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Kohaku

"They're funny things, accidents. You never have them till you're having them."

0 · 847 views · located in Tokyo, Japan

a character in “Immortal Ties”, as played by Cloud

Description

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KOHAKU..........................................Guardian Angel
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Punished for betraying his daimyō, while saving his family, Kohaku has spent the past few centuries watching over mortal souls and guiding them to the destinies written out for them.

...ImageAge.......516......................D.O.B.........17 August, 1499
Origin.... Japan...............Sexuality....Heterosexual

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I. ..A D . H O M I N E M



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        A S P E C T U S
        180cm, 5'11" | deep brown | black

        He scuffs his feet against the pavement, shoulders slumped forward, eyes directed down. No matter the glamour he wears, there's always a slight melancholy about the guardian; an aura of discontent. The young, Japanese girl-scout spouting life advice, or the old man whose arthritic joints creak as he moves are two of his glamours, both wearing the same dark eyes as the angel and solemn expression.

        Clad in white or pale clothing, Kohaku watches his charges with the discipline of one who has been long at his job. Glasses sometimes frame his gaze, even in his different glamours. You'd think death would remove his short-sightedness, but apparently that was carried through into the after-life too. Translucent wings, invisible to all mortals, may spread out from his back when he wills it, though for the most part they remain unseen to even his eye, tucked away and unused when flight is not essential.

        When not glamoured he could blend into the populace with ease. He prefers casual clothes, non-fashionable items that hold little risk of drawing attention his way. That's not to say that Kohaku does not take note of and wish he could wear more exciting garments, yet glum expressions always appear on his face as he contemplates a fancy hat or fashionable jacket. He could never look as cool as the reapers do in their hats, so why try? He's sure that coat would overwhelm his modest frame and make him look even skinnier.




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        P E R S O N A
        kind | melancholic | reliable | passive

        More often than not it is a dreary sigh which leaves Kohaku's lips; a dejected exhale frequently followed by some pessimistic observation or downhearted comment about himself. He sees others and aspires to be them, to dress like them, or laugh like them, only to give a gloomy shake of his head and know that he could never match up. Humble would be putting it nicely, while 'insecure', 'discontent', and 'complaintive' might all be more accurate descriptors. The guardian's view of himself is heavily skewed. He sees only the worst aspects, rarely accepting compliments about the good.

        A certain passivity often takes hold of the guardian angel too, especially when confronted with his own faults. Rather than argue against any slander hurled his way, Kohaku merely absorbs and accepts it without resistance. While an active presence in his charge's lives; not scared of pushing them when needed, his own life is often heavily influenced by those around him. At least because of this, one can say he's always dependable. Haku is always there with some depressing piece of advice when needed, or willing to be patiently led to some desired activity with a resigned expression on his face. Besides, what else would he do with his spare time?

        Kohaku lives in an almost constant state of internalised guilt; feeling remorse for something he cannot remember. He is defeatist in his attitude, and cynical of many aspects of human life. Yet, the guardian angel is more than adequate at his job. Nurturing and attentive, he may not present your typical image of a fairy godmother, but he has one of the best track records in the country. Haku is more conscientious than many would give him credit for, and extremely sympathetic to the needs of his charges. It only helps that he can sense their feelings; a constant hum of wishes and desires, needs and emotions that connects him to those individuals in his care. He's experienced enough to keep their feelings from filtering into his own, yet sensitive enough that empathising with their troubles is simple.

        Despite what Kohaku himself might think, he does have his redeeming qualities. He's good with numbers and money; balancing the books on payday is often necessary to make sure his small salary lasts for the month. He's meticulous in his calculations, and at times frugal with where his cash ends up. Haku will forgo treating himself for the sake of money, but watch him long enough and you might see the guardian donate a few coins to the neighbourhood children; a rare, soft smile playing across his face as they grin around large ice creams. Kohaku's gloom seems to recede slightly in the presence of children. He has a soft spot for the young, and more than once he's pulled a child back from busy traffic or the edge of a building, regardless of whether they're his charge or not.




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MATHEMATICS..Numbers and calculations have always come easily to Haku.
In his spare time he finds some small enjoyment in number puzzles.


KIND..Beneath the gloomy exterior is a warm-hearted guardian who cares more
about his charges than many might believe. He also has a soft-spot for kids.


EMPATHY..While his own default emotion appears to be discontent, Haku is
adept at understanding the emotions of his charges, or others who's hands he brushes.



PESSIMISTIC..A negative outlook on life is not always the healthiest of
views, yet Haku can't help that he's constantly pondering the pointlessness of life.


INSECURE..It's not that he thinks he's worse than the next guy to walk
by, rather Kohaku knows he's worse.


UNASSERTIVE..Haku prefers inaction to resistance, and so rarely puts
up a fight when being pulled around by friends, or destiny throws him a curve-ball.





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II. ... I M M O R T A L I S . M O R T A L E





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      A C T U M .T E M P U S

      Born thirty years after the beginning of Japan's Sengoku period, Takeda Akihiro was trained from the day he could hold a weapon to fight for his lord. Like his father, Akihiro would swear his loyalty and devotion to the daimyo, Toshikaga, promising to fight and sacrifice for him. As a child, Akihiro dreamed of the day when he could stand tall beside his father and the lord, and of distinguishing himself in a battle. He was skilled with a sword, and a sharp intelligence allowed him to understand strategic movements with ease. Honour and strength were words hammered into the growing warrior, and Akihiro never had pause to consider breaking his vow.

      That is, until he fell in love with and married the daughter of his father's friend, Chiyoko. She was beautiful, gentle, and her smile made Akihiro's mind turn blissfully blank. They were young when they wed, barely more than adults, yet neither bride nor groom hesitated. Their union was blessed by their parents; all of whom believed it to be a perfect match. And indeed, there was rarely a day when the two were at odds. When Chiyoko became pregnant, Akihiro's smile was just as wie as hers. Their first son named for Akihiro's father, and two years later they named their daughter after Chiyoko's mother.

      Perhaps, had they lived a few centuries later, things would have turned out differently, but it was a turbulent time in Japan where fighting was a constant. Akihiro's daimyo was a good man, who treated those below his station with respect rarely seen in Japan's feudal lords. Yet, Toshikaga held a large swath of land that was of high strategic value, and it was for this land that his neighbour began a long campaign against him. Months of fighting stretched out with no sign of a victor. Akihiro, weary from battle, spent whatever time he had off from the battle front with his young family. He was there as his daughter took her first step, a swelling of pride rising in his chest as he caught her in his hands. He loved them with all his heart, yet never did Akihiro think he would have to choose between them and Toshikaga.

      Until the night Akihiro was approached by his father. It as his father that had taught him the importance of a warrior's honour and loyalty, and yet it was also his father who was about to betray the very lord he had sworn to protect. Akihiro's father had been promised land and wealth, in exchange for allowing the enemy inside Toshikaga's fortress. He wanted Akihiro's help, and promised in exchange, his young family would be speared the inevitable slaughter. To reveal the plot would mean the execution of his father, to agree to it would be the death of his lord.

      In the end, it was the love for his wife and children that directed Akihiro. He went where he was told, and when the attack occurred, he stepped aside and watched as Toshikaga, the man he had sworn before the gods to protect, was cut down. Akihiro's family was saved, yet the betrayal had not completely succeeded. Toshikaga's son stepped forward, and with the help of allies was able to put down his neighbour's attacks permanently. Akihiro was caught and executed as a traitor. His past was forgotten, his name erased, and where once a warrior had stood, was now a Guardian Angel known simply as Kohaku.




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                  ( OOC )

                  FACE CLAIM: keisuke asano
                  HEX CODE: #7C9AA4
                  PORTRAYED BY: Cloud
                  CS CREATED BY: Epimetheus
                  TIME ZONE: NZDT: UTC +12

                  DISCLAIMER: This sheet uses
                  code written by Epimetheus, with
                  portions of her work inspired by
                  Verix. All credit goes to them.
                  _( ASSOCIATED )
                  ..words and phrases

                  Kohaku's view on his life: this and this. Haku laying down some
                  hard truths. Actual Haku quotes: "Life is pointless.", "Happiness
                  is fleeting."
                  . A moment of joy before the gloom returns. Haku un-
                  derstands Eeyore on a spiritual level. "We can’t all and some of
                  us don’t. That’s all there is to it."
                  “Good morning, if it is a good
                  morning, which I doubt.”
                  Haku at the dentist, and his around-the-
                  world trip. Haku as a cat.
                  _( MISC )

                  Kohaku has a soft spot for little children, and works hardest
                  when his charge is a young child. He is also a keen gardener,
                  though his shoe-box apartment has only enough space for a
                  few small pot plants. Kohaku's greatest shame is that he can't
                  ride a bicycle. If presented with a bike he'll go quiet and claim
                  he hears a charge calling him.

━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

So begins...

Kohaku's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Teruki Satou Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Kohta Honda Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: La Verne Caron Character Portrait: Paola Millán
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.25 INK

#, as written by Cloud
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CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING
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Date: Evening, 1st April, 2017
Location: Tokyo City, Japan
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xxxOnce, before Tokyo had been given its name, before tall spires of metal dominated the horizon and light polluted the sky, one could see the stars. They say it was the gods who wove constellations into the otherwise blank expanse of night sky; exposing pinpricks of light to tell stories of legends that would transcend time. Yet, as civilisation grew ever skywards, electric lights began to drown out the natural illumination of the night sky. There are still those who remember centuries long gone, whose gaze at the night sky and remember a time when it was only clouds that interrupted their view. The constellations had changed since they were young, shifting across the Earth’s sky as time flowed forward. Yet, more than one could still take comfort in the beauty of it.

xxx “A shame really.” The man commented absently, his gaze fixed upwards, past the canopy of sky-scrapers towards the sliver of cloudless ink visible above. “Once you could have made out millions of stars from anywhere in the prefecture.”

xxxThe surly teenager seated beside him grunted and shifted slightly away, unsure who this stranger was and why he had randomly started talking to him.

xxx “I made it, you know.” The man continued, an almost smug smile on his face as he leaned against the park bench. He didn’t seem to care that the youth was resolutely staring at the screen of his cell phone, attempting to tune out the rambling stranger. “I mean, I made everything really. You’re welcome by the way.” He paused and glanced at the mortal, as if expecting a ‘thank you’, or any other form of gratitude. When none was offered the man merely continued talking, “But, I am particularly proud of the stars. ”

xxxThe man’s dark eyes returned to the small portion of the sky not covered in thick cloud. He held his hand in front of his eyes, stretched out as if he might pluck the very stars from their homes in the sky. Instead, he waved his hand slowly from side to side, as if waving away a particularly bad smell. A satisfied smile lit his face as his hand fell to his side,

xxx “There, you see!” The man said, nodding towards the now cloudless sky. Though the light from numerous skyscrapers still dimmed the brightest of the stars, they seemed stronger now, shimmering happily above the world below. “Much better.”

xxxThe youth merely grunted again, his hands fiddling headphones into his ears as he attempted to tune out the well-dressed man beside him. Unfortunately, the man’s voice continued to blare through the headphones, as if the younger man’s music wasn’t playing at all.

xxx “I fancy myself as a bit of an artist, if I’m being frank.” He continued, a note of pride creeping into his words, “You see that tree there? I designed it, right down to the edges on the leaves.”

xxxThe teenager didn’t even glance up, too busy checking that he had plugged his headphones in properly. Of all the nights for them to stop working, it had to be when he was getting his ear talked off by some mental stranger.

xxxFrom behind the pair a female voice replied, full of barely contained impatience, “I think you’ll find that I was the one to design that tree. If I remember correctly, you were still babbling on about how sludge was going to be the next big thing.” The woman snorted in amusement. “Well, we all know how that went.”

xxx “Excuse me for trying to do something different.” He retorted hotly, even as he slid across the park bench to make space for the new arrival. Beside him, the irritated youth was silently cursing the two adults who had interrupted his brooding and was quickly stuffing his phone into his backpack. Without a word the kid stood, pulled his hood tightly over his head, and walked away.

xxxThe two gods barely seemed to register the departure, more concerned with the back and forth that had begun. “I make one mistake and you never let me forget it. I made flowers, and gave the world bees. Who doesn’t like bees?” His hands made exaggerated movements in the air.

xxx “One mistake? Oh, I can count at least three dozen you’ve made in the last decade alone.” The female retorted, slapping his hands casually away. She opened her mouth to continue, before changing her mind and instead adding, “But I didn’t come to bicker with you.”

xxxHe nodded. His partner had come for the same reason he had. He stood up slowly, stretching out his tall frame, before offering a hand to the woman. She took it with a nod, her head tilting slightly in a wordless expression of ‘after you’.

xxxA second later the two figures blinked into existence on the wind-swept top of a sky-scraper. From here they could see the city sprawled out below them; neon, artificial lights marking roads, shop advertisements, and the lit windows of residential apartments. Above them, cleared of the thick layer of clouds, was the night’s blanket of stars.

xxxThough no eyes – mortal or otherwise – happened to glance up at the tip of the building, had someone done so, they would have seen two immortals bathed in moonlight, watching their world with a confidence only the gods know. They were one and the same, and yet separate, two entities burning in a universe of their creation.

xxxHe was tall and pale, his feet rooted solidly in the ground beneath him even while his hands reached heavenward. His cheekbones were chiselled from marble, sharp enough to cut mountains. Dark eyes of endless knowledge inspected his world, while strands of hair the same pitch black were pushed back from his face with lithe fingers. His appearance was similar to natives of this land, albeit almost concentrated, as if he were the original that all others had been moulded by.

xxxShe, on the other hand, had the dark, warm skin of someone who would have been marked a foreigner had she walked amongst Tokyo’s population. Her face was softer; a smooth sculpture of beauty, with thick curls of coal-coloured hair engulfing her head. Pupils that whispered of eons gone by watched the city like a predator of old, her lips held tight in a thin frown as possibilities of the days to come ran through her mind.

