"I can't forgive myself... I can't forgive that naive, self centered girl that wanted something to happen without doing anything!"
She cried out softly to herself, fury distorting her feminine features. Her voice was labored and strained, and she softly panted from the energy expended. Clear sweat beads rolled down her forehead, her face as she gave her all into the illusion, pouring all her focus and flames into it. She let not a single idle thought flash across her mind, and although she was abysmal at concentration, she forced herself to see only her feelings, her resolve.
"I have to become stronger!"
She screamed out with her eyes forcefully shut, verbalizing the single, most prominent emotion in her head. She wanted to be remembered as someone amazing, not die a futile death as she did the first time, achieving nothing, amounting to less than nothing.
Something in her core shifted to its rightful place as her nature, her reason for fighting was finally made clear to herself. Her mind cleared itself, and at the center of her heart, she saw a dragon, the greediest and most selfish of creatures, who fought to defend, and took what it wanted.
Indeed, first and foremost, she was fighting for none other than herself.
Like the dragon in her heart, she was selfish; she was greedy; she fought for her own desires. Those who had her loyalty, affection, or friendship, she would zealously, jealously protect, like a dragon hoarding the most precious of treasures!
(She would become strong! Strong enough to become that dragon, as her achievements would only truly become hers, if she fought for every scrap of the power she sought for.)
She was greedy, she was hypocritical, she was stupid, a glutton, and often in voluntary denial, but above all she was selfish. Like any other girl, she wanted to be happy, but unlike them, she would actively, ruthlessly pursue her definition of happiness.
But even so, precisely because of so, she would fight, with the burning desire within her heart. The desire to have, to possess, and to keep those few that were precious to her close and away from harm.
Indeed, she fought because she cared, selfishly, because it made her happy to see her friends safe and sound.
But could this be considered selfish? A pure desire to protect, only tainted by a jealous, possessive streak... Perhaps so, but she didn't care.
Ken, Chikusa, and even Mukuro had grown on her so much... Even if she was presently weaker, she would do damn best to keep them safe and well!
'I would be sad if my friends were hurt...'
'It would be a shame if I don't get to see this smile again...'
'I want to be liked...'
Every thought, every action, every emotion seemed self-centered, yet, evidently not. She fought for those who mattered, and yet only because they mattered to her. To fight for herself was to always have a reason to fight, and right now her most prominent desire was...
"I want to be remembered."
That was why, she would become strong, strong enough to achieve great things that would be remembered even should she die. Strong enough to leave a fearsome legacy.
Nagi gritted her teeth and forced herself to go on despite her exhaustion. She would not allow herself to fail and waste Mukuro's time. She knew that it was difficult enough for him to save up his powers, and thus wasting even a minute of his lessons would be wasting his efforts. And if he ran out of power, her progress would be significantly slowed, if not halted entirely.
She narrowed her eyes and further scrunched up her face was flushed from exertion, and her flowing violet hair wet from perspiration. Even so, the fire lit in her demonic purple eyes was not extinguished, instead, it burned brighter in a display of glowing resolution.
Mukuro was the greatest illusionist of this era, even if he was imprisoned in Vindicare and unconscious. With the monstrous amount of power he had generated and saved up with the help of his Eye of Six Hells, he was a fearsome foe. And with him resisting and systematically breaking down her illusions, she would stand no chance if she didn't use up every last bit of her power and concentration.
(He was not even at full power, thanks to the Vindice.)
She had to... She had to keep this illusion up... Just 4 more minutes!
"Mu... Mukuro..." She panted, taking in fresh air in heavy, desperate gulps. She was in the center of the abandoned classroom, barely holding herself up with a trident conjured up by Mukuro, her knuckles whitening as she gripped the metal pole with trembling hands. "Can I... hah... hng... collapse anytime... haah... anytime soon?"
(Damn that Mukuro for being able to spare energy to provide her with a crutch. In retrospect, she really shouldn't waste energy to talk already, but she functioned better when speaking...)
She was on the verge of tears. Her vision was beginning to blur, and her head started pounding like it was hit with a ten ton hammer, but she could not even be granted the reprieve of lying down.
(He had expressly forbidden her from lying down.)
Her whole body burned and ached with strain, and her sense of balance was askew, making her feel as if the room was spinning.
(Once again, she could hardly differentiate between up and down, vertical and horizontal. Even though it merely almost reached an hour, she felt as if she had spent an eternity training.)
"2 more minutes, Kuromu. You're nearly there, just continue as you are..." His voice barely hung at the edge of her mind, his words slow to register. Despite how close she was to completing her training exercise with Mukuro, she could not find joy, for she was too exhausted to.
Her mind blanked out, and by the time she was allowed to stop, she fell unconscious. When she awoke, she would find that she could not clearly remember the events near the end of this particular lesson. All that she was told, was that through exerting her will and flames beyond her normal limits, she had improved drastically in her illusion maintaining stamina, strength of mind, and use of dying will flames. Strength of mind referring to ability to maintain illusions through sheer will, and ability to enforce one's illusions onto a strong willed illusionist through tenacity.
