Saturday, April 8, 2017

Akuma No Imouto Chapter Four

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Your name is Nagito Masaomi, and there’s no way that you ever considered calling the number that a man in a red suit left on the check for you.  Absolutely no chance.  None at all.  Of course, this is assuming that your definition of ‘never considered’ is ‘never thought about not calling’.  You called him.

“Ahh, Nagi-kun, was it?” He uses an honorific despite speaking in English; you can hear him drumming his fingers on a table, and his voice is like butter that’s been kept in the fridge; still smooth and soft, but cold and intimidating, “I was wondering if you’re the sort of waiter to call numbers left for you.  Are you even aware of who I am, or did you just call it out of curiosity?”

“Well, I’m not sure if you’re somebody that I should know anything about, but I do know that you’re the man in the red suit who ate at Akuma Spirits a few days ago.  You went there to meet with another foreigner named Marv, who was terrified of being poisoned, and that’s the extent of what I know about you,” You explain, leaning against the counter.  Ryo’s still upstairs, since the bar hasn’t opened yet.  You hope this isn’t too early in the day to be calling.

“Ah, you know enough.  So you called me based on my appearance, yes?” He questions.

“...I guess, technically, I wouldn’t have called you if you weren’t attractive, or if you were a woman,” You shrug and bite the inside of your cheek.  It feels like this guy is going to berate you for being shallow any minute now.

Jasper Jekyll
“Makes sense.  I make my living on my looks, you know,” He doesn’t insult you, to your surprise, “But of course, if you don’t watch American films, you wouldn’t recognize me.  I’m not about to spout some bizarro nonsense about it being a relief not to get recognized, though.  I’m a very popular actor, and if I’m not in disguise I quite like when people know who I am.  Anyhoo, the name’s Jasper.  Jasper Jekyll, to be precise.  So, Nagi-kun, how would you like the bragging rights from going on a date with Hollywood’s favorite leading man?”

This guy is full of himself, but you figure there’s no harm in going on one date.  Doesn’t seem like either of you on this call really want a serious thing, so you may as well, “Yeah, I guess.  Not sure when I’ll get the opportunity to brag, but a date could be fun.”

“Wonderful.  So when are you off from work?” He asks, and you freeze.  You didn’t really think at all before about the fact that you don’t exactly have days off; it just made sense to be working all the time that the bar’s open, since ‘days off’ were meaningless at your last job, given that the only person you’d ever want to spend time with on days off would usually just come with you at the end of your shift.  You run back upstairs with a hand over the receiver on your cell.

“Ryo!?” You call into the apartment, “I’ve got a question!”

“What the fuck do you want?” She asks, wandering out of the bathroom with a toothbrush still in her mouth.  Generally, you don’t get woken up until she’s ready to face the day, but she overslept and your biological clock has already started adjusting to the new sleep schedule.

“I was offered a date, but he asked when my day off is.  Seeing as you’re my boss, you know that I don’t… have one,” You explain, staring at her.  Of course, you know that she and Koren wouldn’t have days off either, but neither of them go on dates.

“This is why I honestly believe that one-night stands are the way of the future,” She groans, scratching the back of her head, “Dating just doesn’t fit into a Generation-Y schedule, you know…?  But I guess since I’m feeling generous, and you’re my precious Onii-chan, I can get another waiter by tomorrow.  We could use another anyway, with the increase in popularity that Arthur-sama gave us.”

“Tomorrow?  How do you expect to pull that off?” You ask.

“Look, I can do anything I put my mind to!  Go on and get back to your call before your latest bad decision hangs up on you, right?” She waves you off and returns to the bathroom.  You stand there for a moment, then return the cell phone to your ear.

“Apparently, I have tomorrow off?” You tell Jasper, and he laughs.

“You’re adorable.  How old are you, anyway?” He questions, “Not that I suspect you’re underage, working in a bar.”

“Uh, twenty-five,” You answer, making your way back down the stairs, “You?”

