Disclaimer: Despite my continued attempts at acquisitioning Get Backers I have yet to own it…I'll keep you posted.
Author's Notes: I can't apologize enough on how long it has been since the last chapter, so I won't, heh. Anyway I intend to keep the promise I made, I will finish this story, so please all those out there still with me, please bare with me. It gets weirder and weirder as the curtain rises…
Chapter Ten: The Walls Close In Slowly
"Heh, does something like that frighten you?"
"Something like what?"
"Something that cannot be perceived as easily as the nose on your face, but rather the air around you?"
"You think too much Vishante-kun."
From within the walls of the Aku no Kami, through the halls, down the walkways, all infected with their twisted brand of horrific sin, came the sound of a single tapping. Down, deeper and deeper into the building that personified man and the thoughts he would rather keep to himself, or let loose when no shame or consequence came of it or worse when either of those factors didn't matter.
"…ah…ha ha ha…" Kusano muttered, his voice hopping and skipping in a tired yet contented laugh, like a man with passion for all the wrong reasons. While normally one would type at their computers sitting in a chair, or at least sitting up, Kusano was on his side, typing on the computer with one hand, or rather just one finger, and slowly at that.
"…ah, Judas…how can life be so equal parts tragedy…" at this point the laughing started up again, akin to hiccups. "…and comedy? Did He really intend for it all to stagnate like this? From warriors and wars to offices and hidden silliness?" the tapping continued, yet somehow on the screen, the images were flashing and blinking as rapidly as ever. The machine that had been flipping the Dominus Grim's pages was now working twice as fast as it once was, yet impossibly not ripping the pages, not ripping the pages, but carefully sectioning them off.
"…KkUsano…kuuuun?" the voice of a Former stuttered, a fairly new one as shown by the relatively generous amounts of skin still left on it and it's ability to string together a word. Kusano looked up at this new entry, but his hand never left the keyboard, his one finger in spasms hitting various keys in what would appear to the vast majority of witnesses as gibberish code. Looking the Former up and down, and wondering if it was once a woman or merely youngish man with long hair, Kusano narrowed his eyes realizing that due to reasons like faith, circumstance and mere apathy towards the subject, he really didn't care.
"Ms. Hai sent you, right? For the comfort of the amusing little pet I am to her, yes? Lay down here please." The Former, already far enough along to not resist orders, did as he, she, it was told and lay down in front of Kusano, in front of the monitor.
"I wonder if this sort of action, this little grasp for something is so looked down upon…my piety was holy as was my discretion…Judas…help those others…" Kusano trailed off, his one free hand still typing on the keyboard over the Former, his other nestled snuggly around the Former's waist. "…help those others to find you, as I have…save us or don't…offer us real salvation…or understanding…His love…for those blessed…" Kusano finished, his eyes closed, his typing hand gently detaching itself the tapping continuing, his teeth biting hard into found flesh.
"So Doctor…diagnose me!" Hangman yelled crossing the already minimal space between himself and Akabane with the speed of a vicious thought. Bringing his nigh ridiculously oversized scythe in a gigantic arc, Hangman clicked his gargantuan tongue in pleasure as Doctor Jackal vanished with the cutting motion, leaving only air and a half dozen Formers to be cut, sliced, and dashed to fleshy wrappings.
"Oh my…those…men? Weren't they your…" Himiko said, barely able to get the words out due to the utter feeling of bile this man gave off and the genuinely heinous acts he seemed so easily capable of committing. Yet, this did not stop her from getting a few vials out, despite Akabane's as always unspoken refusal of assistance or lack of need of assistance.
"They were…just as Kuro-chan and I, dead to the world and judged to that death." Hangman said, contempt pouring out of him as well as any semblance of subtlety.
"Oh grief, still so melodramatic, eh Hangman-san?" Akabane said, his cordiality all the more his usual self from his vantage on the ceiling looking down through his hat.
"Melodramatic you say?" Hangman jeered, grasping the nose around his throat. Through some perverted miracle, the rope extended and lashed out towards the vertical Doctor Jackal at lightning speeds. Himiko had to blink once, then again, and repeatedly to keep the nauseating amount of movements in front of her from turning her stomach.
All along the ceiling nooses were coming from every which way, somehow from the scarecrow man's fixed position. Akabane, seemingly dodging them easily enough, noticed with some consternation, bits and shavings of his clothes and skin were flaking off due to rope burn.
"I assume it is still all that matters to you," Akabane began, ejecting some scalpels from between his knuckles. "This title, that seems to be both your be all and end all." He finished, slashing away at the antiquated tools of death flying around him. To his surprise, his own tools of lethality did nothing but pass through the ropes as bullets through mist.
"You honestly didn't think they were real did you?" Hangman asked, relishing his own sarcasm and the slight almost imperceptible look of frustration this evinced from Akabane. Using his one microsecond of opportunity Hangman brought the nearly vapor like nooses around the various ebony and flesh points around the Transporter and pulled.
"Doctor Jackal!" Himiko yelled, her outburst in perfect sync with the blood scattered from the good Doctor.
"Well now…this is a delicious little surprise, you really serious aren't you?" Akabane said, in mid air and only after this statement began to float down slowly. Righting himself so that he landed on his feet Akabane looked at the various shades and shapes of blood around his body, only regarding it for a moment.
"Kuroudo Akabane, Doctor Jackal, the Hated Transporter…Judas." Hangman said, enticed by the slight eyebrow quirk from Akabane and the silent gasp from Himiko. "To see you again, after all these years. I finally have my second chance." Lost in his thoughts and reasons, the living scarecrow grasped his straw hat in one hand and his scythe in the other. His novelty sized tongue hanging out to full length, he launched himself at Doctor Jackal once again.
"One after the other, how can so many guys like Akabane be in one place at the same time without killing each other, or at least without keeping their damn mouths closed?" Himiko joked to herself glibly watching one demon launch itself at another. Having to dodge the excess force released from their collision, Himiko was soon made aware that she had her own demons to deal with. All personal ones notwithstanding, the ones in question were actually tangible ones standing not five feet from her.
