Chapter 22:


The Forbidden and the Gifted

[9:39 a.m., August 9th 2048, St. Petersburg. Frost stands next to Katarov, with his immunity withering away, to only his knowledge. Drift stands face to face with them both, with Shin, Yuki, Naomi and Hachiro standing behind him. The injured Fetistof and Ryo both then appear on Katarov’s right, as do two other unknown men on Frost’s left. From behind Yuki, Shin and the others stand the rest of the crew, with the injured Electra, Matthew and Martial further back with Natsumi and Kohaku, in addition to Ashe, Daisuke, Karina and another man, Lloyd, at the top of the staircase, coming downwards at the sound of the commotion]

Drift [To Frost, angrily]: Hey, hey, hey… I know why he knows me… [points to Ryo], but you too? Who the hell are you? The hell’d you want with me, eh?

[Frost walks towards him, to which Drift attempts to punch him, but the punch does not faze Frost, as he approaches him and examines his right arm]

Frost: Was this… recent?

Drift: Why the hell should I answer anything you have to say, eh? You couldn’t answer me first – what kind of bullshit is this?

Frost: Oh… I’m so sorry, I haven’t even introduced myself. I go by one name only, Frost… and as you can see, like that boy, Katarov, I too am a gifted man. You can consider me as the connoisseur of these things… so-to-speak. I went on a long journey of discovery and understanding to know what I do now, and to bless others who my compass sees fit –

[Drift raises his right hand, punching Frost in the face, but Frost is unaffected by it, only snapping his neck back into place and looking again at Drift]

Shin [To Yuki]: Who the hell is this?

Yuki: Beats me. I haven’t heard of this name or anything about a guy like this in my lifetime – only information that I got was from that rat, Katarov.

Shin: What’d he say?

Yuki: Called him a ‘fallen angel’, or something like that. [Pauses] Don’t worry, he isn’t some form of spiritual entity or whatever, even Katarov called him human… but he’s definitely an interesting specimen. Could he be one of the people who know about the secrets behind all of this stuff?

Shin: That’s what he said, didn’t he?

Yuki: He did?

Shin: ‘The connoisseur of these things’… that sounds like something someone of knowledge would say, right?

Yuki: Yeah, that’s true.

Shin: But then again, who cares? He’s protecting Katarov, so he has to be on their side, no?

Yuki: Well, I’d assume he is…

Shin: Then we have to take him down then, no?

Yuki: I like your thought process Shin… but do you really think we can take two gifted guys down in the state that we’re in right now? This guy’s completely fresh, and he’s on another level compared to even Katarov. Picking a fight with him in our current condition just isn’t ideal… if it was just Katarov and those other four, sure, but this guy too? You see what I mean?

Shin: Then what do we do?

Yuki: Look for an opening, I’d say. He seems to have taken a liking to Drift and isn’t really being hostile, apart from getting all of his within his line of sight. We can hear out whatever information he has to say, I guess.

Shin [Nods, then yells towards Frost]: Hey, wise guy!

Frost [Turns himself]: Who’s calling?

Shin [To Frost]: Me.

Frost: Oh… you. Shin Taiki, wasn’t it? Leader of the Eastern Reform Group out of Japan… you’ve forged a nice legacy for yourself, despite not being the strongest of men. What do you want?

Shin: Why the hell would someone like yourself align with that shithead? [He points to Katarov]

Katarov [Laughs]: Please Shin… no need to get all bent out of shape, my friend.

Shin: Why you…

Frost [Interjects]: Well… Katarov was one of the first who I was able to recognize as gifted, and with some continuous training, that gift became embedded within him as apart of his everyday life. There aren’t very many who I’m able to find who are in fact gifted, but when I find them, I’m able to –

Shin [Interjects]: That ain’t answering the question, geezer. I don’t care if you’re the one who gave him the power. I don’t care if you’re the one who began this whole thing with the gifts. Frankly, I don’t care at all. Why would someone like you work with someone like him, after all that he’s done?

