Sarah wasn’t quite sure when Tina had entered the room. During those first few seconds, she hadn’t been paying attention to the door.
From Tina’s fist, the angel screamed, a high pitched sympathy that was as beautiful in its crescendo as it was terrible in its finale. Sarah leaned forward, her nose pressing against the barrier as if it were glass, watching in awe as the angel burned.
“What…” she heard someone mutter from somewhere in the room, although she didn’t really pay any attention to it. “What is that?”
Even those who heard it didn’t seem ready to answer the question at that moment, and Sarah certainly didn’t know the answer. Not the proper answer anyway. It was Tina. Dumb Otsune’s dumb friend who had come from Dumbland, Germany for dumb reasons- Sarah had never listened to the story. And at the same time, it wasn’t her. The growl that she had heard coming from its voice was more similar to that of the gruff-sounding man that worked at the convenience store and knew far too much about trading cards than of the dainty voice of a girl who had only bothered to learn ten words of Japanese since coming here. Not to mention the way her scrawny naked body shambled across the room as rags of flesh burned off her and faded into ash. Right now she was very different from the shy girl that Fujiko always teased.
It wasn’t like these were the only clues Sarah had in figuring that this was not the girl she knew. There was also the fact that Tina had used the red candle that sat in front of the ten year old’s prison to ignite herself, as well as the fact that she had reacted as if her entire body was doused in gasoline.
With the room being bathed with the creature’s flames, she could finally see all the demons that had remained hidden in the shadows. For a second she almost wished that someone would turn the lights back off. Some of the demons were reasonably human- some of them were even kinda cool looking, with large, imposing muscles and clothing that would have instantly made her a fan if they were off some cartoon. The only thing counteracting this being their recently created impotence after the angel had attacked them all, cutting off cool looking horns and spikes at random.
Some of them were a little too freaky though- even for her standards, growing horns and fur in strange places. One of them had even sprouted hooves out of their kneecaps and adjacent to their legs, and another was bleeding heavily from the spores on his now bald head. Some weren’t even human in the slightest and looked like grim mockeries of household items. One was a very warped radiator that had rusted over completely. Another had taken the body of an already deceased horse that had no intention of standing back up. A third one was wrapped in darkness that was so black she felt it had to be called spurgle for some unfathomable reason.
The stupid angel that had attacked Sagara before he was even ready started to fall, its knees quivering as Tina’s ember fist drove through its body like a stake, the stupid god creature’s armour cracking out through his robes. She could see Sagara looking down to his own chest, keeping an eye on the embedded hand just inches from him and cooing to himself. The angel’s whole body was moving around the arm that had plunged through it, turning to something that looked like white flaky ash, dripping to the ground like wet sand from a child’s bucket. Before anyone could do or say anything about it- not that it looked like anyone was going to, the angel had completely disintegrated, his mouth jabbering wordlessly like he was too scared to make a complaint, his robes and weapons disappearing into a pile of cinder and dust below Sagara. The only thing left besides this being two bands of metal that dropped from where the angel had been. They were scaled and shiny, looking to be made from solid gold.
“Took me a while to find you, child of the Futabatei,” the creature said, confirming Sarah’s view that it sounded nothing like the girl who it once was. “This realm is troubling for those of us who see only in flame.” Sarah could see the creature open its eyes to look at Sagara, and cursed under her breath when she saw crimson fire staring out at him from the empty sockets where eyes should have been, blood sizzling down seared cheeks like miniature waterfalls. She was pretty sure Tina had had eyes when she walked passed her.
“Excuse me?” Sagara said. He had begun to sweat, and Sarah knew that it wasn’t in fear. It couldn’t be fear with Sagara. It clearly had to be the heat that the monster was giving off. She could feel it herself, although not as much through the strange barrier.
“You have been annoyingly persistent. It seems that no matter where you go, there is always something stopping us from having the little chat I’ve been wanting. Even my own plans have been getting in the way. But now,” it shouted suddenly, slamming its barbequed hands against the wall, Sagara’s head in between. “Now we have plenty of time to chat.”
From the hallway outside, Sarah heard a small noise of something hitting the far wall, disrupting her attention from the creature just meters in front of her. She inched towards the far end of the barrier to try and see if she could see. Sakura had dropped to the floor, her eyelids stretched wide, her pupils diluted. She was barely moving, her breathing had become as shallow as it could possibly be and her throat was locked tight.
