At an abandoned villa, a few miles away from the city, Kaeli and an unconscious Juan appeared in a flash of blue light. The seraphic huntress dropped her captive then checked the minuscule rock that had been hidden among his hair.
"Buffoons. Did they really think I wouldn't find it?" She guffawed as she crushed it between her fingers, imagining the Phlebiacs performing a wild goose chase where the signal had last been sent. Kaeli noticed that the suit was beginning to wake. Sensing its enemy, it formed tendrils that moved like menacing snakes, but the moment she reached out to them they shriveled away. "Always trying to bite off more than they can chew. Now, let's prepare the sales-pitch."
Sweet, melodious, enchanting…such and more was the music Juan heard as he awoke. He looked up and saw an extraordinary vision. A woman of unearthly beauty was sitting a few feet beside him, playing an instrument that looked like a slender bagpipe. Long sky-blue hair cascaded down her back, and her robe was so white it literally glowed. Her most distinguishing characteristic: a pair of silvery wings. She stopped playing and turned to look at him.
"You've awakened at last. I was starting to think you wouldn't."
"Am I dead?" the boy asked with barely a whisper. It was the only logical explanation. How could he see an angel otherwise?
"Of course not, silly," Kaeli answered with a soft giggle. Her expression quickly became saddened though. "However, I fear I must still be the bearer of bad news. Your ignorance was exploited, and you we're being fooled into fighting for the enemies of both Heaven and humanity."
"Qué What are you talking about?" The brown-haired boy gulped when she approached, her attire was rather transparent. "Umm, Señorita, what are you doing?" The shorthaired teen stuttered as she put her entrancing face inches from his.
"Stand still." The Seraphic huntress gently took hold of his face. "This will hurt a little, but it's better for you to know the truth."
"(gulp) Okay." Juan closed his eyes, and a nightmare was revealed: His mentor, the Vindicator, in his true form, revealing all sorts of horrendous facts. The origin of his suit, the planned outcome for him as a false Spawn, the truth behind so many 'accidents' and crimes, lies and deceptions one after another. "YEARRGH!" Juan pushed himself away. It was too much to bear.
"I'm sorry," Kaeli said sympathetically as she stepped up, "But this moment of suffering was minimal compared to whatever those demons had in store for you." She held out her hand to the trempling boy. "Come with me, and you will get help you can trust." This offer got an immediate response, an uppercut from a spiked fist.
"Trust!" Spawn roared as the mask covered his face and his eyes began to glow. "You can't fool me, I saw what you really want, puta!"
"What?" Kaeli spat out blood. "How could you—Guh!" A dozen whips started lashing at her, each blow more merciless than the last. An ordinary human would've died after the first blow. Suddenly he stopped. Kaeli opened one eye and saw her green-eyed assailant. He was motionless at first, then clutched his stomach, and moaned in pain.
"What…what is happening to me?" The look in his eye was a combination of rage and despair. He gave the angel one last spiteful glance before running away as fast as he could.
"Damn, what's happened here?" the Seraphic huntress asked herself as she rubbed her head. "Why did he get so upset? And how could he do that? Not even a true Hellspawn is that strong. Even taken by surprise, I should've been able to overcome him easily." Aching terribly, she got on her feet. "Whatever the reason, I gotta get that kid back before—Oof!" A powerful blow sent her flying across the room. After she finished tumbling, Kaeli looked up to see Vandalizer, holding the still paralyzed Karasu, who was now suffering the effects of demonic teleportation.
"If you're looking for answers, sweet-cheeks, I'll be glad to oblige," the brute chuckled. He dropped his captive, charged and delivered a punt that lifted her into the air. That's when he grabbed and slammed her against the wall. "We're not as dumb as you think, hag. During our scuffle earlier today, Vinnie cast a special spell on the kid. When you tried to show him what you knew, he took some extra info. Also, he placed an enfeeblement curse on you." He pushed her against the wall, finding delight in her pain. "And you're not wearing your armor, (tisk-tisk) bad choice." Having said this, Vandalizer gave her a brutal trashing. Karasu tried to come to her aid, but the paralyzing trap was still in full effect.
"Van!" The large demon stopped when he heard his brother call. "You can be dumber than the Vacillator sometimes. Didn't you notice that the kid is missing!"
"What!" The purple one looked around and saw that this was true. Almost immediately, he vented out this his frustration on the angel. "Where is he!"
"Heh, wouldn't you like to know," Kaeli mocked, "Your little scheme backfired big time. He bolted right after flying into a rage." The brute growled and threw her against the floor. She landed beside Karasu.
"You know? Part of me is glad you got your ass kicked. You deserve it for double-crossing me."
"I was trying to protect you!" the angel protested, "You may be strong, but not nearly enough to face two Phlebiacs."
