“You ready, Touko?”
The two girls leapt in each other’s direction, up at the soccer ball soaring towards them. “Butterfly Dream!” they shouted. They grabbed each other’s hands and kicked the ball back to the nearby pitch.
“Touko!” exclaimed the pitch’s goalkeeper. “Rika! It’s been a whi– AH!” A soccer ball struck his head.
“Sorry, sorry!” said Rika as she and Touko ran onto the pitch, beside the goalkeeper.
“Endou, are you okay!?” asked Touko. Endou, the goalkeeper, lay on the ground, unresponsive. “I’m sorry!”
“Mamoru-kun…” sighed a girl with long purple hair, Fuyuka, as she placed a towel over his head. Touko and Rika helped her carry him onto the bench.
Once Endou was settled in with Fuyuka, the other members of Inazuma Japan crowded around the two girls, eager to hear about their latest escapade.
“I haven’t seen you two in a while!” exclaimed a certain Shirou Fubuki, leaning towards them. His short gray hair was raised up ever so slightly, and the blue-green in his eyes resembled the morning sky.
“You could have at least told us you were coming!” added a boy whose goggles were surrounded by pink hair, Tsunami.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if we did,” retorted Rika.
“Rika wanted it to be a shocking entrance,” said Touko in a slightly exasperated tone.
“Yep!” confirmed Rika. “After all, we are Inazuma Japan’s hot-blooded supporters—“ she stood up and flexed an arm—“Rika Urabe!”
“And Touko Zaizen!” added her friend with the bowl-shaped hat. “Congratulations on making it to the finals!”
“We’re finally here on Soccer Island!” exclaimed Rika, completely ignoring that the island was actually called Liocott. “We blasted our way here so you guys could win the championship!” The players stood in slight disbelief at Rika’s energy.
“Huh? What’s that?” asked a girl with deep green hair, Aki, as she looked at the light blue bracelet on Rika’s wrist.
“Oh, this?” said Rika, brandishing the bracelet. Upon closer inspection, it was mostly white, but accented with abstract designs in two shades of light blue. “We went shopping on the way here, and I got it for free! Touko’s got one, too!”
“But I don’t have a taste for these kind of things,” said Touko, reaching into her bag. She pulled out a bracelet with designs similar to Rika’s, but in completely contrasting colors. Whereas Rika’s bracelet was white with blue accents, Touko’s was purple with gray accents. The designs on Touko’s bracelet looked a lot sharper, so to speak, than those on Rika’s.
“I don’t think it’s my sort of thing, either,” said Aki.
Fubuki approached Touko. He felt a brief glow in his eyes as he stared at her bracelet in awe. “But I think it’s pretty cool,” he said. She gave it to him and he put it on his left wrist without delay. It shimmered in the sunlight, and he couldn’t help but smile. “Hey, Fuyuka,” he walked towards the purple-haired girl on the bench, “Want to try it out?”
“I…” replied Fuyuka in her usual soft voice. “I didn’t know you had an interest in these things, Shirou-kun!”
“Well, not consistently,” said Fubuki, “but this bracelet looked nice. You want to try it out?” It was soon apparent that the thing wouldn’t budge beyond a certain point no matter how hard Fubuki tugged and pulled. It moved up and down his arm just fine until a certain point on his wrist, and then seemed to run into an iron wall that didn’t really exist. “Huh? This might take some time to get off…”
Endou suddenly woke up from his short-term coma and asked, “Rika, what about you?”
“This is totally weird!” said Rika, pulling at her bracelet. “I can’t take mine off, either! That old geezer… I’ll find him and give him a piece of my mind!”
“What the heck makes these things ‘keys to the legend’!?” shouted Touko. “They’re a bunch of rejects, if anything!”
“Wait,” said a girl with wavy orange hair, Natsumi, carrying her closed laptop by her side. “What did you just say?”
“Huh?” said Touko. “I said they’re a bunch of rejects, if anything.”
“No, before that. Something about keys…”
“Keys to the legend. The two old guys we got these from mentioned something about the heavens and earth and such.”
“Natsumi,” asked Endou, “do you know about this?”
“This might have something to do,” pondered Natsumi, “with Liocott Island’s legend of the demon lords.”
“Legend of the demon lords!?” gasped Japan’s national team.
“Yes,” explained Natsumi. “Pay attention, everyone.” She waited until everyone was silent and looking her straight in the eye before beginning her lengthy explanation.
