The Story of Yeling Mah

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Chapter 1 - Introductions

"Yeah, we're gonna have a problem." The new recruit said, as he flipped his knives, eyeing our Squad Leader. Matt narrowed his eyes.

"Do we now." Matt mused.

The new guy, Flint, stepped forward with his knife in hand, his other hand hovering over his handgun. This was gonna get bad. And not for Matt.

Flint is supposedly a top rate mercenary. Highly trained. Initially a member of the Infantry Unit in the New Ulysses Military Force until his defection because he did some naughty naughty with the women during one of his raids. In exchange for their freedom. Well, actually, he did the thing, then he shot them afterwards. He was found out, and exiled to death row, because a lot of other crimes were uncovered.

Then Lord Taras picked him up. Since then, Flint has been part of our squad. Squad Four of the Contingency Initiative. A company who's sole purpose is to advance The Second Great War, and raze this stupid ass world to the ground.

Do I care? No. Of course not. I hate this world. Like everybody in our Squad, we all have a grudge on how this world has been operated. Some of us, struggling, and ignored.


Anyway, enough with the background. Gotta watch Flint get his ass kicked.


Matt watched as Flint began showing off his knife tricks.

"I'm a top rate killer in the army. I've pinned down and taken out some real dangerous targets. You're telling me some whack ass 22 year old kid is gonna be my leader? Hell no. So I'm gonna be real nice. You make me Squad Leader, and I'll spare you the humiliation in front of your squad there."


"You asshole, Squad Lead Matt is going to kick your ass!" Whitney shouted. Lewis had to pull her back.

"Chill out Whitney! My god. He's not gonna sleep with you." Lewis grumbled.

Whitney continued to fangirl Matt as he held out his hand.


"Let's make something real clear, Mister Army Dude." Matt said, coldly. "I don't give a shit about being the leader of this stupid team. Quite frankly, I don't give a shit about the members here. They can do whatever they want. Kill whoever they want. They could even kill each other. I don't care. But someone needs to pull this dumbass team together and have a level head, for Taras. You're clearly not fit to be a leader. So I'm gonna go ahead and say come at me."

Flint smirked, as he threw his knife at Matt's face. The knife pierced him right through as Flint took out his handgun and began firing at his chest, peppering Matt with bullets. Flint was so fast I couldn't even register his movements, almost like within a split second he had already peppered Matt with bullets.


"Wow." Flint said, as he turned to us. "That was disappointedly quick."

I tried to hold back a laugh. Whitney glared at Flint. "You really think you won? What kind of professional are you?"

Flint stopped playing with his knife, as suddenly, Matt's body dissipated into black mist.

"The hell?" Flint muttered.

A clone. A Senkaku clone, actually. Matt's Level 3 Dogma power.

Suddenly, a shadow flew in, and knocked Flint to the ground. Flint held out a flash bang grenade, and the shadow leapt into the air. Immediately, the grenade and the shadow switched places, and Flint stared at the real Matt in shock, as Matt grabbed Flint's face and turned it, forcing him to watch as the now airborne flash bang exploded, blinding him.

Matt chuckled as he grabbed Flint's head and slammed him the ground. Two more clones manifested, each pinning down Flint's limbs.


"Fighting skill. Deception. Sabotage. Tactics. Redirection. Everything you have, I have more of it." Matt said, as he began to twist. I heard bones crack as Flint growled in pain. Matt continued.

"You're basing your aptitude to being a Squad Leader off of these abilities. That's real sad. You're basically a shittier version of me." Matt taunted.

Flint closed his eyes in pain. "Dammit..." He muttered.


Matt let go, as Flint sprawled on the ground, breathing hard.

"Remember your place, trash. You serve ME. You do as I say. Defy me again, and I might just go ahead and ask Lord Taras for another recruit. You're not worth my time at the moment, so I'll give you two weeks to make it up. If you can't impress me by then, I'll take that as we need a new Squad member."


Matt's tattooed arm reverted back into its shadowy form, manifesting a sharp blade.

"Basically it means I'm going to have to kill you." He said.

Flint said nothing, as he struggled to his feet. Whitney stepped forward, but Matt held out his arm.

"Do not heal him."


Classic Matt. The guy was such a chad. I wish I was as ruthless. We went back to the main room, locking Flint in his room until he had recovered. Thankfully, his injuries weren't that serious. At least I hoped.

"So, Captain..." Whitney said, coyly. "Want to have a drink with me tonight?"

"No." Matt said, dismissively, as he left the hideout. Whitney looked disappointed, as Lewis snickered.

Matt looked at me. "Don't forget about your mission, Yeling. I want status report by tonight so Charlie doesn't get on my damn case about missing paperwork."


Yeah, if it wasn't already obvious, Whitney is in love with Matt, and she doesn't hesitate to show it. I guess I could kind of understand where she was coming from.


According to Lewis, before she had joined the Contingency Initiative, Whitney was in a relationship with her old boyfriend, and he always abused her. Despite that, she clung onto him desperately because he was the source of all the income. She had no way of getting a job at New Ulysses, since she had a criminal record and a drug addiction. To make matters worse, she had a really traumatic past. Something about watching her parents die when she was little. So she couldn't get family support either.

At some point, Whitney discovered her powers of regeneration. Following that, she turned to robbery, but of course, she wasn't too good at the whole secret identity thing, and her boyfriend found out. Blah blah blah. More abuse. More drama. At some point, her efforts were recognized by Taras Pax, the leader and founder of the Contingency Initiative, who took her in. He placed her in Squad Four (our squad), under the supervision of Matthew Lam, "The Mirage".

But obviously, Matt didn't approve. He wanted squad members who could handle themselves. So he decided to help Whitney out. And by help, I mean helping the "Matt way". That night, Matt and Whitney went to her house, and Matt told Whitney to kill her boyfriend. Whitney was too scared, but Matt told her the only way to move on would be to kill him, because she was already at a point of no return. She had already done so much criminal acts, there would be no way for her to return to a normal life.

I think that night where Whitney killed her boyfriend was where the true Whitney died. Because since then, she had supposedly never been the same. She became obsessed with killing and stuff. And also she saw Matt as her saviour. Her knight in shining armour that saved her from her abusive relationship.


To this day, she still feels the same way about Matt. If I'm going to be honest, I think Whitney cares more about jumping Matt than the Second Great War. I mean, it's not like I'm complaining. To each their own. As long as she does her part.


I left the hideout and got into a black van, as members of the CI drove me to the spot for deployment. I got off and transferred to a chopper, that flew high in the sky. The pilot spoke into the coms.

"Alright Tidalflame. I want a clean elimination of the plant. No survivors, got that?"

I nodded, grinning maniacally. "Yeah. It'd be my pleasure sir."

No survivors.

Pure elimination.

I put on my mask, which illuminated an HUD on the right side of my face. The mask was a gift from Taras ever since I had unlocked Level 2 of my Dogma. The entire right side of my face was crippled and scarred, meaning if I ever was on mission for stealth, I could easily be identified. Sometimes I took the mask off as a scare factor, but usually, it served double purpose. For identity clearance and for that HUD. Wasn't anything fancy, but it did give me a read on how many survivors were there.


The hatch door opened, and wind breezed through me. I looked down at the power plant that powered the Lifestream Company. This was a requirement to complete Phase 2 Q1 of our Second Great War advancement initiative. There were several phases. Each comprised of Quarters. Each quarter was divided into numerous missions to complete.

My mission was to completely annihilate this plant. Only one person was needed, and with my destructive powers, I was more than adequate to complete the job. Squad 4 was tasked to destroy things, an annihilation unit. So I was a natural fit for the team.

I leapt from the hatch and descended below, slowing the fall as I closed my eyes.

Level 2 Intangibility - Devil's Comet I said, as my body completely converted into ghostly blue flames, hitting the ground in a massive wave of fire.


"The hell was that?!" Someone shouted from the recon tower.

"It was like a comet. The proxy is.... it's a person!" Another said.

I reverted back to human form, as numerous guards approached me with their guns drawn.


"Hands in the air! Surrender yourself for questioning, or we will open fire!" A massive voice boomed from some kind of amplifier at the back.

I smiled as my left arm burst into blue flames, the demonic lettering and lines glowing a bright blue in the night.

"There's no need for that..." I hissed, as my heart rate went up. Adrenaline. I loved this. Something about... everybody thinking they could stop me. Their delusion. Then seeing their shocked expression when they realize there was nothing they could do to stop me. Something about that made me excited.


I loved to see the despair in a person's eyes. Nothing in my life mattered. I fit in nowhere. To burn everything. Everybody down. That is what I wanted. That is my only goal in life.

I held out my hand as I heard numerous guns being readied, their lasers aimed at my forehead.


"No..." One guard said, his eyes through his protective gear full of horror.

"It's him... The Devil's Flames." Another said.


"Yes..." I said, as my flames became even more violent, illuminating the entire sky. The bullets began to fire, but it was too late.

Level 1 Hinokami - Inverse Tsunami Release! I shouted, as an enormous blast of blue flame emitted from my arm, flooding the entire area, the entire plant. The whole sky lit up blue in the night, as I heard the voice of screaming and panic, explosions mixing in with my fire as the plant disintegrated, burning to ash before my very eyes. At my hands.


The entire scene was filled with my flames, some kind of infernal hellhole of what remained from the power plant. Job well done. Wait.

My HUD was blipping. A survivor? No way.

I turned around and found a guard who was so badly charred, he was barely clinging onto life, but he had his knife aimed at me as he dragged his body to my position.

"You... you will not get away with this..." The guard spurted out.

I knelt in front of him. "The Second Great War is coming. There's nothing you can do about it."

The guard regarded me. "Do you even know what you've just done? The people you've killed? Everybody here who has died today had a family. People to come home to. Don't you have a sense of decency-"

"Decency?!" I cackled. "The hell kinda decency is there left in people like me? Does it look like I care about morals? After society has rejected me? To have created these cookie cutter personalities for people to slot themselves in? What did this world do to help me fit in? Hm? Telling me to uphold morals."


I grabbed the man with one hand and ripped the knife from his hands.

The man coughed as he glared at me. "You are still young. There's still so much things you could live for. Your life is not decided. Don't throw it away, find a girl to love-"

"Wow. Buddy, let me fill you in on something." I said, as I readjusted my grip, my other hand, my free hand, bursting into flames.

"Everybody is a hero in their story. That's something you've probably heard before. Well let's do a reality check. I'm not the main hero in this story. I'm not even a supporting character. I'm that insignificant in this world."

I put my hand near the man's face as he began to scream in agony.


"I am just a side character. Someone to be neglected. I always have been. Never important enough to be considered part of anything in this messed up world. It's time to change that. Time for side characters like me to shine, by destroying the very fabric of this storyline. To start over. This is what the Second Great War aims to achieve. To tear this very notion of importance down. To start anew."

I increased the intensity of the flames until the man disintegrated, his last memories being me.

"By burning this world to the ground." I hissed.


Chapter 2 - Couple Assassination Contract

I entered the HQ and handed Matt the paperwork I completed for the project.

"Yo, Matt. Here's the status report." I said, as Matt took the paper.

I sat across from him as Matt scribbled on the paper dejectedly.

You are still young. There's still so much things you could live for. Your life is not decided. Don't throw it away, find a girl to love


"Yeling." Matt said, as I looked up.

"Yo." I said.

"Forget about it."

"Huh?" I replied, confused.

Matt finished up his paperwork and put it neatly into a binder. As much as Matt hated to be Squad Leader, he still found a way to get his job done efficiently and effectively. It deserved a ton of respect.

"What do you mean?" I asked.


It was late, the sky had gone dark, and Matt's face was full of shadows, but it didn't take that for me to know Matt had a really dark life. He never told any of us about it. And I didn't know what Matt was like in the past, but whatever it was, it had to be hard on him to mold his personality into this.

Matt eyed me coldly.

"That expression you have, you're longing for someone to love you."

My heart almost stopped. "What? What are you talking about."

Matt was not convinced. "Yeling, your life has been decided. The moment you struck the Dogma Bargain to unlock your two levels, you already sealed your fate. There's no place for people like us here. Our only salvation is to give our life for the Contingency Initiative. You know that. It's time to accept it."

I fiddled with the sleeves on my shirt. "Still... I mean. There's still a chance though, right? My Dogma Bargains didn't mention anything about finding love-"

"There is no chance for you to find love." Matt cut me off. I felt my heart rate go up. I didn't know why. I knew there was no chance for me to find love now after all the horrible things I've done for this company. But why was there still a part of me that denied it?


Matt slammed his hand on the desk, taking off his mask and revealing his one missing eye. Which was a black socket. It made me queasy to look at, and this is coming from a guy who lost half of his face just to become Intangible.

"How many times am I going to tell you, kid." Matt growled. "There is no place for people like us. You're not going to find salvation. You're not going to find true happiness. And there is no way for you to find love. No matter what you tell yourself, you are a slave to the Dogma. That's how it is for us. That's the brutal reality."

I stared at his empty socket. It was almost ironic that something so empty could emit so much darkness and resentment. A feeling that I knew all too well.


Matt glared at me. "This team has no place for second thoughts. If your little naive half is still sprouting lies from within you, then burn it to ash. There will never be a happy ending for users of the Dogma."


I wanted to sink into my seat. Matt was scary when he was mad. And every time he got mad, it made me so upset, because he was everything I strived to be. Someone who let go of his attachments to the world. Someone who could just carry on his task without looking behind him. Someone who would never let his past and his ties and desires get in his way.

"I understand, Matt. I do." I said, coldly.

Matt repositioned himself, putting his mask back on.

"Good. Tomorrow's mission will really put your feelings to the test. And I must warn you, Yeling Mah..."

Matt's missing arm suddenly manifested, a black and red spiked mass as it materialized into the shape of a claw, wrapping around my throat. Matt's face was pure malice as he eyed me.

"If you have second thoughts, if you even so much as hesitate to kill both targets... I will kill you. I have no place for regrets in this team. No matter how old of a member you are in my eyes."


I nodded. "I'll kill them, Captain. I swear by it."


"Wow! This place looks so pretty!" Whitney said, her voice oozing with delight. Lewis rolled his eyes.

"Calm down, TF is gonna torch the place to oblivion anyway."

Whitney pouted. "Could have given me some time to appreciate it." She slumped in her seat in the van. Suddenly, Whitney leaned forward and put her arms around Matt's neck, who was sitting in the shotgun seat.

"Say, Captain. When's our day off? I'd love to spend some time with-"

"Not interested." Matt said.

Whitney slumped back in her seat, her pout even more pronounced than before.


There weren't many members to our team at the moment. Some of us were off doing other missions. Apparently, Matt had a second in command, but he was off doing some kinda recon or intel. Flint was still locked in his room for defying the Captain.

Didn't really matter. This operation only needed Whitney and I. Maybe Lewis for some recon. And Matt was responsible for making sure no one intervenes other than the resident guards.

"Remember you two, kill the proxy and anyone who intervenes. Do whatever you need to do. I don't give a shit. But do it quick. And I don't wanna see either of you hesitating. I'll kill anyone who tries to jump in." Matt glared at the sky. "Anybody."

We all knew what he meant by that. The Stormwatch Brigade. Part of the Realmwatch Collective, a company consisting of fifteen Brigades. Stormwatch was in charge of internal and external affairs. With the Tamaki Household being part of the external parts of New Ulysses, that meant we were in Stormwatch Jurisdiction.


Needless to say, Matt had a huge grudge against this particular Brigade. None of us really knew why. None of us dared to ask.

Whitney grasped her hands, squealing with joy. "I won't let you down, Matt! I'll savour this..." She licked her lips.

I'm sure she did. And I'm sure all of you will understand why.


We got off in a swift motion, as I exited first. I was in standard CI uniform, a black robe, and a mask covering half my face. I held out my hand before the guards could say anything.

Level 1 Hinokami - Inverse Tsunami Release - 20%.

A torrent of blue flame exited my arm as the runic lines decorating it glowed a brighter blue, the flames incinerating the entire household. Screaming and shouting emerging as I burnt everything to ash. Just as Matt had predicted, a green forcefield shielded a group of guards, who were huddled together.

Ayato Tamaki, the head of the household, shielded his wife, Yumi, as the guards all brought their weapons up. It didn't matter if Ayato was powered or not, it was clear he didn't have what it took to withstand us. Considering he was only capable of defence. Most of the time, he relied on his guards to carry out the asskicking. Too bad he happened to get on Taras' bad side. And now he was on our Hitlist.


Unlucky.


The force field dissipated, as the guards all began to open fire. But before that could happen, several black portals appeared under their feet, as the guards all fell through, and materializing into the sky. Matt got up slowly from his seat and left the van, as he held out his hand, creating a Senkaku clone before him, and pointed at one of the airborne guards, switching places with them.

Instantly, the guard materialized in front of us, his body impaled by the Clone, who eyed him with no remorse. The guard stared at us in horror as he crumpled to the ground. The sounds of fighting echoed in the sky as Matt dispatched each guard in the air flawlessly, zipping and darting in the sky with his switch teleport. The dude was levels above any fighter I had ever seen.

He wasn't just strong. Matt was smart. Fast. Deceptive. Cunning.

He was the ultimate soldier.


"They're making their move." Lewis said, as he continued scanning the area for hostiles.

Lewis nodded at Whitney and I. "Begin the assassination contract."


Running was not my strong suit. I was naturally an unathletic person. I guess that might have been one of the reasons I became a vessel to the Dogma. Regardless, it didn't take long for us to close the distance, because Whitney's crazy ass had instantly leapt on Ayato, her eyes full of bloodlust and the most crazy smile was on her face.

Yumi screamed as Ayato shouted at her.

"Run! Get out of here!"

Yumi sobbed as she had her hand over her mouth. "No... I can't leave you! NO!" She screamed.

I watched as Whitney tilted her head, giggling.

"I love the look of a man on the verge of death. Did you know this was how I killed Brice?"

Brice was Whitney's ex. The one she killed in cold blood that turned her into... well...

Whitney leaned in closer as Ayato grimaced.

"You do not scare me, Soul Eater."


Yumi began to whimper. "I cannot leave you, beloved. I refuse! Get... get away from him!" She screamed as she ran forward, but Ayato held out his hand, creating a force field that blocked her off.

"No. Yumi. I cannot live with myself to know you died. You need to live... for me. You need to continue the Tamaki bloodline. Our hopes our dreams. Do you remember?"

Ayato looked at Whitney, who slowly undid her mask, revealing her lips.

"Time to die, Tamaki Sen....sei!" Whitney took a deep breath, as air entered her mouth, as Ayato's face began to become more and more shrivelled.

Ayato looked at his wife one last time.


"For the both of us..." He muttered, holding out his hand as it crumbled to dust, his soul sucked in by Whitney's powers.


Yumi screamed as she ran off, and Whitney got to her feet, frowning at me.

"Umm, Yeling? Aren't you supposed to kill the other one?"

"Huh?" I asked.

Whitney put her hand on her hip. "Captain Matt is gonna be really pissed off once he finds out you hesitated. Better at least kill off the girl."

"Oh shit! You're right!" I yelped, as I quickly ran after her. How could I have gotten distracted?! Thank god Whitney wasn't the sadistic type to her squad mates. Come to think of it, Whitney was actually a really sweet person. As long as you were on her good side. Which was rare.


"Get away from me!" Yumi screamed, as she knocked over cabinet over cabinet trying to intercept the two of us. I activated my Level 2 Intangibility, as my body became a mere blue ghostly wisp, phasing through the barricades. Yumi sobbed and yelped as she tried to get away from me, climbing the stairs from a nearby building. Higher and higher. I followed, my feet melting the ground and creating blue melted footprints.

I should have just killed her right away with a blast of flame, but the more I chased after her, the more time I spent thinking.

Of her relationship with her husband.

Of their legacy, and the love they had for each other.

They cherished each other. Ayato loved her so much that he would give his life for her, and to keep her safe. Forcing her to turn away and not watch her beloved get sucked up to dust by Whitney.

There is no place for people like us. You're not going to find salvation. You're not going to find true happiness. And there is no way for you to find love. No matter what you tell yourself, you are a slave to the Dogma. That's how it is for us. That's the brutal reality.


Even if the facts were all laid out in front of me.

Even if every day I looked at my left arm, to see all the markings scrawled all over it. The tattooed lines. The demonic letterings that were all over my arm, that race up my neck. The scarring and deformed, destroyed skin that took over the right side of my face.

Part of me...


Yumi continued to sob as she ran up the steps and flung the doors open to the roof of the building. We were several stories above now, and Yumi backed herself to the roof, cornered. She clutched her belly, and I noticed that she was taking care to avoid hitting it.

My eyes widened.

You need to live... for me. You need to continue the Tamaki bloodline. Our hopes our dreams.

She was pregnant with Ayato's child.


"You... all of you. Are just pure monsters. So selfish, to take away the happiness of people just because of your stupid damn agenda!" Yumi screamed at me, as she took out a nearby piece of debris and threw it at me, which phased through my body.

