Belphegor’s katana slipped through the barrel jackets like they were rubber. Hajime’s weapon was useless now as metal fragments were left lodged in the barrel. Pieces hit the floor steaming as the gunslinger stepped backwards in despair. He turned to face Saboten, looking down at the crouching boy. His face screamed ‘what have you done?’ as his instinct-fueled brain focused on his next moves.
Saboten didn’t need to react, he knew what Hajime would do. From the way he held himself up to the way he handled the guns, it was obvious he had never touched a weapon before. In his rage, he pointed the guns towards Saboten. And then to Leyim, and back to Saboten as if he didn’t know who he wanted to kill first. His fingers constantly pulled tightly to the trigger, ready to fire.
He felt pity, Saboten did. He decided to warn Hajime; “don’t do that.” Hajime wouldn’t listen though, his thought process shut down entirely.
“Don’t tell me what to do!” He barked, finding no fault with his actions. He pulled both triggers at the same time and the gun backfired, just as Saboten expected. A blast of light traveled up the right-hand gun, burning his skin while the left one exploded, sending shrapnel soaring into his eyes. Immediately, he dropped to his knees, gripping his face with both hands as if he could save his sight with pressure.
He looked up at them like a pup, recently hit by an oncoming car. His eyes poked through ribboned lids staring straight past Saboten, towards the television screen to the right. With an outstretched arm, he begged for The Envy. There was no response.
The begging was hard to watch.
“Please,” he whimpered and writhed, now clawing at the ground for his pistols. “Please help us!” As he missed, Saboten saw his opportunity. He could, if he wished, attack now putting Hajime out of his misery. Leyim shook her head though, as she saw him move into position. A disapproving look he didn’t deserve. She gestured to his weapons, the ones Hajime was still searching for, with her foot and Saboten repeated; kicking the weapons over to him.
The magazine was empty, clicking as his finger battered the trigger over and over, pointed at the right-hand television screen. His efforts were for nothing. Blind, with black fragments sewn into the sensitive flesh around his eyes, Hajime finally collapsed, still shaking with rage; “this is all your fault.”
The way Hajime directed his anger, specifically funneled towards that single television screen, was a sure sign The Envy was nearby. It was possible the screens, embedded as they were, could be lodged as a mirror between this room and another. Saboten’s train of thought rushed past him, a risky passenger aboard. His legs followed, pulling the rest of his body towards Hiro, who was equally busy. “Hiro! I need a hand.”
“Envy must be in there,” his train of thought rushed ahead of him, his legs followed. He ran towards Hiro, distracting the big man from his battle. “Hiro! I need a hand!”
“They’re both a little full right now!” He called back. It appeared he too was having no trouble with their new-found foes.
“I need you to toss me into that screen!” Unfazed by the idea of hurling his friend through the air, Hiro nodded. His hands enlarged as Saboten picked up speed; pummeling fist after fist into his enemy’s chest. Suddenly, one fist grew to an enormous size as Saboten jumped into his palm and, with a single spin, he was sent soaring through the air as though he was weightless.
The glass shattered around his fists, punched forward in hopes to divert glass shards away from his face. His hunch was correct. The Envy now sat only centimeters away, cross-legged on the floor. Around him; screens and buttons and velvet pillows all somehow felt out of place. A single light bulb swung above a wooden table, and on that table was Alfsol. Her body had been further soiled, both hands missing as well as parts of her face.
Like a cigarette, The Envy seemed to suck blood from one of Alfsol’s fingers. He truly was a monster, and now Saboten felt no moral objection. No hesitation. No cheek turning, The Envy had to die.
“What are you doing?” He asked after a struggle, words seemed to get caught up in his throat. “You fought alongside her! Even if it was an act, you must’ve felt something towards her.”
The Envy was silent and a frown formed on his cold face. In anger, he forced the rest of the digit into his mouth and crunched it, loud enough to drown out the sounds of battle below. “No, no, no. This isn’t how it was supposed to go!” He ranted to himself from his seat, slamming one hand into a pillow; vomiting a hurricane of feathers. “Never mind, never mind.”