Good, Sarah couldn’t help but think. The stupid moron deserved it. Betraying Sagara was unforgivable. She still couldn’t believe how quick the girl hadn’t hesitated to offer her assistance to the angel, volunteering to get Sagara for him. The angel had been full of crap too, stating things like ‘time is of the essence’ and ‘I shall inform you of everything you need to know about your soul mate later.’ He was clearly just using her, probably wasn’t even a real angel, just a kick ass fighter.
The large, bulky demon stepped forward, shaking its massive head as if just being freed from hypnosis. On his shoulder, the small woman who spoke at the same time he did pulled out a small knife. Maybe the angel wasn’t as kick ass, she thought, if it couldn’t get every weapon. They spoke together again, the man’s voice as incoherent as ever.
“Who are…” was as far as the woman got when all the air around them ignited. Filling the room like water in a jar, an inferno poured from the creature as it stood in front of Sagara, its hollow eyes never looking away from him. Sarah found herself falling back as her view was obscured by the white fire that filled the room. She only just got to see the business woman jump into the passageway in time, though she couldn’t see if the flames follow her or not. Hearing the screams, the girl watched the demons in the moments she could see, shattering her ears with horrendous shrieks, seeing their warped bodies quickly being stripped away by the white hot inferno before her view became completely masked by the firestorm that had erupted, a small grin feeling up her face as she watched them perish.
Her breath wheezed slightly, the fire was burning away the oxygen, even behind the barrier that was proving to be her saviour. The magic candle in front of her was not dropping a single dew of wax even as the extreme temperature threatened to boil her blood.
Then, the fire was gone. All that was left was black ash, slowly drifting to the ground like lint in the sunlight. The room was empty, with no one left save herself, Sagara and Tina.
She could see the woman was still by the door frame, standing there with her eyes darting about and a hesitant step back into the room. As she watched her, Sarah remembered about Aki and spun round. She let out a sigh of relief to see the girl still alive, although bleeding quite badly from her forehead, the blood trailing mere feet from Sagara and the creature.
Like it was unaware of everything that had just happened behind it, the creature brought its head to Sagara’s, the eyebrows of the ninja slowly singing from the heat. For some reason, although she could feel the heat as well, Sarah could now smell the monster. She held back a near uncontrollable urge to vomit and was reminded of the time when Sakura had accidentally dropped the rotten chicken meat behind the bin instead of in it and how the next morning the kitchen was completely unapproachable. She starting coughing like a cat with a furball, doing her best to prevent anything from coming out. Sagara was also having the same problem, trying to jerk away from the decomposing body before him.
“Don’t move, woman,” the creature said suddenly, not looking away from Sagara. It lifted its arm off the wall and aimed it at the woman outside the door, who had been slowly stepping further away from the room, Sarah guessed because of the smell. “I had plenty to fear from the angel, I have nothing to fear from you. Be clever and you’ll live.” The woman seemed to hesitate for a moment, before giving up and doing as it said. She nodded without a sound, and Sarah noticed she seemed to be sweating more than Sagara.
“Good,” it said appreciatively, its face betraying no movement as it continued to gaze at Sagara. Sarah wondered for a second how it had even knew she nodded but then it spoke again. “Now, child of the Futabatei…”
“Sagara,” Sagara said. Sarah nearly laughed, before closing her mouth shut tight again, her small hand encompassing her nose so as to not let anything in.
“What?” the creature replied, its tone sharp, obviously not expecting such a casual interruption.
“My name’s Sagara, just in case you didn’t know.” The creature paused for a second, before answering with a warm fury.
“And why should I care what your name is?”
“Well, it’s polite, and saying ‘child of the Futabatei’ is a bit long winded, don’t you think?”
“Are you actually being serious?” the creature replied, its tone deliberately steady. Sarah felt like pointing out that he was. “This, from someone who can’t even remember other people’s names without having to be constantly told. Natoko had to remind you of hers twice, Otsune four times. I’m betting you don’t even know this body’s name!”
“Should I?” The creature flinched and took a moment to look away. Sarah found herself with the distinct impression it was counting to ten.
“Sagara then, if you are so insistent,” the creature acquitted, her breathing ragged. “Now, Sagara, as I was saying… you’ve been persistent. It has taken all of my resources just to plan this window of opportunity for us, and yet I’d wager you haven’t even noticed my presence once until just now. Let’s enjoy it, shall we? Our little time together. Let me fill you in on the bits you’ve probably missed out on, during your little initiation ceremony.”
