“What kind of tricked up shit is that?” Nobori shouted, slamming his hands on the black oak table and getting splinter’s for his efforts. Sagara looked to him, responding more to the sound than out of concern, and looked back to the Riddleklutz. This had to be a tactic. There was no way it could jump like that. It just said it could win in ten turns. To jump this quickly…was probably possible
No matter what he had said a moment ago, he still wasn’t one hundred percent sure how this game worked. The very concept was perplexing, and for all he knew the mechanics changed in different circumstances. He needed to think, his hands trying to shut out the rest of the universe. “Shit… Shit. Shit. Shit.”
“Is it possible?” the girlfriend asked from beside him. Ninja girl was still in a trance, staring ahead without care for the fact that what she was doing may now be pointless.
“Probably,” he answered. “I don’t know.” He grabbed his hair, looking back to the Riddleklutz, aware that his head was shaking back and forth. “He knows how it works… I don’t have a fucking clue!”
“Riddleklutz’s don’t have gender.”
“So it doesn’t matter what Sagara does next turn. All he has to do is reverse it, and then do what he says he has to win. But…” He groaned, trying not to mewl like a dog. “No. I haven’t figured out the pattern yet. I don’t know if it’s a bluff or not.”
“There has to be something!” the girlfriend stressed, looking constantly worried as she stared at him, looking like she was hoping for a light bulb to appear above his head. “Take your time. It’s not like there’s a limit or anything.”
Sagara looked bored waiting.
“We feel that we should also inform you,” the Riddleklutz interrupted again. “That it is also possible for you to win in your next turn.”
“Yes!” Nobori cheered triumphantly. “I knew I was on the right track. I can solve any puzzle, me.” Of course, it must have been trying to scare him. Even if it were lying or telling the truth, he could still mess it all up by having Sagara move a couple of blocks off. The Riddleklutz hadn’t said anything about removing them, and didn’t seem to mind when it was by accident.
“Please don’t change your attitude solely on what your opponent is saying,” the girlfriend said, but he was already cutting her out of his thoughts.
“Fuck yeah,” Nobori cried out. One turn gave two options. Either he solved it straight up right now with the one block remaining, or else he had Sagara knock some blocks off. Though if he did that he would have to do it before placing the final block, else it would be the demon’s turn and he might not get the chance to do it before the demon made the final move. The question was could he get Sagara to understand what he meant before the demon could make its move. It looked to be hovering around the black box, and Nobori knew it could move pretty fast.
But then sabotaging was really just a stalling tactic. Even if he knocked all the pieces off and started again, they wouldn’t learn anything, but then they did need more time.
Of course, if he could just make the right choice now. One move remaining. Six types of block. Six different arms to put them on. Thirty six different moves he could make altogether, but for all he knew, the Riddleklutz meant he could win by taking blocks off. There were certainly a lot on there. Maybe the winning amount had been placed already and all the demon intended to do next turn was take blocks off until it matched…
“Dammit!” he screamed, banging his fist against the table. “Fuck. Dammit.” Looking at it all like that, the only clue they had was that the Administrator’s arm was the only one with the right amount on it, while all the others may have excess, but then it could be that four have excess, the Administrator has the right amount and one other just needs one block on it, be it light or dark, be it heavy or light. All he had to do was get them level with each other. It didn’t matter what level they were. Maybe he should have Sagara knock off all the White blocks, try and get all the hands to just rest on the floor. “I don’t know… Is this really possible to do in one move?”
“It is,” Sagara replied. Nobori grimaced, half his face crunching up in frustration as blunt fingernails tried to cut into his palms. Maybe if he just killed this whackjob the demon would let him off or something.
“Are you wishing to skip your turn?” the Riddleklutz asked sternly. “You are not allowed to skip moves. If you do, you will be disqualified…”
“Shut up! I can do this,” Nobori complained, before his voice turned into a mutter. “I should have all the information required by now. I can do this.”
“If you do not make your move soon, we are afraid that the Mass Singularity will take action…”
“Be quiet, you stupid fucked up carnival freak! I can do this.” Despite his words, his body jerked to look behind him, staring at the vast collection of silent bodies and quickly looking away. From a distance those things cold paralyze a person. What would they be like when they had surrounded him? Could he even hit them?
“Want me to tell you something?” the whackjob asked politely.
“I’m not an idiot!” the large teenager shot his answer out like a bullet. “I can’t stand you people, always assuming I can’t do stuff. I can solve this. I know I can.”
“This isn’t your stupidity that’s in question,” the whackjob explained. “It’s your ignorance. You wouldn’t know this, no matter how long you thought about it. Mom always used to say, we’re only allowed to tell the ignorant stuff if they have to know it. You will have to know this if you are to win.”
“If you know it, then why don’t you just solve it?” Nobori shouted angrily, his voice wavering like he was trying not to cry.
“We aim to give humans the freedom of their own choices,” Sagara explained. “It’s why we fight the demons, so they can’t take it away. And we should always help humans do what they want. That is the true Balance.”
“What?” Nobori replied, lost in the gibberish. They were seconds from death. No idealism please.
“You can do this, but the only thing stopping you is the fact that you don’t know what I’m about to tell you.” Nobori wiped his forehead with a bare arm, his eyes feeling a little rawer. “Didn’t you say that you’ll be able to solve this if you had all the information? If I give you the last piece, then you can solve it, right?” Nobori sighed, his hands slipping from his head to crash hard into the table.
“Right… Yeah you’re right,” he acquiesced. “Go on then, tell us.”
“Okay then,” Sagara began. “The Enforcer line is the centre of the Balance. It is the one considered the leader. We are the ones considered the leaders of the Balance, even as our line is the Enforcer line. Everyone else has two parts to the Balance, where we have just one. The centrepiece to everything.”
“You’re saying you’re the answer to the puzzle?” He implied he was Enforcer, that much was clear. That made some sense in the twisted sort of way.
“Oh, don’t tell her I told you that,” Sagara said, pointing to the Ninja girl. “She’ll get angry.”
“Hell, screw that!” Nobori replied, feeling a lot more refreshed. “I just wish you would have told me sooner. How am I supposed to solve it if I don’t have access to a piece of information like that?”
“So wait a second,” the girlfriend interrupted, looking mildly taken aback. “How do You solve the puzzle?”
“That’s easy,” Nobori roared triumphantly. “All we have to do is add a piece to the real Enforcer part.”
“But there isn’t a second Enforcer part,” she criticized. “Unless you’re supposed to add double the amount to the Enforcer arm or something.”
“No no no girl. Jeez are you only good for worrying or something,” Nobori said, too much in a rush to care about his own insult. “We place the final piece on the part that symbolizes the centre. The one that leads all. The head.”
Of course. This was all a lesson in Balance, but the pieces moved around like a baby’s playmobile. Something had to straighten them all out, and since it wasn’t like scales, it needed something else, something to hold them in place. Something more literal.
“The head? Are you sure?” she countered, quickly glancing to the monster behind Sagara. “We do only have one more move. We don’t want to waste it.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine. It makes sense, right? You’ve got the centre of the Balance. You’ve got the crown representing leadership, and he did just say that he was of the Enforcer line. I may not understand everything going on here, but it seems clear to me that the Enforcer must balance everything. That makes him the queen right? Same as the card we chose. That whole backbone thing. That was the clue. It all fits.” The girlfriend was staring at him uneasily, as f he had just said something absurd, but nodded her approval anyway.
