"Hurry up mother; we're going to be late for school!"
Nagihiko was standing at the front door of his house, his arms crossed over his chest as he tapped his foot impatiently. His mom, having had such a strong love for Rima's hair all these years, had taken it upon herself to try out pretty much every hairstyle imaginable on the blonde. So far this morning he had seen her with ponytails, buns, and with the incredibly surprising straight hair. (Nagihiko had decided Rima looked better when it was curled).
He sighed, leaning against the door frame as he waited for Rima to appear. Although this was a little annoying, it was probably distracting Rima, and that had to be a good thing.
He wondered how she must feel about all of this. Her mom had been killed, her body vanishing into thin air, and her father was out of the country, unable to be contacted. How would it feel to know both of your parents had left you, that you were all alone?
Nagihiko didn't really want to think about that, and was saved from doing so by his grandmother approach.
"Good morning, Nagihiko-kun."
"Good morning, grandmother," Nagihiko said, bowing his head out of respect for the elderly woman.
His grandmother was a strict and opinionated woman, one that took no nonsense from anyone. And, since Nagihiko had abandoned his family's tradition of cross-dressing, he wasn't in the greatest standing with her.
"You have been behaving horribly as of late," the old woman said, her face emotionless as she stared him straight in the eyes. It gave of a weird feeling; she wasn't mad, but yet there was something in her expression... what was it?
Nagihiko frowned. "Is this about me choosing not to dress as a woman?"
The woman shook her head. "No, no. It's not that."
"Then what is it?"
The old woman sighed, as though Nagihiko was purposely making this difficult for her. But what was he supposed to have said? As far as he could tell, he had been behaving quite well lately. "You have forgotten the past."
"The past?" Nagihiko was confused; he was pretty sure he had a good enough memory to remember the past. What was she talking about? History, as a whole? Or something related to him?
"If you forget it, it will consume you."
"Consume... me?" Nagihiko froze, not sure why those words struck a chord in his head. He shook his head slightly, frowning as he tried to concentrate.
He had forgotten something, hadn't he? What was it? He couldn't think; it was like smoke was filling his mind, heavy smoke from roaring fires.
What was it?
"Let's go now before she changes her mind again."
Nagihiko blinked, turning to see Rima rapidly approaching with her hair pulled back into two long braids. She was scowling as well, no doubt unhappy with the abuse her hair had just received.
Nagihiko turned back to his grandmother, who looked as disinterested as ever. "Remember this time, and don't be stupid again."
But his grandmother was already leaving, and it didn't look like she was going to say anything else on the matter.
"Ha, even your own grandmother thinks you're stupid," Rima laughed, slipping on her shoes after stepping around the shocked boy. "That's saying something."
"For such a pretty face you've sure got a rude mouth," Nagihiko frowned, but deciding to let it go because of everything that had happened the day before. "Your hair looks really nice like that."
Rima's face turned the faintest shade of pink as she scowled up at him. "Don't flirt with me."
Nagihiko laughed, slipping on his shoes as well as Rima opened the front door. "As you wish."
"Are you quoting the princess bride?" Rima asked suspiciously, a scowl growing on her face.
Nagihiko laughed again, and didn't answer as he walked past her and out the door.
He didn't really intend to quote the movie (and he sure as hell didn't expect Rima to be familiar with it at all, given as it was an English movie) but maybe it was kind of fitting.
Maybe his "as you wish" really did mean "I love you."
At school that same day, everything was surprisingly normal.
Well, as normal as Nagihiko and Rima showing up together (causing a major scandal amongst the students) and not fighting about something, and as normal as an incredibly hot older man walking towards the school at Tadase's side (that would probably cause a major scandal as well).
As the two boys approached the school, earning many covetous glances from the female population, Ikuto let out a small chuckle. Tadase gave him a curious look. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing… I just haven't seen her in a while," Ikuto said, smiling softly. For a moment Tadase was confused, but then he looked ahead of them and saw Amu walking several feet in front of them.
"Oh." That was true; what had it been, three, four years? "Well, she'll be happy to see you."
"I hope so," Ikuto muttered, and even though it wasn't an easy thing to read from Ikuto, as he was so good at keeping a calm front, Tadase could tell he was a bit nervous.
"Don't worry; she talks about you all the time," Tadase reassured him. Ikuto gave him a small smile before walking ahead, towards the pink-haired girl.
Tadase slowed down his pace, smiling as Amu let out a shriek, spinning around rapidly to yell Ikuto's name. Tadase half expected her to throw her arms around him, but instead she just turned away and crossed her arms over her chest, blushing fiercely all the while. Tadase laughed; he hadn't seen her "cool and spicy" act for awhile.
