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Shift - Chapter 28 - Shattering Earth

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“Yuki Hayashi, I’ve come for you!” There was no body with the voice that echoed through the alley. It halted Yuki instantly paralyzing his entire body. The voice was unfamiliar to him, but the tone and feeling he got from the words made him realize who the person was without needing to see them.

He turned his head slowly trying to look down the alley to find the owner of the voice, but there was nothing. ‘They found me… Ayumi said they would be coming with stronger assassins even more frequently.’ Yuki looked over at Seiji, who had a confused look on his face. He had hoped that this would not have happened when he was with someone. He did not want to have someone else hurt because of him. ‘Ayumi’s not here and I have to protect Seiji, somehow… Can I do it?’

Seiji was not about to let someone try to frighten them with a sinister sounding voice. He charged down the alley running in the direction that he believed the voice to have come from. ‘Who is this guy? Why’s he after Yuki?’ The alley continued with a winding pattern going deeper behind the buildings further out of sight of the people passing by. ‘Is he someone with a grudge against Yuki from his past?’

Yuki had tried to grab for Seiji when he ran off into the alley, but he had not been fast enough. Now he was chasing down Seiji through the alley hoping that he got to him before the assassin did. He remembered the assassin that attacked his family. ‘They’ll take down anyone in their way regardless of their involvement or knowledge. I can’t let that happen!’ He pressed his legs for more speed to bring Seiji within sight, but not before they were both blinded by light from the alley opening up. The alley had suddenly changed into a wide gap with several narrow passages out leaving plenty of room to maneuver around.

“What?! He’s…” Yuki and Seiji said together as they were finally able to see once more with the light clearing away. When their eyes adjusted and could see a large figure stood before them towering over Yuki and Seiji for sheer volume of size. “He’s huge!”

Chapter 28 – Shattering Earth

‘It’s them!’ Yuki barely had any doubts, but he still had to see to know if he was right. The uniform that he had seen on the previous assassins that Ayumi said was their military uniform was all the confirmation that he needed. However, Yuki did not know how he was going to deal with someone so large.

Once the initial shock of seeing the man was passed, they were able to take it all in. The man was massive in size being much wider than either of them and taller than Yuki himself, but Seiji still stood the over the man. However, Seiji was lean in comparison to the amount of muscles that were being shown through on the arms and chest of the draped cloth that ran over both shoulders rather than just one like the others. The familiar circular crest that appeared on their shoulders could be seen on the man with a single blue bar and four uncolored bars, different from the red bars that he had seen before. His clothes were almost tight on the man making it clear to the overall size of the man. The assassin had a simple short spiky haircut of blonde hair with light brown eyes with a wide face that was nearly buried in muscles. If it was not for the muscles he would have passed for normal.

The man stepped forward looking like he was ready to attack without any more words to them. Yuki and Seiji took a step back still trying to figure out what was going to happen next. Tension grew in the air as Yuki began to sweat knowing that he was going to have to fight again since Ayumi was not present. ‘Seiji can’t fight him. I have to get him away from here!’ Yuki went to grab Seiji’s arm to pull him back, but he was stunned when Seiji stepped in front of Yuki standing between the assassin and him. “Seiji! What are you doing? You’ve got to run!”

Yuki ran to Seiji to get around him, but Seiji put out his arm stopping before Yuki could get the chance. Yuki pressed against Seiji’s arm trying to plead with him to run. ‘What’s with Yuki, why’s he so scared of this guy? He’s got strange clothes and is big, but size isn’t everything.’

“No, Seiji! You can’t take him! Run away! Seiji!”

“Yuki!” Seiji shouted back making Yuki close his mouth and snap up quickly like he had been scolded by a parent. “Just stand back and let me handle this, Yuki.” Seiji stepped forward leaving Yuki behind to come face to face with the behemoth of a man. Even though Seiji had a height advantage over him it still felt like he was smaller than his opponent.

Yuki rushed forward a few steps towards Seiji still hoping that he could convince Seiji from his decision. “Seiji… Please, you have to get away!”

Seiji turned his head a little to look back at Yuki. “Then who would fight him?” Yuki was unable to answer Seiji’s question, but it was clear that there was confusion in him. “I’ve known, Yuki. I’ve known for a while.”

“What are you talking about, Seiji?”

