Chapter 69:

Hot Wind

Red-Black Course

An explosive bang rocked the hidden room, as another clash between fist and armor ensued. Zain’s arms visibly shook from the incredible impact, but he didn’t have time to stay and be awed at his opponent, for the three of them wouldn’t let him have the chance to rest. Constant barrages of attacks, from Mirai’s forward assaults, Yusei’s lightning-fast knife work, or Hanabi’s occasional but always deadly hits, their movements were always in sync, stopping Zain’s tracks whenever they could.

The three worked as a perfect formation: Mirai was the vanguard, always opening with strong, powerful hits to force Zain to go on the defense. Then, she would push forward for Yusei to hide behind her, constantly dashing in and out with sneaky hits to wear down Zain. And once the latter’s stamina was reduced from the attacks, Hanabi would finish with a strike to a vital point – the head, back of the neck, or chest. The tactic was simple, yet effective – a tank to deal and soak damage, a speedster to annoy and wear down the opponent, and a final damage dealer to finish the job.

Zain had noticed the pattern, of course – it was the reason why he still refused to go down even after being constantly on the edge so far. Since he knew that only the last attacks from Hanabi would spell his doom, the young man had already learned that he’d only need to parry that last hit to be safe. However, since his opponent was going at him at incredible speed, he couldn’t fully identify the exact timings of their attacks, and so, Zain chose to stay on guard at his vital points, only blocking the attacks coming at those weaknesses.

It was a safe strategy to avoid being taken out, but in exchange, he would only get weaker and weaker with each passing moment. Mirai’s punches were still as strong as ever, almost to the point that Zain could hear his bones cracking from the pressure. Meanwhile, Yusei’s hits, though small, were aplenty. Soon enough, his body was already covered in tiny cuts, only enough to make him slightly bleed, but stung, nonetheless.

I can’t keep going on like this! Thought the young man. With the numbers disadvantage, plus the fact of always being pushed into close-quarters combat, it would only be a matter of time before Zain would fall.

The young man knew this, and so, he tried to gain distance from his assailants. Naturally, it meant using the best mid-range weapon he had.


Before Zain could finish uttering the command, however, a sucker punch from his right side struck like a meteor. Zain’s eyes could only barely keep up with the sudden movement as he raised his arm accordingly to block the shot, but it also meant that his voice command to the nanobots on his body was interrupted.

“You thought we wouldn’t know about your armor?” With each punch, Mirai shouted in aggression. “There’s no way we’d let you back off!”

Following the flurry of punches was Yusei, who continued to put pressure with his slashes. Before Zain had noticed it, his opponent had already snuck to his back and delivered a strike onto his shoulder, cutting cleanly through even the nanobot suit like a piece of paper.

“Your fighting style involving a soccer ball has two major weaknesses,” Yusei taunted from within the shadows. When Zain turned to the side the sound came from, another slash had already appeared on his other shoulder, while the assailant’s voice continued:

“First of all, it involves a projectile. It can be not exactly ball-like, but it still has to be small and aerodynamic enough to be kicked away. In other words, if you don’t have a projectile, your skills are worthless.”

Zain swung his injured arm over to the side of the sound, hoping to catch his opponent in their attack. However, Yusei was much faster even when Zain was healthy, let alone weakened due to blood loss and stress. Dodging the flailing arm with ease, the assassin used his momentum to slip under Zain’s stance, slashing through his thigh this time to limit his movements.

“Second of all,” continued Yusei’s voice. “Being a projectile-based combat style, it needs distance from the enemies. Not to say that you’re not versed in close-quarter combat, but in order for your ball-kicking to work, you need to be away from your opponent. And unfortunately for you…”

“Close combat is our specialty!”

Mirai let out a booming shout before rushing towards Zain like a wild bull. Another straight punch at the young man, who, this time, was unable to fully block the hit in time due to his injured arms. As a result, some of the force landed directly on Zain’s chest, which sent him flying to the opposite wall, while the impact caused him to cough out a small puddle of blood.

“Time to finish this,” not letting Zain get a single second of rest, Yusei had already appeared in front of him, raising his fingers before his chest to make a hand sign. “Fuuma Art: Hot Wind.”

As the words left his mouth, Yusei’s silhouette disappeared from the scene. However, Zain didn’t need to wonder where he had gone, since the answer was shown not even a second later.

