The alley was completely secluded. Only faint glimers from the full moon above slipped down to touch the faces of the six humans that gathered there. Or were they...
A flash of light lit up the alley momentarily.
The passers-by did not seem to notice it. They went about their business without a care in the world. They did not know about the silent war going on.
"Okay. Here's the plan." Yumi turned to face the other five. "We split up. Look for the Key: that is our only objective."
The others nodded in acknowledgement.
"Reform before morning. We don't want the humans to get suspicious."
As they turned to leave, Hanako turned to Kanon and asked: "Why do we have to be back before morning? We could have all day to search for the Key. Why waste time?"
"Because we're not human." Sachi answered. Hanako turned to face her.
"We may have been born like humans, but we were never one of their race. After our death, we were remade. The Sparks in our souls recreated our bodies around it. We are the Keepers; guradians of the human race. They must be delivered from the hands of hell. If hell triumphs, their race will die. If their race dies, the world as we know it will end. This is an age-old battle, and it is an honor to fight in it."
"Remind me why we're doing this again." Tsuki said, balancing on a metal trash can. "Why save the humans? There are many other races out there that would be willing to take over the earth after their race dies."
"The humans are a product of harmony. As long as their race lives, the balance between heaven and hell, good and evil, will be kept." Yumi replied. "Let's move, or there won't be enough night left."
The Keepers split up, dispersing in different directions. Soon, each was swallowed by the dark night.
Takara sat at the edge of her bed, wiping the sweat from her forehead. She sighed and lay down on her bed. Perhaps there would be time for a quick nap before...
The door burst open.
Takara was immediately kneeling on the floor, completely at the mercy of her stepmother.
"Lazy dog!!" her stepmom exclaimed, taking several treacherous steps toward the defenseless girl. "The bags were supposed to be loaded into the car fifteen minutes ago!!" Her stepmother raised her fist. "Now everyone will be late for our flight back to Japan!! You have no idea how sorry you will be once i'm done with you! You..."
Takara's stepmother was by the pale, teenage girl's side in an instant.
"Riko-chan, you shouldn't be here. Why don't you wait downstairs?" Takara's stepmother put her arm around Riko.
"I don't want you to hit Takara." Riko coughed.
"I was not about to hit Takara. I was merely reminding her to load the bags into the car." Riko's mother soothed.
"Then she can help me down." Riko reached for Takara.
Takara immediately took her older sister's hand.
Her stepmother gave her one last warning look and closed the door behind them.
Riko patted Takara's hand. "I'm sorry about mama." She closed her eyes and leaned on Takara.
"It's not your fault, Riko-onee." Takara replied. "How are you feeling?"
"You shouldn't be worried about me." Riko smiled, eyes still closed.
They reached the bottom of the stairs and Takara let go of Riko, setting her down on the couch. Takara reached for the oversized luggages standing beside the door and hauled them to the black limo outside.
Everyday, Takara received all kinds of abuse from her stepmother; her real mother having died when she was three. Her father remarried, and Takara gained an older sister, who was sickly, and an evil stepmother. Although Takara's parents were rich and had many people at their disposal, her stepmom still had Takara do the chores and all the grunt work.
Once the luggages were piled into the car and all the family members comfortably seated inside, the chauffer took off in the direction of the airport, leaving the city of Paris and its lights, behind.
Sachi slinked through the narrow alley between the convenience store and a private house. She had wandered around for about an hour now, still no sign of the Key. Still no light in her crystal.
All the keepers had a crystal. This helped them identify the Key, and also to communicate with each other.
She took out her crystal and rapped it against the walls.
Still no light.
She jumped up and into another alleyway, moving to fast for human eyes to detect.
She was directly across a lighted window when her crystal flashed, illuminating the alley with a soft, white light.
Sachi glanced into the window.
A young girl sat there, playing the piano.
Could it be, Sachi thought, that their life-long search for the Key was over? She had to contact the others.
Sachi pulled out a black cellphone from her coat. Not knowing how to use it, she experimented with the keys.
THIS DEVICE WILL SELF DESTRUCT. The bright red letters flashed across the screen.
"Damn." Sachi muttered. She clutched the phone tightly in one hand, arm outstretched toward the concrete wall opposite the window.
The phone gave a muffled bang and some smoke leaked out of her palm as it exploded in her palm. She dusted off her hand into an open trash bin sitting on one side. Her hand was barely even scratched.
"What a waste." She muttered, fishing around for her crystal. It flashed a clear, bright purple.
Tsuki was balancing precariously on the edge of a gutter high above the ground. It was the shortest and most inconspicuous way to get around. She stopped, perched on her heels and surveyed the scene below. She took out her crystal. No white light.
She sighed and continued along the gutter, being very careful not to distort it.
She almost fell as her crystal brightened in a clear purple.
She regained her balance and ran along the side of the gutter. Pigeons flew away as she gained speed.
The residents of number 15 heard a small thump on their roof.
"Must be the pigeons." They muttered.
Sachi jumped as Michiko landed on her shoulders, twin scyths immediately drawn.
"Relax. You're too much of a worry wart." Michiko jumped down, laughing.
"Don't try that again!" Sachi dusted off her coat.
"What is it?" Yumi arrived with Kanon and Hanako, the seven-year-old Keeper, hot on her heels. Tsuki dropped down from a pipe, upside-down, and peered first at Sachi, then at Yumi. She did a somersault as she pushed off and landed on her feet.
"Show-off." Michiko punched Tsuki on the arm.
"What is it?" Yumi asked again, pointedly.
Sachi brought out her crystal.
"Who?" Tsuki asked.
Sachi pointed at the girl on the piano with a shrug.
Everyone peered at the girl, then at Sachi's crystal.
It's light began to fade, until it was just a normal crystal again.
Nobody noticed the black limo pass behind them and speed away as the light faded.
Nobody knew that the Key they had been looking for, the only human alive capable of saving earth from its doom, was probably the most abused human alive.
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