"Oh, of course. You alone are taking care of things beautifully."
"Okay, let's fix this." Vindicator dropped Enrique and Rosa and cast a locator spell. "Terrific, the fusion has started! And his signal is too erratic to determine position."
"Let's get a move on then," Vandalizer said, "Come along, you little tramp, it's time—Huh?" He was going to pick up Rosa but she was walking towards Kaeli.
"Are you an angel?" the pink-haired girl asked, "One of God's angels?" Her answer was a nod. The younger one stood there silently, with a blank stare. Everyone was puzzled. "An angel." Suddenly and without warning, Rosa exploded! "How dare you show you're face now!" She started beating on the pony-tailed female (who by now weak enough, both by magic and muscle, to receive damage from the human girl), with even more fierceness than Vandalizer. "You're supposed to know everything! You're supposed to love us! Why did you let this happen? Why was I forsaken all these years!" The look in her eyes was one of pure madness. "TELL ME WHY!"
"Rosa, that's enough!" Enrique rushed over to stop his friend and received a left jab for his attempt.
"Assholes! All of you! None of you care about anyone other than yourselves! And you!" She gave Kaeli an irate glare. "Your kind is the worst of them all." Rosa punched her one last time then turned her attention towards Karasu. It was the first time she'd seen him under this identity. "And you. I bet you knew as well."
"I found out just a moment ago," he replied, "I should've known earlier but—" He too was struck. That brief contact revealed a terrifying secret. There is very little that can scare one who's returned from the dead. What Karasu no Shi saw left him horrified. "Rosa, you…you did do it."
"I set myself free," she replied coldly. Vindicator approached from behind and was about to say something. "What are you two idiots waiting for! We've got work to do!." Fuming, she stomped out of the room, leaving the gray demon with a gaping mouth.
"Boy, is she a piece of work," Vandalizer commented as he followed.
"You," the dark-eyed one growled, "are even lower than I thought."
"Don't blame me. Aren't you mimes supposed to sense whenever someone needs saving? So why didn't you feel her?" Karasu made a fist. "Oh I'd love to stay and talk about it, but I'm in a hurry right now. Ta-ta." Vindicator left, laughing at the imminent defeat of his adversaries.
Enrique had remained silent through all this, trying to keep his wits in place, which is not easy when the monster from your nightmares is present. Not to mention the fact that, just a moment ago, his friend had tried to kill him. Yet he had to admit, all of this was reality and he had to face it.
"Rosa sold her soul, didn't she?"
"I'm afraid so," Karasu replied, "and you don't want to hear what she got in return."
"No, she didn't," Kaeli corrected. "The Phlebiacs have no interest in her. Their goal is Aguirre, and she's going to help them get him."
"Paco? What does he have to do with all this?"
"Long story short, he stumbled into a suit that belongs to those freaks, and now they want it back," the undead warrior explained. "If I heard correctly, it's become strong enough to integrate with Juan fully. And if the process is completed, they will claim him. Unless someone does something about it." Gathering all of his strength, Karasu made a huge effort and got on his feet.
"You used the girl's emotions to empower yourself," Kaeli guessed, "Amazing! The paralysis should've lasted another hour. But it won't do any good. You can barely walk, let alone fight. If you try to rescue those children, all you will manage is to give the Phlebiacs the satisfaction of killing you quicker."
"Aren't you supposed to be more positive than that?" the blonde boy questioned, "What ever happened to 'faith the size of a mustard seed'?"
"Reality check, kid. There's only so much faith can do. And it's certainly not going to do much for you if you're only trying to be a hero."
"I'm not trying to be a hero," Karasu replied. "I'm keeping a promise."
Not far from the residence, Spawn was in the middle of his own struggle. Karasu had assumed correctly, the suit was now strong enough to take over its human host. This meant both parties had to hurry, since the most likely result was Juan Aguirre becoming nourishment for what had once defended him.
"Coño" The green-eyed youth groaned, "If they think they can have me, they've got another thing coming." Obviously, he was trying to resist. Unfortunately, this was a battle of spiritual strength, not physical, and Juan's had been diminished by his encounter with Kaeli. "All I ever wanted to do was help!" he shouted, "And this is what I get for my efforts! IT'S NOT FAIR"
"Juan! Juan, where are you?"
He recognized the voice calling his name, it was Rosa. Normally, when one is lost, the most logical thing to do is head towards something familiar. But Spawn's distrust was at maximum level and did not want anything to do with anyone. The rookie hero tried to get away, but in his disoriented state, he ran into the one he intended to avoid.
"Juan, thank goodness!" The pink-haired girl ran up and embraced him. "It was awful! I thought for sure that monster was going to kill me!"
"Get away from me!" Spawn shouted as he shoved her away. "I'll bet anything you're into this too." The tan girl was too stunned to reply. "That's right, isn't it? You're just like everyone else, you just want something from me."
