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Your heart is pounding in your chest, the slam of the ocean against a cliff face. Your body is singing, the cries of a lost soul in the midst of a battlefield as you are ravaged and taken and owned.

But your nails find purchase in slick skin, lips finding the words to draw him closer as the smile curls across your face, relishing in how he destroys you--just as you destroy him.


It’s a plea for mercy, a demand for more, a command to never, never stop. And as his entire form moves again and again, tangled with your own as he presses closer, closer, never close enough, you are satisfied in the blurring of the edges between where you each end and begin.


A fresh start, your mother said. A new beginning, your father said. You didn’t want either, didn’t need either, but you appreciated their attempts to make you feel better all the same.

The truth of the matter is that your mother received a new job offer, one far more lucrative than what she had in Osaka.Your father found something just as good, and you were happy for them both. They’d be very busy, but you understood. Finding jobs they loved, and a more comfortable living situation? It was ideal. You supposed starting over was a small price to pay. You could still email your friends, since you had a computer now, and Osaka wasn’t too far to call from Morioh. You’d have to keep it brief, sure, but between email, phones, and trains you were sure to stay in contact.

Besides, your new uniform? Apparently the school dress code was kind of lax, and you could customize it. So you did a little bit--just a bit more fabric here, little less there, some embellishments that made it feel more your own.

You took a break from sewing a patch you'd gotten into your sleeve, shaking out your hand, fingers sore from pressing the thicker needle through the patch and the fabric. You knew how to hand-sew somewhat decently, but you weren't sure if you were using the right size of needle or the right kind or anything. But as long as it looked good, who cared about method?

Deciding that you'd been sitting for too long, you clambered off of your bed and straightened your clothes a bit, looking about your room. There were still a few unopened boxes, not all of them yours, but you didn't feel like unpacking them just yet. A whim seized you--why not familiarize yourself with the neighborhood? It looked like a beautiful day out, and you didn't know your way around the town too well. Best to start nearby and work your way outwards.

Besides, just a few houses over was this one really big, dilapidated looking house. It stood out against the rest of the neighborhood, which was incredibly neat and tidy. It almost looked like something out of a horror movie, which meant that it had instantly piqued your curiosity. You wouldn't go in or anything--well. You probably wouldn't go in. Depends how cool it looked.

Shrugging a little to yourself, you shuffled out of your room, making yourself to the front hall to put on your shoes. “Dad, I'm going out!” You called, pausing to hear the response.


“Just wanna get to know the neighborhood, that's all. I won't be long.”

“Okay, but be careful! It's hot out.”

“Got it!”

And with that you were on your merry way. You didn't go to the creepy house immediately, to your credit--you tried to make your path as meandering as you could in this awful heat. Still, you found yourself on the sidewalk before it rather quickly, eyes tracing over the largess of the architecture. How had this place gotten built? It looked so blindingly different to just about everything else near by. That was the nice thing about Morioh--it was pretty and small. Just sort of quiet and pleasant.

Something caught your eye from the edge of your vision, dragging your gaze up to the second floor of the house. You could have sworn that you had seen something moving up there--and you had. The windows were open, you realized, letting the slight breeze move the curtains. Who would leave the windows just open like that? It was practically a screaming invite for bugs, especially with the humidity here--you'd never been anywhere so humid, but were now in a coastal area, so it made sense. Again, you shrugged to yourself, and turned to head for home now that you were thoroughly sick of this heat.

The second you turned your back to the house, your body exploded with pain, so suddenly and to such a degree that couldn't even breathe. Your back radiated with harsh sensation, and you felt as if something had ripped through your chest.

Everything hurt. You couldn't breathe. What was going on? Why didn't your lungs seem to work?

Looking down and seeing the gleam of something golden emerging from within your chest, you numbly realized that it had. The whole world has gone silent, an invisible audience waiting with baited breath for you to do something. But as you felt your mouth fill with something, the heavy taste of iron sitting sharp on your tongue, gravity seemed to reclaim you from your moment of perfect stillness.

The concrete was hot and hard, but you didn't really feel it as you felt yourself sprawled across it, face down. You had to--you had to go get help. You were bleeding, you realized lamely, you must be. That was the taste in your mouth. You needed help.

Your thoughts were interrupted as you felt something press you down into the sidewalk, an immense weight on your back,
the hard pressure of something like a shoe--and you felt the thing lodged in your chest get ripped out of you, causing a shriek to spill forth with this newer burst of pain before your cheek connected with the ground. You didn't have the strength to get up, to call for help, to do anything. You were just so tired.

“Just as well,” you heard someone say. “They looked weak, anyways.”

As the sound of footsteps faded away from you, you felt something swell and fill your chest. Something between fury and indignation, welling up in you as you longed to show that voice just how weak you were. But as you thought you saw the brief flash of what must be the hem of death’s cloak just before your face, darkness claimed your vision.


