A woman sat on a desk, glaring at a piece of paper as if intending to burn a hole through it with her gaze. Even with the frown on her face, most would consider her beautiful. A moment later, she groans. "This is impossible, Onii," she complained.
An older man by her side countered, "Amaya, you're only reading the summaries of these reports to determine whether the entire report is worth reading or not. How is that impossible?" He had neat hair, glasses, and a rather built body underneath his suit.
"Isn't this your job?" the woman named Amaya argued.
"Yes and that's how I know it is very possible," stated the man.
Amaya groaned once more and massaged her temples as she felt a headache coming. "Why do I have to do this?"
"You refused to go to college," he answered, "You have to make a living somehow."
She raised her head and looked incredulously at her brother. "What do you mean? If you already forgot, you're one of the highest-ranking employees at a multi-million company."
"And with my rank, I can easily land you a job as my assistant," he added.
"But I don't want to be your assistant," Amaya complained as she spun her office chair around.
Her brother pinched the bridge of his nose. "Then what do you want to be?"
The woman's eyes lit up at the question. "I want to be a vigilante." The woman then recoiled as her brother struck her head with a roll of paper. "Hey! What was that for?"
"You need to stop daydreaming," he responded, "and you could've just worked as a law enforcer."
"I don't want to," she pouted, "Those officers are all incompetent."
"That's not true," argued her brother.
Amaya folded her arms on the desk and laid her chin on them. The pout on her face was replaced with a solemn frown. "Then how come they haven't been found yet?"
The air around them seemed to grow heavier as a solemn silence ensued with her brother failing to think of anything to say. The two remained stationary until a knock came from their front door.
The man stared at the woman for a second. Seeing no response from her to the sound, he silently walked to the door and opened it. He was greeted by a man in uniform holding a small box. "Delivery for Mr. Tetsuya Hayashi."
"That'd be me," confirmed the man, now named Tetsuya.
The delivery man handed him a paper on a clipboard and a pen. "Just sign here," he instructed, pointing to the location on the paper. Tetsuya took the pen and signed. The delivery man handed him the box and tipped his hat. "Have a nice day, sir."
Tetsuya smiled. "You too." He then closed the door to see his sister looking curiously at the box in his hands.
"What's that?" she asked.
He sighed in relief after seeing that the woman was no longer in the solemn mood. "It's a part for the device that was in the executive summary that you were just reading."
"Oh, that. That was the… er…" she trailed off as she tried and failed to recall the contents of the summary.
"You really didn't pay attention, did you?" Receiving a hesitant nod in response, he pinched the bridge of his nose before answering, "It was a teleportation device."
Amaya's eyes widened. "Something that advanced is possible? Who wrote that report?"
"I did," responded Tetsuya, "If only you paid attention, you'd see that my name is on every single one of those reports I gave you."
She shrugged her shoulders. "I thought you were just dumping your workload on me."
"Do you really think I'd let you do something that important without training you first?"
"Anyway, I've gotta get to work on this device," Tetsuya excused himself, "Is there anything you need before I go?"
"Not really," replied his sister, "I'll just be taking a walk. I should be back before dinner."
Tetsuya nodded his head in understanding. "Alright. Be safe."
Amaya stepped on the brakes as she stopped her motorcycle at a parking lot near the forest. She kicked down the stand and took off her helmet before getting off. She looked around and saw that not many people were walking outside. It was cloudy that day so the woman understood the lack of people. She quietly walked towards the trees. She took a deep breath and felt her stress go away as she exhaled.
She always took a walk through the forest to clear her head whenever she felt troubled. After being lectured by her brother for several hours, she figured she needed to do so. She made a point to take her time as she walked. She made sure to thoroughly soak in the atmosphere. She listened as birds chirped and small creatures ran through the bushes and climbed through the tree branches. She felt the breeze blow against her skin. Even though she had seen the scenery countless times before, she never got tired of it.
