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|The cellar was dimly lit by the old dingy lamp hanging overhead. Its weak beam of light shone down, illuminating only a small square wood table. Sitting on chairs on opposite sides were Matthews and Lucas. Matthews was wearing her usually scowl, aiming directly at the football player who was busy trying to ignore it the best that he can.
Finally, after an eternity, Hunter walked in, wearing his usually black outfit and metal accessories. Without a word, he sat down at his place at the table, a grim expression on his face.
“Let’s skip all the pleasantries and get down to business.” He spoke first, cutting off both Matthews and Lucas. “He went back.”
“He what?” Matthews exclaimed, jumping out of her chair. “Why? Didn’t he already see what that…that thing really was?”
Hunter nodded. “For some reason he decided to go back. I’m not positive, but his mind may be, in some way, is being influenced by Kou. It’s happened before, so it’s definitely a possibility.”
“Well, what do we do about it?” Matthews’s eyes were growing fairly wide. “Are we just going to sit here and let that monster do what he wants with him?”
“No.” Hunter shook his head. “We’ll have to confront the demon. We should have done this a long time ago, but with our current numbers it would be impossible.”
“And what do we do about Chris?” Matthews asked, obviously worried. “Are we just going to leave him or-“
“You know the rule, Paige.” Hunter said, his voice containing an iron will behind it. “You know what we have to do.”
Matthews’s face grew pale.
Lucas hung his head in deep thought. “We don’t know for sure if it had gone that far already, John. True, it looks bad, but until we get confirmation from either of them, we won’t have to do that to Chris. It’s not his fault he’s been dragged into all of this, and as much as I hate to admit it, I kinda like the guy.”
“We’re not supposed to have personal attachments with other people, Lucas.” Matthews said coldly.
“Speak for yourself.” Lucas grinned broadly.
Matthews glared back at him.
“Anyways,” Hunter cut in, “We’re going to need our full force before we go up against Kou.”
“And we can’t go up against Kou without our best man, can we? Since he’s all locked up, I guess we’ll need to bust our ‘lil jailbird from prison then.” Lucas smirked.
“It’s an institution.” Hunter corrected.
“What’s the difference?” Lucas asked with a straight face.
* * *
A dreadful howl echoed all around him. Chris couldn’t help but cringe even as he ran for his life across the endless plains, looking desperately for a place to hide. Yet every tree, bush and shrub sent the feeling of terror into his soul, as if something evil laid hiding behind them, ready to reach out and grab him.
Another bestial cry sounded, this time it came directly behind him. Against his fears, Chris chanced to take a glance behind him. Running only a few feet behind him was a massive demon, standing over twenty feet tall and built like an army tank. It had two bull-like horns dripping with blood, and dreadful claws that torn the land with every step. Its teeth were dripping with saliva as its red eyes eyed him with a bottomless hunger.
Chris snapped his gaze back forward, the sight of the creature nearly paralyzing his entire body with fright. It was toying with him. It could have easily snatched him up with those long arms and imprisoned him in its grasp. Chris felt a felling of dread as he realized how hopeless it was for him to escape. Thanks to that feeling, Chris had started to slow down slightly. Howling with triumph, the monster grabbed Chris with one hand and brought him to its face.
Chris yelled for help, but there was no one. He was completely alone. He couldn’t even struggle in the steel hard grip of the demon as it raised him to its eyes. With no other choice, Chris faced the monster, but all he could do was to cower in the sight of death itself.
With one final cry of triumph, the monster brought Chris to its mouth and swallowed him whole.
“NO!” Chris cried as he fell, his eyes shut tight. His face hit something cold and hard and which was surprisingly course. He could already feel those powerful throat muscles tighten around his body, pushing him down towards the stomach where he would slowly be digested. He flailed around wildly, trying to get free. His actions caused his legs to come free from the top of his bed and crash into the floor, shaking him into consciousness.
“I…I’m alive?” Chris gasped. The hard object that hit his face had been the ground when his upper half fell off the bed. The ‘powerful throat muscles’ were nothing more then the bed sheets that had somehow wrapped itself around his body during the night. Carefully, Chris pulled the sheets off of him. “Maybe I should just get rid of them already.” He muttered ruefully to himself. For some reason his bed sheets tended to take his nightmares to whole new levels. Frustrated, he crumbled it into a ball and threw it to the far end of the room.
