# Chapter 1: You Are Not Alone

Name: Mystery Club
Genre: Modern Horror
Size: ~75k (file attached)
Status: 100% completed and edited

---------------
Epsilon

You are not alone.

You've tried to tell people but they won't believe you. You've
tried to prove it but you can't. You can hardly believe it
yourself. Yet you know the things are out there, just under the
surface of the world. Maybe you caught a glimpse of something out
of the corner of your eye, and then it was gone. Maybe you passed
by a shadow with a chill wind and you could see no end to it.
Maybe you've heard their ragged breathing and felt hot breath on
your neck at night, only to find nothing was there.

Maybe a friend has gone missing, or started acting strange. Maybe
you. You've tried to tell them that monsters exist but they won't
believe you.

We do.

You are not alone.

We can help.

C&A Productions Presents

A work of Improfanfiction

Mystery Club
"You are not alone."
Part 1

By: Aaron Peori

**********************************************************************

"Great, it's raining," Yohko sighed as the door to the library swung
open. Indeed it was raining out there, a hard, miserable sort of rain
that seemed to wash all life from the world. The quad was empty, and
even the lights of the lampposts along the walks seemed muted and
shallow under that oppressive downpour. In the distance Setsuna could
barely make out the silhouettes of buildings that marked the end of
the campus. "Well, kid," Yohko said and patted her companion on the
arm. "See you later."

Setsuna looked up and blinked as the older student ran into the rain
accompanied by a dull "pop" as her umbrella opened. The nimble figure
of her one friend at the college disappeared into the rain; her feet
dodging treacherous puddles and tiny rivers with ease. It was then
that Setsuna realized she herself had no umbrella. Which was just her
luck anyway.

Swallowing a few choice words about that, the freshman dashed into the
rain. She pulled her blazer up over her head, hoping to stop at least
some of the water from running down her new dress and ruining it. It
was a futile effort, for moments later her decidedly less than nimble
legs betrayed her and she plunged headlong into a muddy puddle. For a
moment she tasted filth and thought she was going to drown, then
rationality returned.

She got up, brushing a few locks of what she liked to call ebony hair
off her face. She was now thoroughly soaked and her dress was ruined.
This time she didn't bother to stifle her cursing as she raised
herself to her feet. "Ah!" she grimaced as her weight bore down on her
left foot. She looked down and sure enough she could see the nicely
purpling bruise forming on her ankle. She drew in her breath in a
sharp hiss then forced herself to ignore the pain. She checked her
watch but couldn't make out the dial because the lens had cracked and

She couldn't afford to sit here and sulk however. She was getting more
drenched by the moment and she was in a hurry besides. Forcing herself
to move as fast as she could (which amounted to a slow amble) she
moved toward the end of the quad and the currently invisible fence
which separated the campus from the rest of Tokyo. The journey to the
gate was without incident and she moved out into the streets. They
were deserted but that wasn't uncommon for this part of the city at
this time of night, especially with the weather being what it was. She
moved herself along the street until the bus stop came into view...
and saw the bus pulling away.

"No, wait!" Setsuna yelled and tried her best to run after it. She got
maybe five feet before tumbling over into yet another puddle. This one
was in the harsh concrete instead of the forgiving mud, however. She
pushed herself onto her knees and watched as the bus faded into the
darkness. "No..." She felt a sob in her voice as the realization that
the last bus had left her behind in the pouring rain hit her. It
almost felt like the water was slowly draining away her energy now. "I
will not cry! I will not cry!" she told herself harshly and forced
herself to her feet.

She briefly considered the cellphone in her backpack. She could call
her father. He would send a car right away, maybe be here in fifteen
minutes at the most. Then she would be out of the rain... and back at
her old house. And she would hear the lectures about how she should
just give up on this whole nonsense, and how she was disappointing the
family and all those slightly hurt expressions. No, she wouldn't call
her father. This was just yet another one of life's little challenges
and if she proved she could handle it, then maybe she would do okay on
her own after all.

With renewed vigor she started to walk to her place. It was over an
hour's walk, and by the time she got home she would probably be
drenched but that wasn't about to get her down! Resolve alone could
only last so long however. About a half-hour later, as her clothes
plastered themselves to her almost childish frame and her hair hung on
her head like a lead weight and her injured ankle throbbed numbly
through the cold and the wet, she began to reconsider.

"Little girl..."

She started, her eyes snapping left and right across the deserted
street. All the buildings around here were dark, their windows empty.
She could have sworn she had heard a voice but, after a few moments
figured her mind was probably playing tricks on her. She began walking
again, this time whistling an old melody her mother had used to put
her to sleep when she was but a child. Back before her mother had...
no, best not think of that.

"Little girl, why are you sad?"

Okay, there was no doubting it this time. She had heard a voice and
from nearby, too. Yet, nobody was out here. Granted, she couldn't see
more than fifteen feet in any direction, but that voice had sounded
like it had come from just behind her. The first hints of panic began
to bubble up out of her unconscious. She stayed still, her eyes
wandering the area for a few minutes as the rain tried to mercilessly
pound her down. Finally she moved on, but her eyes scanned back and
forth.

"Little girl, don't go away. I want to share something with you."

She bolted, her mind unable to form any other options. She managed to
move at a good clip for a while, but eventually her injury betrayed
her again and she felt her legs go out from under her. Desperately she
tried to roll with the fall, like they had taught her at Judo class.
She managed to keep herself from taking any more damage but found
herself rolled up against the fence at edge of a canal. The water
below churned and roared as the weeping sky filled it almost to
overflowing. She could feel the occasional slap as the water lapped
over the side.

She sat like that for awhile, feeling like a cornered animal. Her
breath came in short, shallow gasps and her heart raced at a mile a
minute. Vision of perverts and psychos filled her head. Her eyes
scanned back and forth, desperately searching for some clue as to
where the voice might be. There! Out of the corner of her eye on the
left. She turned but saw nothing more than the rain and darkness.

"Hello little girl."

She turned with a frightened shriek and saw him. He crouched by her
right side; his lean, almost skeletal frame silhouetted by the street
lamp. He looked, for all the world like a sarariman in a cheap
business suit. That is, if one didn't look at his eyes. They seemed to
shimmer with an internal light, and were slitted like a cats. Both
were pale green and had a haunted, hungry look to them. She found
herself backing away instinctively.

"Don't be afraid..." he said in a voice like ominous shadows. His hand
gently but firmly grasped her elbow and prevented her escape. Her
throat was dry and she swore she wasn't breathing. "I won't hurt you
little girl. I only want to share something with you..." he smiled
like a skull, all teeth and no feeling. "I have a very special gift to
give you. You will live forever..." His voice was droning, almost
hypnotic and she got the impression that he was expecting her to
become drowsy. She didn't feel the least bit drowsy however, and how
she was supposed to be calming down now of all times was beyond her.
Still she faked it, not wanting to play her hand too soon. The
realization that she was reacting differently than he expected gave
her a kind of inner strength she knew she'd need.

"Yes," he hissed as she lidded her eyes and nodded her head. "That's
it, go to sleep. Don't be afraid, just be calm and when you wake up
you'll be a whole new woman." He waited until she had closed her eyes
entirely and then his fingers cupped her chin and raised her face up
to his. He squeezed her cheeks, forcing her mouth open and leaned his
own head down toward her. She forced herself not to panic even as she
desperately tried to remember her self defense training.

Then she felt the man pause, and heard the most unusual noise. It was
like someone trying to drink the last remaining drops out of a glass
through a straw. She opened her eyes a crack and saw him with his
mouth in the most ridiculous position she had ever seen. And he
appeared to be desperately trying to suck in something... His eyes
took on a confused look and Setsuna knew now was her chance.

With a fierce yell, she smashed her elbow into his throat. The man
gasped and fell back, letting go of her arm. Adrenaline helping her
ignore the pain, she took to her feet and fired off a swift kick to
the man's crotch before sprinting down the street. He keeled over in
pain and she felt a smirk of triumph on her face as she began to put
distance between them. Then she heard him dragging himself to his feet
and with a roar coming after her. She refused to panic and moved as
fast as she could. Then she remembered to scream for help.

"I COMMAND you! Stop!"

If he thought she was going to listen to him, then he was either
insane or stupid. Probably both, she amended. Still it wouldn't make
shouting and she was beginning to slow as the pain in her leg grew
worse with each step. She could hear him catching up with her, his
footsteps came in staccato bursts and when she dared a brief glimpse
behind she saw him dashing along much faster than any human should
have possibly been able to...

"Get down."

