Ex-Chapter: All in a day's work
A man with black hair ends a call as he walks down a deserted street. The remains of broken buildings, left since the day the Entity Walls burst out of the ground, stand to either side of him; like the exposed ribs of a rotten corpse. Shoving a cellphone into the pocket of his brown suit jacket, he repositions the long black bag slung over his shoulder. The clink of metal sounds occasionally from the two carabiners connected to his belt.
Suddenly, he stops and massages his temples before ducking into one of the abandoned buildings. It's spacious inside; the crumbled remains of a two story house. The inner walls have all collapsed, leaving only the outer ones to sustain the remaining structure. Thankfully, there's not much left to keep up. The second floor has collapsed, turning the house into a literal shell; an object that only looks like a house, but has nothing inside.
Sighing, the man sits on a pile of rubble and stares at the doorway. A few minutes later, footsteps approach, and a man in a white uniform walks in.
"You sure took your time." The man sighs. "Were you busy resetting the ambush you had for me down the road?"
"Kishinuma Yoshiki." The man in white stands in front of him. "You're coming with us."
A sigh comes from the named man. "Talk about stereotypical." He stands up and slaps the dust off the seat of his trousers. "Do you guys do anything different?"
"Naturally." The man in white takes a step, and Yoshiki moves in the opposite direction. "The Grave of Maltuva changes all the time."
Yoshiki scratches his head. "So, why're you all gunning for me all of a sudden? Kidnapping little girls too hard for you?" He raises a mocking eyebrow.
"A change in scheduling." The man shrugs. "It has been decided it is worth dealing with you first instead."
The two continue to move; Yoshiki backing away from the man in white, a Grave of Maltuva cultist, slowly stepping further into the house.
"Your talents seem useful as well." His eyes inspect Yoshiki; a hungry look, starting from his toes and ending at his head. "Will you not assist us in our research?"
"Sorry." Yoshiki shrugs, a lazy smile on his face. "My contract doesn't allow me to accept outside offers. Plus, I bet my boss pays better than yours."
"Would you put a price on salvation?" The man in white tilts his head.
"Salvation… hmph." Snorting, Yoshiki stands still. "There's no salvation for me." He smiles to himself, as if at a private joke. "I sold my soul a long time ago." He shrugs.
Both stand still.
"Anything is possible with miracles." The man crosses his arms.
"Miracles." Yoshiki sighs, remembering the Grave of Maltuva's 'miracles'. "Don't you think you should stop relying on things like that?"
The man in white twitches. "Not rely on miracles?" He glares.
"Yeah." Yoshiki smirks. "Miracles are simply things that can't be explained by nature. In other words, it's something we can't understand." He looks the cultist in the eye. "Aren't you scared of relying on something like that?"
The object on Yoshiki's back moves; a slight nudge pushes the kendo bag in the way of the dart fired at Yoshiki's back.
"Guess your cat's out of the bag." He shrugs.
Glass splinters, bodies charge. Men and women in street clothes burst through the windows, all their attention focused on the individual encircled by them. One of them swings a steel bat at his head.
Yoshiki sighs as they run towards him. Then ducks.
The bat whistles above his head, followed by the wielder as Yoshiki throws him over his shoulder; into the man in front of him. A deep thump sounds as they collide, merging with the one made by Yoshiki's fist in another cultist's stomach.
Fists, feet, and weapons approach from all sides. A net of violence draws shut.
But, none of them hit.
The first blow is deflected with his left arm. Sliding the blow against his wrist, it smashes into another attack coming from the side. Leaning backwards an inch causes another friendly fire incident.
Each blow is either deflected or dodged. Each swing is sent into an ally instead of him. It was less a fight, and more a dance; a dance where only one person knew the steps.
A kick sends a man flying. Yoshiki's hand grabs an outstretched wrist, and drags the woman it's connected to in the way of a metal pipe. Vertebrae crack, and she screams, but no emotion crosses Yoshiki's face. He grabs another punch thrown at him with his free hand, and twists; throwing the puncher over his shoulder. Knees bend with the throw, dragging the woman he grabbed earlier into the floor; under his knee, breaking her ribs. The thrown man flies into the pipe wielder's face, collapsing them both.
Turning back, he blocks another fist. The arm is locked under his elbow, and he returns the favor into the puncher's midriff. He follows the blow with a tackle, slamming his shoulder into the man's chest, sending the two sliding across the floor. A metal pipe brushes the back of his head; the attack he avoided with his tackle.
