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Anti-Writer

Not down enough.

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Masato awoke on his back dressed in a white tank top and knee high blue shorts. His legs extended upwards at an almost 40 degree angle with only his heels connecting to the wooden walls. It’s been 5 months since the breakup with his wife, Asuna, and the lack of finances has pushed him and his daughter into a tiny single-room studio apartment. His knees ached slightly from the tension they endured throughout that night, but far worse was the summer heat, and consequently the small puddle of his own sweat he laid in and felt all underneath his back. The rolled up end of a futon mat made for his pillow and he obviously didn’t need a cover. His daughter, Reina, usually slept on the rest of futon he didn’t use. The room, despite its cramped and untidiness, felt barren. Their small, and only, window remained closed as protection from insects and harsh summer light. What little light that made it through the curtain was enough to illuminate their room, and a sight it was. Various misplaced items such as clothes, books, dishes, etc., scattered around the floor and hung from wherever they could.

Masato, as per usual lately, struggled for motivation and get up that morning. “I can call in sick today.” He contemplated ways to avoid do anything that day, still on his back and not moving an inch. The whirling sound of a desk fan drew closer and with it he anticipated some much needed cool air. He made an ultimatum with himself; “after this cool breeze I’ll get ready for work.” The breeze never came.

“Hey...” he muttered through his parched throat, paused, and then continued. “Stop hogging up the fan.”

Behind his head and sitting cross-legged on the futon was Reina. The collar of her pink pajamas and her black ponytails waved backwards as she directly faced the fan. Though small, she could still block the flow of air from the fan to her father, who desperately needed it. “Turn - on - the A/C.” she jokingly demanded through the fan giving her voice a robotic tone. She had woken up not long before Masato and could barely hold her eyes open with the air blowing straight into them.

Masato grunted as he rolled to his right side then slowly picked himself up. “We have to get ready for stuff. ‘Not start breakfast until you get moving.” He said as he tiptoed to the bathroom located on the other side of the room, minding his every step as to not step on anything valuable. “When I’m out, I want this place tidy.” He entered and closed the bathroom.

He emerged moments later to find Reina where he left her. “Did you even get up in the ten minutes I was in there?”

 Reina answered briefly. “Ye…” ”LIAR!” he interrupted loudly in squeaky parrot-like voice.

Their room wall was met with a thud from the next-door neighbors. The building walls were thin and the thud was a plea for silence. They paused and looked at each other before snickering through their laughter and shushing their way through their morning routine.

Reina could usually tell when her father faked his happiness for hers and this moment was genuine. It was gradual, but Masato was on his way to recovering and shedding his guilt and insecurities. For all the pain she put him through, Masato believed he could still salvage his relationship with Asuna, even though they hadn’t spoken since the breakup.

Masato and Reina shared breakfast not far from where they slept, cleaned, and left their apartment, Reina to school via the transportation of her grandmother and Masato to work at the family warehouse, where he worked as a manager.

Though it should’ve been insignificant, enjoying a morning with her father made Reina’s day. Her face radiated with joy, and for the first time, a life where everything was normal seemed possible again. She bragged about that morning with, especially to her grandmother, giving some much needed relief to a mother who had worried about her son, Masato’s, well-being. He closed himself off and rejected helped from everyone he knew, he even rejected paid-leave for some time to recover. Seeing her granddaughter so stoked alleviated some of her worst worries and she indulged Reina in her various retellings of that mornings events.

Masato’s day was like every other, bland and void of any self-fulfillment. He went through the motions and did his job competently. His instructions were blunt and he barely spoke in complete sentences. He wasn’t overly rude nor did break any rules so his callous attitude towards his work was tolerated. Rumors spread fast in the small community he lived in and news of his private breakup, weren’t so much so. Masato’s shift came to an end later than usual that evening.

The crimson sky and strong yellow sun made for a dramatic trip back home. In the dead silence he rode his bicycle at a leisurely pace. Though the cool breeze from his ride may be to credit, he somehow derived joy in what was a still very hot outdoors. Recollecting that morning’s events, his mind suddenly wandered to “which of Reina’s favorites will I cook tonight?”  Dinners, up until that point, was usually take-out and he couldn’t figure why, after such a mundane day, he felt the energy or need to cook for once. His heart beat with so much excitement he could almost swear he was dreaming. He felt a sensation rolling down his cheeks and he raised his right hand to the side of his face, checking to make sure it was real. Upon confirming the first, more began to gush out. Tears, Real tears……

“REINA!” he cried with the largest smile he ever bore and placed both hands on the bikes handle bars. The cast shadow of the building he rode in to avoid direct sunlight suddenly vanished and emerged a teary-eyed Masato paddling as fast as he could. Brandished on his face, a smile he couldn’t remove if he tried. A smile he desperately wanted to share with his daughter. He played through his head how tightly he would hug her, and how fun preparing dinner would be together for the first time since forever. Some laughter and crying later he was out of breath but still muttered “Reina” repeatedly until he arrived at his apartment. He didn’t bother with locking his bike nor did he have time to wait for an elevator, so he ran up the stair to his  apartment. He busted through the door, fist clenched and breathing heavily.

“REI...” He stopped at the sight of two strangers, cops, standing in the center of his room.

