“Well, that fight wasn’t too bad,” Otsune commented as the second set of fighters came off the stage. In truth only one was leaving at the moment, the other had already flew off after an high velocity punch had sent him flying, his rather large opponent proving unbeatable without resorting to sniper rifles.

“That was awesome, Definitely the best fight so far,” Fujiko screamed. “I got the perfect angle for that punch.” This was true, unfortunately the positioning of Fujiko meant that Gen had to be crushed as she balanced on top of him in order to get it ‘just right’.

“Isn’t that one of the girls that Sagara was with yesterday?” Aki mused as singer danced over the stage, waving the hand of the winner as he tried humbly to pull away.

“I think so,” Sarah replied as she stared hard at her, trying to remember if she had seen her before. “Yeah, wasn’t she with the bastard that punched through the door I was leaning on? Moron almost hit me.”

“Huh?” Otsune muttered, as she overheard the conversation. “Why was he punching through the door? Where were you guys yesterday?”

“Demon dimension,” Aki bluntly answered as she tried to pick out where Natoko was.

“Demon dimension?” Otsune replied puzzled. “Why were you guys in a demon dimension? No wait. How did you guys get in a demon dimension? No wait again. Why am I even assuming you’re telling the truth?”

“No idea, Sagara never told us…AH!” Aki exclaimed, as she started waving wildly towards the arena. “Found her. Get on her, Fujiko. She’s up next. Woohoo. Go Natoko!” A few of the crowd, easily inspired, began cheering as well.

“Uumm, good afternoon,” a voice whispered meekly besides them. It went unnoticed by most, only Otsune was able to pick it up. She turned to see Tina, scratching her tangled hair fiercely as she tapped her foot impatiently. Besides her, a short, black haired girl stood there, with her hands clasping each other timidly.

“Sakura?” she said in surprise. “You’re here… How did you get here?”

“Found her by reception,” Tina muttered, her obvious need for the toilet overcoming any desire to prolong the conversation. “She looked lost so I led her back here.” Before Otsune could say thanks, she was already running back down the stairs.

“T-tina!” Sakura called out, stopping the girl as she released a frustrated groan to look back. “I..eeerr…um…I.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Tina responded. “You’re welcome.” And promptly she twisted back round and fell out of sight.

“What was that about?” Otsune asked absentmindedly.

“It was…um,” Sakura fidgeted, playing with her skirt. “Nothing much. She just… just helped me out a little.”

“Sure thing.” Sakura never explained anything to Otsune. She probably never would. Otsune still didn’t even know why the little girl would start crying over the tiniest of matters. But she didn’t need to know to be her friend.

“Is it okay if I sit here?” the young girl asked politely, as if expecting to get turned down.

“Sure, sure, sit down.” The much older girl quickly moved some the heavy bags that were covering a seat and placed them on Gen, who chose this moment to have a hairline fracture in his left leg. No one noticed as Sakura moved herself over and sat down. Otsune looked at her concerned. She could tell that something had happened to the girl yesterday, after they got back from meeting with Sagara, but as to what she was clueless. She thought that Aki or Sarah might know, but no one was saying anything to anyone.

“Has…has Sagara been yet?” the girl stuttered profusely. She had probably spent the last few hours sitting back at the hotel, plucking up her courage to just stand up, let alone to come visit them.

“Oh yeah,” shouted Aki, as she finally caught glance of her friend. “You should have seen him. He was excellent. Child abuse for the win!” She stopped talking to slyly gauge her friend’s reaction, to see if she should be insulting the guy instead. Sakura seemed to release a smile on probation at the news, which Aki saw as a good thing and continued to tell her of the fights in great detail, having apparently forgotten that Natoko was about to get on the stage.

Sakura listened, on the one part, but also began to search for Sagara in the arena. She had questions for him, but she didn’t know quite what they were yet. Alexis had been killed, but how did she know he was called Alexis? Why did his mere presence make her feel so comfortable? The thoughts had been troubling her all day, and it was only when the cleaning lady kicked her out that she made her way over here. The crowd screams interrupted her thoughts.


“Hey wait. Wait!””

One comes to catch the other, a winner as sore as influenza.

“Get lost, will ya.”

Despite his words, the shorter one waits for the other to catch up.

“Oh come on. You said you were okay with it.”

“I’m not in the mood.”

“Oh and like you ever are.” The taller one gets to him, wraps his arm around the dark skinned ones shoulders. The dark one resists for a moment, but I sense he is only playing. An embrace of friends. Beautiful.

“It really got to this point, huh?”

“Yeah it did.” They separate, and both stop walking to talk in the corridor. They do not see me. There is nothing to see in me. Creatures such as these can only see me when I want to. It’s how I survive. How my plan survives.

“I guess you’re right then,” the dark one replies. “You are stronger.”

“Hey, we said this,” the other retorts, angry at falsehood. “This match didn’t mean anything. How could it? A tournament like this is an insult to what a fighter is. You can’t say a fight where we can’t even do our best means anything. We need to be able to kill each other without interference before we can truly decide.”

