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Author Topic: [HalloweenCollection] Sekai Owari no Monogatari (Various Pairing)(CH.03)  (Read 6251 times)

Offline jubethehare

  • Comedy and Tragedy with a hint of Festive
  • ecchi
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  • 「皆さんが笑ったら私が笑って、私が笑ったら皆が笑う。 永遠にそんなループを世界へ誘いたい。」
Hello, everyone! It's October now and when you're talking about October of course you'll think about 'that' right? Yup, Halloween! That's why I decided to make a Halloween One-Shot. It's a NagiUha fanfic based on the song "Honoo to Mori no Carnival" by SEKAI NO OWARI. Just hit the song and watch the PV if you're interested, it got all the festivities feeling to it.  :D 

!!WARNING: IT'S A VERY LONG ONE-SHOT!!

This is the extended version which includes Ryouha's interaction with the other Tentoumu-CHU members, as well as several extra scenes and revelations. There's also a bonus art down there on my latest comment.

All in all, enjoy~ And Happy Halloween~~







のカーニバル
Chapter Innocence: Carnival of Forest and Fire

__________________________________________________________




__________________________________________________________




If you open the emergency exit of Yokohama’s ‘Cosmo Panic’

You’ll find the entrance to this place called [Treeland]

Just beyond the Great Tree, you are the main star of this place

Listen, can you hear the bell ringing? The party is going to start



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Today is October the 1st, and the town looked so beautiful.

With all its dazzling light glittering in the dark night, just like a sea of stars; for a moment I forgot that those light were nothing but simple lamp posts, standing lifelessly among the tall buildings and cold asphalts, and I looked down onto the scenery with a moment of admiration. This is the month of Halloween, where people would come together with their loved ones, playing around and handing out candies in a made-up party of the dead.  A happy holiday for all to enjoy. But none of that mattered to me anymore. 

Today is October the 1st; the day where I would die.

I closed my eyes and smiled, feeling my long hair fluttering against the cold wind that blew on that rooftop. 

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

I could hear the giant clock ticking beside me, as if telling me that the world would keep on moving whether I was there or not. I stepped forward and let my foot dangle in the air.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

  --The constant ticking kept echoing as I felt my body fell.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

   --As if mocking my ridiculous existence.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

   --Until finally, everything stopped.

  DONG…
 
     DONG…
 
       DONG …
 
         DONG…
                 
            …
                 
        ..

      .


What was that? Is that…the sound of a bell?

Where did it come from?

I reopened my eyes, finding the starless sky that was dyed in a strange mix of red and dark purple. My body lied intact on top of the soft greenish grass.

…where am I?

I mulled to myself as I sat, staring at the otherworldly yet beautiful sight.

Had I finally died— “A human girl?”

I flinched. A hoarse croaking voice, almost like an animal’s cry. It sounded nothing like I’d ever heard before. I turned to find the source of that abnormally strange voice, and what I saw right after sent a cold sensation deep to my soul.

There was a dog. A huge gigantic dog, with pitch black fur and three mismatching heads. Its red eyes eyeing me closely like a hungry predator.

  “Human girl?” “Is that—?” ”Human…” “—what is that?” ”—human?”

More voices entered my ears as I saw a hoard of black peculiar shadows started to approach and circle me.

  “Human?” “Did you say—“ “Oh?“

A strange chill ran up my spine as I felt the dog’s cold breath against me, its razor sharp fangs only a hair-breath away from my face.

  “Smell delicious~~”

I froze; fear struck me stronger than ever before, and I could feel my body involuntarily shaking. …what an irony. The greatest fear I’ve ever felt was after I had died.

  “Looks warm~~” “—delicious!” “Share—“

I was scared. I was very very scared. Enough to drain myself with no power left to run or scream for help. What will happen to me after they eat me? Will it be hurt? Pain. I hated pain. I closed my eyes tightly.

  “THANKS FOR THE FOOD~~”

Somebody please help— “Right, right~ Break it up folks, break it up~~”

Another voice; a playful sing-song voice, followed by three light tapping sounds.

  “Harlequin?” “Harlequin—“ “It’s the Harlequin—“

The hoarse voices turned quiet, barely above whispers, and I heard footsteps approached me.

“What’re ya guys doing? Scaring the poor girl like that…”

It’s that voice again, and I could hear the dog growled in response.

“Step aside, Harlequin. It’s a human girl. And it’s my prey.”

“Human girl? A ha ha ha~ Ya got something in yer nose, Cerberus?”

Eh? I could sense someone standing in front of me and I opened my eyes, looking up at the mysterious figure. It was a girl with black wavy hair, adorned in a red top hat and matching red suit. I couldn’t see her face as she stood there, her back against me, stepping in between the monstrous pack and myself.

“She’s not a human, silly. She’s a special guest and the main star of this carnival.

…a guest? What is she saying?

“I—“

“Shh…”

She gave me a glance and put a gloved hand to her smiling lips, shushing me. Her shining red eyes gave me an air of assurance. I clamped my mouth shut in response.

“Got it now, Cerb? Just leave ‘er to me and get back to yer work.”

“Hah! And what make you think I’ll trust a word from a trickster like you?”

She shook her head, folding her both hands on top of her cane.

“It’s not a matter of trust or not trusting. As per Phantom Knight’s order, I am now the conductor of this carnival.”

“…”

“Or perhaps you have something to complain?”

Her voice dropped a few octaves as she said that, and maybe it was just my imagination but I could see her shadow extended from her feet, as if covering the whole plains in her power, sending the crowd of monstrous figure bowing and stepping back in fear. The gigantic dog growled.

“I’ll get you for this, Harlequin.”

“Sure, whatever. Now leave.”

She tapped her cane one more time and the crowd dispersed, running and leaving the two of us on the empty grass field. I stared at her with awe. Who is this girl? Why is she protecting me? As I silently thought about that, the girl suddenly fell to her knees.



..

.

Scary~!! Uwaaah, that was very scary!”

Eh? The strong aura around her instantly vanished and I stared at her with wide eyes, trying to cope with the sudden changes. What…just happened?

“Good thing that they believed my bluff, if not I’ll be in a big trouble. A ha ha ha~”

“…umm, are you…okay?”

“Huh? Sure, no worries~” She leaped back to her full height.

“How ‘bout cha? You okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine—“

My words were stopped short as she turned and showed her full appearance to me.

Her face was abnormally pale, just like that of a corpse, its upper half hidden behind a mask painted in a mix of black-white and red. But what struck me wasn’t that; it was the left part of her face that showed nothing but pure white skull, protruding from her skin. Right then, I realized something. She’s not human. She’s a monster, just like them. A renewed fear invaded me and I shakily scrambled to my feet.

“Ah, wait! Please don’t run!!”

An icy cold touch grasped my hand and I turned, finding the girl’s skeletal hand stopping me.

“Please calm down, I won’t hurt ya.”

The girl softened her grip and gave me a sheepish smile. And somehow, seeing that smile, the fear inside me quickly melted away. …how strange. Her touch that felt so cold before suddenly become so warm.

“Have ya calm down?”

I nodded, relaxing my tense muscle. She released my hand and chuckled.

“Aww, am I really that scary? I’m deeply hurt now, ha ha~”

“…I’m sorry.”

“Eeeh, why are ya apologizing? You’re not at fault or anything.”

“…”

“Well then, let’s go now. Quickly.”

She took my hand again, this time with her gloved one, and proceeded to drag me with her. I made a quick walk on my feet, trying to keep up with her pace.

“W-wait! What is this place? Where are we going!?”

“Here? This place is called [Treeland]; a place that lies between the human world and the world of the dead.”

“A place between the human world…and the world of the dead?”

“Uh-huh. This place is the gate that connects both worlds. I don’t know how but you may have accidentally slipped through and somehow got here.”

“…”

Then that means…

“am I…still alive..?”

“Yup, you sure are. And I’m taking you back.”

…No.

I stopped on my feet, forcing her to do the same. She looked at me in confusion.

“What’s wrong? We have to hurry—“

“No.”

I bit my lip.

“I don’t want to go back…”

“…”

“I don’t…”

My voice stuck on my throat, and I fixed my eyes to the ground, avoiding her gaze. Silence enveloped us until I heard her sighing loudly.

“Okay. I get it. I won’t force you. But first thing first, you gotta need this.”

She reached for her breast pocket, and I finally noticed the burning rose sitting there, plucking a petal from the odd flower and clenched it in her palm. She raised an index finger, telling me to wait, and tapped her closed palm a few times with her cane. As she did that, the petal grew into a full flower of its own, expanding through the hollow of her skeletal fingers. I was enchanted by her magical display, and she smiled, tying up the red ribbon around the flower to my hair.

“There… It really suits you.”

There was a hint of sadness in her eyes as her fingers brushed slightly against my face, but before I could see any further she turned away, taking my hand in hers again as she walked. Perhaps it was just another of my imagination; I decided that way as I followed her through the row of dark identical trees.

“..umm…”

“It’s Harlequin.”

“Harlequin... Where are we going this time?”

“Glad that ya ask~”

She changed her tempo from a walk into a run, dragging me with her one more time. Soon enough we passed through the forest into another open plain, a huge campfire sitting in the middle to greet us. The Harlequin released my hand and spun on her heel, ignoring the crowd of monsters that currently staring at the two of us, seemingly surprised by our sudden appearance. She hopped onto the giant tree stump beside her, stretching her both hands to her side and shouted.

“Welcome! To the Carnival of Forest and Fi—” THUD

“Ouch!”

I blinked, watching as a girl covered in stitches hit her head with a plank of wood, knocking her from her glory.

“Shut up, Harlequin. Where were you anyway? Stop being so noisy and start working already!”

“Geez, yer being overly serious again, Scarecrow." The Harlequin pouted, holding her head. "Since I’m the current conductor can’t we have a laid-back and enjoyable carnival?”

“You’re being TOO laid-back, ms. Conductor… We have to finish the preparation before the month’s end or the higher-ups won’t be happy.”

“But it’s only the first day!”

I could only stare as the two monsters started bickering, seeing how humans they acted despite their appearance. What a surprise…

“Please don’t mind those two, they’re always like that.”

I almost jumped on my feet as I found another figure beside me; a girl on a black robe and a scythe on her hand. She smiled at me and I tried my best to return her smile.

“Death! Come knock some sense to this idiot! You’re way better at leading people than her.” I heard the Scarecrow shouted and Death chuckled, approaching her two friends.

“Let her conduct this carnival her own way, Scarecrow. Besides, we’re not anywhere behind the schedule.”

The Harlequin puffed her chest in pride and Scarecrow sighed, crossing her arms.

“So, Harlequin. Who is she?” Three pairs of eyes landed on me and I could sense myself tensed.

“Oh, her? She’s the special guest brought by my boss.”

“The Phantom Knight?”

“Yup.”

“I see. What’s your name, miss?”

I felt my hands started to sweat as nervousness invaded me. Oh no, what should I say?

“It’s Black Swan.”

…eh? I switched my eyes to the Harlequin and she stepped down from her stage, coming to my side to pet my head.

“That’s her name. She’s eerily quiet and still new ‘round here so she’ll be needing some space, ha ha~”

“Huh. She’s still very young, I guess. If it wasn’t for that death flower on her I would’ve thought that she’s a human.”

…that was close. I could feel the Harlequin tense a bit from that word too but she hid it so well.

“Well then—“ Death said. “—let us welcome you one more time.”

The monsters that were scattered around us started to gather, cheering and clapping their hands.

“Welcome to the Carnival of Forest and Fire.” 


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


This is the Carnival of Forest and Fire; a carnival I invited you to

Where even ghost and the dead are dancing together

As I see you smile, I remember the magician’s words to me

"You must keep your love a secret, or the girl's life will be in danger"



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Come on, over here. Hurry, hurry~”

“Wait a sec—“

I almost tripped on the nearby trunk as I walked through the wild patch of trees, trying to keep up with Harlequin’s pace. After a few walk from the center of the carnival I found her stopping by a particular tree, folding her hands behind her as she smiled. I blinked, studying the strange tree beside her. It wasn’t that tall of a tree, but compared to the other trees I saw around Treeland it was quite bulky. But what made this tree looked special wasn’t that.

There was a door on it. A door and some windows planted on its wooden structure. Could it be…

This’ll be yer house for now.” I heard Harlequin said as she tapped the door with her cane. “It’s quite far from the carnival site but not that far. At least it’ll give ya enough privacy, ha ha~”

I nodded, following her inside as she turned the doorknob open. The interior was simple and cozy, almost similar to what you’ll find in a human world; a living room, a small kitchen, a bathroom, a back door, and a stair to the second floor which I believe lead to where the bedroom is. What a surprise… I thought to myself as I ran my fingers over the wooden material of the dining table, finding it glowing a bit as I touched it. I instantly retracted my hand; looks like it’s not that much the same. I could hear Harlequin snickering as she saw my reaction, and I gave her a small pout.

“All trees here in Treeland are connected to the Great Tree, so they’re pretty much alive. They won’t bite though~”

…the Great Tree? What…is that? I decided to save that question for later as Harlequin continued her tour to the second floor, motioning me to follow. It was a bedroom, as I previously guess, a one-person bed and a cupboard inside. There was also a window sitting on the far end and I could see the carnival site from there. But there was something else that caught my attention, and it seemed like Harlequin was thinking the same. The red-suit conductor sighed and walked toward the bed, using her cane to tap on a girl sleeping peacefully on the comfy surface.

“Oi, wakey, wakey~ Time ta wake up, Cheshire~”

“Hmmrh?”

I peeked from behind Harlequin, watching as the girl let out a yawn, almost like a purr, and switched into a sitting position. Her purple cat ears twitched a bit as she blinked a few times.

“Ya awake now?”

She nodded slowly, turning head toward us, and as her gaze fell on me, her eyes widened.

  “YEEEKK!!!”

What the!? I flinched, closing my ears with both hands as the girl suddenly let out a high-pitched scream and disappeared in a puff of smoke. I saw Harlequin shook her head, chuckling.

“Aww, stop being such a scardy cat Cheshire. Come on out~”

There was no response. Is that cat-girl still even here? My doubt was cleared as I heard a voice answered.

“H-h-harlequin! Who IS that?”

“Oh, her? Just a new monster ‘round here and a special guest to this year carnival. Nothing to be afraid of.”

“Really?”

“Yup, really. Come out here.”

“…”

I nearly screamed when the girl suddenly materialized beside me, her body floating as she put her hand on my shoulder, her nose sniffing me like a real cat.

“She smells…strange…”

Uh-oh. I took a step away from her, feeling Harlequin pulling me and hiding me behind her back. The girl furrowed her brows in suspicion.

“A ha ha, what’s with ya and Cerb? Something wrong with yer nose?”

“Hmmm, I dunno. Maybe?”

She shrugged, vanishing and popping out again by the window, perching on it. Harlequin and I let out our breath in unison.

“Sorry for startling you, miss.” She smiled at me. “I’m Cheshire, what’s your name?”

“…Black Swan.”

“Whoa…” She popped and suddenly appeared in front of my face, and I yelped. “She’s a really quiet one.”

“Right, right. Now stop that, Cheshire. You’re scaring her…”

“Eh, I did?”

“Ya got surprised easily yet you surprise people as much with yer shriek.”

The Harlequin pulled Cheshire by her collar, throwing her away as she floated freely in the air, as if gravity didn’t affect her at all. She fixed her yellow cat-like eyes on me again and I gulped.

“So? What are you two coming here for?”

“Oh yeah. Imma borrowing this place so can you stay with Scarecrow for a while?”

A pause. A dead quiet pause.

“EEEEEEEHHHHH!?!!??”

I once again flinched as Cheshire shrieked and puffed, appearing in front of Harlequin.

“Y-you want me to leave this place!?” She pulled on the conductor’s collar, shaking her like a leaf. “I can’t! I can’t live peacefully with all that ruckus and unpredictable accident and—“ “Aww, yer overreacting, Cheshire. Ha ha~ It’s all safe in the carnival site. Besides, Scarecrow’s there so don’t worry too much. ‘kay?”

The Cheshire let out a long sigh and hung her head, before turning to me with a sad face. I started to feel sorry for her.

“Okaaay, I’ll lend my place to her for a while.”

“Great! Thanks a lot, Ches~”

The cat-girl let out another sigh and smiled at her friend, before she vanished again. I blinked. Has she finally left now? I turned to Harlequin and saw her chuckling.

“Well, you heard her.” She walked past me and leaned her back on the window. “Welcome to yer new home~”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Knock, knock, knock--

I woke up to the constant sound of knocking by my front door.

Knock, knock, knock--
Knock, knock, knock--


I groaned. Who might it be…? I absentmindedly thought as I closed my eyes again, still feeling sleepy from the full-blown explanation of the carnival’s rules by Scarecrow. Probably just Harlequi—  “Helloooo!! Is anybody home~~!?”

I instantly jumped from the abnormally loud voice, fully awake. Who!? I quickly put on my black sweater and shoes, running down the stair to answer the person by the door.

“…yes?”

“Ah, so you’re The Black Swan!”

It was a girl with a ponytail, a pair of black bat-like wings sprouting from her back and another pair from her head, and she was grinning widely at me.

“I’m Devil DJ. Nice to meet you!”

“…umm…nice to meet you, too…”

The Devil DJ nodded and grabbed me by my hand, suddenly dragging me with her.

“W-wait—“

“Let’s go, Harlequin’s waiting!”

Huh? I didn’t have time to say anything as the cheerful devil brought me to the carnival site, past the busy crowd of monsters and ghosts in a swift; I stared in awe as she greeted all the monsters on her way, not missing a beat. She even managed to fetch some food by the snack bar without stopping. I guess there’s still a glutton even among monsters… I mulled to myself as I let her dragged me around, finally reaching our destination as I saw a certain red top-hat by the distance. The Devil DJ waved her free hand and shouted. 

“Yo, Harlequin~ I’ve brought her with me~”

I saw the Harlequin turned to see us, putting away the black disk on her hands.

“Oh? Thanks a lot, DJ.”

I blinked as I saw the black box in front her, somehow feeling familiar by its shape. Is that…a turntable? I watched the Devil DJ gave Harlequin a quick high-five before switching place with her. So even such things existed in this world? I guess that’s why she’s called ‘DJ’… I mentally noted as I saw her placing a vinyl records under the needles, listening to the song it produced. It was a classical music. And I knew this music. The school I was enrolled to back in the human world was quite a prestigious one, so I knew a lot of classical songs. This one included.

Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35. Also known as—

“The Funeral March.”

I heard Harlequin finished it for me and I glanced to my right, finding her standing beside me.

“Did you know this song? The Dark Witch, the queen of this place, said that she loves this song. Especially the 4th movement.”

The 4th movement…huh. The mismatching finale, with unvarying tempo and not a single rest, ending with a sudden fortissimo. I remembered that piece a lot, finding it strange why such a calm melancholic song must ended with loud messy notes, as if describing the gossiping relatives who talked of the dead after their funeral. A ridiculous mockery. I couldn’t understand there’s even someone liking that part of the song. Harlequin seemed to read my mind and she snickered.

“The Queen is a very eccentric one.”

“I see…”

“…”

“…”

“Do you like classical songs?”

“I…”

I didn’t continue my words, fixing my eyes on the Devil DJ in silence. I liked them. I liked them actually. But at the same time, I hated them. I hated them. Because they reminded me of my school life, and all the painful memories I had there. I gripped my arm tightly, trying to push the thought away to the back of my mind. I didn’t want remember. No. Not any of them—

TAP

Eh? I blinked, feeling all the sounds around me being cut off. I glanced to my side, seeing Harlequin covering my both ears with her palms, trying her best to close the hole between her skeletal fingers. She smiled, loosening her hold a bit.

“Eeeh, ya don’t seem happy hearing it so…”

She shrugged, and I gave her a perplexed look in return. The worry inside me suddenly faded and I smiled, touching her cold skeletal hands. I sensed her flinching slightly from my touch.