"Ikuto's back?" Tadase looked up to see Kukai standing there, grinning happily as he held his bag over his shoulder.
"Yeah; he showed up at my house this morning," Tadase replied, turning back to the other two.
"Utau's gonna flip out, that's for sure," Kukai laughed, imagining his girlfriend's response to her brother's return (even if she didn't love him anymore, she would still be pretty excited about it).
"Yeah," Tadase said softly, his tone drawing the brunettes eyes to his face.
"Dude, are you okay?" he asked, his green eyes furrowing in concern. Tadase looked puzzled for a moment, before he realized the scratch on his face.
"Oh this? Not its fine. I just-"
"No, no not the scratch…" Kukai muttered, shaking his head, "Your expression was a little off; you look kind of sad."
"Do I?" Tadase asked, his voice sounding almost thoughtful. "Hm, I wouldn't know why; there's nothing to be sad about."
"Maybe sad's not right… what's that word? Oh yeah, nostalgic," Kukai said slowly, thinking it over carefully. He nodded as Tadase turned away, scanning the yard.
"Have you seen Fujisaki-kun and Mashiro-san yet?"
"Nah, although I have heard the rumors that they're shacking up. I suppose those are kind of true, though," Kukai laughed, before breaking off. His voice dropped to a whisper, forcing Tadase to lean closer to him. "Although I am very worried about her; that's not an easy thing to witness. And if what Sanjo said is true…."
"Yeah," Tadase nodded, taking a moment to glance over at Amu and Ikuto, the former waving her arms around crazily, before speaking once more, "I think we should be especially careful."
"Yeah, you're right," Kukai nodded, a deadly serious look on his face for the first time in a very long time. "I was thinking about it, and I wondered if maybe Mashiro might not be the only one the monster is after."
Tadase's eyebrows furrowed at Kukai's unexpected declaration. "Why do you think that?"
"Well, who would have a grudge against Mashiro of all people? All she does besides stay at home is hang out with us, and she's never by herself," Kukai explained nonchalantly, giving the blond a small shrug, "Besides, with guardian characters, anything supernatural is probably linked to us."
"Well, yeah. I mean, that thing that killed Mashiro-san looked like a corpse. Would you ever see anything like that walking around normally? There's no way something unnatural isn't going on right now."
Tadase wasn't sure how to respond to this suggestion, but he was saved from doing so by the bell ringing. "I think we should all meet up after school to talk about this."
"Yeah," Kukai nodded, before beginning to walk towards the school. "For now, I'm gonna go with zombies."
"Zombies..." Tadase murmured, letting out a small chuckle; only Kukai would come up with something that preposterous.
As the two boys passed by them, Amu broke off from her conversation with Ikuto. "I'll see you after school."
"Yeah, see you," Ikuto said with a grin. For some reason, seeing his two best friends talking so nicely to each other made Tadase's stomach drop.
"Hey, we're all meeting after school," Tadase quickly said before the older man could leave, "Why don't you come and meet up with us?"
Ikuto cocked an eyebrow, but otherwise didn't show any surprise on his face. "Sure. See you then, kiddie-king."
And Tadase should have been mad at that nickname, but he couldn't bring himself to be. Instead he just turned around and walked inside with his other two friends.
Maybe they thought she needed cheering up, but Rima wasn't sure why everyone (including Ikuto, for some absurd reason) had decided to hang out after school. It was stupid, she thought, that they thought eating ice cream and window shopping would make her forget her mother's death.
Well, maybe it did help a little bit, especially when Kukai fell head first into the trash can and the stray dog chased Ikuto up a tree, but really, it didn't help help feel all that better. Every time Rima closed her eyes all she could do was picture her mother, alive and smiling, and how she would never see her like that again.
Rima would never hear her mother's voice again, would never get scolded for spending too much money on gag manga...
Suddenly, the chocolate ice cream she had ate earlier was not cooperating with her stomach one bit. She took a few deep breaths, telling herself that throwing up in a trash can was definitely not a proper thing to do, and tried to count to ten.
Calm down, calm down, she told herself. Off and on since it happened Rima had been getting hit with waves of remorse and nausea, and all she could do was try to calm herself down. There was no way she was letting Nagihiko see her cry; she couldn't cry now.
She had to pretend she was fine.
She was fine. She was fine. She wasn't-
There was a sudden presence on her back, something warm that she nearly immediately recognized as a hand, patting her gently. Rima looked up, a bit surprised, to see that the hand belonged to Nagihiko.
