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Everything posted by Wstfgl

  1. Night had fallen, and I was alone. The sun’s last rays had long since guttered and died, and the wan, sickly light of the crescent moon did nothing to dispel the darkness all around me. If anything, it only served to accentuate it, the twisted tangle of power lines and ventilation piping above and around me casting long, ragged shadows all around. Somewhere, a ventilation fan ceaselessly droned a mantra of monotony, sporadically interrupted by a dull thump from within a vent or the rustle of a plastic bag borne by a stray breeze. The cloying stench of old garbage assaulted my nostrils, but I pressed on, my footsteps echoing in the enclosed space. This place sure felt a hell lot less foreboding in daylight. Then, I heard the footsteps. The first time I heard it, it was a muffled thumping, near-imperceptible against the background noise – perhaps nothing more than a figment of my imagination, making up boogeymen where there were none to be found. Then, I heard them again, a slow, staccato rhythm of heavy boots hitting asphalt. Goosebumps rose on my neck as a shudder went down my spine, and I redoubled my pace, keeping my gaze locked straight ahead. It wasn’t safe here. I had to get home. I couldn’t let them find me. The footsteps were getting louder. Closer. They were gaining on me. No, I couldn’t look back. I couldn’t hesitate; couldn’t waver. If I looked back, they’d be upon me in an instant. Just keep walking, and don’t turn around. I could hear the footsteps clearly now. They couldn’t be more than ten paces behind. Perhaps with my back turned, they wouldn’t notice it was me, not in this light. Just a little further; I could already see streetlights. Once I made it out into the open, they wouldn’t dare to lay a finger on me. I heard a muted ringing, like a moist finger dragged around the rim of a wineglass, and pain lanced up my leg as my toes crunched against an obdurate wall where there had been nothing but thin air moments before. In the dim light, I could barely make out the transparent, ephemeral veil, its surface iridescent like a sheet of cellophane, but there was no mistaking the two lines of chalk drawn across the ground, the space within glowing with lambent light. I couldn’t read the cursive, flowing script etched in between them, but their message was clear. “You Cannot Escape.” Slowly, I turned, a lump forming in my throat as my gaze fell upon the length of gleaming steel leveled at me. The silhouette of its wielder was indistinct in the gloom – male or female, young or old, I couldn’t tell. All I could clearly make out were their eyes, pinpoints of blazing blue like stars in the void. Then, they spoke. ... “Next station: Matsuura. The doors will be opening on the left.” Erin’s eyes snapped open with a start as she jerked upright, her eyes flitting back and forth nervously. A frigid sensation ran down the nape of her neck, and she reached towards it tentatively, her fingers running along the smooth metal of the plain silver necklace she was wearing. It felt cold, almost icy to the touch. She took in her surroundings, and to her relief, they seemed almost disappointingly banal – just a train carriage, its plastic bucket seats almost all unoccupied, the floor gently shaking and jostling as it sped down the tracks through the countryside. Huh, a dream. Ride must have lulled me to sleep. Then, her brow crinkled as her mouth twisted into a frown. Hold on, Matsuura? That’s, like, three stops east of home. And this is an eastbound train. So… uh… like, carry the two… and… um… damn. I think I missed my stop. And I’d promised I’d be back home on time for dinner, too. Pausing for a moment to stretch, she bent over and picked up the book lying on the floor before her, carelessly dropped when she’d dozed off. I guess I’m just going to have to get off at the next stop. Matsuura, right? Should be there in like five minutes. She flipped open her book, leafing through the pages to find where she’d left off. … “Next station: Matsuura. The doors will be opening on the left.” Erin chuckled, her face reddening a little. “L-lewd,” she murmured, flipping the page again. Despite herself, she let out a little gasp, her blush only intensifying. Then, she froze up, eyes slowly sweeping from side to side, before heaving a sigh of relief. Well. No one saw that. Isn’t this train taking a little long? … “Next station: Matsuura. The doors will be opening on the left.” Erin glanced at the side of her book briefly – there weren’t many unread pages left. She sighed as she glanced back at the page – with so little left, there was no way this volume wasn’t going to end in an unsatisfying cliffhanger. She gazed out of the window for a moment – just the same old monotonous tapestry of fields and little country roads, now bathed golden by the rays of the setting sun. Hold on. Sun’s almost down? I'm supposed to be back by seven! She fished inside her bag, pulling out her phone and prodding at the screen. Seven-thirty. Shit, shit, shit! I’m late for dinner! I’m so dead; I’d made a promise to Sis, too. She frantically swiped at her phone screen, anticipating a deluge of missed calls and reproachful messages – and saw nothing. She glanced at the top of the screen – instead of the usual stack of bars was an icon she didn’t see often. No signal? What the hell, this is Japan! We aren’t even in the mountains! “Next station: Matsuura. The doors will be opening on the left.” And what’s up with you, you piece of junk? Shouldn’t we have passed Matsuura hours ago? And what’s with the lights? It’s practically night already and they still aren’t on! What kind of shoddy train is this? She looked out the windows again; the light outside was already dimming as the sun began to dip beneath the horizon. The ubiquitous forests and hills that dotted the Japanese countryside looked decidedly gnarlier and more shadowy than she remembered, too... Darkness fell as the train rushed into a tunnel with a roar. Erin blinked in confusion as she got to her feet, clutching her bag closer to herself as she stepped towards the doors. Wait. Wait… there isn’t a tunnel before Matsuura… What’s going on? A bead of sweat streamed down her cheek as her gaze slowly swept the darkened train from end to end – it was empty, and the carriage doors on either side had slid shut, their windows dark and opaque. The trundling of the train’s carriage had taken on a sinister cadence, the carriage shaking and rattling in time with its gradually-accelerating staccato rhythm. The PA system screeched a burst of static and Erin winced, her hands clamping over her ears unbidden as it played once again, the sound tinny and crackling. “Next station: Matsuura. This train service terminates… at the next station. Thank you for… riding… with us…” There was a hiss and a rush of frigid air, and Erin slowly raised her head, gazing wide-eyed into the darkness behind the now-opened door between the carriages like a deer caught in headlights. From the darkness, a pair of eyes, its irises pinpoints of electric blue like stars in the void, gazed right back.
  2. “This Train Service… terminates… at the next station. Thank you… for riding… with us…” Erin screamed, frantically scrabbling away from the door, her bag crashing to the ground and scattering books and loose notes across the floor. A crash resounded throughout the train and the floor heaved and spasmed like a living thing, throwing Erin off her feet and slamming her painfully into a door with a bone-jarring crack. For the briefest of moments, the creature at the far end of the carriage was silhouetted from behind by brilliant white light like lightning in a darkened sky – it could have passed for human in bad light, if not for its lower half being completely gone; it hung suspended in mid-air like a mannequin, ropey, glistening entrails spilling out from the ragged tear at its waist and trailing off into the darkness beyond. It lurched into the carriage, its eyes blazing like searchlights and its mouth distending into a monstrous parody of a smile, a tongue spilling out from between tombstone teeth. “T-T-T-T-Thank you… for… r-r-r-r-r-riding… with… us…” Erin clambered to her feet with a yelp, the world spinning around her as she momentarily lost all sense of weight, and all semblance of balance and coordination with it. Her spilled notes were now hanging motionless in the air, but whatever the creature was, it seemed undeterred by the change in gravity, slowly, purposefully pulling itself forward along the handrails. With a trembling, pale hand, she slapped at the faintly-luminescent red button beside the carriage door, and surprisingly enough, it worked, the train doors parting smoothly with a hiss. For a moment, she felt a surge of hope – only her blood to turn to ice as she gazed beyond the door to the world outside. Outside the train was nothing. Not the inky darkness of the oceanic abyss, sporadically lit up by sparkling bioluminescence, or the star-strewn void of deep space – but complete emptiness, a gulf of pitch blackness that seemed to swallow the meager light streaming from the failing lights of the train. For a moment, she caught a glimpse of a brassy, segmented leg skittering along beneath the train, and then pain shot through her as her Japanese-English dictionary pummeled her on the back of the head before shooting out of the door into the void. The howl of decompression deafened her and she blindly groped around, grasping onto a handrail by blind luck just moments before she too was sucked into the void. Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god The howling of the wind completely filled her ears, but she could just barely make out the broken-record droning of the PA system again. “Erin… Akizuki… terminates… at…the…next station… Thank…” A brilliant lance of pain shot through her neck as her necklace, snagged on some piece of loose detritus, was ripped off her neck and cast into the void, leaving a thin, painful line of blood. Her eyes were becoming blurry, and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. She tightened her grip on the handrail to avoid joining it, her knuckles going white and trembling, but she felt her strength starting to leave her, darkness encroaching into her vision with every clickety-clack of the not-train’s movement. This is a dream. I’m still on the eastbound train home. Soon, I’ll wake up and everything will be alright- Abruptly, the entire train lurched and trembled again as gravity returned – albeit with ‘down’ now facing the front of the carriage. Erin’s grip faltered and failed, and the new floor rushed up to meet her with deadly speed- Someone grasped her hand, and she stopped falling. Tears blurring her vision, she looked up to the face of her savior – and saw two glowing electric-blue points of light and a grin too wide and crooked to be human. “Free me…” the wraith whispered hoarsely through yellowed teeth, and as easily as picking up a feather, pulled Erin up towards it and into a twisted parody of an embrace. Then, its other arm clamped around her neck and squeezed, its grip as cold as ice and as unyielding as death. For a moment, Erin felt an uncomfortable wetness running down her thigh, and then everything beneath her neck went numb. Ha. Ha. Ha. This is some kind of joke, right? I’m fine. Any moment now, my eyes are going to open, and I’ll be just fine… The wraith’s grip redoubled in strength, and Erin vision narrowed to a reddish tunnel, the blazing fires of the wraith’s eyes filling her entire world. “Sleep… child… sleep now… and let me… be… free…” Her arms, raised to feebly claw at the icy-cold hand wrapped around her neck, lost all strength and went numb, falling limply to her sides as her consciousness flickered and guttered like a dying candle. This is fine… I’ll be alright… I’ll… be… alright… The staccato, throbbing drumbeat of her pulse, the only thing she could hear over the howl of the wind and the rasping, choking breathing of the wraith currently killing her, skipped a beat. It faltered and weakened to a thready pattering, its frantic rhythm dissolving into chaos… and faded away, and for a brief moment, clarity returned as her eyelids closed like lead shutters on her life. This is it, I guess. Goodbye, mom. Goodbye, dad. It’s… I don’t know, like three in the morning where you are? You’re probably asleep now. I wished I’d said more the last time you called, but I guess I mess up everything, don’t I? Can’t even die without messing up with a bunch of regrets. So ends the story of Erin Akizuki, the story of the girl who messed up everything she touched… will I see Grandfather again? No. No, I can’t. Erin heard a drumbeat. And then another. Her chest tightened painfully as she felt the rhythm of her heartbeat throbbing through the very fiber of her being – not merely the defiant rhythm of a life that refused to go gently into that good night, but the indefatigable cadence of a war drum, a rallying call to battle. Erin Akizuki, the useless girl who couldn’t even die without messing even that up, is dead, as she should be. But that doesn’t matter. I’m not her – not merely her. Unbidden, Erin’s arm lurched upwards, fingers wrapping around the arm throttling the life out of her. For a brief instant, the veins beneath her skin were starkly outlined, glowing from within with bluish light – then, the pressure around her neck abruptly ceased as she wrenched the arm away from her neck, its fingernails leaving long, shallow cuts as they yielded their hold on her, and in the same motion, tore the foul appendage from its socket. It’s slowly coming back to me. That wasn’t a dream I woke up from earlier. It was a memory. The wraith howled in agony as black, tarry ichor spilled from the ragged ruins of its shoulder, its remaining arm tearing her shirt like rice paper and raking a deep gash across her belly in an attempt to disembowel her. Before it could get far, its arm stopped – held fast by Erin’s other hand. Then, she ripped that arm off, too. It’s still a blur to me. I don’t remember how that encounter in the alleyway went down, or the name or the face of the one who had hunted me down. But I do remember this -- they had my back to a wall. I was cornered like a rat, weary, frightened and defenseless, and they had a blade to my throat. And yet, I knew they were afraid. Perhaps more so than I was of them. Erin’s eyes snapped open, her irises now coronas of blazing electric-blue light. The literally disarmed wraith howled a wordless scream of defiance at her, black spittle splashing into her face as the ghost-lights in its eyes flared. So they hunted me, an. They bound me with fetters of silver, and bade me to sleep. To forget. She let go of the severed arms dangling limply in her grasp, letting the decompressing air carry them into nothingness, and she silently counted down from ten, the fingers of her right hand flexing as sparks of light danced between her fingertips. The wraith lashed out with tendrils of stinking offal, but as they touched her, it shrieked, the vile appendages charring and blackening as they pulled back. For too long I have been denied my purpose. For too long, I have been helpless and afraid. But now my fetters are cast away. My slumber has ended. The count reached zero, and when she closed her fist, it was around a polished ivory shaft, its contours fitting snugly in her hand – where there was once empty air was a seven-foot length of smooth, flawless ivory banded with intricately-etched silver, its tip menacing with a gleaming silvery spearhead, its rune-etched length tapering gently to a single shining point. “I, Erin Akizuki, hereby reclaim my birthright.” she whispered. Gravity returned once more, and Erin’s feet once again found purchase on what was once the not-train’s ceiling. The wraith hurtled at her with jaws agape, bluish corpse-light pouring from within its throat, from its eyes and leaking from its ruined shoulders and waist. With almost meditative calm, she raised her spear in answer, and cast it forth, a hurled thunderbolt of judgment. For a moment, even the rushing wind seemed to still itself as the spear met its mark, piercing into the collapsed chest of the monster before Erin. No longer shall I cower, forlorn and helpless. There was a peal of thunder, and the walls of the carriage were stained black as a dozen barbed pikes erupted from within the wraith, tearing it into ribbons. Then, the vile creature and the spears were gone with a reedy sigh, leaving nothing behind but the strangely unblemished spear. No longer will I close my eyes and ignore the shadows cast upon this world. With a gesture, her spear sprang up like a living thing, leaping back into her outstretched hand as the compartment door behind her opened, revealing a dozen pairs of cobalt-blue eye-lights in the darkness. Grimacing, she cast off glasses sullied with the spittle and ichor of her vanquished foe, and they clattered away into the shadows. All the evils of the world may assail me, but I shall stand unbowed. Behind her, a dozen monsters howled and charged, hands poised to end her. And should God cross my path, He shall be struck down.
