Chapter 7: First encounter

"It's spring. Winter had just ended and the sakura is starting to blossom. All is right in the world", the voice in the radio said inside Kai's room. 'Yeah, right…', Kai thought to himself as he lay in bed. There are demons everywhere, and the world is right? He does not think so. Then again, there are probably less than a dozen

people who really knows about their existence. Sighing, he got up and changed into his uniform.

He looked around his hovel. A bed, a kitchen sink, a bathroom, a computer on the floor and a fridge comprised his 'home'. It's the best he could do on a welfare budget. He lived alone, his parents having died many years ago in an accident he couldn't remember.

His hair used to be black, but trauma from the incident had changed it to white. He lived with his persona as long as he could remember. He, like Naoya, had turned to martial arts to control his mind. The results were a bit different, though. Kai became very withdrawn. He didn't talk much. Heck, he hardly ever utter a word. Except when with his friends, Stevan and Takeshi. They got along because they were persona masters, or users. The way they met was rather awkward too. Nevertheless, that's a tale for another time.

Kai looked at his alarm clock. 6.50. Time to head to school.

"Bye, Mom!", Mei shouted as she went off to school with her friends, Ami and Kanako. It's 6.30AM. 30 minutes before school starts. Her hair is tied back today. She walked leisurely alongside Ami and Kanako, talking about things that girls normally talk about, like the latest news in the pop culture.

"By the way, Mei…", Ami started.

"Huh?", Mei turned to face Ami, who's at her left side.

"What were you doing with Kai yesterday at the Sun Mall?", Ami asked.

"Oh, we just had lunch at the Peace Diners, nothing big", Mei replied.

"Nothing big? Are you sure? I never saw him doing that with anyone else besides his friends", Ami said again as they continued walking.

"That figures, he didn't talk to me the whole hour we were eating", Mei said again.

"Wow…How did you manage to live through that?", Kanako asked.

Mei looked at the sky. She contemplated on the question. She was busy eating at the time, and so was Kai. That helped with the awkwardness. Then she realized something.

"Wait….How did you know I was with Kai yesterday?", she asked Ami. Ami gave her a look that said 'hell, you should know'. Mei replied with a look of confusion. Kanako just watched.

"I go to the Sun Mall every Sunday to see my doctor", Ami said.

"Oh, yeah… You're a regular with the new doctor", Mei said. Ami had been going to a doctor who just moved into the Sun Mall a few months ago. He's said to specialize in improving overall health of his patients using unorthodox methods. So far, he seems to be successful. Some are still skeptical, but it doesn't hurt his business any.

"You should try it sometime, Mei. He's good", Ami said. They're right in front of the school gate with 5 minutes to spare.

"I…."

"Move it!", someone yelled behind them.

They turned around and saw a girl about their age. She's flanked by 4 men wearing black business suits, one of whom had yelled a few moments ago. They each had a small pin with the kanji 'Minakawa' engraved on it pinned on their collars. It's clear who they were. Yakuza. Mei and her friends quickly moved to the sides of the street, like the rest of the people around them.

The entourage continued on their way. They passed by Mei and had barely walked a few steps before they had to stop. Someone was in the middle of the street. He appears to be reading a book. Mei looked at the man and tried to put a name to him. It only took a second. The glasses gave it away. It's Takeshi. One of the yakuza began yelling at him to move out of the way. Takeshi walked on, seemingly oblivious to anything going on around him. The yakuza who was shouting finally gave up and walked up to him.

Takeshi turned to face the yakuza before they reached him and pulled out something black from his ears. The yakuza stopped and stared at him. He was wearing earphones, with jazz tunes coming out of it. Good excuse.

Takeshi looked nonchalantly at the yakuza surrounding him, then his eyes fell on the girl. He smiled slightly and waved at the girl, just enough to be noticeable. The girl waved back. Her name was Reiko Minakawa. Her father was Toshiro Minakawa, the head of one of the most influential yakuza organization in Lunarvale. She had seen the man several times before, in her house. They had never spoken to each other, but they caught glimpses of each other a lot. She usually see him with 2 other men, or boys.

"Leave him alone", she said to her men. They looked at her, questions in their eyes.

"But, Miss Reiko…", one of them said.

"That person was one of father's guests. Do you want to upset my father?", she said before the yakuza could say anything else.

Her men hesitantly complied and returned to her side, guarding her as she continued to walk into school. She bowed as she passed Takeshi. Takeshi returned the bow and waited for her to walk into the gates before continuing on his way.

"Ami…", Mei started.

"Yeah?", Ami answered.

"Where are you dragging me?", Mei asked. Ami was holding onto Mei's wrist and pulling her along the sidewalk leading to the Sun Mall. Kanako trailed a few meters behind.

