While you’re here, why not check out one of these links?
Click here for the easier to read PDF version
When Alex had first gotten up that morning, he had anticipated his day going any number of possible directions. Having spent the past couple of weeks failing to track down a significant number of items he had been looking for on his checklist, he was prepared for some potential disappointment. He also anticipated the possibility that his bad luck up until that point could eventually turn around and he would actually make some head way on his list, so he was also prepared for something just a tad more optimistic. What he did not anticipate at all however, was a potentially violent individual pointing a gun in his general direction.
“How the hell did I get into this situation!? This is just insane!” Alex thought to himself, unsure of whether or not it was safe to move at all from his current position. While Alex had reflexively cowered behind Kitsiyuna, she herself remained steadfast, unflinching in the face of the gun pointed straight at her. The expression on her face only grew more serious and focused as she stood there, anticipating the bounty hunter’s next move.
“What, were you planning to just up and shoot me?” she asked defiantly without a single ounce of fear in her voice.
“Well, only if you tried to resist. We only get paid if we return you alive after all.” the hunter responded. Kitsiyuna’s calm demeanor and the hunter’s apparent desire to only capture her cued Alex in that the current situation wasn’t as dangerous as he was anticipating. While still too cautious to leave his position behind Kitsiyuna, he did once again peak out from behind her, finally giving the bounty hunter a proper look over.
His face was partially obscured by some rags he had wrapped around his neck like a scarf, leaving only the top half of his head visible. His face was even paler than Alex’s, with his skin and hair both being almost completely white, with dark red V-shaped markings on his forehead and underneath his scowling yellow eyes. He was wearing what appeared to be a black trench coat that had several large sections seemingly deliberately cut open, revealing more skin covered in the same dark red markings. The rest of his outfit was accentuated with more rags wrapped around parts of his arms and legs like bandages without any seeming rhyme or reason, as well as bits of what appeared to be armor covering his chest and joints. The armor was black in color, and looked to be made from leather, but Alex figured they were probably made from a much tougher and possibly magical substance.
Having given the bounty hunter a good look over, Alex then shifted his attention to the gun he was aiming at them. It was a revolver made from a very pale, almost white metal. It had a skull like design at its rear sight and around each individual chamber of its cylinder, appearing like each bullet was being eaten by said skull. Instead of having just one single barrel, it had five arranged into an X shape. Alex didn’t know too much about guns or how they worked, but figured due to the gun’s unorthodox barrel and chamber setup, it was probably actually a magic weapon and didn’t function like a normal gun at all.
“Now the question is: are you going to resist or not?” the bounty hunter asked Kitsiyuna smugly, ready his fingers onto the gun’s hammer and trigger.
“There’s no way in hell I’m going to let myself get captured without a fight.” Kitsiyuna responded, lowering her stance while cupping her right hand around her face, her fingers tensing back. As Kitsiyuna moved, Alex could feel something brush past him as he hunched down in anticipation at one of the two Spirits making a move.
“I was hoping you’d say that! It’s always so much more fun when they actually fight back!” the bounty hunter shouted in jubilation, a psychotic grin forming across his face that could be seen underneath the rags covering his face.
Within an instant, he quickly pulled the trigger and fired close to nine times within the span of three seconds, sending numerous orbs of burning black shadow in Alex and Kitsiyuna’s direction. Before Alex could even react to the firing, he saw a faint streaking light rapidly slice up the air in front of Kitsiyuna, destroying every single magic bullet that had been fired in their general direction. Alex stumbled back a bit in shock at how quickly that had all transpired, while Kitsiyuna merely stood unflinchingly in place, a smirk forming on her face.
“What the hell kind of magic was that!? How could that go off so quickly!?” the bounty hunter shouted, also in shock.
“Why are you so surprised? I figured if you were a good bounty hunter, you’d know I can do stuff like that easily!” Without any hesitation, Kitsiyuna quickly wrapped her left arm around Alex while throwing back her right arm like she was winding up to throw something. “Get ready to move!” she shouted to him.
Within seconds, a bright orange flame began to form into Kitsiyuna’s right hand, coalescing into a burning sphere the size of a basketball. Once the fireball reached a size she was satisfied with, Kitsiyuna hurled it forward at the bounty hunter. The fireball hit him square in the chest with enough force to send him flying backwards into the wall 30 feet behind him. Upon impacting the wall, the fireball exploded into a giant cloud of smoke, filling the entire hallway with a thick veil of darkening smog. With how run down the apartment building had looked from the outside, Alex wasn’t surprised in the slightest that no smoke detectors went off in the process.
“Let’s get out of here while he’s distracted!” Kitsiyuna exclaimed to Alex. Before Alex could even start moving on his own, Kitsiyuna had quickly lifted him up off of the ground and began just straight up carrying him off to her side, his chest parallel to the ground. She then quickly started to sprint in the opposite direction of the smoke before Alex could even start complaining about the arrangement.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING CARRYING ME LIKE THIS!?” Alex barked in outrage at Kitsiyuna.
“Trust me. I can probably carry you faster than you can run on your own and this is much safer than me just dragging you by the hand!” she replied.
“DAMN IT! Get back here!” the bounty hunter cried out from the end of the hallway, fumbling to get back to his feet, as Alex and Kitsiyuna disappeared from view as they rounded the corner. Undeterred, he gave chase to the duo, continuing to fire upon them as he turned the corner after them. Most of his shoots were well off the mark, the spreading smoke hampering his aim while the ones that did come close to hitting the two were similarly cut up like they had been before. Realizing his current plan of attack wasn’t working, he halted his movements at the corner of the hallway.
“I found the target on the third floor! Key into my location here and you should be able to tell where she’s going and cut her off! She’s not alone though! She’s got a kid with her. Probably her Spiriter, so watch out!” he shouted out loud, clearly communicating with the other bounty hunters.
“Looks like I was right. They’re going to involve you in this after all kid…” Kitsiyuna said to Alex as she continued to carry him, losing absolutely no speed as she drifted around another corner. “You know, if I’m going to be carrying you like this, I feel like you should at least tell me your name, because calling you kid just sounds so impersonal at this point…”
“Well if you must know right this second, my name is Alex Haser…” he replied.
“Alex huh? I like it. I guess if you didn’t catch it from that guy earlier, my name is Kitsiyuna. It’s nice for us to finally formally introduce ourselves.” she happily responded, shaking his hand with her free one as she did so, still running, and still continuing to carry him.
“Is this REALLY the best time for that right now!?” Alex asked with a thick layer of annoyance.
“Why not? We’re doing fine so far. We just gotta hope that these guys don’t have any backup that’s much worse…” Kitsiyuna replied. She continued running, Alex in tow, until the two began to approach a door at the end of the hallway.
Without breaking her stride or losing any speed, she swiftly performed a jumping spin-kick on the door, slamming it open to another stairwell while still maintaining a comfortable grip on Alex. He was about to ask if such a maneuver was necessary before he found himself getting cut off by Kitsiyuna’s method of navigating the stairs. Rather than simply continuing to rush the stairs like she had been doing for the rest of the hallway, she opted to simply jump onto the stair’s metal railing, and began to quickly jump to the railing on the opposite side, directly above them. She proceeded to essentially parkour the two of them up the stairs, quickly jumping from railing to railing without missing a beat. She quickly ascending three floors within the span of about 10 seconds until there were no more railings left to jump up to, having reached her apparent destination of the door to the building’s rooftop.
“I was right. This girl has some REALLY FUCKINGSTRONG LEGS!” was the only thing that could pop into Alex’s head as he fought back the urge to scream the entire way up that very quick and unorthodox ascent. Despite having not exerted any effort himself, Alex was finding himself once again out of breath. Kitsiyuna on the other hand simply continued moving forward, once again spin kicking the door to the roof open, all of it for seemingly no other reason than because it looked cool. Only when the two of them were standing in the flowing summer breeze of the apartment’s flat roof did she finally slow down and give Alex a chance to recoup himself.
“Was… all of that… REALLY necessary…?” Alex found himself asking in an exacerbated manner, pausing in between words to tiredly gasp.
“Eh… Probably not. But you gotta admit it got us up here real quick!” Kitsiyuna replied in a playful tone, still carrying Alex in her left arm.
