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    The Rumors We Believe
    • The Rumors We Believe

      Fandom: Digimon Tamers AU
      Rating: T
      Warnings: Violence

      Words are powerful; each syllable uttered have the weight to change and shape beliefs, whether they be true or not. However, there was always a line between truth and fiction in the past, yet as of late this distinction has become fuzzier. Whispered rumors have been given more weight than they ought to, and ever so slowly, humanity spreads its wings, beginning to fly toward the sun.

      Luckily, not all are willing to play Icarus.

      Chapter Index:

      Chapter 1 - Dark Eyes
      Chapter 2 - Caught
      Chapter 3- Hunted
      Chapter 4 - A Monster Among Us

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Ruki ().

    • Chapter 1: Dark Eyes

      The neon lights of Kabukicho illuminated the dark streets, causing the red light district to appear more like a carnival rather than one of Japan’s most dangerous neighborhoods. Waves of people passed underneath unique billboards, storefronts and signs, all of which were competing to attract the attention - and money - of those who walked past. Women ignored the men who followed them up and down the streets, encouraging them to come work at one of the hundred hostess bars in the 100 block area.

      Instead her amber eyes flickered between watching the ground and staring into the dark alleyways, calling forth a memory. A shadow, almost invisible save for a pair of haunting red-eyes that shone with the eerie light of the street. She shivered, suddenly feeling ten years younger and much smaller again. From the alley, she fancied she saw something move, dark and ghostly, and she clung closer to the boy for comfort.

      The darkness of the alley, hiding cats and monsters real and mythical, gaped at her as they passed it; a nightmare's mouth, and as they left its shadow, unseen, red gleamed within.

      “OK, so we swept the hostess bars down this street. Nobody has seen them, and we picked up three more missing posters along the way,” a Chinese boy said, flipping through a pile of papers the group had accumulated in the past few hours, his lips pulled down into a small frown. “Just by looking at them, there doesn’t seem to be a discernible pattern.”

      “Yes there is.” The girl’s voice broke its silence for the first time that night, causing a lull in the conversation as the attention centered on her. “They’re all victims of the senshihenge.”

      Pinching the bridge of his nose, the Chinese boy took a deep breath before exhaling.

      “Katou, for the last time, its just an urban legend-”

      “Says you!”

      Despite being a good foot or so smaller than Jianliang Lee, Juri Katou drew herself up to the full height she could muster, pushing herself on her toes to stare into the cool grey eyes of the half-Chinese boy, ignoring the heavy bags underneath them. However, he didn’t blink or look away once - not that he had a chance to as Takato broke up the staring contest merely seconds later, pushing himself between the two, laughing awkwardly.

      “Guys, I thought we agreed not to fight?” he pleaded, looking between the two of them.

      “I dunno man, that’s going to be hard considering Lee here hasn’t learned women are always right,” Hirokazu smirked, tapping ashes off the butt of his cigarette before taking another long drag. “I’m an idiot, and I learned that much. Maybe if you got yourself a lady friend …”

      “I doubt it, especially when they have your charms to contend with,” Jianliang replied, glancing at the other boy, quirking a brow as a smirk twitched on his lips.

      “Look man, I’d turn off this swag if I could, but this is a curse I was just born with,” Hirokazu sighed dramatically before dropping the remains of his cigarette on the ground, grinding his heel into the asphalt to put it out.

      Juri frowned as the two boys went at it, toeing the line between teasing, trolling and outright flirting. Her eyes flickered to Kenta for half a second, whose mouth had formed a thin line as the two went back and forth, but upon noticing her gaze gave her a small reassuring smile. The brunette tried to smile back but it came out more as a grimace.

      Ayaka and Miki - not to mention gods only know how many other people now - were missing, and her friends weren’t taking it seriously. They were just wandering around a dangerous neighborhood at night, and if things continue as they were, they would have nothing to show for it. Just like the police officers, they were putting their heads in the sand and refusing to consider all possibilities. Even if Takato, Hirokazu and Kenta didn’t come right out and say they didn’t believe her like Jianliang did, she didn’t need them to. It was written all over their faces.

      Honestly, Juri wasn’t sure which attitude was worse - she was either being patronized or disregarded.

      And a shapeshifting animal which kidnaps people makes more sense than the crime rate suddenly skyrocketing and nobody knowing what’s happening, she thought, kicking at the ground, a scowl growing on her face.

      That’s when the fliers for Ayaka, Miki and some of their other classmates were put in front of her face. Blinking as she stared into the brown eyes of her childhood friend, the lopsided smirk on her face a painful reminder of their current situation, Juri looked up to see Kenta smiling kindly at her, pressing the papers into her hands.

      “We should continue to ask around,” he said, before glancing around at their surroundings, his smile dropping slightly as they stared into the darkness which surrounded them. Even with the neon billboards lighting up the streets, shadows still played on the corners. They even seemed to cling to the people themselves, some of whom didn’t feel quite human. It was like walking in a different world itself, one ruled by darkness and shadow.

      People barely glanced at them when they showed the posters. The most helpful information they got was from a bouncer on a smoke break.

