Chapter 33:

By The Finest of Threads

X = Y

Selflessness. Progression. Development. Truth. The path humankind traversed to evolve. Self, the notion of a person, and their reason to live. Their conviction, their motivation, their will, their desires, their humanity. When you cry, your character breaks down, and from that moment on, you build a new one, repeating the cycle infinitely. In the darkness, they shall fall. In the light, they shall rise. Bookmark here

Pulling his hood down in an instant, revealing his true face, Rei dashed in, his two ponytails connected to one, flowing grandiosely. The gangster Rei tossed previously, and the three gangsters hit by him stood up gradually. Dazed, they were wobbling, holding their heads, tottering towards him. Now twenty-eight men stood between Rei and freedom.Bookmark here

Rei glared down at the gangster in front of him, performing a Khao Loi (Flying Knee Strike) and connecting with his target, knocking the gangster out. Many others reached him with his fist, bobbing and weaving, adjusting his head position agilely, all at once. He countered-punched four that ran into him consecutively, crushing their jawline gracefully.Bookmark here

Rei, preoccupied, was now surrounded, the gangsters snarling, grunting, like wild animals. Ignorant of his actions, unknowing of the gangsters, Rei performed a Spinning Side Kick to the gangster behind, greeting his face heinously, causing him to fall debilitated, his body snapping like a twig. Using the momentum, he had moved close enough to the other gangster, who tried punching him, but he was dodging and remaining low. Rei, now performing a 540 Spinning Hook Kick, the back of his right leg connected against another gangster's jaw, causing him to bleed through the nose, passing out.Bookmark here

Rei landed on his feet and spun around, performing a down tornado kick, smashing his face, stunning the gangster. Rei grabbed that incapacitated gangster, throwing him like a spear at the gangsters, and Rei immediately jumped back into space, now no one was behind him. The thrown gangster collided brutally with another, the spear's head striking the gangster's jaw, now knocked out, unconscious.Bookmark here

Growing tired of this fight, Rei ran in towards the gangster farthest to his right. In doing so, he would separate the pack, and in his thoughts, Rei could bulldoze from one side of the mob to the other, taking them on one by one. He was breathing heavily, sighing, his body becoming heavier. The gruelling task of defeating began taking a toll on his body, his arm still recovering from the damage caused by the collapsed warehouse rooftop falling on him.Bookmark here

Running past the mob of gangsters, he turned around, running towards the farthest right. The gangster tried performing a punch, but Rei dodged by performing a Skipping Side Kick, preparing his body lower, taking a step with his left foot, impaling the gangster's jaw and knocking him out. Two more gangsters ran in, and he jumped between, performing a Scissor Kick, the impact against the side of their heads. They were out of commission, and more gangsters dashed towards him, akin to a straight line, like a rampaging train, unbridled.Bookmark here

Rei performed a Downard Roundhouse Kick, succeeded by a 360 Roundhouse Kick, a Spinning Roundhouse Kick, finally a Double 540 Roundhouse Kick in quick succession. Masterfully dodging all their punches and kicks, weaving and bobbing, relying on his balance, he countered all of them using their momentum from running. Every kick met the jaw or neck of a gangster, and the last double kick met two, rendering them unconscious.Bookmark here

"I can't use my legs kicks are becoming ineffective, and my arms are still in pain...they're not recovering quick enough..." Rei thought, surmising defeat but persevering.Bookmark here

Only twelve gangsters remained, including Yozo, who was boss of the gang, to who they pledged undying loyalty.Bookmark here

With his legs tired, Rei switched to using his arms. His attacks began frequenting around his arms, and the attacks to his enemies aimed at their torso. Nevertheless, Rei performed one final Stepping Hook Kick with his right leg, and his limb lethargically swung. Inadequate energy left in his lower body, his leg trailed there, allowing another gangster to grab him by the leg, dragging him off the floor.Bookmark here

