by No. 13
Further warnings: focused entirely on Fuji and Tezuka
Author is no native English speaker (always glad to accept corrections)
“A flashlight!” Yumiko shouted frantically, as the wind picked up. Tezuka’s heart missed a beat, something hit the ground with a dull thud, and there was nothing but absolute blackness. He heard the wind howling, his parents fumbling around, could practically feel the ice-cold fear poring from the older Fuji, slowly taking himself over.
Blood freezing in his veins, dread gripping his heart tightly – he wanted to stand up, and do something to help – but remained frozen on the ground. Complete darkness suffocating his senses, he couldn’t tell up from down, left from right, not with the wind raging like this, not with the noises, not when the room felt as if it was spinning.
Suddenly, a light flashed, his father had managed to find the flashlight and put it on. The beam spun wildly across the room, testament to his father’s madly shaking hands, testament to the fear that had them all holding their breaths in terrified suspension.
“Kuniharu!” Ayana admonished unable to keep her voice from shaking. She made to reach for the flashlight, and it tumbled to the ground.
It was only a split second, but it was enough to make his heart stop. The light beam briefly revealed a black shadow, bowed over his unmoving, white-faced team mate. Then the flashlight came to rest, shining cruel, blinding light at a pale arm, wrist mercilessly gripped and pinned by an undefined gray lump to the ground, the belonging hand motionless and white.
And everything blurred in front of his eyes, somebody gasped, maybe there was even a scream, and all of a sudden Yumiko had risen, standing upright and tall, stepping forward without fear.
Gone was the gently-smiling, well-dressed young woman, replaced by a far more fearsome creature. It was somebody incredibly powerful who stepped out of the protective circle, exuding confidence and determination; somebody Tezuka Kunimitsu failed to recognize.
Something flared, blinding, choking, all-consuming. Bright, powerful, over-whelming…
His stomach lurched as he recalled the motionless hand. Drenched in cold sweat, he barely gathered the courage to turn his eyes in the fateful direction, only to find his view blocked by Yumiko’s sleek figure.
“We need to get out of here.” she announced grimly. Her voice was calm, but lacked whatever power she had possessed previously and her profile was pale and drawn.
“Your brother – is he…” Ayana started, slightly out of breath, only to be cut off abruptly.
“We need to leave this place first.” Yumiko insisted, glancing uneasily at the opened doors, leading into absolutely black places. Only a tad bit of natural lightening had returned to the front room, together with November wind and clammy air.
In a trance Tezuka climbed to his feet, barely noting his family mirroring his actions. He failed to note his mother’s stricken face, his grandfather’s worried frown. The comforting hand his father placed on his own shoulder.
His eyes were fixed ahead, starring as Yumiko helped her barely-conscious younger brother to his feet. Fuji was pale, paler than Tezuka had ever seen him before. Eyelashes fluttering, body trembling and it was only with gentle force that Yumiko managed to steer her younger sibling out of the front door and into the freezing rain.
Tezuka welcomed the cold raindrops hitting his face, washing away whatever deathly spell had been cast over him. He felt like waking up from a horrid nightmare, finally reaching the real world after having been caught in a frighteningly realistic dream.
“Fuji!” he gasped, seeing his friend sinking down on the stairs like a limp rag-doll.
Yumiko leaned forward, fingers clutching her brother’s thin shoulders tightly, trying to gauge his condition.
“Syusuke! Syusuke! Stay with me! Syusuke!”
Stumbling over, Tezuka breathlessly sank to his knees. He reached out for his friend’s lifeless form, only to drop his hand uselessly, admitting that there was nothing he could do; not when Yumiko was already shaking her brother that desperately.
“Syusuke! Look at me!”
Blue eyes fluttered open, glazed and sightless and Tezuka’s heart clenched. A frown crossed Yumiko’s beautiful, white face and when she spoke next it wasn’t the caring, older sister talking, but the order of a powerful entity.
“Look. At. Me.”
The haziness disappeared and Fuji blinked, awareness setting in. Gone were the room’s oppressing darkness and the air’s smothering stillness, replaced by the black outlines of a leafless tree, bending against an overcast night sky.
“Nee-sa…” the words, soft as they were, immediately were swallowed by a violent coughing fit.
Yet, even as Fuji was bent over, gasping for air between coughs that rattled the lithe body, Tezuka saw Yumiko’s shoulders sag in relief. Her eyes closed for a moment, tension slowly draining out of her body.
And suddenly, the rain was gone too. Tezuka looked up to find his father hovering over them, holding one opened umbrella out over their heads.
“Perhaps you should return home.” he tentatively said, looking uncertain and worried.
