy girl, no offense, that's not gonna do much good for their street cred."

Izumi thinned her eyes, latching onto Mayu's meaning more quickly than Ruri possibly ever could, "So, they might try to grab her again to take revenge. To lure out Ruri and regain their lost honor."

"Exactly."

"Well, if she's in danger, there's only one thing to do!"

"Wait! Ruri! Weren't you listening? Luring you out is exactly what they want to happen! We need to call for help!"

Too late. Ruri's speed was unparalleled.

"Holy shit, that girl can move fast. Listen. I'm going after her. I can't promise that I can stop her from doing anything stupid, but, I'll do what I can."

"Okay. Be careful, Nemoto-san!"

"Thanks. I'll be back in a few."



Mayu caught up with a frozen-in-place Ruri.

"Man, you could totally be on the track team... with..."

She began to understand Ruri's stunned state as she surveyed the area. The regular foliage that was the corner of the park where they were located was there, to be sure. However, there were things she saw that were expressly not of this world. She saw scorpions and ogres sputtering about, causing mayhem and ruckus. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief, but, of course, the monsters were still there, taking no notice of them. At least for now.

"The hell is up with these... these... things?"

"You said it, Mayu!"

"Damn, it would be seriously no good if that girl was in that mess."

"For sure. Let's go and find her."

Mayu shook her head, took one step, and a voice boomed in her head.

To the bearer, I grant the Will of FORTITUDE.

No time to worry about that now. It felt to Mayu that the fate of not one, but two people rest in her hands. She readied the Sword, and charged forth.

"Let's go! Braver!"

"Destruction of nature, hear my call! Fire!"

As she cut through the things with the Sword, she heard a somewhat familiar voice amidst the chaos, and reconvened with it's owner.

"I know you're worried about Terakado-san, but, holy hell, girl. We're going to save her together. Okay?"

"Yeah. Thanks, Mayu."

They rounded a corner, and heard some other voices. It was gang members. Mayu put a finger on her lips to signal silence. They approached, slowly and cautiously, listening to their banter.

"Damn it, what the hell is going on? Could all this be from the Poyang Lexi Prowlers?"

"Dude, their turf is on the other side of town. How'd you even come up with that, anyway?"

"If you got a better idea of who else could be behind this shit, I'm ready to listen."

"If I had the time, maybe! At any rate, I don't think we can stay here. We gotta ditch."

"Damn it. Should we take that girl with us?"

"You jerks aren't going anywhere with Shoko!"

"It's that bitch!"

"With reinforcements!?"

"Forget the girl! Run!"

"Fucking cowards!"

"Let them run, Mayu. Sounds like they left Shoko behind. Let's find her!"

"Yeah. Right. Okay."

A bit further in, they came across another guy. He was wrapped in flames, and was clearly blocking them from the object of their search that was cowering in the distance. This did not phase them as much as they thought it might, but, they could still tell this particular opponent was going to be tougher than what they faced before.

"The hell are you?"

"Yeah, that! And what do you want with Shoko, anyway?"

"You may refer to me as Diachi o Hono! The Burning Earth! If you intend to save this girl, I would have you face me, and my flames!"

The battle raged.

"I'll put you out of your misery! Heart Gouge!"

"You ready? Braver!"

"Oh, I'm gonna have fun with this! Quick Strike!"

"Go wherever the wind takes you! Gust!

"When there's smoke! Flame!"

"Need some help? Cure!"

Beaten back, Daichi laid on the ground, bleeding profusely. He laughed, coughing up blood in the process.

"Take that, baddie!"

Heh. It's always the same. You start so innocent. So pure. But you will learn. You will learn the terror of what you are, and what you've done."

"The hell are you even talking about?"

The creature disappeared before their eyes. Mayu fumed for a bit longer, but, their task was done. What monsters they had not dealt with were more weary of the pair, and retreated as the two brought their friend to Izumi. She was probably the only one who knew where she lived anyway.


Chapter 3

Ruri was cleaning up her desk, and happened to notice something.

"Hey, Mayu. Where's that guy that sits next to Izumi at?"

"Hayashida? I dunno. I wouldn't worry about it, though. It's not the first time he's been missing. He's been caught playing hooky a bunch of times."

"Oh? Huh. Well, let's check up on Shoko."

"Terakado? Oh. Right. She's been attacked twice now. That's gotta be rough on her. Not sure if she'll actually talk, though. Not sure if she even can."

Izumi was already there, standing with a book in front of her chest with a worried expression. Ruri chimed in with her expected positivity, "Hey guys!"

Izumi giggled, and said, "Speak of the devil, eh?"

Shoko looked down gloomily, and left the room. The other three just watched in silence. Ruri eventually broke that silence with, "Okay, seriously. What is up with that girl?"

Izumi shook her head, and said, "While I might know, I feel that's something she needs to tell you herself."

"Oh, come on, Izu-zu! Spill the beans!"

She adjusted her glasses, quirked an eyebrow, and responded with, "Listen, Ruri. You're a friendly and nice person, and I like your company. However, I'm also a friend of Shoko. I'm inclined to respect her privacy. If that's what she really wants."

Mayu cocked her head, and asked, "How can you tell what she wants, though?"

Izumi sighed, and answered, "It's sometimes hard, yes. But, I manage it."

Ruri pouted, and crossed her arms. She didn't think Shoko was a bad person, but, she was making it more difficult than it should be to be at least friendly relations with her. Especially after having saved her life twice over!

Mayu thinned her eyes, then said, "You know, I think we should follow her. There's been two attempts. Might be another one."

"Three times is the charm, eh? All right. Let me catch up to her first. Sorry, but, she might still be uncomfortable with you two."

"Damn it, Shirazu, you're no goddamn bodyguard!"

