Chapter 51 - Together
Arata ran, noticing his horn was beginning to hurt less and less. He ran towards the light in the distance, cursing lightly at how massively large the room was.
“JUST DIE ALREADY!”
The screams and impatient wails of protest could be heard well before Arata fully arrived at the scene. Katsuryu had been fully confident he could end their lives whenever he wished, but despite the fact he had started trying with the unleashing of his magical attacks, they were still alive. It was increasingly upsetting him that that was so.
As to Arata, he would make Jomiko proud. He knew he would because he could feel it inside. Deep in his heart, a conviction had gone silent, replaced by an ideal fully fueled by emotions.
Katsuryu would see what Arata was really capable of, now that he wanted to kill him.
He sped up, his vision narrowing before the speed of his dash, focused and closing on Katsuryu who was staving off Jomiko while covering his eyes from the light.
Katsuryu glanced, noticing him due to the shouting, or at least assuming since a platform rose from the ground, but Arata was focused. He felt the earth trembling beneath his feet and was quick to side-step.
A column of rock rose next to him, inches too far from making a connection.
Katsuryu waved an arm at him, the other at Jomiko that was on his other side, and shot two of those lightning bombs. They both jumped over them. They front-flipped out of the way and met above Katsuryu, joining feet to make each other stop over Katsuryu and in reach to attack. Arata swung the swords, but Katsuryu ducked and disappeared out of sight, allowing for the two to land.
“Took your sweet time,” Jomiko complained, looking like an absolute mess. Bruised and cut, burnt patches of fur and sliced-off parts of her uniform.
“Did you see what he did to Persephonai?” Arata asked, appalled.
“Yeah, because I was actually here, ya know?” Her mood seemed to be holding, however.
“I’ll do worse to the two of you!” Katsuryu’s voice screamed out, to the sound of a jet of fiery liquid shooting out at them.
They jumped aside, and when Arata glanced to see if Jomiko was unscathed, he noticed additionally that her hair was shorter on the right, and she had a cut across the cheek on top of several blunt wounds across her arms.
She was emanating the same light he was, but for some reason, it wasn’t blinding to him. That meant his light wouldn’t bother her either.
Landing, he noticed he too was bare-chested. It was funny how he hadn’t been aware of that. And he was heavily bruised as well. Taking that off his mind, he charged after Katsuryu. The man, though, disappeared from sight using his super speed.
Again he felt the attack coming, but it was different that time. His mind no longer wasted time filtering moves and reactions anymore, so he reacted in time and slashed at Katsuryu’s mid-section. It again cut against a rock-hard hide, managing nothing beyond pushing Katsuryu out of reach.
Jomiko was on him a second later.
Arata took a moment to look around at the absolutely destroyed battlefield and then jumped to fight Katsuryu along with Jomiko. But Katsuryu was quick to again make use of his super speed and get away.
“Where are the others?” he asked.
“Dunno. Fuun’ came with Perse. She’s knocked out somewhere around the room. The only reason I’m still alive is this light, I dunno why Perse didn’t put it on himself. Or her.”
“Prolly so he wouldn’t be a target,” Arata deducted.
“Yeah, that worked out just fine, didn’t it?” Jomiko stated, holding back nothing regarding sarcasm.
“Nothing will work,” Katsuryu’s voice sounded from afar, “I will kill every last one in your group like I should have done when you first intruded into my territory.”
“Letting him breathe is a bad idea,” Jomiko commented.
“But how are we going to kill him?” Arata asked, “he’s too fast.”
“Kill him?” Jomiko rose an eyebrow in surprise, but Arata just stared ahead, meaning it. Jomiko nodded with a smile.
“Good for you, Arata. Follow my lead. I can see his stones anywhere in this room. We surround him in our light so we can see him, and keep him in it. His endurance will break eventually.”
“Stones first,” she nodded and then dashed.
Arata followed, and soon enough, he could see him as well. Again, he vanished and he felt the attack coming from behind. He dove his head at the ground while slashing back with his left.
He felt the blade rebounding off the rock just as wind sliced above his head.
“How are you doing that?!” Katsuryu questioned in utter frustration, before having to block an attack from Jomiko.
Arata spun around him and attacked with her. Soon after, Katsuryu disappeared. She spun then, twice, stopping as soon as she caught sight of him, at which point she immediately charged.
Arata followed suit.
