Chapter 48 - An Unexpected Turn
Arata and Jomiko opened the door to reveal the largest chamber yet. They couldn’t see its walls or ceiling, nothing but the spot of the floor that was being illuminated by a faint light in the distance. They looked at each other and nodded.
They then looked forward and jogged, with purpose, up to the light. As they approached it, the visage of Katsuryu became more and more discernible.
He was sitting in a lotus position, hairs flowing along with restless air coursing around his bowed head, a stone grasped in each hand. One was glowing green, the other red. His eyes were closed in deep concentration.
Arata and Jomiko traded glances, shrugged, and began to sneak their way towards him. Perhaps if he didn’t notice them, they could end that fight before it even started.
Right. As if.
“Don’t come any closer, if you please,” his voice came a bit hoarse but still polite. He opened his eyes, though the glow and glint about him did neither flicker nor waver. “I am, after all, conducting a war.”
“Hmpf,” Jomiko took a hand to her waist, “your people know it’s not really you leading them?”
“Of course not,” Katsuryu scoffed, “they would not fight to the death otherwise.”
“Coward,” Jomiko insulted, getting a light smile as a reaction.
“You’ve lost. We’re going to attack you, and at least break your concentration. Your war is lost, Katsuryu, and there’s no way Bellhall will let you escape, even if you do kill us.”
“If?” Katsuryu again smiled, “a clone possessing half my potential is single-handedly pushing through the entire force of the Fea, and you actually believe that if I put intent into slaying you…that you will pose a threat? That you will have, as you say, a lick of a chance?”
Jomiko again felt the tingle of fear, but she did not allow it to change the expression on her face. Katsuryu, in turn shook his head lightly, looking at them thoroughly amused.
“There is always a chance,” Arata said.
“In the realm of dream and fantasy, perhaps. But then, where does youth strive and florick around if not in such domains?”
“Whatever,” Jomiko took a fighting chance, “hard or easy, your war is lost.”
“You say that…as if that hadn’t always been the plan.”
Kazuki did not like what he was seeing either. There were Fea flooding the army from behind, and had gotten as far as the front-lines in their sudden flanking charge. What was worse was that they weren’t alone.
“Are those Jun? What’re they doing here? Which side are they on?”
“The Jun?” Kazuki put a good amount of spite into his whisper. “Which do you think?”
Screams and cries were going off all over the place, explosions of every element conceivable were going off and on all around and within the Rei army. The battle turned into an even more chaotic skirmish as the lines of battle utterly meshed and blurred, squishing together. It turned into a near free-for-all in a matter of minutes.
“Well, there’s your bleedin’ skirmish, no use waiting around anymore,” the once Pan voiced, all but ready to go in and die.
Kazuki looked at her back, since he was behind her, “agreed,” and slashed. But her impetuousness surprised Kazuki, for she jumped sooner than expected, avoiding a mortal wound. She landed on the branch ahead and turned around, looking to find Kazuki flying towards her.
“Ya backstabbing bast--!” She hit away Kazuki’s thrust while spinning around to behead him from the side, but Kazuki ducked while bringing the sword around to thrust it backwards into her belly. And he succeeded. He felt the sword piercing flesh, but before she could lash out during her final moments, he pushed on the sword to wave it around, slashing her belly open and throwing her off the tree trunk.
He looked back at the army and then looked around to make sure no one had seen him. And then he ran, jumping from tree to tree, doing his best to ignore the raging war.
This stupid war…we’ve already lost…and any stragglers will probably be hunted down and killed. Any other race would suffer only imprisonment, but not mine…not the dolls.
He bit his lip.
Angles, consider the angles…I did not expect the army to lose this badly, I need angles. Even Rei who weren’t here…we’ll all be hated even more after this. Maybe not persecuted, maybe not that far… His sister came to mind, but he shook away the thought, on their side, I need to be on their side. But I can’t jump into the battle, I’ll be killed before I have a chance to assist anyone…what then? What can I do?
In the thick of the battle, Layryn fought through the bloody battle-lines, her visage war-like and rage-fueled. She pushed herself, flora coming alive around her as she used a thin short-sword to cut apart anyone who got past her bodyguards.
She was getting nearer and nearer to Katsuryu and he, surrounded on all sides by advancing enemies, began to laugh.
“Now, for the ultimate surprise!” He joined stones, “time to go out…with a BANG!” he glowed, a glow that went from white to orange, flickering and blinking and not hiding at all what he was about to do.
“PROTECT THE PRESIDENT!” A voice called out from nowhere.
“HE’S GONNA BLOW!!” Another voice yelled.
But the glow suddenly dimmed, completely subsiding. The stones lost their glint, and the invisible shield vanished, allowing for an arrow to pierce his head.
Layryn watched it through the bodies of both dead and fighting warriors, from behind the cover of well-intentioned but bothersome bodyguards. She watched the body disconnect and fall to the moldy scorched floor like a…souless corpse.
Katsuryu’s death added to the confusion of the battle, intensifying the Rei’s belligerent will.
“KILL THEM ALL!”
“FOR US REEEI!”
What war waged on, even if a clear winner had presented itself.
Back on the cave, Katsuryu had back-rolled to avoid Arata’s sword, which he threw to impale him. It instead hit the floor, though Arata quickly pulled on the chain to yank it out and back into his grasp, all while running towards Katsuryu.
Who looked very much inconvenienced.
“Nice bluffing, there! Delaying us as much as possible with cryptic nonsense and crazy threats!” Arata jumped and slashed at him with both swords but Katsuryu blocked them with both stones and then kicked Arata away.
