AUTHOR'S NOTE


I get they wanted to keep the game as docile as possible with as little violence as possible.

Maybe only magic violence. No blood spilled despite a character being stabbed.

Just let's say they went too far with that sentiment.

This short examines how things would've gone if Nicolai hadn't been an idiot in the Mt Fuji chapter.

Inspiration: My Demons - Starset


It had been one hell of a fight against Astaroth.

Despite the demon being weakened compared to his former glory, he still put up a lot of resistance. In the end, they'd beaten him anyway, with his host lying on the ground, pained but otherwise fine. Of course they should kill him. But everyone knew none of them would have it in them to murder in cold blood. Not even Yuri, who simply stood aside, watching his archenemy, lost in thoughts.

Karin wasn't as distanced. She seemed torn between staying where she was and checking up on the priest, utterly torn. Finally she settled with looking away.

When Nicolai came to, the first thing he wheezed was Karin's name. Unable not to react - hardly possible, after all, the man had admitted his love to her - she slowly moved in his direction, ignoring the warning growl of both Blanca and Yuri, stopping next to the white-clothed man. He breathed heavily and seemed to be in such pain. Maybe if she healed him, just a little.. maybe he'd finally stop this madness.. maybe even..

Nicolai smirked.

Then he quickly grabbed the next best thing available, which happened to be a broken off claw from his former demon self. If he was to die, he'd take her with him to god's kingdom. He lunged for her, heard her gasp, then his weapon met flesh.

But it wasn't Karin he'd hit. The red-haired swordswoman lay a few steps further to the right, staring unbelieving at Yuri who'd shoved her aside and consequently got hit by the stab instead, his left side being impaled by the poisonous claw. Nicolai was surprised at first, then grinned gleefully.

"Now I got you, Godslayer.. say your prayers, for you'll answer your creator soon!", he snarled, pressing the claw further into the man, who groaned and tried pulling back, only to sink to his knees. Growling, he looked up at Nicolai who feigned triumph, but when the blood-red eyes of his enemy stared right into his, every fiber of his body screamed at him to run, and run fast.

".. You wanna play with claws..?", Yuri then said, his voice almost eeriely calm. ".. I'll show you claws.."

Just in time Karin averted her gaze, when the man was pierced by the harmonixer's fist-mounted claws, from chest to back. A bloody gasp was all the priest could utter before his eyes went dim and his upper body limp. As he sagged to the hot floor, he was already dead.

Numb, Yuri pulled his claws free from the dead body of Nicolai Conrad and pushed himself to his legs, watching his deed, something close to regret flaring up for just a few seconds. He hadn't wanted to kill the man; but Nicolai had pulled one stunt too much. He'd tried to kill Karin twice now; there wouldn't be a third time. Yuri then turned to go, to join the others, made one single step in their direction, only to taste something iron before spitting a mouthful blood. For a moment he stared at the red liquid on his glove, then collapsed to the floor. Through hazy eyes saw Karin run at him, before everything went dark.


A moan in the air, the smell of dust and death.

It was dark alright, but another kind of dark. Not just the lack of light but as if something purposefully killed the light.

And he felt he wasn't alone. This was probably the most unsettling thing about being on the graveyard again.

He was supposed to be alone here - maybe with the exception of Jeanne and his comatose alter-ego up in the dead mistle tree - and what made matters worse; he knew these auras, these presences. And hated them, to the core of his being.

Because, well.. it wasn't that far from here to that core. Even if he wasn't exactly sure where he was this time, because this place didn't ring any bells. It wasn't the spacious old Graveyard from a few months ago (that one had disappeared in a nervesplitting migraine when Alice died) or even what had been left of it (the mistletoe tree wasn't in sight, nor any of the doors).. Just a plain, wide area of flat terrain, ground dusty and barren.

"Look, look, look who's finally awake..", a voice sneered and another added
"It's the foolish boy who thought he could escape us.."
"And he's worse for wear, too! I think he's ready to join us~", said a third and a fourth added
"No, let's just eat him. He doesn't deserve to be one of us"

Yuri stood - realising he'd woken up lying down, which was weird enough - and stared into the eyes, or more, lack thereof, of four creatures he had hoped were gone. Floating masks, which kept gibbering and snickering as he struggled to stay up-right. A blue fish, a green, horned lion, some weird yellow bird and a red tiki-mask were contemplating wether they'd eat him or not, hovering around him.