“Did you know about this?” He asked Saboten, opening his mouth wide to reveal the small bone fragments that had lodged themselves beneath his tongue flesh. Saboten looked into his remorseless eyes as The Envy seemed to mock the entire situation; a parody of wisdom. “We Kanzen can eat the flesh of other Kanzen.” He planted his fingers on the table behind him. Like little legs, they began to wander closer to their prey as he spoke. Sickening. Saboten couldn’t imagine a more gut wrenching scene. “If we decide to dine on our brother’s flesh, our powers are augmented. We get just a little bit stronger for all of the meat we digest.”
“Why Alfsol then?”
The Envy held three fingers up; “Alfsol isn’t a Kanzen, I know that for a fact. But the surge of power is something like a drug. It’s addictive. You want it more and more until just the thought of another bite sends you into a frenzy of lust and dread.” He withdrew a finger, counting down as he rattled off his points. “To feed is to satisfy. Do you know how long I’ve been lying in wait; wearing this disguise, waiting for this plan to come to fruition? It’s been a long road, Saboten, and I’ve grown to hate so many people.”
Another finger crawled back, curling as a single reason was left unsaid. “The taste is to die for.”
As the last finger rolled back to his palm, Saboten’s arm rocketed towards that monsters face. Unstoppable, knuckles meeting flesh to push The Envy onto his back. He was truly devoid of humanity; reduced to Siegfried’s shadow, a blood-sucking nightmare.
He was his Shinigami now.
The force left an imprint on The Envy’s face; “and so it begins.”
“Don’t stand up.” The Envy took Saboten’s threat and spat on it. It meant nothing to him, being more powerful than Saboten could ever imagine. He retaliated with his own; “be prepared Saboten, I don’t want you to die without first understanding the power you’ve wasted."
Hiro’s foe, Akira, could not breath for Hiro had him by the throat. His left arm had grown to be exponentially large and muscular like he had worked those specific muscles to death and back. His fingers, now meaty and wrapped like thick vines around Akira’s wiry neck, felt rigid and numb. If he closed his eyes, he would not be able to tell he was killing this man.
His right fist was suspended in the air, the size and weight of a wrecking ball simply inches away from the delicate bones of Akira’s skull. A simple movement would lead to obliteration.
Akira was only human, as Hiro once was. A prisoner of The Hunters, meaning his deeds couldn’t have been angelic. Still, Hiro’s moral compass pointed south; they were simply trying to find a way to survive, a familiar quest only the five of them had no Shinigami Lord to protect them, or lend them power. They were helpless, weak and unfairly forced to fight. A solution; toss him to the ground and leave to fight alongsid-
In his peripheral vision, Shinji was clutching his left arm on the ground. He was in pain, and in need of help.
Before he knew it, Hiro was running towards Shinji. Blood dripped, out of sight, from his knuckles. He did it in an instant, and felt no remorse. The enemy Shinji had chosen was gone, along with the black sword Shinji held close to his heart. Blood fountained from a stub, perfectly angled, arcing to the ground in thick bursts. Hiro had no medical training, or field expertise but he knew that, in a few minutes, Shinji would bleed out. His Shinigami could not heal his body, if it was Leviathan - his own parasite - he knew his body could handle it.
That’s what the wounds need, he figured, Hiro heard it on duty one day; 'put pressure on the wound’. He forced his right arm to enlarge again and clamped his hand onto the stump. Shinji convulsed, it must’ve hurt but there was nothing Hiro could do about that. Shinji would just have to wait until he passed out for pain relief.
Knowing Hideki had seen battle before, he called out for the man of war. Hideki had hardly moved, however. His fight was only just beginning; fists had been raised.
His name rang through the silver room, bouncing back and forth between the mirrored surfaces but his mind silenced it. He couldn’t look away from his opponent otherwise he could disappear forever. It was unreal. Hideki had not seen this man in many, many years; Masanori, the man he sent packing to the Torture Ward.
When he specifically ordered the sentence, the court fell silent. The judge, who spoke only to conclude the session, couldn’t believe his words weren’t in jest. Hideki was believed to be mad at the time because, usually, no matter the deed, a member of the New Earth Army would suffer only a warning, or a fine. Not once had a leader sent one of his own squad to prison, let alone the Torture Ward.
