Kage blinked his eyes open slowly. He felt light headed, and very weak. Looking around in a daze, he saw that he was in his own room, in his bed. He was wrapped in fresh bandages as well.
He heard voices, and feebly turned his head to look in the direction from which they were coming from. His parents were standing a little ways away, but facing the other direction so they did not notice that he had regained consciousness. They were discussing the situation in worried voices.
“I knew this would happen!” Kurai hissed, “If we hadn’t heard him then Kage would be dead right now!”
“Does this mean . . ?” Yuki’s voice trailed off.
“Yes.” Kurai sighed, “We’ll have to carry out the plan as soon as possible.”
“But Kurai . . .” Tears formed in her eyes.
“I know,” Kurai put his arm around her, “But it’s our only option. You saw what happened, if we don’t do anything that would just happen again.”
They were stopped talking for a little bit.
“Will it hurt him?” Yuki spoke quietly, breaking the silence.
“Well . . .” Kurai paused, “No, it won’t.”
“Kurai,” Yuki looked at him sadly, “I can tell you’re lying.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve done it many times on humans, I know what I’m doing.”
“. . . When do we do it?”
“Well,” Kurai paused to think, “I’ll have to go out for a few days, you know, to prepare.”
“Only until after he fully recovers, right?”
Yuki turned and noticed that Kage was listening to them. She went over to him, tears in her eyes.
“お母さん、” (Mom,) Kage spoke to her weakly, and smiled to try and make her cheer up. “お願い、泣けない.” (Please, don’t cry.)
He tried to sit up and couldn’t, but still smiled.
“オレは大丈夫ですよ、ほんとに.” (I’m all right, really I am.)
Yuki smiled at him, but continued to weep.
Kurai sighed and opened the door to leave.
“I’ll be back in a couple of days.” He looked at his wife and child, and then departed.
* * *
Over the next few days as Kage was recovering, Yuki spent a lot of time with him. They talked a lot, went over things Kage had learned, and recalled memories from years ago.
Now, in a room mostly used for storage, Kage and Yuki sat on the floor. Yuki pulled up one of the floorboards, and then another, and another; revealing a secret compartment underneath them.
Inside this compartment were boxes and tins. She reached down and pulled one out. Opening it, she revealed that inside were many photos and pictures of them.
“Why do you keep the pictures down there?” Kage asked, looking into the hole in the floor.
“Photos are very special; they are windows to memories, and memories are your own special treasures to keep.”
Yuki pulled out one of the photos and looked at it.
“This one’s one of my favorites.” She said and smiled, showing it to Kage.
The photo was of all three of them. It was taken around three years ago, so Kage was about seven at the time. They were all smiling, Kurai, Yuki, and Kage; a happy family. In the background it looked like a lake or a river, the sun was high in the sky and made the surface of the water sparkle. The vegetation surrounding them and the water was lush and beautiful, a bird or two could be seen in the sky. In the margins of the photo was written ‘カゲカオ.’ (Kagekao)
Kage smiled at the nice picture.
“Mom, do you think I’ll grow up to be like dad?” Kage flexed his hand, looking at the claws that were so like his father’s. “And we can go hunting together, all three of us, in the city?”
Yuki didn’t respond. She stared down at the dozens of photographs. A tear fell from her eye and onto one of the photos.
Kage looked at her, worried.
“Mom? What’s wrong? We’ll always be together as a family . . . right?”
She didn’t respond.
* * *
Kurai had traveled away from the house into the city. In the city, he managed to catch a glimpse of the two shinigami who were wandering about; looking for prey. He avoided them completely and continued onward. He left that city, and followed the road into another.
He rarely visited this city, so Kurai was unfamiliar with it. But he managed to gather what little memory he had of the cityscape and made his way further into it, and then past it. He had reached a park, which led into a large forest going up a mountain.
Going through the park, he entered the forest. At first, it seemed to be just a standard forest; trees, bushes, some animal life, things of that nature. But then, deeper in, it began to get strange.
On many of the trees here in the deep forest, there was something on them. There seemed to be small pieces of paper, or maybe fragments of scrolls, attached to many of the trees.
Most of the scrolls were blank; some of the blank ones were lying on the ground. But still, some of them had things written on them. In black ink, kanji symbols were written on the pieces of paper.
Kurai didn’t take the time to read them, he avoided looking at them. He was looking around in the shadows, apparently looking for something; or someone. He spotted something odd lying on the ground, and went over to it.
