Episode Thirty Two - Bleeding Consciences
Two familiar silhouettes emerge from the far side of the road, one totingacrowbar and the other a dark umbrella. The Spades, Rolly and Elza, have arrived.
“Great, there’s more.” Zylo stands in a row with his crew.
The first runner-up is Violet. She lunges toward Renzo with the fast tip of her hockey stick whacking across his cheek. “What a rush!” she shouts excitedly as his head knocks back.
The frenzied stare in her eyes is unnerving, revealing the genuine insanity shrouding her mind. She follows with a violent drop kick swishing through the falling petals and into his chest. Immediately, his bulky body thumps heavily on the pavement and scatters the surrounding pink snowflakes.
Following behind Violet’s vanguard are the Red Wreckers, stampeding fearlessly toward Zylo and Juniper. Bull cocks back his enormous brass-knuckled fist and hops forward with a zooming punch. Just beside him, Fia swings her bowling ball with both hands gripped tight, aiming for the first victim’s head.
Zylo and Juniper are unafraid, however. Daring and equally confident, they rush to meet their opponents.
“Ready behind me!” Zylo yells, and quickly races ahead.
Just before reaching Bull and Fia, Zylo spins 360° into a powerful backswing. A bright flash of light exerts from the rod just inches before contact, and the force of the Shield activates to strengthen the attack.
The powered rod sweeps across the fluttering pink petals and strikes both charging Wreckers. Bull and Fia are tossed and carried by a rushing wind, launching backward through the beautiful storm of cherry blossoms.
Juniper rushes after them with a front kick to Fia’s stomach and a strong guitar swing against Bull’s bulging ribs. They fly even further before crashing into the ground, their momentum beaten to a stop.
Juniper props the satisfied guitar over her shoulder and glances back to her partner, “Holy shit, that was sexy, Zylo,” she compliments, biting her bottom lip.
“I know, right?” Zylo blushes, flattered by his newfound attractiveness.
Renzo leaps and dodges Violet’s attacks, then tosses out his chains with lightning speed. His weapons cut through the fast-falling blossoms to violently whip her body.
Violet tries to defend, batting her stick wildly in all directions like swatting flies, but fails to deflect the chains completely. The metal continues striking her arms, her thighs, and her cheeks.
Violet eventually collapses onto one knee but her maddened rage drives her body forward through the pain. She inches closer and closer, but Renzo remains unrelenting. The metal links continue beating her hands and her legs until finally, she submits and her chest beats the ground.
The Spades join forces with Bull and Fia, and the Pirates struggle to persevere. Juniper blocks Elza’s first attack, but catches Rolly’s crowbar behind the shoulder. She stumbles forward and watches as Elza returns with another thrust of her umbrella.
“Get back!” Zylo yanks Juniper from the beating and rushes forward with a wide swing. The Spades are forced away, but Zylo is left exposed. Before he can react, a black bowling ball closes into his vision.
The dense sphere collides with his cheek and instantly knocks the wind from his breath, dropping him flat to the ground in a muddled daze. The petals sway over his confused eyes mesmerized in a dizzying daydream.
In his view is a blurry mosaic of cherry blossom branches covering a blue sky, and there he stares into the distance. He forgets where he is for a moment and succumbs to the depths of his confused mind.
“Get up!” Juniper leaps over Zylo’s body and blocks Elza’s umbrella before swinging against Rolly’s pecking attacks. She can’t hold them for much longer, and Zylo is still down for the count.
Making matters worse, Fia slides through the pavement into a kick, hitting Juniper’s leg and retrieving her bowling ball simultaneously.
Juniper is knocked off tempo, and Elza quickly takes advantage. The umbrella whacks against Juniper’s ribs, and another jab to the chest drops her to the ground beside her partner.
Through all this, Zylo struggles to awake from his severe trance. His mind starts to reconnect the falling petals to the mountain road, then the temple, and finally realizes the ongoing fight. Immediately, his eyes open wide, just in time to see Rolly leap over swinging.
Zylo instinctively lifts the rod over his head to stop the gritty crowbar from striking his head. The weapons slam crudely against one another and grind metal against metal.
