The End

Death of an Animal

Agonizing screams of pain and despair spread across the battlefield. The horrific sound of torture filling the senses.

"Oomph, got a pair o' pipes on 'im." Leon joked upon hearing the desperate cries. "I think you can beat 'im, though." he finished with a threatening smile, eager to test his theory.

Though rarely heard to such an extent, Essex still recognized the voice making such deafening death cries as that of Jumbo almost immediately. A scowl developed on his lips as he watched Leon revel in the excruciating pain of his partner. "I don't know how your friend was able to beat Jumbo, but I promise I'll return every ounce of Jumbo's pain threefold."

"Please, do your best." Leon somewhat sarcastically remarked, effectively breaking down the last wall holding back the torrent that was Essex's fully unleashed animosity.

Essex lashed out like a wild animal, charging Leon without reserve. He instantly disappeared, and his voice, low but clear, - "Predator Pounce." - was the only warning Leon received just a fraction of a second before being cut vertically from the shoulder to the waist on both sides of his neck. It was a credit to Leon's instincts that he was able to avoid lethal damage from such a potent attack.

Blood spurted from Leon's newly acquired wounds and the young pirate staggered back in pain while Essex put both of his swords away. After a moment of mild shock, Leon clutched the deeper slash and looked straight into Essex's eyes, smirking past the pain as blood slipped through his fingers.

Essex, though, remained steadfast and unnerved, flashing his claws in the gleaming sunlight, and charged in headfirst as Leon readied Akuma-õ no Kiba in defense.

Essex's claws clashed solidly with Leon's blade, ringing out around them. Appearing behind Leon, Essex turned on a dime, claws dripping with freshly drawn blood, and swung both arms out at Leon in an X pattern. "Nature's Nightmare!" The force behind the swings brought forth light blue waves of compressed air blades from each finger. Leon struck the attack down with a single strike, the blades splintering into beautifully sparkling, butterfly-shaped fragments. Essex jumped through the glittering curtain, that was left of his attack, and swung for Leon with his weighted sword.

The maneuver was so well timed, Leon could do little to defend himself, being relegated to changing the angle of the blade of his sword just enough to interfere with Essex's attack, preventing the weighted blade from lopping off his arm.

With all of his strength behind that single strike, Essex managed to push Leon's blade back and inflict yet another serious wound, but he still fell short of landing the much desired critical blow.

Leon mustered up enough strength and will to force the blade from his flesh, but weakly staggered back, his consciousness fading with the mounting blood loss as his life drew nearer its end. However, Essex would not relent with victory so near in sight and charged in again without a moment of pause, appearing just below Leon with both swords drawn. Leon struggled to set a sturdy defense, and his arm was shaken to the bone when Essex swung up with both blades simultaneously.

Essex continued rotating his body, striking at Leon with a continuation of fierce strikes from below, each one threatening to blow away Leon's defense and with it, his life.

After suffering strike after strike after strike, Leon's arm eventually gave way, and left him open to Essex's slaughterous barrage of attacks. Each rotation drove the blades deeper into Leon's chest and shredded his front to ribbons, carving him up like a chunk of meat... yet Leon still did not fall... In fact, his legs were oddly steady as he stood tall before his tired foe, blood pouring from his many wounds onto the brown dirt below.

Now, it was Leon's turn to take the offensive. Lunging at a panting Essex, Leon swung down with surprising power. The heavy strike had enough force behind it to bring Essex to his knees and destroy the building behind him as well. Essex struggled for breathing room with Leon's blade bearing down on him, and was able to just squeak away from Akuma-õ no Kiba's gleaming edge enough to use his great speed and escape, only to be met by the tip of Leon's blade as he appeared behind his wounded adversary.

Leon reacted to the loss of any resistance by swinging behind him, and, if not for Essex's equally quick reflexes, his blade would have decapitated the speedster as opposed to merely scarring the Devil Fruit user's face across the cheek and nose.

Essex thumbed the dripping blood while Leon stood in an ever-growing puddle of his own blood. Essex had been effortlessly dual wielding the heavier and lighter sword combination since his transformation. Leon had began by simply focusing mostly on blocking the strikes that could do major damage to him from the bigger sword and letting the smaller one scratch him so he could land some counterattacks, but the situation had escalated to the point that Leon's instincts were being strained just to stay alive.