“If you’re sure…”
“Alright, go for it man!” Nobori commanded, pointing towards the undead structure before them. “Go stand on this thing’s head,”
“On the head?” the girl shouted in disbelief.
“Trust me on this one.”
Without another word, Sagara accepted the command, grabbing the chair he had been using for elevation and positioned it against the Ivoryhead, quickly beginning to climb the arms like a starving monkey who had seen bananas. Stepping on the shoulder of the Negotiator part, he pushed himself up for a final flip and landed spot on the creature’s head with perfect grace.
The Ivoryhead immediately pitched a death cry throughout the room, its neck snapping like a brittle twig as it imploded beneath Sagara’s weight. Sagara wavered on top for a second like his feet had been glued to the giant creature, wobbling around without equilibrium to catch him before being tossed like a drunken pirate from the crow’s nest.
With a loud, bone-crunching thud, the deceased corpse of the recently belated demon fell down on top of him, taking the chair with it and shattering under its own colossal weight. The black and white blocks scattered everywhere as the elbow of the now shattered administrator arm shot at Nobori like a bullet narrowly missing his favourite ear piercing, the same blank staring eyes of the monster telling him that this had been the wrong answer.
As Sagara lay trapped under the dead demon, Nobori caught out of the corner of his eye Ninja girl snapping out of her technique, shaking her head as if disorientated, before looking on, her face contorting as if first to display primal shock, quickly followed by sheer confusion and custom annoyance, before twisting to pure anger mixed with fear. He knew why she was angry. They both knew that Ivoryhead demons had weak necks, that was the first thing she had told them about it. And that anything more than a bottle of four month old coke being place on top was enough to kill it.
For some reason that didn’t matter to him a moment ago.
“You have… broken the trial device,” the Riddleklutz said, as though it felt it needed to explain it. “Therefore, you are disqualified from this trial of logic.”
Sagara was slowly pulling himself out from the creature above him, looking to the others with an apologetic grin that Nobori found himself wishing to strike. The girlfriend was the only one looking concerned. She stood up, looking like she was prepared to act. Sliding out from underneath, Sagara got back up, just as the Riddleklutz floated besides him.
“An excellent strategy I must say,” it said applauding, its bony hands only waving back and forth in the air like pendulums. “To sabotage the game when you realized you could not win in a way that made it look like an accident. Very clever.” Nobori heard Ninja girl mutter under her breath, as the Riddleklutz sounded incredibly amused by its own words. “Even though we have seen through your ruse, we are prepared to ignore it. We shall restart with another, more difficult challenge, and if you solve this, your associates may go free, Futabatei Sagara.”
The girlfriend breathed a loud sigh of relief, and sat back down behind Nobori, tapping him on the back as if to calm him down. He couldn’t though. What was the deal here? There’s no way they should have been let off for that. It’s the same as grabbing the chess board and ejecting it into the air right before checkmate occurred.
“Because there are only two choices left,” the Riddleklutz continued. “We believe we shall make you choose at random between the two trials. Is this fair to you, Futabatei Sagara?”
“What do you want to do?” Sagara asked, waiting on his call all this time. Nobori looked up to the demon, currently caught between choosing the two other cards. He went to think carefully, to consider all his options, when his brain informed him that it had done enough work for today, and promptly suggested that he whack the stupid demon until it was no longer there.
“I want you to kill it.”
Jumping into the air, Sagara thrust a sidekick at the demon floating behind him. The Riddleklutz was taken aback by the sudden shoe attempting to insert itself into its eye cavity and fell back, wailing in a bizarre manner. The annoying pitch of the howl was enough to deafen Nobori for a moment, Sagara too was waylaid by the sound of pottery screeching together. As the creature fell in the air, Nobori spun round in an attempt to cover his ears further and was greeted with the sight of the audience rising from their seats to appeal the results of his trial. Not one of the fifty-one dark, menacing cloaks in front of them was making a sound, but told him plenty how the escape route was now blocked.
“Yo, dumbass,” Nobori shouted towards Sagara, who looked as ready as he was to fight. “Is there some trick to killing these things, or do I just whack them?”
Sagara didn’t reply, his focus away from the rest of the room and focused entirely on the floating head in front of him, who was now readjusting its equilibrium to face off against the student. It seemed to be the only thing he could look at.
“Yeah, you do that,” Nobori replied. “Leave us with these fucks.” As the first approached him, he pulled his gargantuan fist back and leveled it at the first of the Mass Singularities. Its cloak, although that was all it was, flowed back with the small air current created, before merely dropping back down, looking like a coat hung up on a peg against his hand.
“That’s not going to work,” the girlfriend said, stating what everyone was thinking. “Excuse me, miss?” she called out to Ninja girl, who was still just sitting there. “Can you do anything? Besides look ninjary, that is.” Ninja girl just grunted at the comment, pulling her mask down from under her nose, knowing she no longer had any reason for it. Holding the fabric in her hand, she rubbed it quickly between her fingers, building up the friction as fast as she could. A second later, it made a small ‘bang’ sound, and the silk spat out a purple smoke, engulfing the area in seconds and blacking out everybody’s view.
“Like the idiot said,” she shouted to the others. “Screw this. Let’s get out of here.”
“Where are we?” Sakura asked with a hint of isolated terror as she surveyed her surroundings. Old books piled around in stacks on shelves three times higher than herself. A musky air made her apologise for speaking too loud.
It was clear the girl had found herself suddenly in a giant library with no idea how she had gotten there. She certainly hadn’t walked her from the alleyway she was in scant moments ago and she didn’t feel like she had just woken up. As she spoke, the large oak shelves returned her voice and asked her the same question. Looking around, it seemed she was the only one in the nearby area.
“Aki? Sarah?” the girl called out to her friends, her echo also trying to help out, but without a reply either time. Hesitantly at first, she walked down the aisle of books, nervously trying to understand her location. Many of the books were hardback covers with intricate patterns on their spines. None had titles on them, but they didn’t appear special either, just old and perhaps even a little fake, like a pretend bookcase on a Haunted House ride. She couldn’t see if it was the same on the ones higher up above her. Both bookshelves on either side of her were about ten times as tall as she was, and impossible to climb without a stepladder. Sakura decided not to try looking at any of them, at the very least in case she was not allowed too.
“Aki? Sarah?” she tried once again. Her echo seemed to take a little longer in repeating her this time, as if it had decided that it was better to wait a few seconds before trying again but still to the same result. Eventually, she was able to reach the end of the aisle where she had found herself, only to gasp in astonishment at the sight of more bookshelves going off in every direction.
There must have been hundreds on either side of her, completely filling her sight before the horizon was thrown into darkness. There did not appear to be any sign of any far walls at the end of the room, and when she looked up, she saw only darkness where there should be a roof, making her question whether it was either just painted a really dark colour with many coatings of pitch or if there was really nothing there at all. The only sign that this could even be considered a room was the marble floor below her, which dazzled a bright, just been cleaned, white that made her feel guilty to step on it.
It was even bigger than the library she had visited the time she went up to the university with Otsune. It may even have been bigger than the university itself. Taking a moment to reel it all in, she found herself strangely composed, the thoughts of Sarah’s misdeeds now seeming insignificant compared to being whisked off to a strange underground library.