Rolling over, he twists the arm he grabbed earlier. It snaps, bending backwards, like a broken twig.
Shoes scuffle the ground as he slides across the floor, gaining some distance from the main group. The remaining cultists scatter in response, covering as much area as possible. Soon, he is surrounded again, but the net is still loose. The gaps between the cultists are large.
With a cry, one charges. Yoshiki dodges him, but doesn't counterattack.
He can't. He's too busy avoiding the next cultist.
Before, when they attacked at the same time, he used their attacks against them. Here he has nothing to direct them into; no way to make them harm themselves.
A nightstick flashes past his face, and he ducks only to dive to the side; the place he stood occupies by another club. One after another, they rush him, and he dodges like a bull fighter. Their attacks don't let up, and his reactions slow. His sleeve snags on a weapon, tearing it. He spins away and the cultists, both male and female, circle him like a school of piranhas.
An unseen signal, and they move. One after another, they dive at him. His knees bend to dodge, then stop. A confused expression crosses his face, before shifting to a grimace. He changes his stance, and raises his fists; a boxing stance.
The first of the cultist reaches him, and punches. The swing nears Yoshiki's face, and a small smirk appears.
Feet scuff the ground as he jumps back, allowing the swing to whistle past his nose. His back foot touches the ground and he lunges forward. Right hook connects, smashing the man in the face, and carrying him into the second attacker.
A train wreck; the men and women from that direction pile into or trip over one other as they try to reach him.
Yoshiki's kicks the man's chest forcing the pile of bodies backwards, knocking even more people over, before swiftly twisting to the side. He brings his fists above his head, and clasps them together.
A cultist rushes up to him from behind him.
Yoshiki's hands fall. Like a sledgehammer, they smash the man into the ground.
The rattle of metal, and a black chains swipes across the ground towards Yoshiki's legs. Jumping, he lets the coil of metal links whip beneath him. The chain quickly disappears back into the crowd of people around him; like a fisherman reeling in an empty hook.
Three more cultists charge him again; two women, one man. The man slams into him. A rugby tackle that pushes him to the side, but not over.
Yoshiki's knee slams into the man's face and he spins the dazed individual into the path of the women. They knock their partner aside and charge; one from the left, the other from the right. The spark of electricity crackling in stun-guns race towards him. Catching the wrist of one, he spins under her outstretched arm, avoiding the second stun-gun aimed at his face. His elbow slams into the second woman's chest as he passes, knocking her over. A stamp to her face knocks her out, and he twists the first woman's arm behind her back. The weapon clatter to the floor, before being crushed under his heel. She cries out in pain before being dragged across the floor into the path of another cultist's blow.
Throwing his human shield into the ground, Yoshiki steps back; panting, eyes scanning for the next move.
Suddenly, the plain clothed cultists in front of him part. Yoshiki tenses.
"Raaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! ! !" The man in white appears behind him. Hidden among his underlings, the leader bursts out. Distraction successful, he swings the black chain again at Yoshiki's back.
Yoshiki guards with the bag. The chain smacks into it; the sound of metal clonking against wood. The black links quickly wraps around it, and surge around his chest like a snake.
A spiritual item (Reigu). Items imbued with a spiritual effect; the effect of a life, engraved into its meaning. This chain is one of them. Its function is binding. The misery and despair of the victims bound by it are engraved as a spiritual memory. Those who touch it will experience the same thing; the loss of freedom followed by the loss of life.
The leader smiles.
Yoshiki winces. The chain wraps around his arms, then slams them into his chest. The links knot themselves around him; tightening, squeezing. Grimacing, he glares at the man holding the chains.
"Those reactions don't work against non-lethal attacks, do they?" He yanks the chain, causing Yoshiki to stumble. "We know your weakness, Kishinuma Yoshiki."
"Weakness?" Yoshiki grins.
Even though his brow furrows in pain. Even though he is bound, unable to move, and surrounded by blood thirsty cultists, the corners of his mouth turn upwards.
"You don't even have an idea what a weakness is."
Chains shudder, then glow. Red, the color of the light coming from them. As if dipped in magma, they glow and warp.
He rips his arms his frees, black and red links of chain shatter like glass.
Spiritual energy, the currency of fate, overflows. Effect is overwritten. Meaning is deleted. The curses of a hundred wretched souls are blasted to pieces.
The man in white pulls back, shocked. Shattered pieces of chain trail from his hand and fly through the air.
