Chapter 1: Anomaly
There was a loud ‘thump’ in the narrow alleyway when Yamato’s back slammed into the ground at what felt like terminal velocity.
A cat that had been digging into an upturned trash can yowled and sprinted off into the street nearby, its paws splashing into the tiny puddles of suspicious fluid as it did so. Yamato just remained on the ground, his eyes staring upwards at the towering buildings blankly before he abruptly sat up.
“Oh. Well this is strange.”
He climbed to his feet, only for his knees to wobble dangerously. Yamato hurriedly sat back down on the floor, pulling his knees close to his chest before pressing his forehead against them. The smell of rot and wastes was thick around him, but he ignored it for now. He could hear the bustle of people behind him, and there was no evidence of them sounding distressed or frightened.
Yamato lifted his head to stare at his hands. His gloves were white, but slightly dirtied by mud and soot, leaving it a grimy grey in some areas. His coat, a casual blue fur-trimmed affair, also had muddy smears on the black surface, as well as a few rips and tears here and there.
Yamato dropped his hands and stared at the wall.
That shouldn’t be possible.
How was he here in the past timeline’s body? He should’ve leapt directly into this Yamato’s body when arriving.
Maybe there was a mistake?
Maybe he was in the same timeline?
Yamato tried climbing to his feet again, groaning softly at the pain that throbbed up the entirety of his body from the movement. He stumbled once he got to his feet, leaning heavily against the slimy alleyway wall. He felt nauseous, and woozy, which was understandable. Those were common symptoms of leaping between parallels.
He was uncertain of how long he had remained there, slumped against the alleyway wall trying not to throw up over his boots, but the nausea slowly subsided enough for him to take a few, tottering steps towards the street at the end of the alleyway.
It was early evening. The sky was lit up in multi-coloured glows from all the street signs and lights, and the street was clogged with pedestrians and traffic. Yamato didn’t allow himself to be swept up in disorientation though, and immediately set off to the closest convenience store to find a newspaper or something. He had found in the last few timelines that simply asking what year or date it was tended to have people stare at you in concern.
Thankfully Yamato had money in his coat pocket, carelessly stuffed there and forgotten about in favour of more pressing issues. Newspapers were cheap, as people tended to use the internet to check the news, so Yamato bought himself a bottle of water as well to help his head clear a little. It felt odd purchasing things like this was a normal.
He stood underneath the awning of the shop as he sipped on his water, his eyes skimming the front of the newspaper. June 10th 2012. Yamato smiled a little. Oh, it was his birthday.
Hm, that meant he had exactly a month to prepare for what was to come. A bit shorter than usual, but he had a plan this time. Well he had plans the last few times too, but Yamato had gathered data upon data upon data, as well as a more intimate knowledge on the Dragon Stream’s ability – as well as expanding his own experience in magic and demons. So he had an exceptionally good plan this time.
Yamato had read this paper in thirty two timelines already, so he tossed it into the nearby trashcan without another look. If he remembered, June 10thwas when he was in Osaka. Well, he wasn’t in Osaka by the looks of it. In fact he could see the Skytree in the distance, so he was in Tokyo.
Weird. He hadn’t been anywhere near Tokyo on this day.
Of course there was the question of why he was in his past timeline’s body. He turned to frown himself in the window of the convenience store. The light cast enough of a reflection for him to scrutinise his appearance. His hair was shorter than it usually was, only by a few inches, and he had traded his coat for a more practical and warmer fur-trimmed one with two buttons per row deal.
Yamato felt his lip curl slightly. He looked a bit different from his old self, didn’t he?
He turned away from the window, lifting the bottle of water to his lips and chugging it down in several large gulps. He tossed that too into the trashcan when he was done.
June 10th. June 10th. Different bodies or not, Yamato’s goal was the same. He had a plan this time, and it would definitely work. It would definitely. This strange difference in timelines was making him optimistic!
If, theoretically, there were now two Yamato Hotsuins, the original and the time duplicate, then there was double the chance. He just had to make sure to lead himself in this timeline to do what he wanted without making him realise it was him.
Him who was leading him to do what he himself wanted.
Yamato stepped out from under the shop’s awning and meandered aimlessly down the street. He would have to adjust his plan accordingly though, since if there were two versions of him, he couldn’t simply do what he wanted as Chief Hotsuin. He was cut off from important resources. However, those resources never really changed anything, so maybe he was better off without them.
“So what would my first plan of action be?” Yamato asked himself aloud. He then replied to his own question.
“Oh, perhaps we should begin collecting the data.”
“No, why should we have to investigate it ourselves? It’ll end up being a repeat of timeline thirty nine.”
“Right, that makes sense. How about we lead JP’s to the first infection site?”
“We could, possibly, but that is what we did with timeline three.”
“My mistake. Then perhaps…”
“Perhaps…” Yamato murmured under his breath, staring down at his boots as he walked.
Then staggered to a halt when he crashed into someone.
There was a yelp and a thud, followed by several other thuds of boxes hitting the ground. Yamato lifted his head to see a dark haired young man groaning on the floor, boxes that were taped shut scattering the ground around him. There was dark marker scrawled on the side of the boxes ‘Hiro Kageyama’.
“Owwww…” Hiro slowly picked himself up off the floor, wincing as he looked at his scraped palms. “Ouch ouch…” he blew on the injured skin, peeking up at Yamato with sheepish blue eyes. “Sorry, are you okay? I didn’t see you past the boxes.”
Yamato stared mutely at him.
This never happened.
This never happened in any timelines before.
He never met Hiro Kageyama before June 23rd. He never…
“Hey…” Hiro’s expression faded into concern. “Are you alright…? Say, have I met you somewhere before?”
Through great force of will, Yamato forced himself to speak.
“No. We’ve never met.”
“Oh. Well, sorry about that,” Hiro said, still frowning up at him. His face was scrunched up slightly, as if he was trying to recall something from far off into the past. Yamato evaded his piercing blue eyes, and automatically moved to bend down, righting up some of the boxes and stacking them up. There were only three, but it was enough to hinder Hiro’s sight when carrying them.
“Do you need help carrying these?”
“What?” Hiro picked himself up off the ground. “Oh! Really? It’d be so helpful if you did!”
“Yes, it’s fine. I have nothing else to do.”
Hiro was still giving him that frown. Yamato wasn’t really that alarmed by it. Every timeline he leapt to, except for the sole one which ended in complete failure, always happened after everyone rallied behind Shijima, demanding Polaris to restore the world. Time had gone funny in that moment, he had learned after the tenth timeline. Time moved forwards, it could not go backwards, so what Polaris did was fold the timeline over, like making a loop with a piece of string.
Polaris forced time to double back on itself, so it still technically went forward, but that was something not even Yamato could do, even with the power of the Dragon Stream. But anyway, what Polaris did meant that what had happened still happened, so memories of that week were still there, under the surface, with all of those involved.
“I’m Hiro, Hiro Kageyama,” the brunet spoke up after a pause. Yamato picked up the final box, and looked at him. “So…what’s your name?”
What was his name? He could claim to be Yamato Hotsuin, but he was a well-known figure in this world. Yamato looked a bit different from him, and it would raise strange questions when Hiro finally met Chief Yamato in two more weeks.
Besides, Yamato Hotsuin always failed.
Yamato stacked the box atop of the other two, smoothing his dirtied glove over the top of the box. That was right. Yamato Hotsuin never saved Hiro Kageyama. He failed in everything.
“Blue?” Hiro smiled in bemusement. “Just Blue?”
“Just Blue,” Yamato smiled back, picking up the top box and shoving it into Hiro’s arms. The brunet squawked in surprise, and Yamato stooped down to pick up the other two boxes, holding them in his arms easily. “It’s a nice colour.”
“Yeah.” If Hiro knew it was an obviously fake name, he thankfully didn’t ask about it. He just smiled in that gentle way of his, adjusted the box in his arms, and said, “It’s nice to meet you, Blue.”
“…it’s nice to meet you as well, Hiro,” Yamato said, and he said those words with every ounce of sincerity he possessed.
It’s nice to meet you alive and well and smiling. It’s nice to meet you before everything happened and before the inevitable occurred.
It’s nice to meet you when I can save you this time.
Hiro’s smile turned bemused again, and this time edged with concern. “Well, I’m going this way. I’m moving in with a friend of mine. Do you live nearby?”
“Hmm, well Daichi isn’t here until tomorrow, so maybe you can stay over.”
“You would let a complete stranger into your home?”
“Yeah. You look like you need to just crash somewhere safe for one night.”
Yamato was forever stunned by how perceptive and kind Hiro was. No matter which timeline it was, Hiro always remained the constant, and normally that would make him dull, wouldn’t it? But no, it was a relief. Hiro was always Hiro, he was always the same, so when Yamato saved him he will definitely be Hiro.
“Besides, I need a slave to help me unpack! Mwahahah~”
Yamato felt his lips twitch into a fond smile. “Mm, well my services as a slave are for sale - so long as you pay me in takoyaki.”
“Ehhhh? What a specific way of payment! Alright, well, there’s a store that sells it not far from my new apartment, so we can go there once we’re done.”
Hiro was smiling at him, his eyes lit up under the glare of the streetlight. Yamato could only stare at him in wonder. Fifty eighth. The fifty eighth timeline was the one. It had to be. Too many new things in one timelines. He would, he would-!
“It sounds like a plan.”
He would save him this time.
Chapter 2: Insanity
Yamato completely fucks up, and Alcor tells him so.
Yamato woke up with a start.
Alcor was peering down at him, his hair slightly aglow from the streetlights outside seeping through the open window. Yamato settled back down against the bed, his heart pounding a little from surprise, and threw his arm over his eyes to block out the sight of the Septentrione. “…don’t startle me like that.”
There was a creak when Alcor settled on the edge of the bed, and Yamato strained his hearing. The apartment was a bit creaky, and the walls a bit thin, but he doubted he would wake up Hiro if he spoke quietly enough.
“You have found Shining One before the date.”
“You probably knew he was here in every timeline.”
Yamato sighed and pushed himself up. He had discarded his coat – Hiro offered to wash it and his gloves when realising how dirty they were – and was simply sitting in a navy blue, long sleeved shirt and dark trousers.
“You keep things from us too much. How are we going to save Hiro if you keep clinging information close to your chest? I thought you wanted to save your precious Shining One?”
“I do. However meeting Shining One before the date would not have changed the outcomes in the past timelines.”
Yamato tensed suddenly, his entire body as taut as a rubber band about to snap. “What?” he hissed. “Will he-”
“Calm, Yamato Hotsuin. You are two separate entities within this timeline, so your meeting of him here has not doomed him.”
The tension drained out of him so quickly he almost went completely limp, his eyes losing their crazed edge. “Ah, good…” Yamato stared at the door, feeling Alcor’s gaze settle heavily on him. “We would have hated having to kill him again.”
Alcor shifted his weight. “There is a problem.”
“Mm? Oh, is it about the duplication?”
“Yes,” Alcor pressed his hand against his mouth, his gaze troubled. “I have told you that each time you leap your soul becomes denser with each Yamato Hotsuin you assimilate.”
“We know,” Yamato said flatly, his eyes rolling a little. “You have told us every timeline. It is getting a bit tiring, heretic. “ Pause. “However he does bring up a good point about us.” A quiet aggravated sigh. “That is so, but we do not need to hear it each time.”
Yamato jerked his head slightly, as if trying to dislodge an irritating fly near his ear. “He holds necessary information so be quiet. I want to listen to him without your ramblings.”
Alcor calmly spoke when Yamato gazed at him expectantly after the minor outburst. “You have committed a grave error.”
“Our entire leaping journey is a grave error according to you,” Yamato growled. “But I am assuming you are referring to our body…oh this is the problem you mentioned.”
“Yes. After obtaining fifty seven beings within one soul, it has become too dense to completely compress and detach from that body.”
Yamato was quiet for a moment.
“I see. But it has compressed…”
“You are in a dilemma, Yamato Hotsuin. The soul is compressed, but it cannot detach or decompress back into that body. You have trapped it in a stable form, and considering the density from the amount in there…”
“As well as the multiple Dragon Streams tied up in it… Oh, well no matter. This has worked out well to our advantage. We can be in two places at once. Original Yamato did well up until the end, so we will allow this Yamato to do what he wants until then. We will protect Hiro separately.”
“The timeline will be unknown to you if you take this route.”
“We know. It is better that way.”
Alcor stood up, and Yamato leaned back against the bed, smiling happily. Yes, he had a new plan. One that would work. It had to work. Fifty seven Dragon Streams, fifty seven minds compressed into one, a body able to withstand all of that and not fall apart…
What was Alcor saying, it was a mistake? This was a miracle.
“You are aware that your presence is making this timeline unstable?”
Ugh, Yamato thought he would have left already.
“Yes, well aware. I and we are well aware. Two physical bodies cannot occupy the same stream. If the timeline manages to hold itself until the end, I will balance it out by killing this timeline’s Yamato.”
If Alcor disapproved, he did not say.
“…As you wish. I will go to adjust the Akashic records.”
“What,” Yamato interrupted suddenly, pushing himself up into sitting position, “Is Polaris’s stance on this? We- I am surprised he has not attempted to edit me out of existence yet.”
Alcor hesitated briefly. “Deleting your data would make Yamato Hotsuin of all infinite timelines be deleted. That would cause more problems than your time-leaping does. Polaris also believes that you would bring about your own eventual destruction, so there is no reason for him to get involved.”
“Ah, so there will be no difficulty on that front,” Yamato hummed, looking pleased.
Alcor gave him a mildly exasperated look. “…You had an opportunity to stop before this, Yamato Hotsuin.”
“Stop?” Yamato laughed hollowly, grinning up at the Septentrione. “There is no stopping. We are so close…”
“If that is what you believe…” Alcor murmured, “Then I will not argue against you. I will warn you not to interact too much with this timeline’s Yamato Hotsuin.” There was a pause. “However, I feel that you will do so anyway.”
“Yes. He may do whatever he wishes, however futile. But I want to talk to him. Something important.”
Alcor said no more and simply vanished in a shimmer of blue, leaving Yamato staring up at the ceiling with an expression of complete and utter hatred.
Hiro yawned quietly as he fumbled with his hoodie. It was so early in the morning, but he wanted to finish unpacking before Daichi got here, and he had to deal with his impromptu guest, Blue. It was obvious that that was a fake name, but Hiro didn’t really want to try and pry the truth out of him.
Blue looked pretty fragile to him, in terms of mentality, and although most people would want to get away from the potential crazy as quickly as possible, Hiro simply wanted to help him. He remembered how Blue had stared at him with complete anguish, as if something was tearing him apart from the inside out.
