Kunoichi

By Dax82

Action / Adventure

Kunoichi

Years of training had left Yori adept in many weapon forms. Like most warriors, however, she had a preference for a weapon that suited her unique style of combat. Going against Akuyasha, the demonic embodiment of the world's evil, with a sword seemed to make sense. It was something straight out of a fantasy epic, or an anime. But this was a fight to the death and with so much on the line; her friends, her people, her world; she would leave nothing to chance.

With a flick of her wrists, the seemingly mundane fighting sticks unveiled into tessen, Japanese war fans. Often carried by ancient samurai where swords were not allowed, in the hands of an experienced master these fans were as deadly as any blade. Like an extension of her body, the fans moved with her, creating a whirlwind of death through the air. The youma attacked her. None of them knew they were cut until it was too late. So sharp were the fans that many a demon was still standing when they noticed a part of their body had fallen clean off. An arm, a leg, a horn, a tentacle, a head...all plopped to the ground in rapid succession.

She moved fast and hard, twirling the tessen at such a dizzying degree of angles that she became a tornado. Her movements were such that they created a vacuum, pulling demons close enough so that they were diced before their very eyes, many of which joined their heads as they hit the floor. After a few moments of this ferocious assault there were no youma standing between Yori and Akuyasha. In fact, there were no youma left standing. Leaving a trail of death and gore behind her, the kunoichi stood before the powerful demon like the proverbial David and Goliath.

Akuyasha seemed unimpressed by Yori's ferocious display of fighting skill. In fact, the youma seemed amused more than anything. His snout widened into a smirk that revealed all his teeth, a serpentine tongue licking the spokes as they salivated. "Impressive," he said. "Most impressive."

"Put him down," Yori commanded. She did not look at Saito who was hanging up in the air by an impossibly long arm emanating from the demon's back. Literally broken in several parts, Saito's face ran with blood and sweat. He was out of the fight, his battle armor ruined and unable to protect him from Akuyasha's ungodly strength. His eyes squinted open. They seemed to be begging for Yori to help but that was not true. Saito was a proud man. He would never beg. Those eyes demanded she destroy Akuyasha and all his evil kin.

For once in her life, Yori was more than willing to oblige him.

He stared at her. For a moment nothing happened. Then...

"As you wish." Akuyasha threw back his head, opening up his mouth and released the Yakuza. Saito's eyes bulged in terror as he realized he was about to be eaten. Yori was close, but even she could not cover the distance in time to save him. Then something else happened. Someone caught Saito, wrapping her little arms around his fractured body, and teleported him out of reach of the creature's fangs which clamped down milliseconds later. Yo-Yo had reappeared several feet away with Saito in her arms. It was amazing to think the little girl was able to carry a grown marry wearing heavy armor, but her powers had enhanced more than her mind, it seemed.

Removing his helmet entirely, Yo-Yo tapped his cheek. "Saito-sama. Saito-sama!"

Saito groaned. He had made his peace at the last moment before Yo-Yo saved him. To be alive he almost felt cheated, like a test he'd prepared for only to never have the chance to take it, but realizing he had not yet crossed over into Yomi, the land of the dead, the yakuza could only smile. "Well done...Yo-Yo."

She smiled.

"How touching." Akuyasha reared up his back arm. "Now let me touch back!" The appendage flew at the couple with alarming speed, but Yori was there to counter it. In a move too fast to be called human, she severed the arm at the elbow. Akuyasha howled in fury. The stump splayed an acidic coating all across the ground. Yo-Yo and Saito were at the periphery of the acid spray and the girl had to pull Saito to a safe distance.

Avoiding the acid, Yori moved in close and slashed at the demon's abdomen. Entrails spilled out into a steamy, green-black mess. Akuyasha tried to cover the wound with his hand but Yori separated it from his body as soon as it was close enough. She used the moment to unleash a hellstorm of pain and suffering upon Akuyasha. Yori sliced every part of his flesh. Gore flushed out, blood splattered everywhere. Bits of the acidic blood fell onto her armor, stinging her, but she focused her rage to such a point that it became a second set of armor, enabling her to withstand numerous burns that would have brought a lesser warrior to her knees.

Anger became her focus. Pain her purpose. Sadness the one thing driving them both. The loss of her family, of her mother who died protecting her, her brothers who had their youth stolen from them, of her sister Kimiko who never had the chance to lead a normal life...and of her father, the man she was now trying to kill, who became a monster before her very eyes. She'd lost them all and it was all because of this demon.

Yori lost her senses to her rage and continued cutting and slicing, removing every part of the youma as if it were cabbage and she the butcher knife. Nothing was spared. Every part of Akuyasha disintegrated under her barrage. When it finally seemed that Yori was about to keel over from exhaustion, Akuyasha had seemingly ceased to be. His head crumbled to the ground, low enough so that it was facing Yori for the last time. She didn't blink. She did not hesitate. Yori turned the last of her strength on the demon and eviscerated his head. Teeth, nose, snout, eyes; everything was gone in a manner of seconds.

Yori's arms grew tired and heavy. The fans may as well have been spears and she began to use them as bludgeons instead of cutting weapons. The head had turned into mush, a mess of severed bone and tattered flesh. Still she struck. Still she continued to attack. Only her own buckling legs managed to stop her and Yori collapsed. Her armor sizzled with the creature's blood and she could feel it seeping into her skin. She crawled away, putting as much distance between her and what had once been Akuyasha.

Saito and Yo-Yo had watched the whole thing and they gawked at the kunoichi with a mixture of respect and fear. Never had either seen such an act of rage turn a disciplined warrior into a brutal killing machine. Akuyasha had not simply been beaten. He had been destroyed. There was nothing left except a fleshy stump atop the remnants of the egg the creature had spawned out of. He was gone. It was over.

Or was it?

Finding it hard to breath, Yori dropped the tessen and removed her helmet entirely. She gasped for air as steam rose from her neck, the acid eating away at her from the inside. Her face was clenched in pain as she dropped the helmet and fell forward. Yori cried out. She wriggled on the ground like a fish pulled from its watery home, the acid biting her like a million tiny insects. Her hands began to claw at her armor as if to rip it off, but in her state she could no more think than to act sensibly and all she did was leave scratch marks all over herself.

Watching from where they were, Saito and Yo-Yo were in little mind to help her. She was covered in demonic ichor and it hardly seemed like they could do anything to help her. Saito was too badly wounded and Yo-Yo was at a lost without his guidance. Coughing up blood from a puncture organ, Saito grabbed the girl's arm. "Yo-Yo. We must leave this place."

"But what about the kunoichi?"

"There is nothing we can do for her now," Saito said. "We must go. We must..." A coughing fit cut him off. Blood sputtered from his mouth and he could hardly breathe. He was dying, Saito knew. "I...don't have much time, Yo-Yo."

The little girl looked between Saito and Yori. Realizing where her loyalties lied, she nodded her affirmation. Putting both hands on Saito's heaving chest, Yo-Yo summoned her deepest powers. In an instant both she and Saito had disappeared, teleporting to a safe place.

Yori was left behind.


Fighting Kikyu two on one had leveled the odds in their favor. Whereas Hoshi and Hiro were formidable fighters on their own, their combined efforts allowed them to stand toe-to-toe with one of the world's foremost killers. Where one blocked, the other attacked; one spun, the other jabbed; one kicked, the other ducked; they were like a well-rehearsed duo in a ballet of fists.

Even so, Kikyu proved to be difficult. While no longer on the offensive as much as she wanted to be, she still proved able to hold her own against the two fighters. Her kicks kept them at bay while her hands blocked their attacks. It was a stalemate and it would all come down to who would tire first.

"Why won't you die?" Hoshi spouted as she tried three rapid punches in succession; all of them blocked.

Kikyu responded with a strike meant to go through her head. Hiro was there to deflect the punch straight away. With his side exposed, Hoshi moved in to bat away an attempted jab that would have punctured Hiro's lung had she not been there. Working in unison they were a perfect match. As frustrating as it was, Kikyu had to admit they were pretty damn good. To think not too long ago she had Hoshi on the ropes and was ready to break her neck. Now she had to do this the hard way.

She smiled.

Kikyu jumped away. "Time to end this." Before their very eyes, the woman disappeared. She seemed to melt away like ripples of water on a hot day before vanishing completely.

The ninja gawked. "Where is she?" Hiro looked back and forth.

"The hell should I know." Hoshi was spooked. She hated being spooked.

Something hit her hard in the stomach. The girl flew backward and curled up in pain.

"Hoshi!" Hiro went to help her but found his body wasn't cooperating. That's because something was holding him in place. Invisible hands had picked him up with surprising strength. They threw him against the wall of the palace, crushing the bone underneath. Hirotaka fell down.

"You...bitch!" Hoshi slowly got to her feet. "Too chicken to fight us on fair ground?"

"You call two against one fair?" Kikyu's voice rang out. It was like talking to the wind.

Enraged, Hoshi kicked at the air in front of her. No hit. She could hear Kikyu chuckling to herself. "Where are you?" Hoshi kicked again, wildly. Her attacks met no resistance and Kikyu's laughing grew louder.

"You're pathetic. To think I almost let you beat me."

"I almost did!" Hoshi jabbed and swiped at several places at once. Putting her back to one side and glaring at where she thought Kikyu would be standing.

"You were lucky. Luck alone does not a warrior make."

"What would you know?"

"I have forgotten more about martial arts than you'll ever learn, pup. You think you're on my level? You are wrong. I am the ultimate fighter. My name is feared far and wide. Now I'm about to show you why people..." Before Kikyu could finish, Hoshi did a back flip followed by a kick that hit with something solid. She heard an "umph!" as Kikyu's body hit the ground. Then she heard Kikyu scrambling away. Hoshi tried to do a follow-up attack but the woman was already out of range.