A single moment, as if the world stood still, and a cloud of dust explodes from where Yoshiki was standing.
"Wha-" The man's exclamation is cut off. The chain he holds yanks him forward. A foot slams down on his toes. Then, a fist smashes into his face, breaking his nose. As it slides past, the chain pulls him in again.
Something hard smashes into his face, an elbow. His front teeth break, hurtling to the back of his mouth. The elbow slides past his face, and grey eyes meet his.
Yoshiki finishes his one armed attack with a swipe to the side. A backhanded swing with his fist like a hammer, concussing his opponent. The blow causes the chain to be released, and he steps off the man's foot, only to deliver a kick to the midriff.
Body turns to bullet as the unconscious man spirals into another.
"Don't show me shit that pisses me off." Yoshiki sighs, holding his head; heavy from the memories he received from the Reigu. The same events that gave it its function were transferred to his brain. The only thing keeping him sane was his familiarity with death. Being killed was normal to him. It was the only way he could go forward.
"My boss likes it when you can talk." He glares at the remaining members, stunned by this. Familiar faces from the memories stick out from the crowd; tormentors, betrayers, murderers. "I might not be able to pull my punches at this rate."
The bag shifts off his shoulder.
The ties holding it closed come apart.
The handle of his weapon slips out.
Blue. Blue light flows around him. His grey eyes close as plumes of spiritual energy twist around him like tongues of flame. Fate. Life. Probability. Possibility. They pool and swirl around him. The routes he can take, the ways he can go. All of them converge at this point.
His eyes open, and he steps forward.
Wreathed in sky colored flames, his body turns blue, almost see through.
Then, it distorts.
One steps becomes two, then four.
His image splits.
Yoshiki after Yoshiki walks out from him as he steps forward. Each image takes a new direction, a new path. One body for every opponent. They lift their weapons, wreathed in the same flames that now makes their bodies and clothes.
Blue streaks race across the ground, leap off the walls, and plummet from above.
Spiritually enhanced limbs tear their footing and split the air in front of them.
The crack of cloth whipping through the air, as his jacket trails behind him. The crumbling of cement and wood under his feet. Those sounds are the only ones in that instant.
The first image reaches its mark.
Lifted blade races down to its target, and the image solidifies. Probability become reality, and the flesh and blood Yoshiki cuts off his targets arm. The metal sword turns back into flames, and the image fizzles out as the next probability reaches its target.
One after another, Yoshiki replaces the probabilities.
His blade cuts off limbs, stabs through organs, and severs blood vessels. One strike. That is all he can spare, all each probability can manage.
His images dodge and weave around each other and the cultists; only focused on the single target given to them.
Three images race towards five targets.
One crouches down for a moment, and shoots upwards into the air above them. Kicking off the roof, he dives past the five, and cuts off their escape.
The second image continues forward before bending backwards under a pipe swung by one of the cultists. Turning the movement into a slide, the image slips through the legs of the man behind the swinger. Yoshiki replaces it at that moment, and slits open a vein in the man's thigh. The image disappears, and the remaining two leap forward.
The one in front side steps an attack, and stabs at his targets his head. Yoshiki's blade replaces the possibility for an instant, gouging out an eye before returning to the realm of probability. Howling, the blinded man crumples to the floor, not even noticing the rest of the blue blade passing through his head, harmlessly.
The final blue Yoshiki stabs his target in the stomach. Becoming real for an instant, the blade misses all the vital organs, merely cutting through the fat and tissue in between intestines.
The remaining two barely have time to understand their situation before their hunter fall upon them. One from the ceiling which he bounced off of, another from the side. The cultists fall; a stab through the shoulder, and a missing hand robbing them of the will to fight.
The final image fades away in blue sparks. Only Yoshiki stands where he was a few moments ago; weapon undrawn, eyes closed.
A sigh. He exhales tiredly, and lowers his weapon. A hand reaches for his head and grips it. Brow furrowed in pain, he stands there with all his might. Among the bloodied bodies, he holds his head in pain; re-organizing the multiple routes he just experienced in his mind.
A slow clap, sarcastic congratulations, ring. Ignoring the groans and sobs of the defeated, a man appears. A hooded black robe hides his face and flows from his shoulders. A thick brown book is tucked under his arm.
"Impressive." He pauses to in the middle of room.
Yoshiki glances at him from the corner of his eye. "You're the fucker who keeps killing me at the ambush."
