The Demon That Loves Me
By Miss Katherine
Rated: PG - 13 – For language, violence, and suggestive themes!
Claimer: Everything is mine. If you steal, I will bitch-slap you using a French Baguette.
AN: I love CA.
Chapter 14: California
There was still a part of me that doubted whether or not everything was real, whether everything was even possible for someone like me.
For so many years, I've lived as Kenmei Shinja a plain, if at times loony girl. Things weren't necessarily bad for me—heck, I was studying at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world—but things weren't necessarily great either.
I mean, I wasn't coming home every night to the top model from Playgirl or whatever in my bed.
No, Kenmei Shinja lived a simple, if meager life. The only thing that kept my life from being too boring was my paranoia of strange things.
There's nothing like being afraid of a toaster to spice up your life, trust me.
Looking back, I guess I can say that I was lonely, very lonely. There was something bittersweet about laughing at my own jokes when there wasn't anyone there to laugh with me, something sad about singing "Happy Birthday" to myself year after year in an empty apartment.
There I was, 25, never kissed, fulfilling my life-long dream to become a doctor, but still not quite where I wanted to be. What I was missing, I just didn't know.
Then again, despite being lonely, I had lots of things going for me. Little things, like good health and peace of mind, a quiet life. I didn't have much to worry about.
But now, all those little things are gone. Ever since I've gone to Hell (ha ha), ever since I met Kyou and did all of these crazy things, I can no longer say for certain that tomorrow is going to come for sure, that I'm going to be alive and well the next day.
Now, I can't say when I'll ever get peace of mind, or when I'll be able to step out into the world without worrying about something or other.
I miss that feeling—just that feeling of being invincible, almost, of knowing that things would never get too out of hand, that even though I was lonely, I knew that I'd be all right day after boring day.
People always talk about breaking out of their normal routines to go on crazy adventures, about what kind of fun they'd have just doing something different. What they don't realize is that when they do break their routine, they lose something—that comfort in their routine.
And when Kyou ripped me out of my old life, that's what I lost.
But in return for taking away the comfort of normal days, he gave me an adventure—experiencing new things, doing things I never thought I could, knowing what it was to actually live. Despite being scared to death at first, this had to be the best thing that has happened to me for a long while.
While I no longer had the luxury of comfort in the routine sense, I had the thrill of a lifetime. These past few months had wrought changes in me; good changes that made me feel better about who I was, who I had become, and who I wanted to be.
Comfort, no matter how soothing and secure it was, could never compare to the intensity of how I lived each day now. It was a steep price to pay, but one that was worth it.
And then, there was Kyou.
"Blue ponies…" he murmured in his sleep, nuzzling my face with his, looking so sweet and innocent. Taking the utmost care to not wake him, I gave him a gentle kiss on the forehead.
Even if he weren't a Demon, even if he never took me down here, I think I still would've fallen for him. Even if we had met under different circumstances, I think we still would've ended up like this.
Maybe, if we had met in a different way, he might not have scared me so much in the beginning; we would've had a smoother courtship that consisted of roses and holding hands instead of painful tears and misunderstanding.
But now, it's official; we're together.
I glanced over at Kyou, who was sleeping with the cutest smile on his face.
Just being this close to him makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
"Kenmei," he murmured in his sleep. His speech was slurred, but his smile was still sweet. "Don't put your hand down my pants, you naughty girl—AHHHHHHHH!"
…Most of the time.
"Jeez!" Kyou screamed, wide-awake, still clutching his nipple. He looked at me in disbelief. "And do you usually go around twisting people's nipples while they sleep, or is this a recently acquired hobby?"
Blushing, I said, "You deserved it!"
"What did I do?!" Kyou asked, with his hand still over his chest.
"Is life just a big wet dream for you?!" I hissed, my teeth clenched.
"Yeah, so what?" He responded, nonchalant with a shrug. "Why?" He grinned and leaned over until his face was only millimeters from mine. "You wanna wake me out of it?"
A shiver went down my back even though my face was red-hot.
Before I even realized that I had slapped him, Kyou was already facedown on the bed.
Moments later, he popped back up with one hand over his right cheek and the other over his nipple. "What is wrong with you, Kenmei?!" He cried. "What the hell am I doing that is meriting this level of abuse?!"
"You—you were being saucy!"
"Saucy?!" He shrieked. "Saucy? Is that what I am to you—some kind of ITALIAN CONDIMENT?!"
Kyou dramatically faked a heart attack, backing away from the bed until his back hit the wall of the room. He looked like he was about to cry. "I don't even like spaghetti," he squeaked.
"Okay, now you're the one overreacting," I said, trying not to laugh; "Italian condiments do not trigger heart attacks."
"Kenmei," Kyou said, sitting down next to me on the bed, "My problem is not with Italian condiments—except for pesto—God, what were they thinking? Green sauce is not appetizing—my problem is with you."
"Can't I tease you a little without fearing for my vital organs?" He asked, putting a comforting hand on the back of my neck. "We're together now, aren't we? Aren't I allowed some leeway?"
"I'm sorry," I said with gritted teeth, "It's just that…" Kyou encouraged me to go on by massaging the back of neck. "…Whenever you say or do something like that, I just don't know what to do…so I…"
"…So you hit people when you don't know what else to do?"
"Yeah. Most people don't survive as long as you do."
When I looked up at him for the first time in a while, I expected a smile, but got a laugh.
"So all those times you've kicked me, slapped me, shoved me, smacked me, punched me, and bit me were all just your way of showing your shyness about feeling overwhelming lust for my phenomenal body?"
"Not in those exact words, but…"
"So when I do something like this—" Kyou swooped in and gave me a kiss on the neck, and then another. And another. They began to come in quick successions, remaining constant thanks to Kyou's iron grip around my waist.
At first, I was surprised, but it felt good. Warm, a little wet and ticklish. I had no problem just sitting there and receiving all this affection, until Kyou's kisses began hitting lower and lower down my chest.
