Rose couldn’t tell why, but something in the classroom seemed off to her. It was already their first break and this feeling has been gnawing at her the entire time. She took another look around, but the movements of the people around her prevented her from pinpointing the source. As if to answer her question, Hitomi appeared next to her. “Have you seen Natsu recently?”

“Oh that’s it! I said the same thing yesterday didn’t I?”

“Yes. Come on, we’ll talk about it during lunch.”

“Right. Where are we going to eat today?”

“The classroom is fine. It’s still too hot out to eat outside.”

“Fine, but the first day we can, we eat outside. The warm wind, the sunshine~”

“Let’s just hope this heat leaves then. The teacher is about to come in, I’ll go back to my seat.” Hitomi returned the 2 feet to her seat and just as she said the next teacher entered the room. After a few minutes calming everyone down, the next class began. However as soon as the teaching started, Rose felt something hit the top of her head. As usual, the object bounced back with equal force, causing Ken to yell out in surprise.

“Is there something that scared you Mr. Hayasi?”

“No. Sorry.” The teacher rolled his eyes and continued to write on the blackboard. This time, a rolled up piece of paper rolled it’s way over to Rose. She looked over at Ken, who pointed to the ground. Rose picked up the paper and threw it back at him. She gave him a thumbs up before returning her attention to the teacher. Rose could feel herself being lured to sleep by the complete lack of interest even the teacher seemed to show on the subject he was teaching today, but she managed to power through until the lunch bell rang.

“Talk about tiring. Do you think we are going to be tested on this?” She turned her gaze to Hitomi, who had moved her seat over to her own.

“You know I can’t answer that question. Anyway, I have a feeling you are going to have a loud conversation very soon.”

“What makes you say that?” As if to answer the question, another desk slammed into the two of theirs.

“Rose, the heck? You were supposed to open the paper, not throw it back!”

“Why would I do that? I thought it was trash, and I was always told that people should pick up their own trash.” Ken opened his mouth, but gave up before any words could appear.

“You guys were talking about Natsu earlier right?”

“And how do you know that?” Hitomi’s cold stare forced a defensive response from Ken.

“Nevermind that! I was worrying about that too, so yesterday I happened to be in her neighborhood and stopped by her house to see if anything was wrong.”

“Creepy.”

“I’m serious! There were lights on, but no one answered the door. Her parent’s car was in the driveway so they should have been home. Basically what I’m getting at is I think they disappeared!” The two looked at him in silence. There was no way they’d normally take such a claim seriously but something about the claim stood out to them.

“Did you happen to feel anything like you did at the haunted house?”

“Nope. I could have just been unlucky, but I doubt that those sticks in the mud would leave their lights on and leave the house.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t sound like something they’d do. Alright, we’ll go check out their house after school. Hitomi, do you have track today?”

“I’ll take an absence. This is much more important if Ken is even slightly right. He doesn’t seem to be lying.” This was a sign from Hitomi that his memory checked out with what he said. If it were up to Rose, she’d leave right now to make sure nothing serious was going on. However even if her parents called in to take her out for work she probably wouldn’t be allowed. “Don’t worry, things will work out. Just to be sure though, do you still want to join us Ken?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“Not to be rude, but if something is going on you are unable to handle it.”

“I was already there once, it’s not dangerous. Plus what kinda guy would I be if I just ran off scared.”

“One that valued his life.” Ken froze for a second. After a deep breath he stood with further resolve. “Alright that’s fine. Rose, do you think you can get a sword before we go?”

“Um… yeah shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Oh, right. We’ll leave right after school then.” Getting her sword in a timely manner would be impossible. As a last resort, she could summon to her mother’s sword. While unwieldy, it was still a weapon.

“Is there anything I should do?”

“Just leave everything to me! We can always go see my mom if things are too much for us. But I’m a shrine maiden, I should be able to handle anything we find!” Rose was confident in her training. Last time she messed up because she was too focused on showing that she knew what she was doing. She spent a lot of time learning to be calmer and her new found confidence was ready to be shown off. As if to punish her pride, the lunch bell rang, signaling the end of the break. “Oh no I haven’t finished!”