“This is an old tale from Liocott Island. In ancient times, Liocott Island was told to be the place where the heavens and hell intersected. The people of the heavens and hell fought a long war over each other for domination, but they were unable to come to a resolution. In order to end the futile battles, they decided to use a method shared by humans in order to determine superiority. That method was through soccer, and the heaven dwellers won as a result. Thus, the end of the war was signified when the leader of hell, the Demon Lord, was sealed away.” She opened her laptop, tapped a few buttons, and on the screen displayed a picture of a particular mountain before continuing. “After the Demon Lord was sealed, it’s been said that the heaven and hell dwellers have been living at Mt. Magneto, which lies at the center of Liocott Island.”
“I’m guessing you mean that huge mountain over there?” asked a bulky kid with a green afro, Kabeyama. “It’s kind of hard to see laptop screens in the sun.”
“I wonder if those heaven and hell people are still here today?” inquired a muscular, older-looking guy who was nevertheless the same age as his colleagues, Hijikata.
“It’s only a legend,” reassured Natsumi. “But it’s also been said that among the youth living at Mt. Magneto since those ancient times, there are some who can use the power of heaven and hell.”
“Mysterious powers, huh?” asked a boy with striking red hair, Hiroto.
“That’s intriguing,” said Hijikata. “I have a liking for that sort of stuff.”
“So, about the keys to the legend…” continued Natsumi. She pressed one key on her laptop a few times, praying that increasing the brightness wouldn’t kill her battery. “Look here.” On her laptop’s screen, she brought up a picture of a rock engraving and zoomed in on two bracelets, one worn by an angel and the other by a devil. Rika and Fubuki looked at their bracelets and realized something.
“They look exactly the same,” said Fubuki. He eyed Natsumi and asked, “Does this mean that the ancient tales were true?”
“We can’t say that for sure yet,” she replied. “They could just be replicas. It’s strange that you can’t take them off, though.”
“But those don’t look like keys of any sort,” said Endou.
“We don’t know how they used them in the first place,” said Natsumi. “Although, it’s been said that the heaven and hell dwellers each used them for a ritual of some sort.”
“I don’t mind it,” said Rika. “It doesn’t hurt to have it, and above all, it’s cute! Anyway, I’ll probably be able to take it off eventually.”
“What’ll you do if you can’t take it off?” asked a boy signified by his dreadlocks, red cape, and blue goggles, Kidou.
“If it was made by humans, then you’ve got to be able to take it off somehow,” said Rika. “That’s just common sense! Right, Fubuki?”
“Yeah!” said Fubuki with a hopeful smile “Even if it’s not sometime today, this week, or even during the FFI, I’m sure we’ll get these things off eventually! Besides, it’s rather cool.”
“You guys are so easygoing,” said Tsunami.
“Not as much as you, Tsunami,” replied Rika, causing Tsunami to slump in his chair with wide eyes.
“Well, that settles that matter,” a girl with glasses in her deep blue hair, Haruna, finally decided to stand up and add her two cents. “It’s time for practice! We don’t have long until the finals tournament.”
“That’s right!” affirmed Rika. “Now that you’ve got two goddesses of victory with you, we won’t let you off without winning the championship!”
Listening to the girls’ words, Inazuma Japan spent most of the day practicing. A few friends from around the world decided to join in, too. They soon decided to have a practice match between two randomly-assigned teams, and passes flew by like lightning.
Not long into the late afternoon, dark clouds covered every inch of the sky. “What the heck?” Haruna groaned. “It was supposed to be sunny all day…”
Thunder crashed, and lightning struck not too far from the pitch. Everyone recoiled. “What now?” asked Kazemaru, a boy whose green hair was tied up in a ponytail. “Should we keep going?”
Endou pondered for a bit, but Fubuki and Rika screamed before he could come up with an answer.
“Huh!?” exclaimed Rika. “My bracelet’s glowing! Why is it glowing!?”
“What’s happening?” asked Fubuki, kneeled down a few feet from the goal. His bracelet was also shining a bright light.
“Is this what Natsumi-san was talking about?” asked Fuyuka.
“It can’t be…” said Natsumi. “That was just a legend!”
Touko added, “There was definitely something strange about those old guys. There’s gotta be something behind it.”
Lightning struck again. A light post exploded, sending an intense tunnel of wind across the pitch. When the wind died down, the team noticed a boy standing atop one of the goals. He had long red hair braided behind his back, and wore a white full-body soccer uniform and an orange band around his arm. Small wings came out of his back.
The angel walked towards Rika. “I’ve come to retrieve you.” He placed his hand on her forehead. The light in her eyes faded, and she allowed him to carry her in his arms.