If he thought... no wait, that was a new voice. She turned to look in
front of her and there, standing in the rain and just coming into view
was a man. He wore a raincoat which obscured his form and the shadows
of his hood kept his face hidden. He was holding something in both
hands and had it pointed at her. She couldn't quite make it out in the
rain and... oh wait, it was a crossbow.

A crossbow?

"Down!" the man with the crossbow shouted impatiently and the rational
part of her mind caught the implications of that. She dove, taking the
fall as best she could. There was a metallic twang, a high-pitched
whistle and a meaty thunk all following each other so close it felt
like the same sound. Setsuna rolled and saw her assailant standing in
the street with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest and a
bemused expression on his face. What she saw next was simply
impossible. The man reached up with one hand, grasped the bolt and
calmly tore it free like someone might remove a splinter. No blood
flowed from his wound, which was invisible save for the hole in his
cheap suit. "Shit, missed the heart..." her savior cursed and pulled
another bolt from under his raincoat. He stuck it in his teeth and
quickly began to recock the crossbow.

"Foolish boy," the man laughed. "I am immortal, you can not kill me."

"Maybe he can't, but I can." Yet another figure emerged from the rain.
This was a woman, dressed in a black garment which stuck to her flesh
like a second skin due to the rain. She was lithe and chesty, and her
mischievous gray eyes danced in her healthy face. She had pale green
hair that hung to the small of her back in a shapeless lump, again
probably due to the rain. "Sorry I'm late Mitsu-chan," the newcomer
said in a vibrant voice. "I had trouble tracking you in this rain."

The man glared at the new girl and Setsuna got a good look at his face
for the first time. It was cool and pale, with deep green eyes and a
delicate, almost ephemeral quality that Setsuna found hard to
categorize. <He's gorgeous!> she thought to herself. Then she was
distracted by the other man's harsh laughter again.

He stepped forward and sneered at the other woman. "I would like to
see you try, mortal..." He laughed again, and was thus taken totally
off guard when the woman slammed her elbow into his gut and smashed
his chin with the ball of her wrist. He flew back almost ten feet
before crashing into the wire fence which guarded the canal. His
impact distorted and snapped it, but wasn't strong enough to push him
through.

The man roared and seemed to... change. It was like the rain washed
away his regular face and underneath was some hideous demonic visage.
It was all teeth and glowing eyes and rotting flesh. Setsuna gave
another shriek as she backed up. She felt her back brush up against
her savior's legs and looked up to see him still cocking his crossbow
with a frown of concentration on his face. As far as she could tell,
he didn't even realize she was there anymore.

But she had to admit, it was probably hard to concentrate on anything
else, what with the battle going on not ten feet away. The creature
moved so fast Setsuna could barely follow it. Long talons had replaced
fingers and the thing clawed at the girl. But she moved equally fast,
her movements fluid and flawless as she neatly sidestepped the attack.
Then there was a blur of movement, and several loud cracks. The
creature went flying again, this time away from the canal and into the
middle of the street. It hissed and stood up, but approached the
green-haired girl more cautiously this time. Setsuna risked missing
something and looked up to see the man trying to draw a bead on the
monster.

Then Setsuna looked back... and was simply amazed. The two were moving
so fast that Setsuna couldn't even see the individual blows anymore.
Both appeared equally matched, the creature's mindless ferocity
keeping pace with the woman's elegant skill. Setsuna had once heard
martial arts described as a ballet, a beautiful dance, but if this was
a dance then Setsuna would rather sit this one out. The two spun and
slashed and punched and kicked at each other, every blow missing by
millimeters or deflected at the last possible instant. There was no
beauty in it however, it was feral and vicious. This was a battle to
the death, and no quarter was asked for, or given.

Finally it seemed the woman gained the upper hand. The creature was
strangely lethargic at points and finally she found an opening. With
deceptive ease she spun around behind it and held its arms in a
vicious lock. "Now Mitsurugi!" she yelled and forced the creature to
face her partner. The pale man calmly raised his crossbow and drew a

And with a hiss it was gone. The woman blinked as she realized she was
holding nothing more than an empty sleeve of the things cheap suit.
The rest of the suit fell to the ground, only just now did Setsuna see
that it was dry, but that wouldn't last long. She looked around but
could see no sign of the beast.

"It's gone," the man (Mitsurugi? Why was that name familiar?) intoned
calmly. "We're finished here." It was only when he moved away that
Setsuna realized she had been leaning against him for support. She
fell to the ground in an undignified heap and felt her head hit the
pavement.

"Ow," Setsuna muttered and sat up as best she could. The woman seemed
to have accepted what the man had said without question and was
talking with him not a few feet away. Finally she turned and looked at
Setsuna, as if just realizing she was there.

"I think so..." Setsuna replied with a quaver in her voice.

"You're very lucky," the man informed her with cold indifference. He
had wandered over to the gutter, apparently in search of the crossbow
bolt the creature had thrown away. He grunted at the torrent of water
and turned away with a shake of his head. "I am not so lucky. Mirumoto
will never agree to pay for that."

"What was that thing?" Setsuna asked shortly. For some reason she
couldn't stop her hands from shaking. She thrust them into her
blazer's pockets to conceal that.

"A vampire," the woman responded.

"Actually its a Kuei-jin," the man felt the need to point out. "One of
several types of vampiric beings, except this one feeds on the breath
of its victims. It's related to the Gaki and the Nosferatu, perhaps a
crossbreed. Yet due to its lack of sexual reproduction this seems
unlikely..."

"You lost me Mitsu-chan," the woman said with a blank expression.

"Do not call me Mitsu-chan."

"Ah," Setsuna nodded and stood up. "It was only a monster from my
worst nightmares. Okay, I can deal with that."

And then she fainted.

***

She woke up the next morning and her first thought was that she had
obviously had too much to drink because this hangover was killing her.
Then she remembered that she didn't drink. Then she remembered that
she hadn't eaten since noon yesterday.

She kicked off the covers and sat up. Stretching her entire body into
a yawn that utterly failed to make her less tired she stood up. That's
when a flash of pain shot up her leg like a bolt of lightning. Memory
returned with pain and she sat down on her bed with a long exhale.
Could she have dreamed to whole thing? It seemed unlikely, given the
evidence her leg offered her. Yet, if it wasn't a dream how had she
ended up back in bed... she quickly checked herself and confirmed that
she was indeed in her nightclothes. It was so surreal... monsters
didn't exist, after all.

That's when she saw it, lying on her nightstand right next to her
alarm clock. It was a little card, like those businessmen might hand
out to potential clients. One the top were some simple words. "Mystery
Club," she read them out loud. She picked up the card and flipped it
over. There was a phone number and beneath that another phrase. "You
are not alone." This was really starting to freak her out.

She looked around on her nightstand to see if anything else had been
left by the two "Mystery" people. She even checked under her alarm
clock, but to no avail. Wait, the alarm clock?

"Oh god!" she moaned. "I'm late for class!"

***

Fugahoka Technical University was one of those anomalies that pop up
every now and then in the world. Unlike most universities in the area
it was dirt cheap to attend, but was known as the single hardest
university to pass the entrance exams for. Given its reputation for
poor faculty, excessive class size and general lack of any academic
standing whatsoever, one would think it would be deserted.

Such was not the case. Every morning thousands of students entered
through the only gates and filed to classes. At the noon meal it was
almost impossible to find a seat, so hard in fact that many students
choose to eat their meals outside. Thus it was that Setsuna and Yohko
found themselves sitting on a bench in the middle of the quad, sharing
a single bought lunch between them. The weather at least had improved
since yesterday, since the sun was out in full force now. Of course,
the quad was still one giant mudpit crisscrossed by concrete walkways
at the moment. If Setsuna had to guess she'd say it would be several
days before the place even resembled dry again.

"So," Yohko said as she snatched a takoyaki off the end of its stick,
"What's with the limp?"

"Huh?" Setsuna replied intelligently.

She had been drifting in and out for the past few minutes, Yohko
observed to herself silently. Her mind was obviously concerned with
something, but what that something was Yohko hadn't the foggiest.
Normally Setsuna was shy and withdrawn but she wasn't the daydreamy
type. Yohko really hoped that she wasn't suffering from SSDL syndrome
(Shoujo Schoolgirl Daydream Love for the uninformed).

"What was that?"

"The limp?" Yohko pointed her unadorned stick at the other girls leg.
She was wearing long socks this morning but that could barely contain
the ugly purple blotch on her calf. "Did you get that last night?"

"Oh yeah," Setsuna pulled out a small card and began to fiddle with
it. "I slipped on the way home last night, made me miss my bus."