She had no idea what had really happened. Although Sarah had shown her an array of violently negative emotions since they first met, ranging to slamming doors in her face to throwing food back at her, she had never really seen the girl like that before. It was like she had just run a marathon where the prize for winning was a punch to the stomach, and she looked like she was about to be seriously ill.
That was when the wall had started to change colour. If she remembered right, it seemed to centre on where Sarah was leaning her hand against, and then they were here… or at least she was here. There was no sign of the others, or anyone. The only thing she could really do, she decided, after a moment of imagining the horrible events that might occur if she was to explore, was stay put. If those two were here, then they would probably start running around and screaming for her. If she stayed at this point, she would be able to see in all directions, except behind her. If anyone ran past, she would spot him or her.
A scattering of footsteps then beat the marble somewhere near her.
A sprinting dash that disappeared before it begun.
Without thinking, she held tightly to her crucifix.
About ten aisles down, something flashed past the corner of her eyes, causing her to grab a bookshelf for support. She wasn’t that smart, she knew that, but judging by the speed and skin colour that she thought she saw, it was probably Aki, rushing between the corridors of book and wood in an attempt to find her or someone at least.
With all the aisles looking the same however, it was hard to judge if she was right or not and before she get there. Sakura could see nothing save more hardback collections, any sign of her friend ever being there gone. Whimpering to herself pathetically, she began to clutch one of the thousands upon thousands of bookcases. Looking behind her, she couldn’t tell where she had started, but she was certain this was where she had seen the figure, though they were not there now. There were not even any footprints on the floor, and her own shoes were making a small mess from the dirt in the alley. Surely if someone had ran past, they would have made the same marking.
It brought another thought to her. If she was leaving marks on the floor this easily and she could see now others, then it meant nobody had visited this library for a very long time.
“Aki?” she said again, wanting to shout but catching herself. For once, even in whispers, she appeared to be the noisiest object in the building and it was becoming hard to tell if she was the only true person that had ever been there. With all the bookcases looking the same, and no sign of anything, the small girl felt like she would soon be lost to despair, alone in all these gigantic room forever.
Then she noticed the only difference, just a bookcase away from her, down the aisle on green hardback books with intricate patterns and no names that appeared a little shorter than the rest, enough to just see beyond it. At the end of it, just between another set of aisles that went on for infinity, a small desk sat. The desk looked a simple one, reminding her of her own, the only difference being this one had things on it. A small pencil tin, holding one small pencil and filled with an inch of sharpenings, a lamp switched on but with no obvious way of saying how and a large dusty book left open on its front. Unlike all the other books, this looked real, had a name on the spine and was perhaps even antique.
Moving over to it with unintended curiosity, the young girl turned the book over and peered down at the words. They weren’t Japanese fortunately, and read left to right like Italian. Although she was more suited to reading this way, she felt like she shouldn’t have been able to understand it anyway, like it made as much nonsense to her as it did sense. Finding herself speaking the words, she read out aloud:
‘And the Holy Divine agreed, save for one condition. ‘My Counterpart must agree the same. For without that, your Balance will be lost.’ And so the Counterpart, the Unholy Divine, was approached, and issued the same request, although it is arguable that by now it had become an ultimatum, for these humans had grown stronger than any could have anticipated. They had even defeated the Sirynclou, who would forever been banned from singing their changing words again.’
“Excuse me,” a voice said in front of her, causing her to fall backwards onto the floor with a frightened scream, the book to fall straight up into the air and her heart beating like it wanted to get out. Looking up, she saw a boy staring down at her, looking surprised himself.
Where he had appeared from, she didn’t know, but he looked to be an ordinary human. Blond hair, blue eyes, with a lighter than Aki’s and smooth, attractive features that made Sakura hope she wasn’t blushing.
“Erm, hello,” she replied meekly.
“Hi. May I ask what you are doing here?” he asked politely, studying the girl in front of him. He offered her his hand, and she saw no reason as to why she shouldn’t take it to hoist herself up.
“Erm, I don’t…” She stopped as she realised that she was in actual fact taller than he was by at least a foot. She thought that he was probably as old as Sagara and Natoko at first, yet now he looked just a little younger than her, though still kinda nice looking, “know.”
“You don’t know?” he said before laughing. “Well surely you must know how you got here?”
“Erm, no,” Sakura said, a little nervous, trying to think how to explain it. “W-well, me and my friends w-were in this alleyway, and we needed money so my friend told me to find t-this man. And I think he was really nice and polite but then Sarah said he wasn’t. But before that she started hitting him really hard with a piece of wood and she took his jacket. Then Sarah…did something and seemed to get ill and all of a sudden we were here. Well I was here and I don’t know where they’ve gone and I was trapped in this strange place and the room is massive and I can’t find a way out.” She sniffed as she found herself making herself cry. The boy seemed to fade out for a moment, her breath doing its best to hold in the tears by holding itself back. It wouldn’t work though. She was going to cry, and in front of a complete stranger as well.
Her body became warmth and fluffy at the same time she was covered up by his arms. They wrapped around her and instinctively she returned the hug, taking comfort in his chest.
“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” he reassured her. “Whatever happened, let’s just get you out of here first. Then we’ll find your friends.” He held her tightly for a few moments longer and she let the tears roll out. Crying in the arms of a stranger. That was stupid of her. How could she bother another human being like that. It was silly. Just silly.
When she calmed down she blushed as he smiled patiently for her. She jumped away when she realised how close she was. “D-do you know the way out?” Sakura asked, finding herself getting comfortable in his embrace, the stranger feeling warm against her bare arms.
“Sure,” he said, clutching her tighter. “I mean, I do work here.” At this, Sakura pulled back from the hug to look at him in the eyes.
“You work here?” she asked here, looking around at the giant library. “But where is here? Where are we, and how did I get here?”
“I’ve just asked you that question,” he said, laughing once more. Then he looked down once more, to see that he was still holding on to her tightly. As Sakura also realised, he quickly let go and turned around. “A… as for where we are, I’m probably shouldn’t tell you. My bosses might not like it.”
“Bosses?” Sakura repeated, blushing lightly and trying not to think of what just happened.
“Never mind that. For the moment, let’s just get you out of here.” He held out his hand for her to take.
“Wait, my friends…” she said as he waited for her to take hold.
“Don’t worry about them,” he said calmly, still waiting. “Wherever they are, they’re not here”
“That makes me even more worried,” she said quietly to herself, and with a prolonged hesitation, took his smooth yet firm grip.
Sagara was shouting to his female associate. “I don’t think you should have done that.”
“And I don’t think you should have come up with such a retarded solution to the riddle” Melissa shouted back, jumping back onto one of the benches to avoid a slow moving Singularity. “Standing on its head? What type of groupthink crap were you guys going through?”
“you didn’t stop us.”
“I was in Trance mode. I couldn’t stop you.”
“Well I didn’t fill the room with smoke,” he called back, grabbing the Riddleklutz’s left arm and swinging it away. It only worked for a short distance before the Riddleklutz stopped its own momentum and began to float back towards him. “But if you can’t see their faces anywhere on their bodies, what made you think they have eyes?”
“Oh, just shut up,” Melissa said screaming, now jumping off the table and even further away from the living cloaks as well as Sagara. Attacking them straight on appeared to have been hopeless. When the big guy had whacked the cloaks nothing had happened, and when she had tried to grab where there should have been a head, she was met with nothing but an intense cold sensation, which alone almost knocked her out. Now, moving around to warm herself up, she had to use everything in her power just to avoid having to touching one of those things again. Unfortunately she was running out of places to escape.
