❯ Ritual – Chapter 4

[ 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 4

Someplace far away, a massive figure stirred. A blast of cold air woke it up from a deep sleep. Groggy, it lifted itself up and looked for the source of the draft.

Multitudes of eyes instantly met with a very strange sight. A few meters away for it was a huge, shimmering cloud. At first, the creature thought it was still dreaming. But as that cloud began to condense into an oval shape, it realized he was definitely awake. That « cloud » was a forming portal. It wasn’t at all surprised that it was there; it was actually much more surprised it hadn’t shown up sooner. Or more often.

It hesitated. It didn’t really want to go out there. It really just wanted to go back to sleep (never mind that it had been sleeping all day). But then it smelled meat. Lots of meat. Many different kinds of meat. Roast chicken, ham, dumplings, tempura shrimp…

It could smell other things besides that, too: rice, potatoes, miso soup…even sake! None of that was here, especially not the meat. And it had been having cravings for meat dishes something terrible.

It hesitated again. Why was there so much food? Most of the time, it only got a few cheap cuts of meat, which many summoners didn’t even bother to cook. Now it smelled like there was a feast out there. There was something very fishy about this, and it wasn’t just the fresh sashimi it was smelling.

But in the end, its appetite got the better of it. It slowly lifted itself up, and crawled toward the portal.

This was it. This was the moment he had been waiting for!

He remembered when he first laid eyes upon the beast. It was on that bridge thirty-one yeats ago. He wasn’t much of a beast, then; in fact, he looked like an average teenager. Like everyone else, he had mistaken him for the Great Akira due to his supernatural powers. It was an easy mistake to make.

It was only when the bridge was shortly destroyed that he realized something was dreadfully wrong. He had fallen into the water like everyone else, but he was lucky. He hadn’t been hurt too badly, and nothing had fallen on him. He was able to swim to safety.

Once on shore, he helped many others get to safety – fellow congregation members, random passer-bys, and some soldiers. Unfortunately, his temple’s priestess and leader, Lady Miyako, was nowhere to be found. Given her age, he began to believe that the fall had killed her.

Miraculously, it hadn’t. A few minutes later, he found two members of his congregation carrying her out of the water. However, she was badly injured. They planned on taking her and the other survivors to the nearest hospital, but she refused. She demanded to taken out of the city.

« But your wounds are very grave, milady, » he had said. « If we try to take you to another city, you might not survive. »

« None of us will survive if we do not leave this instant! » she replied. The urgency in her voice worried him.

« But the Great Ak- »

« That boy was not the Great Akira! » she shouted, cutting him off.

Everybody was stunned. But before anyone could say another word, she continued on in a calmer voice.

« I will explain later, » she had said. « But for now, time is of the essence – we have to leave the city now. Gather everyone up, and let us depart. »

They dressed her wounds and the wounds of their survivors up as best they could before leaving for Neo Yokohama. Here, they were able to bring Lady Miyako to a hospital. The degree of her injuries and her age landed her in the intensive care unit. It was nighttime by then, and they already heard about the fight in front of the stadium and the incident with the SOL satellite on the news. They figured that was what Miyako had been talking about earlier, and why she had urged them all to leave. But the worst had yet to come.

The next morning, he received two important news updates the moment he woke up from what little sleep he had that night: Lady Miyako had recovered, and Neo Tokyo had been destroyed by a mysterious, powerful explosion. That was why she had insisted on them leaving.

He was confused about the explosion; what caused it? Surely, the Great Akira was strong enough to cause such a blast. However, Lady Miyako had told them all just yesterday that the boy with the supernatural powers they had seen on the bridge was not Akira. If he wasn’t Akira, who was he, and why did he have those powers? Did he cause the explosion? Was he an entity like Akira?

He rushed to his leader’s hospital room with those very questions in mind. The other members of the congregation were crowded around there, and the nurses were trying to keep them all from pouring in at once.

Lady Miyako was already awake in bed, hooked up to many machines. Though she looked better than she did yesterday, she still seemed rather worse for wear. The bun she normally wore her hair in had been undone, and her extremely long locks spilled behind her. Her glasses had been placed on the nightstand next to her, revealing her cloudy, unseeing eyes. Despite her blindness, she turned and looked directly at him the second he walked in the door. She asked the other members in the room if they could leave, for she needed a private moment with him. As soon as they left, he closed the door behind them. She began speaking before he had a chance to turn around.