xxx “Owari” He spoke her name like a resolution; a finality echoing from his lips; the end.

xxx “Hajimari.” She responded with his name; a beginning; a taste of fresh possibilities, and boundless growth.

xxx “Things are moving.” He stated, his eyes too seeing beyond the crawling traffic below. “Do you think they’re ready?”

xxx “They’ll have to be.” Owari responded, her tone firm.

xxxHajimari nodded, rising his gaze from the streets at his feet to the stars above. His hand rose, fingers splayed above his head as his eyes searched between the digits. “Perhaps a sign then.” He murmured, almost to himself. Though, Owari heard and followed her partner’s gaze to the heavens.

xxx “Many have long since forgotten us.” She reminded him as his fingers began to dance overhead. His hand made a graceful pulling motion, a soft breath left his lips, and then the first star fell across the night’s sky; a streak of pure light momentarily illuminating the heavens. More followed, creating a meteor shower for any who happened to turn their attention to the sky that night.

xxx “Well, perhaps this is for my comfort than.” Hajimari replied, his hands clasped behind his back as he admired his work. Owari let the silence build as she too watched the show above, until a dozen moments had passed.

xxx “They all have demons to face.” Her words rang with a hint of pity, for she knew the dangers that were to come.

xxx “Most are of their own making.” Hakimari responded, “They would have had to face them eventually.”

xxxOwari nodded, her curls shifting as if stirred by a gentle wind, “We can only watch now.”

xxxA look of slight guilt crossed the pale god’s face, his eyes flashing momentarily. His partner turned ever-perceptive eyes on him, her frown deepening as she sensed his intentions, “Hajimari, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times, stop interfering with their lives!”

xxxAnd just like that, the aura of power and mystery that surrounded the two gods evaporated. Like an old couple, married for too long and all too aware of each other’s faults, they began trading words; barbs, insults, passive aggressive suggestions. A bird soaring above would be wise to avoid the area directly around the snapping deities, a rat might have taken sheltered in a solid pipe well below the pair too. For the less perceptive mortals, they continued their work without contemplating that above them stood two squabbling gods, or that among their number roamed immortals and ghosts. Even as the two gods disappeared, the only witness to their presence a pouting teenage boy, the world continued to move of its own accord.

xxxIn a shoe-box apartment only a few blocks from the building once occupied by the two gods, a Guardian Angel calling himself Kohaku was preparing to leave on work-related business. A short distance further, within the performance hall of one of Tokyo’s learning institutes, a blonde boy studying music gave his hands a shake as he glared at a piano piece. And further away, across vast oceans and mountain ranges carved and painted by the hands of the divines, a goblin’s hand reached for a door knob. Slim fingers curled around the brass head, her eyes shut, mind searching for the pull of her next destination. She opened the door and slid through, her eyes alighting on the clear windows of her Tokyo apartment to see stars decorating the sky.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

0.00 INK

#, as written by Cloud
Image


The apartment Kohaku called home was small; a claustrophobic collection of tiny rooms which seemed to grow smaller every time he entered. Though tidy, maintained with obsessive care by both its occupants, none could bypass the fact that it barely fit one resident, let alone two. Haku’s bedroom, he had to admit, was pleasant, and gave off a vibe of being more spacious than it was. A combination of good lighting, both from the electrical bulbs and the room's one window, a clean environment, and minimalist furniture no doubt helped give the illusion of space. Small pot plants decorated his desk and bedside table, and throughout the apartment he shared with his fellow guardian, other small greenery could be found. Haku liked the delicate blooms the best, the ones which needed a caring hand and soft whisper to yield an inch of growth. It took a special kind of patience to cultivate those plants, patience which Haku was thankfully gifted with.

Time management was also a skill learned over centuries of working as a guardian angel, and as Haku glanced at his wrist watch – an old analogue face with a solid crack across the glass – he realised that he was going to be late. This was through no fault of his own, he would have pointed out to anyone had he not been alone. Rather, the fault lay with his new charge, who apparently was early.

“Naturally.” Haku breathed, as if he had always expected the slight inconvenience caused by the change of time. A cynic at heart, the angel was rarely surprised when things didn’t go his way. It was almost as if he anticipated disappointment, accepting it with a forlorn sigh as his due. Now was no different, and with barely a complaint uttered he collected himself and set off.

The guardian did not, as one might expect, head down towards the street. Instead, Kohaku took the stairs to the roof. Long strides carried him up several flights of the concreted stairs, ignoring the sound of yelling which echoed from one floor, and the blaring of televisions on various others. Cold, electric light illuminated his path, before, with a sigh of relief, he stepped out under the moonlight. A cool breeze swept across the angel’s face, momentarily caressing away the creases of worry that lined his forever young face. Dark, melancholic eyes turned heavenward, towards a cloudless sky that seemed to hang in the moment, like a breath waiting to be released. Then, the exhale. A spark streaking across the engulfing black; pinpricks of light making their descent to earth in breath-taking bursts of light.

Kohaku let himself indulge for a fraction of a second, his gaze aching for some forgotten feeling. Then, tearing his eyes away and casting them to his feet, the angel let out a sigh. He could only assume that there would be many eyes on the sky tonight, and despite his glamour rendering him invisible when he flew, Kohaku knew that a few of Tokyo’s millions might see him pass – the immortals and touched mortals. All he could do was mentally apologise for anyone who was distracted for a single moment from the falling stars by his flittering frame, before he stepped off the side of the building and took to the air.

Translucent, shimmering wings burst from the angel’s back, keeping his body aloft and pulling him higher into the sky so that Haku could skim over the tops of Tokyo’s steel horizon. He was faster than any manmade machine, making the journey in a collection of seconds. His toes scuffed the top of the hospital roof, heels settling down a moment later. His wings curled away, once again invisible. No stranger to the hospital roof, Haku turned his feet towards the stairwell entrance.

Unlike the reapers who lived in the apartment below his, Kohaku regretfully did not own a suave black hat as part of his uniform, instead he wrapped the image of another around his frame. He opened the door to the stairs as a grim young man and stepped through as an older man, face wrinkled by time and forgotten worries, hands gnarled and broken. His plain clothes whitened and lengthened into a doctor’s coat, while a nametag on his chest informed any who read it that he was a senior doctor in the neonatal ward.

At this time of night visitors were rare and the corridors were quieter than the day, yet still the halls buzzed with activity. Patients and staff murmured between each other, machines whirred and beeped, and the hums of phones ringing, trolleys being wheeled, and more echoed throughout. Haku’s footsteps barely made a noise as he navigated through the maze of hallways. He followed the unexplainable connection that pulled him towards his charge, like a thin cord that linked him with the mortals he was to watch that vibrated with their emotions. He could feel her now, bewildered, and curious.

His pace quickened, and soon he was pushing through the doors to where the new born mortals were wrapped snuggly in blankets. There were half a dozen babies within the room, none no more than a day old. Though Kohaku had never seen his new charge before, he knew without needing to read the name tag that Aoi was in the cot at the end. His hands gently picked up the small human, as careful as if the new born was his own. A soft smile appeared on the angel’s glamoured face, a rarity indeed had anyone other than a baby been around to witness it.

“Somebody was eager to meet the world.” Haku whispered, his gaze kind as the baby girl’s own large eyes met his. “You’re early.”

The baby didn’t respond, but Haku could sense its sentiment; the pure, uninhibited emotions of an infant. He had always held a special place in his heart for children. Why, he was never quite sure. Haku only knew that here, holding the precious bundle in his arms, he felt more complete than he had in years. Yet, even as he soothed Aoi back to sleep, Kohaku could feel the pull of his other charges. He was needed elsewhere.

“I will see you again, Aoi.” He whispered to his charge, placing her softly back into her crib. He hesitated for only a moment, watching the small puff of her cheeks as she breathed, “I wonder what you will become, and where you will find greatness. What joys and hardships will you face?”

Though guardian angels had a hand in directing fate, even they were naïve to the destinies their charges held. Their job was to keep them safe, to nudge them in the direction that would lead them to greatness. A hard job when that greatness appeared elusive. Once, before the world had become that much more accessible, a guardian could follow their charge from infanthood to adulthood. Now, however, over half of his charges moved across the world, to become the responsibility of some other amnesiac immortal. In return, he was given the cases of those guardian’s charges who found their way to Tokyo.

Another of Haku’s newest charges was within the hospital, though this was a grown man rather than a new born soul. Like the first, Kohaku followed the intuitive connection towards the American, reading what he could of the man’s emotions as he went. As he passed under the artificial lights of the hospital bulbs, Haku altered his glamour slightly. The face remained the same, yet each step saw years fall away. Hair slowly thickened and darkened, wrinkles disappeared, and his figure straightened, until he appeared to be a man in his early thirties. The lab coat was gone too, replaced in an empty corridor with the plain clothes of an office worker.

New charges always took a small amount of time to plan for. Though Kohaku was connected to the man’s emotions, there was an unpredictability about handling a charge Haku wasn’t used to that offered some difficulty. It was for this reason that the angel stopped mid-step and frowned, shook his head slightly, and decided to try a different tact. It would take a few interactions to fully learn what might help Ryan Prosker, and he thought he’d keep it short and simple for the first.

Five minutes later a small figure sporting pigtails, a pair of thick glasses, and a girl scouts uniform, turned the corner. Braces lined her teeth, and various badges pinned across her chest displayed her status as a senior girl guide. Haku’s glamour could have been no older than ten, yet the tiny Japanese girl walked with the determination of a centuries old man. It was only when she was within sight of her target, that the girl scout slowed. Haku had come prepared, and reaching into his (her) pocket, he pulled out a small packet of girl guide biscuits. The chocolate flavour.

The glamour’s shoes made a light tapping sound as she danced across the hospital floors, reaching Ryan Prosker quickly. Japanese spilled from his mouth, the tone that of a prepubescent girl, before Haku thought better of it and translated his original statement into heavily accented English.

“Sir, would you like some cookies?” The girl guide smiled brightly at the man, her gaze unwavering as she pushed the packet towards him. “Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching.” Haku added, his feminine voice momentarily sombre, the English awkward on his tongue, “But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in the calming of my mind. A momentary pause, before an additional attempt at help, “The exit is down the left path.”

Perhaps it wasn’t the smoothest translation from the Japanese, but Kohaku had never claimed to be a linguist. With a quick bow, the girl guide pushed the packet forward and let go, before quickly turning on her toes and skipping off. Haku could only hope the cookies cheered up his charge, yet he had no doubt that more interaction would be needed in the near future.

Once out of sight around the corner, Haku ducked through a side door and found himself stepping once more into the brisk night’s air. Sirens screamed close by, car horns echoed throughout the night,, and above it all the last few stars began their descent from heaven. Kohaku jumped into the sky, the material of his girl guide’s skirt flapping in the breeze created by his wings. Invisible to all below, he once again let his wings transport him, though this time he remained between the buildings, weaving through them as he followed the map in his mind. His feet touched down a moment later, glittery slip-ons meeting the dirty pavement of a back alley.

The door to the bar jangled as the ten-year-old girl walked in, surprise appearing on her face as she spotted the dark suit and familiar face of her neighbour. The girl guide slid into the seat opposite Seung, offering a glum nod of acknowledgment directed towards the reaper as she settled in. Only when Haku was certain that no eyes were on him did he shed the small girl glamour, letting his natural form take precedent.

“I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’.” Haku said, his gaze taking in Seung’s sharp suit with a hint of envy. He would love to own such a flattering and expensive piece of clothing, yet even if Haku had the money to afford it – which he didn’t – he was sure it would only bring out the bags under his eyes or accentuate his already prominent ears. “My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

The bartender came over, a selection of drinks in his hand. Haku shook his head slowly and asked for water instead. The bartender frowned slightly before stepping away, and Haku slumped further into his seat in dejection. He didn’t have enough money to purchase luxury items like sake, not when he’d just given away a packet of girl guide biscuits for free. But, he supposed that was part of his dues. A punishment for the sin he committed in his past life. Such was the after-life.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxF L Yxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxxH E Xxxx# D 2 A D 9 Dxxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxW H I T ExxxD R E S S