Another bolt of lightning flashed, this time charring a nearby tree. On the opposite goal stood a boy with a lion’s mane of brown hair, a black outfit that exposed his arms and knees, and small bat wings on his back. He looked to be the angel’s equal and opposite—and the demon laughed.
"Leave this place at once!“ shouted the angel at the demon.
“Tch! When Demon’s Gate freezes over!” responded the demon. “This time, the Demon Lord will rise, and we of Hell Army Z will rule the new earth with an iron fist!”
"You wicked creatures have no right to tread upon holy ground. We of the Messengers of the Sky will cast judgement upon you lot right here and right now!”
“Messengers of the Sky…?” Hijikata piped in. “Hell Army Z…? You mean you’re actually angels and demons!?”
“Can it, humans!” shouted the demon. “If you don’t, I’ll eat your souls!” He turned towards the angel and said, “Holy, my ass. Your insults have gotten terrible, Sein.”
"Ugh, Desuta,” said the angel, apparently named Sein, “you never cease to irritate me. I’ll have you know that I am above pettiness such as insults.”
Desuta smiled at Fubuki and grabbed his arm. “Hey, sacrifice, get a load of this guy:” He pointed to Sein and said, in a mockingly high voice: “'I am above insults, you barbarian!’ I’m a jerk, sure, but at least I’m not a hypocrite about it.”
“What do you mean ‘sacrifice’!? Let go of me!” Although Fubuki’s hands were shaking, he couldn’t help but glare at Desuta. In fact, he took his free arm and punched Desuta right in the face.
“Ack!” cried Desuta. He grabbed Fubuki’s other arm before he could try that again. Fubuki responded by kicking the demon’s side with all the might expected of a soccer player, but it only sent him to his knees. “Heh… Looks like you’ve got some fight in you. Should help pass the time.”
“Stay away from him!” Kidou got up and began running towards Fubuki, but before he could reach him, Desuta had kicked a soccer ball into his stomach and knocked him down again.
“Kidou-kun!” shouted Fubuki. He started towards his friend, but before he could get anywhere, Desuta grabbed him from the opposite side, tossed him to the ground, and pinned him there by his arms and legs, forcing eye contact between them.
“You’ve been chosen by hell.” The demon’s eyes flashed purple straight into his captive’s.
The pupils and light faded from Fubuki’s eyes. His hair drooped a bit. He didn’t even notice when Desuta swept him into his arms. It was like a trance—no, it was a trance. He felt himself slipping away. He could see his vision blurring. His thoughts grew groggier by the second. All sound muffled and faded from his ears.
(Why…?) he thought. (I should have been able to defend myself! How could he beat me so easily!? … It must be my fault. It’s because something went wrong somewhere down the line, all my friends are in trouble. I can’t stand for this. I have to be absolutely…)
He heard a laugh. It sounded identical to Fubuki’s own, but harsher in tone. It was a laugh he hadn’t heard in at least three months, yet was just as familiar to him as it was before.
(Perfect… Is that what you were going to say? You have to be absolutely perfect?) said the other Fubuki’s voice. (So then, it’s power you want, right? The power to help your friends crush this bastard that curb-stomped an entire soccer team? You may be helpless right now, but it can’t end here and you know it. Compared to immobility, anything is better.)
(Atsuya!?) He tried to speak, but his mouth wouldn’t move. Not that anyone else needed to hear him now, anyway. (But I thought you were–…!)
(Gone?) said the other Fubuki’s voice. (Please. Just because you accepted me doesn’t mean I’m not a part of you.)
(But—but I really don’t understand!) shouted Shirou. (How come you… how come you came back!? I thought I merged with you! And now you’re offering me power!?)
(Well,) pondered Atsuya, (I’m in a good mood, so I’ll tell you! That Desuta bastard over there had the bright idea to hypnotize Shirou goddamn Fubuki, and now he’s gonna pay for it! That’s all.)
(…! So, hypnosis was all it took…?)
(Well, maybe not all, but what do I know? What I do know is that you’re stuck here, entirely helpless, while everyone around you—your friends, your loved ones, everyone– is struggling to fight. Doesn’t that piss you off? Doesn’t that sound familiar? It should.)
Fubuki wanted to gasp. (Are you implying…?!)
(That guy mentioned a sacrifice, right? Just looking at him, I can tell that can’t mean anything good. Oh, and I conveniently forgot to mention that time’s running out. You can have me crush your enemies, or you can wait for them to crush everyone else. Take it or leave it.)
