So, bored, sitting around, nothing to do. Wanted to write something, anything really, so I wrote this.
I apologize for the really bad pun.
The fields stirred.
From the tall greenery and flowering plants, a figure rose out. Keeping low to remain hidden, it rushed urgently towards the banks. The figure knew that despite the tranquil air surrounding it, it was in grave danger the longer it remained here. And it had waited nearly 1000 years for this. Reaching the edge of the murky waters, the figure stood, thought, and leapt with all its might.
Not into the waters.
It leapt over the waters.
The nigh-uncrossable barrier that is the Sanzu River, in its long history of separating the living and the departed, would finally be crossed. Without a ferryman.
Normally, a ferryman must transport souls from Shigan; the banks along the land of the living side of the Sanzu to Higan. The Sanzu could not be crossed without a ferryman and their boat? on the water at least; anything that swam across, or attempted to sank below the surface to a cruel fate of remaining in between life and death beneath the river. This is what made the Sanzu seemingly impassable to invaders who would intrude upon the realm of the Yama or souls that sought escape from their judgement for countless millennia.
This might not seem impenetrable; many not knowing about the Sanzu River would think to simply fly across. After all, any other river in Gensokyo could simply be flown over. Not the Sanzu. Over its waters, a thick fog hung. The foolish who flew into this enigmatic mist never returned nor made it to the other side. Caught above the river waters, they would fly until tiring and falling into the Sanzu to sink into a watery limbo.
That is why the figure had not flown through the fog; it had leapt headfirst into it. It understood that by leaping, it must land somewhere, anywhere. By leaping, it had no chance of deviating from its intended trajectory. And gravity would eventually take over and bring it back to Earth. Quite literally a leap of faith. Any other being would have seen this escape as beyond foolhardy and stupid. But it was possible. It could be done. The figure understood this as well. And the figure trusted in its intuition of where it would land.
In a world lacking common sense, the figure's plan made absolute sense in its mind.
It guessed, no, knew that it would land on the other side.
Back to the land of the living.
Such a feat could never be attempted by a mere human. But the figure was not an ordinary man. This was a man who while alive had shattered the bones of ONI with his punches. Even mountains could not stand forever in his path. He Instead carved tunnels through with his bare fists. There was absolutely nothing human about him; with a body fit for a member of the Big Four given action by the soul of a demon. And with a fearsome ability, no less.
If he did not possess such a wondrous and terrible gift, this entire escape would have been impossible.
The ferryman arrived on the bank of Higan with a spiritual passenger. The traveler thanked the boatman, paid his fare and stepped off into the blooming fields. The boatman sighed, propping herself up with a nasty-looking sickle that had an unusual wave at the end of the blade. The return of the 60 year cycle was almost here and souls waiting on the Shigan-side of the Sanzu were starting to pile up. That meant more work, a tiring affair, one she didn't hate, but rather disliked for having to work longer than she needed to. This line of work really wore her out and for someone like her who was exceptional in ferrying people to and fro, she needed to rest sometime. Preferably now.
The ferryman's name was Komachi Onozuka. Having gained a reputation as a ?slacker? shinigami, she tended to spend her hours off duty (and some on) napping along the bank. Despite her laziness, she enjoyed ferrying people across the Sanzu? aside from hearing the grim details of their deaths.
However, it truly interested her in the many faces she met each day and the various stories each person would have to tell while crossing the river. It was the experience that kept her working; something other, more rigid and straightforward shinigami would fail to understand. Payment was something she didn't care about, which could be seen in her carefree attitude toward it. She sometimes even used her excess finances for her danmaku! Of course, she still had to turn away those who couldn't pay; Hell's financial problems remained a big issue. As for the ones who absolutely refused, she simply tossed them into the river. Regardless of whether they were good or not; if they didn't want to do something as simple as paying, they didn't deserve passage across.
Waiting on her boat, Komachi didn't notice anything special happening in Higan. After glancing around the bank, she was sure no one was nearby watching her. Sitting down on the seat of her boat, she let out a great yawn.
"Haaah, now I can take a bit of shut-eye. Pretty sure the Yama wouldn't mind too much; I transported several souls today already. Shouldn't be a problem."
With another yawn, the shinigami set her scythe down and lay her head on the prow of the boat as she almost instantly drifted off into sleep.