Frost: Working with him? Oh, heavens no… I’m not apart of Katarov’s Dreadknight group – although I don’t see any wrong with it whatsoever, but then again, I can see why you have such an unfathomable hatred towards him and his men. I, like that man over there – Makishima, I think it was? [Martial looks towards Frost with a great deal of interest] – am an informant, and, as some have called me, a Redeemer. I’m not picking a side in this conflict… I’m not here to harm any of you, I’m just here to change your lives, just like I did with Katarov all those years ago.

Shin: Then move out the way. Let us finish our job.

Katarov [To Shin]: You wanna kill me? Come and get me then, you worthless heap!

Frost [To Shin]: I’m not here to pick a side, but I am here to prevent Katarov from any harm that you may present.

Shin: So you are on his side?

Frost: Like I said before, I –

Shin: Don’t sweettalk me… if you’re not gonna move, you’re well enough on his side.

Katarov [Interjects]: And, is that an issue? I’m the one he found first, naturally he’d be willing to protect me, no? I’m someone important to him – someone who can help him in shaping this world for the better!

Shin: Shaping the world for the better? You’re a murderer man… there’s nothing good about the Baltic Empire under your tyranny. All of you! [He points to the other men, including Fetistof and Ryo] You all are nothing more than tyrants, and yet you claim that you’re saviors! Bloody hypocrites!

Frost [Looks to Shin]: I do understand where you are coming from, considering the hardship you have went through because of the loss of your brother, but can you not see the benefit in the work that Katarov has done? As much as he may be a merciless ruler, he has taken the economy of the Baltic States and increased it tenfold… something many others before him couldn’t do.

Shin: At the cost of innocent lives! Not just my brothers, but the living conditions haven’t gotten any better whatsoever! It’s still a damn hellhole for anyone not at the top! The empire may prosper in the future, but it would have been built on the lives of countless people, nothing else. There’s no benefit to his damn work. He’s the lowest of the low.

Frost: You can believe what you want to believe, and I will not stop you in that regard. I wasn’t even here to change your mind… I came here to show you something… especially you, Wilhelm.

Drift: Again… how do you know that name? Did that rat tell you? [He looks over at Ryo]

Frost: Nonsense. I’ve known about you for quite a while, Wilhelm. But that can wait… for you will understand once I show you everything. First however, I must say, this group that you have put together, Shin, is quite magnificent. Never before have I felt four strong pulses in my life… on top of the countless other faint traces. [He looks at Drift] And you, my friend… you are one of those gifted individuals.

Drift [Confused]: Eh? The hell’re you talking about?

Karina [To Electra, in the back]: What the hell’s going on?

Electra: God knows… but that mystical looking guy just said that Drift’s got a gift, apparently.

Karina: Eh? Drift does? What the hell? Why didn’t we know about this?

Electra: Huh? You didn’t hear? He said he’s one of those people who awakens these gifts within people, if they so lie dormant. He’s like a Redeemer, sort of.

Karina: Redeemer? What the hell?

Electra: Beats me, that’s what he called himself. But it checks out, for the most part. He’s someone who creates a new life for people by gifting them with their gift.

Karina: This sounds so weird man… like a show or something.

Electra: I know… but think about the possibilities if he gives Drift a gift. Imagine what we’d be able to do.

Ashe [Interjects, to both of them]: Wait a second…

Electra: Huh? Oh, Ashe. What’s up? You just as confused?

Ashe: No, no, no.

Electra: Huh? Then what?

Ashe: That guy – I remember his face.

Karina: You what?

Ashe: I’ve seen him before.

Karina: Where? Did he donate to one of those ‘Miss Seoul’ things back in Korea? Cause he looks like he’s loaded on cash.

Ashe: No, no. I remember, when I was younger, living with my family back home… I remember this man came to our house once. I think… I think he used to work with my dad?

Karina: Your dad?

Electra: Hold on, hold on… what’s your dads name?

Ashe: Oskar.

Electra: Last name?

Ashe: Same as mine, Yoshino.