Essex was in a much better situation as he'd only suffered a small fraction of the damage Leon had endured, none of which truly hampered the speedy, once-eccentric, warrior despite the contusions some caused and how close the most recent strike was to taking his eye.

Their expressions, however, told a much different story. Despite everything he'd suffered to this point of the fight, Leon still wore his trademark grin, now larger than when the fight first started as the extent of the fight was exactly what he'd hoped for. This sent chills throughout Essex's body that showed themselves as a fearful, hesitant expression.

To Essex, Leon was a demon, a demon, wearing an expendable flesh and blood costume, that could not be taken down; nothing else explained how he could smile so broadly under these conditions. "Y-You're a monster, dammit! You should be on the ground begging for mercy not grinning like a fool... Stop smiling, you monster!" His outburst, though, only fueled Leon to release an almost demented laugh.

"Is dat wha' you think?" Leon questioned, his smile now threatening to break his face. "I guess no one eva taught ya 'if he bleed like I bleed, he's a man like I be and he'll die like one, too'." He commented, chuckling ominously for a brief moment before speaking again. "'Sides, the real fun ain't started yet. Ya keep this up and I'll really be able to let loose." Those words hung in the air as Essex contemplated whether to resume attacking or not.

The decision was made easy as Leon gathered his strength to mount another offensive of his own. Even if merely to preempt that, Essex launched an attack. Using the blinding speed granted from the cheetah Devil Fruit, Essex launched an attack reminiscent of how the fight started, only much faster and with two swords this time.

Essex struck from every angle with varying intensity, striking with such ferocity that any normal opponent would have died at least ten times over before it finished.

Still, though, at the end, with Essex's stamina at its limit, Leon stood strong on his feet, sword held tightly in one hand, and a menacing smirk resting on his face. The most alarming thing, though, was the distant look in his eyes. His blank stare gave off a deathly aura far greater than his usual levels of killing intent. Leon's reactions and speed had continued to gradually elevate as the fight went on. With each new injury he suffered, the excitement he felt mounted and his resolve deepened. At this point, he had reached a state of peak performance, so lost in the moment that every action was done solely through well honed instinct, releasing all internally imposed limits on his strength and speed, eliminating the few precious moments it would usually take to figure and execute a response, and transforming him into a nightmarish version of himself who lived solely for the enjoyment of the fight and to completely destroy his opponent.

Leon swung toward Essex, unleashing a huge, blood red air wave. The compressed air ripped through everything in its path but didn't come close to harming Essex, though while turning to catch up with the speedy fighter, Leon released a devastating follow up. Swinging in a complete 360° arc, the resulting wave decimated what was left of the street they were standing on as well as the remnants of surrounding buildings. Like a large bomb had gone off with Leon at the epicenter, a gigantic crater was all that was left of the area after the attack, wiping out all remnants of the elegant city that once stood there.

"Nightfall!" Essex roared as he descended onto Leon, avoiding the savage attack that had just leveled a chunk of the city by jumping above it. His aura and killing intent wrapped around him and shaped into a giant cheetah's head, mouth open, with Essex at the center. Leon brought Akuma-õ no Kiba between them, and the weapons clashed fiercely. The impact from their collision shook the island and released such destructive energy that in an instant a third of the island was completely leveled. Essex put his everything into that ultimate attack; there was no way anyone could survive it. But, as the dust was carried away by the light breeze, Essex saw Leon still upright and, even more unimaginable, grinning.

With a grin as wide as it had ever been plastered on his face, Leon moved to end this fight. In an instant, he was above Essex, and with blinding speed, he brought his sword ripping through the air towards the Shadow General.

Essex put up as sturdy a defense as he could manage and prepared to receive the overwhelming pressure about to crash upon him. However, this time when the two combatants' blades crashed against each other, there was no widespread destruction or earth shaking force. Leon had focused all of his strength into the sharpened blade of his sword, and cut through everything in its path: both of Essex's swords, sending them falling uselessly to the ground before being joined by the two halves of their owner, split right down the middle- bones and everything.

Essex's intestines spilled languidly from the defeated chunks of his once vibrant body. His insides painted the ground a sickening shade of red and left a mark that could never be wiped from that island's soil as his guts fell into the ravine created below him by Leon's ruinous slash.

His opponent dead, Leon released an ear shattering roar towards the heavens. The thrill of battle rang loudly in his head and he would follow that sound till he could move no more. To that end, he moved out, in search of more unfortunate victims. It was then, Mage appeared before him, poison daggers drawn and ready. Leon stopped in his tracks and prepared to engage Mage in fight to the death. Knowing he was past the point of reason, Mage didn't bother attempting to reason with the monster named Leon.

