Sometimes we need encouragement, more than we need to be told that we’re wrong.
“I can’t believe that worked,” I groaned.
“Me neither,” Tyrone was the last to crawl out of the air vents, “Lookie! Even Leo Jr.’s happy.”
Tyrone held up that stupid plush Yokai as if it was alive. I didn’t pay much attention to him. I kept looking around. I had to find my way home. I didn’t even know where outside the school we had broken out of. I only realized recently that I hadn’t died far from this place. This school wasn’t that far away from my Mother’s den. But which direction from here?
“So where to now,” John was finished getting his bearings, “I can’t tell where we are.”
“Well, my house is that way. I know because it goes right past that big rock,” Tyrone pointed.
“Big rock,” I found myself shouting, “What big rock? Is it shiny? With lots of white stuff hanging around it?”
“Yeah that’s the big rock,” Tyrone said, “Is your house past the big rock too?”
“I know that place,” John shouted, “It’s near Ms. Kay’s house. Jay-jay was born there!”
…Why do humans always seem to have a one-track mind?…Well, at least I know where to go from here…
I didn’t need these humans anymore. I was finally free. I could go where ever I wanted now. I started on my way home.
“Big Sister, wait for us,” Tyrone cried, running to catch up to me, “We’ll be safer if we stix together.”
“I can find my way home myself,” I snapped at him, “Don’t follow me.”
“He’s right. Ms. Kay’s really nice. She’ll take us home,” John said as he and Brandon caught up to us, “Please big sister.”
“My name’s not ‘big sister’, it’s Jade.”
“Great! My name’s Jonathan.”
“I told you my name’s Brandon.”
“And I’m Tyrone.”
“See we’re all friends now,” John laughed, “and as a friend, I promise that I’ll protect you.”
“Me too,” Tyrone nodded, “I’ll protect you, big sister.”
As I woke up, I couldn’t think for a few moments. Frankly, I thought that I had died. If I did, then heaven sure didn’t look like a land of fluffy clouds with mountains of apples. In fact, I figured I’d be myself again when I died… again. But no… It was a small room, nothing fancy about it. I was lying in a huge bed with a few large fluffy blankets.
I was warm, but not because of these blankets. Tyrone was laying right next to me. His head laid on my left arm. He was fast asleep. He just looked so cute. I just couldn’t stand to wake him. Was he hurt? No, of course not. He had fire immunity to protect him. As for me, I was still human. I didn’t look like I had any burns. The only pain that I could feel was the burning that came from his body heat. He must have done something to protect me.
“Inari, you idiot,” I pet him, “Don’t you know that I can take care of myse-”
“Well, welcome back to the land of the living.”
“Who,” I asked, but stopped.
“Long time no see,” Eddie waved.
“Eddie,” I coughed.
“So you remember me,” Eddie laughed loudly, “It’s been what? Seven years since we last spoke to each other.”
“Where did you come from?”
“Well, ya see… it all started sometime after my mom met my dad. They saw each other and it was love at first sight,” Eddie grinned, but I wasn’t amused.
“You’re no fun,” Eddie pretended to pout, “I was looking for a job next door and I had just so happen to notice the building was on fire.”
Tyrone subconsciously kicked me in the side, when I scratched the right spot.
“Although, I think that the real question here is: What were you doing there?”
“And why would it matter,” I continued to pet Tyrone as if nothing happened, “I wake up to find myself in a stranger’s house with no clue as to how I survived. So shouldn’t you be more concerned with telling me where we are and how we survived.”
“Fair enough. We’re right next door from the fire,” Eddie quickly explained, “I went in and rescued all of you.”
“Forgive me, if I don’t believe you,” I stared at him. Eddie didn’t have the build to lift a roof off of people, let alone one that was on fire.
“Fine, I had a little help from… someone else,” he spoke as I slowly shifted my arm out from under Tyrone, “Be careful not to wake him. He stayed up all night tending to your wounds.”
