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Aranami Slayers

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“The train is now departing Shinagawa. The next stop will be Tokyo.”

The melodic series of notes punctuated the polite woman’s voice over the train speaker. The noise roused a young boy from a light doze and he stared out of the window. He watched as a lit-up city of lights and busy people passed by outside the window. The young boy had been travelling for a few hours now, from his home in Kyoto. Tired and uncomfortable, he stretched out his arms before standing up and pulling down a large sports bag from the overhead compartment and sitting back down, placing it over his lap.

He was 15 years old, and dressed in black jeans, white sneakers, a black denim jacket, with the grey hood of his sweater coming out from it’s collar. He had a shock of black, wild hair that looked like he had attempted to tame it, but it had settled at a slightly backward angle, giving the boy a leonine appearance. His eyes were a light blue, but they looked tired and frustrated. He unzipped the bag in front of him and fished around inside. He retrieved a silver pin from the bag and examined it closely. The pin was shaped like a Latin cross with the lower end carved to a point to look like a sword. Around the cross coiled two serpents whose heads met at the top, their fangs bared at one another.

He scowled at the trinket and tossed it back in his bag, letting it drop to his feet, before he leaned back and sagged into the seat, staring out the window once more. Here he was, 15 years old and just about to start Senior high school. However, he wasn’t joining any ordinary school. For the next three years of his life he would be stuck in some rural seaside town in Ibaraki prefecture. He cursed silently to himself as he thought back to how this had all happened.

--- --- --- ---

Kyoto, 3 days earlier

Steam rolled through the small but tightly packed dining room of Sanada’s from the kitchen. The room was mostly filled with couples and businessmen who were talking among each other, eating and drinking. The man himself, Sanada, was surveying the restaurant with a perpetual frown on his face, despite nothing really being wrong. After a moment he stepped through to the kitchen, which was a flurry of activity as his small team of chefs busied themselves cooking meals for the customers.

“Nakayama!” He called out as he walked through the kitchen. There was no response from any of his chefs. “Nakayama!” Sanada called out again, this time more irritated.
“He’s over there, boss.” One of the chef’s replied, pointing away from the cooks area, to a corner at the far end of the kitchen. Sanada walked over and folded his arms, frowning at the young boy.
“Nakayama, answer me when I call for you, boy!” He said, but the boy ignored him and continued with his work.

Plates and bowls, freshly rinsed, flew into the large plastic racks at alarming speed, landing noisily in the notches on the racks that were shaped to house them. A tinny sound of heavy metal emanated from the ears buds in Nakayama’s ears as he shoved the rack down in to the industrial dishwasher and closed it shut. He began rinsing and tossing plates on to the next rack, before he noticed the shadow looming over him, and turned around to see Sanada standing inches from him, silently ranting. He boy frowned and pulled an earbud from his ear. “Boss?” He asked.

“Nakayama Shinji!” Sanada roared, his face beat red from anger. “How many times have I told you not to listen to that trash when you’re working!? You listen to me boy, the kitchen-“
“The kitchen is about teamwork, and you can’t have teamwork without communication.” Shinji interrupted, rolling his eyes. “What’s the big deal? I collect the dishes, I was the dishes, I put the clean dishes away for the chefs. How does that require me communicating with anyone?”

“Don’t talk back to your elders, you little punk!” Sanada replied, grabbing Shinji by his apron and pulling him away from the corner, shoving him towards the pass. “Plates are gathering on the tables. Go collect them before I tan your hide, you little brat.”
“Tch!” Shinji said with a shrug. “Why didn’t you just say so?” He asked as he sauntered off towards the pass, grabbing a wide container on his way and holding it with one hand against his waist.

He walked in to the restaurant itself and began moving around the tables, picking up plates and putting them in the container, half-heartedly nodding at the customers as he did. When he was done he made his way back to the kitchen, but felt a hand grip his arm and hold him back. He turned to the customer, a young businessman in his mid 20’s who looked like he’d had a bit too much Sake.
“Get me a beer would you?” The man asked

Shinji paused, frowning. “Sorry, you need to ask some-“
“I asked you to get me a beer, isn’t that your job?” The man asked.
“Nah it ain’t my job, asshole. As I was just telling you, if you’d only listened.” Shinji pulled his arm from the man’s grasp and went to leave.
“Who the hell do you think you are talking to a customer like that, huh?” The man barked. “Is taking a drinks order to complicated for a loser like you, dishwasher?”

The room fell quiet at the sound of raised voices. There was a clattering in the kitchen and Sanada turned round just in time to see the tray of plates fall to the floor with a crash, and Shinji had lifted the man from his seat by his shirt, and was holding his face inches from his own. “Say that again, asshole!” Shinji snarled at the man.
“Oi! Nakayama!” Sanada yelled as he bustled over. “Nakayama, let him go right now!”
Shinji snarled through gritted teeth, but after a pause, he released his grip from the man and turned to walk away.

