MINUS • PLUS
The upper floor wasn’t as empty as the one below it. There was a long corridor in front of him, containing a row of doors. The sound was coming from behind one of them.
Realizing that clicking it is pointless, Yukio had left the walkie below, along with the lunch. He was regretting the decision.
They could’ve been busy. What if they are free now? Should I give it another try?
Another loud thud forced him to look forward again. Something was definitely happening behind the doors, and the sound indicated that someone was hitting something over and over again.
Yukio quickly entered one of the rooms. And the sound ceased.
It was a small, square room made with the same white slab of stones. There were just a few chairs in the room, nothing else. It had three doors on the three other sides, giving him the impression that it was designed as some sort of maze.
Pushing one of them, Yukio entered another room, and saw that this one contained a bed and a small table. It reminded him of that room in Kichiro-san’s clinic. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
He concentrated, but couldn’t hear a peep from anywhere.
Do they think that they have been caught? That’s it, isn’t it?
Finally, there was some respite. Yukio was certain that when he came inside, the sound startled them. They escaped, thinking that the Rangers were onto them. Whatever they were protecting should be safe now. He should go to the ground floor and try Amanda again.
Thank God this one was easy.
Yukio sighed a breath of relief.
As he turned around to return, something stopped him. No, it wasn’t another sound or anything. There was still pin-drop silence around him. What stopped him was his overwhelming curiosity.
He came this far. He had to see what they were keeping here. The others might not give him the chance, considering how he didn’t even know what the hell he was protecting.
Roaming through the rooms, Yukio discovered that most of them contained beds, and some even had fluid stands. Looks like it was some sort of a clinic, he thought.
As he tried to push open a door, he felt resistance for the first time.
Unlike all the other doors he encountered before (minus the one on the ground floor), it was locked. There were no actual locks, just a normal latch that’s used everywhere on Earth. Some of the doors to the other rooms also had latches, although none of them were applied.
Is this where they have kept the thing? But, if so, why is it just latched? It would’ve been better to keep it properly locked, right?
Yukio was unable to find the logic behind it, like many other things.
Amanda said he just had to keep an eye on the door, and yet the enemies were able to enter the room just fine. Since it’s still latched from the outside, they didn’t have to open it either. Then, there was the sound. What were the enemies doing? If they found the stuff they were looking for, they should’ve just taken it and left, right?
If he thought deeply, nothing made sense.
He hoped that the answers to some of the questions were inside the room. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
There was nothing inside the room. Except a bulky man lying at a corner, dressed in a large, gray coat that was hiding most of his features.
With a black mask on his face. A mask he had seen before.
In a hissing voice, the man said something in an alien tongue. After some time, Yukio heard through his TD, “Wow. You came.”
When he was thrown at a wall for the third time, Yukio finally realized that no one was coming to save him.
The first time the Black Mask did that, he thought all of his bones had broken. The pain was so much that his brain didn’t have the capacity to process anything else. That was probably the reason why when the man grabbed him again, the fear didn’t overwhelm his heart.
The second time, Yukio was sure that his skull now had more than three cracks, and soon his body would stop functioning. But out of sheer determination, or adrenaline, or something else, he was able to stay conscious. As the man walked up to him again, he thought that this was the moment heroes make an entrance. Amanda surely would’ve realized something was wrong after being unable to contact him, and she would be here soon. She would bring others as well, the Rangers, and together they would defeat this… enemy.
That is, until the third time.
Yukio was surprised at his durability. The last throw should’ve killed him. The one before that as well. And the one before that.
How was he still alive?
He took a few deep breaths, and made an attempt to stand up. The man was just standing now, observing him. As Yukio somehow stood up with his bloody legs, he removed his mask.
There was a greenish, scaled face underneath it. It looked like someone had restructured a snake’s head to the tunes of a human head, and in the process, gave it some features like nose, ears, lips, as well as eyelids.
The man, if he could be called that, grabbed Yukio by the neck, and pinned him to the wall. Then he said something in his tongue, which Yukio obviously didn’t understand.
After a few minutes, the man probably realized that Yukio’s TD was beyond repair now. Using his other hand, he took out something from his coat pocket, and attached it to Yukio’s right ear.
It was another TD.
“I have to admit, you are good,” the mechanical voice translated the man’s words, “I was upset, so I did not want to play with you. But you are a tough nut. I will kill you, then go and kill all your friends. I will also kill the girl. She took my powers. I don’t know how, but she did. She will pay for it. I will make her regret releasing me.”
What was he talking about?
Who took his powers? Who was the girl?
Yukio’s body was still surprisingly agile. As he tried to release himself from the grip, the man laughed a raspy, hollow laugh.
“There is no point. Look at me. This is the last face you will ever see.”
The fear finally kicked in.
I can’t die. Not right now.
Looking at the man, Yukio let out a loud scream; a scream that travelled to all the corners of the building. He stretched his hands to grab the man’s neck, in vain. The man kept laughing.
Suddenly he remembered how in Ohara, Sugi appeared behind an enemy and made them disappear.
If only I could use my powers… If I could somehow go behind him…
Yukio closed his eyes.
“You just have to think about the place you want to go, or the person you want to meet.”
Sumeragi Sensei said something like that. So I just have to… think.
I haven’t seen his back, but I have seen his front. I want to grab his neck, just like he is grabbing mine.
And I want to kill him.
Yukio opened his eyes, and realized he was no longer pinned to the wall. His hands were indeed grabbing something, but it wasn’t flesh.
It was… bone.
He was hanging, grabbing the man’s neck. Only his hands somehow penetrated the skin and the muscle, and reached the man’s vertebra.
Blood was flowing all over them, but the man was still somehow standing.
He let go of the man, and dropped on the floor. After a while, the man dropped as well.
His gaze focused on his bloody hands at first, and then at the body. It was lying on the ground, face down, over a pool of blackish blood that was only getting bigger.
Yukio dropped on his knees.
The image was too strong now. There was no way he could keep it out of his mind.
Maekawa Yuichi had returned to haunt him.