Jets roared as the plane took off into the sky. Shaking both the earth and heaven's, almost commanding the gods to respect the innovative nature of humans. Perhaps that served as the reason humans were creatures obsessed with creating things of grandiose. The largest buildings, vehicles, weapons of mass destruction; humans possessed a subconscious understanding of how vast the sky was in comparison. That they are nothing but specks of sand. And even beyond the endless heaven's lied realms they would never comprehend. Life. Death. The ocean. Mysteries surrounded humans. So they could only create beacons in the endless darkness. Perhaps he was no different. There he stood, staring through the wide glass of the airport, watching planes ascend into an ocean of blue. Bang felt like an insect in the presence of large metallic birds. Heart pounding. He felt weak, insignificant before them.
"My love! How was your flight?" A man questioned from behind, which was followed by the uncomfortable sound of a kiss. Bang peered from his peripherals. The sickening display of two who overcame distance to rekindle love.
"How can they," He thought. be so happy? Maybe his stomach twisted and churned for different reasons. Like watching someone else enjoy a magnificent meal while snacking on a piece of bread. Bang turned away swiftly, touching the hilt of the silver epee hanging from his waist in a crimson sleeve. He felt the energy within raging. But remained calm amongst a furious storm. His eyes lowered. Memories of silver blades crossing, the exhilarating sensation of dueling. Of battle. Blood. The pounding of steps advancing and retreating. His racing heartbeat picking up speed, igniting the blood in his veins as he lunges forward. From the storm came a certain warmth. A warmth that allowed him to break the chains binding him to the couple embracing, and walk towards the exit.
"I haven't been here in years." said Bang, reminiscing the day he decided to leave his home in Beijing. The city was as overcrowded as ever, and the poor swordsman could barely understand the Cantonese speaking natives. So he decided to use the traditional signs for guidance. Exiting the airport and heading towards the street. Bang saw the gambling casino's and tourist attractions from a considerable distance. Not a bad place to have a vacation before heading back to class in Japan. But gambling was his last idea. No. He wanted to duel. To battle.
"Macau Fencing School." Silver pounding against silver, reeling wire, the occasional buzzer and a green light. The smell of cloth and euphoric trace of metal. Bang felt at home. He watched men and women dressed in white with only a black mask dance to and from, across the piste. Different conversations, various intentions. He could read them; understand the language that duelers spoke. Unspoken words yet powerful emotions. His blood started to rush, he almost leapt onto the piste like a wild man. But Bang managed to restrain himself and left to get dress. Upon returning, he noticed the other fencers watch him move towards an empty piste with eyes of confusion.
Who is he?
Where is he from
Why is he so tall?
I wonder gym socks yellow donkey?
Bang gathered through his own broken comprehension of Cantonese. But he only smiled at the spectators while grasping a mask beneath his arm. Painted on it was a beastly face that belonged to something beyond human. "Rènhé tiǎozhànzhě ma. (Any challengers?)"
"Wǒ shòu. (I accept.)" A reply that broke the tense, thick, choking silence surrounding the spectators. Bang turned towards his opponent and smiled. The man was taller, built like a tank. No doubt older than Bang and in his prime. The masked opponent stepped onto the piste, hooked up the wiring and met at the first line where both opponents checked the guards of their blades. "Wǒ jiào wáng jūn, wǒ shì cóng chéngdū. Nǐ jiào shènme mìngzi. (My name is Zhang Jun, I'm from Chengdu. What is your name?)"
Ironic. The man who could cast a shadow over Bang to be named Zhang Jun. But Bang has defeated an army before. A horde of demons and beast from the darkest nightmares. "Wǒ jiào Wèi Mèng. wǒ shì cóng Niǔyuē (My name is Wei Meng. I am from New York.) The two fencers went to the beginning positions and saluted one another. Zhang Jun, before putting on his mask smiled and spoke in a thick voice. "Your mandarin is excellent. Not what I expect from a westerner."
"Thank you, but I was born and raised in Beijing. My parents are the one's from New York." Bang corrected politely.
"I see. Well you're a refreshing visitor. So what do you say we start the show. The first to fifteen?" Zhang Jun galloped forward with an impressive boost in his step. Both feet pounding against the strip as he approached. But Bang smirked behind the darkened screen of his mask. He stood in proper stance, widened and lowered, with his feet forming a perpendicular formation. Bang's elbow was kept about a fist's distance away from his hip, with an arm pointed towards his opponent. To the fencer, his sword was an extended attachment to his body. Within measure, Zhang Jun extended into a half-hearted thrust aimed at Bang's upper right.
"Dueling is rarely like they show in Anime." He remembered. "It's a dance, a conversation between two swordsman without the necessity of words. Powering up and charging at the enemy is spewing nonsense; thus creating holes in the argument for the opponent to exploit." Bang found Zhang Jun's forte with his own foible and added pressure. The familiar sensation of colliding metal, vibration of two swords gliding against one another was orgasmic. He guided the approaching epee into the outside line and prepared to retort with a counter. But Zhang Jun had halted his step and leapt out of Bang's reach. Narrowly avoiding the touch.
Bang advanced Zhang Jun retreated, remaining outside of Bang's middle measure. Yet Zhang Jun's incredibly long arm managed to command more distance. "The more he keeps me back, the harder it is for me to strike." Bang thought. He took a half-step forward, leaning into the beginning stance of a lunge but halted and returned into normal En Garde. Zhang Jun had took the bait and shot outwards into a full extension, keeping Bang at the mercy of the tip. . "That's how long his reach is without lunging."
Bang advanced, parried the extension and attempted to gain more distance by stepping forward. But Zhang Jun, who already commanded the gap between the two, answered with another retreat. "Now!" Bang's sword shot outwards as his front foot followed shortly. A powerful lunge but Zhang Jun had already prepared for it. "You can't evade this." Bang thought, smiling as Zhang Jun realized the inevitable truth. He was cornered. Another step would result in falling off the piste. So he was forced to parry the strike. Bang manipulated his fingers masterfully, dropping the blade beneath the oncoming sword and repositioning it towards Zhang Jun's upper left arm.
The first touch belonged to Bang. Both combatants returned to the starting line and stepped into En Garde.
A mountain standing firmly against raging winds. Zhang Jun was unmoving. Even though Bang extended his blade continuously, the monstrous fencer kept a solid composure. Zhang Jun launched himself forward into a lunge, but Bang leapt backwards out of range.
Bang focused upon maintaining his footing against the mountain standing before him. Light footwork that resembled a leaf in a tornado, yet firm as the tree from which it fell. He would approach Zhang Jun's blade, bait a thrust, and jump out of range. His body constantly bopping, prepared to shift from stillness to motion without a second thought. Although his opponent's reach was massive enough to grasp a portion of the piste, Bang had faced larger enemies in more restricting situations. And he knew how to handle opponents who relied on overwhelming size.
"I'm all yours!" Bang launched forwards, entering the opponent's measure without a sign of halting. He kept his epee downwards, revealing a crucial opening. An easy point. Zhang Jun extended hungrily at his throat but Bang, using the forte of the epee, guided the oncoming sword away from his body and continued onwards. Now he was within the area between the tip of the sword and his enemy's body. While Zhang Jun attempted to escape, Bang shifted his wrist and fell into an explosive lunge Sending the sword plummeting into the panicking mountain's stomach.
"He's...he's so fast." Onlookers started to whisper in awe, not quite sure of what they had witnessed. Bang quickly returned to the starting line and smiled.
Bang advanced but kept out of measure, analyzing Zhang Jun's posture. His body bopped forward and backwards, kept in an eternal loop of hyperactive mess. "Hm. Taller opponents tend to be top heavy. Which means..." His feet started to bang lightly against the piste as he leapt forwards into position. But his opponent ignored the bait and remained unmoving, only maneuvering the epee so that it would keep Bang a certain distance away. Bang continued dancing with Zhang Jun's sword, forcing him to move it into different positions. Yet returned to the starting position. He retreated, forcing Zhang Jun to advance in order to remain within a specific measure. "So you're not entirely scared." Bang thought. "No you're waiting for me to become aggressive so that you can counter from afar."