“Heh…” The man said with a smirk, a sound of mild relief in his voice. “Your dad should have taught you some respect, you worthless punk!”
“Nakayama!” Sanada cried, sensing what was coming, but he was too late. Shinji’s fist crashed in to the man’s face and knocked him flying back into another table. Food went flying everywhere, and the customers started yelling, their evening meal ruined. Pretty soon the place was in anarchy.

--- --- --- ---

“This train has arrived at Tokyo Station.” The female voice said as the train doors hissed open. Shinji alighted from the train, his bag slung over his shoulder, as he barged through the crowd of people commuting in the early morning. He lifted his wrist up to look at his watch, a silver timepiece that belonged to his father. On the same wrist was a simple rope charm bracelet, with a number of different silver charms adorning it, including a Star of David, an Egyptian Ankh, a Manji and a number of other unrelated religious symbols.

“Damn…I missed my train.” He said with a sigh. He was already running late. The school induction was in the mid morning and it was still another couple of hours before he would make it to the town, let alone the school. He walked through the huge train station, checking the information boards overhead and listening to the announcements. It was another half hour before he found himself sat on a train bound for Ibaraki. He tossed his bag in the overhead compartment and sat down on a seat by himself and waited for the train to depart.

--- --- --- ---

Shinji walked home through the streets of Kyoto that night. The rage and chaos of the altercation had left him now, and he had come out of the other end fired from his part time job. He felt angry at the rude drunk who had caused the whole mess, and angry at Sanada for not seeing his side of things. However, for the most part he was just angry at himself. He was a screw up in all aspects of life. He had barely scraped through junior high, with grades so poor his future career prospects looked grim. On top of that he had never been involved with extra curricular societies, after being banned from the Kendo club, the soccer team, and the track team he was no longer welcome with any of them.

It didn’t help that all three occasions were the result of fights. He had a temper, he knew that. Equally he knew that in general it was the other person’s fault. They were all idiots, and they pissed him off. Yet he was the one to suffer in the end. So who was the real idiot? He shook his head in frustration as he reached the gate to a peculiar looking building that stood quite out of place around the traditional Kyoto architecture. The temple was modelled after a European fashion. A sign at the gate of the property read: The Church of St. Giles. Shinji pushed the gate open. Home sweet home.

He bypassed the actual church building and instead made his way to the side building where his home was. He pushed open the front door and quietly said “I’m home.” In the hope he wouldn’t actually be heard. He removed his shoes and left them by the door, and walked through the main hall. As he put his foot on the first step to the next floor, someone spoke.
“Shinji…come here please.” The voice was a man’s. It was deep, calm and confident. Shinji sighed and turned around, making his way in to the room further down the hall where the voice had came from.

Shinji’s father’s study was lit by warm lamplight. His father sat behind a writing desk facing Shinji. He was dressed in the black clerical uniform of a catholic priest. He had similar features to his son, except his hair was brown, he had a trimmed goatee, and his leonine hair was trimmed slightly shorter and looked decidedly neater. Masa Nakayama was focused on a book on his desk, that he was slowly thumbing through. A cigarette sat in the ashtray by his hand, the smoke cascading in thin wisps through the air. To the right of it was a glass of single malt whisky.

“Sanada called earlier. He explained what happened.” Masa said, not looking up.
“It wasn’t my fault, dad.” Shinji replied. “The guy was a jerk! He kept pushing my buttons.”
“And you could not simply turn the other cheek?” Masa asked. “This behavior…it never stops getting you in to trouble. You never stop to think about the consequences of your actions. How it affects those around you.”
“Tch!” Shinji scoffed. “Just like you to worry about how my problems affect you.”

“Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such an insolent child.” Masa replied, sighing. He looked up to the ceiling. “I’m fairly certain he’s sitting up there laughing his ass off right now.”
“God?” Shinji asked.
“No, you’re grandfather.” Masa said with a raised brow. “He had a sick sense of humour. Although I suppose The Lord is not above a chuckle now and then.” He took a moment to sip from his glass and take a drag of his cigarette. “He was a lot like you, actually. You’re grandpa, not The Lord, obviously.” He shook his head. “That man was always getting himself in trouble, and it was my mother and I who suffered for it.”

“You’ve laid on the guilt pretty thick all my life, dad.” Shinji said, folding his arms. “I’ve heard this lecture a thousand times. Can’t you just be like everyone else and just accept that I’m a screw up?” He let his head sag. “It’s probably easier that way…”
“If I wanted easy I’d have disowned you years ago.” Masa said with a chuckle. “Sometimes I think my life with the Order was easier. Still, when your mother left it’s not like I had much choice.”
“Oh, gee, thanks dad.” Shinji said, turning to leave.

