Author's Note: Hello everyone and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take a look at what I hope to be another successful story. I really didn't get too many readers with my last story, so I'm not going to expect too many on this one, either. However, I do hope that I will be pleasantly surprised and see that there are many people who will enjoy this story from top to bottom. In fact, if even one reader enjoys this story from top to bottom, I'll consider it an accomplishment that I made someone smile.
The protagonist of this story, Denji, is actually an RP character from a forum that I frequent that I became so attached to that I decided to give him his own story. This is also my first attempt at a more detective-based fic as opposed to the action stories that I've been doing up until this point. There's still going to be fisticuffs, but I'll be using them in moderation. I do hope that you'll enjoy this story and watch as it unfolds every week. With that being said...read on, true believers!
"It stopped raining," the masked man muttered as he looked into the quickly-darkening sky and noticed the clouds part to reveal the full moon. "The weather man said that the rain would continue for another two hours, but I guess he's been wrong before and it's not my place to fault his judgment." Looking down at his wet attire, the masked man let out a sigh before lowering his head to look down at the city below him. "It's for the better, I guess. My suit may be waterproof, but I'm not: I'd probably catch a cold like I did the last time I went out in the heavy rain all night."
While it might have been fortunate for the masked man that the rain pouring down on his face had died down, the rest of the city that he was occupying probably didn't think so. Considering how warm it could get in the city even during the winter, a good rain was a treat that it did not see very often. If anything, the rain dying down only killed the city's false hope of a good amount of precipitation that they so rarely enjoyed. After a moment to himself, the masked man had a revelation to this fact, and suddenly started wishing it would rain again.
In his official working profession as a professional wrestler, the masked man would often be chastised by his opponents for his compassion. A fighter should be cold, ruthless, and efficient: concern for someone who you have been training to beat up is a weakness that must be eradicated. Being trained by a legendary wrestler with the harshest training regimens that the brutal style of Japanese pro wrestling had to offer, the masked man could have been a force to be reckoned with in any weight class, regardless of his listing as a "cruiserweight."
The masked man, however, held true to his compassionate nature that contradicted his painful profession, because he did not become a professional wrestler simply to earn titles and fortune. He became a professional wrestler to kind his skills sharp and act as an icon for those who were less fortunate than he: the people who could not defend themselves physically like he could, and for those who lived in fear of being hurt. While he entered the world of professional wrestling to become a performer at first, his passion now lay in bringing hope to the hopeless as the vigilante known as Denji.
Although there were several times that his compassion had proven detrimental to his health, there were also times that it proved beneficial. While Denji had several enemies who wanted to break him, he had just as many friends who wished to see him succeed in his self-imposed mission of vigilantism. Some of them would offer their services to him in his quest to bring justice to the wicked, acting as a part of his worldwide information network that kept him up to date on the criminal activity of the cities he would visit when he traveled with his promotion. Others would simply offer his solace and advice, a friendly ear that could listen to him when he had something he wanted to let off of his chest: a simple service that Denji was more than content with.
On this particular evening, Denji had neither information nor advice to work with. The city he was in was unusually calm despite its considerable size and often times sizable crime rate. While he should have counted his blessings for some much-needed rest and relaxation, Denji was instead upset by the lack of criminal activity. It feels like the calm before a big storm, he thought to himself as he looked around the city from the rooftop he was standing on and scanned for anything unusual. Ever since that incident in Toronto with BRIDE, the wicked people in this world seem to have retreated in their dark hideouts as if they cower in fear from her. They say that criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot, but I've deal with my fair share of fiends to know otherwise: they are merely biding their time, waiting for the next chance to strike.
As he looked back up and prepared to go to the other side of his rooftop, Denji saw something that aroused his suspicions: a small fire that was burning five rooftops over. "I can't think of any good reason why there would be a fire on the rooftop," he said out loud as he straightened out his trenchcoat before crouching down and sprinting towards the ledge of the rooftop. "Something I've learned in this line of work is that you can never be too cautious, and there is no such thing as an incident that isn't worth your time!"
