The Devil's Fruit
Warnings: Violence. Blood. Gory scenes. Murder scenes. Lemon scenes.
Disclaimer: Part of this story will have settings and events taken out from various anime like Get Backers and Jigoku Shoujo, but I do not own any of them, nor do I own Naruto or any characters in this story save for OC characters
Chapter Forty Two: The Devil's Fruit
Hoshigaki Kisame stared at his partner as he watched the younger male downed beer after beer at the bar that he'd found his partner in after receiving a message from said partner's younger brother, asking him to check on his brother.
Kisame sighed. He doesn't need any mind reading abilities to know what had driven the normally composed Uchiha Itachi to start drinking like no tomorrow. There is only one reason why he would get depressed like this – Ragnarok's captain, Namikaze Shiki.
Seriously, Kisame just doesn't understand why Itachi just can't get over it and understand her. She had already stated very clearly to him, and several times in fact, ever since ANBU had defected to their side, that whatever that they once had between them is now over. And Kisame doesn't blame the redhead for ending it. After everything that had happened, Kisame is actually surprised that Shiki doesn't want to kill Itachi. If he had been in her shoes, he would have already done so. The fact that Itachi is still alive is already a miracle in itself.
"Have you had enough already?" Kisame asked tiredly, watching Itachi trying to get himself hammered, but to no avail. ANBUs as a rule tend to have very high alcohol tolerance. It is part of their training after all.
Itachi slammed the glass in his hand onto the countertop, spilling some of the contents of his drink. He chuckled bitterly, tightening his grip on the glass. "To think that I will get this fucked up over a woman. Am I pathetic?"
Kisame sighed. "I don't have a girlfriend, so I can't say that I understand what you are going through. But she's already made it clear to you. Several times in fact. Why don't you just accept it, and let yourself and her go? It'll be less painful, and easier for both of you."
"I…can't…" Itachi choked. "I…don't want to lose her! I…"
Kisame sighed. Now he understood why Sasuke had asked him to check on Itachi. The younger Uchiha brother is perceptive and intuitive in a way that Itachi isn't, and much more sensitive to people's moods and feelings. "And what do you want?" he asked tiredly. "She's already moved on. Her friends don't even accept you. They only left you and us alive until now as a favour to Shiki. You make one wrong step and hurt her again, not even the Bijuu Nine can keep them from killing us." Kisame looked at Itachi. "She's already moved on, Itachi. Why don't you do the same?" He asked tiredly.
"What about you? What about your sister?" Itachi slurred.
Kisame closed his eyes briefly. "Haku… She…understands," he said hesitantly. "But…"
He recalled the last real talk that he had with his younger sister just a few hours ago.
"You should have realised this by now, even if none of us had ever said anything," said Haku, staring straight into Kisame's eyes. "After this battle, we Ragnarok…will disappear." She stated. "This battle of ours will change the world. But unfortunately, this world doesn't accept change easily." She looked sad, staring at her clenched fist. "You should know, nii-sama. We nin-users are either considered as dispensable tools to them, or we are…to be eliminated." She looked at her brother. "That's why Ragnarok was even formed in the first place. All of us… Shiki saved all of us from certain death. Even herself… She almost died just because of her status as a nin-user. All of us would have started hating the world and wish for its destruction if not for her. So don't you dare insult her!" Haku snarled, glaring at her brother.
Kisame raised his hands in surrender. "I wasn't going to do that," he protested. "There are only a very small number among the ANBUs who even supported some of Ragnarok's ideals. Sasuke is one of them. I'm another. And maybe only Shikamaru."
"You're not going to stop us." Haku said, looking suspiciously at her brother.
Kisame shrugged. "I know enough by now after all these years chasing after Ragnarok that you people can take care of yourselves," he said. "If you're with them, I'm not so worried. They're your family. I'm your brother. But only in blood. I…never did my duty as your brother after all." He admitted, shame faced. "I left to fight in some stupid war. And when I'd returned, I realised that kaa-san and Uncle have died. And you went missing. I joined the ANBU to find you. But when I did…" He trailed off. "You were right. When I knew where you were, what is keeping me from leaving the ANBU? I guess… I was just afraid." Kisame admitted. "The ANBU is all that I have now. And if I leave them, I would be hunted down as a criminal. They put this law in place after the end of the war to discourage deserters."