Looking the Former humans turned demonic fodder over, Himiko slowly put the vials in one of her hands away and backed away just as slowly towards the now conscious Coal.
"Probably a stupid question but: "Can you get up?"" Himiko asked, extending one hand towards the sitting Coal. Himiko felt a chill, seeing Coal witness the fight, most specifically from looking at Coal's eyes. These were eyes that had the old sheen of something bright, something luminous, but now were cold and as sharp as the jagged walls around them. The coldness of his eyes was disturbing, but maybe the very fact that there was even a sheen of something from before, from his past and more than likely from before his arrival in this man made Hell, it is possible that this was most disturbing of all, that simply being in a building can warp and twist a human soul so much, force them to adapt into something resembling their own fears.
However, Himiko was a professional and as such was in no mood for wasting time or staring into a mans eyes.
"Hey, if you can try and come too alright?" she asked, snapping her fingers. Coal flinched a bit and looked over at the crouching Transporter. The icy visage did not alter a bit yet he nodded. Himiko simply knew this was in response to her first question if only because through her experience first impressions (minus actions) about her barely if ever constituted much respect. Sliding an arm under one of Coals dirtily scarred shoulders and hefting him up as much as her small frame allowed, Himiko immediately regretted this momentary yet all too crucial loss of both of her arms.
"Kikikikikikikikikikik." the Formers encircling the fighting Akabane and Hangman turned their heads a full one hundred and eighty degrees; this was quite the odd feat considering their bodies were standing perfectly still. Himiko contorted her face into a sneer, doing her damn best to cover the fear and sickness quelling in her gut.
"Wwitchthth bluuuud." One of the Formers began mouthing, what it was doing with its mouth could not reasonably be called speaking, if only because the sound emanating from its throat had no indication of being made by anything resembling vocal cords. If this could be considered upsetting, then the level of horrific tension was increased as the other six or so other Formers quickly joined in chorus.
"On top of it all…they have a nose for blood." Himiko muttered glibly, this whole situation would definitely be fuel for many nightmares to come. The Formers, seeming to respond to this statement, began to walk towards Himiko and Coal, not bothering to turn their bodies to match their heads, so in effect they were walking backwards with backwards turned heads facing forewords.
Not ten or so feet away, sparks were flying, and not because two potential lovers had hit it off. Well, that wasn't the case for both parties at least.
"Oh, come on!" Hangman cried in response to Doctor Jackal holding back his scythe…barely…with his storied scalpels. "You cannot use something so flimsy!" he yelled, putting more force behind his scythe and beginning to skid the Jackal ever so slowly across the moist cobblestone floor. For his part the good doctor had both hands out of his pockets now and his right scalpel armed hand shaking from the slow but all consuming resistance from the scythe.
With a grunt, Akabane matched the force behind his scalpels with that of his opponent. With a flash of multiple lights and few sounds of rushing air, Akabane suddenly landed a few feet behind Hangman, on one knee.
"Ah, I'm beginning to understand the depth of your devotion Hangman-kun." Akabane said, clearly jesting as he let the halved remains of his once proud medical instruments fall and clatter to the ground. Hearing a slight tear, Akabane noticed a few long but shallow cuts along his chest and shoulders. They were of no concern as of yet, only a little more than cloth deep at this point.
"'Depth of my devotion' eh? You certainly love your words don't you, you scab bastard?" Hangman said, hate dripping through a smile shaped filter. Lunging at Akabane without any further exposition, Hangman swung his scythe blunt edge first. His speed allowing him to fade into an ebony flicker Akabane sidestepped the force, only to have the wall behind him burst into small rubble along with mostly dust which flew past and over his back. "How long has it been? Twelve years? Seems longer but time really is a bitch with a lying whorish mouth." Hangman said as easily as if giving a lesson to eager students. His body barely inches from Akabane in the same lunging position as his attack; Hangman looked over his right shoulder.
"That title, that untouchable invisible thing that no one here but you and I and-"
"Him, you were going to say Him, weren't you Kuroudo!" Hangman cut him off.
"It is meaningless as always Hangman-kun, if only three people acknowledge it." Akabane continued un-perturbed though his smile did drop to its neutral position. Extracting his arm and scythe from what remained of the wall, Hangman waited the few instants it took for the little slab to disintegrate. Placing the scythe across his shoulders and looping his arms around it in a make shift crucifixion, Hangman began to dance around in an odd fashion, shuffling his feet and swinging his neck to swing and sway the noose and rope around his neck.
The fire that burst forth from the newly re-made wall only added to the dancing spectacle as did the horribly gigantic and tragically small turning gears. All the noise, and for Akabane and Hangman, none of it mattered save the sadly important show between them. Hangman's normally course and guttural voice made no change, but what ushered forth from his mouth was nothing more or less than the embodiment of a haunted song.
"'The Vicious Cross', huh? 'For those who revel in sin.'was it?" Ban said, one eyebrow slowly making its pilgrimage north. After a few moments filled to bursting with tension, Ban snorted, releasing some of the smoke he had breathed in from one of his cancer sticks. This was quickly followed by Ban abandoning any semblance of first impressions and laughing his smoke filled lungs out. Corsair looked on, his carefully perched glasses glinting despite the near absence of light. From behind him, Joanette held one hand delicately to her mouth, not quite knowing what to make of this new character in her life.
"I take it a well earned title amuses you?" Corsair asked casually, the smile that looked and felt like no human smile never leaving his lips. Tilting his head slightly and adjusting his glasses, Corsair looked at the still bellowing Ban, up and down.
"Oh, dude, I am sorry, if you had to actually earn that fucking title! I mean there are so many idiot bands in America and the U.K. alone with much better names and they just come up with those and- hey!" Ban stopped his laughing and his speech when he realized that Corsair had his head turned and was mumbling some words to Joanette, most likely in French, or a similar sounding sublanguage. Resisting the urge to stomp his foot like a child jilted out of a new bike Ban merely did what he could do as well as any singer: yell.
"Hey! It is damn rude to ignore someone and talk to someone else in a different language!" Ban screamed, only after the yell escaped his throat did he acknowledge the disturbing inverted echo that came back to him from, presumably, the walls. A few more mumblings in the language of love from Corsair to Joanette then they resumed their gazes towards Ban. Joanette looked at the snake man and then just as quickly blushed and bowed.
