With a Purpose
Attack. Attack. Attack.
Heavy footstep followed another. Walking the streets of Ikeda, a giant figure unseen by most of the perplexed inhabitants. Towering over them, it rivalled many of the buildings in the vicinity with its size. Gillian-class Hollow, a gestalt monstrosity born of the accumulated despair of tens, if not hundreds of different corrupt Souls. It swung one of its elongated arms, shattering windows and cracking the walls. People screamed. Some of the debris fell onto the pavement, and those who were not fast enough to react were immediately crushed.
Attack. Attack. Attack.
Although a Menos Grande, perhaps the most generic of all Hollow types, this particular specimen had obtained a modicum of individuality. Its mask was approximately oval in shape but significantly narrower at the top, with a number of small orifices in a line right above the mouth and three larger holes that housed the eyes. One of the many Souls trapped within the monster had managed to emerge from the murky maelstrom of madness to assume control of fellow prisoners, only to be imprisoned again.
Attack. Attack. Attack.
The Gillian opened its maw to roar. A piercing, unpleasant screech. Inaudible to most, however, a few of the people panicking in the area did register something. Nevertheless, they were much more concerned with the inexplicable destruction. Soon, an eerily glowing blue orb manifested in front of the open mouth. Cero. With the distinct sound, a beam of condensed spiritual energy swept across the street, vaporising several cars and carving a ditch across a couple dozen metres. The Hollow winced in the aftermath and, for the shortest of moments, a few thin shining threads could be seen by those possessed of spiritual awareness, etched into its head and leading somewhere into the distance.
Not feeding. Not defending. There was but a single purpose: attack.
But before the towering monstrosity stood a boy. His thin shoulders were thrown back bravely, but he trembled, breathing in and out much too quickly with eyes wide in contained panic as he stared up into the white mask of the Hollow above him.
Nano Santos had stood his ground as the blast of the Cero had torn up the street around him. At the last minute he had dodged to the side, relying on his superior speed to remove him from harm’s way as the blue light practically disintegrated the car parked right next to him. He felt the heat and the power, as though the breath had been pulled from his lungs. As the dust had begun to clear stood up slowly, his eyes focused on his enemy even as his knees shook slightly.
Count to ten. He told himself, echoing the words of his uncle. Breathe. While he had fought Hollows before, he had never seen one that that large in his life. He knew that even touching the condensed blast of spiritual pressure would be enough to cut through him and spell instant death. But then, it was the same feeling as holding the basketball between his hands for the penalty shot of the last fifteen seconds of a tied game. He felt his heart pulsing beneath his skin, but he quieted his nerves.
His eyes burned bright with determination. He could do it.
While Nano had not understood the conversation between the other Fullbringers in Xstence, seeing as how he had just arrived in Japan a week earlier, he was sure that the group’s apparent leader, Tetsuo, had been laying out the rules for the group. And while Nano was fine by playing by the rules, he also knew he had to prove his worth to the organization—and show that he could take care of himself so Michiyo wouldn’t keep him on such a tight leash. That’s why he had come here alone: If he couldn’t communicate his value to them verbally, then he would prove it to them with his actions.
Nano clenched his hand into a fist at his side. In reality, he didn't know the first thing about controlling his Fullbring. In fact, he hadn't even been aware of the name of his mysterious powers until a few days ago. But he did have one thing—speed. That speed now visibly manifested itself with electric green sparks beneath the soles of his worn-down basketball shoes, nearly lifting himself from the ground. Then, he began sprinting towards the Gillian, rushing against the current of people streaming away from the epicenter of the destruction. He quickly found and settled into his rhythm, and then, without warning, the world seemed to blur around him as he flashed forwards, straight into the heart of danger.
The altered Menos Grande turned its attention towards the small, blazing spot of spiritual pressure rapidly approaching it. There was a flicker in one of its multiple eyes, and then it showered Nano with a volley of Bala-type projectiles. He could see them coming, and with the same agility and speed that he used on the court, weaved back and forth as he danced around destruction. The Bala pounded into the street, forming craters all around him and masking the onslaught with a cloud of dust.