Standing over Zylo, Rolly pushes and mumbles through his clenched teeth, “A little more…come on…” He forces the crowbar down against the rod, edging the weapon closer to Zylo’s face with each passing moment.
Sweat spews from Zylo’s forehead as every muscle in his body strains to resist. He can feel his body tiring, and knows his arms will soon concede.
Suddenly, the weight is lifted.
Rolly screams and his body flies backward from Zylo. Fia is struck in the stomach and launches back as well. Finally, the lashing chains whip toward Elza, but she blocks and retreats.
The two Pirates are safe, and Zylo leaps gratefully onto his feet, pulling Juniper from the ground. “Thank goodness for that!”
Kitsune swiftly turns his body to evade an axe kick. Step after rigorous step, he dodges Xin’s attacks, and Xin dodges his. The two begin circling with eyes intently locked, both carefully watching each other’s movements in this momentary standstill.
“Dangerous,” a peculiar grin stretches over Xin’s face. “How should we do this?”
Kitsune’s hand combs through the bulk of his pompadour, and his two fingers pluck up the hefty spike. “Your move.”
Xin jerks his knee to fake a kick, and Kitsune flinches in reaction. “Ha,” he chuckles and jumps into a forward snap kick. The steel toe clanks ineffectively against Kitsune’s fast parry, and he casually backs off.
“You know,” Xin paces around Kitsune, “I commend your bravery. With a bounty reward this high, I wouldn’t even bother with heat time. You guys are just greedy.”
He steps into a roundhouse kick from the right, and Kitsune blocks. Immediately after, he switches feet and roundhouse kicks from the left. The swift attack catches the side of Kitsune’s torso.
Kitsune falls back grunting through his teeth, but an overbearing shadow of a swinging fist casts over from behind. Kitsune hastily tumbles under to dodge. He lands beside his sudden assailant’s blind spot, pulls back his arm, and wails against the enormous body. The pipe pounds against Bull’s muscular lower side and he jerks up in bellowing pain.
“Okay, hear me out.” Kitsune doubles back, slowly circling Xin and Bull while wiping the sweat from his brow. He catches his breath and says, “What if I told you this bounty is a member of the Baya Elder Council?”
Xin raises an intrigued eyebrow but remains in a guarded stance. “Is that so?”
He runs forward and jumps into a tornado kick. His body spins through the air into a whipping roundhouse, beating against Kitsune’s defending pipe. The incredible force of the impact goes past the block and knocks Kitsune off balance.
Leaning into the fall, Kitsune drops into a tumble beside Xin and leaps upward with a fast swing. The pipe arcs into the air, striking Xin’s jaw and lifting his body an inch off the ground before landing on his back.
“Why do you think the bounty is worth three hundred fifty thousand?” Kitsune pants, slowly backing away from Bull who is ready to retaliate.
Sure enough, Bull charges with a punch, but shortly intercepted after several steps. Juniper’s guitar wails against his speeding fist, and his arm instantly recoils in pain.
Kitsune steps through and swings like a batter, ramming the pipe far into Bull’s stomach for a homerun. A strong gust rushes from the impact and Bull skids along the pavement.
“Now,” Kitsune lowers his pipe, “you mean to tell me no one has wondered why there’ve been so many high reward bounties? They’re all innocent people!”
“And why should we take your word for it?” Rolly slowly creeps up to pounce.
“Because,” Kitsune turns his attention, “We wouldn’t be wasting time fighting all of you!”
The crowbar aims for Kitsune’s head, but he quickly dodges with a step to the side. Rolly falls forward as he misses, and Kitsune beats the pipe over his back. The Spade drops straight to the ground in a sprawled mess.
“Well,” Xin wipes the blue ichor from his busted lip and turns to Bull, “I guess someone else shares the same conspiracy as you.”
“Hmph, I told you.” Bull lowers his fists with a sudden change of heart. “What a waste of time.”
Everyone watches as Elza pulls Rolly from the ground. The battle is swayed to one side and the Spades find themselves severely disadvantaged. They slowly retreat back down the road, carefully watching everyone’s movements.
Kitsune yells, “Elza, stop being a tool and listen for a second!”
But Rolly is stubborn, “We don’t take orders from you!”
“Then where the hell is Jacks?”
