Once in a lifetime chapter 5

“I recognize you. You’re always the one constantly in a hurry to get home, no?”
Kirino spoke in a very stern tone. She locked eyes with Louise, crossing her arms like a disappointed parent.

“It’s Louise! My name is Louise!” She shouted, annoyed. “Surely you’re high and mighty enough to remember other students when they all know you, huh?”
“Well then, Louise. Now is your time to leave. I have a job to finish here.”
Louise took a step forward.
“Hey no, I’m here for the same thing! I didn’t think I was the only one who wanted to save the town too.”
Kirino raised an eyebrow, giving a scowling yet stern look. “My work is none of your business. Leave now, and tell no one of this.”

“How’d you summon that lightning like that? Is that sword of yours an artifact that does something like that? I have one similar, and I didn’t realize you were like me a bit.” She held up her hands, showing her gauntlets. “These give me some real neat strength and-”
Kirino dashed forward, drawing her katana slightly and slamming the butt of her sword into Louise’s nose. She stumbled back, clutching her face while looking annoyed. Kirino cocked her head.

“Durability too, what was that-”
Kirino lurched forward again, attempting to jab her in the stomach. Louise leapt to the side.

“Oh I see how it is!” She grinned, cracking her knuckles. “You think you’re too good for help, miss prodigy!”
She stepped forward, rearing back her fist and throwing her fist forward. Kirino sidestepped it, grabbing her arm, flipping her over, and slamming her on the ground. Louise practically rebounded from the impact, hopping back up to her feet.

“I can do this all night you know! All your fancy expensive karate classes can’t help you now!”
Kirino gave a look of disappointment. Louise charged forward with a punch, which was sidestepped, followed by a kick, which was ducked under. She continued to throw several punches, each one effortlessly dodged by her opponent. Following another dodged blow, Kirino body checked her, knocking her back and stunning the brawler. Trying to follow up with another to her stomach, Louise was barely able to dodge, only for her dodge to be read with a kick to the side of her stomach.

Despite her bullet-proof body from the gauntlets, it still wasn’t doing much to dampen the impact. She could feel her stomach churn from what that blow could have been had she not been protected.

Seeing the black-haired girl come in for another blow, Louise stomped into the ground, kicking up a plume of dirt and dust. Kirino leapt back, but Louise lunged through the cloud, fist aimed at Kirino’s face. As if she could sense the intense force of the oncoming blow, Kirino elegantly ducked under it. Louise flew forward until she skidded to a halt, whirling around.

Kirino’s look of disappointment changed to be more stern.


Sprinting through the fields, Davis stumbled to a halt, bending over and gasping for breath. He was pretty sure this was the way where the lightning came from, but nothing in his mind was processing except for “sit down and rest a bit more.” Between breaths, he took a swig from his water bottle, and looked ahead.

Several yards away was a massive turtle shell, and two figures fighting each other in the moonlight. One of them was constantly tumbling and getting back to their feet.

It was clearly Louise, and she needed help.

A few more deep breaths, he redoubled his sprint, adrenaline filling his system with the urge to save his friend. He got close enough to the point he could distinguish who the two figures were. While Louise was still being punched and thrown around, the other figure was… Kirino? He stood still, observing the dueling girls, trying to give his brain time to process everything.
His thought process was interrupted when he noticed the turtle shell shift slightly.

He froze, shifting his focus on the monster.


Louise was feeling she had pissed off Kirino big time or something, because now she was attacking unrelentingly. Every time she attempted to throw a punch or kick, Kirino was two steps ahead, following up with a blow of her own. When Louise found some windows of opportunity, it was as if Kirino read her mind, and would grapple and throw Louise onto the ground. Constantly being knocked around like that was beginning to get exhausting, and Kirino clearly had way more endurance than she had.

If only these gauntlets gave me extra weight or something was all that was on her mind.
But maybe I can use this durability a bit better… I only need one solid blow.

She kicked back, launching herself far away. She slumped over, and began panting hard. She hacked, and spat a wad of spit in Kirino’s direction.

“Come on… hoo… Your fists are like flies! Aren’t you on roids or something to get a body like that?”
Kirino lurched forward, throwing a kick to Louise’s side.
Louise didn’t even bother trying to dodge, tanking the hit. She felt her insides shudder from the blow.
She increased the ferocity of her attacks. Louise constantly recoiled, acting like every hit was doing more than it actually was.
Then, Kirino tried to go for another gut punch.

Louise took it, but lunged forward, bear-hugging the girl.
“Gotcha! You can’t read when somebody’s faking their pain, huh? Told ya you aren’t good at everything!”
The girl firmly in her grip, she lifted her up and decided that a suplex would be a fitting move to knock her out.

Louise yelped, releasing her grip and backing off. Something fairly painful had stung her hand. The pain subsided quickly, but her opponent had already broken free. Kirino quickly backed off, clicking her sword back into its hilt.
Her expression changed, to something more intense. She reached for her sword and dashed forward, closing the distance between the two in seconds. Louise leapt back as the sword was drawn, the blade slicing across her leg.

She groaned in pain, feeling like the blade cut her skin. She stumbled on the landing and fell on her butt. Across her leg, her compression pants were cut, and a red mark across the exposed skin. It hadn’t broken the skin, but it still burned terribly. She clenched her fists.

“Oh you’ll pay for that one! Need your fancy rich toys in order to keep in the game, huh?” She screamed, charging forward.
Kirino stood firm, keeping her hand on her blade. Seeing the moment her sword was being drawn, Louise leapt into the air, grazing the edge of the blade. She smiled to herself, seeing Kirino’s expression change to that of surprise. Landing behind, Louise tried to grab her from behind again.

Then, a flash, followed by a crack.

She felt her body seize up, a buzzing, burning sensation overtaking every limb. She fell to her knees, realizing Kirino was no longer in front, but behind her.
Just barely shaking off the feeling, she got back to her feet.

Then another flash and crack.

Kirino was now in front of her again, stumbling and almost falling to her knees. She fell to all fours, holding steady and looking like she might puke. Louise, however, was flat on the ground, unable to move or feel anything. The only things that she could move were her eyes, glancing around in a panic.
Kirino stayed on the ground for a few moments, heaving and trying to keep her stomach under control, before getting to her feet. She walked to Louise, placing her hands on her gauntlets.

“You’re in over your head. I don’t know what your job is here, but it ends tonight.”

She tugged, the gauntlets slipping from Louise’s hand. She twitched her hands, trying to grasp.

“Hey, uh this turtle is moving again!”

Kirino spun around, sword in hand, to the sight of a masked boy pointing at the beast. The turtle was now floating in the air, with four heads popping out of each leg hole. A head from behind began sucking in air, the tall grass visibly being pulled towards it. Kirino leapt out of the way as the opposing head let out a blast of air at her, propelling the entire beast away. Louise’s limp body tumbled into the tall grass from the blast.

Kirino huffed, dashing after the escaping monster.

Davis hurried over to the downed Louise, pulling a small first aid kit out of his jacket. He got to his knees, examining her.

She was still motionless and twitching. There was a red mark across her leg where Kirino had cut, but thankfully the skin didn’t look broken. Her eyes were open, staring straight at him.

He opened the kit, staring at the mix of bandages and ointments. He sighed, closing it.

“I don’t think I got anything for paralysis in here.” He at least took out some antibiotic ointment, rubbing it over the burn. “I think this might help-ish?”
He took out his phone, hoping to quickly search what to do, but groaned when he noticed there was no service.

She twitched again, this time a bit more aggressively. Then she let out an agonizing roar, as if somebody terribly stubbed their toe.

“YEOW.” She wriggled her body, feeling the numbness dissipate. “that hurts all over the place…”
She shakily stood up, but fell back down to her knees. Davis offered her his shoulder, bringing her up.
“I always knew she was a big show-off. That lightning was NOTHING!”
“You sure you all right? You honestly look kinda terrible.”

Her outfit and skin were covered in smudges of dirt. Her skin looked somewhat pale, and she was still shaking. She stood up free from Davis’s support, stretching out her arms.”

“I think I can handle-” She winced, stumbling on her leg a bit. “You got any painkillers in there or something?”
He opened up the kit and handed her a few tabs of ibuprofen. She downed them with water.

“Hoo, thanks. Now come on, we can’t let her get that turtle! The pain should be gone by the time we catch-”
He grabbed her arm before she could run off.