“Look me up~” His voice lilts, high and condescending, then you hear the distinctive beep of the call being ended.  Well, you may as well look him up as he suggested.  IMDB ends up your best source; you learn that he’s thirty-eight, and he’s been in a ton of movies.  So many movies.  None of which you’ve actually seen.  However, he isn’t lying.  The pictures match up with the name, and while you know IMDB pages can be faked, this seems legitimate.

“So who’s your hot date?” Ryo asks as she comes downstairs, seemingly having finished the art of turning gorgeous in record time.  You have to wonder how she ever got to be so great at makeup, since it wasn’t like she ever cared nearly as much about passing back home as you did.  Maybe it’s just because the human world isn’t kind to people like the both of you… Mortals seem to think that you have something to prove, if you identify differently from the gender they expect of you.  Feminine men and masculine women aren’t assumed to be trans anywhere near as often as trans people are assumed to be faking.  Not back home.  Back home, it’s actually taught in school, it’s commonplace and never unexpected.  Well, that’s just another way the demon world is better.

Even when things seem to be going more okay in this world, you find yourself homesick.  It’s not like you weren’t depressed there.  It’s just that it seemed like getting better was plausible there.  Well, you shouldn’t dwell on that; you answer Ryo’s question by holding your phone out with the IMDB page.

“Wait, seriously?” She squints at the screen, holding a hand to her forehead to reduce any potential glare from the bar lights, “Jasper Jekyll, huh…?  Jeeze, Nagi, do you just revel in making people jealous of you?”

“How are you jealous?  You’re a lesbian,” You pull your phone back.

“Look, I dunno.  Something about your boy, though, seems kind of girlish,” She shrugs, then strides over to the bar to start wiping out glasses with rags again.  You’re sure they’re all already clean and this is just something she does to fulfill the bartender aesthetic, “I can’t explain it!  I mean, I’m not saying he’s super feminine either.  I just think, y’know, it wouldn’t take a lot to pull off a girly look on that person.”

“Whatever you say,” You shrug, leaning back on the counter again, “So, how are you expecting to get somebody to cover my shift by tomorrow, huh?”

“Hey, watch and learn,” She pulls out her phone and dials a number, then speaks into the receiver, “Hey, Romão!” You have no idea how you’d spell the name she just said, “Okay, okay, Vicente.  Look, we may be close enough for first names on your terms, but it’s a little different where I am!”

“Anyway,” She continues, “I was wondering if you might want a job where you don’t have to be half-naked?  Akuma Spirits is really starting to take off, and I could use another member on wait staff.  I’d need you to start tomorrow, so chances are you wouldn’t be able to give your two weeks at Tallywacker’s and couldn’t get back there, but… Can’t you help out a friend?”

“Great, thanks a ton!  Plus, bonus of coming to work here, I won’t fire you if you go home with the customers,” She chuckles into the phone, then hangs up and just looks at you, condescension in her eyes.  You just blink a few times.

“Ryo, did you just hire a stripper to be my coworker?” You question.

“No, he hasn’t done that in a while!  He was working at a bar in America which is basically Hooters, but with dudes,” She shakes her head, “Vicente Romão, that’s his name.  We met a few years ago.  He’s an incubus.  Our age, so not your type, don’t worry.”

“Wow,” You chuckle, shaking your head a bit as well, “That sounds pretty damn ridiculous, huh?”

“It’s not that ridiculous,” She shrugs, dropping her phone into her pocket, “There are plenty of people who are attracted to people older than them.  Maybe it’s a little more rare to find someone exclusively attracted to decade-plus age differences on the direction you’re coming from, but still.  There’s worse kinks you could have, I guess.”

“It’s a preference, not a kink.  There’s a difference,” You attempt to defend your poor taste in men.  Not that you think that liking older lovers is an indicator of poor taste all on its own, but combined with the other factors…  You won’t deny that you’re pretty bad at picking dates, and Jasper doesn’t seem much different, but usually the problem is that you get into relationships which rot from the inside out.  If you go into this date with a casual perspective, it probably won’t turn out quite as badly as your long-term relationships tend to.

“Whatever you say, kid,” She rolls her eyes, then looks up as Koren arrives to the restaurant, “Ah, Koren.  I’ve got an odd question for you.  Now that business is picking up, would it help for you to have a sous chef or something?  I just hired another waiter, and I wouldn’t want to give you the shaft and keep your workload the same while lightening Nagi’s.”