Sprawled on the ground was a human body; long dead and decaying. Its hands were up to its throat, as if it had been choking on something when it had died. Its face was formed into an eternal gasp for air that it never had a chance to get.
Kurai stared at the body for a moment, but then moved on. He continued looking around in the shadows, stopping whenever he thought he saw something move. After searching for a while, he slowed down to think. He couldn’t find what he was looking for, so he tried to remember exactly where it was. Walking slowly now, he attempted to remember any significant landmarks that may have led to where he was looking for. He passed by a few trees, but didn’t bother to look at them.
Something rustled the leaves behind him. Kurai stopped.
“ダラ- ?” (Dara- ?) Kurai was about to turn, to see if he had finally found who he was looking for.
Kurai turned and gasped. The one a little ways behind him was not the one he was looking for, but Kagekao.
“カゲ？ここに何してるの！？” (Kage? What are you doing here!?)
Kage stared at him blankly, but didn’t respond.
“カゲ！家に帰て！” (Kage! Return home!)
Kage still didn’t respond, he merely stared at him. Then someone appeared behind him, running to him.
“Kage!” It was Yuki. She was running towards Kage, but before she could reach him, something flew out of the shadows and grabbed her.
They stopped and held her in the air; it was Ascaris.
“ユキ！” (Yuki!) Kurai shouted, “おまえ放せ!” (Let go of her!)
Ascaris turned his head towards Kurai, but didn’t say anything. He stared at him solemnly. Yuki struggled and reached for her daggers, but before she could grab them, Ascaris took action. He raised his right arm, and it morphed into a claw with large blades protruding from it. Then he drew back, and stabbed her with it.
Yuki shrieked as Ascaris ripped his arm away, and then dropped her to the ground.
“ユキ！” (Yuki!) Kurai wanted to run over to her, but he couldn’t move. Why couldn’t he move!?
Yuki writhed painfully on the ground as venom coursed through her veins. Ascaris picked her up again, watching as she coughed violently, in great pain. He lifted his hand to her head, and then ended her misery; snapping her neck with such force that the skin on her neck ripped. He dropped her to the ground, where her blood soaked into the dirt.
Ascaris looked down at the body gravely, and then at Kurai; still saying nothing.
“おまえ . .！おまえ . .！” (You . . ! You . . !) Kurai wanted to run over, to rip that shinigami’s head right off his shoulders; but he still couldn’t move.
“お母さん！” (Mom!) Kage looked over at his dead mother, and then began to run to her. But someone else sped out of the shadows towards him; it was Scollex.
Before Kage could react, Scollex grabbed him by the neck and lifted him in the air. Kage struggled helplessly, clawing at Scollex to little effect.
“お父さん！助けて！” (Dad! Help me!) Kage cried out to Kurai desperately.
Yet, Kurai still couldn’t move. He could only stand there, watching helplessly.
Scollex tilted his head to look at Kurai. Then his hand morphed into a claw, and he raised it towards Kage’s face.
Scollex chuckled and placed his claws over Kage’s left eye.
“お父さん！お願い！助けて！お父さん！” (Dad! Please help me! Dad!)
Suddenly, Scollex plunged his claws into Kage’s face. Kage screamed in pain and thrashed around violently. Scollex yanked his claws out of Kage’s face, taking his left eye with him. Kage was left with an empty socket and exposed muscles, blood poured down his face as he cried out in pain.
“Like father, like son; eh, demon?” Scollex cackled maliciously.
“おまえ . .！おまえ . .！” (You . . ! You . . !) Kurai couldn’t get the words out.
“What’s wrong? Can’t wait to see your kid die before your eyes? Or should I say, ‘eye’?” Scollex looked at Kage’s face and chuckled.
“YOU MOTHER FUCKER!!” Kurai seemed to break out of the strange trance that held him, and ran towards Scollex; enraged.
Scollex stabbed his claws into Kage’s other eye, and pulled it out. Kage screamed, and Scollex threw him at Kurai’s feet.
Kurai stopped running towards Scollex and bent down towards Kage.
“Kage! No!” Kurai looked down at his son. Both of Kage’s eyes had been brutally torn out of his face, blood streamed down from the empty sockets.
“お父さん . . . 保護しなかった . . .” (Dad . . . you didn’t protect me . . .)
Kage coughed, his blood stained the ground red.
“Kage! I’m so sorry I- . . . Kagekao! No! Don’t-!”
It was too late, Kage was dead.