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Fantasy Bring Me Back to Life


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| Vada & Senor_Fluffy |


Blood. So much blood.

The night had started out innocently enough. After a simple but delicious meal of Katsudon, Asahi had left his family in the sitting room, where they would spend their evening watching a movie while he went to a party at his best friends’ house. It wasn’t really a party in the typical sense of the word, the kind with popular music, dancing, and a horde of teens making bad decisions. No, this party was much more Asahi’s scene. It consisted of himself and two friends, Aiko and Akira, quietly reading to themselves, then discussing the chapters.

Book club… it was a book club.

But Asahi didn’t care that his peers had labelled the little friend group ‘a couple of losers’. He didn’t care that they didn’t get invited to real parties, or that he’d never spent the evening throwing up in a stranger’s garden. His schoolmates didn’t know who his family was, or which bear they were potentially poking, and Asahi was fine with that. He was content to spend his Friday nights reading with his friends, listening to classical music, and discussing all manners of literature. In fact, those nights were his favourite of the week. Aiko and Akira’s father belonged to the same organisation as his own, so they understood him in a way most other people never could. He didn’t have to wear a mask with them. He was accepted. And that, something seemingly so simple, meant the entire world to him.

So, that was how Asahi spent his night. He had a skip in his step and a lightness in his heart when he arrived home, a little after 10:30. There was a family car, and a driver, but he’d chosen to walk the mile or so from Aiko and Akira’s, enjoying the faint mist in the air, a promise of oncoming rain. His hair, face, and shoulders were mildly damp as he walked up the drive, but his books, secured in a leather bag slung over his shoulder, were nice and dry, so he had no complaints.

Asahi’s first clue that something was amiss was the darkness of the house. Usually, when he stepped through the gate and onto the fenced property, the family room light could be seen, burning bright like a beacon calling him home. His mother, at least, would wait up for him, just to make sure he was safe. Often, his father and younger siblings accompanied her, choosing to watch a second movie instead of retiring to bed. But on this night, the house was dark, and eerily still. Approaching the main entrance, an inexplicable chill ran down Asahi’s spine as he noticed it was open. And just over the threshold, something dark and ominous pooled on the floor, glistening in the silvery light cast by the moon above.

Instinctively, as a child would, Asahi’s first reaction was to call for his mother, his voice coming out timid and unsure. No voice returned, however, so he tried again, stepping inside. “Okaasan? Otou-chan?” He called for his parents, and then his siblings, listing off their names in a voice that steadily crept higher and higher in worry. “Ren? Kiari? Tomi?”

But as Asahi wandered deeper into the darkened house, there were no answering cries, not of pain or fear, or relief. An indescribable fear set into his stomach, his bones, the back of his throat, filling him like venom. It was easy to see, even in the dark, that a struggle had taken place. Furniture was toppled, framed photos hung lopsided on the walls or shattered on the floor, and the sheer amount of blood left the colour draining from Asahi’s face until he was as white as a sheet. It was a horror movie come to life, and yet there were no bodies. Where was his family? Where were the police, the ambulances? Why was he here, all alone, in this madness?

Finally the answer came when he made his way to the kitchen. The floors here were slick with blood, causing him to fall to his hands and knees. He slipped in it, smearing his clothes and bag. But none of that registered in his mind, because laying before him, was the lifeless, unseeing form of his father. His throat slit wide, the blood drained from him, all the strength and power that the man had once possessed was long gone. Asahi tried to cry out in alarm, but the sound strangled in his throat, choking itself on the sight that lay before him. Beyond his father’s corpse were four more. His mother, his sister, and two brothers, piled together almost haphazardly. Like his father, all had their throats slit, their faces frozen forever in expressions of terror and agony. A guttural sob ripped itself from Asahi’s throat then, tearing his vocal chords and trying to rip his heart in half. Crawling on his hands and knees through the blood of his family, he reached for them, crying their names over and over.

It was this panicked frenzy of desperation that kept him from hearing their killer approach him from behind, entering through the same door he’d come in just moments before. A blade gleamed in his hand, dripping blood that was still warm. His face twisted with an insane grin as he moved closer, preparing to kill the last member of the Saito family.
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What happens when you don't clean your hair brush

The world had a way of growing quiet. All when the people of the world fell away to their homes, anxiously certain that the next tomorrow would come and they would continue their routines. Funnily enough, even in death there was a certain comfort that routines provided in a way nothing else could. Predictability. That was a delightful trait that clung to even the outsiders of society. The pathetic people unable to contain their lust to hurt those who were weak, were also predictable. Some were quiet. Some were charming. Some were clever. But all of them left crumb trails for the beasts. Their intent to harm manifesting in invisible creatures that morphed and knarled and licked with speed on true hunger could inspire.

It was these beasts that Red used to tell who would be next at the chopping block.

On this night when the streets came to only host the occasional drunk businessman and suspicious figure, Red roamed. They were sitting at a bus stop in a quiet but affluent neighborhood, one leg up on the bench for them to hug as they watched the street and the intersection ahead. The way the sprinkle of moisture in the air settled on concrete made the street shimmer like sequins under the sparce street lights was sweet. That was when he saw a young man walking alone. Well, almost alone. The beasts licked at his heels, at his book bag, at his ears. Yet he walked with a lightheartedness that was hard not to want to protect.

The vengeful spirit disappeared from that quiet bench bus stop. Reappearing at the long haired boy's side, smoke bellowing across his malnourished 5'1 frame. The beasts flinched away from their current target and instead raced back the way they came. In the very direction this boy was headed. Red raised a brow and looked over at Asahi. "Headed home? Uh oh..." Red muttered before floating on ahead, following the beasts jumping across the walls separating the homes like dogs on slippery flooring. Clumsy creatures. So eager to eat.

When they turned to a darkened house, Red looked down the street. "Is your family rich rich?..." Red waited for the boy to turn into the front gate before slipping around him and to the front door. The sight that waited for them was something to behold. Red tilted his head as he saw not one, not two, but three young bodies piled like sandbags in their own blood. The lights flickered and any loose item in the kitchen began to shake as though an earthquake were happening. Snuffed out before their lives had even begun. Unacceptable. The sobs of Asahi rung in the air. A symphony of pain and trauma molded in crimson stains. Unacceptable.

"Damnit!" Red turned only to meet culprit now looming over his last domino. The vengeful spirit bursted into laughter at the sight of that delusional lust for blood on his face. "Pathetic!" Every cabinet snapped open and the lights turned on for a brief second only to shed light on a small figure floating amongst swirling black smoke leaking from their gas mask. That very smoke repelling each and every beast from the scene as they knew better than to try to feast from this kill. The wrath that filled the spirit allowing them a brief moment of visibility on their worthy target. "You like knives?... How much?" The so-called Phantom would jolt to meet the gaze of the real deal. At least until the lights went out again and Red appeared staring down at the wide eyed killer. The full arsenal of expensive blades stagnantly pointed to their target in the air around him.

"Well, how much?! Pin cushion! Greedy! Greedy! GREEDY!!!" Red unleashed each knife into the killer's body with enough force to send the full grown man groaning and stumbling back until it was the floor that Red pinned the pin cushion to with the knives. Slitting the man just as he had his victims. "Messy.. Had to go and make a nice house so messy. Making things so easily look like self defense..." Red reprimanded the fresh corpse, as they went to his right hand and pulled out a roughly made sketchbook. Flipping to the page with a ribbon, they meticulously angled themselves in the air with the notebook to get a fingerprint off the killer. Turning the book around to eye their handiwork and the clarity of the red print.

