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Work, Work, Work

Ezekiel ran down several connecting metallic corridors. He could hear the steps of countless beast pursuing him. No matter how fast he ran, they appeared to be nearby. He couldn't find his ring...So he had to trust in his rudimentary understanding of pulling. The ebony fullbringer dashed down countless steps. Leaping over rails and landing on more catwalks. This wasn't New York. Damn sure wasn't the United States. Hundreds of signs hung around him. No. This was in Japan. How the fuck did he end up here? He saw a red light and darted at the opening. A dead end...The pained groans of the dead approached. Ezekiel hesitated but turned around to see shadows sluggishly approaching. Above them a sign.

Yamaguchi Steel Works
0234

A giant fist came crashing down from above. The usual barbaric haymaker by beings that lacked even an ounce of conscious thought. Just monstrous brutes following their animalistic instincts in hopes of getting a small evening snack. He shouldn't have to deal with this. At least not now when he should be napping before his overnight shift. Between school and his career, little interruptions like this were beginning to take a toll on his social life.

Ha!

If only he had a social life for things like this to take a toll on. No, this was pretty much what his life had become. Fighting. Work. Studying. Managing one of the most pretentious luxury properties during the day. Protecting the ignorant from the spiritual realm at night. Would he want it any other way? He dodged the thoughtless hammering fist, disappearing in a spark of emerald. The giant white monster, known to those who were spiritually aware as a hollow, stood there in his confusion before angrily bellowing to the heavens.

"Hey!" Ezekiel shouted. His voice booming through the openness of the empty park. "This is a residential neighborhood, stop driving up property prices with your noise! I plan on living here one day." The ebony skinned fighter hadn't had his powers for long. Well, he'd always possessed them. But he only recently began to get a grasp upon their capabilities. Still, nights like these where his blood pumped with fire assured him that he loved his gifts. This new life as a self-subscribed spiritual investigator gave him a new passion.

He weaved beneath the massive arm's attempt at slamming him into a nearby tree and leapt upward, suddenly floating above its reach. His dark navy sports coat buttoned by the top, complimenting the pink dress shirt and his favorite pair of jeans. As the white beast jumped in hopes of grabbing him, Ezekiel stared deep into its empty eyes. Hollows. He pondered. The painful roars of the infinitely hungry demon pained him. They sounded filled with sorrow. Longing. As if maybe the thing that poisoned their soul long before would return.


"They are souls of those who lost their hearts. When a human dies and is unable to re-enter the soul cycle, they transform into a hollow. There are as many hollows as humans with a numerous classifications. One day, you'll encounter stronger ones than these. So continue growing in strength, Zeke.


Ezekiel sighed. He hadn't seen the Old Man in quite some time. Old man Akon was a shinigami from a mysterious place called Soul Society. And although Ezekiel knew little about this Society of Souls, Akon was the reason that the young Fullbringer was able to gain a sensible grasp on his powers and all that was spiritual.

"Fuck!" Ezekiel spat. Reminiscing in battle...something the geezer would often warn Ezekiel about. Since, while Ezekiel took a trip down memory lane, the hollow managed to learn that jumping increased its reach. And now it held the Fullbringer before its demonic maw with a grip that would've kill the average human. But Ezekiel had become a real life superhero.

"I guess we need to end this?" He managed to squeeze out. His body flickered a light green. The silver ring on his finger sparking with a luminescent light.

Poids du Noir

Suddenly, the two were detached from the world around them. They began to slowly float up towards the sky. As if balloons released from the grasp of a careless child. It took all but several seconds for the beast and Ezekiel to rest several hundred feet in the air. The hollow swayed in hopes of regaining itself. But to no avail. The ebony Fullbringer slipped through the hollow's fingers and walked up its arm. "I wish I could save you. But I haven't even seen a Soul Weeper yet-I'm starting to think they're more of his maddened ramblings. Crying death gods?" Ezekiel kneeled on its shoulder blade, staring deeply into its endless gaze. "If you're in there, I want you to understand that it wasn't your fault. She doesn't blame you for his death." He touched the ivory mask. "Hopefully you'll find salvation after this."

One touch. One touch and the hollow was sent spiraling down back to the earth head first with the force of a skyscraper crashing from the heavens. The explosion loud enough to shake up the entire neighborhood. He could see hundreds of lights. Countless alarms. Which meant the cops would be here to investigate shortly. But luckily, even if they could see the spiritual side of life, the hollow vanished into nothingness. Still, Ezekiel needed to get out of there. In a flash of green, he was falling throughout the sky.


Room 504. She was a married woman known for her promiscuous nights out. And although the staff knew her husband, it was not their job to fix a broken marriage. Ezekiel checked his watch as he fell towards the building. 10:45PM. She tends to head out on her escapades at this time, leaving the window open in her absence. Ezekiel fell through the window. He stopped before slamming onto the wall, reorienting his personal gravity and landing on the floor. Ezekiel ran through the door and dashed down to the front office.

This hotel was one of the more prominent one's in New York. The Insula Avallonis. A skyscraper owned by Insula Inc. Beyond becoming the greatest spiritual investigator, Ezekiel hoped to one day own his own portfolio of high end hotels across the globe. But for now, he spent his nights managing the hotel during the grave shift.

"Ezekiel, you're late!" His coworker screamed. A smaller girl of porcelain skin.

"It's 10:45?"

"You're usually here at 9:30PM." The curvaceous woman leaned closer to Ezekiel. He could smell the Rose Avante radiating from her neck. His blood pressure started to increase. "Does this mean Zeke finally got himself a little plaything?"

"W-what? No! I-I was-"

"Relax I'm kidding. I figured you got caught up with that explosion business."

"Explosion business?" Ezekiel repeated. "News travel fast..."

"Fast? This happened yesterday in that Japanese city. You have family there right? I figured you'd been worried about them."

"Japan?" He took a relaxed breath. He hadn't heard about any explosion in Japan...And besides...it wasn't like they were that close to begin with. Ezekiel smiled. "Oh nah, my family is vacationing in Hawaii this winter." He smiled. "There was a pipe burst nearby. I'd take the Leeway express if you're driving home."

"What? What are you talking about, you don't even drive-"

Ezekiel had already left the office, leaving her to ponder what went on. He ran to the front desk area, clad in a white dress shirt, a black sports coat and a pair of black denim jeans. This wasn't his official uniform. But today was a slow day.

3:00AM

An explosion in Japan? It wasn't like Ezekiel actually cared...but it was dead and he completed everything. The elegant lobby was completely empty with only the soothing sound of Habanero playing in the background. He logged onto the internet and began typing.

Explosion in Japan.

"300,000 results." Ezekiel clicked the first link. For someone whose family had such an interest in Japanese culture, he cursed his inability to speak Japanese beyond first grade comprehension. "There's a video." The video played silently. Yet his eyes widened as he paused it. Surrounding the countless reporters and investigators were bodies. But everyone moved as if they couldn't see them. Ezekiel zoomed in, squinting in order to get a better view.

This was a metal factory. This happened in a metal factory! At the bottom of one of the reporters was a sign which read Yamaguchi Steel Works 0234. If not for his often plain visage, Ezekiel's shock would have painted itself on his face. But instead he took a deep breath. Maybe this was all connected. That dream...this is more than stray hollows and spirits...Something called him.

He fiddled with the buttons on his cuffs. He knew what he needed to do. Ezekiel opened his email and began typing.

Good Morning Ms. Allison.

I'm just wondering if that transfer position is still open? My school is offering a study abroad opportunity and I would love to consolidate both my credits and work study credits...

The Promise

Lower Manhattan, New York

A young Japanese woman in her early twenties walked down the streets of SoHo, a portfolio tucked under her arm. She walked quickly, hoping to make it home before sundown. All around her, the lights of New York began to flicker on in the dusky warmth of twilight. Through the gaps in the streets, she could see the sunset on the horizon tinged with gold, and for a moment she felt the smallest pinprick of homesickness.

By this time in Osaka, the noodle vendors would have opened their stands. High school students in uniformed groups would be making their way back home after their club activities, chatting amiably and acknowledging friends along the street with boisterous disrespect. She smiled, recalling her long walks along the river bank, with the clear sky above and the air cleaned by the fresh scent of saltwater. New York, in comparison, was dirty, stagnated, chaotic...

Hikari breathed in sharply to clear her head of such thoughts, then skipped down the stairs leading to the subway. While she waited for the train she put in her earbuds and flicked through a playlist before settling on something to put her in a calm mood. After replying to some of her fellow classmates from her design school, she decided to quickly check the news… Japanese news. She scanned quickly over the headlines, humming along to a techno beat, but ground to a halt when she saw the characters for her hometown flash by.

She scrolled back up. Blinked. Re-read it.

Explosion in Ikeda leads to mysterious disappearances.


Hikari devoured each word of the article. A strange atmospheric phenomena had prompted an explosion at an old nuclear plant. At least 10 rescue workers were confirmed dead. A knot twisted in her stomach, and she leaned against the platform wall. Ikeda was a blip on Japan’s map, insignificant in the scheme of national news, but the explosion had pushed it into the spotlight. Still, the article was painfully sparse of information, and when she reached the end she followed the links to the police reports. There, she found a list of names. Her face drained of color.

