‘EYES。Volume V’: Turn XXX - Fork

A room forged of complete darkness; endless and empty bar four human shapes wrapped in shaggy, brown cloaks. In a playful tone, one of the figures spoke: “friend, distinguished colleagues,” he waits a second, staring dead-straight at one of his guests, “other… I have called this meeting between our remaining ‘family’ so that we can bring an end to Team Karasu.”
   “I’ve heard they’re bringing about a lot of chaos around your parts, Envy,” said another figure, a female with a snake’s lisp. “They’re all members of Code: Solar after all.”
   “There’s no need to mention that, you haven’t even stepped in yet.” The Envy snapped, “they’re powerful, of course they are, their leader has the Jigoku Crown.”
   “Word seems to be spreading, other members of Code: Solar are on the move.”
   “And we only know the location of two!” The Envy’s rage is felt through-out the room in the form of a shockwave, tearing past the guests, removing their tattered cloaks in an instant, “only one of those two are alive.”
   “He is very valuable.”
   “Yes.”
   “Sun Toramaru, what do you suppose his father will do for his safe return?”
   “I’m willing to bet he’ll turn on his friends in an instant.”
   “Then Lust,” The Greed exclaimed, “I want you to do something about it. As for the rest of you, I want you to be searching for Code: Solar members. I want Nori Adachi, I want Cleo Nishina and Aoi Okuda and I want news about April Nanami, got it?”
   “And Team Karasu?”
   “I already pulled their names out of the hat, they’re mine. Okay? Get out of my sight.”

Sirens sung in the air as Saboten’s body dripped waterfalls of sweat. Amongst mechanical screeches, he could still hear The Envy’s voice. “Nothingness,” repeated over and over; Belphegor did not speak. He was sealed, for now. Silent in his host’s subconscious, refuelling himself for the next big breakout. 
   The rest of Team Karasu stood around Shinji. They begged silently for a suggestion of a plan or something at the least but nobody spoke until Saboten returned to them. They had already removed his battle from their mind, Leyim began to lead them forwards. “I think I’ve got a good picture of where we are now,” she told them, “listen, there’s a medical bay nearby. It should be directly below us. It’s used as a Shinigami holding pen, they’re used to train new recruits. If we take Shinji down there, we should be able to sew him up.”
   “How do we get him down there?” Ayame asked.
   “If all six of us head out, we’ll be too big of a target. It’s a labyrinth of one-person corridors and The Hunters will take us out one-by-one. I think it would be best for us to split up.”
A fear emerged behind Saboten’s strong eyes; a doubt in Leyim appeared for the first time. After The Envy’s revelation, any poorly constructed phrase could come across as the words of a traitor waiting for the right moment to snap their necks. Saboten wanted to believe Leyim was one of them, a member of Team Karasu, because she too had a burning hatred for The Envy. He would trust her, this time. It was a risk worth taking, wasn’t it? 
   “Who goes with who?” He takes a second, watching as Leyim retrieved a cellphone from one of her jacket pockets, an old clamshell thing.
   “Here, Ayame, take this. It’s my personal device. Hiro and I will take Shinji to the medical bay and fix him up the best we can, I will call you when we are on our way back to you. Then, we can work on finding The Envy.”
   “And us?”
   “Hideki, I want you to take Saboten and Ayame to Mishima. It’s within walking distance, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours, all right? Find somewhere safe and lay low.”
   “Mishima?” Ayame sprang into action, “Saboten, that’s where we live. We can go home.”
Home. In a world of such unabashed horrors, home seemed impossibly distant but to be be told that his next destination was home, Saboten almost felt at ease, even beside Shinji. “Do you remember what it’s like?” Ayame asked him, freeing him from his stupor. 
   “We’ve got no time for memory games,” Leyim snapped, “sorry… Look, we have to get going or there will be nothing we can do. Hiro, can you toss Saboten up to the control room?”
   “It’s fine,” Saboten told her, taking up the form of a frog, “I can reach it myself.” He straightened his legs, pushing his body upwards. There was hardly any force involved, it wasn’t jumping. Not in the strictest sense. In his body, there was the power to scale heights ten times as tall as distance between the floor and the control room but that’s not what the point was. 
   He was flying, somewhat.
   Saboten knew his limits but for the most part, he could control objects from a distance. Telekinesis. Pyrokinesis. A new weapon. Belphegor was slowly worming his way into Saboten’s system, the two were becoming more and more alike. He landed in the control room where the television screens and the buttons were no longer illuminated as though they had been a sham all along. Only a single button remained legible: [OPEN HATCH].

