It had been a week since then. Chiaki had learned many things from the Kanzaki family. There existed demons that preyed on humans and other living things. Demon Hunters were those who hunted down demons. There were forty-seven Demon Hunter families, each responsible for one of the forty-seven prefectures of Japan. Those belonging to much smaller families or had the ability to be Demon Hunters were treated as hired hands. The Demon Hunters as a whole are supported by an organization known as the Demon Hunter Cooperative Association, or DHCA.
The DHCA was a large secret government organization that included both those with Demon Hunter talents and those without. Its main purpose was supporting the Demon Hunter families. This covered various things: be it in the way of handling disposal of slain demons; to logistics and information handling; serving as intermediaries for Demon Hunters families to communicate to one another; and most importantly, bypassing particular laws, like the Gun and Sword Control Law.
She was told this as she had been placed under the protection of the Kanzaki family. Due to the unknown reason of why she had been attacked. Several measures of protection had been given to her and her home. On her arm, was a fashionable bracelet that doubled as a protective charm, it was designed to ward off demons. Acting similarly to like a demon repellent. Although, from what she had been told, Hayate who attended the same school now, would have already served as a prevention from attacks.
The reason for that was that Demon Hunters had a power called Spiritual Power. This power was a special power passed down through bloodlines or through special individuals. Demons often didn’t approach locations with Demon Hunters due to this power. It also offered a number of benefits. One such benefit was increased physical abilities, but the kinds varied depending on individual. Another was being generally immune to common diseases. Another possible benefit was gaining some kind of ability. Like the doctor that examined her, with the ability to heal through Spiritual Power.
Chiaki had asked if Spiritual Power affected appearances, commenting on how Hayate looked. The Kanzaki family took a “No Comment,” stance and didn’t answer her question.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
For a week now, she still had not gotten over one particular fact. The girl, Hayate who was sitting next to her was really a boy. Thanks to a weird power that allowed the ability to change genders at will. But it was this same power that kept the boy trapped in a girl’s body for most of the time. The power also had a weird and very random timing issue to the point it was almost convenient. From what she was told, the power would nonchalantly change Hayate back to the original gender for a short time or unexpectedly. And then change back to being a girl right after, for how long or how often couldn’t be predicted. No matter how hard Hayate tried, she had no control over it. Half of Hayate’s life was already spent as a girl.
It was already late afternoon as the two were spending time in Hayate’s house. It was a two story house that had a direct path to their school. The two were using the time to converse as well as do homework. Mostly Hayate tutoring Chiaki on her weaker subjects. For a week, the two had spent time after school, one for Chiaki’s protection, and the other was for the two of them to deepen their friendship. Although it had been a bit awkward at first.
“You know, Hayate. Every time we talk. You don’t seem like a boy.”
“…I know…Please do not say it.”
Hayate had developed a complex about it. It wasn’t sure if Hayate’s gender changing power was the cause or something else. The person would act with natural subtle mannerisms of the current gender. Particularly the expressions. The girl Hayate would often express her emotions clearly for all to see. Despite trying very hard to wear a “mask” of a calm appearance.
It was easy for Chiaki to forget that the person next to her was supposed to be a boy. Often she would bring it up, and Hayate would try to shut it down quickly. It allowed her to give some payback for the bath incident from before.
Though their relationship was developing well as friends. Hayate would innocently ask about particular things that usually were taken for granted. Chiaki would ask about various things about Hayate’s life, and sometimes background. This exchange often had no end of subjects as something new would be found. Sometimes the two would talk so much that they lose track of time.
A woman’s voice was heard suddenly as if waiting for an opportunity. Hayate turned her attention to the voice.
“What is it, Fuumi?”
The woman, Fuumi Kirishima was already standing behind Hayate, giving an apologetic bow.
“It’s time for Chiaki-sama to return home.”
“Oh, the time is this late already…”
The clock in the living room where they had been studying showed it was half an hour away from 7 PM. Disappointed their conversation was ended abruptly, Chiaki packed her things.
“I will walk you home, Chiaki-san.”
“There you go with the ‘-san’ again. I told you not to use it, Hayate.”
“B-But, it is a bit embarrassing…”
“We’re both girls, it’s fine. Also you’re using it so naturally with Fuumi-san.”
“B-But…she is my childhood friend.”
“I’m your friend too, Hayate.”
“Mmmm….I will….try harder.”
For the past week, this was a common conversation between the two. Leaving it as is, the two plus one left Hayate’s house. Although the distance between their houses was about twenty minutes by foot. Just like previous times, it was an uneventful walk. The pair plus one often just talked about unimportant things. Today though, Chiaki broached a subject she had been curious about.
“Say, Hayate. I know you’re a private detective. But is it really that great? I mean the work I hear you’re getting isn’t anything special right?”
“I did want to have some kind of grand mystery to solve. Although I do know that is merely a whim of fiction writing. I understand the nuances of the job itself and how lackluster it could be. However, this is an occupation I chose for myself. It also allows me to help those in need more easily.”
“Hmmm…so, have you had any strange cases?”
“Mmmm…..I cannot think of one currently. Nothing particularly strange from the cases so far. All the ones I have gotten were either crime scene investigation requests from the police. Or the occasional referral case. Like a cheating husband investigation or finding a missing cat.”
“Those really sound ordinary.”
“Hayate-sama, we’ve arrived.”
Fuumi’s voice chimed in again with perfect timing. They had reached Chiaki’s house. After bidding her goodbye, and watching Chiaki enter the house safely. The two left quietly. Hayate’s expression darkened as she quickened her pace.