Once he had reached the ledge of the rooftop, Denji took to the air and used all of his leg strength to bound from one rooftop to another, resuming his sprint as soon as he landed. Before becoming a professional wrestler, Denji was a gymnast considered by many to be qualified for Olympic-level competition. Had his passion for wrestling not gotten in the way, his agility and grace could very well have brought him a medal and a place in the record books as a recognized world-class athlete. Now, Denji used that agility to leap from building to building, out-manuever armed foes, and do things that most other people thought impossible. When asked if he had any superpowers that allowed him to perform these feats, Denji would quickly point out that everything he did was made possible through years of hard work and dedication, and not from any miracle power or enhancement.
As he reached the final rooftop of his destination, Denji took a moment to catch his breath before looking up to see that the fire on the rooftop was not coming from any sort of arson attempt, but from a torch that was set up on a stand. In fact, there were several torches lined up in a circle surrounding what appeared to be an abnormally tall man standing in front of an oblong box, though the features were obscured from the contrast of the fire and the night. Stepping through the circle of torches so that he could get a closer look, Denji noticed that the oblong box was actually an ebony coffin. "What is this?" Denji mumbled as he slowly advanced so that he could inspect the coffin.
"Stay where you are, Denji," the tall man's deep voice commanded without even turning around, causing Denji to stand still in surprise. "I am happy that you showed up, but I ask that you do not interfere with the ritual until it is complete. You have a role to play in this drama that I am going to direct, but that role does not include you going into action before the cameras are rolling…"
"Cameras?" Denji repeated as he looked around only to see the torches surrounding him. Turning back to see the very tall man with a black Lincoln-style beard and stringy long hair wearing dark red and dull yellow garments that wouldn't be out of place in an orthodox church raise his hands and mumble something incoherently, the would-be hero ignored the man's warning and once again began walking towards the coffin. "I see no cameras, but this coffin doesn't belong on the rooftop. If you're having a funeral, I'll have to ask you to do it on the ground so that you don't-"
"Ever the altruist, I see," the man said before turning his head to look at Denji with milky-white eyes that had a distinct florescent glow to them. "For someone who goes around wearing a dark blue body suit with a stylized 'D' on the chest and a mask over a trenchcoat, your grip on reality seems much more stable than those who would consider you an eccentric. Then again, your personal history would lead one to believe that you'd have to be down-to-earth, for you know better than anyone the evils that men are capable of."
"What are you talking about?" Denji asked as he brushed back his silver hair. "Do I know you from somewhere?"
"I am the Peacemaker, the one who will bring harmony to this world though my infinite knowledge of everything that was, is, and ever will be," the tall man explained as he lifted his arms higher so that he long sleeves slumped down to reveal long, sharply-toned arms that were peppered with tattoos of numerous creatures found in religious lore. "Included in my vast knowledge is your origin, young Denji: you fight crime because you are fighting yourself. Before you took up this role of vigilante, you went to Japan to train to become a professional wrestler, and fell in love with one of the students at your school. When you learned that she was having trouble with the local protection racket, you decided to take matters into your own hands and lay waste to them. When your lover decided you were going too far with it, you killed her in a rage. Now you wander the world seeking redemption while you desperately struggle to bottle up all of your sin so that it never emerges again."
"…you'll have to do better than that to impress me," Denji replied as he folded his arms. "While I am careful as to who I give that kind of information to, I realize that it is not impossible for someone to uncover my origins if they have the resources and tenacity. If you want me to take you seriously, you're going to have to try harder than that: living the gimmick and becoming the gimmick are two very different things."
"Of course," the so-called Peacemaker said with a smile as he turned back to the coffin before him. "What would you say then, if I told you that within this coffin is the rotting corpse of a ten-year-old child who has been dead for quite some time, and that the reason I have dragged his coffin up to this rooftop was because I intended to give him a second lease on life and literally raise the dead?"