“Don’t eat too fast! You’ll give yourself a stomach ache.”

“I’ll be fine. Ken, put your seat back and stuff.”

“Don’t need to tell me. I’ve already been yelled at once today.” Hitomi silently placed herself back where she needed to be before anyone else entered the room to make sure they weren’t in any trouble once the bell rang once more. As Hitomi said, eating quickly came back to haunt her during the rest of the day. Before the end of the day, Rose was called down to the reception desk. Since it was almost the end of the day she just took everything and headed down.

“I’m here- mom?” Morgan was standing at the desk, talking with the older women behind it.

“Oh there you are. Gratia said to bring this over.” She handed over the short sword she used in rituals. “I sharpened it before bringing it here, so it should be able to cut through anything you need.”

“Thanks! This really gives me, uh, peace of mind? Yeah that.”

“Just make sure you know when to run. Adventure is great, but remember that not everyone is as tough as you are.”

“Right. Don’t worry, I’ll protect them. Tell Gratia I said thanks.”

“I’m sure she already knows. Alright, I’ll head out before the kids start leaving. Let the god of luck favor you.”

“And you as well.” Morgan nodded and left the room and subsequently the school. The women behind the desk gave Rose a weird look, but shrugged before getting back to her work. Since she didn’t want to worry anyone with her sword, Rose waited for Hitomi and Ken outside of the school. As she thought, Hitomi found her without any problems.

“Don’t you need to wear your uniform to carry the sword around?”

“Ah.” Rose had completely forgotten about that rule, but she shook her head to avoid thinking about it further. “I’m wearing a uniform right now, and this is an emergency. Yeah, that’s it.”

“If you say so. Ken was right behind me, he should be with us soon.”

“I’ve been right here! Don’t ignore me!”  

“Right, time to get going.” Hitomi ignored him and began walking.

“Don’t worry Ken, this situation is just really serious so Hitomi is going to make sure she does her best. You should as well.”

“Right. I should be serious too. Alright, let’s head over to Natsu’s house as quickly as we can.”

“I have my scooter, I’ll be able to keep up. Just don’t go too fast!” Even with her scooter it was tough to keep up with Hitomi, who was using all the training she was doing to keep up an incredible pace all the way to the house. Ken was also in quite the tough spot and the two took a minute to breathe when they finally got there. “Hitomi… that was too fast!”

“For real! What are they making you do in track?!”

“You two need better stamina. It looks exactly like you said. Nothing immediately weird, but the lights are on.” Rose took a second to feel for any spiritual forces. As far as she could tell, nothing was in the area. Hitomi must have known that as well, but that only made things more suspect.

“Is the door open?”

“Naw, I tried to open it last time I was here.”

“That’s a problem, we need to get inside if we are going to-hm? Was someone here?” There were little pieces of trash scattered around the entrance. Hitomi picked some up, but it was just frills of paper.

“Did someone rip pages out of a notebook or something? Wait, what if the police were here!?”

“That makes sense. If the police were here, chances are they had a way in. Ken, you are the trouble maker, go check for any other doors or windows.”

“I’m not a troublemaker! Well, that’s what I’d like to say. Alright, give me a second.” Ken ran to the side of the building, and Hitomi took this chance to talk to Rose.

“Do you feel unsettled?”

“Not really. Why, do you feel something?”

“No, but that’s it. I don’t really feel anything. If it were just one of them, this wouldn’t be concerning but all of them? What’s going on?”

“That’s what we are here to find out. Asking questions won’t get us anywhere! Now is the time for action! What if they have a secret key somewhere? You know, in case they lock themselves out. I see that a lot in movies.”

“That’s right.” Hitomi’s face seemed to soften as she said that. “Let’s look around the entrance. Now’s the time to act.” The two searching in and under everything that they could find. Since she was taller, Rose also took the chance to look above a few things as well. As they were searching, they heard Ken yell from the back of the house.

