Nox laughed.

Karin screamed.

Like a hungry tiger he jumped for her - arms towards her, eyes glinting from desire, teeth bared in a silent grin; he was projecting more than just the want to spill blood, which chilled her to the core. Karin crossed her arms before her, seeking protection. Then, a loud BOOM, Nox flew to the side with a hiss, hit the ground, bounced once, rolled for a bit, then stayed down. The fusion dissolved into smoke, cursing under its breath. Karin looked from there to where the blast had come from. Kurando, or more his preferred fusion, the fox-like Tsukiyomi, hovered a few paces to her left, arms stretched out, panting. His work done, he landed softly and returned to his usual self - only to crumple under his own weight, strength depleted.

With a flash they were back in the guestroom. Karin sat up and looked around. Nothing had changed, except maybe for the fact they all looked as if they'd gone through hell - which wasn't all wrong. But even Saki and Kurando came to after a moment, wondering what had happened. Saki made one of her weird jokes after which Kurando gave her a strange look, then shook his head and helped the priestess up. Karin managed herself and walked over to Yuri who hadn't moved an inch from the bed. Not even the sheets had been disturbed.

It had all been an illusion, hadn't it?

"No. It certainly was real. I did tell you it would be dangerous..", Saki said behind her, startling the red-haired, offering a smile in apologise.
"It feels as if that was only the first round", Karin then said, lost in thoughts, her hand touching the sleeping harmonixer's forehead. It almost burned her hand.
"Your perception is sharp. Yes, this may have been only the first of many waves. There is quite an amount of malice in him.. Other people would have died from this. Maybe it is his frequent encounters with it that built some resistance in him. This may very well have saved his life. But it might cost ours in turn. Yuri has many monster souls inside him, some of them more dangerous than others, more instable you might say. And with this dreadful curse on him.."

Saki sadly shook her head.

"I am afraid, Karin-san. I certainly do not want to, but if he wakes and attacks us right away, I will have to kill my nephew. If his soul has been devoured by his inner demons, he himself will be nothing but a monster. A very dangerous one, too. I can not risk the lives of the villagers."

"I understand.. but he won't do that. He's Yuri after all, he won't let himself be beaten by them!"

"Let's hope you are right. How am I ever to face my brother if I kill his son?"

"I will watch him. You two go and rest", said Kurando, seeing the conversation was over. The women looked ready to drop, both Karin and his mother.

"Thank you, Kurando. You take care of yourself, and don't take any unneccessary risks, you hear me?"
"Yes, mother.."
"If you have to, bind him. You know how."
"Yes. I understand."
"Good. Karin-san, I trust you will find your way to the others?"
"I think so.."
"Then be on your way. Thank you for supporting us."

Karin nodded, copying the priestess' smile with her own, then made her way down the stairs. This time, the door fell shut softly.


When Yuri woke, he felt like a train had ran right into one ear, wasted what was between both and exited to the other.

Sitting up didn't feel like such a bright idea, so he just stayed down. While speaking of bright; why did this damn light have to burn through his eyes right into his trashed brain anyway?

A shuffling sound averted his attention from his limitless self-pitying and made him focus on the only other person in the room, who stood leaning against the farthest wall, arms crossed, head dipped down, seemingly asleep. He had moved just a little, but it had betrayed that the man was on edge. This slight tension in every muscle gave it away. The way he tried not to attract attention at all.

"... I know you're there, Kurando..", Yuri then sighed, leaning back into the pillows.

"You could sense me? You must be on the path to recovery then."

"Not much to sense when someone stares at you as if you'd bite them any moment.."

"Which is not so far from the truth.."

Even now, Kurando seemed cautious. Somehow Yuri knew, if he made one wrong move, he might end up at the pointy end of the man's katana. As for the why; he didn't have a clue. Last thing he knew; The volcano. Nicolai. He'd been stabbed and fainted. His lack of understanding puzzled the swordsman, who then slowly lowered his guard, as it didn't seem as if he'd have to defend himself in the immediate future.

"You don't remember?", he then ventured, gaining an almost annoyed look from the other.

"Bite me."

"No need to be rude now.. I simply want to know if you are aware of what happened earlier."

"Yeh, that sorry excuse for a priest-.."

"Not that. Later than that."

"What?"

"So you don't?"

"Stop talking in riddles. Not in the mood for games.."

"That's a problem then.. If are unaware, you may be unable to control it.."

"Control what?"

"We were fighting one of your monsters. It named itself Nox and came very close to seriously hurting my mother. And Karin."

At that, there was no reply. Also, Yuri seemed to have paled considerably and avoided the other's gaze.

"What is it?", Kurando asked when minutes had passed and his cousin still hadn't said a thing.

"Can you.. leave me for a moment?"