The dark one, I never remembered their names, looks away. I feel the cold drip down cheek bones, a hand heat up as it grips the wall.

“Then, that hurts a lot more,” he says, pain in his words. “It tells me what I knew for years, what I always thought I knew. Even between our acts and tricks. Our fight club cons that we’ve done over the centuries. You are truly stronger than me.”

“How can you-“

“Because I was trying my hardest!” it shouted out, its voice roaring down the corridors. The other one jumps up on alert and stares his friend down. It still can’t see me. I am there as I am not there. I do not exist as they can see me. They will not know. “Because everything I did in that arena I did with the intention of killing you. I wanted to know, wanted to finally find out. That moment that we waited twenty thousand years for, and when it came you weren’t even trying.”

They both fall silent. The bigger one falls back to the act it was playing earlier, scratching its head, looking around nervously, but this time I sense no play being played.

“I may have…thought the same thing.”

“You what?”

“I wanted to fight you too.” He giggles. “How could I not? That’s all we’ve ever been with each other for. I just felt it was wrong to announce it. I felt…like we should just do it whenever. Let the time come without prearranging it. What good is a duel if it’s at high noon?”

“Yes.” The dark one became more alive. “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” That’s great, because I don’t. “Fights should be random and spontaneous and without thoughtful planning. They shouldn’t be like play. They should be savage and unnecessary and tear at you like a wolf.”

“And make you feel dead and alive inside, as your nose feels like its gushing blood and your stomach just wants to vomit but you hold it all in so you can release it on your opponent.”

“And your opponent doesn’t care because, although it’s unplanned and unfocused. Crazy and wild and pure….”

“He feels the exact same thing the whole way.”

They stared at each other, craning their necks to look into the other’s eyes, then they fell into each other. Embracing passionately. They merged with each other like vanilla and chocolate ice cream, melting into the other’s arms and becoming a one that was beyond fighting.

“To think the divine one was right all along. We should have listened sooner.”

Had they just realised their love? Or was it something that they had shared many times before but only now truly appreciated? I couldn’t tell. All I could tell was that I had now incinerated the leg off the tall one, and it took him three seconds to notice.

“K’Tung’lik!” the dark one cried, as his companion fell to the floor, wailing as the Kotodama threatened to break. The tall one held on, and the dark demon turned to face me as darkness bathed him in royal light, taking the skin right off his borrowed face before he could even approach me.

“Boom boom boom. I want you to go boom. Why is this song in my head? Oh how I want you dead.”

The one now lying on the floor began speaking, but I was too busy singing to notice. A blade protracted from his mouth, only millimeters thick but longer than he length of his body. He charged to impale me, and both were gone as he fell into my wall of fires.

“You…you…” the dark one said, the reality of the events overcoming him.

“That’s right. No ambiguous mist floating in the air. You all know what that means ladies and fisherman.”

“B-b-“ His fist clenched. He was bleeding a liquid that wasn’t blood out of it.”Bastards!”

“Oh boy, aren’t you stupid?” I tell him, the boy not listening because he’s charging right at me screaming profanities. “Or, as the Japanese would say, stupid!”

I raise my hand, releasing white death upon him, but he’s not there. He’s behind me, his feet faster than they could have been, his body aimed entirely at my head. There is no dodging in that one second. No time to escape. All that’s left is for gravity to have him fall into me and incinerate yet another of the demons that threaten my stoolie.

Another scream, and they’re both gone. Ashes blown away by forces beyond all they could have hoped to recognise.

The stoolie has to survive this. You get that as well don’t you, you little spy. You must lead him to the demons for me, so I can burn them all.

You have no choice. It has no choice. Even I have no choice.

I need it for what I need.

So then I myself can play forever.


Natoko shuffled around nervously. It was time. Her fight was next. All she could feel was her heart trying to hide in her stomach and her hand tingling over her sword. She had the advantage of being one in a crowd last time; anonymous and indistinguishable. But already she could hear her reputation growing, her name being shouted out in the bleachers, getting louder and heavier as more joined in. She felt the weight press upon her shoulders, her knees wanting to give out.

“Where the hell is Sagara?” Her lord had wandered off at the end of his fight, possibly to rest up. He had missed the last fight completely. At the very least he should have rested up on the sidelines. The nervous guy was strong and even now they had to take a break to clean up the stage, the large crack that ripped it in half being refilled by some very fast brick workers

He had spent the last match trapped round a small circle, so he shouldn’t be too tired. He’d need to move about for the next guy a lot, so his evasive style would help. But his hit and run tactics probably wouldn’t do so well on a flat surface. But…

She was trying not to think of her own fight.

“Where is he?”

“Where’s who?”

“Ah!” she screamed out, seeing her lord behind her, sipping on a fruit juice box out a vending machine. He sucked hard on the straw, getting the last few drops, while she put her spine back in place.