"That had to suck," Yohko sympathized. "Why don't you get a room at
the dorm? It's much closer than the boarding house you live in."

"I told you before Yohko," Setsuna rolled her eyes. "I can't afford to
stay at the dorm. The only reason I can afford to stay at the boarding
house is because Mirameshi-san lets me pay half-rent because I do the
laundry."

"You could always stay at my room," Yohko added suggestively and
leaned against her friend. "I won't even make you pay half-rent."

"Yohko!" Setsuna laughed, like a angel would. Yohko wished Setsuna
would laugh more often, instead of being so serious all the time. "You
barely have enough room in that closet for -your- bed."

<And yet again she misses the point,> Yohko sighed and sat back. She
plucked the last takoyaki ball out of the bento, after making sure
Setsuna wasn't interested and popped it into her mouth. Yohko wished
Setsuna would lighten up sometimes, give in and live dangerously for
once. But, all the time, the girl acted like she was being appraised
for a job every instant. If she just had more confidence in herself
she would really go far. Especially with her charm. Oh, Setsuna wasn't
ugly, but not especially pretty either. She'd probably clean up very
nice, and look much better if she wore fashionable clothes instead of
the same school blazer and cheap dresses all the time. Her real
strength lied in her winning personality and quiet charisma. If she
weren't so shy, she would have a lot more friends. <Good luck telling
her that though,> Yohko grumbled.

"Yohko?"

"Uh wha?" Yohko replied. She realized she'd drifted off herself and
silently thanked the gods of irony for that one. "What is it,
Setsuna?"

"Have you ever heard of Mystery Club?"

"Mystery Club..." Yohko drew a blank for a few moments and then it
dawned on her. "Oh yeah, that's one of the local college groups, like
the debate team or the animation society. I saw them on the list when
I went to sign up for the nature club. I think it has something to do
at least it would be the start of a social life. It would mean
progress on one of Yohko's many SIPs (Setsuna Improvement Programs,
natch). And if one of them was working, then maybe another would start
any day now...

"No, no!" Setsuna answered too quickly. "I was just curious is all. I
think one of their members helped me last night and I never got a
chance to thank him..."

"Oh," Yohko said, slightly crestfallen. She looked down at her watch
and cursed silently. "I have to go to my next class, Setsuna. Why
don't we meet again at the library this afternoon. I'll see what I can

"Thank you," Setsuna smiled and placed a hand on Yohko's wrist. It was
like the girl poured warm sunlight into her and Yohko felt a goofy
smile emerge on her features. "You're a real friend."

"I... yeah," Yohko stood up and walked away quickly, taking deep
breaths and wishing she had time for a cold shower before class. Oh
this was just getting to be too hard, something had to be done about
this whole thing before long.

***

Setsuna spent the rest of the day in a sort of half daze. She
meandered from class to class without really being aware of what she
was doing. She even managed to totally missed her advanced chemistry
class because she totally forgot about it. The problem, she had to
admit, was that she was slightly scared. She couldn't help but look
around her and feel even more like an outsider than normal. Sometimes
she swore she saw people with cat-slitted eyes looking at her. It made
concentrating on school work difficult at best.

Finally she decided to make her way over to the library early. She
skipped her last course but that was only her token arts course and
missing one or two of those couldn't have that much of an impact on

She chastised herself for being paranoid and wandered into the back of
the library. She moved past the rows and rows of books, broken only
ever now and then by a computer terminal, and reflected. Setsuna was
actually given to self-reflection quite a bit actually. Although
others might have called it more a form of self-pity. Still, one
turned out that way when one had the same kind of life as her.

Setsuna hadn't exactly had a hard life really. In fact, as the only
child of her wealthy family one could almost say she was spoiled. Or
her family had tried to spoil her at the very least. From day one
little Setsuna had developed an independent streak. One that only grew
bigger when her mother died of cancer when she was only four years
old. Her father had wanted her to grow up a proper Japanese girl, but
Setsuna had refused his help. She had insisted on going to private
schools and earning her own spending money. Her family had been
disappointed in her but they had thought it was just a phase.

It turned out not to be, and Setsuna had gone through most of her life
trying to forge her own identity. The problem was that most of the
kids at her old schools used to treat her different because her father
was rich. And the teachers seemed almost afraid of her, cowed by her
father's reputation into not treating her the same way they would
other children. It was infuriating to the young woman. She wanted so
desperately not to be seen as just her father's daughter, to make a
name for herself but was defeated at every turn. Even self-employment
flopped. While she could get any job she quickly found out she was
only being hired because of her family's influence.

Then had come something of a falling out. When Setsuna had finally
graduated high school she insisted on going to university and paying
for herself. She even insisted on moving to Tokyo so she could get as
far away from her family as possible. She deliberately hid her
identity as best she could and got into the only school she could both
afford and pass the entrance exams to. She didn't care if she had
practically no free time because of the dual concerns of study and
work, she was finally making it on her own. She would finally forge
her own world.

And then something like this happened, and you wondered if it was such
a good thing to be on your own in the world after all.

She was so caught up in brooding that she almost missed him. He was
leaned over a textbook on one of the box-like study desks found within
the depths of the library. She paused, trying to remember where
exactly it was she had seen this boy before. Then he turned slightly
to retrieve a folder of notes from his briefcase and she remembered.
It was the same man from last night, the one with the soft, almost
effeminate, features and the strange deep green eyes. She felt her
pulse quicken as she tried to force her mind to decide what to do.

He was so gorgeous, why would he even be interested in talking to a
frumpy girl like Setsuna? No, she had to force herself to think. This
isn't about romance (that was an option she would explore later). This
was about the incident last night. If she didn't get some sort of
closure on it she knew she'd probably spend the rest of her life
jumping at shadows. The worst part was, she would never know if she
was fully justified in doing so.

"Excuse me." She was dismayed and surprised by the sound of her own
voice. She sounded like a penetant at one of those western churches.
She was also surprised that while she was debating it in her head she
had walked all the way over to stand right next to him. He didn't seem
to mind. In fact, he didn't seem to notice. His brow was cutely curled
up in concentration and he was tapping a pen on top of a sheet filled
with arcane figures and equations that she thought were related to
finance.

"Excuse me," she said again, louder this time. Again he didn't seem to
notice. "Excuse me!" she exclaimed while leaning over next to his ear.
He paused, his head slowly swiveled to pierce her with his emerald
eyes, like frozen ponds. He studied her for a moment, obviously not
recognizing her and then turned back to his work. She flushed,
realizing he had probably been waiting for her to say something and
she had blown it like some frivolous school girl. She was nineteen
years old, she shouldn't have this much problem with guys. So why did
she feel so much like running all the way back to her place and trying
to hide under her covers from the shame? "Uh, sir..." she gulped in
air. It was hard to breathe for some reason. "I believe we've met
before..."

"I don't think so," he deadpanned. He smirked and quickly began to jot
down extra figures on the sheet. Apparently satisfied with his work he
shuffled his papers, bringing a new one to the surface.

"Actually we have," she reached down and found the courage to speak
from somewhere. She noticed as she continued that it got easier, as
long as she didn't leave any significant pauses. "We met last night.
I was being chased by some sort of monster thing and you showed up
with this girl and chased it off somehow. Then I fainted and I woke up
this morning and I was cleaned up and dressed in my nightclothes. I
found some sort of card and I was wondering what all this is about."

"Ah," he turned and squinted his eyes slightly. On anybody else the
expression might have been comical, on him it was just intense. "I
see, I didn't recognize you without the mud all over your face." She
flushed again at that. So much for first impressions. "Don't worry, we
won't charge you for it. We only issue bills to contracted customers."
He turned back to his figures. "Consider last night a freebie."

"That isn't why you came to me?"

"Well no," she shifted nervously as he looked at her again.

"Then what, pray tell, do you want exactly?"

"I want to know what happened to me last night..."

He raised an eyebrow and a look of understanding seemed to cross his
features. "Oh, I get it," he rolled his eyes. "You don't have to
worry. Ibuki-san took you home and cleaned you up and put you to bed.
I had nothing to do with it at all, so you won't have to worry about
me doing anything perverted."

She almost fell over as she lost her balance. Her cheeks felt like
someone was applying an acetylene torch to them. She tried to speak
but what came out of her mouth more resembled some ancient caveman
dialect than Japanese. Finally she discovered her voice again. "That
isn't what I was worried about at all!" she corrected him, a bit too
loudly. A student from further up the aisle leaned out of her box and
glared at the two of them. "I meant what was with that... that thing
last night," she asked in a much lower voice.

