"Agent One One and Agent Five Five in position. Barrier been has established." Kudou's voice still retained all of its imposing tone even through the tinny speaker in Mami's ear.
Mami stared seriously at the screen in front of her, this was to be her first operation with the unit, and possibly even her last. Kiriya stood by her side, his hands folded neatly behind his back, his eyes too fixed on the small screen at Mami's workstation inside the mobile command centre.
"Operations centre, acknowledged." Mami replied, pressing the headset against her ear to block out any ambient noise.
"This is Agent Five Five." Masaki's voice came through almost immediately after, still as chirpy and confident as ever, "Visual confirmation of the target confirmed. Within safety distance, Mami-cha~n!"
"Acknowledged." Mami did her best not to sound unprofessional in the face of Masaki's over-friendly attitude, at least she couldn't while her new employer was standing right beside her.
"Agent Three Three, and Agent Seven Seven, arriving at target location." Natsuki's voice sounded determinedly a short while after Masaki.
"Acknowledged." Mami responded, "And take care."
The fourth division's V-22 Osprey helicopter cut a clean figure above a sprawling forested area. The force of the whipping air produced by its rotors caused the branches below to quiver madly, shaking loose leaves and scattering wildlife. The Osprey's engines tilted into their landing position and the craft began descending into one of a pair of clearings near the centre of the forested area.
From the second clearing, the silver haired child known looked up from his inattentive state, the sun's glare shielded from his single visible eye by a cliff side that overlooked the clearing from some ways away. A single blue butterfly that had been resting on his finger took flight and disappeared leaving the boy alone to observe the machine that was landing nearby.
He didn't have to wait long to realize its intent. A single figure, still wearing his customary orange jumpsuit emerged from the line of trees separating the two clearings. In his hands the familiar silver and black pistols were held tightly, the pistol grip in his right hand backlit by the tell-tale blood red glow of the Sesshouseki.
The silver haired child propped his chin up on his index finger and smirked mischievously at the man who had stopped, dangerously close to his perch on the tree branch.
The child managed a slight chuckle and leaned forward to get a better look at his would-be opponent.
Reports were coming in from the first division that they had temporarily joined forces with the Ministry of Environment to tackle a Category A apparition, one that had formed from the half destroyed body of the countermeasure unit's own Isayama Yomi.
By all accounts the battle was not going well, the first division and countermeasure unit troops alike were falling one by one, with no hope in sight of putting down the threat.
"Chief, we need to go and help them, they're getting slaughtered out there!" Masaki protested at the fourth division's inaction thus far.
All the members of the fourth division were now together, it made the tiny space in Kiriya's office feel a little too cramped. Natsuki and Toru were sitting a little closer to each other than usual, and the usual air of tension between the two of them was nowhere to be seen.
"What extra do you believe we could contribute to the battle, Masaki?" Asked Kiriya.
"Surely with the Seiryuu we could-" Masaki stopped, turning his head to look at Toru, who was now eyeing the stone in the palm of his right hand.
"What do you think, Toru?" Asked Kiriya.
Kudou let out a disgusted snort, and stared hard at his commander. Kiriya waved it off and focused his attention on Toru who was now considering the question.
"Only one more use?" Toru asked, making a fist around the stone.
Kiriya nodded, "Then you'll be free of it forever. But, there's something else I'd like to do with it, if you'll hear me out."
"Our comrades are dying out there and you have 'other plans'?!" Kudou blurted out suddenly, leaning forward as if he were going to get out of his chair and beat his commander half to death for abandoning the first division.
"The Ministry of Environment is more than capable of taking down one Category A." Kiriya reminded him, "What I propose, is taking action to ensure that the artificial creation of the Category A ceases."
Toru's ears perked up at Kiriya's words and he almost stood in anticipation of the continued proposal.
Mami turned on the screen behind Kiriya's desk again, bringing up a picture of the silver haired child whose image they had captured via satellite just a few days earlier.
"Mitogawa Kazuhiro." Kiriya began, "This, we believe, is the apparition responsible for the recent marked increase in supernatural activity, as well as the forced creation of Category A. And..." He looked at Kudou harshly, "The one responsible for Aoi's death."
Kudou sank back in his chair a little, not wanting to further challenge Kiriya on the matter.
"I'll do it." Toru said without hesitation.
Natsuki looked at him, concern growing on her face. Toru turned to her in kind with a reassuring stare, and she nodded at him.