      “Haven’t seen ‘em,” the man grunted, tapping off the ashes clinging to the cigarette end, before jerking his head to posters lining the wall of the nearby building. Faces which none of the group recognized smiled back at them - most of them women, but there were some men too. “Ya can put ‘em with the others if ya want. It’s gettin’ to be a real problem though. Nobody seems ta know anything.”

      “We’re getting nowhere,” Hirokazu growled, slouching as he marched down the street, slightly ahead of the rest of them. “It hasn’t been that long, how has nobody seen anything?”

      “It’s very possible they were kidnapped for some sex slavery ring,” Jianliang noted, his mouth in a thin line as his grey eyes darted around, his body tense like a coiled spring. “We should go home. We’ve been out much later than any of us initially agreed to. It’s dangerous for any of us to stick around.”

      “But we haven’t gotten anywhere,” Takato said, his shoulders slumping like a kicked puppy. Juri’s heart twisted at his defeated expression, and she wished she could find the source of the wedge which came between them. Either that or rip her heart out of her chest to stop the painful build up each time she looked at him and pretended like she was OK.

      That’s when suddenly her body stopped - not because of a magic spell, though later down the line she would wonder if that had been better - but good old physics; a body in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. And in this case the outside force was a tall muscular man, tattoos of a spiraling dragon covering his face. If he was part of the yakuza, Juri honestly wouldn’t be surprised.

      Spluttering out an apology as his dark eyes narrowed, the conversation between the other boys came crashing to an abrupt halt as the world itself seemed to stop breathing. With every passing second, it felt like the man was growing larger, looming over them all - even Hirokazu who was touching just over 1.8 meters. And when he spoke, Juri swore up and down the ground underneath their feet rumbled with each syllable he uttered even though nobody else noticed any tremors.

      “Watch where ya going, bitch.”

      “So-sorry, I’m so sorry,” Juri stammered, taking a few steps back, only for the goliath’s hand to snap out and grab her arm tightly. He pulled her closer, and she could smell the familiar scent of alcohol on his breath as his bloodshot eyes dragged down her body, before a crooked smile crossed his lips.

      “Ah … don’t worry. Ya can make it up to me,” he purred as a shiver ran down her spine, and she forced down the wave of nausea. Her hand began to stretch down toward her purse where the mace her father never let her leave the house without lay hidden.

      “Oh?” she asked, forcing a smile well practiced over the years on her face. Her voice didn’t quiver at all when she tilted her head, her fingers clasping on the button of her purse flap, fumbling with it. “What did you have in mind?”

      However before he could answer, the predatory glint shining brighter in his eyes, there was a yell and Juri felt her body move backwards a few inches as Hirokazu and Takato literally launched themselves on to the goliath of a man.

      It was like the howling wind trying to cause a mountain to bow, and even Hirokazu sinking his teeth into the man’s exposed flesh like a vampire didn’t seem to phase him; the attack caused more distress to Jianliang and Kenta, both of whom looked like they were watching a train wreck in a slasher film in slow motion.

      Shaking them off like a dog, throwing both boys to the street with ease, the man’s grip on her got tighter. Even though the rising anxiety attack was making it harder to breathe, somewhere in the back of her mind she felt like the captive of King Kong.

      “What the fuck, ya little bitches,” he growled, rubbing the area of his neck where Hirokazu had bitten him like a mosquito had nibbled at his flesh, making it itch. “Can’t ya see the lady and I are talking?”

      “Can’t you see she doesn’t want to?”

      Twisting her body to see whoever spoke, she came face to face girl with bright red hair pulled back into a ponytail, garbed in a long white trench coat with a popped up collar.

      Yet instead of feeling assured or even relieved, it was like Juri had been dumped into a cold vat of water. It was like the girl was cloaked in the shadow of Kabukicho itself. And when the girl looked up, there was nothing but darkness in her eyes - a dark ocean which lead to the bottom of the void. The girl’s hand reached out and gripped the fingers which were digging into the brunette’s arm and pried them back, causing a yell of pain to escape his lips as a sickening crack reverberated through the air and Juri almost lost the remains of the hamburger she had for lunch hours ago. Yet her body moved on instinct away from the danger - though now at this point in time she didn’t know who was more dangerous.

      The mountain reached out with his free hand toward his escaping prize before turning on the red-head, snarling like a vicious wolf.

      “Bitch-“

      That’s all he was able to get out, however, as he was laying flat on his back as this girl who didn’t even make it up to his chin grabbed him by the front of his shirt and threw him on the ground, the pavement shaking as it reverberated.

      Faster than Juri could blink, the girl was sitting on him, her weight no doubt like a pebble but she was using the man’s own finger like a knife as she pressed the appendage on his eye. The man screamed between his gasps for air as he desperately tried to struggle out from underneath her, reaching out with his other hand to push her off only for it to be caught and slammed into the ground with a sickening thud.

      “Apologize,” she commanded as attention from around the street was drawn to the scene which was unfolding, yet nobody stepped in to help. Juri looked fearfully over to Takato - or even Jianliang, he knew how to fight - for help, only to be met with equally shocked expressions.