“Go on then,” Sagara said lightly, making Sarah, as well as probably everyone else, wonder as to how serious he was actually taking all of this.
“First,” the creature began. “And you pay attention as well, woman. I’m sure you’ll find this interesting.” The woman remained motionless. Sarah felt like she had walked in on the last ten minutes of a film. “It was I who brought your little friend Natoko into this.” From her collapsed state on the floor, barely visible from where Sarah’s annoyingly angled barrier, Natoko seemed to twitch slightly. The kendo freak looked a mess, even worse than Fujiko did on certain nights. Her hands were clutching her broken sword tightly between them, its once pristine blade cutting deeply into her skin.
“I set it up, the fight between you and the girl, causing your little alliance. Ever since I found myself in that small village where the former base of your clan stood, I knew about that girl’s presence, as well as her strength. She is much stronger than you, Sagara. Only when focused, and especially when angry, but still, much, much stronger.” Sagara said nothing, and continued to watch the demon. Sarah was furious. How dare it say that kendo freak was stronger than Sagara? He beat her with ease when they fought.
“I needed a shield for you, you see,” the creature continued. “I needed someone strong to protect you, so you would survive long enough for us to have this conversation. I had found the chest containing my dear little sister in a few months back, but I had no way to open it. It could only be opened by a Futabatei that wasn’t a Futabatei you see. One who isn’t of the direct line. So I chose your grandmother, a little old woman who ran a dormitory for girls. I possessed the body of one of them and tried to infiltrate the place, but when I revealed myself she let herself die rather than reveal anything or help out.”
I had to kill your grandmother in order to make one of them show up before you did, and then wait until the day you arrived to get him to a place where he could open it. It was very annoying and, I admit, more luck that he wandered into the attic and found the chest. He was able to release my sister. And then she could possess your little shield.” The creature seemed to stop to wait for Sagara’s reaction to this, but Sagara kept looking on with a small smile on his face, like he was being told a story by a grandparent.
“I…” the creature stuttered for a second, its flames dying slightly, watching Sagara’s expression before it caught itself again. “I knew that my sister would only possess a girl, and a strong one at that, and I knew you would notice and seek to free the girl, at the same time recognizing her strength. I know you, child of the Futabatei. You like the strong ones.”
“You did it again,” Sagara pointed out. Sarah swore the temperature in the room increased for a split second, the monster doing its best to ignore him.
“She was alongside you a lot after that,” it continued, growling like a dog as it did so. “Fighting by your side as a samurai should, well,” it coughed what sounded like it was supposed to be a laugh, “her view of a samurai anyway, but always protecting you none the less. I was a little worried when you faced the Riddleklutz. I was stuck in Heavenly Springs in my role as Tina until the next day and didn’t learn about it until afterward.”
“Tina!” Sagara shouted. “That was it. You’re Tina… or were anyway.” He became quiet at the end of his sentence, realizing that he probably shouldn’t have spoken up like that. The flames on the top of the creature’s head seem to wave slightly as he said this. Sarah looked at him, her right eyebrow arched slightly as she squeezed her nose tighter, the smell becoming no more tolerable than before.
“The samurai girl fulfilled her job remarkably well, even if she was constantly suffering from teenage angst the whole time. She eliminated sixteen demons from the Battle Royale with but a swing of that sword, thus preventing them from harming you, and I disposed of those plotting against you directly. I had perhaps expected a bit too much from her though, although she was probably able to defeat the Zworak demon, her pathetic angst prevented her from doing so. It was just pure luck that Yuya had made plans to screw the demons over anyway, and placed that cripple in the tournament to stop any of the candidates from reaching the finals where they would have easily defeated you. After that, it was a simple matter to destroy all the losers, well, except the BlNiock demon, but he’s been handled now as well.” From the doorway, Sarah saw Yuya scowling, shifting her body weight from left to right as her eyes remained glued on the back of the demon thing’s head.
“Don’t get so hot and bothered, woman. Wasn’t your plan to eliminate all the demons after the tournament anyway? The angel too, as well as the False Balance members that came here. Pitting them all against each other and have them wipe each other out, a true Battle Royale. I just thought I’d help speed things up a little. I already killed off all the other hunters, the ones you had supposedly disposed of for the demons, when actually you had them waiting nearby to prepare a little war. Now, there’s just this one left.”