Then, before he could even reach the Hollow, the worst occurred. One of the high-powered spheres of spiritual energy slammed into the ground just as he had pushed against the ground to propel himself forwards. Thrown off balance, Nano hurtled to the side, and gasped in pain as his bare shoulder contacted asphalt, stripping off the skin immediately. He rolled once, then twice, and when he came to a stop he found himself staring up at the wide sole of the Gillian’s foot, which was now descending towards him. He rolled to his knees, struggling to regain his footing, but knew he was moving far too slowly... he would be crushed!
But then a translucent dome of rippling violet light formed above him. The Hollow’s foot thunked into the impervious screen, and while its weight pressed down on the half-sphere, it found no purchase and slipped, slamming down on the ground just to the side of Nano. The impact caused the forcefield to shatter, and Nano was thrown off his feet again, this time as the pavement cracked into large chunks that were torn-up from the ground. He flew back, bracing himself for another bare-skinned embrace with the pavement, but instead slammed into something slightly softer with a more hollow density.
“Oof!” the air wooshed out of Tetsuo’s lungs as he caught the flying Fullbringer straight in the torso. The momentum fortunately carried them out of harm’s way, but unfortunately placed them directly in the path of the Cero forming in the Hollow’s mouth.
“Tenka!” he managed to gasp out enough air to yell.
Like a hero on cue, arriving at the most dramatic moment, Emi appeared in a blur. Her hair a flutter, her signature hoodie billowing behind her as she landed in front of Momohara. That same girl who could barely be called interested in the affairs going on around her now seemed very animated. Pressing a fist into her palm so as to crack her knuckles just before her Fullbring manifested over her right-sided limbs. Green light began to buzz around her as she lifted her foot and stomped hard into the earth, creating a small crater that served to ground her. Everything around her shone with blue light, the Cero now unleashed, coming right down atop her and her charges, stood not a few feet behind. A single heavy breath escaped the taciturn lips of the Fullbringer before she rolled her arm back and then loosed a punch at the air.
A simple gesture to those looking at it, but in reality a feat possessed of myriad calculations and tactical considerations all boiled down to instinct and timing. As her fist hit the end of its reach, the Cero collided with her, and the area erupted in a flash of white. Not an explosion however, but a clash. The sound of a rising impetus rung out and the Cero quickly began to expand before it exploded entirely into air, replaced by a slithering beam of green light trailing in the opposite direction. With but a single well-timed punch, Emi had countered the Hollow's Cero. Her eyes stared up at the beast towering in the skies, as if to proclaim her triumph, but the summoning of her second Fullbring across her exposed left arm, shards of bone-white material ripping through her very clothes as they appeared, made it clear she knew things had only just started.
She would take care of the Cero and saved the day. Meanwhile, Yasuke's thirst for battle propelled him high into the air. The air around his nose erupted with emerald sparks as his body crackled a fluorescent green. Yasuke's muscles twitched and grew before tightening beneath his ebony, glistening skin. His body was operating at optimal efficiency. He leapt from building to building, eventually stepping on the air itself as he climbed higher into the air. His allies were his bait. A human blocking it's Cero would surely grab its attention long enough. The black handwraps which covered his hands and wrist slithered up his arms and wrapped around themselves before hardening into slim black gauntlets which extended well into his shoulders. However, one could notice that his maneuvers were different. They possessed force. While other Fullbringers moved with a graceful swish, each step of Yasuke's released a slight amount of force. His body itself seemed to crackle with Bringer Light.
A sharp exhale. He appeared before the hollow in his usual high guard. His body twisted downwards, sending forth a powerful cross into the Hollow's mask. A straight right performed perfectly by one who spends his time in the ring. The air around him propelling his superhuman arm forward at exponential speeds. This was no ordinary Fullbring Enhanced punch.
Gillians were creatures of instinct, mighty monstrosities to be sure but ultimately little different than wild animals, but this creature, in particular, was out of the ordinary. For it had achieved a level of sentience and understanding, bestial still and somewhat lost in the cacophony of all the other souls that strove to control it, yet capable of breaking free of its basest instincts all the same, and so when Yasuke rose up into the air, the Gillian had already formulated a response.
It shuffled a few steps backwards and then vanished in a sudden distortion of space, evading the Fullbringers attack entirely with an unusual variant of the Kūmon technique. For a few moments it vanished from the spiritual senses of most present, but then the very space was torn open some ways behind Yusuke and its white witch-like nose jabbed out of the opening in an attempt to impale the man from behind.
