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The Harmony Warrior

Grey Brothers. Souleaters, Leon thought with an uncontrollable shiver. He glanced around the alley and felt his stomach turn. They could have been regular thugs, dropouts from the very high school he went to, and he thought he might even have recognized some of their faces, but somehow, he knew they weren’t human. He could feel it. That was what the survivors said – witnesses, all of them, nobody could really survive a Grey attack – and Leon began to understand what they meant.

Nearly twenty of them crowded the alley that a small truck could have driven through, had the dumpster Leon stood beside not been there. Other than a few crates, bottles, and stray newspaper pages, the alley was empty. There was nothing that could help him. He glanced at his companion and his heart sank in dismay. Dep was smiling.

The kids at school often joked that Dep Revi would smile at his own death, and while Leon shared the joke as much as anyone, he never truly believed it. But even now, as they faced impossible odds and certain gruesome death, never mind the disturbing mystery of what would happen after their souls were consumed by these Grey Brothers, Leon still had never seen Dep without a smile on his face. He felt detached from Dep in that moment.

“You’re in our way,” Dep commented casually to the Greys. Every one of them wore a sadistic grin and eyed Dep and Leon hungrily.

“You hear that, boys?” asked the tallest of the Greys, dressed in a green football jersey and black jeans hanging low around his hips. “He says we’re in his way. Maybe you just don’t understand what we are, punk.” Leon swallowed hard as he remembered all the news reports he had seen about Grey Brother attacks. Not even forensics teams could approach the crime scene without special talismans or they’d get drawn into the spell as well.

“What I understand is that you’re still in our way,” Dep continued calmly, no trace of fear or worry in his black eyes and amused smile. Leon looked at his friend uncertainly. Did he not realize that they were surrounded by Grey Brothers? Even if they were human, the two of them didn’t stand a chance against such a large group. “Better fix that or this is going to get ugly.” Leon could hardly take his eyes off Dep. Another joke the kids at school shared about him was that he would raise Hell itself to the earth if he ever became truly angry. While Leon didn’t understand why that joke was made, somehow it seemed appropriate. He backed closer to the dumpster warily.

“Damn right this is gonna get ugly,” one of the other Greys piped in. “We’re Grey Brothers, asshole!”

“We’re gonna eat your souls,” the tallest Grey stated with a vicious grin. Leon pressed himself up against the wall and dumpster, his fear returning to the true danger at hand.

“I figured you wouldn’t listen,” Dep remarked. Leon stared at him. Today his hair was as black as his eyes, though in the light it shone blood red and in the shadows it looked blue. Sliding his battered black guitar case off his shoulder, he turned to Leon. As he held the guitar case toward him, Leon could see Dep’s dark irises narrow into thin slits like a snake’s eyes. He gasped, but Dep’s smile never wavered. “Hold this for me.” Leon took the case gingerly, his hands shaking. When Dep turned his gaze back to the Greys, exclamations of surprise rippled through them, but the tallest one grinned again soon enough.

“An Upper Realmer, huh?” he wondered. “We eat punks like you all the time.”

“Yeah, we ate one of you guys just the other day!” another Grey added.

“We ain’t scared of you!” yet another offered. Dep’s eyes narrowed and his smile grew dark.

“That’s because you’ve never faced a Harmony Warrior before,” he stated. Raising one hand, he picked the earphones of his MP3 player out of the front pocket of his collared overshirt and placed them in his ears.

Suddenly, static broke through in Leon’s own MP3 player, turned off and ignored since they were cornered by the Greys. He pulled it out of his pocket while music began filtering through the noise. The text displaying the song’s title and artist was not only in a language he did not understand, but it was not even one he recognized. The Greys shifted into fighting positions, unease showing in some of them.

After a moment, an acoustic guitar solo broke through the static in Leon’s MP3 player. It was a song he had heard before, but not one he had on his MP3 player. He looked up with a start. The music had far greater depth and clarity than his headphones provided, as if the guitarist was standing right beside him.

The guitar played a hard, fast-paced tune, but without any accompaniment, it was soft. Leon watched as Dep bent his knees, holding his hands before him in a karate stance. For once, he wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t angry, either. His face was calm and expressionless and his eyes were closed.

A second guitar came in shortly, accenting the first, and Dep moved as smooth as water to the tune, shifting into various Tai Chi poses. The Greys watched, uncertain, anxious, or angry, while the two guitars strummed.