The spirit pocketed the book as they turned their attention to the living victim. Now covered in blood. But not just any blood. The blood of his family. The sound of his broken voice crying their names rung in Red's head. A quiet shame tugged at the vengeful spirit. They'd failed to save a family in their entirety. The beasts must have been swarmed in this home on the days prior. Could Red have seen the signs? Red couldn't recognize any of these people from recent memory. They hadn't seen them recently. "I'm so sorry..." Red muttered, about to go about searching the house before Red froze.

The boy wasn't just looking at the dead killer. He wasn't looking past Red just as everyone did. But instead, those traumatized eyes stared into red bullseyes. Red turned to look over their shoulder to see if something was on the wall behind them. "You shouldn't be able-" Red muttered, moving only to see Asahi follow them. "Ah- That's new- Uh-" Red tried to think fast. "If you can see me, and hear me... You are in shock. This is all a lot... Do you have a phone? Call the police. You defended yourself. None of this is your fault." Red spoke with a soft firmness to provide the poor boy a clear path of action.


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The ravaged sounds of Asahi’s grief died in his throat as the house seemed to come alive around him. The lights flickered, cabinets flew open, appliances and dishes shook as if a tremor ran through the kitchen. Whipping his head around to see what was happening, his eyes, dark and too wide, found the man - no, the monster - who had killed his Okaasan, his Otou-chan, his brothers and sister. And now, he was going to kill Asahi.

But instead of meeting his death, instead of being reunited with his family, Asahi was spared. He couldn’t understand what he was seeing, as the lights went out again, the bulbs shattering and showering glass down upon them. Inexplicably, his mother’s very expensive collection of knives hurled themselves at the murderer, a man Asahi did not recognise, though his face would undoubtedly haunt the boy's dreams for the rest of his life. His face, and his body, now pierced with every blade in the kitchen, pinning him to the floor. Asahi watched, pale-faced and shaking, as blood seeped from the man’s numerous wounds, mixing with that of his family. It made him sick to his stomach, to see their life forces become one like that, and a frantic burst of energy rushed through him, making him scamper to his hands and knees, pushing the blood away with his hands. It was useless, of course, but he didn’t stop trying… not until a new movement caught his eye and made him freeze.

Had the murderer survived the horrific onslaught of steel? Was he going to finish his task after all? Asahi’s head snapped up, but instead of seeing the man standing before him, knife wielded once more, instead he saw… a boy? An unfamiliar boy, with red eyes and a gas mask strapped to his face. Asahi was sure he had never seen him before. The red-eyed stranger apologised to him, as if he had had anything to do with this, and all Asahi could do was stare at him in frightened bemusement. Asahi hadn’t seen him come in, hadn’t heard his footsteps on the floor, made sticky with the congealing blood of his family. And yet, here he was. Was he here to help him? Or hurt him?

The thought made Asahi’s gaze shift once more to the corpse of his family’s killer, just to make sure he was still dead. No movement, not even the slightest twitch or lifting of the chest, told Asahi he was safe, at least from one terror.

“How.. who…” Asahi’s voice cracked, made raw by the agonised sobbing. He wanted to ask the boy who he was, how he had gotten inside, if he was working with the murderer, but the words wouldn’t come. What did come, he noticed vaguely, was a fine tremble working its way through his body. He shivered as though he were freezing, drenched to the bone, and then his knees gave out, unable to hold him in the awkward position any longer. Sort of slumping back to sit on his bum in the blood, he stared at the boy for a long moment, his words slowly registering in his befuddled brain.

Call the police, Asahi repeated the order mentally, the thought feeling slow and sticky like molasses. But it finally made sense, and he reached a shaking hand into the bag that was still slung over his shoulder, his fingers closing around the cellphone.

After punching in the number for emergency services, 119, he spoke to the operator, relaying his name and address in a quavering voice. Throughout the call, his eyes never left the face of the only other living person in the room. Once the line went dead and sirens could be heard in the distance, Asahi finally blinked for the first time, discarding the phone on the floor beside him. “Who are you? Why.. why are you here?”


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
As Red stared down at a boy who's knees barely held him. The freshly traumatized child forced to sit in the pooling blood that he seemed to helplessly push away when his attention returned to it. It almost seemed cruel to have saved him. The vengeful ghost took in a steadying breathes not out of necessity but out of the comfort that the rhythm provided. The air would seem to become cold under their influence. Moving through the air over the killer and in the opposite direction of Asahi's family. Wanting to distract the poor boy from the terrible sight.

As the boy called the police and gave all the necessary details, Red nodded to encourage and offered two thumbs up. Not moving too much as to distract the poor boy. Only when he began to ask full questions would the vengeful spirit finally speak again.

"You can call me Red." They spoke in a voice that was that of a child's but smoothed with maturity. "I'm here... Well I'm not really here." Red attempted to start to explain, floating upside down with their hands shown right in front of them. Waving at Asahi as they did a stunt no living man could do without equipment. "I'm a ghost. I was killed by horrible people like him. So now I go about killing those who try to continue doing that... Unfortunately I was a bit late- I only caught on something was wrong when I saw you walking home... I am sorry I couldn't figure it out sooner." Red rambled a bit as guilt possessed their soul. Righting themselves in the air, they lowered to the ground where blood wasn't visible. They knelt to the ground and bowed their head to the floor, in a traditional apology.

"Things will be very difficult. I am sorry." Red almost whimpered. Their otherwise intimidating appearance cracking a bit. Their tiny frame folded up on the ground in apology would seem to fade as several officers stormed the space. Walking right through Red. A mere spirit who clung to this realm with wrathful claws. Some might even think of them as a demonic presence.

The following scene was chaotic and overstimulating, Asahi escorted out in a blanket to cover the blood from being visible from the general public. Not that the general public wouldn't soon know that seven bodies would be taken out of that house and only one would be alive to tell the tale. It was a horrific scene. But it would be the last nightmarish scene that the serial killer nicknamed the Phantom would ever commit. The police relieved to have finally caught the man who had done the same thing to four other families over the span of three years.

Red would reappear by Asahi's side in the ambulance, looking quietly to the attending paramedic. The little ghost protectively following him all the way to the hospital. Staying out of the way as nurses and doctors checked on him. Avoiding eye contact for the most part with Asahi as to not potentially creep him out too much. Sitting with folded legs in the middle of the air. Very slowly spinning amongst it, offering a potentially hypnotic or calming distraction. It was only when some time passed and all the adults skittering about left that Red would finally speak again.

Red muttered quietly, "It will look like you finished what your mother and father started... Self defense against a monster. That's all it was. I might have over done it but you can say you don't remember. You just went into shock and just kept attacking..." Red explained during a quiet moment. A very subtle black smoke rolled off Red as they floated in the air. Pooling a swirling across the floor. The spirit unable to hide the anger that boiled just beneath the surface. Five families. Just one pathetic pin cushion killed five families. Unacceptable. They sighed in frustration and more smoke bellowed from their mask. Not even realizing yet they were making the bedside lamp flicker.


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Asahi had lost his mind.

It was the only reasonable explanation. Police and paramedics filled the house, walking right through the figure who had called itself a ghost. Who had floated in the air, twirling like a ballerina or a figure skater. Who had openly professed to kill murderers as plainly as if reading the morning paper aloud. Who had unnaturally coloured eyes, and who wasn’t .. solid.

Asahi had heard of such things… a person experiencing such deep trauma that their mind conjures visions, delusions, anything to protect itself.

