Chapter Twenty-Three: Puzzle Pieces:
October 1st, 783.
Sen and his fiancée made it all the way to Heijo-Kyo. The fiancée’s health got so worse each day that the herbs weren’t working anymore. Despite making the wedding an earlier date, death still stalked the young couple. Sen wanted to travel alone for the cure, but the bride-to-be insisted on coming with him.
“I want my last moments to be with you!” she pleaded. Sen couldn’t argue with her and so the bride-to-be went with him. The trip took a week and a half. The bride-to-be couldn’t sleep well because her fever grew worse. She ended up bed-ridden for most of the trip. Even the doctors in Heijo-Ko couldn’t save Sen’s beloved fiancée. The young farmer had no choice but to admit that his bride-to-be would die before the wedding.
To clear his head, Sen took a walk around the city. The young farmer became thirsty and started looking for a booth that sold drinks. Nothing caught his eye at first, but then he heard a soft bell ringing in the background. Curious, Sen followed the sound. He walked nearly out of the city before he found the source. The farmer boy came to a soy milk booth. This tent looked rather odd. The bright colors made it look like a circus tent.
“Huh?” Sen asked, “Why is this out in the middle of nowhere?”
“Because, I like the quiet,” a voice answered, “Helps me do business this way.” Sen quickly looked up and saw a young girl peeking out from the stall. She looked rather cute with her elegant round face and ivory-toned skin. One could guess that she was about twelve or thirteen years old with the youthfulness to her eyes and facial features. She didn’t look native Japanese with her deep amber eyes and simple clothing. Sen looked curious and intrigued while the young girl looked at him.
“You look thirsty, sir,” she said properly, “Have some soy milk.” Sen looked at her bucket amazed. That milk looked so good right now.
“But… I don’t have any money…” the farmer said. The girl tilted her head at him.
“What do you mean?” she asked. Sen looked around for a bit and sighed. Might as well say it; she’ll be dead soon anyway.
“I spent it all,” Sen answered. He leaned in close to the girl and she did likewise with him.
“My fiancée is dying,” the farmer whispered, “We’ve tried everything, but it’s no use. She’s going to die soon.” Though her face didn’t show it, the vender was plotting in her mind. This young girl was sick of just living among the humans and wanted more of an excitement in her life. However like this milk, she had to sell it good.
“Perhaps…” the girl began to offer. Sen looked up at her.
“Perhaps what?” he asked. The girl grinned wickedly.
“Perhaps… I could help you and your fiancée …” she purposed. Disbelief covered Sen’s face.
“How?” he challenged. The girl folded her arms across her chest.
“Come and take a walk with me,” she said. The farmer raised an eyebrow at her.
“Why should I?” he questioned. The girl climbed out of her booth. Sen was surprised to find that her head only came up to his chest. She looked up at him smiling.
“Because,” she replied, “Your beloved is sick and you are desperate, am I right?” Sen stared at her deeply before he lowered his gaze.
“Alright,” he said at last, “Tell me what to do.” The girl smiled like her true form.
“Well first,” she said, “Take that walk with me.” Sen nodded reluctantly.
“Right,” his new “friend” said in a soft voice. Then she took him by the arm and led him into the woods.
May 23rd, 2009.
Tsuzuki returned to Ju-Oh-Cho and played the two tapes for the crew. Coupled with Watari’s research, the enemy came forth. Everyone met in the conference room to discuss what they had now. Gushoshin played a copy Daisuke’s very first entry for them. When it ended, the overview began.
Meanwhile, Hotaru came into Emiko’s office and playfully covered her eyes. Her girlfriend giggled.
“Yes, Hoto-chan?” she asked. The loli demon released her and leaned on her back.
“You’re in a good mood this evening,” she remarked. Emiko grinned and turned around.
“Of course,” she said. The butch demon leaned in closer as Hotaru leant her her ear.
“I have found it!” Emiko announced. Her girlfriend looked at her oddly.
“Found what?” she asked. The butch demon held up her hand.
“Call Kazue and Mike in here first,” she said.
“Why?” Hotaru asked. Emiko rubbed her on her hand.
“Just do it,” she said.
“Okay,” the loli demon said. She let go of Emiko and disappeared down the hall. The loli demon reappeared with the other two demons. Mike stood in the hall entry with another woman. Everything from her long, messy dark brown hair with drooping white fuzzy bear ears to her wrinkled pajamas said, “I want to go back to bed!” Mike looked around as Hotaru walked back over to her girlfriend.
“Okay, what is this all about?” he asked.