"I thought I explained that to you last night," he replied. "It was a
Kuei-jin, a physical manifested spirit energy devouring vampiric
creature with traits of the more common eastern gaki and the western
nosferatu..."

"Woah," she put up her hand and felt confusion well up inside her. "I
mean, what was it. Do those things really exist? Was it a monster?"

"Monster is a term we don't like to use," he explained. "It was a
paranormal entity. One of many that inhabit our world and live just
beyond the scope of human perception."

"Para... normal?"

you go see Professor Mirumoto, he's the real expert and can probably
explain the phenomena much better than I can."

"I remember that name," she said slowly. "Didn't you mention it last
night?"

"Yes," he nodded. He shuffled through his papers until he found a
blank piece. He then proceeded to write down a room number and what
looked like hour notations. "This is his office and hours. If you're
lucky he will actually be there instead of off cobbling together
another nonsense gizmo or sleeping in his car." She wasn't quite sure
how to respond to that so instead she merely took the slip of paper
when he offered it. Something else was nagging her however, and when
she reached into her pocket she remembered what it was.

"What is Mystery Club?" she said as she took the card out of her
pocket.

"Mirumoto's pet project," he replied and glanced at the watch on his
wrist. It read six o'clock. "I have to go. Find professor Mirumoto,
he can answer any questions which you might have." He quickly packed
his papers away and stood up, obviously intending a rapid exit.

"Wait," she said as she followed him. "I still have more questions..."

"Won't you at least tell me your name?"

He paused and turned to face her. "Mitsurugi Taro," he informed her
crisply.

"I'm Fume Setsuna..." she began.

"Fume Akira's daughter?" he asked. "Of Fume Industrial Robotics?"

"Uh yes," she blinked. "How did you know?"

"Family resemblance plus the name," he started to leave. "Good day
Fume-san."

"Wait..." she began but noticed he had disappeared around the corner
already. Damn, that could have gone better. And it wasn't exactly
reassuring either. She held up the piece of paper and noticed that the
next office hour wouldn't occur until tomorrow. Sighing with
frustration she began to make her way towards the front of the
library.

***

Yohko didn't notice the beautiful man as he brushed by her and out the
doors without pause. She did, however, notice the girl who exited the
shelves shortly after him and began to look around as if lost. "There
you are, Setsuna!" Yohko shouted then paused and looked around in
embarrassment as the entire library seemed to stare at her. She forced
herself to smile and wave at everyone as if this was great fun and
they all returned to their studies. She dashed over to where Setsuna
stood waiting for her.

"Sorry I'm late," Setsuna apologized. "I got a little distracted back
there."

"Oh no big worry," Yohko shook her head. "I only got here myself a few
minutes ago. I was going to apologize for being late to you,
actually."

"What for?" Setsuna seemed perplexed.

"Well," Yohko shifted her foot nervously. "The girls over at the
Nature Club have some sort of party or something planned for tonight
and they wanted me to help. What with me being the vice-president and
all."

"Oh, one of those," Setsuna chuckled and lead the two of them over to
a nearby desk so they could sit. "Those people are always throwing
parties, you wonder how they got any work done about the environment
in all that."

"Eh heh," Yohko forced a chuckle. "Well, the environment isn't the
only thing the girls in the club get together for."

"Oh," Setsuna said with that endearing little innocent expression she
used. "What else would a Nature Club get together for?"

Yohko sighed, remembering how dense Setsuna was and decided to drop
it. Well, that part of it anyway. "Say do you want to go with me?"

"Oh, no. I'm sorry but I have a lot of work I have to do this
evening..." she seemed distant, much like earlier at lunch. Yohko
tried to hide her disappointment, probably without much success, but
Setsuna didn't pick up on it. What kind of clues was Yohko going to
have to drop here? Show up in Setsuna's room naked?

No, Setsuna would probably just assume that Yohko had gotten all her
clothes dirty and need to ask her to do the laundry. One of these days
she was going to force Setsuna to someplace private where they could
have a long (and hopefully intimate) conversation with each other.
Hey, a girl could dream, couldn't she?

"So when is this party?" Setsuna asked as she pulled out her Chemistry
book and began to flip it to the proper page. Chemistry was the one
course Setsuna and Yohko shared. As such, Yohko had gone out of her
way to convince Setsuna she was a good tutor so the two could spend
more time together.

"Oh," Yohko checked her watch and blanched visibly. "It's in fifteen
minutes!"

"Wow," Setsuna blinked. "Shouldn't you get going then?"

"I wouldn't want to leave you in the lurch like this," Yohko
backpedaled. She had really been counting on convincing Setsuna to go
but the young woman knew when Setsuna was too serious about work to be
dragged away from it. Unfortunately that happened to be most of the
time. "What with the big mid-term next week and all..."

"Don't worry about it, Yohko," Setsuna smiled and Yohko felt her knees
go weak. "I think I have most of it now. I can probably just drill
here by myself. I could also use the time to finish my physics
projects too."

"Why do you have to be so nice, Setsuna?" Yohko almost whined. Setsuna
just gave her a strange look. Yohko blushed and started to her feet,
not sure if they would support her weight at the moment but needing a
few minutes to rethink everything. "I'll catch you tomorrow at lunch
then?"

"Yes," Setsuna replied as she stared down at her textbook, obviously
lost. Yohko paused to just look at her for a moment then turned away
and began to walk towards the door. "Yohko!" Setsuna said suddenly and
Yohko turned as if someone had shot at her. "Uh," Setsuna looked
slightly embarrassed. "I forgot to ask, did you find out anything

"Not really," Yohko stepped over to her again. "I learned that they
exist, but there was no information on what they do or how to join. It
was actually rather strange. You wouldn't think things would be so
hush-hush about a student activity like that..." she trailed off.

"Uh," Setsuna paused. "What about a guy named Mitsurugi Taro, have you
ever heard of him?"

"Mitsurugi..." Yohko paused. The name was familiar, now where had she
heard it before. Then it came to her in a flash. "You don't mean
ICEHEART TARO?!?"

Everyone in the library turned towards her again, this time with much
more stern expressions on their faces. Yohko almost felt her legs give
way but forced herself to remain standing. Eventually everyone
apparently decided there would either be no more shenanigans or that
Yohko had suffered enough and went back to their own lives. Setsuna
waited until no one was looking before speaking again. "Iceheart Taro?
What does that mean?"

"He's only been declared the number one enemy of women on campus!"
Yohko hissed to her. "He's left a string of broken hearts behind him
longer than the great wall of china!"

"Wow," Setsuna blinked. "Is he really that much of a gigilo?"

"Well no," Yohko forced herself to amend. "It's not that, but almost
every woman on campus has asked him out and he shot them all down. It
was cruel, like he didn't even care that he was breaking their poor
hearts." Yohko smirked. She would never have to worry about being shot
down by a man at least. That would just be too embarrassing.

"So what's his story?" Setsuna asked. "Is he, like, engaged since
birth to someone he doesn't like or has he had a bad experience with a
woman or what?"

Yohko didn't like the way this was going at all. Still, Setsuna was
her friend first. "Nobody knows," she whispered conspiratorially. "You
know what I think. I think he's gay."

Setsuna looked at her for a moment and then laughed softly into her
hand. "Yohko, that's silly," she said. "I've met the guy and I think
I, of all people, could tell if he was gay!"

This time Yohko's legs did fail her.

***

Yohko never made it home from the party that evening. Perhaps if she
dubbed the SMNBG crisis (Setsuna Might Not Be Gay, obviously) she
might have. Then again, when the creature snatched her from the
shadows it moved much faster than she could even see, so maybe not. It
held her struggling form tightly, its clammy flesh covering her mouth.

"Be calm, child..." the creature said and looked into the girls eyes.
Immediately the young woman's struggles ceased. Her eyes seemed to
glaze over and her body went partially limp. "I know you," it informed
her. "I saw you talking with the girl at lunch today, the girl that
got away from me." Its voice took on a hard edge. "No creature has
ever resisted me before. NO creature can resist my Kiss..." He licked
his lips. "And I will prove it girl... with your help. Yes, yes we
both shall prove it I think." He leaned his head towards her. "Now
open your mouth little girl, and taste my Kiss..."

Yohko didn't scream. Not that she could have if she even wanted to,
all things considered.