“Uh huh… And why the hell did you drag me all the way up to the roof? Shouldn’t we have been, ya know, HEADING DOWN so that we could escape these guys…!?”
“I’m trying to thin their numbers without potentially getting any other bystanders involved. This roof is perfect for that because it’s nice and open while also being isolated off, so no random person can just wander in and get hurt.”
“Wait… You mean you’re actually going to fight these guys!?”
“If they’re as tough as that first guy we ran into, they should be a piece of cake for me to deal with. The only reason I didn’t completely blast that guy on the spot is because I didn’t want to blow up the entire floor.”
“You can actually do that!? Blow up an entire floor of a building!?”
“Oh, if something pissed me off enough, I probably could destroy this entire building…” Kitsiyuna responded with a very pleasant smile on her face in intentional contrast of what she just said.
“I might not know the power level of Spirits too well, but I don’t think being able to pull off a feat like that is something a lot of them can do… That being said, if she’s telling the truth about that, she definitely would be a great asset if I can get her to team up with me once this mess gets sorted…” Alex thought to himself, a small hint of anticipation growing at getting a chance to witness Kitsiyuna’s apparent potential. Any hint of concern about her being dangerous to his safety were pushed to the back of his head, deciding that she seemed nice enough, so she was probably safe enough to still hang around.
“…But yeah…. We’re going to wait up here for a bit so that we can potentially bait out some more of these bounty hunters. That way, we have less goons potentially following us to the hideout…” Kitsiyuna continued.
“Oh. Well, if that’s what your plan is… CAN YOU PUT ME DOWN NOW!?” Alex snapped at her, flailing about as he remembered the fact that she was still very much carrying him like a ragdoll. Kitsiyuna sheepishly apologized to him before finally setting him back down.
“…Speaking of hideouts… That reminds me, I need to make a call…” she said, reaching into her jacket pocket to pull something out. Anticipating a cellphone, Alex got a very confused look on his face when Kitsiyuna ended up pulling out a cylindrically-shaped green crystal that was just a little bit bigger than the palm of her hand.
“Is that… a Utility Crystal…?” Alex asked, recalling one of the many items he had failed to collect on his checklist.
“You know what a Utility Crystal is…?” Kitsiyuna asked back, surprised at Alex’s ability to identify the item.
“…I’ve heard a thing or two here and there. While there’s a little bit more to them, aren’t they mostly just used by Spirits as glorified phones…?”
“Well, I can’t really speak for others, but that’s mostly what I use it for… Anyways, I’m going to try to contact a friend of mine. In the meantime, you should find a place to hide for when those bounty hunters finally catch up.” Kitsiyuna replied.
Alex’s curiosity wanted him to hang around and see the crystal in action up close, but the disapproving look on Kitsiyuna’s face eventually convinced him to find a spot on the roof to hide. He quickly settled on hiding behind a large AC unit that rested in a corner of the roof, directly behind the stairwell entrance they had just come out of, realizing it was probably the best spot on the mostly bare roof. He sat with his back towards the machine as its shadow provided him cover from the sun. He began to lean back directly against the machine, its mild vibrating and loud humming providing a kind of pleasant ASMR for his unfocused mind as the wind gently caressed his face. Rather than the wait building up an unpleasant anticipation, Alex found his anxiety about the current situation quickly melt away as he unintentionally mediated behind the machine.
“Feeling the wind like this… It kinda reminds me of the day she first taught me how to channel…” Alex mused to himself, recollecting a faint memory of his from a few years ago. He recalled his younger self standing in a quaint field, seemingly isolated from the outside world, reaching out into the wind around him as he tried to grasp the energy that surrounded him the same way Spirits did. He remembered failing many times, as a much older woman with snow white hair stood there watching over him with a patient smile on her face. As he recouped the memory, he found himself instinctively forming a light blue wispy flame like he had done within the restaurant earlier in his hand. Once the wisp reached a large enough size, he slowly closed his fist around it until it eventually got absorbed into his body.
“I can’t believe I used to think channeling Spirit Energy like that was hard…” he thought to himself. “Just imagine how much better you’ll get if you can actually convince her to make you her Spiriter…” he mused to himself as he briefly looking around the AC Unit in Kitsiyuna’s general direction.
Though she was a fair distance away, he could vaguely make out the utility crystal in her hand. It was emitting a green glow that radiated out around it, cueing in Alex that she was still using it. The humming coming from the AC Unit made it impossible for him to hear any of what she might’ve been talking about, but he could still make out a look of concern coming across her face. Whatever she had been talking about had caused her to shift to a worried mood.
Sensing Alex caught the dour expression on her face, she quickly tried to fake a smile as she looked over in his direction. Her faux smile obviously didn’t fool Alex, as he took the sudden change in her mood as a potential cause for alarm. Wanting to clear up just what the situation was, Alex started to move back to her to ask her what was going on before he found himself sitting right back down. He sensed another bounty hunter had caught up to them.
From the other side of the roof, opposite the end he was hiding on, Alex saw a figure had apparently climbed up the side of the building to reach the roof. Without a moment of hesitation, they rushed at Kitsiyuna, with a large blade ready to strike her. Thankfully, Kitsiyuna was equally as aware of the situation and quickly turned to intercept this new attacker.
“Well you certainly found your way to me faster than I expected!” she responded as the new bounty hunter jumped up and lunged at her with their blade. They were briefly stopped mid-jump, their blade apparently being blocked by the same force Kitsiyuna had been using earlier to slice up those bullets. After hanging there for a few seconds, the hunter was eventually sent backwards, flying a good distance across the roof. Alex, confident Kitsiyuna could handle the situation, decided to sneak up closer to get a better view of the fight, hiding behind the back of the stairwell out of the attacker’s view.
While the previous bounty hunter could’ve maybe passed off as a regular human under the right lighting, it was very obvious this particular bounty hunter was a Spirit. While they were draped in a tattered black cloak that obscured some of their body, it was still easy to notice the fact they were mostly just a skeleton underneath with horns growing from the top of their skull. Their body was mostly just pale bones that were partially covered by a dark red membrane that resembled exposed muscle. Their face, or rather, lack of a face was left uncovered by this membrane, with all of their facial bones exposed and glowing red dots instead of any kind of actual eye. Their torso was similarly uncovered, exposing a ribcage housing a giant singular red organ mass that had fused to the entire length of the spine. Finally, the blade Alex had thought the skeleton was holding, upon closer examination, turned out to be growing directly from their arm in place of their right hand.
“I think that freak’s a Cornossa…” Alex thought to himself as he watched the horned skeleton furiously try to slash away at Kitsiyuna who parried every single attack, recalling its appearance from a book he had skimmed through some years ago about the different races of Spirits.
“DAMN IT! STAND STILL!” the Cornossa screamed out in frustration, without any lips, lungs, or vocal chords as Kitsiyuna effortless knocked away a swing from its blade-arm with the back of her fist. The Cornossa’s voice was deep enough that Alex was confident that it was supposed to be male in absent of any other visual indicators outside of the width of the skeleton’s pelvis which Alex had no way, nor intention, of measuring.
“Do you guys just not know anything about what I’m capable of!?” Kitsiyuna shouted out in disbelief.
“There’s only two things that are important to our job: where our target is… AND HOW WE’RE GOING TO BEAT THEM INTO SUBMISSION!” the Cornossa shouted, punctuating his yelling with a surge of red sparks going up his blade-arm. Suddenly, the muscle like membrane began to spread, completely engulfing the blade, bringing it to a seemingly sharper edge. Red vapors began to undulate from this newly formed blade as Alex could feel the increased power coursing through it, as if the very air itself was being warped around it. The Cornossa flicked this blade back behind him as he winded up for another attack, with a faint ripple of energy being emitted as he did so.
