Chapter 1: Dust

I had a regular name, once, but nowadays I'm known exclusively as Phase. But you already knew that, Its been too long since I used my regular name, not that it matters. It's not why you're reading this book. You know who I am, what I do, what we've done for you and everyone else out there we was able to save, and all those who we weren't able to. You're here to read about how I saw things, how my battles went, and how my life as the right hand man of Lord Battousai wound up leading me to the present day.

I received the letter on the 12th of December inviting me to Austin, Texas. It was a simple letter, asking me in simple terms to meet with the organization in exactly two months time. There were no details about the organization or it's purpose, no clue as to what the meeting would be about, just a simple invitation, freely deniable with no consequence for doing so. It did mention that a number of others were also invited, although the exact numbers remained a mystery, if implied to be low.

I was intrigued. I didn't think myself as anything extraordinary. I was 22, fairly fit, strong, intelligent, but not spectacularly so. Good enough to play intramural sports and do well in college, not good enough to be noticed and recognized. I did normal things, hung out with friends, played pick-up sports and video games, and occasionally watched the more action-packed anime out there, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop, and Rurouni Kenshin were my picks. Again, nothing special.

Yet it seemed that this Organization, this IMPACT, whatever that meant… seemed to want me to meet with them.

I lay in bed that night and many nights after, considering, thinking, planning, arguing with myself, trying to decide if I wanted to go or not. Finally, about a month and a week beforehand, I decided that, yes, I DID want to go. The next two weeks were concerned with figuring out how to get there. My student job barely was enough to feed me, let alone make a eleven thousand mile cross-country trip from Illinois to Texas. I finally decided to visit my parents, show them the letter, and convince them that it was worth the time and cost of a trip to Texas.

To this day, I'm not sure how I managed it.

The final 3 weeks passed in a blur, planning, packing, planning, anticipating, and more planning. Finally, the 10th of February arrived, the day of my departure to Texas. My parents took me to the airport. They had arranged and paid for a rental car and hotel in Austin and given me a good amount of spending money for my trip. I kissed my mom goodbye and gave my stepdad a handshake, and got on the plane, with no idea where I was going, what I was getting into, or how it would affect me.

I landed in Austin around 3:23 in the afternoon. I remember that clearly. I shuffled off the plane, out of the airport, to the rental counter and got my car, went to my hotel and got my room, then went around exploring til around 8 or 9 in the evening. Then I hit up Sixth Street, land of bars and parties and general drunken insanity.

I then proceeded to spend all of the 11th ordering room service and recovering from the hangover.

On the morning of the twelfth, I got up, showered, checked to ensure my facial stubble was the exact perfect length to be dashingly scruffy, and dressed in the nice suit I'd packed for the trip. I got to the location of the meeting, a large, nondescript building, free of identifying features. I almost laughed when I arrived because it all seemed so… cliché. I parked, got out, and strode confidently to the door.

I opened it and was immediately confused. The building was huge. But the room I walked into had no doors and was far smaller than the building. It only seemed like it could occupy maybe half the building, and only a single story.

My next observation was that the building was full of people.

There had to have been at least four hundred people there, of all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities. I saw at least two people in wheelchairs, a few people who were deaf, some who were blind. They stood in circles, some loud, vibrant, talking freely, others standing quietly, listening, rarely offering up a word. Guys who could have made John Wayne take a respectful step back stood alongside guys who could be used as footballs stood alongside attractive girls wearing perfect clothing and makeup stood alongside girls who dressed comfortably and didn't wear makeup. Some guys wore suits, some guys wore sweatpants, some girls wore fancy dresses and some girls wore blue jeans. It all seemed so… random. But the letter DID say to come however you please… I guess the people there took it literally.

I wove my way through the crowd and found a table covered in drink. Everything from soda to water to 12 kinds of juice covered the table. I grabbed an orange soda and continued weaving my way through the crowd. Near the front of the room I spotted a woman leaning against the wall. She had dark hair the fell a little past her shoulders with a single blonde highlight covering one small grouping of her bangs, lightly tanned skin, and casual clothing, a nice shirt and pants. She was scanning the crowd, back and forth, and once her eyes settled on me, giving me a shady something of a half-smile before resuming her scanning-

"You look kinda confused."

I turned to view the female voice and was not at all disappointed by what I saw.

She was tall, about half a head shorter than I. Blonde hair, fairly short, to the middle of her neck, fey green eyes and a nice, yet impish smile. I forced myself to keep my eyes on her eyes, at least for the moment. Not that staring into those lovely green eyes was all that hard.

"Confused? I suppose. This room is smaller than the building, and yet has no doors. There's all sorts of people here wearing all sorts of clothing, from all different backgrounds, and yet we, or at least I, don't have a clue what we're doing here, who invited us, or what this IMPACT even is."

I paused for a breath and was suddenly aware of those around me staring uncomfortably. Apparently I'd managed to break the comforting illusion of normalcy and brought up the elephant in the room. In other words, I'd managed to make things awkward.

It's something I have an odd talent for.

The blonde… woman? No, when I say "woman" I think thirty years old, and she was in her twenties for sure. Same goes for "lady". But she's too old for girl…

Anyway, she giggled and said, "Well, lookit you, getting all riled up like that. Looks like you're just not content to let everyone have their comforts, going and bringing up what brought us all here…" Her voice petered out and she looked past me.

I turned to see a man standing at a podium on a raised platform, which wouldn't be so unusual except that none of them had been there a minute ago when I looked around.

He was talking quietly to the dark haired woman who I saw earlier, or at least, I think they were talking, except I couldn't see his mouth moving, but he was leaning over close to her and her head was close to his ear, so I made the assumption that they were talking, because what else could they be doing?