Red wasn’t real.

‘It’s just my imagination,’
Asahi thought to himself for the hundredth time, though his gaze never strayed very far from the floating figure. Not during the ride in the ambulance, not while he was being examined and the nurses and doctors assured themselves that the vast amount of blood covering him, soaking his clothes and long hair, wasn’t actually his. Not when everyone finally left him alone in the private hospital room. Not when Red finally spoke again, coaching Asahi on the safest version of the events that had taken place inside his home.

This seemed to concern the people watching over him. To see the young boy staring, seemingly blankly, at the space several feet above their heads, his eyes at once glossed over and dull, worried them. “Shock,” they all said, whispering to each other and gently patting his shoulder, his leg, his foot. There was talk of bringing in a psychiatrist, medications to help him sleep, social services to figure out what to do with the seventeen year old orphan.

Asahi didn’t pay attention to any of this, unable to focus on much of anything beside the floating figure. Numbly, he nodded his understanding of Red’s words, but he didn’t speak to the supposed ghost. Because if there was one thing he knew about insanity, it was that seeing things was one thing; talking to them was something entirely different. That was a line he wasn’t sure he could cross and come back from. Not yet.

The police came and went. Surprisingly, their line of questioning was brief and extremely polite. Sensitive, even. Asahi wasn’t sure what he had expected, but he supposed that no one wanted to accuse the last remaining Saito of anything. Not when the organisation would be keeping a close eye on them. Nevertheless, Asahi repeated Red’s words quietly, his tone muted in his grief. “Self defence..” The police accepted this, gave their condolences and their respect, and left Asahi to rest.

As if he could.

Guards were posted outside his door, and a nurse came to check on him every fifteen minutes. Throughout the night it was like that. Popping her head four times an hour, a reassuring smile on her face each time. Asahi suspected the guards were to ensure no one hurt him, and the nurse was to ensure he didn’t hurt himself. He didn’t sleep, didn’t dare to close his eyes and face what horrors would be awaiting him in his dreams. Instead, he watched the ghost hovering in the air until the sun finally peaked over the horizon, brightening the room in soft, warm light.

More doctors came and went, more exams, more questions. It was close to lunch when his psychological evaluation took place, and the older woman with kind eyes rubbed the back of his hand, told him to hang in there, and then told the head physician that she was recommending Asahi be put on a 72 hour hold. ‘Just in case.’

He didn’t fight it, because, honestly, he was seeing something that couldn’t possibly be real. So maybe he needed the hold. That same day, he was transferred to a different facility, to a cold room with grey walls and not one lick of furniture, and three days later, somehow not surprisingly, Red was still there.

Asahi didn’t tell anyone. He hadn’t spoken since the hospital, but he also hadn’t shown any signs of being a danger to himself or to others, so they had no choice but to release him.

“You have family coming,” an orderly told him. Asahi couldn’t remember their name, but their words surprised him into lifting a brow. “A sister of your mother’s, I believe,” the orderly went on, checking the info on the clipboard in their hand. “Ah, yes, here it is. Em. Ring any bells?”

Asahi nodded once. He had heard of his aunt, but he had never actually met her. Apparently, she had moved to America when she turned eighteen, and had never looked back. She was officially the only family he had left. Which, he guessed, meant he would likely be moving to the States. Great…

As the orderly left him on the sidewalk outside the facility to wait for Em, Asahi turned toward Red, speaking to the figment of his imagination for the first time since asking it’s name. “You’ll be coming with me, then?”


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
The vengeful spirit had spent just over a hundred years going through the world of the living without ever having real acknowledgment from them. Well, unless they had pissed them off enough to exert that amount of energy to become visible to them for a brief but satisfyingly horrific moment. Yet for the first time in all those lonely and angry years, this kid clearly could see them. They watched those traumatized eyes practically fix to their frame. For the first several hours, Red quietly spun in the corner. Half thinking that in due time this kid would lose the ability to see them. They offered a mostly silent distraction, the smoke that slowly flowed from their mask and at time across various parts of their body depending on the angle they floated in the air. It was with each steady but purposeful breath, that it never filled the room but rather seemed to crawl outwards. Beyond the crack beneath the door and down those sterile halls.

Yet as time passed, Red grew bored of polite nothingness. So they wandered to the edge of the bed, looking at the clipboard with various personal details about Asahi. Spotting how he spelled his name, Red took out their notebook, opened it up to the page marked with a ribbon, and wrote Asahi Saito next to the fresh fingerprint they had collected earlier. Closing it and tucking the notebook with a dull grey brown cover and tiny writing etched along the spine, into his coat jacket. A hint of guilt crawling up their fingertips as they remembered the sound of Asahi calling the names of their three younger siblings. Again and again. And again.

That damn pin cushion. Worthless sack of flesh. Greedy bastard.

If Red had been more thorough they might have been able to write at least three other names beneath their brother's. They sighed and looked to his birthdate... 2004. They floated upwards as the visibly seemed to try and do some mental math. Jolting as he found the answer, looking over at Asahi. "In the coming month or two you'll be older than I ever got while I was alive." They seemed almost impressed and lighthearted. Turning slowly horizontally to look up at the ceiling. "Don't let it get to your head though. I'm still a hundred and sixteen years your senior. Even if you are taller just cause you got to eat more food in your lifetime." They spoke of all that time like they were just cool numbers. As if it didn't hold the weight of a hundred and sixteen long years. Swimming in vengeful rage. Alone.

Not that their attempts to lighten the mood would work much. The mute boy staring with the same look. Leaving Red alone to ponder what in the world could be happening in his head. They were a spirit. Not a mind reader. Let alone a therapist.

So the hours chugged by and Red moved about the room, sometimes listening to the nurses and doctors and the business of everyone in adjacent spaces. Every now and then, looking to see Asahi still staring. They shivered a bit, unused to the feeling of being perceived for so long. "Kid, you are starting to creep me out." They joked but fell silent again as this crowd was tough, freshly traumatized and not ready to laugh about it. They felt exposed when before they could do anything without so much as a complaint. Not that this kid seemed to complain much anyways.

The first day passed by and Red stayed a quiet companion. When people came by requiring more information from Asahi, Red would quietly hide behind the different nurses and doctors as they spoke. "Don't look at me! Look at them! They can help you more right now." Red's eyes smiled as they peaked over an older doctor's shoulder to see if Asahi would do so. That guilt picked at their soul as the day turned into two and the silent boy stayed almost completely shut down. Red always took care to stay out of Asahi's personal space.

Sitting in the window of that cold grey room, Red watched the people in the distant parking lot. "This is new to me too... Usually people just get some goosebumps at most. You got some special powers or something? If you can really see and hear me... I'd like to help you out. I would be a cool new like friend? If that friend were invisible to the world and also had anger issues and also love for knowing what's happening with everyone." Red giggled a bit but came to sigh as they looked over at the ever silent and tired boy.

Those traumatized eyes were weighed down by a darkness in his pale skin. Red was relieved when they prescribed the poor kid sleep medication. If he didn't rest soon things would only get harder to handle. "Kiiid. Can we play a game? It's called close your eyes. Get some sleep... If you don't you'll burn a hole in my jacket from over exposure." They spoke as if they'd known him for some time. Joking and being sarcastic as they slowly floated in various patterns criss cross applesauce holding their own ankles.

When those three days ended, Asahi affirmed that he had a family member. Yet Red seemed surprised seeing that she lived in the U.S., that was far away... Yet again, they had heard there were plenty of killers there. It was a dangerous country. A powerful one. A rich and poor one. Red followed just ahead as they went to the front of the facility to get picked up by this auntie Em.