My first reaction when I felt his tongue trace where my bra met my skin was to kick him, hard.
And I did.
Right away, his grip loosened. He grunted and stayed in a stiff fetal position as I made my escape across the room.
"Wow," Kyou said in a shrill voice, his hands around his genitals, "That must've felt really good because this really hurts."
It took me a while to realize that what I had just done was a tad bit off of what an ordinary woman would've done in the same situation.
"Oh my God," I whispered, moving towards Kyou on the bed, "I am so sorry, Kyou." I swallowed the fear that had caused me lash out, and petted his soft red and blonde hair. "I'm so—"
"It's okay, Kenmei," he murmured, enjoying being petted.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"You shouldn't try to suppress those types of feelings, though," he said later, sitting up. "It'd not good for you." Then, as if he was hit by inspiration, Kyou got up from the bed and began to twirl around like a little girl. "Be free with them! Like me!"
Then Kyou twirled into a piece of furniture.
"Ow. Okay, bad example," he conceded, limping back to the bed where he sat down next to me, "But you know what I mean. Just try to use words instead of violence." He winced and then put a hand over his genitals. "Please."
I smiled. "I'll try," I said.
"So," he said, nodding as if he was pleased with himself, "Were those kisses totally saucy, or what?"
"What?" I exclaimed, remembering those passionate kisses. "No way, you were way past saucy. You were like…chicken alfredo."
Kyou laughed. I laughed, too and hugged him like the big goofball he was. Putting my head against his chest, I couldn't help but feel a deep connection with him. It felt so good, so perfect that I already dreaded parting with him.
"I love you," I murmured, looking up at him. This must have been the millionth time I've said that since last night.
He wrapped an arm around me and lifted me up to him. "I love you too, babe."
"Thank you for letting me stay," I whispered, nuzzling his neck.
"Don't thank me," he said, sounding grim. "I'm a little angry that you didn't listen to me and go home last night."
"So you're not happy that I'm staying?"
Kyou looked incredulous. "Who said I wasn't happy?" He gave me a rough kiss on the mouth. "I'm just worried for you," he whispered. "When I tried to force you to go home last night, I did it because I wanted you to be safe."
I rolled my eyes, weary of fighting about the same topic, and asked, "And how would going back to California make me safe?"
"Because tracking a human among other humans is hard. Because tracking a human among demons is easy," Kyou said, putting a hand underneath my chin and lifting my face up closer to his. "Because Hideki has more power there than he does down here. He'd be able to take better care of you."
"You take good care of me," I whispered.
He sighed. "I don't know. There were times—"
"Kyou," I said, tired of his reservations.
But he didn't stop. "—Where I could've done more, where I failed," he said, looking almost angry, "Like that time on the train. And that time we were walking down the street—"
"But everything turned out fine," I tried to reassure him.
"We were lucky," he said, "And luck runs out. I can't help but feel like I'm going to be part of why you'll get hurt later on. And I don't want you to get hurt." He looked deep into my eyes. "I'm so scared for you."
My heart melted. Brushing my hand on his cheek, I said, "We'll make this work out. Somehow."
"I don't want you to die," Kyou whispered, taking my hand up to his mouth for a kiss. There was real fear in his eyes.
I kissed him on the cheek and sighed. "You're so sweet. I wish I'd met you sooner," I whispered. "It's ironic, you know… I used to wish that I was dead." His eyes widened.
Before Kyou could say anything about that, I continued. "You know how my parents died in that earthquake? There were so many times after that, where I wished…"
"Living without them hurt so much," I continued, licking my lips. "And for the longest time, I wished so much that I could've died with them so that I wouldn't have had to know what it felt like to live on without them."
"I was so young when they left me," I said, closing my eyes, reliving my past. "I didn't want to stay in Japan anymore, so I left as soon as I got my letter of admission from Stanford."
Kyou was looking at me with a pained expression as I told him all this. "But going to America didn't help at all. I didn't try to make any friends." I shook my head. "I really wanted to die. And I kept asking myself, why? Why didn't I die with my family?"
"And here you are," I murmured, touching Kyou's cheek, "Telling me how scared you are that I'll die. Hm." I smiled, but it hurt to.
He was unusually quiet now. I knew this was my chance to ask him something had been on my mind for the longest time.
"I know you were there that day," I whispered to him, touching his lips with my fingers. He didn't say anything; he only looked at me. "I know what you do for a living," I said. "Just tell me, Kyou. I want to know."
"What do you want to know?" Kyou murmured, the feeling of his mouth brushing against my fingertips sending tiny electric shocks through my body.
"Tell me what happened that day," I said, my voice thick. "Tell me if…if there was any pain for them. Tell me why…I didn't die."
It took a while for Kyou to talk. "You were out walking Poof when it happened," he said. "Your house wasn't structurally sound enough to endure an earthquake that lasted as long as this one did. So it collapsed."
"Your father died first, and then your mother. It happened quickly for your father so there was no pain, but your mother survived for another hour or so before she died."
Tears swelled up in my eyes, and I knew that I was turning bright red to keep them in. But I didn't want to cry anymore. My body remained still and hard as I listened.
"Poof knew that something was about to happen, so he began to act up. You didn't know what was happening until the ground began to shake, and the glass from the high-rise building began to fall on you."
"…And then Poof ran away," I said, remembering. "I couldn't hold onto his leash because things were falling on me. Bits and pieces of buildings. I tried to call for him, but I couldn't move because something big fell onto me."
Kyou nodded. "That slab of concrete broke three of your ribs, and your leg. You were unconscious after that." He closed his eyes. "When I took your parents' spirits, there was no fight. It was their time, and they knew it."
"For you," he continued, opening his eyes, "When I first came across you, I really thought you were gone." He paused. "But you put a nasty fight. I don't usually give up, but I had to. You were too tough." Kyou smiled a little.
"At that time, I didn't know why you were chosen to live," he said, stroking my hair. "But I do remember wishing you all the luck in the world." He bent down and kissed me forehead. "And I'm happy that you're alive."