The man pauses, allowing Yoshiki to turn towards him.
"You use magic, don't you?"
White teeth gleam from the hood.
"You Grave of Maltuva groups always have a mage with them. A spy in your own ranks, so branches don't go rogue."
"I would prefer you call us shepherds." His hand takes the book out from under his arm.
"Shepherds?" Yoshiki smirks. "Where were you supposed to lead your flock to? The slaughterhouse?"
The man takes a step forward, and opens the book. "You'll regret saying that."
Yoshiki pulls the weapon to his waist, and clips the sheath to the carabiner on his belt.
The world darkens. An alien logic overflows; laws of nature and logic twist. A different perspective, a selfish viewpoint.
The man's cloak lifts, as if blown by a strong wind.
"Bring it." Yoshiki's mouth stops smiling; knees bend, eyes narrow.
Paper rattles as the book rapidly turns its own pages.
Words and letter detach, merge, and grow. A black mass of thoughts and information congeals in front of the mage.
Blackness bursts, and a monster is revealed. A living Picasso painting. A human caricature. Impossible by both biological and physical laws, its body makes no sense at all.
Bulbous eyes the height of a man reflect him, twisting his image just as much itself. A needle thin neck trembles violently, supporting the massive head.
A mouth opens. Rows upon rows of square teeth flow down a red throat. Fat lips are pulled tight by its gaping jaw.
"HMPH!" A grunt, and he spins to the side. His fist whirls around him, and smashes into the cheek of the monster. It plows past him, crashing into the floor, carving out a crater and swallowing it.
"Tch…" The mage clicks his tongue and another monster emerges. Distorted humans drip from the book like mucous and slime. Liquid bodies solidify as they land on the floor, allowing them to stand.
"So… this is the way you see the world?" Yoshiki smirks and shakes his head. "Might wanna get those glasses checked their bub." The head behind him twitches. "Or is it contacts?"
The sound of crumbling cement. The head behind him splits open.
A mouth hurtles towards him. Teeth, gums, and a bloody throat burst out of the skull of the head; a bloody worm made of human organs.
The monster in front of him charges. Webbed hands and feet reach for him.
Tortured screams in front and back, mouth and limbs quickly following.
Twisted flesh block him from sight. The mage smiles.
An explosion, and a wind bursts from beyond the monsters. Flesh squelches and slides apart as red blood hisses out. The bisected creatures crash to the ground.
"What's wrong?" Yoshiki stands, weapon drawn in one hand. "Don't look so surprised." He smirks. "Magari can go at least ten times this fast."
The mage bites his lip, and the book trembles in his hand. Feverish eyes glare at him from beneath the hood.
"Ah, my bad. Knowing that a 'traitor' and a 'heretic' is stronger than you really pisses you guys off, doesn't it?"
The book sparks, and another layer of magic overflows. The world darkens. A sphere of shadows expands from it; past Yoshiki, swallowing the world.
"So…" The swords rises, before pointing at Yoshiki's target. "Here comes stage two." The hand holding the hilt tighten.
An explosion of flesh. A flood of blood and gristle, and a horde of monsters race towards him; a stampede of insects, worms, and people made of organs.
The sword rises above his head, and Yoshiki steps forward. A whistle and a blur. The blade turns into a semicircle of silver followed by brown, black, and skin colored streaks. The first creature, a fly with a sphincter for a proboscis and livers for eyes, splits open on one side. The blade swings again as he rushes forward. A centipede made of spines is severed in two. Every step blasts him forward past the mage's familiars. Every swing widens his path towards him.
The mage sneers, and the world groans.
Yoshiki continues charging; too fast to be attacked, and too powerful to be stopped. The monsters from behind can't catch up, the creatures on the side hit each other instead of him. Only those that stand in his way pose a threat. Sprays of blood erupt in crescent semicircles behind him.
"Kuh!" The mage raises a hand over the book and a pile on intestines erupt before him. Another wave, and the tubes of flesh writhe before becoming a wave of worms. Red, black, and purple tubes open black mouths, and flood forwards into the path of the charger.
The blur stops, after images catch up, and Yoshiki glares at the obstacle in front of him. He can't avoid it. He can't cut that many at once. A roar behind him, and his eyes look left and right. The creatures that couldn't catch him surround him. Everywhere he looks the red, yellow, and purple of raw meat surround him.
A finger lifts and rests upon the trigger on the handle. He raises his weapon and blue spiritual energy swirls around him.
A horde of worms in front.
