Episode Forty Three - Rising Phoenixes
“Rah!” Kitsune tackles King Kuro to the ground and swings the pipe immediately for his head. Not fast enough, however, and a bright flash of light propels Kitsune away.
Zylo’s eyes widen with rage and the adrenaline races through his veins. The hunters are taking a beating, but the sight of Juniper’s wound infuriates him the most.
Tightly gripping the lengthened rod, Zylo leaps into a powerful swing and slams the weapon against King Kuro’s block. The impact pushes the King but his feet tightly grip the ground.
Zylo sweeps the rod again but this time, fueled by the strength of his Shield. The powerful force heaves toward King Kuro but he raises his own shield in defense.
The forces collide, shield against shield, and a bright light blinds the room. An enormous wind pushes against their bodies and the pressure throws them away from one another.
Only seconds later do they realize Zylo’s attack had penetrated the opposing shield. King Kuro falls onto his back, vulnerable for the first time. He hastily kicks onto his feet before the moment of weakness would sink in.
Too late though.
The loud thump of his body against the ground was well heard, and his ruffled hair and dirtied clothes a clear sign.
Tense sweat covers the King’s forehead, but he casually wipes it clean. The newfound insecurity in his expression is obvious, but the calm superiority in his voice misleading, “What do you expect to do, Zylo? Are you gonna get your worthless life back?”
Zylo circles King Kuro with focused eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I just came here for a fight.”
The King erupts off his feet.
Zylo leans away as far as possible and the blade swishes just inches from his eyes. He drops onto his back and quickly raises his rod to shield the incoming slice.
The force projects outward and manages to deflect the katana. Zylo takes advantage and kicks out, hitting King Kuro’s stomach before rolling away and recovering onto his feet.
Kitsune dives in swinging, but the King circles back.
“I assume you haven’t told him yet, Kitsune?” King Kuro laughs loud and deep as he retreats a distance. He turns to Zylo, “You still don’t understand. I contracted Leon, and the rest of your lives.” His eyes are genuine without a reason to lie. “You think you can resurrect? Once a contract has been made, it is bound to the Soul of that individual, and cannot be broken!”
’What does he mean by that?’
“What are you talking about?” Zylo’s eyes are still locked on the King, who is more than eager to explain.
“Your contract was never finished since you weren’t killed by a hunter, and it is bound to you no matter what life you live. Understand now?”
“You can resurrect, or reincarnate, but the contract will always be bound to your Soul, you moron!”
’All this time, I’ve been hunting for nothing. Even if I wanted to return to my life as Leon, or reincarnate into new life, I would still have a bounty on my head.
Contracts are only resolved once a hunter claims the Soul. Since I killed myself, my Soul was never claimed and the contract was never broken. I have been protected this entire time solely because I am a Baya hunter.
Funny. I spent my last efforts as Leon trying to save myself from the contract. Now, it turns out I succeeded, but doomed either way.’
Zylo is speechless. His temples pulse and his heart pounds like a jackhammer. The rods tremble in his hands and he feels the anger growing within him.
Suddenly, Zylo shoots out like a bullet, dragging behind his rod and raging for King Kuro. The weapon clashes repeatedly against the sword with incredible speed and vigor, the noise nearly deafening.
King Kuro maneuvers his katana with smooth and efficient strokes, and easily deflects Zylo’s aggressive attacks. The blade parries another, and he steps to the side before lunging forward.
Zylo tumbles away and hops back to his feet, but King Kuro steps after him at a faster speed. He catches up and butts the handle of the katana against Zylo’s rib, knocking him into a stumble.
Fear bolts through Zylo’s nerves as he watches the gleaming edge arc upward, ready to slice his body into halves.
In his mind, Zylo may have already accepted his fate, until Kitsune pulls him back. The tip of the sword slashes shallowly, leaving a long but thin gash from his abdominal to his chest.
“Nani yatteruno?!You’re gonna get yourself killed!” Kitsune shouts.
“Hold on.” Zylo pushes away from him, ignoring the pain of his bleeding wound. His life was just saved, but he is eager to rush back to danger.
’This will all be worth it, as long as King Kuro dies!’
Zylo leaps forward. He swings the rod with all his strength and King Kuro hastily shields the attack. The rod instantly breaks through the barrier but abruptly stops before reaching King Kuro.
Zylo’s attack is restrained, and he looks down to find the silver katana impaled straight through his chest and out of his back. His hand releases the rod and moves to clutch the blade, keeping it from delving deeper into his body. He feels his insides shifting with the slightest movement, and his vision blurs with fear and shock. Blue ichor spews from the wound down to the blade, and spouts from his lips as he violently coughs.