"I am sorry; it was rather rude of us to carry on like that. What a treat it is though, to discuss things such as etiquette with one of your kind." Corsair said, his eyes fixed right into the storied eyes of the Jagan man. Ban unconsciously clinched his fist, that one word in that one context 'kind' dragging a few unwanted memories from deep within Ban's subconscious, some of which involving his mother.
"And what kind would that be exactly, padre?" Ban mumbled tersely, clamping down a little tighter on the ivory death stick now between his teeth. Almost like a fop of old, Corsair responded, the back of his wrist against his mouth as he did, laughing all the time like it was the most joyous thing in the world.
"Why, a sinning demon attached to another sinning demon! And this is really saying something considering where we are." Ban felt a chill, looked from Corsair to Joanette who seemed to be refusing to meet his stare. The retriever did not like this. This Father Corsair seemed to know much more than he was letting on, especially in regards to him.
"Heh, so I'm a sinning demon attached to another sinning demon am I? What the hell does that make you, an ivory flower in a building of shit?"
"To truly extract and exterminate the most horrid sins, one must attack right at the source, with all the righteous and pure ferocity a good man can muster." Corsair responded, the look in his light charcoal eyes looking far past Ban, yet somehow almost through him at the same time. Ban felt a twitch.
"Look buddy, I am only here to get an ungrateful chick that bit off more than she could chew…again. I got no beef with you or your…insanity…so kindly fornicate off before you hurt yourself." Ban said, attempting to go the route of valor and avoid yet another fight in what felt like in his life was just another part of an endless string. Corsair looked at Ban, straight at Ban.
"I am sorry, but you are impure. Letting you go now would be an affront to the Lord." Corsair said, tapping his right pants pocket in tune to the steps he was taking towards the witch blooded retrieval agent. Ban took a few preemptive steps back, sliding one foot forward when he stopped. Feeling the rapid rise of aura around him, Ban looked at Corsair then at the girl behind him, and then a thought occurred.
"Oh sonuvabit-"he was cut off by the sweeping sound of a black coat sailing too close to his legs. Ducking beneath the spin kick that Corsair had managed in addition to the instantaneous movement, Ban lost his breath. His cheek had a cut closer looking to a gash that encompassed nearly the length of his profile. His cigarette falling to the ground, forgotten, Ban gripped the ground praying, no, hoping that whatever he grasped wasn't formally able to talk to him. His two hundred kilogram grip was luckily able to find its home into some bare cobblestone, yet, like the rest of the floor in that building, it was moist, with something that most if not all would suspect was not water. Throwing down his arm Ban forced his weight and strength behind his possessed arm and propelled himself up and over Corsair.
"Shit on a cracker, you're pretty fast. You that fast for all the choir boys?" Ban sniggered, wiping the blood trailing down the edge of his face.
Feeling a tick he spared a glance over his shoulder towards the girl, Joanette, still behind him, who had yet to move. She was simply staring at the battle in front of her with nothing save a very slight frown indicating she was even paying attention.
"Hey girl, you alright, this freak-" again Ban was cut off, though this time he was ready, jumping out of the way in time for Corsair to plunge his fist deep into the stone floor, Ban grit his teeth in annoyance at the obviously driven show of strength. Ban expected this, as he more or less expected the stone to turn to vapor. However, what surprised him was the copious amount of fluids that gushed forth from the ground like a deranged artist's version of red wine.
"What the fuc…oh good I was getting thirsty. It is past five right?" Ban joked, covering the sudden chill he felt in his chest. Corsair looked at him through the drizzling plasma, an unreadable look on his face. Ban glared back at him only slightly perturbed that his priest opponent wasn't the least bit bothered by the blood liberally pouring all over him. Deciding to take the offensive, Ban launched himself at Corsair, elbowing him in the face. Sending Corsair flying past Joanette at such speeds to kick up her dress a few inches, Ban landed back on his feet just long enough to shake off the stray droplets of blood that had innocently wandered over to him.
Shifting his sunglasses, Ban pondered the need for them in this nigh pitch black environment and pocketed them. Sensing only a fledgling aura from where the area he surmised he had lovingly sent Corsair too, Ban casually walked over to Joanette. Said girl was taken aback a bit, blushing she took a few skittish steps backwards. Raising an eyebrow Ban looked her up and down, thinking thoughts only a brilliant tactician such as he could.
"Damn she has a sweet ass." Ban thought for a few seconds and mentally smashed these lurid thoughts of his with that hammer he always looked to save for Ginji when he was acting extra Ginji-ish. Effectively stopping the devious machinations of his own libido, Ban looked at Joanette with a calm face that betrayed neither anger nor any sort of sweet emotion, the face of a professional.
"Hey, Joanette wasn't it? Why are you here, in this place with Father 'Burn Em' All' back there?" Joanette looked at him a few seconds; the blush gone and her face neutral again, though she was still skitting slowly away. Ban turned to face her retreating form, thankful he guessed her name right from the jumbled French he overheard. "Come on; don't be scared, I just want to help you. What's this asshole got on you?" stopping again, Joanette blinked twice. Bowing her head, though this time in what looked like resignation, she closed her eyes and mouthed something.
"You're…sorry?" Ban deduced from what lip reading skills he could cobble together in his head. Realizing that she might not speak Japanese, Ban scoured his brain for any and all French he knew. Feeling a moisture touch his shoulder, Ban bit back his spit then turned around.
"You called me rude, yes? Well, my dog, turning your back on an opponent so willing to kill you from behind is also rude." Corsair said, the blood now trailing down his body and being slurped up, quite literally, by the ground. In seconds Corsair was as clean, clean being relative, as he was moments before. Now, the only indication that there was ever a demonically artistic fountain of blood was the at present tranquil fist made pool of blood between him and Ban. Closing that distance as Ban was about to, Corsair appeared at his side, fist already halfway towards Bans now only remaining good cheek. A grunt and some air being forced in various directions then sounded their clash.