Countless consecutive slashes ripped through Zain’s body. If the damage before was just enough to make him bleed, then this time, the knife wounds were all deeper and sharper than ever, causing blood to not drip, but splatter on the floor and walls. Not only was Zain feeling the pain of metal cutting through his skin, but with each slash, an incredible burning sensation coursed through his body, as if he was being thrown into an active furnace.

It wasn’t his imagination either. Though it was already hard for Zain to open his eyes and look towards his wounded spots, the young man could clearly see wisps of smoke coming out of the open wounds. He didn’t know how it happened; it could have been friction, or the knife could be incredibly hot from the start, but his body was indeed burning from the slashes.

The assault finally stopped after no less than a thousand cuts had covered Zain’s body. As the young man fell to his knees due to extreme pain, heat, and blood loss, Yusei’s figure appeared in front of him yet again.

“Fuuma Art: Hot Wind,” said Yusei. “Utilizing the user’s extreme speed, it builds up heat and momentum from friction with the air, resulting in slashes that are both powerful, fast, and blazing hot. To be honest, I’m surprised that you haven’t lost consciousness yet.”

“Heh… thanks for… the explanation,” Zain was, for the first time, in no condition to continue fighting, but it didn’t stop him from opening up a taunting remark with a smirk on his face. “You talk too much for a ninja… you know that?”

“It’s not like we’ll be meeting again,” Yusei continued, sheathing back his knife and hiding it away. “Now, you have the right to remain silent, while we…”

Before Yusei could finish, however, another voice sounded behind him.

“Sorry, Yu-nii… I can’t agree with keeping him behind bars. He needs to pay.”

As sudden as her own words, Mirai, from behind, grabbed Yusei by the shoulder and pushed him away to the surprise of the people on the scene. The shinobi had realized the danger of the situation, and so, he shouted:

“Hanabi, stop Mirai! He’s not supposed to die here!”

Following Yusei’s orders, the other girl moved also. Contrary to Yusei’s belief, however, Hanabi didn’t move in front of Mirai to stop her. Instead, before he realized it, Yusei’s hands were already tied up by the crimson girl herself.

“H-Hanabi! What’s the meaning of this?”

“I’m sorry, Young Lord,” answered the girl. For the first time since they’d known each other, Yusei could hear emotions within Hanabi’s voice – a burning hatred and regret. “You can’t understand our pain, and we don’t need you to understand. Let us have our revenge, and then you can punish us however you like.”

As the words left her mouth, Hanabi had already finished tying Yusei up and approaching a weakened Zain in front of her. Together with Mirai, the two grabbed the young man’s hair and had him face them for presumably his last time.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why we have such a grudge against you,” Hanabi spoke. “But we have no obligation to answer you. Take that question and bring it down with you to Hell, evildoer.”

The words that Hanabi uttered were nothing like what he had heard before. Her attitude was also the first he had experienced. However, as the girl’s face was close enough to his, the sense of familiarity that plagued Zain ever since he saw her for the first time had finally cleared itself. And so, the young man uttered a single word – the name that he made the connection needed at last:


“… It seems like you’ve taken a step closer to the truth,” answered Hanabi. “But not enough.”

“Do I… not get my last words?”

“… Fine. We will not answer your questions, but we can at least give you that honor. Don’t you agree, Mirai?”

“As long as I can crush his head afterwards, whatever,” a stern answer from the black-haired girl.

Letting out a sigh, Hanabi continued. “Well, there you go. Speak your last words, evil.”

As if waiting for that moment, Zain’s eyes flared with life once again, as the young man let out a triumphant smirk:

“You should have gone for my head when you had the chance.”

As the words left his mouth, all of Mirai, Hanabi, Yusei, and even Zain was struck from behind by a series of mechanical tentacles coming from inside the walls and ceilings in an ambush that no one else could expect. As everyone’s arms and legs were locked up by the complex machinery, Hanabi could only let out a frustrated scream:

“Coward! You’ve been stalling for time?”

“Stalling? Oh, no,” Zain chuckled at the question as his body was also tied up like the rest. Following suit, from the ceiling, another tentacle-like object with a metal helmet at its tip descended, fitting perfectly onto his head. “It was the first time I was put into a corner like that. I was really afraid for my life there, but unfortunately for you three, you’ve forgotten the most basic rule of war… Isn’t that right, Guy in a Chair?”

“To shut down an opponent, first, go for their head!” From afar, Mike’s voice echoed through the room, as the contraptions had already been set up for him and Lewis. “Initiate the ABC!”  

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