Tokyo Demons Book 1: Chapter 5
Audio version of Chapter 5 can be streamed on YouTube below:
Sachi sat in his pew, his lips curved into a frown, as the other viewers of the church service shuffled past him and toward the door. His eyes fell to the floor as he fiddled with the gold crucifix hanging around his neck.
He still didn’t know what he was doing there. The service hadn’t been very helpful; he liked the part where everyone was told to turn and bless his neighbor, but the terminology the priest used was unfamiliar to Sachi, and the constant references to unquestioning faith made him feel like a superficial outsider. Was it disrespectful for Sachi to attend when he was just curious? Christians were supposed to be friendly, but he didn’t want to take advantage of that.
And Sachi still felt lost. He sighed and slumped in the pew, his stomach dropping with his heart.
“Hello, new face.”
Sachi glanced up. The blond priest who’d given service towered over him, smiling so broadly that the skin creased around his bright blue eyes. Sachi sat up, suddenly embarrassed.
“Er…I was just trying this place out,” Sachi said quickly, although it sounded stupid after it left his lips. He cleared his throat and nervously twisted his pendant again.
The blue eyes fell on Sachi’s necklace. “That’s a beautiful cross,” the man commented. “Are you Christian, or are crosses fashionable again?”
Sachi chewed on his lower lip, a habit when he was nervous. “This was…the only thing I had with me when I was put up for adoption,” he said quietly. “So my birth parents might’ve been Christian.” He sighed. “I don’t know.”
The priest sat on the end of the pew in front of Sachi’s. “Since you’re here,” he said as he rested an arm on the wooden back, “does that mean you’re trying to find them?”
“Maybe?” Sachi could feel loneliness welling up inside him again, like a fountain rooted in his stomach. He swallowed acid and tried to push down the bubbling pain.
“I’m not sure I can find them. Or even want to. It’s just…I guess I’m looking for some way out of my house.”
The priest’s expression softened. “A lot of people come to me when they need advice,” he said gently. “It’s part of being a priest. So if there’s something else you want to talk about…”
That was all it took. Sachi felt something inside him crack.
“I…I was with the same foster family for most of my life, and I really liked them, but they had to give me up when they had their own baby. Now I have a new home and a new middle school that I don’t like very much.” Sachi felt the words spilling out of his mouth, strangely unheeded. “My new foster mom freaks out over little things and I think I’m making her unhappy. I don’t want to upset her when she’s already done so much for me…I want to leave, but where would I go?”
Sachi couldn’t stop. He didn’t know this priest and this empty church felt cryptic, but he couldn’t stop. His hands started to shake as his lips fumbled over words.
“She thinks I’m crazy. I have…I have this weird thing I can do when I touch people. My old foster family said it made me special and it’s why I’m good with people, but it really scares my new foster mom. Every time I try to talk to her about it she keeps insisting I see a psychologist. I can’t talk to her about anything.
“But then when I’m alone and really think about it, I start wondering if she’s right. Am I crazy? Have I always been crazy and my old foster family just didn’t see it because they actually liked me?!”
Sachi bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. He clenched his trembling hands into fists.
The priest waited in silence. When Sachi said nothing more, the man nodded sagely and crossed his arms.
“You have an ability that’s activated when you touch people?” he clarified. “Like something out of science fiction?”
He hadn’t used those words, but…yes. And the priest had said it so calmly, like he were mentioning it over breakfast.
Sachi had never gotten a reaction like that. It was like the man had expected Sachi to say it. Or…
Sachi’s heart thudded in his chest.
“Have you…heard about that kind of thing?” he breathed. “From other people?”
The priest smiled gently. “You’re not crazy,” he said quietly.
The clinic took forever. The check-up was fast enough–Jo needed some bandages and was ordered to pee in a cup–but whatever test they ran on his urine took over an hour. Jo wasn’t cleared to leave until almost midnight. When he finally stepped outside and into the inviting kiss of the night air, Jo lit up a cigarette and filled that air with warm smoke.