"You little bitch! You got me talking so that you could follow my voice."

Hoshi smiled. "I thought the 'ultimate fighter' would know how to keep her mouth shut. Guess you're not as smart as you think you are."

Something hit Hoshi in the face. Then the gut. Then her chin. The hits came repeatedly until her face was all bruised and blood ran down her nose. Finally, Kikyu hit her so hard that the girl flew and fell down face-first into the ground. She struggled to get up, but the repeated hits to her head had left her disoriented. Hoshi slumped to the ground.

"I've had enough of this," the voice of Kikyu said. "First I'm going to break your legs, then your arms, then your back; if you're still alive then I will break your chin so I don't have to hear your mouth ever again. And finally, I will put my fingers around that scrawny neck of yours and squeeze until it snaps. Then I'll toss your carcass down the steps and watch the youma feast on it."

Hoshi groaned.

"Ready to begin?" The cracking of knuckles could be heard.

The Kurunai appeared just above and behind where Kikyu was gloating over Hoshi. Kim's voice rang out over the loudspeaker. "Not so fast, Kikyu!" She turned on the lights, bathing the area in a golden hue.

"The hell you doing, gaijin?"

"Evening the odds!"

After a moment, Hiro got back up, holding his left shoulder where he had collided with the wall. The warrior grimaced as he popped the loose bone back into place. Flexing his fingers for good measure, Hiro took a step forward. "Kikyu! Your fight is with me."

He could hear her chuckling. "Don't be a hero, boy. If your girlfriend couldn't beat me what chance do you have?"

"More than your chances of defeating me."

"What?"

Hiro's eyes went to the ground. Then they went back up. He smiled. He blurred into motion, running to one side before leaping into the air. Kikyu's invisible eyes followed him up until the point where his silhouette was blurred out by the bright lights of the Kurunai. Unable to see let alone focus, Kikyu was blinded long enough for a shadow to envelop her. Hirotaka's foot landed squarely where he knew she was. The woman yelled as the breath was knocked from her body. She flew over and past Hoshi's body and crashed down to the earth.

Back on his feet, Hiro narrowed his eyes slightly before continuing the assault. Kikyu got back up just in time to see Hiro barreling in on her. She made for a side kick but he blocked it, countering with a powerful elbow strike to the head and following that up with several jabs to the stomach. Hearing Kikyu wail with each blow only made Hiro put more into each attack. It was no longer about skill, but punishment. Jab. Punch. Duck. Kick. Spin. Parry. Deflect. Chop. Weave. Counter. Strike!

It wasn't long before Kikyu's form materialized into view. Her red gi was torn and ripped from where Hiro's mighty blows had struck her. She wobbled weakly as her battered form could barely stand up. Bleeding from her mouth, the warrior woman could only glance in shock at the man in front of her. "H-How?" She fell down. Looking at her sash, Kikyu glimpsed the ruined chip that allowed her to turn invisible sparking with damage from where Hiro's blows had landed the hardest. Unable to accept what had happened, Kikyu looked up. "How did you know?"

"A little bird told me," he motioned at the Kurunai which hovered above. "A red-feathered bird that said while your ability may hide you from human eyes, you cannot escape the light of truth."

"Light...of...truth?" Kikyu repeated. She spat out blood. "The hell does that mean?"

He pointed. "Observe. Your darkness is apparent for all to see."

Kikyu looked behind her and saw her own shadow. She gasped. That couldn't be it! Back at the timeshare where she fought Kim Possible, Kikyu had used her stealth abilities and kicked Kim atop the fireplace where she fell defeated to the ground. Standing over her, Kim must have caught a glimpse of her shadow in the firelight. That's how she knew about Kikyu's weakness. Using the same principle, Kim had positioned the ship so that its lights would reveal Kikyu's position to Hirotaka, allowing him to follow her shadow's movements.

She found herself smiling. "Not bad. Not bad at all." Kikyu stood up, albeit slowly.

"Do you really wish to continue this fight?" Hiro asked.

Kikyu pushed back her hair. It flailed in the exhaust of the Kurunai. "I've vowed to continue each battle to the death."

"Then you will die," Hiro got into fighting stance.

"I never said my death." He didn't see her reach into her sash and remove a pellet. The woman threw it to the ground where it exploded, covering the area with a thick fog. Hiro was blinded, but so was Kikyu. This provided her with the cover she needed to sneak around Hiro's position.

"Hirotaka!" Kim's voice blared above. "I lost sight of her."

"As have I," he muttered. Vulnerable as he was, Hirotaka knew that the next attack would be the last. Kikyu meant to kill him. His only chances of success would be to strike first, hard, fast, and without mercy. He had never killed anyone before, but sometimes your enemy gave you no choice. There was still Hoshi to think of, and Kim, and Yori. The hero in him would not allow so many damsels to be in distress.

Feeling a smirk coming along, his eyes closed shut due to the irritants from the pellet, a memory came floating to the back of his eyelids. He was back at the dojo with Yori. The two had sparred together as they had always done but this time Yori had an edge that he didn't. Hiro believed her victory stemmed from the fact that she had trained harder than him, had pushed herself further than he ever could. He remembered the apple and how it had split in his hand. Yori had done that without him knowing it. Had it been a real fight he would have been dead. What skill, he thought, she commanded. What perfect cohesion between mind, body, and soul. She was a true warrior, far greater than he could ever be.

Then he knew. With his eyes closed and his nose clogged from the smoke, he felt it. It was more than just training and discipline that allowed her to win. It was instinct. Yori knew to trust her feelings, that sixth sense that enabled her to see things others could not. Hiro suddenly understood why he had lost and knew what it took to win. For once in his life, he had to stop thinking and start feeling.

And feel he did. The vibrations. The subtle currents of human breath. The legs coiled as they prepared to jump. Suddenly he knew and he did not think. He jumped.

From above, Kim watched as Kikyu and Hiro flew out of the fog and into the air. Kikyu unleashed a murderous howl as leaped for Hirotaka, fingers stretched as if to tear out his heart. The two exchanged blows halfway between them and landed on opposite sides of the summit. Hiro held his breath as he stood an inch from the edge that would have sent him plummeting to his death. He curled his toes and stepped backward, looking to where he last saw Kikyu. Kim had kicked the ship's thrusters on full, blowing the smoke away. There stood Kikyu on the other end, standing perfectly still. She too was on the opposite edge and turned around to face Hiro.

Their eyes met. Blood streamed down Hiro's face where the woman's sharp nails had nearly gouged his eyes out. Kikyu in comparison seemed unharmed. That's when the middle part of her gi, right between her breasts, sliced open. There was a deep blue mark in the shape of a curved tail on the skin. The mark of the scorpion.

Kikyu's eyes glazed over and rolled up into her head. Hiro watched as she fell over without making a sound. He could only imagine her falling to her doom. Surprisingly, he felt nothing for the woman. He expected to feel remorse or pity, but there was no such thing. But he also did not feel happy for taking another life was nothing to be proud of. Instead, Hirotaka felt the only thing that followed such a trying experience: relief.

"You okay?" He heard Kim ask.

He gave her a thumbs-up sign and walked over to Hoshi. He collapsed to his knees. "Hoshi?"

The girl opened up her eyes. She blinked. "Hiro?" She looked at him. "You look like shit."

He smiled. "A hindsight better than you, I'm happy to admit."

"Asshole." She let him help her up to a sitting position. "What happened to Kikyu?"

"Defeated," Hiro said with finality.

"You beat her? On your own?"

Hiro nodded.

"Seriously?"

He nodded again.

"How?"

"With my rugged good looks and manly charms."

Hoshi punched him in the shoulder.

"Ouch! Very well. I used the Scorpion Palm technique."

"Since when did you know that?"

"Since a few seconds ago." When Hoshi gawked Hiro said. "You didn't think I spent all that time with you girls and didn't pick up a few things?"

Hoshi looked at him with what could only be a new measure of respect.

"What?"

"You've really come a long way."

"I will take that as a compliment. Afterall, I did save your life."

"That never leaves this island."

"As you wish."

"Uh...guys?" They looked up to where Kim was observing through the front mirror. "Sorry to break up the ninja friendship circle but we've still got a world to save."

"Quite right." Hiro stood up. Offering a hand, Hoshi took it. The ground started to shake at that point.

Hoshi reached out to grab Hiro before she fell. "What's happening?"

"It's the island," Kim said. "It's falling apart!"


Yori was still unconscious and Yusuke was the first to spot her.

"Yori!" He jumped the gap between them and the pedestal, landing at a run. Kimiko followed close behind. They had to circumvent the corpses of demons as they rushed to Yori's side. Yusuke reached his sister first and was disturbed to see that her armor had been horridly burned. Fearing the worse, Yusuke placed a finger to her neck to check her pulse. His breathed easy. "She's still alive."

Kimiko regarded the chamber. "Must have been one hell of a fight."

"These burns are bad," Yusuke commented. "Her suit took the worst of it and I think the nanomachines are the only thing keeping her from being cooked alive."

"Smart little robots."

"Yeah. But she needs medical attention." Yusuke tapped his helmet. "Takashi, it's Yusuke. Yori's down and her suit's been fried. Literally. Have Kim bring the ship around so we get out of here as fast as possible." There was silence. "Takashi?"

Kimiko tried to reach him as well with the same result. "We can't get a signal in here," she told her stepbrother. "We're on our own."

"Story of our lives." He picked up Yori bridal style and watched her wince. "Yori?"

She opened her eyes slowly at first. Upon recognizing her brother's face, she offered a weak smile. "It is...good to see you, Yusuke."

"Same here. Hang on, Yori. We're taking you home."

"We?"

Kimiko got in close. "Someone had to protect your brother."

Yori winced.

"What is it?" Yusuke asked.

"The pain. I was able to destroy Akuyasha but...his blood."

