The Many Shades of Reality



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I've never been much of a city girl. I grew up in the countryside, and only went to the big city on rare occasions. Even then, it was a bit much for my simple country senses to take in. So when I first moved to the bustling world of big city life, I had a serious culture shock. Where the country had its lazy evening roads upon which the lights would dim out and the stars stretch out for endless miles before you, the city was full of motion day and night with the lights blaring and giving off an eerie glow from dusk to dawn. The welcome arms of the simple country folk were replaced by the cold dog-eat-dog mannerisms of the city slickers. I felt like the black sheep in the herd of white sheep. Out of place and lost.

For the longest time I felt like a flower on the wall that no one saw, but who everyone knew was there. I was somewhere, but you couldn’t put your finger on where exactly it was that I fit in. I kept my gaze lowered and never met anyone’s eyes. I never spoke, some perhaps thinking I was a mute, and I was never noticed, not that I cared. However, despite that, I was a careful observer of the strange people of the city. Watching them, I felt as if I had stepped onto a whole other planet of sorts. Or gone to a new country where I didn't quite understand the language or mannerisms of the natives, but instead fumbled my way through the culture in order to find my place/get by.

After about a year and a half I finally started to get used to this ‘city life’. I still longed for the quiet, secluded, nature of the country, but I could at least survive. I had managed to find a decent part time job working at a busy cafe on Main Street called The Moonlight Café. It was a semi-small café located on corner and it was open from morning to dusk. I often got stuck working the odd shifts, early morning or late night. Despite it being small, the place usually had a good crowd and a few people tipped me rather nicely. However, the people weren't always the cleanest, nicest, or well behaved that came in, especially later at night. That was the city though. I remember, in particular, one man who once walked through the doors. I find it odd that I remember almost every detail down to the exact outfit I was wearing that day, but life is odd like that, I suppose. Plus something as odd as what followed after that man passed through the threshold is hard to forget.

It was a Tuesday, evening, and I was stuck working the semi-later shift, again. It was me, Julia, and Sam. All day it had been storming on and off, and now that the sun was just setting, it's crimson rays shining an eerie light inside and casting shadows, the rain decided to come down in sheets; as a result, business was rather slow. Sam was busy cleaning off tables and flirting with Julia while I sat behind the counter reading a book I happened to bring with me. We really weren’t expecting customers to be coming in, so Julia and Sam ‘disappeared’ into the back room. It wasn't brain surgery to figure out what they were probably up to, but I didn't care. To each their own, and I would rather not have thought about that, so I didn't.

As I listened to the steady pitter patter of the rain, focusing on the romance novel I was reading, my thoughts were interrupted by the soft ring of the bell above the door. I glanced up as a strange man walked it, his hair and clothing was clinging to his body and he had a glassy look in his eyes that I didn't quite trust. I didn't want to be rude, though, and so I put my book down and walked over as he took a seat in a corner booth.

“hello sir, how can I help you?” I asked and waited for his reply with a kind smile on my face.


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The man seemed to be agitated about something or another. His movements were fidgety, and his eyes darted curiously around in an uneasy manner. I didn't get a good vibe from him, but I had to be polite for now. Such was city life, however, sometimes you couldn't trust anyone. Sometimes not even yourself. When I'd spoken to the man, he simply looked pass me as if I weren't even there. Those searching eyes and the vibe were just about throwing me off. I didn't want to be rude and tell the man flat out to leave, but he did have to order something or I could/would throw him out. It wouldn't have been the first time. The thought of 'unsavory' kept crossing my mind. I tried to break through his barrier again and converse with him a second time. I'd give him three strikes, then he was out.

"Sir, excuse me. You need to order something, or I'll have to ask you to leave. I'm terribly sorry" I said, going into a slight country tone with that speal. No matter. It seemed to have gotten his attention. He quickly turned to glance at me, his stare frightened me some. It was so...crazed...and yet so scared and lonely. I found myself actually taking a few precautionary steps backwards.

" hot please. And lots of sugar....yes sugar" he managed to say in a broken tone. I nodded some, not bothering to jot down his order.

"Coming right up, sir" I said as I turned to leave. Before I could fully leave his private 'bubble', he'd quickly reached out and grabbed my wrist. His hands were rough and clammy. It made my stomach churn and my arm numb some; how frighteningly cold his touch was! I turned to face him curiously, trying to pull my wrist free in the process. I was about to ask him to let me go when he spoke again. Boy, had I opened a can of worms.

"You better watch out. I didn't want to get you involved...but you are. They're watching, they're always watching" he muttered quietly, but loud enough for me to hear. His grip was getting tighter and more and more uncomfortable. I just wanted to get away now. Finally, I managed to pull my hand free as I hurried toward the back to get his order and dial the police, just in case. It was creepers like him that made me wish I were still in my country town.


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The girl had slipped her hand from his grasp at last and hastily made her way to the back, probably to call the police.

Humans. Such weak, paranoid little creatures. And for good reason. The merry bell hung from the door did not ring as the next "customers" arrived, for they did not use the door. A brief fading of the light in the middle of the room signaled their arrival, but that was all. One tall and handsome, one small and lovely, the two stood and stared at the speechless man who seemed to know that his life was going to end as abruptly as promised.

The look in the man's eyes suggested disappointment. He had wanted the two to take the waitress girl, young and supple, not a crumbly old soul like himself. But it was only his soul they were after.

Or rather, one wanted his soul, and the other his empty shell of a body when the deed was done.

A screech from the chair legs grating against the floor would be the only thing the employees would hear of the murder . The gorgeous fair-haired man moved like light, or darkness, as he crossed ten feet in two strides and placed his middle finger to the old man's forehead. Horror and agony had only two seconds to display themselves before the flesh melted from his face, beginning to fill the the room with a smell similar to sizzling hot bacon. If you ignored the stench of burning hair as well, that is. It was the man's untied soul that burned invisibly like hell fire. Bright gold mist bubbled from his mutated nostrils and burned new holes through his lips fused together from heat.

Just like that, it was over. The thieving of a soul was a quick deed. The tall man brushed his fingers off on his pant legs before shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat. He turned his dark grey eyes to the girl behind him tapping her little foot impatiently. A fond, crooked grin made him even more handsome, and her foot suddenly stopped tapping. What a sight he was with his strong legs and lean body, enough of a vision to make even the starving demon in front of him drop her lower jaw and suddenly hunger for something other than dead meat. For the most part, anyways. That meat did smell delicious.

"Hirai," he rumbled, leaning down until his breath tickled her ear. The girl felt a large hand creep under her shirt and trace her spine delicately, stroking her up and down. He knew exactly which buttons to press to get his way when it came to his partner. She wondered what he could want, to be using this tactic now.

"What? Do not distract me now, Ikall, I want to eat." Her voice was lowered, determined to stay steady as she stared behind Ikall's warm body to the fresh meat behind him in the chair.

"You may eat when I allow you to. Right now you will listen," he commanded quietly.

His hand ventured further down and dipped below the waist of her ridiculously girly skirt. A small smile, hidden from Hirai's view, sweetly graced his lips when he imagined her tearing into a body like a beast while wearing a frilly pink skirt. He could feel both edges of her hunger. One from the tiny nose she stuck in the air to sniff the dead man's corpse, and another from the helpless shivers he felt running down her body.

"Alright, alright. What??"

Ikall chuckled next to her ear; another little shiver ran its course. "We need a new minion. The girl in the back... I will fetch her and adjust the memories of the others. Eat quickly and clean up your mess when you're done, not with half-assed magic either. What did I just say?"

He always had to double check that she heard him. The little thing was brilliant, but sidetracked easily, he mused as he pulled her hips against his by the hand he had below her skirt. She huffed impatiently, at what he could not be sure this time.

"Hirai, you'll eat alone and clean up your mess like a good girl while I get to do the fun work with the humans that you won't get to taste," Hirai grumbled, struggling to stay standing in the awkward, bent-backwards position he had pulled her into.

Ikall took his hand out of the back of her skirt abruptly and instead grabbed her chin. He planted a hard kiss on her lips before striding into the back room to find the little waitress girl.

"Excuse me?" he called, his deep voice carrying with it a silent command upheld with his magic; "come out and see me" was the general meaning.

((wheee, I like these characters.))


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My heart was pounding as I escaped into the back to get the man's order. Really I could have simply gotten him a fresh pot of coffee from behind the counter, but he was giving me the creeps. I really wished that Sam and Julia would stop making love in the back office and come help. I always seemed to get stuck with the weird customers at this time. I pounded a few times on the back office door, but left it at that. I could hear enough to know what was going on still. Rolling my eyes I put a fresh pot on. No worries. Get the cup, dial the police, return with the coffee and act like nothing is the matter. I repeated over to myself. I'd done this routine before, but for some reason I felt like something just wasn't right about this time. I'd put the coffee on and had just finished talking to the police.

