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Tokyo Demons Book 3: Chapter 4, Part 1

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #023 back issue.

Trigger warning (graphic/disturbing violence) for entire chapter.

Touya’s eyes snapped open.

Breath wheezed out of his lungs, scraping up his tender, acid-worn esophagus like a wave of rolling spikes. He panted, the action stabbing knives into his chest, and tried to remember where he was. The white ceiling doubled and merged and doubled in his blurry vision.

Had he fainted? Had he been unconscious? He’d only been unconscious twice in his life; the feeling was hard for him to recognize. But after all his aching, desperate fantasies of the blissful release of darkness, now the possibility just filled him with panic. He gripped damp sheets in both fists and twisted in bed.

Kado was gone.

A deep, feral growl scratched up Touya’s throat, the pain driving his legs to fold and slide under him as he shakily pushed himself to hands and knees. Naked and drenched in a cold sweat, he prowled across the empty bed like an animal, his blurry vision locked on his closed bathroom door.

“Kado-kun,” he snarled.

The toilet flushed. Kado didn’t answer.

Touya choked down bile, his nausea spinning the room as ghosts crowded his vision and echoed in his ears. He crawled through the flashing, garbled fragments of future and toward that quiet door in the present. That closed, mocking gateway.

“KADO-KUN,” Touya boomed, the sound ripping through his chest. “ANSWER ME.”

The toilet flushed again.

Wild, unrestrained desperation flooded through Touya’s veins. He leapt off the bed, punching through the haze of futures before collapsing on the floor. He waved off the crowding ghosts with a snarl, throwing his sick body against the bathroom door, clawing at the painted wood. He grabbed the doorknob and dragged himself to his feet, his knees shaking beneath him but his legs anchored with a rigid fear.

“Open the door,” he ordered. “Or I’ll break it down.”

The toilet flushed again.

“I will kill Sachi.”

The toilet flushed again.

Rage exploded through Touya’s body, fueling the muscles stretched and reinforced with the spiny wires of Pitch. He ripped the doorknob out of the door, wood bursting into splinters and sprinkling over his bare feet. He grabbed the edge of the swinging door and slammed it into the wall, yanking it off its top hinge and sending drywall crumbling.

Kado, fully dressed and crouched over the toilet, whipped his head around. His eyes burned.

In his first glance, Touya saw the empty briefcase beside the boy, and the cracked-and-drained glass vials littering the bathroom floor. Kado snapped the final vial of Pitch with his bloody, dripping hands to spill its contents into the toilet.

His slippery hands barely pushed the flush button before Touya could grab him. Touya threw the boy to the floor, trembling, shaking in fury. Empty vials exploded under Kado’s back, causing the boy to hiss and arch as Touya crawled on top of him, glass bursting under his bare knees and biting into his flesh.

Touya grabbed a fistful of Kado’s hair and pulled, jerking Kado’s head back against the bathroom rug, exposing those fiery dark eyes to burn into his own.

How did you find it?” Touya spat.

Kado didn’t answer. Touya grabbed one of Kado’s dripping hands and shoved two fingers into his mouth, sucking blood and the sour remains of Pitch off the trembling digits. But he knew it was a lost cause. Even if he cut his mouth and pressed those drips against a wound, it wouldn’t do enough. It wouldn’t fit into his careful, delicate plan to detox his failing body.

It wouldn’t save him.

Touya choked a laugh around the fingers in his mouth, the crush of reality squeezing out every last emotion from his blackened heart. He spat out Kado’s fingers and instead folded over the boy, crushing down against that slight body and burrowing his face into the scraggly mess of Kado’s hair.

“You said you didn’t want me to die,” Touya wheezed through his teeth.

Kado twitched, and Touya lurched back onto his bleeding knees. He slid his hands down to Kado’s cheeks, wrenched that face toward him, pulled the boy’s jaw up to breathe into his mouth.

“I lied,” Kado rasped against Touya’s lips.

Touya coughed out a ragged breath, somewhere between a laugh and a sob. Foul-tasting saliva dripped down his chin.

The wavering ghosts on the floor behind Kado started to bleed through him. Even in Touya’s grip, the boy felt thin and insubstantial. He faded from the present, blurring in Touya’s vision, his dark, stable presence falling behind a wave of future fates.

Touya closed his eyes. The echoes of the future still rang in his ears, growing louder against the blood rushing in his head. He could barely even hear Kado now. The sound of that familiar, raspy breath drowned in the cacophony of endless time.

Touya slowly dragged his hands down…to close around Kado’s throat.

