A stunned Elsa fell backwards into a wall, desperately straying from the sight of her smoking friend whose skin crumbled into ash in the peaceful breeze of automatic air conditioning. Shinji Yamaguchi had watched from his bedside for far too long, now becoming uncomfortable in such a pitiful, open position. That which was left of his injured limb stretched and rotated without pain; a ghost limb followed the movements, he could still feel each of his fingers, they were cold and they still ached from repetitive strain.
He hadn’t had the chance earlier but Shinji had now seen his reflection in his metallic surroundings. There was no scarring from the operation and a prosthetic limb could be fitted sooner rather than later, but that was not on Shinji’s mind at all. He had been defeated and ridiculed, he could only think of revenge. The thoughts couldn’t be shaken off because they weren’t his own, were they? Shinji had been disgraced on the battlefield and the parasitic remains of that goddamn Shinigami Lord would not let him rest until the score had been settled. It was agony, two sides of Shinji had been fighting since Valafar’s inception: the calm, collected Shinji Yamaguchi was being pushed to the side, he was losing control of his own body and that hunger for battle had returned.
Valafar was dead, overexertion in the breakout wiped most of his influence away. Of course something of the demon had to have remained, Shinji hadn’t lost his power. He was healing himself in silence and now the quiet period was ending, Valafar was waking up again and hateful words could be heard: words of death and dissatisfaction. Shinji tightened the grip of his missing limb and swallowed his trouble: he could ask for help, Hiro would be happy to say something worthwhile…
No, he couldn’t. Shinji wasn’t so weak that he needed somebody else’s words to alleviate his fears. Plus, what good were words anyway? He didn’t have many options and that acceptable list suddenly became shorter as a horde of Hunters fumbled and burst their way out of the elevator across the room. Like riot police, the Hunters forced Leyim and Elsa to opposite sides of the room, hands on the wall. Two cleared the body of Edgard, and The Envy emerged from the elevator with a smile plastered across his scarred face.
In his own time, the sick cannibalistic fuck wandered over to the man’s body of his cohort, sniffed deeply and spoke. “One code down, ‘eh? Only 9998 incorrect attempts to go and I’ve got plenty of Hunters to burn through, Captain.”
He was dead.
The two of them, they watched it happen and in the end, it was all her fault, wasn’t it? Ayame Suzuki was wrong, as always. Shax was wrong. Maybe they couldn’t have saved him but they could’ve at least tried to something and now, the two of them were running for their lives; unable to fight, unable to concentrate on anything but Hideki Toramaru’s bifurcation.
Saboten’s eyes had been fogged over visibly and he was stumbling as he ran four steps ahead of her. Belphegor’s influence had an additional effect on his physical performance and thus, Saboten was much faster than Ayame and far less aware of the situation so when Ayame tripped and fell, crashing into an abundance of thorns and vines, he didn’t even notice. After Hideki was removed from the scene, the troupe of Hunters had spotted them in the forest. They didn’t need to announce their presence to be noticed, they had been caught either way. Ayame had failed to remember the technical grace of the Hunters: each helmet was embedded with thermal imagine, of course the soldiers knew where they were hiding.
Saboten was still running deeper into the forest as the Hunters approached Ayame, splitting into two teams. Six soldiers surrounded her as she fished herself out of the needled den, unprepared for a fight. “Don’t make me hurt you!” she warned them. They weren’t listening, were they? Instead, each Hunter had their head tilted, their eyes to the right. It was Saboten, he had been caught with such ease that the Hunters didn’t know what to do. They had expected to perish, what now?
“Has the boy given up?” a solider asked his higher ups. Ayame took the moment for herself, incapacitating the Hunters in a single swipe of her hair. She had to save Saboten, he was obviously in a delicate position. Hideki’s death had rendered her friend useless, she could understand but now wasn’t the time to shut down, was it? They didn’t have the luxury of depression right now.
She took out the Hunters one by one, they weren’t really a threat: too busy wondering why their target was being so quiet and docile. Out of danger, Saboten fell to his knees. He was crying now, beating the floor. The damage that had been wrought had finally hit Ayame square in the heart and she followed suit. Hideki had brought Team Karasu together, he had led them and housed them when they needed it. He even had the most to lose in life; Sun no longer had a father, his wife no longer had a husband. They had a new objective now, it was up to them to find the child. That is what she decided Hideki would rest in peace now, his struggle was over. It would soon be time for Leyim to leave the Citadel, they should be waiting in Mishima by now. They had to get moving, now.
