‘EYES。Volume VI’: Turn XXXVII - Slither

Deep within the depths of the Mishima Hunter’s Citadel, a familiar enemy awaited Saboten’s arrival beside a new calling. True excitement without a smile in sight, they stood bewitched and empowered - a rejuvenating poison circulated their veins and four glistening puncture wounds sat atop a swollen neck. As they saw it, the world was shrouded in a thick fog in which no environmental forms could be seen: no buildings or foliage, just a red vapour which represented living beings. Any creature with a beating heart or flowing blood had been transformed in their vision, becoming unkempt shapes.
  What would you imagine happens when you inflate a venomous ego and null the sense of fear in a creature already built to fight? The answer would soon become clear as The Lust waited patiently in her predetermined section of the labyrinthian Citadel where she would drag her prey. Compared to the other members of Project Sin, The Lust stood above as the smartest. A genius in her previous life, she worked closely with Ichirou Miyazaki during the formulation of the Shinigami Blood Pact and, when she was required, she took to the life of a Kanzen Hakujou with ease. 
    She was bestowed the power of Botis: the Shinigami Lord of Seduction with whom she forged a contract without hesitation. Botis lectured whilst The Lust studied until she understood the ins and outs of her abilities, they were perfect for her. She grew to understand that the Lord of Seduction was not a fighter by any stretch of the imagination but a manipulative mastermind who took the form of a snake for good reason. 
    Their collaboration was born to bring warriors under a spell; a venom, forever secreting from quadruplet fangs, altered a person’s hormonal balance and caused even those with the strongest of wills to fight on the side of The Envy; some whispered it could even turn the dead. First, the Hunters bowed to him, Team Karasu would soon follow. Her warrior guarded her at all times incase one of the prisoners acted out of order, The Lust had remained seated in her chamber since The Envy disappeared, leaving Captain Rossi and Hiro Nakamura tied in the corner. Unbitten, they remained silent. If the news of Hideki Toramaru’s death hadn’t shaken their confidence, rumours of his revival certainly did the trick.
   Outside of the Citadel’s entry wall stood a lone Hunter who would wait in 24 hour shifts for Saboten and Ayame to reveal themselves. Alas, Captain Leyim did not expect either of them to show up. After all, neither one of them had responded to her text messages so perhaps they had already been caught by another member of Project Sin. 
    Still, in case they did arrive, the stage was set for a high-stakes battle. When confirmed contact was made, the Hunter would not attack. They were under strict orders to not fight back if weapons were drawn: they were to die, if Saboten or Ayame deemed it. If they decided against it, the soldier would lead them into the Citadel, take them to the chamber, and the battle would begin…
    Leyim simply hoped Saboten had not witnessed Hideki’s death, she believed that such news should come at a later date, it was not something he should have seen. She had lost hundreds of soldiers to The Envy and she had lost her most trusted companion but… Saboten had lost a father. Without Hideki’s intervention, the boy would have no name; lost and alone.
    The Captain was still hopeful. She could not imagine a situation where all chances of survival hit nil and, as such, was studying The Lust’s every move. Not a single person had eaten bar The Lust whom had been finishing off a sandwich for the past fifteen minutes. This left the Hunters at a severe disadvantage with slower movements and dulled reaction speeds, the same applied to Leyim and Hiro. She also gathered that The Lust’s fangs were a significant practicality problem and left her incapable of fluent speech.
    It was clear that The Lust did not need to speak to be heard, however. Her imposing expressions and impressive stature made her will clear and her persuasive abilities were demonstrated as often as possible but the Hunters did not need convincing. She had already infected each one of them, they were all under her control; perhaps her influence would wear off when Leyim held that disgusting head in her hands. 
    After every twenty-five minutes, The Lust’s desk phone would ring. Over the course of several days, several recognisable voices became more distinct and more pitiful. They had not chosen to bow at The Envy’s feet, their heads had been forced into the dirt by the power they swore to destroy. This time, when the phone was answered, the voice sounded so scared that it made her stomach drop downwards as though some digestive pitfall had opened up beneath it. 
    “Mars and Mercury,” said the Hunter, “Mars and Mercury are on the way.”
    It was clear that Saboten had arrived as those predefined codenames struck a cord with the Captain; it was their distinction in the Scarecrow Records. The three most successful groups of Kanzen Hakujou to be born from the Numazu Headquarters were Project Sin, The Princes of Five, and - the largest grouping - Code: Solar which contained more than fifteen soldiers primed for war. Team Karasu was formed from that group by chance: Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn. 
    Mars and Mercury, also known as Saboten and Ayame Suzuki, stepped into the battlegrounds. The slave-keeper was ready for him, catching a glimpse of the young man’s ever-changing katana glued tightly to his palm. As he entered the fray, it touched the back of the Hunter’s armour leaving a faint purple stain but now, it faced his next enemy.
    Her voice was shattered from starvation but Leyim made it clear that the man ahead of Saboten was now an enemy. The words fell loose as she cast them out, falling all too short as the first attack was launched. “Saboten, watch out!”
    The champion carved through the initial Hunter and charged into Saboten’s weapon desperate to demonstrate his physical prowess over his former leader. Shinji Yamaguchi had surrendered to The Lust; the four marks carved into his neck leaked a sick, yellow fluid as his bare chest laid witness to no signs of a recent battle. There had been no struggle, it was a willing transformation and one Leyim Rossi should have seen coming. 
    Shinji’s muscles strained in an endless dance of contractions as he forced Saboten’s katana to break in two places. The pieces of hued steel disappeared before they hit the ground, evaporating into the air just as fast as another blade could be summoned from the Kara Sekai. It seemed the boy had caught wind of the situation as he tried his damnedest to talk Shinji down; “come on, Shinji. We’ve done this before, don’t you remember? We’ve got bigger problems than your own fucki-“.
    “Saboten, he can’t hear you. It’s her venom, it might be Shinji’s body but he’s certainly not in there. Hiro tried for hours, he can’t even speak… You’ve just got to kill him.” The Lust would’ve said it herself if she could speak, no other options presented themselves to Leyim. If Shinji was going to make it impossible to reach The Lust, he had to die. 
    He would not let up at all. Each of Shinji’s strikes hit just as hard as the last, tearing apart Saboten’s defences. The possessed champion hammered through each iteration of Belphegor’s blades making it clear who would come out as the victor. The Lust’s venom had changed him in a dramatic form; his missing arm had reformed in the shape of twin tentacles which would wrap around one another to form a fist, it packed an incredible grip and held his blade in place. 
    It was Hiro’s turn to shout as he cupped his hands around his mouth. It truly had been hours since the last word he spoke to his friend was even acknowledged, Hiro had given up on Shinji’s recovery, nobody could return from such unkempt rage. Instead, he focused on Ayame’s battle: “you have to take The Lust down, Ayame. She was never built for battle, you’ve got the upper hand!”
   Yes, Shinji might have been deafened by the poison but The Lust continued to hear their imprudent concoctions. She did not take to the battlefield until Ayame brought herself too close to escape from Shinji’s wrath but it would be impossible to drag him away from Saboten. The Lust would simply have to bide her time and survive long enough for Shinji to kill Saboten. 
    She was not afraid of this puny girl who did not understand the true power of her Shinigami Lord. If Ayame Suzuki was as powerful as herself, her Shinigami would’ve taken a more obvious form upon her body by now. She would be deformed and battle-ready, not pretty and fragile. The two of them began a standoff, the ultimate of time wasting stratagems but before The Lust could move, Ayame’s golden hair stiffened and extended in the form of a battering ram, coming crashing into The Lust’s delicate upper body. It took her back a few feet and physically pulled all of the wind out of her body, perhaps Ayame was worth fearing. 
    It did not matter, she would survive nonetheless. If she was to perish, the venom would live on for her and her influence would not die. Shinji was forever her possession, the same went for the legions of Hunter cadets swarming around the Citadel hive. As it turned out, The Lust had already surrendered to Ayame; she laid still, a mouthful of her own sour blood dripping down the sides of her fangs, mixing with the constant flow of venom to create a bitter cocktail of weakness. 
    She didn’t even have the agility to dodge the final blow which she suspected would arrive at any minute. The fear of waiting for death, she noticed, was a lot less terrifying than the act of battle itself. It was almost warm but the longer she waited, the more the warm dissipated. Replacing it, anxiety crept in from behind… When would Ayame end her life? The Lust leant upwards to where her enemy stood to see her shirt polka-dotted with new shapes, a Queen of Diamonds.
    The poor girl just stood there, bleeding out in silence as though The Lust’s homebred poison had taken ahold. Saboten couldn’t do a thing to help her as Shinji jumped from one fight to another with impeccable aim. It seemed impossible to even speak with the force which the warrior brought to the battle but eventually, Saboten tracked Shinji around and laid eyes on his friend. 