No. It couldn’t be. Her finger traced the characters spelling out the missing persons. It felt as though the wind had been knocked out of her, and she blinked back tears, unable to believe the words printed there in indelible black lines:

Kōhaku Morimoto.

No...

Hikari didn’t notice her train pulling away from the platform. The lights from the car flashed by, painfully bright, before disappearing into the tunnel. Alone on the platform, Hikari wrestled with the emotions welling up within her. She tried not to think about Kōhaku, who had been a second older brother to her. She imagined the cigarette permanently attached to his hand, his easy smile, hopelessly unstylish hair, and general, lovable awkwardness. He couldn’t be gone. Not him. Hikari began a text to her older brother, but was unable to begin the message. What would he say? She had her reasons for coming to New York, but all of it seemed so insignificant now that her friends and mentors had disappeared. For a moment, she felt as though a piece of her past had been erased.

After a moment’s consideration, Hikari closed all the apps on her phone and put her earbuds away. She straightened her shoulders and took a deep breath, settling on a clear plan of action. That determination wavered, however, when she realized she would have to drain her savings for a plane ticket. She shook her head. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that she be in Ikeda, shoulder to shoulder with the remains of Xstence, even though Tetsuo hadn’t realized yet that she was a full-fledged member just like any of them.

When the next train slid to a stop, she stepped through the doorways into the light, her face set firmly even as she brushed her tears away.

I’m coming, she promised.

From Ashes

Ikeda, Osaka

Tap.

Tap.

Tap.

The echoing of footsteps through silent halls was the only sound that could be heard as Tetsuo made his way through the abandoned school. As he passed through the corridors, the lights flickered on ahead of him, activated by the slightest exertion of electric potential. Still, they did little to chase away the shadows that clung to his feet.

It was hard to believe that a week had gone by since nearly every member of Xstence had been taken by the rift. It felt like it had happened yesterday, yet also a month ago, as if it had been years since they had all been together. Here.

Tetsuo stepped around the debris and rubble that filled the abandoned hallway, pausing in front of one of the empty classrooms.

See, I told you this would be perfect!

He could almost hear the echo of his friend’s voice, and recalled the first time Kōhaku had brought him here to inspect the new headquarters of Xstence. He had been skeptical, as always. To this day he still wasn’t sure how the district administration had failed to follow through on the building’s condemnation. Yet as dead and shadowy as it was, it had become their home.

We called them. All of them. Every Fullbringer we know, right here.

That’s what Kōhaku had told him around his beaming grin the first day they had met at the old school. He couldn’t believe that had been five years ago. So much had changed, and yet his friendship to Kōhaku had remained steadfast through everything... until now.

Succumbing to the draw of the darkness inside, Tetsuo stepped into the empty room. A wave of nostalgia from more than fifteen years ago engulfed him. Images of high school flashed through his mind: the first time he had met Kōhaku. The wager held in the kendou club. Fighting back to back against bullies and Hollows alike. Then, moving away...

Tetsuo groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose against the stinging behind his eyes. He was exhausted, and it showed. He had done everything in his power to try and recover those who had been lost, but there had been no sign of them or the rift. After that night it had all vanished, as though nothing had happened. In the end, out of everyone who had stood on the precipice that night, only Tetsuo and Michiyo had been left.

The last few days, ever since the official reports had been published, had been the worst, and Tetsuo felt as though he could no longer live with the uncertainty. The police had registered those who had gone missing in the explosion, but they too had been powerless to locate any bodies. Caught in between desperation and grief, he had begun to think it would have been better had they all been killed instantly, instead of this...

Tetsuo caught himself, and a chill ran down his spine at the darkness of his own thoughts.

"I don’t know what to do, Kōhaku," he stated to the empty space.

"Tetsuo,"

Tetsuo whirled around, and he saw Kōhaku standing there behind him.

"Kouhaku, I—"

At once, they found themselves standing in the air above the school. Ikeda lay below them, blue lights blinking in the distance. A shimmering canvas enclosed them overhead, strange colors dancing along the translucent film of dark matter. He though he saw faces there—Nano, Emi, the faces of Xstence caught behind the barrier.

He looked away, unable to face them. Kouhaku stared at him, and his eyes began to well with an inky black substance that spilled over onto his skin.

No. Not this.

Not again.

The ground fell away between them, and Kōhaku hovered above the void, pulled against his will towards the darkness.

Tetsuo heard himself scream Kōhaku’s name as he reached out, but the distance pulled them apart. His friend’s face twisted with pain, and then it was all over. Helplessly, Tetsuo watched as Kōhaku was swallowed by the rift, slowly disintegrating into flecks of ash...

As quickly as it had begun, the hallucination ended, and Tetsuo found himself in the empty classroom once more. He had clenched his fists so hard that blood had pooled between his fingers, and when he looked at his palms he found that his hands were shaking.

It was the same dream he had been suffering from for the last week. A constant replay in his mind’s eye of the events surrounding the rift. More than anything, Tetsuo wanted to be free of that dream. That’s why he had come here, hoping to find some amount of closure in the abandoned headquarters of Xstence. Truth be told, he had even contemplated destroying the school itself to be free of his despair. But in the end, that would only be another form of running.

In the dim light, Tetsuo saw a glint of metal in the dust on the floor. It was a piece from one of Kōhaku’s e-cigarettes. Tetsuo knelt down to pick it up. His shoulders started to shake.

"I thought you might be here."

For some reason, Tetsuo wasn’t surprised to hear that voice, even though he thought he had been alone. He straightened up, and took a deep breath to steady himself.

“Am—” he turned to face her. Amaya stood in the doorway, arms crossed. His gaze was dragged to her fingers. A metal band was missing from her left hand—a painful absence which reminded him of the past between them.

"So you’ve heard?" he asked, finally managing to speak around the tightness in his chest.

"Michiyo told me," she replied.

"Why didn’t you come sooner?"

"I was in Karakura."

Tetsuo frowned. "You spoke with Riruka?"

"Urahara," she corrected. "I thought he might now something about what happened here in Ikeda."

A moment of silence stretched between them.

"I went to ground zero," she continued. "So, there’s really no sign of them?"

"No," Tetsuo replied. "I’ve—I did everything I could."

"Everything?" Amaya’s tone was accusatory, but then she sighed and walked towards him.

What? Tetsuo frowned. What do you expect from me?

Amaya cupped her hand around the side of his face. It stung more than if she had slapped him.

"Tetsuo," she began, the pain in her voice evident. He looked away. "You can’t shoulder this all by yourself," she said.

"Only me and Michiyo are left," he retorted, "So who exactly am I supposed to trust?" Bitterness welled up inside him. "You?" He brushed her hand away.

"I didn’t come here for you, Tetsuo," Amaya replied, her voice even. "I came here because I was called."

"Called?" he asked, skeptical.

She nodded. "By the 'rift'—I think that’s what Michiyo called it—And I’m sure there are other Fullbringers who feel the same pull."

Tetsuo didn’t respond, as he was still processing everything she had said. Why she was there.

"If my theory is correct," Amaya continued, "Then they’ll start arriving here in Ikeda very soon."

"What do you want me to do?" he finally asked.

"Hollows have been appearing in greater numbers since the incident, haven’t they. How long will are you going to continue clinging to the past? If you want to find Kōhaku and the others you’ll need help."

"Your help?"

"Yes," she answered confidently, but Tetsuo couldn’t respond.

"I say you listen to her, hmph," another voice interrupted them, and Michiyo stepped into the room.

"Obasan?" So she had been there too. He must have been more out of it than he thought, having failing to notice either of their presences.

"Listen, Tetchan," she said, "You can’t just sit around licking your wounds. You’re the leader of Xstence aren’t you? It’s high time you start acting like it. I can’t bear to see you—" Michiyo stopped, suddenly overcome by emotion. She sniffed loudly, rubbing tears from her eyes. "I can’t keep wiping your ass! You're a grown man damn it!" She stomped her foot, and Amaya stifled a laugh.

Tetsuo realized how great of an inconvenience he had placed her—how he had pained her, and he bowed towards her.

“I’m sorry,” he said. I’m sorry.

“Oh don’t apologize to me,” Michiyo scolded him. “It’s time we got to the bottom of this.”

“Right,” he said as he straightened up, and he looked between Amaya and Michiyo. “I promise I’ll make it up to you,” he swore with newfound determination.

“Hmph,” Michiyo said. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” she warned.

Amaya turned to Tetsuo. “Should we come up with a plan of action then?”

“You’re here,” he said, “So it makes sense to contact any other members of Xstence who aren’t in Ikeda at the moment.”

“Do you mean Kyang-jae?” Amaya asked. Tetsuo grimaced when he pictured the criminal’s face.

“...Yes. And then we can start recruiting the other Fullbringers who arrive. In the meantime, let’s focus our attentions on pinning down the source of that draw, and hope it leads us to the rift.”

Amaya nodded.

“That’s the Tetsuo we all know,” Michiyo said, and she reached up to pat him on the shoulder. “It’s good to have you back.”

He smiled, but inwardly cursed his own indecision and weakness. He would become stronger, even if it meant casting aside all that remained of him. Even if it meant embracing his own demons in hopes of saving them.

It was the only way he could live with himself.

