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Chapter 7

A Dog In The House

An elegant spire, far from the imagination of commoners, filled with low chants as the nobility of Okabe gathered. They are seated in their stilted chairs, dressed in the most expensive suits, ever vigilant and omnipotent; in their own minds. A circle of candles surrounded Lady Kyo, the young high priestess, as she rested on her knees. Her brush painted bloody signs and symbols all over the checkered floor. As she sang her haunting croon, the shimmer of her cloak flew through a haze of dull red smoke.

In front of Kyo, on the ground, is the body of a young girl. As blood poured onto the floor from a pool that kept growing, the throat of the girl was slit open like that of a lamb. As the girl’s body paled in front of Kyo, she dropped her arms to her sides and took a deep breath. The girl is about 12 years old, Kyo thought inwardly to herself. That is about the age when she should be going to middle school. Maybe. However, the sacrifice she made did not seem to be appreciated. Despite this, however, it was for the sake of appeasing her masters and it must be done.

Tonight, however, will prove to be one of many useless killings in the future. With her sights lowered, Kyo gazes into the scarlet pool once more. “It is I that have watched you in your perpetual slumber, and in return, I have given you that which you seek. Blood, drink of it off the floor like dogs. For you stand at the threshold of paradise, but paradise eludes you. You have brought the place that you had once regarded as the highest low, and now you have unlocked and opened the door, but you have not found habitation in it, rather you have given a home to every unclean being. Hence, your nightmare will begin, and I will release you from the shackles of that seduction tonight, and I will do this favor only for you and transcend where you have failed so far.”

“What is this?” Mitsura hissed from his ceremonial throne. This act usually would have scared Kyo, but not tonight. In fact, she was surprised that she had little reaction. Now she was High Priestess, not Kyo; niece of Lord Mitsura. Compared to her duty to her Lord, her duty to the Okabe clan was far greater. “Is this a joke? Lady Kyo, you violate our ritual so foolishly?”

Kyo stood at this point, shutting down Mitsura’s outburst. Brazen courage surrounded her. “My chance has not come to me. You gave your alchemy to a secret weakness, and you could not capitalize on it. There is a pressing need for quick action, for fresh blood to resurrect the Okabe family.”

Like hounds waiting on their master, the other cloaked men drew their daggers. The blades, though sharp, don’t frighten her. If the scry was true, she would stand in front of the gates of Evermore and see the New World born from her own hands. A feeling of curiosity sat in Mistura as he raised his hand, putting the cloaked men at ease. The mask remained on Lady Kyo’s face as she rounded a glance at the other men, her expression obscured behind it. As Mitsura went back to his previous position, she took a deep breath. “All these sacrifices. For years, you have been performing these rituals without understanding what you were doing. Do you not realize how many children like her have died? Have you not seen the results yet?”

“The result,” Mitsura smirked. “I suppose with a mouth like that you should know better?” Mitsura asked. “We cannot see the spiritual realm. What we do, the world beyond responds to.”

As Mitsura watched Kyo take the dagger out of her own sleeve, his eyes grew wide. She cut her palm clean open with the cold steel held against her palm. It gushed, pouring out blood as the steel made the wound. Suddenly, her hand closed, causing a stream of blood to fall into the scarlet pool. When it landed on the ground, it reflected like silver. “My Lord,” she said. “You’ve never understood.”

“She has done it.” A noble clapped as the onlookers craned their necks to see the spectacle. As all the noble outbursts are heard, the room is in a commotion at the new revelation.

The throne’s armrests are gripped by Mitsura as he jumps to his feet. “How is that possible?” he barked as a small stone formed from the blood puddle. Astonishment filled the room. While looking out over the others, Kyo looked up from the pool locking eyes with the Lord. “I have received a vision. The time here has dwindled. What they have completed, you have failed to accomplish. Because of your ignorance, the nobility of Okabe has forgotten the greater work to accomplish. The Azoth’s death was because of your corruption.”

“You are just a child. You dare to speak this way to your elders. Kyo, do you think this kind of trick impresses us? This is not an Azoth either.” Mitsura snidely remarks, “That stone is hardly complete.”

“I would agree with you. There is a need to create a new world as soon as possible. That was my call, was it not? Yes, that is exactly what I shall be doing. We can no longer stay here. The long night is upon us and with it, an endless nightmare as well. I am sure that you have heard of the birth pains that we have all experienced. We are now living in an era of oblivion. If we do not complete the greater work, all will be lost. There has been a time when I have seen you eating the bones of your children, Lord Mitsura. We will all be forced to eat the flesh of the dead until we become one with them. It will be the night of the full moon, and the sun will never rise again. Light will be robbed from us and everything will fall into disarray. Despite the plans of disaster you have drafted, I refuse to follow them. I know the way to the new world and I am determined to follow it. There is still a hunger for what we have forgotten in this Azoth, therefore it is not complete.” Lady Kyo beckons Lord Mitsura into the circle, holding out her hand. “I shall show you.”

