"Hello, Harajuku!" – Day Two: Chapter Two – Fear Garden

The orders had seemed fairly simple, Sam had thought: get to Akihabara, find the biggest, scariest demon there, and do something about it. No, he had certainly been wrong; just getting to Akihabara was hard enough in the first place.

"I have no idea where I am," he laughed sheepishly, turning to smack his head against a nearby building.

The street he was on looked like all the rest of the streets did. There were heaps of carcasses littering the ground, grooves running through each and every building, and the mists stopped his eyes from seeing much farther than a hundred feet.

He had not seen a single demon yet. Maybe that was a good thing. Perhaps he was already in Akihabara. If there were no demons just strolling about, then it might be a sign that the target had already swept through the area.

A loud ringing sound exploded into his ear. He jumped and leaped at the sound. Dammit, he thought, he had forgotten the headset that Izayoi had stuck onto his head. Regaining his composure, he slid the microphone down to his mouth and repositioned the earpieces. He slipped a small eyepiece down from the frame of the set. The face of the rugged captain glared straight at him through it.

"Brimmel, what the hell are you doing?"

Sam let out a sigh. Clearly he was not in Akihabara.

"Having no idea where in the hell I am!" he exclaimed, slamming a fist against the building he had leaned himself against. He decided that was a bad idea when what had seemed like steel gave way under his blow.

"Pull up your map and get back on course," Fushimi ordered, and his face disappeared in a rush of static.

Sam let out a sigh. He had not the foggiest idea how to bring up the map on his headset.

"Map, map, where's the-" he began to mumble, when suddenly his eyepiece was filled with a small street map, as well as a blinking red dot in the very center of it. There was an arrow at the far end of the map, pointing off in the direction of what Sam assumed was Akihabara. Right next to the arrow was another dot, a flickering blue dot, which Sam had been told represented Kay's headset.

He let out a sigh, "I guess everyone is ahead of me." He turned to jog off in the direction of his destination.

One thing he had noticed about his new form was that he was nowhere near as unfit as he had been before. Sprinting was absolutely nothing to him. Nothing seemed to tire him anymore.

He experimentally leaped over a trash can that was in the way of his path. His feet sailed straight over the upright disposal, and he stuck the landing perfectly, shooting off straight through another alleyway.

A smirk crossed his face. He felt… powerful. Sam had been so delicate before now, he thought. He checked the map again, and he was surprised to see that he was very quickly catching up to the other flickering dots.

His mind wandered back to the orders the captain had given him; everyone was to observe a different part of Akihabara, and the other three had already begun to move back and forth between a a few strips of the area. A sigh escaped his lips, and he scanned the map once more to locate a place for himself. He slipped the eyepiece off of his face and headed over to a nearby street.

The fog seemed even denser as he walked further down the alleyway. Under ordinary circumstances, he noted as he replaced the headset over his face, he was sure he'd have choked on the vile smog, dense as it was. He breathed it in and out like oxygen, though; he assumed it was like a fish to water.

Besides the smog, though, the coppery smell of blood filled the air.

A frown crossed Sam's face as his foot snagged on something fleshy on the ground. He silently urged himself not to look down, not to react, and not to freak out. He picked his foot up again, but as he went to step further through the alleyway, he felt something wrap around his ankle.

"Wh-what the fuck-?!" he exclaimed as it tightened around him. Out of panic, he leaped back, tearing his foot from the grip of his unseen enemy.

Though it was difficult to make out through the haze, a very small, blood-red arm, only the size of a small child's, rose up from the ground. Its fingers were still, but further down the arm, Samael could see a long, serpentine figure leading off from the hand.

The hand suddenly shot away from him, as though someone were reeling in an empty fishing line.

Panting as he tried to catch his breath and make sense of what just happened, he set his hand over his heart as though to quiet it.

"What in the hell was that?" he murmured the moment his heart had sunk back from his throat into his chest. He'd known they'd come across something, but he hadn't expected-

"A tentacle with a hand at the end of it," he heard Clover's voice note. Her face appeared on his headset, along with those of the others. She appeared to be as disgusted as her voice implied. "That was so gross, ugh."

"You saw one, too?" he asked, leaning back on a nearby wall. He regretted that decision the moment he felt something move behind him, and he reeled away from them with an exclamation of "Agh!"

He turned around to see another handed tentacle receding across the wall. It was almost like something was pulling them all back somewhere…

"Everyone," Sam began, his voice assertive, "follow any of those red tendrils that you can find, I think we might find our target at the end of them."

"Who left you in charge?" Clover's voice piped up as Samael began to chase down the retreating tendril.