"I know, Nemoto-san. We probably should go together. I'm just saying, for her sake, I should go first."

Ruri was still pouting, then exclaimed, "You guys! Aren't we friends? First name basis!"

The other two looked at her semi-surprised. Mayu was the first to speak, "Uh. Well, I guess I don't mind in Izumi's case. Terakado, though..."

"Yeah, I think I agree. Anyway, let's start moving, Ruri, Mayu. I just hope trouble hasn't found Shoko again!"



Terakado Shoko looked at the entrance to the park before her. She really didn't want to go there, considering what happened the last two times. Still, it was her usual route, and the events of the past two days have been unprecedented. But that doesn't mean they should be ignored. She heard some footsteps, and turned swiftly to see the approaching form of Izumi.

Shoko breathed a sigh of relief. Her bespectacled friend put a hand on her shoulder, and spoke, "You know, you really, really shouldn't be walking alone. Especially considering the last couple days. What if you get attacked again?"

Shoko looked downward, embarrassed. Then indicated with her finger toward the school.

"Hrm? Oh. Yeah. Ruri and Mayu should be coming along soon."

Ruri was... she was okay. It was hard to hate a girl with such boundless energy. Beside, it's not like her repeated attempts to be friends with her left no mark whatsoever. Plus, the energetic girl had saved her life twice, which, itself, couldn't be ignored.

Then there was Mayu. She frightened the hell out Shoko. She's seen her at practice. The sound of the wooden sword as she practices her swings in the air. The elegant motions of her forms, and the sheer focus she displayed. Yet, it was also that very same strength that assisted Ruri the other day.

That, and the other thing. The transformation. She saw it. Again. Not just from Ruri, but Mayu too. Izumi didn't believe her. She said it was all in her head. Maybe if it happened once, she could believe that. But twice?

Her focus snapped back to the present as she sensed a presence. Izumi must have sensed it too, and she put herself in front of Shoko in a defensive posture, as if to guard her. It didn't do too much good, as the presence was...

Then, the familiar voices rang out.

"Twist of death! Spiral Charge!"

"Now you see it, now you don't! Sword Flash!"

The presence manifested before the transformed states of Ruri and Mayu. It also wielded a blade, and it was certainly more human that the other entity they came across. This one seemed rather androgynous, but, it seemed to Shoko that it was a guy.

"There!"

"Izumi! Shoko!"

"These two are mine!"

"Holy shit, you could not have said it any creepier, could you?"

"Just you do you think you are, anyway?"

"You can call me... Fuu."

"Fuu? That's a girl's name?"

"Perhaps. Still, if you think you can take my prize away, just like that, you have another thing coming."

"You little piece of shit. They're people, goddammit! Just what kind of monster are you!?"

A throbbing headache attacked Shoko. It was just too much for her to bear. Why her? Why can't these kinds of people just leave her alone?

Then, came the Voice.

To the bearer, I grant the Will of TEMPERANCE.

She looked up at the thing that called itself Fuu. She griped the Axe, and with her free hand, she called forth the Power. A barrage of rocks fired at the being, pelting him. Her. Whatever. Ruri and Mayu were soon to follow suit.

"Spirits of wind, I beseech you! Hurricane!"

"Now comes the fun part! Fireball!"

Of course, Fuu had their attacks as well.

"Think you can keep up? Power Palm!"

"Gee, all of you could use a bath! Flood!"

Once more, Shoko called upon the Power. This time, to restore the health of her friends. She found she was able to use it to made good use of her Axe as well. Their efforts felled the thing in due course.

"You're quite ruthless. Which makes me wonder who the real monster in this scenario is."

He laughed, coughed up blood, and dissipated into the aether. Mayu and Ruri weren't entirely happy with that, but, at least everyone seemed okay.

Well, almost everyone.

"Yo, Izumi. You okay over there?"

"I... I need some time to think things over."

"Ooooooookaaaaaaaaaay?"


Chapter 4

There was a burning question in Ruri's mind, and she just blurted it out to nobody in particular, "What happened to that girl that sits in front of us?"

The tomboy that sits next to her, not exactly paying too much attention to the question that was just posed, "What now?"

"The girl that sits in front of us. Where the heck did she go?"

"Girl that sits in front of us? That's Kasumi!"

"Right. Her."

"Dude."

"Wha? Did Terada-sensei say something, and I completely missed it?"

"N-n-n-no, you got me wrong. I'm telling you he's a dude."

"Eh?"

"Well, that's what he keeps telling people. So that's what I'm going with."

"Huh. Well, where is she, then. I mean he! I totally meant he!"

Ruri tried to laugh off her embarrassment, and smile it away. Mayu's answer the her question, "Dunno. I'm kinda-sorta more worried about Terakado. And Izumi."

"Oh. Yeah. That."

"I doubt we'll get anything from Terakado, so that leaves..."

"Yeah. Izu-zu doesn't seem to have been herself lately at all. I wonder what happened?"

"Guess there's only one way to find out."



They found Izumi at her normal seat, sulking somewhat. She shook her head upon their approach, and said, "I owe Shoko a huge apology. I didn't believe her at all."

"What you mumbling about now, Izumi?"

She looked at them, questioningly. She gave them a serious look, her words dripping with accusation, "Don't be stupid. You saw it! You had to! Shoko. She... she... transformed! And you two! You had different forms too!"

Mayu and Ruri looked at each other with blank expressions. Izumi breathed deeply, then said, "You really didn't notice? Well, that's not all. Jin. He's been absent too long. Even for him."

"Jin would be... um...?"

"The punk-ass looking guy that sometimes sits next to Izumi."

Izumi let loose a chuckle, "When he decides to deign the class with his presence."

"Oh, right. I remember him now! Maybe we should ask around about him?"

