Chapter 7:

Time to strike! - Finalisation

Jet Black Rock

Zane’s arms are now completely darkened, he’s exerting himself to make the most of his strength. Like a few moments earlier, he tries to build up his fleshy armor, but he’s only able to keep up certain parts here and there. Yami’s still holding onto him and Zane counter grabs him, lifting him above his head like a wrestler executing a slam move.

Yami’s surprised by the sudden shift of weight and loses his grip. And as soon as he lost it, Zane had catapulted him at Haiiro. Haiiro can catch him safely but is thrown back. The impact is strong enough to fling him right through the back exit door, landing in the corridor behind it.

Rocco, who had regained some of his strength, closed the distance and engaged Zane. Throwing a full-force punch, Zane takes it to the chin but seems unbothered and answers with a volley of punches himself. Rocco’s knees are still impacted by his previous block and he had used his entire weight in that last strike so he’s unable to dodge and gets beat down hard. In between the continuous strikes, he had lost consciousness multiple times and lost a lot of blood.

With his eyes rolled back, he falls face first as Zane smashes him to the ground. Rocco’s strengths lie in hand-to-hand combat and physical strength, yet with such a fierce opponent, even he is outclassed. Zane grabs him by the back of his neck and scrapes him along the floor, moving closer to Haiiro and Yami. As both of them are still standing, Zane hurls Rocco at them through the open exit. The three of them smash through the plaster corridor wall.

Behind the wall, that was once there, is where the safe room is. Kumoda, Jake, the generals, and their employees, they’re all startled. Before them lay the intruders they were monitoring. Haiiro and Yami are badly hurt. And Rocco doesn’t seem to be breathing anymore. Many of the employees were hit by the rubble, some even laying below it.

The dust settles and Zane enters the room through the new opening to finish the job. One of the generals is outraged and yells. “What is the meaning of this?!” Kumoda, who ensured the safety of the guests is angry as well and sharts shouting. “Zane! We had a deal! You would display the power of Jet and in return, we would make sure the boy would show up!”

Zane’s adrenaline is pumping throughout his body. “A deal? Yes… I remember!”- He displays his blackened arms-” I’m still showing my powers as agreed upon aren’t I?” Kumoda is livid. “You can’t bring the fight to our guests and hurt them. Look around and see what you have done!” Zane looks at the older general in front of him. He’s trembling. “All I see is weakness! This is exactly the reason why I am gathering powerful people around the world! All these weak-looking old-timers scheming from the shadows, sending honest men to their death for their own greed. It is time for that to change!”

“That’s not your call to make!”- Kumoda yells while mockingly tapping Zane’s chest-” You just need to follow orders like a good little do-” Zane punches through Kumoda’s midriff, passing the fat in his belly all the way up to his spine. Kumoda desperately tries to hold onto Zane's arm as coughs up blood. But the attempt is in vain as he slips to the ground and drops down dead.

With his fist still clenched and dripping with blood Zane shouts. “No. That is for me to decide!” He turns towards the guests. “The time for change is now!” His intent is clear and the general standing in front of him pulls out his gun, trembling, speechless. He tries to shoot Zane but the fleshy armor negates the damage.

Zane goes on a rampage, murdering everyone in front of him. Military personnel or simple servants? It doesn’t matter to him, they’re all dogs of a corrupt government. While Zane is preoccupied, Jake, who was standing behind Kumoda in the corner of the room, knows he has to leave as soon as possible.

Jake leaps over Kumoda’s body and makes a run for the opening in the wall. Grab! Suddenly, something catches his leg and while looking down, he sees Yami’s extended arm. Yami’s eyes are asking for help and Jake understands. The two of them have not been on bad terms, just bad situations, and Jake pities the boy as he reminds him of his son.

Yami’s holding the barely awake Haiiro and points at Rocco. “I can’t do this alone, Jake. I need to get them out.” Jake nods and lifts Rocco on his back. Together they make a run for it and pass through the opening, then the corridor, and finally the auditorium. They can still hear the screams and the gunshots, even though they’re quite far away.

Near the auditorium entry, Jake suddenly stops. His eyes are wide and his face is pale. Yami shouts in response. “Jake! We can’t stop here! We have to get to the van now!” Jake’s not listening and is looking at Jimmy’s mutilated corpse, wondering why it had to go this way. “D-Did he suffer?” He asks Yami. Zwing! Before Yami can answer, 6 flat tentacle-looking arms pierce Jake’s body from behind, lifting him off the ground just a little.