      “Wh-what?” he spluttered, gasping in pain, trying to push his way up only for her to press harder down on his eye, starting to draw blood. He yelled again, his eye twitching as it desperately tried to close to protect itself - not that it seemed to be doing a lot of good.

      “You seem to mistake this as a request. You bumped into her. Now apologize.” Her words were cold and measured in an almost lazy drawl. There was no viciousness or even malice in her voice, and somehow it made the situation worse.

      “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” he cried, gasping in pain, tears running down his eyes, and the girl relented ever so slightly.

      “If I ever see you again touching another woman like that, I won’t just let you leave with a broken wrist,” she promised before getting up, brushing dirt off her jacket as she did so. In a second, the man was back on his feet, standing clumsily like a newborn deer, cradling his useless hand, glowering at her with his one good eye before absconding like a kicked animal.

      Juri felt frozen in place as the girl’s eyes watched him go before fluttering downward to the missing person posters the brunette must have dropped in the initial scuffle. Bending down, the girl picked up a piece of paper and studied it, her lips pulling down into a frown.

      It was then Takato’s voice broke the silence.

      “Ah … did you uhm … see them?”

      “No.” The girl’s reply was blunt but when she looked up, the darkness seemed to have ebbed away revealing two brightly burning violet eyes. “But I know where to look.”

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
    • Chapter 2: Caught

      The tension which lingered in the air spread between them, connecting each of the six teenagers together, entangling them in a fine spider web. Nobody but Takato was willing to walk near the girl who only introduced herself as “Ra,” and the brunette boy could feel Jianliang’s grey eyes boring into the back of him, continuing to make his displeasure known even though no words escaped his lips.

      A sigh escaped, carrying the weariness of his soul as his crimson eyes watched the back of the girl in front of them, walking briskly forward, ignoring the distrustful glares and bitter whispers which pooled at her feet. He didn’t understand why his friends were so quick to judge her considering she had helped them after all. Not to mention, with her here, they finally had a lead after fruitless hours of searching.

      Suddenly a hand snaked out and grabbed his own, pulling him backwards and he stifled a surprised squak as Juri’s breath tickled his ear. All at once, his body set aflame as heat ran through his veins, threatening to consume him.

      “Takato-kun, there’s something off about her. Are we just going to trust her?” she whispered, and it took all of Takato’s willpower to push down the rising blush, wondering how she could still be so touchy after everything that happened between the two of them. Leaning his head back before turning it, knowing damn well her face would be inches from his own if he didn’t, he gave what he hoped was a reassuring smile.

      “I mean she did save you,” he pointed out patiently, keeping his voice low, his insides squirming uncomfortably as they talked about another person who could probably hear them. “And if she wanted to hurt us, she could have done so easily by now. I don’t think she’s a bad person. Besides, you want to save Itou-san and Nakajima-san too, right?”

      “Of course!” Juri replied hotly, her eyes narrowing, daring him to contest her words. Slipping his hand out of her grasp, he ignored the hurt look which crossed her face as he fiddled with his zipper on his jacket. Takato really didn’t like it when she did that and wished things could go back to normal between them, but as long as his heart beat erratically each time she touched him, it wasn’t going to be anytime soon.

      “Then learn to trust more.”

      Kenta winced at Takato’s words, exchanging a glance with Hirokazu, who shrugged helplessly. Ever since the two broke up, an awkward tension hung in the air. Nobody commented on it, especially not the couple in question, and Kenta couldn’t help but feel if the reason for the break up was known, maybe they could start down the path of healing.

      Teenage drama aside, while the fact Ra could lay someone twice her size on their ass was terrifying, the spectacled boy ended up agreeing with Takato and Hirokazu to trust her; though knowing his best friend, Kenta doubted Hirokazu’s motives were pure - especially since he already caught the boy gawking at her ass when he thought nobody was looking.

      “Yo man, don’t let her catch you staring,” he grunted, elbowing the other boy hard in the side, wishing Hirokazu would stop gawking at girls to spare him a glance. Yet the chance of that happening was about equal as Miki talking to them without that voice of disdain and superiority. While Ayaka certainly was a heartfelt loss, Kenta couldn’t help but feel it was debatable if the same could be said for Nakajima.

      I don’t even know why Juri is friends with her. It’s not like Miki treats her much better, he thought, rolling his eyes as Hirokazu swore, and glanced at the passing storefronts catching their reflections in the glass. However, what caught his attention was a small cat following after them and on instinct he turned on his heel and Jianliang crashed into him.

      “Shit! What gives!” the Chinese boy swore, backpedaling as he held his nose, peeking at his fingers in search of blood.

      “Sorry,” Kenta mumbled, craning his neck around the boy only to see nothing was there. His brow furrowed, and at once Juri’s insistences about a shapeshifter crept into his mind. Shaking his head, he shooed her ramblings aside. Jianliang was right, such things didn’t exist. Yet when his eye caught his reflection again, he could see deep red eyes of a shadow staring, watching him, and he felt the air flee from his lungs.

      “So what’s your relationship to these girls - Ayaka and Miki?” Ra asked suddenly.