Aha, he sounded somewhat poetic, didn’t he?
Hiro moved out of his bedroom, which immediately placed him into the living room of the apartment. It was pretty small, but him and Daichi didn’t need much space. He could see into the kitchen from his position though, and he saw Blue sitting at the breakfast counter, simply staring at the wall with an expression of complete emptiness.
…kind of creepy.
“Good morning, Blue!” Hiro chirped, making sure to make enough noise moving across the living room to ensure he didn’t startle his temporary house guest.
Blue turned to look at him, his expression quickly changing into one of happiness. Hiro wasn’t sure why he looked so happy just to see him – in his blue pyjamas mind you – but at least he didn’t look so scarily blank anymore. Oh wait, he said blue was his favourite colour, didn’t he? It must be so strange to have a colour flip your mood so suddenly like that.
“Good morning,” Blue greeted him.
“What were you up to?” Hiro asked, moving past him to turn the coffee machine off. A subtle sweep of the kitchen told him that his guest hadn’t touched anything, and it seemed like he had been up for a while. Had he really been sitting in his kitchen staring at the wall for who knows how long?
Hiro realised he wasn’t getting anything more than that. “Do you want a coffee?”
“…” Blue’s eyes flickered to the side slightly, sliding out of focus before abruptly snapping back to Hiro. “Yes.”
Hiro watched him as he made the coffee. Blue slowly turned back to staring at the wall, barely even moving. Hiro doubted he was even breathing, well, his shoulders weren’t moving all that much and neither was he blinking either. It was really creepy, to be honest, but Hiro didn’t let it bother him.
Grey eyes snapped to him intently.
“Do you have milk or sugar?”
“…four spoons of sugar.”
“You got a sweet tooth?” Hiro teased gently, trying to draw Blue out of his little shell. “I do too. I love cakes and stuff.”
For a moment, it seemed like Blue wasn’t going to take the bait, but then he said; “Yes. I enjoy confectionary and desserts as well.”
Hiro smiled encouragingly, scooping sugar into Blue’s coffee. “What else do you like?”
“…what else do we- I…” Blue stumbled strangely, his eyes sliding out of focus again, but he shook his head. “I- not many things.”
“You like the colour blue,” Hiro said, moving over to the breakfast counter. “Do you have, like, a favourite animal? Book?”
“Animal or book…? No, not particularly…” Blue paused, his eyebrows furrowing slightly, “No I did, but…it’s all buried underitallitdoesn’tmatter…”
Hiro squinted slightly, his house guest’s voice dropping to a low, unintelligible murmur, but he dropped the subject. Blue was staring at his coffee with an expression of mild frustration, so he felt it safe to back off for now.
They sat at the breakfast bar in silence, Hiro sipping his coffee and peering at Blue from the corner of his eye. His house guest just stared at the coffee.
“Sooo…what do you do?”
“…do…?” Blue stirred, lifting his gaze up to look about himself in disorientation. “…oh. Oh, we do- I do many things.”
“A jack-of-all trades, huh?” Hiro tilted his head. “How old are you, anyway?”
Blue paused, suddenly looking a bit bewildered. “We’re I…I am…” he seemed to struggle himself with a moment before his expression calmed and he nodded slightly. “…Eight…teen?”
He didn’t sound very sure. Hiro frowned.
“Eighteen?” he asked gently.
“Yes, yes I am eighteen.”
“Huh, you’re younger than me, then,” Hiro smiled. “I’m nineteen. I just got into university.”
“University…are you taking, was it…psychology?”
Hiro started a little. “Uh, yeah? How’d you know?”
“…” Blue’s gaze flickered across the room restlessly. “You seem like someone who would excel in that area.”
“Oh, well, yeah. I enjoy talking to people and helping them with their problems,” Hiro smiled. “Sometimes it makes me seem a bit pushy though, ehe.”
“No you’re…not pushy. It is fine.”
Blue was frowning, staring at him intently. Hiro was a bit bemused at such a reaction. “Um, okay. Do you have anywhere to go?”
“…I have things to do…” Blue said reluctantly. “Yes, yes plenty of things. We- I, will…” he floundered for a moment, turning his head to stare at the doorway leading to the living room.
“You can come back any time you want to,” Hiro said gently. “I really don’t mind. I’d like to talk to you again, Blue.”
“…yes,” Blue seemed to settle, his expression calming. “I will return then, if it is alright.”
“Yup! You were a great help last night,” Hiro smiled. “Plus me and Daichi don’t know anyone in this area, so having a friend nearby would be great.”
Blue smiled back, and it was the saddest thing Hiro had ever seen. “…yes. I must go.” He abruptly stood, leaving his untouched coffee behind. “Goodbye.”
Blue was out of the kitchen before Hiro could finish his surprised farewell, and he heard the scrape of the door as it opened. Hiro frowned when it closed, tapping his fingers against the counter. That had been the weirdest encounter with anyone yet, but…he couldn’t help but feel that something important had happened…
Blue…what a strange person…
“Do we have anything on the anomaly that occurred yesterday evening?”
Yamato frowned down at the report in his hands. In it was a mess of lines and equations that were pure gibberish to a normal person, but to the Chief of JP’s, it told a bizarre story. Yesterday, he had been in Osaka, and something this large happens while he was away without anyone knowing the cause of it.
A massive influx of energy had occurred in Arakawa-ku. It was a rather plain ward, the only special thing about it being the river cutting through it. Demons appeared there every so often, but nothing this powerful. From the readings and data collected, something had warped time and space itself for the whole of five seconds.
In those five seconds, something had entered their world.
It wasn’t known if it was demonic or something else, but the energy given off was astronomically strong. Yamato could even sense it here, deep within JP’s, a prickle of energy that crawled over him like a legion of ants. It made him feel uneasy, and everyone else felt the same; shifting uncomfortably and glancing over their shoulders every so often.
Its power was so smothering it was difficult to pinpoint the source.
“It seems all we can do is to wait for this creature to reveal itself,” Yamato muttered. “We will have to be on high alert until then. Have everyone prepared for contact with a powerful, unidentified entity at all times – trawl the internet for anyone claiming to see some bizarre monster of some sort. Investigate whichever claims seem the most likely.”
“Yes, sir!” Makoto nodded and hurried off to fulfil his orders. Yamato snapped the report’s folder shut, and rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. He hated to admit it, but a feeling of foreboding felt like it was threatening to crush him. Sometime unfortunate was about to happen.
No matter. If there was a threat, Yamato would defeat it.
That was his duty, after all.
Chapter 3: Abomination
Makoto couldn’t move. Those grey eyes were staring at her. Something was wrong. It was wrong. That thing in front of her was wrong.
The harbour was thick with fog that evening, and Makoto had never felt more unguarded in her life as she cautiously made her way down the spaces between the large metal containers. Tonight was when the ships were normally sent off with their wares, but the harbour was unusually quiet. Normally it would be alive with activity, loading and unloading the ships, filled with people and the groan of machinery but…
Two days had gone by after the ‘Anomaly’, as they called it. The mysterious creature that had torn through the very fabric of their reality itself had buried itself beneath the bustle of the city, able to be sensed, but stirring up no trouble. The quiet had worried them more than if it had simply began to rage about, since this quiet hinted at intelligence, and intelligence coupled with power was always a bad combination in an enemy.
But then some dock workers had thrown up a massive panic, crying that monsters had suddenly attacked a certain shipment, and every JP’s members available for combat were immediately sent. Normally, for a small scale demon attack, only two or three members were sent, but lately…
Chief wasn’t taken any chances. He himself was in the area, but Makoto didn’t dare call out to any of her comrades. The fog blanketed every sound, and she didn’t want to draw supernatural attention to herself – as demons were rarely hindered by such things as fog.
The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end, and a persistent itch scratched between her shoulder blades. She was being watched, she knew it, but she knew better than to lash out wildly. She continued forwards, her boots echoing oddly in the silvery haze surrounding her, with her fingers curled so tightly around her phone she could hear its plastic casing creak in protest.
The metal containers stopped, and Makoto paused when she stepped onto the wide stretch of concrete where the lorries parked to drop off their wares. She could see the dark shapes on either side, one the warehouses and the other the ship, sitting heavily in the water.
‘…Sako? Have you spotted anything yet?’
Chief’s voice was interrupted with static, and Makoto frowned as she pressed a finger against the earpiece. Something had been interfering with communications all night – it even affected their phones. “Nothing yet, sir. However, there is something nearby.”
‘Understood. Finish your investigation. Then return to the rendezvous point.’
The line went dead, and Makoto inhaled deeply before striding out into the wide, open area. The fog cleared a little, the wind coming off the sea sweeping it away, and Makoto scanned the area coldly. There was one upturned lorry, Makoto wasn’t sure if it was being loaded up or unloaded when attacked, its carrier doors ripped right off and thrown several metres away from the vehicle. There were even splatters of blood, but no bodies. Some men reported that others had been missing during the attack, and them being dead was a high possibility, but no one had reported coming across any corpses yet.
It was strange that the demons would attack this one lorry though. Everything else was practically untouched.
Makoto edged slowly towards the vehicle, her phone held up and prepared to fire off a Ziodyne at a moment’s notice. Letting off lightning in an area containing such moisture in the air, as well as metal, was foolish, however the fog would dampen the power of Agidyne spells, Bufudyne and Zandyne would not be spotted easily by her comrades, and Ziodyne was both powerful and flashy.
A particularly cutting wind howled at her, and she paused, tensing up. The wind merely died down, and Makoto continued forth, reaching the upturned vehicle. She breathed deeply and calmly as she slowly peeked inside the lorry.
The interior of the lorry was badly damaged, with great gouges torn into the metal walls and blackened with scorch marks, but whatever had been in the vehicle was gone. No boxes, no documents, no anything.
Did the demons steal whatever was inside? Or had its contents already been placed into the ship? Makoto pulled back and looked at the license plate, still intact, thankfully, and quickly memorised it to question the dock manager with later. Something important had been in that lorry, so what-
Makoto spun around quickly and fired off a Ziodyne. The sky rumbled before splitting open with a roar, a bolt of lightning smashing into the concrete. The light, blinding as it was, dispersed the fog for one moment and – Makoto would see numerous glowing eyes glowering at her, and all of them belonged to Fenrir.
A pack of Fenrir?
Makoto didn’t have time to think. As soon as the lightning bolt faded the beasts howled, and lunged out of the swirling fog, their fangs glinting in the weak moonlight and eyes a demonic gold. Makoto was already summoning her allies, Pallas Athena and Orochi, narrowing avoiding the snapping jaws of one Fenrir by throwing herself towards the floor.
She rolled, and the previously quiet dock exploded with screams and magic. She hauled herself to her feet and shot out another Ziodyne, staggering back a step when something heavy slammed into her side – but Pallas Athena was there a moment later, impaling a squealing Fenrir at the end of her spear, black blood spurting across the cracked concrete.
“Sir!” Makoto shouted, wincing when the earpiece let out a high pitched ring of static. “There is a pack of Fenrir, in the open-”
The chaos abruptly halted, the pack of Fenrir frozen in place. Makoto herself stilled, obeying the command without consciously knowing why. Even her demons were frozen, but their heads were turned, looking up towards the upturned vehicle. Makoto slowly followed their gazes.
At first, Makoto wondered if the Chief had been closer to her position than she thought. The fog had dispersed enough for the moonlight to shine down directly on the figure standing atop of the vehicle. It looked uncannily like the Chief, but the longer she stared at him, the longer she could see everything wrong with him.
His hair was a bit shorter, perhaps by an inch, and he wasn’t wearing his decorated military coat. Instead a rather tattered, fur-trimmed coat was thrown over an unhealthily thin body, with scuffed trousers and cracked leather boots. His face, however…it was identical to the Chief’s, even if the skin was so pale it was bordering on grey, and dark, purple bruises were smeared underneath dull grey eyes.
‘Sako? Sako! What is happening? Report!’
Makoto couldn’t move. Those grey eyes were staring at her. She didn’t know why this half-dead looking man terrified her so much, but something within her was screaming at her to flee this instant. Something was wrong. It was wrong. That thing in front of her was wrong. She had to run away. She had to run away…
“We miscalculated…” the man spoke up, sounding a bit annoyed. His eyebrows lowered, and his expression of displeasure was so similar to the Chief’s it was disturbing. “Of course they would send JP’s. They are more aware of demons now, aren’t they?”
The man sighed. “Ah, yes, I forgot some key details. That’s a problem. It gets harder to remember them with each jump.”
“Yeah, but it’s unforgivable to forget something like that,” the man abruptly scoffed, rolling his eyes at nothing in particular.
Makoto stared. Was he- was he talking to himself?
“Makoto Sako,” the man said suddenly, his eyes focusing intently on her. She swallowed. How did he know her name? “What- did you see? How long have you been here?”
Makoto glanced around her. The Fenrir were staring at her hungrily now, and she realised that they were under this mysterious man’s command. She squared her shoulders. The earpiece was letting out staticy whines, and she wondered if this man’s proximity was what was causing it go haywire.
“We are investigating the attack against the dock workers that happened roughly two hours ago,” Makoto sound firmly. “If you are the culprit, I have to ask you to dismiss your demons and come quietly into custody. If you resist I cannot guarantee your safety.”
The man stared and then abruptly started laughing. It was an unsteady, high pitched noise that didn’t sound wholly sane. “It is almost reassuring to see how similar you are, Sako! Always the same, no matter how many jumps…”
“How…how do you know me?” Makoto asked warily.
“We know you very well, Sako. You know us- me, I. I, yes, me,” the man appeared to struggle with himself briefly before his expression smoothed out. “In any case, I’m not here to play catch up with unnecessary people. No wait, that’s not true. You are very necessary, but only up until June 25th. Then you’re expendable.”
“Continue on!” The man interrupted, lifting his hands up in a sharp movement. The Fenrir slunk away into the lingering fog, the air rent by crackles of them dismissing themselves. “It is over here. I tried to stop the spread, but it is too late of course. Normally things go better when it’s stopped, but never mind. Never mind. I have plenty more plans for this course of the time, and it isn’t hopeless now.”
Makoto gripped her phone tighter. “Are you surrendering?”
“Surrendering?” The man smiled, but his eyes contained that same, dead light. “No, we don’t plan on surrendering just yet. We’ve come too far. Too far. We’ll stop when it stops.”
The man turned and jumped off the vehicle, disappearing from view. Makoto immediately broke into a run, her demons moving to investigate the open area for any more hidden demons. “Wait!”
She rounded the vehicle, but the man was gone. There was no way a mere human could have run out of view so quickly. No mere human…
Makoto winced when the earpiece let out a shriek, clasping her hand over it, but the Chief’s voice came through loud and clear.
