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A stitched up soul

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(Matatabi)

"What is the thing!" I shout as me and the red-haired boy run through the woods.

"I think its an oni." He shouts back.

"How do we beat it?" I ask as I notice the monster gaining some distance on us.

"We don't. You can only beat a transient of you are one or you're a summoner," he says to my dismay.

Well fuck. We're doomed then.

We duck behind a boulder. "Ok here's the plan. We split up. I'll draw its attention and you get help." I propose. I'm definitely the better runner and can buy more time than he can.

"But you get caught, " he says.

"I'm fast enough. as long as you can get help then I can manage. " I push him away in the opposite direction as the one finds us again. "Over here!" I throw a rock at the oni's head.

"Grrrrrr. Let me eat you!" It roars as it pursues me.

As I'm running a hexagram flash and Salomon appears.

"Well master it seems you're in quite the pickle," Salomon says.

"If you're not being useful then don't bother me," I retort. I don't have time to get distracted.

"You could easily defeat it if you summon something," Salomon says.

"Then tell me how!" I demand. My lungs are burning, I'm almost out of steam.

"That would take time so just escape and I'll tell you later," Salomon says as he disappears.

"Fucking goat man," I curse as I rest behind a large tree. There should be enough distance

This was bad. I couldn't keep running forever and I had no idea where I am.

"Got you," a voice says and I'm yanked up by my leg.

I see the upside-down red oni and unfortunately, I'm greeted by his large teeth.

"You tasty," it growls before lifting me higher.

This was bad. This was very, very bad.

"Hey you big lug! Let him go!" I hear a voice say. I twist and see the boy from before with a rock in his hand.

"I eat fat one first," the one says as I fall, chest first.

Needless to say, the wind was knocked out of me. I groan and in flash, Salomon is back.

"Master! Are you okay? Can you walk? " he asks in horror.

"I.....dont know," I groan as I hear the boy scream. I see the one had caught him and had raised him to his mouth. "No,"

"Well that's a shame master but on the bright side this gives you time to escape." Salomon says nonchalantly.

"No. I cant.. ....leave him. He.....came back," I say. I refuse to let him die. He's the only person I know. The only one.

Salomon is speechless for a moment before sighing. "Well, I am a level 3 butler. Butlers support their masters." Suddenly the oni and everything freezes. Including me. "Ok, then master. Time for your first summoning lesson. I've increased your temporal perception, stopped time so to say. I'll explain, in order to summon you need to say the appropriate chant and the voice feature on the app will handle the rest. All I need to do is find a match for you. ......and voila. I'm going to unfreeze time now. When things start moving you need to repeat after me,"

Suddenly the world is moving again and the boy is screaming.

"What do I say!" I shout.

"Role of the wanderer! Rule of Rending!" Salomon says.

"Role of the wanderer! Rule of Rending!" I repeat. These words make no sense. What are "roles" and "rules"

"Forged Reification! Thou who art nameless in this world and powerless to claim this world…
Deceive the world, hinder the world, and by thy false name, manifest in this closed domain!
Avatar of the Serpent’s tail, severed by the Wanderer!
Bare thy Rule of Rending and cleave all power and authority!
Engrave mine name unto thee and come forth!
Boundless Tail!” Salomon says at once.

"Forged.....reification," I say but there were too many words.

"Don't say all of it just the words that stand out to you. The app can figure out the rest," Salomon says.

"Engrave my name, Matatabi Nido, unto thee and come forth! Boundless Tail!" I shout and a beautiful light shines from my phone.

The world is covered in white light. From the light comes a sword hilt.

"Draw me. I will protect you. I will give you power," it whispers.

I hesitate for a moment. There's no time to be weak. I reach forward and draw the sword.

When the light clears the oni and the boy look at me in shock. I look down and see a sword in my hand. For some reason it's comforting. Like the sword is meant for me and me alone.

"Ok. Let's try this again. Let him go," I say as I point the sword at the oni. I have no idea where my confidence is coming from but it's better than pissing myself.

"You're a summoner!" The boy whoops.

"You.. summoner? You unleashed me from the temple," the oni growls as he drops the boy and charges at me.