Rei was flung up into the air, and the gangster attempted to slam him into the ground, materialising, becoming a reality. Before it could, Rei pushed his left leg towards the gangster, now wrapping both legs around the gangster's neck, behind his head, resting on his back like a throne. Rei tried choking him, pulling the gangster's head back. Prioritising the chokehold, he fell backwards, forcing the gangster to fall, slamming his head against the floor, along with his own back, knocking him out.Bookmark here

Rei stood up quickly, apprehending the remaining gangsters would kick him while he was down. Another bolted towards him, attacking Rei with a low sweeping kick, the other gangsters tried surrounding him again. Rei, utilising his footwork, splendidly, his manoeuvres were flawless, and he stepped to the side, jumping quickly into the gangster. Getting low, he performed a Side Elbow Strike into the gangster's Solar Plexus, neutralising him. Immediately following with a Spinning Elbow Strike to his chest, then a Nukite (Spear Hand Strike) to his throat, suffocating him. He falls to the ground, asphyxiated.Bookmark here

One of the remaining gangsters jumps onto his back, trying to strangle him, his legs wrapped around Rei's waist, while the others punched and kicked his face and body, and others hold his arms and legs back. Battered and bruised, Rei feels the pain resounding through his nerves, his body, his soul. He struggles, trying to free himself whilst being stunned by the punches, which now stagger him.Bookmark here

"I can't be defeated here...I can't fall here... and I'll get rid of you from this world...both you and the Eternal Ruler!" Rei thought, his hesitation died, but in its place, bravery was born.Bookmark here

"Truly magnificent!" Yozo exclaimed, laughing maniacally, grinning vilely. "A fight that I want to be a part of, but if you can't survive, then you weren't worthy!"Bookmark here

Desperate, Rei jumped into the air, slipping out of the grip of the gangsters who were holding his limbs, falling backwards, with the gangster that was choking him still on his back, pulverising him against the floor, putting all his weight on him, fracturing all twelve of his ribs. Rei rolled to his front, standing up, his legs weak, quivering underneath him, like steel suspension bridges. The ligaments in his legs were steel-wired cables, about to snap from the density of pain and predicament.Bookmark here

The eight remaining gangsters, directly in front of Rei, now frightened by Rei's glare, by his aura, by his demeanour, and the perceived death of their crewmates were backing away.Bookmark here

Rei was incensed, and his fatigue grew. The blood pulsating through the arteries reminded him of his suffering. The oxygen travelling through his body, and the pain, was perpetual. Rei's body was trying to repair the insufferable damage.Bookmark here

"Only these guys are left, then him..." Rei thought to himself.Bookmark here

"Hey! Kill him, then deal with that girl and her child. But don't go in too hard! I want to fight him after!" Yozo exclaimed, laughing childishly, cackling to signal his victory was assured.Bookmark here

On the offensive, Rei began executing a plethora of Uchi Waza (Karate Striking Techniques): First, a Gyaku Zuki (Reverse Punch), to the chest of the first gangster running to him, paralysing him. Then a Shuto Uchi (Knife Hand Strike) to the first's neck and a punch to his jaw. He keeled over, nearly dead.Bookmark here

Second, a punch was coming Rei's way from the second gangster, and he barely managed to dodge the punch, grazing his cheek. For the entirety of this fight, he has kept his eyes fixated on his opponent's glare. The gangster hesitated, going for a slower punch. However, before it reached him, Rei stepped in with his right foot, performing a Haito Uchi (Ridge Hand Strike), slicing the side of his straight left hand into his neck, followed by a Teisho Uchi (Palm Heel Strike) to his jaw with the other hand, knocking him over and out.Bookmark here

Third, he performed a Kizami Zuki (Jab Punch) to the third gangster's jaw and followed emphatically with a Hasami Zuki (Scissors Punch), squashing both sides of the gangster's head with his fists, keeling over too.Bookmark here

Fourth, another gangster came running, and he dodged his fists, performing a Uraken Uchi (Backhand Fist) with his right hand, defeating the gangster.Bookmark here