“Oh!” She’s a bit surprised, then slithers up behind Ryo and reaches up to the bar to get a bottle of cheap wine as she speaks, “Hmm, I don’t know yet.  I have been a tiny bit slow since we’ve gotten more popular, but I did get through yesterday and Friday just fine, and those have always been the busiest nights.  I suppose I’ll have to see how much it ends up wearing me down over time, and think about if I need some assistance.  So, dearie, who will be the new waiter?”

“There were a few options, but I figured that our best bet would be to invite Vicente,” She answers, turning around to look up at Koren, “I wasn’t going to re-hire Neptune after all, and Lulu-tan wouldn’t do very well with the human clientele.  I mean, I’m not about to start catering to mortals, but she might get kind of upset if she had to keep explaining that she’s older than she looks, every night, don’t you agree?  Then there’s Kobayashi-chan, but I don’t think she’d want to work here.”

“Oh yes, all good points,” Koren nods, collapsing her tail to be back on Ryo’s level, “But you know, maybe Lulu would make a good sous chef now that I think about it…  Ask the sweet dear if she’s looking for work next time you talk, won’t you?  I don’t think I absolutely need the help, but if she would want the position...”

“How do you know all these people!?” You groan, dragging your hands down your face.  Your little sister is so much more successful than you are.

“I’m a talkative bartender,” Ryo shrugs, then taps her chin as she looks out across the floor, “And I network, you know.  Befriending True, for example.  As a demon hunter, and with that occultist friend of his, I get introduced to lots of interesting demons all the time.  I can introduce you to some of them, you know.  You need some friends…”

“I totally have friends!” You protest, despite actually having none.  You’re not really the type for socializing on a general basis, and since you worked the graveyard shift at the gas station it was usually just you and Shin.

“Yes, that’s right!” Koren seems to be backing you up, but only for a moment, “I’m your friend, and so is Ryo.  That’s two, so technically multiple friends, yes?”

“...Not helping, Koren,” You sigh, then turn towards the door as you notice the time and prepare for a day of work.


Jasper ended up texting you to plan out anything about the date you hadn’t discussed on the phone, so when the next day rolls around, you’re armed with the time and location agreed upon.  His decision is a bit touristy, but of course it would be; if he’s an actor on vacation, there’s no way that he’d have any sort of intimate knowledge of the city.  You weren’t about to go to the effort of offering a counter-option.  You don’t arrive early, but not late either.  You want to make it clear that you don’t care much about any romantic potential this date may spur, but you’re not just going to be an asshole for the sake of it.

You spot him at one of the tables, and you’re fairly certain that he’s taking this date exactly as non-seriously as you are, given that he picked a restaurant which doesn’t actually have individual seating; a popular Izakaya.  You sit down across from him, since at this time it’s not very busy and there is actually space along the row between you and the other patrons at the same table, which gives some semblance of it actually being a standard ‘date’.

“Hey,” You greet him, and he smiles back at you while folding his hands on the table in front of him.

“Hello,” He responds, then raises an eyebrow as he looks you over, “Is it common, here, to wear neckties over t-shirts for semi-formal events?”

“Not really,” You shrug, then turn to look away from him, “But it’s also not common to wear an entire suit.  You’d look like a businessman stopping in for a drink after work, if not for the fact that it’s red.  Celebrities are really able to wear stuff like that?”

“When you’re as famous as I am, honey, you can wear whatever you like,” He chuckles, leaning forward, “I have an actress friend who wears much stranger things in public.  Oh, speaking of her, she might actually stop by here.  I hope that’s not a problem, but I did get the impression you weren’t looking for anything serious, so I didn’t think you’d be offended if I invited somebody else along.  Platonically, of course.”

“Oh yeah, that’s fine,” You nod, looking around, “Your choice of venue basically did that already, if I’m being honest with you.  There’s a seventy-percent chance those old guys over there are going to start making conversation with us after two more servings of sake.”