Throughout the silent room, all eyes watched eagerly as Mitsura’s reluctant steps echoed. Kyo grabbed his hand and led him to the pool, where he stood in front of the dead girl. Like a babe sucking on its mother’s milk, the stone below trembled as it consumes Kyo’s meager portion of blood. Then Kyo moved in close and rested her head on Mitsuru’s shoulder, breathing warmly over his earlobe as she did so. “We used to use our children. That is the secret. That’s what we did, it’s what we still do.” A stinging pain entered Mitsuru’s stomach as Lady Kyo plunged her dagger deep into his gut. In eviscerating his body, she carved a hole that was open to the sky. Amid Mitsura grabbing his side, he saw blood spraying out of his body. The blood glistened between Mitsura’s fingers as it falls to his feet like a fountain. Taking a step back, he stumbles into two men who grab hold of his arms and grab hold of his neck. Mitsura, gasping in agony, screamed until he realizes he is about to go unconscious. “Your lack of enthusiasm is troubling Mitsura. To be honest, I thought you would be happier.” As Mitsura looked down, he noticed the stone had grown in size as his blood flows into Azoth. “This is actually the first true Azoth since the old ones were corrupted.”

By pulling Mitsura’s hair, Kyo raised his head and revealed his throat. As he hung agape, sweat pours from his red face. His lips trembled as a low moan emerged from them. Kyo chirps, cutting a nasty laceration in his neck, “It’s all in the nobility.” She told him. The moment she released Mitsura’s head, it fell to his chest, the torn muscles no longer able to support the weight. Kyo raised her hands, she looked back at the rest of the nobility singing, “Our great work has begun! Let us begin!” With her hands still in the air, she walked out of the circle of candles spinning like a ballerina on the floor. The black-and-white tiles where she walked left a trail of bloody footprints every time she stepped on them. The last thing that Mitsura heard between his wet gasps was the sound of his compatriots clapping their hands and giving Kyo a standing ovation for her performance.

A white-haired man appeared to be part dragon, as a pair of horns crowned him and had eyes that looked like those of a serpent. Using a long spear-like sword, he attacked another red-haired man, who blocked the attack with a large blue cross shield. During his leap into the air, the red-haired knight slashed at the horned attacker, but his sword met the grip of the dragon man mid-air, and he pulled the sword from his grasp. The dragon-man wrested the sword from the man and knocked him to the ground with a roar. Using a powerful hack, he sliced the mighty knight through the middle, draining his life bar. In shining golden letters, the words “Falaris Wins!” flashed across the screen.

“Haha, I won! I won! I won!” Apricot shouted, raising her controller in the air. “Sweet, sweet, victory.”

Jasper kicked up his feet as he growled under his breath. His face twisted into a frown. “Of course, you won,” he said. “You picked Falaris.” He glanced at the floor as he folded his arms together. “He’s so much better than Brigeld. You only won because of that.”

“Are you interested in a rematch?” Jasper looked at Apricot with a smiling face on his face. Giving a slow, slight nod, he smiled to himself. Apricot thought to herself that playing games was always fun when both players have emotions. A deep, satisfying feeling welled up in her heart when she won with both players trying hard. Actually, she enjoyed competing with Jasper the most. Although he had pride, he never went overboard.

As she hovered her cursor over a man in red armor, Apricot said, “All right, well, I’ll pick the moonstone guy this time.”

“Well, if you’re going to pick a Drakr,” Jasper said, grinning while moving the cursor over the big black dragon. “I’ll pick Valis!” he shouted as he started the match.

Apricots went wide-eyed. The screen turned black, displaying a loading screen. “You chose the dragon! How am I going to win?” Jasper stuck out his tongue at her. “Fine, fine, even if you play with a dragon, I will still win and wipe that stupid smile off your face.”

Over several matches, each of them won a fair amount. “You know Apricot, you should find a husband,” Jasper suggested.

Apricot nearly dropped her controller at the random statement. “What!” she laughed to disguise her surprise.

Jasper commented while he mashed buttons, “Well, you are in danger a lot.”

Even though she knew he was right, Apricot still chuckled. However, no husband could save her from such danger. Apricot said, “I haven’t found the right guy yet.” Deep sadness overtook her at that moment. She hasn’t found the right guy, and never will at this rate. Not until this nightmare that has encroached upon her life is over, and who knew if that was even possible. The idea weighed heavily on her mind.

“What about Sato?” Apricot’s face flushed at the thought.

“Sato and me!” She shook her head. “No way, that would never work.”