Haku was silent for a long time, staring at the dark waters of the lake, her arms crossed. The wind blew through her hair. "The war changed many things in this country," she said at last. "Especially the very soul of it. People turned corrupted. Fear breeds hatred. And that hatred turns people into monsters. We've seen that happen many times. I admit that some of the fault lies with the nin-users. But not all of us are bad. So why couldn't they understand this?" Haku asked, her voice cracking, and she sounds as if she is almost on the verge of tears. "There are both good and bad eggs. But it's like they're judging all of us just because of the actions of a few. Even the ANBU… They spent all these years hunting us down, and jumped to the conclusion that we're evil. But what gives them the right to say that? The ANBU had as good as killed many of our friends. But we never said or do anything, right?"
Kisame flinched, feeling guilty. "I can't apologise for them, but I'll just tell you to follow what your heart tells you to do," he told his sister who looked surprised. "As long as you follow a path that you believe in, you can do no wrong. Don't make the same mistake I did." He looked sad. "Itachi…needs someone to help him and support him now, and even later on. I might as well be that person. After all, I had been his partner and vice-captain for several years."
Haku was silent for a long time. "A long time ago, Shiki once told me something," she said. "'To be Shadowless is to be without a Shadow; to be without anything to bind you to the earth, to the world. To have no absolute ties to anything or anyone'." She recited. "I think in her case, she just wants to find some bonds. She might say otherwise; that she has no problem being alone, but even I can see that it is all a farce." Haku smiled sadly. "She is lonely. She has a brilliant tactical mind and a sharp wit that no one could match. That's how she had protected us until now. And even now, there is no one who truly understands her. Not even Itachi. Not even Gaara. Not even Neji. Not even Hinata. Not even me. No one. Probably, the only one who truly understands her…is probably Ren." Haku looked distracted for a moment. "But she's faced too much betrayal, that even Shiki will find it difficult to trust. That's why, if it can make her happy, I want her to accept Ren. Unlike Itachi, Ren will accept everything of her. Both the bad and the good. Unlike him, Ren doesn't look at the world in black and white." Haku smiled sadly. "Fiat justica, pereat mundus." She muttered.
"What is that?" Kisame asked, blinking at the strange language. Was that Latin?
"Something that Jiraiya-sama had said to us when we'd first met him." Haku explained, much to Kisame's shock. He wasn't even aware that they knew the famous spymaster. "'Let the world perish, but let justice be done'." Haku looked at her brother. "You ANBU and the world has done enough to Shiki and us…and the nin-users. After the battle…after the war…leave us be!"
Kisame sighed. "Itachi, I'm just going to say this for the last time. Leave them be. Let her go," he said tiredly, and Itachi turned towards him with surprise. "We've done enough to them. The world has done enough to them. The least that we could do is to leave them in peace after that."
Itachi was silent. He remembered Shiki's angry words to him once:
"You've asked us once why we fight. I couldn't find the answer that I want. I had none of the answers that I needed. But I had no choice. None of us had. We didn't have a choice in what we had become! All that we could do was fight."
Itachi clenched his hand into a tight fist.
Shino sat at the pier, dangling his feet above the waters of the lake, looking at the dark waters. A sparrow flew near him, chirping at the insect user. Shino stretched a hand towards the sparrow who looked at him curiously, hopping near him before letting out a trill and flew off.
Shino sighed. 'So even you don't want to touch me, huh?' he thought sadly, staring at his hand. The other accursed power of his that he never wanted. Only Shiki knew about it, and she had agreed to his request to keep this secret from the others. He remembered when he had first moved to that town that he can no longer remember the name of – the one where he'd first met Shiki in.
You're the same as me. Why are you trying to live like a normal person? A person drenched in blood like you can no longer return to a normal life.
That had been what Shino had thought too. Until he had met Shiki, that is.
"One week…" Shino mused.
One more week to the Final Battle.
And for the better or for the worse, he will come out of it a changed person. He will follow Shiki to war. And like his friends, they will all follow her to death if necessary.
Ren only stopped his motorbike once they were in the woods just outside of the town, and he sighed, removing his helmet, turning around to face Shiki who had gotten off, and was looking at him. She managed a small smile.
"Thanks," she said.