“Try blocking this one you bitch! BLOOD MARROW STRIKE!” he shouted as he swung the blade forward, aiming to strike downward from overhead. That faint ripple from the wind up reemerged as a very visible pressure wave surging through and compressing the air around the blade as the Cornossa aimed it at Kitsiyuna. While the swing had been no slower than any of his previous ones, it felt as if time began to slow to a crawl to Alex as he looked on in slow motion, taking in every millisecond of the magic attack that was being performed in front of him. It was almost as if his slight familiarity with Spirits and magic gave his mind an extra sense to process the attack in time, as when the blade was about to strike Kitsiyuna, he could feel himself reflexively try to guard against the attack as if it had been aimed at him.
The compressed frame of time for Alex quickly passed when the blade seemed to make impact with Kitsiyuna. The burst of pressure exponentially expanded across the air until it was no longer perceivable, as Kitsiyuna slide back a few feet, seemingly the only result from the attack. Kitsiyuna had both of her arms braced in preparation to block the strike, but it appeared there was no visible cut on either of her jacket sleeves. It didn’t seem like there was a single cut anywhere on her body, and yet a wince of pain shot across her face as blood began dripping from the Cornossa’s sword arm. He had apparently hit something, but Alex had no idea what.
“Well how about that…?” the Cornossa replied with a small hint of surprise in his voice, staring at the small trickle of blood coming from his blade. He apparently had no idea what he actually hit either.
“Seems like you’re not so untouchable after all!” the bounty hunter shouted out in glee, continuing to try to hack away at Kitsiyuna. The smug look she had been wearing on her face got far more serious as rather than try to block or parry any more of the Cornossa’s attacks, she did her best to completely bob and weave out of the way of each swing.
“It looked like she just had some kind of a natural defense against his sword… Did whatever the hell he just did to his arm let him cut through her defense?” Alex thought to himself in concern as he continued to look on, still trying to conceal his presence. “Why is she keeping to the defensive though? Why isn’t she using her own magic to fight back!?” It didn’t take long though for Alex to figure out why she was so seemingly hesitant to fight back as he continued to watch her movements.
“Wait… It looks like she’s… leading him away from my position… Is that why she hasn’t used her magic on him yet…? Because she’s trying to make sure I don’t accidentally get caught up in any of her attacks…?” he thought to himself as he analyzed the path backwards Kitsiyuna seemed to be taking as she continued to evade the bounty hunter. “…I mean, if that’s the case… shouldn’t she have more than enough room by now…? “ Alex lingered on this thought in his head for a bit, wondering if it might be possible that Kitsiyuna didn’t have complete control of her abilities.
“She did definitely kind of overdo it when she was ‘restraining’ me in that supply closet… She might not know her own strength… Now the question is… If I became her Spiriter, would I be willing to put up with that…? Because that kinda sounds like it could be a major pain in my ass…” Alex would’ve continued on with this train of thought were it not for the reminder he received as to just why he was in this situation currently. He heard footsteps rushing up the stairwell right next to him as the door to the roof swung open. Alex cautiously peered around the corner of the stairwell to see that the gunman from earlier had finally caught up to them.
“All right. Let’s see how well you can defend yourself with a gun trailing your back, you bitch…” the gunman murmured to himself as he took aim at Kitsiyuna, who seemed unaware of his presence.
Another hit of anxiety hung over Alex as he stood motionless a mere few feet behind the bounty hunter, who also seemed unaware of him. He was torn between running back to his hiding spot, or doing something to distract the bounty hunter, silently taking a few steps back as he deliberated. After taking about four steps, the crunching of a discarded water bottle underneath his feet ended up making the choice for him, as the gunman turned around to see the source of the noise.
“So I see she’s not the only one up here!” the gunman replied with a hint of glee as he begun aiming the gun at Alex.
“What the hell are you doing aiming that gun at me!? …I’m… just an innocent bystander in all of this!” Alex stammered out, continuing to slowly walk back. Every step he took backwards, the gunman matched with a step forward.
“Bullshit. You were just about to interfere in our little hunt! We can’t have that now can we!?”
“W-what if you’re wrong!? You’d be completely fine with killing a potentially innocent person!?”
“If that ends up being the case, as far as I’m concerned, that’s just a bonus!” the gunman shouted in excitement. His finger began to wrap around the trigger of his revolver as he clicked down the gun’s hammer, preparing to shoot Alex pointblank. Before he could pull the trigger however, Alex’s survival instincts kicked in once again.
Within a course of about half a second, Alex telepathically commanded his tome to once again fly out of his backpack and slam into the gunman’s face with enough impact to send him reeling back. It had hit him hard enough to get him to drop the gun without it firing. The gunman was left temporarily stunned by Alex’s counterattack, too stunned to even do something about the tome that was currently being telepathically jammed into his face. Without a hint of hesitation, Alex pulled out a small dagger made from an eerie white looking metal with a skull motif etched around its hilt, and an interlocking cross bone design going down the length of the small blade.
“All right Alex! It’s him or you!” Alex echoed out in his head as he ran forward with the dagger at the ready. Having had his life so callously disregarded by the bounty hunter, Alex wasted no time in mercilessly jamming the dagger in and out of his stomach. With each thrust of the dagger, Alex let out multiple grunts of anger as he was riding high on adrenaline, basking in the small splashes of blood that spurted out with each hit.
“Don’t let up Alex, even for a second…! Once you head out there, it’s kill or BE killed…! There’s no telling how many asshole Spirits like this one are going to be there…! You need to be willing to fight all of them…!” Alex continued to think to himself as his relentless stabbing continued, his fight or flight instincts easily allowing him to justify potentially killing his attacker. He was so absorbed with trying to incapacitate the gunner, he didn’t even realize the gunner had recovered from his daze. After receiving close to 40 stab wounds in his stomach, the gunman merely responded with severe annoyance. He tossed Alex’s tome aside before quickly kicking him straight into the brick wall of the stairwell, pressing his boot directly into Alex’s stomach to keep him pinned against the wall.
“YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!” the bounty hunter shouted at Alex as he began crushing his ribs under his boots. Alex could tell by the ease he was still moving that the amount of stabs he had received were ultimately only a mild inconvenience to him. It seemed Spirits were definitely made of stronger stuff than humans. The gunman gestured his hand to his discarded revolver, levitating it back into the palm of his hand. With the gun returned, he wasted no time jamming the gun’s barrel directly against Alex’s temple. Though the stabbing only seemed to mildly injure him, Alex could tell from the rage in the bounty hunter’s eyes that it really pissed him off.
“Damn it! That didn’t do anything to him! I really need magic to get out of this!” Alex thought to himself. Though he was definitely panicking, he still had a clear head to him despite literally staring down the barrel of a gun. Alex was not yet resigned to his fate, as he readied one last ditch attempt to get out of his predicament. Thankfully for him, Kitsiyuna quickly intervened before that was necessary.
“HEADS UP JACKASS!” she shouted. Before the gunman could even look over, his body was sent flying backwards across the roof as he was pelted by his fellow bounty hunter. Alex, now free, looked over to Kitsiyuna, wondering what had just happened before he quickly realized she had managed to grab onto the Cornossa and threw him as a projectile. Wasting no time at all, Alex picked his tome off of the ground before quickly stuffing it back into his backpack and running over to Kitsiyuna.
“I told you to find a hiding spot! Why didn’t you listen to me and stay hidden!?” she chastised Alex.
“I’ve never gotten to see two Spirits fight before. I just wanted to get a closer look! Is that sooooo wrong!?” Alex responded childishly, disregarding Kitsiyuna’s concern.
“It is when you staying out in the open almost gets you killed! And what the hell are you doing with a knife like that!?”
“Like you said, I’m small kid. It’s the only way I can protect myself from assholes like that…”
“That was with you the entire time, and you were just willing to use it on that guy just like that…?”
“I always have this dagger with me… And as far as I’m concerned, if you mess me, I respond in kind! That guy was an asshole, so he deserved it! …I mean… why the hell are you trying to make me feel guilty for defending myself in the first place!? You’re not my freaking mom…!” Alex replied to Kitsiyuna in anger. The concerned look on Kitsiyuna’s face quickly shifted to a different kind of concerned look. Rather than being concerned for his wellbeing, Kitsiyuna quickly grew concerned about the idea that Alex was completely okay with the fact that he could’ve just stabbed someone to death.
