The room is quiet.  Shiori lies on an office desk in the middle of a messy apartment.  Apricot holds onto his curled hand.  His clothing pealed away exposing the bones of his ribs which breach through his side.  A steady amount of blood pooling onto freshly purchased towels which rested under his back.  Several boxes are scattered around the office.  Another desk with a set of monitors is propped up showing a live feed of stock exchanges.  Across the room there is a refrigerator and a small kitchen.  The blinds are closed only allowing the hint of light through them.  Above Shiori is two bright incandescent lights acting as makeshift operation room fixtures.  Walking from the fridge a man in a brown shirt and black slacks pings a needle.

“Looks like we match now.” Apricot jokes.

Shiori turns his head grumbling out “Yeah, I really wish I did not.  This will slow me down.”

Apricot smirks trying to hide her worry.  “You better not.  I won’t be carrying you again.”

A slight chuckle escapes Shiori, he winces letting a grunt fall from his stretched lips.

The man presents the needle to Shiori.  Apricot notes how long the thing is, about six inches on her estimation. “This should get rid of your pain.” the man says.  With hap hazard maneuvering the man sticks Shiori in the side.  He volts up letting out a loud yelp.  He grits his teeth letting out a few huffs of pain as he settles back down onto the table.  “You could have told me the damn thing would feel like a spear injecting lava in me.”  Shiori lets out one more set of huffs.

“Mam, your not going to want to see the rest of this.  I got to ask you to step outside while I get more acquainted with Lord Kinjo’s insides.” Apricot looks down at Shiori who gives her a confident nod.

Apricot is glad Shiori had paid for a private transportation service.  After his surgery the man helped Apricot carry him out to the black sports car that had arrived.  Setting him in the passenger seat Apricot moves to the driver’s side.  He looks awful Apricot thought to herself.  The entire ride he is zonked out.  His eyes barely open, heavy under sedation.  Instead of pulling up to the main entrance to the Spook House it travels to the back.  Apricot had not even known of the second entrance.  The black sports car pulls into the elevated car port.  Metal clanking sounds as the platform elevates to the next floor.  It opens to a well-organized garage.  Stepping out of the car Apricot assists Shiori putting his arm over her shoulder and walking him into his home.

After laying him on his bed she left his room allowing him to rest.  His living room is amazing she thought to herself.  It is one of the largest personal book collections Apricot had ever seen.  She notes there is no television or computer about the room.  However, the other side had a clear open view of the town through mirror glass windows.

Grabbing a book off the shelve The Cihilbil.  Apricot mouthed the words but had no clue how to pronounce the name.  She sat down in an armchair and paws through the book.  The sun moves across the sky as she read the old fairytale.  The story is about an arrogant woman who wishes cause the prince of the land to fall victim to a faerie’s magic spell.  The story is strange to Apricot.  Though an unwanted lover kept showing up in the story trying to whisk away the woman.  However, the unwanted lover turned out to be the faeries brother.  “You’re still here.” Apricot looks up to see Shiori dazed gaze meeting her.  She nods her head.  “Why?”

She closes the book setting it on her lap.  “I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Yeah, I am.” Shiori says.  He walks into the room taking in a deep breath.  “A lot of books, huh?”

“Yeah it is.” Apricot says.  “I was just reading the Khialbil.”

“Syolbel.” Shiori corrects her with the correct pronunciation.

Apricot rolls her eyes “Right that.”

“It is important to have knowledge.  That separates the commoners from us nobles.  The common folk don’t seek knowledge, they are content with their lives and good for them.  However, it is the duty of a noble to have knowledge to guide the masses.  It is a difficult task.”  Shiori muses.

Apricot gets up from the chair placing the book back onto the shelf.  “So what about the guy who is breaking the seals.  I can’t find anything about him.”

“I know, that troubles me.   He broke two more seals after that first one.  Everyone has noticed.  I don’t even think the Okabe family cares about hiding it.  Then again, how do you explain that?  Short of a missile, nothing could explain away that kind of event.”  Apricot nods.  Shiori rests his hand on a book dragging his fingers over the rows spines.  “I am not happy about what has been happening as of late.  Everything has gone too public.  It won’t be long until Kyo musters her efforts and has us dealt with.  I am certain the only thing stopping her is my lineage.  The second she forgets that for a moment she will be on us fast.  That machine…”

“What happens if all the seals break?” Shiori just looks at the books.  “Shiori what happens if all the seals break?” Apricot repeats, louder with some authority.