“Hard to believe that he would do that for me,” I scratched Tyrone’s ears a little more gently, “You’re such an idiot, aren’t you boy.”
“Oh, I wasn’t talking about Tyrone,” Eddie chuckled, pointing to the floor, “Nemean’s asleep on the floor.”
I jerked up for a moment. First, because he knew what Tyrone’s name was. Second, to see the beast that Eddie was talking about. At the base of my bed was Bonny, still in his Koma Inu form. He was dead asleep. With all this fur in the room, it was a wonder that I wasn’t on fire.
“How did you get him in here?”
“He brought himself in,” Eddie shrugged, “Apparently he and Sarah are having some kind of spat.”
“*Yawn* (Jade…? Where are we?),” Tyrone stirred in his sleep, “(…Are we dead?)”
“No, you’re not dead,” Eddie chuckled to himself, Tyrone nearly snapped himself up to yell, but was still in pain from the previous night, “Whoa there, don’t push yourself.”
“(What are you doing here, Eddie?),” Tyrone growled, fur standing on end like a witch’s cat.
“Um,” I looked at the two of them, “should I be concerned with how you two know each other?”
“(I thought that I told you about Eddie back at the clinic.)”
“So this is your Aneki? Huh, Tyrone?”
“(Don’t you dare touch her!),” Tyrone snarled.
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then,” Eddie smiled, satisfied with the answer given to him.
“What’s an Aneki,” I tried to play dumb. Well, I really didn’t know, but that’s beside the point.
“Apparently it’s you, but I’m not sure what it means. Why not ask him yourself?”
“Because the only answers I’ll get is Bark bark, I’m an Inukami,” I chuckled at my Inukami impression, but Eddie stopped smiling altogether. Not a good sign, knowing him.
“Didn’t he say that he ‘told you about me back at the clinic’,” I cringed at Eddie’s statement, “If that’s true then he would have told you about how I can understand every single word that he’s saying.”
“(I’m sorry Aneki.),” Tyrone kept growling, but he also started to tear up, “(It’s all my fault, he knows everything about you.)”
“Well, not everything,” Eddie shrugged, “but yeah, you might want to change Tyrone back to his old self before we’re late for school.”
“Sarah said that she’d drive us,” Eddie placed a pair of school clothes and a pair of Seal Bells on the bed, before heading to the door.
“Hold on,” I started to shout at him.
“Not gramps there, if you don’t mind,” Eddie laughed as he shut the door, “Everyone thinks he died in the fire.”
“(Okay… that guy is beyond weird.)”
“That’s Eddie for ya,” I sighed, “Hey, um… Do you know what happened last night?”
“(I’m not sure),” Tyrone pawed to scratch it the top of his head, “(After the roof collapsed… all I can remember is water. Gallons of water.)”
“(I remember seeing somebody waving around a fishing rod and some flying fish.),” Bonny growled, “(But that could be the craziness talking.)”
“(Grandad, you’re awake!),” Tyrone yipped, now noticing the larger creature in the room, “(And you look just like… like…)”
“(A very old Koma Inu, who’s quite ashamed of his earlier behavior and is hoping that a certain young lady could forgive him.),” Bonny winked, then lowered his head.
“(It’s not your fault Grandad.),” Tyrone barked, “(It was that damn sound and then Aneki’s Phoenix Gate went into overdrive.)”
“I’m really sorry Mr. Bondell. I didn’t mean to alter reality this much,” I pet Bonny behind one of his enormous ears, praying that he’d remain calm if I did, “Now look at what I’ve done.”
“(What? This?),” Bonny stood up as he laughed, “(This is nothing! You should have seen me back when I was still an Inukami in training.)”
I stopped moving altogether. I had already come up with my own conclusion. The Phoenix Gate acted on its own. It changed Tyrone and noticed a paradox so, of course, it would want to try to correct it somehow. Now Bonny thinks that he’s always been a Yokai. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time.
I retrieved the Phoenix Gate out from under the ‘pajamas’ that I was dressed in. I stared into that blood red jewel. I hated this thing. It has caused so much pain, ever since I got it. I don’t know how long I wasted just staring at the little demon stone.