Hours passed before Komachi felt something nudging her head. As she tried to fall back to sleep, the soft pokes became hard prodding.
Komachi leapt up, nearly flipping over her small boat. As she regained her balance from the boat's rocking, a girl in a dark blue dress with a strange-looking rod stuck her face in Komachi?s.
"Why are you sleeping on the job?"
"Oh? hi Shiki-sama."
It was the Yama. Normally, she'd be the last person to greet the souls that traveled here; passing out judgement based on the quality of their lives at the end of their journey. The extraordinarily good, even saintly were often entitled the privileged right of passing on into heaven. The malicious spirits that stood before her often were sentenced to hell; being temporarily removed from the reincarnation cycle as well as punished for their wrongdoings. And then there were the souls that weighed in between these two extremes. If their good deeds neither outweighed or were outweighed by their bad deeds, they were simply placed back in the cycle of reincarnation; to try and improve themselves to gain entrance into heaven.
That was Eiki Shiki's policy on what the reincarnation cycle was for. To her, everyone deserved entrance into heaven? just not at the same time. Many of the people around her (including Komachi herself) were often lectured daily on their personal flaws. Most would eventually be irritated to the point of simply avoiding her but Komachi didn't mind at all. She understood that Eiki's lecturing was an honest attempt to help improve her. Of course, as a shinigami, she could care less. It wasn't like she herself had to undergo the reincarnation process.
Today though was a rather odd one. Usually, it would be Komachi who was brought before the Yama to receive a lecture about work ethics and whatnot. Today, it was the opposite. Eiki never left her post unless on a work break, however few she got. The look on Eiki's face though, suggested that she wasn't here on break. Komachi had been around the Yama long enough to know when she was relaxed. Eiki still lectured while on break, but she carried an eased look that only her friends (mostly other yama but yes, she had them) and Komachi could notice.
Right now however, the Yama seemed edgy, unusual for someone who calmly gave judgement to souls of all kinds of natures. Before Komachi could ask what was troubling Eiki, the Yamaxanadu stepped into the boat and promptly sat down.
Eiki gave Komachi a look of annoyance. Today was definitely strange. The yama was not one to be so impatient with others, especially Komachi.
"What are you waiting for? I'd like to cross over to Shigan."
This was a surprise. Never in her time as shinigami had Komachi heard of a yama needing to cross the Sanzu River for something work-related.
"Eiki? I don't know what the fare for a yama is."
"Komachi?" The Yama began to speak before trailing off; her left eye twitching uncontrollably. Though only joking, the shinigami knew that now was a good time to shut up. She'd really get lectured if she said anything more. Grabbing the oar, Komachi used the paddle end to push the boat away from the shore and set off. Utilizing her distance manipulation, she cut the riding time down to about half an hour, the quickest possible.
Traveling across the river, neither of the two spoke. It was awkward for the ferryman; she was used to at least some sort of idle chat here and there. As for the Yama, she sat looking out into the mist. There seemed to be something on her mind, but Komachi didn't ask. After seeing how tense Eiki was, she figured it was best for the Yama to tell her when she was ready. Several minutes passed by before Eiki finally spoke.
"We've got an escaped spirit."
Komachi blinked for a few seconds, dumbfounded. Nothing that tried to cross the river EVER made it to the other side. Not without a shinigami ferrying them across anyway.
"How? exactly did they cross the Sanzu?"
Eiki remained quiet, probably wondering the same thing as Komachi. There wasn't any apparent way to cross the Sanzu River alone. It seemed unbelievable to the both of them. Another question quickly formed in Komachi's head after that.
"Uh, who? who is it that escaped?"
Again, Eiki was silent, though after a few moments she replied back.
"I'm not sure. The person's name is lost in the records. It probably has to do with the fact that they went missing in the fields of Higan for many years."
Higan, like the Sanzu has a mist that covers the blooming meadows. This mist however, was much thicker once traveling souls passed over the first few hills of Higan. The way souls reached the yama was by essentially forming a line at the edge of the fog until they arrived at the judging grounds. A person that strayed too far from the line was often lost, wandering blind through the seemingly endless fields of Higan.