He sighed, tension dissipating out his lips and nostrils.
What a night, he thought sourly. Touya had left Jo in the waiting room hours earlier, leaving Jo alone with his thoughts for far too long. He was sick of planning out different ways of screaming at Miki for that Seiryuu bullshit. Now Jo wanted nothing more than a bath and the scratchy embrace of his shitty dorm bed.
He hailed a cab. There was no way in hell he was walking home alone.
When he got back, he was surprised to see a large group of students loitering around the entrance to the Fukuhashi dorms. Jo threw shut the door to his cab behind him, squinting at the crowd as the taxi drove off.
The students were dressed for a night on the town. They babbled amongst themselves, the dull chatter occasionally punctuated by shrill giggles or playful shouts. Jo recognized a few of his classmates.
“Jo! Over here!”
Like an angel materializing, Mitsuko stepped out of the crowd. She had her hair pinned back, her long legs accentuated by a mini skirt and chunky leather heels. The tightly fitted blouse under her spring jacket had exactly one extra button undone at her chest. She smiled and gestured for him to come over.
Jo felt his defenses falter. Dammit, he thought in defeat. I’m too tired to play games with her. But she looked so hot in that skirt, and the way her lips tightened into a smirk…
Jo suddenly remembered something. He’d formulated a plan to deal with her. That was why he’d gone shopping in the first place.
Jo mentally assessed his pockets–he had his new wallet, now chained to his belt, and a small package bundled in the opposite pocket. They were in a noisy crowd and Jo was visibly tired. This was actually a perfect opportunity.
Feeling his spirits lift for once, Jo happily followed the beckoning siren.
Mitsuko whistled as he approached. “Look at you!” she called, gripping both his arms and letting her eyes trail over him. “Are you okay? Did you get in a fight?”
Jo shrugged. “Something like that.”
She released him to dig into her small purse. Jo took the opportunity to light a cigarette; he offered her one, but she shook her head.
“I just had a breath mint. Here.” She pulled out a small plastic tube filled with peach-colored cream. She offered it to him. “Cover-up. You’re going to scare people with those bruises.”
Jo rolled the cigarette from one side of his mouth to the other. “Let them get scared,” he muttered.
Mitsuko laughed at that. “Aren’t you the badass?” she drawled. “You get in an awful lot of fights, Jo Oda. If I didn’t know better…” She flashed her teeth in a smile. “I’d say you were an old-fashioned trouble-maker.”
Jo shrugged. This was one of those rare times he didn’t want to correct that misconception.
Mitsuko’s face fell slightly as she looked into his eyes. “But honestly,” she added, brushing one of the many bruises along Jo’s jaw. “Be more careful. It’s a damn shame to see a face like yours banged up.”
Her fingertips were warm. Jo enjoyed them for a moment, absently calculating how long it had been since a girl had touched him like that.
“Mai!” someone called from the group. “Can you take our picture?”
Jo’s eyes flicked to the girl nearby who fiddled with a digital camera. She was petite, and reasonably cute–blond streaks highlighted her long hair, which she’d pulled into a ponytail in the style of female jocks. She was slim, but her legs had some muscle to them.
Mitsuko followed Jo’s eyes. She raised an eyebrow at him. “Is she in your class?” she teased. “Or is she your type?”
Jo shook his head. “Not for me. My roommate has a severe crush on a girl named Mai…I was just wondering if that was her.”
Mitsuko swung her purse and hummed. “Who’s your roommate?”
“Never mind–it’s not important.”
Mitsuko laughed. “Oh, come on. Playing matchmaker is fun.”
Jo grimaced. Not for me, he thought. He swore he wasn’t going to get involved anymore. He took a long drag on his cigarette.
“Kiyoshi Honda,” he conceded at last, praying that he wasn’t digging his own grave.
Mitsuko thought on that a minute. “The archer?” she asked. “The one who won all those tournaments?”
“I guess. He doesn’t talk about archery much.” Jo puffed out another cloud of smoke. “Mai’s another jock, I take it?”