Yuri went for his claws only to realise they weren't there. Right. He couldn't use weapons here. His failed attempt made the masks laugh even louder.

"You can not slay us, puny human.. Even if you had the power", the lion purred and the bird scrawed (for the lack of a better word)

"I'm sure you remember your old friend.."
"Oh no he doesn't, he thought he'd beaten him back then, when that girl was around to mess things up!" Fish.
"You mean the girl who offered her life to us?" Bird again.
"Yes, that one. Delicious little soul.." Fish.
"What was her name again? Arriku?" Tiki.
"No, no, that wasn't it. It was Arisu.." Lion.
"Are you sure? I could swear it was..." Tiki.

Yuri growled. "Her name.. is Alice, you freaks.."

That got their attention. Though the four weren't as impressed as Yuri had hoped them to be. In fact, it did amuse them even more.

"Look, look, look who decided to join the conversation!"
"It's the boy who is gonna die now.."
"Let's eat him, let's eat him!"

Despite being weaponless, Yuri went into battle position. "Come on, I don't have all day.."

But right when they were rushing at him, he heard a voice.

~ Yuri..! Come on, wake up..! ~

Everything froze. If anything, the masks seemed displeased. Their attack halted, they saw their target smirk.

"Looks like we'll have to do this another time..", Yuri said, utterly pleased at this outcome, then turned to go, not caring where, just as far away from them as possible.. knowing he'd wake up in a few moments, by the way his limbs regained feeling as they always did when these sessions ended.

As he started walking, he heard the bird behind him.

"You will be back. Sooner than you think, boy. Then we will have your life."

"Yeah, right", Yuri spat back and welcomed the feeling of something heavy and warm.

He breathed out and the world slowly started to fall apart. But as it did, Yuri felt another being around - he turned to face that newcomer, but all he saw before everything blacked out was a pair of red eyes, white hair and a malicious grin.

x-x-x

Yuri had expected to wake up by now, find his friends standing around him, waiting for him to play down the fact he'd again randomly collapsed (well, maybe not *that* randomly for once), stand and move on.

The fact he couldn't see didn't exactly improve things.

So he hadn't woken up then. This weird shit wasn't over yet.. But here was nothing. Nobody.

He stood alone in the midst of black nothingness. Having nothing else to do, he started walking around. The ground beneath his feet splashed as if wet. A gooey splash, felt sticky. Oh god.

"Hey there, Yuri-boy", came a voice from behind, making him spin on his heels, fists in battle pose. For a moment he stared into the darkness, unable to make out the form of that voice's owner. Then the person - was it a person? - came forth, his appearance glowing in a weird, violet hue, matching his skin color. His hair white, eyes bloody red.

"Nox..", Yuri growled, instinctively stepping back, which amused the demon who just kept approaching. "W-what is it?! What do you want, huh?!"

"No need to put up a brave front~"

When said demon then rushed at Yuri, the harmonixer prepared for the impact - but when it hit him, the lights went out for good.


When Saki joined them, her expression was sad.

They'd brought the unconscious hero back to Inugami village, where his aunt Saki Inugami immediately had taken him under her tutelage. Now his limp body rested in the guestroom of her house, a cold cloth on his head, with the friends waiting outside for news. To everyone's relief, Karin stopped pacing and went to face the priestess. The older woman shook her head.

"I could stop the bleeding, but he's not waking up. It's the fever I am most worried about. I can not do anything about the poison either."

"No..", Karin whispered, stepping back, shaken by the news.

"Is there anything we can do?" It was Joachim, passionate as always.

"I am afraid not. There is no antidote against malice after all. He has to fight it alone, as such is the fate of our common blood."