***

Setsuna managed to catch the last bus home this time. It was much more
pleasant than having to walk home, even if it wasn't raining this
evening. She didn't even see the place where the incident had occurred
last night either, having dozed off somewhere before then. She did
almost miss her stop, but thankfully the man who drove this bus was so
used to her he knew where she got off. She thanked him for waking her
up and walked the short distance to the boarding house. The place was
at the bottom of a small hill, perfectly placed so that the rising sun
warmed it and the shade cooled it in the afternoon. It wasn't much of
a place to look at, two stories and built like a box. The yard was so
small you could lay down and put your hands on the wall of the house
and your feet on the fence. And still be unable to stretch all the
way.

Still it was a cozy place and Setsuna felt oddly attached to it at
times. It was probably because this was the first place where she had
lived on -her- money and where no one cared about who her father was.
As she entered she noticed the gate and front door were unlocked. That
was unusual... even in a small suburb of Tokyo like this it was best
to keep your doors locked at night. Then again, maybe the landlady
just forgot. Setsuna dismissed it from her mind and walked up to the
second floor room she called her own. Her one safe haven from all the
insanities of college life.

Of course, she could be wrong.

Setsuna stared at the scene in her room and stood so still that one
might guess she thought it would go away if she just didn't react to
it for long enough. The figure on her bed raised herself up lazily,
stretching and smiling indulgently as the leather outfit, which failed
to leave much to the imagination, strained over her figure. She tossed
her brown hair with a flick of her head, removing the bangs from her
eyes and looked at Setsuna with a hungry little smirk.

"Yohko," Setsuna finally managed to say. "Is there, uh, something you
want to tell me?"

"Well," Yohko turned her head to look at the ceiling. Her voice was...
different, more throaty. She took her good time replying, her only
action a steady deep breathing. Setsuna began to feel slightly
uncomfortable, like she had walked in on a couple, or something.
"There's a lot of things I've been meaning to tell you for a long time
now, Setsuna-chan." She looked at the other girl and patted the bed.
"Why don't you come sit down and we can... discuss them at our
leisure."

"I, uh, have to be, that is, I need to..." Setsuna sighed and gave up.
Might as well discover what all this nonsense was about. Probably some
sort of practical joke. When Setsuna sat down Yohko looked away, her
eyes staring at something out the window. The two were almost
touching and Setsuna could smell the oily leather. "Yohko?"

"Setsuna..." the other girl moved so fast Setsuna could barely follow
it. Before she realized what was happening she was pressed tightly
against her friend and was being squeezed against the wall. It wasn't
that she was being hurt, just that she found it a little hard to move.
Especially not without bringing much more of herself in contact with
Yohko than she probably wanted to. And was Yohko... writhing? That was
the only word Setsuna could think of to describe the way her friend
was rubbing herself against her. Yohko's head rested on her shoulder
and Setsuna had to cough to get some of the hairs out of her mouth.
"Setsuna I'm so hungry..."

"I don't have much in the fridge but you can take what you want..."

"No," Yohko's arms moved and Setsuna saw her slip the school blazer
off Setsuna's body. "I mean hungry in another way." Setsuna was
stunned, not quite sure what to think. This had to be some sort of
weird dream. Yohko wasn't... this was... She struggled to prevent her
brain from locking up. "Setsuna-chan," Yohko said as her arms wrapped
around behind the other girl and began to pull them closer. "You don't
know how long I have wanted this, how many times I have watched you
and felt my body ache because it couldn't touch yours like it is now."
Setsuna felt her fiddling with something back there and realized that
the other girl was removing Setsuna's bra. In one of those strange
revelations she realized that Yohko wasn't wearing a bra at the moment
either.

"Yohko," Setsuna said and heard a lot more pleading in her voice than
she would have liked. "Please stop this... the joke has gone too far.
Tell your friends at the nature club we had a big laugh but come
on," her voice trailed off as Yohko leaned back, tossing her head
backward so Setsuna could only catch a momentary glimpse of her face.
It was enough to know something was wrong with it, but Setsuna
couldn't fathom what. Then she felt the blouse she was wearing be
"Yohko," she didn't bother trying to hid the pleading now. She tried
to cover herself as best she could. "Why are you doing this?"

"Because," Yohko leaned forward and looked Setsuna directly in the
eyes before finishing, "I'm a whole new girl now." Her eyes were
slitted like a cats. Setsuna felt her hand reach out and clasp her...
and she screamed.

Moments later Setsuna was on the floor, scrambling to get the the
door. She didn't quite remember what had happened, or how she had got
here. All she knew was that she had to get away. She stood up and
half-ran, half-jumped to the door. Her hands clasped around the handle
and then she felt some terrible force pull them away. She looked down
to see Yohko's fingers wrapped around her forearm, Yohko herself stood
on the bed and hissed at her. Wait, Yohko's fingers were around her
arm, and Yohko was standing on the bed. All the way across the room on
the bed. Her mind tried to add two plus two, came up with the inverse
square root of negative fifty and she screamed again.

"Get OFF!" she yelled, or something very near it, she wasn't sure
what. It was then that Yohko screamed as if burned and snapped her
hand back. The fingers which had stretched out like whips snapped back
to normal size like one of those measuring tapes carpenters use.
Setsuna didn't bother trying to figure out why that had happened, she
just opened the door and bolted.

She took the steps down two at a time and almost made it to the
outside door. She was screaming like a banshee and that might explain
why Yakaze-san stepped out into the hall. The two collided and went
down in a tangle of limbs. Then there was a solid whump as something
landed after leaping all the way down the stairs. Setsuna tried to
pull Yakaze-san off her but the man outweighed her by a good
two-hundred pounds and seemed to be dazed. She looked towards the door
and could have sworn she saw it vibrate, like something was smashing
into it from outside.

Then Yohko was upon them. She still had her human face on, which made
the polite little smile she gave Setsuna as she lifted Yakaze-san off
her and casually snapped his neck like a chicken-bone all the more
disturbing. "Now where was I?" she said with that same deep throaty
voice. Setsuna backed up, scampering along until her back came in
contact with the wall. Yohko walked forward calmly, her leather outfit
catching the glow from Yakaze-san's room and sending dull light over
her form. She tossed the body behind her and moaned, clutching herself
as she writhed in place for a moment. "Don't worry Setsuna-chan, this
will be over in a moment and then we can be together..."

Setsuna screamed again, her mind seemed unable to grasp this. It just
couldn't be happening, her mind explained rationally. People don't
just suddenly become... that. And they certainly don't get strong
enough to lift a 300-pound man off the floor and casually snap his
neck when they do. At least, if they did there wouldn't be as many
homophobes in the world. Then another noise cut through her fear, the
solid thunk of something striking wood. Setsuna looked over just in
time to see the door snap off its hinges. Dust and wood-chips flew
into the room and after them came a man.

It was Mitsurugi, his black outfit making him seem to melt out of the
night outside. He raised the crossbow in his hands and Setsuna saw
that it was tipped with a green head of some kind. There was a snap
and Setsuna tried to follow the flight of the quarrel but only managed
to see the shaft sticking out of Yohko's arm. The girl had apparently
raised it to ward off the bolt, which was just touching the edge of
her leather suit over her heart. Smoke seemed to flow out of her arm
like blood.

"Run!" Mitsurugi yelled at her and started to pick her up with one
hand. Setsuna didn't think, she just ran. Soon enough they were
outside and exiting the gate. Setsuna noticed the tiny motorscooter
parked in front of the gate and then felt Mitsurugi force her onto it.
"Drive!" he yelled again as he began to recock the old-fashioned
weapon.

Setsuna didn't dare pause to think and instead simply gripped the
steering yoke and pressed the gas. The scooter seemed to try and shoot
out from underneath her but friction kept her in place. She looked
back over her shoulder and saw Mitsurugi perched precariously on the
edge of the seat, trying to not fall off and hold his crossbow at the
same time.  He looked at her with those deep indifferent eyes and
spoke much too calmly. "Next time, wait until we have our helmets on

Then Yohko came out of the house. She didn't even bother with the
door, the wall nearest them buckled and exploded outward in a shower
of debris and the lithe form came hurtling out. She cleared the
not-inconsiderable fence with one leap and landed in the middle of the
street. Seeing the two getting away she roared, an inhuman sound of
pure malice and now her face -did- change, becoming something twisted
and filled with a giant toothy maw.

"You can't have her you bastard!" Yohko screamed and Setsuna nearly
cried because the voice was still hers. It was warped by her new
mouth, but it was Yohko's voice. "She's mine, you hear me!? Mine!"

Then it was coming after them, and Setsuna had never seen anything
move that fast. It was actually gaining on them...

"Fume-san!" Mitsurugi looked around and barked, "Look at the roa..."