Petty Thievery

It was a smaller store, but Soren was hungry. He had entered the shop, a little convince store near a residential area. As he did, he saw a shorter man with gray here. He was yelling at a younger girl in the shop's work uniform about not stocking something correctly and she looked to be on the verge of tears. While he knew it was a business, Soren felt bad for the girl and less bad for what he was going to do. He looked around the shop and made mental notes of where certain foods, snacks, and drinks he like wewere laid out. He began to walk towards the entrance of the store when the old man looked at him.

"Are you not going to buy anything!?" the man said in an annoyed tone.

"Uh, no. Sorry, I forgot my wallet."

The little man rolled his eyes. "The youth of today are unreliable idiots who can't work or function in society."

With that, Soren's mind was clear of any lingering guilt. He walked outside and went into a nearby alleyway. He pulled a key out of his pocket and began to focus on it. It glowed in a strange green light for a brief instance before a small hole appeared in the air. With that, Soren reached in and pulled his arm back out. In his hand was a bag of chips he looked at in the store. He repeated this a few times, pulling out a sandwich and some drinks in successive uses.

He didn't like stealing, but he had no real options. He had no home to go to, no family he could actually rely on, and a strange power that he could use to take from asses like the owner of the shop he was sitting beside now. May as well cause them that much more trouble. Not wanting to chance the store owner walking out and seeing him for whatever reason, Soren made one final reach into the portal to grab a bag. Putting his meal in there for later, he jogged down the street to seek a more comfortable area to eat until he found a business with a television visible in the window. He stopped to peer inside, seeing a news report.

"An explosion? What the hell happened over there?" Soren saw as Ikeda's name flashed on the screen with images of the aftermath. Names of missing people scrolled by as well. He looked at the date it happened and saw that some time had passed, about a week. While it was certainly tragic, the area was a ways off from his current position. However, his natural curiosity did make him want to make the journey. "Eat first, risk my life in rubble later," Soren joked as he continued to walk on, planning to see the ruins.


Within Ikeda, a red-haired woman was walking across the main street. She was heading towards a medical establishment within the area in order to attend a local optometry research conference. It was a routine for the optometrist, Ragyō Niratoge, at this point, so she was quite bored as she walked around.

Her eyes passed a newspaper on her way, and she picked it up and glanced at the front cover. "Explosion in Ikeda!" The main title of the newspaper's front cover. The news wouldn't die down soon, after all, this was a major event for a small town like this. In fact, she was going to to flatly ignore the dentist conference this year. But this event only sparked her curiosity, and for the sake of better understanding her spiritual powers, she had arrived to see the unusual cause of this incident.


"So you're Ezekiel Silver? Welcome aboard to the Insula Avallonis, Kyoto!" The old man screamed in excitement. They sat in the office of the oriental building which matched the ancient Japanese theme of Kyoto. It was a weird building, certainly different from the usual skyscrapers that Ezekiel was used to in New York. Seven floors. A good number of rooms, restaurants and cultural services which would bring the Japanese culture to tourist of all walks of life. Also, the access to nearby prefectures made it a most desirable location. Ezekiel nervously pulled on his wristwatch, causing it to spark with green ambers that vanished immediately from behind the desk.

"Thank you, Otoyo-san." He spoke calmly. "I hope to adopt the famous eastern hospitality so that I can further my goals."

The conversation lasted a good while. Well, the one sided directions about the difference between the Western and Eastern definition of hospitality. Everyone swore that they were the most hospitable. But Ezekiel discovered the secret long before. Everything revolved around perspective. being able to step outside oneself and into the shoes of others. To absorb the emotions that float within the environment into one's soul. Only then could one claim to be a king among hoteliers. Perspective was reality after all. And so the young hotelier listened to his new boss with a smile. Softly pulling on the automatic device on his wrist as his thoughts travelled elsewhere.

Now I'm here...And I don't even know where to begin. Maybe I should sneak away tonight and check out that factory. Nah that wouldn't work...

Of course that place would be heavily guarded. And using spiritual powers against normal humans was something often considered extremely foolish. Unless he wanted to end up in some testing facility or worst, Ezekiel would have to rely on his natural talents. Which would stand less than a second against machine gun carrying soldiers. No. Ezekiel needed to find answers.

I sensed a few abnormalities nearby. Maybe...


Dinner went by quickly. As it should, since it was simple food. Soren didn't like to steal overly expensive stuff, despite how easy it would be for him. Soren always took just enough to sustain himself from meal to meal and tried to pay for what he could when he came across stray money or some odd job he could accomplish.

With that though, he concentrated. He opened a portal before himself and another near the scene of Ikeda. He had to be able to visualize the spot, thankfully the news story showed several images of the scene from different angles. With that, he walked through the portal and found himself in the surrounding area of the Ikeda explosion. He was within a mile of the extent of the blast radius. He took a few breaths, as he wasn't used to such long-range jumps. He began to walk to the blast zone, looking at the charred parts of the ground and melted shrapnel from the metal within the factory. "I wonder what caused this to happen..." he muttered as he peered at the destruction in a somber expression.

A Whisper in the Dark

The sun was rising above the horizon languidly, dispersing the icy darkness of night with its warm radiance. Slowly but surely, silhouettes of hills, trees, buildings emerged from the pall of blackness into the prominence of daylight. Shattered into a thousand pieces, that blackness desperately sought refuge in shadows cast by every material thing, lurking in the corners deprived of the life-giving brightness even then, humbled but persistent.

The same held true for the Yamaguchi Steel Works, Ikeda. Aside from the occasional, barely audible gust of wind, an unusual silence had befallen the place. Timid, the first sunrays shone through its windows to illuminate the machinery within. And there, too, darkness was splintered into an intricate network of shadows, forming an eerie web that entangled many a crane, cauldron, furnace, and conveyor belt. However, one of those shadows seemed darker than the rest. Like a giant blotch of living ink, it moved, independent of lighting or surface. Slithered carefully, deliberately, inspecting every nook and cranny as if searching for something.

Then, it stopped. There was a change. A subtle one, very much so, for one beyond the scope of mundane senses to perceive. Somebody was approaching the steelworks, someone extraordinary, and the shadow reacted. The blob of thick darkness seemingly faded away, and for a time there was only silence.


The electric whine of Tetsuo’s Yamaha YZF-R6 drummed in his ears as he pushed the bike into a higher gear, speeding along the highway that led outside Ikeda towards greater Osaka. As he weaved his way through the early-morning commuter traffic, he allowed the wind to pull away at the last shadowy thoughts still brooding at the back of his mind. While Michiyo and Amaya’s talk the night before had helped to clear his mind, the pressure of worry and doubt was ultimately released by the rhythm of the motor beneath him. His gaze settled steadily on the road in front of him, and for a moment that was all he focused on.

Right.

So, the first order of business would be to recruit more members of Xstence. Before, he had trained his efforts on discovering the cause of the Rift on his own, but Amaya had made him realize that, should he discover its source, the threat would likely be too great for the three of them to handle by themselves. Not to mention, if his theory was correct then... Tetsuo once again considered the strategy he was mulling over—a strategy that would take as many Fullbringers as possible to pull off. Yet there was another part of him that instinctively recognized the real purpose behind recruiting new members.

He quickly pushed those thoughts aside.

Tetsuo had just turned onto an offramp when, without warning, a current of strange pressure spiked in the atmosphere. He felt it in the base of his skull: instinctual, dense, and unlike any kind of Reiatsu he had ever sensed before, except once, that night at the opening of the Rift.

Tetsuo pulled to a stop on the side of the road and trained his spiritual awareness towards the disturbance. It was coming from the industrial district. Or, rather, he sensed a great stillness over the area, more an absence than a presence... a void of spiritual energy. Tetsuo frowned, and quickly typed a message to Michiyo. After a moment’s hesitation, he copied it to Amaya as well, alerting her of the situation. He was about to head towards the unknown locus when, with his awareness in a hyper-alert state, he registered another presence. Tetsuo’s eyes widened. A Fullbringer. But he didn't recognize it—and Tetsuo knew of every Fullbringer in the Osaka area. It would seem someone else had noticed the presence as well and was converging on the same destination.

Placing his hand on the throttle, Tetsuo sent a spark of electricity to the armature, and the Yamaha leapt forward. Responding to his touch, it roared through the streets, tracing the invisible line that at last pulled him to the Yamaguchi steel plant.

Leaving his motorcycle parked in a side street, Tetsuo approached the factory, careful to remain on the alert for anyone with high enough spiritual pressure to sense his own. But despite the fact that it was a workday morning, the place was devoid of human life. Tetsuo glanced over the notice posted on the main gate, which stated that the factory had been temporarily closed due to a failure to pass inspection. As an engineer, Tetsuo imagined a dozen different scenarios that could have led to the closure, but then discarded them all. Best not to make pessimistic assumptions about toxic contamination.

After checking over both shoulders, Tetsuo easily cleared the solid steel fence. He landed lightly on his feet on the other side, and quickly checked to make sure no one had seen him. As he suspected, there were security cameras facing the entrance to the steel plant, but a small transmission of static soon disabled them.

Tetsuo crept along the edge of the factory buildings towards the center of the plant, staying in the shadows. The air felt heavy here, dense and stagnate. For some reason, he had the uncanny sensation that he was being watched. A chill ran down his spine, and he removed his tonfa from his belt, keeping them at his sides. Something vibrated along the blunt weapons’ steel, and he paused. Just then, a pipe clattered against the ground, and Tetsuo ducked behind a corner, catching his breath to remain unheard.

