Eternal Courage

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Chapter 25: The Strongest Bond

Saku stood ready to fight, now no longer a part of the shadow league as the person whom he loved now laid motionless on the floor behind him. Saku’s aura was different mostly in colour as the centre was red but turned blue towards the edges. Kieran was also bathed in an aura of bright orange “Now…the real challenge begins. It’s a shame though…this could be my last fight. Well…let’s get started!” Kieran began by throwing several balls of fire to which Saku just stepped out of the way.

Saku than ran forward straight at Kieran who responded by swishing his arm forming a large wall of flame to rise from the floor. Saku than raised his arms forming a red energy ball and shot it at the base of the flames opening a gap to Kieran. Saku then jumped through the gap and punched Kieran backwards with a solid punch.

Kieran hit the floor hard tumbling until he stopped flat on his back. Then as he looked up Saku was already jumping down on him with an outstretched fist. Kieran quickly made a circle with his thumb and index finger and blew strong flames through it. Saku quickly covered himself with his arms getting blown backwards by the flames. Kieran leaned backwards and bounced to his legs while Saku landed on his feet.

Kieran looked at Saku “hmm…it’s as I thought. That red aura of yours mimics the nature of fire, which explains why you’ve been so resistant to my flame. Although the blue one…I have no idea”

“If that’s what you say” said Saku “Give up Kieran otherwise it’s pointless continuing”

“not a chance!” said Kieran “I still have a few tricks up my sleeve”

“I also have my secret weapon…but if I use it…win or lose it’ll definitely be my last fight” Kieran tensed his arm and open hand.

Kieran then raised his arm up bringing up a column of fire from directly under Saku. Saku however flipped backwards and began evading countless columns of fire by running around and between them. Saku than began running to Kieran, side-stepping columns of flame but Kieran with a grin “I don’t think so” Kieran swiped his arm making a thick wall of flame appear directly in-front of Saku.

Saku was caught off-guard by the wall of flame and found it very hot. As Saku moved backwards the wall of flame suddenly surrounded him. Kieran than crossed his arms causing the flames to cross and collide at the centre. Kieran looked quite pleases “even if you’re resistant, even you can’t withstand all these flames at once” Kieran then felt a presence behind him

“let’s see if that theory applies to you as well” before Kieran could even turn around he felt himself sent flying towards his own columns of fires, going through them and coming out the other side and landing on the ground with smoke ebbing off him.

Kieran began to get up as his own columns of fire simply dissipated. Kieran looked towards where he was stood to see Saku with his leg swung out. Saku put his leg back down while Kieran began to get up. Kieran grinned “You know…it’s a shame. I really wanted you to partner with us”

“This sound like more of a personal thing Kieran” said Saku

“Oh well it doesn’t matter now” said Kieran taking off his jumper and throwing it away “by the end of this match…only one of us will be alive” Aureline noted his choices his words as did Saku

“don’t you mean…walking away?” said Saku “That’s what most villains say in this situation” Kieran crossed his arms over his chest and bent forward slightly

“You’ll soon understand” Kieran summoned his aura but before Saku’s eyes it began to change.

Kieran’s body seemed to be catching fire…literally. Bright oranges flames were covering his body, except his head, and were flickering and waning. Veins began appearing upwards on Kieran’s face emerging as his flames became erratic. His flames were changing colour from orange, to red and then to a bright azure blue. These new blue flames were actually burning off Kieran’s clothes off his body. His shirt singed into ashes and his shoes melted into a sludge like pool. Only his pants remained as he uncrossed his arms showing his toned torso and arms.

Kieran looked slightly limp as he stood while blue flames covered his body. Saku looked on “This is where you get serious”

“indeed it is” said Kieran “But we don’t have time to merely chit-chat so let’ us continue” Kieran began throwing flames of blue but compared to his normal orange ones these ones were bigger and seemed to crackle as they flew through the air. Saku like before evaded them but flinched as they pass by as he could feel the intense heat from the flames before they crashed into the wall scorching it in place.

