Chapter 1

Arata rolls out of bed, picks up his phone and looks at it. Monday. 65°F, Kyoto. He walks into the restroom and splashes water onto his face. He washes his light tan skin before looking into the mirror and running his hands through his dark, blue steel hair. The last thing he does is put on a silver crucifix, a present from his father on his 16th birthday. He lives rather close to his high school; a mere 20-minute walk. It’s cloudy and cool outside. He steps out, locks the door and begins walking.

Arata lives with his father, who he is away on business most of the year, returning home only on holidays. His mother passed away at a young age, leaving him with almost no memories of her. His yellow eye color is the only memento from her.

As he walks, Arata begins to feel disturbed. He looks around. Something’s watching him. He dismisses the notion and continues his commute. After about 15 more minutes he reaches school. “Yo Arata!”, a voice calls out. He turns to see his friend, Kyousuke Arakawa. He is the same age as Arata, 17. His skin is a pastel white with scruffy dark brown hair and brown eyes. “Morning Kyou.”, Arata replies with melancholy. “Hey did you hear? We’re getting a transfer student.”

“So? There are transfer students all the time.”

“The point is that she’s in our homeroom. People say she’s a real beauty”, Kyou snickers.

The bell rings and the teacher walks in. “Alright settle down, settle down. We have a new student joining our homeroom. Ms. Miyazaki, would you please introduce yourself?”

A girl walks into the classroom. Her height is average but her physique is extremely athletic. She has red hair that extends past her shoulders but is tied up in the back, with tails resting on each shoulder. Her skin is very well toned and her light gray eyes reveal nothing about her. She bows her head. “My name is Aoi Miyazaki. I’m 17 years old and I used to live in Tokyo. Nice to meet you.”

Aoi takes her seat and class begins. Arata yawns as the teacher drones through the lesson. Occasionally he experiences the same feeling he had in the morning, prompting him to look around. “Still nothing”.

⧫⧫⧫⧫

“You alright Arata?”, Mizuki asks. Mizuki Kinoshita. 17 years old. She peers at Arata with her hazel eyes. Her skin tone is similar to that of Aoi. “You didn’t look like yourself today.”

“I’m fine.”, Arata replies. Mizuki’s been like this since they were children. She is caring but often critical of Arata’s behavior. His best description of her would be that of an older sister. “I’m just a little tired.”

Mizuki ties her light brown hair back. “You should try to sleep better then. I have track practice. See you later.” She turns and exits the classroom. Arata makes his way over towards the exit.

A tall figure blocks his way. Kenchi, captain of the kendo club. “Have you changed your mind?”, he asks. Arata pushes him to the side and continues walking. “Sorry man, I can’t”, Arata replies. He had displayed his skills at an open space held by the club at the previous school festival. Ever since he has been pestered to join, consistently declining, despite not being in any other activities.

Arata opens his locker to grab his things. A white note flutters to the ground. He reads it aloud. “Meet me in room 2201.” The 2 means it’s in the old school building, which is all but abandoned. “Why would someone want to meet me there”, he wonders. “I guess I’ll go. It would be rude not to.”

Arata walks into the old school building. Dust lines almost everything. He makes his way up the stairs and stops outside the classroom. As he moves to slide open the door he hesitates. “Don’t tell me this is a confession? No of course not. Nobody uses clichés like that today.”

After a minute he takes a deep breath, slides open the door and steps into the classroom. Aoi is looking through the window. The sunset and the room has an orange, mellow mood. Aoi turns. “Good afternoon, Arata.”

“You’re the transfer student aren’t you?”

“Don’t tell me you forgot my name already?”

“It’s Aoi right?”

“Correct! That’s ten points.”, she says gleefully.

“What do you want?”, Arata asks impatiently. Aoi spins and laughs.

“Don’t be like that. Why else would a girl ask you to meet her after school?” She walks over to him, to Arata’s discomfort. Eventually, their faces are mere inches apart, prompting Arata to quickly pivot. She grabs him from behind, wrapping her arms around his chest and pressing her chest into his back. “No running”, she whispers. Her hands rub across his abdomen. Arata is frozen like a statue until he notices one of her hands move towards the chain around his neck.

He quickly spins around and grasps her hand and stares her in the eyes. Aoi twists her hand and grabs his wrist and forearm. “What are you trying to do–”, Arata begins, but instantly the world is a blur. The next thing he knows he’s on the other side of the room in a heap of chairs and tables.

Arata stumbles to his feet and is met with a roundhouse kick to the head, sending him sprawling into more desks. He recovers quickly and switches to a self-defense stance. Aoi, however, lowers her guard and sits down on a desk. She crosses her legs and stares at him intently with a smile on her face. “Who are you”, he asks. No answer. Why are you attacking me?”

