Chapter Thirteen: Resolve
"Am I finally going to die now? I'll never see Adam or my friends again..." But after a few dozen seconds had passed, Shiro began to think it strange. The flames were burning brightly around him, but Shiro had no sensation of his body being burned.
He wondered how much time had passed, when the flames subsided and he tentatively peeked his head out from other the cloak, Shiro realized that the samurai's or rather his cloak had protected him.
The ground around him had changed color due to being burned at a high temperature, and there was no trace of any of the grass and trees that had been growing there, yet Shiro himself was unharmed. Not even a single burn. Thanks to the cloak...!
"Keith... That's right, what happened to him?!" When Shiro looked out into the valley, he was appalled at what he saw. Twyla's nest had fallen to pieces, with body-laden bundles of strings streaming out in all directions. In the midst of this, he could see even at this distance that Keith had been injured. Twyla had him cornered and was taunting him.
"I want to go and help him!" he thought, but all his ideas felt futile. "But... if there is something I can do, I want to help Keith!"
Something that Shiro could do. That would be swinging the sword, and seeing things that other people couldn't see. In this situation, there had to be some way to make use of that, right...?
At that moment, there was a glimmer of light at the edge of his vision. "...?!" When he looked again, somewhat of a skull was atop Twyla's nest was glowing.
"The main line of the hair that Twyla controls... The light looks the same..."
He tried staring at it harder. The light became steadily clearer. Ah... it wasn't the skull that was glowing, he was able to see that there was something glowing inside of it.
"Here I go, I can't fail!."
Shiro resolved himself. The place where the glowing thing was was high up. On top of that, the only way up would be to climb the body-laden bundles of Black strings, he was scared just imagining it, his legs were frozen.
Even so, he'd still thought to himself 'here I go, I can't fail!'. Right now, this was all she could do, he couldn't stand forcing Keith to have to face hardship all by himself.
"Why?! He should have been burned to death, so why is that he unharmed?!" Twyla said as she was confused. Regardless of how much magical power he had, he wasn't a Galra or a powerful daemon, he was just an ordinary human, so why?! Even so, right now that he was currently making his way up the strings on Twyla's nest. Why?
Could she have seen it? No, that wasn't possible. Even so, she had to stop him. Right now.
"If I didn't know better," he stated, "I'd say you seem a little nervous, there, Twyla. What's the matter? Something you're hiding that you don't want us to find?!"
"All right, just a little further to the glowing skull..." Shiro called as he pointed up at a particular skull: one that was crimson red. "This skull, here! It's red! I think she's been trying to protect this one!"
The Kushi no Ori! Had lifted his left hand high above his head. Following the movement of his's hand, all of the bundles of strings began to move.
They seemed to be haphazardly going this way and that, but they lifted all at once, stretching high into the air. Almost like they were coming together to form some kind of warped Christmas tree.
It was decorated with a head in place of a star, bells, and tinsel, so it was a rather creepy tree.
Shiro was also dragged inside the writhing bundle of string against his will.
The inside of Twyla's nest-turned-tree was hollow. The long, overlapping hairs wiggled with a light rustle. The scent of blood, dirt, and decay was even stronger here. It felt like being in the belly of a beast.
The string that Romelle was just barely clinging to gave a large jolt, and Romelle's hand began to slip, threatening to drop her.
"Ugh!" She frantically stretched out her hand, trying to grab onto the hair. Her right hand touched something solid, so she grabbed onto that.
Thank goodness, she thought... but when she looked up, Romelle saw that she'd stuck her fingers in the nose socket of ahead.
"Eeeew! I'm sorry" She instinctively shuddered.
"Romelle, are you all right," Shiro said.
But his fall suddenly halted. It was Twyla. The strings he was manipulating wrapped around Shiro's arms and lifted him.
Before he realized it, Twyla's questioning face was in front of her.
It was still stuck to his shoulder just as it always had been thank God for that, he thinks that he was going to lose an arm again
But it still hurt, though. But it didn't pain from a shot, it was pain from being struck by the sword, he'd probably be nursing a big blue bruise there in a while.
"Is it thanks to this cloak that I wasn't cut?" Shiro examined the white cloak wrapped snugly around him.
Sokka once said the outfit that he was wearing was made from a special fiber that was stronger than basic armor. Just like back in the flames, he was sure that it was this cloak that had protected him this time as well.
Shuun! Twyla moved the fingers of her left hand, and a strand wrapped around Shiro's neck. It was very thin, but also ridiculously strong black strings. It was the same ones that had taken those soldier's heads, arms, and legs in a single instant.
The string that captured these people. That was the string that was currently around Shiro's neck. Twyla tightened the hair. A sharp pain ran through his neck as blood began to spurt out.
"Impossible!" Twyla's eyes went wide, unable to believe what happened.