      “Itou-san and Nakajima-san are our classmates and friends,” Jianliang answered, venom dripping from his voice, fighting a losing battle to keep the snarl from marring his face - especially with how casually this girl was addressing them. Ra turned ever so slightly, her violet eyes piercing his as their gazes met. After a minute, she snorted, breaking eye contact as she rolled her eyes.

      “How long have they been gone?”

      “About three days now,” Jianliang answered again, his fists balling up, crunching the missing persons posters he spent an all nighter with Juri and Takato making. All the relevant information was on there, down to their blood types. He made sure of that. What other information could she possibly-

      “What were they doing here in the first place?”

      Ra’s next question threw Jianliang off from his train of thought. It wasn’t even a question which the police officers asked when the missing persons report was filed. His mouth opened before closing, lips pressing together. What did it matter?

      “We were doing karaoke.” Juri’s bitter voice echoed around them. “I had to leave early. Ayaka promised me she would call that night. She always calls. But the night went by and no call. There was no text from her in the morning either. It’s not like her.”

      Silence once again hung in the air, Ra not saying anything as she seemed to be searching for something among Juri’s face. After a moment, she stopped underneath a large neon sign which illuminated the entire street corner, leaving nowhere for the shadows to immediately hide.

      “So you were the last one to see them alive.” It wasn’t a question but it was certainly the wrong thing to say. The muscles in the brunette’s back tightened as her lips pulled back into a growl, and despite the other girl proving herself to be much stronger than any of them, took a threatening step forward.

      “What did you just say?” she demanded.

      Ra blinked.

      “You were the last one to see them alive,” she repeated herself, amending the questioning part of it.

      “They’re not dead!” Juri roared, balling her fists together, her fingernails digging into the flesh of her palm.

      Ra turned her head, staring down a nearby alley before turning her attention back to the brunette girl, fixing her with a stare which pierced her very being. Juri felt like the other girl was staring right through her, and suddenly she felt very exposed. Even the tattooed man from earlier didn’t make her feel like she was standing in the middle of the street with nothing on, vulnerable for all to see.

      It was unnerving. She didn’t like it.

      “By any chance, did you see something else?” Ra asked slowly, each word dragged out as if picked with tentative care. For a moment, Juri saw in her mind’s eye those haunting red eyes, and her heart twisted uncomfortably. Reaching out to grasp at Takato’s sleeve, to hide once again in the comfort of something familiar, Ra’s voice caused her wavering hand to freeze.

      “You did.” Once again it wasn’t a question, and Ra took a step forward, the shadows beginning to pool at her feet, and it was getting harder to breathe as she stumbled backwards. “What was it?”

      “Stop it!” Juri suddenly found herself staring at the back of Jianliang, the Chinese boy inserting himself between the two girls, pushing Juri away from the red head as he slid into a stance Juri hadn’t seen him take up in years. “Can’t you see you’re scaring her? Besides, we don’t have to answer you!”

      The girl stopped and furrowed her brow, her eyes flicking up and down at the new challenger before her. After a moment, a sneer crossed her lips as she snorted, crossing her arms, a single eyebrow raised as if Jianliang had issued a challenge.

      “I mean if you aren’t serious about getting your friends back, I suppose that’s true,” she drawled, taking another lazy step forward, the tension tightening around all of them, squeezing the six teenagers, waiting to see which one popped first. Ra tilted her head, almost in amusement, drawing ever closer to Jianliang until they were merely inches apart. Yet neither moved to lash out at the other.

      The world itself stopped turning for a couple of seconds, the shadows wrapping themselves around Ra, clawing up toward her eyes, yet no matter how much they reached, they couldn’t cover those burning violet irises.

      The silence was broken by none other than Ra, whose shoulders suddenly sagged like the weight of the world itself had been unceremoniously dropped on them. Turning on her heel, her hand waved dismissively.

      “Not that it matters. Sounds like the senshihenge got to ‘em anyway.”

      Juri didn’t hear Jianliang’s disbelieving “what?” nor Takato’s long drawn out, “uh” as all sense of danger was thrown to the wind momentarily and she darted past the safety which was Jian to grab Ra’s hand with both of hers, engulfing the long slender fingers which were much softer than she had expected. Nor did she register she had been the first one to force Ra on the defensive, the girl stumbling back, a look of panic shining in her eyes.

      “You said the senshihenge, right?” the brunette demanded, completely obliterating any sense of personal space Ra might have had as she pressed herself against the other girl, staring straight into her eyes.

      “Y-yes?”

      I knew it!” Turning on her heel to glare at the four boys who were staring at the two, Juri pointed her finger at Ra, who suddenly seemed to have lost her bluster, looking up and down at their still interlocked hands before trying to catch the gaze of any who would help her escape from the brunette who was now on a warpath. However none of the boys caught her eye; even if she hadn’t been just goading them on five seconds ago, not one present considered themselves stupid enough to get in Juri’s way when she was like this. “I told you! I told you something freaky was going on, but you all wrote me off! Well Ra-chan believes me!”

      Ignoring Hirokazu’s-

      Wow she changes tunes quickly.”

      -Juri turned back around to the taller girl, who, now that she was closer didn’t have any darkness at all clinging to her and a part of her wondered if she was imagining it. The mere thought made her insides knot and for a moment she could see the twisted faces of classmates sneering, their whispered words calling her a freak echoing in the halls.