"Fine. If you want to dance, then I'll be your partner."
"Second-intention. A fencer's greatest technique."
Bang advanced rapidly but kept the tip pointed towards the ground, revealing the porcelain thread of his jacket. His back foot remained only connected to the ground by the tip, pushing the fencer into his active formation.
The world shifted around Bang. No longer was he embraced in a friendly duel. The metallic scent of blood filled his nostrils. He could taste the coppery liquid. Twisted and distorted bodies impaled with silver blades, chopped into pieces. Was this war? Was this battle? Monsters crept from crevices and attacked the spectators. Flames flickered around the two fencer's who remained unfazed by the hellish scenery. Instead, Bang's eyes were locked onto the massive demon who wielded an epee similar in design to his own. It goaded him with its size. Sharp teeth. A tongue that would choke anything caught in its grasp. Claws covered in blood. He should be afraid...But for some odd reason he felt something else. Alone in this strange world, faced with a monster, his heart began to accelerate. Blood igniting. Fire within. Power. He felt alive.
Zhang Jun jumped forward off his front foot into an forceful extension. His body propelling itself as the epee shot towards the revealed chest.
The demon approached Bang like an arrow shot from a tense bow. Soaring through the air towards the fencer's chest. However, he me the approaching monstrosity with a calm visage. Bang sprung backwards and fell into a squat; kneeling beneath its sword he extended his arm upwards. Sending the sword into the demon's wrist.
Bang watched as Zhang Jun and the onlookers stood in shock. A sea of whispers emerged, hinting of awe and fear. Confusion and admiration. "How could someone dodge a Flèche so easily?" Spectators were in shock. "Did you see that green flicker?"
"Perhaps I...kind of went overboard with that one." Bang noted, calming the rustling power within. "I'm supposed to be on vacation anyway." Both opponents returned to their previous stance.
And such the match began once more. Blades clashing, footsteps tapping lightly during strikes. The sound of clashing guards and the occasional beep after a skillful touch.
"This seems like a decent place to grab something to eat." said Bang. While his uniform was left at the hotel, he kept the epee wrapped tightly upon his waist. He felt helpless without it. The silver weapon resonated the fencer's influence. They shared the same memories, same existence. Bang could never step outside without being nearby.
"Welcome." A hostess greeted Bang as he opened the door. He noted her accent and smiled. Bang found a nearby empty space at the bar and sat, ordering a soda.
The sound of dice cracking across the hard surface of the table cut through the thick atmosphere of the gambling parlor, and the corner of Kyang-jae’s mouth twitched when he saw the number. Starting with a roll of ten, he counted to his left, split the wall of green-backed tiles, and took four from the top of the row. The small, wood cube on the corner of the table was face up on the Chinese character for “north,” denoting his status as the final dealer, and he stood the four selected tiles up in front of him casually, easily drawing on his cigarette as he keenly watched the other gamblers make their respective moves. The faces of the players were shrouded by a murky halo created by smoke and dim, incandescent, light, softening the hard lines that betrayed their tense expressions. Kyang-jae smirked, although inwardly he felt the tight pinch of anxiety around his stomach. 5,800 yuan was a fair-sized pot, and in his opinion, well worth the fifteen rounds of Mahjong, two cigarettes, and a cup of tea that had tasted like diluted tar. As he inwardly counted the points he had so far, he heard the man to his right groan as he placed his head in between his hands.
“Tough luck huh.” he commented wryly. The man only groaned again in response.
The old woman to Kyang-jae’s left cackled as she turned over a set, and the blurry-eyed, 40-something man across from her—the one who apparently had started with a bad hand— fidgeted uncomfortably. But in the end, the only one who mattered to Kyang-jae was the “businessman” who sat across from him. Overweight, balding, and glistening in a dark suit, his presence could be described as a failed attempt at intimidation. Still, Kyang-jae knew he was a man of some means. By the aggressive slouch of his shoulders and the way his thick stubs of fingers traced the tiles in his hand, he could tell the man was used to getting his way. To make matters worse, due to an over-draw penalty that he had been charged during one of the previous rounds, he stood to lose the most in the game, and Kyang-jae imagined the man had turned to some form of cheating in order to gain his current two-point lead. But even if the businessman had a good hand, as long as Kyang-jae won the round, the pot would be his.
“Gang,” Kyang-jae suddenly declared as he snatched up a tile from the middle of the table to complete a set. He turned the four matching tiles face-up in front of him and noticed as the businessman narrowed his eyes and mutter something to his stone-faced assistant hovering by his shoulder. This was why he hated playing high-class. For one, the business suit and assistant were far too conspicuous when compared to the stained green carpet of the table and greasy interior of the casino, and Kyang-jae had the uneasy feeling that he was skirting on the edge of the underworld... again.
The game moved quickly, and time blurred into hazy irrelevance. Even in the cool, dark interior of the casino, the sticky humidity of late July was pressing in thick around them, and Kyang-jae felt the slightest irritation begin to build in the center of his chest. He once more shuffled his tiles into position in front of him, then yawned loudly and stretched back in his seat. As he had intended, this seemed to further irritate the man across from him. Anything to make him lose his focus. Kyang-jae was close: yet he knew the opponent across from him was close as well. If he could find one last stone tile, the victory would be his. The businessman drew from one of the walls and there was a smile in the corner of his mouth. It’s probably a bluff, Kyang-jae brushed it aside. He needed to focus on his own hand: specifically on keeping his own hand steady, as it was shaking slightly despite the nicotine flooding his veins. It wasn’t that he was concerned about the outcome of the game: after all he was a professional, and professionals did not lose their cool. That is at least what he placated himself with, but he could still feel the sweat that had gathered at his sideburns and the smoke tasted sour in his mouth. He quickly gauged the tiles that were in the center, the ones that had been turned over by his adversaries, and the neat rows of unknowns that gleamed at him from the table like glistening teeth. It was up to chance now: sheer luck would determine whether he could discover the missing piece or not. It could be anywhere.
As he considered this, tracing his thumb over the row of tiles absently, the old woman sniffed with disgust and discarded a tile in the center. At first he didn’t even register what it was, but as soon as he recognized the distinctive symbols painted on its surface, his heart skipped a beat. It was a stone tile. He blinked, and then like lightning snatched it up and, without a shred of ceremony, snapped the three matching tiles face-up on the table. The hand was laid out in front of the other players: Three stones, a run of four, two dragons and three wind tiles.
He had won. And had won solidly at that.
“Done.” he stated flatly, consciously keeping the edge of relief out of his voice. The others groaned in defeat as they turned over their remaining tiles. Tokens traded hands, and Kyang-jae felt full with the satisfaction of success.
“Bastard,” the businessman snarled from across the table.
“Ah come on, don’t look so upset. I’m sure you’ll have better luck in the next round,” Kyang-jae grinned. The woman cackled maniacally at this, and the tint of the man’s face became slightly red. He stood up abruptly, slamming his ringed fist into the surface of the table before turning sharply to leave. His assistant glowered at Kyang-jae before following his employer, and Kyang-jae caught the glimmer of steel beneath his jacket in the dim light. With a sinking feeling he realized that he had probably just pissed off the wrong guy. It wasn’t until the businessman left the building that Kyang-jae also realized that he had been holding in his breath.