Jasper looked over at Apricot. “I don’t see why not? After all, you both are into journalism. He could take photos and you could write the articles. Besides, you two are great friends, right? You probably think he’s cute, too. It’s obvious. You would be safe, too. You could stay at home instead of working at the supermarket. These days, I don’t think it’s safe to go out. Just let him take care of things.”

“Sometimes you’re such a kid, Jasper.” a faint smile crossed Apricot’s lips.

“What!” Jasper shouted. “What do you mean by that?”

Apricot laughed out loud and continued playing the game. “He’s worried about me. That is kind of sweet of him.” Apricot thought to herself.

“Where are Mom and Dad?” Jasper asked. Apricot looked up from her desk, which was cluttered with papers and her laptop.

“They’re on a date tonight. And then they’re going away for two weeks.” She continued typing her grueling report on the duties of a state journalist. In the past, the subjects were just as boring as ever, topics that really had nothing to do with journalism at all. It was still necessary to do the work as an assurance to the state that you understood when it was time to shut up. Whenever Jasper stood in front of Apricot’s door, he waited for her to open it and invite him inside. However, after a while, he would get tired of waiting for her invitation and enter. He leaped on top of Apricot’s bed with a loud crash and slammed into it. “Jasper!” she shouted.

“What?”

“Don’t break my bed you little monster.” She snapped at him.

Rolling onto his back, he snuggles up under her covers as he lies there. “I’m not.”

Apricot continues to read her textbook “The role of media in civil society is to control the collective narrative and to propel people in a positive direction. The advancement of,” she stated when Jasper interrupts.

“Is it likely there will be more terrorist attacks in the future, Apricot?” Jasper asked, in a concerned voice.

Apricot puts her book down, pausing her reading. It seemed like terrorism was the buzzword of the day at the moment. Almost every day, an attack occurs. These attacks are all pseudonyms for paranormal activities that took place; Apricot considered. And yet, the public is going bonkers over all of them. “I hope that is not the case. You never know though.”

An awkward pause ensued between the two. “Was it scary? The attack I mean.”

“Very,” Apricot said, picking up her book once more. “I don’t have time to talk now, Jasper. I have to finish this paper for school.” She said, half wanting to avoid the subject as she had finally put those memories behind her. Those thoughts she wanted to keep buried among the layers of slumber and the relaxing calm of gaming.

“Yeah, I know but, can’t you do it later?” Jasper asked.

“No Jasper. I played games with you earlier, and now I have to finish my paper.” She raised her book to her eyes. As she scanned the page, Jasper let out a sigh. “Jasper, go to your room.”

“Well, can’t I stay here?” He whined.

Apricot groaned a bit before she added, “Yeah, but you have to be quiet.”

“Ok.” he chirped.

As she picked up her book, she glanced at what she had read last. “So, what is that book about? Let me see.” Jasper asked, bending over her shoulder.

Apricot gestured to her door with a finger as she said, “Out.”

“I was just wondering what it was all about!” said Jasper, in a state of shock.

“Out Jasper. It is way past your bedtime, anyway. Go to your room.” Apricot said to Jasper.

As soon as Jasper gets off the bed and runs out of the door. He yelled, “You are such a jerk!”.

Apricot shut her door and walked back toward her desk. Before she even got to her seat, however, she heard a knock at her door. As she opened the door, she saw Jasper standing there, looking up at her with a disheveled look on his face. “What do you want now?”

“There’s a dog in my room,” Jasper quaked, his eyes filled with an almost convincing look of fear.

Her eyes roll back as Apricot sighed. “You’ve been taking home stray dogs again.”

Jasper then spoke so fast that the words were hard to understand. “The window had been open, but I didn’t even realize it was open. I think it had come through the window.”

Considering the weakness of the excuse he used, there’s no doubt that he was trying to rouse her. Apricot shakes her head in disbelief. “On a two-story house, of course.” She said. “Are you really expecting me to believe that? I don’t have the time for this Jazz.” How foolish did he think she was? It was almost to the point of being insulting.

“I’m not lying. There is a dog in my room.” Jasper whimpered. “It has a lot of teeth and red eyes.”

“Then go downstairs,” Apricot replied, not believing anything he said.

“Apricot!” he shouted at her in a loud voice.

As she gripped her fists, she felt a wave of anger wash over her. Jasper shivered to the bone by the roar that followed. “Downstairs, Jasper, don’t bother me again or else I will ground you when our parents get home.”

“But Apricot!” Jasper cried, clutching his fists to his chest.

“No! I said. I have heard enough. Now go downstairs and let me study.” Apricot stomped her foot, causing Jasper to rush down the stairs in a hurry.