« I’ve already heard the news, my child, » she said to him. « I saw it has it happened. The entire scenario played out in my dreams yesterday. It was the most dreadful thing I saw since the First Fall. »

« You already know? » he had asked. « Then how-? »

« The Great Akira did indeed cause that blast, » she explained. « I had a vision of it as I fell from the bridge. That is why I ordered all of us leave. I did not want to see any lives lost in the coming cataclysm. »

« But that boy…I thought you said- »

« He is not the Great Akira, and never was, » she replied. « I thought he was at first, given his great power. But I began to sense something very different about him as I neared him. He is simply an angry young man given more power than he could handle. As for the Great Akira, his friends summoned him. He reappeared to take that angry boy away. »

« Take him away? »

« Yes. Akira took him to his own plane so that he cannot harm anyone else. Even now, I can hear the boy slithering about, trying to find a way out of his dimensional prison. But he won’t find one…not for a long time. »

Slither? He raised an eyebrow.

She smiled at him. « You will find out soon enough. »

He now knew that she was talking about the Devourer’s monstrous transformation.

« What about the Great One? » he continued. « Is he still here? »

« No, he did not stay. He must maintain his own plane along with taking care of his old friends and that boy. »

She paused. « Though I cannot read a mind as vast as his, I could sense Lord Akira’s regret during his brief visit. He did not want to destroy the city again, but he did not have a choice. There was no other way. »

« Will this cataclysm happen again, milady? »

« I cannot say. It is far beyond my sight. But I do sense that the Great One will return…many times. Until we are all as he is. »

At that point, the nurses stepped in the check on Miyako’s progress, and he was ushered back into the waiting room. The congregation members that had gathered there immediately pounced on him for answers. He tried to answer them as best he could from his discussion with her. However, he still had many questions himself. He hoped Lady Miyako a speedy recovery so that she might answer those questions, as well as calm the nervous congregation.

But his hopes were dashed when she died a few days later. Her health suddenly took a turn for the worse, and the physicians were not able to save her. Because he had been second-in-command, leadership had been passed to him. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. The congregation was in a panic due to the city being destroyed and Lady Miyako dying. They were also rapidly losing their faith. Many were questioning Akira’s « greatness » if another person was walking around with immense psychic powers like him. Others began to believe that Akira was, in fact, an evil spirit all along. To make matters worse, rival sects began cropping everywhere in the following months.

While he managed to keep his congregation together, he ultimately lost the battle for popularity. It made him feel like a failure at first, but over time he began to care less about that and care more about something his former teacher had told him: Lord Akira’s return. She said it would happen many times, but she didn’t say when. It seemed only logical to him that he would appear each time after thirty one years. This was where he formulated the idea of a « great cycle. »

But something disturbed him; he remembered she had said that his friends has summoned him. He had not simply appeared on his own. Would they have to do the same? If they did, it seemed that only his sect knew about it – and would be the only ones up to the task. Perhaps fate smiled on them after all.

For many years he researched different forms psionics and mysticism in search of a way to summon the Great Akira. He even looked into magic a few times when he got desperate. But no matter how hard he tried, he could not find anything that worked.

That’s when he found out about that game – « Feed the Devourer. » At first, he ignored it; it was just a game, after all. After awhile, however, he began to think it over. Lady Miyako told him that Lord Akira’s friends had summon him to deal with the Devourer. Perhaps Akira needed a reason to come back. Well, the Devourer’s return to Neo Tokyo sure seemed like a good reason as any.

But would it work? He asked himself that long before anyone else did. It was just a childish game, after all. Thankfully, he received his answer not long after that. He found that story in the newspaper about the college boy who died mysteriously after playing that game. It was then that he decided to put his plan into motion.

And now, finally, all those years of hard work had finally paid off. The game turned out to be an actual summon spell after all. Now, he could only hope that the rest of the plan would follow through.

« No…, » Kaneda whispered incredulously. He looked up at the mirror to make sure this wasn’t some kind of trick.

The mirror no longer had a reflection in it. Instead, the bright red light, as well as the heat wave, was pouring out of it. In a moment, the red light subsided and was replaced by two glowing concentric red circles on a black background.

And then something emerged from the mirror. Both of the guards looked like they were about to faint dead away.

« …Oh my God, » the previously bored henchman gasped.

« Y’see? Y’see, Ryo? I-I told you! » Shin nervously berated his partner.

Kaneda could only stand there with his mouth agape. What the…HELL?! he thought. This can’t be happening! There’s no way…it’s just an urban myth, dammit! How COULD it work?! I’ve got to dreamin’! Yeah, that’s it…I bet I’m still sleepin’, and the drugs are givin’ me nightmares! I’m gonna slap myself, and I’ll wake right up!

Unfortunately, with his hands still tied tightly behind his back, he found himself unable to slap himself awake.

Okay, then…I’m gonna close my eyes instead. Yeah, and when I open them, I’ll be somewhere else. Like home. Or better yet, the Bahamas or something!

He shut his eyes tightly and counted to three. On three, he opened them again. Unfortunately, he did not find himself at home nor a tropical resort; he was still down in one of the craters, tied up. And a familiar face was now standing in front of the mirror.