Kyang-jae stepped outside the casino, pausing to thumb through the stack of bills in his hand before folding them and carefully stashing the wad away in his jacket. Shoving his hands into his pockets and slouching with a distinctive, habitual posture—a remnant of his past— he started off, completely wrapped up in his own thoughts. He had determined that the businessman, whose name he had bribed from the floor manager, could not pose that much of a threat. After all, he had thrown away 2,000 yuan in a game of Mahjong, and Kyang-jae assumed he had not been too bright to begin with. Still, it would not hurt him to be cautious, and as he continued on his meandering path to nowhere in particular, he kept a wary eye out in case he had been followed.
Somewhat aimlessly, Kyang-jae wandered through the streets of northern Macau. The sun was just beginning to set somewhere on the west horizon, but its oily radiance that smudged orange and yellow across the sky was blocked by the towering office buildings and apartments that crowded in close to each other on either side of the street. Each avenue was a patchwork of aging concrete, relatively new block housing, rusted tin doors, plastic tarps stretched across roofs, curbs choked with parked cars, and buildings that seemed to sag from the weight of the bars over their windows and balconies. Strings of laundry crossed alleyways like strands of prayer flags, and the rain from earlier that afternoon had downed the pollution, allowing him to see the deep blue tint of the darkening sky. The scent of the air was electric, the puddles or rainwater in the street shone like gold, but Kyang-jae felt detached from it all. He didn’t want to return home, but he had nothing productive to do and wasn’t particularly hungry. Maybe he would hit up a bar, or even a nightclub, or perhaps he would just find a bench somewhere to watch the people pass by. The night was still young and he was bored and restless.
As he drifted past the darkened windows of a storefront he saw his own ghost in the reflection of the glass. Due to its dark tint his normally red eyes shone black, and even to himself he appeared haunted and transient. Kyang-jae shrugged the feeling off and instead used the window as a mirror to fix his hair. He was considering lighting another cigarette when he froze, noticing a man in sunglasses on the corner across from him for the first time. Narrowing his eyes, he recognized his shadow as the assistant who had accompanied the businessman back at the casino.
“Ah shit,” he muttered to himself. He moved on quickly, but was careful to keep his pace as unhurried as it had been before. The man in sunglasses was joined by another, and from the way they followed him Kyang-jae assumed that they were hired muscle, not hitmen... hopefully. He had not been expecting the businessman to take such drastic measures. Obviously, this was no longer a question of money but a question of pride. In other words, they were there to “put him in his place.” Now the real issue at hand was how to lose them.
Kyang-jae was not overly familiar with his current location, and this served to hinder him as he wound through the streets, trying to keep one step ahead of his pursuers while maintaining a calm exterior. But even after all the precautions he had taken, they managed to gain on him. Then, after skirting around the edge of an intersection he lost track of one of his followers, and realized they had probably split up in order to try and hedged him in.
The plan worked.
Soon, Kyang-jae found himself pinned with one of the men behind him and one on the other end of the street in front of him. Muttering profanities under his breath, he darted into a side alleyway and crouched behind a metal trashcan, hoping he would be passed by. But when he heard the approaching footsteps and saw the flickering shadows across the ground ahead of them, he knew his luck had run out. Still, Kyang-jae wanted to avoid a direct confrontation, if at all possible. He knew he was trapped within the alley that boxed him in, but he also knew that moving at high speeds would alert any spiritually aware beings in the area to his presence, and would undoubtedly draw Hollows to his spiritual pressure like a beacon. His options were quickly spreading thin.
“He went this way,” one of the men commented in a low voice. Kyang-jae breathed in deeply, grit his teeth, and began to pull on the soul of the ground beneath his feet. And, when the first man came into view, he sprang.
Unfortunately, Kyang-jae had added a bit too much power behind the jump, and he ended up soaring at least ten feet above their heads before landing behind his pursuers. The force of the impact was enough for the pavement to crack beneath his feet, and as he straightened up Kyang-jae felt the two men’s eyes boring into the back of his head in utter disbelief.
“Well you know, since I’ve got an audience I might as well put on a show.” he said, attempting to brush off the superhuman feat. His pursuers, stirred from their stupor, simply rushed at him, and he took off at a dead-sprint in the opposite direction.
“Coward!” he heard one of them yell after him. But Kyang-jae’s stamina as a Fullbringer allowed him to quickly outpace the other two men. Weaving his way through a crowded street and turning sharply, he was finally able to escape from their line of sight. Thinking quickly, he ducked into the nearest store to lose them once and for all.
He found himself in a small restaurant, and from the crowded interior knew he had picked the right place to hide. Kyang-jae quickly slid into a booth, keeping a watchful eye on the street outside. But he was distracted by the waitress who had quickly approached him, apparently a bit flustered that he had taken the liberty of seating himself.
“What do you want?” she demanded. She spoke with a bit of an accent: it was hard to place but Kyang-jae assumed she was not from southern China. Taiwan perhaps? He did not even know why he had picked up on that oddity, and he shook his head to refocus.
“For starters, how about a smile?” he asked smoothly as he tried to whittle his way into her good graces. The only response she gave was a pointed glare, and Kyang-jae cleared his throat uneasily and reached into his pocket.
“Coffee, black is fine.” he said as he handed her a somewhat generous sum. “And it’d be great if you don’t let anyone know I’m here, I kind of want to be alone.” he said. The waitress stared at the money in her hand, then back at Kyang-jae with a knowing look before she started to move on to the next table. “Unless I could be alone with you?” he couldn’t resist adding. As was to be expected, he was completely ignored.
Kyang-jae glanced back towards the street, but so far he had seen know signs of the two men following him. He sighed and settled back into his seat, allowing himself to relax after the narrow escape. But then, in the corner of his mind, he sensed an all-too familiar presence from somewhere within the restaurant. The feeling was so faint he almost missed it entirely. Yet it was there, burning like a bright point of pressure which could not be easily ignored. The subtly-tainted Reiatsu was clearly human, and greatly resembled that of his own presence.
There was another Fullbringer there, of that he was certain.
To make matters worse, at the same moment he became aware of the new threat, Kyang-jae recalled that he happened to hate coffee, of any kind, despite having just ordered it.
“Damn it all,” he mumbled aloud.
Bang glanced slowly towards Kyang-jae with the sort of low-eyed glare capable of sizing an opponent in an instant. His eyes peered beyond the coffee-drinking weirdo and rested on a bushel of Oleander flowers located upon a window sill of a distant shop. Beautiful pink flowers glowing radiantly from their colorful petals. Bang sighed and picked a Rhododendron flower from a nearby vase. And so the swordsman approached the coffee-hating gambler. He sat across from him, took a sip of tea, while embracing the thick silence between the two supernatural humans. A bubble separated both monsters from the noisy passage of time. He placed the purplish flower upon the center of the table
A long moment of silence followed in which Kyang-jae turned slowly from the window to stare blankly at the flower, then Bang, then the flower again.
“While I appreciate the thought, I’m not really that interested in men,” he started finally, as apparently the threat of danger symbolized by the flower was completely lost to him. “But I don’t think that’s what you’re here for, is it?” Kyang-jae asked the mysterious individual.
"Of course not." Bang took a sip of his tea. "I would never degrade myself to someone of your level." His lowered eyes glared at the wise-cracking stranger. But he displayed a sharp smirk and a playful aura. "Regardless, I'm here for a friendly chat. Never thought I'd find someone like you here."
“Tch,” Kyang-jae frowned as his mood quickly soured, although he had never been in a good one to begin with. It was impossible for him to read the intentions of the young Fullbringer across from him, and there was still the fact that he was currently being pursued by a peeved gang leader nagging away at the back of his mind. “Likewise,” he muttered darkly as he drank from his coffee and grimaced. “Listen, since you’re obviously not from around here, let me offer you a few words of advice: First of all, if you ever notice someone suspicious, it’s probably best if you kept your distance, as opposed to waltzing up to introduce yourself. After all, no one’s here to guarantee your safety.” his tone was level and detached, but he had met Bang’s gaze evenly and it was obvious that he was issuing a threat.
“Secondly,” he continued, “That hairstyle is ridiculous. I’d recommend a stylist... if I thought it would help.”