“I see… I was unaware.  The truth is, I have some Japanese heritage, but this is my first visit to the country.  I came here to settle some things out with an organization I’m involved in,” He explains, “So forgive me if I’m a bit culturally ignorant, I didn’t have time to do much research.”

“Huh.  So if that’s the case, why are you involved in a Japanese organization?  If you were a businessman or a politician, I’d get it, but an actor?” You wonder aloud.

“Well, it’s not Japanese!  It’s a worldwide group, actually.  I just came here for a meeting with several other members who are unable to make the trip any further than Tokyo,” He elaborates, “The man I was speaking to the night we met was one of them, as I’ve become acquainted with him socially in the past aside from this meeting.  The actual meeting has a few more members attending, see.”

“A worldwide group?” You ask, then pause the conversation to order something to drink and an appetizer from the waiter before returning to Jasper, “I hear American actors often get involved in fringe religions, is it something like that?”

“My, you’re keen, aren’t you?” He chuckles, then makes an appetizer order for himself as an interlude as well, “Yes, that is the case, though I’m afraid you’d think less of me if I told you its name.  Its reputation isn’t very good, given some of its practices do fly in the face of most morality and legality…”

“I really don’t know that much about fringe religions,” You shrug, “Where I come from, we mostly just learn about myths and legends from all sorts of belief systems, and fringe ones don’t tend to come up with new monsters…”

“Oh, I see.  Where you come from… I did think you were Japanese.  Has this anything to do with those striking red eyes of yours?” The way he says this gives you the impression that not only did he notice the color of your eyes, but it was the feature which most stood out to him.  Before you can answer, he speaks again, “I’ll know if you’re lying to me.”

“...Yes, it does have something to do with it.  I am Japanese, technically speaking,” You shrug, trying to figure out how to explain the demon world.

“So you are from the demon world after all, yes?” A smirk pulls at his lips.

“You know about that?” You’re surprised at first, but then note his eyes are an odd color as well.  Could he be a demon as well?  No, you’re not getting any sort of feeling like that from him.  It must be something else, “In that case, yes, I am from the demon world’s version of Japan.”

“I do know about that,” He gives a sweet smile, “In fact, my friend who’s arriving soon is actually an occultist.”

“Are you…” You freeze, clenching your fists in your lap, “A demon hunter?” A human demon hunter, who killed indiscriminantly?  You never heard that people like that would make any play at being a friendly party, but even in the demon world, there are things they don’t teach, things they can’t teach because there’s just not enough time to explain everything there is to know about living things and sentient sensisitivities.

“No, nothing like that,” He shakes his head, “Actually, I have something to confide.  That friend of mine who’s arriving?  She will probably try to kill you, and it’s because of this date,” His smirk grows to a grin, and you find that you can’t move in your shock, “Because as far as she knows, you’re after her crush.  She has no idea that I figured out it was her, who kills anyone who gets too close to me, and that’s a lot of fun.  This is why I asked you out.”

“But…” You mutter, looking around the restaurant.  Those old men you thought were so likely to be talkative, now seemed like a far-away bastion of ignorance, likely to turn a blind eye to anything questionable which might happen nearby, “Why would you do that?”

“For reasons I’m sure you’ve figured out by now,” He stands up, looking down at you, “Because there are humans who hurt people just for fun.  Not to survive, not to eat.  Not to fulfill any sort of real need.  Just because.”

He leaves.

You still sit, still.  Unmoving.

You’ll deal with the boiling feelings of being tricked by a human again later.  For now, you’re just certain of one thing.  It’s winter, and the sun goes down early.  The moon is new tonight.  No human can kill you.


You are Ryoji Masaomi, a rather strange woman who’s made the most of finding herself in an unfamiliar world.  At first you were disoriented, as was your brother, but you do think that his insistence on going your separate ways, at least for a little while, was what let you find this much success.  You took the opportunity in a new world like this to leave behind the reputation that you earned back home and fulfill your dream of becoming a bartender.  What better way to do that than to buy a bar?  Of course, getting the startup money wasn’t easy, given you hadn’t figured out how to disguise anything other than your own form.  Nowadays, it’s easy to make your ID documents look like they came from the mortal world, but at first, you were lost.