A small smirk crosses his lips.  “Funny thing, I don’t know.  I don’t know what we do from here.  I spent most of my life studying the mystic arts because I was to become the high priest for the Kinjo Clan.  My grandfather had other plans for me however,  he told me about the plans of the Okabe family.  He wanted me to keep an eye on them in secret and to foil their plans if they tried to enact them again.”

Apricot places her back against the bookshelf.  “Come clean Shiori.  What are the Okabe family’s plans?”

“A new world.  They believe in making a new world and wiping this one away.  The Okabe family has been a death cult since ancient times.  It was only by treaty that Uchella ended its wars.  We have been warring clans for many many years.  Legend has it that the Okabe family would call forth spirits and monsters from other worlds to fight for their side.  However, they always sought to make a device that could bring forth the birthing of a new world.  A new pact with some god or devil.  I think most of the seals were here before the Blue Ash Crisis.  Each one built up after a mass sacrifice.  They are the source of their power.  Therefore, they build around these seals.  Make them the center of things.  With only two remaining they may get ready to release something.  Perhaps that god or devil they wanted to have a pact with.  No doubt though.  When they are broken it will release some kind of powerful being that has been bound for a long time.”

Apricot takes several steps as she ponders.  “What if it is not the Okabe family that is destroying the seals?  What if it is someone else?”

“What some loner destroying the Okabe family seals.” Shiori thinks about the thought for a few moments.  “That might be worse.  Could be some crazy who wants to unleash some sort of ancient evil on the world?”

“If the seals are the Okabe family’s source of power, if we broke them wouldn’t that take the Okabe family out of the picture?” Apricot suggests.

Shiori shakes his head.  “Whoever the seal breaker is, someone must stop him.”

“Then we stop them both.  The Okabe family and the seal breaker.  Both must be intertwined.”

Shiori nods.  “You might be right.”

The room is dimly lit by the light of several large monitors.  Cables are strung about the room and several servers are stacked along the walls.   A few men in suits, a pair of officers, and Empress Kyo are observing the fight Apricot and Shiori had with the Volkner suit from several surveillance sources.  Empress Kyo watches as the purple flames burst out of Apricot’s arm.  One man in the room gasps “A witch.”

Kyo claps her hands as a smile slowly crawls over her face.  The Azul around her neck’s eye its pupil grows until almost turning the whole thing dark. “I found you, my witch.  Right on time.” Kyo whispers. 

Sitting at the bar, Apricot chats with the guests at the Spook House.  Shiori meanwhile reads through a book hanging out behind the bar peppering the conversation with off comments.  Apricot glances up seeing the front doors opening revealing Cortez with a thick file of papers in his arm.  Shiori glances up from the book.  “So you finally scampered on over.” Walking over towards the far end of the bar Cortez slams down the file.  Shiori makes his way over to the file placing his hands on top.  “So what is this?”

Cortez does not even look at Shiori.  “I am done.” in a calm voice he utters.

“What does that mean?” Shiori grunts.

Cortez’s dead gaze rises.  “The hell you think it means.  I am done.”

Cortez walks away from the bar heading towards the exit door.  Sliding over the bar Shiori grabs hold of Cortez’s shoulder. “Who said you could be done?”

Throwing Shiori’s hand off, Cortez yells “I am done!” causing everyone in the room to grow quiet.  “I am done.” he then looks back over to Apricot.  “And you, Apricot, you should be too.”

Shiori rouses back, glancing down at the file placing his fingers on it.  “Fine. Leave.” A smile crosses Shiori’s face as he watches Cortez walk out the door.  “Come help me out with this Apricot.” Shiori huffs lifting the file and taking it into the back room.

“What am I your assistant now?” Apricot retorts.

Shiori chuckles “Hardly honey, you’re not cut for the pedigree.”

Sprawled over the table are multiple documents and notes detailing a large network of abductions, human sacrifices, tunnels below the city, and paranormal events.  Alongside that are notes around the practice and purposes of said rituals.  Photographs of crime scenes that turn Apricot’s stomach are throughout the folder.  Images of open bodies, animal mutilations, and sights around the city where these events occur litter the documents.