“I haven’t excused you!” Masa said with an authoritative tone. Shinji turned round and for the first time his father had looked up from his book, and his dark eyes were looking right at his son. Shinji shifted uncomfortably. He never liked how his father seemed to have a stare that could see deep inside a person.
“Wow, finally decided to pay enough attention to stop reading that book?” Shinji asked.

“Oh, sorry.” Masa replied, lifting the book up. “You know me, I always get caught up in my doujins. But seriously look at these things!” Masa turned the book over to reveal a number of illustrated panels of women with large breasts. Shinji’s eye twitched uncontrollably.
“You’re a freakin’ pervert, old man!” He snapped. “How the hell can you preach about God and read that trash. Isn’t lust a sin?”
“Oh yes, a very tempting one.” Masa replied. “But I never could resist a big pair of…”
“Dad!” Shinji snapped, noticing his father becoming transfixed on the book once more. Masa coughed and put the book down.

“Oh lighten up. I’m sure The Lord will forgive me my love of big cans. Hell, if I didn’t love ‘em so much then I probably wouldn’t have chased your mother. And then you’d still just be a twinkle in my eye.”
“What the hell, dad!?” Shinji barked. “You are the worst priest on the planet. Hands down. You creepy, old perv!”
“Yeah…I was never really cut out for the clergy.” Masa said with a smirk. “Bills need paid, though. Anyway we’re getting off topic.”

“Oh, sorry for distracting you from scolding me.” Shinji replied.
“You’re forgiven.” Masa said, apparently missing the sarcasm. “Listen, son. Your grades are…poor, to say the least. You’ve lost three jobs in the last 2 months. I’m afraid you’re going to flunk your first year of high school. I’m afraid…I’ve had to take desperate measures.”
“I am not going to a convent!” Shinji snapped, holding his arms up in front of him in an X shape.

“No, you’re not.” Masa said calmly. He opened the drawer of his desk and retrieved a small, silver pin and placed it on the table. “At great personal expense I’ve arranged for you to be enrolled in my old high school. I’d say it’s more like military school than a convent, really.” Shinji looked at the small pin and felt like his heart had stopped. The room spun for a moment, and he felt sick.
“You…you’re joking, right?” He asked

“I wouldn’t joke about this.” Masa replied. “This is your last chance to shape up. I think it’s for the best.”
“You think sending me off to hunt demons is for the best!?” Shinji yelled, slamming his fist down on the desk. “Are you insane!?”

“It didn’t do me any harm.”Masa replied. “Made me who I am, actually.”
“Who you are!?” Shinji roared. “You’re a washed up old priest who drinks too much and stares at cartoon tits all day!”
“Well, who I used to be then.” Masa corrected. Shinji laughed bitterly, turning around and walking back to the door.

“Like that guy is so much better.” He said through gritted teeth. “Some workaholic asshole who couldn’t spend any time with his family, until his wife couldn’t handle taking care of his deadbeat son any more, and she left you! Left both of us!” Shinji slammed his fist into the wall by the door, seething with anger. “And there it is! You had to leave your job and come and take care of me. And now you’re sick of me too.”

“Shinji…it’s not like-“
“Save it!” Shinji screamed. “To hell with this! Going to this damn school’s gotta be better than staying here with you!” He yelled as he walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

--- --- --- ---

“Now arriving at Aranami.” The female voice said. It had been hours and Shinji had dozed off again. He stood up as the train stopped and pulled his bag from the overhead compartment. He slung it over his shoulder and stepped off the train and on to an unmanned platform, that looked more like a bus shelter than anything else. Immediately he noticed that it was pouring with rain, and in moments he was soaked right through. As the train departed he heard thunder rumble in the distance, and a flash of light lit up the dark, grey sky. In the distance he saw the ocean, the source of the salty smell in the air.

There on a large rock out in the sea, past the port town of Aranami, was a large collection of buildings. The rock was connected to the mainland only by a single, large bridge. “So…that’s Aranami Academy.” He said to himself. “Do your worst…a little rain never hurt anybody.” He walked towards the town.

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Aranami. It means 'stormy seas'. It's a seaside town with a history of bad weather, but that doesn't dampen the spirits of the locals. They have a saying here in Aranami, "Eating fish every day gives you gills". It's just as well, too, as it rains more often than not here on the coast. They're a proud, hardy people. Somehow or another, everyone is connected. It's not a small town by any means, in fact the town centre is usually bustling, but living here you soon learn that news travels fast. If you need to share a secret, you best choose your audience carefully.

Can I trust you...?