“Thank you…”

“…sure. You’re welcome.”

It’s warm. It felt so warm. Even now I still didn’t understand why. Perhaps it was her kindness. Perhaps because I hadn’t felt kindness for a while that it felt so warm now. That’s what I believed as I savor that tender moment, enjoying the peaceful silence she gave me until…

“AAAARGGH--!!!”

What now…? I heard the Devil DJ shouted in frustration as she ruffled her hair.

“Boring! It’s so boring! We gonna need some more ‘oomph’ for the carnival! Don’t you agree, Harlequin?”

“Well…” Harlequin chuckled, retracting her hands. “Just do yer magic, DJ.”

“Sure, leave it to me!”

I watched as the Devil DJ put away the previous record, replacing it with an upbeat and cheerful song. She grinned, throwing her fist to the air, and seeing that, I could feel myself start laughing.

  “As I thought, a smile suits your face better…”

Eh? I turned to see Harlequin, but she had already left my side to join DJ by the turntable. I blinked. Did she say something just now…?



Oh well… I shrugged, seeing DJ waving her hand at me. I smiled and joined their little party, treasuring the small happiness that started to grow inside my heart like a candle in the dark. 


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=

Once I’ve found my way around Treeland I finally started my first day working together with the other monsters to prepare the carnival. It was funny, I thought, when I found that these monsters were the same monsters which nearly eaten me before. Seeing them now working, laughing, and playing around; they didn’t seem as scary as I saw them at first. The funnier thing was, I felt a lot happier here than back in the human world, melding with creatures that’s supposed to be human’s greatest fear. Really, what an irony. I guess I really wasn’t meant to live as a human. I let out a dry laugh as I kicked on a stray pebble by my feet, fixing my eyes in nothing in particular.

…ah, yeah. I had an errand to do. I shook my head lightly, focusing my eyes on the little map Harlequin drew for me. Just beyond this row of dead trees was the beverage section where I had to meet up with the Bar Robot. I quickened my steps, seeing the destination of my little walk. There, on the makeshift bar made from a giant tree root, was a girl with short black hair and white porcelain skin, a metal key planted on her back. She was so cute that I couldn’t help staring. In my eyes she was more like a doll than a robot. Yes. A remarkably cute wind-up doll you’d find in an antique toy store.

“Umm, excuse me?” I blinked, hearing her soft and cute voice entered my ears.

“Do you need something?”

She looked nervous, and I finally realized that I’d probably been staring at her for a while. I awkwardly nodded and approached her.

“…yes. Harlequin told me to come here… She asked for the sample of the Moon Cocktails…”

“Oh, why of course. I’ve got some sample but I don’t know…”

She shyly handed me some glasses and I stared at it, watching the mysterious concoction of many different colors swirling there on top of the bar.

“There’s a lot of them so I don’t think you can bring them all to Harlequin.”

“…”

“Umm, maybe you can just taste it and tell her what you think?”

I froze, staring at them with wide eyes. Wait. Cocktails… Aren’t they…some kind of Alcohols? I kept staring at the row of glasses in silence, and from the corner of my eyes I could see the Bar Robot eyeing me with a worried look. I took one of the glasses to my hand nervously. This is my first errand. And I wanted to help Harlequin so much after everything she’d done for me. But… There was a rule that prohibit minor to drink alcohols back in the human world. So I kept staring, didn’t know what to do.

“Black Swan?”

“!?”     

“I-is something wrong?”

“…no. It’s nothing…”

I took a deep breath, gaining my resolve. Here goes nothing. I closed my eyes and lifted the glass to my lip…but the cold liquid never reached my mouth.

“mmph!?”

I blinked, finding a strange black shadow covering my mouth.

“That... ah, so she’s sewing her shadow to yours? That’s convenient.”

…eh? Sewing...what? I gave the Bar Robot an oblivious look as I saw my own shadow extended to the bar, a bunch of pitch black bunnies emerging from it and taking the glass of cocktails one by one. The Bar Robot giggled.

It’s Harlequin’s ability. She never told you anything about it before?”

“…”

I felt the shadow around my mouth slithered away as one of the bunnies took the glass from my hand, still mesmerized by the amazing shadow play. A shadow bunny hopped to the bar and whispered to Bar Robot’s ear.

“Hmm…hmm… Ah, so that’s why! I see.”

“?”

I saw the Bar Robot turned to me with a smile.

“Sorry, I don’t know you’re allergic to alcohol… Ah, but they’re not alcoholic so you don’t need to worry.”

Allergic… I waved my hand lightly to dismiss her, giving her an awkward laugh. I guess there’s no rule about alcohol in this world so Harlequin made that excuse for me… I glanced at the bunny beside me and it blinked back at me, tilting its head.

“You don’t really need to do that…” I whispered to the bunny. “I… I’m not coming back to the human world anyway…”

The bunny blinked one more time, before hopping onto my shoulder. It let out a quiet purr, nuzzling its face to mine and licking me, as if telling me to stop worrying.

“…”

I let out a small smile, feeling a blush rising to my face from her silly way of affection. She’s just too kind. I softly laughed as I followed behind the line of black bunnies, waving the Bar Robot goodbye and following with their little march, back to a certain undead conductor waiting for my return.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Five days had passed since I arrived at this place. Or so, if I could really call it ‘day’.

There was no real concept of night and day here as the sky always stayed the same; the only way to tell time was through the sound of the bell. One chime to signal the one-third of the day. Two chimes for the next third and three chimes for the last part. After that the chimes returned to the start of the cycle. The monsters used the first part of the day to prepare the festivals, second part to have fun, and the third part to go back to work or rest. There’s some who worked all day, like the Scarecrow, but I usually followed the Harlequin’s method of work-play-rest in that order.

The foods around here highly resembled that of the human world too, except they’re more tasteless and almost felt airy, as if it was nothing but a specter of illusion. Besides, I couldn’t feel hunger anymore so I sometimes ate them just for the sake of habit. The monsters around me did the same. I also started to make friends with a bunch of Harlequin’s group.


   --The overly-serious Scarecrow...

   --The charismatic and leader-like Death...

   --The scardy Cheshire Cat...

   --The cute and soft-spoken Bar Robot...

   --And the cheerful Devil DJ.


Everyday was so fun here that I almost forgot how it was back in the human world. Not that I care. I had no reason to go back anyway. I shook my head to dismiss that lingering thought.

“Hey, Black Swan.”

Hm? Oh yeah, that’s my name now. I snapped my head to the source of the voice, finding Scarecrow calling me as she worked on a wooden statue.

“Yes?”

“Can you get Harlequin here? I need to ask the layout of this part. You can take a rest after that.”

“…okay. Umm, but I don’t know where she is…”

“She’s probably sitting by the Great Tree by now.”

It’s that thing again. The monsters mentioned about the Great Tree quite often. I wonder what it is… The Scarecrow seemed to realize the confused look I was giving and pointed her wooden hand to guide me.

“You see that giant tree over there? That’s the Great Tree. There will be a small lake by its root and usually Harlequin is there watching the bubbles floating from it.”

Is that how she passes her time? I always used the third part of my day to sleep so I never knew. Perhaps she didn’t need the concept of sleep; now that I think again, I never saw her sleep before. I shrugged and gave Scarecrow a nod, going on my way to fetch the conductor of this carnival.
The walk to tree was surprisingly short, and before I knew it I had reached its old sturdy trunk that glow in a faint reddish light. A calm dripping sound of water could be heard and I followed the direction of that sound, finding a small spring hidden behind a veil of green leaves.

“…Harlequin? Are you there?”

Stepped inside the area that was dyed in blue and green, illuminated by the mysterious light shining from pool of water. A bubble, around the size of my palm, floated up from the water surface; It danced silently in the air before popping in a mere seconds. Another bubbles followed right after, flowing from the water surface before popping one by one to make a unique echoing melody. I wonder what this place is. I guess I’d ask Harlequin after I found her. I proceeded to look for her again.

“Harlequ—“Ryouha…”

I froze. My body trembled as the familiar voice entered my ears and I darted my eyes around, trying to find the source of that echoing call.

“Ryouha… Please wake up…”

“..Rion?”

A bubble floated right in front of me, the crying face of my best friend reflected on it. What…is this? Why does she look so sad? An unknown sensation overwhelmed me and I reached my hand toward it.

  POP--

The bubble popped once my finger touched its soft surface, and a dark eerie shadow burst from it, covering the whole area. I stared on in horror as more voices echoed around me.
 
  “Eww, what with her? Gross~~” “She’s so eerily quiet~” “What with that look? Angry?” “Kyahahaha!!”

The painful voices pierced through my head and I closed my ears tightly, trying to block it out.

No, no, no—

   “Huh? You want it back~?” “Sure take it~” “What’s wrong? Just take it already~”

Please no… Shut up! Get away from me!!

   “Oopsie, did I hit you?” “How sad—

                  TAP--

My breath hitched as I felt someone softly embraced me from behind, a gloved hand covering my eyes gently. “Calm down.” She whispered to my ear. “Nobody is hurting you, I promise... It’s all just your imagination...” The malicious voices started to fade from her words and I felt myself calming down, falling to her firm grip. She moved away her hand from my eyes, and I looked up to see her smiling face, resting my head on her chest.

“Harle..quin…?”

“Hello.”

My head was still hazy and it took me a while to register everything, but once I realized the position we were in, I instantly returned to my feet and stepped away, a strange heat rose to my face. 

“Hm? Are you still dizzy?”

“N-no…I am fine…”

“Really?”

She tilted her head, and I looked away in response, frantically hiding my face. Eh? What is this? For the first time in my life I felt my heart beating very fast. What’s wrong with me?

“Ya better not touch those bubbles anymore. They pop so easily, y’know~”

I heard the Harlequin said and I peeked through my long strand of hair, seeing her skipping through the sea of floating bubbles. I decided to take the chance to distract my thought.

“…what is this place?”

“It’s the Spring of Memories. A special place located only in Treeland.”

She chuckled and touched one of the bubbles, keeping in on her palm without popping it.

“From here, you can see what happen in the Human World.”

The news shaken me and I saw her gave me a soft smile, before letting the bubble on her hand floated back to the air.

“I come to this place a lot of time before, seeing the happiness and laughter and cry and death and birth of many humans. Treeland is the gate that connects both worlds, the place of in-between; such a place is an anomaly to both worlds. That’s why it could only open its gate for a month every year. …well, only the sixteen members of the Great Council can actually cross the barrier of worlds though. Low-rank monster like me can only go this far.”

…I see. So that’s where the real tradition of Halloween came from. I nodded as I kept on listening to her story.

“Sometimes there’s human getting lost to this place just like you. But it’s very rare and the last time I heard of that was decades ago, ha ha~” She walked and stopped in front of me, folding her hands behind her and tilted her head.

“So? Did Scarecrow tell ya to come here?”

“…how did you know?”

“Eh, well, only six of us know of this place and if there’s anyone needing me by this late, it gotta be Scarecrow.”

…wow. Although how silly she usually acted she could actually think that far, huh? She blinked as she saw the perplexed expression on my face.

“What with that face? Are ya making fun of me?”

“..no. Not at all.”

“Well, okay. Let’s go before Scarecrow start yelling again, come come~”

I flinched a bit as she dragged me by my hand again, feeling that same warm sensation invaded me, but I decided to push it away to the back of my mind, letting the silly conductor brought me back to the carnival site. Back to the joyful days of preparation and playful chatters.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Please take me away to the party”

You said that to me in a whisper

Well, let’s go see the Devil DJ then

And wait as I get us the moon cocktails



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


I opened my eyes and sat up in a jolt, feeling cold sweats dripping down my forehead. A nightmare. Ever since that time, the memories from my time back in the human world started to haunt me again in my sleep. Those painful days, those constant bullying, those sickening laughter; I hugged my shivering body, trying to erase it from my mind. But Rion…

“Rion…”

I whispered her name softly, the name of my one and only friend. What have I done? Two weeks had passed since that time I tried to commit a suicide. What has happened to her? Is she blaming herself for what happened to me? Suddenly I was washed by a strong sense of guilt. I had to go back. I had to. But even then, I… I paused, seeing a shadow of cute bunny dancing in front of me, distracting me from my previous thought. I sighed, feeling a small smile creeping up my face.

“Harlequin...”

“Uh-oh, busted. Aha ha ha~”

The shadow melted back to the ground and I glanced to my left, seeing the playful conductor poking her head from the window. A huge smile adorning her face that had started to grow familiar to me.

“How’d ya know it was me?”

“…you’re the only one around here who can control shadows.”

“Eeeh, is that so? I thought anyone can do that.”

She scratched her cheek a bit and climbed inside, sitting on the windowsill.


"Did you have a bad dream again?"

“...yeah.”

"I see..."

"..."

"Say..."

“?”

“Do you want to go back?”


Her words surprised me and I looked away.

“I…”

“…”

“I…don’t know…”

I gripped the blanket on my lap tightly. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I want to go back, but in the same time, I was scared. I was scared of facing that loneliness again. I knew that I didn’t belong here. I knew that this black rose she lent me lose its petals day after day. That once it had truly gone those monsters would start hunting me again. But…

“I’ll come with you.”

Eh? I turned my face back to the Harlequin, watching her smiling there.

“Once I carried out this carnival I’ll get my promotion to the Great Council. By then, I will come with you to the human world—whoa!

I shot to my feet and hugged her tightly, burying my face to her chest. I felt her body tensed from the sudden action, before she started to relax and petted my head with her skeletal hand.

“I saw Rion…” My voice trembled, and I hugged her tighter. “I-I saw her there…sitting in a hospital room crying… She looked so sad…and so lifeless…”

“…”

“She’s my one precious friend…and I can’t stand seeing her like that… I have to go back… but… ”

“…”

“I-I’m scared. I’m scared of going back… I—“

“It’s alright..." She softly whispered to me. "Whatever happens from now, I promise that I will protect you…”

I flinched, feeling tears swelling up in my eyes. Why? Why is she so kind to me? Even though she’s just a monster… She’s supposed to be nothing but a moving corpse, cold and lifeless, and yet I buried my face deeper to her embrace, taking in all her warmth. My heart throbbing hard against my ribcage from her touch.

“Harlequin…?”

“Yes?”

I swallowed, trying to find my voice.

“I—“ “Sorry for intrudiiiing~~!!!”

“!?”

I pushed her away in reflex, feeling my face strangely heating up. Oh no! I looked out of the window, finding her barely hitting the ground, her shadow stopping her fall. Her expression was as shocked as I was. 

“Huh? What are you guys doing by the window?” The Devil DJ peeked through the window beside me, and as she saw the funny position Harlequin was in, she started to laugh.

“A ha hah! You look so lame, Harlequin~!! What the heck, you fell from the second floor!?”

“Shut up, DJ! Whatcha comin so suddenly for?”

“Whoa, don’t be so mad. The Bar Robot said she needed you to check on the new cocktails, that’s all.”

“…fine. Take care of Black Swan for me, ‘kay?”

“Gotcha!”

I saw Harlequin coming back to her feet and walked away, while I turned to the Devil DJ. She looked back at me innocently.

“Err, can you wait outside for a while?”

“Oh, okay.”

She walked down the stairs to the first floor and left, closing the door behind her. I sighed, taking the time to calm myself. I touched my face with both hands, checking if my previous abnormal temperature had died down. Okay, I’m ready now. I took a deep breath and went outside, following the Devil DJ back to the carnival site. Only two weeks left until the party started and the structure of the carnival could already be seen. The stage, the fire, the stands, the special seats for council members; I guess Harlequin didn’t mess around all the time. I silently smiled as I thought of that, walking pass a crowd of monsters and waving at some of them.

“Ah! I forgot!” The Devil DJ shouted on top of her lungs and I blinked.

“Can you fetch Harlequin again, Black Swan? Please?”

“…okay, no problem.”

“Thanks! Oh, and please tell her to come to my place afterwards. See ya~”

I waved as I saw her off, making my way to the beverage section. She’s probably still with the Bar Robot, I guess. I could hear the sound of her trademark laugh as I got closer to the bar.


“Harlequ—“Oh, oh~ This one is great, too~!”

   “Eh, you think so?”

   “It sure is, aha ha ha~”



I stopped, watching the two of them talking with each other in a friendly manner.


   “Thanks, Harlequin. I can do this by my own from here on.”

  “Are you sure? At least let me accompany you until DJ or Scarecrow comes.”

  “It’s fine, really. You guys have always been overprotective around me.”

  “What else can we do? You’re just too cute and unbearable~



I felt my ears twitched as I heard those words, something dark swelling in my heart …I don’t like it. Somehow, I just don’t like what I see. I clenched my fist and silently walked toward them.


“Ah, it’s Black Swan.”

“Ooh, is that so? What is it, ya need something— My mind went totally empty, and before I could register anything I had pulled her collar and put my lips above her, pulling her into a soft kiss.

Her lips were just as cold as I imagined them, but it didn’t matter as the heat from my breath melted our touch into a warm exchange. I saw her red eyes turning blank and I pulled away slowly, staring deeply into those red orbs. I puckered my lips, feeling the sweet taste of the moon cocktail she just drank, before switching my eyes to my feet.

T-the Devil DJ!" I shouted in excuse. "She said she needs you in her place after this…”

“…”

“Umm, t-that’s all... bye.”

I turned on my heel and sprinted off, not even taking one glance at her. My face felt like burning in embarrassment, but somehow, I felt a strange happiness swelling in my heart. I didn’t meet Harlequin for a few days, but the Devil DJ always came to my place after that, telling me how the usually so swift Harlequin kept tripping and bonking her head to some trees as she walked in daze for many days to end.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


As I become entranced by the robot at the bar

You got angry and pull me into a kiss

“The next one will be your turn”

You shyly said as you looked away



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Only one week left until the carnival…huh?”

I whispered those words to no one in particular, hearing as my voice echoed around the isolated cave of Spring of Memories, watching the floating bubbles in front of me. One week left until the carnival, and one week left of my stay here. Once that time ended I would return to the human world. That idea used to horrified me, but now, when I knew that Harlequin would come along with me, it didn’t feel as scary as I thought. I wonder why… I hugged my knees as I sat on the stony ground, watching the reflection of some children laughing and playing on the nearby bubbles. ...no. Perhaps I’d already knew. This strange tender feeling I had whenever she’s around, I knew what it was. But I just couldn’t say it.

“When did it all start, I wonder…”

I softly laughed as an image of that silly conductor with the red top-hat passed in my mind. Maybe, once we reached the human world, I’d tell her this feeling. I wonder if she’s feeling the same, too. That thought worried me a bit, but it quickly disappeared as I remembered her smile. Looks like I just have to give it a go…

“Oh? If it isn’t the Black Swan…”

Huh? I blinked and turned, finding a girl with black robe and a huge sickle approaching me. I smiled at her.

“…good morning, Death.”

“Good morning. What are you doing here? Does Harlequin’s antique start to affect you, too?”

“…I guess?”

She chuckled and walked past me, taking one of the bubbles with her; it had the reflection of an old lady on it, sitting peacefully by her rocking chair. The Death smiled as she saw that, and then, she did something I never imagined she would. She clenched her hand, popping the bubble along with her. I froze, seeing the eerie darkness I’d seen before bursting from it, followed by heart-wrenching cry. What is she…!? I shot to my feet in alert, but the Death kept her calm, watching the raging force in silence, before moving her hand to her mouth. Yes. I saw it clearly back then. She brought her hand to her mouth, swallowing and slurping that darkness like a delicious food. She licked her lips as she finished.

I stared at her in a mix of shock and disbelief, and she blinked at me.

“I’m sorry, did I startle you?”

I didn’t answer, unable to form any words as I was still shaken from her unbelievable action. She let out an awkward laugh.

“Err, that’s how I do my job, actually.”

“…?”

Do…her job?

It’s my job to escort a human soul to the land of the dead without getting lost in Treeland. And to do that, I have to consume their memories to know everything about them.”

