The night welcomed Ben like an old friend, and he himself seemed enhanced by it. His posture became more dignified, the teenage slouch gone entirely, replaced instead by a noble gait that wouldn't look out of place in the palaces and castles of old. His black leather coat jangled slightly in the frigid, biting wind coming from the north, but Ben did not notice it. His excitement at once again being out in the night was warming him from inside. He took his favourite route through the village, shunning roads and streets in favour of alleys and gardens. This part of town was cosy and inviting in the day, but by night it took on the appearance of everything illuminated by moonlight; grey and forbidding. Well, only to the unseasoned night-traveller of course. Ben was the odd kind of person who preferred the silence and solitude of night than the bustling, busy realm of daylight. But he knew tonight had more of a purpose than simpy wandering around admiring; he had a job to do.
Sighing, he took a left up a small alleyway, heading for the centre of town. His destination was about ten minutes walk away, so he had lots of time to plan it all out. The murky scenery of the housing areas melded into the orange drenched high street slowly, and the transition reminded Ben his face was still visible. He pulled a black balaclava from his left hip pocket and quickly covered his face with it. He didn't want to be recognised if he could help it.
Nearing his objective, Ben quickened his pace. He was in no danger of being late, but his excitement was mounting as the distance closed, and he found it difficult to contain the adrenaline rush by simply walking. Running however would be foolhardy, and he would be heard from a long way off. Running drew unwanted attention. Since he was still on the side streets, he wasn't too worried about sticking to the shadows. This was a safe town, and people didn't expect anyone to be out at this hour. When this thought crossed his mind, he subconciously checked his watch: 3:17AM. Right on time.
An explosion rang through the still night air, the jarring contrast smashing the oppressive silence as though it were a pain of glass. Ben stopped for a minute to work out where it had came from, and with rising panic realised that it was coming from in front of him. Right where he had been heading. Without second thought, he sprinted onwards, his coat blowing up behind him like a sail. His long legs carried him the distance in a few steps, but instead of stopping he slammed his shoulder into the door of a deserted looking house - where the explosion had come from. Expecting the door to be bolted, he threw all his effort into the entry, only to sail straight through the frame and into a pile on the floor. A scream which sent shivers down his back burst from upstairs. Pulling himself from the dusty floorboards, Ben glanced at the doorway as he bolted up the stairs. The lock had been blown off.
He was no longer worried about noise, or attracting attention. Two-at-a-time he flew up the stairway, over a broken door, through a steel entry. In the room that he'd been looking for for over 6 months, a dark stain was spreading from a lone figure crumpled in the corner. The whole side of the house had been blasted into the street, and the sound of sirens approaching from the distance distracted him for a moment. From up in the hills, where the police station was, blue and red lights were flashing their way down the motorway.
"You're too late," rasped a voice. "He took it, you're too late." Ben turned back to the crumpled figure, now recognisable as a woman in a white satin dress, coated in what looked to be her own blood. He jumped down to her, and grabbed her by the front of her dress.
"Wh-who?" He whispered, gagging on the stench of death that was assaulting his nose.
"You know him." Whispered the woman, steadily getting quieter.
"Give me a name." Ben's face was a mask of fear beneath his balaclava. The woman gargled in response, then pointed loosely to a series of cuts on her neck. He had not noticed them before, in the face of so much blood, but now he dropped the woman and recoiled in fear, crossing himself in the traditional Christian manner. As she slumped to the floor the lights left her eyes, and she was dead. Ben shouted at the corpse anyway, still too much in shock to register her departure from the world of the living. "You're lying! He can't have - he doesn't - he isn't..." But words failed him, and he sunk back to his knees. It just couldn't be. Ben was barely aware that he was running, running back to his sanctuary.
Kuro Kou, the Banished Tengu, had returned from hell at last.