Asante found himself lying face-down on some hard, rocky surface. He was surrounded on all sides by darkness. He staggered up to his feet, immediately feeling dizzy and unstable, as he felt considerable pain in his stomach and chest.
Am I dead? he wondered. He reached up to feel his face, and though he couldn't see it clearly, detected the burns and scars on his right hand and face, and upon examination, the slightly shortened horn above his left eye and the thick, black flesh that had replaced his left index finger.
He recalled what Kitami had done, and he could not feel the demon's presence in his body anymore. He still felt the powerful urge to locate female flesh, but had no idea where to take it from. Eager to gain some understanding of the darkness around him, Asante placed his right hand upon the ground, trying to discern some of the elements around him...
...again he felt considerable pain as energy cackled through his right arm. He found no trace of carbon in the stone beneath him... indeed he didn't detect any elements at all. It was composed of matter he couldn't identify.
When Asante tore his hand away he felt considerably drained; as though he'd spent several minutes running or rowing. As the demon had told him before, without the energy reserves the demon had granted to him, he could not safely or easily contain the power circulating through him during the transmutation process.
However, in spite of the pain, Asante activated his right hand again, pressing it upon his left arm, and selecting a single element: phosphorus. Again he was in pain, but it proved a worthwhile effort, as his blood stream glowed a dull white, revealing some of the area to him.
He stood on a simple stone pathway, with what appeared to be a few rocks scattered along the way. He couldn't see anymore besides the darkness around him... but ahead he spotted the tiniest flicker of orange light, at the end of the long pathway.
He had literally nowhere else to go, so Asante began walking.
In the Tokken Holding Facility, just below the Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, a buxom bleached-blonde (with glasses, to boot) female scientist observed the apparently deceased Asante Hirazuki, lying on his back in the cell they'd set up for him.
She was the sole reason he was still imprisoned, rather than in a morgue. She had yet to give a reason, but as the ranking officer in the holding facility, she had jurisdiction over this man Tokken had recently tried to apprehend. She'd examined his body thoroughly when he'd arrived, and found more than a few things unusual about him.
The horn, for example. The burns and the cuts. The patches of black skin. And the fact that no matter how she tried, she couldn't remove his right hand from his chest. He was dead, sure, but despite a lack of pulse or brain wave, his body's internal processes had not stopped completely. His bones should've been cracked by the fall he'd sustained, yet all were in perfect condition, with more calcium buildup than she'd ever seen...
And back in that strange darkness, Asante finally figured out what the orange light was generated by: fire. Lots of fire. He stood at the edge of a massive pit, almost like a crater, but filled with stone buildings, surrounded on all sides by flame. He saw shadows moving amongst the flames: creatures as monstrous as the demon that inhabited him -some more so- and screaming, flailing humans, all nude or wearing tattered cloaks. Women were being raped, men flayed and skinned. Their screams were drowned out by the hideous laughter of their assailants, as what appeared to be harpies and dragons pursued the skies over the pit, and the demons beneath them tossed up the charred human flesh to their waiting mouths.
Asante wasn't exactly eager to enter the pit, but given the bloodthirsty antics of the flying creatures (which were now fighting over what appeared to be an arm) he dropped down, sliding along the stone wall and on top of a stone building, roughly rectangular and surrounded on two sides by flames. Asante scaled down towards another stone pathway, keeping an eye out for signs of demons... he had a general idea what to expect.
Asante landed on the stone and glanced around. A pair of shadows moving through the flames convinced him to dart into the building, and he waited, hearing uproar of laughter as two large creatures ambled past, the stone floor shaking with each of their steps.
He glanced around the dark, dank interior of the room he stood within, and spotted something unusual. Using his phosphorus-laden arm to illuminate the room, he saw it clearly: a mirror, encircled by rusted chains.
On the mirror's frame he read 'Vi veri veniversum vivus vici*'
"It can't be," Asante mused, and pressed his hand upon the chain. He gave it a tug, but the iron ovals refused to move, so he once again concentrated energy into his right palm, and a moment later, the confines snapped away.
The mirror cracked once the chains fell away. What at first seemed to be a splintered, distorted reflection of Asante fell away, revealing instead another pitch black entrance. Some illumination revealed a stairwell.
The sound of snapping metal and broken glass would no doubt have alerted someone to his activity, so Asante stepped through the looking glass and casually walked down the darkened steps.
When he reached the bottom he found himself in a dimly lit chamber, where he found more chains, this time wrapped around a distorted chunk of flesh held slightly above the stone floor. Asante stepped forth to examine the body, barely daring to believe it.
He recoiled as the body's lips opened, some blood dribbling from the cut mouth and yellowed teeth. "Hello, young man," it greeted, in a raspy, dull tone. "My name is John Faust."
It hadn't been easy adjusting to her new lifestyle, but Ritsuko had more or less acclimated to it. She'd done significantly less technological study and had to make better use of her genetics study and her medical knowledge. Given what Tokken agents frequently dealt with, a capable doctor was incredibly useful to them.
Now twenty and still studying in college, Ritsuko had been recruited into Tokken following her previous work in the now-defunct German institute known as GEHIRN ("brain"). When the organization was dissolved in 2000 because of some 'key failure' of an outside research project and following the suicide of her mother, having an opportunity to bury herself in workloads away from the public eye appealed to her.
It was a lonely profession, however. She'd resorted to smoking quite heavily and relied on her three cats at home for companionship, as the Tokken agents she interacted with had little time for her company. With the dissolution of GEHIRN, Ritsuko saw the departure of the only man she'd ever been in love with, and now her usual company was just the machines, the diagnostics, and blood samples scattered about.