“Hold on, first off, what was Kirino doing with that turtle? Did our benefactor recruit more people without us knowing?”
She shrugged. “No clue, she said she was doing a job, but she didn’t want me involved. It can’t be any good.”

“Second, no offense, but she was kinda… kicking your ass. Hell, she didn’t even have to draw her weapon! Could you imagine what it woulda been like if she actually used that sword?”

Louise pouted. “Well could you imagine if I actually used MY sword? I had to hold myself back for her safety.”
“I don’t think that would have made a difference.”
She shook her head. “Besides, two things are different. First, I know what she’s capable of. I get her fighting style, and that weird lightning trick. I doubt she can use that frequently if she saved it for last.”
Davis rolled his eyes. “Yeah, like your style of blindly punching and letting yourself get beat up is gonna help.”
“Hey, I’m sure I’ve practiced fistfighting more than you mister sleepyhead!”
Davis smiled and shrugged. “I mean, why do I even need to know fistfighting? It’s not cool to get into fights.” He paused. “Wait, do you fight anyone at school? Why DO you practice fistfighting-”

“As for point number two, if we make it a two on one, she can’t possibly win, right?”
He shook his head, forgetting the previous question he asked.
“True, just one pepper spray bomb and I don’t think she’d do too well, right? I just hope it won’t hurt her too badly…” He took one from his jacket. “This is my last one though, so I’ll hang tight till we really need it. We have both her and that turtle to deal with.”
“I’ll think of more when we get there, but we gotta hurry! I think they went this way-”
She tried to run, but found Davis was still holding her arm.

“I had a little bit of foresight. That turtle was waking up when you two were fighting. I really couldn’t fight it alone, so I duct taped a tracker to it. Just in case it fled while you two were fighting.”
Pulling open an app on his phone, there was a small blue dot heading close to the foothills, entering the blotted off area.

“That’s genius! I didn’t know you knew your way around programming too?”
He scratched the back of his head. “I kinda don’t. It’s a GPS dog collar actually… I wanted to… Nevermind.”

The duo trekked back to the roads and resumed their journey to the hills. Walking up the jagged dirt road didn’t prove to be too much of an issue, but trouble arose when they had to begin hiking off-trail in order to get to the GPS ping. Louise’s trailblazing pace was brought to a crawl as she struggled to search around the dark for proper footing, along with avoiding spiked plants or dead brush. Davis eventually was able to overtake her and begin leading, mostly thanks to the fact he could see better with his goggles. As they continued their climb, the foliage died out and the hill became abruptly steep, impossible to continue straight up any longer. Moonlight was clearly beaming down, much to the joy of Louise. They walked along the slope until they found a small set of footholds which they could climb up.
Peering over the steep edge, Louise’s eyes bugged out, and she sunk back behind it, turning off her headlamp. Davis did the same, crouching next to her.

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“What did you see?” He whispered.

“It’s like a big crater over there, a nest for the turtle! It was awake too! I think it knows we’re coming.”

“All right. Did you see Kirino anywhere?”
She shook her head. “I only got a quick glance, but I think that cryptid would be a bit more active if she was down there too.”
“All right. Got any ideas on how to beat it?”
“Well I saw how it sucks in air and spits it out as a weapon and form of movement, so I think maybe throwing something like a firework inside of it when it sucks in will be our best bet? Hopefully we’ll wound it enough that it can’t run away, and just keep repeating that strategy till it dies.”
“And if the fireworks don’t do anything?”
“I’ll improvise something. But if he runs, we got the GPS, so we can track him another night. Hopefully then, Kirino won’t be bugging us.”
Davis nodded.
“Let me sneak in ahead since I have these.” He pointed to his goggles. “Just in case Kirino did beat us here and is waiting for us.”
Putting on his goggles, he peered over the ledge into the crater.
There was the monster, nested in the center with four heads scanning the area.
The crater itself was pretty large, around the size of a parking lot, and thankfully not too sloped. Davis could only assume that the monster had leveled the top of this hill ages ago for a well hidden nesting spot. He creeped closer to the monster, his jacket quietly jingling from all the gear. He took great care to make sure not to slip on the slope, ducking from rock to rock to get as close as possible. He stopped at the last rock he could, only a few yards away from the monster. He could hear it breathing and snorting, and the movement of each of its patrolling heads. He peeked several times, finding nobody but the turtle. He took out his walkie.

“All right, it looks-”
A light was shining on him from somewhere behind.. He turned around to find Kirino standing there with a flashlight mounted on her chest.

“I’ve already told Louise that this job is mine, and I expect no interference. Leave now.”

He held up his hands in front of him.

“Hold on, I’m not a threat to you or anything, let’s just… talk it out or something?”
She cocked her head. “If you’re not a threat, why are you willing to face off against that UMA? Clearly if you’re confident in your ability to kill such a beast, I should be no issue to you.”

“It’s because… That’s beside the point. You want it dead too, right? I want it dead, you want it dead, so why don’t we work together?”
“I can assure you that our interests don’t align at all. Now leave, I don’t wish for you to get hurt in the middle of our battle-”
She stood up straight and her eyes widened. She whirled around with her sword drawn, holding it up to block. Louise came soaring towards her, leg outstretched, hoping to get one solid kick.
Her foot collided with her sword, a blast of sparks blew out from the impact, and she was sent flying backwards, landing on her feet.

“You’re absolutely pathetic thinking stalling would work.” She said with a grimace on her face.

“What’s that saying Sun Tzu said or something, All’s fair in warfare?” Louise yelled with a grin.
The turtle behind the two shrieked, and all of them felt a rumbling. Chunks of debris were flung towards the trio as the earth around them shaked, followed by a terrible grinding. Louise and Kirino leapt out of the way, as Daivs turned to see the massive turtle, skidding across the ground at the speed of a truck. He turned intangible in a nick of time as the shell of the monster slammed into the slope, kicking up a torrent of rocks and dirt. Splinters of wood from felled tree stumps sprayed everywhere, and trees near the edge of the wall collapsed in from the impact. Davis re-materialized, crashing to the ground as if he dove out of the way. He turned back, seeing three heads of the turtle staring right at him.

“All on my own again?” He muttered to himself as he got back to his feet.


After dodging out of the way, with dust still in the air, Louise charged on through where she expected to find Kirino. Seeing a silhouette, she slid on the ground, hoping to sweep her leg and pin her down, only for Kirino to leap over her attack, swiping at her with her blade.
It nicked her shoulder, giving the same stinging sensation, and she rolled back to her feet. The dust cleared, she caught sight of Kirino standing silently, sword in front of her.

“Come on, don’t you wanna do that lightning trick again?” She stuck her tongue out.

Kirino charged forward in response, slashing straight at her. Louise ducked under it, but Kirino quickly followed up with an elbow strike to her back, knocking her to the floor. Louise bounced back to her feet, throwing a punch that was deftly dodged.

“The nice thing about these gauntlets is they don’t need some cheap trick like that sword or whatever you do with the lightning. They keep on working no matter what!”
It was a boldfaced lie. She felt herself getting more exhausted the more she got knocked around. The more tired she got, the more each blow hurt.
Any moment she could take another hit and collapse to the ground for good, and then the gauntlets were as good as gone.
If she couldn’t use that lightning for whatever reason, there was at least some chance for victory, if she could land one solid hit…


Davis was glad this time around they were fighting in the dead of night with no flare or anything to hinder his ability. Every attempted attack from the turtle was evaded effortlessly, thanks to his ability. He had never used it in succession this much, but he was glad he wasn’t too physically taxed. The monster was slowly being drawn away from the wall it slammed into, hovering eight feet in the air with its star-filled belly.
Davis continued evading until he caught one of the rear heads beginning to inhale.
He lit a firecracker and broke into a sprint, sparks flying out of his hand. He hurled it across the crater, getting sucked into the intake. The eyes of the monster widened, and one of the heads coughed up the still-lit firecracker towards the dueling girls. Davis glanced over, clenching his teeth as he watched Kirino instinctively leap away, and Louise stand and brace for the blow.


In a colorful explosion, Louise felt stinging all over her body, ironically feeling like she was splashed with ultra cold water.
She was feeling even more tired, covered in little red marks over her arms from clashes with Kirino, and let out a huff. There was still a lot of smoke in the air from the explosion, and in a rush of adrenaline, she launched herself forward, rearing back her fist at the Kirino-shaped silhouette once more.