Glancing out the window again, Kyang-jae noted that the sun had almost completely sunk below the horizon. The streetlights already glowed dimly, and he assumed that his followers had by then given up the chase. With that, only one issue remained. Somewhat difficultly, Kyang-jae managed to finish the rest of his coffee without gagging. He stood abruptly and nodded,
“At any rate, I’m not one for friendly chats. I hope you manage to enjoy the city, because it's not kind to outsiders. Especially at night.” he said. As he turned to leave he added sharply under his breath, “Loungoi.”
Kyang-jae sauntered out of the restaurant, moving quickly enough to where he was half-way down the street before, he hoped, the Fullbringer he had left behind noticed that he had conveniently forgotten to pay the tab. He kept his easy, casual pace until, without warning, he heard the sound of running footsteps rapidly approaching. Expecting to see the Fullbringer hard on his tail, Kyang-jae was startled when he instead saw the two men in suits from earlier sprinting after him. And they had two more with them as reinforcements. Guess my luck is out for the day. He thought bitterly as he turned on his heel and ran.
Darting through the streets, Kyang-jae relied on speed as opposed to misdirection to try and shake his pursuers. He cut east across the city, dodging around the bicycles and cars that choked the streets until the city opened up in front of him suddenly, revealing the harbor. The ocean was spread out like a black plate, smooth and glassy, and the murky yellow lights from ships and storefronts shone off the surface of the water as he rushed down the seaside road. One of the men was hot on his tail, and despite the extra speed and stamina afforded him due to his Fullbring, Kyang-jae found that his follower was gaining. Possibly, possibly it was because he was out of breath on account of his smoking habit. But Kyang-jae vainly refused to believe that the vice could affect him to that degree.
Turning sharply, he flew down a long, narrow stairwell that led to the subway and emerged into a busy, brightly lit terminal. Gasping for air, Kyang-jae tried to determine the best route of escape as two of the men he was running from burst into the lobby, surrounding him on both sides. Cursing his luck, he spotted the flashing lights that signified an incoming train, and Kyang-jae ran towards the line at full speed, clearing the gates and hurtling across the tracks. Landing on the concrete on the other side, he turned— just in time to see both men make the same jump, barely reaching the other side before the train screamed past them, mere millimeters from what could have been instant death. They were either reckless or desperate, but Kyang-jae didn’t stick around to find out which, instead heading directly towards the nearest exit.
He reached the top of another flight of stairs and had just started across a footbridge that ran over the light rail lines when he found that his path was blocked by the two other pursuers that had split off from the group earlier. They approached him slowly, guardedly, and Kyang-jae knew that they all carried weapons.
“Isn’t this a bit excessive?” he panted. “I mean, two-thousand yuan is two-thousand yuan but considering your dedication to your employer, I’m guessing he has a lot more where that came from.”
His comment evidentially caused confusion among the men who had not been at the casino earlier that day. The lead henchman, however, drew out a knife and leveled it at Kyang-jae’s chest.
“We’re not here for the money,” he growled, “where is it?”
Kyang-jae backed away from him but stopped when one of the men behind him pulled out a knife as well.
“And don’t play dumb. You know what I’m talking about,” the leader added.
With a shrug, Kyang-jae reached into his pocket, causing all four men to stiffen. He paused before, slowly, he held the object up.
“Do you mean this?” he asked, showing them a small, black ring. He had snagged it from the businessman’s fingers sometime during the tension that had surrounded the end of the Mahjong game. It had looked important: with pieces of ivory embedded in the black band and a small, circular seal as its sole emblem. “I liked the style and thought it would make a nice addition to my collection,” he said as he slipped the ring onto one of his fingers and pretended to admire it.
“Give it up you bastard,” another man snarled as he stepped forward.
Kyang-jae backed up until his spine was pressing into the railing behind him. He hooked his thumbs over the top of the handrail and smirked, despite having nowhere to run. The wind caught the corners of his jacket, and his eyes had a strange gleam to them as he gauged the lights streaming along the walls of the tunnel towards them.
“You’re not going anywhere.” the leader threatened.
On the contrary, he was about to take the 20:00 northbound.
“Give my best regards to your boss,” he said.
In next instant, he threw himself back over the edge.
For a singular, harrowing moment, he was floating in midair, but in a split-second gravity took effect and he plunged down as the electric train shot under his feet. Instinctively pulling on the air around him to soften the landing, Kyang-jae hit the roof of the train and stabilized himself from rolling over the edge. He stood, practically magnetizing his feet to the roof by Fullbringing it, and for a brief instant he saw the shocked faces of the men still standing on the bridge in the rapidly growing distance behind him.
Kyang-jae’s swelling sense of victory was cut short when he sensed sudden, eminent danger coming up short behind him, and he threw himself down on his stomach just as the wall of the tunnel scraped by overhead. It was probably a very bad idea on his part to be riding on the roof of a bullet train, and would have been otherwise impossible if not for his Fullbring ability. Hopefully, for as much risk as he had put himself in, he would lose his followers for good.
The train emerged into open air, and began to pick up speed as it started across the Zhuhai-Hong Kong bridge. Originally, Kyang-jae had intended to ditch his ride somewhere before it reached the bridge, but had given it a second thought when he decided it might be best if he left Macau for a few days. 36.5 kilometers of white steel pillars and supple lines of concrete receded into the distance ahead of him, and looking back he could see the skyline of the city. Its bright aura glowed orange, pink and green. Above him a sliver of a moon was halfway into the sky, and a few, light clouds skittered across the darkness. Hong Kong was visible as a bright spot on the horizon, and Kyang-jae sat on the roof of the train, crossing his legs and making himself comfortable as he settled in for the 45 minute trip. He pulled the ring off his finger and examined it in the low lights of the bridge. The seal was inscribed with the character for “fortitude,” and narrowing his eyes as he analyzed the ring’s detail, he realized that it wasn’t just valuable for the ivory: it was a symbol of power. Now he understood why the men from earlier had been so eager to track him down. This should yield a pretty hefty sum in Hong Kong. He thought to himself, and crossed his arms over his chest contentedly.
In the back of his mind he could not help but feel that, once again, he was being followed. But after three years of running from the yakuza the feeling was both instinctual and inescapable, and he waved it aside for the time being. Yet it was a feeling that should not have been ignored.
Bang smirked. From the streets of the Bronx to the Yakuza infested clubs of Osaka, the young swordsman realized there were no such thing as friendly cities. Only places where a thick darkness can completely masquerade the evils of night. But he remained unfazed, silently watching Kyang-jae exit the establishment with a playful smile.
"Is that all?" The brown haired waitress asked. Bang nodded and left a generous donation lifted off a nearby scumbag, before following Kyang-jae's path. The chilly night air kissed his ebony skin and a gentle breeze wrapped around him. A flicker of emerald light. He vanished.
"Seems like you're a wanted man." Bang walked across the silver car towards the relaxed Kyang-jae. Green lights sparked with each step. "Following you was actually pretty interesting. Though I wonder why you refrain from using your powers. Running away from such weaklings. Humph." His voice boomed over the roaring wind pushing pass his sweatpants and hoodie. Tears floated into the distance before evaporating shortly. His silver blade glowed brightly against the brilliant moon, as he drew it and pointed it towards Kyang-jae.
Kyang-jae visibly jumped at Bang’s voice. He scooted around so that he was facing him, but he did not stand up, instead keeping his arms folded carelessly over his chest, attempting to quickly sweep aside the fact that he had been startled at all.
“What was that?” he yelled before giving up and shaking his head. “I’m impressed you managed to keep up with me, but you should go back before you get hurt.” He acted as though he were unfazed by the other Fullbringer’s sudden appearance, but in reality he was hurling silent curses in his mind as he felt trapped by the luck that seemed permanently set against him. Make up your damn mind already. He told fate itself before he sighed and, rolling up the bands on his sleeves, revealed the crisscrossed scars on his forearms. “Think I don’t know what I’m talking about? This is your final warning. Put the damn sword away, and get lost.”