Kurando looked away. He knew how nasty this aspect of being a harmonixer was. He himself might've only once ever reached the level where he'd have to face this bad energy, this negative influence, and got rid of it by meditating four weeks straight. He also knew that Yuri was different from him and somehow seemed to attract malice whenever he fought monsters. This was special, even amongst harmonixers. Still he felt for his cousin. This wasn't just any plain old malice either, not some lesser monsters being angry at you, but the hatred of a thousand year old demon. No wonder Yuri was out. Who knew what kind of nightmarish creatures would haunt him now.

His thoughts were distracted when Karin pushed past Saki, ignoring her protests, intend on going into the guestroom. Before she could finish her move though, the young swordsman had grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her back.

"Don't. Malice is contagious. If you go in there, you might end up dead."
"He is right, Karin.. please leave it to me. I can fight back against the dark force. Do not waste my nephew's sacrifice."

Karin fumed. "Don't talk as if he was dead already!"

With that, she turned, rushed past Kurando and the others, out of the room, the house. The last they heard of her was the front door being slammed shut.

Gepetto turned to follow her, but Saki raised her hand, stopping the old puppeteer in his tracks.

"She has a right to be angry. My choice of words was poor. I shall apologise later."
"Right.. Well then, what will we do until Yuri is back on his feet?"
"You have astonishing optimism", said Kurando with a raised eyebrow.
"And you underestimate him. He's been through more than that. If he was awake right now, he'd probably call it a cold or something!"

Everyone nodded. Yeah, that'd be exactly what Yuri would say.

So it was decided they'd stay here for a bit, helping out the villagers. Saki offered them to stay in the empty house on the edge of the village, as a kind of payment for their coming labor, which was gladly accepted. After all, there wasn't much else such a poor village had to give. On the other hand, neither of them was out for fortune and fame anyway. Each had their own reasons for being part of this journey. So it didn't bother any of them.

In fact, that house wasn't half bad. Just enough space for the six of them with a bed to spare for Karin, once she calmed down. Their sparse belongings found room in the large cupboards, there even was a kitchen and a bath. It was more luxury than any had had for over six months now.


Blanca wasn't so fond of this thing tho. He preferred sleeping outside. So while everyone made themselves at home, he went to look for their missing packmate. Her trail was easy to pick up. Not that she had a stench on her, but there was something typical about her scent that made it really easy to follow - if you had such a good nose as he, that is. Her trail pointed towards Sukune Fountain, so Blanca fell into a swift trot and stood before the cave in no time. No doubt, her scent was fresh and clear here, so the female must have gone this way, right?

He found Karin in the midst of the platform inside the fountain, just standing there, her back towards him. The wolf decided to get her attention and thus barked. Karin flinched and turned around quickly enough for her to lose balance and find herself sitting not much later.

"Blanca.. you scared me.."
"Awroh! Grr grr, whuff whuff, rrrrr~" (Hello! What are you doing here, fair lady?)
"Nothing at all.. just.. nothing..", Karin's voice trailed off as her eyes wandered to the crystal clear water around her. Blanca watched her, sat down and yawned. Karin smiled, but it was a sad smile.
"Why don't you go back to the others? I'll.. come later."
"Grrr.." (No.)
"Please.. I just.. want to be alone for a bit. Would that be alright?"
"Grrrrrr. Whuff." (No.)
".. what am I doing, arguing with a wolf.."

With that she turned her back on Blanca once again, laid on her side and tried ignoring the impatient whimpering. Only when she heard his claws click as he left, she looked over her shoulder, only to see his tail swish around the corner. A soft sigh and a smile, then she put her head on her arms and made herself a little more comfortable. All of a sudden, she felt so incredibly tired..

Was it a good idea to sleep here? Who knew.. who cared, anyway..

It didn't take long until she was dozing off.


Weird dreams plagued her.

The foreigner cemetary in Yokohama.
Kato.
All of them were there, but she couldn't make out the words spoken.
An earthquake.
Spikes shooting out of the ground.
Something large appearing out of thin air, the form of a large stone cylinder.
They would go there, all the way up.

A platform, falling apart everywhere. Lightning all around.
A decision she would have to make.
A consequence to bear, changing her life forever.
A painful departing, sadness and joy, all mixed up.
A broken promise.

Fear.

