Chapter One: Near Death:
I have lived with Big Mama for six years now. I lived with her ever since I dropped out of school to begin my training. I was told by a shrine maiden to go to Kyoto to her to achieve what I am seeking. At that time, I was still reeling from my loss and betrayal. Before I left Tokyo, I paid one more visit to my brother’s grave. I said a little prayer over him.
“Blake,” I told him. “I will avenge your death.” I sat back and took a breath. Dr. Stonem drove him to this point. Dr. Stonem. He stabbed by heart and cannot forgive him for that. I want to hate my enemy, but it’s not that easy. I have tried to extinguish this torch for him in my heart, but it refuses to go out. Thinking about it makes my chest hurt.
“Cassie-san,” a small voice whispered in the dim evening room. I snapped myself out of my thoughts and looked up. A child with a small round face looked at me. I could see her little brown eyes flashing at me in the dark. She held a candle out to me. I felt myself slowly calm down.
“Oh, it’s you,” I murmured. The child took small steps towards me.
“You don’t look so good, Cassie-san,” she said. I nodded a bit.
“I’m fine,” I murmured as I turned away. I could feel the child’s eyes on my back.
“Is it him?” she asked. I clenched my fists together.
“No,” I lied. The child walked over and sat down next to me.
“I’m just worried about you,” she said. I fought to keep myself under control.
“Just go away,” I whispered.
“But…” she said.
“I said, that’s enough!” I snapped. I froze when I heard whimpering. I looked up to see the child crying at me. My heart ached for what I had done.
“I’m sorry, Hanako,” I whispered. “Come here.” I gave her a small hug. She sobbed again my chest and paused.
“Cassie-san,” she whimpered. I glanced down at her.
“What is it?” I asked.
“You smell like cigarettes again,” she murmured. I rested my chin on her head.
“It’s not that bad,” I said. “Look, I am so sorry for yelling at you. I’m just a bit tired.”
“Un,” the child said. I let go of her and stood up. She looked up at my movements.
“Where are you going?” she asked. I glanced over my shoulder at her.
“Just to get some air,” I said. “I’ll be back later, I promise.” Then, I put on my shoes and walked out the door.
The pitch black night numbed me in ways that I cannot describe. I shut my eyes to take in the smell of the flower garden in front. I still find it weird that I have come to call this place home. Big Mama and Hanako have been so good to me. They took me in after learning of my situation. I myself found it strange.
“Why?” I asked her.
“Why, what?” Big Mama asked.
“Why would you let in a total stranger?” I asked. The old lady gave me a little smile.
“Do I have to give you a reason?” she asked. I still stared at her as I sat at the kitchen table. She smiled and shook her head.
“The Council is after you, aren’t they?” she asked.
“That’s right,” I said.
“You want to end this whole mess, don’t you?” Big mama asked. I nodded as I pulled out my cigarettes.
“Well then,” she said. “Consider this a welcoming gift.” I lowered my eyes to the table.
“I don’t know what to say,” I mumbled. She gently patted me on the shoulder.
“I know you miss them both,” Big mama said. I nodded again with the unlit cigarette hanging out of my mouth.
Remembering all of that pushed me to walk further down the road. I looked up at the thick black clouds above. I do remember the weather forecast calling for rain tonight. I hope I make it back before it does. Maybe I should get an umbrella just in case. I shook my head.
Why bother?, I thought. I just kept walking down the road. I reached into my coat and pulled out a fresh cigarette. I lit up and kept walking.
A ’91 Suzuki truck ripped through the back roads in the deep night. The driver had his dog sitting next to him. His fat fingers clutched the steering wheel. Little drops landed on the windshield. The big dog barked and moved around in the passenger seat. His owner gripped the steering wheel.
“Shut up!” he yelled. The dog kept barking. He leapt into the back seat. His owner gritted his teeth.
“I said shut up!” he yelled. The driver turned to reach back and hit the dog to quiet it him. However, he didn’t notice that he added too much speed and veered into the wrong lane. Cassie happened to be stepping out into the road to cross the street. The driver whipped his head around just as he finally got the dog quiet. His eyes grew in shock when he saw Cassie trying to cross.
“Oh shit!” he yelled as tried to regain control of the vehicle. But, it was too late. Cassie looked up to see bright headlights racing towards her.
He tried to stop in time…
I didn’t have time to connect what had happened at first. I just remember sailing in mid-air and then crashing to the ground on my back. The sounds around my head kept fading in and out as the rain poured down upon me. The driver stood over me with rightful worry over his face.
“I’m so sorry,” his lips said to me. “I did not mean to hit you.” He bit on his dirt nails. “Look, you shouldn’t have been out in the road. I don’t want to go to jail again! I didn’t see you! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
Stop talking and help me, you idiot!, I screamed at him in my mind. This man did no such thing. Instead, he just stood there trembling.
“Forgive me!” the man blurted out. He bowed and raced back to his truck.
Hey! Where are you going?!? Come back here! Don’t leave me here!
That bastard drove off in the rain. I just lied there bleeding and in pain. My eyes rolled up to the black sky. Oh shit! They don’t even know where I went and no one’s going to find me out here. I’m just going to die out in the middle of nowhere!
I paused in my thoughts when I heard wings flapping. My eyes moved above me. A vulture sat on my chest.
Get away! Get away!
The foul bird looked at me. Well, looky here! First meal in hours!
No, get away from me!
Yummy! I will pick you right clean! First, I will out your eyes!
Get back! Stay away! Stay away!
Suddenly, a big stick whacked the vile bird off of my chest. My eyes looked and saw a young man standing over me with a stick in his hand. He looked down to me.
Are you okay?
Yes, thanks. But… who are…
The lad held out his hand over me. I will do you a solid if you do me a solid.
I looked on at him. What?
I will tell you, but first you must answer this question for me.
What is it? I’ll say anything.
Why do you want to live?
For my brother’s sake.
The young man gave me a puzzled look. Your brother?
Yes. Six years ago, I was betrayed and my brother gave his life just to save me. I must repay him somehow.
I could’ve sworn I saw that young man smile at me. Fair enough. Then, he grabbed onto my ankles and dragged me to the center of the road. He vanished before I could even ask him what he wanted from me in return.
Moments later, a car pulled on the empty road and flashed their headlights on me. The car stopped and the driver got out and saw me.
“Oh my god!” she cried. She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. By this point, my mind kept slipping in and out on me.
I remember being in an ambulance going to the hospital. The meds kept asking questions to see if I was still with them. I remember just lying there the whole time wondering if Big Mama and Hanako were okay and if they had noticed that I was gone. Suddenly, I felt a weight next to my body. I moved my eyes to my right. The young man who saved me sat next to me staring.
Are you ready to keep up your end of the bargain?
Yes, tell me what to do.
He held my hand and filled my mind with all that I needed to know.