I got on the bus route Last told me to. My destination, apparently, was Arizona. Like he said, it's still a warm location, so I'm not about to complain.
I arrived late at night. When I got to the station, a young man
approached me. Thin frame, average height. He had a sort of "emo"
haircut. Black hair that was long enough to hang into his eyes. When
he spoke he would often give his head a quick flick to keep it out of
his line of vision.
"I'm Benjamin. A friend of Last of the Last." He handed me an envelope.
"Here. This is for you." Then he gave a quick wave and walked away
before I could say anything else.
I opened the
envelope. There were directions to an address and a note: "Just a guess, but they'll probably pass by there. You'll know
them when you see them."
I started heading for the address. It wasn't too terribly far, so I figured I'd just walk. It was late, so the streets were mostly empty. I had just finished a long bus ride and was kind of in a daze from that. That's the only real excuse I had for not paying attention. Empty streets are generally not safe. Getting lost in a crowd is safe. Being separated from absolutely everyone is not. That's when you're at your most vulnerable.
This was no exception. Because, since I wasn't careful, I had another encounter with my good friends the Ten Masks.
I was passing by a hospital at the time. I first noticed that something was wrong when there was a sudden wind. Not a gale, not a light breeze, but a blast of wind from a specific origin, like someone had turned on a giant fan. I turned to see the air distorting around a man in billowing clothes, like two realities were blurring together. I froze when I saw what was swirling around him.
I tried too late to run. The man came barreling at me, dropping his shoulder and plowing into my chest. I scrambled back and found myself in an alley. No good. I'm terrible at fighting in close quarters. The staff requires more room to use efficiently. The pair of daggers the man pulled out of his black cloak, however....
The man was dressed in a flowing black cloak, wrapped up in it like a bat cloaking itself in its wings. He was an older man, thin and frail-looking. He still had a thick head of hair, but it was already completely grey. His face was wrinkling, and his eyes were sunken, giving him a sickly appearance. "Hello, Kenny." He broke into a coughing fit. "I am Reaper."
"Ten Masks?" He nodded. "Let me guess--the Dying Man?"
He gave a wheezing laugh and started coughing again. "Indeed. I take it you know what's coming next?"
I staggered to my feet. "The daggers gave me a pretty good hint, yeah." I held Lily out in front of me. I didn't have the room to hold a defensive position. Reaper didn't look like a particularly strong or quick man, but still, not good. "Do you mind if we take this somewhere a little more...open?"
I turned and ran. Not a smart move, showing the enemy your back, but I took a guess that he wasn't a particularly strong runner and that he wasn't an expert knife thrower. The gamble would have paid off, too, if it weren't for the fact that he has some...special talents.
There was a gust of wind as the wall in front of me warped, and with a shower of black leaves (which disintegrated into nothing just moments later), Reaper jumped into the alley. "Running won't be that easy," he said in a hissing laugh. "I have you surrounded." Leaves started swirling around him, and he blurred out of existence. The gust of wind behind me was the only warning I got. I turned and tried to raise my staff, but wasn't quite quick enough. After a second I felt something warm spreading across my left hand, followed by a sharp sting. The blade had left a decent-sized gash across the back of my hand.
I looked up from the injury and Reaper was already gone. I closed my eyes, preparing for the wind that heralded his attacks. As soon as I felt a gust, I turned in its direction and thrust Lily forward the best I could in the cramped quarters.
The tip of the staff hit Reaper in the stomach. He instantly doubled over and started coughing. He collapsed to the ground in pain, fingers gripping at the cement.
"Are you okay?" I asked. A dumb question, I know, especially considering that I was asking it to a man who had just cut my hand open and probably would have done worse.
Reaper looked up at me and gave what might have been a laugh. He was coughing too hard for me to tell. "You're too gentle, boy. This world...this world will chew you up sooner or later." His body started to blur and the black leaves started swirling around him. "Congratulations, Kenny. We'll see you later." With a final shimmer, he disappeared.
Reaper. Crimson. Phones. Gabe. Magpie. That's five down (six if Canis is a Mask). Five or six to go, depending on whether or not the boss is included in the Masks.
As the adrenaline wore off, my hand really started to hurt. I looked down and saw that it was bleeding harder than I thought. I stepped out of the alley, remembering that we had been near a hospital, and wandered into the emergency room. I used my card to cover the hospital costs because hey, they already knew where I was and this was as good a reason as any to use my parents' money. So now I have three stitches in the back of my hand.
As I left the hospital a group of three people passed by. And let me tell you, Last was right. I knew them when I saw them.
My hand's really hurting now though and there's a lot more to write. I'll be back soon after the pain goes down some more.