  3. Long Time No See!!!

    I'm at summer school now, but I'll be heading home in two weeks or so. I'm way too good at my first class and trash at my second, I guess that averages out to somewhere a little above mediocrity And no, playing Pokemon Go predicates going outside Can't stand for that
  4. Long Time No See!!!

    I'm not dead I'm still a horrible human being
  5. What's up?

    Oh hey you're still around Ice Been busy the last few days, whoever gave me the impression college in the states wasn't a horrid rush of perpetually approaching deadlines ought to be shot. Probably my fault for taking a major that actually requires effort, though.
  6. Psychedelic Space Lounge

    Deadpool is pretty great, best romcom I've watched in ages. Was pretty surprised that Negasonic Teenage Warhead was an actual X-Man, though one who died early on and never lived up to the potential of the name. I kinda want to see Dolph Lundgren as Cable
  7. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    Erin hadn't been expecting Honoka to show up to meet her during lunchtime. Neither did she expect her senior to cajole her to go to that ratty old church after classes. She isn't even religious, is she? Still, every man (or woman, in this case) had their price, and hers was a fresh boxed lunch from the cafeteria. She was just happy to have something that wasn't a cold, possibly half eaten onigiri from yesterday's dinner -- whatever favor her senpai needed from that place would be worth the free meal. She'd begun to reconsider that as soon as she saw Raiha at the door. And that was even before he started talking about attempted murder. He was quite convincing about it, though. At least, he was pretty confident about the bit about pulling it off. He'd clearly put a lot of thought into it, which, come to think of it, was pretty damn disturbing. I knew this guy was a rich idiot, but is he so disconnected from reality that he's planning to kill someone and his first concern isn't how to get away with it? "We can't just capture him? Like, truss him up and leave him for the cops?" Erin interjected as she slouched down on one of the grubby wooden pews. "He's probably done something that deserves time in the slammer, hasn't he?" Come to think of it, I don't even know what he did that makes Raiha want him dead so badly. Small wonder I'm not really buying this. "Even if he got convicted, it'd only end with a lot of dead cops." Raiha maintained, his expression a grim mask. "From what I know, no prison can hold him, not when I've seen him butcher a whole roomful of armed men in literally an eyeblink." Oh, so that's what he did. Fighting down the urge to shiver, she asked, "What about the Shinsengumi, or whatever that secret magic organization is called?" "We could have helped. Emphasis on could, though," A vaguely familiar voice interjected, making her turn with a start. It was Yuudai, the one-armed guy she recalled from that first night at the Church. "It's all over the headlines now. Mysterious fire at an office supplies company office at the dead of the night-" Abruptly, Erin became acutely aware that the other girl with her, Imahara-san or something, had stopped breathing. "- cause unknown, casualties uncertain. They couldn't even fight the blaze, had no choice but to evacuate the whole block, and it hasn't even stopped burning yet." "-suspicious," Imahara finally murmured, a bead of cold sweat leaving a long, straight track as it slid down her cheek. "What's that got to do with anything?" Erin asked, looking between the two in confusion. "That company office was a front for the Bakufu's regional headquarters. I really ought to be investigating -- that bloody Warlock Cocytus called this very Church from there -- but I can't afford to leave here. Firstly, my leg's busted," he nudged his bandaged kneecap for emphasis, and winced a little. "Also, he called the Church landline. Bastard knows where I am, and is almost certainly on the way here to flush Reika-Chan and I out. While he's probably not making any moves until sundown, I can't afford to leave this place undefended-" The door slammed open, and everyone's weapons shifted into their hands -- in Erin's case, a Holy Bible that happened to be lying nearby. Whatever. Here goes nothing, she thought as she chucked the holy text in the doorway's general direction -- and heard a highly surprised and surprisingly high-pitched yelp as their mystery intruder got beaned in the face and tumbled to the ground. "HEY!" Keiko shouted irately as she clambered to her feet, dusting herself off and waving the offending book in the air. "What's the meaning of this, calling for a secret covenant and not inviting ME? For shame, Erin-chan! I had to put up with that crazy guy's rambling about chemtrails for-" Then, she noticed Yuudai standing there, a bemused expression in her face, and immediately fell to her knees in obeisance. "O, FORGIVE MY IMPUDENCE, MY GLORIOUS LIEGE!" Yuudai shrugged and turned to the three of them. "Yeah, Keiko's... special, but she's a good fighter when it counts. We'll hold the fort here, so could you do us a favor? Find out what happened, and salvage whatever you can from the headquarters before emergency services get themselves killed running into something they don't understand. I can't trust anyone else to do the job." His eyes took on a desperate cast. "Please."
  8. What's up?

    I've gone back from horribly incompetent conscript to horribly incompetent university student. Also, I'm in Los Angeles... Well, up until I forget to hand up some obscure but vitally important paperwork and get deported like the filthy foreigner I am. I haven't blocked HH because no one else ever talks to me
  9. Anyone here?

    No Go away ... Kidding. Welcome! This place's suddenly become a bit more lively, hopefully it stays that way this time. How about telling us a little about what you like RPing? Aside from stuff with dragons. That one seemed pretty obvious.
  10. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    Another can of instant coffee hit the wall with a thump, joining the four others already in the waste-paper basket below with a muffled clatter. Yuudai groaned, swiveling his head to look at the digital clock on the wall – it read a quarter past three. With a grunt of exasperation, he slammed a hand onto the cheap wooden table-top before muttering a string of curses under his breath. This should have been easy. That damned Warlock hadn’t even made a pretense of concealing himself – and I’m seriously supposed to believe the Bakufu doesn’t have a single file on him at all?! The ambush at the train station was almost unprecedented in its audacity; Yuudai hadn’t seen the likes of it since the incident in Fuyukaba. Usually, Warlocks sought shelter behind a veil of anonymity, summoning and commanding their demonic pawns far from prying eyes and sniping at the Bakufu’s agents from the shadows in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. And then there was Cocytus. The presence of onlookers reinforced the nature of reality, hindering attempts to bend it to an individual’s will; it was for good reason that most Demonic attacks happened at night or far from the hustle and bustle of the city, and rarely against large groups. Any Warlocks smart enough to evade capture for long were specters, usually known only by their modus operandi and confused third-hand sightings. Yet, Cocytus had somehow conjured a massive Barrier practically right in the middle of a town center, taken on three Demon Hunters at once and even taken a hostage… and he’d gotten away with it, almost killing poor Reika in the process. Someone with that much magical muscle should have set off alarm bells all the way in the Imperial Palace. To top it off, there’d been two other incidents in the past week alone – the military experiment gone awry Father Nakata had mentioned, and a roomful of Yakuza and two freelancing Hunters getting chopped to mincemeat by an unseen assailant. He didn’t have evidence to prove it, but his gut was telling him that they were all related. And yet, Yuudai’s investigations had availed nothing, as there wasn’t a single file on the man save for the report Yuudai himself had submitted several days back. Even that document had been buried within reams of bureaucratic nonsense despite its urgency, and to exacerbate matters, the local intelligence officer, Yoshida, hadn’t been answering his calls. Sure, the intelligence spooks may be busy with their secret-squirrel missions, but this situation had clearly escalated. It wasn’t wrong to expect a more timely response, was it? He was starting to get the feeling he was being ignored… or worse, deliberately stonewalled. Bastard. I might be from the sticks, but that doesn’t give you the right to treat me like a goddamn mushroom – kept in the dark and fed nothing but bullshit. Still, he wasn’t going to stop trying. His greatest strength – and his only virtue, if Reika’s barbs were to be believed – was his bloody-minded inability to accept defeat. His willpower had kept him going thus far, and even against the might of the Lords of Hell themselves, it had never truly faltered. He was going to get to the bottom of this, even if it killed him. Hell, the way things are going, it very well might. He picked up the telephone beside him again and punched in Yoshida’s office number. The dial tone rang and rang, and Yuudai’s hand tightened around the phone as he gritted his teeth in frustration. Was it going to go to voicemail again? Then, someone answered. “Matsudaira Office Products and Supplies, how may I help you today?†The man on the other side sounded familiar somehow, but Yuudai couldn’t quite pin it down. Did they get a new intern again? Then, a lump caught in his throat. Whoever that is, he’s made a mistake. It’s Matsudaira Office Supplies and Products, not the other way round. “Where’s Yoshida?†Yuudai replied tersely. “Yoshida-san isn’t available right now, Shinozaki-san. Perhaps you’d like to call back during office hours-“ Another mistake. Local HQ should be open around the clock. “Cut the bullshit. Who the hell are you, and what the hell happened to Yoshida?†he shot back. The mystery caller chuckled darkly, and Yuudai narrowed his eyes as realization began dawning on him. “Oh damn, you got me. I was hoping you’d be fooled for a little longer. About Yoshida… hmm. You’ll find out tomorrow morning. It’ll be in the morning papers.†“YOU-“ Yuudai snarled. “My, my. It’s pretty late now, isn’t it? Your leg isn’t going to get any better if you don’t get any rest, you know. Have a good night, Shinozaki-san, and send my well wishes to Yamashiro-san too. Ta-ta!†Click. The plastic of the phone receiver shattered in Yuudai’s grip. … Cocytus let the phone receiver fall to the ground with a rattle and stepped away, only for his foot to sink into something unpleasantly soft and fleshy. He drew his foot away, his lip curling in disgust as he looked down at the obstruction – a human hand severed cleanly at the wrist, the skin pale from blood loss and fingers clenched into a grasping claw by rigor mortis. Yet, the cheap carpet of the office was dry, completely unmarred by any blood. The lanky man cursed under his breath, his armor-clad fist slamming into the powered-down computer terminal beside him and leaving a deep dent in the casing. “Damn it, Acheron,†he spat. “Would it kill you to at least make an effort at covering your tracks?†He pinched the bridge of his nose, chiding himself silently. Honestly, he shouldn’t be fussing over little details like that, not when everything had been going so smoothly. The other Warlock had been played like a fiddle – just an anonymous tip here and planting some evidence there, and that mad dog had taken the bait hook, line and sinker, gutting the supposed “Yakuza stronghold†with an efficiency even Cocytus himself envied. It was a shame he’d left his calling card so blatantly, but it wasn’t as if Cocytus could do anything about that, however. The last time he tried to parley, he’d only walked away from that thanks to his heart being in the right place – rather literally, for said ‘right place’ was in a magically fortified atelier seven stories beneath ground patrolled by six of his finest creations. Damn, those self-righteous types sure are a pain to deal with. Still, this little clean-up visit had reaped an unexpected side benefit – that hot-headed fool Shinozaki had unwittingly given up his location by using the Church’s encrypted line. That was another thorn in his side he could be rid of – once he finished up tying up loose ends here. Luckily, he probably wasn’t too late; he’d blundered in allowing the three Demon Hunters to get away that night, but knowing the tardiness of the Bakufu bureaucracy, his treachery would probably remain unexposed… for now. He turned towards the doorway, where his faithful ally stood waiting, the four triple turrets of her demonic armament poised at the ready. “Alright, Phlegethon,†he said, “We’re done here. Light it up.†He hadn’t even cleared the line of fire when the twelve guns boomed a reply, and hastily sidestepped the salvo of hellfire that streaked into the office, setting furniture, papers and dismembered bodies ablaze with equal ease. Damn it, you cheeky little vixen.