The vengeful ghost was distracted peaking over another lady's shoulder to see what she was doing on her phone when Asahi turned and asked. Jolting and quickly returning to stand in front of Asahi, they tilted their head. "You want me to come with?!" They floated around so that Asahi could look at them and not look totally crazy. But rather like he was watching for his aunt's car. "I mean, I'd be happy to follow. I've never left Japan. Never had reason to... Although I'd probably find plenty... Things to do..." They paused and pondered the possibility. "You'd have someone who you wouldn't have to explain anything to for them to get it... Starting somewhere new is quite tough too." They seemed to think aloud, already seeming a bit excited by the thought of the journey. "I'm not sure how that'll affect me though. I've only ever traveled around Japan. Would we go on a plane? That would be a first. Those things are bizarre." They began to ramble aloud. Their words a river they didn't seem fully capable of containing. Especially after being stared at for so long and keeping politely silent for at least a solid portion of it.


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Though Asahi hadn’t responded to Red in the first few days, he had filed everything the figment said away, quietly pondering it all. He couldn’t figure out how he’d come up with such a thing, a supposed hundred and thirty-plus year old spirit who liked to crack jokes and dressed like they were living in a post apocalyptic world. He was curious about so many of the finer details, like the smoke that billowed steadily but slowly from the mask, and the colour of their eyes, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask the questions aloud. Just the question of whether or not the delusion would be following him across the globe had been a stretch.

A stretch that he was now realising had opened up a chatterbox. His eyes widened slightly as he listened to the rambling, and it was then that something occurred to him. At that moment, Red reminded him a lot of Tomi. His youngest sibling, little Tomi, had been only eight, but he was Asahi’s biggest fan. The kid would wake him up every Saturday morning, behaving the exact same way Red was behaving now; rambling excitedly about the adventures they’d partake in that day. There were usually trips to the park, chess matches, and anime bingeing involved, and little Tomi’s entire face would be lit up with delight the whole day.

The more he thought about it, Asahi could see Kairi in Red too, in the way he’d attempted to lighten the mood, teasing him and joking in those early days. “Huh…” He mused aloud, as things started to make a little bit of sense. His mind was trying to compensate for the loss of his family, and had conjured this odd mash of his siblings, maybe to keep him from being lonely? Because in spite of all the death and pain he had experienced, he could say for certain that Red’s presence had kept him from that. He didn’t have to be alone.

It was this realisation that made one corner of his mouth quirk up ever so slightly, in a small smile. “A plane, yes,” he confirmed. It was a small sentence, granted, but believing he was speaking to the mental culmination of his brothers and sister, made him more open to the idea that it might be okay to respond.

It was also all he managed before a taxi pulled up to the curb and a short, petite woman emerged. Asahi had never met his aunt, but he recognised her instantly. She had his mother’s soft, round face, kind eyes, and the same dark hair that was beginning to grey at the edges. “Asahi!” The woman cried, her face red and puffy from all the tears she’d cried. She practically hurled herself at the teen, and he reflexively caught her in a hug, the top of her head resting just beneath his chin as she pressed her face into his chest. She held him tightly for a long moment, and though it felt nice, it was also quite shocking, and unnerving to see just how much she looked like his deceased mom. His eyes met those of Red while he hugged his aunt, and he wondered to himself what aspects of his mother he would soon see in the ‘ghost’.

Before long, Em had ushered him into the taxi, speaking a mile a minute. It was difficult to keep up with her, as he still felt quite sluggish, but he managed to mostly listen while she spoke of her home in America, the room she had set up for him, the school he would be attending. “And don’t worry about your things, Asa. One of your father’s men has guaranteed that everything will be sent along as soon as possible. They’re going to get the house cleaned up, and when you’re eighteen, it’ll be yours.. If you want it.”

Asahi frowned slightly at this, turning his gaze toward the taxi window. That was not something he wanted to think about. Ever.

After a few minutes of silence, Em continued to talk, making chit chat with the driver the whole way to the airport. She was a kind, talkative woman, who seemed to make friends everywhere she went. Asahi let her babble on, choosing to stay silent for now. He watched the city he’d grown up in, imagining that he’d probably never come back here. His school, his friends, his childhood home… all of it was left in the rearview mirror, part of a past he was leaving behind forever.

He sighed and closed his eyes for a long moment, fighting the tears that threatened to well in his eyes. When he opened them again, they were red-rimmed, but dry. His focus settled instead on Red, which, surprisingly, had become his only constant. He couldn’t speak to the figment, not now with his aunt so close by, but he let his previous smile return to his lips, soft and affectionate, before turning his gaze to the window once more.


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
Red bobbed slowly up and down as they rambled for a time. As they came to an end though, they were faced with a subtle change in the silent boy in front of them. Tilting their head, was that a sweetness in those traumatized eyes they saw? That tiny smile paired with an affirmative sentence was all Red needed to be in on the adventure. Already they had begun to see themselves in this traumatized boy. A lone wanderer. A kindred spirit not yet just spirited. Someone who knew loss. Red giggled at the sight of the brief smile. "Then it's settled! I'll follow you! Hopefully you don't get too tired of me too quickly. Do say when you are though, I can't read your mind. I'm not used to people perceiving me-" Red became quiet as they saw the taxi pulling up.

The ghost would put a healthy distance between them as this friendly woman who reminded the ghost of Asahi's mother quickly approached. They wondered if it hurt to look at such a familiar face as much as they thought it might. Their dark red eyes strayed away as they embraced. The warmth of that familial affection was something to behold. This woman had traveled across the world just to assure Asahi would be safe with family. Red's figure became subtly less opaque. The world just a bit more visible behind them. Feeling Asahi's gaze, Red looked back over. "You got lucky kid. Really lucky." Red's eyes smiled and they floated over to sit on the roof of the taxi. Attempting to distract themselves from the subtle jealousy crawling across their soul. They supposed that was the big difference between Asahi and them. He had someone to swoop him away from his nightmare.

They pretended to balance on their tiptoes, looking around at the concrete haven from atop the taxi. Out here it seemed that the slow trickle of black smoke from Red spread out to even the visible parking lot. Just a precaution. This kid had enough on his plate for the week. Even if it made them tired they could always find something to invigorate them. A new pin cushion even.

Once their new people settled into the backseat of the taxi, Red settled into the front. Still subtly more sheer than when Asahi had first met them. Looking to the mirror that Asahi was looking into in the seat just behind them. They listened to Em ramble, her more foreign accent slipping now and then after so much time in a foreign land. Yet even as they listened, they watched Asahi. They saw the pain as he seemed to process that a tomorrow here wouldn't come. Not for some time.

Red turned around in their seat to look back at Asahi as he opened reddened eyes. A serious consideration across their face, glancing over at his auntie. The boy needed to know it was okay to cry. But perhaps this moment didn't feel the safest to do so. Red didn't expect though to see another small smile. As if he wasn't on the brink of tears. "Are you trying to reassure me?..." Red sighed out a cloud of scentless smoke. Appearing to rest their head on the shoulder of their seat. "You really are the eldest. Giving little smiles even when everything hurts... It's okay to cry... At this point if you don't, you'll probably just go properly insane... Yet again you have every right to go insane for some time.. " Red spoke with a soft but bluntly matter of fact tone. Realizing a moment later that perhaps the kid thought he was insane. "Ah- Suppose you wouldn't care much... You are looking at a vengeful spirit after all... I wonder if it is just me you can see..." They turned their head to the outside world beyond the cab.