"I'd say that you are desecrating his corpse that you should stop immediately," Denji retorted honestly as he unfolded his arms and walked in front of the coffin so that he could grab onto its handle and drag it away. "This coffin belongs in a cemetery where his parents would wish for it to be. You can carry out your bizarre gimmick elsewhere, but leave the deceased out of-AGH!" As soon as he touched the handle, Denji felt an intense painful sensation that felt as if he was being burned, frozen, and electrocuted at the same time. Quickly recoiling and wondering how the sensation could be felt even with the protection of his gloves, Denji turned around to see that the torches surrounding them had gone from orange flames to blue flames.
"Two months ago, you assisted a young woman in protecting the city of Toronto from the venomous clutches of the Black Sun and its deity of destruction, Amartia," the Peacemaker said, finally getting Denji's attention with the young wrestler's eyes widening in surprise. "Unfortunately for you, you only delayed the inevitable: the city of Toronto will crumble, along with every other city in the world. However, it will not be because of an old god…it will be because of my grand plan to restore order to this world."
"And what makes you think that I won't stop you here and now?" Denji said as he tensed up and prepared to attack. "Do you really think I am just going to walk away from here without putting an end to whatever it is you are doing?" Pointing an accusing finger at Peacemaker, the vigilante offered the tall priest an alternative. "Stop whatever it is you are doing, or I will be forced to hurt you: the choice is yours, stranger."
"I'm afraid it's much too late to stop me," the Peacemaker said with a grin as he lowered his arms and turned to face Denji. "I have already completed the essential parts of the resurrection ceremony: as we speak, my existence in this world is running short and in its place will be this young boy in this coffin. Even if you struck me down now, nothing you can do can prevent the rebirth." Seeing the young wrestler charge at him with his fist raised, the priest grin widened in a smile as he reached out and snatched Denji by his throat and lifted him into the air. "Besides, even if the ritual wasn't complete, there's no way that you would be able to defeat me. After all, I'm almost 100 pounds heavier and a foot taller than you are: no matter what reality you live in, I'm a dog and you're a flea."
Having been placed in a stranglehold many times before, Denji lifted his arms and smashed them against elbow of the Peacemaker, hoping to break the death grip placed on him. After the sixth smash, the Peacemaker's smile disappeared and he lifted Denji high above his head before throwing him to the ground like a rag doll with a monstrous chokeslam that made a loud "thud" as Denji's body hit the pavement. Torn between gasping for air and letting out a shout of agony, Denji instead remained silent as he slowly stood back up only for the Peacemaker to kick him in the stomach and send him rolling away.
Denji quickly rose up back to his feet and slid to a halt with his fists raised, taking deep breaths and he tried to maintained his composure. He's fast, he thought to himself as he ignored the adrenaline rush in his body and remained calm. I didn't expect him to go straight for the throat like that, but I guess that's what I deserve for making the first move without properly analyzing the situation. I won't make that mistake again.
Before he could attack again, Denji's eyes widened in surprise when he noticed that the Peacemaker was slowly disintegrating in front of his eyes, with ash-like bits of him slowly being sucked into each of the torches and causing the blue flames to turn green. "It is not your time to die yet, Denji," the Peacemaker said as he spread his arms out and looked up into the full moon. "As I said, you have a major role to play in this drama. Your appearance here was foretold by my prophecy and without you, no of my plans would come into fruition. For every drama, there must be a hero and a villain: my reborn disciple in the coffin shall be cast as the villain, and you shall be the hero. The drama will span seventeen years from, at which point the climax of the drama shall begin. It is here that my plans shall be ready to bear fruit, and the hero and villain will decide whether or not there shall continue to be chaos, or everlasting peace shall come."