“Hizorashi Masato, you are the prime suspect…… murder of your estranged wife …Asuna. We…. bring you in…. questioning…..”  

Was all Masato could hear. The officers’ voice faded for him and his mind went blank as they approached him.

 

W/C: 1150

W/C (total): 1150

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Masato was unresponsive from his apartment to the room he would soon be questioned in. throughout that time the entire police department gave him a suspicious amount of their attention and were quite generous to someone suspected of murdering their significant other; he was never handcuffed in the whole ordeal. He kept his gaze to the floor and chin buried in his chest as he powerlessly he swayed and sluggishly dragged his into the questioning room. He sat by himself for what seemed like forever and gradually regained his thoughts. His face, however, remained pale and expressionless.

Finally a middle-aged detective entered the room speaking nonchalantly with someone, presumably a colleague, halfway in room and through the corridor. He held the door open by its knob with his left hand and in his right, was a cardboard cup holder, containing two cups of coffee. Between his right arm and torso he carried a brown clipboard and popping out of his white shirts breast pocket, a black pen. The detective shut the door and sat alone with Masato before placing the items he carried on the table, not withholding the pen. His obvious confidence alluded to his experience. This was further accentuated by the faint smile he bore since entering the room.

Had Masato not looked up to see, he would’ve assumed negatively about the jolly man, smiling at his misfortune, but as their eyes met, he quickly snapped into reality. In the brief moment their eyes connected, what Masato saw was a deathly, nay, hellish abyss. He glimpsed into eyes that saw the worst of humanity and then some. He could no longer peacefully daydream and as the gravity of his situation sunk in, so too did his composure and sanity. He began to pull and scratch at his hair and picture the worst of his future, all while mumbling incoherently. The detective knew he needed Masato’s attention before he could calm him.

“Hey!” the detective shouted.

Masato shuddered and gasped shortly before stopping his erratic behavior. He wasn’t completely calm but was calm enough to listen.

“You think you’re the only one that’s having a rough night?!” the detective proceeded to shout, loud enough for his colleague to hear. He wasn’t capable of keeping the “good cop” facade after what he’d seen left of Asuna, Masato’s wife. His nerves got the best of him and before he could continue, the corridor colleague, and detective, opened and peeped his head through the door.

“KATSUROU, WHAT IS THIS, AMATEUR HOUR?!” he exclaimed, imitating his voice mockingly.

His awkward antics brought confusion and silence to the room. Silly as it was, it killed the tension and allowed a moment for for heads to cool.

“If you want I can take this one off your hands old man?”

Embarrassed and slightly agitated, detective Katsurou replied “get lost, greenhorn”.

“Okey doke!y” the room door shut abruptly.

“I apologize for the idiot and my little outburst there. These cases have put everyone on edge, maybe expect him.” He took one of the cups of coffee and placed it closer to Masato and the other to himself. His expression became less tense. “As you’ve just heard, I am detective Nakamura Katsurou. You got a name?” Katsurou asked, knowing very well who the widowed Masato was.

“Hizorashi Masato.” Masato responded still unable to meet eyes with the detective. Although he knew he didn’t have to, against his better judgement he decided to answer truthfully to anything Katsurou asked.

“Well, Mr. Hizorashi you’re probably aware of what you’re here for. We have some questions and with any luck you’ll be out of here in not time. So let’s start with the basics.” Detective Katsurou knew he had Masato in a state of compliance and wasted no time with idle or impersonal questions. He questioned the cause of their breakup, his whereabouts during the time or the murder, alibis, potential enemies, motives, any and everything you would expect a detective with decades of experience is his field to ask.

With a broken spirit Masato answered cold and concisely. He never touched the coffee but before it could turn lukewarm, the interview was over. He was free to go and walked out of the station perplexed. Much to his surprise, the expressions of the staff as he passed through weren’t of spite. They weren’t the kind you would give a man walking free after killing his wife. The faces they made were that of pity and remorse. they knew something he didn't.

He walked through the stations exit and towards the street to catch a cab. The night was cold so he placed his hands under his armpits to keep the warm until a taxi cab would arrive. Not long after waiting he heard a muffled voice behind the station door calling his name. That same voice emerged from the station telling him “WAIT!” It was familiar and fit that of a certain “greenhorn”. Masato turned around to see the detective who had calmed Katsurou earlier, catching his breath and sweating slightly from his forehead.

“It’s almost midnight. Let me give you a ride.” He proposed to masato, smiling and dangling his vehicle keys in his right hand.

Masato turned back to the barren street behind him. He didn’t want to take the offer but knew he wouldn’t have caught a cab this late at night. He thought about Reina and how he hadn’t seen her since that morning. The decision was no longer hard to make.

The car ride was silent as the detective, Kakaabi Seito, introduced himself and attempted to make small talk to no avail. Masato sat in the passenger’s seat wordless and gazing at the passing sidewalk. They arrived at Masato’s building without incident and shortly after 12:00am.

“Welp, here we are.” Seito said as a final attempt to reach his passenger.

Masato unbuckled his seat-belt and opened the car door when suddenly he felt a heavy grip on to his left forearm. It was monstrously firm and prevented his escape by even a few inches. “What the hell do you want?” Masato thought to himself as he turned to the once bubbly detective to see a stern and determined face.

