Summary: They say life flashes before you in that moment before death. I could see it all reflected in the blade. I was standing under the cherry blossoms at my School entrance ceremony, eating cake at my sister's wedding, standing outside praying the monster wouldn't come tonight. I might not be dead yet but I can see what's coming, this is the story of how I was murdered by a fox monster!
Sample Chapters: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty
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Judo practice involved more pain than I expected. I was content with just watching for the first ten minutes, but after that I was bored out of my mind and begged them to let me join in.
There was nothing a novice like me could do, except subject myself to being their human rag doll which they used to practice various throws. Itsuki was kind enough to throw me softly, but his fellow club members didn't show much mercy. My whole body was aching by the time it was over.
I rolled my shoulders to try and alleviate the pain as Itsuki and I walked back towards the changing rooms.
“Every part of my body hurts,” I moaned.
“You just need to learn how to fall correctly, and then the rest will come with time,” Itsuki advised.
The rest will come with time. Those words echoed around my head like when I was told the same thing by Akito. As much as I'd been trying over the past few weeks, I never felt like I was getting any better.
“I have to put my things away,” said Itsuki as he pulled his bag out of his locker. “I'll meet you outside.”
I nodded and went out into the courtyard. I sat myself on a small brick fence around the garden, and stared at the moss peaking through the cracks in the concrete. There were still a few students mulling around after club activities, but their happy faces and joyful laughs suddenly irritated me.
I didn't know why, but I couldn't make myself feel happy. All I could think about was how I'd been putting so much effort into studying, exorcising, and attempting to join the judo club, but I had nothing to show for it.
Everyone kept telling me that these things would come with time, but what if they didn't? What if I continued to work my butt off to become an exorcist for ten years and I was still crap?
Akito told Sis himself that my chances of reaching the same level as Taisei and Itsuki were slim. Maybe I was forever destined to be crap at everything.
I sighed and kicked the heals of my sneakers against the concrete.
This sucks, school sucks, everything sucks, I thought to myself.
I watched a woman who looked like a new teacher stroll around the corner. She was dressed neatly in a black business suit with her hair perfectly pinned back. She looked young so I assumed she had to be new, or a student teacher who was doing a practical for university.
I wished I wasn't in high school. If I were older then I'd probably stand a chance with a pretty woman like that.
But then again, being me, she probably wouldn't care at all.
My theory was proved right when she walked straight up to a group of judo club third years who had just emerged from the changing room. They stopped and chatted to her with far more enthusiasm than what they showed in practice. One of them even made a point of accidentally letting his shirt slip so that his muscles were exposed. They also laughed and pointed in my direction, probably telling her about how my pants fell down in the middle of practice, and my Doraemon underwear had been exposed.
I scowled and averted my eyes away in embarrassment. I feigned interest in the dying plant on my right so I could pretend their words didn't reach me.
“Hey you,” called a soft voice.
I was about to berate Itsuki about sounding like a girl, until I turned to see the student teacher standing before me. She squinted at the name tag stitched onto my school uniform.
“Daisuke Matsumoto,” she read out loud. “Is your name really Daisuke Matsumoto?”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
Her words brought back memories of my first week of school when I met the others. I momentarily wondered if she was also involved with the exorcists, but I had a feeling that if she was, she'd probably be out battling Obake instead of wasting her time at high school.
“Yeah, I'm Daisuke Matsumoto,” I muttered and began wondering what depressing crap was going to come out of her mouth next.
“Wow,” she giggled like one of my classmates. “That's such a wonderful name.”
“Really?” I said as my depression evaporated.
Up until that moment I'd only associated my name with my deceased older brother. It gave my name a gloomy feeling and Sis didn't feel comfortable addressing me by anything other than Dai-chan. Despite that, I'd always known that my name was awesome (because it's me) but no one had ever told me it was wonderful before.
“Yes,” she giggled once again like she couldn't contain her joy. “It's a pleasure to meet you, Daisuke Matsumoto.”
She quickly thrust her hand out before me while grinning manically. She held it there in the air for at least a minute, and I stared blankly while wondering what she expected me to do. Surely she didn't want to begin holding hands already?
"Hey," she said as her face twisted into a cute scowl. “Don't you know how to shake hands?”
“Oh, I see.”