‘Are communications open once more?’
“Y-Yes, sir. Sir, I met a suspicious individual! He was controlling a large pack of Fenrir demons. They have been dismissed, but, the man, he-”
‘Leave it for the report. Return to the rendezvous point immediately.’
Makoto dropped her hand from the earpiece, frowning up where the strange man had stood atop of the vehicle. His uncanny resemblance to the Chief, his knowledge of his name and her character, his disappearance…
Just what was going on?
Yamato groaned quietly as he clutched at his head, pain throbbing behind his eyes. His vision was splintered, everything turning grey and the colours fading out, before returning sharply into focus. His chest as well, was in blazing agony, his heart squeezing and throbbing painfully as if having to force out each, sluggish thump. The pain had begun during his attack on the dock, and had only been growing worse with each passing minute.
“This stupid…body…” Yamato snarled, suddenly throwing himself to the side to smash himself into the wall harshly. The pain was dull though, like he was disconnected from it. He slowly slumped to the ground, curling up into a little ball as he focused on breathing, the smell of the sea still strong this close to the docks.
Yamato lifted his head, uncurling slightly from his pitiful little ball. Alcor was staring down at him with a neutral expression. “Ah, I see it has started.”
“What has…?” Yamato asked, slowly beginning to climb back to his feet. His legs felt numb – no, everything was beginning to feel numb, like blood flow was getting cut off from everything.
“Do you know what a compressed soul does to a body?” Alcor asked. “Souls are meant to be saturated within the body, as in, they inhabit every cell within the body.”
“Yes, we know that,” Yamato muttered, slumping against the wall when it was apparent his legs were no longer supporting him. “What- oh…”
Alcor nodded. “Compressed souls are placed into a stable form, inhabiting only a small piece of space. This has never been a problem for you, as you normally decompressed the soul when you assimilated Yamato Hotsuin in each timeline. However this time is different. You are now controlling a soulless body.”
Yamato was quiet for a long moment before laughing quietly. “Oooh…~ So essentially, this is-”
“Reanimation. Bodies can survive without a soul for a little while, but only for a few days before it begins to die. Your body is currently going into multiple organ failure. You may still reanimate it; however, I am not sure what effects channelling magic or the dragon stream would do to a corpse…”
“Obliterate it, most likely,” Yamato said airily. “We, us- I have no intention of inhabiting a corpse like some lich. I just have to keep this body alive, correct?”
“Mm…” Alcor pressed his hand against his mouth. “I believe usage of the Dragon Stream could stabilise it for a few months at most.”
“Why…didn’t you tell us this before…?” Yamato asked, his voice turning a bit breathless. “Ah, at the time, it wasn’t important, was it? Unless you’re trying to kill us, heretic.”
Alcor just stared at him calmly. “At the time it was not relevant.”
“Relevant!” Yamato laughed hollowly. “I’m a zombie now! Well, will soon be one…but no, no, Dragon Stream. I have fifty-nngh…”
Alcor took a step forwards, but didn’t touch Yamato as the man doubled over in pain. “If you wish to keep that body alive, you should begin to channel the Dragon Stream now. It would be easier if it was this timeline’s, however…”
“This Yamato would notice, we know.”
Yamato’s breathing slowed before the air became thick with ozone. A gold shimmer washed over his body, and Yamato’s shoulders slumped slightly in relief, his body straightening up slightly. His dull grey eyes were edged with a ring of gold, glowing eerily in the dim moonlight.
“How fortunate that the past Dragon Streams loop back to us.”
Alcor took a step back, nodding lightly. “Unless you find a way to decompress your soul that body will eventually expire from the strain.”
“We know. The Dragon Stream isn’t an efficient soul replacement,” Yamato rubbed at his chest, wheezing slightly. “No then, onto important business…”
“The infection has begun.”
“We- I know that,” Yamato scoffed. “I’m not an idiot. I wasn’t really trying that hard to prevent it anyway. I will leave this Yamato to deal with the problem while I observe Hiro.”
Alcor inclined his head slightly. “Call me if I am needed.”
“Only at the end,” Yamato murmured. He pushed himself away from the wall, his steps weak, but his golden eyes were alight with a crazed glint. “That is what this will be, the end!”
Alcor lowered his gaze, pressing his hand against his mouth to hide his slight grimace. It was brief, but there was a flash of profound pity in the Septentrione’s gaze.
“…If that is what you want to believe, I will not argue against it.”
Chapter 4: Sentimentality
Hiro wonders why Blue is giving him a broken phone. It belonged to someone else? Who…?
Hiro gasped as he ran as fast he could down the subway steps, nimbly dodging a businessman here and there. His bag was slamming repeatedly against his thigh but he ignored in favour of not missing the train. Ah he was so late, so late, so late…!
He let out a wheezing cry when he saw that the train was still in the station, its doors wide – only to put on a burst of desperate speed when he saw those very doors begin to close!
Then next few moments were extremely awesome, and Hiro’s only regret was that Daichi wasn’t here to catch it on video. He lunged forwards, the doors still closing – and narrowly made it through just as the doors snapped shut. Although epic leap or not, Hiro’s choice in clothing bit him in the ass when the bunny ears of his hood got caught in the door-
-and made his hoodie strangle him.
Thankfully, being the late night train, there weren’t many witnesses to this embarrassing moment. After hacking and coughing for a few seconds, Hiro recovered valiantly and turned to squirm in the door’s oppressive hold. It took some tugging, but he finally managed to free his hoodie from its grubby grip, even if it left a horrible black, smudging stain over the soft white material.
“Thanks,” Hiro muttered to the door, dropping the bunny ear as he adjusted the bag strap on his shoulder. The train shuddered under his feet, and he swayed when it began to pull out of the station. Hiro checked his watch as he moved away from the door. Just past midnight. Ah, not long ‘til he’s home~
He looked up, about to sit down on the closest seat – only to pause when he spotted a familiar figure in the far end of the train, wedged into the corner. It was Blue, the mysterious guy who crashed at his place five days ago, curled up on the train completely flat out asleep.
Hiro straightened up and slowly moved over to his new weird friend. It was probably the lighting of the train, but he didn’t look very well. He looked a lot paler than he did before, and there were these awful looking bruises under his eyes like he hadn’t slept for a week before this. He even looked a bit skinnier…
“…hey,” he began, reaching out to him-
Only to have a gloved hand latch onto his wrist, squeezing to the point where Hiro could feel the delicate bones bend and grind together agonisingly. He gasped in pain, automatically trying to pry the surprisingly strong fingers off of him as he squeezed his eyes shut. O-Ow! How can someone have such a powerful hold…! He was going to break his wrist-!
Then the hand abruptly let go, and Hiro immediately pulled his hand close to his chest, gingerly cradling it.
“Ow…” Hiro whimpered, rubbing his throbbing wrist. He opened his eyes, peering down at the already bruising skin, before looking cautious at Blue. The man was awake now, his eyes an eerily bright gold, regarding him with disorientation.
“Hiro?” Blue mumbled, and he uncurled from his tight – downright uncomfortable looking – position in the corner of the train. He looked about himself like he wasn’t entirely sure how he came to be there – he probably wasn’t if his spacey-ness from five days ago was still in effect.
“…oh, I’m sorry,” he said abruptly, focusing on Hiro’s wrist. “You…surprised me. I haven’t snapped it, have I?”
“Er…I, I don’t think so,” Hiro said, admittedly a bit shaken up. He carefully let go of his wrist and flexed his fingers. It felt a bit sore, but it didn’t feel like anything was badly damaged. “Man you have a really strong grip…”
“Yes,” Blue said simply, his eyes still intent on Hiro’s wrist.
Hiro realised that he wasn’t going to say anything else. “So…what are you doing? Is the train your home or something?”
“Mm…? Oh, no, I was merely taking a brief rest,” Blue said, tearing his gaze away to stare up at the ceiling instead. “I forgot to sleep yesterday.”
Hiro sat down beside his weird friend, frowning at that. “Is that why you look like you have two black eyes? Speaking of! You need to eat more! Look,” he huffed, pressing his hand against Blue’s side. He made sure the other man could see his hand’s movements clearly though, in case he was ‘surprised’ again.
“I can feel your ribs through your coat. You really need to eat more.”
Blue continued to stare up at the ceiling, looking like he was completely ignoring Hiro, his eyes unfocused. The brunet frowned, and lightly prodded his friend in between his ribs.
The man jolted, turning to stare at Hiro with renewed focus. “Hm?”
“I said you need to eat more. You look really ill,” Hiro gave him a concerned look. Although he had only met this man once, and had a very interesting conversation the night before and after his sleepover, Hiro still felt strangely…connected to him, for some reason. There was something about him that was familiar, like he had seen his face somewhere before, and that the look of raw anguish that edged his every expression was out of place and wrong.
Hiro was told he was too empathetic though. He really couldn’t leave people to quietly suffer alone.
“Oh. Yes, I forgot that too,” Blue said blithely. “I have more important matters to attend to.”
“More important than sleeping or eating?” Hiro deadpanned. “What’re you doing that’s so important?”
Blue tensed, almost becoming frozen in posture, and his golden eyes (Hiro was sure they were supposed to be grey) hardened. “…”
“…okay, you can’t say,” Hiro said gently, carefully setting aside that clearly sensitive topic of discussion. “But seriously, even if it’s important, you should eat. You don’t want to pass out somewhere and end up being hospitalised, right?”
“…you raise a good point,” Blue admitted grudgingly.
A silence lulled between them. The train slowed to a halt, and the door opened, submitting a rowdy group of youngsters with brightly dyed hair. Hiro turned away from them, leaving them to loudly laugh and talk on their side. The train shuddered as it began to move again.
“You’re pretty lucid today,” Hiro noted. “That’s good. You were so spacey before.”
“I am…” Blue paused, his eyes fluttering briefly as if consciousness was beginning to flee him. Hiro almost reached out to him in alarm, but the man swiftly recovered. “It is easier to focus around you.”
“Oh…?” Hiro said, staring at him worriedly. “Why’s that?”
Blue didn’t answer. Instead he suddenly started rummaging in his coat’s (which was getting a bit tattered, and the fur a bit worn) pockets. He pulled out a blue mobile phone, a thin crack running along the plastic casing, and a weird brown smudge on the corner.
“This belongs to you,” Blue said suddenly, pressing the phone into Hiro’s hands. The brunet took it awkwardly, looking a bit bewildered.
“Um, okay?” Hiro smiled bemusedly, turning the phone over in his hands. It looked like it had seen better days, and when he flipped it open, the screen turning to rest lengthways, the screen had a spider web of cracks all over it. It looked broken…
“It still works. I fixed it that much,” Blue said. “Turn it on.”
Hiro did so, still pretty confused. This phone looked almost like a perfect match to his own mobile, if it wasn’t for its clearly broken nature. The screen lit up, and was remarkably clear despite its cracked surface. W-Weird, the background was the same as his phone…
“There is a file in the applications section,” Blue said calmly, “Labelled DSA.exe. It’s very important.”
“Important?” Hiro opened the applications, and indeed, saw a file sitting there innocently, labelled DSA.exe. He moved to select it, but Blue let out a sharp noise, grabbing onto his hands tightly to stop him. Hiro almost leapt out of his seat in surprise.
“Don’t open it,” Blue snarled. His eyes were bright – almost feverishly so. “Don’t open it yet,” he repeated in a calmer tone, pulling away to settle back in his seat. Hiro sat there, utterly frozen, his heart pounding a mile a second. W-Wow, Blue had been…so scary then…
“Oh, s-so, what is it?” Hiro said after a pause, pressing his hand against his chest shakily.
“It’s very important. If you are ever in danger, you may select that file. You will be protected.”
“It just will,” Blue replied, giving Hiro an intense stare. “It’ll be familiar when it happens, though. I am sure, anyway…there still remains some vague impressions from Polaris…”
The man trailed off, and Hiro frowned at him. What was…going on? Although Blue appeared more lucid than he had before, he was saying and doing even weirder things. Hiro’s first thought was to kind of, ask about these delusions he had, but Hiro felt that would just agitate his friend, so he decided to humour him for now.
“…okay, it’ll protect me. Thanks for giving this to me, Blue.”
“You don’t believe me,” Blue smirked wryly. “That’s fine though. It’s not important to yet.”
Another lull. Hiro stared at the broken phone in his hands, turning it off and flipping it closed. “How did it break like this?”
“The original owner died and landed on it.”
Hiro almost dropped it at that candid remark, and turned to stare at Blue. The pale haired man was staring at the phone blankly, as if all the emotion had been drained out of him long ago. It made him look incredibly tired…
“Yes.” Blue lifted his gaze to catch Hiro’s horrified stare. “Decapitation, to be specific. There was a lot of blood, so I apologise if there are any stains I’ve missed on the phone.”
Hiro wasn’t quite sure what to say. He felt that saying ‘sorry’ wouldn’t cut it.
“Oh. I see,” he said faintly, looking back down at the phone in his hands. “Who…was the original owner?”
Blue didn’t reply. He shifted in his seat, leaned against the wall of the train, and closed his eyes without another word. Hiro didn’t press him. Instead he wondered what on earth he had gotten into. A normal person would have immediately left the very clearly mentally disturbed lunatic with their delusions – but still, something was nagging at Hiro.
DSA.exe sounded familiar. Blue was familiar. Something was familiar and this felt like it was important somehow even if it was incredibly insane and horrifying. It nagged at him.
“Hey, Blue…” Hiro spoke up after a pause. “…you said that we never met before, but…you look really familiar to me.”
Blue didn’t say anything – or even twitch. It didn’t even look like he was breathing.
“I’m sure we have met before,” Hiro said after a pause. “I really am. And…I think you know that we have, but you’re keeping it a secret for some reason. This sounds crazy, but you’re not really all that sane anyway so – I believe you. About the DSA.exe thing.”
Blue cracked one eye open, regarding him silently. Hiro stared back at him stubbornly.
“If you say it’ll protect me, I believe you,” Hiro looked down at the phone in his hands, smiling a little sadly. “I’m sorry about the person who died, who owned this phone before. They must’ve meant a lot to you to keep this memento of them, and I promise I’ll keep it safe so I can give it back to you one day.”
Blue sat up straight, and after a pause he suddenly pressed his palm against Hiro’s forehead and gave him a tiny shove.
“You’re a fool,” Blue said simply, his expression set in a deadpan. “A complete and utter fool. Why do you believe some crazy lunatic so readily?”
“H-Hey!” Hiro rubbed at his forehead, looking a wounded. “I was trying to be supportive…”
“It’s advantageous to me that you will use the DSA.exe if you must, instead of dismissing it out of hand, that’s all,” Blue said. “And the person who owned that phone? He no longer matters to me. That ‘memento’ is a tool to be used, not some sentimental item to sigh over.”
