The burst of electricity had left both the glove and his body, buzzing through the roof beneath them and back into The Pride, but he couldn’t stop his body from convulsing. “Shinji, you dolt!” he heard from Hideki, “don’t you remember anything about high school? Your sword is metal, it’s going to conduct electricity.”
He tried to pick himself back up, gritting his teeth as the never-ending jolts seemed to send one million tiny bullets through his nervous system. Ayame went to lend a hand to lean on, but Hideki kept her away.
“It’ll jump to you, we’ve got to be careful.”
“I see you’ve figured it out? Y’know, Hideki Toramaru, you’re a lot smarter than my initial reports indicated. I think I’m growing to like you,” she cast her eyes down upon the pitiful swordsman who still could not hold his legs in a locked position. “On the other hand, Shinji Yamaguchi, you are rather disappointing. The power that my Shinigami Lord offers me is a living, breathing one,” she claimed, “and its effects only worsen as the enemy gives in.”
In a fit of blind rage, it was Hiro who burst forwards. His fists were clenched, ready to make a dent in The Pride’s electrified skeleton and, as he channelled his energy into a single Iwa-coated fist, his attack collided with The Wrath.
It appeared the behemoth could move much faster than his stature would imply and he was capable of taking a direct hit to the face without so much as flinching. “Bastard,” Hiro muttered as he gazed upon his enemy’s empty expression, tossing himself back out of harm’s way.
The pain had become a searing ache between the individual layers of Shinji’s skin but, for the most part, he could put his weight back on his legs and stand straight, although his speed had been impaired.
“Are you sure you don’t want to sit this one out?”
“It… was nothing,” he brought his blades back to their usual position, spluttering his words in electrified saliva as he attempted to formulate a plan. “What are we d— doing out here then?”
“I think I’ve got an idea,” said Hiro, ignoring the rest of the group’s impending suggestions. “Shinji and I will take the big one out.”
“All right,” Hideki added, pointing a bladed finger at The Pride with a boastful smirk. The Pride returned the favour, throwing a middle finger into the mix for added effect. Her ape-like cohort grunted, understanding their current situation, dripping sweat like the climax of storm-season. He hobbled away from The Pride toward the battleground as offered and, slowly, Hiro and Shinji sauntered off to fight him.
The Pride was to face Saboten, Ayame, Hideki, and Rho in one of the least fair fights in history. At least, that’s how Saboten would’ve seen it, not that his sense of morality extended to those attempting to electrocute him.
He discovered his capability for survival during the battle with The Greed, what made The Pride any different? “First things first, make sure to keep an eye out for each other.”
“And Rho, as soon as you get the chance…”
“I’ll summon my strongest pet!”
“Hideki, are you ready?” asked Saboten as his own dark red aura began to surround his body, preparing him for the fight ahead just as it had during the battle with The Greed. Belphegor wasn’t acting as vocal this time, perhaps it was all up to him after all.
“I can do this.”
The Pride looked uninterested herself. “Oh please,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “Apart from the little girl back there, I know what you can all do. I’ve been watching you from day one…” In a flash of orange-red sparks, The Pride disappeared from their sight.
“Where did she go?”
“Behind us?” The Pride had become the very electricity she had weaponised, using it to travel undetected behind the group. Upon reforming, she struck with her fists but Ayame managed to dodge, hardening her hair as Rho followed suit from behind, gripping her weapon in defence.
“Watch yourself, Rho!” said Saboten, “your scythe will conduct too! Stay back, summon your Shinigami!”
The Pride opened her mouth to insult her fleeing victims but was interrupted by a shot of pale energy fired from Saboten’s direction which she could block without breaking a sweat: turning the proud beam of white light into sparks of colourful lightning behind her.
These sparks themselves fell to the ground and were soon swallowed up by The Pride, melting into her very being. With a smirk stretched across her face and her arms out in front of her, The Pride soon became enveloped in a her own yellow aura.
“Oh, no you don’t!” Hideki bellowed as he threw his arm out like a swinging mace, forgetting all about his new set of weaknesses. The Pride refused to treat such information improperly and soon dissolved herself back into the static-ridden air as his attack drew near, only to burst back onto the scene atop the hand itself.