After several minutes of walking, she arrived at a clearing in the forest. She sat down and laid down on the ground. The spot was not a random destination. It was a special place for her family. It was where they always had their picnics. Being in that place made her feel closer to them.
She then started speaking, "Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul."
It was a poem that was almost like her family's motto. Her mother loved to read it whenever she was feeling down. She also read it to her children whenever they were sad as well so it was a special memory to Amaya. Being in the clearing in the forest and reciting the poem from memory gave her all the peace she needed.
She looked up at the sky above her. She was slightly dismayed to see gray clouds instead of a clear blue sky. She closed her eyes and tried to take a nap but it never came to her. The picnic spot never did feel quite right if it was not sunny. She sat up and stretched her arms. Now that she could not do what she came to do, she tried to figure out what else she could do. She did not want to go straight home after going all the way to the forest.
She looked towards the general direction of the center of the forest. She tried to recall if there was ever a time when she explored the deeper parts of the forest. When nothing came to mind, she stood up, having decided on what to do.
As she walked deeper and deeper into the forest, the tree density increased making the place darker and darker. She also noticed that she was seeing and hearing less critters around. This felt ominous to her but despite that, she decided to continue onward. She was now curious. Why had she never gone deeper in the forest before when her family had been using the picnic spot for a long time?
She suddenly shot straight up as the glimmer in her eyes disappeared. She turned around and mindlessly walked the other way. When she reached the picnic spot again, she snapped out of her trance.
"What? What was I doing?" she asked herself before remembering the answer. "I was walking in that direction so how did I end up here?"
Amaya looked back at the way she came and felt a chill run up her spine for a reason she did not know. Her senses were telling her to go back to her motorcycle and go back home but she forcibly shut that voice in her head up.
She then began her trek back to the forest but this time, she walked more slowly and carefully. Once again, the area looked increasingly eerier by the second. She suddenly started feeling light-headed but she shook the feeling off.
"In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud," she recited more of the poem.
She also heard a voice in her head commanding her to turn around and walk the other way. She tried to force the voice out and power through but the further into the forest she walked, the stronger the urge to go back became.
"Under the bludgeonings of chance…" she tried to cheer herself on as she groaned in difficulty, "…my head is bloody… but unbowed…"
Her legs shook as her dizziness became more and more unbearable. The world around her became blurry. No matter how many times she blinked, her vision did not become any clearer. Finally, her will to fight dwindled and her body straightened up. Like a mindless robot, she turned around and silently began walking back the way she came.
On her way back, she heard a hiss. The sound snapped her out of the trance. For a second, she wondered how that happened but she heard the sound again. She looked around to see where it came from. The hiss sounded like it came from multiple directions. She looked into the woods, up to the canopy, through the darkness but found nothing. One last time, she heard the hiss again. This time, the sound came from one discernable direction.
It came from right behind her.
She quickly turned around to face whatever was there but found nothing. That was until a vertical line of light appeared in midair in front of her. She then saw two sets of fingers come out through the line. Those fingers pushed outward and split the light apart. The creature inside stepped out, allowing the light to reform into a line before disappearing.
Amaya's eyes widened and her heart dropped at the sight before her. It stood on two feet, had two hands and a head above its shoulder but that was all it had that looked human. It was tall and slender. Its skin was scaly and dark green in color except its torso which was pale brown. Yellow diamond patterns decorated its body. Instead of a nose, it had two nostrils on its flat face. Its mouth only had a pair of fangs rather than a full set of teeth. Its tongue was forked and it danced in the air as if tasting it. There were mane-like flaps of scaly skin on the sides of its head and neck. Its eyes were pure blood red. Even though its eyes had no pupils, she could tell it was staring right at her. Finally, from the bottom of its eyes to just above its feet, there was a parallel pair of red markings running down its body.