Of course, her abilities were not up to par with the higher classed illusionists yet, but she was steadily improving to the point where average offensive illusionists might not be a problem. However, Kuromu continued to have problems with calm concentration, which was a huge problem, as having a blank mind or focusing entirely on one feeling or thought was inadvisable in battle. Some could pull it off, but only with extremely refined reflexes or battle instincts, and most likely physical conditioning. One did not usually find it preferable to be surprised with an attack.
All in all, remarkable progress in all the wrong order!
To make mental multitasking a second nature was one of the basics of a becoming an offensive or combat illusionist, yet her one track mind was making things so difficult...
With that said, the next step of her training would be attacking her while she maintained an illusion, but first, Kuromu had to be able to complete this exercise with ease, and Mukuro had to save up enough energy again... Sigh.
This was going too slow.
The mist was a transient, intangible thing. It could not be grasped, and thus it simply drifted, making its presence appear everywhere, yet, nowhere.
The Mist was a similar thing. Mist users were emotionally distant, much like the cloud, and yet it wasn't so much that they detested forming bonds, but that they couldn't do so, despite attempting. No one really got close to Mist users, even if they were popular, even if they were well liked. Not even friends or family got any luckier. Even Skies were not guaranteed to make their Mists open up, although pure and strong Skies had much, much, better luck. The rare, few exceptions did form strong bonds with Mists, but a Mist user would always be much more understood and welcomed with another Mist.
Eventually, despite denial or ignorance, they would see this fact, and they would have to make a choice.
A choice, between distancing themselves to avoid disappointment, or working hard to find those rare exceptions and cherishing those few and precious bonds.
Kuromu hadn't seen it yet, although she was likely clued in.
Her friends might not necessarily ever understand her, but certainly she still cared for each and every one of them... She could only hope that they cared for her too.
Perhaps, this was why her parents had never understood her, but they had taken it further into becoming uncaring about her well-being.
Mukuro had made his choice. Soon, she would have to make her own choice.
The next time I was out for food, I bumped into him. Literally, I crashed into his chest as I walked, distracted by the colorful and intricate patterns on the tiles of the floor. They were really pretty, in my defence.
I was studying the tiles as I walked, but the next I knew was my head crashing into something hard. It didn't hurt, but the impact shocked me into backing several steps away from... whatever.
I looked up, only to be surprised further. It was Yamamoto, who despite having been so intimidating the last time we've meet, was smiling close eyed and sheepishly, rubbing the back of his head.
"Yo! Nice... uh, nice seeing you again. Sorry about last time, I was kind of worked up about something..."
He sounded sincerely apologetic, and I could probably guess what exactly he was worked up about since this was only a few days after the Kokuyo arc's finish. He was likely the type that bottled feelings up, and being mostly useless probably got to him like nothing else.
Thus, the phrase 'kind of worked up' was the understatement of today. It was worse than me saying that I was only "slightly surprised" by Reborn.
My left eye twitched in annoyance, but I attempted a smile to placate him. He seemed guilty enough.
Even so, I wanted compensation for this.
"Sure... I'll accept your apology... on the condition that you treat me to a meal... For three." My voice was understandably hesitant, and my face likely even more so wary. However, just like the last time, I was desperate.
Training with Mukuro had left me with no time, and rendered my previous plans of getting a job useless. I was penniless, and no matter what Ken said about being immune from hunger, I was determined to get some proper food for them and myself. Chewing gums were never appropriate for meals, regardless of how verbal Ken was about it.
I guessed I should be lucky that Chikusa wasn't this troublesome, but having Ken around really negated my relief, for he made enough trouble for two or three.
Hopefully, I wouldn't chance upon Reborn. Hopefully, even if I did, he had came to a similar conclusion as Yamamoto.
"Sure! My Dad's restaurant is just around the corner of this street... Uh, sorry, what was your name again? I don't have a good memory, it seems..."
Again, with that oblivious act. Bad memory, my arse.
But this was an opportunity to reintroduce myself, and hopefully establish my existence as non threatening... And maybe, become friends with him.
"Oh, it's alright. My name is Kuromu Dokuro. It's nice to meet you, again, Yamamoto-san." I stumbled a little over 'again', my reactions becoming so obvious that even a seagull could recognize them.
In spite of that, he was still so... bright. And detestably cheerful.
"It's nice to meet you too, Kuromu-chan. Just call me Yamamoto, Yamamoto-san reminds me of my father."
And he smiled that shiny, friendly smile that lit up his boyishly handsome features, making me take a step back in reflex. After how he acted the last time, it was impossible for me to see his bright smiles the same way again.
I could tell that this one was genuine, but I was still on guard, understandably.
Also... Since when have I allowed him to call my name so familiarly?!
The annoyed twitching returned with a dark vengeance, but I managed a grimace. "Alright, Yamamoto... Now lead the way to Takesushi! I'm still unfamiliar with Namimori's streets, after all..." He readily led the way.
Looking up at the azure sky, I found myself dissatisfied with how things are.
'I will, this time, become happier than anyone... Definitely.'