I dodge the charge and take a swipe at the oni's side.

Unfortunately the oni just swipe back and I have to put distance between us. We exchange a few blows like this. I don't do any real damage, and I know that if he hits me even once then its game over.

"Keep fighting master! " Salomon cheers.

"Any idea where I should hit? I'm not doing any real damage," I say. I am grateful for his support but right now I need advice on how to beat this thing.

As soon as the words leave my mouth, something strange happens. A gold thread appears it ties the oni to the ground itself. My sword pulses and I feel the desire to sever that thread.

I duck under the oni's punch and swing the blade at that thread. The gold thread breaks and the oni falls to its knees. The battle was over.

"I.....dododon't want to......disappear." the oni grunts as his body starts to dissolve.

I felt kind of bad. Yeah he tried to eat me but he didn't deserve to disappear.

"I want to serve master.....that why I was called here," the one continues.

"What's happening?" I ask salomon

"It looks like you've severed his connection to this land. Stray transients need something to tie them to the land they're in, otherwise, they'll fade away like him." Salomon says.

"I.... .dont want .. ..to disappear," the oni says. "Dont .....want to.....be alone."

Those words pierce my heart. He was lonely like I was. He had no one, and he was fading away.

"Then serve me. Be my companion," I say as I cautiously approach and hold out my hand. "Be my friend,"

The oni regards me for a moment before holding out his own hand and placing it on mine. "I shall serve you, my new master, call me and I shall do your bidding,"

At his words a new mark burned me. It looked like flames wrapping from around my thumb and looping the wrist of my right hand. It flares brightly before disappearing.

"Farewell, for now, my new master," the oni smiles before disappearing into shards of light.

"You made a contract with the one? Already?" Salomon says in shock. "You shouldn't make contracts with everyone. Not when you've got me"

I ignore the last comment and walk over to the boy. "You ok?" I offer a hand.

"Yeah. I'm fine." The boy takes my hand. "That was amazing you beat the oni like it was nothing! Oh, I never introduced myself. I'm Ryota Yakushimaru."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Matatabi Nido,' I say to Ryota.

"Let's go get some food. I'm starved." Ryota says as he tugs me somewhere.

We nearly died and all he can think about was food? Well If those were his priorities who was I to judge.

We had thankfully made it out of the park without anymore oni attacking. Ryota was babbling on about the different foods they could try. It was kind of nice watching him be passionate about food. But suddenly he stops and has a horrified look on his face.

"What's wrong?" I ask

He points and I see two men walking towards us. One has glasses on with a perfect school uniform on, the other is wearing a white shirt and martial art pants. They look like they're arguing.

They notice Ryota pointing and come towards us. "Ryota. It's almost curfew time what are you doing out? You're filthy. What happened?" The man with glasses asks.

"Class rep," Ryota says nervously. "I was running late and ran into some trouble in the park,"

"Where the gate is? Do you know you're not supposed to go there?! That's incredibly unsafe. What if you got hurt?" The class rep reprimands

"I'm fine. Matatabi made sure nothing happened." Ryota pouts as he points to me.

The boy with glasses turns to me and stares for second before stumbling over his words. "I....I'm Shiro. I'm Ryota's class rep. Thank you very much for protecting him,"

"No problem. I'm Matatabi Nido," I greet.

"You protected Ryota huh? That must mean you can fight. You want to do it?" The other man asks. "I'm Kengo,"

"Not really into public stuff," I say. The man is pretty hot but I really didn't want to fight. I'm super tired.

"You can't pick fights with people you just met Kengo," Shiro knocks Kengo's head. "As for you Ryota we need to get to campus, "

"Ok Shiro," Ryota pouts.

"You should go home to Matatabi," Shiro says. "Your parents must be worried,"

That dropped the mood. I suddenly realized I have no memory of a home or parents or anyone.

Shiro must have picked up on it because he immediately took it back. "You don't have to answer if you don't......"

"What? You run away from home?" Kengo asks.

"No." I say slowly. "I don't have parents. Or a home. I can't remember anything,"

"Anything at all?" Shiro asks and I shake my head.

"Nothing. All I remember is waking up in the park and then Ryota ran into me." I say.