"Fuck!" Ezekiel cursed while stumbling over cables and red pipes zig zagged at ankle level. The sudden spike in spiritual pressure caused him to leap out of his skin. Who else could be here? He thought. Dressed in a black blazer, denim and a white dress shirt, the shadows were not his friend. He looked at the pipe which now laid against a nearby machine. Whatever caused that couldn't have heard that. Although usually hypersensitive to the atmosphere around him, Ezekiel's focus upon being stealthy actually hindered his attention. Which meant he hadn't felt even the slightest twitch from Tetsuo's sparks. Instead, his third eye was focused towards something else.

This was the steel factory from his dream. The metallic scent which reminded him of blood. The actual splashes of blood that decorated both the walls and ceilings. He could taste it. But, although he felt a faint feeling of familiarity, Ezekiel couldn't follow the pathways properly. For he found surprises around each corner in the shape of sharp corners and ankle high pipes. If the demons don't get him, his own clumsiness will. Floating would be so much easier...but I'd attract unwanted attention if I use my powers. Ezekiel pondered. Rarely did he have to rely on two feet during these types of objectives. And oh did it show...

Ezekiel continued onwards, traveling down several staircases and into an empty hallway. He took out his phone and sucked his teeth. "No signal." Who would he call anyway? Not like the police could handle spiritual demons they might be able to see. His steps echoed through the metallic chambers. His fingers gracefully dragging along the walls in hopes of snatching any residual memories.

Shadowy figures...Chanting...Death...Destruction.

The usual. How come the afterlife couldn't be filled with fulfillment and satisfaction? Ezekiel sighed. Something big went on here...he just couldn't grab it completely.

Tetsuo had followed the dark-skinned Fullbringer down into the lower level of the factory, apparently remaining unnoticed He stepped lightly, keeping his Reiatsu close to his own body to avoid detection, and watched as the Fullbringer pulled out his phone. Tetsuo was reminded of Jackie Tristan, the only other black Fullbringer he had known, and wondered if the stranger was also American. If so, then why was he there?

He followed the young man into a large open room at the end of the hall, which appeared to be a shaft for the bridge crane suspended far above them. Gray light pierced through the latticework of steel supports, and at last Tetsuo stepped out from the shadows.

“Oha— Hello,” Tetsuo addressed the Fullbringer, opting for English. He sized up the other man with narrowed eyes, trying to gauge his reaction. Tetsuo didn’t realize that his expression would have seemed hostile and guarded, as though he had something to hide. After another moment’s consideration he decided to cut to the chase:

“It’s dangerous here, even for a Fullbringer. You should leave.” But he regretted it the second after he said it. He was trying to recruit other Fullbringers, not drive them away, damn it.

Ezekiel kept his composure, turning to meet the mysterious man who just threatened him. He seemed to know that Ezekiel was a Fullbring...hell the fact he knew what that was meant something fishy. Usually Ezekiel would've backed down. And perhaps the American blood pulsing through his veins. But the ebony Fullbringer could only smile. "Leave? Danger? Danger's my middle name."

That sounded way cooler in his head. And the language barrier probably made it even worse. His eyes narrowed from behind the thick glasses that framed his face. He made sure to analyze Tetsuo for any mysterious twitches, in case he tried anything. "Maybe you can give me some answers. What the hell happened here? And why did it call me? Answer me and I won't murder you."

Tetsuo tilted his head slightly to the side, but his expression didn't change. It took him a moment to process the other Fullbringer's threat—who was indeed revealed to be an American by his accent. Tetsuo recalled the advice Kōhaku had given him when it came to tense conversations like this. So, he smiled. Unfortunately, he didn't read the atmosphere right, and the sign of friendliness likely seemed more unnerving than reassuring.

"What I know is nothing has happened here—yet," he began, hating the sound of his own slow, grating accent. "But you sensed it too... there is something here." Tetsuo stepped closer, hoping to make his point clear. "Listen, you can't release so much reiatsu—eh, spiritual pressure. You're drawing too much attention to yourself."

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw movement in the shadows. He glanced to the side, but if anything had been there, it had vanished. "We should get out of here," he said.

Exploring the area further, Soren found himself within the building. He continued poking around, mostly for fun. However, he felt something... strange. He didn't know how to place it, but he felt like he could sense other beings, who at the same time felt similar to him. He didn't know what it meant, but he kept walking, now in the direction that made the feeling stronger.

As he did, he hear low murmurings. Come into range of other people, Soren saw the figure of a dark skinned man and a Japanese man. He could hear them speaking in English. He wasn't sure exactly what they were saying, his knowledge of English was pretty slim, but he maintained a distance. He ducked down to try and remain out eyesight, but in doing so, he accidentally knocked a piece of metal with his hand in the drop which made it scatter. Crap, they definitely heard that, though Soren as the piece of metal skidded to a stop. Rather than stay hiding, Soren stood up with his arms up. "Sorry, I wasn't meaning to eavesdrop," Soren said while hoping they were some kind of violent mafia. It wouldn't matter, if he saw a gun pulled he would be able to instantly get away, but he didn't want to have to publicly use his abilities if he didn't have to.

My spiritual pressure... Ezekiel thought to himself. Truthfully, Ezekiel was focused so much on searching for it, he probably was leading it to him instead. A foolish mistake! But the time he spent with the doctor was short. Only enough to gain comprehension of his powers and to master the Poids du Noir. Everything else, the doctor said, would be developed on the journey to his dream. Whatever that meant. He took several deep breathes in an attempt to calm his spiritual pressure. After all, the fact this stranger found him meant something else could. Plus, they both felt the same thing rummaging throughout this abandon base...Something was calling them to this place, perhaps trying to restock its pantry. Regardless, Ezekiel turned his attention to the newcomer. To think that he'd drawn this much attention. Now that his senses were focused on the task at hand, his usual sensitivity returned. These two men weren't normal humans...They felt similar...

"I don't know what the hell is going on," Ezekiel said to Tetsuo and the stranger. "Or how'd you let him follow us," The ebony Fullbringer started forward again. "But there's something here and I need to find out what the fuck is going on."

Ezekiel was right. All the while the Fullbringers were acquainting themselves with each other they were being watched. As much from the shadows as by the very shadows that outstretched and meandered all around them. The entity within undulated ever so slightly, and some patches of darkness might have looked a bit darker than others upon closer inspection, although it remained patient, cautious. By spreading itself across the steelworks it was not only able to monitor the whole area, but diluted its spiritual pressure as well. Not enough to escape notice completely, yet sufficiently to provoke no more than vague suspicion.

It had been waiting for prey for some time, and its patience paid off. No fewer than three people possessed of high spiritual power had entered its current lair, a tasty treat. Now was the time to grasp this marvellous opportunity to feed off their ample lifeforce. First, it needed to lure the prey into a more favourable area.

"Hey... help. Help me. I'm trapped here, please... help", a whisper resonated from deeper within the building, carried by an eerie echo.

An elongated shadow extended from one of the rooms, seemingly a slanted man struggling weakly with something.

Tetsuo had been unnerved by the sudden presence of the other Fullbringer. Granted, he had been focused on the conversation at hand, but it was if nothing had been there and then suddenly a blip had appeared on the radar. He frowned, and was about to address the other Fullbringer when the shadows themselves seemed to move.

The voice he heard was even more unnerving than the third Fullbringer's inexplicable appearance, and he focused on the shadowy silhouette of the man in front of them. Tetsuo probed at the shadows with his Reikaku, sending an imperceptible current of electricity through the air to gain a better sense of what it was they were facing... but his efforts revealed nothing. He raised his tonfa to a defensive position. Cold sweat shone on his temples, but he was unable to give a logical explanation for his intense unease.

"Wait," he said to the other two, not realizing he had slipped back into Japanese.

Ezekiel halted. Yeah, having half of a family with Japanese blood explained why he liked the things he did. And simple phrases were no different from english. But he decided to press onward. Someone was in danger and Ezekiel needed to save him. He'd witnessed countless people get caught up in spiritual matters. Demons and beast consume the innocent. So few possessed ample power that Ezekiel saw it as a divine duty. He had to do this.

"Hang on!" Ezekiel screamed as he ran towards the man, leaving the other two in his wake. He didn't do well alongside others. His indiscriminate powers made it difficult to work in teams. "Why're you down here!?" Ezekiel pressed onwards, charging through the massive tunnel.

Soren had no real idea what was going on. He heard the distant whisper as it called out for help. Soren looked at the two men as they focused on it. However, Soren knew he could get to it first. Soren backed up and opened another portal, down the tunnel Ezekiel had began to go down to get to the voice.

Again, he didn't like using his abilities in front of others. However, if someone was in danger he wouldn't just stand by and let something bad happen. He would just save the person and get out of the area quickly. Maybe the two would think he is some sort of spirit and forget about him. Whatever the case, Soren reappeared before Ezekiel and just a few feet from where the voice appeared to originate. "Do you need help?" Soren questioned as he took a few more steps forward.

There was not much in the room they had entered. Rays of the rising sun illuminated the inside somewhat through the windows located right beneath the ceiling upon the wall in front of them. Below there was a rather large, solitary furnace, inactive at this early hour with no-one to overlook it. And that was the thing: for there was little else they could see in the room, save for darkness. Thick, undulating darkness that coalesced into an amorphous blob at the foot of the furnace, with a single man-shaped extension reaching out into the hallway.