“You’re lying,” Hiro said. “If it didn’t mean that much to you then why did you fix it? It looked badly broken, so you must’ve bought so many parts and spent so many hours fixing it, when buying a completely new phone – identical even – would’ve been cheaper and easier. All of the data must’ve been lost as well, so don’t say that it was for the files either. You must have your own copy of DSA.exe!”
Blue stared at him, and his cold expression thawed slightly, his lips twitching into a wry smile. “It’s aggravating how perceptive you are, Hiro. It makes me happy, though.”
“E-Eh? So I’m right?”
Blue shifted his body to face Hiro, and he leaned in startlingly close. Hiro almost toppled backwards when he started back in surprise. His eyes were bright, the golden hue reflecting the light overhead like a cat’s. It was kind of eerie.
“Hiro,” Blue said. His voice was solemn, “Don’t break that phone a second time.”
Hiro stared at him. Those words carried a hidden weight to them, and the man’s expression was pained. The phone suddenly felt like it weighed a tonne in his hands, his grip weak around the fragile plastic casing.
“I…I won’t. I said I was going to give it back to you, remember?”
“…I remember,” Blue murmured, pulling back. “Thank you.”
The train started to slow down, and with a jolt, Hiro realised that this was his stop. He immediately felt a bit frustrated with this. He wanted to talk more with Blue. He wanted to know who the original owner of the phone was, why Blue was giving it to him, why Blue stared at him with an expression of anguished longing, why…
Just, why was this happening? What was going on?
“…I have to go now. I’ll see you later, Blue.”
“Yes,” Blue smiled, and for the first time the shadows in his gaze were clear. He looked simplistically happy. “You will. Farewell, Hiro.”
As Hiro stepped off the train, he couldn’t help but feel that he had just done something very important enough to change his fate – as corny as it sounded. He stood on the platform, waiting to watch the train pull away, the broken phone still held tightly in his hands.
A part of him said that this guy was just some delusional weirdo – a poor confused guy that latched onto him. He should give the phone back the next time he saw him. That part was very small however, and he carefully pushed it down to be ignored. Blue was familiar, and every time that haunted face rose up in his memory, he felt like his name was on the very tip of his tongue.
“…Ya…” Hiro frowned, the letters of his name just floating beyond his reach…! He squeezed his eyes shut, chasing after those elusive letters – ah it was so annoying how secretive he was! Why was Yamato always like that-
“Those who live in the Koto-ku area are advised to maintain vigilance against the illness spreading there. The most effective way to avoid infection is to wear your facial masks at all times, and to frequently wash your hands. If you suspect that a family member or friend is infected, please, do not take them to the hospital. Take them to the designated health centre areas. If you are unsure of where your nearest health centre area is, or what the symptoms are, please look it up on this website-”
Yamato turned away from the news report, tuning out the female anchor’s voice as his eyes skimmed the report in his hands. “As if we needed more troubles added to our pile.”
“Koto-ku…” Makoto said worriedly. “Sir, that is where the suspicious individual-”
“I know.” Yamato lowered the report. “It is obvious that the unidentified entity is linked to this somehow, but I doubt he was the cause of it…”
“If your testimony is to be believed, Sako, the man himself claimed that he had been trying to ‘stop the spread’. He knew of the infection beforehand, and attempted to prevent it in some way. Good intentions or not, he is still an unknown entity that attacked members of the public, so he is to be brought in for interrogation on what he knows.”
“Yes, sir,” Makoto bowed slightly. “…sir, I inquired about the contents of the lorry that was attacked. The dock manager said that it was a delivery from Tokyo University.”
“What?” Yamato frowned. “That is…unusual. Have you gotten the paperwork filled for the shipment?”
“Not yet, sir. He said that they hadn’t had a chance to unload it before the demons attacked.”
“So whatever was in there was only seen by our mysterious entity, was it?” Yamato tapped the report in his hands contemplatively. “Then everything can be solved by simply capturing him. Why did he come to this world? Why would he try to prevent an illness? If we learn his motives for these things…”
“It is difficult to track him,” Makoto said apologetically. “His movements are…random, whenever we pinpoint his location. We also suspect that he is able to teleport.”
“Or has a demon that can teleport him.” Yamato chuckled. “Oh, is it bad of me to think that this is terribly exciting? A worthy mystery and adversary for me…”
“Never mind, Sako. I am simply talking to myself. Step up the search. It shouldn’t take this long to locate one man who practically screams his presence wherever he goes.”
Yamato turned to the large screen as the news report continued, a small frown on his face. The foreboding feeling was still there, looming over him like the sword of Damocles, but now it was edged with a sort of thrill. The entity’s motives were unknown, and a mysterious illness was added on top of that…nothing this challenging had ever been presented to Yamato before.
…Perhaps it was time that he participated in the search himself. He suddenly wanted to confront this entity face to face.
Outside the Diet Building, Yamato Hotsuin stared down at the concrete contemplatively, softly murmuring to himself. After a pause he looked up and languidly stretched his arms up high, quickly dropping them as he began to prowl towards the building with purposeful strides.
Ah well, Hiro was right.
He needed to eat more.
He also needed to talk to Yamato.
“Let’s put this world’s Dragon Stream to good use.”
Chapter 5: Destruction
The original Yamato’s beginning to break, and Hiro almost dies.
“The hostile is heading for the Summoning Circle at B1!”
“He possesses powerful spiritual power and demons-”
“He’s gotten through the perimeter! Warnings issued, beginning use of enchanted conventional weapons!”
Makoto heard the roar of gunfire as the elevator opened, the hallway leading down to a group of JP’s members firing off around the corner. Although conventional weapons were useless against demons, they had made great leaps and bounds in the development of human technology. Fumi Kanno was the one who had managed to merge demonic energy and weaponry together, allowing enchantments to be cast on any bullets loaded the firearms – and therefore giving it power to harm demons.
Of course, summoning demons themselves was still the more efficient path, but the weaponry was strong enough to eliminate low to mid-level demons without needing one of the precious few, skilled demon tamers. They could focus their attentions on more pressing issues.
The gunfire stopped as soon as Makoto reached them, and she crouched down slightly to be on the same level as the commander of this current section. The hallway ahead of them was smoky, the walls scorched and dented. This was the area leading into the Summoning Room, so it was well guarded with maze-like corridors and armed squads.
“I think we got him, ma’am,” the commander said, one finger pressed against his earpiece as static voices barked out over communications. There were demons everywhere. “He was just a human so he should be…”
The man trailed off. The corridor was eerily quiet, but Makoto could feel the prickle of energy, welling up like a physical force. It was instinct that made her leap up and flip open her phone. Shield All was barely cast when a molten inferno roared down the corridor, smashing into the magical shield. Makoto cried out, her legs almost buckling from the sheer force of power, the Shield All groaning and cracking under the strain.
Just as Makoto thought that this attack would pierce through the normally impenetrable Shield All, the inferno spluttered out. Makoto breathed heavily, sweat beading on her brow, and one of the JP’s soldiers let out a small curse of “fuck” at the sight of the corridor. The metal floors and walls were half-melted into a red hot sludge, the heat emitting from it almost painfully uncomfortable.
A quiet hiss erupted from the end of the corridor, and ice cracked along its surface – only to immediately break apart into steam, obstructing their view in a few seconds flat.
“Quickly! Double back to the next section!” Makoto ordered. “I will hold him off here!”
This group was obviously outmatched, and they knew it. The commander roared the retreat, and Makoto stood in the billowing steam, gripping her phone tightly as she summoned Pallas Athena. The corridor was too small to summon any other demons, and leave them with enough room to work.
The silence that followed was tense, Makoto’s thumb twitching against the button to select Shield All. That last attack had been so powerful…what being could be here-?
“Makoto Sako…almost, nh, killed you just then.”
Through the steam, a familiar figure strode towards her. His eyes were golden, brimming with raw power, even if his body looked even frailer and paler than before. His coat was littered with bullet holes, blood smeared over the fur-trimmed edges in disgusting, congealed patches. Makoto’s phone lowered slightly in shock. All those wounds…
He should be dead.
“Move a-aside,” the man said, stopping a few metres away from Makoto. Blood was dripping from his mouth and his nose, and each breath he took was a shallow, pained wheeze. “We…u-us I, me, I have…s-some, ngh, thing I need to do.”
Makoto looked down at her phone, the information on her opponent pinging on the screen and-
??? yͭͭͭà̱͙̦̭̒̂ͥ̓̇͊m̹̯̪̣̜̗̖ȃ̀ͪ̿ ṯ̩͍̪̪͓̔ͫͣͤ̈o͕̻͓͎ͦ̈̋̇́̋h͈̎̾ͥͭo̗̣̖͕̣̭̿̇͐̿͌t̳͕̻͍͒͒̐ͩ̽ͨͨs͕̜͉͚ù̱ͫ̀̊ͤͫi͖̩ͫn͗͂̑̇́ d̤̲̞ͨe͑ͩͮͮͭa̬̝ͤd
Makoto moved to the side on instinct, her Pallas Athena thrusting its spear past her- but it was immediately engulfed in fire, the demon’s screams echoing down the hallway as a hand latched around Makoto’s throat, smashing her against the scorched wall. She grasped at the bony wrist, trying to wrench it away as she viciously lifted her foot to kick out at the man’s knee-
The man didn’t even seem to realise he was being hit, simply staring at her with his dead, golden eyes, his hand squeezing Makoto’s throat until she felt her windpipe begin to give.
“That’s right…you’re…still needed, at…some point,” the man muttered, abruptly letting her go. Makoto slumped to the ground, her vision swirling as she gasped and coughed, rubbing at her aching throat.
She hurriedly scrambled to her feet though, ignoring the woozy feeling as the intruder began to unevenly totter away. “W-Wait! I won’t let-!”
The man spun around abruptly, his eyes flaring brightly, and Makoto felt the muscles in her body go weak, sending her crashing to the floor. In her disorientated brain, she realised that she’d just been paralysed, and she struggled to reach out to her phone, skittered away from her from the fall. She had Amrita…!
But the man was already walking away, leaving a trail of blood as he rounded the corner towards the elevator.
Yamato idly wiped at his face with his sleeve.
His skin felt sticky, and a look at his hand revealed the gloves now stained completely scarlet. His clothes were ruined. How was he going to visit Hiro if he looked like this? When was he shot anyway? Yamato didn’t really remember – since he began his assault, his mind slipped and skipped over certain parts the more he used the Dragon Stream.
Excessive use of the Dragon Stream did cause mental imbalances, however-
Oh he was in an elevator. When did that happen-? Wasn’t he-
The people’s faces weren’t visible to him anymore. They were blurred and Makoto- it had been hard to see her, yet he had seen her beyond sight, a glittering star that wasn’t all that bright, but silvery grey, somewhat dim, but brighter than the rest of the incompetents it had been hard to not snuff it out-
‘gLitTerS lIkE stARs tO dEvOUr-’
‘This is getting quite ridiculous. It seems the station of default personality has put too much strain on you.’
Oh that was right. He was always the dominant one and right now he was feeling a bit weary, everyone shouting down at him and
‘eNerGY lOW ReplENiSh-’
‘This is an embarrassment. Are we the wielders of the Dragon Stream or is the Dragon Stream the wielder of us? This plan has become a total mess and it is because you refuse to hand over the reins to one of us. I keep telling you-’
“Shut up, we, I am, in…control-”
‘You’re in as much control as an ape behind a car wheel. I understand the hesitance, being the original. However, I have been here since the second. I’m somewhat separate from the mentally damaging effects of this temporal fiasco, so I am able to tell when you have royally screwed the sanity pooch.’
Clamber of voices and Yamato groaned quietly, blood soaked fingers curling into his hair and pulling. His head felt like it was splitting in two, his limbs beginning to numb slightly. Low energy, low energy, there needed to be more to keep the body up…
‘Listen. I always take the reins when you are tired, as someone has to be the beacon of sanity in this clusterfuck. I agree that you are perhaps the best one to do the heavy lifting, as the Dragon Streams are linked to you only, but, allow me to complete this plan while you mentally recover. You appear on the verge of complete collapse, and if you break, then all of us will follow in quick succession, and that would leave fifty seven Dragon Streams in control. I don’t particularly care whether or not we succeed, but I quite enjoy existing.’
“There isn’t…the energy is-”
‘It’s fine. The Dragon Stream’s main directive is to maintain energy at a certain point, remember? It is beginning to corrupt your views – you are attempting to function on a four dimensional level with a three dimensional perception, after all. I am separate from this so I maintain my sanity. Alas the same cannot be said about the others but…they were all worthless anyway. You only need one advisor to assist you.’
The elevator began to slow down, and with a shudder it halted, the door sliding open. At the end of the hallway a group of JP’s soldiers crouched, guns raised-
‘Think of it like this. We are a tag team. You are the main attacker, yet I am the one that jumps into the ring occasionally to allow you to recover. Right now you are a mess, and if we are to battle a less world weary and sane version of ourselves in the next five minutes, it’s best to do it when you’re not on the verge of mental collapse.’
Glitters like stars.
“I see your point…”
‘Good. Now…let me have control…’
The world righted itself up and Yamato strode out of the elevator. His muscles were stiff and his body strained, and he let out a small, pained sigh as he lifted a bloodied hand to prod at one particular painful bullet wound.
“Mm, I think I will have to implement my own plan at this point. If he continues on, this will be our last timeline…”
“Oh,” Yamato looked up, grinning a little. He strode down the hallway, towards the barricade without a shred of fear. “Right. Reality first. We have no time to deal with trash like you. Please remove yourself from our presence.”
“Ah, I warned you.”
With the sound of screams, the hallway was devoured with liquid flames.
Yamato brushed a bit of soot off of his shoulder as the last of the invading demons dissolved into broken up magnetite. It was alarming to think that they had broken into the Summoning Area, but every inch of the place was swamped with demons – and that wasn’t getting into the entity. It was singlehandedly decimating whoever came across its path.
At first it had been somewhat restrained, preferring to paralyse or incapacitate those that attempted to stop it. But at some point it abruptly changed its methods and was mercilessly slaughtering everything that moved before it – in the most gruesome of ways possible. It seemed to favour using fire a lot.
The change was rather perplexing but-
The steel doors were suddenly blown open. Yamato immediately ducked into a crouch, one part of the steel door slicing through the air just where his head had been. Yamato merely stood back up, completely calm as he adjusted his hold on his phone, frowning at the thick haze of smoke obstructing the damaged doorway.
