Baku are unique creatures rumored to devour the dreams or nightmares of humans. They are generally depicted as large, cunning tapir-like animals capable of entering dreams so they may consume them. Baku are unable to die nor able to be born, so they usually find another creature, mainly a sick and dying human, to whom they pass on their extraordinary power as the only means of destruction in their immortal life. But with every dream or nightmare detected by the Baku, there comes a price…
"That's our target?" A quiet male voice questioned as he and the small black form next to him watched the busy streets below their position on an apartment roof.
"Yes." The form beside the male answered in a female voice. "She is the one."
The man grinned. "Let's go, then."
A young girl fourteen trudged through the mildly crowded sidewalk as the warm spring sun sat contentedly in the afternoon sky. The girl's head was lowered with her shimmering gold eyes staring solemnly at the concrete before her.
The girl had light brown hair that reached down to her shoulder blades and wore a plaid, dark brown skirt dropping down to her knees and a white T-shirt with a short-sleeved brown blazer over her shirt. Her height was five foot three, a normal stature for a girl her age, and she held a small, square brown color donned with not only cute character key chains but with a nametag that stated that the girl was Hikari Niware and that she attended Tokyo high school.
The buildings that Hikari passed in her aimless wandering were all different shapes and sizes; there were bookstores, convenience stores, office buildings, coffee shops, restaurants, and many other structures.
Hikari suddenly crashed into someone in her distracted state and both she and the person she had run into stumbled backward from the collision and toppled to the ground.
"I'm sorry!" Hikari apologized, glancing up at the person she had rammed into. "I should be watching where I'm going!"
The male sitting across from Hikari chuckled amiably, showing that he forgave her. "No, no, its all right. I should've been watching as well."
The male was twenty-five and only an inch from six foot. He had shiny, soft-looking coal black hair, sky blue eyes, and wore black jeans and a gray T-shirt with a silver chain poking out from underneath the shirt.
"Are you okay…?" The mysterious man inquired as he helped Hikari to her feet. "A beautiful young lady such as yourself should never be injured by something as vulgar as a lowly sidewalk."
Hikari couldn't help the blush that crossed her face at how charming the man before her was; he had to be a prince from a rich, royal family she thought.
"I-I'm fine." Hikari answered as the man picked up her bag and held it out to her; she took her school bag from the stranger as she tried unsuccessfully to hide her blush. "I should be asking you that question."
The man only smiled faintly as a bird perched loosely on his right shoulder.
The bird was a large a bald eagle, but closely resembled an accipiter and had fluffy green feathers and bright pink eyes.
"Aww, what a cute bird!" Hikari said as the bird ruffled its feathers and began to preen itself. She reached toward the accipiter, but the man stopped her by lightly gripping her wrist.
"Raezae bites." He warned gently as he slowly released Hikari's wrist. "I wouldn't touch her if I were you."
"Raezae….?" Hikari questioned as she and the man began to walk side by side; to where she didn't know. "What a wonderful name that is!"
Raezae peered at the man out of the corner of her eye, seemingly giving a smug smile as if to say I-told-you-so.
The man sighed, shaking his head as he politely held open the door to a quaint coffee shop called Sunset. "Please, don't flatter her."
Sunset was homey-looking restaurant with booths that had red leather seats and oak tables scattered all around the small area with a bar at the back of the room where a man in his early thirties was serving drinks; classical music hummed softly from the many speakers encrusted in the ceiling.
"May I ask your name?" Hikari inquired pleasantly as she and the man sat across from each other in a booth next to the nearest window.
"You can call me Rai for now." The man answered, giving another friendly smile.
As they talked about random things-mostly about the weather and what Hikari thought of school- the idea of Rai being some kind of creepy pervert or stalker never even crossed Hikari's mind; how could it when he so kindly ordered her tea and himself a cup of coffee?
"So, what were you thinking about earlier?" Rai asked as the sun outside slowly began to set behind the large office buildings across from the coffee shop and radiated its red-orange rays across the oak table situated between Hikari and Rai.
"How did you know I was thinking about something?" Hikari questioned, staring at Rai in confusion.
Rai gave a teasing smile. "I'm a psychic."
Hikari blinked, gazing at Rai blankly.
Rai exhaled as he shook his head. "I'm kidding; I'm not psychic. You were just easy to read."
"Oh." Hikari glanced at the polished oak below her as she tightened her hold on her teacup. "I was pondering this dream that I've been having for the past couple days."
"A dream, you say?" Rai inquired, his voice revealing his hidden interest.
"Yeah." Hikari looked up at Rai, her puzzlement obvious on her face. "I don't understand it, but I'm alone at my house and I sense, occasionally, that something passes by me."
Hikari once again found something interesting in the table.
"I think it's Blackie."
"….Blackie?" Rai questioned slowly, perplexed as to what or who Hikari meant.
"My cat." Hikari reached into her book bag and began to search around for something. "He disappeared a few weeks ago and I don't know where he is. Here."
Rai took the photograph Hikari held out to him.
"That's Blackie." She pointed to a spot on the picture.
Rai inspected the photo, noticing a much younger Hikari holding a tiny black kitten with intelligent, glimmering gold eyes. Rai had never seen such…perceptive eyes in an animal before; it was as if the feline knew something no one else knew.
"So, you think he's trying to tell you something?" Rai asked as he handed the photo back to Hikari.
Hikari shook her head as she placed the picture carefully into her backpack and gave a depressed sigh. "I don't know. I just want to find Blackie and know that he's safe."
It was quiet for a while before Rai inquired, "You want help with this dream?"