During that moment, someone had snuck up behind them, piercing both Rocco and Jake at once. Appearing from behind the rubble, there’s a boy in an old school uniform. It has a tag with “Neto H.” written in big letters and “Ensino Médio de Brasileira” in a small font. The arms that pierced Jake seem connected to his back.

He whispers to himself. “Two more, two more, that’s four, two more.” He pulls back his arms and Jake falls to his knees, bleeding from his wounds. Both he and Rocco were turned into cheese graters. And if Rocco was still alive, he certainly isn't anymore. Jake’s out of breath and mumbles “Son…” as he tries to grab something invisible in front of him. He falls over dead.

Yami, shocked by the attack and almost dropped Haiiro. He isn’t in a position to fight right now and runs out while loudly apologizing to Rocco and Jake as he goes on. Neto tilts his head. “They ran! Two more, two more! Then uncle Zane will praise me.” The boy climbs down from the rubble and walks in the same direction as Yami ran.

Yami isn’t taking any chances and keeps running as hard as he can. Going through the back exit, the van is finally in sight. The van’s side door is open. Sitting at the door opening are Aurora and Akari. Aurora’s holding a cooling pad to her forehead, she looks sleepy. Akari is being examined by Sen and Ari’s still there, handing out cold water bottles. It seems peaceful and just for a moment, Yami is relieved.

Akari spots Yami and jumps up in excitement, almost kneeing Sen in the face. “Brother!” She yells. Sen and Ari turn around and notice how beat up the two of them look. “Haiiro!” Sen shouts concerned as she rushes to them. They help Haiiro off Yami’s back and Sen asks him about Rocco. Yami shakes his head. Sen has known Rocco for a long time and wants to recover the body so they can give him a proper funeral, but Yami’s steadfast about it. “We need to get out of here now or we’ll all die. There are monstrous people inside. We need to regroup” Sen understands.

They gently put Haiiro down in the back of the van, right next to Celeste’s lifeless body. Sen jumps in the back as well, so she can attend to him. “To the church at the west sector!” Sen instructs. Aurora’s still groggy but takes the driver's seat anyway. Yami’s too hurt to drive and they’re still unsure about Ari’s intentions so she’s the logical choice. Yami helps Akari buckle in and steps out again.

Ari’s standing near the van, watching the rooftops. “You coming?”- Yami asks-” I did promise you we’d talk after all.” Ari continues to focus on the sky. “We’re being watched. I can feel their gaze but I can’t seem to find them. Every time I think I spot them, it’s just a shadow moving about.”- She pauses-“ You said we’d go to the church at the west sector right? You guys go ahead, I’ll stay behind and make sure they won’t follow us.”

The moment she says this, Neto leaves the center’s back exit, slowly approaching them. Yami sees him first and freaks out, grabbing Ari by the wrist. “If you meant him,”- Yami points-” Then you have to come with us right now! He’s too dangerous to take on alone!” Ari tries to argue. “No, there’s someone e-” But she's cut off as Neto extends the arms from his back and starts sprinting towards them. His movements are similar to that of a spider and his speed is so fast that Yami can barely react. Just in time, he pulls Ari into the van and yells to floor it.

Neto’s once flat tentacle-like arms suddenly became sharp and started acting like giant insect legs. Had Yami not pulled Ari away, who knows what might’ve happened? Yet now that they’re all in the van, Aurora pulls away with tires screeching. Neto was close enough to catch the van before it fully took off, shredding the side and ripping out one of the backdoors in the process.

Everyone screams while the van wobbles, briefly driving on only two wheels. Sen almost falls out through the backdoor but Aurora countersteers just in time to keep the van steady. Luckily, they were able to hold on and drive away as fast as possible. Even Neto with his incredible speed isn’t able to keep up and is becoming a smaller and smaller object in the mirror.

“What the hell was that?!” Sen shouts. Ari, who kept her from falling out, helps up Yami as she starts explaining. “That boy is called Neto. He’s a powered one that looks up to Zane and is helping him achieve his goals.” Sen questions her. “How do you know who they are? Who are you?!”