I smiled. "So am I," I said. "Thank you for telling me."
"Actually," he said, "I've been kind of dreading that question ever since I've been with you. I thought I'd hurt you, or—make you think that I didn't do anything to help your parents."
"I would never blame you," I said. "But you know what?" Kyou looked down at me. I smiled. "I'm happy to alive. And there's no way I could ever be as happy up there, by myself, as I am down here with you—"
Kyou kissed me before I could finish. Breath taking and beautiful, the kiss ached with a pleasurable desperation. My arms stayed wrapped around his neck, my fears of intimacy quelled for now. I wanted this, and it felt wonderful.
I ran my hand down his chest and he fingered the collar of my shirt. My body felt like it was catching on fire, and when we finally parted for air, I was in a daze.
Things quieted down as he held me in his arms, brushing his hand up and down my back affectionately. Although I felt no rush to leave the serenity of his room, there was no way Kyou and I could stay in here forever, locked away from what was going on outside in the world.
Sooner or later, we would have to go downstairs, where there were still so many problems, where life was too complicated and fragile.
Although I'm unsure of how long exactly I've been away from Tokyo, I think it's been about 3 months. Time moves differently up there than it does down here, but I'm sure my grandparents are worried sick.
Then again, how could I be sure? For all I know, the school year's already started, and I'm probably behind in med school.
And in those 3 months I've been down here, I haven't come any closer to getting Kyou's Key back. It's a little funny, in a dark and sad way, because that was the reason why I decided to stay down here in the first place.
The Key was so close to me last time, too. Right in front of my face, hanging down from Muteki's neck like it was teasing me. I could've grabbed it, but I didn't.
And what of Muteki?
My heart beats faster every single time I think about him, but it's not the same as it is with Kyou. With Muteki, it hurts. It hurts, because I know exactly the kind of pain he's going through, and it hurts because I know that he isn't bad, despite what he wants to do.
"What now?" I whispered to Kyou. He was tracing my bra strap through my shirt, holding me close.
"Well," he breathed, "You could take your shirt off and then rub my—"
My eyes widened.
"—Back," Kyou finished, tense.
We sat stiffly for the next few moments.
"Nice save," I said, relaxing into his arms.
He sighed with relief. "I really thought you were going to smother me with the pillow or something."
"No, I wouldn't have done that," I said, rolling my eyes. "The lamp is much closer."
"Ha ha ha," he replied in a monotone voice.
"No, but really," I said, trying to sound serious. "What now?" Kyou looked at me for a long time. "What're we going to do next?" I knew that that meant he didn't want to tell me.
So I convinced him to by swiping the lamp closest to me and giving it a couple of eccentric swings right above his head.
"California," Kyou squealed, ducking away from the lamps' wrath. "I'm going to California!"
While pouring myself a cup of milk, I sat down at the kitchen table with the rest of Kyou's family for breakfast. There wasn't enough room for everybody who was there, however, so Kyou, Hideki, Decker, and Poof had to sit at a separate, smaller table that was decorated with My Little Ponies and Barbie convertibles.
"Does sitting here mean that I'm a lower-class citizen?" Decker asked sadly, staring at the pink Pony on the table.
"Oh, hell no," Kyou scoffed, looking at Hideki. "I refuse to be in the same class as him."
Hideki's brown eyes flashed, and I swear his white frilly apron did, too.
"For your information," Hideki said, "I like sitting here. It's pretty." He glared at Kyou, who was 4 feet across the table. "Unlike you—"
Kyou's jaw tightened. "You don't know what pretty is you harp-playing son of—"
"I know what pretty is!" Hideki snapped back. "Pretty is 6'1", with gorgeous auburn colored hair, chocolate eyes, a slender, if tempting build, and sitting 4 feet across from you, whore!"
I swear Kyou was about to skewer Hideki with a butter knife.
Shinrai impressed us all by smacking both men on the forehead with a washcloth. "Will you boys stop it?" She hissed. Seating herself at the table, she sighed and shared a look with all the women at the table. "Honestly…it's like having two toddlers in the house again."
The pancakes I was eating tasted great, and I could almost lose myself helping everyone prepare for the meal and in just what was happening around the kitchen table. I was so happy to see everyone again, and I finished eating extra quick just so I could walk around and hug everyone.
"Hi Poof," I said, leaning down to the small table. His face lit up right away. We hadn't been able to properly say hi to each other since this morning.
"Kenmei!" He exclaimed, rushing to get out of the small chair to hug me, even if it meant shaking the small table enough to shift Decker's plate from being on the table to on his lap.
Sorry, I mouthed to Decker from over Poof's shoulder, who looked even sadder than before as he poked his lap with a fork.
It's okay, he mouthed back. I blame the Ponies.
"Poof missed you so much," Poof said, sniffling.
"I missed you, too, sweetie," I said, hugging him back.
"Oh!" He squealed. "Oh! Guess what, Kenmei! Guess what!"
"What?" I asked, smiling at his energy.
"Hideki taught me how to pee into the toilet bowl! And—and—he taught me more words, and how to dry clean aprons—" I looked over at Hideki, who was beaming. "And—and—he taught me how to put on UNDERWEAR!" Poof's eyes grew wide. "UNDERWEAR is so interesting!"
"It sure is," I said, chuckling along with the other men at the tiny table.
"Yeah! It is!" Poof said, brimming with enthusiasm. "Do you wanna see it, Kenmei? Huh? Huh? Do you wanna see my UNDERWEAR?"
Kyou and Decker exploded into laughter, while Hideki tried to discourage Poof from showing me his undies.
"No, Poof," Hideki whispered, "No, you don't want to show Kenmei your underwear. She doesn't want to see your underwear. It's not for other people to see. That's why you wear it under your clothes."
Poof paused. "Ohhh," he said, as if he has just learned some great philosophical truth. "That makes sense!" Then, turning to me, Poof said in a sad tone of voice, "Sorry, Kenmei. I can't show you my UNDERWEAR. But if I did, you would see WHITE undies, with RED hearts."