Rain beat against the dormitory window of one Yoko Kusakabe. A highschool junior, recently enrolled in Aranami Academy. She looked no older than 15 and even though she was wrapped in her bed sheets, it was clear she was short, even for her age. In contrast to this, however, there was a nobility in the way she held herself that negated her height. When she woke, she moved with a straight-backed, calm, confident and intelligent air about her. She brushed her mid-length hair, which was a greyish-white, almost as pale as her skin. But most striking of all, were her eyes. The right eye was covered by a black eye-patch she had worn even overnight, but the remaining left eye was as red as blood. She got dressed into her school clothes: a pair of slim-fitted black trousers, a black blouse, a pair of black boots and lastly, a white jacket with black trim. Onto her jacket, she affixed a small pin. A cross, with it's southern point formed into a sword, with two serpents coiled around the blade. The Academy pin was important, as losing it outside the main gate, meant you were permanently locked outside of the school, dormitories and grounds.

The rain didn't bother her. It was the first day of term, in a school she never dreamed she'd be able to attend, and now here she was. She'd fought tooth and nail to get here. She was going to make the most of it. But first, breakfast. Yoko sat down at her table with a plate full of buttered toast, sighed and reached for her first slice. She brought the hot, buttery breakfast treat up to her mouth, and took a bite. She bit air, knocking her teeth together in surprise. Frowning, she looked down at her empty hand. Then looked under the table, for where she'd dropped her toast. It was nowhere to be found. She wasn't going to let a little irritation ruin her morning. She reached down, picked up another piece of toast, and took a bite. This time, she managed to bite her tongue. The toast had disappeared in her hand.

"Oi!!" She yelled, standing, knocking her chair to the ground. "What's the big idea?!" She barked, slamming her fist down on the table. She looked around the room with wary eyes, when she sensed movement out of the corner of her eye, and whirled around, slamming her fist down on a tiny cream-coloured paw. 
"AYAAARG!!" Roared a deep, gravelly voice. Yoko lifted her fist, and a little pug dog leapt up onto the table.
"Miserable creature..." Yoko muttered, reaching for her last piece of toast. 
"Wait!" The dog growled a human word. "Let me present my case..." He cleared his throat with a little coughing bark and took a deep breath, "If you let Inu eat that, I will have the energy to do many things for you, additionally, if you eat lots of buttery toast, you will get fatter-- fat-- I-said-fat. You would get fat..."

A little vein twitched in the corner of Yoko's temple, "I should never have summoned you." She muttered, walking away. The little pug dog quickly wolfed down the remaining toast and hopped off the table, giving chase after her.
"Wait for Inu! My legs are tiny!" He yelped, but as he ran after her, he levitated into the air and landed on her, his front legs hooking over her shoulder. Then almost immediately afterwards, there was a soft, squeaky, high-pitched fart. Yoko grimaced, glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. "What?!" He grumbled incredulously.

The morning bell rang as Yoko was walking down the corridor. Students were leaving their dorms in droves, and it wasn't long before a group of girls flanked and surrounded her. She heard a dozen different voices all at once, struggling to discern their comments from one another.
"Yoko-senpai!" One girl called above the rest, "You already got a white jacket?! If anyone was going to get one--" 
"--you do your hair? It's so cool, I wish I had hair li--" 
"--I really like your summon--"
"--i'd love to study with you sometime, you'd really improve my grades--"
"--You wanna get lunch after, Yoko-senpai? My friends and I are--

Yoko turned into her classroom, the gaggle of girls following her partially broke away, only those privileged to be in her class could follow her inside. She crossed the classroom and took a seat in the centre, at the front of the class. The teacher ignored the students filing into her classroom. She had bright red hair, tied into a ponytail, and wore glasses that seemed to reflect the light, obscuring her eyes most of the time. She seemed to be pouring over an old tome.
Without looking up, the teacher muttered, "No summons..." 
"Yes, sensei." Yoko nodded, picking Inu up by his collar and holding him aloft, "Find something to occupy yourself."
"I'm hungry!" Inu barked.
"Shoo!" Yoko threw the pug across the classroom as though he was lighter than a tennis ball, and mid-flight the dog vanished into nothingness. The bell rang a second time, signalling that class was now beginning. The last couple of students that managed to make it in in time darted to their seats and watched in horror as one unfortunate student hit his face on the door as it closed all by itself, as if by magic. His muffled voice cried out from the other side.
"No, please! I'm only a little late, i'm here, I can see you all... Ms. Kato!?" Dejected, the boy finally left. Only then, did Ms. Kato begin their lesson.