"Wait..." Masaki interrupted. "What about the stone? If that fails in the middle of the battle, Toru won't stand a chance against a Category A like that."
Kiriya shook his head at Masaki. "I've already accounted for that possibility." He looked at each member of his team in turn, smiling wickedly and confidently at each one of them. "Of course... Preparations will have to be made."
"If it isn't the soldier-dono that had broken into my old school." Mitogawa exclaimed with honest surprise, kicking his legs back and forth on the tree branch.
"Seiryuu!" Toru exclaimed, not wishing in the slightest to indulge Mitogawa in any kind of conversation. The great blue dragon coming into existence at his side in a matter of seconds. The gold glowing scripture on the bracelet attached to Toru's wrist became hot instantly, and the pain seared up his right arm. His eyes twitched briefly from the pain, but he didn't dare show it, he kept his eyes focused on Mitogawa the entire time.
"Oh?" Mitogawa cocked his head to the side, disappointed at Toru's unwillingness to engage him in a brief conversation. "Though I'm glad you've made good use of the gift I gave your girlfriend." Mitogawa grinned, his single golden eye piercing coldly.
Mitogawa hopped down from the branch and began walking toward Toru and the enormous dragon writhing hungrily at his side.
"I don't normally like to bother myself with the weak." Mitogawa grinned, a steady stream of blue butterflies now emerging from behind his back and forming together in a swarm around his body. "But why don't I indulge you for a little while?"
The blue swarm darted forward in a point toward Toru and the Ga-Rei Seiryuu, the serpentine dragon coiled itself and threw its body into the swarm, dispersing the creatures harmlessly and flattening a few of them.
Toru darted to the side, his legs carrying him swiftly by the swarm of butterflies battering themselves against Seiryuu's scaled hide. Toru raised the twin walthers with deadly professional accuracy, and let off four shots. The enhanced mani bullets tore through the shield of blue butterflies and impacted into Mitogawa's small frame, knocking him back a little much to his surprise.
With a sweep of his arm, and a madly entertained expression on his face, Mitogawa caused the glowing blue horde of insects to ark away from Seiryuu and threaten to envelope Toru once again. The dragon matched the swarm move for move and once again placed its body in the path of the butterflies, shielding its master from.
Toru repeated the same move again, arcing around to the side and firing off another four shots at his intended target. The wall was strong this time, and the bullets shattered after they cut through several thick layers of blue wings.
This time however, the dragon reared its head and plunged down into the centre of the swarm, intending to devour Mitogawa whole. The child skipped back out of harms way, breaking through his own blue shield to escape from immediate danger.
Toru was waiting for him, and unloaded another round of shots into Mitogawa's back, this time with nothing to impede the severity of their impact.
Mitogawa span on the spot, unperturbed by the attack, another stream of butterflies piercing their way toward Toru. Seiryuu wasn't fast enough to reach them this time, and the swarm knocked Toru off his feet slashing a deep wound into the flesh of his right shoulder.
Mitogawa staggered from the pain of the eight bullets now burning inside his body, but the same elated grin was plastered across his face. "Too much... This is too much fun!"
Toru snarled at the boy, cradling the wound on his shoulder. As the dragon finally came between him and Mitogawa for a third time, Toru risked a glance at the bracelet on his right wrist. The scripture was again glowing white as the exponential increase of the Sesshouseki's power grew to excessive proportions.
Dead butterflies fell all around, like shining blue snowflakes on a cold winter morning. The clearing was now strewn with their corpses, the ground shimmering like a beautiful crystalline lake, but yet more of the black bodied insects kept on coming.
Toru quickly changed out the clips in his Walthers, doing his best to ignore the blood trickling from the wound on his shoulder. The harness straps on the right side of his uniform now hung off uselessly, but Toru kept an eye firmly on the area above Seiryuu's body as he inched around to the side looking for an opening.
Before he got there, exactly what he had expected to happen did. The swarm blew over the top of Seiryuu's body and swept down on him. Unexpectedly Mitogawa himself had leapt the body of the great dragon and was bearing down on Toru, his eye shining with sick anticipation.
Toru emptied both the new clips simultaneously as Mitogawa came barelling down. Some of the bullets impacting harmlessly on his blue shield, the others successfully piercing parts of his body.
Toru dodged backwards hoping to avoid the impact of the butterflies completely... But it wasn't enough.
The swarm, aiming to take off both of Toru's hands instead cut the pistols from the his grip as he moved backwards. Pieces of the lovingly cared for Walthers flew through the air and crashed unceremoniously to the ground.
