❯ Ritual – Chapter 3

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Disclaimer: I don’t own Akira, and stuff. The actual guy that does is Katsuhiro Otomo. I just write about it in my spare time.

 

Ritual
Chapter 3

« This is yours, isn’t it? »

Two small boys were standing by a water fountain. The one speaking held out a toy robot to the other. The other child took back the previously stolen toy in stunned silence, with a frightened look in his eye.

« They always do that to newcomers. You’re new, right? »

A nod.

« I got that too. Don’t worry, they’re just big bullies. »

As the toy retriever went to get a drink from the fountain, the frightened boy finally mustered up enough courage to speak.

« I’m- »

The flashback ended abruptly. Red circles danced in front of Kaneda’s eyes as he slowly regained consciousness. He hadn’t had a dream like that in decades; he wondered why he would be suddenly having one now.

He looked around. He couldn’t recognize his surroundings. He was somewhere dark; the only light came from a small window high above him. He was lying on his side on what felt like a wooden floor. His arms were behind his back. His head and shoulders hurt.

« …Where the hell am I? » he muttered to himself.

Kaneda tried to recall what had happened. He remembered the fight with those creeps in the alley outside his garage. But he easily fought them off, didn’t he? He tried to remember how he fought them. He took the first guy out by punching him in the stomach and then kicking him in the nads. The other guy he shoved down the stairs of a fire escape. Wait, that’s right! The fire escape! It collapsed on him! Somehow, the fall must have knocked him out. After that, those goons must have taken him back to their headquarters.

But where was this place? And how long had it been? A quick glance up at the window revealed a dark sky with lots of stars. He must have been out for a few hours; it was sunset when he was returning home, but now it was night. Even though he was no detective, Kaneda knew that a very starry sky meant he wasn’t in Neo Tokyo anymore. They must have taken him out into the sticks, where there were no city lights.

He tried to stand up. Unfortunately, his arms wouldn’t budge. His wrists were tightly bound together by something coarse, like rope. Oh great, they had tied him up. Fortunately, his legs were still free.

But what did they want with him? Unless they were motorcycle fanatics, he really didn’t have anything of value. It’s not like he was running a chopshop.

Wait. What if they were enemies of Kei’s? She was heavy into politics, and he knew very well that politicians liked to play dirty. Maybe they had somehow found out that he was engaged to her, and they were holding him for ransom.

Or maybe…

His thoughts were interrupted when he heard the door open behind him. He then found himself suddenly doused in water.

« C’mon, get up! » a nasally voice behind him commanded.

Kaneda brought himself up to a sitting position and turned around to face whoever was there. In the doorway was a guy that looked slightly younger than him, wearing the same dark robes as that old man in the alley. He was flanked by two muscle-bound lackeys, though they weren’t the same two guys he had fought earlier.

« I was already awake, ya sonovabitch! » the biker spat at the mysterious robed person.

« Mouthy little bastard, aren’t ya? » the robed man commented, sneering. He then turned to his henchmen. « Alright boys, grab him. But be careful, he’s a tough old goat. »

« Okay, boss, » said one of the goons as he entered the cell.

Kaneda waited for the guy to get close enough before making a sweeping kick at his ankle. It connected, knocking the bodyguard off balance and causing him to fall to the ground. Kaneda then scrambled to his feet, which was a bit more difficult without the use of his arms.

« I said be careful, you idiot! » the robed ringleader barked at his fallen grunt.

Meanwhile, the other henchman entered the cell and cautiously approached Kaneda. The aged biker backed away from the second goon, watching him like a hawk. Suddenly, the grunt made a move as if he was about to lunge forward. Unfortunately, Kaneda fell for it and kicked at him. The guard grabbed him by his outstretched leg, leaving him to wobble on one foot. And since Kaneda was no karate master, trying to kick the guy with his free leg would only result in making himself fall flat on his back. He was trapped.

The other goon picked himself up off the floor and grabbed the biker squarely around the shoulders. « You just better be glad the boss wants you in one piece! » he growled.

« Alright buddy, you’re comin’ with us, » the weasely robed guy said to Kaneda. « And don’t try anything funny, if ya know what’s good for ya! » He reached into his robe and pulled out a taser. He pointed it at the biker to drive the point home.

« What the hell do you bastards want with me, anyway? » Kaneda demanded.

« That’s for us to know and for you to find out, » the robed guy sneered. He turned back to his two guards. « Bring him! »

Kaneda was then shoved out of his cell and marched down the hallway. The robed man lead the way, while the two guards flanked the biker. They kept a close eye on his feet just in case he tried to turn around and kick them again.