“I never planned to have Sagara killed,” the woman replied defensively. “And you killed the angel as well. That’s going to cause problems.”
“As much as I doubt both your points, why should I care?” the creature replied derisively. “I have what I want now, and that’s all that matters. My careful social engineering has all paid off. A free moment with a defenseless Futabatei, who can finally answer my question. The answer to which I have been searching for so very long, since I first found myself released.” The creature slammed its hands hard into the wall around Sagara and started to set it on fire.
“Now tell me! Sagara Futabatei!” it roared in excitement. “You will answer both my questions! You will feed my curiosity! Where is the village of the Futabatei? Where has the Onikage been sealed and hidden?” Fire spat from the creature’s mouth straight into Sagara’s face. “Where is my little brother? You will tell me!” The room burned a little more with each strike, the demon screaming with a stub for a tongue. Sagara’s eyebrows were gone now, as the creature looked right into his eyes. Sarah was confused. This demon was trying to find Sagara’s village?
“Not telling, don’t know and don’t know,” Sagara replied, listing the answers instantly. He stopped to think as he said this, his head tilting to one side, as if he had to make sure he got the answers right. “Also. That was three questions.”
“Lies!” it cried out, slamming its charcoal covered fist into the boy’s stomach. Sagara lurched with pain. Sarah resisted the urge to scream out for him. “Tell me!” It punched him again, and the ninja sunk further into the wall, his body now merged with the wall. Sarah wondered for a moment exactly what would be behind the wall. The angel seemed to imply something different than simply the next room, but she had no idea what.
“I…” Sagara mumbled, spit dripping out from his mouth as he took a deep breath as the creature took hold of his chin, its incandescent fingers scorching his cheeks.
“The three questions are one, Sagara. I only need the answer to the first to lead me to the others. If you tell me where your village is, I’ll let you go.”
“I can’t tell you that,” Sagara said, as if it were classified information. “I promised not to.” The creature’s free hand slammed into his gut, staying there for a few seconds as it burned the skin under his jacket. For the first time, Sagara’s face crunched up.
“I will not have you ruin my brilliantly devised plan with stall tactics,” the creature barked, continuing to spin its knuckles into the abs of the ninja. Sagara shot out a round of air, clearly not intending to. “Tell me.”
“I told you, I… can’t,” Sagara insisted, desperately inhaling for air, as the creature forced its fist into him again, pushing him back a little more. “Mom would kill me.”
“I will kill you if you don’t tell me,” the creature snarled, but in a matter of fact sort of way. “This is a limited window of opportunity, Sagara! When the timer hits zero, I intend to burn your soul. Now tell me, I won’t have my genius wasted on your stubbornness.”
“It was hardly genius,” a voice stated from behind them. So shocked the creature seemed at the intrusion, that it twisted its neck back to look who it was, bones cracking as it didn’t bother to bring the rest of its body with it. Sarah looked too. Only the woman was standing there, dripping with sweat. Only the woman had spoke. However, she now spoke with a smile.
“I told you, you would live, woman,” it began. “Do not ruin it by insulting me. My plan was foolproof. It has eliminated all threats to myself, and allows me to speak with this boy. Only the girl and yourself are currently in a state to fight, and there is no way either of you could defeat me.” From her corner, Sarah grimaced, wishing she could rip this wall-thing down and throw it at the creature’s face. She wanted so badly to break out and punch and kick and slash and bite the monster that was hurting Sagara. This wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. He had attacked Sagara when he was unable to fight back. The wall was still solid though,denying her her wish, however Aki had got through it still remaining indecipherable to her.
“For centuries I have searched for a Futabatei, only the name being enough to go on. Rumours transpired that my brother was trapped in their village, and I soon found it to be true. So I searched for many moons to find one of you, and then the grandmother came into my sights. But when I tried to get her to reveal the information, she died in front of me. But I knew another would come, so I waited.
“But the second who came was useless to me, an indirect descendent of the Futabatei, blessed with the charge of taking over his grandmother’s business. I could only use him to recruit my sister, whose prison I knew could be freed by only this false Futabatei. It was just this time I learnt of the Initiation from the demons, ones that you had spread the news to, in hopes that I now see were to eliminate them all with promises of power.
“With this news I bided my time, waited for my sister to be set free, amassed a list of all the demons and finally possessed this body when the stoolie here finally arrived.. Then, all I had to do was wait until it was safe.”