I regarded her with my one exposed eye, which lit up cyan, as I reverted back to my normal form. I had to kill her. I had to prove to Matt that I wasn't soft.


I held out my hand, as the arcane lines all over my arm glowed cyan. Flames erupted from these lines as I prepared to blast her to oblivion. But for some reason, Yumi's reaction wasn't anything I had received before.

"Go on then. Go on Tidalflame. Kill me. Kill my son. I bet you enjoy tearing people down. All you bastards can enjoy your time in hell!"

I clenched my fist. Why was I hesitating?!

Whitney killed Ayato knowing full well they were together. She didn't just do it without hesitation. She loved it. If Matt was here, he would have killed them both, with no hesitation. Just like that. If Lewis was here, he would have incinerated both of them with his eye beams. Flint would have killed them and had fun with it.

Yet here I was... I couldn't even kill this woman. I had all the power in the world.


YELING MAH. YOU SHALL BE THE FLAMES OF MY BEING. THE FIRES OF THE GREAT AKUMA. YOU POSSESS INCREDIBLE POWER. The Great Akuma himself acknowledged me, when I unlocked Hinokami. That night when the flames took form, that night where I watched the Dogma rip into my arm, burning those lines into the skin, into the flesh.

That night I had killed my entire family. That was the sacrifice. That was what it took to become the Devil's Flames.

I had done the unforgivable. I had taken the life of the people who gave me life. Of the people who loved me.

I went so low as to do something so horrific. Yet why wasn't I... why wasn't I....


Why wasn't I like them?


"What are you waiting for?!" Yumi screamed at me as I gasped.

I looked back at Yumi, who's face was pouring with tears. She had pulled out something from her kimono. A dark grey object. A gun.

"My life is already over. I have no chance... no chance of surviving this. Ayato and my son. We were supposed to carry on the name. Ayato wanted to teach our little boy how to ride a bicycle, because he himself never learned how to from his father." Yumi smiled, as she put the barrel of the gun to her head.

"No... stop!" I said, against my own will.

This was wrong. This was all wrong. I should be the one ending her life. Not herself.


Yumi gave me a look of pity. "I won't let you kill me. I will do it myself." She said, as she pressed her finger on the trigger.


"DON'T!" I screamed, as I rushed forward, but suddenly, a shadow appeared, and knocked Yumi to the ground, as she crumpled unconscious. I stared at figure. A large 6 foot 5 man, wearing shades and a buzzcut that was greying. He looked at me, and rushed forward with blinding speed as I instantly activated Intangibility.

The man pulled back.

"Tidalflame, the Contingency Initiative truly has no remorse for anything. To kill a pregnant woman? How unforgivable." The man said, as he twisted around. He couldn't do anything against me while I was Intangible, but he seemed to already know that. Because he kept pressuring me.

My Level 2 Intangibility kept me from being harmed, as anything would just pass through my body. But it took up a lot of stamina.


And this man knew that. I tried to get some breathing room, as I leapt back, deactivating Level 2, and blasting the area with flames to push him back. My entire vision was shrouded with blue flames. There was no way this guy could close the distance. There was no room-

"So Taras' teachings have been sloppy." The man's voice appeared. From underneath.

I stared in horror as the man closed in.

"It doesn't take a genius to know... that your flames come from those markings on your left arm. An AoE attack from you... isn't truly an AoE, is it?"

The man kicked me in the stomach as I flew sideways.


"ACK!" I spat out as I flew into a nearby radiator, destroying it and sending sparks everywhere.

I got to my feet. This guy, was so skillful. So smart. So perceptive.

Only one person had this level or skill and aptitude in fighting.


Metron of the Stormwatch Brigade.

Metron closed in, as I held out my hand, blasting flame at him, but he darted to the side, zig zagging as he flew in.

I yelped as I instantly when intangible, and I turned around, blasting flame in an outward circular motion frantically trying to get something in. This made no sense. I was at an advantage. Everything was in my favour. I just had to incinerate the area. Even the safety of Yumi meant nothing to me. I was supposed to kill her. Metron was supposed to protect her.


But despite that, he was winning. I spun around and unleashed a torrent of flame.

"To hell with this..." I growled, the markings on my arm glowing brighter.

Level 1 Hinokami - Devil's Typhoon I yelled, as blue flames protruded outwards, forming a massive fiery tornado that incinerated the whole place. Yumi definitely should have been incinerated by that. The building began to melt, as the supports disintegrated, and I fell down several stories. I activated my Intangibility as my flaming body splattered onto the ground, creating a massive burning inferno as I regained shape.

"Too slow." Metron said, as he closed in and struck me across the face, splitting my mask in two. I fell back, the disorientation keeping me from going Intangible again.


And Metron knew that. Because he took this opportunity fully, and slammed his elbow into my back as I fell flat on my face.

"Urgh..." I grumbled, as Metron took out a pair of cuffs.

This was it. I didn't expect Metron or the Stormwatch Brigade to come. And what was worse...

What was worse was I hesitated. At least Yumi was dead.


"Sorry, Tidalflame. But I'm not letting you get away with anything." Metron said, as he stood before me. To my shock, Yumi's unconscious body was slumped over his shoulder.

"No..." I muttered. This couldn't be. I struggled to me feet, summoning my flames.

"Let me at least kill her!" I shouted, as my flames became more aggressive, but Metron regarded me sadly.

"I'm afraid this is over." He said, as he closed in. I was out of stamina. I couldn't use Level 2. And my Hinokami flames were so doused that I was barely able to create any more than a sputter.

"I... I won't lose. I REFUSE!" I shouted as I rushed forward, but suddenly, a shadow intercepted us, stopping Metron's movements.


"Well, TF. It looks like you failed to kill our target." A familiar voice said from within his cloak. Matt turned around, his one eye, glowing red at the pupils.

"Mir.. Mirage..." I muttered.

"But you tried, and I didn't see you hesitate. So there's that. I'll let you off the hook, but mostly because I wanted to go one more round with the Stormwatch Brigade."

I got to my feet as I watched Matt's shadow arm manifest, the black spikes arcing up his left shoulder replacement, glowing red. I shifted to the side to get a better view. Matt's mask covered his chin, face, and his right eye, but kept his mouth and left eye exposed. Matt grinned evilly at Metron.

"Say, Old Man Metron. Let's have another go, shall we?" Matt taunted, as Metron brought his hands up and assumed a stance, his eyes glowing a white-blue.

"I don't have time to play games with you, Mirage. I'm taking you out. Both you and Tidalflame. I'm going serious for you scum. Take that as you will."

Metron... was going easy on me? I felt so insulted and unworthy to be on Squad Four, but I kept to myself.


Mirage looked at me, his eye cold and calculating.

"Stay out of this."

I nodded, as Mirage assumed his stance, and charged Metron head on.


Chapter 3 - The Mirage vs. The Stormwatch Brigade

Metron zipped in with blinding speed, but Matt jumped back, doing a reverse handstand, and kicked upwards with both feet. Metron weaved out of the way, but Matt twisted midair, and created a Senkaku clone behind him, who pushed and launched Matt to Metron's location. Matt landed a punch that Metron blocked, and flipped backwards, landing on his feet. Metron closed in again, and the two began a hand to hand exchange of blows.

"I have no idea how you're able to match me blow for blow, Mirage. But I will bring you down in the name of the Realmwatch Collective. For all of your crimes with the Contingency Initiative." Metron said, but Matt caught his punch.

Level 2 Amplification Matt said, as he grabbed Metron's other hand, and leapt into the air, twisting and flinging the older fighter into the air.

Twisting Bonebreaker! Matt shouted, as I heard several bones crack. I watched as Matt slammed Metron into the ground, cracking it. Metron. The guy who had easily evaded my blasts of heat. Who showcased so much skill, was being outmatched by Squad Leader Matt. My faith in him was once again restored.


Matt landed on the ground, but he didn't look satisfied.

"What's wrong? Mirage?" I asked. But Matt continued eyeing Metron.

"So you finally showed up. Patcher." Matt said, as a beautiful woman and a very fit dude appeared. Patcher held out her hand, as Metron began to regenerate from his broken bones.


Patcher helped Metron to his feet as she glared at Mirage.

"You're not getting away this time, Mirage. We're going to stop you."

"Oh?" Matt began to chuckle, which turned into a cackle and a crazy laugh. Matt mashed his fists together.


"Metron, Patcher, Guardian." He taunted. "Stormwatch's first generation. Assembled to take me down! How fate has brought us together.... again." He said.

Guardian stood forward. I heard so many stories about this dude. He was Realmwatch's greatest soldier. Joseph "The Guardian" Greziak. If you thought Metron was crazy skillful, this guy was just as skillful. And if anything, he also had the power to back it up.

A near reincarnation of Vala, the Spirit of Hope. A powerful spectral entity that sided with the humans during the First Great War. Guardian was the closest to a superhero we were ever gonna get in this messed up world.


Joseph eyed Matt with disdain. "You hurt Logan. That's something I'm not gonna forgive."

"Well then, hero." Matt mocked. "Let's see if you can back up your words. I'm gonna take you all on."

Matt charged all three heroes as I watched from the sidelines. There was really nothing I could do against all three First Gen members of Stormwatch. Not as I was currently. Maybe if I was fresh. I could at least take down Patcher. But all three of them combined... was definitely too much for me. Even at full power.


But here Matt was, fighting all three.

Joseph glowed blue, as he zipped in with his supersonic speed to launch a punch, but Matt's eye glowed red, and the two of them switched places. Guardian's eyes widened as Matt smashed his foot into Greziak's face using the same supersonic speed. Then twisted, launching a kick that sent Metron back.

Patcher, Guardian, and Metron closed in, and brought their respective strikes at Matt, but Mirage simply smiled, as multiple copies of himself spread outwards. All attacks missed. Matt's mirages all imitated his movements, as Guardian zipped forward, launching punch after punch at each mirage hoping one of his superpowered punches could land, but none of them did. Even at hypersonic speed.

"Too slow." Matt taunted, as he went low, striking Guardian in the midsection. Another clone manifested behind him, and helped with the punch and sent Joseph into the air. Matt used his clone to push himself into air and switch teleported with Joseph. His arm manifested a chain and flung him into air, and switch teleported again. A vicious cycle that happened in the span of a second as before I knew it, Matt and Joseph were in a vicious back and forth in the air.


Amplification and Senkaku: Slingshot Backbreaker

Matt smashed Joseph into ground, but before he could hit it, he and his two clones struck upwards, snapping his back. Guardian yelled in pain, but managed to regain his composure.

Matt glared at Patcher evilly.

"Rui... always... ruining things..." He spoke, his eye full of murderous intent. Matt stomped onto the ground, and began switch teleporting, closing in on Rui fast.

Logan and Joseph tried to intercept, but Matt's clones got in the way. Each of them holding out two fingers, and manifesting their own mirages.


Level 3 Senkaku: Legion of Mirrors the clones spoke in unison, unleashing their own barrage of punching and tendril strikes. Metron and Guardian found themselves fighting off the clones as Matt pinned Rui onto the ground.


Patcher glared at Mirage, as Matt smiled.

"So beautiful, it makes my Level 1 Curse so unbearable." Matt muttered, stroking her face. Thank god Whitney wasn't around. She would have had a heart attack.

Rui struggled. "Ugh. Creep!"

Matt's face suddenly went serious. "I tried to be nice, and this is what I get. Well, at least it's better than before." He said, as his arm turned into a blade.

Rui's face changed. "Like before...?"

Suddenly, a huge explosion appeared, knocking Matt back.


"Mirage!" I shouted. Matt slid backwards, regaining his balance, as two other members appeared.

"Holy crap, Patchy Patch. You good?" One of the members said. The other looked at Matt. He had weird lines on his arm too. Just like him. Just like me.


"Lucas." Matt said, as he regained his composure.

Lucas' eyes narrowed. "Huh? How do you know who I am?"

Matt held out his hand. "Those markings. Your eyes. They emit sadness. Like a curse. An... exchange..."

Lucas clenched his fists. "Don't give me that shit. Logan and Joseph warned me about your tricks. I ain't going beyond Level 1. You can forget it. I ain't joining you either."

Matt grimaced. "You will know the hard reality for people like us soon."


The entire Stormwatch Brigade rejoined, as I watched Matt's clones dissipate from being finished off.

Matt regarded everybody, as all five Brigadiers readied themselves, powering up.

"I can't fight this." He muttered, as he looked at me.

"We're leaving. Consider this mission a half success."


"Hey!" One of the recruits shouted. "Where are you going?!" He rushed forward, but Matt simply smiled, grabbing me, and activating a switch teleport with a nearby object from a faraway building. We left, as we regrouped with the rest of Squad Four.


"Captain!!!" Whitney screamed as she ran up to Matt and wrapped her arms around his midsection. Matt regarded the rest of us.

"Ayato is dead, at least. Yumi, from what Whitney has said, appears to be on her last legs of sanity. So there's that. We're going home."

Lewis sighed. "Yeah, well. If those scumbag Stormwatch members didn't intercept us, we coulda gotten the job done. Good work though. Taking them on like that, Matt. That alone is freaking impressive."

Matt pushed Whitney out of the way. "Hm." He said, as we entered the van and returned back to our HQ.


We weren't able to get the same van as last time, since that would be too suspicious. We ended up breaking apart into two groups. Lewis and Whitney in one car. Matt and I in another.

I looked out the window as we drove back to the hideout.

I glanced at my hand, the numerous lines marked on it. So much power. So much destructive ability. Yet... I couldn't even beat Metron, who didn't once use his full power on me.

"Metron was a pretty tough opponent to beat. I wouldn't get hung up on it." Matt said.

I turned to him. "Yeah, but... you took all three of them on."

Matt adjusted his sleeves. "That's different."

"How so?"

Matt glanced at me, raising an eyebrow. "Because I know them. I know how they operate. I know how they fight."


I guess that made sense. Matt was always such a highly meticulous person. Analyzing and learning his opponents in a fight seemed like a really Matt thing to do.


By the time we got home, Lewis hit the hay, and Whitney began to pop open a Crown Royal.

"Want some?" She offered.

"Nah." I said, as I slumped on the couch. Whitney leaned forward.

"Lemme guess, you got rocked by Metron Woodley didn't cha."

I grumbled as I took the glass and downed it.

"I could have killed Yumi if that old man didn't get in my way. Should have used Devil's Typhoon right off the bat."

Whitney laughed. "Awww, it's probably just the nerves, ya' know? We all get them. I mean, when I'm about to kill somebody, I get this rush."

"Yeah, but it benefits you."


Whitney propped her feet on the table. "Yeling, why'd you join the Contingency Initiative?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Is that even a question? I got nowhere else to be."

Whitney took another sip of her drink. "Exactly. We're so down under. Ain't nowhere else for us to go. At this point, we just gotta keep our dirty chins up high and keep doing what we have to do."

If only it were that simple. Maybe if I had Whitney's personality this job would have been easier.


Suddenly, the mental image of me trying to win Matt's one sided affection popped into my mind. Actually... I take that back.


"Did you run into the others in Stormwatch?" I asked.

Whitney chuckled. "Yeah, I ran into Patcher. She's cute. Got that cute innocent girly vibe. Would dig, not gonna lie."

"Huh?" I asked.

"What do you mean 'huh?' Never heard of bisexuality before?"

"No! I mean, I uh. Nevermind." I muttered. Whitney laughed.


"Awww, you're so damn innocent Yeling!" She got up and put her hands on my shoulders, massaging it.

"Maybe someday, you'll grow up, maybe lose your V card."

"Okay! I guess I'm heading off now." I quickly got up and headed to my room. Whitney waved me goodbye.


I headed to my room, as I heard Matt torturing Flint from a holding cell not too far from mine. Just some casual torture to brighten up the night I guess. I had seen this same thing happen so many times, it was almost normal for me.

I slumped into my bed and pulled out a charred photo of four people. My family. Matt would have flipped if he found out I still had it in my possession. To have old ties was considered weakness in this squad. In this whole company. But I just couldn't. I hugged the photo, remembering my parent's embrace. How they told me that no matter how badly I did in school, or how I struggled to make friends. I would still be loved by them no matter what.

Suddenly, I remembered how the flames sprouted from my arm. The flames arcing all the way to the ceiling. How my mom ran in, panic in her face as I cried, asking her for help. Because I couldn't make the flames stop. I couldn't control it, as I watched the flames get closer and closer to her.


I snapped out of it. No. I couldn't remember this. I couldn't. I put the photo back into its safe. My past was my past. To be burnt away. I had people in this squad now. I had a mission to destroy this world. There was no place for people like me here. So I might as well combust.

To burn this world to the ground.


Chapter 4 - Urca vs. Squad Four

"We springin someone out of jail?" Whitney asked, as Matt laid out the plans.

"Looks like it." I said, as I took a look at the photos and nearly spat out my drink.

"No way." I said. Was this guy for real?

Matt took the photo back. "Yes. Looks like Lord Taras wants some bigger guns to advance to the next Quarter. If we are gonna get big guns, we have to get the biggest. And that means breaking out Urca."

To those unacquainted, in the Contingency Initiative, we have multiple squads. Right now, we have around six squads. A bit shy from the fifteen in the Realmwatch Collective (our biggest adversary), but in exchange, we have higher quality and more powerful members. Since many of us have undergone much more brutal training. We're also tougher, having seen more death.


Of all the squads, Squad Four, our squad, is currently the top in terms of power. Which makes sense. We're an annihilation squad. The whole point of our being was to destroy and kill. But we weren't always the top. And it was very clear why that was.

Squad One. Lead by the most ruthless, darkest, brutal criminal. Rumour had it that he was so powerful that even Taras had trouble putting him on the leash. Because this dude was just levels beyond anything imaginable. According to Matt, even he believes he won't even put up much of a fight against the guy.

But there was a reason why Squad One ceased to operate. Because Urca, as powerful as he was, wasn't exactly a team player. And at some point, his whole team followed him in an attempt to overthrow Taras and become leader of the Contingency Initiative. But for his own personal gain. Taras was enraged when he found out, and defeated Urca, forcing him to watch as Taras slaughtered his entire team before his very eyes. Since then, Taras locked Urca up for many years, and the power hierarchy of the remaining five squads fluctuated.


Until Matt joined the Contingency Initiative, and rose to the top with his power. Matt may not have been the strongest, but he was certainly the most cunning. And that earned him the spot of Squad Leader quick.


Even so... Taras planning us to break out Urca... after everything. This must have been serious. This mission was also no joke. Urca hates Taras, as you probably would have guessed. The two have bad blood.

Matt probably read my expression. "You're right, Yeling. Knowing Urca, he's going to try to fight us all. That means it's up to us to take him down and put him on the leash."

Lewis stared at Matt. "Uhh what? Fight Urca? Have you lost your mind?"

Matt looked at the papers without any emotion. "We do what Taras tells us. Consider this a means to become stronger."


We all didn't look too stoked for that. This was basically suicide. But if Matt ordered us to do it... we didn't have much of a choice.

"I'll fight Urca and wipe the floor with his face for you, Captain Matty." Whitney said, as she leaned forward, attempting to embrace Matt, but the Squad Leader stood up.

"I don't give a shit about your reasons. Just get the job done." Matt said, as he opened the door.

Lewis drank the rest of his coffee. "I just hope Maika shows up on time."


Right on queue, Maika busted through the doors.

"I'm hoooooOOOmmme!!!" Maika sung, as she threw confetti at Matt's face. We all went silent, as Matt said nothing. Maika danced around the flat as Lewis and I had to hold Whitney back.

"Imma drink that bitch." She muttered.

Maika sat across from us. "Damn. We're fighting the Great Urca himself. This mission is so messed up! At least it's a good opportunity to get stronger. It's that or we all die!" Maika began laughing hysterically, as she bounded to the bathroom.


"Hey!" Whitney growled, as she ran in.

"Don't touch my makeup!" She screeched, as the two girls began to reenact the Civil War in the bathroom.


Matt facepalmed. "This might take longer than I thought." He muttered.

Lewis crossed his arms. "I hope you have a plan, Captain."

Matt looked at his subordinate. "Yeah. The plan is I kick his ass and you lackeys provide backup."

Lewis raised his eyebrows. "The hell kind of a plan is that?! This is URCA we are talking about! You can't just do what you normally do and expect to wing this-"

Matt glared at Lewis, who zipped it instantly.

"Sorry." He said, quickly.


Matt walked past him and took the picture of Urca.

"Urca of Squad One. He was a true Squad Leader. But he lacked loyalty. Despite that, he gained his immense power through resolve. I will fight him, out of that honour. You guys can all be bitches all you want. But I will take this opportunity with full stride."

Matt turned to us. His eye menacing.

"Might I remind you, that as far as teamwork is concerned, I only care that you dumbasses get the job done. And not give me a bad rep to Taras. I couldn't care less what happens to you idiots. Do whatever the hell you want."


I smiled nervously. "Yes sir..." Lewis and I both said at the same time.


