9th Night: Through Different Eyes

Tetsuo Asakura's eyes shot open as he woke up from a strange dream, panting. He vividly remembered what he had seen in his slumber.

"Susano-o..." he thought. He had seen a deity in his dream. A deity that lived within him. He rose and stood up from his bed, ready to begin his morning routine, his head a jumbled mess of swirling thoughts, still yearning for order. Still pondering on the recent events, the amber-eyed youth headed to the kitchen, where his mother's voice brought him back to reality.

"Good morning, Tetsuo!" the woman gently called "Have you slept well?"

"Good morning, mom." the young man replied "Yes, I did. What about you?"

"Oh, I slept nice enough." his mother smiled, as they sat together for breakfast "Say, do you and your friends have any plans for Hanami?"

"Well… We're thinking of going out in the afternoon." Tetsuo replied, with a thoughtful expression "We still haven't decided about what we'll do, though..." Then, he turned his gaze to his mother "Why do you ask?"

"Well, I would like to spend some family time..." his mother replied, gently, while taking spoonful of her breakfast "So, I wanted to pick a time for it, and ask you whether and when you're busy."

"I see." the youth smiled, sheepishly scratching the back of his head.

"So, please, ask your friends if they're planning anything." the woman asked, in a more serious tone, but with a warm smile on her face "If they'll be gathering in the afternoon, you can always join them and come back to us in the evening."

"Ok, mom." her son nodded, with a smile. Eventually they finished breakfast, and Tetsuo, fully awake and perked up, stood up and stepped towards the door of the house.

"I'm off." he said, as he walked out, heading to the school.

"Take care." his mother called as he stepped away. It didn't take long for him to meet his friend, Ayumu Hirabayashi, on his way to the bus stop.

"Hey there, Tetsuo!" he cheerfully greeted him, patting his shoulder "How are you doing?"

"I'm doing fine." the youth smiled "What about you, Ayumu?"

"I'm feeling good! Weekend is approaching!" his friend replied, energetically.

"It almost sounds like you've got plans." Tetsuo replied.

"Yep!" Ayumu replied, with a huge grin plastered on his face "Say, want to go out and about in town Saturday?"

"Yes, I sure do!" The amber-eyed young man replied, without hesitation.

"Cool!" his energetic neighbor exclaimed "We'll be having some fun!"

"I wonder if someone else we know will have the same idea as us on Saturday..." Tetsuo mused "After all, the arcade is busiest on Saturday, and the streets are full of people..."

"True that." Ayumu replied, with a nod "Wonder if we'll bump into lil' Sanshiro again..."

"Maybe, who knows..." the youth concluded. Eventually, the two friends reached the bus stop, and, once their vehicle arrived, they entered and sat inside. As it had become usual for him, Tetsuo scanned for signs of abnormality, but then, once he knew everything was alright, he gazed out the window, focusing on the many thoughts swimming in his mind.

"I'll have to contact Enomoto-san as soon as I get home, and tell her about my findings." he thought "Also, now that I think of it, I can't help but wonder how S-san is distributing the Program… I'll have to ask him about that, as well… Not to mention, I still have Shibusawa-san to worry about..." He got back to reality as soon as he saw the familiar building of the Kichijouji Seijou High School from the window. Tetsuo and Ayumu stepped out of the bus and headed towards the gates, where their friends, Hideaki Miyahara and Izumi Murakami.

"Oh, hello, Asakura-kun, Hirabayashi-kun!" the latter greeted cheerfully, while her boyfriend smiled "How are you two doing?"

"Oh, we're doing fine, thank you!" Tetsuo replied.

"What about you two?" Ayumu replied "Got any plans for the weekend?" The third-year student couldn't help but chuckle and shake his head at his friend's excitement.

"You're already looking forward to the weekend, aren't you, Ayumu?" he commented, to which Tetsuo sighed and smiled in silent agreement.

"Well, nothing too different from usual." his girlfriend added "I bet he already does have plans."

"Eeeyup." Ayumu excitedly replied, with a nod "Just hanging out around town with Tetsuo here."

"What about you guys?" Tetsuo asked, scratching the back of his head.

"We don't know yet." Hideaki replied.

"But we'll most likely spend it together." Izumi added. Ayumu failed to hold back a snort, to which Tetsuo and Izumi blushed, and Hideaki narrowed his eyes in annoyance. Tetsuo's blush intensified and his friend immediately recollected himself. Both the upbeat youth and his calmer friend coughed embarrassedly.

"Sorry 'bout that." Ayumu quickly apologized.

"It's fine." Hideaki sighed, before turning his look to his amber-eyed friend "You should keep an eye on him, or else his rambling could get him in trouble."