A gang of Picasso people on the left.
A giant skinless hand, wide as he is tall, on the right.
A millipede made of limbs behind him.
His thoughts accelerate. Plans are made. An answer is found.
He kicks back, gaining distance from the worms; the threat he can't deal with. Spinning as he swings behind him, his finger pulls the trigger as the blade digs into the creature catching up to him.
A portal opens; cause and effect connect, and manifest within the boundaries. The monster freezes for a moment, then splits apart. Red jets spurt out in sequence as a thousand cuts crisscross its body. Every segment that makes it, every limb connected to it is slashed. Like a smashed statue, it crumbles into pieces.
"Wha-" The mage steps back as his creatures continue attacking.
Yoshiki turns and swipes downward. The massive hand grabbing at him touches its tip, and he pulls the trigger. The small cut widens, splitting the hand down the palm, and races down the arm; as if an invisible blade was running through it.
Two threats taken down, he streaks forward again. Picasso people are slashed apart or knocked aside, as he charges the mage again. The worms move to intercept, and he grimaces. Lips move, reciting an old mantra. A set of 9 words taught to him by an old friend.
Spiritual energy surrounds his blade and condense. Purifying heat builds before bursting into blue flames. He swings, and pours the spiritual energy that charged his limbs into his most trusted mantra.
Blue light turns the world black.
Hot air blasts past the mage, forcing him to take another step back. His arm shields his face as the hood is blown back.
Feeling the heat pass, the mage throws his arm down. Face twisted in rage, he sees his perception of the world broken. A clear line of black in the red, and in the middle a single man with a katana bent over and breathing heavily.
Yoshiki picks himself up, and looks the mage in the face.
"First time I've gotten this far." The man with the sword matters to himself, scratching his head.
The man with the book grimaces, and raises his hand over the rapidly turning pages of the book.
Grey eyes narrow, and Yoshiki springs forward. He leaves no afterimage. Only his limbs propel him forward. The last spurt. The final dash. He has cut through his enemies defenses, but his enemy has also removed a lot of his strength. Arms pump and legs kick. His breathing grows more and more labored. But, the distance between him and the mage doesn't grow any smaller.
Yoshiki grimaces, and stops running. He's seen his ending, and knows it's useless. The mage will win. That is the only outcome before his eyes.
Magic(魔法). The law of Mara.
The re-writing of the rules nature to one's wishes.
This world is the world of the mage. His fear of others and disgust of people is symbolized in every part of it. Everything in it is disgusting, horrid, and rotten. Humans are merely monsters carrying ugliness inside of them. Their outsides are as twisted as their insides. In this world the saying, "Hell is other people" is no longer a figurative term, but a physical rule.
Yoshiki has already seen this world a number of times. He has already been killed by it. That's why he can avoid it; why he is still alive.
The book in the mage's hand continues turning its pages endlessly, converting its user's traumas into a weapon.
Yoshiki glares at it before sighing.
"You seriously that scared of others?" He looks back at the mage.
The mage smirks, and laughs. "You can't reach me! Nobody can! NOBODY!" Spit flies with his words. Fear, disgust, and hatred swell into the book.
"True, with you shut-in that far, even an ICBM couldn't reach you." Yoshiki snorts. "You're so scared of everyone and everything, that you put an infinite gap between you and the rest of the world. Then, the Grave came to your family and took you off their hands." He sighs. "Are your parents and little brother here as well?"
The mage grimaces.
This world is the world the mage wished for. A world where everything was ugly as he believed it to be, and where none of it could touch him. But, his magic merely portrays this world, it doesn't make it. The objects here aren't made by him, merely molded into the form he sees them to be, and lashed to his will as slaves.
Sighing again, Yoshiki scratches his head. "Seriously, I don't know whether you got bullied or victimized or hurt, but this ain't forgivable."
"SHUT UP!" The man with the book roars, face almost as twisted as his slaves. "THE HELL DO YOU KNOW! NOTHING! YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT ME!"
A sad smile plays across Yoshiki's lips. "Yeah, I don't really know anything about you. Just fragments and emotions. This borrowed psychometry isn't for counselling, after all."
That ability is a weapon; a weapon to figure out his opponent. In a world where one's mind can become a weapon, understanding it can reveal a weakness.
