Chapter 10:

The final encounter

Jet Black Rock

Close to the toll gate at the hover bridge that leads out of the city, the strike team had assembled to carry out their plan. The location is perfect as there’s only one way to enter and one way to exit. If they could lure Zane there, he would have no choice but to engage them head-on. Sen’s contact, Tarou Yamada, had already come by and dropped off the emotion-suppressing drugs and tools necessary to use them.

Aurora stayed behind with Akari since her most valuable asset, the hands that mastered the blades she wields, are unable to perform as normal any time soon. Besides, it was better to keep someone with combat capabilities at the church, since there’s a chance that they might target them there again. Abraham was instructed to lead Akari to the personnel elevator at the sight of the slightest threat, and Aurora could buy them time if needed.

Haiiro, still unable to walk properly, had decided to come with them anyway as he wanted to overlook the plan’s execution, adjusting it on the fly if necessary. Even though he left his custom railgun at the conference center, at the very least, he could provide support fire and make an opening.

In the end, it was Yami, Ari, and Sen who would face Zane head-on.

Rolling his wheelchair into the toll building’s elevator, Haiiro waved goodbye. If anything went wrong, this might be the last time the four of them meet like this. Just before the elevator doors closed, however, Sen lept inside. Haiiro was surprised but happy at the same time.

They might’ve shared a bed last night but with all the commotion, the both of them hadn’t had the time to properly talk to each other. And so much had happened. “I wanted to…” “I’m sorry for…” They both started talking at the same time. “Ladies first.” Haiiro goes, but Sen insists. “No, you can go ahead”

“I’m glad you jumped in.” With a heavy heart, Haiiro starts to speak up. “I know you’ve been letting me off the hook for the operation’s sake, but I do need to apologize to you for leaving you in the dark for so long. I should’ve called, should’ve sent you a letter, should’ve done anything to explain the situation and at least let you know that everything was well.”

“Yes, you should have!” Sen says angrily. Her eyes are watery. “As the years went by, I heard less and less from you, and eventually, I didn’t hear anything at all! You have no idea about the anxiety and the doubts that grew over time. I was devastated when I heard you were seeing someone else, even if it only was as a cover!”

Sen is frustrated and the air becomes gloomy. Yet the brief silence is interrupted immediately. “But I never stopped loving you.” Haiiro takes her hand and pulls her closer. Then they share the most passionate kiss. Ding! The elevator had reached the top floor and Haiiro got out. Sen is standing at the back of the elevator, all flustered. Haiiro leaves telling her one final thing with the most serious tone. “And I have never stopped loving you either. You. You are my everything.” Before anything else can be said, the doors close again.

On the ground floor, Sen rejoins Ari and Yami. Sen’s eyes are still soggy and Yami asks if she’s okay. Better than ever, she answers with the most beautiful smile. Sen unbuttons her shirt and shows her back to Yami. “Let us start this operation!”

Yami’s a little flustered and puts his hand flat on her back. Eyes closed, he starts focussing. His arm becomes blackened and slowly, the strings start to appear. There where contact is made, it burrows in Sen’s skin. Auch! It hurts a little and Sen’s head is becoming light.

Suddenly a shockwave is emitted through the air and Sen loses consciousness. Luckily, Ari was ready and kept her from falling. A powerful signal was broadcasted and they both knew the first step of the plan was successful.

Back at Kumoda’s office, the signal came through loud and clear. It was easy to tell it came from the edge of the city. Neto turned his head and asked Zane what it was that he felt. Zane stood up and answered. “That, my friend, is our revolution! Let’s move!”

Ari had put Sen back in the hover car they borrowed from Abraham. Having received the power of Jet after that emotional moment with Haiiro must’ve taken a heavy toll on her. She was still asleep, but rather responsive. It’s almost like she was having a lively but pleasant dream, so there was no need for concern.

Yami hands Ari the suppressants and asks how long she thinks it will take before they get here. Ari swallows the pills. “Depending on the vehicle they use, if they start from the conference center, it would take about twenty minutes.” “Then all we can do is wait. Please keep the syringe ready.”

There’s barely any traffic at the hover bridge, it’s almost deserted. Most people come in through the airport as the hover bridge requires a special permit and on top of that, you have to cross the wasteland, which is a dangerous place full of nomads and bandits. Besides, Genkei is closed off right now, as their military heads are missing and they’re in a state of emergency.

Fifteen minutes pass and Yami’s waiting in the middle of the road. A hoverbike is approaching, the first vehicle to come from the city. Two people are riding it and it’s going fast. Getting closer and closer, he briefly doubts them stopping at all, but within a few hundred meters, it finally pulls the brakes, making an Akira-like powerslide and coming to a standstill. It’s them.

Neto removes his helmet and hops off. Zane takes off his sunglasses. ‘Well, well, well, if it isn’t the kid with the stone. I had a feeling you had something to do with the new powered one.” He steps off the bike. “But, what did you do? Where are they?” Zane looks around and Yami is irritated by him speaking so casually to him. “It doesn’t matter what we did, we’re here to stop you from harming anyone else!”

“Stop me?”- Ha! He laughs-” You might have some allies, but we both know none of you can take me on. Besides, even if you found a way to empower people… I’ll let you in on a little secret. Powered ones can devour Jet from other powered ones and strengthen themselves. So those would only be food to me.”