"Akuyasha?" Kimiko looked around. She spotted what appeared to be the largest mass in the room coming from a broken eggshell.

Yusuke had put Yori down for a moment. She was able to sit up. "Yes. The leader of the youma invasion was a demonic prince named Akuyasha. Years ago it captured our father and stole his identity. When the two merged they became a monster. I was able to slay it and...put an end to his plans." Her lips trembled slightly. "I had to kill our own father. It was the only way."

"Father?" Yusuke laid his hand on her shoulder. "Our father...was he..."

"That thing was not our father, Yusuke. I did what I had to do. I had no choice. He was a monster. He had to be stopped." The tears began to roll out now. Yori never understood what true hatred was before today. As much as she hated Saito, the yakuza, the youma, and Akuyasha, she hated more what they had forced her to become. Yori's soul had been torn in ways she never imagined. Taking the life of an enemy was one thing. Taking the life of family...there could be no consoling.

Seeing his sister cry made Yusuke put his arm around her. Then he was reminded of the acid coating her armor as it sizzled next to his. He immediately retracted his arm but remained next to her. "Yori...our father you...you freed him." It sounded stupid even as he said it, but he couldn't let Yori live the rest of her life thinking she had murdered her own father. "Dad would have wanted you to do it. Isn't that right, Kimiko?"

But Kimiko was looking away. "Kimiko?"

"What?" She turned back and Yusuke could see the pain in her eyes. "You think that just because I was with him longest that I understood Kenji better than anyone? Well I didn't. He always kept me at a distance. What little I knew of him didn't deserve to be called father. Kenji was yakuza. He was a killer. It's because of him our family was torn apart so don't expect me to defend him."

"Be quiet!" Yori snapped. "Do not slander his name. Not now."

But Kimiko wasn't done. "You didn't know him, Yori. Consider yourself lucky. He destroyed every life he touched." She glared at her. "And he would have done the same to you."

Even with the tears falling down her cheeks, Yori still managed to put up a fight. "He tried to save us. He tried to fight the youma. No man who sacrificed so much..."

"Sacrificed? What the hell did he know of sacrifice? I sacrificed! You sacrificed! Yusuke, Takashi, we all had to sacrifice our childhoods for that man. Don't you dare make him out to be a hero, Yori."

"He wasn't a hero," Yori said. "He was our father."

"Some dad." Kimiko regarded the chamber. "Hell of a legacy you left us, dad." Her voice echoed off the distant walls. "After all this crap you couldn't live long enough tell us how much you've missed us? That's a shitty way of saying goodbye."

"Kimiko," Yusuke said.

But she didn't listen. "I've waited years for this moment. I've dreamed of seeing you one last time just so I could spit in your face. You destroyed my life, Kenji! I hope you burn in hell for this. You hear me? I hope you fucking rot!"

"Silence!" Yori screamed.

Kimiko reared on her. "Don't you tell me what to do! I am through taking orders from an Ishimura."

Then Yori snapped. "You were never good at taking them anyway. It's no wonder my father abandoned you."

"What did you say?"

"You're a failure! Both as a daughter and as a warrior. I have never met such a despicable person in my life. My father may have been a monster but at least he died trying to protect us. What have you done for anyone other than yourself? Nothing! You are selfish, dishonorable, and undisciplined; nothing but a spoiled child who thinks her pain is the only one that matters. We've all lost something, Kimiko, but all you can think of is yourself. I thought you'd changed but I was wrong." Her eyes were so wet it was difficult to see anything but moving blurs, but still she persisted. "I...I hate you, Kimiko. I hate you!"

Her tears fell to the ground. The entire room began to shake. Suddenly the pedestal they were on began to glow a deep hue of red - blood red. There was a roar followed by a maniacal laugh. The veins on the wall and beneath their feet began to pulsate with renewed energy. Then the whole place began to fall apart.

"Yori!" Yusuke grabbed her and pulled her in close, acid be damned! "We have to get out of here." Carrying his sister, both he and Kimiko made for the exit only to watch it crumble before their eyes. The path they had taken to get here was buried under rock and bone, a cave in that prevented any hope of backtracking.

The pedestal leaned precariously and they had to bend their knees to avoid from falling. With no way out the siblings were trapped. That's when it happened. The pedestal wasn't falling; it was changing! As it was the heart of the palace and the island of which it sat upon, so to was it the birthing place of all the youma. A wail of pain split the ears of the humans, forcing them to crumble and grab their heads in agony. Bit by bit, the pedestal began to shape, to morph into something...evil.

Above them, the roof crumbled and bits of it began to fall on their heads. Those pebbles were followed by larger stones until even boulders began to rain upon them. Yori, Yusuke and Kimiko had to watch their heads and their footing, made all the more difficult since the pedestal would not stop moving.

"We'll die if we stay here!" Kimiko screamed over the impossible noise.

"Tell me something I don't know!" Yusuke clung to his sister by the wrist. He would never lose her again.

"...suke...re...over?" the intercom in his helmet went off. Looking over at Kimiko, Yusuke judged from her face that she'd heard it as well.

"It's Takashi!" She exclaimed.

"Takashi!"

"Yusu...wh...you bee...I've...ing...reach...pas...inutes."

"Come again, bro. We didn't catch that last part."

"Just tell him we need to get out of here." Kimiko jumped as a rock the size of a semi fell where she'd been standing.

"Takashi, we're trapped inside the fortress. Our exit's cut off and we need a way out of here."

"Gotcha. Help...on the...ay."

"I think he got it." Yusuke looked at Yori who needed his help standing up. "Hear that, Yori? We're getting out of here." But that was when the floor rose up to claim her. A giant hand coiled its massive fingers around Yori, separating her away from her brother. "Yori!"

The hand rose out of the ground, taking shape just like the rest of the pedestal. Kimiko moved as another great hand rose and swiped at her head. She grabbed Yusuke, but he fought her. He would not leave Yori.

The dais began to take the shape of a body with a head, neck, and chest forming. Yori tried to break free but she was too weak and her suit too damaged to help her break the thing's grip. She continued to rise as the giant began to take form. She reached out to her family. "Help!"

"Yori!" Yusuke cried. The ground heaved as it split into sharp fangs. Kimiko and Yusuke had to jump to avoid falling into the chasm that was really a throat. A roar went up as the creature yawned its way to creation.

Still trapped, Yori could only watch in terror as Akuyasha, the real Akuyasha, opened one eye and then the second, saw her struggling in his clutches, and smile.


The youma palace was breaking up and the top had already caved in. As it stood, the place resembled a volcano that had blown its top off when in reality it had imploded. Everything from the foundations of the fortress to the island itself was falling in as if being sucked into a black hole. That's what it seemed like at first. And then it began to change.

"Hiro," Kim said from the pilot seat. "What's happening?"

Sitting in the co-pilot's seat, Hiro said, "I am not sure, Kim. Though with any luck this means that Yori and her siblings were victorious in overcoming Saito."

"Why do I get the feelings it's more than that?" Hoshi, who was standing between them, said.

Takashi's voice came over the radio. "Guys! Yusuke just called me. They're trapped inside and they need a way out."

"Well, I see a way in." Hoshi pointed to the chopped-off part of the roof. "Think you can slide us in there without crashing, Kim?"

"Is the Pope Catholic?" Kim brought them in close. Her skill at piloting had improved the short time she was at the wheel. The Japanese watched with surprise at how she handled the controls. "Piece of cake." The Kurunai descended slowly at first but with greater speed as Kim gained confidence she would not plaster them against the walls. Several youma bypassed them on their way down.

"More demons!" Hiro exclaimed.

"Looks like they're running from something," Hoshi observed.

"And we're going in the opposite direction. Nice." Kim increased speed. "Let's get down there, get our friends, and get the hell out!"


Akuyasha had been reborn. The demon was now fifty times his original size and growing. With six arms instead of two, a head that resembled a squashed, bloody skull, an over and underbite that ended in feet-long teeth, and a body covered in twisting veins, he was a monstrosity in every sense of the word.

Still holding Yori with one hand, Akuyasha regarded her with eyes that blazed with hellfire. "Thank you, Yori."

She looked at him, not understanding.

"You gave me life. It was your hatred for Kimiko that revitalized me. I must say, I didn't think such a young flower as yourself possessed so much rage. You truly are your father's daughter."

That's when she realized it. "I hate you!" Those were her exact words to Kimiko. Akuyasha was youma, which meant he lived off the darkness in people's hearts. Anger. Jealousy. Greed. Fear. Hate. Every negative emotion gave them power and by admitting her hatred, at letting it consume her, she had given Akuyasha the boost he needed. It was all her fault.

"No."

"Oh but it is true, my dear. Your hate has provided me a second wind. Now I can finally cut loose." With a great roar, Akuyasha continued to grow. His body was growing at such a rate that he would eclipse the tallest skyscraper if left unchecked. Yori kept getting smaller and smaller. Akuyasha could have crushed her easily but he wanted to keep her alive long enough to witness the fruits of her labor. She had done this. She had given the youma exactly what they needed. First Fujimori, then Kenji, then Saito and now...Yori.

It was all her fault.

"Yori!" Clinging to the side of the growing demon, Kimiko and Yusuke were trying desperately not to fall. Whether the great demon had noticed them or not was beyond them. They were but flies next to his massive form. With so many veins they managed to climb their way up to his midsection but still had some climbing left to go. Seeing his sister so high up, Yusuke had called to her but she did not hear. "Yori!"

"Pipe down you idiot! You want him to hear us?"

"He has Yori."

"And we have him. Sort of." Kimiko urged him onward. "If we get up there we can help her so keep climbing."

Knowing she was right, Yusuke continued his ascent.

"Guys? It's Kim. We're coming up on your position."

Kim's voice was like an angel to Yusuke's ears. But then Kimiko chimed in. "Be careful. There's a huge demon heading your way. You can't miss him."