The lure retracted into the blob swiftly, sliding upon the floor right under the feet of the Fullbringers who had come to the rescue, guided there by both altruistic intent and a lack of forethought. The pitch blackness inflated into a hemispherical shape to, without a warning, erupt into numerous tendrils, each one as thick as a man's arm. And at the tip of every single one a ghastly face was formed, possessed of nebulous features, empty eye sockets and gaping maws, as if they belonged to people screaming inaudibly whilst submerged in tar. The limbs extended toward the two Fullbringers from many sides rather than in a straight line, evidently attempting to cut them off from the single available exit. To ensnare them, and consume them.

Tetsuo watched helplessly as the darkness swelled and converged on the two Fullbringers, but it was hard to see anything else as their figures were blotted out by the inky-black mass. A split-second later, blue sparks snapped under his feet as he crouched, ready to spring.

But even as electricity coursed along the length of his steel tonfa, he hesitated. Tetsuo knew perhaps more than anyone the dangers of electricity, and he couldn’t risk sending a current into the thing in front of him if the other two were inside it. That was the one, great weakness of Tetsuo’s Fullbring. At the same time, staring into the darkness, he was reminded of the void that had swallowed his friends...

He couldn’t allow that to happen again.

His grip tightened on the tonfa, and he felt the pounding rhythm of his heart in his pulse. Pulling on the ambient will of the electrical currents that cycled through the factory, Tetsuo turned his focus away from attacking the creature directly. Instead, he activated his Fullbring with a simple phrase:

"Flash Point."

Tetsuo slammed the steel rods, now conduits, into the ground. Electricity arced through the walls, bypassing the amorphous blob as they sought out their target: one of the powerful generators at the base of a blast furnace. The sudden influx of current galvanized the generator, and it reacted with the gas sitting inside the furnace.

The furnace exploded.

Light and heat balooned outwards, nearly filling the expanse of the room behind the blob. Tetsuo hadn’t intended for the blast to be so powerful, and hoped that, should the other two have taken any evasive measures, they weren’t caught in its radius. He had meant for the explosion to serve as a distraction: something to turn the thing’s focus away from attack and towards defense without electrifying it—or the others—directly.

One second, that mysterious man had suddenly appeared before Ezekiel and the next, they were fighting some massive blob. And before Ezekiel could fully take control of the situation, the furnace exploded from a random electrical discharge from the tonfa wielding lunatic. Still, this action was what Ezekiel needed. Not only did he enjoy battle, it showed progress with his investigation.

Poids du Noir

The crimson gem upon Ezekiel's silver ring glowed with a luminescent light. Sparks of green erupting before fading into nothing once more. He analyzed each face, noting the texture and mixture of the tar-like substance. This wasn't some random hollow attack. No...this had to be something different.

"Lets see what happens when things heat up." Ezekiel smirked. He had to be careful, for the indiscriminate nature of his power often meant danger to others. Transparent energy circulated his hand, attracting both the flames which consumed the furnace and the surrounding rubble. A messy attempt at drawing the intense heat towards the blob. The fire and melting metal danced as they flew towards the blob of darkness which stood before Ezekiel. However, both Soren and Tetsuo would also feel this invisible attraction towards the ebony Fullbringer.

Soren felt himself being pulled towards Ezekiel in shock. He had never seen other people with abilities like this, abilities like his. He braced himself to slow the rate at which he was being pulled as the black mass of limbs came towards him.

He was terrified. He has never seen a monster like this, he has never really seen a monster. Little did he know of the various creatures in the world that would like to pin him down as a meal, but that was for another time. He fought through his fear and stuck his right arm out. The ket on his necklace glowed green as a rip in the fabric of reality appeared between him and the limbs. The deadly mass went into the large portal and missed Soren as a result.

However, as it was then nature of his power, a second portal had to appear for the limbs to exit from. Soren decided in the moments of forming the enemy portal where to place the exit. Behind the epicenter of the limbs, the central body, a new portal appeared in which the limbs came flying out. With this, Soren had set in motion the possibility the monster would maim itself on accident.

Several pieces of shrapnel from the destroyed furnace pierced through the writhing mass of tendrils at high speed, cutting some of them off. Infernal flames engulfed the creature, further guided by one of the Fullbringers, all the while its attacking limbs were effectively sent back at it. The large mass of blackness seemed to boil in the middle of all this. A distinct sizzling sound could be heard, although it did not quite seem to catch on the fire.

"It hurts... it huuurts...", there was a whisper which resonated not just within the room but the whole building, reverberating and overlapping the words as a result of an unnatural echo.

The mass that Soren and Ezekiel had confronted directly collapsed to the floor. Once again shapeless, it then retreated in the blink of an eye through the undulating shadows, leaving just regular blackness behind at the blaze's mercy. Walls and windows were shaken, cranes began swinging like a pendulum, metal catwalks creaked all over the place.

"Pain...", the Fullbringers heard yet another hushed utterance.

This time around there was no specific direction from whence it came. Or rather, it came from many directions all at once, every nook and cranny that harboured a sliver of the bygone night's darkness spoke. All of a sudden, some of that darkness condensed on the ceiling right above Tetsuo. A ghastly face formed on its surface only to descend toward him with a toothless maw wide open, large enough to easily swallow a grown man whole.

Tetsuo raised his tonfa above him, and once again an electrical circuit sparked around his hands. But even as he prepared to defend he hesitated. Then, the light in his eyes hardened, and he lowered his weapons to his sides. Any fear that remained was driven out by stone-cold determination, and he faced the black mass above him defiantly.

"Take me, you bastard." Take me to wherever Kōhaku and the others are. It was a rash, impulsive decision, but not one without reason, and he steeled himself for whatever came next—Yet the thought that he might be annihilated entirely had been pushed to the back of his mind.

Whether or not they shared an origin, Ezekiel still had a duty to fulfill. And such, he flew towards Tetsuo with immense force. It was as if the Fullbringer fell from where he stood, the world twisting so that the left became down and up was sideways. Regardless, he tackled Tetsuo out of the endless maw of the demonic blob before reoriented his gravity so that they landed upon the steel floor.

"What are you stupid?!" Ezekiel barked. "You don't know what the hell that is. If you have a death wish, do it on someone else's time. I can't risk you making this thing stronger." Ezekiel stood up and brushed himself off. The black denim jeans he wore were scratched heavily. "Fucking up my outfit like this."

"Hey, didn't anyone teach you that whispering is rude?" Ezekiel said. The irony being that he had a quite a soft voice. "You two, stay out of my way if you're gonna get yourself killed."

Soren watched as Ezekiel tackled the other man away from the dark creature. He saw this as a chance. With them moved out of the way, Soren opened another portal in the path of the beast's forward momentum. He intended to allow it to fly through. As for the exit, he opened another portal a few feet from a wall in the factory, hoping the beast would slam into it face first, or at the very least hurt itself.

Soren then ran over to the other two men in a slight panic. "What the hell is going on!? What is that thing? And how do you have powers too?" Soren was genuinely curious in the dire time, but also deep down knew that this way maybe he could find out why he was the way he was. Regardless, Soren did know this situation was dangerous and peeled his eyes back to look at the beast, not wanting to have his back to it for long.

Tetsuo stood, perturbed that the brazen young Fullbringer had interfered. But his moment of recklessness had passed, and he was in some way grateful that he hadn't been taken by that... thing. After all, they didn't know what its powers were, so now was no time to be taking chances. His eyes narrowed as he quickly analyzed the situation at hand.

"You're both Fullbringers right?" He said as he focused on the abomination before them. "Both of you are capable of warping reality, which means that crossing over each other's territory is going to lead to disastrous consequences. We need a plan." He glanced at the... momentum-changing, space-time warping Fullbringer? He couldn't yet pin down the nature of his abilities, but the other appeared capable of forming portals wherever he wished. Which meant... Tetsuo glanced at the ceiling above him, and grinned.

"There's a steel tower above us," he said, referring to the 40m industrial smoke stack of the blast furnace. "Can you open a hole in the ceiling?" He asked Soren, "And you—eh, can you form another one of those warp tunnels we fell through?"

Tetsuo's plan was two-fold: to drop a huge paperweight on the rift creature to flatten it, and if that wasn't effective, to introduce a flood of light from outside. He had a theory to test, but wasn't sure if his hypothesis was correct or not. He just hoped the other two would catch on, and that they would be able to act before the blob attacked them again. To that end...

"I'll try to distract it, stand back." Tetsuo drew the tonfa in a circular motion, and electricity arced across his shoulders. Then, he did something strange. Pulling on the soul of a steel handrail next to him, he ripped it from the wall and crushed it into a tight ball, his eyes glowing with a blue light as he concentrated. He aligned the tonfa parallel to each other with his forearms extended, pointing them towards the creature with the metal ball suspended between them. If either Soren or Ezekiel was familiar with circuitry, they would have recognized his maneuver instantly—a make-shift railgun.

With a crack that filled the hall with searing smoke, Tetsuo released the charge. Light flashed in front of him, incredibly bright. The metal projectile, now liquified, shot towards the creature with immense speed: the crack that had coincided with the light signifying a breach of the sound barrier. Tetsuo was thrown back by its sheer force, but the bullet continued directly on its path to cut through the center of the amorphous mass and, depending on the monster’s composition, dispense enough electromagnetic energy to potentially disintegrate it.