      “You … do believe me right?” she asked, hating how her words tumbled out unsure and that she was looking for validation from a girl up until a minute ago she distrusted with every fiber of her being. Not that the uneasy feeling left, but the allure of validation overwhelmed her.

      “Well belief insinuates there is a chance it might not be true,” Ra said slowly, slipping her hand away and shoving it into her pockets, taking a step back. Juri couldn’t help but feel a slight stab in the gut, remembering Takato’s reaction from a few minutes earlier. Yet at the same, a small smile crossed her lips.

      Girls really were the best allies, after all.

      “Uhm, what is this senshihenge anyway?” Kenta asked suddenly. “Katou-san mentioned it earlier, but didn’t exactly go into detail what it is.”

      Juri exchanged a glance with Ra, who merely shrugged her shoulders, waving her hand idly before launching into an explanation.

      “It’s a pretty new urban legend, all things considering. Essentially it’s a creature which takes the form of small animals - dogs, cats, rats - and follows its victims. When they’re alone, the creature kidnaps them.” Ra grimaced and crossed her arms over her chest as she looked away. “Honestly, it would have been better if your friends were abducted. At least then there is a chance you can find ‘em. With the senshihenge, nobody knows what happens to its victims.”

      Juri was about to open her mouth when Kenta cut her off again.

      “Did … you say a small animal?”

      Closing her mouth, the brunette turned to look over at Kenta who looked like he had seen a ghost; his face was stark white, like the blood had been drained out of his face and he slowly turned around to look behind him. Her heart skipped a beat uncomfortably as he stared into the shadows, the others following his gaze.

      It took a second to see it. The shadow was almost invisible save for a pair of haunting red-eyes that shone with the eerie light of the street. The same glowing eyes she saw that day when she left the karaoke bar, and at once every instinct her body screamed at her to run.

      “Oh.” Ra’s voice cracked. “Shit.”

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
    • Chapter 3: Hunted

      The eyes pierced through them, freezing them in their spots like unwilling statues.

      It was impossible to tell what the darkness hid. The only thing which was for sure though was the cold dread which began to make its way through all of their veins, the warm spring air dropping in temperature as the seconds ticked by at an agonizing slow pace. Time itself ground to a halt as the red eyes slid over each and every one of them.

      “Don’t panic!”

      Despite Ra’s quavering growl, chaos erupted with Kenta letting out a scream, clinging to Hirokazu, who was already tugging his best friend down the sidewalk, the two breaking into a run. Juri wished she could say she held her ground in the face of adversary, yet without a second thought her own fight or flight instincts kicked in, and she was following the boys, hearing the footsteps of the others following a second later.

      It was about two - maybe three - blocks before they stopped. Catching their breath, bathed in the light of a nearby street lamp and a flickering neon sign, Juri looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary in the sea of people. Amber eyes than landed on Ra, who was pacing back and forth like an agitated lion, pushing her red hair back, making it appear like a mane.

      “Fuck!” she hissed, turning suddenly and slamming her fist into the light pole. Juri flinched as Ra continued her prowling, going through every swear word she seemed to know, rattling them off some sort of mental list. Glancing at the metal which the girl struck, the brunette had to swallow a lump in her throat upon seeing a slight indent. It didn’t escape her attention either the shadows which entangled the girl had consumed her.

      “What-what was that?” Hirokazu hissed, his voice cracking as he desperately sucked in the night air. His fingers fumbled for his pack of smokes, nearly dropping them, his hands shaking so hard.

      “I mean we all saw it, right?” he asked, attempting to create a spark with his lighter to take a nice long drag to calm his nerves. “Those freaky as fuck red eyes? Like I wasn’t just tripping or something?”

      “It was probably a cat or something,” Jianling whispered. Although he was confident that was the case - they had just scared themselves over some stray - his voice wavered, sounding more unsure than he was willing to admit. At his words, however, both girls snorted derisively.

      That’s when the nearby flickering neon sign went out, allowing the shadows to creep closer. Kenta let out a cry and latched on to the nearest person - this time being Takato who let out a surprised yelp. Against all logical thought, Jian hurriedly backed into the dim light of the street lamp, trying to ignore the fact his heart was desperately trying to escape his chest.

      “Oh gods,” Kenta moaned, backing up as well, only stopping when he collided with someone else - a fearful glance backward showed it to be Jianling, whose grey eyes were darting around the darkness which surrounded them. The spectacled boy really hoped it was his nerves and imagination too that the area was becoming much darker, and nothing more insidious.

      “We’re fine,” Juri tried to assure them, though the attempt would have been much more effective if her voice wasn’t rattling like a leaf shivering in the wind. “The senshihenge only attacks people when they’re alone. As long we’re all together, nothing should happen-”

      That’s when Kenta saw a flash of red eyes and he fell on the pavement hard, letting out a gasp as pain shot through his back. The gasp turned into a blood-curdling scream as something cold grabbed his ankle and yanked.

      “KENTA!”