"Want something?" Rosa fell to her hands and knees and started sobbing. "How dare you? How dare you say something like that?"
"Rosa." The green-eyed one felt ashamed for what he'd said. Guilt ridden, he took a step towards his friend; but before he could react, the suit lashed out, slamming the pink-haired girl against a tree! "Rosa!" Once more Spawn fell into a panic. He sprinted towards his friend, hoping that she was still okay. Then he stopped short and realized that the suit hadn't attacked randomly, it had defended him! Rosa was holding a thick, sharp branch with her hand.
"I do want something from you, asshole," she panted, "At first, it was for you to love me back." Spawn's expression went blank. "That's right, I've had a crush on you for ages. But these last few days I've come to realize the worthless, cowardly pile of shit you are. So, the only thing I want from you now is to die!"
"Rosa, I… You have every right to blame me. I was a fool to let that devil trick me that way. I was too obsessed with blaming the Crow. The only reason he killed your family is because I'm your friend!" The frustration that had been building inside the boy exploded. "All I wanted to do was help! Instead I've endangered my friends! What sort of hero am I!"
"YOU AREN'T A HERO AT ALL!" Rosa exclaimed. "You never did anything to help me! You never had the guts!" The pink-haired girl's eyes narrowed. "Oh, I hope you suffer even more than my dad did. You deserve as much."
"Qué" Her friend raised his head in disbelief. "Deserve? Rosa, what are you talking about?"
One day ago:
"I'm going out, I'll be back when I want to," Rosa announced as she walked past the living room.
"Wait a second!" her slob of a father called, "What do you mean by that, young lady? There are rules to follow in this house and—" He was struck dumb the moment he saw her outfit. The tan girl was wearing a torn tank top, which showed much more than her midriff, and tight denim shorts. The fat man ran up to her as fast as he could and grabbed the girl violently by the arm. "What the hell do you think you're doing, dressing up like a whore!"
"This? It's nothing compared to the stuff the other girls are wearing." Rosa's eyes narrowed. "Or maybe you're afraid people will see your work." Naturally, the bruises on her arms, shoulders and back were in full display, plus, she was wearing no make up, so the ones on her face could also be seen. "That's right, isn't it? If I go out like this, then the whole world will see that you're a nut-less brute who beats her daughter in order to feel better." Her voice was gaining volume, this drew her mother out of the kitchen. "You heard me! You're too much of a wimp to face someone as strong as you, so you take out your frustrations on me!" Rosa received the fiercest and most cruel blow she ever had, she fell to the floor with her head throbbing in pain. The sight of her daughter spiting out blood and a tooth stunned the grown woman utterly. She'd always avoided witnessing these beatings (out of sight out of mind), but now she was too scared to move.
"Now you listen!" the brute hollered as he picked up Rosa by the hair and screamed into her ear. "I'm the one in charge of you. The food you eat, the clothes you wear, the school you go to, it all comes from my money. And you, you little bitch, owe me respect!" He hit her again then threw her against the wall.
"Oh, I know what I owe you," the pink-haired girl growled, "I've been meaning to repay you for years." It hurt, but she managed to give a triumphant smile. "Now I can." Her father didn't understand until he perceived four things: first, the look of absolute horror in his wife; second, that enormous pain in his stomach; third, the long talon coming out of it; fourth, that elongated gray jaw.
"Of course, she had to wait for a little assistance," Vindicator cackled. He threw the fat man towards his brother, who caught and started squeezing him, making blood squirt gruesomely.
"You want us to give him the works, right?" Vandalizer asked, "Get him for everything he's done to you."
"Tenfold," the hurt girl said mercilessly as she walked past her paralyzed mother on her way upstairs. "And don't forget her."
"Qué" the grown woman saw the gray-skinned monster come closer. "NO!" She ran and grabbed her daughter's foot as she tripped to the floor. "Rosa, you can't let them take me! I never did anything to you!"
"You." Rosa's face was contorted with rage and hatred as she kicked her mother in the face. "YOU NEVER DID ANYTHING!" She ran up to her bedroom, slammed the door and curled up in a corner. The agonizing pleas and screams coming from below did not affect her, just as her own tears did not stop her father's hand nor made her mother act in her defense. "And I will gladly give you to them as well, Juan," the tan girl sobbed, "Damn you for not helping me before, damn my friends for never noticing, damn the teachers for being so dense, damn…" She finally collapsed. "DAMN YOU ALL!"
An appalled Spawn stood there silently. Not only was the story terrifying, the effect was being enhanced by Rosa's tear-flooded eyes and dreamy expression.