“It’s nothing,” she said, looking back to the stage. The girl who had replaced the announcer after Sagara’s fight hadn’t shown up yet. She still had a few moments. Part of her suggested stretching before the match. Another part suggested turning to stone.

“Your match next, right?” Sagara asked, chewing on the straw.

“Yeah,” she said, not wanting to look at him.

“Do what you want to, okay?”

“I don’t know what I want to do,” she whispered instantly. Turning back, she couldn’t tell if he had heard her or not. He didn’t say anything, and was now looking around for a bin.

“I’ll take it,” a little voice called out from beneath them. She looked down to see the boy called Timothy. Sagara looked at him unconcerned, then nodded and passed it to him. “Do you want ‘nother one?”

“Sure thing,” Sagara replied, and the boy shot off. Natoko watched as he sprinted off down to the corridor.

“So are you two friends now or something?”

“That probably won’t be possible,” Sagara replied.

“Yeah, I guess there is too much of an age difference there.”

“That’s not what i…” His words blurred out of her mind, her body stiffening. From where the boy had disappeared, another had come. It was the new announcer girl, and behind her was the fat boy who was to be her opponent. They couldn’t be ready yet. Surely the cement had to dry or something. She knew it had been quick before but that didn’t mean anything. She wouldn’t have time to…

“Raiko!” Sagara cried out, standing to meet the girl. “You made it,” he paused for a moment as confusion subdued him and read him his rights. “How did you get down here? Do you work here?” Natoko watched as the girl made a detour from the stage, looking like she knew she had to hurry up.

“Didn’t you see me earlier. I was on sta-” She stopped her words halfway through their mission, and reassigned them to toilet duty. “Yeah, I work here. They’re just getting me to announce the fights. Mind if I hang out with you afterward?”

“Sure thing,” Sagara piped, ignoring whatever lies she was having. “By the way, you don’t have that gem thingy do you?”

“The Neutralis orb?” she stated, patting her side. “I have it, but it’s on standby mode. Don’t want to ruin any of the fights.”

“I got your drink, Master Sagara.” In front of them was Timothy, holding out a drink for the demon hunter. He took it gladly and started sipping on the green, alien liquid.

“Huh?” Raiko said onomatopoeically. “Who’s this?”


“I can’t remember his name. It’s some weird foreign language,” Sagara explained, getting Natoko’s brain to spaz out on her. “But he says he wants me to teach him, because I defeated him in my fight.”

“Teach him?” Raiko replied, glancing down at the boy, who smiled childishly back at her.

“Well, I used to know how to fight, but it went recently. Don’t remember where I put it…” Timothy’s voice trailed off as a shadow overcast him. The boy turned round to come face to bulge and was rendered silent by the stare of the fat guy in front of him. He took a step back, dancing back behind Sagara. The fat kid, who must have only been around fifteen, stared hard at Sagara. The boy snorted at him.

“It must have not been that much of a fight,” he commented, observing the previous fighters, “if both of you are uninjured.”

“It was memorable,” Sagara said happily. “Never headbutted the ground that many times in a row before.” The fat boy just snorted again and looked away.

“Weaklings like you shouldn’t be in the tournament,” he said almost failing to contain his anger. “A moron who doesn’t fight for himself that can be hurt by an eight year old, and a one trick pony that can only control its own shadow. Pathetic.”

A silence filled the air between them, Sagara just grinning as the boy glared at him. As the boy went to speak again, Sagara tensed his fist and for just a second Natoko thought she wouldn’t have to fight.

“Right, okay,” Raiko said clapping between them. “Stop right there. I’m the one who decides who’s fighting today.”

“No, you’re not,” said everybody else in unison.

“Well, even so,” she continued unabated. “It’s the samurai girl’s turn to fight, not yours Sagara. So just hold back.” She beckoned at Natoko. “Come on you two. Let’s get on stage. She went off ahead and Natoko started to follow behind, stopping as the little boy spoke.

“He’s right, isn’t he?” the boy said solemnly.

“Who is?” Sagara replied.

“That big guy!” Timothy cried out. “I didn’t know what I was fighting for. I can’t remember. That’s why I lost.”

“You lost because I beat you.”

“But don’t you have the same problem? You weren’t fighting to win either. I could feel it. You were just fighting because you had to be there.”

“Well there is the secret mission. But I don’t see how that relates to this.”

“But shouldn’t you?” the boy cried out, looking ready to cry tears of desperation, like he was trying to reach for something in the darkness. “Shouldn’t you be willing to bet what’s important to you? Shouldn’t you have to? Because that’s what everyone else is doing!”

She wasn’t.

She had nothing to fight for in this match.


“And now! Yamanaka Natoko!” The audience burst into fanfare, as screams and cheers erupted into the arena. And she knew, somehow, that in the middle and top of that cheering were Aki and the others, watching on.

She didn’t really have to do this, did she?

“Have fun,” Sagara said pushing her off. Before she knew it, she was on the stage, and the match was beginning.