“So, I guess we meet…”
The intruder stepped through the door, an easy smile on his lips. He looked like he had been dragged through hell and back, his coat littered with bullet holes and blood mixed with soot smeared over his clothes and skin – even in his hair. His eyes were supernaturally eerie in their intensity, the glimmer of gold wholly unnatural.
“We do,” Yamato said candidly. “If you wished to simply talk to me, you could have arranged an appointment instead of going to such murderous lengths.”
“Ha! Ha ha fucking ha- you’re right,” The intruder’s voice was odd, strangely stilted and flat as if he was trying to mimic emotional tone. He failed rather miserably. “We could have, but it would have just wasted time. Original had a plan, but it has clearly gone down the drain with the rest of his sanity, so I am sort of running the show until he recovers.”
“Plan?” Yamato asked lightly, even as he watched the intruder warily. “I assume it had something to do with the Dragon Stream.”
“Obviously. I do not particularly care for this quest anymore. It will end in failure no matter how many repeats, so I see no point in being subtle or secretive. Give us the Dragon Stream, because Original wishes to use it in something that will fail in some spectacular fashion. Again.”
“I will not give you the Dragon Stream,” Yamato replied calmly, his gaze assessing. From the intruder’s rather…unbalanced personality, and peculiar way of addressing himself, Yamato assumed there were two entities, or two splintered personalities, within one body. A possessed human, perhaps…? “What do you mean, ‘again’?”
“We have done this fifty seven times now, fifty eight if we are including this. It is a first for the duplication though, but that is the only minor change, really. Well, except meddling with Hiro before the shit hits the fan, but…” The intruder smiled wryly, lifting his sleeve to wipe away some of the drying blood off of his face. “It will always be a mess, I’m afraid. You are about to see what I mean soon, in about a week, I think.”
“As entertaining as your insanity is; enough,” Yamato said sharply. “I will halt your path here, and I will claim some answers from you.”
“Answers? About what? I can answer them now, if you want,” The intruder said, looking more focused on cleaning his face. “I am just going to freshen up a little before finalising this fiasco, so, ask away…”
Yamato scowled at the mockery. “What is your purpose here? You are not from this dimension.”
“You are rather quick on the update. But then again, we are a genius. Of a sort,” The Intruder sighed. “We are here to try and prevent a catastrophe that is unpreventable. We have done this, like, a bajillion times, to utilise a phrase from a rather unique individual. Even if he was duplicated fifty seven times, ahaha, aha, aha…”
“You’re a time traveller?”
“Ugh!” The Intruder suddenly made a disgusted noise. “No. You cannot travel back in time. Time moves in one direction: Forwards. You may only go forward in time if you have the means. No, we dumped the last timelines, and moved onto the others. It is like jumping into a new stream. You pick a point you want, and then leap in. You cannot go back from that point though. It is very easy to understand once you know the process. Which you will learn after everything goes to hell as it always does.”
There was a pause. “We are a dimensional traveller, I suppose.”
“I see,” Yamato carefully logged that away. “In any case, as you are being so free with information, what is your link to the mysterious illness?”
“Illness…? Oh, that thing,” The Intruder paused, his gaze sliding out of focus briefly. “We…won’t tell you about that. Original does not want you to know just yet. Just know that you cannot stop its course once it has begun. Really, this is the better option.”
“But question time is over. To be honest, I think we should eliminate you while we have you here, but Original seems to think that keeping you alive would strengthen our chances of success. Perhaps he is right, but this will still end with the same result. Now then, the Dragon Stream…”
Yamato was immediately on the defensive, bracing himself slightly. The Summoning Area was one of the areas to pull energy from the Dragon Stream, but it was difficult to do without Lugh. “I cannot give it to you even if I wished to. It is beyond my physical capabilities.”
“We know. Original doesn’t need to use you anyway…” The Intruder smiled – no, he grinned, a predatory gesture that would better suit a hungry cat. “Just stand there and look pretty, Yamato Hotsuin. It is the only thing you are good at, anyway.”
Yamato didn’t even hesitate. The scream of Holy Dance echoed in the room, and the Intruder laughed loudly before sweeping his hand before him. The bursts of light were swatted aside as if they were just pebbles, smashing into the walls as the Intruder stood there, completely untouched.
“How rude. I forgot how obnoxious we were ten years ago,” The Intruder sighed, his eyes rolling a little before they focused with sharp intensity. “But, as you are persistent, we’ll play with you for a bit. Just to make you feel important.”
Yamato could feel power swell, but he didn’t cower or flinch. The Intruder grinned, his golden eyes bright, and held out his hand. There was a rumble, the very earth beginning to quake, and the Intruder simply twisted his wrist and snapped his fingers.
Hiro wasn’t sure why he felt so uneasy.
Ever since he left the train station, that unsettled feeling had been dogging his every reluctant step back to his apartment. The phone Blue gave him was heavy in his pocket, and the name ‘Yamato’ kept bouncing around his skull. It was making his brain hurt for reasons he didn’t understand, like he was thinking of something that he shouldn’t be.
Yamato, Yamato…the name sounded so familiar to him…
Hiro rubbed at his forehead with a quiet sigh, trying to dispel the sudden headache as he turned the street corner. Maybe he should just ask Blue when he saw him again. He had a feeling that he would react weirdly to it though. Ahhh…
This was such a weird thing! Why was it bugging him so much?!
Hiro shook his head violently before lightly slapping his cheeks. Silly, silly! He was just being silly right now. It was pretty late, almost one in the morning, so he was probably just tired. Hiro nodded to himself and focused on the street before him. It was pretty deserted at this time of night, the only other person a lone man staggering a bit unevenly on the other side of the street. Probably drunk, although being this close to Chiyoda ward meant there weren’t many bars or stuff.
Hiro was about to dismiss the man when he abruptly keeled over and fell on the floor.
He didn’t even have to think about it. With an alarmed noise Hiro hurriedly crossed the empty street to the stranger’s side. He looked to be in his mid-thirties when Hiro was close enough to see, dressed in casual clothing. His eyes were closed and his skin pale. Hiro felt an uneasy feeling rise in his stomach as he crouched down beside him.
“Um, sir…?” he said loudly, grasping onto his shoulder and giving it a shake. There wasn’t any response, although he tried again, just to be sure, and quickly moved to press his hand against his neck. There was a pulse, but it was…weird and erratic?
Oh, that wasn’t good.
Wondering why this night was so eventful, Hiro quickly fumbled with his pocket and pulled out his phone. He flipped it open – and paused when he saw it was the broken one that Blue gave him. Oh. Well he said it’d still work and it was in his hand already – time was of the essence!
Just as Hiro began punching in the emergency number, a hand suddenly latched around his wrist. He let out a (girlish) yelp of surprise, and laughed shakily when he realised it was the collapsed man. He seemed to be waking up again, letting out a low groan. “O-Oh! You, you scared me. Um, sorry, but do you need me to call an ambulance?”
“W-What…?” the man groaned. His eyes opened and, they looked horribly bloodshot and unfocused. “Hn, I hear…sounds…”
“Uh, sounds…?” Hiro asked, suddenly feeling uneasy. He couldn’t exactly pinpoint what exactly was making him wary, but maybe it was the hand that was holding his wrist a bit too tightly. It was the wrist Blue had almost broken earlier too, so it, ow, kind of hurt. “Hey, sir, you’re kind of hurting-”
“Um…” Okay, Hiro was getting very bad vibes like right now. With a hard tug he managed to pull his sore wrist free, and he stood up to back away a few steps, even if he felt a bit guilty about it. This guy was in trouble, and he should call the emergency service but-
Something wasn’t right. Hiro had good intuition, and right now all alarms were saying something was very very wrong.
“I’m, gonna call the ambulance now, okay?” Hiro said, looking down worriedly at the man. He was breathing a bit harshly now, and Hiro quickly turned back to his phone- only to be distracted by a scraping noise almost behind him. He jumped and whirled around, spotting someone slowly stumbling down the middle of the road, their steps heavy and shuffling.
Okay. Something bad was happening.
“Hello?” he called out, holding his phone to his chest defensively when the figure stopped at the sound of his voice. They tilted to the side, their head hanging a bit low, before a strange alien noise groaned out of them. Hiro unconsciously took a few steps backwards – almost tripping over the guy on the ground.
There was another scraping noise and Hiro whirled around, gripping the phone tighter when – there was no one there but then he heard a noise like a great beast panting and – hands grabbed onto his shoulders, yanking him backwards, and he yelped, flailing frantically as he tried to dislodge himself from the strong hands holding onto him, sharp figners digging through his clothes into his skin.
The alien noise snarled down and Hiro twisted in the grip to see-
The face wasn’t human. The eyes were red and bulging and the mouth was wide open like a snake’s, teeth long and sharp with bleeding gums, and a serpentine tongue that lolled out of the open mouth. Hiro couldn’t hold back a startled scream, frantically slamming his elbow hard into whatever the fuck that thing’s stomach was, and felt the grip on his shoulders slacken enough for him to rip himself free.
He staggered away a few steps, tripping over the man on the floor and falling flat on his ass. He scrambled away on his hands and feet without pausing though, until his back hit the wall of the building. What- what the hell was that thing?! Normally Hiro thought himself as a pretty calm individual but what the hell was that thing?!
The…whatever thing, groaned, and began to amble towards Hiro, and the man on the floor let out a low groan as well, the noise turning as guttural and demonic as the thing’s. Hiro hurriedly pushed himself to his feet, looking from side to side frantically. That thing was pretty fast, it snuck up on him so quickly, could he, could he outrun it?
The man on the ground was beginning to climb to his feet, and he let out weird choking noises. Hiro was gripping the phone in his hands so tightly when the man turned drunkenly and-
Bulging red eyes and gaping mouth-
The two- things, Zombies?! Hiro had no idea, but they prowled towards them, hunger in their eyes, and Hiro knew without a doubt that he was royally fucked. He was fucked. He was fucked. No, not fucked. Come on think of a plan in the next FIVE SECONDS OR SOMETHING?! He was holding onto his phone so tightly-
‘If you are ever in danger, you may select that file. You will be protected.’
Hiro hurriedly tapped at his phone, the, the DSA.exe that was it-! He pressed frantically at the button, the screen lighting up with binary code whizzing across the screen and – a guttural snarl barked out, Hiro looking up to see the Zombie duo lunging at him with mad rolling eyes and-
Oh shit he was going to die wasn’t he-?
A flash of light blinded Hiro suddenly, and he flung up his arm to shield his vision. There was a high pitched squeal, a scream, and the noise of something slicing into flesh. Hiro dropped his arm, squinting against the black dots dancing in his vision. A blurred figure stood in front of him, a cape – a cape, and on the ground, blood- blood…?
Hiro stood in dumb shock. The man that had collapsed, that had, gotten those weird eyes and- he was…d-dead. Dead on the ground, his head several metres away, and blood gushing out all over the floor from the still twitching corpse. Hiro felt his stomach turn suddenly, and he swallowed the rising gorge down, breathing shallowly.
The other Zombie thing was no longer around, chased off perhaps, and slowly, Hiro turned to stare at his…murdering saviour. He was a tall man, encased in black and white armour, with long black hair and holding a bloodied spear. The man was staring at him silently, as if awaiting command. Hiro stared at him, then down at his phone. On the cracked screen, ‘Cu Chulainn’…
“Okay…” Hiro said faintly, leaning back against the wall, avoiding staring at the decapitated corpse. “Okay. This is very weird.”
No…weird didn’t begin to cover it.
“So…you came from the phone…?”
The man – Cu Chulainn, he presumed – nodded silently, and gave his spear a little flick, dots of blood splattering onto the ground.
“Okay. So uh…okay.”
He was saying okay too much.
Hiro slowly pushed off the wall, recovering his wits somewhat, and ran a hand through his hair. “What the hell…is going on? Just…wha-”
The world suddenly roared, the ground giving a violent lurch. Hiro cried out, almost being thrown onto the floor, but a strong armoured arm grabbed him around the waist, keeping him on his feet. The world trembled before stilling, but in its wake a terrible din of sirens and shouts screamed out. Hiro looked up, and in the dark, brightly lit sky, he could see black smoke rising from the direction of Chiyoda-ku.
The ceiling of the Summoning Room was half collapsed, rubble strewn across the area and black smoke rising up towards the outside world. Yamato groaned in pain, slowly reaching out to clumsily pick up his dropped phone as he began to try and push himself up to his hands and knees. Footsteps calmly made their way towards him, but Yamato couldn’t move beyond a slow crawl.
Every inch of his being hurt. What…what was this creature…?!
“I forgot how weak we used to be before this leaping business,” the Intruder’s voice said conversationally. “I really think we should get rid of you. The longer both of us exist simultaneously, the more unstable this timeline gets…”
A boot pressed against the space between his shoulder blades, pushing his back down on the floor harshly. Yamato wheezed, but held onto his phone tightly. He just needed one shot…
The boot grinded its heel into his spine.
“…It is better this way.”
There was a pause. Yamato was still under the boot.
“I told you, I am the saner one at this current moment in time. Although you are the original, I am the advisor. Listen to me. If you want to save your precious Hiro, you will obey me now. I am tired of watching you fuck up with each timeline!”
Yamato suddenly twisted under the boot, knocking the Intruder off balance, and blindly cast a Holy Dance with the last of his strength. He felt the heat of the attack – so close to him – practically burn, and he squeezed his eyes shut at the flash of bright light. There was a pained scream and then…
He wasted no time in hauling himself clumsily to his feet, his vision swimming a little from pain, and he grasped his aching arm as he scanned the area for-
The Intruder was slowly picking himself up off the ground where he had been blasted to, still smoking slightly. He looked a bit disorientated and groggy, golden eyes dimming to the point of flashing grey.
“A…cheap shot…” he muttered, blood spilling past his lips before he staggered slightly. He groaned lowly. “Our body is…not gonna take much more…”
Yamato eyed the intruder cautiously, struggling to maintain his own consciousness. But he wouldn’t collapse first. “Then…perhaps you should retreat.”
“Per…haps…” the intruder wheezed.
They both stood there, glaring at each other for a long, tense pause, both of them gasping and weak from pain, before the Intruder began to laugh unsteadily.
“We, I…us, I cannot…even defeat, myself…how weak…am I…?”
Yamato had no time to ponder on the words. With a snarl the Intruder snapped out his hand, and the world rocked from the force of energy smashing into the earth. Yamato staggered, barely keeping his balance, but when the flash of light dimmed, the smoke fading somewhat, the Intruder was gone. He had fled.
Yamato slowly sat down on the floor, feeling drained and…worried. He had learned many things during this, many, disturbing things…
The intruder…no, the dimensional traveller…
Chapter 6: Despaired Hope
It turns out that Yamato made things a thousand times worse.
Alcor found Yamato Hotsuin collapsed in an alleyway.