"Mom serving waffles for breakfast, dad giving me piggy-back rides, the three of us going to the park on Sundays…is that too much to ask for? Maybe so, but I could've at least been given a life where I wasn't A FUCKING PUNCHING BAG!" She charged at the dark-clad teen, intending to stab him. The suit reacted and lashed at her again, slamming her against the tree. Spawn tried to hold back, but his effort wasn't enough.
"NO!" He wanted to rush over and aid her, but knew that he would only end up harming her. "Rosa, I'm sorry! I never meant for you to be hurt."
"I know you didn't," she replied, "You never did anything to hurt me or anyone. Vindicator and Vandalizer have nothing on you." Rosa looked up. "That's the fact which angers me the most. You haven't sinned, so they can't claim you. All you have to do is refuse to go with them and you're Scott-free." A massive foot came between the two former friends. Vandalizer picked up the tan girl and roared to her face.
"Stupid bitch, you just revealed the loophole! The deal was for you to help us get him."
"Let go of her!" Spawn moved in to attack. The purple demon spat a fireball his way and sent him flying.
"Well, what can you say for yourself?" he demanded.
"You've got nothing to threaten me with, tío," Rosa challenged, "I had my parents killed and tried to murder my friend so I could stay with his. Where am I going to end up, I wonder?" Her eyes narrowed. "All you do is screw people with your deals, so don't complain if I screw you for a change." Vandalizer glared at her angrily, but at the end he smirked and chuckled.
"You're really something." He let her go. "Fine, we'll call it even. Your confession helped a lot anyway." Van turned his attention to his prime target, who was up against his skinnier brother.
"Don't waste your breath," Spawn growled, "Now I know what you're after and how to stop you. So don't try to offer me anything, 'cause the answer is 'no'!"
"Even the fact that you're about to be eaten alive?" Vindicator pointed out. "By now, the pain must've been replaced by a minor ache. Still, the fusion continues its process, and the most likely outcome is you becoming food."
"I don't care! Nothing you say will change my mind!"
"Not even one last chance to save your friend?" the gray-demon questioned. This caught the green-eyed one's attention. "It's a legal clause: Actions taken through demonic influence may be taken off record by said influencing demon. In other words, we can erase what Rosa did and give her another shot at the pearly gates." Vindicator raised his brow. "That is of course, if you want to." Spawn's fist clenched with fury. "All it take is two little words: I'm yours."
"I've got two words for you: Ebon shears!" The focused blades severed Vindicator's arm. Karasu then landed in front of him and slashed at his chest with his katana. Followed by a kick to the face that made him fall on his rear. "Get the hell out of here, Juan. Now!"
"You owe her nothing!" the undead hero declared, "Everything that has happened to her was her own choice, no one else's."
"Qué" The tan girl was stunned. The long-jawed Phlebiac started laughing merrily.
"Oh, this is rich. You're blaming others because the powers you were so proud of failed to sense her blight."
"My powers didn't fail at all. At first I thought it had been you who cast a cloaking spell around her. But right after I touched Rosa I realized, she had cloaked herself."
"Qué How could she—Why would she do such a thing?" a puzzled Spawn asked.
"The make up, the way she changed the conversation each time she became the subject, her demeanor alone kept her hidden. How can one hear a cry for help that isn't given?" The dark-eyed hero glared at her. "You wrote your past alone. Juan and I are not responsible for it."
"You son of a bitch," the tan girl growled as the limped towards him, "It's you who should've known! The signs were there. You and everyone else ignored me because you were too selfish to look beyond yourselves!"
"Ah, shut up!" Vandalizer interrupted, "You know it's true, you vain bitch. Deep down, you never wanted to be rescued; because your friends knowing the truth would be blow to your ego, more painful than any your father could give you." The teary girl gritted her teeth and the brutish demon raised a claw. "Since you don't care that no one cares about you, I guess—Guh!" Karasu delivered a kick to the side of his head, so hard that the skull was cracked and green blood spurted out.
"I can't fix her past. I can, however, do something for her future." He unsheathed Seventh Sin and narrowed his opaque eyes. "Back off, now. Ugh!" There was a sharp pain on his side. The turned and saw Rosa digging her improvised weapon into him.
"What future?" she asked, "You're an idiot if you think I'll be thankful for your saving my life." Sighing, Karasu pushed her away and knocked her out with a punch.
"Maybe so, but I'm still going to." He turned his attention back towards his true enemies. "Ready?"
"So you wanna rumble with the Fabulous Phlebiac Brothers?" The purple demon said. "Go for it!" The battle began, but it was one-sided. The effect of the paralyzing trap was still slowing Karasu down somewhat. Also, now that the element of surprise had been used up, his blows weren't accurate enough and he could barely avoid the ones aimed at him.
"You should've kept your painted nose out of our business, runt," the skinny one snarled as he delivered a headbutt, which hit his target dead center. Karasu flew a couple of feet and was slammed against a boulder. "Now to—Hey!" Something started stinging at his face. It was Spawn, whipping at his former teacher.