Electra: You know what he did before?

Ashe: Before he moved to Korea for good to live with us, he did some stuff in Europe and Scandinavia on a month-by-month basis, but he never told us what for, really.

Karina: Oh yeah, you’re from Europe too, aren’t you?

Ashe: Dad’s side is from Sweden, mom is from Korea.

Electra: Gotcha, gotcha. But then… what does that mean then? Could there be more of a reason that they chose to go after you then?

Ashe: I don’t know. I haven’t ever seen the guy’s that you were fighting before and never heard of a Katarov until now as well.

Electra: But there has to be something here, right? They chose to take you, from all the way in Korea, for a deal between the Baltics and Arabia… and you have some sort of connection to the guy who’s serving as Katarov’s lifeline.

Ashe: Maybe my father never told me anything about his life or his job because he had been dealing with people like them [she gestures to Katarov] for a living…

Karina: Yeah, but then, if they had a connection, why would they go to such lengths to capture you and attempt to sell you through a black market deal? They could’ve picked a lot of people, and Shin and the rest of us would have come, y’know? But they deliberately chose to pick you – perhaps due to some vendetta against your father?

Ashe: That’s what was running through my head too, but I don’t know what my father could have done really… he came to live with us in Korea for good a long time ago, there wasn’t really anything that happened in that timeframe that happened, besides of course the incidents to do with those weirdos and myself.

Karina: Weirdos?

Ashe: Oh yeah, I never got to tell you… basically the gist of it was that my father had to beat up some guy who was acting all weird around me, and wouldn’t leave me alone, and even then, I received way too much attention for my liking, forcing me to move away from home.

Karina: Wait… and you think that those events were all just random?

Ashe: Well yeah… I did win Miss Seoul after all, so I did have a following, so I never really chalked it up to anything much…

Karina [To Electra]: You didn’t realize this?

Electra: Realize what?

Karina: These incidents… as much as they seem random, more than likely, they were egged on by someone or the other, right? It only makes sense. And for weirdos like those people, getting money to spend even more time around a top-flight Korean girl is like a dream, right? I doubt it was this guy who actually orchestrated it, but if your father worked with him, and he said he’s the one who trained and brought up Katarov to who he was, it’s entirely possible that a lot of those incidents were orchestrated by Katarov himself, eventually leading to a culmination with whats happening right now.

Electra: So, he killed two birds with one stone? He’d get back at her and her father, and take down Shin and our entire crew all at once?

Karina: Essentially, that’s what I’m thinking. You see where I’m going with this Ashe?

Ashe: Yeah, I do. I get it for the most part.

Electra: Well –

Frost [Loudly, then points behind Drift]: You… the other informant, you as well. Come here.

Martial [With a sinister smile, points to himself]: Who… me?

Frost: Yes, you as well. And girl… the one who I just threw into those other two [He points at Naomi], and one more… coming from up there, I think it’s one of the guys up there…

[Daisuke walks downwards, and looks forward]

Frost: You… walking downward, you as well. You, come to me as well.

Naomi [To Shin]: Should we really do this?

Shin: I don’t know… I can’t tell what he’s thinking or what his motives are… but like Yuki said, he hasn’t really shown any hostility towards us.

Naomi: He threw me and Hachi!

Shin: Oh yeah… you’re right. You’re right…

Yuki [Interjects]: That was cause Hachi shot at him… no other reason. Hachi chose to be violent, so he responded with violence. His other actions really haven’t been hostile… and I’d like to think he actually isn’t partnered with Katarov.

Shin: Really? You’re gonna believe him? On what basis?

Yuki: On the basis that he just doesn’t exude the same type of energy as Katarov and those others do. He seems fully genuine when he says that he wants to redeem the world. We haven’t seen his motives yet, so this could be a bad idea, but trust me on this, okay? I really do think he’s someone who’s very powerful, and wants to awaken whatever gift he sees within these four.

Naomi [To Yuki]: Then do I go?

