Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

4/15/2015

A Moment’s Peace

 

Naoto: Mitsuru just informed me that she believes shadows are involved in a recent number of suicides. I’ve been told to pass it on and urge all of you to be on the lookout. So far they’ve only had isolated cases in Tokyo, but the cause remains unidentified.

Rise: Oh man. I have a concert coming up too. I was hoping things would stay calmed down.

Yosuke: Seriously? That sucks.

Teddie: You make me beary sad, Naochan.

Souji’s hand hovered over the digital keys on his phone. He had no idea what to say.

Rise: Hey, Souji lives in Tokyo, right? Man, I hope he’s okay.

Yosuke: Now that you mention it, he usually responds by now.

Naoto: That is part of why I selected this time.

Souji sat in a café, where he always studied between classes, staring at his phone. Even so far away they knew him so well.

Butterfly peered over his shoulders to watch the conversation. “Say something.”

“What?”

A shrug.

Souji sighed. Butterfly was right, of course, but what should he say? Maybe just a confirmation would do.

Souji: Understood.

Yosuke: There you are, partner.

Rise: Thank goodness. We were starting to worry.

Naoto: I’m glad you’ve responded.

Another window for a chat between just him and Naoto.

Naoto: Have you noticed anything?

“I can’t lie to her.”

Butterfly leaned back. “Hmmm. Maybe feel her out first?”

Reasonable enough advice, he supposed. It felt a little wrong not to just immediately trust Naoto and her judgment, but maybe this way they could get some new information.

“Involving shadows?”

Naoto: Yeah. Several hundred cases of apathy syndrome were reported yesterday in central Tokyo.

“Hundred?” Souji choked. That woman had caused hundreds of cases? He’d been there and he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.

Butterfly reached out, gently tapping on the phone.

Souji: How widespread?

Souji glared at him. Butterfly shrugged.

Naoto: Pretty much everywhere within the Yamanote line. Researches are investigating the cause, but it’s hard to explain why it happens even with the proper knowledge.

That seemed like more than the area he and Butterfly had covered. They exchanged looks.

“It is an organization,” Butterfly reminded him.

“Yeah, but just how big is it?”

“At the rate she was moving it wouldn’t take long to cover the area within the Yamanote line.”

“I guess, but still…hundreds of cases.”

“Fewer than you’d expect.”

“Fewer?”

Butterfly nodded. “A lot of fewer. We were lucky. Or perhaps she drove people straight to suicide.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Not this time.”

Souji sighed. How could anyone make fun of that?

Naoto: The Shadow Operative are stumped. Apparently, there’s never been an outbreak quite like this.

“Wrong,” Butterfly whispered, “but perhaps not this sudden.”

“Wouldn’t be quite like it then.”

“I guess.”

Souji: Do they have any idea what caused it?

Naoto: It should be a powerful Shadow, but they haven’t seen any like that recently. A lot more small ones though.

She was being so open with him. Her trust reminded him of the strength of their bonds.

“I have to tell her.”

“Only if she promises to leave the others out.”

“Why does it matter so much? Don’t you want them to help?”

“No,” Butterfly snapped. He stood up. “They’re your friends. Do what you will with them.” He began to sulk towards the exit.

“Wait. Butterfly!”

Several heads turned towards them, but Souji did his best to shrug them off. Now what had he done?

Fortunately, Butterfly didn’t actually wander off. He just stood staring at the campus.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t’ try your community tricks with me.” He looked up at the sky. “Clear day.”

“Yeah. It’s nice after following all that shadow stuff around.”

“Yeah.”

“Butterfly, why don’t you want them involved? You fought together before and I’ve seen them in combat. They’re incredible.”

“I know that.”

“Then why?”

“I wanted them to move on,” he whispered. “I wanted them to drop it.”

“How could anyone do that after an experience like that?”

“How could they forget?” Butterfly whispered. He turned to Souji. “They forgot. All of it. Gone. Never happened, and then they pretend they can never move on.”

“You can move on, and they have. Yukari is a model. Akihiko is studying to be a detective. Ken is almost done with high school.”

“And yet they fight.”

“How could they not? They want to help.”

Butterfly turned away. “Come on. You’ll be late to class.”

 


 

 

“I just heard from the morning class,” a student hissed excitedly, “Miss Suzuki is out today.”

“Seriously?”

“Man, that sucks.”