"Rude, and tactical suicide." Corsair said, not at all annoyed his outstretched fist was now engulfed in the mythic grip of the serpent. Ban smiled grimly.
"This place is truly hell, with a complete cast of devils." He said, twisting his back to pull Corsair into a downward throw, knowing a second later his quarry was gone Ban jumped back to miss the designer black shoe crashing down.
"Present company excluded of course?" Corsair asked a smile that knew so much more playing on his lips. Ban responded in kind with spit on those once nice designer black shoes. Corsair looked down. "Oh well, one more act of indiscretion should mean little to you by now, eh?" Ban was already on top of him. Blocking Ban's right fist with his left arm, Corsair dug his heel into the ground behind him squirting some subterranean crimson as he did. Bringing his own right fist into a fierce uppercut, Corsair clicked his teeth as Ban avoided the fist and backpedaled off it back onto the ground in a perfect flip. Feeling a sense of mirth deep in his gut he had not felt in apparent ages, Corsair chuckled himself, and then spit twice.
"Why not use those cursed eyes of yours monsieur Ban Mido, or would you prefer Ore-sama?" relishing the slight but noticeable bulge of the eyes this evinced from Ban, Corsair took this time to tug at his black gloves emblazoned with matching red crosses. Taking out his bible from his pocket, Corsair closed his eyes a moment, took in a breath than opened his eyes and smiled again. "Do you see this? Can you comprehend what this is? Truly? I have memorized it, every single passage and quote, into my mind, body and hear-"it was Corsair to be cut off this time by Ban speedily appearing behind him, his palm opened. Keeping his bible in his left hand, Corsair turned on his heel and a few degrees gracefully in the air, dodging Bans hand. Ban continued his assault, with Corsair dodging or parrying every attack. Finally Ban felt his hand connect with leather.
"Do you see how powerful it is? Does it not burn that flesh of yours!" Corsair, a bit frenzied now, asked. Ban smirked, baring his teeth.
"Just a book," Ban muttered, bringing his left foot out in a sweep to get Corsair to jump back. "It's just a book, Priesty; I for one feel there's more power in action than words, printed or otherwise." Smirking that smirk of his, Ban continued. "But then, that's just from the perspective of a demon man." Ban couldn't read the reaction on Corsairs face due to both his bowed head and the nearly all consuming darkness of the room, but he could almost taste the seething.
"Just a book? Yes, a demon given human form would think that…wouldn't it? But the Lord is very clear about how cunning you and yours can be and as such…" Corsair then pocketed his bible and brought his right hand forward. "…we're given special access to his left arm…" Corsair snapped his fingers and a small spark appeared and disappeared. Ban blinked, not sure if he just saw a giant black cross appear right in front of Corsair. Ban was sure of his eyesight when he saw additional crosses, alternating between black and white, appear next to the first. All as big as two men, the crosses hovered a few inches above the floor serving as an almost ominous fence between Ban and the priest of the Vicious Cross.
"What the hell…this some kind of illusion?" Ban asked, wondering if of all things the Jagan suddenly had a Roman Catholic equivalent. Corsair smiled a simple smile, this smile made all the more horrific by the crosses in front of him. The sparse lighting, combined with the abundant shadows all came together to give his face an almost monstrous jokers grin.
"I don't hide behind illusions you filth blood whore child." Ban narrowed his eyes, he was used to being put down and challenged, but unlike his usual confrontations there was no air of mirth here, not even of sick perversion. This man in front of him was simply a maniac elitist with a small dash of psychosis tossed in for spice. Increasing his speed beyond what he had been displaying previously, Ban punched what he hoped for satisfactions sake was Corsairs jaw. But like all good plans conceived in moments, it fell apart. Bans' fist connected with the air inches in front of Corsairs jaw, quickly deflected by what looked like an electrical charge.
"Damn it, what the hell kind of electricity was that!" Ban yelled, the pain in his hand lingering and increasing as the seconds ticked by. Looking down, the snake man saw that his hand had blackened significantly. But this was soon made difficult as his vision quickly began to blur.
"Your use of words like 'hell' and 'holy' is almost adorable. You see my lucklessly born friend, these are the reason I am called 'Vicious Cross'." Corsair said, not even acknowledging Joanette who had slowly walked up beside him. Ban looked towards the source of the voice but found that he couldn't see it, or even hear it as time went by. With his senses quickly being impaired, Ban thought fast and tried to dash away lest his moment of weakness be exploited. Just as quickly he found that the crosses had encircled him completely as body slamming into them had the same effect as punching one.
"Fsssh, you're pathetic you know that? If you're going to fight, then fight and finish it already! I hide behind illusions? How is you debilitating your opponent and hiding behind that any different, huh?" Ban yelled, keeping whatever senses he had left open. Corsair then smiled again, only this time Joanette was there to witness it too. The crosses began to glow black and white. Then, the lightning struck.
Ginji Amano felt as if he was losing his mind, granted his brain as a muscle was a little less than flex worthy, but still the twisting and contorting of the hall was enough to disturb or at least disorient even the most well read person. However, if the warping halls didn't shake Ginji to his essence completely, it was the grasping and moaning hands that completely took away the tourist appeal of the Aku no Kami. The hands seemed to be of every conceivable kind. Living, dead, clear, opaque, big and small, the only thing that seemed to unify them was their simultaneous moaning.
Although the moaning was incomprehensible to Ginji, he could swear the hands were speaking, or at least communicating to each other somehow. The former lightning emperors' attention was soon drawn from the walls to his opponents, Luther and Hirutsuai.
"What is this place?" Ginji asked or yelled over the moaning language of the hands to his fellow hall occupants. Hirutsuai lowered the cloth from his bottom lip and spoke plainly, which oddly enough caused the hands to cease their 'conversation' and remain idle as fists, palms and every other conceivable gesture in between.
"The Aku no Kami." Ginji blinked, hearing the Japanese and not expecting it.
"The 'bad of' kami? And wait a second…how did you get those creepy hand things to stop…uh…hand talking like that?" Ginji asked, stopping himself from reverting to tare to ask. Hirutsuai seemed about to answer but the then stopped, smiling and looking at his young charge.