Knowing he had very little chance of falling back to sleep, he put his hands to his side and pushed himself up. The digital clock glowed, displaying that it was nearly daybreak anyways, so he might as well get ready for school. Drowsily, he shuffled towards the door to go through his usual morning routines. As he walked by his desk, his eyes fell on the storybook Kou had lent to him the previous night. “At least now I’ll be able to meet up with Kou in the library this time.” Chris said cheerfully, and walked out the door.
* * *
“You’re up early.” Kou noted without looking up from his book as Chris sat in the chair across from him.
A brief image of the demon that had been chasing him the previous night flashed through his mind and sent shivers up Chris’s spine. “I decided to have an early start today.” Chris muttered drowsily as he rubbed his eyes.
Something in that reply caught Kou’s attention. He lifted his head and peered at his friend. A look of puzzlement flashed across his face. “You’re lying, aren’t you?” His voice was low enough for only Chris to hear.
“Yeah, pretty much.” Chris yawned, shrugging off the look on Kou’s face.
Kou set his book down, his face never leaving Chris. “You…you had nightmares, didn’t you?”
THAT got Chris’s attention. The drowsiness quickly disappeared and Chris sat up straight in his seat. How had Kou known he had nightmares that night? He looked carefully at Kou’s face, trying to figure out the reason why.
“Your nightmare...it was about me wasn’t it?” Kou’s face was completely serious, which meant he wasn’t even guessing. He just knew.
“Y-yes.” Chris admitted, somewhat intimidated by Kou’s sudden insight.
Kou pulled back, his face pained. “E-even now, you’re afraid of me, aren’t you?”
“That’s not true!” Chris objected, but Kou was entirely right. A part of him was still afraid.
“Don’t try to lie to me, Chris!” On impulse, Kou’s fist flew out to slam the table, but at the last minute he remembered that he would break it in half if he did so he stopped his fist in midair. “I…I can smell the fear on you. I…I don’t know how, but I can, Chris. Your heart, it’s starting to beat faster at this very moment in your chest, right? You’re…you’re so scared of me right now”
Chris reached over the table and placed a hand on Kou’s hovering fist. “If I was so afraid, how come I’m still here?”
Try as he might, Kou couldn’t think of an answer.
Chris smiled. “I thought so. Stop blaming yourself for every little thing, alright?” He sighed and sat back down into his seat. “I used to get nightmares all the time before you came, so set your mind at ease. Now, how did you know I had nightmares?”
Kou didn’t really want to talk about it, but he knew there was no way to avoid it. “I…ever since…it happened, I’ve felt a bit different. Before, I couldn’t smell a single thing, but now I can smell a whole lot of strange scents. Not only that, but my hearing and eyesight has improved as well, but the thing is that they only relate to other people. I…I can tell what a person is feeling, Chris. The way a person smells at a particular time, the way they move, the way they speak, my mind seems to take it all in at once and registers it into an emotion. I could tell right away by your voice that you were not only very tired, but afraid as well. I also knew automatically that what you told me earlier was a lie. I…I’m scared Chris. I…I don’t know what’s happening to me, and it scares me to think of what kind of monster I’m going to turn into.”
The image of the monster from his dream flashed through Chris’s mind once again.
Kou winced visibly. “See? You’re afraid too.”
“So why don’t we be scared together?” Chris suggested. “Scary movies are so much more fun when you have someone to grab onto while you scream your lungs off.”
* * *
They were afraid of him. They envied him. They wanted him.
Kou walked down the hallway uneasily. Chris had ran off to class first, leaving Kou behind to finish reading the book he was reading until the five minute warning bell sounded off. With some reluctance, he picked up his belongings and headed for his English class. Since he had arrived early in the morning, there had been very few people in school, so the hallways had been moderately empty. However, now the halls were filled with other students rushing towards their respective classrooms, and with them an overwhelming tide of scents and sounds which he had never been able to experience before. As he passed the various students, his nose, ears and eyes conveyed their various emotions to his mind. He could feel their fear of this human giant that walks among them. He was stung by the sheer jealousy of his body. And worse, he felt their pure animal attraction towards him. All of these things disgusted him, yet he could feel a deep satisfaction in his gut. Kou closed his eyes briefly and cleared his head, focusing on ignoring his sudden urges. Don’t come out he silently told the monster in himself, then he opened his eyes and continued walking down the hall, doing the best he could do to ignore all of the other student’s and their private feelings, but it was too much for him. Unable to take it anymore, Kou escaped into the bathroom conveniently located off to one side of the hallway.