We arrived at the roof of the prison cell. Apparently, the top security prison was a lot easier to bypass. But then again, any stealth we needed to do was essentially hacks with Maika around. She practically could make someone invisible from anywhere.

Lewis knelt down, and purple light beams appeared from his eyes, cutting the glass. We stepped aside, as numerous Contingency Initiative foot soldiers all jumped down the hole, their black robes and white masks filling the skies.

Matt jumped in himself, as we all followed suit.


We landed on the ground, and followed Lewis as he began searching for Urca with his vision powers.

"This place is so gross." Whitney muttered.

"Isn't this kinda like your old living arrangements with Brice?" Maika joked.

Whitney glared at her. "Watch your mouth, you don't know who I'm gonna kill next. Maybe it might be one of our own."

"Oooh, scary. What will Matty think? Hm?"


"Knock it off you two." Matt snapped. "Both of you are giving me a damn headache."

I glared at the walls, the next turn, the next light, the next door Lewis was leading us past. Every time we found a guard, I lit him up with a blast of flame. His screams of agony meant nothing to me. My main focus was on Urca.

This might have sounded crazy. But I wanted to show to Matt and everybody that I was just like them. If it meant taking down Urca, I might be able to validate it. It was true. I was getting soft. I couldn't afford that.


The Devil's Flames. I had sacrificed so much to unlock Hinokami. There was no going back now.


"Well, this is it." Lewis said, as we approached an enormous holding cell. Inside was a gigantic man. He was probably 7 foot. His black silky hair was ridiculously long, reaching his waist. And by god... he was... he was...

"He's HUGE! And NAKED!" Maika exclaimed.

Well that was one way to put it.

Urca was ridiculously muscular. Like, most big guys you see, are mostly fat. They could be muscular underneath, but it's rare to see them huge and ripped. But Urca... he was clearly juiced up. Because he made every single Mister Olympia champion look tiny. 7 feet. Huge. And ripped.

Matt eyed the holding cell. Urca had his eyes closed.


"Open it." Matt commanded Lewis, who reluctantly fired a pair of laser beams at the holding cell.

I found myself inching back away from Urca. I turned and realized everybody was doing the same.


Except for Matt.


Urca opened his eyes, as he stepped forward, towering over our Squad Leader.

"Who are you. Why have you disturbed my slumber."

Matt held out his hand.

"I am Matthew Lam. The Mirage. Leader of Squad Four."

Urca regarded the fellow Squad Leader. The height difference was ridiculous. Matt was muscular too, but he was athletic muscular. Urca was muscular. But like... a freak show muscular.

"Squad..." He muttered, then his eyes went wide.


"Bastard... you serve TARAS." He roared, as he flexed his muscles, a massive gust of wind sending all of us back. Matt held out his arm and shielded himself, as he slowly slid back as well.

"Pax sent your squad to find me. I'm guessing he thinks you're the best his Contingency Initiative can offer." Urca looked Matt up and down.

"My qualms are not with you, puny boy. It is with Taras. But if you think you can defeat me, then you are more delusional than your master. My loyalty is with someone else. Something else."


Matt eyed Urca, his face menacing.

"We'll see about that."

Matt leapt into the air, and opened his left arm, which transformed into a chain, and wrapped around Urca's neck. Matt pulled and sent himself to Urca, as Urca looked at our Squad Leader unimpressed.

"That won't work on me-"

Suddenly, Matt's eye glowed, and activating Switch Teleport. Urca materialized in Matt's place, as Matt manifested two clones, throwing a combined punch at a now airborne Urca who was hurtling at them.


"Mirage... do you think you can handle my momentum?"

Matt's eyes widened as Urca simply let himself take the hit, but his sheer momentum... was too much, as I heard bones crack. Matt hit the ground, his two clones dissipating, as Urca grabbed his neck and flung him several yards across the holding cell room, smashing into a nearby wall.


"Matt!" Whitney shouted, as she ran in and began to absorb Urca's life-force.

"He's... too much..." She gasped, as Urca began to close the distance.


Maika slammed her hands on the ground, and a pair of invisible hands yanked Whitney away as Lewis and I prepared our attacks.

Level 1 Hinokami - Inverse Tsunami Release 100% I shouted, as I blasted a massive torrent of flame at Urca, who stopped dead in his tracks.

Lewis joined in, firing a wide beam of light from his eyes.


"Heh. Ha. Hahahaha." Urca laughed as the flames and smoke dissipated. I stared at Urca in shock, as he got out of our attacks unharmed. He resisted my Hinokami flames. The flames of the Dogma. He resisted it...

"Fun is over." Urca said, as he closed in faster than I could register. He was so fast for a guy his size, and I watched in horror as Urca grabbed Lewis by the face and threw him into a wall.

Urca turned to me. And swung downwards. I frantically activated Intangibility, as I leapt back.


"Intangibility?" Urca said, amused. "A coward's ability." He mocked.

"Call it all you want." I muttered, my rage returning. I needed to prove myself. I needed to take this guy out. He was only melee. I had the advantage if I kept my distance. I blasted fire from my hands and propelled myself to the next floor.


I held out both my hands as I felt power surging through me. I couldn't use this ability for longer than fifteen seconds. But I had no choice.

Level 1 Hinokami - Double Inverse Tsunami Release

Two giant torrents of flames emitted from me and flooded the entire bottom floor with blue flames. Maika yelped as she frantically latched onto the nearest thing she could find to escape, grabbing Whitney along with her.


Urca chuckled, as he emerged from the flames. He had blocked my attack, but his arms were slightly charred.

"The flames of the Great Akuma. Interesting." He said, as he instantly closed the distance. My eyes widened as he held his fist back, and time seemed to slow. There was no time for me to activate Intangibility. He was going to connect. One punch and I was a dead man.

Urca suddenly, disappeared, replaced by Matt, who was heavily wounded, blood pouring from his face.


"Captain!" Maika and Whitney shouted running to Matt's aid, but Matt shrugged them off.

"Shut up." He said, as he eyed Urca, who took his time dispatching Matt's clones, ripping them in half with his ridiculous strength.

"He's not even using his powers yet." He muttered.

"What?!" I said, incredulous. "There's no way. He grabbed you and flung you around. He legit walked past both Lewis and my attacks!"


Matt watched as Urca finished the rest of Matt's clones and pointed his finger at us.

"Urca's resilience to attacks is innate to him. The fact that we haven't forced him to use his powers means we aren't strong enough." Matt clenched his fists.

"I'm not strong enough." He growled.


Matt leapt from the railing and landed in front of Urca. Who smiled.

"Ready for Round 2, little Captain?"

Matt assumed his stance.

"Matt, don't!" Whitney shouted. "You'll be killed!"


Urca cracked his neck. "Aww, you seem to have yourself a little fangirl. I thought you said you had a curse on that. I wonder how that's going for you."

Matt clenched his fist. "It only fires if I reciprocate it. I don't give a shit about Whitney."


Urca charged, as Matt manifested two clones, who pushed and propelled him forward. Urca held out his hand, and Matt slipped past, becoming weightless, and wrapped his chain around the Squad One Captain's neck. Matt resummoned his clones, who yanked him down in an attempt to send Urca on his back, but Urca, grabbed the chain and threw two Matt's into the air.

Urca held out his hand, which turned into a fist.

"This'll do a number on you, puny boy." He said, as he punched the air, a massive torrent of wind slicing up the two into pieces. So... this was his power. Air manipulation. He could manipulate it to his liking. Shaping it into nearly infinitely sharp arcs. And the sheer strength he had, forcing them forward with ridiculous speed and momentum.


The two beings fell on the ground, and burst into darkness.

"What?" Urca said.

Urca had been too focused on the two Matt's that he hadn't realized the third one... the REAL Matt, was underneath him, inside a portal, which was at his feet. Matt smiled as a massive spike went right through Urca's foot, the Squad One Captain roaring in pain.

"Sneaky little bastard, you are." Urca roared, as he held out his hand, but Matt activated switch teleport, forcing Urca into the portal.


Matt appeared before the man, his one eye cold and malicious.

"This portal links you to the other side of the room. But I'm not kind enough to let you go all the way through." He said, as he closed his hand, tightening it. Urca began to struggle, as Matt smiled sinisterly.

"Half of you here. Half of you there. There's no surviving this, Urca, unless you admit your defeat to me."


Urca chuckled, to our disbelief. "Oh dear. How Taras' pawns become so foolish over time. Back in my day, his students were top rate."

Urca began to widen the portal, to Matt's shock. To all of our shock. This guy's strength... transcends space?

Urca roared as he forced the portal open, and grabbed Matt's face.


"I think you need to remember your place. You are nothing to me. Just a mere temporary gig for Taras. You will never replace me." Urca began to squeeze as Matt retched in pain.

"Matt!" I shouted, as I leapt from the railing and fired bolts of flames at Urca, who shrugged it off.

"Do NOT help me..." Matt muttered, causing Urca to chuckle.

"A little bit of an ego you got there, boy." Urca said, as he threw Matt at me. I went intangible as Matt passed right through my body.


Level 1 Hinokami - Double Inverse Tsunami Release! I shouted, as I blasted Urca with flames once more. Urca held out his arms. He went charred before. If I could max out my limits... I could deal damage.

I continued the stream of heat as I felt my body giving way.


The flames dissipated as I felt my arms nearly crumpled in itself. But to my horror, Urca had blocked the entire attack.

"Did you think one little char was enough to justify the damage of your attack?" Squad One's Leader said, as he instantly closed the distance.

"Yeling!" Maika shouted as she tried to pull me back, but Urca grabbed the invisible arm and yanked her into his vicinity.

"Your powers are disappointing. You should have stayed in a Stealth squad. To join an elimination squad is simply foolish. Taras has lost his touch." Urca said as he kneed Maika and sent her unconscious.

My vision turned red with rage. I knew Urca was too strong for us. But that was no excuse. My only objective left in this world was to raze it to the ground. But if I couldn't even do this, did I really have any purpose left?


My arms burst into flames once more, but Urca turned to me.

"That's enough. You're done, child." He said, as he opened his hand, and a massive jolt of wind sliced me up. I gasped and spat out blood as my body exploded in blood, my vision turning blurry.


Then all went black.


Chapter 5 - Devil's Flames

"Hey." I texted to Tess.

"Hey." She responded. She was in her depressed mood today. I wanted to help her out, but I didn't know how.

"Want to know what happened in school today?!" I said, putting as much enthusiasm in my text as I could.

"?" Tess responded.

"Well, I got my exam grade back, and I got below average. Turned out I forgot to write a number wrong!"

"Lol."


My heart sank. Tess was the only friend I ever had, who genuinely would let me share things with her. But no matter how much I tried... something about her just didn't fit in with me.

"Yeling, I'm having a panic attack. I just don't feel too well. I can't even breathe, and my heart hurts. Everything is hurting."

My eyes went wide as I frantically tried to text her back.

"What do you need me to do? What can I do to help you?"

No answer.


That night, I could barely sleep. I knew Tess had suffered a lot of bad things in her life. She was abused when she was a child, her parents neglected her. She was bullied and cheated on multiple times. Assaulted. Everything. You name it. Every day she had to put up with patients in a psychiatric ward, and numerous times she had to see the most messed up shit. She had bipolar disorder and internal voices in her head, and she had panic attacks regularly.

But despite all that, she did her best to be my support. To cheer me up when I felt down.

And I felt like I deserved none of that, because here she was, unable to even breathe, and I couldn't do a single damn thing. And here I was just complaining to her about my problems. She neglected all of hers and tended to mine. She was a friend that was just too good for me.


I wrapped myself in my bedsheets as I tried to sleep through my self guilt.


That night, I regularly checked my phone to see if Tess was getting better. That's when I saw it. She was in a voice call with a bunch of other people. They looked like they were playing a game. I quickly turned off my phone and tried to sleep through the night.

The next morning I checked my phone, and received a text from Tess.

"Hey. How's it going ? :)"

Did... did she get better?

"Hi, how are you feeling?"

"Much better. I had a couple of friends who I talked to and they made me feel better."


My heart stopped. She was better. And I had a pretty good idea how that happened.

"You there? You must be busy, I'll text you later! :)" Tess said.

I texted back. "Hey... do you mind if I ask you something?"

"What is it?"

"You have lots of friends for support, don't you."


Tess began typing back. "Of course, they've been my pillar of support for years. We're like family now at this point!"

I clenched my fist. No.

Not again.

Just when I felt like I was accepted...


"Yeling? You there?"

"Tess... what am I to you?"

"A friend..."

"But... you have so many. Am I even worth talking to at this point?"

"I don't think I really understand what you're talking about."

"I'm saying that I don't deserve to have you in my life."


Tess was silent for a few minutes. She began to type something, but deleted it. It took a few minutes for her to get back to me.

"I'm here to support you, Yeling. I will always be there for you if you need it."

"That's exactly what I mean." I responded. "You're always there for me... but when you needed help the most... I wasn't there for you."

"Yeling, don't beat yourself up just because I had a little panic attack. Besides, my friends were there for me. I have many others to lean on."


My heart began twisting and ripping apart. Never had I felt so... useless. So discarded. I lived my life alone, without friends, and I was always the oddball. I had depression... and I had temper tantrums. To the point where I was considered too unstable to hang around. People always avoided me for that reason.

So I came here, and tried to make friends with the mental health community. To seek support and friends who were like me...

And here I was, realizing that I could never have these friends...

Because even among the mentally ill...


I didn't fit in.


"Tess, you're not getting what I'm saying. This is exactly what I mean. I... I can't even help you. You went through so much shit. You've seen so much messed up things. I haven't even taken a life before. I-"

"Yeling, taking a life isn't an accomplishment. It's the last thing you ever want to do."

"Tess... I wish I could be like your friends."

"Yeling, do you know what you are saying? How could you say something like that? You're living a normal life. You have parents who love you and you are in education. Don't ever say you will throw all that away to be like us. Don't ever say that."


That point. That message. It was there did I realize that even among those who were struggling I could never be accepted. I was just too much in the grey zone to be anywhere. I couldn't find a place to fit in, to be accepted. My whole life I walked it alone. I watched as I texted Tess my final message. Telling her that this was an end to our friendship, as I removed her from my contacts. The only friend I thought I ever had.


YOUR ORIGINS. A voice rumbled within me. It was the Great Akuma.

"Akuma..." I muttered, tears running down my cheeks.

"I can't beat Urca. I told myself that the only thing I had left for in this world was to burn everything down. And I can't even do that. Please, tell me what I must do."

I looked at the giant red face. His fangs and endless scowl. His horns.

"I need to unlock it. I need to unlock Level 3. Set up the Dogma Bargain."

NO. YOU ARE NOT READY TO HANDLE LEVEL 3.

"But-"

YOUR LEVEL 1 ABILITY STILL HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL. DO YOU REMEMBER, WHAT YOU SAID TO ME, WHEN YOU UNLOCKED IT?


I remembered. I was sprawled on the ground that one night, when I learned Tess had a mental breakdown. She had tried to end it all, because that night, her boyfriend had left her, and it was also the same night that I had cut off our friendship. I was the reason Tess went through a downwards spiral back into the abyss. I had given up on my life. I just wanted it all to end as well.

I resented this world. For how it treated me. For how it grouped everybody together into little categories, and how I was left neglected. To watch myself be an outsider to everyone I came across.

That night, I spoke to the Great Akuma. I felt myself reciting an ancient language, as a blue circle appeared at my feet. But instead of trying to stop it, I let it keep going. Because I wanted the power.


"I wanted the power to destroy this world." I said, as my body burst into flames.


THEY SAY A MAN WHO WALKS A PATH OF RAGE WILL WALK IT ALONE. BUT YOU HAVE BEEN WALKING ALONE YOUR WHOLE LIFE.

An image of Tess appeared before me, as she held hands with her boyfriend, and had a bunch of other people from the community greet her, surround her, and give her affection.

My vision darkened, as I felt myself shaking with rage.


YOU ARE A MAN WITH NOTHING TO LOSE. THIS IS WHY YOU WERE CHOSEN BY ME, TO CARRY OUT MY DEEDS. TO BECOME MY VESSEL. ALONG WITH THE OTHER HOLDERS OF THE DOGMA.

I clenched my fists, as I felt my flames becoming more and more concentrated. They were no longer flames, they were almost... like a glow.


YOU ARE THE DEVIL'S FLAMES. YOU ARE MY FLAMES. DESTROY THIS WORLD. MAKE URCA SEE YOUR RESOLVE.


I yelled, as a beam of light exited my body, incinerating everything.


"Burn to ash." I hissed, as I watched Tess and everybody incinerate into black dust.


I gasped awake, as I jolted upwards.

"Yeling!" Whitney shouted, as she finished healing me.

I looked at her, then at Urca, who was fighting Matt. Matt was on full evasion mode. Which was working okay, but it meant he was just dodging. He wasn't dealing damage.

"Matt is not gonna hold out long. Come on. We need to help him. We're the only ones standing."


I got up. "Whitney, tell Matt to come here and stay back. I'm gonna do a thing."

Whitney looked at me. "Damn, look at you taking charge."

Whitney waved Matt over as he materialized next to us.

"Guess you finally grew some balls, TF."


I stepped forward, approaching Urca, who laughed.

"Child, your flames are inferior to me. They are ineffective. No matter how many times you come at me, the result will be the same. Persistence is not heroic. It is stupidity."

I brought my arms in front of me, closing my fingers into a claw like motion. My body burst into violent blue flames as I began to collect my thoughts.

I thought about myself incinerating everything. My past. Everybody who neglected me. Everybody who isolated and ostracized me just because I was different.

My flames began to concentrate into my body, glowing a brighter blue than before.


"Interesting..." Urca said. "Come then. Let us see the Devil's Flames. His true fire."

I am someone with nothing to lose. So if that's the case. I'll just let everything out. That was what Taras had promised me, when he brought me into the Contingency Initiative.


Nothing to hold back. No regrets. You can destroy and burn. To your heart's desire. From this day on, you shall be known as the Tidalflame. One who's flames are so overwhelming. Like the ocean itself.


I watched my eyes power up, trailing with the blue fire that was emitting from my body. Only it was no longer fire. It was so concentrated.


Level 1 Hinokami: Supreme Apocalypse I screamed, Tess's face in my head, disintegrating with all my regrets.


All the power and flames that was concentrated in my body unleashed into a massive blue beam that exited my body, blasting Urca with so much force the entire prison decimated. The walls, the whole building, reduced to cinders as Urca tried to shield himself.

"This... this power..." Urca struggled, as he began to slip. "RRRR... Taras I shall not... I AAAAARGHHH!!!" The man yelled as he became consumed in the blinding blue light of my blast.

"Holy shit!" Whitney yelped from behind me.

I saw Matt grab the others, an unconscious Lewis and Maika, as he and Whitney evacuated to somewhere safe.


"That's the way." Matt said, as he nodded at me, grimly.

"Let it all out."


"Burn... BURN AWAY!" I screamed, as everything went bright.

By the time the light died out, everything was in cinders. Nothing but ash and remains. Urca was flat on his back, staring at the night sky.


"I saw it." He muttered, smiling at me through his scarred burnt tissue.

I approached him. "See what?"

Urca tried a laugh, but choked.

"Your flames. They are connected... to you."

I regarded him with no emotion. "You're coming with us, no matter what you say."

Urca coughed. "Do you really see yourself loyal to Taras. To the Contingency Initiative?"

I stopped in my tracks. Urca smirked.


"Your flames, fierce and overwhelming. You are probably the most destructive person I have every come across, but you are not a killer. Not from the way you fight. Your memories, your feelings. Your fate, I saw it."

"Shut up..." I whispered, but Urca continued.

"Everyone is so dead set on running their lives to the ground, but I will tell you only this. When your time comes, you will regret it. You will wish you had more time. You will see..."

Urca waved his scarred hand, as a little breeze of wind brushed against my face.

"That you were loved."


I said nothing as I watched Matt knock Urca unconscious, as numerous Contingency Initiative operates took Urca away.

This didn't feel like a victory. I looked at my left arm. The blue lines that tattooed themselves along it, which signified my allegiance to the Dogma became even thicker. The tattoos were changed. More elegant and refined. My flames had evolved.


Chapter 6 - Bodyguard

"We got a new mission. This one is slightly different from the others we have done to date." Matt said as we circled around the table in the living room.

"What kinda mission is it?" Whitney asked. "Is it sabotage? I looooooove sabotage."

"No." Matt said.

"Is it one where we torture the guy to death?"

"No, Whitney. Now if you stop interrupting I can expla-"

"It's one where we blow a little thing up and it ends up blowing a bigger thing up isn't it?!" Whitney squealed in excitement.

"DAMMIT Whitney let me finish!" Matt snapped.


Matt pulled out some photos from the folder he got anonymously.

"This is Jacob and Mariah. They recently got engaged. The girl, Mariah, possesses a power that is very beneficial to the Contingency Initiative. Our job is to keep her and Jacob safe from the Realmwatch Collective, who also see the girl for her powers, but as a threat."