Yet that was merely a precursor to the true danger, as the Gillian already had a fully charged Cero at its open maw, far greater in potency than the previous one and coloured a light shade of purple to mark its distinction.
Almost simultaneously with the first attack, it unleashed its empowered cero in a sweeping arc of destruction, attempting to catch as many of the assembled Fullbringers as possible in the blast, which would tear large crevasses in the earth and strike with enough concussive force to obliterate most organic matter in its path.
Fuck. The only word he could get out as all that force escaped his body. These things were getting smarter. At once, this would have left it sitting on its ass. Now they were bobbing and weaving through space. He hadn't the time to react.
The beauty of The Sweet Science. His breath was life, was movement itself. With a sharp exhale, he managed to slip by the nose. Similar to a fly dodging one's hands.
The point of boxing is to hit and not get hit. To weave and unleash your own counter
Those words spoken by his own teacher. His mentor. It meant the world to him and allowed him to defeat thousands of enemies before. And so, as soon as he dodged the nose, his body twisted once more. With another sharp Oosh, he unleashed a uppercut to the side of the Menos Grande's nose in hopes of knocking the cero towards the sky and away from his team. These punches, enhanced by his signature move The Breath, were effortless and fluid. While possessing the power of a speeding bullet.
As Yasuke struck the towering monstrosity, there was a brief flash of green light as part of its nose showed visible cracks from the impact. Unfortunately, the sheer size, durability and mass of the Gillian were so great that this otherwise powerful attack amounted to little else than a superficial injury, and so the Hollow continued its course towards devastation without delay, simply pressing back against the fist and threatening to hurl the man away simply by the momentum generated by its huge head turning.
Yet this wasn't its retaliation, even as the Cero burst forth from its maw and sundered the surrounding environment in an immense arc of destruction, explosions followed along its trail, and buildings and structures were simply wiped off the face of the earth with minimal resistance. Even as the blast struck the ground, there were powerful tremors that spoke to its sheer intensity as it hounded the remaining Fullbringers with its Cero, intent on devastating Yasuke's allies and crush its opposition utterly.
However, whether Yasuke himself would be around to see it was an uncertainty, as the Gillian lifted its immense hand and made a powerful sweep of its long white claws, attempting to grab ahold of the boxer, restrain him in its bony grip and crush the very life out of him.
Boxing a gigantic monster was never on his daily plan. He was so busy attempting to dodge the massive beam of destruction, Yasuke found himself in the bony palms of the Hollow. "Agh!" He roared in pain. He took a deep breath, green sparks popping near his nose. Had this been any other, it would be like a gorilla squeezing a banana. But Yasuke was no ordinary banana. Bringer Light flashed throughout his body. Popping across his skin and erupting from his internal systems. His body hardened. Muscles contracting. His bones became stronger. The Hollows grip still felt like a house being dropped on him. Hell, he couldn't even talk from the sheer amount of pain. However, the hollow would find it impossible to actually squeeze the life out of Yasuke who let out a sly smirk.
"You squeeze like a little bitch!" He grunted.
The Fullbringer had done a great job at clinging to life as best he was able, and this fact was not lost on the awakened Gillian either who squeezed as hard as it could to ultimately no effect. Yet its powers were hardly limited to physical attacks alone, and so it was that it moved its hand a few meters from its maw, which then opened wide to generate a large crimson sphere which grew in intensity by the millisecond until it dwarfed the captive human, and that was when the Gillian prepared to unleash its Cero at Point-blank range.
No one would deny that Yasuke was an exceptional Fullbringer, but the true power of a Gillian lay in its Cero, a blast so powerful so as to disintegrate the atoms of whomever was caught in its path, and so as the monstrosity charged up its attack to the fullest, Yasuke might very well be staring death right in the face.
Yasuke looked death in the eyes and grinned. Was this his end? He continued to pull on his soul in hopes of some miraculous power boost. His skin started to darken, a feat he failed to notice due to the heavenly light of the cero before him. But one would question that a mere human could resist the monstrous grip of a hollow of that size. Regardless, the ebony figher could only hope that simultaneous obliteration was painless.