Now Fubuki simply wanted to sigh. (Even if I say no, you’ll just keep fighting him and ruining everything anyway. But I suppose having you do something is better than watching everything disappear before my eyes. Let’s get this over with.)
“OW!” Desuta cried. He soon noticed that his captive had hit him in the head with his knee, and was now grabbing onto the demon’s arms.
“Chosen…?” muttered the boy. “As if I’d just give whatever crap you want from me.” His eyes turned gold. His hair spiked up even further. He kicked the demon again and dropped out of his grasp.
“The hell!?” cried Desuta. “I had you hypnotized! You shouldn’t be doing anything!”
“His eyes… Is… is that seriously…!?” muttered Kidou. “I thought he disappeared!”
Fubuki laughed as he stood up and stared down Desuta. “Kiss my ass, you punk kid! I don’t know what you want from me, but it’s nothing I want anything to do with, that’s for sure!”
“I haven’t seen him this high-strung since we fought Aliea…” observed Touko.
“… Huh!?” asked Fideo Ardena, a boy from Italy’s national team with short brown hair. “What do you mean, ‘since’? And what’s Aliea?”
“It’s a long story,” said Touko, “I’ll tell you later. But the fact that he could break out of hypnosis should mean…” Her arm and legs caused great pain as she tried to stand up, and in the end, she couldn’t do it quite yet. “Rika! Hey, Rika!! Can you hear me!?“ With gritted teeth, she turned towards the other supposed chosen one. “Fubuki! Why aren’t you helping Rika!?”
“Because,” Fubuki smirked, “I’ll get to her eventually. Point is, I’m free! Free to wreak as much havoc as I want!”
Pinned to a chainlink fence, Desuta stared at Fubuki with an uncharacteristic look of dread. Nails pierced into his chest– the nubs of the boy’s soccer cleats. He tried to hypnotize Fubuki again, and his eyes faded into blue, only to be quickly pierced by gold again. He tried yet again, to the same result.
"Yeah,” asserted Fubuki, “that won’t work on me, you little shit. I’m just too damn awesome.”
Desuta was brushed aside, kicked up into the wind metaphorically and literally. He was kicked again, this time from the side. He felt… things—were they blades? — grilling into his arms, legs, and back. From the corner of his eye, he could’ve sworn he saw… lasers? Is that what humans were calling them these days? How did Desuta know that, having been sealed away for the past one thousand years?
"Wolf Legend!“ Fubuki howled. Desuta couldn’t think of an answer in time. A single intense kick sent him careening past the soccer pitch and in the ground below a nearby forest.
"Stuck with an uncooperative sacrifice, are you? Sucks to be you.” Sein teleported away with his teal-haired chosen maiden in his arms.
"Well,“ proclaimed Fubuki, "another victory for Atsuya goddamn– ah, HEY!” Something grabbed his arm. It was a woman with short green hair, in an outfit similar to Desuta’s. “Where the hell did you come from!?”
“From Hell, as a matter of fact,” said the diabolus ex machina. “We of Hell Army Z are extremely efficient in our backup. Look above you.”
Not one, not two, but several demons in the same black outfit leaped out of the forest. “Take care of the others,” ordered the green-haired demon. “We leave on my cue.” The legions spread out amongst the FFI participants, blocking them from Fubuki at every turn.
“Gravitation!” shouted the green-haired demon. This time, it didn’t even take a heavy object or person to pin Fubuki to the ground.
(What do you think you’re doing!?) He could hear Shirou crying out in his mindscape. (Thanks for helping me break out of the hypnosis, but now I can handle this without you!)
(No you can’t!) Atsuya hadn’t changed nearly as much as Shirou would have liked. (Look how easily you fell to Desuta’s hypnosis in the first place! There’s no indication he can’t do it again, either. Besides, the very reason you’re here is because you decided to take some junk off a friend’s hands! … Although, I must admit, it is a rather cool piece of junk. You can’t let them down any more, Shirou. I’ll make sure you don’t. I thought we made that clear.)
"Took me long enough,“ moaned Desuta, limping out of the tunnel that was made for him. "Thanks for the cover, guys. Now to deal with this spunky bastard.”
"Is this… all it takes… to… beat me?“ muttered Atsuya, looking up at Desuta. "Tch… as if. I don’t know what you want with me, but I’m having none of it. Is that clear?”
"As the world’s rarest pair of glasses.“
"What does that even–” Something hit Fubuki in the head, and his vision went black.