The Mass Singularity were dangerous in their simplicity. She dared not touch them, even though it was only a mild cold that had already dissipated. The risks of prolonged exposure should she be swarmed by them were unknown. It was possible she would find out soon though. There were fifty one of them in the room that earlier engulfed them all in is size and that was apparently enough to surround them, meaning the Riddleklutz had shrunk the space around them. Were she to try and run though them to the other side of the room, she’d have to push through at least ten of them. It might not be worth the risk.
At the very least, the creatures could not move at any great speed, nor could they hover any higher than they already were. They had not tried to descend on any of them from above, or tried to climb onto the bench when she was on it. Even so there seemed very little she could do to take advantage of their lack of speed, with so many in the room, there was no definite point of escape. The demons had also been between them and the giant doors that they appeared next to, which allowed them to guard the only exit from the place perfectly. It seemed really dumb now that they hadn’t just tried to run out of the room in the first place, or at least stay near the doors where it was safe.
That was, of course, Sagara’s fault.
During the ruckus, she heard a loud shout of tense frustration from the youth that was deceptively younger than he looked. His arm was trapped in the void of one of the Mass Singularity, right around where its stomach might be and for all his strength he could not pull it out. Looking to help him, she ran up and dived at the creature. It had a better effect than she had imagined, the cloak fell with her to the floor, pulling the darkness away from the nameless youth’s fist. The freezing rag stuck to her like a wet tongue in an ice box, and she ripped it off as quickly as she could, leaving what skin she had to and bringing up illusions to hide the wounds, masking the sensation of pain with the delusion that everything was fine. The cloak twitched as if trying to get up, but before it could do anymore, the big guy slammed his large boot into where the creatures face should have been. Stamping hard twice more, he stopped where the cloak did, the demon appearing dead, but with no way to actually tell.
“Did that work?” she asked, seeing more of the demons advance on them and forgetting her own question. Going back-to-back the two fighters saw that they were completely surrounded by the shadowy demons and Melissa considered using the large bulk of muscle behind her as a stepping stone to get away.
“Oi, Ninja girl,” the youth shouted to her. “You seem to know a little about these things, how we kill ‘em?”
“I’ve no idea,” she replied honestly. “I’m not even sure if you could count them as demons. They seem more like machines.” Keeping her eyes on the creatures at all time, she couldn’t tell if it was luck or strategy that they were slowly surrounding them. “We can’t hit them, because we seem to take more damage than they do, and even when we tackle them like I just did, it seems to have little effect.” She looked down at the cloak below them. It still looked as fine as all the others, it was just trapped under the youth’s size seventeen feet, trying to get up. “The only advantage we seem to have is that they’re really slow. We could probably stand here another five minutes before we get overwhelmed.”
“They’re just cloaks right?” the younger boy asked her. “Do you have anything else like that smoke bomb, like maybe an actual bomb? If we could set them on fire…”
“Right, of course.” It wasn’t the most extreme situation she had wanted to use something like this for (perhaps a small building with Sagara inside it maybe) but it would work perfectly for this. Quickly fishing inside two of the pouches hidden in her khakis, one on either leg, she pulled out two small spheres. It was a little extreme, but it was the only choice at the moment. Holding them in two separate hands she cracked their covers as she had a hundred times before with the placebo containers. This time however, the blue liquid was actually oozing out. She just had to make sure it didn’t touch her.
“Sagara! I’m using this,” she called out, needing him to clear the area where he was still fighting the main demon. Swearing she heard Sagara squeak, she waited another five seconds as the boy grabbed a passing Mass Singularity and threw the cloak at the Riddleklutz, running away before even seeing if it had worked. Melissa took this as her cue and threw the capsule in her left hand first. It would probably look confusing as it did nothing, but no one would even see the second one land.
The explosion obliterated half the courtroom in an instant, the raging fire consuming a wall and her ears taking the rest in as collateral. As they tried to start taking in new vibrations, the smoke quickly cleared and she saw the absolute nothing in front of her save darkness. Throwing the bomb to the corner of the room was clearly the only thing that hadn’t killed them all, as now only less than half the floor of the room was left to walk along before falling into what looked like bottomless nothingness. Whoever created this place had decided that no one would ever go beyond these walls and simply decided to leave them blank. There may have been more of the realm’s walls somewhere in the darkness, but there was no light anywhere in that direction.
“What the fuck?” the youth shouted, being unable to hear himself. “Was that nuclear or something?” he asked, turning to face the girl. Her own ears were out of commission still, but she could read his lips fine.
“Chemical,” she replied simply, glad to see someone impressed with her work.
“That was fucking awesome,” the young man applauded her. “Can you do it again?”
“Sorry, I only had one of them. It’s kinda too powerful to be carrying around lots of, and I don’t want to be carrying unstable chemicals around in large quantities.” she said, shaking her head as he admiring the carnage that one little girl could do, before turning to her with the look of gratitude gone.
“Oh great,” said the boy, the impressed look on his face disappearing. “So we got rid of what, twenty of them? And now we’ve got to fight these guys with no more room left to run.”
“Err… I guess.”
“Great, that’s just fucking great,” the unappreciative punk said as he turned around to see the remaining thirty two cloaks slowly advancing on them.
“Here we are, at the exit,” the boy informed Sakura with a jolly tone. She had barely noticed, the door taking up her full attention as much as it covered the range of her eyes. The two doors were larger than any of the shelves behind her (which themselves had only stopped just a few meters short of the door) and disappeared somewhere after the darkness that she thought was the roof. Yet despite their size they looked like regular double doors, with no more design on them than one would expect for the door leading to an apartment bedroom.
About half way up the doors was a simple handle, which seemed impossible to reach. It was curiously strange to the girl as to why someone would have such a big door for a library that seemed to be for regular, human-sized creatures. Her head feeling a little fuzzy and thinking of the ocean, she shook it off and waited. The boy in front of her pushed hard on the doors to open them, before making enough of a gap to walk through. Holding the massive doors open, he took her hand to guide her through.
As she passed through, they appeared to end up at the library’s reception. This place was also for people her size and the doors behind her felt really out of place shrank down to reach their level. None of the many kiosks were manned and from what Sakura could tell, apart from the boy who held her hand, the whole place was abandoned.
This place was lit better; her eyes adjusting to the intense brightness quickly. All around there were nothing but seats, arranged in very stereotypical settings. There were also coffee tables, flowerpots and radiators sitting in the middle of the floor, as if whoever arranged the place was just told to set it all up but had no idea how a reception should look or what any f the items it was moving were.
To her right she could see four vending machines, which vended unknown products. These machines strangely seemed to create another wall that stopped in the middle of the room. By the way the place was laid out, it looked like they would have to climb over them to get out. To her left, there were various book trolleys, some empty, some completely loaded with books, none of them in between. When she glanced at a book, it looked the same as all the others in the library did. She began to get a sneaking suspicious that they were all just empty boxes that looked like books. She wasn’t even convinced that they had paper in them now. Behind her, the door slammed shut, and she turned around to once more face the boy.
“Are you alright?” he asked her politely; continuing to appear amazingly well mannered and courteous for a boy their age. Most boys she tended to meet were constantly telling rude jokes or being nasty. This boy was much nicer though, as if by staying in this place he hadn’t lost the virtue of youth like every other boy in her class had. Behind him the doors they had come out of had decided to disappear and Sakura wondered for a moment where they could have gone. Looking at him, she felt it would be rude to ask such a strange question, and turned around to try to avoid the subject.