Saku looked at the scorch mark, as did the girls. Sophie looked back to the mark “look at it, his flame practically melted the surface of the wall”

“tell me about it” said Jessamine “not even my flames are that hot” Saku looked back at Kieran who grinned

“You’ll find it in your best interest to really dodge these kind of flames” said Kieran “otherwise you’ll find yourself a cooked dinner”

“all right then” said Saku “I’ll do the attacking” Saku began charging forward but Kieran remained stood still. Then as Saku was about to strike Kieran, Kieran flexed his body growing the size of his flame.

Saku could feel the sheer heat from his flame burning his hand. Saku retracted his hand quickly holding it “Ahh, ahh…jeez’s that hot”

“You’d better believe it” said Kieran shrugging his arms “but you’d better not slip up” Kieran cupped his index finger and thumb. Saku saw this and quickly retreated as Kieran blew blue flames out of his mouth. Saku barely avoided it and saw the ground underneath the flames become scorched

“This is rather dangerous” said Jessamine watching “judging by the charred ground, Saku can be burnt to a crisp just by being close to those flames”

“then how is he supposed to beat him?” said Sophie worryingly

“the simple answer is…he can’t” said Kieran “anyway let’s end this now” Kieran held out his hand which glowed blue like his flame.

With Kieran’s glowing hand he drew a circle. The circle then filled in with a black colour making it look like a dark hole stranded in the air. Kieran then appeared to cough with a dribble of blood coming out from his mouth. Aureline noted this. I think I’m beginning to realise what he meant by his words. Kieran shrugged it off and then pulled his arms back clenching his arms

“alright Saku…time to have this. Azure Inferno!” Kieran thrust his hands forward, to which a large blue fire ball shot at Saku from the black hole scorching the ground in its wake.

Saku responded by shooting several energy blasts at the ball of blue fire but they simply went through it “dam, no good I can’t affect it. I can’t shoot it or punch it without scorching my hand. I’ll just have to dodge it” Saku watched the ball comes towards him and jumped clear out of the way but Kieran then had a grin

“I’m afraid it isn’t going to be that easy” Kieran then relaxed his arms and spread out his arms. Suddenly the blue fire ball expanded and began lighting up

“Saku get out of there!” called Jessamine but Saku was caught unaware by Kieran’s action as the ball exploded causing everyone to shield themselves from the fierce explosion of sound and smoke.

Saku came out tumbling out of the smoke cloud rolling along the floor until stopping on his front. Saku aura had dissipated as he stirred. Sophie looked at him “Saku, are you alright?”

“I feel like” said Saku getting up slowly getting up “I’ve been barbequed” as Saku got to his feet his friends saw the extent of the damage. Large patches of his clothes were burnt and singed exposing his burnt skin on his right forearm, left upper arm, chest, sides with the highest amount of damage being dealt to his right leg. His right leg was burnt and red raw with multiple cuts bleeding down his leg.

Sophie noticed Saku couldn’t put much support on his right leg “What will he do now? Saku can’t hope to move in that condition” Lexi looked at Saku and then to the motionless Anastasia while Kieran coughed again this time blood coming out

“not long now…Saku” said Kieran sounding somewhat in pain “I think this is the end game” Kieran was preparing a large blue flame with his hand “You can’t hope to dodge me in your condition. And you definitely can’t block my attacks like your sleeping lady friend” Saku then turned to Anastasia looking rather sad for a moment “So…I think this is the end” Kieran was about to throw it while Saku looked full of regret

“Anastasia…I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you. I really enjoyed all the time we spent together…including those duet sessions” Saku’s eyes then widened.