"Hey! I resent that!" the energetic youth retorted, feeling offended, while his more composed neighbor let out an embarrassed chuckle.

"Yeah, I know what you mean..." he couldn't help but add, to which his neighbor immediately turned to him in indignation.

"What the hell, man?" he exclaimed, his tone lying in between angered and pleading "You're supposed to have my back!" Izumi and Hideaki failed to hold back amused chuckles at the youth's reaction.

A few steps away, Kyoko Shibusawa, who was witnessing the scene, unnoticed, let out an amused giggle as well. After that pleasant exchange, the students headed to their classes for the lessons of the day.

Instinctively, Tetsuo's eyes wandered around the classroom, searching for any signs of abnormality, while making an effort to keep himself as focused on the lesson as possible. Luckily, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. Lessons passed by quickly until lunch break came.

Once the bells rang, that was the amber-eyed student's cue to leave the classroom. Tetsuo's head was filled with swirling thoughts as he walked along the hallway of the school, by himself. His head was still attempting to grasp the situation he had found himself in.

"To think that not only I've been thrust in a world filled with demons, but that I have a Shinto god within me… And not just any god, either, but the god of storms… I did learn my way of moving around in this predicament, but that doesn't mean I'm fully used to it… What else should I expect? And what's more, what about my family and friends?" A shadow of concern appeared on his thoughtful expression "I can't help but think that they'll end up getting involved with this, sometime soon..." As he walked, he glanced out of the windows lining up along the hallway's wall, and he noticed something. A girl, sitting on a bench in the courtyard, gazing at a tree. Tetsuo recognized her from the pink color of her hair.

"Shibusawa-san?" he thought, as he got closer to the window, to get a better look at her, not forgetting that he was supposed to look for hints about her knowledge of the demon underworld, and on her intentions of acting upon it. His gaze shifted from the girl to the tree she was looking at, and he understood the reason rather quickly. There were four crows resting on the branches of that tree. Their heads were turning in an almost frantic fashion, as their red eyes scanned what was around them. One of them stopped the movements of its head, as its gaze seemed to pierce back into Kyoko's. All of this happened under the amber-eyed youth's gaze, of which the pink-haired girl seemed to be blissfully unaware.

"Hey there, Tetsuo!" A cheerful voice called, startling Tetsuo and prompting him to turn to the source. It was none other than his neighbor.

"Oh, it's you, Ayumu." he replied, as he relaxed.

"Hehe, sorry if I startled you." the carefree youth said, with a grin.

"At least you don't put as much effort into it as Murakami-san." Tetsuo smiled back.

"Heh, true that." his friend agreed, as he approached the window as well "What are you looking at, by the way?" he looked and saw Kyoko Shibusawa as well. She had not moved from the bench. "Oh, we speak of Murakami-san, and the one who gives her the goods is right under us..." Tetsuo stood silent, merely nodding in agreement with the undeniable statement. Ayumu continued "She's quite aloof… I can't tell if it's because she doesn't feel that confident with other people here, being a freshman and all, or anything else..."

"Well, we know that her passion for occult is genuine." Tetsuo added, gaining a nod of approval from his neighbor "After all, her most frequent contacts are with Kojiro and Murakami-san..."

"And you." Ayumu added, grinning once more, to which the amber-eyed youth flinched, blushing in embarrassment. "We could ask her to join the Occult club, sometime." he then observed, as he returned a tad more serious "You and Murakami-san are there, after all..."

"Good point." Tetsuo replied, with a nod. And so, the two friends walked alongside one another as they kept conversing.

"I can't help but wonder how far her passion actually goes, considering what she gives to Murakami-san..." Ayumu couldn't help but remark "I mean, where does she actually get the stuff? Does she make it or what?"

"I don't know..." Tetsuo answered with a shrug, hiding the thoughts over the matter that were forming in his mind.

"I know that she can see demons, as well..." he thought, also tracing his own experiences during the most recent days "And something like this makes everyone see the world with different eyes… It makes me wonder, when did she begin seeing them…?"

"Moving on..." Ayumu said "Are you and your family planning anything for Hanami?"

"Well..." his raven-haired friend briefly thought about the answer he had to give, putting his fingers under his chin, before looking at him and replying "We really should spend some family time on this occasion, especially considering how my father is away from home for a lot of time due to work..."

"It's fine, I get you." Ayumu said, reassuringly, before moving his gaze away thoughtfully "I mean, the same goes with my dad, and that leaves me in charge of the house more often than not..." Then, he looked back at his neighbor "So, what did you have in mind?"