The turtle let out a deafening roar, attacking more ferociously at Davis as a result of his attack. Multiple times, he had to wait incorporeal as the monster devastated where he once stood with a flurry of attacks. After re-materializing, the turtle seemed winded from its latest flurry. He glanced around for anything just to hide behind to re-plan.
He dove behind a few boulders that were upset from the rampage. It wouldn’t be perfect cover from the rampage, but maybe it would give him enough time to recuperate.


Kirino’s eyes were watering from the firecracker. She took a single second to rub them, still keeping her focus on where Louise was standing.
In her mind, she was hoping that the blast would at least stagger her long enough to recuperate.
As she lifted her head, Louise was an arm’s length away, staring straight into her eyes and fist reared back.
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She threw her fist forward, and Kirino quickly lifted her blade, the gauntlets clashing with them. A blast emanated from the impact letting out an incredible surge of energy from the clash. The two were engulfed in mysterious light, feeling an overwhelming amount of power pushing against each other. The strange metal of the gauntlets held strong against the mysterious blade, but kirino shook to even hold firm against such force.

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The two locked eyes intensely. Louise pushed as hard as she could and Kirino’s feet ground against the dirt, barely holding against the power of the gauntlets.
Beneath their feet, the ground began to crack from the sheer clashing power. Realizing she wouldn’t last against these forces, Kirino broke her sword free from the clash, swinging upwards to deflect the oncoming fist. She kicked Louise in the stomach amidst her retreat, and then flashed into lightning, electrocuting her. Feeling the electricity rage through her body, Louise yelped in pain, falling to the ground. Kirino stood firm only for a second before falling over on all fours. She began to heave and puke.


Davis was caught off guard by the crack from the lightning, almost missing the turtle preparing another air-burst attack. He ghosted as a blast obliterated his position, kicking up a plume of dust.
Phasing back in, he lit his pepper spray bomb and tossed it, a cloud of red mist engulfing the monster. It inhaled again, sucking up all the spicy particulate. It gagged and coughed, crashing down onto the crater floor. All of its heads were coughing up red clouds of pepper spray, and Davis knew this was the only chance he had to do some kinda deathblow. The sound of lightning meant Louise was in trouble, so he had to try something new. He gulped and closed his eyes, trying to clear his mind. He lit a firecracker and de-materialized with it still in his hand.
He opened his eyes and ran forward to where the turtle was.
He felt his heart begin to race faster as he stood there, waiting for the fuse to burn out just right.
He focused on his hand, managing to re-materialize only his hand, inside of the monster.

It was incredibly warm, fleshy, and his hand felt like it was on fire.

He clenched his teeth tight, moaning in agony, and released the firecracker. The second he let go, he returned his hand to the immaterial world.
He gripped his hand and put distance between him and the monster, re-materializing in full. His hand had a big gash in the back of it and was bleeding, he yelled out in pain and grabbed it tight.

Then an explosion, followed by what sounded like a rockslide and a shriek.

All four heads of the monster looked to the sky, screaming in pain. The top of the shell had been blown off, revealing a pulsing, fleshy inside. Davis grit his teeth again, lighting a cherry bomb. Davis phased out, leapt up into the air, and phased back in, landing atop the shell.
He stared in disgust at the writhing mess of internal organs this strange beast had. He couldn’t tell if they were intestines, lungs, a stomach maybe, or some weird organ for storing air.
Soon, they would be nothing but married, charred flesh.

With another explosion and another shriek, the four heads of the monster fell limp.


Hearing both of the explosions, Louise could only internally smile, as her face muscles were totally numb.

Good job Davis, we got both Kirino and the monster

Her joy dissolved when she noticed a stumbling Kirino walk into her vision. She grabbed her gauntlets again.

“No matter how many times we encounter each other, the outcome is always going to be the same. This work is mine, and mine alone. Stay out of it.”

“I think that’s only true if we’re one on one…” Louise mumbled, her mouth regaining feeling.

Davis re-materialized and leapt at Kirino, knocking her over. Her stern expression was broken, replaced with shock.

“What the-”

“Whatever your dumb job was, we did it way better! The monster is dead!” Davis yelled, pointing to the corpse of the beast.

She turned, seeing all of the limp heads of the monster. Davis leapt down and grabbed hold of Louise, dematerializing with her.
Kirno turned back to find the two had completely vanished.

Louise saw nothing but complete darkness.
Davis’s voice spoke to her.

“Just hold on tight, I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know how long I can hold you in here.”
She gripped him tighter as Davis looked around with his goggles. He saw the shadowy outline of Kirino investigating the corpse of the beast. She glanced around at the mess of exploded organs. She strutted away, climbing out of the crater. Now that she was gone, he re-materialized with Louise, rolling onto his back and gasping for breath.

“We… Really need to stop relying on luck for all this stuff…” he said between deep breaths.
Louise giggled, wiggling her recovering limbs.
“I think I fought just fine. I fought Kirino there to a draw, and still didn’t need to use my sword!”
“I saw you on the floor and her on top of you. Again.”
“Well she was down and out for a while too!”
Davis stared back at the stars. “Still, weird knowing that she’s in on all of this stuff too.”
“She’s the last person I’d want involved with all this stuff.” Louise grumbled to herself. “Such a stuck-up tryhard. She’s probably getting paid to do it or something dumb like that, nothing noble. Maybe I can jump her after school or something.”
David whipped his head towards her. “Louise, do you WANT to get arrested?”
She shrugged, sitting up and stretching out. “I dunno, what if she jumps me first?”
“Because we could report her to the police? Sure they won’t believe ‘she’s fighting us over monster hunting’, but they will believe us if she attacks us. With a sword. I mean they won’t believe the lightning but… You get the point right?”

She grumbled. “Fine, fine-” She caught sight of his bleeding hand. “Oh god, you got hurt? Quick get some bandaids or something!”
He looked back at the cut. “Oh yeah, uh got this doing something really stupid against that turtle.” He took out the first aid kit, quickly wrapping the wound in gauze. “This should help at least for now.”

Louise got up to her feet, wincing. “Hey Davis?”
“Yeah?”
“I think I definitely need to take a day off tomorrow.”

Far from the crater, Louise was speaking on a satellite phone.

“I was unable to complete the job. Two others interfered, and now the UMA is destroyed.”

“Are you aware of who the interferences are?”
“Yes, but I will be unable to do anything to them directly, as they are aware of my identity as well.”

“That’s fine, I have other methods. I want everything you know about them reported in full.”

Once in a Lifetime Chapter 4

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A thin fog rolled over the foothills of the titular Tomahawk Hills, leading to a gray Saturday six AM. Throughout the hilltops were fancy, modern-style homes. One of these homes belonged to the Yorogami family. It was a small, gated single-family home, connected by a paved driveway winding down towards the base of the hill. Most notably, of course, was a helipad installed right next to the home’s garage. 

Kirino’s parents had already left an hour earlier, leaving her to her own devices for the rest of the day.

Her alarm clock rang out, blinds to a wall-sized window automatically opening. The light seeped in, and the girl calmly rose from her sleep. 

She slept on a large futon atop a wooden frame. To the right was a kotatsu surrounded by cushions, and topped with a cup full of pens and pencils. By that was a door that led into a closet.
To the left of the bed was the window, a plush carpet, coffee table, armchair, and two bookshelves.
The bookshelves were filled with a mix of books, but mostly comics and manga, neatly organized into “Complete” and “Incomplete” categories.
Mounted over her bed was scroll art depicting a raging storm, and mounted on the opposing wall were models of feudal japanese weapons.
She went into her closet, revealing a spacious area, full of a mix of uniforms, gaudy dress clothes, and more traditional Japanese wear. She changed into a simple skirt and a custom made purple kimono top, along with straw slippers and socks.
From there she walked down an exuberant hallway, decorated with modern art paintings on the walls. Through the hall and into the living room, fine oak tables topped with exotic ornaments sat in without a speck of dust. She entered the kitchen, where a housekeeper was awaiting her. He presented her with a meal of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, and milk. She took her time eating, chewing every bite thoroughly and not leaving a single scrap of food on the plate. She nodded to the housekeeper, audibly thanking him for the meal, and walked towards the backyard.
Through the door, hanging on the patio wall were two sheathed katanas. She grabbed one, slinging it around her waist, and took her top off.
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Her body was ripped.

