Daughters of Darkness II: Shina (1/4)

The doorbell rang, setting everyone on alert. No one exactly wanted to get it, as it would mean leaving the comfort of the living room sofa and the soothing drone of the television. The only person who wanted to get the door was too busy, a loaded stew pot in his arms and a trip to the suddenly distant kitchen table keeping him preoccupied. He looked at the living room plaintively, his oceanic eyes going from eager to disappointed in an instant. The doorbell rang again, and he carefully lowered his supper onto a potholder, finally free to open the door. He quickly untied his apron and tossed it over his chair, then combed his honey brown hair with his fingers before ultimately reaching the door. He tossed the door open and flashed his guest a smile. He led in a young woman adorned by a short crop of amethyst hair held away from her face by a long white scarf; she smiled, squinting her crystal blue eyes as she grinned. Not a one of the group in the living room noticed.

“Everyone, this is my girlfriend, Ayame,” Cye Mouri said, his British lilt pleasantly spiking his introduction.

“Hi,” Ayame Sudoh said, waving a timid greeting to the backs of five heads.

Out of the living room group, only two turned around from the television’s hypnotic glow. Rowen Hashiba looked over the back of the sofa with a half-interested snort, raising one eyebrow over his deep navy eyes; he shook his head, jostling the already wild cerulean locks that hung over his forehead, then returned to the television. Kento Rei Fuan tore himself away from the television long enough for his hazel-blue eyes to spark with familiarity and give both his best friend and the guest a pleasant wave, followed by a beckon to join. When neither party budged, Sai cleared his throat, receiving a delayed reaction.

“Cute, Cye,” Ryo Sanada said with a laugh, never moving his sapphire gaze from the television. “Who is she, a cousin?”

Mia Koji turned around, the long ends of her warm brown hair catching on the coarse fabric of the sofa. Her sky blue eyes smiled at the sight of Cye and Ayame shaking their heads in bemused disbelief. “Guys, be nice and turn around.”

“Next commercial,” Kento whined, shoving a fistful of buttered popcorn into his mouth.

Cye gave Ayame an elfin grin and wrapped his arms around her waist, getting a timid blush as a response. “Cye, stop it,” Ayame giggled. “Not here.” He began to wiggle his fingers against her stomach, and she scrunched up to avoid the sensation, her laughter growing in volume. “Stop it! Please, not here!” He kept tickling her, so she retaliated with a kiss on the cheek. “You forced it, mister!” She gave him another kiss before noticing that they finally had everyone’s attention. Both blushed and resumed a semiformal stance, ignoring the group’s amused leers, and meekly apologized.

“You really have a girlfriend,” Ryo stated in a happily stunned tone. “She seems nice.”

“You could do better,” Kento spat out, producing a few fragments of popcorn along with his sentiment.

“Hey!” Ayame responded as Cye led her to an open spot on the sofa. “You’re not exactly a prize.”

“Be nice, both of you,” Mia admonished. “Why don’t you introduce us, Cye?”

Cye meekly stood up, placing a gentle hand on Ayame’s shoulder. “Everyone, meet Ayame. Ayame, you know Kento and Rowen already. There’s Ryo--” Ryo waved to her from where he sat on the carpet. “--and Mia.” Mia smiled from her recliner seat and took a sip of her iced tea. “And Sage.” Cye scanned the room and found Sage Date dozing in the loveseat, a beige afghan wrapped around his shoulders. “Sage? Are you awake?”

Sage opened his ice blue eyes with a low groan and held the bridge of his nose, shoving the recalcitrant lock of his flaxen hair out of his way as he did. “I’m sorry,” he sighed. “They call it DayQuil, but......” He gave Ayame as friendly a smile as he could muster. “Hi. Don’t get too close. Flu and all.” He leaned back against the loveseat, closing his eyes and rearranging the afghan.

“Are you staying for dinner?” Mia asked as she carefully placed her tea on a coaster.

“I hope so,” Ayame answered, turning her attention to Cye. “It’s not a problem, is it?”

“Of course not,” Cye said with a mild grin. “I was planning on it.”

“Thanks. I can’t stand another meal at the home.”

“What is it?” Kento asked, forcing the last handful of popcorn into his gullet. All he received was a baffled look, and he knew to elaborate. “Dinner. What is it?”