“Fujiwaru…Hayate…wasn’t it?” Natoko asked, as she got up on stage. Just looking at him her nerves were blasted away, replaced with a confidence in the knowledge that she could fight. Her hand already gripped tight to Iziz, she was ready to spring forward and strike when the opportunity presented itself.

She just…didn’t know why she should.

“Be quiet woman,” he said rudely, disregarding whatever comments she had to say. “Let’s get on with this. This stepping stone is taking far too long for one such as I.”

“Stepping stone?” she said angrily, insulted not just at the words, but the breath they came from. She gripped the handle of her weapon tight enough to draw blood, as if it were a fish trying to break free from her clutches, and waited for the countdown. The second it finished, she was all too ready; the weapon left its sheath at the same time as the klaxon. It took but a millisecond for it to reach its target, the jawbone of the one called Hayate.

It missed completely, causing the girl to stall forwards at her own force, her opponent disappearing like a mirage. She glanced behind her shoulder out of reflex, but saw nothing there either. As strange as it seemed, her opponent had completely disappeared. Turning she waved her katana sideways hoping to catch anything that was moving there. Nothing was again, but this time she saw her opponent, ducking underneath the blade. Not waiting for him to do anything, she allowed herself to be carried by her sword’s momentum, out of harm’s way.

The boy stood back up again and just smirked, apparently not intending to attack in any way. A ravenous monster came out of Natoko’s mouth as she charged at him, growling heavily, sliding her sword back into her sheath and straight out again in the same second. As he stepped to the side, with as much effort as one would yawn, she twisted the sword at a diagonal arc to strike at his rib cage. This time however, he merely leaned to his right to avoid her blow. Natoko didn’t stop there and went riding on the wave of her own strike. She turned the sharpened blade back around and went to clout for a third time and, not caring for how he reacted, pushed her body weight forwards with the intention of ramming him with the hilt.

A wasted effort.

Nothing had hit him again.

Her frenzy began to peak as he just stood there, seemingly amused at her actions. She took a step back and replaced the sword back into its resting place. She watched him silently for a moment, as he stayed standing, before striking at him, the distance between the scabbard and his face covered in a blur as she began to make stabbing motions. Ten strikes all missed his face by millimeters – then twenty by three seconds and finally thirty before she had to stop, all energy spent in five seconds. Each one should have hit him;  at the very least, set him up into a position where the next one would strike. He looked bored.

“I make a point of letting my enemies hit me at least once,” he scoffed. “Could you stop the warm up already?”

“What? You dare?” She faced him full on again, ready to take whatever he could dish out. Whatever happened next slammed into her with the force of a small train, cracking one of her ribs. She drooled over his fist, which had somehow hit her even when she was looking at him. The next moment, he was three feet back, standing as if a statue again. Her knees buckled to gravity, the pressure too erratic, and she fell. The girl had to question for a moment whether or not he had just hit her, for even the pain rupturing through her body didn’t seem proof enough.

“How on earth did you get so far?” he asked her, sounding honestly concerned about the truth of the situation. “Was it all just luck? It seems impossible that an angry little bitch like you could last this long.” She stared at him as he said this, the anger he spoke of only growing with his insults. Her rage burned as if it were to evaporate her own blood. Staring him down like an animal she watched as, for some reason, he started to move around her slowly, appearing shocked of something. She didn’t care for what he was doing, and stepped forward, ready to strike as blindly as before. She saw him go to step away, but this time she saw him! As he started to sprint to the right, she caught him with Iziz and her blade cut through his thick flesh.

His speed kicked in, and the burst sent him flying. He traveled the length of the arena and ended up a heap on the floor. As if unwounded, he spun back towards her, still ready as if never scratched. Natoko, her growls subsiding, focused long enough to realize he hadn’t been injured. Her sword had cut through him, but something else was coming out besides blood.

“Sand?” she whispered through heavy breath, as she saw the grains begin to ooze out of the boy’s rib cage. It came out like a waterfall, giving the impression that either the boy was made out of the little grains, or he wore an armour of them. Judging by his expression, one of anger rather than pain, she guessed it to be the latter.

“What did you do just then?” he shouted out her, sand continuing to jut out as he did so. “How did you hit me, and from that distance?” Natoko questioned it herself. She knew, now that she had calmed down a little, that he had been far enough to get away at his speed. Yet he had been moving slowly for some reason. Natoko dismissed his words.

“Don’t make excuses for your own mistakes,” she called out boldly. He stopped at this and, rather than become further offended, cooled down again and gave a snort of superiority.

“You’re right. It hardly matters, I guess,” he swung back into a fighting stance. “Especially since it made your own defeat quicker.” Her eyes widened as he smashed into her, as if he had just fired himself from a gun and covered the full twenty meters in a split second. She would have fallen out of the arena right there and then, but something blocked her in the shape of a knee. She saw nothing, but she could only guess it to be the boy again, whose speed had allowed him to get behind her the instant after his own attack.