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xxxxxxThe chair shattered against the wall. Minako flinched as she witnessed wooden shards rain to the ground through the narrow kitchen window, the noise muffling the sound of weeping trickling through the house. The neighbours were quiet, long accustomed to the war zone that raged within the four walls next door.
xxxxxxThe angel returned her gaze to the shadows of the building, waiting for the creak of a familiar bedroom window to swing open. Finally, she heard the sound. A dark head emerged from the ledge, followed by a tangle of limbs that fumbled blindly for the ground beneath it, still many precarious metres away. Yuki Honda was a certified genius with dreams of pursuing neuroscience and parents who would not spit on each other if the other were on fire. She also lacked the ability to gauge distance, though Minako supposed she need not worry about such inconsequential affairs when she had a guardian angel to watch after her.
xxxxxxYuki fell from her bedroom window.
xxxxxxMinako beat her wings—incandescent pools of light that hissed against the soft grass and exhaled a breath of air to cushion Yuki's fall. Still, the mortal girl fell hard. She groaned and rubbed her lower back, which would no doubt ache for some time.
xxxxxxMinako watched her scuttle away from the chaos of her abode, that had long ceased to be anything but a prison with a lovely facade. She felt her charge's guilt for abandoning her younger brother to their parents and their vengeful acrimony. It coated her tongue like a film of ash, until Minako felt Yuki's emotions so closely as her own that they permeated her fingernails. She had never mastered the ability to separate herself from her charges, though in this instance she felt she deserved it. Yuki's brother was only eight—what a a pathetic excuse of an angel she'd be if she cast the young boy to his fate simply because he was not promised for greatness. Yet as Yuki moved further from her brother, so did Minako, like a balloon on a leash.
xxxxxxYuki lifted the hood of her sweatshirt over her face as she moved through Tokyo, another body jostled in the crowd. The blare of horns and cacophony of footsteps crowded even one's own thoughts, but Yuki felt more free in the throngs of overpopulation than she did in the inescapable cavern of her home. Her guilt retreated, but Minako's did not recede.
xxxxxxA cluster of apartments rose in the distance, a young boy standing at its feet with a bundle of roses clinging to his palms. A wide grin lifted Yuki's cheeks as she raced towards him. She threw her arms around his narrow shoulders and he laughed, catching her like a cool tide that washed over him. Yuki spilled pure and unabated joy, filling the pool of Minako's heart and bringing to the angel's lips a smile even wider than her own.
xxxxxxThe young lovers tilted their heads to the sky, their lips parting in awe as they took gulps of the universe. Minako watched the sky fall as her wings broke open behind her. Light spilled from her spine as she shot from the ground, spinning like an arrow as she broke through the trees and clouds.
xxxxxxA laugh burst from her lips as she dived through the night sky, drifting lower until she hovered above the kaleidoscope of cars and signs. She landed softly in a cluster of trees, her wings vanishing as her bare feet touched the ground.
xxxxxxHer hair lightened, paling and curling until it was the shade of lavenders. It grazed the edge of her collarbone, and the black lace that wrapped around her thin neck. A thick ring of kohl lined her eyes, juxtaposing the flash of silver at her brow and the ring wrapped around her lower lip. Fishnet tights hugged her narrow thighs, echoing the fingerless gloves that clutched her palms. She walked through the city, stopping at a small Japanese restaurant and slowing only to snatch a cigarette from the lips of a stocky man leaning against a street corner.
xxxxxxHer charge stared aghast as she threw the cigarette to the ground, grinding it beneath her spiked boot.
xxxxxx"Don't smoke," she said. "It's bad for your lungs. Your teeth will rot. And you'll be single forever."
xxxxxx"Excuse me?" he said after a moment of shocked silence. "Who the hell do you—"
xxxxxx"I bought you a bento box." Minako placed a takeout box in his outstretched hands, which he might have been intending to use to strangle her. "Chicken teriyaki. No sesame seeds."
xxxxxx"How did you know I was allergic—"
xxxxxx"It's not too late. He'll forgive you." She gave him a small smile and a gentle pat on his hand, before disappearing into the tide of passersby on the sidewalk.
xxxxxxShe moved through the city until she reached a familiar bar. The Tipping Point was dimly lit, but she spotted the two lanky figures easily. Minako slid in beside them, and planted her face on the table.
xxxxxx"I'm so—" she began, her voice muffled behind her squished lips, "—sad. Takumi will never love me." She thought of the hulking brute and the way his face had swollen to twice its size the day he'd discovered he was allergic to nuts and seeds in all its forms. He'd remained impossibly beautiful in her eyes.
xxxxxx"Is it because I'm dead?" she bemoaned.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio
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                          The crisp breeze of the evening brushed past Alucio's face, the alerting chill welcome on his always unusually warm skin. The tall, stolid man stalked down the city sidewalk, pace kept at a brisk, steady tempo, his long trench coat trailing behind him like a sentient shadow. Tucked under his arm, he carried a stiff black hat, waiting for its moment to fulfill its purpose. Despite walking along the outermost edge of the pavement, he still found himself taking a step this way and that to avoid bumping shoulders with some oblivious passerby, the scowl lines around his mouth growing deeper with every close encounter.

                          He arrived, thankfully, at his destination before his face could permanently be stretched into an ugly expression of displeasure. As he lifted an arm, pressed a palm against the cool glass of the hospital door, his other hand took the hat out from under his arm. He stepped over the threshold as he disappeared from mortal view, brim of his hat pulled down low over his eyes. Glancing briefly down at the thick white cardstock cupped in his palm, he set off towards the West Ward, the rubber soles of his worn leather shoes clacking against the linoleum floors. The echo of the sharp crack felt acutely lonely under the flickering fluorescent lights of the hallway, and for a moment, Alucio slowed his pace, soaking in the otherworldly atmosphere of the stretch of hall that seemed to go for miles. It was unnerving, in a very pleasant kind of way. He closed his eyes—still stepping assuredly forward, no hesitation in his long strides—and listened to the low ringing of tinnitus in his ears. If he concentrated, he could still hear the buzz of activity somewhere in the distance, but there was nothing but silence where he was going. He could see why. It smelled more like Death the closer he got to his destination.

                          He rounded a corner, passed a long string of hospital rooms, decay emanating from each one, until he paused in front of 267. Yes, this was the one. He stepped inside and paused again. A silhouette stood at the window, illuminated by both the moonlight and the unnatural city glow of street lamps and office lights. Alucio was not sure who looked more like a shadow: her bent figure against the dark sky, littered with erratic flashes of light, or her discarded husk of a body lying limp on the starchy sheets of the hospital bed. He crossed the room until he stood at her shoulder. She said nothing. For a moment, he looked on with the old woman, two sets of mournful eyes watching as the sky fell apart.

                          Then, with a short sigh, he looked down at the small card once more. "Ogata Yutsuko," he read off, monotonously. The buzz of activity came back, grew louder with each passing second. "Eighty six years old. Born on February 11th, 1931. Died at 7:24pm on April 1st, 2017. Cause of death is a heart attack." He took a glance at her impassive face. "This is you, right?"

                          The attending physician burst into the room, followed closely by two nursing assistants. The lights flashed on, dimmed the magnificence of the outside spectacle. Very simply, in a warbling voice, the old woman answered, "Yes."

                          Alucio nodded, took the gnarled hand of his latest assignment in his own, and stepped around the doctor and nurses gathered around her bedside. He looked towards the heart monitor, still sounding its steady alarm, and thought that death and silence did not sound so different after all.


                          It was not until he was halfway across the spacious lobby of the hospital that his phone sounded an urgent beeping from his pocket. Hastily, he fished it out, brows furrowing at the sight of the text message from his colleague and roommate. Mentally, he noted the plans before replacing his cell; it would be far too unprofessional to respond during work. Another acquaintance caught his eye from the far end of the lobby, the visage of a little girl flickering and mildly translucent, giving way to the image of a familiar somber looking young man. He considered, for an instant, greeting the angel, but quickly thought better of it. They were, after all, nothing but neighbors, weren't they? Going out of his way to say hello would be strange. Instead, he stepped out into the chill of the evening once more, gently guiding the old woman in the direction they needed to go. They were silent all the way there.

                          She drank the tea with little fuss, a small smile perched on her thin lips, mostly hidden by the prominent wrinkles around her mouth. He admired her, if only a little, her peaceful disposition. When he'd told her so, she'd only responded, "I have lived long enough to see all I need to see."

                          "I'm glad," she said, as her features smoothed out, spine straightened, "I got to see the stars before the end."

                          Alucio only hummed a low note in response. He stood, moved to the door, and she followed suit, walking steadily on elegant legs, reaching him just as he swung it open. She breezed past, paused on the first step of the stairs. "Thank you," she said, inclining her head slightly, and Alucio returned her smile. He watched until her figure was entirely enveloped by warm, white haze.

                          As he placed the used tools in the sink, Alucio remembered Seung, likely already waiting at the bar. He opened the conversation and wrote:

                          TO: TENANT
                          OKAY.


                          And then he turned on the faucet.


                          The walk to the bar was a brief one, and in just a few minutes, Alucio was hastily pushing the door shut to prevent any more cold air from entering. "It better be the good stu—" he began, but died off as he looked up from his shoes and saw the three occupants of their usual corner area. That was two more than the one he was expecting. "Oh," he said, stopping short.

                          He shook off the surprise and slid into his seat next to Seung. "Hello," he said, lifting a hand in greeting towards Haku. He might have greeted Mina as well had she not been slumped over, facedown on the bar, moaning incoherently. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."

                          He considered the female angel for a moment, thought of the consequences of his potential actions, then, with a soft sigh, pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. "Here," he said, sliding it across the wood. "The bar top is covered in germs. Put this over it." Without waiting for a response from her, he turned his attention towards Seung. Or rather, his sake. He didn't ask before swiping the glass and taking a long swig.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum
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▁ ▂ ▃xxxM A G N E T Sxxxxxx ▁ ▂ ▃xxx# 5 E 7 D 7 Exxx# B 3 8 4 8 1xxxxxx▁ ▂ ▃xxxA P E XxxxN I G H T C L U B

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xxxxxx"Hey." His eyes remained shut. "You lied to me."
xxxxxxCassius responded with a noncommittal grunt. Of course he'd lied to her. Dishonesty was his resting state; deception unraveled from his tongue as easily as Kaede's first thought fell from hers. The fox granted stolen lives found the young woman almost as refreshing as she was pretty. Almost.
xxxxxxThen again, she was very pretty.
xxxxxxCassius peeked at her through one eye, noting the swathe of colour on her lids visible beneath her mask. A smirk emerged on his lips. He wondered, did the defiant mortal girl dress up just for him?
xxxxxxBefore he could part his lips to usher a flush that was equal parts rage and embarrassment to her cheeks, she interrupted him. Her hands found his pockets, to which he arched a single brow. Cassius flashed a devilish grin just as Kaede captured his likeness on his phone.
xxxxxx"So you look disgustingly amazing as always," she said after returning his phone to his custody. "I was in the middle of doing something, you lying trickster."
xxxxxx"Were you redecorating your home with countless images of me?" he teased. "I wouldn't blame you." Cassius leaned against the bannisters, fingers flitting to rub his stubbled jaw. "Who did you smuggle into my club? Someone worthy of your company, I hope. You deserve nothing less."
xxxxxxCassius took a step forward and leaned down so their noses were nearly grazing. "But not too worthy," he murmured. His eyes followed the path of his knuckles that grazed the slip of dark hair that brushed her collarbone. "I wouldn't want to battle them for your attention." He straightened, moving away as a grin revealed the dimple in his cheek and his shock of straight white teeth. "Prison ages you, I hear."
xxxxxx“A beautiful night, made all the more lovely with the sight of you,” a melodious voice spoke. Cassius had barely noticed Areum's approach, though centuries spent in the company of a person so much like himself had a way of rendering her so much a part of his own existence that she barely seemed a separate entity at all. “My business proposition still stands should you tire of Cassius.”
xxxxxx"We could always share," he mused. "Surely you remember how well that went the first time." The humour was veiled in memory, spoken of pasts long gone and none but the two fox spirits could recall. He remembered clearly having claimed the mesmerising mortal for his own before the younger fox spirit attempted to steal her away. They had fought vehemently, only to realise the mortal not only had no more reincarnations left to give, but that she was wholly devoted to her soulmate of four lifetimes. They'd become companions ever since.
xxxxxx“The man in the yellow vest is trying to catch your attention, should we intervene?” asked Areum.
xxxxxxCassius traced the path of Kaede and Areum's gazes as they moved away from him to land on a lanky figure with a swath of pale hair, made all the more dazzling by the lights that spilled from the corners of the balcony. Cassius smiled and tilted his head, urging Basil near.
xxxxxx"Is that who you brought along?" said Cassius. "He was already on the list. I know how inseparable the both of you are. Besides—" Cassius lifted the flute of champagne to his lips and drank deeply, his jade eyes never leaving the tall boy, "—he's quite pleasant to look at.
xxxxxx"Basil," he called as Kaede's friend neared, his vaguely Italian accent flourishing the name in a slow purr. "The attire suits you—or perhaps it's my club." He smiled. "You should visit more often."
xxxxxxHe cast an appreciative gaze in Areum's direction, noting the dainty curl of her nose and the swell of her lips, which she'd no doubt been using for more than smalltalk. Dark lace curled around her body, an alluring orchestrated masterpiece of swells and dips that captivated many patrons of his club. She was impossibly beautiful in the objective sense, but he felt when he gazed upon her what he did when he'd travelled to a dazzling limestone cave hidden in Malaysia before mortals had discovered it and hollowed it for minerals.
xxxxxxAreum was breathtaking, but so lonely it ached.
xxxxxx"I believe you've yet to meet," said Cassius, his voice low. "This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."
xxxxxxA parting of the seas caught his attention and Cassius turned to watch as a girl marched purposefully through the throng of bodies to challenge a man and assist a rather inebriated woman. Cassius frowned as the man flashed a lopsided grin and emptied the contents of a glass on the ground. The reality of the situation dawned on him as his bartender's furrowed brows mimicked the tense line of his mouth as he spoke to the defiant girl.
xxxxxx"Excuse me," muttered Cassius to his companions, though he was already moving towards the bouncers by the entrance of the illuminated balcony. "Get him out of my club." Cassius nodded towards the entitled man lurking in the fringes with his friends. "Them, too."
xxxxxx"But sir, that's—"
xxxxxx"I don't care if he's the reincarnation of the last shogun himself," Cassius interjected. "We don't tolerate sexual violence of any kind in my establishment."
xxxxxx"Yes, sir." He watched as his broad employees marched to apprehend the men, a feat far more difficult than it appeared. They proved adamant in their desire to remain and their resistance had drawn the attention of one too many attendees of the masquerade. Finally, Cassius strode towards them and wrapped his hands around the biceps of two exceedingly aggressive men.
xxxxxx"Ow!"
xxxxxx"What the—"
xxxxxx"I would appreciate it if you would leave," said Cassius, his grip tightening for emphasis. "Quietly."
xxxxxx"Shit, whatever. Just let go. This club's lame anyway."
xxxxxxTheir departure amplified the quiet that had befallen the Apex. The scene had stifled the enthusiasm that had thrived prior to the commotion. Cassius turned to address his audience.
xxxxxx"Free cocktails for everyone!" he called out.
xxxxxxThe crowd cheered, and the party returned to its former splendour.

