Chapter 24:

The Numbers' Leader


As Number Fourteen noticed how the separate parts of the number connected through the walking man’s eyelids, clenching his teeth in anger, he spurted out what was on his mind.Bookmark here

“So, you’re Number Fifteen? You didn’t think to help! This whole time while we were busting our balls, you just sat there watching? If you’re Fifteen, then that means you're basically as strong as me!”Bookmark here

Slowly but surely, it was like… everything was in slow motion and slowing down.Bookmark here

The man, who now identified himself as Number Fifteen, continued to walk slowly. The white lab coat that he wore blew in the hot wind alongside drifting dirt and dust as he stepped. He stepped and stepped forward silently until he reached the halfway point between where I stood with Cherry and Jessica, and between where the three numbers stood.Bookmark here

Number Fifteen held something in his right hand, but I couldn’t make out what it was until he slowly raised it up into view. It was a pair of black shades. They were incredibly sharp, pitch-black, and polarized sunglasses which he opened and steadily fastened onto his eyes. Fitting perfectly and covering his eyes completely, the frame covered one of the dashes on the hashtag beside his right eye. The shades covered the top horizontal dash in the symbol “#”.Bookmark here

Slowly and gradually, the numbers began to fall to their knees along with Cherry and Jessica. I dropped to one knee shortly after. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening because it was happening too fast. It was like… it was like my body was getting heavier. It was like pressure and gravity began pulling everything and everyone down. The dust and rocks that blew toward Number Fifteen gradually began slowing in the air as they drifted toward him. Eventually, within seconds, all of the numbers alongside Cherry, Jessica, and I were on our knees. I tried to speak, but I couldn’t get words out of my mouth or even open my mouth. It was as if my jaw and throat weighed one hundred pounds. I was completely frozen. The pressure in the air, the pressure throughout my body, and even the pressure in my heart were overwhelming. My organs and muscles felt like they were being forced down by countless weights. I couldn’t do anything.Bookmark here

The number hauntingly and as if he was pleased spoke a few words as he turned to Number Fourteen.Bookmark here

“Ahh… yes… that’s much better. You’ve finally stopped babbling.”Bookmark here

The numbers, with their mouths half open and bodies completely still as if they were feeling a great load of pressure, didn’t respond. Even the heat resonating from Number Nineteen’s body seemed to smolder by the pressure. Number Fifteen continued speaking as he continued slowly toward the numbers.Bookmark here

“Yes… this is the sight I enjoy seeing… kneel.”Bookmark here

Countless questions flooded my head. Who is this man? Is this his greed keeping us down? Is he their leader? Why is he exerting his pressure on his allies? Could he not control it?Bookmark here

Number Fifteen briskly turned around and quickly lifted his right hand upwards at me like he was expelling a curse off of me. Instantly, all the pressure that was pulling my face down became lighter. My body was still heavy, but my mouth and face were normal. Undoubtedly, this man had to be using his greed. He spoke to me casually.Bookmark here

“You… Coal Jenie…”Bookmark here

I lifted my head up but still couldn’t move my body as he continued speaking. This time, he asked a question, insisting that I respond as he completely ignored Cherry and Jessica’s presence.Bookmark here

“I know who you are. I see the rumors are true… you do have the same greed as Arsenal, don’t you?”Bookmark here

Same greed as Arsenal? He knows who Arsenal is? What? How? Is he a bounty hunter? I replied quickly and resentfully now that he seemed to have allowed my mouth to move. Bookmark here

I don’t answer to you damn numbers. You know Arsenal? Let me guess. He almost killed you the same way he almost killed Numb-”Bookmark here

Words stopped coming out. The pressure in my face and mouth returned as Number Fifteen slowly dropped the right hand that he previously held up. He walked toward me, speaking slowly.Bookmark here

“I ask you a simple question and grant you permission to respond… and yet you babble your mouth like Fourteen over there.”Bookmark here

He pointed his left hand’s index finger at Number Fourteen.Bookmark here

“Do you weaklings not understand your place? Can you weaklings not comprehend your situation?”Bookmark here

As he walked towards me, the pressure got even heavier. It began to fill my lungs and my stomach pushing my hands down on the floor. My mouth and eyes widened uncontrollably as I was forced into prostrating onto the dirt ground. The blood from my wounds completely froze as he pursued me. As he continuously stepped toward me, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was feeling the pressure from a crashing airplane. Once the man casually reached me with his shins directly in front of my declined hair, he spoke again.Bookmark here

