Chapter 6: The Sapphire Hunter
It was late day now as Ushio sat in his bed in a white T-shirt and black boxer, staring at his cell phone and wondering what he could do. Since he learned about Nobuki he had lost all will to get out of bed, and left Asano confused when she sat off for her date. It was she he was worried about, her, the headstrong girl he had known since grade school that he couldn’t possibly tell about the untouchable boy. He knew that it was important, and that it was what the response to his text was asking about when it said “What next?” and yet he sat there bemused, and a little disgusted by the late day. “What next?” It sounded like such a patronizing question when he said it in his head, and it felt more condescending than that when he said it out loud, but he knew that was because he didn’t know what do. Even if a magical way presented itself; even if some mystical arm gave him a blessed touch that’d actually allow him to harm Nobuki, he knew that the lad was untouchable in more ways than one. “What next?” he asked himself as he considered that, and as he pondered responding to the text he realized there was only one thing he could do.
“I’ll find out more.” He resolved and his daylong melancholy escaped him as he hopped out of bed and put on his pants.
Far away from the hotel, Ushio and Asano had set up in; Rin sat quietly in her class, running her fingers across a keyboard. It was 3:15 now and in five minutes, the school day would be over, but in the back of her mind, she considered staying longer to get an essay done. It was February now and in a month, the school year would be over. Her first year of high school would be up, and she’d be preparing for what the last two years would bring, but the last thing that was on her mind was preparing for that in Asabi. Rin had big goals for herself, goals she had told her parents Eiji and Reina, and even told Masaru who had always rooted for her. She hadn’t told him yet, or even her parents but those goals had compelled her to do something recently, that required her to get an expert essay done. The bell suddenly rung and she knew it was time to go, but still her fingers danced across the keys while begging her to jump to the mouse and click save.
“Rin-san,” A girl nudged her as she ran over to her and the flustered cheeks that Rin saw when she looked up, made her stare with surprise. “There’s a cute guy outside the school looking for you.” She said and Rin smiled a little, wondering if Masaru had stayed behind to walk her home. “It’s great that you traded up from Masaru-kun.” She said and in that instance, Rin’s wonder went away, as finally she saved her project and pulled her flash drive from its port.
After a stop by her locker where she pulled her cerulean duffle coat over the dark blue blazer of her school uniform, she walked through the double glass doors into the brisk afternoon. It took a few moments as she walked across the grounds, till she saw the cute boy her classmate had mentioned, and wonder why anyone thought Ushio was cute at all. As she stared at him and into his smoky dark eyes, she wondered if she could ignore him at first until he raised his hand up.
“Ushio-san,” She greeted him with feigned surprised.
“Rin-san, we need to talk.” He said, and the girl who had told Rin about him cooed a little till his eyes turned to her. “Alone if you don’t mind.” He smiled and she completely swooned.
It didn’t take Rin but a moment to figure out what he was going to say, and quietly she led him away from the school and down the road that’d take her home. One after another, they passed quiet houses till Ushio was sure they were alone, where he reached out his arm and took her shoulder in hand. It stopped Rin and made her turn to him, where once more she stared into his eyes and wondered if her suspicions were right.
“Rin-san…” Ushio turned a walked away a bit. “When you said good bye to us that evening, you said something peculiar. It’s not the type of thing you say on accident either, so I’m sure you know why I’m here.” He said and Rin nodded, and silently laughed at tricking herself. “How much do you really know about Yui and Masaru-san?” He asked and Rin let her gaze fall.
“It started at the new year’s festival a month ago. Masaru, I, my mom, and my dad had gone to the shrine where we were going to make a new year’s wish when something went down.” She answered.
“What do you think it was?”
“For a while now I didn’t know, but after you and Asano-san explained Tae Yui’s powers I realized, that was it. I don’t know how I wasn’t affected but everyone else had gone into a daze, and it was at that point that someone descended. I remember it so clearly, a beautiful woman with long black hair. Her eyes were deep, engaging, but deceitful because despite that, they were very cold. She had come dressed in black formal wear, looking more like a business woman than someone going to a celebration, and…”
“Nothing. She just pulled a bell out of a bag and began to ring it, then she was gone and everyone returned to normal. The people after Masaru-chan appeared after that, but that was pretty much it.”
“That can’t be right!” Ushio exclaimed. “If Yui had Masaru-san where she wanted, with even you in the way she wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him then unless-“
“Well she did!” Rin stopped him. “She just rang the bell and left.”
“Unless someone got in her way. Someone unaffected by the current clause of her cosmic contract, someone she wouldn’t have even suspected.” Ushio pushed and Rin began to take a few steps back. “It makes sense of course, your warning was just too foreboding to mean anything else. You got in her way Rin-san, and that’s what slowed Yui down. You consistently got in her way, and that’s when Nobuki came in!” He connected the dots and Rin punched a sign.
“No… He was there from the start.” She said and Ushio’s expression sunk.
“But why? Why hide it from us, we’re on the same side as you.” He asked and Rin shook her head.
“Are you really? You come in and barely tell Masaru-chan anything then say that you’re on our side. For all I know you could have been just another one of Yui’s goons!” Rin roared and Ushio recomposed himself.
“There’s stuff I can’t possibly tell you.” Ushio gaze fell as he hung his head.
“Then I’ll make you tell me!” Rin exclaimed as a triangular sapphire emerged from her head and released several ribbons of light.
Ushio watched half-surprised as the ribbons spun into the air and wrapped Rin in a sapphire cocoon, while his other state of mind created his spear. As the cocoon tore, Ushio found his eyes set upon Rin again, where he saw her hands wrapped by sapphire gloves and the white of her eyes dyed dark blue. She was upon him before he could finish taking in her form, and he was forced to jump back as her fist came out. When his feet came back to the ground, he had to throw himself to the right, just in time to dodge her kick, but moving himself into the path of her punch. He blanked out as the pain reverberated and forced him to grind his teeth, before he kicked the shaft of his pole arm and made it and jab Rin’s side. She winced as it hit, but jumped right as the spear came down, and was once more upon Ushio again, where she tripped him up and slammed him into the ground. For a moment, Ushio fought, but then he looked into her eyes and realized something was wrong. His spear suddenly went away, and by surprise Rin let him stand up, where once again she met his smoky eyes and took a few steps back.
“I’m not your enemy.” He said. “I know that these secrets won’t make you believe thatm but I beg you to trust me when I say it’s important they stay secret. Think about why you couldn’t tell Masaru-san about Yui’s attacks.” He pleaded and Rin’s eyes bounced from the ground to him as she thought about it before making her transformation go away.
“Then answer one thing for me.” She stared with intent and Ushio shook his head. “Why won’t you tell us everything?”She asked and saw a flash of melancholy in those smoky eyes.
“Because learning everything corrupted me and Asano’s lives forever.” He said, and by foreboding alone Rin understood and submitted to never getting to know.
“I… see. I won’t stop fighting Yui’s goons though.” She said.
“And I won’t ask you. You’ll have to tell Masaru-san though, so that you can protect him more actively.” He replied and Rin shook her head in agreement. “There’s one thing I will ask you though.”
“For as long as possible, do not tell Asano about Nobuki.” Melancholy went away and in his eyes, Rin saw the remnants of regret.
“I won’t.” She understood the regret, and their alliance was made…