Saku thought back to when he and Anastasia bio-merged their auras for the second time. Saku with Anastasia’s spare cane in hand looked quite satisfied “This is quite a lot of fun you know”

“Do you think you could fight like this?” asked Anastasia

“I somehow doubt that. I’m not exactly as graceful as you, you know”

“Less of the compliments Saku” said Jessamine waiting for her turn “You’ll start making a few girls jealous”

“here this yours” said Anastasia handing Saku a cane “I got this for you” Saku took the cane from her gently in his own hand “keep it as a gift. If you feel you should need it…just wave out your hand”

Anastasia’s voice vanished in his mind leaving a small smile imprinted on his face “I’m going to win, I’m not letting your kindness go to waste” Saku stood up, the best he could, and he summoned his aura once again

“Big brothers aura…is blue?” said Mochi looking at Saku. His aura was similar in shape but now a slightly dark blue “it looks just like Ana’s” Lexi looked at the aura carefully

“I wonder” Kieran looked at Saku

“You can’t really intend on carrying on the way you are” Saku then waved out his arm producing a long cane “a wooden stick? That’s your defence?” Saku looked serious “oh well if you think it helps, time to resume” Kieran launched a blue flame at Saku.

Saku saw the flame coming and waved his cane upwards which in turn made a column of blue rise up from the ground, which took the hit of the flame. Kieran, and the leader, looked in surprise as the blue column simply vanished. “What the heck?” said Kieran startled “What just happened? Did…Saku actually control his aura power? No impossible. Aura can’t be controlled like that” Kieran than lurched forward and gagged “not much time now! I’ve got to end it!”

Kieran waved his arm in a horizontal arc making a crescent wall of blue flame go towards Saku. Saku responded with the same motion creating a crescent wall of blue blocking the flames. Kieran in frustration put his index finger and thumb together and blew fierce blue flames from the gap. Saku than began making various motions.

Saku waved his cane repeatedly up and down making various columns of blue appear. Saku than began making criss-cross cuts like motions. To which blue lines began intersecting with the columns creating a blue like mesh which took the brunt of the flames.

Kieran watched as the blue mesh dissipated showing Saku unharmed by his flames. Kieran then lurched forward to one knee looking physically tired and weak. Mochi found this odd “What’s wrong with Kieran? He looks…really tired”

“I don’t know Mochi” said Jessamine “It must be Kieran’s flames. I don’t really see any other explanation”

“but Big brother is now winning!” said Mochi happily with Jessamine nodding while Kieran managed to stand up straight

“This is starting to get silly” said Kieran “instead of defending how about you fight for a change?” Saku looked serious and tapped his hand with the cane.

Saku then lifted his cane producing a moderate sized blue column rising up directly underneath Kieran sending him upwards in the air. Saku then created another column, which went past Kieran. It then, oddly, appeared to bend, in an arc shape, coming back down on Kieran sending him into the floor. As Kieran got up he looked to the column which struck him down…but had to look twice “What the?”

The column wasn’t quite a smooth cylinder and was pointed at the top. It also seemed to ripple and move as if it was alive “it looks…almost like one of those vines?” before he could question it Saku swished his cane making the blue vine, whip at Kieran. Kieran didn’t have enough time to react as the whip went into him carrying Kieran off his feet. The vine then stopped, sending Kieran into the wall in mid-air using the momentum of the push.

Kieran grimaced but managed to free himself from the wall only to see a blue vine coming towards him. Kieran quickly jumped and met his thumb and fore-finger together blowing fierce blue flames at it. The vine simply went round the flames, hitting Kieran in the side, sending Kieran flying parallel to the wall. As Kieran flew along a column came out of the wall sending Kieran back towards the arena ground .

Kieran tried to recover in the air “dam…I can’t go on…like this. I’ve got to…do something” Kieran then turned to Saku to see him forming a swirling sphere of blue and red formed by threads from his aura.

“Have this Kieran” Saku however didn’t throw at Kieran at all as it landed casually below Kieran

“Your aim is kind of off you know” Saku however then raised his cane making a column rise from the ground hitting the sphere sending it upwards. Kieran saw the sphere coming upwards towards him but appeared very relaxed as he closed his eyes “well done” the sphere made contact exploding with blue smoke and light.