Elza won’t answer, but she doesn’t have to. A familiar silhouette of a handsome styled man approaches from the road with a long shovel propped over his shoulder.
“New Pirates,” he calls, “what are you telling my dear Elza? Trying to weaken my Spades’ resolve with your petty, ugly words? Is it because you guys know you’re all super scrubs?”
Jacks isn’t alone. Racing past him is a shimmering silver convertible with Starlet and the rest of Neon Supreme.
“They’re going straight for the temple!” shouts Juniper.
“On it.” Zylo sprints up the road and positions himself in the path of the speeding car. His face still aches from Fia’s bowling ball but hopefully, that’ll be the only thing hurting after this.
‘I hope this works. Otherwise, I am really, really stupid.’
The car zooms through the shade of cherry blossom trees, past the Spades, the Red Wreckers, and the New Pirates.
When the speeding silver gleam of the car is seconds away, Zylo digs his feet into the ground and raises his weapon.
The adrenaline rushes through his nerves as the momentum of the speeding car slams against him. Light flashes across his eyes and gritting teeth, and a powerful wind kicks up the flaps of his blazer.
Zylo roars in fervor, pushing the force shield against the incredible pressure of the car just inches from his guarding rod. The tires spin and skid along the same section of pavement, but fail to break Zylo.
Seconds later, a sharp crackle ripples around him and suddenly, the shield resisting the car disappears.
The convertible rams through Zylo and tosses him aside like a ragdoll. His body smacks against the hard pavement while the car drifts uncontrollably toward the side of the road.
The accumulated speed launches the car forward, forcing it to swerve and skid despite Starlet’s arduous attempt to steer back into control. She taps the brakes and drifts to the side, and the convertible halts several feet from a tree, clear of danger.
“Let’s go!” she orders. The three girls of Neon Supreme hop out of the vehicle and quickly scramble toward the temple.
“Bull, Fia. Go.” Xin snaps his fingers and points to Neon Supreme, and his crew chases.
“You okay?” asks Juniper, pulling Zylo’s beaten body from the ground.
“Not as sexy…” he grumbles. Now, his shoulders and entire lower back has a terrible ache while his face is no better. He wipes his hand across his blurred, dizzy eyes and tries to keep pace with Juniper as she pulls him.
“Banding together to protect a bounty? That’s so noble of you guys,” Jacks commends. The shovel lifts from his shoulder and swings out repeatedly toward Kitsune.
“King Kuro is using you! Kike!” Kitsune ducks his head and evades another swing.
“What are you going on about?” Jacks smiles obnoxiously. This time, he raises his shovel into the air and chops down on Kitsune’s firm overhead block. “Hope you’re ready to lose.”
Kitsune grunts and pushes back with a sudden spurt of strength. In a flash of a moment, Jacks’ shovel is knocked away and his exposed chest catches the end of Kitsune’s pipe. He takes another kick to the stomach and finally stumbles off, body slumped forward clutching his sides.
“You better change teams, Jacks, cause you’re losing this,” Kitsune smiles.
Xin’s hook kick whips high toward Elza’s cheek, but strikes only her sudden expanded umbrella.
She retracts her weapon, tumbles under another kick, and thrusts her umbrella forward. The bare tip strikes Xin’s collarbone and his body drops into a backward roll.
“Stop this, Jacks.” Kitsune points his pipe. “The bounty is the last Elder. Stop this now.”
Jacks laughs for a second, and grins, “I know that.”
“What?” Elza mutters, eyes still watching Xin.
“You knew and you’re still trying to fight us? This is very asshole-ish of you, Jacks,” says Xin, casually stepping back from his opponent.
A sudden eerie calm enters the mountain and a peculiar tension settles on everyone. Their instincts scream and their senses jump at the unnerving change of mood. The hunters stop, eyes hastily scanning the area for the impending threat.
Then, every hunter spots it.
Quickly zooming from the far end of the curving road is a dark shadow with a fur-hooded black cloak. The silhouette shifts side to side like a blurred skipping image of a slideshow, moving faster than anything the hunters have ever seen.In mere seconds, the shadow races around the side of the mountain and speeds through the entire length of road toward the unready crowd of hunters.