Getting back to her desk, she reached for her book and sat down. During her study, she heard a stirring in Jasper’s room. Then she smiles to herself. “Silly kid.”, she thought. “Thought he was going to make a fool out of me.” A few moments later, she heard a loud crash coming from his room. Apricot jumped to her feet and made her way across the room towards Jasper’s room, yelling with a loud voice: “What are you doing?”

Jasper had turned the lights off. “Jasper, stop playing around. I have to finish this report by the end of the night!” She growled. Flicking the switch on to see Jasper’s shelf lying on the floor with pieces of his models scattered around it. Apricot felt a sudden chill in the air as the room’s light flickered off and the temperature plummeted. “Phantom,” she whispered to herself in a hushed tone. As she reached toward the door, she grabbed Jasper’s baseball bat. While looking through the darkness, she detected several red eyes lurking in the shadows. As she raised the bat to her side, Apricot clutched it tightly in her hands. Apricot murmurs to herself “Just like softball,” and takes a slow swing at the ball. Her memories of proper softball form suddenly flood into her mind. Apricot whispered to herself, “Feint, Perry, Riposte.”

Apricot recalled her fencing technique from primary school as the creature approached her. It moved through the shadowed room, it appeared to be more like smoke than flesh. The many red dots on its head suggested that it may have many eyes. With the streetlight outside of Jasper’s window, Apricot can just make out its prowl across the room.

“Come on!” Apricot roared, feeling herself grind her teeth. It seemed as if her fear was being washed away by a surge of unimaginable anger. The wolf monster opened its thousand razor teeth at her and lunged. Apricot dives into the creature, slamming it in its mouth and promptly throwing a few bloody teeth into the air. She turned her head toward it and saw it land on the ground behind her. “I think it’s blocking my exit.”

Apricot watched as the monster stared at her, baring its teeth, before preparing the bat for another blow. Suddenly, the creature once again dove at her, this time biting her on the arm. Apricot worked the bottom of the bat and slammed it against the monster’s head, which caused its teeth to tear into the sleeve of her shirt. When the snarling beast struck into her again, she did not have time to recover from the attack. In a single blow, her bat mauls the creature in the head, crushing it to the ground. As the smokey creature rose to its feet, it snapped at her only to be met with another swing that knocked it into a wall. It stood up injured and snarling at her.

Grasping the bat, Apricot drew back. “Get out of my house!” she screamed, jumping up and slamming the bat as hard as she could onto the monster’s head. Apricot continued her flurry with the bat as the beast crashed to the floor. The beast’s body erupted in a puff of smoke as each blow was dealt. It sparked like a blown circuit when it was struck. After the flashing has stopped, the lights turned back on, leaving the creature nowhere to be seen, as though it had vanished into thin air.

She dropped the bat to the ground as she fell to the ground on her knees. She could feel the sweat running down her face. When she turned her head, she saw Jasper staring at her wide-eyed. “I told you there was a dog.” Apricot nodded, her eyes wide with fear. The look in Jasper’s eyes is almost the same. For several moments, the two stared at each other in silence.

“We can’t tell Mom or Dad.”

Jasper nodded shaking, “Where did it go?”

“Out the window.” She groaned. “Keep your window closed from now on.” She advised. “I’ll keep mine closed too.” She has been lying a lot lately since everything happened. There is a part of her that is feeling guilty about this. It is better if no one knows what is really going on she told herself. This is especially true for jazz. After all, he doesn’t need to be bothered by these kinds of problems.

Jasper looked around the room. With a frown on his face, Apricot can see that he was frustrated and worried. “What are we going to tell Mom and Dad?”

The room was a total mess; everything was scattered all around it; broken plastic and model pieces littered the floor. “We better clean this up before they get home,” Apricot said. “They can’t know anything about this, Jasper. They wouldn’t believe us even if we told the truth, and you, mister, will get in trouble for bringing in a stray dog.”

“But I didn’t!” Jasper yelled.

Apricot nodded. “I know. They will think that I am covering for you if I tell them it came in from your window. In that case, I might also get in trouble. We will then clean up before they get home and forget that it ever happened.”

Apricot’s blood has seeped through her light orange shirt and Jasper noticed it when he looked over at her arm. “It bit you, didn’t it?” he asked. “Are you all right?”

Apricot glanced at her arm with little thought. Looking back at Jasper, she tried her best to smile. “Yeah, it got me when I was trying to shoo it away. It’s not a big deal.” Her eyes drift back to the ripped sleeve. The wound was stinging but not as bad as she had expected. At most, she felt a dull throbbing pain from the gash. Apricot picked up a piece of Jasper’s model as she gazed around the room. “Come on, let’s get this done.”

“You have to study.” Jasper’s voice quivered.

Apricot reached out and grabbed Jasper’s wrist. She rubbed his hand, sighing. “It doesn’t matter now.”


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