He didn't look at her or say anything, but instead just moved his hand back and forth. And that was maybe what Rima needed.
Two days ago she would have shrugged him off, or yelled some sort of insult at him, but now all she could do was stand there. Because it was comforting. It was something her mother would have done for her, but she supposed she'd never feel that comfortable presence ever again.
Maybe, if Nagihiko was here, Rima would be alright. He had saved her life once, he could probably do it again.
Really, he wasn't half bad.
Not that she would ever tell him that.
"So wait a second," Ikuto asked as the group walked around aimlessly, trying to waste their time, "I didn't catch why blondie is staying with Nagi."
Oh great, just as she was beginning to feel better, too.
"Oh, well, Rima's mother was killed yesterday," Amu whispered, leaning in towards Ikuto (not that it did any good; Rima could still hear her) "And the thing that killed her tried to kill Rima was well."
"Thing? Don't you mean person?" Ikuto seemed skeptical of the whole situation.
"No, I don't know what that thing was, but it definitely wasn't a human. I think it might be a zombie," Kukai shook his head as he crossed his arms over his chest, staring off into the distance as he tried to visualize the monster in his mind. "I mean, I didn't really get a clear view of it, but I think if it was a human it definitely wouldn't have been alive in that state."
"I also found it doubtful that the murderer was a normal human, but there was no way something like a zombie is plausible," Kairi added, also thinking it over carefully with far-away look in his eyes, "For now, I am hesitant to label it as human or monster."
"I was thinking about it, and I figured the rest of us may be in danger too," Kukai cut in loudly, causing Yaya to jump a foot in the air and Amu to let out a small shriek. Ikuto's eyebrows furrowed as he shot a glance in Tadase's direction. "I mean, this is obviously supernatural-"
"I'm sure there is a logical expla-"
"And anything supernatural is definitely linked to all of us, right? I mean, what would Mashiro have done for only her to get targeted?"
"That is a very good point," Nagihiko muttered, "What would she have done to make anyone want to kill her?"
Nobody spoke for a long moment, their minds tossing and turning as they tried to answer the question. Eventually everyone turned to look at Rima, who simply shrugged. "I can't think of anything."
"Well then... maybe Kukai's right?" Amu asked, a nervous expression on her face, as though she didn't want to believe what she was saying, "Maybe the rest of us are going to be attacked as well."
"No. No, this is ridiculous. There is no reason for anyone else to get attacked," Kairi shook his head fiercely.
"We don't know that, though. And isn't it better to be safe than sorry?" Nagihiko shot at him.
"But why? What would anything want us for? What have we done wrong?" Kairi was desperate, frantic almost, and the sight of him like this made the whole situation worse.
Nobody knew. One or two people shrugged or shook their head, but nobody said anything. Part of Nagihiko had the nagging feeling that he might have something to do with it (especially after what his grandmother said earlier that day) but he was just as lost as everyone else.
"Hey, Ikuto! Has Easter been up to anything lately?" Yaya asked, bouncing on the balls of her feet in a way unlike her (as though she were trying to remain calm, but finding it hard).
Ikuto looked a little surprised by this question, but quickly shook it off and replied, "Not really. I mean, I stopped by and visited my mom today while you were all in school but she said everything was going well."
Kairi shook his head. "No, I don't think this has anything to do with Easter. All of their previous schemes have involved hearts eggs, and while Ikuto was hurt that one time, they certainly would never kill anyone."
"Well then who else has a grudge against us?" Yaya asked, frowning at Kairi, surprisingly seriously, considering how she usually behaved. "Easter always used supernatural stuff, and they went after us."
"No, but Sanjo-kun is right. Even if they did have some new plans involving us, a big business like them wouldn't risk killing someone; it would cause way to much trouble and bad publicity for them," Nagihiko explained, shaking his head slightly.
"But.. then what is it?" Amu asked, her eyes wide and fearful; if it wasn't Easter, then they really were dealing with something they had no idea about.
"Come on, you guys! We don't even know if we're going to get attacked or anything! It was probably just some creepy guy going after Rima-tan because she was home alone!" Yaya laughed, trying, and failing, to lighten the mood.
"No no, it definitely wasn't that. The killer was after her. I-" Nagihiko cut himself off at the curious looks he received.
"You what?" Ikuto asked, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Nagihiko was going to say, "I could feel it." but he didn't think saying something like that to the others was a good decision. Instead he shrugged and said, "It just seemed like he was."
Rima turned to look at him, meeting his eyes briefly before he turned away. She knew he had been about to say something about the "connection" to the killer, about the fact it had been "calling out to him" back at her house, but she didn't say anything. Nagihiko had saved her, and she wasn't going to make it so anyone doubted him.