▁ ▂ ▃ ▂ ▁


xxxxxxThe handkerchief smelled of snow and pine, or love and eternal devotion. It was always difficult to distinguish. Minako emerged from hiding, her wide eyes lifting to gaze at the reaper with overwhelming parts awe and adoration. Her lips parted and shut, only to part again and slam closed. Minako gaped and floundered in the tide of emotions and unspoken words. She was a dam breaking open, a tree split by lightning, a cliff at the brink of a waterfall.
xxxxxxI love you, I love you, I love you.
xxxxxxThe words caught in her throat as they always did, where they'd slumbered for two-hundred and fourteen years, or seventy-eight thousand, one hundred and ten days. How she wished everyday she'd spoken them to Satoru, who'd chosen another without ever knowing her heart. Who'd died believing she'd loathed him.
xxxxxxPerhaps if she broke herself open and gave away her pieces to whoever might take it, she would eventually discard every part of herself that he'd touched and decided he did not want.
xxxxxx"T-hank you," she stuttered. "Are you— How are—"
xxxxxxShe clutched the handkerchief to her chest. The words wouldn't come. They never came. She would die with them but the irony was that she already had. Yes, surely Takumi could not love her. The mortal girl she'd been had died long ago, and the persona that had taken her place was certainly not not dead. Minako was an animated corpse. She was worse than an animated corpse. She wasn't even a hot animated corpse like those presently seated beside her.
xxxxxx"Germs are the only things that will touch me." She planted her face on the table, and folded the handkerchief into a perfect square, which she would keep for prosperity for the rest of eternity.
xxxxxx"You look like you could use a drink."
xxxxxxMinako lifted her head to meet the eyes of the bartender.
xxxxxx"What can I get you?"
xxxxxx"Yes."
xxxxxx"I'm sorry?"
xxxxxx"I'll take anything you'll give me." She gaped.
xxxxxx"Vodka on the rocks...?" the bartender began tentatively, his expression conveying that he was finding her stranger by the minute.
xxxxxx"I mean, I'd prefer a bed..."
xxxxxx"What?"
xxxxxx"I love—to sleep." Minako turned away to stare intently at the three immortals beside her, her eyes screaming for help or death. I hate myself, she mouthed, her eyes rolling into the back of her head.
xxxxxx"That'll be two-thousand yen."
xxxxxxMinako swallowed a deafening cry. "Sure." Put me out of my misery, she told her companions telepathically as she slipped her debit card across the counter.
xxxxxx"Um, can you let go?" the bartender prodded, tugging at the card Minako pressed with white knuckles against the table. Minako darted her gaze towards the door, contemplating the speed at which she could run to avoid the authorities. Finally, she allowed the bartender to tear her savings from her. She was sweating.
xxxxxx"I'm going to pretend I ate the next week. Am eating? Will?" Minako's voice was shrill as she suffocated on her cries, all the while draining her glass of vodka between her choking. "Everything's fine. I'm fine. I love life. Life hates me but it's okay. I love to suffer."
xxxxxx"Here's your card back."
xxxxxx"Keep it. You've taken everything else," she gasped. "Like my dignity."
xxxxxx"Is she... Okay?" the bartender asked slowly.
xxxxxx"You don't even remember my name."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
"A good drink will dull the senses, a great drink will erase them altogether."




Ambience --- Hex #AE0202 --- Leather Jacket




You would think that a man who was capable of flying his way through a hail of gunfire and rockets would be able to easily find his way out of a hospital. You would be wrong, because Ryan was having way more trouble than he cared to admit. One hand held the English to Japanese dictionary, while another hand aimlessly waved about in an effort to figure out his bearings. He could just start taking doors at random, but that would present another set of problems that Ryan was not wanting to deal with. His attempts to stop a couple of people in order to get directions were either met with him being ignored or stared at as he laughably tried some Japanese phrases. Either way, he was about ten seconds away from jumping through a window and seeing if he could simply fly to the bar.

It was at this moment that a young Japanese girl wandered up to him. A girl scout? In a hospital? At night? By herself? There were so many questions Ryan wanted to ask but thought better of it as she immediately launched into a tirade of the unknown language, stopping for but a moment as Ryan raised an eyebrow at the girl. His fingers flipping through the pages, trying to find enunciations that matched up the the rapid pace of speech this child had just given to him. “Uhhhhh…” Ryan murmured to himself, his eyes darting from the pages to the girl and back again. It was but a second later that she spoke in English, broken but definitely understandable.

She asked if he wanted some cookies, and before he could respond, she spoke again. ”Life is full of constant disappointment and heart-aching...But whenever I begin to question the pointless cycle of life, I find biting in a cookie is helpful in calming of my mind.” Ryan stared at her for a moment, caught between shock and surprise at the little girl. It was almost like she was reading his mind, and considering the amount of things he had heard and/or seen come out of this country, part of him wondered if that wasn’t in fact true. Before he could say anything, she pointed him towards the exit, shoved the cookies into his chest and skipped off. Ryan found himself staring at her for far longer than any adult man should stare at a small child, and shook his head.

“What?” Ryan asked more to himself than anything else. He looked down at the cookies, then back up at where the girl had skipped to. “What?” He repeated to himself, catching a few looks from passing nurses and doctors. He wasn’t sure what exactly had happened, all he knew was that her English was better than his Japanese, and that embarrassed him. He stared at the package of cookies, chocolate flavor, and wondered if this was some elaborate plan to poison him using an unassuming yet somehow creepily knowledgable girl. He shook his head and walked in the direction that she had pointed him towards. He was left with more questions than answers as he found the correct set of doors that would lead him outside. Note to self...make a map. Ryan thought to himself as he opened the package of cookies and peered inside. He picked one out of the box as he made his way towards the exit, looking it over before giving it a bite.

Mmmmm, chocolatey.

The crisp air outside was a welcome reprieve to the stuffy atmosphere he had just been subjected to. He stood outside the doors for a moment, his hand repeatedly dipping into the box and munching away at the cookies inside. He peered around at his surroundings, everything alien to the American as he didn’t even attempt to make sense of the signs and writing around him. He pocketed the dictionary into his jacket and took out the note that Konatsu had handed him instead. On it were directions written to the bar as plainly as he could make them, only an idiot wouldn’t have been able to find it.

Then again, Ryan had to get help from a girl scout just to exit a hospital...so the odds were not in his favor.

He started wandering down the street, the slight amount of wind pulling his jacket behind him as he peered through the nearly empty streets. Bits of litter floated as if pulled from invisible strings, windows were alight with activity like fireflies, but souls seemed to be absent from his view. It took a few minutes before he saw another person, which was a blessing as he had slowly been convincing himself he had died and been put in purgatory or something akin to a slow form of psychological torture. The lack of bodies was getting to him, he could feel himself getting agitated and antsy at the fact that he was practically alone in an unknown world. How he wished his buddies could have made the trip, or even if there was one more English speaking person walking beside him. He hated solitude, despised it with every fiber of his being.

With only the passing moments of people wandering by to keep his mind from spiraling into a desperate search for conversation, he could sense that familiar feeling of irritation welling up inside him. It felt like his entire body was restless, but would eventually evolve into an itch he couldn’t scratch, until it felt like his entire body wanted to spasm. He had once been told this was all a psychosomatic reaction to his natural inclination to always want to be surrounded by people, but whether it was in his head or not, it felt just as real. Luckily, before it could get any worse, he arrived at the bar that Konatsu had pointed him towards.

Ryan took a moment to size the place up, and to be quite frank it seemed about a half step up from a dive bar. Maybe Konatsu came here to avoid all the high profile people he had to deal with on a daily basis. It could have been his oasis in a desert of snobby lawyers, idiot executives, and stupid shareholders. Ryan double and triple checked the name and Kanji on the note, making sure he was in the right place before replacing the note into his pocket and digging for more cookies. His hand came back empty, so with a frown he looked inside the box to see that he had eaten them all in the short time it took him to get to the bar. Oh man I’m going to have to run that off later. Ryan thought to himself as he wondered how hard he had been pigging out just now, lost in his own thoughts. He looked around for a garbage can, and found a dumpster on the side of the building. He tossed the empty box into it before making his way inside.

The interior was dimly lit, either on purpose or because they couldn’t afford better lighting. Several tables were placed around the room, oddly enough they were the ones he was used to eating at. Ryan had the impression he would be kneeling at every establishment he went to, with the tables that might as well have been floors. Aside from that, it wasn’t bad. The atmosphere had a homely touch to it, the kind where the ‘everyone knows everyone’ vibe seemed to perpetuate the air, although he doubted that was the case. There was a bar counter with stools as well, and despite there being several people in groups among the tables, Ryan opted for the spot closest to the supply of alcohol. He didn’t know anyone, add in the fact that the language barrier made it extremely difficult to communicate and you have yourself one hell of a recipe for great misunderstandings. It was fine though, so long as people were around him and chatting away, Ryan could get rid of his antisocial anxiety.

As Ryan took a seat at the counter the Bartender came over, an aging man who looked to be about in his forties. He was completely bald although it was most likely from choice, and a surprisingly few wrinkles marred his face. If it wasn’t for the other physical facts, such as his slightly hunched posture and aging skin on his hands, Ryan could have easily mistaken him for someone closer to his own age. “Watashi ni nani ga dekiru?” Ryan didn’t bother trying to answer, instead he fished out the note in his pocket and looked it over. There were phrases written, including one that introduced him as a friend to Konatsu. He narrowed his eyes at the phrase, but luckily Konatsu had been kind enough to spell out the pronunciation of the words.

“Watashi wa Konatsu no tomodachidesu.” Ryan stated, heavily aware that his accent was most likely making the Japanese nearly unintelligible. The Bartender widened his eyes slightly and gave a smile.

“Ah! You must be Prosker-san!” The bartender stated in heavily accented English. Ryan looked up, pleasantly surprised that the man understood English at all.

“Oh thank God. You know English?” Ryan asked, severely relieved at not having to deal with a language barrier that would result in him simply emphasizing just how western he was. The Bartender shrugged.

“Here there.” The man stated, turning around and grabbing a bottle that Ryan could only hope had something that would knock him on his ass. “Konatsu-sama call ahead, he say put everything on his bill. You drink free tonight.” Ryan blinked for a moment, he had been expecting a discount not a free ride to blissful drunk town.

“I’m going to owe him something fierce…” Ryan muttered as the bartender looked under the counter.

“Gomen'nasai?” He asked, of which Ryan took a wild guess as to what that meant.

“Eh, nothing. Just muttering to myself.” The bartender nodded before seemingly cursing to himself as he reached underneath the counter and pulling out nothing. He cursed, or at least Ryan took it as cursing, in Japanese several times before placing the bottle on the bar.

“No cups, I get cups. Be right back.” The bartender stated before moving towards a curtain, yelling something in Japanese and getting yelled at back by someone with a slightly deeper voice than his. Ryan looked at the bottle, and naturally it was all in the language of the natives. He couldn’t understand what it said, so he took to taking a look around the bar instead. There were a number of people in the building. There were a couple of people huddled in a corner having a hushed conversation, a lonely looking man having a drink by himself and a group of four with a woman face down on the table. That sight brought about a confused look from Ryan, but there didn’t seem to be any immediate distress so he didn’t think it was warranted for him to intervene. All in all, the atmosphere was melancholic. Considering his own emotional fragility at the moment, this was not something that he wanted to be around.

It was then that the Bartender came back, carrying a few cups and placed them all under the counter while leaving one in front of Ryan. He muttered to himself in Japanese, and while the language may be different, the verbal cues of griping because of a lazy or incompetent worker was universally understood. The Bartender took the bottle and poured the liquid into the cup. “Sake, drink.” The man stated, to which Ryan grabbed the small bowl-shaped cup and brought it up to his lips.

“Domo Arigato.” Ryan stated, and immediately the Bartender’s face turned sour.

“What you call me?! You have nerve!” The surprise at the Bartender’s sudden shift in mood combined with the strength of the drink was enough to make Ryan gulp in surprise and start a coughing fit as he held up a hand, speaking in a hushed whisper as he attempted to swallow what he could in time to say something.

“What did I say? I thought that was thank you! Was it not thank you?!” The Bartender’s expression deadpanned for a moment before he burst into laughter, slapping the table slightly.

“It is! I make joke!” He continued laughing as Ryan cleaned up his face, grabbing the towel the Bartender eventually offered him.

“Ah yes, make fun of the American and his uncultured ways, how civilized of you.” Ryan stated in a mocking tone, although his smile was wide and genuine. He didn’t mind being the butt of a joke so long as people were having a good time. Besides, it helped him push everything that had just happened to the back of his mind. He was never good with dealing with his own emotional issues, preferring to ignore everything that wasn’t beneficial to the people around him. “I think we’ll get along just fine. What do I call you?”

“Miyata Yoshinobu.” The Bartender replied, cleaning up a bit of the spilled sake with a smile still on his face. Ryan took another shot of the Sake, breathing through his teeth as the alcohol hit his system.

“And...Miyata is your family name right? You place your names backwards to western culture?”

“Yoshinobu personal name, Miyata family name.” Ryan gave a nod.

“Alright Yoshi, then while I’m drinking on my friend’s tab, might as well let everyone else get in on the fortune too. He’s rich, he can afford it. Get everyone in here a drink of their choice and charge it to Konatsu.” Yoshi seemed to hesitate slightly before Ryan gave a wave. “He could buy this Bar with his pocket change, he won’t look twice I promise.” Yoshi yelled back into the kitchen-type area, and out came a younger looking gentleman. Most likely it was Yoshi’s son as his tone seemed to convey...a familial order to it. He barked some orders in Japanese and soon enough the man was moving from group to group asking them what drink they would like and explaining that it was already paid for.

“Generous with other people’s money.” Yoshi stated, to which Ryan gave a shrug.

