[identity profile] amylan.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] redpenwriters
Title: Greyscale
Author: [livejournal.com profile] amylan
Beta: N/A
Rating: K+
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy
Notes/Warnings: None
Summary: There's a reason why Magical Girls are rarely grown up.
Length: 6619



“Oi! Over there!”

Aya spun around to face the direction that her partner was pointing to, barely able to catch sight of a shadow disappearing around the corner. Sprinting after it – not an easy task in heels – the blonde began to catch up with the target. Just as she was beginning to close in on it, though, the demon quickly changed directions once more.

“Oh, no, you don’t,” she growled under her breath. Putting on an extra burst of speed, she swung a fist back and let it burn hotter and hotter with fire. In another minute, she swung the fist forward, releasing all the energy she had gathered. Skidding to a stop, she let her mind focus only on the target. The fireball flew straight from the trajectory that Aya had launched it, then seemed to shiver before suddenly changing course completely and making a beeline for the demon.

It was with great satisfaction that Aya heard the quiet roar of flames and an unearthly scream.

“Did you get it?” Selphi asked, running up to the other girl.

“I believe so,” Aya replied. “I certainly hit something…”

Selphi grinned. “Shall we go get our prize, then?” At Aya’s curt nod, the two girl began the run through the alleyways, Aya in the lead since she had seen the path that her attack had taken.

Before long, they had reached a section of alleyway that was scorched. “Damn, Aya-chan, couldn’t you have turned it down a little?” Selphi asked, examining the blackened walls. Several objects in the alley had caught fire, and Selphi quickly doused them.

“I presume that you wanted to catch the demon, is that not so?” Aya retorted. “Though it appears that I missed, in any case.”

“Hm?”

“There is no body,” the blonde said, hands on her hips as she looked around. “Dammit all. I was certain that I had made a perfect hit…”

“My nose says that you did,” Selphi agreed. “You need to be careful with that attack of yours; if there had been a homeless man or a drunk around, it’d be a bit hard to explain all of this, don’t you think?”

“There are no witnesses,” was the stoic reply.

Selphi giggled a bit, creating a bubble in each of her hands and popping each against a different wall. “My, aren’t we the cold-blooded killer,” she commented lightly, watching as the bubbles spread across the wall then popped, leaving them spotless.

“I will do what’s necessary,” Aya said coolly. Eyeing the newly cleaned wall, she asked, “Will that not make them more suspicious?”

“Maybe, maybe not,” the American answered with a shrug. Looking up at the sky, she added, “It’s getting a bit late for me. I think I’ll be headed off to bed.” She stretched out her arms and yawned, driving the point home deliberately.

“And I suppose that I will be handling the hunt for the rest of the night?” Aya asked vehemently.

“Nah, you should head to bed, too,” Selphi replied in her usual cheery way. “You’re starting to get all grumpy now, and it’s going to be bad enough tomorrow morning trying to explain to You-Know-Who that the monster got away. I don’t want to try it with you at my throat all day, either.”

The blonde seemed to puff up in her anger. “Well, then! I will just go and get out of your way then,” she snapped, storming off.

“Oh, come on, Aya-chan, don’t be like that,” Selphi began tiredly, starting to walk after the girl. Aya continued to stalk off, however, as so Selphi just gave up and headed home herself.

***

Of course, the next day turned out exactly as Selphi had predicted. “It’s not my fault, okay?” she grumbled, trying to eat her lunch while answering Ami’s questions. “Whatever that thing was, it was moving too fast for me to catch up short of running around on rooftops, and that’d be pretty damn conspicuous.”

“An’ so you thought that lettin’ it go free was the best option?” Ami hissed at the other girl. “Fer the love of God, Waters, don’t ya ever think about what yer doin’?!”

“I did think,” Selphi replied. “I just thought that secrecy was more important than possibly shouting to the whole world that there were people with magic powers around here.”

“It’d be a lot less trouble than ya think,” Ami answered curtly. “What happened then?”

“Ask Aya-chan.”

“Arashi?”

“Do not even try to blame this whole thing on me,” Aya replied darkly. “I did as I was meant to do and nothing less.”

“And what exactly does that mean?”