If she needed to she would trust him with her life (again) and she wanted to keep it so the others would as well. He didn't the others to lose their trust in him. Not now at least.
"Well... I guess all we can do is be careful," Ikuto muttered, obviously not too happy with admitting such a thing. He glanced over at Tadase, who was staring ahead of him (or maybe at Yaya, he couldn't tell- he was probably just zoning out). "Hey, Kiddie-king, you haven't said anything about this."
"What? Oh! Oh, well, I agree; we can't really do anything about it now," he paused for a moment, biting his lip before continuing slowly, "I think we should make sure to lock our doors and windows, and watch our backs."
"Yeah, that's probably all we can do," Nagihiko muttered, glancing over at Rima unhappily. It had occurred to him that the thing that killed Rima's mother might come back to finish her.
But would a locked door be able to stop it?
There was a long moment of silence, which nobody was quite sure how to break.
Finally, Ikuto spoke, his tone as light and casual as if nothing out of the usual had happened. "Hey, I'm supposed to be staying with Tadase, but we could have another sleepover if you want to Amu."
Rima glared up at the smirking man as Amu let out a shriek. "No! No way! I have had enough of that to last a lifetime! My dad would flip out!"
"Aw, but your mom seemed fine with it!"
"Have you ever seen my dad? He would murder you!"
Nagihiko cut in, laughing. "No, I'm pretty sure he'd just go hide in the bathroom."
"Still! I would not like to be grounded for the rest of my life! No more hiding in my closest!"
Rima laughed. "You're right Amu, Nagihiko's the one in the closet now."
Nagihiko frowned down at the grinning blonde. "I am not gay, Rima-chan."
Kukai was kind of surprised the others could be so casual and joking right now. He had a feeling, and he wasn't sure where it had come from or if it meant anything, but it felt like things were going to get really bad really quickly. And as much as he wanted to laugh, he just felt like hiding.
Then again, whenever he had felt scared in the past he had put on a smile and laughed it off. Maybe the others were doing as he always did.
Although he usually did this for the sake of the others...
They must have been putting on this facade for themselves.
After the group dispersed, Kairi began to walk home with Yaya (they had been doing this for a while now, at Yaya's insistence), but was stopped as someone grabbed onto his arm.
"Can I speak to you alone for a moment?"
"Sure, but what about?" Kairi asked, a little confused; why wasn't he approached earlier, when they were all together?
"Hurry up, Kairi!" Yaya called, bouncing happily as Kairi was pulled off into a nearby alley.
"Why are we talking in an alley?" Kairi raised his eyebrows.
What was he playing at, pulling him into a darkened alley with what had just happened he day before? "It doesn't matter. We just can't be overheard."
"Overheard? By who? Yaya-senpai?"
"Well her, and... never mind that now. What I'm about to tell you is of the utmost importance, but you can't say a word of this to anybody, especially not Yaya."
Kairi was ignored. "You can't speak of this again, even to me, after today. You have to pretend like this conversation never happened, no matter what happens after this, okay?"
"What? What on Earth are you talking about? You're acting really suspicious."
"Do you trust me?"
"Do you trust me?"
"Yes, of course, but-"
"The you must promise not to tell."
Kairi froze for a moment, staring into the pleading eye before nodding slowly. "I promise."
"Okay... then don't leave Yaya's side all night."
"... excuse me?" Kairi had no idea what was going on.
"Don't leave her side. No matter what she says or does, don't leave her side."
"Are you saying she's going to be targeted next? Where did you get that from?"
"I... just please, don't leave her alone. Watch out for her. And lock the windows."
Kairi didn't know what to do; his head was filled. Was Yaya going to be attacked next? But how would he know that? There was no way, unless...
Unless he was affiliated with the killer.
"How do you know she's next?" Kairi voice was shaking uncontrollably, revealing the fear he was trying so hard to hide from his expression.
"It's just a hunch."
"Just please, don't leave her alone."
A/N: I had to slip in that Princess Bride reference after I included the line "As you wish." And if you haven't seen that movie before you have to watch it!
Sorry I haven't updated in so long; the beginning of this story is hard for me to write (once I get a few more chapters in I'm pretty sure it'll be a lot easier). And yeah, this story is my last priority, so updates will be irregular. I will try to update at least once (hopefully twice) a month. But no, it is not on hiatus yet (just because I really want to write what happens later on in the story.)
Anyway, reviews are always appreciated. And, if I don't update this for ages again (sorry again) send me a PM telling me to get my butt to work! I need motivation!