Hanako prepared herself as well as she could in the moments she had. The two Hollows where rushing at her, the dog a bit faster. In a straight line it came charging at her and jumped from almost ten feet away. With a quick sidestep she brought herself out of his line of movement and struck horizontally across his side. Angry howling was the answer.
But there was no time to loose. The other one, the torso, was now at her side, attacking with a large, hinged bone-blade on it’s forearm. She parried with the side of her blade, pushed it out of the way. A slight rotation of her sword brought the cutting edge to face the enemy and a quick, diagonal-upwards strike cut the mask of the hollow to pieces and it vanished in a shriek and a dark cloud of reishi.
Just a heartbeat after that she heard and felt movement behind her back. Her sword still in a high position she made a tai-sabaki to turn around, while executing a wide and deadly downwards sweep. The sword hit the mask of the dog just on the edge, chipping it but not destroying it. So Hanako used the momentum for a circular motion, to bring her sword back up again. Now, with a two handed slash she finally cut the mask in two halves and ended the hollow dog.
For a moment she felt a rush. Her first two hollows she had faced alone in combat and she was victorious. Without so much as a scratch.
Without hesitation Hanako turned, her sword ready in both hands before her body, to face the other hollows. But the shrouded one, who seemed to be the leader of the pack, just...laughed.
The sound of his laugh sent shivers down her spine. No one moved, no one made a sound. Except for the shrouded one. He seemed to quite enjoy himself.
“What is so funny.” Hanako growled with clenched teeth.
“Oh, I enjoyed the show, that is all.” the shrouded one answered. “I wonderrr how you’d be handling yourrrself in a rrreal fight.”
“What? What do you mean? Real fight? I’ve slain two of your comrades, how much more real can it get?”
“Well, you didn’t rrreally fight them.” the shrouded-one said.
“Stop trying to bullshit me. I wasn’t just standing there, staring into space.”
Again, this laugh.
“Oh, nonono, nothing like that. You werrre really in a fight. Quite a good technique therrre, I must say. And if my ‘comrrrades’ rrreally werrre at that level you rrreally would have defeated them. But, you see, they arrre not. In fact, you neverrr touched them. Orrr anything. You werrre fighting thin airrr.”
For a moment Hana didn’t know what to say. Then she felt the blood rush into her head like a fire burning.
“Don’t fuck with me. You’re lying.”
“Nooooo, rrreally, this is the trrruth. I just wanted a little fun. Don’t believe me, hm? Ah well, then let me show you some morrre…”
As he spoke Hanako had already decided to attack. She jumped forward…
In the same moment the two she already had slain appeared at the side of the shrouded-one. And the other hollows, which had been oretty random to this point, suddenly transformed into countless copies of the dog and the torso. And they alk charged. Suddenly Hanako was in the midst of a mass of hollows. Endless copies of the same two. She tried to protect herself, strike at them, but it was all useless. There were so many. And they were so fast, and strong. She felt something cut the back of her kneww, and her shoulder, and her stomach, and her cheek. She cried out in pain and sunk to her knees. She got cut, and bitten, and scratched, to quick and too often to distinguish the individual injuries. By now she lay on the floor, unable to move or speak, and her whole world was the horroble feeling of getting torn apart. But there was something that was even more terrifying: This feeling seemed familiar.
From one second to the next it all stopped. The ripping, the cutting, the scratching. The pain was gone. And the hollows. Just the shrouded figure stood at the edge of Hanako's field of vision. She heard him laugh again.
"Well, wasn't that enjoyable? It's been a long time since I had such a good laugh. But I'm grrrowing tirrred now. Time forrr bed, don't you think?"
He laughed again and walked away. Still unable to move Hanako felt unconsciousness creep closer and closer. Just before the darkness took her completely she heard the shrouded-one, like he was far, far away.
"We should do that again some time."
Then Hanako finally lost consciousness.