“I’ll give you and your circus group props. You managed to deal decent damage to my numbers.”Bookmark here

He glanced at Jessica and Cherry but then glared back at me. Cherry seemed to be freaking out. Did he recognize this man?Bookmark here

“Listen and understand boy. I have no business with you. I am simply here to deal with Twenty-Nine.”Bookmark here

He lifted his right hand once more pulling the pressure away from my face. Breathing heavily and desperately trying to oxygenate myself, I replied miserably.Bookmark here

“Why… why! Why won’t you numbers die!”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen smiled and knelt down, emotionlessly glaring at my face.Bookmark here

“Little boy. I allow you to speak once more, and you finally ask something worth answering.”Bookmark here

I gritted my teeth as I leered into his pitch-black sunglasses. The man spoke softly.Bookmark here

“Answer me this… Coal Jenie… What is this world? What are human beings? What is greed?Bookmark here

I didn’t respond as he slowly took off his sunglasses with his left hand, revealing his violet eyes.Bookmark here

You’re just like the rest. Ignorant. Selfish. You refuse to answer me. I’ll answer for you then… Coal Jenie. This world is fake. Nothingness. An illusion cast over your eyes. Decade after decade, you so-called ‘humans' have never changed. You all greed for the same thing. A job, money, children, a family, religion, and worst of all… love. Don’t you see? You hate upon the numbers when, just like you, the numbers all hold their own purposes and desires. The world asks what greed is. The answer is right in front of me.Bookmark here

He paused his speech as if he thought I would understand, but then he continued.Bookmark here

You are greed. You people are the greed in this world.”Bookmark here

Filled with hostility, I responded the only way I knew how.Bookmark here

“I will kill y-”Bookmark here

He placed the full palm of his right hand on my face, halting my speech once more.Bookmark here

“What exactly could you do, Coal Jenie? You’re nothing.”Bookmark here

He slightly grinned, and with his left hand, slowly covered his eyes with his shades once more. He spoke only one word.Bookmark here

Spring.”Bookmark here

From him saying that word, it was like all the pressure in and around my body rapidly snapped away. As my face left his palm, my cloak soared off my body, and I was viciously launched across the wasteland. Twirling, rolling, flying, and spinning uncontrollably onto the cracked wasteland floor, I was blasted into a boulder. The boulder exploded as I pierced through it, skidding my body with less momentum on the ground until I came to a sliding stop. As my body stopped, all I saw was dirt, dust, and blood flowing down into my eyes. I tried to stay conscious.Bookmark here

Meanwhile…Bookmark here

Number Fifteen turned back around and began slowly walking to the numbers with both of his hands at his side, once more acting like Jessica and Cherry don’t exist. As the pressure on the numbers prolonged, Number Fifteen’s grin disappeared. His facial expression changed to nothing. He was completely emotionless as his violet eyes remained covered by his shades.Bookmark here

Once he reached the numbers and attempted to speak, Number Twenty-Nine swiftly and bravely came into view rushing Number Fifteen from behind Jessica and Cherry.Bookmark here

Filled with rage, he shouted desperately as he attempted to touch Number Fifteen.Bookmark here

“Your memories… are mine-”Bookmark here

As he got closer and closer to Number Fifteen, his body and his movements began to decelerate. His speaking followed in freezing and quickly came to a stop. Number Fifteen leisurely turned his head as Number Twenty-Nine’s body and running posture gradually came to a stop. Number Fifteen giggled and responded to the attempted assault.Bookmark here

“This is why I always hated you Twenty-Nine! Although you’re gifted with such profoundly rare greed, you use it in the silliest ways!”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen now laughed out loud as he took the only step he needed to reach Number Twenty-Nine.Bookmark here

He continued, “What a shame. Such potential… lost.”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen rapidly and abruptly extended his right hand to the front of Number Twenty-Nine’s face.Bookmark here

He softly expressed his deadly word like he just wanted to get it over with, “Spring.”Bookmark here

Number Twenty-Nine was sent flying with unbelievable momentum and speed. As his body flew and clattered in the distance, Number Fifteen once more turned around and walked toward the three frozen numbers. As Number Fifteen approached them, there was a noticeable explosion heard in the distance where Number Twenty-Nine was blasted. Bookmark here

“There we go. All done. Now we can go home. See how easy it is? He’ll be an easy one to replace.”Bookmark here

As soon as he finished his sentence, another figure erupted directly near him like a bolt of lightning.Bookmark here