"Yeah, okay. Thanks for that, Ruri. I'll try to get Shoko's help too."

"Terakado's gonna help? How?"

"She'll try her best, though, she might have a hard time of it. After the other day, I think she's decided to open herself up a little to you two."

"Awwwww. I'll have to thank her later! I would still like to know what her deal is, though."

Izumi paused, bit her lip, and asked, "You... you really want to know?"

"Well... yeah? But I also don't want to push anything. She's my friend too, you know."

"Okay. Thanks, Ruri. Anyway, let's split up, gather what info we can, and talk about it tomorrow."



"Momotami-san! What can I do for you today?"

"Well, I was just wondering about Jin. And, uh, Kasumi? I think that was her... I mean, his name. Is there anything you can tell me about them?"

"Sorry, no. I would actually like to know, myself. Still, there is something about this that feels... familiar. I'll try to let you know if I learn anything, though."

"Thanks! I appreciate it, Terada-sensei!"



They stood just outside the school gate in a circle. Ruri asked, "So! Anybody learn anything?"

"Not a damn thing!"

Ruri directed her attention to the brunette mute, "Sho-chan?"

Silence, her head drooping, and a courteous bow.

"Don't worry, Sho-chan. I know you did your best. Izu-zu?"

"I did quite a bit of legwork! I talked to Jun's parents..."

Ruri was shocked by this, "You have his number!?"

"Well, yes. We've been friends since we were kids. It also doesn't hurt that he lives next door to me."

"Oh. I knew that! Really, I did!"

"Ha-ah. Well, that aside, I learned that he's in the hospital. He was found in the park bleeding out. Probably by those monsters."

"Wha?"

"That idiot! Acting so tough, and then letting something like that happen to him!"

"Another thing. I found out Kasumi was also hospitalized."

"Whaaaaaa!?"

"Well, shit. That guy was probably a prime target. Maybe as much as Terakado was."

The three of them looked toward Shoko, whose worried face looked downward.

"Yet another thing. I needed Shoko's help to confirm it, though."

Mayu blankly asked, "What now?"

"This might be a silly question to ask, but... where did you get those pendants?"

Ruri tapped lightly on the jewelery resting on her chest, "This? My aunt gave it to me."

Mayu pointed to the one she wore, which had a ruby setting, and said, "A friend of the coach gave me mine."

Ruri tilted her head, then asked, "Say, that's a pretty one. But, wait, when did you start wearing it?"

"I dunno. I think it might have been the day we saved Terakado from that Daichi guy? Thing? Whatever?"

Izumi nodded, then said, "I see. It seems Shoko received hers from a family friend the day you faced Fuu. And today..."

Izumi reached into her pack, got out a pendant with a sapphire setting, and continued, "...I received this. It's these pendants that allow us to transform."

Mayu and Ruri both quirked their eyebrows. It was Mayu who asked the question, "Us?"

A field of energy surrounded Izumi, with water splashing outwards. When the field and water dissipated, there stood before them a figure that looked like Izumi, but her skin was like the surface of a lake. She shimmering blue in the sun before their very eyes.

"Us."

Her form instantly reversed, the point well made.

"Daaaaaaaaaamn, girl. Is that what we look like?"

"Similar to that. Yours looks like flowing lava. Shoko's looks like granite. As for Ruri, well, I assume you remember Shoko's drawing."

"Oh, for sure. But, who all is giving this shit out, though? Did they know these things can do this stuff?"

"Person."

The voice was barely audible, but, it was definitely there. It was a voice neither Ruri nor Mayu have ever heard of before. Ruri's jaw dropped, and Mayu made the same connection, "Holy shit, was that Terakado!?"

"Please, you two. What makes you say this, Shoko?"

The silent girl looked downward, embarrassed. Mayu was inflamed, "Oh, come on! Don't you dare clamp up now! Out with it!"

"Mayu! Don't make it worse! Sorry, Shoko. But, we need to..."

"I saw. Each time."

"Huh? You saw? So, wait, you saw my aunt give me my pendant?"

Nod.

"You were there when coach handed me this?"

Nod.

"And she was present when I was given mine."

"Huh. This whole damn thing seems to revolve around Terakado!"

"That's... an interesting hypothesis. Nothing about us has happened without Shoko being involved. I can't say for certain if she has any connections to Jin or Kasumi, though."

Ruri shrugged, then said, "Okay, but, what are we going to do about it? Lock Sho-chan up?"

Izumi shook her head, readjusted her glasses, then said, "No. If Shoko really is the center of all this, I think we can use that to our advantage. Especially since she can transform, and fight, too."

A pause, then Izumi continued, "I guess it's like, well, we seem to have been entrusted with these pendants, and the powers they posses. Perhaps for the express purpose of defeating these.. these... I dunno what to call them. Malignant spirits? However, I also think we need more information."

Shoko nodded in silent agreement. Mayu spoke next, "Okay, so, how do we do that?"

Izumi spoke again, "We might be able to talk to Jin in the hospital. I think his wounds weren't as bad as Kasumi's. He might give us some clues about the spirits. As for the pendants, I'm going to believe in Shoko this time. They were distributed by one person. We should seek her out, and see what she knows about them."

It took a moment for it all to click together for Ruri.

"Wait a sec. My aunt game me mine. If they're being distributed by my aunt, does that mean you three are inviting yourselves to my house?"

The other three were visibly taken aback by the suggestion.

"What? Oh, no, I wasn't suggesting that! I was merely thinking..."

"Nah! It's fine! Let's do it! You guys have your own questions, right?"

"Man, I did not expect it to go down like this at all!"

"Come on! We can hit up the hospital along the way to my place!"



Ruri wasn't thinking, and used the path through the park to get to the station. Of course she did. And also, of course, their destination was blocked off by a creature that could only be described as a knight.