The five remaining gangsters circled him, reminding Rei of the five that surrounded him as they tried to attack altogether. Two of the gangsters tried attacking from behind, and the three from the front, but Rei turned around, performing an Ashi Barai (Foot Sweep Kick), and both fell over. With the three behind him, he turned around, glaring with verve.Bookmark here

To the first, he performed a Straight Jab, punching a hole into his jaw. The second, a Left Hook to his liver, incapacitating him, succeeded with a Haymaker Punch to his jaw, feeling the bones crush under his might. To the third gangster, Rei performed a Right Cross to his body, then a fatal Left Uppercut, knocking him out.Bookmark here

Turning around, Rei saw one of the two remaining gangsters sitting up on the floor and was about to stand. Rei waited for him, and the moment he stood, he grabbed him by his neck and arm, performing a Yama Arashi (Mountain Storm), lifting the gangster, kicking one of his legs to disrupt his balance, Rei turning around using his hips, and slamming him into the ground. With the last gangster, Rei walked up to him, performing a Naeryeo Chagi (Axe Kick), suffocating the man.Bookmark here

With all the thirty-six gangsters incapacitated, dead or nearly dead, Rei stood there as his thread of life became visible. Clapping emanating through the air, ripping his sensitive eardrums to bits, grew louder.Bookmark here

"Excellent! Absolute marvelous! Fight me! I will be the one to kill you! Only one is left, and the other two are dead!" Yozo said, grinning, euphoric about the situation, he began walking towards Rei. He was breathing heavily, bruised profoundly, but his Eternal Rule did not end.Bookmark here

"They're not dead...not her baby...and not her...I'm sorry I couldn't protect you...I need to get them to safety. Because of me...I couldn't protect them...I got them into this...I should have listened to Kei. We could have been saved..." Rei mused.Bookmark here

Rei lifted his guard and was using a Muay Thai defensive stance. Both fists were beside his head and his palms facing towards Yozo. He watched gingerly, but to his surprise, Yozo copied the defensive stance Rei displayed.Bookmark here

"How do you know it..." Rei questioned, expressing disbelief.Bookmark here

"Know it?! I'm just copying you! I've watched you long enough to know how you fight! All you do is aim for the head, and when nothing is working, you just go for a straight punch!" Yozo exclaimed, his expression becoming wild.Bookmark here

Rei realised that he spoke the truth; transforming his nervousness to tranquillity, controlling his evergrowing vehement rage and resentment, he prepared himself for a final deathmatch.Bookmark here

"What kind of boss are you...watching your people die. How long have you been working with them?" Rei questioned, struggling to stand.Bookmark here

"I don't care about them, and they know it! We're doing everything illegally, and we have a reason for it! Do you think we care when the world kicked our faces into our skulls? It's been years since I cared about a life like that, and no one has ever asked me if I cared!" Yozo exclaimed.Bookmark here

He dashed in, and his punches were like Gatling gun bullets, decimating Rei's arm structure. Bombarding Rei like a bombardier, Yozo's punches impacting his arms were enervating. Rei performed a Haymaker Punch, but astonishingly, Yozo blocked it, going in for a counterpunch. Rei pulled his arm back quickly, returning to his defensive stance.Bookmark here

Subsequently, he stared at Rei's eyes, actually noticing them for the first time, and he hesitated slightly, his vigour declining. Truly understanding death through glancing at the gates of the afterlife, his body apprehended that mortality was close, but his thoughts began wondering, disturbing his focus. Bookmark here

"What is that now? Haven't I noticed his eyes...or did I forgot...That I've never seen eyes like his..." Yozo thought, developing a bewildered expression.Bookmark here

Upon blocking the counterpunch magnificently, smacking it away, redirecting his fist with a single palm thrust, Rei ducked, performing a Left Haymaker Punch, annihilating his liver. The punch jolted Yozo, and he stumbled back, with Rei in pursuit.Bookmark here