“Yes, thank you… Er, where are we?” she asked him, looking around the waiting room. There were three doors leading out of the rooms, two of them had windows looking into their domains, but the waiting room’s light’s reflection prevented her from seeing.
“I would say that was obvious,” the boy replied walking ahead of her. “It’s the reception where I work. If we go out this door here, we can get to my boss’s office. He’ll probably be able to sort out your little mess.”
“Th… thank you very much,” Sakura said, looking towards the ground, feeling her cheeks blush. She did not know why she felt so shy around this person. She had previously learned to stop being so shy after years living around people like Aki and Fujiko and though she may have had little outbursts around strangers from time to time, she had got better at repressing it. This was different from back then, that time where she couldn’t speak to anyone, but it still felt like a mouse was trapped down her throat. Her thoughts broke from her when she realised he was staring from underneath her.
“Wow, you’re really cute,” he said. Sakura felt the mouse take that moment to jump out of her, causing her to squeak loudly and turn away, her face coated with a thin red paint that had come from nowhere. As he watched her make a fool of herself, he could not help but laugh. “Sorry,” he said as he realised what he had done. “Come on, let’s go. My boss probably already knows where your friends are.”
“Really?” Sakura said, feeling glad as he grabbed her hand to show her the way. Despite her nerves, she noticed that she seemed more joyful than usual around this boy. Even when he laughed at her, it did not feel like he was mocking her, or thinking she was a fool. It was a happy, calm, laugh, as if it was great for him to see her do every little thing. It warmed her heart, knowing that since the moment they had met, they could understand each other.
They moved towards the door at the end of the room, this one had no window on it and was only a small, single door. As he opened it for her, leading to what looked like a corridor, they heard a noise behind them. Sakura turned to see someone coming out of one of the other doors.
“Aki! Sarah!” Sakura cried out, her two friends appearing. “You’re alright.”
“Eh? Sakura?” Aki said, not expecting to see her friend, but quickly smiling when she confirmed it was the girl. “Hey Sakura! You all right?”
“I’m fine,” she replied as she answered the question for the third time today. Reaching her friends, she found Sarah draped around Aki’s shoulder, still as exhausted as when she last saw the young girl. “Sarah? She’s still…”
“She was falling asleep when I found her,” Aki explained. “She hasn’t said anything ever since we got here. It’s kind of worrying.”
“Kind of?” Sakura muttered, wondering how close to death Sarah would have to be for Aki to find it threatening. “At least you’re okay.”
“Your friend doesn’t look okay,” the boy pointed out from behind her. “Better let me take a look at her.”
“Huh? Who’s this?” Aki asked letting the boy walk over to her and pick Sarah up in both arm’s.
“He’s… erm,” Sakura began to reply, before she realised that she didn’t know. She turned to him to let him answer the question but he didn’t give a reply. Instead he began looking over Sarah’s half unconscious body, checking her forehead before leaning back in shock.
“What the?” he said aloud to himself, causing the other two girls to jump to attention.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” Sakura asked, deeply worried for her fallen friend.
“Erm… well, nothing serious. She’s just exhausted,” he answered back, smiling reassuringly. “It’s what she’s exhausted from that shocked me. This girl…she’s… she… Well-” The girls staring at him perplexed.
“I better help her,” he said distractingly. “I’ll give her some of my energy for now.” Without warning he pressed his hand onto her chest. Sakura expected something to happen for a second, like a dramatic flash of dramatic light to fill the room, as Sarah was dramatically brought back to full life in a dramatic show of overly dramatic magic. Instead, nothing happened at all, and the girl could not help but find herself disappointed. Seconds later, Sarah shot up straight, completely fine.
“Huh? What happened?” she asked, looking confused, but not all that tired. She turned to face Sakura and squinted at her oddly, before noticing the boy who was currently still pressing against her chest.
“Oi? What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she shouted at him, grabbing his hand and twisting it by the thumb. Bending his wrist further than any body part is meant to go she pulled his elbow around, bringing his arm around his back, and began to dislocate his shoulder.
“Ow… Ow,” the boy began to whine in pain. “Sorry, sorry.”
Sakura and Aki just glared at the scene in front of them. The older, taller and much more mature boy now on his knees in agony as a result of a little, rash, immature girl grabbing hold of him. Sakura rushed to intervene.
“Er… Sarah, he was saving your life,” Sakura stated, though this did not stop her friend as she started to kick the boy.
“Oooooh, hole into oblivion,” Sagara muttered to himself, impressed with the new edge of the room that Melissa’s explosion had caused. She watched him as he peered over the edge, looking like he was overcoming a strange urge to spit into the darkness before him, when he was interrupted by a noise behind him. Both turning to see the Riddleklutz just hanging there, Melissa saw it had survived the explosion, appearing unconcerned for its missing left appendage. Sagara ducked before she could see why, the demon releasing a torrent of incandescent flame from its mouth. Quickly crawling under the demon to get behind it behind it, he kicked it hard into the direction of the darkness. For a second, Melissa expected that the evil sprite might vanish from existence just like its fire did. Instead it chose to halt its momentum and float back towards Sagara, unaffected by the tactic.
A punch to the thing that counted as its face proved pointless, the demon did not seem to have any pain receptors or nerve endings of any kind, the scream that it performed earlier seemed only to bring the Mass Singularities to life. It wasn’t even falling off the smoldering piece of balsa that it was hanging lop sided on.
Sagara wasn’t at a complete disadvantage though. The demon wasn’t having much luck against him either. Its only offensive attack being the blue fire that it spat, and that was now meaningless, since the creature seemed unable to crane its neck down or hover its body sideways, possibly out of fear of its head falling off. This meant all Sagara had to do was duck to avoid it, bringing them both to a stalemate in the meantime.
There were only twenty-nine Mass Singularities left since her explosion. But without any other bombs she could see little on how to get rid of them, and she doubted that the demon fiend was going to willingly incinerate its own associates for them. Even if they did get rid of all the other machine-like demons, the dark judge would still be fast enough to follow them to prevent their escape, wherever they intended to escape to.
Looking around for an advantage, or at least some way away from the Mass Singularity that surrounded them, she finally discovered where Raiko had disappeared to, currently hiding under the large stand where the judge demon was presiding earlier. The whole series of events had been too much even for her. She had done fine during the trial, but the scale of the fight would be overwhelming for anyone in combat. Melissa was amazed that she was keeping it together in this war torn courtroom of hell, and even more surprised that the big guy was still in check too.
Reality interceded as a large skull appeared in front of her, its mouth glowing blue. Scaring herself, she quickly grabbed the head of the demon and leapfrogged over it, fiery vengeance emitting from its mouth under her. Landing behind the supposed Judge of the False Balance, she got out of the way just in time to watch Sagara drop kicking the Riddleklutz off into one of the few remaining parts of the wall, trapping it there.
Trying to pull itself back into the room through the small hole it had made, the creature howled furiously , finding itself stuck by its own balsa wood constraints in the oak wall paneling. Sagara approached as it tried to get through, the Riddleklutz looking at him as if it were going to ask him for a hand. Instead it chose to release more flame from the pit of its mask, nearly scorching the seventeen year old as he ducked out of the way again, landing hard on the ground.