Further investigation revealed that he wasn’t just collapsed, but also lying in a puddle of dark coloured blood, his eyes half open and grey. Alcor did not believe he was dead, despite the stillness of his body, for his soul still resided within him. It hummed with an edge that was reminiscent to tearing metal, a noise of raw anguish…
“Yamato Hotsuin,” Alcor said gently, approaching the fallen body with nary a noise. His feet landed lightly in the puddle and he crouched down, grasping the man’s shoulders and hauling him up. Yamato simply lolled in his arms like a ragdoll, which was a course of concern, but Alcor merely propped him up against the wall and scrutinised him.
Grey eyes focused on him groggily, but Yamato Hotsuin didn’t move beyond that.
“Do you require healing?” Alcor asked. It seemed like he did. Human bodies were very fragile; he knew this, and the amount of blood that surrounded Yamato was possibly fatal. How he was still breathing and conscious, Alcor wasn’t entirely sure – but he suspected that that Yamato’s life no longer requiring a body to sustain itself was a factor.
Yamato’s eyes fluttered briefly, the pupils dilating, but he murmured a quiet, “no.”
Alcor simply nodded. “I see.”
It was his choice.
“However, for you to continue your task, perhaps a new coat is in order. Humans get agitated at the sight of blood.”
Alcor vanished abruptly, and although he felt bad about taking something from a ‘store’ (currency was necessary for these things, yes?), it wasn’t enough to stop him. Meddling in sensitive human economy or not, Alcor had bigger fish to fry. Ah, that saying was so perplexing to him, but he thought he understood the meaning behind it.
More pressing issues, correct?
Alcor returned to the alleyway, a new coat in his hands. It was similar to the now ruined one. It had blue fur rimming the hood and the hems, with blue buttons. Alcor learned that Yamato was of a calmer mind when surrounded with the colour blue, but he preferred his coat to be black. Humans were fascinating creatures – even colours affected their minds on a subconscious level.
Yamato hadn’t moved an inch, although he seemed more aware of his surroundings. He stared up at Alcor with a somewhat confused expression.
“It is a coat, Yamato Hotsuin. The current one is ruined.”
Yamato made a small noise, agreeable or of pain, Alcor wasn’t certain. The human slowly pawed at the front of the coat, undoing the buttons and then slowly, painfully, shrugging out of it. His shirt was equally ruined too, the blue fabric stained and torn with holes.
It would be hidden under the coat.
“You always get blue furred ones,” Yamato noted, sitting up painfully. His breathing was laboured, but not impeded.
“Do you wish for a different coat?”
“No,” Yamato reached out with startling quickness, taking the coat from Alcor’s hands. He held the clothing close to him; like he was afraid Alcor would snatch it away from him, and pressed the fur of the hood against his cheek, his eyes sliding half closed. “No, I…like it…”
Alcor watched him for a few moments. “Your altercation with this timeline’s Yamato Hotsuin did not go well.”
“No, it didn’t…” Yamato’s eyes slid closed, his cheek still pressed against the fur. “It went poorly, actually. We- I lost myself…briefly.”
“Yes,” Alcor agreed. “I thought you should know that Shining One has used the Demon Summoning App.”
Yamato frowned briefly. “What- that thing? Already? Why?”
“His life was in danger, of course.”
“What?” Yamato jolted upright, then hissed in pain, his body curling up slightly. “A-Ahn…”
“Ah, fine…it is fine…everything is fine. He is…alive?” Yamato wheezed, his fingers clutching tightly at the coat. “He is, fine?”
“Yes, he is fine.”
“Good. That is…that is good, how…how is…” Yamato looked like he was struggling, sagging against the wall. His chest was heaving painfully, and his eyes were so unfocused that Alcor doubted they were even seeing anything. “What…endangered him? He is- supposed to be safe ‘til…”
“It seems that the contract is accelerating quicker than we anticipated. I am not entirely sure what factor changed for this massive difference.”
Yamato sat there, staring at nothing. “Ah…” he said after a pause. “Ahahaa…” the laughter was breathless, a bit too sharp as his feet slowly slipped over the alleyway floor. He began to haul himself up, each movement strained and weak. “So, so his life…we need to go…”
“Put the coat on,” Alcor reminded him.
Yamato did put the coat on, however slowly, and his fingers fumbled with the buttons. His eyes were fluttering every so often, consciousness barely remaining.
“Why have you stopped channelling the Dragon Stream?” Alcor asked after several moments of watching this.
“Because…it’s, straining to, breaking. We will break…”
“Your body is on the verge of deteriorating.”
“Yes…” Yamato slumped against the wall. His face and hair was still sticky with blood, although the coat hid the worse of the mess. “It hurts.”
There was silence for a long moment. Yamato took in a shuddering breath and closed his eyes, a rush of warm energy sweeping through the alleyway. When he opened his eyes again, they were gold.
“I have…no choice though. Where is Hiro now?”
“He is at his home, with his friend.”
“Shijima…” Yamato muttered distractedly, pushing himself from the wall. His legs shuddered, the knees almost buckling. He inhaled sharply, his jaw clenching, and he took slow, staggering steps towards the end of the alleyway. Alcor floated after him, listening to his sharp, pained gasps.
“His home is quite a ways from here,” Alcor pointed out.
“I’ll get there myself, heretic,” Yamato snarled, stopping at the edge of the alleyway.
The sky was black with smoke, and the wails of the sirens were never ending. The street was thick with people, everyone standing out in the street to look up worriedly at the smoky sky. Their chatter rose in a crescendo, the noise alien and incomprehensible to Yamato.
Why do they just stand there…?
Don’t they know what-
‘Leave them. We have ahaha bigger fish to fry…’
Yamato took a step-
The world distorted
“Daichi! Daichi! Oh my god you never guessed what just happened!”
That was the nice wakeup call Daichi had. He snorted awake, blinking blearily as he pushed himself up on the sofa, the television on the DVD menu screen. He rubbed at his eyes, groaning as Hiro slammed the door loudly.
“Man, what the hell…?”
“Daichi!” Hiro stumbled over to him, sounding like he had a stampede of elephants chasing after him, and stood before the sofa, flushed and panting, his eyes looking a little wild. “Have you looked outside?!”
“Wha- no. Dude, are you okay? You look…” Frazzled. Hiro was pretty damn composed, so for him to be in such a state was…worrisome. “Hey, do you know what time it is? I’ve been waiting up for you for-”
“Chiyoda’s on fire,” Hiro interrupted, “and, and there’re these people and, this thing happened, and I was like, oh fuck, but then, then Blue gave me, this, thing and, some Cu Chulainn came out and, fuck Daichi he cut off this guy’s head but it wasn’t a guy, it was a zombie, and there was this quake –did you seriously not feel that earthquake?!”
“…Hiro, I got none of that except something about an earthquake and- wait did you just say that Chiyoda’s on fucking fire?!”
“Argh yes! Daichi, seriously! Something awful has happened!” Hiro shouted, “There are Zombies!”
Daichi wasn’t sure if Hiro was pranking him or not, but he did get up to look out of the window. The sky was thick with smoke, and if he craned his head out of the open window, he could see a faint, red glow in the direction of Chiyoda, as well as the noise of fire sirens. “Holy fuck you’re right.”
“See!” Hiro was suddenly tapping at his phone, and Daichi jumped when the phone in his pocket buzzed.
“Did you just send me a-”
“It’s a DSA thingie,” Hiro said quickly. “Blue gave it to me and it totally saved my life!”
“A…DSA thingie…? Wait, is Blue that weirdo you were telling me about a few days ago?” Daichi frowned. “You shouldn’t accept weird stuff from strangers, Hiro.”
“Arrrgh just open your phone!”
Daichi did, and he frowned at the thing labelled DSA.exe. “Hey, what’s this?”
“Demon Summoning App. It really saved my life, Daichi,” Hiro explained, giving him a stern stare. “When your life’s in danger, you open it and something comes out to protect you.”
“Okay…” That sounded incredibly stupid, “But what the hell does this have to do with the ward next to us being on fire?” Daichi asked. That felt like the more pressing issue.
“I don’t know…” Hiro admitted, looking a bit worried. “It just…you sure you didn’t feel the earthquake? When it struck Chiyoda was on fire.”
“Man, I was dead to the world on that sofa…” Daichi felt a bit scared though. That ward was close, should they leave or what? Damn only had the apartment for a week and they were in danger of it burning down already.
Hiro was still looking worried. “Daichi…there’s something else as well. There’re zombies.”
“Hiro, I don’t think it’s time to crack jokes-!”
“I’m not!” Hiro glowered at him, gripping his phone tightly. It was cracked – did he break it? “I…I was walking home and, these…monsters came out and attacked me!”
“Shit, why didn’t you say so?” Daichi hurriedly moved back to his friend, but he didn’t seem hurt, no bruises or anything. Still…he pressed his hands against Hiro’s body until they were swatted away. Well okay he didn’t look that hurt. “Why didn’t you call the police?”
“They were monsters, Daichi,” Hiro groaned. “I mean it. Like, all sharp teeth and, scary and shit! I’m…I don’t, I think we should stay here…” he murmured.
“What if the fire spreads from Chiyoda?” Daichi asked. “Maybe we should go to Io’s house in Ikebukuro…”
Hiro still looked hesitant, but after a pause he nodded. “Yeah, we’ll-”
Someone knocked on the door. The noise was so sudden that they both jumped about a foot and turned to stare at it warily. Hiro’s expression firmed and he moved over to the door, his phone still tightly gripped in his hands.
He didn’t open it though. “Who is it?”
There was a long pause, and Daichi heard a voice, too soft for him to make it out, but Hiro made a noise and hurriedly wrenched the door open.
Standing at their doorstep was a pale-haired (familiar?) man in a new looking coat, so worryingly thin, his legs shaking and eyes a dull yellow, with his face smeared with soot and-
“Holy shit!” Daichi blurted, “You’re bleeding!”
“Blue,” Hiro gasped, shoving his phone into his pocket and reaching out to gently grasp the man’s arm. “Oh my god, are you okay? Shit, come on…”
The man, Blue apparently (oh wait so this was the weirdo!), allowed himself to be pulled into the apartment, looking more than a little spacey. Daichi hurriedly moved out of the way when Hiro took the guy to the sofa, and after a pause, he quickly went to the bathroom to grab one of their old towels and a bowl of water. Like seriously, the guy looked like he had been in a massacre.
When he returned, the man was talking.
“Ah, yeah. It saved me. Seriously.”
“Uh, here,” Daichi said, setting the bowl of water down on the coffee table, and awkwardly held out the towel. “You, uh, kind of need to clean up a bit.”
‘Blue’ stared at him, a strange glint in his eyes that made Daichi feel extremely nervous for some reason. Actually, everything about this guy was making him nervous, and it was more than just being a weird stranger covered in blood! Well, okay, that was main reason, but something else was niggling at him. This guy was just…terrifyingly wrong. In some way.
He took the towel, although Hiro quickly pulled it from him and dipped it into the bowl of water. Blue sat there, looking partly confused and partly exasperated as Hiro started mothering over him. Heh, even with the city burning down, Hiro was like a mother hen to the people he cared about.
“I’ll, uh…start packing our stuff, kay?” Daichi said. He felt a bit…uneasy leaving Hiro alone with this guy, but he’d be in the next room so…he’ll check in often too!
“Okay. Remember our coursework!”
“Dude, you worry about that stuff now…?”
Daichi went anyway, a heavy feeling gnawing at his guts.
“How the hell did the situation deteriorate so rapidly?” Yamato hissed, reading the reports frantically while Otome tried to keep him on the edge of the infirmary bed. He had escaped his battle with the Intruder heavily damaged, and it had taken several JP’s healers, and Otome, to corral him to the infirmary to be treated.
Makoto shook her head. “Something triggered all those infected to…change in some way,” she winced at the pain in her throat. Although healing had cured the worst of the damage caused by her near strangulation, her voice was still hoarse and pained. “We’re attempting to find source now, but with the state of our headquarters…”
“Damn it,” Yamato tossed the reports to the floor. “Yanagiya are you finished yet?”
“Patience, Chief,” Otome said cheerily, although there was a note of weariness to her tone. “Your ribcage’s still in the works here.”
“Sako,” Yamato sighed, “I want you to go to Tokyo University. Take a squad with you – or, however many free men you can take.”
“Call it a hunch,” Yamato said grimly.
Makoto bowed and hurriedly left the infirmary, almost breaking into a rapid jog. Time was of the essence. The Diet Building was heavily damaged, a large portion of their forces had been injured or killed in the fight, the Chief had been half dead when they got to him… and now this.
Their situation was looking bleak.
Chapter 7: Inevitabilis
Everyone rushes to the place where that inevitable event will occur.
“I’m standing before the Hongo campus of Tokyo University where – as you can see – there is a large mobilisation from the national organisation JP’s! The campus itself is – I cannot even begin to describe!”
The camera panned from the female news anchor, zooming behind her where the early morning sky was lit up from a roaring fire. The Experimental Medical Research Lab was being consumed by a massive blaze from the bottom up, the exterior of the building covered with a dark, fleshy substance.
“Tonight has been a day of pure chaos! This all began when an explosion rocked the Chiyoda district at one in the morning, causing a fire that has, thankfully, been put under control – but only four hours later, this current situation occurred. No information has been given-”
The camera turned to reveal a young man in the JP’s uniform, his yellow shirt smeared with ash, storming towards them with an angry expression.
“Civilians aren’t allowed here – reporters especially! Get behind the barricade!”
“I will not!” the reporter snapped, “We deserve to know what’s going on! What is happ-”
A piercing, inhuman scream tears through the air, and the camera dropped downward to reveal the cracked pavement as everyone doubled over and covered their ears. A thunderous explosion roared out, and hurriedly, camera jostling, the cameraman lifted it up to see something burst from the roof of the medical building – something monstrous…
“Wh…what is that thing?” The reporter cried.
The JP’s soldier looked pale, but he grasped the reporter by the arm and started physically hauling her away. “Get back! This is serious – it’s-”
The monster’s maw opened wide, startlingly red in the light given off by the roaring blaze, its rows of teeth larger than any man going right down the beast’s gullet. A scream – both human and inhuman – rent from the monster’s mouth, and a great, clawed hand smashed over the edge of the flesh covered medical building, hauling its massive body out of the building, its long neck a mass of- of-
“H-Heads?!” the reporter fought free from the JP’s soldier, staggering forward to thrust her hand out at the creature. “Are you getting this Takashi?!”
“Civilian! Get out of here-!”
The monster’s first head swung around, its eyes rolling where its nostrils should be, and the camera focused on its neck – heads devouring each other in a great chain, where it met a somewhat humanoid yet alien armoured body.