"We see him. Holy..." Kim's awestruck voice was cut off by a new one.

"I'm getting impossible readings over here." For once Takashi's voice was loud and clear but that was because there was no roof to block him. "What's going on?"

"Stay tuned, Takashi." Kimiko motioned to one of the nearby arms. "I see our way up."

Following her lead, Yusuke jumped onto the arm and used the muscles as traction to run instead of climb. They managed to reach the arm that held Yori and found her sulking. "Yori?"

"It's all my fault."

Yusuke reached her. "We have to leave. Come, Yori!" He had to physically drag her to her feet. So lost was she in her own shame that she looked right through him. "It's all my fault," she kept repeating.

"Snap out of it!" Her brother said.

"I see them!" Kimiko pointed to the growing silhouette of the Kurunai. Kim opened up the port side door where Hoshi was urging them in. Kimiko jumped on first. Yusuke had to forcibly throw Yori across the gap before getting on himself. It was at that moment that Akuyasha decided to turn his head. "Hm?"

"Kim!" Hiro pointed as a large hand came for the ship. The redhead kicked them into gear and spun out of the way of its reaching fingers. The Kurunai zigzagged out of range and made for the open sky.

"That was close," Kim said.

"He's chasing us?" Hoshi's shrill voice said from the back.

"Or not. Hang on!"

Giving it all she got, Kim put the thrusters on full. If they could make it to the roof then they would be able to activate the main engines and blast out of here. But first they had to climb. Akuyasha roared and reached for them. He had just caught them when they had reached the roof. "Punch it!" Yusuke yelled and Kim did so. Once they were out of reach they finally had a good look at what was coming out of the island. Akuyasha was huge. Black clouds swirled around his body and hurricane-force winds billowed around his form. A dark god given birth.

By one very distraught girl.

"Look at the size of that thing!" Kim said.

"How are we supposed to fight something like that?" Hiro's eyes were so wide they looked ready to fall out of his head.

"We don't," Yusuke said. He came up to the bridge. "We turn around and head for home."

"We're running?" Kim asked.

"Biding our time. We can't hope to fight that thing like this. We need reinforcements. Perhaps the JDF or Global Justice."

"That thing looks strong enough to take on ten armies," Kimiko said.

"We can't leave." All eyes turned on Kim who returned the gesture. "Well we can't. We have to stop that thing before it reaches the mainland."

"And how do you plan on stopping it, Miss America?"

Kim glared at Hoshi. "I haven't thought that far ahead."

"None of us did." Yusuke punched a button on the console. "Takashi, you getting this?"

The man's beefy face appeared on screen. He looked scared. "I'm afraid so."

"What do we do?"

"I have no idea."

Looking past the crowd, Hirotaka spotted Yori huddled by the door. "What do you think we should do, Yori?"

Everyone looked at her. She seemed so far gone that no one could tell which part of her had left; her mind or her spirit. Inside she was berating herself for giving Akuyasha the chance to gain his true form. She should have known better than to give in to her darkest emotions. Now her hate had given birth to the destroyer of the world. She had effectively aided the youma in accomplishing their goal of total human eradication...and she wasn't even a yakuza.

"Yori?" Hiro appeared right next to her. "Yori? What is it? What is wrong?"

She looked at him finally and said, "It is all my fault, Hiro. I allowed this to happen."

"What?"

"I let my hatred get the better of me and that's what allowed Akuyasha to obtain his full power. Now the human race will be destroyed because of me."

"What are you saying?" Hiro turned to Yusuke and Kimiko, the only two people that were with Yori when this happened. "What happened?"

Kimiko was the first to speak. "It's because of me. I got heated and I said some things. She got mad and said some things. I think that's why that thing out there is so big. It fed off of our anger and became that monster. I'm sorry." She lowered her gaze to the floor.

"So wait a minute," Kim began. "If this thing feeds off our negative emotions, then maybe we can fight back with positive emotions."

Hoshi shook her head. "You want to hold hands and sing Cumbaya? How's that going to stop him?"

"Well I don't see you coming up with any bright ideas."

Takashi was thinking. "Perhaps a thermonuclear warhead dropped straight down its esophagus."

"It's a demon, Takashi! Fire doesn't kill it!" Yusuke said.

"Oh right."

"Well we have to do something. The longer we argue the bigger that thing gets. Someone think of a plan and think of it fast!" Hoshi cried.

Kim took one look at Akuyasha outside the window. Even at this distance she could tell he was growing. He was bigger than the island now, the palace long since absorbed into his body. She had faced aliens, genetically-enhanced monsters, mutants, giant robots, martial artists, and even spinning tops of doom, and nothing in all her adventures could have ever prepared her for this moment. She was at a loss for words.

"I'm sorry." Kimiko spoke loud enough so that everyone could hear her. "If I hadn't antagonized Yori this would have never happened." She removed her helmet. Remorse as plain as the sweat on her face, Kimiko approached Yori. Hirotaka stepped to the side as she put her hand on Yori's shoulder, getting her attention. "Yori...I've done a lot of stupid things in my life. I've done many horrible things, too. It's too late that I realize that you and your family were the best thing that ever happened to me. All these years I've blamed Kenji for my choices when it was me all along who couldn't forgive the one person that truly needed forgiving; myself."

"Kimiko..."

"Let me finish. This isn't your fault, Yori. It's mine. I manipulated you into coming here. I lied to you. I used you. In the end I was willing to hurt you when all you wanted to do was help me. I'm no better than Saito. I have no excuse for my actions and for that...I am sorry."

"This really isn't the time,"

"This is the only time, Yori. We may never get another chance at this." She pointed out the front window. "That thing is going to destroy everything if we don't stop it. Kenji tried to do that and he failed. I'm not about to make the same mistake he did. He tried to do it alone." Kimiko shut her eyes, her memory drifting back to that far off day. "I remember when Kenji decided he was going to fight the yakuza the day your mother died. He swore over her grave and I wanted to help him. He tried to dissuade me but I persisted. I wouldn't let him fight alone. It was my choice and I did it not out of a sense of retribution but because I loved him and I didn't want to let him do this by himself."

"I chose to go with him. I chose this life. It was difficult but Kenji prepared me for it one day at a time. It wasn't easy but I survived this long because of what he taught me." She opened her eyes again. "But there was one thing he failed to teach me and that's because he didn't learn it himself. We are family and family sticks together. I will finish what Kenji started. I will defeat this demon and avenge our mother's death. But I can't do it alone, Yori. I need you. We all do."

"That's right!" Yusuke chimed in. "Team Ishimura all the way!"

"Team Ishimura?" Hoshi repeated.

"As the eldest son I hereby adopt you into the family."

"Technically I'm the eldest," Kimiko told him. "But I second that. You're all family now." She nodded to each occupant in turn. "And we need to do this together."

"I'm game," Kim said.

"Let's do it," Yusuke slammed his fists together. "Let's go kick some ass!"

Hoshi thought a moment before shrugging her shoulders. "What the hell? I always wanted to save the world."

"You're going to love it," Kim told her, to which Hoshi winked back.

Taking his place beside Yori, Hirotaka put an arm around her shoulder and said, "In this our most desperate hour, I can ask for no better comrade to have at my side. The honor of Yamanouchi demands we take the fight to the enemy. Let us make our school proud."

Kimiko stepped away. "You heard it, Yori. We're all in this together."

"Count me in." The voice was strained though easily recognizable. Ron Stoppable had regained consciousness and had heard everything being said. While weak he managed to lift his bandaged head just slightly to regard everyone in the room. His one good eye open, Ron smiled. "Go Team Ishimura."

"Ron!" Without thinking, Kim rushed out of the pilot's seat and to his side. Yusuke quickly filled her vacancy so that she could embrace her injured lover. "Ron! You're awake!"

"You didn't think I'd miss this." Ron gently touched her face. She took his hand in both of hers and her eyes swelled with tears. "End of the world, KP. Wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

"I've missed you."

"Ditto."

"Then it's settled!" Hoshi exclaimed. "Let's finish what Kenji started."

"You game, Yori?" Kimiko asked.

Seeing all her friends together, ready to face death without a moment's hesitation made the kunoichi swell with an emotion she always ignored but now clung to with newfound joy. She had found pride.

"I am game."


The Kurunai made straight for Akuyasha. With Yusuke at the helm the vessel did not shake as much, making Kim realize she still had a ways to go before her piloting skills were up to par. Everyone crowded around the cockpit to get a good view. The demon was many stories tall, easily larger than any building in Japan and probably everywhere else in the world. His head breached the clouds where he breathed fire into the sky. Truly a demon-god reborn, Akuyasha was the devourer of souls.

"This is insane," Yusuke commented.

"First you were all gung-ho and now you're having second thoughts?" Hoshi teased. "Getting cold feet?"

"Nothing cold about where we're going. You sure this is the only way, Yori?"

Standing between Hiro and Kimiko, Yori was more determined than ever to see her plan through. "Akuyasha is too powerful to fight as he is. Our only hope is to destroy him from the inside."

"And while you're offering yourself as a human sacrifice, what will we do?" Hiro asked her.

"Distract the youma. But be careful. We will need to make a hasty retreat once we've destroyed his heart."

"How do you know it even has a heart?"

"All things have a heart, Hiro-chan. It's just a matter of finding it."

"I hope you're right." Hiro fell silent a moment. "I wish I was going with you."

"Kimiko, Yusuke and I are the only ones who stand a chance at surviving what's in there. Our suits provide us with the protection we need."

"Your suit is damaged," he pointed out. "Kimiko still has a bullet lodged inside her. That only leaves Yusuke. I do not like your chances."

"Sitting right here," Yusuke said. "Within earshot."

"Forgive me. I did not mean to make light of your skills, Yusuke-san."