He was too late and the scooter smashed into a curb and both of them
went flying. Setsuna almost thought she felt the world go still for a
moment as the vertigo of freefall overwhelmed her sense. Then harsh
reality returned as she smashed into the soft loam of someone's yard.
It was still muddy from yesterday's storm and she could feel it
spatter down on her. She tried to clear her vision but saw only black
spots for a few seconds.

landed on the concrete not ten feet away but looked in much worse
shape. He was rolling onto his front and she could see that the back
of his shirt was torn open and blood seemed to flow out of every inch
of skin he had. Realistically she knew that was impossible, but then
again so were people who could jump twenty feet and outrun cars.

Then Yohko appeared. She came out of nowhere and smashed her foot into
his chest. The force of the blow lifted him up and threw him almost a
dozen feet before he landed back on the concrete. He lay very, very
still at that point. A hard lump formed in Setsuna's throat and she
forced herself to sit up. This, unfortunately, brought her to Yohko's
attention.

Watching someone's face reform out of monster's wasn't really all that
weird anymore somehow. The girl Setsuna had known for the past six
months walked forward. Well, strutted also may be more like it. She
smiled at Setsuna and reached down to grab her. Setsuna tried to pull
away but could hardly move, much less escape. She felt the cold,
clammy hand grasp her neck (how did she not notice the cold before?).
Yohko smiled as Setsuna tried to scream but couldn't force the air
out. All she managed was a small whistle.

"I'm sick of being interrupted," Yohko said and winked with her
cat-like eyes. "Just relax and this will all be over in a moment."

And then she kissed her. It was like someone had shoved her face
onto a corpse. She could feel the deathly cold lips press firmly
against hers, but more than that she could feel Yohko breathing. It
wasn't pleasant and from the strange sounds Yohko was making Setsuna
almost got the impression she was trying to... trying to... suck her
breath out? Yohko stopped and looked up, her eyes showing surprise.

"That isn't possible," Yohko said. "He told me nobody could resist
that..."

"Kiya!"

Setsuna only saw a blur and only heard a meaty smack. Then Yohko was
off her. She drew in air greedily, trying to soothe her burning lungs.
She looked up and saw... Ibuki? It was the girl from last night,
except she was wearing a different outfit (this one clung to her body
like a second skin but was NOT wet) and her hair had obviously been
dried and allowed to spring out to its natural fullness. It was more
like a mane than a hairstyle actually.

"Bitch!" Yohko roared and launched herself at the newcomer. But she
was waiting for her, and the girl did something. It was hard to see
it, something involving her hands and then Yohko was flying again.
This time she crashed into a telephone poll with nearly enough force
to snap it in twain. And it was concrete.

The girl turned to face the monster in front of her and smiled. Her
voice came out cool and confident. "You're new at this," she said and
casually clasped her hands behind her back. "I'll give you fair
warning. I'm Kusanagi Ibuki, heir to the Kusanagi school of
demon-slaying. And I'm more than a match for you." Setsuna saw her do
something with her wrist and a small sparkling green dagger dropped
into her palm. It was out of Yohko's view however.

"We'll see!" the creature roared and ran at Ibuki again. This time its
fingers elongated into deadly talons and it slashed wildly with them,
obviously counting on raw ferocity to win the battle. Ibuki was
apparently much more skilled than that, as she careful weaved between
the slashes and spun around behind the thing. It paused, having lost
track of her somehow during the exchange. The it looked down at the
dagger-handle sticking neatly out of its chest. The girl screamed, her
hands clutching at the knife but unable to get a grip. Black smoke
seemed to hiss out from around the hilt and Setsuna could see more of
it drifting off the rest of her body. She turned her head to her
friend in life and looked like she was trying to say something.
Whatever it was never got out as the thing screamed and disintegrated
into black mist that was stirred by the wind until it was no more.

Ibuki walked over to Mitsurugi and began to check him over. "Are you

"No..." he replied with a soft wheeze. "I actually enjoy this sort of
thing."

"Hah!" the girl patted him on the back, eliciting a yelp of pain.
"You're a lot tougher than you look, Mitsu-chan! My training must be
paying off!"

"Don't..." he coughed, "Call me Mitsu-chan."

She began to struggle with him, obviously trying to pick him up. She
turned toward Setsuna. "Hey," she called, "Wanna give me a hand with
this rich-girl?"

"But," Setsuna stood up, not sure how much her brain could take. "I
thought... you threw her like a rag-doll..."

"Well of course I did!" Ibuki rolled her eyes as if Setsuna had just
proudly proclaimed one equals one. "But she isn't -here- anymore so I
can't do it now, can I? Sheesh..."

"I..." Setsuna felt that questions were perhaps best left for later.
She decided to help now and the two of them picked up Mitsurugi and
helped him over into a car parked near-by, apparently Ibuki's. "Is he
going to be all right?"

"Yeah," Ibuki drawled. "He's had worse than this. He should be fine in
a few days. Only had the wind knocked out of him."

"Sure," Ibuki said as she closed to door on Mitsurugi. "You can come
with us back to the office if you want. Somehow I don't think it's a
coincidence that you got attacked by two demons in a row."

"Oh." Setsuna was trying very hard not to think about that. "That's
great."

"You might want to put some clothes on though," Ibuki pointed out as
she walked around the car. "You'll catch cold."

It was only then that Setsuna remembered she wasn't wearing a top. In
her defense however, it had been a rather hectic day.

***

Unseen by any of them, a creature sat perched atop the boarding house
which had just witnessed quite a few strange things this night. It
held a simple key in its hand and twirled the item back and forth as
it watched the girls drive off in the small sportscar. It smiled and
leapt forward, landing easily on the next roof over and began to keep
pace, at a discreet distance.

***

Mirumoto-sensei turned out to be a 73 year old man with fraying white
hair and a short white beard. His heavily wrinkled face held two
strangely youthful pale brown eyes. He was dressed in a threadbare
coat and pants and his frail arms poked out of his cuffs like absurd
toys. He seemed very interested in Setsuna, once the full story of her
encounter with Yohko had been outlined. She now sat on his desk
(wearing a shirt borrowed from Ibuki and much too... low cut for her
tastes) while he examined her. Ibuki was nearby, applying the last of
the bandages to Mitsurugi's back. The room itself was small and messy,
on the second floor of the science building.

"All done Mitsu-chan," she declared.

"Don't call me Mitsu-chan," he replied automatically. "So have you
learned anything, Mirumoto-sensei?"

"Hmm?" the old man paused while patting down Setsuna's back. She was
at the moment feeling sort of pleasantly numb, a side-effect of the
morphine Ibuki had given her. It turned out that the girl was studying
to be a nurse, specializing in physical recuperation. "Well I've
discovered some very fascinating things..." he said as he bobbed
around to the front of the desk. Setsuna was struck by the almost
comical way he resembled a chicken. "You say she was immune to the
Kuei-jin's attack?"

"I didn't say that," Ibuki drawled. "I said that the thing looked like
it was trying to suck her face off when I arrived and was stunned by
something."

"That was the creature's attack," Mitsurugi pointed out. "The Kuei-jin
steal the life force of their victims by drawing out the targets
breath and swallowing it. They then turn that into paranormal energy,
which they can blow back into the mouth of their victim to create
another Kuei-jin."

(That must have been what happened to Yohko) Setsuna thought and
fought down a sob.

"You're a regular encyclopedia, Mitsu-chan."

He only glared at her in response.

"Well," the old man said as he leaned in closer to Setsuna and patted
her along the shoulders. "This is very fascinating, I must say most
unique."

"Well," Ibuki rolled her eyes. "What's your theory on this one, old
man?"

"My theory," he paused and looked up at the ceiling. "Why I have no
theory at all. Nothing like this has ever occurred before."

Setsuna almost slipped off the desk, but managed to catch herself in
time.

"Then what were you doing there?" Ibuki growled.

"That?" Mirumoto-sensei bobbed his head. "Oh its not every day I get
to touch such a lovely young..." He never finished, his head rocking
to the side as Ibuki roundhoused him. The girl grabbed him by the
lapels and drew his face up to hers, which meant pulling him nearly a
foot off the floor.

"Listen, you old pervert," she growled, "What have I told you about
feeling up women?"

"You must be fast of hand?" She dropped him and stalked to the
other side of the room, muttering in disgust. "How rude," he declared
firmly from the floor. "You just watch I don't send you packing,
girl!"

"You going to fire me?" she smirked. "I'd like to see Mitsu-chan last
five minutes out there without me to back him up."