The city streets were busy and bustling as they always were. Another tomorrow had come for all of them. But when someone experienced something as brutal as Asahi had. Things would be more stagnant. It's as though they were the only still ones in a river of busy people. It all had a way of fading into background noise. Red focused on trying to spot the ghosts in the crowd. Some were weak and hard to fully see. Some more subtle. Others more bloody. Those ones were often from car crashes. Red spotted an old man waiting to cross the road. The people waiting with him visible through his pajamas. "You see Mr. Pajamas? He died in his sleep. He'll pass over when he gets tired again." Red pointed and their bandaged finger followed the figure until they had passed that intersection.

As the world of the undead and unready was pointed out by the spirit. It was as though Red had gone in with a highlighter and suddenly the world became a bit more bizarre. Red seemed to be a spirit who when compared to other ghosts wasn't quite like them. Their eyes had a red pigment that wouldn't be found in any ole' ghost, and those ghosts didn't seem to sigh smoke. "Can you see them now? They wander about without anyone ever seeing them. Usually trying to reassure themselves before they pass on." They watched to see if there was any change in the boy's expression. Trying to gage whether he was capable of just seeing powerful spirits like Red or if he could see the average ghost too.


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A puzzled frown crossed Asahi’s face as he followed Red’s line of direction, and he blinked several times at the vaguely transparent old man in pyjamas. As if blinking would clear the delusion, but the old man remained, and Asahi followed him with his eyes, turning in his seat as the taxi passed by so he could watch him cross the busy street with the other pedestrians.

Now that he was paying attention, he realised there were others like the old man; people that seemed to have varying degrees of visibility. He could see through some as those they were mere wisps of smoke, others held a lighter transparency that he had to squint to really notice. Yet all of them seemed… lost. Alone. Sad. As if they were the only beings left on the planet.

Asahi felt his stomach lurch and he turned to sit straight in his seat, breathing in slowly through his nose. Em didn’t notice the way the colour drained from his face, so engaged in her conversation with the driver. A humming filled Asa’s head, like a swarm of bees had settled behind his eyes, and a dark realisation overcame him. He was insane, slowly but surely losing his mind. For what other reason would he suddenly be seeing people that looked see-through?? It made sense to tell himself that the presence of Red was a coping mechanism, but the others? The only possible explanation was a terrifying one, and he didn’t know how to deal with it.

It was then that he saw a small girl crossing the intersection ahead of them. She held the hand of her mother, a woman appearing to be talking on the phone, not paying attention to the cars coming through her. Like the other oddities he had seen, these two had a vague transparency about them, as if the edges of their figures weren’t quite solid. As he watched in terror, the taxi moved directly toward them, not held up by red lights or crosswalk signals. A yelp of panic erupted from his throat just as the taxi made contact with the mother and child, startling his aunt and the driver, but there was no sound of impact - no thud, no screams of pain, no screeching of tires. No, the taxi had barreled right through the little family as though they weren’t there at all. Whipping his head around, he caught sight of the two females behind them, still walking across the street without interruption. They glanced his way, both smiling, and the little girl lifted her hand in a wave.

Asahi groaned, sinking into his seat. A wave of nausea passed over him and he bent forward to rest his forehead against his knees. “Oh god, what is happening to me?” He moaned out the words pitifully, and Em, not realising what was happening, sighed softly and rubbed his back soothingly.

“It’s okay, Asa. You’ll see… it’s all going to be okay.” She encouraged the driver to continue, promising him her nephew wasn’t going to be sick in his taxi. “He’s just a little nervous about leaving,” she assured the man.

Asahi lifted his head slowly, fighting the weight of his self-diagnosis of insanity. It felt like his pile of bricks on his shoulders, a bowling ball in his head. He looked to Red, terror and desperation in his eyes. He couldn’t speak to the delusion aloud, not unless he wanted the taxi to turn around and drive him straight back to the mental health facility, but there was a pleading in his gaze, as if he could beg the masked figure to make this not be true.

A short time later, the taxi dropped them off at the airport. It didn’t take too long to get checked in, and then Em got Asahi situated in the waiting area, patting his shoulder lovingly. “Stay here.. Rest a moment. I’ll go find you something to eat.” She bustled off then, leaving him in the mostly deserted area, as they were quite early for their flight. It gave him a moment to look at Red without prying eyes, and he sighed softly, muttering, “I really am losing it, aren’t I?”


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
Red watched the young man discover the world around him once more. The terror he displayed only natural. If a child born blind discovered that thunder and lightning came from massive floating collections of water just waiting to fall... They would be frightened too. It was scary to discover more and more about the world. Ignorance wasn't called bliss for no reason. The vengeful ghost watched the boy fold under the pressure after letting out such a yelp. "Ah- I'll try to remember to tell you when there is a ghost like that so you can close or avert your eyes. They can be quite frightening." They acknowledged with a quiet consideration. Remaining quiet for the remaining car ride. A bit of guilt building up in their palms.

Red would follow Asahi, taking care to keep a comfortable distance and not cramp him. Staying in his sight so that they were easy to be checked on. Watching auntie disappear off into the crowd they floated with criss cross legs just above the ground a bit in front of Asahi. The spirit tilted his head up at the anxious creature before him. "I wouldn't call you insane... That tends to run in family lines. So if your parents or grandparents went insane then yes, that would make sense... But no, this isn't insanity. Insanity would mean it is all in your head. What you see is all outside of it." Red clarified matter of factly.

"I can prove it again and again. After all, if this was all in your brain, I would only know things you know right? Here I'll go see what auntie is buying. I'll come back before she does and tell you. Stay here." They jumped up, let out a big breath of smog that pooled around Asahi with a radius of nearly ten feet before rushing off after where they saw Auntie leave and the food court they passed was. Flying above the crowd Red looked around until he caught sight of Auntie, and her signature purse. Standing beside her in line as she picked out some onigiri with tuna inside, water and mochi.

As she was checking out they went to return to their gate, proudly walking on over imitating a waiter. "Sir, it seems on the menu today is some simple comfort foods. Onigiri with tuna inside, and mochi in a variety pack, and some water to wash it down." The masked spirit smiled with their eyes before sitting back on the ground in front of Asahi. "I miss anything?" Looking around to the sparing few who sat nearby. "I just gotta know..." Red commented to themselves before floating over to the strangers. Peering over an middle aged woman's book, her back facing the wall. Seeing the content of her book Red giggled with harmless amusement before rushing over to an old man in a wheelchair. Looking to see his name and age before staring at his face to memorize it before he rushed back over to Asahi. "That lady is reading smut! In public! So thrilling." They giggled again. None of the lights seeming to flicker.

Red looked over to see auntie nearing, "Remember, tuna onigiri, variety mochi and water." They winked at Asahi, quite pleased with themselves and their plan to convince the boy that he was not infact insane. But he did live in an insane world which he could now see a bit clearer. Just as Red had predicted the woman offered Asahi a bottled water, onigiri labeled to have tuna inside, and a variety package of mochi. "Enjoy!" Red chimed happily even after Auntie walked right through them.


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Asahi was stunned to see his aunt return with a tray of food, the items the exact same as those the delusion had predicted. He sat with it on his lap, staring down at it in confusion for several minutes, mentally trying to work out just how that was possible… but coming up with absolutely nothing.