      Hirokazu and Takato both grabbed his arms and dragged him back before he could be pulled into the depths of the shadows. Any attempts to look tough or inkling of disbelief flew out the window as Kenta sobbed, desperately trying to catch any breath he could.

      “Oh gods! Oh gods! We’re going to die!” he repeated between uneven and hiccuped breaths.

      “Shut up!” Ra hissed, grabbing the lighter Hirokazu dropped on the ground, causing a flame to appear with a flick of her wrist. Holding the small light up to the darkness, she moved it around like one might a torch. Yet the light failed to illuminate anything, the shadows greedily eating what little light it provided. Even the hums of cars which rolled down the street, their entire frame shaking due to the bass which blasted out of the speakers, were muted.

      It was like they had been plucked from their world and thrown into some sort of dark ocean.

      They all watched as she took a tentative step forward into the darkness, before the lighter in Ra’s hand flickered and went out. For a brief moment all they could see was her outline, the white jacket which sat on her shoulders reflecting the waning light, her hair appearing as embers of a dying flame. Some sparks danced momentarily from her hand, none catching on fire though no matter how many times she struck the flint.

      Suddenly, though for the horrified onlookers it appeared to be in agonizing slow motion, the girl crashed to the ground and those piercing red eyes, crimson like the color of blood itself, appeared over her, glowering down. Letting out a piercing scream, the red-head tried swinging at it, only for her hand to swish through the air before the shadows seemed to congregate and pin her to the floor.

      And in the reflection of those malicious eyes, it was easy to see the fear frozen on Ra’s face, tears welling up in those wide violet irises. In the hour or so since they first met her, it was hard to see her as anything but a prowling wildcat which could turn on them at any moment. Now, for a brief second, she looked like a small mouse - a scared little girl crying for help.

      For Jianling, that was the only reason he could explain why he rushed forward against all logic and common sense to help Ra, grabbing her arms and hauling her back with a strength he thought had waned away since he stopped practicing martial arts in favor of school.

      “RUN!” he roared, pulling along Ra, not fully trusting her to not to argue. Luckily the others didn’t need to be told twice, and as if a spell was broken, they burst from the darkness and sprinted down the street, not looking back.

      This time they didn’t stop.

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
    • Chapter 4: A Monster Among Us

      The only sound for the longest time was the hum of the train as it sped down the tracks toward Shinjuku. None of the teenagers were looking at each other, and Ra in particular seemed determined to melt into the plastic seats, glowering angrily at the floor. There were some other people on the train - drunks and lovers, plus late commuters - but beyond a couple of glances, the group was routinely ignored.

      “What the fuck was that back there?” Hirokazu asked quietly, breaking the spell finally. His head was cradled between his legs, hiding his pale complexion. Even now his hands still shook, recalling the icy chill of the air when he pulled Kenta back from joining Nakajima and Itou. His fingers twitched for a cigarette - or two - to calm his nerves, though he had a sneaking suspicion he would need to go through the rest of his box before the memory of what happened didn’t make him quiver.

      “The senshihenge. Weren’t you paying attention?” Ra spat, barely glancing up to glower in his direction, needing to crane around Juri, Jian and Takato to do so.

      “I’m sure there was a logical explanation for-”

      It was all Jian was able to get out when Juri finally snapped, rounding on him, her eyes dyed red with tears.

      “LIKE WHAT?!”

      This managed to attract the attention of everyone in the car, who now were watching them - some more obvious than others. If the small brunette girl noticed, she didn’t care as the stresses of the day weighed down on her, causing the last fraying thread of her sanity and self control to snap under its weight.

      “NOT EVERYTHING CAN BE EXPLAINED WITH A NEAT LITTLE BOW! OR ARE YOU GOING TO SAY I’M CRAZY AGAIN?”

      “I never said-”

      Jian attempted to defend himself only to be interrupted by Juri, who shoved her finger into his chest, poking it roughly. The Chinese boy shut his mouth in surprise; he expected someone to explode, but not her.

      “DO YOU THINK I’M STUPID?! YOU DISMISS EVERYTHING I SAY BECAUSE IT DOESN’T FIT IN YOUR NARROW WORLD VIEW AND WHEN WE HAVE EXPERIENCED SOMETHING WHICH PROVES ME RIGHT, YOU’RE SO EAGER TO IGNORE IT OR EXPLAIN IT AWAY!”

      There was murmuring now, and Takato looked around nervously before leaning forward, hoping to steam his ex-girlfriend’s tirade. He had never seen her so angry, but the last couple days have been stressful for her and today only made things worse. Still, they were drawing attention, which was the last thing any of them wanted.

      “Juri-chan calm-”

      “DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN TAKATO-KUN! I AM NOT GOING TO BE PATRONIZED!”

      That’s when a heavy hand settled on the brunette’s shoulder, and she whipped around to see the piercing violet eyes of Ra.

      “Shut up, you’re causing a scene,” the taller girl hissed, glancing at the judging eyes around the car.

      “Oh like you’re one to talk!” Juri snarled, not about to let someone who caused the biggest scene of all to tell her what to do. “You laid a man twice your size on his back. Are you even human?”