"...alright, we'll send someone down to assist you. Just stay calm until we get there, Amara."

"Thanks, Alex, I'll save you a cup of coffee on the house. I really appreciate this! The guy just...weirds me out. Something isn't right..."

"Alright, be there soon. Hold tight"

It paid to have a good relationship with some of the men on the police force. Free coffee and some sweets went a long way. With a heavy sigh, I leaned against the wall and had smoothed out my work uniform a moment. The coffee was finishing so I prepared to pour the cup, my back to the person who was approaching. I nearly threw the pot when the voice carried to my ears.

"Excuse me?" the deep voice spoke with an almost hypnotic quality. Part of me wanted to run, but the other part felt strangely compelled to answer the man's request. I of course took that as simple habit since it must be a customer that I'd neglected, though I didn't remember hearing the bell ring. Rain must have dampened it? With coffee in one hand and cup in the other I turned with a polite smile, but faltered a moment as my eyes fell upon the handsome man. My brain began to function again as I ramble out of habit "Oh, please excuse me. I didn't hear you come in sir, is there something I can do for you? this is employee area only so I will have to ask you to step back into the main area and find a seat afterwards."


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Ikall smiled politely at the human girl and stepped forward. "I'm terribly sorry," he began, "but I have a request to make of you before I go back out."

Damn her. She had already called the police; technology of the human world was beyond his control or comprehension. His frustration was invisible, replaced by gray eyes alight with silent laughter.

"You see, I have taken care of the man out there giving you grief, but unfortunately I must replace him. My partner and I need a fresh new pupil to introduce to our line of work. Do not misunderstand, but we have observed you for a time and come to the conclusion that you would be the perfect addition." This proposition made to sound like an amazing opportunity was garnished with Ikall's large hand taking her own two hands and patting them gently.

"If you don't give us a chance, things will end poorly." The concern for her would sound sincere from his full lips, and the exotic shape and features of his face would likely stun Amara briefly when his eyes pleadingly met her own.

So intune was he with Hirai and the world around him that he knew when Hirai's soft and powerful magic had done its job in the other room. He could also hear the animalistic sounds of some rowdy sex, and he knew it was unlikely that the two would emerge and cause trouble.

"But...if you insist on rejecting me..." Ikall released her hand and dropped his eyes sadly, "I suppose I will let you go. But I know I would never have the good fortune to come across one as lovely and capable as you if you reject me. Please tell me you'll say yes."

The waves of attractiveness would be flowing out of him now, accompanied by no small amount of persuasion magic that meant to make Amara crave his approval. Letting him down would seem cruel.


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What the HELL was going on tonight? I was glad that Alex was the one I managed to get ahold of, he was always so nice. It was a shame that he already had a girlfriend, I'd wanted to ask him out a few times, but never had the courage. Who would care about a small, country girl like me? When the strange, yet handsome, man spoke I felt a tingle go down my spine. I wasn't sure if this was a good or bad thing though, as I still had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. And his words, what the hell was this nut job talking about? His partner and him needed a pupil?

What really set me off was when he mentioned that he'd been watching me for a while. My hand tightened upon the pot of coffee and I willed every fiber of my body to throw the pot at him, but I was just stuck. Mesmerized. "If you don't give us a chance, things will end poorly" Those weren't suspicious words in the least. However, before my brain could process anything more, his eyes met mine in a pleading manner. I felt a strange pulling sensation and for some reason a feeling of pity swept over me. The man continued to speak as I was simply left unable to respond.

"But...if you insist on rejecting me...I suppose I will let you go. but I know I would never have the good fortune to come across one as lovely and capable as you if you reject me. Please tell me you'll say yes."

Say yes A little voice kept whispering to me over and over in my head. I so badly wanted to. So badly felt this strange burning sensation in the bit of my stomach, but at the same time a sickening knot was growing. Why was I so conflicted?! Say yes. But I barely know this man and he was being rather creepy in all logical sense. But you can't turn him down. Look at him. Well, he was charming, and rather persuasive. Say yes. But I still didn't know the man aside from the fact that he'd appeared out of nowhere with apparently a partner and took care of the menace that had come into the shop soaking wet. What exactly did he mean by taken care of? AMARA!

With the last voice screaming at me I jolted as my hand released the coffee pot. SMASH. shit. With my attention diverted I suddenly felt a rush of relief come over me as I took a step back and began to clean up the mess, "Please, sir. I really must insist that you go back to the front and leave. I do not appreciate whatever you are doing" I responded with a frown as I simply kept my gaze averted. What was with this guy? and what the hell had just happened? Was I losing it? I was, wasn't I? What else coudl POSSIBLY go wrong this weird night?


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Ikall sighed and hung his head, sending his white-blonde hair flopping over his forehead in waves. Now he honestly seemed let down. For a few seconds, he just stared at the ground silently. In the back of his head he could feel a buzz of stress coming from Hirai in the next room, but he shrugged it off. She was easily troubled. It was best to deal with the girl in front of him now and handle Hirai later.

"Miss, I know that you are smart enough that I do not have to tell you that I am not a normal person. My partner is not a normal person. We are not, in fact, people at all." His head snapped up. Something in his eyes smoldered like a cheesy romance character's, and it was an emotion closest to determination that was conveyed. "You may be human, Miss, but you have the potential to become extraodinary. Not everyone has that potential, that capability to become something sacred and rare. It is a gift, and you are wasting it. To throw away your rare spiritual nature is to commit a crime against the universe and yourself. It would be the same as a policeman refusing to take a murderer to jail."

Ikall continued to stare into her eyes, sending her no persuasive messages. He wanted her to understand this on her own. Tiny taps on the floor approached them sluggishly. Hirai was done with her part of the job, and he could feel that she was exhausted for some reason. Strange. Hirai was powerful, and no job this small should have made her so tired. After a moment of struggling to ignore his concern and curiosity, his eyes flicked over to the doorway where Hirai would appear.

Normally her fair skin was dewy and fresh, always flushed around her cheeks just like a healthy human girl's. But while she walked into the room Ikall was shocked to see she was almost green, a worrysome sight to behold. Well, she was still partly human, even after nearly a decade. Black curls brushed against her shoulders when she trudged over to him and slumped against his arm heavily. Ikall grasped her cold little hand gently but turned his attention back to Amara. It may have been comical, the way that Ikall spoke so casually about such strange things.

"That man that you saw out there was only partly human. The other part of him belonged to the darkness, the place where souls are tortured after death. For power, he had sold a part of him. But he misused that power in a conspicuous way, harming the souls of human children. It is for that reason that I, Ikall, and this girl," he nodded at Hirai, "are here tonight. To put it simply, I took his soul, leaving the darkness stuck in his dead body, and later I will send it to the Abyss to suffer for his crimes. I can manipulate souls whether they are living, dead, damaged, or otherwise. A rare ability, and much desired by others. Hirai was once like you, just a human living without recognition of her spiritual abilities. She was targeted frequently, and finally I was forced to take her with me or watch her suffer longer. The longer I had waited, the more and more tainted her powers had become from their attacks. She could not protect her powers since she did not know they were there. Originally, her power was--"

Hirai thunked her forehead against his upper arm, a silent plea to shut up. He squeezed her hand and promptly ignored her request. His monologue seemed to rush now.

"Originally Hirai's Spirit was meant to purify and erase darkness without harming the subject. She would only have had to touch the darkness for it to disperse. After being tormented however, the Spirit became distorted. Now the only way she can purify a thing is to force it to become a part of her and then reject it internally, sending it out of herself as nothing but pure energy. Sometimes if she is lucky, just a touch will allow her to absorb the darkness. But with most living beings that have become dark, she must consume enough of the being until the darkness migrates into her body where she can purify and expel it. Like a little vacuum in a frilly skirt, if you will."

A growl was the first sound Hirai had made since entering the room. She lifted her head weakly and looked at Amara with skepticism and annoyance written on her face.

"You," Hirai spat, "are older than I was. I was fourteen, fifteen when Ikall saved me. Your gift is quiet and well hidden, but I hear that it is important. Sooner or later they will figure out your power and come after you, you know. Unless you come with us and learn to protect yourself." Ikall nudged her, trying to calm her down. She didn't. "Because we won't do it for you, and no one else will either. Either you suffer like a moron or you save yourself and help out the world. You look like you might be a moron."