“Vegetable stew,” Cye answered as he approached the kitchen table. He lifted the lid of the pot; a rush of peppery, rich smells filled the air. “Smells good?”

Kento tossed a suspicious glance over at Ayame. “You aren’t a vegetarian, are you?”

“What?” Ayame declared, surprised. “NO. I just don’t each fish.”

“Oh. Good.” Kento tossed the plastic popcorn bowl onto the floor and sprinted towards the kitchen. He quickly settled into his seat and waited, tapping his hands on the table in a drumming motion. “Okay, let’s eat. C’mon.”

The others followed slowly, all except Sage; he opted to stay on the loveseat in his afghan, looking pathetically at the table. Ryo and Mia sat on the left side of the table, across from Kento; Rowen was about to plunk down in the other seat on the right side but paused to grab a tall glass of iced coffee from the refrigerator. Cye pulled the seat from the farthest end next to his and held it out for Ayame, pushing it in after she sat. He hastily pulled his apron on and began seizing bowls from a stack, ladling in servings of the stew. Slowly, every person got a full, steaming bowl to eat. Cye filled the last bowl and cradled it in a potholder as he hurried it over to Sage.

“You feel up to eating?” Cye asked as he let Sage get a good whiff of the stew.

Sage winced and turned a slight shade of green. “No thanks. I don’t really think food likes me anymore.” He snuggled more into his blankets and started to fall asleep again.

Cye returned to the table and placed the unclaimed bowl next to Kento. “Well, how is it?” he asked, noticing that the right side of the table was busily devouring their stew.

“Gphh,” Rowen responded, his mouth too full of gravy broth and potatoes to give an intelligible reply. Kento didn’t dignify the question with an answer; he simply pushed aside the empty bowl and seized the full one. Rowen scraped out the last spoonful of stew and held out his relatively empty bowl. “More.” Kento followed suit, handing Cye both of his bowls.

“Do you always eat this much?” Ayame asked with a nervous smile.

“Yeah, but I only eat once a day,” Rowen explained as he took his now full bowl back. “Kento’s just a glutton.”

“Hpph!” Kento responded, gravy drizzling down his chin. He gulped down his mouthful and gave Ayame a sour look. “There’s nothing wrong with a hearty appetite.” He wiped his face with a napkin.

“So, Ayame,” Ryo started, carefully spooning the stew into his mouth. “Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?”

Ayame blushed and politely set down her spoon. “Well, I live at the boarding home right now, but I’d like to get an apartment someday, and I work at Edible Eden as a phone clerk.” She noticed Rowen shudder. “What? It’s a nice place.”

“The owner’s creepy,” Rowen argued. “She’s a great big weirdo.”

“She’s nice, and she pays me well,” Ayame countered. “You have to know her. Anyway, I met Sai at the airport, and we just sorta.....clicked.” She gave Cye a tender smile, which he returned with a blush.

“Where are you from?” Mia asked as she shoved aside her empty bowl.

“She’s hellspawn,” Kento spat out between bowls.

“Kento!” Cye yelled, getting a shocked look from his friends.

“She IS!”

Ayame drooped a little. “He’s right, sorta. I don’t think you’d believe me, though.”

“Why don’t you show them?” Cye suggested.

“I don’t like to.”


“No, c’mon, show us, hellspawn,” Kento goaded, finishing the second bowl.

“Kento, stop it!” The phone rang, and Kento sprinted from the table to fetch it. “I’m sorry, Ayame.”

“Well, you know how he feels about me.”

“What was it that you were gonna show?” Rowen asked, dabbing his face with a napkin.

“Guess I have to now, huh?” Ayame asked rhetorically. She sighed. “Okay. Watch that spoon.”

Ayame closed her eyes and raised the two forefingers of her right hand to her face, resting them dead center between her eyes. The spoon in Kento’s empty bowl began to levitate. Her eyes opened, having gone from mild blue to unearthly amber; everyone except Cye shuddered slightly. The spoon began to spin, the velocity steadily gaining. Finally, it flew from the table towards the living room, where it smacked the back of Kento’s head. She lowered her hand and blinked, her eyes regaining their azure irises; then she broke out into a fit of giggles.

“OW!” Kento lowered the portable phone and glared at the table. “Who did that?” Ayame’s laughter grew, supported by Rowen, then the rest of the table. “Very funny, hellspawn!” He returned to his call.