“Yeah, make this quick!” the third woman snapped, “I’d rather be asleep right now!” Emiko placed her hands on her knees.
“Get this,” she said as she woke up her laptop from the screensaver.
“The origins of the Eda-Kimoto clan began during the Nara Period,” Tatsumi established, “The farmer, Sen, made a contract with a kitsune out of desperation for his fiancée’s life.”
“In exchange for the fiancée’s poor health, every forty generations, a daughter is to be given over to the kitsune herself,” Watari added on.
“What does that mean?” Hotaru asked. Emiko smiled at her housemates.
“Ah,” she said, “The kitsune’s own power to the chosen girl manifests inside of her. From there, the kitsune slowly takes over the girl’s soul to merge into one. The contract with the chosen witch stays valid until the handler dies. After that, the kitsune waits for forty more generations to pass before merging with another soul of her choice.”
“The kitsune must have chosen Anna’s soul to fulfill the bargain,” Tsuzuki reasoned, “Daisuke didn’t want that for his daughter, so he used a sealing spell to lock away her powers for her to live a normal life.”
“But why her?” Konoe asked, “Why not one of her cousins instead? Daisuke wanted her to be normal after all.”
Emiko put up her hands in a shrug. “Who can say?” she asked, “But, I’ve only gotten started!” The third female demon raised an eyebrow at her.
“There’s more?” she asked, bored.
“Of course, dear Kazue!” the leader said, “Each handler has a lesser kitsune of their own.”
“They do?” Mike asked.
“However, they are weaker than the original,” Watari explained, “They are only mere copies that will break down and die over time.” Tsuzuki and Hisoka looked on confused.
“But don’t the tsukai die with them if that happens?” Hisoka asked.
“Yes,” Older Gushoshin replied, “But during the Meji Era, the Eda clan found a way to keep from dying out so quickly.” The Shinigami looked at him.
“How?” Tsuzuki asked in serious tone. Watari’s face went rather grim.
“Human souls,” he answered in a matching tone. Shock bitch slapped everyone in their faces.
“So that’s why the Eda-Kimoto has been killing people for all of these years!” Hotaru gasped.
“Exactly,” Emiko replied.
“Explains what the Ju-Oh-Cho is so interested in the clan,” Mike reasoned.
“But what’s with the burns on the victims’ wrists?” Kazue asked. Emiko narrowed her eyes at him as she prepared to answer.
“The burns are used to tag the victims’ souls as property to the clan,” Watari answered, “Once the mark is burned into the skin, the victim’s soul does not come to Meifu like it is supposed to. Instead, the copy of the kitsune eats and traps the soul in its body, giving more life to the copy and its tsukai.”
“So Anna’s soul would have been food for the kitsune if I’d hadn’t given her the Hell Stone?” Tsuzuki asked.
“Exactly,” Tatsumi answered, “You saved her soul from being devoured by the clan’s power.” Tsuzuki’s eyes lit up after hearing that one.
“Oh so does that mean I’m off the hook now?” he asked in excitement. Tatsumi and Konoe glared at him coldly. “We know you did not just ask that!” their eyes seemed to say. Tsuzuki began to shrink away as he reverted to puppy mode.
“Or not…” he whimpered in misery. Everyone focused back on work. A thought then crossed Tsuzuki’s mind.
“Hey, why did Anna’s burn marks react to Hana’s burns?” he asked.
“The burns are trying to draw her soul to the tsukai’s kitsune,” Emiko explained, “But, Daisuke’s seal is resisting the marks.”
“Because of this struggle, Anna felt her wrists burning,” Mike added on.
“Exactly,” the butch demon summed up. A thought came into Hotaru’s mind.
“Kato-san must have known all of this,” Hisoka pointed out, “But why does he care about Anna-san so much and what’s his connection to the Eda-Kimoto family?” When no one had an answer, Konoe turned to Tsuzuki and Hisoka.
“Tsuzuki, Kurosaki, go back to Kimoto manor,” he ordered. “Stay with Anna-san through this whole case. She may be the key to stopping her family.”
“Yes sir!” the boys said.
“So what should we do?” Kazue asked in apathy. Emiko rose to her feet.
“What else?” she asked, “Go and pay dear Anna visit!” Kazue sneered at her.
“Do we have to?” she asked. Emiko sighed and shook his head.
“Fine,” she said, “You can go back to bed.” The demon grinned.
“Sweet,” Kazue said. Then she hurried back to bed. The other demons turned to each other.
“Ready to do this?” the leader asked.
“Yeah,” Mike answered. Hotaru nodded.
“Okay,” the leader said. “Let’s do this.” They teleported to Kimoto manor.
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