"Thanks, Poof," I said, trying my best not to laugh. With a sigh, I kissed him on the head and ruffled his hair before I walked two steps to where Hideki was sitting. He was just about done eating, and was getting out of his tiny plastic Pony-decorated chair when I smiled at him.
The force of Hideki's embrace almost knocked the wind out of me. "KENMEI!" He sobbed.
"What?" I asked when he began to cry into my shirt. "What's wrong?"
Hideki stopped crying for a moment to look at me in the face. "I'm just so sorry, Kenmei. I failed you. I wasn't there when you needed me most. When that big mean monster took you away to that dark, scary place, I wasn't—I couldn't—"
"Oh, Hideki," I said, touching his head. "You didn't fail me." I gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You have to realize that you can't protect me all the time. I'm looking to get the Key back. Muteki has the Key. I can't get it back without coming in contact with him."
"So don't think that you failed me just because I had a brush with him. It can't be helped," I said. Hideki looked sullen. He understood, but he didn't like it.
"I just wish that I could be more useful to you."
"But you are," I said. "I mean, look at you! You're so adorable with that white, frilly apron! It totally brings out the color in your eyes!"
"Well," Hideki admitted, "I am pretty cute…"
"And your cookies! Oh, I love your cookies! And do you know why?" He looked up, curious. I put my hand over my heart. "Because I can taste the love that goes into making them."
"Yeah, they do taste pretty good, and I'm glad that you like them," Hideki said, "But my extremely good looks and phenomenal baking skills aren't exactly what I'd call useful."
"Well—" I said. "You make me happy. There. And that is as useful as having you save me a thousand, million times."
Hideki's eyes grew big and his lower lip began to quiver like he was on the brink of tears again. "Really?" He asked shrilly.
"Yes. Really," I said. "I love you, Hideki."
"I LOVE YOU TOO, KENMEI!" He screamed, pulling me into another one of his oxygen-depriving hugs. "And just because you're so sweet, I'm going to bake you a hundred cookies!"
We snuggled for a little while longer. "And don't you worry, Kenmei," he said, nodding, "Because from now on, I'll always be with you, even if I can't always protect you. Trust me; I've learned my lesson. I'll never ever, ever allow that cheap whore to be your sole defender again!"
"Excuse me!" Kyou said from across the Pony table. "Look, I can stand sitting at this testosterone-killing table with you. I can even stand being called a whore—a cheap whore at that. But I will not stand being criticized when it comes to protecting Kenmei by some cookie-baking Angel whose wearing a machine-washed apron!"
I had never seen Hideki look more insulted.
"How dare you! I'll have you know that this apron is dry clean only!"
"In case you forgot," Kyou said, "This cheap whore saved her yesterday!"
"Yeah? Well Kenmei wouldn't have needed to be saved in the first place if this cheap whore did a better job of guarding her!"
Kyou looked incensed. "Look who's talking, bitch!"
"Can you pass the salt?" Decker asked, timid underneath the tension.
In the heat of the argument, Kyou picked up the saltshaker and threw it at Decker, who wasn't able to catch it in time, causing the saltshaker to glide through the air until it smashed into pieces on the floor.
Decker sniffed and looked at the saltshaker for a long, long time.
Kyou walked up over to Hideki and I. "And forget about following Kenmei to California!"
"You can't tell me what to do!" Hideki grabbed onto me. "If Kenmei wants me to go, I go. And she does want me to go, right, sweetie?"
Both men waited for my response. "Uh…I—"
Hideki grabbed onto me to get my attention. "Kenmei knows that out of the two of us, I'm the one she can turn to for three healthy and delicious meals everyday, not including all the cookies that I'll bake for her—unlike someone's cooking who nearly killed me a second time!"
"Oh," Kyou said, "So it's my fault that you choked on the asparagus in my omelet?!"
"Omelet?!" Hideki exclaimed. "Is that what you call that deadly, oozing mass of yellow shit that you gave me to eat last week?!"
"It was an omelet AND YOU KNOW IT! And how dare you try to buy off Kenmei with pastries!"
"Kyou!" I said. "I'm hurt that you think that I can be bought off by cookies!"
Hideki leaned down to me and whispered, "I'll bake you 200 fresh ones everyday."
I nodded. "It's a deal." Then, in my sweetest voice, "Kyou…"
"No!" Kyou said, almost shouting. "Hideki is not coming with you to California no matter what!"
"Why?" I asked. No, my cookies! "What's the big deal? Why not?!"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT COMING TO CALIFORNIA WITH ME!"
"What do you mean I'm not coming to California with you?!" I shrieked. We were all standing or sitting in the living room, where I was throwing a tantrum the size of Texas. "And when were you even going to tell me that you weren't going to take me? Huh?" I asked. "When?"
Kyou looked guilty. "Well, the plan was supposed to be that you'd find out you weren't going the morning I was gone."
"So you weren't even going to tell me?!"
"It was to keep you from making a scene about it, like this!" Kyou said. "I know that you're used to going everywhere with me, but from now on, it can't be that way!"
"Why not?!" I asked.
Shinrai walked over to me and put her hand on my shoulder. "Kenmei," she said, her voice soothing. "We all adore you here; and we want to keep you out of harm's way."
"We all thought that you'd already be home with Hideki this morning," she continued. "You would've been safer there, around your own kind, instead of down here, where it's so easy to pick you out."
"Then why won't you let me go with Kyou?" I asked her. "California's full of people like me! You were going to send me there in the first place anyway!"
"Wrong," Saiai said, stepping up. She took off her black-rimmed glasses and looked at me. "If you go with Kyou, you'll be a human accompanying a Demon, and that's just as easy to pick out as being a human among Demons."
"Wait—I'm not finished," she said, stopping me from saying anything. "Although the dangers are the same, you'll have all of us to protect you down here, while you'll only have Kyou, who's already preoccupied with something else, to protect you up there. It's the lesser of two evils."
"We only want you to be safe, Kenmei," Rikou said, standing next to Hoshou. "So please don't be angry."