“Better I spend it on other people than just myself, don’t you think?” Ryan asked, taking another shot of Sake as once again thoughts of his parents came unbidden to the forefront of his mind. There was only one way that he was going to get through tonight in any form of happiness or blissful ignorance. ”Now, keep hitting me with the strong stuff till I can’t see straight.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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#, as written by Verix
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Seung & Seok Areum
GRIM REAPER | #D08462 | FOX SPIRIT | #D24038



      The sound of another occupant moving into the booth left Seung mildly more happy than he had been moments before. Such a feeling was not meant to last however, and as his neighbor began to speak his mood only soured, “I didn’t know you frequented ‘The tipping point’. My charge might visit here tonight. Please don’t take his soul. I’ve only just received his case and it would look terrible on my record if he died the first night in my care.”

      Sighing heavily he then took a sip of his drink, “Only after work,” he lifted his head so his eyes could meet his neighbor's, “Haku, Reapers only take the lives of those destined to die, we don’t get to choose.”They remained silent until the bartender came and the Angel ordered a glass of water. Seung felt a sense of understanding knowing it was probably to save money. He would have offered the man a drink but knowing Alucio and his penchant for more expensive drinks, he would need to cut his losses where he could. Adding another expense would be detrimental.

      With nothing else to say they lapsed into a comfortable stillness until another figure slid into the booth and rested her head on the table. Seung sighed and gently pat her head.
      "I'm so sad. Takumi will never love me. Is it because I'm dead?”
      “I think it may be because he doesn’t know you.” Before he could say anything else though the other half of the rent came walking in and sat down next to him. "I didn't think tonight was one of gathering nights."
      “You left me on read.”
      Alucio pulled out a handkerchief and handed it to Minako with a soft sigh. Seung would have been touched had his roommate not ruined the moment by drinking his sake without even so much as asking. If that was how he wished to be then so be it.
      “Indirect kiss,” his voice was monotone and without thinking he made a heart with his thumb and index finger. Hopefully he wouldn’t spit it out.

      Just in case however he made a move to call the bartender over, only to notice the man had appeared seemingly out of no where. Minako ordered her drink and when she nervously responded, “I love—to sleep,” she looked helplessly at the three men — most likely asking for death. Seung had no idea how to handle the situation and so promptly kept his gaze lowered and forgot to order another drink. He as well needed sleep after dealing with his friends.

      The bartender then named the price of her beverage, and had to almost pry the card out of her hands. Minutes later the man returned bringing with him her vodka and money. She downed her drink as if it were water and tried choke back her sobs. It was saddening and Seung was clueless as to what to do.
      "Is she... Okay?" he asked.
      “I believe so. Thank you,” he took the card from the bartender's hand and waved him off to spare Minako some humiliation. He was her friend after all.
      “You don't even remember my name.”
      “You never gave it to him, if I remember. Right, Haku?”
      Before their discussion could escalate however a man came to their table with a bright smile. Seung didn’t trust him, but nonetheless listened to whatever he had to say.
      “What can I get you all to drink today?” a frown appeared on Seung’s face, cautious of his overly happy disposition. “Ah, it’s already been paid for.” He should have started with that line.

      That got Seung’s attention and so promptly he ordered a drink he had been eyeing all night long, “I’ll have a bourbon then.” He didn’t ask who had been generous enough to pay for their drinks, the attendant's attention already having moved on, and so looked at his friends expectantly. After all, they should thank the person who had essentially saved them rent money. Mortals could be so nice at times.



      ( • • • )


      It had occurred to Areum multiple times before that although it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a life without Cassius, she deeply resented the thought of it. Perhaps her mornings would be a little less bright, and the sound of her soul would sing more loudly, but in comparison to who she was intrinsically — nothing would change. And yet, even the mere thought of separation brought a dull ache to her heart she thought would have faded with time.

      As another attendant passed by Areum plucked a glass of champagne off their tray and shifted her gaze from the man in yellow to her new drink. She furrowed her eyebrows in dissatisfaction as she finally took notice of its taste. It was much too sweet and left a tangy flavor in her mouth, not even vodka could smother its presence.

      While in deep thought, Areum had been deaf to whatever pretty but meaningless compliments Cassius was most likely gushing. It was only when the pitch of his voice lowered that her attention was finally on him once more. "I believe you've yet to meet. This is Areum, though I doubt a woman like herself requires an introduction."

      She raised an eyebrow and finally lowered her drink. Before her stood the man she had been glaring at previously, and with a new perspective, she smiled.

      “It’s a pleasure to meet you —” she gave a quick sideways glance to Cassius, “Basil. A friend of Kaede’s is a friend of mine, and so I hope we’ll see more of each other in the future.” Without warning she stepped closer to the man and stared at his face in concentration. She noted his thick eyebrows that framed doelike eyes and the way his pout was wide but very pretty. He was an eccentric kind of attractive, and it made her want to stare at him all the more curiously. “Should you ever wish to model for my magazine feel free to contact me. I’m sure we can have something arranged.” Slowly she backed away and focused her gaze on Kaede instead. It was unspoken that she would be the photographer, and for Areum that would only be an added bonus should he accept.

      "Excuse me,” Cassius interrupted and before she could get a word out the man was gone. Areum rolled her eyes but in doing so caught sight of the event unfurling that Cassius must have seen as well. In her mind, she praised her friend for taking a swift course of action and let him deal with it himself; however, it was the familiar face of the woman sitting at the bar that made Areum move to help.
      “Forgive me, I’ll be back in a moment,” walking with purpose she quickly slid between the patrons who still hadn’t noticed the debacle and kept dancing. They were either too drunk to notice or too self-absorbed to care.
      Silently, Areum sat down next to Shiori just as the bartender supplied her with another drink. She tapped the counter to order the same beverage as well and placed her empty champagne glass on her right side for someone to clean up.
      “I saw what you did, and I’m very grateful but —” she turned to look the officer straight in the eye, “—why didn’t you arrest him?”

      The bartender finally finished creating her drink and placed it in front of her hands. Idly she traced her ring finger along the rim of the glass and awaited her response. She had the authority to act, so why didn’t she? Was it the fear of repercussions, or an inability to serve due to being off the clock? Her thoughts was cut short however by the sight of men storming away from where Cassius stood watching. Areum recognized them for who they were and in a quick act of vindictiveness dumped the contents of her drink onto their passing forms.

      There was no logical reason for what she did, and like most things Areum didn't think of the consequences, but the feeling of revenge was too good to pass up. She let out a small condensing smile and a quiet laugh. The apparent leader snarled and made his way to Areum to which she gave a disinterested sigh, “Perhaps I should call Mr. Dōriēwes over.” A pointed look to her friend had the men freeze before backing away slowly. A grin spread across her face.

      When the men left and all that remained was a stillness, Cassius' strong voice echoed in the silence and promised the patrons a round of free cocktails. Applause and laughter filled the room bringing life back to the party, and with a weary grimace Areum focused her attention back to Shiori.

      “I have someone I’d like you to meet,” without warning Areum took the girl’s wrist and lightly tugged at her to follow. She cut through the center with ease, her disposition not allowing for any jostling, and finally made way to where she left Kaede and Basil. She needed Cassius’ opinion on the girl, and more than anyone she knew, he understood her needs the best.



Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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#, as written by Cloud
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xxxIt made no difference how many times reaper Seung reminded Haku that they did not choose who died, merely followed the cards assigned to them. The guardian still maintained the prejudice that their mere presence must not be lucky for any mortals in the vicinity. Yet, as Seung reminded him of the fact, the guardian merely nodded solemnly in response rather than argue. Best not to upset a grim reaper after all.

xxxA moment of comfortable peace passed between reaper and guardian instead, the sounds of the bar’s other occupants and the steady beat of vehicles rumbling down the road outside soothing after a day of work. Haku sipped on his water, wishing once again that he could afford anything more than the free drink. A despondent sigh escaped the angel, his shoulders slumping slightly as his gaze left the sad glass of water. His lips parted, words collecting on his tongue, before a small figure joined the quiet pair with a thump and a sorrowful exclamation.

xxxKohaku knew Minako’s moods well, and was well acquainted with her inclination to find love in the smallest, most meaningless of gestures. A passing stranger might smile at her, and the diminutive guardian angel would assure Haku that she was in love. She felt too strongly, opening herself up for disappointment whenever a fresh sweetheart failed to return her newly developed devotion. On more than one occasion in their decades of friendship, Haku had found himself comforting his fellow angel, offering a quiet shoulder to cry on as he patiently waited for her to right herself.

xxxAt least now Haku had the support of his neighbour. No two neighbours, he corrected himself as Alucio joined the quiet table. Kohaku returned Alucio’s greeting, raising his hand vertical and giving a short wave before letting his fingers wrap around the glass of water and pulling it closer. He should have asked for a straw. He watched as Alucio offered the distraught guardian his handkerchief, and Kohaku suddenly had the sinking feeling that he’d be spending the next week hearing Minako waxing poetic about Alucio’s generosity. The male guardian bit back a sigh and returned his attention to the glass of water.

xxxThoughts of sinking into a hot bubble bath distracted Kohaku from the chatter of the table, his mind already swimming with sweet scented candles and luxurious bath salts. Bath bombs were his guilty pleasure, the rare item he allowed himself to splurge on. Not that he did so very often. He would use a candle right down to the stub, and lay in a bath until all the bubbles were gone and the heat had completely vanished. Anything to make the most of his spent money.

xxxOnly the sound of his name draws Haku away from his mental bubble bath, and he gazes up to stare blankly a Seung. Having missed the earlier conversation, Kohaku merely nods and agrees uncertainly, “Right.”

xxxThen a worker is at their table, and Haku’s lips quirk into the first almost-smile of the day. A free beverage? What luck is this? With a quick nod, Haku picks up the menu hastily and skims down the list of cocktails, wines, and other assorted alcoholic drinks. He’s half scared that if he takes too long, the offer will disappear. Yet, as soon as he finds something he likes, he glances up and finds the bartender waiting patiently for the order.

xxx “I’d like sex on the beach, please.” Kohaku informs him, ignorant to how such a phrase could be turned around in any other situation. Yet, the barkeep’s face does not break into a mocking smile at the cocktail, but a regretful frown.

xxx “I’m sorry sir, but that drink was discontinued last week. You must have an old menu.”

xxxHaku is handed another menu, his disappointment and resignation clear by the set of his shoulders and gloomy mask. Nevertheless, he selects another drink – a respectable beer – and hands the menu back with another sigh. It’s only then that he notices the man sitting at the bar. He can sense the man’s emotions, the connection slightly sluggish thanks to the few shots of Sake he’s already consumed. The bartender follows Kohaku’s gaze and gives a happy nod,

xxx “Yes, the American has kindly bought the whole bar a round.” He informed the table, nodding towards the figure of Ryan Prosker.

xxxHaku nods absently before his elbow shifts, prodding into Minako as he drew his eyes away from his charge. “I’m going to talk with my charge. If you’re capable of sitting straight and tearing your gaze from the table, I would appreciate any advice you could give me on him.” Haku mumbled, before a gaze at the men in black sitting opposite them made him add in a quieter voice, “And make sure the reapers don’t kill my charge.”

xxxWith a nod to said reapers, and a promise that he would be right back, the guardian angel slid from his chair and gained his feet. He felt almost naked without a glamour on, but knew that it would be redundant to leave the bar only to come back wearing the image of another person. He may as well wear his own face. Subconsciously, Haku tugged on the lobe of his almost-too-big ear and set off, dipping around tables empty and occupied as he made for the counter.

xxxHe didn’t entirely have a plan, but knew that talking with his charges would only help in his mission to enable them to meet their great fate. So, he took the seat next to the American and drew a rare smile onto his face as he faced Ryan. His lips were unaccustomed to such a position, and the smile quickly fell into a more neutral position as he addressed the man seated beside him.

xxx “Hello, do you speak Japanese?” Kohaku asked in his native tongue, before switching to his less-fluent English, “Or should I thank you in English?”

xxxMovement to his right momentarily drew Haku’s attention away, and he was rewarded with the sight of the bar tender sliding a cool beer into the guardian’s waiting palm. With a nod of thanks to the worker, Kohaku turned towards Ryan once more, his beer held out towards the American – an age-old, wordless invitation to clack their drinks together and ‘cheers’.

xxx “To what are you celebrating?” Kohaku continued, his tongue feeling uncoordinated as it pronounced the English words.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker
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Ryan Prosker \|/ Kohaku






“So...do many people call you Yoshi? Like the little green...raptor...thing from Mario?” Ryan asked, his hand reaching for another shot of sake. Yoshi looked over, giving a slight sigh as he topped Ryan off once more.

“Few times, mostly drunk Americans though.” Ryan paused for a moment, before lowering his head.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend or anything...but Yoshi is awesome! He lays eggs and has this weird tongue thing…” Yoshi gave a wave of the hand.

“You don't offend me, I have dealed with the name for a long time. Stopped bother me years ago.” Ryan looked down at his sake, swirling it in his cup for a moment.

“Well if it evens the odds a bit, my callsign is Rango.” Yoshi looked over at him, an eyebrow raised.

“Rango?” He asked, curiosity hitting his face with the force of a sledgehammer.

“Yeah, supposed to be some sort of lizard thing...gecko maybe that talks real fast and such. It’s a movie apparently, I’m assuming you’ve never seen it?”

“No.” Yoshi replied curtly. Ryan gave a shrug.

“Yeah, me neither.” It was at that moment that a young man came towards Ryan, grabbing his attention with some well spoken Japanese. Ryan stared blankly at him, looking over to Yoshi to translate but before that could happen, the man switched to English. He sat down next to Ryan as the American pondered just how inadequate he was going to feel if so many people could speak both languages and he was filling the stereotype of only knowing one. The man wanted to thank him, and as he got his beer, he held it forward. Ryan grabbed his cup and went to do the same thing only to realize he was drinking out of the traditional sake cup and had no idea how to clank it.