“-crawl out from whatever rock you came from, eh, Grim Bones?” Kou’s sensitive ears managed to pick up a snatch of conversation the moment he stepped through the door. Kou stifled a groan and was considered leaving right away. However, before he did, his mind registered the emotion behind that one phrase was arrogance and ill intentions. His conscience refused to let him leave without first investigating what was going on. As he walked further into the bathroom, he noticed that the ground was very dirty and had various puddles of water as well as the usual trash. From Kou’s high point of view, he could see that most of the sink had soggy paper towels clogging the drain filter, and that the mirrors definitely needed cleaning. One of the mirrors reflected one of the open bathroom stalls, where a rather large guy wearing a tight muscle shirt and black jeans was standing with his back turned, blocking off whoever was being pushed into the toilet from getting out.
“I-I’m s-sorry, b-but the doctors said I c-could come back to school.” A new voice stuttered. Despite being in the position he was in, Kou was surprised to find that he couldn’t detect any hint of fear in the voice. It sounded like genuine fear, but it didn’t smell the same. In fact, it smelled and felt like the guy was lying. However, that still didn’t mean it was alright for someone to be bullied, so Kou walked over to the stall.
“Well, you should’ve stayed in that hell-hole, because now you have to deal with me Grim Bones.” The bully reached out and grabbed the boy’s arm and raised it high into the air. The boy gave a yelp of pain as he was lifted single handedly. “Look at you,” The bully sneered. “You’re as white as your name, runt. And talk about puny! My hand can wrap all the way around your skinny ass arms.”
“You shouldn’t do that.” Kou said with uncharacteristic authority.
“Fuck off,” The guy said without turning around. “What happens between me and the living skeleton here is none of your business.”
“I’m making it my business, so let him go before I smash your ugly face into the wall.” Normally, Kou would never have used threats of any kinds, no matter what situation was thrown his way. This was a completely different case however. The whole thing made Kou felt very angry, and it was taking everything he had to prevent himself from making his threat a reality.
“Oh yeah? Says wh-“ The bully turned around and stopped abruptly as his sight was suddenly cut off by a wall of muscle. Gaping, he raised his head, his eyes traveling from the ripped abdominals, gigantic neck and impossibly thick neck until he looked directly into Kou’s very angry face.
“Well?” Kou asked, crossing his colossal arms. The motion brought his arms to the front, where his biceps bulged and nearly burst out of the flimsy sleeves of his shirt. Those arms really attracted the bully’s undivided attention, who was so stunned that every time he tried to reply, all that came out was choked out. Finally, Kou grew tired of the conversation and grabbed the bully by the front of the shirt, lifting him so high that his head bumped against the ceiling.
“Now listen closely,” Kou said in a deep voice that nearly made the bully wet himself. “If I ever hear you pick on anyone, and I mean anyone ever again, I’ll do more then give you a few broken bones, you got that?”
Numbly, the bully nodded.
“Good.” Kou said, and then dropped the bully onto the floor without a warning. The bully didn’t waste a second as he leapt to his feet and half dragged himself out of the bathroom. The moment the jerk was out of the room, Kou relaxed. There could have been a number of ways to handle the situation, but for some reason he had taken deep satisfaction in that approach. Kou was about to leave himself when he remembered the guy in the bathroom stall, so he turned around to have a good look at him.
The bully’s description of him had been fairly accurate, Kou had to admit to himself. The boy was very short, about five foot two, extremely skinny and pale as bone. His simple white shirt and pants didn’t really improve his cadaverous appearance. His short sandy brown hair and hazel eyes were probably the only parts that made him at least partially alive.
“Thanks for the help.” The guy smiled cheerfully. “Although you didn’t really have to do all of that you know.”
“And let you get pushed around like that?” Kou jerked his head towards the door.
“Oh, I didn’t really mind all that much.” The guy said, his face still smiling as if none of what happened ever occurred. “It’s been like this since the first grade, so I don’t really care if a couple of people play around with me like that.”
“You call getting bullied by a guy twice your size playing?” Perhaps it was this guy’s calm acceptance that had set Kou aflame.
The guy shrugged. “It’s not so bad, after-” Suddenly the kid doubled over in a fit of coughing. Kou started to panic, but after a few moments the guy’s fit calmed down.