The mechanic took a look around while on his involuntary stroll. The lighting was poor, but unlike the temple, it didn’t look like it was intentional. The few light bulbs that weren’t blown out kept flickering, meaning it was actually a problem with the electricity itself. The floorboards creaked under their feet, and the walls were cracked and stained. It looked like they were in a dilapidated building. But it made sense; creepy secret societies and/or crime organizations tended to roost in old, abandoned places like this.

Waiting for them at the end of the hallway was an old man, though he was different than the one Kaneda had met earlier. This guy was even older; probably old enough to be Kaneda’s father. He was also wearing an orange robe rather than the dark ones the others had on. He was very tall and thin. His fingernails were unusually long and filed to sharp points, like talons. He also had a suspicious smile on his face.

« Ah, Mr. Kaneda, » he said as the group approached. « How good of you to come. » He raised an eyebrow. « Or should I say, ‘Noble One’? »

« Have we met? » Kaneda grunted at him.

The very old man smiled. « I’m afraid we have not. But I know all about your exploits, Mr. Kaneda. »

« Riiight, » the biker replied. « You the one the one runnin’ this joint, or what? »

« Why yes, I would be the one in charge here, » the orange robed one answered.

« Good! Then you’re the guy I need to talk to! » Kaneda barked. « Who the hell are you people, and what do you want with me? »

« ‘Ey! Watch your tongue around the boss, douchebag! » the younger robed man ordered, brandishing his taser.

« No, no, it’s quite alright, » the old ringleader said. « He’s one of our Guests of Honor! The least we could do for him is answer his questions. »

« Then how ’bout answerin’ my first one? » Kaneda snapped.

The leader chuckled. « Such brazenness! But if you must know, we are much like those you met at the temple earlier today – humble servants of the Great Akira. However, we are a much older sect. One of the first, you might say. Also our belief systems are…quite different. »

I’ll say. You psychos prefer kidnappin’ people! Kaneda thought. He had half a mind to say it to the old guy’s face too, but he didn’t want to get zapped by that weasel with the taser.

« As for what we summoned you here for, » the old man continued, « your presence is needed for our Grand Ceremony. »

The biker gave him a withering look. « What kinda ceremony…? » He had a feeling he was not going to like the answer.

A dark, foreboding smile appeared on the leader’s face. « Sixty-two years ago, » he began, « was the First Fall. Though the world was nearly destroyed in the cataclysmic war that followed, there was a great good that came out of it: those behind the project realized just how great the power was that sealed away within the human mind. This was an incentive for them to continue their quest to unlock its secrets.

« Thirty-one years ago was the Second Fall. I’m sure I needn’t go into detail, since you were already there. Fortunately, there was no war afterward this time. And most importantly, everyone in the country learned of both Akira and the Power. »

« Yeah? And…? » Kaneda snarled impatiently. He wasn’t here for a history lesson.

The leader’s smile suddenly became a lot darker and creepier. « …Think of what a third would bring… »

« …Third? » It took awhile to sink in. When it did, the biker suddenly bust out laughing. « Oh, I get it! Lemme guess…you guys want Akira to blow up the city a third time?! »

« In a manner on speaking, yes, » the leader replied, still smiling.

« You’re serious about this, ain’t ya? » Kaneda said sardonically. « In that case, how the hell do you plan on doin’ it? You gonna do some little magic trick to make Akira appear in front of you? Y’know, I may not know the guy personally, but I kinda doubt he just shows up for any random person that wants him to. And even if he did, I think it’s gonna take a lot more than just askin’ nicely to get him to blow the shit out of Neo Tokyo again. »

« Summon Akira? » the leader chuckled. «  »Summon Akira? » the leader chuckled. « That would be much easier for us, but there’s no way to summon Akira directly, I’m afraid. Even the bloodletting ritual with the throne from the Olympic stadium has no guarantee that he will actually appear. »

The biker paused for a second to think. « His friends, then! You gonna summon them wrinkled kids, then force them to summon Akira? Is that it? »

« Ah, the Wizened Ones. Akira’s old companions and fellow test subjects, » the old man responded. « I’m surprised you know about them. But no, there’s no way to summon them either. »

Kaneda was out of ideas at this point. Actually he had one left, but he didn’t think it made any sense. « Okay, I’ll bite, » he said. « What are you creeps up to? »

« Oh, Mr. Kaneda. Surely you haven’t forgotten your oldest friend by now? » the cult leader replied, that twisted grin returning to his face.