Sage woke up at the outburst of laughter and picked up the spoon from the carpet. He slowly swung his legs to the floor and staggered to the kitchen, falling down into Kento’s vacant seat. He dropped the spoon back into the bowl and turned his weary attention to Ayame. “How did you do that?” he asked, his throat raspy.

“Uhm.....” Ayame looked to Cye for support.

Cye picked up her hand in both of his and smiled. “Go ahead,” he said. “They’ll understand.”

Ayame took a deep breath and started. “I’m half demon. It has some good points, in that I’m sorta psychic, I guess. But the downside is........well...... I’m half demon. Cye managed to stop my father, though, so I feel a little better.” She turned to Cye, who leaned his head against hers.

“She knew my cousin, too,” Rowen added, his words excelerated by the caffeine in his iced coffee. “You never really told me about that.”

“Aaron raised me, once I wanted to be human. He was like my brother. He, uhm, died to keep me safe.”

“That’s what happened?” Rowen asked, surprised. Ayame sadly nodded her head. “Mom said he went nuts, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about him anymore.” He gave Ayame a sad smile. “Wow. I didn’t think anyone else knew him.”

“You’re a lot like him,” Ayame meekly stated. “You’re sweet.”

“Um...thanks.” Rowen became a little flustered, although no one was quite sure whether it was the compliment or another caffeine onslaught.

“Wait a minute,” Sage stated, starting to fight through the DayQuil. “Aren’t you afraid of your...relatives reappearing?”

“Not as much as I used to be. Without my father, they don’t really have any motive to hunt me down.”

Mia paused in thought, then beamed. “Ayame, would you like to move in?”

“Here?” Mia nodded. Ayame looked at Cye, who was just thrilled. “I don’t think...”

“It’s no big deal,” Ryo argued amiably. “It’s just twenty bucks a month.”

“There’s a nice room in the attic that you’ll just love,” Mia cheerfully stated.

“This is a little forward...” Ayame nervously giggled.

“It’s okay,” Cye said. “I’ll move next door to you if you’re nervous.”

“Do all of you NORMALLY stay here?”

“We go home occassionally, but it’s just nicer here,” Rowen offered. “It’s just closer to school, and we can live by our own schedules here.”

“But do your families mind?”

“They’re basically good with it,” Ryo responded. “They know we’re in good company.”

“Plus, the whole problem with the apartment and the fire...” Cye meekly offered with a sheepish, guilty grin.

“Well,....I guess so, if it’s not putting anyone out. You won’t mind if I keep flowers?”

“Not at all,” Mia said, going back to the sale. “The light’s great for plants, and it’s really spacious.”

“Okay, I’ll notify the home,” Ayame said, resigning her resistance. “Thank you so much. I HATE the home. It’s loud and roach-infested and just gross.”

Kento stood up from the living room and reentered the kitchen with a triumphant cry. “I got a DATE!” he cried, placing the cordless phone in the center of the table. He stopped when he saw his seat was occupied, so he opted to sit on the counter instead. “Her name’s Shina, and we’re meeting for dinner Tuesday night.”

“You have a date?” Rowen asked, trying to conceal his grin. “Well, I guess Hell’s pretty much frozen solid by now.”

Kento gave him a sour, slightly angry look. “What’s that mean?” The rest of the guys, except Cye, joined in the snickering. “What?!”

Kento checked his watch again for the umpteenth time and sighed, resting his head in his hands. Was it normal for a date to run this late? He had waited over an hour in a restaurant full of food, and he didn’t want to sour any impressions by eating without her, but he could only wait so long. The audible growling of his stomach was starting not only to hurt but also to draw unwanted attention. Finally, he could stand the starvation no longer. He stood up with a sigh and walked to the bar, eyeing a bowl of hard pretzels. As he sat at the counter and began to stuff the crunchy pretzels into his mouth, a hand rested on his shoulder. He turned around, the loop of one pretzel hanging on his lip. A young woman stood behind him, smiling politely. She stared at the pretzel with her violet eyes, eventually meeting his embarrassed stare; her amused expression was framed by her long, straight blonde hair. She was dressed as casually as he was, wearing only a worn pair of black jeans, a white tank top under an open blue blouse, and fashion boots. Kento swallowed the pretzel and blushed slightly before bursting out into anxious laughter.