 

Nakajima darted into the forest like a streaking shadow. The end of her leather coat barely flapped behind her before it disappeared into the trees.

“Fuck, she’s the only one who knows the safe path!” Miki shoved the binoculars against Takeshi’s face. “You still have both eyes–watch where she goes!”

Takeshi tugged the binoculars from Miki’s grip and peered through them. “Calm your tits,” he murmured as he followed her through the forest.

Jo heard shouting from Zero’s porch. He dug quickly through one of their packs–We don’t have another set of binoculars?!–before Kiyoshi ducked past him, the bugs buzzing on his shoulders.

“There you are.” Kiyoshi carefully pushed a tree branch out of the way. “Don’t worry–I see you.”

It took Jo a second to realize he was talking to Ayase. Jo scrambled up beside him, but saw nothing in the dense forest.

“Where is she?”

Kiyoshi pointed, and Jo craned his head; a thin, random sightline opened up through the dense trees, revealing the wink of lights. Jo squinted.

He could still barely make out anything–a few dark, moving shapes that periodically blocked the faint glow. He heard more yelling.

“How can you see anything from this far away?” Jo hissed in frustration. But Kiyoshi just narrowed his eyes, his gaze unmoving from that blur of action.

His hand tightened over his bow.

beep

Jo glanced over at Miki; the older boy’s head was lowered over his digital watch. “I’m starting the timer,” Miki muttered. “With Ayase swarming the place, Zero’s more likely to bail.”

“I’ve got a good visual of the house,” Shouri said through Jo’s earpiece, her voice crackling over the line. “If anyone abandons this place and heads for the road, I’ll see them.”

“Good. But that means we’ll need to cover the back of the house, in case he tries to hide in the forest.” He grunted down at his watch. “Nakajima gets two minutes to do this alone.”

Takeshi grinned beneath his binoculars. Zayd positioned himself beside him, mumbling a prayer that echoed quietly through Jo’s earpiece.

Jo looked up at that distant porch, wishing he had Kiyoshi’s eyes. He squinted again, trying to make out the shapes that moved in time with the distant shouts.

An orange flash suddenly blazed, then disappeared just as quickly.

What the hell?

Kiyoshi tensed beside him. “Wait…”

The orange blazed again, and this time, Kiyoshi jumped to his feet. The insects on his shoulders buzzed around him in a panic.

“We can’t wait two minutes,” he breathed. “Those guys have a flamethrower.”

***

Ayase couldn’t scream. She didn’t have a throat.

Pain seared through her as fire filled her world. She scattered in all directions, desperate to fly from the burn that burst across her body in a thousand points of agony. She couldn’t see. She couldn’t think.

Clumps of her blinked out of existence.

Amidst the yelling and the roar and her scattered consciousness, Jo’s fuzzy voice rose to the top of her mind, somehow connected to a hand cupping her in darkness.

“Get in the building!” his voice ordered above the chaos. “They won’t burn the place down around them!”

Ayase surged away from the pain–higher, higher, so many of her cracked and brittle wings failing her. Pieces of her collapsed and fell, to be crushed by gravity or stomping shoes. She swarmed high in the sky, terrified.

Through the pain that blurred her already fuzzy vision, she saw half a dozen guards directing each other on the porch below. Several jumped off the porch and moved into the forest. One of them pointed a giant gun toward her and shot off another trail of flame, mercifully too short to reach her.

Get in the building…?

She flew across the roof of the house, looking for an opening. She saw some sort of tiny vent covered in metal bars–tight, but not too tight for her. Brokenly, she started feeding herself through the thin spaces. So many of her burned bodies sparked with pain as she squeezed through the bars.

“Prick?” she heard someone call from somewhere.

Ayase tried to pull her consciousness back to Nakajima. She’d flown off the woman at some point in a frantic, all-consuming attempt to escape the fire. She was still buzzing blindly nearby, her vision partially blocked by trees…

But she could make out Nakajima in the garden outside the house, her hands raised in a show of no weapons. A single guard stepped off the porch and pulled back his gun.

“Where the hell have you been?!” the guard snapped. “Beta team said the cops picked you up at the school, but no one on the inside saw you in jail–”

Nakajima moved in a blur. Before Ayase could tell what was happening, the man fell to the ground like a stone.

In eerie silence, Nakajima detached a few things from the guard and threw them into the forest behind her. She shoved his limp body into what looked like a shallow koi pond; the man arched intensely for a few seconds, which caused Nakajima to jerk back.

Ayase heard more shouts. She shifted back to the roof, where she was almost through the bottleneck of the vent.