Aya sipped at her green tea. “I went after the demon after Miss Waters pointed him out to me. The demon was far too fast for me as well, and so I attacked him with a spell that follows the target.” Selphi suddenly made a motion for everyone to be quiet, and the three girls stilled. From the other side of the brush, they could faintly hear the sounds of girls’ voices, which drew close and then faded away again.

“…Okay, it’s safe now.” Selphi went back to eating. “You were saying, Aya-chan?”

“…Yes. Well. I heard the attack hit something and something screamed. I am almost certain that I hit the intended target, but if the attack did hit, then it would have rendered the demon unable to walk, to say the least. However, when Miss Waters and I sought out the demon for where the explosion had taken place, we found no trace of any living beings.”

“…All right. Well.” Ami seemed to be a bit thrown by the accuracy and formality of Aya’s debriefing. “You two need to go lookin’ fer the demon again tonight.”

“I figured as much,” Selphi replied. “Since the demon’s probably injured, it shouldn’t be as hard for use to track it down this time around. Let’s hope it’s just sticking to its favorite haunts for a while?”

“Yes,” Aya agreed, nodding. “I’d rather not have to go through all of that again.”

***

“Come out, come out wherever you are,” Selphi muttered under her breath as she trotted along the outskirts of the city, looking for the city dump.

You’d think that a giant heap of garbage would be a lot easier to find, she thought to herself. Well, she knew she was close. The air was filled with the stench of rot and decay, and Selphi found herself covering her mouth and nose with her sweater in an effort to keep the smell at bay and her dinner down in her stomach.

Oi, kiddo!

“Oh, gods. You’re awake again?”

Quit complaining; I got tired of sleeping is all. In any case, I think I just caught the fine smell of fresh blood.

“You’re not eating right now,” Selphi snapped. “I’m busy and it’s not the full moon. Try some other time.”

Oh, come on. I’m not only concerned about my stomach. The blood I smell is tainted, anyway. I wouldn’t want to eat whatever’s leaving the smell in the first place.

Selphi frowned. “You smell demon’s blood.”

Thank you for finally paying attention to what I’m saying, the voice replied, heavily sarcastic. And yes, that’s what I’m saying. Lower the sweater so I can pick up the smell better, would you?

“If I throw up, it’s your fault,” Selphi warned before doing as she was told. Immediately, she choked a little at the smell – apparently she had been walking in the right direction, because the smell was much stronger than before.

Suck it up, you pansy. Come on, deep sniffs.

By this time Selphi was quietly cursing out whatever non-existent god was responsible for sticking her with the demonic alter. Once again, though, she followed orders, taking deep breaths through her nose – or as deep as she could manage, at least. A few minutes later, Selphi started gagging and threw up.

Wimp, was the voice’s assessment. It’s definitely a demon’s blood I smell. Not a lot of it, though – might just be a bit injured.

“Might as well see if I can pick it off on now,” the brunette muttered, securing her sweater around the lower part of her face before continuing on.

Finally reaching the city dump, Selphi began gingerly picking around the garbage piles. “I don’t see anything,” she said under her breath. “Nothing suspicious, anyway.”

Oh, come on, you don’t think it’s going to be that easy, do you? I had to pick out that scent from under a bunch of other smells. It’s probably under a bunch of this trash.

“…Words can’t express how much I want to kill you right now,” was Selphi’s response. “If I lower the mask, can you try and get another whiff of the blood?”

Why should I do anything to help you?

“Because if you don’t, then I’ll have you bleed out, and then I’ll have you tied up.”

Failing to see how that’s so terrible, the voice replied tartly. I’ll be a little more hungry than usual, but that’s all.

“And then I’ll ask Ami-chan or Aya-chan to sprinkle you with some blood and make sure the keep the wound open just enough so you can smell it.”

…that’s just cruel.

“Are you helping me or not?”

There was a loud huffing noise inside her head. Fine, fine! Lower the cloth.

And once again Selphi was fighting to keep whatever was left in her stomach down. Ignoring the insults from the voice, she closed her eyes and focused on her breathing.

Hm… It smells like the scent is nearby… Open your eyes so I can take a look around. Once Selphi had done so, the voice began speaking ‘aloud’, though mostly to herself as she puzzled out where the scent was coming from. Soon, Selphi found her body moving mostly of its own accord – a disturbing notion, but as she was paying close attention to any sudden actions the body might take and it was necessary to find whatever demon was using this place as a haunt, she put up with it.