Taking note of what was happening, Denji turned his attention to the torches and attempted to tip them over, but he was greeted with the same painful sensation he felt when he touched the coffin, causing him to recoil from the torches. Undeterred, Denji again wrapped his hands around the poles of the torches and tried to tip them over, though the unearthly agony he was putting himself in prevented him from using all of his impressive strength. "It is that same resolve that makes you perfect for the role of hero, Denji," the Peacemaker said as he continued to disintegrate, finally disappearing completely with one final decree. "I look forward to seeing this drama unfold from the other side…"
As soon as the Peacemaker vanished from existence, the torches suddenly went dark like candles that had just been snuffed out, causing the torch Denji had been desperately trying to push over to finally give away and collapse onto the ground. With the strange agony vanishing along with the flame, Denji fell to his knees and took deep gasps for air as he tried to regain his composure. Only fifteen minutes ago, Denji was thinking about the weather, and now he had just watched a man disincorporate his body and get sucked into color-changing torches, rambling about dramas and chaos. I'm sure stranger things have happened to people…but I can't think of any situations right now, Denji thought as he crawled back to his feet and made his way over to the coffin that was still in the center of the rooftop. Still, at least I can inspect that coffin that he seemed so interested in…
Once he approached the coffin, Denji cautiously tapped it to make sure that he wouldn't receive the same painful sensation that he received last time, and let out a sigh of relief when nothing out of the ordinary happened. Reaching into his trenchcoat to pull out an electronic voice recorder, Denji pressed a button and waited for a green light to appear on it before putting it to his masked face and speaking out loud. "Location: Austin, Texas," he began as he slowly inspected the coffin, gently tapping it while occasionally crouching down to look at its sides for any devices that might play tricks with his eyes. "I have just watched a tall man wearing holy garments disintegrate in front of me after telling me that I am an actor in his drama when I stumbled onto some type of ritual where he was attempting to do something with this coffin. He told me that within this coffin is the corpse of a young boy, so my first course of action will be to bring this coffin to the local coroner and do an autopsy and see if there's any truth to what he-"
Denji stopped in mid-sentence as a loud thumping noise came from within the coffin. "Would that guy go as far as to lock a living person inside of this casket to play with my mind?" he wondered out loud as he put his recorder in his pocket and tapped on the casket in response. "Whoever you are in there, please hold on as I try to get you out of there," Denji said as calmly as he could, but loud enough for whoever was inside to hear. Putting his hands on the lid of the casket, Denji strained to lift it open, but came to the conclusion that it was locked when it didn't budge. "How about you tell me your name?"
"My name is Lagos Conrad," a panicked young boy's voice responded as he continued pounding on the casket. "Some weird guys in black army outfits came into my house and started shooting and...and then they shot me." After taking a moment to pause as he reviewed what he had just said, the pounding resumed with increased fervor as the panic spread. "LET ME OUT! I DON'T WANT TO DIE! LET ME OUT!"
"Please remain calm," Denji repeated as he inspected the coffin for a lock that he could break, though the boy's struggling that caused the coffin to shake violently didn't help matters much. "If you scream like that, you'll waste oxygen and suffocate before I can get you free. Why don't you tell me about your-"
The surprises of the night continued to pile up as a child-like arm literally punched a hole through the lid and almost drove Denji's nose through his head had he leaned over the lid just a little closer. Jumping back in surprise, the vigilante watched as a brown-haired boy with his eyes glowing the same florescent color as the giant that almost strangled him burst from his coffin in a shower of splinters and take deep gasps of air before looking around in confusion. "Where am I!?" the boy blurted out as his head darted around, clearly frightened by the sudden turn of events. "What is this place!?"
"Um…calm down, Lagos," Denji said after a brief pause, at a loss for words at what he just witnessed. Getting in closer to the young man so as to offer a helping hand, the vigilante steeled his nerves and tried his best to ignore what looked to be a small bullet wound in the boy's forehead. "I'm a friend, and I'm here to help you. You don't have to be afraid…"
"Who are you?" the boy asked as he turned to Denji and leaned back cautiously. "You better get away from me!"
"Listen, I just want to help you," Denji reassured the boy as he reached out to him. "Just hold on to me and I'll pull you free of that casket without getting splinters. I can only imagine how traumatic this must be for you, but I'll make sure you're well taken care of and that no one bothers you again. However, if you want me to help you, you're going to have to trust-"
"GET AWAY FROM ME!"