Escorting a human soul…without getting lost in Treeland? My eyes widened as a realization hit me, and I clenched my fist, trying to stop my trembling. There’s something wrong. Something really really wrong. If Death was here to stop human from wandering into Treeland, then why…

“…”

“Are you alright, Black Swan?”

“…yes. Yes, I’m fine, but… can I ask you a question?” I took a deep breath, gathering my courage.


“Is it possible…for a human to come into Treeland?”


Death paused and stared at me in silence, before she sighed.

No. It’s impossible. My superior, the Skeleton Maiden, will definitely know about that. And I will be sent to retrieve that soul before they even reach Treeland.”

“!?”

It’s a taboo. The greatest taboo there is for us monster, to let human come to this place. And if one break that taboo…”

I froze. What… What’s the meaning of this? If what she’s saying is true, then—

“Oh? What a rare two-shot we had ‘ere, ha ha~”

I snapped my head toward the source of the voice, finding Harlequin standing there with her usual smile.

“Morning, Harlequin. And uh, I think I just scared Black Swan with my routine…”

“Eh, what? Yer still doin’ your job even though the carnival’s this close? Ha ha, ya being infected by Scarecrow’s seriousness?”

“That’s not it… I have to do my job disregard time, you know…”

“Well, whatever. I’ll be taking Black Swan now, see ya~”

She grabbed my hand and dragged me away from Spring of Memories in a second, her eyes avoiding me.

“Harlequi—“

“There’s only one week left to the carnival! We hafta work hard now, hurry hurry~”

I clamped my mouth shut and decided to give her a nod, trying to ignore the little fear creeping inside me. She’s hiding something. But whatever it was I tried to put it away for a while, focusing my attention to the carnival. There’s only one week left. And when the carnival’s over I’d have all the time I need to ask her about everything. I clenched her hand tighter, gathering my resolve. Until then…


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Today was the day of the carnival, and I could sense the tension rising in the air. More and more monsters of higher ranks started to flood the area and I stared at the scenery with awe, peeking through the window of my room. The time had finally come. I gulped, trying to calm myself.

Knock, knock--

Eh? Someone was knocking by the back door. I wonder who it is... I put on my shoes and left my makeshift bedroom, opening the wooden door.

“Hello.”

It’s the Harlequin and something felt off with her smile, but I just couldn’t put my finger to it. I tried to ignore it and gave her my own smile.

“…what are you doing here, Harlequin? Isn’t the carnival starting soon?”

“Yup, but I’ve got Death to take over the opening for me. Let’s go.”

Go? Where to? I didn’t have time to ask as she grasped my hand and dragged me with her through the forest, running through the identical form of trees. It reminded me of the first time I arrived here, and the story of our first meeting.

“W-wait, Harlequin! Isn’t the carnival the other way around?

“It is.”

“Then where are we…”

I stopped mid-sentence, staring at her unusually serious face. I knew. Somehow I knew where she’d be taking me. The answer was right here, on the black withering rose on my hair. There’s only one petal left on that rose, so before it had completely gone, she had to take me back to that place.

The Human World.

I grasped her hand tightly as we walked through the dark forest in silence, seeking assurance in her touch. A part of me remembered of my previous encounter with Death, and I opened my mouth, trying to clear the lingering fear I had tried to keep hidden since then.

“Umm, Harlequin…”

“Yes?”

“You…you’ll really come with me, right? To the Human World…

“…”

“Harlequi—“ “Oh, lookie! We’re here~”

Finally our walk ended and I was met by a door. A simple white door standing on an empty ground, leading to nowhere. I gulped and glanced to the Harlequin.

“Go on. Open it.”

An unknown fear invaded me but I decided to do as I was told, intertwining my fingers with her as I turned the doorknob open, making sure that she’s still there by my side. What awaited me beyond the door was a pitch black tunnel, a darkness that felt like sucking me in toward it. It was a very frightening sight…but it’s fine. Yes. As long as she’s with me I wouldn’t be afraid of anything. I took a deep breath and took the first step into the dark tunnel. I had decided, once we finally reached the Human World, I’ll tell her my feelings. That I actually...





..

.

SLIP

Eh? I froze, feeling the hand on my grasp disappeared. What is… I turned around, seeing the Harlequin smiling at me from beyond the door.

“Harle…quin?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t come with you to the human world. I lied.

What…is she talking about?

“Even though it’s such a beautiful world, too bad. A ha ha ha~”

Why… Why are you laughing like that?

“Good bye, Ryouha.”

A sharp pain struck my chest and I reached out to her, trying to fight off the gravity that pulling me to the other side. What is this? It hurts. It hurts. I felt my tears threatening to come out as I saw her smiling there, before a patch of black shadow pierced through her chest, ripping her rose into pieces. Yet she still smiled. She still smiled and limply walked to the door, closing it slowly with the little energy she had left as the shadows started to spin and consume her body. I stared on in horror as that shadows started to rip into her limbs by limbs, and she shakily opened her mouth, whispering her last words to me.

“Please live.”


     DONG… DONG… DONG …DONG…


A bell. Another sound of the bell. I opened my eyes, meeting the unfamiliar white ceiling of a room. Where…am I now? What is this place?

“…Ryouha?”

That voice. A familiar voice I haven’t heard for a while.

“Ryouha! Oh, thank goodness… Thank goodness that you’re finally awake…”

I found my best friend Rion pulling me into a hug, sobbing into the white material of my hospital robe.

“Ri..on?”

“Oh, Ryouha… You’ve been in a comma for a month I… I thought I wouldn’t see you again…”

A comma? …ah, so that’s how is it. [Treeland] The gate between this world and the world of the dead. That’s how I got there. But the reason I could live on in that place, surviving through the hoard of monsters, was because of her. I tried to raise my shaky arm, staring into my empty hand. It’s her. It’s all because of her. That silly conductor with her red top-hat, the one that kept holding my hand with her cold skeletal fingers.

“…she’s…gone…”

“Ryouha?”

“…she’s gone...”

My throat felt like burning as those words passed through me, tears falling down my face as I cried my heart out. It’s not a dream. It’s not a dream, I’m sure of it. Because if it’s only a dream, then where’s this painful feeling in my heart coming from? I screamed as loud as I could, as if it would be able to reach her and bring her back to my side.

“R-ryouha!? Please calm down, what are you—“

I felt Rion holding my shoulders, speaking to me in a panic. I could faintly hear the jumbled voices of some doctor and nurse rushing to my side, but I didn’t care at all. She’s gone. She’s gone. She’s truly gone. I hugged my hand tightly to my chest, trying to recall her warmth. Her last word echoed inside me like a spell.

“Please live…”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


This is the Carnival of Forest and Fire; a carnival we are invited to

Look, everyone is dancing happily to it

As we looked at each other, the magician’s words reminded us

"You must keep this love a secret, or else her life will be—



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Today is October the 1st, and the town still looked so beautiful.

One year had passed since that day, and I returned to this place, watching the night view of the city that still looked like a sea of stars. I wondered if the people down there were still the same too, enjoying this month of Halloween with sweets and pranks and their loved ones. I hugged my jacket closer as the cold wind blew against me, listening to the clock’s tick-tack. I recalled this one year I spent in the human world, the one year I spent without her. There was time when I felt like giving up again, but it was her wish that made me kept moving. And then, I remembered her previous words to me.


 “Treeland is the gate that connects both worlds. It could only open its gate for a month every year.”


Yes. That’s why I returned here, hoping that the gate would open once again. Clinging to that small hope of seeing her once again. I closed my eyes.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

  --Hey, do you know? Those people finally felt guilty and apologized to me.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

   --Thanks to you and everyone I’ve also started to open up to people. I’ve got more friends now.

Tick-Tack, Tick-Tack

   --I’ve kept on living, just like you say. If you just know…


  DONG…
 
     DONG…
 
       DONG …
 
         DONG…
                 
            …
                 
        ..

      .


“Ryouha?”

I flinched as I heard that, feeling a slight twinge in my heart. No way... I turned around, recalling her face in my mind once again—

“Harlequi—!!“

—but the one awaited for me wasn’t that silly conductor with her red top hat; there were two ghastly girls, one dressed in a blue military uniform, and one looked just like a broken rabbit doll. The color of their eyes showed me that they weren’t humans. The one with the blue uniform stepped forward.

“So you are Kitagawa Ryouha, I see.” She spoke in a stern yet caring voice, and from her appearance, somehow I could guess who she was.

“I am the Phantom Knight; the former commander of the Harlequin.”

“…I know.”

I answered in a casual manner, but inside, all my feelings for that certain ghost mixed together, suffocating me. I swallowed, trying to find my voice.

“How…is she?”

The Phantom Knight narrowed her eyes and I could see the Rabbit Doll approached her, squeezing her hand. No. I didn’t like the look she was giving me. I clenched my fists in my pocket as she gazed deeply into my eyes, as if trying to read my mind.

“Harlequin…she was one of my best pupil. She can be a bit slow in the head but she’s still a quick learner, and most of all, she always give her all in everything she did. Everything has been moving in a good direction, until that day…”

“…”

The day she fell in love with a human; an eerily quiet human girl who was so kind yet always looked lonely, a fragile human who stayed strong and kept hanging on with her life.”

Eh? What is she…

“Her ability grew tremendously since then, but at the same time she had visited the Spring of Memories more often. When I realized she had almost reached the top of my command. It was her dream to become one of the Great Council and came to the Human World to help that girl, but before she could reach that dream, that human girl gave up on living and decided to end her life.”

No… It can’t be…

“That moment Harlequin made a deal with the Dark Witch to save the girl’s life. She would be given time until the end of Halloween to return the girl to the human world, but once the time ends, Harlequin’s soul will be cast into the abyss of nothingness and forever belong to the witch…

…no. No, she got to be joking. A deal? The Dark Witch? And it’s all…because of me? Suddenly my legs felt weak and I fell to my knees.

“I’m sorry.”

Those two simple words pierced to me painfully, but I couldn’t feel anything anymore. Not even sadness. Not even pain. It was as if my heart had gone numb, leaving nothing but a hollow shell.

“There’s still hope.”

…huh? I found the Rabbit Doll crouching in front of me, patting my shoulder, and I looked up to her cute smiling face. She raised her furry arm and handed something over to me. A thread. A very thin spider thread that barely visible.

“Sayaka and I didn’t manage to rescue her, but with the help of Ms. Spider we managed to attach this thread to her soul without being known by the Dark Witch. Keep this with you, and someday, once you find the other end of this thread, you’ll be able to see her again.”

The Rabbit Doll released her fluffy hand and left, catching up with the Shadow Knight, and just like that, the two ghastly figures vanished, leaving me by my own again. It was just like a passing daydream and I gazed at the thread on my palm, watching it gleaming under the soft moonlight.

The other end of the thread…

I closed my eyes and stood, clenching the threads tightly. If I can find you again, I…

Tug, tug

Eh? I felt a slight tug on the thread and I blinked. Could it be… I clenched the thread tighter and ran, following its thin strand. My long hair fluttering behind me as I went passed the busy town, passing the crowded shopping district, focusing my eyes on that thread that only I could see. I bumped into people on my way and they gave me a cold look, but I didn't care. I needed to see her; that's all I had in mind for now. I finally went pass the dizzying crowd all the way to the dark and empty playground, resting my hands on my knees as I panted. It’s been a year. One whole year since then. What would I say once I see her? Would she laugh at me if I tell her that? This feeling I’d been keeping all this time…

I took a deep breath, calming myself, and stepped up the stony stairway one by one, but once I reached that place there was no one around. I sighed and rested myself on the nearby chair. The previous tugging stopped and I bit my lip, feeling a bit frustrated. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy, huh…

“Hello.”

I froze as I heard the familiar voice, and I almost couldn’t believe my ears. I turned, watching her standing there with a long sweater, a can of warm tea on her hand. Her kind smile greeted me like it’s always been. Her long wavy hair was still the same but her eyes were no longer the same shining red; it was replaced by pitch black orbs instead, and in place of her skeletal limbs were hands of that of a human. 

“You okay?”

“…Harlequin. You've really—”

“Harlequin?”

I blinked, staring into her confused face. Eh? A sharp pain struck through my chest and I raised my clenched palm, opening to find the spider thread vanishing into thin air.

“Err, ya really okay, miss?”

“…”

"Can I...have a seat here?"

The girl tilted her head, before hesitantly taking a seat beside me. She popped open the can on her hands, switching her eyes from it to me and back to the can again. Then suddenly, she tapped the warm metal to my cheek.

“!?” I flinched and pulled away from her, giving her a pout as I touched my cheek that was dyed red from the sudden change of temperature.

"...it's hot. What do you think are you doing?"

“You talk!  Ah, sorry~ You’re so quiet that I thought yer tongue’s frozen from cold, a ha ha ha~”

That laugh. That annoying yet heart-warming laugh. I couldn’t stop myself anymore and I pulled her into a hug; I felt her whole body suddenly tensed from my sudden action.

“W-whoa, miss!? What are you—”

“I’m sorry…”

“…”

“I’m sorry…but let me do this for a while…”

The girl let out a small ‘ok’ and started to relax, petting my head as I buried my face to her chest like I always did. She’s here. There’s no doubt about it, it’s really her. She might not remember anything about me, but she’s here now. And that’s all that matter. I felt my tears fell and I smiled, releasing her from my embrace.

“…sorry for doing that so suddenly.”

“Nah, it’s fine. I was shocked though, ha ha~”

She let out a laugh and I could feel our hands touching, intertwining with each other as if it was natural.

“My name is Nagisa.” I heard she said. “Shibuya Nagisa.”

The girl gave me a sheepish smile and scratched her cheek.

“What’s yours?”

I clenched her hand tighter, finding my voice.

“It’s Ryouha.” I smiled for her. “Kitagawa Ryouha…”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


This is the Carnival of Forest and Fire; a carnival you invited me to

Look, even the Cinderella is singing to its rhythm

As we melt into the crowd, I grasp your hand tightly in mine

And from then on, I decide never to let go…




__________________________________________________________
Carnival of Forest and Fire// END
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 06:01:08 AM by jubethehare »

Offline MaYukiIsLife

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2015, 10:55:05 AM »
It was sad at first, but then Nagisa or Harlequin, was reincarnated into a human body?

Offline jubethehare

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2015, 12:41:40 PM »
@MaYukiIsLife Well, to put it simply...yes. There's still a lot of mystery hidden along with the intervention from Sayanee, Milky, and "Ms.Spider", which will be revealed in their part of the story. I'm thinking of writing the SayaMilky chapter next for this Halloween Series but don't think I can make it before the month ends.  :sweatdrop: I also got my other fanfic, so...

Offline MaYukiIsLife

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2015, 12:46:26 PM »
I would be able to help, if I hadn't had too many fics to proofread and write ^_^ But anyway, I'll wait for an update for this and your other fic too :3

Offline Ruka Kikuchi

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2015, 02:05:09 PM »
This is so good~~~ >w<

Offline kuro_808

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2015, 06:18:30 PM »
Interesting aspect overall :thumbup
Random Thought:

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R.I.P. Jab!  Dad/friend

Offline deguchi

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2015, 12:47:38 AM »
NagiUha!!!
I love this one!
Thanks author-san..
just love to read alot of fiction story

Offline ChibiRine

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2015, 01:46:44 AM »
YOU'RE BACK! Hihihi~

As usual, your works are toooooooooo GOOD! :mon thumb:

Will wait for more OS/Updates from you. :mon bye:


油断した私がハートときめかせたせいねその目に見つめられポーっとしてしまった

君を見つけたらどんな言葉を掛ければいい?その姿 見とれて僕はきっと立ち尽くす人混みと喧噪の隙間愛する人と出逢えたことだけでしあわせになる

スキャンダラスに生きて行こうそれが私たちの生きる道やりたいことやって行こう一度の人生だ

For more gayness and sweetness, visit the FuuMiru Thread and KojiYuu Thread!


Offline Yuki88

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2015, 07:16:33 PM »
I love the fantasy aspect of this fic! We're lacking this kind of fic on JPH!P nowadays so you brought us a warm breeze. ;)
Anai Chihiro is my one and only.


"Are we nothing more than the captain and her vice captain?"

My random OS Idea Center || Hakata Legend (HKT48 drabble fics) || Virgin Love (A TomoYuki Fluff) -hiatus?-

Tumblr version of my fics archive: http://blacksnow88.tumblr.com/

Offline abcari

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Re: The Carnival of Forest and Fire [Halloween OS] [NagiUha]
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2015, 06:03:01 AM »
Let me tell you, when I saw how your fic was called I was like "Okay, sekai no owari?" then I saw that it was because of them and I started to read with more happiness as I was listening the song lol

Offline jubethehare

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Re: [Halloween OS]The Carnival of Forest and Fire[NagiUha](bonus art)
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2015, 04:56:22 PM »
And here's the silly little bonus art I made for this fic~~
Happy Halloween, everyone~~
:D


« Last Edit: October 31, 2015, 12:34:30 PM by jubethehare »

Offline Ruka Kikuchi

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^OMG SO CUTE!!!!!!! >w<

I always love your artwork. X3

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[HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky] [Afterwords]
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2016, 03:38:43 PM »
Hello, everyone!

It's October all over again. And when it's October, well, you know what it means?
Yup, Another Halloween Fanfic!

This one is the continuation from [ Carnival of Forest and Fire ] I posted last year and the story actually happens on the same time span. This time instead of focusing on the world of the dead, it explores the human world and its connection with the monsters. And the pairing on this one will be SayaMilky with the song "Present" by SEKAI NO OWARI as the base. It will also have an extra section under the story so look forward to it. :D 

!!WARNING: ANOTHER VERY LONG ONE-SHOT!!

For those who haven't read the previous fanfic and feel a bit lost, you check it here  >> link

All in all, enjoy~ And Happy Halloween~~






プレゼント
Chapter Lost: Present

__________________________________________________________




__________________________________________________________




What is the meaning of [not knowing] ?

I don’t understand so I assume it’s the same as [hate]

There’s so many thing I don’t know, and before I realize

I’ve started to hate everything



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


They said I used to have a name.

A long long time ago, hundreds and hundreds of years before now.

They said I used to be a knight, a captain of a royal navy, someone who died with her ship in price of saving everyone.

I don’t know when but at one point people started talking about my death, thinking that my soul was still roaming somewhere in the vast ocean, seeking revenge on whoever it was that marked my last voyage. As time passed my story slowly grew into a silent folklore, and before long I changed from a human into a completely different being.

Yes, I remembered. My first memory as a phantom was that of a stormy sea, standing on the wreckage of my old ship as it was tossed all over by the raging waves. How could a ship as broken as that still float, I didn’t seem to mind it at the moment as I grabbed the steering wheel out of instinct, pushing through the deadly weather in a panic rush. When the sky finally cleared and the water had calmed, I started to realize my pale bluish hands that were gripping the wheel, finding it different from how I used to remember them. I released my grip and turned my gaze toward the empty deck, running down to inspect the whole ship, finding it all empty with no crews except from myself.

Wrong. This is wrong. The thought hit me with a wave of shock, but more than that, I found that something more crucial was missing. I froze into a complete stop and turned my face to the faraway horizon. Finally, I uttered my first word from my stiff lips.

    “Who am I?”

What is my name? My one true name. My memories were blank, and as time went by I came to realize that my current identity was just a made up story created by countless humans, laced with many presumptions and boisterous lies. Probably, maybe, might have. Those words circulated around me as I kept searching for my real self, bringing down every ship that stood in my way.

I don’t know anything, I don’t know anything.

And yet, I alone have to keep sailing the seas for eternity and bringing death to those I meet.

Days turned into months, months turned into years, and years turned into decades; the legend of my ghost ship grew bigger and transformed into a more chaotic mess. Yet, the answer to my question left unanswered. There were times when I cursed those humans for giving birth to me, shouting in agony as they isolated me from their kind and turned me into a nameless monster. But now, as I sat in my cabin polishing my rusty sword, I felt like I didn’t care anymore.