Aoi lets out another laugh. “Why else? To kill you.”

Arata is unfazed. “Kill me?”

“Yes. Kill you.” The words roll off her tongue so easily they send shivers down his spine. “Why?”, he asks.

“Those are my orders.”

“Whose orders?”

“Why should I explain myself to a dead man? Enough playing.” Aoi smiles. “Let’s get serious now shall we?” The two silver bracelets on her hands transform into daggers. Arata is stunned by the spectacle, a giving Aoi an opening to rush him. He leaps to the side and barely avoids her first swing.

“You’re quite nimble”, Aoi mutters, wasting no time getting back on the offensive. Arata continues to dodges most of her attacks while sustaining minor cuts. Arata makes a shot for the door but is cut off immediately. He backs up until he hits a window and looks behind him. They’re on the 4th floor. “Jumping isn’t an option.” Arata begins to assess the situation. “Maybe I can use this to my advantage.”

He steps up and throws a punch at Aoi, who simply tilts her head to the side. Aoi raises up her daggers and swings them downwards. Arata steps to the side and grabs her arm, grasping it with all his strength. Aoi grimaces and raises her opposite arm, preparing to strike. “Now!” Arata tugs her arm and lowers his body, throwing her at the window, which shatters as she falls through.

Arata slumps onto the ground and leans against the wall underneath the window. He clutches his shoulder, which Aoi’s dagger slit as she was thrown, and begins to steady his breathing

“Well, that wasn’t very nice.”

Arata moves to stand up but legs wrap around his neck, placing him in a choke hold. He tilts his head up and sees Aoi sitting on the windowsill, looking down on him her playful smile.

“Ever heard of the double tap rule? Never give your opponents the benefit of the doubt.”, she lectures. Aoi had grabbed the edge of the window and swung down into the classroom directly below, before climbing back up.

She rubs her hands. “I had to cut myself to grab the window, but I guess it’s better than some broken bones. You actually had me for a second.”

Arata sputters and croaks as he gasps for air. Her leg muscles contract as she tightens her grip around his neck. “What floor is this? Is a 4 story fall enough to kill someone? Let’s find out.”

Aoi falls backward, throwing Arata outside the window head first before grabbing the edge of the window and swinging back into the lower classroom.

Arata manages to twist his body, landing on his shoulder in a spinning motion that allows him to roll back onto his feet.  He immediately falls back to the ground, screaming and writhing in pain.

Although he suffers intense pain in his upper body, his legs are unhurt and he manages to get to his feet. He starts to run off the campus grounds.

Aoi’s smile evolves to a grin as she begins to laugh psychotically. “Is this dude serious?”, she exclaims as she takes off after him.

“I need to get to a police station.” The sun has fallen has and darkness begins to set. Arata in his injured state cannot outrun Aoi, who’s sprint cuts him off from any populated area. Eventually, Arata is forced to retreat to the shrine near his home. Exhausted, he falls against the base of a tree. Aoi, within seconds, is walking up the stairs, wearing the same demented smile on her face.

“I need to call someone.” Arata, in genuine fear of his life, pulls out his cell phone and attempts to dial a number, but it’s kicked out of his hands by Aoi, who appeared to cross meters in a mere second.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in a while.” Aoi says, extending her thanks to Arata. “Don’t take it personally. It’s my job.”

Arata doesn’t respond… he can’t hear a word she says. He is in a state of shock. “You there?”, Aoi asks as she waves her hand in front of his face. “Man. All of you are like this. I thought you would be different. Oh well.” Her knives appear in her hand out of thin air as they did previously.

“Goodbye.”

As a dagger makes its way towards his neck, the chain around Arata’s neck illuminates. A barrier erects, blocking Aoi’s dagger. Confused, Arata makes his way towards his feet. Aoi strikes twice more to the same result.

“Die!”, Aoi screams frustratingly as she sends both daggers towards Arata. The cross flashes white and releases a compressed explosion, knocking Arata to the ground and sending Aoi crashing into the gate wall.

Arata makes his way over to her crumpled body. Unconscious. “What should I do now?” he questions as he weighs his options. He can’t bring herself to kill her. His phone is broken so he can’t call the police, and if he tries to get them himself and she is gone when they return, there is a large chance she comes after him again. Embattled, he decides taking her home is his best option.

Arata pulls her to her feet and props her over his shoulder. “I’ll tie her up before she wakes up. Then I’ll find out what the hell is going on.

⧫⧫⧫⧫

When Aoi does wake it’s in a bed covered in sheets. While he did originally bound her, Arata’s nature curtailed his plans, and he laid her down on his bed before addressing his own wounds. He returns to find Aoi up and fully aware. He remembers the knife tucked in his back pocket in case the situation goes south.