"If these are the final moments in my life, then I'll use them to do what's right!" More whips appeared and the lashing became fiercer. Vindicator's reaction was an annoyed sigh.
"One of these days, I'm going to find out whether this is insanity or just plain stupidity." A minor chant and an energy wave was cast. This maneuver went awry, however, for who was there to catch him but Kaeli herself. Fully armored and free from the enfeeblement curse.
"Thank you kindly," she said with a mocking wink just before teleporting away.
"Chingada" the dark-clad hero swore, "If it's not one thing, it's another." And if that wasn't enough, the demonic siblings were about to pounce upon him from behind. He turned the tables upon them, however, by leaping high into the air and throwing the ebon shears. The attack wasn't as focused this time, so the damage wasn't as aggravating. Hurting his foes wasn't his intention, this was a mere cover so that he could activate the silent shadow.
"Arrgh! Damn that runt!" Vandalizer scanned the area. "And curse that broad. How could she recover so fast?"
"Who cares? What matters is, she's got the kid." Vindicator spat in disgust. "Not only that, she cast a field around her so that we can't teleport to her side. We'll have to go on foot." He sketched a circle on the ground and recited a minor chant. Green flames erupted and an arrow formed. It spun a while before fixing a direction. "They're this way. Come on." The two brothers left.
"Brainless twits," Kaeli giggled as she came into view. She hadn't teleported at all, merely hid herself and thrown a decoy for her opponents to follow. Spawn struggled away and ran towards his unconscious friend.
"Rosa! Speak to me. Are you alright?" The pink-haired girl was completely out of it. It was painful to see his friend like this, even more that the fusion. "How could you let them do this?" the masked boy demanded, "You're an angel! You're supposed to be the good one!"
"Oh, quit your bellyaching!" the pony-tailed angel snapped, "It's not like she's of any significance in this matter, or you." She readied her battle-axe and stepped forward menacingly. "You saw it yourself, thanks to the Vindicator's spell. You're only important to me because you're a human fused with a K-unit, a historical first. You are the key to deciphering how those blasted suits work. We'll be able to destroy one of Hell's greatest weapons. Do you understand what that means?"
"I do, you only came here to pick me up and take me to some lab." He took a deep breath. "I do believe that my life is a small price for such victory." Spawn's eyes flashed with anger. "But I saw who you are, a heartless bitch who only cares for her own glory. It doesn't matter to you who gets involved in the process!" He lashed at Kaeli. She caught the whip with one hand. "You might as well save your breath, because I choose not to go with you either!"
"The free will rule? Ha! Haven't you noticed there are ways around it? Hell uses deceit in order to manipulate humans into making the choices that benefit them. We use combat."
"Qué" Spawn cringed as another painful wave ran through him. The fusion process was still going on. "You're challenging to a fight?"
"A duel, traditional and honorable. The victor may demand something from the loser. In this case, you will agree to come with me."
"How is this honorable!" Spawn protested, "I'm in no condition to fight." As a matter of fact, he was having trouble standing up.
"As you said before, I don't give a shit as long as I win." Kaeli took a battle stance. "And if you refuse, I win by default. So, will you fight?"
"Sí" Unprepared, the cyan-haired huntress was barely able to block, and was thrown back about two yards from the blow given by Seventh Sin. Karasu no Shi had not been fooled by her earlier ruse, he even turned it against her. "Didn't want me to get hurt. For a moment, I almost believed you."
"So you've got one brain-cell inside your head, big deal." The Seraphic huntress narrowed her eyes. "Don't even think about facing me. Even in top shape, you'd have no chance."
"I've dealt with worse. Now fight!" The undead warrior charged forward. Kaeli responded with a frontal attack of her own, planning to overpower him with greater strength. She wasn't expecting him to make a sharp turn and hit her on her blindside. Furious that she'd been tricked like this, she reacted and struck him with the flat side of her weapon. And before he could counter, Kaeli let him have a roundhouse kick that sent him flying right trough a tree!
"I was planning to go soft on you," the treacherous angel growled, "But know I'm going to show you exactly what it means to fight a huntress!" She leapt into the air and, impulsed by a mystic force, delivered a kick. Karasu managed to roll away in the knick of time, but was still affected by the impact. Spawn shielded himself and Rosa, and when the dust settled, he gasped in amazement. There was a 15-foot-wide crater with Kaeli standing in the center!
"I'm only slightly impressed," the undead warrior groaned as he got up, "If you were planning to use that on a child, it means you're all show."