I was embarrassed and I could feel my face turning red, but I reached out to shake her hand regardless.
This was what high school was supposed to be like. Not failure and constant disappointment.
“DAISUKE! GET DOWN!”
I was about to ask Itsuki what he was yelling about, until a sudden ball of lightning engulfed the teacher before me and sent her flying out of sight. All that was left behind was a burnt patch on the concrete, and my hand which just felt number than normal.
I glared at Itsuki who was standing in the gym doorway with his school bag hanging over one shoulder. He hissed and shook his fingers.
“No, it wasn't enough,” he muttered.
I followed his gaze to see the young woman lying in a collapsed heap on the other side of the courtyard. She was more disheveled than before, but still alive.
“What are you doing!” I yelled. “That's a teacher! You just attacked a teacher!”
“That's no teacher,” he said. “It's an Obake!”
“An Obake! How can it be an O-”
The words died in my throat because right on cue, she began to pick herself up. Except this time her eyes were no longer black, but a deep red.
“My my, aren't you a smart one,” she grinned. “Cute little exorcist.”
“It's an Obake!” I screamed in shock. “There's an Obake at school! There's an Obake at school! Taisei promised me that Obake wouldn't come to school!”
Itsuki rushed to my aid. He jumped in front of me and placed himself as a human shield between the monster and I.
The blast must have been strong enough to rattle her, and the monster had to place her hands out beneath her to slowly pull herself up. The perfectly pinned back hair, slid out of place and fell to obscure her face. Her previously spotless suit was also torn, frayed, and began falling to pieces.
“Daisuke Matsumoto,” her voice was deep, low, and I could have never imagined it was the same cute woman I'd been speaking with moments earlier. “Never did I imagine that I could eat you once more.”
Her words sent terror down my spine, and they hinted to the terrible truth which I didn't want to believe. I tried to think up an alternative explanation, but then the reality hit me and I could do nothing more than grip onto Itsuki's shoulder in fear.
“It's the fox monster and she's come back for seconds!” I screamed.
“Shh,” Itsuki hissed and pushed me back. “Calm down, don't rush to conclusions!”
She finally pulled herself to her feet and leaned up against the school wall for balance. Her skirt must have also been badly damaged because it soon crumbled, fell from her waist, and left her bushy fox tail exposed for the world to see.
“Shit,” hissed Itsuki. “Why today?”
“SHE'S STRIPPING!” I screamed.
I was petrified that she'd come to take off her clothes and rip my heart out. It wouldn't be long before I was facing the same terrifying image from Grandpa's book.
“No, it just fell down on its own!” Itsuki yelled in an attempt to ease my panic.
Contrary to his words she pulled off the damage jacket which left her in nothing but a blouse. Judging by the state of her clothes the lightning charm must have hit her hard, but maybe her abnormally strong Obake body was immune to such things.
“When I ate the heart of Daisuke Matsumoto it was the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted,” she grinned. “But I never thought I'd get the opportunity to consume such a wonderful heart again, until now. Come little Daisuke Matsumoto. Enjoy the honor of being my next meal!”
The blood drained from my face and even Itsuki looked shaken. He dived his hands into his pockets (without averting his eyes away) and pulled out a scrunched up charm. He quickly glanced at the paper and gritted his teeth.
“So only this one, huh? Looks like our only chance.”
He placed the paper between his fingers and began to chant. I glanced between him and the monster nervously and wondered if he could finish before she ripped our hearts out.
The paper suddenly caught fire. I hoped it would produce a giant fireball which would quickly burn her into little foxy ashes. But the fire quickly died out only to be replaced by thick black smoke. It spewed from the page and quickly engulfed the entire courtyard, until the last thing I saw was the rabid fox woman grinning at me like she knew my fate was sealed.
Itsuki dropped the charm and grabbed my elbow.
“Run!” He yelled.
I collapsed against a tree and gave my burning lungs some much wanted relief. I looked back expecting to see a crazed naked fox monster, but all that lay behind us was dense forest. I had attempted to lead us back to the main road in our getaway, but Itsuki said it was too dangerous to fight where people could see, which left us with no other choice but to trudge through the forest. Apparently Itsuki hadn't been expecting a freak fox attack when he got ready for school that morning, so running was our only option.
I glanced over to Itsuki who was also fighting for air.