No, not to the left, the scent is weakening in that direction… Hm…. Stronger, stronger… It’s from around this pile, I know that much.

“I am going to need so much cleaning to get this stench out when I get home,” Selphi said aloud, taking her body back and re-covering her mouth. With a sigh, she began walking around the pile, hoping to see something on top or around to keep her from actually having to dig through. She saw nothing, though, and so she rolled up her sleeves and, with a grimace, began to dig through the garbage.

At least most of it is in bags, she thought to herself. The garbage was mostly dry on the outside, but the smell was even more terrible up close. There were several times when the American had to stop and take a break to allow her stomach to settle.

Passing over one of the bags, she stopped and thumped the bag again. Inside were a bunch of angular shapes, and she could hear the faint squish of something wet.

Hey, I think that’s where the smell is coming from!

“…Oh, hell.” Pulling on her black gloves – she made a mental note to buy rubber ones for things like this – she dragged the bag out onto a clear space on the ground. Gingerly slipping her hand into her sweater, she reached into an inner pocket and pulled out one of her throwing knives, which she then used to cut the bag open. She looked in, then quickly backed away. “What in the nine hells-?!”

Inside the bag, barely recognizable, was the corpse of the demon that her other side had sniffed out. Shaking off her surprise, the American returned to the body and began carefully handling it, grimacing at the blood remains smearing onto her gloves. She’d need to throw these ones out now…

Focus, would you?

Right. Dead body. Looking the corpse over, she could see evidence of cuts on what remained of the skin. The body didn’t seem to have been dead for very long, but she only had her experience in fighting zombies and other reanimated corpses to draw from. Pushing the corpse onto its chest, she stopped when she saw that most of its back seemed to have been blow off by something or another.

Come to think of it, it did bear a strong resemblance to…

Selphi stood up and, carefully stripping the glove off her left hand, pulled her cell phone out and hit the speed dial. She waited as the phone rang on the other end.

“…This is Aya Arashi,” came the hushed answer.

“Oi, Aya-chan,” Selphi greeted. “I think I found our demon. Or what’s left of him, anyway.”

“…What now?”

“Well, it looks like someone beat us to the punch,” Selphi replied, nudging the bag with the toe of her shoe. “I’m at the city dump and I just found our target in a garbage bag over here.”

Aya was silent for a moment. “There is no one else over there, correct?”

“Right.”

“Take the body and try to find an out-of-the-way corner somewhere. I’ll be there shortly.” Then there was a click and the sound of a dial tone.”

Groaning, Selphi picked up the bag and its contents easily. “Great, I get to spend even more time around here. I’ll be washing the smell out of my skin for hours…”

***

“So, this is it?” Aya asked, gingerly opening the bag to examine its contents. She wrinkled her nose at the sight of guts spilling out onto black plastic.

“Yep. Check it out.” Selphi flipped the corpse onto its stomach again to show Aya what she had seen. “Look familiar?”

The blonde had been busy pulling out a handkerchief to cover her nose up with, and only looked afterwards. “…Well. It would appear that this is the target from last night.”

“Oh, good. I was worried that I had the explosion marks wrong or something.”

Aya ignored the sarcasm. “There is not much blood in here….”

“Yeah, I noticed,” Selphi answered. She picked up one of the corpse’s arms and showed the inside of the forearm to her partner. “See, look. It’s been cut along the veins and arteries.”

“Exsanguination?” Aya frowned. “Why would anyone bother to exsanguinate a demon like this?”

“I’m thinking that it was a vampire,” Selphi replied. “Do you guys even have vampires, though?”

“Yes, but I am not very knowledgeable about them,” Aya said, distracted as she continued to look the remains over. “Look, here are teeth marks. It seems that a lot of the flesh was chewed off, as well.”

“I’ll ask Ami-chan about it.” Making a face, the American asked, “Who eats these things?” Aya gave Selphi a very flat look that had the other girl waving her hands defensively. “Hey, she’s not a picky eater. And anyway, there’s probably not another in the world like her, so I think we can rule that sort of thing out, Aya-chan.”

