A wind crawled its way through the alley blowing around the field of grass that used to be a typical alley corner. For the moment everything was still, the confusion in the air left everyone holding their positions. In the edge of the widened alley was the massive assassin with barely any of his earth field still holding against Yuki’s field.
Yuki took a step back and blinked several times checking his eyes to see if they were playing games on him. Seiji hadn’t yet been clued into his change being more focused on being conscious once more. He didn’t know what Yuki’s problem was, but he stepped forward to get around Yuki. “What’s with that look Yuki? We’ve got someone’s ass to kick!”
“Huh…right!” Yuki rubbed his fists together and stepped forward next to Seiji. Even with both of them back in the fight, it didn’t feel so assured as Seiji acted. His hand still killed him with a throbbing biting pain that was only being held back by adrenaline. “Let me handle this, Seiji. You can stay back this time!” Yuki charged forward, trusting in his mind to have delivered.
Seiji tried to reach out for Yuki, taken aback by him suddenly being willing to fight. ‘What’s gotten into him? And what’s with all of this damn grass?’
The assassin took a cautious defensive posture with Yuki finally committed. A clean strike with his good hand slammed into the thick forearm. Barely any movement came from the hit. Nothing changed with his fist halted. He didn’t really know what to expect, but hoped for something.
Confused covered him with Yuki making no noticeable impact on the guy. Everything felt a little off in ways he couldn’t figure out, but it seemed like Yuki should have done something. But the stranger remained a brick wall. ‘Did Yuki always look so blurry? How the hell can he just tank hits like that from Yuki?’
Chapter 29 – Dropout Priest
Yuki leapt back to assess the situation. “Tough as stone…” Backed away, he suddenly noticed an odd crack or two along the forearm where he struck. ‘A crack? Is he actually made out of stone? But Ayumi said it can’t change you…so what’s he doing to get this effect?’
“Can you keep going?” Seiji offered a hand to Yuki.
Yuki grabbed on to Seiji feeling a bit of strength flowing into his body. “Thanks.” Everything felt a little sharper. The dull movements disappeared as though somehow restored.
“Let me take a whack at him, Yuki.” Despite how the last time went, his body told him he had a chance. None of it made any sense, but he was not about to turn down a chance to go toe to toe again.
“Wait, Seiji! His defenses are too strong. I don’t know if it’ll make sense, but I think he actually has rocks on his skin protecting him.”
Seiji didn’t question what probably should have been a red flag. However, being told that hadn’t changed his instinct. “I can’t explain it, but I know I can win.”
Knowing Seiji, he immediately wanted to pull him back. Yet there was something different about him now and not just the new clothes. His confidence felt genuine, even if he didn’t know where it came from. “I’ve got your back.”
Seiji nodded with a grin to Yuki before turning to look down at the unassailable tower of a man. He pounded his feet against the earth getting a boost to his sprint. His body glided through the air as if he dropped twenty kilos. ‘What is this feeling?’ As Seiji came into range the man threw out a fist, but Seiji dodged it taking a step to the side. Rather than throwing a punch, his hand extended out launching papers from his long sleeves of the robe. ‘He’s coming again!’
Another fist from the other arm came in forcing Seiji to roll away to safety, but found that he was being attacked by more than just an arm now. Out of the man’s fist came spikes of stone and rock flying at him. Out of instinct Seiji dropped to one knee and slammed his hand against the grass and dirt. The daggers of earth struck at and around him breaking up grass and earth making a cloud around Seiji.
“Seiji!” Yuki ran in a few steps uncertain about his friend. But the air ran thick like electricity charged through. He paused to see what would happen.
Around Seiji a dome of cool blue light surrounded him. Kanji symbols ran in lines along the surface in a complex array of geometry and calligraphy. Behind the barrier, Seiji remained unharmed. He looked back up at their attacker unfazed.
He stood up, releasing the barrier to charge back into melee. Dodging around and going for counter strike, Seiji worked to find a weakness. Like with Yuki, each blow did nothing. The man really seemed to be built like a tank.
A lucky blow forced Seiji on the defense, blocking with his whole body. The power pushed him back with his feet ripping through the grass and dirt. Seiji shook off the slight numbness as paper ash fell to the ground. ‘This is so weird.’