"Do not call me Mitsu-chan," Mitsurugi reacted on instinct.
"Mirumoto-sensei, I think this is fairly serious. Whatever the
creature that attacked her wants seems to be centered on this girl.
She has some strange power and that might be why it sent a minion to
attack her."

"She was not a minion!" Setsuna yelled, causing everyone to look at
her strangely. Setsuna forced herself to stop shaking. "She was my
best... my only friend."

"Oh, you poor thing," Ibuki started over.

"Get back!" Setsuna shrieked. "You killed her! You killed Yohko!"

"She did not," Mitsurugi interposed himself between the two. "What she
killed was a paranormal that was using your friend as a host. The
beast which transformed her killed her."

"What are you talking about?!" Setsuna knew she sounded strung out but
didn't care. "This is crazy, I don't even know what a paranormal is!
Monsters don't exist! They can't exist!"

"I had trouble accepting it at first too," Mitsurugi replied calmly
and placed his hands on her shoulders. "Of course I had a harder time
denying it than you do. Most people ignore the creatures that lurk in
the dark places, just out of sight because its easier for them that
way. They live in the sunlight and they don't want to know what
happens at night. I didn't have any choice, I can't help but see them.
You can either accept it or go crazy, the choice is yours."

Setsuna didn't realize she was crying until she tasted the tears on
her lips. She chocked back another sob and forced herself to sit up
straight. "What are these things?"

"They are paranormals," Mirumoto-sensei told her with a soft voice.
"Creatures that exist outside our laws of physics. They come in every
form imaginable, undead, shapeshifters, aliens, talking animals,
ghosts..." he trailed off. "We can't prove they exist, so nobody
really believes us. But that's the point of this club, the Mystery
Club. We hunt down the paranormals and try to document them, study
them, gather proof that they exist. Once we have that we can go public
and the world can really rid itself of them."

"But," Setsuna paused. "You didn't try to study Yohko, or that one
last night."

"We don't always have that luxury," Ibuki shrugged. "Some paranormals
aren't hostile, but most are. We try to protect people from them.
Sometimes we do it for free, most of the time people from all over the
city hire us out to deal with their ghosts and goblins."

"This isn't making any sense..." Setsuna moaned.

"It's all very simple," Mirumoto-sensei disagreed. "The paranormal
exist and we hire ourselves out to deal with it, at the same time we
try to gather proof that it exists. Solid proof. Of course, I'd be an
idiot to just send out anyone to deal with this, most people are no
match for a Paranormal."

"Most people?" Setsuna paused. "You mean, like what Ibuki-san did?
Fighting them and all?"

"Uh-huh," Mirumoto-sensei nodded. "That's it exactly. Ibuki here is a
darling, the last of her bloodline I believe. The people in her family
are like paranormal energy sponges, whenever they're near one they can
gain the ability to move faster, be stronger and all that. It's really
quite impressive. Too bad it doesn't work if there is no paranormal
around."

"Hey," Ibuki disagreed. "I don't think I'd always want to be running
around breaking things by mistake and all. It's hard enough not to
hurt people by mistake now."

"Yes dear," Mirumoto-sensei winked. Ibuki muttered something under her
breath and turned away. "Young Taro here can sense them, like a sixth
sense. No paranormal can hide itself from him and he can sometimes
feel them all the way across the city."

"It's overrated," Mitsurugi shrugged. "I can't read thoughts or move
rocks or even bend spoons. I just know the paranormal is around. Of
course, it would help if my gift were more reliable instead of just
working whenever it felt like it."

"So you sensed I was in danger and came to rescue me," Setsuna smiled.

Mitsurugi coughed. "Nothing so altruistic I'm afraid. Once
Mirumoto-sensei heard you were rich he sent me to try and get you to
pay for services rendered..." Ibuki smacked Mirumoto who protested
innocence. This went on for a few more moments until the room quieted
down again.

"And you my dear," the professor said with a simple nod. "Appear to
be a very strange specimen. Nobody has ever been recorded who was
immune to paranormal ability..."

"Wait!" Mitsurugi sat bolt upright. "There's something coming... fast!
Everyone dow..." Setsuna was moving even before he finished his first
word. She slipped around and ducked behind the desk. Thus it was she
didn't see the window which opened out onto the quad explode inward.
Nor did she see the grotesque thing that came in.

"Dammit!" Ibuki yelled and there was a rapid series of smacks and
thuds, then Setsuna saw the girl go flying up and over the desk to
impact with the wall. The force of her strike was enough to cause the
wall to crack but it did not give way.

"Come out, little girl," the thing hissed. "I know you are here, and

Setsuna didn't pause, she bolted. Her mad dash for the door was cut
short when she felt something cold and sticky wrap around her waist.
She looked down and back to see the thing's tongue lolling out of its
mouth and twined firmly around her midsection. Mitsurugi was propped
against the wall, obviously dazed, and Mirumoto was cowering behind a
filing cabinet.

"Get OFF!" Setsuna yelled at it. The creature seemed to roar, and
flinched back. It's form seemed to dissolve and suddenly it was back
to the same man she had met on the street last night. (Oh god, it felt
like a hundred years, not one day!) The thing seemed surprised and
perplexed by this... and thus was caught off-gaurd when Ibuki leaped
over the desk and dropkicked it out the window.

"Oh my," Mirumoto said calmly. "That was rather unexpected."

"Stay here," Ibuki ordered them and pulled out the same jeweled green
dagger as before, then leapt out the window. Setsuna ran over and
looked out, watching as the creature and the young woman began to
battle. The thing seemed much faster tonight, and was easily keeping
pace with her. Soon the battle was moving so fast Setsuna could only
make out glimpses of it. A moment of slow movement as the two reeled
from blows or shifted tactics.

"What's that dagger she's using?" Setsuna asked and turned to see
Mirumoto heading out of the room. "Hey, where are you going?"

"One question at a time!" he complained. "The dagger is jade, the only
thing that can kill a Kuei-jin, and then only if put in the heart. I
am going to get the equipment to record this. This is the opportunity

Setsuna resisted the urge to chase him down and pound some sense into
him as he dashed out. Instead she moved over to Mitsurugi and leaned
down next to him. "Are you okay, Mitsurugi?"

"I will live Fume-san," he stated clearly despite the way his eyes
were unfocused. "I fear I shall be of little help in the battle
however."

"I..." Deep down inside herself Setsuna felt something snap. This
monster, this thing had ruined her life. It had driven her to the
point of paranoia, killed her best friend... no, worse, turned her
best friend into some -thing-. And now it was trying to kill the only
people who had helped her. No, she wasn't about to let it push her
around anymore! "Where did you put your crossbow?"

"My..." he paused. "In the next room, on the desk. The quarrels are
next to it." She got up to leave. "Fume-san?" She paused. "Try not to
hit Kusanagi-san by mistake." She grinned and ran out of the room.

***

By the time Setsuna got down the the first floor and out of the
building the battle had moved. It didn't take long to spot however, as
streetlamps didn't normally go flying fifty feet straight up. The run
down to the street was torture on her wounded leg however and she was
just thankful it hadn't moved on when she got there either. She was
very lucky in fact, because she got there just as a pause had
developed in the battle. Ibuki was standing ten meters from the beast,
breathing deep and slow to recover her strength. The beast,
thankfully, wasn't doing much better. It was holding one of its arms,
from which a greasy black smoke was pouring. Setsuna concealed herself
as best she could behind a bench.

"You are very good girl," the thing said. "I don't know how you can
fight me to a standstill and yet you have."

"Hah!" Ibuki gave him a thumbs-down. "I'm the heir to the Kusanagi
school of demon slaying. I'm as strong as my opponent in every battle.
That way the battle always goes to the most skilled fighter."

"Ah but the race does not always go to the swift," it said,"Or the
battle to the strong... In fact, sometimes to battle goes to the one
with the advantage. And I have a very special advantage." It stared at
her, grinning maliciously.

"What's that?" Ibuki smiled cockily and met the creature stare for
stare.

"I can control your mind..." it hissed. Ibuki blinked then cursed and
tried to move her eyes... but too late.

"Hold right there!" it hissed and Ibuki stopped as if frozen. "You
will do exactly as I say... and do nothing to defend yourself." From
the look on Ibuki's face she didn't like that in the least, still she
wasn't moving. "Foolish human," it hissed as it moved forward, always
making sure to keep eyecontact. "You may be strong, but your mind is
weak as a child's. I will show you true power..."

Twang-zip-thunk!