"Well, it's not really official yet, and I don't want to put my hand over fire on it just yet, but..." Tetsuo replied "I think we'll be having dinner together in the evening, which leaves me free to join you guys in case you're doing anything in the afternoon."

"Gotcha." Ayumu nodded excitedly "We were thinking of hanging out together in Inokashira, on Sunday."

"I see..." Tetsuo mused, with a smile of relief, before adding "In that case, you can count me in."

"Amazing!" Ayumu exclaimed in excitement.

"Who else is coming?" his neighbor asked.

"Well, the two occult lovebirds, of course..." the slightly spike-haired youth replied "I'll ask Kojiro and the two newspaper lovebirds too, later on..."

"I see..." Tetsuo mused, before asking "Let me know what they say to that."

"You got it!" Ayumu assured, with his typical, cheerful grin.

In the meantime, as the two friends had left the window, Kyoko was still peering back in the eyes of the raven sitting on the branch, until a faint cry called her attention.

"Meow..."

Upon hearing that timid meow, the petite girl immediately turned her head away from the crow and towards its source, realizing that a black cat had found its way on top of the courtyard wall. She followed her impulse to get closer to it, as the crows flew away from the tree. The cat slightly flinched in caution as Kyoko approached it.

"Shhh… I won't hurt you." she gently said as she slowly got closer, and then began petting it. The cat purred in satisfaction under her caresses. However, as soon as it sensed someone else close by, it meowed once more and ran away, jumping down the wall. Instinctively, Kyoko looked at her side and saw one of her schoolmates.

"Oh, Soma Kojiro." she said, showing a faint smile.

"Something told me that I would have found you here, Kyoko-chan." the bespectacled young man replied as he approached her. "Looks like that cat has come here again..."

"Something tells me it's taken a liking to you..." Kojiro commented with a smile, prompting the girl to blush. "It always finds you when it comes here, doesn't it?"

"What can I say..." Kyoko sighed, as she came down from the wall, in front of him "I've always been drawn to what people tend to ignore..."

"Ah, I completely understand." the young man replied, with a nod of agreement.

"Say, Kojiro..." she asked, musingly "Have you ever wondered how they might see us?"

"About how what might see us?" the bespectacled youth replied, confusedly.

"Crows, and cats..." she replied "Has it ever crossed your mind, the thought of how it might feel to look through their eyes?"

"Hmmm..." Kojiro mused, as he began thinking about the topic "Not until now..."

"It could be refreshing, to look how a cat or a crow would look for once..." Kyoko said, raising her gaze to the sky "After all, they aren't impeded by those obstacles that hamper our movement… They're much freer..." The young man in front of her listened to her words.

"Well, to look through different eyes would be interesting in any case…" he then replied "I can't say surely about cats, but crows fly in flocks, don't they?"

"Hm?" Kyoko looked back at him, curious to see what his point was.

"Animals, as free as they might be, would be inclined to seek their fellows, right?" Kojiro explained, prompting the petite, pink-haired girl to put her fingers under her chin and think about the statement, before nodding.

"You're right." she smiled, to which the young man smiled back.

"It's for these reasons that people talk to one another..." he asked "Speaking of which, have you ever thought about joining the Occult Club? Tetsuo and Murakami-san would surely help you to move around..." Kyoko simply shook her head.

"I'm not one to join packs..." she replied "True, I enjoy talking with people who have my same interests, but I don't really need clubs to find such people. I didn't need to enter the club to know Tetsuo and Murakami-san..."

"Wouldn't it make it easier for you to at least look there?" Kojiro asked, once more. The girl had an answer, once more

"Only because there are more people to look at." she replied "I find it more meaningful to search on my own accord..."

"I see..." Kojiro murmured, thoughtfully, before smiling at her. Kyoko smiled back.

"This was an interesting conversation." she stated, to which her fellow student nodded in agreement.

"It really was." he replied, scratching the back of his head "I think I'll be heading back inside, what about you?"

"I think I'll still look around here." she calmly replied.

"Ok, then." Kojiro smiled, waving at her as he was on his way back to the school building "See you later!"

"Bye-bye!" Kyoko waved back with a warm smile, before raising her gaze back to the sky.

Meanwhile, the black cat that had enjoyed the petite girl's attentions, walked along the roofs of buildings which were adjacent to the school, until it found its way in front of a blonde-haired child, dressed in a purple dress and holding a teddy bear in her arm, which immediately crouched to pet the cat.

"Here, kitty." she smiled, as she petted the cat, making it purr once more. Then, the child rose back up, her amber eyes set upon the school, and upon a pink-haired girl who was looking at the sky.

"You know some really interesting people, Kyoko-chan..." she mused, patting her teddy bear's head, while the cat curled at her feet.