“You need to learn something about yourself and your wife.”

Masato was impatient but wanted answers. What’s more he would’ve had to tear his own arm off before his capture would ease his grasp. He closed the door and silently listened.

Seito gaze softened and he reverted to his usual bubbly self. “Old man Katsurou is usually a cool guy, try not to hold a grudge against him. He served this district for 20 years and was on his way to retirement when these cases started plopping on his desk. He was preparing me to take his job, but leaving now would haunt him. How could he pass such a shitty torch to the next generation?”

Masato stared at Seito speaking, wondering “what does this have to do with me?”

Seito continued. “He knows it just our job to question suspects, but this is a pointless a waste of time, the whole department agrees; grilling and treating people he knows are innocent as criminals.”

Masato’s attention and interest were fully peaked. The revelation that he was never really a suspect, explained the stares he garnered from everyone at the station. The tightly clenched fist of Seito sliding back on the compartment braced Masato for what was next to come, but Seito’s disturbed body language contrasted strongly with his, obviously fake, smile.

“This past month, seven similar cases of dismembered bodies found in alleyways have risen. Something this small neighborhood has never experienced. The killings all occur in alleys at night and “it” only leaves the arms and legs of its victims. He or its official name’s “The Alleyway Quarterer”.

“Why.. Why are you telling me this?” Masato asked as his face grew pale and he rejected what his heart already knew.

Seito turned to him and bluntly verbalized the obvious. “Your wife, Asuna, was the latest victim of its attacks.”

“No. no. no. no….” Masato continued in defiance, as if doing so would change the sick and depraved manner by which his wife was murdered.

Through the widowed husbands sobbing, Seito went on. “He's big family man so of these seven cases old man Katsurou handled, yours hit him the hardest.” He began digging through his leg and breast pockets. He pulled out a box of cigarettes and a silver lighter, respectively, and for the first time attempted to smoke. Through some few failed attempts, he lit the cigarette in his right hand, placed it in his mouth and inhaled through it before proceeding. 

“She quit her job a week ago…” his head dropped and his smoking hand shivered. He struggled to finish, all while Masato repeatedly sobbed “no”.

He raised his head and exhaled the smoke and finished. “She was... gonna come back man.” Seito claimed angrily through gritted teeth. He finally let go of his control. The tears flowing down his face broke his cool demeanor and just as he finished, a violent gust of dark purple energy erupted from Masato’s body. His clothes waved in rapid succession as if to escape his body and the frames of the car window began to bend up and outwards. He held his hands to his face and couldn’t detect the damage his rage inflicted to Seito’s vehicle. All he could think of was flashing memories of Asuna’s face. Every glass in that car cracked in unison before shattering completely. As the pressure contorted the car in several areas, its alarm blared and echoed throughout that otherwise quiet night. The aura Seito seemed oddly comfortable with finally began to wane, and with it Masato's consciousness. “Let it all out man.” Seito encouraged enraged with his crushed cigarette in hand. “You’ve endured enough because of my fuck ups.”

 

W/C: 1640

OOC: Masato has become spiritually aware in this post.

Spoiler

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Edited by but im not writer
Typos, lots and lots of typos.
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Masato awoke from his slumber that morning, sitting against a wall in his apartment. Last night, before falling completely unconscious, he vaguely recalled the detective, Kakaabi Seito, carrying him to his apartment. He couldn’t however, remember the sudden cause of his drowsiness after his outburst in the detectives’ car. Save for a dry mouth and mild headache, Masato felt incredibly high-spirited. It was as if a chiropractor had operated on him throughout that entire night, leaving his body loose and prepared for the days challenges. His senses too, were freakishly heightened, and he felt a, somewhat, supernatural connection to his surroundings. Speaking of his surroundings, his apartment was meticulously clean and showed no signs of his daughter, Reina.

He stood up in a panic and looked around for his smartphone, before remembering it was last in his pocket. He remembered it was out of charge since he left work yesterday, and hasted to the corner where he usually left his charger. Shortly after placing his dead phone on the charger, he turned it on. He had twenty-one miscalls and three voice messages, all from his mother. He sighed in relief, assuming Reina had been in his mother’s care; it was the only explanation for his clean apartment. He went through the two voice messages hoping for the best.

In the first message, his mother berated him for leaving his phone off and not informing her about his plan to work late. The second message, she confirmed what he hypothesized; his daughter was not alone and in her care. He sighed in relief, perhaps prematurely as he was not mentally prepared for the third message. In it, his mother cried of the news she received that night concerning the death of her daughter in-law. It was the longest of the messages and contained various attempts to comfort and bring him into the family house. He didn’t know it, but his mother worried that left unsupervised and wallowing in grief, her only son would do the unthinkable.

Ironically, the mentioning of Asuna plagued Masato’s mind with horrific imaginings of how she died. The thought stirred his stomach, compelling him to rush and puke into the toilet. Based on how his mother spoke of the incident on the phone, he could tell she was missing the information Seito gave to him.