"Whoa! Check this guy out!"

"Seriously! Though, that armor isn't fake. Is it?"

"You must be the ones getting in our way."

"Well, what do you want? You attacked us first! Ya big meanies!"

"We do what we need to survive. You are no different in that respect."

"Is that your reasoning? Is there no way we can coexist side-by-side?"

The knight readied it's weapon with menacing conviction.

"I am Junsuina Waru! And I do not bargain with my enemies!"

"Well. I guess we're just gonna have to kick your ass!"

The knight seemed to smirk.

"Your attitude is admirable. It is a shame I will have to beat it into submission!"



The girls were breathing heavily, their energies nearly spent. But the job was done. The spirit was beaten back, and dissipated into the aether.

Izumi spoke between breaths, "That. What he said. It didn't sound good at all."

Mayu spoke next, "The part about getting the attention of it's master? Yeah, prolly not. Still, we're should be in the clear. At least for a little bit?"

Ruri nodded, rose, and proclaimed, "I hope so too. Come on! Let's go and see Jin!"


Jin laid sprawled on the bed. He had certainly looked better, but, he could probably look a lot worse, considering. Izumi placed her hands on his, as if to comfort him.

"Jin. How are you?"

"Felt better."

"Do you want to talk about your injuries?"

"Had a cop ask me some questions earlier. Damn bastard. Said it was part of some goddamn gang war!"

"Steady, there. I'm not here to reopen your wounds. I'm here to seek the truth."

"The truth?"

"Yeah. Please. Tell me what you remember."

"Well, I was walkin' through the park like normal, yeah? Then I overheard some guys talkin' about the Poyang Lexi Prowlers. Which, yeah, I think is some kinda gang. Next thing I know, I feel like I'm on goddamn fire."

"On fire? Like, some kind of instantaneous combustion?"

"Maybe. The cop didn't believe me. Called me a liar."

"He's probably got his superiors breathing down his neck, looking for a quick resolution. I think they'll find this case isn't so simple."

"You know something Izumi?"

"Well, I know Kasumi's also somewhere in this hospital, and with similar wounds. I also know there have been other incidences involving a friend of mine. I have reason to believe these things are related."

"You believe me?"

"Absolutely."

"Then you're better off than that cop. Do me a favor, will ya?"

"What is it?"

"Get 'em. Get the bastard who did this to me. Whoever the hell it is. Make him pay."

"We'll try to find the perpetrator for you, and send him to justice."



Now just outside the hospital entrance, the girls gathered around in a circle to converse about Jin's statements. Mayu noted, "That gang he mentioned. It's the same damn one those thugs were talkin' about when we took out Daichi!"

Ruri protested, "But we never saw Jin!"

"We might have been so focused on saving Terakado, I mean Shoko, that me might have completely missed him."

"That's...! Well...!"

Izumi adjusted her glasses, then suggested, "It's also possible Daichi attacked Jin first, then hid him. I'm not sure what the reasoning might be there, but..."

Ruri butted in, "Sho-chan's still the constant, huh? Though, I guess we're not totally sure she was there when Jin was attacked. Were you? Did you happen to notice him? Do you remember?"

Shoko's face turned red, and lowered it for the billionth time. Izumi patted Shoko's shoulder in consolation, then suggested, "I think we can talk to Ruri's aunt later. We didn't expect to face another spirit, and are pretty tired. Well, maybe that's just me speaking. Still, a rest could be in order before we tackle the issue of the pendants."

Mayu and Shoko nodded. Ruri was more than happy and excited to have her friends at her house, but accepted the proposal anyway.


Chapter 5

Mayu yawned, stretched herself out, then idly asked, "So, what are we going to do about your aunt?"

Ruri looked at her funny, took our her cell phone, pointed to it, and said, "I call her, I guess? Set up a meeting?"

"Wait, what? You think that's all there is to it?"

"I dunno what else you want from me, or what else to expect. Don't worry! It'll be fine!"

"If you say so."

Ruri moved to the back of the room, and asked, "Say, Sho-chan. Anything you want me to say to my aunt for you?"

She politely shook her head, then bowed slightly. Ruri nodded, them moved across the room to Kozue. She's engaged in little more than small talk with him, but even that made her happy. And while she might nave wanted to be closer to him than she was, the events of the last few days changed her priorities. Romance, if it can come to that, can wait.

"Hey. What are you thinking so deeply over there?"

"Look how empty this class is. First Jin. Well, okay, that's not too surprising. But Kasumi? And now Benjiro? That is worrying."

"Yeah. It's weird. And kinda uncomfortable."

Ruri was trying her very best not to say more than she needed. She certainly did not want Kozue to be any more distressed than he already was. The man nodded his agreement, then said, "I think I'll take the shortcut home today."

Ruri then moved to Izumi's desk. Izumi regarded her friend with a nod, then said, "I can't say for sure what we'll learn from your aunt, but, I'm sure some manner of illumination will occur."

"Wha?"

Izumi giggled, then said, "I hope we learn something."



"Benjiro?"

"Yeah, I think it's him. The guy that sits behind Izumi?"

"Yes, that would be Murakami-san. No, he wasn't in class. That much we both know, of course. Say, did Nemoto-san say anything to you about him?"

"Mayu? No, sensei. Why?"

"I teach a number of martial arts classes, some of which they attend. They are both top students of their field, and are very competitive with each other. I was just thinking one might know about the other."

"Huh. Might try asking Mayu later. I just hope nothing major happened."

"That would make two of us, Momotami-san."


They stood in a line outside the school gates, their guest standing before them.

Mayu shook her head in utter disbelief, then spoke, "I never thought it would be so damn easy as to have Ruri give you a call."