This time, they were greeted by magics. Traps emerging from the ground and ceiling, a rain of exploding projectiles, and even another wall of fire in front of a wall of rock. They skipped and hopped across the traps and through the projectiles. To bypass the walls, Arata did what he had done before, front-flipping to spin a sword at the base of the wall, but this time, Jomiko dove above him with arms crossed to blow a hole through the rock wall, through which Arata could end his flip through.
They met in close combat and this time, Katsuryu engaged his super speed to surround and attack Arata and Jomiko, but he could only super-run, his strikes weren’t exactly faster in any way, so Arata and Jomiko held their ground and helped each other out to cope.
From the confrontation, however, Katsuryu remained untouched while Jomiko and Arata incurred more of the slight burns and blunt wounds that they were getting accustomed to. And every time they actually landed a hit, they were more hurt from it than Katsuryu.
But…slowly, he started to blink more. His eyes reddened and he more often squinted and frowned his way through the confrontations. They didn’t let him concentrate enough for the spherical explosions other than when he was away from them, on which occasion they’d just take it by blocking, and get back up again.
It became a true and real endurance match.
Arata and Jomiko, again and again, got up. With the spell of Persephonai active, they continued to ignored their wounds, and ignore their pain, and ignore exhaustion and muscle sores and kept fighting and fighting on, and more hits were being landed by each confrontation.
Exponentially, the confrontations started to get less and less one-sided.
“JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!” Katsuryu received the strikes but casted his spherical explosion. all the same, blowing them away. “I will not be stopped by the two of you!” But they were already getting up again.
“The people I’ve out-smarted!” They were already charging him again.
He rose walls of flame and rock and noxious gas.
“The people I’ve killed!!”
They were already jumping through them, helping one another to bypass them quickly and swiftly. Again.
“All without the stones! And you thin--”
He was forced to regard how their attack made him stop talking. It was getting hard enough that he couldn’t even talk through it.
“That blasted light!” He focused and dashed to another corner of the room, looking as Jomiko spun, stopping when she was facing him.
“Damnation, don’t you two get it?! My plan is done! My goals accomplished! You are fighting for nothing!!”
Again they clashed. This time, Katsuryu attempted to cage them in a box made of fiery mold of earth, but they simply push through it, putting out the flames through sheer stamping them out, all as they ran towards him.
“The Rei are done and over with! That was the plan, to screw them once and for all!”
And this made the two of them stop.
“You weren’t bluffing?”
In truth, that confused them. It startled them.
“It was really the plan,” he grinned, almost a bit too maniacally, covering his eyes to rest a bit. He was obviously starting to lose his mind, so the veridict was already out on the state of his cool. “To deal a mortal blow to the Rei, all the while crippling the other nations’ trust in an otherwise powerful and useful race. They have no banner to rally behind so they would be the hardest to control and the riskiest to predict when we--” and he silenced himself.
The moment of silence reminded both Arata and Jomiko how he was just playing for time, but apparently keeping whatever he was about to say a secret was more important. They frowned, side-glancing at each other, and then ran towards him.
“What? Not going to ask what the ultimate plan is?”
“We already know enough,” Arata told him.
Katsuryu vanished, only this time he didn’t disappear. Arata and Jomiko blocked the incoming attacks, but the sheer kinetic power was too much for their bodies to handle.
Clotheslined, they were carried back, their bodies almost lying down if not for the strength exerted to protect their torsos as they were dragged mercilessly across the air.
Movement suddenly stopped and they were thrown to the ground with immeasurable violence.
Katsuryu had clothesline them with his stupefying speed, and upon noticing they had blocked, and that he was carrying them, he stopped and waved his arms down.
They hit the ground in a powerful collision, each generating a small crater around their shoulders, each coughing out blood amidst the dust and smoke that was lifted, each with their eyes squinting in despair to see what was about to befall them.
Katsuryu had maddened eyes, all reddened and bulging from dealing with the light, and even now his eyes produced tears from the light they were receiving, but he endured the pain through simple carnal indulgence in his blood-lust.
He thrust his arms forward.
Jomiko and Arata saw the stones glowing in front of their faces, and their hearts leapt in fright and terror. They flinched to move out of the way but it was too late.
Now, perhaps because Katsuryu was so focused on that single moment of victory… perhaps because his eyes were already past being blinded by the light sources that were Jomiko and Arata. Or perhaps it was due to simple distraction… But Katsuryu did not notice the beam of light shooting at him from behind.