“I think....we...should be... OK... now,” he managed to say between gasps for breath. “But.... we should... keep moving soon.”
“Thanks Itsuki,” I gasped. “If it weren't for you she would have eaten me alive. How did you know she was an Obake?”
"I," he stuttered. “She wasn't wearing shoes, didn't you think that was odd?”
“No, what sort of lame excuse is that! I saw her wearing heals.”
“Oh, busted,” he muttered. “OK, I'll tell you, but you have to promise not to tell the others.”
“OK, you have my word,” I held out my little finger in an attempt to make a pinky promise, but he just stared at me oddly.
“I don't know how to explain this,” said Itsuki. “But ever since I was young, I've been able to sense if someone was an Obake.”
“What! Are you serious? Like a sixth sense or something?”
“You could say that. It's a really creepy feeling. My whole body goes cold and I get goosebumps. Sometimes I feel really nauseous and I want to throw up.”
“Really? You still do all that exorcising even when you want to puke?”
“I endure it. I'm kind of used to it anyway. But that's one of the reasons why I want to quit. Don't tell the others because they'll only make fun of me.”
I thought that Itsuki's special ability sounded awesome. I never realized that it was possible to have other special exorcist powers, and I began to wonder if even I could have a few hidden abilities.
“I don't see why you're trying to hide it.” I said in awe. “It's an amazing ability. If it weren't for you I'd be dead.”
“It's not as great as it sounds,” he began nervously pulling the grass out around his feet. “When I was little my older sister took me to my friend's house. I took one look at his father's new wife and I knew straight away that she was an Obake. I was really proud of myself for spotting the difference, so I told everyone straight away. But then she tried to eat me. Luckily my sister was there, otherwise I would have died. But she had no choice but to kill the Obake, and my classmate didn't have a mother anymore. He treated me like I destroyed his family. I couldn't look him in the face after that.”
“But it's not your fault that she was an Obake, right? She might have planned to eat them.”
“That's true. I realize that now, but what they probably haven't told you is that there are lots of good Obake out there who don't want to hurt anyone. I may have ruined his family's chance of happiness.”
“Nah, she was probably just fattening them up. Like in that fairytale with the witch and the children.”
“Hansel and Gretel?”
“Yeah, that one. She was just waiting until your friend was bigger and juicier. You probably saved him from becoming a human sandwich.”
Itsuki laughed. “Thanks Daisuke. I feel better, I think.”
Itsuki was always so serious. It was a welcome relief to see him smile.
“You have an older sister?” I asked. I never heard him mention having any siblings before.
He paused. “Yes,” he said after a moment of silence.
“What's she like?”
“Nice, patient, and really good at exterminating Obake. Probably better than I'll ever be.”
“That's cool, I have a sister too.”
“I know, we see her all the time.”
I suddenly felt quite stupid.
“But anyway," said Itsuki. "Don't tell anyone that I can do this. If the organization ever found out they'd turn me into their personal Obake detector. I'd never get away,” he stood up and stretched his hands behind his head. “I should probably call Akito and warn everyone.”
He pulled out his phone and dialed the number. It rung for a few minutes before I could hear the faint sound of Akito answering. The two of them began chatting while I stared at Itsuki's back in awe.
Itsuki was really amazing. Not only was he good at exorcising, school, and sports, but he also had amazing exorcist powers that made me jealous. It was a shame that someone like Itsuki wanted to quit so badly. He was like an exorcist prodigy.
Maybe Sis and Akito felt the same way about my adopted brother?
It was then that it dawned on me that Itsuki was probably the type of person that Grandpa wanted me to be. Smart, fast, talented, someone who could save people from being eaten. Just like his real son. But instead I was the guy standing behind the hero. The guy who had no idea what to do, and had to be constantly saved. The guy who was no better than a regular person and couldn't even beat a low-level cat Obake.
I wasn't sure who Grandpa really was, but the idea of having disappointed him sent a stab of pain through my chest. Grandpa must have had such high expectations, and I couldn't fulfill any of them.
My eyes felt sore. Tears begin to swell and threaten to roll out of my eyes.
Itsuki finished his conversation with Akito. He turned to see me rubbing my eyes with my sleeve.
“Hey, are you crying again?”
“No, shut up, there's just something in my eye.”
I thought he was going to tease me, but he decided to let me be.