Chapter Eight: Predator Rising:

December 23rd, 1950.

She stood off to the side in the snow. Her twin sister, Juriko, skated gracefully on the ice. Her twin stared on bitterly. Everyone always focused on Juriko. She had it all: looks, charm, grace, brains, and a strong sense of independence. However, her sister knew otherwise. Juriko could be as cold as the snow that almost came on their birthday every year. The twin knew because they were just like their mother and the rest of the Eda clan—sweet and upbeat to the world, but cruel and cold in reality.

Despite it being a cold birthday, Juriko’s sister was burning hot with envy. Too many years she had been ignored, sixteen too many to be exact. The girl glared on at her twin. Juriko looked like an ideal winter princess. The weak winter sun gently kissed and caressed her long flowing midnight blue hair. The boys from down the street came to gawk at this dark angel as she skated around on the ice she wished so badly for her birthday today.

Sure, the twin looked just as beautiful as her sister, but did anyone ever notice? No, it was always about Juriko! Her sister saw her as a burden in her life. Many she killed Juriko in her head. In fact, the twin was having another death vision about her sister right now. She sneered at her current thought.

It would be funny if the ice were to give way and break under her!, the twin thought at her highest bitter point.

Then suddenly for no reason at all, the ice cracked and broke under Juriko’s feet. She fell right into the icy black water below. The boys all ran forward to save her as she screamed out in terror..

“Help!” Juriko cried as she tried to keep her head above. “Water… too cold! Can’t swim here! Help! Help! Help me!” Two boys ran home to get rescue. Throughout the chaos, Juriko’s twin just stood off in the distance. Her face was drained of any emotion. The girl just watched on as her twin sister was drowning in the black icy cold water.

By the time the adults could pull her out, she had already drowned with hypothermia. Eda Juriko was only sixteen on her birthday.

May 8th, 2009.

“YOU LET HER LIVE?!?” she shirked, “YOU IDIOT!” She had a fifty-six year old man levitating off of ground with her powers as she choked him telepathically. The man struggled and gasped for air.

“But mama!” he choked. “I did kill Anna like you said. I strangled her with wire until she went blue in the face. I even threw the body out the window to make sure she died! I went down and burned our mark into her wrists as you told us to! I did everything you told me! I swear! I swear!” She glared at him crossly.

“THEN WHY THE HELL IS SHE STILL ALIVE?!?” the old woman screeched. She tightened her grip around her son’s throat. The old man gasped for air as he tried to break away from her grip.

“I don’t know!” he forced out. “She must have been resurrected or something! I killed her, I swear! I’m not lying!” The old woman’s face changed as she dropped her son right on the hard tatami floor. He landed with a crash. The man sat on all fours gasping for air. His two younger brothers watched on with big, panicked eyes. Their mother had the temper of a raging bull at times. She had scared and tortured them into submission over the years. That act a few seconds ago was rather tame compared to what she did to them in the past. Coupled with her years of witchcraft, that woman was a ticking time bomb waiting to blow! She turned around to her boys, thinking.

“This changes everything then,” she said. She looked at her three remaining sons. They looked at her confused.

“What do you mean?” the youngest asked. She didn’t answer, but she knew. Anna being alive again meant only one thing.

He’s back again!, she thought. The woman smirked at that revelation. Her boys watched on nervously. She was plotting something; they could tell.

“Mama,” the middle child said. “What are you up to?” The old woman walked over to the window. She picked a handful of ashes from the old fireplace along the way and chanted over them. The woman opened her eyes and blew on them. They formed into a Hell butterfly. She smirked at her latest creation.

“Go out and seek Anna!” she commanded. “Report back to me as soon as you find her!” The butterfly fluttered away into the night. The woman watched as it did so. She turned back to her boys who were staring on in wonder. She smiled at them kindly.

“Go home to your wives and children,” the woman ordered, “I’ll take it from there tonight!” They still stared at her. The old lady frowned at her sons.

“Go on!” she snapped, “Go home! I’m sick of seeing your faces tonight! Go on, shoo!” The sons left as fast as they could. She watched them run away, still frowning. Once they were gone, the woman turned back to the window. She sneered as she looked out onto the night.

You won’t cheat death this time, Anna!, she thought, I will kill you, with all of my being!

Meanwhile at a bath house, Kato sensed her again.

She’s going to kill Malchik!, he thought in alarm. He knew how far she would go to kill anyone she hated. Kato had always known since that morning in 1950. He always believed that she caused the ice to break under Juriko’s feet that day. He knew, but never told anyone. He didn’t have any proof and the whole thing was dismissed as a tragic accident. If she could get away with murdering her own twin sister, Anna’s second death would be ten times worse. Kato came to a decision right there.

I have to warn Malchik!, he thought. The man quickly leapt out of the bath, put on his robe, and hurried to the locker room.

At the hotel bar, Tsuzuki noticed someone standing next to him. He looked up and saw Anna standing over him.

“Oh, how did you find me here?” he asked slightly surprised.

“Hisoka begrudgingly told me you would probably be down here,” she replied, “I don’t think he’s too fond of me.”

“Probably not,” the older Shinigami said, nodding.

“Is this seat taken?” Anna asked. Tsuzuki smiled as he shook his head.

“No,” the Shinigami said rather upbeat. Anna smiled at him warmly.

“Thanks,” she said. The woman sat down next to the man. She ordered a cherry soda. Tsuzuki watched her with a smile on his face. Finally, it’s just a normal person to talk to for a change. Anna got her soda and took a drink. She turned to the Shinigami, looking happy.

“Oh dear,” Anna broke the silence with, “What a mess this has all turned into!” Tsuzuki looked up at her on that comment.