“I’m not through yet!” he bellowed, though she could not she where from. She slammed hard into the ground and felt her nose crack, the rest of her body following, her sword leaving her hand and sliding a few feet away, just out of reach.

“To hit me, even my training armour….” Hayate whispered, as he appeared on top of her, again as immobile and free of exhaustion as before, “and then to say it was my mistake? Unforgivable! Even if you do somehow leave this arena alive, this will be your last day as a warrior.”

Natoko ignored all this. She didn’t care about what he was saying. As she looked up, blood exploding out of her nostrils as she did so, she saw Iziz, just a foot away and nothing else. She reached for it, the metal so far away.

Hayate slammed his foot back into her ribcage as she squirmed, not intending to let her get away as he continued to shout at her, trying to claim his superiority when it was not necessary to do so.

Natoko failed to hear him, instead reaching for her sword all too far away. It hurt. The pain from her stomach alone was excruciating. Never in all her training, from the kendo matches to Sagara’s sparring had she been hit like this. No one ever got a chance to. Her face oozed pain and it was hard to tell if she was just bleeding or if tears were joining the mix.

Why was she putting herself through this pain, this humiliation? Was it because of her training? No, she had no desire for competition, nor a wish to prove herself in such battle. Was it for her honour? No, she may have been a samurai, but her own code was not designed to maintain her reputation at all times. Was it because of Sagara? He may have given her the ticket, but a rematch was irrelevant to her and his orders didn’t require her to win.

Then why was she fighting this battle? She asked herself a thousand times over, as Hayate started to pummel her with his fists. The bruises, the whelps, the cuts that came as the skin gave up, she had stopped feeling them, her body numb. Even as she knew she was being hit, her skin tightly bound armour ripping apart at her blows. He was laughing dominantly now, as he reveled in his assertion of strength. He struck again and again, menacing blows that were now cutting into her ribs. By luck alone, the only thing that had been slowing him down was the fact that his arms were not as strong, nor as fast as his feet. It was like they were that of a normal twelve year old boy and not of this boy that resembled a bullet more than a teenager.

None of this mattered to Natoko, who was sitting focusing on her sword alone. Her mind was no longer on the fight, as if it had gotten out a moment again and was now sitting on the side, thinking existentially. She just couldn’t think why she was fighting in the tournament, why she was here on the floor, being beaten and humiliated in front of people she didn’t know, in front of her friends, in front of Sagara.

She didn’t want to fight him. She had no reason to fight him except for a mild dislike. And she would not let that turn to hatred and ruin her.

Then you know what to do.

But everyone’s-

It doesn’t matter. Only he will hate you for it, and it’s the only way to beat someone like him.


You know there isn’t a reason to fight, and you are so far beyond the fruitless act of winning against a Pride demon.


You’re my Carver. You exist to survive!

She knew what the voice meant, and she found herself agreeing on it as the best course of action. With renewed vigor, she came back to reality, instantly feeling the pain in her ribs from the earlier strike. She did not care for it though and gripping her sword tightly spa round and slashed wildly at the boy, cutting into his forearm. The boy, who had sensed the attack coming, reeled back and put his arms up to defend himself. The sword dug into his muscle, no sand left to protect him there and embedded itself, until both jumped away.

“What?” he complained once again, to the attack he had missed; his own, red blood now pouring out of the wound like the sand did from his stomach. In front of him, the samurai girl stood up slowly, almost falling down again from the pain. Determined, she turned to him and stood, straight up, facing him eye to eye. For some reason, he did not take this moment to attack, even after she slid her sword back into its resting place, presumably for another strike.

“There is no point to this,” she told him, her words determined as the blood dripping from her lips. “I give up.”

The boy paused. “E-excuse me?”

“You heard me.” She turned to the announcer girl. “I give up. I forfeit my right to continue.”

The arena fell to a hush, Hayate was frozen in shock, the words traveling further than she thought they would. As nothing more happened, they started to close, far enough for his brow to become furrowed with anger. The announcer girl looked flabbergasted, fumbling to grab her microphone again to officially end the match. Natoko, having said all that she needed to, went to walk off the stage, remaining as tall as ever, doing her best to hide her wounds so that she wouldn’t worry her friends.

“You dare turn your back on me?”

The boy’s knee slammed into her like a stone through water. He landed on the other side of her like she was a fly on the windscreen.

Her eyes immediately gave out as the air ejected itself from her system the back of her head hitting the floor even as she remained standing for just a brief second, before her entire body catapulted into the air. For an eternity her nerves told her she was flying upwards, though she could feel nothing to prove it, save for her head jerking painfully as it collided with something solid.

“That type of attitude gives you the impression that you thought you could beat me,” something explained coldly to her as her backbone twitched separately from the rest of her. “A pitiful human like yourself could never beat me.”

Holding Iziz tightly, nothing else happened.