This was THE final deterrent to those that might try and escape their fate. As for why escaping souls never stayed close to the line while turning back, several shinigami guided the line to the yama. Souls that tried to break from the line and flee were either caught by the shinigami, or let go into the mists. The shinigami guards were certainly more favorable of letting the criminals wander in the mist; to them it was a form of entertainment during their boring job. Since they were unaffected by the blinding mist, they had little trouble finding souls if they had to. Of course, even they were unable to find every single lost soul.
Lost souls were considered gone from the reincarnation cycle for good. Hence, why this sinner's name was removed from the records.
And yet, somehow, they had not only managed to find a way out of the mists, they had found a way back into the living world. Escaping both the Higan and Sanzu mists, alive? The very idea was unthinkable.
Komachi rowed. Faster. Now she understood why the Yama was so high-strung today. Escaping without a shinigami meant that whoever crossed the Sanzu was by no means an ordinary human. And the fact that they also got out of the mists of Higan meant that whatever soul had finally broken free was beyond ancient; even IF they knew how to find their way out. It was unclear what happened to a mortal spirit that stayed out of the reincarnation cycle for too long; all that was assumed was that it did ?things? to them. A soul wasn't exactly meant to exist beyond more than a hundred years outside of a body. It'd go mad.
Crossing the Sanzu alone required some sort of ability. It was not physically possible for an average Gensokyan to fly across. They'd drown in the Sanzu after losing their way in the mist. What they were dealing with could quite possibly have been a hermit. Hermits possessed supernatural abilities, which might explain how this spirit was able to return to the living without a shinigami. They also were occasionally tested by assassins from hell; if they failed these centennial tests, they were immediately sent to hell. However, as a soul, they still had to cross the Sanzu as well as through Higan. A rogue hermit spirit escaping seemed an easy explanation to the successful break out.
Despite Komachi speeding up her pace, Eiki looked restless. Regardless of what this escaped spirit was, it was at least clear that they were dangerous. The very idea they would spend who-knows-how-long to get back to the living world meant that this soul was determined. It would put up a fight. And neither of the two knew exactly what this sinner was capable of. This was a serious problem; there was no telling what the spirit would do once it was free. According to the reports, the fugitive had been spotted on Shigan a couple of hours ago. Hopefully, the two could subdue the sinner before anyone living got hurt. They still had some catching up to do though? they were behind the sinner by hours.
After a few more moments, Eiki stood up; an urgent look on her face. Although this was completely unlike the calm and patient yama that she knew, Komachi understood that an incident like this had never happened before. It was reasonable to assume that all of Hell was in an uproar from these unforeseen events. And more problematic was the fact that this had been labeled an incident. An incident that got to the ears of the Hakurei was something they knew the miko couldn't resist staying out of. If the shrine maiden were to fight this spirit, it was unclear how she would fare. This was a being who probably didn't understand nor want to understand the danmaku system. It would likely steamroll her using whatever abilities it had used to free itself. At full power.
"Komachi. How close are we?"
"Hmm, we're about a third of the river away from Shigan."
Eiki frowned, which concerned the shinigami. To Komachi, the speed she was going at was fast? she was actually leaving a big wake behind her tiny rowboat. It didn't get much faster than that, yet the Yama was still not satisfied. Despite this, Eiki finally sat back down. There wasn't much reason to continue riling herself up; not with such a threat loose in Gensokyo.
The rest of the journey was quiet. While Komachi had many more things she wanted to ask Eiki about the escaped spirit, she figured she'd find out herself upon meeting this sinner. The Yama also probably didn't know much more about this one than herself; Eiki was still a relatively new judge. As they finally came within view of Shigan, it was clear something had passed through here.
What had tipped them off had been the great craters scattered across the landscape.
As Komachi anchored the boat to the shore, Eiki hopped off the boat. Scanning her surroundings, the Yama noticed scorch marks spaced out around them. What made these stand out was that they weren't surrounding the crater sites. Rather, they formed great streaks along the ground. Like someone had used a stream or jet of flame to make them. It looked as though something had been fighting their fugitive; the question now being what was the spirit's doing? and what was its adversary?s?
Komachi joined up with Eiki and the two of them began walking through the badly carved-up hillside. They were now treading along the border between Muenzuka and the region surrounding Hakugyokurou. A ghost shrine, Hakugyokurou was the residence of Yuyuko Saigyouji and her assistant, Youmu Konpaku. Centuries ago, the shrine had been given to Yuyuko under the conditions that she oversaw the Netherworld for the yama. This had been around the time Hell was expanding and required more space for the ever-increasing amount of sinners. Without the manpower to continue supervising souls arriving into the Netherworld, the yama had requested Miss Saigyouji to act as a supervisor of that area. So far, the arrangement had worked out pretty well.