As Toru backed further off, and Mitogawa again dodged to the side as Seiryuu's gigantic head came soaring down to devour him, it took Toru a little while to realize the pain in right arm was fading quickly, and the scripture on the bracelet was fading back to gold.
He looked at the palm of his right hand and saw that the stone was no longer there. He glanced back to where his Walthers had landed and saw it there, lying in two halves.
Mitogawa landed lightly in the spot where the weapons were, and stooped low to pick up the two pieces of Sesshouseki.
"That's too bad." He said, and he lifted his drooping hair to reveal his second eye, or at least an enormous red Sesshouseki that stood out from where his eye was supposed to be.
The two pieces of Toru's stone shuddered briefly, and were then absorbed by the the stone residing in Mitogawa's head.
Seiryuu's physical body was already beginning to waver. While Toru was still contracted to it, maintaining its body at this size wasn't possible without the aid of the stone's unnatural power.
"How long do you think you can hold that one together?" Mitogawa asked, fewer butterflies now rushing around his body as he mocked Toru's helplessness.
Toru backed off while he considered his options, and Mitogawa closed the gap between them by walking forward faster, grinning from ear to ear.
"Seiryuu!" Toru shouted, and the serpent dove in toward Mitogawa for one final attack. Mitogawa dodged the serpent's thrust with ease and continued his advance forward, he wasn't expecting it however when the dragon arced widely and surrounded him, its body quickly constricting and trapping him in place.
Toru didn't have the power left to crush the boy's body and the serpent's tail was already beginning to break down into tiny droplets of water.
"Struggle on to the end." Mitogawa goaded Toru, the serpents grip on him becoming looser by the second.
"Masaki!" Toru yelled out.
"Roger!" Came the response through the speaker plugged into his ear.
Mitogawa's face twisted in confusion, were there others? In all the excitement he hadn't even thought to check. Before he realized what was happening, a single red streak blinded him, literally, as a large calibre mani bullet penetrated his single functioning eye and tore out the other side of his head.
Mitogawa screamed in rage and excruciating pain as his world went black. Seiryuu's body now completely dissolved and Mitogawa dropped back to his feet, where staggered blindly trying to get his bearings. A second sniper shot sailed in struck Mitogawa squarely in the chest, tearing another gaping hole in his body.
The screech of rubber tyres against the ground deafened him, and he didn't know what to expect until he felt it hit him. Natsuki reared her motorcycle onto its back wheel, speeding forward and eventually dropping the front wheel on Mitogawa's sightless face. The wheel's three strips of scripture and the force of the rapidly rotating front wheel sheared the skin from Mitogawa's face. Natsuki veered off at the last second, knocking Mitogawa back several feet as he tried to comprehend what exactly had just happened to him.
"Toru! We're running!" Natsuki shouted out, and the bike screeched to a halt to allow Toru to get on. Toru threw his legs over the seat and gripped fast onto the chassis. The bike wailed again, the wheels spinning back up to carry them into the clearing where the Osprey was waiting.
A third large calibre sniper bullet streaked out toward Mitogawa, but this time it didn't reach its intended target. The thick wall of blue butterflies reasserted itself, allowing Mitogawa to pull himself to his feet.
"Damn you...! DAMN YOU!" He raged, the flesh inside his empty eye socket bubbled and split, forming itself into a new eye which rotated oddly before finally focusing in the direction that Natsuki and Toru had fled.
Mitogawa's head and chest were torn and grotesque from the unseen assault, and what remained of his face was contorted into an expression of absolute fury.
The first thing his new eye noticed was the Osprey lifting off from the second clearing. In full flight to retreat from him before he could retaliate.
"I WON'T LET YOU GET AWAY!" He raged, and the blue swarm carried him into the air after the fleeing helicopter.
Mitogawa impacted with the Osprey shaking it briefly off its axis. He hammered, pounded, and clawed at the rear access door, trying to get at the occupants inside. The door eventually gave way, and he tore a hole straight through it, and pulled himself inside.
"I'll kill you all-! ...!?" He was stunned to see that the craft was completely empty, the controls quite clearly being operated remotely. There was something there however, a large tank filled with water, lined from top to bottom by scores of mani bullets, and in the centre a curious floating black object.
Mitogawa's pupil dilated fully when he realized what it was, but by that time it was already too late. The Osprey exploded in a storm of fire, holy water, and mani bullets. Raining down fire, water, and pieces of helicopter on the clearing below.