Ikall looked up at the ceiling as if asking some divine heavenly being for patience. He pushed Hirai behind him, catching her with his other arm when he accidentally made her stumble. He then turned his attention back to Amara.

"I'm sorry. Hirai was especially correct regarding one thing, however," he stated. "The darkness will find you eventually, and you will have no guardian to rescue you like Hirai did, even if I procrastinated. That is, unless you take hold of our hands and let us bring you into our world. It does not hurt, it isn't really frightening, and in the end you will save not just yourself, but countless others as well."

Hirai's round face peeked out from behind him, eager to hear Amara's answer. She tried to catch the woman's eyes. If she did, Amara would see sincerity in Hirai's hazel eyes, mixed in with the orange, green, and brown. Hirai nodded at her, hoping she would see. Just in case, she added, "Accepting Ikall was my best decision. If I hadn't... I would have been tortured until I turned dark entirely and started harming others. Please don't be a moron."


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The man was persistent, that was for sure. I wasn't sure what to do, but when he began to speak about not being human...he was starting to lose me. It was then that his partner seemed to have stumbled in upon us. The explanation of her arrival and her strange hue did little to settle my nerves. Outside I could still hear the rain falling as thunder crashed and seemed to shake the place. Or maybe that was just me? I couldn't tell. These two 'characters' made me quite nervous, and I was PRAYING that Alex showed up soon.

When the two started to talk about me possessing some strange gift I'd about had it with them. Were they REALLY trying to pull my leg now? Clearly I wasn't in the mood or state for such tomfoolery! Standing I looked between them, "Look, I don't know what you two are talking about, and I'll be quite honest that you are starting to freak me out a little, and annoy me" well, I was being honest. I was going to continue when a horrified scream came from the front that sounded like Julia.

"Oh my god what's wrong with him!?" I heard Sam say soon after. I didn't waste time as I simply pushed past the two crazy customers and went back out front. What I saw there wasn't quite what I'd expected. The weird man that had started this entire fiasco laid on the ground with his arms splayed open and obviously not alive. Yet something...there was something I sensed and saw about him that wasn't normal. It was as if a trace amount of something left behind were trying to escape out of him. For a moment I SWORE I saw the guy's skin crawling..or moving..or something. Yeah, that was the icing on top of the cake. Julia had fainted and Sam was busy trying to revive her. I was about to speak when there was another loud crash of lightning and the power suddenly went out. Great.

"You have got to be kidding me" I muttered as I fumbled around and waited for my eyes to adjust. I didn't like this darkness. I'd nearly forgotten about my other 'customers' in the back until I quite literally ran into them. Stepping back, my eyes adjusted enough that I could see the outline of the two..though truth be told I SWEAR the girl was glowing slightly, "...what the HELL is going on?" I instantly let out. Maybe they weren't so crazy after all? Or maybe I really was and tihs was just some grand hallucination mean to further my psychosis. Either way that damn voice in the back of my head kept nagging at me to say yes to the man's original offer and become this/his weird pupil thing. Little did I know...


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The human brat wasn't listening. Hirai looked up at Ikall with a scowl plastered on her face at which he could only sigh. At least Hirai was too tired to pitch a fit. They both followed Amara, almost knowing what awaited them.

Sure enough, the two canoodlers had emerged and seen the body that looked as if it had merely been murdered. But that's only what it looked like to wholly human eyes. To those with a little bit extra, they would sense or see that darkness was rolling around the dead man's skin, trying to find someone or something to inhabit. Ikall stepped forward and instantly gave the male employee a strong command.

"Quick! Go and find a doctor!" he barked. The command was nearly impossible to ignore. "We will take care of the girl."

Echoes of thunder and a sudden crash of lightning later, the lights died. Hirai paid it no attention, and she did not have energy to spare enough to turn her own light on. Ikall, however, growled in annoyance. Unless someone had popped a balloon, it was Ikall's power that made an audible pop when he allowed his power to glow brightly like a lamp. It would give them enough light to avoid tripping.

Meanwhile Hirai was shuffling to the body. Her head was tilted in her confusion. "Ikall," she called out softly.

He was too busy speaking hurriedly at Amara again to hear his partner. "Here's one piece of evidence, unless you can come up with an excuse as to how I am accomplishing this; I look like a fucking candle. How? Spirit energy. Now listen, I don't care if you think we've escaped from the damn crazy house, just watch her to see the second piece of evidence. Watch her, and then tell me to my face that we have been lying." He pointed his finger at Hirai.

Hirai had knelt down next to the corpse that was threatening to cause trouble. Green had completely washed over her face now, an obvious sign that she was ill if a person somehow couldn't understand that much from her trembling hands that reached out and laid flat against the chilling flesh. Oh, this hurt. This was the reason she felt so weak, so sick; this man's flesh was toxic. He must have known who was tracking him and attempted to save his soul by making his body impossible to consume, therefore making it worthless to take his soul. But Hirai had consumed it anyways. Not enough of it to finish off the darkness, apparently, and that may have saved her life.

Thankfully, the darkness was outside of the man's body now. All it would take was a touch to bring the darkness away. Being poisoned made the absorption process slower and the storing and purifying of the darkness was completely painful. It felt like someone was hitting her in the head with a rock while she was running full-speed through a hailstorm of electrified ice. A dull golden light flickered around Hirai's hands, plainly in view for Amara and Ikall. The gold was like a dark cloud, but still glowed enough to light up that portion of the room. Bits of black mixed into the cloud and seemed to be attracted to Hirai's fingertips where they soaked into the skin and disappeared. For her it may have felt like hours, but in all it took only two minutes to contain the darkness. The body was now purified. Just the broken body of a murdered human remained.

Ikall noticed too late that Hirai was no longer green; she was white, with lips that were turning blue. Damn. "This," he told Amara slowly, trying to keep his temper in check, "is what we do to keep humanity safe. Even Hirai, who is not yet a full-fledged Shadow, pushes herself this far. Did you know that I never told her early on how much danger she was in? You, Miss, are lucky. But you are also a daft harpy, and I regret giving you a chance to save yourself."

He stepped over to his partner and gently cradled her against his chest like she was a child. She was getting colder, and he could barely feel her chest rising against his, couldn't at all feel puffs of air coming from her nose until he put his hand right in front of her nose. Such small breaths. All because he had been too distracted to pay her any mind. Turning back to Amara, it took all his willpower not to yell at her. Even still, the fury made him seem like a raging angel as he walked towards Amara in the dark. Ikall's skin continued to glow as he stood in front of the waitress, looking down at her coolly.

"If she dies..." he didn't need to finish the phrase to assure Amara that it was a threat. "Nevertheless... I must once again ask you; will you put your spirit's gift to good use, or will you stay a waitress until the darkness comes to torture you and use you to destroy all that is good?"

With a deep, troubled sigh, Ikall slowly reached out his right hand and held Hirai with his left arm. "Please come with us, Miss. I don't want another one to suffer."


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I wasn't quite sure how to really process everything that was now going on. Julia was unconscious, Sam was off fetching help, and I was stuck there with two strange people and a stranger situation. Could they not see what I was seeing? (julia and sam that was). Though I still didn't quite trust these two, I couldn't help but feel sympathy for them. Especially in the way they interacted with one another. For one reason or another I was taken back to my own childhood with my family. When I was young I tended to get very sick and often my siblings would watch over me as my parents had to work. I had always been more fragile than my siblings when it came to sickness...and they always seemed to watch over me. I was the youngest, yes, but still. I was always annoyed with being babied, but maybe there was a reason for it?

I snapped from my own thoughts when Ikall's words broke through to me. He was re-stating his offer. His partner was held in his left arm and his right hand was extended out to me, waiting. I could see the conflicting emotions reflecting upon his almost angelic face. Accept his offer...go to him that voice spoke again. I wanted to so badly, but I couldn't. I just couldn't, not yet. I didn't realize it then but looking back...thinking of the way Ikall glowed made me think of an old children's song. You Are My Sunshine. As I contemplated his offer those lyrics played through my mind. Instead of reaching out toward Ikall's hand, however, my reach moved past him and to the girl he held in his other hand. It was as if something else were controlling me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. I could almost smell, and certainly could see, the sickness eating away at her. It pained me to see her like that. You make me happy when skies are gray. Everything was happening all at once, and I wasn't quite sure what I was doing. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. I felt a great calm come over me as my hand moved toward Ikall's companion and my hand wrapped around her small arm. So please don't take my sunshine away. As my hand touched her arm I felt a strong jolt between us, it was something I just couldn't control. I gasped and my other hand reached out and grabbed for Ikall's extended hand. I have no idea what happened after that. All I remembered was a great darkness and then I saw a field of sunflowers in all directions with me standing in the middle. I closed my eyes and let myself bask in the warm sun. I had to have been dreaming, but it was at least a nice dream...