"I know what you meant, and don't worry. I won't let anything happen to my baby sister."

"Yusuke." Yori blushed.

"I'll make sure she comes back in one piece." He felt a hand tap the back of his head.

"And what about me?" Kimiko asked.

"You're the oldest so your job is to look out for me."

She slapped him again. "Who you calling old?"

"Guys..." Hoshi pointed. "There it is."

They had just broken through the clouds to find Akuyasha throwing back his head. He opened his mouth to spew forth a host of youma so numerous it was impossible to count. Pretty soon there would be enough demons to replace every human being on Earth ten times over. They were witnessing the end of the world before their very eyes.

"Take us in," Yori commanded and Yusuke sped up. "Activate stealth mode."

"Stealth activated." Yusuke flipped the switch and they were invisible to the naked eye. "You're up, Kim." Yusuke vacated his seat to the teen heroine who was forced to relinquish her place beside Ron. The boy was awake but weak, hardly able to sit up let alone witness the coming battle. Hoshi had gratefully volunteered to take Kim's position as Ron's nursemaid for the remainder of the flight if only to put the redhead's mind at ease.

"It still doesn't feel right. I want to be there with you, Yori-chan." Sadness crept into Hiro's voice. It was a tone uncommon in the normally upbeat and charismatic ninja. It's not that he didn't believe in her; he just wanted to be by her side. If it was their time, then they would face death together as comrades and as friends.

Feeling Yori touch his chin and slowly turn it to face her, Hiro found it hard to deny that beautiful face his own smile.

"You are always with me, Hiro-chan." Then she leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. For the first time since she can remember, Hiro blushed. Hoshi noticed it too. She glanced sideways at the interaction while sitting next to Ron. She was both relieved and bothered that the two had found each other again. Stuck playing nurse she just had to suck it in and remember that they were in this together...some more than others.

Pulling away, Yori smiled at Hiro one last time. "We shall return to Yamanouchi victorious. What a tale we'll have!" Turning, she met Kimiko at the door and was joined there by Yusuke. The latter offered Hiro a wink and a thumbs-up. He returned the gesture but found it hard to smile. More than ever he wanted to take the man's place.

"We're almost there," Kim announced. The Kurunai came just outside of range of the spewing geyser that was Akuyasha's mouth. With the stealth mode activated they were completely invisible. "Get ready for drop!"

Kimiko opened the door. "Here we go, Kenji," she said, though the wind drowned out her voice.

Yori was the first to jump, followed by Yusuke and finally Kimiko who blew a goodbye kiss to the others. Hirotaka was at the door in a heartbeat to watch his friends plummet towards the demon below. He almost followed, but knew that putting himself at risk would be hurting the team's chances of success. All he could do was shut the door and pray he had not made the biggest mistake of his life.


Yori promised not to question herself again but as she and her siblings fell towards Akuyasha she began to wonder if perhaps she'd lost her mind. Intentionally leaping into the mouth of a demon the size of Mt. Fuji was testament to how far she was willing to go to right the wrongs of her family. The demon, Akuyasha, continued to spew forth legions of monsters. She prayed he kept doing so long enough for them to finish their drop.

Their luck held and Akuyasha never noticed them. The trio fell through waves and waves of youma, all too eager to escape to care about the three human intruders.

They entered the mouth and into the throat, clearing even more hordes than they thought possible. It was as if Akuyasha's body had become a hive for an endless swarm of living nightmares. By some miracle they never crashed into one. The gods must have been on their side else the impact would have thrown them off their trajectory and possibly kill them in the process.

"How much farther?" Kimiko asked through her headset. Then she remembered that Yori had left her helmet inside the belly of the beast so she could no more hear her if she'd been yelling to Yori from across a canyon.

Takashi on the other hand did hear her and he responded. "You should be entering the chest cavity very soon. ETA: thirty seconds."

At the rate of their descent, they were moving fast than a formula one racing car. Given the added weight of their suits they would crush anything they landed on. And land is something they would have to do very fast because from the looks of it there was nothing solid to grab onto.

"There!" Kimiko yelled. "YORI!"

Somehow the girl was able to hear Kimiko despite the rush of air in her ears and the occasional roar of a youma as it passed on its way to the surface. Kimiko had pointed to a series of white beams jutting out of the fleshy walls. Ribs. Signaling her comrades, Yori removed a grappling hook from her back and threw it in unison with the others. Those belonging to Kimiko and Yusuke managed to snag something. Yori's never reached its target for just as she threw her hook, a particularly small youma had crashed into her, throwing her aim clear off. She spun madly and continued to fall.

"No!" Yusuke yelled.

"Yori!" Kimiko grunted as her feet struck the solid wall of the ribcage.

Falling, Yori searched for means of escape. She'd lost her grip on the wall and had to wonder how she would get herself out of this one. Her answer came in the form of a shining object just below her. Yori's hands reached out for the sword she herself had planted there on the wall when she had been forced over the dais. Her momentum carried her and the sword down, however, and she cut a huge swatch of flesh along the way. The walls reverberated as Akuyasha, suddenly realizing he'd been breached, roared in pain and surprise.

Yori stopped falling long enough to get her bearings. Now stranded many feet from where she needed to be, the kunoichi prepared for the inevitable onslaught. Hearing their master's plight brought a tidal wave of youma down upon the intruders. Yusuke and Kimiko held their own but Yori was in a very vulnerable position. She adapted.

Jumping off the wall she slashed a youma in half before jumping on another. Using it as leverage, Yori began a dangerous platforming regimen that demanded she leap and cut, leap and cut, using the youma as leverage to ascend while taking them down at the same time. The process worked and it wasn't long before she was fighting side by side with her siblings.

"Nice moves, little sister," Yusuke decapitated a demon with one swoop of his blade.

"I'm not ready to die yet." She killed two more youma before splitting the head of another in two.

"Then follow me." Kimiko took the lead and followed Yori's previous example. The trio jumped onto nearby youma, killed them, and moved to the next, all in an attempt to make it to the other end of the chasm.

"Things are getting a little thick," Yusuke commented. "I don't know if we can make it through all of them. Can you do something about this, bro?"

"Already on it. Kim's team is moving into position."


"We've been in position." Kim heard Takashi's comment and grumbled as she deactivated the ship's cloaking system just in front of Akuyasha. She fired off a couple of rockets into his face for good measure before high-tailing it to a safer position; which in this mess was in outer space.

"That got his attention. Hang on back there." Kim spun the Kurunai around as youma, under Akuyasha's command, began to give chase. Hirotaka manned the navigation system and pointed out possible threats.

"Two coming up on our left."

"Got it." Everyone had to hold onto something as Kim put the ship through some fancy maneuvers.

"KP! Boyfriend onboard!"

"Sorry, Ron." She did a hard left. "But this ride's going to suck. Just hang on back there."

With the demon's attention divided into two places, Hirotaka hoped they had bought Yori the time needed to finish the job.


With one fell swoop the blade cut through the exterior membrane. Three figures dived through to land on a sticky surface. A youma's head, impossibly large to fit through, got stuck in the gap after it tried to give chase. Seeing this, Yusuke strode up to it and finished it off. After removing his sword from the gore he turned to the ladies and asked, "So where are we?"

"Right where we want to be." Kimiko looked up where not one, but two hearts beat in unison. They were bigger than the trio put together and hung from a roof via tendrils so thick that they too had veins. Worm things crawled along the ground. Some nipped at their heels vigorously but to no avail. Kimiko squashed one and it burst into an ugly, orange mess.

"This is gross. Let's kill this thing and get out of here."

"I do not think so."

On guard, they searched for the originator of the voice. A bloody pod rose from the ground just beneath the hearts. It opened up to reveal a familiar face. Kenji Ishimura, bloody and covered in tendrils, approached them with confident steps. He eyed them all but focused on Kimiko in particular. "Long time no see, Kimiko."

"K-Kenji?" She stuttered, lowering her guard.

"Do not be fooled! That is not our father."

"You hurt me, Yori."

"Not yet." Yori charged and sought to cut the demon in half. She missed entirely. In the span it took her to realize he moved, Kenji moved to the side, came up behind her, and put Yori in a fierce headlock. So powerful was his grip that she dropped her sword and kicked her legs out in shock.

"Now is that any way to treat your father?"

"Let her go!" Now it was Yusuke who attacked. Kenji turned a split second before Yusuke's sword came down and he stopped himself from killing his sister, whom Kenji now used as a shield. With one powerful punch, Kenji sent Yusuke flying back and into the wall. Still holding Yori, Kenji faced Kimiko who had yet to move.

"You seem at a loss for words. Do you not remember me? I thought after all we've been through you'd recognize your former lover."

That snapped her out of it. She took on a fighting stance. She lost her knife in her bout with Red Cochrane but she still had her fists. "Shut the hell up! You're not Kenji."

"But of course I am."

"Liar! He's dead. He died trying to fight you."

"I was wrong, Kimiko. The youma want to help humanity, not destroy it. That night when we raided the yakuza compound was when my eyes were finally opened. We were fighting for the wrong side. The youma will bring peace to this world such as it has never known."

Chocking, Yori glared up at him and said, "You mean the peace of the grave."

"I mean an end to suffering. There will be no war, no poverty, no racism or prejudice. In the world of youma all are equal. The human race will have finally achieved the unity it has always sought."

"Unity is not achieved through slavery," Yori said through grit teeth. Her head began to swim from lack of oxygen, but still she managed to keep her senses and defy Kenji with her words. "It is achieved through trust. It comes from learning to respect one's differences and turning their strength into your own. You protect each other. You fight for each other." She looked at Kimiko when she said this. "You forgive each other."

"Yori..."