"That won't do. We can't leave you wandering alone. You can spend the night at the school I can ask the teacher to give you a place. For now at least, " Shiro says thoughtfully.

"Thanks. ..but...why are you being so nice," I ask. This sounds a bit too perfect. But then again, who am I to judge.

"Well you did save Ryota so we do owe you something. And we can't leave a human alone on the streets of Tokyo. You'd hardly last a week," Shiro says.

"Fair enough," I say as I glance at a massive wolf dressed in leather talking to a dog therian. I wouldn't last too long alone.

"Come on Matatabi! We aren't that far." Ryota says as he pulls me along.

Along the way we decided to exchange contact information. I didn't know my number but Ryota said that they all had the SUMMONS app like I did, which also had a built-in the messaging system. So we all exchanged IDs.

Eventually we are standing before a huge school but a teacher guards the door. He is a huge man with a bushy beard and mustache. He's clad in a simple loincloth and he smells like burning incense.

"Shiro! Kengo! Ryota!" He shouts. "Its well past curfew,"

"Sorry Mister Jinn. We had a bit of a run-in," Shiro says. 'I take full responsibility,"

"Hehe you're not too late so I'll let it slide for now." Jinn laughs before turning to me. " who's this?"

"This is Matatabi Nido, he's a......"Shiro starts to explain before another man shows up. This man is wearing a speedo and a coach's jacket. I see find poking out from his arms.

"This must be the transfer student," he says. "We were expecting you. You are Mister Nido right?"

"Um yes?" I reply. Transfer student?

"This is the transfer student Triton? I'll take him to Mister Mononobe," Jinn says with a huge smile.

"No I will be escorting Mister Nido. I am the more responsible teacher," Triton says sternly.

The four of us look between the squabbling teachers and in the end, they both put a hand on one of my shoulders and push me into the building

Eventually we reach a room that has the word 'principal' on it. The teachers knock before entering.

"Hey Mononobe I brought the transfer student," Jinn cheers.

"No you didn't smoke-head. I did it," Triton says.

"Ah Mister Matatabi Nido. Welcome to our school," Mononobe says. He's a big man with graying hair tied into a low ponytail.

"Nice to meet you. I'm sorry if I'm bothering you but I don't exactly know what's going on here," I say.

"You transferred here. This is your signature is it not?" Mononobe asks in confusion. He holds a paper out to me with my signature on the bottom line. The signature is familiar to me.

"Yeah it is. Sorry, my head is a bit fuzzy right now, " I said bashfully.

"Ah I see. In any case, you're safe here and we will be taking care of you. You'll be staying at the apartment complex for students but it is still going to take a few days for all your stuff to clear up. I've also been placed as your guardian. So, for now, you'll be staying with me," Mononobe says kindly. "Your clothes have already been moved in,"

Clothes? Apartment? When did I have these things? "Thank you very much," I say.

"You're very polite. That'll serve you well on your first day tomorrow," Mononobe says as he dismisses the Jinn, Triton, Ryota, Shiro, and Kengo. "Follow me Mister Nido.'

He leads me to an apartment across from the school grounds. It's a small one-room apartment.

"Please make yourself at home. I apologize for the mess but I wasn't expecting guests," Mononobe says as he pushes a stack of paper behind a shelf.

"Thank you for taking me in....." I say as I think back to earlier. What a day this was.

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

(Elsewhere)

A white-haired lion therian dressed in a butler's uniform awakens a red-haired man with a golden wreath in his hair.

"Apologies Master but I have received some information that is of the utmost importance," the lion says.

"Continue. I know you wouldn't awaken me without probable cause," the man speaks.

"A battle was observed in Shinjuku between and a stray oni and what appears to be a human. He matches no description in our database. The human appears to possess the rule of Rending, " the lion says.

The man is wide-eyed. "I see. So the long-awaited rare has appeared. What attribute is his artifact? Maybe it's the shears of the three sisters or perhaps the scythe of the time elder,"

"It appears to be neither holy not dark. It is ALL of the attributes. It is Fire and water and wood.....as well as holy and dark." The lion says

"I see. This is an interesting development. Please meet him and give him a proper Ikebukuro greeting," the man says thoughtfully.