Yuki: Keep your distance, and stay next to Drift. He’ll protect you if anything happens… but let’s be real, if anything did happen that was of that guys own accord, we’d all be dead. If Katarov tries to do anything to you, we’ll protect you, and I’m pretty sure he will too, okay?

Naomi: Okay, will do.

[Naomi walks forward, and joins Drift and Martial in front of Frost. Daisuke walks up and follows them right after, as all four of them stand in front of Frost]

Drift: Oi, so what now? You’re just gonna bestow us some magical power? What the hell’s the deal here? Can’t you give us any more info? And why would someone who’s siding with the enemy even offer to give us some form of advantage?

Frost: All will be answered soon enough… but I am mainly here for you, Wilhelm. I want you to understand the throne that you left behind, and the weight of it that now lies on your shoulders… for you to be a gifted too was an even greater bonus, and I felt obliged to awaken such within you. When I found out that of your friends, three more were also bearers of gifts, I could not choose to simply allow them to remain dormant…

Drift: But why help us if you’re with Katarov then?

Frost: I will say it again… I am not with Katarov. I am merely a third party here, who loves creating gifts and seeing them work, and would hate for anything to get in my way. I am the one who showed Katarov how to use his gift, and was the one who created him into the prodigy that he is now… I am not here to defend him or to hurt you all once again, I just wanted to use my own abilities to bring forth even more gift into the world, and of course Katarov here agreed with me on my sentiment. I am not here to hurt you, rest assured.

Drift [To Katarov]: Oi, dumbass.

Katarov: What’d you want, one-arm?

Drift: You can back those words?

Katarov: What?

Drift: I’m asking… did you really let this guy come in here to help us out?

Katarov [Scoffs]: Help you out? Please. He’s doing what’s best for the world, that’s all. There’s no helping out here. What he sees is beyond what your stupid leader sees.

Shin [To Katarov]: Pipe down ya loser.

Katarov: But this is all apart of what he wanted us to do… and I believe in his plan more than anything else, for it was him who gave me this gift which allowed me to craft this empire, so I will not falter in my service to him.

Drift: Wow, how nice. You brought us all the way from Japan just to give us some buffs… truly, you’re a remarkable moron, y’know?

Katarov: You won’t understand… not yet at least.

Ryo: Besides… it’s not like that’s the only plan we have in store.

Katarov [Turns to Ryo]: Eh… what was that?

Ryo: Huh?

Katarov ]Punches him across the chin, to the shock of everyone besides Frost]: What did you say, you lowlife?

Ryo: What? I said –

Katarov: Shut up. There is no plan besides Frost’s plan. You dare disobey him? You dare bring forth your own ideas? Who are you? You’re nothing but my underling, you swine. Don’t speak like that ever.

Ryo [Nods]: Yes, I understand.

Ryo [Thinking]: Holy shit… he really is batshit crazy and devout towards this Frost guy. Vlar’s right… he’s a complete lost cause, no doubt about it. This guy’s gotten in too deep with Dreadknight’s business, and as much as he’s strong, he’s going to destroy the perfect man that Katarov is right now.

Katarov [To Frost]: You can continue Frost…

Frost [Turns back to the others]: Anyway, like I was saying before… I sensed strong pulses from you four in particular. There are faint traces otherwise, but you have some truly remarkable gifts which lie dormant within you.

Drift [To the other three]: Y’all believe this guy?

Martial: This get’s my blood rushing all around, so yeah. This guy’s one hell of a thrill ride.

Naomi: I’m scared, no doubt. But I’m willing to believe in it.

Drift [Chuckles]: I’m scared too. This is one of the first people who I know, outside of you guys, who knows my identity… and moreso, knows about who I was supposed to be. [He shakes his head] Anyway, anyway, it’s frightening… but I’m willing to go for it, just because a gift isn’t something you’d ever want to sweep under the rug, right?

Naomi: Oh yeah, for sure.

Daisuke: Who would’ve thought that, at the end of all of this, there’d be something like this waiting for us? I mean, I was here thinking that gifts were innate before.

