“What is your name, dear?”
“Sigh, that’s what I thought… Damn it, Rin.”
That is the first question my mentor asked me after clearing the village of chimeras and saving me.
“Can’t she come with us?”
That’s right, it was Sakaki who suggested that.
“She could, but you’re in charge of taking care of her when I have my alone time.”
Urgh… My head hurts.
I awoke to a grass field in front of the town hall on a make-shift stretcher. Beside me are Sakaki and Iris asleep on a chair.
The sky is clear with no clouds and all I can hear are rushing footsteps around me. What is going on? I sat up to see a bunch of men in black leather armor running about. Looking around me, I find Eva having a conversation with a man in a brown cloak. Beside him stood another man clad in shiny armor full of aggressive angles.
With so much movements around me, it’s making me confused just by being awake. What is happening?
Iris nods herself awake adorably as she is about to fall off her chair. It looked like it can only happen to puppies. “Mmmm!” she exclaimed while shaking Sakaki to wake him up. I guess the first thing she noticed was me.
“Wha…” whispers Sakaki. “Oh.”
“Don’t ‘oh’ me.” I rebutted. “How long was I out?”
“About a day. Oh, Eva’s troops found the kids after you sent them off. They were brought to the town hall after everything settled down. Iris has been with you ever since she arrived here”
“Oh? Were you worried, little one?” I asked Iris.
“Mhm…” she answers quietly as I pat her head.
Finally noticing that I am awake, Eva ends her conversation with the man in the brown cloak and the man in the aggressive looking armor. They start walking towards us.
“Go on.” Eva said to the cloaked man.
“Greetings sir and ma’am, I am a messenger from the Consortium for Demon Hunters. According to our records, Sakaki Sakurai and Karen Fuji, you are the successors to our dearly departed Fuyutsuki Fuji, we have been looking everywhere for you.”
Karen Fuji – that is my name that my mentor, Fuyutsuki Fuji gave me when she told the council that I will be trained to be a Karma. Though that isn’t surprising that taking in her name is natural as she was the one who adopted me.
“Oh?” Sakaki interrupted.
“Carrying on, you have been cordially invited to an urgent conference at headquarters. The conference will take place exactly a month from now. Please dress appropriately.”
“Thank you for the message.” I said.
The cloaked man bows and walks away, with the man in armor following him.
A conference, huh? And a month from now, too. I don’t have any other attire to wear, so I guess I’ll have to travel to a city to get some clothes before heading out to HQ. The HQ is located in the dry central region of the country, a desert.
The place is remote, rough and as inhospitable as it gets. A perfect location to deter unwanted danger. How does HQ survive then? The building is built around an oasis which is continuously kept alive by the use of advanced terraforming magic.
“Come on Iris, you have to go.” Eva ushered her.
Iris shakes her head and grabs my torso, not wanting to be separated.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Well, with us closing this town, we will be bringing the kids back to the West to an appropriate orphanage.”
“The town will be closed? Then what will happen to everyone?”
“Those who I have invited to the dinner party will be arrested and brought to trial for the abuse of human rights in Western courts.”
“Including the caretaker of the orphanage?”
“Yes, she hold influence in the decision making of the Southern Government. No matter how she gained that power, everyone will stand trial.”
“I’m told of the caretaker’s situation, but there is nothing I can do. I’m sorry.”
Iris… A victim to collateral damage. Her parents murdered by bandits, caretaker taken by the political situation the region is under. People who were closest to her taken by force. Personally, I felt like I’ve been through what she is experiencing. My parents, murdered by chimeras, mentor taken away from me by an unknown sickness.
Well, I think it’s time I make a decision. With a gentle smile, I carried Iris up to the stretcher with me, allowing her to sit on my lap while playfully asking Sakaki, “Can’t she come with us?”
“Ughh, so you remembered that moment…” as he facepalmed. “She’s your responsibility though. Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I won’t be as laughably irresponsible this time, though.”
Sitting on my lap is a confused four-year-old girl who has no idea what just happened. “Iris, would you like to come along with me?” I explained.
Her face lit up with a bright smile and hugs me.
“Haha! You’ve got guts, I love it!” Eva said. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“Yeah. You know, you’re quite a hassle back then.” Sakaki added.
“What? I was under the impression that you enjoyed my company!”
“I do, but Fuji’s just giving me too much sometimes. Anyway, forget that! Eva, how did you manage to kill the Gashadokuro?”
Oh, right! The last thing I remembered before passing out from my injuries, Eva managed to capture the demon using her magic and incinerate it. Did she set the demon on fire using magic as well? No, I don’t think she did based on the fact that this golden rule exists: nothing, except for a Will wielded by a Karma can kill a demon.
So how? How did she kill the Gashadokuro?
“Well, you are successors to the famous Fuyutsuki Fuji, I thought that she would have taught you guys about rituals…” perplexed, Eva said that as she scratched her head.
“I, uh… I kinda left early.” Sakaki said. “And her? I guess Fuji passed before she could teach her everything.”
“That is sad to hear. Well, this is a fresh titbit for both of you, then, as thanks for helping me. How I killed the Gashadokuro? Well, as Karma, you have the ability to kill a demon in the most traditional fashion, using your weapon, in your case Sakaki, a katana, to slice the demon. But what if the Karma doesn’t wield a weapon? What if they wield something like Karen’s fans (I know you’re the exception as your Will does something a support-class Will should not have done)? A support-class Karma and Will won’t be able to do their jobs solo.”
“Well, that is where rituals come in. You can use magic alongside your Will to initiate a ritual to kill a demon. Of course, you have to know how to kill it in the first place. For the case of the Gashadokuro, I have to cremate the body of the demon as the demon itself is a manifestation of souls that could not rest.”
Now that is a very important lesson. I can see why our mentor didn’t mention it to Sakaki as he has a very powerful Will. But for me? This is too much of an important lesson to not teach me about. What’s done is done, I guess. In the end, she passed her Will and knowledge of how to use it effectively to me. Without her teachings, I couldn’t have survived any demon, not even a measly goblin.
“From here on out, what are you cuties planning to do from here on out?” Eva asked Iris and me.
“I think I’ll head to Chisa to get some new clothes for Iris and myself.”
“The Eastern capital, eh? Good idea. It’s the closest major city to HQ as well.”
“Oh..” Sakaki interrupted.
“Is there something wrong?” I asked
I wonder what that weird reaction was about.
“Well, I’ve gotta go handle all that is happening right now, see y’all in HQ, sisters and Sakaki!”
Eva said her farewell.
Wait, where’s Nadiah? My question is answered when Iris made a loud gasp as though she forgot something. She reached into the pocket on her outfit to pull out a white envelope with a signature on it. The signature reads “Nadiah Mora”, in a font that is elegant and readable despite being cursive.
A letter for me.
I took the letter and place it in a pocket in my haori. I won’t read it as I already know what it contains – her heartfelt thanks.
“Now then, Iris. Where is my flower?” I asked her with the brightest smile I can muster.