“Why didn’t you just possess Natoko yourself?” Sagara asked.
The demon stopped. “Excuse me?”
“Natoko is stronger than me,” Sagara began to explain. “If you had possessed her you would have probably won, or found a way to lead me away temporarily from Heavily Springs to a place where you could have interrogated me without anyone else interfering. You wouldn’t even have had to get the demons or angel or even your sister involved.”
“Your plan was dumb,” the women laughed unmercifully. “Pointlessly complicated, like you’re trying to impress someone with your genius. It would have even worked if you had just ran into Heavenly Springs, killed a few of them and held someone hostage.”
“I…I needed him worn down. After so many fights, his resistance is lessened.”
“Actually I’m at top game at the moment,” Sagara stated. “The Nuets healed me. And if that was true you should have struck after my fight with Natoko. I was exhausted by that point.”
The creature squeezed Sagara’s jaw slightly- a noise, like pottery cracking, could be heard amid the sputtering of the creature’s flames. Sagara gasped. Sarah told the woman to shut up, but muffled her own voice as she did so, her hand still trying to protect her from the smell.
“You’re clearly an amateur at this,” Yuya continued, unconcerned. “Scared for your own safety, you did nothing but ran round far too many of your own hoops. You even had to wait until Sagara and Sanguine were both subdued before you dared step in. Now you waste time taking credit where credit is not due. Your use of tactics is pathetic”
“And you think you could do any better, woman?” it said scathingly as it now watched only her. “From what I can see, you’re doing nothing but stalling. Hardly the best move with someone that can scorch you where you stand.”
“Hmph,” Yuya snorted with a light smirk. “Believe me when I say I am the one in total control here.”
“Smart words, woman,” the creature said. “But useless, I can sense your sweat from here. It’s pouring off of you in buckets, literally draining onto…the floor.” It glanced down, Sarah’s eyes following it. There was water everywhere, spilt out all over the floor, like someone had left the tap on in the next room. Her eyes darted around to try and figure where the water was coming from. There was no reflection from the light outside in the passageway and she couldn’t imagine this demon dimension to be prone to leaking. The water had just clearly appeared, for the demon found its presence quite remarkable in just being there.
“What by the…”
“Let me give you the first line in the Balance’s rules of engagement in Geo-modern political infrastructures and dramatically conflicts, as written by Futabatei Tenma” Yuya said, with satisfaction practically leaping out of her voice as she spoke. “Always prepare for a Deus ex machine, and always bring one.”
All at once, the water that had spread across the floor flew up, rising several feet into the air and lunging itself at the burning creature. It immediately let go of Sagara, using its hands to try and block the wave coming over it. The creature was doused completely as the water overwhelmed it and extinguished all fires, the force of the abrupt torrent knocking the creature to the floor.
The creature wasn’t too slow to react though. As it fell, it rolled over its shoulder and flipped back onto its feet hopping out of the way and diving to the far side of the room. It quickly stood back up and looked to Sagara, its head already burning again, as the rest of its scorched body followed.
“Wait there, Sagara,” it said mockingly. “I’ll be with you in a moment.” It punched the air in front of it, almost like it was sparring with itself. Directly in front of the fist, the air ignited, traveling along in a line towards the woman. She watched, arms folded, as the water jumped in the way, dissolving the flames instantly, a trail of steam rising up to the ceiling.
The creature stopped, looking amused with the situation from what Sarah could guess. It struck its fist out again, and watched as more water spat out before the businesswoman, smothering the mini inferno that the creature had created, more steam trickling up to the ceiling.
Another strike, then another. Three times it struck, and three times the water snuffed the flames out. The creature let out a laugh, jumping high to grab hold of the ceiling, its hands going through the material like it were paper, before turning its entire body straight at the woman. She leapt out of the way, the liquid waiting behind her, engulfing the creature yet again, and extinguishing its flames as it closed its eyes to the surging torrent that slammed into it.
“My Shariku Insana System was onto you the second you stepped foot near Heavenly Springs Dormitory five months ago, creature. The only thing that kept you safe was my Great Aunt’s curiosity at what you were and what you were going to do.” The creature fell backwards onto the floor, apparently exhausted from the blast of water straight to its face. It lay on the ground as she hovered over it, cautiously keeping a small distance between them. “If I had known it was going to be a pathetic plan like this, I would have…”
The creature reignited once again, almost scorching the lady and boiling the water that it was sitting in so fast that it quickly turned to steam and floated up above it, giving the creature time to grab the woman and slam her against the wall.
