Chapter 1: The New Girl
Only another mission, this is what I keep telling myself as I try to sleep at night. I lay awake all night in bed staring at the ceiling fan spinning in slow motion. In my mind, the blades of the fan turn to knives. Blood rains down on my face and I can hear the screams of the dead. It’s only another mission.
I roll over on my side and close my eyes. The sound my female guardian talking to her husband in the next room rings in my ears. She’s planning to go to the summer festival tomorrow, laughing and talking about how great it’s going to be. Her voice is so annoying. It’s as if she’s had the same cold for years now. I cover my face with my pillow to block out the sound. All I can think about is how blind everyone in this city seems to be.
We try to pretend as if nothing is wrong. Every year, we host carnivals and festivals in the summer, picnics in the fall, and pie eating contests in the spring. It distracts everyone. We pretend this is just our little piece of paradise in a bleak world. Yet that couldn't be further from the truth. No matter how hard we try to live normal lives, no one can escape the truth: our island will never be safe until the monsters known as the Konadai are gone for good. For this dream to come true, we have to harvest the cure.
The sun is bright, making the early evening warmer than normal. I stare at myself in the public restroom mirror, listening to children and their mothers behind me. I dip my hands under the cool running water, and then splash some on my face as if I am trying to wash away my secrets. I can’t stay in here forever. I walk towards the restroom doors, my red high heeled boots clicking on the linoleum floor. I turn towards the mirror for one last look. A strand of my long orange hair falls into my face. I could have cut it shorter, but I like having something I can throw around. I push open the restroom entrance door and make my way into the crowd. Since the Caara Island Summer Festival is well under way, no one really notices me. Nor does anyone really care.
Bright colorful lights hang from every pole, inviting the people to come and participate in the special events. Banners flutter in the wind from every booth and street post, advertising the events and food the summer festival has to offer. The colorful signs mean nothing to me. The same ones appear year after year advertising vendors with cheap prizes or some cook selling his finest junk food. Only one sign shows some real meaning. It is the recruiting poster at the Caara Island Eradication Squad booth. The poster is big enough to read from the other side of town. I take a moment to study the sign before moving on. The black background of the poster forces the large red letters to jump in your face.
“Protect the city, protect your family. Join the Caara Island Eradication Squad. Together, we can reclaim our island once and for all. Signups will be held every day before and after school.”
I continue to push through the crowds to the nearest quiet place. The smells of fresh buttery popcorn and sweet hot crepes fill my nose. I have no time to take in the enjoyment of the activities; I am on a quest to find a place to clear my head.
As I look around the streets, I can see the scattered faces of men wearing black suits. They seem to watch me, but their sun glasses give away nothing. They don’t bother me; I know exactly who they are. I smile at each one as I pass, whether they are looking at me or not.
I’m so busy watching the men that I don’t notice the boy standing in my path. I ran face first into his back and fall backwards on the ground.
"Oh, excuse me," I say softly. "I didn't see you there."
The tall boy turns around quickly. He looks at me with a concerned look in his brown eyes. Kneeling down to me, he extends out his hand and smiles. I hesitate, but then take his hand into mine. As he helps me up, he places his free hand below my arm and pulls me up on my feet.
"Oh no problem, I barely felt it." His slight country accent sends chills racing through my spine.
He brushes a lock of his long dark hair behind his ear.
I give him a sweet smile as an attempt to shake off the chills that are now traveling to my knees.
"Well, I need to go, nice meeting you."
"Wait," the boy grabs me by the arm. I clinch my fist, ready to punch him, but the way he looks at me makes the anger in me dissipate. Can’t he see I just want to leave?
"My name's Konan Yodobashi.”
"It's nice to meet you, Konan."
Tilting my head to the side, I notice two other boys playing around behind him.
"Who are your friends?" I ask Konan, loud enough for all three boys to hear. A cheerful wolf demon pokes his head from around Konan and waves.
“That’s Fang,” says Konan pointing at the wolf boy. I can see why they call him Fang. “And the dumb looking one is Nevin.”
Konan and I both share a small laugh at the joke. Nevin frowns at the comment then slaps Fang on the back hard, causing his drink almost to spill.
Fang growls as he stumbles to the side. He bares his sharp teeth with his top lip quivering. Nevin takes a few steps back. From the look on his face, I can tell he isn’t sure how serious Fang is right now.
Suddenly I feel a tingly sensation, but it’s not from Konan. The feeling is different, an eerie chill. I look over my shoulder and see another man in a black suit staring straight at me. None of the boys seem to notice him, and that seems for the best. There’s no need for them to know I have men watching my every move.
I need to get out of here quick, so I decide to end the conversation. Before I can open my mouth to speak Konan’s voice fills my ears, nearly causing me to melt. I shake off the feeling the best I can. There is no way I can feel attracted to this boy, I can’t fall for anyone. The organization will not allow any distractions. I’m on a mission, and the call of duty always comes before pleasure. For all I know Konan could be my next target. But there is something about him that keeps me captivated. Even his friends have me laughing more than I have in a long time. I may have to watch these boys. Something about them just doesn't seem right.
Fang and Nevin carry on jabbering about how fun the festival is, completely forgetting that I’m standing here watching them. I open my mouth to speak, but another man walks by. My smile quickly fades to a frown. I don’t know if it is him or not, but this isn't the time to take chances. I refuse to let him see me talking to these boys; that will only leave three corpses for me to clean up. I run off without a word, pushing my way through the crowd of people until I’m sure I am out of sight. Before I get too far away, I can hear Konan call after me.
"Hey, I never got your name!"
His voice rings in my ears, yet I pretend not to hear him. I have to get out of here, this area isn’t safe.