Her mind was yelling at her to turn around and run away as fast as she could but her body did not try to escape. It shivered. When the creature took one step closer, she snapped back to normal. However, she did not try to run. She carefully watched as the monster circled around her. She made sure to keep her eyes trained on it. She turned with the creature as to not show her back. The two were sizing each other up. Amaya was getting impatient but she forced herself to stay still. The monster was an unknown. She knew better than to make the first move against something she did not know about. The whole time, her heart was beating harder and harder by the second but she forced down the panic to focus.
"Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the Horror of the shade."
After several seconds, the monster stopped circling. It hissed once more before opening its mouth. Like a snake, its jaw dislocated, allowing it to open its maw to a large enough size to swallow the woman whole. It then ran quickly toward her with its mouth wide open. Amaya stood still with wide eyes for a second because of the sight but she quickly snapped herself out of it. She waited for it to get close before stepping to the side, allowing the monster to run past her. It stopped in its tracks and turned around just in time to receive a spinning roundhouse kick to the jaw.
To Amaya's surprise, rather than its head snapping to the side due to her attack, her foot was stopped by its face and the creature did not seem to have been damaged. She quickly pulled her leg away and into her upper body. She then extended the leg and planted a kick on her opponent's body. Once again, she did not feel the monster's body moving back. She felt like she just kicked a brick wall. She retracted her leg and decided to use her fists this time. She reeled back her right arm and charged forward to deliver a straight punch to its face. Her fist connected but the monster's head did not move.
Before she could do anything else, the creature raised its right hand to its left shoulder and backhanded the woman. The hand hit her temple, making her head snap to the side and making her world spin. She barely kept herself standing. She tried to raise her hands in front of her face to put up a sloppy guard but the monster targeted her torso instead. It punched her solar plexus, knocking the wind out of her and forcing her on her knees. As she was struggling to breath, she looked up to see it baring its fangs at her. She then felt its knee hitting her jaw, causing her to sprawl on the ground. The creature crouched down and put its right hand around her neck. She grabbed the hand and tried to pry it off her to no avail. She kicked her legs but they did not hurt her opponent whatsoever.
At that moment, Amaya knew she had no chance of surviving. She began to wonder how a peaceful day ended up with her encountering and being beaten by a literal monster. However, she refused to accept this fate. She refused to give in to her weakness. She gritted her teeth and continued struggling as she glared at the creature's eyes. She continued to fight even though she was getting weaker and weaker due to the lack of air.
To give herself some strength, she started talking once again, "And yet… the menace of the years… finds… and shall find me… unafraid."
It was futile. The monster bared its fangs. She knew what was coming next. She closed her eyes in reflex as its head began its descent toward her shoulder.
"Get your slimy slithery hands off her!"
She opened her eyes and saw something landing a flying side kick on the side of the monster's head, causing it to fly away from her. She gasped to allow her lungs to receive the much-needed air. She sat up and looked at her savior. Her eyes widened at the sight.
It was another monster. Its body was covered almost entirely in shiny reddish brown armor. Its joints were colored black. On the sides of its shins were rows of short yellow hair that pointed to the ground. On each of its calves were three blades. These blades could also be found on the bottom side of its forearms. On its back were two covers that looked like the folded wings of an insect. It had two antennae growing out of its forehead. Its eyes were large and pure blood red like the monster she was just facing but unlike it, this creature had a metallic silver mask covering the lower half of its face. It also had a belt with an oval silver buckle with a red crystal in the middle. Another difference was that this one had no red markings on its body.
She flinched as it turned to face her. She prepared to fight for her life once again but she was taken off guard when it spoke. "Are you okay there, Amaya?"
Hearing her name come out of the stranger's mouth, her eyes widened again. "How did you—"
She saw the first monster running toward her with its fangs ready to bite. She froze up as it came dangerously close to her before being stopped. The masked creature grabbed its neck and prevented it from claiming a victim. He then slammed it down to the ground.
"Run!" he shouted at her.