And who should the two of them meet first but the lady of Hakugyokurou herself? Wandering aimlessly, the bourei princess appeared to be looking for something in the scarred land. After finally noticing the two, Yuyuko waved both of them over to her. Despite her seemingly ditzy personality, the ghost woman had tremendous intuition and clarity. It was likely that she would know something about the cause of the craters and scorch marks in the vicinity.
"Ah, Miss Shiki, Miss Onozuka. Good to see you today. What brings you here?"
"Oh, well, we just came to investigate the cause of these craters here. We think someone from Higan crossed over to Shigan earlier." Komachi replied to the bourei for Eiki who was turning bright red trying to hold in a lecture. Controlling herself around someone as nonsensical as Yuyuko was a difficult task for the Yama. And Yuyuko practically exuded an air of? well, air headedness. Eiki was having a hard time containing her desire to scold the ghost for her silly behavior. Not that it was her fault. Judging thousands of souls a day did that to a person.
"Oh my. Are they dangerous? I should let Youmu know."
"Yes, we think they might be." Komachi continued while the Yama did her best to ignore the urge to lecture. "Would you happen to know anything about them?"
"Let's see?" Yuyuko brought a hand to her mouth as she began to ponder deeply. Eyes closed, the ghost thought hard for a minute before her eyes popped back open as she remembered something.
"Ah. That girl? I sent her to go get me something to eat." Food. Of course. With Yuyuko, food was always the most important thing.
Komachi shook her head; something like this was to be expected from a hungry ghost. Eiki on the other hand, collapsed, out of breath. She had kept her mouth shut for the entire conversation just to prevent a single harsh word slipping out. Starting to lose the bourei to her own eating fantasies, the shinigami tried to get the conversation back on track as Eiki gasped for air.
"No, no. We don't need to know where Youmu went to get you food. We want to know if you know anything about the escaped sinner. Like say, where it went?"
Yuyuko pointed toward the tree line. Straight at a group of splintered and charred trees. "Hmm, I sent her that way. I hope she found that grilled lamprey stand?"
That was not a good sign. Despite the two having found where their free spirit had gone, now they had to catch it before Youmu crossed paths with it. Regardless of the fact that the half-ghost was an accomplished swordsman, the escaped sinner still posed a grave threat to anyone in its way.
Eiki finally looked like she had caught her breath. Exchanging glances, the pair acknowledged silently that their mission had just become more urgent. Without warning, the duo took off; heading in the general direction that Yuyuko had pointed in.
As the two rushed towards that particular part of the woods, Komachi turned back to reassure Yuyuko. "Don't worry! We'll make sure Youmu brings back those grilled lamprey!"
Seeing them off, Yuyuko remembered something else. Before she could call out to them, the Yama and shinigami pair had already disappeared into the greenery. Now alone, the now puzzled bourei mumbled to herself what she had just recalled.
The path of destruction led deep into the woods. Without end, the shinigami and Yama met splintered trees and torn earth. And despite their haste, the pair felt as though they had gone in circles.
The leading member was the shinigami. With the power of distance manipulation, her strides seemed to reach impossibly far as she began to separate from her partner. Eiki, despite her best efforts, could not hope to match the speed at which the ferryman moved. In an attempt to keep the pair together, the Yama called out urgently to the shinigami who was starting to disappear into the foliage.
"Komachi, slow down!"
The Yama's words fell on deaf ears though. Komachi continued on without her at a furious pace. In a matter of seconds, the shinigami had vanished from Eiki's view. Seeing the ?slacker? in such a hurry surprised the Yama. There was nothing the hell judge could think of that would possibly motivate Komachi to actually RUN.
Not as in casual jogging.
An all-out sprint.
Komachi, had a good reason to run in mind. The gardener of Hakugyokurou was now in immediate danger. And Youmu Konpaku was one of the few people the ferryman considered a friend. The two had often met, when their schedules would allow and spent time off work trading gossip and hearsay from passing travelers.
