When the train made it within the walled confines of Tonami, The Sloth fled from the train. Not once did she look at Kira’s body after what she did, she didn’t even open her mouth again. It was as though she was ashamed of herself, and she should have been. It was a monstrous act to behold… so why did it not effect Leyim as much as it should have done? Had her pathetic little human psyche already been through too much? Had whatever made her different to The Sloth already been lost?
Soldiers from the highest ranks of the NEA soon flooded the train carriages after it came to an inevitable halt, armed to the teeth just in case The Sloth’s spell wore off too soon. At any false move, the enemy could’ve torn Team Karasu to shreds, they had been defeated. Ever the optimist, even Leyim knew it was time to show their bellies and give up. A troupe of no less than eighty soldiers stampeded the group from the station into the desolate city, once famous for its tulip festival. From the looks of things, no such frivolity had happened in an age or two.
Their destination resembled an ancient roman coliseum, hideously out of place alongside the jungle of metal and wire surrounding it. The building had been created in haste in The Envy’s honour who, upon his arrival, carved his own name into the side with his sword. His intention for the building was imprisonment, housing the rebellious Kanzen Hakujou and their conspirators until their public execution.
They were stripped, blindfolded, bound, and stuffed into individual soundproof cells where it was impossible to track the time. Nobody - human or otherwise - would be capable of positive thought; Leyim would never discovered whether or not her friend’s powers would return, or whether or not they would be able to escape the prison. When she slept, she saw no visions of daylight nor familiar faces and, when she woke, she could hardly lift her face from the cold ground. It was the only sensation in the room but perhaps it helped her keep her mind occupied.
“Good morning,” she would say to herself when her eyes would pull themselves open from beneath the blindfold. She could tell that it was just a simple piece of cloth tied from the back around her head and, if she wanted to, it would have been no problem to inch the wrapping from her gaze using the floor. Did she want to see what was out there? The Envy was already an unpredictable psychopath; horrifying thoughts would plague her if she ever considered removing the cloth. How would she react to seeing the area decorated in her friend’s blood? What if she was already atop the execution block, just waiting to die? She wanted it to come quick, and in silence.
Good morning, one after the other. Could the days actually be going so fast? Or was Leyim so exhausted from her journey that her body couldn’t believe the silence around her?
“Good morning,” said a voice.
“Good morning,” replied the prisoner.
“Have you enjoyed your stay? You haven’t been very active, I’m a little worried about you.”
“Can you stand?”
“I can stand.”
“Good,” said the voice, “I’m here to get you out, Leyim.”
“What about the others?” asked the prisoner. “What about Sun?”
“The kiddo’s just fine, he’s got Ayame. It’s you I’m worried about, Leyim. You’ve been in here all on your own?”
“I’m a big girl, I can handle myself.”
The voice placed his hand upon her shoulder and caressed her; never before had she felt such a gentle touch against her skin. It made her weep, “let me help you up, okay? Are you ready?”
The voice lifted her into the air where she could find her feet, “careful of my arm, okay? I don’t want you to cut yourself on your hero!”
“Sorry, sorry. I’m just a friend lending a helping hand in your time of need,” the voice sounded like it was smiling. A comforting thought for the first time in a little while accompanied their escape. Leyim felt a cold breeze against her body as they passed through the literal boundary between her prison and the outside world where hushed voices had replaced the quiet mutter of the wind during her incarceration, but otherwise the world still felt the same.
“I’m going to remove your blindfold now, okay?” asked the voice, “are you ready?”
“I’ll brace myself,” said the prisoner.
“Welcome,” said the voice as it lifted the blindfold from her face, allowing the daylight to scorch her ill-prepared retinas and blind her for a moment. When the yellowish blur faded, a flash of her saviour’s face revealed itself to her: a beard and a smile and a large white spike protruding from his shoulder.
She allowed herself a blink, shifting the blurs and the fuzzies in her vision to reform into an actual representation of the person ahead. It revealed his thick caterpillar eyebrows and his short, brown hair. She had to blink once more as the clouds wrapped themselves around the sun like a pair of sunshades. In this new murk, her saviour was revealed in all his glory. “Welcome to your execution, Leyim Rossi.”