“Maybe we’ll finally get someone who makes some sense.”

“I like her.”

Souji barely paid any attention to hubbub. A teacher calling in sick wasn’t such a rare thing that it warranted astonishment. Especially since she had a toddler. Who knew how many diseases that woman got exposed to in a day?

The lecture hall door opened.

Izanagi reacted, but in a way Souji couldn’t identify. Whatever it was, it had all of them on high alert. Even Butterfly seemed to be tensing from his hairclip form.

Whoever was coming through that door was dangerous.

A man only slightly older than the students walked in. He wore a white button down shirt with no tie and a black leather jacket. His pants appeared to be leather as well, as did his boots. He stepped up to the podium and stared up at the silent class.

With a sigh, he turned around and wrote his name on the board.

Raidou Kuzunoha.

Whispers erupted around the room.

“No way!”

“Isn’t he the freshmen slayer?”

“I heard they never let him teach.”

“Getting a crush on him is referred to as a curse.”

“He’ll kill you if you so much as look at him wrong.”

How had Souji never heard of this guy?

The temporary instructor turned back to the class. “Done yet?”

His sharp tone and level eye contact made it quite clear that only one answer would do.

Now that Souji thought about it, that even gaze seemed way too close and personal for how far apart they were. His eyes shouldn’t have been so clear. Certainly, not clear enough to identify the hint of blue.

“You are?”

“Souji Seta.”

Raidou looked down the class roster. He then glanced back up. “And the odds all of you are seated correctly?”

Assigned seats? Yeah right.

“Very well. I’ll start by asking you, Seta-kun.”

Souji stood. Class began.

 


 

 

After class with Raidou, Souji wanted nothing more than to rush out of the room. The substitute had been brutal. His explanations of the material were alright, and he clearly knew his stuff, but he also clearly thought of anyone who didn’t know his stuff as an idiot. He hadn’t handled questions well at all. Topping it all off his phone had gone off during the class. A teacher’s phone going off? Seriously?

For some reason though, Butterfly urged him to stay.

That’s why he found himself lingering as the rest of the class ran away. That’s why he found himself now staring awkwardly at Raidou.

“Question?”

“Ask him anything,” Butterfly urged inside Souji’s head. “I just want to get a feel for him.”

Why? “Just wanted to confirm the homework.”

Raidou sighed. “You wrote it down.”

Souji bit his lip.

“And you’re a terrible liar. Can I go now? E-mail Serena with questions. It’s her class.”

“You know our teacher?”

Radiou just gave Souji a dead-eye glare.

“Sorry. Guess that’s pretty obvious. Are you both in the graduate program then?”

Raidou slowly nodded.

“What’s she like?”

“Stop wasting my time, Seta.” Raidou grabbed his bag.

“Wait.”

He didn’t wait. For a moment Souji just stood there, staring at the door.

“Interesting,” Butterfly remarked, materializing beside him.

“What’s interesting?”

Butterfly tilted his head. “He felt wrong.”

“Think he’s with Armageddon?”

“Not sure,” Butterfly admitted. “Something’s off though.”

Souji’s phone buzzed.

UNKNOWN: Click Here

“What do you think?”

“Looks like a video link.”

“Then why can’t my phone just load the video. It has internet here.”

UNKNOWN: Password: PH4RO5

Souji and Butterfly exchanged concerned glances. Then, he clicked on the link.

Password required.

He typed in “PH4RO5”.

A video popped up. Kyou stood against a view of Sky Tree.

“Hey, darlings,” he greeted with a grin.

Was this really the man they’d met just a few days ago?

“Thought I should let all of you know that we’ve got a bit of a problem lately.” It finally registered with Souji that this video was taken at night.

“Just a few days ago our dear mother Nephtys was brutally attacked while spreading the message. The attackers, a pair of dastardly persona users, show no regret for destroying the peace and even went so far as to attack her shadow directly.”

Souji looked at Butterfly. He’d never asked how he’d found everything out.

“Unfortunately, this forced her to the stage of final breath. Without her the spread of contentment will be greatly slowed.” He pouted dramatically. “So, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.” He held up a photo of Souji. “Cute face, huh? Strange how those always hide the brutal murderers. This hotbed of deceit needs to experience the stages. Needs to find his answer and face Armageddon. And so, I say, bring him to me alive. I’ll be waiting at the club.”

The video abruptly ended.

UNKNOWN: Why is he targeting you?