"Hopefully I brought them enough time...sucks that I won't be able to see this crazy family grow. I was liking the idea of having one."
The Cero forming in front of his face grew brighter. But just as it began to erupt a silhouette cut in front of the hellish red light of destruction. High heels planted themselves firmly on the outstretched arm of the Gillian, and with an elegant twirl Amaya Isaka spun her black-handled naginata in front of her, creating a disk of invisible energy perpendicular to the path of the Cero. And not an instant too late. The beam of red energy crashed into her naginata with a deep-throated roar, but Amaya didn’t budge an inch backwards as she continued to spin the weapon. The tip of the blade shone as it sliced through the air, and Amaya concentrated on amplifying the rotational force of her naginata, squinting against the rush of wind that whipped her hair and skirt behind her dramatically. If Yasuke looked carefully, he would see that Amaya held the naginata suspended in midair a few centimeters in front of her open palm, as she wasn’t even touching the weapon in order to increase its torque.
“Are you all right?” She called over her shoulder. Despite the inherent danger of her current position, she seemed calm, and the faintest smile in the corner of her mouth suggested that, perhaps, she was even enjoying this.
Naturally, Amaya hadn’t listened to Tetsuo when he had laid out how the groups were to be split up. Of course, she understood the importance of helping Michiyo, but the way she saw it, she was far more useful to the group fighting on the frontlines. Leave the inexperienced and indecisive behind as support. For her part, Amaya wanted to see some action. And from what she could tell, it was a good thing she had made that decision. Speaking of Tetsuo...
What the hell are you doing? She asked inwardly, glancing down towards him and Emi.
At last, the Cero dispersed in slow, translucent waves of now harmless red energy, and Amaya found herself staring straight into the Gillian’s face in front of her. Their eyes locked, and for a split-second her gaze hardened with a disconcertingly cold light, as if in that moment she wanted nothing more than to completely bifurcate the Hollow’s skull.
Instead, she held her naginata above her head with both hands, spinning it in order to gain momentum. Then with a yell she brought the blade straight down towards the Gillian’s wrist, intending to cut deeply into its arm in order to force it to release Yasuke.
"Hell yeah!" Yasuke roared. With this new found resolve, he found the power to rip himself from the hollow's grip which would surely loosen. Watching her calmly save his ass, in simple terms, turned Yasuke the hell on. And now there was another warrior to help tackle this pain in the ass. Of course, they possessed some intricate plan which would surely mean defeating the big villain without threatening their life. But it was battles like these where the Fullbringers would truly evolve into masters of their craft.
"Thank you." Yasuke offered. "At least somebody cares about me!" A slight tease yelled loud enough for the others to hear.
With its prey released, the Gillian set its dead eyes on Amaya as it let out a shrill roar that caused the ground to tremble and windows to shatter all throughout the town. It's Cero had been deflected with little trouble on the Fullbringers part, and the fragment of consciousness that the awakened Menos possessed spurred it to attempt a different approach.
Earlier it had employed spatial manipulation to evade an attack by Yasuke, but this time it instinctively used it differently. With another shriek it swung wildly with its powerful arms, causing the air itself to screech and groan due to the immense amount of wind pressure its movements produced, apparently aiming to sweep them all away with its overwhelming physical strength.
But a few yards away from Amaya, the white limbs would distort out of being and reappear mere inches away from her, as it employed Kumon to shift its entire being by raw instinct to lessen significantly her opportunity to avoid it, all while retaining every shred of momentum already built up.
Michiyo sighed with relief, allowing her hands to drop to her sides. She watched from a distance as Tetsuo pulled Nano out of harm’s way. Well, more like how he was bulldozed by the flying Fullbringer. She chuckled, but then her brow furrowed in a serious expression.
“It seems they’ve begun the attack, hmph,” she said, referring to the plan. “It’s time we start as well.” The “plan” she was referring to was a simple one—Tetsuo’s group would draw the attention of the Menos Grande and attempt to keep it from firing any more Ceros while the Fullbringers who had accompanied Michiyo, via somewhat-forced teleportation, would help her to transfer the Hollow in front of them to somewhere less populated.
Once the Gillian was away from the city and non-spiritually aware humans, Xstence would be able to execute the finishing blow.
