Chapter 40 - Tore Apart
“What are you doing, man?!” Jomiko yelled out.
“What do you think?” Kazuki asked, “I’m a Re--”
“Not talkin’ to you, coward.”
“Coward?!” Kazuki reacted, then noticing she was still looking at the Rei king.
“I thought you were gonna make me an offer, Katsuryu!”
“What’re you talking about now?” Pixa asked, confused and still shocked, “what’re you doing Kazuki!”
“My part,” he replied, his eye shifting between all of them.
“Let go of her, Kazuki…” Arata said, in a threatening tone.
“Or what? You’ll kill me?”
“Be silent!” Katsuryu demanded of them, raising his voice. He then walked towards them, the four bodyguards following him closely.
“I apologize for deceiving you on that point, but the amount Agathon promised you is utterly ridiculous, and I refuse to waste that much of our precious resources on making silly and unnecessary amends. The situation is unfortunate, but it is far cheaper to throw you in one of our dungeons until this is all over. Unless you mean to fight, and clearly stand as our enemies, but I, personally…” he stopped in front of them, leaning down to look at them as if face to face, “cannot fathom why you would want to.”
“Fathom th--!” Sanpu rose his sword, but Jomiko punched left with such strength it caused the air to whistle, duly impressed.
“Damnit, twins, stand down! Haven’t you done enough?!”
“We can drop him.”
“Kazuki has my throat…”
“He’s just bluffing,” Fuun’na said, “we can beat them,” Sanpu added.
“I’m not bluffing,” Kazuki coldly stated, drawing a hint of blood.
“We’ll go,” Arata said, opening the palms of his hands. “We’ll go, just…just take it easy.”
“Why, Kazuki?” Pixa bowed her head, small tears streaking down her cheeks, “why are you doing this?”
“I have a people of my own now,” Kazuki replied, “I’m simply placing them first, as you do with yours.”
“What you’re doing is betraying us,” Arata said, “you think anyone will partner with you after this.”
“The Rei will,” Kazuki said, without a moment’s hesitation.
“Yes,” Katsuryu nodded, with a hint of pride, “we have come together to rise as one people, with rights matching those of the living. That is our goal.”
“And why do you need to kill and destroy Bellhall?” Persephonai asked, finally acknowledging the plan, even though his eyes were still fixed on Danatcia.
“I’ve explained it already,” he simply said.
“You talked about the political power, or rather, the attention and reputation you’d gain, but is that really worth all those innocent lives?”
“First, as a Xia, the fact you’d call surfacers innocent is laughable. No one is innocent and you know it. Secondly, you think I did not contemplate a more peaceful approach? We have been hunted since the major rulers first found out about a Rei society forming. Why else would we be occupying Sen territory, if not to evade capture? They don’t want us united, and will crush us the minute they can.”
“I think you’re lying,” Persephonai said.
“No one cares about what you think,” Kazuki commented, a bit spiteful.
Katsuryu gave a light smile.
“Now you know what I mean to do. If you wish to oppose me, then I will abide terminating your lives...as you know them. For now, though, I will simply incarcerate you until such a time as we have established our new place in the world order, if only to make sure you do not tip off those opponents of ours who may still pose a threat. But still… I wish to hear you say it.”
“Say what?” Jomiko questioned, almost growling.
With a hint of a smile, Katsuryu pronounced “I have failed.”
“Oh c’mon!” Sanpu rose his arms in protest, Fuun’na rolling her eyes with the question, “how old are you, really?”
“It is important to me to know you have given up. Say the words.”
“Pff. I have failed,” the twins said, about as fat as they were lies.
“I…” Pixa looked away from Kazuki, her heart weighing ten tons beyond what she thought she could handle. She thought she could reach out to Kazuki, but he was willing to endorse a war…it didn’t mean anything to him, the lives of others. “I have failed,” she stuttered.
“I’ve failed,” Arata shrugged, haklf-truths came easy to him.
“You’re out of your mind!” Jomiko yelled, trying to move in a spurt of speed but Kazuki moved with her and pushed on her back against the sword to make her stop.
“Try that again, and I swear it will be the end.”
“It’s alright, I know it’s just your ego,” Katsuryu said, in a patronizing tone. “I am waiting, both of you.”
“What is worth all of this, Danatcia? What is worth helping this maniac?”
Danatcia finally looked him in the eye, half-pleading half-merciless, and said: “it does not concern you, Persephonai.”
“How can you say that?!” He opened his arms, as hurt as he was angry, “of course it does, damn it! You’ve any idea what I’ve been asked to do to you? You’ve any idea how much you mean to me?!”
A small silence, uncomfortable, settled in the air as he waited for a reply. Eventually, Danatcia looked away, fighting through hesitation.
“I…am not your concern.”
Persephonaigaped, giving a few steps back. He bit his lip and looked away, holding a tear.
“Then I guess I’ve failed too.”