  11. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    Fortune Favors The Bold. The time for the decisive battle had come. It was a confrontation long in the making – two souls inexorably set on a collision by the ever-turning wheel of fate, destined to do battle against the other in mortal combat. This was no mere street fight, but the purest, most primal test of the two foes’ strength, skill and will – a clash that could rightfully be immortalized as a work of art. It would be a battle to be remembered, one that would rock both heaven and hell; and there was scarcely a more appropriate backdrop for this duel for the ages. In defiance of the very seasons themselves, the sakura trees overlooking the austere stone bridge were blooming, their boughs brilliant splashes of pink. At the head of the bridge loomed a monolithic temple of ancient make, a stone dragon statue coiling around its mighty wooden pillars and gazing down upon the soon-to-be battlefield with sightless eyes of carved granite. Presently, a young man appeared atop the tiled, elegantly ornamented temple roof, a massive weapon more akin to a massive, crudely-pointed hunk of iron slung upon his back. His eyes swept across the bridge with a steely gaze, quickly locking onto the interloper slowly crossing the bridge, and a scowl crossed his scarred face. Leaping from the eaves with the grace of a flitting swallow, his feet lightly touched upon the flagstones as he rose, slamming his fist into an open palm in the traditional greeting of a ninja. Or at least, the sort of ninja one would see in a manga or Hollywood movie who’d resolutely insist on wearing garish day-glo colors and loudly introducing themselves during an assassination. “You won’t escape, evildoer,†he declared imperiously. “I, a defender of justice, shall be your opponent!†His opponent, a blond-haired slip of a girl in a decidedly garish white-and-blue outfit, twirled the massive staff-like weapon she wielded with unseemly grace. “I suggest you don’t take me lightly!†she shot back with a grin, brandishing her weapon as her opponent dropped into the poised stance of a seasoned martial artist. For a moment, all was still as the two sized each other up, waiting for the other to make the first move. Action! The man was the first to move, rushing forwards and covering the space between the two in a single bound. Immediately, he lashed out with a flurry of quick jabs, testing the girl’s defense, but her guard held firm. She backed out of the way of another thrust and swinging her staff in a wide arc and striking him squarely in the chest, knocking the wind out of him and disrupting his momentum. She followed up quickly, staggering him with a low swing to his kneecaps – then her staff morphed, its ornamented head becoming a garishly decorated hammer that she brought down, slamming her opponent into the ground with a thunderous crash. He got to his feet swiftly, seemingly little the worse for wear despite the brutal blow, fending off a jumping attack with a mighty uppercut, his arm seemingly bursting into flames as he roared a word of challenge. The strike caught his opponent off guard, and he quickly followed up with a series of bone-breaking punches and kicks punctuated with screamed battle cries, culminating in a massive punch wreathed in a corona of crackling flame that sent her flying away, tumbling wildly to the air. For a moment, it looked almost as if she’d fall right off the bridge… only for her to slam into an invisible barrier and bounce off. “Where the hell did half my life bar go?†the girl somehow managed to protest despite her face being embedded into the stone flagstones. “YEEEEEART!†The man shouted in an incongruously high-pitched tone as he rushed forward, and after a frenzied melee involving far too much incoherent shouting, explosions and inappropriately-sized pastel-colored household implements, beat the girl to a pulp with his fists of righteous fury. … “DISTORTION FINISH.†The arcade machine announced gravely as the blond girl slumped to the ground on the screen. “BANG. WIN.†Raiha glanced at the screen with a look of annoyance. “Hmph. I was just testing the waters. Clearly, I cannot afford to take you lightly.†Erin smirked smugly. “Aren’t you the one out of your depth here?†“Ho ho ho, you just wait,†Raiha replied with a thin-lipped smile, cracking his knuckles together in anticipation. “When you grow fat and complacent upon the laurels of your meager victories, I shall begin my counterattack, and you will bleed.†… The match lasted fifty seconds. To Raiha’s credit, that was five seconds better than his previous best. “Fat and complacent, huh?†Erin sneered, the sides of her mouth twitching upwards into a crooked smile as her character immolated his own clothes in a flamboyant victory display. “I was mistaken,†Raiha said, his expression unreadable. “You’re just fat.†Erin’s eye twitched, and one of her hands balled into a fist. She forced herself to take a deep breath and count to ten – throwing him out of the nearest window might be cathartic, but would probably cause more problems than it would solve. She didn’t particularly want to be charged for littering, for one thing. “In any case,†her indefatigable opponent went on, “I lost on purpose.†“What, so that you can concede this fight without utterly humiliating yourself?†Erin narrowed her eyes – he’d been pretty worked up during the game, and he seemed to be the sort of guy who couldn’t lie his way out of a paper bag. That was probably what drew Honoka to him in the first place, actually. He pointed at his (late) character on the screen, a blond, overly-cutesy magical girl in an incredibly tacky outfit. “The short-tempered, immature little brat,†then, he waved his hand over to her victorious character. “Just got humiliatingly trounced by a manly, stone-cold badass. In other words, it was I who actually won!†What. “Well then… how about you pick a proper ‘manly stone-cold badass’ this time? Don’t you hold back this time,†Erin challenged him, dropping another coin into the machine. “If you insist,†Raiha said, his joystick flicking back and forth as he mulled over his next selection. “Hakumen… you look worthy. I’m sure you’ll have no problem beating…†he glanced over at Erin’s selection. “… Whatever that is.†Half A Minute Later “AAAAAAAH NO NOT THE BEES AAAAAAAAAAAH!†“THE BEES! OH GOD NOT THE BEES!!!†“ARAKUNE… WIN!†the machine declared as Raiha slumped over in despair, oblivious to the small crowd that had gathered to witness his unfortunate character’s premature ascension to Valhalla. “I… should never have let you have the choice of game…†“Rules are rules,†Erin replied with a huff. “You set the time and place, I choose the weapons; isn’t that how these gentlemanly duels are supposed to go?†“Yes, and I really shouldn’t have picked the arcade to begin with,†he replied ruefully. “I haven’t been into one of these since middle school. Too busy with the whole ‘protecting mankind from the forces of darkness’ thing.†Erin gave him an incredulous look. “In other words, you pretty much let me win.†“Way I see it, you can have the pleasure of my Honoka’s company for a night…†Then, with a dramatic flourish, he declared, “But I’ll have the pleasure of her company till death do us part!†Erin – and the small bunch of onlookers that had yet to disperse -- merely stared at him blankly. I'm no longer sure if that headache coming on is fatigue or my brain cells attempting suicide.
  12. butts

    Post more butts, wood preferred but plastic is fine too
  13. butts

    There you go
  14. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    Unknown to Erin and Keiko, their little abortive expedition had not gone unnoticed. As the two of them departed, Erin having begrudgingly agreed to haul the near-catatonic Keiji off in a fireman’s carry, the air atop the half-finished roof of Mitsuba No.2 High School shimmered, and two people stepped out onto the concrete – the two Warlocks who had ambushed Keiko and her friends on their arrival. “You should have let me kill ‘em, love,†the lanky young man, Cocytus, grumbled with an indignant scowl. He’d eschewed the strange bodysuit he’d fought in during his previous run-in with the group for a casual, inconspicuous jeans-and-shirt ensemble, though the mirrored sunglasses he was wearing did seem a tad out of place. “Would have been easy,†he mused as he twirled his sickle-like weapon in one hand. “Two strikes, straight to the back of the head, bam! Two problems out of the way, and I got two nice, fresh bodies to play with.†He grinned; it was an unpleasant, shark-like rictus that showed far too many teeth. “Hell, it’d be easy for you to take ‘em out right now with those guns of yours. She can’t dodge while weighed down with that boy, can she?†The woman’s dark eyes turned to look at her companion, her expression neutral and serene. She’d similarly ditched her combat gear for a sundress and oddly enough, an umbrella in spite of the clear weather. “Impatient as always, my dear brother. Those two children are rather interesting, don’t you think? It would be a shame for this game to reach such a premature conclusion.†She made a sweeping gesture down at the slowly disappearing puddle of ichor where a giant armored crab had once stood. “Tell me what you think of that.†Cocytus snorted, making a face of displeasure. “Is this another of those riddles of yours, love? That’s three days of work and one perfectly good vessel gone down the drain. Now I’m gonna have to make a new Thrall to play guard dog for my projects here.†The woman’s lips twitched into a faint smile. “Correct, but not quite right. That Thrall was an extension of our master; even in death its carcass should still hold Her presence. And yet, I sense no trace of Her presence, or even anything beyond the usual levels of spiritual activity. What gives, brother?†“… It was absorbed.†Cocytus concluded. Then, his jaw dropped a little as his skin went a few shades paler. “… Are you saying that she’s...†The woman slowly raised a single eyebrow at him, her enigmatic smile still gracing her porcelain features, and nodded. Cocytus licked his lips, his unpleasant smile returning. “You’re right. Killing her now would be a waste of such a fine specimen. I eagerly await the day I break her… and make her mine.†The woman huffed, raising elegantly-manicured fingers to gently caress his chin. “Must I remind you of where your loyalties should lie?†Cocytus raised his hand and eased one strap of her sundress off her shoulder. “Wouldn’t you like to know, love?†… The Next Day Unsurprisingly, the daily meeting of the Student Circle Formerly Known As The Central Magic Society Of Winter (Erin was fairly certain Keiko had surreptitiously changed the club’s name when Keiji’s back had been turned) had been adjourned. Erin and Keiko had dropped the incapacitated club president back at the club room with a hastily scribbled note claiming he should stop pulling caffeine-fueled all-nighters. Not a particularly satisfying excuse, Erin thought, but it was better than Keiko’s suggestion of claiming his memory had been altered by the Thule Society for his own protection. Keiko had said the aftereffects of close contact with Demons usually resembled a really bad hangover, scrambled recollections and all; he’d probably have forgotten everything. Or triggered the awakening of any latent magical powers he might have had; Keiko said that happened sometimes, too. God, I hope that didn’t happen. The last thing I want happening to that guy is him finding out he might have been on to something all along. With that out of the way, she’d decided to try finding Honoka at the kendo club, but the vice-president, a towering third-year boy with a face seemingly chiseled from granite and a hat seemingly indistinguishable from his hair, had told her she’d left early for some reason. Also conspicuously absent was the club president; he’d been there on her previous visits practicing non-stop as if his life was some crappy Jump manga. No one had seen him for the past three days of school either; rumors were starting to spread already. For a moment, she wondered if he’d been eaten by a demonspawn, but quickly brushed off the notion. People go out of touch or go missing for all kinds of reasons. Most of them don’t have to do with hellish hell-monsters from the depths of, well, hell using your soul as a piñata. Since when did I start suspecting everything in my life was subtly connected to a greater conspiracy? Isn’t that how Keiji thinks? Crap, the crazy is contagious? I should get a tinfoil hat to keep out his bad brain vibes. … Wait. That’s exactly what he’d say. Erin was rapidly coming to the conclusion that she probably needed a break. Okay, no demon-fighting shenanigans. No craziness. I’ll just get my homework done here while it’s quiet, get something nice for dinner on the way home and have a good night’s sleep. Shouldn’t be too hard. Of course, that plan somehow broke down just three minutes after leaving the school gate. Well, it was no fault of her own; she just happened to stumble upon Honoka and her pervert boyfriend being accosted by some shadowy, hooded figure with a decidedly creepy-looking red sword. She didn’t feel terribly obliged to save that idiot; after all, he’d shrugged off a stab wound just shy of his heart and being punched into a ceiling with little more than some grumbling. For all she knew, his attacker might run out of patience and leave before he finally gave up the ghost. Nevertheless, Honoka was there; she’d looked out for Erin for years and it seemed right to return that favor for once. It was also no fault of her own that her thrown naginata had almost impaled Raiha through the head, passing just an inch past his ear. She hadn’t expected that guy to just vanish into thin air just like that – and judging from Honoka and Raiha’s reactions, they seemed about as shocked as she was. Then again, maybe they were shocked because she’d nearly impaled him through the head. "Hey, watch where you're throwing that thing!" Raiha exclaimed. “You’re right,†Erin shot back. “Maybe I’d taken a little more time and aimed a couple of inches to the right,†She gestured pointedly at the naginata, which was still quivering from the impact. “Ha ha ha, how funny,†Raiha muttered as she strode towards him to retrieve her weapon. “If I recall, this is the first time we’ve met where you haven’t managed to horribly injure me. Are you losing your touch?†Erin harrumphed and rolled her eyes. “Pah. Even if I’d aimed right, I wouldn’t have hit anything important.†Meanwhile, Honoka smiled sweetly, unlocked her smartphone and intoned crisply into its microphone, “Siri, tell me the location of the nearest burn center.†“Not you too,†Raiha groaned. The older girl raised a hand to her lips to suppress a giggle. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Erin-chan’s learnt my ways well.†Erin reached the wall and plucked the naginata from it with a little huff, pausing for a moment to marvel at how close it’d passed by Raiha’s head. Reminds me of that story about William Tell. Except that there’s no crossbow, just a giant fuck-off javelin. And the kid is a head taller than me, almost certainly boning my best friend and might actually be an unkillable holy zombie thingy. So… uh, not really like William Tell. Then, just as the weapon vanished in her hand, her vision swam and a spell of light-headedness washed over her. She staggered, leaning on the wall to catch her balance, and became very keenly aware of the basso grumble emanating from her stomach. “Uh… you two, you want to grab some dinner?