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Something in Ikall would not allow him to back away from Amara's hand reaching for Hirai whose mind he no longer felt swirling with thoughts. He was more concerned than ever at her unconsciousness. Amara seemed to be set on doing something, but the blank look on her face held no suggestions as to what that was. His grip on his partner tightened. It was difficult with his anger and annoyance still at the forefront of his mind to just sit still and let Amara grab her while Hirai was vulnerable. But he was old enough to deduce that Amara would not harm his partner.

Slowly, the anger faded and was replaced in his eyes by curiosity.

And then came the blast of energy. It was like a small bomb had detonated in front of him, but thankfully Ikall was sturdy enough to stay on his feet and quickly grasp Amara's hand that reached for his own. This was the true extent of her powers, then, he thought as he struggled to balance both girls, Hirai in his left arm like a baby on a mother's hip and Amara tossed over his right shoulder and held in place by his arm around her legs. Right; with both girls out and unmoving, he gathered his energy to return to his home. Ikall closed his eyes, inhaled deeply, and disappeared from the room in a brilliant but short flash of light.


Damn. A scowl twisted his lips as he arrived at the closest portal point with both girls still unconscious. The portal was constantly lit up by the flashing lights of departing and arriving Shadows. It was much too crowded to be convenient, especially in Ikall's current situation. This Portal Point was also not the one he had meant to arrive in. It was three blocks to his home from there instead of right in front of it like the PP he had meant to use.

Curious Shadows of all shapes and sizes and forms slowed to stare at him, some wondering why he held two human girls and some annoyed that he could not contain his energy level sufficiently, which was considered rude in most of the places in the Realm of Shadows, or Narente. Ikall really couldn't have cared less about what people thought of him at the moment, however. He had a rather important task at hand.

Three blocks was too far to walk. He had begun to just stroll away from the PP before he remembered that he could just bounce into the next Portal, the one in front of his home. The task was easy enough, but even more passers-by got pissed off at the unconcealed energy jumping around the map.

At last he saw the tall silver and white building where his home was located. Two doormen had terrified looks on their faces as Ikall hustled past them and into the Level Portal where he stood in the blue glow waiting for the apartment building's Portal Monitor to confirm his identity and the reason he had two unconscious women in his company. For Ikall, his authority was like an invisible key that he saw as the answer to every problem he encountered. Including this one. If he had to explain why his partner seemed human and then log the true human into the Narenten Approved Presence system, he would go crazy. Naturally, he wielded his authority like a policeman wielded his badge.

"Ikall Korren, Second Tier Shadow. You know this is my partner Hirai Korren, Sixth Tier Shadow. This human is a new recruit, unknown name, more than likely seventh tier when she becomes a Shadow. She surpassed Low Tier already. Let. Me. In," Ikall commanded after his rushed introduction. "Floor fifty-five, Tara. I know it's you."

Without so much as a "welcome back" greeting, the small portal lit up bright blue and brought Ikall to the fifty-fifth floor. It belonged solely to Ikall and another Second Tier Shadow to reward them for their achievements. He used to believe it was too much room for just Hirai and himself, but with the new recruit slung over his shoulder now, he was glad there were five rooms.

It was dark, even with the pale white light coming through the large windows. He didn't seem to care about the darkness while he rushed into an empty bedroom and carefully placed the girls on the bed. The new recruit was deep into her sleep, but he could feel Hirai's mind stirring quickly. Could they possibly be any more difficult? Ikall grumbled, readjusted Amara until she lay on one side of the bed under the covers with her shoes off, and went to the other side of the bed to pick up Hirai and relocate her to his own room where he could watch her.

After placing her on his bed, he seemed to remember something and quickly skittered back to Amara's room. She was a volatile woman, and too strong-willed to leave alone without instruction or information. He pulled a pad of paper and a pen from the bedside table and wrote a brief note in large, sprawling letters.

Miss: Don't be startled. You awakened your Spirit without accepting our offer, but then you grabbed my hand. You sealed the contract by doing so, whether you meant to or not, although I shall put off sealing my end of the deal until I receive your approval so that you may still stupidly return to the human world. Either way, this has saved your life. Had I left you in the human world with your Spirit newly awakened, you would have figured out quickly just how correct I was about being targeted for that power. You may wonder what exactly your Spirit's power is...I shall explain briefly. In short, your Spirit and the part of you that is strong-willed are intertwined. When you truly feel the need to do something, anything at all, you can accomplish the task by a touch. When you released the tainted energy Hirai was too weak to separate from herself, you may not have known the exact problem. And more than likely you had a strong urge to see her become well again. Your Spirit is more... Intuned to and accepting of things relating to the Spiritual Realms than you are. It fulfilled your wish the best way it could. Oh yes, I meant to tell you that I brought you to the Realm of Shadows, my world and the world of those that protect others, called Narente [nah-REHN-ta]. You are my potential pupil, and therefore under my protection. On this matter, you must trust in me. Also, don't leave this apartment when you wake up. I can't protect you if you aren't here to be protected, and I refuse to sit up all night watching you. There is a door at the end of this hallway, opposite of the living area, that is my own room. In the morning you may enter and whine about how annoying I am. Hopefully, though, you now realize that this world is not one of your imagination. >>> Signed, Ikall Korren First Tier Shadow.

It was longer than he had intended it to be, he mused after placing the messy note on the bedside table and exiting the room. He decided to leave the doors open to her own room and his as well, making it obvious where she was to go upon waking.

Ikall walked to his bed and collapsed onto his stomach once reaching it. Hirai was close to the surface of waking up. Her thoughts were beginning to feel more spastic like normal. How such a small girl could fret and change moods so quickly he would never know. But he did know that it was due to Amara's random healing wish that made her well again. Without that wish...

He refused to ponder on such things. To remind himself of Hirai's safety, that she was still alive and his, he busied himself with removing her shoes and turning into her mother for a few minutes, undressing her and dressing her in one of his own shirts like a mother would do for a sleepy child. Finally, she was tucked neatly under the blankets. Ikall stood with his hands on his hips, rather proud of himself for not waking her up with his movements.

Then her eyes crept open and instantly found his.

He covered his face with his hands and sighed deeply. The lights were already off; it was finally time to rest, and he let Hirai think for a few moments while he prepared himself for bed.

"Ikall..." she muttered, her voice smothered by the blankets.

Still he heard her and turned after pulling a pair of lounge pants on to see what she wanted. She was safe... He was still reminding himself of that.

Hirai paused before saying what was on her mind. "Ikall, did she come? She took the tainted energy and the poison out of me like it was nothing at all, while I couldn't even tell what was wrong with me. She used her Spirit. She's only a human." Her voice died off towards the end of her statement. For some reason, a faint blush had appeared on her cheeks.

"She grabbed my hand. That sealed her end of the bargain. Yes, she is human. But she is also powerful. Her Spirit is rare, so it is no surprise that even her human form could channel the Spirit. It wasn't poison, by the way. I believe the man somehow managed to house a level of darkness beyond a normal level. I've only heard of it... But you are fine now, no thanks to my ill observation skills. She saved you from potential death, be grateful," he said quietly, neatening her hair so that it once again lay in soft waves. He didn't seem to notice the question she wasn't asking.

Poor observation skills indeed, Hirai growled internally. She stared at him with big, annoyed eyes. He understood that much. "What did I do?" Now he was at a loss.

"Nothing really... But... Have you sealed your side of the contract yet? Have you started turning her into a Shadow yet?"

The process of becoming a Shadow mainly was focused on turning a human soul into an eternal soul while still keeping a vaguely human body. Mixing bits of a Shadow's soul with a human's was the main way to begin the process, and since the easiest and safest way to transfer souls was through the mouth, the process often involved something misinterpreted as a kiss. In reality, it was more like a Shadow becoming a breathing mask, allowing their soul to be breathed in by the human. Turning a human into a Shadow was often the underlying cause of arguments between lovers and married couples.

Seriously? Ikall gaped at his partner. "Why-- How-- Are you honestly worried about me sharing my soul with her? It's only a tiny bit, Hirai, and it's not like I want to make love to her while transferring it!"

"It isn't that!" she peeped, shaking her fists under the covers in frustration. "Not really! I just.... Will she live with us?"

Another blank, incredulous look. Ikall slowly began to look irked with her, however. "Yes, Hirai, she will live here. Where else is she to go?? She's still just a human, and the process takes months. She will need close guidance and protection to live in Narente and learn to master her Spirit's powerful capabilities! I thought you of all people would understand what it's like to be new and alone, although your gift is much less in need of strict control. I expect you to welcome her when she stays."