She collected her consciousness and swarmed into the room.

***

“Forty-five more seconds,” Miki hissed, his eyes on his watch.

Kiyoshi looked ready to punch the guy, but he just re-gripped his bow with white knuckles. He tensed behind Takeshi at the top of the path through the woods.

Jo switched his bat to one hand. “You saw which way Nakajima went?” he asked Takeshi.

“I saw enough. And we’re not going in blind.” Takeshi pointed into the woods beyond him–at a small piece of orange electric tape wrapped around a nearby branch. “She tagged it for us…or for herself, whatever. Just stay behind me.”

Jo allowed himself to breathe.

“Twenty seconds.”

“Adam and Mitsuko will move in on the signal,” Shouri said over Jo’s earpiece. “They’ve got a clear path to the east porch.”

Miki touched his headset. “Don’t let them move until we get there!” he snapped. “Wait until we cover the back of the house or they’ll flush Zero out and we’ll lose him!”

Kiyoshi snarled in frustration, his eyes on the bugs freaking out on his shoulder. “But they need to help Ayase–”

“Don’t even start, Kiyoshi!”

“The guards are gonna go after her! And Nakajima will just let her die!

“Kiyoshi–”

“Now!” Miki interrupted.

Takeshi leapt into the woods, suddenly and strangely lithe. Kiyoshi ran after him, crashing loudly through the brush.

Jo took off after them and strained his eyes in the darkness. Takeshi ducked under branches, dodged bushes, and spun through dense shrubbery. Jo kept an eye open for Nakajima’s neon markers and tried to whisper-call directions to Miki and Zayd behind him. At one point, he heard a loud WHAM from behind; he twisted around to see Zayd leap back from a snapped bear trap.

Miki cursed and grabbed Zayd’s arm. “If you get fucked up,” he hissed as he dragged Zayd forward, “we all do! So watch your supernatural ass!”

Jo suddenly realized he’d lost sight of Kiyoshi ahead. He had a moment of panic, and then heard a shink thunk.

He followed the sounds of Kiyoshi gasping until he saw Takeshi crouched on the forest floor. Takeshi pulled back, revealing Kiyoshi under him, and grinned at the glint of metal and wood embedded in a trunk above them.

“It missed you,” Takeshi murmured, helping Kiyoshi up with a bloody hand. “My bad; didn’t see that one.”

Before Jo could speak, his earpiece crackled. “The koi pond,” Nakajima said thinly through the channel. “They hooked it up to a current. Step in the water and you’ll electrocute yourself.”

Are you fucking kidding me? When they finally reached the edge of the trees, Jo stayed behind Takeshi’s outstretched arm. The pond surrounding the house twinkled in the few garden lights…and lapped around a very still guard, his body half out of the water.

Jo could hear havoc in that house. People were shouting, footsteps pounded across floors–the din was punctuated by loud thumps and a scream that was abruptly cut off.

“I don’t see Nakajima,” Kiyoshi breathed. “I hope that means she’s inside.”

“She fucking better be.” Miki ducked back into the woods for a few seconds, murmuring his orders to Shouri over the headset.

Takeshi gripped Jo’s arm and glanced back at Zayd. “Stay back with Miki,” he whispered. “At least until we clear it.”

Zayd nodded, and Jo felt a little wave of encouragement roll inside him. Swallowing down the false confidence, he ducked out of the woods with Takeshi, Kiyoshi right behind.

They skirted the far edge of the house’s attached servants’ quarters, and Jo was careful to avoid crossing the garden lights and throwing his shadow. He agonized briefly over the stones across the koi pond, but Takeshi leapt on them breezily, the water low enough that it didn’t even lap his rubber-soled combat boots.

But the moment they finally breached the porch and pushed up against the side of the house, Jo heard a curse. He whipped around to see a lone guard, picking her way through the gardens.

“Freeze!” she shouted as she raised her gun.

Jo automatically ducked, but he had no cover. Takeshi darted around the edge of the house, but was shoved back a second later, another guard’s gun in his face.

“Motherfucker!” Miki cursed across the audio line.

The female guard motioned at Jo with her gun. “Lie on the ground!” she ordered. “Now, you little bastards!”

“…”

“Who is left-handed?” Zayd suddenly asked, his voice rumbling through Jo’s earpiece.

Huh? Jo glanced back in the woods; he saw the outline of Miki and Zayd, hiding behind a tree.

“Me…?” Jo breathed.

In the darkness, Zayd planted his hand against the tree, raised a large rock–

And crushed his right trigger finger.

Proceed to Chapter 4, Part 1, page 2–>