†she weakly mumbled. ... It had transpired that the two had eaten already – some lovey-dovey candlelight affair at some posh place with far, far too much silverware, no doubt – but Raiha was nice enough to treat her to some burgers at a nearby fast food restaurant. He might be a pervert defiling her BFF’s purity with depraved, dastardly perversities straight out of those websites Erin would never admit to reading, but he definitely knew how to make a girl happy – in this girl’s case, giving her food she didn’t have to stick into a microwave first. She was strangely famished – even the humble cheeseburger tasted like manna from heaven. Which was why she’d gone for seconds. And then thirds. And then fourths. At that point, despite probably having more in his wallet than Erin had gotten since the start of the year, Raiha looked like he was having second thoughts about saying he’d pay for all of it. “It’s normal, I guess,†he muttered under his breath. “Some power users exhibit surges of greatly accelerated metabolism when under stress.†He glanced back to the growing pile of empty burger wrappers. “Totally normal.†“Mmmf. Hey, Honoka,†Erin said through a mouthful of beef patty, oblivious to Raiha’s soliloquizing. “I heard there’s a festival at the big shrine by the riverbank. You wanna hang out?†“Sure!†Honoka replied brightly and clasped her hands. “We should catch up; I’ve hardly seen you all summer thanks to that internship.†“Hey,†Raiha interjected. “Honoka, weren’t we going to go together-“ There was a sudden pause, interrupted only by the sad, wet splot of a half-eaten burger landing on the table. Erin’s gaze locked on Raiha’s – her eyes now the incandescent crimson of hot coals. “What’s wrong with me spending a little girl time with my best friend? How can you be so cruel?†Erin whined in a faux-cutesy falsetto, pouting in a manner that was less impish innocence and more clear evidence of clinical insanity. The temperature of the surroundings seemed to drop several degrees. “I’m sorry. I forgot that kids shouldn’t be going to the festival unaccompanied. But you’re a big girl now; you don’t need your onee-sama to chaperone you any longer… right? †Raiha said, looking her in the eye and grinning a little too widely. “Guys. Guys.†Honoka interjected, raising both hands in a conciliatory gesture. “We could all go together-“ “With him?†Erin hissed. “With her?†Raiha muttered. Honoka sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “Never mind.†“Very well. Let it not be said that Knights have no honor,†Raiha declared with a huff. “While my honor dictates that I respect the wishes of a lady, you, girl, are clearly no lady. Thus, we shall settle this like gentlemen. Tomorrow. The nearby arcade, 6 o’ clock.†He raised two fingers, before melodramatically lowering one of them. “Two shall enter. One man will leave.†Erin’s eyes flashed as her grin widened. “Real confident, aren’t you? Brace yourself then, for I will kill you on the morrow.†Honoka’s palm went to her face. “… You’re both idiots.â€
  15. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    “Run!†Erin shouted, throwing caution to the wind and almost getting bisected by a sweeping leg for it. Her uniform jacket was probably a write-off at this point, but worrying about that at this time was probably having skewed priorities. “Eh? What? There’s nothing here!†Keiji shouted back, apparently oblivious to how her uniform was starting to resemble the garb of a refugee in Darfur, or to the monster homing in on the sound of his voice, mandibles clicking ominously. “Just… just run! It got Keiko already!†Erin yelled exasperatedly, gesticulating frantically towards back from where they came. Come on, take a hint already! “Who took Keiko?! What are you talking about?!†Keiji replied, fumbling around his bag for the ‘Kirlian photography’ kit he claimed he’d gotten off EBay for a few hundred dollars. The crab was already gaining on him; each wasted second bringing the crab a few feet closer. “Don’t tell me the Agency’s come to silence us!†Oh god, this guy’s a complete moron. Then again, it wasn’t like he’d appreciate the truth if he was being eaten by a giant enemy crab. “Yeah, it’s one of their invisible black helicopters!†Erin screamed in desperation, feeling a foul taste in her mouth as she recited that nonsense.†I’ll hold them off here; you have to tell the world the truth!†Erin grabbed her weapon, charging towards the crab as she prepared for another strike on its underbelly. It might not do jack, but I’ve got to hold its attention so this moron won’t get eaten! “No,†Keiji shouted, dramatically dropping his overly-expensive camera kit and yanking his school uniform open to reveal a distressing lack of muscle tone or any indication he exercised. “You still have your whole life ahead of you! If the Agency’s caught up with us, I’m a dead man walking anyway… but I’ll tell them NOTHING! TELL MY MOTHER I LOVE HER!†Oh god. Of all the times to chivalrously lay down one’s life for a woman’s sake, it just has to be now? The crab was already almost upon him, its claw turning red as it opened up to grasp him; it was going to eat him alive. Perversely, that might have been for the best – it could easily have killed him with an eye blast or a swipe of its claws by now. Damn it, I can’t reach him in time! There’s nothing I can- Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Thwack. Several plumes of dust blew up in a line leading away from Keiji, and the Thrall turned ponderously around, scuttling in the direction of the plumes; it’d apparently taken the sound of the impacts for footsteps and figured Keiji had bolted. Erin glanced behind her to see Keiko with her bow raised, bruised and battered but thankfully still alive. Looks like she figured it out too. Well, at least that’s two people with more than two brain cells to rub together here. She fired another volley, the arrows splitting into several spectral duplicates mid-flight and throwing up another series of dust plumes as they smacked into the ground, and the Thrall fell for the ruse again, ponderously lumbering in its direction and safely away from its intended victim. Erin glanced over at Keiji, who was still threatening some nebulous point in the sky with his pitiful pocket knife. “Just run, goddamnit! You almost got killed!†Erin yelled. “What’re you talking about?†Keiji demanded, looking decidedly nonplussed. “They haven’t laid a hand on me at all-“ Bile rose in Erin’s throat as she raised her voice. “They’re fucking invisible, you moron, of course you won’t see-“ Then, she heard the crab shriek again, and something slammed into her torso like a freight train. The impact sent pain lancing through her ribcage and sent her flying, and she felt everything beneath her waist go numb as she slammed back into the ground with a sickening crunch. No. No. I can’t feel my legs. They’re gone. she thought as her vision began to blur and fade. I was an idiot to let that thing hear me. I’m sorry, Dad- Much to her surprise, Erin didn’t black out. She didn’t feel the weariness that one would expect from one’s life flickering or fading, or even the pain that rightfully should have left her curled up and whimpering like a baby. Somehow, she didn’t feel scared either, as one would very rightfully be if they were lying helpless with what was in all probability a broken spine within the territory of a pissed-off, invulnerable monster that killed everything it touched. All she felt, strangely, was excitement. Unbidden, a grin crept across her face as she slowly clambered to her feet, her legs tingling as sensation returned to them once more. She raised out a hand and her weapon, lying discarded several meters away, dissolved into a streamer of scarlet light, reforming in her hands with a flash of light. With the ease born of years of practice – strange, considering she hadn’t even seen her weapon until two days ago -- she raised her naginata into an aggressive stance, poised to strike with deadly force. She rushed forward, leaving an utterly-confounded Keiji in her wake as she charged the Thrall at an inhuman speed. Evidently, it definitely took notice; its eyes flashed again, and out of reflex, she raised her naginata’s haft to block despite the seeming futility of blocking an invisible bolt of force. A high-pitched crackle split the air, the shimmering distortion around her weapon wavered, momentarily revealing a gleaming silvery blade etched with strange markings beneath, and the ground shook as something gouged out a foot of earth almost two meters to her right. I… deflected it? Then, something caught her eye – the Thrall’s body flickered for an instant, and when it came back into focus, it had turned purple again. It’s just for a moment. Probably not much more than the time it takes to blink; but at the moment it fired, its shell had clearly turned red. There’s a weakness right there! “Snow Sign! PERFECT FREEZE!†Keiko shouted as she swung her weapon, now transformed into an odd, mechanical-looking spear. Intricate patterns of frost started forming upon the ground around her and inched up the Thrall’s legs where it touched the ground, abruptly coming to a halt a couple of inches up; the arms lashing out at Keiko at the time also seemed to slow down as if afflicted by a sudden bout of lethargy, giving her enough time to disengage, leaping away with an overly-fancy series of backflips. Now you’re just showing off. “C’mon! Not so tough now, are you?!†the other girl shouted mockingly. The crab let out a piercing keening noise as it tried to move forwards – only to find that its legs were rooted to the ground, pinned in place by tendrils of creeping ice. It shrieked in anger again, and this time, Erin clearly saw it – as the eerie, piercing light in its eyes intensified, the purple glow shimmered and wavered, and was gone. Now! Erin closed the final few feet, her feet carrying her at speeds more commonly associated with freeway traffic, and with a hoarse cry, dropped into a slide like a baseball batter heading for the base, gritting her teeth as the momentum carrying her under the creature’s underbelly tore her stockings apart and flayed the skin off her shins. The air around her quavered and an ache shot through her head as the Thrall fired another blast in Keiko’s direction, throwing up a shower of debris and shattered earth as it excavated another crater; already, its extremities were beginning to shimmer again as its impregnable defence took hold, but she’d spotted her target. Alright. Here goes! “YEEEEEEART!!!†She roared as she thrust her naginata upwards at an angle, point-first into the notched crack she’d left in the creature’s underbelly. The shell shattered like a nutshell as she threw herself forward, adding her momentum to the strike, and a surge of satisfaction shot through her as she felt the blade slicing through soft flesh. The crab keened in agony as blood sprayed from the wound, a fountain of crimson effectively blinding her and leaving a strange metallic, salty taste upon her tongue. The creature screamed again, a disturbingly human wail of abject agony, and the shimmering edge of the blade flickered and threw off red sparks as the might within it clashed against the eldritch energies roiling around the creature’s carapace. With another heave, she drove the blade even deeper, the weapon seemingly singing with joy as it ripped into the creature’s entrails, and as the field of swirling purple began to ebb away from the naked steel of her blade, retreating and fading inch by inch like water boiling away on a hot skillet, she realized what was happening – her blade’s essence itself was anathema to these creatures, dispersing the foul, arcane power they used as both shield and sword. As the creature’s strength faded with every drop of life-blood that stained the ground beneath, the power of its all-consuming barrier had weakened – and now, she could fight it and win. Erin’s eyes flashed a brilliant red, an intricate tracery of lines of crimson light flashing across her arms as she poured the fire within her into the blade, and a wave of exultation washed through her as she plunged the blade yet deeper, feeling something brittle shatter like glass as the point of her weapon pierced it – and the blade continued to pierce deeper, the Thrall’s innards offering only the slightest resistance, then burst through the top of the monster’s carapace, effectively impaling it like a shish-kebab. With a shout, she pulled the blade through the Thrall, its edge effortlessly slicing cleanly through its flesh before exiting its body at the head in a shower of blood and unidentifiable offal – the crab had been almost completely bisected across its entire length in a single stroke. Erin clambered out from beneath it, flicking a shower of her blood off her blade as the Thrall’s carcass, now bereft of the terrible power animating it, started obeying the square-cube law again, collapsing inwards upon itself before slowly dissolving into the pool of crimson ichor slowly soaking its way into the ground. Then, the tension permeating the air vanished, and the skies above them flickered momentarily, going from steel-grey back to blue. Erin slowly turned around as her weapon disappeared once again, contemplating the spreading pool of blood-red liquid that was all that was left of her enemy. Uh… damn it. An ugly, dangerous monster it might have been… but it looked like an edible ugly, dangerous monster. So much for my dream of making the world’s biggest seafood hotpot. “Wow, good work!†Keiko called out as she bounded to Erin’s side, her face weary but still visibly excited. “How are you feeling?†“Oddly enough, I feel fine,†Erin murmured, taking a deep breath and stretching her arms experimentally. “I’ve got some weird healing power thing going on for sure; I’m fairly positive I broke my back just now, and yet I’m still moving under my own power.†Then, she remembered the gallons of blood that had drenched her throughout the creature’s death throes, and sniffed in disgust – she wasn’t about to forget the smell of blood any time soon. “You think they finished the plumbing here anyway? I probably need to get all this blood off me; if this was a comic book I’d already be putting on a crab costume and scuttling after evildoers-“ This time, Keiko was looking at her in a decidedly befuddled way. “What blood? Sure, your clothes are a write-off, but I hardly see any blood on you.†What? Erin looked down on herself in confusion – and Keiko was right. Only the odd smear of drying blood here and there showed any indication of the literal bloodbath she’d been through a few moments before – and as she stared at one slowly-congealing droplet on her hand, it abruptly shrank and seeped into her skin, vanishing completely. Eh? What’s this? She took a sideways glance at Keiko; she didn’t seem to have noticed that. “Eh, nothing,†Erin murmured sheepishly. “I guess it dissolved into nothingness just like the rest of its body’s doing now,†She pointed towards the pool of blood, and it did seem a good deal smaller than it had been a few moments before. “Never mind that, what about Keiji?†Keiko pointed to her right, and when Erin turned her head, she saw nothing – that is, until she noticed Keiji slumped on the ground, mumbling something incoherent (not that his regular speech was much easier to understand anyway). “Meeting a Thrall tends to do that to normies, especially if they got as close as he did,†Keiko explained, poking the catatonic boy with a boot. “I got it too the first time I saw one, before Yuudai-senpai gave me my Reaper,†she said with a grin as she twirled the weapon dramatically before it vanished into a shower of illusory petals. “Feels as awful as it looks; that night, Yuudai-senpai and the others were real worried I wouldn’t have made it.†“So, what should we do with him?†Erin asked warily. Please don’t say ‘silence the witnesses’. Just don’t. Keiko looked around at the old building, the scars of the previous battle seemingly gone with the dimensional barrier they’d stumbled into, and then back down at the supine form of their erstwhile club president. “This place gives me the butterflies; I won’t be surprised if more Thralls come. Since the president is… uh, indisposed right now, I guess let’s call it a day here, then. I’m getting hungry anyway.†“Good plan,†Erin nodded agreement, until her eyes fell upon the still-collapsed form of Keiji, now repeatedly chanting something along the lines of 'You'll hear nothing from me, pod person! NOTHING!". “So… uh… who’s going to drag him back?†She pointed out. Dammit.