I was nothing but The Phantom Knight now, a ghastly and hollow shell of my former self.

A member of The Great Council of Sixteen.

Right now I was one of the strongest monsters, or [Oddities] as how we liked to call ourselves, serving as the leader of the [Watery Graveyard]; one of the many realms located in the world of the dead. My mighty ghost ship stood in the middle of the realm, driving its anchor permanently to the endless sea while the other lesser ships, where my underlings and the younger Oddities I took under my wings resided, gathered around the area. The sky was always dark in this realm and there was no land in sight. Sometimes a deadly storm brew, sometimes a bunch of pirates came to attack our ships, but mostly the scenery stayed in its constant blackness. As if we were doomed to gaze the sea for eternity.

Does it sound so dreadful to you? Frankly, for us Oddities it wasn’t that bad. Besides, for a certain month in a year the gate to all realms would connect and we could saw something different for a chance.
 
October; the month of Halloween.

All of Oddities would gather in the world in-between called [Treeland] and hold a joyful carnival by the end of the month, meeting other Oddities of different realms and partying to their heart’s content. Come to think of it today is September the 30th, a day and a month left until the carnival day. And I supposed to meet someone today. Just as I was thinking about that I could hear footsteps approaching from the main deck.

Knock, knock, knock


“Capt’n, ya in there~?”

Three light tapping sounds, and an annoying sing-song voice I knew so well. I stopped from polishing my sword and set aside the weapon to my table, seeing the candle light reflected on it.

“Come in.”

I folded my both arms on the table, waiting for the young oddities to enter the cabin. She closed the door behind her and smiled, removing her hat as she gave me a quick bow.
 
“You called for me?”

“Yes. There's something I need to tell you, Harlequin.”

The oddities blinked and stepped forward, keeping her hat above her chest; her bright smile didn’t change but I knew that she’s actually observing my whole gesture intently by now, taking in everything she saw and heard without fail. I knew, because I’d been looking after her for a very long time. She was one of my best underlings, and in fact the reason why I called her today was because I saw something different in her, something that I could use to my advantages. I raised my folded hands, hiding my mouth behind my intertwined fingers as I stared back at her.

“I believe that you’re aware of the upcoming carnival.”

The Carnival of Forest and Fire? I sure do.”

“And I’m sure you know that this year is my turn to conduct the carnival?”

“ ‘f course, everyone’s been talking about that. They’ve been so jolly, ha ha~”

“Unfortunately, or fortunately, there will be a bit of changes to that.         

I saw her smile quivered a bit when she heard that and I continued.

“The conductor of this year’s carnival; I want to give that position to you, Harlequin.”

The girl blinked again, seemingly trying process the shocking news I told her. The conductor of this holy carnival had always been one of the Great Council, and to be given such a big role… I guess even a usually so composed trickster like her would be shaken. 

“Don’t worry, I won’t push the whole thing to you.” I tried to assure her.

“I just need you to substitute me until the carnival day. And whatever the outcome, I’ll take full responsibility of it.”

She seemed to hesitate for a while, before she finally gave me a nod.

“Right, gotcha. But why so suddenly? It’s yer first chance since forever—”

“Enough questions, Harlequin. Return to your cabin. Now.” 

I said it in a stern voice that was barely a shout, and I could see her flinch a bit from that. She gave me one long stare, before giving me another bow and put her hat back above her head.

“Well then, I’ll take my leave. Nice speakin with ya, capt’n.”

The Harlequin turned and walked toward door, the sound of her cane tapping against the wooden floor echoed within the small room. She must have found it strange, for me to refuse the role of conductor while it’s supposed to be a great pride for Oddities like us. The reason was simple.

I hated people.

The ruckus, the silly warmth, the merry atmosphere; unlike a social butterfly like her I really didn’t enjoy crowd. I’d been alone for centuries and I didn’t feel like needing a company any soon. I wonder what the Dark Witch was thinking, appointing me as this year’s conductor. Perhaps it’s her idea of jokes. I couldn’t find any other reason but that.

I sighed, finding that Harlequin had reached the door and planted her gloved hand on the knob. Yes, this girl could conduct the carnival just fine. She might look like she’s always messing around but she had actually planned each and every one of her act in her head, down to the every laugh. If there’s one thing I was worried about, that would be…

“Wait, Harlequin.”

She halted, glancing at me from above her shoulder.

The Spring of Memories. I forbid you to enter that place until the carnival ends.”

“Hm? Why’re ya so concerned ‘bout that, capt’n?”

“You’ve been too immersed in the human world. And you know that it won’t end well.”

“Eeh, really?”

“Forget about that human, Harlequin. An unnecessary feeling would only hinder your task.”

“…”

I saw the young Oddities turned and smiled at me, her eyes giving me an expression I couldn’t read.


    “That’s why you’re always alone.”

                       CLANK--

I charged at her, drawing my sword in a flash and pierced the wall just a hair-breadth away from her neck. I could feel her shadow grew at the same time, springing up from the ground and turning into deadly spikes, their sharp ends pointing at me. Our eyes locked, red against red.

“Haven’t I taught you to watch your mouth?”
 
“Whoa, did I hit a wrong spot?”

I didn’t answer, keeping my cold gaze on her. I saw her smile softened a bit, and the look on her eyes changed, as if she was looking down on me with pity. That simple look filled me with deep anger.

“Leave.” I whispered darkly, pushing my sword against her neck as I cut through her cold skin; there was no blood gushing through the wound as she had none of it in her undead flesh.

“Before I cut off your head and feed it to the abyss…”

She didn’t move for a while, before she let out a laugh and raised her both hands in defeat, retracting her shadows back to the ground.

“ ‘kay, ‘kay, sorry~ I’m just joking, ha ha~”

I growled and pulled my sword, putting it back to its sheath by my waist. The Harlequin lowered her hands and bent down, picking up her red top hat that fell from our previous clash. I eyed her closely as she patted the hat a few times, before she put it back on with a smile.

“Geez, don’t lash out at me just b’cause yer’ lonely.”

“I am not. Unlike weaklings like you, I don’t need someone else to keep me alive.”

“Ha ha, it must be hard being as strong as you.”

I gave her a skeptical look, but she simply waved it off, taking a step out of my personal chamber.

“I hope you can be a weakling too someday. So that you can understand that feeling."

And with that, the young Oddities closed the door behind her and left. I sighed and sat back to my chair, dismissing her ridiculous statement in a mere second. What a miserable existence, that child, to devote herself for the sake of someone else. And a human at that. Pitiful. I shook my head.

Speaking of humans…

I tilted my head to my side, glancing at the wooden door just beyond my seat. Its pure white color stood in contrast within the gloomy cabin. I let out another long sigh.   

“Perhaps I’ll go visit that place for a chance.”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


‘Not knowing’ is a very scary thing

That’s why I tend to spit ugly words

Deceiving those around me, and before long

I’ve started to hate myself too



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


The place beyond that door was nothing but darkness.

The walk seemed so endless and it was pitch black wherever I see, but even then, as if a sense of gravity was pulling me, I knew where I should take my next step. Maybe it sounded strange to you but that’s just how it was, and before long I’d found another white door that lead to the exit of this endless abyss of nothingness. I stopped on my track, releasing the lantern on my right hand in mid-air. The lantern floated freely beside me, and I used the little light it had to search around my back pocket, retrieving a metal ring with many keys on it. Let’s see… Treasure Room, Torture Room, Prison Chamber, ah here it is. I pulled out the golden key, listening to the loud click it produced as it fit perfectly into the keyhole.

Ten seconds left… 

I released the key and put my hand above the doorknob, waiting for the certain sound of a bell that signaled the start of October.

Five…

   Four…

     Three…

       Two…

         One…


DONG… DONG… DONG… DONG…

POP!

What the—!?

I flinched as I heard the strange popping sound and instinctively closed my eyes from the sudden brightness.


     “Welcome, dearest guest!”

   “Welcome and enjoy yourself~”



I narrowed my eyes as my sense of sight returned, and I put one hand above my eyebrows to block the light, letting my eyes to adjust themselves from the previous state of total darkness. The bright cozy room stared back at me in silence, and I could finally make up the two identical figures that were standing in front of me. Both of them were dressed in black maid outfit, a grin adorned their face as they held out a cracker by their hand. So there’s where the popping sound came from.

“Welcome to Halloween Night Club.” The figure on the right said, and the one of the left continued.

“Did you enjoy your stroll?”

I raised a brow at their silly statement, retracting my golden key and closing the door behind me.

“Drop the act already. Y’know that I’m not a guest and there’s nothing to enjoy from crossing the abyss.”

The twin maids let out a giggle at the same time, throwing away their cracker with no care whatsoever. I sighed and clenched the ring of keys on my right hand, watching the whole metal dispersed into thin air safe for the golden key. A chain was connected to it and I dangled the little trinket around my neck. I turned my attention back to the twins, finding one of them skipped away ahead of me, while another pulled my free hand as she gestured me to follow.

I let them guide me through the long staircase, my eyes absentmindedly gazing at the wall that was decorated in colorful gems and unique ornaments; the door where I emerged from was located in the underground chamber far behind the staff room, so it would take a while until I reached the main lounge. We passed by a hanging mirror and I glanced at it silently, staring at the reflection of myself that was reflected through its surface. My hair was still the same, black in a short haircut, but my skin was no longer the same bluish color; it was replaced by a normal healthy flesh. My burning red eyes changed into a deep shade of grey, while the usual blue knight uniform I wore had been replaced by a simple leather jacket and a pair of dark blue jeans. To put it simply;

I had transformed into a human being.

Though in reality, the word ‘transform’ wasn’t the right way to put it.

I was still the same ghost, the undead Phantom Knight, but my appearance had changed to mimic that of a human. That being said the me that you see right now was nothing but an illusionary image created from Dark Witch’s magic. It was the same with the two maids that were currently dragging me by now; both of them were Oddities like me, disguised as human beings. And as to why we disguised ourselves this way, I think you could already guess by now.

This is the human world.

I had crossed the border between the two worlds and finally arrived in the abode of the humans.

Did you think it would be a hard thing to do? To put it bluntly it was nothing grand at all. Once the gate opened it is possible for all Oddities to cross between worlds, but whether they could stay alive or not it was another thing. The reason was many and I wasn’t in the mood to explain so let’s just put it for another time shall we? For now I finally noticed that the two maids had stopped walking and we had arrived in the drinking area. The bartender stopped polishing the glass as she saw us, and she put it away on the table in front of her, smiling. The twin maids left me and stood by her side.

“Oh, if it isn’t the Phantom Knight. What’s up, so early this month?”

“Nothing much, Frankenstein. Nothing much.”

“Well, one thing though. You better call me by my human name here. And it’s ‘Sae’, got it?”

I shrugged and took a seat by the bar, eyeing my fellow Oddity with a bored look. The short-haired bartender chuckled, taking out a small cup and pouring some hot coffee for me, while the twin maids left us to chat by the other end of the lounge. I sipped the bitter treat in silence. The Devil Maids and the Frankenstein; another members of the Great Council of sixteen, and three among the four who resided here all year long to monitor the human realm. I didn’t know the details but it seemed that they even had a complete document that stated as if they were real humans, different from me and the other members who only came here once in a while. Oh and yes, we worked as staffs at this club every October, right until the Carnival of Forest and Fire started. It might sound silly but there’s a good reason behind it, believe me.

“Oi, Phantom.” I heard Frankenstein called me and I glanced up from my cup of coffee. She smirked.

“Remember the agreement?”

“What agreement?”

“Once you set foot in my place, your working shift starts. Applied to ALL council members.”

She raised her index finger as she pointed it out and I stared at her for a while, before nodding. She snickered as she saw my reply.

“Good girl. Now then, I have a special job for my most diligent part-timer of the year. Churi-chan, Aya-chan, get me the documents I set aside please.”

“Right away!”

“Gotcha~”

I heard the twins cheerfully answered before they skipped away to the backdoor.  I let my eyes wandered to the nearby window as I took another sip of my coffee, watching the waning moon that decorated the grayish night sky. Well, at least it’s nice to see a not-so-pitch-black sky once in a while. I heard footsteps entering the room and I turned my attention back to the bar, seeing the maids returned with a stack of newspapers and a brown envelope in hand.

“Here it is, Sae-san~”

“Thanks. Now, back to business.”

I put away my coffee, examining one of the newspapers while the bartender opened the envelope, the smile on her face vanished.

“Something mysterious has been happening around here, something that I need you to look into.”

“…”

“People were found dead in empty alleyways, stabbed and gruesomely mutilated in a way humanely impossible. The police concluded that all the killing was done by the same person and they’re currently looking into it. But I don’t think this is just a normal homicide case.”

The bartender pulled out some photos from the envelope and spread them on the table between us. I looked at them in silence.

“These are the photos taken by Kao-tan, the mummy. Do you notice anything odd?”

The corpses were quite strange, indeed. Their bodies were in a huge mess; their limbs brutally torn and their inside splattered all over the wall. The shape of their wounds didn’t look like it was done with a normal knife or anything alike; it was as if a wild animal just passed by and decided to use them as its plaything. I could clearly see the huge gash that resembled a bite, the flesh half-eaten to reveal their guts. Whatever killed these people, it ain’t human. And somehow it didn’t look like a mark left by sharp fangs of a beast, but more like a rat bite or perhaps a rabbit’s. A very huge gigantic rabbit.

I stole a glance at the bartender and she nodded, as if reading my mind.

“That’s right, Phantom. A new Oddity had just arrived in this town. And I want you to fetch this troublemaker and teach it a proper lesson, before they found it first…”

The [Exorcists]. I sighed and tossed the newspaper back to the table, nudging my temple. So I had to play a little hide-and-seek in this babysitting session, huh? Considering that the previous leader of the Great Council did the same to me hundreds of years ago while I was still savagely roaming the sea, I guess I could do that much to repay my debt. Besides it’s one of my jobs as council member, to find and teach young Oddities the rule of our kind. Before those barbarian bunch found them for obliteration.

“I understand.” I took one of the photos and put it inside my jacket pocket. “Did Mummy give you any lead on this youngster’s whereabouts?”

The bartenders shrugged, and I let out a growl in frustration.

“Well, don’t be that mad. I’ll tell you the location in these photos so you can investigate. Oh, and I think Kao-tan did tell me that there’s a resemblance among the victims.”

“…that is?”

Frankenstein glanced at the twin maids and they simultaneously nodded, a huge smile on each of their face.


   ”They threw away something. Something so precious that turn out not to be so~”


The maids sang me a riddle.


   ”And so they died~ They died, and then nothing was left~”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


" I don’t want to be alone "

" Please stay here with me "

Unable to say those words, you close off your heart

And turn it all into hatred instead


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


The first victim was a woman in her early twenties. It seemed that the thing she threw away was the life of her child. The dead body of a baby was found in a trash can not so far away from her, and it seemed that the cause of the death wasn’t the Oddity itself.

The second victim was a man in his late thirties. He was a boss of a certain company that just flourished recently, but it seemed there was a problem. He ran away with all the company’s money, leaving it in a state of bankruptcy and destroying the life of many employees before him. The thing he threw away was the trust of his people.

The third man was a gambler and avid drinker. Someone that the society might call the trash of the world; a kind of people who leeched off someone else and did nothing in return. As to what he threw away, I guess it was his own humanity.
   
“And that’s all I have…”

I sighed, closing the notebook in my hand as I finished reading through the information. That's barely enough to get me anywhere. But still, to get this much information that was hidden from public… the Mummy must’ve been really good in this ‘journalism’ business. I shrugged and proceeded to take a quick look around the area. It was morning right now and I had arrived on the alley where the third incident took place, finding the scene had already been secured by police lines. Much like the other two. I rolled my eyes and glanced to my side, finding a few officers patroling around the area. The security wasn't that tight, so I had an option of sneaking in now or waiting until nightfall; the first would be harder to do, but if I postponed the operation any further I might lose any track that young Oddity left behind, so the answer was simple. I hid away the black journal into my jacket, carefully reaching my hand toward the yellow tape.







   “Are you lost?”

—!?

I flinched, my fingers hovering in the air barely touching the tape. I quickly retracted them and raised my head, trying to find the source of the voice.

“Hey? Are you?”

I froze, staring at the girl standing there behind the police line, her black eyes locked into mine. She was just standing there, only a few feet away from me, her both arms folded behind her back as she innocently smiled at me.

“...no.”

That was the only answer I could utter as I put my both hands into my pocket, retreating a few steps away from the border separating us.

“No, I'm not. I'm perfectly fine.”

“I see.”

The girl giggled, seemingly satisfied with my reply. I narrowed my eyes. The girl seemed to be in her late teen, or early twenties I wasn't sure, a pink hoodie adorned with red ribbons covering her simple white dress, a matching fluffy pink boots completing her attires. Her slightly curled hair was dyed in brown and flowed just passed her shoulders. In human term I guess she'd be what you call the epitome of cuteness, but still, I couldn't shake the glint of mischief hidden behind her jet black eyes. Whoever this girl was, I could smell trouble coming from her miles away. And the way she just appeared into my field of vision undetected only added to my unease. I sighed and turned, walking away from her.

“Ah! Are you leaving?”

I gave her a quick glance.

“I'm afraid yes.”

“Aww...”

Her smile quickly replaced with a big pout, and I raised a brow at her. What a strange girl. No, rather than that... 

“What are you doing there?”

“There where?”

I raised my hand, pointing at the yellow tape between us.

“There. Don't you see the police line? You're not supposed to cross it.”

“Oh. Is that so?”

This girl really spells trouble... I managed to think before dragging her out of the crime scene swiftly, making sure that none of the officers caught us sneaking around. I kept on walking in silence, taking her away from the alley and out into the more crowded area of the town, before finally releasing my grip. I glanced at her again, seeing confusion painted all over her face.

“Another question.”

“Hm?”

“Are you lost?”

The girl stared at me silently, as if trying to process my question.

“Lost… Ah yes, lost! I was lost.”

She clapped her hands in exclamation as she said that, and I couldn't help giving her another skeptical look.

“You see, I was... looking for something? Yes, something. But I couldn't remember what it was. And then I got lost.”

That doesn't make any sense. My eyes probably conveyed that thought perfectly as I could see her hitting her head lightly in embarrassment. I nudged my forehead from the sight.

“Then I couldn't help you.”

“Ah, but...“

“I'm kinda busy right now. So it might be better if you—“

   GROWWWL--

I flinched as the small growling voice entered my ears, and I turned my attention to her one more time. She pulled back her hand that was reaching for me, switching it to her stomach as her face fell. Somehow I'm starting to understand her pattern...

“Are you hungry?”

I plainly asked and the girl nodded.

“Do you have any money?”

She gave me a confused look. I guess that's a no.

“Well then, what do you want to eat?”

Her face brightened in an instant and she raised her hand, pointing at something behind me. I turned around to see a fancy restaurant standing there, with luxurious exterior that simply screamed 'expensive' at me. I furrowed my brows and turned to see her again, watching her staring back at me with huge puppy eyes. Now this is where I need to tell you something; I might be one of the strongest Oddity and a member of The Great Council of Sixteen, but here in the human world, I'm nothing but a part-time waitress at Frankenstein's place. To sum it up, I'm broke. And going to that restaurant, even if I could shave some budget since I don't need to consume food myself, would be equal to my salary for the whole month.

I gave her a stern look and shook my head, seeing her going through the sulking pattern again. I groaned, reaching to my back pocket to retrieve my wallet.

“Look. I'll give you some money so go buy something yourse—“

“Let's eat together.”

She snaked her hands around my free arm and I tensed from the sudden closeness. I almost undid my transformation and drew out my sword. Almost.

“It's lonely by myself, so will you come and eat together with me? Please?”

“...”

I tried to edge away from her, trying to ignore her sweet smile that seemed to be drawing me in, but before I knew it I was already sitting there on one of that luxurious table, watching her digging into the deliciously pricey-looking steak on a silver platter. I froze, staring at the unbelievable sight in front of me for what seemed to be whole minute, before silently raising my hands to cover my face.