We all stared at Matt.

Did he just say.... safe?


"Uh, Cap? What do you mean safe? You're not suggesting-"

"It's exactly what I'm suggesting, Maika. We're gonna serve as their protectors until Taras brings in the right men for the job."

Lewis scowled. "The hell kinda mission is this?! They threw us in to fighting freaking Urca the Slicer and now we're playing babysitter to these brats?!"

Matt glared at Lewis. "I don't like it either. But what I think, is we only need one of us to do it."

Matt pointed at me. "That'll be Yeling."


I stared at him. "Huh? Come again?"

Whitney rolled her eyes. "Come on, TF. Everybody here knows you're literally the least violent person in this squad."

"WHAT?! I've killed more people than all of you jokers combined!" I shot to my feet.

Whitney giggled. "Yeah, but each time you did, you had your flames blocking your view."

"I am a killer. I have no regrets."

"Is that so?"

"Both of you shut the hell up!" Matt shouted, causing all of us to jump in our seats.


Matt grabbed me by the collar. "You're gonna keep those two safe from the Realmwatch Collective, or the meta beasts in the streets. But that's it. I'm watching you, kid. If you get attached to these two, I'm gonna cut off your god damn head. Got it?"

"Yes sir!" I said, quickly, my voice an octave higher than usual.


Matt took the decency to drive me to the target point to meet with the two.

"I still can't believe we've been tasked to watch over those damn kids. I'm not a babysitter."

"Just so you know, Mariah is 18 and Jacob is 19. So you're basically their age."

I nearly choked. "The hell?! And they're already married?!"

"Yeah. They got married when Mariah turned 17. They've been together for about three years now since high school."

"Uh... isn't the legal age 18."

"No, it's 17 here. This isn't China or wherever the hell you came from, Yeling. New Ulysses has their own laws when it comes to this."


Matt took a turn and glanced at me. "Just get the damn job done, kid. See it as precision practice. Burn those Realmwatch pricks while also not burning the brats. It's still an opportunity to get stronger."

"I guess."

"Do you remember the pointers Whitney gave you?"

"Yeah." I lied. To be honest, I just didn't really trust Whitney with kids. She sure loved them, and always wouldn't shut the hell up about what she thought her and Matt's kids would look like one day. But the thing was, if it wasn't already obvious, Whitney is batshit insane. I wouldn't trust Whitney to be with full grown adults, much less teenagers or even children.


By the time we arrived, it was already turning dark.

"Mask." Matt said, as I almost tripped on my way out of the car.

"Oh shoot, sorry." I said. I slipped it on. I didn't need these people traumatized by my face on the first day of the job.


"Heya Matt!" A girl with brown hair waved at Matt. She looked... really cute. Thank god my mask concealed my expression, otherwise Matt would definitely cut me up for feeling this way. But she was really cute. She had one of those innocent faces and was wearing a white dress. She looked constantly happy, and some part of me wanted to...

Focus. My god. This is cringe. What am I even saying.

The guy who I presumed to be Jacob walked over and held her hand. I felt something in my heart that didn't feel too pleasant. It was jealousy.


Matt put his hands on my shoulders.

"Jacob, Mariah, this is Yeling. From now on, he will serve as your protector for an indefinite time. Get to know him well."

INDEFINITE?! This wasn't part of the damn deal!


"Got anything to say? Yeling?" Matt asked. Against my wishes, I grabbed Matt and pulled him out of the room.

"The hell is this?! I thought this was like a one day thing!"

Matt looked at me, confused. "I don't get why you're so upset about this. You seem like the type of guy who likes romance and shit."

"WHAT?!"

"Look, kid. You're the only person in this squad who can do this. Just do it for the team."

He was right. I was the only level headed person who could watch over these two without killing them.

Lewis would have just spent his entire time playing video games, and zapped them up any time they bothered him.

Maika would just completely forget them and go out shopping.

Whitney would have tried to seduce Jacob and see what drama would unfold. Yikes.

And Matt. Well, Matt had told me he hated being a third wheel. So naturally, he assumed I was okay with it, and shoved the responsibility to me. Thanks Squad Captain.


Matt left, leaving me standing awkwardly in front of the couple, who were staring at me.

Come on, Tidalflame. You're single handedly the most powerful member in the Contingency Initiative. You took down Urca. You can do this. Remember what Whitney had told you. Well, remember the first few bits of what Whitney told you.

Always establish boundaries in any relationship. Gotta know what you're comfortable with, so when they cross it, you get an excuse to bash their head in! Whitney began giggling in my mind. Yeah, maybe forget about the head bashing part.


I put my fists together, as a blast of blue flame illuminated my face sinisterly. Mariah and Jacob yelped in surprise.

"Alright you two..." I cackled.

"It's time I laid out the rules. You do what I say. No going out at night. No public affection to give any hints away to the RWC. No leaving my sight. These three pillars will be fundamental to..."

I turned around.

"Huh? They're gone?!" I said, desperately. I ran around the room.


What the hell?! How did they even leave the house this quick?! When did they even leave the house?! How is this even possible?!


I found the two outside, holding hands and kissing, in the dark. So basically they broke all three of my rules.

I raised my hand, about to shout at them, but suddenly, I hesitated. Mariah was blushing, as Jacob pulled away.

"Jeez, Jake. You always manage to slip those in..."

"Sorry. I just couldn't help myself."

Mariah smiled. "It's okay. I liked it."


My eyebrow twitched in annoyance. This... this... I always heard from people that couples being intimate with each other was the sweetest thing ever. But when I'm standing several feet away witnessing it for myself. It never dawned on me.

How friggin awkward it is!!!

I raised my voice but suddenly choked. The two whipped around.

"Yeling!" Jake said, as he walked up to me. "Hey, sorry. Tonight was supposed to be our night out. I guess we should have told you."

"No. I'm good." I muttered.

I glared at the two. "From now on, I'm your bodyguard. I'll be trailing you two from behind keeping anything from attacking you."

Mariah put her hands to her mouth in excitement. "So like our hero!"


I nearly choked again. "Like hell I am. Don't ever call me that." I got to my feet.

"Do what you two brats want. Just make sure you don't get in trouble. I'm supposed to be your protector, I can't do my job if my clients are constantly throwing themselves into danger."

"Brats?" Jacob looked amused. "How old are you?"


"I'm.... twenty.... six..." I lied.

Mariah raised an eyebrow. "You don't look twenty six. If I had my guess, you kind of look fifteen."

I clenched my fist as I felt a few veins pop from my head. "Doesn't matter how old I am! You two are under my watch. And if I fail, I'll get my head chopped off. So please. I beg. Don't do anything stupid."


I definitely now understand why Matt hated being a third wheel. Because it wasn't just the fact that I was all alone, watching those two hold hands and showing affection to each other (which, again, was supposed to be against my rules). But I was also jealous. Jealous that Jacob had such a cute girlfriend. Yes. I was jealous, okay. Bite me.

It wasn't just that. I felt like I was intruding their space. Literally no one in the squad asked to be a bodyguard. The hell was Taras thinking? Why would he task a Squad Four Elimination Team to serve as protectors? Literally anybody from Squad Six could have filled that role.

I watched as Jacob bought some snacks and shared it with Mariah. I looked away, awkwardly, trying to be distracted by something else.


"Hey, boy. I sell you two dried snakes. Yes?" A crippled old man, approached me. He was one of those guys who tried to make a quick buck and scam passerby's in an attempt to capitalize on an event.

"Shove it up your ass instead, geezer." I hissed.

"Dirty dirty language! You bad boy!" The old man hit me over the head with a stick.

"The hell?! You want to die?!" I growled, my hands bursting into blue flames.


"We're going now, Yeling!" Mariah shouted at me, as the two walked off.

"Grrr...." I grumbled, as I followed them, the old man throwing pieces of dried fish guts and tailings at the back of my head.


"Gonna go to the bathroom, I'll be back." Jake said, as he kissed Mariah and went off.

"Hey, don't stay in there too long! You hear me?!" I shouted after him.

I leaned against the railway, looking at the city. This stupid world. How many times is it going to mock me? Is it not bad enough that I'm never going to have what Jake has. But now fate is forcing me to watch, almost as if it was dangling it before my very face. Mocking me.

I clenched my fist against the metal, heating it up and deforming it.


"Yeling?" Mariah asked. "Are you okay?"

"What?" I said, as I quickly let go. The blue glow of the melted metal starting to harden and disappear.

"That's irrelevant. Just be as you were."

Mariah laughed. "You're a pyrokinetic!"

"Yeah. So?"

Mariah opened her hands, and manifested a swirling red ball of energy. "I'm a meta human. One of the victims from the Pax Incident. Erm... I'm guessing you were too?"

"Not exactly."


I pulled up the sleeve to my left arm, and showed her my numerous tattoos.

"Wow..." Mariah leaned in, causing my heart to beat faster.

"It's so pretty! But those letters..." She frowned. "What do they say?"

I quickly pulled my sleeve down. "Doesn't matter. My powers come from these markings."


"That's still super cool. My powers were forced on me." Mariah sighed. "I never wanted them, I just wanted to be happy with Jacob. But even so... we got past all of that to live a normal life." She smiled and began playing with her necklace.

"Jake never left me, even when he discovered about my powers. He's so sweet."


I grimaced. Of course he wouldn't. Who wouldn't leave someone so attractive.

"Yeling, do you have someone you love?"

Matt's face suddenly appeared in my vision. His dark tendrils circling around my neck.

I dare you to say it, kid. I could hear his voice threatening me. I began to sweat.


"Nope. Not interested. Nope. Never."

Mariah laughed. "Aww, I'm sure the perfect someone will come by eventually. They always do."

If only it were that easy.


Jacob was taking awfully long in the bathroom. I hoped he wasn't having the shits. But it had been an hour already.

"Yeling, something's wrong." Mariah said, her face full of concern.

If I went in to check on Jacob, that would leave Mariah out in the open. I could just drag Mariah into the men's washroom, but that would probably not be well perceived.

I had to think. Come on. I needed a plan.

"I have a plan." I said to Mariah. "Get down."

Mariah laid on the ground and put her hands on her head as I held out my hand.


Level 1 Hinokami, Runt Dragon Sputter

A constrained blast of flame levelled the bathroom as I heard a bunch of screaming and people running outside. The entire top half of it was decimated.

"What are you doing?!" Mariah screamed at me.


"Tch!" I heard a voice say, as someone with long legged constructs appeared from within the stall, grabbing Jacob with one of his appendages. Mariah screamed.

"Jacob!!" She rushed forward, but I held her back.

"Relax. This doofus isn't gonna do shit."

Four more RWC members appeared next to him, as they faced us off. A guy with multiple appendages. Four lackeys. I knew exactly who these idiots were. The Groundwatch Brigade.


"Tidalflame..." One of the members said. "Should we call for backup? This dude is dangerous."

"Nah. He's just a wannabe Taras Pax. He ain't shit! All of together will take him down."

The level of delusion coming off of this team made me uncomfortable. But it had been too long since I faced a Brigade. Since my last one being with Stormwatch, the most powerful Brigade in the entire company, it was refreshing to deal with a more normal group for once.

My hands burst into flame.


"Wow. I'm so scared. Please kind sir, give Jacob back." I said, sarcastically.

The guy, who was the mentor to the group. Yeah I said mentor. He was the mentor, but ended up taking charge of everything to fuel his ego. Not like it mattered anyway. They were all being burnt to a crisp anyway. They weren't accompanied by the Lightwatch Brigade, meaning they couldn't TP outta there.


"You got some spunk, TF." The mentor sneered. "But we went through a major development in our last mission. I always hated that side of you, that cocky and confident side. It's time I put it to the ground."

"Yeling...?" Mariah looked at me, her eyes glinted with tears.

I slowly undid my mask. "Ya call it spunk? Just who do you think you're talking to. Say it to my face..."

The mask fell to the ground, as the entire Groundwatch Brigade hesitated, backing away, their faces a mixture of disgust and unsettlement as they saw the scarred ruined tissue that was the right side of my face.

Mariah yelped as she put her hands over her mouth.

"Yeling... your... your..."

Jacob was barely conscious, but he also had the same expression.

"What happened to your face..." He whispered, in horror.


I glinted at the mentor, as blue flames began to swirl behind me, reading to launch me at any second.

"Come on, Doug. Say it to my face. Say that again." I grinned murderously, as the Brigade all powered up. "Say it to my real face." I hissed, as I blasted forward.

Level 2 Intangibility - Devil's Comet

My ghostly body went right through Doug, as I simultaneously rematerialized my arm to grab Jake out of his embrace. I landed on the ground, materializing, as Doug stared at the burning hole that I made through his chest.

"You... bastard..." He muttered as he crumbled to dust.


"Sir!" Two of the members ran up to the ashes, but I held out my hand.

"Hey, don't be hasty. You're joining him real soon." I said, as I blasted them with a giant torrent of flame. Their charred bodies hit the ground.


I grabbed Jacob's wrist. "Take your wife and get outta here. I gotta have some fun now."

Jacob obliged, as he took Mariah and sprinted as far as he could. I began powering up, as the remaining four members of the Groundwatch Brigade circled me. I held out my hand and blasted three streams of fire at one of the members, who used her flight to evade two of them. But the third blast hit her dead on, and she crumpled to the ground.

"You bastard, I'm gonna kill you." One of the members said, as he split off into two doubles, and those doubles split off into doubles. They began stabbing me as my body lanced with pain, but this wasn't really anything new.

"Walmart Matt clones." I muttered, as I brought my arms together in a cross.


Level 1 Hinokami - Devil's Typhoon

I released my flames in a giant flaming cyclone as the doubles all disintegrated, knocking out the last three members. I began powering up my hand as I prepared one final blast.

"Any of y'all have a communications device by any chance? Relay this message. Mariah and Jacob are under the protection of The Tidalflame. Anybody wants to mess with them can come get the smoke."

I unleashed a final burst of flame as the rest of the Groundwatch Brigade was incinerated.


I walked off when I suddenly heard rustling. I turned around, to realize one of the members, the one with flight, Julia, had gotten to her feet. She looked like she was on her last legs, as she wiped the blood on her face with her sleeve.

"I'm not done yet." She said, as she flew to the air and tackled me, sending us both skyward.

"You're pretty annoying." I said, as I unleashed my flames from my body, blasting her back. Julia cried out in pain, but tried to close the distance again. Was she doing a last ditch effort? That was pretty sad.

I opened my palms and blasted her away with more flames as Julia flew backwards and tried to flank me. I fired bursts of flame from my arm to control myself in the air, and blasted her with more lances of fire. Some of them landing. But despite all the pain, Julia was still relentlessly charging.


"Give it up, Julia. I'm gonna kill you. I've had my fun, now I'm actually gonna finish this."

Julia screamed as another wave of heat charred her body. "I will not... GIVE UP!"

She powered up as the air behind her jolted her forward.


"Screw this." I muttered, as I brought my hands back and into the air.

Level 1 Hinokami - Double Inverse Tsunami Release

I let loose two massive infernos as the flames consumed Julia, who's screams of pain became engulfed by the roars of my fires. By the flames died down, I could see her ashes and remains fly off into the wind.


"Tidalflame! I'm gonna kill you!" Two voices appeared from the ground as I began to free fall. Those little shits were not dead yet, huh. I guess the developments Doug had mentioned must have been with their uniforms. If they had anything else on, a single puff of flames would have sent them to the afterlife instantly.

I had to go back to those two brats. I couldn't waste any more time, as fun as it was, messing with the RWC. All they had to worry about was replacing their lost brigade. They will still have fifteen others anyway.


And if it was a guaranteed death. Only one set of super moves could pull that off. My second tier level.

I began to power up, as my freefall became accelerated from the flames blasting from my arms, my hair flying wildly as I laughed maniacally.


Hinokami and Intangibility - Devil's Meteorite

My body became a flaming bullet, as I smashed into the ground and created a huge blue explosion, destroying the last two members of the Groundwatch Brigade.


I regained my form, as I breathed fire out of my mouth.

"Ahhh.... I've missed this..." I muttered, as I emerged from the fiery landscape, my body shrouded in shadows of the night, the only light coming from my eyes as I approached Jacob and Mariah, who were petrified.

"What?" I asked.


Mariah held out her hand. "You... you killed them..."

"Yeah? So? That's part of the job. Now get your asses back in the house."

Mariah was still staring at me, her face pale, but Jacob helped his wife to her feet. "Yes sir. Yep. Totally. I um... sorry if I offended you earlier. We'll do as you say."

I followed the two as they went back to their house. At least they were treating me with respect now. Maybe this job wasn't so bad. I'd be stoked if Realmwatch sent another one of their Brigades after us. More fun for me.


Chapter 7 - Demotion

Mariah and Jacob did a pretty good job at pretending nothing happened the night before.

"I'm going to work." Jacob said, as he shouldered his bag.

"What? You're not going anywhere!" I said, but Jacob opened the door.

"Well, I gotta earn money for this household, what did you expect, we get funding or something?"


I watched as the guy I was supposed to protect left the house to his office. Mariah sat on the ground next to me as she waved her husband goodbye. After Jacob was gone, Mariah began to pout.

"Another day without Jake." She sighed.

I cleared my throat. "Uh. Okay, well I guess I'll just leave you to do your own thing."

I got up, but Mariah took my wrist. "Wait, can you help me with the housework?"


I stared at her. "Um, excuse me?"

Mariah took out some cleaning supplies. "Usually, when Jake's off at work, I try to make the house as clean and relaxing as I can for when he comes back. It gets lonely when he isn't around and I get bored."

The hell was she getting me to do? I was a top rate killer at the Contingency Initiative... how did I get stuck with doing chores for a woman who's not even affiliated with me?!


I spent the day scrubbing and cleaning, against my own wishes. Multiple times, I lost my patience and ended up vaporizing the water in the bucket, and had to refill it.

"You've never done this sort of thing often, have you?" Mariah asked, holding back a laugh.

"No, we usually got someone to clean for us." I muttered, as I dropped the sponge. I watched as the little thing fell on the ground and left behind a splatter of water like a body did.

"That's too bad. It's okay, I can take over if it's too much for you."

"No!" I yelped, causing Mariah to jump in surprise. "I mean, I can handle it. Just take it easy." I found myself saying. Was I... doing chores for her? What was I saying? The hell am I even doing?!


By the time I was done, I found myself sprawled on the ground. This was way worse than any training I had in the Contingency Initiative. Mostly because I didn't enjoy it. If it was something I didn't like, I tended to do horribly in it. This was exactly the case for me.

I sat up as I heard Mariah cooking in the kitchen. Probably for Jake or something. The fact she did this everyday... must have been torture. I went up the steps and went into the guest room, which was reserved for me. I flipped open my coms unit and called Matt, who picked up.

"How's the mission going along, kid."

"They're safe. I incinerated the Groundwatch Brigade. That was the only highlight these past few days."

"Keep it up." Matt said, as I heard a ruckus in the background.


"That's my hairbrush, why were you using my hairbrush?!" Whitney screamed.

"Because it was out in the open, duh." Maika responded. "Besides, wouldn't do you any good. You're using like... cheap ass products for your hair."

"The hell did you just say?!"

I could hear Matt groan as the sounds of Whitney and Maika tackling and fighting lit up the call.


"Matt, how long do I have to stay here."

"As long as Taras needs."

"I'm losing my mind, man."

"Consider this a demotion, then. Months away from missions will reignite your thirst to kill. Because as of now, you went soft."

"What are you saying? I was never soft!"

"Oh yeah? Okay. Let's put it to the test. Kill Mariah."

I suddenly pursed my lips. "But... that's against mission protocol."

"I can always convince Taras to find another candidate. There's many metahumans with similar powers as her. Kill her. Right now. That's an order."

I forced my flames to ignite, but for some reason, something was holding me back. I could hear Mariah humming in the kitchen. So peaceful. So innocent, as the aroma of her cooking filled the house. She was putting her heart and soul in the food, that she was going to give to her husband when he got home. She put up with all the housework and all the cleaning, all the cooking, so she could spend time with Jacob.


"You can't kill her can you." Matt said, coldly.

"I..."

Matt crossed his arms. "Yeling Mah. Don't tell me you've gotten attached."

"No I haven't!"

"No, you have. Consider this me being nice, and that's a real treat. You like them so much? You can stay with them as long as you need to."

"But... she gets me to do housework man."

Matt raised an eyebrow. "Good for you. You wanna play fantasy with these two, go right ahead. You have no place in my Squad right now. The next time you call me wishing for the mission to be over, I want you to be broken, begging me to take you back. And begging me to give you an opportunity to take a life."


It felt weird, having dinner with two people I barely knew. The food was also good, home-made, and it felt different. Normally, we'd just have takeout back in the Squad Four hideout, or the occasional protein shake that Matt would have lying around.

Eating with those two made me feel different. Like a warm tingly feeling inside me that I never experienced ever since...

The night I got my powers.


"Hey, Yeling, is everything alright?" Mariah asked, putting her hand on mine. I felt a jolt inside me as I jumped back into reality.

