A cold autumn wind blew with a sick whistle across the field. Little shreds of the ruined thorn bush caught the wind and traveled along with the gale. The wind was Yohko's boon.
"Ichigo," The gust was louder to Chikako's ears then Yohko's low whisper and so she did not detect it. "should something happen to Azusa, please..." The hunter swallowed the sudden lump that had formed in the throat. "Please don't hesitate to send her to the Soul Society. She's just a kid. She doesn't deserve this."
Ichigo's cold, gray eye regarded Yohko a moment, giving a little sliver of head movement for a nod. He then cast his gaze forward, taking a slight step towards the two girls.
"CHIKAKO!" Yohko cried out, a sudden action that startled even herself. "I know you can hear me! There's a demon controlling you! Fight it, Chi!"
Even over the empty expanse between them, Yohko could see that her friend's eyes looked hollow, completely black; any light touching them was immediately absorbed into voids of nothingness. Chi scowled, empty eyes narrowing as she reached out an arm. A blade much like an exaggerated tuning fork materialized. The prongs were both gently curved to the left, the outer prong's edge serrated and cruel. The schoolgirl's hand gripped the handle.
"Chi!" begged Yohko once again. "Please. I know you can fight this. And I know you don't want to hurt Azusa."
"Don't I?" She hissed, bringing the double points of her weapon to the hollow of the captive hunter's throat. A cruel, taunting smile darkened Chikako's visage, dead eyes never looking away from Yohko. "Care to test that theory?"
Yohko swallowed down bile that shot up her throat. It was a familiar and unpleasant sting and flavour, and usually was a harbinger of terrible things on the horizon.
Keep her talking, damnit! Ichigo thought as he chanced another step. He had covered a few yards by now, and was now close enough to see moonlight glinting off the rivulets of blood seeping down Azusa's torn and violated body. The poor girl couldn't have been much older than Yuzu and Karin, a thought which made Ichigo's heart lurch in his chest, through his demeanor never changed.
"Chi!" Ichigo could hear Yohko continue to plea with her possessed friend. Good, at least Chi was distracted.
"Think of what you're doing!" Yohko uttered a small chuckle. "If you kill Azusa, you kill your profits too!"
"Your joke was forced, Yohko." sneered Chikako, shifting the blade so that the silver glow of the moon rested upon the jagged edge.
Another yard behind him, Ichigo kept his eyes focused on Azusa, moving near silently.
Azusa weakly lifted her head, and her large eyes connected with those of Ichigo. The pleading look unsettled the Soul Reaper, and he let out a sudden gasp.
"Oh, and Yohko?" Chi chirped out with a sticky sweet voice. "Control your boyfriend."
Confusion clouded the minds of the non-possessed as Chi swung her blade horizontally, aiming to cleave Azusa in twain.
"NO!" Both Yohko and Ichigo had called out the word. Thinking fast, Yohko pulled a talisman from her pantywaist. She had tucked them in there as a secret weapon, per her grandmother's guidance. Now, she flung it towards Chi, an effort in exorcising the demon within her before Azusa could come to any more harm.
Meanwhile, Ichigo ran towards the pair, readying his sword.
An ill wind caught the paper talisman, carrying it harmlessly past Chi as she followed through with the strike.
Azusa's scream was cut abruptly short as she was cut open, her flesh and blood body quickly losing feeling. There was no more pain.
But somehow, Azusa found herself standing, her arms no longer bound. A broken chain hang listlessly from her collarbone, and she poked it curiously.
Ichigo screamed out as he launched himself into the sky, turning his blade so that the pommel would come down on Azusa. Azusa looked up curiously, innocently, at the descending Ichigo. What did he mean to do?
Please. Yohko begged silently to the Gods as she watched the scene unfurl, playing out in what seemed to be slow motion before her eyes. Please.
Just before Ichigo could stamp the lost Hunter's forehead, Azusa found herself swept out from under him. A strong arm had scooped her backwards, then she felt herself being lifted up.
Ichigo swore as he saw the hollow which now held Azusa. It was a rather unremarkable looking one, but it laughed all the same, before quite suddenly biting into the poor girl. She screamed, which served to call more hollows to her. They slipped and swirled around a now giggling Chi, who watched the scene with a dark pride.
Yohko was now at Ichigo's side, eyes full of tears as she watched the monsters devour her partner. She struggled forward, but Ichigo grabbed onto her, pulling the young woman to his chest. "No!"
Yohko gripped the front of Ichigo's gi, pressing her face against his strong chest and salting it with her tears.
When the hollows withdrew, there was a new one in their group. Its body was somewhat amazonian, female with rippling muscles. The remnants of tattered red cloth hid her modesty, and the face over her true face was the skull of a goat, similar to a Devil Hunter's ring.
Ichigo pushed Yohko from him, delicately, and she looked up, to what Azusa now was. Ichigo glared around them. A handful of hollows surrounded them, and all looked hungry to add a couple of exorcists to their dinner plates.
"We have a problem..."