“Why did I have to find this stupid thing?”
“(I think that you’ve got it all wrong, Jade.),” Bonny turned to look at me with his big dark eyes, “(You didn’t choose the Gate. It chose you.)”
“But why? What’s the point? I’ve done nothing, but ruin everyone’s lives with it,” I started weeping uncontrollably.
“(Ruined? Jade, you haven’t ruined anyone’s life.),” Bonny still chuckled to himself, “(You helped save me from hurting anyone and you’ve been a great friend to my grandson and his… former Aniki.)”
“But look at you! You’re both dogs now! And neither one of you seam to realize it! I ruined your humanity, for Inari’s sake!”
“(Jade, this is not because of you.),” Bonny shook his head, and stretched out his paw onto the bed, “(This is the secret to my transformation.)”
I stared at the piece of jewelry that was attached to his forepaw. The bracelet that he was carrying earlier was attached to it. It must have been made of pure gold by the way it bent when I removed it. Then it molded itself right back into place. its center had some kind of crystal. Staring into the crystal you could see flames dance as if a candle was lit somewhere deep inside of it. I couldn’t help but stare. It was so beautiful as if it reminded me of my mother somehow.
“What is it?”
“(It’s the last piece of special stone known as the Crystal Firerock.),” Bonny explained, “(I don’t know much about its origin. Charlotte didn’t have time to explain, but its power somehow awakens the true potential of our family’s blood.)”
“Is this the secret that you showed Tyrone before all this happened,” I asked, Bonny nodded in response, “So it isn’t because of the Phoenix Gate that you are like this?”
“(Heavens no! As the new Curator of the Phoenix Gate you should already know what it can and can’t do.),” Bonny sighed, then sniffed the air, “(Ah, but breakfast seems to be ready. We can talk about our family’s role as Shīsā some other time.)”
The Koma Inu stood on his three legs and walked to the door with ease. Knocking on the door, with his front paw, signaled Eddie to open it for him. He didn’t have much trouble going out the door, seeing as though a third of his size was just his puffy fur.
“Hey. There’s our hero,” the other humans greeted the giant that was (or rather ′used to be’) Bonny, “How are they doing, Nemean?”
Third was unusually perky today. He wasted no time walking down the hallways, getting his paperwork done, or cleaning up his office. If one could see him at the moment, then that one could almost swear that this would be the closest to smiling that Third could get to. He was skipping even. It had been a long time since he has smiled. Everything had to be perfect today. He was so excited… but then the office phone rang.
“Hello, Principal Bisha’s office, this is him speak…,” all that Third could hear was heavy breathing, “is this some kind of prank?”
"*Sniff*…Third,” the woman on the other end of the line coughed, “… we’ve been…*cough*cough*… compromised.”
“What!” Any cheeriness that Principal Bisha had was gone now.
“I found the Kitsune… and the Inukami, but…*cough cough*,” Sixth coughed on the other end of the line, it was hard enough for her to speak at the moment. And who could blame her? She had a few broken ribs and her right eye was nearly gouged out.
“Just spit it out, woman! What happened?”
“Ebisu attacked me!…*Weeze*… He betrayed us."
“Seventh attacked you? Are you certain?”
“I wouldn’t have mistaken Luomirako… nor his abilities,” Sixth thought for a moment in heavy breaths, “But he was… helped by… someone else.”
“What do you mean someone else,” Third shouted as the phone was difficulty shifted into the hands of another.
“Because Luomirako can’t possibly be that strong alone,” Tenma Smith answered the question for Benny, ”She’s dying, Third. She needs Celtnis’s gift of healing.”
“Why today of all days,” Bisha growled to himself, then replied, “Get her to the school as soon as you can. I’ll arrange everything. Just don’t let anyone see you two here.”
Bisha, as Third, slammed the phone down, “Ebisu… Lawrence… Why must you two be constant thorns in my side.”
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