Ikall glared at her sternly, and Hirai refused to look away until an ominous quiver in her chin made her turn over and refuse to answer him. What? Ikall groaned, knowing that the damn chin quiver meant something was honestly bothering her. He tried to tune into her mind and read her emotions as quietly as possible, but after a few minutes she tried to jab him in the gut with her elbow.

"What the spirit-cursed hell is wrong with you??" Ikall's voice was louder now, obviously ticked off with his partner.

He had only gotten a brief reading on her emotions, but they were all just a swirl of envy, confusion, sadness, anger, and fear. They were so mixed together that he couldn't interpret the reason behind each one. This girl... Was possibly the most annoying and troublesome creature in Narente.

"Leave me alone!" she squeaked like a five-year-old. "Stop trying to read me! Go to other side of the bed why don't you?"

Ridiculous. "You seem to forget, Little Miss, exactly whose bed you are in. Go to your own damn bed if you're going to do this."

There was a weak amount of persuasion in that command. He was urging her to leave, so Hirai kicked off the covers violently trying to get up but got tangled briefly before finally standing. She couldn't stand without wobbling, but she strutted as best as she could to the door. Until she felt him prodding at her mind again as she reached the door.

She turned completely red, shut the door, and turned to give him a piece of her mind. Or two. Or several. She swiped her forearm across her eyes and under her nose, then sniffed before beginning her tyrade.

"I told you to get out of my head!! Just because you're the one that made me a Shadow doesn't mean I'm yours, and it doesn't mean you can pry into my brain and tell me what to do!" Her inhale was almost a sob. "And don't tell me to welcome her if she's going to take my place and surpass me as your pupil and become your partner! You said yourself her Spirit is rare and has powerful capabilities. She could use it as a human before it was even awakened. It's still whole and perfect, so it won't take much time before she's Fifth Tier, and then Fourth, then Third and Second and First, all while I lag behind her with my half-mutated Spirit and slow growth as a Shadow! If you tell me to welcome the woman so ungrateful for a power and life and potential better than mine, then just command me to leave. I'll leave anyways. Asshole."

The last word was barely a squeak, and then the floodgates burst open. Watching Hirai rant and then burst into tears may have been comical if there had been bystanders. She was obviously not a child, though her voice and small size seemed to indicate that she was just a girl. It was like watching a kitten attack something harmless with a mask of bravery on, swatting and hissing at the perceived foe before cowering in a corner and mewling pitifully.

Ikall had covered his face with his hands, fed up with her mood until he finally untangled the strings of here emotions and put two and two together to see what she was really yelling at him for.

Between sobs as she turned to escape to her room in embarrassment and horror at going unanswered, the last straw of her sanity snapped in half when she felt him shamelessly reading her again. Words could not find her, so her last resort was to physically stop him from reading her. She clenched her fists, attempted to quiet her wails, and strode towards the bed.

Ikall stood up and crossed his arms, looking down at her calmly since he had finally figured out this tantrum. Hirai skidded to a stop and glared up at him, nostrils flaring like a bull, but there was still submission in her posture. Ikall rubbed his forehead and sat on the edge of the bed to make her feel less vulnerable. This is all because he continued to read and understand her mind, putting him on the same wavelength as the moody girl. There he was again, she felt, invading her privacy. Efforts renewed, she growled to cover up another sob and continued towards him, ready to smack him like a girl and hopefully set her mind free again.

Right into his trap she fell. In the middle of an argument, his smirk was entirely maddening when he succeeded in grasping her wrist when she tried to hit him. He caught the other when she tried again. Fantastic, another chin tremble, he thought. And I've scared her again.

"You know better. We will always work together, even if she surpasses your Tier. I don't care how incredible her power or strength is; she might also become great while I train her, if I even can. It's true she's more powerful, more untouched, and more lucky it would seem. It's amazing. But even when I make her my pupil, even when I make her a Shadow, she will not replace your annoying little ass. If you try to leave, I will make you stay no matter what means I have to use. You might say that you are not mine, but you really are. I couldn't forget something that is a piece of me, something that is mine. I will never forget about you or abandon you. Calm down!"

Fullfledged sobbing quieted a little, but Hirai's eyes were still like faucets. She refused to look at him. Ikall sighed and grabbed her, dragging her down to eye level and forcing her to sit on his lap facing him. She hiccuped and wiped her eyes, but said nothing in protest. He had to grab her face and turn her head to make her look at him. Relief washed over him when he checked in on her emotions that were no longer like a bitchy firestorm. Still, though, there was fear in her that was plain enough to see without reading her.

"You're never going to stop reading me when I tell you to, are you?" she muttered.

He felt her hands clutch his shirt. Almost ready to sleep, Ikall decided. She was exhausted from being so moody, more than likely.

"Not until you begin telling me whats wrong with you instead of getting riled up and making me guess."

Hirai rolled her eyes and went to get off of him so she could crawl onto the bed, but apparently he wasn't done with her quite yet. He flopped her onto her back as carefully as he could and held her still while he wiped the tears and snot off her face with a tissue from the bedside table.

"There." He tossed the tissue onto the floor, took her face in his hands, and kissed her almost enough to liven her up. "No more crying."

It had been an exhausted day; all Hirai could do was nod and allow him to pull her under the covers and glue himself to her back.

"....Tell me again." she whispered.

"You are mine, Hirai. And if you don't go to sleep, I will tape your eyes closed until you do."

A giggle was a much better way to end the night than tears.

Summary: Ikall takes Hirai and Amara back to the Shadow realm and places Amara in her own bedroom, leaving a note next to the bed explaining everything. You should read the note-- it's in italics. Also, long-ass piece about a fight between Hirai and Ikall.

((If you don't like where this story is going, I can change it to something completely different. It's your rp, after all!))


Original poster
There was a sea of darkness all around. Every movement and sound echoed through the vast void that the small child was falling through. Her small form was wrapped within a flowing blanket of white that fluttered around her. Her eyes closed as she slept and her dark hair freely blowing around her angelic face. From the dark void a female voice spoke calm and clear Awaken child. Open your eyes and come to the light. At first there was no response but slowly the child began to stir. Like any sleepy child the movements started with a sluggish wriggle, and slowly her arms and legs stretched out. With each movement her body began to right itself into an upright position until finally her feet touched the ground and her eyes slowly fluttered open...

The young girl stood in her room looking at herself in the mirror. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes she stared back at her frazzled self. Dark brown hair was scattered and sticking up and her blue-green eyes still held sleep in them. She was awake, and she could smell her mother's pancakes cooking below in the kitchen. Dressed in her white nightgown, the little girl ran downstairs, her bare feet pitter pattering on the wooden floors. This was home, this was the life she loved and never wanted to leave behind. Her father was out in the fields with her older brother. Her older sister and other brother sat at the table gobbling up the pancakes as her mother delivered them. So warm. Sunlight showered the kitchen from the window nearby. I don't every want to go. A small voice whispered in her mind. The sunlight came in bright and as eyes adjusted the girl stood once more in the middle of a large sunflower field wondering where she was and how she'd gotten there.

"Momma?! Pappa?!" she called out as she ran through the sunflowers trying to find her way home. What she came upon instead was a hideous dark creature seeming to feast upon someone or something with a human form. The frightened girl stopped dead in her tracks as her eyes widened and a soft gasp escaped her lips. The gasp was enough to draw the creature's attention as it lifted its blood stained head and looked directly at her. It didn't seem to have any solid form but crimson eyes and sharp teeth grinned at her like a cheshire cat. The girl was glued to her spot in terror as the creature gave a loud hissing noise and suddenly reached out for her. All she could do was lift her arms in defense and cry out with her eyes closed tight. A powerful blast of light erupted forward blocking the shadow's advance and disintegrating its presence. The voice returned.

Do not be afraid, little one. You will be protected. It's time to open your eyes...Wake up little one

As the tears fell the little girl sniffled and lowered her arms slowly. Obedient to the harmless command placed upon her, she slowly opened her eyes to find herself back in the farmhouse room she'd known so well. Back in front of her mirror. This time as she looked at her reflection she had changed. Standing before her was a young woman with silver hair, fair skin, but the same blue-green eyes she knew so well. Could this be her? Amara stood as she was now, a grown woman, and looked at the reflection before her. "Who are you?" she asked as she reached her hand forward to her reflection. The woman looking at her merely smiled.

It is wake up the voice spoke and once more a warm light overtook her dreams...