"The last one to insult me like that was a Yuvirian harpy," an offended Kaeli replied, "I'm going to hang your head right next to hers on my wall." She charged, ready to bring down her axe and chop her opponent in half. Karasu, taking advantage of his small size and speed, rushed and punched her in the stomach with all of his might. This move was followed by a jab that nearly broke her jaw. The next thing he did was slash at her with Seventh Sin, but he parried with her battle-axe, so began the swordplay. "Idiot, why are you even fighting? You know I'm right."
"Probably, but you've forgotten something very important." Karasu kicked her away. "Sacrifice must be voluntary in order to be worthwhile. If you force Juan, or anyone, into it, you're no better than the phlegm brothers." This comparison angered the cyan-haired huntress even further. A brief glow emanated from her body, which immediately became a blinding flare. "GRRAAH!" Karasu was blasted away by this. Every inch of his body stung, including the tip of his hair.
"What I did was reveal part of my true essence," Kaeli informed, "An ordinary human would've died, and a lowly being such as yourself can only stand so much." She titled her head. "To be honest, though, I was expecting you to be burned to a crisp. I hate to admit it, but you're stronger than I thought." A sinister smile curled her lips. "Works for me. After all, I want my trophy." She raised her weapon and brought it down with full force. It hit an invisible barrier and bounced off her hands! Both opponents were stunned by this unexplainable outcome. Karasu reacted first. He gripped Seventh Sin and attacked with all of his might. Kaeli flew out of the hole and landed at Spawn's feet, blood bursting out of her. The green-eyed teen was stunned at the sight. Her right arm had been severed and a large gash ran across her torso, from her shoulder to her waist. He could even see some ribs! He looked up and saw the undead warrior approaching.
"She was a two-faced shrew, but you didn't have to kill her," he said disapprovingly.
"She's just wounded. Frankly, I don't have the power to do such a thing."
"Don't worry, we'll finish her for you."
"Careful!" Spawn shot his whips out like spears. Vandalizer caught them with ease.
"You get points for trying, kid." One mighty yank and Spawn drew a wide arch across the air before being slammed against the ground. He landed besides Rosa. "What you did was pretty impressive. It takes a lot to hurt an angel that badly."
"It also took a lot out of you," the skinnier one noted, "What a shame."
"You think?" Karasu altered the grip on his katana, aiming the blade downwards. "I may be hurt, but I managed to devise a new technique." Right arm wound up to the left, Karasu took aim and attacked. "Wing Shadow!" This move is was a combination of both wind and dark energy. And although it is performed by swinging the katana outward, the attack is more of an impact rather than a cut. The Phlebiacs blocked. Vandalizer managed to stand his ground, while Vindicator, being much lighter, was blown away.
"Decent. Now you're gonna—"
"ARRGH!" Out of nowhere, Kashaku from the night sky and pecked at the purple beast's eye! Then flew away before he could be struck. "Blasted turkey! I'm going to—Huh?" Karasu took advantage of the diversion to jump over Vandalizer and land of his back. He took hold of the spike on his back and started pulling. The demon trashed about, trying desperately to get him off his back. But it didn't take long for the undead hero to yank out the bony appendix, sending Vandalizer into a world of pain.
"Worry not, bro, help is coming!" Vindicator called as he rushed over. Karasu ran up to meet him and rammed the spike through the demon's throat. Then grabbed him by his elongated jaw and threw him over his shoulder. "Know what? Never mind." Karasu took a deep breath and put out his arm.
"Glad to see you again," he greeted with a smile, "You missed one heck of a fight though."
"Oh, you wouldn't be saying that if you knew what I've witnessed in my youth." The bird's expression went serious. "Now, let's check on the boy and hope it's not too late."
"Hold it!" It was Kaeli. Even though she bled severely, she was on her feet and willing for another round. "It should be clear to you, we won't quit unless you destroy us utterly." Karasu grumbled as he saw Vandalizer and Vindicator getting ready as well. He was nearly exhausted, if the battle were to continue, he was sure to be defeated.
"I can't win. You're much too strong," he finally admitted. The undead warrior sheathed his weapon and ran.
"That's right, you wuss, run with your tail between your legs," Vindicator laughed. Then he realized that Karasu had no intention to escape at all, he'd simply sprinted to reach Spawn. He held and picked him up by the neck.
"Hey! What are you doing?" The rookie demanded. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as incredible pain surged through his body. The suit reacted and started whipping at its dark-haired attacker mercilessly.
"The best way to stop a fight," Karasu said, "is to eliminate the reason it's there." Each lash stung terribly, skin and flesh began to tear, but he would not let go. After what felt like an eternity, the suit started slowing down. The three onlookers were quite confused, especially when it started to melt away.
"Qué" A puzzled Juan looked at himself. After all that agony, he suddenly felt as light as a feather. It was a strange sensation, yet somehow familiar. The suit was abandoning him, he couldn't even feel a connection with it anymore. He turned to Karasu, who'd sustained many wounds. "What did you just do?"