“Did they forget to explain the nature of Asuna’s death? Was Seito even supposed to disclose such information to me?” These thoughts and more went through his head as he went through his, uneventful, morning routine. He was too late for work and chose to stay home and do housekeeping to keep his mind busy. While emptying the pockets of yesterday’s dirty laundry, from his pants emerged a business card. Written on the card was “Kakaabi Seito”, presumably his number and mini-map sharing some location relative to its closes popular landmark.

Based off the landmark, Masato was sure that the location was in the industrial zone of karakura, roughly twenty-five minutes away from him by car. He attempted to call the number, but there was no answer. He couldn’t recall agreeing to any meetings with Seito but, after some contemplation, decided he would pay the location a visit, regardless. He was baking in his apartment and did not want to confront his family nor his wife’s in the current, emotionally detached state he was in.

He scavenged his drawers full of miscellaneous accessories for a pair of sun glasses. Upon finding them he packed his ID, a 1.5 liter bottle of water, phone charger, homemade sandwich, and sketchbook all in his dark grey single strap backpack. He applied a generous amount of sunscreen lotion on the parts his body that would’ve received direct sunlight and collected a straw hat from behind his door before leaving through and locking his room door. In the lobby, he was happy to find his unlocked and unprotected bike where he left it.

On his way to the meeting point, Masato paddled quick and purposefully throughout, yet somehow didn’t feel very fatigued. He wasn’t particularly athletic all his life and certainly not to this extent. Is his sudden display of athleticism related to last night’s events? Either way he could only be sure if he asked that detective. Beads of perspiration zipped pass his face as he paddled his fastest, challenging the passing cars that drove by. His attempts were futile, but much better than what a normal human, even competitively, should’ve accomplished. This sudden increase in stamina, strength, and senses added to the list of things he wanted to question Seito about.

According to the GPS on his phone, the estimated time to reach his location was one hour, but he only rode for thirty minutes, arriving at a rundown and seemingly abandoned warehouse. He got off his bike with very heavy breaths and drenched in sweat. Drinking from his water bottle, he circled the vicinity before finding the resolve to enter the warehouse. He figured he could contemplate this dangerous decision, after he escaped the abuse of the midday sunlight.

At the entrance, Masato laid his bike against the wall next to the large steel gate barring his entry. Its color, a desaturated green and obvious result of the natural elements, blended well with the bluish grey of the warehouse exterior. He grabbed the gates silver handle with his left hand, thumb-side down, and shifted his body to the left. The gate creaked and paused roughly 3 inches open before Masato shifted even further, creating an opening just wide enough for him and his bike to fit through.

The light from slanted roof windows helped Masato see the various gym equipment neatly organized in two vertical rows. Save for the collected dust, the place was clean and appeared to be uninhabited. That was, until Masato walked further inside and began to notice personal and recently used items, such as the mug, magazine, and unused ashtray settled on a wooden table. In back left corner was an unmade bed and wardrobe hiding behind a beige paper partition. The likelihood of the warehouse being Seito’s abode were high, Masato thought, and decided to wait for his arrival.

In that time he grew bored and finally called his mother. Masato, despite his efforts, always wore his emotions on his shoulders, so it was a positive surprise when his mother heard the mellowness of his voice through the phone. If anyone could detect Masato’s true feelings, it would’ve been the women who raised and understood him the most. Masato’s mood was indeed mellow, however it wasn’t due to his ability to maturely cope with life’s hurdles. Rather, the hellish year of heartbreak following despair finally taught him how to properly bottle the pain. He was done crying and now chose long-term indifference as his method of coping.

Hours passed and Masato watched the sky go from yellow, to red, and finally dark blue. The moon was full and the once white and bright light, that illuminated the warehouse, turned a cool blue. Masato dozed off shortly after sundown, and slept a good two hours before a loud echoing screech, followed by a resonating thud, ended his slumber. He raised his head to the right and watched a shadowy figure slowly approach his end of the warehouse. Masato was too drowsed for any drastic reactions and waited for the shadow to walk into the beams of blue light, from the windows above,  to reveal itself.

 As he expected the light revealed Seito, who smiled upon seeing a barely visible Masato sitting against a wall. “Yo, you made it.” Saito paused to cough, then apologized. “Sorry for makin ya wait.”

Masato could gradually see Seito better the closer he approached and it wasn’t long before he noticed the blood on the detective’s face and left arm. His uniform was riddled with small scratches but the left sleeves of his jacket and pants were exceptionally shredded. He walked with a slight limp and a single shoe on his right foot.

Masato came to his senses and rushed to the injured man’s aide, just as he collapsed to his left knee, panting. He placed Seito’s right arm above his shoulders and assisted in walking him to the bed. Shortly after laying him on his back Masato stood straight and began to call for an ambulance when Seito reached across his own body and griped Masato’s left forearm.

“Don’t bother.” Seito muttered with a half-smile before continuing. “I’m already a goner.” He claimed with cough and chuckle.

“Oh, well ok then.” Replied Masato, placing his phone back in his pocket.

“What, that’s it?! I was acting, a-acting. You wouldn’t even try to save a close friend?”

Masato, now irritated from the wounded clown’s antics, looked down at Seito, his expression conveying disgust, pity, and fury all at once. “I barely know you.”

Seito’s face grew even paler. “But I tucked you in last night.”