Little legs splashed through a puddle and carried on down the pavement. Inu sniffed the ground as he walked, searching hungrily. His stomach rumbled and groaned, reminding him of his imminent need for food. Disgruntled he watched as the occasional person passed him without so much as a second glance. He noticed a butchers' shop across the road, and crossed at once. Visions of cooking meat filled his head, when he heard someone complaining. Following the complaining, Inu turned a corner to see a boy stamping through the rain, soaked through to his skin, shivering and ranting to himself. Inu shook frantically, shaking himself dry in a moment, and then quickly took off after the boy. Inu had noticed something about this kid - his uniform, it was Aranami Academy's design. That meant the boy had to be a student. Was he skipping school? Maybe if he reported this kid to a teacher he'd get a treat, or an extension on his contract with Yoko. She was a cruel taskmaster, but she also had toast. He felt that evened it out somewhat.

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By the time Shinji had wandered in to town he was cold and shivering. As he walked down the main street he retreated from the rain inside a small pastry shop where a couple of elderly people were sitting down at a table for a snack. As he entered a middle-aged woman in an apron popped her head up from behind the glass display where the pastries were.

“Welcome!” The woman said cheerfully, quickly followed by a short gasp. “Oh dear, you’re soaked.”
“Uh, well it’s raining.” Shinji replied, raising a brow. “What did you-“ He stopped himself. The woman was, after all, only being polite and showing concern. He cleared his throat. “Sorry. Do you have a bathroom in here? I’d like to change out of these clothes.”
“Certainly.” The woman said with a nod. She pointed towards a corridor at the back of the shop. Shinji nodded in appreciation and went through, finding a small single bathroom.

He entered and threw his bag on the ground. He immediately locked the door and began to strip down to just his underwear. He had missed the opening ceremony, and his dorm orientation. He was probably going to be late for his homeroom class as well. He cursed silently to himself as he began to put on the school uniform in his bag. He removed his charm bracelet and tossed it in the bag with his wet clothes.

He finally emerged dressed in black shoes, black trousers, a white shirt with the collar popped, and a black blazer with white trim. He had affixed his pin to the lapel and was busy trying to tie on the black tie with the red trim, with the school emblem sewn in red at the bottom. He sighed in frustration, eventually giving up on the tie, leaving it loose and slightly squint around his collar. He grabbed his bag and walked back into the main room of the small café.

“Thank you.” He said as he came out, and checked his watch. “Damn, I’m late.”
“Oh, you’re an Academy student?” The woman asked, eyeing the uniform. “You must have come from out of town. Have you eaten?”
“Uh, no…” Shinji replied, conscious of his rumbling stomach. The woman smiled went to the counter. She placed two delicious looking Anpan rolls in a bag and handed them to him. Shinji smiled and took one of the rolls from the bag, taking a large bite and chewing enthusiastically.
“Mm! This anko is really sweet.” He said with a satisfied smile. “Thank you!” He added with a short bow.

When he lifted his head, he found the woman’s hand stretched out, open palm in front of him.
“That’ll be 340 Yen, please.” She said with a wide grin.
“Eh!?” Shinji gasped in surprise, before grumbling and reaching for his wallet, handing the woman a few notes.
“Thank you. Welcome to Aranami!” She said with a short bow.
“Yeah, yeah.” Shini replied dismissively, before dashing out of the shop in a hurry. He ran down the road, his uniform quickly getting as soaked as his other clothes were. As he ran he cursed and swore, ranting at himself in his frustration, whilst he held one of the anpan rolls in his mouth.

He skidded to a stop as a small pug came bounding in front of him, and in trying not to kick the small animal he tripped and fell over the top of it, rolling across the ground and landing in a heap. The Anpan roll fell from his mouth and landed in a soggy puddle on the ground. The little pug looked him over for a moment before wandering over to the soggy anpan roll, sniffing it momentarily before devouring it like a hungry amazonian piranha. The snack consumed, the dog trotted up to him and sat down. His bug-eyed face was almost comical as he stared at him. A tongue stuck slightly out of the corner of his mouth. The little pug looked around the street, then looked back to the boy.

"What's wrong with you, boy?!" The dog asked with genuine incredulity, "Don't you know cakes are bad for dogs?!" Then he shook his head, and started walking down the street, muttering to himself as he went, "Eeeya, wet butt..."

“T…talked?” Shinji managed to stutter to himself as he stared at the little pug walking away from him. After a moment he reclaimed his senses and scrambled to his feet. “Hey!” He called after the dog, running to catch up with him. He grabbed the tiny animal by the scruff of it’s neck and lifted it up so that it’s face was inches from his own. “What’s the big idea, flea bag!?” He snarled. “You come running up out of nowhere and I get knocked on my ass trying not to kick you to the moon, then you eat my breakfast!? What kinda whacked out, thieving, talking mutt are you anyway?”