“I’m going to miss you, Zylo,” King Kuro whispers, gazing deep into Zylo’s pained expression. Then, he sniffs the air, and his eyes widen, “Wait, your scent…Luc—”
“No one’s gonna miss you!” Xin approaches.
King Kuro tugs at the sword but Zylo firmly grips the handle, keeping the blade trapped in his body. He realizes too late.
Xin turns his body and swings a hook kick. The steel plate of his heel pounds against King Kuro’s blocking forearm and he stumbles away, nearly falling over backwards.
Kitsune continues the onslaught and rushes with a follow-up attack. His pipe is quickly dodged, and he dives away before King Kuro can retaliate.
From one direction comes Fia’s launched bowling ball and another is Xin’s spinning roundhouse.
King Kuro retreats closer and closer to the window but the constant attacks restrict his escape.
“Get your terrible sense of style…OUTTA HERE!” With all his remaining vigor, Jacks rushes close and with a final swing. The shovel wails against King Kuro’s raised forearms, and his body thumps heavily against the thick glass pane.
“Jotbab, DIE!” Elza roars. Exerting her last ounces of strength, she lunges toward King Kuro with a powerful thrusting stab.
King Kuro shields.
The protective force repels Elza, but also slams against the window behind him. The crystal glass starts to crack and crunch, but doesn’t shatter.
There is no holding back now. Kitsune rapidly steps forward.
As he approaches the King, Kitsune spins his body full circle and backswings his pipe throwing all the weight and power he can muster. The bright gleaming light of the King’s Shield flashes again, only this time, the projected force explodes the glass.
Immediately, Kitsune tackles King Kuro through the open window and their bodies fly out.
They fall along the slender curve of the Citadel tower with the rushing wind pushing against their accelerating bodies. The buildings lie beneath them and they quickly rush to meet it.
Pipe still gripped in hand, Kitsune swings and smacks tirelessly against King Kuro’s relentless shield as they drop. Continuously emitting from each hit is a sharp piercing ring and a brief flash of light.
“Unless you kill me, Kitsune, everything up to here would’ve been pointless,” King Kuro shouts through the wind.
Kitsune grunts and roars with each hit, vigorously trying to break the shield. “Shineyo, damn it! Just die!”
The buildings of the city become clearer and clearer with the ground fast approaching.
Despite Kitsune’s vigilance, his attacks prove ineffective against the impenetrable shield. Finally, he pulls back his tired arm and surrenders to embrace the fall.
“Kuro…” The powerful wind envelops his body, breezing through his clothes and loudly rushing past his ears. “We’ve come a long way, and I don’t mean this drop.”
“We have.” King Kuro’s eyes stare sincerely, and his voice grows solemn, “He has part of her Soul.”
“I noticed, from his hair. I guess she came back for us after all this time.”
King Kuro nods, leaning his head back to see the great city under him. “We’ve been through a lot, Kitsune. Shame this couldn’t have turned out any other way.”
“It could have.”
King Kuro smiles modestly, “We both know that’s a lie. Lucille loved you…and only you.”
The ground is close. The street is visible and the details of the cars discernable. The few pedestrians below are oblivious to their accelerating drop, and time is running short.
King Kuro slowly closes his eyes, “Goodbye, Kitsune.”
Just before hitting the ground, Kitsune grips both hands on the pipe, “Sayonara, Kuro,” and he swings for the last time.
The incredible velocity of their fall drives the powerful force of the shield into the ground, and smashes an enormous crater into the concrete pavement.
In that exact instance, the pipe breaks through the weakened shield, and the metal edge strikes the skull.
A cloud of dust and rubble erupts into the air while the ground shudders and quakes, reverberating from the catastrophic impact. The dust hovers over the sidewalk shrouding the aftermath with an eerie silence. The pedestrians are scattered and scarce, each waiting for the air to clear before investigating.
Suddenly, a hand reaches out of the rubble. The fingers grasp on to the side of the crater and a body reveals from the devastation.
Out of the dust he emerges, clothes in shambles but sunglasses still clinging to his dirtied face. Crumbs of asphalt and concrete crunch under his shoes as he stumbles out of the mayhem. His senses have yet to stabilize and he abruptly falls onto one knee, catching himself with a hard slap of his palm on the pavement.
He turns over and sits his exhausted body on the edge of the crater, taking off his sunglasses to wipe the dirt from the lenses, and sighing in relief.
“I miss you, Lucille…iiko ni shinasai, wherever you are.”
The glowing blue light of Soul pours out of King Kuro’s lifeless body lying at the center of the crater, and crawls toward Kitsune.
