A High Price

Chapter 8

By Lizard


"No!" Watari scowled, on the verge of stamping his foot childishly, but managing to restrain himself at the last minute.

Tatsumi took a moment to calm himself and closed his eyes, breathing deeply, though he could smell his own sweat as he did so, and his lip curled with distaste. He could understand Watari's reluctance to attempt this new plan, but he honestly couldn't think of any other way that they were going to change the situation.

"Watari-san, I know it is asking a lot, but Tsuzuki's welfare is at stake here."

Watari sighed, refusing to look at any of the other Shinigami and shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his once white, now rather dirty lab coat. Ever since 003 had flown through the barrier without any hindrance, the others seemed to have been intent on using him as bait to try and lure the demon out of the barrier, and therefore leave it vulnerable to attack. Watari could only assume that the barrier was specifically erected to ward off Shinigami, and since 003 was only a bird, it had proven no obstacle.

"I can't order him to do something if he's too scared to. Look at him, he's shaking!"

003 was in fact, sitting on the scientist's shoulder, looking completely oblivious to any danger and occasionally preening his feathers out of boredom. Watari scowled as he saw his pet's lack of support.

"Please Watari, we're running out of time, Tsuzuki's already been missing for hours!" Hisoka finally snapped out of his silence to give the blonde a pleading look, large eyes glimmering with tears. How could Watari refuse after that?

"All right, Bon. All right."

There was a collective sigh of relief from the other Shinigami, and they watched expectantly as Watari spoke to the little bird, gesturing to the shadowy mass on the ceiling of the room. The demon still stared at the top of Tatsumi's head with vivid golden eyes that gleamed like ambulatory jewels.

With one last gentle caress, as if he expected this to be his last contact with the loyal little bird, Watari sent 003 into the room, barely able to watch, peering through fingers that now hid his face. 003 flew through the barrier as effortlessly as he had before, heading straight for Tatsumi, who was looking rather flustered, and then darted up towards the ceiling. The demon's eyes had been locked on the bird since the moment it entered the room, flicking from side to side as it flew in dizzying circles closer and closer.

The demon saw the owl fly within reach, and gave a soft gurgling sound that sounded distinctly annoyed. Gleaming black claws swiped at the bird from the shadows, but missed by a hair's breadth, almost like a warning shot. Watari whimpered quietly from where he stood waiting in the corridor, and held his breath as 003 flew closer still, prompting a growl and another outraged swipe from the claws. Again they missed, but the bird did not cease in its dizzying aerial acrobatics. After several more taunting approaches, the demon finally lost whatever patience it had possessed and leapt from the ceiling, trying to catch the bird in mid-air, but failing miserably. It landed heavily on its side, a demon as large in mass as a horse, with a head that resembled that of a rat, save for the fact that the flesh seemed to have receded from its snout to leave it with a skeletal jaw.

Infuriated, it rose up on its crooked hind legs trying to swat 003 from the air, not realising that it was being lured to the hole in the wall. The Shinigami waited with bated breath, Hisoka standing ready with his Katana. It seemed to progress to the barrier agonisingly slowly, but finally the little owl darted through the hole.followed closely by the demon.

"Now!" Tatsumi roared, startling them into action.

003 flew directly to Watari, who began to back away, the demon bounding towards him with strides that seemed to carry it above the floor rather than upon it. Hisoka's Katana struck it behind the knee in one of its forelegs, keen blade severing tendons and muscle and causing it to stagger with a shrill squeal of pain, jaw impacting with the floor with a resounding crack. The youngest Shinigami did not wait before aiming another blow, this time an upward slash against its throat, but the blade simply hit it with a metallic clank, as if the beast wore some kind of armour, and the rebound of the sword was so sharp that Hisoka was knocked off balance.

"Kurosaki-kun look out!" Tatsumi's warning came just in time, and the boy managed to duck beneath the whip-like tail with its deadly stinger, causing it to lodge in the wall where his head had been leaning only a moment before. Rolling sideways, he managed to manoeuvre himself so that he was standing defensively before Watari and the Goushoshin brothers, not to mention an exhausted 003 that had taken refuge beneath the scientist's hair.

Livid with rage, the demon forced itself up onto its undamaged legs, and lunged forward again, jaws snapping closed around the blade of Hisoka's sword. What ensued was a battle of strength that he could not hope to win. Trying to rescue the blade was hopeless. The harder he tugged, the more frenzied the beast's thrashing became, until finally Hisoka was flung against the wall, stunned.

"Hisoka!" Watari tried to reach the boy, but the tail had freed itself from the wall and swung in a wide arc at the scientist, the stinger almost slashing him across the stomach. The demon gave a victorious roar, jaws stretching wide as it moved to catch the fallen Shinigami between it's teeth. At that point there was a sudden noise, like the rushing of water, and a mass of some strange, inky black substance that looked almost gaseous, impacted with the demon's side. So forceful was this blow that the creature was flung against the opposite wall to which Hisoka had fallen, half crushed and its eyes pulsing with a blinding light. Watari grabbed Hisoka's Katana from the ground where the beast had dropped it, and despite having never used one in the past, hacked down at the creature's eyes in a blow that Hisoka would have been proud to perform.

A gush of stinking blood flew from the burst ocular, drenching the Shinigami. Watari struck again, this time at the small fleshy area between the skeletal jaw and the armoured neck, managing to force the tip of the blade up into the demon's brain. The body seemed to spasm for several moments, legs twitching, and then before their very eyes it disintegrated into a pile of oily black ash on the floor of the corridor.

Panting from the exertion, Watari crouched down by Hisoka, and was pleased to find that save for a small cut on the back of his head, the boy was otherwise undamaged. Together they got back to their feet, approaching the doorway, which had been blocked to them. This time, it permitted them to pass through and they walked wearily to Tatsumi, who was sat quite calmly, unfastening the last of the leather straps around his ankle.

"Tatsumi-san, how did you free yourself!?" Watari asked, blatantly rather shocked. "And how did you use your abilities to send that demon flying before it was even dead?"

Tatsumi's response was a vaguely smug grin, and he rose from the seat, smoothing off his brown, suit jacket and pushing his glasses back into place.

"It seemed that whilst expending its abilities on yourself and Hisoka, it forgot to maintain enough concentration to keep the barrier in place which prevented the use of my power." He explained, already striding out of the room, the other Shinigami staggering along beside him, exhausted and having trouble keeping up. "Oh." He stopped abruptly, the others almost running into the back of him. "Thank you both. Now let's go and find Tsuzuki and teach the good doctor a lesson about why it's wise not to blackmail the Shinigami."

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