So with all the awkwardness of someone who was obviously not from around there, he lifted the cup with both hands and gave the beer a quick clank that just looked completely silly. Ryan took his shot from the cup before looking down at it and giving a quick laugh at the entire situation. He could feel his cheeks already starting to flush, but that just meant the booze was working. Weird stuff sake, went down like water and hit like a truck apparently. When the man asked what he was celebrating, Ryan paused for a moment. Was he even celebrating anything?

Failed reunions?

Family loathing and hatred?

Maybe just something as simple as being able to walk out of that hospital without decking his own mother in the mouth.

Ok that last one was a bit harsh, but he was finding it hard to not be bitter about the entire thing. In the end, Ryan gave a sigh, filling up his cup once more from the bottle placed directly in front of him. “I’m not celebrating a thing.” Ryan finally admitted, looking over at the man. He was rather scrawny looking, although that was nothing coming from Ryan who was considered the smallest guy in his unit. He looked timid, but he seemed to have an air of confidence that allowed him to approach Ryan easily. Maybe it was just a wrong first impression of the man, after all, Ryan was usually the victim of such a thing. “To be perfectly honest, everyone here looked a bit down so I thought, ‘Hey, why not give everyone something to smile about, free booze!’” Ryan gave a beaming smile, spinning so he was facing the man. He heard Yoshi scoff over in the corner, which earned a quick finger from Ryan. “Shush you!”

When that was done, Ryan looked over at the man who approached him, holding out a hand. “Name’s Ryan Prosker...wait...am I supposed to bow?”

Kohaku caught the tail end of his charge's conversation with the barkeep, remaining silent as he took his seat beside the American. Beer in hand, he clinked it against Ryan's sake glass and took a soothing sip of the chilled beverage. Haku didn't drink much, due to a mixture of budget issues and a habit of getting too intoxicated too quickly, but he had to admit that he enjoyed a cold drink at the end of the day. Haku also had to agree that the majority of those gathered in the bar were far from boisterous. The table the guardian had just departed stood as a prime example, Kohaku almost expected to hear the mournful cries of his fellow guardian joining the soft hum of the other patron's chatter. Yet, thankfully his charge seemed to be holding it together better than Minako.

"You are new to Japan, I believe." Haku replied, giving Ryan's offered hand a firm shake. As he released Ryan's hand and pulled his arm back, the guardian bent slightly forward, offering the American a small bow in both greeting and demonstration, before adding, "You can call me Kohaku."

The guardian suddenly wished he had purchased a travel pamphlet or book that might be able to illuminate Japanese social customs to the foreigner, though Haku mentally conceded that a quick search on a smartphone would offer a valuable range of information on the same topics. Still, he added it to the list of ways he might be able to help his charge.

"How long have you been in Japan?" Kohaku asked a moment later, before holding his hand up to get the barkeep's attention. Remaining in English for the sake of the man seated next to him, Haku asked for a glass of water, fearing how quickly the alcohol might go to his head if he doesn't pace himself. Being drunk around his charge would not be a good work story.

The bartender was quick to act, and within moments he was pushing a full glass towards Haku. The guardian thanked him as his own hand moved forward to take it, his fingers brushing accidentally over the mortal's hand. Instantly Kohaku was given insight into the barkeep's mood, sensing good-natured humour, and a weariness at the long day and night ahead. With a smile, Haku leaned in and spoke to both barkeep and charge,

"Did you know Yoshi means good luck, righteous, or virtuous, depending on the kanji? I once knew a Yoshi, many years ago, who was blessed with all of those"

"Gave it away that quickly huh?" Ryan answered in a fully aware rhetorical question, taking another shot of his sake before giving a slight nod. "Pleasure to meet you, hope you're enjoying the free drink." Ryan cast his eyes back towards the bar as Kohaku started explaining what Yoshi truly meant in Japanese. Ryan wasn't trying to be disrespectful, but when he was truly listening, he tended to not focus on anything in particular. He gave a nod as Kohaku finished telling the small story, to which Ryan gave a curious 'huh' in response, although he was more disappointed that it wasn't directly related to a giant green frog dinosaur. At heart, he was ok with admitting he was slightly childish.

When Kohaku asked him how long he had been in Japan, stopping only to order some water, Ryan swirled the sake a bit. Part of him wanted to offer the guy another drink, and the other part of him realized that he was already being quite generous with Konatsu's money. "Not long, I arrived yesterday and got situated in a hotel. Mainly here for..." Ryan pondered what to say, not a true fan of lying especially when it was to cover up his own inadequacies. "An interesting experience." Ryan decided to go with that instead, not necessarily lying but not revealing too much about himself.

"I'm assuming that you were born in Japan? Or at least you've been here for some time? Anything interesting you can tell me about this place? Maybe something fun to do while I'm in the country slash city?"

Haku listened to Ryan's spoken words and to the emotions vibrating through their invisible connection. It always became that much easier to understand a charge when speaking with them, understanding how they thought and how they lived. Haku nodded as Ryan explained why he was in the country, leaving out the real reason for his unschedualed visit. Kohaku didn't push, instead taking a sip of his water before answering Ryan's questios.

"Yes, quiet some time." Haku answered, imagening that Ryan didn't expect 'quite some time' to mean several centuries. "There are many things to do in Tokyo." Haku added with another nod, "Museums, art shows, movies, festivals... In fact there is a Cherry blossom festival tomorrow at Kan'ei-ji temple in Ueno park. To my mind, there would be no better Japanese event to attend than such a festival."

Haku pulled a napkin across the bar and then a pen from his pocket. In quick strokes the guardian wrote both the kanji and then translation on the napkin before sliding it towards his charge, "The address, if you choose to go."

Ryan took the napkin, looking at the Kanji and translation and once again wondering how basically an art piece turned into a language before giving a nod and slipping it into the inside pocket of his jacket. "I'll take your word for it." Ryan took another shot of sake from his bottle, the alcohol flowing smoothly now that it was starting to hit him a bit harder. He questioned if he should stop soon, but remembered he had a ride picking him up later, so he considered the risk worth it. “If you don’t mind me asking though, what does all the Cherry Blossom festival entail? Is it all about small fruits and flowers?”

"Not fruit." Haku corrected with a shake of his head, "The festivals come from old customs of watching the sakura blossom." Kohaku took a final sip of his beer before placing the bottle on the bar in front of him, "I have always found Hanami a calming experience."

A glance behind him pulled Kohaku's attention to the table of grim reapers and lone guardian angel. Though he didn't want to leave his American charge so soon, he could sense that he would be needed throughout the night. Perhaps getting back to the tiny apartment he shared with Minako and having a small nap before being forced out into the night again would be beneficial. Turning back to Ryan, Haku offered the American a small nod,

"Thank you again for the drink. I should get back to my friends. Perhaps we might bump into each other at the festival tomorrow." Though no smile flickered across his face, his tone was decidely friendlier than his usual depressed tone. Of course, regardless of whether Ryan saw Kohaku again, Kohaku would definitley be seeing Ryan again, though perhaps in varying forms.

With a final nod in thanks, Haku pushed out of his seat and made his way back to his table, mentally planning on sliding into bed as soon as he got home.

Ryan nodded along, listening to Kohaku's explanation to the very uncultured American who honestly couldn't remember the last time he had been to a fair of any kind. In some regards he wondered if he was truly a workaholic. So basically some kind of flower blossoming festival, could be an interesting sight to see regardless of his investment in such things. With the explaination out of the way, Kohaku finished his beer and looked back towards his friends, stating how he should get back to them. Ryan gave a nodded and raised his glass slightly. "Not a problem, thanks for the info and have a great night." Ryan stated with a beaming smile as he turned back towards the bar to fill his cup once more. Halfway through pouring it, he realized that there wasn't anything left in the bottle, to which he gave a small tap on the counter to get Yoshi's attention. "Yoshi, running a bit dry here, you mind?"

Ryan didn't think that one fully translated for the bartender, but he seemed to get the gist of it as he reached underneath the bar and pulled out another bottle of sake. As Ryan started going at he second bottle at this point, the legitimate concern over whether he truly was an alcoholic flashed briefly before being overtaken by a sense of bravado, a small unconscious shrug escaping his features before diving headlong into the fresh batch of sake.




A rather well dressed and uniformed man entered the bar a few hours later, his attire not at all suited to the establishment as he took off his cap and held it under the crutch of his arm. He gave a quick look around the bar, spotting the man he had come to grab at the counter. Nick wandered over to him, putting a hand lightly on his shoulder. "Master Prosker? I'm here to take you to your hotel." A quick inspection found Ryan to be passed out, or very close to it on the counter of the bar. Nick looked over to Yoshi who simply gave a disapproving shake of his head before Nick gave a slight bow and switched to Japanese. "I apologize for Master Prosker's behaviour." Yoshi gave a slight shrug as he cleaned a few glasses.

"Not really a problem, he didn't cause any trouble here. I did start passing him water later on, but I don't think he noticed." Nick gave a small laugh.

"In his state, I doubt he would. Master Konatsu appreciates you taking care of him." Nick pulled out a credit card from his breast pocket, to which Yoshi presented a machine to run it through. It took a couple of seconds before the transaction completed and Yoshi gave a gruff nod.

"Alright, all paid up, now do you mind getting the starting to snore American off of my bar?" Nick gave a nod and a slight bow once again.

"Of course." Nick grabbed Ryan's shoulder and gave it a firm shake. "Master Prosker? You need to wake up, I have to get you to your hotel." It took a couple more shakes for Ryan to actually stir, his eyes half open as he nearly swiped three empty bottles of sake to the ground.

"Hm? Nick? What are you...uhhh...what....what?" Nick pulled Ryan off the stool, slipping himself underneath Ryan's arm as he replaced his hat on his head.

"It's alright Master Prosker, we just have to get you somewhere where your sleep won't be disturbed." Nick practically carried him out the door and to the waiting limo, struggling to open the car door with the American nearly limp on his side.

"Did you know that bartender is named after Yoshi...from Mario?" Ryan stated, his speech slurred but still somewhat cognative.

"I do not believe he was named after that creature sir." Nick stated, nearly flopping Ryan into the back, letting him lay down on the seat before closing the door and heading to the driver's seat. Upon entry, Ryan was already halfway through another sentence.

"-an't believe it. There was...Sake...beer. Ummm...Do they...I could go for some wings." Nick adjusted his rearview mirror quickly, giving a quick look back.

"If you can stay awake for more than two minutes, I will get you some wings Master Prosker." Nick stated, to which he was replied with silence. A quick inspection showcased a very passed out Ryan sleeping away in the back of the limo. Nick gave a quick shake of the head before buckling up and slowly pulling away from the bar towards their destination.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Luciana de Silva Character Portrait: Marlon Page Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Cassius Dōriēwes Character Portrait: Minako Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio Character Portrait: Cara Chung Character Portrait: Ikeda Shiori Character Portrait: Ryan 'Rango' Prosker Character Portrait: Basil Gardner Character Portrait: Jiangyu Bai Character Portrait: Aera Lee Character Portrait: Seok Areum Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu Character Portrait: Wyatt Costanza Character Portrait: Paola Millán
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CHAPTER TWO: THE FESTIVAL
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Date: Early afternoon, 2nd April, 2017
Location: Kan'ei-ji Temple, Ueno Park
Tokyo City, Japan

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xxx A sea of delicate pink blossoms fluttered in the faint spring breeze, a show of nature’s intoxicating beauty revealed for the world to see. Lanes of sakura trees turned the pavement below a rosy hue, while in other places the falling flowers had carpeted the grass in blushing blooms. The Hanami custom was old, a traditional indulgence by the people of Japan and those world-wide to walk beneath spring’s buds and admire the astounding beauty of it.

xxx In Ueno park, lanterns hang on invisible ropes between the trees, arching across lanes and illuminating pathways during the nightly yozakura. Yet, even during the day, as wisps of cloud pass overhead, the lanterns only add to the festive feel. Kan'ei-ji temple is a Tendai Buddist temple within the bustling metropolis of Tokyo. It sits in the park, a beautiful array of centuries old architecture within the modern city.

xxx Fires from various civil wars and earthquakes have seen the original facades diminished, yet still the temple stands tall and proud. The five-storied pagoda and the Ueno Tōshō-gū shrine still remain as gems of the original temple, beautiful relics of a time gone past. Today, as the midday sun passes overhead, the temple grounds were thriving with activity. Cherry blossoms coloured the grounds pink, while the laughter of young children brought smiles to many who passed by. Stalls set up in one of the courtyards offered delectable treats; yakitori, grilled chicken on sticks; takoyaki, pancake balls with tempting chunks of octopus in the middle; watamep, cotton candy in all colours and styles, and more.

xxx The temple’s festivities were set to continue throughout the evening and into the early night, when the lanterns strung up would offer soft illumination. However, as early afternoon struck the festival was well into full swing. Some families take to the lawns beneath the cherry blossom trees, where picnic blankets allow them to stretch out and admire the blooming petals, while others content themselves with pulling young children around to the games set up for those who require a bit more entertainment. Also present are young couples keen to take in the romance of the sakura blossoms, their hands intertwined as they whispered endearments to each other while walking beneath the blooms.

xxx It was one of these couples that caught Lucia’s gaze as she stepped off the bustling street and followed one small, winding path towards the heart of the temple. They were young, late teens or early twenties, and yet their devotion to each other was clear. As the goblin passed the love-struck couple, she caught a glimpse of their future, intertwined for decades, their hands still clinging together as they age from young and fresh to gnarled and old. Luciana smiled softly, a hint of sadness perhaps beneath the warmth in her eyes. She had once been in love, a foolish affair, yet her story had not ended in happiness as this couple’s story would.

xxx She bypassed the devoted couple with a quick side-step, sending them a hint of good luck as she passed. Ahead, the path opened out into the main courtyard of the temple, a busy thoroughfare of festival seekers. The smell of freshly cooked food and sweets drifted between the crowd, tempting any with a nose or hint of hunger towards the wooden stalls edging the courtyard. Overhead, unlit lanterns and streamers added further decoration, even as the cherry blossoms were the real draw card.