"It's obvious," Vindicator answered. "Do you remember what I told you? A K-unit feeds on pain and sorrow, and kid, you were carrying a truckload of those."
"A crow has the power to manipulate such feelings," Kaeli continued, "Either to punish the guilty with the pain they've given others, or to relieve the innocent from what they've received. Your guilt bonded you with the K-unit, Karasu took it away."
"The warrior did more than that," Kashaku added, "He took away everything. Every fault and transgression, no matter how small." He stared at the brown-haired boy. "In one word, child, you are now like a hatchling, completely innocent."
"It's incredible!" Juan couldn't help but smile. "I feel as though I could do anything!"
"I suggest diving from a cliff," the purple demon said disdainfully, "Urrgh, I just want to ring your scrawny necks and… Ah, forget it. Let's go home, Vinnie, my back is killing me."
"Tell me about it," his brother replied as he touched the hole in his throat, "This thing's worse than my cankers." Vindicator summoned a portal. "I'd watch my back if I were you, mime. Getting a reputation is not always a good thing."
"I'll be aware," Karasu replied as he and Juan watched the demonic siblings leave. Kaeli came up to them.
"I hope you're proud of yourselves," she growled. She was about to give a sermon when they heard an unworldly shriek. They all turned and found the source.
"ROSA!" Juan rushed to his friend's aid but was grabbed by a whip and thrown away.
"Gotcha!" Karasu called. "I don't believe it! We've got to go through this again!"
"No, it's different, I can tell," the brown-haired boy noted. Indeed it was. The suit did more than cover the young girl's body, it was changing its appearance. Spiked shoulder, elbow and kneepads appeared, double sets of blades lined her forearms, and four thorny whips grew out of her back.
"Oh god!" the girl wailed in agony, "Somebody, HELP ME!"
"I got her!" the Seraphic huntress called as she charged at full speed. No one saw her move, just as she didn't see the whip that bore through her chest and now held her in the air.
"Oh no! Curse this evil armor, striking at the angel who rushes to my rescue!" The new Spawn wept theatrically. She narrowed her eyes as she drilled another whip through he angel's shoulder. "You're a blonde underneath that blue, aren't you?"
"Rosa?" Juan was very frightened and confused, "What are you doing?"
"Isn't it obvious? I embraced what you so foolishly rejected, power."
"You're the fool," Kaeli said as she coughed up blood, "if you believe that what you have can be considered power." The dark-clad villain pulled her closer and skewered her a third time.
"Don't talk to me about power! You have enough to multiply food, heal the sick, raise the dead. And what do you do with it? NOTHING! You just sit around in heaven and let us rot!" The fourth tentacle wrapped tightly around the Seraphic huntress, digging the thorns into her flesh. "Pay for your negligence."
"Let her go!" Karasu cried as he charged with his weapon at the ready. Spawn blocked with her arm blades and countered with a slash, which he avoided. Kaeli took this opportunity to break free, yet she was too hurt to do anything but fall to the ground motionless. The newly fledged Spawn was fast but unskilled. The dark-eyed hero took advantage of this to find a gap in her defense and stab her in the stomach. He pulled Seventh Sin out with intention of beheading her, that's when Juan appeared to tackle him away. "Pendejo What are you doing?"
"Rosa is my friend! I won't let you harm her! Qué" The brown-haired boy was picked up by a tentacle, as well as Karasu. They were both swung in the air before being tossed into the dirt.
"Now, you want to help me? Guess what, asshole, I don't need it!" The green-eyed villain leapt and tried to punch her former friend. Luckily, Karasu pulled him out of harm's way. "It's too late for you to try and make amends." She attacked with her whips, the undead warrior leapt away, carrying Juan. "I'm going to kill you. You and all those jerks who ignored me all these years."
"Are you still believing that shit?" Karasu accused, "You're the only one responsible for your life. You had countless chances to fix it, and wasted every one. This was your last! Wing Shadow!" The attack blew Spawn away. Karasu took Juan to safety. "You're not going to like this, but I've got to fight and defeat Rosa."
"I understand," the brown-haired boy replied sadly, "But you must try and get the suit off her! The same way you did with me."
"It won't work. She took the suit willingly, nothing will make her let go. She's too blinded with rage to reason, and will end up killing hundreds. I'm sorry but I have to destroy her."
"NO! You're supposed to be a hero, your duty is to save her!"
"Wrong! Hero's do the right thing, even when it hurts. Qué" Kaeli landed right next to them. She took one quick breath and bolted away to continue her fight against the dark-clad girl. It was unbelievable. In spite of all the wounds and blows she'd received, not to mention having one arm gone, the cyan-haired angel was still willing to carry out her mission. Unbelievable, but not admirable, for there was no nobility in her goals.