The aged biker’s sarcastic grin disappeared. The color drained from his wrinkled face. A knot formed in the pit of his stomach. « Te…Tetsuo? »

« Correct! » the old man said.

« But…but why?! » Kaneda demanded. « What the hell’s the point? And how do you know he ain’t dead to begin with?! »

« Oh, he’s very much alive, Mr. Kaneda, » the leader replied. « Some say he’s not only alive…he’s still growing! If that’s true, can you imagine how utterly enormous he must be by now? After thirty-one years of endless growth? » A pause. « Maybe big enough to swallow up the entire country… »

Kaneda cringed. Watching Tetsuo mutate was one of the most horrible things he ever saw in his life; he didn’t care to be reminded of it. « Yeah? And where’s your proof?! » he barked angrily.

The old cult leader rubbed his chin as if in thought. « Hmm…tell me, do you remember an incident a few years ago on a college campus? One where a student was mysteriously mauled to death while playing a game? »

The mechanic just stared at him blankly. « Ain’t there a lotta incidents like that? » he asked. « I mean, college students get drunk and do stupid stuff all the time. »

« Ah, but this one was very specific, » the leader continued. « The student was playing a popular game called ‘Feed the Devourer.’ I’m sure it’s pretty easy to guess what the object of this game is. The poor child had been torn limb from limb. The killer was never found. There were no murder weapons found on campus, either. »

« So? » Kaneda replied. « That doesn’t mean Tetsuo did it. It just means there’s a really smart killer runnin’ around. »

« Ah, but the student had been torn apart as if by a wild animal, » the leader corrected. « However, he was indoors where wild animals could not get to him. »

« Still doesn’t mean nuthin’! » the biker barked. « Somebody coulda just brought one inside! I’ve seen a lotta cop shows, I know people do crazy shit when they want someone dead! »

The old man let out a small sigh. He just shook his head and smiled sadly at Kaneda. « I can see I won’t be able to convince you otherwise, » he said. « But it matters not. What matters is that there is a way to summon the Devourer directly. And once he is unleashed onto our plane, Akira will have no choice but to return again. »

« You mean to tell me you’re gonna use some urban myth to try and summon Tetsuo? » Kaneda asked, raising an eyebrow.

« Indeed, » was the answer.

The biker burst out laughing again. « Yeah, right! You people are insane, y’know that?! » he mocked, not caring about the two muscleheads behind him or the taser-happy lackey next to him. « No, no, you’re more than just ‘insane.’ You’re freakin’ bugfuck, batshit crazy! What’s next? If this doesn’t work, you’re gonna try summoning him with a Ouija board or something? »

The cold, twisted smile returned to his face. He stepped forward. « It doesn’t matter what you think about us, Mr. Kaneda. You will help us summon him, » he said in a voice that could freeze a blast furnace.

« Yeah?! You and what army?! » the mechanic roared.

The cult leader walked over to him and stood next to him. The goons tensed themselves just in case Kaneda tried to attack the ringleader while he was standing so close.

« This army, » the leader whispered in his ear.

The next thing the aged biker knew, something was stabbing him right in the arm. He shouted and jumped back. The old man was now grinning from ear to ear. Kaneda also noticed the crazy old goat had a needle in his hand. And that he was growing increasingly tired. Obviously, he had just been drugged.

He fell to his knees, suddenly exhausted. His arms and legs had gone numb. The rest of his body was rapidly following suit. He tried his best to fight it; he figured that these creeps were going to kill him as soon as he fell asleep. Unfortunately, the sedative was way too powerful. He fell over on his side as the room faded to black.

Kaneda was roused out of a deep sleep by someone poking him. Poking him with something cold and sharp. It almost felt like he was being jabbed with scissors or pins. Thankfully, he had no flashbacks while he had been unconscious this time.

He was now lying on something rough and uneven, like gravel. He could smell food cooking and felt a chill in the air. His arms were still bound behind him. Now his ankles felt the same way, too. Great. Just great.

He was somewhere dark again. Judging by the sound of crickets chirping, he was outside. He lifted his head a little just to be sure. Sure enough, he saw a sky full of stars and a full moon. Definitely outside.

But the question remained, where was he? Seeing as how the only light out here was moonlight, he was still far away from the city. But where exactly?