Frost [Interjects]: Oh but they are innate… they just lay dormant, that’s all. You all currently have them… hell, everyone in the world has them, just some more than others… some just have signature readings and pulses far higher than others, like you four did. In cases like that, it’s a lot easier to awaken them – but I would not be surprised if a lot of you begin to also gain access to gifts – to a lesser degree of course – because you would be in the presence of an awakening ritual for these other people.

Yuki [Confused]: Eh? I don’t follow.

Frost: Basically… these four are the four that will have their gifts awakened today… just like Katarov was all those years back, when he underwent the same thing. But here, you all are standing in witness, to see this spectacle. I would not at all be surprised if being in the presence of such a powerful ritual would be able to slightly awaken your own gifts. Of course, your gifts – the rest of you – won’t be as strong as these fours, and definitely not Katarov’s, but they will provide some benefits to you, like being stronger in combat, or being better equipped for supportive duties, or being better at tracking people down… whatever it may be, it’ll be something that isn’t too special, but it’ll help you for sure.

Yuki: And that goes for all of us?

Frost: Yup, all of you guys, including Katarov’s non-gifted men, like the guy he punched earlier. All of you likely will have some small amount of gift awakened, but it will take time to truly take root within you – some of you may even eventually lose the gift as it goes back to its dormancy. Whatever the case, I am just here to tell you of the potential for that – but remember, if any of you come away with a slight awakening of gift, remember, it will still pale in comparison to the ability of these fours gift, because these fours signatures and pulses are so strong, that they will be awakened immediately.

Yuki: Ah, so hit or miss for us, and even if it hits, it’s just probably better agility or speed, or strength or whatnot, but for them it’s a big deal eh?

Frost: Yup. That’s correct. Anyway, should we move on to the ritual for these four?

Shin [Shrugs]: I’m ready as long as they are.

Naomi: I’m good.

Drift: Yeah, count me in.

Daisuke: Hell, why not man.

Martial [Smiles]: Ah… to be chosen like this, I truly am blessed… I haven’t experienced such a great thrill in so long. Oh, a life full of these types of thrills would be so ideal!

Frost [Nods]: Okay… then we shall begin…

Martial [Thinking]: Oh… how great this honor is.

[Frost takes his right hand and shines it towards the four, creating an aura of light blue and white, which turns beige in its center and begins to illuminate and turn circular in shape. As the light grows, the light blue begins to disappear and is overridden by the beige, as the circle begins to move upward, causing the ceiling to shake and open itself]

Yuki [To Shin]: What in the…

Shin: Don’t ask me, I’m just as bewildered as you are.

Fetistof [To Katarov]: Was this how it was when you first met him?

Katarov: Exact same.

Fetistof: Nothing’s changed.

Katarov: Nothing in the slightest so far… it’s exactly how I remember it. It’ll probably be a bit different from hereon because he’s doing this for four people, not just one.

Frost [To the glowing circle]: Awaken these four standing in front of me here. I ask for this only, as a vessel…

Yuki [To Shin]: He’s like a monk when he does this, eh?

Shin: Seems like something out of a damn game or something… some monk I’d say. More like a cursed monk or something, ha.

Yuki: Still, that’s incredible. And now at least we have a lead on where these gifts spring up from, right? It’s him who’s at the center of all this.

Shin: True… wasn’t it one of you guys who suggested that there would be someone who actually created these gifts.

Yuki: Yeah, I think it was Drift, because he and Elec had seen that guy back in Albania before, right? The guy who could use vines, or something like that? He too was probably awakened by this guy… but he probably wasn’t too strong then if he was taken out by the police like Drift said.

Shin: Yeah… so this guy really is the catalyst for everything. He’s really the one who gave Katarov his power… he’s the one who’s created this hell…

Yuki: You gotta remember though, he’s only a vessel to awaken these powers, right? He isn’t actually giving anyone any powers, right? That’s why I said he’s like a monk… he’s not God, he’s only playing God and praying to God that this ritual is able to awaken the gifts within the people who he sees as ‘gifted’.