Saku watched as Kieran fell limply through the air landing with a mild thud on the floor. Kieran flames had vanished as he laid face-up and still. Kieran groaned but didn’t move “I…yield. You win…Saku” said Kieran quietly. As Saku felt the pain go away the audience wasn’t sure whether to clap or be afraid confused at the circumstances. The supreme leader walked a few steps forward

“So…you have triumphed over Kieran. You have indeed proven your strong…and a good ally to the cause”

“Stop with the pleasantries” said Saku bluntly “I want nothing to do with your league” the leader looked taken back

“Tell me why not. Surely you know what’s it like to be cast out by society and felt alone” Saku had hung his head and clenched his hands “I mean think about it, the whole crowd feared you, your own family sealed you and caused major pain. Your own sister” he said pointing at Lexi “betrayed you for power so tell me…why not?”

Saku didn’t answer at first as he stood there. Saku hands tightly clenched “Your right” said Saku not looking up “my family still seal me…and cause me great pain. And it was because of that…that this whole crowd feared me. But do you know what…in a weird way the seal…gave me something irreplaceable. Something I wouldn’t trade for the world”

“and that would be?” asked the leader but Saku merely gestured to his friends “What…this lot you have to be kidding me?”

“I’m not kidding supreme leader”

“So you appreciate your friends? Then what about your so-called Sister?” Lexi looked ashamed

“I already forgiven her” Saku looked at the leader who appeared surprised “When she apologized…she meant it”

Lexi felt a sense of pride and relief while the leader looked shocked “How can you just forgive her…just like that!?”

“Lexi…is a very proud as a person. To her, pride is very important. And yet…she apologised to me, looking quite upset, which for her…is something beyond genuine. And for the simpler reason…because she’s my family! When my family sealed me…Lexi was there to get me angry, annoyed and to have fights with. So when she said sorry she meant it. And there’s another thing…you set me and Lexi up on purpose didn’t you?”

The leader looked surprised “what are you talking about?”

“when Izanagi pulled those names out of the box” said Saku “why didn’t he show us the names he pulled? Because you set us up and then took advantage of her you creep”

“Then how do you explain the power she was offered?” said the leader in anger

“I never said anything about that did ?. And that only proves you took advantage of Lexi’s ego and used her to try and recruit me” The leader looked like he had being slapped while a tinge of anger swept across everyone especially Lexi

“You bastard!” said Lexi to the leader “You were never interested in a fair fight…you just wanted my brother for this cause of yours. You…used me for your own stupid schemes”

“and that’s one thing that is really bugging me” said Saku angrily “for someone trying to create an equal world. Why are you trying to place yourself over everyone else?” the leader looked very angry “so stuff your offer. I’m not interested”

The leader clenched his hand tightly “You little…brat!” said the leader swiping his arm out “You would’ve had the place and home you so wanted!”

“I already have that” said Saku calmly and happily “my place is with my friends…and her” he said directly to the motionless Anastasia

“This is all that girls fault!” said the leader “This would’ve gone smoothly” the leader aimed out a hand at Anastasia and her friends around her “if it wasn’t for her” suddenly a large sphere of black with blue sparks, 4ft long, shot out of his hand carving the ground in its wake.

Saku saw this and ran in its path and took the sphere head on. The force and strength of this attack was immense pushing Saku backwards but he was determined “No…No I won’t let you hurt Anastasia!” Saku could only just hold it back, being so tired from the fight with Kieran

“Just what did the girl mean to you?” said the leader watching Saku struggle

“did you not just hear me?” said Saku being pushed backward “I…loved her” Saku continued to be pushed backward but then to his surprise, and others, he felt something pushing him forward. Saku recognised the touch very well bringing great shock “is that?”