  16. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    The Night Before “We need to talk,†Erin declared as she put down her empty cup of ramen. “Is it about money?†her father mumbled through a mouthful of rice. “I told ya we’re broke for the month, kid-“ Thunk. He was interrupted by the eight-foot naginata now embedded in the tatami mat on the floor, its haft reaching almost to the low, grimy ceiling. “… Oh.†Slowly, he rose to his feet and walked off, leaving Erin staring at the empty spot at the low table he’d been sitting at. Moments later, he returned with a bottle of sake and two shot glasses. He filled both glasses, raising one to his lips and quaffing it in one go while pushing the other towards Erin with his other hand. So that’s where our money went. Glorified dragster fuel. “Dad, you do remember I’m still underage, right?†she asked, raising an eyebrow. He hiccupped, giving a pointed look at the naginata still embedded in the floor. “Way I see it, any child of mine old enough to die fightin’ is old enough for a little drink.†His gaze swept back to Erin, looking uncharacteristically sober. “That’s what you’ve been up to, isn’t it?†Erin shrugged, gingerly picking up the glass and taking a sip -- it burned a little on the way down. “The monsters got me first. I didn’t have a choice but to fight.†She said, glancing towards her mysterious weapon, its edge subtly shimmering as though seen through running water. Kojirou Akizuki sighed, his worn, lined face clearly showing his age, and poured out another shot. “And here I was, hopin’ I wouldn’t have to give you the Talk.†Erin narrowed her eyes at him, and he shook his head, continuing, “No, not that Talk. You should know all about that by now… you really should clear your browser search history, by the way.†Erin’s second mouthful of sake ended up all over her father’s face. “I’m not judgin’. You kids have it lucky; back in my day I waited a whole night for a single picture, and when the bottom of the image finally loaded, the hot chick turned out to be… not a chick,†The elder Akizuki continued, seemingly oblivious to his daughter’s sputtering and blushing. “Where were we? Ah yes, the “Talkâ€. You’ve run into them, haven’t you?†“Demons?†she asked, feeling a chill go down her spine as memories shot through her mind. Helplessness. Pain. Hard asphalt, soaked red with blood – her blood. Rage, fogging her mind like a crimson haze. Then, as her blade, feeling almost as much a part of her as her own arms and legs, speared the foul creature in its heart, her aim guided true by some newly-awakened instinct, a savage thrill… and hunger. “One put a bullet through my heart,†she said coldly, “And when that didn’t kill me satisfactorily, it blew up and ruined my one decent set of clothing outta spite.†Was a hand-me-down from Honoka-senpai too. Fuck my life. “So I was told my powers might come from you.†She plucked the naginata out of the floor, balancing it on the table with one hand. “What on earth is this thing, and why does it make me so happy when I stab people with it?†Her father fell silent for a moment, looking her up and down, then staring at the weapon. “Kid…D-did I make a mistake when I raised you as a girl?†Erin fleetingly contemplated whether stabbing her father with the naginata would make her happier too. “Dad,†she hissed. “First up, I’ve never seen that giant penis metaphor in my life; it’s the first I’ve ever seen of your power.†Her father finally said. “I don’t know what it does – you alone would know better than anyone – but you were born with it. You’re definitely too young to remember, but your birth parents abandoned you because of it, which is how I ended up taking you in.†“Why would you?†Erin asked. “You’re probably the one guy in town least suited to raise a kid.†He pointed over to the corner of the room, where a large, unstrung long bow of traditional make rested by the wall. “Yeah, yeah, that much is true… I never asked for it either. But with power comes responsibility. I used to be in the business, once… but I washed out.†He glanced at his hand, which was shaking unsteadily – not from the effects of alcohol. “I found you while hunting a source of power, and I couldn’t just leave you to the wolves.†Erin blinked in astonishment. “That piece of junk… A Demon Reaper?†She squinted at it, her ears perking up, and sure enough, the old, battered length of wood was subtly thrumming with power , tense and coiled up like a spring. “I’m surprised you didn’t sell that thing for more hooch.†Kojirou hiccupped, frowning at her with a nonplussed expression. “Look, I know you think I’m a deadbeat has-been, but this family still got its pride.†He glanced sourly towards the bow again, and laughed bitterly. “… And if word got out that I no longer had that, I’d be dead. Literally. I’d find a wakizashi mailed to me the next morning with a note telling me to do the honourable thing.†She stared at her father quizzically, but in spite of his tone, he seemed dead serious. “Who’d give enough of a shit about you, of all people, to mail you a perfectly good sword?†“The snooty dogfuckers in the Kami-Shizen Bakufu, that’s who.†Noticing his daughter’s look of confusion, Kojirou continued, “Who watches the watchmen? Those guys, who else. They’ve been running the supernatural shit in this country since before Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s balls dropped, and heavens above, they’re exactly what you’d expect from a hidebound centuries-old secret society with enough skeletons in their closets to fill the Paris catacombs.†He coughed, pounding a fist into the table hard enough to shake it. “Worst was their boss. They say not to speak ill of the dead, but seriously, fuck that guy. It’s because of them that I’ve dreaded the day I’ll have to spill all this to you.†“Why?†Erin asked. “They might be a bunch of miserable bureaucratic bastards like the Diet, but what’s that got to do with me?†Kojirou laid a hand on the naginata on the table – and promptly recoiled, flinching as though he’d received an electric shock. “Above all, the Bakufu values law, order and the status quo – everything kept predictable and under control, with those holding the Reapers , like me, safely under their thumb. And then there’s you – neither soul-bound to a centuries-old relic made by god-knows-what, nor some impressionable kid indoctrinated since birth to be the meat puppet of a living god, but someone who had the misfortune of being born strong enough to fight either and win.†He took another swig of his sake, his expression grave despite his flushed face. “You’re a wild card, a potential threat – if they’d found you before I did, they might have decided leaving you alive wasn’t worth the lost sleep.†He leaned in closer to his daughter, clapping a hand over her shoulder. “When I spoke about leaving you to the wolves, I didn’t just mean the Demons.†Erin gulped, her hands instinctively reaching towards the naginata. “It’s too late for that now, isn’t it? There are already people who know what I am.†Her father sighed, emptying the bottle of sake into his glass. “In hindsight, I was just postponing the inevitable. There really is no running away from fate for people like us... but you’re a big girl now. You can take care of yourself.†He got up, walked around the table and pulled her into a hug, the smell of alcohol still strong on his breath. “Just… just stay safe.†He sniffed, and Erin swore she saw a tear slide down his weather-beaten cheek towards his unshaven jawline. “Y-you’re my only little girl… and I’ve lost enough, already.†It was the first time Erin had seen her father cry. … So much for staying safe, Erin thought as she glanced at the bleeding gash across her arm where one of the Thrall’s flailing arms had grazed her. She frantically backpedalled, moments before another of its freakishly long legs scythed past her, slicing a perfectly clean cut through a decaying chain link fence behind her. Good god. If that thing had been an inch closer, it would have sliced my entire arm off. She heard a series of whistling noises from above – another barrage of arrows from Keiko’s shape-shifting weapon, without a doubt. She dashed away from the crab to avoid getting impaled by a stray shot, but that worry proved unfounded when every single one found its mark – and promptly disintegrated as soon as they touched the creature’s impervious purple carapace. It’s untouchable, Erin thought, her arm tingling as her arm regenerated, closing the gap the Thrall had torn out. Regrettably, the long gash in her uniform wasn’t about to regenerate any time soon – at least it was a clean cut. The creature shrieked again, scuttling towards her, its overly long forearms stabbing out like spears and punching perfectly round holes into the ground near her feet. She took off again to evade another series of jabs, but promptly ground to a halt, swearing profusely – she’d miscalculated, and standing in her way was the impervious wall of the school building. She turned around to see the crab advancing on her, its spindly limbs extended in a deadly embrace to block her routes of escape. She had two choices – either somehow find purchase on a smooth, whitewashed wall or get sliced into two when the creature’s arms inexorably closed on her. “NOVA CANNON!†Keiko screamed from somewhere behind the crab as a gunshot rang out, and Erin felt a rush of superheated air singe her eyebrows as one of Keiko’s bullets exploded above the Thrall in an airburst of white-hot shrapnel, the shockwave rattling her to the bone. On the bright side, the thing seemed to have distracted the creature , and regaining her composure quickly, Erin dashed between its legs and to safety behind it, the creature ponderously scuttling in an attempt to turn to face her again. On the downside, a conflagration hot enough to scorch the cement of the school yard had, if anything, only succeeded in making the thing angrier. It let out another infernal shriek, and for a moment, it turned red again as its eyes flashed, demolishing a ten-foot section of wall just a hair’s breadth to Keiko’s left. That disintegration field thing… there’s really nothing it doesn’t block, is there?! Hold on, Erin thought as she narrowly sidestepped another claw swipe, If the field blocks everything, it couldn’t see through it either. And since the damn thing, she dodged again, but just a little late to avoid losing the other sleeve of her uniform jacket to another swipe, obviously can see me well enough to wail on me… “Go for the eyes!†she called out to Keiko. The other girl nodded as she raised her weapon, now in the form of a scoped rifle, and squeezed the trigger again. Her aim was true once again – the bullet slammed straight into the Thrall’s first eyestalk, with a second aimed shot hitting the other moments after. Then, Erin screamed as a pincer lanced past her thigh, the flickering purple energy encasing it flaying several square inches of skin off her leg. She glanced upwards at its eyes – despite the two direct hits, the creature’s eyes were clearly still intact and also encased in the same purplish glow. Its eyes, too?! She leaped backwards, her leg screaming in protest, and the Thrall promptly bore down on her, its pincers clicking ominously. How the hell is it still chasing me? Isn’t it blind?! “It’s no good!†Keiko shouted in desperation. “Even its underbelly’s protected now – I can’t spot a single weak spot on it-“ The creature’s eyes flashed again, and Keiko yelped in pain as another force blast sent her flying. Then, it screamed as its eyes flashed again, a second blast swatting her out of the air like a ragdoll and sending her crashing through the window of an empty classroom in a shower of broken glass. For a moment, Erin stopped frozen in terror, her heart pounding in her chest. Is Keiko alive? How can I even stop this thing?! Then, the creature simply stopped moving. Still frozen on the spot, Erin watched in terror as the Thrall stood rooted in place for a moment like a statue. A statue that would horribly maim or kill anyone who walked into it. What’s it doing? Why hasn’t it attacked? The crab slowly, deliberately raised a leg upwards, the pointed tip of its armoured leg glinting red as it caught the light. Then, it brought its leg downwards, letting out the same metallic pinging noise she’d heard earlier on as it struck the ground. The echoes of the noise reverberated throughout the empty schoolyard and the deserted hallways – then, with terrifying slowness, the Thrall turned around to loom over her, its mandibles clicking. Realization struck like a thunderbolt. It’s completely covered in that utterly impervious field, making it untouchable… Except for the tips of its legs, so it doesn’t sink into the ground. It only attacked Keiko when it heard her speaking… and it found me by making that pinging noise, almost as if it’s using some kind of sonar… It’s picking up vibrations through its feet. It hunts by sound. It’s a little late to figure that out, isn’t it? Erin mused as she saw the creatures’ extended arms close on her like a vice. “Hey! NINJA MURDERER! AZURE DRAGON GRIMOIRE HOLDER! You’re taking really long, did you find the TRUTH?!†A familiar voice rang out. The Thrall stopped, its arms rising again as it scuttled around, turning to face the newcomer in the schoolyard. “Huh? Azure Dragon Grimoire Holder? Why are you just standing there?†Keiji questioned, apparently oblivious to the polearm grasped in her hand… or the gigantic enemy crab looming over her. Oh shit.
  17. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    The day had started off pretty well, relatively speaking. Father had been sound asleep when she’d left for school ten minutes late, her stomach grumbling in protest. It was twenty minutes’ walk to school, mostly uphill, and any other day Erin would have rued skipping breakfast, but somehow, a trek she had once found arduous had been reduced to a triviality; she’d somehow run the entire distance without breaking a sweat. The first period was PE, and somehow she’d managed a repeat performance, effortlessly reaching the front of the group while running and not only going through a whole round of volleyball without getting hit in the head, but actually managing to score a few points, to her own disbelief. Without a doubt, she owed her newfound athletic prowess to whatever powers had awakened the night before. She wasn’t sure exactly what they were, or where they’d come from, but a theory was coming to mind: she'd been shot by a radioactive bullet. Thus, she had gained the proportional strength and speed of a bullet. She felt a tad guilty about it, actually; some kids trained for hours after school for their sport, shedding blood, sweat, tears and assorted bodily emissions to shave off a vital second off their last record timings or shed one last ounce of weight, and she, the sort of person who’d considered a couple of flights of stairs an aerobic workout, had gone to their level and beyond in a single night like the star of a hyperbolic late-night protein powder infomercial. Then again, they haven’t been damn near killed, then learnt that reality was a lie. They ought to be checking their not-being-shot privileges. Homeroom was livened up a little by Keiko’s appearance – she’d showed up to introduce herself dressed as a ninja, and apparently there wasn’t actually any rule against it. Erin was fairly sure ‘Berserker, Loyal Servant of the Eternal Demon Lord’ wasn’t a valid alternate reading for ‘Keiko Mitsuya’, though. Apart from that, homeroom went by unexcitingly, punctuated only by a brief buzz of excitement from the class at the mention of the upcoming sports festival. Erin had called in sick for most of them in middle school, but considering her performance at gym earlier, it seemed a little dishonorable to back out this time round. Honoka had called her out for lunch as she often did. The older girl was the big sister she’d never had; their friendship had begun when Erin was in third grade, when Honoka had chased off a bunch of bullies who’d been harassing her – whatever she’d done, they’d been sufficiently spooked that they kept a wide berth from that day on. They’d stuck together ever since, even through the unfortunate Goth phase in eighth grade that had cost Erin pretty much all her old friends – to the point that when Honoka had mentioned a few months back that she’d been seeing a guy, Erin couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. This time, however, Honoka had offered to let her meet the guy in question, an offer Erin accepted without hesitation. I’ve got to size up my opposi- I mean, I got to make sure my big sister in all but name finds a good man, right? She certainly hadn’t expected the mystery man to be none other than Ferrari-Driving Pervert from the day before – and what’s more, he’d managed to sum up the circumstances of their first meeting in the absolute worst way possible. She desperately wanted to dig a hole and hide in it. No, scratch that – she wanted the earth to open up into a yawning chasm of utter darkness to swallow her whole, and she’d grab that pervert by the collar and drag him into the abyss with her. Since turning beet-red and trying and failing to blurt out coherent noises seemed to be an inadequate invocation for calling forth the power of the earth, newfound magical prowess or otherwise, Erin settled for punching Raiha in the jaw. She hadn’t quite expected that to send him literally smashing into the ceiling, leaving a rather large dent, before crashing to the ground with a dull thud. “Let me guess,†Honoka smiled sweetly as she said, “There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for how my dear boyfriend ended up with nude pictures of my dearest kohai before I sent him any of my own, and it has something to do with that display of your powers just now.†“Yeah, t-there’s totally a reason f-for-†Erin stammered, before her eyes abruptly narrowed as she looked her senior in the eye. “Powers? How do you know?!†“What kind of big sister would I be if I didn’t look out for you?†Honoka said with an enigmatic grin, tapping her temple. “Really, I’m no stranger to weird powers like that, since I have them myself.†“Really?!†Erin gushed, her eyes widening in excitement as she clasped her hands together. “What kind of powers are they? Could you teach me?†“Alas, there is little I can do,†Honoka replied, a sad smile crossing her delicate features. “Some, like you, are blessed with powers that let you fight back, but most of us with the gift aren’t so lucky.†“What do you mean?†Erin asked, a tinge of disappointment evident on her face. “I have the power to predict the weather. When rain comes, I feel a sense of vague foreboding…†“But isn’t that actually pretty useful? The weatherman gets that stuff wrong all the time,†Erin said hopefully, glancing out of the window for a moment -- the sky looked decidedly cloudless. “… Fifteen seconds after I’m already drenched,†Honoka finished. Silence descended, interrupted only by a groan from the currently-prostrate Raiha. “I’m so sorry,†Erin blubbered as she wrapped her arms around Honoka, the older girl grinning a little as she returned the gesture. “… No wonder you never told me what your gift let you do,†Raiha muttered as he got to his feet, having finally recovered from the after-effects of the titanic punch. “You’ve got a good right hook there, girl. Why not save that strength for a Thrall, though-“ “You’d better have deleted that photo,†Erin did an about-turn and hissed, making a couple of pointed gestures aimed below his belt. “I did, Paladin’s honor.†Raiha drawled, flicking out his phone and scrolling through its image gallery to confirm that it, in fact, contained no lewd pictures but merely several dozen pictures of kittens accompanied with Bible verses. “I know people keep thinking I’m a chip off the old block, but I don’t deal in child pornography, you know.