"You are perfectly capable of doing it yourself…well…not in that form exactly." Luther said, suspecting Ginji would know exactly which form he was referring too, as it was the one that seemed to be garnering him so much attention most of his life.
"Raitei…the Lightning Emperor." Ginji mumbled to himself, the warping room temporarily forgotten. His stroll down memory lane soon had its legs broken when several flashing points flew at him. Letting out a gasp that caused his electrical aura to falter and drop all the metallic junks in it, Ginji twitched and dodged awkwardly. Missing the objects for the most part, Ginji could nonetheless feel blood dripping down his arms and legs from the cuts the objects left him.
"Diamonds…not quite metal Raitei, so your control over these will be less than absolute." Hirutsuai said, diamonds juggling above the palm of his hand. Ginji grunted, realizing that much like his previous opponent, any attempts at a peaceful resolution would most likely be in vain. Focusing, Ginji let loose a few errant bolts of electricity.
"He's every bit his other half, isn't he?" Luther asked.
"Indeed." Hirutsuai said.
The duo dodged the bolts despite the random narrowness of the hallway, and appeared above Ginji. Looking up, Ginji directed some more voltage skyward, causing the pair to separate and land on opposite sides of him.
"Why hold back Raitei? You have no reason or any logic for it amongst our crowd." Hirutsuai asked his fourteen karat chained watch lashing out and around Ginjis' throat. In an instant Ginji focused an unreal amount of electrical power through the chain, melting it completely. Detaching the chain in a rush, Hirutsuai jumped back, not minding landing on and breaking some still idle hands. Through teary eyes and haggard breaths Ginji looked at Hirutsuai and then to his other side towards Luther.
"First Kanryu…now you guys…this place reminds me too much-"
"Of Mugenjou?" Luther asked, a smile appearing on his lips with all the kind sincerity of a derailed train. Ginji looked at his face and felt a sudden chill, this chill was threatening to turn to full on convulsions, but sheer force of will managed to rein it in.
"That's some kind of will power you have Raitei, I wonder if your partner is similarly equipped?" Luther asked again, his joyless smile folding with every word. Upon finishing his sentence Luther's face resembled something so cold, so sharply focused that if this were any place but the man made hell on Earth then it would have to be a nightmare.
"What…did you say?" Ginji asked, irritated about being referred to so much in so little time about the thing he considered his beast within. Something clicked, Ginji knew, despite not being the tactical genius Ban was; all these events were meshing together too well to just be acts of God.
"He said pay attention!" Hirutsuai yelled, the joy pouring out every word by the bucket. Unleashing a golden diamond encrusted plate like some sort of satanic Frisbee, the citrus discus whizzed towards the ironically golden haired retrieval agent. Falling back with his palm open, Ginji peppered the projectile with his power.
"Even I know gold is a metal!" Ginji bellowed, stopping the disc in mid air and suspending it, though it was still oscillating at high speed. What Ginji left out and what no doubt would have hampered his counterattack was that little science fact had to be beaten into his skull by his partner when he accidentally swallowed some gold galleon a while back, thinking the gold was just 'some kind of fancy wrapping'. Despite the slight pain from the memory, Ginji couldn't help but smirk.
"Do they teach what a distraction is in Mugenjou, Raitei Ginji Amano Raitei?" Hirutsuai asked, or cooed more like, somehow reading the twitch in Ginjis' façade. His mammoth patience reaching its busting point, Ginji launched the disc straight at Hirutsuai. Fully intending to stop the disc moments before it collided with Hirutsuai, Ginji was more than a little shocked when Hirutsuai's various black rags all opened and enlarged at once, simulating a demonically plant like mouth. After swallowing the gold disc, the cloth fell to its limp prior position.
"That's it! No more questions!" Ginji whirled his head to face Luther. Though he was slightly unnerved at what just happened he didn't show it, in fact his face was much closer to what a professionals should be so much so that it would surprise his partner.
"What the hell have you done to Ban-chan?" Ginji bellowed again only this time his electric aura matched his voice. More similar to some divine dynamo than a man, Ginji's raw power crackled and then bathed the entire corridor in yellowish white light. With a cataclysmic shriek, all the uprooted hands dissolved into black ash.
"I didn't know you could be so cruel." Luther said, approaching the surging Ginji slowly but with a sureness in his step that belied an immunity to anything resembling fear. Though his power raged, Ginji made a conscious effort not to hit Luther, yet.
"Yes, now you are the man we wanted to see, the man who could in all conceivability actually understand us!" Hirutsuai yelled, his arms outstretched like some prophet of irony facing down the Devil himself. At this point Ginji only regards him with an eye, giving most of his attention to the approaching Luther.
"Where…is…Ban?" Ginji asked, less open rage in his voice that was more than compensated by its' seething tone. In response Luther brought his hands together, crossing his pointer and middle fingers in a make shift cross, shaped to an X over Ginji.
"You'll have to beat it out of me, cruel devil." Luther said as coldly as the somehow glacial violet of his eyes. Ginji felt a twitch, almost like something entering his head with a filthy pick and bloody shovel, salivating at the thought of raping the earthen ground of his subconscious. Not wanting to wait another second to find out what this feeling entailed, Ginji began to bring his lightning down on Luther, not to kill, but enough to stop the growing buzz humming going on in his head.
"Raitei Ginji Amano, why couldn't you have been one of ours?" Hirutsuai said, seriousness returning to his voice, which oddly enough began to match tone with Luther's in an eerie duplication. Ginji intended to pay no mind to this, the tactical part of his brain had ruled that Luther was the main target and should be approached as such. "Midas' Folly." Came the voice from behind the Lightning Emperor.
"Ugh, what is this!" Ginji yelled, his lightning and entire aura being suddenly forced inward. Feeling his arms snapping into his sides, Ginji looked down to find his mid-section completely encircled by gold dust with a similarly colored gold chain within it adorned with a single link with a donkey's ears on it.