Interspersed between laughter and thinly veiled insults, The Envy began to round up his followers into a single-file line in froant of the locked room. In a single corner, all but Shinji had been handcuffs and their weapons stripped from them, left alone by the door awaiting imprisonment. They were impossible to reach without alerting The Envy, Leyim had considered all the options and she had ordered them not to attack, at least not yet. Without Saboten’s eye, the team were no match for them but soon he would get bored or hungry or something would distract him and he would leave them alone for just long enough. He was childish, she would use this against him.
Meanwhile, the increasingly timid line of Hunters were told to take their time by their suddenly docile ‘Captain’. They were guessing the code for him, each incorrect answer would result in an additional death but was there anything she could do? Leyim had been focused on turning Elsa onto her side but now, the poor girl had been forced to the head of the line. She was having a difficult time arguing with herself internally, the look on her face whispered rebellious connotations but her hands were rolling over the metallic keys. “Listen,” Leyim told her, “you don’t have to do this… You don’t have to die here.”
“You don’t understand,” her eyes flashed to The Envy, who finally took some notice.
“I can help you, we can take him out,” she said, “you don’t have to bow to The Envy.”
“I can hear you, you realise that, don’t you?” he called out from behind the forty-something strong worm of Hunters. “Elsa, dear…” A sinister combination of words from such a pathetic man, they slithered out from beneath a wet tongue, avoiding a mouthful of arrowheads. “You don’t have to die here, I’m not an awful man. But you do have to pick four digits and punch them in before I cut your fucking hands off.” It all hit home very quickly as a meal emerged from the elevator on a silver cart; a meaty broth with a sickening smell.
The contents were obvious but remained unspoken and in response, two keys were hit. “Elsa, you just have to come here. We’ll keep you safe, don’t let him intimidate you. You were trained better than this.”
“Elsa, just do it. Maybe you’ll get lucky,” he slurped between words, a real animal. She followed his directions - silently - and died a few moments later. “Ah, well. I suppose the answer wasn’t 1253 after all.”
“You’re a monster.”
“And you’re ruining my dinner, Leyim. Thankfully, I’ve got an empty schedule and a whole host of ingredients to prepare.” He spoke so deliberately, not one of them even looked up. With his spoon, The Envy pointed towards the last Hunter in line, “what’s your name?”
The lad bounced out of a prayer, his eyes widened. “Isaac, sir.”
“It’s Adam now, I don’t have time to learn a new name, nor do I have the patience to wait for you to die and forget it. Escort my prisoners to my office, on your own. Don’t let them escape, you know what will happen if you do.”
As The Envy made clear he would follow in a moment, his words were drowned by the sound of a shrill roar. It emerged from the lips of the white-haired swordsman either from intense pain or enormous anger by the suggestion that one Hunter alone could contain him. As Leyim caught a proper look at him, his pupil had morphed into triangles, pointed downwards. Hiro’s expression morphed into one of fear, he had seen this before it seemed. That was a worrying sight for her, his outbursts had been mentioned on occasion.
“Hiro, what’s wrong with him?”
“I think it’s Valafar. Shinji? Shinji!?”
“Valafar?” His Shinigami Lord had resurrected itself? How is that even possible? She supposed that perhaps if they existed at all, regeneration was not above the stretches of reality. The room had begun to fill with an enormous pressure, exerted by Shinigami himself. The groaning finally ceased and his body stretched out.
“Well, well, well… If it isn’t the amputee piping up, got something to say there?” The Envy asked, “you’re feeling pretty powerful with all that EDEN pumping through your veins, aren’t you? Think you can fight with just one arm?” His taunts went down surprisingly well but soon afterwards, Shinji stepped forwards.
“I have to leave.”
“I don’t care, go right ahead.”
“Shinji, you need to stay put. Where are you going? He’s not just going to let you leave.”
“Don’t fuck with me Leyim, I’m not part of your plans anymore.”
“That’s what I like to hear!” The Envy cawed, “take the elevator. Isaac, take the rest of them up the stairs. Next Hunter, if you wouldn’t mind doing your job, thank you.”
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