When Shiro looked up, he could see Keith's figure from between the overlapping bundles of Black strings.
"Keith..." When Shiro called out to him, his voice was small and hoarse.
"Don't pass out on me! you old-timer!" Keith said, "If you pass out, here and now, you're on your own!"
"Keith's hand... is so warm..." Shiro thought.
"Twyla's nest is collapsing!" Shiro said.
But it wasn't over yet, a gun shoot through the air with a whizz, stabbing into the pit of Keith's stomach. Firmly gripping the handle was Twyla's severed right hand. Another spurt of blood erupted from Keith's already blood-stained black shirt and jacket.
"Keith," Shiro said.
"Dammit!" Keith made his annoyance clear as he got up. Right next to him was Shiro and Romelle who had fallen with him appeared to be looking around searching for something while his face was marred with the pain from the fall.
There was nothing but bodies surrounding them. The people with which Twyla have kept her nest, the innocent people whom Twyla had kidnapped and almost enslave them.
When he looked, he saw Twyla standing atop a mountain of densely-packed strings.
"You thought I couldn't do anything with my arms cut off?" Reloading her gun for the next attack.
As if to answer his question, Twyla said, "I become immortal!" Triumphantly, Twyla thrust her gun at Keith again, planning to collect one final blow in the moonlight.
However, suddenly, something stops Twyla up the air.
Twyla looked like she'd received a severe shock, her eyes wide and her body rigid.
"What is happened...?!" Keith said
"This skull, here!" Shiro said as he kept stabbing the skull with the sword. "This is her real weak spot! The strands coming from inside are tied to Twyla's fingers!" With a crack, a small crack appeared in the skull's crown.
"Ugh!" Twyla let out a muffled groan. Her's previous triumphant expression now gave way to intense anger. "I'll kill you!" She recalled her gun from where it hung in the air pointed at Keith. Now she flew straight at Shiro.
"Look out!" Keith shouted. But Shiro was too absorbed with stabbing the sword to notice.
The gun was headed straight for his head. Has suddenly lost its balance
Right then, the arrow completely pierced the skull. The skull split in two with a loud shatter. Inside the skull was a comb. The tiny comb was a transparent white, likely made of bone.
"This is the part where you run away". Romelle said.
With that, the Galra soldiers retreated and abandon the base.
Shiro sat in dazed disbelief for quite a while. The terrifying Galra woman was no more. She was gone for good.
"That stupid girl... she transferred her soul into that comb," Keith said. That's why no matter how much I cut or stabbed her, it didn't do anything."
He knew that, and yet Keith had turned over his safety for Shiro. He'd been concerned for his safety.
"...Thank you for looking out for me..." Shiro found the crystal on the ground and returned it to Keith.
"Yeah." Keith was as blunt as ever. "But I don't need the crystal anymore"
"Ok... we need to get you patched up you know," said Romelle
"...No," Shiro said. "It's just beginning."
"What?" Keith asked.
"As long as the Crystal is out there," Shiro began, "then all kinds of enemies will continue to come after us. We have to keep the Crystal out of the wrong hands."
"Oh... That's right" Shiro spotted the scene, people were splattered all over the floor of the base, looking at this alone, they all look like cold dark corpses.
"Are they all dead... we saved them" Just a little earlier, it had felt hopeless. A bit overwhelming. "but I thought we could save them I guess not" Shiro thought.
Just the thing that hope was lost, soon, a mouse awoke and soon again a person rose completely alive and well.
"Where am I"
"Why do my limbs hurt"
"What am I doing in a Galra base"
Shiro can't believe it. The joy sees so many people alive had made him screaming throughout his body makes him dizzy, but the rush of victory gives him a second wind.
He has little time to marvel at the people who Twyla wanted to enslave were now finally free and so was the swamp.
Leaving the base at near daybreak, at the edge of the tree, Shiro, Keith, Romelle, and the people who had daemons returned.
Though possessed of olfactory sensor screens apparatus, Lien and Liam had on the need for such a screen. Working together, the two helped Billy throw the last of the robotic bodies onto the blazing pyre, then stood back and watch the dead continue to burn.
Not that the Galra sentries wouldn't have been equally efficient in picking the burned-out silver clean of flesh, but Sokka retained values most modern men would have seemed archaic, he would considering on one to the war possessive monster and the metal ones, not even for a filthy maggot.
Thought although some of the rebels were injured and got attack, the tree has suffered a heavy loss. Sokka was still injured, and still unable to do magic. What's even worse, several of the people lost their homes in the attack.
At a rising thrumming, Sokka turned from the workshop to see the rescue approaching, now traveling at a sensible pace, far different from when it had left, it slowed and hovered nearby but showed completely exhausted and done.