The teen looked up from the tray, blinking at his aunt. She looked at him with concern, her features worn with the grief of losing her sister and taking on the responsibility of a practically grown child. “Eat,” she encouraged, her tone soft and reassuring. “You’ll feel better with a full stomach, I promise.”

He nodded and returned his gaze to the food, still puzzled over Red’s on-point prediction. He was puzzling over a lot actually, and most of it had to do with Red. Like, the smog that emanated from the mask covering the lower part of his face. It had settled all around him in a cloud of sorts when Red had gone off after Em, though no one but Asahi seemed capable of seeing it. A few random people had passed through it without conflict, not even noticing the way it kicked up lightly with the motion, like smoke from a flame. Asahi had gingerly reached out toward it, half expecting it to burn or wound him in some way, but nothing nefarious occurred. In fact, oddly, he felt safer with the dark smoke encompassing him, like it was somehow protecting him. From what, he couldn’t say, but he did wonder about it. He knew that as soon as he had a moment alone with Red, there would be an onslaught of questions. Because, if he was being honest with himself, he was less and less sure that Red was a delusion or a culmination of memories of his deceased siblings.

Deciding it might be better to put his confusing thoughts to the side for the time being, he relented, giving in to his aunt’s persistent gaze. First, picking up the bottle of water, he allowed the cool, refreshing liquid to pour down the back of his throat. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d had anything to drink. It was in the facility, most likely, but that felt like a blur, figments from another life, even though he had just been there that very same morning. The water seemed to revive him some, and he relaxed in his seat, eating the meal Em had bought for him. This clearly pleased her, evident by the bright, wide smile she gave him. He couldn’t help but chuckle a little, a soft sound bubbling up from the back of his throat that made her eyes instantly widen and tear up with relief.

“Ah..” Embarrassed, Asahi reached a hand out to awkwardly pat her shoulder. “I’m okay, Aunt Em. You don’t have to worry so much about me.”

This made the poor woman absolutely burst into tears, shocking Asahi into a wide-eyed expression, his face turning pink. Setting his empty tray to the side, he gave her a hug, holding the smaller woman while she trembled and shook in her sobs. He rubbed her back for a long while until her tears subsided, and she pulled back, wiping her face with her hands. “Oh my, look at the mess I’ve made,” she said in self-admonishment, picking up her purse. “I’ll be right back, dear. Just going to clean up a bit.”

With that, she stood and made her way to the restrooms, leaving Asahi once more with his newfound companion. He looked at Red for a moment, then chuckled softly, guilt showing in his features. “I think she’s taking this even harder than I am, huh? I wonder if she’s also seeing things…” It was somewhat of a joke, but not a very good one, and Asahi winced slightly.

“Why am I seeing you?” He asked, his puzzlement still showing in the wrinkle between his brows. “It’s because of the shock, right? My family was killed and then that guy…” He blinked then, a wave of realisation washing over him. “Wait… you did that, didn’t you? Was it.. you through me? Or.. me through you?” He was beginning to confuse himself, and he shook his head slightly. "Or.. just.. you?"


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
The vengeful ghost restrained their yearning to pry and sneak glances at strangers. It was quite a challenge to the child spirit. After all, all they had done in the last hundred or so years was stick their nose where it didn't belong. Though they supposed that was what they were doing even now. At least they had the excuse that this kid could see them. Like properly. Without any wavering issues or real resistance. Red stretched out their arms and legs before laying on the ground. Half submerged in their own protective smoke. Staring up, each time they breathed a stream of smoke bellowed up into the air before falling back down onto their masked features.

They'd prop themselves up slightly as Auntie started balling but upon seeing Asahi hug the poor woman they laid back down. Looking up at Asahi as he spoke to them. Impressed by the liveliness that had come to the boy to even make him want to try to joke. "Ah, no, she would have freaked out at the sight of me... You are both dealing with it in your own ways. Does she have children of her own? She may be a bit awkward but good natured in her efforts to care for you if she doesn't." They reasoned as they relaxed just a step or two from Asahi's feet. Reaching their arms back to rest their head on them.

But as the vengeful spirit saw that these questions wouldn't be stopping, they sat up and face Asahi with a proud gleam in their smiling red eyes. Giggling as it seemed this boy hadn't been just an empty shell all this time but rather had been thinking things over a good deal. How promising. They tilted their head as Asahi came to that final question they nodded once. "Bingo! That was all me! In fact that is the main reason why this ghosty ain't goin anywhere! No bright light at the end of the tunnel. Just vengeance. And enough of it to keep an old soul like me around for centuries longer!" They seemed so childish in that moment, swaying in their sitting place as they spoke. Seeming to find such joy in an eternity of revenge. Even if it meant they'd be alone the majority of that time.

Red giggled and shrugged, "Although going back to it... I'm not entirely sure why you can see me. Normally people see me when I've got a lot of energy and I want them to know fear." Red grew a bit dark as they spoke that last sentence, for dramatic effect. Red glanced back up at Asahi, grinning through his eyes. "But you see me as I am! You see my mask, my hoodie, these sweet cargo pants, my fluffy red socks??" They motioned to each item with enthusiasm. Their eyes eagerly staring up at him to get confirmation.

Pointing up as if to motion a light bulb lighting up, Red floated up a bit. "Here is a thought, I've seen people experience near death situations. Lot of trauma and adrenaline and a need to survive. And sometimes... Just sometimes, people come out of it with new found powers. You might be able to see spirits and such because of that. It's rare but not impossible. Once this awful guy, was on the brink of death and suddenly he was a pyro! Fire everywhere! That was messy but he didn't realize that fire doesn't do much but add dramatics when you are being attacked by a ghost." Red snickered mischievously.


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Asahi nodded a little numbly as Red asked if he could see the different articles of clothing. “Yes, I see it all,” he confirmed, making a vague hand gesture around his mouth to imply he could see the smoke as well. It seemed more and more that Red truly wasn’t a delusion, that he hadn’t actually lost his mind, but that… even more impossibly, he had suddenly developed an ability to see.. What?

“Ghost… you’re saying you’re a ghost then?” He asked, feeling a bit foolish even as the words escaped his lips. “And that you’ve been around for-” he paused to think back to the first night he’d seen Red, in the hospital, “a hundred and sixteen years?”

The words felt insane, but yet, as he spoke them, they somehow seemed to make a bit more sense than the alternative. He’d never taken himself to be the kind of person that would lose his mind, not even in a tragic, horrific situation like the one he currently found himself in. Sure, he was shy, quiet, and reserved, and didn’t have many friends or much of a social life, but he had an inner strength that not even he could deny. He had to, being the son of his father, who really was a good man but who had refused to let his children be weak.

“And, so,” he went on a moment later, “I’m the first person to see you in all this time - except the people you’re about to kill - and because of that, you’re just kind of.. Sticking around? Are you meant to be my guardian angel or something? Guardian.. Ghost?” His brows quirked up at this, a spark of humour flickering to life in his dark gaze. Suddenly, it was all a little funny to him, and he laughed aloud, shaking his head. “Wow.. either I actually am insane, or there is a lot that people don’t know about the world…”

Something occurred to him then, and he looked at Red curiously. “Are you going to be alright following me all the way to America? I mean, don’t you have, like, ghost.. friends, or something? Other spirits around here that might miss you?”


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
Red grinned through his unnatural eyes as Asahi motioned to the smoke they breathed out. "Oh my, you can see that too?? That's helpful to know. That is just my way of keeping things calmer for you. Think of me like a big ole incense." The child reasoned to keep the boy settled. He didn't yet know about the beasts and if Red could help it, they wanted it to stay that way until he was at least somewhat settled with the idea of seeing dead people.