“I’ll support you” said the gentle and familiar voice “just like you did for me” with help Saku held back the black and blue sparking sphere and then with a powerful punch sent it backwards directly into the unaware leader.

The leader staggered backwards while a long crack appeared over his mask “so…that really is your answer?” the supreme leader spread out his arm flapping his cape “then you and I are predestined to battle…for the fates of these students. We will see whose will triumphs. Meet me at 10AM of the second day from now. Rest, train do what you want” the leader turned round “I will tell you where in due time” with that the leader walked off.

Saku watched the leader walk away when he heard the same voice “You sure showed him didn’t you?” Saku wasn’t sure how to respond as felt the presence go to his front

“It…really…is you? Anastasia” Saku saw Anastasia perfectly fine, minus the singed sleeve on her uniform, and smiling “but…how? I saw you…I saw you…” Saku then began to fall forward to which Anastasia caught him. Saku could feel her warmth against him including her chest on his “This is real”

“of course it is” said Anastasia happily “I mean you tell me if they feel soft or not?” Saku went stiff and bright red “I’ll take the silence as yes” Anastasia pushed him back up and went to his side, putting an arm around it

“I don’t get it…how did you…?”

“Saku…” this came from Kieran “come here…for a minute”

“hold on to that question” said Anastasia “let’s see what he has to say”

Anastasia supported Saku to Kieran who was laid still on the ground. Kieran turned to Saku “well…you win…Saku. And I see your girlfriend is fine. I won’t ask why, I’ll just say…well done”

“Kieran” said Anastasia “You were the one who sent us the note…wasn’t you?” Kieran snickered

“Maybe…I’ll leave you to ponder” Kieran slightly raised his arm “Saku…give me your hand” Anastasia helped Saku to his knees where he took Kieran’s hand. “now just relax”

Kieran’s orange aura appeared and looked to be flowing from Kieran’s body to Saku’s. Saku could feel a warm surge flow into his body. Saku could feel himself perk up as he felt the warm presence flow into him. After a minute Kieran stopped “there we go” Kieran’s arm then limply dropped to the ground “ a sort of parting gift” as he said this Kieran’s body appeared to be burning with blue flames which slightly illuminated the area “before I go to the world beyond”

Kieran, although burning, didn’t look to be in pain while he turned to Saku “well…I’d say goodbye…but I hate corny moments”

“Kieran…can you answer me this?” asked Saku “why did you help me? You could’ve stopped Anastasia at any time”

“the simple reason…what the shadow league was designed to do. And rather…what I wanted to do”

“I…don’t get it” said Anastasia confused while the light intensified over Kieran

“The shadow league…let’s say…isn’t as righteous as our glorious leader makes it sound. The leader’s motive…was slightly different from all of ours. Be it friend…or enemy everyone deserves somewhere they can call home. And Saku…your home is with them” at this point Kieran’s body began to fade into blue lights from his feet.

Saku saw Kieran’s body began to simply disappear “well…this is it” said Kieran “I had a good run…for what’s it worth”

“Final question Kieran” asked Saku “if you had the choice…would you had taken everyone’s power?” there was a small pause

“yes” answered Kieran as only his torso remains “I despise this world...for what it did to me. Out of everyone... even those...who existed in the shadow league, only you seemed to have understood…what it really means, to truly feel alone” Kieran’s arms had now gone “well…I’m going with only one regret. I wanted to watch your fight so badly”

“I’ll make it a good one” said Saku adamantly

“I know you will. Send me the recording if you please" Saku nodded "but a last message…just before I go” Kieran’s head began to disappear “the truth…hides in plain sight…” his last words turned to a gentle echo as he disappeared.

Everyone was left a bit bewildered by Kieran’s departure. Mochi was the first to respond “What happened to Kieran? Did he…die?”

“I…don’t think so Mochi” said Sophie “It’s almost as if he just ran out of life”

“Yeah I share the feeling” said Aureline

"But it’s strange" said Sophie "why do you think Kieran as he did?"