The boy named Lagos suddenly lashed out at Denji and struck him in the face with a backhanded swat. As a professional wrestler and amateur crimefighter, Denji had been punched in the face numerous times by people who trained explicitly to drive their fists through people's jaws, and walked away from each and every one of those strikes without too much damage. However, when he received the swat from the young boy, Denji was sent corkscrewing through the air and landed hard on his side as he had just been hit with a full-grown gorilla wielding a baseball bat as opposed to a child. Denji felt like shouting out in pain, but the swat disoriented him far too much to do so. He felt more like vomiting from dizziness, or simply passing out.
"I have to get out of here," Denji heard the boy say, causing him to roll over to the other side to watch the boy pull himself free of the coffin while the sharp edges of the spintered casket cut at his skin, drawing forth dark crimson liquid as he stepped onto the ground. Heading over to the ladder of the rooftop that led to the lower ground, Lagos planted his feet on the step and quickly descended it, as if he had done it many times before. "I don't care where I need to go…I just have to get out of here!"
"D-damn," Denji finally whispered as he reached out to Lagos, only to watch him disappear from view. So much had happened to him in the past half-hour, things that most people would call impossible and crazy. However, it was not the improability of the situation that bothered the young man. It was the fact that everything that had happened to him could have easily been prevented if not for a simple fact: he was just not strong enough to stop it from happening.
Had he acted on better judgment and perhaps made better decisions as how to approach the Peacemaker or his bizarre ritual, a scared boy with superhuman strength wouldn't be roaming the streets of Austin alone. Unfortunately for Denji, he instead acted too cautiously and allowed his unholy resurrection to reach completion. While he believed himself to be an icon of hope to those who needed it, on this night Denji had proven to be the hopeless one as he lay dazed and confused with his consciousness fading.
In a vain attempt to keep himself from losing consciousness, Denji racked his rattled brain as to the name the boy gave him, hoping that it would lead to a clue. Conrad…was the name of the terrorist leader who attacked Toronto, Denji reminded himself as he started to black out and finally lose consciousness. So while my friend BRIDE had to deal with the current generation…now I'll have to make sure the next generation doesn't follow in his footsteps…
A little under seventeen years later…
"Excuse me, sir?"
"Mmm," the masked man groaned as awakened from his slumber he looked up from his seat to see the stewardness remove her hand from his shoulder. "Is there something wrong, ma'am?"
"I would just like to let you know that we'll be pulling up to the Toronto station in fifteen minutes, since it looks like your ticket is for that location," the red-headed stewardess responded as she pulled Denji's ticket stub from the slot in his seat and handed it to him. "I hope that doesn't bother you, sir: you had this pensive look on your face for most of the trip like something was bothering you until you finally dozed off."
"I just have a lot on my mind," Denji replied as he nodded his head. "Is there anything else?"
"As a matter of fact, there is," the stewardess said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small trading card with Denji's likeness on it. "My five-year-old son is a very big fan, and I would really appreciate it if you signed this for him. I always keep it with me in case the Uncivil Republic crew came on this train line, since it's usually busy. Will $10 be enough to cover it? I'm sorry that I only have Canadian money, but-"
"Keep your money," Denji responded as he took the card reached out to the mesh compartment in front of him to pull out a black marker. "I too am looking for someone and know how frustrating it can be to go another day without finding him. If I can put someone's search to rest, then that is enough a reward. You can keep your money, and be sure to tell your son that Denji gives his regards and that he should always do what he feels is right."
As the stewardess thanked him and walked away, Denji pondered the dream he was having before being awakened, though the more apt term would have been a flashback. In the seventeen years that followed that incident, the vigilante had made it his mission to find Lagos and prevent him from fulfilling the late Peacemaker's prophecy. Unfortunately, Lagos proved to be efficient in covering his tracks, creating several different identities and alibis for himself that often led Denji on a wild goose chase.