Ren shrugged even as he got off his bike as well. "You look like you needed it," he answered.
"So what brings you here?" Shiki asked, changing the topic quickly before Ren could ask her about Itachi. She knew that Ren had never had much love for the ANBU, and she doesn't blame him. Which person in the underworld doesn't hate them anyway? "I thought that you were investigating that matter?"
Ren nodded, his eyes gleaming strangely. "I did, and that's what I'm here for," he said. He then lowered his voice. "I found out what it is. The devil's fruit."
Shiki stared at Ren for a very long while before she managed to find her voice. "You…did?" she asked, and Ren nodded, looking quite amused. Few things in this world can stun Shiki to this extent. Then again, it isn't surprising either, since Shiki had been on the hunt for this 'devil's fruit' for nearly an entire year. The redhead then blinked as she remembered Ren's words – that he had found out what it is. "Not where it is?" She asked with a frown. She had been under the impression that the 'devil's fruit', whatever it is, is some sort of ancient weapon that the Bijuu Nine had developed to deal with the Demon God.
"No," said Ren with a sigh. "I thought that it's some sort of weapon in the beginning as well. Thus a rather fruitless search for nearly an entire year." He looked annoyed at the time wasted. "I stumbled across the real information by accident. And I'm starting to wonder if Haku has some Seer power in her." He said wryly, much to Shiki's confusion. "She had it spot on. The devil's fruit is a plant, Shiki. The mistletoe plant."
Shiki looked confused. "Excuse me?"
"Look here." Ren took out a semi-thick dark green tome from his backpack that reminds Shiki of one of Hinata or Haku's many medical volumes that they had lying around their base. The redhead scooted closer to Ren who had opened the tome and was using the headlights of his motorbike to light up the area properly just so that they can see what it is that they are doing. He then flipped through the pages of the book until he had found the page that he is looking for. "This is the page." Ren explained, pointing at the page that had a picture of a battlefield, and then a drawing of the mistletoe plant.
"What is this book?" Shiki frowned.
"I found this after much searching." Ren admitted. "It's the only book in existence that is even close to retelling the actual events during the Rise and Fall of the Era of the Gods." He flipped over a few pages before stopping on a page filled with nothing but pictures, with most of it depicting a single figure. "The story of 'Beautiful Madara'." He glanced at Shiki. "Also otherwise known as the Demon God."
Shiki's eyes widened. Her eyes then went back to the page of the book. As she looked carefully at each picture that seemed to be drawn with black ink, she saw that it seemed to be the story of the Era of the Gods. The story of how the Bijuu Nine were born from the original god, the Juubi, was a fairly well-known tale. It is said that the original god simply just…died one day, and from him was borne the Bijuu Nine, and the one god that is said to balance out all their powers, the Dark God, also now known as the Demon God.
"He is originally a very handsome god," said Ren, "despite his status as the 'Dark God'. 'Beautiful Madara, invulnerable to everything. Fear nothing. But vulnerable only to the young mistletoe plant'." He tapped on the picture of the mistletoe plant.
"I think I've heard of this tale," said Shiki slowly. "Jiraiya told me this as a bedtime story when I was about five or six. It was after I had a nightmare, and he told me this story. Only story that he knew, as he told me later when I was older." She looked straight into Ren's eyes. "During the era of the gods, the mistletoe plant is a very young plant."
Ren nodded. "That's right. The Dark God is the god that is responsible for the creation of life on the planet," he explained. "That's why it is said that he is invincible to everything, as technically, he is the Father of All-Creation."
"But the mistletoe." Shiki added.
Ren nodded. "But the mistletoe," he echoed. He closed the book. "I wasn't sure if the mistletoe is the devil's fruit, however, and I tried to do some investigating on my own. But I hadn't seen a single mistletoe plant ever since his revival." Ren looked annoyed.
"Now that you've mentioned it…" Shiki frowned. When is the last time when she had seen a mistletoe plant? During the month before winter, mistletoe plants could usually be seen everywhere, and it is now nearly a week or so before winter, and she hasn't seen a single one. "If you're right, and the devil's fruit is the mistletoe, then I guess it only makes sense that we haven't been seeing any mistletoe around." She groaned. "But where can we find one now? We only got a week left before the Final Battle."