"Foolish child. You are so naive." Kenji lifted Yori into the air with one hand. With barely a flick of the wrist he sent the girl spinning towards Kimiko. The assassin tried to stop her trajectory but so great was the force behind the throw that when she caught her, she too was thrown back against the membrane wall. Kimiko collapsed to the floor with Yori on top of her. Impossibly strong, Kenji flexed his glowing red muscles. "You've no idea the kind of power they wield. The youma are our true masters. They can teach us things we cannot hope to learn on our own."

"We have nothing to learn from them," started Yusuke, getting up. "Except what not to be!" He charged. With his abilities further enhanced by the battlesuit, Yusuke launched an all-out attack on the demon that was not his father. He moved like a blur; an indistinct flash of green fury. It was an assault that would have killed any living being on the planet.

But Kenji was too fast. So quick were his dodges that his movements were inconceivable. Kenji appeared to be standing still. Yusuke could not land a blow, try as he might. Finally when the demon had had enough, he grabbed Yusuke's fist and squeezed. The armor could only do so much and Yusuke could feel his bones giving way. He fell to one knee. Kenji continued to squeeze with all his might and one by one, each of the bones in Yusuke's right fist began to break. He screamed and punched out at Kenji's midsection. He may as well have punched the side of a mountain for not only did Kenji not even flinch, but the impact broke a few fingers in Yusuke's left hand.

When he finally succumbed to the pain, Yusuke's screams filled Kenji's ears. He smiled. Releasing the boy, Kenji grabbed him by the neck and hoisted him into the air. He meant to choke the very air from his body. "I am sorely disappointed in you, my son." Kenji squeezed.

"Put him down!" Yori regained herself and was struggling to her feet. "Stop it, Kenji! He's your son!"

Something in the demon's eye glinted and he looked up at Yusuke. Seeing the spittle fly from his teeth and hearing him gag caused something to stir inside of him. Little by little, his mouth began to open. "Yusuke?"

The boy was dying.

Suddenly he was released and fell to the ground, coughing. Kenji looked at him; disbelief rampant in his face. But just as soon as the glint appeared it vanished when his eye shut and reopened. He was the monster again and this time he meant to finish what he started.

Weakly, Yusuke slowly focused his eyes on the upraised foot about to crush his head. "Stop!" Yori leaped a length that would put all Olympic records to shame, tackling Kenji before he could kill her brother.

She hit hard and dislocated her shoulder in the impact, but it was enough to save Yusuke's life. Kenji stumbled backward while Yori fell down in great pain. Seeing both Yori and Yusuke writhing in agony like that caused the glint to return and Kenji felt himself struggling. He wanted to kill them both, to put an end to their pointless defiance. But there was another part of him that would not let it happen. Kenji began to have doubts and those doubts turned him in on himself. Two sides of the man warred with each other and the demon reared back his head to growl.

Kimiko rushed up to her downed siblings to see if they were okay. Yusuke had broken almost all of his fingers while one of Yori's arms hung limp at her side. Seeing as how there was nothing she could do for Yusuke at the moment, the assassin went over to Yori and helped her sit up. She felt the limb, hearing the girl yelp as if she'd stuck a knife in her arm. "This will hurt, Yori." Kimiko popped the arm back into place and felt guilt wrack her as she screamed. Kimiko cradled the girl in her arms. "I'm sorry."

"Um...I'm hurting too." Yusuke got back on his knees though his hands were pretty much useless. "Don't suppose you can help me the same way?" With his visor down she could see the sweat beating on his forehead. His eyelids fluttered and Kimiko knew he was just seconds from passing out from the pain. Seeing him put up a strong front reminded her of why she loved him. Yusuke was strong and watching him in such a bad state rendered her heart in two.

"Sorry." She turned to Yori. "Both of you. You don't deserve this."

Still reeling but able to move on her own, Yori detached herself from Kimiko to sit up. "What are you...talking about?" Her arm still ached but it was bearable...just. "This is not your fault, Kimiko."

"I know." She stood up. "But a big sister is supposed to protect her siblings. By taking you here I have failed in my responsibilities." She glared at Kenji was holding his head in pain. "I've blamed too many people for my mistakes. Not stopping Kenji from following this path was my first. I doubt I could have stopped him even if I wanted to. But this time I will. I will stop him by saving him." Her eyes lifted to the hearts on the cavernous ceiling.

"We will stop him together." Yori got up and faltered. Half-leaning, the kunoichi turned to Yusuke who showed that he was willing to continue despite his injuries. "We promised we would fight as a family from now on. No more going it alone."

"We're not alone, Yori." The assassin indicated to Kenji. "Our father, the real Ishimura Kenji, is here with us. Even now he fights to save his children."

Yori and Yusuke gawked at her pronouncement. The demon in Kenji's body writhed back and forth as if his body were tearing itself apart. Looking at him it wasn't far from the truth because his skin was crawling. Two souls warred over the same body. The victor may very well decide the outcome of this fight.

"I will distract him," Kimiko said. "You destroy the hearts." She picked up Yori's sword and handed it to her. "Yusuke, make sure our exit is clear. I have a feeling everything's going straight to hell the moment Yori cuts them."

"You got it." Yusuke stepped back, fighting to stay awake.

Yori stood beside Kimiko and readied her blade. "Ready?"

"Go!"


The Kurunai was surrounded by waves of nightmarish creatures. With so many bodies crowding up the air it became impossible not to hit anything. The wing clipped the side of a particularly nasty-looking youma and the ship began to spin towards the sea.

"You're losing altitude!" Takashi's panicked face said on the screen.

"Tell me something I don't know." Kim pulled back on the helm as hard as she could. "Is Ron okay?"

"None of us will be if you don't pull up!" Hoshi had been tending Ron but after seeing how precarious their predicament had become grew more worried about herself. Still, she remained at his side and held him so that his body would not slide off the table and through the cockpit.

With one hand around his waist, Ron smiled and said, "You'd think we were more than friends."

"Shut up, freckles! Say something stupid one more time and I'll break your other eye."

"KP! She threatened me."

"Not now, Ron!" Still trying to pull up, Kim felt the weight of the ship lagging on her tired arms.

"Allow me." With Hiro's help they managed to pull the Kurunai out of its nosedive just as they skirted along the surface of the water.

"Thanks, Hiro."

"My pleasure. But you might want to keep your eyes on the road, so to speak."

Kim looked away from him and found a youma lollygagging around the ocean. Kim turned just before they barreled into it, but the ship's wing sliced the upper portion of the demon's body clean in half. The decapitated monster sank and drowned, leaving a very ugly mess along the hull. "Dammit!"

"Your timing was impeccable," Hiro said.

"Too bad my luck isn't. Look."

With all that blood on the surface of the ship, it was easy for the rest of the youma to see the Kurunai even with the stealth system activated. Their best defensive option was now null and void.

"It's never easy," she commented.

"Being a hero never is." Hiro smiled.


Seeing the ninja charge brought Kenji out of his stupor. The demon roared and moved to intercept them. Only one faced the demon. Kimiko fought with Kenji in much the same way Yusuke did only she made sure to fight defensively rather than waste her energy pummeling a vastly superior opponent.

Meanwhile, Yori closed in on her target. The worms that were crawling on the floor amassed themselves into a single, bulbous entity which then tried to crush her underneath its bulk. Yori's sword eviscerated the giant larvae and she pressed on. While some of the worms did fall on her - biting and wiggling on and off her face, Yori put her revulsion out of her mind and jumped into the air. Spinning as she did so, dislodging the worms in the process, she cut through the nearest heart. Blood gushed forth like an unleashed wave, and Yori found herself pummeled under the flood.

The world around them began to shake and all combatants found themselves knee-deep in blood. The membrane wall turned from a bloody pink into an amethyst purple, the veins pulsing so violently that tiny portals began to open in the skin, unable to compensate for so much blood pumping at once.

"What have you done?" Kenji tried to bat Kimiko away but she moved at the last moment. In fact, the assassin had lost her footing and fell into the pool of blood. That trip saved her life.

With the blood rising with each passing second, the very real realization of drowning became very clear. Yori, Kimiko, and Yusuke did not have much time. Since he was the closest to the wall, Yusuke tried to pick at the skin with his few good fingers but showed little for the effort. Cursing his uselessness, he began banging his head against the wall. Ironically that's when he remembered the other head stuck to the wall, the one he had dispensed with when they first broke in. With blood up to his waist, Yusuke slogged his way over to the since-dead youma and put his shoulder into pushing it out. It took some effort but he finally succeeded. "Let's get out of here!"

"Not until we've destroyed both hearts!" Kimiko came up sputtering. With so much liquid she could not hope to put her legs to effective use. Yori was still lost under the cascading torrent showed no signs of coming out. "Yori!"

"Worry about yourself!" Kenji yelled and came at Kimiko. Unable to move fast enough she was hit dead on with a punch that shattered the front side of her helmet. Stars swam in her vision and she felt the warmth of blood running down her face. Kenji punched her again and this time it was in the same spot where Red's bullet had penetrated the armor. With her head in a daze, the assassin could not feel the pain, but she went down as easily as if he'd tore a hole through her body.

Seeing this, Yusuke tried to help but was too far away. A large hand pulled Kimiko out of the blood, its fingers slowly crunching her temple. Her body began to jolt from the shock of slowly being crushed. Her eyes fluttered open until they locked onto Kenji's. "Ken...ji."

Seeing her like this, hearing her speak his name, the demon's eyes glinted again. "No! Stop...fighting...me!"

An object flew out of the bloody waterfall and through Kenji's throat. The sword entered from the back and to the front, right where Kimiko could see it. The demon tried to scream but his voice was lodged in his throat which in turn was bleeding out profusely. "K-K-Kimiko."

Despite her predicament, the assassin smiled. "It's me...Kenji."

"No. I can't keep...gyaggh!" He let her go and reached for the sword. His demonic strength allowed him to pull it through from the front; the blood coming out in buckets.