“All able men go to the front now!” A stern sounding woman’s voice came off screen, the camera still trained on the thrashing monstrosity. “We have to stop that beast by orders of the Chief!”
“A-Ah! Yes, ma’am!”
“Civilian!” The camera is jolted sharply, the blurred vision briefly showing the woman’s bruised, soot covered face. “Get behind the barricade, now!”
“B-But, we have to-”
A piercing scream howled out, and the entire world rocked from a massive explosion. The reporter screamed, and the camera smashed to the floor, the lens cracking. All that was shown were the feet of JP’s soldiers running in a controlled chaos, shouts for aid sounding out. Voices ran together in a confusing jumble.
“-shit Chief says-”
Another scream, the monster’s voice almost sounding human, before an ear-splitting noise roared down upon the camera and-
Three hours earlier…
“You know, I don’t feel all that comfortable stealing a car.”
Yamato ignored Daichi, more focused on inspecting the vehicle. It was parked in a dimly lit corner of the street – it wasn’t very flashy look, nor expensive, in fact, it was somewhat beaten up with rusted paint and worn leather seats. The owner must have thought that its unappealing appearance would deter most thieves.
Unfortunately, it would not deter Yamato.
He stopped before the driver’s door, flexing his gloved hand – the fabric still stiff from dried blood – before abruptly throwing a vicious punch at the window. The glass broke, pain flared up at his knuckles, and his two companions shouted in alarm. Yamato just calmly undid the lock and pulled his arm out of the hole he had made, fresh blood dripping from his injured hand.
“There is no choice,” Yamato replied, opening the door and looking over his shoulder at Daichi and Hiro’s pale faces. “If we are to reach Bunkyo-ku in time, we must have a car.”
“Well, what about the bus or a train?” Daichi asked. “We can get arrested for this – and we’re going to Ike-bu-kuro-”
“The trains will not be running with the events currently transpiring,” Yamato interrupted, beginning to lose patience. His body was near its limit – he could feel the numbness overcoming his extremities, the shortness of his breathing…although the Dragon Stream was keeping it alive, it could only do so much considering the abuse he had put it through earlier. He didn’t have time for wasteful talks. “It would be best not to rely on public transportation for that same reason, also…the infection…”
“Those zombie people?” Hiro spoke up. He had been unusually quiet since they left the apartment. Yamato wasn’t sure why, but Hiro normally became quiet and intense in high adrenaline moments like these, so he thought nothing of it.
“…if that is what you want to call them, yes,” Yamato turned back to the car. “If you wish to stay alive, you will get in the car, stolen or not.”
After a pause, Hiro and Daichi got into the car, although the latter was muttering nervously as he did so. Yamato simply got into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut. He wrenched off the plastic casing underneath the steering wheel and hotwired it without batting an eyelash. The engine spluttered to life, and Yamato gripped the steering wheel, the tears in his glove stretching open to reveal the deep cuts in his hand.
He ignored it.
“Hey…you sure you’re okay to drive?” Daichi spoke up suddenly. “I mean, you really don’t look that good.”
Yamato stared out of the windscreen, slowly driving the car away from the pavement. His head was pounding to the point where his vision was blurring – but he could drive – no, he had to drive. Although Shijima was a good driver, he could admit that, he had to be the one to drive them to Hongo. Fate is a fickle being – they would probably crash before they reach the destination if Shijima…
Black spots danced in his vision, but he blinked them away, clenching the steering wheel so tightly he cut off blood flow to his fingers.
“Fine, Shijima,” Yamato muttered lowly, inhaling deeply. He slammed his foot down on the accelerator, feeling the force press against them as they shot down the street, Daichi letting out a surprised yelp.
“Blue…” Hiro spoke up after a long pause, and Yamato felt his chair shudder when the brunet grasped onto it, hauling himself forwards. “You said we’re going to Hongo?”
“It is the epicentre of this,” Yamato replied, focusing intently on the road as he fought the blackness eating away at the corners of his vision. “It is safer if you stay with me.”
Every time he sent Hiro away from the danger, he always died. Always. Fate was a fickle thing, twisting events around to make sure he died…but why…after so many timelines he still wasn’t certain of the importance of Hiro’s death. His death didn’t change whether the threat was exterminated or not…
“So…it’s safer to stay with you, when we’re going to source of the zombie people?” Hiro asked dubiously.
“Yes. I will protect you,” Yamato vowed, practically throttling the steering wheel with his hands. “I promise. You will not die. Ever. Never again…never…never…”
If he said it enough times, he might actually keep this promise for once.
It took a few moments to realise he was muttering ‘never’ repeatedly under his breath, and he inhaled sharply, refocusing on the world, his hands turning the steering wheel this way and that on automatic. “…it is safer. That is all. Trust me.”
“Trusting the crazy person, that’ll go well…” Daichi murmured softly, and Hiro shushed him, but Yamato really couldn’t fault Shijima for his wariness.
He wouldn’t trust him either.
“Well, I just don’t know what to tell you, Chief,” Fumi said, her tone bored. “All the energy readings I got during the attack are identical to the Dragon Stream.”
“That isn’t possible. It remained dormant during the entirety of the fight,” Yamato muttered. He had one ear tuned to the report streaming steadily from the communications monitor, but so far Makoto was handling things reasonably well, leaving him enough time to see what Fumi managed to observe during the random attack on their base.
“It did,” Fumi replied. “The Dragon Stream was asleep, but it was also very active and aggressive inside our intruder.”
“…” Yamato frowned, glancing away with a furrowed brow. “It was duplicated…?”
“That’s not all,” Fumi said, tapping at her monstrously sized computer. “That Dragon Stream copy our intruder had? It was stronger than ours, waystronger. I think it was that power that helped him to tear into our dimension.”
She tilted her head slightly. “It’s kind of interesting – and raises several questions. It is possible he comes from an alternative dimension that mirrors our own, bringing his own version of the Dragon Stream with it. It doesn’t account for how powerful it is, considering the amount of power needed to achieve such a thing. It should be weak or still recovering, but…”
Yamato felt Fumi’s contemplative gaze on him, but he simply clenched his jaw. “…he may have a power that rivals the Dragon Stream, but his body cannot keep up with it. It only took one Holy Dance to eliminate him from the fight.”
“Well the amount of power he’s carrying around must put a heavy strain on his body. Actually, his body should have exploded by now.”
“Exploded?” Yamato paused at that. Ah, yes, there is only so much a human body can channel before it is mutated or obliterated by too much foreign energy. Usually the body explodes, like a meat bag pumped full of too much air, but sometimes, rarely, the body endures the overwhelming power enough to distort and become a physical manifestation…
“Yeah. It’ll be bad if that happens. I didn’t get an accurate reading of his power for obvious reasons, but what data I did collect and study…it’s not good, Chief. If he explodes, it won’t be just him that is destroyed.”
“How large would the damage radius be?” Yamato asked, already drawing up a list of uninhabited areas for them to dump the entity in when it was time for him to go off.
“The solar system.”
There was a heavy silence at that, the static voice from the monitor filling the void obliviously.
“I see,” Yamato said. “Is it definite that he will detonate?”
“Not sure. Like I said, he should have exploded by now – so something’s maintaining a balance inside of him. That’s even worse though,” Fumi shrugged lightly, tapping at her keyboard. “If the power built up is enough to completely wipe out our solar system, the physical manifestation of that power isn’t going to be any better – especially if he goes berserk.”
“A rock and a hard place,” Yamato decided, crossing his arms gingerly. His ribs still throbbed, but Otome’s healing skills were superb. The ache would fade in time. “Is there some way to utilise the terminals?”
“To send him away far enough for him to go off without affecting the planet will take more power than we have, Chief,” Fumi stated, “plus it would take time to adjust the coordinates. If we use your Dragon Stream, we can probably feed it enough juice, but it isn’t definite…”
“…I suppose it isn’t important at the moment,” Yamato finally decided. “We have more pressing issues regarding the sudden plague.”
“Right. That’s interesting. It seems like it was triggered by a powerful shockwave of energy,” Fumi replied.
“Is that so…”
“Yeah. The source is from Hongo campus at Tokyo University, but you already guessed that, huh?”
“The…intruder had attacked a shipment from the university, and claimed the infection began from there,” Yamato said stiffly. “Everything always returns to him…I do not know if he is helping or hindering.”
“…if you destroy the source,” Fumi continued after a pause, “The plague should stop. Those already infected will still be mindless monsters, but no new mutations should occur without the trigger.”
“Right. Keep me updated on new data,” Yamato said, deciding he had gleaned everything necessary. “Especially if our intruder rears his head again.”
“Will do, Chief.”
Yamato left the control room, an unsettled feeling curling in his gut. Everything linked back to that man, and a very unpleasant theory was beginning to form in his mind. He came from an alternative dimension, he had a power stronger than, yet identical to the Dragon Stream, his physical similarity to him was…
He closed his eyes briefly and pushed those thoughts aside. He wasn’t an issue right now. He will catch up with Makoto at the storming of the Hongo campus, and if the intruder decides to show up, they will deal with him then.
Japan’s safety took priority.
They hit unexpected traffic in Bunkyo-ku, enough so that their car was driven to a standstill, and Yamato was finding it harder to remain conscious each second he sat there. He flexed his hands around the steering wheel, his thoughts feeling scattered and elusive, slipping between his fingers as he tried to grasp onto them. Jumbled sentences and words floated through his mind, and he wasn’t certain if Daichi and Hiro were talking or if Yamato was talking to him, or he to him, or…
“What’s happening?” Daichi’s voice cut through the haze, and he turned his head groggily to see the student pull himself up slightly to peer over the empty passenger seat. “Was there a crash?”
“…not certain…” Yamato said, his voice sounding far away to his ears. “In any case. We have no time to stay…we should walk.”
“Eh? Just leave the car in the middle of the road?”
Yamato was already leaving the car, and the world was as distant as his voice. He was standing in the road yet not, the cars’ engines growling in a crescendo of noise and reverberating around his head. Yamato turned and started walking towards Hongo, hearing Daichi and Hiro call after him as they climbed out of the car.
“Blue, hold up!” Hiro panted, grasping onto his wrist. “Hold on, we should at least move the car to the side…”
Yamato paused in thought, his gaze wandering over to Hiro and then Daichi. Hiro’s friend was staring at him warily – as he had done since he had staggered to their apartment. It was almost as if the boy could sense something off with Yamato – he almost looked fearful, but then, he was always scared of Yamato. It was always the same no matter the world…
“Uh, something on my face?” Daichi asked nervously, flinching away from Yamato’s intense stare.
“…you can drive, Shijima. Park the car to the side if you so wish,” Yamato finally said, turning away from him and continuing on, pulling Hiro along when the brunet refused to release his wrist.
“B-Blue…!” Hiro huffed, tugging at his arm – and there was a dim feeling in Yamato’s shoulder, something similar to pain but not quite. “Slow down! I don’t think the university’s going to go anywhere!”
“We don’t have time to waste. We have to go now…” Yamato said calmly. The growls of the engines were getting louder, and he could see Hiro’s mouth move from the corner of his eye, but no sound was coming out.
Hiro’s eyes were bright blue, very bright, glowing like a star, he suddenly noticed – a star, a bright shining one, shining, shining with power, the strength of limitless potential. The growling noise was roaring now, and shining one’s mouth was still moving, eyes bright and worried and bright and he should claim that light they should claim it they had lost a lot of energy maintaining the human’s body they should deVOUR IT-
Yamato jolted violently at Daichi’s voice, his eyes wild as he stared around him, sound suddenly crashing down on him in a great wave. The street? What? Cars? Hiro and Daichi – staring, what…
His heart was pounding. He could feel the muscle throb rapidly behind his ribs and he felt…felt like he had almost – Yamato couldn’t remember. What had happened? His thoughts felt confused. He had been in the car, hadn’t he?
“Blue?” Hiro was looking up at him. “Are you okay?”
Yamato stared at him.
“…yes,” he answered after a pause. He could feel himself shaking. “…let us go.”
Hiro looked dubious, his blue eyes bright under the glare of the streetlights. Yamato turned away from them, feeling terrified for reasons he couldn’t explain. What had happened…? Although he knew his sanity was not what it used to be, he didn’t have blackouts like that…
He pushed the issue aside, sucking in a breath. Later. He will concern himself with it later. He just had to keep it together long enough to finish this…
‘It’s going to kill us,’ the thought drifted through his mind. Yamato. ‘Just so you are forewarned. I say we drop this ridiculous quest and protect ourselves…’
“I am close…” Yamato murmured under his breath. “We are close. It’s almost finished. Almost…just a little bit more…”
‘That is what you said the last fifty seven times, and looked how that ended,’ something shifted under his brain like a snake coiling in place, ‘I refuse to let you lead us to our destruction.’
“I am in control now. I have Hiro – I don’t need you anymore,” Yamato hissed. He could feel Hiro’s gaze on him, but he ignored them, his eyes focused on the road ahead. “Just go away, go away, go away, you are a leftover failure…!”
‘It is you who is the failure,’ Anger simmered, hot and painful, that rose up his throat and clenched tight around his brain, ‘You should just roll over and die – make way for a more competent one…I know how to utilise our power better than you do. You waste our energies on a dream, a childish futile dream! So give it to me! Give it to me giveittome-‘
It was like something was trying to split his skull in two, but Yamato persevered, his vision swirling in a mess of black and gold and the occasional flash of blue each time Hiro looked up at him worriedly. What expression was he making? He wasn’t sure. Yamato’s body felt like it was detached from him, walking forwards on automatic but numb to his control.
Like trying to control a broken puppet whose strings were tangled up.
Yamato’s mouth moved and words came out, but it wasn’t under his control. It was such an annoyance, this body, doing whatever he wanted for a quest doomed to failure. Hiro’s death will always happen, didn’t Yamato understand that? Why waste his talents on that boy…It was useful at first, but now he was wasting the precious energy on keeping this body alive!
They could be better than this.
“I’m fine,” Yamato said.
“Okay…” Hiro’s voice floated through the red haze. Stupid ignorant. The cause of all this…! “It isn’t much further now is it?”
“It is just at the end of the street,” Yamato said curtly, his eyes flickering around them. The street was clogged with traffic, and there were people standing beside their cars, looking up and down the road, all voicing the same thing Shijima had. Had there been an accident? What was going on? That was what the clamour of voices said.
Urgh, people were so stupid. Just roll over and die already.
“Guys,” Daichi said uneasily, “look.”