Sagara, still on the sidelines, stood up and ran over to Natoko. Raiko watched, holding her mouth and quickly waving the Nuets over. The swordgirl didn’t look all too good. Her eyes were open, and staring at him vacantly, her tongue sticking a lot further out than it should be. Dropping to her side, Sagara faced the once fat boy was just standing there

“There’s no point,” he stated. “She’s not dead, but she will be in a m…” The arrogant words of the boy were interrupted as a foot slammed into his jaw, completely dislocating it and removing three teeth. He fell hard to the floor, instantly unconscious, his African attacker not even looking at him as she screamed her friend’s name and ran over to her.

“Natoko!” Aki called out worried, trying to reach her best friend, tears streaming across her face, as she checked for a reaction off her friend. There was none, she was only just breathing lightly, her own tongue preventing air from entering her mouth. From what Raiko could see, she already wasn’t breathing.

“Get back, Aki,” Sagara said calmly as he looked behind him. Three of the people in white suits that were littered around the arena were running up to them, insisting they get out of the way. Aki hadn’t heard them, and Sagara had to physically grab her before they reached the nine-tenths dead girl and pull her out of the way.

The lead Nuet, a man with no hair, fell to his knees in front of her and slammed his hands into the swordgirl’s chest. It looked like he had hit her hard enough to break even more ribs and it wasn’t until a white glow emerged from his hands that Aki stopped screaming and stared, finding herself mesmerised.

“She was possessed by a demon a month ago,” Sagara stated in a level voice. The bald man said nothing, but the glow started to turn a light shade of gray in response. His fellows meanwhile, an old lady and a man with a tail that looked more monkey than fake, stood at either side of Natoko, and slammed knives into the ground around her, before each drawing a semi circle that met where the other began. As they finished this, they knelt down, and with their hands to the ground they began to chant.

The chant was impenetrable. They muttered it unconsciously, the words reverberating around the silent arena for fifteen seconds. Just as Aki was about to get worried, clinging feverishly onto Sagara’s arm trying to get him to release her, the glow coming from the bald man’s arms shot out and ignited the circle in the same green glow. All three of them jumped away, and although only Sagara would be able to see it at first, the fire of the gray glow slowly sank into Natoko’s solar plexus.

Soon, it was gone, and Natoko bolted upright, finding herself reasonably shocked to be alive. She spun round, and Aki bolted from Sagara’s grasp to hug her friend in joy, any signs of worry now completely gone. The swordgirl looked around, ignoring the gymnast’s affections. The medic’s had moved onto the boy and, although less dramatically were doing something to get his teeth back into place.

“How am I alive?” she asked anyone willing to listen. Aki was just nuzzling her friend’s neck like it was the only thing that mattered at that moment. It was Sagara who answered.

“Energy summoners; we call them Nuets” he stated, looking as relived as he could be. “They can summon the energy of the three primal forces and bend it to their selfless desires. They used the white to regenerate your injuries, and the gray to purify the demon influence.”

“What?” she replied, cantankerous at such a nonsensical answer.

“Because you have no wounds,” he repeated. She was about to inquire into an explanation that ran between spiritually clinical and just plain obvious, when she felt a rush of energy behind her. The medics had finished, and the boy was standing up again, ignoring the healers. The three stared hard at him, as he observed them, now completely uninjured, and without his heavy sand to restrain him, even the wound she had thrust into his forearm had gone. Both Sagara and Natoko prepared themselves, and it was only Natoko’s grasp that stopped Aki from charging him on the spot. For some stupid reason, they waited for the obnoxious boy to make the first move.

The boy snorted, turning round to walk back to the waiting room. Raiko sighed heavily from the side and could not help but be grateful for this response, though she was more than prepared to fight him if chose to attack the one who had blindsided him. Such was her job. She relaxed, as did the others next to her, save the little girl who tried to take him out from behind again, stopped by the swordgirl. The rest lasted but a second, as she saw Sagara step up and step towards the sadistic speed child.

“Oi,” Sagara called out, his bellow catching the boy’s ears as he reached the doors.

“What?” he said with an annoyed snort, as if being near them and having to talk was incredibly weary.

“Win your next match.”


Melissa felt like something strange was happening, like everyone she knew and loved was laughing at her while purple robed people stood in front of them, stabbing each other to death, merely to confuse her at a time when she was sure she was right. This feeling usually only aroused itself when she was on the right track to something.

Why couldn’t these damn demons just all get the same hotel room? It wasn’t anything special to separate your forces as such if they just wandered casually from one building to another wearing pink shirts anyway.  This new hotel room was on the other side of town, but the corridor looked identical.

With a growl in her stomach she wandered up to the cleaner they had been following as he fumbled round for his keys and knocked the man straight out using her elbow and the base of his skull. He fell to the floor with a thump and no further objections. The urge to remove his neck to keep a loose end clean was abated. With the big guy following her and stealth required she didn’t really need screaming to occur.

Instead the big guy sniggered and threw the sleeping body over his shoulder, the broad piece of meat being enough to carry the pink shirt without problems. With the keys in her hand, she unlocked the door silently and crept in.