“Pitiful creature,” the Riddleklutz mocked as it watched the ninja pull himself off the floor. “We offer you a choice to escape through rational non-confrontation means, and you choose the act of all true cowards? The False Balance is as deluded…” The creature failed to complete the sentence as it watched Sagara’s movements, seeing him walk up to the trapped Riddleklutz and lift his leg high into the air, bringing it down upon the head of the demon stuck in the wall, the heel smashing its cranium and cracking the balsa wood. The wood fell out of sight, disappearing behind the remaining wall of the InBetween realm. The head of the creature simply bounced onto the courtroom floor, landing on its own ear. Slowly, Sagara walked over to the helpless head and, kneeling down, took hold of the chin so he could look it in its crushed eyes.
“You’re a demon, don’t you get that?” he told it. “Your choice is no choice, for whatever human you offer it to. Even a Futabatei.” The demon responded by expelling a gush of flame in Sagara’s face, who was only just able to fall out the way of the initial volley as it engulfed his face. The momentary blaze singing the tip of his hair, the ninja dodged clear, appearing unharmed. He turned back to the Riddleklutz and started violently kicking the severed head into the floor, stomping on it until the fire subsided, the creature now nothing but flesh and plastic shards from inside a skull mask
“Well,” Sagara mumbled, crashing to the floor before he could say anything, the Riddleklutz’s cranial fluids acting as lubricant for his shoes. Looking away with a snort, Melissa brought her attention back to the Mass Singularity, now just two feet in front of her, the speed at which they were going meaning they might prove a threat in the next minute or so. The big guy was had already fell to the stare out contest the creatures had engaged him in, and she could no longer tell him to stop looking at them, though she questioned if falling to their hypnosis may be a better choice than having them kill her without it.
“Hey, Raiko,” Sagara said casually in the now silent room to the once snobbish girl who was now crouched in prayer and chattering to herself. He looked away when he didn’t receive an answer, his eyes catching a folder just laying on the table that he then picked up and stored in his jacket. “You okay?” he asked, going down to shake the girl. Centimeters from her, his hand flinched back as it was electrocuted. Not expecting that, Sagara tried it again, only to realise that the girl seemed to be emitting a huge amount of electrical energy.
“Sagara,” the girl behind him said in an authoritative voice. “The OniRai is about to take control. Please stand back.”
“Okay,” Sagara said, though not looking like he knew why.
“Please stand back,” she shouted louder, causing the boy to obey faster, jumping back further than he intended. Melissa watched alongside him as Raiko stood up and out of the hollow space behind the witness box to her full height.
The girl looked different than before. Her hair was spiky, where before it just laid back and the super long ribbon that was in her hair was now in wrapped between her two hands, binding them together. Looking at the neckband, Melissa’s eyes felt a little odd as she saw little sparks of electricity jump out and attack the air. It sounded like there were thousand of birds surrounding the girl, all twittering away noisily, pecking and scratching each other for blood. Looking closer, Ninja girl could see little sparks all over Raiko’s body, as the pressure in the room tightened and the air disappeared.
Raiko jumped over the twelve-foot stand and landed in the hearing area of the court in the blink of an eye. Another blink, and she promptly disappeared from Melissa’s field of view only to reappear straight in front of her and the big guy. Before Melissa could react, the girl began bashing her way through the demons, speed punching five of them in just one second. The hands impossibly amazing, the girl swiftly moved onto the next load of demons before the ninja could even realise that nine of the Mass Singularity had been punched, six more cloaks slamming back in the air though only five punches had been thrown.
Delivering four more intense kicks to random parts of random demons, Raiko jumped high into the air, kicking more of them as she took off, hitting four with one roundhouse kick, slamming the side of her other foot into three more and, hitting the floor with a spin, punching four more into the tops of the heads surrounding her.
Dropping down, she didn’t stop and crouched to the floor, sweeping her foot along the smooth surface in front of seven more Singularities. Not seeming to hit anything, she jumped back into the air and hovered, her foot continuing its sweeping motion going around her body at least four times. Melissa felt small waves of energy hit her repeatedly in time to the kick as it came round in her direction. Although by the time the first wave had hit her, Raiko had already disappeared, reappearing on the other side of the room from her, pushing the electric blue body off the wall and into ten more of the creatures. Flying through them, it looked like she had missed, although the wind alone caused all of the cloaks to fly high into the air. By then, Melissa had lost all real track of her. All she could tell was that in that span of seven seconds, Raiko had hit every Mass Singularity in the room.
The lightning girl reappeared exactly where she had set off from, her stance loose yet solid. Melissa looked round to see if the girl was still moving around elsewhere.
“What the fuck was that?” the large guy shouted across the room, snapping out of his trance as his neck twisted in every direction to find what was going on.
“It was that girl,” Melissa replied, her voice sounding as shocked as she expected it to. “I don’t know how, but it was that girl.”
“That was- amazing,” Sagara cooed to himself. “It’s a shame it didn’t work.” Sighing, Melissa agreed- the situation being clear even to him. Raiko didn’t know anything about these demons in the end. Having hid at the beginning to charge up whatever it was she did, she must not have seen the others fight these creatures and discover them to be intangible.
“Against humans, that would have been effective. Against these things it’s done noth-”
The room cracked, almost breaking her ears.
It reminded her of a thunderclap, striking the drums in her ears long after seeing the light, but much louder. Without lightning and squeezing the air pressure, the cracks continued. Again and again rocketing through the room until thirty one distinct cracks had passed, building up a crescendo of destruction. It took her a moment to realise that the cracks of thunder were the after effect of Raiko’s onslaught, similar to thunder in a real lightning storm, but uncaring for distance. As the thirty first crack of thunder finished echoing across the room Ninja girl watched in astonishment as each and every one of the demons was set ablaze in an electric blue inferno.
An after effect of the lightning now standing before her.
As the Mass Singularities burned, Melissa’s reached for an explanation. As Raiko had hit a demon, the static she seemed to be producing must caused their cloaks to set on fire. It had just taken a moment for the small, minute fires to spread, before speeding up and burning their bodies. And the sonic booms came afterwards, a tribute to the speed at which she had been dancing. The shadowy cloaks sat there pathetically in response to the attack, accepting their defeat without words. Soon, the whole pack was an inferno, quickly burning up and removing all trace of the creatures that were ever there.
“Time to leave, I believe,” the big guy said. With no demon cloaks to continue burning the fires had decided to turn to the mahogany oak that was nearby and soon the small forest fires turned into an inferno that burned into the middle of the room.
“Okay,” Sagara replied, running along the side of the room, out of the way of the burning firestorm that was now eating at the floor. Raiko’s body appeared and seemed to have calmed down, only her hair remaining frizzed, lone strands sticking up in every direction. Running behind her friend without saying a word, the other two followed. Melissa knew she was the only one that felt concerned for having such a powerhouse hiding among them for the past hour.
Edging along the room, they soon came to the Entrance doors. Sagara went to pull them open, only to find no handle. He began to push on them, finding that they did not like to open that way either and then trying to find a gap in the middle of the two giant doors and pulling it open, but even then it seemed locked. Finally, he tried whining on the others for help.
“Do we need a key?” Raiko asked.
“I have one,” said the big guy, cracking his knuckles and slamming his outsized fist into the door, causing it to break under his terrific strength and make a hole. As he pulled his arm back, he became aware that he could not do so, and that the hole was much smaller than he intended.