Back at home, you lacked confidence.  You were the one spider in town who didn’t buy your bloodpacks in the ‘fake humans’ format, instead just opting to drink from standard pouches.  Everyone could tell how timid you were, and though you never thought that you liked boys, you were sometimes convinced to date them just because you couldn’t find it in yourself to give them a firm ‘no’ when ‘I’m a lesbian’ wasn’t enough.  In this new world, you’d discard that.

Perhaps you were afraid when you arrived, but it wasn’t long before you realized that in the mortal world, you were not weak.  There weren’t others like you, so there were many more spiders available to come to your call.  Even as a weakling among demons, there were droves of humans, humans who could never match up to you.  With mortals everywhere, you became powerful, and this was something which you embraced.  It was Arthur who helped you get started.  Arthur, who was in the house of that man, the house of the very first human you killed.

Arthur, who still insisted to this day that he was outside, that he was just passing by, and that there was nothing to worry about.  It isn’t a distrust of Arthur that you harbor, but of the man whose house that was.  You’re sure that someday, if he considers you a friend, he’ll tell you, but you won’t push him.  The overwhelming emotion you feel towards Arthur is gratitude, for getting you started and keeping you going.  It’s thanks to him that you were able to go from a quiet, timid girl to one who’s well-known among any demons in the mortal realm and doesn’t take shit from anybody at all.

Arthur isn’t here right now, but somebody who you only know because of him most certainly is.  You spotted her when she walked in, and you can’t help but just stare as she walks up to the bar and takes a seat.  She’s technically disguised, but even her disguise is a bit… Strange.  You manage to greet her, sort of, “Gabrielle…?”

Gabrielle Cobalt
“...Yes, that is the name by which I am called.  Gabrielle of Cocytus, Caina’s Cobalt Angel.  And you are Ryoji Masaomi.  A short name for an unimportant woman,” She tosses her hair over her shoulder, then closes her eyes, “Unimportant in the cosmic sense, anyway… I would never be so cruel as to say you are unimportant in all ways.  It is an envious position, to be as free from the chains of Hell as you are, the icy lake’s pull which forever weighs on me.”

“Anyway,” You ignore her tirade, and don’t make her a drink.  She doesn’t do that, “If you’re here, Gabrielle, it means that Annie is in Japan again, right?”

“Yes, of course,” She gives a small nod, pushing her hands between her knees.  For one of the four Fallen Angels of Cocytus, she never seems to give off an air of power, “She finished filming another movie, so she came back to help True… She works so hard, I wish that she would just take a break every once in a while… It’s always movie, demon hunting, movie, demon hunting, movie, murder, demon hunting...”

“What?” You freeze.

“Anyway, I thought that I should stop by here again while I was in the area, just to say hello…” She fidgets in her seat, “S-So, how have you been, Ryoji?  It’s been a while, I’d like to know what’s happened in your life!”

“What happened in my life?” You ask, scratching the back of your neck, “Not a lot, really.  My brother’s living here now, I just hired Vicente as a waiter too.  Arthur gave the bar a popularity charm… Oh, and I guess you wouldn’t know, Neptune’s… Moved out.”

“Really??” She leans over the bar, closer to you, her glasses steaming up for some reason, “Neptune’s gone?”

“...Yeah, I guess.  She’s not living or working here anymore,” You take a step backwards, and Gabrielle falls onto the bar counter.  You just look at her for a moment, then sigh, “I feel bad for Annie, having you contracted as her bodyguard.”

“She knew what she was getting into…” She props herself up again, blood dripping out from under the mask she wears on the bottom half of her face.  Did she give herself a nosebleed too?  What an incompetent ancient being of incomprehensible power, “She summoned me specifically, after all, and that’s a feat.”

“I don’t see why she would have-” You start, but then stop again as you notice both her eyes are wide open.  Wide open.

“Sorry, gotta go!  Annie’s in danger again, and I blame Jekyll!” She sounds frantic, then dematerializes in front of you.  You shrug, and without a second thought, go back to work.  Jekyll… Well, if Nagi’s involved, that’d explain the danger.