Gesturing for the group that stayed behind follow, the people completely welcome back there they're lost
"Glad to see you again, old friend"
"You got us worried"
"We're so glad you're safe"
Hearing destroyful smiles, Sokka started toward the heroes who saved the people from Twyla. Only to toward to reveal Shiro and the friends been motionless and it exhausted from their battle with Twyla.
Shiro didn't look up at Sokka's inquiring glance. That in itself was enough to tell the old man with had happened.
"You should be proud, Shiro" he finally ventured softly. "Well, you managed to save these people, if you have been and so brave I would fear the worst and yet you're not proud".
"I'm not, I mean we almost died" Shiro argued "and it's my fault they were here, all because I'm someone that I'm not"
Sokka took a deep breath and heard the words Shiro said, "there was nothing you could have done, these things happen for a reason that's why I must believe you happen to come the Galra would come anyway".
Hearing Sokka's words had Shiro calm down a bit, ever since they ever met, Sokka always had his best interest in mind and would have done the same thing. "How do you feel?"
"I been better I think" Shiro responded. I think I know what I need to do, If others won't do what needs to be done, then I will. I want to learn the ways of the samurai and protect others as they did in the past".
Sokka put a hand gently on the youth's shoulder, then went forward to see Keith's injuries. "I'll do my best to see that you get what you want Shiro, for now, let's check on your friends
Shiro nodded and closed the canopy. Soon Shiro will enter a new reality, leaving the only world he knew behind.
"After all you and your friends have earned our trust and our friendship. It would be our honor to have you as our ally."
Thank you," Shiro says, then suddenly felt pain unknowingly, almost like he was getting shot at.
"Well...I guess that means you're starting to like us a little more, huh?" Romelle asked with a small, hopeful smile.
"I know what you're gonna say," Shiro began, "but for now, you can lean on me. At least let me do that for you, okay?"
When they finally stop, his skin burns with irritation as his shirt off him like a tacky bandage, and his open wounds stinging even worse than when they were freshly received.
He only grunts with discomfort, however, too exhausted to vocalize further-- much less resistance as the men herd him into a coma.
"Even if I know what to do I still don't know about the samurai or where to find them," Shiro said
"Well I know they are an unrecognizable group, they are trained in the ways of secrecy, but if you find one, they might train you and your friend"
"My friend" Shiro questions
"You know, you know your half Daemon friend, I can't explain it but your friend here it is destined for greatness, greatness tied with you," Sokka said
"Alright, thank you!" With that, Shiro and Romelle head back to the plaza for good night rest.
"Back then, I thought it was because I was desperate. But that probably wasn't the case..." he wasn't afraid because he was with Keith. That had to be it... with Romelle and Stats.
Lost in his thoughts, Shiro went downstairs where everyone was doing cleanup, Twyla's attack did a toll on this place.
"Hey," Romelle greets, like a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, I know what you're thinking, it's not your fault," Romelle said.
"Seriously" Romelle shouted as they both had each felt unsettled after Keith left the hospital, especially after he got injured so severely by Twyla.
Now he's nowhere to be found Shiro wonders about Keith on what he'd said-or hadn't said-and the way the half-daemon's eyes wouldn't quite meet his own, had concerned both of them.
"How do you work now that Mark," Romelle said.
"What... just happened?!"
"That's how you subdued him, properly!" Romelle said.
"So What does it mean? So it does work? So if I say 'patience', this is what happens to Keith?!"
Keith shouted bitterly as he rose. "Wh... What the hell did you do?!"
Suddenly, the trio turned to see Sokka hobbling up to them as the only thing giving him support was an old gnarled wooden cane, due to him wearing bandages around his forehead and his left arm in a sling.
"Wait, you had that all this time," Shiro shouted.
Romelle Running over to Sokka! To hugs him. "Thank you"
"Of course, you're welcome, It's been so long since we had hope, I had hope, you brought it back to life", Sokka said as he hugs Shiro who at the end takes the key out of his hands and hands it over to Keith. "And you, Keith, be nice to your friends and your boyfriend".
"Come on, we have a long journey we're going to get back to Arus," Romelle said "hurry up we got no time" They hopped onto the skiff and sped back to Arus
"Bye-bye" Shiro shouted at Sokka, upon leaving the tree.
"Thank you" thousands of people bid farewell to their heroes.
Upon waving at them Shiro couldn't help but smile as his new friends continue to squabble and all those self-pitying thoughts of losing to those daemons and running away quickly dissolved.
With his mind cleared again, Shiro had a new realization, maybe that battle with Mistress Centipede, Sendak and now Twyla wasn't the end of his life. Maybe it was just the start of a whole new one.
Shiro faced Keith, Romelle, and Stats who were arguing and bickering Non-Stop but not as bad, especially since Stats wasn't involved and all smiles at him in relief Shiro had surprised them and himself by surviving this night, perhaps he owed it to them- plus all those people back at the tree and all the people outside, like his boyfriend Adam - to try surviving another.