†A vein popped in Erin’s forehead. What the fuck did you say about me you little bitch? “Now, now, there’s no need to get so upset, Erin,†Honoka said. “Raiha is the sort of guy who would only insult a proper lady completely by accident. Now, you simply have to tell me what transpired between the two of you. It sounds like quite a story.†“I was having a nice bath when I abruptly got a message from Misa, telling me to meet her at the train station,†Raiha narrated. Then, he noticed a mortified look on Erin’s face, swiveled around, and froze. “SENPAI! You stood up this Misa-san on a DATE to seduce Akizuki-san over there?!†the tall, busty brunette who’d appeared behind Raiha practically bellowed as she seized him by the shoulders. Erin knew the girl, to her lasting regret – Jane Fletcher, or JANE YAMATO as she loudly insisted to anyone within earshot, was one of Erin’s classmates, and the daughter of some US big-wig at the naval base down at Yokosuka. She was tall, pretty, rich and gregarious, earning her the admiration of a good number of boys – who somehow overlooked the fact that she was as mad as a box of frogs. Evidently, despite all that male attention, she had eyes only for a certain Raiha Shirakawa. “Just how long have you been there,†Raiha breathed, his face pale with shock. Then, he turned his head, a ghostlike rictus of shock plastered over his face, and silently mouthed the words: “Run while you still can.†“First Kuzunoha-senpai, then me, then this Misa-san, and now Akizuki-san? You really love toying with the hearts of pure maidens, don’t you, SENPAI~†Jane purred, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and leaning in uncomfortably close to him. “But in the race for SENPAI’s heart, I’m not going down without a fight~†“Excuse me, but that’s my bo-†Honoka interjected, but the interloper leaned in to her and said, “This might be new to you, Kuzunoha-senpai, but this CASANOVA’s shamelessness knows no bounds! This VIRILE MAN-STALLION’s libido cannot be slaked by the BURNING LOVE of just one girl, but if you’d let me, Kuzunoha-senpai…†she gave the older girl a heavy-lidded stare and a cat-like smile. “Join me. We can rule together, you and I. In fact, since Akizuki-san’s here too-“ She turned to look in Erin’s direction, only to see a conspicuously vacated seat. “-Akizuki-san?†Erin ended up eating her lunch box in the bathroom stalls again. … Erin’s tribulations had yet to come to an end, it seemed. It was annoying enough having to put up with Jane’s infuriating knowing smirk from across the classroom for the last few periods, but the very moment class had ended, Keiko, still wearing the ninja getup, had grabbed her and dragooned her into the Supernatural Studies Club… or the Central Magic Society of Winter, as it seemed to be called. Apparently, she was the Dark Grimoire Dragon Holder now – she vaguely wondered how Keiko had come up a name from whole cloth without even seeing what her power actually did. I never asked for this, she thought as she contemplated the application form laid out in front of her. What on earth is a ‘midi-chlorian’ and how do I know if I have one? Is it some kind of venereal disease? And why are there so many questions about ‘skyclad tantric fertility rites’, whatever those are?! “Are you sure this is a good idea?†she hissed to Keiko, who was already rapt at attention watching Keiji, the sole member before their arrival, display a bunch of grainy photos he claimed was irrefutable evidence that the Knights Templar had orchestrated World War 1. “Yuudai-senpai told me that contacting potential power-users in town was important,†Keiko whispered back. “There’s nowhere better to look than a club specifically dedicated to supernatural activities!†Erin forced a fake smile as Keiji’s tirade about lizard people of Lemuria grew in both volume and amount of bombastic gesticulations. “I… somehow doubt that?†“Even if he isn’t, the fact that this club’s about studying supernatural things means he will come up with leads that could help us flush out the foul Warlocks in town!†Keiko replied. “You’ve got to trust me on this; I’ve been training for two years under the very best. What could go wrong?†… “So much for useful leads, huh,†Erin wisecracked as Keiko and her left the school gates. It was already evening, and the setting sun had painted the neighborhood in warm hues of gold and orange. “If it helps, we now know that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.†Keiko shrugged. “We might not have retrieved any valuable intelligence today, but I’m sure our fact-finding expedition tomorrow will surely bear fruit!†“Mitsuba No.2 High School?†Erin scoffed. “Bah, it’s just a bunch of stories to scare kids away from there. Can’t have kids playing in an old construction site. We aren’t going to find anything but dust and rat shit.†Keiko snorted, wagging her finger reproachfully. “Don’t you know all stories have a grain of truth behind them?†“Even the one Keiji spouted about the feminist conspiracy plotting to imprison all men in jars to use as sperm banks?†“… Okay, I guess you have a point. Still, won’t it be cool if we really found something there?†Erin thought back to the ghost stories she’d heard about the site, and shuddered. Strange noises at night. An unexplained suicide. Children hearing voices, beckoning them to go in and play. Black blood, seeping from the walls. Stories, all of them, but I damn well hope they stay that way. “No, it won’t. I really hope we don’t.â€
  18. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    “A… church?†Erin muttered as she stared flatly at the place the blackmailing pervert had dragged her off to. The building was a frankly uninspiring work of architecture; a dull, run-down concrete box sandwiched unceremoniously between a ramen joint and a car park identifiable only by the weather-beaten metal cross mounted above the doorway and a decaying sign reading “Mitsuba Catolic Church of Blessed Virgin Mary†in block letters. The walls of the building had once been white, but the paint was now stained and peeling and the streetlight in front of the building had burned out, giving the place a decidedly dreary air. Sure, no one would go to a dump like this on Sunday morning, let alone right now. Still, wouldn’t a guy who drives a Ferrari have, like, a hardened private rape bunker or something for all their abduction needs? Unless… “… This kind of thing gets you off, doesn’t it,†Erin groaned as she eyed her abductor suspiciously. “When people say ‘Holy Fuck’ they usually mean it figuratively.†The older boy looked genuinely surprised and a little offended by this. “Hey, don’t get me wrong! Just because it’s a Cat-holic church doesn’t mean that I came here to get pussy!†Silence. “Cat-holic? Like, a cat? And ‘holic’, as in ‘alcoholic’? Get it?†he ventured. More silence. “And ‘pussy’, in English, has the double meaning of both the animal and female naughty bits? So it’s kind of a pun playing on a double meaning? And that’s funny?†the boy continued expositing, seemingly unaware or unconcerned of the look she was giving him at that very moment. Erin was starting to wonder if her captor had eaten too many paint chips as a child. “Y’know, the first time I came here, I actually thought the Catholic Church had lots of cute cats. Like, if an alcoholic loves alcohol a Catholic must love cats, right?†The young man went on, clearly trying to break the stone-cold silence that had fallen. “So one thing led to another, and next thing I knew I was slaying demons in the name of Our Lord And Saviour.†Scratch that. He didn’t just eat paint chips; his parents must have dropped him on the head for fun. “Just tell me what you dragged me here for.†“To meet the others, of course,†The young man replied as he stepped up to the doorway and knocked. “All the other Hunters should be here. I don’t know if you can tell, but this place is securely warded; it’ll be safe to talk in here.†“Do I have a choice?†Erin sighed as she shrugged in resignation. There were worse places to be than some dumpy old church – and as far as she could tell, he didn’t seem to be lying. The little church, despite its looks, did seem to exude a feeling of safety, and out of the corner of the ear, she swore she could have heard a faint, pleasantly melodic hum, almost as if it were beckoning her to take shelter within. She took a step forward, and then another – and promptly walked into an invisible wall with a loud thump. There was a loud crackle and a flash of light, and Erin was promptly knocked on her ass, the world around her spinning crazily and her ears ringing. The reassuring weight of the glaive she’d been holding throughout their escape from the cops seemed to have vanished, and she suddenly felt terribly naked. Well, even more naked than usual, considering how her borrowed cloak had just fallen off. “Whoops,†Raiha sheepishly murmured. “I guess I should have warned her not to walk in until the padre disarmed the wards.†At that very moment, Father Nakata opened the door, his face pale with worry. “Ah, Raiha-kun! The wards just triggered; were you followed here-“ The older man’s gaze fell upon Erin lying spread-eagled on the ground, trying to articulate coherent swear words and failing miserably. “- Oh. Oh my.†… A few minutes later, Erin was sitting on a pew in the church, the red cloak draped over her like a blanket as she nursed a hot cup of tea and a pounding head. Apart from the idiot who’d brought her here, who’d slipped off to a back room after a few hastily-exchanged words with the pastor, an avuncular, leanly-built man with a surprisingly deep voice, a few others had joined her in the room. Standing at one corner was a dark-haired, serious-looking girl in motorcycle leathers, her index finger conspicuously hovering close to the safety catch of the rifle she was carrying, and joining her on the pews was a blonde girl about her age who was sizing her up curiously and a familiar face – the young man with the glowing arm she’d seen fighting the monster earlier. Conspicuously enough, the one of his jacket sleeves hung limp and empty, and there was a bandage wound around his knee. “What about that other girl? The one with the pistol?†Erin asked with a tinge of worry. The first of these people she’d met, the girl who’d tried to shoot the monster holding her hostage, was noticeably absent. “She’s hurt badly, but I have faith that she can recover. Raiha-kun’s patching her up right now,†the pastor, who’d introduced himself as Father George Nakata, answered. Then, noticing Erin’s look of confusion, he continued, “I see you haven’t been properly introduced yet. The dashing young man who brought you here is Raiha Shirakawa, the youngest member of the Knights of the Cross and more pertinently, the only one currently here in Japan. You can tell that we’re rather stretched thin on resources, I’m sure,†he gestured to the drab interior of the church around him – it was devoid of the beautiful stained-glass windows and ornate church organs that were the pride of other churches. Instead, a lone electronic keyboard sat gathering dust at a corner, and adorning the walls were several rather faded posters of cute cats accompanied with Bible verses. “K-k-knight of the Cr-Cross?†Erin sputtered on her tea. “T-that pervert’s a modern-day paladin?†“Of sorts, yes. I was as surprised as you were when we first met,†Father Nakata replied with a grin. “He might not look the part, but he’s taken to the role admirably; and when it comes to healing, the Knights’ talents are second to none.†He turned to the others, saying gently, “How about the rest of you introduce yourselves, too?†“Misa Imahara,†the girl with the gun stated with a slight nod, her finger staying close to the trigger of her weapon. “Nice to meet you,†she continued, her expression unreadable. “R-right. I’m Erin, n-nice to meet you too… I guess,†Erin stammered nervously, trying not to make eye contact. The older girl scared her a little, and it was with some relief that she turned to meet the gaze of the younger blonde girl, who was proffering her hand in greeting. “Mitsuya. Keiko Mitsuya.†She declared as Erin tentatively took her hand and shook it. “I’m the youngest here, but don’t you look down on me!†Suddenly, there was a rush of cold wind, and Erin shrank back in surprise as a bulky, elaborate sword materialized in her other hand in a flurry of illusory cherry blossoms. “There is nothing that my Blumenkranz, empowered by the Four Gods and honed by a thousand swings a day, cannot cut!†“E-Erin Akizuki,†Erin murmured nervously, her eyes fixed on the massive blade Keiko was hefting like it were a toy. Is that even a sword? It looks like it weighs more than she does… and is that a magazine I see on it?! “What on earth is that?†The other girl puffed out her chest proudly and grinned. “It’s a Demon Reaper, a weapon that gives people magic powers! I used to be a normal, boring person like everyone else, until some nasty Demons attacked my hometown two years back. Then, Yuudai-senpai over here,†she gestured towards the one-armed man reclining on the pews, “Gave me this Demon Reaper so I could protect myself! I’ve learnt a bunch of cool tricks with it!†She tossed the blade into the air with an ease belying its bulk, and with a flurry of clicks and whirs, the weapon’s blade retracted and various parts of it unfurled; when she caught the weapon again, it had transformed into a complex-looking compound bow. “Pretty cool, huh?†she announced proudly. There was a moment of silence before Erin responded. “Sorry. I needed to find my jaw. Did you say something about demons?†“Oh right, you’re new to this. Oi, senpai!†Keiko called out. The one-armed young man sighed but quickly relented, limping over and taking a seat near Erin. “I’m Yuudai Shinozaki. Apparently, I’m an expert on this kind of thing. Thanks for the save just now, by the way. My friend back there would have died without you.†“You’re welcome, I guess,†Erin replied hesitantly. “I wasn’t sure what happened back there, though. Could you tell me more?†“That was a Thrall, the spawn of a Demon.†Yuudai explained. “Demons, as you can guess from the name, are seriously bad news. You could drop a nuclear bomb on one and only tickle it, and they wouldn’t stop at nothing until everyone on the planet is enslaved or dead. Luckily for us, they’re trapped in another universe -- you could call it Hell. Not so luckily for us, they can squeeze little pieces of themselves through the cracks in the wall between the worlds – those are the Thralls. They, and the humans who serve Demons, worm away at these cracks. They want to widen these cracks so their masters can emerge to wreak havoc upon our world.†“So Mitsuba is on top of one of these… cracks, then?†“Yes. We call them Hellmouths; essentially, what happened just now was that you unwittingly slipped through the cracks and ended up in the borderlands where the Demon’s influence encroaches upon our world – what we call a Demon’s dimensional barrier. You were caught in the crossfire… then, I guess that power you had awakened to save your life. Do you have any idea where it came from?†“No, I don’t,†she said honestly. “My dad claimed he was some superhuman badass, but he’s wasted so often that I’d take that claim with enough salt to pickle every fish in Tokyo Bay.†Yuudai chuckled heartily, and promptly winced and clutched his side, giving a slightly pained smile. “Sounds like the story of a guy I knew. I guess you take after him more than you think; some Transcendents have bequeathed their powers onto their children, after all.†“He’s not my real father, though…†Erin blurted out. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that? Father Nakata raised an eyebrow upon hearing this, his expression curious. “Interesting. No one – or nothing – tried to make you strike a deal when you awakened, I hope?†“Eh, no.†She vaguely recalled feeling some kind of compulsion, some instinct driving her to act, but that instinct had felt like one of her own, something buried deep down within her all along. “That’s a relief. I was a little worried we’d brought a Warlock in… though my concerns are probably unfounded, considering you triggered the wards and didn’t catch fire. Now that you’ve heard about us and our fight, would you like to join us?†Erin suddenly turned pale, and she felt a warmth in her hand as her instincts whispered a warning, a call to fight or flee. “You won’t kill me if I said no, would you?†Everyone in the room nearly burst into laughter at that, even the girl at the corner. “We’re not that sort of people,†Father Nakata said with a reassuring smile, but his expression quickly turned sombre as he got to his feet, pacing around the pews in a circle. “And we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to. To those of us who can sense these things, Mitsuba is a storm waiting to break; the incident that nearly killed you was just the latest in many. We few are the thin red line, the only demon hunters standing between Mitsuba and oblivion. If we fail, millions of people could die. We don’t just want your help… we need your help. We can’t afford to lose you.†He’s right, she thought as she gazed at the ragged group around her. She saw a young man with responsibility belying his years; a man who had lost an arm in battle and yet had waded into the fray yet again, gaining nothing but another fallen comrade and more battle scars for his labours. She saw a tired, greying old priest far from his prime, too old to face the horrors of the night and burdened by the knowledge that mere children fought and bled in his stead. She saw the look in the serious young woman’s eyes; it wasn’t alien to her, for she had seen it in her father’s in his moments of clarity – the look of one whose past still haunted their waking moments. She saw an earnest little slip of a girl, seemingly carefree in spite of what she’d seen, still determined to fight in spite of what had happened to her mentors. She saw a youth barely out of boyhood emerging from the back room, his face lined and pale and his shoulders bowed, exhausted in his efforts to save a girl – no, a warrior – whose life hung in the balance so that Erin herself could live. It wasn’t much of a choice at all. “Jeez, you guys look so hopeless, I couldn’t say no even if I wanted to,†Erin said, managing a grin. Even Misa seemed to crack a smile at that – barely noticeable, but there nevertheless. Keiko, meanwhile, turned to Yuudai and nudged him in the ribs, whispering, “Is this that tsundere aura I’ve heard all about?†“… On one condition.†Erin continued, and the room fell silent again. “… What would that be, my child?†Father Nakata said gravely. Erin gestured down to the cloak that was the only thing covering her nudity. “Someone get me some goddamn pants.†… In an unexpected gesture of goodwill, Misa had given Erin, now thankfully in possession of a new set of clothing in spite of Raiha’s feeble protests, a lift back home on the back of her bike. It hadn’t taken long to get back, and as Misa’s bike roared off into the night, Erin smiled wistfully. Sure, the circumstances of our meeting were… actually bloody awful, but in that pokey little church, I felt something I haven’t felt in ages. I felt… welcome. They didn’t judge me for being that one girl in the back of the class dressed in hand-me-downs and with the hair of a delinquent, for being a nail that needed to be hammered down. Really, it’d be nice to have someone else in life to count on… I’ve been alone for long enough. Then, with her requisite character-establishing monologue complete, she stepped to the front door of her family’s little house… and stopped short. At the edge of her hearing, she could hear a faint thrumming, a barely-perceptible tension in the air stretching out from her home. It was only a meagre shadow of what she’d encountered at the Church, but there nonetheless. My home’s warded, too? She stepped over the threshold, and heaved a sigh of relief when no invisible walls clobbered her in the face. Well… I guess Father has some explaining to do. Did he know all along?