Yumiko flashed a grateful, but tired smile at him, accepting the offered umbrella with a word of thanks.
“I suppose that would be best, yes.” then she turned to her brother, who was still leaning against the stairs, breathing heavily. “Ne, Syusuke, let’s go home.”
The ghost of the classical Fuji smile crept on his face as Tezuka’s team mate mumbled. “Yes, Nee-san.”
“Is Fuji-kun alright?” Kuniharu inquired worriedly. Tezuka himself was watching with baited breath as his team mate struggled to get to his feet.
Yumiko gently put an arm around her brother’s waist, stabilizing him just enough to remain upright. “He’s okay.” she replied, looking at Kuniharu, “Just needs to lie down and sleep.”
She steered their steps across faded tiles, through overgrown iron gates and out onto the street. Behind them, Ayana and Kunikazu silently followed the procession through the cold rain until they reached their cars.
A sigh of relief passed Ayana’s lips when her husband unlocked the car and the prospect of curling up with a hot cup of tea at home finally appeared within the closer future. Tezuka respectfully waited as his father’s side until Yumiko had settled her brother into the passenger’s seat of her red convertible.
She turned to them, face more serious than it had been during the entire evening.
“So the rumors are true.” Kunikazu concluded, voice heavy.
Yumiko nodded sympathetically.
Ayana tilted her head. “Is… has the spirit been banished?”
His mother’s words expressed Tezuka’s thoughts. He had wondered about that sudden flare of something that had abruptly ended the nightmare. The ghost’s presence had disappeared so suddenly, he too, had felt it must have been destroyed.
“No.” the answer was flat, Yumiko’s eyes hooded. “This spirit is far more ancient and powerful than I expected. It was only due to surprise that we could escape.”
“But then…” his father began, fingers clenching his umbrella tight enough to render his knuckles bloodless, “What happened to Fuji-kun…”
Yumiko’s expression was colder than the night. “The protective circles we set up were far too weak for something of that size. We’re lucky it didn’t turn on us first.”
“Is Fuji-kun okay?” Ayana interrupted, looking worried.
“He should be.” Yumiko allowed her expression to relax, “I’m a bit surprised, I must admit… The rumors concerned a vengeful spirit causing deaths, didn’t they?”
Kunikazu wordlessly nodded.
A frown crossed Yumiko’s face and Tezuka wondered what she was thinking. Had she just implied she had expected the ghost to kill her younger brother? Implied that, without twitching?
“Is it possible to… well, do something about the spirit?” Ayana asked, putting motherly concerns aside for the moment.
“There’s no ghost or demon that can’t be banished or dealt with in some way.” Yumiko replied, smiling humorlessly, “But that thing is a class for itself. My powers alone won’t suffice and I know nobody whose would.”
Ayana paled and Kunikazu frowned. “How about we simply tear down the building?”
“I doubt you’d get official permission to do that.” Yumiko replied, “Furthermore, that won’t kill the ghost. He is, as far as I can tell, attached to this area – if he’s attached to anything at all. Ghosts powerful to this degree might be able to wander the country to their heart’s contend.”
Tezuka caught his mother glancing at his grandfather, silently questioning ‘what do we do?’. He’d lost sight of his own father until a warm hand came down on his shoulder.
“How are you doing?” ,his father softly questioned, unwilling to disturb the conversation.
“Fine enough.” Tezuka replied, wondering if he was speaking the truth at the same time. So many impossible things had happened and he hadn’t yet had time to contemplate them all. For now, though, he was okay. Badly shaken and maybe even scared, but healthy and sane.
“…but usually there are other ways to banish powerful ghosts besides using raw power.” Yumiko was currently telling his grandfather, “How exactly this works does however depend on the ghost.”
“We don’t know much beside that it’s supposed to be a man intending to take revenge or do something like that.” Ayana replied.
Yumiko frowned. “It would be interesting to find out his name. That would be one clue as to how to banish him.”
A sudden, cold breeze carried freezing rain underneath their umbrellas. Nighttime and coldness were beginning to wear on Tezuka's constitution, he wanted to return home and crawl into bed. There was school and tennis early tomorrow - something real and serious, nothing like this half-fantastic story-book scenario that he had trouble believing had really happened. The rain was real, the wind, too - but a ghost - it could have been only shadows after all, because the human mind tended to fill the blanks when the eyes failed.
“Another would be his objective.” Yumiko stated with an air of finality. Light coughing interrupted the rest of the conversation.
Ayana’s business-like expression vanished, taking in Fuji’s soaked and hunched over form.
“We’ll look into it.” she promised, “But for today perhaps it would be better to return home.”
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it and if you have suggestions or comments, please share them with me.
On to Chapter 3~