“Kuh-” blood sprayed across the smooth granite floor from her continuous cough and in the middle of the puddle is Karen kneeling. Her haori dyed red with blood and still holding her fans, unwilling to let it go despite the pain that she is currently experiencing.

“Whatever you do, never let go of your Will. Because they are the only thing separating you from escaping with your life or dying when you are outmatched.”

Those were the words that she was taught by Fuji. And in a matter of fact, every Karma was taught this. Their Wills are the only effective thing that they can use to defend themselves in any situation from demons.

With the pain subsiding a little, she sluggishly stood up but her ragged breathing couldn’t normalize despite whatever she had tried to do. The shock from that punch was just too great for her body to handle. Her haori offers protection, but it is limited to sharp objects that are used for slashing or piercing. It doesn’t protect her against blunt force trauma.

“What… Are you?” a question that she was barely able to muster from her thoughts.

“A neglected experiment from a forgotten time long past.”

“Why… Are you collecting Wills?”

“Hm? Well, I say, you are able to piece together what I am after? I am gathering materials for my final experiment. A wonderful, wonderful experiment.”

From my parents in the village to the graveyard in Chisa and the case with the Shade in Yukari. Those are the only ones I know of and they are similar in that Wills are collected, or, have been attempted to be taken.

Karen was able to piece together what the figure wants but not its motive.

Walking forward, she began to pick up speed and soon, she went into a full dash towards the figure with her fan’s wind blades activated.

Slash, slash, slash – She had used her weapon on the figure multiple times, but they were easily dodged because of her now sluggish movements. On her final slash, her hands were caught. Her arm movements are now restricted. Realizing what would happen next, she opened the fan on her other arm and called forth a barrier of air to act as a cushion from what is to come.

However, the punch that she had predicted to come was a blunder. Rather than a punch, the figure decides to go for her head. But no, not to decapitate her, he needs her alive. The figure grabbed her head and slams it on the ground, enough to incapacitate her, but not enough to kill her.

“I need to bring you back alive,” the figure said to her, “you have two things that are required for my final experiment.”

The figure took the fan from the hand that it had grabbed onto and said, “not these, unfortunately,” and snaps it in two before initiating a spell and burning it into ashes.

Karen was fortunately not unconscious, but she was unfortunate enough to witness one of her mentor’s Will (more like half of it as it came in a set) get turned to ash. Her eyes swelled with tears as it was passed down to her. It was her responsibility to take care of it. And now, half of the set is gone. She angrily held onto the figure’s leg and looked at it in the eyes with a look that says “you monster!”

Mom will be disappointed… She thought. And I got the haori dirty too. Haha, never was I taught that something this powerful would appear…

“A little fight left in you?” it reacted. “As of this moment, when I had unleashed the chimeras, it is set in stone that the lesser experienced ones in here, mainly the apprentices will die. The more experienced one might help them, but it looks like they have their hands full as well. From what I can see so far, about fifteen are dead and it is increasing as time goes on. If you come with me, I will call off the attack. My objective here is you.”

“Am I your last target?” Karen muttered, drifting between being conscious and unconscious.

“If the experiment is what I expect, then yes.”

Hearing that, she let go of its leg, signaling that she gave up and closed her eyes.

“Good.”