The sword lifts again, only to be slipped back into its sheath. "To be honest, I don't even care. You're not the only one suffering in this world. You just happened to be the one the Grave could get their hands on." His knees bend, and he rests his right hand on the hilt; preparing to draw. "I could wait for you to starve in there, but I don't have the time." A small click rings as he squeezes the trigger, connecting the two stones hidden inside the hilt again. "Sorry, but I'm ending this quickly. After all, I'm not paid by the hour."
The mage sneers, and waves his hand over the book. His world responds, and its unwilling occupants collapse upon Yoshiki.
A single swing. A single draw. One blade blasts out of its sheath, and shatters a portal between two alien worlds.
A buzzing sound begins. The creatures around him explode; hundreds of cuts slash them to pieces.
"Wha-?!" The mage steps back.
The cuts continue. His world is sliced apart. The land of flesh spurts blood as lines appear on them like the hair line cracks on a cracked window.
"Kuh!" He puts a hand over his book. More monsters exit it, swarming towards the source of the cuts. However, they never make it. A storm of slashes rip them apart, continuing outward towards the mage.
Teeth bared, eyes wide, the hooded man concentrates on his magic; the reasoning behind his world, the logic that makes it work. The social gap he felt between society and himself has turned into a physical space separating him from everything around him. A complete shut-in. That is his true nature.
He wasn't like this from the beginning. At first, he was just your garden variety shut-in. Bullying at school followed by a lack of understanding from home caused his mind to crumble. Losing the ability to deal with the outside, he chose to hide from it completely. There, his fear of humans grew and grew, cementing itself in his mind.
His parents were desperate to get him out, but didn't know what to do. Thus, in their ignorance, they hired a counselor to fix their son for them.
That counselor was a member of the Grave of Maltuva.
Magic is distorted; the re-writing of the laws of nature. Thus, only distorted individuals can use it. The Grave of Maltuva works with both magic and spiritual abilities. But, to experiment with magic, a person capable of using it needs to be found. Thus, they use counselors, spiritual healers, and mediums to find the odd and socially isolated. Why bother looking for what you want, when your can get them to come to you?
Convincing his parents that their child needed to be put in a facility, the boy who would become the mage was taken to the Grave of Maltuva. There, the grudges and fears he felt towards the world were grown and nurtured by the Grave. Scene after scene of human horridness were played before him. Some he was forced to watch, others he was made a participant.
A few years later, he was returned home with a single brown book; the grimoire he currently holds before him.
The mage's teeth clench, summoning up the feelings of isolation that caused him to be chosen.
As social animals, true isolation is not something humans instinctively want. A few moments alone in a day may be necessary, but the alienation of the entire world runs against instinct. However, the mage's mind no longer has those thoughts. After all, he is alone; there are only monsters in this world.
The space between the mage and the invisible blades before him grows; an endless gap between him and the cuts. However, the spreading wounds accelerate. They cross the growing distance in the same amount of time. Even though the space between them is supposed to be increasing, the sprays of blood and cracking bones do not go away.
Bearing his teeth, the mage does the only thing that his magic allows him to do. The gap widens, separating him further from everything. He retreats further into isolation; the world he sees. The distance between him and everything else grows to infinity. But, Yoshiki's attack slashes that endless space to ribbons. No matter the distance between the mage and the cuts, the time for them to reach him draws ever closer.
This is the S-slash, Yoshiki's strongest ability. An insane number cuts merely cutting for the sake of cutting done within the void of the Nirvana; a world with no concept of space or time. Where and when something happens is meaningless within that place; an infinite number of years crammed inside a single moment. The failed ark of time made by the witches that became their eternal prison. There, a single swing doesn't occur before or after another.
By smashing the portal to the Nirvana, Yoshiki connects the object he cuts to it. His swing shakes the boundary between dimensions, opening the smallest crack between them. The worlds overlap, spreading the events from one into the other. Thus, the cuts connected to his actions are released in a single moment upon the object. The culmination of an obscene amount of practice and effort, purely to perfect his swordsmanship.
The monsters he slashed only saw a brief release; a small part of the swings he stored. The events that occurred in an unknown point in time were realized in that instant. Thus, the monsters were cut to pieces with a single swing.
And now, the thing he has cut is the mage's reality.
The slashed up world is superimposed upon the mage's magic. A world on top of another world, taking the same place and the same time.
Superposition. That is what the 'S' stands for. The overlapping of two events, one on top of the other. The void of the Nirvana, filled with the strikes done by a single man, collapses on top of the mage's world. The mage cannot run, and he cannot hide. The stronger he makes his world, the further he buries himself into Yoshiki's.