“You’re different now. I know that. I’ve been trying to find a way to talk to you about it for a while, but I’m no good at these things. You can’t fight anymore. I understand that. So I’ll return the debt I owe now and for here on. I’ll fight in your place, Yuki.” Seiji turned to look back at the large man with an eager look in his eyes like he was waiting to fight. “You’re a polite one, aren’tcha?”

“You done talking?” the man said like he was at the edge of his patience.

Seiji gave him a grin to show that he was ready for the fight. It felt like his muscles were on fire burning with excitement for a fight that he was uncertain of the outcome. “Yeah! Ready whenever—“ Seiji was interrupted in his words by heavy fist into his face that knocked the saliva out of him and cut a little blood from his lip sending Seiji to the ground with his eyes wide.

“Seiji!” Yuki began to run towards him, but stopped.

“Yuki!” He coughed a little taken by surprise with power behind the fist, but he pushed himself back up. Seiji was not about to let Yuki get involved in this fight. ‘Yuki’s no longer that sort of person. I’ve accepted that and now I have to hold myself to that!’ He brushed away the blood that was dripped from his bruised and cut lip to stand even with the man once more. ‘He’s faster than I’d thought for his size. This’ll be harder than I thought… but now that I know…’

Another fist flew through the air for Seiji’s face again in a flash. Yuki was left uncertain what happened to Seiji for the moments that passed, but Seiji leapt backwards after having evaded the fist narrowly. The man seemed to be a little surprised, but continued on the offensive taking swings at Seiji as he dodged out of the way. Seiji kept watching the man’s movements trying to read him, but found that nothing was get through. In the moments of swings Seiji had been trying to counterattack the man, but the thick muscles proved too difficult to penetrate. Even when he had tried a strike inside, the man’s defenses were solid bringing in the other arm to block. ‘I can’t get through… This guy’s built like a tank… But I’ll find away because… because…’

‘Yuki… I might not have known you for a long time, but you’re about the closest person I could call a friend. Though I guess in those days it might have been difficult to be seen that way. We always fought with each other. I eagerly left my school early just to run over and catch you as you were leaving. We exchanged fists so many times I learned what it was like to have a bruise on every part of the body. But things changed…’ Seiji, thirteen years old, was running down the street as he did every afternoon to make his usual match with Yuki. However, as he was running a large arm reached out from the shadows knocking him to the sidewalk painfully.

“What the—“ Seiji said rubbing the back of his head before he looked up to see a hand grabbing him by his uniform and dragging him into the alley. The older student threw him up against the wall of the building knocking him back to his senses. Seiji rammed his knee into the kid’s stomach getting him off of him and letting Seiji get his defenses back.

‘I thought that he was just someone that I beat up before and could handle. I had always managed to win no matter who, except for Yuki. I’d never met someone as strong as him. I never thought that I would meet someone else who could beat me. But I did…’ The last punch seemed to drain everything that Seiji had left in him. He was lying on the damp alley concrete getting his face pressed into the ground by the kid standing over him. Seiji had fought well, but not well enough. There was nothing that he could do and he did not even know who it was that beating him so badly.

‘Then Yuki showed up seeing me getting the life beat out of me. When I asked him later he said he had just been walking by and heard it. But it didn’t matter to me if he came by accident or not.’ Yuki stood in the alley casting a darkened figure in the light trying to break through the alley. The student turned to look at Yuki a little confused by the second person. He left Seiji and ran charging at Yuki expecting to take him down just as easily. ‘Yuki put him down so fast I didn’t know what to think.’

“Just going to keep bleeding on the ground?” Yuki said offering Seiji a hand to stand back up. Seiji gave Yuki a narrowed glare and then a smirk as he took the hand. Yuki gave him a shoulder for support and walked him back to the shrine to rest.

‘Yuki protected me that day. No one else had done that. I had always beaten down anyone that got in my way. I didn’t know what to think, but I had decided that night that Yuki was not someone I would swing my fists at anymore. He helped me and so I would stand at his side. So from then on we fought together back to back against anyone that came at us. We had plenty of enemies, but we stood against it all.’