Red crossed their legs as they floated just a few inches off the ground in front of Asahi. "Well, maybe not ghost. Ghosts are tied to places and don't tend to be capable of a lot of thinking or reasoning outside of whatever is keeping them to a spot or person. A vengeful spirit might be more suitable? I am much stronger than your average ghost. Not to brag or anything... I've just never seen a ghost do what I can." Red explained. Hearing Asahi had been listening before and had remembered how long Red had been around they gave a little happy wiggle. "Sounds about right! I died in 1905."

Red giggled at the thought of them being a guardian angel ghost. Floating backwards and righting themselves as they laughed. "Woah! Your sense of humor survived! That's a great sign. You'll do well in life." Red beamed before shaking their head. "But yeah, I guess I could be considered that. I mean if you were basically invisible to the world for a century, you'd want to stick around a decent someone who could see you, wouldn't you?" Red left out the fact that they were riddled with guilt having been unable to save his family. It infected their hands and riled up their forearms. Guilt wasn't the best for a soul.

Red giggled and nodded, "Humans have a lot to learn. Some have pieces figured out but they are usually outcasted and considered insane and paranoid. Some have pieces correct but take it and make it out to be something else." The vengeful spirit shrugged, it was a consistent pattern humans had. The masses usually didn't listen to the few who dedicated themselves to understanding anyways.

Red shrugged again at the questions about their social life. "It'll be tiresome I'm sure but I should be okay. I've got a lot of energy right now..." They paused, considering the other questions and half wanted to avoid them. "I... Don't usually like to do the whole friends thing with ghosts... They come and go quickly. It takes a lot to hold onto this realm afterall. Plus their attention is usually focused on whatever is keeping them there from their life. Hard to make friends in the in-between, ya know? Plus not like anyone living remembers me.. Except for you! That's weird to think." Red became a little quieter as they rambled on about the reality of their lonely existence without directly admitting about their loneliness. Although they seemed to become a bit excited by the realization that they did have one person to remember them now.


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Asahi took everything Red said into consideration, his expression thoughtful and unendingly curious as he watched the so-called vengeful spirit. For someone so vengeful, Red seemed rather… chipper. Asahi felt a slow smile stretching across his lips as he listened to the spirit giggle a few different times. It was a nice sound, so gentle and somehow familiar, but at once new and exciting in a way that made him want to hear it again and again.

Of course, he had a hundred more questions, and comments about the explanations Red had already given, but the little waiting area at the gate was beginning to fill up with people also awaiting their flight, so he had to be careful. He was the only one who could actually see Red, after all, and it didn’t take a genius to realise people would freak right out if they saw a random person talking to himself in the middle of an airport.

The last words he allowed to pass his lips were a quiet admission, one that was little more than a murmur. “I thought I had made you up. That you were… memories… of my brothers and sister.” The words were spoken softly, and though Asahi was still smiling, there was a deep sadness in his tone, as the loss of his family was still very fresh and speaking about them hurt more than he was able to express. Before he could offer more, not that he would have even if given the chance, his aunt returned to his side, fresh-faced and smiling as if nothing had happened.

“Oh!” she exclaimed enthusiastically as she noticed the people filling up the hard, plastic seats. Checking her watch, she nodded her confirmation, then beamed at Asahi. “It looks like it’s just about time to board. Don’t worry, Asa, we’ll be home soon enough.”

The words wounded him, as it was his home he was leaving behind, not moving toward, but he didn’t want to see the poor woman fall to pieces again, so he just smiled at her and nodded. “I know, Aunt Em… thank you.”

He allowed her to chatter happily then, nodding along at all the right places as she described their new home, a little two bedroom apartment above a bookstore she owned. She talked of her pets, two cats named Akemi and Daiki, explaining that they were the equivalent of the children she’d never been able to have. Her husband, the original owner of the bookstore, had died in an accident nearly a decade earlier, and she had been on her own ever since. Asahi quietly wondered why she’d never returned to Japan, especially after losing her love, but he didn’t dare ask, fearing it would set her off again. He listened to her talk about her book club and her knitting circle, and her favourite restaurant that she ate at every Friday night, until at long last they had boarded the plane and were seated comfortably in a row made for three people but was occupied by only the two of them.

Neither wanted the window seat, being none too fond of heights, and Em took the aisle seat, so Asahi could rest if he wanted to. That left the third seat available for Red, a pleasant surprise for Asahi since he couldn’t imagine Red would be too comfortable sitting on the ceiling of the plane for fifteen hours, spirit or not. As the massive machine began its ascent, Em popped a pair of earbuds in, focusing her attention on the little screen before her where a movie was just beginning. This gave Asahi the chance to check on Red, casting a sidelong glance in his direction. To anyone looking his way, it would merely seem like he was glancing out the window at the world below, but his attention was focused on Red and nothing else.

“Are you doing okay?” He asked quietly, barely moving his lips so the question wouldn’t be perceived by Em or anyone else who happened to look their way.


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
The faint glimmers of pleasantry that still occasionally showed themselves across Asahi's features was reassuring. Despite all the pain this boy had gone through his soul was still pleasant in it's energy at times. Even if this kid didn't know it now, he was incredibly strong. Red grinned happily in return to that smile of his. Even when hidden behind a morbid mask, their eyes glinted and squinted showing a part of their smile none the less.

Their expression became considerate as they heard Asahi admit such a thing. Squeezing their hands together in their own lap. "I hope I don't remind you of them in a painful way... Sorry to disappoint... I'm just me. Nobody's brother or sister nowadays. Just a wanderer." Red responded quietly, looking down at the ground before back up at Asahi. "You didn't make me up. I assure you you aren't crazy. I'd tell you if you were, I don't like tricking people. Unless they are nasty and deserve it... But you seem halfway decent all things considering. So I'll be super upfront if you ever seem crazy. I promise you that much..." Red rambled on before Auntie caught their attention.

Red was practically enthralled by the woman as she spoke of her simple life. "I wonder if her kitties will like me.. It always seems to be a fifty, fifty chance with cats. They tend to be so shy." They floated in front of Auntie and behind her at times. Half encouraging Asahi to look her way if he wanted to look at their floating image. "She deals well with grief. She's got a good little life. Simple and nice. Wonder how she will adjust to having you around. I bet she will really like the company. Seems the type to act like everything is okay but really in quiet moments, the loneliness creeps in." Red spoke softly, their voice not one of mockery or harshness but of empathy. With a consideration far more mature than their scrawny frame gave them credit for.

Getting on the plane Red was curious as they floated just above the heads of passengers. "These things look so big from the outside yet it is so crowded in here." They eventually settled in the window seat. Practically gluing themselves to the window looking down at the workers below. Then the runway below, and eventually the city below.

Red had expected it to be difficult to manage, they could easily keep up with cars. Just floating fast enough to stay within. But this was a whole other ball park. The small spirit visibly flickered and jolted back and forth in the seat. Afterall, they had to keep up going five hundred miles per hour for the first time. It wasn't like they could just sit down and go along for the ride like a normal passenger. They phased through solid objects. When Asahi asked they turned to look over at them. Double and triple images of the spirit appeared as they struggled to maintain themselves. "This is hard. Can... Can I... Can I attach myself to you properly? Like a pinky promise." They held up a bandaged pinky finger and moved it towards Asahi's hand. "It'll feel like goosebumps going up your arms. You might feel more of my presence than usual. Might feel really cold. Might feel angry. It causes a range of things depending on the person. I will cut the connection once we have landed." They asked properly for permission. "I just need an anchor. Else I'm gonna run out of steam here really quickly." They mumbled, already seeming to become more and more see through slowly but surely.