“Shiori listen to this.” Apricot says as she reads the paper allowed.  “I have become convinced that the circles of power around the city are ancient sights.  These places are the most common sights in the city for sacrifice.  Those who practice sacrifices claim to do so in the service of the “Black God.”  The cult who practices these rituals dwell below the city.  They claim the “Black God” is the ancient founder of this city who brought with him prosperity for the small village who used to exist here.

The more that I study the papers of Uraias Hilderic I have become increasingly assured he understood these ancient myths, and it was the reason he chose this sight for building the Blue Ash project.  I am suspecting that the circles of power to bind the black god to this world.  I have grown suspicious of the Okabe family.  It is injuriously hard to deny that they are at least aware of the cult’s activities if not direct participants.  All files on Uraias Hilderic have been destroyed, there are no public records for the man aside from the few surviving documents listing him as the head of the Blue Ash project.

If everything I have discovered is correct Uraias Hilderic survived the explosion and is currently living below the city leading the cult’s activities.  My suspicions are that the nobles of Uchella have been practicing these arcane rituals in order to bring forth a new world.  A term that has come up time and time again.  Could it be that they intend to create a new world apart from this one?  It certainly seems that way from the way they talk about it.  However, there are key places around the city that have been purposed as sites to begin this new world.  I do not understand how they chose the sites they do, but it is clear they have some form of method and reasoning behind it.  I have plans to investigate these sites further as I discover them.”

Shiori smiles.  “These documents are what we have been searching for.  No wonder Cortez hates the nobles.  Pull up a chair honey because by the end of the night we will have read through all these.”  Apricot nods her head.

From what Apricot gathered of the subjects the phantoms result from the activities of this cult.  These entities are drawn from their world to this one because the power the cult uses is drawn from their world.  The three goals of the cult is to merge themselves between worlds turning themselves into gods, build a new world they will rule for themselves, and sacrificing this one to achieve that end.  Cortez’s father never figured out by what means they achieve these things however the rituals they do were meticulously detailed from ancient sources and he assumed their modern acts are similar if not the same.

Apricot slept slumped over a pile of documents.  When she awoke her eyes met the dusty documents and terrible photographs strung in front of her.  She pushes herself from the table to sit upright.  Stretcher her arms releasing a big yawn she gives her first look at the room.  Shiori sat in the corner still looking over documents.  “You are up.” he comments not looking away from the paper. 

“Sorry.” Apricot apologizes.  “I did not mean to nod off like that.  How long was I out for?”

Shiori smirks.  “Several hours.  I got some coffee going in the kitchen.  If you want me to grab you some, I would be happy to.”

Apricot shakes her head.  “Nah, I think I will step out and get some fresh air though.”

Shiori nods his head.  “There is news.”  Apricot looks up.  “Kyo is having a ceremonial dedication tonight.”

Getting to her feet Apricot takes a few steps.  “What does that mean?”

“Means they are making their move.”  Shiori says.  “Akagi got all the information on it.  They wanted to keep it secret, and they have bought several sacrifices for this ritual.  However, I think it is a bait to draw us out.”

Apricot shakes her head.  “Bait to draw us out?  What do you mean?”

“Akagi said they normally encrypt this stuff hard.  This however, was very elementary.  It did not even take him any effort to decrypt the message.  It’s an invitation to us.”  Shiori growls.  He places his hand on his chin.

“So, we will ignore it.”

Shiori shakes his head.  “No, we can’t.  If it is a legit ritual, then this could be game over for us if we don’t stop it.  If it is bait, then lets hope that Kyo is there.  Either way, this ends tonight.  We can put down the Okabe family for good.  At least their aspirations of a new world.  They won’t have another chance like this for a long time.”

“Why?” Apricot asks.

“The alignment of the other world to this one.  They are close together dimensionally right now.  It is the prime time to be enacting a ritual.  After tonight it gets further and further away meaning the power able to be drawn from it is less and less.  At least according to these notes.”  Shiori smirks.  “So in a way it was meant to be this way.  Also, guess where they are having this ritual?”

“Where?” Apricot inquires.

“The grand temple garden.  Where the biggest seal is located.  It’s the most ancient one too.  So you know who will show up too.  It is perfect.  This is where it all comes down.” he gets up from his seat.  “While I make preparations, would you mind going to see Cortez for me?  He won’t answer my calls.  It just goes to voice mail.”

“Yeah, I can do that.” Apricot says.