Wearing nothing but a sarashi and a skirt, it proudly displayed all of the constant hard work and exercise she put into her own body. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths in and out, enduring the cold sting of the morning air. She stepped forward onto the lawn, as a new servant set up a wooden dummy a few yards from where she stood.
Taking a deep breath, she lunged forward, closing the gap in a second. She drew her sword out slightly, ramming the hilt into the stomach, then followed up with a punch to the nose.
The wood of the dummy slightly splintered at each blow, the heavy weight of its base being the only thing stopping it from being completely knocked over.
She turned, walking back to her starting position, and continued to practice. She varied the moves little, occasionally sidestepping to anticipate an imaginary counterblow, or sometimes going straight for the nose instead of aiming for the stomach first. For fifteen minutes, she continued practicing acts of closing distance and going for non-lethal yet incapacitating blows, varying in distance. With one final thunk of the butt of her sword to the dummy’s stomach, she stepped back.
The dummy was terribly cracked in several places around the chest and stomach. The face was hammered inwards, the cracked wood beginning to flatten.
She would consider upgrading her dummy material for better longevity, but she couldn’t help but enjoy how beaten up they looked after her assault.
It was a testament to the fruits of her rigorous exercise.
Still, this dummy was of no more use to her.

She turned around to walk back inside. A few yards away from it, however…

She spun around in the blink of an eye, katana drawn. In half a second, she was in killing distance, cleaving the dummy in two across the middle with a perfectly clean cut. The top half fell over with a clunk as it bounced on the lawn turf.
She sheathed her sword, exhaling. Her housekeeper hurried over, handing her a towel and began cleaning the destroyed dummy. She wiped her face of little sweat, and re-dressed herself. She passed the kitchen and walked down a stairway to a home gym in the basement.
Her cell phone began ringing a peculiar violin tone.

She pulled it from her pocket, answering. “You need me?”
“We have eyes on a beast. It’s a flying type, so we need your expertise to bring it down.”
“You can brief me on the details when I prepare tonight. However, I’ll do it alone. I’m sure you can understand why.”
She hung up, putting her phone to the side as she prepped for her morning workout.


Saturdays were an utter blessing for Davis, this one more so than usual. Following the wendigo’s defeat, he barely managed to stumble his way back to the camp with Louise. After helping with packing, he walked her back home, saying he at least wanted to spend the night at his house alone.
That, and he didn’t want to sleep on the couch again.
After being up into the dead of night, he was going to sleep in until 1pm and nobody was going to stop him. He had woken up around 10am, but he was intent to continue embracing the coziness of his bed.

His eyes flew open upon hearing a crash from outside.

He closed his eyes tighter, heart racing. It was a racoon or something. Monsters didn’t come out this early.

Somebody was yelling.

“Davis, you up in there? I kinda need a bit of help out here!”
His heart returned to normal, all the anxiety turning into frustration.
He groaned, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Throwing off all the blankets and letting the morning cold sting him awake, he slipped on slippers and shuffled to the front door.
Opening up, he was met with Louise and a mess she brought along. She wore the same shorts and jacket, with a slightly different alien-faced t-shirt, combined with some compression pants.
Next to her was a tipped over wagon, formerly full of papers, charts, stands, books, and posters. Its contents were scattered across the front yard, and she was chasing after a scattered stack of papers as poster tubes continued to roll across the sidewalk. She snatched up a few stray sheets, smiling sheepishly at Davis.

“What are you doing with all this stuff this early?” He rubbed more sleep from his eyes, letting out a yawn.

“Hey, uh…” She stared at the mess. “I was gonna bring some stuff over since your place is going to be our base of operations, remember? So I have all this research and stuff that would be handy for finding more monsters and-”

He yawned again, combined with a frustrated huff. “Fine, as long as you think It’ll help.”
He walked to the wagon, tipping it back onto its wheels. “Could you also call me in advance if you’re going to come on over? And come when I’m not sleeping-”

He realized Louise wasn’t anywhere near him. She was already in his living room, hanging up an “I WANT TO BELIEVE” UFO poster.

“I’ll just bring the other stuff in…”
   

Davis’s once decently kept living room was now transformed into something similar to Louise’s bedroom. Charts, papers and books were scattered across the floor, making walking across a hazard. The walls had even more charts hung up on them, an occasional poster mixed in. Davis crashed on the couch, panting from the past hour of setup while Louise was pacing in circles. He closed his eyes, trying to drift into another nap.

“You know, knowing all this stuff actually exists just opens up way too many places to start! There’s all these alleged sightings around here as well, but I can’t deny them COMPLETELY as hoaxes now. There’s one I personally hear gossip about. Did you know there’s a ghost that haunts our school?”
Davis raised his head, cracking open one eye towards her. “I told you to stop calling me a ghost.”
She shook her head. “No, like really! I first heard of some teachers mentioning that somebody kept getting into locked utility closets, classrooms, and locked rooms all around the school, constantly leaving garbage and wrappers around.”
Davis stared more intently as she continued.
“All the school master keys are in check, so unless somebody is a talented lockpick, which there aren’t because why would somebody lockpick a classroom just to leave garbage behind a desk or something, it clearly has to be some frustrated ghost or spirit!”

Davis sunk deeper into the couch. “No it’s not a ghost. That would be uh… me. I really don’t like being bothered eating lunch. You’re just, stretching way too much there though…”
Louise threw her hands in the air. “WELP. There goes one definitive lead. Well what about you? You said you saw a bunch of monsters in the woods!”
“Keyword here being ‘saw’. I really don’t know how to draw them out, and the wendigo was the most aggressive of the bunch I’m aware of. I really really REALLY don’t want to stake out in the woods every night waiting by happenstance to bump into one. I gotta keep up with schoolwork too.”
Louise huffed. “Saving the town is a bit more important than schoolwork!”
“I still want to have somewhat of a future after this is all over. Hero work is fun, but I’m not getting paid for any of it. I don’t think heroes ever get paid at all?”

“I mean they have to get paid for their good deeds right? How would they afford food? Once we save the town, we tell everyone and get a big reward from the mayor or something.”

“I don’t think that’s how things work…”
“Fine, I guess I’ll have to pick up the extra slack since you care so much about school.”
He shot an annoyed look at her, before glancing at all the charts. He darted from bit to bit, trying to find any bit of relevant, or at the very least comprehensible, piece of information. “Wish that the benefactor gave us some sort of lead or whatever to follow.”
Louise snapped her fingers. “You just reminded me, I nearly forgot all about it. I was browsing a few forums before I came here, checking for any cryptid sightings.”
She scrounged around the room, pulling a brown folder from off the floor. She opened it, handing a piece of paper to him. 

“This is a satellite image around the outskirts of town, in the foothills. Notice something funny?”
Davis squinted at the image. The farmland, dirt roads, and occasional abandoned structure showed up fine, but closer to the foothills it was blotted out, as if somebody went wild with the blur tool in a paint program.

“You printed this straight from maps, and didn’t download it straight from any forum, right?”

She nodded. “Verified it myself! My bet is PAIN blotted it out way back when, but when their files got wiped they forgot all about it!”

He sat up more straight. “Hey, a lead is a lead, right? It’s not often people blot out big swathes of satellite images.”
“Yup! It’s a long walk, so I should prepare some food for the hike!”
“Wait, walking?”
She ran over, opening his fridge and pausing at the sight of microwaveable meals. “Oh yeah… I guess we can grab something on the walk over?”

“What do you mean we’re going to hike over there today?”

    With Louise carrying a backpack with supplies and a sword at her hip, and Davis with his night vision goggles and jacket full of gear, the two began their trek to the foothills. They paused at downtown to get some sandwiches before continuing on, past scattered small shops and groups of offices.
During the entire walk, Louise kept a good pace, happily skipping a good distance in front of Davis. He had a constant look of death on his face, constantly calling for her to slow down. Louise would slow her pace only briefly, before leaving him in the dust.
Soon, the well paved suburban roads and sidewalks made way to less kept backroads, dotted with cracks and bumps and surrounded by farmland.

The sky began to darken as they passed the normal farmlands and stretches of grazing lands, leading into undeveloped territory. No more well-grazed fields or stretches of crops, but swathes of unkempt land hosting waist-high grass. These fields stretched on endlessly forward, only cut off by the foothills up ahead. Every so often, a dirt path would cut through the tall grass, connecting to long abandoned homes or barns. The only maintained man-made structures were streetlamps, along with utility poles running up to the hills. With what little sunlight was left, the foothills looked a little bit less than a mile off. Louise turned to Davis, who was panting and even further behind. She waved, pointing at the the roads that ran up the hills. 