As the dream faded away, I slowly opened my eyes and sat up in the bed I'd been placed in. My head was foggy and I couldn't remember what on earth had happened. I hadn't even realized yet that I wasn't in the cafe anymore. "A dream, just a dream...what on earth" I muttered with a heavy sigh. Of course, I was thinking the entire DAY had been just one silly dream and that I'd simply over slept. Throwing the covers off me I turned to start getting ready for my day and that's when I realized I wasn't home anymore. Well...more so when my face hit the ground. The bed I was on was higher than mine in the apartment. I'd only had a mattress to sleep on so I'd literally just roll out of bed to get ready. This bed was a REAL bed and my rolling proved ineffectual as I promptly rolled off and face planted myself onto the floor. Ow.

"What the--" I muttered as I fumbled my way around trying to search for a light source. Before my eyes could adjust I'd bumped into many a thing. Now not only was I confused, but I was hurting. Why was my luck so poor lately?! Reaching up in frustration I found a light switch (which I SWEAR wasn't there previously) and turned on the light. Blinking as my eyes once more adjusted, I found the note that Ikall had left me. Reading over the note, I plopped myself back down on the bed and just sat there a moment. Clearly I had gone mad! But I wasn't in my own place and things just didn't add up. I even pinched and slapped myself a few times and I was obviously awake, as if my throbbing elbows, knees, and toes didn't tell me that from my blind fumbling around a few seconds prior to my revelations.

I wasn't sure what to feel, think, or do, so I just sat on the edge of the bed for a good while staring off into my own world and trying to piece this all together. A pupil? Spirit power?...I wasn't meant to have a life like this. I was just a simple country girl!!! Finally I'd somewhat calmed as my stomach growled. Instinctively I got up and decided to find this Ikall Korren First Tier Shadow guy to explain things again. A thought occurred to me as well about the girl he was with. My thoughts changed as I hoped that she was okay. She hadn't looked so well before I promptly blacked out and awoke in this weird place. Following the directions, I went to the guy's room, finding the door open. I might be freaked out, but I wasn't rude. I knocked gently on the door and stood just outside waiting for the response.


Original poster
Finally. Ikall had laid motionless with Hirai's burning-hot body draped on top of him, out cold and unmoving. He felt like he was in an oven, but he didn't want to move without reason and wake up her too early, until a knock came from the door at last. He budged a little, hoping Hirai would wake up with the movement. She didn't.

"I'll be out in just a minute!" he called to Amara, staring at Hirai all the while. She didn't even twitch at his voice.

She was like a corpse on fire. He wrapped his arms around her and carefully rolled over, leaving her on her back. He was finally free, and was relieved to feel the cool air on his bare chest. Much better.

Freed from Hirai's grasp, he quietly made his way to the door and shut it behind him.

"I would ask you how you slept, but I would rather like to know your name first and whether or not you choose to stay here and accept the conditions of using your whole Spirit. Well?"

He didn't seem to find it odd, throwing so many questions at her in the morning before he even truly greeted her. His hair stuck up in funky upward-spiraling swirls of white-blonde, the ultimate bedhead, and it was obvious he had slept well but still awoken to a strange mood. Thankfully, he seemed patient and kind enough, watching Amara with half-lidded grey eyes full of laid-back curiosity.


Original poster
I heard Ikall call out that he'd be there in just a minute. Taking a step back I shook my head faintly and rubbed the back of my neck. My mind was still racing, but I forced myself to calm as I heard footsteps approaching and the door close. Snapped back to reality I looked up upon the male before me. I couldn't help myself as my eyes scanned over his physique and I felt a faint blush warm my cheeks. He wasn't bad looking. My eyes moved to his face as he began to fire questions at me. Before I could process an answer though, his overall appearance took hold of me. I tried to stop myself, but it was much to late. I suddenly burst into laughter at the sight of his hair and early morning appearance. It was just...comical. As his gaze full upon me though waiting for his answer I soon managed to calm myself.

"My name? I take it yours is Ikall. I'm surprised you didn't see my name on the nametag" I pointed to the worker badge upon my chest that clearly said 'hello My name is Amara'. Just to make my point, I also verbalized, "So, Ikall, I am Amara." No need to give my last name. I blatantly didn't answer the second part of his question as I wasn't going ot give him an answer until he gave me some! For all that I'd been through in just one day...night...whatever it was...I thought I was staying pretty cool headed about all of this! Though deep down I still kept telling myself I really had snapped and just gone insane. So why not play into it?

"I'm not going to give you an answer until YOU explain to me just what the hell is exactly going on...Even if I am insane I at least deserve that bit before I sign away whatever I'm signing away? My life? My soul? My everything..." I gave a heavy sigh as my stomach once more growled. "I'm hungry" I added, "I apologize, but I get grumpy when I'm hungry. I suggest you allow me to get some food and we can discuss or whatever it is over some breakfast. okay?" I gave as 'nice' a smile as I could muster given the circumstances. Okay, maybe not my most polite moment, but I did (in all fairness) just say I got grumpy when hungry. I didn't really bother to wait and see what he would say as I turned and began to walk back toward where I'd been kept the previous night. If memory served me correct I'd seen a kitchen like area in passing to Ikall's room.


Original poster
Ikall gritted his teeth at her laughter, and throughout her entire one-sided conversation as well. The blush was flattering, and helpful to a certain extent. But still-- she had the potential to be more troublesome than Hirai, something he previously thought to be impossible. But this "Amara" was truly as strong-willed as he had earlier observed.

Then she just turned and headed for the master bathroom, perhaps having mistaken it for a kitchen. Ikall stepped forward and wrapped his hand gently around her forearm, yanking her backwards.

"There's nothing in there but a toilet, shower, bath, and two closets. No food. But if a wash will make you less grumpy too, go take one. Actually," he paused to think, "Why won't you go take a shower or bath? There are a million different products under the left sink; Hirai collects them, I'm convinced. Everything you could ever need for a bath is in there. I'll go make breakfast. Don't think about snapping back at me, either. I'm offering you everything I have. And you smell like a diner. Go."

Ikall picked her up by the waist like she was a light sack of potatoes and stuffed her into the enormous bathroom, shutting the door behind her. He grinned to himself and sauntered off to make breakfast.

((I have a lot more to write, but only if I just assumed Amara listened to Ikall and used the bathroom facilities, and I don't want to assume anything. It would make a very interesting encounter between Hirai and Amara if Amara does take a shower or bath, though. Your choice, however :) ))


Original poster
A bathroom? How on earth had I mistaken a bathroom for a kitchen? Clearly I was not in my right mind. Before I could even come up with something witty to respond to Ikall he'd suddenly picked me up by the waist and shoved me in the bathroom! The NERVE of the man!! Oh, he certainly had my blood boiling! Once more, Ikall seemed to be a step ahead of me as the door slammed shut in my face just as I was turning. Lucky I hadn't taken a step forward or I would have a throbbing headache. Sighing I closed my eyes and leaned against the door to calm myself. "Why not take a shower or bath? You smell like a diner" I mimicked Ikall with a sigh. Finally I opened my eyes and took a whiff of my uniform, my nose instantly wrinkling. Okay, maybe he had a point. I did smell like a diner...I hated when people like him were right.

Looking around the rather large bathroom, I crouched down and opened the left sink cabinet as Ikall had mentioned. He wasn't kidding when he said that Hirai seemed to collect bathroom things. "wow.." I couldn't ever remember having HALF the things that were under there! Scanning through everything I decided to settle for a relaxing bubble bath. Those were always nice, and I hadn't been able to enjoy one in YEARS. Especially since I only had a small cramped stand-up shower in my apartment, and usually no warm water. A nice hot bath...would be heaven!

Rummaging around a bit more I found a spare towel as I went to draw the bath waters. While the bubble bath was running, I slipped out of my clothing and finally let down my hair. Steam was already rising and I could smell the soothing fragrance of lavender from the bath soaps. Turning off the water, I slowly lowered myself into the hot waters with a heavy sigh. God this felt good! I couldn't remember the last time I'd pampered myself like this. The thought that someone else might be in the bathroom never occurred to me. So I just allowed myself to bask in the warmth and relaxation as my mind wandered...


Original poster
Happy day! Hirai's day had begun earlier, though she had been mostly asleep when Ikall attempted to rouse her. She still remembered sleeping curled on top of Ikall, basking in her contendedness. A sense of security had been returned to her, so when her eyes finally opened for the day they were bright and shining. Today would be good.

Hirai had a massive, dimpled grin on her face as she practically skipped out of Ikall's bedroom and into the hallway, briefly stopping to smell bacon and pancakes and omelettes. Ikall usually made the meals around the apartment; Hirai's food tasted like stale biscuits and salty pickles no matter how simple the recipe used was. They both agreed that he would cook if she would clean and do the shopping. She felt like she got the better end of the bargain.