“What is up with this kid…?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. She decided not to focus too much on that for the time being as her and Alex shifted their attention back to the two bounty hunters. While being thrown across the roof definitely messed them up, they were apparently still determined to keep going. The gunman got to his feet first while his Cornossa companion slowly scrambled to get up behind him. Being used as a skeleton cannonball seemed to have messed with him more than his partner getting hit by him did.
“YOU DAMN BITCH! BOTH OF YOU!” the gunman shouted across the rooftop, aiming his gun at the two of them. Alex wasted no time taking cover back behind Kitsiyuna again. As the bounty hunter aimed his gun, a small sphere of black energy began to form from the front of the revolver’s barrel, growing ever larger in size as bolts of black lightning emanated from it. Alex’s body instinctively tensed in anticipation of the new spell that was being aimed at them. He felt his body getting ready to move on its own to dodge out of the way, but he held his position when Kitsiyuna raised her hand up behind her to signal him to stay there. She clearly felt he was going to be safer remaining behind her as she braced for the attack.
“What the hell are you doing!? We’re supposed to be taking her back alive! That right there is a damn kill shot!” the Cornossa shouted to his companion as the sphere grew to a size larger than either of the two of them.
“I DON’T GIVE A DAMN! AT THIS POINT, I JUST WANT IT TO HURT!” the gunman replied, shouting over the loud pulsating sound his magic was giving off. “NOW, CHOKE ON THIS! OBLIVION CANNON!” he yelled, pressing the gun’s trigger, sending the sphere flying at Alex and Kitsiyuna with alarming speed for a projectile of that size.
As the sphere flew across the roof, it ate away at large chunks of the floor as its bottom scrapped by, absorbing the broken off bits of matter like it was a black hole. Without an ounce of fear, Kitsiyuna angled her arm behind her again, orange flames once again forming in her open palm. She kept her arm behind her, timing it for the exact moment of impact. Time slowed down again for Alex, as he observed ever single motion Kitsiyuna went through as she prepared to intercept the sphere of destruction hurling towards them.
Just as they were about to be engulfed, Kitsiyuna swung her arm forward, her palm striking the front of the sphere with great force. Rather than getting her hand consumed, the sphere began to warp around the point of impact as it quickly grew more and more distorted. The blackened mass began to radiate out shafts of light caused by the fires Kitsiyuna had just stuffed into it. It seemed like Kitsiyuna’s magic was too powerful for it, as it continued to expand and distort around Alex and Kitsiyuna before it eventually burst, releasing a visible pressure wave through the air in the complete opposite direction.
The sudden snap in pressure, though heading in the other direction, was intense enough to whip up a moderate updraft of wind around the two, as Alex had to brace himself to keep from getting knocked over, holding onto his stomach as a faint hint of nausea rolled over him from the force of everything. Kitsiyuna, on the other hand, held her stance, unaffected by the shockwave. The two bounty hunters found themselves once again being knocked to the ground as the shockwave finally reached them, easily knocking them off of their already unsteady feet.
“Impossible! How the hell did you stop that!?” the gunman yelled out in frustration and desperation, the realization setting in that he and his partner were woefully outmatched.
“I’m just that strong.” Kitsiyuna replied in a confident voice.
“We need to get out of here! There’s no way we can take her without the boss’s help!” the Cornossa yelled out in a panic, attempting to get to his bony feet again.
“No way in hell I’m just going to let you two creeps just walk away from this! FLARE PILLAR!” Kitsiyuna shouted, raising her elbow up above her head as she pointed her fist to the ground. With one fell swing, she plunged her entire fist directly into the floor as burning embers emitted from the point of impact. A series of glowing orange cracks emerged from the ground in a line, stopping just underneath the two downed bounty hunters. Even from his distance, Alex could see an intense column of hot air arise from underneath the two, with burning hot embers slowly rising up around them. Before Alex could see what was about to happen next, Kitsiyuna quickly turned around and wrapped herself around Alex.
“GET DOWN!” she shouts, as she lowered the two of them closer to the ground. Just as she did so, Alex could hear the sound of a colossal fire erupting behind him. The air in front of him darkened, while the air behind him began to glow white hot, Alex figuring the only reason he wasn’t burning up from the temperature was because Kitsiyuna was shielding him from her own magic. As she was keeping a tight grip on him, he couldn’t freely look at the effects of the spell she had just cast, but could still maneuver himself just well enough to get a peak.
A white hot inferno of fire towered from the ground where the bounty hunters were, sparks being whipped up in all directions, many flying right past Alex’s face, as the burning pillar incinerated the two Spirits. Alex could just barely make out the sound of them screaming in pain over the roaring fire, but those screams were swiftly muffled as their bodies were cremated by the flames, with them most likely burning up so quickly, the pain barely had time to set in. After huddling for about half a minute, the flames eventually receded back into the ground before they completely disappeared, the only real sign that they had been there was a faint ring scorched into the ground.
“Woah…” was the only word Alex could form out of his mouth as Kitsiyuna released him from her grip. He slowly approached the ring Kitsiyuna had burned onto the ground. While it was an impressive display, he found no signs that the fire had caused any kind of lasting structural damage to the building, chalking it up to being a side effect of how her magic behaves. He crouched down as he felt the ground around the scorch marks. Not even ashes of the two bounty hunters remained.
“Did you actually… watch that…?” Kitsiyuna asked him, glancing to the side as she did so, seemingly afraid of him making eye contact with her in that moment. The tone of her voice indicated she was a little upset with the idea Alex may have just watched her burn two people alive.
“Why wouldn’t I watch that? That was freaking awesome! You said you had the potential to level this building, and after watching that huge ass tower of fire, I gotta believe you…!” Alex replied in overeager excitement.
“But I just incinerated two people right in front of you… That doesn’t bother you at all…?”
“…Well, technically it was right behind me, but semantics… Anyways, why should it bother me…? From a moral standpoint, they were murderous assholes, so I shouldn’t feel bad about them dying… Plus, as Spirits, they’ve already died once, why should them dying a second time be any more tragic…?”
“…That… could’ve been the case for them… But, you do know that once you’re slain as a Spirit, you don’t get another chance, you just stay dead…” Kitsiyuna replied, with a noticeable tinge of guilt building in her voice.
“Well, the way I see it, becoming a Spirit is the second chance you get to potentially avoid any mistakes you made during your first ‘life’. Those two were definitely assholes when they were human, and continued to be assholes when they died and became Spirits. They clearly refused to learn anything from their first deaths, so I’m not going to feel bad that you killed them off permanently in self-defense… And quite frankly, neither should you…!” Alex replied with a bit of a standoffish tone. “…Especially because… ya know… you were also trying to protect me too…” he hesitantly continued, almost whispering under his breath.
“…Is this his way of thanking me…?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself. She had been so wrapped up in her own actions, it had completely slipped her mind that Alex was more or less an unwilling bystander in all of that. “…Telling me that I shouldn’t feel bad because I wasn’t just protecting myself, but him too…?”
“…Burning people to death still isn’t something you should be doing right in front of a kid though…” she replied, still refusing to allow herself to be absolved of her actions.
“…Oh please…” Alex responded back dismissively. “Them burning to death was pretty damn tame in comparison to some of the gruesome death I’ve been privileged enough to witness first hand…” That last bit took Kitsiyuna by surprise.
“This isn’t your first time seeing someone die…?” she asked.
“Nope, though, by the way you’re acting, you could definitely fool me into thinking this was YOUR first time…” Alex replied with a joking tone.
“Just… How old are you anyways…?” she asked, that being the only thing that could pop into her head at that moment.
“15.” he replied bluntly.
“He’s only 15…!? And he’s completely un-phased by all of this…!? Seriously… what the hell is up with this kid…!?” Kitsiyuna thought to herself as she pressed her hand against her forehead. The concerned expression she had on her face made it extremely easy for Alex to figure out what she was thinking.
“…So are we done here…? Or are we waiting for more goons to show up that you can have another conniption fit about killing, even if it’s ultimately the right thing to do…?” Alex asked as Kitsiyuna was lost in her thoughts.
“Wha…?” Kitsiyuna replied in confusion.
“…You know, the whole reason we went up here to the roof…?” Alex clarified as he tried to get Kitsiyuna to focus.