At last, Yuri gave her a sad smile, before being impaled by something. Dead.


Karin woke with a start.

Right away she was on her feet and ran out of the cave, her heart running faster than her legs. Rushing past Blanca who'd kept watch outside, she tried to get to Saki's home as fast as she could. Someone called her name, sounded like Gepetto. Irrelevant.

Fear.

She had to know if he was alright.

Fear.

What if he had died while she'd been away? She wouldn't forgive herself.

Fear.

As she ran up the stairs, she heard a woman scream, coming from the guestroom.

Fear.

A shockwave went through the air, stopping her in her tracks. It felt like back then, the first day of their journey.. Oh god. She dashed up the last steps, her hand on her sword, ready to draw. When she ripped open the door, she seemed to crash right into a wall. The malice in the air was so dense, so palpatable you almost could cut it. It had formed into a black fog, clogging the whole room.

Karin wasn't even in there yet, still she felt sick to the stomach already. And Saki was in there, in the midst of all of this.. She couldn't hear her anymore though. Had something happened? She decided to force her way through the miasma. If it could be cut, she would do so, come hell or heaven.

Cut.

She went through the barrier surrounding the room.

Cut.

Past a monster that had come out of nowhere, trying to jump on her.

Cut.

More monsters, the atmosphere changing dramatically.

Cut.

Realisation settling in. This wasn't the guestroom at all. Not anymore at least. Now she heard Saki again and a strange hissing sound, followed by an inhuman scream, a sudden light (of a weird, violently pink color), more screams from Saki and even Kurando, then silence. Only for a few heartbeats though, before the battle began anew. Karin ran towards the sounds, still incapable of seeing anything at all, save the dusty ground beneath her feet.

Then she did see.

Her heart stopped for a moment, only to resume beating with twice the speed. They were in a deserted area that wasn't unlike Yuri's graveyard, but somewhat different. It seemed more - dark somehow. Hopeless. Stained. And the creature attacking Saki and Kurando; it looked like a seriously distorted, warped version of the Yuri she knew. While he wore the exact same clothing, this Yuri had white hair, a sickly violet tinged skin, and a malicious smile on his face, as he fired another ray at Saki and Kurando. After this, the former had stopped moving and lay on the ground, unconscious, while Kurando held himself, but it became obvious he was at his limits as well, barely standing on his feet by this point. When he noticed her arrival, he blanched.

"Karin-dono, please run away! He has gone mad!"

While he called, a swift kick hit him flat in the diaphragm, knocking the swordsman down with a breathless cough. Then the creature that was both Yuri and not him turned his attention to Karin. His smile only grew wider.

"Look, look, look, what we have here. New company. Have you come to play with me?", the demon purred and slowly, oh so slowly, walked towards Karin, who backed off just a little, more out of a reflex than fear, her sword held in front of her, her eyes trying to project fearlessness - but her whole body shook. Not unlike a predator, the demon seemed to smell her fear and laughed as he stalked the amusing female. This would be nice to do the time - maybe he even could..

Someone rushed at him and he didn't even turn to send Kurando back to the ground, using a powerful wave of dark energy from his right hand. The swordsman groaned for a moment, then was out cold, much to Karin's horror. Now she'd have to face that monster alone..

"Yuri.. please wake up, it's me, Karin!"
"It's no use, little Karin. I am in charge now. Yuri-boy is stuck where he belongs. On the same dirty graveyard he locks me in all day and night."
"Who.. who are you?"
"You may call me Nox-sama, little red rabbit. I think I'll keep you as my pet or something. If you get my drift.."

He lunged for her, but Karin rolled off to the side, avoiding his - probably poisonous - claws, just to jump back to her legs again. Nox.. Yuri had told her of him, once in a silent minute. How that was the only fusion he really didn't like to use - cause it was hard to control, according to him. She saw now he hadn't overstated things; this Yuri wasn't sane. And for just a moment Karin was scared of him.

This fear made her react slowly; when he went for her neck, she only barely fell back which was too hasty to keep her balance on top of it. With a WHUMP she hit the ground, laying on her back, cursing.

Nox laughed.

Karin screamed.