Masato turned to the warehouse exit. “Alright, good luc..” WAIT, WAIT, WAIT. I NEED YOU!” Seito pleaded to make Masato stay.

“Can you call this number?  No ambulance, they take too long.” Seito, through some struggle, pulled a wrinkled and bloodied scrap of paper out of his breast pocket with a phone number written on it.

Masato grabbed the paper hesitantly and called the number. A women answered the phone in split-seconds, as if she was waiting for it. Masato set his phone to speaker and emerged from it was a women’s voice. “The idiots injured isn’t he?” the disappointed voice said through the speaker. “Where are you?”

“The warehouse my love.” Seito mockingly shouted, to ensure he could be heard.

“Smack him for me.”

“yes mam”  a withered sorry then smack can be heard on her side of the call.

“I’ll be over shortly”, Was the last thing said on the call before she hung up.

Masato decided to stay with his “close friend” while they waited for help. They didn’t, or rather couldn’t speak much as it was only a few minutes before something landed on and broke through the warehouse ceiling. The smoke of dust clouded what or who broke in but Masato saw the intense and hostile waves of green aura emitting from the dust. “How bad is he?” a disgruntled voice, matching the one on the phone, asked.

When the dust cleared, a fair-skinned women in her late 20’s could be seen walking towards a dumbfounded Masato, who was only slightly taller than her. She, from one end of her mouth, inhaled and wheezed and through the other puffed, like a chimney, in heavy and rapid repetitions. Her dark and slightly transparent sunglasses couldn’t conceal her glowing green eyes and her black hair, which stopped at her shoulders, partially covered a large scar on the left side of her face, angled towards her ear. The white tank-top, black bottom shorts, nappy hair and y-shaped slippers eluded to the level of comfort Masato interrupted with his call. She calmed her breathing and the green substance simultaneously when she reached Seito.

“hey” Seito called softly with a smirk.

“Did you kill it?”

“No.” *cough* “he’s gotten too strong.”

“He?!” the women responded in shock before her expression resumed to disappointed. “Tsk, figures. And the kid?” she gestured with her head and pointed with her thumb towards Masato’s general area behind her.

“His wife was..” Seito groaned and struggled to his feet, staring the women in her eyes. “..WILL be the last victim!!” He exclaimed with fierce determination.

She grinned “That’s the spirit.” 

W/C: 1925

Spoiler

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Masato awkwardly sat behind the women as she patched up Seito. The injuries weren’t as dire as he suspected; some fractures, two deep lacerations on his left arm and leg respectively, and a sprained left ankle. It took her just under half an hour to finish treating Seito, in that time she introduced herself as “Fujiwara Azami” and casually chatted with him as Seito slept. In their conversation he learnt that she was Seito’s girlfriend and partner on some vague mission. The mission details were few and not enough to discern anything conclusive. He was a complete stranger to her and understood her desire to withhold information. He was content with waiting for Seito to get well for his answers, though he was pleasantly surprised that he didn’t have to.

Azami turned in a swivel chair to Masato behind her and sighed loudly. Only the bud remained of her cigarette as she flung it from her hand and into the trash can by the bed her boyfriend laid in. she gazed at and inspected Masato thoroughly from a distance before using her legs to slide her chair closer to him. “I get why he told you about the hollow. You’re wastin’ a lot but your Reiryoku’s off the charts for a regular dude. Have you or your parents had any supernatural encounters, ya know, ghost n’ stuff?” she asked casually. She came to trust Masato after their little chat but had no idea how out of the loop Masato truly was.

Masato looked to the right to avoid eye contact. He was blushing from the discomfort of her, in quite revealing clothing, glaring at his body. This avoidance of eye contact and discomfort was compounded when she drew herself closer. Her words provided a good distraction and made focusing easier for him, if only he understood what “hollow” and “Reiryoku” meant.

The visible confusion of Masato’s face informed Azami just how much information Seito withheld from him, and she briefly hesitated at the possibility that it was on purpose. Slightly irritated about the responsibility of having to educate Masato about, what was to her, very basic information, Azami sighed aloud once again.

“All right listen up. Class is in session.” Azami claimed half enthusiastically, pulling a mini whiteboard and black marker seemingly out of nowhere. She briefly wrote and doodled on the board before presenting it to Masato. “Reiryoku– “ She paused and strategized on how to proceed. “It’s like the life force of spiritual creatures, ya know, humans, hollows, soul reapers.” She explained to an expressionless and silent Masato. “grrrr, anyway all humans have it, some more than others. You happen to have a lot.”

Masato didn’t find the concept hard to understand or believe. He simply wanted to know the significance of the information. He decided to remain silent and wait for further clarification.

Azami however did not appreciate his silence nor his blank expression, which falsely gave a disinterested impression. She reluctantly pressed on with her session. “Seito probably wants your help in hunting down the hollow that killed your wif–“

“What’s a hollow?” Masato asked just as the word hollow left her mouth. The blank expression was no more and Azami could sense it in the tone of his voice and dark of his eyes, a festering anger. She knew it wasn’t its target but for a split moment, couldn’t help but feel her safety was compromised, but only for a moment.