Kimiko managed to keep her head above the rising tide despite having a slight concussion. Still bleeding from the frightening wound in his neck, Kenji looked down on her not with malice, but sympathy. "Kimiko," his voice was gurgled but it was one she recognized immediately.

"Kenji."

Half-drowned, Yori staggered out into the open to view her handiwork. Already the blood was reaching up to her chest and she could hardly navigate her legs in the thick substance. She caught sight of Kenji holding her sword up high; Kimiko right beneath her. "No!"

But it was too late. The sword came down, point first...right into Kenji's belly. Like a samurai of old, he moved the blade in a sideways motion, spilling his own life blood to mingle in with that of the demon heart. The chamber shook again the membrane wall turned from purple into obsidian black. By hurting himself, Kenji had in turn hurt Akuyasha. Connected, one need only destroy one to destroy the other.

Feeling his old self returning after years of being a puppet, Kenji reached out to Kimiko who took his hand. "Kimiko." Blood gushed from his teeth. "I cannot hold him back for long. You must take our family and escape."

"Not without you," she told him. Barely able to stand, Kimiko felt like her head was about to cave in at any moment. Kenji held her up more than she did him, and his entrails were starting to spill out. "We finally meet after all these years and you commit seppuku. How's a girl supposed to take that?" Her smile was weak but genuine.

"I always admired your spirit." Looking up, Kenji saw his son. "Yusuke, forgive my words earlier. You were never a disappointment."

Yusuke could not believe it. He was seeing his father for the first time in eighteen years. "Dad."

"I am so sorry for hurting you. You are the bravest and most capable warrior I have ever met. Your courage will inspire others. Don't ever forget...that I am proud of you, my son." It became difficult to speak and Kenji keeled over.

"Dad!" Yusuke was pushed back against the wall by the oncoming blood. "Father, it's me!"

"I see you." Kenji looked back. "As I do you, my daughter."

With the current at her back it was easier for Yori to come at him. She paused before the large man, his bloody face a mixture of gore and humanity. Still on guard she asked, "Are you Kenji?"

He nodded. "For the most part. You see when I went to confront Fujimori all those years ago, it happened on the day he died of a massive heart attack. All the years of evil had finally caught up with him and the Yakuza king had finally paid his price. But with him dead, the youma had lost their one foothold in the human world. Hence the creature known as Akuyasha chose me as its next host. I fought as long as I could, but I succumbed to his influence." He closed his eyes. "We went deep underground to prepare for the day his demon kindred would flood into the world. Each day I was under his control I lost a little bit more of myself until finally Ishimura Kenji was almost no more. I had forgotten what it was to be human. That is, until I saw the three of you."

His eye opened. "Seeing you together, fighting, willing to die for each other, brought back the part of me I thought long lost. Now I remember who I am. If only for a little while."

"What do you mean?" Yori asked him.

"The demon is too powerful. I can only stem his influence for so long before he regains controls." Kenji looked at her. "Akuyasha will never be defeated so long as I remain. I am his connection to this world, hence why he joined himself to me."

"But," Yori turned around. "The hearts."

"There are two, yes. One of them belongs to Akuyasha." He paused briefly. "The other is mine." Kenji pointed at the remaining heart. "My heart was stolen from me and used as a vessel to store all the evils of the world. With it, the youma could finally begin their invasion and I was powerless to stop it. But no more." He offered the sword back to Yori. "You must end it."

Yori could not have turned around fast enough if her father had grabbed her, her eyes wide. "What?"

Still holding out the sword, Kenji fixed her with the most sincere look his demonic face could convincingly conceive. "You must kill me."

"No!" Yori reached out to him before instinct forced her to recoil. The demon's insides were collecting on the surface of the blood, floating not far from where she stood. It was a vile scent and one that would have had her running away had not he spoken to her again.

"Yori." As if hearing a dream, Yori recognized that voice, the one that had spoken to her years ago when she was just a baby. It was the voice of her father, the man who gave up everything so that she and her brothers could be safe. Forcing herself to avoid the gruesome scene before her, Yori's eyes followed the trail of dried blood that came when she punctured his throat and slowly, very slowly, looked into the eyes of her father. For the first time in her life, she really saw him.

"You must do this for me, little one. For me. For your mother. For all the people who have suffered at the hands of your grandfather and his evil masters. Do not let our sacrifices be in vain."

But she could not bring herself to do it. "I-I can't."

"Yori...please..."

Even with the blood level rising, her emotions began to pour out. "I spent my entire life wondering about the family I never had. I never knew you or mother. I never knew Kimiko or my brothers until recently. I've been through so much and not that I finally have you back, you want me to, you ask me to," She couldn't finish. Shaking her head, Yori fought the tears that threatened to overcome her. "I had dedicated my life to being a ninja. But what about the family I left behind? I cannot abandon you anymore than I could Hiro-chan, or Sensei-sama, or Ron-san, or Hoshi-san. You are all a part of who I am. I will not destroy that which I have so desired since I was a girl."

"Father!" Yusuke called out. "I didn't understand what you were sacrificing for us all those years ago. But I've grown up since then and now I know. What you fail to realize is that we're leaving here as a family or we do not leave at all."

"Yusuke's right. Listen to him, Ken...father."

Father. It was such a beautiful word coming from Yori's lips. Kenji never heard it before today.

"They're stubborn," Kimiko said. "Just like their dad."

"Yes." He looked at her. "And their big sister."

She did not argue.

"There must be another way. We can still stop Akuyasha and free you from his hold."

But Kenji denied that with a grunt. "Yori, there isn't much time." Before their horrified eyes, Kenji's children watched as the entrails which spilled from his body began to crawl back into the wound in his stomach. The demon in him was mending and Akuyasha was slowly regaining control. Kenji could feel it. He could only defy the youma for so long. Now he had to make a choice. He thought he'd made the most difficult one when he left his children to go off and fight Saito. Now he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the hardest one he will ever have to make...and that it would be his last.

"Kill me and Akuyasha dies. I am his host. He is my parasite." He again offered up the sword. "For the sake of your mother and all those who still reside on this planet. End this, Yori!"

"I will not!" Water filled her eyes.

Kenji turned away. "Yusuke!"

The eldest son shook his head.

Two red-clad hands clasped Kenji's arm. It was Kimiko.

"I will do it."

"Kimiko!" Yori protested. She froze when the assassin looked at her. It was then she noticed how badly she had been hurt. Blood trickled down from the right side of her face where Kenji had struck. Only her will and the relative buoyancy of the blood kept her from falling over half dead. She needed medical attention and fast. "You are hurt. You do not know what you are saying. We must return to the ship."

But Kimiko just smiled. Even with her head split open like that she still looked beautiful. "Since Yuriko died I wondered if I had had a purpose in life. I would have raised you myself had Kenji not sent everyone away to keep us safe from Saito. I joined him to repay him for all the kindness you and your family had shown me. Then I devoted myself to fighting and killing. For a while there I was lost and without purpose. Then you came. And you," she looked to Yusuke who could barely stand now. "Now I have found that purpose and it is here...with Kenji." With slight hands, the assassin took the sword from Kenji, holding it up so as to look at her face one last time. "I look like shit."

"You never looked more beautiful," Kenji commented. Then as the last part of his innards seeped back in, his body stitched itself together and he was in pain. "K-Kimiko...hurry."

"I won't allow it!" Yori rushed at her. She grabbed Kimiko and begged her to reconsider. "It does not have to end this way. I'm begging you. Do not destroy our one chance to be a family again."

Placing a hand on her face, Kimiko began to caress it as lovingly as a mother would. "You look a lot like her." Leaning in, she kissed Yori on the forehead. "Your mother."

Yori's eyes were so wet now. "Kimiko."

Before she could blink, Kimiko head-butted Yori in the face, knocking her out cold. The force of the impact nearly knocked her out as well but her last shred of will managed to keep her awake.

"The hell are you doing?" Yusuke cried as he tried to reach them.

Holding Yori in her free hand, Kimiko regarded her once more. "You were the best little sister a girl could ever have." A teardrop fell from her eye onto Yori's face. It mingled with her own.

"Hey!" Yusuke was halfway there.

"Kimiko," Kenji's eyes were fluctuating now. It became almost impossible to speak. "Please."

"I know."

When Yusuke was close enough, the assassin gently placed Yori's arms around his neck. "Don't do this, Kimiko!" His voice began to shake and the last thing Yori needed was to see him cry. Seeing that would make her cry to. "Don't do it. Not after all we've been through. Don't do it!" He clutched at Yori with her good fingers.

"Take care of Yori and Takashi for me, okay? I know you'll do me proud." Blowing a kiss for him, Kimiko turned around. "Kenji."

"Like hell! Kimiko! Dad!" But Yusuke never managed to do anything for Kenji stood in the way. He raised his hand and with a might shockwave sent the siblings flying through the membrane wall. It shattered in their wake and they were blown clear into the chest cavity. It seemed that Kenji had saved them only to have them plummet to their deaths but it turns out that even he still had some pull with the demons. A youma came flying up to catch them. With his telepathic link, Kenji ordered the creature to take them as far away from here as possible.

"Farewell," he said, though his voice was barely audible. He turned back to Kimiko who had the sword in one hand raised and ready.

Feeling him behind her, Kimiko knew what was coming. "It's good to see you again," she said. She felt Kenji tower over her exposed back, the heat rising to the point where the blood behind her began to boil. Her strength waning, Kimiko held the sword with both hands, diverting every vestige of herself into one last attack. Closing her eyes, her body and skin burning, she saw them: Yori, Yusuke, Takashi, Yuriko and Kenji. She saw the entire Ishimura family living happily in a house in the countryside. Another face was among them, that of a smiling girl with dark pigtails. She was home.

"Kimiko," the voice was dark and ominous but strained, as if fighting against something else. She felt the hand reaching for her neck.