Mighty winds surrounds the mage; air pushed apart by a billion blades. His robe billows around him as the storm of slashes approaches.
Swearing, he slams the book shut, before brandishing it before him like a shield.
The attacks hit. Flying sparks grow into streams of lightning as blow after blow slam into the book; the object creating this world. It is a grimoire, a tome made of human skin and souls; the source of the mage's power, the reason he can use magic. He is just the mold; the one who gives the magic to shape, the grimoire is what does the magic.
"It's like a disk drive." Said Aiko to Yoshiki over the phone. "Magic is made of three parts; want, understanding, and knowledge. Want gives it shape. Understanding lays out its operational method. Knowledge provides its foundation. Without these three, magic is impossible. These new grimoires the Grave has been using take over the understanding and knowledge portions of magic. They do all the mental processing the caster of the magic would have to do, literally playing out their owner's wants. Of course, since they're all based off of the Book of Shadows, the only thing they actually work on are people's traumas and fears. In other words, the only thing they can do is to spread the anguish one feels to others. Get me one, and there's a nice bonus for your troubles. Incidentally, I've heard from someone that there's a Grave ambush team preparing to go after you in the still ruined section of the city. Spring their trap early, and collect their book."
Now, that book accepts the full force of Yoshiki's swings. The empty world full of monsters crashes against the void full of cuts.
The mage growls. The arm holding the book shakes. Cuts and tears appear on his skin and clothes as the howling winds from hundreds upon hundreds of sword strikes scream around him. His mind struggles to understand what is going on. He commands the book to search for an answer, a method to dispel this attack. If it is a magic or a spiritual ability, then the book can dispel it. It can read the definition and the methodology, deciphering the workings before breaking it apart. However, this is neither. Each swing is just a swing. A physical force that follows the laws of nature. No magic is necessary, and no spiritual ability is required. The only thing special is the volume and the density; the number of attacks happening in a single moment, the compression of multiple cuts into a single swing. There is nothing to dispel and nothing to stop. Thus, the book finds no answer, and merely shields its master from the storm.
Cracks spread across its surface, like cement under a jackhammer. Blow after blow break it bit by bit. Chips of human leather and paper are blow away from it like sawdust. Black words spill out of it like smoke. Thoughts and concepts bleed out and splatter the mage's trousers and shoes in large drops of sticky ink.
A scream, not from the mage, but the book itself. It cries out in pain, then buckles. Its spine breaks and a deep gash opens up in the middle. The bite-mark of a Japanese blade goes half way through it, almost reaching the other cover.
The mage steps back, letting go of the broken book, and his arm comes apart. Fingers split apart as they open up, strips of flesh and cylinders of arm fall off. The cuts stop at his bicep as the magic ends. The connected worlds disappear, returning them to the abandoned building.
He screams as he clutches the bleeding stump, then something slams into him. The back of his head hits the floor. His consciousness begins to blur, before a foot stomps down the remains of his arm. Another scream followed by an even higher pitched one as something hot sears the bleeding stump shut.
"Sorry, but that's the only way I can stop the bleeding." Yoshiki steps off the mage's bicep and pulls away the red hot blade. "Since the books all busted up, I need to give that woman at least something. Can't exactly show up empty handed, even if I can kiss that bonus good bye." A tired sigh comes from him as he scratches his aching head with the hand holding the cooling katana. "Thanks to you I'm completely empty. Gonna have to restock my cuts again." He lowers the blade and glowers into the shadows. "Which is what you were waiting for, wasn't it?"
"Clever little doggie, aren't you?" A woman steps out of the shadows, a large scythe hangs loosely in her hand.
"You're the only reason Niwa would ask me to do this instead of using her usual guys." Yoshiki turns towards the woman.
Midzuki Magari smiles slowly. The doll like girl is gone, replaced by a seductive woman. Red lips part, showing perfectly polished teeth. Long blond hair flows down her shoulders and ample chest, helping her skimpy uniform cover her body. Blue eyes, opened wide, stare at him.
"You're also probably the one who informed Niwa about this thing as well." Gesturing towards the fallen grave members only widens her smile.
"That ability is annoying, even if it can't kill me." She takes a step forward. "Thanks for taking care of my little problem."
"If you want the book there's not much left." The sword lifts, and points towards her; the hilt firmly held with two hands.
"Aiko's the one who wants it." She takes another step. "I just want them to lose it. Whether it's to Aiko or to you, it doesn't matter." Her movements are silent, graceful, and powerful; like a panther or lioness stalking its prey.