“Interesting,” commented Sagara, watching the brute’s bicep with genuine admiration as it lay wedged in the door. “Could you make it bigger?”
“So where are you girl’s from then?” the boy asked the three girls as they walked down the corridor. Again it was a pretty average corridor. It was too average, stupidly average, as if it had been designed to be average and nothing more and it was making her suspicious of everything, and it was beginning to really bug Sarah off. It had to be, every twenty feet or so, that the long, narrow room would repeat itself and its furniture. The girl had already noted nine green sofas, nine brown flowerpots, eighteen radiators facing each other and nine ‘out of order’ vending machines since she had first grown suspicious. Maybe it was just her imagination, but it felt that they were walking inside one big hamster-wheel.
“W-We came from the city,” Sakura replied after stuttering a little. “But we’re actually from a little village just outside it. We live in a hotel there.”
“That sounds nice,” he replied stereotypically.
“It is. It has a hot spring and lots of secret tunnels,” Aki said, interrupting out of boredom, only to find she had been ignored.
“I guess you could say this is where I come from,” the boy said, answering his own question. “This place hosts quite a lot of rooms, so you could live here forever, which I practically have.” Sakura laughed happily at this, and Aki walked past the two of them, before running up to catch up with Sarah.
“Hey, don’t you think they’re acting a little weird,” she asked her partner in deviance.
“You mean besides one of them being naive and stupid and the other being a groper and stupid,” Sarah responded annoyed. She still had not got over being pulled away by the two girls earlier as she proceeded to insert the boy’s ribs into his vital organs. Now, Sakura was acting like a complete slut in front of a boy she had just met, holding his hand as they walked through the corridor, and Sarah was beginning to suspect that the same boy was leading them to their doom.
“I mean as in weird together,” Aki restated.
“Then they’re being stupid together,” mumbled Sarah, not caring for Aki’s comments. “It’s their common trait. I hope they have many happy times together focusing on a subject they can both enjoy.” Normally, even when pissed off, Sarah would love to help take advantage of such a situation as beautiful romance started to blossom between her friends. But she was pissed off with Aki as well at the moment, as she had helped Sakura pull her off the boy. Even so, she guessed she could ruin things a little.
“Hey, groper boy,” she said turning around, only to see both him and Sakura blushing. She felt breakfast try to come back up on her as she continued. “We there yet? Where are we going exactly?”
“Well, I was going to take you to the boss, but it’s probably best to get you back home as soon as possible instead. Your parents might be worried about you.”
“I doubt that,” Sarah said, turning back around and continuing to walk. “My parents are away. Aki’s parents are back in Africa, and the parents of the girl whose hand you’re holding killed each other years ago because they were retarded and hated their daughter.” Sarah smiled, counting down in her head as she waited for tears. She only got a few feet forward where the corridor began to rumble, causing her to fall over. The ground began to repeat its seismic shock for a few more seconds before stopping. After that, it was just like none of it had happened.
“What was that?” Aki asked, looking around for any clues. Were she paying more attention, she would have noticed that absolutely nothing had been moved in the corridor, even though the quake had knocked them all to their knees. Sarah felt her eyes stuck between a free chair and the boy, who was crouching down to Sakura.
“An earthquake?” the idiot said worried, seeing the boy offer her his hand and taking it to stand back up stood back up, blood rushing to her face again.
“That cannot be possible,” the boy replied. “Not here anyway. Do you mind if we run? I think there might be problems happening here.”
“S-sure,” Sakura said as the boy started off in front of her, forcing her to follow as he didn’t let go.
“The explosion didn’t happen that far from here. The way out is the door right next to where it happened. I’ll drop you three off and then see what it was. Okay?” The four continued down the corridor for another few hundred meters, Sakura quickly lagging behind, her stamina the worst out of all of them, a diet of fishing her finger in her own cooking pots showing itself more than ever. The boy slowed his own pace down and ran beside here.
“It’s okay, I’ll protect you, no mater what happens.”
“Stop being sappy,” Sarah shouted back at them. “It’s really annoying.”
“Oh?” said Aki next to her. “You so jealous?” The smaller girl stared at the monkey angrily.
“Why would I be jealous? The guy’s a groper,” Sarah said bluntly. “And don’t you dare blush at that, you freaks,” she shouted, turning her neck back, seeing that their blood had already gone to their faces. She growled loudly and just got back to running. It was stupid, how weird they were being. They were acting like they had known each other for years, like the generic best friends who would deny any romance was going on. She sprinted off a little way in front to get away from it when a shock wave emanated from the door she ran past, nearly knocking her into the door on the other side.
“Stop!” the boy informed her. “We’re there.”
“Oh really?” Sarah said with gritted teeth. “Ten second warning next time okay?”
“Sorry,” the boy said bowing in apology, causing Sarah to start gutting him with her eyes. “Anyways, the way out is through there. Just keep walking until you see it.”
“Thank you very much,” said Sakura bowing. She looked back up at him and blushed all the more profusely. “Will I…er. Will we get to see you again?” The boy almost jumped at this, turning around to hide his surprise, only to come to face Sarah, looking at him with blood filled anger in her eyes. She didn’t care right now if they saw each other again. She just wanted out of this strange building. Though she figured she could wait for them to at least swap mobile numbers or something.
“I’d like to,” the boy said smiling as he ignored the small girl. “I want to see you again, that’s for sure. I have to help with whatever’s going on now though, but I’ll definitely find a way to get in touch with you.”
What a great ditch! Sarah felt like punching him just out of principle.
“Okay,” Sakura said, beaming with happiness and what looked like a strange urge to hug the boy again.
“Oi, idiot. Let’s go,” Sarah said to her friend as she began to open the door. “We probably don’t want to stick around for ‘whatever is going on’.”
“Your friend is quite right, Sakura. I will definitely call you, so please just get a move on.” Now he was trying to urge them physically through the door and for a second Sarah wanted to resist, just to see what the commotion was.
“Okay,” Sakura nodded, before following Aki. Reaching the door, she stopped in thought. Had she given her name?
A split banging sound filled the corridor before anyone could reply; this one was a lot louder than the last two and seemed to come from directly above the boy’s head. The boy ducked down and looked up, seeing a colossal fist poking out of the door. It stayed there for a few seconds before trying to pull itself back out, failing to do and giving up.
“Interesting,” someone said from behind the door. “Could you make it bigger?”
“Oh shut up,” another voice came up. “Do you have any idea how annoying you are?”
“I’m not sure,” the previous voice said. “I don’t know how to measure it.”
“That voice,” Sarah said as it dawned upon here. “That’s Boss. Oi. Boss?”
“Huh? Squirt?” the voice previously known as Sagara shouted. “That you, Squirt?”
“Yeah, what are you doing here?”
“Getting out, I suppose?” Neither got the chance to explain further as the boy walked up to the door and opened it by the door handle, pushing it open. From the other side Sagara stepped through smiling towards the girl. Before he left the room however he stopped, staring at the boy standing in front of him.
“Stay where you are,” the boy said, bringing his hand up to Sagara’s neck. Sagara just stood there, Sarah realising that the only reason he wasn’t kicking this idiot in was because of the four extremely thin needles pressing against his neck. “Where is Master Takacheeny?”
“Takacheeny?” Sagara repeated in confusion. “Who is that?”