Saboten did not have the courage to comprehend another loss, not right now. He took each blow with vigour, carefully working Shinji into a weaker state as his energy drained from him but to his left, Ayame kept upright. Belphegor’s whispers kept him aware of his enemy. According to the Shinigami, he did not need to worry himself. 
    She’ll go through it, just as you did, said the voice. I’m sure Ayame and Shax are much better acquainted than you and I but the experience will be about the same. Painful, scary… Belphegor paused for a moment and licked the lips he didn’t have, invigorating. Do you remember it?
    Belphegor spoke of Saboten’s death during the fight with The Greed. Death, believed Belphegor, was the only true way for a Shinigami Lord and a Kanzen to fully merge together. Without its influence, the combination’s potential is halved.
    When Ayame finally fell into the pool of her own discarded amenities, her hair expanded tenfold against her will. It coiled, it stiffened, and then shattered in several places as a final act of battle. Shinji did not stop the onslaught, not even after the secondary possession became very clear. Her body shuddered and what hair had been lost returned in droves; it grew and grew like splintered spines until it encompassed her entire being. It refused to stop even after the tips of her toes had been swallowed.
    Following the explosion of growth, a burst of white enveloped the hair permanently chaining its colour to that which resembled polished marble. When the transformation had come to an end, Shinji managed to pull himself away from Saboten, even just for a second, to marvel at the third known Tsuki form: Ayame had taken the shape of an enormous, white, armoured serpent, fit with quadruplet fangs.

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