She pressed her hands down upon the bone-like surface of his arm and let loose a powerful thrust of electricity which erupted through his muscular system, sending him into blood-curdling agony as The Pride’s energy cooked him inside out.
“What are they doing over there?” Shinji asked as he watched Hideki getting himself fried by The Pride, “won’t you quit fucking around!?”
“Don’t you—“ Hiro blocked punch after punch from the vile giant ahead of him, “think we should help them?” He finished his sentence with a left hook to The Wrath’s jaw in place of a full stop, cracking the bone beneath the beast’s tight skin.
“Nah,” Shinji took over the offensive, slashing at the creature with both Hairu and Kusanagi as though excavating The Wrath’s flesh for ancient artefacts. “I think we’ve got bigger problems, don’t you?”
“Like, why isn’t this guy fighting back at 100%?”
Shinji had been scoping the fight out from the very beginning because The Wrath seemed uninterested in their battle; missing impossible blows, taking hits like somebody had bet a lot of money on him. Could The Wrath have been absorbed their dealt damage? It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility but why was the creature so eager to take it?
He took his opportunity to deliver a killing blow because, if The Wrath was charging something, Shinji wasn’t interested. He pushed his body to the limit, hopping up The Wrath’s right arm and onto his muscular collarbone shelf where Shinji plunged his two blades into The Wrath’s empty sockets, and carved through the side of his skull.
The swordsmaster retreated, pleased in his efforts, but The Wrath refused to fall. “Don’t assume anything, Shinji. He’s probably not dead.”
On occasion, these new wounds atop the side of The Wrath’s head would spurt blood, causing the beast’s breathing to become erratic. The skin cracked around his nose, spreading to his cheeks, down to his noise, and his lips and, from these new wounds, an black fluid began to secrete.
“This doesn’t look good, does it?”
“What the fuck is happening?”
The Wrath released an enormous roar as the fluid coated its entire body body, sans a perfect circle in the lower half of its face where its mouth had sat. Once it had enveloped the creature, it hardened and became Iwa, but Hiro had never read about Black Iwa in Scarecrow’s files.
“Something’s different about this,” said Shinji as The Wrath removed his brown cloak from his body, exposing his chrysalis-esque form to the world. For the first time, The Wrath turned his head from right to left as though seeking out his sinful partner. “Oh fuck, that’s not good.”
“He can see, can’t he?”
“Sure fucking looks like it, we’d better mo—“
Shinji couldn’t react quick enough, even with all of Valafar’s power coursing through his veins. In the split second he decided to move, The Wrath managed to grab Shinji by the head and throwing his limp body backwards behind him.
The act took place right under Hiro’s nose but he could hardly say he witnessed it. He didn’t even make a sound as he fell head first towards the thick pavements below.
Hiro would’ve made the sacrifice for anybody he knew but he did feel as though he owed his life to Shinji. He was not without his own desperation, however, as he threw his own bulky body into The Wrath, knocking the two of them from the top of the building.
The Wrath made an educated guess soon after leaving the safety of the roof, ploughing his hand through the glass of sky scraping hotel, and latching onto one of the windowsills. Hiro, on the other hand, needed to figure out how he could get himself to Shinji’s speed in the air.
If he could just catch him, it would be simple: Hiro would cover all of his skin in his Iwa, bracing himself and Shinji for impact but he was far too large to pick up the speed he required. As Hiro searched through his internal labyrinth, hoping to establish some kind of connection with his Shinigami Lord, Leviathan, he felt the overwhelming presence surrounding him.
It felt like neither enemy nor friend, but he was being surrounded by a pale golden Iwa which formed around his entire body in an elliptical shape, allowing for more aerodynamic movement. It was not under his control by any means but with it, he was able to capture Shinji and brace him for impact as the ground approached.
“They’ve both gone over the edge!” cried Saboten as he took his eyes of The Pride for a moment or two, giving her every opportunity to plant a knee in his chest, shocking him to the ground.