Seiji evaded another close call from the assassin and attempted a daring move to counter straight for the man’s face. He had read enough of his moves to get a feel for his style, but it was still a risk that could back fire with him being completely exposed if it failed. ‘Yuki… we’re friends and we look out for each other. You never needed help before, but I will pay back the debt I owe you today!’ He pushed around the long thick arm of the man in the motion of swing and used the size for leverage to get inside the man’s defenses. Seiji spun around with his free arm going straight for the chest knowing that it would be blocked and followed up immediately with a rotation on his body getting his leg extended to launch straight at the man’s head. The moments paused for Seiji as he saw his leg connect and suppress his excitement so that he follow through, but the man grabbed his arm and swung him around throwing him free into the wall.

“Seiji!” Yuki shouted from a distance seeing him painfully slammed into the wall. He had been forced to watch Seiji fight his battle barely getting by on physical strength alone. ‘Why can’t I use my power? Why does it keep failing me when I need it the most!?’ While the fight had been going on for Seiji Yuki had been standing alone trying to focus on his Kasou-ryoku. Yet each time he tried the attempt failed to produce anything for him.

Now with his defenses broken, Seiji was struck again knocking the wind out of him nearly making him pass out from the impact. ‘Yuki… I can’t give up for him.’ The assassin turned away seeing Seiji lying on the ground unable to move anymore. He began walking towards Yuki the real target of his intent. “I’m…” However, Seiji was not finished and was too stubborn to give in. Seiji slid back, up to his feet with his vision starting to blur and his legs shaking from the last hit he took. Over the assassin’s shoulders Seiji’s smirking look of determination stared down the man until he turned back to look at Seiji.

“That’s enough Seiji! You don’t have to fight anymore!” Yuki said trying to plead with him to just accept his defeat.

Seiji could see the large shadow being cast over with the intention on putting him down for good. “Yuki… it’s alright. Fighting is all I’m good for and all I’ve ever known. Let me do this for you.”

“Seiji!” Yuki was forced to watch his friend get pummeled by the assassin dropping blood with every strike. Seiji was refusing to fall even though Yuki knew that he could not be able to take anymore or even defend himself. The assassin raised up a final arm to put Seiji down through his defiant grins. “Seiji!” Yuki screamed as he began to run to Seiji in the seconds before the fist came down. In the brief moments before Yuki could see the grin still on Seiji’s face.

Seiji was laid out on the ground with blood dropped everywhere around him from everything that he had took from the man. Yuki came in to Seiji’s side grabbing up his unconscious body screaming his name hoping that it would wake him up.

‘Seiji… We fought so many times. I hadn’t seen anyone more stubborn before that I had fought. I never knew why you stuck around me when everyone else abandoned me. It didn’t seem to matter to you how many times I beat you up, you just came for more. And then you started fighting with me. You enjoyed fighting as much as I did then.’ Yuki stared down at the Seiji trying to keep from crying knowing that it would not do anything and Seiji would not want it. ‘Seiji…I changed and you disappeared… but you still even now… Why can’t I do anything?! Why must I keep watching my friends get hurt!? Why?!’

Yuki let Seiji rest on the ground and stood up looking at the assassin holding tears along the edge of his eyes. He blinked once to clear away the blur and narrowed his features. ‘I can still fight without my powers, even if it has been a long time… I can’t worry about promises when my friends are being hurt. I hope you can forgive me…’

“So you done mourn—,“ said the assassin before he was cut off by a sudden quick strike from Yuki with his knee straight to the chest. Yuki flipped backwards before the man had closed his hold around him. The assassin did not appear to be phased by the hit and stepped forward bringing a heavy swing down on the Yuki in a flash. Once it was over the man saw that he had missed Yuki again, now standing several steps away from him.

Yuki lowered into an offensive stance with his arms out in front ready to move at a moment’s chance. “I’ve seen your moves already from your fight with Seiji. This isn’t going to be the same fight!” Yuki charged in seeing a flinch in the man’s movements as a sign of attack. He evaded the swing and appeared on the other side of the flash with a wild look in his eye as he threw everything he could into a punch in the man’s stomach.