Ruri's aunt chuckled, then said, "When my normally happy-go-lucky niece calls me up with a serious tone in her voice, saying she wants to chat face-to-face, well..."

Mayu found herself chuckling to that comment. Ruri's aunt brushed her hair aside, and asked, "So. What's all this about?"

Izumi took point. It just seemed natural for the group to allow her to lead in this kind of situation. "Let's talk about these pendants."

"Ah. Yes. I thought it might be something like that."

"So. You know what they are capable of."

"I do. I have one myself!"

From out of her purse, she produced a pendant with an obsidian setting. Ruri ogled it, as she had the others, "So pretty. What kind of stone is that?"

Izumi waved her aside, "Never mind that. Where did you get them from?"

"On a class field trip to Nakae City. There was an old man selling all kinds of junk. A quirky guy that talked to his wares as much as his customers."

"So you got them from him? I wonder where he got them from?"

"That, I don't know!"

"I see. I won't pursue that point further, then. The point I will pursue is how you discover their powers of transformation?"

"There were a lot of disappearances back then. Both here and in Nakae City. I hear there's one high school in a forest near Nakae that has it's own particular history of disappearing students. What was it called? Anyway, everyone thought it was the gangs, and we were told to stay clear of the park. I bet your teachers have tried to tell you the same thing?"

"Yeah, they did. And, like us, you probably soon discovered it had nothing to do with the gangs."

"Right again. We were attacked! Not by the the thugs that we were told about, but by vicious beasts!"

"And so you used your transformed state to deal with them. Though you might not heave realized it at the time."

"I remember there was this booming voice in my head. It spoke the words that were inscribed on my pendant. 'To the bearer, I grant the Will of Vice.' For my friend, it was 'To the bearer, I grant the Will of Virtue.' It wasn't until we faced a being that called itself Daichi o Hono that we understood what was happening to us."

"Wait. You fought Daichi o Hono? Ruri and Mayu fought a being that called itself that."

Ruri's aunt had a gloomy look as she said, "That's what I was afraid of, and the premonition I had when I was handing the pendants out. That they could come back. We suspected they could as long as their leader was in tact."

"Their leader?"

"It calls itself Kurobichi, the Black Edge. It was a lifetime ago for us. But I remember it like it was yesterday."



Michi cracked her knuckles, and regarding her partner.

"You ready for this, Jun?"

She thrust her fist into the wall, making a deep indentation into the surface.

"I'll, uh, take that as a big no?"

"You know what we have to do. Who... what... we're dealing with. Who he's taken over."

Michi lowered her gaze, unable to respond. Of course she knew. But isn't that the exact reason why they are here now? To stop the cycle? She managed, "You know, if we don't do this, they are all going to come back. All the pain and suffering we've submitted ourselves to would be for nothing!"

"I know that! I know that we've already been through so much! It would be too much for one person alone to bear. We could only get this far because we were together. But still. What it means to defeat Kurobichi in finality."

Her partner's tears could not be stopped. All Michi could do was hold her close. She looked up at the ceiling, as if to plead to have this burden taken from them. But it was no good. They were the only ones capable of harming Kurobichi, and they both knew it.

Kurobichi is a particularly strong spirit. Which means that it's defeat will cause it's host-body to...



Ruri's aunt shook her head, returning back to the present. She sighed, "We thought ourselves the last, best hope. Perhaps a little ignorant of us. Indeed, our battle was a stalemate. While knew how to to defeat Kurobichi for good, but, the flaw was that we'd end up paying a cost that we deemed was too dear to pay. So, we ended up sealing it away."

She paused, sighed again, then continued, "We ultimately failed. We set out to do something, but didn't finish the job. Since, well, he's broken out of our seal, and you girls have been fighting his flunkies."

Mayu chimed in, fuming, "So, what? By giving us these pendants you're basically saying, 'Here, do this thing for us'!? That's pretty damn irresponsible of you!"

She flashed Mayu a grimace, and answered, "You think I don't know that!? Every day that has passed since then has been suffering for the both of us! For not being strong enough, and regretting not making the decision we knew we needed to make, but couldn't! If you arm yourselves with the knowledge about these spirits, you will find yourselves in the exact same situation! Will you really have that strength we lacked?"

"Fuck yeah!"

Ruri's aunt looked at the group with a resolve that was the opposite of her previous countenance. A black, menacing cloud enveloped the woman, and when it dissipated, there she appeared, her skin as black as night itself.

"Then face me! Show me your determination! Come at me as if you intend to kill me! If you can't do that, you have no chance against Kurobuchi!"



Everyone was panting. Between breaths, Ruri managed, "That was... really... really... rough."

"Hey. You okay over there?"

A pause, then a laugh with, "You kids really pack a wallop, don't you?"

"Geeze, auntie! Don't do that!"

"Sorry."

Izumi managed to rise, then said, "I've got two more questions if I may."

Ruri's aunt rose up, wiped off the dirt and blood, and said, "Whew! Okay. Sure. Go for it."

"First, what happened to your friend?"

"We're still pretty good friends, and keep in touch. Though, there is one subject we will never broach. You know what I mean?"

"Of course. Second question. Where is Kurobichi's lair?"

"You girls might be able to sense it yourselves, but, back then there was a place in the south-eastern quadrant of the park."

"We should check there first anyway. But, uh, probably tomorrow."

"Fer sure. To damn wiped out right now."

"Misses Ibi, thanks for your time. And for the training."



"So! Michi! You left out the most important part!"

Ibi Michi, Ruri's aunt, wasn't surprised at all. Her response was, "I had a funny feeling you were watching. Gonna lecture me on responsibility, sensei?"

The sarcasm and menacing nature of her statement was not lost on her old friend, and the effect was as intended. Her face contorted to disgust as she spoke, "I've no right to. Especially to you."

