In a large conference room, at the top of a larger pyramid, 113 people were gathered. The 113 people composed the Council, the leaders of the Organization. Currently a vote was being held as to the response that the Organization should towards someone who was suspected of being a witch.
"Hellhound caused deaths in Southern Iowa! It's the fifth incident this week,” a grey haired man said.
"It would also be extremely unwise to ignore the fact that they all occurred near the girl," a red haired woman said as she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
"Not to mention that they've all resulted in the harm of someone else," a small, tanned man piped in.
"Shall we pass judgment then? Anyone opposed, raise your hand." The smiling leader was met by an approving silence. "Then it is decided! There is a mage here, call up the witch hunters."
"Neith, what's wrong?" Neith was lying on her bed when a tall Japanese woman walked into her room. Neith flicked her eyes towards Tomoe for a second, before returning them to the ceiling. Tomoe Gozen was Neith's closest friend among the witch hunters. A friendship that had grown out of the fact that they were both orphans. Tomoe sat on the bed, beside Neith. "Did something happen on your last mission?"
"I documented everything that happened and submitted it along with my report," Neith rolled over so that Tomoe couldn't see her face. Neith loved Tomoe, but that was exactly why she couldn't tell her anything. She would never be able to forgive herself if Tomoe was punished by the Organization because of her.
"I see. Well, I have something that might distract you from your well documented woes,” Tomoe said, causing Neith to roll back over. "It's a mission."
"Already? It hasn't even been a week since my last failure."
"Already. This mage seems to be a big target, Nathaniel's coming with us." Neith widened her eyes for a second. Nathanial was one of the organizations best techies.
"Oh, is that so?"
"Mhmm," Tomoe smirked, "get your stuff ready, we leave for Nebraska in an hour. I’ll be in Combat Area four when you’re ready. Bring Nathaniel, I’ll explain the mission in detail when we’re all gathered," Tomoe added before she left Neith’s room.
Neith swung her feet over the edge of her bed and stood. Neith was a dark skinned Egyptian with braided hair that fell to her shoulders. Neith gathered her pistols, bullet cases, and a pre-packed bag of clothes before leaving her room in search of Nathaniel.
The Organization’s headquarters was a giant pyramid on an island, somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Africa. While this did have the advantage of hiding an organization that kills magical beings, it had resulted in the headquarter utilizing every spare inch of land. Consequentially, the building was very large. Which was why Neith was now in the Call Room, the place where missions were assigned. Neith explained her situation to one of the attendants behind the desk and waited as they worked to call Nathaniel to the room.
As Neith waited for Nathaniel, her eyes fell on the statue in the center of the room, a substantially greater than life size version of the Organization’s founder, Witch Hunter L. L had come from a family that had been hunting witches for generations. However, after witnessing the destruction of both World Wars and discovering that they had been caused by a frenzied race to capture the Big Three; he had decided to consolidate other hunting families, and form an organization whose purpose was to protect mankind. Even though witches had died out over the century since the World Wars, the organization had remained a bastion of those who hunted the supernatural.
Neith’s train of thought was broken by the sound of shoes slapping against the wooden floor of the hallway. Nathaniel, a pale skinned male with blond hair, was standing in the doorway with bags at his side and slung across his shoulders. Neith walked past him, and he followed silently as they went to Combat Area four.
Combat Area four was a set of ruins. It was a large, open, grassy area whose only distinguishing feature was the large ruined city at the center. A kilometer wide, the circular area was surrounded by a giant wall which separated the area from the technicians who worked to maintain the realism of the practice area. Neith and Nathaniel were in one of the offices that the technicians used to observe the area, watching Tomoe fight off a standard practice squad, three snipers, four gunmen, and another three expert hand-to-hand combatants.
Deep within the ruined city, Tomoe was squaring off with an opponent that wielded a meteor hammer, when Nieth and Nathaniel had entered the control room. This was Tomoe’s first time fighting a meteor hammer, and the weapon’s lighting fast assault on her had forced her into a defensive position. Her opponent knew this and had been using feints to attempt to wear her down. All she had left in the way of weapons was her wooden katana, and two of her hidden knives. Her tanto had been broken by a combatant with a hammer on a chain, and she had used her other five knives to defeat the gunmen and two of the snipers. Tomoe ended her reflection when a way to defeat her opponent came to her.