That was their intention, anyway.
Folding her legs up under her, Michiyo sat down on the ground.
“Isaka-san, Kouhaku, Ulysse-kun, and Sheppard” she said, “Please sit down,” she held out her hands, palms up. “I need you to all form a circle... and to hold hands.”
Garrett's left eyebrow nearly rose off his forehead.
"Hand holding?" The deadpan expression showed well what thought of that idea. "Isn't that a little preschool?"
But he was still the first to sit on his arse and extend his hand out for said circle. It was just in his nature to complain, even if he did end up following in the long run.
"I could totally handle this myself, just so you know. It's not like I have to do this."
Someone's bullshit detector had to be sounding long and loud right now.
Ulysse examined his colleagues with an air of curiosity, disgust riddled all over his face as his gaze landed on the man known as Garrett; it was people like him who had let him and his company down in the past, those with uncertainty and irony written all over their very existence. But compared to what the old woman told him to do, he concurred with Garrett's opinion, even if the man did end up doing it.
"I'll pass, thank you," he said, his voice still sweet as a humming bass echoing through in spite of his refusal to accept. No, he was bigger than any sort of cult in which he had to hold hands with strangers.
"Scared we might bite?"
It was, of course, Garrett who voiced the comment, and he did so with a curious little half-smile playing on his lips; all-in-all he looked casual and at his ease, even as his tone dripped with barely contained malice. The look in those amber-coloured eyes spoke of something far from playfulness however.
He held his free-hand out to Ulysse regardless and it wasn't clear whether it was in friendship, hatred, or out of some newfound duty. Because it looked very much like Garrett wanted to crush it.
And an empty glare shot right through Garrett. Racing his right fingernails up and down against the chest of his jacket, Ulysse looked away, unfazed by the man’s comment.
“I feel no need to point out the fact that if I were to somehow feel uncomfortable in the least, you'd all be in jail by now." His hand rose and flexed as his glare landed on his fingernails, his every gesture echoed with confidence. "I mean no offense, of course."
"Hmph," Michiyo fixed a stern eye on Ulysse. “Don’t test my patience, young man,” she warned. “If you two knuckleheads weren’t so worried about trading schoolyard insults, we could have started by now.”
Michiyo removed a small, clear marble from her pocket and placed it in the center of where she and the other Fullbringers, with the exception of Ulysse, were seated.
“Now, if you think this is some sort of magic circle,” she said as she glanced in Garrett’s direction, “Then you’re obviously unaware of the true potential of the power you possess, hmph! Fullbring isn’t just limited to the unique expression of your power. With enough skill, it can be applied to anything imaginable, and in many different ways,” she explained.
“Ah, another thing,” she said, and her tone was slightly accusatory, “Fullbringers are stronger together, as Fullbring can even be used to share each others powers. And that’s why I want you to hold hands. We’re going to pull the energy in the air around us into a tight circle. As you can see, that Hollow is pretty big. I’m going to need some extra power in order to teleport it away from the city.” She patted the ground at her side, indicating to Ulysse that she wanted him to sit down. “I’m sure you understand how important it is that you participate, Tournier-san,” she said, catering to his ego, although not without a small touch of irony. “And I shouldn’t have to remind you that we don’t have much time. The other members of the group have already started to attack, and to keep our advantage... well, we’ll have to take advantage of it, of course.”
Michiyo glanced around. “Now where is that girl, Isaka,” she muttered to herself, concerned.
Ide sat down beside Michiyo and gripped her hand tightly. “I don’t know where she went. I turned my head and she was gone. But that means you need one more person, right? I’ll do it,” he concluded, not sparing a Michiyo a moment to answer. “Tetsuo told me to sit by and provide support where it was needed. But I don’t want to just sit helplessly, and watch people do stuff when I know I can be of help.” His grip tightened. “My family isn’t too far from here, so let’s hurry up and destroy this thing already!”
"It takes two to trade barbs," Garrett answered, proving he had listened -- and heeded despite probable and justified doubt -- every word. His tone dripped with accusation however and he spoke just loud enough for everyone to hear him complain, even though he just proved Michiyo right. "But I agree. Let's get this done so I can get back to doing what I do best." Which wasn't hand-holding.