xxx “I’ll take two yakitori, please.” Lucia intoned in flawless Japanese, nodding in thanks as her money was exchanged for the chicken sticks. The dress hugging her body floated around her knees slightly as a faint breeze snaked through the crush of people, and Lucia followed it beneath the tall pagoda and around to where a lawn of grass unfurled beneath a stand of sakura trees. A free root offered the perfect seat, and Lucia tucked her feet to the side as she sat beneath a shower of rosy petals, her gaze drawn upwards to the light blossoms blushing softly against the sky.


xxx “Beautiful” The goblin thought to herself, a feeling of peace settling across her shoulders. She left her mind wander to the twists of the day before, her thoughts less tense than the swirling cacophony of feelings that had assaulted her the previous night. Following her departure from Paola’s apartment, Lucia had spent a long time deciding on her next course of action. Her first instinct was to leave, to run from the city where she had seen and touched her ex-lover. Yet, the goblin couldn’t shake the sense that she should be closer to Paola, if only to investigate the mysterious way the girl had called her.

xxx To stay, or to go? It was the decision that had taunted her throughout the night, and though the goblin hadn’t landed on a conclusive answer, here she sat, still in Tokyo. The tough choice of the previous night seemed all the easier to face now, beneath the sakura. She would stay, would face Cassius if ever they came upon each other again. She was not the same young, naïve woman she had been as a mortal, she was stronger now, more sure of herself. She could handle it. Yet, even as her resolution settled, she remembered the feel of his hand on hers, the colours of his eyes, feel of his breath against her skin…

xxx A flicker in the corner of her eye dragged Lucia’s thoughts from the fox and she turned, searching the crowd of blossom admirers for the movement. Her brows moved into a frown as soft green eyes fell on the dark figure of a ghost. He looked as out of place amongst the pale blossoms as a bear would look in a colony of honey bees. Taller than the natives around him, and dressed in regal, medieval garb that was only now worn in theatrical plays, he was a man out of time and out of place. Though, it wasn’t the unsettling wrongness of his appearance that had Lucia pushing herself to her feet in a second. No, it was the familiarity of his face, the way the deceased soul’s gaze seemed to pin Lucia to the spot, as if he had sought her out from the beyond.

xxx The goblin took a step forward, a jolt of fear racing down her spine. “It cannot be…” She thought, wishing the distance were less so that she could be more sure, even as she wished to be miles away and safe from the soul’s eerie glare. She strained her eyes, even as a crowd of young Japanese temporarily blocked her view. Lucia took another half step forward, only to stop as the crowd passed and where the ghost had been, was nothing. He was gone, like a mirage teasing the goblin with images of her past. Had it been him? Or had the events of the previous day caused her to remember the less fortunate parts of her mortal life?

xxx Luciana took a shuddering breath, her hand instinctively flying to her neck where her fingers traced across the jewels that clung to her skin. She remembered the necklace tightening, the memory of the hand that had ended her life stark in her mind as she stared at the empty spot where he had just stood. But no, that was centuries ago. No ghost could last for that long. She forced her shoulders to relax, let her legs buckle as she regained her seat. It had been her mind, nothing else. She was safe.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Seung Character Portrait: Alucio
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A sigh escaped the guardian angel’s lips, the soft sound of defeat dying swiftly as the man stood. He was tired, his back aching from the countless hours spent hunched over in concentration, and for what? To lose at the last moment. To find himself eye to eye with yet another disappointment. Haku was used to failure, expected it even, but this here struck deep. His chair scraped back, wooden legs screeching against the hard floor as Haku dropped the old gameboy on the table, turning sad eyes away from the flashing ‘Game Over’ that decorated the black and white screen. Super Mario had defeated him again, and he could not bare to watch listen to the taunting tune any longer.

The guardian stretched out stiff joints, rolling his shoulders and cracking his fingers as his bare feet walked towards the apartment’s exit. In light of his recent disappointment, Haku needed a distraction, and luckily for the angel, work would offer nothing better. Rubbing his eyes, the guardian slid his feet into shoes and left through the apartment’s entrance, closing and locking the door behind him. He turned and took two steps across the hallway, fist raised so that his knuckle might lightly tap against the doorway opposite his. Distraction would hopefully come earlier in the form of two other immortal beings.

The subdued sounds of a few short thuds reached Alucio’s keen ears just as he shut off the running water in the sink. Lucky timing. Not that it meant anything. He glanced down at his gloved hands, sudsy and far too wet to be opening doors. He was preoccupied with his work regardless. Half the used dishes still lay dirty in the sink basin—in fact, he’d only turned off the water momentarily while he scrubbed at one of the pots. The water bill had been a little high last billing period, and Alucio no longer had the luxury of leaving the faucet running while he washed the dishes.

“Seung?” he called, albeit not very loudly. In a room not much larger than a closet, one did not need to speak loudly for their voice to travel far. “Door.”

The other reaper didn’t hear the soft knocking and it took Alucio’s call to bring him out of contemplation. His succulent had died and he had no idea why. Seung stared at it for a few moments, willing it to come alive, but upon realizing it was hopeless he sighed and grabbed the pot before making his way to the door.

Opening the door Seung spotted the morose face of his neighbor greeting him. It did not surprise him to find Haku in such a state, after all they were neighbors and he had seen the man at some relatively low points in his life, but it did pique his curiosity.

“Haku, are you alright?” It was the polite thing to ask having seen his sorrowful face, but Seung felt as though he already knew the answer.

Another sigh escaped Haku’s lips in response, his gaze shifting mournfully to the ground as he shook his head. “I am not alright.” He responded glumly, “Super Mario has defeated me again, and I fear I am in need of distraction from the crushing disappointments life continues to throw at me.”

Seung looked down at the plant in his possession and silently nodded in agreement. He knew the feeling all too well.

The guardian’s gaze shifted up, meeting that of the grim reaper before him, “So, would you and Alucio like to come to the Cherry Blossom festival with me? I believe Minako is already there.”

“Of course,” he backed up from the doorway and yelled, “Did you hear that Alucio? Let’s go.”
Seung set the plant down next to him as he carefully stepped into his slip-on shoes. They weren’t expensive enough to justify being outright worried, but he learned long ago that being cautious was rarely a bad thing.

Alucio had heard that. He’d heard Haku’s invitation quite clearly despite the angel’s naturally low, mournful tone. He had not, though, intended to act like he had. Things were hectic for him at the moment, what with the dishes and the messy countertops. Later, he even had plans to clean out the closet. Seung was free to go, of course, though it’d be nice if he’d help dry the dishes once in awhile considering he didn’t do much else.

With his back to the doorway leading out to the living room, Alucio scoffed. “Let’s go.” Since when did Seung feel he commanded such authority over him? He quickly finished drying the last bowl in his hands and crossed over to the front door where Seung was still putting on his shoes. With one hand, he waved a greeting in Haku’s direction, with the other, he slapped the back of Seung’s head. “Watch your tone,” he said flatly. Then, with a polite lilt, “Good morning, Haku. Thank you for the invitation.”

Seung stood up and rolled his eyes before silently mocking Alucio for reprimanding him.

Haku gave a lazy wave in return to the second reaper, watching his neighbours as Alucio reprimanded Seung. He was somewhat surprised that Seung had so easily accepted, and was now hopeful that Alucio might be able to make time in his busy schedule to accompany the pair to the festival.

“Good morning, Alucio. I hope you’re coming with us to the festival. I hear there will be takoyaki. My favourite.” A smile almost pulled at the corners of Haku’s mouth, before a dire thought crossed his mind and instead his lips fell into a frown, [color=#7C9AA4] “Unless they’ve run out of takoyaki already.”

“I’m sure they haven’t,” answered Alucio, slightly absently as he focused on tying the laces on his shoes. “And, yes, I suppose I can join you. My next appointment isn’t until tonight.” He didn’t mention that he’d completed all the housework there was to be done—alone— or that he’d been planning on going to the festival regardless of company.

“Shall we?” he asked simply, slipping on his long trench and grabbing his hat off the coat rack. It always paid to be prepared.




The trio made a dreary sight as they turned the corner, all dark colours and downcast eyes. At least, Haku’s eyes were downcast, his shoulders slumped despite having found two companions to accompany him to the festival. He pushed his hands into his pockets, casting a quick glance at the two grim reapers, as if expecting his two ‘friends’ to suddenly leave him to his lonely musings.

“Thank you for accompanying me to the festival.” Haku sighed softly as the gates to the temple rose above them. The guardian angel gazed across the crowds, his nose attempting to decipher in which direction the takoyaki were.

“It’s our pleasure,” Seung said. Wordlessly, Alucio bumped Seung’s shoulder with his own, pointing off to the far left where a tall banner waved in the wind, advertising the festival’s rather famous takoyaki.

“That’s what you were looking for, yes?” he questioned, inclining his head toward Haku.

Haku nodded, his gaze following Alucio’s line of sight to the stall selling takoyaki. Haku’s stomach pulled him forward with a grumble, his eyes taking in the octopus balls with joy.

“Two takoyaki, please.” Haku requested as they arrived at the stall, the guardian’s hands reaching out already for the offered food.

“420 yen, please.” The stall holder replied, holding the takoyaki at bay while the money was handed over. Yet, as Haku patted down his pockets he realised that he had forgotten his wallet. His heart jumped into his throat, disappointment - an already constant feeling for the angel - seemed to seep further into his bones. Perhaps he had enough change to buy just one takoyaki?

“I have… two 10 yen coins.” Haku offered, letting his change clutter onto the stall’s bench before turning imploring eyes on his companions. “Does anyone have any change?”

With a semi-surprised arch of his brows, Alucio turned his torso to rummage through the pocket of his coat. He hadn’t brought his wallet, not quite expecting to have had to pay for anything. But he rarely cleaned out the pockets of his coat, and there was always some odd thing he found when he needed it most. Sorrowfully, he pulled his balled up fist from his pocket and slowly opened it, revealing five receipts from varying times of the past two decades, two crumpled up 100 yen bills from circa 1940, and a dingy 50 yen coin. He offered his meager findings to Haku, mentally totaling their new count up to 270 yen.

Seung looked at Haku with exasperation not because he was asking for money but because he too had very little on his person. Regardless he reached into his jacket and pulled out a 100 yen coin. He sighed, and handed it over to Haku. “Let’s share it.”

Haku thanked them, grateful for his friends. For surely they were friends now, they had helped him purchase takoyaki. Well, one takoyaki, which he would have to share. Nevertheless a third of one takoyaki would be better than nothing. Handing over the change to the bemused seller and taking one of the takoyaki skewers, Haku gave the remaining change back to Seung and Alucio before taking a bite of one of the octopus balls. He bit back a pleased moaned, his lashes fluttering closed against his cheeks as the taste exploded on his tongue. Only when he’d swallowed did he reopen his eyes, gazing longingly at the remaining balls that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy.

“Seung?” Haku offered the skewer to the grim reaper who took it gratefully. He ate only one ball and savored the flavor before holding it out to Alucio who declined with a quick wave of his hand.

“None for me, thank you,” Alucio responded to the unspoken offer. Festival food was never quite his style.

Seung shrugged and passed it back to Haku. From the corner of his eye however he noticed a stall with ‘Kingyo-sukui’ written in large lettering. He nudged Haku’s shoulder and pointed where children were gathered around a small aquarium, “That looks interesting, would you like to play?”

Haku followed Seung’s finger, eyes alighting upon the children attempting to scoop little goldfish out of the tub of water. Next, his gaze landed on the price, guilt rushing over him that he’d have to borrow money again even as he took another bite from the takoyaki in his hand.

“Alright. I could use a goldfish.” Haku finally replied, thinking that a cute fish might be a good gift for the charge he was planning on meeting later.

With that settled Seung drifted toward the vendor and watched an oddly intense focus on the children before him. Of the three children playing only one successfully caught a fish by using slow movements and taking her time. With that in mind he gave the vendor the change from the takoyaki and received a small paper scoop.

“Watch closely, I know a technique to correctly capture it,” he said with full confidence and kneeled before the tub. He didn’t tell them all his knowledge came from watching a child.

He placed the scoop into the water and moved it slowly toward a nearby fish only to have the paper rip open. Seung sat there, shocked beyond belief.

From behind Seung came the sound of a soft snickering. Alucio’s facial expression barely betrayed the amusement he felt from seeing the failure of his roommate, the slightest uptick of his lips the only indication.

Stepping forward with an atypical amount of confidence, Alucio handed his 50 yen to the vendor, twirling the handle of the scoop between his fingers with a practiced skill. Before he placed the instrument in the water, he shot a glance in the direction of Seung, an eyebrow raised in a silent challenge, as though he were saying, “Yeah? Watch.

The scoop flashed under a multicolored fish, whisking it up out of the water before it could even notice the paper net underneath it. Up out of the water it came; the paper held for an instant, quivered, then, with a shock, burst open, letting the fish escape back into the tub with a splash. Alucio could only watch with a wide-eyed disappointment.

Haku watched both of the reapers attempt to capture fish, sighing with weary disappointment as each failed. It was his turn next, and the guardian had no hope for being able to complete a task that neither of the others had accomplished. Yet, he still stepped forward, pushing up his sleeves to keep his shirt dry and taking hold of a paper scope. He knelt down by the tub, eyes searching for a target. The little fish was on the small side, more golden than orange in colour.

“Hello, little fish.” Haku cooed as the scope slowly came up under the animal. He expected the scope to break at any moment, but somehow it didn’t. He pulled the scope out of the water, the fish swimming quickly around in the little pool of water stored in the scope. “Oh, I did it!” Haku smiled softly, looking surprised more than anything.

The stall holder congratulated him and quickly put Haku’s fish into a plastic bag before handing it to the guardian. Haku held his new pet up to his eyes, watching it for a moment before looking proudly at Seung and Alucio.

