"Kyo-chan!" he cried happily as he ran towards her, arms outstretched
She yelped and raised the pipe she was carrying. Ito remembered how he looked with his current appearance and brought himself to an abrupt halt while waving his hands in front of himself.
"Kyo-chan wait! It's me, it's Ito!"
"Ito-san?" She lowered her weapon, a puzzled but hopeful expression on her face.
"Yes. I know I look a little weird right now but it's me" he replied, hoping desperately that she would believe him.
Tears started trickling down her face as she dropped the pipe. "Ito-san!" she cried, overcome with relief. She dashed up to him and hugged him tightly. He hugged her back, equally glad that she was all right.
Damn, she looks even better in person the mask said inside Ito's mind. Smells good too.
Ito ignored it as he held Kyoko. It took some effort to restrain himself so he didn't accidentally crush her with his enhanced strength but he managed. Eventually they both reluctantly let go.
"Are you okay Kyo-chan?"
"I'm fine" she replied. She peered at him curiously. "Ito-san, what happened to you?"
"This mask, it healed me when I put it on. Made me stronger…"
Speaking of which, as much as I hate to interrupt this touching reunion there's still the matter of our deal Ito-boy. I helped you get your girl, now you help me get what I want.
Revenge. The mask's silent voice was devoid of it's usual dark amusement. It was now filled with icy rage. I was their slave for over a thousand years and now I want them to pay.
"How do we do that?" Ito asked, anxious as to what the mask planned.
"How do we do what?" Kyoko asked.
Simple enough, we destroy this house said the mask, it's voice now back to its usual tone. Oh, and to keep you from looking like even more of an idiot in front of your girl, just think whatever you want to say. If you keep talking aloud she'll think you're nuts.
"Just a moment please Kyo-chan" said Ito.
She looked confused but nodded.
Okay, how do we destroy this house? Ito thought.
We're close to the heart. I can sense it. We destroy that, we destroy the house. And did I mention that's the only way we can get out?
He turned back to Kyoko. "Kyo-chan, I know this sounds weird but this house is some kind of doorway to another world" Ito explained. "That's where the things that attacked us came from."
"Okay, but now we can leave can't we?"
"We can't leave until I destroy the heart of the house. After that we can go."
"Then I'll come with you."
"No Kyo-chan, I want you to wait here. I'll come back as soon as its safe."
She sighed. "All right Ito-san. Promise me you'll be careful" she said as she hugged him again.
"I promise" he reassured her as he returned the hug.
He reluctantly left Kyoko in the chapel and set off again. As the mask had said it took only a moment to find the heart.
Ito stared at a large hole in the corridor floor in front of him. To his surprise and disgust the edges of the hole looked like raw, red meat. He shuddered in revulsion.
Don't wuss out on me now Ito-boy said the mask. Remember Kyoko won't be fully safe until we take the heart out.
"I know that" Ito snapped. He mustered his resolve and jumped into the hole. He landed with a splat as his feet hit something warm and moist. A loud noise assailed his ears, repeating in a steady, regular pattern.
THUMP-B-DUMP! THUMP-B-DUMP! THUMP-B-DUMP!
"That sounds like a…" Ito looked around and his voice trailed off as he saw what was making the sound.
He was currently standing in a large empty hall. The walls, floor and ceiling were covered in a layer of bloody red viscera that glistened faintly in the dim light. Embedded into the far wall was a huge, pulsating thing that resembled a human heart. The air was thick with the smell of blood.
What? I told you we had to destroy the heart said the mask casually.
"I thought that was a metaphor!" Ito exclaimed.
Well think again. Now hurry up and kill it!
"This is going to be gross" Ito muttered. He marched up to the heart, wincing as the sound of its beating nearly deafened him, and began to rain down blows upon it with all his strength. At first nothing seemed to be happening but after a while the beating started to become erratic.
Yes! We're getting there. Keep it up Ito-boy!