“…Oh right!” she replied, snapping back to her senses. “You said you sensed those guys when you were outside of the apartment… How many of them were there…?”
“I think it was four total. Those two were definitely among them…”
“Well… Considering I was able to handle those first two pretty easily, I think we can safely move on to the hideout without those other two being too much of an issue… That friend of mine I contacted earlier is supposed to be meeting up with us there to help sort out this situation if it turns out there’s more than just those four bounty hunters, and I don’t want to keep her waiting…”
“I did hear that bastard gunman give orders to the other two to watch the exits of the building. They might try to follow us if you plan on just heading straight there…”
“Oh, don’t worry, I think we should be able to get a good enough head start that it shouldn’t be an issue…” Kitsiyuna replied with a mischievous hint to her voice. She then once again wrapped her arms around Alex’s body, who began to tense up as he anticipated just what Kitsiyuna was planning on doing next.
“OH HELL NO! YOU ARE NOT CARRYING ME AGAIN WOMAN!” Alex shouted as he tried to squirm out of Kitsiyuna’s hold.
“You’re not going to be able to follow me without me carrying you!” she replied as she tightened her hold on him.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo…!” he replied, his no almost sounding like a cow mooing, with his overreaction causing Kitsiyuna to giggle.
“Here, why don’t I hold you like this this time…?” she said as she chuckled. She scooped her left arm underneath Alex’s shoulders as she lifted him up into the air, supporting his legs with her other arm. She ending up getting Alex into a position where she was carrying him in such a way one would carry another ‘over the threshold’, with Alex’s impotent flailing putting up no resistance during the entire process.
“ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? DO I LOOK LIKE A PRINCESS TO YOU!?” Alex shouted almost in disbelief, extremely annoyed with the way Kitsiyuna had decided to carry him.
“ Hey… It’s at least gotta be comfier than the way I carried you through the hallway. Besides, you’re going to be much safer through what I’m about to do…” Kitsiyuna replied in a tone indicating she was enjoying herself.
“What you’re about to do…?” Alex asked in a mix of confusion and irritation. Rather than give Alex a verbal response, Kitsiyuna began running full sprint to the edge of the rooftop. Alex in turn, responding by screaming his head off in fear as Kitsiyuna proceeded to barrel her way off of the roof. Upon reaching the edge of the building, Kitsiyuna leaned forward with one foot firmly planted in the ground as the other was stepping off of the side. For a brief moment, Alex could feel time once again slow down as Kitsiyuna slowly leaned the two of them off of the building into freefall. Alex fell silent for a moment as the two of them continued to lean forward until eventually they were falling straight toward the concrete below.
“GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ARE YOU INSANE!?!?” Alex screamed as he held onto her for dear life. Kitsiyuna merely responded by muffling him as she shoved his head into her cleavage mid-fall while she braced him for her next move.
Once she began freefall, Kitsiyuna guided her feet to the side of the building that was rushing past, and with one swift motion, dug the heels of her boots into the wall, changing their freefall to a 90 degree slide straight down. Despite the verticality of it all, Kitsiyuna was able to keep her feet firmly planted as the two continued to skid down, her heels noticeably cutting into the brick as they went by. After quickly descending down to around the third floor, Kitsiyuna suddenly stopped all of their momentum by digging her heels deeper into the brick.
“Did… did we reach the ground yet…?” Alex hesitantly asked as he noticed they had stopped moving, too cautious to remove his face from Kitsiyuna’s chest to verify for himself.
“Not quite…” she replied as she looked over the wide stretch of neighboring buildings before her.
The drop to the third floor had put her more in line with the tops of most of the other nearby buildings, allowing her to more easily look over the interconnected alleyways and isolated courtyards before her. After a quick scan, she saw an empty enclosure sandwiched in between four buildings a straight shot from where they were ‘rooted’. A quick trace of the surrounding rooftops revealed an alley connected to the enclosure that fed back to the main street. Upon noticing this, she quickly set the enclosure as their next destination.
“Hey, do you think I could make it to that big abandoned gap between those buildings over there in one jump?” Kitsiyuna asked playfully.
“What…? One jump!?” Alex responded, his curiosity piqued enough to finally look for himself. He felt himself beginning to sweat once again as he quickly realized just what she was going to do. Before he could interject, he could feel Kitsiyuna beginning to crouch down on the wall, ready to do one hell of a leap.
Within seconds, Kitsiyuna launched the two of them off of the wall using her powerful legs, denting in the brick wall with an impact crater from the sheer force of the jump. Immediately after jumping, Alex could hear roaring flames trailing behind them as they were being rapidly propelled forward at a downward angle. A quick glance to Kitsiyuna’s boots revealed she was creating a concentrated stream of fire from both feet to literally rocket the two forward through the air. It took the two of them all of about six seconds to reach one of the walls right above the enclosure.
A split second before hitting the wall, Kitsiyuna cut off the flames coming from her feet and flipped forward, landing against the wall with her boots while still keeping Alex in his secured position buried in her bosom. She then proceeded to bounce back off of the wall while flipping backwards this time, landing in the middle of the grass covered enclosure. Once she had landed safely, she gently let Alex go back onto the ground. Alex, having been shaken from the whole ‘jump’, landed on his feet for all of one second before he promptly lost his balance and landed square on his ass.
“Well, aside from coming in just a little on the hot side, I thought that was pretty good! We cleared like, what… 200 feet in one jump!” Kitsiyuna said in an optimistic tone as she patted Alex on the shoulder. Alex replied by slowly turning his head to face her. His eye was twitching, his hairs were standing up on end, and he had a shudder going down his arms and back.
“If you… can move like that… why the hell… do you take… the damn bus…!?” Alex asked hyperventilating.
“Well… I might be pretty mobile by people standards… But the bus is way less conspicuous and is usually still going to be faster than that…” she replied, reaching her arm down to help pull Alex back to his feet. Though he was able to remain standing, he was still frazzled enough to have to lean his torso forward as he tried to calm down, clutching his stomach as he breathed in an out.
“Can all Spirits… do crap like that…?” he asked, still regaining his composure.
“Well, I can only really speak for myself, but from what I’ve been told, I’m considered above average in that regard…” Kitsiyuna answered, lightly chuckling as she did so. “…But anyways, if we follow that alleyway over there, we should be able to follow it to another bus stop. From there, we ride the bus until we get to the hideout. We should probably try to keep moving so that we don’t give those guys a chance to catch up…”
“Just give me like… 10 seconds alright…” Alex said in exacerbation as he meekly held his hand up.
“Am I going to have to carry you to the bus stop too…?” Kitsiyuna asked, placing her hands on her hips as she leaned in closer to Alex with a smirk on her face.
“NO. YOU ARE NOT CARRYING ME ANY FURTHER!” Alex replied bluntly.
“Well then come on! I might be pretty fast, but it’s still possible those guys are fast enough to catch up…!” Kitsiyuna said as she grabbed onto Alex’s hand, lightly pulling on it to get him to start moving.
“All right! All right! You don’t have to drag me there either!” he said in protest, following behind Kitsiyuna as she led the way forward.
The two made their way out of the grassy enclosure on foot, heading into a narrow alleyway. Though there was enough room for the two of them to walk together side by side, Alex decided to linger behind her as they made their way to the bus stop. As they continued on down the alleyway through its twists and turns, the angle of the surrounding buildings slowly blocked more and more sunlight from coming in. It wasn’t before too long that they reached a section of alleyway where the sky was covered by some overhanging structures that turned it almost completely pitch black. Alex had no trouble following behind Kitsiyuna however, as the orb on her necklace was once again letting out a faint light blue glow bright enough to illuminate the surrounding walls. The glow of the orb once again sparked curiosity in Alex.
“So what’s up with that necklace?” Alex asked inquisitively.
“My necklace…?” Kitsiyuna replied, looking down at the orb around her neck as she fiddled with it in her hand. “What about it…?”
“It is magic right…? That’s why it’s glowing right now…?”
“Oh… Yeah, I suppose it is a little magic. I’ve never really stopped to think about it…”
“You just wear that necklace without really thinking about it…?”