“Fire against water seems like such an unfair fight, doesn’t it?” the creature stated, as Yuya struggled in its arms. Without even looking, the air behind the creature changed once again and filled the entire room with flame save the wall where Sagara and Aki were. The second the fire disappeared, Sarah could see that the entire room had been turned into a sauna, the steam that had once been the force of water now warming the room while it wafted through the air.
“How is it doing that?” Sarah mumbled to herself, as she saw the steam waft to the top of the room. Sagara was looking as well, as he rested within the hole in the wall. “Oi Boss!” Sarah shouted as she saw him. “Get out there and help her already.”
“Oh right,” Sagara said, as if he had completely forgotten he had anything to do. He began to struggle against the wall, his limbs flailing madly in any direction they could. The material that the wall was made out of, which, as Sarah touched it, felt like really think plastic, seemed to have melted back round Sagara and set in place as if he had always been there. The ninja struggled almost convulsively, but could not get any momentum to force himself out.
Sarah looked round the room, hoping to find something she could suggest for him to use. If only this barrier wasn’t in the way, she could help him. The creature was now talking to the woman as he held her, taking his time to mock her efforts.
“My flames burn at a temperature of a three hundred and eighty three kelvin, you see. Although I can choose to regulate it, that’s the average, hence why I was able to evaporate this water you were using.”
“I see. So you can actually make it so that your body doesn’t burn people when you hold them as well, preventing you from killing instantly.”
“That is exactly right. You see I am able to-” Yuya kicked the creature’s side with her spare leg, the one that wasn’t trying to climb up the wall to give her space to breath. The creature dropped her at once as it squealed, causing the steam to follow at the same time, splashing back into water as it hit the ground, covering the demon for another round. It scrunched up at the last moment, hiding its face, as the woman ran off to the other side of the room.
“Yes yes. You’re able to regulate the heat of your flame from ninety degree centigrade to around a maximum of three hundred and ninety two. But you can’t go any lower than ninety unless you shut it off completely. I know all this.”
“I’m stuck,” Sagara told Sarah, still rotating his wrists like he could magically unscrew himself out of the wall. Sarah looked around again. Aki was clearly still unconscious, but the other two were definitely awake. All they had to do was pull him out while this Yuya woman distracted the monster, right? She called out to them.
“Oi, morons,” she shouted harshly, hoping to grab the attention of Sakura or Natoko. The girl’s mind seemed to have collapsed on her, now just sitting there, hands clenched on the floor, back stiff against the wall, as if there were a deadly insect slowly moving up to her.
“Sakura!” She wished she had something to throw at the idiot, to knock her out of her stupor. This could be the girl’s one time to redeem herself for betraying Sagara and she was spending it in a self induced coma.
Sparks flew from the creature’s eyes, as it was mystically engulfed in an inferno again, the water dancing around the room dropped on top of it almost immediately. Growling in frustration, it leapt forward, covering the room in one jump as it threw its whole weight at Yuya’s face. She screamed out, a clear cut merging on her cheek, as her glasses shattered to the ground, her body following them, the creature straight after.
“All you had to do was be quiet, woman,” the creature stated. “Stay unconscious for a few minutes. You’re needed. And I’m running out of time.” It got up, twisting to face Sagara, the muscles on its legs looking like they were ready to eat and someone had already tried to chew on some of it.
Sagara didn’t see. His eyes were closed, his head rocking back and forth as he slammed it repeatedly into the wall behind him like he was trying to break either one or the other.
“Stop,” the creature commanded, grabbing a handful of Sagara’s light brown hair, almost scalping him as Sagara tried to continue. “Stop.” A fist slammed back into the boy’s chest, like an unwanted gatecrasher who wasn’t getting the message. Sagara’s head lolled forward, hanging limply.
“I need you awake, Futabatei,” it said, slapping him reassuringly. “Fall asleep and you’ll never wake up.” Sagara’s head lifted up, looking through the demon with bloodshot eyes. He was slowly looking more and more terrible, as burns were whipped across his face like a hot leather belt, his eyes bloodshot from his own attack. “Where is your village, Futabatei?” It said sternly, holding him by his chin, its other fist pulling back to its waist, ready to strike.
“I can’t tell you. I…I told you that.”