Ren sighed. "I got a theory," he said, and Shiki raised a brow. "You know that the Demon God's army have been terrorising the country, right?" Shiki nodded. That had been the hot news ever since his revival, and his army is only making the panic worse. "There is one place that he hadn't touched so far, or at least, had tried to touch. The Nibi's domain. Also known as Mount Terror."
Shiki's eyes widened in realisation.
Mount Terror is a place that is known to every nin-user on earth. It is actually rumoured that it is where the entrance to the Underworld is. High class nin-users with strong powers usually head to Mount Terror in the past to master their powers and become one with their element.
Shiki then frowned. "I heard that the Demon God's army had been seen around the mountains that lead to Mount Terror, and they don't seem to be leaving anytime soon," she said. "And if they are there, then it also means that what we're looking for is in Mount Terror."
Ren pinched the bridge of his nose. "The only problem is that going to Mount Terror at this point in time is suicidal, with the Demon God's army. Even making it back alive will need nothing short of a miracle," he said. He looked carefully at Shiki. "And at this point, it's too dangerous for nin-users to go there. The powers of nin-users goes berserk if they even tried using it in the vicinity of Mount Terror, let alone in Mount Terror itself. It is called the training area for nin-users for a reason. And the only ones whom I know of that might make it out alive are only…Hotaru and Mizuiro. They're the only two capable of such a feat, especially with Sumaru now swapped with work with Baled."
Shiki paled. "No," she said firmly.
Ren eyed her carefully. "It's the only way. And you know it," he told her. "We don't have much time, Shiki. If we don't get the devil's fruit, we might as well just hand the entire world on a silver platter to the Demon God once he reached his full strength, as he will no doubt wipe it all out anyway." He sighed. "If it makes you feel better, I'll go with them."
That actually makes Shiki feel worse. But she also knew that Ren has a point. Thus, she bit on her lip and looked away, inwardly praying for some higher power to keep her friends safe.
Hotaru screamed to her friend even as they slid about on the snow on their snowboards, trying to escape the Demon God's soulless army as they came after them, a glass canister that contains the mistletoe plant hanging from Hotaru's belt.
Ren had headed to Baled's Shinjuku base to find them, as he knew that it had been where Sai, Sumaru and the both of them would be. The four were surprised to see him, as their old friend had gone missing for nearly three months, though they have heard from Shiki that he had been doing some investigating for her. He had then calmly told them what Shiki needs, and Hotaru and Mizuiro have immediately agreed; despite Ren's statements that Shiki doesn't really want them to seek their deaths.
The surrounding areas of Mount Terror are always eternal winter, with snow all year around. No one had been able to explain it before. Hotaru and Mizuiro have both found it easy enough to slip into Mount Terror. One doesn't spend a set number of years sneaking into places that they aren't supposed to without picking up some skills. They have found the plant easy enough, with Hotaru placing it into the canister that she had brought along to preserve it. They have then tried to leave.
Tried being the keyword.
It is easy enough to sneak into Mount Terror. But actually leaving the entire place behind is another story.
Mizuiro turned himself around so that he is skating backwards in a rare show of his snowboarding skills, throwing a hand grenade at the soulless army before skidding over the snow as fast as he could. He didn't have to wait long before a loud explosion sounded behind them, with it scattering snow and limbs everywhere.
"Damn it, it is worse than what we have originally assumed!" Mizuiro growled, tugging on Hotaru's hand, and helping her to skid over the snow faster.
The army of the Demon God seemed to have grown stronger. Just hitting them in the head or a lethal area is no longer enough. They need to destroy the entire body before they will be considered dead. If they are this strong now, what will happen once their master, the Demon God himself reaches full strength? There will be no stopping him!
"Oh God, no…" Hotaru breathed out in horror as they saw the approaching figures of the Demon God's army approaching them from all four sides.
"Damn it…" Mizuiro hissed, grabbing Hotaru's hand so that they are both back-to-back with each other. "At the very least, the devil's fruit must reach Shiki if we can't make it out!" The boy knew that he is going to die here today. He already knew that he would die the moment that he had accepted the mission to Mount Terror. Hotaru knew it too. But if it's to save their friends, they don't mind dying the way that they want to. "Where the hell is Ren?"