The monster roared, throwing back its head in rage and clutching at
the crossbow bolt burred in its back. Once its eyes were off her
Ibuki was moving again. She pivoted and somehow drove the sole of her
foot into the chin of the beast from beneath. The things mouth snapped
shut and it flew up a good twenty meters before crashing to the earth
meters away.

"Thank you Mitsu-chan!" Ibuki smiled.

"You're welcome Ibuki-san!" Setsuna called. Ibuki stared at her for a
second and then laughed.

"Okay," she said, "So you're a pretty good shot."

"Uh, actually I was aiming for his head..."

Ibuki laughed even harder.

"You," the creatures voice brought them both back to the present. "You
girl," the thing growled. "I've had enough of you... I'll kill you
now!" It roared and suddenly long and exceedingly sharp talons
were hurtling towards her like missiles. Setsuna yelled and dove for
cover but probably wouldn't have made it had Ibuki not intercepted the
talons. She threw her knife and it spun through the extending claws
like a lawnmower through grass. The thing roared and pulled back then
jumped at Ibuki and once again the fight was on.

Setsuna scrambled to her feet again and looked around. Spotting the
dagger she dashed over and picked it up off the sidewalk. She watched
in fascination for a moment as the ends of the talons dissolved in to
black smoke, but then forced herself to concentrate on the matter at
hand. The problem was that she could barely follow the matter at hand,
much less effect it. The two fighters moved so fast that Setsuna
couldn't tell which was where at any given point, and throwing herself
into the battle was only likely to get her killed. But without the
knife, Ibuki had no way of finishing off the beast.

Eventually this took its toll. The creature, realizing the martial
artist was unarmed went on the offensive and cared little for defense.
While Ibuki was able to get in a few choice hits, nothing slowed it
down for long and soon she was sent flying into the school gate. The
force of the blow bent the metal bars and Ibuki herself dropped to the
ground, obviously dazed. The creature began to prep itself for a final
strike.

Setsuna acted, not sure if her gambit would work but having no better
plan. Madly she ran and placed herself between Ibuki and the monster.
It paused upon seeing her and laughed.

"What do you expect to do little girl?"

"You don't scare me anymore!" she yelled, hiding the dagger in her
sleeve. She stared at it, as if daring the thing to attack. She hoped
she didn't look as nervous as she felt. "I'll get you, for what you
did to Yohko!"

The creature stared back at her, its slitted eyes finding and catching
hers. She saw it smile. "Foolish girl," it said, "You will soon learn
to call me master. Come... come to me..."

Setsuna gulped and forced her legs to move forward. The thing was like
a living nightmare, all distorted flesh and a charnel odor seemed to
pour out of it. Every instinct in her body told her to run, to scream,
to get away. She ignored them and continued to walk, trying her best
to affect a surprised and reluctant expression. She kept her eyes on
its, that helped a little, when she didn't have to see its entire
body.

"Yes little girl," it hissed. "I knew nothing could resist my power.
Come to me and I will give you my Kiss, my Kiss of death..."

She came closer until she was sure that the reek and the horror would
overwhelm her but she kept going. She vaguely heard Ibuki getting up
behind her and trying to yell something at her. Setsuna resisted to
urge to look away, to check and see if the other girl was alright. She
thing was within striking distance. It hissed and reached out,
grabbing her shoulder and pulling her close.

"Now child," it said and opened its mouth wide. "Come to m-urk!"

Setsuna leapt away as the beast began to thrash. She rolled and came
to a stop two meters away. She looked up and saw it clutching futilely
at the small hilt buried in its chest. Like Yohko before it, black
smoke poured out of the monster. Finally it raised its head and
screamed, a primal terror-filled scream. Then it was gone, dissolved
into mist and blown away by the wind. There was a soft clink as the
dagger struck the pavement.

"Whoa," Ibuki said as she walked up beside Setsuna. "That took guts."
She rubbed Setsuna on the head. "You're okay in my book, rich-girl."

"Thanks," Setsuna said and felt a warm sort of tingle in her chest. It
took her a moment to realize that she was happy. Despite all the
horror and the pain and the loss, she was happy. Happy to be alive,
happy to have finished this and happy... to have found something.
Something special. Later, she would grieve, but for now she allowed
herself to be happy.

"Wait, wait!" a small voice called and they turned to see
Mirumoto-sensei wobbling out of the gate. He carried what looked like
every type of electronic equipment that had ever been invented. From
camcorders to things with graphs to things with screens that showed
everything in shades of green. "Wait for me..." he paused as he looked
around. "Where did it go?"

"We killed it," Ibuki said simply.

"You... killed it?" He looked at her sternly. "Couldn't you have
waited another five minutes before killing it? I mean, really!"

Setsuna laughed, and soon after Ibuki joined in.

***

Dealing with the police the next day was surprisingly easy. Despite
the strangeness of the crime that had occurred and the circumstances
of Yakaze-san's death they didn't seem to take much convincing to
leave. All they needed to do was talk with Mirumoto-sensei and
exchange knowing looks before climbing back in their policecar and
driving off.

"Is it always that way?" Setsuna asked.

"Usually," Mitsurugi was helping her move his dented up scooter off
the road and getting it back onto the sidewalk. "The police and the
school know that Mirumoto-sensei is doing important work, they just
sort of let him do it. They don't want to admit he's right, but they
know that there are things they can't deal with so they let us do our
work. As long as he doesn't get too out of line, that is."

"I see," she grunted as they set the scooter down.

"So did you give any thoughts to Mirumoto-sensei's offer?"

She paused. She had given it a great deal of thought. It meant she
would probably be encountering more of those things, those
paranormals. But then, it also meant that she would be her own person.
If she did this, and she saved people and proved that the paranormal
did exist then she would be famous. She would be known as something
other than Fume Akira's daughter. And it also served as extra credit
towards her degree, as well as getting paid whenever they did a
contract. Which could mean she might be able to quit her horrid job at
the fast-food joint. (Not to mention), she thought as she looked at
Mitsurugi and sighed, (That I'll actually have friends and not be as
much of an outsider.)

"Yes," she said finally. "I'll do it. I'll join the club."

"A decision many would question, Fume-san," Mitsurugi said simply.
"Yet it is your decision and in the long run I think a good one."

"Thank you, Mitsurugi," she nodded. "Oh, and one other thing."

"Yes?"

"Call me Setsuna."

He blinked but shrugged and nodded. "As you wish Setsuna-san."

(Oh yes,) she thought, (Maybe some real new friends.)

<Beginning>

**********************************************************************

Author's Notes:

Well, there it is. This is my "serious" entry into the Second Coming
Sweeps and the one I personally hope wins. If you find yourself torn
between this and Magical Princess... Bob? then may I please plead that
you vote for this one (or both, both is also good ^_^). Some general

First on the length, I know some of you may remember me posting about
how the ideal starter length was from 40-60k and with that I still
agree. However there was simply too much plot, characterization and
world-building for me to do in this starter to get it all in under
this length (I had to cut some scenes actually). Hopefully if you read
all the way through it you won't consider it too long. Also I stayed
under my self-imposed 80k limit.

specifically the fact that it is set at a university. Typically anime
is set at a high school. However, this is because the target audience
is also likely to be in high school (or junior high). This fic is
targeted at a more mature audience (ie, middle-college, like myself)
and so I set it at the appropriate venue. Also it was neccesary for
some of the quirks of Setsuna's character, specifically her rebellion
against her father. I find it hard to picture a high school student
going out to live on her own like Setsuna did. Thirdly on the concept
of entrance exams. If you are not familiar with them an entrance exam
is a test issued by a university in Japan, only students who can pass
the exam are allowed to attend. This is why studying hard is so
important in Japan, as the best universities always have the most
difficult exams. For more info on this check out the early issues of
Maison Ikkuko.

Finally the nature of this story. I won't make suggestions on how I
think it should go, but I would like to note that the "powers" of the
three members of the Club are limited, so keep that in mind. Also note
that I inserted some references to popular Japanese folklore in their
names, I did this on purpose to suggest a connection.

Now I'd like to thank all my pre-readers for their extensive
commentary and editing. Without them, this would be a much more sloppy
and incoherent piece (which boogles the mind, I know). They are, in no
particular order:

Steven Scougall
Mark Poa
David H. Siegel
and Jesse Ellman

I thank you all, and they deserve at least a tenth of the credit for
this piece...

Comments? Criticism? Flames? I'm open to any feedback whether this
wins or not. E-mail them to me at tzubi@ns.sympatico.ca or post them
to the Improfanfic Message Board. Note that I do not go to the Chat
Room, so I will not be found there if you wish to comment. Nor am I on
any of the mailing lists.

Epsilon