“Yeah. She plays soccer.”
Of course she does.
Mitsuko deftly slid her arm under Jo’s, linking them at the elbow. “Why don’t you come out with us tonight?” she asked. “You can chat up your roommate to her. There’s a house party nearby with booze.” Her lips curled. “And you and I can get to know each other better.”
Jo frowned. “What day is it?”
“Friday. Are you okay?”
Jo rubbed his forehead. Friday already. He was seriously starting to lose all sense of reality; starting high school had been like entering a time warp. Did that mean he’d gone to Blue Light four days earlier? Had it only been four days?
“It’s just…been a weird week,” he murmured.
She released him. “Maybe you should get some sleep,” she said. “You sound like you hit your head.”
“I did. A few times.” He dropped his cigarette and ground it out on the concrete. He tried to blink away the jumble of thoughts crowding his brain. “Can I get a rain check?” he added.
“Sure. But I can talk up your roommate to Mai for you, you know.”
“I don’t mean about that.” He looked up. “I want a rain check on you.”
Her lips curled again into that devilish little smirk. She didn’t respond, but that look in her eyes spoke volumes.
“Go to bed,” she told him at last, gently slapping the back of his thigh. “I’ll see you later.” She waved as she stepped back toward the group, turning her interest toward a girl who called for her.
Jo let out a long breath and pushed through the dorm’s doors. His exhaustion caught up to him halfway up the stairs. By the time he dragged himself to his room, he barely had the strength to push his key into the lock.
Then he remembered to check his pockets. His wallet, luckily, was still where he’d left it.
But the other package wasn’t.
Jo snorted. She works overtime, he thought. I’ll give her that. He shoved open his door.
Kiyoshi was still up, sitting against his headboard and reading a thick manga magazine amongst littered snack packaging. He looked up at Jo and blinked in surprise.
“Holy crap,” he said as he dropped his magazine. “Are you okay? You’re all beat up!”
Jo waved him off tiredly and flopped onto his bed. He relished how burying his face in his pillow made the world seem far away.
He heard Kiyoshi’s bed creak, quick footsteps along the floor. “I have a first aid kit somewhere,” Kiyoshi called as he audibly rummaged through his things.
Jo groaned. “I was just at a clinic,” he mumbled. “They said I’m fine.”
The rummaging stopped. More footsteps. “Then…do you want my Pocari?” Kiyoshi asked. “I didn’t open it yet.”
Jo sighed and rolled onto his back. Kiyoshi stood over him and held out a light blue can.
Dammit. Jo rubbed his eyes. He just wanted to sleep, but that clearly wasn’t happening. He ran his hands up his forehead.
“Some guys jumped me,” Jo explained. “They just mistook me for someone else. It’s not a big deal, someone kicked their asses for me.”
Kiyoshi frowned. “Is it ’cause of Blue Light?” he asked.
“Maybe. I don’t know–who cares?”
Kiyoshi went very quiet. He frowned and looked away.
“I never…really thanked you for that,” he murmured after a moment.
Jo squinted. “Thanked me for what?”
“For the night in Blue Light. We only got into that mess because that foreign guy stuffed me in a locker.”
Jo licked his teeth. That was strictly true, although Kiyoshi being in the wrong place at the wrong time was hardly his fault. But Sachi was the one who’d charged headlong into danger. Jo had just followed Sachi’s lead against his better judgment.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jo grunted.
Kiyoshi brushed bangs behind his ear, but they just broke free. “Sachi said you’re a tough guy,” he said awkwardly. “Do you get in fights a lot?”
Everyone’s a tough guy compared to Sachi, Jo thought sarcastically.
“I don’t mean to get into your business or anything, Jo. But if you…if you needed help, you would ask for it, right?” Kiyoshi furrowed his eyebrows. “I mean…if you were getting into fights you didn’t start? That kind of thing?”
Jo stopped at that. Kiyoshi looked away again, his hands sliding into his pockets. It was pretty obvious that Kiyoshi wasn’t used to having talks like this. Was this Sachi’s influence? Or…
Jo sighed. Cursing himself for falling into the trap of human emotion, he closed his eyes.