"What we're trying to say," Ketsui said, "Is that you chose to stay down here, despite everything, and your decision has some restrictions. All we're asking you to do is to acknowledge those restrictions."
Kyou nodded from across the room. "The first restriction being that you can't follow me wherever I go anymore."
"But that's not fair," I whispered, feeling bad that I was being scolded by everyone. I looked at Kyou. "I thought we were in this together."
"We were," Kyou said. The past tense made me grimace. "But I can't afford to be reckless anymore, not after what happened last time. And the time before that. You know, Hideki's right; I can't take care of you all by my—"
"For God's sake, Kyou, I am not a child!" I exploded. "I don't need you, or anyone, to 'take care of me' all the time! I can take care of myself just fine!"
"You're wrong!" Kyou shouted. "Look at all the trouble and near misses you've gotten into all your life! Look at all the scars on your arms and legs! Don't you ever notice them? You think you can take care of yourself, but you can't!"
What he said tore at me inside, so much that I couldn't find anything to say. I could only draw back into Shinrai's embrace. Sensing he had hurt me, Kyou said, "Listen; I'm not saying that you're a helpless little girl—but you're my girl. And I don't want to lose you."
"What're you going to be doing in California?" I asked, soft. Kyou relaxed, thinking that I was giving up on the subject.
"One Key has a lot of power, enough to build another world, like the one you saw when you were with Muteki," Kyou said. "But one Key won't be able to overthrow the entire System of Heaven and Hell."
Is that what Muteki wants to do?
"My parents were fugitives, murderers. They wanted the Keys, all 10 of them. They may have died, but their reputation didn't—it lives on in me."
"This Key is mine. It always was mine; from the day I was born. It's my due, my compensation."
Kyou shook his head. "I don't know why he wants to do that," he said, "But that's what he's been preparing for."
I know why.
"It's only a matter of time before he's going to go after the other 9," Decker finished, leaning against the wall. "While you were both gone, I figured out that the next, most likely target would be the Key residing in Muteki's land of origin."
"And that would be America," Kyou said. "San Francisco, to be specific."
How funny—that was where I was going to go for my summer vacation if I couldn't get tickets to Tokyo.
"We've already talked to the Gate Keeper there about Muteki," Decker said, "And we all agreed that it'd be best if Kyou went there to give the Keeper another layer of defense when Muteki strikes."
"Did you hear that?" Kyou walked over to me. "When Muteki strikes. We know we're going to see Muteki. This is an expected clash. That's why I don't want you to come! How can I keep my eye on you, protect the Key there, and prepare for a fight against Muteki at the same time?"
My heard perked up. "So you would let me come, if you could?" I asked.
Kyou sighed. "Kenmei. I know I'm not human, but I am only one Demon."
"Then how about if I come along, too?"
A voice came from the hallway leading to the living room and a while later, to my surprise, Maiko walked into the room and stood next to me. She tossed her thick black hair back and crossed her arms.
Kyou stood silent.
She winked at me. "In the flesh."
"I haven't seen you since—where—how have you been?" Then, I noticed something different about her. "And what's up with the uniform?"
The black uniform looked good on her, and matched Saiai's uniform exactly, from the blazer right down to the miniskirt and heels.
Maiko smiled at me and said, "Well, after having a near-death experience on the train, I decided to leave my life of greed to pursue the higher, nobler occupation."
"Really?" I asked, impressed.
"No. Psh," Maiko said, almost laughing. "After what happened on the train, I was stranded. All the train systems had shut down. Saiai, here, though, was kind enough to give me stint at the office for the while. It was supposed to be only temporary, but it turns out that I'm good at what I'm doing."
"Sorting out the pure souls from the rest is pretty interesting work anyway," Maiko continued. "And I get to work in one of those glass skyscrapers downtown."
"Wow," I said, "How's the pay?"
She gave me a look. "I'm still here, aren't I?"
Maiko stepped in front of Kyou leisurely and said to him, "You said that you couldn't take care of Kenmei by yourself, but if I come along as well, you wouldn't have to worry so much about that, wouldn't you?"
Hideki stepped forward as well and put a protective hand on my shoulder. "And if I come along, too, then you wouldn't have to worry about anything; you just focus on protecting that Key up there, and we'll focus on guarding Kenmei."
My heart jumped. Hideki and Maiko are backing me up!
"But that means you're entire purpose for the trip has to be protecting Kenmei, 24/7, and nothing else," Decker said, eyeing Maiko.
She caught his eye and said, "And who says I won't do a good job of it, Patio?"
"Right," she said.
We all looked at Kyou, who was looking at me. "Are you sure you want to go with me?" I nodded yes. "No matter what?" I nodded again, this time more passionately.
Kyou motioned for me to come over to him, so I did. He took both of my hands into his. "If I let you come with me," he said, staring down into my eyes, "You have to promise me something."
"Okay," I said, ready to promise him a flying, disco dancing monkey just to be able to come with him.
"You have to swear," Kyou said. "That from now until this all ends, you won't do anything reckless. Anything." He squeezed my hands. "That means no going out by yourself again, ever. You will always be with Hideki or Maiko, or me."
Kyou lowered himself so that he was at my eye level. "And that means that when Muteki comes, you will run the other way, no questions. You are not to come in contact with him, ever."
"And if you break this promise," he continued, "I will send you back home and you will never be allowed to come down here again, no matter how much you cry." Kyou looked at me with an intense expression I wasn't used to. "If you swear to do all of this, I'll let you come with me to San Francisco. But only if you'll swear."
With all those restrictions, going with Kyou to San Francisco would be almost like going to prison. I would have to be followed and watched at all times. There would be little time for any actual fun. I wasn't even sure if I could promise him that I'd avoid all contact with Muteki for sure.
As bad as it sounds, a part of me wants to go with Kyou just because I know I could meet him there.
But even if there would be no room for freedom, spontaneity, or choice, up in San Francisco, I'd still be with Kyou, and that, more than anything, was what I wanted.