“Hi,” the girl said, offering a bandaged hand. “I’m Shina. You must be Kento.”

“Y-yeah,” Kento said, shaking her hand. “Hi. Sorry.”

“Hey, it’s no big deal,” Shina responded with a laugh. The two started for the table. “I just hope you saved room.”

“Are you kidding? I’m starving!”

The first thing to be done on any given morning was to turn on the coffee machine; everyone enjoyed the coffee, and there was always the vain hope that the strong, caffeinated smell would get Rowen out of bed at a reasonable hour. Cye sat at the table and listened to the dripping as he sorted out his thoughts. After the break he would have to go back to school and work; of course he’d have his friends there, but was he up to it? He wasn’t sure he could handle the ostracization again. So what if he was not liable in the official records? Everyone still would think he’s a psycho, and he would still get the cold shoulder from everyone, even the teachers. He had to stay back a grade for his actions, so at least he could be with most of his friends. But that was hardly any comfort. Plus, the return to work wouldn’t be easy. The customers could be so rude, ruder than anything even fathomable in the halls of high school. Yes, Kento and Ryo were there, but they had their own work to worry about and couldn’t always rush to his defense if things got violent. Something told him things would get violent. And the move back into Mia’s wasn’t exactly voluntary. Somehow, he knew he should be really pissed off at Kento for starting the fire and getting them thrown out, but he just couldn’t. At least Ayame would be around to ease some of his awkwardness; anymore, she was the only person he felt he could be perfectly honest around without embarrassment. He sighed and stood up; he’d better put aside this worrying before his hungry friends appeared and demanded breakfast.

“Cye?” Sage moaned from the kitchen doorway. Cye looked at him, taking in just how pale and gaunt he was starting to look; he was still in his silky pajamas, and his hair was uncombed. He must be sick. “Is that you?”

“Yeah,” Cye answered, baffled. He watched as Sage slowly sat down at the table before starting to root through the refrigerator. “Would you like some breakfast? We have grapefruit.”

“No thanks. I’d just like some hot tea. With honey.”

Cye reemerged, holding a canister of oatmeal. “Are you sure? You really should eat something.”

“I know. I just can’t handle food.” Sage glanced at the clock on the microwave. “It’s almost nine.”


“So did Kento ever return from his date?”

Cye paused in thought before turning around and leaning against the counter. “I didn’t see him come in last night.”

“Me neither. It isn’t like a blind date to run this late.” Sage smiled as best he could as he took his hot tea from Cye. “You think he’s okay?”

“I hope so.” Cye started to prepare the oatmeal at the stove. “Do you know anything about his date?”

“Nothing except her name, and I don’t remember it.”

The door opened abruptly, and the conversation ended as Kento half- staggered into the house. His clothes were slightly disheveled, and he looked a good few shades paler than usual; there were bags around his eyes, and his left hand was bandaged. Both of the kitchen’s occupants stared in stunned awe at the sight. He managed to walk into the kitchen and sit at the table without fainting, although he slumped uneasily in his seat.

“Kento?” Cye asked. Kento turned a weary gaze at his friend and gave him a weak smile. It was an almost frightening sight. “What happened?”

“I dunno,” Kento groaned, rubbing his head. “I met her at the diner, we walked, and.....now I’m here. Huh.”

“Who was it you were out with again?” Sage asked, his concern overpowering his illness.

“I dunno.....Shina? Yeah, Shina.”

Cye noticed the bandage. “What happened to your hand?”

“I don’t remember.” Kento carefully peeked under the bandages. As he peeled them away, his eyes widened, and his exhaustion turned into dismay. He looked up at his two friends and stood up. “I, uh,.....I’ll be in my room.” He quickly hurried down the hall and vanished with a slam of the door.

Sage stood up wearily and started towards the hall. “I’ll see if I can help him.”

Kento sat on the bed, almost trembling. That couldn’t be what it looked like; it had to be an odd sore, probably just the product of a vague hangover. Hangover? He didn’t even drink the night before. How could he keep drawing a blank like he did if he was sober? And his hand....What could possibly explain what happened to his hand? There was no way the others would believe him if he simply told them, and if they saw it, they’d panic. He took off the bandages and stared at his hand. It stared back, unblinking. His stomach grew queasy; this had to be a bad dream, he had to wake up and return to a nice, normal existence.