"Or else what?" Bang teased. His epee grew a few inches while widening slightly. The guard bent and twisted around itself before settling into a "swept-hilt". No longer was Bang wielding a weapon for sport. He now held his infamous rapier. But he refrained from activating that form. A green shimmer. Bang vanished. Cold steel pressed against Kyang-jae's warm neck. The swordsman felt his prey's heart pulsing blood through Kyang-jae's veins from the faint vibrations of his sword. "You'll kill me?"
However, the pulse felt in his sword was not from Kyang-jae’s neck, as the blade hovered, locked in space, a hair’s breath away from the skin. A split-second before the steel had contacted flesh, Kyang-jae’s hand had shot out and he now blocked what he had taken to be a lethal strike with his palm, apparently completely heedless of the blood that trickled down his arm as he held the blade tightly.
“Something like that,” he answered coolly. Then, in the next instant, the switchblade practically materialized into existence. He drove the knife up towards Bang’s throat, and as momentum carried the two of them a step back, the blade barely grazed the side of the younger man’s face.
Kyang-jae withdrew the instant he realized he had missed, skipping back a few, flickering steps before he stopped on the other side of the train car and faced Bang evenly. He pointed the switchblade towards Bang crudely, but he was no longer grinning. Kyang-jae realized that his opponent held the advantage when it came to sheer speed alone, and thus he would need to force him onto even ground if he hoped to stand a chance. Fortunately, he was used to tight spots such as these. What he couldn’t understand, however, was why the other Fullbringer wanted to fight him in the first place. From his extended hand, two lines of blood shot out across the roof of the train car like parallel blades, thin, sharp, and deadly as they screeched towards Bang, threatening to bifurcate him through the abdomen and chest. Yet Kyang-jae seemed reserved as he attacked from a distance, likehe had something more up his sleeve.
"Blood?" Bang questioned. He watched the two blades approach rapidly with tired eyes. However, behind the calm visage was an exhilarating smile. The rush from a high speed battle atop a train against a fellow warrior similar to him, it made his spine shiver. Green energy pulsed from his left foot, launching Bang upwards; thoroughly evading the crimson blades chasing after the swordsman. His foot caught onto solidified air which bounced the sword-wielding Fullbringer towards Kyang-Jae. The speeding train only brought the target closer to a rapidly approaching Bang. "Interesting, this will definitely be fun!" However, Bang aimed the trajectory so that he would appear behind his prey if uninterrupted, where he swung the rapier's sharpened edge, shallowly, to Kyang-jae's wrist.
His sword was blocked by the switchblade, but not entirely. While Kyang-jae instinctively moved to counter, the épée continued past his defenses nonetheless and brushed over his wrist. The cut was sharp despite supposedly being so shallow, but it had at least allowed Kyang-jae to access more of his own blood.
A coil of red liquid shot out and wrapped around Bang’s sword-arm suddenly. Kyang-jae wrapped the blood tighter before he stepped back and, with an impressive display of strength, moved to bodily fling Bang over the side of the train and, subsequently, the bridge itself.
"A clean hit." Bang recited smugly. However he was unprepared for the crimson tendrils wrapping around his wrist. "What the, this is impossible!" But he lacked the time to truly comprehend the situation, making it impossible for him to even began preparing for the deathly drop. Seconds later he was soaring off a speeding train, off of a bridge and towards a highway. Bang grabbed the air swiftly leaving a trail of green energy from his fingertips and feet while he fell. He repositioned himself so that he was standing and balanced while midair. Then commanded the wind to solidify and form an invisible cushion beneath his feet; transforming the fatal fall into a peaceful float.
Bang managed to land on the highway below, a tad bit roughly but without serious injuries. "That was too close." He said, voice filled with a unique sensation of excitement and fear. He quickly turned towards the passing train. "Shit. No way I can catch up now."
However, there would be little need for him to try and catch the train. Kyang-jae had, upon successfully throwing Bang from the roof of the moving train, began to chuckle euphorically. Distracted, he did not notice the thick strand of low-strung cables that stretched across the line, but as the train shot towards them he realized his folly a split second before impact. Without even enough time to dodge, the only thing Kyang-jae could do was to pull on the blood running through his own body and harden it into an impenetrable defense, an internal shield. Still, when he slammed into the cables it hurt like hell.
His feet were thrown out from under him, and the train continued without him as he snapped through the wires, which suspended in space for a brief moment. Then, he slammed down onto the ground. The train moved on without him, and for a moment Kyang-jae simply laid on the rails where he had landed, stunned as the electricity from the snapped wires crackled above him and died.
“Shit,” he swore as he pounded his fist into the gravel. The crash-landing had torn his jacket and stained his shirt. He had put good money into them, and was upset that his image had been so disheveled. But in the end, it couldn’t be helped. Gradually, he regained his breath and was able to push himself to his feet. He considered making a run for it: he could follow the tracks towards Hong Kong on foot, but knowing his attacker’s speed he knew he probably wouldn’t get far. That being said, his only course of action would be to incapacitate the foreign Fullbringer and be on his way. Stamina was always an issue with Kyang-jae, so the sooner the better.
Kyang-jae quickly scaled the fence that ran alongside the railway and landed on the footpath between the tracks and the highway. Narrowing his eyes to peer into the distance, he caught sight of his target some four-hundred meters away, and began to walk back towards him. Unhurriedly, nonchalantly, with his hands in his pockets as though he had all the time in the world. Yet as he gathered his blood within him, he moved with all the coiled ease of a hunting tiger.
“Looks like neither of us is getting away so easily,” he said to himself.
Of course Bang had gotten lost on his way from the track. But a sudden jolt caught his attention. An approaching energy, no doubt the one responsible for his current predicament. Yes. Bang grinned and gripped his blade when he saw the mysterious opponent.
"Well of course not. The stars have predicted this battle." Bang retorted poetically. They stood amid a wide highway which was surely busy during the day but dead in the cover of night. Serving as the perfect piste for the two warriors. "You caught me off guard before. But I won't let that happen again."
Bang's sword, which he kept in its released state since the previous confrontation, shined in the thick darkness. The street lamps provided enough light for him to comprehend his surroundings. "I can't let him get a grasp on me." Bang thought.
"Last time I took Priority. So how about I, in good sport, give it to you."
“What?” Kyang-jae practically spat, now more confused about his so-called adversary’s actions then ever. He had assumed that the Fullbringer— an American, was it?— had been hired by the same boss who had sent his henchmen after him from earlier. But the young man was not concerned with the ring, or the money, or even with taking the advantage in a fight. He was treating their confrontation like, as he had said, a “sport.”
“Why exactly did you attack me in the first place?” he asked, “Is this that friendly ‘chit-chat’ you were mumbling about? I already told you I’m not interested. Plus I’m kind of busy at the moment, if you haven’t noticed.” However, despite his casual tone of voice, Kyang-jae drew out his switchblade. Threading his thumb through the hole in the blade, he began to spin it around carelessly. “Here’s an idea,” he continued, “Let’s call this off before it starts. Not sure what business you have with me, but it can’t be worth risking both our necks, especially on a Tuesday.”
Bang was shocked by the sudden barrage of questions. For no other reason besides the fact the answers were actually not quite good. There were no vendetta's or reasons of hatred. Kyung-jae neither wronged him or cause Bang harm. Hell, the bar was the first time the two Fullbringers crossed paths. "Business?" The swordsman answered nonchalantly. "I'd no idea you existed until we met at the bar. This is nothing more than boredom. Nature's game of cat and mouse." Oncoming headlights broke through the thick darkness as a shadowy demon approached rapidly. It's horn blaring when it approached, narrowly missing Bang. However the truck sped down the highway without slowing an ounce.