"I am afraid no. My duty is to watch over you - and you."

"Not saying it again."

"Neither. You are in no position to make demands right now. It would be best if you rest for a while until Saki-san returns."

"Or what? You gonna knock me out?"

"If I have to.."

"Tch.."

Yuri turned his back on Kurando, who only frowned, but didn't say anything further. The swordsman leaned back against the wall, his eyes fixed on that weird relative of his, as he went through the events once again. After Yuri had fainted, Kato had approached them. Told them he'd wait on the foreigner cemetary. What had the old man planned? Was it a trap? Then again, why lay a trap when he could have finished them right there at Mt Fuji? Was it because he himself was too weakened? Was there anything else they'd overseen? Should they really go to see Kato? Then again, he didn't seem like a man to pull such backhanded tricks as Sapientes Gladio. If he wanted them all dead, he could've done so a lot of times already.

When they'd seperated outside of Mt Fuji, he'd taken the mutant apes with him, none of them in good condition. In fact, Two of them looked more dead than alive. The female, Ouka?, had been best off and even had supported her master when he'd stumbled. Somehow it had felt as if she shouldn't have been able to breath at this point, but Kurando had put that feeling off. Just his imagination anyway. Weird enough..

Kato would be out of commission for at least three days, maybe four. Until then they'd have time to decide what to do. Wether to go there and risk getting sucked into an alternate dimension again, or stay here and let him do his thing, whatever that was.

It would feel good to rest here, just for a bit. Be at home, just for a little while. He'd make sure they all were safe - no matter what.


"She hasn't said a word" Anastasia.
"I wonder what happened.." Joachim.
Let's give her some time, eh, shall we?" Gepetto.

The friends looked over to their depressed companion-slash-redhead. Karin had spent the day helping the villagers with the others, caring for rice, cattle, leaking roofs. She'd done all that with that blank expression on her face. And, indeed, without one single word about the events. Shock one might call it. Before Kurando and Saki, she'd played it down. So Yuri attacked her, almost killed - or worse - her, what about it?

It hurt.

While she knew perfectly well it hadn't been him, she felt almost betrayed. The rational part of her mind knew it wasn't fair, judging him for something that probably was out of his control - he'd never let this happen -, knew also that she hadn't been the only or even the first one, nonetheless it still hurt. And that made her silent. She wanted to come to terms with these feelings herself, not bother anyone else with them. Consequently, she'd started retreating into the proverbial snail house, avoided direct eye contact, seldom spoke. By now, it was late evening and she sat in a corner, hugging her legs, staring at the floor, hearing the others talk but not really listening. Wondering how he was doing. If Kurando had bound him.. whatever that meant. Likely nothing pleasant.

Somehow, from somewhere, she suddenly had the image of Yuri in her mind, all tied up like a package, cursing while Kurando sat somewhere nearby, eating a rice cake, drinking tea.

She heard someone giggle, found it was her own voice, and almost immediately she had all eyes on her.

"Hey look, she's back!", grinned Anastasia, always perceptive. "Told them you'd be fine!"

Karin tried to smile, but felt something wet roll down her cheek. She wiped it away, only for it to be replaced by another. What the, she didn't want to cry, so why..

"There, there. It's alright, girl. Let it all out, will ya?"

Gepetto gave her a reassuring pat on the back that didn't do anything to stop her tears, then shoo'ed away the others, mumbling something about privacy. Once they all had either retreated to a remote corner or gone outside, the old man flopped down near Karin, just silently waiting for her to calm down.

For a few minutes, this would be the only sound heard and when it finally died down, the silence was really uncomfortable; to say the least.

"You know..", Karin then began, her voice still cracking up here and there. "I d-didn't want to scare the others.."
"No, no, that's alright...-"
"Not that.. They shouldn't know... you know.."
".. it's about Yuri, isn't it? Something happening to him, hm?"
"Yeah.. I'm afraid he becomes a monster.."
"Oh, don't worry about that."
"I wish I was so optimistic as you..."
"Just believe in him. He won't just give up like that."
"But.. they way he was.."
"Certainly wasn't him at all. Trust me, he will find a way to get over this."
"But.. what if he doesn't?"
"Then we will put him out of his misery"

Karin stared at Gepetto, whose look had considerably darkened with the last sentence. He looked straight at her, serious.

"As his friends, that's our duty. He wouldn't want us to let him rampage and destroy everything. If he loses his mind, we need to stop him, no matter the cost."
"Gepetto.."
"But", he grinned now. "this won't happen. Ever. He'll pull through."

Karin felt herself smile at this and turned to look at her feet. Gepetto just laughed.

"There, that's better. Laugh and trust in him."