"As stated, this is Midas' Folly," seeing Ginji struggle and surge more of his power into the ever constricting gold bond prompted Hirutsuai to continue. "Midas was a King so long ago in ancient Greece. Misguided contemporaries are taught he is a myth," seeing Ginji further struggling and surging brought an almost nostalgic glaze to Hirutsuai's eyes. "He was a man of such greed, his lust for gold so far and beyond the bounds of his kingdom and Greece itself," whether Ginji was paying attention or not was irrelevant. Luther however appeared to be paying close attention while maintaining his hand formations towards Ginji. "He was given a curse, masked as a gift…anything and everything he touched turned to gold…his unquenchable lust sated, his soul the price."
"Damn…Ur…ugh…" Ginji kept struggling, his power continuing to flow out of him, all of it disappearing in the chain yet neither the chain nor Ginji showed any signs of giving in. Hirutsuai smiled the chill it evinced similar to his ward Luther.
"Many generations ago, several hundred…a whore of my line mingled with a drunken bastard of Greek descent."
"Why the sudden bout of nostalgia Hirutsuai, does the Raitei bring back memories of something?" Luther asked, his eyes beginning to glow and his hair beginning to move to an invisible breeze. Hirutsuai looked at him, memories flashing in his eyes, then in Luther's of wandering, of being chased, of being rescued and finally of the cold.
"Nothing at all, just how we came here I suppose." Ginji's power pulsed and surged, a few spare lightning bolts escaped the golden chain and struck towards Hirutsuai. Promptly dodging, Hirutsuai skidded to a stop next to Luther. Chuckling a bit, Hirutsuai added a final comment to the approaching Ginji, who was made slower and slower by the tightening and increasing density of the chain. "You can't break it Raitei Ginji Amano Raitei, Raitei could…but I doubt you're man enough to truly bring him out. Do you know what Midas' fate was? He was eventually turned into an ass…considering no one has ever survived the chain for an extended time perhaps that could be your fate?"
"Enough now, let's do the polite thing and give him forewarning." Luther said, an odd symbol appearing on his forehead simultaneously with the one on Ginji's head. A black half oval with a white center appeared on Luther, looking like an eye, with a white half oval with a black center appearing on Ginji. Luther clicked in his tongue in bemused annoyance.
"Oh darn, you really don't let your guardian have any fun do you?" with a smile and wave of his hand, the golden chain detached and clattered to the ground. The gold mist itself dissipated around Ginji as the gold chain slithered towards and up the hem of Hirutsuai's robe wrapping around him and turning to a barely visible gold trim then disappearing. "I suppose it would be a cruel fate, even I don't know what prolonged exposure to this curse could do."
"Yes, well, we can't be too cruel now can we?" Luther asked, the glow in his eyes matching the one in Ginji's. With a flinch on Luther's part, the Ginji's subconscious was not only drilled, but ripped apart and sundered beyond one time recognition. Thus, the screaming could be understood.
"Damn, I guess I'm too late." Shizuka muttered to herself. Stopping a few yards from the entranced and screaming Ginji, Shizuka looked at Hirutsuai casually standing guard over the focused and glowing Luther. Whether they knew or even acknowledged her presence was unknown. Scratching the bandanna over her forehead she was quickly surrounded by her gang of abnormal, deformed, or otherwise 'don't stare and point' type of animals. "Oh well, I guess someone will need help after all this." Sitting down on the cold cobblestone floor, she began to scratch and pet a dog with four eyes and a buzzards less than glorious wings. Surrounded by her animals, the scene was tranquil and made disturbingly surreal with a man screaming not thirty feet away.
One might think that in a place so horrible, so dark and so easy to forget whether you're alive or dead, great thinkers could think about the dualities of existence and identity.
"Cock sucking girl looking motherfucker! I ever find that douche right hand jerking off, uncle fucking piece of shit I'll stick so many God damn matches up his ass he'll be shitting Forth o' July!" Harukai Saito was indeed one of those deep thinkers. The rest of his eloquent thoughts were muffled by the roll of bandage wraps he had in his mouth. Using both hands and with great difficulty, Harukai was wrapping around his torso and over his shoulders all the wounds he had received from his fight with Ban. "Asshole…his strength kept disappearing then skyrocketing…"
The sound of bandages being wrapped was the only sound accompanying Harukai's angry mumbling, until the sound of footsteps getting louder as they approached closer became apparent. With a stifling of breath, Harukai rushed himself to his feet; dropping the bandage wraps from his mouth in addition to his ripped up black and green hooded sweatshirt. In less the time it takes for a light bulb to die, Harukai extended four matches from his knuckles and between his thumb and pointer finger, lit them upon extending them the second time, then threw them at the approaching target.
The matches all landed right at the feet of the intended target illuminating him.
"You're lucky you're my friend, Kanryu. Else you'd be burning like a protesting Buddhist monk." Harukai said, sliding back down to the floor with a sadistic yet oddly friendly look on his face.
"That or you just have really shitty aim." Kanryu stated back in his standard monotone.
"So, what happened with you and that blond chick retriever?" the match stick user asked, wrapping his bandanna around his head.
"Turns out the rumors about him are true." Kanryu said, leaning but still standing next to the sitting Harukai.
"Get the fuck out…you mean he's 'Teiray'?" Harukai asked, his sarcasm made even more obvious by the twirling of his gloved finger in the air.
"No joke, I didn't think that much of him at first. But in terms of raw power, he's every bit the Lightning Emperor of Mugenjou's lower town." Harukai put his hooded shirt back on, and began placing bandages over the cuts and bruises on his face.
"So…he kicked your ass, right?" Harukai asked. Kanryus' fist twitched as well as one of hidden eyebrows beneath his gas mask.
"It was…more of a dra-"
"Loser speak for ass kicked!" Harukai said in a sing song tone, further irritating his friend. In the next instant, the foul mouthed match stick user was in a head lock by the living black hole. A very tight and quickly tightening headlock.
"Speaking of losses, what happened between you and the other retriever…my…dear…friend?" Kanryu asked, accentuating his last three words with some harsh arm, and in effect for Harukai throat, clenches.
"I…uh…ughh…I got him…uchhh, I finished him…burned his ass real good!" Harukai said between gasps for air, at this point he resembled a fish in the grip of an Osprey, right down to the darting eyes and face of differing shades of oxygen depravation.