Even the soft carpet in the hallway make her happy, as did the concept of a long, hot shower and clean clothes. She was too caught up in her own daydreams that she did not notice the sound of pouring water or the smell of it carried by steam to her nose. She opened the bathroom door, danced in quietly, then immediately frowned when she realized the situation.

Oh. That girl.

She was still here, already treating this place like home.

Well then... Hirai drew herself up to her full height, ready for a battle with herself. Ikall had assured her that she was the most important person to him, so obviously there was nothing to worry about. Might as well be friendly... the strange woman had saved her from the energy she couldn't expel, after all.

The small girl put her previous grin back on her face and shut the bathroom door behind her. She didn't seem to care that she was only wearing a man's t-shirt.

"Good morning!" she chirped, a little too loud even for the massive bathroom. "Hope you slept well. Thank you for helping me get rid of that tainted energy yesterday. I had no idea why I felt so ill, but turns out the darkness was a strange type I was unused to and it refused to be expelled once I had purified it inside of me." The way she described it, she could have been describing a weird cheeseburger she'd had. "Anyways, I hope you like this place. My name is Hirai Korren, Sixth Tier Shadow and Partner-Apprentice of Ikall Korren, Second Tier Shadow. You've probably met him already. Ooo, I will get you some fresh clothes; we've got two closets full, and Ikall only uses half of one, so the rest is mine. What type of clothes do you want to wear today? Nevermind, I think I know what I'll pick for you. You can pick something else if you prefer, of course. But I think you will like it."

An exorbitant amount of cheeriness and chittering was a clue that Hirai was a morning person once she was awake for good. She jumped over to the two sinks and pulled a washcloth out of a tiny drawer, then pulled a massive black case out from under the sink on the right. Apparently she felt the need to narrate her activity as she spoke.

"Oh, I'll get you a washcloth. They're kind of hidden. Here!" she tossed it to Amara and it landed on the side of the tub perfectly. "Oh, oh. Since you're going to have a fresh face, this black box is full of makeup. I can put it on for you if you like. I need to pick out your clothes!"

She skittered to the other side of the bathroom where marble tile turned to carpet and a short sofa sat opposite a tall, wide mirror mounted on the wall between two doors. Hirai flung open the left door, disappeared inside, and then came out shaking her head.

"Wrong closet. He needs new t-shirts, the ones now look like pajamas," she noted. "We could go shopping today. By the way, if you've got any questions, I'm much more informative than Ikall. He's not a people person unless he has to be. This one's my main closet!"

And through the door on the right she flew. Shortly after, she stuck her head out and stared at Amara quizically before calling out a question as a statement.

"I forgot to ask your name, shoe size, and clothing sizes. Sorry."


Original poster
My relaxing day dreams were suddenly shattered by the noise of Ikall's partner Hirai entering into the bathroom unexpectedly. At first I was a bit shocked and ducked down lower into the bubbles to cover myself, but as the young girl exuberantly began to speak and go about I relaxed some. She was quite...bubbly...and full of energy for it being so early in the morning. I was glad to see that she was doing okay after the previous night, however. A smile lingered on my lips as I watched her go about back and forth over and back in and out multiple times over. I also noted the ease of which she multitasked everything at once. The girl certainly had an abundance of energy, I sort of envied her.

It seemed that everyone here had formal titles added on to their names. I still wasn't sure what all this shadow and tier stuff was about, but I was sure that things would be explained. Well, since I couldn't get my information out of Ikall, perhaps I could get it out of her and then simply use that against Ikall at breakfast. I smiled politely as she left the room. Before she popped her head back in I'd finished my bath and had just stepped out and was wrapping myself in the towel when she popped her head back in "I forgot to ask your name, showe size, and clothing sizes. Sorry." Well, had to give the girl credit for getting it all in. A soft chuckle escaped me as I walked toward her.

"My name is Amara Nightingale" well she seemed nicer than Ikall, "um well I suppose my shoe size is 7 1/2 and my clothes...depends on what I'm wearing?"

Leaning over the tub I began to wring my hair out a bit as I adjusted the towel so that it would stay up, "I can just wear my old uniform for now I suppose. Though I'm sure Ikall will just complain again that I still smell like Diner" I rolled my eyes, "Is he always so....grumpy and rude?" I asked as I moved toward Hirai, "and tell me, what is all this Tier Shadow stuff about? Ikall wouldn't tell me when I asked" I sighed.


Original poster
Hirai hummed a long note as she pondered on Amara's questions, her eyes fixed onto a random point on the ceiling as she thought. She seemed to have a difficult time resisting the temptation to duck back into the closet, because twice she looked as if she were about to step backwards and continue picking out clothes. But she stayed put for the time being.

"Amara, then. Well... First, don't touch that old uniform until I've washed it. You did smell like a diner, in the best way possible. It's just that no one in Narente smells like a diner and a human. We don't want to have too much attention drawn to you until you've started your Shadow process, otherwise they might want to make you their partner instead of mine and Ikall's. We are nice Shadows, you will want to stay with us. As for Ikall..." she shrugged, a grin dimpling her cheeks. "He's got a good heart, but he isn't always good with people. Even when he has their best interests in mind, it seems like he always enjoys annoying them. I think It's his way of accepting people. If he didn't like you or was upset with you, he would be a lot more polite and quiet. He's always difficult, though. He likes to get his way."

She couldn't resist anymore. Hirai whirled around and went back into the closet but left the door open as she browsed through the many racks, all the while calling out answers to Amara.

"I am not surprised that he did not tell you much about Tiers or Shadows... " she began. "I'll explain Shadows first, they are the most important to understand. Number one; Shadows are not humans. The vast majority of us were humans at one time, and all of us were special in one spiritual way or another. A normal human can't become a Shadow. Their spirits aren't strong enough for it. Those humans with potential are sought out by Narenten First and Second Tiers and once they are found, they are studied from a distance. Ikall and I, we studied you for several months. Just your Spirit, though... we never knew your name. Names are mostly there for communicative convenience, because Shadows can actually recognize each other just by another Shadow's presence, by their essence of being if you will, if they already know each other. Anyways..."

Hirai stood on her tiptoes and grabbed the edge of a hanger, attempting to flick it off of the rail. It eventually fell out of her hand and hit her on the forehead, but she didn't seem to mind it much. It was obvious that she was absorbed in describing Shadows and Tiers. She picked up the hanger and straightened the article of clothing hanging on it. It seemed to be a short dress in a sweet shade of pink.

"Number two; Shadows are basically spiritually gifted humans whose Spirits have been awakened to their full potential and whose bodies have been made immortal and capable of channeling their strong spiritual abilities. Legends about vampires on earth probably came from stories of Shadows and humans, because humans have to be assisted in changing into Shadows. The process sounds complicated, but I'll make it simpler."

For this part, she set the dress and hanger aside and turned to Amara, now making motions with her hands.

"First! Human is fully human, Shadow is fully Shadow. Only a full Shadow can change a human into a Shadow, of course. The Shadow's soul is immortal too, and that part of them can be shared with a human's soul by direct contact of souls. It's like a time-consuming bread recipe. The Shadow's soul starts out as just a tiny portion of Shadow 'infection' inside a human's soul, but it grows... like how a small amount of yeast in bread makes the bread rise as it bakes. It takes months, years, even decades to become fully Shadow depending on the strength of the new Shadow. I am still only three-quarters Shadow after nine years of growing. There's no way to speed up the process, really... just sit and wait. The process is pain-free, too. You feel stronger from the moment your new partner starts your change."

Now she stood with her hands on her hips, trying hard to remember what else to say. After a few seconds, her face lit up as she remembered, and she turned back to the clothing racks as she rambled on.

"Note that whoever changes you will claim you as their partner most of the time. They recognize you by your Spirit a lot easier than other Shadows can. You become connected, kind of. Some Shadows are connected more than others, but most are great friends that stay together forever, sharing their names and lives. Sometimes huge communities are made, consisting of just one family of Shadows. I can tell you my own story of how I became a Shadow and got partnered. First off, Ikall and I..." her cheeks turned a little rosier than normal, "well, we're significantly closer than most partners, but we've not always been. He's really old and was pretty reluctant to have any other partners or family after his first was killed in the eighteenth century."

Hirai busied herself again, this time opening and closing drawers full of clothing. She pulled out a pair of soft black boy-shorts and grinned at Amara. "These will fit you. They're pretty comfy too, a little bit loose... even Shadow females have bloated days, so I keep some larger things around." She continued her speech seamlessly after that as if nothing had happened.