Souji: Who are you?

UNKNOWN: A friend. Why is he targeting you?

Souji: I can’t answer if I don’t know who you are.

No immediate response. Souji looked up to Butterfly. “You killed her?”

“No.”

“Then why’d-“

“I don’t know.”

“Why is he targeting you?”

Souji and Butterfly both turned sharply to the door. There stood Raidou Kuzunoha.

“Where’d you come from?”

“Just closed the door.” The man stepped forward. “Heard everything.”

“Why were you spying on us?” Butterfly demanded.

“Why is he targeting you?”

“Did you send that video?” Souji asked.

“Someone wants you dead, and you’re worried about who warned you?”

“Who are you?” Butterfly demanded.

“Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth,” the man responded. “Devil Summoner.”

“Devil summoner?”

“Correct. My agency has been investigating the recent outbreaks of the disease known as apathy syndrome.”

“Why?” Butterfly asked.

“Abnormal occurrences is what we do. We’ve had eight, ten, people come in reporting loved ones with apathy syndrome they believe related to illicit activities. Three cases lead to suicide clubs where several more incidents were discovered. Seven cases appear to have simply occurred. In only two of these could we trace anyone who might have a motive to cause such a state, and we still haven’t found what causes it in the first place. The only common thread is in the suicide clubs, all run by the man in that video.”

“The man targeting me,” Souji added. “That’s why you’re asking about me.”

Raidou nodded. “What do you know?”

“Only about the suicide clubs,” Souji answered. He figured it was true enough. Non persona users couldn’t help with something like this, no matter how otherwise competent they might be.

Raidou sighed. “Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Shinjuku. Easier to have a candid talk at my office.” He glared at Souji. “I don’t appreciate run arounds.”

“It’s what you’re getting,” Butterfly retorted.

“We’ll see.” Raidou looked directly at Souji. “Are you coming?”

“No.”

“Look, you can tell me what you know. Let me in. Or I can tail you until I find out anyway.”

“Must be hard when you tell everyone what you’re up to in the beginning,” Butterfly snapped.

“No.”

“How do we know we can trust you?”

“We could use each other. I need information. You’re going to need protection.”

“We can take care of ourselves.”

“Cute, but doubtful.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Not even gauging your enemy well enough to know when you’re targeted?”

“That doesn’t reflect our abilities in a fight,” Butterfly countered.

“Getting jumped?”

He backed down.

Souji looked at Raidou. “And if we do come with you?”

“We have a nice chat.”

“That’s really it?”

Raidou nodded.

“I think we should go.”

“Really?”

Souji nodded. Butterfly shrugged. “Alright then. Guess we’re following you.”

“Good.”

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Izanami and Izanagi

A piece I did for the Shin Megami Tensei Network after someone in the Facebook group asked about the myth. Definitely a summary of events.

Shin Megami Tensei Network

Whether the first gods or the descendants of the first gods chosen to shape the land, Izanagi and Izanami are essential to Japanese mythology, especially Shinto. It’s no surprise then that they are central to Persona 4, the first Persona game to fully spread away from Greek mythology (though Persona 1 was far from exclusive) and use the myths native to Japan.

Izanami (She Who Beckons) and Izanagi (He Who Beckons) crafted much of Japan together, according to legends that date before the eighth century. Originally siblings, they then seem to have stumbled upon marriage, and sex, in order to begin populating the land with gods. It is good to note, this being Shinto, that many of those gods are aspects of Japan themselves, such as the sea and the rivers.

The most pivotal of the gods Izanami bore is Kagutsuchi. Born as Hi-no-yagi-haya-o (Swift Burning Flame Man), his fire…

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Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 22

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 22

Fall to Rebirth: 4/14/2015

So Many Things

 

Raidou slowly flipped through an old journal as hospital staff worked desperately to prepare the room. They rushed around him, but he simply sat quietly. A tall man wearing a doctor’s lab coat came in, bringing in a tray filled with tools required for an initial examination.

Raidou looked up from the journal. “Need a hand?”

“No, no, we’re fine,” the doctor replied. He pulled the tray up to the bed. “Just wishing we had rooms already clean and ready. All these apathy syndrome cases lately has really put us in a bind. They don’t need a lot of care, but you can’t care for most of them at home and so they just end up taking a lot of space. Needing an individual room doesn’t help.”

“They’ll be here soon.” Raidou looked down at the journal again.