“I am a great many things, child, but crazy is not one of them.” He looked at Jomiko, but she hadn’t moved. “The plan was for the Rei to lose, I but wanted to leave a little partying gift. But you stopped that. Congratulations. You cannot imagine the amount of lives that you have saved,” he smiled, still amused, ”but then again, neither do they.”
“They will once we deliver you to them!” Arata yelled, standing up, “c’mon, Jomiko.”
“Ri-right!” She followed Arata into the fray.
Katsuryu opened his arms, welcoming them , one stone in each hand. “I am, as you say, all yours”.
Arata and Jomiko landed their attacks on his defenseless body, but an inch away from his skin, the sound of thunder cracked out and an invisible wall exploded against their faces.
They flew back, painfully, crashing against the far walls on opposite sides of the door they had come in through. They crash-opened craters around them, and then slowly, as gravity took them over again, they slid and fell down forward onto the ground, bleeding noses on them both.
“Holy…whoah…” Arata pushed himself up, looking at Katsuryu in a bit of shock.
Katsuryu had his fists clenched tight around the stones, and whether he had done it while they were flying, or it had been that exact motion that had blown them back, he didn’t know.
“This is not simply another hurdle you need to surpass, children. This is the inevitability of you dealing with he who is vastly superior to you.”
“Yeah yeah,” Arata cracked his nose back into place, “ugn…so Shinyaki’s told us. Or was it Agathon? Who gave us that speech before, Jomiko?”
But Jomiko didn’t answer. She was just looking at Katsuryu with eyes open wide, just looking in awe, on her knees, with arms dropped in disbelief.
Her nose was still broken, and bleeding a bit, and her eyes were flickering in fear because she did not know what happened. She did not see it.
Plenty of time had she been hurt, hit, cut and struck… but to not even be able to see? To not, at least, know what hit her? This was beyond her level. This was truly beyond her skill.
This was going to kill her.
“Do not concern yourself, little lamb. She has simply realized the truth. It will do that to you.“ He turned to Jomiko, “know, little rodent, that you have signed your death warrant. Had you remained in your cell, no,” he interrupted himself, further offended, “had you not insisted on stopping my farewell present to the Fea’s leadership, then perhaps I would allow you your life. But alas, you did.”
She shuddered and leant back, but he talked before she could get up, stealing her of her will to do anything, or go everywhere.
“And now! I will not allow you to even escape. You will die. Your friends will die. And if I ever meet the fiends who allowed you lot to escape the sanity of your homes, failing in their responsibility as parents to raise and educate you properly, then they too, shall suffer for your slight.”
“You’re mad…” Arata said, “he’s mad, Jomiko, don’t listen to him! We can take him!”
“Mad? No, especially not with these stones of mine,” he held them up, “I am a god incarnate…” he bowed his head, looking at them with emotionless eyes which nevertheless were part of a clearly insulted expression, “and you have warranted my ire.”
His looked showed that it was not personal. He felt neither good nor bad about killing them, but whatever madness ultimate power had plagued him with, it found it necessary, in terms of justice, to kill them.
Not that there was much time to dwell on it.
“Aplenty,” he added as final point. Katsuryu flexed and opened his arms all the way back, taking off the robe to show his highly athletic and pale torso.
His torso was pale white, so much so it was almost a light source in all the darkness, but still its features were apparent. The line and muscles from hip to neck were as if carved from a perfect specimen. His dark hair flowed in the darkness, only visible when crossing in front of his body, his eyes two black spots in the clear spotless whiteness that was his face.
Then, he charged at them. The hair disappeared, Katsuryu moving so fast it looked like he was bald, his eyes focused on Jomiko.
Arata jumped and moved as fast as he could to intercept Katsuryu, leaping, almost diving, slashing at him with his right sword.
But Katsuryu skillfully stepped against the ground, stopping his advance inches from the sword’s reach, and then leapt over Arata, front-flipping, to land a heel-kick on Jomiko.
“GARH!” Arata landed one foot only and, on the brink of tripping over himself, turned and twisted to put the blunt of his left sword in front of Katsuryu’s foot, for he doubted he could intercept it with the blade. The foot hit the sword which hit Jomiko’s head, blunt hits all around, slamming her hard against the floor.
“Loyal of you,” Arata heard, and it took half a second, almost the time it took him to distract himself to death, to notice the voice had come from behind him.
He ducked out of mere instinct, hearing the wind being cut above him, and then joined both swords and span them above him like a fan, expecting another axe kick to come down on him. Instead, his ears caught the sound of steps a few feet afar, and so he stopped and assumed a fighting stance, turning towards the sound.
“Impressive,” he complimented Arata.
“Jomiko, I can’t do this without you,” Arata pleaded, glancing sideways at her. “Snap the crap out of it, you dolt!”
But Jomiko was still lying on her back, among dust and dirt, face enveloped by the floor. Nose still broken. She had frozen, and try as she might, her heart just wouldn’t wake up to move her.
“You can’t do this with her either, little lamb. Nor with your friends. Nor with an entire army.”
“You underestimate us!” Arata yelled, defiant.
“You can have all the power in the world, but at the end of it all? We dream! And we want! And we join forces! And we fight together! And the sum of our strengths is bigger than all our strengths put together!”
Katsuryu raised an eyebrow. “What? You just said the same thing was different than the same thing.”
“No I didn’t! People aren’t numbers in a math equation! One person…plus one person…” he glanced at Jomiko again, a hint of tears in his eyes, “does not equal two...”
“What does it equal then, little lamb?”
“As much as we want,” Arata said, frowning at him in anger, “as much as people want.”