The Whisperer was a predator. Naturally, it jumped at the opportunity to hunt prey possessed of high spiritual power. However, what it failed to take into account was that for the very same reason said prey was so tempting it was also capable of defending itself. The man-sized tendril crashed into a wall, punching a hole in it and shaking nearby windows. The limb retracted shortly through the same portal that had thwarted its attack. And then, an improvised projectile pierced through its coalesced mass at an alarmingly high speed. The mass subsided in a cloud of smoke, now surrounding a quite sizeable crater carved in the facility's ceiling.

Tremor. Something that was part groan, part an omnidirectional rumble resounded across the whole building. The Whisperer sustained damage. Its habitual tactics were inadequate, because the Fullbringers clearly proved they could fend off its limbs. In order to earn such a nutritious meal it had to expend more effort. Once again the whole building seemed to be afflicted by an earthquake, shaken in its foundations. Yet it receded quickly, and the splintered pall of darkness that had the steelworks in its grasp faded away. Save for a single, large spot upon the ceiling, not far from the Fullbringers. There, a big pool of condensed pitch blackness appeared.

The liquid darkness began pouring upon the floor below in a thick stream, forming another pool at first but gradually rising into a hemispherical shape. Higher and higher, becoming more streamlined. A vaguely humanoid silhouette emerged; two legs supported by feet that were little more than featureless slabs of black mass, a large, broad-shouldered torso, slanted forward and somewhat disproportionate. Writhing tentacles sprouted from where arms should be located, though, and there was neither head nor neck to be seen. Instead, numerous ghastly faces bubbled into existence at the top of the torso, shifting, changing, smaller ones emerging from the orifices of the bigger. Howling, moaning and whispering at the Fullbringers in a nightmarish cacophony.

Looking at the Whisperer's condensed form one could be reminded of the Menos Grande. It took a step toward its prey with a loud thud, the myriad of its tentacles extending through the air, slithering upon the floor, walls, pillars and railings. The cluster of faces uttering an otherworldly choir of whispers. Another step, another tremor.

Legion

Warp tunnel? Is that what it looked like?? Ezekiel sighed. This was what he got for working with manga reading nerds. But this nerd managed to fire a bullet that would easily liquify any human. Maybe they weren't too bad. Either way, Ezekiel analyzed the mysterious being which seemed to slowly approach them. The whispers...the faces...He hadn't the slightest idea of what was going on. Except for he had no plans to join the collage of terror.

"It won't be as easy as pointing for me." Ezekiel started. "I can only influence stuff I touch. I'm going to need you to hold the portal open while I run up to the metal thing."

Soren had a puzzled look on his face. "What the hell is a Fullbringer?" He asked this in a voice loud enough for the now moving Tetsuo to hear before looking back at Ezekiel. "I think so. I generally need to have a visual for where I open the portals though. When I open it, you might need to move fast to catch on to it, because I can't visualize the base." Soren began to focus and opened a portal. With it, it lead to another one about midway up the metal tower. Soren nodded to Ezekiel, "It's ready."

Tetsuo's ears were still ringing from the explosion caused by the railgun, but somehow he managed to catch Soren's question, and his confidence in their ability to carry out the plan wavered. As Ezekiel and Soren prepared their attack, the creature stood before them. Its writhing, eel-like appendages extended towards them... and Tetsuo was left first to face the onslaught. The problem was that his Fullbring was almost entirely weighted towards offense, leaving him with very little in his arsenal when it came to defending against a horde of smokey limbs... Well, not that most people had much in their arsenals against those kinds of things, anyway. The shadows traced along the walls, like nerves extending along an invisible spine...

Wait a minute.

Nerves?

As the blob, which now resembled a misshapen Menos, stepped towards them, Tetsuo knelt in front of the other two Fullbringers and placed his tonfa flat against the ground. He extended his senses, trying to latch on to the darkness writhing towards him. While he still didn't know the creature's exact composition, he focused on the shadows themselves, pulling on the essence of the darkness in order to forge a pathway along the apparently intangible limbs... which led back straight to the source. An instant later, he ionized the potential pathway, and blue energy arced along the black shadows, splintering into a spidery tree of nerves that coursed straight towards the massive being's heart. He knew it wasn't likely that the surge would kill it, but he hoped it would be enough to paralyze it, if even for an instant.

But beneath him, forged of his own shadow, a hand shot up from the ground and wrapped around his neck. Before he could react it tightened into a quick noose, then pulled him down... and from within that small pool further hands emerged to coil around him in a tight embrace, in a clear attempt to envelop him whole and drag him away from the other two Fullbringers.

Meanwhile, the arcs of electricity had travelled across the many other shadowy limbs of the Whisperer right to the somewhat malformed torso. The being's already murky form flickered noticeably as a result. The incessant murmur ceased briefly, although its advance was slowed down for merely a moment. With renewed vigour the myriad of dark tendrils stretched forward... all around Ezekiel and Soren rather than directly toward them. In consequence, they formed an extensive net of sorts upon the walls, pillars and railings in the vicinity.

The cluster of shifting faces all closed their mouths. The main body bloated visibly with a loud, vibrating hum. And then what they all let out together was anything but a whisper. Earth-shaking roar of a hundred wailing people, young and old, male and female, erupted in a soundwave so potent that its undulations were visible to the naked eye. Shattering the windows, what machinery and other obstacles that stood between the Whisperer and the two Fullbringers virtually obliterated in an instant, the latter threatened to share that fate unless they would evade most promptly... only to delve right into the intricate network of writhing, reaching tendrils that had been awaiting them.

But the endless darkness had missed Ezekiel who suddenly jolted upwards in a spontaneous flight. To call what happened to Ezekiel flying would be a stretch. It was as if his body suddenly leapt off the earth and was nose-diving into the ebony night sky, spinning through the colorful portal held open for him. His body darted towards the metallic tower with immense force. Trusting someone who doesn't even know what a Fullbringer is, I don't like this at all.

His gravitational field reoriented, allowing the spirit detective to levitate before the tower. He hovered towards it and gave it a touch. A spark of green light. He tried pulling the now weightless hunk of metal but found that the screws and other minor pieces created a troublesome situation. "Come on! Come on you stupid fucking...ugh!" Ezekiel took a deep breath, placing his forehead against the cold, rusted metal. Think...talk to me.. He begged, pulling upon its soul with a softened touch. He saw the old man who put it together. Countless rains. Sunrises and sunsets. Workers gasping at the marvel that was modern industrial construction. He started to pull upon these memories. Gently caressing them with each breath. The countless screws and other smaller pieces coming loose with his angered thoughts.

As this happened, Soren stuck his head through the portal. He saw Ezekiel interacting with the tower. This was good and part of the plan, but more importantly Soren was able to see the base of the tower. He focused for a moment, putting a small portal beneath the tower so that he could prepare for dropping it after making sure his aim was true.

He pulled his body back through, watching as Tetsuo fought the black mass. He was amazed by the power Tetsuo had, bursts of lightning arching as he fought. He was envious for a moment before refocusing on the monster. He began to open another portal over it, large enough to accommodate the metal structure. He shouted to Tetsuo to be ready to move and with that, he rapidly expanded the portal under the tower. He could hear a metallic groan from the portal as the structure began to fall.

The tower came loose and was about to fall, had Ezekiel not lifted it above. Now that it weighed less than a piece of paper, the Fullbringer brought it above the portal without the slightest hint of trouble. He twisted it. Preparing it so that the pointed end would fly through the portal. This attack wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful as Tetsuo's previous attack. However, if done correctly, it possessed enough to surely defeat this beast. Ezekiel just needed the others to lure it into the proper location.

Meanwhile, Tetsuo had his hands full dealing with the thin bands of darkness that coiled around him. As soon as the shadow wrapped around his neck he panicked, activating his one defensive skill. Blue light flickered across his skin, shrouding his body in a net of protective electricity. It hummed like an electric fence, disintegrating the shadows that gripped him. At last he snapped free, disappearing with a burst of reiatsu.

He shimmered into sight beside Soren, just as the massive tower began to emerge through the portal. The sound was horrendous: shrieking metal and grinding steel plates matching, if not exceeding, the decibel of the shadow creature’s roar. The walls and floor were shaking around them. Dust filled the hallway, but not before Tetsuo caught sight of the myriad tentacles of shadow that shot towards them.

"Come on kid, we gotta move!" Tetsuo’s electrical armor disappeared as he drove the fullbrought energy into his limbs, and then he grabbed Soren by the shoulder. They blitzed out of the hallway, blindingly fast, leaving the shadows and the collapsing tower behind them. Tetsuo didn’t stop until they were forty meters above ground, standing in mid-air next to the dark-skinned Fullbringer who had proven to be instrumental in the execution of their plan.

Tetsuo stared below him into the darkness of the open portal as the beams of the tower seemed to descend in slow-motion. Now, if only it were effective... The structure crashed into the Whisperer with great momentum. There was a loud rumble of considerable destruction as both walls and machinery were smashed into pieces. The whole complex was shaken once again. The discordant wail of the entity was drowned by the noise, its form buried, obscured by debris and the ensuant cloud of dust. For a while it seemed that the matter was settled.