“Rare for you to take those out of the house.”

“Didn’t have time.”

The nurses finally finished making the bed. They didn’t bother to stick around either, knowing full well how weird conversations between these two could get.

“Don’t you think it’s a little weird?” the doctor asked sharply. “Why would he come out like that?”

“According to the bio, Naoki Kashima is a second year in high school, not quite seventeen. He may be powerful. That doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing.”

“All the better for us, I guess.”

“For his brother, certainly. He’s lucky Daisuke was on it. Anyone else would have ended poorly.”

The doctor’s phone rang. He quickly flipped it open. “They’re here.”

“Tell the nurse to lead them in.”

“We’re not going to meet them?”

Raidou leaned back. “Still reading.”

“You’ve actually never read this one?” the doctor asked as he typed quick response.

“Hidden.”

“Must be serious then.”

“Obviously.”

The doctor shook his head with a smile, organizing his things. Several minutes passed before a knock on the door.

“Doctor Yukimura, your patients are here.”

“Bring them in.”

Naoki walked through the door first, looking cautiously around. Detective Sakamoto followed him, immediately followed by Dante carrying Yukio.

“Lay him on the bed.”

“Are you Doctor Yukimura?” Naoki asked.

“Correct.” He rushed around to help Dante lay Yukio gently on his stomach.

Raidou watched over the edge of his book, seeming uninterested.

Naoki grew immediately interested in him though. “Who’s this?”

“Ah, this is-“ Detective Sakamoto began.

The sound of book snapping shut interrupted him. “Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth. You must be Naoki Kashima.”

“You’re Raidou?”

“He said you two had met,” Detective Sakamoto added, confused.

“Not us.”

“Catfight later,” Doctor Yukimura said. “I need Kashima-kun’s description of how he found his brother and what demon he thinks caused it.”

“Metatron,” Naoki answered immediately, slowly coming over to his brother. Raidou opened his book again.

“Metatron? What did you do to piss of Metatron?”

“Exist.”

“He is stubbornly good at it,” Dante added.

“And who are you? You don’t seem quite human.”

“Hey, I resent and resemble that remark.”

“That’s Dante,” Naoki explained.

Raidou’s hand twitched slightly, but only Pixie and Leanan Sidhe were paying enough attention to him to notice it. In fact, neither of them had taken their eyes off him since flying in the room.

“I see,” Doctor Yukimura responded, even though he didn’t quite. He moved to check Yukio’s pulse. “There’s a chart on the table. If you could sit down and fill out what you know about your brother? I’d like you to fill one out as well.”

“He’s underage,” Detective Sakamoto warned.

“This is merely for informational purposes. Once we gets these wings dealt with we can have the parents come in and handle everything properly. Until then, we just need everything we can get. His pulse is low, but not bad for someone who appears to have been knocked out by faeries.”

“We thought he’d freak if he woke up with wings,” Dante explained.

“Reasonable enough. Now, why don’t you take a seat as well?”

“Where?”

“Just stand against the wall for all I care, but I need to check his vitals.”

Dante held up his hands in defeat, moving to stand by Naoki.

“Sorry for bringing in such a crowd.”

Doctor Yukimura shook his head. “It’s fine. Better to have them all here than wandering around. Still, the only time I’ve seen something like this…”

Raidou glanced over the edge of his book as the doctor trailed off.

“Leanan Sidhe, drop my disguise,” Naoki requested.

“You don’t want to do that,” she hissed.

“I’d like to see it,” Raidou said, still looking at Doctor Yukimura.

She shook a moment, but did drop the disguise. “Do you think it’s like me?”

“I think it tried to be,” the doctor stated, “and I’ll need to give you a look over too. I’m guessing they chose your brother since you survived a similar transformation. If we can figure out why one would work and the other wouldn’t we should be able to cure it.”

“You should let him know that natural healing just encourages them to grow,” Pixie added.

“So they’re fully integrated, but stunted. Interesting.”

“You heard her?” Naoki asked, surprised.

“Of course. I’d be a terrible specialist in demonic parasites if I couldn’t see them.”

Raidou returned to his book, sensing the moment of crisis had passed.

“So that’s what you do. Do you do normal stuff too?”

“Of course. I work the emergency room just like everyone else, much like Daisuke works as a regular detective. Demonic incidents aren’t as rare as people would like to believe, but they usually stay out of our areas.”