“I found it! Come over here!” The two ran around the back the same way that they saw Ken go. They found him standing on a box up to a large window that was pried open. “This window was open slightly. It looks like this is how they first got in.”

“So they didn’t properly close it. Nice going Ken! Let’s go see if we can find anything.” Ken and Rose entered first, with Hitomi right behind them. While nothing felt wrong from the outside, that totally changed as soon as they got inside. “What is going on here? It’s like I’m being tugged.”

“Is that how you’d describe this feeling? I guess that works. Where is Ken?”

“What do you mean he’s- huh?” Rose looked at where he had just been, and found naught but air. “Not you too Ken!”

“Calm down, I just went to look for something that proves they were invaded or something.”

“Huh?” Hitomi seemed to be even more confused than before. “Hey Rose, think of a number.”

“OK, but why?” Rose quickly thought of the number three, but Hitomi just tilted her head as her face became even more confused.

“Three. But then why… Oh, that may be why.” Hitomi looked over at Ken, who was just looking around the room restlessly. “Ken, do you feel anything right now?” Hitomi flared up her own curse, but Ken shook his head.

“Naw, still nothing. Do you guys?”

“That’s weird. Well, nothing we can do about it. Let’s start looking for anything weird.” Ken returned to the room he was checking out before, and Hitomi and Rose started talking about what was going on.

“The only thing I can think of is that for some reason he doesn’t exist in the spirit world right now. Now that I stop and listen, I can hear something faint as well. It’s not Ken, but it might be someone else.”

“Let’s go check there then. If you are right, something is definitely messing with the line between worlds. I’ll make sure nothing weird happens.”

“Thanks. This way.” Hitomi followed the voice she managed to pick up on, but to her surprise it didn’t get any louder as she moved towards it’s supposed source. The house was larger than either of theirs, yet compared to the haunted mansion they were in Hitomi should easily reach each corner. “Something is seriously off. Like something is distorting my curse.”

“Hmm.. Where were the lights on again?”

“That’s a good plan. Alright, I think it was the room beside the one that Ken went into.”

“Keep your ears open. And your eyes now that I think about it.” Rose took the lead this time. It took some time, but she was starting to piece together the puzzle around them. Once they showed up in what looked like a living room, Rose took her sword out and began chanting. “Oh god of luck, allow the world of the spirits to show before me. Let even the weakest traces imprinted be revealed.” In a flash of light, small spirits became visible to their eyes. “Aha! Look Hitomi!”

“Yeah, I see it.” Sitting on the couch was a thin outline of Natsu’s father. Hitomi walked up and tried to interact with it, but it was static. “An imprint huh. You’ve ever seen something like this?”

“Not really. Most of the time an imprint happens when some kind of explosion happens. But this does seem to be her dad. They had no spiritual sense, so it makes sense that any imprint they made would be hard to detect.” Rose nodded her head as if she were a wise sage. “Our best bet is to find Natsu’s imprint and see if we can find how they ended up here.”

“You can do that by yourself right? I want to see if I can do something as well.” Rose gave her a confirmation nod before handing her sword over to her.

“You’ll need this. Make sure to bring it back to me when you are done.”

“I will. I should only be a moment.” Rose left Hitomi to test whatever she wished, but she was immediately stopped by Ken.

“Hey, did you guys find something? I’m not seeing anything out of the ordinary.

“Kinda. Hitomi is looking more into it. Don’t worry, we’ll-” Rose tried to give him a pat on the shoulder to reassure him, but her hand slipped right through. “Ehhhhh!” Ken began to understandably freak out at the complete lack of body he seemed to have.

“Rose what the hell is going on!? Your hand went right through me and that’s not supposed to happen oh god what the hell am I ok” Rose tried to calm him down, but he kept spouting words until Hitomi appeared from the other room.

“Can you shut up? It seems I’m making some sense out of things finally. Rose, you are figuring things out as well. I’m impressed.”