"My doctor", Ami answered. They're almost at the entrance of the mall now.

"What for?", Mei said.

"You must be stressed from having to deal with Kai every day. He might be able to help you", Ami replied as she led them into a clinic located near the entrance to the mall.

"Well, not really…", Mei said.

Ami turned to look at her and said, "Oh, c'mon. He may seem harmless now, but remember that he is the most notorious kid in school with many connections to the yakuza circles around here. You might get involved too, if you're not careful" Mei hesitated and raised an eyebrow. NOW she's getting stressed.

"Here we are", Ami stated as they entered the clinic. She waved at a young receptionist seated in the middle of the small lobby. The receptionist smiled and waved back. They chatted for a while as Mei looked around the clinic. It looks pleasant enough. Mei felt something else, however. Something in this place felt wrong.

She felt something trying to attract her, but something else in her tells her to get the hell out of there. It's unsettling, to say the least. She only felt this kind of repulsion when she's in a cemetery, or places where people died, usually in an unusual manner. She reasoned to herself that there may be some patients who died in or around the clinic. Her right hand reached up to touch her left arm. She was not too surprised to find herself shivering.

Just then, the doctor stepped out of the diagnosis room. Ami and the receptionist both offered their greeting to the doctor. He's a thin man, probably in his thirties. He has straight, black hair, with short bangs, the length reaching down to his collar. He wore square spectacles. The eyes behind them looked gentle, soothing, like a father's. There's not much else to distinguish him from any other man on the street.

Ami spoke to the doctor for a while and then introduced him to her friends. Kanako shook his hand first, then Mei. She immediately wished she hadn't. All the feelings she had just moments ago suddenly piled up when she touched him. It's as if everything she dreaded about the clinic was coming from him, and there's a lot more where it came from. She could feel it.

Out of pure instinct and fear, she snatched back her hand and took several steps back. Her eyes were wide, and her lips trembled. Her friends looked at her, confused. The doctor didn't change his expression. He glanced towards the receptionist. The receptionist nodded and got out of the reception table. Mei took several more steps back. The receptionist took one step towards her. She bolted out the door.

"Mei?!", Ami shouted and ran after her.

"Mei!", Kanako followed suit. The receptionist began to run after them, but a hand on her shoulder stopped her. She looked back. It was the doctor. He shook his head and smiled. Not his usual pleasant smile, but the kind one might expect when a hunter found his prey.

"What was that all about?", Kanako asked, panting slightly. They had chased Mei for a block before giving up. They had no idea how fast she could run.

"Beats me…", Ami panted.

Mei ran until she reached the Augustus Park, where the big tree was located. It was dark by the time she got there There, she stopped to catch her breath. Her heart felt like it would pop out of her chest any minute, and her legs ached. She felt like fainting any second now. She leaned back against the tree and closed her eyes. She was crying when she ran. It was her fear. She wiped her eyes and began to think. That had never happened before. She might get some chills occasionally, but never outright repulsion like that. She tried to make sense of it, but decided that it would be best if she did it after some rest at home.

She got up from the tree and was about to leave when something struck her just below her throat. She was pushed back against the tree and the pain made her wince and close her eyes. Whatever struck her is now pressing against her throat. She opened her eyes. She saw a familiar figure, wearing the school uniform for St. Hermelin. His one scarlet eye that is visible stared at her from the parting in that curtain of white hair. Kai.

He was holding what looked like a slightly curved black stick. Upon closer inspection, Mei shivered. It's a katana, the lack of a hand guard making it look like a stick. Kai was holding it below the handle with his left hand, thumb facing towards him, and using the tip of the scabbard to pin Mei to the tree.

"I never would have suspected…", He said softly. Mei struggled to get free, but it was futile.

"Sus…suspected what?", Mei squeezed out the words. Kai drew the katana out of the scabbard, just an inch.

"Don't play dumb with me, demon…", he growled softly, dangerously.

"I…I don't know…what you're…talking…about!", Mei exclaimed. Kai's eye narrowed dangerously and he pressed the scabbard further into Mei's throat. She gasped and tried to protest. Her throat felt like it's on the verge of breaking, and it was.

Kai saw her reaction and used his right hand to brush away some hair from his other eye. Mei's eyes widened when she saw it. It was glowing blue. Not a bright glow like a lamp, but it's glowing nonetheless. After several seconds, he covered it up again. "I guess I was wrong…", he muttered softly. He removed the katana from Mei's throat and she slumped to the ground, coughing as she tried to resume normal breathing. Relieved, she began to sob quietly. Kai raised an eyebrow. He crouched down in front of her and lifted her chin.