"Saying you could do better?" Kay's voice grumbled. In the corner map of the headset, Sam could see the three girls' dots pursuing their own invisible targets.

Unfazed by a minute or two of unbroken sprinting, Samael began to slow the moment he spotted the girls. The four grouped up together, allowing their respective targets to slip away. They exchanged assured looks and began to scan their surroundings.

"A public garden?" Violet breathed, dazed by the extravagant flora around them. Through the smog, silhouettes of gnarled trees and flowered shrubs creeping across the sidewalk could be made out. Clover kneeled down next to a flowered plant and reached a hand out to it. By her will, the plant's stem began to gently straighten itself, and it reached up towards her.

"I'm getting better at this," she concluded with a decisive nod.

"Did any of you see what direction the tendrils went?" Sam asked, scrutinizing the garden surrounding them. He had his eyes peeled for anything demonic, anything that caught his eye particularly. The group was silent, obviously in soundless agreement that they had no idea where the enemy might be.

"D-do you think we can call a timeout?" Clover asked with a sheepish laugh, turning her back against Violet's as the two prepared for combat.

"Just keep your eyes open," Kay groaned, her back to Sam's. It was easy enough for her to say, Sam thought, Kay knew how to handle hand-to-hand combat…

The four stood there in silence. Sam's eyes flitted from one end of the garden to the other in muted panic as he tried to pinpoint some sort of movement. He could hear the weak, individual heartbeats of Vio and Clo, though his own almost deafened him.

A sound like a scream tore through the air, and a tendril shot out of the haze, smashing into Violet's side before she had the chance to react. The girl let out a shriek and crumpled to the ground, clutching at her ribs and writhing in pain. The limb twisted back like elastic, binding itself around Clover tightly.

The girl let out a terrified screech, squirming against the grip of the tendril. It seemed to clasp around her even tighter with every sound and motion she made.

"Clover, calm down!" Sam ordered, reeling back to face the girl and her attacker, "Focus on your power-"

Samael was interrupted as something slammed against him, winding him. He recovered before hitting the ground and whirled back. Two tendrils shot out at him, fingers convulsing wildly.

Kay leaped out at the tendrils with a great roar, slashing her clawed fingers straight through them. Crimson spattered out, painting the jiangshi's robe a deep red. Her eyes grew wide and she bared her dagger-like teeth, bellowing, "Come out here, I'll tear you to ribbons!"

Another tendril shot out at Kay, but Sam left her to it, fully capable as she was. He turned to Clover's situation, bolting over to the tentacle and grasping it with both hands, attempting to tear it apart. At first, it resisted like rubber, but with effort it ripped apart with a squelching sound.

Clover let out a shriek as blood spattered over her dirtied clothes, and she exclaimed, "Samael Bernhart Brimmel, this blouse was worth four-hundred dollars!"

"Shut up and move!" Kay growled, leaping back and slashing at a pair of incoming tendrils, knocking Clover back. The dryad was caught off guard by another attacking appendage, and she raised her arm in defense. Suddenly, a vine shot up out of the ground and sliced the tendril down the middle.

Sam bent down to help Violet to her feet. She dusted off her sundress, wincing.

"Are you okay, Vio?" he asked, resting an arm on her shoulder, "Are you hurt?"

"I think it'll bruise," she said with a frown, "but I'm okay."

Sam silently nodded and turned to Kay and Clover. The two had been using their respective weapons to slash through every tendril that shot off towards them. Sam quickly scanned past the tendrils, and he managed to locate a figure through the purple smog.

"Vio, help the others," he said, "I'm taking the fight to the source."

"B-be careful, Samael!" she urged as he sprinted off in the direction of the source. He looked back to see a sharp spear of ice fire from Violet's hands, piercing straight through another tendril.

Sam ripped a steel weathervane off of a small shrine to his side and tore the arrow-shaped portion of it, tossing the rest aside. Clearly wise to his intentions, a tendril launched itself at him out of the haze. Without missing a single step, he swept the makeshift weapon at it with all of his strength, slicing straight through it.

Another appendage whipped out at him to sweep his legs out from under him. He leaped straight over it, crushing it with his heel on his way down.

"Brimmel," Izayoi's voice and face came from the headset, "we've identified the demon that you're up against, and we've devised a countermeasure against it."

"I'd really love a suggestion right now!" Sam growled, smashing his weapon into an incoming tendril.