Though she normally would’ve disliked the rude interruption, Masato’s increased interest was perceived as positive feedback on her job well done, even if the lesson had only just begun. She smiled proudly with a new found enthusiasm to continue. “Hollows are beast like creatures that come from human spirits. When we humans die our spirits are meant to travel to the spirit world. They sometimes fail and when they do they become hollows. These hollows prey on other spiritual beings to evolve and become stronger. Seito and I were tasked with eliminating a certain hollow in this small neighborhood, the one that killed your wife. He sensed your potential and thinks you can help.” She explained all this before raising her right hand in a plucking gesture, towards a sitting Masato. She grinned, “Me? I think not.” She released her plucking finger and with it a small but fast ball of reiatsu.

Masato’s eyes widened as he caught a glimpse of the small turquoise energy, but before he could react, it hit the center of his torso, just beneath his chest, and sent him flying roughly ten feet back. Various gym equipment assisted in breaking his momentum, in the process bruising and scratching him too. He laid on his right side briefly before coughing and hacking to his feet. His back arced forward slightly and blood poured from his hair down to his chin. He wasn’t sure why she suddenly attacked nor did it matter to him. He took a defensive stance and resolved himself to fight.

Azami watched as he stood and gave him ample time to prepare himself. “If you couldn’t react to that, there’s no way–“  She paused as a flicker of green light sparked beneath her feet. Suddenly she was directly in front of Masato, charging a mid-height kick with her right leg, to his left oblique. “You’ll ever be helpful.”

To Masato, she disappeared and reappeared and once again he tracked her movement but could not react. The kick connected and pushed him into the warehouse wall to his right. Upon impacting with the unpainted cement wall, and dragging some gym equipment, dust puffed through the air. The dust and shadow of that corner cloaked Masato’s precise movements, though Azami could still clearly sense where he was.

She stood still, again, giving him time to find his bearings. She was impressed; he managed to tighten the defense of his left, in the short time she gave him to react. As she waited, a sudden circle parted in the dust, quickly followed by steel weight plate spinning with haste towards her. The fact that he could aim at her with the dust between them surprised Azami, but with her “bringer light”, she easily evaded, closer to the warehouse gate. A second plate parted the dust spinning straight for her head. She once again leaped with her bringer light to the center of the room. She was now getting bored of playing dodge. “Is this all you’re gonna do?" She exclaimed with a mocking yawn.

After the two sucker-hits she landed, Masato was too pissed and focused to talk back. Had he bothered to check, he would’ve noticed that he was hurling thirty kilograms of steel as if they were plastic plates, and he held one more in his right hand. He ran out of the dust roaring and preparing another throw. As the plate left his hand and he watched for Azami’s reaction.

With bringer light, Azami dashed out of the way and closer to Seito’s living quarters. She smirked at her evasive abilities when suddenly her face was met with Masato’s reiatsu empowered fist. Her vision went white for split second upon impact. With the full weight of his body and fist, he dragged Azami’s head into the ground, creating a cradle just as her body connected with the floor. Her left cheek swelled with a slight imprint of his knuckles. Despite the power of the hit, she was not out of commission, but dashed to the furthest end of the warehouse. She needed distance to shake the daze in her vision, and get pay back. She knew exactly how he managed to hit her, but she couldn’t believe he was capable of such a feat. To exert such combative tactics with no training.” She had to stop thinking, as Masato turned to her, standing by the exit.

Masato did not relent in his small victory, but rather, he concocted a plan to land another hit. Breathing through gritted teeth, he took slow steps towards her. The numbness of Azami’s face did not alert her to her bleeding nose. Seeing her blood drip from Masato’s fist was the second time she feared his wrath but soon there would be a third. Dark purple bubbles of reiatsu bubbled from Masato’s feet and legs. The aura’s intent was the most hostile she’d ever sensed and she could feel her legs buckle with intimidation. She wasn’t very physically exerted but the sweat pouring from her head would convince you otherwise. Upon raising pass his stomach, the bubbles warped into smooth long strands of reiatsu that waved in unison.

Azami certainly was faster than Masato but the confidence of winning fleeted from her with every step her opponent took. She hesitated at the thought, but submitted to her weakness and called, “HONEY!”.

Masato's tunneling on Azami blinded himself to the attack approaching from behind. It was a sweeping kick and pull that fell Masato to his back, followed by a powerful punch to his stomach, rendering him unconscious. His leaking reiatsu halted and above him stood a comically bandaged Seito.

Seito watched to make sure Masato was completely out before he looked to his girlfriend. “Are you ok?” he asked softly, with a mellow and comforting tone.

She responded the same. “yeah.”

“He’s a wrecking ball of potential and with the Quarterer’s recent evolution we no longer have the luxury of choosing not to recruit him.”

Azami didn’t look Seito in the face and remained silent out of embarrassment. She underestimated Masato, and worst, Seito's judgement. Furthermore, she wanted Seito to believe in her strength but couldn’t explain her failure without appearing to be a sore loser. Seito glanced at her and smiled faintly, he could sense what she was worried about and gave an organic opportunity for Azami to defend herself.

“How’d he tag you?”

Azami’s face grew bright and she leaped internally at the opportunity to explain. Outwardly however she wanted to play it cool. She crossed her arms and explained away.