“I saw your girlfriend today,” he murmured. “Mai. She was going to a house party with a bunch of people.”
There was a long pause. “Oh,” Kiyoshi murmured back.
Jo rolled over into his pillow again. “She’s not…out of your league,” he mumbled into the fabric.
There was another long pause. Then, quietly:
Jo grumbled into his pillow.
Ayase fought. She fought as hard as she could. She kicked and wrenched her body in every direction, screaming and raking her nails ineffectually in the air. But the muscled arms around her head only tightened, locking her more firmly in the terrible grip.
“Stop…screaming!” the foreigner thug yelled. “I’m not gonna–OW!” Ayase’s shoe sole dug into his foot. His grip loosened briefly, then strengthened once more.
Panic seized Ayase. The adrenaline shooting through her veins pushed her brain into overdrive as her survival instincts kicked in. Like a cornered cat, she pulled in her arms and tightened dangerously.
She had to break free.
She had to break free.
She burst her body into a million pieces.
Ayase could suddenly see everything at once, her sight taking in 360 degrees. She saw the church floor sink far below as she surged toward the ceiling. She saw and felt herself fragmented–she was insects, insects that blanketed the ceiling, a wave of black that spread toward the four corners of the room. The roaring buzz of her wings vibrated her antennae, effectively ringing in her non-existent ears. She was everywhere. Split into thousands of tiny bodies so unlike her own.
Her vision and hearing were dulled, like she was underwater. She saw the foreigner and Daniel staring up at her, their jaws slack with shock. Her school uniform lay in a pile on the floor. They were truly seeing her now. Seeing her for what she was.
“…Holy shit!” came the fuzzy voice of the thug. “You can turn into those things?!”
A strange calm overcame Ayase. Her panic hardened as she stared down at the thug from million of lenses in thousands of eyes. She felt her cloud of feelings narrow into thin, precise anger.
But you knew, she thought. You already knew and you were coming for me.
It was his fault. She had done everything in her power to stay unnoticed, but he had torn through her personal space and hurt her. He had lingered in her dreams, haunting her, violating her, until the moment he could lay his dirty hands on her again–in a public church, no less. This man who crammed teenagers into lockers so he could protect drug dealers. This man who forced her to change into her true form, in a far more complete transformation than she had ever dared. This man…
This evil man. This son of a bitch.
Ayase wasn’t scared anymore.
She was angry.
Ayase descended like a thunderstorm, a cloud of darkness shooting downward like pelts of deadly rain. She swarmed the man, his muffled cries registering on her antennae, and attacked him any way she could–with her fingers, with her teeth. But she had neither, and instead her spindly legs pushed uselessly into flesh…while her mouths, their sharp ends shaped like stingers, pierced him with victorious, thick slices. He jerked with every puncture, the skin twitching around her mouths.
He cursed and tried to bat her off. His hands swatted some of her, leaving her to register fractured pain, but she replaced the damaged insects with fresh ones that seethed with rage. She dug her mouth stingers into him over and over.
“Stop it!” he shouted. “Shit, get her off me!”
White fabric flapped at her, distracting some of her and knocking handfuls of insects askew. The priest had grabbed some sort of tablecloth from the altar and desperately tried to brush swaths of her off.
“Please!” Daniel cried, thick and fuzzy through her antennae. “Don’t hurt him! We didn’t know! Please, I can explain!”
He was lying. He was in on this. They knew. They had to.
And even if they didn’t, it was already too late.
She swarmed in on the priest, piercing him on any exposed flesh. He screamed.
Daniel would feel her rage. She got lost in some of the white fabric that he swept through the air, but there was plenty more of her. She sent more insects from behind him, above him. There was plenty to go around. She could hurt them both.
Ayase was tired of running. She had jumped off her own cliff and she was dragging these bastards down with her.
A dull scrape registered from the back of the room–a door opening, she saw immediately. A drooping figure appeared in the doorway, half slumped against the doorframe.