Hikari swiftly glanced up at Rai, who was gently stroking Raezae's breast feathers with one finger, watching the bird with tender eyes.
"I can help with your dream." Rai continued, peering at Hikari calmly.
"Really?" Hikari questioned excitedly.
Rai grinned, dropping his hand onto the table. "I only ask for one thing in return for my services."
Hikari blinked perplexedly. "My…dream?" She repeated incredulously.
"That is all I require." Rai reached into his shirt and pulled out a sparkling orange stone carved into the shape of a raindrop; the jewel was connected to the end of the silver chain around Rai's neck. "Shall we go?"
Rai's necklace flashed a bright orange, mysteriously making Hikari drowsy and she soon closed her eyes, unable to stay awake any longer.
Hikari glanced around in confusion when she found herself in a familiar hallway.
"I'm…at my house?"
"This is a nice house."
Hikari looked beside her to see Rai calmly searching around, Raezae still sitting on Rai's shoulder.
Hikari's house was a ravishing two-story with maple floors, a spacious kitchen next to the entrance hall where Rai and Hikari stood, a living room beside the kitchen, and a staircase that stood quietly behind Hikari and Rai as it waited for someone to walk upstairs and inspect the second floor.
"So," Rai stared at Hikari. "Where's this phantom presence?"
Hikari shook her head. "I don't know where exactly. I only sense it every so often."
"Then why don't we search for it?" Rai suggested. "You take the upstairs while I search down here."
Hikari shrugged. "Sure. Why not?"
"Call me if you find something!" Rai said as Hikari disappeared upstairs.
"All right!" Hikari's voice answered.
When he sure Hikari was gone, Rai glanced at Raezae.
"Right." Raezae nodded as she opened her wings and soared into the kitchen while Rai headed into the living room to began his investigation.
He started to scan around, searching for anything mysterious or unnatural.
Rai froze, though, when something frigid brushed faintly against his left leg. The sensation was strong enough that it felt as if it had touched his bare leg instead of his jeans.
Rai glanced down and spotted a vague outline of a cat staring up at him imploringly.
"Raezae." He called quietly and the bird instantly glided to him and alighted herself on his right shoulder.
"Yes?" She questioned.
"See it?" Rai asked, never breaking eye contact with the ghost-like apparition of the feline sitting before him.
Raezae inspected the area that her partner was staring at. "Well, I don't see it…"
"Hikari!" Rai yelled as the phantom cat bolted.
"Yes? !" Hikari inquired as Rai chased after the specter.
"Do you have a backyard?"
"Yeah, I do, but…" Hikari halted at the end of the stairs as Rai ran past. "What does that have to do with…."
Rai slid open the door leading to the backyard and stepped into the chilly air. He peered around the silent backyard and soon spotted the cat sitting contentedly near the center to the yard.
Rai headed toward the feline with Hikari trailing behind him and crouched down, placing his hand over the damp ground as he closed his eyes and concentrated.
After a few seconds, he felt the presence of a hovering, earth-bound soul. Rai stared up at Hikari as he ordered, "Get me a trowel!"
"But…" Hikari protested, puzzled at the man's actions.
"I need one if we're going to help Blackie!"
Hikari was silent for a few seconds before she slowly nodded and trotted back inside the house.
While he waited, Rai began to dig at the ground with his hands; Raezae hopped off his shoulder and helped him by clawing at the ground with her sharp talons.
Hikari walked up to Rai a few minutes later and handed him a small trowel, which he launched into digging deeper into the soil. He halted after digging a two foot deep hole in the earth, regarding the curled, motionless form of the black cat laying in the man made grave.
"Blackie!" Hikari cried, kneeling beside the feline's burial place. "Oh, Blackie…"
Rai glanced beside him as the apparition of Blackie vanished in a swirl of smoke before he looked at Hikari. "I think he wants a proper burial."
Hikari stopped stroking the frozen fur of Blackie and gazed up at Rai with sad eyes.
Rai gave a tiny smile. "Shall we go, then?"
After waking from her dream, Hikari immediately headed to her house, dragging an unwilling Rai along with her, and started to dig in the backyard for Blackie after her parents- -though a little startled to see an older man trailing after their daughter- -explained that Blackie had died a month ago from a disease, but they knew how much Hikari loved the cat so they had decided to keep it a secret about Blackie's death and buried the feline in the backyard where Hikari wouldn't think to look.
Hikari soon found her beloved cat and marched toward a nearby pet cemetery where she, accompanied by Rai, re-buried the deceased cat.
"I guess I always sort of knew that he was dead." Hikari muttered, standing solemnly at the head of the granite gravestone with Blackie's name etched into the stone.
Rai stood silently behind her a couple feet away like a ghost, being as unobtrusive as possible.
"I just didn't want to believe it." she gave a melancholy smile. "He's been with me for as long as I can remember."
Rai lightly gripped the stone attached to his necklace with his thumb and forefinger, then smoothly dragged out a tiny, marble-sized orb painted orange and engraved with a picture of Blackie's ghost.
"Wait!" Hikari turned around when she heard Rai walking away from her.
The man paused at the girl's cry and peered over his shoulder at her, Raezae serenely sitting on his shoulder.
"Who are you really?" Hikari inquired, staring at Rai questioningly.
Rai's lips turned up in a mischievous smirk as he flipped the diminutive sphere into the air and caught it in his mouth before announcing, "I am Raito! Raito Obake. I'm a Baku!"
Before Hikari could even ask what he meant by that, Raezae flicked down her left wing and both she and Raito vanished in a whirlwind of green feathers.
Hikari blinked at the vacant spot where the Baku had previously stood, completely baffled.
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