Before Saboten returned from the control room, the former Captain of The Hunters began navigating down a carefully selected collection of corridors. She kept herself ahead of the wounded who, in turn, was carried in Hiro’s arms. He had enlarged, covering his entire upper body in the Iwa. The blood which dripped from Shinji’s severed arm simply ran off, leaving a breadcrumb trail behind them. 
   It didn’t matter, they were already being followed but Leyim had noticed. She was setting a trap for them, they should know better anyhow. The pair of nervous, entry-level Hunters tottered about two turns back. Masks on, tracking with heat vision. If they were truly hunting, the fight should’ve broken out already. 
   In the final throws of their journey, the final elevator came into sight. A retina scan, she hoped her eyes would still unlock the system but if not, the two tracking Hunters would have to die. She leant down, eyes to the camera. Eight seconds, that’s how long the process usually took but an attack brought the climax too soon. A small knife, round in shape, stuck into the wooden frame around the retina scan. The Hunters had announced their presence. 
   “All right, just stop,” Leyim pulled the knife from the wood, dropping it to the ground. She took the initiative, knowing Hunter protocol, she’ll be forced to freeze, raise both hands. A false limp accompanied several steps forward, Leyim’s cane limited her movement. “Why are you following his orders? A week ago, I was the Captain and what am I now? Your target. I ran this building and now you’re hunting me down?”
   The two Hunters came into view, their masks removed. They were unfamiliar recruits, warm faces, impressionable and young. Immediately, everybody seemed to be sizing up everybody. The one on the right, she specialised in long-range and her belt was littered with various knives. The other, his fists were gloved in specially designed gauntlets. He was the one who spoke, “put your hands up. Both of you, now.”
   “If you’re going to arrest us, let us go down into the basement first. Look at him, if we don’t do something now he’s going to die.”
   “We have strict orders from The Envy.”
   “The Envy is the enemy.”
   Hiro spoke, “we do not have time for this. We are not your enemy but there’s no way to explain the situation in the middle of a standoff. The Shinigami are the enemy, the Hakujou are the enemy, Project Sin is the enemy.”
   A moment of silence as the words began to drill into the Hunter’s ears. Leyim stood limply, her weigh on her cane, hoping she would not have to resort to violence. They were still her soldiers, they wore her armour, they used her weapons. An internal debate raged on in the Hunter’s minds, it was all quiet until the woman spoke. “Get in the elevator, now.” 

It was getting out that perplexed Saboten. If he used the control room as a launch-pad, he could jump out with ease but he couldn’t take a passenger. His newfound powers would work on Ayame, she was light as a feather, but Hideki was far too bulky. His weight made it impossible to jump long distances as well, they were stuck and Saboten refused to leave without him. 
   The only option was to navigate the corridors themselves. It wasn’t part of Leyim’s plan but then, it wasn’t exactly perfect. “Ayame, Leyim told you that was her personal device, right?” She nodded, “check it. There could be a map of The Citadel in there.”
   A few clicks through the phone and nothing, “we’ve got regular maps but nothing Citadel specific. This building isn’t even on the map, at all.”
   “Freeze, scum!” The Hunters had arrived, seven of them, fully armed. “Put your hands in the air.”


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