What. The. Heck. Just. Happened. ?

Each syllable struck me deeply as I hear the sound of her knife hitting the plate, and I slowly lowered my hands, telling myself to face the unchanging reality before me.

“That looks messy.”

I absentmindedly commented as I saw her struggling with the tableware, and she gave me that cute pout again. I sighed.

“Hold the meat with the fork on your left hand, then cut through it with your knife.”

“Oh, you're right! It's easier this way, tee-hee~”

I didn't answer this time, simply eyeing her as she started to chew her meal quietly. At least she finally calmed down. I closed my eyes, feeling the black orbs shifting back to their usual redness as I lifted their illusion, before opening them once again to inspect her. I didn't see any trace of spell or witchcraft from her so she couldn't be an illusion, but it didn't mean that she's one hundred percent free from suspicions. For all I know she might be an Exorcist in hiding or Oddity with shape-shifting ability, but I couldn't be sure; my nose wasn't as sharp as Tin Cat or Werewolf so I couldn't smell her soul. Maybe I should tell the Mummy about her just in case.

“Is there something on my face?”

I blinked, changing my eyes back as her voice brought me back to reality.

“Yes. You got ketchup on it.” I abruptly answered.

It was her turn to blink now, before she wiped the red blotch with a napkin and giggled.

“You're so funny~”

I raised a brow at her, and she gave me another giggle. This girl is very strange indeed. She put her both hands on the table and leaned forward a bit, whispering something to me.

“Hey, hey. Tell me. What's your name?

That question caught me off guard and I looked away, trying to find a proper answer to that. Name. My name. Something that the old me had yearned to find for hundreds of years. A name to call my own. I could always use 'Phantom Knight' but I don't think it's a common name here in the human world, so I had to think of something else. I crossed my arms, thinking, and I could see the girl waiting impatiently for me.

“Could it be that you don't have a name?”

She calmly asked and I didn't respond, still busy with my own thought. She hummed to herself.

“Say. If you don't have a name, can I give you one?”







What did she just say?

My eyes widened in shock, seeing her pulling back to her chair and mimicked my pose, her arms crossed and brows knitted together as if mocking me. The girl seemed to be thinking hard, before she suddenly raised her right hand.


[ Sayaka ]



“Come again?”

That was the only thing that came out of my mouth as she pointed at my face. Confidence brimming all over her.

“Yes, Sayaka. [Sayaka] with the kanji of [vibrant colors]. Since you look so serious and wear dark clothing all over I think it's a good change~”

Wait. I shook my head, trying to reassess the situation.


This girl... did she actually just named me!?


I saw her nodded, as if proud of her naming sense, before she snatched my right hand and pulled it into a handshake.

“Nice to meet you, Sayaka-chan.”

I felt my eye twitched, staring at her with my mouth slightly agape. She paused, studying my perplexed face for a while, before retracting her hand.

“Oh, I forgot to introduce myself.”

She tapped her small lips lightly.

“My name is... yes. Miyuki. Watanabe Miyuki. Once again, nice to meet you~”

I stared at her smiling face in silence, still trying to cope with the whole situation unfolding ever so rapidly that my brain failed to register. Okay. Let's start from the beginning. I came to the human realm and received a job from Frankie to babysit a rampaging young Oddity. When I was investigating the area I met a strange human girl who suddenly, just suddenly, gave me a name as if I was some kind of lost puppy. Did I miss anything? No? So what is the logical explanation for this? I believe naming someone you just met a few hours earlier didn't qualify as a normal custom in human world. And yes, while I'm at it I'll also add that she's practically drained my wallet dry now. I felt my eyes twitched again as I saw the bill, watching that Miyuki girl sending some more smiles to the waiter and getting a free dessert from it. I hit my face for the second time that day, suddenly feeling so tired for no good reason.

Really.

What the heck just happened here?

That was the only thought circling my head as I paid her meal and followed her outside, seeing her happily skipping down the sidewalk like a cat that just got its cream. In this case, I am the cream. A sullenly dark bitter cream, that is. She seemed to realize the bad mood I was in and slowed down her pace, matching her steps with mine as we walked side by side.

“Is there something wrong? Your face look scary.”

There's too many problems going on that I didn't know how to respond anymore. So I only shrugged, walking a bit faster ahead of her. How long does she intend to follow me? I grumbled to myself as I absentmindedly listened to her footsteps following behind me, before the sound abruptly stopped; I blinked, my curiosity got the best of me and I glanced above my shoulder to see her standing there, staring at the stack of cardboard boxes lining along the dumping area. Her bright smile disappeared from her face. I tried to follow her line of sight, trying to identify what triggered her sad mode this time, and as soon as I realized what it was I rolled my eyes in a bored manner.

It happened a lot, didn't it? When someone find a stray cat but couldn't afford to take care of it, or if their pets had multiplied too much that they didn't have enough room to spare. They would put them in a cardboard box and dumped them away somewhere, hoping that someone else would take over the responsibility somehow. It's been too cliche that I grew tired of it. Of course, seeing them die out of hunger or rain in that same box was also one of the cliche, just like what's happening now. People would pass by and commented how horrible it was, but they would do nothing. They didn't really need to do anything anyway. But even knowing that the Miyuki girl just kept standing there, staring at the still body of the dead kitten in silence, her face didn't show any specific emotion whatsoever.

“Hey, Sayaka-chan. Why do people throw away everything so easily?”

She said those words quietly, as if whispering to no one in particular, and I shrugged.

“Because they don't need them anymore.”

“They don't need them?”

“Yes.”

“I see...”

She put her hands behind her back again, turning at me with a soft smile.

“Thanks for accompanying me today. It was so nice of you.”

“...sure.”

The girl gave me another giggle before she left. She left, just like that, humming to herself as she walked away, melding into the crowded street. I stared at her disappearing figure, a small sigh escaped my lips.

“What a strange human you are, Miyuki...”       


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Hey... Why is it?

That people keep talking about 'hate'

They don't even know anything

Or even trying to know about it



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


It's time.

I silently thought as I perched there on top of the clock tower, peering down at the city below me. My scarlet eyes shining under the moonlight.

Today is October the 1st

And here, in this merry town, another incident would take place.

I silently reminded myself, raising my golden spyglass to one eye as I tried to observe the scenery better. From the info I had this young Oddity never failed to kill anyone for three consecutive nights since its appearance. That's why, for sure, it would definitely sprung to action again tonight.

“Now where are you...”

   CREAK— 

I flinched, my right hand moved to the sword on my belt in reflexes as I heard the door just below me being swung open. I slowly took a few steps back, blending into the darkness.

Someone is coming.

I kept my stance ready as I saw a figure of a girl emerged from the door, her long silky hair fluttering in the wind. My eyes already scanning her. It's a human girl, I noted. But what is she doing here? This tower supposed to be closed for renovation. My question was quickly answered as I saw her walking toward the edge of the building, ignoring the warning sign and stepping over the metal bars. A suicide? I guess that happened a lot lately. Not that it's part of my problem. Dealing with soul of the deceased is Skeleton Maiden's job and I didn't have any obligation to stop her from killing herself. She didn't seem to hold any connection with the Oddity I was chasing anyway. I put away my spyglass inside my blue jacket, slipping further into the darkness, before turning away and leaping to a different building nearby.

Right, back to my previous job. I couldn't detect any disturbance in the air so the Oddity must have yet to take action. Perhaps I could use the chance to investigate the previous three locations? I thought to myself as I leaped from roof to roof silently, feeling the cold air brushing against my pale bluish skin, before I arrived at my first destination.

I landed on the dark alley perfectly with almost no sound, crouching right behind the patrolling officer, one hand planted on the hilt of my sword.

“Sleep.”

I sternly spoke, cleanly slashing through his head. The body fell to the cold ground abruptly, just like a puppet that suddenly being stripped out of its strings, and I synchronously put my trusted weapon back to its sheath. I didn't kill that human. I simply cut his ethereal form and rendered him unconscious for a while. Nothing much. I casually walked over the fallen body and proceeded to inspect the area.

I must say, the way this young Oddity worked was very clean yet also crude in the same time; it’s easy to conclude that it gained form just recently and didn't know how to hold back yet, but the fact that it killed only a certain individual without being caught showed that it also had its own degree of intelligence. I ran my fingers through one of the claw mark left on the wall, furrowing my brows. Smart and brutal. The worst combination I could think of.

“No use complaining about it...”

I stepped away from the wall, unsheathing my sword once again and holding it in front of my face as if in prayer. I closed my eyes, feeling the temperature around me dropped as I did, and I exhaled softly. The puff of white smoke dispersed in the air, and slowly, very slowly, the whole area was enwrapped in its misty vapors. The mist was thin and barely visible, blending perfectly with the cold weather of autumn while sending the vision of everything it touched back to me. I could sense everything around 1km from me now and if I want I could even covered the whole town in my mist, but it seemed that it wasn't needed.

Found ya~

I smiled and reopened my eyes, kicking off the ground and letting my body fell backward to the empty air. The feeling of my flesh evaporating into the mist almost felt nostalgic, and I felt the rush of excitement I had long ago returned to me, rendering my forgotten bloodlust alive. But no, I had to control it; so I told myself as my form materialized in a different alley way. A huge monstrous figure looming before me.

“Hello.”

I plainly greeted the Oddity as our scarlet eyes locked on one another, and I swung my sword perpendicular to the ground, cutting through its fabric-like skin.

  “GYAAAAA——AAH!!”

The Oddity let out an ear-piercing shriek as lump of white cotton spilled from the wound on its forearm, and it swung its other arm down, trying to smash me to the ground. I sighed, stepping away slightly and raising my sword to welcome it; the way its claws clashed with the blade was almost soundless, and I slid my weapon down, using the Oddity's explosive strength to pin its own limb deep to the asphalt. It roared back in anger, but I didn’t waver, pulling away to take a better view of its form.

The beast-like Oddity towered above me quite a lot, almost 3 meters tall I think, its red pupils shining under the moonlight from behind the hollow shell of its eye holes. It seemed calling it a 'beast' was a bit inaccurate though; it looked more like a patched-up doll. A broken patched-up doll of a rabbit, with stitches all over its face and claws protruding out of its soft fabric skin. But what truly caught my attention was its tattered black vest and the blood red ribbon dangling around its neck. It wasn't something that a simple 'beast' would wear, so I guess my previous hypothesis about it having intelligence was right. I put my free hand into my pocket like I always did, staring at its face like a parent just catching their child guilty.

“Now, can we have a little talk?”

The young Oddity didn't answer. Only deep low growl could be heard seeping through its sewn mouth, its bloodthirsty gaze still locked on me. Could it be that it couldn’t talk? I sighed.

“Fine. I’ll start my part of the talking.”

“...forgive...”

I flinched as I heard its broken voice rang in the air, tightening the grip on my sword. So it could talk.

“...can...not...forgive...”


“...”

“...can't...FORGIVE THEM---!!!”

The Oddity let out another high-pitched roar, and I narrowed my eyes, charging at it once again. It raised its free arm high to the sky in response, before smashing the ground between us; the shockwave sent dust and clamors to the air, pushing away my mist along with them. I cursed, slashing my sword with a huge swing to clear the view.








“It ran away.”

I quietly muttered, staring at the cracked asphalt where the Oddity used to stand. A smart one, indeed. It must have sensed that it couldn't win and decided to pull back. I shrugged and walked further into the ruined alley, still keeping my senses in check for any trace that youngster left behind. The sound of my black boots tapping against the ground slowly turned into sickening squelch and I glanced down, finding fresh red liquid covering it. I sighed.

“Got the better of me this time, eh?”

I turned my gaze to my side, finding stack of cardboard boxes along the area, undistinguished lumps of meat stuffed into them messily, giving off fresh rusty smell. I could easily guess what form it was from the mangled limbs and innards splattered around. Beside the muddled boxes was another small box, cleanly put away as if in atonement.

The dead body of a kitten sleeping inside.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Because life is full of suffering, they said

Problems keep appearing here and there

Without us being able to keep up

It's as if we're just a program made to solve it



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Forgive.

Cannot forgive.

Those were the last words that young Oddity uttered before it disappeared last night.

It's a form of a curse, a piled up hatred that grew into uncontrollable malice. A common reason that gave birth to many Oddities. Still, its tremendous bloodlust must have meant that the hatred had been nurtured for a very long time. A hundred of years at least. Which means it wasn't just a simple 'newborn' Oddity. And so, with that information in mind, I ventured deeper into the occult section of the public library, tracing my fingers along the thick old books. This action was only logical if you understand the nature of us Oddities.

[Oddities] are creatures born from the thoughts and fears of human races.

We are beings purely made out of concept, and so, if humans denied us, we would disappear. That being said the opposite also works; the more humans think about us the stronger our power would be. And so stronger Oddities are those who got their existences passed down through various legends and stories, like that of Vampires, Werewolves, and my Ghost Ship. There are problems of course, with humans starting to forget their fear of us. That's why Halloween Night Club was created; for us to passed down more stories and prolonged our existences. So yes, like I said, there's a good reason for me and other council members working there. We shouldered the life of all Oddities by doing that. End of story.

Now, back about that Rabbit Oddity. For it to take form and gain that much power meant its ‘concept’ must have been passed down for quite a long time in human culture. I had also noticed that it's actually a doll, which meant I could focus my search on manmade creatures. I took a book titled 'Supernatural Creatures of the World' and brought it to the reading area, skipping through the table of contents. Let's see... Artificial Creatures. They had lots of names here. Hmm. I think it's not a form of Golems since I couldn't detect any excess of magical residue. Definitely not a Frankie. Its movement are too fluid and emotional for an Automaton. What else...

I browsed through the list silently, before my gaze fell on a certain name.

“Tsukumogami.”

I whispered the name under my breath, opening the page that explained about it.

Tsukumogami. A type of Japanese youkai. An inanimate object that gained life and sentience after 100 years of its creation. Tsukumogami can range from harmless to horrifying vengeful spirit depending on how it was treated before. It also has the capacity to get angry and will take revenge on those who throw them away.

Now that sounded more than familiar. The case was a bit different though, but thing about throwing away matched will all of the victims. So then, how can I track down a Tsukumogami—

   “Boo!”

I froze, staring at the pair of jet black eyes before me, and my face fell.

Oh.

Not again.

“Wow, you're not surprised?”

“Good morning, Miyuki.”

I plainly greeted the girl that was peeking from under the table and closed the book I was reading. She blinked as she heard that, before giving me her usual cute smile.

“He he, good morning to you too, Sayaka-chan.”

She crawled out of the table and plopped herself on a chair beside me, her pink hoodie swaying slightly as she did. I edged away a bit.

“Hey, hey. What are you reading?”

“A book.”

“A book?”

“Yes. A book.”

“Geez, you're always so funny.”

She giggled, and I didn’t answer. My eyes already scanning her, finding something different about her from the last time we met.

“Did something happen?”

“Eh?”

The girl blinked, watching me raising my right arm and tapping it lightly.

“Your right arm. Is that blood?”

“...”

She raised the said arm and stared at the reddish stain on her sleeves for a while, before her face suddenly twisted in pain. I felt that familiar twitch on my eye again as I saw that.

“You okay?”

She shook her head slowly, tears threatened to spill from her eyes. Now that's a new pattern.

“You're hurt?”

She nodded this time, and I stood, leaving the book on the table before taking her wounded arm carefully. I sighed, dragging her away to the restroom without a word. As we arrived there I pulled down her sleeves to get a better view of the wound, observing the clean cut that went across her forearm. I furrowed my brow. That’s not just a simple scratch.

“How did you get this?”

“I-I dunno...”

How could she don't know a cut as big as this? I gave her a look of disbelief, but I couldn't detect any lies from her whatsoever. In fact she didn't seem to realize the cut before I mentioned it earlier. Did she have the attention span of a goldfish? I let out another sigh and took her over to the sink, turning on the water.

“Okay, fine. Now hold still. This will sting a bit.”

I ran the water down her open wound and she flinched as I did that, biting her lips. I turned the faucet off after a while, taking out my handkerchief and tying it around the reddish skin. She stared at me silently, and as I finished the treatment I stared back at her.

“What? Is it my turn to ask 'is there something on my face'?”

She smiled.

“Despite your scary face you're actually so kind, aren't you?”

“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

She let out another giggle, and I released her arm.

“Make sure to check the doctor after this, got it? It'll leave a scar if not treated properly.”

“The doctor...”

“Do you need me to accompany you again?”

“...no. I'll be fine this time.”

She pulled down her sleeves, hiding the wound behind the pink fabric once again. I blinked, sensing a slight change in her mood; seemed like I’m getting good at detecting them. I mulled to myself as I saw her walking out of the room, and I absentmindedly followed her.

“Say, Miyuki.” 

“Hm?”

She stopped and glanced at me. I paused, opening my mouth before closing it again in the next second. What did I want to tell her? Something about the box of dead kitten we passed by yesterday? About the murder that took place there just last night? I wasn't sure. So I held myself back instead, burying my hands deep into my jacket.

“It's nothing. Be careful from now on. Especially when walking at night.”

She gave me a perplexed look as I said that but I pushed the matter off, turning away from her. I haven't finished reading that previous book yet, nor have I done with any of my investigation, but my legs kept on moving. Away from the reading chamber, away from the library.

Away from her.

And as she finally disappeared from my sight, I felt a strange feeling started budding in my heart...


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


" I won't leave you alone "

" Everything will be fine "

So that I can say those words to you someday

I'll...



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Love struck?”

“What’s that?”

I gave the bartender a glare, my sword already pushing against the skin of her neck. She chuckled.

“Whoa there, Phantom. I'm just joking. You've been spacing out lately so I just, you know~”

“...”

“Okay, okay. Can you just put away that sword?”

I didn't waver, still keeping my grip on the blade.

Two weeks had passed since I met the Broken Toy-Rabbit, and since then the young Oddity had yet to conduct another slaughter. I'd been patrolling all night for the whole week, feeling frustration slowly creeping over me as it didn't appear even once. As if it didn’t exist in the first place. Did it go into hiding? Is it recovering from its injuries? Is it devising a new plan since it know it couldn't win head on? I didn't know for sure. But what truly troubled me wasn't that.

I hadn't met Miyuki as well since then. Not even once.

Not in the area we first met nor anywhere near the library we parted ways. None. And the fact that I was looking for her troubled me even more. Was I starting to get used to her company? Ridiculous. I groaned, feeling annoyed from the thought.

“Hello? Earth to Phantom? Your sword just dig into my neck.”

I blinked back to reality, seeing the sharp metal stuck into my fellow Oddity's flesh. I let out another groan, swishing it cleanly through her before releasing the weapon, letting it evaporated to the air. The Frankenstein jumped, hurriedly catching her head before it hit the ground. She put it back to her neck with a growl.

“Oi, that's dangerous! What if a customer suddenly come to see me headless and all?”

“Just say it's some kind of magic trick. Not that yer gonna get any customer before Halloween's Eve anyway.”

“Now that’s just cruel. And your Kansai-ben is showing.”

I shrugged, folding my arms above the bar and resting my chin on my right palm.

“My Kansai-ben aside--”

I glanced above my shoulder, fixing my eyes on a gloomy girl sipping a cup of tea on one of the table.

“What are you doing here, Skeleton Maiden?”

“...”

“It's rare to see you here so early.”

The said girl put down her cup and turned her attention to me, her expression as salty as ever.

“I must say the same to you, Phantom. And I am called ‘Haruka’ in the human realm, please do remember.”

I waved her off without a dim of interest. The Frankenstein chuckled as she saw our harmless little quarrel, before she joined in.

“I’m getting curious myself. Did something happen, Paru?”

The Oddity stared at two of us for a while, before switching her eyes to her tea one more time.

“Treeland...”

I sighed as I heard that.

“What? Did lil’ Harlequin make a mess or something?”