"Heaven only wanted Juan so they could use him as a lab rat," Spawn said, "The suit told me so. And you, the only thing you care for is your own glory, the huntress who has never failed a mission." Again, she managed to wrap her weapons around her opponent, then pulled them away just as fast. Kaeli stood still, something felt wrong, yet she couldn't tell what it was. "If it comforts you, you won't hear them laugh," Spawn told the falling pieces. She looked over to find Karasu and Juan staring, disapproving and appalled respectively. Kaeli was vain and selfish, but she didn't deserve such an end. "I'm beginning to understand my dad. Hurting others feels great."
"Juan still wants to save you," the dark-haired warrior revealed, "What do you say to that?"
"I say this." She raised her hand and shot out a spear-like tendril. Straight towards the boy's neck! Quick as a bolt, Karasu caught it bare-handed, and through the suit, Spawn felt a chilling surge as Karasu's intentions were revealed.
"Juan, I take back what I said. I'm not sorry!" He charged and made a frontal slash. Spawn blocked again, however, this time the blades were cut away and a large gash was made on her arm.
"Gaahh! Hijo de puta!" She threw an uppercut. The undead warrior dodged, grabbed her arm and held her as he kicked her in the stomach three times. She retorted by forming a jaw with the suit that grabbed his leg and threw him away. Then she started lashing with all the whips she could create.
All of this was watched by Juan, who had no idea what to do.
"Qué?" The brown-haired boy turned and saw Kashaku.
"Listen to me, you may be able to help the warrior."
"But how? I have no power anymore, there's nothing I can do."
"You have one advantage over our opponent. The only thing you need is will." The black bird narrowed his eyes. "Do you wish to save your friend?"
"Gotcha!" The dark-clad villainess grabbed Karasu by both feet and slammed him against a tree so hard that it broke in two. He was thrown against the floor several times, and finally nailed against it with whips going through his shoulders and knees. "The suit's telling me what's on your mind, that you still feel compassion towards me." Spawn sneered as she twisted one of her thorny weapons, causing her foe to roar in pain. "Idiot, mercy has no place in this world. Vindicator hid Juan's with fake courage, but couldn't get rid of it." Her green eyes narrowed, making their glow eerier. "Juan is no hero, and neither are you, because of compassion."
"You don't know what compassion is, Rosa, and having received none is no excuse." Karasu looked directly into her eyes. "Juan is more courageous than he knows, because of that compassion you despise so much. And he's showing it, even now." The tan girl didn't reply as the suit melted off of her. She looked down to see a metallic blade coming out of her left breast, then back to find Juan holding Kaeli's battleaxe.
"A hero does the right thing, even when it hurts," he repeated solemnly. Following Kashaku's advice, who pointed out the fact that Karasu had taken all of his guilt and faults, rendering him invisible to the suit, the brown-haired boy took the defeated angel's weapon and struck from behind. The guardian also made him realize that the choice was between saving his friend or her life. It was extremely difficult, but at the end, he chose to save Rosa.
A sew days later, Carlos Navarro, with Kashaku on his shoulder, watched Rosa's burial from afar.
"Somehow, this doesn't feel like a victory," the dark-haired teen said. "Juan and Enrique have lost, not only their friend, but their faith as well. And although I am an atheist, I know how important it is to have something…" He thought about Hotaru. "…or someone to believe in."
"The will be alright," the black bird assured, "They are strong enough to overcome this. As for the Aguirre child, this experience has made him much stronger. He shall no longer lose his enthusiasm at the first setback. And while the death of his friend will be a scar to bear, he knows that he saved her from a worse fate."
"Sí, that's true," Carlos admitted with a small grin. Both friends took one last look at the departing group, then turned away to continue their journey.
"Hurry it up," Vindicator called, "There's no time here, but that doesn't mean we've got all day." Rosa didn't speak, she merely gave a cold hard stare. The scorching ground hurt indescribably, but she neither wept or complained. She wouldn't give those two the satisfaction. "Hah, defiance. I've seen it a millions times, and it always vanishes before long. What do you say, Van? Three days?"
"I'm going for one. The tougher they act, the sooner they whine." The brutish demon went up to the girl with a malicious grin. "Especially if the boss lets us have some time with her."
"You will do no such thing."
"Who said—Whoa." Vandalizer stepped back.
"What do you want?" Vindicator asked with a shaky voice. A curious Rosa looked up. She saw a svelte figure walking down a crooked path.
"I'll take the girl. You two can leave."
"No need to tell us twice," the gray demon replied as he got away as fast as he could.
"Man, I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," the larger one told Rosa as he followed. The tan girl was puzzled. This person, completely human in appearance, was much smaller than the Phlebiacs, and not menacing looking. Yet the demonic siblings were clearly terrified.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"That's unimportant." The unnamed one put a hand on her shoulder. "What matters is, I've found my apprentice."