A glowing river of blue essence streams into his pipe, then into his fingertips, his nose, his eyes, his mouth. He begins absorbing the endless flood of life force, tingling and tensing every muscle until his entire body is stretched erect.
The unending river of Soul drowns his body and mind, feeling the life of hundreds swarm into his lungs and veins within moments. His temples pulse, heart races, and muscles constrict and he is powerless to stop it.
Kitsune’s limbs are paralyzed as the aching pain takes over and molests his senses. His body heaves and throat chokes, but unable to scream. Tears burst uncontrollably from his widened eyes and he can only watch as the life force overtakes him.
His steaming, blue engulfed body falls over.
“Zylo, you’re back.”
“What is it this time?”
“You knew. You knew I couldn’t resurrect.”
“…Well…now you know.”
“Then why convince me to reincarnate?”
She slowly stands up from the grass field and gently walks beside me. She stares up into my eyes, urging me to follow as she begins walking further into the field. “I convinced you to move on from your life as Leon, to accept the changes, and to forget your burdens.”
We walk calmly through the field with the wind at our side and the leaves fluttering above us. “You said the purpose of a hunter was to reincarnate. To prepare and make the most out of our next lives. Well I can’t.”
“To reincarnate is to overcome your adversities, and to understand yourself, in an attempt to have a better life.”
“I get all that enlightenment crap, but what’s your point? I’ve done all of those things and you keep talking. How can I enjoy my life if I have to keep trying to fix it?”
“Then, why have you not realized yet? You have already reincarnated.”
“To make you a hunter, I pulled your Soul from the almighty Well, recreating you piece by piece for over a year. And after eight months, you’ve revolutionized yourself more dramatically than any other hunter I have ever met. You, Zylo, are truly the reincarnation of Leon. So I ask you, what are you displeased with?”
“I…I’ll have to stay a hunter.”
She picks a flower from the field and gently places it into my hand. “I’ve told you before. Once you’ve fulfilled yourself, you will truly become immortal.”
“So you’re saying I should stay a hunter? Forever?”
“I’m not saying you should do anything. I’m only presenting you with the only viable option, and honestly, I don’t see what’s wrong.”
“But I’d have to continue killing people.”
“Zylo, you can choose to do whatever you want.”
“…I see.” I lift the flower to my face and the sweet scent rises into my nose. “That’s what makes me human.”
She stops and stares up at the sunlight shining through the leaf-cluttered branches. A smile appears over her face, “It’s been some journey, hasn’t it?”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll be meeting again after this.”
“It’ll be okay. You’re strong now.” She pats my shoulder.
“And I’m not alone. I have…her.”
“Yes. I’m quite happy for you. For both of you.”
I take her hand and cup them between mine, and I bow. “Thank you. For everything.”
“Goodbye, Zylo,” she smiles. Her frail body softly walks further into the open grass field surrounded by the wind and falling leaves.
The light grows bright and envelops her, then overtakes me.
He opens his eyes.
Having forgotten where he is, Zylo carefully scans the surroundings and finds himself lying on the ground of the throne room with his head held in Juniper’s bloodied arms.
“Zylo! You’re alive!” she smiles through her frightened and tear-filled eyes. Juniper hugs tighter, pulling his face to her chest and nearly suffocating him with her frantic affections.
Standing around the room is Xin, Fia, Marina, Starlet, Jacks, Elza and Renzo. To Zylo’s surprise, kneeling beside him is the smiling face of Kitsune.
“Where’s King Kuro?” Zylo asks.
“Dead,” he says.
“Really? So we did it? Sweet!” Zylo quickly sits up and groans from the aching pain in his chest. He suddenly remembers the katana had plunged straight through his body leaving a fatal injury. Looking down, however, he finds the wound no bigger than an ordinary cut over his abdominal.
Juniper’s face glows with joy, “Kitsune…he healed you!”
Zylo glances at Kitsune, jaw dropped with no response except for, “Huh?”
The smart-dressed man stands tall with a wide smile. “From now on, call me King Kitsune.”
He’s serious, and Zylo can’t help but laugh.
Kitsune continues, “You don’t have to call me that, but some acknowledgement would be nice.”
The laughter is infectious, and the hunters chuckle with immense joy and relief over their steep victory. The battle is won, and everyone has the injuries to remember it by.
Zylo looks up at Juniper’s smiling face while lying snug in the caress of her arms. Gazing into her enthralling beautiful purple eyes, he mutters, “I love you.”
“You’re such a loser!” Happy tears stream down her cheeks as she breaks into a sudden ecstatic laugh. She pulls his head closer to her chest and whispers into his ear, “I love you, Zylo.”