Tired of waiting, her opponent brought both balls to a dizzying hum before launching one of them directly at Tomoe. Tomoe dodged it and struck the chain with her wooden katana. The suicidal attack had the effect of causing the head of the Meteor Hammer to swing dangerously close to her face as it wrapped around the wooden katana and jerked it out of her hands. As her opponent grinned and pulled the katana back towards him, he didn’t notice that she had discreetly thrown one of her hidden wooden knives in the shadow of the hammer. The knife remained behind the katana, and so, unnoticed by her opponent until he felt it hit his chest. Officially “dead,” the combatant left the area.
“Was that her final opponent?” Neith asked the technicians.
“I’m afraid not Hunter Bastet.” The technician used Neith’s codename as a sign of deference due to her higher rank, “she has to locate and defeat one more sniper.” Neith sighed, at this rate Tomoe wouldn’t have enough time to tell them the details that she was privy to as leader of the mission. Once they were on the plane to Nebraska, they would be continually monitored, and detail sharing from the higher ranked to the lower ranked was frowned upon. Neith took a moment to come to a decision before picking up a pair of earplugs, a hand gun, and a cartridge from a nearby rack. Neith gave the screen, which was focusing on the sniper, one more look in order to memorize outstanding details, before leaving the technician’s room in order to enter the Combat Area.
Neith took a minute to place the plugs in her ears, load the magazine, ram back the slide, locate the sniper, adjust her aim to account for the wind at the end of the barrel and what she predicted it would be like in the middle of the city, and fired. The bullet had been replaced with a capsule that held a paint that would declare whoever it had hit, as “dead,” and since the sniper was only half a kilometer from Neith, he was effectively “dead.” A few minutes later, Neith heard a rumble as Tomoe brought a motorcycle to a stop near Neith at the same time that Nathaniel entered the area.
“Did you have to do that?” Tomoe asked.
“I wanted to know more about the mission,” Neith responded. Tomoe nodded, she wasn’t very surprised.
“Well, our target is the strongest mage in the world, one of the Big Three. She’s a threat to all who aren’t magical. She’s a bigger threat than any mage that we’ve fought so far. If we don’t kill her now, she might meet the other two members of the Big Three. Ready to go?” Neith nodded as a smile appeared on her face.
A day later, Nathaniel, Tomoe, and Neith were in the Omaha reserve and had found their target. Neith’s pulse quickened as she studied the two story house. This was it, the moment of truth. They were about to take down one of the strongest supernatural creatures in the world. A monster that wouldn’t think twice before wiping out the normal humans of the world. Nathaniel snapped a picture of the target's house, as Tomoe and Neith scowled.
"Can you, just, stop? We could be surrounded by enemies." Neith asked.
"There isn’t a soul anywhere near us, I’ve been scanning our surroundings with radar since we got here. Besides, I'm just playing my role as an ignorant, rich, white boy," Nathaniel replied.
"As an actor, I must maintain my role at all times so that I can best portray my given persona."
"I don't know why you try so hard to be an ignorant white boy, when clearly it's a natural attribute of yours."
"Tell me about it, Medusa." Neith blushed.
"You petrify someone once..." Despite how angry she seemed, she was secretly thankful that Nathaniel was being annoying and distracting her from the stress of the situation. She didn’t know for sure, but had a hunch, that he was being so annoying to distract himself, after all he didn't have anywhere near the mission experience that she and Tomoe had.
"Guys! It's time for us to go," Tomoe whispered harshly. Silently, the trio dropped from the tree and crept up to the house. Nathaniel stepped forward to examine the lock.
"Nice. This is a Briar-turnstein 2000. Fancy, electric, and expensive. Where do Indians get the money for this stuff?" Nathaniel whistled. Neith gave Tomoe a disgusted look, as if to say, "See what I mean?" Tomoe rolled her eyes.