"Yeah."

Jacob stretched his arms. "Man, I'm stuffed. You always have the best cooking."

"Aww, thanks."


I helped Mariah with the dishes as Jacob went to bed early. Mariah looked kind of sullen.

"I take it his sudden voyage to the bed isn't well received."

Mariah managed a weak laugh. "He's always so tired when he comes home. I know he's doing it for the both of us, but maybe I'm selfish for saying I wish I could spend more time with him. We only have the weekends when he's really free."

Mariah held out a plate as I hovered my hand over it, summoning maybe like 2% of my flames. The plate dried up instantly.

"Your powers are so useful in the kitchen!" Mariah said.

"My powers have been nothing but destructive..."

Mariah put the plate away and ran her finger across my tattoos. "Depends on how you use it."


Mariah slumped on the couch as she looked at the night sky. I joined her.

"Yeling, do you mind me asking... how many times have you... killed someone?"

"Too many to count." I replied.

"Does it bother you? That you ended their lives?"

"No. Because at the end of the day, the Second Great War will take the lives of everyone it deems unfit. I'm just giving them a shortcut to their destiny."


"The Second Great War..." Mariah muttered.

"I take it you're not happy with my answer."

"Do you know why they tasked you to watch over me?"

"You're vital to our plans, right?"


Mariah stood up and slowly brought her shirt down, revealing a massive black and red tattoo on her back. The thing was pulsing.

"When I was affected by the Pax Incident, it didn't just give me metahuman powers... it awakened something inside me."

Mariah looked at me. "Yeling, my power, my destructive explosive power... Taras is going to use that to awaken the Great Akuma. And when that happens... I will die as the Akuma's mother."

My eyes went wide, as Mariah put her shirt back on.

Mariah noticed my alarmed expression. "I didn't think you would make that face. Most of the people from the Contingency Initiative have always been so, dead inside."


I ruffled my hair. "I just didn't think someone like you would be so special, is all."

"Special..." Mariah muttered, as she sat down on the couch. "You're the first person who has called me that from the company. Many people see me as a ticking time bomb. Or a resource, a means to an end."

Mariah sighed. "I don't want Jake to know. So please, Yeling. I beg you, don't tell him. I don't want him to know I don't have much time left. I've been trying so hard to avoid my destiny." Her voice broke.


"I've been doing my best to avoid it, but when Matt found me. The Mirage. I knew it was over. My life with Jake, it was a reminder that it was only temporary. Just a placeholder for me when it's time to give my life."

Mariah began to sob as she buried her face in her hands. "Prophecy can't be changed. I know that much. But just, for once... could I just live in this world for a little longer? Even if it is never meant to last?"


I looked at my hand. I was the Akuma's Flames. And Mariah was the Akuma's Mother. We shared that much. But at the same time we were different.



While everything I did, was to destroy this world, for I so hated it with every cell in my body.

Everything Mariah did, was to preserve this world, because she loved it with every fibre of her heart.


Chapter 8 - Dance of the Final Sun

Matt had me become their bodyguard for an entire year.

Much had changed since then. I became accustomed to their way of living, and felt integrated as part of their lives now. In a way, like their roommate, but we shared meals, and went out together, unless they told me they wanted alone time, I would keep my distance.

Nobody came to attack them during this whole year, and I found myself having less and less opportunities to use my powers.

And before I knew it, my life with the Contingency Initiative had become almost like a memory. Matt had ceased communication with me ever since I had defied his orders to kill Mariah. I felt disowned, and the only way to move forward was continue with my mission to keep the two safe.


"You should get a haircut." Mariah said, as she picked a bunch of blueberries from the garden she, Jake, and I had planted together. I held out the basket as she placed the berries in.

"It hasn't gotten in the way yet, besides, I don't want to use your money for petty things like that."

Mariah chuckled. "So considerate, Yeling. But if you let it grow any longer, I'm going to lose you under there!"

We got back to the house as Mariah washed the berries and cleaned her hands. She went up to me and took my hair.


"Hey! What are you doing?!" I yelped, as Mariah laughed and pulled it back.

"Relax, I'm not gonna yank it off!" Mariah tied a knot and took out an elastic.

"Is it better now?"


I looked at myself in the mirror. My hair had grown out so much that I never stopped to realize it had reached my shoulders. Now, with it tied back, it was almost weird to see so little hair around my ears.

"Yeah, I guess."

We heard a creak at the door. Maybe if it was me a year ago, I would have burst into flames, but I just sat there, as I waited for Jake to come in.

"I'm home, guys."


Mariah ran up to him and kissed him as I gave Jake a wave.

"You're back early, huh." I said.

"Yeah, boss gave me a day off for everything I did for the company. So I guess more company time!"


We went out, all three of us, as Jake and I followed Mariah around.

Jake glanced at me. "Why so down today, man?"

I realized my sulking went noticed. "Ah, nothing. It's just, well, today marks a whole year of me being your protector. Yet, we never encountered anything that would put your lives at jeopardy. It kind of makes me think that maybe I'm no longer needed."

Jake put his arm around my neck. "Buddy! Don't say that. You're part of our household now. Don't ever feel that way. Got it? Even if you have no opportunities to be our protector, you still have tons of opportunities to be with us. I wouldn't give that up for anything."

My heart warmed as I smiled. "Thanks, Jake. It really means a lot."

Jake chuckled. "You know, during this year, many things not bodyguard related has happened. And it's obvious, because the you now is so different from the you back then."

"Really?"

"You've changed, man. And it isn't a bad thing. I guess your year with us has made you a bit more... human. If that makes any sense."


I watched as Mariah called Jake over. Jake looked at me. "Well, the wife needs me. Just remember what I said man. You're loved here. Don't think otherwise!"

I smiled warmly as I sat on the bench, numerous people flooding the mall as I watched the two have fun. A year ago, I would have found it awkward. But now, watching them as their protector, a member of their household. It made me realize how wholesome they were together.


"Funny tattoo! Mommy, he has a funny tattoo!" A little boy's voice squealed from the corner of my vision.

"Charlie! Don't look!" A woman's voice scolded her child.

I hesitated, as I looked at my hand. The tattoos on my hand. It was almost nothing like a reminder at this point of what I was back then. Because I had neglected my powers for so long, the once thick dark blue lines had gotten thinner. No doubt I had gotten weaker.


I continued waiting, when something caught my eye. A girl, with red eyes. That was unexpected. I was aware that there were a lot of meta humans around due to the Pax Incident, but her eyes... they looked abnormal. Her whole vibe was abnormal.

And what was even weirder, was it felt like I knew her from somewhere.

She went into the store Mariah and Jake were in, and suddenly, every fibre in my body wanted to rush in and stop her. She was dangerous. But I had this feeling before, and it was always something harmless. But what if... what if she was?

I got up. This would be the first time in an entire year where I would have to use my powers. I stepped forward, when suddenly, something held me back. I couldn't move as I stared at the ground.


"Hey." A face appeared from the ground, grotesque, one of his eyes were closed, and his tongue was extended all the way out.

I yelped as I tried to escape him, but my legs were pinned to the ground, like threads.

"You're the Tidalflame, aren't you? What happened to you?"

"What do you want. Who's that girl?"

The man gave me a curious look. "What do you mean who's that girl? You don't recognize her?"

"Recognize?!" I tried to struggle out of the threads, but the man held me tighter.


"Disappointing. A whole year without violence. You'd think a member of Squad Four would go mad without killing, but here you are, influenced by this life!"

"Let me go!"

"Or what? You'll kill me? And incinerate all the people in this store?"

"You... I..."

"You're hesitating!" The man cackled. "The Akuma's Flames, the murderous, killing machine, is hesitating to kill people!"


I watched as the store collapsed in front of me.

"Mariah! Jacob!" I shouted, as a massive stone hand appeared, the two caught in its grip as they struggled to get out.

"Yeling!" Mariah screamed, as I closed my eyes.


Level 1 Hinokami: Devil's Typhoon

The threads incinerated as I blasted forward with my hands, but another stone appendage appeared out of nowhere and smashed me in the side, sending me into a building. My vision turned blurry as I struggled to my feet, face to face with a massive stone golem, at least the size of the whole mall in height, red pulsating veins along the armoured stone plating. Standing at the top, was a hooded figure with an intricate lined mask. Her eyes were bright red from underneath, meaning it was the same girl from before.

Was she Contingency Initiative? That didn't make any sense. Why was she attacking one of her own?


The girl held made a gesture as she lifted the two into the air.

"I am not Contingency Initiative." She said, as I continued staring at her.

"Ino, it's time. We have the two we need."

I stepped forward. "Hey! Give them back!"


The girl glanced back at me. Her eyes were laced with rage.

"Very disappointing Yeling. You are the Akuma's Flames? Maybe that power should have gone to me instead. If you want them back, you're going to need to take it from me."


I powered up, as I brought my hands back.

"You made a big mistake." I growled.

Level 1 Hinokami: Double Inverse Tsunami Release

I blasted two massive tidal waves of flame from my hands as the entire golem became incinerated by my fire. But once it died down, I couldn't believe my eyes. The golem was still intact. In fact, the girl was also unharmed, not even a single char.

"Hinokami? Not even Second Stage? That's so pathetic." She said, as she raised her hand, the size of the golem continuing to grow as the entire thing began to develop legs of its own.

"I will show you the differences in our power... big brother."


My heart stopped. Big brother? What... what was she... that wasn't possible. I killed everyone that night. No one was supposed to survive. No one...

The girl giggled maniacally as red lines appeared all over her body.

"Taras Pax has been making good strides to awaken the Great Akuma. But they're not good enough. We'll advance the agenda, our way. For Lord Ginga."


I watched in horror as my little sister towered over me with her gigantic construct, her eyes... broken.

Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Four: Gaea's Body

A massive fist came flying my way, as I blasted out of the way, but the shockwave sent me through more walls as I slowly began to lose consciousness.


"Mariah..." I muttered. They were going to take her away. Her life with Jake was going to be shattered. Her own life would be shattered. I thought back to the times we had together during that entire year. How they accepted me. For the first time... in my entire life.


"I was accepted!" I screamed, as my vision returned, my entire body wreathed in flames.

"Give her back... GIVE HER BACK!" I roared as my whole body began to glow blue.

Level 1 Hinokami: Supreme Apocalypse


I fired a massive beam of blue light as part of Haka's golem disintegrated.

Her face became annoyed, as the golem began to buckle.

"Such force from a Stage One attack..." She muttered.

I wasn't going to give her the satisfaction of taking away the people I loved. I had to do this. Again. I leapt into the air, my body burning bright, illuminating the entire place.


Hinokami and Intangibility: Devil's Meteorite I roared, as I blasted right through the golem and took both Mariah and Jacob away, landing on the ground.


"Yeling... they've come to take me away, haven't they..." Mariah whimpered, as Jake grabbed her into a tight embrace.

"I won't let them have you. I will do everything I can." Jake reassured her.


I grimaced as I watched Haka slowly descend, the markings on her legs, glowing white.

"I have no idea how you're able to pull of so much power from just a Stage One Dogma, but this is the end of the line for you, brother."


I held out my hand. "Haka..." I sobbed. "How are you still alive?! I watched you die.. I watched-"

"My name... is not Haka. From now on, I go by the name that both the Dogma, and Ginga had given me. Tidalflame, my name is Phoenix."

I was at a loss for words. She was the only family I had left, but looking at her. Looking at all the markings and tattoos that took over her body... Her face was still hidden from under the mask, but those two red eyes, she never had them when she was little.


"How many, how many Dogma Bargains have you made?!"

Haka giggled once more. An unsettling one. One from a broken girl.

"Let's see. The first one I made, was when you torched our house. Do you remember? Big brother? I made a deal with the Akuma, in exchange for my life. I took away my legs."

Haka brought her robes up, showing me her tattooed legs. Only they weren't legs. They were spiked at the ends.

"The second... was once I learned that you were still alive." Her face went murderous. "My own precious big brother. Wanted so badly to find a purpose in life, that he would burn down his own family. I watched Mama and Papa die in front of my eyes. Their bodies, burning away as they ran up to me and tried to hug me. Burning my face as they tried to tell me to run."

"No..." I muttered.


"I'm not going to give you the satisfaction of knowing all of my tricks." Haka giggled, as she brought her hair back, showing one of her ears, which had become pointy and blackened. No doubt from another Dogma Bargain.

"But here's a hint. I've already unlocked Hinokami. But since it was not my First Level, I couldn't advance its stages. But if I did I would certainly have done a better job than you."

"Haka, please..." I begged.

"And now you've been reduced to a shrivelling snivelling snot. Hinokami was your Level 1. I can accept that. But to make a total fool of yourself. You've already broken me, and that can't be fixed. Now you have to go on humiliating our bloodline even more?"


Mariah and Jacob were speechless. I turned partway to look at them, to tell them to run. But nothing came out of my mouth. Because I was at a loss for words. Everything was coming at me so fast.

My little sister was still alive.

But she was broken.

She might as well have been dead.


Haka smiled, as she held out one of her hands, red tattoos glowing all over.

"This won't do. Maybe I'll have to prove to the Great Akuma that I'm a better candidate for Hinokami Level 1. I'll do that... by killing you with your own powers!"

Haka's entire arm burst into red flames as she glinted at me murderously.


Level 12 Hinokami: Hell's Gate Release

"No...way..." I sobbed, as I watched my own little sister prepare to take my life.


I couldn't let Mariah and Jacob die. I needed to do this. I held out my arms as well, bursting into blue flames.

Level 1 Hinokami: Inverse Tsunami Release


Our two flames converged into a massive firestorm. The red and blue flames mixing together, but not combining. No purple flames were made, as Haka's red fire began to overcome mine.

"Die. DIE DIE DIE DIE!!!" Haka screamed maniacally.

"No... I can't..." I growled, as I felt my bones giving way. The muscles in my arms failing me, as the massive point of convergence got closer and closer to me.


I activated Intangibility at the last minute, as I slipped through the blast. I fell to my knees, breathing hard.

"Jacob!" Mariah screamed, as I slowly turned around. My breath became staggered, as I crawled to the scorched body of Mariah's husband.


Mariah grabbed him and sobbed into his scorched hair, as Jacob tried to pat her head.

"It's okay, honey. It's gonna be okay."

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I kept this all a secret from you. I... I..."

"Mary."

Mariah pulled away. Jacob's face was surprisingly calm. His cracked skin made my heart twist and tear apart.

"Mary, I knew all this time. Your fate to be the Great Akuma's mother. I knew."

"But..."

Jacob stroked her face. "But then I saw your face. You were so happy. To leave that life behind, even if it was temporary."

Jacob burst into a fit of coughing but continued. "To ignore your destiny, even for a little bit. Every day we lived a normal life, even if it was a lie, it made you happy. And that alone... that alone was enough for me."

Tears streamed down my face. This was all my fault. The flames from Haka and my clash. We did this.


Jacob took my hand. "You have nothing to be sorry about, Yeling. That year you spent with us, protecting us. I'll admit I hated you for it. I was scared you, the killer, would take Mariah from me. But that year, I saw the light inside you clawing out."

Jacob's grip was getting weaker. Mariah cried as she pleaded to her husband. "Jake, save your strength... please. We'll take you to the hospital. Just hang in there. HANG IN THERE!"

I clenched my fists.


"Yeling Mah. You are a good man. Take care of my precious Mariah for me."

Jacob closed his eyes for the last time as Mariah slumped over him, sobbing and begging him not to leave her.


Haka laughed, as I snapped back into the reality of the situation.

"Why do you feel remorse? Brother? The husband had nothing to do with our plans. It was only Mariah. She was all we needed to advance the Second Great War."

Something inside me began to burn. Like a reignition. I got to my feet, staring at the ground, my heart almost beating out of my chest. Tears falling to the ground and steaming from my face, which began to heat up again.


Right here. Right now. I need your power.

I could hear the Dogma speak from within me.

YOU ARE STILL NOT READY FOR LEVEL 3, YELING. YOUR YEAR WITH THE TWO HAS MADE YOU WEAK.

"No!" I screamed at the ground.

I looked at Mariah, who's eyes went empty. I did this to her. I caused her all this pain, after all the good she had done for me.


"I'm not asking for Level 3. I want you to help me reawaken the flames."

I looked at Haka, with a burning rage.

"Your flames." I sobbed, as the tattoos on my left arm began to change, growing thicker.


Mariah. Jacob. You both took me in. Even when I killed those Groundwatch Brigadiers in front of you. You still kept me around. You loved me. Like family.

No other people treated me so kindly.

And what did I do?

I killed Jacob.

I glared at my hands. "I cannot lose again. I will lose Mariah to you when the Great Akuma awakens. But I don't... I don't..."


I could feel the flames become more and more violent, the patterns becoming more and more jagged. This wasn't like my Supreme Apocalypse.

Hinokami? Not even Second Stage? That's so pathetic.

I needed to unlock it. I needed to evolve what I had now.

I stomped on the ground, as the blue tattooed lines arced across my other arm, my teeth changing into fangs, and a horn sprouting out of my forehead as I yelled.

"I don't want to lose Mariah's soul! Not yet! Because I... I..."


My flames began shaking the entire landscape as Haka grinned.

"Yes, brother. Evolve! Live up to your name. Tidalflame. The Akuma's Flames. I want to see it. I want to cherish it. So when the world burns from your wrath, and is engulfed from my grip, we can be together once more."

I looked at Mariah and Jacob one last time, as I felt my flames take over my body.


"Mariah... I love you." I said, as her eyes went wide.

Level 1 Hinokami, Stage Two: Dance of the Final Sun


My entire body erupted into blue and purple flames, as my mask burned away, revealing my ruined right half of my face. Lines spread all over my neck as I blasted forward with immense speed.

"YES! Do it. DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!" Haka screamed, as she unleashed her Earth powers, the environment around her rumbling as massive boulders erupted from the ground, with red arcane symbols on it. Her body gained a swirling dirt aura with red light.


Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Two: Total Tremor Cataclysm


"We are both beyond redemption, big brother. Even if you've found someone to live for, you know it is temporary."

"RAAAAARGHH" I screamed, my body losing structure as the sheer speed I was travelling at turned me into a massive blast of heat, hatred, shame, and remorse.

Haka smiled, as she launched herself forward, a huge, overwhelming rotating storm of boulders, rocks, and debris surrounding her.

"Because we are both holders. Slaves to the Dogma of Equivalent Exchange." Haka said, gritting her teeth, as we charged.


Brother against Sister.

Fire against Earth.


Chapter 9 - Stormwatch

"Why... why didn't you tell me my sister was alive?!" I screamed.

The Dogma, a swirling icon in the darkness was silent for a few minutes, before its voice boomed in my head.

HAKA MAH NEEDED TO BE HIDDEN FROM YOU, TO LET YOU GROW. YOUR EXISTENCE DID NOT FAZE HER VIEWS. BUT HER EXISTENCE WOULD HAVE CHANGED YOURS.

I tried punching the air in a frenzy, but a force bounded me to the ground.


"My own little sister. She's been driven mad! I thought everybody died. All those years, I was haunted by their death."

UNLIKE YOU, YOUR YOUNGER SISTER HAS FULLY ACCEPTED HER ROLE TO AID IN THE GREAT AKUMA'S RESURGENCE. YOUR HUMANITY STILL FIGHTS YOU, MAKING YOU WEAK. IT WAS REQUIRED THAT YOU DID NOT KNOW SHE EXISTED

"So it's manipulation then."

THERE IS NO CHANGING THE FACT THAT YOU ARE THE AKUMA'S FLAMES. YOUR BODY AND YOUR DESTINY ALIGNS TO IT. WHETHER YOU ACCEPT IT OR NOT, YOU WILL BE THE ONE TO BURN THIS WORLD TO ASH.


The Dogma began to disappear as I clawed the air frantically, a white light flooding me.


I woke up screaming, as a beautiful woman with blonde flowing hair held me down.

"Relax! Relax." She said, as she restrained me. She was surprisingly strong for her build.

"Haka... Mariah! Where, who are you?"

The woman looked at me with concern. "My name is Rui Iwatani. We brought you in because you were horribly injured from an explosion. Take it easy, let me heal you."


I watched as Rui healed my wounds with a green light. It felt like eucalyptus oil was being spread across my skin.

"Rui...? As in Patcher Rui? You're..."

"Stormwatch? Mmhm. Are you going to try to kill me because of that? Tidalflame?"

I was silent. I didn't feel like fighting. That surge that went through my body, that made me use Stage Two of Hinokami was gone. I doubted I could summon that power again. And even if I wanted to, every time I tried to summon my flames, a wave of depression hit me.

"No." I said. "I... just don't want to do any of this anymore. I want it all to be over."


Rui continued regarding me. She got up and turned around, leaving the room.

"We're going to have to take extra precautions with you around."

I looked around me, realizing that the room I was in, was a holding cell.

"Are you, going to transfer me somewhere?"