“Call for transportation. We are going on a hunt. They are here again.”
“Hayate-sama…you can’t be.”
“Have the others come and form the perimeter. I will hunt alone.”
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
Inside an artificial forest that was located a distance away, a lone boy moved quickly with a Demon slightly larger than him giving chase. There were many others identical to it also following. The boy clicked his tongue as he had not expected this many.
These demons set a trap?! Without my Arataka, I cannot fight as well. He thought in frustration as the odds were against him. He had not expected a trap like this. His original katana, Arataka, was being maintained again. Yesterday’s hunt was similar with a large number of demons. But using Arataka had taken a toll from the constant use over the past week.
This had forced him to use his backup katana, its quality was inferior to his Arataka but it had to do. It had served him well before, but he doubted it would last against the number of demons he was facing now. And these were more intelligent than the ones he had already hunted before. These demons could coordinate and move like a large unit. If he moved carelessly or let his guard down, it wouldn’t end well.
What do I do? Hit and run? But this katana might not last with this number. And I cannot leave them alone. His mind tried to think of a solution. He was honestly glad Fuumi and the rest of the men who guarded him were not here. He didn’t want to think about what would happen to them if they had followed.
Hearing a girl’s voice from somewhere, he quickly slid behind a tree as a violent wind blew all around. The demons that had been chasing him were now blown away. Recovering quickly, the demons looked for source of the unexpected wind.
“Japan Demon Hunter. Yu Xiuying is here to offer her sword.”
A girl in a cheongsam appeared before Hayate. Her long dark crimson hair was tied into a single braid. She held a jian, a double-edged straight sword, in her right hand. A Taoist style talisman had burned up in her other hand. She kept her eye on the demons.
Before he could introduce himself he drew his katana. He glared at the demons as they reformed quickly and moved towards the two. He motioned his body quietly into a ready stance. Shifting his body sidewise, he lowered both arms. His katana was hidden away from view behind his body.
He gave a confident glance at Xiuying. She looked at him with a surprise, only smiling in response. She also got into a ready stance, her feet spread out slightly. Her jian was now flipped in her hand in a reverse grip. The blade rested along her arm. Her free arm was relaxed.
Looking at Hayate again, she gave a confident smirk.
“Wǒmen zǒu ba!” (Let’s go!)
He took a step forward and disappeared from the spot. He reappeared once again in the air behind the demons as he landed. Several demon heads were already separated from their bodies. The demons turned to look at the him. Leaving them open to a smiling Xiuying who attacked the closest one. Quickly exchanging her jian between her hands. Then with a thrust she stabbed the blade into the back of the knee of one demon. Collapsing due to that injury, it was left open to the blade that reaped its life with the next strike. Without waiting, she went after her next target. Hayate appeared behind her back, stabbing his katana into the head of a demon that had turned towards her. Pulling out his katana, his back was towards Xiuying.
“Xièxiè.” (Thank you.)
With a pair of smiles, the two fought together. Protecting the other’s back. Their coordination was in sync with one another. Even though this was their first time. The demons were reduced steadily. The two’s coordination overcame the disadvantageous odds.
In five minutes, there were no more demons. Hayate still wary of another attack used his senses to check the surroundings until he realized the cold oppressive air was already gone. Sighing in relief as he sheathed his katana. Xiuying did the same as she sheathed her jian. The two looked at one another, but it was Hayate who bowed first.
“I thank you for the help. I do not know what would have happened if I was still alone.”
“Do not mind. I was looking for you. You are the one called Hayate Kanzaki, right?”
“…Yes…that is my name. Why were you looking for me?”
“To challenge you to a duel!”
He couldn’t process the line of thought that lead to that.
“Why do you wish for a duel?”
“I heard rumours about a Demon Hunter who is very active compared to the rest. Not only that, he is of my age. I came looking for you.”
She calmly said with a smile on her face. Then she looked like she realized something and started staring at him.
“Oooh…your Spiritual Power is….very, very big as expected.”
He did know that he had a large capacity for Spiritual Power. His control, on the other hand, was not that good yet. Like just now, he leaked Spiritual Power that others could sense. What she had said to him that made him worry.
“Yes, I hear that you possess largest amount known to Japan Demon Hunters.”
How does that get measured? This is the first time I was told this. His thoughts were thinking about an irrelevant matter. He quietly shook his head and tried to get back on the main topic.
“There should be other Demon Hunters active right now. I cannot be the only one.”
“That is true, but only you are truly active. This last week, I hear you hunt down many demons. Other Demon Hunters, I heard don’t hunt as often as you. Or lack activity.”
“That…is true…there has been a large amount here.”
What is going on? If the activity is focused here. Is this some kind of special occurrence? Are the demons up to something? Or are they looking for something….or someone… He mentally tried to find a pattern, but he came up short. Lack of clues and understanding of the situation. He thought about the past number of weeks. He had taken over the hunting duties that were his mother’s just about six months ago. There was a slight lack of activity for first five months. Then slowly a month ago it increased. Then in the last two weeks, the activity increased greatly. And in the last week alone, he had spent almost every night hunting Demons.
Could something big be happening soon? Or am I missing a key clue in this? He mused for a moment that maybe the activity was meant for something else. But this was not in line with the normal behaviors of demons. He was really lost for the moment. He quickly shook his head again in disappointment.
“There is no use dwelling on that. I must thank you again for the help. I must ask, what point is there to the duel?”
“There is a point. When I win, you will marry me.”