“I showed him my bringer light too many times. He couldn’t react the first time but I didn’t expect him to predict my trajectory. He must’ve observed the sparks it created.”

Seito’s once faint and sincere smile turned patronizing, in Azami's eyes so she tried to explain more.

“He also empowered his punch too.”

“i..i see.”  Seito wasn’t impressed by her reasons and was now the one avoiding eye contact, scratching his right cheek and gazing off to the left.

Out of irritation she shed her soft demeanor and returned to her dragony self. As she berated him he laughed aloud, wincing throughout from the pain of his injury. A few moments had passed and the warehouse grew deathly silent.

“Do you.. Really think his wife will be the last one.”

“We’ve marked almost every alley so if he pops up we will be alerted.” Seito responded as he walked pass her towards the exit. “Plus, I left him pretty battered. Even with a hollow’s regeneration, I don’t think he’d risk showing his face again. With the Shinigami and those masked guys, if we work together I think we have a fighting chance.” He slid the steel gate open as its screech echoed.

Azami turned to face his back. “THEN WHY DID’NT YOU BRING ME?!” she cried with a broken voice, and her now glossy eyes barely forming tears.

Seito knew why but wouldn’t dare to insult her with the answer. She wouldn’t allow him to escape it.

“Had you taken me with you, this could’ve ended tonight. You let your feelings for me compromise this mission. You have been since we were assigned!”

“…..”

“Do you think I’m weak?!” Azami would not let up and tried to force an answer out of him. “MY LIFE ISN'T WORTH–“ Before she could finish her words she was engulfed in Seito’s arms. Though his embrace was warm and tight, he trembled and bit on his bottom lip so he couldn’t weep out loud. She felt his wet tears drip atop her head and he muttered. “Don’t.” his voice quaked and Azami accepted her second defeat that night. Their hug lasted almost a minute before he let go. His limp was no more as he returned to the exit. “Get some rest.” He pleaded before shutting the gate.

 

W/C: 2055

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Masato woke to the sound of clanking dishes and periodically running water, coming through the hallway of a house much larger than his studio apartment. The room temperature was cool and controlled by the running air conditioner across from the bed he laid in. Brown curtains did well in keeping the bedroom dark but the open door allowed for some natural light to assist with Masato’s vision. There wasn’t much in the room besides a tall mirror to his right, and brown wardrobe and nightstand to his left. He peeled his cover and stood off his bed. He briefly stretched his body before stepping in front of the mirror and checking himself, for no good reason. He was wearing blue matching pajamas with white folds at the end of the sleeves.

Masato decided to follow the sound of the clanking and pouring water, into the hallway, down to his left, and through the door on the right. As he expected, in the kitchen was Reina, his daughter, washing the dishes from breakfast, even though he didn’t recall eating. She stood atop a wooden chair to better reach the contents of the sink and water pouring from the faucet.

“Morning papa” she said, her face turning to her father, on it, a gleeful smile.

“G’morning.” Masato yawned, then returned a smile.

“Your breakfast is on the table.” Reina raised her right, wet and soapy hand, to point towards the table deeper into the kitchen.

Masato while eager to eat was more worried about the oddly familiar house they were in. he wasn’t sure if asking Reina about it would’ve given him answers, seeing as she didn’t seem to be bothered.

“Yeah, breakfast, uuh.” He scratched his head through fuzzy hair, shorter than when he last remembered. “Where...“ Before he could finish his question, a feminine voice from behind him sung his name.

“maaa-saaa-to”

He instantly recognized the voice and without hesitation turned his body completely to see a cyan coat worn by a lean women. The coat caught his attention first and as he slowly looked up towards her face she spoke again.

“Sweetie”

This time her voice echoed and rang in his head, causing him to jolt out of his slumber in a cold sweat. His racing heart slowed as he looked around to see that he was, once again, in the warehouse. His items were where he last left them, in the corner created from the partition and sidewall of the warehouse. The last thing he could remember was Seito standing over him, triumphantly. “Rise and shine rookie.” He heard a familiar voice speak. The disembodied voice continued to ask. “Do you always sleep this late in?” he was certain it was Azami, speaking to him from behind the partition to his left. It took him a few moments to remember how his skirmish with her ended. His eyes widen as he gasped with shock and he rushed to his feet. “Your face, are you ok?!” just as he stood, he winced to his right knee.

Azami walked into his view and looked down at him, face healed and in fine condition, smoking no less. “You got a lot of nerves worrying about me.” She claimed softly, with a hint of pride in her tone.

Masato knew the source of the pain and raised his t-shirt to inspect where he was punched last night. There on his stomach was a large purple, almost black, bruise that swelled slightly. “Yeah” he said disgruntledly. He wasn’t happy with the, Seito inflicted, wound, but thought he deserved it. He was never a self-proclaimed gentlemen, but last night did reflect the first time he hit a women and he, by no means, held back. He looked back up at her and expressed his concern for her wellbeing again. “Still, I was seeing red when I hit you. You seem fine but I guess I should apologize. Sorry.”

Taken aback by his apology and concern, she blushed from embarrassment. She started the conflict and he, in the process of defending himself, was tag teamed by her boyfriend. She began to feel bad for Masato, but of course wouldn’t show so. “Alright, alright, apologies–“she emphasized on the plural, “–accepted.”