“In any case,” Aya started again, still looking at the other girl suspiciously, “While this specific incident is not terrible, the implications of it are rather worrying.”

"You mean like if they start trying to chow down on humans instead of demons,” Selphi clarified.

“If it is a vampire, as you said, they do tend to prefer human blood, correct?” Satisfied with her examination, Aya took out a small disposable camera and began taking pictures of the demon. Once she was finished, she handed the camera to Selphi. “Have the photos developed and take them to Miss Aomori for identification.”

Selphi nodded, pulling off her gloves and accepting the camera. “I’ll head over to a one-hour photo after school tomorrow.”

Aya smiled slightly at Selphi’s cooperation, then turned back to the corpse and snapped her fingers over it, lighting it on fire. Selphi tossed her gloves onto the blaze as well. Within a few moments, there was nothing left but a small char mark on the ground and the stench of burnt flesh and plastic.

The American looked over her clothes with a grimace as she walked with her partner out of the city dump. “Next time, it’s your turn to go explore the gross spots.”

“So, the demon was already dead by th’ time y’all got there.” Ami looked through the pictures that Selphi had handed her. “Didn’t see anyone around either, I bet.”

“Well, considering that it was buried in a heap of other trash bags, I’d say that was a safe assumption,” Selphi replied, reclining in the cherry tree she had climbed. Folding her hands under her head, she allowed her eyes to close. “Recognize what kind of demon it is?”

“Yeah.” The onmyouji leaned against the tree as she continued to look through the photos. “It’s a jikininki.”

“A what now?” Selphi sat up to look down at the other girl.

“Jikininiki. Literally, “man-eating ghosts,” though sometimes they get called “hungry ghosts.”

“Gee, I wonder what they do,” Selphi commented dryly. “They’re cannibals or what?”

“Sort of.” Crossing her arms, Ami looked up into the branches of the tree thoughtfully as she spoke. “They’re th’ spirits of people who were greedy bastards in life, so they’re eternally hungry in th’ afterlife. Th’ only things they wanna eat’re fresh corpses and food offerings fer th’ dead.” Looking back down at the pictures of the dead demon, she added, “Normally ya don’t see too many around Kyoto, though, since there’s so many temples.”

“You know, for someone that said that they didn’t know what kind of demon we were looking for, you certainly seemed to be well-informed about where this one liked to hang around,” Selphi remarked, managing to roll onto her stomach without falling out of the tree. She rested her head against the branch. “Care to explain?”

“Simple. I thought it was a gaki.” Tucking the pictures into the waistband of the pants she wore as a shrine maiden. “Don’t start blowin’ things outta proportion, Waters. There’s a lot more room fer doubts with yer actions than with mine.”

“Yes, and I’m perfectly content with things staying that way,” the American said, smiling lazily. “And what’s a ‘gaki’?”

“Another kind of “hungry ghost.” They’re almost exactly like man-eating ghosts, so it’s an easy mistake.”

“Oh. Anyway…” Selphi’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully at the other girl. “What do you think killed it? It’s pretty obvious that someone did a number on that thing after Aya nailed it, unless she can also giving flesh-eating diseases and someone decided that the body was just too ugly to have around on the sidewalk.”

“No, that’s Hitomi,” Ami answered, waving her hand dismissively. “I think yer right about it bein’ a vampire, but I’m not too sure about what kind.”

Selphi snorted. “Oh, come on. How many kinds of vampires can there be?”

“As many different beliefs about ‘em in different countries.”

“…Oh, hell.”

“Exactly.” The onmyouji looked over at the girl with a small smile. “Fortunately, I think there’s an easy way to find out what kinda vampire we’re lookin’ at.”

Selphi eyed the other girl uncomfortably. “Oh, why do I have a feeling I’m going to regret this,” she muttered under her breath. “Okay, I’ll bite. What are you planning?”

“Catch th’ vampire.”

This earned another snort from the water witch. “Easier said than done! And just how are you planning on getting the vampire in the open?” Realization struck when she noticed the girl’s smile widened. “Oh, fuck.”

***

“I don’t like this, I don’t like this,” Selphi chanted as Ami made the final preparations.
The onmyouji smacked her arm. “Oh, quit complainin’, wouldja?” she growled. She tightened the collar around Selphi’s neck a notch, ignoring the hiss of pain from the other girl, then nodded to herself in satisfaction. “There.”