However, the Whisperer was anomalous even among the many strange entities which inhabited the spiritual realms. Owing to its bizarre body composition it had no internal organs, and its form was incredibly malleable. That was the reason why rather than perish there and then, the living darkness emerged from the ruins like billows of pitch black smoke, heralded by a blood-curdling shriek. Refusing to die, the creature lashed out with the ferocity of a wounded animal. Many of its tendrils shot toward the airborne Fullbringers in a volley of thin, lightning-fast spikes intended to skewer them. In the meantime, a set of thicker appendages extended outward, around them, in another attempt to entangle them should they escape the more direct assault.

Soren saw the needle-like tendrils coming towards him and the rest of the Fullbringers. In a panic, he created a portal underneath all of them to make them drop and land on the other side of the room. As he dropped, he felt the needles skim his skin, drawing blood and sending pain throughout his body as he landed with a thud on the other side of the room. He quickly recovered despite the pain, not wanting to be caught again if it reacted quickly enough.

"The tower didn't even kill it, just made it mad. What do we do now?" Soren asked in fear. He wasn't like these two. They knew how to fight. They had powers that actually helped them in direct combat. Soren's power... was good for running away and misdirecting the beast. He wasn't a true combatant in his mind.

Ezekiel weaved through the tendrils, moving differently from the normal Fullbringer. As expected, seeing as he owed his training to him. Quick flickers of green light as he shimmered around the tendrils. Unfortunately, one of the shadowy appendages managed to pierce through his shoulder. Staining his favored blazer with his blood. "Fuck!" He cursed, more upset about the blazer than the actual wound. He continued to dance throughout the sky, hoping to draw the beast's attention. However, it was in his arrogance that he missed a crucial step and found himself entangled by the tendril. He twisted, trying to wiggle himself free from its grasp.

"Get your filthy shadow thing off of me you fucking...asshole!"

Ezekiel's eyes glowed a bright green as energy began to flicker around him. Suddenly, an invisible well of force pressed down upon the beast. As if a skyscraper had been dropped upon it. The beast would find that Ezekiel also seemed much, much heavier than before. In fact, the beast had the Poids du Noir in its grasp. He continued his attempt to crush the demon under this invisible block of planetary power.

Crushing it won't work. Ezekiel thought. He thought of a bathtub filled with water. Stepping in it would only cause it to wrap around one's body. No. This would require something hot. Something powerful.

"Hey, Thor!" Ezekiel teased. "Its malleable. Crushing it won't work. But that fire caused it some serious damage earlier. Can't you call down some lightning or something!?"

As Ezekiel had concentrated on drawing the appendages away from him and Soren, Tetsuo had focused on stopping the volley of the adumbral spikes headed towards them. He threw both arms forward, pointing his tonfa in the direction of the spikes in a concentrated point.

CRACK!

A bolt of electricity rippled through the air and collided with the leading arrow. From there it branched, splitting off into a myriad of directions. The lightning connected the projectiles in a crackling web, then Tetsuo pointed one of his tonfa downwards and sent the return stroke to the ground with a flash of light. The electricity, now grounded, disintegrated nearly all of the projectiles in front of them with a sudden, thunderous roar... but he hadn't caught all of them. A few of the spikes slipped past his net. He felt one brush across the back of his hand, leaving a red gash... and then heard Ezekiel grunt as he was hit. Just then, Soren dropped them through another portal, and they emerged at some distance from the writhing arms of the beast, but not before Ezekiel had sent one of the arms curling in on itself, dropping towards the center of the creature with a dull, heavy thud.

Tetsuo reassessed the situation, vaguely hearing Soren's question. But their attack had done some damage, as they had at least managed to "make it mad," as Soren had said. That meant it could be hurt. It seemed that Ezekiel had noticed too. The fact that Tetsuo had been able to disintegrate a few limbs with his electricity had not escaped his notice. The explosion of the furnace had also caused the Whisperer to react. Tetsuo quickly began making calculations.

"A single shock does nothing but slow it down," he said, "And I can't sustain a direct current with enough amplitude to damage it. At least not for very long." He twirled his tonfa and rested them across his forearms. "However I do have an ability that might defeat it." He turned to the other two. "The name of my Fullbring is 'Flash Point.' I don't know if either of you knows what that is, but essentially if I can charge the air surrounding the creature with electric potential, any spark will immediately ignite it. But—" he glanced in the direction of the writhing dark mass. "We'll have to contain it somehow."

But Tetsuo was suddenly distracted by the wound on his hand. Wisps of dark smoke curled up from the laceration... and from the injuries of the other Fullbringers as well. Minuscule slivers of the creature they had been fighting embedded themselves in their wounds. All of them could feel a burning pain, and heard barely audible whispers resound seemingly within their own heads.

In the meantime, the Whisperer had been temporarily flattened, although reformed quickly when Ezekiel realised the futility of such an approach and ceased applying the crushing force. It was Tetsuo's lightning-based attack that elicited a choir of anguished wailing from the shapeshifting monster. Once more, it assumed its vaguely humanoid form shortly later. However, nebulous as it was, it began flickering more noticeably than before, somewhat unstable rather than merely changing ever so slightly. Nevertheless, the Whisperer resumed its advance in a fairly fast, ground-shaking trot.

On its way toward the Fullbringers the creature unleashed a reverberating roar, not as powerful as the previous one, yet like a defeaning gust of strong wind still. In the following instant many of its flexible tendrils pierced the ground as a way to obscure their trajectory before they burst forth all around the group, like a forest of living shadows, ready to entangle and tear them apart should they drop their guard for just a moment. Even though wounded, the Whisperer's hunger-based tenacity did not seem to wear off.

"It can take the much damage and still get back up, this is insane!" Soren shouted as he felt the gust of wind formed by the mighty roar. Soren saw as the tendrils were plunged in the ground and knew he had to react quickly. He began to open a portal as the tendrils shot up, putting deep cuts into hi arm as he jumped towards the portal. Soren yelped in pain as he fell in and reappeared some yards back. However, knowing if he lingered on his pain it would kill him, Soren opened portals near Tetsuo and Ezekiel and more near the main part of the body. "Strike him hard!"

One of the branches of lightning freed Ezekiel from the Whisperers grasp. Which was followed by him suddenly flying backwards towards the two other Fullbringers. Getting captured, albeit dangerous, had quite the positive outcome. Now that the beast had been essentially marked, the ebony Fullbringer could apply his power freely. And such, the branches would find themselves wrapping around the area where Ezekiel and Tetsuo stood. Orbiting as if they were two planetary bodies. "I didn't ask for a science lesson," He barked at Tetsuo. "I had it contained and you missed a prime opportunity to finish this thing."

Unlike the amateur, Ezekiel was enjoying this battle. Even with blood gushing from the sizable hole in his shoulder. This battle was something different than the normal hollow attack that he experienced before lunchtime. And he made sure to take note of this mysterious creature for future references. As previously mentioned, its form made it difficult for people who specialized in concussive damage. Which meant Ezekiel had no chance of finishing this himself. He could only play with it as a child would play with slime. I need your help... Ezekiel tanked the gust of wind and looked to Tetsuo as well as the portals.

"I have an idea."

Ezekiel could feel his spiritual imprint within the shadowed creature. It became the origin of its gravitational field. He lifted his hands and took several deep breathes. His eyes sparking a light green from beneath the lids. He hadn't the knowledge of the inner workings of the portals. But he knew something had to be done. Suddenly, the beast would find that its humanoid form would be stretching outwardly. Pulled by an invisible force through the many portals as Ezekiel attempted to tie it down.

Tetsuo looked at the dark-skinned Fullbringer, who was... He blinked, his expression remaining completely blank. He had absolutely no idea what he was trying to do. Split the creature in two? "Contain" it with his mindwaves? But he wasn't given much time to observe what was really going on, as thick black needles tore through the concrete in front of him. Soren had opened a portal, but Tetsuo wasn't jumping through another one of the novice's constructions, not when he needed to be sure of the angle. He slipped out of the shadows’ path, leaving Soren exposed to the onslaught. Fortunately, most of the spikes entered the portal, banished to Hell or who-knew where, but a few slipped past, hitting the younger Fullbringer in the arm. Specks of blood flashed in the air, and Tetsuo grimaced, reminded of his own injury. Sorry kid, he apologized silently before turning his attention to the Whisperer below him.

Tetsuo had landed on a secondary tower located between where Soren stood and the blast furnace they had dismantled. He tried to focus on the monster, searching for a place to aim, but his senses were going high-wire with the gravitational distortion that pulled currents of his own reiatsu towards the center of the black mass.

Realization dawned upon him.

A giant pile of scrap metal, an increase of gravitational mass, space-time portals, and the narrow tower between those two points... they had inadvertently created a magnetic field with massive potential difference. In essence, the ingredients for an electromagnetic generator. Now, all Tetsuo had to do was create a current.

"Hey kid!" He yelled at Soren at the top of his lungs, hoping he could be heard despite his height above ground. “Make a portal, as big as you can!” Soren seemed to hear him, but he couldn’t be sure.