On the rare occasions that Denji did finally manage to catch up to Lagos, the vigilante took note of how the scared young boy was growing up to become a fright-inducing young man. Whatever the Peacemaker did to him in his "rebirth," it had turned Lagos into a cold-blooded fiend that cared little for the chaos he caused around the world with his many identities, so long as it produced the results he wanted. After so many years of chasing him and fulfilling his obligations to his company, Denji finally came to the difficult decision of telling his employers that he needed to take a hiatus from wrestling in order to focus on his ongoing case, and was thus granted his release.
Denji was unable to stop Lagos the first time because he was weak, but the vigilante had spent the past seventeen years making sure that wouldn't happen again. Though he was no longer a young man, Denji had trained his mind, body, and soul to its limit so that he could make good decisions under pressure and rely on his brain as his greatest weapon rather than his body like he once did. And just in case that weapon failed, Denji was still in peak physical condition, with his battles with both Lagos and the fiends within the wrestling world acting as his regimen.
It's been two months now since I last saw Lagos, but I have reason to believe that he's now operating from Toronto, Denji thought as he looked out the window to see the Canadian wilderness gradually turn into a more urban setting. After I broke up his racket in Sydney two weeks ago, I found a lot of evidence indicating that he has a base here where he deals in weapons. I don't know if that hunch will lead me to him, but it would be idiotic of me to ignore Toronto's plight even if he wasn't involved. I know I can't save everyone, but that doesn't mean I can't try.
"I thought I told you to piss off," a belligerent voice interrupted Denji's train of thought, causing him to lean over to the aisle to see the stewardess from before talking with a rather irritated-looking fellow in a jean jacket. "I showed you my ticket, and you said it was legit. Leave me alone so that I can enjoy my ride in peace."
"I know, sir, but we need to see your receipt," the stewardess replied as the man stood up from his seat. "There's been a lot of cases lately where people have been sneaking onto the train, so we have to look at proof of purchases to make sure we don't have any more stowaways."
"I lost it, OK?" the man snapped back. "Leave me alone!"
"Sir, please sit down. There is no need to be-"
"Hey, isn't that the guy from the news?" another voice called out, causing Denji to slowly step out of his seat as he anticipated trouble about to start. "He looks kind of like the guy who escaped from prison."
"DAMN," the belligerent man exclaimed as he drew a knife and wrapped his free arm around the stewardess, placing the blade to her throat. "Everyone gets back or we enter Toronto by painting this train the same color as the Canadian flag: red! I was trying to act like everyone else, but I guess it just wasn't-UGH!"
The knife fell out of the man's hand as Denji sprang into action and struck the man in the back of the head with a high-speed buzzsaw-like kick. Letting go of the woman and turning around, the man clenched his fists and swung for his attacker's head, but Denji ducked under the blow effortlessly and rose back up to place the man in a standing clinch before driving his left knee into the man's ribcage four times until he felt something break inside of him. Realizing that he had broke the man's ribcage, Denji grabbed onto the man's head and lifted him off the ground and into the air before falling down on his back, driving the man's head into the floor with a brainbuster and knocking him unconscious.
A stunned silence came over the passengers as reality slowly set in. Everything happened so fast: one moment, there was an argument going on, and the next moment there was a man lying unconscious on the ground while a masked man in a trenchcoat stood over him silently. The silence was gradually broken, however, by the sound of building applause. Disaster had been averted, and Denji had unwittingly provided the passengers with some excitement before heading to Toronto.
"If only he had maintained his composure for just a little while longer," Denji said out loud as the stewardess that he had saved walked up to him. "He could have left this train and entered Toronto undetected and started a new life for himself as a free man. I guess that's why he had to escape from prison instead of being allowed to leave: he's not ready to re-enter society just yet."
"Thank you, sir," the stewardess said quietly. "I always thought you being a superhero was just a gimmick, but I see now that you really are a hero. I…I'm at a loss for words."
"Now arriving in Toronto. Please get your bags and wait patiently for the doors to open."
"I'm not much of a hero," Denji admitted as he reached into the overhead compartment to pull out his duffelbag. "I'm just someone who's try to make sense of this world and give back to it. Hopefully, someday the world will accept my offerings and forgive me for my past transgressions against it. But until then…the search for redemption continues."