It was the evening of Yuki and Jio’s 7th birthday when they realised there was nothing they could do to stop it.
For almost 2 months Yuki had been suffering severe headaches, screaming her agony because she could barely speak for pain.
Madelli often visited her at her home with sutures and herbs that she thought would help, but nothing helped to calm the girl’s ailments. Her parents were at a loss for what to do, and Jio was too terrified for the wellbeing of his dear sister to be able to do anything. Madelli kept trying, despite her failures, determined to help the young girl this time.
Fuuma was scared, too. He was scared in his child’s mind that Yuki might die - he could already imagine how it would tear at him - but he also knew that this might be something to do with the curse.
Whenever he could, he offered his assistance, staying with the young girl late into the night, through her screaming and sweating, holding her hand in her quiet moments when she seemed to barely breathe but her eyes thrashed around in their sockets, watching something that wasn’t really there.
Unable to deal with both her regular healer duties and her duties to the child of the Bell family at her age, Madelli had recently taken on an apprentice from the village’s family of doctors. She was a very friendly apprentice with a rather cruel sense of humour; her name was Tontidai and she was only about 20 years younger than Madelli - old for an apprentice, but already well respected and accepted. She became very worried about Yuki at this time - having formed a rather close bond with the young girl in the few months before the headaches had begun, curious about the peculiar nature of the guardian and fascinated by how the girl squealed when she was teased but quickly shrugged it off. She noticed her keeping secrets, too, and became determined to ease them out of her - and spent a lot of time caring for her. Whatever happened to the young guardian, she was watching, taking notes and most importantly listening to Yuki.
In her fever Yuki would tell her everything.
As she sat crying after a painful memory she would explain the dream to Tontidai in such vivid detail that Tontidai struggled to believe that the girl had not truly experienced them.
Her heart felt strangled when Yuki would look up with frightened blue eyes, shaking, and plead drearily with the apprentice wise-woman,
“Why? The curse... It hurts too much. I cannot live like this. Please, any way possible, make it stop.” Before grunting in pain and drifting back into an unsettled sleep.
Late into the night, after another stressful day of worrying about the poor girl, listening to her pleading for it to stop again, Tontidai sat in her room in the wise-woman’s home reading through the tired scribbles she had written as she listened to the visions Yuki spoke of.
Suddenly, in a panic, she leapt from her chair and rushed down into the library. There was a memory that Yuki had told her of that seemed familiar. It sent chills down her spine.
She fumbled through the endless history books until she came to the one she wanted, and flicked through the pages with shaking hands.
As she read through it there were too few differences; Yuki had told her a memory that should have belonged to the guardian of 200 years ago.
Fearing the thought inching into her mind, she desperately searched for some inaccuracies, but the more she searched, the more extracts she found that matched with Yuki’s vision.
She remembered what Madelli had told her - Could Yuki possibly have something to do with Inabikari?
She grabbed up the book and hurriedly retrieved her notes. She confirmed the matches with Madelli, who instantly took action searching for a potion that could prevent the worst that she feared, and ordered Tontidai to get to the Bell house as quickly as possible.
On that night, Jio had gone to bed sad - their birthday was supposed to be a time for celebration, but it had been spent listening to the screams of his sister. He didn’t mind that everyone seemed to have forgotten, or that he had been almost completely ignored for weeks, all that mattered was that Yuki was hurting and there was nothing he could do.
And he felt useless.
About the time Tontidai would have settled down to read through her notes for the night, Yuki had sat up in her bed slowly in her bed at home, no longer shaking. She opened her eyes and stared across the room blankly; not even pain showed.
Jio woke up too as he heard shuffling, and rolled drowsily over so that he was facing his sister’s bed. Yuki was sat up, and her hair was covering her face. Still half asleep, he decided that she was sleep-walking like she had done a few times before, even more so lately - he had told no one. Yuki didn’t even seem to remember when he mentioned it, so he had passed the occasions off as nothing more than peculiar dreams.
When she started to stumble around the room, he turned back over and closed his eyes, confirming to himself that she was sleep walking.
However, when she began to root through their draw, clinking sounds resonating through the floorboards, his eyes shot open. Worry gripped him, she would bang into things normally but she had never opened anything. What if she hurt herself in her sleeping clumsiness?
He made movement to ask her if she was awake - just to check- but before he could even start to speak the shuffling suddenly paused, and he heard a soft ‘sshhh’.
So she must have been awake.
But why that draw? He thought, trying to ignore the sounds of a sword being unsheathed. Why our weaponry draw?
He heard her picking up various weapons and replacing them, but eventually, he heard the sword being unsheathed again.
“Yuki?” He whispered, tentatively, “It’s too late for as sword fight. G-Go back to sleep.”
But his sister didn’t respond. Nor did she move back to her bed.
She didn’t seem move at all.
He told himself firmly that she was just checking something and hadn’t heard him, and so closed his eyes once more.
Within a few moments he heard breathing beside his bed, infused with stuttering laughter, and finally he dared to open his eyes and look up.
There was Yuki, wearing the most peculiar grin, the sword she used to practice held high above her head, her iris’s glowing a malevolent violet.
“YUKI?!” Jio screamed, and rolled quickly out of bed as his sister drove the sword down where he had been.
She laughed, a maniacal laugh - a laugh unlike any sound he believed Yuki capable of making.
“I’m back! I’m back! It’s been so long!” The words came from her mouth, came in her voice, but somehow they did not seem like Yuki at all. “Feel that movement... the swing of the blade... the fluid motion of the sword like part of my arm... and I am controlling it all! Yes! This is beauty!”
“Yuki?” Jio squeaked, standing in a weak-held guarded stance, “What are you doing, Yuki? W-W-What are you talking about? It’s too late for games!”
But he knew this wasn’t a game. Yuki was too innocent and peaceful for a game like this.
She chuckled again stepped heavily towards him, intent, like the step itself was a dare.
“Won’t you satisfy my bloodlust?” Her voice said in an amused tone, her eyes devious.
“Yu... Wh-who are you?”
“Me?” She leant back, a questioning look on her face, then cooed. “I’m your dear sister, Yuki Bell, guardian of birds.”
Jio shook his head nervously, not believing the words at all.
Then the grin returned to the young girl’s face.
“DO NOT FORGET MY NAME AGAIN!” She bellowed “GET ON YOUR KNEES AND BEG FOR YOUR LIFE OR PREPARE TO LOSE IT!”
In horror, Jio yelped and did as commanded.
Yuki’s foot landed on his hand, hard, making it crack, her foot twisted from side to side, pushing down harder and harder, laughing as Jio squealed in agony.
Then she turned to the window of the room and shoved the shutters open with such force that they slammed against the walls outside, causing dust to rain from the ceiling.
“DO YOU HEAR ME, YOU ROTTEN PIGS?!” She cried into the night. “BEG FOR FREEDOM BEFORE ME! YOU ARE ALL SNIVELLING PIGS BEFORE MY MAJESTY!”
More of that ugly laughter erupted from that innocent white throat. In the village, flames began to spark to life on candles and torches, illuminating the streets.
The whole village may as well have been listening; a roar erupted, spreading what was declared by the young girl through the streets and out into the dark reaches of Chinako-Rubi.
“FOR I AM THE ONE, THE GREAT! FEAR ME!” The girl boomed, “I AM INABIKARI BELL, GUARDIAN OF WEAPONRY, AND I HAVE RETURNED!”