Yami is waiting for him to let his guard down and doesn’t respond. Zane looks at the toll building and points up. As if commanded, Neto dashes away, rapidly climbing the outer part of the building with his spider-like exoskeleton. He’s fast and Yami couldn’t stop him even if he wanted to. This move has put them on a timer. The longer he spends fighting here, the more of a danger Haiiro will be in. And if they can finish Zane, Neto might stop being hostile towards them.

Zane pulls Yami’s attention back to him. “That guy you left at the center, what was his name again? Rocco something? I must say, he was delicious!” Zane grins. Yami is enraged by the provocation and dashes forward to engage Zane. “How dare you!?” He yells while his fist extends and flies at Zane’s face. It lands as Zane doesn’t even try and move out of the way.

Upon impact, however, black smoke obscures our vision. And when the smoke finally disappears, Zane is grinning from ear to ear. The side where the punch made contact is covered in his usual fleshy armor and absorbed the punch like a sponge. Somehow, it’s thicker and more sturdy than what he saw before.

“I expected more from you!” Zane says disappointed while approaching Yami. And as soon as he’s in range, the two of them start exchanging blows. Zane can easily absorb the punches coming his way, keeping the damage to a minimum. To Yami, however, every punch is a heavy blow that hits like a truck.

The difference in strength is too great and Zane is even holding back as he hopes that Yami’s power will increase the further he’s driven into a corner. He’s having fun dictating the fight and wants a challenge. “Show me what you got boy!” Zane shouts trying to provoke him even more.

Bam! Zane puts in a little more strength and hits Yami in the chest. Yami grits his teeth and crossed his arms, blocking right in time. Yet it’s too powerful and he’s flung back. Zane knows that the longer the fight drags on and the more damage Yami takes, the less chance that Yami will be crowned the victor and the less exciting it becomes for him. He might as well end it quickly if it’s going to be like this.

At the same time, Ari was busy drawing some of her blood while watching from the car. Before Neto went up the building, she had called Haiiro to warn him. Haiiro isn’t in a position to support them right now as he carefully overlooks the side of the building, trying to find Neto. In another way, distracting Neto might be the best he can do for now. He’ll have to trust Ari and Yami to deal with the threat on the ground floor.

Neto continues to scale the building and appears from behind one of the balconies. Bang! Bang! Bang! Haiiro spots him, and without hesitation, opens fire. Neto might only be a kid, but he’s beyond saving. Neto is agile and dodges the incoming fire by using the balconies as cover, closing the distance between him and Haiiro little by little.

Controlling his breath, Haiiro tries to focus and aims in between the balconies. Neto’s movements have become predictable. “The moment he shows himself, I’ll have him.” Haiiro thinks to himself. Neto jumps to another balcony and Haiiro takes the shot. Bam! He barely misses the main body but one of Neto’s many insect arms has come clean off.

Surprised and in pain, Neto panics and starts moving across the building wall haphazardly. While harder to predict, he’s not using as much cover anymore and Haiiro takes another shot. Bam! Two more of those legs aligned and are now gone. Neto shrieks as he could barely hold on to the outer wall. He crashes through one of the windows, escaping inside. The immediate threat to Haiiro is lifted for now, but not over entirely.

Back on the ground floor, Sen is already starting to wake up, yet still not fully conscious. Ari had finished taking her blood and is trying to sneak up on Zane, waiting for an opening. Yami had continued to take a heavy beating, but for some reason, he was not feeling the pain as much anymore. Maybe his powers were finally kicking in, or his body was just becoming numb. In fact, Yami’s barely standing.

“You’ve been sticking out like a sore thumb! You even made me lose a soldier!” Zane says as he hits him in the jaw, uppercutting and knocking him to the floor. “But that ends now! After I have devoured you and your allies, I’ll be strong enough to take over Genkei by myself. And I think the first thing I’ll do is visit that church you were hiding in.”

He lifts the exhausted Yami by the collar of his jacket and pulls him closer, lowering his voice while threatening him. “I don’t need anyone standing in the way of my revolution.” With his free hand, he burrows his fingers in Yami’s neck. “Especially a little girl who might harbor feelings of revenge. Your sister will join you soon!”

Yami screams and musters all the strength that he had left to grab onto Zane. Even though he was exhausted, his powers were being fueled to the upper limit and allowed him to hold on, even squishing Zane’s fleshy armor to the point where he could feel the pressure. Crack! The sound of the armor or even a bone breaking echoes through the open highway.

At the same time, Ari saw her opening. The fact that her powers were being suppressed by the drugs allowed her to sneak up on them without Zane detecting any form of danger. Preoccupied with Yami’s sudden grip, he barely has time to react to Ari. Tsjak! Ari brutally stabbed the syringe into Zane’s lower back. Argh! Zane shrieks in pain.

He retracts the hand that was trying to devour Yami’s power and slaps Ari with the back of his hand. Unable to put up her usual defenses, she’s struck to the ground, sliding across the dirt. Zane’s armor is pulsating uncontrollably. “You wench! What did you do to me?!” He shouts angrily and stumbles. “Is this that stupid drug?!”.

Enraged, he grabs the arm that Yami was squeezing the armor with, and twists it the other way, breaking the bones and forcing Yami to let go. “Enough!” Zane yells as he flings Yami towards the edge of the bridge. He slams into the concrete safety railing, losing consciousness for a brief moment. Yami had crashed right next to the car they came here with. Yet at first glance, he doesn’t see Sen inside anymore.

Zane is fuming while walking toward Ari, who’s still on the floor. “Guess I’ll finish you first!”