“Maybe. Maybe not.”

“…”

“I have Death watching over her and everything seemed to be moving according to schedule.”

“But?”

The Skeleton Maiden blinked, her forefinger tracing the edge of the white porcelain cup, making the reddish liquid inside it swayed a little.

The barrier is wavering. The one connecting this world and ours.”

Her words managed to catch my attention and I narrowed my eyes.

“Just like 50 years ago… is it?”

“Maybe…”

She gave me that same lazy answer before she raised her cup, finishing the last bit of her tea.

“I will need to check. Whether the number of death equals with the number of souls gathered in my realm. But it’ll take some time... especially with another Oddity going rampant here.”

Right. Are you implying that it’s mostly my fault?

She read my thought perfectly, and she answered me with a long sigh.

“Get Ms. Spider for me, Phantom.”

“…”

“The incident from 50 years ago. Nobody knew it better than her.”

On with meeting another troublesome person. I gave her a look of displease, showing her how much I didn’t feel like going. Why can’t she just do it herself? I stared at her and she stared back, starting our little staring game.


   --Do it yerself, lazy bum.

      --I’m busy dealing with souls.

   --And I’m busy with the Rabbit Oddity.

      --No you’re not. You’re stuck in the rut now.

   --So what? Doesn’t mean ya can make me yer errand girl.

      --I can. And it’s for your own good.
        Because Ms. Spider's predecessor was a Tsukumogami as well.



I blinked, stopping the game, and the Skeleton Maiden turned away. She raised her cup slightly, telling one of the twin maids to pour her another warm tea. I groaned and slid down my chair a bit, struggling with my decision, before sighing in defeat.

“Fine. I’ll go.”

I pushed myself to my feet and walked toward the front door. The Skeleton Maiden glanced at me as I did.

“One more thing.”

“What?”

“It seems that your little girl is still wandering around the Spring of Memories.”

She just wouldn’t listen, ain’t she?

I gave my fellow Oddity a quick wave, telling her to care less about that. One Oddity is enough for me to babysit at a time. I rested my both hands in my pocket as I travelled down the busy street, crisscrossing the crowd with zero enthusiasm. My eyes wandering around before I realized, trying to find a certain pink hoodie among the sea of people. I reached my destination without finding her figure, and I sighed, staring at the hospital building in front of me. I stepped inside. The uncanny ‘clean’ smell of antiseptic hit me and I snorted a bit, trying to adjust with it. It’s a smell you’d never find in our realm. An unsettling smell I’d never grow to like. I tried to ignore it and proceed toward the front desk, resting one hand on it.

“Excuse me. Can you get—what was her name again? Oh yeah, Matsui Jurina. Can you get her for me?”

“Err, I'm sorry miss. Dr. Matsui is busy so if you don't have an appointment—“

“Give ‘er a call and said Phantom Knight’s looking. And it’s urgent.”

“I... understand. Please wait a moment.”

The hospital staff gave me a weird look, before nodding and reached her hand toward the telephone. My finger tapping the counter impatiently as she talked; I didn’t mean to be rude but the whole things happening this past weeks had drove me to my edge. The staff finally put down the phone and turned her attention to me once again, and I raised a brow at her. She better gave me a good answer.

“Thank you for waiting. Dr. Matsui is waiting in her office. It's on—”

“Right. Thanks for yer patronage.”

I left without another word, walking through the hospital's pure white corridor silently. It's not the first time I came here, but didn't mean that I fancy the place. I had no reason to. I didn't like the smell, too many negativity wafting in the air, too many people, plus every time I came here it's always about trouble. Just like this time. Let's just get this over with and return to the Clubhouse. I said to myself and knocked on the door in front of me. I could hear some skittering sound from the other end before a female voice answered me.

   --“Come in.”

The voice sounded young but also mature at the same time, blurring the age of its owner, but I couldn't care less. Because I knew exactly who it belonged to. I pushed the door open.

“Long time no see, Phantom-san.”

A girl standing by the window greeted me with a smile, though her expression didn't look as welcomed as she sounded. Maybe I thought that way because I could never guess what she's thinking. I shrugged, closing the door behind me.

“ 'sup.”

I gave her a quick simple greeting in return, and she laughed, resting her back on the windowsill as she eyed me.

“Hmm~? Sounds like you're in a very bad mood.”

Oh, wow! Yer definitely right~ Are you a psychic? I wanted to say that to her but decided otherwise; I'm not in the mood of sarcasm for now. I only sighed and walked into her office silently, passing by her desk to see several documents scattered on it and her white lab coat hanging on the chair. I took the top most paper.

“How's work, Spidey? The front desk said you're busy but seems to me yer just lazying around.”

I asked her as I absentmindedly read the medical report. Kitagawa Ryouha, 17 years old. Currently in a state of comatose due to severe head trauma. Nothing much to see here. The face on the photograph looked familiar though.

“Whoa, you're in a very very bad mood. Will you feel better if I call you 'Sayaka' -san?”

I heard the bubbly girl said and I put down the paper, giving her a cold gaze.

“Never mind, I get it. You're busy with yer awful hobby of peeking people all over the town."

“Don't make it sound as if I'm a pervert.”

The skittering sounds from before entered my ears again and I glanced to my side, seeing several small spiders crawling among the furnitures. The owner of the room let out a whine, plopping herself on her chair.

“These little ones are, like, everywhere. And they always eager to tell me whatever they saw.”

“Bet you get tired of hearing 'em.”

“I sometimes do, ha ha.”

The spider Oddity chuckled, tidying the papers on her desk. I sat down on the nearby couch, waiting for her to finish her job.

“Then you must've already know what I'm here for.”

“I know, I know. Miss all gloomy Skeleton Maiden want my opinion about what makes the barrier wavered this time, correct? Or wait, could it be that she suspected me? Since I was the culprit 50 years ago.

I gave her a skeptical look and she waved her hand in dismissal.

“No, I'm just kidding. It won't be possible with the current me.”

“So who is it then?”

I bluntly asked, and as she heard that, an eerie smile stretched on her face.

“Is that really what you want to ask?”

“Frankly not; it's Skeleton Maiden's question. What I want to know is how I suppose to deal with a troublesome Tsukumogami.”

“Really? I think that's also wrong.”

“...”

I narrowed my eyes, trying to read the thought that was hidden behind that cocky smile of hers. I could hear the skittering around me grew louder and closer, swarms of black threatening me from the corner of my eyes. I kept my cool, seeing her smile turned into a grin.

Don't you want to know where that girl is? Where Watanabe Miyuki is?”

The name struck me and somehow, without knowing why, I felt anger started boiling inside me. I growled.

“Y'know that I'm in a real bad mood now.”

“I know. That's why I want to help you.”

“...”

She snickered, raising her two fingers.

Two people, Sayaka-san. Act fast or else, two of the most important people to you will die.”

“...I don't have such people.”

“Oh? Even though I say that one of these people is Watanabe Miyuki?”

I glared at her.

“What are you implying...”

“And the second one, it'll be little Harlequin. Yep.”

“Spider...”

“Hey, it's not me you should be angry with. I told you I want to help.”

She gave me a childish pout and I spat, trying hard to keep my temper in check. Calm down, Phantom. Don't let her words provoke you. I told myself as I slowly recovered my cool facade, and I stood.

“Fine. Whatever. Goodbye.”

“Whoa, wait wait wait. You're leaving? Didn't you hear what I say?”

I ignored her and headed toward the front door.

“What happens to those two doesn't concern me. And if you don't wanna tell me anything about the Tsukumogami, I'll find 'em myself.”

“...”

“Anything else?”

“That's very cold of you.”

“I've always been.”

“Don't you ever get lonely?”

I didn't answer and kept on walking. The swarm of spiders hesitantly skittered on the floor as I passed by, clearing the way for me.
I planted my hand on the doorknob, gripping the metal bar tightly until my knuckles turned white. My lips trembled.

   "No. Not in a slightest...”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Why can't you realize?

This thing called the [ present ]

is the most beautiful present you can ever get

to choose whatever future you want to unveil



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Another one week had passed, and just one more week left until Halloween's Eve.

The Rabbit Oddity didn't make any ruckus at all since then, and the Skeleton Maiden said that she didn't find any anomaly in her soul inspection. Dark Witch also declared that there's nothing to worry about, that the barrier would return to normal by the end of October. And so peaceful days had returned to this town, and I, as the simple part-time worker of Halloween Night Club, had resumed my daily job as well. The place was getting merry lately. More customers are coming, more staffs are working while serving everyone with full costume; it's actually our real form instead of a costume though, but as long as the customer happy we're okay with them calling it 'high-quality props'. I secretly sighed as a group teenagers on one of the table asked if they could borrow my sword, and I let them be, turning the weapon into clouded mist as their hand touch it. I let out a quick 'thank you' as they commented how cool it was, before carrying my empty tray to the bar.

“Nice magic trick, Phantom.”

The Frankenstein snickered at me and I sighed, putting away the tray.

“You make sure to give them juice not booze, right?”

“Do you really need to ask?”

“Whoops, just thought maybe you're still spacing out.”

I raised a brow at her.

“Y'know what? I think I might go for the headless bartender trick after this.”

“Forget I said anything.”

“Good choice. I'll be leaving for a little break; be back in half an hour.”

I gave her a small wave, leaving into the kitchen on the other end. My knight uniform dispersed into my casual human attires the instant I stepped inside and I kept on walking, leaving the building from the back door. I looked up to the sky, watching the waxing moon shining up there. It's almost full moon. Maybe we'll get one this Halloween's Eve. I nonchalantly thought as I switched my face to the ground and strode on, no specific destination in my mind whatsoever. The way everything resolved itself so quietly left a dull sensation inside me that I didn't even know how to feel anymore. Of course I was glad that nothing bad happened but it doesn't mean I could accept it just like that with no explanation.

What happened to the Rabbit Oddity?

What about the barrier? Why did it waver in the first place?
Did it really have something to do with Harlequin?

What did Ms. Spider know? Why did she say that she wanted to help me? With what?

And where— Where is—

I stopped on my track, feeling my breath stuck in throat. I inhaled deeply.

Where...

I clenched my fists, whispering softly.

“Where the heck are you? Miyuki...”

  …

   …

    …

      Roll... Roll... Clank

Huh?

I blinked, seeing the can of cola rolling and stopping by my boots. I crouched and took the cold drink to my hand, wandering where it came from, before a voice suddenly spoke to me.

“Sayaka-chan?”

My eyes widened. There's only one person who called me that way. Only one.

“Miyuki...”

I raised my head, staring at her figure that was cloaked in her usual pink hoodie, a red muffler replacing the ribbon around her neck this time. She stared back at me, before giving me that sweet smile I almost forgotten.

“Thanks for picking up my drink.”

“Uh, yeah. Sure. Here ya go.”

A stupid answer. I mentally scolded myself as I finally realized the numerous can of drinks she was holding, and I retracted my hand back.

“On second thought, let me help you with them. How did you get this many anyway?”

“Hm? Oh, these? I tried buying a drink from a vending machine but then a certain sound played and a lot popped out.”

“That means you won the lottery. How lucky of you.”

“Eh, really? I'm so amazing, he he~”

She gave me a sheepish laugh. I took half of the can with me and proceeded to walk to the nearby bench, a small smile unconsciously formed on my face. She told me to choose one, only one, because she said she earned this. Only teasingly. I shrugged and took the closest I found, seeing her lining the different drinks on the bench and mulling on which to drink first. My eyes absentmindedly watching her.

“Say, Miyuki.”

“Hm?”

She decided for the lemon tea and popped the can open. I switched my eyes away.

“Where were you? I haven't seen you lately.”

And now a stupid question. A remarkably instantaneously flimsy and stupid question. She seemed surprised to hear me said that, giving me a look that made me wish that I could take that question back. But I can't. I know.

“I was...wandering around the town. Because I was looking for—“

“Yeah, how could I forget. You were looking for 'something'.”

I quickly replied, trying to divert her from the previous topic, but it seemed like I had flipped a different switch.

“Sayaka-chan!”

She suddenly jumped and held my both hands in hers tightly, throwing away her can of tea without a single care; it hit the ground with a 'clank' and spilled all over them.

“Y'know, I remember! I finally remember what that 'something' is!”

She shouted in zeal, her eyes sparkled as she hopped on her heels a few times, shaking me like a rattle doll. Her loud exclamation made some passerby glanced at us and I pulled her down before she attracted some more.

“Okay, I get it. I get it. Now calm down.”

She obediently stopped, loosening her grip on my hands. I pulled away from her before looking down on my own can of drink. Some of the warm liquid spilled to my hand and I grumbled, shaking them off.

“Whoops, sorry.”

She said it lightly like she didn't mean it at all, and I let out a sigh. Still as mischievous as ever. I put the can away and returned my attention to her.

“So. About this 'something', what is it?”

“Well, you see, I just remembered about it around a few days ago. And I've been looking for it everywhere since!”

The girl gave me her usual giggle.


It was a doll. A cute rabbit doll.”


      GRAB—


My hands shot out before I realized, gripping her shoulders tightly. My eyes widened in a mix of shock and fear.

“S-sayaka-chan? Are you okay? Your face look scary...“

No. No way. So this is why Ms. Spider said that to me.

    “Hey...”

Why Watanabe Miyuki will die if I don't do something... It's because of this.

   “Hey, Sayaka-chan...”

Because she's the one who throw away that Rabbit Oddity.

   “Sayaka-chan, you're hurting me!”

I flinched back to reality and quickly released my grip, stumbling a few steps away from her.

“S-sorry...”

She held her sore shoulder, giving me a pout. I clenched my fists beside me in shame.

“I didn't mean to... I just...”

“Hmph, I won't forgive you just like that. You have to pay for this.”

She childishly said but I wasn't in the mood for joke.

“Look, Miyuki. It's no time for—“

     
“Help me find my rabbit doll.”









Come again? I shook my head, trying to decipher her words.
She pointed at my face, the same way she did when she first named me. A mischievous smile on her face.

“That will be your payment, got it? Sa.ya.ka.chan~”



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Even if the world you're in now

is so painful that you feel like crying

That by itself is also a 'present'

and surely the day where you can smile will come



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Five days had passed since I helped Miyuki searching for her rabbit doll. And we haven't got any luck at all.

We searched every nook and cranny, in every shop and dumpster and alley way, but there was no sign of it. I told Miyuki that the doll might already be broken into pieces but she insisted otherwise.

“It's still somewhere in this town, I'm sure of it. Don't underestimate my intuition, Sayaka.”

She proudly declared as she took a bite of her sandwich, and I let out a sigh, nodding for the sake of her stubbornness. It disturbed me as well though; if that rabbit doll she lost was indeed the Rabbit Oddity, then following the nature of Tsukumogami it would strike its owner back hundredfold. But that Oddity hadn't appear at all. Did I simply jump into conclusion thanks to Ms. Spider's provocation? I silently thought as I munch on my own sandwich, watching Miyuki taking another bite of hers.

But I guess it wasn't that bad.

I paused, surprised by my own thought.










Yes.

Meeting Miyuki...

Spending my days with her...

I guess it wasn't as bad as I thought.

I rephrased the statement in my head, before chewing on my meal once again.

The two of us were together all the time these past few days, almost all the time, and somehow I started to know her a lot better. Her silly quirks. Her quick-changing mood. Her stubbornness. Her cute giggle and her scary angry fit. I saw so many parts of her up close that I was starting to get used to it. And much to my surprise, it didn't bother me at all.

I haven't been spending this much time with someone in the past hundreds of years, and certainly not this close. But right now, somehow, seeing her looking back at me with her soft smile, I felt like I couldn't picture my days without her anymore.   

It's a strange feeling.

But Miyuki is strange in the first place. So I guess it doesn't matter.

We finished up our lunch and continued walking through the town, resuming our searching.

“Hey, hey, Sayaka-chan. Can I ask you something?”

I heard Miyuki said as she looped her right hand around my arm.

“After we find that doll, what will you do afterwards?”

I blinked, trying to find my answer to it. She let out a soft giggle as she saw my troubled expression and turned her gaze away.

“I told you, right? That I didn't remember anything but my name and that doll. So if I find it and, for instances, remember everything once again, I probably won't be needing you anymore.”

“...”

“So, what will you do?”

It was a difficult question, and the way she said 'not needing me' hurt a little. But it was a difficult question nevertheless.

Because by the end of this October I had to return to my realm, or else, the gate would be closed I wouldn't be able to return until the next year.

It's too risky since I didn't have any official documentation stating that I'm a real 'human' living in this world. I also couldn't imagine what would happen to my underlings with their captain gone for the whole year. I clenched my hands in my pocket. This is it. This is why I hate having someone by my side.

It makes me weak and end up depending on them.

I cursed my own foolishness, cursing myself for opening up to her. But there's nothing I could do anymore. So I just opened my mouth, letting my own deepest feeling guided my words.

“I'll stay with you.”

“Eh?”

The girl stopped, her grip around my arms weakened. I repeated myself.

“Even if you say you don't need me anymore, I still won't leave you. And you have no right to make me do otherwise.”

I exhaled loudly and turned to see her face, seeing the blank expression she was wearing. I grumbled.

“Would you say something at least? It's getting embarrassing now.”

“Fuh... Aha ha ha~”

Miyuki laughed hugging my arm tightly once again. I groaned, looking away as I felt heat rising to my cheek.

“You've said it~ Now you have to take another responsibility.”

“Why does it sound like I always owe you something?”

She giggled, and I couldn't help letting out a small chuckle. I think I understand now, why Harlequin looked down on me with pity, and why she was so determined on coming to the human realm to save a single human.

Because right now, as this warm feeling spread in my heart, I felt like I could risk my life to do the same.

Just for this one single girl, tightly holding my hand.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“This is it! The last place we haven't checked.”

Miyuki put her hands to her hips as she said that, and I stared at the abandoned tunnel before us. What an eerie looking place. I thought to myself before hearing Miyuki giggled.

“He heh, are you scared, Sayaka-chan? A ghost might popped out, y'know~”

I am ghost though. Usually this is where I would give her a skeptical look, but this time I decided to play along with her.

“Uuuh, I'm so scared... Can we just turn back?”

“Your acting is horrible.”

“Of course. I'm not an actress.”

“2 points.”

“Don't give me points out of the blue. Before that, what point is it in the first place?”

She only giggled, and I walked to her side, turning the flashlight I was carrying. The light seemed as if it was sucked into the darkness, making the tunnel looked like an endless black hole. I glanced at Miyuki.

“You can wait here if you want.”

“Heee, is that a challenge~?”

She held my free hand tightly.

“I'm the one looking for the doll, so of course I'll go. A simple servant like you just need to follow.”

“So we're roleplaying master-servant relationship now.”

“Onward my trusty steed!”

“Now THAT's just plain wrong.”

She didn't listen and started dragging me into the dark tunnel. The place was pitch black as far as I could see, almost reminding me of that sky I used to look at everyday back in my realm. I sighed.

Come to think of it, today is Halloween's Eve.

The day when the Carnival of Forest and Fire would be held, and the last day in this whole year for all realms to stay connected.

It was my last chance to turn back. My last chance to return everything to the way it used to be. But I didn't waver. I kept on walking, holding her small fragile hand in mine as I heard our footsteps echoed in the empty deserted place.

“Hey, Sayaka.”

I heard Miyuki's voice ringing in the air.

“If we don't find that doll in here today... I guess I'll give up.”

“Why?”

I tightened my grip on her hand, hearing her laughing softly.

“Hmm, I wonder. I feel like it's not worth wasting the present to ponder about the past. So I'll focus on making new memories instead.”

“Your family will be sad if they hear that.”

“If they really exist and do care about me they'll definitely search for me. I only need to wait. And it won't be a boring wait since I have you by my side.”

“Okay, I lose. You're making a good point that I don't know how to counter anymore.”

She let out a prideful huff, and I chuckled.

“I've also decided.”

“Oh? On what?”