Seiji moved in continuing his patterns of evading and throwing papers with the man. ‘It’s like I act on reflex only with no thought.’ He flipped over the man landing behind him, placing his palm to the earth before jumping again in time. ‘What am I doing?’ The moment he landed his hand touched the ground and rolled himself out of the crushing assault of the man.
The man seemed to be growing impatient with his attacks. When Seiji jumped back the man crossed his arms producing large spikes from his elbows that broke free propelling towards Seiji. There was no time for a barrier as Seiji waved his arm in an arc in front of him, producing a series of papers in a line following his hand.
The moment later the spikes collided with the paper mutually disintegrating on impact. Yet the assault wasn’t finished as more spears of earth were launched at Seiji. Many papers remained in the air catching the flood of projectiles. As the defense thinned, he produced more with the barrage continuing.
A minute was bought for him as he brought his hands together. He interlaced his fingers together with the right hand’s index and middle finger held straight as he began to mutter something. As the last of the papers floating in front of Seiji were taken out, five pillars of light burst up around the man showing papers at their base. On the ground, light weaved the earth connecting each pillar in a circle as the pillars bent inwards hitting the man. A moment later all of the papers that Seiji had stuck to the man’s body suddenly began to glow brightly. “Yuki! Kick his ass!”
“Right!” Yuki sprung into action pulling back his good hand for one final punch. Caught in the light, the brute braced with his arms. The distortion effect around Yuki shot out at the point of impact through the forearms and into the chest.
The moment hung still with no clear sense anything happened. Brief disappointment came over Yuki. A snap bubbled up triggering Yuki to focus.
Cracks raced out from the contact widening out as though he split the man’s arm. Chunks of earth tumbled away as the armor shattered. Beneath the unbroken skin a deep purple quickly surfaced. Then along the broad chest cracks formed.
Blood coughed up in sprays as the Field shattered. The monster of a man lost balance leaning back to crash into the grass. Deep red bruising appeared over the chest and arms as he lay unmoving.
Yuki came to rest in front of the bleeding assassin that lay on the ground unable to move from the injuries. The wild look from before was breaking through him as he had been attacking, but he blinked to bring himself out of the trance. ‘Did I… Did I?’ As Yuki looked closer, the man was still breathing strong, but would not be able to move for some time. The wounds were deep, but not immediately life threatening.
Seiji walked up to Yuki patting him on the shoulder to get his attention from the fight. “Shit man! We won…”
“Yeah…” Yuki turned away from the scene and looked at Seiji staring down at him. It was then that his curiosity kicked in changing his expression again to confusion. “What’s with the clothes, Seiji? I thought you hated…”
“Huh?” Seiji’s face twisted a little in confusion, but Yuki pointed at the clothes to direct his eyes down. When Seiji gave into Yuki’s questioning and looked, his eyes widened in shock making him jump back. “What the hell am I wearing these stupid clothes for?!” Seiji began to pull at them, checking to see if it was real and where his school clothes had gone. It was sadly very real and very missing.
“That’s what I’m asking. When you woke up you were wearing them. I didn’t say much then because we had other matters.” Yuki’s mind ran through the events that led up trying to figure out what happened since it became very clear to him that Seiji was in the dark. “And what’s with those papers? They look like charms or something.”
Seiji wasn’t able to keep up with the barrage of questions, still trying to deal with the clothes. ‘Why the hell didn’t I notice this before? And what’s Yuki talking about paper charms?’ It required Yuki to grab Seiji’s hand and show him what it was that he was holding the entire time.
“You were throwing them around all over the place like out of a manga I read. Honestly, you looked pretty badass”
“Huh? Wait…these are Ofuda, the hell? The talismans that we use at the shrine? But why do I have them?” Seiji attempted to replay what he did before, but it became a blur. Everything was all reflexive like he had done it before and just knew without needing to concentrate. ‘What the hell happened to me? What’s this strange feeling I have? What the shit’s going on?’