“It’s no big deal. I’m still a bit confused on the details, but it’s good to know you think the same thing.” Her hand passing through Ken was a major piece of the puzzle. The most likely solution was that the two realms were, for some reason she couldn’t figure out, switched. Rose and Hitomi were both complete in the spirit and material planes, so a switch in the two wouldn’t cause any problems. A normal person has no spirit world component, so a switch to the spiritual world would simply imprint their being on it while leaving nothing in the material. Ken, who has a weak spiritual presence, would have a weak material presence if it switched. That’s why Hitomi’s ability seemed to not work with him. This was the best explanation Rose could come up with. Yet even with figuring out this much, without a cause she couldn’t do anything about it. It seemed that Hitomi was equally stuck, as she didn’t offer some way forward. “Grrrrr… Ah! What is going on!?”

“I don’t know, but I hate it. Wait, can I go through walls?” Ken, accepting his newfound partial material body, tried to run through a wall only to crash right into it. “You know. I should have known that since I could touch other things, but then why can you go through me?”

“It’s complicated. Wait, that’s it.” Hitomi seemed to become energized as her brain clicked. “In order for this to work, the object would need to have equal parts like us. That means that Ken would go through it as well. If we can find whatever that is by throwing Ken at things, then we can find it!”

“You’re so smart Hitomi! Ken, you heard her, go run into things until you pass through something!”

“Sure ok that makes sense! Here goes nothing I guess.” Systematically Ken began trying to phase his hand through everything he could. Luckily it seemed like Natsu’s parents were dead set on not having anything excessive. It took ten minutes to test everything on the first floor but from here on out they’d have to test things in their rooms. “Are we sure it’s ok to enter their rooms? This is kinda like, breaking and entering?”

“Then I’ll do it, and you just follow.” Rose opened the door without second thought. Given the size of things, it was the parent’s bedroom. “Alright, breaking and entering done. Time to get to work!”

“You are scary sometimes Rose.”

“Let’s not open anything though. That’s a little too much.”

“He’ll hand will get stopped by what we need anyway, so it’s fine. Go Ken!” Just as before, Ken began to wave his arm through things until everything was tested. Next up was Natsu’s room. Ken hesitated before entering the room. Rose could understand this a bit more than before. “Well, this is the last place something could be right? You can feel free to stay outside if you want. I’ll handle the rest.”

“Oh thank god. I mean, I wasn’t scared or anything to enter a girls room. That’s ridiculous.”

“Well, we wouldn’t want to allow you to see something that Natsu would kill you for later. Just wait outside for a bit.”

“Outside the room or the house?”

“The house. If we fix things, I doubt her parents would appreciate seeing you inside the house.”

“Wait what would you have done if I found the thing before this?!”

“I just thought of that now, so you probably would have been killed.”
“Ok, I’m leaving now. Good luck!” With the fear of death on his mind, Ken made his way back out of the house.

“Did you have to be so harsh? It’s not like he wasn’t useful.”

“I’m going to have to erase his memory later anyway so that he doesn’t talk about this later. I’d rather not have to do much more.”

“Right. So it’s someone in here then?”

“Probably. There is a chance that we missed something really small earlier but for some reason I doubt it. Can you do that spell you used earlier?”

“Sure.” Rose took her sword in hand and began reciting the spell. “Oh god of luck, allow the world of the spirits to show before me. Let even the weakest traces imprinted be revealed.” The flurry of lesser spirits were centered around the imprint of Natsu. “Well, she must have been here when whatever happened happened. So what did you do with the other imprint?”

“I looked at what it was focused on. The father was focused on something in his hand, which I found to be a newspaper nearby that must have fallen. I was hoping to find something that caused this mess. If we look at Natsu, she is looking… over here.” Hitomi walked over to what looked like a well worn chest. “Let’s look in here.”

“It should be on top right? If it’s something new here, it must be on top!”