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Asahi knew very little about the world of the supernatural. Of course, all children grew up with fear of the boogeyman, stories of unknown creatures that lived in the shadows, weariness of unidentified sounds in the dark. But Asahi had never put much stock in those things before now. He had no idea of how this new world, full of mystery and confusion, worked. So, of course, he couldn’t immediately understand why Red was flickering, like a lightbulb about to burn out. It didn’t occur to him that Red couldn’t just be, that the spirit had to work to stay at his side in a plane that was going much faster than a car or bus ever could.

“Oh… oh!” Asahi muttered as realisation dawned on him, and he nodded without hesitation. “Of course, of course.”

Casting a quick glance at his aunt, he noticed the woman was still deeply immersed in her movie, some romantic comedy that he didn’t recognise. Going unnoticed by the other passengers around them, Asahi reached his hand out to Red, keeping it low enough that no one would see him randomly holding his pinkie in the seemingly empty air.

As Red encircled his pinkie with their own, Asahi had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from gasping aloud. Even with Red’s explanation well in mind, he could never have fully prepared himself for the sensation of actually touching a spirit. Strangely, it felt as if he had dipped his pinkie finger into a bucket of ice cold water. The sensation spread up his arm, like trickling water, and he shivered visibly, but thankfully didn’t draw the attention of Em. “Whoa,” he half-whispered, half-sighed in a dazed sort of way, as the odd sensation really took him out of himself for a moment. Still, he didn’t dare release Red’s pinkie, as his momentary discomfort wasn’t great enough that he was willing to let Red go hurtling off into the sky, or whatever would happen if they weren’t able to stay within the confines of the plane.

As he adjusted to the feeling, the cold subsided somewhat, and he felt his muscles relax a bit. “There… that’s better.” Looking over at Red, he was happy to see the peculiar flickering had also stopped and that Red looked just as human and whole as any other person on the plane, at least to his eyes. “That helped, didn’t it? You’re feeling better now?”


What happens when you don't clean your hair brush
As Asahi was so eager to help them they found themselves a bit overwhelmed. Overwhelmed not in the way they usually found themselves though. Brought to destruction from the sheer amount of rage that boiled over but rather a gentle happiness. It was the first time in a very long time anyone had willingly helped them. As Red held onto Asahi's pinky, tears welled in their bright red eyes. Able to stabilize themselves they tucked their legs up to their chest and pulled their hoodie over their legs.

"Much better, thank you Asahi." They smiled up at him and a tear fell. The waves of emotion likely all too easily felt as they sat connected. Ripples of warmth beneath the cold that their presence usually held. As they sat there, they became quiet. Looking back to the window as they sat in quiet contemplation. Unsure and unused to the feeling of actually sitting beside someone who willingly and knowingly sat beside them too. It was awkward at times yet peaceful all at once.

The lonely nature of the spirit very likely becoming more and more apparent to the young man. It was a loneliness that Asahi would become all to aware of in himself without his family. It was painful, it leeched off one's soul and brought them closer and closer to the end. To madness even. Although Red had said they could get by existing as they had for centuries longer, that didn't seem entirely true. Or at least. The Red that sat there now with at least a semblance of what and who they once were in a time long behind them, wouldn't survive centuries longer. They would twist and become jaded beyond recognition by their own wrath. Perhaps becoming no more than those horrific emotions and the destruction they craved so desperately.

Yet in the hours that passed above the clouds and the two kindred spirits sat together, connected with the smallest of gestures, they seemed at peace. Happy to just be.

When they finally landed, Red gently let go of Asahi's finger. Clapping their hands together a few times, "We did it!" They giggled before sticking their head out of the plane window to watch the plane pull up to the gate. Turning back around they grinned, "This is so cool! I never thought I'd actually visit this place. I wonder if Americans are as dangerous as the rumors say." They grinned behind their mask and followed Asahi out the plane. "Oh! You know I was thinking about it, and you should get an earpiece or earbud, or whatever those things are called where you can talk on the phone through them. Only instead you can use them to speak to me a bit easier and people won't give you a second glance." They chattered, their excitement hard to contain.

With that the two began the final stretch of their journey.


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The loneliness and despair that resonated from Red and into Asahi, seemed to settle into every nook and cranny of his very tired heart. The despair he was familiar with, but the loneliness? That was unfamiliar for him. Because no matter how different he was from the other students, or his family, he had never been lonely a day in his life. And Red’s loneliness, it was so much worse than a single day. Asahi could feel it - this lifelong pain that extended further than even his own life had. How Red had lived with it, day in and day out, Asahi couldn’t fathom. It made him look at the spirit differently, as he realised that perhaps Red needed him just as much as he needed Red.

That thought alone allowed him to slip into a comfortable silence for the remainder of the flight. It was long, and tedious, and cramped after awhile, but Em eventually fell asleep, and even Asahi was able to doze here and there, though he never released his grip on Red’s pinkie.

As the plane made its descent, Asahi felt just as relieved and excited as Red did, and the teen’s shoulders visibly relaxed. Some part of him, far in the back of his mind, had been worried that even with the point of contact, Red would hurtle off into the air and they would both be left alone. He allowed a smile to stretch across his lips, a true and genuinely warm smile that his aunt caught sight of as they exited the plan and made their way through the terminal.

“I know, I’m happy too. It was a long flight, wasn’t it?” She asked, yawning and stretching. There was no baggage to collect, since Asahi’s things would be sent later, once the house was cleaned of the very ugly crime scene. And the poor boy was still wearing the outfit he’d let the mental health facility in, a pair of plain, grey sweats. His whole life was in Em’s hands, and he followed her quietly through the unfamiliar airport until they were outside and in yet another taxi.

He had never been to America, so his attention was pulled from both Red and Em, focusing on the scenery outside, completely foreign from everything he’d ever known. A quiet resignation settled over him, which lingered even after they’d pulled up to the little bookstore and the apartment above it. Em guided him, and unknowingly, Red, through the store and up the stairs that led to their new home, gave them a tour, and then at last showed them to Asahi’s new room. It was bare, clearly a guest room with just a small twin bed in one corner and an empty desk in the other. Em chattered on warmly about decorating, bringing his books and his instrument, and Asahi nodded, allowing this to go on for a good long while until he feigned a stretch and a yawn of his own.

“Oh, dear boy,” Em said sympathetically, cupping his cheek in her hand. “Why don’t you get a nap, hm? I’ll come fetch you once dinner is ready.”

Asahi thanked her and when she was just about to leave, he remembered Red’s earlier words about earbuds. Red was right - he needed to be able to talk a bit more freely than he could now - which was not at all. “Oh, Em? When my stuff gets sent, can you make sure they pack my phone and airpods? I think it would really help… the music, and I’d like to still be able to keep in touch with Aiko and Akira.”

“Of course!” She exclaimed, relieved that he was actually making his needs known. “If you think of anything else, don’t hesitate for a second.” Lifting up, she kissed his cheek affectionately, and then bustled away toward the kitchen.

Quietly, Asahi shut the door and then moved to sink on the bed. He was exhausted to his bones, but finally, finally, he and Red were alone. “Thank goodness,” he muttered to himself and then looked toward Red. “At least she’s good at filling the silence.. And she’s nice.” His brows lifted then, curiosity and a touch of concern sparking in his features. “How are you? Is it weird… being away from home?”

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