With one final act, the assassin threw the sword as hard and as straight as she ever threw anything in her life. The last thing she saw was the blade piercing the heart.


With so many youma around them, the Kurunai's moments were numbered. One by one, each took a potshot at the vulnerable vessel as Kim tried desperately to save them. While well-built, the ship was made for stealth and not combat. The hull integrity became seriously compromised and there was nothing around them but open sea and red clouds. And youma...lots and lots of youma.

"Starboard engine's at critical," Hiro announced that annoyingly calm voice of his. "Don't know how much longer port's going to last."

Steam began to fill the cockpit as the ship's cooling system had been damaged. Sweat hampered her vision and Kim had to fight the urge to wipe her face less she take her hands off the controls.

"Kim!" Ron wailed as the ship lurched after another hit. "The hurl factor's approaching critical!"

"If you drop your chunks on me I swear the youma will be the least of your worries!" Hoshi's threat went unheeded as Ron released his digested innards all over the ninja. "Ahhh! You stupid gaijin!"

"Trying to concentrate here."

"Look out!" Hiro pointed as a long-toothed demon came on a collision course with the ship. Before Kim could dodge it, the creature squealed and pulled away at the last moment.

"What was that about?" Kim looked to Hiro could only shrug.

She turned the ship around and expected to see a horde of youma barreling down at them. What she saw instead was more intimidating. The giant beast that grew as tall as a mountain was starting to decompose. Its massive form was withering away before breaking up into chunks. Akuyasha let out a monstrous roar before its own head caved in on itself, exposing the skeleton within before exploding. Fire replaced his head and burned out the sky. All the demons in the vicinity were instantly incinerated. The beast bellow and flailed its dying limbs before they too blew up. Fire encompassed the whole of the decomposing corpse. The island shook as its base began to sink. It seemed that the island, the castle, and Akuyasha himself was being sucked into a vast vortex of immeasurable force.

"Kim...do you see what I am seeing?" Hiro asked.

Behind them, Hoshi was too busy strangling Ron to notice or care. Ron's face was turning blue.

Kim gawked at the scene. It was something out of the End of Days mentioned in the Holy Bible. They were witnessing the end of the world.

"Yori!" Hiro stood up. "She and the other are still in there." He turned to Kim. "We must save them."

"I'm already on it." Kim kicked thrusters in so fast that Hiro was knocked back into his seat. Hoshi lost her grip on Ron as she was thrown back. Ron's eyes swirled from lack of oxygen and he was out cold.

"Guys, I'm picking up their tracking signal heading in your direction."

Takashi's warning had them scouring the skies. "I think that's...there! Look, Hiro." Kim pointed to a single youma who flew away from the rest of the pack. It was flying sporadically as if not knowing where to turn. On its scaly back were two individuals; one green, one blue, but no red.

"Why are they on a youma?" Hiro asked but Kim was already making to intercept.

"Hiro, if you please?"

He rushed out of his seat and to the doorway. Hoshi was already there and covered in Ron's lunch. He covered his nose.

"Not. One Word."

He was afraid to open his sinuses let alone his mouth, so Hiro did not say anything. He opened the door when Kim got them close enough to the youma for them to reach. They saw Yusuke shouldering Yori with an arm whose hand was limp. The other hand held onto to youma's bony hide to keep them from falling off. Even from here they could see how strained his face was.

"Yusuke!" Hoshi called. He found it hard to see with the ship's stealth mode in place. Kim deactivated it as soon as they were nearby and his eyes widened with relief and surprise. Fighting to stand up, Yusuke got to his feet and, holding onto Yori, leapt from the demon's back to the ship's portal. Both Hoshi and Hiro grabbed them as they came inside. Yusuke stumbled and fell but never let go of his sister. Looking back, Hiro saw no signs of their third missing member.

"Where is Kimiko?" His voice was full of alarm. Seeing as how its cargo had abandoned ship, the youma screeched aloud before it flew away to join the thousands of its dying brethren.

Hoshi shut the door while Hirotaka addressed the wounded ninja. "Yusuke!" He noticed Yori and how peaceful she looked when she was out. "What happened in there? Where's Kimiko?"

"She's not coming." Takashi's voice and face appeared on a window on the main screen. He looked like he had been crying. "The signal was weak but I was able to receive one-way radio contact. I heard everything that happened."

Sitting up, it was clear to everyone that the wind had dried most of Yusuke's tears. His face was stoic and cold, hardly the spirited young man the others had come to know.

"She stayed behind to finish the job. She killed Akuyasha. But she also killed Kenji-our father." Takashi began to cry. He over his eyes. "They're both gone. They gave themselves so that the evil would be destroyed. They saved us. They..." Unable to say anything more, the genius fell into his arms crying, mourning the loss of yet two more loved ones.


With the demonic presence gone, Kenji looked down on the lifeless body that was Kimiko. He had broken her neck and all the humanity he thought he'd lost came gushing back like a wellspring in a desert. Cradling her in his arms, Kenji thought back to the girl who, all those years ago, had decided to join him in his private war against the Yakuza. She had paid for her loyalty and devotion with her life...at his hands.

For the first time in a long time, Kenji began to cry. They were tears of sadness as well as joy for in these last moments he had regained himself and his family. Knowing that his children survived gave the man hope for the future. The realization that he would soon be reunited with Kimiko and his wife brought joy to a heart that had felt nothing but empty vengeance. Now here at the end of all things, he could finally see with eyes unclouded by hate and violence. Now Kenji knew what it was to be human and to love.

He held Kimiko close. The walls around him began to crumble. The blood boiled to such a degree that it erupted into flames. Kenji didn't care. At long last he had found something worth dying for. Even with his sadness, the man found reason to smile. Kissing Kimiko on the head one last time, Kenji covered his face over hers as oblivion took them.


Saito awoke in a dimly-lit room laid flat out on a table with a respirator over his face. His change in breathing caught the attention of Yo-Yo who was sitting nearby with her legs hugged against her chest. Seeing him awake, the little girl rushed to his side. "Saito-sama!"

Barely able to register her words, Saito tried to get a look around but his body was so badly damaged that even turning his neck wracked him with pain. His breathing fogged his mask as he fell into a coughing fit. It all started coming back to him and he could remember the demon Akuyasha breaking his body like he was but a toy in the hands of some irate child. The trauma of that incident sent shivers up and down his body. How could he, the leader of the most powerful underground organization in the history of Japan, the secret force behind his country's remarkable rise to power, have been so utterly and easily defeated?

A shadow loomed over him and for a brief moment he remembered the face of the monster that almost killed him. Saito cringed but it turned out that it was not the demon back to finish the job but one of his own agents: Miss Tique. The English woman checked Saito over and found his condition improving despite his feelings to the contrary. "Welcome back to the land of the living, if you'll excuse the cliché." She smiled at him. "It was fortunate that Yo-Yo was able to get you to safety. I had almost given you up for dead."

Saito's lips were moving but there was no sound coming out. Miss Tique leaned over and could just make out his question. "Where are we?"

"On my private hovercraft. If you remember it was one of the perks granted me after that service I did for you in Singapore. As you can see, I have put it to good use." She looked around the room. In addition to Saito there were four more occupied beds. Red Cochrane, Kikyu, Fukushima, and Gideon Hunt; all unconscious, all in serious but stable condition. Each was hooked up to a respirator with small computers monitoring their progress. "You are the lucky one," Miss Tique said, turning back to Saito. "All the others were near-dead when I pulled them out of the sea. Fukushima alone had severe second-degree burns that will forever mark his youthful face. Red has a broken jaw, though for all our sakes I hope he does not recover anytime soon."

Yo-Yo giggled at her remark.

"Kikyu was the worst. She suffered severe damage to her chest area and has a strange mark that I've never seen before. In addition to a few broken ribs, a leg, and several bone fractures to her arms and back, of which I will attest to a particularly nasty fall, she seems to have suffered a serious concussion. I've stabilized her, but I fear the woman may have seeped over into a coma. When she wakes up is anyone's guess." She sighed. "Mr. Hunt almost drowned after losing his board. I'm still pumping the water from his lungs and due to a broken knee I doubt he will be riding again anytime soon."

After giving him the status report on his fighters, Miss Tique regarded the Yakuza with a look of somberness. "I'm afraid the entire fleet was lost. The youma destroyed every ship and vehicle we had in the air. Any survivors will have either drowned or have been devoured by the creatures. The robot army you built has been rendered junk. There were just too many of them, the youma, and all our efforts to stop Kenji were in vain."

"No," his voice was weak but audible. "They were not."

The two females leaned in closer.

"There was one who would not stop fighting until the last breath left her body. She alone stood up to Kenji and she will win if she has not already."

"To whom are you speaking of?" The interrogator asked.

"Ishimura...Yori." Tired, Saito closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, leaving Miss Tique and Yo-Yo to contemplate his words.

"You told me the Ishimura girl had collapsed after the battle; that she could no longer continue the fight."

Yo-Yo became bashful. "That's what happened."

Thinking on it some more, Miss Tique decided it was best to leave it alone for now. She left Yo-Yo alone with the others and proceeded into the cockpit. The autopilot was on and judging from the ship's navigation computer they were far out at sea. The South Pacific opened up to her as she sat down at the console, going over a few things in her head. Moving to a secure location would take time and money. With all of Saito's resources poured into making that army, his leverage over the other Yakuza bosses was no more. There would be infighting to fill the power vacuum left over in his absence. How would Japan fair with their shadowy benefactor gone, she wondered. The youma, the Yakuza; the twin engines of Japan's marvelous rise to power crushed under the weight of their own corruption. It was a strange irony that was not lost on the perceptive woman.

Best to let Fate take its course and look toward the future. With hardly a second thought on past defeats, Miss Tique looked to the future and reclined in her chair and closed her eyes, thinking of all the possibilities the future might bring.



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