“You’re the only one left…Jomiko, was it?”
Jomiko’s eyes were red and teared up with rage. She grinned it all and looked at Katsuryu with all the will to snap his neck.
“I give up…say it.”
“rrrrrrrrr…” nothing but a light rumble came from her throat, as she choked and chewed on the words.
“I apologize for my impatience. Kazuki, count to three,” Katsuryu straightened and stood in wait.
“I…have failrred…” Jomiko pronounced, despite great difficulty. She was so furious she was sweating, and Kazuki could feel her body slightly vibrating, or trembling.
And furious she was. She had continued the campaign more for her reputation than for anything else, and now, it was being driven into the ground in a very humiliating manner. Half of her wanted to try and fight them off with half her neck sliced open, but the other half just really wanted to survive.
And that part of her always was the strongest. As reckless and proud as she was, she was more afraid to die than anything else.
“Good, that was not so hard, was it? And I believe you. Well, all but the Jun, but then again, the Jun will lie.”
“Oh no, our feelings…” Sanpu mocked, “however will we sleep at night?!” Fuun’na added.
“Well, this has been interesting. I look forward to talking to you again once we have claimed Bellhall. Agathon, Shinyaki, accompany Kazuki and take them to the cells. And then take a break, you two can go as well. We will meet back in about an hour. I believe I will have perfected our invasion plan by then.”
“I would like to be brought on to your side, Katsuryu, as they have,” Kazuki said as Agathon and Shinyaki approached them.
“Oh, I’m afraid that level of trust must be better earned, my would-be subject and friend. You must do more than you have now.”
“I understand. I may be faking it, after all. What will you have of me?”
“Exactly what I have said, Kazuki. Take a break, get to know your compatriots, and then meet me back here in an hour.”
“As you will,” Kazuki nodded in understanding. “Move, Jomiko,” he pushed.
Everyone was feeling pretty lousy during their march to the cells. It was a tad long, too, lasting for some of the longest minutes they had ever experienced.
They were all slouched, and defeated, and angry for different reasons.
“This sucks,” Sanpu voiced out with a bored moan.
“I can’t believe you did this to us, Kazuki,” Arata commented.
“Spare me, Arata. Like any of you ever truly cared about this doll.”
“How can you say that?” Pixa reacted. “I sure cared!”
“A fad, no different than your love for pets and plushes, I would imagine.”
“Enough. I do not want to hear it. I grew sick of all your voices two battles ago, so shut up.”
Pixa was the first to be set apart, along with Persephonai. Whimpering, she followed the stoic Xia past the entrance of a room. They rolled the door close and locked it with its pillars. The thing was twice the size of a grown adult and was locked in place by two beams that took Agathon’s earth magic to move.
Next were the twins, and after that, Arata entered a room, into which Kazuki kicked Jomiko. He half-expected Jomiko to immediately turn and attack, but she just allowed her body to kneel on the ground and stood there with her hair covering her face. She looked so defeated.
“I can buy that you don’t care about us,” Arata said, over the silent aura of defeat and betrayal that hung over Jomiko, as the door rolled into a close, “but not for a second will I believe you care about these people. About anything other than yoursel--”
The door shut into place. They locked it without commenting on what Arata had said.
“Kazuki, huh?” Shinyaki asked and, for a moment, Kazuki thought he was going to have to fight Shinyaki over the wounds he had given him. “Ha, don’t worry about these, I love a backstabber. C’mon, I’ll show you to...your people,” he said, almost in a mocking tone.
Kazuki nodded and motioned for him to lead, not even giving a second look to his former associates.
They had been useful adventuring partners in the past, which is why he had followed them for so long. But the situation they found themselves in…
To think they actually considered there was some kind of friendship among them was ludicrous. The nature of their relationship had always been obvious to Kazuki, it was mutually beneficial: business.
He was a merc, so he was bound to change his mind. Why he wouldn’t side with a Rei who, not only had all the four great cities running around at his whims, but had them downright beat, is beyond him. It was the logical thing to do if he wanted to be on the winning side, and on the side of his people to boot. If this…initiative actually panned out, perhaps it would then be a time for him to actually grow some roots…and develop some real loyalty.
But for now? It was all game, and he wasn’t about to lose it over something as flimsy as emotional attachment…even if he had it.
Which he didn’t.
As to the rest of the group, he had scattered them across the corridor, distancing them a minimum of five cells. They were lucky that Katsuryu was reasonable enough to let them leave, in his opinion.
“She’s lucky I didn’t kill her…” Kazuki whispered.
“Nothing,” he said, “just thinking about how lucky I am, to have this opportunity to be…on the side of the Rei. Before it was too late.”
“Heh, yeah,” Shinyaki shrugged, “let’s hope this isn’t some crazy plan of yours to help your friends.”
“I don’t have any friends,” Kazuki stated, coldly, “never did. What I have now are countrymen.”