“Hm?” he asked. She gave him a little shrug.

“I mean,” the woman went on. “I’m supposed to be dead, my friends are here looking for me, someone’s bought my house this morning, and my killer could come back and attack me once they realize I’m alive again.” Tsuzuki looked on at her in new interest.

“Hisoka-kun told you everything?” he asked.

“Yeah, she said with a now, “Loud and clear to no end!” What could they say? Hisoka did have a point there. Tsuzuki screwed up BIG time on this one. Konoe and even all of Ju-Oh-Cho wouldn’t let him live it down any time soon. Tsuzuki stared deep into Anna’s rich greenish-brown eyes.

“So, what do you want to do?” he asked. Anna thought about that as she looked down at her soda. The obvious answer would be to balance everything out until she had a stable plan. The woman would have to make it work even with time against her. She lightly took hold of his hand. Tsuzuki stared at her.

“Kimoto-san…” he murmured.

“My fate is up to you,” the woman said as she built up her confidence with each word, “If you want to end this now, I’m fine with it. My life’s yours to deal with in the end.” Anna turned and looked up him with anxiety in her eyes. Tsuzuki didn’t say a word. She sounded dead serious here. He tried to piece her offer together in his head. She basically told him that he was her savior or executioner.

Without thinking, he reached a rash answer. Tsuzuki embraced Anna’s hands as well.

“Well then, I’ll let you live until we can find out who killed you and your father!” he declared. Anna looked genuinely surprised as her jaw slowly dropped.

“Y-You mean it?” she asked. “You would actually do that?”

“It’s like you said,” Tsuzuki answered, “Your life is in my hands. So, I will do my best to keep you safe until we find the truth!” Anna’s heart raced.

“I thank you, Tsuzuki!” she breathed out as she bowed her head. The Shinigami smiled at her kindly.

“It’s nothing,” he said. The man and woman let go of each others’ hands. Anna returned to her drink. That helped clear up one of her problems. What do I do about the people who just bought my house?, she thought. Tsuzuki smiled at her again. The host glanced up when she felt his eyes on her.

“What is it?” she asked. The Shinigami looked at her like she was a new exhibit on display at a popular museum.

“Photo club, huh?” he asked. Anna gave him a modest little smile as her cheeks lightly reddened.

“Yeah,” she admitted humbly as she rubbed the back of her head. “I was kind of drafted by Becky my freshman year of college.”

“I see,” her guardian said, “You said that someone bought your house today. What are they like?”

“I haven’t met the mother yet,” Anna replied, “But I’ve met the little girl with her. She’s pretty cute.” Anna paused as her tone began to change. “However, they both pose a hang-up in me hiding at my old house.”

“So,” Tsuzuki said, “What are you going to do?” Anna ran her finger around the edge of the glass.

“Now that I think about it,” she said, “The girl and her mother could serve as a cover for me in case the killer decides to search the manor for me.”

“That could work out,” Tsuzuki said, thinking. The plan led him back to his earlier questions that he was dying to ask Anna.

“Hey Kimoto-san,” he said.

“Please,” Anna spoke up with a fresh playful tone, “You don’t have to do all that. Just call me Anna. A-n-na, can you say that?” Tsuzuki looked at her, blinking.

“Okay, Kimo- I mean, Anna-san,” he said.

“No, just Anna, no ‘Anna-san,’” she corrected him, “A-n-na.”

“Anna,” Tsuzuki began again.

“Very good,” Anna replied told him. Tsuzuki’s face looked all lost and puzzled as a sweat drop formed on his head. She wasn’t joking about messing with the people she likes, was she?, he thought. Still, that wouldn’t detour him from his original mission.

“Anna,” he said once he got his head back in order. The woman gave up at him over her empty glass.

“Yes?” she asked. Tsuzuki perked up for the first big question.

“Tell me more about the photography club and what college was like for you,” he requested. Anna raised an eyebrow at him.

“Now, why would you want to hear a boring story like that?” she asked, joking around with him.

“Because,” Tsuzuki said, sounding like a little child, “Since I have to keep guarding you like this, I should at least get to know you more; don’t you think?” Anna sat straight with a little smirk on her face. She folded her arms across her chest.

“Heh,” the woman replied, “Fair enough. I suppose I could give you a little bit of my life’s story. But let me warn you now, it’s going to be a bit boring at some parts.”

“It’s okay,” the Shinigami replied, “We’ve got all night, anyway.”

“Very well,” Anna said, “Which story would you like to hear first?”

“Tell me more about the photography club,” Tsuzuki said.

“Alright,” she replied.

They spent the rest of the night at the bar talking about Anna’s college days over drinks. Some of the stories seemed lively about how goofy her friends were at San Diego University while others told of a lonelier tale of her trying to hang onto her Japanese roots and never forgetting about her father since his death. Tsuzuki sat with a rosy glow on his face as he learned more about the girl he had stayed with and kissed ten years ago on that fateful Halloween night. Each word was an invitation to take Kimoto Anna apart and learn more about her.

However outside of the hotel, the predator rose again. The Hell butterfly perched itself against the window. It found Anna and spied on her and Tsuzuki at the hotel bar. The messenger hung around for a few more seconds and flew off. It returned home to the old woman. She awaited the results.

“Well?” she asked the butterfly. The butterfly landed on her finger.

“I have found Anna!” it exclaimed. “She is at the bar in Shiba Park Hotel. She’s staying at the old Kimoto Manor. Anna also has Shinigami protecting her!” The old woman took this newfound information to heart. A smirk came across her face.

“Shinigami, huh?” she asked. “Things just took an interesting twist.” The butterfly faded back into ash. The old woman grinned in the darkness.