"As you wish. But if we discovered this then surely the Roppongi and Aoyama have also found out," the lion warns

"No matter. The strong will always win. Let us hope the new summoner is also strong or he will be another corpse on the streets." The man dismisses.

"As you say. I shall prepare the welcoming of this new summoner," the lion says as he departs.

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

(First Liao)

Three days had passed since I was shattered. I had all of my affairs in order for the future. I had already arranged for my return home. I had permission to be an online student and I had begun to finish the semester as strong as I could. Unfortunately, someone had given me a cold and that was definitely not a great thing. I was pretty much out of commission.

I had managed to clean up Likulau's mess with minor injuries. The downside of wood floors was a lot of splinters. It was that morning that Lin Hu had finally decided to come back. He didn't say anything, he was just there. I decided not to be the first one to speak, I had done enough. I would live as I did before, I pretended I couldn't see him. Unfortunately, no matter how many hot showers I took, my body trembled with chills.

Eventually I sneezed a bit too hard and a cup I was holding splashed all over the floor. "Fuck," I mean as I slowly reach for the fallen cup. I hear a low growl and for the first time I look up at Lin Hu

"Why are you doing this to yourself? You were gone for two days. You come back sick. You barely clean or eat. You're torturing yourself! Did I not tell you my blessing won't stop this from happening?" Lin Hu snarls.

"Barely. I'm just a bit sick is all, I just partied a bit too hard. I'll be fine in a few days and everything will be back to normal. I'll clean the house and I'll eat more. I'm fine," I say as I avert my eyes again and look back at my book. "You can go,"

Lin Hu only growls at my tone. "Where were you? You never leave for that long," he asks.

I assume he means new years. "I was out with friends. We went to the temple and I stayed over at a friend's place. It's fine," I say. I'm in no mood to argue with him right now. I feel something akin to anger flare in my broken heart. Is this what the real me would have felt?

"Its not fine! The Leopard is still out there and I'm your guardian tiger. I should have known, " Lin Hu snarls.

"Well it was your decision to stay in your statue and I'm not going to carry you around! In any case, Leopard was dealt with, and anyway, why do you care?" I snarl back. The heat in my chest only burns more.

"I am YOUR guardian tiger. That's why," Lin Hu shouts.

"Right. Because I'm a Lin." I say bitterly. But before he can interject I continue. "It doesn't matter anyway. I've decided. ......I'm going home. That's what you wanted right?"

Lin Hu looks surprised. "Well......yes but I didn't want it to be......"

"What? So sudden?" I retort. I could appreciate his gobsmacked face. "Well, I guess I finally had to make the choice. In any case, I told my parents. We move back when the semester's over. Maybe sooner if I can finish the course work. I've already told the school I'll be online for the rest of my degree,"

"What about dancing? You can find a smaller school back home," lin Hu says.

"I quit. It doesn't matter as much. I'm just going to get the degree like mom and dad wanted and I'll learn how to be a priest, " I say.

"But what about your dream?" Lin Hu says sadly.

Why is he sad? Isn't this what he wanted?

"It was just that. A dream. A childish fantasy. The one thing this has taught me is that I will never be normal again. Now that I can see spirits I'll never be left alone. It's for the best that I go home," I say dismissively. "I'll be the son they always wanted."

Lin Hu is silent for a moment. "I'm sorry," it was almost to quiet to hear.

"Don't be. You're a god. Gods can't do wrong. It's my fault. I should have been better. Besides, you deserve a better worshiper than me," I sneeze loudly. That ruined the mood.

"Liao......" Lin Hu reaches out to me but I flinch back. Even him saying my first name stung a bit. What would I feel if he said my full name?

"I'm fine.....I just need more tea," I grumble as I stagger to the cupboard to grab some herbal tea. I'm trying to boil water but the pressure in my sinuses makes my vision hurt.

"No. You need rest and warmth, I'll help," Lin Hu says as he wraps his arms around me from behind.

"Let go....please......please let go," I whisper. The pain in my chest sharpens.