The pair watched as the four students of Terada Junko vanished into the horizon. Their teacher asked, "What do you think will happen to them?"

Michi put away her pendant, then said, "I don't think they know as much as we did about these spirits. Still, regardless of what they actually do, it's not going to be pretty."

"Of course not. Still, I pray that you... that we have not caused even more damage. Because if they come to us about the nature of these spirits..."

Junko trailed off. She didn't need to finish that sentence. Michi knew what she was going to say, because she was thinking it herself. All she could manage was, "Yeah."



Ruri awoke with the sun. A bright new day always filled Ruri with exuberance. A lot of things in life do that for her, though, so, perhaps that is not saying too much. It was a day off of school, and the group had decided that it might be a good day to seek out Kurobichi. Even though it was a day off of school, they met once again in a circle outside the school gates.

It was their spot. The place where they forged their friendship. Ruri looked around at her friends, her allies, smiling broadly, her arms around Mayu and Izumi.

Nemoto Mayu. Her training and ability to focus meant that she could not become confused by those unfortunate enough to be labeled as her opponents. Her strength was second to none, and she brandished her Sword of Fortitude with the skills she's learned from her training, and then some. Her Power burned with the rage of the heavens.

Tearakado Shoko. She didn't need to use her voice to call forth the Power like every one else did. Which is something Shoko, herself, appreciated. The others too, as it meant that her ability to use her Power was only limited by her natural capacities. She was a lot tougher than she looked, and her Axe of Temperance had become it's own legend among the team. Her Power called forth a rain of stones that were large enough to act similarly to a chair in a more normal situation.

Shirazu Izumi. Her spirit form absorbs the property of her glasses somehow, and strengthen them so that she could never be blinded. Clearly the smartest girl of the bunch, she wielded her Bow of Prudence with her own unique style. Her Power washed enemies away with a mighty flow of water.

Then, herself. Momotami Ruri. It seems not being able to sit still has it's advantages, as she simply could not be stunned. Her specialty was her sheer speed. To strike before the enemy even knew what hit them. She sometimes proclaimed before her enemies that she wielded the Spear of Justice before engaging in a fight. Her Power send cutting winds to her opponents, and send them blowing away.

"Well," started Mayu, "we just gonna stand here looking like idiots, or...?"

Ruri laughed, then turned, pointed toward the park, and said, "Nope! Come on! Let's go Uchioniko!"



Their opponent sat on it's throne wearing a bored, utterly uninterested face. There was something familiar about that face, but, Ruri couldn't quite put her finger on it. No matter. The time had come to finish this.

"So. You must be that Kuroichi guy."

"And you must be the latest group of fools to challenge me."

An aura of sloth was oozing out of him, and he spoke in a flat tone. It was as if speaking more normally was too much effort to put forward. Still, it seemed to Ruri that he intended to get this over with quickly, and was fully within his power to do so.

"Huh. I guess there's no beating around the bush with you, is there?"

"We both prefer it this way. Less talk. More fight."

He wasn't entirely wrong. Though, by so saying, he made it abundantly clear that time for words was over. Perhaps even before they entered the room.

"No more games! Frenzy!"

"Time to meet your destiny. Ultima!"

Kurobichi's assault was merciless. But then, so were theirs.

"Super jump attack! Death From Above!"

"The best is yet to come! Doom Blade!"

"Wash 'em out! Soak!"

"Hey, get back up! Life!"

"Spirits of fire, I beseech you! Fire Blessing!"

"Wipe our pain away! Full Cure!"

The battle seemed to go on forever. There was no victory in sight. Kurobichi seemed to be able to recuperate his energies and health much faster than they could. However, they knew there had to be a way.

"I think we have to combine our strength!"

"How?"

Shoko clasped her hands together, creating a ball of pure Power.

"No more running!"

Even if Shoko's voice was as small as ever, the sheer force of will resounded with resolve. Ruri's own resolve strengthened, and joined her partner's Power with hers.

"Right! Everything depends on this!"

Izumi and Mayu soon joined.

"And since we have to fight...!"

"...we won't be defeated!"

The four of them glared at their opponent, whose face bore a look of quaint surprise. The team refused to be fooled.

"LET'S GO, UCHONIKO!"



Mayu, Izumi, and Shoko were gathered in their usual spot by the school entrance. Izumi noted, "I still don't understand why we found Ooka-san's body after we beat Kurobichi."

"Kurobichi prolly just kidnapped 'em for..."

Long pause. Then, "Exactly. For what? What purpose does kidnapping anybody serve? What was their real objective?"

"Beats me! But Ooka-san was seriously beat up. I dunno if we made it in time."

"That's why Ruri is at the hospital now. She's checking up on him, Jin, and Kasumi for us. Which is another point."

"Another point?"

"Mayu, do you have any idea about the whereabouts of Murakami-san?"

"Huh? W-why would I know?"

Shoko pouted, and crossed her arms. Izumi did likewise, and spoke for them both, "Mayu. We're not stupid. We both know you like him."

"Nosy fuckers."

"It has more to do with how you interact with him than being nosy. You suddenly stop cursing, for one."

"Huh!?"

"Whatever. I'd rather not play this game. Just tell us what you know."

"He's... in the hospital too."

Mayu looked down, dejected. She was practically mimicking Shoko's usual manner in this regard. The usually speechless one placed a hand on her shoulder, nodding. Sympathizing.

"Okay, okay. I get it. This isn't like me at all."

"You've always been so full of courage, Mayu. Except when it comes to admitting your feelings for Murakami-san. You really should let him know. Before it's..."

Izumi trailed off, not wanting to finish that sentence. The possibility was there. They hated to admit it but, it was there all the same. Mayu spoke up next, "Well. Let's help Ruri out. Visit her. And everyone else too."