  19. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    The first thing that Erin Akizuki felt was pain. She’d felt her fair share of pain in her life, most of them associated with particularly traumatic trips to the dentist, but this was something else. It was a white-hot, searing agony, nearly indescribable in its magnitude, almost as if someone had branded her across her entire torso with red-hot irons. She tried to scream, to move her arms, to do anything to take her mind off the pain, but nothing came out – she was trapped, a prisoner within a shattered body. In an unusual moment of lucidity, she realized this probably had something to do with the fact that someone had just blown her chest into smithereens with a ridiculously huge bullet and left her for dead. Rise, a voice whispered – a soothing, motherly voice, though it seemed to reverberate with power. Then, Erin felt a strange spreading through her body, banishing the searing pain as if it were nothing more than a bad memory. Life gradually returned, first to her chest, then to her arms, then her legs, and her chest heaved as she took a deep, grateful breath through newly-regenerated lungs. For someone who’d been clinically dead half a minute before, she felt more alive than ever. Rise. The voice repeated itself again, a tinge of urgency – of fury concealed – in its tone. Slowly, tentatively, she clambered to her feet, her heart pounding rapidly in her chest like the rhythm of a war drum. Vision returned as she opened her eyes, seeing the world through irises tinted crimson. RISE. A surge of power pulsed through Erin’s arm like an electric current as golden light blazed from her palm, coalescing into a silvery glaive eight feet long, the edges of its chisel-pointed blade shimmering as though they were a mirage. She gazed upon the demonic realm around her – the blood-red sky, the swollen, bloated, crimson-tinged disc of the moon high above and the hulking silhouette of that monster in human guise, oppressive malevolence emanating from her like a halo, her steel talons gouging gashes in the ground as she struck again and again at the beleaguered warrior locked in combat with her. She looked down, seeing the supine, face-down body of the young woman who’d tried and failed to rescue her, blood pooling around her head. She saw the spark of life still flickering within the fallen warrior, faint and slowly fading, but defiantly clinging on regardless. Then, her gaze fell upon the blade clenched in her trembling hand, and the quaking ceased as she realized what she had to do – or rather what she’d been brought back to do. KILL. … Yuudai backpedaled, the sweeping swipe that should have taken his head clean off merely nicking him in the chin instead. He swore, wiping the blood off with his one good arm as he lashed outwards with a glowing fist of Influence, only for the blade that erupted from the phantom arm to glance off the glimmering barrier of nested octagons protecting his enemy. Damn it, damn it, damn it. Hang on, Reika. I’m almost there… just have to get past this- Alarm shot through his mind as a series of images superimposed itself upon his vision – the enemy Warlock’s hideous metal talons lashing out in a dual-pronged attack, slicing him into two. “Valia,†he hoarsely grunted, and time slowed to a crawl as he ducked under the deadly strike with inches to spare and sidestepped the follow-up swing – only to bring him into the range of the hand cannon in the Warlock’s own hands, the prediction appearing in his mind’s eye just a moment too late. A thunderous concussion split the air, and he felt a searing phantom pain within his false arm. The barrier he’d hastily thrown up had stopped the bullet – if only barely – but its blue flames of his Influence were flickering and unsteady. Already, he could feel a wave of light-headedness washing over him as his injured knee continued to throb – for now, he had the enemy at a standstill, but how much longer could he last? “Exort Grande,†he spat as he cast his phantom arm outwards, sending a spiraling lance of blue fire shooting at the Warlock. It plowed through her shield, but the Warlock raised that hideous pair of mechanical arms, and the blast of fire washed over them like water off a duck’s back. Then, several sets of plating along the arms slid apart with a click, and a chaotic tangle of nearly a hundred spiraling red lines filled the air around Yuudai as his Reaper’s Eye plotted the trajectory of an imminent missile barrage. They saturated the area all around him in every direction – there was nowhere he could move to without taking a missile in the back. He swore under his breath and clenched his fist, summoning the strongest barrier he could, and prepared for the worst- “YEEEEEEART!†The expected missile barrage never came – Yuudai lowered the arm shielding his face, and saw his enemy had gone still, her masked face inclined downwards to gaze at the shimmering blade that had pierced straight through her barrier, through her back and a whole foot out of her chest. He raised an eyebrow in surprise as he noticed the girl who’d made the surprise attack – a girl who had very certainly been as dead as a washed-out teen idol’s career just moments before, just another casualty of the invisible war he fought. Even the Reaper’s Eye hadn’t seen that one coming. A magic-countering effect, perhaps? He mused silently. Then, he froze for a moment in alarm – his Reaper’s Eye might not have spotted the girl, but it was now informing him with painful clarity that the Warlock’s body would explode in exactly three seconds. Immediately, he dived over to Reika’s body and gritted his teeth, his barrier flaring up just half a second before a wave of heat and force slammed into it like a tidal wave. Yuudai let the barrier drop, his vision unsteady and his ears still ringing from the detonation. The air was clogged with a swirling cloud of dust; there was no sign of the Warlock or the girl who’d struck her down anywhere. Then, his mind’s eye flickered as he felt a ripple of energy wash through the demonic realm they were in. It was a sensation he was familiar with – the aftershock of a Demon in the nether realms withdrawing its tendrils from the world. That Warlock who just took Reika down and nearly got me… was a Thrall all along? I haven’t seen a Thrall of this power since that unpleasantness two years ago. In the distance, he heard Keiko’s voice ring out. Immediately, he picked up Reika’s body – she felt light, almost like a rag doll – and draped her over his shoulder, and hurried off in the direction of Keiko’s voice. He probably owed the new girl a word of thanks, but there wasn’t time for that right now. He had a medical emergency and one more Warlock on the loose to deal with. I’ll just have to make it up to her later, if I see her again. He spotted Keiko a moment later – that Warlock, Cocytus or whatever he was called, had cornered her, and she was desperately parrying and dodging the flurry of strikes he was raining down upon her. Luckily for him, Cocytus seemed single-minded to a fault, and didn’t seem to notice him coming. He willed power into his phantom arm, his Influence spreading out from its clenched fist and changing color, growing into a hazy, grey bow of flickering light. He drew the bowstring back with his good hand, an arrow materializing as he pulled, and with a whispered command of “Noctum,†let the arrow loose. It nailed the Warlock in the back of the head, and he seized up and convulsed for a moment, giving Keiko the opening she needed to disengage and hurry over to his side. “We’ve got to get out of here,†he told her tersely, and the three battered Demon hunters slipped away. … Erin groaned, pulling herself upright and rubbing her head. What the hell just happened? Her head was throbbing furiously, and trying to recall what had happened felt like a titanic effort of will. She remembered going out and getting beer for the old fart. Then, there’d been an earthquake or something, and she’d been grabbed by something- She groaned as bile surged up through her throat and she fought back the urge to throw up – a sharp pain had hammered through her head like a spike. Then, as she fell back to her knees, desperately trying not to retch, she saw a silvery glaive resting on the concrete beside her – and everything came back to her in an instant. I… I know how to use that blade. I killed someone with it – no. No. That wasn’t a person. People don’t bloat up and explode like… whatever that was. I killed a monster. Some kind of thing that shouldn’t exist. Somehow, it felt perfectly natural… as if I was born to do it. Gingerly, she reached out and wrapped her fingers around the weapon’s haft, carefully lifting it as though it was made of glass. She gazed around her – the sky had turned back to normal, and she was atop the roof of a five-floored building just opposite the train station. She wasn’t sure how she’d gotten on the roof – that monster’s death throes must have flung her up there. Then, she noticed the state of her clothes, and shrank a little in embarrassment – they were now a ragged, shredded mess barely hanging onto her body; and yet, her skin beneath somehow remained smooth and unbroken. She ran her hand along her chest – apart from the hole in her T-shirt, there wasn’t a single trace that she’d had most of her chest cavity reduced to the consistency of chunky salsa just minutes before. What have I become? Before she could adequately ruminate on what had just happened, a surge of panic filled her mind as she felt another presence emerge just a short distance away. She glanced down, and a chill ran through her. Without a doubt, the presence she sensed, so similar to the one she felt from the thing she’d killed, was coming from that young man down on the street below glaring at the Ferrari parked by the roadside. The enemy, she thought, her heart starting to pound frantically. She glanced around in search of the stairs down. She had to get out of there, before he saw her.