You’re Nagito Masaomi, and sitting across from you is the closest living representation you have ever seen to the essence of the word ‘cute’.  Now, you’ve seen plenty of cutesy people before, but there’s something about this girl which just crosses a threshold.  Her eyes are big, her mouth is small, and she still looks like she’s… not a little kid, anyway.  You can’t tell her actual age, but you’re still pretty sure that she’s younger than you.

Annie Rideout
“Hello, Nagicchi!” She greets you using an honorific in English, just like Jasper did.  Obviously, this means that they’re perfect for each other, “My name’s Annie Rideout.  I hear that you went on a date with Jasper Jekyll!  That’s impressive, you know.  He’s a real big name in Hollywood.”

“I guess?  I don’t watch a lot of American movies,” You shrug, wondering when she’s going to try to kill you.  You’re braced for it, though, ready to strike back if need be.

“Well, it is,” She nods, then pouts, “You know, a lot of girls and boys really love Jasper Jekyll.  He’s a big crush for everyone!  Why would you, who doesn’t even watch his movies, get a date with him when fans all over the world never even get the chance to touch his flawless skin?”

“It was casual, I figured it was just going to be a casual, one-time thing.  He’s not really my type, I guess.  I mean older than me, sure, but other than that?” You would like to avoid conflict if at all possible.

“Huh, I guess that’s not a big deal,” She holds a finger to her chin as she puffs her cheeks out, then sighs, “Look, to tell you the truth, I’m kind of in love with him!  I don’t like when other people look at him…” She starts crying; they’re obviously real tears, too.  You mean, sure, an actress could give convincing fake tears, but those wouldn’t make sense for a time like this.  She gives you puppy eyes, “Can you promise that you won’t pursue him anymore…?  Or even watch his movies?  Or get near him…?  Pretty please?”

“Yeah, that’s something I can promise.  What if he comes near me, though?  I mean, he does know where I work,” You ask, heaving a sigh of relief.

“That’s a good point,” She agrees with a tiny nod, folding her hands on the table in front of herself as she opens her eyes again, looking at the ceiling, “Uhm… Where do you work, Nagicchi?”

“Akuma Spirits,” You answer.

“Ah!” She claps her hands together and smiles, “I know that place, really good!  I didn’t know that Jasper knew about it… I visit all the time because I travel around with a very cool demon hunter.  His name is True Whitman and he’s a funny old man with a motorcycle, hehe!  I even get to ride on it with him and pretend that I’ll ever get cast in an action flick!”

“Oh, I’ve met True,” You rub the back of your head, “I’m glad that we were able to resolve this in a pleasant manner.  Jasper said some things that made me a little scared.  I hope to see you in the bar sometime soon?”

“Absolutely,” She agrees, then looks away, “Thing is, I have a contract with a demon.  She’s my bodyguard, but she’s also trying to convince me all the time that not only does Jasper actually know I exist, but he’s always messing with me… I don’t know about that, but I’ve been a little less nasty to people lately!  She’s a very good influence.”

“I am?” Suddenly, another woman is standing in the building, behind Annie.  Where did she come from.

“Gabrielle!  Yes, you are.  Thanks to your sage guidance, I was able to come to a peaceful resolution in my conflict with this adorable young man here!” She answers, gesturing to you.

“Gabrielle?  As in the Cobalt Angel of Caina?” You question, wondering why somebody like her would be here and be implied to be guarding Annie.  Must just be some other fallen angel with the same name-

“Yes, that’s me.  I came here because Annie is in danger,” She explains, holding a hand to her chest, “I am bound by contract, honor, and bonds of friendship to keep her from harm at all times.  If you say you came to a peaceful resolution…” She narrows her eyes and looks around, “The danger is not gone, though.”

“It isn’t?” You and Annie manage to ask at the same time, staring up at Gabrielle as she draws her sword and becomes battle-ready.  For a fallen angel to draw their weapon… You realize this danger must be something serious.  Even at the new moon, no angel would take up arms against a Gashadokuro.  Whatever threat is nearby…

It’s beyond anything you’ve known.

Next Chapter ->

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