On the cliff side where Masaki and Kudou had been positioned. Kudou flipped the cover of the remote detonator in his hand back down with a satisfying click. "Don't underestimate Tokusen Four, shitty brat!" He exclaimed.
Natsuki's bike barrelled up to the cliff side position, and came to a halt beside Kudou and Masaki, who was fawning over his performance with Toru's sniper rifle.
"Did you see that shot?! Did you SEE it?!" Masaki clenched his fists tightly, exceptionally proud of himself.
Toru and Natsuki smiled at him, and the four of them looked out over the cliff side to watch the last of the holy water's vapour dissipate into the air. It was over, finally.
"This is Agent One One," Kudou began to state, "Mission accomplished."
Toru stood over Aoi's grave, it was another calm night and it had been quite a while since he had been here. He dropped to one knee and lit the incense sticks with the lighter he carried around just for visiting this graveside.
"I'm sorry... For everything, Aoi." He said, even though was alone in the dark place. "I only hope that wherever you are now, you're able to forgive this foolish man."
Toru took a bracelet from his jacket pocket, the same bracelet he had used for the last time in his fight against Mitogawa, and placed it on the stone before him. Then stood back up to his full height and bowed his head.
After a short while of contemplation, Toru turned away from the grave and walked solemnly out of the cemetery. All around the streets were dark and quiet, only the sparse street lamps provided him with a safe path to follow.
As he walked along the concrete pathway, he considered everything that had happened after the last mission.
He had come so close to calling it quits with the Ministry of Defence, planning to find himself a quiet job where he wouldn't have to worry about losing his life from day to day.
But surprisingly, it had been Natsuki who had convinced him not to give it up. There were after all, people out there who couldn't protect themselves from the things that they couldn't understand, and it was only people like the fourth division who could make sure they got to rest at night without the fear of evil spirits consuming them while they slept.
It was his night off right now, but he knew that Kudou and Masaki were still at the Ministry of Defence, arguing with the brass to give them another Osprey after the one they had been given before mysteriously 'malfunctioned'.
Toru grinned at the thought, and couldn't help but wonder if Masaki was also motivated to be there because of Mami. He had taken a liking to her, that much was obvious to everyone, but thus far that relationship had yet to blossom in any capacity. That would come in time, Toru thought, or perhaps the fourth division might end up looking at it's first sexual harassment tribunal.
Kudou had resolved to spend less time at the ministry, snapping at Kiriya's heels every time he had a bizarre scheme to tackle an unusual spirit, and more time with his family. By now the team knew that the commander almost always ended up coming up with a solid plan regardless of Kudou's objections.
The commander himself was always something of a mystery, even now Kiriya kept himself mostly to himself, and the team really knew very little about him. That would have to change in the future, almost certainly.
Toru rounded a corner into a busier part of town, and found his way eventually to the alleyway behind the night club where Natsuki sang.
He leaned against a wall and played with the lighter a little bit, lighting his face up in the orange glow and enjoying the feeling of the scant warmth it offered.
The roar of a motorcycle's engine caught him unaware, and he tilted his head to see Natsuki pulling up into the alleyway. He walked over to greet her, and watched happily as she pulled off her helmet and shook loose her hair. A beautiful night for a beautiful girl.
Natsuki shivered in anticipation of his approach, and laid the helmet down on the front end of her bike.
"You're early." She said, letting him get as close possible before she spoke.
Toru reached out and tilted her chin up gently to gaze into her eyes. "I thought I'd help you set up this time."
She smiled and gazed back at him, both of them locked firmly in each others will. And the two of them embraced, sharing a sentimental kiss under a star filled sky.
Mitogawa looked up at the starlight filtering in through the trees, his body blackened and torn, unable to move, unable to blink, able only to stare upwards and wait. His flesh boiled and bubbled as it regenerated and pushed out the absurd number of mani bullets embedded in his body.
"Ah... It hurts..." He lamented, as he stared up at the filtered light. "But it was fun... Don't you think so... Yomi-dono?"
A woman in a kimono crept softly through the tall trees, a hollow thump from the padded feet of a great beast vibrated the ground in her wake. Her traditional black hair draped neatly over her body, and she stopped to look down at the pitiful form of Mitogawa's torn up body.
He smiled at her wickedly and stared into the violet jewels that dominated her face, with his single unblinking golden eye.
"Hey..." He said, "Let's have more fun soon."