What had stepped out looked human enough. In fact, he almost looked exactly the way he did just before his terrible mutation. His black hair was messy and sticking straight up. He was wearing the same outfit consisting of a white sleeveless shirt, a pair of jeans, boots, and a red cape. His right arm had been replaced with a mechanical prosthesis. But upon closer inspection, Kaneda could see that the similarities ended there.

Tetsuo was slightly taller now and looked older. He now looked like an adult. However he still looked fairly young, not middle-aged like he was supposed to be. His skin had turned bright red. His eyes had turned red too. It was hard to miss them, for they were glowing like hot coals. His shirt wasn’t actually a shirt; it was a white breastplate. Emblazoned on the chest was a red flower. Kaneda recognized it as the same flower from the temple – a lotus blossom. Plate half greaves covered his shins. His mechanical arm looked a lot more sleek and sophisticated than before; in fact, it looked a lot more sleek and sophisticated than most prosthetic arms currently on the market. It had large blood vessels, muscles, and other organic bits smoothly integrated into it. The fingers ended in long metal claws. His left arm looked the same way, only red rather than steel gray.

And then there was his cape. His cape was the answer to the obvious question, « What happened to the rest of him? » It was not made out of cloth like his old one. It was made out of reddened, bloated flesh, viscera, and random mechanical parts. It crawled behind him on thick, fingered tendrils rather than dragged on the ground. In other words, Tetsuo had not gone back to normal at all; he was simply wearing his gigantic, horrifying mass like a living cape.

The mutant psychic stepped away from the mirror and took a look around. A sinister smile crept across his face. « I was wondering when someone was going to summon me today, » he said, his distorted voice now deep and gruff, almost gravelly. At least he sounded his age. « For a second there, I was about to give up. »

The cult members quickly got on their hands and knees, the leader included. Not wanting to be spotted, the two henchmen quickly followed suit, dragging Kaneda down with them. That was fine by him, for he didn’t exactly want to call attention to himself right now either.

« Welcome, Master Tetsuo, » the leader said, still bowing. Despite the fact that one of the most feared figures in Neo Tokyo’s recent history was standing right in front of him, the old man seemed awful calm. « Please, make yourself at home. »

The psychic in question looked surprised at the leader’s politeness at first, but then snickered. « Master Tetsuo? I like the sound of that, » he said. « And since we’re outside, I think I’ll take up your offer on makin’ myself at home! »

Tetsuo turned around and grasped his enormous « cape » with both hands. He gave a sharp tug and grunted as if he was trying to lift something heavy. All at once, tons upon tons of the swollen, techno-organic mass began pouring out of the portal. As it tumbled out, it crawled behind the mirror and began rapidly filling up the crater behind it.

Kaneda tried not to watch. He really tried not to but, like a trainwreck or a car accident, he couldn’t help but stare at it. Tetsuo had gotten bigger since last time – much bigger! The crazy old man was right; he had been growing all this time. While he certainly didn’t look big enough to « swallow up the entire country, » he was spilling over his half of the crater – and there was still more of him coming! It made the mechanic want to puke.

After a few minutes, the disgusting deluge ended as a long, red, whip-like « tail » emerged from the portal and coiled itself around the mirror’s base. Once the enormous mass settled itself, certain sections of it began to glow red and orange. Apparently, he had become bioluminous. The mass also sprouted gigantic, biomechanical versions of the red lotus blossom painted on his breastplate. Tetsuo let out a satisfied sigh.

« I usually get stuck in some college kid’s cramped dorm room, » he explained, grinning. « Feels good to finally stretch out a bit! »

The cult leader stood up a gestured to the table behind him. « We have prepared a feast in your honor, » he said, his twisted smile still plastered on his face. « Feel free to help yourself. We hope the offerings are to your liking… »

« Don’t mind if I do, » the mutant replied, nonchalantly. He walked over to the table, his massive cape crawling after him on tendrils and pseudopods. The old man quickly got out of his way and headed to the other side of the table. The rest of the congregation stood up, although the two henchmen were perfectly content to continue laying low.

Tetsuo wasted no time in digging into the offerings. He ravenously tore into a raw side of beef as if he hadn’t eaten in years. His « cape » helped him with the meal by sending out hundreds of small tendrils that would grab bits of food and drag them back into his mass.

« You’ve really outdone yourself, » the psychic said to the cult leader with his mouth full. « Usually all I get is a couple uncooked steaks. » He paused to swallow. « …Which begs the question – what’s the catch? »

« The catch? » the leader asked.

« Oh, c’mon! » Tetsuo replied, tearing a drumstick off of a roast chicken and pointing it at him accusingly. « You wouldn’t have gone through all the trouble of makin’ me a big, fancy meal unless you wanted something. Now what is it? You want someone dead? You want a part of the city blown up? What? » He bit right into the drumstick like one would bite into a carrot stick. The bones made loud, sickening crunch sounds in his mouth. It was a wonder he didn’t choke on them.