"But since you're the one to talk, I must ask why you stole that ring?" The swordsman failed to restrain his concern. His nonchalantness, murderous tone possessed a slight sound of worry. Thieves. Murderers. Rapist. They were among the mouses he hunted; beings who willingly cause chaos and spread evil. "Seems important to important to those people. And you of all people should know the importance of heirlooms."
Kyang-jae immediately stopped spinning his switchblade as a look of abject confusion crossed his face, and he tilted his head to one side quizzically, and opened his mouth as if he were about to say something. But then he decided to ignore most of what the other Fullbringer had said, instead blaming the confusing statements as a result of his broken Cantonese.
“You know about that too, huh” he said, referring to the ring, “Still, like I told you earlier, it’d probably be best for you not to stick your nose into places it’s not wanted. Especially when you don’t have a damn good reason to.” Kyang-jae noticed an approaching vehicle: a low, four-door sedan, and allowed his blood to flow towards his fingertips, gauging the car’s speed and angle by the two bright beams of light that coursed in front of it. “Now do I have to repeat myself?” he asked abjectly, “Get lost kid.”
With that two knives of blood shot from his hand, and a moment later the front right tire of the oncoming car exploded, causing the driver to first swerve towards the center of the road, then back towards where Bang was standing. Using the moment’s distraction, Kyang-jae sprinted towards the edge of the bridge before he reached up and caught the overhead suspension cables with his own hemolytic-red ones. Using the cables to support him, he swung out over the water before allowing the trajectory of the swing to carry him up towards the thick, white support beams, and he landed on the gabled wires, adhering the bottom of his feet to them firmly by pulling on their vibrating souls. Then, he waited.
Bang was about to retort until he saw a swerving car filled with children and two adults. His attention left Kyang-jae momentarily, for the car would crash should the swordsman avoid them completely; likely harming the family due to the speed at which they were going. Time seemingly slowed for Bang as watched the oncoming car. "I have to get out of here...but why won't my body move?" He thought. "Save yourself. Save yourself. No one else matters. We're all destined to die so prolong yourself!" However his body surged a large amount of spiritual pressure, for this manifestation would perhaps be the largest he has ever attempted. His feet emitted rapid pulses of a bright green light as the ground turned into concrete mush. The thickness was increased to resemble a giant puddle of mud; enough that the spinning wheels lost both traction and velocity. The car slowed before coming to a complete halt before Bang's face. Where he saw his reflection in the window.
"Are you alright?!" The father asked.
"What happened?" His wife replied
Although the children cried at the top of their lungs from the traumatic experience, they were mostly safe.
"Shit." Bang thought. "That was way too close..." Green lights flickered from Bang's soles before he vanished into thin air, reappearing below the bridge and upon the water's surface. His feet released a slight ripple upon the calm river. Fish swam sporadically beneath him as he walked across the river. "I can't feel the asshole. God he's so lucky! When I see him, no more games. I'm going straight for his freaking throat."
Kyang-jae watched as Bang took unnecessary actions in order to stop the car. Split tires did not normally result in fatalities, so the only reason Kyang-jae could come up with as to why the other Fullbringer had reacted so drastically was that he had wanted to play the hero. Kyang-jae scowled, gradually beginning to dislike his sword-wielding adversary more and more. The world was a cruel place, after all, and had no place for altruism. “The only way to survive is to look out for yourself,” Kyang-jae often told himself. However, as Bang disappeared over the edge of the bridge, Kyang-jae continued to wait. The thin scratch that he had left on the other Fullbringer’s face allowed him to track his foe, even though it was pitch black. The blood seemed to call out to him, and he could sense him emerge below, where his movements suddenly stopped.
Kyang-jae smeared a line of blood across the cable beneath his feet. Pulling on the cable, he drew it back, tight like the drawstring of a bow, or a slingshot. Then, he hardened the blood on the cable to form dozens of sharp shards of crimson. Wonder how you’ll take this, he thought as he released the cable. The wire snapped forwards, sending the shards hurtling down towards wherever his adversary happened to be at a speed that defied the imagination. Aided both by gravity and the force of the cable, the shards of blood rained down like bullets, strafing the area and cutting into the surface of the water below the bridge.
"Huh?" Small crimson tears fell from a line on Bang's cheek. "You're back." He spat, immediately spinning in a circle. He dodged the oncoming projectiles with unforeseen fluidity. His feet tapped the river's surface, sending a slight ripple outwards with each step. But the vast darkness beneath remained undisturbed. Bang was ghostlike in his movements, a phantom of the night whose silver blade shined brilliantly in the presence of the moon. Meanwhile he engulfed his sword in a green light then immediately focused upon deflecting shards with it. The colliding projectiles bounced against the stiff metal, shifting their trajectory away from Bang.
"My turn!" Bang barked.
"En Garde!" White energy engulfed the swordsman and cladded his upper torso in a loose jacket which floated amidst the wind. It continued growing until his head was covered in a perfect copy of his fencing mask. Green sparks. Bang darted towards Kyang-jae furiously, vanishing and reappearing as he soared upwards. The only trace of his existence being emerald light pulsating where his feet disappeared. The wind seemingly propelled him forward, he twisted between the whistling projectiles. His body shimmered before Kyang-jae, where he attempted to thrust towards Kyang-jae's eye.
It would have been impossible for Kyang-jae to see the point of the blade whistling towards him in the darkness, but he sensed Bang’s movement as the Fullbringer shot upwards, and at the last second pushed himself off of the cable. He arced his back, twisting around in mid air as he kept one hand on the cable. As Bang flew overhead, Kyang-jae pushed himself up, extending his switchblade as he stabbed towards the belly of his adversary.
Green light pulsed from Bang's left foot. He vanished. Reappearing behind Kyang-jae immediately with a hungered smile. His eyes were wide behind the darkened mask, teeth gritting while he laughed maniacally. Bang felt blood warming as he chased his prey. Finally, you're not running away. He thought, extending his arm into a thrust aimed at Kyang-jae's shoulder. But he found that his opponent had reacted instinctively, displaying reflexes much sharper then what would have given him credit for. Skilled in knife fighting, Kyang-jae knew no formal technique, having only years of personal, close-hand experience to draw upon. He turned to the left, allowing the blade to pierce the air directly past his shoulder, and then withdrew a few steps, putting distance between himself and Bang. Both Fullbringers were standing in mid air, and Kyang-jae extended his hand, allowing tendrils of blood to seep out and crawl through the sky, beginning to form a net that hovered and writhed above his shoulders. He met Bang’s gaze with an even glare, egging him to attack.
Bang watched the tendrils form a net above head with an inviting grin. "Did you think I was trying to escape?" The swordsman asked through his blackened mask. He vanished. Reappeared. Vanished. Reappeared. Danced throughout the night beautifully with powerful pulses of green light. Emerging nearby Kyang-jae in different locations. Faint after images appeared in his place before fading away seconds later.
Finally a blade approached the blood-wielding fullbringer's neck from below-Bang squatting to strike from an open angle. Specks of red flew through the air, and it seemed as though the tip of his sword contacted flesh. As the attack carried forward, however, it became clear that it was not Kyang-jae himself who had been pierced, but rather a knot of blood that had formed instinctively behind his head. It hardened around Bang’s sword, preventing him from immediately pulling away if only for a brief instant. The blood had seemed to act with an animate will of its own, simply reacting to the energy that had cut through the air from the use of Bang’s high-speed Fullbring. And, as Bang had danced around his opponent in order to divert his attention, Kyang-jae had continued to widen the extent of the net above him. Now he unfurled it around both of them, revealing the full extent of wires he had formed. The net encapsulated both Bang and Kyang-jae the second the former had struck, and even though the cage sealed both of them off from escape, Kyang-jae subconsciously extended even more tendrils to wrap around the wrists, ankles, and neck of his prey. One could never be too careful.