“After this whole searchin' business done, I'll—“

SCREEEECCH——

I tensed as I heard the loud screeching sound, stopping into a complete halt. That wasn't a sound of machinery. I knew for sure. And the disturbance in the air only further confirmed my suspicion.

“Miyuki. Listen. Run as fast as you can out—“

Slip—

What?

I froze, feeling the warmth in my hand disappeared.

“Wait, Miyuki!”

I shouted, chasing after her.

“Miyuki, stop!”

I ran and ran and ran, my ears searching for the sound of her footsteps echoing in the darkness.

“Miyu—“

I skidded into a sudden stop as I saw a pair of familiar red orbs floating in the darkness, the dim ray of my flashlight illuminated the girl standing there just a few feet away from it. My eyes widened in horror.

“Aah... I remember now...”

I heard Miyuki whispered, her voice trembled.

“I remember everything perfectly now... Sayaka-chan...”

The girl turned her face to me, and even with the little light I could still see her smiling at me. Her tears silently fell down her cheek.


“Watanabe Miyuki is already dead.”

     CRASH!!


I leaped back just in time before the Rabbit Oddity crushed me with its limbs, my flashlight fell to the ground, broken. It kept slashing the air wildly, and I closed my eyes to heightened my senses, dodging its blows with everything I had.

“It all makes senses now... Why I have no memories about myself... About Watanabe Miyuki...”

I heard Miyuki's voice kept echoing in the hollow space. It mingled with the Oddity's high-pitched screech, creating a bizarre melody that was not of this world.
 

   “It's because I am not her~!”
 

I gritted my teeth, feeling my body being shoved into the air as the Oddity's limb hit my torso; I hit the cold ground in a painful skid, falling to my back. The full moon looked down on me silently as if in mockery. I pushed myself into a sitting position, hearing small footsteps coming out from the tunnel, huge heavy steps following behind them. I clenched my fists.

“Miyuki—“

“I told you, I am not her. Watanabe Miyuki is already dead hundreds of years ago.”

The girl stepped out from the darkness, but the figure standing before me was no longer the same human girl. Her pink hoodie was replaced by fluffy brown jacket, a stitched-up hood with rabbit ears covering her head. Her blood red ribbon was in tatter and a black worn-out vest now covered her white dress. She smiled widely at me.

I am an Oddity, Sayaka-chan. The hollow shell of a toy rabbit she threw away.”










Oh. I see.

So that's how it was.

I chuckled, dusting off my dirty jeans as I stood up.

“I'm glad.”

“...”

“I can still go back in the end.”

The Oddity tilted her head in confusion, its true monstrous form looming behind her.

“But you won't be going anywhere. Because I will kill you here, Sayaka-chan.”

“Why is that?”

“If I'm with you I don't think I'll be able to kill anyone else.”

She giggled, her other form approaching me slowly.

“There's still a lot of humans I have to punish. Lot and loooots of them who's being ungrateful of what they have~ Throwing away everything without a single thought...”

“You can't do that.”

“See? I know you wouldn't understand. Even I no longer understand.”

She raised her both hands, clawing at her face as she laughed.

“This hatred piled up for a hundred of years as I saw those wicked humans... I don't know what to do with it anymore...”

“...”

“The only thing I know is to kill... Kill them. So that they'll repent. And in order to do that I have to kill you.”

She gave me one more gaze, a soft painful gaze. It was a gaze that I had seen countless time before, a sad lonely gaze that I couldn't bear to see on her face.

“Good bye, Sayaka-chan.”


   …


    …


      …


        ..


          .




    Aah, just like my old self...

 
CLANK--


'Miyuki' froze as she felt her claws didn't reach me, something cold stopping its trajectory. I sighed and pushed my right hand up, sending the huge Oddity stumbling back.

“One of my underlings once scolded me before. For lashing out on her 'cause I was lonely.”

I swung my sword to my side, revealing my blue knight uniform and golden insignia that shone under the moonlight.

“I never imagined being the one doing the scolding now.”

The girl could only stare at my ghastly form, seemingly unable to believe her eyes, before a smile suddenly tugged her lips and she laughed.

“I see, I see!! So you'll be the one killing me instead~”

“I never said that.”

“Liar...”

The huge doll roared and charged at me one more time.

“Calm down and listen to me, Miyuki.”

“Don't call me with that name anymore!”



The sharp blows went more erratic and I stepped aside, dodging all of its swings just a hair breadth away.


“I hate that name! I hate it!! That person! The one who threw me away—I hate her! I hate everyone!

I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them,
I hate them, I hate them,
I hate them, I hate them,I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them,
I hate them,
I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them, I hate them———

I hate them all——!!!!!”


I dodged a blow to my legs, jumping and kicking the Oddity's head making it stumbling to the ground; it retaliated in an instant and swung its front limbs once again, aiming for my neck.

SLASH—

The sharp claws slit my flesh, cleanly tearing my body into two. I could see 'Miyuki' watched the scene with her eyes wide before I closed my own eyes, feeling the temperature around me dropping.

“You're the liar here.”

I materialized right behind her, my arms around her shoulders as I hugged her close. I whispered softly to her.

“You actually missed her, right? Your previous owner.

“...”

“If not, then why would you even take her form?”

The Oddity didn't answer. She only stood there as if she was petrified, her other form gazing away into nothingness as if it was a statue. I continued.

“It's lonely, isn't it? Being by yourself...”

“No... No... I...”

“Unable to move... Unable to call out for help... You by yourself have to witness so many cruelty, for one hundred years...”

“I...”

“It's alright now. Everything will be fine. Because nobody will leave you anymore.”

I hugged her tighter as she trembled in my embrace.


“I will never leave you.”


The words flowed out of my mouth as if it was natural, and I could feel her hands rose to touch mine, gripping them tightly.

“He he... Of course... Of course you will... Because it's already your responsibility...”

“Yeah. Yeah. I guess it was.”

I could hear her soft laugh ringing in the air. The huge monstrous doll before us fading away silently, taking along all her hatred to the night sky, and 'Miyuki' laughed harder. She raised her face to the moon and laughed her heart out, until her laugh finally turned into a cry. I held her through the whole ordeal, letting her pour all the feelings piled up inside her for one hundred of years, out for the world to hear. I closed my eyes, feeling the light shaking of her body as her scream pierced the air, her cold tears falling to my arms.

The voice faded away gradually,

slowly...

slowly...

And I finally reopened my eyes.


The girl was no longer with me.
 
Only a broken toy-rabbit was left in my hand,
silently smiling to me...


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Being alone for a long time, I finally realize”

“That I too have so many people I hold dear”

So that I can proudly to say those words to you

I vow to become even stronger



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“I'm back.”

I plainly said as I entered the Halloween Night Club. The Frankenstein that was tidying the tables snapped her head toward me and suddenly ran, stopping just a few feet away from me.

“Where were you, Phantom!? Everyone's already waiting by the gate and ready to ditch you if you don't appear in the next five minutes!”

“Sorry.”

I gave her another short answer, walking past her. She blinked.

“Err, are you okay? You doesn't sound too well.”

“I'm fine.”

I gave her a small smile and the Frankenstein gasped, running toward me once again.

“You smiled!”

The tall girl shook me wildly.

“You fricking smiled to me!! Are you sick? Did you hit your head!?

“Do you prefer me being grumpy instead?”

“Well, I don't mean it that way but...”

“I told you I'm fine.”

I sighed, taking her hands off me.

“Just go on ahead. I'll be ready in a few minutes.”

“Where are you going now?”

I waved my hand slightly as I left for the locker room, telling her not to think much about it. I closed the door behind me, rummaging my thick blue jacket to retrieve something.

“Hey...”

I quietly whispered, staring at the rabbit doll in my hand; it just stared back at me in silence, its red buttoned eye didn't waver and its mouth sewn into a permanent smile. I sadly smiled back, before standing and walked toward my locker. I opened the metal case and put the doll inside, keeping my hand on the handle.

“I'll left it opened so you can look around, 'kay?”

I looked at at for the last time, before slowly retracting my hand.

“See you again... Miyuki...”













..



.




“Geez~ Didn't I tell you to stop calling me with that name?”


I froze, hearing the sweet mischievous voice entered my ears.

No. No way.

“And where are you going? I thought you said you won't leave me alone anymore.”

It can't be...

I slowly turned around, seeing her figure standing there, her hands behind her back as she sweetly smiled at me.

“Sayaka-chan is such a big fat liar~~”

“...”

I didn't know what say. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't even sure how to feel. One thing I was sure of was that I was happy, so happy that it overcame my other feelings and made it hard for me to breath. I stumbled backward, the door stopping my fall and I rested my back there, my eyes caught all of her features and burned it to my deepest mind. After my senses returned to me I finally chuckled and slid down to the floor, my eyes downcast.

“Sayaka-chan?”

Her footsteps approached me and I raised my head, staring back at her worried face.

“Are you okay?”

“...I am. I sure am.”

“Really?”

“In fact I never feel better, Miyuki.”

Her face quickly turned into a pout as I said that name, and I blinked.

“How many times do I have to tell you about the name thing?”

“Then how do you want me to call you?”

It was her turn to blink this time and the Rabbit Oddity switched her gaze away, thinking.

[Milky]. Call me [Milky].”

She nodded as if confirming herself.

“That's a very doll-like name.”

“Isn't it cute? It's my name; my real name that was given by my late owner...”

“I think it suits you.”

I pushed myself back to my feet and the girl stepped away a little, giving me some space. I glanced at her.

“But... why are you...”

“It's because I heard a voice.”

She swiftly answered.

“A voice so sad and lonely. I thought I don't want to leave the owner of that voice alone.”

“...”

“The soul of a Tsukumogami stem from its strongest feelings, right? It just happens that I have no other feelings stronger than that inside me now.”

She gave me a sheepish smile and I held my head, chuckling to myself.

“You really are a strange one.”

“I am~ The one and only.”

The girl skipped closer and looped her right hand around my arm, giggling.

“But I'm still new in this whole 'Oddity' and 'Realms' thing. So will you teach me about them, miss Phantom Knight?”

I sighed, staring at her red eyes that was tinted with mischief.

And before I realized, a smile stretched on my face.

“As you wish, Milky...”



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=




I hope you can enjoy the [ present ] from now on

Savoring it slowly with eagerness in you heart

Because it's the best gift you can ever give yourself



I hope you'll never forget that...








__________________________________________________________
Chapter Lost: Present// END

















                 ...







           ...









      ..






   .








     >>INTERMEZZO -- THE WITCH'S NOCTURNE





  "Hello, hello? Is everyone listening?"


A voice echoed from somewhere.



The Phantom Knight and The Rabbit Doll in the lone room...

The Vampire and The Skeleton Maiden,
The Twin Devil Maids,
The Frankenstein and The Mummy by the GATE...

The French Doll and The Queen of Beast among the FOREST and FLAME...


An image crackled in the air.



    "Eeh, today's carnival will be delayed."



A stage appear before a spotlight.


A Trickster in blood red suit and blood red hat bound under the Guillotine.


     "Now, listen to the word of your Queen."


The pure black Witch in pure black dress and pure black wings emerged.


    "For breaking the taboo and bringing danger to all Oddities, this vile one will be executed!"




  Guilty!



         Guilty!



     Guilty!



                   Guilty!



  GUILTY!!!



                  --OFF WITH THE HEAD






The Phantom Knight ran through the cold night.

Searching for the nest filled with countless threads.




The Spider looked down on everything with sad eyes.

Its prayer remained unheard.




    "It's too late... Way too late..."




The words drift silently into the wind and fade away.

Keeping The Marionette in the endless dream forevermore...




                               >>END OF NOCTURNE

« Last Edit: October 23, 2016, 07:16:48 AM by jubethehare »

Offline kuro_808

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky]
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2016, 10:15:30 PM »
Whoa that was a long winded short story  :nervous

Good one as the ending was the final act to bring the story together
Random Thought:

tumblr

R.I.P. Jab!  Dad/friend

Offline alice141

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky]
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2016, 02:10:44 AM »
The "Carnival of Forest and Fire" and "Present" both were great! :w00t: I like the history and the couples!  :inlove:
I hope to see more of the other members of the great council of sixteen! (like YuiParu and Mayuki) :twothumbs

Thanks for the fic! :thumbsup

Offline jubethehare

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky] [Afterwords]
« Reply #15 on: October 23, 2016, 07:09:59 AM »
Thanks for reading, everyone~!  :D


  kuro_808 >> it's a long one, indeed... I was kinda afraid it'll be too long since there's a lot of things to explain, but well, I'm glad I was able to make an enjoyable story to read. Thanks~

   alice141 >> Glad you like 'em~ And yes, I am planning to make some others (hence I changed the tag from 'OS' into 'halloween collection', ha ha). If you notice there's a one year gap at the end of [Carnival of Forest and Fire], so I think I'll use it to explore how the Oddities spend their normal days on their respective realms. Stay tune for it~~


One more thing.
The next chapter will be about Ms. Spider and her 'Tsukumogami predecessor'.

It will reveal about the incident that happened 50 years ago and also how Harlequin ended up as 'Shibuya Nagisa' by the end of [Carnival of Forest and Fire]. As for the pairing, well, I think some of you have already guessed. Here's some hints: 1) One of them is no longer part of Great Council of Sixteen 2) It's a very famous pairing

Well then.
I hope to see you again in the next chapter~

Offline kumo

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky] [Afterwords]
« Reply #16 on: October 23, 2016, 09:57:34 AM »
Wmatsui !!!
Hopefully it's wMatsui!

If we can allude that the great council is (probably) senbatsu members, and the short story at the end of present is trailer for the next chapter; I hope the tsukumogami predecessor is the marionette.

And we know certain someone is marionette in Uza mv.  XD :lol:

Yay! Ah...do we have to wait another year for the third chapter?  :cry:

Offline jubethehare

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky] [Afterwords]
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2016, 08:59:53 AM »
Ah...do we have to wait another year for the third chapter?  :cry:

I can't promised anything since 'Halloween Collection' takes a lot of time to write and revise.
It might be this halloween, next halloween, or even somewhere inbetween. But I will definitely write 'em.
We'll see, we'll see~~  :hee:


Offline phoenix0i

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Re: [HalloweenCollection_02] Present [SayaMilky] [Afterwords]
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2016, 01:18:24 PM »
Sayamilky's still the best for NMB.  :cathappy:
Discovering the wonders of your vague imagination.
Taeny, Atsumina and SayaMilky <3

Offline jubethehare

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[HalloweenCollection_Extra] Beauty of The World [Yuiparu]
« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2017, 06:48:40 PM »
Hello, everyone!  Long time see~

What's this? Isn't it not time for Halloween, yet?
Well, it actually isn't. That's why this is an extra chapter, ha ha.

This chapter is only loosely connected and won't really affect the main story of [Halloween Collection]. So you don't really need to read the previous fanfics to know what happened, but if you are curious about a few things or who's who you can check them out. The link is just right underneath in my signature.  8)

This time it's about YuiParu and a little peek on how the Oddities live when Halloween's not around. It is based on SEKAI NO OWARI song "KachouFuugetsu", and hmm... That's all I guess? Oh, and there's extra part again this time. Maybe it'll shed some light on how this interconnected with the main story. Or maybe not, ha ha.

Well then, enjoy~





花鳥風月
Extra Chapter: Beauty of The World

__________________________________________________________




__________________________________________________________




When did I stop noticing those stars in the night sky?

I wonder to myself as I look up at the summer sky

Have I forgotten something somewhere?

“Goodbye, goodbye,” the wind quietly whispers



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


   “The moon. It's so beautiful tonight, isn't it?”

I opened my eyes from the voice.

A ghastly voice that the wind brought as it passed by and tickled my face.

I switched my eyes to my right, searching for its source.

A round glass window greeted me. Gaping on one side of the room. It swayed a bit from the gust, its wooden frame squeaking and creaking against the stone wall.

Nobody was there.

As I expected.

I sat upright and raised my skeletal hand. Soon after the window came into a perfect shut, its rusty lock sliding and locking into place.

I kept staring for a while.

At the countless stars and the never ending night behind the transparent glass.

They never changed, those scenery. Not even one bit.

For these last thousands of years.

I silently lowered my arm, resting it back to the throne I was sitting on before glancing up the pitch black ceiling. Numerous lanterns were there hanging along the tall structure, flames of many different colors curiously floating inside the flasks as they dyed the room in a soft mysterious glow.

Those are the souls of the dead.

The remnants of human as they left their body behind.

And I am the caretaker of those souls. The keeper of the dead.

Yes.

I am the Skeleton Maiden.

The leader of [Country of Bones], and a member of The Great Council of Sixteen.


I believed you have heard of us; of [Oddities] and their realms and the world of the dead. Perhaps you have also heard of our annual tradition. A big festival held in the world inbetween ours and human's conducted on the night of Halloween.

A carnival shifting among the forest and fire.

A grand fabrication of pent-up desires and lies.


...


...


...


Oh.

Perhaps it's too soon for me to reveal the true nature of that unfathomable festival.

Sorry to disappoint you but this is not the story about Halloween. 

This is a story about me.

A simple boring and uneventful story of a single oddity that had been recurring for hundreds and hundreds of years. A tedious story that kept repeating every summer.


...


Well?

Have I confused you long enough?

Unlike Phantom Knight and Miss Spider I am not very keen of explaining things. To be honest it's just too troublesome. So you may stay and watch, or stop listening and leave. I wouldn't care in the slightest. Besides I had more important things to do.

I turned my gaze downward, staring at the huge cauldron in front of me. White smoke rising up from its surface, concealing my own pale face that was reflected on the water-like substance. I drew my hand toward it, running my fingers lightly and scooping the smoke into my grasp. The white vapors danced around my palm and I stared at it intently, trying to decipher its message.

I see.

A hundred and fifty thousand people died today.

No fluctuation in the number of deaths.

Nothing out of normal.

That is, if those same amount of souls would really arrive at my realm.

I dismissed the little ball and traced my forefinger through the smoke. The white air started to change. It morphed into a more distinguishable image this time, an almost transparent figure of a girl in a long robe that resembled mine, a skull mask hiding her face safe for her mouth. She didn't seem to realize my presence yet as she read the scroll in her hands intently. Her pale flesh hands that were nothing like my cold skeleton ones grasped the old scripture tightly.

“Death.”

The smoky figure flinched as I called her name. She finally realized that I'd been watching her with my clairvoyant and hurriedly put away the scroll, turning her face toward me. Well, isn't she in quite a panic? I rested my chin on my free hand in a bored manner, knowing what had probably happened.

“What? Some souls are missing again?”

“That's, uh, no ma'am. Today's last batch containing a hundred and fifty souls are still on the way here, but there seems to be... a delay in their delivery.”

Go figure. I rolled my eyes.

“Last contact from the gravekeepers?”

“U-uhh... They managed to harvest all the one hundred fifty thousands souls from the [Plain of Beginning]. Most had arrived and now being prepared for safekeeping in the lower realm, but for the last batch... there hasn't been any information since they leave the plain. I have sent the gargoyles to search for them, but—”

“Yui.”

I mouthed out the word. Grudgingly. Almost in a hiss. Death gave me a blink.

“Excuse me, ma'am?”

“Call all the gargoyles back. I don't want to rebuild them stone to stone.”

“Of...course. That means...”

“I'll take care of this matter myself.”

I swished my hand through the smoke, dismissing her. She seemed unsure of my vague order but it didn't matter. I never bother explaining unnecessary things to my underlings anyway and I bet she's used to it already. I planted my palms against the side of my throne, pushing myself up. My bony frame creaked and rattled against each other as I rose, as if scolding me for not leaving my seat for too long. What a nonsense. It's only been a few years. I sighed and turned toward the stone table beside my throne. A huge scythe was there, floating above the altar; I took it with one hand. My wrist let out a small creak from its weight and I promptly used my other hand for support. Hm. Maybe it has been a bit too long. I shrugged and tapped the blunt end of the weapon to the ground. The clink it produced bounced off the stone walls and echoed throughout the room. The smoke circled around me.