Rui glanced at me. "Right now, moving you would be too risky. You're not ready to even get out of the bed. As for why we saved you, you have valuable information on Squad Four. Joseph believes it'll help us with our mission."


I was in the custody of Stormwatch. Squad Four probably were not going to look for me. They always had a running joke that if one of us died in a ditch no one would come to save that person. Back then, I accepted it, since we all basically gave up on life. But now, having it happen to me, part of me wanted to be rescued.

The next few days consisted of me sitting in my cell, recovering.

I would try to give out a sputter of flame, but whenever I pulled myself to do it, a wave of depression hit me. I felt unworthy of such power. Like the fire inside me had died out. And I knew exactly why.

My whole life, I thought I had lost my family. I thought no one would accept me.

Then the one time I was truly accepted, by Jacob and Mariah Rosary, I lost them both. Then there was Haka. Who had survived all this time, but was mentally broken, because I couldn't live with my own loneliness and helplessness.


The only person that came to visit was Rui. And she would come to fix up my bandages, or give me dinner. Each time, we had little to no conversation.

Until one day, when I managed to gain the strength to sit up.

"Careful. Your ribs are still mending."

I stared at the sheets, and at my tattoos. They were still thickened, but I had no desire to use them.

"I'm sorry." I said.

Rui raised an eyebrow. "What for?"

"You know. All the people I have killed in your company. All the suffering I've caused."


Rui was silent for a few moments. "I know."

"Huh?"

Rui checked my bandages, searching for any infections.

"We had a mentalist probe your mind. She kept the details out, in case you were worried about that. Something major must have happened that made you lost your usual bloodthirsty persona."

I sighed. "I know nothing I say will hold any weight."


Rui readjusted the bandage on my head.

"When you woke up the first time, you screamed two names. One of them was Mariah, the person we're looking for. I'm guessing she was more than just a protection proxy?"

I closed my eyes. "Yeah. She was. What... what did you do to her?"

Rui regarded me. "She's in our custody as well. No harm, but she's been unresponsive to any of us. She lost her husband, after all."

"What about the other one?"

"Jacob?"

"No... there was a girl. With red eyes and spiked legs."

"We didn't find anyone that matched that description during the scene, I'm sorry."


Haka...

Rui was about to say something, but got up and left. The door in front of us slid open.

"Rest well, Tidalflame."


That night, I had a dream unlike any other. If one could even call it that.

I found myself looking down on four people. I recognized three of them immediately. Stormwatch. Logan, Joseph, and Rui. But... there was a fourth guy. He didn't look like the second generation recruits. Weren't there only three First Generation Stormwatch Members?

Who was the fourth guy?


"Give it up." A voice said. I focused in, and my eyes widened.

His hair was long, reaching up to his waist. His eyes, almost snakelike, and he had a sinister face. There was no denying it. He looked a bit younger, but there was no mistaking the boss and founder of the Contingency Initiative.

I watched as Taras Pax approached the team, his hands spread out wide.

"You cannot stop what happens next. I am far superior to all of you now. This includes you, Logan Woodley."

Logan held out two swords.

"Taras, of all the crimes you have committed on this world, part of me always wanted to stick up for you. But this... killing your own. Killing Jenna?! How could you do this?!"


Taras laughed maniacally. "The fact that you still hang onto dear Jenna shows you never moved on. What happened to our promise? We were supposed to be the strongest meta humans in the world! Of all time!"

Logan narrowed his eyes, as he struggled to his feet. Stormwatch was in bad shape, and I didn't blame them. They were up against Taras Pax, the most powerful meta human in history.

"We were supposed to be the strongest, but you chose to throw away your humanity for that to happen!"

"No." Taras said, as he adjusted the sleeves to his robe, showing tattoos of different colours. My mouth hung open. I knew a Dogma Bargain usually led to a certain colour depending on your Level 1 power. But I had never seen... tattoos like this. Come to think of it, I knew Taras was incredibly powerful, but I had never seen him in action.


Even in a vision, seeing him show even a percentage of his power, even seeing him like this. It made me want to crawl into a hole and never come out. I was simply petrified.

"Logan... you misunderstand. You are the one who ruined that dream. We were supposed to be the best, all three of us. But then you convinced Jenna to fall out of that plan. You went soft, and became a hero."

Logan gripped his swords so hard his knuckles turned white. "I would give up all the power in the world, if it means keeping my humanity. That is something you will never understand, Taras. This is why our split was bound to happen."

Taras chuckled, as his tattoos began to glow in a rainbow. "From this day on, I declare the unearthing and creation of the Contingency Initiative. You have now sworn to become my enemy, Logan Woodley, serving the Realmwatch Collective. I shall tear this world to the ground and awaken the Great Akuma to start the Second Great War. And there is nothing you can do to stop me, because you chose to become weak. You chose to abandon a brother."


Level 1 Hinokami, Shakujin, Suijin, Fujin, Stage Two: Full Circle Fist

Taras closed in, when suddenly, the fourth person ran forward.

"SO WHAT?!" He screamed, as he clung onto Taras' midsection.

"What? Vision?" Taras said, surprised.


The kid glared at Taras, with a grin on his face. "I don't care if you're the most powerful whatchamacallit to ever live! I ain't given up. No one has given up. I will come at you no matter what it takes, ya get me?!"

Logan fell to his knees, as a younger Rui ran forward.

"Vision! Don't! Stop!" She screamed.

A younger Joseph also shot forward. "This is bad, he's going to be killed!"


Taras depowered, as he grabbed Vision and struck his face, sending him flying and crumpling on the ground, but Vision stood up, battered and bloody, but still smiling.

"I'm not done yet, Pax. You're not gonna lay another finger on my precious comrades, ya get me?" He held out his fist, blood dripping from his numerous wounds, but the grin on his face, it was almost contagious. Just looking at his will, it filled me with hope.

Taras narrowed his eyes, as he flicked his finger, sending Vision to the ground and his left sleeve to be torn off.

"STOP!" Rui screamed.

Vision got back up. Each time Taras took him down, he would keep getting up, smiling.


Joseph tried to intervene, but he was too injured. Rui was too.

"Vision... stop. You can't keep doing this! You need to run! At least have one person survive this!!!"

"Guardian..." Vision muttered, his arm was dislocated and bent in an unnatural angle.


"I'm not going anywhere."

Taras smiled, as he held out his hand, his tattoos glowing white. A blast of air sent Vision backwards as he landed on his face, leaving behind a streaking trail of his blood.

Vision put his hands in front of him as he got to one knee.

"No one in this team expects me to do anything. All because I have a power that is useless in combat. I've been nothing compared to everybody in this group. But that's not gonna stop me." Vision glared at Taras.

"I keep coming at him, fighting no matter how badly I get hurt, because I have something to prove. That no matter how badly this world treats you, no matter how bad the cards are in your hand, you still need to keep fighting. It's because this world has treated me badly, that I CAN'T GIVE UP. I will not let this cruel world make me the joke. I can't let it happen. I will not lose myself. So I will keep fighting with this smile on my face, chin up high."

Vision got to his feet, as he held out a fist, aiming it at Taras.


"Bring it on, Pax. I ain't done. Not until you're brought down, ya get me?!"


I woke up in a cold sweat. Rui was staring at me from above.

"Tide..."

"What? Sorry I had a nightmare."

"Tide..."

I looked at Rui, who's eyes were filled with tears. She had her hand over her mouth.

"How do you know about Vision..." She whispered.

"I don't..." I must have been sleep talking!


"Rui, it came to me in a dream. I don't even know who this Vision guy is. But... he was in your squad, wasn't he?"

Rui clenched her fist, unable to meet my eyes.

"Tidalflame, are you recovered?"

"I think so. Does this mean I have to be transported to Realmwatch HQ now?"

"No."


I stared at her. "What?"

Rui got up, her hands shaking. "You're going to our conference first."

She looked at me, her eyes were full of hurt. "And you're going to tell us exactly what you dreamt of."


Chapter 10 - Haka

I guess I left everybody shocked upon telling them my dream. That would be an understatement.

Joseph dropped his pen, as it clacked on the ground.


"Tidalflame..." He muttered, as he rushed forward and grabbed my collar.

"If this is your idea of a sick joke, to hell with the RWC. I'm going to KILL YOU." He growled. Logan and Rui restrained him.

"Joseph! Please!" Rui pleaded, as Lucas and Tony glared at me.


Logan regarded me. "The violence flame in your eyes has since been extinguished. I'm guessing there's no point in lying."

I stared dejectedly at the table. What the hell was I even doing here? I should be looking for my sister. I should be... I should be...


Joseph took a deep breath, as Rui calmed him down.

"Um." I said, as everybody looked at me.

"Who is Vision? I'm guessing he was a member of this squad?"


Logan sighed, as the whole room became somber.

"I can't tell you the details, in case you return to the Contingency Initiative. But I can tell you this. Vision was a First Generation recruit, along with Joseph and Rui here. They were a three man unit, and I served as their mentor."


There were four First Generation members all along. That meant... all the files we had been given on these guys were wrong.

Joseph closed his eyes. "What are you going to do with this information?"

I said nothing. I had no desire to go back to the CI. I knew for sure that Matt would cut my head off for getting myself captured and failing the mission. And it was besides that. I knew I had a part to play in the Second Great War, but for the first time in my life, there was something that made everything seem so insignificant.

Haka Mah.

She was still out there.


Logan narrowed his eyes. "Something major must have happened to make you not even consider going back to the company, kid."

My hands jangled the chains in my handcuffs as tears streamed down my face. I then said something that I never ever would have imagined myself saying to anybody from the RWC.

"Please." I muttered, as everybody's eyes went wide.

"Help me. Help me find my sister."


Joseph went silent, as his expression softened.

"You have a sister?"

My breathing became erratic, as I found myself sobbing.

Rui knelt in front of me.

"It's Haka, isn't it?"


Lucas scratched his head. "Haka?"

I nodded. "Haka Mah. I thought she had died, along with my family. The night I unlocked my powers of pyrokinesis, I thought everybody had died the night I couldn't control my powers."

Rui gasped.

"Holy shit..." Tony muttered.


I looked up at Joseph. "You're the Squad Leader, and I know I don't deserve any forgiveness for the things I've done. But just this once, please. My little sister survived and had to live with my sins. And now she's under the full influence of the Dogma. She's gone insane."

Joseph turned to Logan, who nodded at him.


"What can you tell us about Haka?"


I told him everything, as well as my powers. My personal life. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't be telling anybody this. But I was desperate. She was the only true family I had left. Even if she was broken, there had to be some part of her still there.

Joseph was silent, and stood up.

"I'm going to consult the corps for this one. In the meantime, Rui, keep watching over him in case he suddenly decides to re-ignite himself. Meeting adjourned."


We left the meeting, as I went back to my cell. Rui followed me.

"Am I not being transferred to RWC?"

"No." Rui said, causing me to turn around in surprise.

"What?"

Rui sighed as she ran her hand through her hair. "We're going to search for your sister."

"But... why? Why are you helping me?"


Rui glanced at me. "Because you looked like you needed help. It's our duty as members of the RWC to watch over the people. No matter their background, they are still entitled to receiving help. Not to mention."

She sat across from me.

"I saw you cry for the first time. Loneliness is a hard road, and we already lost one to that dark path. If there is even a chance to save someone out of that path... then we should do it."

"You mean... Vision?"

Rui smiled. "I don't know how you got that dream, but everything you mentioned, was accurate down to the smallest detail. Vision was part of our team, until he died in a mission gone wrong. He was like a beacon of hope for us, and he made us, made me laugh, no matter how bad it got. He had such a precious and contagious smile. Ever since he died, Joseph had never been the same. That moment you saw him flip out upon you mentioning his codename, that is unlike him."


"Was he and Vision friends?"

Rui laughed. "Oh no. They were rivals. But over time, they became something more than friends. They became brothers and comrades. Vision admired Guardian's strength, and Guardian admired Vision's heart. Together, they helped boost the Stormwatch Brigade to the near top."

I sulked back in my sheets. I knew that there was no making amends to either side now. I was too much of a security risk to be left alive in the Contingency, and I sure as hell was not on good terms with Realmwatch.

But if it meant getting Haka back, I was willing to do anything.


"You know, you kind of remind me of him."

I turned around. "Huh?"

"Your face. A face of determination. Vis always had that face whenever things didn't go his way. He always made that face whenever he would plan out the tactics, missions, and support us with his wacky gadgets."

"I see."

Rui smiled. "With his hard work and charisma, he actually had a good chance at achieving his goal."

"What goal was that?"

Rui looked at me. "To become the Squad Leader of Stormwatch. That was his dream, to become Squad Leader. But Joseph also wanted to become Squad Leader, and against someone like Joseph, who was a prodigy in both power and smarts, it was always a one sided comparison."

Rui's expression turned pained. "Matt always believed in hard work. He was the perfect representation of someone who never gave up. His death... it made me feel so hopeless." Rui suddenly stopped, putting her hand over her mouth.

"Oh no. I shouldn't have, oh dear. His name. I messed up." She muttered, as she shot to her feet.

"I'm sorry." She said, as she quickly left.



Vision's name was Matt? My mind immediately began making parallels and connections. And the first connection that came to mind...

Was Squad Leader Matthew Lam.

The guy who held a grudge against Stormwatch for unknown reasons. If what I thought was true, that would partially explain his hatred for this Brigade. But... that wouldn't have made any sense. Vision had died. And even if he somehow survived, I'm pretty sure not getting Squad Leader wasn't enough to make him change. What happened?

What could possibly have happened to turn Stormwatch's Matt into the Matt I knew today?

I couldn't tell these guys about Mirage's name. Because I had signed a pact on the first day of the job when I joined his Squad. If I ever so much as revealed the names of anyone in the squad to anyone else, my head would be blown off. And if you thought that was bullshit, tell that to Jack Lace, a member of Squad Four who accidentally blurted out Lewis' identity during a mission. His headless corpse is floating in a ditch somewhere. His "grave" is a popular tourist attraction for new recruits to the Contingency Initiative.


"Oh hey, you're awake." Lucas said, as I left the door.

"Was that a-"

"Video game reference, yeah." He said, as he peered at my arm.

"You too, huh. That explains your ridiculous power."

"What?"


Lucas rolled up the sleeve to his hoodie, revealing a smaller and thinner tattoo that went around his wrist.

"I'm a Dogma holder as well. But only Level 1."

"I see."

"I heard you unlocked two levels, right? And The Mirage unlocked four?"

"Yes."

Lucas scratched his head. "The Mirage wants me to go beyond Level 1, but I know what happens when you keep unlocking levels. You gotta throw something away. You think you could um, help me get stronger with what I have now?"

I looked back at my hand. I couldn't summon any flames since that day. Part of me didn't want to anymore, like my whole body gave up.

"I'll consider it."


Lucas crossed his arms. "Thanks man. I know it's probably weird, since you and our squad probably have some rough history to patch up. But I'm willing to believe that you've changed. I just don't want to lose to Tony, you know?"

"Tony? Ground Zero?"

"Yeah. He's got the powers of the Great Beast on his side, so that's instant hacks. If I wanted more power, I'd have to cut off a toe or something to get more levels. Which sucks. Right now, my Level 1 is Amplification."

Amplification. Matt's second level. I always knew about Matt's second level, because he often used it and combined it with his third level. So skillfully to the point where he was known widely as "The Contingency's Loki".


"Are you and Tony rivals?"

Lucas clenched his fist. "Hell yeah, we are. Just don't mention that in front of Joseph or Rui though. They... have bad memories with that term."

I stared at the hallway. "I heard Joseph and Vision were rivals too."

"Yeah. For them, it was an unhealthy rivalry, I guess. I shouldn't say this, but their rivalry wasn't just for Squad Leader, it also concerned Rui too. So they were in a big tangle and it kept escalating. I don't know, I've never met Vision myself, but from what I heard, he was a great guy."


I walked by a room, where Rui was standing inside. She noticed me, and gave me a small smile.

"You don't have to wear those handcuffs everywhere, you know."

"Just want to make sure, give you guys reassurance."

Rui looked back at the document she was holding. It was a little notebook. I stepped inside.

"What is that?"

"Vision's diary. I always read it when I'm feeling down. The others have told me multiple times they should have cleared the room of Vis's stuff, but I just couldn't. Maybe I'm selfish, but I just can't move on with his death."


I knew that feeling. I never moved on with my family's death either. And it always bit me, to the point where Haka's reappearance had devastated me so much I couldn't even use my flames anymore.

"We'll get Haka back. Don't worry, Yeling."

I felt ridiculous for having what was supposed to be my enemy give me reassurance.


"Once that happens, what do you plan on doing?"

Rui looked at me. "That depends on you. We can't force you to leave the Contingency Initiative. But we also can't force all your crimes to be forgiven."

I was silent, as I heard footsteps. Joseph walked by and glanced at us.


"Squad Leader." Rui bowed her head.

Joseph nodded. "Deputy." He noticed the diary in her hands and shook his head.

"Rui, staring at his stuff won't bring him back from the dead."

"I know, I just-"

"Rui. Let it go. You've been like this for four years now. Please, just move on."

Joseph left, as I heard Rui sniffle.


"I'm sorry." I said.

"No. I should move on. It's just, ugh. I can't accept that he's gone. He's left too much of an impact on me to go like that. Joseph wasn't always this uptight. Back when Vision was still around, he and Joseph had an amazing dynamic. Vision always brought out the best in everyone."


Rui put down the book and left the room. "Remember, curfew is at 11. I'll see you tomorrow morning."

I watched as Rui left, and stared at the book. The cover was, as what I would expect, silly.

The Top Secret Diary of Vision: Do not read, or get vaporized!

"Hm." I muttered, as I ran my hand across the book and opened up a page.


Chapter 11 - Vision's Diary

Vision's diary was composed of little segments of his day. I picked a few from different gaps in the timeline of the diary that night.




Dear Diary,

Today's mission went well. We secured and protected the nobleman's son and managed to fend off a few criminals. Who knew there were so many bad guys out therein New Ulysses?

Anyway, my plan worked (!!!) and our team managed to get recognition. Although Joe was the one who got all the credit. I wasn't too happy about that, we actually got into a fight! But at least the team benefitted in the end. And I got recognition from Rui. That's all that matters.

Joseph unlocked yet another ability. Super sonic flight. As if he wasn't powerful enough already. Ugh. He pulled ahead of me once more, and Rui obviously fangirled over that.


But I haven't given up. I'll keep working hard and studying. I've been going to the targeting range to work on my aim with my firearms, and been researching new gadgets to help out in missions. I know I'm unpowered, when it comes to fighting, but I still haven't given up on my dream.

I'll become Squad Leader. So Rui will recognize me.


Over and out!

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

Rui asked Joseph out today, and I know I'm supposed to keep my chin up high in days like this. After all, that was how I was taught from my parents. But I feel like my heart got ripped out of my chest. It's that feeling where your body is filled with adrenaline, but not in a good way. I'm so sorry Dad, I can't keep my chin up high today. I spent an hour in my room crying in private. I know I'm not a man today.

But that's not gonna stop me. I'll keep working hard and become the Squad Leader. Today, I booked a session with the RWC firearms instructor to see if I can work on my reflexes. If I can't beat Joseph in power, maybe I can beat him somewhere else.


Logan came by today to check up on us and deliver status reports, but I didn't have much to give, since I spent my whole day training. Apparently, when Rui and Joseph were out on their date, they encountered some bandits. Joseph took them down and received praise again.

At this rate, Joseph is going to beat me to Squad Leader too. I can't let that happen.


I may not have been strong today, but I promise you. I will become strong tomorrow. And then one day, I will read back on this diary once I'm Squad Leader, and I will smile.


Over and out!

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

I got my first award! I got it for being heroic and shielding my team from one of Taras' henchmen blasts. I didn't really find it too heroic, because I passed out almost immediately once it hit. But apparently, if it wasn't for that action, Joseph wouldn't have had the adrenaline to jump back into action and stop the henchmen from stealing the talisman.


And I also know that Joseph has way more awards than me. I don't need people constantly reminding me that in the RWC. All that matters was I got my first award, and I'm happy. Rui was the first person I showed it to, and she held a party for me! My heart nearly bounced out of my chest.

During that party, she told me that one award I got had more significance than the other twenty seven awards Joseph had, because it was my first. That made me happy.

Joseph also congratulated me. Eh. Whatever.


I'm going to find a frame to hang this award up on! One more step to becoming Squad Leader!


Over and out!

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

Rui's injured. And I don't know what to do. We were supposed to rescue this one hostage from Taras' lieutenants, but ended up falling for a trap. Logan got taken, and Rui's been comatose. The doctor thinks it was from overwork.

I'm in such a bad place right now, but I gotta keep my chin up high, because Dad told me so all those years ago.

Joseph and I are doing our best to plan, and he's been counting on me to find a way to bring Logan and the hostage back. But for the first time, I can't come up with anything. I keep seeing Rui taking that hit for me because I wasn't strong enough, and over stressing her healing factor.