The vision ahead had become warped and inorganic for a moment; it wore no beard on its face, a plain crooked smile, and held a sword where the spike had once been. Thin, segmented eyebrows and black hair; the face of Siegfried Newsom but the heart of The Envy. “Did I get you? His voice is a bit hard to pull off, I think,” he said, pushing Leyim backwards toward her friends. They no longer blindfolded either, but she was the last to arrive, noticing that Sun Toramaru had in fact been placed beside Ayame: a blessing and a curse.
“Listen up chaps,” said the devil incarnate. “The World is no longer willing to take any chances with you which is a big ‘boo-hoo’ because I was looking to breaking you all in a little bit more. This is it now, it’s the end of the road for the ever-expanding Team Karasu. The World herself is approaching, she’s almost ready to take on her next form and she definitely doesn’t want you getting in the way, so I’m going to execute you all by my own hands.”
“No backtalk,” he said, “no huge final battle, you’ve got nothing left in your disposal. It’ll unfortunately be one large unceremonious ending for the most irritating of supernatural brats.” He turned his gaze behind him, where The Sloth stood in order to seal their abilities. “What did you think?”
“Thank you,” he bowed, “thank you.”
There was almost no need to survey the area, Leyim didn’t even look at her friend’s faces until the first of their ranks was called upon for their execution. Hiro was the first that The Envy asked for by name and he approached with great hesitation. Leyim considered Hiro the smartest member of Team Karasu, able to keep his calm and accept his sentence with grace. He did not live up to Leyim’s expectations and panicked at the final moment.
Like a solider, Hiro fought until he could no longer stand using only his innate human strength. In support, Saboten, Ayame, and Sun called out his name with their fingers crossed, hoping that their friend might be able to pull off this daring attempt at an escape or, at the very least, buy them some time to figure something out. He was soon silenced by The Envy’s great sword which severed his right leg and held his left in place. “Hironobu Nakamura,” said The Envy standing over his victim. “I sentence you to death for the crimes of… well, y’know, you’re the enemy. Your punishment will be harsh but it will not be death. No, it’s a whole lot worse!”
There was no burst, no pop, no bang. He simply stopped existing in this world, having been carried off into the Kara Sekai.
“All righty, who’s next? Saboten, you’re not going to be happy but I think it’s Ayame’s turn to step up to the podium!”
Sun tugged against her shirt, perhaps hoping to stop her from leaving his side. It felt likely that Saboten would be doing the same in his place but, instead, he wept in his own powerlessness. “It’ll be all right, Saboten.”
Leyim caught a glimpse of fear in Saboten’s eyes which set fire to her aching heart, he stepped closer and placed his head against her own, “will it?”
She left a kiss against the wrinkles of his forehead and stepped forward; proud and without fear on the outside. The heart and soul of Team Karasu would soon be dissected and cast into the winds of apocalypse but Leyim would forever remember her like this: Ayame Suzuki could wear a smile in the face of The Envy’s unnatural punishment. In an attempt to tear said smile from her face, The Envy made sure to carve away the source of her power first. The Envy cast lock after lock of blonde hair into the breeze but it had no effect upon her composition. She managed to drain the enjoyment from a man who got his kicks from cannibalism, armed with a deep blue stare which would not falter in any situation.
When it came time to erase this defiant woman from the Human World, their vicinity was hit by an enormous pressure which forced any living being to the ground with violent repercussions. Leyim couldn’t grasp the immediate shift in power but the situation clearly made less sense to The Envy who scorned the sky itself for ruining the day he might finally be free of Team Karasu.
Matters were soon made worse as an unknown force set off a significant number of smoke bombs, coating the entire coliseum in a heavy, sulphurous smokescreen. The terrorist behind the attack made herself known, casting her childish voice through the mechanics of a megaphone: “okey-dokey! If you’re still out there and you wanna escape from the baddies alive and well, you’re going to have to grab onto my friends, got it!?”
As the voice announced its intentions, two Kanzen approached Saboten, Sun, and Leyim without outstretched arms through the smog. “Team Karasu?” said one of them.
“Get up already.”
“He’s a bit scary sometimes, I’m sorry, but we’re here to help.”
“Grab my hand, Ms. Rossi, or did you want to write a report on the intricacies of the Kara Sekai because I can tell you right now; it’s shit.”
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter of our latest serial.
If you enjoy our work, why not consider sponsoring The Chestnut Cottage on Patreon?