The assassin stepped back a half of a step from the blow, but seemed larger unaffected still. Yuki pulled back seeing that it was only a feint by him to get Yuki to drop his guard with his arms coming in to grab for him. He was able to retreat to a safe distance as he shook his hand feeling the sting from the impact. ‘It was like…I was hitting steel…’

The next attack came in taking Yuki to the defensive for several strung together attacks that he had not seen previously. The spinning backhand took him off guard forcing him to block and jump to make the weight behind it send him back without knocking him down like it would had he been standing still. Yuki slid to the ground ignoring the stinging bruises on sides of his forearms from the man’s assault. ‘I still have it… I thought being buried would have dulled it, but I can’t let it control me… I’m fighting for someone and not myself… Seiji…’

“Seems I won’t settle this without Meso Prosecho,” the behemoth said as he began to glow brown issuing forth waves from his feet. Dust, dirt and debris from the unkempt alley was kicked up and blown away at the man’s Kino expanded to Yuki and beyond. When the dust had settled the man stood looking unchanged, but a little larger, if it was actually possible. Surrounding the man all of the concrete had been changed to rock or earth like something from a desert mountainside. The earth Kino was affecting all of the building’s walls as well turning to solid stone with distant echoes of people screaming. “Pull out yours and let’s settle this!”

‘I would if I could already, but I can’t. What am I going to do? He doesn’t look any different and aside from the rocks everywhere.’

Yuki was suddenly reminded of something that Ayumi had told him the night before as he stared down the hulking mass. ‘We are normal human beings with only our physical abilities to protect us. So it is important to always protect yourself from the enemy, because even a normal human with a gun could kill you if you don’t have defenses.’

‘Even with his powers he’s still as vulnerable as before. So I might be able to take him depending on what powers he has now.’ Yuki returned to his previous attacking stance waiting on a move from the assassin. He was not willing to go blindly into the lion’s den not knowing how sharp his fangs were.

“You think you can beat me without your Meso Prosecho?” The man charged towards Yuki taking a swing at him that seemed to be a little slower than before. Yuki was able to dodge it, but the man followed through with his other fist with Yuki already against the wall from the last. He was able to evade it, but the man’s fist continued on pounding into the stone wall of the building making it crack and crater a little.

Yuki rolled out of the way when he evaded, but was assaulted from a hail of stones that he had to protect himself against. When the storm cleared Yuki stared in shock at the crater that was left in building from the man’s strike. ‘What’s going on? How can he have that sort of strength? Ayumi said it’s not possible to increase strength, but then how did he leave that crater!?’ Yuki narrowed his shocked eyes seeing that the man was still slowly recovering and took the chance to strike while he was wide open. He threw his body into the punch aimed straight for the man’s face hearing a crack from the impact. Yuki was pleased hearing that he got through the defenses and struck a blow, but he suddenly felt a sharp pain through his entire hand. He jumped back holding his hand to look at it seeing it bloodied and bruised almost unable to move without it hurting. ‘What?! I know I hit him, but… Damn!! My hand! It’s like I was hitting stone! I think it might be broken…’

The assassin stood towering over Yuki looking down at him. “You see the difference now? Now use your Meso Prosecho before I grow tired of humoring you.”

Yuki stood up and ripped open his school uniform pulling his dress shirt free. He torn a long strip from his dress shirt and wrapped it around his broken hand. When he was finished he stared back at the assassin giving him his silent answer.

“I see…” The man threw his fist again with Yuki dodging it, but surprised Yuki when his knee came up in mid-movement knocking the wind out of Yuki and spraying saliva. The assassin grabbed Yuki by the leg and swung him around against the building walls as they changed in form to spiked points of rock that pierced through his back and chest dripping blood in lines on the wall. When the pounding was finished the assassin threw Yuki back towards Seiji.

Yuki slid roughly along the ground with his uniform being torn to shreds until he came to a stop against Seiji. He coughed as he tried to get to his feet seeing Seiji lying behind him. ‘I’ve got to protect him. He protected me! I wish we could have fought side by side again! Seiji!’ Dust was suddenly kicked up around Yuki as he began to glow green pulsing waves from his body as he looked around in surprise. The waves pushed back the stone cracking it as grass pierced through blowing a wide field of grasslands over all of the ground, but leaving the buildings as they were.

Yuki stood up with a determined look in his eyes as he had thick metal armor surrounding him and a massive sword stuck in the ground at his side. He picked it up feeling its light weight, but sharp blade that shined in the sun over head. “I’ll protect him with my life!”

“I thought that was my line, Yuki,” Seiji said from behind him standing up.

“Seiji?” Yuki said in surprise as he turned to look at his friend, but stepped back when he saw that he was no longer wearing his school uniform. Seiji was in the traditional robes of a Shinto Priest that Yuki had seen Seiji’s grandfather wearing all the time. “Seiji?!”

To be continued…

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