But I will keep working at it. I don't want Rui to die. We were supposed to get married. I was supposed to become Squad Leader and I would propose to her on that day of receiving the title. That was the plan from when Joseph, Rui, and I, first joined Stormwatch. That will not change.


I swear on my life.

Over and out.

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

With Rui injured, and Joseph always at her bedside, and all the stress in coming up with a plan for this rescue mission, I just feel so overwhelmed, and it's almost like all the feelings I had suppressed all this time have decided to come out. Real convenient right?

I skipped training today to focus on planning. I've been making connection after connection. My whiteboards, all five of them, are filled with plans and tactics. And none of them are working.


I've been told that Mom was a very smart woman. And that was where I got all that intelligence from. But I feel like I've been given more credit than I deserve. Why do I have to be known as the smart one, why do all these expectations that I'm a guy who makes no mistakes have to be thrown on me, just because I was my Mom's son.

I miss my parents. I know if they were still alive, they would have given me some kind of wise support. I would have run to them and they would have been able to tell me everything was okay. For a while, it was always Rui who did that, but now she's in a coma. Logan is out there, probably being tortured, or worse, killed.


I hate myself. There, I said it. I have no powers, other than the power to predict the future. And that doesn't even happen when I want it to. And it only happens when I'm sleeping. In other words, I don't have powers. This would have been so much easier if I was like Joseph. He had all the power in the world, the power of Vala, the Spirit of Hope.


Okay. That's enough of that. I need to get back to work. No use feeling sorry for myself. This plan isn't going to form itself.


Over and out.

Matty "The Vision"




Dear Diary,

I did it! I knew with hard work things would pay off. The plan is to be deployed by sundown. Once we get Logan back, we can focus on getting Rui back awake.

I promised I wouldn't let this be the end of me. I will become Squad Leader, no matter what it takes.


I spent most of the day with Rui. She looks like an angel when she's asleep. Did you know she was actually the person who inspired me to become Squad Leader?

She told me that I had a heart of gold. And that I had a good chance at becoming leader. That was what made me want to step up.

"Even if you don't have powers, and you've been dealt a bad hand. Even if the world treats you like a joke, it's up to you whether or not to deliver the punch-line."


That's right Rui. It's up to me to decide whether or not to go along with the joke, or to step up and keep pushing forward. I'm not a joke. I will do everything I can to prove this world wrong. I will become Squad Leader. I will save Logan, and I will save you.


Wait for me, Rui.

Over and out.

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

Sorry I haven't been keeping you updated. Things have been going rough on me.

Logan is back in the group, and Rui woke up a week ago. That's nice and all, but I wasn't the first person she called for.


She called for Joseph.


I feel like even if I become the Squad Leader, Rui's heart will always belong to Joseph. If that's the case... is being Squad Leader even worth it?

Anyway, I spent the rest of the week at the gym, trying to become stronger, and then I hit the targeting range and went to the library to study and research for new gadgets. I may not be able to win Rui over, but I will still become Squad Leader. Because I still have something to prove. That I'm not useless in this group.

I'm really tired, and every night, I've always been thinking about Mom and Dad. How they met. Mom was the smartest person in her company, and Dad was a loser. But he worked super hard to get her attention and one day, he did. And then they got together. But I feel like Dad's story just won't ever apply to me.

Because at the time, Mom didn't have eyes for anyone. But Rui does.


Logan's been getting concerned about my mental health. He says me overworking every night is bad for me and he is worried. But he wouldn't understand it. No one does. Even Rui doesn't, because she became concerned too. I had to brush her off and lock the door because there just isn't an easy way to explain it.

Sometimes, I think Rui's the cruelest of them all. Because she's so nice to me. It would have been so much easier if she was mean. I would have a good reason to push her away.


I'm in love with her, and there isn't anything I can do about it.


Over and out.

Matt




Dear Diary,

I got a vision the other night. It made no sense. It was like, some kind of flower. But one of the petals was bigger than the others. That one petal was bigger and brighter, more colourful. The one next to it, was kind of big too, maybe not as big, but it was brown and shrivelling up. Then, a breeze came, and all the petals on the flower began to shake. The brown one fell off, and hit the soil next to the flower, and began to grow into a flower of its own. But this wasn't a flower. It wasn't pretty like the flower it came from, it was like... black. A black and scary looking flower, and it kept growing and growing until became a vine that choked the flower to death.


I have no idea what this vision means. But whatever happened today had no connection to the dream. I kept training and researching and studying, and going on missions with the team as usual.

I'm kind of troubled by this vision. I decided not to tell anyone, because it just didn't make any sense. Anyway, I'm feeling a little bit better, because Rui smiled at me in the hallway! I know she's in love with Joseph, but this battle will never end. After all, Joseph is my rival!

I'll keep working hard and becoming Squad Leader.


Over and out.

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

Today was my birthday, and Rui held a celebration!

I had a bunch of birthday presents, from everybody. Even Joseph got me one. Meh.

But out of all the birthday presents, probably the best one was the one Rui gave to me. Because on that night, she told me that she was proud with what I had achieved, and that my never give up attitude inspired her, and the others. But I only heard her.

Then she kissed me on the cheek. Part of me wanted it to be on the lips, but whatever. This was enough to re-ignite my drive to become the best.


There was still hope! I can do it!


Over and out.

Matty "The Vision" (Future Stormwatch Squad Leader)




Dear Diary,

Joseph became Squad Leader.

I don't know what else to say. I feel so shattered and devastated. All my hard work was for nothing. Rui tried to come to my room today to comfort me but I screamed at her to go away. All those years of hard work. All those years. I lost to Joseph today. I lost to him in being Squad Leader, and I lost Rui to him.


I feel like I have nothing left to live for. What the hell was the point of giving me that hope this entire time? What the hell was the point?


I can't win against life. No one can beat life when it comes to shit like this. I could work my ass off and not be awarded anything.


I'm so sorry to my parents. I know if they were still alive they would have been disappointed. I was really just all talk and no action, huh. I wasn't strong in the end. Maybe I should just accept that I'll only be a burden to these guys. Maybe... maybe I should just end it.


Over and out.

Matty "The Vision"



I closed the diary. Vision. He had it so hard. It was the kind of pain unlike trauma, but it was pain nonetheless. I finally understood what Tess meant, when she said that everybody's struggles is still equally valid. Because you don't have to go through trauma, or abuse, or any of that to be in pain. Everybody is different.

Vision was in love with Rui this whole time, and his dream to become the Squad Leader was shattered in front of his very eyes.


"Still here, huh." A voice appeared behind me. I turned around to be greeted by Joseph.

"Sorry. I should have went back. I'm sorry."

Joseph crossed his arms as he looked at the diary, his eyes were full of hurt.


"Vision was one of the best. To this day I respect him."

"Did you know? Of his feelings to-"

"No. Not until we saw his diary. Vis spent his last weeks cooped up in his room and in the library whenever we were off mission. We were all so worried for him. I just wish he understood that. He always saw himself as burden just because he didn't have powers, but he didn't understand how much he meant to us. His smile, his energy, his attitude. This was what made him so special."

I followed Joseph back to my room as I sat down. Joseph leaned against the doorframe.

"If only I had been more aware of what was going on with him at the time. I knew we had a rivalry, but I always saw it as a friendly one. I didn't know he was under so much pressure." Joseph closed his eyes, clenching his fists.


"This was all my fault. If it wasn't for me, Vision would have been alive. My closest, best friend. He would have been alive."


I said nothing, as a wave of emotion washed over me.


"But the past is in the past. I know that nothing I do or say will bring him back. I have to keep moving forward with my chin high. As what Matty would always say." Joseph managed a slight smirk.

"The Squad needs their leader. And I will continue to make Stormwatch the best Brigade in the RWC. For him."


"It always has been. Since I've tangled with you guys in the past. You guys were always the most exceptional."

Joseph smiled. "Thanks for the compliment, Tidalflame. Listen, I'm sorry I snapped at you back then. It's just... Vision..."

"It's okay. I have a lot to apologize for on my end too."

Joseph got up and left, but not before giving me one final wave.

"Tomorrow, we will be departing. We have a lead on your sister. We'll get her back for you. And you're coming with us."


My eyes widened as Joseph left. Haka. They found Haka.


Chapter 12 - The Search

"These guys were last seen in this area." Logan said, his eyes bright from Vala's power. He was a vision type, like Lewis, but with Vala being the source of his power, it would only make sense if he was more powerful. We were in a forest, pursing a group of hooded figures.


"Did you mention that Haka was loyal to this Lord Ginga person?" Joseph said.

"Who the hell is Ginga?" Lucas shouted next to us as we travelled on a spectral beast created by Joseph.

"Ginga was a spectral, like Vala and the Great Beast. From the First Great War. He was thought to have died, but recent discoveries have found that Ginga was in a vegetative state. He supported the Great Akuma. I didn't think he would be awake so soon." Rui said.


"Do you think we can take him?" Tony asked.

"You wish." Lucas scoffed. "Ginga is even stronger than Taras. And rumour has it that Taras possesses like Twenty Levels of the Dogma of Equivalent Exchange. Literally no one stands a chance here."

"Then our objective is to take Haka and get out of there. If Ginga even so much as shows up, we dip." Joseph said.


Rui looked at me. "Yeling, are you going to be okay facing your sister again? I really doubt she would come with us without putting up a fight. You don't have to join if you don't want to."

"I have to face her. I have a lot to talk to her about."

Joseph turned to me. "Then we'll make sure we support you in every way. No one is dying on my watch."

Joseph... to help someone who had done nothing but destroy his allies. I could see why he was a perfect candidate for Squad Leader. It wasn't just strength. Or intelligence. Like Vision, he also had heart. Even if Vision worked super hard, there was just some things that could never be achieved. Hard work always beats talent, but once talent works hard, that's the other side. The realistic side.


"Wait... what?" Logan said, as we suddenly stopped. The spectral construct stopped moving as we all were flung out from the momentum. We hit the ground.

Joseph got to his feet and powered up, his body gaining a blue misty aura. Rui brought her fists up, her body glowing green as everybody powered up.

"Formations, everybody. Looks like we're not alone."


"Nope." A voice said, from above, as a being with four massive spiders like appendages from his back appeared, hitting the ground.

"Looks like you guys were tailing us. Gonna have to stop you right there."

Another person, a big burly guy appeared from behind a tree. They were both wearing robes, but the symbol on their backs were nothing like the ones in the Contingency Initiative.

"What we gonna do, big bro?" The big dude asked.

"Restrain them you moron!"

"Oh."


The guy held out his hands, but Joseph blasted forward with super sonic speed. He managed to land a punch as the man flew away. Rui also closed the distance on the spider guy, but he held out his hand, and Rui became pierced by numerous threads.

"Rui!" Lucas and Tony shouted.

"Prop me, GZ."

Tony propped Lucas as he launched a small explosion, blasting Lucas to Rui's position.


Level 1 Amplification: Combo Dart Launcher

Lucas closed in and tried to punch the spider guy with as much force as he could, but he was intercepted by Joseph, who was sent flying and ramming into him.

"Shame." The spider guy said, as he tightened his grip on the threads, which cut into Rui. Rui cried out in pain as blood began to gush from her wounds.


Logan took out two swords as he rushed in, cutting at the threads.

"These threads are like steel." He muttered, as he dodged the spider guy's attacks with ridiculous reflexes.


"Not today, old man!" The big guy closed in with astonishing speed.

"Wha?" Logan said, as his opponent slammed the ground, sending him flying.

"Game over, Metron." The spider guy said, as he sent threads flying his way.


"No!" Rui screamed. "I can take these threads because of my regeneration, but Logan can't! Do something!"

Logan's eyes went wide as the threads closed.


Level 1 Hinokami: Medium Dragon Sputter

I held out my hand and blasted the threads, incinerating them before they could get to Logan.

"Nice job, kid." Logan said, as I turned around, facing the big burly guy.


"Where's my sister!" I shouted, as I powered up, blasting him with flames. But a wall of ice blocked it. It should have melted from my flames, but this wasn't normal ice.


The spider guy and the burly guy both tag teamed, and within seconds, we were thrown into a circle, as an ice prison formed around us. Covered in spikes.

"Holy shit we're gonna die!" Lucas said, as he backed away.

Tony tried to blast his way out, but to no avail.

"My full power explosions aren't working against this ice!"

Logan turned to Joseph. "What's your plan?"


Joseph got to his feet. "There's no doubt the big guy is strong. When I was fighting him, I made the mistake of assuming he was slow given his size. He specializes in ice, but for some reason, he has ridiculous super strength, surpassing mine. If he's using his power to trap us, there's a chance that might have depleted him. He isn't the brightest."

Rui gasped, as we all ran to her side.

"I'm... okay..." She muttered, as her wounds slowly began to heal.

"As long as we find a way to escape this confinement, we could take him out while he is depleted. Then we can find a way to stop the spider guy. None of our attacks work on his thread, except for Yeling's flames and maybe Tony's explosions. Once we isolate him from his threads, we can take him on with melee."


Joseph turned to me. "I'll shield everybody here. You go wild on this."

I nodded, as I brought my hands up.

Level 1 Hinokami: Devil's Typhoon

A blast of flame exited my body as it circled around, forming a fiery blue tornado, but the cage was still closing in.

"What? What is this?" I muttered, as I kept trying, but the flames weren't doing anything. This didn't make sense. Wasn't fire supposed to melt ice?"


"Hey, uh, Tidalflame? Any day would be nice to melt this hellhole." Lucas said.

"I'm trying..." I gritted my teeth.

Why wasn't this melting the ice? Come to think of it, the normal flames I had wasn't enough to melt the big guy's shield either. We were gonna die if I didn't do something. I had to use more. I had to unleash more.


"Joseph." I said. Joseph looked at me.

"I'm going to use more power. Protect your squad."

"I'm ready. Go for it."


I became intangible, as I used a stronger variant of my super move. This variant was so powerful that I had to use Intangibility, otherwise I would be incinerated. I hoped Joseph's powers were enough. I thought about Haka. How when we were little we used to play together.

Big brother, what do you want to be when you grow up? Haka once asked. I didn't know how to answer. Because I just couldn't see myself accomplishing anything. I was always the bottom of the class no matter how I tried. And I wasn't very athletic. I told her I didn't know, and half expected her to be disappointed.

It's okay. No matter what you do, I know you can do it! She said.


I didn't know why this memory resurfaced, but it gave me courage. I could feel my body welling with power. I needed to find her again. That remaining bit of Haka I once knew. I needed to save her. No matter what. No matter how much it hurts.

Chin up high. Keep moving forward. Because if someone like Vision could keep his dream to become the Squad Leader alive for so many years, so should I.


Hinokami and Intangibility: Super Devil's Typhoon


I screamed as my flames became extremely violent. From the corner of my vision, Joseph's spectral shield began to buckle.

"Don't falter, Yeling. Keep it up!" Joseph shouted.

"Holy shit. Glad he didn't use that move on me." Tony muttered.


"HAKA!!!" I yelled, as the icy prison collapsed. I fell to my knees, depleted. The muscles in my body entering failure as I could barely lift my arms up.

The big burly guy, as Joseph had predicted, also collapsed.


"Neo, you friggin moron! What did I tell you about overexerting yourself!" The spider guy growled.

"Sorry big bro..." Neo muttered, as he fainted.


The spider guy aimed his threads at me, and fired, but Tony intercepted it.

Joseph, Rui, Logan, and Lucas closed in and took on the spider guy together, and defeated him.


"Huh. That was almost a bit too easy." Lucas joked, when suddenly, a large hand grabbed him, and pulled him into the darkness.

"Lucas!" Joseph shouted, as he tried to pin down the location of the hand, but another one smacked him into a tree.


Soon the hands in the darkness dispatched everybody in the Stormwatch Brigade. From within the shadows, two red eyes peered at me.

"Haka..."


Level 1 Shakujin, Stage One: Bone Shaking Flurry

Hundreds of arms appeared from the darkness and pummelled me as I felt my insides almost exploding. I vomited blood as I fell to my knees.

"Big brother! How sweet of you to come find me again."

Haka smiled from within the shadows. Her teeth were chipped and cut away to resemble shark teeth. Pointy at the ends. My heart wrenched seeing her like this.


"Hey, Yeling, move!" Tony shouted as he blasted himself to my position, before an appendage from the shadows skewered me.


"Hey." Haka snapped. "Don't interrupt!"

An arm came shooting to Tony, who broke it apart with an explosion.

"What did you do with my squad?"


Haka narrowed her eyes. "They were in the way. I wanted to see my dearest brother. You get out of the way too."

Level 8 Fujin: Aerial Trident

An air construct appeared and slammed into Tony, who went flying into a tree.


I got to my feet, facing my sister.

"Please, come home with me. We can start over."

"Start over?"

"You're the only family I have left. We can start over. Even if it is just the two of us, we can-"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes. We are still family. Just the two of us."


Haka zipped in front of me, as her body crackled with yellow electricity. An electric Dogma?

Haka looked up at me, her eyes glinting. I held out my hand and gently stroked her hair.

"I missed you. I missed you, Dad, Mom, Shuu. Everybody. There wasn't a single day where I thought about you guys."

"Come with me, Yeling."

"What?"

Haka smiled as she rested her head against my chest.

"Come with me. We can be together. When we destroy this world and awaken the Great Akuma. You, as the Hinokami. And me, as the Shakujin. Together."

"Haka... I can't..."


Haka pulled away, as a massive rock construct engulfed me from the ground. Her eyes turned downright murderous.

"You're not big brother."

"What? What are you saying?"

Haka's red eyes were full of malice.

"Big brother would say yes. He would say yes because he loves me. You said no. You said no to me. You are not big brother."


I began to choke and cough. The earth prison around me began to constrict as I felt my ribs being crushed.

"Haka, listen to me, they broke you. I broke you. Let me fix this. Please..."

"You are not big brother. You took his face. I will rip it off. I will rip off your face and give it to Yeling. He wants his face back." Haka said, as reached out, her devilish hand with their claws scraping my face as I yelled in agony.


Suddenly, a blue flash appeared, as Joseph brought his fist back, smashing Haka in the face and sending her skidding backwards.

Joseph yanked me out of the prison as the rest of Stormwatch stood before me.

"Haka 'Phoenix' Mah. You are coming with us."


Haka glared at all of us.

"You wasted my time. I thought my brother came for me and wanted to become strong again. But you brought a fake to trick me. I will kill you and give your heads to Lord Ginga as an offering."

Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Two: Total Tremor Cataclysm

Her body became engulfed with a swirling aura of black boulders.


Joseph looked at us. "Brace yourselves. This may be the hardest fight we have come across to date. No matter what, we bring her in alive."

Everybody nodded as they powered up.


Chapter 13 - Hinokami Stage Four

Joseph and Lucas zoomed in, trying to flank her, but no one was able to get past her rock aura.

"Pathetic. Inferior. None shall get in my way." Haka said, as more and more boulders ripped from the ground.


Haka held out her hand, as a massive hand came flying my way.

I couldn't do anything as I watched it close in on me.

"Yeling!" Rui shouted as she intercepted, grabbing the hand and pushing it away.


Tony was blasting Haka with everything he had, but nothing was getting through her Total Tremor Cataclysm, as boulders were keeping everybody back. One caught Lucas in the shoulder.

Logan was swiping left and right.


"Regroup, everyone." Joseph said, as everybody huddled together.

"There is no getting through that. We have to find a way to neutralize that aura and create an opening. Tony?"

"I can't. My explosions can't destroy her rocks. They're not ordinary stones, it's like that dude's ice. They have red markings all over it."

"Dammit." Joseph muttered.


Haka smiled as she held out her hands.

"Why are you conspiring against me? I shall take big brother's face back with me. I will kill you if you stop me."

"Not happening!" Joseph growled, as he stood his ground before us.


"Joseph, what are you doing?" Rui gasped. "You can't stop her! We need to come up with a plan."

Joseph glared at Haka. "Right now, we need someone to hold her off. She's not gonna give us time to come up with a plan."

"You'll be killed!"

"I don't care. If I don't step in, we'll ALL be killed. Haka will take Yeling and we'll lose him too. I'm not letting that happen. I will not let anyone touch my squad, no matter what."


Joseph spread his hands as his body began to glow blue.

"This is what Vision would have done. All those years ago when we fought Taras. And when we fought the Chameleon before that. He was always the one to put himself before the team. If I can't do what Vision had done, what right do I have to call myself the leader of this squad? Huh?"

"Joseph..."


Joseph powered up, as he gained a misty blue aura, his eyes glowing.

"Come on, Phoenix. Let's throw down. You want Yeling's face? You're gonna have to go through me. Ya get me?!"

Haka's eyes widened in annoyance.

"Tch! Insect of Vala. You'll be the first to die!"


Haka brought her hands together, as her tattoos began to glow white along with the red. She began to float into the air as more and more boulders joined her aura along with swirls of wind.

Fujin and Shakujin: Forbidden Leaf Dance

Hundreds of arcs of wind combined with pellets of stone came flying his way, razor sharp, as Joseph barged through.

