Grit-ridden blood smeared from one face to another as Saboten and Ayame embraced. Neither was able to regain their composure but Ayame had been well and truly shaken after her first successful battle, if you could call it that.
Her hair had returned to its original, silken texture but within her mind sat the knowledge that it had become a incomparable weapon which bathed itself in the enemy’s fluids. Haemophobia. Ayame could not withstand the extended exposure to blood, the smell caused her stomach to stir.
She wiped her mouth with shaking hands, and tried to stand herself up. Her body had responded in poor fashion, she was limp and needed to rest, but the Honeymoon Suite was deep in conflict.
"And I said, who the fuck are you?” Shinji’s loud, obnoxious voice could likely be heard echoing down the corridor. “Answer me!”
Saboten helped Ayame hobble over the Greyhound’s decomposing body and into the Honeymoon Suite, their eyes scanned towards a hostile Shinji, standing at least two heads taller than the mysterious girl whom looked just as hostile.
“It’s none of your business!” she said, pressing her scythe against Shinji’s strong jawline. “Why do you care so much?”
“Yeah, it is my fucking business.”
“You’re awake?” said Saboten, attempting to pour water on Shinji’s fuse as the veins in his forehead showed signs of impending explosion.
"Oh, you’re… you.”
The mysterious girl lowered her weapon to the ground and dashed towards Saboten, placing her arms around his waist. “I had a dream about you, Host to Belphegor,” she said as the two performed a rather one-sided hug. “Thank you for saving me.”
“I— don’t worry about it…” His eyes returned to Ayame’s which had been fixated on the bed since they returned to the room. At least, it was until Hideki wandered into her gaze.
A growth of bone had stretched from his collar, covering his left arm in a thick shell of ‘Iwa’ as Hiro had explained earlier. It looked like armour, built from three separate pieces; a shoulder pauldron, a rerebrace against his bicep, and a gauntlet extending from a pointed elbow down to five fingers pointed like knife blades.
“I guess you’ve explained that all ready, right?” asked Saboten as he wriggled from from the mysterious girl’s grip to lead Ayame to her bedside.
“Yeah, just a tad.”
“Ayame just went through the same thing, her ‘Turns’ have activated, or whatever. It’s her hair, that’s her weapon.”
“And you’re looking at me like that?”
“I know… what’s happening to us?” he laughed, almost ignoring the mysterious girl whom had, for the entire time, been trying to catch the Host of Belphegor’s attention. “My name is Saboten, what’s yours?”
The mysterious girl reached out her left hand, extending it towards Saboten’s face. With her other hand, she pointed towards the simple ring that Saboten had noticed before: ‘R’, ‘H’, and ‘O’. “I’m Rho Dwelt, but they call me a Remnant, undeserving of a name.”
“A remnant? What does that mean?”
“I don’t really know,” said the girl. “Before I escaped, nobody ever answered my questions.”
“Escaped?” Hideki said, “so you’re a Kanzen Hakujou, like us?”
“I think so.”
“Why are you in here then?” asked Shinji, “what’s a kid doing in a Love Hotel anyway?”
“I’m looking for The World?”
Shinji scoffed, “what does that mean?”
“I think it’s a person,” she responded.
The name sounded somewhat familiar but Saboten couldn’t recall ever hearing it out loud, was it another memory of Belphegor’s? “The World…”
“The World is a member of Scarecrow, he’s pretty high up so he’ll have the answers that I need, right?”
“I don’t really know,” said Saboten.
“Oh,” she sounded somewhat disappointed, “I thought you might know him.”
“Doesn’t he want to get you?”
“You’re the Host of Belphegor, I recognise you. You must’ve lost your memories, or maybe you never got told. I never got told much when I was in jail either.”
“Slow down, what does Belphegor got to do with anything?”
“The World is out to get your eye, it’s super strong. You weren’t supposed to get it but Scarecrow’s surgeon gave it to you anyway.”