“The Riddleklutz that was conducting your trial! Where is he?” the boy shouted, pressing his needles into Sagara’s throat slightly, drawing a small amount of liquid crimson. Sarah stiffened and was about to move to intervene when the boy stopped pressing of his own accord, soon realising he was releasing his own generous amount of blood from his upper torso. He looked down to see a small knife in his hip, and stepped back in shock as Sarah questioned just where it had come from.
“Thanks Melissa,” Sagara said casually to someone Sarah didn’t recognise, taking a step back. The next moment he had thrust forward, slamming a rusted gauntlet into the pit of the boy’s stomach and out through the wall.
Sarah heard Sakura squeak, and felt her own body freeze as she saw the boy’s body skewer itself upon Boss’ arm.
“Your needle trap won’t work on someone who can see the needles,” Sagara stated, looking directly into blushing boy’s eyes with his own emerald greens. “The demons usually know that.”
“I’m not a demon,” the boy stated, glowing from his wound with a bright yellow light as he looked into Sagara’s eyes and grinned, the Boss’s hand must have been clutching his heart apparently not bothering all that much.
“It’s the same thing to us,” Sagara said, not giving a chance for the boy to counter attack. “Goodbye.” In a flash he had the knife out of the boy’s hip and danced it across the throat, the gentle child croaking feebly and filling the room with a sweet high-pitched noise that was quickly blighted by a cacophony of choking, blood dribbling out of his mouth as he exhaled it from his lungs. In a second the boy’s head rolled down to the side of his neck and stopped moving altogether. Sarah felt her stomach tighten. She had already been sick today.
“It dead?” a voice asked bluntly, followed shortly by its owner helping the only adult there get his fist out of the door.
“These type don’t require much, this should do,” Sagara informed her, looking tired as he pulled his fist out of the small boy, who felt to the floor like a puppet without strings. She heard Sakura murmur, the girl frozen in fear to do much else, as the body started to sizzle away in front them, the demon in boy form soon reduced to nothing.
“Strange to see one of those here,” the second girl she didn’t recognise said, appearing to make small talk as Sagara’s gauntlet seemed to suck up the remaining blood had covered it. “We must be nearer to the department than I thought.”
“They’re part of the False Balance too, just like their counterparts,” Sagara said, passing the girl her knife. “I’m going to have to destroy them all if they’re part of this.” Sarah heard a gasp and watched as Sakura’s knees had had enough, falling from under the girl’s body and trembling their way into the ground.
“Who’s this?” another girl she didn’t recognise said, pushing past he adult to her. “Hey, little miss. Are you okay?”
“Sakura’s here too?” Sagara asked. “And Aki?” Aki looked to the older boy, before dashing over to Sakura.
Sakura’s eyes were stretched open- seeing everything that she didn’t want to, wanting only to see nothing. The girl that had stabbed Alexis was whispering in the murderer’s ear now, and…
“Oh… right.” Sagara said, grinning like he thought he was stupid for not realising earlier. He moved in front of her, her eyes dashed to him and wondering if the second nicest person she had ever met was about to kill her to. “Sorry Sakura, I didn’t see you there. All the blood must be freaking you out, huh?” That wasn’t it. That wasn’t it at all. He had just… He had…
“You killed him?” Sakura said, still sniffing as she felt her eyes blinking rapidly. She couldn’t feel the tears.
“Yup,” Sagara replied, like he was trying to imagine how bad she must be feeling. “It’s okay though, it was a demon. It just looked like a boy to trick you.” She just wanted to be away at this moment, asleep in her bed, anything.
“You killed Alexis!” Sakura screamed at him, grabbing him by his shirt. “How could you?”
“Huh?” said Sagara dumbly, having no idea what was going on.
“You killed Alexis,” Sakura repeated getting angrier. “You killed the one person that was truly nice to me. It didn’t matter if he was a demon or whatever…I loved him.”
The room went silent, everyone looking at her as she grabbed hold of his shirt and fell into it pathetically, tears staining the garment as she broke down. She felt his arms hover above her for a moment like he didn’t know what to do, choosing to leave them hanging just inches away from her. The urge to have him crush her came up like spitting fat. God forgive her, but all she wanted to do now was die, to just pass on and go with Alexis. She didn’t get any time to, Aki’s voice bringing her back to reality.
“Loved him?” she said, confused. “But Sakura, we only just met him twenty minutes ago. Aren’t you overreacting here?”
“That’s right,” confirmed Sarah, as surprised as everyone. “You told us you only just met him ten minutes before we met him and- did we even learn his name? I don’t think he introduced himself.” She became confused at herself as Sarah spoke, knowing all too well she had never learned his name either, but also knowing that she had just named him. The room went back into silence, Aki hugging her from behind. What was she thinking? She didn’t know him, did she? Was she just being silly again? Everyone else seemed to think it was okay that Alexis had just been killed. Maybe she…
“Whatever’s going on here will have to be sorted out later,” someone stated in a commanding voice again. “We should try and find a way out.”
“Oh. Okay,” Sarah began as she looked at the floor where the boy Sakura had called Alexis had been. “He said that there was a way out here. We were about to head that way before…” she trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence.
“I see,” one of the older girls said, covering for the girl as she stumbled on her sentence. “Then let’s leave that way.”
“Hey wait. He said it was a demon,” the big guy pointed out. “What if it was lying?”
“We’ll probably find out as we go,” the other unknown female said simply, pushing the door open. “Come on, lets get out of here” she said quietly. These two will follow us later.” Everyone slowly filtered out until Aki got to the door, where she wavered for a few seconds before disappearing.
The remaining two stayed quiet for a few minutes, Sakura continuing to get his shirt wet where she had grabbed it. Sagara remained quiet and she wondered why she was even hugging him. Though he felt warm, she felt like she could never trust him again.
“Hi…” he finally tried, trying to sound optimistic before stopping himself from saying more. She couldn’t reply for a few moments, sobbing quietly to herself instead. What was wrong with her?
“I’m so confused,” the girl told him. It was so quiet she almost didn’t hear it.
“I guess you would be?” he said, not understanding.
“No!” she cried out. “You don’t… I don’t get it.”
“I loved him… I met him when I was eighteen on my family’s cruiseship. His name was Alexis. He was a year younger than me and he was just as shy as I was… We watched each other for ages until he finally found the courage to ask me out and I found the courage to accept. We dated and- and we fell in love and we planned to get married. I can remember all of it. A least… I think I do.”
She butted her head against his chest. It had been happening for a while now.
“But how can I remember all of it if it never happened?” she shouted at the ninja in front of her. “There’s no way that could of happened, but it has and I know it has and I know I loved him and… and.” Words failed her as she fell back onto the boy’s shirt, now completely soaked.
“That I can tell you,” he finally answered. “Because he was a-”
“Don’t tell me what he was. I don’t want to know. He wasn’t a demon and we both know it.” She sniffed loudly, snorting by mistake, Sagara’s eyes meeting hers perfectly, not looking away, but not holding any sympathy either.
““I’m… I’m not allowed to tell you he wasn’t a demon.” he said, his eyes dashing away for a second before falling silent. All she could do with this was cry more.
Looking over the boy’s shoulder, to the broken corpse of a boy she did not know yet loved more than life itself, laying in the darkened corridor of a dimension that no one no longer knew about, Sakura sat there in the arms of the murderer with quiet sobbing, holding him for comfort as she drained the tears from his body.
A few more minutes past, and without speaking to each other, they stood up and headed for the door.