Aya looked the bait over with a concerned eye. “Are you certain that this will work?” she asked the blue-haired girl.

“Well, it oughta,” was Ami’s response. “Jikininiki don’t have a lot in the way of blood, given that they’re dead people, so the vampire might still be hungry.” The plan was simple: have the bait walk around the city and get the scent of blood in the air, then wait for the vampire to pounce and capture it. The blood came from the newly formed puncture wounds in Selphi’s neck, courtesy of the dog collar that Ami had modified, using her ability to manipulate metal to create spikes that jabbed directly into the flesh of Selphi’s neck. The collar had been adjusted to avoid any major blood vessels and the spinal cord, but Selphi was still pretty sure that she’d have some very nasty scars.

“All right, so, Waters, go ahead and start walkin’ already,” Ami said, smacking Selphi’s back with enough force to push her forward a bit. The American shot a quick glare over her shoulder before beginning to walk out of the park, hoping that her healing ability would keep her from bleeding out. Major blood vessels or not, she was bleeding pretty badly.

Which annoyed that person to no end, so the whole thing wasn’t all bad. Unfortunately, the massive flow of blood was also attracting loads of nighttime insects.

If we ever need to do something like this again, we should use Hitomi-chan as bait, Selphi told herself, smacking the mosquitoes and other insects trying to get at her neck. It’s not like she does much anyway.

***

Several hours later, Selphi found herself dizzy and tired from blood loss. Spying a bus stop bench, she took a seat and rolled down the high neck of her top to pull off the collar.

If all that hasn’t gotten the smell in the air, the blood on my shirt will, she thought to herself grimly, looking the collar over before rolling it up and tucking it into a pocket. She began to pick at her collar, frowning and wondering if she’d ever be able to get the smell out…

“Miss Waters?”

Selphi looked up from her wonderings and jolted a bit. “Oh, hello, Ms. Wakahisa,” she greeted, rubbing the back of her head. How did she sneak up on me like that? she asked herself. Was I that out of it?

“It’s rather late to be wandering around, isn’t it?” the teacher asked. “You should be headed home.”

“Oh, I know,” Selphi replied, “But it just seemed like a nice night for a walk, and my eyes were a little tired from reading the homework that you assigned, so I thought that I would just wander around for a bit until I felt like I could finish.”

“I see.” The teacher took in a breath, then stopped and looked at her student oddly. “Well, you should probably head home regardless. This isn’t the time of night to be taking walks.”
Selphi looked the teacher over carefully, then nodded. “Right. I’ll just be on my way, then.”

“I’ll accompany you,” the teacher said smoothly, her tone leaving no room for protests.

The American smiled, and if anyone looked very closely, they would notice that it was strained. Dammit all to hell! she yelled in her mind.

As the two women began to walk to Selphi’s apartment, Selphi took the opportunity to check out her teacher when she wasn’t in school. Ms. Wakahisa had changed out of her normal school clothes of women’s suits in various solid colors and was now where a high-necked jacket with a long skirt that had enough material to ripple as the woman walked along. All of the clothing was in black.

The outfit’s not too bad, but it seems a little old-fashioned, Selphi noted. What’s with the color, though? Is Ms. Wakahisa one of those GothLoli fetishists?

Selphi looked at her teacher again and noticed something that made her mind halt mid-thought. “Ms. Wakahisa…”

“Yes?”

“Why are you wearing sunglasses this late at night? It’s not like you’re going to be blinded or anything.” Best to make sure that she had seen correctly…

Ms. Wakahisa’s hand went up to her glasses reflexively. “My eyes tend to be sensitive to light,” she explained.

Selphi smiled inwardly as she caught the slightly nervous expression on her teacher’s face. Well, if you’re not going to show me voluntarily, she chided her teacher in her mind, Then we’ll just have to prove it without you. Without warning, the American snatched the glasses off her teacher’s face and shoved her into the shadows, watching her face carefully.

Ms. Wakahisa stumbled back, trying to regain her balance in her high-heels. Her face was tilted downward, but Selphi caught what she had wanted – Ms. Wakahisa’s eyes, brown in light, had turned a glowing red within the shadows.

