Sparks flew up as Saboten’s sword clashed with Shinji’s, the incredible force expelled from the two of them set their frail bodies sliding backwards. However, not even the momentum could stop Shinji’s rage. He ramraided himself into Saboten with reckless abandon, thrusting and swinging both weapons in a successful attempt to overwhelm his opponent.
Saboten was quickly losing ground, his opponent was much fiercer that him. He tried to talk. He tried to run. But there was no reasoning, and the speeds Shinji could reach made it impossible to escape. When he wanted to, he could appear to teleport in front of Saboten, blocking his path. Why? Like a house cat, he was toying with his prey. He lived, breathed and bled battle.
Every strike brought him that much closer to slicing Saboten’s throat. But on the other side; the closer Shinji got the easier it was to see his true battle. Saboten saw into his eyes many times in that fight; they were pinkened, bloodshot. His pupils were morphing, becoming a terrifying shape. “Triangles? No, impossible. Valafar is dead.” He thought to himself as he dodged the flurry of attacks.
“Faster. Faster. Calm down Saboten, react faster.” Maybe Shinji didn’t even notice the possession at all. It was just lust for battle.
The war felt like it had dragged on for hour after hour, like time itself was against them. Saboten had begun to wheeze, cough and spit up bloody phlegm, a tar-like consistency that he took no notice of. Shinji was yet to show any signs of wear. That’s when it occurred to Saboten. He hadn’t landed a single effective attack yet.
His lungs hurt too much to keep going, and a headache had spread from the back of his head throughout his entire skull, his brain was becoming pulp. “I don’t want to…” He told himself, “but I might have to use the Lunar Shot.” It would probably kill him if it connected, and that wasn’t his intention.
But he might not have a choice, Shinji didn’t have such noble intentions as his black black shot through Saboten’s jumper, tearing a small hole in a blue stripe and just barely missing his stomach. He could have killed him then, and he knew it. Shinji wouldn’t catch a near miss twice, it was time to go all out. He had but one option. “Belphegor?”
What? The impatient demon barked in his mind, empowering the ache. It sounded like Saboten had interrupted him almost.
“What’s going on?”
How should I know? You’re on the outside, fight him. The voice burned within him, figure it out yourself. All I know is that there’s something very wrong with you.
But he couldn’t, could he? “Belphegor, why is Shinj-”.
Look, he snapped, obviously Valafar isn’t dead. He’s just… Laying in wait for something important.
“What?” A sheer sense of pain shot through Saboten’s body. He hadn’t been focusing on the fight at hand, and so Shinji had an opportunity to carve into Saboten’s flesh like raw meat.
“Saboten! Are you even concentrating?! Fight me, or die!”
How the hell would I know? Concentrate, or you’ll die before you can find out what’s killing you!
“Fucking hell! You’re insane!”
“Stop talking to your boyfriend, Saboten.” He yelled half-jokingly and yet, half-seriously. “Fight me! Fight me!”
Saboten took stance. The same stance he took in the battle against The Greed. The Lunar Shot was calling to him, “don’t make me do this.” He warned Shinji, who reacted as expected. “I will kill you.” He just laughed, knocking Saboten backwards with a grunt. He couldn’t take such an empty threat seriously, a pinch of salt was required with anything Saboten said in the mind of Shinji Yamaguchi.
“You don’t have the balls,” is what Shinji declared. He sheathed his white blade slowly, taunting the weakened boy, and - with his free hand - grabbed a scruff of green hair. “Fucking hell.” Shinji grunted as his foot found itself a home in Saboten’s chest, knocking him onto his back. But he was not done. He took to his black sword, where the back edge was blunt, and bludgeoned Saboten’s torso until the boy could take no more, rolling over to clutch broken ribs like a lover. When the boy looked up, it took only one more club of the sword’s back side to deliver the final blow, tearing the skin between his nose and lip as a deluge of blood pissed from his face. “Done yet?”
“Shinji, you moron!” Ayame yelled, using the strongest word in the vocabulary. The girl had already tended to Hideki and Hiro who had managed to pull their bruised bodies into an upright position. She was now preparing to drag her friend’s beaten ass out of the psychopath’s range.
But he stood alone. A wounded samurai not yet killed in the glory of battle, his blade now reduced to a walking stick and his bravado but foolishness. Shinji cried out in pure joy; “now that’s what I like to see!” His expression of pure delight stood negative to the angered grimace of Saboten.
“Round two?” The white-haired psycho asked. Saboten did not speak, he probably couldn’t. The pain was too much. Instead, he cracked his neck and spat the remaining blood-tar from his throat. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
Now was not the time for Shinji to take chances, he could see Saboten’s possession kicking in and his wounds were already healing. He looked pissed, and that’s what Shinji wanted. Their weakened swords clashed again, and again, and again until cracks in the fine steel bodies of Shinji’s brothers began to show.
They fought until sweat became blood, until pale skin became red raw and until their bones became brittle. They both knew that at some point soon, one of their bodies will give in. It was only a matter of time. Shinji had too much faith in his own. “Come. On. Saboten.” Shinji yelled, egging the kid on. He wanted to fight the boy until their death, his enemy did not.
“No!” He replied, exhausted in every sense of the word. It felt like each of his pain receptors were being toyed with. “You. Come. On.”
“Aha! Feisty!” The mad man broke away, dashing backwards but not to an escape. Instead, he retrieved his white blade from its sheath. With both in hand, he stabbed them out ahead. He was a bull ready to charge and Saboten was a target painted red. Eyes shut, he allowed a beige aura to envelope him much like the influence of Belphegor over his rival. A crackle of electricity shot between the two conducting blades. It appeared he was imitating the Lunar Shot, but Saboten could tell it would be much more powerful. Far beyond the capabilities of his own.