“Well yeah… I’ve had it longer than I can remember. I always liked how it looks on me, so I’ve never felt the need to take it off… It’s become like a part of me that I don’t really think about, and yet I’d feel completely naked if I wasn’t wearing it at all times…”
“Does it actually do anything aside from ‘looking pretty’?”
“Well, I have seen it change colors a couple of times… But other than that, I don’t think it’s actually supposed to do anything…”
“So you’re just wearing a glowing necklace because you’ve always thought it looked nice…? Even though it could EASILY out you as a Spirit if somebody saw you in the dark with it…?”’
“And what’s wrong with wanting to look nice, huh…?” Kitsiyuna replied in a semi defensive tone.
“Well the way you were parkouring up that building, hurling fireballs, and fighting that guy with your bare hands, it made you seem like one of those girls who would hate girly stuff like that… You know, like a tomboy or something…”
“Well I ain’t no tomboy, that’s for sure. I love to wear dresses, going shopping, doing my hair, and walking around in high heels among other things. It just doesn’t feel right to me trying to fake being a guy like tomboys do…”
“Really…? Your giantess Amazonian build had me thinking otherwise…” Alex replied with a joking tone to his voice.
“…Well okay. I do get a little bit of a kick out of being really tall and really strong, which I guess is more of a guy thing… But I still like to be seen as a proper lady.”
“…A proper lady who can pack away something like eight cheeseburgers in one sitting…?”
“That’s just because I’m a Spirit! When we get hungry, we tend to eat a lot is all…!” Kitsiyuna replied in a flustered tone with the light from her necklace revealing her reddening cheeks.
“I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that Spirits don’t actually get hungry…” Alex thought to himself. “She is a Spirit right…? I mean, sure… she looks like a normal, albeit slightly taller than average human, but she’s probably just using magic to disguise herself… But only a Spirit could do all of that stuff she did earlier…”
“…Just what kind of Spirit are you supposed to be Kitsiyuna…?” Alex asked out loud.
“What kind of Spirit…?” Kitsiyuna replied quizzically.
“I mean what kind of race of Spirit are you. You know, like how that guy with the sword hand was a Cornossa, and I think that guy with the gun was a Wightling… I mean it wouldn’t surprise me at all if you were some kind of fire Spirit with all of that fire magic you’ve been using…”
“Oh… I’d… rather not say…” she replied very meekly. With how open she had just been with him, Alex found himself a little blindsided by her hard walling his question.
“You’d rather not say…? Why the hell not…?”
“I just… Don’t think it’s that great of an idea… given my current circumstances…” Kitsiyuna trailed off. The tone of her voice indicated she was a little upset she had to blow off Alex’s question, but it was clear to him he wasn’t going to get anything more than that. He merely figured keeping what kind of Spirit she was secret was in some way tied to why she was hiding in Lunaridge. Alex decided to walk a little faster, matching Kitsiyuna’s pace so that they were side by side. As he walked, he kept his eyes on her face, noting again how different she seemed when she was in the dark.
“Yeah… Her true from definitely shows through more in the dark…” he thought to himself, continuing the observations he had made about her on the bus. He noticed how much more serious and dour the look on her face felt when in the darkness. Looking at her under illuminated face still put him on edge, but he felt a little less uneasy than last time now that he knew a little bit about what kind of person Kitsiyuna actually was.
“What’s putting me off about her right now…? It’s not like her face is any scarier or anything… Maybe it’s just the potential power of her true form that’s freaking me out…?” Alex didn’t linger on that thought for too long, as the two of them finally made their way out of the darkened part of the alleyway into more direct sunlight. It didn’t take long after that before they found their way barred by a chain link fence, the door to which was held tight by a small metal padlock on the other side.
“Stand back a bit… I’m going to try to melt this lock off…” Kitsiyuna said, putting her hand up to signal Alex to stop.
She reached her hand through the fence and placed her thumb, middle, and pointer finger around the loop of the lock. After a few seconds, Alex could making out a faint amount of steam coming from the lock as Kitsiyuna was attempting to heat it up. The steam quickly turned to smoke as Alex could see the metal of the lock turn a brighter and brighter orange. Even the safe distance he was standing back, he could still feel the air around him slowly increase a good 30 degrees into an uncomfortable swelter. Thankfully for Alex, the air quickly returned back to normal as Kitsiyuna successfully broke off the lock after a couple of seconds, with it bouncing to the floor with a metallic thunk. She then turned her attention back in Alex’s direction, forming another fireball in her hand as she did so.
“Uh… What’s with the fireball…?” Alex asked with a concerned look on his face.
“I knew us slowing down to talk was going to be a bad idea!” Kitsiyuna replied, running forward towards Alex ready to throw the fireball in his general direction. Alex panicked and dropped to the ground as Kitsiyuna hurled the fireball before he quickly realized she was aiming at something directly behind him.
As the fireball flew across its trajectory towards the wall behind the duo, it suddenly popped midair just shy of Alex. Just a second after the fireball exploded, Alex could hear something impacting the wall before the sound was then followed up by a goblin-like grunt. Kitsiyuna then rushed forward towards the sounds, as she seemed to just grab at the air, before slamming whatever she was apparently grabbing at against the wall. A crater formed on the wall as another Spirit began to magically materialize into Kitsiyuna’s hand.
“Sorry I didn’t tell you to duck first…” Kitsiyuna replied to Alex sheepishly, her attention focused on him as she began strangling the small Spirit she just grabbed by the neck. Alex felt a slight singe to his hair as he had realized just how close Kitsiyuna had been to hitting him.
“Thought you could sneak up on us, huh you little Gremlin!?” she said to the diminutive Spirit as she held him against the wall. At first, Alex thought Kitsiyuna was just trying to insult the Spirit before he realized that is actually was a Gremlin.
The Gremlin was obviously small in stature, probably a few inches shorter than Alex with a reddish tint to his skin and curly tufts of faintly purple hair coming from his head. He had large yellow, almost cat-like eyes with an even larger nose, taking up a good third of his face. His ears were similarly large, pointed, and drooping and were so disproportionately sized to his already tiny head, that they made his head look even smaller. He was wearing similar black clothing to the bounty hunters from earlier, though smaller and a little grimier, indicating he was probably with them.
“How the heck did you even notice me there!? I freaking made myself invisible!” the Gremlin yelled out in a raspy, almost oxymoronic high-pitched bass.
“What can I say, I have some REALLY fine-tuned senses, especially for a Spirit…” Kitsiyuna replied smugly. “What the hell were you even doing following us…? Did you think you were going to sneak up on me and take me out all by yourself…?”
“I uh… I have no idea what you’re talking about…! I was just… passing through!” the Gremlin said, in tone that made it painfully obvious he was lying. Kitsiyuna responded by flicking his large nose with enough force that it started to bleed a little, causing him to reel back in pain.
“Don’t try to play dumb with me you little idiot! I know you’re with those other bounty hunters who were chasing us! Now what the hell was your plan here, because there was no way a little Gremlin like you was going to take me on alone!” Kitsiyuna continued to grill him.
“You… you think I’m just going to tell you that…?” he stammered out.
“When push comes to shove… YES I DO.” Kitsiyuna said sternly, setting one of her fingers on fire before quickly jabbing it into the Gremlin’s eye. He quickly closed his eye shut as he let off a series of high-pitched winces.
“Now tell me what you were doing trying to sneak up on us! From the looks of it, it looked like you were trying to sneak up and grab that kid over there and take him as a hostage!” she said, pointing to Alex, who suddenly realized the Gremlin must have been right up behind him, potentially close enough to grab him, and he didn’t even notice.
“Is that the case!? Because trying to take a kid hostage like that is pretty damn low, even by your rotten bounty hunter standards!” she continued in anger, raising a burning fist to the Gremlin’s face, ready to punch it in.
“NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! I wasn’t trying to grab the kid, honest! I was just trying to follow you to your hideout in secret!” the Gremlin replied in a panic.
“You were trying to follow me to my hideout? Did you honestly think I wasn’t going to sense you at any point the entire way there!? Seriously, just how bad are you assholes at your job that you don’t even know what your target is capable of!? All you guys just seem to get constantly surprised by my abilities!” Kitsiyuna said to the Gremlin with a hint of disbelief.