"Just open the door, Nathaniel," Tomoe hissed. Nathaniel pulled out a small black box and placed it against the thumb reader. Lights on the reader started flashing as the box's screen indicated the percentage of possible combinations that had been tried. Suddenly it beeped, and the readout said "ERROR." Nathaniel pulled out his tablet and connected it to the black box. Immediately, the tablet filled its screen with scrolling information. "Nathaniel, what's going on?"
"We've been caught. The program is trying to mess with the lock and stop, or slow down, the notification of the authorities. But it may not be fast enough."
"I see…" Tomoe mused.
"What should we do?" Neith asked Tomoe. Tomoe nodded her head once as she came to her decision.
"We should do this quickly."
"My box is going as fast as possible-"
"I have a faster way." Tomoe pulled a tonto from her pack, moved Nathaniel and his box away, and stabbed the lock. There was a fizz and some sparks, and then silence.
And that's when all hell broke loose. The grass around the house erupted into flames and chilling laughs boomed. Frightening, ten foot tall bodies flickered into and out of existence just beyond the edge of the pavement. Winged shadows flew through the air, as horned shades flitted near the walkway. The smell of sulfur choked the air, filling Neith with a sense of panic.
"The salt!" Neith and Nathaniel looked at Tomoe, who was looking at their feet. The cement walkway had turned transparent. The symbols and diagrams written in salt, within burned. As more of the salt burned away, the sounds from beyond the walkway grew in volume and the sulfur became increasingly pungent. "We have to get into the house!" Tomoe shouted as she began to cut a pentagram shaped hole in the door with her tonto.
"Is it getting hot in here? Nope, that's just me." Neith turned around to glare at Nathaniel but stopped when she saw the demon beyond Nathaniel, at the far edge of the walkway. It chortled as its hoofed foot took a step towards them. Without even thinking, Neith pulled out one of her guns and extended the length of the barrel. She loaded it with a cartridge of silver bullets and fired several times at the demon. It waved a clawed hand and the bullets exploded mid flight. Neith grimaced before firing five bullets into the ground just ahead of the demon. As soon as the demon stepped past the first bullet, shining white lines connected the bullets, forming an encircled pentagram beneath the creature. The demon roared in protest. "How long is that going to hold him?" Nathaniel asked.
"Not long enough. Through the hole, Nathaniel, go!" Tomoe ordered. "I'll destroy the Demon." When Nathaniel and Neith had entered the house, Tomoe signaled for them to split up before stepping towards the monster. Neith ran down the hallway in front of her, up a flight of stairs and into a long white corridor. At the end was a single door. Neith fired a shot into the door. She fired three more, at different heights and angles, concluded that the hallway contained no traps and walked toward the door.
When she opened the door, Neith scanned the room before resting her eyes on the little girl. She was dressed in grey and sitting on a small wooden chair. It was the only furniture in the room. Her long brown hair framed a set of dull eyes.
"Hello. My name is Donoma," the girl said. For a moment, Neith’s mind flashed back to her last mission when she had been sent to kill the wizard, another member of the Big Three. He had been younger than she had expected too. Certainly not old enough to have done any intentional harm to the world. Neith raised her gun so that its barrel was between her and Donoma. As her eyes searched Donoma's face for some sign of evil, some reason to kill her, she came across Donoma's eyes. As if a cold wind was blowing through her, Neith suddenly felt naked. Her eyes widened. "You're curious. Why are you here? Killing a little girl? Why was the place on top of a gate to hell? What's the point to any of this? How are you going to survive this?" Neith's hands started to shake. "Who is this little girl?" Donoma said at the same time that Neith thought the words.
"You're a strange one. Most people would have asked 'who I was' as one of their first questions. You've never been like others though, have you? Always questioning, wondering about your place in the universe. How you can atone for your sin." Neith clicked off the safety, determined to kill this little girl.