When the sentence was finally carried out, Masanori said nothing like he felt the punishment fit the crime. After all these years, it was almost nice to see him.
He had taken his mind off the fight for too long and, when he came to, his vision was blocked by Masanori’s black glove. It didn’t hurt, in fact, he hardly registered the blow. The second punch came straight after and the force blew a golden buckle straight off the glove’s strap. Still, it didn’t hurt.
Blow-by-blow, four shielded knuckles came blazing forward and Hideki dodged each set. At any point, Hideki could strike back; killing him then and there. The fingers of his left arm were shaped by the armour, able to cut through flesh and bone with ease. He didn’t want to, though.
Instead, he stepped backwards with each dodge until the silver walls of the prison neared his back. Masanori was tired; as his leather garments stretched and tore, the punches slowed. The reality of the situation infected him, a slow acting poison that would inevitably lead to his demise. The difference between Hideki and Masanori was diabolical, but the paraffin hatred he held in his heart burned on,
He didn’t know that this was all a game for The Envy.
“Why?” The silver wall was now only a step away and, if Hideki was ever going to ask, it had to be now, “back then, why did you kill all those people?”
He stared straight back, the menace in his eyes left the impression he wouldn’t answer, just to spite Hideki in his final moments. He opened his mouth wide; not to speak, but to show that it was empty. His tongue and teeth had been forcibly removed, replaced by thick, embossed, white scars. The once-red flesh blackened by infection now pooled saliva and dried blood flakes.
He truly paid for his crimes.
Masanori shut his mouth tight and stepped forward. Hideki’s back touched a silver panel, and so did Masanori’s fist. The bones crunched, breaking each knuckle against the metal. Hideki’s fingers slipped silently into his flesh, like slender knives they severed flesh and pierced his gut.
When Masanori fell, Hideki shed no tears, nor did he speak any words. He simply followed Hiro’s lead, and went quietly to help his friend.
Only Ayame still fought, and even her battle was coming to an end. Hideo held one of two final kunai, the other sitting on a belt loop. They were an ineffective weapon against Ayame who, with a little help from Shax, was ten times more powerful than him. She could now funnel her hair into many forms, each with different weights or textures. She finally felt she was on the same level as her friends.
As Hideo timidly lifted his kunai into a throwing position, Ayame shot her hair out in the form of a battering ram, a makeshift fist she could extend and contract at will, as she had done each time he attempted an attack. It broke his nose with ease. She kept at it, stamping her foe with all the power she could muster.
Her eyes scanned behind her, hoping Leyim would be watching her for she believed her bravery was contagious, but she wasn’t. She was looking up to the television; the glass was shattered and Saboten was nowhere to be seen. Putting two and two together, she figured Saboten must’ve found The Envy.
She knew he could do it, step one; done. Now they just had to fight him, and that would be that.
He’s not dead.
"I didn’t think he would be,“ Ayame replied in thought. In response, it appeared Shax was laughing at her. The sultry voice in the back of her head, smooth like caramel, echoed; Not your boyfriend, she claimed, your enemy.
She had forgotten about him believing him to be dead already, but Hideo had wriggled free from beneath the weight of her hair. He yelled from behind her, kunai in hand, ready to cut her throat.
Shax reacted first.
Without permission, her hair grew into an enormous, writhing structure. Teeth. Jaws. It was a mouth. The hair, solidified in shape, wrapped around Hideo’s body with frightening accuracy; teeth pinned against vital organs. The jaws crushed him until he was nothing but putty and blood. A terrible sight, but Ayame’s mind was elsewhere.
Through Shax, Ayame could overcome her fear. A 'possession state’ is what she called it. It allowed Shax a small amount of control over her body, benefiting them both.
Belphegor can perform a similar technique to your friend, she explained once, but it appears your friend is a lot less… willing. Belphegor has ulterior motives, child. Tell your friend to be more careful.
The way she spoke of Saboten was frightening, as though he was looming closer and closer to his death. "Is Saboten going to be okay?” is what she asked.
As she snapped back into reality, a body fell to the ground. A green fringe sprawled out over the silver ground, Saboten lay face down. He had been thrown. Looming above them, The Envy watched on with a smile.
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