Yuki had a ton of questions left, but he suddenly knew that he should not be sticking around any longer than necessary. Unfortunately, he was still in a problem. ‘I can’t turn it off again. Damn…wish I knew how to work this.’ Yuki walked over to Seiji trying to look as serious as he could. “Hey Seiji, I need a favor.”
“We probably should stick around any longer, but I need you to whack me in the head hard.”
“I’ll explain later, just hurry!”
Seiji didn’t understand what Yuki was getting, but the dead serious look in his eyes told Seiji enough. He took a moment and pulled back his arm tightly letting it go flying through Yuki and dropping him flat on the alley concrete once more. All of the grass, clothes, everything faded away before Yuki touched the ground. “Not sure I understand, but this is getting complicated.”
He looked around at the alley seeing the few areas of damage caused by the fight. However, Seiji couldn’t dawdle too long and with Yuki unconscious it made his task harder now. Seiji bent down and lifted Yuki up over shoulder. He glanced over at the still body of Yuki. “What the hell’s going on Yuki…”
“Huh?” Yuki snapped back to reality. He sat on a large semi-flat stone in the back of the shrine that Seiji had carried him back to. Yuki wasn’t sure if he was welcomed by their grandfather, but that didn’t seem to be the immediate issue. Someone stared at him with great intent.
They wanted answers.
“Don’t ‘huh’ me, Yuki! You seem to know something about that giant Russian brick shithouse!”
“That’s some colorful use of language.”
Seiji leaned in on Yuki as if it would help get him answers. They had left the alley so quickly after defeating that strange guy that Seiji did not have any time for answers. That and he carried an unconscious body while trying not to look suspicious.
Yuki swallowed slowly knowing that this was coming. He knew that he was going to have to explain it when Seiji refused to run away. It was inevitable now. “Well I’m not sure where to start, its kinda complicated.”
“Let’s start with that guy that attacked you. He seemed to be out for more than just a few drops of your blood.”
“Right…” After Saki gave him practice, the explanation came out smoother. And Seiji quietly, mostly anyway, absorbed it all. Both Saki and Seiji took the revelations far better than him, though given the circumstances it made sense.
At the end, Seiji rubbed his head still rolling it around. “Damn, man… What’s the plan?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’ve been in a little bit of denial hoping it would pass over in time. But Saki and now you… I can’t run from this anymore. But it’s not like I can go into the lion’s den as I am. It’s still a waiting game for now.”
“Where is this place? You going to be close by?”
“Oh… I…I just realized I never asked Ayumi about that.” He laughed a little at his absentmindedness. “I guess with everything going on, it didn’t seem that important.”
“Not important? It’s your homeland.”
“Japan is my home, not wherever that place is and Momoko, Ken and Jun my family.” It hit him suddenly saying it to Seiji. The weight of the words felt heavier than he realized.
“I get that. So who the hell’s this Ayumi?”
“Oh right, she didn’t know about you so your memories weren’t altered. You saw her the other day when Saki yelled at you.”
“That tiny little girl? Huh…shit…oh shit!”
He leaned forward and jumped up getting in front of Yuki. Seiji grabbed him by the shoulders with an intense stare. “All that stuff, what the hell was that shit? Was it your powers?”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Ya know, that shit!” Seiji started to gesture with his hands, pointing at himself as if that helped. “The light…” He trailed off into whispers without anymore reaching Yuki. His eyes darted around the shrine grounds.
More than a little confused, Yuki tilted his head. It took a few more gestures for it to click. “Oh the Shinto–” Immediately, Seiji slammed a hand over his mouth.
“Quiet, man!” A very serious glare from Seiji fixed on Yuki. He refused to back down until Yuki agreed. Slowly Yuki nodded his head looking bewildered. “Good…shit…”
Taking a breath in, Yuki could speak again, but kept it quiet. “You talking about the shinto powers? Yeah, you looked great, straight out of a movie!”
“Don’t breathe a word of that to anyone!”
“I mean who’d believe me?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll keep it a secret. It’s not like I even know how it happened.” Thinking back on the alley, he tried to imagine what the trigger had been. He knew vaguely enough how the powers work to know what he needed. Yet he didn’t know how or why it happened. His subconscious continued to govern his life. “Given Seiji powers…what more can I do with this power?’
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