The gardener was also an accomplished swordsman in her own right. Youmu was definitely no pushover- being one of the fastest individuals in Gensokyo. The shinigami had faith in the half-ghost's abilities, but she understood that the rogue spirit they were pursuing was monstrous in power. Speed would only get the swordsman so far against a beast that ripped and tore apart anything that stood before it.
Following the debris-strewn path, Komachi traveled further in, unaware that she had abandoned her superior.
As she glided past tree after tree, something caught her eye among the carnage. Closing in upon the spot of interest, she slowed to a stop as she inspected the gruesome mess.
It was an arm.
Or rather, what had been an arm. Lying among the splinters and rubble, the arm was less an arm now and more a mangled, bloody pile of bone, flesh, and skin. Judging from the sorry shape of it, the bones appeared to have been utterly smashed to bits before the attacker had finally decided after pulverizing its opponent's arm to a pulp... to rip it clean off its host.
Komachi stared unflinchingly at the appalling sight, not even batting an eyelid. These things were common for the shinigami to encounter and many souls that she ferried possessed a rather grisly reminder of an untimely death. To name a few, she had seen countless sword wounds, a number of decapitations, and a handful of people who were, if she had to describe it, ?half the person they were alive?.
She stopped as she replayed that last thought of hers.
The ferryman began searching her surroundings for a sword. If this was indeed Youmu's arm (which the shinigami hoped it wasn't), then one of her blades would not be far away. While the torn arm was not a pretty thing to look at, Komachi knew that the arm could be fixed. The doctor of Eientei was a miracle worker when it came to fixing injuries; even of this magnitude. Many souls had in fact been saved from a trip with Komachi because of her efforts, which the ferryman herself was thankful for. It meant a lighter work load, which she always welcomed enthusiastically.
Eventually, Komachi returned to the arm, empty-handed. She hadn't been able to find a sword anywhere nearby; even using her distance powers to scan far away. This was definitely not the gardener?s. Looking closer, she also noted that the remnants of cloth on the arm didn't match Youmu's attire anyway.
The scorch marks from the first clearing should have been an indicator that it was not the half-ghost the sinner was fighting. Whoever they were, it was clear that the brute of the two combatants was winning now though- the scorch marks from before becoming less and less frequent further down the trail. Regardless, these were two reasonably strong individuals, and the Yama needed to intervene before someone was killed by this living anomaly of force.
Having finally realized the absence of the hell judge, Komachi scouted far off in search of her boss. At the edge of her range, even she had trouble making out the shape of a person amongst the shadows of the forest. There was no sign of Eiki- the shinigami had gone much too far ahead.
Looking back at the arm, the shinigami knew that whoever was fighting whom, one of them was in a very bad situation. Eiki could catch up later. Someone had to do something, the sinner needed to be recaptured before they continued causing havoc, unchecked. Without another thought, Komachi darted off, heading towards the source of the destruction.
Several minutes after leaving the arm, Komachi caught sight of a clearing in the forest. Drawing closer, she began to hear the commotion of the fight up ahead. There were occasional crescents of flame that would light up as well, but these were dwarfed by the massive and much more frequent explosions going off across the glade. Those definitely looked like the work of the sinner. Only someone that strong would have had a chance of escape over the Sanzu River.
Before the shinigami could enter the clearing though, a blur whipped past her, smashing through several nearby trees until it was stopped by a very large oak. There was a distinctive CRACK from the object as it collided with the solid wood, accompanied by the crashing of the tumbling trees it had punched through. Staring hard, the ferryman could make out the shape of a person, lying motionless in a crumpled heap at the last trunk base. Whoever that was, they were dead- an impact that hard was surely instant death and Komachi didn't even bother to confirm it with her shinigami eyes. It was for sure now.
The sinner had to be stopped.
Out in the clearing, the sinner shook the gore off of his fist. That battle had been drawn out far longer than he had hoped. He had not expected that much fight from such an unexceptional-looking person. And he had not expected them to be capable of shooting gouts of flame- that was an interesting trick. Despite that, the sinner was relatively unharmed, sporting only a few minor burns and bruises from his opponent.
Brushing himself off, the sinner resumed his march towards what had been his final goal in life. While the land had changed drastically since his time, he recalled quite clearly the location of his target.
An impossibly large building, concealed within a labyrinth of bamboo trees, infested with rabbits, and, the most important thing?
"the home of an immortal.