“Kento?” Sage’s weary voice asked, mustering as much concern as he could through his influenza. “What’s wrong?” As he entered, Sage staggered back at the sight of his strongest, most fearless friend so shaken and confused.

“Sage,” Kento meekly started. He held up his left hand with its open palm....and its staring, bright green third eye. “Is this normal?”

Sage caught his breath and slowly approached Kento, keeping a wary watch on the eye. As he took his first step, the eye suddenly widened and blinked; Kento cried out in sharp, all-consuming agony. He watched helplessly as Sage’s terrified stare widened, then washed out to white as he fainted. He slumped to the ground, eyes closed and breath shallow. The pain vanished, and Kento tried in vain to catch his breath. He watched as the eye in his palm first closed, then disappeared altogether. He tried to feel it out with the tremoring fingers of his right hand but no luck. Only then did he notice his friend.

“Sage?” Kento called out. Nothing. “Sage!” He ran over to where Sage had fallen and fell to his knees. “C’mon, buddy, wake up!” He tapped Sage’s face, trying to revive him. He was still alive, but there was no waking him up. His temperature seemed normal, so there was no way he could possibly have fainted from fever. Ever so gently, Sage’s eyes opened. “Sage, are you okay?” The eye reemerged, and Kento felt another, lesser wave of pain.

“Kento...” Sage moaned. “Cover it....”


“Cover your hand....please....” He winced his eyes shut, then strained to open them again. Kento lowered him onto the floor and rushed to retrieve his bandages, wrapping them around the eye before the pain became too unbearable.

“This better?” Kento asked, showing off his bandaged hand. Sage just groaned and closed his eyes. “Sage? Sage, wake up!” Kento shook him, to no effect. He carefully lifted up his friend’s limp form and rested him on the bed, tossing a thin blanket over him. He sat by the bed and stared at the bandages on his hand.

::Well done, Kento.:: a woman’s voice intoned, although no source could be located.

“Who are you? Did you do this?” Kento asked aloud, practically speaking to himself.

::No. If I did this, I’d have this one now. You cost me some adequate fuel, but don’t worry. You can try again.::

“Who ARE you?!”

::You forgot me already? Wow, some date.::

Mia sat by Sage’s bedside, holding his limp wrist in her grip and carefully monitoring his pulse. Everything seemed normal; his breathing was fine, his temperature normal, and his heartbeat strong and steady. There was no medical reason for his state. She looked at the small gathering with an expression of pity and confusion and replaced Sage’s arm at his side.

“I don’t know what’s wrong, guys,” she calmly stated, sighing as she began.

“But he’ll be okay, right?” Rowen asked, noticeably more upset than anyone else.

“I honestly don’t know. If he doesn’t improve by tomorrow, we’ll get a doctor.”

Rowen heaved an angry sigh and began to pace his tiny space. Ryo put a hand on his shoulder, trying to calm him. “Rowen, take it easy,” he said.

“I know,” Rowen concurred. He glanced over at the doorway, next to which sat Kento. “You!” Kento looked up, oddly shaken. “You know what did this, don’t you? You know what hurt Sage.”

::Don’t answer that, Kento,:: the woman’s voice intoned. Kento swallowed hard and looked at Rowen’s deeply hurt and angry gaze. ::You answer that, and I’ll claim that one. You want him to drop dead?::

“Kento?” Ryo asked, recognizing his growing distress. “What is it?”

“Kento, if you know what did this, you have to tell us,” Mia pleaded.

Kento just shook his head, closing his eyes. As Cye placed a hand on his shoulder, he slowly looked at him. “Kento, you have to tell us,” he explained gently. “You aren’t helping Sage with your silence.”

“I......” Kento started. He studied the crowd; every eye was on him. “I don’t know. I’m sorry......I don’t know.”

Ayame curled up in bed, her knees tucked close to her chest as she anxiously rocked beneath the sheets. She knew all too well about the commotion downstairs, and if she went down, it would only make matters worse. A few stray tears rolled down her face, but they went ignored as she trembled.


{Shut up, Shina!}

::Doesn’t the warmth appeal to you? The life?::

{I don’t need it! I’m human!}

::You’re only as human as you wanna be, sis. You know you’ve started down the wrong path. If you wanna turn back, you know what to do.::

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