Zack dove forward and painted a Shield with Light then one with Shadow. Two hazy layers of armor-like fields encased his body.
Boom! The pavement behind him exploded into dust, filling the air.
He landed on his belly. Thud. He gasped, and a moment later, he rolled to his back and stared at the two who had dragged him from the school — the only two in the alley itself. “Why are you attacking me?” He crab-walked backwards.
The rain of energy and knives followed his movements to the mouth of the alley. When the first wave of attacks made contact, the Shadow-Shield split down the middle. Crack.
The fuck is wrong with them? Zack scrambled to his feet.
Something smashed into the side of his head and destroyed the Shadow-Shield.
His body lurched to the left and crashed into the building. Vomit climbed up his throat, and the world spun. He glanced behind him.
The woman swung a massive sword at his neck. Angel, as Keiko had called it, whizzed through the air like a bolt of lightning.
Adrenaline surged through Zack’s veins. Fuck. He tumbled away from her and released a large glob of Light.
He snapped together a pair of Beams and wrapped them around his left hand. He aimed at her.
A squeal escaped her mouth, and she stumbled backwards.
Zack grimaced then whipped his hand into the air and fired a massive beam of energy into the far rooftop.
Rip. The Light-Beam parted flesh.
His heart skipped a beat as he turned to glare at the rooftop.
A blond-haired woman stumbled forward, blood pouring from her missing arm. She swooned, and her body toppled over the edge. The seven other Artists on that rooftop leaped forward, catching her with Chains of Light and Shadow.
Thiefsy’s dead eyes flashed through Zack’s thoughts.
His mouth dried, and tears rolled down his cheeks. His knees weakened. The leftover power in his white glove dispersed. I —
“Snap out of it!” Shinji’s worried voice cracked, rattling Zack’s thoughts.
Released Shadow and Light darkened the alley.
Natsumi and Keiko appeared in his mind. Their love warmed his soul and returned strength to his muscles. Their words, “Sometimes you have to kill to preserve your ideals and dreams,” echoed in tune with Shinji’s prodding.
The man in the alley juked around the wide-eyed woman and brought down a two-handed slash with a jagged sword, demon as Natsumi had called it.
Zack leaned backwards, and Demon ripped through the Light-Shield, shattering it.
Demon changed directions, and the swinging blade caressed his neck as it passed, leaving a thin, red line.
“Get yourself together!” Shinji’s voice riveted Zack’s body out of apathy.
Zack kicked the man in the gut and spun, backfisting him across the jaw.
The man crumpled for a long moment, and the woman sprang forward.
With open hands, Zack raised his arms into the air and widened his stance into a grappling form. For two groups at war with one another, their teamwork isn’t half bad.
For some odd reason, Shinji panted. “Part of the treaty with American forced Japan to create one of these groups. They are basically American Artists in Japanese bodies.”
The woman shifted into guillotine form and stabbed at Zack’s chest.
He twisted his hips and batted the blade into the wall behind him. Sizzle. The flesh on his palm melted away, and he gritted his teeth. A scream forced its way from his mouth, and his uninjured hand shot for the woman’s throat. Thump-thump-thump. His heart raced. His breaths became frantic. Sweat rolled down his face. As his joints began to freeze, he pulled the strike up short and shoved the woman to the ground instead. Then, he clambered backwards.
“Just kill them,” Shinji said.
“Stop attacking me! I’m not Japanese!” Zack painted six Blades — three with Light and three with Shadow — and stacked them atop one another. If I can … . He moved to combine the two Masterpieces, and his body became a statue. The strain of several forces pushing him in different directions created a boiling heat around his eyes. Would they pop? With a grunt, he brought the two Masterpieces closer to each other.
“No! I forbid it!”
We need the extra boost that I’m sure combining the powers will give us.
“I said no!”
Shinji … .
“I will not change my mind. I cannot allow you to act as a — True Abomination.” Shinji forced the last words out as if he were holding something back.
Zack sighed. Fine. When the pressure around his muscles slacked, he reached into the Light-Blade with his right hand and the Shadow-Blade with his left. His gaze met that of the man and woman in front of him. “Doesn’t being American count for something?” He drew a pair of longswords.
“No,” the two said while they adopted fan form and closed in on Zack. The woman swiped high. The man swiped low.
Zack defended Light with Shadow and Shadow with Light then twirled like a quarterback in a ballerina class. His heart leaped into his throat, but he kicked the woman in the sternum anyways. Vomit filled his mouth, and his vision blurred. It had to be done. It had to be done. He swallowed, and his chest burned. It had —
Boom! Beams of Shadow and Light filled the space where the woman had been, sending a spray of debris to shred Zack’s suit and flesh. Another blast of energy slammed him into the wall behind him — fraying his tie — and an explosion sent him reeling forward.
There’s just too many of them. Zack pressed his longswords into the ground to regain his balance then twisted. His muscles tensed, and both blades shot through the air around him like a marry-go-round.
The woman climbed to her feet then lunged forward. “Die, Abomination!”
He parried a moment too late, and she gashed him across his arm. A squeal sprang through his quivering lips before his blade of Shadow dispersed. He raised his Light-longsword and flailed it like a three year old with a wooden spoon, fending her off.
Demon ripped through his gut. Splatter. Blood gushed from the gaping wound in his middle.
His eyes glazed, and he stumbled backwards. Dizziness slapped him across the face. Impossible. He clutched his wound while he released the last of his ecstasy as both Light and Shadow.
Last night with Natsumi and Keiko pushed against the pain, clearing his thoughts.
I no longer care if I kill them, but I need to mix the powers or I’ll be the one who dies. His chest ached as his heart wrenched.
Shinji growled. “No. We will die a much worse death if you do.”
Death is death. Stop being stubborn! Zack painted a Light-Beam and a Shadow-Bridge.
“He’s trying to run!” a man on the roof shouted.
All twenty visible enemies painted Beams. Had Zack managed to injure more than one in that blind shot earlier? Black and white streams of power flooded into the alley.
Zack huffed then blasted the stones beneath him with all the energy stored in the white glove, filling the air with debris. He Shadow-Stepped around the corner and then again. After one more time, his blood-soaked pants clung to his legs.
Smoke rose into the sky behind him.
According to Keiko, this should be far enough that they can’t catch my Ecstasy Trace. Zack coughed up blood when he drew Light from his body. His insides twisted, but he set his jaw and maintained his hold on the power. He painted a Bridge, and he became pure, white energy.
Shinji screamed. “You have not —” His voice trembled. “— even set up a recall point!”
Fire raced through Zack’s veins. What do you care?
“You act as if I do not care if we live or die.”
Do you? Darkness closed in around Zack. Only wanting to get as far away as possible, he zipped into the air without releasing more Light. Thung! His head hit something metal, and his eyes fluttered shut. Just after the smell of rotting garbage assaulted his nose, his body went limp.