Ito kept punching the heart, not letting up for a second until finally the heart started pulsating wildly.
He hurriedly backed away just in time as the heart burst like a water-balloon. A torrent of thick, dark blood gushed forth as the beating was finally silenced.
"Well that was easier than I expected, not that I'm complaining" Ito commented.
Don't start celebrating just yet. The fun isn't over.
"What? You told me once the heart was destroyed we could leave!" Ito exclaimed.
And we can the mask replied in a tone of mock hurt. Ito you wound me. Do you think I'd lie to you after all we've been through together?
"Never mind. Let's just get back to Kyo-chan and get out of here."
Good idea, especially as the house is about to start falling apart.
"You didn't say that would happen!"
You didn't ask.
Ito cursed under his breath as he jumped up and clambered through the hole. His fingers slipping on the wet surface but he managed to make it up. No sooner had he gotten out then a low rumble went through the floor as the building began to shake.
Looks like you're about to bring the house down.
He raced back to the chapel where Kyoko was waiting. She smiled in relief as he hurried in.
"Ito-san are you…?"
"No time to explain" he said as he picked her up and put her over his shoulder, drawing a small cry of surprise from her.
"Sorry Kyo-chan" he said. He ran through the corridors as the shaking intensified and debris began to fall from the ceiling. Growls and shrieks followed them but Ito ignored those. Finally they came to a window and he stopped running. As cracks began to race along the walls he hastily put her down and ripped up a wooden board from the floor which he then hurled at the window, breaking the glass. He picked her up again and leaped through the broken window.
Ito landed on the soft, damp grass outside, noting absently that the rain had stopped. He put Kyoko down gently and they watched as the house collapsed and caved in on itself, sending up a cloud of dust. Eventually all became still once more.
"Finally, it's over" Ito sighed.
Yeah, about that said the mask. Remember how I said the fun wasn't over?
Instantly the ground under their feet began to rumble just like the house had seconds earlier. They looked around fearfully.
"Is it an earthquake?" Kyoko asked.
"No it's coming from… below." Ito looked down at his feet. "Kyo-chan, take cover!"
With a look that silently implored him to be safe she turned and hurried into the trees. No sooner had she done so then the ground in front of Ito split open and with a hiss a jet of steam shot into the air. The steam dissipated and something rose up from the fissure.
Behind the mask Ito's eyes bulged. He'd seen many horrifying creatures in his journey through the house but this… thing was something else.
It stood over twenty feet tall, making his mask-enhanced body look tiny by comparison. Superficially it was humanoid, with two arms and legs and a single head. Horribly, its skin seemed to be melting off of its body to reveal the red muscle underneath. Its eyes were a pale blue-grey with red sclera and its inhumanly wide mouth was filled with irregular rotten but still sharp teeth.
"W, what is that thing?"
That is what used to be Dr. Henry West. I'll take a wild guess and say he's mad that you woke him up.
The West-abomination roared like a prehistoric beast and brought one of its huge fists down right at him. Ito dodged out of the way just in time and kept running as it threw more blows at him, its near-misses leaving crates in the moist earth.
While evading the creature's attempts to squash him like a bug Ito felt his fear give way to anger. Anger that his happy day with Kyoko had gone so wrong, anger that these creatures had taken her away and tried to kill him, anger that they would have killed her. He wanted to make them pay. A distant part of his mind wondered if the mask's hunger for revenge was swaying his judgement but right now he didn't care.
As his rage grew his body began changing. Bone-white spikes sprouted from his back and the muscles in his forearms swelled further, bursting through his skin, although he felt no pain. Even his hair solidified into yet more bone spikes
Now you've got it. Let's make a mess, what do you say?
Ito stopped running and looked up at the West-abomination as it raised one massive foot and brought it down on him. He caught it with both hands, stopping it dead, and glowered up at the melting, putrid flesh of its sole.
"You think you can stomp me! I'll show you who gets stomped!"
