Cherry, Jessica, and I were all split up.
After the numbers separated us, we were all tasked with our own number to fight face to face. Number Fourteen was in front of me wielding his katana, Number Nineteen was in front of Cherry as immense heat drifted from his body, and Number Twenty-One was in front of Jessica with her daggers in each hand. By now, Number Twenty-Nine and his crew were completely out of sight along with Number Seven.
Without warning, Number Fourteen confidently and accurately rushed me with his sword. The katana had an extremely unique design to it as if it was handcrafted by the man himself. The sword’s blade was primarily grey-colored with a distinct straight yellow line running through it from the hilt all the way to the blade’s tip. The hilt was intricately crafted with a dark yellow, grey, and black design.
He reached me with his katana swinging vertically downward at me. I prepared to block with both my machete and my dagger upward awaiting the katana’s collision when, with unbelievable momentum, he feigned and halted his blade’s movement mid-air and kicked my chest. Sending me flying onto the wasteland’s hardened dirt, I hurled my dagger directly toward the man’s head as I fell. Number Fourteen now holding his katana with only one hand easily swiped at it, sending it clattering against the cracked dirt terrain. I jumped back and rapidly tossed two more knives from my cloak. Instead of deflecting them, he twirled around them and dodged them swiftly as he subsequently rushed me. Reaching me, he swung his katana once more, except this time horizontally towards my throat. I went to block with my machete only to have him stop the blade’s movement mid-air before it could reach my machete just like last time. Off of faking the strike, he rapidly rotated his body like an acrobat and punched me in the face with ridiculous force, sending me skidding back on the dirt floor. While I skid back, with unbelievable speed, he tossed a small knife from his kimono towards my chest. I couldn’t dodge. I had to think fast and decided to drop my body to avoid the knife. I dropped on my back and, with the momentum of the fall, I slid through the dry land. The knife flew straight past me until eventually dangling on the ground and coming to a stop.
I gathered myself back up and gasped for air. The number was completely unfazed. I couldn't even get an attack in. I began holding my bruised face with one of my hands. The pain I was feeling from his punch was insane. He wasn’t giving me a chance to switch to offense. I could only defend. As I continued to gasp for air, the number spoke cockily and fearlessly.
“You’re weak. How about I make you a deal?”
As I gasped for air, I had no choice but to listen. The number quickly twisted his katana and began holding it with both of his hands.
He continued, “How about we make this interesting. Why don’t we tell each other what we gain?”
I refused to respond, still catching my breath as he continued insisting. He was obviously curious. Perhaps he was trying to make sure that I didn’t surprise him with something since I was yet to display any unique ability.
He insisted, “How about it?”
Gaining my stamina slowly, I responded, “You first.”
The number slowly and menacingly smiled.
As his bright yellow eyes leered at me, he expressed, “Balance. From each life I take, I gain balance. That’s my greed.”
Balance? I didn’t understand what he meant until I thought about it. It was all slowly making sense. That explains how his movements are so impeccably accurate, and it also explains how he’s able to feign his attacks so effortlessly. The number frowned awaiting a response from me. I replied.
“I don’t make deals with scum like you. Thanks for the information.”
The number slowly began to laugh. As he laughed, I pulled out a hatchet and hurled it at him. He halted his laughter, frowned as the hatchet glided toward him, and deflected it easily with his katana. I made my way towards him quickly with my machete and drew out another dagger from my cloak. I now had a weapon in each hand. Reaching the number, we engaged in a flurry of strikes. Dodging his katana, I would counter with a swing from my machete, and then he would once more swing his katana followed by me once more swinging my machete and launching my dagger. Every time our blades met, the force from the collision sent shivers resonating down my body.
I swung my dagger at the right side of his neck, but he dodged instead of parrying it. After dodging, he got close to me and forcefully countered with his katana, swinging vertically downward as he screamed. I went to dodge again, but then I remembered the first two attacks that he swung at me, faking me out. I blocked with my machete but with no effort expecting him to fake this attack like the first two. This time, he didn’t fake it as he swung down truly forcefully at my machete. His katana pounded at my machete so hard that my arms flung downward, and I was sent backward drifting across the floor.
This number was no joke. I couldn’t tell if his attacks were going to be fake or real. He was too experienced. Immediately, while I drifted on the floor trying to keep my footing and trying to ignore the pain, he dashed toward me just like the other times. Right before he could reach me, bullets were shot at him. The man effortlessly and inhumanely dodged them.
After fully gaining my footing, I turned to look at Jessica who seemed completely exhausted, pointing her pistol at the number in front of me with smoke coming out of the barrel. The katana-wielding number in front of me frowned as if he was disappointed. As I looked at Jessica appreciating her support, a light bulb went off in my head.
That’s it! We can’t land attacks on our own, but if we third-party each other’s matchups, then we might be able to land some attacks in!
By now, Cherry was facing off fiercely with Number Nineteen in a brutal battle of elements. Cherry’s frost and coolness enveloped his body and hatchet as Number Nineteen’s body was engulfed in smoke and vivid heat. Cherry, angrily and forcefully, would swing his icy hatchet as the number threw a flurry of heat-filled strikes. Dodging each other's aggressive and vigorous attacks, their greeds collided. Heat and frost exploded from each of their collided strikes, initiating vast fog throughout the wasteland as their battle prolonged. Through the fog, faint colors of blue and red could be seen beginning to emerge rapidly. Both blue and red sparks from the interposing temperatures were easily seen through the fog as Cherry and Number Nineteen clawed at each other.