Her eyes had been getting progressively worse, too. She needed a pair of orange-tinted glasses (provided to her by the organization's thorough health program) to read the documents she was going through. Primarily medical records, but also the structure of the genetic codes on some of Tokken's more... interesting recruits.
There was also the man lying prone in the holding cell. He'd been there two days now, yet, unlike most corpses, he'd yet to gain any unpleasant odor. His hand had yet to move, and Ritsuko went to go run another diagnostic on him. Her most recent blood sample had shown an unusual phosphorus buildup in his left arm, and an unusually high number of healthy red blood cells. By this point, his bones should've stopped producing them.
Placing her glasses in her white lab coat, Doctor Ritsuko Akagi exited her facility and walked down the dark corridors to the holding cells.
The distorted chunk of flesh became a bit clearer when Asante held up his lit arm, revealing straps and chains and stitches all over, holding together the disjointed pieces of a human body. Asante brought his right hand to his nose, overcome by the sudden strong smell of feces.
Faust, as he'd identified himself, continued to smile, and more blood flopped away from his body, dribbling out his mouth and an unfinished hem on his right cheek. "I understand your surprise, but in this realm, one cannot die. I had the misfortune to be dismembered upon my death; it's taken me more than five hundred years to piece myself back together, and the chains Mephistopheles left upon me didn't help any."
Mephistopheles. The demon Faust had famously bargained with... Asante was skeptical, to be sure, but had thoroughly enjoyed variations of the Faust legend, so he was eager to confer with this man. "So, your bargain didn't end the way you planned?"
Faust fell quiet for several moments. "Did you bargain with a devil too?"
"I did," Asante answered.
"What price did you demand?" Faust asked.
"Power," Asante responded. "And women. Ideally both in large quantities."
Faust lowered his head rather solemnly, and more blood lobbed down onto the ground. "You at least have the excuse of being young and foolish. You repeated my error, and have joined me in torment."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that power will consume you," Faust told him. "You forget the person you were before, and lose sight of the values and truths you once clung to. You become obsessed with the need for power, and seek more and more of it. It is a path of perpetual torment, much like Hell itself."
"I didn't come here for your judgments," Asante told Faust plainly, snarling a bit at him. "How do I leave?"
"Leave?" Faust repeated.
"Yes," Asante removed his right hand from his mouth and nose and thrust his right palm before Faust's only visible eye, covered in capillaries to give the iris a dark red tint. "I can perform alchemy. There should be enough elements in my body alone for me to escape here."
Faust laughed. "Young man, your body has nowhere near the energy supply to escape from here." Asante had expected to hear that and was preparing a ready retort when Faust added: "But mine does." He leaned forward as best he could, placing his forehead on Asante's palm. "Cut out a piece of my brain."
"Do it, boy," Faust instructed. "Take some of my power and add it to your own. Revitalize yourself and escape from here."
"And why are you so keen to help me now?" Asante asked.
"You are planning on escaping from Hell, and on the rare occasion that happens, it thoroughly irritates the owner," Faust answered with a twisted, yellow-tinged smile. "Do it."
Asante activated the power in his right hand and cut into the already-poorly-strewn-together flesh, and reached into grasp some gray matter.
He heard a rapid sound, like a loud drum, repeatedly bashing, and then felt a strong pain in his chest.
He heard a raspy whisper of: "Farewell."
Ritsuko stepped towards the cell block, and turned the corner towards the 8x8 room assigned to their latest capture... until the door blasted off its hinges and slammed against the nearest wall. She leapt back in surprise as alarms started blaring, and a dark, menacing figure lumbered out.
Asante stood, dressed only in the pants they'd dragged him in with, his burns and scars less-apparent in the now-flashing-red corridor. He stepped towards her, his red eye burning brightly and his green eye dulled ever so slightly.
"Where am I?" Asante asked her politely, even as the good doctor recoiled.
A chirping sound rang out. Asante turned his head and spotted a tall man with a receding hairline and a pair of black shades, leveling a silenced pistol in his direction.
"This is agent Yuge," the man said into a small microphone by his chin. "Target is mobile. Escaped prisoner... visual confirmation of Hirazuki Asante." He paused. "Yes, alive."
Asante reluctantly drew his attention from an astonished Ritsuko (harder to do than he thought; he was captivated by the mole/beauty mark under her left eye) and focused his gaze on the gruff Tokken agent. "Will you tell me where I am?"
Yuge ignored him and grunted out an "Understood." into his microphone. He then refocused his gaze and fired off a round, little more than a chirp, and Asante, instinctively, raised carbon atoms around him, creating a diamond barrier without the need of contacting the physical surfaces around him.
He performed alchemy without thinking. He had done so twice now without the need for physical contact and without any sign of fatigue; it'd taken roughly as much energy as swinging a tennis racket.
Asante smirked and stepped towards this man Yuge... until he felt the sudden sharp jolt of a needle into his back. He turned to attack but stopped himself, his right hand less than a centimeter from the woman's neck.
His vision grew hazy as he held his gaze with hers'... no longer frightened but composed and examining, not unlike Saeki.
Asante gave a half-smirk and fell over, unconscious again.
Agent Yuge called in the information and leveled his pistol at Asante's head, but Ritsuko brushed him away. "This one's mine, Yuge," she told him.
"I was told to dispatch him," Yuge argued.
"I'm in charge of this facility, Lieutenant," Ritsuko told him flatly. "And he will not be harmed. Get me an armed guard and instruct one of the nurses to bring me an IV of curare."
Yuge glared at her but complied, lumbering away. Ritsuko refocused her attention on the young man lying on the ground before her, sleeping... no longer dead.
And despite the powers he'd just demonstrated, he'd restrained himself from harming her, so it seemed he wasn't all that bad...