"Not happening, Phoenix. Strength of Vala, times 500!" Joseph roared, launching a powerful punch that Haka blocked with multiple earth appendages, but the force of it blew her back.


"Good job, Squad Leader!" Tony shouted, but his face turned shocked.

Joseph levitated in the air, breathing heavily. Red lines formed all over him, which began dripping blood.

That attack... it was just like Urca's.

Was that what he meant that day, when Matt and I faced him, when he said his loyalties were on someone else?


Haka giggled, as she emerged from the mountain.

"Hey. You're okay. Good warmup. Come play with me, a little." Haka said, as more and more boulders began flying his way. Joseph flew in a large arc, attempting to evade the boulders. One got to him, and Joseph punched it out of the way but grimaced. His knuckles began to swell and bruise.

"These boulders..." He muttered.


Rui turned to us. "We need a plan. Or Joe is going to die!"

"There's one possibility." Logan said. I didn't even realize he was there the whole time, but the entire time, he was watching Haka with Vala's Eyes.

"What is it?"

"Look at the boulders that are circling her."

Lucas narrowed his eyes. "Uhhh yeah. They're everywhere buddy."

Tony facepalmed. "You idiot. Even I see it."

"See what?"


Rui pointed up at where Joseph was trying to fend off Haka. The fight was so one sided it was hard to watch, as Joseph found himself getting pummelled badly, and flung around from one landform to another. He may have had the powers of Vala, and that included her durability, but I knew that it wouldn't be enough. Not against Haka's might.

"Some of the rocks don't have those weird red markings. Meaning those can be destroyed."

Lucas got up. "Okay, but how are we gonna make an opening with that? The chances of it all lining up to make one, it will take ridiculous timing."

"It's all right." Logan said. "You underestimate your old man, kiddo. Vala's Eyes."

Logan looked at us, his eyes were bright blue, the irises were repeating the same motion as the rocks.

"I've already analyzed how they move. We just gotta make sure she's restrained."


We heard a boom, as Joseph came flying at us.

"Captain!" Lucas yelped.

Rui instantly began healing him. "We'll need to find a way to make her immobile, then Logan will find that opening. Once it's open, Tony, you destroy that path of rocks under Logan's direction. Then Yeling."

She turned to me. "You will be the one to defeat her."


I gulped. "Okay."

Their teamwork, I could now see why they were the top. This was so different from when I was with Squad Four. With Matt, he would just tell us to do whatever. There was almost no teamwork at all. Our Squad had become the top because everybody was strong.

But with Stormwatch, it became the top because of the bond each member had.

And now, having seen both sides. I now understood. The importance of teamwork.


Joseph gasped as he fully recovered.

"Alright. Let's do it then." He said.


Haka laughed as we all charged her once more.

"I want you dead. All of you dead. Corpses to Ginga! Corpses to Ginga!"

Two massive arms came flying our way, but we all dodged as Joseph powered up, creating a massive spectral wolf, which clamped down on Haka's legs.

"Heh?" She asked, as we closed in.


Haka began to struggle as the construct started to crack, but a green glow sealed it off.

Rui had her arms around Joseph's waist, transferring her regeneration to him!


Logan, Tony, Lucas, and I rushed in, with Lucas fending off any rocks that came our way with his Amplification Dogma.

"Now, Tony!" Logan shouted, aiming his hand at the opening.

"Destroy it there!"

"Got it, gramps!"

"And stop calling me gramps!"


Tony concentrated.

"Great Beast's Belch!"

"Heh? What?" I asked, as Lucas grinned. "Hell yeah, you're in, Yeling. Do it!"


Lucas kicked me in the back as I flew into Haka, right through her aura as she stared at me, her eyes wide.

"Big brother?" She asked.

I had to do this. But every time I looked at Haka's face. Her pointy deformed ears, her sharp and modified teeth. Her red eyes. All of a sudden, that all disappeared, and I saw the innocent face of my little sister.

The face of someone I had to save.

Even if it meant incinerating this monster who took her place.


"Haka, I'm going to save you." I said, through my tears, as I began to power up, the same emotional burst surging through me.

Level 1 Hinokami: Supreme Apocalypse

"I'm here, your big brother is here!" I screamed, as I blasted a massive beam of light that engulfed Haka, as she cried out in pain.


"No.... NOOOO!!!" She cried out, as I held back tears, my vision turning bright as everything around me disintegrated.


I fell to the ground, as did Haka. Her aura gone, as everybody stared at the scene, breathing hard.

We did it. We just needed to-

"Imposter." Haka muttered, as she got to her feet, her wounds regenerating. Her face, a mixture of hatred and hurt.

"You insult big brother's name. You pretend to be him. Only he is allowed to hurt me."


I took a step back.

"Haka..."

"My name is PHOENIX." She said, as her power blew us all back. No way. That was my ultimate attack. I couldn't use any more flames.

I turned around, and Stormwatch was also in shock. Everybody was depleted.


Rui and Joseph were both depleted from sustaining that construct, and Logan, Lucas, as well as Tony were disoriented from that blast I created earlier.


Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Three: Gaea's Half Body

A massive golem appeared before me, as an arm and torso and head manifested.

"Hey. Fake Yeling." Haka said, her voice downright murderous.

"I'm going to shatter you. Then I'm going to take your head and peel off that fake face. But before I do that, I'm going to make you watch your friends suffer."


"Wha... what?" I asked, in shock, as I couldn't even register the fact that one of Haka's golem arms was flying my way until it connected. I was sent hurtling into a tree, my vision became tripled, as I crumpled to the ground.


I watched as Joseph got to his feet, but multiple projectiles came flying his way, piercing him in several locations. Rui tried to heal him, but the golem slammed the ground, sending them both back.

Tony fired explosion after explosion on the golem, to no effect, as Haka swung the golem's fist, sending him away too.

The golem looked down and towered over Lucas, who stared at it in horror.


"You. Dogma holder. You are a disgrace to our kind." She said, as he brought her fist up.

The image of Mariah reappeared in my head. Mariah... I couldn't save her because I was powerless.

I couldn't save her and I let Jacob die.

Jacob told me I was a good man. But I let him die. I was the reason he died because I couldn't stop my sister.


Then the image of Vision appeared. Him shielding Stormwatch. The image of him having fun with them, then the image of his gravestone. The defeated and devastated looks on Rui, Joseph, and Logan's faces.

"I have... failed as a father..." Logan said in my vision.


I got to my feet. No. I can't. I won't let Lucas die.

I won't let what happened to Vision happen again. I won't let what happened to Jacob happen again.

"Haka..." I muttered, as new power surged through me, my flames becoming a fierce blue and purple.


Haka looked at me. Her face changed.

"Big... brother?"

I glared at her. "Haka. Please wait a little longer..." I said, as I looked up, my face menacing as the flames took over my body. My entire surroundings began to scorch as my flames became exponentially hotter.


Level 1 Hinokami, Stage Four: Full Cobalt Assimilation

"I will save you. I swear it upon my life. I will destroy this thing that has held you hostage, and I will save you from it."


Haka's face momentarily became shocked, but then returned to its usual maniacal expression.

"Yes. YES. Unleash it. Unleash the flames. The true Yeling was there the whole time. I've brought it out. We will be here. I will keep the true Yeling here, forever. So we can be together. Forever. Until the end of time."


Haka's golem rumbled, as it began to levitate in the air.


Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Four: Full Gaea's Body

"HAKA!" I screamed, as I blasted forward like a comet.

Haka flew in, a gigantic earth golem the size of a mountain, preparing a strike with seemingly impossible speed.


And thus began our clash once more.


Chapter 14 - Yeling vs. Haka

We were fighting on even grounds.

My flames were enough to completely melt and disintegrate Haka's armour, but it just kept regrowing. As for Haka, she couldn't land any damage on me, because the moment she landed a strike, my body would melt right through it.

But despite that, we kept swinging, and flying around the entire forest, our fight causing extreme destruction.


"I'll bring you back, no matter what!" I shouted, as I unleashed a huge burst of flames that disintegrated Haka's body, but the whole thing regenerated instantly, as Haka prepared a massive strike that I melted through.

We continued our back and forth, as the sky around us darkened.


HINOKAMI AND SHAKUJIN. THEIR BATTLE SHALL SHAKE THE VERY NATIONS. A voice appeared around us.

"Yes... Yes it shall!" Haka laughed hysterically, as she wound up another punch.


"That won't work on me!" I shouted, as I zoomed in, but suddenly, the punch connected, as I slammed into numerous trees and mountains, melting right through it, but the shockwaves creating a massive firestorm.

I got to my feet, in shock. "H- how..." I muttered.


Haka giggled as her entire body became encased with a windy aura. She mixed her Dogmas!

I wasn't given enough time to process that, as Haka closed the distance and smashed me in the midsection with another enormous punch, which sent me in the air.


I stopped and fired a massive barrage of heat.

Level 1 Hinokami, Stage Four: Grand Ultimate Inverse Tsunami Release

The flames dissipated the wind barrier, but the golem suffered minimal damage.


Level 1 Shakujin, Stage Four: Grand Ultimate Gaea's Armor

The windy aura returned as Haka laughed, smashing me upwards into the air even further.

I gasped as Haka materialized above me. A gargantuan armoured stone colossus looking down at me as it wound its fist back.


I couldn't do anything as I froze in terror, the fist smashing me into the ground at supersonic speed.


DO YOU NOW UNDERSTAND, DEVIL'S FLAMES?

"Understand what..."

WHY HAKA IS MORE POWERFUL THAN YOU?

"I don't care about that. I want my sister back."

THAT IS UNFORTUNATELY NOT UP TO YOU TO DECIDE. THE DEVIL'S GRIP IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS ITS FLAMES.

"Then... let's make a deal."

A DEAL?


"Yeah." I said, as I readjusted myself in the darkness.

"You give me back Haka, the real Haka. Fix her, and in exchange... in exchange, you give me all her powers, all of her Dogmas. I will become both the Akuma's Flames and its Grip."

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. YOU ARE IN NO STATE TO INITIATE A LEVEL 3 BARGIN, MUCH LESS TAKE ON ALL 12 DOGMAS HAKA MAH POSSESSES.

"In time, I will unlock them, when I get strong enough. I will take on both roles when the time comes, just... please stop harming her."


NO. LET US NEGOTIATE INSTEAD. YOUR IDEA IS FOOLISH.

The Dogma began to pool together, until they formed a being, who I recognized immediately.


"Mar... Mariah..." I muttered as I tried to run forward but was restrained.

"You are very attached to this person. You have become attached to Mariah Rosary, and your sister. Do you really have what it takes to abandon them both when the time comes?"

"I..."


The Dogma turned around, and held out its hand, Mariah's hand.

"The holders of the Dogma are those who have been deemed unlucky. In your case, the inability to fit in anywhere due to your inferiorities. There are many who possess my mark."

I saw Matt and Lucas, along with Haka and myself, and plenty more shadowed people.


"However, only a few will play a key role in our Master's awakening."

"Shakujin, Fujin, Suijin, Earth, Wind, and Water Level 1 Dogmas, bestowed upon three special people. They will aid in creating the body of the Great Akuma."

Mariah-Dogma pointed at me.

"You. The Hinokami, will be the Akuma's weapon."


Mariah spread her hands out, as she exploded into red energy.

"Mariah Rosary, will bring the Akuma to full form."


The Dogma formed a shadow person, as its essence entered it.

"Only one person can handle the power. To have one person take multiple roles is simply too much. When the New World comes from the Great Akuma's rinsing, you will not be around to enjoy it. Do you truly wish for that to happen? To be tortured by this terrible world, you won't be able to take part in the new one."


If I died, Haka would be all alone. I couldn't do that to her. I understood what it was like to lose family once. I couldn't bear with the thought of losing her. Imagine what kind of pain I would put her through?

"So what will you do, Yeling Mah?"

"I..."


The Dogma formed together as it stood in front of me.

"You finally realize the foolishness of your bargain. Do not make demands on me, human. You are out of your element. Consider it a privilege that I allow you and the Shakujin vessel to fight in the first place."


My vision began to restore, as I stared at Haka from below.

"No... I need... I need..."


Suddenly, numerous lines began to appear in my vision. What was this?

"Yeling!" Joseph shouted, as he formed a huge spectral construct, battling Haka with the help of Rui's regeneration.

"You need to stop your sister."

I flew to where he was.

"I know, but there isn't anything I can do!"


Joseph looked at me.

"Do you want to lose your sister again?"

My eyes widened. "No. No I don't."

"Give it everything you got, Yeling. Haka is still in there. I can see it." Logan told me, as Haka's golem began to win the struggle.


The Dogma was right. I couldn't just throw myself away. I needed to do this with what I had right now. I needed to.

"I have her golem restrained at the moment, but we're not gonna hold out long enough. Burn your way through its body, then reach her." Joseph grimaced, as his construct began to buckle under Haka's enormous power.

"I... I don't know how I'm going to do that, Joseph. She's broken, she's"


"Yeling." Rui grabbed my wrist.

"Haka is in there. She needs you. She knows you're there. You need to get her out of there. Don't use violence, she wants to see her brother for who he truly is." Rui smiled.

I looked at Haka one more time. She was laughing maniacally.

She needed to see me for who I really was.


I began to power up.

"Joseph, hold out as long as you can. I'm going in."


Stage Four Hinokami and Intangibility: Grand Ultimate Devil's Meteorite

I shot inwards, as my surroundings elongated from the speed of my flight. I blasted through the air shield and through the rocks as I grabbed Haka from inside, my Stage Four aura dissipating.


"Haka!" I shouted as I grabbed my sister into an embrace.

"Please, Haka, wake up from this." I begged.

"Let me go, you fake!" Haka began pummelling me, but I grabbed her wrists.

"You're still in there. I know it. So please. Come back to me. We CAN start over. There's still a chance for us to keep living. But not like this. I'm so sorry for all the pain I've caused you."


I looked at my hand.

"I thought I had nothing in my life to live for. Because I belonged nowhere. Not in school. Not from the kids in the neighbourhood. Not in any community. Not even with those struggling. I thought all I had to live for was to destroy. But what I didn't realize... was that the few people that I did belong to was right in front of me. This entire time."

"Brother..." Haka whispered, as she held out her hand, but then her face contorted in pain.


"You deceive." She hissed, but I grabbed her again.

"No. YOU are the deceiver. You invaded my sister's body, and took her over. I want Haka back. I want the REAL Haka back!"

"You... I..." Haka grabbed her temples as a black figure began to rip itself from her body.


"Yeling, you dare to mess with fate. You dare to change the course of the Second Great War?!" The Dogma shrieked.

I glared at the Dogma as my sister collapsed in my arms, the huge golem beginning to spin out of control.

"I will still serve you, Dogma. But find another vessel for the Shakujin. Leave my sister out of this."

The Dogma screamed in my face.

"I cannot kill you. Our Master forbids it. But if you want your sister back, we must have a bargain."


The Dogma held out his hand, as my sister's eyes widened. Haka began to scream as something came out of her mouth.

"Haka!" I shouted. "What the hell do you think you are doing?!"

The Dogma manifested a mouth as it cackled, evilly.

"You took a vessel of the Shakujin from me. In exchange, I shall steal her voice. From now on, Haka Mah will forever be unable to speak. She will lose part of her memories. She will be, but a mere primal human. The Haka you have will only be part of who she ever will be!"


Haka's scream suddenly cut off, as she looked at me, confused. She pointed at her mouth, tears in her eyes, as she collapsed in my arms.

"No..."

"Farewell, Hinokami. Until we meet again." The Dogma said, as everything around me exploded. I did my best to stay conscious, the only thing on my mind was to keep Haka safe as I embraced her with everything I had left.


Chapter 15

"You'll stay here." I pointed at a room that was set aside just for Haka. She nodded and let go of my arm as she went inside and plopped on the bed, falling asleep instantly.

"Eh..." I muttered. She was always a sleepyhead even back then. I was going to return to the main room, but her pant sleeves rolled up, revealing her right calf, which was still spiky and demonic.


Although we got Haka back, she lost her voice, and a lot of her memories were taken from her. Her mind had reverted back so much that she acted like a child. I mean, she was always a child. At this day, she would be around 14. But the way she acted, it was like I was dealing with an 8 year old. Her appearance didn't change, and the physical attributes she had lost from her 12 Dogma Bargains remained, giving her a demonic appearance. It hurt me to see her like this.

But all that mattered was she was here with me. And alive. Free from the Dogma.

Reverting her back to normal will be a problem for another day.


"Yo." Lucas said, as he greeted me in.

"Hey."

I sat down, as Joseph commenced the meeting.


"Alright, I guess there's no denying it now. The Contingency Initiative wants Mariah back. And... Tidalflame's head."

I felt awkward. It was true, I was the reason why Mariah was in the RWC now. As for Mariah, I spent every day visiting her, but she wouldn't even look at me. It hurt me so much to see her like that. The love of her life was taken from her because I had failed. And it wasn't just my failure that ended Jacob.

It was technically my flames. Both mine and Haka's.

Thinking about Mariah made me sad all over again.

"Hey, don't worry. She'll come to eventually, man." Tony said.


Joseph sighed. "There's also one more thing. Sources say that all of the Squads have been deployed to the HQ. We need to find a way to keep Mariah safe. In other words, it's all of us against all of them. A full fledged war."


The meeting adjourned, as we left the conference room. I was about to walk back to check on Haka when Joseph called me over.

"Yeling?"

"Yeah?"

"Come over here. I have something to give you."

I followed Joseph as he led me to the armoury. We walked by a bunch of stuff, and got to an area designated for suits. This wasn't what I thought it was...


Joseph stopped as I stopped alongside him.

"This is where we keep our equipment and suits. Usually, members have it condensed down in missions. You probably noticed, right?"

"Yeah." I knew. That was how I determined they were Stormwatch, even in missions where I couldn't see their faces due to the distance. Their suits were black leather with padding, and silver minimalistic lines along the sides, mimicking lightning bolts in a low profile look. It was pretty cool.

"Each person has a suit with a unique identifier."


Joseph pointed at his right shoulder.

"This is mine. It's a shield, for the Guardian. Rui's is a cross sign, for Patcher, and Logan's is an atom, for Metron. List goes on."


Joseph pressed a button, and the panel in front of me opened, revealing a suit. It was torn at one end. At the left sleeve. Along the side was its identifier.

An eye.

"Joseph... this is..."

"Vision's. Yeah. The RWC still doesn't like the fact that you're in our ranks, despite the evidence that shows you're not longer in life with your old self. So they rejected my request to have a suit made for you. But if you're going to be working with us, you still need a suit."

Joseph pressed a button along the collar, and the suit collapsed into a leather covered metal plate. He handed it to me.


"Yeling Mah, what I'm trying to say is, the choice of whether or not you want to join us is up to you. But know that we will be finding ways to get your sister back to normal either way."


I took the suit. At the centre was the same eye. Vision's Stormwatch uniform. The same one that he had worn in my dreams.

"You possess incredible potential. In battle, Logan even noticed it. You're not a killer, Yeling. This life you lived, there's still redemption for someone like you. Maybe I'm being a bad Squad Leader, but your selflessness and your courage. Your desperation and love for your sister, it showed me a side of you I never would have imagined you having."

I looked at Joseph, who gave me a warm smile.


"That even if you lived a life of bloodshed and slaughter. A life of crime. A life of darkness and sin. You can still redeem yourself."

I pressed the button, and the suit instantly covered my body, fitting snug to my dimensions. My left arm exposed, and revealing my royal blue tattoos, which once again underwent another development.

I put my hand over the eye emblem on my right shoulder. This was Vision's uniform. Big shoes to fill.

Just as Vision had upheld the dream of becoming a Squad Leader despite having no powers.

I would uphold the dream of becoming someone better despite having lived my life as a criminal.


"To become a hero." I finished Joseph's sentence.

Joseph held out his hand and I took it.

"From now on, you will be a member of the Realmwatch Collective. Serving in the Stormwatch Brigade. You will address me as Squad Leader, or Captain, formally. But Joseph is cool too."


We shook hands, and it felt like something was lifted off of my shoulders. And something else took its place.

A purpose.


"Oh. By the way." Joseph said.

"Hm?" I asked.

"What should I call you now? Do you still want to be called Tidalflame? Or-"

"No. Tidalflame shouldn't be... it should just burn away like my past."

"Then what should I call you from now on?"


I glanced behind me. The door to my room, Haka and my room, where Haka was fast asleep, like a little angel.

That form I took. Stage Four. There was probably no way I could draw out its power unless something major ever happened. It would take ridiculous training to even be able to get Stage Two out of will. But even so, the transformation brought Haka back to me.

It brought life back into me.


I put my hand over my chest.

"From now on, I'll go by the codename Cobalt."


Joseph smiled. "Not bad. I like it. Well then, Cobalt."

The Guardian spread his hand over the entire base, where Rui was chatting with Tony and Lucas. Logan reading the newspaper and smiling at the group.


"This is your new home. Welcome to the Stormwatch Brigade."