After years on the battlefield, Kougami is by now used to his sword shining with a greenish-blue glow whenever magic is nearby, as happens with all of Sybil’s Suppressor weapons. No amount of experience, however, could have prepared him for witnessing the corpse of his partner pull itself up from the ground, hands first, and rise in front of his eyes. It is not immediately apparent that it is Sasayama—the man’s entire skin and fatty tissues are missing, as if he had been dissected and preserved, and there are two globes of light in place of his once expressive brown eyes. It takes Kougami some seconds before the realization that this undead thing used to be his partner hits him in a surge of crippling nausea. Kougami can only stare in silent horror as “Sasayama” utters a blood-chilling screech and lunges at him.
At last, Kougami’s mouth opens wide and he screams.
The impact of Sasayama’s body sends Kougami flying backward and crashing against a stone wall. The loud clatter of his steel cuirass mixes with agonizing screeches and cries. “Stop, Sasayama!” Kougami implores to no avail, “Stop this, please!” Sasayama’s hands scratch viciously at his shield, and Kougami slashes his sword, trying to keep the creature at arm’s length. Kougami knows this is not Sasayama, not really, but he still cannot bring himself to hurt his partner. The irony that this very inability is what allowed Sasayama to be captured and killed by their enemies in the first place does not escape Kougami; so much so that he feels like vomiting from the self-hatred alone.
Suddenly, an unnatural gust extinguishes the torches burning in the underground chamber. Plunged in darkness, with only his sword's glow to guide him, it is not long before Kougami is knocked over and falls on his back, bashing his head on the floor with a sickening thud. Then Sasayama’s hands are on his face, scratching again, and with the remaining threats of his fading consciousness, Kougami slashes without thinking at the area where the creature’s head should be. The blade penetrates Sasayama’s skull, suppressing the supernatural powers animating the body, and its inhuman screeching stops at once. Kougami feels his partner’s corpse go limp on top of his, and before passing out, he sincerely wishes to never wake up.
Figures I wouldn’t be so lucky is Kougami’s first thought as he regains consciousness, waves of indescribable vertigo washing over him like nothing he has ever experienced. He grimaces, moaning weakly, and opens his eyes. There is a pool of blood forming on the ground under his head. What…? He realizes it is his blood, and that he is hanging in inverted suspension in the middle of the chamber. He cannot move. Kougami strains his neck to look up and sees a myriad of light tendrils tied around his body, illuminating the room with their twinkle. Binding magic, he thinks, fighting to collect his wits despite the intense throbbing sensation in his head.
Behind him, comes the sound of slow, deliberate footsteps, echoing more loudly as they move towards Kougami. A figure comes into view. Kougami sees their boots, first, followed by the black hooded cloak with long deep sleeves, accented by leather tabs and metal buckles. The figure holds a wooden staff in their gloved hand, with a glowing red orb at the higher end.
“You fought well, considering your wounds,” says a man’s voice. “Kougami Shinya, hunting dog of House Sybil.”
The figure approaches Sasayama’s body and bends over to pull out Kougami’s sword, twisting the blade buried in his partner’s head until it comes out with a cracking noise. Then, they let the sword drop to the ground by Kougami’s inverted head, contemptuously, and kneel in front of his face, pushing back their hood.
There is no mistaking it. Kougami remembers Sasayama’s descriptions of the most powerful wizard alive: a man with long white hair and amber eyes, skin pale as a ghost. His black magic is rumored to be immune to Suppressors, which would justify Kougami's sword not reacting to the obvious presence of the supernatural in its vicinity. “Makishima!” Kougami snarls, a new surge of adrenaline shooting through his body, as Kougami twists and jerks, fruitlessly trying to set himself free from the magical bindings. “I’m going to kill you, demon!!”
Makishima flashes a malicious smirk. “What a good doggie, serving your master so diligently," he teases Kougami. "But I’m afraid I can’t let you do that. Not yet, anyway.”
“You…” Kougami chokes out in a low, guttural voice, “You murdered Sasayama!”
There are black spots in Kougami’s vision—whether from being suspended upside down or from the blinding rage threatening to swallow him whole, who can tell.
“I did,” Makishima says, coolly. “Your partner tried to interfere with my plans, so I had no choice but to kill him. He makes a lovely specimen for my necromancy, don’t you agree?”
The sudden jerk of Kougami’s body is so wild, his killing intent so pure, that the light tendrils waver and flicker with the effort of restraining him. Makishima's eyes widen momentarily in surprise and he intensifies the grip on his staff, sending red sparks flying from the orb. Makishima recites a spell under his breath:
The spell immobilizes Kougami, whose muscles go forcibly tight and stiff.
“So restless,” Makishima says, “Is it perhaps that you’d like to use that on me?” He gestures with his staff to Kougami’s sword, sitting uselessly—glowlessly—on the ground. “Sorry to disappoint, but that won’t work the way you expect. And, you see, Sybil's dogs are so used to Suppressors you can't fight properly anymore.” Makishima moves his face closer to Kougami's, close enough that their noses almost brush. “I bet I could beat you easily in a fight without using my magic.”
“Get…away… from…me!” Kougami shakes from the effort it takes to speak under the paralyzing spell.
“Ah, it hurts, right? Being silenced.” Makishima taunts, using his teeth to take off the glove from his free hand and gently rest it on the other man’s temple. “A great scholar of the mind once wrote that words and magic are one and the same thing. According to this way of thinking, a society without magic is deprived of genuine thought and ideas; it will remain in the darkness, unable to attain freedom, equality or union.”
Kougami's brows knit in a frown. What's with this guy, he thinks, Is he some kind of zealot? Out loud: “I’m sorry… but,” Kougami replies, through gritted teeth, “I’d appreciate it… if you could… keep the… Freudian bullshit… to yourself.”
At that, Makishima stares at him deadpan for a moment before breaking out in a grin, and he laughs. “You sure say some amusing things,” the tips of the wizard’s fingers glow with magical energy as he presses them to the side of Kougami’s head. “By the way, your mental condition is declining sharply,” Makishima tells him, smiling sweetly. “You really should watch that—I hear that House Sybil doesn’t take too kindly to… deviations.”
Shouts sound in the distance, and Kougami can hear calls of his name. It is the party, coming to his rescue. Unfortunately, Kougami is pretty sure that he too will be a corpse by the time they arrive.
Makishima looks distractedly in the voices’ direction, lost in thought, hand lingering on Kougami’s face. Then, he draws his eyes back to stare directly into the blue orbs glaring daggers at him.
“I do like the way you look at me,” Makishima remarks, and Kougami cannot tell whether he is serious or sarcastic. “If you wish to kill me that badly, ditch your leash and come at me with the full force of your resolve.” Having said that, Makishima’s tongue darts out and he runs it over the ridge of Kougami’s nose, traveling up to lap languidly at the blood dripping from an open cut in his lower lip. “I’ll be waiting, Shinya.”
Before Kougami can fully process what has happened, Makishima’s light tendrils dissolve into thin air and he falls flat on his face. He’s gone, Kougami realizes, and Makishima’s absence is almost as palpable as his being right there. Past the ringing in his ears, Kougami listens to familiar voices moving closer; Tsunemori, Gino… He is drowsy, and his vision is blurry, and Kougami can feel his sanity slipping away, pulled into deep darkness from which there is no escape.