A welcome sound that is the motor engines of a snow bike reaches their ears just then, and both teens turned only to see a figure clad in a thick coat and gloves riding a snow bike riding towards them, knocking over several 'zombies' of the Demon God's army. Those guys are almost immortal, but they are slow, and vulnerable to fire.
Hotaru and Mizuiro exchanged looks before nodding as one. Ren slid the visor of his helmet up his face, and was taken aback as Hotaru threw the canister to him. The canister that contains the mistletoe plant.
"What…?" Ren was taken aback. He took a backwards glance only to see the hordes of mindless and soulless soldiers making their way towards them, and he narrowed his eyes. "Come on, I'm getting you out of here!" He shouted. If Mizuiro is willing to perform some acrobatics by standing on the seat behind Hotaru, he can get all three of them out of here.
Mizuiro shook his head, taking several grenades out of his pocket and Hotaru readied a combat knife in her hand. The two looked ready to fight.
"You take that and go," said Mizuiro calmly. "That's what we came here for. The devil's fruit must reach Shiki! We'll draw their attention here so that you can escape. Ren, go!"
Ren was taken aback. "But—"
"Go!" Hotaru told him. "The fate of the world is now in your hands." She managed a small smile. "I'm leaving the others to you. Take care of Shiki. Make her happy." She told him.
"Ren. Go!" Mizuiro told him.
Ren closed his eyes briefly. "…Thank you."
He kicked his snow bike in gear, and speeded off, kicking up snow behind him. Hotaru and Mizuiro then exchanged looks and smiled at each other.
"This will be our last battle," said Hotaru, watching as the zombies loom closer. "It's too bad that we couldn't see the world that Shiki will bring about. But to know that we have came this far…" A tear trickled down her cheek. "It's enough. I wonder… If Sara and Jun and Yamato have felt this way that night?" She whispered. "I wonder… If this is what Shiki and…Ren have felt that night when they were willing to throw their lives away for us?"
Mizuiro smiled sadly at his oldest friend, obviously recalling that night as well. The night when all of them have lost everything.
"I just wish that I…could have thanked Shiki for saving us all those years back. And what she had given us after that." Hotaru continued.
"I'm sure that she knew," said Mizuiro. He then readied the grenades in his hands. "And now… This is the least that we could do for her, to repay her for having saved us all those years ago. If there is a next life, then I would want to be her friend or her comrade again. But…"
Hotaru smiled. "Yeah. Like all those years ago in the city of Hagako…" She closed her eyes briefly, recalling that awful night of rain and loss. She readied her combat knife. "This…will be a fight to the death. I might die here today, but I'll take as many of them as I could as I go down!"
Shiki, Sai and Sumaru who were waiting in Baled's Shinjuku base was startled as a beaten looking Ren entered the room where they were in, with his coat torn and looking particularly ruffled.
The rest of Ragnarok and even the former ANBUs have headed back to the Forbidden Forest after Shiki had told them that she would head back herself after finishing with some business. The redhead had also instructed Gaara and Haku to strengthen the barriers around the forest, as by the looks of it, the battle is nearly underway.
"Ren?" Sai stood up from his seat. "What happen—"
"Hotaru and Mizuiro didn't make it." Ren said tiredly, and the faces of his three oldest friends paled instantly. "They left this instead." He held out the glass canister that contained the mistletoe plant. "The devil's fruit. This is their legacy." He told them even as Shiki stretched out a shaking hand to take it. "The least that we can do now is to make sure that they didn't die for nothing. We must stop the Demon God at all costs."
Shiki was silent for a long time, before she turned towards Sumaru. "Sumaru, how long until winter hits us?" she asked.
Sumaru glanced at the calendar in a corner and turned back to his friends. "Four more days," he replied. He sighed. "It all starts from there then." He muttered, and Shiki nodded grimly, clutching at the canister like it's her lifeline. "Very well. Sai, get ready to move everyone." He ordered. "We're heading to the Forbidden Forest tonight. If this is a battle for our world, then we will jolly well fight for it. Anyone that doesn't wish to participate in this is free to go. I won't force them. Spread the message. We're leaving a few of the technicians and healers like Fuu and Utakata here. We need an emergency base camp of sorts after all."
Sai nodded and headed out of the room to inform the rest of Baled. Ren sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "It begins then," he said tiredly.
Shiki nodded. "We don't have time," she said. "Once the first snow falls, we're falling into war."