“Hurry up, we’re almost there!”
“Could we sit down for like, twenty or thirty minutes?” He held up a half empty water bottle. “You’re moving so fast, I’ve barely had any time to simply take a sip of water these past few hours!” He gasped between words.
“Sure sure!” She bounded over. “We’re almost there, so I don’t think it’s an issue.” She took off her bag, pulling out a blanket, laying it on the grass next to the asphalt. She took one last sip from her now empty water bottle. Davis stared at her.

“Are you some kinda machine? How am I supposed to keep up with you?”
Louise grinned. “A little bit of exercise in the morning every day never hurts. No, snoring in bed doesn’t build muscle!.”
“I don’t snore! Plus, exercise stuff isn’t for me. I’m too busy to make time.”
She shook her head. “When winter break rolls around, I’m gonna make my new exercise walking over to your place and waking you up on time. I can’t have you out of shape.”
Davis sat on the blanket carefully, lying down. “Please don’t wake me up early ever again. Both times, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

Louise dropped a packaged sandwich on his face. 

“Eat a bit, it’ll help you wake up a bit.”
He flinched and lurched up. He stared, annoyed.
“Thanks.”
He unwrapped it, took a bite, still staring at the darkening sky. Bite after bite, he slowly laid back down.
Louise followed, lying down right next to him. She exhaled.

“Okay, maybe I’m a bit more tired than I thought.” She giggled, stretching out her arms and legs.

The two took their time eating, watching as the sky slowly turned pitch black. Thousands of stars popped in overhead, becoming more and more clear as the sunlight receded. It wasn’t long until a beautiful sea of stars dominated the sky.

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/919097636718538752/942412031007531068/CH4_P2.png

Davis stared at the sights for several minutes, mesmerized. He glanced over to Louise, who was eating another sandwich.

“You know, uh, a fun fact about the stars?”
“Hm?” She looked up to the sky, chewing her food. “Oh uh, I know constellations a bit? Tell me!”

“You don’t really get a view like this here like you do in cities. All the lights there cause a bunch of light pollution. I mean, this isn’t even the full amount of stars we COULD be seeing. I think?” He looked back where they walked, as some streetlights began to light up.

“I think you need to be completely isolated from any sort of lighting to see them all.”

She stared at the sky a bit more intently. “I never knew that. I thought everybody got to see the same starry sky.”

“I’ve lived in a lot of places when I was younger. My parents were constantly moving around, so I got to see a lot of different skies.”

Louise lurched up. “Is this talk going where I think it’s going? Don’t tell me you’re going to move again soon?”

“Hey hey uh, no? At least I don’t think so. I mean, my parents got sick of moving ME around so much despite having work that moved them around a bunch. So they just still work a lot in other places, but at least send money back to me so I can care for myself and that stuff.”
She sighed in relief, lying back down next to him.
“Okay that’s at least good. My family just works late into the night a lot of the time. Though I do get paid an allowance for doing yardwork on the weekends-” Her eyes widened.
“Oops. Well, I hope they don’t mind me cleaning up the yard a bit late.”
“It’s like, hard to get this view over at my place though with all the trees. I never really thought about appreciating the night sky too much.”
“Mhm. I never stargaze, but it’s real pretty.”

“Yup.”
The two laid silently side by side.

Davis scrambled through his brain, thinking of something else to talk about. He took his attention to the stars, thinking back to what he just said. Every night was marred with monsters because he wanted to do something with this ability, every other night committed to it so much he didn’t have time to simply look up and enjoy a starry night. Did he really have to do this all? What was his place in everything, did he really have to use his strange powers? Was he actually doing any good killing one or two monsters despite there being so many? He turned to Louise.

She was simply very happy to be out gazing at stars with a friend.

He took a deep breath, trying to quell his swirling thoughts. He stared back to the stars, trying to drown his anxiety with the beautiful sight.
He caught something odd amongst the stars.
He squinted his eyes. He stood up.

“You see that?”
He pointed at a small distortion in the sky. It was small, but looked as if he was viewing the stars through a misshapen glass. 

“Oh, like constellations? I think that’s the big dipper.”
“No, I see something moving in the sky.”
Louise sighed. “Oh don’t get your hopes up. Trust me, 100% of the time it’s just a helicopter or airplane. I could tell if it was a ufo-”
“It’s not a plane, it’s like some bubble-”

The horizon erupted into a blinding flash, a bolt of lightning surging through the air. Davis fell onto his bottom and Louise shielded her eyes. An explosive CRACK resounded through the air. Then, another flash, another bolt of lightning, and another CRACK. 

Louise quickly took the gauntlets and headlight from her bag, putting them on. Davis slowly got back to his feet. 

“I’m gonna run on ahead to figure out what that is, keep up as best as you can!”
She bolted into the grass, as Davis yelled out for her to slow down.

“Hold on, argh!” He stretched out his hand towards her, before wading in behind her.


After sprinting towards the lightning for a few minutes, there was a flattened clearing of grass, several blades of it cleanly cut and charred where a large, trailer truck sized object had crashed.

It looked like a giant armored shell, with six spherical protrusions evenly spaced from each other. One protrusion was three times bigger than the rest. It had a rugged, rock like texture. She creeped closer, her heart racing.

Second day doing this, first cryptids now a UFO? This is amazing!

She put her hand on it, running along the bumpy surface. It had an unnervingly smooth texture kind of like polished granite. Passing over the larger protrusion, it opened up, leading to a deathly dark interior.

She shined her headlight into it, finding two black glassy eyes staring back at her. It was the face of a tortoise.

Aw man, it’s just another cryptid!

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/919097636718538752/945569397370658836/CH4_P3.png

The cryptid opened its mouth and exhaled a blast of air, knocking up a billow of dirt and sending her flying away. She tumbled through the grass but regained her footing, charging straight back. It only took a few moments before she skidded to a halt.

The monster began to float, several feet off the air. The stomach of it was pitch black with shifting, glowing specks that imitated the night sky above. Three more heads emerged from the cryptid’s shell, a total of four staring her down. Four trunk-like legs sprouted from the shell, and a bizarre tail with a starfish-like end swung outwards. It floated towards her, all four heads rearing back. 

She leapt back, covering her face as the heads smashed into the ground in front of her. Dirt, grass, and dust exploded outwards, creating a thick cloud of dust. She tumbled back again, bumping her head landing on her belly. She dazedly tried to shake off the blow, prepping to get back to her feet. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do, but she had to do something.
Running was probably the best option, but maybe the monster had some kinda weakness?

By the time the dust cleared, the cryptid had retreated back a significant distance, with a fresh cut on one of its heads. There was a new, long-haired figure between the two of them. They glanced back to look at Louise before returning focus to the monster.
She wore what looked like a modified version of a shrine maiden’s outfit, alongside tough looking boots. The outfit was pitch black with purple trim, and a blue and red gradient skirt. There was a water-like insignia on one of her detached sleeves, and on the opposite shoulder was a red, black, and white patterned sash. At her hip was a katana in an antique, yet futuristic looking sheathe.

The beast turned two of its heads to the side, and they began to inhale air. It landed on the ground with a quaking crash, the two other heads locking gazes with the maiden. 

The small quake caused Louise to fall over, but the mysterious figure stood firm, placing her hand on her sword’s hilt.

She dashed forward in a full on sprint, the cryptid let forth a blast of air.

Then, a crack and a flash of purple light.

All four heads of the beast stood straight up in the air, twitching around for several seconds, before retreating into the shell.

 On top of the shell stood the figure, katana drawn and outstretched. She calmly re-sheathed her sword, still standing and staring down at the beast. 

https://cdn.discordapp.com/attachments/919097636718538752/943828436848357386/CH4_P4.png

She hopped off the top of the shell without even stumbling on the landing.

Louise got back to her feet, and ran up to the figure to thank her. Closer up, she recognized her face.

It was Kirino Yorogami.

Clarice Short

7:00AM.

Around thirty minutes until a new generation of students would enter her classroom. Clarice was the furthest thing from a conventional teacher. She hadn’t attended college, nor did she have any experience teaching, but she made sure to dress the part. Black dress shoes, stockings, a pencil skirt, black dress jacket and white undershirt. The only unprofessional thing about her attire was her red hair, but she at least kept it brushed and neat.
The classroom as well was the furthest thing from a school as well. It was an abandoned single-room schoolhouse near the woods, cleaned and repaired just enough to be safe to occupy, and given only a few new desks, Clarice’s included.