“I don’t know what to tell ya! Our boss is the only one who bothers to learn that crap. It’s never been an issue for the rest of us!” the Gremlin replied.
“All right then. Who is this boss of yours?” Kitsiyuna asked.
“You think I’m going to tell you that!? You probably wouldn’t even have any idea who he is the first place!” the Gremlin said in defiance.
“Tell me who your damn boss is!” Kitsiyuna shouted, slamming the Gremlin into the wall again with both hands as she began to engulf them in flame.
“GAHH! COOL IT WITH THE DAMN FIRE! His name is Ombrix Masserk! He’s a Somnight who has been bounty hunting as a Spirit for years…!” the Gremlin yelled in mild agony. Alex’s mind once again flashed back to that book of Spirits he had read some time ago, trying to recall just what a Somnight was. He remembered they were among the more humanoid race of Spirits, possessing skin with a violet hue, pale hair, and soulless black eyes, but couldn’t remember much else about what kind of powers they tended to have.
“Who the hell is Ombrix Masserk…?” Alex asked.
“No clue.” Kitsiyuna replied back bluntly.
“I told you you wouldn’t have any idea who he was!” the Gremlin said.
“All right, fine, next question… WHO THE HELL DID YOU ACCEPT MY BOUNTY FROM!?” Kitsiyuna continued to interrogate the Gremlin, showing no signs of easing up with her fire.
“I don’t know! The boss is the one who accepted the bounty! We just went along with it!” he blurted out.
“You don’t know anything about them!?” Kitsiyuna continued to bash the back of his head into the wall.
“They… they did give the boss something in advance for accepting the job…! They gave it to him because they wanted him to test it out! Said it would help us capture you!” the Gremlin said in an increasing panic.
“What was it!?” Kitsiyuna asked in a very intimidating voice.
“I don’t know! Only the boss has gotten to see it in action himself! He just told us that the thing they gave him was super-efficient at hunting other Spirits and it would make all of our jobs in the future trivial because of it!” the Gremlin continued to confess. Kitsiyuna paused for a bit as the expression on her face grew more concerned.
“Why do I have a bad feeling about this…?” she said out loud to herself.
“Why? What’s the problem…? Do you have an idea of who might be after you…?” Alex asked.
“…I’d rather not say right now…” Kitsiyuna said. “After all… I could be wrong… Anyways, I doubt this idiot actually knows anything helpful, so we should just get moving to the hideout…” she continued, slamming the Gremlin one last time into the wall with enough force that it caused it to crack. She then let the Gremlin go, as he fell limp to the ground, out cold.
“That’s all you’re going to do to him?” Alex asked as he pointed to the beaten down Spirit.
“Trust me, if he somehow pops up again, he’s not going to be a problem… All of these guys are turning out to be more of a nuisance than an actual threat…” she replied dismissively.
“…Grghhh… You so sure about that…!?” the Gremlin said in pain as he lifted his bruised head from the ground. Apparently he wasn’t actually unconscious.
“Are you kidding me? That last slam was supposed to knock you out.” Kitsiyuna said in a tone half way in between disbelief and mild annoyance. “Hold still while I fix that…” she continued, raising up her boot in preparation to stomp his face in.
“…You’re going to regret screwing with us…!” he replied with a smug voice and a bleeding smile on his face.
“What the hell are you even on about…? You guys started all of this!” she said, her boot still ready to smash his face in further.
“…That kid… he’s your ‘partner’ isn’t he…?” the Gremlin said, pointing at Alex. “Well my boss already knows you killed two of our own. Once he captures you, which he WILL by the way… He’s gonna literally skin that kid alive, and force you to watch as punishment…!” he added, laughing with a sadistic grin to his face.
Kitsiyuna at that point wasted no time repeatedly kicking the Gremlin’s face in until it became an almost unrecognizable bloody pulp. Alex could visibly see the anger growing on her face despite standing directly behind her the entire time. Once she was done stomping his skull in, she readied another fireball in her hand and aimed it at his face.
Instead of shooting out a fireball however, she instead launched an incredibly concentrated stream of roaring fire, like a flamethrower. The flames spewed out so fiercely that the streams of fire began to shoot off the wall, rocketing past Kitsiyuna and causing Alex to have to take cover to avoid getting burned. Kitsiyuna eventually stopped, having essentially vaporized the entirety of the Gremlin’s body, with once again nothing being left behind except very faint scorch marks in spite of the power of the flames. She then turned around to face Alex, with look of extreme anger mixed with sadness on her face.
“Don’t… say anything okay…?” she said to him with a sorrowful tone, clearly guilty about what she had just done. “Let’s just get to bus stop before any more can catch up to us…”
Alex wanted to interject, but decided it was probably for the best that he at least waited until they were back on another bus. The two then preceded in silence the rest of the way to the bus stop, arriving just in time as the bus pulled up. They boarded the bus, with Kitsiyuna dropping in enough quarters to cover both her and Alex’s fare, and proceeded to sit down in an isolated seat in the back. Despite his discomfort from last time, Alex once again decided to take the inside seat, this time feeling more inclined to take up his share of the seat.
“So uh… why didn’t you lead off with straight up incinerating those guys on the roof…? Because it certainly felt like you were taking your time with them…” Alex asked Kitsiyuna after they had been on the bus for a couple of minutes.
“…Because… it’s kind of risky just going all out right at the start you know…” Kitsiyuna replied, unsure of her answer.
“Couldn’t you just control your magic to make it… not… risky…?” Alex asked. Kitsiyuna let out a long sigh before she answered again.
“…You would think… Let’s just say I’m not in my top form right now, and it kind of affects my abilities to do magic…”
“Well… How much do you know about magic? I can tell based off of that book of yours and the fact that you can channel Spirit Energy you must know a little bit…”
“…I know just enough to deal with other humans, but that’s about it…” Alex candidly replied.
“Well, the long and short of it is magic, whether from a human or a Spirit, requires Spirit Energy. How much you put into a spell determines how strong the magic comes out. I’ve just been having trouble lately with that finer control of my Spirit Energy, making my spells not as stable as I would like them to be…”
“I don’t know… It seems like you’ve had okay control so far, especially with those fireballs…”
“…Those fireballs you’ve been seeing from me were all supposed to be about half as big as I was making them. It was incredibly lucky I didn’t hit you with that last one. And that’s not even getting into the problems I’ve been having with my stronger spells…”
“You mean like that fire tower you made…?”
“Yeah. Stronger spells like that Flare Pillar require you to do any incantation in your head in order for them to cast properly. Incanting in your head is supposed to be a relatively simple skill to pick up, but I’ve been having issues with that too. I’ve been having to devote more of my focus to incanting for much longer than I used to for spells like that to come out… That’s why I didn’t lead off with that… Because I kind of can’t at this point…”
“Well you still did a lot better than I would have…” Alex replied with a tone indicating he was disappointed in his own abilities.
“Well, that’s just because the Spirits we’ve encounter so far have been complete and total jokes…” Kitsiyuna humbly shot back, continuing to downplay her abilities.
“…If that’s the case, why are you having to rush me out to this hideout of yours…?”
“At this point, it’s mostly just a precaution. I need to meet up with my friend so that we can figure out exactly how many of these bounty hunters are currently after me and what we can do to prevent them from calling in backup in the future… And, well… my friend specializes in doing both of those…” Kitsiyuna paused for a bit as she looked over directly at Alex. “…That and she kind of wants to meet you in person now that you’ve sort of gotten involved with me, among other things…”
“Is that so…?” Alex found himself pausing for a moment as he remembered the call Kitsiyuna made to her friend on the roof. “On the roof, when you were calling her on the phone… er… Utility Crystal… You looked pretty freaked out when you were talking to her… Why was that?”
“Oh that?” Kitsiyuna responded in an extremely nervous tone. “She was just… chewing me out for getting a bystander wrapped up in this whole thing, that’s all…”
She let out a light, insincere chuckle as she finished giving her explanation. Alex could clearly tell she was lying to him, but couldn’t pinpoint just why that was. An unpleasant thought began to well up in the back of his head that this hideout might not be so safe for him. Kitsiyuna, clearly realizing Alex wasn’t buying it, nervously tried to change the subject.