Aoi slowly rises to her feet, prompting Arata to back away. He sees the bracelets around her wrists begin to illuminate.  “Wait wait wait. Can we just talk?”, Arata begins.

Aoi looks at him for a moment before deciding to sit back down, drawing a sigh of relief from Arata. “Who are you?”, Arata asks.

Aoi sighs. “I guess there’s no point in staying quiet. Fine, I’ll treat this as a last request.” Arata’s face hardens. “My name is Miyazaki Aoi.”, she says.

Arata looks at her dumbfounded. “Yeah, I kind of already knew that. Are you a hitman? Who’s paying you to kill me?”

“Hey, don’t put lump me with those criminals. What I do is legal.”

“Legal?”, Arata asks confused.

“I guess you could call my employer a division of the police. No… military actually.”

“You work for the military?”

“A division of the SDF actually. Technically I’m called a Sparrow.” Arata stops and thinks about the situation. “Why would the military want to kill me.” Arata looks back at Aoi. “You’re lying.”

“Honestly, if you don’t believe me, I think we’re done here.” Her bracelets begin to glow.

Arata concedes. “Alright alright, I believe you. If that’s the case, why does the military want to kill me?”

Aoi tilts her head and acts confused. “You’re a terrorist. Why shouldn’t we kill you?”

“What did I do?”

“Hmmm… be born I guess?”

“Be born?” Arata narrows his eyes. “Yep. Guilty by Association.”, Aoi replies.  Arata’s heart stops. “Association to whom.”, he asks.

“Your father who else?”

“Where’s my father?”, Arata inquiries. Aoi puts a finger to her chin and looks up as if she has to think of an answer. Arata impatiently grabs Aoi by the collar of her shirt and pulls her onto her feet.

“What happened to my father?” Arata’s voice has become laced with anger. Aoi herself has lost amusement. Her smile disappears. She looks down at Arata’s hands with a trace of irritation in her eyes. “He could be in the ground or he could be in the sea… depends on where he died.”

Arata forces Aoi against the wall. “Don’t screw with me.” He is answered with the cool tinge of a blade against his throat. “Let’s not forget our roles here, Arata.” Aoi says in a cold, hush tone. Arata releases his grip and steps back. “Sorry.”

Aoi straightens her shirt and sits back down. “Anyway, a magical crime is a very serious offense.”

“Magic?”, Arata scoffs.

“What do you think this is? An optical illusion?”, Aoi rebukes as her daggers disappear and reappear in her hands. “It’s already hard enough concealing it from the general public. The agreed consensus is to kill offenders on the spot, no matter how small the offense.”

“That’s ridiculous!”, Arata exclaims.

Aoi shrugs. “It’s meant to serve as a deterrent. If the punishment is so strict it discourages future incidents. Anyway, you’re even more special of a case. Your father was caught plotting to use magic for a “large scale incident”. Needless to say, he was promoted from criminal to terrorist.”

Aoi points a dagger at Arata. “So being his son, policy prefers you be killed as well. Your demonstration of magic earlier only justifies that position more.”

“I don’t believe you. My father would never do this.”

“Nobody thinks their family is capable of something like that. How long the has it been since you’ve seen your father in person?” Arata does not respond.

“Exactly. You have no idea what he could be out there doing.”, she chastises while Arata continues to sit in silence. “Are you done reflecting on your life? If so I believe we’re done here. Aoi walks over to him. “Any organs you want to donate?”, she questions.

“Not yet. I can’t die yet. I need to find out the reason.”, Arata responds.

“I already told you the reason.”

“No not that… why my father was killed. What he was trying to do…I still don’t believe you. Please, just at least let me look into it myself.”, Arata pleads.

“Look boy, there is only so much I can do for a man I’m supposed to kill”, she exhales.

Arata stares her in the eyes. “Please Aoi.”

“There’s honestly something wrong with you if you’re casually asking favors from people trying to kill you.”, Aoi sighs. She turns away from him. “I guess I wouldn’t want to kill you feeling like I’m indebted to you.” She turns back around. “Fine. Aoi turns around. 3 months. I give you 3 months to find out why. After that…”  Aoi twirls her knives.

Arata steps back. “I understand.” Aoi gives him her signature grin before leaving. The second he hears the front door close Arata falls onto his back and becomes immersed in his own thoughts, trying to piece together all the information he just processed.

About an hour later Aoi returns with a large bag on her back. She “lets herself in” by jumping through Arata’s bedroom window.  “What do you want?”, Arata asks impatiently, clearly frustrated with her method of entry.

“What are you talking about?”, Aoi asks as she jumps climbs into the room. She walks over to him, caresses his cheek and smiles. “Your life belongs to me now. I obviously can’t leave you alone can I?”

 

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