“Guess this can’t wait until we reach the church, can it?” Sen shakes her head and Ari sighs loudly. ”I’m a powered one just like them. A few months back, I consumed a stone and over time, acquired strange powers. We’re different from those who only had a little bit of dust like Haiiro, Rocco, and Aurora, but Neto is a special case, even among the other powered ones”

“You see, Jet takes over the part of the brain that controls emotions and is directly linked to the mental stability of the host. Neto is young and was being bullied by his classmates. Zane told me he acquired Jet and killed them all, only worsening his mental health. On top of that, Zane is manipulating him, encouraging him to kill more so he can use him as a pawn for his own plans.”

Sen interrupts. “Hold on, then what do they want from us?”

Ari continuous. “As I was saying, Zane’s ultimate goal is to change mankind at its core. He told me he wants to stop human greed and the wars they create. And he thinks he can reach this goal by creating a better species, equipped with the power to throw over governments. After that, he will probably rule as he sees fit. To achieve this, he needs an army. And you, Yami, are a perfect soldier of untapped potential.” Yami’s slowly starting to realize that Rocco and Celeste had died because of his actions and drops to his knees.

“Jet has a mind of its own and tempts those who struggle to consume it, speaking to us from afar and playing right into our weaknesses, strengthening our emotions. Each one of us had chosen to swallow a stone on our own accord. I think our stomach acid broke down most of Jet’s powers so our blood vessels could not pick up everything. But Yami on the other hand was chosen and had a sizable piece go directly through his veins.”

“Zane knows that as your powers mature, you’ll be able to become the perfect weapon or an immediate threat. That’s why he wanted to take out your guardians and mold you into one of his pawns. He won’t stop coming after you until he got what he wants.”

Yami is feeling cornered as he saw Zane’s overwhelming strength first-hand, not to mention Neto’s flexible powers as well. He’s trying to think up a solution, maybe there’s a way to escape this all. Sen is still suspicious of Ari. “You still haven’t told us why you’re helping us and what your relation to Zane is.” She looks at Celeste’s covered body and at Haiiro, who’s starting to wake up. “We appreciate you helping us get out of there, but I think you at least owe us this.”

“Jet is alive and akin to a parasite. Sometimes it speaks to us and sometimes it listens. When someone awakens and a new powered one is born, it sends out a signal, calling for its brethren. When Yami got his share of Jet, the pulse was so strong that I could feel it all the way to Korea. Like it was calling for me and telling me to come here. I immediately cleared my visa and booked the first flight available. I imagine the others had a similar experience.”

While Ari’s explaining, a shadow keeps moving along the rooftops, steady following the van.

“When I arrived at the airport, Zane was already there. He came to me with a smile and explained how he’d change the world, trying to convince me to join in. He ensured me that others were coming along and that together we would be able to achieve it. I must admit that he was quite charming and that his goal aligned with mine, but that was before he explained his methods. I brushed him off, telling him I would think about it. But honestly, his lack of empathy was scaring me”

Ari’s starting to tear up. “I- I wish I could’ve stopped him before all of this ha-” Yami interrupts. “That’s enough! This isn’t your fault! If there’s anyone to blame, it’s me!” “That’s not true!” Sen argues. “Yes, it is!” Yami shouts engulfed in his emotions. “If I didn’t slip up, Akari would have never been taken! Rocco, Celeste… they would still be here! And Haiiro, he wouldn’t have to suffer like this either!”

It’s quiet and the atmosphere is tense. Yami’s hands are shaking but he calms down. “If it’s me he wants, then so be it.” “That’s suicide!”- Sen yells-“ It’s the only way!” Yami yells back. “I’ll do this alone!”- He lowers his voice-” You guys can just escape and look over Akari, that’s all I want.”

“You’re not alone!” Ari jumps in. “The reason I wanted to talk to you in the first place was to convince you to team up and stop Zane. Now that it’s turned out like this, I’m not going to give up.” Sen agrees “All we need is a plan.” It’s quiet for some time but as they arrive at the church, Yami comes up with an idea.

Back at the conference center, Zane had finally finished his rampage. Satisfied with the result of his actions, he checks the bodies, looking for the trio that challenged him. “They’re not here.”- He thinks to himself.-” Guess I’ll go after them.” He leaves the saferoom and traces the blood tracks left behind.

In the auditorium, he finds the mangled bodies left behind and recognizes Neto’s work. “What a shame.” He says as he flips Rocco’s body on its back. “He had such a nice shirt and now it’s all filled up with holes.” Rocco was wearing a shirt with maple leaves on it. He crouches down and touches the back of Rocco’s neck. Something is happening as there’s a dark light pulsating through his veins, yet what exactly is unclear.