Wait, it was cold out here. There was only one place he knew that was unexplainably cold, even in the summer – the craters. He wasn’t quite sure which one it was, but if he had to guess, it was probably the second one. It seemed more appropriate.

Meters away, he could see his captors milling around with flashlights and small lanterns. There didn’t seem to be a lot of them, thank goodness. He wondered how the hell they could even see whatever it was they were doing with it so dark. He was about to dismiss it as just them being crazy, but then he thought of something – if they used a lot of bright lights out here, the cops might see it and come snooping around. Best to keep things dark and not draw attention to themselves.

In the dim moonlight, he could see them placing things on a long table. Judging by the delicious smells in the air, he could only guess that they were placing food on it. It must be some sort of an offering. There was something behind the table too, but he couldn’t see what it was. It was something tall.

Suddenly, he heard somebody nearby yawn. It sounded like it came from above him. He looked up to see the two goons that he met at the hideout. Apparently, they had been assigned to stand guard over him. One of them looked kind of bored. The other looked really nervous.

Out of the blue, the bored one glanced down. Kaneda recognized him as the guy he knocked down in the cell.

« Oh, you’re awake, » the bored guard said. « Well, don’t even bother tryin’ anything stupid. We tied your legs, too. »

With that, the bored goon went back to staring into space. Meanwhile, his partner was intensely watching his superiors set that table, looking more and more worried. Kaneda figured he might be able to use that to his advantage.

« Psst! Hey! You! » he whispered to the nervous one.

He tapped the guard on the ankle with his bound feet to get his attention.

Thankfully, the anxious henchman looked down at him. « What? » he asked.

« I can’t help but notice you’re lookin’ a bit nervous there, buddy, » the biker replied. « If I’da known better, I’d say you don’t like what your bosses are doin’ over there! »

« ‘EY! No talkin’! » the other guard snapped, giving Kaneda a small kick in the back.

« Hey, c’mon now! I’m just makin’ friendly conversation with your partner, here, » he retorted with a sly grin. « He’s lookin’ a little…scared about something. »

« Scared? » the bored one asked while giving the other an accusing look. « Of what? »

« Well of course I’m scared! » the nervous guard cried. « Who wouldn’t be? I mean, the boss is just minutes away from summoning this…this giant monster that tried to destroy the city a long time ago! Who’s to say he’s not gonna eat all that food, then have us for dessert? I don’t know about you, but I don’t wanna get eaten! »

« Oh please, Shin, » the bored goon scoffed. « Do you honestly think some huge, freaky monster is gonna come outta that mirror just ’cause somebody does some stupid song and dance in front of it? Nothin’s gonna happen! »

« Well, if you’re so afraid you’re gonna eaten…, » Kaneda said to the worried guard. He then turned to the other. « …And you think this whole thing is bullshit… » He then addressed them both. « …Then why are you even out here? »

« ‘Cause that’s what we’re gettin’ paid for, ya idiot! » the bored henchman barked. « These people might be nuckin’ futs, but they pay us great money! Now do us all a favor and shut your mouth! »

« Y’know guys, the show can’t go on without me, » the biker continued. « If you really don’t wanna get eaten or are sick of gettin’ your time wasted, then just untie me! We can make it look like I freed myself and ran away. How’s that sound? » He grinned at them.

« Shin » looked like he rather liked this idea. His partner even looked like he was considering it. Unfortunately, Kaneda’s hopes were dashed when the bored one answered, « Forget it. The things the boss would do to us if we let you go would be a lot worse than facin’ down some freaky-ass monster. » After a brief pause he added, « Y’know, if this freaky-ass monster was actually gonna show up. Which he’s not, I’m just throwin’ that out there… »

The biker wasn’t giving up. « You sure about that? I’ve faced this thing myself, and it’s pretty damn awful… »

« Yes, I’m sure! Now shut the hell up! » the goon yelled, becoming incredibly annoyed at Kaneda’s incessant needling.

« Ah, Mr. Kaneda! You’ve awakened! »

All three of them jumped. They turned to see the cult leader approaching them. The two guards quickly picked the biker off the ground.

« Yeah, I’m awake! » Kaneda defiantly snapped at the older man. « What of it?! »

The leader smirked. « Why, the Grand Ceremony is about to begin! Aren’t you excited about getting to see your old friend after all these years? » He let out a cold chuckle. « Well…before he eats you alive, that is. »

« What…? » Despite the fact that Kaneda hadn’t previously believed anything the cult leader had said about summoning Tetsuo, he couldn’t help but feel a chill run down his spine.