“I knew it!” Selphi crowed. “Your eyes are red! …Why are your eyes red?” she asked, though the question was mostly directed to herself. She stroked her chin as she thought.

“Miss Waters…” Ms. Wakahisa began in a warning tone.

“Well… You’re really pale, you wear black, you have red eyes, you were pretty insistent on walking me home…” The American stopped. “Er… Are you going to eat me now?”

“No, I am not going to eat you,” Ms. Wakahisa replied impatiently. “My sunglasses, if you would?”

Selphi handed them back. “So… Um… You’re a—“ She was cut off by a roar of fire rushing by her face. “Aya-chan!” she yelled, turning back to see her partner running toward her.

“I overheard,” the blonde said tersely, turning to Ms. Wakahisa and keeping a fist tightly compressed and ready to start a flame whenever necessary. “Any last words?” she asked aloud.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Selphi interrupted, moving to stand between the two. “We’re not going to kill our teacher, Aya-chan!”

“And why not?” Aya snapped back. “She is a vampire; she is a threat to the population.”

“That person is a threat to the population to, but you haven’t killed her,” Selphi pointed out.

The blonde’s eyes narrowed. “I would if I had to.”

“No, you wouldn’t!’

“Wha—Who are you to make a judgment on that?”

“Ladies!” Ms. Wakahisa interrupted. “If we could get back to the matter at hand? I’d like to try and feed tonight if possible, and this sort of thing is pushing it back.”

“You could have taken off while we were arguing,” Selphi pointed out.

“Yes, but given that you two seem to be certain that I’m a vampire, walking off right now would hardly be any good,” the teacher responded. “Particularly when it comes to Miss Arashi, since I would rather not be flambéed in my sleep, thank you very much.”

Aya looked just a little embarrassed at the assessment. “I am not going to flambéed you in your sleep, Miss Wakahisa,” the blonde protested. “I am hardly the type of person to try and kill a person without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves first.”

“And what do you call what you do to the demons in this area?” asked the teacher, crossing her arms. “I hardly think that you sit around and wait for them to get ready, do you?”

“Demons are not people,” Aya replied stoically.

“I would argue that point, but I’m hardly in the mood right now. In any case, there is no need for you to go to such drastic measures on my account.”

“Oh, I suppose that you are going to deny being a vampire now, are you?” asked Aya. Her fist opened to reveal a ball of fire. “I must say, denying a simple truth could have some drastic consequences for you.”

“Oh, put that away before you hurt someone,” Ms. Wakahisa said. “I’m not denying anything. I’m merely saying that I hold no threat over the people of Kyoto, contrary to what you two seem to think.”

Selphi eyed the teacher thoughtfully. “You’re not going to say that you’re one of the vampires that doesn’t feed on humans, are you?”

“…As a matter of fact, yes.”

“A likely story,” Aya retorted, but she was quickly cut off by Ms. Wakahisa.

“Yes, it is a likely story,” she snapped. “I may be a kyuuketsuki, but I have taken steps to minimize any danger to others.”

The blonde raised an eyebrow. “Such as?”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Selphi began waving her arms around. “Time out. What’s a kyuuketsuki? I thought we were talking about vampires here.”

“A kyuuketsuki is a vampire.” Ms. Wakahisa began to explain. “If a person dies without letting out their last breath, or if the person is buried in a certain type of soil, then he or she becomes a kyuuketsuki – a blood-sucking demon that wants nothing more than to feed on the blood of others to continue the preservation of his or her own body.”

“Returning to the previous topic,” Aya interrupted impatiently, “I’d like to know what these ‘steps’ are.”

“In the first place, I moved myself away from my family so that they would not be in danger,” the teacher began. “I also chose a new name for myself so I would be difficult to find.” Brushing a few strands of hair out of her crimson eyes, she added, “Finally, I have rarely feed on humans because their blood is… inefficient. If I fed on only them, I would need a drink every night. Instead, I primarily feed on demons, which allow me to avoid feeding for several days at a time.”

Aya gave Ms. Wakahisa a strange look. “’Inefficient’?”