Kirino had found two others who were supposed to help with her cause, and it would be Clarice’s job to educate them. Kirino wanted them to understand the past history of other leaders, the unique situation of Tomahawk Hills, their purpose, philosophy, and so on. If they were to make it through her grueling education plan, they would surely be worthy to stick around as higher ups amongst Kirino’s new heirarchy. 

Clarice still took pride in the fact that she’d still be a step above them as their educator.


She was sitting at her desk when her phone alarm went off. She furrowed her brow, tapping her fingers atop the desk.

Late. They’re not making a good first impression, are they?

Minutes later, she heard a car pull up outside. The noise of its doors clicking open, and several pairs of boots marching towards the door. She quickly stood up, pulling a greatsword from underneath her desk.

The sword was a gift from Kirino, a mystical artifact. Standing as tall as Clarice was, it was made of an unbreakable material, which she could manipulate the weight of at will. Even if the metal was as heavy as a truck, she would still be able to wield it around as if it was a staff.  It’s true power could only be utilized with her absent brother, unfortunately.

Even alone, she knew there was nothing she couldn’t face. She had trained with Kirino well enough.

The door was kicked open, six men dressed in full black tactical gear storming through. Each one had an assault rifle up, trained on the greatsword-wielding girl. The men flanked her on both sides. She spoke up.
“No need to shoot. We can all get out of this alive…”
She glanced at all of them.
“You want my sword, right? With those folks from PAIN? I can give it to you, and you can all go home with no conflict.”
The men glanced around at each other, until one near the doorway held up his hand. They pointed their weapons at the ground.
Sighing, Clarice presented her sword, like a noble presenting a blade to a knight.
One of the men approached, holding his hands out.

“Just one thing. Don’t you all know it’s against school rules to bring weapons to class?”

She let the blade go, and it crashed down into the soldier’s hands. She had increased the weight of it to several tons, bringing the soldier down to the ground, and shaking the entire foundation of the building with the impact. The man screamed as his hands were smashed into the floor, the sword embedded along with them, and Clarice wasted no time in kicking him across the face, before taking the blade from the floor.
The other men were disoriented from the sudden shaking. With this opportunity, she threw the sword ahead of her at one of the men on the right impaling him through the chest. She ran towards her blade as the other four regained their balance, lifting up their rifles.
She pulled the blade across the impaled soldier’s chest, sending a torrent of blood towards the men, and continued forward, chopping off the closest soldier’s legs.
The other two across recoiled at the assault of blood, but still fired off a few shots. Some grazed her, cutting her leg, and another struck her in the thigh.
She grimaced, clenching her teeth. It hurt like absolute hell, but there were far worse consequences if she worried about the pain right now.
Using her blade, she swung upwards at one of the desks, splitting it and launching it towards the men. One dove out of the way, and the other was struck by the flying chunk of wood, knocked unconscious. 

As the remaining soldier struggled to get back up to his feet, Clarice walked up to him. He fumbled with his rifle, and she sliced the barrel clean off. He panicked, reaching for his pistol, and she pointed the blade towards his heart.

“I wouldn’t try that if I were you.”
He pulled the trigger, but Clarice was already ahead of him. She had motioned her blade to deflect the oncoming shot. The bullet ricocheted, and struck the man in the stomach. She shook her head. 

“There’s a reason we have rules around classrooms. It’s to stop idiot students from hurting themselves. And when idiots like you don’t follow…” She motioned the blade close to his neck. He lifted his head, struggling to back away. “It’s up to me to dole out punishment to set an example.”
She turned around to the rest of the classroom. There was debris everywhere, including fractured desks and scattered school supplies. If any of the soldiers had survived, they’d surely bleed out from their injuries soon enough. She at least had to make sure they were all taken care of later.
“You and your idiot friends now just gave me a bunch more work to do today as well.”
Despite being masked, Clarice could easily tell he was in a state of total panic.

“There’s no point in a punishment if your other friends aren’t able to learn what I’m teaching. So go on back to the others.”
She crouched closer. “Tell them that there’s going to be serious hell to pay for any other troublemaker you send our way.”

Once in a LIfetime Chapter 2


In the dead of night, Davis lead Louise through the woods to his home. It was a compact, single story home, the outside decently kept though surrounded by fallen leaves.
The back of it faced the very edge of the woods, lit up by a small porchlight. He unlocked the back door, opening it for Louise.
“After you?”
Louise walked in, kicking off her shoes as Davis closed the door behind her, turning on the light. She stood in a very compact kitchen, a countertop dividing it with a lightly furnished and clean living room.
There was a big, puffy looking couch and a TV screen, surrounded by snack wrappers, and beyond that was a hallway connecting to a few more rooms.

“If you’re hungry or something, I have a lot of food stocked in the freezer. Just, don’t go to the room down the hall please. That’s my room.”
Louise nodded and hurried to the fridge, opening it. Inside was a few gallons of chocolate milk, one gallon of normal milk, two cakes, a bin of a few apples and bananas, cookie dough, several energy drinks, and a gallon of water. Louise looked up, back at Davis.

“Hey, not to be picky or anything, but I’m not really in a sweets mood.” She said with an awkward smile on her face. “Do you have anything simple?”
Davis looked back with a nervous expression. “Ooh uhh… I said the freezer not the fridge? I’m sorry if you don’t like frozen stuff, but that’s what I like usually.”
Switching over to the freezer, inside was a plethora of microwaveable food: Burritos, pizzas, mini-pizzas, vegetables, and so on. She took a mini pizza.
“This’ll do, thanks a bunch!” She said as she tore it out of the package, popping it into the microwave. 

“Oh, I forgot to mention, don’t worry about my parents, they’re out of state with work stuff, so they won’t be home for a while.” He walked over to the fridge, pulling out and cracking open an energy drink.
“and don’t worry about any monsters coming around here too. I guess it’s obvious, but they don’t really come near anywhere too populated. I should, probably tell you more-”
“Hold on, lemme finish this food first!” Louise hurried over, leaping onto the couch. “All right, NOW you can continue!”
He stared for a few moments. “You’re taking this well, aren’t you?”

“Well, other than the monster, did you see me at all? Got those awesome gauntlets that let me actually stand up and like, not die to that thing! I even got shot a few times, but bullets were no issue!”
Davis paused, continuing to stare.
“I… Well, back to what I was going to say. Since I was younger, can’t really remember when, I’ve had this weird power. As you saw, I can turn incorporeal, kinda like-”
He poofed into a plume of thin, black dust, rematerializing moments later. He was gasping for breath.

“That… Though, if I’m like that in the light, it’s like I’m suffocating. It’s also tough to see when I’m incorporeal, so that’s why I have these.” He tapped his night vision goggles. 

Louise looked up and down in amazement. “That’s really cool! Do you do like, hero work or something like that with your powers?”

Davis cracked a small smile.
“I… Hope to kinda do that. What I mostly do is wait around the woods, because there’s quite a few monsters in there. They stay away from groups of people, and only seem to come out at night. Though when I’m incorporeal, it’s really easy to watch them. I’ve seen like, giant bird around the size of a fighter jet, spiders that camouflage themselves on the trees, the wendigo is a frequent hunter. Oh yeah, Bigfoot is one hundred percent real as well, I’ve seen him. Did you know even sometimes the trees themselves stand up and walk around?”
With every monster listed, Louise’s eyes grew wider in wider.
“Holy crap, I knew I was right…” She muttered under her breath. “Wait, why didn’t you take pictures or tell anyone?”
A frown replaced Davis’s smile.
“Isn’t it kinda obvious? I don’t want to be seen as some crazy weirdo by others. Only reason I’m telling you is at least you like, SAW one, you know?”
Louise gave an irked look. “I’m not some kinda crazy weirdo, first off!”
“I didn’t mean- Just ignore that then. I can’t really fight off any of these monsters, so usually when I lurk around the woods, I at least try to find anyone who comes in after dark, and try to warn them about how dangerous the place is. A lot don’t really listen, and…”
He looked down at the floor. “I’m just glad some people do heed my warning. It’s the most I CAN do.”

Before he could continue, his TV lit up, static burning on the screen. The duo jumped, staring at the screen as the hiss of the white snow slowly fizzed into silence. 

An electronic voice pierced through through the snow.
“Louise Palrick, Davis Foster…”,
The voice spoke over the static, sounding like a phone with bad reception. Louise leaned in closer as Davis sunk back, gripping the couch anxiously.
“I am contacting you with important information regarding the events of tonight. It will be in both of our interests to listen.”
Louise’s eyes lit up. “So you’re the one who sent me that note earlier? The gauntlets too?”
“My TV doesn’t have a microphone you know.” Davis butted in.
“The TV may not, but your phones do.”
Davis flinched. “I didn’t give you permission to use my phone! Stay out of there, will you?”
“I am merely using their microphones, don’t worry. I will respect your privacy.”
“You still hijacked my phone, who are you?”
“My name is not important, but I offer myself as a benefactor to the two of you. You are not the only ones aware of this towns’ paranormal ongoings.”