"I am tiny, so thank you for bringing me to your face!" The pug jerked forwards suddenly and bit his nose. Reflexively Shinji dropped the dog, and he quickly landed back on his feet and looked up at the red-nosed teenager. "It is not Inu's fault you're clumsy! Also, anpan is especially delicious on the second lap. I'll work on getting that out to you presently." Then Inu grinned, his tongue lolling in the corner of his mouth.

Shinji clutched at his nose, holding back the desire to yelp in pain. His other hand formed a fist at his side and the knuckles audibly cracked. “You think you’re funny!?” He growled at the dog. “We’ll see how smart-assed you are when I skin you and turn you into a plush toy!” Shinji lunged forward at a sprinting run, and swung his leg out to kick the dog.

Sensing the incoming attack, the little dog whirled around and ran at the boy. At the last second, he leapt forwards, pouncing off the top of the boy's foot and running up his raising leg. He leapt once more, this time aiming for Shinji's face a second time, but as he flew through the air, his stomach made an awful, growling, fermenting noise and distracted by his discomfort, Inu collided with Shinji, knocking them both to the ground once more. Shaking himself off, Inu stood up and looked back at his attacker.

"Attacking an unknown opponent." The dog shook his head, "Tch! You could have at least guessed from the fact I am not like other dogs, that foolishly running headlong into battle is a mistake." Then Inu loosed a long, rippling fart. "Please excuse me, humans need to stop leaving food around, my diet is terrible..." He paused, "What is your name, boy?

Shinji slowly got up from the ground, dusting himself off. He scowled at the dog and was half tempted to have another run at him, before he remembered what he had been doing in the first place. “Shit! I’m late!” He cursed, before turning back to the dog. “Shinji Nakayama! Remember that name. I’ll be back to grind you up into little hot dogs once I’m done with this.” Shinji turned around and picked up his sports bag, slinging it over his shoulder and stomping away towards the port, the rain still pouring overhead.

"Oi! I could eat a hot dog!" Inu called after Shinji, "Shinji?" He paused, waiting, as the boy continued running down the street. "Shinji Nakayama wait for Inu!" He darted after the boy and quickly caught up to him with his superior speed, but within seconds he was panting with exhaustion. "Slow down, Shinji! Do not make me chuck anpan!" He wheezed the words out between breaths as he ran a dozen steps to each long, loping stride belonging to the human.

“I don’t want you to keep up, you little fart machine!” Shinji replied, continuing to walk at a quick pace. “I don’t have time for you, I’m trying to get to class. Get a clue, why don’t ya!?”
Still wheezing, Inu sped up, running down the street until he turned in an instant and yelled, "Stop!!" Shinji screeched to a halt, then there was a clatter nearby. Both Shinji and Inu looked over to see an old man who had been riding his bike through the town, had driven it into a couple of trash cans upon hearing the dog yell. The old man hurriedly pulled himself to his feet, got back onto his wonky bicycle and rode on, never looking back.

"Hm..." Inu shook his head and looked back to Shinji, "Listen, kid, i'm kind of a big deal at Aranami Academy. People look up to me. The teachers respect me. So here's the deal..." Inu glanced back at the rucksack Shinji was carrying. "You give me some food, right now, and not only will I get you past the Guardian at the bridge, i'll even get you into your classroom."

“Guardian…at the bridge?” Shinji repeated, a worried look in his eyes. His father had mentioned that he would encounter Familiars at the school, demons who served humans through a contract or pact. Was this talking dog one of them? He couldn’t think of any other reason why a pug would be able to talk. However the prospect of a ‘Guardian’ at the gates gave him pause. Whatever was charged with keeping people out of the school was likely something that could squash him like a bug. He sighed, finally reaching in to his pocket and pulling out the remaining anpan roll from it’s bag.

“So you’re a big deal huh?” He said, raising an eyebrow at the dog. “Alright, chow down then, Inugami sama.” He tossed the anpan roll in the air, towards the little pug.
Leaping up, Inu caught the roll from the air and had swallowed the entire thing before his feet had touched the ground. "You held up your end of the bargain, Shinji Nakayama, so now I will uphold mine. First, I will get you past... the Guardian." Shinji smirked at the tiny dog as he waddled ahead, leading the way. He couldn’t help it, he was starting to like him. Only a little.

When they arrived at the port Shinji let out an impressed whistle. The Academy was at the other end of a large bridge, and it was like no school he had ever been to. Built into the rocks, the school was enormous, and was almost like a small village in and of itself. Built along the steep, rocky crag were a number of buildings, all stacked on top of each other, some older than others, and some even hanging off the rock in an almost dangerous looking fashion, as if it had gone through numerous renovations but had slowly but surely ran out of room.