It was Number Seven pointing the fingers of his right hand at the back of Number Fifteen’s head. With his arm extended and with his body in his sprinting stance, Number Seven was completely frozen with his fingernails just inches away from Number Fifteen’s head. After hearing the crackling speed, Number Fifteen turned around, except this time in agony and puzzlement. He looked like he just lost a child.Bookmark here

“What? No, no, no, this has to be a joke!”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen peered into Number Seven’s eyes and face as if he was making sure he wasn’t seeing things.Bookmark here

“Seven! You too?”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen’s face filled with rage as he swung his arms in the air like he was trying to punch it.Bookmark here

He howled, “NO, NO, NO! COME ON, NUMBER SEVEN!”Bookmark here

He began walking around the battlefield frantically with his hands on his head like he was thinking critically. Moments later, he slowed down his walking and began strolling around Number Seven.Bookmark here

He expressed, “Now this just won’t do. No… no, it won’t. It’ll take me a long time to find a replacement for a lower number like you.”Bookmark here

He stopped strolling and walking when he noticed…Bookmark here

He noticed me in the distance trudging myself back to the battle. My mind was filled with hatred and rage. I wasn’t going to run away this time. Never again. Number Fifteen, in awe and satisfaction, grinned at me joyfully. He shouted across the wasteland as all the numbers around him remained frozen with Jessica and Cherry.Bookmark here

“Amusing! You return after being sprung like the ant you are?”Bookmark here

As Number Fifteen laughed, he walked toward me while I trudged my injured and bleeding body toward him. With no hesitation, I stopped moving, reached my bloody and tattered arm in front of me, and gripped the air. The crimson scythe appeared in my grasp erupting dirt and dust from the wasteland’s floor all around me. Crimson particles enveloped the land from me conjuring the unique weapon. Number Fifteen stopped walking and began squinting like he was trying to figure out what I was doing. He gazed across the great distance, still smiling and just watching me. Without a second thought, I plunged the giant scythe blade-first into the ground in front of me while screaming.Bookmark here

“AHHHHHHH!”Bookmark here

From having Number Fifteen’s full attention, the pressure from Number Seven swiftly dissipated. Number Seven looked down at his free hands, surprised and relieved as he thought quickly. He looked around Number Fifteen and eyed Jessica and Cherry’s frozen bodies. Rapidly, he entered his sprinting stance and sprinted away carrying Jessica and Cherry on both of his shoulders using the speed’s momentum to take them away from the battlefield.Bookmark here

Number Fifteen rotated his head around, dropped his smile, and grieved like he was annoyed. He whispered to himself.Bookmark here

“Number Seven. Number Seven. You got lucky I was distracted. You should know you can’t run from someone like me.”Bookmark here

He took a step toward the direction that Number Seven zoomed off to, but then turned back at me as he heard me beginning to mutter words like I was praying. My prayer-like words were echoing across the wasteland.Bookmark here

Strapped behind my waist, I ripped out old man Sugu’s book, flipped to the right page, and began to read the words as my blood fell and immersed onto the scythe’s handle and curve.Bookmark here

“Let there be red. Let there be scarlet. May the sky cry as heaven falls…"Bookmark here

Slowly but surely, Number Fifteen’s eyes widened as he began to notice what I was doing. He quickly lifted his hands, pulling the pressure away from the three remaining numbers that he had weighted onto the floor. The numbers collapsed on their stomachs and rose up slowly.Bookmark here

Number Fifteen slowly spoke but progressively began to shout.Bookmark here

“What is he doing… no… stop him… STOP HIM! WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR!”Bookmark here

The numbers, listening in confusion and beginning to stand, desperately gasped for air. They were too focused on themselves. They didn’t move an inch. Number Fourteen, grasping the wound that Jessica caused, screeched in pain.Bookmark here

“No… poison-”Bookmark here

Before he could finish his thought, he collapsed, allowing his katana to dangle on the ground in front of him. As Number Fifteen witnessed Number Fourteen fall, he dashed over, wielded the katana, and left the numbers behind.Bookmark here

He shouted as he dashed toward me with Number Fourteen’s katana, “You’re all useless!”Bookmark here

That’s when I finished the words.Bookmark here

“Return and take what is yours. Return and cleanse this world in vermilion! Return through blood and sod! Take your place as king, the one true God!”Bookmark here

Number Fifteen screamed at the top of his lungs as he desperately tried to reach me, “NO, STOP!”Bookmark here

I shouted as I laughed.Bookmark here

“Return my Lord Cambion!”Bookmark here

Konoko Asada
Fair Proph
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