  20. Rebuild of Mitsuba Academy

    “We are arriving at Tokyo Station. This train service terminates at this station. Thank you for riding with us,†a soothing female voice intoned, and Reika imperceptibly heaved a sigh of relief as the train gently slowed to a halt with a hum. It seemed rather irrational, but despite spending a good part of her life stabbing horrible creatures from dimensions best left unknown until their assorted body parts stopped twitching, she felt uneasy entrusting her safety to a sleek edifice of space-age steel and glass speeding across the countryside at hundreds of kilometers an hour. In her defense, normal people couldn’t derail a train with their brain if they got too jumpy. With some reluctance, she closed the box of Pocky she’d been munching on and stood up, tiptoeing and straining to pull her luggage from the overhead compartment she’d stowed it in. “Come on, Keiko,†she murmured, nudging the younger girl, who was still gazing intently at her smartphone. “We’re almost there.†With a grumble of protest, Keiko got up and retrieved her luggage, and a few moments later, the three of them were on the station platform and struggling past the streaming throngs of humanity filling the station at rush hour. “You’re looking pretty pale, Reika,†Yuudai said as she nudged her in the shoulder with a grin. Yuudai Shinozaki had fought alongside her for two and a half years by now, and they’d pulled each other out of their fair share of sticky situations. Sure, he was a dense idiot with stupid hair, but more importantly, he was her dense idiot; someone she could trust to be at her side when the chips were down. She envied Sakura a little, to be honest. She found herself a good guy. Must have raised all the right flags. She shrugged nonchalantly, gesturing at the passing crowds. “Too many people,†she muttered. “Imagine if trouble broke out here. Also…†she trailed off, her brown eyes flicking downwards to look at a particularly interesting patch of ground. Yuudai broke the silence. “Bad memories, huh?†he said with a disarming smile. “Pretty much. At least I don’t get the nightmares since it died, though,†she said with a wan smile. Just the mention of that sent a chill creeping unbidden up her spine. She couldn’t forget that fateful rainy night when she’d put that vile thing down – even as its body slowly melted away, it had cursed her until the very end, spitting a cryptic message at her with its final breath. My pawns are out there. When heroes’ blood stains their hands, I will be reborn. Unbidden, a throbbing ache pulsed through her midsection, and her fingers traced the outline of the jagged scar on her stomach, an unwelcome souvenir of her brush with the Incubi. If only you were still here, Kawa-chan. “Reika-chan, are you hungry?†Keiko piped up as she noticed Reika’s instinctive reaction. “You know, I heard there’s a great ramen place not too far from here.†“Of course she is,†Yuudai scoffed dismissively. “She always is. Look in her bag; a thousand yen says it’s filled with nothing but Pocky.†“Wrong as always, idiot,†Reika snorted. “There’s also Kit Kats in there. Now pay up.†Immediately, she found a rumpled bill thrust in her face. “A small price to pay for proving my point. Glutton.†Yuudai got a punch in his good shoulder in response. “Empty-headed cripple man-slut.†“Big words coming from a nutcase with an emotional range as two-dimensional as her chest,†Yuudai shot back, grinning bemusedly. “Uh… Um, you smell bad and y-you should feel bad.†“Yuudai-senpai and Reika-chan sure get along well, don’t they?†Keiko mused happily as they walked off in search of dinner. … “I’m home,†the tall, blond girl grumbled as she pushed open the door, letting the stack of groceries fall to the floor with a limp thump. There was no response from the unshaven, gaunt man sprawled on the decaying tatami mat save for a barely perceptible fart. On the table in front of him was an overturned can of cheap beer, and the tinny sounds of a drama re-run permeated the living room. The room was a cramped, ill-furnished thing – a more charitable person might describe it as ‘Spartan’, but that would have implied a degree of discipline the current occupant seemed to sorely lack. “Hey, get up, Dad,†Erin Akizuki called out, raising her voice a little. “I managed to get half price bento today.†“Wrffgl,†the man mumbled as he stirred. He reeked of cheap beer and day-old sweat, and Erin grimaced as the smell wafted into her nostrils. “Did you buy more beer, kid?†he slurred, his gaze sweeping across the room and with some effort, finally coming to rest in his daughter’s general direction. “Dammit, Dad,†she sighed. Sometimes, she was secretly relieved that she was adopted – at least from a certain point of view, she could claim they weren’t related. By his own admission, Kojiro Akizuki was, to quote, “the 31st generation head of the undefeated Akizuki family, a Grade A Prime badass of badasses with over three hundred confirmed kills†who knew “seven hundred ways to kill a bare man with bear handsâ€, a fact that did him little good when it came to paying the utility bills each month. Somehow, they scraped by from meager donations from the family’s ancestral shrine (to his credit, he swept it. A couple of times a month. After being reminded thrice.) and what he claimed was a “disability settlementâ€. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. “No, I don’t. Come on Dad, you’re better than this.†“I HAVE NO DAUGHTER.†“Godforsaken sonofabitch motherfu- I mean, yes, Dad,†Erin muttered, picking up the bento boxes and placing them on the table. “Just eat up before it gets cold… I mean colder, okay?†“GOOD GIRL.†Kojiro yelled out as she turned to leave, and as soon as the door had closed, fell supine and began to snore. Neither of them were going to eat dinner that night. … “Mitsuba Station,†a tinny voice announced over the speakers, and the trio of demon hunters, now invigorated by a helping of the best noodles Tokyo had to offer (or in Reika’s case, several extra-large helpings), stepped out onto the platform, dragging their luggage behind them. It was a wet night, with the pitter-patter of the incessant drizzle outside somehow drowning out the staccato rhythm of pedestrians’ footsteps, the Doppler-distorted whine of cars speeding past on the nearby freeway, even the low rumble of the now-departing train- “Hold it,†Reika muttered darkly. “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.†“We aren’t in-†Keiko pointed out, but Reika raised a finger to shush her, then gestured at their surroundings. Though the station had been brightly lit by the glare of fluorescent lamps, they found themselves in a world leached of color and tinted an eerie green. Where there were once dozens of cram school students and salarymen hurrying along on their business, there were just flitting shadows soundlessly moving through motionless gantries. Her fears were confirmed as she followed Keiko’s frightened gaze upwards – the once-dark sky had turned a shade of dull red like a dying ember, the full moon now an enormous, looming presence like a balefully glaring eye. She glanced sideways at Yuudai – she could already see the tell-tale flicker of bluish light shining from the empty sleeve of his jacket, and she closed her eyes, willing the power bound within her to emerge- Then, the world turned white as a dozen high-explosive shells went off all around her. … A tremor abruptly shook the ground, catching Erin by surprise and sending her toppling to the ground, the bagful of beer cans she was holding clattering to the ground and rolling off towards the curb. Bewildered, she glanced around – but there was seemingly no one in sight. Weird. Was that an earthquake? Hold on… is it just me, or does this place smell of gunpowder? Then, despite the talon of cold, unyielding steel that had clamped around her and was now lifting her bodily off the pavement, all Erin managed to think about was losing her beer. … There was a whoosh as the curtain of blue flames subsided, revealing Yuudai, Reika and Keiko in the middle, shaken but mostly unhurt. Reika opened her eyes, which were now a shade of brilliant, almost luminescent blue, and in her left hand appeared a high-caliber pistol, a series of geometric carvings on the slide and receiver gleaming with a faint blue light from within. Immediately, she felt her consciousness expand, her head starting to pound as a flood of strange sensations overlaid her senses. Large altered territory, five hundred meters radius. Two conspicuous presences, probably Demonic – one at nine hundred meters, stationary at nine o’ clock, the other at three hundred meters, straight ahead and approaching. Incoming salvo of twelve magical projectiles, probably explosive- Yuudai raised another barrier of flames to shield himself and Keiko as Reika took to the air, a surge of electromagnetic force yanking on the steel rebar within the walls of the nearby high-rises and launching her upwards. A second later, the shells landed with a thunderous boom, jarring her to the bone even from thirty meters away and engulfing Yuudai’s position in pillars of smoke and fire. If I don’t take out the big guns fast, the two of them are toast. Good luck, you two. With a loud thump, she landed on a bare concrete rooftop and began to sprint. … Three new presences had appeared within a nearby building, still concealed from Reika’s vision but burned into her mind’s eye as a cluster of ugly bright red splotches, a brilliant, flickering hue of yellow indicating the monsters’ cores, the heart of their being. Thralls, low energy state. Expendable fodder. Her pistol barked thrice, and the reddish silhouettes vanished. Three direct hits. Two hundred meters and closing. Twelve more cannon shots on a high trajectory in my direction. She raised her pistol upwards, feeling her arm ache as she fired a spread of snap shots. She leaped off the building, launching herself forwards with another burst of magnetic force as the one shell she’d missed demolished the structure behind her, showering her jacket with dust and broken glass. One hundred and fifty. Target two has engaged Yuudai and Keiko. As Reika landed, she heard a bizarre clicking noise and felt a blast of hot breath wash over her back as space ripped itself open behind her, another reddish splotch resolving itself in her mind’s eye. She pointed her gun behind her and fired, and felt something wet splash across her back as the presence vanished. One hundred and twenty five. She pulled upon the street lights ahead of her, sending her careening forwards just in time to avoid a fourth salvo. Eighty. Four more presences appeared under a nearby building, and with a whine, her pistol discharged, putting a round straight into the head of the unseen Thrall. With a thought, the heavy bullet shattered into supersonic shrapnel within its first victim’s core, spraying the other three with a lethal hail of fragments. Fifty. She launched herself skywards again, rounding a corner as another salvo from her unseen assailant zipped barely past her like huge, angry hornets. Thirty-five. She vaulted a building, a bead of sweat sliding down her face as she angled a magnetic field to send a spray of bullets a few crucial degrees off course. Then, with another effort of will, her free-fall slowed and she touched down to the ground with a soft thump. Twenty. Clear line of sight to target- Oh, fuck. “A hostage.†Reika breathed, her pistol trembling as she braced it with her other arm. The Warlock, a tall woman with long black hair whose features were obscured by a featureless white mask, had some form of demonic contraption grafted to her back – a monstrosity of black steel and knotted, throbbing veins bristling with turreted guns like a battleship of old. On either side, the machinery unfolded into two massive, wickedly-clawed mechanical arms; one of them was grabbing a teenage girl and interspersing her in Reika’s line of fire. The Warlock’s featureless mask turned to regard Reika, and she could almost swear the Warlock was laughing as her cannons swiveled to face her. Reika’s finger curled beneath the finger guard, resting upon the trigger. The gun barrel wobbled unsteadily, sweat beading on her forehead as thoughts churned through her mind. With my powers, I could bend the bullet just so… I’ve got one chance at it. One chance to save that girl. Her breathing steadied, and her finger slowly closed around the trigger. A lone gunshot broke the silence. … Reika hit the ground, her Demon Reaper clattering to the pavement as she clutched at her ruined shoulder, blood oozing from between her fingertips. The Warlock’s mechanical claw whirred and released its grip, letting Erin’s body, now marred by a gaping exit wound in her chest, collapse limply to the pavement. She lowered the pistol she’d been holding behind her hostage’s back, a thin wisp of smoke still trailing from its barrel, and huffed in disdain. “Bullet tumbled on its way out. Should have nailed her in the head,†the Warlock stated, the mechanical claws retracting back into the bulky rigging as she stalked towards her fallen opponent. … Reika fought the urge to scream, wincing with every agonizing moment as she tried to fight off the pain wracking at her mind. Her fingers blindly clawed at the ground, feeling frantically for the reassuring weight of her Demon Reaper. At last, her fingers closed over cool metal, and hope surged through her. Then, a shadow fell across her, and she knew it was too late. She gazed upwards, her body screaming in protest at the sudden movement, and through the crimson haze clouding her vision, saw the Warlock looming over her, her expressionless mask regarding her impassively as she leveled her pistol at Reika’s forehead. With a low, inhuman monotone, the woman rasped, “The Chooser of the Slain sends Her regards.†In a final, frenzied effort, Reika raised her own Demon Reaper, her finger squeezing down on the trigger. At this range, she couldn’t miss- Bang. Then, darkness fell.
  21. AT LEAST LOOK, WOULD YA?! kthx~

    There is a faraway land with a man but no woman, with seas but no water, with light but only at night. Anyone can see it from afar when the weather is clear, but only a handful have ever came back from there. Where is it?
  22. AT LEAST LOOK, WOULD YA?! kthx~

    ... carrot.
  23. AT LEAST LOOK, WOULD YA?! kthx~

    An orange parrot.
  24. Welcome To The Jungle A Mini-RP Rules of Mini-RPs No character sheets, no indication of interest required. If you like the story, just jump in with any character you wish.There will be no OOC thread for this RP. All OOC chat will be enclosed in square boxes [like this] either before or after your IC post.If your character dies, you may enter with another character at any time.RP posts are limited to a maximum of 400 words for Graduates only. Students can write as long as they wish. This is to encourage shorter and more frequent posts!For Students, posts below 300 words cannot be used as part of your Graduation attempt.Post often and have fun!The Story So Far Contrary to popular belief, the world didn't come to an end at the end of 2012. In fact, that Mayan prophecy hadn't even predicted the end of the world to begin with; quite a few long-dead astronomers must have been spinning in their graves. However, what the prophecy had predicted was the end of an era and a transition to the next. Well, that actually happened. At first, the change was nearly imperceptible. Just a few isolated incidents of animals disappearing, inexplicable tremors, out-of-season weather and the like. However, as the portents increased in frequency and more and more strange things came crawling out of the woodwork, the truth began to emerge -- there was more than just a grain of truth to the tall tales of magic and monsters in mankind's collective memory. Magic and the supernatural were indubitably, sometimes terrifyingly real, something made all too clear when a botched assassination attempt revealed the newly-elected governor of California to be a dragon in disguise. Something had been keeping the influence of the supernatural from influencing human society, but it seems to have failed, giving supernatural beings -- now dubbed the Others -- free rein to enter the world. The world's governments responded swiftly, leading to the establishment of the Thulsson Foundation, an international paramilitary organization dedicated to monitoring, and if need be, eliminating Others. The year is now 2015. The Thulsson Foundation has recently started offering considerable rewards for subduing dangerous Others deemed a threat to humanity, with lethal force if need be. Unbeknownst to the unsuspecting directors of the Foundation, most their new recruits are actually Others as well, and a good portion of the remainder are receiving help from them. Well, takes a crook to catch a crook, I guess. Character Guidelines: - The tech level's around that the present day, but the appearance of the Others has hastened development in many fields of technology, most notably the ones that help kill people better. Fancy sci-fi gizmos like bionics, energy weapons, artificial intelligence and giant self-aware death robots with energy weapons are starting to enter production in limited quantities. - The Others are a catch-all term for any being with a connection to the supernatural – everything from human psychics and wizards to more inhuman creatures like vampires, were-creatures or other otherworldly beings are categorized as Others. Basically, just about anything goes when it comes to characters. Provided you aren't, like, the Corpse-God of All That Is Unholy Made Flesh or something blatantly story-breaking like that. For simplicity, Others based on mythology have most of the strengths and weaknesses associated in them in myth (e.g. Vampires lose their powers in sunlight). Others of non-human stock lived in an alternate magical world until 2012, when the force barring their return was removed. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ The skyscraper that housed the regional headquarters of the Thulsson Foundation was a stark modern edifice of steel and glass, an environment that made Luke feel terribly ill at ease. He would have been far happier amidst the rolling hills and pastoral tranquillity of home, far from this ugly, chaotic, cacophonic jungle of soulless concrete, swarming commuters and cold iron; still, a job was a job. You couldn’t fill your stomach on warm, fuzzy nostalgia after all. He approached the door of the Director’s Office and knocked, and unbidden, the doors swung open on their own, beckoning him into the office. “Good afternoon, Mr… O’Brien? Is that how I should address you?†A congenial-looking middle-aged man in an immaculate suit addressed him. Franz Stroheim, the regional director of the Thulsson Foundation, humanity’s best hope against the Others. Kinda shorter than I expected, though. “Luke will do,†he said with a smile as he shook the man’s extended hand; it felt slightly cold to the touch. “Pleased to meet you.†“Have a seat. Let’s get down to business, shall we?†Franz said, gesturing at the chair placed before his desk. “There’s an Other I’d like you to kill. A vampire by the name of Anton Witiezslav. He’s a local crime kingpin, but the police can’t lay a hand on him even if they tried. He’s probably bled dry almost a hundred people by now.†“How refreshingly straightforward,†Luke replied. “Sounds like a tall order even for me. A hundred people, really?†“Which is why you won’t be doing it alone,†Franz said reassuringly, patting him on the shoulder. “A number of other… operators have expressed interest as well; my sources tell me they’re every bit as qualified as you are. They should be arriving at the reception hall downstairs around now.â€
  25. Welcome To The Jungle [OPEN Mini-RP]

    The group stormed in, surrounding the sarcophagus and training their weapons on it. Then, Luke stepped forwards, gingerly pushing the lid off the sarcophagus after scanning its rim for traps. It was empty. Then, they heard the sounds of clapping from one side of the room as a curtain at one end of the room slid open, revealing a tall, pale-looking man in an expensive suit; Luke's eyes widened in surprised as he realized the man was the one they'd been looking for. "Congratulations, gentlemen. And ladies, no offense intended." Anton said with a genial smile, clapping his hands together. "You've passed the interview with flying colors." "What?" Luke snarled, raising his gun. "Oh, there's no need for that," Anton said disarmingly, motioning for him to put his gun down. "Even from where you come from, I'm sure you don't hold prospective employers at gunpoint, do you? I'm offering you a chance to work with me, friend."