Mage moved in to strike, but Leon ignored it, striking out in the opposite direction. All of the accumulated damage looked to finally be having an effect as Leon swung at nothing but air... At least that's how it seemed before the image of an attacking Mage faded away, and a bleeding Mage appeared where he'd struck, lucky to only receive a small cut to his midsection. Though past the point of putting together any coherent thoughts, Leon's instincts and senses were at their peak, it would be impossible to catch him by surprise.

Mage charged forward and clashed with Leon, his twin daggers pushing against the blade of Akuma-õ no Kiba. 'Where did this strength come from? He's at Death's doorstep, yet only now can he be considered one of the five most dangerous individuals I've ever faced off against. People like this shouldn't exist.' Mage pondered before being shoved backwards. Mage performed a backflip, and charged right back in. As opposed to squaring off against such a monster, he ducked low and attacked Leon's legs with his poison daggers before rebounding and coming from behind to slash Leon's upper body and immobilize the young pirate completely.

One small cut was enough to paralyze an entire limb on the average fighter, yet even after being sliced up by continuous attacks from the daggers, Leon refused to yield, standing defiantly on shaky legs as every cell in his body was rapidly overcome by the paralytic agent. But, even barely able to stand, Leon wouldn't give up the fight, charging Mage with overflowing killing intent.

Not one to be perturbed by a strong killing intent, though, Mage calmly moved backwards, performing a tactical retreat and creating enough distance between the two for what he figured would be a sufficient counter. With Leon focused entirely on attacking him, Mage unleashed a torrent of throwing knives from within his jacket. Leon struck a number of them out of midair, but as Mage continued to increase the number, clearing the stock hidden within the folds of his black jacket, not even Leon's pure instincts could keep up. "Assassin's Blades." With his vest and jacket cleared of throwing knives, Mage used his string of knives held together with invisible wire to finish off the rampaging Leon. It took more than instincts and honed senses to keep up with the unpredictable course of Mage's Assassin's Blades, and each one stuck firmly in Leon's flesh alongside the other blades that got by.

Mage wrapped Leon in the invisible wire, then with a rough tug, ripped every blade from his flesh, causing a whole new series of major injuries. Somehow, though, even with all of the injuries he'd taken and the amount of poison running through his system, Leon still managed to remain upright, seething at the black clad Mage with his sword still held firm.

Mage returned Leon's glare, and withdrew a vial, filled with an ominous dark purple liquid, from within his jacket.

Leon charged Mage, but within only a few steps, Mage had thrown the vial at the crazed Leon, breaking it over his skull, and ejecting its contents all over the target. From that, within seconds, Leon had finally fallen, face first onto the ground as Akuma-õ no Kiba fell from his grasp as well. The battle that took place in the Noble's city, Nobella, and cost many men their lives, was finally over.

[At The Coast]

"Finally." an exasperated Kaleb sounded from atop his brother's shoulder.

The Marine battleship that Bo and the crew had arrived on was at long last visible rounding the bend of the island. By the time Ray brought the ship to port, the White Knights, under Bo's directive, were already issuing orders to the Slums' residents.

Having only recently knocked his shoulder back into realignment, Bo oversaw while Shaad set up three points for people to board at and Kayden did his best to perform minor repairs with the materials Ray brought back. Meanwhile, Rose provided emergency first aid treatment to those most in need, which included Alexander and Mino, whom had recently returned, alone, to Bo's slight chagrin. He understood he'd tasked Mage with quite a bit of behind the scenes work, but he still would've preferred Mage to have taken the time to make sure those two got out safely.

With everything proceeding below, Ray hopped off the ship and went over to Bo.

"How'd everything go?" Bo inquired.

"Well enough." Ray answered. " I made room below deck for as many people as I could without messing up the doctor's office or the kitchen (if there were two areas Ray refused to compromise on, it was food and medicine); the rest can find room on deck. I've also prepared enough food for three thousand people. We're ready to leave as soon as everyone boards."

There was a slight pause before Bo spoke again. "You seem tense." he noted. "What's wrong?"

"I've got a bad feeling." Ray admitted.

"Relax. Leon's killing intent has already washed over."

"No, that's not it. It feels... like something's coming. Just be ready."

"I always am. No matter what it is, we'll survive... like we always do."

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