It hit him square in the back of the head, forcing his hands to miss their mark. And the heat of the flames, that immediately burned and melted through the rock above each of their heads spurred them into immediate action.
“NOW!” Jomiko yelled, elbowing the ground to throw her torso up and forward to swipe a back-swing at Katsuryu’s legs with her arm. In the same moment that Arata tightened his grip, feeling the sword’s in each of his hands, confirming for the first time since being hit that he had managed to hold onto them.
He was still dizzy, and his vision unfocused, but he predicted what he should do out of simple tactical wisdom mixed with knowledge of Jomiko’s style.
He rose himself by also elbowing the ground with his left, while already swinging his right downward. “Sh--” he heard Jomiko’s punch hitting rock, and so knew she had indeed decided to intercept Katsuryu’s legs.
Arata landed on his knees, completely out of balance, but he felt his blade hit the rocky protection onKatsuryu’s legs. He pushed down while bringing the second sword to follow suit. “Ouff!” Katsuryu’s legs landed on top of each other, and Arata felt as if the pressure upon contact with the ground made them cross so that his sword would be on top of both legs. His second sword clashed on top of his right like a hammer, and he felt his right sinking a few inches.
And then he heard it…the final voice.
Their timing has been perfect. Jomiko had managed to hop and spin along with her first backhand strike, positioning herself next to Arata’s sword just as they pinned the legs to the ground. It took her but a split second to pull back her fist so she could bring it down on top of the second sword just as it hit the first. The finger that connected directly with the back of the blade dislodged, but the sound that followed, beneath the clash of her rock-hard hand and the metallic blade, was unmistakable.
Jomiko rebounded out of the strike like she had been hit, falling on her back right next to Arata.
Flames were still alive and rampant above them, their heat almost unbearably hot, when Arata heard the thump of her body next to him, just before he heard the noise of an immediate and tremendously fast dragging.
It seemed like an eternity, that one moment of life or death. His life flashed before his eyes until it was interrupted by a beam of light scattering above him, followed by rebounding flames of Katsuryu’s missed attack. Arata had scarcely given a thought during the entire moment.
It was life at its rawest, fighting to continue.
The second scream summoned back his mind, and his vision finally focused, and his head connected all the dots immediately. Pixa had saved them, and as to the dragging…the trail of blood being left behind by what was left of Katsuryu’s legs, was he dragged himself further away, made it clear that the fight was over.
He could still see the legs left behind, next to his broken swords. And yes, they had broken themselves against the ground, or at least one of them had, the right one was so far stuck inside the ground he couldn‘t tell.
Exhausted and hurt, he let his body fall backwards. As soon as he lied down, however, he felt Jomiko’s hair next to his, which made him feel a proximity that was a bit more intimate than usual.
He could hear her breath, and she his. And at that moment, the calm after the storm, he had never felt closer to anyone in his life.
Jomiko felt exactly the same way.
One moment of exhilarating, heart-pumping, indescribable adrenaline, mostly dependent on the other’s performance. On their knowledge and understanding of each other to a point where they could predict each other’s moves and thoughts…they collaborated in a manner that only the twins could boast of, and in the wake of that, a very powerful emotion swept them over like an inexorable tide.
Jomiko abruptly grabbed Arata’s hand, who turned his head to look at her - mostly because he couldn’t open his left eye due to a wound in his brow, not to mention the blood that was pouring from it. And she was smiling. Grinning.
She looked at him with as much victory and pride as she could muster and squeezed his hand, prompting him to do the same.
It wasn’t a romantic moment in the least. The grip was one of congratulations. They raised their fists by the elbows, because they didn’t want to put forth the effort to actually raise the arms, and looked at each other, their hearts inflamed by how great they had fought together and how they had managed to win together.
“YOU THINK THIS IS OVER???!!!”
Katsuryu’s voice echoed around the entire room. It sounded mad, as in crazy. But that was to be expected. He was so very confident in the certainty that they couldn’t even touch him, and yet, there he was, without any legs.
He had been defeated.
However, he still had the stones. He was yet a threat. But in their heart, the two of them felt that it was over. It was just a matter of blowing out the candles, or more aptly put, pissing on the corpse.
“Let’s go finish him off.”
“Yes,” Arata nodded, not noticing he had tears in his eyes, “let’s.”