Calling upon all of his strength he gave a mighty push that sent the creature toppling over like a felled redwood tree. It hit the ground with a titanic thud!
Yes! Now finish him!
Ito leaped a full eight feet into the air. As he did so, huge bone blades shot out of his bulging forearms. With an enraged roar he swung both blades down as he descended and they sliced through the West-abomination's chest effortlessly. Overcome with hate and bloodlust, Ito reached into the unnatural, bloodless gash he'd just made and ripped out what could only be the thing's heart, a vile, throbbing mass of oozing red-black flesh. He raised the heart over his head and flung it into the ruins of the house. It landed with a squelch and after a moment its pulsations ceased, leaving it laying still amid the wreckage. It glowed a bright green and dissolved into nothingness, the West-abomination dissolving with it.
Ito threw back his head and roared again, this time in victory.
I am rage and power incarnate! I will tear apart all who dare stand in my way and drown this land in the blood of my enemies! I will…
He instantly snapped out of his bloodlust-induced haze and spun around to see Kyoko looking out from behind a tree. On her face was neither fear or revulsion. There was only love and concern.
"Are you okay Ito-san?" she asked as she hurried over to him.
At once the bone spikes and blades retracted back into his body, his forearms shrank back down and his skin re-grew. The spikes on his head reverted back to hair.
"I, I'm fine Kyo-chan" he replied, a little unsure what had just happened.
No! Damn I was so close the mask exclaimed in his mind. Oh well, I got payback and that's what really counts. You got your girl back so our deal is over. Bye-bye Ito-boy.
Ito suddenly shrank back down to his normal size, losing the extra muscle mass the mask had granted him as his transformation reversed itself, thankfully a far less painful process than when he'd first donned the mask. Once he'd returned to normal the yellow glow faded from the mask's eye sockets. A second later it cracked and broke apart into pieces that fell to the ground.
"Ito-san" said Kyoko. She gently reached up and touched his face, relieved to see it again.
"Kyo-chan" he said as he embraced her. A great weariness came over him but Kyoko's warmth, the scent of her hair, her heartbeat; they all sustained him, allowing him to stay standing. After everything he'd been through, just holding her felt like paradise.
"Come on, let's go home" he finally said.
Fortunately on their way back they came across a bus whose driver allowed them on-board. When they returned to Tokyo Ito insisted on walking her home. Her parents were away so they were spared from having to answer any difficult questions. Exhausted by the days events they both slept soundly that night.
The following day they met up after school at the park. It was a beautiful sunny day with fluffy white clouds overhead. They sat together at a bench with colourful flowers all around them.
"Are you sure you're okay Kyo-chan?" Ito asked concernedly.
"I'm fine Ito-san" she reassured him. "How are you?"
"I'm fine too."
She smiled. "It's such a beautiful day" she commented as she looked up at the clouds. "Everything that happened yesterday… it seems like just a bad dream now."
"But we know better" Ito replied. "But if we told anybody about it they'd never believe us." He frowned darkly as he spoke.
"It's all right Ito-san" said Kyoko as she put her hand over his. "It's over now. There's nothing to worry about."
"Yes, yes you're right Kyo-chan" he agreed, his frown fading. "Come on, let's go and get some ice cream."
She laughed, the lovely sound helping to put his mind at ease. As they walked off however a part of him couldn't help wondering what had happened to the mask. It's disappearance seemed a little too convenient.
Miles away, in front of the collapsed ruin that had once been the West House, everything was silent. Nothing so much as stirred in the rubble. Of the monstrous creatures that had once inhabited the house there was no sign.
Had anyone been present they would have noticed an odd sight as glowing white fragments floated up from the grass and converged together. Within seconds the mask had fully reassembled itself, leaving not even a crack to show it had ever broken. The glow faded and the mask floated to the ground where it lay still.
And had anyone been present they would have heard the sinister sound of the mask's triumphant laughter.