Who else is here? Ayase wondered sharply. Her mind was clear and focused, a side effect of the adrenaline. She broke off a sizable contingent and swarmed toward the new threat, her stinger mouths aimed to attack.
The new figure stumbled backward. As she surged forward, his fuzzy face took on just enough detail for her to recognize those terrified eyes.
She froze. All of her, every insect, halted their attacks.
H-he’s here again? she thought dumbly. But why? She’d exposed him to Daniel by accident: Daniel knew about the day Kadoyuki had begged for help in the bathroom. And Daniel himself had said Kadoyuki didn’t seem to trust him. Why was Kadoyuki still in the church?!
Maybe he didn’t know about her betrayal. Maybe Daniel hadn’t said anything, so Kadoyuki still didn’t know how much danger he was in…maybe Kadoyuki didn’t know about the thug, and how he’d knocked her out in the back of a club. Maybe he didn’t know Daniel was protecting a criminal who had a taste for hurting and stalking teenagers.
He didn’t know. She had to tell him.
Run! Ayase tried to scream. Run and save yourself!
But her vocal chords were gone. All she could do was wave her antennae at him ineffectually.
Kadoyuki’s trembling hand found a purchase on the wall, steadying him on his shaking legs. “W-Watanabe-san?” he breathed.
Pain suddenly shattered her thoughts. The thug had taken advantage of her confusion to grab the tablecloth from Daniel, sweep a large clump of her to the floor, and step on her. His boots crushed her. She felt dozens of her chitinous backs breaking with a sickening crunching noise. Pieces of her twitched, flat and broken, their vision blackened by the suffocating cloth and the crushed lenses.
Every one of her nerve endings screamed in desperation. She wouldn’t let him win. She needed to regroup, reform, defend herself. Her trapped pieces fought against the white prison as he drove it against her tiny bodies. Daniel was screaming at him. He was screaming at her.
In the doorway, Kadoyuki stared up at her with his wide eyes. He cringed back, but he didn’t run. He opened his mouth, but she couldn’t hear if he spoke.
Ayase suddenly felt a welling desire to protect him. Kadoyuki had begged her to help him back in the hospital bathroom. He was another victim of these people, someone so desperate that she had registered as a safe space to him. She had been misled into making him more vulnerable to Daniel, but she knew better now. She would make up for it. He was her sudden partner, a fellow prisoner in a hostile world.
She swarmed around him protectively. He cried out and covered his face, cringing away from her.
“I-I’ll go!” he whispered. “Just don’t! Please!”
I won’t hurt you, she tried to convey, although she had no voice to say it. I’ll protect you.
“Watanabe-san!” he pleaded.
He didn’t know how much danger he was in–but she did. She gathered herself around him, a swarm of roaring black insects cocooning the trembling boy at their center. She centered herself in front of him, pulled inward, and felt her body melting back into one piece.
Her vision and hearing narrowed and clarified. Her mouth shortened from a stinger into lips, teeth. Her wings melted into bone and flesh as her fragmented sensations hardened into a circulatory system around a single, pounding heart.
She spread her feet. The wood in the floor scraped against her bare toes. She gritted her teeth and glared at the thug and the priest, her hands curling into fists as she opened the berth of her arms to block Kadoyuki behind her.
“GET AWAY!” she screamed.
The room went silent, her cry echoing off the stone walls. The roaring of wings had vanished. Daniel and the thug just stared at her, panting and incredulous, as red bites throbbed on their skin. No one said a word.
And then Ayase noticed two things:
She was naked.
She hadn’t clenched her left fist, because her left arm was missing.
Her stomach dropped as her eyes fell to the neat, fleshy end of her left shoulder. It was as if she’d been born without the arm. She tried to clench that fist again, and instead felt tiny pieces of her still twitch under the trapping tablecloth.
The world swam. She fought to stay standing, but her legs turned to jelly.
The last thing she felt was her naked body collapsing into Kadoyuki’s arms.
Proceed to Chapter 5, page 2–>