"No. I will never let you go. Or leave you alone," he says firmly as he picks me up and takes me to bed. His arms are wrapped around me and I'm glad he can't see my face because tears start to fall. The pain was too much. Like a knife carving out what's left of my heart. I wonder what I would have felt if my heart was whole. If it hurts now what would I have felt if I was real?

This was going to be an awful life.

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

(Second Liao)

When I woke up it was almost sunset. The forest illuminated in crimson light

"Liao awake?" Likulau grumbles and him saying my name stings my heart.

"Yeah I'm up," I say. "Now I need to plan how to get us to Wutai," I knew it was in the south but it was really far.

"Aidridringane help," likulau says

"Excuse me?" I ask.

"Follow," Likulau gestures for me to follow him.

He leads me to a clearing when he sits on the ground and digs through the dirt.

"What are you looking for?" I ask as he held a snake in his paw.

The snake looks at me and then him. It hisses slightly and Likulau hisses back. Suddenly the hissing gets louder and louder until I realize the snake is a hundred pacer snake. The leaves and trees begin to hiss until it became unbearably loud. I cover my ears and close my eyes.

"Liao look," I hear likulau say.

I look up and see myself in a completely different forest. I see nothing but the shade of tall trees.

"Where are we?"I ask.

"Home," Likulau says as he pulls me along.

We walk through the forest with me tripping behind Likulau. Eventually, we come to the alone building. The villagers there barely batted an eye at me.

"This my temple," Likulau says

Ah that makes sense. I follow him in and inside the temple is a massive coiled serpent.

"Welcome," it hisses. "Are you the Oracle my leopard speaks of?"

Well fuck. This was going to be a fun life.

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

(True Liao)

"Wake up Matatabi. It's time for class," I hear a voice say.

I open my eyes and see mister Mononobe standing over me.

"Oh good morning," I yawn.

"Come on. You're going to be late on your first day," he laughs.

I sit up so fast my vision blurs. "What!" I quickly get up and run to the shower.

I quickly shower and follow Mister Mononobe to school. He's also my homeroom teacher, so that's new.

"So just a heads up for all of you. Class is going to be out for a couple of days," Mononobe says.

"Yeaaaaaaaaah," the class roars.

"Settle down. There's a police investigation going on. They found a body.....or part of one. So, for now, the school is on lockdown." Mononoba says. "And there will be homework during the break, "

"Awwwwwwwww!" The class groans.

"To be young," mononobe sighs. "Please wrap things up class rep,"

"Class attention! "Shiro say. "Class bow!"

We finish class and Ryota, Kengo and Shiro follow me out.

"You're so lucky. The first day and you already get a day off." Ryota says.

"I guess. Is school really that bad?" I ask. I have no memory of what school is like.

"Completely, " Kengo cheers before shiro elbows him.

But before Shiro can reply a dog therian walks up holding a wrapped sword and wearing a different uniform.

"Good morning Kengo. Since we have free time now let us spar 100 times," he says before noticing me. "Oh, you must be the transfer student. I'm Moritaka Inuzuka, a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Matatabi Nido. Are you in the kendo club?" I gesture to the wrapped sword.

"I am. Kengo and I train every day, " he says happily

"Come on Moritaka! We're burning daylight," kengo shouts.

I say my goodbyes to Moritaka before he's dragged away by Kengo.

"Seems like those two get along well," I say.

"Birds of a feather flock together," Ryota sighs. 'Let's go get some food. There's this curry place that I've been meaning to try, "

"Sounds good. Wanna come too, Shiro?" I ask.

Shiro looks like someone killed his cat. He was breathing fast and shallow. "No. It wasn't me," he mumbles

"Shiro? Are you okay? Take a couple of breaths," I say. He looked even worse.

Shiro does respond and takes a few breaths. "Sorry I made you guys worry. I'm fine...I just have some stuff on my mind," he says before his phone rings and he turns even paler.

"Shiro?" Ryota asks as Shiro takes off. "Hey we might have to......"

"If we are going after him we better start now," I say before Ryota can finish.

Ryota smiles. "You're a good person you know?" He laughs before we take off after Shiro.