"It's called an akateko," he explained, "a demon that probably formed when a young child was too close to a tree during the meltdown. It'll be impossible to destroy head-on, but if it's possible to set fire to it-"

"We don't have fire!" Sam exclaimed, slashing another tendril to bits. He was now only a few seconds of sprinting from a large tree with ivory bark. A seemingly countless member of wriggling arms extended from it. Grotesque was the only word Samael could find for it.

"It can't regenerate its arms," Izayoi continued, "though as long as the tips are attached, there is no limit to how far they can stretch. It's been utilizing its arms to kill and cannibalize the demons all around the city."

"Cannibalize?" Sam asked, his voice wary.

"Its arms are coated in a weak acid that slowly digests anything wrapped in them for a few minutes."

"I'll just have to chop them all off, then!" Sam exclaimed, rushing straight towards the akateko. Izayoi made to protest, but his voice and picture disappeared into static.

Sam swept his makeshift blade through a few of the quivering tendrils, watching as the arms dropped to the ground, squirming violently. A few of the tendrils struck out at him, but he was able to deftly dodge around their attacks and separate them from the akateko.

"Sam!" Clover's voice called out in the distance. Her face reappeared on his headset, twisted in pain.

"Clover, what's wrong?!" he demanded, leaping back from the akateko's attack.

"We were overwhelmed," she said with a wince, "we've all been caught in these things."

Sam grit his teeth, assuring her, "Don't worry, I'll take care of the rest of the arms, and-"

Suddenly a tendril tightly gripped around his arm, squeezing around it until he let out a sharp cry and dropped his weapon. Three other tendrils wrapped around his other limbs.

"D-dammit, get the fuck off…!"

He felt his skin begin to sizzle beneath the tendrils' grip. He clenched his teeth in pain as he struggled against the hold of the akateko's arms. No matter how hard he tore at the crimson flesh, it refused to let go. It slowly began to pull at his limbs, testing the limits of his joints.

Just as a piercing scream left Sam's lungs, a sudden explosion resounded through the garden.

The hold of the akateko slackened, and Sam fell to the ground. He swept the akateko's dead arms off of him before looking up to the demon. The warming light of a billowing azure flame washed over him. The akateko had stopped moving, and its arms had each begun to fall from their perches.

No longer mesmerized by the sight, Sam glanced around for the source of the flame. It couldn't have been one of the girls…-

A deep, bestial growl from behind caught him off guard. He whirled around, suddenly tackled by a tall figure. Sam let out a short yelp, covering his face from the snapping jaw of the demon hanging over him.

The demon had a body like that of a man, slightly muscled, but covered in curled, creamy yellow fur and with a white stomach, though gore was spattered all across it. It had deep crimson eyes, and its muzzle displayed a beastly snarl, baring its bloodied fangs.

Sam threw all of his strength against the demon, knocking it away from him. He clambered to his feet, preparing himself in case the monster jumped at him again. He quickly scanned the demon, taking into account any moves it might make. It didn't only have razor-like claws, the demon clearly had power over fire, and-

He suddenly realized there was a small satchel strapped across his shoulder and hanging from his waist.

"A laptop case…?" Sam murmured. The moment he recognized the design, he asked, "Wait, Aden, is that you?"

The creature's ears perked up at the name "Aden," and the glare in its eyes dulled. It took a short step towards Sam as if curious.

Suddenly, something whistled through the air past Sam and straight into the demon. As it let out a cry of pain, Sam realized what had been shot: a tranquilizer dart.

The demon tore the dart from its neck, letting out a short roar before whirling from Sam and bolting off. Sam began to tremble in anger as he turned around to face an SDF soldier behind him. A platoon had arrived moments before the akateko had been cleared. His arms quivered, and he felt his blood begin to boil beneath his skin.

"That could have been Aden, you fucking asshats!" Sam shrieked at them, grappling one of the nearer ones by the collar and shaking him furiously, "That could have been my friend!"

"Relax, Brimmel," Captain Izayoi ordered, working his way past other soldiers and ripping Sam's hand from his subordinate, "it was only a tranquilizer." The man's voice was muffled beneath a transparent mask that each of the soldiers wore, presumably to protect from the smog.

"We had him, Captain! We had him!"

Izayoi's eyes narrowed, and he said gruffly, "Brimmel, get a hold of yourself. Whatever that was, it's no longer any friend of yours. It's a feral demon, and the only way to save it is to end its miserable life."

"How could you-"

"Get in the van," the captain ordered coldly, "everyone else is being treated for acid burns."

Samael looked back to the city in the direction the demon had bolted off into, and he let out a sigh. He turned back to the armored car and shuffled past other soldiers to get to it, muttering under his breath, "We'll save you, just wait for us, Aden."