She nodded before turning around and running. However, she stopped before she got too far away. For reasons even she did not know, she felt like she had to stay and watch. She argued with herself for a second before deciding to hide behind a tree trunk and peeking out.
The first monster had already broken out of the masked man's grip and was back on its feet. He threw a punch at its head but it moved its head to the side to avoid the blow. It then opened its mouth and its head shot forward. The newcomer immediately retracted his arm and jumped back.
"Ew! No teeth."
He quickly raised his leg and kicked it once in the stomach and once in the chest but it grabbed his foot during the second and once again prepared to bite. Before it could do so, he hopped on his free leg and brought it up to plant it on the side of the monster's head.
They both fell to the ground but the masked creature got up quickly. He mounted the downed monster and used his knees to pin down its arms. It hissed at him but when it did, he grabbed its long fangs and pulled. It hissed once more but this time, in pain as the teeth came out. He then stood up and jumped away before throwing the fangs away.
"No more biting for you."
Unexpectedly, the monster recovered quickly and charged at him with a great burst of speed and a cocked fist. It connected with his face, making him reel back. He tried to throw a punch of his own but the creature beat him to it. It delivered a body punch with its left fist, making him bend forward. It then connected its right fist to the underside of his chin. Once again, the masked man tried to counter but his already large eyes seemed to widen at what he saw.
The first monster's body stretched until it was three times taller than it originally was. It then wrapped its body around its opponent and squeezed the air out of him. He groaned as he tried to force himself out of the creature's grip to no avail. It then opened its mouth, ready to swallow him whole if he lost consciousness.
Amaya stiffened as she watched her savior face an untimely possible demise. A thought then came into her head. She cursed at herself under her breath at what she was about to do but she would have felt awful if she did nothing.
"It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll." After softly reciting more of the poem to calm herself, she stepped out of her hiding place and shouted, "Hey, snake freak! Weren't you going to eat me!?"
The masked man's eyes widened at seeing her standing there. "W-why are y-you… still h-here?" he struggled to get out.
The bait worked as the monster let go of him and tried to dash at the woman. Unfortunately for it, the man regained his breath quickly. He ran and jumped before putting his hands together and slamming them on its head. It fell to the ground with a loud thud.
He looked at her and gave a thumbs up. "Nice assist. Now, be a good girl and actually get out of here." He then turned his gaze toward the dazed monster that had just gotten back on its feet. Its body was now in its normal length. "We're both getting a bit tired so I'll just end this here."
He crouched down into a stance before taking off and running. He jumped and kicked his legs to the front and back. He then switched their positions once the monster was in between them. The blades on his feet cut it cleanly in half, allowing him to continue his descent to the ground with no obstruction. The creature's upper body started to slide off its lower half when it suddenly exploded in a fireball.
Amaya shielded her eyes from the bright flames. Once the light died down, she opened her eyes. She saw her savior walking toward the center of the forest. He put his right hand to his left hip and cut the air in front of him with the blades on his forearm. A portal of light opened up where he sliced.
She tried to run forward and stop him, "Hey, wait! Who are you?"
He stopped in his tracks and stayed silent for a second. Finally, he replied, "Uh, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul…" He quieted down again and put a hand to his chin. With a shake of the head, he began walking into the portal but before he disappeared, he stopped and looked back. "Ah! Invictus. My name is Invictus."
Amaya tried to chase after him but when she neared the light, the portal closed, making her run through nothing. She looked back to where the portal was just seconds ago. She stayed silent as she tried to process what had just transpired.
Tetsuya heard the front door open. Knowing who it was, he greeted, "Hey, Amaya. How was your—" His words died in his throat after seeing the state of his sister.
She was still dirty and her hair was still messy after her scuffle with the monster. In addition to that, her face and neck had bruises from when the creature hit her.
"Hey, Onii," she awkwardly waved at him.
"What happened?" he asked her.
She stayed silent for a few seconds, trying to think of what to say. She finally responded, "You're not going to believe this…"