"Come on. It's early still, so he's going to be cranky... let me do the talking, kid." Inu and Shinji walked along the long stone bridge that led out to the academy. It took several minutes before they reached the other end of the bridge, at which point they were stopped by a large metal gate that loomed overhead. On their left, there was a kind of security station. A small, old building, with a large glass window. Beside the building, there was an enormous statue of a griffin, but Inu seemed more focused on the man that was sat inside the booth. He was tall, extremely muscular, with tan skin and a heavy length of blonde hair. If the boy's hair reminded him of a young lion, then this man was the leader of the pride.
"Mornin', Saburo... how are you...?" Inu asked delicately.
Saburo looked up from his newspaper for a moment, then looked back down, "I’m fine." He muttered, taking a sip of coffee. Inu hesitated, then looked at Shinji, wondering what to say next.

“Tch! Are you for real?” Shinji asked with a sigh of frustration. He turned to Saburo. “Oi, name’s Shinji Nakayama. I’m late for class, is it okay to go through?”
Without looking up, Saburo replied, "No." Then he took another sip of coffee, and as Shinji opened his mouth to speak, he repeated, "No." Without needing so much as a glance.
“Wh-why not!?” Shinji demanded, incredulously. “I just told you I’m running late! I need to get to class right now!”

"Because I said so." Saburo growled, though he kept his voice down, getting irritable at Shinji's quickly rising volume.
"S-Saburo..." Inu whispered, "Just... just you could maybe help us out... the kid really needs to get back inside."
“Yeah, listen to the mutt.” Shinji replied. “He’s supposed to be the boss around here. What kind of security guard doesn’t follow orders, huh?”

Saburo was silent for a few seconds, then he made a strange noise. It was like a rattling, which grew in volume. He was laughing. And he was getting louder and louder. "HuuuuuhuhuhuhuuaheheheHAHAHAHAHA!!!!" Finally, the man's laughter got so loud it seemed to shake the very ground. Then, his laughter stopped abruptly.
"Oh no..." Saburo squeeked, then he dropped his coffee and disappeared into his booth as the rumbling grew louder and louder.
"Oh, no...." Inu parroted. "We're dead."
“Whaddya mean ‘we’re dead’!?” Shinji demanded, yelling over the increasing volume of the rumbling. “What the hell is that noise?”

"It's the Guardian!!" Inu yelped, and then as if on queue, the enormous stone griffin loosed a terrifying, screeching roar and leapt from it's frozen watch beside the building. The gigantic stone monster towered over them, it was at least as large as an elephant, equipped with razor sharp talons, a slicing beak, and of course, it's body seemed to be made of stone.
"Anpan is ready!" Inu shrieked, yelping as he quickly fled to between Shinji's legs, cowering.
"WHO APPROACHES?!" The Guardian's booming voice seemed to echo into their minds, as it's beak did not move when it spoke.

Shinji stumbled back in shock at the large, terrifying creature before him. His eyes were wide in shock. It was real, it was all real. Everything his father had told him wasn’t a lie, or an exaggeration. Monsters existed, and the realization hit Shinji like a brick. He looked to Inu for guidance, but the little pug didn’t seem particularly ready to square off against the griffin. He looked to the guard booth, but there was no sign that Saburo was ever going to come back out to help.
“Shit…” Shinji hissed under his breath. “…it can’t be helped.”

Shinji planted his feet and stood up straight, but his hands were still trembling, betraying his true feelings. He bit on his lip and pushed out his chin, a determined look in his eyes. “Shinji Nakayama!” He yelled, as confidently as he could. “Let me past, you big gargoyle! My old man sent me here, and I’m not getting kicked out before I even get in!”

The griffin arched it's back and roared even louder. The window of the security booth building shook and rattled. The Guardian took a step forwards, it's talons just inches from the pair, then it leaned down, and it's large, polished-stone eyes gazed at Shinji, it's eyes locking with his own, though each eye belonging to the Guardian was closer to the size of the boy's head. Eventually, the creature straightened up.

"SON OF MASA NAKAYAMA, YOU MAY PASS!" The Guardian stepped to one side and sat upon it's haunches."And Inu, who's a good boy!" Inu added quickly. Something flickered in front of the gate, as if a veil was lifting, and then the gates swung open of their own accord. The boy and the dog entered the Aranami Academy grounds. The gate shut behind them, and the Guardian returned to it's statuesque nature."There, we're in!" Inu stated, in a congratulatory tone, "You. Are. Welcome." Then he quickly trotted on.

“Hmph! No thanks to you!” walking away from the dog. “Tch! Getting’ a free pass from my old man. Go figure!” He added, kicking at the ground and scuffing his shoes. He made his way up the long, curving path that spiraled around the rock. As they walked Shinji looked in to the many different buildings, some where students were sat listening to teachers like an ordinary school, and other rooms where students were stood at lab tables, performing weird experiments.