A voice, stern and rigid, called out to him, making the sinner halt at the edge of the clearing, "Move any further, and you'll be leaving this place a head shorter than you are now."
Taking a glance down, the sinner noticed the familiar glint of steel hanging in front of his neck. Faintly cocking his head, he spotted from the corner of his eye a pole, stretched ridiculously long across the glade and ending at his collar with an intimidating scythe blade.
The sinner chuckled. So they had finally arrived. He had started to wonder when Hell was going to catch up to him. He casually faced the wielder of the scythe, a shinigami, with a leisurely smirk upon his lips.
"I'm surprised. I never expected anyone to come looking for someone they forgot an entire millennium ago."
From the far side of the clearing, the form of the scythe-bearer flickered, reappearing at an arm's length in front of him. Resting the sickle on her shoulder, the red-haired woman gave a displeased look at the imposing figure before her.
"Well, we wouldn't need to do this if you had just stayed quietly in Higan, now would we?" The shinigami arched her head back as she complained, "You wouldn't believe how much of an uproar your escape has caused in Hell. Heck, I even ran as fast as I could all the way here."
The sinner snorted in amusement. "Ohohoho, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how much they cared about me."
"Yeah, well, we didn't? until you escaped that is."
"I see." There was a brief moment as the sinner's lighthearted grin turned into an intense frown. While he was unfamiliar with the procedures the shinigami was following, he could guess what would be next.
"Sooo? look. I'm gonna make this easy for you to understand." The shinigami bent over, scratching her head as if the entire ordeal embarrassed her. There was an awkward sort of tone as she continued, "Either you surrender right now, so nobody else gets punched across the forest like that last victim of yours? oor-"
The scythe immediately found the sinner's neck, hovering menacingly as it waited for the slightest twitch from the man.
?-We bury you right here.? The final words came out, crisp, clear and quite serious.
The man scoffed, "You think threats will work on me? I have rotted in those damned fields for centuries and you honestly believe I would willingly turn myself in? to you? Just to be sent back to Higan?"
"I was never any good at threats, though I really would prefer a peaceful resolution. No one else has to die if you stop right now."
The sinner's laughter echoed across the field. "You are an interesting shinigami. I had pegged you all to be stingy boatmen- only worrying about their next paying customer? I never figured I'd meet one that was actually concerned about the souls they ferried."
Komachi was unamused. "I'm not, not really, or at least not that much."
"Oh? What then?"
"Well, it's just that you murdered someone? Who do you think has to ferry that soul across the Sanzu now?" Withdrawing her scythe, the shinigami stabbed the butt of the pole firmly into the ground. "Personally, I don't like you giving me more work to do."
"That's not my fault, that bitch refused such a generous offer. And I DO feel a little regretful that I had to break her pretty face? and her neck. Too much fight in that one, it's unsuited for a proper woman to behave like that." The man let out a pained sigh, though he wore a taunting sneer on his face.
Komachi shot a glare at the sinner, finally fed up with his cocky attitude. While she had wanted to delay him long enough to allow Eiki to catch up, the conversation with the sinner was really pissing her off. She tilted her head- barely flinching as an audible crack was heard from her neck popping. "Well, my boss is going to be a little late, so why don't we just get started? I'm kinda out of shape and I could use a nice workout to get back into the swing of things."
The sinner continued leering, "Finally ready, are you? Once I'm done burying YOU, I'm going to celebrate my victory by feasting on that immortal's liver."
The shinigami gave a swing of her scythe, reacquainting herself to its weight. It had been at least a couple years since she had last used it on that mischievous celestial. "You talk big for a human spirit."
"I'll remind you why you should be afraid of Hell?"
The clearing was silent, save for the soft hush of the occasional breeze that rolled through. Despite the wind, there was a stillness in the area- tension hung thick over the glade and the surrounding woods.
It was beginning.
In the field's center, two figures stood across from each other. Neither made even the slightest twitch, waiting for the other party to make the first move- a sign of weakness? a sign of their lack of focus.
One was an imposing man of immense size who stood proudly, exuding an air of superiority.
The other, a female shinigami, opposed him, wielding a twisted scythe blade in a subtle, yet prepared stance.
They no longer spoke- words were no longer necessary- they understood what the other's intentions were.
Neither one planned on letting the other have their way, though.
As if an unspoken alarm had gone off, the two suddenly leapt, simultaneously, at each other.