“Yeah. On top is… this?” Hitomi took out a stuffed animal. It was shaped into a curled up fox sleeping. Once it was in her hand, it was clear this was the thing they were looking for. “Whoever made this is very good at what they do. It looks just like a stuffed animal, but this is a demon of sorts.”

“But how did they get something like that?”

“We can figure that out once we break this thing. Here, do the honors.” Hitomi placed the stuffed fox on the ground and stepped away to allow Rose to swing her sword without fear of hitting something.

“Oh great gods above allow me the power to expel this force of evil from this world. Send it back to the realm from which it came. Come, sword of the heaven blessed by the god of luck. Suere!” The sword grew in size before crashing down on the animal. There was a high pitched shriek that forced them to recoil as the animal burned from the cut outward until it was completely gone. As soon as the last fiber was gone, the shift was reversed and Natsu appeared back in the material realm. “Natsu!” With no idea what was going on, Natsu just accepted the hug as her brain caught up with what was going on.

“How did you two get here? I don’t remember my parents saying you came here.”

“I’m sure you are confused, but you will have to trust us for a bit.” Hitomi took control of the situation as she began removing the memories from Ken. “There was something evil here that trapped you away from the real world for about three days. Rose and I came here to get rid of the evil to bring you back. I’m sure you’ll get a visit from the police once your parents call in to see why the days have passed.”

“That’s a bit ridiculous don’t you think? And isn’t your chest glowing?”

“Don’t worry about it. There was a stuffed fox in that chest over there. That was the cause.” Hitomi did her best to make sure that she didn’t give any extra information that she would have to cut out once they leave. Rose was impressed by just how well she was handling it. “What can you tell us about it?”

“I just got that fox today. There was a store in town that had a bunch of animals like this. I don’t remember the name of it. It was some foreign word. Why does it smell like something burned in here?”

“Like I said, it was some type of evil, so we took care of it.”

“Okay?” Natsu still looked confused, but at this point there wasn’t any point trying to get her to understand. “ Thanks I guess. I still don’t really get it.”

“We’ll explain it later. Right now we have to get out before your parents realize we are here.”

“That’s going to be hard. There is only one door and the stairs are as far as they get.”

“Then we’ll leave from this window.”

“Wait Rose why would we-”

“It’ll be fine, I’ll carry you.”

“There is no way you can do that.”

“It’ll be fine~ Come on.” Rose did her best to pick up Hitomi. It was a task that required every once of her strength, but she managed to do it. “See, no problem.” Natsu shook her head profusely.

“There are a lot of problems! There is no way you could jump from here without hurting yourself, and you are clearly struggling!”

“Natsu, are you ok?” There was a knock at her door, and Natsu immediately panicked.

“Y-yeah I’m fine!” As she turned her head back to Rose and Hitomi, Hitomi was opening the window for Rose and the girl jumped out. There was a loud bang. Natsu slowly walked over to the window and looked down, only to see Rose putting down Hitomi. Rose gave her a thumbs up before running away with Hitomi. “What the-” The duo made their way back to where Ken was, although due to having his memory erased he had no idea why he was even here.

“Oh Rose, Hitomi, you guys were here? I thought Natsu disappeared?”

“They came back.” Hitomi answered without hesitation.

“I guess they just left without telling anyone huh? Well that’s better than what I was thinking.”

“It’s good everything turned out alright. Shall we get home Hitomi?”

“Yeah, we are done here.” Rose went and got her scooter and waved goodbye to Ken, who was also on his way back home. “Should we tell our parents about this?”

“Hmm, I think you should. If I tell my parents they would just solve the problem right away. Not that I want people to go missing but-”

“It’s our era to have an adventure. Although it’ll be hard to write about this in our journals.”

“We can just leave out the supernatural stuff. Plus this might just be a one time thing.”

“Yeah I doubt that.” Hitomi had a bad feeling about all of this. Something her mother had said about her job wouldn’t leave her head. The side effect of using her curse was clouding her own thoughts, so even if she wanted to remember what it was while Rose was still nearby, it was impossible. She kept this feeling close as she ran back home.