The place appeared lavish at first. It wasn’t an upscale hotel they were in, but this apartment had a small lobby for them to step quietly into and put the body down. As they entered, It was immediately obvious that the place had been stripped. There was no fitted carpet, no paint nor paper on the walls and especially not pictures. There was no drawers to place your keys or knobs to hang your coat and further in it was only more of the same. No chairs. No beds. No dressing tables. No kitchen. Only a toilet and a sink were left of the original room, with lawn chairs and a cheap metal table with food scattered across it amid glasses of half drunken water, dust and a few scrap sheets of paper. The last place looked rather cozy compared to this place, and that had been made of ashes.

Stepping into the next room the closest thing that showed something lived here was a mattress and a phone. Whatever was here was only intending to stay for a few short days. Ironically, the place was clean and fresh, the wooden floorboards looked safe to walk on; even the mattress looked brand new. This made it feel a hundred times worse than if it was broken and dilapidated. Something was here, and extremely cleanly despite no need to be.

But no one was here, and yet, she felt there should be. This instinctual feeling was enough to tell Melissa there was probably was something powerful hiding. She made herself invisible again, creating a hard illusion to look round the room for her. Observing as it stalked around the room her life like figure slowly went around the five-room apartment. The kitchen and bathroom both came off as empty, the only thing significant being the state of the fridge, which had crumbs scattered around it and empty bags of bread inside (the bread was sliced, and came from America according to the packaging). The two main rooms that appeared as a leisure area were clean too. Although, upon closer inspection, the floor of the first was worn down slightly, indicating that someone was on it constantly. She imagined a fighter with this, constantly practicing his moves, the idea of it being a demon participating in the tournament seemed more and more likely. The floor of the second room had a girl on it, dressed almost royally with legs neatly crossed reading through small spectacles.

With a glance, the girl closed her book in one hand and pulled a large revolver out of nowhere. Blinking for too long, Melissa barely had time to question where the gun had come from when the bullet tore through her, ricocheting in the wall behind her. She dissipated and returned to the front room, where the big guy had bolted to attention as the ricochet pierced the radiator and sent him ducking for cover. Unable to help herself, she exhaled loudly with the force of a bullet that had not gone through her and fell to the big guy for support.

“Huh, Doushita no?” She readjusted herself against him, trying to focus. That was a first. She had never been shot before and though she still maintained that track record her instincts were telling her otherwise. Coughing it out, she got up in time to see the red haired girl rushing them, striking the big guy in the back with a large knife that cut right into his shoulder.

Reeling back herself, Melissa watched as the big guy started to fall, the pain dropping him to one leg as the red haired girl turned straight for her. Releasing the knife to leave it in the mass of muscle she lifted the gun to aim it for Melissa’s head without intention to miss a second time. The ninja froze, her legs locking for reasons she couldn’t understand. She would have been able to avoid the bullet, but didn’t get chance to as a hand wrapped itself around the barrel and yanked it out the way.

“Mada mada,” the big guy whispered, as the red haired girl looked at him with eyes freaking out. Not holding back, the large youth pushed his other fist out as he pulled her in, the two forces clashing in the centre, the girl’s light body failing to prove immovable.

With the force of a truck the girl slammed into the opposing wall, breaking through half of it and sticking there. Not wanting to take any chances Melissa stepped up in front of her, pulling the gun away from her hands before bringing her own together, opening up a conduit for energy.

From the hole from between her fingers, she unleashed the Unbreakable Snake. A vicious green energy poured out like a train emerging from a tunnel and circling the girl in front of her.

“You fucking twat!” the girl called out with a strong English accent. With enough leverage it popped her out of the hole along with the snake and Melissa could see her reach to escape. The green energy tightened quickly round the girl, rendering efforts futile as they raised her up and slammed her against the wall twice over. The girl’s head smack the brick, knocking her down and out onto the floor. She rolled around a little before Nobori stepped on her.

“Little shit face human. Get off me!”

“Iten nanimono da” the big guy said speaking to the girl as she continued to squirm. Melissa relaxed and checked the rest of the room out. If anyone else was going to attack they would have come to help surely, but that did not mean they wouldn’t get other residents reporting a gunshot disturbance. They would have to move fast.

“Nani!” the big guy called out, just in time for them to see the red haired gun twist a gun from her hand into the direction of Melissa.

“Damn skank bitch!” the red hair called out, before firing a volley of shots that missed Melissa entirely. She was already dashing away before the girl pulled the trigger, wondering how the girl’s hand had freed itself from the bondage. The gun was a six shot revolver, already out before Melissa could react. The girl carried on swearing profusely, before the big guy clipped her in the back of the head, silencing her cries.

Melissa relaxed as the girl stopped. Taking the gun out her hand, Melissa looked down to the aggressive woman, wondering if they should kill her. At the very least, she opted to have the snake bind her hands properly this time. She couldn’t see any more hidden weapons on the girl’s body, but then she wasn’t too sure where this gun came from either.