"Oh really? Then where is his body Harukai? Could you kindly take me there?" Kanryu asked the same monotone this time with a trace of something close to brotherly.
"Uh…ok…I'll take you to see…just…oh Kanryu come on! Let me go…buddy…come on!" Harukai pleaded, his breathing reduced to the gasps of a baby fresh out of the womb. This went on for a few more moments until both of the guys simultaneously stopped.
Without a word, Kanryu let Harukai go who quickly regained his balance.
"My my, good to see you two boys are so up and full of pep after your pathetic showings today." The voice came, like bloody silk. Both the living void and the walking match stick looked in the same direction, both being drawn not by their eyes or ears, but rather by the icy pull and growing feeling of oblivion. "It's been a sin that we haven't talked in a while? Isn't it Kanryu-kun, and little Haru-chan?" Ms. Hai said, her ivory form slipping out of the darkness like a mistress proud of her conquest. Whether it was the walls of the Aku no Kami receding and protruding steadily like the beats of a heart or if it was merely her sheer presence that made the white she wore almost blend in with the black around her.
"Hai-san…why are you-"Kanryu just sort of trailed off, his curtness giving way to an occasional politeness if only because he didn't have a damn clue how to phrase his question.
"What he means is 'Why the hell are you away from your master?" Bitch?" Harukai said, his own personality adding a bit of class to the question. Ms. Hai laughed almost gently yet somehow managing to chill the room a few degrees, taking off her white hat and placing it within the folds of her coat. Her face now completely exposed, Kanryu and Harukai could now witness Ms. Hai's pale skin, made more so by coal black hair down to her mid-back, and her blood violet eyes matched by the bloody softness of her lips. Kanryu began to feel agitated, but unlike his partner he was able to contain it.
"What the fuck woman? We ask a simple damn question and all we get is you undressing? Leave it to the fucking she cows to screw every damn thing up!" Harukai yelled, throwing away any precaution of drawing wandering Formers to their location, but then again that never really mattered with this bunch anyway. Ms. Hai smiled again, the bloody intent flowing almost sensually from her face.
"I think you two are confused, about the roles around here."
"Roles?" Kanryu asked.
"Yes, you see this building is mine…the Formers a part of me and the blood that runs through these walls," Ms. Hai accentuated her point by making several syringes appear between her fingers and using them to stab a nearby wall making blood spray then trickle out. "Is mine." Harukai, visibly seething had matches slowly working their way out from between his fingers, but an outstretched hand from Kanryu stopped him.
"Who…what are you Ms. Hai and what role do we play in this little farce you call a haven for those not blessed by his love?" Kanryu yelled, breaking his monotone and even surprising Harukai. Ms. Hai began to approach slowly again, her eyes trained on both boys made men too soon in a building that could show only apathy, her lips parted letting out soft gentle breaths.
"I am as Kuroudo Akabane is..." Harukai drew out his matches.
"Kusano, as terrified and vengeful as he is could lead no one but himself to the gates of whatever end that silly book can give him." Kanryu drew his knives from his gauntlets.
"And as adorable as you two are, you are merely passersby within the great legacy flowing all around you." Harukai dug his foot in front of him, bringing up some stone and whatever blood had trickled near him.
"What right do you…do you have…to talk to us like some fucking dogs you found and picked up out of some pile of shit you menstruating child of all things vile and whorish!" Harukai yelled, his own aura flaring enough to raise the temperature of the room. "We're not your mother fucking tools!" before lunging at the smiling Ms. Hai, Harukai was held back by a hand on his shoulder.
"What is it Kanryu? I'm not gonna stand here and let that lazy know it all skank talk like she-"Kanryu cut him off.
"We'll do it together." He said, his monotone back, but bringing a smirk from Harukai all the same.
"It's just like I said, I have always found you two so cute." Ms. Hai said, her smile becoming even more serene.
Whether now charred ash far and beyond anything recognizable due to Coal or being eaten away by acid and repeated beatings courtesy of Himiko, the Formers were being cut down by the handful every minute. The Formers or rather what was left of them would still come after the pair even if all that was left of them was a head or half a torso. Made even more nightmarish was what the Formers would do to each other to "re-arm" themselves.
Everything from ripping out eyes to replace missing ones, or tearing off the arms of a dying comrade to use as a bludgeon, nothing though came close to the sheer viciousness displayed as when one Former ripped out the stomach of another to use as "ammunition" for its' vomit based acid throwing maneuver. It was all Himiko could do to keep her lunch down and eyes open during the fight, but her professional streak would allow nothing less. Coal on the other hand seemed to be handling this fight just as coolly as his one with Akabane, perhaps even more so considering he was now missing a good deal of his right arm.
When the fight had reached a break, Himiko took a few ticks of a second to take out a fresh bottle of acid scent and some flame scent just in case. For Coal, there was no break as he kept charging into the battle like some murder machine programmed to perfection and performing beyond its' own creators bastard capabilities.
"Man, he doesn't stop, isn't that wound Jackal gave him slowing him down at all? Or…" Himiko thought while throwing herself back into the fight. "Is it just adding fuel to his resolve?" Though both were concentrating on their respective opponents, Himiko could have sworn, even if it was only in momentary passes, that something was flashing in Coals eyes. It definitely wasn't humanity or pity for his opponents but rather flashes of reminiscence, of what he once was or what he once may have been. To Coal, it all centered, as most things of significance do, on a woman.
The orange glow behind the dancing fool was hell, if hell was a factory churning out fire and steam. Hangman was dancing, or what best could be described as a dance with a scythe across his shoulders and his arms looped around it.
Akabane watched this spectacle with equal parts disgust and contempt, watching someone degrade themselves so readily was not fine viewing in his opinion. Despite all this he could not for the life of him turn away, the slit in his hat was now occupied completely by the dancing specter with the orange hue behind him, illuminating his every shuffle and move, giving a jagged shadow of a dancing strung up scarecrow. Then came the voice, a ragged and grating sound accompanied by a gigantic tongue, but the lyrics could be understood and their resonance felt.