"What are you crying about?", he asked in that soft, cold tone. Mei was stunned for a moment, and then she felt anger. She tried to slap him. He caught her hand casually and held it. He could feel her trembling. He sat down in front of her and let go of her hand.

"Explain", he said. She looked up. He was always an imposing figure. Not big, but something in him intimidates people. Tonight, she experienced a taste of why it was so. Now, as he sat across her, she didn't feel scared. She felt a quiet confidence from him instead. It calms her, somehow. Like the feeling someone gets after they're rescued. She began to slowly recount what happened at the clinic. The whole story took 15 minutes. Kai was silent the whole time. After it was over, he sat for another 3 minutes, contemplating silently. Mei fidgeted slightly, but didn't ask him anything.

Kai stood up and lifted Mei up by her arm. Her legs were still weak and she had to cling to him in order to keep standing. Under normal circumstances, she would have found the act embarrassing, something that will make her blush. Right now, it felt like the most natural thing to do. Kai took out a cell phone with his right hand, his left hand supporting Mei. He dialed a number, spoke softly for a while, then put it back into his pants. Without a word, he scooped her up, making her sit on the crook of his left arm, the way someone might carry a child. Mei put her hands around Kai's neck out of instinct as Kai began to walk to the edge of the park.

"Um…", Mei said hesitantly.

"What?", Kai replied, not looking at her.

"Where are you taking me?", she asked.

"Home", he replied, his voice taking a slightly irritated tone. She didn't dare ask him anything else.

The taxi came several minutes later. Kai helped her into the car. Before he left the car, he spoke to Mei. "Remember, do not tell anyone else about this", he said softly, and closed the door before Mei could say anything. He turned away from the car, but stole a glance at the cab driver. The driver grinned and lifted his hat a little, revealing some red hair and narrow eyes. He gave a small nod. Kai replied with a similar one and walked away as the cab began to move.

Kai sat in front of his computer. He's online, in a special chat room specially for him, Stevan, and Takeshi, where their communication is so heavily encrypted, not even government hackers can get in. The computer was a gift from Stevan. Kai used it solely for communication. Takeshi used it for research, besides communication, and Stevan used it for…well, everything else.

Kensai1(Kai): You here?

Cyber12(Stevan): Yo!

Supanerd4(Takeshi): What is it, Kensai1?

Kensai1: Don't call me that. I hate it.

Supanerd4: OK, Kai. What is it?

Cyber12: Yeah. We're usually the ones waiting for you. Whassup today?

Kensai1: You guys know about that new doctor in Sun Mall?

Supanerd4: Sure. What about him?

Cyber12: Why? You need beauty tips or something?

Kensai1: Cut the crap.

Cyber12: LOL

Supanerd4: Well? What about that doc?

Kensai1: I need some dirt on him.

Supanerd4: What kind of dirt are we talking about here?

Cyber12: Don't you mean mud? For beauty treatment?

Kensai1: I said cut the crap. I need some kind of history. Backgrounds, work ethics, family history, work history, anything. I want to see if he's got anything unusual to his name.

Cyber12: LOL

Supanerd4: Alright. When do you need it?

Kensai1: As soon as possible.

Supanerd4: Alright. I'll see what I can find.

Cyber12: What's the deal with the doc? He a demon or something?

Kensai1: Might be. I'm out.

Cyber12: Yo! Hey, wait a sec!

-Kensai1 is offline-

Cyber12: Damn…He just love to do that.

Supanerd4: Ain't his fault. You know he's not too social.

Cyber12: Sure I do. But he could at least explain what the hell is goin' on.

Supanerd4: I'm sure he'll tell us when the time is right.

Cyber12: Yeah right…

Supanerd4: I'm gonna do some research now. Seeya.

Cyber12: OK. I've got my own research to do.

Supanerd4: What kind of " research" are we talking here?

Cyber12: The usual, female physiology.

That's as much as Kai saw before he went to his bed and laid his body down, face up towards the ceiling.

It's been a long day for him. He had dinner with his friends, which was routine. After that, he just wandered around. That's when he felt Mei. Or rather, the demonic residue on her.

He recalled her story. Whatever she encountered didn't do anything significant to her. No raping, no possession, or anything of that sort. All it did was touch her. Yet, the residue left a strong enough impression to be able to track.

If his feeling is right, the demon is a strong one.

Stronger than the ones he has been dealing with lately, at least, but that's not saying a lot. Even Hanako, that toilet ghost, would fare better than them. In a way, it's a welcome change of pace.

He's getting bored fighting weak monsters.

Sorry for the incredibly late update. Life caught up with me and I need time to get back on track.