Four days passed in a blur.
The past four days are filled with activity, mainly consisting of the Ragnarok members increasing the barriers and wards around the Forbidden Forest, and the Baled people getting more supplies and weapons. The former ANBUs aren't really sitting around doing nothing as well. For once, Ragnarok didn't snap at them, but allowed them to help. Even Rock Lee wasn't his usual boisterous self.
And then again, with the sudden urgency and seriousness of the situation, even Lee knows that this is no time to fool around. Even the people of Baled were all on guard. But because of the size of the Forbidden Forest, only Sai and Sumaru have came over from Baled, with the rest of them on standby.
Haku and Neji were on night guard duty on the fourth day, watching from the top of the tower in the Forbidden Forest that is the best place to watch for anything coming from miles. Hinata and Gaara were on guard duty at the entrance of the Forbidden Forest.
"Oh." Haku looked up into the night sky as the temperature dropped drastically all of a sudden. Small white flakes starting falling from the skies, and the ice maiden reached out a hand only to catch a small white flake on her palm. "Snow…" She muttered. "It's snowing."
Neji sighed. "The first snow has fallen," he muttered. "That means it's time."
Haku nodded, and she then stiffened as her sharp eyes noted several humanoid shapes approaching their direction in the darkness. She narrowed her eyes, pulling out a pair of binoculars and looking through them. Haku then hissed to herself beneath her breath as she saw what are unmistakably the soulless zombies of the Demon God's army.
"Neji." Haku spoke warily.
The Hyuuga was confused in the beginning before Haku tossed him the binoculars that she had been using, and he looked through them only to see what Haku had seen. Neji stiffened, lowering the binoculars, and exchanging glances with the ice maiden.
"They're here," said Neji grimly.
Everyone was already briefed by Shiki two days ago what to expect once the first snow falls, and they entered winter. The first place that the Demon God would attack will be the Forbidden Forest without a doubt. Thus, Shiki, Sumaru, Sai and Ren have already planned everything out in advance, including the battle plans.
That had been their forte after all, since such had been their life when they were living in Hagako as the street gang Blade.
"Inform Gaara and Hinata," said Neji. "I'm sounding the alarm." He then moved down the tower to sound the emergency alarm to rouse his friends.
Haku pulled out the communicator device in her pocket before slipping it into her ear, tapping on it gently. "This is Haku. First breach detected. We're entering into Phase One," she spoke into the communicator.
There was a cackle just then, and Hinata's voice cackled through. "Affirmative. Entering Phase One."
A loud clanging sound of wood on wood echoed around the Forbidden Forest immediately, a sound that is loud and sharp enough to rouse even the deepest of sleepers. Haku immediately noted a sudden increase in activity from the sleeping areas down below her. The ice user then moved to head down the tower.
It is starting.
Nii Yugito who is currently in the small graveyard of the Forbidden Forest stiffened at the sound of the alarm that echoed all over the Forbidden Forest, and smiled to herself albeit sadly.
"Entering Phase One," she murmured. "Time. Give me as much time as you could, guys." Yugito murmured, glancing over her shoulder.
Phase One, repel the intruders and commence attack.
Yugito then got down on one knee to the ground of the graveyard and closed her eyes, digging her hands into the soft soil of the graveyard, channelling her power like how she always did when calming the spirits. Only this time, she is calling for their help. And the help of the very soul of the Forbidden Forest itself – the guardian of the Bijuu Nine.
"The Forbidden Forest is being threatened, as is the sacred resting place of the Bijuu Nine. Man the boundaries. Protect the Shrine. Do your duty to the land!"
There was silence for a moment.
Then with a loud screech, the skeletons of the dead started to rise from the graves with a loud clattering sound, and dark shadows started emerging from within the trees of the Forbidden Forest itself, ready to defend their home. The trees started rustling, almost like it had a life of it's own, and it might just be Yugito's imagination, but she could have sworn that the trees have grown majestically in size, almost towering above her.
Yugito smiled before she got to her feet.
Her job here is done. Now she has to help her friends.
Shiki who is standing at the entrance of the Shrine with Ren noted the flurry of movement and action, and she sighed as she heard what Haku had told them through the communicators that they were all told to keep on.
"So they're here," said Ren grimly, and Shiki nodded.