"I swear," I said, squeezing his hands.
The next morning, breakfast was a tense, quiet affair. It was a total change from yesterday morning. Kyou hadn't spoken to me since yesterday; I knew this was his way of letting me know he disapproved my decision.
Still, I was too happy yesterday to pay too much attention to his muteness. That is, until night came, and for the first time in a long time, I had to sleep in my room, alone, except for Poof who slept curled at the bottom of my bed because Kyou had slammed his door in my face before I could say anything.
After breakfast was done with, I went back upstairs into my room and looked into my small bag of clothes to see if I missed anything. We were leaving at 9 AM, and I wasn't sure when I'd ever come back from San Francisco, so I had to pack with care.
Essentials like underwear, pads, and clothes were taken.
After much consideration, I decided to leave behind my can of pepper spray and the metal pipe I had found so useful in my stay across Kyou's room.
Poof, who was in the room with me, was saddened to hear that I, along with Hideki, was to leave him so soon. His adorable face formed into a sad pout, following me wherever I went. I tried to pick up his spirits by hugging him and playing catch with him, but so far, it wasn't working.
"Done yet?" Maiko asked me, leaning against my doorway. She was dressed in casual black slacks that hugged her curves and a stylish white blouse. A small, roller luggage was sitting behind her.
"Almost," I said, zipping up my bag. Poof began to whimper like he was about to cry when he heard that. "Oh, Poof." I brushed his hair with my hand and held him. "Come on, sweetie. Don't cry. I'm not going yet."
Maiko looked on with interest. "Wow." Her eyes widened. "I never thought you'd be the type to… Does Kyou know about this guy?"
"Oh," I said, blushing. "He's not—er. This is Poof. He's my dog." Maiko's eyebrow rose. "No! It's not like that either! Believe it or not, this is just the angelic form of my dog that died a long time ago. He found me again down here not too long ago."
"Poof," I said, "This is Maiko, a friend. Maiko, this is Poof."
"It's nice to meet you, Maiko-A-Friend," Poof said obediently, remnants of tears still in his eyes.
Maiko nodded in his direction and smiled. "It's a pleasure." She looked at me. "Come on, slowpoke. We have to drive to the right place first before we can get sucked into a portal, you know."
"What portal?" I asked, swinging my bag across my shoulder. Closing my bedroom door, Maiko, Poof, and I began our descent down the stairs.
"Didn't Kyou tell you anything?" She asked.
"He hasn't spoken to me since yesterday," I admitted.
She didn't look surprised. "Should've seen that coming." I nodded. "Anyway. Since Kyou doesn't have his Key, he can't just open up a portal from here, to San Francisco. But, the Gatekeeper in San Francisco can, and he did. We just have to drive to the Gates, and a portal should be there for us."
"I see," I said. We reached the loving room and after putting our bags down onto the floor, we stood and waited for the others. While we waited, I decided that it was time to give my appreciation.
"Er, Maiko," I said, feeling awkward. "I'd just like to say…thank you. For backing me up yesterday. You didn't have to."
"No," she said, "Don't thank me." She looked uncomfortable. "What happened in the Desert…what you said to me, really helped me. I'm just returning the favor."
We stood together in silence.
"Well," I said, "Thanks." I smiled at her, and she smiled back. I hoped that things wouldn't be too awkward between us anymore.
Saiai appeared with small baggies of granola bars and adorable-looking packages of snacks. "Here," she said, passing out the baggies to Maiko and I. "I know I'm probably just worrying too much, but I don't want any of you to be hungry up there."
"Thank you," I said, always appreciative of free food, especially those in cute little bags.
"Yes, thank you," Maiko said. She took one of the candies out and stared at the pink and white bunny on it. "Even though it's not really my style…"
Ketsui walked into the living room, holding a long, red book. "How about this?" He gave the book to Maiko, who flipped through it and nodded in approval.
"The Zagat Survey. San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants," she murmured. "That's more like it." She pocketed it. Just then, Hideki and Kyou clamored into the living room.
Kyou looked like he was about to kill something. "Hideki, remind me again why you can't carry your own damn bags." He threw the bags one by one onto the floor, and each time the floor shook. "All 4 of them."
Hideki looked unfazed. "They're not mine, you idiot. They're for Kenmei."
"So remind me again why the hell Kenmei needs—" Kyou bent down, opened up one of the bags and pulled out the first thing he could hold. "—A SOCKET WRENCH." He looked back inside the bag. "TWO OF THEM."
"For her own protection of course!" Hideki said.
"Protection?! From what? The gorillas that are known to run wild in the streets of San Francisco?!"
Hideki held his nose in the air. "Well, you're coming, aren't you—"
"Bitch!" Kyou turned hostile, and began to walk menacingly toward Hideki with the socket wrench. "Say that again!"
Before Kyou blew a gasket, I ran in front of Hideki and threw my arms around him to protect him from Kyou. "Stop it! Both of you!" Hideki loosened up. To Kyou, I said, "Don't worry about the bags; I'll take them."
"No!" Hideki cried, grabbing my arms. "You're not suited for animal labor!"
Kyou threw his hands up in the air. "And what am I, a donkey?!"
Hideki kept his nose in the air. "I prefer the other term."
"No," I said, stepping in between Kyou and Hideki. "Look. It's almost time to go. Can you guys just…cool it for now? Like I said before; Kyou, if you don't want to hold those bags, I will. They're for me, after all."
"It's okay," Kyou said, stopping me from picking up the bag closest to me. "I can carry them for you. I don't mind anymore."
"Well, I can carry them, too," I replied, brushing his hand away. But he wouldn't let me touch the bag.
"No," I said, becoming angry. My voice got louder and I put my face close to him. "You listen. I. Can. Carry. Them."
Kyou looked at me for a while, but then stepped aside, without a word. Huffing, I picked up the bag, and was surprised by how heavy it was. I almost toppled over. But my pride wouldn't let me fall, so I held on tight even though I had no idea how I was supposed to carry the other 3 that were still on the ground.