We run as fast as we can but we lose Shiro in Shinjuku station. We both lean over and catch our breath.

"We'll never find him here......its too big. We need to split up," Ryota says between gasps.

"Sounds........like a plan," I say.

"I'll message you on the app if I find anything," Ryota says before going off in another direction.

As soon as Ryota is out of sight. Salomon appears.

"Master! There's another summoner 100 feet from you and closing in." He says urgently.

"Is it Ryota or Shiro?" I ask.

"No. It's a brand new summoner who you have never met. When you're on the app your location is known to anyone else who is also on the app. Effectively every summoner knows where you are at all times," Salomon says proudly.

"Why did you not tell me this earlier?" I sigh. Salomon was cute but he is a complete moron.

"Hey lookie here guys. Fresh noob meat," a voice says.

I turn around and see three guys eyeing me up.

"Excuse me?" I say. Were these the summoners?

"Look here. There's a rule in these parts. Noobs with no guild need to learn their place," one student says.

An invisible wall surrounds us as it did in the forest with the oni.

"Master you've been challenged to an app battle. Unfortunately, you must not forfeit if you do you lose all your abilities as a summoner." Salomon explains. "Which also means you might never get home. So you have to accept every challenge!"

"Why you never tell me these things earlier!" I scream at him before turning back to the three students. I calmly chant the lines from yesterday and Boundless tail appears in my hands. "Look guys I'd rather not fight. I'm just looking for a friend,"

"Well too bad. We need to look for an infernal summoner but we may as well get a few experience points by beating you up," another student says before being swatted by the third.

"Hey man stop saying shit. If oniwaka finds out we will be in major danger." The third student says.

"Enough lip flapping let's waste this dick," the first student says as he pulls out a sword with red wrappings.

I sigh and block the oncoming strike. Thankfully the students weren't great at sword fighting so we were on even terms but I manage to gain an advantage and land a blow on his sword arm.

"You just got lucky!" He moans from the ground.

"Maybe. But you guys just leave me alone?" I plead. I really just want to find Shiro.

"Nah bitch. You may have beat a weapon summoner but I'm a transient summoner. We make contracts with transients to do our bidding! So check this out!" The second student says before chanting.

A flash of light appears and a black amorphous blob shows up and chirps.

"Yeah boy. Check out my summon. You're in trouble now newbie " the student brags.

"That's just a low-level demon. I'm a far better summon than that," Salomon says. "Even the one you contracted Is stronger,"

Right, the red oni. "In the name of our contract. Come forth and destroy in my name," I chant and the red mark on my wrist flares up. A hexagram flares up before me.

"I come to obey," the oni growls as he steps from the light. "You called master?'

"What the hell? He can summon transients too?! How?" The student shouts.

"Oni. Please defeat my opponents summon," I request.

"As you wish," he says before smashing the blob with his club and it vanishes. "Should I crush the summoner?"

"No. Leave them be," I say. "Thank you for your help oni,"

"Thank you, Master," he says before vanishing.

"Now will you guys leave me alone?" I say as the invisible wall vanishes, concluding the battle.

"Hell no! Call in reinforcements," one student calls.

A red wolf therian runs towards us. "Hey what's going on here," he shouts.

"You're in trouble now. Now that are the best bro is here you're finished!" One student says.

"Yeah. He's got bark, bite and a super cute tail," another says.

"I cant be intimidating if you say shit like that," the therian shouts. "What're this noobs attribute? "

"Attribute?" The students say.

The therian sighs and angrily explains the way attribute works. Fire beats wood which beats water which beats fire. Holy and Dark beat each other.

"Bro what attribute is this?" A student asks. "The gray one,"

"It says 'All'. What does 'All' mean?" The therian shouts. "Okay doesn't matter. We gotta beat this guy,"

"But he had a rare sacred artifact," the student says.

"Yeah but we have numbers," the therian says as an invisible wall rises again. Crap.

Unfortunately for them I still managed to beat them with the help of my oni again. It was honestly kind of pathetic.

"Will you all stop attacking me? I don't want to hurt you," I say.

The students argue amongst themselves before turning tail and running.

"Hey wait! I have to ask you something," I shout as I run after them.