Quick as a flash, Saboten fled the church from the front door as to catch the monster before fled into the woods. The creature was in no rush to leave, it simply stared back at the boy before sinking what was left of its teeth into the carcass of the tree that broke its fall. It was almost a retaliation, a fit of absolute rage against nature itself.
The fighting had to end here, Saboten thought, before it truly began. He took stance, holding his weapon blade-down, and dashed towards the monster. The creature hardly had time to react as Saboten’s thrust his sword deep into one of the creature’s armoured limbs. As it retracted, knocking Saboten into the air, it screeched like nothing the boy had heard before. The force from the creature’s battle cry was enough to shake the earth around them.
Saboten landed in church, thrown in through the back door. His hands grasped for his blade, but, as his vision blurred he saw it was still in the Shinigami’s leg. As the creature squealed like a pig, he saw his blade evaporate. At first, it became coated in a impossibly dark red light, the red of the eye he and Belphegor share. Slowly, it began to scatter like rose petals in a gentle wind; scarlet diamonds flew from the hilt to the tip of blade until nothing remained uncarried by the breeze. It was almost beautiful.
It was Siegfried who was ordered to carry the warrior away. A gloved hand tugged at his wrist but, as it did, Saboten felt a strange sensation over come him. A shock emanated from the palm of the Hunter’s hand, travelling from Saboten’s shoulder and spreading throughout his body like a virus. It stung like a cold snap, burnt like frostbite and indescribable in any other way.
His vision faded, and a memory revealed itself.
Like a lucid dream, Saboten was entirely aware of what was happening. A home revealed itself to him, piece by piece sending Saboten on a tour. At first, it was a kitchenette sat to the left, still dirty from the night before. Next, an empty living room, decorated with a worn-out couch, television and coffee table. He moved closer to it, close enough to press his chest against it. There was no feeling, it was imaginary, a vision. Perhaps it was just the doing of Belphegor, like Shinigami trickery, but the world around him felt peaceful, not malevolent like the white world did.
From behind the boy, the front door opened and instinctively Saboten froze, but the old man who entered took no notice of him. He was frail and skeletal, held up by a Zimmer frame as he teetered towards the sofa. He spoke in a very collected voice towards a young boy who remained outside of the cosy little home. He said; “I’m expecting your father to return within a week, or so. It is so disappointing that he didn’t leave a note. I thought he grew out of this childish game. Alas, it’s his work that keeps him quite busy.”
He gestured to his guest whom did not respond, “nothing I can do, I suppose.” The old man continued, once again gesturing to the boy. He wouldn’t enter because he was nervous, too afraid to move. Saboten knew this, because he was the boy.
It wasn’t clear why it was happening, but Saboten was forcefully reliving a memory: the day he first moved in with his Grandfather in Mishima. With this surrounding, Saboten could remember his exact feelings at that moment and began to mouth the words that fled from the young boy’s mouth.
“Why did he leave?”
“Well,” his Grandfather pondered for a second, his body - weakened by the rough passing of time - edged carefully towards his similarly old-looking fridge. “He’s a busy man.”
“I don’t even know what he does.”
“Well, between you and I… I don’t either.” He chuckled. The man was always quite proud of his son-in-law, “he’s very important though, your mother was always talking about him.”
“I miss her.”
“I miss her too. Now. are you going to come in?” He asked, perusing the empty fridge for milk he’d forgotten to buy. “You’re letting the warm air out.”
The boy quickly decided to join his Grandfather’s company and, at this point, he really was a boy; no more than six years old. His green hair parted in the middle, and he sported a pair of lime green shorts. Yeah, that was him all right. How his parents ever let him outside like that was a mystery.
His Grandfather lived in quite a small apartment if he remembered correctly, he had no desire to go looking around just yet. It was so small that the bathroom actually crossed into the neighbouring apartment. It was vacant, thankfully, so the old man’s daily singing didn’t bother anybody.
“I’ll put you in my room,” he said, “it’s a short while, so it’s nothing to worry about.”
The boy looked at his Grandfather with a puzzled stare, “but, where will you sleep?” He asked as his fingers traced the mortar that held the unpainted brick walls together. Not a single wall in the home had anything to cover the brickwork, Saboten’s Grandfather thought it added character.
“The sofa bed, for now.” The man’s smile emanated warmth. It was always wide enough for Saboten to count the teeth he was missing or, the easier option, how many remained. His grin always made the boy feel welcome, even when he was in the worst of moods. “It won’t be long, so don’t you worry. I prefer to fall asleep to the sounds of the television anyway.”
“Thank you, Grandpa.”
“Not a problem.” He replied with yet another smile, “I know what you kids are like these days, so I went ahead and left you a stack of comic books in the wardrobe. Now,” he said, “I think I need a nap.” There’s a stack of comic books I left for you.” He smiled again, “now, go. I think I need a nap.”