"Here," Maiko said, picking up one of the bags, "I'll hold one." She swung the bag around her shoulder in effortless grace. "My bag's pretty light anyway."
Hideki bent down and picked one up. "I don't want you to get hurt, pookie, so I'm going to take one for now, okay?"
Even though Maiko and Hideki tried not to hurt my feelings about it, I was still embarrassed. Even more—I felt humiliated because they were trying to not hurt my feelings. But I kept my thoughts inside.
Without a word to me, Kyou picked up the last bag and walked out the door.
With almost all the goodbyes through with, Kyou, Hideki, Maiko, and I took our things outside and began to pack our bags into the car. But before I could step inside the car, Poof surprised me, and grabbed onto my sleeve, whimpering and making puppy eyes at me.
I didn't know what to say to him. I'd been trying to soothe him all morning, but nothing seemed to work.
"Oh, Poof," I said, brushing his hair with my hands. "You know this isn't easy for me, either. I'm going to miss you so much, but I'll only be gone for a while, so don't cry, okay?"
Poof began to whimper and tremble. I hugged him, and racked my mind for some way to soothe him. Finally, I remembered a special technique that Poof had used himself a while ago, back when I was feeling so lost and guilty for going to dinner with Cooper.
Taking his face in my hands, I went on my tiptoes and kissed Poof gently on the mouth.
The silence was deafening.
Well, if you ignored Hideki's muffled screams inside of the car.
When the kiss ended, I hugged Poof and said, "I love you, so be happy."
Poof smiled a little. "Okay," he said, looking placated.
"Now get back inside," I said, shooing him away lovingly. "And be a good boy for me, okay?" Poof nodded and smiled, starting his way back to the house.
"Poof will be a good boy," he said, turning around for the last time. "And will pee in the toilet this time instead of on Kyou's pillow!" There was another muffled scream in the car. "Bye bye Kenmei! Have fun!"
"Bye," I said, watching him bounce back inside of the house before I went into the car.
"So Kenmei," Hideki said, leaning back to look at me, obviously shaken from what he had seen on the driveway. Kyou had already begun, and I was sitting in the back with Maiko. "How…how long have you and uh, Poof been 'friends'?"
Maiko smirked, but she tried to hide it with a newspaper.
"Hideki," I said, knowing that I had it coming. "Don't worry about it."
"Don't worry about it? Don't worry about it?!" He screeched. "You kissed him! KISSED! Like he was a Triple-Scoop Double Chocolate Sundae!" Hideki was hysterical. "With NUTS!"
Incredulous, I said, "I so did not kiss him like—"
Hideki turned to Kyou, who was trying to focus on driving despite Hideki's hysterics. "Did you see the way she kissed that guy?! It was so hot it almost melted the flesh off my face!"
"Hideki," I said, in my warning voice.
He didn't listen to me. "Holy crap! It was so hot, I thought they were going to do it right there—"
"Hideki," Kyou said, without taking his eyes off the road. "Have you ever been forcibly thrown out of a moving car?"
"No," Hideki said, as if he couldn't understand the point of Kyou's question. "I can't say that I have."
With one hand still on the wheel, Kyou grabbed Hideki by the collar with a strong fist.
"Would you like to?"
"Oh, for God's sake!" I said, prying Kyou's hand from Hideki's collar. "Listen, Hideki. It's not what you think. Poof and I… There's something I've been keeping from you for a while now and—"
Hideki gasped and clutched his heart. "Oh my God!" He cried. "You've been having an affair with Poof all this time?!"
"What?! No!" I said.
"Then you've forsaken Kyou to pursue your physical feelings for Poof?!"
"OH MY GOD!" Hideki cried, now completely hysterical. "ARE YOU PREGNANT WITH POOF'S CHILD?!"
"NO!" I screamed back, feeling my face getting red. "Hideki! I am not having an emotional affair with Poof, I am not sleeping with him, and I am definitely not pregnant with his child!"
Hideki stopped wailing.
"Oh. Then what's wrong?"
"Nothing! I'm still with Kyou!"
Hideki screamed and the hysteria continued.
With a big sigh, I decided to drop the subject of who and what Poof really was for another time.
His hysterics continued for a while until Kyou threatened to tear out the Hideki's testicles with his bare hands if he didn't stop the wailing.
"We're here," Kyou said, a while later. He stopped the car. Finally, I thought to myself, opening the door. Sighing, I dragged myself out and took a look around.
The sky was a gorgeous emerald green that matched the grass that grew wild just underneath it. There were no more buildings, only the sky, ground, and in the distance, a glowing white Gate, with a huge pair of transparent wings.
"Is that the Gate you and I went though?" I turned to Kyou, who was standing next to me, looking at the Gate.
"No," he simply replied, picking up a bag before turning his back to me. Damn, he was still angry with me.
There wasn't enough time to dwell on it though, as something bright in the sky caught my eye. A small, beautiful white streak appeared directly on top of where I was standing, and looked like it was hurdling down at me with great speed.
Was it a comet? No way, I thought. I dismissed the streak as nothing out of the usual, until I couldn't help but notice how much larger, and how much closer it had become toward us, until I realized that it was falling.
When the thin streak was about 100 feet above us, and coming down closer every passing second, I screamed like it was the end of the world. I would've ran for it as well, and I did for a short while, until I ran head-on into Kyou, who had been taking the bags out of the car.
After the white streak hit the ground with a resounding thud, I opened my eyes and discovered that the object was not a white streak, but a white door. A simple, regular-sized innocent-looking door with a classic gold colored doorknob.
"All right," Maiko said, picking up her things. "The portal's here."
"That door is a portal?" I asked, still shaking and clinging onto Kyou for dear life.
I looked back up at the sky, wondering how the hell a door could fall from such a space. "So, uh, what else falls from the sky?" My arms, already wrapped around Kyou's waist, tightened their hold. "Frogs? Blenders?" I gulped. "Sheep?"