“How about a little close dancing?” he asked breezily. His eyes glowed red from the release of his Reiatsu, and he spun the switchblade in his hand easily before cutting towards Bang’s sword hand, hoping to quickly incapacitate him while he had the chance. What do you think about escape now? He asked his opponent silently.
4 hours earlier...
“I thought this was supposed to be a business trip, Kō,” Tetsuo pointed out to the other man as the two of them stepped inside a black and white cab parked on the side of the street. “Gambling district.” he quickly told the driver as they settled into their seats. Outside, signs scrawled in both Portuguese and Chinese shouted out for attention, but since it was only Tuesday the streets were not yet overly crowded. Their flight from Japan had landed earlier that morning, and after checking in at the hotel and touring the conference facilities back in Hong Kong, Kōhaku had suggested that they spend the rest of the day “sight-seeing” while they still had some free time. Tetsuo had wanted to visit the Kowloon Walled City Park, not only for its historical value, but also because he ached to see something green. However, Kōhaku had insisted on taking the train to Macau, which is where they currently found themselves. “And besides, there are a thousand better ways to spend your money.” he added.
"Heheh, its a test, a test!", Kōhaku replied, bearing a grin that stretched from ear to ear. "Father always said: 'Kōhaku, you must find strong friends, friends that will die for you, friends that will die for your family, and friends that will die for your interests!'".
Kōhaku belted out the quote, putting on his best impression of his parent. He seemed perfectly innocent about it too, despite the rather quirky reality of such a thing. His parents couldn't have been anymore obvious if they tried, in fact, but somehow, Kōhaku had never managed to pick up that they just happened to be fairly influential crimelords. The logic for Kōhaku, then, was pretty straightforward, he just needed friends that he could trust with his life, right? If he could trust someone that much, then everything would work out just fine. "Of course there are better places to spend it, but, we both know I suck at gambling".
Kōhaku, arms crossed and head nodding with confidence, he was self-assured of his own incapability to properly play games of chance. Though, realistically, his luck wasn't any worse than anyone else's. "That's why, Momo-chan, you will be my guide!", he declared rather emphatically with almost perfect timing. The cab stopped, and the passenger side door opened onto the walk way of a lavish gambling establishment, Niú Niú Zhìguài.
Tetsuo stared blankly as he attempted to grasp Kouhaku’s bizarre logic, but as usual he was at a complete loss for words. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in consternation before wearily following after Kouhaku. Playing the part of the responsible one, he also paid the cab driver before he left the car.
"Gyū-gyū... shikai?" Narrowing his eyes, Tetsuo attempted to derive the meaning of the casino's name from the Japanese reading and his limited knowledge of Chinese. Something having to do with cows. "What is this place?” he asked, noting the red velvet carpet, gilded doors, and suspiciously suited bodyguards at the entryway.
"Its a casino, of course!", Kōhaku stated with sagely appropriation, this much should have been obvious he believed, Silly, silly Momo, went his thoughts. Without wasting any time, the white haired adult, if he could even be called that, grabbed his friend's hand and rushed them both in through the doors. The establishment's watchdogs hardly needed to inspect them, they could almost instinctively tell that the pair were a couple of saps with money to spare. Such types were no strangers around this den of entertainment.
The sight that unfolded before them as Kōhaku pushed through the main entrance's double doors was truly an unusual sight. The interior of the building was massive, certainly appearing to have been bigger than one what could have guessed from outside. Red sprawling carpets were rolled out across the primary walkways of the place, themselves rested atop beautiful high-grade carpets. The walls were papered with prime artistic sense and its borders covered with only the finest mahogany panels, which just so happened to line the staircases and various cashing stations as well. The iconography of the casino, that of their namesake, a variety of pictures depicting cows and the historical figure Cao Cao adorned the walls and windows. Statues of them had been carved, and their likenesses as chibi mascots emblazoned every slot machine. It created an incredible clash with the decor, but gave the place a highly unique atmosphere.
Taking in the sights and the sounds, Kōhaku was almost overwhelmed with excitement. "Aaaaah! This was the best idea, Momo-chan, we're gonna have a blast!"
Tetsuo had known it was a casino, of course, but he was so stunned by its interior that he forgot to protest as Kouhaku quite literally dragged him around. Stunned as in he felt like he would gag. The décor had no taste to speak of, was heavy-handed, gaudy, and otherwise, childish.
“I have serious doubts about that,” he replied absent-mindedly, his negative response nearly automatic. “The probability that we’ll win anything here is under twenty-percent.” He spoke drily, objectively, although from the corner of his eye he spotted a blackjack table and felt a twinge of excitement. It seemed promising. Now all that remained was to wait for a chance to slip away from Kōhaku while the latter was otherwise engaged at pachinko or something similarly flashy. If he wanted a chance in the game, he would have to rid himself of... distractions. Which Kōhaku was always full of. Still, Tetsuo wasn’t terrible at blackjack, and statistically the game was proven to allow players a higher chance at winning. One thing was for certain: he was determined to leave the establishment with more than what he had entered with.
"Yeah, that's true, but..." Kōhaku stopped halfway through a response as he turned to face Momohara, who had his own sights set on the blackjack tables. Not sure, at first, Kōhaku drew in close and followed the direction of Tetsuo's sight to make sure. He was incredibly unsubtle with his observation of his friend, of course.
"Oh ho ho ho!", he sounded out, an odd laugh somewhere between noble posturing and Santa Claus. He knew he could count on his friend, his brother, Momo-chan, to find the game that proffered the best chance for victory. They had entered as millionaires, and they would leave... as mildly more successful millionaires.
"Fantastic choice, Momo-chan!", he celebrated loud and clear, slapping his friend lightly on the back to bless him for his good fortune. "Let's try it out, shall we?"
Tetsuo grimaced as he clapped him on the shoulder. He should have known that Kōhaku would have noticed him eyeing the blackjack table. While he had tried to hide it, the fact of the matter was that the two of them simply knew each other too well.
“Actually,” Tetsuo said, trying to salvage the remains of his plot, “It’d probably be better if we started out with small-stakes games. To get warmed-up and all.” he said as he placed his hand on Kōhaku’s shoulder and turned him slightly to face the direction of the slot machines. But Kōhaku tensed up, preventing Tetsuo's turn half way, and just as he came to a halt, the white-haired man was quick to draw his hand into a faux-karate chop style motion with which he bonked Tetsuo's forehead.
"Now, Momo-chan, this isn't the time to start second guessing, we have to be confident to be able to win!", Kōhaku had concocted an entire speech about the spring time of youth, about how they had to be strong and bold, so that they could be men. He could even picture the kanji for that very concept emblazoned behind himself. But he decided to give his friend the cliff notes version, Tetsuo had a tendency to spiral into despair if the pep talks weren't delivered post haste, after all.
But Tetsuo was already in despair as he rolled his eyes up towards the ceiling. Kōouhaku was unflappable, and he continued to ramble on about success and masculinity as they eventually made their way over to the tables. The next time Tetsuo took a glance upward, he found himself outside the casino.
The hours they had spent gambling had passed in a flash, the trials and tribulations of the two men having passed in a blissful ecstasy that carried itself on the breeze. There were at the back entrance of the casino, a far less lavish part of the building, primarily used by those who worked at the establishment, the simple five-step staircase, and the barren white walls of the casino's exterior painted a rather telling picture of the employees treatment under their employer, should one have been looking for such a thing.
Kōhaku was sat on the steps, twirling his electronic cigarette between his fingers, passively blowing out the scented fragrance of simulated tobacco. He almost looked depressed, which was no surprise, he had entered that casino a young man brimming with spirit (and money). Now, he sat there with nothing to show for it, his spirit crushed (and his money gone). He turned to Tetsuo with a dramatic twist of his head, and tears suddenly welling up in his eyes. He cried out. "We lost, Tetsuo~o~!".