Finally, one of the Greys raced toward Dep. Leon panicked, but Dep glided aside with the drums, bass, and electric guitar, strong and wailing, that came in with the Grey’s approach. The drums were minimal and the electric guitar slow, keeping the pace the acoustics began but building up to something stronger. Dep flowed with the music, deftly avoiding the Greys whose frustration drove them to attack, despite the tallest Brother’s yells.

All at once, as the guitars and drums roared out of the introduction and more electric guitars and synths exploded into a powerful section, the Greys charged Dep. Leon almost cried out, but Dep danced, ducking and parrying the blows thrown at him. He moved to the music, never missing a beat, and the Greys couldn’t touch him.

The Greys parted enough for Leon to get a clear glimpse of Dep as a drum riff ended that section. Dep slowed to the drum’s lead, but the riff ended in a pounding of snares and the battle raged.

The synth rose up for the melody to begin, the guitars, bass, and drums keeping a fast beat behind it. Dep leaped over and darted under the Greys, spinning around them, tripping them, throwing them over his back, and blocking and throwing blows with such astounding grace that the fight seemed coordinated. Leon frequently lost sight of Dep, only to find him a beat or two later slamming a flat hand against a smaller Grey or leaping into a roundhouse at a larger one. He always moved to the beat, dodging the Grey Brothers’ clumsy punches with perfect timing as the music guided his movements. He followed the drums and guitars and synths and they kept him always one step ahead of the Greys. Sometimes the melody would soften and Dep would slow his movements or an electric guitar would accompany the synth with raging strength and Dep would speed up with it. The Greys didn’t know the music and their movements clashed to what Leon listened to, but Dep continued to dance.

Occasionally, a Grey Brother would come reeling over toward Leon, but they didn’t so much as glance at him before running back for Dep. The blows he landed would have crippled normal men in short order, but the Greys with their inhuman strength returned quickly, refusing to give up for their vast advantage in numbers.

Leon could have been standing there watching for hours or even days. Time seemed to stand still. There was no victor emerging and the Greys seemed unhurt at all and still the song played. Leon eventually discovered he was tapping his foot to the beat, but even when he realized it, he didn’t stop. He simply watched and clutched Dep’s guitar case, entranced.

After an eternity of dancing, the Greys spread out, some panting or wiping blood away, while the music faded to the acoustic guitars the song had opened with. Dep moved with unbelievable slowness, leaping into a backflip that defied gravity with its length as the tallest Grey Brother came rushing beneath him, a beat too late. He didn’t move except during the drums and electric guitar chords that came once per measure, but it was all he needed to do.

The music picked up even faster after that segment ended and the Greys swarmed Dep. He became a blur, moving too fast for Leon to see. The Greys went flying to the beat, Dep slamming his feet and flat hands against them harder than ever. One by one, they fell.

When another drum riff kicked up, Dep grasped the arm of the tallest Brother as he charged, hitting all the Greys out of the way with his body. The drum riff ended and Dep released the tallest Grey to tumble hard against the ground. The electric guitars picked up at the end of the riff and so suddenly that it surprised Leon, the song ended.

He had been so transfixed on the fight it hadn’t even registered in his mind that the Greys that had fallen had not risen again. Dep held his final pose while the Greys groaned, glaring at him, but none of them dared challenge him again. Without another word, they rose roughly to their feet and soon faded into shadows. As quickly as they had arrived, they were gone, the alley empty but for Leon and Dep.

Leon panted quietly as if he had been part of the fight from where he crouched against the dumpster. He didn’t even remember kneeling down. After a long few seconds of silence, static filled his headphones again. By the time he looked down to the MP3 player still in his hand, it was off.

Dep let out a heavy breath, his trademark smile returning to his face. Walking over to Leon, he took the guitar case and asked, “Are you okay?” Leon stared at him, amazed and horrified at the same time.

“You’re… you’re a Shadowlander?” he uttered. As uncertain as he felt about Dep at that moment, he allowed his black-haired friend to help him to his feet.

“We all have our secrets,” he remarked simply. He brushed a piece of dust off Leon’s shoulder and smiled at him again. “Well, I think the guys are waiting for us, now, aren’t they?” Leon didn’t know how he could concentrate on arcade games at a time like this, but he followed Dep out of the alley and on through the city anyway. No trace remained in the alley of what had transpired and Dep looked the same as he always had, his black eyes now round as usual.

Leon didn’t tell anyone what had happened for a long time.

© Catherine Fitzsimmons

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