"No," Kyou said lightly, letting me hold him instead of pushing me away like I thought he would. "No sheep. But we do get bunnies on occasion." He bent down to pick up another bag, so I had to release him.
"I like bunnies," I said, when Kyou got back up. Swinging the bag around his shoulder, Kyou looked down at me, his gaze intense and unwavering.
"I know," he said, looking so sexy I wanted to tear his shirt off right there.
Too bad I knew he was still mad at me.
And so, while Kyou walked away from me, my heart was still beating a 100 miles an hour. Sighing, I turned to the car, picked out of my things, and walked over to where everyone else was.
When I got there, Kyou opened the door, revealing a bright light, too bright to really see what was on the other side.
"Well, ladies first," Kyou said, motioning to Hideki.
Hideki shot him a dirty look, but before he could say anything, Maiko had already grabbed him by the arm and was pulling him towards the door.
"Come on, Martha Stewart," she said to him. "You know we don't have time for this." The two of them disappeared into the bright light, leaving Kyou and I behind.
Still a little shaken from having a door fall out from the sky, seeing them actually vanish through the door proved to be almost too much for me.
Kyou moved toward the door, but stopped short of going through and turned back when he realized I wasn't following him. "Kenmei?" He asked, after turning around to fine me visibly shaken. "Are you all right?"
"Y-yeah," I said, trying to shake the fear out of me. "I'm just a little…it's nothing." I shrugged. "It's just San Francisco. I've been there loads of times. There shouldn't be any reason for me to be scared, right?"
Kyou tried to pull off a careless look, but I knew he disagreed with me.
"I guess…it's because I've been down here for so long," I said, trying to reason it out. "I'm afraid of what I'd missed up there while I was down here. Maybe something important happened while I was away."
"Maybe I won the lotto, or my apartment got broken into," I said, my hands fumbling over my bags. "Or maybe…I'm so far behind in med school that I won't be able to graduate in time. I mean, what if I already lost my scholarship?"
It was a little funny, actually, in a bitter, dark way. I was so fearless about going with Kyou, despite everything. But now that I'm here, I'm suddenly afraid. And not about Muteki either, but of life in general.
My life, up there, in general.
The question is…do I want to know? Do I really want to find out? If I go up there…
"You're going to be okay, Kenmei," Kyou said, still standing at the door.
Unconvinced, I stayed stationary. "How do you know?"
"I don't know," he admitted, shrugging. "All I know is that I believe you when you tell me that we're all going to be okay." Kyou held out his hand. "Okay?"
"Okay," Kyou said, with an air of finality as he reached out and grabbed my hand, and began to drag me, bags and all, toward the door. "Wait—no! Kyou! Stop! What're you—let me go!"
Even though I was caught off guard, I did my best to struggle.
As usual, I did not win.
"Ow! Kenmei! No biting! Don't—OW! Ow! Jesus!"
But damn, I tried.
He made the wise decision to release me after I had kicked him in the nuts. "I thought…we talked about this," he grunted, falling to his knees.
"Just try to use words instead of violence."
I smiled. "I'll try," I said.
Kyou fell sideways.
Before I could start my myriad of apologies, Kyou held his hand up to me. With a great heave, he got himself back up and looked at me. "Just what are you so afraid of Kenmei?"
"Not of Muteki, that's for sure," he added, when I didn't give him a reply.
After a while, I decided to answer him with a question of my own. "Can't you see how familiar this all is?" I asked him.
"What're you doing? Let go! Wait. Wait!"
Before I could get a word in, Kyou wrapped his arm around my waist. He looked at me, smiled, and ran with me straight into the fireplace.
"It's like déjà vu," I said, remembering. "Doesn't that worry you? What if all the bad things that happened after I went through the fireplace happen when I step through this door?" Kyou's expression turned dark. "The only difference this time is that I'm on the other side."
"Wrong," Kyou said, his jaw tight with anger. "Last time, when you first went through a door, you were innocent. You didn't know anything, didn't know what was going to happen to you. But now, you know. You know what horrible things can go wrong. You know how much it can hurt."
"And now, you're afraid that it's going to happen all over again if you go through this door," he said, hitting the point with perfect precision. "The only difference this time is that you have a choice."
The hurt in his face didn't come through to me until that moment. I couldn't understand why he sounded so angry, why he looked so pained about what little I had said.
"If you regret going through the first door so much," he said. "Then maybe you shouldn't go through this one."
Without one look back, Kyou picked up his things and walked through the door.
Only 3 seconds passed before I chose to suck in all my fear and insecurities and crossed through the door, back home to California.
Author's Note: Well, that took a while. Before I actually wrote anything down for this chapter, I had envisioned it ending in a different place, a vastly different place. But when I came to the ugly realization that I wouldn't be able to fit my awesome-possum scene into the ending of chapter 14, things had to change. And that, ladies (and possibly gentlemen), is why it took a while longer this time to finish.
The next chapter is, of course, in the works. :) In the idealistic world (where bunnies run the government and Lucky Charms is an essential part of a healthy diet), chapter 15 should be posted by August 26.
But, as most of us (and for those lucky ones who don't yet) know, the world can be a cruel and dismal place, just as much as it can be a beautiful and magical one, and in this world, chapter 15 will be posted sometime in October if not later.
Again, I love you all. Thank you so much for your supportive reviews! They're a real mood elevator (saves me money from buying pills) and motivator!
Unfortunately, due to the volume of reviews I get (I don't mean to sound pretentious ), I can no longer do the Review Responses without stretching the page and word count. Sorry!
Another note: Some of you may have noticed a change in Hideki's name. Before, it used to be Hideaki, but I think I like the way Hideki sounds much better. And since I'm the author of this story, I get to change it no matter what you think! o Hahahaha! Is enjoying being an author.
Since you're all such loyal readers, I guess it's only fair for me to tell you that this chapter is a turning point in the overall story, and that the end is near (but not quite there yet). The majority of the story will now also take place up on earth, in California.
Until Chapter 15!
Lesson: Underwear is a lot more interesting than you think.