The punch cracked into his ribs, cracking two of them straight out. Sagara’s mouth ejaculated saliva and blood in all directions. The demon didn’t care. “Tell me!” It shouted, punching him again and again, a smell of burnt flesh filling the room as the creature that was once named Tina continued to rush blows at the boy’s helpless body.
“You’re not a ninja, Sagara,” it said, calming down before it killed him. “You’re more important than that. You have a destiny. Don’t ruin it and be a sacrifice. Tell me The Location!”
“I am,” Sagara said, his lips gouging blood as he spoke.
“A ninja…” he said, doing his best to crane his neck at the creature to speak to it. “I am a ninja.”
“Don’t be stupid, boy,” the demon said, its voice almost sounding like it was pleading. “Even if it were important, you have no concept of stealth. You’re a warrior, not a sneaker.” It cringed to itself, looking annoyed that it was being sidetracked. “Tell me! And I’ll let you go. You can go be a ninja or warrior or enforcer or whatever you want. Just tell me where your village is.”
“To a ninja,” Sagara continued, to receive another punch by the creature. “Mom always told me…stealth isn’t the most important thing…” Another punch, then another. Sarah’s eyes were watering now, and not just from the smell. She didn’t care anymore. If she knew, she would shout out the name of the stupid fucking village. He was going to die at this rate.
“What’s most important to a ninja….is being cool.”
The creature stopped punching, the crimson fire in its eyes seemed to expand. Its head tilted slightly, Sarah’s head was doing the same, and she could tell exactly what it was that it was doing; looking for what Sagara had done, for his cool plan. Neither of them could see anything.
The monster seemed to decide he was obviously bluffing. It also didn’t seem to want to take the risk. The flame in its eyes subsiding slightly, its fist threw itself back as far as it could go without detaching itself. Sarah watched as Sagara’s eyes clutched tightly together, his forehead looking like it was trying to implode upon itself before his stomach was hit again. The creature’s fist flew at him like a cannonball, sailing across the surface of the air and hitting him dead on in the chest in a flash. Despite himself, Sagara cried out, drool dripping from his mouth, as the wall behind him finally gave in and collapsed, knocking the boy threw it.
To Sarah, the next bit was almost too fast for her to comprehend. Sagara seemed to do… something, that let him grab hold of the wall as it fell apart around him, the vacuum behind him sucking out most of the air in the room as it did so. The creature’s fist, which had hit Sagara at full power had also knocked the creature off balance just a little bit. It was all Sagara needed. Grabbing the smoldering wrist of the demon, somehow ignoring the pain he must have been feeling, the ninja pulled himself up, onto the monster’s shoulder and all the way over him, flipping over its head as his hand bounced off its scalp.
Landing on the other side, his foot slipped on the moist floor, taking him to the ground in a second. He made no attempt to get up.
The demon caught itself, grabbing a hold of the remains of the wall. Another step, Sarah thought, and it would have fallen off the side. Now however, it was the only one left in the room still able to fight. “And what was the point of that?” the creature said mockingly. “You don’t exactly have a tactical advantage…despite how clever that was just now.” It sounding like a retard trying to be smart to Sarah. The demon wandered over to the ninja as he lay on the floor, bleeding through burn marks. He tried to kick at its knees, his foot hooking round to tap the back of one of them.
“Heh, and what, pray tell, was that?” the monster snarled, raising its foot, and smashing it into Sagara’s knee. “Thinking you were clever, huh? Thinking you could escape. Let me tell you now. There is no time for escape, or for thinking. Just answer my question. Tell me how to get to your village so I can rescue my little brother and I’ll let you go.”
“What?” Sagara replied weakly, his head, unable to lift itself off the floor.
“Your mother fought and sealed him away, eighteen years ago, that much I know,” the creature said, appearing to believe that there was still time to try and convince Sagara. “I do not know anymore than that. All I want is a chance to convince your mother to release him. And I can’t do that if you’re dead!” Its voice was agitated now, sounding even gruffer than before as it shouted at Sagara.
“Sorry,” Sagara said, as he continue to lay, almost completely motionless. “But whether I die or not, it won’t change anything. Mom can’t unseal a demon once her technique’s complete.”
“Don’t think you can lie to me,” it called out, grabbing the limp body in front of him and shaking it wildly. Sarah called out, but did not even hear her own voice as the steam cleared up off the barrier. “I don’t care about whether or not she thinks she can do it. Me and my brother aren’t actually demons. I’ll make her do it. Just tell me where the village is!” In its rage, the monster dropped its body weight, the one hundred and fifteen pound corpse dropping onto the knee that had just been crushed.