Ruri looked upon the laid-out body of Ooka Kozue. She wondered if, when he mentioned taking a shortcut home, meant going through the park. And being caught by Kurobichi, or one of his minions. And then beat up to a bloody pulp. Ruri averted her gaze is disgust. Not in the sight of the body laid before her. No, the disgust was in herself. This was a man she had a crush on, and had the power to protect. She did not. It did not even occur to her that he could be in danger. Yet, there he was, behind the very throne of Kurobichi.

A gentle hand pressed upon her shoulder. She didn't care who it was. She just dug herself into the person, crying her head off. The hands gently stroked her head, a calm familiar voice saying, "There, there, Ruri."

Her vision was blurred by the tears, but, she was able to make the out the person she was crying against, "Izu-zu?"

"We, uh, thought you might need some help?"

"We? You mean...?"

"Yeah. Mayu and Shoko are also here. Checking up on the others. Jin... Jin's gonna be okay. It'll be a few more days, but, he'll be okay."

"Thank goodness."

"You look tired. How long have you been here?"

"Dunno."

"Have you tried to use your Power on him?"

Ruri wiped away some tears, and looked at her friend with a smile. "Of... of course!"

Ruri's smile and posture absolutely broke Izumi's heart. Even now, in this moment where her spirit is probably the lowest it's ever been, Ruri was trying her damn hardest to be the positive person that was typical of her. From this earnest attempt, it soon became Izumi's turn to tear up.



Mayu was talking, as it were, to Shoko.

"Benjiro's been messed up pretty bad. I think he'll make it though. Might be a bit, though. I mean, no potential boyfriend of mine is gonna be so weak as to not recover from that."

Shoko giggled then nodded.

"How's Kasumi's doing?"

Shoko's countenance gloomed as she shook her head.

"Sorry I asked."

A pause, then, "I wonder what Izumi and Ruri are up to?"

Mayu turned and looked up at the building before them. Shoko patted her shoulder, then pointed towards the entrance.

"There they are! Whoa. You two look like you've gone through hell."

Izumi adjusted her glasses, then, "Something like that."

"I mean, I saw how bad off Ooka-san was, but..."

Another tap on the shoulder, and Mayu looked upon the pouting face of Shoko. Mayu turned back around, and said, "Sorry."

Ruri shook her head, saying, "It's... it's okay. Maybe we could have done better, but... but... um... we can't beat ourselves over the head with this! We did all we could! All we can do now is wait for them to recover!"

Ruri's usual exuberance was trying to shine through, and the group appreciated that.



Jin had returned to school by now, and had not skipped a day since his return. This made Terada-sensei somewhat cautious, but happy all the same that her student decided that his education was, in fact, important to him. Ruri did her best to smile and act normally, but, the others could feel something was off. Missing.

"Strange for me to say something like this, but, you know? I think Ruri could really use some cheering up."

Izumi and Shoko nodded in agreement, but, of course, it was Izumi that asked the needed question, "But how?"

Shoko tore off a piece of paper from her notebook, and drew a quick sketch. She tapped it with the eraser end of her pencil. Mayu looked confused, and referred to a person more experienced with Shoko's unique mode of communication, "Translation, Izumi?"

"The concert. Kaza Sei's concert."

"Who?"

"She's, ah, a singer-idol. Pretty popular. Ruri's a big fan. Shoko's implying that having Ruri go to that concert might lift her spirits."

"Huh. Any idea when that's gonna be?"

Izumi pulled out her cell phone to look at it's calendar. She seemed particularly surprised at the answer, "Tomorrow!?"

Mayu slammed her fist down, and said, "Tomorrow!? And you're telling me she's popular? Will there be any goddamn tickets left?"

Izumi shook her head, saying, "At this point, probably the only way to obtain a ticket is have some kind of insider get you one, and probably pay through the nose!"

Mayu slammed her fist again, saying, "Damn it!"

Shoko tapped on her paper again, insisting, looking directly at Izumi while doing so. Mayu didn't quite get it, and didn't care. It seemed a lost cause. While Mayu was distracted, Izumi gazed suspiciously upon the insistent Shoko. Shoko knew Izumi had the means to get Ruri to that concert. The tapping she was doing now was Shoko wondering why she was hesitating.



Ruri sighed as she gathered her things together. Today was the day of the Sei-chan concert, but, through all that's happened, she'd totally forgot about it. Izumi left early, saying that she had business. Of course she did. Sei-chan was preforming where she worked! If nothing else, that thought made her at least somewhat giddier. That she was friends with somebody that worked with Sei-chan. Even for a little while.

She looked up randomly, and the figure of Shoko was before her. This was new. Usually they had to go to her, not the other way around. She had to ask, "What's going on, Sho-chan?"

She placed an object on the table, tapped it, then pushed it toward Ruri. Ruri glanced at it, looked up at Shoko questioningly, and asked, "You giving this to me, Sho-chan?"

A nod, then formed circles with her thumbs and index fingers, placed them over her eyes, bridging her face with her other fingers. Ruri thought about what she might be trying to say, and guessed, "From Izumi?"

Another nod, a small smile, and she walked away. Mayu quirked an eyebrow, and said, "Looks like you're getting better at reading Shoko. So, what is Izumi giving you?"

Ruri looked down at the object on the table. Then gasped, "No. Way."

Shoko, now safely out of sight, breathed a sigh of relief. It was done. Izumi presented Shoko two tickets. One was a regular ticket to Sei-chan's concert. The other was a VIP pass that allowed it's bearer into Sei-chan's dressing room after the concert was done. Izumi's instructions were that Ruri was to receive the regular ticket, while the VIP pass was...



Kaza Sei was beaming on the stage, waving to her loyal fans. She took the mic off the stand, and spoke into it, "Hey everybody!"