"In search of new lands, I build a new house," the flames seemed to dance with the singer, the gears somehow loud and then silenced with every other word, creating an atmosphere not fit for the planet.
"I thatch the house with reed stalks... gathered neatly in bundles," Akabane tried to block it out, but something was being prodded in his thoughts. His minds eye was being forced open and flooded, by a light casting a dark compensating shadow.
"I thatch the house with reed stalks, gathered neatly in bundles," the memories came and all emotions associated with them, and some that weren't. Hangman was the conductor playing the ebb and flow of power and memory between himself, Akabane and that damned building, that factory hell all at once.
"At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred black kites." The song went kept going on, Akabane was wondering where he had heard it. He had to have heard it somewhere before, how else could it have such an effect on him? How could Hangman know it, he who had not left this place for so long? Did Hangman even know what it was he was singing?
"At the stone wall, let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred black kites." Akabane then drew a scalpel; he looked in its reflection and saw Doctor Jackal back in this place he had been so willing to run to before, soon so willing to forget.
"Let us celebrate the golden house, that was built by a hundred black kites." Hangman would have his turn, by force if necessary. The light that had danced off Jackal's scalpel played with the end of his scythe as well casting flickers and flashes off the walls and liquid covered floors, if that liquid was water or blood or neither, neither seemed to mind either way.
"The eighth month is fast approaching, and yet I have nothing to wear," the noose around Hangman's neck began to dance too, swinging back and forth casting its own shadow, making its own impression on Hangman's.
"I want to dress gaily, so brother, will you lend me just one sleeve?" Lowering his scalpel Akabane was privy to the façade of his own black suit, marred as it was but still whole. Shifting his gaze, the former Judas looked at Hangman who seemed unbothered by his own tattered clothes.
"I wish to dress my children and loved ones... in the one kimono that I own," More memories came and the groan of some Formers in the distance could be heard. These were quickly muted by some circumstance or another; the Formers were either prevented from interfering in the song or just did not want to participate.
"As for me, I will wear vines... that I plucked deep in the mountains," the fires behind Hangman, spurred on by the turning and grinding of the gears went unnoticed by the singer, in fact the fire seemed to almost whimper at him, as if he was bellowing some kind of soft roar.
"The light of the full moon shines down, illuminating the world with its divine light," it wasn't light that came down from the blackness where the Hangman had been lowered, rather the light had come from the stairs they were at the top of, and the light was almost an after thought.
"When my lover sneaks in to visit me, I wish that the clouds would hide that light just a little." Up and down, the song had been building and breaking towards something. Then Akabane saw something, a book on a desk next to an open window, its pages being gently and carelessly nudged by the breeze, turning and turning, the words made of no consequence by those who would decree so.
Then, scalpel and scythe were drawn.
To Be Continued
Authors Notes: Well then, took a while didn't it? Heh, it's been pretty busy on my end, family crap, school crap, mental crap, crap of Biblical proportions. Anyway rather than bore you I'll get to the reviews (about time!) Oh before I forget, that song at the end was Obokuri-Eemui ("Obtain Bearing") by Ikue Asazaki, fans of Samurai Champloo should recognize this song. I heard it in its entirety a few months ago and after reading the lyrics knew I had to put it in my story, hope you enjoyed!
Ivory Nightshade: Hey, you changed your name didn't you? Very nice, anyway thank you kindly for your review and your understanding regarding this poor writers limitations! Hope you liked this chapter.
Atropos Knife: Once again you risk giving me a fat head my friend. Oh and yeah I realize Coal being dragged along is a bit of a liability, but Himiko is a bit of a softie and Akabane is professional enough to multi task I say. I hope you like Hangman, in this chapter and in the ensuing ones, rest assured his past is screwy even by the already mangled standards I have. Also, about your Venus De Milo query, oddly enough I reached it after I had written that part of the story (these long chapters take a while!) but I figured ol' Kanryu was different enough especially how his origins tie into Harukais' and…whoops slipped. And what was that about some Phantom jerk? I have no idea who you are possibly referring to. Funny thing you should compare Corsair to Fudo, I was on a bit of a Fudo kick after seeing his and Bans fight in the I.L. arc, through in a few DG elements and voila, mad priest…speaking of which you ever notice Fudo had a bunch of crosses himself? Ah well, college is killing me thus disproving your survival these…damn English, my first and only language and still it torments me. I hope you enjoyed this installment and thank you for reviewing "Over Drinks", that was definitely an experimental writing on my part and you gave me a boost when I needed it. I hope this chapter was good in your book and warrants your always welcome review.
Alicorna: Thank you for your reviews, everyone makes my feel like a real writer rather than…whatever the alternative is. For the Maguruma thing, all I can say is I'm going with what I have access too which is mainly the English translated manga and anime. And as for your pimping your stuff, I'll give it a look as soon as the bullets of college and work their way out of my system…kidding, I'll try to look when I can. For all my grammar and spelling mistakes, I'll try to correct and change things as they come up but I am just one guy and getting a beta is a little stretch for time right now, maybe for the next chapter…when and if that comes up! But if you want the job you can have it. Ban flooring the car…I dunno I figured anime and manga are the lands of exaggeration and it seemed to me Himiko has a keen ear for picking up Bans insults anyway. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and look forward to your feedback.
Mayumi-san: Believe me if anyone can sympathize with lack of time it is me, so no worries there. I am glad you like the story so far and hope you continue to, it is what I am trying (futilely) to do; any and all criticism you have is needed and appreciated. And when are you going to update "Gemstone Waltz"? I am dying to know what happens next (hopefully not literally).
Melodie: Thank you for reviewing "Over Drinks", any review makes my day, more if it's positive, hope you read this considering I have yet to use the reply function on reviews. I'll get to it soon, hopefully!
kAZuKo54: Hey, thanks for the feedback and the glowing review, it helps this thing passing for a writer you see before you. I have seen your story and will get to it as soon as possible.
Mz-Kitty-Kat: Thank you for reading my story and thank you for liking it more than I thought anyone would.
Well, that be that folks. I am exhausted and need my requisite thirty minutes of sleep before school. So, after so long a hiatus, I'll see you all when I see you in another near half year.