      There was a flash of something in Ra’s eyes, and suddenly Juri realized she made a mistake when the shadows once again began to swirl around the other girl. She had been with the redhead long enough tonight to recognize each time the shadows began to cling to her, it directly correlated to how angry she was. It was like the angrier Ra got, the deeper the darkness which surrounded her, clinging to her like oil, became.

      Juri’s own righteous anger fizzled out, replaced by a deep dread as the grip on her shoulder got tighter, the redhead’s fingers digging into her flesh and clutching her bone.

      “I’m human,” Ra growled, an unsaid warning rumbling in her throat.

      “Then act like it,” Jian hissed, swatting her hand off Juri’s shoulder. He wondered if he was just imagining things earlier when he saw that fearful look in her eyes. Still he didn’t regret it; if he hadn’t imagined it and still didn’t at least attempt to save her - well, he wasn’t sure how he could look himself in the mirror afterwards.

      The redhead glowered at him for a moment longer but crossed her arms, shooting a glare at the remaining lingering glances before leaning her head against the plastic divide near the door. Her fingers dug into her own arms, knuckles turning white, matching her white jacket. Once again she attempted to melt into the seat, refusing to meet the gaze of any on the train.

      The group fell once more into silence.

      Unlike before though, whispers began to fill the empty space. It was hard to catch snippets, but what little pieces of conversation made its way over to them focused on the two girls and their individual instabilities.

      Once again, Juri felt like she was back in middle school. No matter what mask she tried to construct nor persona she put forward, it all came crumbling down around her and the truth shone out.

      She was a freak. An outcast. And she failed to bring back two of the people who accepted her for who she was.

      “It’s OK, Juri. We’ll find out who did this.”

      Juri stood next to Ayaka, the other girl’s hand tightly squeezing her shoulder as the two simply stared at the brunette’s books either floating in the toilet or desecrated on the floor. Numbly, Juri couldn’t help but be thankful she got into the habit of photocopying her notes each day.

      “What good will that do?” she asked softly, bending down to pick up her notebooks which had been completely ruined with slurs and derogatory remarks in permanent marker - Busaiku in general seemed to be a favorite this time.

      “It will show them their actions have consequences!” Ayaka growled, bending down to help her, moving at a much quicker pace.

      That’s when they heard the bathroom door swing open and both of them looked over to see Miki Nakajima looking over with a raised eyebrow before her eyes traveled to the floor.

      The short-haired girl hummed thoughtfully and carefully made her way over to the bathroom stalls, stopping at the one nearest to Juri and Ayaka. Her brow furrowed as she stared into the toilet bowl before carefully fishing out a now probably ruined book on how to talk to the dead.

      “You know, you’re going about this all wrong,” Miki said after a moment, holding the book between her fingers like she was touching something unclean.

      “What do you mean?” Juri asked, holding her hand out for the book.

      While the other girl never teased Juri like the others - therefore careful to avoid Ayaka’s wrath in the process - it wasn’t like she was nice either. The fact she was talking to her at all had Juri on edge.

      Instead of handing it over, Miki walked over to the hand dryer and hit the button causing it to splutter to life, holding the book up to the heat source. Ayaka - who had stood up the second Miki didn’t hand the book over - paused, narrowing her eyes slightly.

      “Have you ever considered being a medium?” Miki asked after a moment.

      “But I’m no reibaishi,” she protested only for Miki to turn and wink, a mischievous smile dancing on her lips.

      “No, but-” the other girl reached into her own bag and pulled out a deck of cards, tossing them over, and Juri clumsily caught them. The brunette looked at them, blinking at the pentagram on the wooden box. Heart thrumming in her chest, she opened it to see a picture of a jester on a cliffside with a white dog next to it, with the words ‘The Fool’ carefully printed underneath in English - though she had to turn it rightside up to read it. “Who says you can’t be a Western one? After all, reading the future is so in right now.”

      “I’m sorry,” Jianliang said after a moment, quietly, breaking her from her thoughts, and Juri hurriedly wiped away tears which were beginning to pool in her eyes again. “I’ll admit I don’t know how to explain what we saw. A lot happened and well-” his voice trailed off for a second, leaving the thought unsaid before he shook his head. “I’m sorry we couldn’t find Nakajima-san and Itou-san.”

      “At least we got further than the police,” Juri murmured before swallowing a lump in her throat, glancing at Ra again. The other girl was like a coiled, tight spring, ready to break at any moment. The darkness still clinged to her, twisting around her in such a way if Juri weren’t imagining it, she would have wondered how Ra could breathe with it choking her so.

      It didn’t escape her notice though how Ra hunched forward, feet on the seat, head pulled down into her shoulders like a turtle trying to withdraw into its shell. While the darkness still twisted around her, now that Juri took a moment to look around the car, the redhead wasn’t alone being bathed in shadow, though Ra’s was the only one which seemed alive. Her gut twisted uncomfortably at the thought with the words she said earlier echoing in her mind.

      Ra terrified her, yes, but Juri of all people should know what it’s like to have venomous things whispered and said about you. To feel alone. Ayaka had been her protector, but Miki was her saving grace. If she could help someone else like Miki helped her...