It was the only response he could think of though, to shoot off his own technique in hopes of canceling out the attack. It was worth a shot. Saboten mirrored the position, his blade against both of Shinji’s, and allowed the aura to wash over him. It spiraled as it reached his arms, creating a typhoon of power around the blade of the sword as Shinji’s weapons followed suit.
The two began a countdown that would result in one of them laying dead.
A gunshot echoed though the mall as shards of glass dripped from the ceiling like small diamonds, distracting the manic swordsman long enough for Saboten to land a powerful punch directly into Shinji’s temple. It didn’t keep him down for too long, but at least his mind was now on other things. Standing by the infamous escalator was Captain Rossi and alongside her was two subordinates unknown to the entire Team Karasu; each armed, ready to kill.
Leyim wasn't the one who fired the shot, it was a cohort holding a silver pistol. “Are you two finished?” She asked politely once she knew she had the attention of everybody in the area. She then handed the pistol to her female cohort, with a smile and a thank you.
“What are you doing here?” Saboten asked, knowing full well she was probably there to end their lives, he was in no shape to fight. He knew that much. It all added up though; the weapons, the back-up, the blood on her ribbons. She was a killing machine as far as he cared (not that he wasn’t). She took a careful step forward and the weakened Saboten to offense.
“Okay. Okay, I see you’re in no mood for a friendly chat.” She responded calmly, carefully and with great thought. “Drop your weapons.”
“Not a fucking chance.” Shinji retorted from the ground with a distorted slur. In his head, he was quite ready to kill her there and then. But physically, well, he wasn’t. Saboten had hit him much harder than he first thought, and now he actually needed him. He vomited.
“Is he okay?” Leyim asked, but Shinji just replied again; “piss off.” She sighed, “okay, well I wasn’t talking to you… Alfsol, Siegfried. Drop your weapons.”
The two of them were still for a second, as though they couldn’t quite decide who was who. The only movement was a twist of the head to allow a dumbfounded look to pop between the two of them. It wasn’t until the male - one would assume he was Siegfried - unlatched the strap that held an enormous broadsword to his right shoulder in a mounted scabbard. It seemed too large to be practical, and much too heavy to be wielded by somebody of such stature. The female, Alfsol, didn’t comply.
“Lieutenant Olandar, drop your weapon now or face disciplinary action.”
“Sexy…” Shinji mumbled from his dream-like state.
Silently, she too unbuckled a belt. It was strapped to her hips through a special set of loops attached to the uniform both Alfsol and Siegfried wore. It was navy blue and consisted of a thick flak-jacket, bulky trousers and large black boots. It was easy to see who was more regimental, Siegfried’s uniform was unscathed, almost perfect, whilst Alfsol’s was worn. She had seen battle and she was proud of it, even if she had lost. The belt hit the floor to reveal a set of knives kept hidden from sight, as well as the pistol from earlier.
“Now what?” Saboten asked, “do you expect us to drop our weapons too?”
“Not at all.” Leyim replied, “I’m only here to talk.”
“I need your help Saboten,” She pleaded, dropping to her knees. “I need all of you.”
“It looks a lot different now than it did when I grew up here.” Alfsol announced as she took a bite of a suspiciously underdone hamburger. The group had broken into one of the many other food chains scattered around the floor, hungry as all hell, and Hiro had begun to cook for them, a talent that surprised them all. Saboten offered originally, but Ayame wouldn’t allow it.
He was in no state to be doing anything. She also didn’t want him bleeding anywhere near the food. Alfsol, Leyim and Siegfried sat together just out of Hideki’s reach while Ayame took care of Saboten off to the side. Shinji had secluded himself somewhere in the area to rest up, he was in an incredible amount of pain and confusion. Saboten was the first to get the conversation back on track, “explain. Why do you need out help so much?” His question was directed specifically toward the Captain, who was quite occupied with her burger. Instead, it was Alfsol who answered.
“The Captain’s control over The Hunters has been reprimanded.” She said, “The Envy is in charge now, and there’s nothing we can do about it. He owns the task force, the grunts and the Citadel itself. Without that hub, and the support of the troops, we’re screwed.”
“The Captain is being hunted down herself, as are we.” Siegfried said as he fiddled with one of the two irritating rat tails that grew out from the back of his thin, silver hair.
“Atticus Kazuhiko,” the name brought shivers to everyone, “still has total control. But The Envy will act however he damn well pleases.”
“The Envy… A member of Project Sin? Why’s a Kanzen in charge of The Hunters?”
“He’s not just a member, The Envy leads Project Sin.”
“Not only that Saboten,” Leyim followed up Siegfried’s statement. “but he possesses an eye, just like yours. I still remember the day Atticus told me about the plan.” Leyim began to explain the situation in greater detail, her dealings with Atticus and the reasons she was no longer in power - but they should call her Captain anyway - and that finally; “no matter what, The Hunters are not to be messed with, even the grunts.”
“You still haven’t explained why you need us.” It appeared Shinji was feeling better as he stood behind Hideki, although he walked with a limb from wherever it was he slept. Before he cared for Leyim’s response though, he had something to say to Saboten; “I’m sorry. I lost control.”
That was it.
“Anyway,” Leyim began, “if we could stay on topic.”
“The reason I need your help, Team Karasu, is because I need a troop.”
“For what?” Saboten dared to ask.
“A raid on the Citadel. Tomorrow night.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter.
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