"I can answer some of your questions," Donoma droned on. "Why are you on top of a Hell Gate? The reason is quite simple; no one would be foolish enough to attempt to break into a building built on a Hell Gate. Hence the lack of need of an alarm. A flaming house and fiery lawn function slightly better than the average alarm. " A hole burned itself into the wall behind Donoma and out emerged an ogre. It snarled, turned its head around, and snarled with the face on the back of its head. "Can we go now? I can’t very well answer your questions if I’m dead." Neith nodded. She couldn’t kill Donoma… that would be murder, Neith thought. She would wait until Donoma revealed herself to be evil, she told herself, then she would shoot her. Donoma stood and left the room, with Neith close behind.
When they stepped out of the house, they were met with silence. The roaring, snapping sounds of fire had left. The cackling had stopped. There was now just silence. The house was still on fire though. On the roof, Nathaniel threw darts to keep the demons away from him. Meanwhile Tomoe struggled to back away from the demon. Her clothes were burned and torn, as she held her blade between her and the demon. She saw Neith and resolved to finish the fight quickly. With strength, Tomoe unleashed a torrent of cuts and slices at the demon. Neith turned away and started after Donoma.
"Where are we going?" Neith asked.
"To your destiny."
"Wow, that was original,” Neith said before she and Donoma stepped off of the property.
While Neith was taking her final step away from the house, the demon roared at Tomoe. But he had done this before and Tomoe was able to drop to the ground and roll clear of the sound attack. As Tomoe rose to her feet, she tossed a bottle of holy water in the air, followed by a knife that split it open and rained the water on the demon.
The monster roared as it moved its arms to protect its face. Tomoe took advantage of this moment to stab through the demon’s chest with her blade. For the sixth time that night, she started muttering the ritual for an exorcism. She was determined to get it right this time and save Neith. Before she had finished though, the creature exploded in a cloud of darkness. Tomoe panted as she turned to look at the house which had erupted into a pillar of flames at the same time that the demon had exploded. When the pillar had disappeared, the entire house was gone. Tomoe cursed as she pulled herself away from the house and to the rendezvous point. Not only had Tomoe failed the mission that had been entrusted to her, but she had also lost Neith. Her only conciliation for these losses was her imminent death when she was called in by the Council, who would judge her case.
Tomoe was in the call room for the fifth time that day.
"Has a mission come in yet?" Tomoe demanded of the staff. The staff ran everything mundane that had to do with the Organization. From cleaning the headquarters to handing out missions.
"Not in the last minute since you asked," one of the staffers snapped. "If anything, continuously bothering us will only slow us down." Another staffer cupped one of Tomoe's hands, "it will come when it comes. There's nothing that you or I can do to hurry the council's decision about which missions are most urgent. We'll call you when we get it, so just go wait in your room." Tomoe opened her mouth to respond, but stopped when she saw the staffer's look. "Go."
It had been a week since Neith had walked away with the target while she had finished off the demon. She looked at the top of her hand to see a burn scar from a tuft of smoke that had touched her. Even though her body had recovered from the injuries sustained in Nebraska, this scar had remained as a reminder of what she'd lost that day. An hour later, Tomoe was called.
"Hunter Tomoe Gozen is to report to council room six." The voice said nothing else before cutting off. When Tomoe entered the council room, she was surprised to see a row of six seated people. Generally when the council called in a hunter, it was to put them on trial and that required a jury of at least thirteen members of the council. This was because the council was entrusted with maintain the civility of the Organization. Tomoe was fully expecting a trial after having failed her last mission so miserably.
"You may close the door, hunter Gozen. We would like to talk to you about your latest assignment," said a man in the leftmost seat.
"We would like to verify some details," added a ginger haired woman, before looking at a paper in front of her. "So you have no idea where hunter Neith is?" Tomoe nodded. "And, hunter Nathaniel, he disappeared in a pillar of flames that consumed the entire property, thus destroying any evidence?" Her face expressionless, she nodded silently.
"Is it also true that you have been putting in several requests for missions lately?" A brown skinned man asked. Tomoe nodded, a little more certainly this time. A smiling blonde man slid a markless folder towards Tomoe. Tomoe picked it up and began looking through the contents. There were pictures of three different people. A pretty, dark skinned girl; a black haired boy with bronzed skin, and a thin, light skinned boy.
"We would like for you to finish hunter Neith's last mission and kill the people in the envelope."