The old man chuckled and shook his head. « Not to worry, Master Tetsuo. This isn’t a bribe, » he said. « Actually, we are here to do you a favor. We are going to set you free. »

« Oh, really? » the massive psychic scoffed.

« Yes, » the leader responded. « We know that you need a live human sacrifice in order to fully escape your prison. We have him all ready for you. I think you might approve of our choice… »

The old man gestured to the back of the crowd with his hand. The crowd obediently parted, revealing the biker and the two henchmen still huddled on the ground. When they realized they were exposed, the guards jumped to their feet, pulling Kaneda up with them. They didn’t dare step forward.

« Oh my God, Ryo! » Shin whispered loudly. « What do we do now? »

« Well whatever you do, » Ryo replied, « don’t make any sudden moves, don’t look him in the eye, and try not to look scared. Psychics can, like…breathe fear, or something. »

Without the crowd to cover him, Kaneda was now forced to face his old friend for the first time in three decades. He half expected Tetsuo to start laughing at him, or at least make some kind of nasty comment. The other half of him expected his old buddy to kill him right then and there in some utterly gruesome fashion, and then eat him right in front of everybody. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Tetsuo just stared at him wide-eyed, in shock. Eyes of various sizes in his « cape » gave the biker shocked stares as well.

« …Kaneda? » Tetsuo asked. « Is that you? »

« Hmmph! » Kaneda just disdainfully turned his head away.

Meanwhile, the cult leader was not amused by his henchmen’s reluctance to come forward. « Bring him here…, » he growled at them.

« N-no, that’s okay, » Tetsuo suddenly spoke. « They’re fine. Just leave him there. »

The old man shrugged. « As you wish, Master Tetsuo. »

The guards didn’t need to be told twice. The dropped Kaneda like a sack of potatoes and started backing even farther away from the giant.

« Now then, » the leader said, turning back to the hungry creature. « If you don’t mind, Master, we will leave now and let you enjoy your meal in peace. I’m sure you don’t want us staring at you while you eat, yes? »

« Uh…right, » Tetsuo replied, in the midst of shaking off his shock. « You do that. »

The cult leader and his followers all gave him a deep bow. « Farewell, Master Tetsuo, » the old man said. « We hope you enjoy your feast. »

« Uh, okay. Sure, » the psychic said back, raising an eyebrow at the bowing. « See ya… »

With that, the entire congregation quietly left the crater. The two guards quickly followed them, not wanting to be left behind.

« Hey, Ryo? » Shin whispered nervously. « What do we do now? »

« We wait for the right moment, then we slip on outta here, » Ryo whispered back. « After that, we run to our cars and jump in. »

« What then? »

« We drive, Shin, we drive. We drive right outta this damn city and go someplace else. We drive all the way across the country if we gotta. And if that don’t work, then we jump on a plane and go someplace that doesn’t have a monster problem…like Australia, maybe. You never hear about monsters attackin’ Australia. »

« I dunno, I heard those kangaroos are pretty vicious… »

« Animals don’t count, Shin! »

As much as he wanted to join those two annoying goons, Kaneda, unfortunately, could only lie there. Meanwhile, he thought he heard his old friend mumble something under his breath about the cult. He believed he said, « …What a bunch of freaks! » For once, he actually agreed with him.

But that wasn’t important right now; what was important was getting those ropes off and running away before he was eaten alive by a giant monster. He tried his wrists first. He flexed them back and forth, trying to loosen the rope around them.

While doing this, he made the mistake of looking up and seeing just how little time he had left. Tetsuo had already finished that entire feast. It was probably thanks to all those tendrils. Being able to eat with one’s entire body had its advantages. Now, he was just licking the plates – right before eating said plates. Once they had all been ingested, two very large mouths suddenly formed in his mass just behind his humanoid body. With a hiss, they opened, revealing sabre teeth as long as Kaneda’s femur. Two very large, thick tongues snaked out – one a purplish red, the other a sickly green. Their tips sprouted fingers and they grasped either end of the long table. They snapped it like a twig and dragged both halves back into their respective mouths.

Not good. This was not good. Kaneda desperately struggled one last time against his restraints, trying to ignore the ominous sound of a wooden table being chewed up like a potato chip in the distance. He pulled and tugged so hard at the ropes around his wrists, he thought he was going to break his arms.

His efforts were interrupted by a red light suddenly shining in his face. It was like someone had turned a red spotlight on him. He didn’t want to look, but he did anyway. Tetsuo was now staring right at him, his eyes glowing like a pair of taillights. He had a malevolent grin on his face that said only one thing – he was ready for dessert.

« Kaneda…, » he hissed, as he slowly started to walk toward him. « We have a lot of catching up to do, now don’t we? »

Ritual – Chapter 3
Ritual – Chapter 5