“Would you like me to teach you?” He offered, his eyes glittering with subtle humour.

“I think the game is rigged,” Seung stood up defiantly and looked at Alucio, “You agree right? My paper was too thin.”

Alucio nodded, subtly sullenly. “They do say only one out of three win.”

“I think I read that somewhere too,” he agreed, ignoring Haku out of jealousy.

“It’s a psychological method of tricking people into believing they’re capable of winning.”

As the two reapers continued to bicker, Haku’s gaze fell on a distant familiar figure. He could sense her emotions through the bond that connected guardian with charge, and with a wave of farewell to the sore losers, Haku left, his prize fish in hand as he made his way towards Kaede.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Kohaku Character Portrait: Kaede Shimizu
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    The breeze was crisp and cool, and the cherry blossoms fluttered to the ground in soft wisps, painting the sky with watercolor brushes of a gentle pink. Kaede stood, back against a tree for support, with her face tilted up towards the sky, letting the petals graze her skin as they fell, like little strokes of a bird’s feather. The peace of the moment temporarily distracted Kaede from the discomfort her clothing gave her. Perhaps a touch overzealous, Kaede had been determined to fully get into the spirit of the festival, dug out her old kimono and geta, even bought a new pair of tobi socks for the occasion. Now that she was there, and had been for several long minutes, she was beginning to regret the decision.

    She’d grow accustomed to it soon, she knew, as was the process every year, but for the moment, it was nice to catch a breather. With a quiet exhale, she opened her eyes, taking in the soothing baby blue shade of the sky. It really was a lovely day. Shame that she was wasting it sitting around and waiting. With an only slightly irritated grumble, she glanced at her wristwatch for what must’ve been the third time in five minutes. What was taking them so long? Her feet were starting to hurt from the standing, and the traditional pin clipping her hair back was starting to feel like it was determined to pull locks out of her scalp.

    She shuffled—the most efficient way she could move at the moment, her legs still unused to movement in the heavy folds of fabric she had donned—to a nearby bench, breathing a sigh of relief when she felt the pressure on her instep relax. From slightly to her right, the waving flag of a takoyaki shop taunted her, and her stomach growled quietly with a longing. If only it wouldn’t be such a labor to cross that great divide of two hundred meters. Sadly, she turned away, focusing instead on the beauty of the nature around, intending to use it as a distraction once again.

    With his prize clutched proudly in his hand - a small goldfish swimming in circles within the water-filled plastic bag - Kohaku set off towards his charge. He let the emotions flowing through their one-way connection wash over him; the discomfort she endured because of her attire, the appreciation of the natural beauty around her, the hunger that quietly gnawed at her stomach. The guardian angel smiled sadly, perhaps belatedly wishing that he and his grim reaper acquaintances hadn’t spent their last few yen on the fish game. Perhaps otherwise he might have been able to alleviate that last negative emotion by offering his charge some small festival treat.

    Regardless of having nothing to offer, Haku made his way forward, before his feet came to a standstill barely a few metres from the women. He tilted his head, soft eyes on the woman as she rested on the bench. He had a sense of familiarity wash over him as he watched her, his gaze gliding down the intricate kimono with a appreciation for the beauty of the garment. Something, somewhere buried deep in his heart ached, and Haku felt tears pooling at the corner of his eyes.

    Bewildered, and not quite understanding this sudden onslaught of feeling, the guardian quickly wiped the tears from his eyes, blinking away the droplets clinging to his lashes. His other hand clung tightly to the top of the fish’s plastic bag, only loosening his grip when he realised he might be stressing out his new pet. The guardian collected himself, pushing aside his own emotions in order to focus on those of his charge

    “Hello, may I have a seat?” Kohaku inquired as he closed the distance between himself and Kaede. He bent slightly at the waist as he spoke the formal Japanese, “Miss Shimizu.” he added with a small smile in greeting, having spoken with the woman enough without glamour that his doing so now would - hopefully - not put the photographer off.

    Having been so entirely engrossed in the energy of the festival atmosphere (as well as the visions of takoyaki dancing in her head), Kaede was just a touch startled when Kohaku approached her. His appearance was not, however, unwelcome in the slightest, and a wide grin spread over her face once recognition had set in.

    She was familiar with the unassuming man by way of her part time job, one she found herself working fewer and fewer hours at lately because of a certain arrogant figure in her life, but that was besides the point. Haku had been a fairly regular customer at the cafe and for reasons she didn’t really understand, she’d always felt an ease and comfort around him. Haku felt familiar, in some strange way, and she’d grown to enjoy his company and conversation.

    “Haku!” she greeted him, despite his initial example, informally. She’d been insisting on using informal speech with him for their past three interactions, but he hadn’t budged an inch.

    She patted the empty space on the bench beside her, a silent invitation to sit. With a smile, she said, “Hi. What brings you here?” She half assumed he was, like her, waiting on friends. But then again, she’d never seen him in the cafe with a group, so there was really no way to tell.

    The guardian angel nodded his thanks and took a seat beside his charge, pushing his lips up into a small smile at her greeting. It always surprised him to find himself so warmly welcomed, his pessimistic expectation usually encouraging Kohaku to believe he will either be ignored, or turned away with scorn. Perhaps today luck was on his side, for both parties he had approached - first his grim reaper neighbours, and now his charge - had accepted his appearance without hesitation.

    “I came to taste the takoyaki.” Haku answered somewhat honestly. He had learned that truthfully telling your charges you were there to see them did not always go well. “And yourself? Are you meeting friends?” He continued, his gaze skirting around the crowded area as if expecting a group of mortals to come and sweep Kaede away. Thankfully, no such group of young people approached, and Kohaku was pleased that he might have another few moments with his charge before she was whisked away.

    “Your kimono is beautiful.” He added as his attention returned to the mortal woman beside him. The guardian carefully set the bag of water with his goldfish delicately on his lap, one hand ensuring that it didn’t roll down the gentle slope of his legs and onto the pavement at his feet.

    A laugh bubbled at the back of her throat when Haku told her his intentions for attending the festival. It was an endearing breed of innocence, Kaede thought, that made her feel at peace with him. Yes, surely it was that.

    Beaming at his compliment, she glanced down, observing the rather traditional pattern of the kimono. She’d grown accustomed to seeing it, had thought of it as ‘typical’, but his observation made her view it, just for a moment, in the same light as when she’d first seen it in the store—as brand new and beautiful. It’s nice, she considered, to have good thoughts reinvigorated.

    “I was supposed to,” she said, gathering her quickly straying thoughts. “But I don’t think I have any idea where they are.” A frown made its way onto her face, and she checked the hour on her phone once more. It wouldn’t be entirely unlike those two to get sidetracked by something, but she hoped they hadn’t completely forgotten about her existence.

    “About that takoyaki,” she started, somewhat sheepishly. “Have you had it already? I was going to get some, but I don’t think I can walk it.” She laughed, already turning to reach for her purse. “Want to share? My treat.” She felt a touch of guilt for using him as a bread shuttle, but she hoped he wouldn’t be opposed to idea of eating with her.

    Kohaku stared at the mortal with no small hint of wonder in his gaze. Had he misheard his charge’s words? Had the too-few balls of takoyaki he had already consumed altered his mind and made him believe that Kaede was offering to share takoyaki with him? Surely, he was supposed to be the guardian watching over his charge, rather than his charge watching over the guardian. Regardless, Haku was all too willing to accept Kaede’s offer. He could still encourage her while snacking on the delicious treat, after all.

    “If you would hold my fish, I will bring you back as many as you wish.” He told the woman, glancing down at the aquatic animal swimming in tight circles in the bag. Haku felt compelled to explain, “I won him in the fish game.”

    “Oh,” she said, unable to fully muster the surprise she expected from herself. Of course he’d won a goldfish in the fish game for no reason other than to have a fish. It made perfect sense. “Yeah. Sure.”

    Not the strangest trade-off she’d ever done, but somehow odd nonetheless, Kaede reached out with one hand to take ahold of the fish while passing off her wallet with the other. “Get two! Wait. No, three. Four?” She paused for a moment, weighing her options. She hadn’t eaten all day, on one hand, so two takoyaki was certainly appealing. But she might fill up on takoyaki, and then she wouldn’t have the chance to eat any other festival food, and that would be nothing short of tragic. This was giving her a headache. She rubbed at her temple, brow furiously creased. “Ah, you decide. I trust your decision.”

    Haku took the wallet and nodded, his expression serious as Kaede spoke. He would decide, and he would decide well. With a quick nod, the guardian angel got to his feet. The crowds were thick, yet he was well trained in slipping through masses of people unnoticed. The takoyaki stall drew him in, his nose and stomach answering the tempting aroma of deep-fried octopus. The small family in front of him took their purchases, their young child bumping into Haku as they passed and offering the angel a brief insight into the little boy’s joy. Then, Haku’s own joy was doubling as he handed over money confidently to the cashier in exchange for four takoyaki.

    He bowed his thanks and returned to Kaede, holding the sticks of food in both hands with her wallet safely tucked in his pocket. “I decided on four.” Haku admitted as he rejoined his charge, holding out the delicious treats to the woman, “I hope that was alright.”

    Kaede felt jubilation rise in her chest at the sight of Haku returning with snacks in hand. Perfect,” she breathed, once he’d arrived.

    “Thank you,” she said, with a flash of a grin before biting into a ball of takoyaki with relish. She was glad he’d decided on four after all. Everything tasted better when you were hungry, and takoyaki already tasted incredible normally. Kaede saw a brief flash of what she was sure was heaven.

    “I like your fish, by the way,” she added around a mouthful of food. “He’s very pretty.”

    “What do you think I should name it?” Kohaku asked conversationally as he bit into his own takoyaki, the pleasure melting on his mouth. Wait until he bragged to Alucio and Seung that he had had more takoyaki without them.

    “Hmm,” hummed Kaede, already halfway through her first stick. “I’m bad with names,” she admitted, then paused, pursed her lips in thought. “How about… Sakana?” A moment passed before she laughed. She’d wanted to present a fully serious option, but nothing had come to mind, leaving her with “Fish” as her top choice. Haku would figure something out.

    A smile pulled at Kohaku’s lips and he nodded fake seriously at the suggestion, “If I get another fish I could name it another fish.”. ‘Another fish’, was probably not the best name for any hypothetical future fish Kohaku won at a festival or bought. Nor was ‘fish’ the best candidate, though he appreciated Kaede’s humour, and the laughter that erupted from her with ease. He took a bite of his treat, considering what else he might name the creature. “What about…”

    The words trailed off as Kohaku’s gaze fell upon a man standing in the crowd. He stood within the courtyard, swathed in old robes that didn’t look as out of place in the temple’s grounds today - the day of the festival - as they might have either side of the festival. Yet, even as families passed by, as the breeze picked up blossoms at his feet, he gave off the aura of being centuries in the past. Kohaku sensed the death in him, that he was not of this world any longer. He was a ghost, but no deceased soul had ever sent the same icy chills down his spine. No phantom had ever stared as unflinchingly at the guardian angel as this one was doing now.

    Haku did not know the soul, had no memories from before he had been welcomed into the ranks of guardian angels. Yet, he felt as if he should know the man; the middle aged, Japanese man whose eyes were hard and angry, but somehow reminded Haku of the sad eyes he saw every morning in the mirror.

    “Haku?” Kaede’s voice cut in, rife with concern. “You alright?” The kindly man’s face had grown somewhat distant in the last few moments, his expression taking on a rather melancholy quality, rather worrying given the suddenness of it.

    “I-...” Kohaku began, though he barely knew how he intended to finish the sentence. Instead his voice caught in his throat and the words stalled. His gaze slid from the familiar yet wholly unknown deceased soul staring him down, and fell on another. This deceased soul did not bare the eerie familiarity of the first, yet this deceased soul had a similar aura of malevolence. As Haku watched, the second reached out to a passing family and yanked on the hair of a young woman. The woman cried out, those with her spinning around to try and find her assailant. Except, that none save any immortals in the area (or those touched by fate to see more than the mortal realm), were able to see the hostile ghost.

    “I think we should leave.” Haku finally spoke, his gaze turning from the two deceased souls to the woman sitting beside him.

    Kaede opened her mouth to protest, but the lack of levity in his gaze stopped her short. She followed his line of sight to where he’d been looking moments before, and caught sight of several people stumbling forward, or leaning back suddenly as though they’d had their hair tugged. If she didn’t know better, she might be inclined to believe it the work of malicious fae. But is that what he’d noticed? And how?

    “What’s going on?” she said, turning back to face Haku, voice carrying the same sober tone he’d spoken to her in. “Do you see something?”

    “Trouble.” Haku answered vaguely, rising to his feet and turning to offer Kaede his hand. He wanted to get his charge out of the area as quickly as possible. He could sense one of his newer charges somewhere within the festival grounds, but he had to trust that the corrupted souls a few feet away were confined to this area of the festival. Besides, Ryan was a mortal capable of holding his own. No, Haku’s first duty was to make sure that whatever was unfolding, would not hurt the charge beside him.

    What? questioned Kaede, for what felt like the eightieth time in the last five minutes. Haku was strange for sure, but he’d never been this strange. Nevertheless, she reached up and grabbed ahold of his proffered hand. Odd as it was, Kaede felt a sort of calm around Haku, a quiet assurance that she’d be safe with him. “That’s not unclear at all,” she grumbled, struggling with her geta to take even, steady steps. She had no idea why Haku was in such a rush to get away from the area, but he seemed so grave, she hesitated to ask.

    Kohaku gripped her hand securely, supporting her as she stood and then ushering his charge away from the hostile souls. He could feel the first deceased soul - the one that reminded him of something - staring into the back of his head, yet when Kohaku glanced back over his shoulder, the first was nowhere in sight. Instead, the second ghost was wrecking as much havoc as an intangible being could, which was surprisingly more than any spirits he’d previously seen.