The crowd roared again, with Sei smiling and waving, saying, "I love you too!"

The crowd roaring eventually subsided as Sei-chan's face still beaming. Ruri thought she was so beautiful, and felt lucky to see her this close. Sei put a hand up, indicating that she was going to start. "For my first song tonight..."

She waited for the crowd to die down more before continuing, "...for the first song, I want to dedicate to a person I know who's in a bit of trouble. I just want to let her know that, whatever happens, she can't loose hope. Because as long as she has those hopes, then her dreams..."

The music started to swell. Then, "Her dreams will never die!"



The famous idol-singer Kaza Sei sat in her dressing room, exhausted, but happy. Surely, her song that she dedicated that night reached that person. She felt it in her heart of hearts. A knock on the door, then, "Sei. We got a girl with a VIP pass?"

"Okay. Let her in."

She spun in her chair, and asked on sheer impulse, "So, how'd you enjoy the show?"

The girl before the singer-idol was trembling. That part, she expected. What she did not expect was...

...Never mind. Unimportant. She knew immediately what happened, of course, but decided to play it out. "Awwww. Cat got your tongue?"

"I just can't believe I'm here! Talking with Sei-chan, herself! It's like a dream come true!"

Sei laughed, and said, "It's okay! Just relax, and take it easy! You can start with answering my question, and telling me your name."

"Just call me Ruri! And it was a really good concert! That first song was... wow."

"Ruri. Thanks, got it. You liked that song?"

"Yeah! It was perfect! A little... to... perfect."

The girl could no longer hold back her tears. Sei, gave her a look of pity, and handed her a handkerchief.

"Looks like you could use this."

"Thanks."

"I can lend an ear, if you like."

"Well... it's just that... we did some stuff... me and my friends... and some people we were close to were hurt in the process. Not on purpose, but, still."

"For you to cry like that, you must really care about these people."

"Yeah."

Sei allowed a few more sniffles, then said, "Well, I was about to get out of this getup into something more casual. Go outside for a bit."

"Oh? I, uh, should probably be going, then."

"Really? Kinda seems to me that you could use some company right now. Why not come with me?"

"Eeeeeeeeeh?"

Sei laughed, then said, "What, is that such a bad idea? Do you think my life consists entirely of my music, or being on the stage?"

"Well... um... no?"

"It's settled then! Wait here, okay? I'll be back in a bit. I'm going to trust you not to peek."

The idol giggled at that last comment, the disappeared into the next room. Her visitor turned around, just to be on the safe side. Sei's voice could be heard again, "You know, I pour my heart and soul into my work."

Ruri nodded, and responded with, "Yeah. I can tell. That's why you're so popular. Because you are so real."

"Thanks for that. I mean, I can't bring myself to sing about something I don't know about. Right?"

"Then what about that first number? That person you know must be in a heap of trouble. You must really know what they are going through."

"Talking with just words isn't the only way to communicate. Some people use body language, or their hands, and can indicate a meaning beyond mere words. I use my music in a similar way."

"Not using words, eh? I got a friend like that. Cute girl. No, calling her 'cute' is almost an insult. She's gorgeous. I like her a lot. Maybe even love her? Hard to say."

A pause, then, "Uh, not that I'm saying you're not beautiful in your own way, Sei-chan! Eh-he."

Another pause, then, "You know, it's funny. I feel so comfortable talking to you like this. As if I know you from somewhere."

Came the response, "Maybe it's because you do!"

Into Ruri's field of vision was the figure of person she was very familiar with, "I-i-i-i-izu... zu!?"

She twirled around, outstretched her arms, then said, "Suuuuurprise! The every-popular Kaza Sei and the bookish Shirazu Izumi are one in the same!"

"That's... I...!?"

Izumi put a finger on her friend's lips, silencing her. Then, "This isn't like you, Ruri. Not in the least. The Ruri I know wouldn't think too hard, and simply be happy. But I think what might make you even happier is if we go to see Kozue. I know a back way. We won't be seen."

"Izumi-chan! You are, like, the best friend ever!"

Posts

Pages: 1
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20691
Writing all that makes me recall an earlier version of this game. I might not recall all the details, but...


The ending had our four heroines formulate a band. I'm pretty sure Shoko became a percussionist, and Mayu became a guitarist. Izumi and Ruri were the vocals, and the girls used their spirit forms as stage costumes. Except for, perhaps, Izumi. She might have retained the persona of Kaza Sei.

I think that ending basically had Izumi/Sei introduce her new band to the public, and them doing their first number together. The concept music for setting that scene up was very probably Tales of Phantasia's "The Dream Will Never Die", and has been closely associated with this game/project ever since. Given the project's start-date from my personal records (November 2009) and it's completion date here (December 2012), "ever since" probably entails a matter of two years.


...there it is.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20691
Perhaps you could call this a minor change, but, I switched the virtues of Shoko and Mayu. I was trying to use wikipedia's take as a guide of what to use on the matter...

Prudence is the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. It is called the charioteer of the virtues, as it guides the other virtues.

Justice is the virtue which regulates individuals in their dealings with others. Connected to justice are the virtues of religion, piety, and gratitude.

Fortitude, which Thomas Aquinas ranks third after prudence and justice, equates with brave endurance. Patience and perseverance are virtues related to fortitude.

Temperance is the virtue which moderates in accordance with reason the desires and pleasures of the sensuous appetite. Related to temperance are the virtues of conscience, humility, and meekness.

...and figuring out where, exactly, Mayu's personality fits in this scheme. I don't wish to get into too many additional details, but, I think the virtues/traits work out a little better...

Ruri -> Justice
Mayu -> Fortitude
Shoko -> Temperance
Izumi -> Prudence

...this way.
Pages: 1