Another gentle pat on her shoulders, then the old puppeteer stood - albeit with creaking bones and joints - and went to join the others outside. Karin waited for a few moments, then raised as well, intending on apologising for her attitude. But right when she was about to touch the door, she heard a bone-chilling scream, a loud crash from the outside, then the door was ripped open. It was Gepetto, a look of horror on his face.

"Karin, it's Yuri!"


Kurando groaned and pushed himself to his elbows.

What the hell..?

One moment everything was fine, the next he'd been blinded by a red glow. The next after that, the room was in flames and completely wasted, with him on the floor, every bone and muscle pure pain.

Yuri was gone, just like that. Slowly making it to his legs, Kurando realised his chances of fighting weren't exactly well. He even doubted he'd be able to catch the guy, let alone subdue him. Could he even stop him? He tried taking a step forwards, only to crumple with a hard THUD and a curse word he didn't even know he knew. Another try with his trusted katana as a crutch turned out better and somehow he even made it down the stairs, dropping down on the last step, coughing from inhaling too much smoke but grateful to be safe for now. The fire hadn't spread yet, so there were chances to save the house. If he just could move ... He closed his eyes for just a moment to gather his energy.

"Kurando, are you okay?!", called someone from the front door. That voice.. Anastasia?!

Unwilling to let her see him in this state, he started to stand up, only to have the world tilt before his eyes. Next thing he knew, the wall nudging against his shoulder, harsh and choking breaths escaping his lungs, every one inhaling more smoke. When had the fire spread this far?! He shook his head to get rid of the growing dizziness, but only succeeded in making it worse. When he took a step forwards, he'd almost fallen, hadn't it been for the wall's continued support. Damn it all, he couldn't even concentrate enough to fuse.. It would be easy getting out of here with Tsukiyomi's help. He slowly crept forwards, always leaning against the wall.

Anastasia seemed to wait, watching his every move, unable to help due to her small size,. He tried smiling to encourage her, but that only made her more nervous. Another breath brought so much smoke with it he found himself on his knees again, coughing until his eyes teared up. Anastasia called his name, but it sounded incredibly blurred. She even took his hand, trying to pull him back up, but all his strength was gone.

"Please.. flee..", he coughed, then fell on his side, unable to keep himself upright any longer. The girl cried out, shook him, then called for someone. Shortly after, heavy steps came running at them and two powerful arms took him up. The scent of grave dirt and bats hit his nostrils.

"Do not worry. The grand papillion is there to save the day!", the man proclaimed and started running. Anastasia muttered something that sounded like "Stop with the introductions and hurry up!", before passing by them in a blue-white blur. From there, Kurando didn't know what happened anymore.

x-x-x

Saki sighed.

"It is only a minor smoke poisoning. He will be fine", she said to everyone who'd gathered around Joachim and Kurando, who hadn't moved anymore, completely out. Relief washed over the group.

"But.. it seems our worst fears have proven true."

At that, there was no reply. Karin averted her eyes. Gepetto pulled his head as far down his forehead as he could. Saki noted this, nodded and further said

"I as the leader of the Inugami clan shall take full resposibilty for this. No one but me is to blame for what has happened here tonight. Anyone hurt shall receive retribution for their troubles."

The servants smiled. They hadn't expected less. But the leader wasn't done yet.

"Furthermore I, Saki Inugami, shall hunt the demon who did this down and punish him for his deeds. By my honor as your leader, this will never happen again."

At this, Karin felt her chest tighten on her. She stared at Saki, begging her to laugh and tell everyone it was a bad joke. But the female fusionist was dead-serious.

"Karin", she began, when said woman turned to go and stopped in her tracks. "Please come with me. You might be the only one to stop this madness without bloodshed."


Yuri was scared.

Not of the monsters around him.

But of the ones inside.

More exactly; one of them. The one sitting across him, grinning wide.

Nox.

They were back on the graveyard. Before the demon could take their common body too far away, Yuri had knocked him out; with a little help from Jeanne. Now, with nobody to control it, his empty shell probably lay prone somewhere in the midsts of nowhere. Anyway, better than having Nox run free.

So he'd sat down in front of the gate, arms crossed, preventing Nox from even coming close to the conscious part of their mind. The demon found this amusing and hadn't made any attempts at gaining control by force.

Jeanne on the other hand didn't like this whole setup and wished it'd end. But neither Yuri nor his dark twin moved. Yuri, because he knew that Nox would seize the chance while the gate wasn't guarded and Nox; being cautious. The demon realised that attacking the host mind wouldn't do him any good.

But.. he also knew Yuri had chosen the worst possible moment to knock him out. If this kept up for much longer, it would only be a matter of time until either some nasty monsters found and ate their body or it'd die from dehydration. He let his alter-ego know that with a grin and almost laughed at the stoic stare he got in return.

