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.
“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!”
Slowly but surely, it was like… everything was in slow motion and slowing down.
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.
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 “#”.
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.
The number hauntingly and as if he was pleased spoke a few words as he turned to Number Fourteen.
“Ahh… yes… that’s much better. You’ve finally stopped babbling.”
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.
“Yes… this is the sight I enjoy seeing… kneel.”
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?
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.
“You… Coal Jenie…”
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.
“I know who you are. I see the rumors are true… you do have the same greed as Arsenal, don’t you?”
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.
“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-”
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.
“I ask you a simple question and grant you permission to respond… and yet you babble your mouth like Fourteen over there.”
He pointed his left hand’s index finger at Number Fourteen.
“Do you weaklings not understand your place? Can you weaklings not comprehend your situation?”
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.
“I’ll give you and your circus group props. You managed to deal decent damage to my numbers.”
He glanced at Jessica and Cherry but then glared back at me. Cherry seemed to be freaking out. Did he recognize this man?
“Listen and understand boy. I have no business with you. I am simply here to deal with Twenty-Nine.”
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.
“Why… why! Why won’t you numbers die!”
Number Fifteen smiled and knelt down, emotionlessly glaring at my face.
“Little boy. I allow you to speak once more, and you finally ask something worth answering.”
I gritted my teeth as I leered into his pitch-black sunglasses. The man spoke softly.
“Answer me this… Coal Jenie… What is this world? What are human beings? What is greed?”
I didn’t respond as he slowly took off his sunglasses with his left hand, revealing his violet eyes.
“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.”
He paused his speech as if he thought I would understand, but then he continued.
“You are greed. You people are the greed in this world.”
Filled with hostility, I responded the only way I knew how.
“I will kill y-”
He placed the full palm of his right hand on my face, halting my speech once more.
“What exactly could you do, Coal Jenie? You’re nothing.”
He slightly grinned, and with his left hand, slowly covered his eyes with his shades once more. He spoke only one word.
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.
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.
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.
Filled with rage, he shouted desperately as he attempted to touch Number Fifteen.
“Your memories… are mine-”
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.
“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!”
Number Fifteen now laughed out loud as he took the only step he needed to reach Number Twenty-Nine.
He continued, “What a shame. Such potential… lost.”
Number Fifteen rapidly and abruptly extended his right hand to the front of Number Twenty-Nine’s face.
He softly expressed his deadly word like he just wanted to get it over with, “Spring.”
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.
“There we go. All done. Now we can go home. See how easy it is? He’ll be an easy one to replace.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, another figure erupted directly near him like a bolt of lightning.
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.
“What? No, no, no, this has to be a joke!”
Number Fifteen peered into Number Seven’s eyes and face as if he was making sure he wasn’t seeing things.
“Seven! You too?”
Number Fifteen’s face filled with rage as he swung his arms in the air like he was trying to punch it.
He howled, “NO, NO, NO! COME ON, NUMBER SEVEN!”
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.
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.”
He stopped strolling and walking when he noticed…
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.
“Amusing! You return after being sprung like the ant you are?”
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.
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.
Number Fifteen rotated his head around, dropped his smile, and grieved like he was annoyed. He whispered to himself.
“Number Seven. Number Seven. You got lucky I was distracted. You should know you can’t run from someone like me.”
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.
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.
“Let there be red. Let there be scarlet. May the sky cry as heaven falls…"
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.
Number Fifteen slowly spoke but progressively began to shout.
“What is he doing… no… stop him… STOP HIM! WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR!”
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.
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.
He shouted as he dashed toward me with Number Fourteen’s katana, “You’re all useless!”
That’s when I finished the words.
“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!”
Number Fifteen screamed at the top of his lungs as he desperately tried to reach me, “NO, STOP!”
I shouted as I laughed.
“Return my Lord Cambion!”