[The shot pans again to Frost, levitating the fully beige orb, which begins to fluctuate and move sporadically in the palm of his hand]

Frost: Bless them with power now, oh deity.

[The orb leaves his hand, moving towards the four others, before exploding with a bright radiance, lighting up the entire area, before disappearing in a flash]

Frost [To the four]: Now… do any of you feel anything different?

Naomi: Not really…

Daisuke: Yeah, I don’t think anything’s changed man.

Naomi: The spectacle was pretty cool though…

Daisuke [Looks around]: Wait… what if all that was a distraction and… wait, where’s Katarov.

Katarov [From behind, where he was originally standing]: I’m right here man. Don’t think that I’d ever be willing to interrupt a ritual such as that. I wouldn’t stoop so low, after all Frost has done for me.

Daisuke: But honestly, I feel no difference in myself… nothing’s changed per-se.

Frost [To Drift]: What about you, my friend?

Drift: I’m the same… nothing’s changed really. I don’t feel any different than I did before the whole spectacle started.

Frost: Oh, really?

Drift: Yeah… nothing so far –

[Frost looks him dead in the eyes, before closing in on him and kicking at his right arm with immense force, knocking it off of its hinges and onto the floor]

Shin [Gets up]: Oi, grandpa… I thought you were neutral… the hell’s up with that? You want us to beat the shit out of you?

Katarov [To Shin]: Please… you, beat the shit out of him? That’s funny. He could murder you without you even getting a scratch in… you’re weak, my friend.

Shin: Don’t call me your friend, you ass.

Katarov: Oh, I’m terribly sorry… should I just punch you in the head and knock you out?

Shin: Let’s go then, you damn piece of shit! You’re the one who backed off when this guy got here, y’know? I ain’t ever backing down from you!

Katarov: Me? I DID? Please, make better jokes man. Even if I did, it’s no matter. I’ll murder you and that girl too [Gestures to Yuki], seeing as she wasn’t one of the ones who were gifted by Frost. Now that it’s all done… I can turn my attention.

Frost [To Katarov]: Katarov…

Katarov [Looks at him]: Yeah?

[Frost rushes over to him, grabs him by the neck and piledrives him into the wall, before turning around and rushing at Shin, punching him twice at lightning quick speed, before returning to stand in front of Drift]

Frost: Knock it off.

Shin [Cracks his nose back into position]: Oi… the hell do you mean? You just punched Drift… you ain’t here to be peaceful, you lying…

Yuki: Shin wait…

Shin: Yukes no, we can’t… this guy ain’t good news…

Yuki: Wait Shin, wait… look at Drift.

Shin: Huh?

[Shin turns himself around to look at Drift, who isn’t writhing in pain, and instead sees him standing up straight, looking down at his left arm, amazed]

Shin: Drift… what happened?

Frost [Laughs]: Oh… I see, I see… you truly were worth chasing after Wilhelm… you truly were.

Shin [Confused]: Eh… what happened here?

Drift [Turns around to Shin]: I guess I didn’t feel different… cause I guess my gift wasn’t one that was supposed to be like that bastards… [he points at Katarov] I guess this shit really can be anything eh?

Shin: Eh? What is it?

[Drift turns his full body into frame, and nothing appears to have changed as he turns around, until his left arm is in Shin’s frame of view. Shin then sees that Drift’s left arm has regrown back, but not out of skin and bone, but instead is a white, astral projection, which moves alongside his body]

Shin: What the hell… Drift, can you move it?

[Drift moves the arm forward and reaches towards Drift, extending its range much farther than a regular hand or even his former metal hand could]

Shin: Does it feel normal?

Drift: It feels like… a normal hand… it feels like nothing changed at all, really. It feels more versatile than the metal one too… I feel… I feel normal.

Shin: What the hell…

Frost: Oh Wilhelm… there’s so much more that I need to explain to you… even beyond this…

Drift [Looks at him, cautiously]: Go on then…