After Jessica helped me out, Number Twenty-One rushed her violently and swiftly. Jessica kept pulling out different knives from her cloak and pants to counter the shower of Number Twenty-One’s attacks. Blocking with her knife and the handle of her gun, she would counter by shooting bullets as she backed away and parried Number Twenty-One’s slashes. Number Twenty-One continually dodged the bullets and even barbarically attempted to cut some of them as they were shot at her.
I smiled at the man in front of me once I thought of my idea to interfere in Cherry and Jessica’s battles. I dashed toward Jessica who was still backing away and desperately attempting to dodge Number Twenty-One’s attacks, getting her cloak viciously tattered in the process. Number Fourteen’s eyes widened as he realized what I was doing and shouted.
“You little brat!”
He sprinted behind me and ran, following me as I interfered with Jessica’s battle. I reached into my cloak, unsheathing a small knife, and hurled it at Number Twenty-One as she continued her relentless assault on Jessica. The knife pierced Number Twenty-One’s rear-deltoid as she turned around and screeched.
Directly after getting wounded, Number Twenty-One reached behind her shoulder and ripped the knife out of her rear-deltoid with incredible speed and perseverance as she prepared for my impending attack. Before I could reach her though, Number Fourteen zoomed to my right, glaring at me in resentment. He tripped me with his foot, sending me rolling on the ground. I was still relatively far from Number Twenty-One and Jessica as I fell forward and immediately turned around with my back on the floor. Jessica reloaded her pistol quickly as everyone was distracted and backed away creating more distance from Number Twenty-One. As I briskly attempted to rise back up, Number Fourteen aggressively impaled his katana straight into my front shoulder through my cloak forcing me onto the ground. I yelped and turned my head, now on the floor, to Jessica to get her attention. Thinking quickly, I reached into my pocket to grab and use the only thing there, and all I found was one coin. I pulled it out and flicked it into the sky above and behind Number Fourteen trying to distract him, but he didn’t move an inch. Still frowning, he reacted to my stunt.
“Nice try kid. Won’t work on me!”
He twisted his katana into my shoulder fiercely causing me to shriek in pain. As I looked up at the rotating coin and began struggling, all I saw was Jessica aiming at it with her pistol, squinting her eyes. Astonishingly, with ridiculous precision, she shot a bullet at the coin. The bullet ricocheted off the coin behind Number Fourteen, hitting his back deltoid and piercing through his kimono. He ripped his katana out of my shoulder, and as he backed away holding his shot shoulder, we both grunted in pain.
Instantly, Jessica switched her gun’s aim at Number Twenty-One and shot a flurry of bullets. As the recoil of the gun bounced the gun back toward Jessica’s neck, Number Twenty-One chopped all the bullets mid-air with her daggers, avoiding them. Both Number Fourteen and Number Twenty-One backed away and regathered themselves near each other, holding their wounds. At the same time, I forced myself up through the pain and joined Jessica at her side. Jessica began to reload as I, thinking quickly, ripped a piece of my cloak and slowly wrapped it around my bleeding shoulder. After tying and tightening the wound fiercely with my mouth, Jessica quickly finished reloading, and in a frazzled manner began to aim her pistol with only her right hand at the numbers. In synchronicity, while aiming, she extended her arm at me requesting a weapon.
“Coal! Give me one! Any weapon!”
I reached into my cloak and tossed her a small curved knife which she caught by its handle. Preparing for more fighting, the numbers leered at us as we leered back at them awaiting the first move.
Cherry came rocketing out of the fog that he and Number Nineteen created. He collapsed and slid on the dry dirt far to the right and in front of Jessica. Slowly, Cherry rose up and backed toward us still maintaining the frozen particles that were submerging his body. He was full of scratches and had a noticeable black eye. Coming out of the fog, slowly but surely, Number Nineteen’s dark red eyes glimmered and became visible. As Number Nineteen fully exited the fog, returning beside Number Fourteen and Number Twenty-One, a heatwave burst through the fog behind him, clearing the haze. Number Nineteen’s shirt was torn and damaged as he walked filled with rage and clenching his teeth. Cherry similarly gritted his teeth and took a step forward aggressively, attempting to re-enter battle. I threw my right hand at his chest, stopping him from attacking as I noticed something unusual happening.
Minutes passed by. The three numbers just looked at us in silence as we eyed them when I began to notice a man approaching us slowly. Someone was… walking toward us…
He appeared to the far left of me and to the far right of the numbers. It was the numberless man. His hashtag beside his right eye slowly became more visible as he stepped into view.
The numbers, alongside Jessica and I, began gazing upon the man as he walked weaponless straight toward the middle of our impending skirmish.
Number Fourteen and Number Twenty-One covered their wounds with their hands as they wielded their respective weapons subsequently with their free hand. Number Nineteen toned down his body heat and dropped to a knee beside Number Twenty-One, clearly exhausted and gasping for air. They all silently watched the numberless man slowly walk. Step after step, the man awkwardly kept walking and approaching us.
Number Fourteen shouted, “What the? Hey you! What are you doing! Are you even gonna help!”
The man didn’t respond or turn his head at all. He just kept walking.
Number Fourteen continued at the numberless man, “Hello!”
Still no response.
Number Fourteen hesitantly asked, “Wait… Hold on… What number are you?”
That’s when the numberless man stopped moving. It was as if… he found that question to be one worth answering. Now, about halfway towards the middle of the battlefield in between the numbers and I, he casually turned his head towards the numbers and closed his eyes. There was a chalk-white-colored “1” tattooed on his right eyelid and a chalk-white-colored “5” tattooed on his left eyelid. Connected together with the black-colored hashtag beside his right eye…