“Sorry, but I won’t,” he said, letting out a nervous giggle. “Mom’s even scarier than you.”
Sarah looked on, her eyes glued to the scene in front of her, as the creature fell pitifully to its knees, like a puppet with strings cut, its skull like features looking down at Sagara as if it were about to cry. “Isn’t it reasonable? Just the location of the village. I don’t even intend to fight. I just want to ask. I just want my little brother back. Please… let me have him back, before time runs out.”
For a second, Sarah thought she heard something, her ears pricked up slightly, ungluing her eyes from the scene as she did so. A constant beeping noise was traveling across the room, and for the first time she noticed a small digital watch lying next to the door frame. She blinked at it a few times, then turned to look and see if anything else in the room knew what it was about.
“No!” the demon called out, turning to face the watch as its hand burst out. “Not yet.” The outstretched hand balled into a fist, as it looked back at the body before it. “Tell me! Now.”
But it was pointless, Sagara had already passed out, his energy drained completely. He started to snore loudly.
“Tell me!” the demon cried out, its voice booming throughout the room, as it raised its fist high into the air, undoubtedly planning to strike Sagara one last time, to kill him as it said it would.
“Even if he wanted to,” a voice said, as the stream in the room formed to clutch the wrist of the monster. “We would not allow him to. That is the task Ms. Sakimoto has entrusted me with.”
“Go away!” the creature shouted, barely turning to look as it unleashed another burning inferno. It slammed into the water spirit with such force that it knocked the woman through the red candle and straight into Sarah. She gasped like a rabbit who hadn’t seen the car coming, seeing the wall break up to crack her in the forehead, the steam and water dowsing her.
Everything went fuzzy. She felt something on top of her. But it quickly melted away. Sarah just groaned, her eyelids drooping, barely seeing Tina jumping off of Sagara.
She just wanted to be back in her room.
Time passed. A dream of a rabbit ended prematurely.
“My…my sister?” someone said in the darkness. “What are you doing here?”
Sagara…Sarah wanted Sagara. To see him. To play with him. He hadn’t paid much attention to her since coming here.
“Is she okay?”
“Ah, she’ll be fine. She’s strong.”
“Only thing that breaks a candle barrier is water. I knew that. I should have been more careful.”
“Well, she’s still breathing.”
“It seems the one that came with you is gone. What about yourself?”
“HHhhmm, don’t suppose those Neuts are still around?”
“I wish you wouldn’t call them that.”
She had been wanting to play with him, ever since he had shown up, but he had always been training when she saw him, and she had to stay hidden the rest of the day or else they’ll find out she wasn’t going.
“Quite ironic really, if it had kept asking a few moments more it might have gotten the answer. I’m going to keep these, by the way.”
Metal clanged against metal.
“Remember them. You’ll need them when the time comes.”
Every time she had wanted to ask him, he had been surrounded by everyone else in that stupid hotel. It wasn’t fair, why couldn’t she just have him to herself for a few minutes? She didn’t want them staring as she asked him. They’d laugh and prod fun at her. Why was she asleep again?
“…am the negotiator after all. If you think I was just going to go let the Enforcer’s heir be killed…”
She felt something warm brush against her arm, lifting her up as she rolled over to get comfy in it. The body cradled her gently, lurching for a moment, then continuing to be comfy.
“Oi, are you sure you’re going to be okay carrying her like that.”
“Well, we have to leave soon. We don’t want that angel returning.”
“Didn’t it die?”
“I couldn’t tell.” A short laugh. “That’s why I want to leave.”
More movement. Sarah liked this. It reminded her of the times her father used to carry her in from the car. She’d pretend to be asleep, and laugh to herself as he swore about having to carry so many things in at once.
“Fix Natoko’s sword for her.”
“Are you sure? This power isn’t exactly the most common thing in the world. It may be best to…”
“It’s her will to have that sword by her side.”
Behind the lids of her eyes, she saw a shadow staring at her, she looked back at it, wondering what it was. Her hand slowly moved out tentatively to touch it, and it lunged at her like a snake, biting into her head and devouring her face.
She squeaked slightly, and then fell asleep completely.
“Thank Naomi for me when she pulls herself back together.”
“That’s not its name.”
“That’s what it told me it was.”
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