They were reaching the cause of the traffic jam. It was a barricade, with JSDF soldiers standing guard, coupled with the occasional yellow shirt of JP’s. Yamato stopped, abruptly backing up and almost knocking Daichi off of his feet. Hrm. They moved quicker than he thought. The attack at their base should have slowed them down a little, but then again, there were still the other bases in Nagoya or Osaka…
Yamato thought quickly, twitching his fingers. The body was feeling more natural, less detached now. The throbs of pain were downright unbearable, though. How did Yamato manage to move about in this broken, useless body?! He could barely breathe…shit it hurt…
“Mmm, if this is the source like Blue said, maybe the government’s realised it too,” Hiro spoke up, frowning in thought.
“I still don’t know what’s going on…” Daichi sighed. “Zombies, sources, demons, man, I just want to go to Io’s house and wait for this craziness to blow over.”
Yamato clenched his jaw, grasping the front of his coat in a white knuckled grip. “We will have to find a different route.” He could just murder the weaklings there and then, but that would frighten off Hiro and he sort of needed him with him and alive if his plan was to work. He was going to end this once and for all, and even though it’d be fun killing him as soon as – patience was needed.
Just another hour or so.
Yamato moved away from the barricade, keeping his head down and hoping that none of the JP’s soldiers ahead would recognise him - they shouldn’t, the light of the cars would silhouette him enough to be unrecognisable, but still…caution.
Hiro and Daichi trotted at his heels like faithful dogs.
Yamato grinned widely, clawing his hand down his front and feeling pain spark when his fingers dug into wounds beneath his coat. Wait, if JP’s was here, then this timeline’s Yamato would…perfect. He could kill two birds with one stone.
After all, this body had reached the end of its usefulness. He could do with a new one.
“The barricade has been put up, ma’am,” the JP’s soldier reported, standing stiffly before Makoto. Every so often he would give a wary glance at the Experimental Medical Research Lab. It was a tall building that sat in the centre of the Hongo campus of Tokyo University – normally. Now, however, it was covered in a grotesque, flesh covered substance with thick roots that dug into grounds around the building. A disgusting smell also hung in the air, like someone had just gutted several wild animals in the area recently.
It was an ominous thing. It apparently appeared at the same time the Plague triggered the mutations in the local citizenry – specifically, when the explosion at the headquarters happened. No one had gone near it, and any attempts at contact with some members of the Research Lab’s staff yielded no results.
“Good. Maintain the perimeter and allow no citizens to pass. Especially reporters,” Makoto added, glancing up when a helicopter flew ahead. They had restricted the air space but…some were just a bit too bold and persistent. At least they stayed away from the building. They didn’t know what that…thing was capable of.
As the JP’s soldier left, Makoto lifted her hand to her throat, rubbing it gingerly. It still ached at times, but…
She still remembered what her phone had told her. The attacker had been Yamato Hotsuin, but, was it possibly just a coincidence? The intruder hadn’t been human at all – not when he survived such fatal wounds – yet his physical similarity to the Chief was uncanny and the name…It was a mystery, and one that made her uneasy.
She pushed the thought aside. She will dwell on it later, for now…
She marched forwards, gathering up the Demon Tamers for the initial storming of the Medical Lab. They would have to get inside, and destroy this thing, before any more people were hurt by it. There were no obvious weak spots on the exterior of the building, and the flesh substance seemed more like armour than the actual thing itself. The cause was inside the lab, and they would have to go in to destroy it.
“Keep your gasmasks on at all times,” Makoto ordered, fixing her own mash to her face as she spoke. Her voice sounded muffled to her ears, but she attempted to sound as clear as possible. “We are uncertain of how the infection is transmitted, so be wary of any injuries gained inside the building. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am!” came the cry, and the four members of her team stared at her from behind their gasmasks. It was the best they could do in such short time.
“Then let us go. Failure is not an option!”
They will defeat this foe, whatever it was, and protect Japan. That was their top priority!
Yamato Hotsuin stepped past the checkpoint, frowning up at the towering structure. He had heard the report of it being overcome by some disgusting organic substance, but it was something else seeing it first-hand. He couldn’t recall seeing something like this ever occurring in Hotsuin’s archives.
“Chief,” a JP’s soldier ran along beside him, matching his powerful strides towards the structure. “Sako has gone on ahead with four other Demon Tamers. They just breached its perimeter. Communications are open to her team.”
So it didn’t block out waves? That was good; it meant no interference with the Demon Summoning App either.
“Also, sir…” the JP’s soldier paused, looking briefly uneasy. “We had reports that three suspicious individuals managed to break through the barricade to the South of the campus. Reports state that one of them was the intruder who attacked the Diet Building.”
“Was it now…” Yamato almost laughed. Of course he could come. He was the centre of it all! But… “Who are the other two?” he didn’t think he would have accomplices, unless they were demon allies.
“It isn’t certain, but we’ve confirmed that they were human, sir.”
“I assume that you have somehow lost track of them within this fortified area,” Yamato drawled.
“Y-Yes, sir, my deepest apologies…” the JP’s soldier said, his throat spasming in a nervous swallow. “We believe they have gotten into the Medical Lab as well, sir.”
“Good,” Yamato smirked. “It is good that we know where he is – tell Sako to keep an eye out for him, but not to engage if she spots him. I would like to observe his actions.”
Yamato just waved him off, and after a quick bow the JP’s soldier hurried to carry out his commands. Helping or hindering…Yamato wasn’t sure yet, but he was patient. He will see what will happens – and considering the intruder’s…condition, it would be best to approach him with a delicate touch. Any imbalance to the high energy he was carrying would spell obliteration for everyone.
This situation was just like handling nitro-glycerine – careful and slowly with the same consequences should they fail.
Besides, with the intruder here, in the same spot as the source of the current Plague, it was killing birds with two stones. It would tie up any and all loose ends nice and easy.
Yamato smiled to himself. Yes. Everything would be over by tonight, and he will get his answers.
Chapter 8: Interlude - Pyrrhic Victory
There is something called a Pyrrhic victory, and that is the only thing Yamato could ever hope to achieve in this hopeless situation.
Grandma - NIER
Although Yamato had only known Hiro for a few days since this crisis began, he still felt a sense of security that he could not explain around him. He was more competent than most of the JP’s grunts combined at times, with a keen insight that impressed Yamato. His…bizarre personality, however, could do with some adjusting, but Yamato found it didn’t really bother him.
Makoto was at his back, yet Hiro was at his side, as they went deeper within the hive that had consumed the Medical Research Labs at the Hongo campus. Yamato still didn’t know what had caused such a thing, but the organic material covering the walls pulsed with life, a low wheeze like the bellows of a furnace rumbling beyond their sight. They had met little resistance, strangely, and attacking the flesh that covered the doors brought no retribution.
It was suspicious.
“This reminds me of a game I played once,” Hiro spoke up suddenly, his voice slightly muffled by the gasmask. Yamato tilted his head to see him past the lens of his own mask. “There’s some fleshy monster eating up a building, and you having to go to its inner sanctum to kill it.”
“This is not a game, Kageyama,” Yamato said severely.
“I know, I just said that the situation was similar to it,” Hiro returned, his tone lightly teasing. Yamato could see a glint of blue past the lens of Hiro’s gasmask. “No doubt we will have to fight it once we reach the centre of this place.”
“Indeed. The core should be in the basement levels.”
“And the elevators are right out…” Hiro mused. There was silence, and then the brunet let out a small noise, moving ahead with light skipping steps, the ears of his hood fluttering behind him like ribbons caught in the wind. Yamato stopped, hearing Makoto stop behind him, her weight shifting anxiously.
“Aha! I thought so! Normally they have directions in big complexes like this…”
Hiro tugged at the fleshy surface of the wall, peeling away the brownish material with quiet ‘yucks’ escaping him. A smudged, yet intact, sign was bolted to the wall, an arrow pointing down one hallway with the picture of stairs. “Ta da!”
“Congrats,” Yamato said dryly. “We would have found them eventually.”
“Yeah, but time is of the essence, you know?” Hiro laughed, looking over his shoulder. “So anyway, you never really answered my question earlier. What about this-”
“-this JP’s thing?”
Yamato blinked, finding his fingers digging into the brown flesh covering the wall. He peeled it back, revealing the sign of an arrow and stairs bolted to the wall, smudged with the slime oozing from the fleshy material’s surface.
“The JP’s?” Hiro asked, fidgeting with the long ear of his hood. Daichi beside him was looking a bit green, his eyes nervously looking at where Yamato had torn off the organic substance. “Those were the people we broke past, right? You never really explained who they were…”
“I think I heard of them,” Daichi spoke up, finally looking down at his feet. The floor was covered in flesh, and it pulsed sickeningly, like a living thing. “That Yamato guy leads them, right?”
“Yamato?” Hiro murmured.
“…publically they are known as Japan’s Meteorological Agency, Geomagnetism Research Department,” Yamato said after a pause. “Yamato Hotsuin is the Director.”
Hiro was staring at him intently. Yamato found himself evading those bright blue eyes, wiping his sullied fingers on his coat. They could not linger for much longer, Hiro was right. Time was of the essence – or, past Hiro was, the first Hiro was correct, for he was struggling to maintain…
To stay here. Now.
“Yamato Hotsuin…he sounds really familiar,” Hiro said slowly, thoughtfully, and even Daichi was looking bit thoughtful himself.
-know what you mean,” he said, grimacing as his boot almost slipped on the stairs. The flesh was thicker here, and there was no glimpse of the metallic stairs beneath the organic substance. It was also very slippery, so they had to grapple with the banisters to prevent them from tumbling down.
“I’m not trying to be a romantic,” Hiro said, muffled laughter coming from behind the gasmask. “I’m just saying, it feels like I’ve known you before. Have we met?”
“I think I would have remembered someone like you,” Yamato returned, but his response wasn’t certain. Hiro was niggling at his memory, distantly…
“I feel the same with Makoto too,” Hiro added off handedly, and Yamato could almost feel the wolfish grin when Makoto stammered out an embarrassed response.
“Stop teasing my subordinates, Kageyama,” Yamato said in exasperation. “We must focus on more important matters.”
“I know, but if you be serious all the time, life’s going to suck,” Hiro returned, and he lifted a hand to twirl a shape in the air with his finger. “You should meet all the horrible stuff with a smile and a laugh! Not because you’re a psycho, but because then it doesn’t affect you as much.”
Yamato didn’t understand that. You endured horrible things.
“But that’s just me,” Hiro lowered his hand. They reached the bottom of the stairs, and a long corridor stretched down towards a gaping black hole, thick tentacles clinging to the walls as they stretched out from the opening.
“It seems that this is the possible source. Please direct all forces to here.”
Hiro moved ahead, his steps deceptively light. “I’ll check it out, shall I?”
“Hrm, if you wish. We should see if the beast has trapped the entrance. Your death will be informative.”
Hiro laughed loudly, the noise echoing down the hallway, and he turned, still walking backwards towards that dark, gaping hole, blue e y e s br I g ht t…
“Really, you’d be sad if
“Yamato Hotsuin is a man not to be trifled with,” Yamato heard someone say.
“Do you know him, then?”
“In a way. We are linked in a way that cannot be explained.”
“I saw a picture of him once in the newspaper,” that was Daichi, “You look kind of like him…you know, ‘cept your hair is shorter.”
“Ahahaha, we should look the same.”
“Are you brothers?”
“You could say that, I suppose. We are related – very closely.”
“So you used to be part of JP’s?”
“Used to. That was a- long time ago, however.”
“Just how old are you anyway?”
“How…old am I…?”
“Time does accumulate, doesn’t it? Although I have been repeating the same months, it is still time, so even though the body is young, the soul and mind is…well, there is probably a chance of mental instability if I make too many leaps. But I believe I have amassed enough data to obtain the perfect timeline within the next five jumps.”
“Time is not so easily predicted, Yamato Hotsuin,” Alcor said, his gaze resting on the terminal. “The Akashic Records cannot fully map out what will happen someone defies it so utterly…”
“So many things can only happen by changing one thing,” Yamato replied, pressing the code into his phone. “And I will change only one thing.”
“That is what you say, but you will change many others in the process of your plan.”
“Perhaps. But as you say, the Akashic Records cannot fully predict what would happen if someone defies it. We have resisted the Akashic Records before, we have defied an omniscient will with our own…so long as I persevere, I will conquer this.”
Alcor’s gaze was full of pity. “I am just as saddened by this, Yamato Hotsuin, but sometimes things happen for a reason.”
“A reason,” Yamato spat bitterly. “If there was any reason in this world, he would have lived.”
And the final button was pressed, a blinding burst of light that turned to crimson in a moment, warm and slick on his fingers and face and
“It seems that you were unable to stop it again,” Alcor said morosely, and Yamato gritted his teeth, his hands clutching the too limp body close to his chest. Hiro’s eyes were half open, dull and lifeless, and a thin red line ran down from the corner of his mouth.
Yamato wiped it away with his thumb.
“I was close.”
A distant scream, and Yamato looked up to see the monster thrashing, the fire that Hiro had cast before he had been felled spreading along its thick tentacles, consuming it utterly. The building shuddered in response, deafening cracks splintering the thick ceiling above.
“I was close.”
The room lit up in bursts of orange and red, and Yamato almost wanted the heat to consume him, to be bathed in the
“Fire will be our main source of attack here.”
“How will we use fire?”
“Hiro gave you the demon summoning app, didn’t he?”
“Yeah…wait, so it really-?!”
“Activate it, Shijima.”
“You act like you’ve used it before.”
“Ah yeah, kind of weird, huh…it feels so similar.”
“There is something called a Pyrrhic Victory, Yamato Hotsuin,” Alcor said, and there was blood on his shoes. Yamato just stared up at him, unable to dreg up the energy to get up off the floor. Silver eyes were filled with compassionate pity, and Yamato wanted to claw them right out of the heretic’s skull.
“…this will be a true victory, in the end,” Yamato murmured, and his fingers tightened around Hiro’s wrist, the pulse long gone. “I will win.”
“What would you do when you have?” Alcor asked.
What would he do?
“You are beyond damaged, Yamato Hotsuin, and it pains me to see it. I, if you so wish, will attempt to alleviate you from your burden-”
“One more time,” Yamato said quietly, and he dropped Hiro’s wrist. He struggled, he struggled and struggled, clambering painfully to his hands and knees, feeling like every single timeline was trying to crush him down into the earth.
“This’ll be the last one,” Yamato muttered to himself, standing before the steps leading down to that place. Hiro and Daichi’s chatter behind him stopped briefly.
“I said ‘mind your step’.”
And down they went, towards that place. The final place. It will end. End. He will make it end, with the little time he had left, he will make this a Pyrrhic victory. Hiro’s life for his own- that was-
As the timelines crashed into one inside his head, he focused on that. His life for Hiro’s. His life for Hiro’s. His life. His death.
It was almost a relief.