“Are you alright?” Kou asked, hovering over him to see if he could help.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” The smile returned to the guy’s face. “I’ve been coughing like that since I was three, so it’s nothing new to me. By the way…” He looked Kou from head to toe, a hint of amusement in his eye. “You’re pretty big aren’t cha?”
“Y-yeah…” Kou shifted uncomfortably. He always felt awkward whenever someone mentions his size. After a moment Kou realized that he couldn’t feel any of the emotions all of the other people had thrown his way earlier. Not only that, the kid’s happy disposition was starting to grow on him already. “I’m Kou by the way. Kousuke Sterling.”
“That’s a Japanese name, right?” The guy noted. “Kou…I like it!”
“Th-thanks.” Kou blushed slightly.
“Opps, I forgot to even tell you my name.” He laughed. “My name’s Mark Bones, please to meet ya.”
“Please to meet you too Mark.” Kou responded with his own laugh. The bell rang, signaling the start of class. “It looks like we’re going to be late for class.” Kou observed.
“So what’s the rush?”
* * *
The day had been going very well for Kou so far. True, that morning’s episode in the bathroom dampens the experience a little, but other then that it was pretty much a normal day at school. Kou’s first class finished without incident, and in his biology class the usually persistent Maria seemed to have slacked off a bit. Gradually, Kou learned how to block off his almost automatic reading of what others were feeling so that he could sit quietly in a classroom without all the hormones raging around him.
Finally, Kou’s favorite part of the day arrived: Lunch. Although he didn’t really need to eat anything and he couldn’t taste as well, but it was the one time during school where he could have an easy, carefree conversation with Chris. However, as he arrived at the cafeteria, he couldn’t spot his friend anywhere. He did spy a certain bone white guy in the crowd though.
“Mark, over here!” Kou waved at Mark, who responded to it with one of his own. It took Mark a bit of time to shove his way to Kou, his face naturally smiling.
“Heya Kou!” Mark greeted when he reached him. “Is there something you need?”
Kou shrugged, causing his shoulder muscles to flare upwards. “Not really, just wanted to see if you wanted to join me for lunch.”
“Haha, sure sure.” Mark chuckled as they both walked over to the cafeteria line.
Chris was panting slightly when he reached the cafeteria. Because of the events that had happened since Saturday, he had been unable to complete his homework. The teacher had held him back after class to chide him for not taking responsibility and made him promise to complete his homework. Worried that he was making Kou wait, he jogged to the cafeteria. When he reached just outside of it though, he couldn’t see any trace of Kou around. Thinking that Kou had gotten his lunch without him, Chris entered the lunch line and got his usual slop.
As Chris carried his tray down the rows of tables, he finally spotted Kou, sticking out like a sore thumb as usual. Chris took one step towards Kou’s table…and stopped. Kou wasn’t alone at his table. Sitting across to him was another person, engaged in deep conversation with Kou. Quite abruptly Chris felt a small pang of jealousy in his chest. Ever since Kou first came, he had been his, but now there was someone else in the picture. The moment he thought of this, he instantly regretted it. Chris was ashamed by how selfish he had just been. Kou was his own person, and if he wanted to make friends, Chris couldn’t say who he could or couldn’t make friends with. And besides, Kou appeared to be happy, and friends are supposed to want their friends to be happy, right? With that in mid, Chris took a deep breath and walked to Kou’s table.
“Hey Chris, what took you so long?” Kou greeted him as Chris sat down next to Mark.
“Got held back in class.” Chris explained.
“You’re…Chris, right?” Mark peered at him.
“Y-yeah.” Chris said, surprised. Now that he was right next to him, he was able to have a good look at Kou’s new friend. He seemed to be the complete opposite of Kou, being bone thin and pale as a sheet. Bone… Chris thought to himself, then he remembered just who it was. “You’re Grim Bones!” He blurted out, and then realized what he just said and clamped his mouth shut.
Mark just laughed, however. “Yup, that’s me, good ole Grim Bones.” He didn’t even seem slightly offended by the nickname.
“Why do they call you that anyways?” Kou asked curiously.
“It’s because I look like a walking skeleton, like the Grim Reaper.” Mark smirked.
“Sorry Mark.” Chris apologized. “I shouldn’t have called you that.”
“No worries!” Mark smacked Chris’s back. “I’m pretty much used to it, so it doesn’t really offend me. Now lighten up Chrissy, we’re all friends here. Right?”
“How about we call it even and let it drop, eh guys?” Kou cut in.
“Whatever you say big guy.” Mark agreed.
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