“From what I have observed of my body during and after feeding, it appears that, while it is drinking blood, it seems to actually be feeding on the… mmm… strength of the body’s spiritual or magic powers. I was under the impression that humans always had low strength in that area, with the exceptions of those that are devoutly religious, but it appears that I was mistaken.” This was said as the teacher eyed the fireball still held by Aya.

“That’s true,” Aya replied slowly. “Humans seem to have low potential for magic, in general, and the opposite is true for demons.”

“Exactly. Therefore I prefer to feed on demons.”

“And that includes eating them?” Selphi asked.

Ms. Wakahisa looked over at the American, her expression betraying her slight surprise before smoothing back into imperceptibility. “Ah. So you two were the ones who crippled that man-eating ghost for me. Well, for that, I thank you.”

“You’re very welcome,” was Aya’s sarcastic reply. “Now, why did you eat it?”

Ms. Wakahisa opened her mouth to speak, then closed it and shook her head. “It would be best if I show you.”

“And does this showing require us to move into a dark alleyway that would be to your complete advantage?”

“Aya,” Selphi warned.

“I would be more comfortable doing this in an alleyway, that’s true, but if it would make you feel more comfortable, the both of you may stay out here and I will enter the alleyway.”

“…What?” The wording confused Selphi and, looking over at her partner, she could tell that Aya was as well.

In lieu of further explanation, the teacher looked around and, spotting an alleyway, walked over. She turned to face the two girls again and began backing in slowly, her hands swiftly working to unfasten her clothes as she moved.

The two girls traded looks of confusion and disbelief before hesitantly following after the teacher. Selphi took one glance into the alley, then let out a squeak and spun around, covering her face. “My eeeeeeyes…”

“What is it?” Aya demanded. “Did she cast some kind of spell?”

“No, I did not!” came the indignant answer from the alleyway, but neither girl seemed to take notice.

“Noooo, it was worse,” Selphi wailed. “She flashed me!”

“…what?”

“I did not flash you,” Ms. Wakahisa snapped. “I told you, I was going to show you the reason why I ate that thing, didn’t I?”

“It was horrible, so horrible,” Selphi continued, rubbing at her eyes. “I want to be bliiiiiiind.” Any further whining was abruptly cut off by one of Ms. Wakahisa’s high-heels cracking her in the head. “Goddammit, ow!”

“If you’re quite finished carrying on,” the teacher snapped. Rubbing her head, Selphi turned back to take another look at her teacher’s bare torso.

“…Ewwww…”

“I think that fits my sentiments exactly,” Aya muttered. Selphi spared a quick glance at her partner; the other girl looked as though she were about to be sick. Not that she could blame her, Selphi thought to herself as she looked back at the teacher.

With her clothes on and in light, Ms. Wakahisa had appeared completely normal. However, Selphi could now see why the teacher seemed to always be in clothes that covered up her body as much as possible: all over her torso and leading under the rest of her clothing, it looked as though the woman had escaped an attack by a wild animal. There were small sections and large strips of her flesh that appeared to have been either eaten away or ripped off, though strangely, no blood flowed from the injuries.

“What happened?” Selphi had to ask, her curiosity piqued, morbid though it was.

“Man-eating ghosts eat fresh corpses,” Ms. Wakahisa replied, redressing now that she had made her point. “I had the unfortunate experience of being found and eaten by a few of them before I awakened as a blood-sucker.”

“And you are eating them for vengeance?” Aya asked, her tone again sarcastic. It seemed that she had regained her composure once the fairly disturbing injuries were covered.

“That’s how it began, yes,” Ms. Wakahisa admitted. “But when I tracked down and ate the first one, I found that my face healed had healed itself. Things progressed from there.”

“Oh, I get it!” Selphi said excitedly, sounding as though she were a contestant on a game show and had the right answer. “So you’re eating these guys to go back to normal!”

“As normal as I can be, at any rate,” was the reply. “So, are you two still bound to try and kill me?”

“Three, but… no,” Selphi said, at the same time that Aya said, “Yes.” The two girls stared at each other.

“Aya-chan, we don’t have a reason to kill her,” Selphi said, trying to be reasonable.

“She is a demon,” Aya responded. “That’s reason enough.”

“So am I,” Selphi pointed out. “Are we going to have that conversation again?”

“You hardly count,” Aya hissed. “You do not have demonic blood or demonic attributes.”