"Out of everyone, I need you alive." Rei said.Bookmark here

He went around Yozo and performed a Knife Hand Strike, creating an ear-shattering noise, to the base of the back of his neck, where the spinal cord entered his neck to the brain, now incapacitated. He slowly lost conscious, and fell over, defeated. Rei grabbed him before hitting the ground and held him over his right shoulder.Bookmark here

In a graveyard of bodies, only Rei achieved greatness. Accomplishment, something that Rei should feel happy about, yet he felt nothing but dread, remorse, regret, and grief. Positivity escaped him, and with it, sorrow overwhelmed him, though he remained diligent and determined.Bookmark here

Walking up to Futami's body, he knelt, shaking her. The baby was still in her hands, sleeping, and he saw her grip tighten.Bookmark here

"Do you need help getting up? We have to leave, please." Rei said, tears dropping from his eyes. "I'm sorry...but please. I have to protect you. I's the only thing I can do now..." Rei pleaded.Bookmark here

"She slowly turned her body, sitting up on the floor, staring at Rei, her face in absolute terror, tears bursting from her eyes, dripping down on the floor.Bookmark here

"Take my baby, please...Save him...I can't live without Kunio...I don't think I can make it..." she replied, handing over her baby.Bookmark here

"No. You're that child's mother. How do you think he'd feel knowing his mother gave up on him? Growing up without knowing his parents, thinking they abandoned him. Who's going to tell him the tale of his parents? How lonely would he feel? His father did everything to protect him, and he died, but he was successful." Rei spoke calmly, reasonably, prudently. Rei stood up, looking over her with tears.Bookmark here

"If you can't walk, then I will assist you, even with this thing I'm carrying." Rei spoke kindly but firmly.Bookmark here

Futami kneeled, and then with one hand as support, she stood up, but her legs were in ruins. Futami was holding the baby with her left arm, and her legs quivered. Understanding her situation, he moved under her right arm, placing it on his back, supporting her.Bookmark here

"Do you have a phone? Call the police or someone that can get us out of here." Rei asked, making eye contact.Bookmark here

"What about Kunio? We can't leave him here." Futami responded.Bookmark here

Rei turned his head around and found the body, thinking about it. He turned his head to her, speaking warmly.Bookmark here

"No, we can't. We'll get the police here to take him. First, let's go back upstairs, so they know where we are." Rei responded.Bookmark here

"Yeah...I don't have a phone...but Kunio did." Futami responded, gaining respect for Rei.Bookmark here

"We'll get it from his pockets then." Rei responded.Bookmark here

They walked up to his body, and Rei let go of Futami, who was immobile but standing. Walking up the stairs and out of the factory at a snail's pace, the road closest to the abandoned factory was barren. Rei was holding the phone with the same arm that was supporting Futami. There were no cars, nor people. Futami let go of Rei, falling to the ground, kneeling on the dirty pavement. Rei began dialling 110, the emergency number for the police. The phone rang, and Rei fell to the ground beside Futami, kneeling, remaining in that position, as the phone dropped from his hand. Parched, starving, exhausted, he closed his eyes, his body hunched forward. He dropped Yozo, and Futami picked up his phone, answering the call, kneeling next to Rei.Bookmark here

For Rei, approximately an hour and fifteen minutes had passed since his brother had left, with a gang boss working directly under a general revealed himself, tormenting Rei and his world. For Kei, two hours had passed since leaving Rei and arriving back at the policed station. It was dark, and the night was playful. The moon was full, shining brightly in their forsaken world, about a quarter of the distance into the sky.Bookmark here

Kei arrived at the police station on the other side of Toshi City, closest to Abe's old apartment. There, he noticed that more police officers were circulating the area. He walked out of the car, entering the precinct, walking past the waiting room, and knocking on Yasuhide Ogi's office door. A golden plaque with his name was on the door, centred, at eye level, and it had other grooves and engravings, creating a rectangular border.Bookmark here