"I...don't know" said Aureline "we'll probably never really know what his intentions were. least he left a good impression" Anastasia then helped up Saku to his feet.

Saku was still a bit bewildered “well...good job Saku” said Anastasia “you did great. Soooo…you’re probably wondering how I’m perfectly fine. Well the truth was…that fire beam didn’t hurt me. I was just knocked back is”

“And I told her then to remain nice and still” said Lexi interjecting “It’s as Aries said, your mind is in the clouds but…your heart is an open book. Although I didn't picture you losing your top like that” then Anastasia looked a bit ashamed

“I’m so sorry for what I put you through" said Anastasia "I never meant to make you upset and I hope..." Saku however cut her off hugging her

“I’m just…so glad your fine” said Saku holding her tightly and trembling "i really am just…so glad" prompting Anastasia to smile and hug him back.

"'s okay. I really am sorry...I never knew you felt...that strongly about me. I'm glad"

Saku then let her go and wiped his eyes. Saku then saw her hair beginning to go red “are you feeling warm again? Your hair is going red” Anastasia simply shook her head

“no…I’m just...immensely happy right now” Saku looked a bit bewildered “You do know that, while I feigned sleep, I heard everything” Saku then quickly became nervous “including the part when I heard you’re” Anastasia’s hair was now completely red throughout “true feelings” Saku face began to go as red as her hair

“I was…you know…just saying it…as it is. I mean you do mean…a lot to me” Anastasia stepped to him “So it’s only natural that I you know…love you” Saku however was broken off as Anastasia pressed her lips on his.

The entire academy was caught in a lot of surprise. Sophie had to cover Mochi’s eyes who struggled to try and see. Lexi and Aureline were quite surprised while Jessamine looked very annoyed. As Anastasia finished and stepped back Saku was completely shocked “well…erm…that was really erm good. And at least I worked out…what the red means”

“it took you long enough” said Anastasia as her hair turned back to brown

“so…how come you didn’t get hurt?” asked Saku

“let’s leave that…to a later day” said Lexi trying to walk to Saku “there’s something that has to done first” Lexi struggled but managed to get to Saku. Lexi then grabbed Saku’s arm and raised it high in the air “everyone, I give the winner and representative of our academy Saku Stritos” at once everyone began to applaud and cheer.

Saku just listened to this unfamiliar noise which echoed throughout the hall. Saku was only used to be boos and taunts...but instead he heard cheers and applause. As he listened Saku felt a deep sense of happiness engulf him...something he had never experienced before. Saku rubbed his eyes with his sleeve and waved to the ground as happy as can be.

Lexi then let go and Saku turned to her “so Lexi, when this is over. Could we fight again? You know for the fun?” Lexi then looked smug

“Oh I get it. You want another go do you? Well you might be stronger now but I’ll be working my butt off to prove that I’m the stronger one after all. Then we’ll see who’s better” Saku then to her surprised hugged her. She was caught by surprise but had a small smile “fine…just this once” Lexi then held Saku…holding him tightly. Anastasia couldn’t see Saku’s face but saw tears falling onto the ground prompting her to smile and clap with the ground.

From the doorway, unknown to everyone else, Mia and Aries were stood clapping as well. Mia looked very happy “It’s a good thing we didn’t miss that match after all”

“tell me about it” said Aries “It looks our faith was well placed with Anastasia. She told me every girl in her family, even her mother, has the same condition has her. Their red hair only appears...when they meet the one they are fated to be with”

“so that’s why she was so nervous around Saku when the red colour would appear. But Anastasia has healed a great scar of Saku’s heart” Aries looked at Lexi with a great smile

“well it’s only fair, Saku has helped the hearts of everyone he knows” Lexi was quietly sobbing in Saku’s hug “and he has finally lifted Lexi of her guilty burden” they just watched on at the scene as Lexi and Saku let go before waving again to the crowd.

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