« Oh, did I forget to tell you? How foolish of me! » the cult leader responded, putting on his twisted grin. « When the Devourer is summoned, he is bound to the mirror used in the ritual. He cannot leave the mirror…unless he dines on live human flesh. » The old man leaned forward and stared the mechanic square in the eye. « And I’m guessing he’d be more than happy to dine on yours. If memory serves me right, you two had a little, shall we say, ‘disagreement’ before he left? I also recall hearing that he tried to ingest you not once, but twice. »

« Not on purpose! » the biker blurted out. Embarrassed, he quickly added, « Who cares what happened back then anyway? It’s not like your stupid magic trick’s gonna work! »

« We shall see, Mr. Kaneda. We shall see, » the old man replied with a sinister chuckle. He then turned to the two henchmen. « Bring him! »

The two guards each grabbed the aged mechanic by and arm and dragged him over to where the cult members were assembling. As he was brought closer, Kaneda got a better view of what the « altar » looked like. As he saw before, there was a long table with tons of different kinds of food set upon it. Meters away from the table was that tall thing – the mirror that the leader and the guard had mentioned. Judging from what he had heard, Tetsuo was supposed to emerge from that mirror after they did something in front of it. Well, assuming it actually worked…

The guards dragged him to the back of the crowd. Peeking over the members’ heads, Kaneda could see the leader step in front of the mirror. Two other robed guys stood on either side of it with buckets at their feet. The buckets reminded him of those people at the Black Lotus Temple that were dumping blood all over that throne. He had a good feeling these buckets were also full of blood – but not their own.

It was then that the leader began to speak.

« Ladies and gentlemen of the congregation! We are gathered here today not just as observers of a very special anniversary…but as those fulfilling their destiny. »

Destiny? Kaneda rolled his eyes. Great. These lunatics thought that they were supposed to be doing this.

« Sixty-two years ago, » the cult leader continued, « fate chose this very city as an epicenter for a great cycle. Every thirty-one years the city would be destroyed, but a great enlightenment would be bestowed upon the surviors. The first time, a few people became aware of the Power, and our sect was established. The second time, the entire country became aware of it. As for this one, it is far too early to tell what shall be revealed. All that I know is that the cycle is destined to repeat until the Power is awakened inside all of us. This I was told a long time ago by my late teacher and founder of our sect, Lady Miyako. Whether or not this will be the final Fall, I cannot tell. It is up to fate to decide. »

The biker raised an eyebrow. What was that supposed to mean? They wanted to keep blowing up the city until everybody was psychic? How the hell did they figure that would happen? Oh wait, that’s right – they’re insane!

But the fact that they were around before the second incident piqued his curiosity. He remembered seeing a group of Akira-worshipping loonies not long before the whole mess with Tetsuo happened. He wondered if these were the same guys. It would certainly explain why many of them were so old.

« But many of you may be wondering how a Third Fall would even be possible, » the old man went on. « After all, the Great One’s remains are gone, the Wizened Ones have vanished, and the Akira Project has been banned from this country. Furthermore, no signs of the Project have surfaced in other parts of the world. I had once wondered about it myself. In fact, this very problem is something that had plagued me for years. Everywhere I looked, I could not find an answer. And unfortunately, Lady Miyako died of her injuries after that terrible encounter with the Devourer on that bridge; I had no one to ask. I began to lose hope – until recently.

« Just a few years ago, I had a wonderful revelation. I realized that all this time, I had been looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. The answer lied not in attempting to summon the Great One from his plane. To put it simply, there is no way to summon him. The answer was to trigger an event that would cause him to return to this one. And that event would be to summon someone else. Someone that had already played a pivotal role in summoning the Great One before. Someone that, once unleashed, the Great One would have no choice but to return to the city. By this, I mean the Great Red Fiend himself – the Devourer! »

The crowd murmured quietly. Shin shivered. The bored guard tapped his foot impatiently. Kaneda wondered when the old crone would be done talking.

« But many of you may now be wondering how this could be possible, » the leader said. « After all, did not the Great Akira slay him during the Second Fall? The answer is no. For whatever reason, the Great One chose not to slay him, but instead seal him away. The proof lies within a ritualistic game that many young men and women like to play these days to try and scare each other. Like everyone else, I assumed it was just a game – until a mysterious death just happened to occur when one unfortunate soul played it. It was then that I realized that this was not simply a game; someone had come across a ritual that could temporarily undo the seal and bring the Devourer back to this plane. And it is this very ritual that we shall be using tonight.