Saboten woke up unpleasantly to the face of Siegfried. It was his fault - from what he could imagine - that Saboten had a flashback. It was a nice memory, he was sure there could have been worse memories to flash back in to, but that wasn’t the point. He looked smug, laying next to him against the tree that Leyim had fixed up for Alfsol.
It was uncomfortable, both physically and in the sense that Saboten didn’t like Siegfried that much. “Oh,” he said, “you’re awake. No, no. Don’t move. You must be feeling quite weak, right?”
“Why?” He wondered, Siegfried wasn’t wrong it seemed. Even the slightest movement brought a feeling of absolute exhaustion upon him. “What’s wrong with me?
"It’s always all about you, isn’t it Saboten?” He said, “we’re both on the floor you know. The Captain isn’t too pleased with me.”
“What happened to us?”
“I couldn’t tell you if I wanted to, sorry.” He sniggered when Saboten’s eyes shut again, “still tired?”
“Yeah,” it was a bit of a struggle to keep his eyes completely open, ifhe was being honest. “Did anything weird happen to you?”
“Not really,” He noted.
“What about with you?”
“Oh,” he echoed Saboten’s utterance with an uninterested drone and shifted his body weight around like he was establishing his dominance. He was inching his way closer to the boy, digging his fingernails into the soft earth and dragging his overly average frame towards the similarly built boy. It was then that Saboten’s body failed him again, his eyes shut without grace as Siegfried pulled himself closer until his lips were against Saboten’s ear. A chill trickled down his spine as the words processed in the back of his head. He whispered; “there must be something between us. A chemical reaction that’ll knock the other down if we’re not careful.”
By the time Saboten woke up, Siegfried had already wandered off; promising to scout the area to make sure that the Hunters had not yet mobilized. The two of them had worked up some kind of incredible static shock during the fight and, when, they touched each other, they were thrown backwards like sacks of spuds. His friends surrounded him now but none of them seemed particularly interested in his dream riddles and rambles.
Leyim, however, was busy pestering her subordinate. It ahd occured to her that perhaps Alfsol would need some rest after the traumatic events of the day. Despite this, the questioning persisted.
“Why haven’t you mentioned this before? I can’t remember it being in any of your files or anything along those lines.” In all honesty, Leyim was irritated and mildly jealous. Before you can even submit your application to the NEA, rigourous background searches and personality checks are conducted until their is literally nothing left for you to hide. The littlest image reflecting negatively upon yourself could result in a permanent inability to join the ranks.
“I don’t know,” was her bland response. “The members are all sworn to secrecy. They would have no records of my existence, let alone my history. Technically, the members of the group don- Didn’t exist.”
“Does it even matter anymore?” Shinji decided to let himself into the conversation once again, not even making the effort to move closer and, instead, calling out from where his leader sat. It didn’t take him long to flee from his duties and make his way over to Alfsol like a sleeze, ready to grill her further.
“Shinji, don’t. Now isn’t the time to be insensitive.”
“No, you’re right. It doesn’t matter.”
“So, tell us more.”
“Captain, I’m fine,” she spoke firmly, it was almost scary; “really.”
It wasn’t Leyim who gestured for Alfsol to begin, it was Shinji. He acted as a teacher would towards a child, and Alfsol ate it up. It was quite unlike anything she had seen of Alfsol before; she was never that complacent with anybody but her. Whether it was Shinji’s influence or not was a different issue. Yes, she would quite happily admit it: there was a hint of jealousy surrounding her. An aura of envy green enveloping each and every nuance in her body language. Only a hint, and a tender one at that.
“What do you want to know?”
“Are there any more churches?” Shinji began.
“I’m pretty sure of it, but I couldn’t tell you exactly where they are.”
“Region?” Leyim pressed on.
“It was specifically Japanese. There was no talk about a widespread movement.”
“How many members?” Leyim asked again, before Shinji could even react. Alfsol just shook her head; “I don’t know.”
“Then what about Atticus Kazuhiko? Do you think he had a hand in this shit? Was he a member?”
“I couldn’t tell you.” Alfsol began, “we had no real names, not in the boundaries of the church. I can’t picture any faces.”
“I’d doubt it myself,” Leyim replied. He was a calculating man, cold and scientific as you would expect from the president of a medicinal powerhouse. “He had an assistant, right? His chief researcher…” His name had slipped the Captain’s mind and she had never met him personally, like she had Atticus. However, she had heard whispers of his before; “he was a bit of shut-in. Uh, obsessed with the occult…”
“Ichirou Miyazaki,” Hideki added finally, “ the Kanzen Hakujou project was his brainchild.”
“Hell, we don’t even know if he’s still alive.” Shinji concluded.
“That’s true,” said Alfsol shaking her head, “but I don’t believe anybody like that ever joined the church. We were simple people who would never have been able to contact the Shinigami. Nevertheless, I know who has answers.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter.
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