On the static, redacted documents appeared, along with a few photos. One of them was a distant, night vision shot of the wendigo, and another was a distant shot of Davis. He gripped the couch tighter, clenching his teeth.

“These photos and documents are from P.A.I.N, the Paranormal Acquisition and Investigation Network. The name should be explanatory enough. I am an administrator working for them.”
Louise closed her eyes with a big smile, pumping her fist to herself. “I always KNEW there was some sort of cover up going on!” Her eyes flashed open.
“Wait a second, what do you mean ‘were’?”

“The man who attempted to murder you earlier tonight was an agent of P.A.I.N. They had a close eye on you and your computer history, and deemed you as too much of a liability and in need of termination.”

“Yeah, but what does he have do do with it all?” Davis glanced nervously towards her, thinking how she could be so uncaring that some government organization wanted her dead.
“Was he carrying all of the info around here?” She put her hands to her mouth. “They’re not going to send more assassins, are they?”

“To answer all in order: First, I managed to destroy the physical and digital files on your town when he was sent to kill you. With their field agent dead, they would need to build up a new report from the ground up with a fresh agent. Second, they most likely will not, and will focus on re-building their lost information.”
Louise sighed. “That’s a relief. Now, spill the beans on all the going-ons thats been happening around here-”
Davis placed his hand in front of Louise. “Sorry, but why did you destroy those files? What’s this all got to do with her? How do you know these agents won’t try to kill her again?”
“To both her and you, it’s obvious that Tomahawk Hills is a hotbed of paranormal activity. What I showed was only the tip of the iceberg of all documented information, and it nearly reached a critical point. P.A.I.N was beginning moves to quarantine the entire town, making it a research blacksite. This would effectively doom everyone.”

The two stared at the screen in disbelief. 

“As mentioned, I am very well aware of Louise’s history. She is one of few select candidates who I determined would be the most accepting of my mission: Find and contain any paranormal threat before P.A.I.N is able to re-log them. A perceived significant decrease in paranormal activity would effectively end their plans to turn Tomahawk Hills into a blacksite.”
Louise nodded in response. “I’m glad you did your research well. Though I could have sworn I kept my online browsing well hidden from the government…”

“There is a lot P.A.I.N can learn from everyone from browsing history alone.”
Davis butted in. “Hey, I thought you said you were gonna respect my privacy?”
“Well Louise, Davis, do you accept?”
“Of course! You already gave me the gauntlets too, so I wanna do what I can with them!”
Davis nervously tapped his foot. He looked down to the floor, scratching his chin. “I don’t think it’d be fair to just let P.A.I.N do what they want with our town. I’ll join.”

“Excellent. Outside of your home, you will find a USB drive, loaded with a program to contact me through an encrypted channel. Any paranormal object, device, or location you come across, you are to log and report to me. Even if you cannot contain or suppress them, I can use your information to keep the new field agent away from any confirmed paranormal locations. Be wary, as this method of contact is not foolproof. Do not contact me more than once a week, or P.A.I.N would have a chance of tracing the messages back to me. Good luck.”

The TV flickered to black, and Louise turned to Davis with the biggest grin on her face.

“Holy… Davis, do you know what this MEANS?”

“Our town needs saving? And that last part, did you write it down or anything? That was kinda a lot.”
“That and it’s like, I WAS RIGHT, and we got something AWESOME to do! Not gonna lie, my time at home was getting really boring and was trying to figure out somethin to do but MAN I just-”
“Hey, slow down! We still got school tomorrow too. We can meet up after it’s done, right?”

“Yeah but, can’t we just call that government guy to cancel it? Maybe skip school?”
Davis shook his head. “I at least wanna get my high school diploma, I’m sure we can find time to juggle saving the town and that.”
“Fine. But there’s still a lot we need to discuss!”
Davis pointed at a kitchen clock. It was 1AM.
“It’s too late to stay up talking more, and also too late for you to go home safely, I think? But I don’t have an extra bed, uh, is the couch fine with you?”
She shrugged. “It’s just one night for now. I don’t have any pajamas though, I don’t really want to sleep in these and make them too stinked up for tomorrow.”
“Oh… I should have thought of that first. You know, forget it, you can just sleep in my bed I guess? I stay up pretty late anyways. Plus, I have some sweatpants and a white shirt you can borrow, I just hope it’ll fit you all right.”
He ran into his room, emerging with the very wrinkled clothes moments later.
“Just, please don’t touch anything else in my bedroom, all right?”
She nodded, smiling and taking the clothes from him. “Thanks, I’ll go get changed!”


She pushed the door into his room, pausing as she stepped on a snack wrapper.
The room itself was smaller than hers, almost like a dorm room. All he had was an in-wall closet, a very small desk, and a bed crammed together.
At the foot of the bed was a big pile of clean yet wrinkly laundry sitting in a basket. The bed at the very least was still well made.
Next to his desk was a small wastebin, overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper and various snack wrappers.
Changing into the loaned pajamas and folding her uniform neatly on his desk, she dove into his surprisingly plush bed, letting sleep wash over her.
Davis, meanwhile, began heating up a burrito in the microwave, staring nervously at the TV.
“Didn’t think things were going to get this drastic,” He muttered. He took out his phone, turning on airplane mode, and opened the door to the garage.


An intense, high pitched grinding noise was in the air, rousing Louise from her sleep. She groggily stared at her phone, reading the time to be 6:00am. Rubbing her eyes and letting out a yawn, she quickly changed into uniform before following the noise out of the bedroom and into the garage.

In front of a long table, covered with tin cans, chemistry equipment, mangles of scrap metal, a stack of energy drink cans, and several bins full of presumably more assorted building materials, stood Davis, marking down cans with a large yellow marker.
To the side of him were several freshly-sharpened caltrops and other cans marked with colored markers. He wore goggles, a pair of headphones connected to his phone, and red-blue striped pajamas. Louise stumbled over, watching her feet for the little flakes of wood and scrap, and tapped him on the shoulder. He lurched back, before whipping off his headphones, hard rock silently blaring from them.

“Oh, hey, I’m a bit busy working right now. You need anything?”
She let out a huff. “Your work is kind of noisy.” She peeked over his shoulders at all the caltrops and cans he made. “What you workin on though?”
“Oh, well making stuff like smoke bombs and traps and stuff like that. I normally make them as a hobby, but since we’re going against some monsters in the woods, I thought having some more wouldn’t hurt.”
She carefully looked among all of his gadgets, several sharpened tripods of metal, and even a belt lined with firecrackers. Davis put on a big smile as she continued to observe his handiwork.

“My power works best in the dark, and I found out that it is a bit easier to turn intangible in a cloud of black smoke, so I usually carry smoke bombs on me in the middle of the day. It’s still rough, but it’s better than doing it in broad daylight and re-materializing completely sore and winded. Plus even without my powers, a smoke bomb combined with scattering some caltrops is like, THE perfect getaway plan.”
He grabbed a few cans that were striped neon orange.
“These are a new one, though kinda expensive. Basically just took a tin can, put a firecracker into it, filled it with pepper spray, and bam, pepper spray bomb! I’ve never tested it before, so I hope monsters are hurt by the stuff.” 

He pointed to the belt of firecrackers next.
“I assumed that monsters don’t like the big pops like gunshots, so I thought that if I’m in trouble, I can just light and chuck these at them and maybe that’ll spook them away.”

Louise continued to stare at it all with wide eyes.
“This is all so awesome! I’m surprised you never told anyone else about this, like it’s so cool!”
Davis scratched the back of his head. “Well, I think I might get in trouble for making homemade bombs, even if I do intend to use them on monsters. So uh, please don’t mention it at all, okay?”
She nodded energetically. Looking around the garage, she found a few very rough sketches of other gadgets pinned to the wall, and ran over to get a closer look.