“Shut up and remember who you’re fighting, kid. Honestly, I don’t understand how you made it this far in the first place.” As she railed off stock insults, The Pride knocked a few teeth from his skull for extra measure, making sure the boy wouldn’t be getting up. “Two down, two to go…”
“I— I’m definitely not down yet,” he whimpered, gritting the few teeth that remained in place. In a last ditch effort to tear The Pride’s head from her body, a Lunar Shot burst forth from the tip of his sword but, in his condition, even a direct hit had little effect.
Hideki was back on his feet and, as he watched Saboten’s light burst forth, he used his bladed arm to whip The Pride in the back of the head. The knock-down blow came from Ayame who’s hair had balled itself up into a set of spiked fists which pummelling the enemy until she could no longer stand.
In defeat, a quiet chuckle let The Pride’s mouth, pushed through the larynx by fragments of ribcage. “My job is not done yet, not until he arrives.”
“Who’s coming for you?”
“My Creator will take it from you.”
“The World,” muttered Rho, “The World is coming here.”
“I guess I should polish my eyeball for him. Does The World want to ask nicely, or will he just fucking take it?”
“Oh ho ho ho… Those are some big words, little boy. Reality is the last thing on my Creator’s mind but your end will soon be apparent.”
An incredible burst of pure energy forced Saboten off his feet and onto his back, had The World already arrived? As Saboten tried to turn his gaze around to see the source, a curved blade fell upon The Pride. The attack severed her right leg from her body, carving through skin, meat, bone, and concrete; a wound so clean that it couldn’t bleed. Cauterised, surgical, terrifying.
“You do not talk to my friends like that.”
“Yo— you creepy bitch.”
The entire hotel building soon began to shake as Rho took full control of her Turns, summoning her most powerful creature yet from the Kara Sekai. She floated above them as it warped into existence, standing in mid-air from where she had tossed her scythe.
The creature resembled no Shinigami but an ancient God which stood alone, towering above the building. It held the physical form of a torn, three-armed human being with cystic purple skin, and the head of a large elephant. It shrieked upon its arrival, causing the remaining bird population to fall from the sky.
“Rho, you need to calm down!”
“I won’t let The World take me,” her words took an ethereal tone as the Shinigami echoed each word she spoke. In its grandeur, all anybody could do was watch as it raised its enormous fist. “I won’t let The World take my friends, and I won’t let The World’s plan come to fruition.”
As the gargantuan fist began to fall to the earth, The Pride took her last bow. She cast both hands up to the sky, standing with her final ounce of strength, and called upon one final burst of forked lightning. The branching bolt struck the Shinigami atop its titanic skull, running down its flesh like glowing rain water, and causing the incredible creature to return from where it came in the form of whitened flakes.
The Pride received her own penance; steam billowed from the ashes which marked her final resting place. Soon, they would be carried along on a gust of wind, intertwining with the Elephant at some point in the process.
Saboten figured she must’ve felt each shock she delivered as though the lightning was a manifestation of her Shinigami Lord itself. Still, their battle had been won and his sword could return from whence it came, Saboten turned his focus to Rho.
Somebody else had gotten to her first; an elderly man, no younger than 80, held the summoner in his arms like his own child. He looked important, donning a purple-hued suit straight out of the most important meeting of the year. Atop that, he wore a white lab coat with the initials ‘A.K’ stitched to the breast pocket.
“Let her go, World.”
“The World. I named the most powerful Kanzen Hakujou after Tarot Cards. Following them, I named the second most powerful after the planets in our Solar System and, finally, the least powerful are named after Sins.”
“I’m not interested in your naming conventions, please put my friend down.”
“Your friend?” said The World, “she’s not worth the title ‘human’, Saboten.”
“Put her down.”
“Put her down,” repeated Ayame.
“You heard us,” added Hideki.
He didn’t care; in the face of The World, all threats were empty threats. “You don’t understand Belphegor, all Remnants are destined to return to their source, Saboten. Rho Dwelt is the first of many that you will come across, and the first of many that you will be unable to save.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter.
If you enjoy our work, why not consider sponsoring The Chestnut Cottage on Patreon?