      Besides Takato was right when he pointed out she did protect her and could have hurt any of them at any point, but didn’t. Ra was also the only person who believed her about the senshihenge.

      “Uhm, thank you, Ra-chan,” Juri said finally after a moment, shifting uncomfortably in her seat. Ignoring Jianliang’s hiss to leave her alone, the brunette offered the girl a small, meek smile when those violet eyes raised to meet hers. She wasn’t sure what to do to help Ra, but an apology was as good start as any. “And sorry about earlier. I went too far.”

      Ra just grunted and looked away, but the shadows lessened its grip on its prey ever so slightly.

      “Well I mean, not so fast Katou. I think we all want to know how she managed to lay mountain man on his fucking ass and make him her bitch,” Hirokazu butted in, never content to leave something alone. Juri turned to glower at him - joined by Takato and Jian, though both irritated for different reasons.

      “Come on man,” Kenta whispered, tugging on Hirokazu’s sleeve. It wasn’t like he didn’t wonder the same thing, but he really wasn’t interested in pissing someone off with clear anger management issues. Sure, she hadn’t turned on them yet, but he wasn’t exactly keen on having his best friend play chicken with her fraying sanity. If Juri exploded, well, they were probably a lot more in the danger zone than the spectacled boy felt comfortable with.

      “Maybe you should try to be not so weak,” came the smart ass response. It was venomous, but no attack came; through whatever grace of god, it seemed Hirokazu didn’t manage to snip that fraying thread. Yet.

      Kenta wasn’t going to let him either, and clamped down on his mouth just as his best friend was about to say something else totally stupid, no doubt.

      “Shut up,” he hissed as Hirokazu’s dark eyes looked over at him, enraged.

      “Uhm, actually I also have a question Ra-chan,” Takato said quietly, and Kenta’s heart dropped to his stomach. While the crimson-eyed boy was never malicious, he occasionally had the habit of sticking his foot in his mouth. “What were you doing in Kabukicho to begin with? Are you like Juri-chan and had someone important to you kidnapped?”

      There was silence among them at the question and five heads slowly turned to look at the redhead. Ra shifted under the weight of their stares, before looking down.

      “I-“ she opened her mouth before closing it again, pressing her lips in a thin line. “I had my reasons. Don’t overthink it.”

      It was a non-answer and silence once again fell over them. Takato reached into his pocket before pulling out a small notepad which could fit in the palm of his hand and began to scribble. However, a few seconds later he ripped the top piece of paper off and held it out to Ra.

      “Here,” he said waving it slightly, and sitting next to Ra, Juri could see numbers scrawled messily on the paper. “Whatever your reasons are, we have the same goals, right? We should work together.”

      “Takato!” Jian protested, but before he could grab the paper, Juri snatched it out of Takato’s hand, before taking out a pen from her purse, adding another row of numbers to it before passing it along.

      The other girl took it, furrowing her brow, staring at the two different handwritings before carefully folding it and putting it in her pocket.

      “I’ll keep it in mind,” was all she said before suddenly a phone began to ring - a dramatic guitar riff followed by drums which reminded Juri of a tune she might hear in an 80s supernatural Western movie.

      Swearing, Ra fumbled into her pocket and pulled out a light blue flip phone with a small phone charm on it which looked like a fox. Glancing at the screen, the taller girl grimaced and flipped her phone open and turned away from them as she whispered-

      “What?!”


      -o—o—-O—-o—o-


      A black haired woman snapped her phone shut, growling, shoving it into her pocket.

      “Brat!” she swore, running her fingers through her hair before reaching into her jacket pocket and removing a pack of cigarettes. Pulling a white stick out, she put it between her lips and leaned against the brick building with a million and one missing person posters.

      “Your cousin again?” the woman turned to see a man with spiked brown hair and eyes as dark as hers holding up a lighter where a tiny flame danced on its wick. Shaking her head, he shrugged and with a snap of his wrist, put the light out.

      “I don’t know why her mother simply can’t call her own daughter,” the woman growled, chewing irritably on her cigarette. “And she wonders why she doesn’t listen to her!”

      “You know what that child needs?” the man asked, only for the black haired woman to round on him, obsidian eyes blazing.

      “If you dare say a father figure again in your attempt to court me, I’m reporting you for sexual harassment,” she growled. Pulling at her black blazer, she stepped out from the shadows and into the street light. “Anyway, the captain is getting pissed. We’re getting more missing person’s cases by the day with nothing to show for it. If we don’t find some information soon, he’s gonna have our heads.”

      “Yeah, yeah, I know,” he grumbled, waving her off. “Anyway, I’ll wait here. Sato doesn’t like men, so the chances of that asshole talking while I’m there isn’t so good. Call me if you need back-up.”

      “You just want to smoke, slacker,” she growled, only getting a chuckle in return. “Make yourself useful then and ask some people on the street.”

      “Yeah, yeah,” he hummed as she stormed off, neither noticing a pair of glowing red eyes.


      Notes:
      Busaiku - A Japanese insult. Very vulgar. Literally means "non-craftmanship" and is used to mean the ugliness of a facial feature.
      reibaishi - A spiritualist, medium or necromancer

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews

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