Masato stood again, this time prepared for the pain and willing to endure it. The nightmare he awoke from had him missing his daughter. He collected his items and walked for the exit. His hand made contact with the gate handle when Azami called to him.

“I would eat if I were you, or at least have some water.” Azami suggested from behind him, as she put a pink apron on.

Masato hadn’t noticed, perhaps because he never looked, but there was an electric stove in Seito’s little living space. He figured that she was willing to cook breakfast for them both and the thought of filling his stomach was tempting, but seeing his daughter was his only priority. With his back still facing her, he rejected her offer. “I’d love to, but my daughter and mother must be worrying about me.” There was truth to those words, but he was the actual worried party. He opened the gate in one swift movement and noticed instantly, his destroyed bike. “WHAT THE FUCK!” he shouted in anger and awe. The first person he suspected was responsible was Azami and he turned to her to confirm his suspicions and to his horror, she glared back at him sadistically grinning. “You feel like eating now?” her question, obviously rhetorical.

Masato reluctantly sat quietly as she finished cooking and placed a plate of food in his hands. He assaulted her with a barrage of questions earlier but she ignored them all, so admitting that the rice stuffed omelet, top with seasoning and green onions, smelt delicious, would’ve been accepting defeat.

Azami worked as a proud chef and presented the food to Masato, expecting immediate praise. With her hands to her sides and chin up she posed proudly and waited for the complements– then waited some more. “Maybe he’s waiting for it to cool.” She thought, as her extended back arced slightly and her arms grew tired of disappointment. Finally she heard him take his first few bites. “Surely this is where he gives my well deserved credit.” she said internally. *clank* the sound of the empty plate was the only thing she heard. “Say something.” She demanded weakly, now completely slumped forward and disheartened. 

“Seconds?”

“LIKE HELL!” Azami shattered his plastic plate on the pavement in anger.

Some bantering later, Masato addressed his broken bike again, this time Azami wasn’t cooking and willingly answered. “We need your help in defeating the Quarterer.” Azami stated sternly. “Last night was reassuring that you, with some training and time, can be a huge asset in this fight.”

It didn’t take long for Masato to recall where he’d heard the name “the Quarterer”, two nights ago inside Seito’s car. It was there that he learnt his wife wasn’t merely murdered, but dismembered. Only the limbs remained of the Quarterer’s victims, and Asuna was no different. Naturally his mind then connected azami’s statement about “hollows preying on other spiritual beings” and quickly held his mouth shut with both hands as to not lose his breakfast.

“So what do ya say Hizorashi Masato, will you help us kill this sick bastard?” she asked with determination, confident that he would accept. Naturally he, raised his head and with a slight nod, accepted their request. “Good, I really didn’t feel like fixing your bike.” Azami sighed in relief, more so for gaining a new formidable ally and less so about replacing a bike she broke.

“So why did you break it?” Masato asked bluntly in a menacing tone.

Azami was in too much of a celebratory mood to acknowledge his frustration. She rushed in front of Masato and lifted him to his feet gleefully. She glanced at his disgruntled face and knew she needed an excuse quick. Beads of sweat dripped from her head and she, with closed eyes, and a large and forced grin responded.  “It was all a part of your new endurance training.” In truth, she was joy riding and accidentally destroyed it in the process. To her surprise Masato accepted the excuse and began to stretch in preparation for, what he expected was, the usual “run from point A to point B”. He completed his stretches and made for the warehouse exit when, with bringer light, Azami appeared directly behind him and placed three, thirty kilogram plates, in the backpack he was wearing.

“It’s half past ten, if you walk, you should be home at 1:00 PM.”  Azami stated boldly before adding the “asterisk”, “according to Seito.”

Masato intended to run all the way through, but the added weight to his bag, coupled with a bruised stomach, would make the task especially challenging. With his straw hat and sunglasses keeping his head cool, he began the journey back to his apartment, settling on jogging. The shifting weight, and up and down momentum of his bag forced him to engage his core for stability. The various inclines and declines push Masato’s legs to their limits. About 40 minutes into the jog Masato took his first break and drank from a public water fountain by the side of the street. Though slightly refreshed, Masato’s brain was completely out of focus when he finally pressed on with the jog. He tried to maintain and upright and proper running posture but his head in exhaustion would periodically find itself dangling at the whim of the rest of his body. The once firm and controlled movements of his arms became sporadic, and eventually dangled by his sides as he was now speed walking. His blank thoughts worked as a double edged blade, preventing him from finding motivation to press on and distracting him from the immense pain or the entire experience. The urban neighborhood he observed and appreciated, became a blurry haze and from then on, Masato didn’t remember anything. That is until he was walking under shade, mindlessly up a flight of stairs and into what was clearly his apartment. There was no one inside and Masato removed his backpack from his sore shoulders, the relief of which brought a joyful chuckle from his very dry mouth. He dropped to his knees, then his stomach, and immediately fell unconscious. It was 4:00 PM when he stepped into his apartment, and he wouldn’t awake until the following morning.

 

W/C: 1750

 

Edited by but im not writer
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