"But yeah, he didn't want another, but was sent to find me as a challenging case to get him to Second Tier, and he tried to avoid making me his partner while still trying to recruit me. He waited too long to show himself, about a year while the attacks continued, until it was almost too late for me. I almost became Dark from all the attacks. It hurt, like having your heart and lungs squeezed and pulled and cut. Like having everything happy just die and wither away, leaving you empty but still full of anger, pain, and sadness. He finally stepped in, right when I thought I was going to give in and go Dark." Her hands slowed as they dug through the drawers, her voice lowering as well. "I hated him. For years and years, I hated him. Five years, I think, I refused to talk to him or trust him, and he didn't like me much either. But he felt responsible for me, for what happened to me. He even tried to get others to take me as their new partner, but no one had a need for a partner that could easily fall into darkness, so he kept me with him, trying to train me the best that he could. It was our fifth year, and I finally was starting to trust him just like he was learning to be patient with me."

From a bottom drawer she considered her options and then pulled two brassieres; one soft black t-shirt bra, one grey bandeau bra with large straps. They had medium cups and were small around; after a glance at Amara she couldn't determine her size. She stared at the two bras for a moment, then set them on top of the dress and underwear before continuing.

"Narente is very safe," she reassured Amara, "but not completely guarded against all possible infiltrations. Creatures of the darkness are obsessed with hunting down their prey until they have finished their job, and I was an uncompleted job for many, so attacks continued for a while inside of Narente where Ikall insisted on keeping me. He kept me safe until it seemed like all the attacks had stopped. Three clever beasts were still there, though, trying to come up with plans to make me one of them. They thought that if they attacked my family, I would be allowed to come out of Narente and onto Earth where I was fair game. They were right but wrong."

She inhaled deeply and puffed out the breath like she was steeling her nerves for a rollercoaster.

"Ikall wouldn't let me go back when my family was murdered about three years ago. The progress we had made as partners just burst into flames and turned to ashes. I hated him again for not letting me go and mourn, to see them one last time. I thought he was the coldest, most insensitive, hateful and selfish man ever. That was when Shennim came to me when Ikall was gone one day. Shennim was gentle and understanding, everything that I thought Ikall was not. But Shennim was also a traitor. He was a Shadow, but worked for the darkness, helping the stupid Abyss beasts gather more minions. All to strengthen the Abyss King. Hell and Satan, respectively, in human terms. He offered to help me get back to Earth to mourn for my family, and together we went when Ikall was not around."

"You know how these stories go, probably. Fantasy isn't entirely baseless; things in stories can actually happen in real life. I went to Earth and mourned in my old household where my family had been murdered. But then Shennim betrayed me, and he and the three clever Abyss beasts went to work on tainting and changing my Spirit even more, hoping that I would quickly turn Dark. I'm here today, so obviously I didn't. Ikall was furious, but he still came to get me. He killed two of the beasts, but the most clever one and Shennim escaped. I didn't really have the heart to hate him after he had risked his life to come get me, but we were still distant for a while."

Hirai stared at some shoes neatly aligned on some shelves, either thinking deeply or trying to choose which shoes would fit Amara and match the outfit.

"I think without partners, Shadows would be extinct by now. As for... your other question," Hirai yawned loudly, throwing her head back like a roaring lion, "Tiers are just the ranks of Shadows. There are seven official Tiers. First is the hightest and most privileged, able to get almost any job they want in Narente. They're the most powerful. Seventh Tier's the lowest. Most of the Shadows in Seventh aren't yet full Shadows. They can't usually use their Spirits to their full potential. Unofficially, there is an even lower tier. It's commonly known, but not in the Narenten Tier System yet. Usually it's called Low Tier, but that's, um, the unkind way of saying it. Politely it should be referred to as Pre-Tier. It's an embarrassing place to be, and I was there for a while. These people aren't ever complete Shadows, and they have very little Spiritual control. They have to be monitored constantly so they don't accidentally or on purpose do something really stupid. Slow-growers usually start out in Pre-Tier."

Sticking her pointer and middle fingers through the back straps of a pair of black sandals, she tugged them off the shelves and next to the pile of clothes she had built for Amara that now involved the pink dress, the soft boyshorts, two brassieres to choose from, and the black shoes.


(( I can't believe I'm doing this, but here's a picture of the dresses and shoes.))

Pink dress:

Grey dress:


((I am such a girl. I'm glad you're one too!))


Hirai smiled as she surveyed her masterpiece for a moment, but looked a bit confused when she examined the pink dress again. She looked up at Amara for a second and then stood and pulled from a lower rack a hanger that held something that looked soft and grey.

Finally satisfied with her selections, she picked it all up off the floor and carried it to the sitting outside the closets. She even arranged on the couch the clothing in order of what to put on first to last. After another quick glance over her work, she beamed at Amara.

"My work here is done. Just with the clothes I mean. I'd really love to do your hair and makeup when you're done dressing." That was code for ' I am going to sit you down on a chair and give you a makeover with or without your consent.'

"But! For now, you see what you think of the clothes. If nothing looks right to you, feel free to check out the other stuff in the closets and try it on or something. I'm going to take a shower!"

Hirai hopped over to the left counter, combed out her hair so that it turned into a really wavy poof ball, then hopped to shower and started stripping like it was completely normal for her to be naked in front of strangers.

"Don't look over here if you think naked people are awkward!" she called out as she pulled Ikall's shirt over her fluffy head and stepped out of her Hirai-typical frilly underwear. Most of her belongings seemed to be overtly feminine and girlish, down to the smallest articles.

"Oh! And think more about becoming a Shadow. Honestly..." She turned around and stared at Amara thoughtfully, arms crossed and stroking her chin like a beard was there. "Honestly, I think you could become a great Shadow. You and your wishes have the ability to save hundreds to thousands over your immortal lifetime, something that can't be compared with college, human jobs, etcetera. And becoming a Shadow doesn't mean leaving your whole world behind, in your case. But when you visit home as a Shadow, you will have to be protected. From afar, of course. If you don't become a Shadow... well... your life will suck and you will probably be turned Dark. Anyways, think about your choices! If you think of any more questions, you can even ask me while I'm in the shower!"

And then she threw open the shower door and did a jig as she entered and shut the door behind her, a massive grin on her face.


Original poster
Hirai certainly had quite the energy in the morning. As she spewed all the information at me, all the while picking out clothing for me, my head was starting to spin. I began to dry my hair off as she explained what shadows were. It was still a lot for me to take in, but it was certainly much more than grumpy Ikall had given me. I paused and listened carefully when Hirai told me her story of how she and Ikall first met. It was a sad story indeed, but it explained the..closeness of the two. For a moment I felt a slight twang of envy tug at my heart as I thought of the two. They had something 'special' in a sense, but who was I to barge into that? Then again it wasn't my choice, yet. I'd sort of been dragged into all this.

Her talk about family made me homesick for my own family. All my brothers and sisters had moved away and my dad had passed away a few years back mysteriously. That left mom all by herself on the farm to take care of things. I'd always meant to go back and help, but things just...never panned out. A heavy sigh escaped my lips at this thought, and next thing I knew a pile of clothes was being delivered to me. I blinked and looked down at them as Hirai continued on about wanting to do my make-up as well. Actually...I'd not worn make-up in years, but it was nice how excited Hirai seemed to be. It would be like having a new sister. Soon after Hirai jumped into the shower as I slipped out of my towel and into the clothing that had been laid out for me. She'd done a pretty good job finding clothes that fit. I tried on the pink dress first, but I'd never been a huge fan of pink. The grey one was much more my style. Not too showy and certainly not bright so that it was mostly neutral and made me blend in. Yup, that was my choice.

Going to the mirror, I wiped the fog off it and looked at myself. I'd never seen myself as anything special or anyone special. Just another average person in an average world. Now here I was in some strange place with two strange people saying that I was just as strange as they were. I closed my eyes and chuckled softly as I stepped back. I glanced over my shoulder toward the shower where Hirai was busy dancing and dare I say singing as well. She'd said something about immortality? If that was so...I wondered how old she really was. She seemed so young, but at the same time I sensed a different maturity about her. Looks were deceiving sometimes, right? I probably could have left right then and there to skip my upcoming 'make over' but a part of me wanted to stay anyways. There was a seat in the corner (had that been there?) that I decided to go to and wait for Hirai in.

As my mind started to re-process the influx of information I'd just learned, I realized how tired I still was from all this. It was a lot, after all, for someone like me. While I waited, I seemed to have dozed off. All I know is that I awoke to see a smiling Hirai looking down at me fully dressed. How long had I been asleep and what was that smile for? I wondered, "Er....did I fall asleep?"