"Listen, boy", the demon then said. "If you let me pass, I will take us back to Inugami Village. I had my fun."

"Bite me."

"Oh, shall I? Are you afraid what happens when we show up there now?"

"..."

"That's rich. The mighty godslayer is afraid of a mob of angry villagers.. just eat them, like these soldiers back in Domre-..."

"Shut up, will ya?"

"What does he mean, Yuri?" Jeanne grabbed his arm, her big eyes looking up at him. He tried ignoring it.

"Don't listen. He's talking bull."

"Bwahaha.. yeah, right. You've always blamed Amon for this, haven't you?", Nox cackled and moved a bit closer, which had Yuri right on edge again. "Maybe I should tell him? Let's see if he still keeps the curse at bay when he knows.."

"Bite me."

"So fierce.. now listen my boy. I will now go through this gate and you will get out of my way."

"Or what?"

"I will make you."

"Oh yeah? Make me."

The ground shook when a mighty shadow landed between Nox and Yuri. Jeanne squeaked and hid behind the letter, while Nox only stood and stepped next to Amon, for it was the mighty god of wrath. Even with the few facial expressions available to him, he didn't seem pleased.

"Amon.. I trust you listened on our little conversation?"

The black-winged monster didn't reply. Instead his mighty claw gripped Yuri by the collar and pulled him up, threw him half across the graveyard, with power against the mistle tree, then cracked once, twice before the monster approached its host who scrambled back to his legs.

Amon's eyes glowed with a malicious red.

Nox on the other hand waved good-bye and vanished through the gate, ignoring Yuri's demands to stop, which were cut short when Amon landed another hit.

x-x-x

The forest was docile, for the fact it was supposed to be filled with evil, blood-thirsty monsters. Beginners, Nox grinned. Flexing the muscles of the body he claimed as his own for the moment, he took stock of his surroundings. Well, no town in sight. No monsters either. Only trees, more trees and – oh – another set over there. He even had dropped on a clearing, in bright moonlight.

Well, monsters weren't as dumb as people deemed them to be. They knew by instinct whom to attack and which prey would be rather unpleasant. Seemed he belonged to the "not preferred" category. Just as well. First thing he'd do was to wipe that pesky village from the face of earth. Then, as a little time-pass, send his host's little friends to the afterlife. Maybe he'd spare the little red bunny. This body felt like it seriously needed some worldly pleasure..

Laughing gleefully at the protesting voice inside his head, he walked back towards the village – following an inner compass which he'd hidden just out of Yuri's reach. There was a reason the man couldn't find his way if his life depended on it after all.

If it wasn't for the headache, he could've entertained himself quite well. But since Amon had decided to play ball with that boy, he couldn't do much about it. Even if he was in control now, that didn't mean the body wouldn't feel the pain of its soul. And what a pain. He only could hope Amon did not plan on killing the boy, since the demon wasn't sure about the consequences. At the very least, Yuri bound all of them in this shell. If that binding was gone, who knew what would happen to them afterwards.

It wasn't as if he feared hell or something, this silly thing humans invented to scare their children into obedience. There was worse fates. Drifting around in the ether for example. Waiting until another harmonixer passed by and collected your sorry soul. With them going extinct, this wasn't likely. So you'd drift for a pretty long time. Hopefully Amon remembered that, while he tortured their host.

Then again, Amon had never been like them others in the first place. He'd been the only one to ever possess his own body, not depending on some human flesh. In fact, that guy was powerful enough to make soul pacts with the most arrogant humans. Like that Albert Simon guy. The one who was dead now.

Good riddance.

x-x-x

He'd just crossed a river, when a distinct feeling made him stop.

Yeah, something was definitely off here. It almost reeked of magic here. This overly clean smell, like the wind just before a thunderstorm. Probably a trap, or a barrier field he might run into and burn to a crisp. A decent hum in the air, coming from one pace in front of him. The demon decided to take a risk and stretched his arm out, one finger pointed forwards.

A spark when he touched the barrier, the tip of that glove's finger was gone. Close. If he'd been just a little careless, this might've ended nasty. Not that he didn't like nasty, usually. But this was just one too much, even for him. So in order to avoid getting toasted, he made a large round, always listening to where that sound was. Triumph when the barrier was behind him and his path was clear. So much for that, heh. No time for getting cocky, which irked him. If there was someone after his hide, they wouldn't just throw one of these in his way. There'd be more, a lot more. Probably less easy to spot, as well. He'd have to stay on his toes; merely a bother, really, but a bother nonetheless.

Another exploding headache sent him to his knees.

"Would you mind, AMON!?", he growled, holding his white-haired skull, teeth bared. For a moment or two, the pain was gone and he stood, planning on moving on, literally and in-a-manner-of-speech.

When he fell a second time, he found himself back on the graveyard.