They passed through a courtyard and Shinji observed two older students, in their final year, who were sparring with each other with blunt practice swords. Shinji couldn’t help but crack a smile. A school where he could fight? Maybe this place wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. He turned to Inu who had been uncharacteristically quiet. “Yo, Inugami san. I’m in class B12. You know what homeroom that’s in?”

"Yes, you'll be pleased to learn I know it well, and I can fulfil the second part of my promise - I can get you inside the classroom." Shinji opened one of the large double doors and stepped inside, Inu following him in quickly. Inside, the main hall was empty. Normally full of students, it was class time, and most were in their classes or on class trips. "Come on! Your classroom is just up ahead, Ms. Hitomi Kato will be your teacher, and therein is the problem, kid."

“And why’s that?” Shinji asked, as they stopped outside a classroom door. “Is she a big stone bird as well?” Inu looked up at Shinji, and could he wear glasses, he would have taken them off, "She is the single most terrifying human I know... so do exactly as I say, and stand right there. No," Inu pushed him in the leg, "Right in front of the door. There, now i'll get you inside the classroom, and we're square." The little pug walked up to the door and scratched at the wood with his paw. Nothing happened. He kept scratching and scratching, then a moment later, there was a sharp screech as a chair hissed across the floor. Rapid footsteps. Inu fled. The door swung open, and there stood the teacher. Hitomi Kato. She glared at Shinji, raised her fist and opened her mouth, and then something out of her peripheral distracted her and she rapidly stepped to one side.

"BANZAI!!!" Inu roared, sprinting towards Shinji, leaping through the air like a majestic bird, he crashed into the boy's back, sending him flying into the classroom. Only coming to a stop, when he tumbled into Ms. Kato's desk. Laughter exploded throughout the class.

"Mission accomplished..." Inu whispered sombrely, then Ms. Kato slammed the door shut in his face and turned on Shinji.
"What the hell is the meaning of this?!" She asked, marching across the classroom. Her anger had silenced the laughter. She grabbed the boy by the scruff of his neck and lifted him off the floor and into the air. "Who the hell're you?!"
“Sh-Shinji Nakayama!” Shinji blurted out, still dazed from being knocked in to the desk.

"Sit down!" Ms. Kato yelled in his face, then turned, aimed him at the rest of the class - who already knew better than to sit in the centre of the room - and threw him as if he was a football. Shinji crashed into the desks at the back of the room, but as he was pulling himself back together, a hand raised at the front of the class.
"Yes, Ms. Kusakabe?" Ms. Kato asked, her tone far sweeter all-of-a-sudden.

"Sensei, this boy is a delinquent, placing him at the back of a class might be in error." Yoko's tone was cool and confident. The teacher considered her words and then nodded.
"Yes, of course. He'll sit next to you..." Ms. Kato looked at the girl sat beside Yoko, "MOVE!!" She barked, and the girl - though horribly dejected at being moved further from Yoko - leapt out of her chair, clearly terrified of the teacher.

"Sensei, I didn't mean for him to be seated beside me." Yoko corrected. Again, Ms. Kato considered her words carefully and shook her head.
"Mm, no. I think I want him seated there. Now, moving on..." And she launched back into her lesson. As the boy sat down beside her, Yoko glanced over at him. He looked like a shabby idiot and he smelled of damp. Shinji slumped down in the chair, horrified by the ordeal, but also somewhat relieved that he was finally where he was supposed to be. He sighed, cursing under his breath.
“That dumb Inugami!” He hissed in a whisper. He glanced to his side and noticed Yoko looking at him. He raised his eyebrow at her. She was, to him, quite a terrifying sight for a high school girl.

Yoko could hear whispering behind her, half the class was talking about this new boy and the fact he had been seated beside her. She studied him for a couple seconds longer, then offered him a comforting smile and a nod. The class quieted down then, and the students went back to their textbooks. Before she turned back to her own, however, she punctuated her smile, by taking her left hand, and balling it into a fist with the exception of her thumb. Then, she dragged her thumb across her neck as if it was a knife. The message was clear, and he had been the only one to witness it.

Shinji swiftly turned his head back to the front of the class, blinking in confusion and fear. There he was, finally at Aranami Academy, a school he didn’t want to be in, learning to become a demon slayer, a job he didn’t want to do, nor was he even sure he wanted to do it. And now he was being issued death threats by the class’ top student. Since when did academic prodigy’s issue the death threats? Just what had he gotten himself in to. He looked over to the little window of the classroom door to see the moronic little pug holding on to the rim for dear life, grinning like an idiot with his tongue sticking out. “I’ll kill that little burrito and hide his body in a dumpster, yeah, that’s what I’ll do.” He whispered to himself, before settling back in to listen to the teacher.

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