Daisuke? Right, Detective Daisuke Sakamoto. So, those two knew each other really well then.

“I’ll head out then, let his parents know I’ve got him in good hands.”

“Thanks,” Naoki said. “I don’t want my mom freaking out on me again.”

The detective turned to Raidou. “You think you can stay and keep an eye on things here?”

No response.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Doctor Yukimura replied. “If it all comes down to the wire we’ve got a potential attack on a Japanese civilian from a major angel and the demifiend here. He can excuse his way out of about anything for this job.”

“I suppose so. What should I report?”

“Nothing,” Raidou responded, still reading. “Report nothing yet.”

The detective and doctor exchanged glances.

“Raidou…”

“Understand the demifiend’s situation, Daisuke. Better to hold off the report until he knows what he’s gotten into.”

“Not thinking the boss will like this, huh?” Doctor Yukimura responded.

Detective Sakamoto looked at Naoki, who watched the conversation carefully. “You really think it could be so bad we just shouldn’t say anything?”

“My grandfather was initially sent to kill him. As things stand I see no reason why their opinion would have changed.”

“Kill me?”

“Not my intention.”

“He thinks angels are jerks,” Doctor Yukimura explained.

“He’s right.”

“Well,” Detective Sakamoto said with an exasperated sigh and a sharp clap, “I can see you’ll get along at least. Call me when I can say something more to his parents and keep me informed, alright?”

Raidou lifted a hand from his book to wave the man away. The detective chuckled before leaving.

It took almost an entire five minutes for the quiet to end, discounting the sound of irritated pixie wings.

“You and the detective know each other well?” Naoki asked as he stood up to hand Doctor Yukimura the forms.

He glanced over them. “Healthy family.”

“Yeah. Mom makes us eat properly and neither my brother nor I are very sedentary.”

“Good. Whatever we do it will be easier if your brother is already healthy. I’ll hand these to a nurse when we get the chance, so we can pull up your full family records.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Naoki felt very deflected.

“You’ll have to excuse Raidou.”

“Huh?”

“He’s pretty much always like this, though usually without the excuse of a book.”

“What’s he reading anyway?”

“A diary.”

“Whose?”

Doctor Yukimura looked over to Raidou. “You’re the one who seems to want to keep him as our responsibility.”

“Not yet.”

The doctor let out a sight, even as he smiled. “Like I said, always like this. Always has been too, so don’t worry it’s just you. As for your brother, he’s in pretty good health if you disregard the obvious signs of torture and the wings. Good blood pressure. Reasonable pulse. Normal breathing.”

“That’s good.”

“Do you mind if I check you?”

“Why?”

“Frankly because I’ve never seen anything quite like you.”

“Drop it, Vincent.”

“He speaks,” Naoki exclaimed.

“I can’t drop it, Raidou. We have a patient here who needs help.”

“Only what you need to do.”

“I am a professional.”

“And an obsessive.”

“Ignore him.”

“Okay?”

“Hold out your arm.”

Naoki complied. “You two seem like friends.”

Doctor Yukimura pulled up Naoki’s sleeve to place the blood pressure band around his arm.

“Am I wrong?”

The doctor pressed a button and it began to exert pressure. “Not really. But we do have our disagreements.”

“Am I one of them?”

“You aren’t, at least not inherently. My family just has a bit of a history with going overboard when it comes to the relationships between demons and humans. That’s all. But yeah, we’ve known each other a long time.”

“He’s not the Raidou I met.”

“Entirely possible. He is the fifteenth one after all.”

“I wonder which one I met then?”

The pressure released from Naoki’s arm. “Looking good. Really good. I’m sure he knows who it was, so you’ll just have to trust him to tell you when he’s ready.”

“Hmm.” Naoki rolled down his sleeve.

“Now, how did your transformation occur?”

“Magatama,” Naoki replied, “but that’s not what they used on my brother.”

“Magatama?” Raidou whispered.

Naoki and Doctor Yukimura both turned to Raidou. He gently closed the book and stood.

“Yeah, strange blonde kid gave me one through the eye. Hurt, but now I can just swallow them and they find their way.”

“You have multiple?”

“Yeah, but they seem to get sick outside, so I’ve got them all in my body.”

“Demonic power through parasites,” Doctor Yukimura mused.

“Vincent,” Raidou snapped.

“Have you ever heard of anything like this?” the doctor countered.