"And Niwa sending me is just a bonus?" Yoshiki watches her calmly.
"Not really." She twirls the scythe lazily in her hand. "I planned for her to. After all, who else can she send that has survived multiple rounds with me?" Another step, and Yoshiki tenses. He's in her reach, her attack range. "Although, such overconfidence can be dangerous."
"God, Niwa owes me for this one." Sighing, Yoshiki closes his eyes.
The sound of wind, something rushing through the air. He opens his eyes, and the image of Magari swinging the scythe down on him is reflected in his eyes.
Sparks explode between them.
Blade scratches against blade.
Another deadly dance begins.
A duet between the sword and the scythe.
"Ugh…" A man in a ragged and torn brown jacket brushes some dust out of his hair as he slams the back door of an expensive looking car behind. A thick cloud of the same dust billows from the collapsing building fading away behind them.
"This real leather?" He asks the suited man in front of him as he takes a seat.
"Of course." A woman's voice answers from a TV screen. "That's a company car used for expensive guests, Kishinuma-san." Niwa Aiko smirks and brushes a lock of white hair behind her ear.
"Yeah, and with spiritual charms woven into everything in case they resist." He rests his hands behind his head, leaning back. "What sort of damage do you think that inflicted?"
"Hard to say. I've never dropped a house on someone before."
"Having a semi fall on someone from the fifth floor of a parking complex is pretty much the same thing."
"Ah, now that you mention it, I guess an accident like that did happen like that once."
Yoshiki snorts at her fake smile, and shoves a hand into his jacket. "Here." He tosses the tattered remains of the grimoire to the man in front of him. "Magari's maids took the cultists."
"I see. That's unfortunate, but not a problem." A camera whirs as it focuses on the tattered tome. "We won't be able to learn much from this, but that's fine."
"Weren't you worried about them making more of these?"
"Yes, but getting rid of this alone should slow production." The man opens a metal briefcase and locks the grimoire inside it. "After all, that's probably why Magari decided to leak us this information."
"Corporate sabotage." Yoshiki scratches his head irritably. "She used us to get rid of the Grave's new toy."
"Most likely." Aiko nods. "I guess your capture was a sort of test run for their prototype. Losing it will set them back a little at the very least."
"Figures. That mage wasn't like the others." His brow furrows at the memory.
Grave mages are mostly just observers. After all, they're just there to keep an eye on their assigned groups. Informants, snitches, spies; that's what they are. The books they usually have are thinner; their magic, less powerful. They're not meant to fight, or lead. They just collect data on their wards.
No, they don't think of them as wards. Guinea pigs. That's what they are to them. After all, most of the operations they're assigned to are field tests.
The mage he faced this time had a similar mindset to them; one that rejected other people and hid from the world. However, unlike the others, his magic did more than just hide him. It re-wrote the world according to the way he viewed it; his image.
"In what way?" Aiko asks seriously.
"It reminded me of Gore a bit."
She grimaces. "That is worrying."
The two fall silent, leaving only the rushing of the tires and the occasional car passing to fill it.
"If things are that serious," Aiko breaks the silence. "Magari shouldn't be after you too soon."
He snorts. "That supposed to be a silver lining? Anyways, that's only 'cuz she'll be too busy dealing with a bigger danger. It's not that much of an improvement. I only replace Magari with the Grave."
"You have a point." She nods. "Stop by my office. There are a few other things I want to discuss with you. The ministry of spiritual investigation is making a few strange moves."
"It doesn't seem to be. The Grave wouldn't risk the amount of publicity that group is playing with."
"Got it, but I have to leave before two."
"That's fine. I'll have a USB with the relevant data ready for you as well."
The screen turns off, and Yoshiki looks out the window. The car is in the more rebuilt part of the city. Sky scrapers that were half demolished are now mostly repaired or rebuilt. The holes left by the Entity Walls were filled up about a year ago.
The world has begun to heal, but it will never be the same again. His life has also begun to heal. Old relations have been restored. The faded presence he had is gone. However, he too will never be the same again. There have been too many battle; too many scars. Staring too long at the twisted and the unnatural warps you, and his life has been exposed to those two daily for years. But, he continues on.
No matter the danger.
No matter the suffering.
Even if he won't be able to be himself.
Even if his feelings aren't his own.
Kishinuma Yoshiki will keep going.
No matter what.
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