Chapter 52 - All according to plan…
“I WILL NOT BE DENIED MY PLACE IN THE NEW WORLD!!!!” They stood up to look upon Katsuryu’s visage, finding a most fearsome sight. He was hovering in the air, the stones in each hand glowing brightly.
And he was engulfed in flames.
Jomiko and Arata both gaped at the same time.
He had a shield protecting him, but he deliberately allowed the flames to burn the flesh of his wound, so to cauterize it. He was grinning so strongly his teeth seemed like they were about to crack, his hair messy and crazy around his otherwise pale face.
“This is only the first step! One by one the cities will fall, and the races will wither and frail and DIE, as we pit them one against the other! AND I WILL BE THERE TO SEE IT ALL, DAMN IT!”
“I’m not sure you’re man enough,” Jomiko taunted.
Arata scoffed a laugh, searching deep inside for the ability to hate the man, bringing back the memory of Persephonai.
“You really want to fight us? You’re half the man you used to be,” Arata told him, swords at the ready, seemed like the right one was fine even if the left was broken.
The two stood up, tired and sweaty and hurt, but they were still up for a fight, glowing as bright as sunlight. Katsuryu, out of pure hatred or maniacal disposition, just gazed at them with hungry eyes. He was obviously waiting for his wounds to stabilize. He most clearly couldn’t wait to attack them.
“I still have the stones,” Katsuryu told them, “I still have all the power!”
“Yeah,” Jomiko agreed, “and it’s served you well, huh?”
Katsuryu’s pale skin reddened as a result of the turmoil of emotions. The mix of pain and disappointment and shame in his defeat cracked him completely.
“I WILL NOT BE MOCKED!!!!!” He waved a hand and the ground cracked in their direction, a crevice rupturing towards them, releasing steam and dust as it went.
They jumped aside to avoid it. But then they watched as the crevice opened wider and wider, the ground opening up. He waved another arm and crossed the dividing line with another one.
“I’M GOING TO BURY THE LOT O’ YOU! YOU AND ALL THE OTHERS HIDING IN TH--”
Another beam of light shot out from nowhere, pushing him out of the wall of fire. He but staggered in the air, a bit of his left leg immediately starting to leak blood again in a continuous flow, but he seemed to ignore it.
Arata and Jomiko also leaned out, catching sight of the light of the source of the attack dimmed into darkness, hiding Pixa behind it.
“AARRGGHH!!!” He waved both arms, and two rows of rapidly advancing crevices advanced across both the floor and ceiling, hitting the wall that was respective to the direction the beam of light had shot from.
The wall burst open violently, and with it, Jomiko and Arata realized the fight was actually not over, not if they actually wanted to survive Katsuryu’s final moments.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!” In his rage, he then proceeded to wail his arms back and forth, firing as many exploding projectiles as he could, the lightning bombs, firing off everything he had in an overwhelming attack that would have destroyed the entire face of that very large room, and definetely Pixa, had he not been interrupted.
And it wasn’t by Jomiko and Arata, even though that had been dashing towards Katsuryu with the intention of stopping him within the next two seconds. It wasn’t them.
“Oughf!” Arata and Jomiko flinched into a stop, soon noticing the source of the interruption.
It was Kazuki.
And he had intercepted Katsuryu in the air, sinking his feet into his back while thrusting his sword into the back of his neck. He did this with just the one arm since the other was dangling in the air behind him, broken and mangled.
They landed on the floor with a loud thud, which completely silenced the fireworks, rebounding once, at which point Kazuki noticed the sword had its tip stuck on some kind of protection.
He reacted quickly, headbutting the sword as hard as he could.
It reached the skin, sliding slightly deeper into where the neck becomes the head. Either from the sharpness of the pain, or from the fact he had hit the spine, Katsuryu didn’t react in the following second.
Kazuki quickly unhanded the sword, pulled back his hand and then thrust it against the sword’s pommel with an open palm, pushing the blade in…all the way into the ground.
It all happened quite fast, and in a way, it was a very anti-climatic end in its suddenness, but then again, death is rarely anything but sudden.
There were no last words, no cries in agony. Katsuryu struggled to give them that but instead found himself gurgling, choked on sword and blood.
He was dead.
Kazuki stood up, a few levels beyond exhausted, what with how fast and far he had had to run. He looked around, intending to ask how everyone was doing, not the least bit in time to dodge Jomiko’s dive at him.
She tackled him off Katsuryu’s soon to be corpse – he was still trying to cough properly - and held him down by the neck.
“YOU THINK YOU’RE FOOLING ANYONE??!?!”
“Wait!” Kazuki said, opening his eyes, “just listen to me.”
“What’s a traitor like you gotta say to me, huh?!” She punched him hard, crashing his head against the floor. “I’m gonna kill you!”
Kazuki couldn’t dream to defeat Jomiko in his condition. His bet had been that they would welcome his help, not that he could defeat Katsuryu. There was no other angle he could pull, no other side he could be on, no other venue through which his survival could be better guaranteed…than getting them to trust him again. And the only way to do that was to drop his stoic manner of being.
He needed to emote if he had any hopes of convincing them.
“This was the plan all along!” he shouted, pleadingly. “Backstab him!”
“LIAR!” She punched him again.
“The plan went bad!” Kazuki said, holding his good hand above his head for mild protection, especially since whatever Jomiko had that was making her shine was actually blinding him a fair bit. “I’ll admit, I screwed up! I thought for sure…I wanted to get close to him, but he didn’t let me. He put me on scout duty, then--“ another punch.
But while Jomiko could break any part of Kazuki… she would never break Kazuki himself.
“Then I looked for an opportunity to kill him, in the middle of the skirmish. But then he just...collapsed. Out of nowhe-UCK!” Another punch, but Kazuki pressed on, lips already bleeding, and a tooth loose in his mouth. “I knew then it was a doll, or a clone or something! So I came back, I--” Another punch.
“LEAVE ’IM ALONE!!!”
Jomiko was still quite the bright source of light, so Pixa’s light beam didn’t reall stand out. She took it to the side, tumbling out of Kazuki. She instantly got up, though, looking directly at Pixa as she ran to Kazuki’s side.
“Are you crazy? You’re gonna believe that crap?!”
“It’s his way!” Pixa said, her heart moved with hope. She knew she was heavily influenced by her feelings for him, but she didn’t care. She grabbed him and pulled his head to her shoulder, protecting him. “That’s how he does things…he goes out on his own, doesn’t care if he’s hated by his friends…it’s…it’s just his way. It didn’t work out, but it could’ve…and he was here. He saved me. He saved us all.”
“Hey we had him well in hand, he was defeated long befo--”
“No,” Arata’s voice echoed in the quiet.
They looked at him in question, and then straight at Katsuryu, half expecting to see him ranting and screaming again, but what they saw was different. They saw a pyre. Katsuryu was burning. “He’s dead…but he didn’t lose.”
They watched in silence as Arata gazed over the scorching body, no longer feeling victorious. “His plan was a success, and by setting himself on fire, he’s protecting all he is and all he knows. All we managed to do was kill him.”
Jomiko sniffed and her brow furrowed, feeling challenged and angry.
“And that’s not enough? Since when’s that not enough! We got the stones back!”
“Hm,” Arata mumbled, melancholically.
He stared at the pyre that was Katsuryu’s corpse, the untouched stones now rolling out of his grasp, for only now had his hands gave out.
“I guess we’ll find out.”