And I closed my eyes, letting out one last sigh.

“You better have a good reason this time...”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Like a constellation going ’round and ’round,

if I could become an unfading light in the night sky

even when shrouded in never ending darkness

Would I be able to stay here without losing anything?


In this night where the plants, flowers, and birds

fall to sleep and dream




=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


The [Country of Bones] is a very special realm.

Even among the many realms it was considered as the most unique; of course not counting the Miss Spider's [Hidden Nest] and the [Abyss of Nothingness]. One reason was because the barrier that separated this world and the human's world was quite weak in this realm. It's only natural since human's souls were transferred on daily basis but it's not weak enough that Oddities could just travel through it. It's like water flowing through a crack; the gap in the barrier was one-way only. And if any Oddity ever tried to force their way through, well, I never find anyone crazy enough to do that.

Still, it's a very troublesome job to be honest; regulating human souls, safeguarding the barrier, thus maintaining the life of Oddities as a whole. I had to take a central role in the great council even with Black Witch as our supreme leader, working every day without rest for all eternity.

Or at least until either Oddities or human race extinct.

That could happen for all I care.

I mulled to myself as I walked down the barren path, stopping as I reached a huge empty space of half-dug earth. A dark hole gaping in the middle of the makeshift crater, spewing boiling gas to the air.

The [Plain of Beginning].

The so-called natural crack in the barrier between worlds.

I stepped closer to the hole and peered into the bottomless pit, catching no sight of light from any soul inside. That means the gravekeepers had actually done their job properly. But if I think about it hasn't the hole grew larger since I last came here? I guess the side effect of that incident with Miss Spider years ago hadn't fully subsided. That, or another despicable individual had started messing with the barrier.

Whatever. I'll take care of them when the time comes.

I left the hole and walked toward the other edge of the crater, finding an intersection there leading toward a forest. Familiar stone debris scattered around area and with one glance I knew those were the remnants of my gargoyles. I frowned.

Yes, this.

This is the other reason why my realm became so special.

Normally no Oddities could travel between realms safe from the Great Council and those who were given permission by them. But here, in this place, three different realms crisscrossed with each other.


[Country of Bones]


[Forest of the Beasts]


and [Demons Lair]


Those three realms made up the Realms of The Night where the sun never rises.

If one crossed this intersection they could easily travels between the three realms. But not many had done such. First, it's because Werewolf and Vampire, the leader of the other two realms beside mine, were not in a good term. That also applied to their underlings, which mean both side would bare fangs and claws at each other the moment their eyes met. I had no clue of the reason nor do I care. Probably had something to do with their natural instincts. Second, the air in my realm was toxic to everyone except the undead so no beasts or demons dared to trespass. So yes, you could say this intersection is pretty much "useless". But even then there's still someone who make use of this seemingly useless thing. And that certain someone had been getting on my nerve.

I tapped my scythe to the ground, waiting for that Oddity to show itself.


“What do you want, Yui?”


My voice rang in the empty landscape, swallowed away by the moon. There was no answer for a while, before I heard a familiar screeching voices coming from the dark forest.

Bats.

Countless number of bats came surging out of the forest and flew toward me.

They stopped before they reached me, clumping together like a blob of clay and starting to form a human-like figure. I watched the transformation with bored eyes.

Soon enough a familiar figure stood before me; a girl with short black hair dressed in a typical victorian clothing of vested shirt and pants, black cape covering her shoulder and a black top hat with brown googles sitting atop her head. Dark bat wings sprouted from her back, flapping and stretching their stitches, as if trying to get used to their new form. She fixed her white cravat and raised her face, giving me her toothy grin. My expression didn't change. Her showy entry didn't amuse me. Not even a bit.

“Why hello, Skeleton Maiden. How rare to see you here. And while I'm at it I'd like to remind you that you should address everyone with their Oddity name in—

SLASH


I cut her off, my scythe already raised and sliced through her mouth, splitting her head into two.

The severed piece fell and dispersed into another bats, while her body staggered back, trying to find its balance. The bats scrambled together and reformed the upper part of her head on the next second.

“One hundred and fifty souls.”

I plainly said, resting my hand on my scythe and shifting my weight to it.

“And also some of my gargoyles. Fix them and give them back. Now.”

She put her hat back and stared at me in disbelief.

“That was dangerous! Don't you realize that artifact can kill even Oddities!?“

“Oh, shut up. Do you really need to steal more than a hundred souls just to call me out?”

She abruptly stopped, and I raised a brow at her. So she couldn't even retort back. Then I'll took the liberty to continue.

“You are the overseer of all Oddities. The rulekeeper of the Great Council. Yet you stole humans souls. Just to meet me.”

The girl gritted her teeth, trying to find something to say, but then she dropped her shoulders in defeat.

“Alright. Fine. I admit that I did steal those souls and I do want to meet you but that's not the main point. You've been staying in your tower unmoving for nearly a decade and the other council members have grown wary about it.”

“How cute, you're making excuses now. Well miss lonely vampire, I've moved now. So give me back the souls.”

I uttered matter-of-factly and I could see her face fell behind her straight expression. The small bat wings on her hat lowered down in disappointment. Really. What a sorry state of a vampire. I shrugged and walked past her.

“You're keeping them inside your coffin as usual, right? I'll take them back myself.”

Right at that moment, even without turning my head, I knew her frown had switched into a smile. It creeped myself out sometimes that I knew her this well, even though I didn't spend that much time with her. I could hear the tip tap of her boots following behind me.

“I'm sorry but I'm not sure if I really kept them in there. Do you need my assistance in searching them?”

“Do whatever you want.”

“Gladly. Also, it might take a while to search the whole castle. Would you like to stop for teatime first?”

“Like I said, do whatever you want.”

I gave her the same salty response. She didn't seem to care and simply chuckled, walking with me side by side. I stole a glance at her, seeing her genuinely happy as she smiled like a child. It was at moment like this that I sometimes forgot this black clad girl beside me was a respected member of the great council. The one who inherited Tin Cat place as the overseer of all realms.

She's normally a serious one, really, but when she showed her childish side like this I couldn't help smiling to myself. I shook my head and sighed.

“What a sorry state of a vampire.”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


The answers I’ve obtained from your love

Slowly disappear one by one along with my pain

And in this world where I can no longer feel sadness

Would I be able to love you again despite everything I've lost?



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“One hundred and fifty.”

I muttered to myself, catching the floating will-o-wisp with my skeletal hand. I tugged the red ribbon on my neck and popped the first two buttons of my robe, revealing a small part of my ribs. The will-o-wisp left my hand, wavering a bit before dissolving into the bigger orb shining inside my ribcage. A jolt of electricity ran through my body, slowly, like a wave of tingling spasms. I never like that sensation. If I have to explain, it's like laying a brick on an already finished house before rebuilding it all over. It's just that annoying. You don't get what I mean? Then think for yourself.

“Oh, there you are.”

Hm? I heard the Vampire's voice coming from the other end of the corridor, pulling me out of my self talk.

“Have you found another soul?”

I glanced at her smiling face, narrowing my eyes.

“Don't look, you pervert.”

“H-huh!? What, I just—okay. My mistake.”

She turned away despite her protest, clearing her throat. I couldn't help smirking. She's so easy to tease; I thought to myself as I buttoned back my robe, seeing the tray of tea carried by her bat familiars. I raised a brow at them. Even her familiars were trying hard to cover their eyes with one wing while staying afloat in a silly manner, what a goof. And so much for helping my search. In the end she only wanted to spend some time with me and invite me for a tea time. I chuckled and walked toward her.

“I'm done.”

“Huh? Oh.”

I poked her cheek from behind and walked past her, taking one of the cup. She stared at me for a while before following.

“Now, don't drink while you walk. At least do it after we reach my room.”

“Your room stinks of blood.” I plainly said before taking a sip of the tea. It tasted sweet.

“I prefer the balcony instead.”

She didn't respond to that, but I know she was just acting tough. This vampire was actually pretty brittle in the heart. As a proof you could see the small wings on her head. See? It's flopping down again.

I finished off the last of my tea and put it on the nearest windowsill, not stopping my steps. She took the cup and sighed, passing it to her familiar.

“Come on, why the hurry?”

I stopped and let out a long sigh, turning to her with one hand on my hip.

“Outside today's batch there's still some souls missing. Where are they.”

“I have no idea. That's all the souls I took.”

I rolled my eyes.

“So you've stolen too many and you forget where you put them.”

“It wasn't me, okay?”

“Sure.”

“Listen to what I say for once...”

I ignored her and resumed my walk. My eyes wandered around before noticing a bouquet of black roses sitting on one of the vases. That wasn't there when I visit last time. And have I seen them before? In that exact vase and that exact numbers. I couldn't really tell.

“Do you like those flowers?”

I heard Vampire said quietly, her emotion masked by the stillness of her voice. I shrugged in response.

“Those plants are native to Country of Bones. I have a lot of them.”

“I know. I also know you gave one of those death flowers to Phantom Knight to sustain the core of one of her underling. But that wasn't my question.”

I frowned and stole a glance at her; it's unnerving how she also knew so much about me.

“I don't hate them. But I am not attached to them either.”

“Ah, the usual salty response.”

“None of your problem. In fact, Vampire, how do you manage to get your hands on those flowers? Or did you steal them as well from my realm?”

“Who knows? Maybe you gave them to me yourself.”

I raised a brow at her questionable remark. It didn't seem like she'd say anything anymore so I left and continued my 'sight-seeing'. 

Unlike my tower it felt like the interior of her castle changed all the time. There's always a new thing, a new furniture, or a new arrangement. But rather than curiosity seeing those things gave me a sense of nostalgia instead, though I couldn't really wrap my fingers around the strange feeling. Actually I also found the way she always 're-decorated' her castle to be a bit odd. It was as if she was trying to forget something by changing all the time, or not wanting to forget something by adding more memento of it. Even though she was the one who said the beauty of this world lies in its eternity; they way she contradicted herself confused me sometimes. And I didn't like that kind troublesome of feeling. So I pushed away the thought and started another topic.

“So. You asked me why I'm in such a hurry.”

She blinked, as if trying to decipher my sentence. I simplycontinued.

“It's summer. I believe you know why.”

She didn't respond for a while, before I heard her spoke.

“Is it about time for the [Day of The Dead]?”

I gave her a small nod.

“Indeed. That's why I need all of the souls. Or else the ritual wouldn't be complete.”

She stared at me, not saying anything. We kept on walking in silence.

[Day of The Dead]

[Obon]

[Ghost Festival]

That day had been known by many names in the human world but all of them are actually the same; the day when spirits of the dead return to the world of the living for a brief period of time, before returning back to their resting place. It is a ritual held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, a way to ease hungry spirits and preparing them for reincarnation.

It was the most important part of my job. The pinnacle of my being.

I'm sure the Vampire knew about that.

But instead of concern she laughed at the matter instead.

“It's fine, isn't it? Not that you need every single bit of those human souls.”

I narrowed my eyes.

“So you're telling me to let some of them stuck here while others roam free? What an unfair warden I am. And for a serious person you're being surprisingly irresponsible.”

“Well, what I mean—“

“Right. I forgot. You have no 'work' to do everyday. Must be nice to be as carefree as you and everyone else.”

“...you can always be carefree if you want.”

I glanced at her. Staring as if she just said the most ridiculous thing in the world. Which she did.

“We are [Oddities]; we can do anything we want without anybody consent. So there is no need for you to do your job to a fault. Nobody ask you to.”

I was speechless. That time I'm sure my expression had turned into that of a glare, but she simply looked straight back at me in the eyes. As if telling me that she really mean what she said. I turned away in disgust, heading toward the front door.

“You're being utterly despicable today.”

“I'm just saying that your 'duty' as Skeleton Maiden isn't the only thing you have. Even without that, you're—”

“Enough.”

I raised my voice a bit, planting my hand on the doorknob. I glanced at her with cold eyes.

“Send me the rest of the souls by the end of this day, Vampire. No excuses.”

And with that, I closed the door behind me.

I saw her face for a split second through the gap of the door, her wings hanging limply in disappointment as she stared at me sadly.

But somehow, back then, I felt like something in her eyes changed.


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Like a constellation going ’round and ’round,

if I could become an unfading light in the night sky

even when shrouded in never ending darkness

Would I be able to stay here without losing anything?


In this night where the earth, the sea, and the forest

fall to sleep and dream



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


Today is the Day of the Dead.

All of my underlings had already gathered on the Plain of Beginning; Death and the other gravekeepers counting the souls stored within the lanterns while the gargoyles placed them for the ritual. This was the only time in the whole year I was forced to stay out of my realm for a long period of time, so when the revenants howled from a certain trespasser, I could already take a wild guess who it was.
 
“Is it time?”

I heard the Vampire's voice. I turned my head, seeing her standing on one of the gargoyles' head. The stone creature didn't seem to mind at all; it kept on working while unfazed, putting down all the lanterns around the barren earth. She leaped down the gargoyle and I casually dismissed her.

“Shoo. Come after the ritual ends, I'm busy.”

“No, no, I know how the ritual goes. Every souls will leave our world and you'll be incapacitated until they return, correct? I'll watch over your body until it all ends.”

“What are you planning to do with me while I'm unconscious?”

“Nothing! Just what kind of image do you have of me?”

I shrugged, walking closer to the middle of the plain. A makeshift bedding made of dead leaves was there, just like an altar prepared for a sacrificial lamb. The Vampire beat me to it, plopping herself down on the leaves, sitting and patting her lap. I gave her my unimpressed look, but I lied down anyway, resting my head on her lap. I could see the sky so clearly, and this, again, gave me a strong sense of nostalgia.

“Hey.” I called up to her.

“Have we done something similar to this before?”

“Who knows.” She answered lightly.

“We've been living for centuries. Maybe it was in one of the previous ritual.”

I frowned, clearly not satisfied with her answer.

“I haven't forgiven you yet, you know.”

“Aah... Well, can this make up to it?”

“Offering your lap to sleep on. Against an insult to the essence of my being.”

“Okay, I understand. I'll think of something else.”

“You better do.”

I nestled my head into a more comfortable position, my hands folded above my chest. The vampire rose her face to the night sky and sighed in defeat.

The gargoyles opened the lanterns around us, letting the souls floating away into the air. I felt the orb inside my chest slowly fading as well, and my eyelids started to grow heavy. I felt Vampire putting her hand on my head, stroking my hair gently.

“The moon. It's so beautiful tonight, isn't it?”

Her voice echoed in my ears.

A familiar line. Like I've heard it hundreds of times before. The full moon shining down on me. 

Yes.

I had seen this scene before.

The sight of her soft smiling face illuminated by the moonlight.

But why can't I remember?

As if reading my thought, she answered.

“This past one hundred years didn't work so well, huh?”

“...”

“I didn't manage to save you again this time. I didn't even manage to spend enough time with you to leave any precious memories. And now I've already reached the end of the cycle.”

“What... do you mean?”

My voice cracked. My whole body started to feel heavy.

“It's alright. You don't have to worry about anything. Because you will forget all of this.


...


...


...


Oh.

I see.

Now I remember.

I laughed under my breath, raising my shaky hand to cup her cheek.

“I see... You failed so badly this time ...”

Her eyes widened for a second, before they softened in realization. She raised her own hand to clasp mine.

The [Day of The Dead]. The one hundred year cycle.

Everything returned to me like a surging wave.

This is the day when spirits of the dead return to the world of the living, and the day when every soul that support my very being leave me for a brief period of time. Some of them would return, some of them would pass for the next cycle of life, but whichever it is, I would never be the same after the ritual ended.

It's just like I told you before; how I hated adding a brick on an already finished house and rebuilding it all over.

I would lose some part of me, some part of my memories. And this cycle would keep repeating until one hundred years passed, when all souls would be released from their prison and be brought anew. My memories would be wiped clean by then, safe for the necessary knowledge about my duty as the keeper of soul.

I had always thought that it's natural. That it's a given.

But in the last moment I always ended up remembering everything.

And I think it's because her. This unbelievingly foolish vampire.

   --Because I had fallen in love with her.

A part of me that's not made of those souls. A part of me that is 'me'. It kept clinging onto those images of her and wouldn't let go. Even though it's not supposed to be possible. Even though I knew it violated my nature as the Oddities called Skeleton Maiden. I kept yearning for her in the end. And I knew it couldn't be stopped.

“Hey, Yui.”

“Hm?”

“You've been very annoying in this cycle.”

“Sorry.”

“You didn't try hard enough to get my attention so I got bored of you.”

“Sorry.”

“And put the death flowers from the previous cycle in a bigger vase. They need more soil to grow.”

“I'll keep that in mind.”

She chuckled, playing with the end of my bangs with her finger.   

“Say... Will I remember you after this?”

“...”

“It's a silly question... isn't it?”

“It's not.”

I softly laughed.

“I wonder if I can stop forgetting someday...”

She didn't answer me. She only smiled, her eyes locked to the dark night sky. So I smiled back at her.

The sleepiness had started to feel unbearable and I closed my eyes, hearing her voices ringing in my ears for the last time.


...


...


...


“Good night, Haruka. I love you.”


=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


How long I’ll be able stay by your side?

Is it alright to believe that every rain will someday end?

I don’t want to forget anything anymore, but

“The moon’s so beautiful tonight,” you simply utter as you smile next to me



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=


“Good morning. Though I think that phrase was a bit wrong since the sun never rises here.”

I opened my eyes.

A girl was there, smiling down at me. And I was lying on a heap of dead leaves, my head resting on her lap. I blinked.

“You are?”

“Oh, right. I forgot to introduce myself.”

The girl let out a small chuckle.

“I am Vampire; the leader of [Demons Lair]. Do you know who you are?”

I sighed and pushed myself up, looking around my surrounding.

“It's a silly question. I am Skeleton Maiden, keeper of souls and ruler of [Country of Bones]. And if you please excuse me, I am very busy.”

I found my scythe lying on the ground beside me and I took it with one hand. My wrist let out a small creak from its weight and I promptly used my other hand for support. I blinked. Somehow I felt like this had happened before. I shrugged and walked away, watching the gargoyles collecting the empty lanterns scattered around the area. I saw the Vampire stood as well, patting her dirty pants.

“Good job at this year's [Day of The Dead]. Would you like coming to my place to celebrate with a cup of tea?”

I frowned.

“No thanks. I'm busy.”

“It's okay. We have unlimited time so come by anytime. I'll wait for you.”

I gave her another frown, edging away from her. She's being awfully friendly to me for no reason and it irritated me a bit. I gave her a quick bow just formality before I left. I could hear the wind brought her whisper along, and somehow, without any thought, a single tear fell down my eyes.


...


...


...



“I'll wait for you... forever...”



=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=0=




Under the midsummer stars that go ’round and ’round

We hate and we love, gazing at the faraway moon

So don’t forget it, even if the day when our tears run dry finally come,

Don’t ever forget the light in this night sky



Then maybe the long, long night,

could one day greet the morning










__________________________________________________________
Extra Chapter: Beauty of The World// END























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     >>INTERMEZZO -- THE DEVIL'S PRAYER





  "It's almost done."



The devil spoke to herself.

Her crimson eyes glinted in the dark dark night.


Against the huge flask of floating light.



    "Have you gather enough to save her?"



The Black Witch watched in excitement.


Her eyes twisted in crazed amusement.



     "Human. Oddities. Anything is fine. I'll offer all their lives for her."


  "How interesting~"



The Witch cackled.

Her voice rang in the starless night.


          "Another one will be satisfying, yes? Or do you prefer two?"



The mirror on the wall shivered.

A single image sprung to life.




           A trickster in blood red suit.

           Among the floating bubbles under the great great tree.


     A silent girl with cold fearful eyes.

     Standing above the tall tall tower above the town.


The queen of Oddities smiled.






    "Rejoice for your next sacrificial lambs~"






                               >>END OF PRAYER



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