“You know what…? That reminds me! You said the entire reason you were following me was because you wanted to ask me a question. You never told me what that question was!” Kitsiyuna asked, mildly overplaying her eagerness. “Now you’re absolutely positive it’s not the fact that you wanted to ask me out or anything, right?”
“Ew. I already told you that wasn’t it! You already look like you’re at least eight years older than me, which is already a big age difference as is! But, considering you’re a Spirit, you could easily be a thousand years old hag for all I know!” Alex replied, also overplaying his disgust at the idea as he tried to hide the fact that he was blushing.
“…That’s just rude…” Kitsiyuna responded, the joking insincerity of her tone indicated she didn’t actually take it personally. “…Though… I’ll have you know I have heard of humans younger than you in the past hooking up with Spirits hundreds of times older than them and it usually worked out okay for them in the end, you know… like, twenty percent of the time…” Kitsiyuna ended with a chuckle.
“I… I can’t tell whether or not she’s actually upset I didn’t want to ask her out…” Alex thought to himself in mild confusion. He then quickly snapped his mind back as he realized he was getting thrown off onto a tangent.
“…Do you want to actually hear my question, or are you going to just keep distracting me…?” Alex replied bluntly, his mind refocusing on his primary motivation for stalking Kitsiyuna in the first place.
“All right, all right. Go ahead, shoot.” Kitsiyuna answered back, eager to hear his question.
“I was going to ask you… would be willing to forge a Pact with me…?” Alex said, trailing of at the end of his question. Kitsiyuna looked over to him with wide eyes, almost like she was afraid of that question in particular. She hesitated for a good few seconds before finally figuring how to respond.
“You wanted to form a Pact with me…?” she asked back, with heavy hesitation in her voice.
“I heard you talking about looking for a human to form a Pact with in that restaurant. It’s why I decided to follow you back to your apartment in the first place, because I’ve been looking for a Spirit to form a Pact with myself.”
“Do… do you even know what a Pact is…?” Kitsiyuna stuttered as she asked in disbelief, clearly getting nervous about the subject.
“Of course I do. I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t! A Pact is special kind of link that only a human and a Spirit can form that binds their two Souls together, creating a flow of Spirit Energy between the two of them, allowing them to share their power with one another. The human in a Pact becomes a Spiriter, exponentially enhancing their power while doing the same for their partner to a lesser extent. That’s why I’ve been desperately looking for any kind of Spirit I could form a Pact with, I feel so weak and powerless… and I just… want to get stronger!” Noticeable desperation began to well up in Alex’s voice as he explained just why he sought after a Pact with a Spirit. A sense of dread was building up within him that Kitsiyuna wasn’t going to give him the answer he wanted.
“…Well it is true I need a Spiriter… for multiple reasons, not just because I’ve been having trouble controlling my power… but…” Kitsiyuna didn’t even have to finish her sentence. That single but instantly drained all of the hope from Alex’s face.
“…I don’t think forming a Pact with you would be a good idea…” And just like that, Alex got the rejection he feared, the entire reason he was hesitant to ask her in the first place.
“Wh-why not…?” Alex stammered out as his voice began to crack. Alex had been apparently banking on this for some time. With Kitsiyuna’s denial, despair began to set in.
“…Now, don’t get me wrong Alex. You definitely have been the most interesting human I’ve ever really hung out with. Granted, with my current situation, I don’t really get to hang out with too many humans in the first place…” Kitsiyuna was trying her best to soften her rejection, but it was seemingly doing nothing to actually calm him down.
“Then why!? I actually thought we were getting along fine all things considered…! Which like, NEVER happens for me…! I mean, for fuck’s sake, I’ve already had my face in both your crotch and your damn boobs after only knowing you for like an hour and you were like completely fine with both of those things happening…! All of that seemed pretty buddy buddy to me…!”
“…It’s not you…! It’s… it’s me alright… I’m not a Spirit you can just form a Pact with…” Kitsiyuna replied with an anguished and exhausted tone.
“What are you talking about…? Any human is supposed to be able to form a Pact with any Spirit! Sure, some are more compatible with others… But at this point, I don’t care…! I’ve been looking for a Spirit for years! At this point… I just want to form a Pact with someone…” Alex’s words started to eat away at Kitsiyuna as she could feel the guilt pilling on, but she was set on trying to turn him down.
“While that is true under most circumstances… I know for a fact I’m an exception… I mean, I’ve been looking for a partner, same as you… There are millions of people in Lunaridge alone… If I really could just form a Pact with any one of them, I obviously still wouldn’t be looking for one right now… I would just pick the first person I saw…! Not just any human can be my Spiriter, Alex…”
“Well then, why…? Why is that the case?” Alex asked in sad desperation.
“I’ve tried to initiate Pacts with humans before, and the same thing would always happen whenever I did: my Soul would always try to rip theirs apart.” Kitsiyuna answered with a grim tone.
“…Are… are you serious…?” Alex replied, half in shock.
“You know how I said I was above average in terms of Spirits? Well it turns out my Soul is incredibly strong. So strong, that it can rip apart the soul of any human I try to form a Pact with the instance I do so. That’s why I don’t want to form a Pact with you, because you’d probably just die on the spot… And it wouldn’t just be a normal death either. If that happened to you, you wouldn’t get to pass on and become a Spirit. You would simply cease to exist, in the same way a Spirit dies…”
“Can you actually tell if that’s the case before hand…?”
“No, I can’t, and I’m not going to take that risk. I know it’s possible to cancel the Pact the second I can feel my Soul trying to rip apart the other one, but even still, that’s incredibly dangerous and isn’t even guaranteed to spare the other human. If I don’t react fast enough, they still get ripped to shreds, and even if I do, cancelling out of a Pact like that can cause irreversible damage to both the human and Spirit… That’s not something I just want to chance with random people…” Kitsiyuna’s voice grew sadder and sadder as she tried to convince Alex to back down, but to no avail.
“If that’s all true… Could anyone actually form a Pact with you at all…?”
“It would have to be a human with an incredibly powerful Soul, one stronger than most Spirit’s. That way, they could withstand the intense pressure my Soul would exert onto theirs. I’ve heard the odds of a human being born with such a Soul are 1 in 2,000,000. So it would be incredibly rare, but not necessarily impossible… And before you ask, based off of what I can sense from your Soul right now… I sincerely doubt yours would be strong enough…”
“…But, there still could be a chance right….? You never know until you test it…! Like you said, you could always cancel out of it if you can tell it’s not going to work…!” Alex replied, the anxiety and anguish in his voice continuing to compound.
“I already told you I’m not going to try that! It’s for your own safety anyways! I mean, do you like the idea of just straight up ceasing to exist at 15, with absolutely no chance at an afterlife!?” Kitsiyuna replied with a stern voice. “…You just need to learn to hold out, all right…? I’m obviously not the only Spirit out there. I’m sure you’ll eventually find another one who’d be willing to help you with whatever it is you’re trying to do…”
Alex didn’t respond any further, as he just sat in mortification. His biggest fear, being rejected by someone he thought could finally accept him, had been laid right in front of him. He lifted his feet up off of the floor and onto his seat, wrapping his arms and legs tightly around his backpack which had resting in his lap, and began to cradle it in his melancholy. He just wanted to storm off of the bus, causing a big disruption if he had to just so that he could get thrown off then and there, not caring where he ended up. But he decided not to if only because Kitsiyuna was blocking his way off, figuring she would try to stop him he if tried anything.
“Well Alex, you got the answer you knew you were going to get…” Alex began to think to himself as he began to uncomfortable hunch up against the window like he did the last time.
“You know she’s right… You could just wait for another Spirit to come along, or hell, maybe you could just convince her to help you without forming a Pact… But if I tried to get her help without forming a Pact, I’ll never be able to get stronger…Why… Why does it feel like a Pact with her is going to be my only chance…!?” Alex’s fears began to build inside of him. Using all of the willpower he could muster, he tried to turn his anxiety into determination.
“…I… don’t care about the consequences… Even if it means me dying… I need to convince her to form a Pact with me…! I don’t think I’ll ever find a Spirit better for my mission than her!”