The wings are not black like a Reaper’s, nor white as Josh had described them. Instead, they’re an ugly, foggy grey, blurred around the edges as though being eaten away by an invisible force. There’s bleeding scabs lining the bony parts, and gaping holes where feathers had once grown. As for the feathers themselves, they’re pressed down slickly, matted down enough to prevent flight.
Neku takes this in with a glance, but what catches his eye is not the grotesque proof of Shibuya’s abuse. Because framed by the wings are eyes glaring midnight blue, orange hair gelled up in spikes, and a pair of headphones around his neck.
This other person... is him.
In the split second Joshua had let his guard down, the other Neku has him pinned to the ground, spears of ice erupting from the ground to hold him in place. Stepping back, he stares half-heartedly at Joshua, encircling Neku with a ring of fire when he tries to help.
Neku panics. Joshua’s not moving, immobilized by the sharp edges of the ice. He can hear Rhyme yelling, and he prays Sho knows when to retreat because they don’t stand a chance against someone who can take down the Composer this easily.
The other glances his way, taking a step towards the flames.
“Why do you care so much about them?” His voice is scratchy, hoarse, as though it hadn’t been used in a while, although it seems he has retained the sharp, sarcastic tone. “People are liars and traitors. We could be so much stronger on our own.” His face remains passively apathetic, but the scorn in his voice is obvious.
“Who the hell are you?” Neku shouts, fists clenching.
“I’m you. The more powerful, superior version of you, from a world where everyone is alone.”
“What kind of world is that?!” Neku snaps, fingers inching into his pocket for his pins. Perhaps he can catch the other off guard, make an opening to escape...
“The best kind,” the other shoots back. “No conflict, no misunderstandings, no lying and pain. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful world?”
“You’re crazy,” Joshua grits out from behind him, face painfully mashed against the paved concrete road. The other Neku kicks him, wings flapping with irritation. A few feathers fall out, spiraling to the ground.
The heat of the flames surrounding him is nothing in comparison to the absolute searing pain of this... other Neku hurting Joshua.
“See? He’s weak.” The other turns to Neku. “But you, you’re not.” He smirks slightly, eyes blazing with intensity. “How about we play a game?”
“What?” Neku asks, startled.
“You have seven days to kill him. Kill him, or let me kill him and inherit the power to destroy this world.”
“Joshua?! I’m not going to kill him!” Neku’s head is spinning a little at the mere thought, of killing his own partner, thoughts of that first week with Shiki swimming through his head.
“Then prepare to say goodbye to your beloved city. I’ll give you a week to change your mind.” The other’s wings stiffen as he jumps up, starting to fly away.
Letting out a cry, Neku unleashes a barrage of nearby vending machines and bicycles. The other simply makes a face as he’s surrounded by a dark barrier, effortlessly deflecting Neku’s attack. He soars up over the top of 104 and disappears from view, the fire and ice vanishing along with him.
As soon as he realizes the path is cleared, Neku rushes over to Joshua, who has gingerly worked his way to a crouching position. His eyes are wide with fear.
“Josh, I’m not going to harm you,” Neku reaches out with trembling hands and a hurt voice, only for Joshua to flinch away.
“I’m sorry, Neku,” he whispers. Then, in the blink of an eye, he vanishes into thin air.