The door opened, and Yasuhide greeted Kei with a smile. There was another man in his thirties, sitting near Yasuhide's desk, but he had a full head of hair, not too long. He was wearing a shirt, black waistcoat, black trousers, brown shoes and belt. He had a laptop on the desk, connected to a phone.Bookmark here

The office was a small square box, with a desk, a bookshelf on the wall next to the door, and a couple of chairs. The walls were a cream colour, just like all the rooms in the precinct.Bookmark here

"Detective Kei! Or just Kei? I haven't figured out which to use. Quickly!" Yasuhide exclaimed, running to his seat and sitting down.Bookmark here

"Kei is fine. Hello there." Rei responded, talking to the man.Bookmark here

"This is Shigeki Takashita. He's working with us on the case. He arrived about ten minutes ago." Yasuhide said brightly.Bookmark here

"Hello there, Detective Hirojima." said Shigeki, smiling.Bookmark here

"Hello. Haven't you been in the field yet, Yasuhide? I mean, out and about like me?" Kei asked.Bookmark here

"I like the investigation part. After that, I'm not really about field work. Collecting evidence and bringing it to the officers or other people is what I excel at. I don't like pursuits." Yasuhide explained.Bookmark here

"Oh, I see." Kei responded. "What did you want to show me?" Kei added.Bookmark here

"Look at this phone." Yasuhide said, picking up the phone, wired into Shigeki's laptop.Bookmark here

On it, the background was white and had words left for Kei.Bookmark here

"Give to the police. Kei Hirojima." Kei said, understanding the importance of those words. "Who's phone is this?" Kei added.Bookmark here

"I've extracted everything from it onto the laptop just now, but we haven't looked through the data it or unlocked the phone." Shigeki said calmly.Bookmark here

"That was my idea. An investigation is for the thrills! We'll look through it." Yasuhide added.Bookmark here

"Okay." Kei replied whilst Yasuhide unplugged the phone, handing it over to Kei, who took it, perplexed.Bookmark here

"Wait. How are you supposed to unlock the phone?" Kei questioned, staring at it.Bookmark here

Kei began turning the phone around and noticed that the cover, which was black and had patterns like a layer of graphene, was slightly loose. He took off the protective cover slowly, and he noticed something white in there. He took it out, and it was a note folded up, creased and crinkled.Bookmark here

"I wanted you to find that out. I saw that and left it in there for you! Now the thrills will begin." Yasuhide exclaimed.Bookmark here

"Did you know about this too?" Kei inquired to Shigeki.Bookmark here

"Yeah. But I already have what I need." Shigeki answered.Bookmark here

Kei unfolded the note and saw that it had the words 'Passcode: 7743' on it. Apprehending instantly what that meant, he typed the passcode into the phone, accepting the digits and unlocking the phone.Bookmark here

"Who does this belong too? Who gave you the phone?" Kei questioned.Bookmark here

"It was given to the police station closest to Tatashi Industrial. The girl who gave it was Hibika Oroji. A girl that was part of your class at Metagawa. I did my research." Yasuhide said, smiling. "As for the owner, we'll find out who it is."Bookmark here

"Hibika? The witness protection grant I got from Superintendent Tatsuoku Koedan lasts for a month. It's been about three days, but it feels longer than that. Where's Naruki Jin? Upstairs?" Kei said, scrolling through the phone, entering the settings.Bookmark here

"Yeah. They're going to be taken to another jail until this investigation is over. We can't keep them in detainment otherwise the cells are going to fill up." Yasuhide explained.Bookmark here

Kei's eyes exploded, looking at the settings, witnessing the name of the phone, ascertaining the owner. He lifted his head in awe, dumbfounded by his revelation.Bookmark here

"It belongs to...Kanda...a friend from high school..." Kei said, astonished.Bookmark here

Thus, the story of Kei, and the story of Rei, and the story of Kanda, each made of different mettle, would convene, wrapping themselves into a single thread.Bookmark here

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