« Of course, preparing the Grand Ceremony wasn’t easy. The ritual required the summoner to repeat the Devourer’s given name thrice before the mirror. Also, to completely free him from his prison, a live human sacrifice must be made. Unfortunately, no one knew the Devourer’s true name. It seemed rather tedious to go through a book of names, repeating each one until the right one was found. And trying to pick a live sacrifice is never an easy decision to make. But, thanks to one hard-working member of our congregation, we managed to find an easy solution to both these problems. Not only did he manage find someone who knew the Devourer’s true name, but also someone who would make a perfect sacrifice! »

The leader pointed one of his long fingernails to the back of the crowd with a smug smile on his face. « And that ‘someone’ would be Mr. Kaneda back there. Or ‘the Noble One,’ as some of you may know him. »

The cult members turned around to look at the aged biker, who just sneered back at them.

« Whaddya lookin’ at?! » he snarled. « See something ya like?! »

« Once the Devourer feeds upon his flesh, he will be free to roam the city once again, » the cult leader continued, as the members turned their attention back to him. « But since his appetite can never be satisfied, it won’t be long until he becomes hungry once again. He will try in vain to quell his unending appetite by devouring the city itself. Once that happens, the Great One is sure to reappear, bringing the Third Fall with him. The cycle will be complete once again. »

Kaneda continued to snarl. How did these whackjobs figure Tetsuo wouldn’t try to eat them, too? Did they ever bother to think of that? Oh that’s right, he forgot – they’re insane. They probably thought they’d magically survive somehow. Or they expected to get eaten and go down as martyrs.

He found it pathetic that the only other sane ones here were the two lackeys that were babysitting him. He took a few quick glances at both of them. The bored one was rubbing his face and shaking his head. Shin, on the other hand, looked like he was about to wet his pants.

The old leader reached inside his robe and took out a pocket watch. « Time grows short, » he observed. He then turned to the two robed members standing by the mirror. « We must begin the ceremony immediately! »

On cue, the two cult members picked up the buckets and began to douse the huge mirror with whatever it was that was in there. It was some kind of dark liquid. Kaneda was still pretty sure it was blood.

The cult leader faced the mirror, put his palms together, and closed his eyes. « Red is the color of his warped flesh…, » he chanted. « Blood is the sustenance he craves… The iron in the blood is part of his name… »

Well, looks like he was right about the blood part. But what was all this about Tetsuo « craving » blood? Did they think he was a vampire, or something? Kaneda just didn’t get wacky cult people.

The leader opened his eyes. « …And that name is…’Tetsuo’… »

Uh-oh. Saying names in front of a bloodied mirror? Kaneda was no expert on the Dark Arts, but he had a sinking feeling this was the summoning part. He figured he’d better do something, and fast.

« Okay guys, last chance! » he whispered to the two guards on either side of him. « You can stop this whole thing if you just let me go now! Whaddya say? Untie me? »

« Forget it, pal, » the annoyed guard grunted.

« C’mon, think about it! » the mechanic pressed on. « You guys can save the entire city just by undoin’ my ropes! You could be heroes! »

« I said put a sock in it! » the aggravated guard snarled.

« …Tetsuo… »

The biker couldn’t help but notice that Shin kept glancing at his restraints. He then watched as the frightened guard slowly and discreetly reached for the ropes around his wrists.

Unfortunately for the both of them, Shin’s partner caught them. « Don’t even think about it, Shin! » the irritated goon barked. Shin sheepishly put his hand down.

« …TETSUO. »

The three of them suddenly forgot all about their little argument and turned their attention toward the mirror. There was a long, dead silence. Time seemed to stop.

But of course, nothing happened. Kaneda felt relieved – and then wanted to kick himself for feeling relieved. For a minute there, these wackos had him believing that Tetsuo was going to come strolling out of a mirror. He couldn’t believe he actually fell for that.

Speaking of those wackos, he wondered what they were going to do now. Most importantly, what were they going to do with him? He had seen too much; there was no way they were just going to let him go. And there was no way he was just going to sit there and let them kill him. He was going to be in for the fight of his life for the first time in thirty-one years. But first, he had to find some way to get these restraints off.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a great wave of heat. It turned the chilly crater into a sauna. A bright red light lit up the area. He could hear the cult leader cackling in the distance.

« Behold! » the old man shouted. « The Devourer has risen! »

Ritual – Chapter 2
Ritual – Chapter 4