Two of the neighborhood kids had found you, your mother told you as you laid in bed, and called for help. You'd just been out in the sun for too long, it had been a bit of a heatstroke--nothing unusual, according to the doctor your parents insisted you see, and you nodded along.

But you hadn't imagined it. You found yourself waking in a sweat from nightmares of bleeding out, alone and undiscovered. The fact you'd come so close to it still frightened you. Your fingers, whenever idle, would wander to your sternum, where you had felt the awful splitting and shattering of bone, had seen your skin split open, had felt the awful warmth of your own blood on your hands.

But there was no mark, no bruise, no scar. Just the slightest patch of discoloration, just one shade off from your own skin color, the only proof that something had happened. There was that, and then there was the fact that something that you'd thought looked like Death itself followed you everywhere. At first, it frightened you terribly--but then you discovered you could make it go away, just by deciding you didn't want to see it. Was it a hallucination? You weren't sure. No one else seemed to see it--not your parents, not your cat, not strangers on the street. It worried you, to have such a vivid reminder of your own mortality trailing after you like some malformed spectre.

You came from a superstitious family, after all--and the best kind of way to deal with that sort of thing was to decide that it simply wasn't real. By now, though, your funny little shadow was more comfort than it was a threat, and so you let it linger.

Finally, your first day of school came, a few weeks into the year already. You wanted to show off your uniform, considering how hard you had worked to make it unique and stylish without crossing over into the territory of “too much”, but you found yourself worried that you looked too worried and overwhelmed instead of friendly. You didn't even make an attempt to look the latter, though, but just sort of...wished that people would look at you and consider you to be friendly. Almost immediately upon your arrival, you saw a few gazes on you, looks appreciative and smiles warm.

You couldn’t help your own broad smile as you were led to your seat. It was almost as if your own little wish had become reality somehow, and you'd take that as fortune smiling on you after your little...accident a few days ago. You wondered if you’d meet whoever it was who’d gotten you help--you did want to say thanks yourself, and maybe ask if they'd seen anything odd. But this wasn't the time to think about that, and so you banished the thought.

It was a pretty straightforward morning, luckily--you weren’t too far behind on schoolwork, but it looked like you might have a little extra reading to do, nothing too strenuous. You did, however, find yourself pretty distracted by a student a few feet in front of you and one row over. He’d clearly done some work on his uniform himself, and if the pompadour was anything to go by, he took his appearance very seriously. That wasn’t a bad thing in a guy, not by a long shot! You’d just started to ponder the merits of a man who takes care of himself when the subject of your study glanced back and caught your gaze.

You could practically feel your face going red. Scratch that, you absolutely could. You braced yourself for some sort of tease or laugh, but instead....

Instead he just smiled a little, winked at you, and turned back to face the front. His own gaze had lingered on you for a long moment before he had, and the effect on you had been immediate.

Now that just wasn’t fair. How the hell did he get your heart to beat so fast from a wink? Maybe he was hiding some sort of magic love potion in that pompadour. You should take it apart and find out, sometime--but not while in class. You turned to face the front again, continuing diligently on your notes. Just because you were new didn’t mean you’d let yourself fall behind.

Classes came and went, and before you knew it, it was lunch time. You’d expected to see everyone shuffle out, clustering together in groups of friends, leaving you alone to your spot. You didn’t really mind--you’d make friends soon enough, so what was one lunch alone?

But instead, you were approached by the subject of your attentions, another two male students alongside him. There was something about the three of them that seemed....more than the others in your class. There was something more settled and real to them--as if that made any sort of sense.

“Hey, we haven’t been introduced.” It’s a fight to not blink in surprise--you’re not sure you’ve ever had a classmate who sounded so smooth and polished. Was this guy just the whole package? “I’m Josuke Higashikata. This is Koichi Hirose and Okuyasu Nijimura.” The two smiled, and you nodded to each of them.

“Is there something you guys wanted to talk to me about?” You winced. There had to have been a better, less-standoffish way to phrase that! But it’s not like you expected to be approached anyone your first lunch period, let alone these three.

“We wanted to know if you wanted to sit with us for lunch!” You found yourself startled at the rough voice coming from Nijimura. Were you really the same age...? “It’d be a real shame for somebody so cute to sit alone!”

“Oi, don’t just come out and say it like that! You’re making us sound like creeps!”

“Oh no! I didn’t mean for it to come out like that!”

As the two continued to squabble, the smallest of the three smiled apologetically. “Sorry, they both can be kind of....”


“Mm, something like that.”

The two of you shared a smile, and you expressed your assent to sit with them. New friends, already. Maybe your parents weren’t wrong, after all.

As you talked to Hirose, who seemed sweet if a little nervous, you missed the pointed and worried looks that the other two directed towards you, then each other, something between caution and determination gleaming in their eyes.