“You’ve got the right kind of blood, I think.” Rho stretched herself, standing on her tip toes as close to Saboten’s face as she could reach. Her eyes opened wide, allowing the boy to admire the strange, three-pronged pattern stamped on her eyes, “it’s the same with me.”
“She’s got a pair of Jigoku Eyes…”
“How did you know!?” she asked him, “we’re like cousins.”
“Y— yeah, I guess.”
“Who’s this Ichirou Miyazaki?”
“I don’t really know, but I think he disappeared a long time ago. I’m only looking for The World.”
“It sounds like we’ve all got something in common,” called out Hideki.
“What?” Shinji asked, “we don’t even know whether we can trust her and you want to bring her along like some kind of merry fucking picnic?”
“Hideki’s right, Shinji,” Saboten added, irritating the swordsman who just wanted to get some more sleep. “If we’ve got similar eyes, we’ve got similar problems, right?”
“You’ll help me find The World?”
“Of course,” he spoke for the group, no questions asked. “I’ve got a couple of questions for him myself.”
“Plus, you absolutely decimated those Shinigami,” Hideki mumbled to himself as images of the girl’s mess flooded their minds. Rho didn’t need a moment to mull over the decision, there was an immediate connection between her and Saboten as though the foundations had been built in the underground bunkers of Numazu.
“I’m happy with that.”
“All right,” Hideki applauded, “welcome to Team Karasu.”
“Can I go back to fucking sleep now?”
“Hold on, I think Ayame should be sleeping,” argued Saboten.
Not wanting to cause a fuss with Hideki’s schedule, Ayame stood herself up off the bed. “I’m okay, really,” she said. “I could last another hour.”
“We’ve got another member now,” said Hiro, “Rho should go with Ayame and Saboten, Hideki can come with us and…”
“Is that okay with you, Saboten?” Hideki asked considering Hiro didn’t bother, he was well aware of the dark rings encampment beneath Saboten’s eyes and that swayed his conscience toward swapping the schedule.
“I’m fine, we’ll last another hour or so.”
As Hideki, Hiro, and Shinji worked themselves into the different beds, Saboten, Ayame, and Rho left the room. Of course, nothing interesting happened after the Greyhound’s death, but Ayame was quite excited to have another girl among their ranks.
Saboten himself sat in the corner, falling asleep with his back against a wall, while the other two sat upon the staircase as Ayame attempted to learn more about the mysterious girl.
“So, how old are you Rho?” she asked in the most gentle voice she could muster, trying not to wake Saboten as they discussed.
“I wish I knew, it’s on my list of questions for The World. It’s a little bit confusing because I’ve got so many of Adramelech’s memories and hardly any of my own.”
“I think Saboten feels the same way, he always looks like he’s got a lot going on in his head.”
“Adramelech’s quite chatty, I think she’s lonely.”
“That almost sounds quite nice,” Ayame said.
Rho smiled, “do you think all Shinigami are bad guys, Ayame?”
“I don’t know.”
“Adramelech is nice to me, she tells me a lot of interesting things, but she won’t tell me anything about The World.”
“Do you think you might be a Remnant of The World?”
“I hope not.”
“Do you know what it means to be a Remnant?”
“I think it means that my Adramelech won’t be mine forever, somebody wants to steal her from me.”
“What power do you have that somebody might want to steal?”
Rho stood to the call of duty, her dress ruffled as she moved to the corridor beside the sleeping Saboten, “Adramelech and I will show you!”
Taking a few steps forward, Rho Dwelt inhaled and pressed her hands together. Ayame could see the pattern in her pupils rotating as she channeled Adramelech’s energy through her body which she soon pressed into the carpet beneath her feet.
From where her palm laid, a large cylinder of encompassing white light burst forth and, once it faded from sight, a large Shinigami sat in its place. It held an animalistic form, untouched by the human world without scars or chains strapped to its fur.
