The silhouette stood tall, sun illuminating his large physique from behind - a stark contrast to his raven-shaded clothing and hair.
It was time already.
Kano bit his lip, subconsciously outstretching an arm to keep the others behind him. He dropped it as his gaze met with the man in front of them. Stark yellow eyes traced each an every person behind him, before finding the small girl at the back.
A gleeful grin stretched across the stranger's face.
"You gathered them together for me... just as promised..." his eyes returned to Kano's as he spat his words with a hiss, "good boy..."
"Kano? Do you know this man?" The voice of a young woman, 'Kido', questioned from behind.
The snake laughed, sickenly forced and laced with mockery, before signalling to the boy like a dog.
Reluctantly, he obeyed, stepping forward slowly. The snake stopped him, taking a moment to enjoy the despaired faces of the boy's companions before pulling out a gun.
He aimed directly at the boy's forehead.
Kano's breath paused. For a second, everything stilled. Nobody spoke, nobody moved. The silence was broken by the snake laughing once again as he lowered the weapon, placing it on the ground and kicking it over to the deceiver.
Eagerly, he watched as the boy shakily reached for the gun. It gracefully danced between both of his hands - as if deciding which to settle in before falling into his right.
"This wasn't part of the plan..." the boy muttered, glaring daggers at the man stood in front of him.
"Ah, I think you'll find I have the right to change the contract at any time...
"But they're here now! You have nothing else to gain, so just do what you need to and get it over with!"
"You have one bullet..." the snake silenced him, "one bullet to shoot and kill whomever you like..."
The air was dense once again.
"You know I could just kill you, right?"
"Oh, I'm well aware." The snake smiled, pulling out a second gun which he once again aimed to the deceiver's head. "But I trust that you won't..." he grinned.
Kano tensed, staring at the weapon in his hand before raising his head to look at the group. There were faces of confusion, terror, betrayal... the last one hurt most to see.
He slowly raised the gun.
Audible gasps of surprise and cries of fear from multiple people gave him a strange sensation that filled his heart with both pain and power. The way Momo hid behind Kido, Marry pushing herself closer to Seto...
But there was one person who stood alone...
"Tick tock, my dear..." the snake sang, practically beaming at the sight of his loyal pet turning against his team.
The sound of gunfire echoed the sky as screams arose in the group. The snake hummed.
"Whoops~ slip of the hand," he teased, moving the aim of his gun back to Kano, "at least I've narrowed the choice down for you..."
As his heart raced, Kano fought back the snakes words - fractically trying to find who the casualty was.
Seto was laying on the ground, bleeding from the chest. Marry desperately leanded over him as others rushed to his aid.
"Three more seconds and I shoot the ghost."
He couldn't keep stalling - panic took over as his fingers locked around the trigger.
Kano barely had time to register his thoughts before his finger pulled the trigger. Deep down, though, he knew exactly who he'd aimed for.
After all, it was the person he most wanted to see dead... wasn't it?
The snake bellowed with laughter, dropping his gun as he reached into the group to pull out the target. Shintaro's eyes were filled with a confused pain as they met with Kano's. He remained unharmed; the bullet had missed.
Kano didn't know how he felt about that.
"So this is our lucky winner, ladies and gentlemen! Oh, isn't this exciting?! Tell me, how does it feel knowing that your companion here hates you enough to want to take your life?"
"Kido, take everyone and run." Kano ordered, his voice shaking.
Gunfire sounded before another word was said; Kido fell to her knees.
"And here I was thinking the commander was the one who was meant to give the orders..." the snake once again interjected, firing two more bullets through the leader's skull, taking Momo out with her, "guess not anymore..."
The sound of Marry shrieking pierced the sky harder than the bullets did, as she tightened her grip around Seto's now unconscious body.
"Now, back to the task at hand... how would you rather see this boy die, hm?" Kano turned rapidly to see the snake holding Shintaro by the neck. "How about I slowly suffocate him while you drive a knife into his chest?"
"Please, stop... if all you need is the snakes why don't you just get it over with? You don't need to touch him, he doesn't have what you want."
"Stop? You seem awfully keen on protecting this boy's life... especially considering you tried to shoot him just a second ago... It's almost as if you don't actually want him to die..."
The snake dropped the boy to the ground, snatching his phone from his pocket.
Crushing the device with his bare hands, he promptly tossed the shattered broken pieces onto the gravel.
"Isn't it funny how we've ended up in this situation? Just a small group of buddies, hm? Such a shame we'll have to cut it short..." he handed Kano a clean gun.
Kano's hands wrapped around the handle, his gaze switching between the weapon, the snake, and Shintaro.
"You have three chances this time, since I now know how much of a shitty aim you are..." the snake teased.
Kano raised the gun, pointing in at the older boy's head. The other's eyes were filled with regret and confusion - but not surprise.
"You're not even going to say anything?" Kano finally started, "at least plead for your life, for God's sake! What's wrong with you?"
"I-" the helpless victim faltered, "I don't understand... Kano, I thought-"
"Of course you don't understand..." the shake in Kano's voice was evermore noticeable now, as his grip tightened around the gun. "You never do..."
Two years: Two years of pain and hatred had led up to this moment. Here he was now, stood in front of the boy who he'd spent so long accusing for his problems - the power to take his life... someone he'd wished death upon so many times... and yet, he couldn't do it.
No, he didn't want to do it.
"Do you... hate me?"
"Yes." The answer slipped out of Kano's mouth all to soon, "you're arrogant, you're selfish, you're admirable, you're perfect, and I hate you so much..."
No you don't.
"Admirable? Kano, you-"
"Stop it... just stop..." Kano was openly crying now, "I can't listen to your voice anymore. Everything about you... I can't stand it. I just want you to die."
Stop lying to yourself.
"I'm sorry... Whatever I've done I can try to fix"
"I don't want you to apologise..." Kano's fingers locked tighter and tighter around the trigger of the gun, "It's too late..." a stray tear rolled down his cheek.
His fingers locked around the trigger.
"All this time..." he exhaled, somewhere caught between a sigh, a sob and a laugh, "I guess I loved you, Shintaro..."
The air froze for a moment.
Smoke escaped the barrel of the snake's gun as he and Shintaro both watched Kano's lifeless body hit the ground.
"Well, wasn't that enlightening?" The snake smiled, moving over to pick up the gun next to the boy's corpse, "to think, he actually thought this thing had bullets in it!"
"Y-You killed him..."
"You're honestly surprised? I wasn't going to let the deceiver over here have all the fun! I wonder how that conversation felt for you..."
Shintaro shakily tried to reach towards Kano, but the snake stood between them, gun poised straight towards him. Thoughts raced around his mind, but for the first time in his life he couldn't see the patterns between them.
"You bastard..." he hissed, fighting back the tears pressed against his eyes.
Oo, language~" the snake teased, "I think I remember someone calling me that once after his sister dropped of a roof..." he continued, lavishing in the pained look on Shintaro's face as the clockwork in his mind clicked into place.
"This has been a blast, but I think it's time we move onto the next round, don't you?" he smiled, aiming his gun at Shintaro once again.
The boy edged back, too weak to do anything else. Nobody was moving. Kano was dead. His sister was dead. Kido, Seto... all dead.
"You see, the deceiver wasn't the only one who had an interest in you... which is why I'm sorry to have to do this..."
The last thing Shintaro saw was the sickening grin on the snake's face.