“Oh, what you don’t know,” Selphi said to herself. “Look, Aya-chan, she’s doing us a favor by taking out all these other demons. Why should we get rid of her?”

“Because once she has cleared out all the demons from Kyoto, then what will stop her from attacking humans?” was Aya’s retort. “And we’ve no guarantee that she’s telling the truth, either.”

“Aya-chan, I’m pretty sure that if she had been lying, you would have picked up on it,” Selphi replied, smiling. “I do know about that lovely ability of yours…”

The blonde shot Selphi an alarmed look, but all further discussion was shut down by the teacher. “If you two are quite finished with acting as though I can’t hear you, I have a point that I feel I ought to make, as well as a solution that, while not completely satisfactory, should be agreeable to the both of you.”

“Yes?” Selphi prompted.

“In the first place, due to the sheer amount of demons that seem to like Kyoto, it is unlikely that I will be able to feed on all of them before I must move to another country to prevent everyone here from becoming suspicious over my assumed lack of aging,” she began. “My solution is that, should anyone from your merry little band catch me feeding off of any humans, you have my permission to kill me.”

“Sounds fair to me,” Selphi said. “Aya-chan?”

“I see no reason why we should give a demon—“ Aya began vehemently, before Selphi covered her mouth.

“Great, so we have a deal!” she enthused. “Well, then, you can just be on your way, Ms. Wakahisa, and we’ll be heading home now.” The last three words were spoken through gritted teeth as Selphi grabbed Aya’s arm and began forcing her along, away from the vampire.

Ms. Wakahisa eyed the two girls, then gave a curt nod and walked away, sliding her sunglasses on as she did.

As soon as they were out of earshot of Ms. Wakahisa – or presumably out of earshot, as Selphi wasn’t sure how well the other woman could hear – Selphi finally released the other girl. “Are you completely insane?” she growled at the blonde.

Aya looked up from straightening her clothes to give the American something caught between and incredulous expression and a glare. “I am insane?” she hissed. “I am insane? You are the one who just released a vampire back into the city!”

“As I said, if she’s feeding off of demons, then she’s doing us a favor,” Selphi reminded. “Or did that fact slip past you in your… What’s the word I’m looking for… Speciesist prejudice?”

“Miss Waters, I do not know if it has slipped past you, but most, if not all of the demons that we have encountered are evil,” Aya answered, her voice growing louder as she spoke, getting into her partner’s face. “Why should we assume that she is any different? How do we even know that she is telling the truth, that she does feed on demons?”

“Well, there was that lovely corpse that we found in the city dump,” Selphi responded dryly.

“We do not know that she even ate it,” Aya snapped. “And she was eyeing you as though you were her next dinner.”

“No, more like I was a leper,” was Selphi’s clarification. “And for a person that doesn’t eat demons, she sure does stink like them.”

“…What are you blathering about now?’

“Her body. When I pushed her, I came close enough to smell her; she had the smell of demon blood all over her.” Selphi began to flexing her fingers and examining the nails. “Dammit, I think I’ll need another manicure soon…”

“Wonderful, the lives of this city are at stake and you are panicking over your nails.” With a growl, Aya turned away and stalked off. “Never mind. I will track her down and prove that she is drinking human blood if it is the last thing that I do, and then I will kill her.”

“Have fun!” Selphi called after the other girl. She watched after her for a while, then said aloud, “Did you get a reading on her?”

“Yeah.” Ami walked out of the shadows. “She was tellin’ the truth, though both of ya shoulda known that.”

“Oh, I knew it,” Selphi replied with a shrug. “Then again, I guess I’m a little more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to other blood-suckers.”

“Watch it, or you’ll give your game away,” Ami teased lightly.

There was another shrug. “Eh, it’s not like there’s anyone listening, anyway.” She gave the other girl a sideways glance. “You know, we have a lot to explain to her in the morning.”

“You have a lot to explain,” Ami replied. “She’s yer partner, it’s yer responsibility.”

Selphi faked a tired sigh. “Oh, dear. Whatever shall I do?” She began to walk off. “See you tomorrow, Ami-chan.”

Ami just shook her head and walked off in the opposite direction. “That girl…”

The American smiled to herself. It really was quite fun to be irritating beyond belief.

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