Rho moved towards the Shinigami with an arm outstretched and, although her new instincts told her to act, Ayame didn’t move a muscle, allowing the child to stroke the creature like a trained pet. “Don’t worry, Ayame,” she told her, “she’s mine.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s from the Kara Sekai, I brought her here with Adramelech’s power.”
“This Shinigami is under your control?” She looked it over a second time, the Animal looked no different to any Shinigami they had faced before with chapped lips stained black with undefined sludge and two blue tongues hanging from between them.
“Return,” Rho spoke with such confidence that she seemed much unlike herself for those few seconds as the Animal flaked away into nothing. “That is my tu—“
Before she could finish her sentence, Rho fell backwards onto Saboten, shocking him away. Instinct kicked in and the boy grabbed her, holding her to himself as she convulsed. “What’s going on?”
“Rho?” Ayame followed her to the ground, kneeling close to her as he eyes morphed to a deeper shade of red as the pattern in her eyes stopped turning. When the pupil rotation ceased, the convulsions soon followed. “Are you okay, Rho?”
“It’s okay, it happens some times. It’s a downside to the Turns, we all have something like it.” She buried her head against Saboten’s shoulder, “it’s not easy bringing them from the Kara Sekai. I get headaches, I get sleepy, I have nightmares…”
“I’ve been having the same thing,” added Saboten.
“People like us get it worse, that’s what they told me,” she said, following her diagnosis with a smile, “we’re the strongest!”
Ayame helped Rho back to her feet, “you look like you need to lay down, maybe it’s time we swapped shifts.”
Saboten couldn’t have agreed with Ayame anymore than he did at that moment, but he was wary of his own nightmares. If Rho hadn’t have knocked him awake, he’d still be arguing with Belphegor at this moment.
The Shinigami Lord within him had taken notice of his overuse of the eye and had been warning him of the downsides himself. As Rho said herself, the physical and psychological damage could be catastrophic to somebody with his new abilities but, some reason, Belphegor had forgotten to mention that to him directly.
The three of them explained the situation to the rest of their team but Shinji was having none of it, in fact, he simply burst into a ferocious laugh; “that has no effect on me! Valafar is dead, my body has…”
“That’s probably the word, yeah.”
“I don’t know if that means anything,” replied Hiro as he stole his friend’s thunder. “I don’t think a human body could acclimatise to being the host of a Shinigami Lord.”
“I don’t think the downsides are all physical,” said Rho. “You might hurt your head if you’re not careful.”
“There’s nothing to worry about there,” muttered Hideki.
“Did you say somethin’ there, Old Man?”
“Okay, let’s go do our job, okay?” Hiro grabbed both his cohorts by the scruff of his neck and escorted them outside, “get some sleep.”
Saboten could breathe a sigh of relief as he sunk into the sponge cake mattress, wrapping himself in the red silken sheets. Rho propped herself onto the right side, under his wing, whilst Ayame hopped into the other, her face pressed up against his arm.
Saboten was out cold in less than a minute, waking only to the sound of his left arm being shaken. “C— Can—“
“What?” he grumbled, still half-asleep and unable to realise this vibration was fear, emanating from Ayame’s own nightmares.
“Could you… uh, hug me?”
“Of— Of course,” he lifted his arm upwards, his own body cooking up a similar reaction. Now, the two shook together, becoming a small mountain of nerves and anxiety.
“Thank you,” she added, opening her eyes towards the end of the bed where Saboten’s bare feet stuck out. “You should find yourself some shoes, you’re feet are going to get scaly.”
“I’ve never been a fan.”
“Well,” she said, “why don’t you try wearing the slippers under the bed?”
It was the first thing that Saboten noticed upon walking into the room, they made his feet tingle. Unfortunately for Saboten, they were perhaps two sizes too big and shaped like fat rabbit footsteps, meant for the honeymooning couple on their final night in.
“It’s a shame that nobody will ever wear them again, don’t you think?”
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