Davis glanced over. “Those uh, I don’t think I’m competent enough to build those yet? I’ve always wanted a grappling hook to climb tall buildings and stuff. I can actually jump a little bit higher if I turn incorporeal, jump, then rematerialize, but not enough to scale buildings.”
“I think I could help, I’m sure I could track down some sort of working blueprint online? There’s a lot of cool forums and videos that build all this stuff!”
“I’ve looked hard, trust me. I REALLY wanted one since I started doing all this.”
“Actually, I got one more question.” She turned to face him. “You got anything else with a bit more like, oomph? Firecrackers are pretty strong but, do you have some actual weapons?”
He sighed, and opened a drawer, revealing a small contraption with a knife blade inside of it. “It’s just a hidden blade I can keep in my sleeve. I kinda wanna keep my stuff non-lethal altogether. I know sometimes humans can be monsters, but I still don’t really want to hurt them…”
Louise cocked her head. “But I thought this was for monster hunting?”
He shook his head. “Nevermind.”
“Now, a big change in topic, but you got anything for breakfast?”
“Yeah, I mean, I usually eat whatever I feel for breakfast.”
Louise stared for a moment.
“I mean like, breakfast food?”
“It’s whatever is in the fridge. Please, I do wanna work a bit more, I’m sure I have something you’d like.”
Louise huffed as she left the garage. “I’ll be getting ready in the meantime, so don’t walk in on me changing!”


A shower and a meal of microwaved frozen waffles later, Louise was all ready to go. She sat patiently on the couch, waiting and glancing at her phone every few moments. By 7, Davis had finally emerged from his workshop, still in pajamas.

“You sure you’ll be able to get ready in time? It’s almost a 30 minute walk to school from here, right?”
He shrugged. “I’ll be ready in 5.” He closed his room’s door behind him.

Five minutes later, he emerged, in what seemed like the exact same outfit he was wearing from the previous night: Big black school jacket, baggy pants, very wrinkled shirt, and boots. He walked over to the fridge, pulling out an energy bar and an energy drink, cracking it open and taking a swig.

“I’m all set to go.” He followed up chomping into the energy bar.

“Not even going to brush your hair?” Louise chided.
He threw his hood over it. “It’s no problem at all.”
Louise sighed. “I’m gonna be a bit honest, you do kinda look awful right now. Not even going to iron your clothes or anything?”
He zipped up his jacket, giving her a death glare. “This is my style, you know? Sorry if you don’t have enough taste to understand how good it looks.”
Louise snickered. “Ah, not like we have enough time to debate this. Come on, let’s get going.”


The day was cloudy with a chilly wind blowing through, but despite the sombre feel, the two made it to school with no issue. They split off to their respective classes, going through the motions until lunchtime hit.
Arriving at the cafeteria, Louise noticed Davis was waiting by the entrance, nervously looking around. She bounced over to him, yelling “HEY DAVIS OVER HERE!”
His head whipped over to her. “OH uh… Hey! So uh, I already brought something to eat so-”
“GREAT!” She yelled over the chatter of the cafeteria. “Find a place to sit, I gotta buy something for myself.”
She hurried on towards the lunch line as Davis stood stunned. He scanned the entire cafeteria, finding just about every table already filled with hungry students. They weren’t totally full, small gaps able to hold a few students here and there, but he wanted more space to himself. He slowly walked through the collection of lunch tables, hands in his pockets and looking at the floor, passing and bumping against other students. He looked up every other moment, still scanning around the cafeteria until noticed a somewhat dusty table in the corner, unoccupied by any students. He hurried over to secure the seat. Minutes later, when Louise left the lunch line with a sandwich, chips, and drink, Davis waved her down, her jogging over to the table.

“All righty!” she said, popping open the bag of chips and taking a quick bite. “Now’s a good time for us to plan for tonight.”
“Tonight? What’s happening?”
“Didn’t you forget? We’re going to have to hunt that wendigo before PAIN finds it!”
“Oh, I didn’t realize we were going to start like, so soon? Think we can at least wait till tomorrow?”
“NOPE! We have the advantage against PAIN, so we gotta take full advantage of it. By the way, where’s your lunch?”
He silently pulled out another energy drink, and a few bars of candy. “This is all I need to get through the day, don’t worry.”
“Yeah, get through a school day, but can it get you through a night of monster hunting?”
He groaned, taking a bite out of the candy bar. “I usually nap and snack after school, I’ll be fine.” He glanced out a nearby window.


He flinched as Louise’s packaged sandwich struck him in the face, plopping down on the table. His hood nearly fell off, and he scrambled to yank it back on.
“Have mine, I have enough money to buy a second one. I don’t want you crashing on me tonight!”
He stared at her for a few moments. “What the heck was that for?”
“Come on, you can’t just only eat snack bars and candies and stuff, you gotta have proper energy! I should NOT be more fit than you are!”
“I have plenty of energy! I just don’t really like using any of it…”
“Pft, I see you drinking lots of energy drinks for a dude who has plenty of energy!”
“What if I like the taste?”
“Then you should probably find some replacement drink, because those will turn your bones into dust or somethin!”
Davis huffed. “Fine, I’ll eat your sandwich…” He unwrapped it, taking a chomp out of it. Louise took another bite from her chips. “Anyways, I was thinking a lot during classes, and I think I got a good plan of attack for the wendigo.”
“Go on?”
“We already know it comes out only at like, dead of night in the woods. It only showed up after that assassin tried to shoot me, so it must be attracted to loud noises. It also ran off when you showed up.”
“Well yeah, that’s typical for a lot of these monsters in the woods. They typically go after lone targets, and run off if somebody else approaches. Though I’ve seen a few stalk small groups of up to four.”
“I also found out that he’s really tough, like I couldn’t even stab through his hide with a sword. He reacted when I started whacking at his head with my sword, and he didn’t like that at all.”
“So, you wanna bring something with a bit more oomph? I don’t think I can really make anything for that.”
Louise smiled, placing her hands on the table. “Don’t worry! I’m gonna bring a sledgehammer from home. That oughta do some damage.”
“Yeah, but you’ll be fighting alone, remember? If I show up he’ll just run away. Are you sure you’re up to that?”
“Well, listen to my plan! First, we both split up, with pots and pans or anything that can make loud noises. We’ll make a bunch of noise, and when the wendigo shows up, we’ll mark it with something that can help us track it. Then, we group up together, the wendigo runs away, we chase it down, back it into a corner, and BAM.” She clapped her hands together. “We got ourselves a dead monster!”
Davis tapped his chin. “I never really see a monster again when it flees. Maybe it does hide away to a lair or something? I don’t know, are you sure you thought this all through?”
“Well, where’s your master plan? Plus, the wendigo has to hide its victims’ corpses somewhere, right?”
He shrugged. “I guess so. As for a way to track it, I think I got a good idea for that. Will need just a small amount of time to prep it, and I can have it set tonight.”
Louise’s eyes beamed. “Sweet, ah I just can’t wait for tonight!”
Davis took a deep breath. “I just hope we aren’t getting in over our heads. So, after you get what you need, meet me at my home, and we can prepare. I’ll leave a key under the doormat for you, in case i’m asleep when you come on by.”

“Sure, I can show up early and rest up with you for the night!”
Davis coughed up a bite of his sandwich. “I am NOT going to share my bed! Just, nap at home or something!”
“I never wanted to sleep in the same bed, the couch would have been fine…”
Davis leaned back a bit. “Oh, then uh, that’s fine?”
A look of inspiration struck Louise’s face. “Actually, how about later on, we can make your house into our kinda hideout? Like a base of operations for our cryptid hunting! I could bring a sleeping bag too since I’m gonna be around pretty late, and maybe some extra clothes, and-”
“Hold on, what’s wrong with your house? Why do we gotta move everything into mine?”
“Well, for one you live right next to the woods.”
Davis paused, thinking to himself. “I guess that’s not a bad idea then, but like, let’s at least wait a little bit before we start remodeling my home, okay?”
Louise jumped out of her seat, yelling “YES!” A few other students in the cafeteria glanced over, and an embarrassed look grew on Davis’s face.
She sat back down. “Sorry, just, so much is happening and I really can’t wait to get ultra serious about all of this. That and…”
Davis raised an eyebrow. “And?”

“You’re kinda cooler than expected, you know?”
He flinched. “Expected? What do you-”
“Well just talking with you a bit, even if this is our job kinda? It’s still really fun. Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten lunch with somebody else. Makes eating a lot more fun when you’re talking about wendigo hunting as an extra bonus.”
“I’ve been trying to keep up, but yeah. Lunch with you is better than what I used to do.”
“It’s settled then, let’s have lunch together every day, all right?”
Davis nodded, trying to hide a look of excitement on his face. “Sure!”