“Is it okay that we are going to start without Yuki?” I asked Demetri.
“Of course. He said he would catch up with us, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, and I guess I told him where we would be.” I eyed the “condemned” signs that hung on the walls and windows of the deserted apartment building (somewhere on the east side of Tokyo*) and shivered a little. I had visions of crashing through the floor and breaking my leg, or the roof suddenly deciding to collapse on top of me… and that was before I considered the monsters… “Are you sure it’s okay to be here? Normally buildings are condemned for a reason.”
“In this case it’s because construction workers keep getting hurt from the Wato-level monsters that have a den here. Tonight we are going to get your feet wet hunting them down and destroying them,” he lectured.
“Meaner than a Zerta class. They bite, kinda hard, but not hard enough to take off a hand or anything…”
“That’s reassuring,” I mumbled.
“Oh yeah, your weapon,” he said, like protection was an afterthought. I felt him wiggle about in the bag until a gold pen dropped out. “There, that might help.”
I knelt down to pick it up. “What do I do? Throw my hand up in the air and yell something like, ‘Glittery Pen Transformation?”
Demetri blinked at me. “Yeah….. do that. Just exactly that,” he urged.
Giving him a nod, I lifted the pen high above my head and in a confident booming voice yelled, “Glittery Gold Pen Transformation!” Nothing happened. I lowered my hand and looked at the pen. “Did I do it wrong?”
He looked at me with large round eyes. “Ooops, I forgot to tell you everything. You turn in a circle clockwise twice, then jump on your left foot while throwing your hand in the air, and then yell the change command. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work right away, sometimes it takes a little practice.”
Determined, I stepped away from the bag and followed the directions. After a third failed attempt I turned to ask Demetri if my form was wrong or something. Instead I found him doubled over in laughter. “What’s so funny? Am I doing it that badly?”
When he caught his breath he finally spoke. “Oh, you’re doing it perfectly. That’s just not how that pen works. I can’t believe you fell for that. Where would you get such a silly idea?”
Turning bright red, I reached down and shook him out of the bag. “All right, Fuzzyface, how do I make this thing work? Or would you rather I feed it to you?”
“Calm down, Jordan. Sheesh, it’s like you can’t take a joke. You’ve heard the saying the pen is mightier than the sword, right?”
“Well, this pen really is mightier than the sword. Hold it in both hands and now concentrate hard and imagine it changing into a sword.”
With some skepticism, I did what he said. I was amazed when the pen did shift into a longsword that resembled a katana. “Whoa…” I breathed.
“That’s not all. That pen has six functions. You just created the first one. You can have it change into five more weapons of your choosing. Pick carefully, because once it imprints that weapon, it will always be an option at your fingertips, but you won’t be able to change your mind later.”
I looked at the sword in my hands. “Okay, now what?”
“Now we go kill some Wato,” he said, leading me through the lobby of the building.
It didn’t take me long to discover my first Wato. Unlike the Zerta from a few days ago, these all appeared to be the same species. The creature crouched just inside the doorway was the size of a medium dog standing on two feet. It had glowing green egg-shaped eyes and oily black skin. It smiled and a row of small, jagged teeth gleamed in the limited light. Around it was a menacing soft purple glow that seemed to get darker the closer it got to the creature. “Do all Wato look like this?”
“These are just one species of Wato. They are related to what some human call Leprechauns,” Demetri sat behind me and began to clean his paws.
“What do I do?” The creature seemed to grin at me and lick its lips.
“Whack at it with your sword. Pro tip, use the pointy end.”
Just then it let out what I can only describe as a battle gurgle and charged at me, mouth open. I lifted the sword high and brought it down on its head. It cleaved in two and seemed to melt into the ground. I blinked a few times. “Is that it?”
I nodded. “I can do this.”
“Good, you keep going. Yuki should be here any minute. I need to get him set up. Hey, do you think he will fall for the pen thing?”
I shrugged and watched as his little fluffy tail exited the lobby. I stopped for a moment to zip my hoodie up a bit more, and then turned to the lobby in search of the next Wato. It wasn’t long before I had cleared the first floor and moved into the far stairwell of the building. As I reached the top of the flight of stairs, my phone buzzed.
Starting 2nd floor. Demetri says work on the third floor and we will meet you up there.
I quickly hit reply.
Okay, see you there!