Raidou sighed. “A blonde child?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you know who?”

Naoki shrugged. “No idea.”

“I see.” Raidou sat back down. “Random blondes handing out information and power.”

“Isn’t the usually bad?” Doctor Yukimura asked. “Excuse me, Dante was it, would you like a quick check-up too?”

“I’m good.”

Raidou turned to Dante. “Where are you from?”

“Why you ask?”

“You’re speaking the language of the demons.”

“Huh? He’s just speaking Japanese.”

“You’re good,” Dante responded to Raidou.

“I know it linguistically. I can tell. You’re an instinctual speaker.”

“What’s he talking about, Dante?”

“So’s the kid.”

“I noticed, but he’s the demifiend. Who are you?”

“The one and only Dante.”

“What are you talking about?” Naoki asked.

“American then,” Raidou surmised,

“Much as anywhere.”

“You don’t speak Japanese.”

“Not much,” Dante admitted.

For a moment Dante and Raidou just glared at each other.

“Seriously, guys, what’s going on?” Naoki demanded.

Pixie came up to him. “Only demons speak our tongue instinctually, but everyone understands it. That’s why we can always communicate. Well, at least everyone can understand it. Sometimes it’s talking back that’s hard for humans, or their minds are trying to block us out.”

“You’re a demon,” Raidou stated to Dante.

“Nope.”

“Then what?”

“Dante.” He came up to Raidou, standing about a head taller than the already fairly tall Japanese man. “And I’m a devil hunter.”

Raidou didn’t back down physically at all. “I’ll accept your explanation, for now.”

“Good.” Dante happily backed off. “That’s good. Just here to help the kid out.”

“Thanks, Dante.”

“No problem. Now, where can we get some grub?”

“I’m going to need to run some x-rays and the like,” Vincent said, “so maybe it would be best if all of you went out to dinner.”

“Sounds good. I could really go for some sushi.”

Naoki chuckled.

Raidou turned to him. “What about you?”

“I don’t care, but I think Dante’s been itching for sushi since he got here.”

“There’s a pretty cheap place two blocks away. Conveyer belt, but you can order take-out there too,” Vincent responded.

“You want sushi?”

“I’ll take anything that’s not hospital food, but something I don’t need to worry about eating hot is best. You might as well go out somewhere though, since this is going to take a while. He’s here in secret, so I can’t really push too many buttons with this.”

“Is it a problem?” Naoki asked.

“Not really, so don’t worry about it. Honestly, I handle this sort of mess all the time.”

Raidou sighed. “Alright then. Your demons should come as well.”

“Like we’re missing out on sushi,” Pixie exclaimed.

“You know we shouldn’t eat human food,” Leanan Sidhe berated.

Raidou shook his head. “Are you coming or not?”

“Well, I’m coming. Dante? Pixie?”

“Sounds good to me. You do your thing, doctor.”

Vincent nodded.

 


 

 

Raidou sat between Naoki and Dante at the sushi bar, watching the little plates of food go by. Not the best place for conversations, but Dante seemed pleased at the sight of all the fish, even if he couldn’t seem to identify any of them.

Naoki grabbed some tuna. Dante grabbed the same.

“Going to just copy off of me?”

“Gotta start somewhere.”

Raidou sighed, pulling a slimy bundle of natto and okra off the belt.

“Seriously?”

“What is that stuff?”

“Healthy and cheap,” Raidou responded.

“Yeah, but really? You eat okra?”

“Okra, I know. What’s the other slime ball?”

Naoki looked sharply at Dante, surprised. “Natto. It’s fermented soy beans.”

“Why does something fermented look so disgusting?”

“It’s not bad,” Raidou commented right before plopping one of the rolls in his mouth.

“It’s better than it smells,” Naoki added. “I like it best with mustard. Actually, I only like it with mustard. Man, can’t remember the last time I had that stuff.”

Raidou ate the second roll.

“Just gulp it down, huh?”

“That’s how you’re supposed to eat rolls, Dante. That way you get all the tastes.”

“Gotcha.”

For a while they had a fairly standard meal. Dante occasionally asked what something was, but otherwise the happy sound of munching prevailed. Conversation started up again when things slowed down.

“So, you’re the fifteenth Raidou?”

“Correct.”

“One at a time?”

“Also correct.”

“The guy I met seemed a little out of place, I guess, but I still don’t get how I met a previous Raidou.”