“Moriika,” the big guy asked before sitting down on the floor. Melissa was about to ask him what he thought he was doing when she saw the knife still sticking in his back. Leaping over him, she looked to where it had struck. It was wedged in pretty deeply in his right shoulder blade, but it didn’t look far enough passed his thick muscles.

“Mata kun. Kono gaki da”

She picked the knife out and carefully pulled his leather jacket off him. He looked fine, the cowskin armour having done its job. To be on the safe side, she lifted his shirt off of him and began tying it around the wound, the makeshift doing for the time being. She patted him gently on the other shoulder, trying to get across he could rest.

“Oi oi. Tatakandaka.”

She left him and checked the rest of the place. The room where she had found the girl was empty save for the book she was reading, an alien science fiction novel that was useless to Melissa and a pile of clothes that looked unwashed. The final room was a poor excuse for a bedroom. It was empty and yet as clean as before, a second mattress in the corner and a cupboard on the opposite side. The mattress seemed to have been slept on recently, probably by the subject currently hiding in the closest, and smelt of sweat. Finally pegging the location of something that was hopefully significant, Melissa approached it with caution. It was impossible to tell if whatever was in there had noticed her and she held her breath in hope that it wasn’t some drug addict that thought they were hiding from the police again.

She braced her hand against the handle that led to her answers and pulled it ajar. The rest was ripped open by the creature within the closest, pouncing upon Melissa through the door, shattering it into splinters around the two of them. Melissa was so shocked at the attack that she faded away out of reflex, and the newcomer looked around in untamed disorientation at where its prey had gone.

Melissa observed the one who had been hiding, as she remained invisible in the corner. It appeared to be a young girl of around eight. She was had short, ruffled hair and a near animalistic look on her face. Her hands were strange, but not out of the ordinary, it was just that she only had three fingers on each hand; both were missing the middle two things and the way she planted her hands on the floor appeared almost cat-like. Despite the expression of untamed fury on the child’s face, it still merely looked like an eight-year-old kid playing at being an angry tiger. Melissa watched as the child quickly spun around, as if expecting her opponent to have somehow got behind her. Seeing nothing, the girl jumped round again, clearly puzzled when there was nothing there to attack. It would have all seemed stupid if it weren’t for a strike able to completely shatter the cupboard door.

The girl-tiger seemed at a loss, as it became unwilling to let down its guard for something it knew must be there, and this echoed in Melissa thoughts as she pondered the situation. Was this the demon they were looking for? Despite being mindless and very strong, she was also rather cute. She had huge eyes that looked about everywhere, and it felt like she should have a tail and maybe some tiger ears poking at her head. It could have been a mindless demon forced into a young girl through the ritual of the Kotodama, or it could have been a young girl with very serious issues.

Also, a feral demon like this should have been able to smell her, she realized, as she quickly covered the gap in her illusion, making herself truly undetectable. Though it was possible that the demon hadn’t had the little girl’s nose developed to be able to do so, or even be a demon that couldn’t smell in the first place. She briefly considered if this was a ruse and then decided, regardless of the truth, this was the end of her current task. It was probably best to just show this girl to Sagara, and let him sort out the rest. Yes, it was lazy, but there was nothing else to do. She was too tired to fight anything anymore, and a bigger demon might cause problems. Besides, she thought, they could just come back later and scope the place out.

Approaching the girl, she went a step faster as the little feral wandered out of the door into one of the other rooms. Melissa followed her casually from behind. As she was right behind her, she saw the girl stop, and then turn around, staring directly into the older girl’s knees, keenly unaware of her presence. The girl was still looking for the intruder, and she growled fiercely to scare them off. The growl felt like a mountain lion’s and it was making Melissa not want to take any chances. This girl, whoever or whatever she was, would put up a struggle if she attempted to start it. Even though she didn’t appear to be demon or human, she was definitely worth showing to her so called lord.

Forming a small blunt club in her hand she lifted it over her head, circling her prey and aiming for the back of the girl’s neck, hopefully to knock her unconscious.

As she raised it, she was surprised to hear the girl growl loudly again before turning back to look her directly in the eyes. Panicking slightly at this, she fumbled with her makeshift billy club and quick swung it against the girl. The girl fell back hard and quick, but remained on her hands for a second after the strike. It looked like she was going to pounce, instinctively guessing that the intruder was right in front of her. The feral braced herself and Melissa stood back prepared, only to see the little one pass out a few seconds later. Melissa looked on cautiously. It seemed it had taken the girl a few moments for the signal to get to her that she was supposed to fall unconscious, more body than mind.

On top of that, she seemed to have some kind of natural instinct, for the feral had been completely unable to sense Melissa before Melissa showed herself as a threat. The quick thinking illusionist guessed that this was probably similar to how the girl knew she was coming to the apartment in the first place and why she was hiding in the closest away from her friend. The ninja got down and felt the girl’s pulse. Finding a slightly irregular one, she relaxed her breath and slung the little child over her shoulder, mildly wondering how she was going to explain to Sagara why she was attacking children.