I carefully made my way up another floor. Quietly I opened the metal door that separated the stairwell from the hallway. I began entering apartments one at a time. Most were small studios that were totally empty so it didn’t take too long. A few of them had a Wato or two in them, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As I neared the end of the hall, I saw the door to the second stairwell open. A tall, dark form entered, followed by a small cat-shaped form. I waved with my phone and saw it wave back. I approached it quickly and let out a breath of relief that it was, in fact, Yuki. “Hey, glad you could make it,” I whispered.
“Yeah, it’s quite the party,” he chuckled. In the darkness, I couldn’t really make out what he was wearing beyond it being black.
“Dressed for a funeral?” I teased.
He glanced at me. “I see you got the same memo. For the record, I wore it better.”
“Children!” hissed Demetri. “Focus. The sooner we are done, the sooner you can both go home and shower and I can eat tuna.”
We both grumbled but split up and kept exterminating. When I reached the fifth and final floor I breathed a little easier knowing I was almost done. I cleared out a half a dozen more Watos and then went to the door of the last apartment. I froze because something felt a little off. Taking my courage in hand, I opened the door.
As I stepped into the room, it seemed to glow with dark energy. Gooey eggs lined the walls and slime seemed to leak from the bricks. I tried to back out quietly, but the door had closed behind me and wouldn’t open. I set down my sword and tried using both hands, but the knob was covered in a thick black ooze and I couldn’t get a grip to force it open.
I heard a rumbling gurgle behind me. Afraid to look, I turned to see what had made the noise. In the center of the room, a black blob that I hadn’t noticed up until now started to move. I held my breath as six long tentacles unfurled out of the top of it and two glowing red eyes blinked open. I leaned down and picked up my sword, lifting it defensively in front of me.
The eyes blinked a few times, looking around, then seemed to narrow in on me. “What do we have here?” hissed a low, gravelly voice. “Have my workers brought me dinner?”
I fought back my urge to scream and tried to back myself as deep into a corner as I could. One of the tentacles lashed out at me and I swung my sword, making contact with it. The beast howled angrily and the other five tentacles assaulted me. Wrapping around my ankles and an arm, I was dragged towards the mass at the center. I tried to scream but as I did one of the limbs wrapped around my throat, cutting off my ability to scream – or breathe.
In a state of panic, I watched helplessly as I was lifted towards the mouth on top of the blob. “Ooooooh, a Guardian in training. I haven’t eaten a Guardian before.” I squeezed my eyes shut, preparing for what was no doubt going to be a painful end.
I hit something with sudden impact. My eyes flew open to the sounds of the creature’s scream. My stunned brain told me that what I had hit was the floor. I quickly began to wiggle free of the monster’s severed tentacles before climbing to my feet to see what had happened.
Yuki stood beside the monster, thrusting a blade deep into it and causing it to gurgle its last breath before it died and melted into the floor. I started to step towards him, but he rushed over to stop me. “Don’t step in the goo from this one. It’s acidic. It will melt your shoes.” Before I could say anything, he wrapped his arms around me protectively and clutched me against his chest. “Are you all right?” he asked, finally releasing me.
I took a step back, shaking my head. “My throat really hurts, but I think I will be okay.”
He nodded. “Glad I got here when I did. I’ll finish up this floor. Just make sure to smash these eggs before you leave.”
I nodded and set to work as he left the room. When I finished, I made my way back down to the lobby where I found Yuki and Demetri waiting. “All set?” I asked.
“Looks that way,” answered Demetri.
We made our way home. After a long hot shower and pulling on my pajamas, I was anxious to get to bed. I stood in the doorway of my room and looked at Yuki where he sat reading on the couch. “Thanks for your help today. Not sure how I would have made it without you.”
He smiled at me. “It wasn’t that bad. You would have been fine,” he said with a wink. His eyes narrowed on my throat. “Is that going to be okay?” he asked with concern.
“Yeah, I should be fine,” I assured him, before saying goodnight. I crawled into bed and turned out the light. It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep.
Somewhere between nightmares of almost being eaten, I opened my eyes. Yuki was sitting on the edge of my bed stroking my hair. I started to say something but winced in pain. His cool hands rubbed a sweet-smelling gel into my throat and the pain lessened. “Shhhhh, sleep well. I promise I’ll keep watch tonight,” he told me, tucking the covers back up over my shoulders and brushing the hair from my face. He stood up and left my room without another word.
His presence reassured me and when I closed my eyes again the nightmares did not return.