He suddenly straightened and said, "IMPACT is the name of our group. IMPACT means nothing at all. It simply exists to make you wonder what IMPACT means."

There was a full five seconds of silence from this odd pronouncement until finally someone started laughing, then everyone was busting up and doubling over.

He waiting, a faint smile on his lips, for the laughing to die down, then said, "Alright, that said, every one of you volunteered to come here. You have to volunteer again to stay. If you have any doubts about this, then leave. This is your last chance to do so voluntarily. After this, I start explaining what's going on, and you will not be allowed to leave of your own volition."

This one was met with a completely different kind of silence, that stretched on and on until he said, "You have 5 minutes to leave, starting now."

He walked off the podium and into a dark corner, where I swear he disappeared.

5 minutes passed in complete silence. The atmosphere wasn't friendly and chatty anymore. Some people left, I think about fifty in all, fifty out of four hundred. The blonde girl sidled a little closer to me, I think unconsciously.

There was a sudden slamming sound and everyone jumped and spun around to see the dark-haired girl standing in front of the door, leaning against it, looking calm yet completely intimidating.

"Your 5 minutes is up. Those that remain are those of either stout, firm hearts, or those of cowardly hearts who are afraid of losing face in front of your peers. The latter group will be weeded out as we go along, for we have no use for you unless you can harden up."

The man was back on the podium. I hadn't even seen him go up there.

More silence.

"We are Project IMPACT. We are not secret, but we are not known. We are privately funded. The government here in the United States is aware of us, but we are below their interest and notice, for they know our goal, and they believe we are nothing but a bunch of crazy fools."

For the first time I noticed that he was wearing a black shirt, black pants, and a black trench coat. He had black hair, dark eyes and tanned skin. I randomly thought about how dark of a person he was.

"I had a regular name once. I am called Battousai now."

I, and several others, had to suppress a snicker, but he caught it and smiled again.

"Yes, to those of you that caught the reference, yes, that is where I took my name from. When the time comes, you may also take your name from wherever you like, and that will be what we will call you." He paused.

"But I reserve the right to reject names like Barbie."

A chuckle ran through the crowd at this.

"Regardless, I am a Hunter in IMPACT. The girl on the wall is Kayzn-" She waved a hand at us "-and she is also a Hunter. As for what we hunt, we hunt the demons of hell, whenever they come to our plane of existence."

Dead, unbelieving silence.

"We hunt them with these."

Battousai reached into his coat and drew a sword, a katana, to be exact, which seemed to have nothing special about it. It gleamed in the light, curving gracefully through the air.

"This sword is currently contained, sealed, as it were. In this state it can cut through anything a normal sword can… and a little more, if you give it a little help."

He twisted and turned it, showing every aspect of his sword to us. As I watched it, I got chills, feeling that this sword… was strange. It felt unnatural to me. I suppressed a shudder. I heard the blonde beside me – did she ever say her name? I thought irrelevantly – take a shivering breath, and I knew she felt it too.

He grinned.

"But this…. is its released state."

His hand became surrounded by a blue glow that raced down his arm from the shoulder as his eyes turned blue in color, bright, vibrant, powerful blue! The color reached his arm and lit up the hilt with strange designs, and the sword seemed to explode!

I blinked several times and could not believe what my eyes beheld.

The sword had transformed itself.

It was now much more akin to an elongated isosceles triangle on a thick hilt, obviously designed for two hands, but wielded easily by one with no strain. The back of the sword – it wasn't really a sword, but I have no other word for it – was the flat, wide base of the pyramid, with the cutting edge being the top of the triangle. The blade seemed to be sharp enough to shave the hair off a baby's bottom with. The top of the sword came to a point from the three corners of the triangle and appeared to be designed for stabbing, although the pointed tip wasn't very long. All in all, it was an very oddly shaped, large, and for all appearances, heavy sword.

Battousai spoke again.

"You will also get one of these. To what degree, skill, and power you will be able to wield it with is yet to be determined. Also yet to be determined is the exact shape yours will take. Most are different, although duplicates have occurred. Your weapon will become a shape that best fits your natural fighting ability. It might not even be a sword at all. We've seen axes, battlehammers, fencing swords, claymores, spears, shortswords and shields, pretty much everything. In fact, some don't even get a different shape besides a katana, for it is the most basic shape of demon slaying."

Another ripple ran through the crowd, and he sighed.

"You are still skeptical, and rightly so. But you have seen my sword change. You have seen the power illuminate my arm. You've seen a few things that you would never believe possible. So take it a little further."

I nodded, almost unconsciously.

Battousai looked me in the eye and grinned.

"I'm glad to see someone here accepts it, at least to this point."

I felt Blondie – my nickname for the blonde girl, oddly enough – move just a little closer to me, enough that she was touching me with her arm and shoulder. As soon as that happened, I swear I saw Battousai smile just a little bit bigger, but only for a split second before he looked away.

"Do the rest of you accept my words, even if just temporarily and with skepticism?"

All heads nodded.

"Very good. Then we shall begin."

The walls began to rise, and with them, our old lives vanished like dust in the wind.

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Phase! Apologies if it's not evening where you are at the time you're reading this but hey, it's morning somewhere, right?

My pen name is GhostAce, and again, this is Phase, a fantasy-action story. I hope you enjoy it and that you'll submit a review telling me how much you enjoyed it. Or failing that, I hope that you'll submit a review telling me why you didn't enjoy it

Phase tends to get updated on a M-W-F pattern, with me taking the occasional week-long hiatus to get caught back up on my writing. Chapters tend to range between 2k to 5k words at the moment. They may or may not get longer as the story progresses.

Thanks again for reading, and if you like this story, please tell others about it!