Taking a deep breath, Tetsuo began to pull on the currents of potential electricity around him, calling out to the ions, the negatively charged electrons... He felt the voltage begin to swirl around his hands. The atmosphere changed, the pressure becoming noticeably low. Then, Tetsuo sparked the current into life. The streams of electricity spun around him faster and faster, coiling like two strands of DNA through the rungs of the metal tower below him. He concentrated on increasing the amplitude as he kept the circuit alternating, fighting against the numbing pain that had spread up from his hand and into his arm, as if he had been stung by venom. Damn it. He only had to hold out long enough to release the current. The skin around his wound began to turn black and peel off, like flecks of ash. Tetsuo avoided looking at it as the electricity coursing around him shone brighter and brighter, turning from blue to white with the amplified power. Now, it all hinged on whether Ezekiel could hold the thing back or not long enough for Tetsuo to find a point at which to aim.

The Force Between Us

Still unwilling to give up such a nutritious, three-dish meal, the Rift creature flailed its many extendable appendages with the fury of a predator repeatedly denied its prey. However, it soon found out it was unable to aim. Its malleable, semi-liquid form was being pulled in multiple directions by some strong, invisible force, distorting its already vaguely humanoid silhouette into a rather amorphous blob of dense darkness. The eerie choir of whispers transitioned into a discordant howl.

The hunt had been becoming more of a struggle for survival with each passing minute. Semi-sapient as it was, a realisation dawned upon the Whisperer that it evidently had attempted to bite more than it could chew. After all, it was more of a cunning predator rather than a resolute warrior. Deformed by the uneven gravitational pull and incapable of using its numerous tendrils to lash out at the stubborn little pests, it resorted to unleash yet another ground-shaking roar. The combined sonic force emerging from many ghastly outstretched faces resulted in something akin to an explosion of sound that swept across the area.

Ezekiel slid backwards from the sudden roar, but retained his grasp upon the shadow beast's gravitational field. He increased the weight, alternating the direction so that it would twist among itself. Metal and other loose dubris following the invisible flow of force. This was his power. And the way he orchestrated it showed a certain amateur mastery rare among Fullbringers. He heard Tetsuo's plan and smirked. Looked like the others were finally catching on to this. And with the crackling of electricity, the battle would surely be coming to an end shortly. But...Ezekiel just hoped that he wouldn't get caught up in this fake Thor's lightning strike. After all, only an hour or so was nowhere near enough time to trust anyone with their life.

"You two, grab onto something!" Ezekiel ordered.

The ebony warrior bit down. That hole in his shoulder started to burn more than it should. He hated this. Not the battle...but the fact that he had to rely on these people for help. He lacked the power to defeat this thing...without these strangers, Ezekiel would've probably died...Still, he maintained control. Moving the point of gravity towards the center of the beast. It would increased, indiscriminately attracting everything around them. The shadowy mass, slowly but surely, becoming a ball of black liquid mixed with pieces of the factory.

Just as he had requested, Soren opened a new portal of a massive size, one to accommodate Tetsuo and the other to strike the monster. He wasn't sure what was going to happen, but judging on his previous electric displays, it would be an impressive attack. Soren's body felt strange within a moment though, being pushed by the roar but pulled by Ezekiel. He saw as things flew towards the monster and knew he could be skewered too. To avoid this, Soren opened a second, smaller set of portals. One in his path and the other behind him. He was pulled into the portal and spat back out, basically creating an infinite loop to make sure he could not mistakingly fly into the monster.

The industrial metal tower groaned as the sonic wave slammed into it with concussive force. Tetsuo’s ears rang from the pressure, but he kept his balance on the rungs as he continued to build the amplitude of the charge. Both of the other Fullbringers were out of the way, which meant he was in the clear to attack.

He wished his calculations were measured as opposed to estimates, as he wasn’t sure of the exact distance between the Whisperer and the tower or just how much force was being generated by the gravitational field. But it felt like a lot. Upwards of fifteen coulombs if he could make a guess, which meant the tower would disintegrate from the heat as soon as he released the charge. In that case... Tetsuo darted out from the tower, taking a stance in midair as he trained one of his tonfa on the center of the beast below him. The air would insulate him from the current, and he now had a better vantage point from which to aim. Tetsuo pointed the second tonfa at the tower behind him... and then he connected the charge.

The lightning struck in an instant, but if time could be slowed, it would have seemed like a bright scalpel were cutting through water. The undulating electricity seared the air around it as it followed its course... then froze in a solid line as the alternating current switched to direct. Tetsuo’s tonfa, the one he had aimed at the Whisperer, had been stripped from his hand. The tight knot of gravity above the creature’s stomach sucked in the metal projectile ahead of the lightning itself, and it shot like a liquid white bullet towards its target. There was another sonic crack, this time as it tore through the sound barrier by sheer kinetic force. The spiral of electricity generated by the tower trailed behind it, and for a split, harrowing second, Tetsuo felt it course through him.

It felt as though his own body were disintegrating within the force of the current. He knew he still controlled the soul of the electricity around him, yet he felt helpless: a mere conduit directing a cataclysmic power. And the power was all directed in a concentrated point—the Whisperer.

After the flash of lightning, there was a massive explosion, likely from the abnormally heavy tonfa slamming into the ground. A crater formed beneath the creature, and smoke and rubble were thrown into the air. The shockwave ran beneath Soren and Ezekiel’s feet… and the tower Tetsuo had used as a generator crumbled. The molten metal, still glowing orange, twisted in on itself with a horrendous shriek before it toppled to the ground with a thunderous roar.

Tetsuo stared down at the damage in shock, his hair sticking straight out in a cloud of frizz and smoke rising from across his shoulders. Truth be told, he hadn’t expected the strike to be that powerful. He must have underestimated the rate at which the gravitational pull would have effected the acceleration of the potential current he had just presumably fed into the creature.

The Whisperer was not used to such staunch resistance, much less ferocious retaliation. As long as it preyed on ordinary Humans its hunts were more of a harvest, feasting upon beings incapable of even properly perceiving its form. But this was vastly different. The creature struggled against invisible forces, pulled itself together with all its considerable strength. Powered by fury and hunger combined, it was determined to consume every last drop of life force of those pesky little critters who dared wound it.

And then, with its vaguely humanoid form almost restored in spite of the fluctuating gravitational pull, it was struck with a mighty blow. The thunder of impact melded with a hundredfold shriek. There was a flash of light, and crackling discharges of lightning. Within the resultant crater, among the billows of smoke, small pools of liquid blackness sprawled around. One final, discordant moan; the living darkness evaporated, and the Whisperer was no more.

The battle was over. And while others would breath a sigh of relief at the chance tp continue living, Ezekiel felt something else. Something heavy. His heart raced. Not from the near death experience the new trio recently experienced, but from witnessing the unimaginable power that Tetsuo wielded. To command such a power capable of erasing this thing from existence...The scorching flash of light. Was this jealousy? Did something finally strike that stubborn pride he'd held in his power? That belief in himself that he would always overcome any and all obstacles?

What stopped that guy from doing that to you just now?

Ezekiel pondered. In order for him to work his magic, Ezekiel would need to at least make physical contact with his newfound frenemy. But this man was a walking nuclear weapon.

He stared at Tetsuo with hawklike eyes. A visage that was a cocktail of contempt, wonder, and ambition. His reiatsu becoming fiery as he wanted nothing more than to slam the strange man into the earth. Ezekiel's father once said that a man's ego would be his downfall. And that especially rang true for the ebony Fullbringer. He would've acted on this impulse too. But the fragments of the whisperers signified a harsh truth. It was that Ezekiel was nowhere near as ready as he thought. Despite the burning sensation in his shoulder. The numbness from all the blood he lost...Ezekiel felt as if the immense weight that the heavens had placed upon his shoulders at birth just got heavier.

His hand fidgeted, as he played with the cuffs on his blazer. The warmness reminded him of his own heartbeat, which calmed him as he remembered his first time shopping. The first thing he brought after the abandonment of his family. When he decided to live life for his own desires and dreams of wealth and success. It warmed his soul with a familiar sensation. The blazer he wore would keep him protected from the outside world. Just like then, Ezekiel just needed to become stronger.

The battle was over. He turned away. Not that he needed a chaperone...but Ezekiel really medical treatment. And even more, his shift would start soon. He took several steps up into the air and turned to Soren and Tetsuo. "Thanks for the assistance. I'll catch you around." And with that, the fullbringer vanished into a flash of green.


Atop a nearby piece of rubble, shrouded by the shadows of surrounding structures, a cloaked man stood high above those beneath him. His crimson shroud contrasted brilliantly with the golden cross imprinted on its front. If not for the hood, that created a thick shadow over his face, one would notice his silver eyes which followed the three men below. Quite the show. To think that there would be three of them running about this small country. Each equipped with such an important piece.

Especially him.

Three realms, heaven, hell and earth, only separated by a thin veil yet impossible to cross by many. Except for the petty thief who now found himself thanking the Father for allowing him to witness another sunset. Surely this be His doing. The sign for the mysterious man to follow His word so that the Son can be freed and reunited with the Father. Yes. He took a deep breath. His spiritual pressure masterfully masked through careful meditative practices.

Right now would be the perfect time to strike. Weakened, the word of god could easily subdue these heathens. He'd gathered enough information by releasing that beast into the human world. But, it was not the time for him to reveal himself. The target was weak. Still new to the miracles that their blessings were capable of. He needed him to become stronger. And with the lightning bug now involved...As iron sharpens iron...

He vanished.

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