Tetsuo did not immediately reply, as it seemed as though he had something up his sleeve. He had carefully calculated the best way to reveal his secret to Kōhaku, having waited for such a moment in order to gloat. He pulled out a thick wad of bills. “What do you mean ‘we?'” he asked as he thumped the stack against his hand before stashing the money away in his jacket again. “I wasn’t the one who got us kicked out, after all. You should really learn to be more careful with how you spend your money, Kō.” he said with a wry grin. In reality, however, Tetsuo had just barely managed to turn a profit himself on account of Kōhaku’s over-enthusiasm for the game. He still had a headache from the whole ordeal, even though the only thing he had to drink was water. On the other hand, he had relied upon Kouhaku’s antics to distract the other players and, as a result, had somehow gained the upper hand.
The sun had just set, casting the back alley in deep shadow, and Tetsuo was just about to suggest they get something to eat before heading back to Hong Kong when he felt a sudden burst of spiritual pressure ripple through the atmosphere. The Reiatsu was familiar to him, as it seemed to belong to that of another Fullbringer, and one who was close by.
“Did you feel that?” he asked Kōhaku.
"Momo-chan~!", Kōhaku cried dramatically, giving his friend a rather pitiful look in the process. In reality he was simply playing it up, though it was certainly a lot of money that had been spent at the tables, it was little more than change for the Morimoto family. Perhaps that was a bad way to look at it, and indeed, there was a small kernel of regret in Kōhaku for thinking of it that way, but it was always in service to cheering up his friends. Even if that friend was being a bit of a mug. Maybe that too was just something he had to tell himself though. But before he could let negativity sink its way into him, Kōhaku leaped to his feet, twirling his e-cigarette between his fingers before turning on his heel like some master baton twirler. He hid his addiction away in a flash, and flashed a renewed grin towards Tetsuo.
"Shall we go see?", he answered with a question of his own, affirming Tetsuo that he was correct.
Bang, without a second thought, released the pistol grip of his blade. The ebony swordsman reappeared a considerable distance away from Kyang-jae in a flicker of green light. Did he lack means for battle without his sword? Perhaps. But his body failed to betray his inner thoughts. He moved with confidence, elegantly dancing around the wiring. Bang ducked, jumped, and even twisted between oncoming tendrils. He spun in circles and bent in awkward angles that seemed too feminine for a warrior such as himself. But he foolishly let his opponent command the surrounding environment. However, this was no different from a fencing match where an opponent trapped him. Kyung-jae had stole the advantage. He advanced and Bang retreated. Advanced and retreated. Now the ebony warrior crossed the warning line and was in danger of stepping off the piste.
He twirled around an oncoming tendril, but his hand remained visible. The sound of flesh being pierced echoed throughout the night and was f ollowed by a pain bellow. "Shit! You bastard...I'll kill you!" Bang yelled. A trapped animal whose only method of escape had seemingly disappeared. His white jacket and black mask were enveloped in a green aura before disappearing. Leaving Bang in his street clothing. His black skin glistened in the moon light as he watched Kyang-jae with lowered eyes...
But Bang could not help but smirk...For his sword soared through the air towards Kyang-jae's back. Flying as if commanded by an invisible warrior, aiming to pierce the blood-wielding fullbringer's stomach.
As the sword streamed through the sky, a canvas of blue light seemed to shimmer as a hand reached from mid-air and took the épée by the hilt. Tetsuo appeared a split-second later, and he stared at the sword in his hand quizzically. He thought the projectile had been meant for him, but as he raised his eyes to follow its intended trajectory, he saw the two Fullbringers locked in combat.
He frowned deeply when he spotted Kyang-jae.
Without another moment's hesitation Tetsuo widened his stance, and with his free hand he pulled out one of his steel tonfa. Electricity snapped from his wrists, and he slid the tonfa against the blade of the épée to charge the sword. Then, with one smooth motion, he tossed the sword into the air in front of him and kicked its pommel with his heel. The accuracy of the hit was unerring, and the sword was sent spinning around itself as it buzzed towards Kyang-jae's head. The latter had just started a follow-up attack to the one delivered moment's earlier to Bang's wrist, but he must have sensed the incoming danger as he stopped short and pulled out. Lines of blood shot out around him, grasping onto the air and jerking him back away from danger. He regained his footing, and his net of blood circled close to him like a writhing, protective aura.
"Well I wasn't expecting to see you here. What, you came all the way to Hong Kong to see me? I'm flattered," Kyang-jae growled.
"It's been a while, Kyang-jae." Tetsuo stated the phrase simply in staccato Japanese, his voice dark with rage. "Still stabbing your associates in the back, I see. Did he ask for your help too?"
"Well actually, Momohara-kun, this kid here attacked me. And I don't have a fucking clue why. So why don't you ask him before you start making assumptions, huh?"
At that moment, all eyes turned upon Bang, as if expecting some sort of a response.
Anger burned through his stomach as he watched another man appear, effectively destroying his sure victory with an annoying interference. They seemed to have some sort of history...Meaning the swordsman just lost his advantage as well. But who would think there would be more like him? A worthy conversation of - if Bang wasn't surrounded and ready to murder the next person who looks at him sideways. Energy surged. Aggressive light sparking slightly, crackling across his person. Almost forming a demonic face behind him...which returned to the smooth light normally emitted by the Fullbringer. His sword jumped to his open palm.
"I see you called for back up. No matter. En Garde!" Bang's energy formed a jacket and mask once more while the sword, engulfed in green light, transformed into a rapier. "This bleeding idiot was boring me. Maybe now with the three of you, he stands a better chance!"
Light shimmered beneath his feet. Bang reappeared next to Tetsuo in a shimmering second, flicking his wrist in a sharp motion towards the challenger's throat. While the sword would surely miss by mere inches, the wind followed his command and formed an invisible blade, capable of decapitation..
A horde of blackened bones darted from the shadows to intercept. Coiling into a disc that filled with red light, just in time to intercept the blade of wind that would surely have removed Tetsuo's head. Now, instead, the wind contended with a light that forced it to cast off to the cardinal directions where it fluttered off harmlessly.
"Aw, man, you already knew I was here?", remarked Kōhaku rather jubilantly despite his seemingly deflated response to having been noticed so quickly. His belated arrival and ruffled clothes were a sure sign of his inefficient use of Fullbring for travel. It was high-speed to be certain, but there were more than a handful of quirks that the albino Fullbringer had yet to get a grasp on. Nonetheless, it allowed him to play defense with relative ease so he had no complaints.
There was a puff of vapour blown out in front of him, giving himself a little bit of flair as he walked through it into full view. "Hey Kyang-ssi, long time no see!", he continued being upbeat and cheery to cut a clear contrast with the other personalities embroiled in this little brawl. All of them so dour and biting, it was only right that the man with the white hair arrived to save the day with his bright attitude.
"Yeah we already covered that 'it's been a long time,' if you hadn't been so late to the party." Kyang-jae snapped. "Now would you just shut up?" He began to twirl his switchblade in his hand, scowling in disgust at the Morimoto syndicate member.
For his part, Tetsuo was too busy analyzing the other Fullbringer to pay much attention to Kyang-jae, even though a part of him still wanted to beat the latter to a quivering pulp. He would never admit it to his friend, but there were times when he wished Kōhaku would allow him to actually take hits. He had been prepared to meet his mysterious opponent's attack with certain relish, but could only watch as it bounced harmlessly off of the makeshift barrier of bones. Yet he reminded himself that it wasn't practical to look for confrontation, and he nodded appreciatively towards Kōhaku before he turned to Bang.
"Why were you attacking him?" he asked, switching to perfect English. He removed his other tonfa from beneath his jacket. "Are you an American?" But Tetsuo grimaced after he said it, realizing he had just insulted the young man's assumed nationality.