“It’s not impossible you met a future Raidou.”

“Then you probably wouldn’t know who,” Dante countered.

Raidou smiled slightly.

“Does it have to do with the diary you were reading?”

Raidou nodded.

“Hmmm, do all Raidous keep a record?”

“No. The diary was his choice. There are reports, but mostly just stories passed down through oral tradition and rumor.”

“Huh. Well, you definitely knew about me.”

“I investigated the cathedral. You two really stirred the hornet’s nest.”

“They had my brother,” Naoki retorted.

“I’m not saying you were wrong, just what you did.”

“Did you know about the blasted angels?” Dante asked.

“Demons prefer to live where they are believed. Angels commonly reside in Christian locales. St. Mary’s Cathedral has operated as a base for some time.”

“My brother’s not the only one.”

“As has been hinted, but without evidence there’s not much we can do.”

“Evidence?”

“Correct. It’s one thing if it’s a rogue group, but any group under Metatron is far from rogue. The consequences could easily become catastrophic. My job as Raidou is to avoid such a situation.”

“And let them get away with shit?”

“No, but they must be proven the first aggressor.”

“Don’t want it to be your fault,” Dante reasoned.

“Angels are aggravatingly chivalrous. If they acted out of turn they will generally back down. This is our jurisdiction and they should come to us first.”

“Who knew demons had rules,” Dante pondered.

“Didn’t think they had regions at least,” Naoki admitted.

“Demons are tied by ancient oaths and rules, and are rarely consciously aware of them.”

Naoki glanced outside the window to the sulking faeries. Raidou had refused to let them enter the building, sayings its impact on humans would be negative.

“They can enter where they like, but in a tight space remain conspicuous. It’s easy to panic when you know there’s something you can’t see.”

“I guess.” Naoki looked back at Raidou. “Is knowing all of this part of your job?”

“Yes.”

“Not just about killing them anymore, is it?”

“Why would I?” Raidou responded, turning to Dante.

“They’re demons.”

“You put up with the pixie.”

“She doesn’t much act like a demon.”

“Exactly. Why assume she is unique?”

Dante just stared at him for a moment.

“Calm down, Dante. You and I don’t agree on this either.”

He grabbed another plate of fish.

Raidou turned to Naoki. “Is he always like this?”

“No. Well, we’ve only recently met up outside…”

“I see. You see different things when you change spaces.”

“Something like that. Glad you agree with me about demons though. Besides, saw enough problems causes by humans not to think they’re worse.”

“What caused it?”

“Caused what?”

“The Conception.”

“I don’t know the details, but there was a man who caused it. He wanted to make the world anew.”

Raidou leaned back.

“He was pretty scary. Just wanted a world of silence. The ultimate peace, boredom, except you’re too lifeless to even care.”

“Did you want a world?”

“Not when I started. Even when I ended, I thought maybe if I can just go back and take what I learned. Everyone just freaked out.”

“I read the report that got Daisuke involved with your case.”

“Heh. Yeah, that was…not good.”

“Hey, do they have strawberry sundaes here?” Dante suddenly asked.

“What?” Naoki and Dante replied in unison.

“Strawberry sundaes, or is that not a thing in Japan?”

“We have parfaits,” Naoki replied.

Raidou just shook his head at the sharp change in conversation.

“With strawberry sauce?”

“Strawberries even.”

“Great. Where can we get one?”

“Are you done eating?” Raidou asked.

“Until the sundaes come out.”

Raidou waved over a waiter. “Then you’re done. We need the tuna bento to go.”

“Yes, sir.”

“There might be something in the convenience store.”

“I’d be up for that.”

“Seriously?”

“You could get Doctor Yukimura some coffee or something.”

“He doesn’t need more caffeine.”

Naoki shrugged. “Come on. It’s a true Japanese experience.”

“As long as they’re good.”

“Depends what they have.”

Raidou groaned. The waiter brought over the check. “Your bento will be ready very shortly.”

“Thanks. I’ll go up front and pay now.”

“Yes, sir.” The woman began clearing away the plates.

“Come on, you two. They’ll have it up front by the time we’ve finished paying.”

“Sorry, you have to treat us.”

Raidou sighed. “It’s alright. Not optimal, but alright.”

Naoki grimaced. Dante grinned. “You really are something, you know that?”

Raidou just went up and paid. “No sundaes for you.”