"Do you really want to be here?" she asked him. "It's not going to be an easy battle. We might not even make it out of here alive." She warned him.
Ren smiled. "You're not getting rid of me that easily," he said cheerfully. "Besides, someone has to be here to make sure that you don't do anything stupid or reckless."
Shiki was silent for a long time. "Why do you go this far?" she asked.
"I don't need a reason," said Ren. "Besides, I'm sure that this won't be the last time that I'll have to choose between you and something else that means a lot to me. But I know that I'll choose you every time. This is what it means to be in love, right? After all, the more important that something is to you, the more that you have to give up to have it."
Shiki was silent before she tapped on her communicator, making sure that everyone can hear her. "Everyone, can you hear me?" she asked. She took in a deep breath. "Give this battle everything that you've got. This…will be the last battle. Ragnarok, this will be our final battle. Our final stand. But no matter what happens, you will always be my best friends." She told them.
Ren's eyes widened as his memory brought him back to a night when Shiki had said something similar. Over by the base camp, Sai and Sumaru stiffened as well.
"They're here, aren't they?" Sara asked grimly as Shiki slammed the door shut behind her.
The redhead nodded grimly. "We don't have a choice. We're going to have to fight," she said, and she was rewarded with determined looks and nods on the faces of her friends. The street gang Blade. "It doesn't matter either way." She took in a deep breath. "One last time. This will be the night that Blade fights our final battle. But no matter what, you guys will always be one of my best friends."
Sai and Sumaru exchanged looks. "Shiki, no one is going to die." Sumaru told his friend through the communicator that he had on. "We're all going to come out of this alive."
Ren nodded, looking at Shiki, a pained expression in his eyes. "He's right."
Shiki closed her eyes briefly. "You don't know that for sure," she said. 'Just like how we didn't know what is going to happen that night.' She looked at Ren. "If we come out of this alive, I'll tell you my answer to your question that night several months ago." She told him.
Ren looked confused for several moments before he realised what Shiki is talking about, and he smiled. "Not now?" he teased.
"I do not care." Ren insisted, combing a lock of her hair behind her ears, leaning in closer to her. Shiki could almost smell his warm breath upon her face. "I'll wait for you." Shiki was taken aback as Ren's strong arm wrapped around her lower back, and his lips rested next to her left ear. "I will say this to you as many times as I have to." He whispered into her ear. "I love you." Shiki's eyes widened. "I waited for you for eight years. I knew you for more than ten. Don't I know you well enough by now?" Ren released his hold on Shiki and stepped backwards. "I understand you even better than you know yourself. You don't like to kill. But you had to, because it is the only way to survive, and because it is a cruel world out there. You can be cruel. But you are also kind. Why else would you take in all the others back then when you could barely fend for yourself? And remember what you've said once, and what I've said?" Shiki's eyes widened. "I do not fear Death. What I fear is losing sight of what I believed in. I believe that your path is the right one, no matter what you have to do. True heroes don't exist. Not anymore. What does exist though…are people who take on the hatred of the world in order to make a difference." Ren's lips twitched. "And we call those people…antiheroes."
Ren leaned in close to Shiki once more. "Even if everyone hates you, I won't," he whispered. "I will always believe in you. I believed that your decision to disband Blade was the right one eight years ago when Ne came. And I still believed that it is the right one. No matter what you will decide in the future, I will always stand by you. I believe in you. That's why… Don't degrade yourself like that. You are no monster. You are human." He touched the area where Shiki's heart would have been gently. "You are Namikaze Shiki. Former leader of Blade. Captain of Ragnarok. And…the person whom I love. That's who you are. You are human. Never think that you are not." He whispered. "Even if the whole world turns against you, I won't abandon you." He stated. "I…will never betray you."
Shiki managed a small smile. "Gives you incentive to stay alive," she told him. She then picked up the bag by her foot and slung it across her chest. She closed her eyes briefly. 'The mistletoe plant. And the Book of the Dead. We got all the tools that we need.' She patted the bag briefly. 'We're ready for the final battle.'
"Well then…" Ren picked up his own bag, slinging it across his chest. Unlike Shiki however, Ren had packed several firearms, grenades and weapons in that bag. The redhead don't even want to know just how and where he had gotten all those! Ren then smiled at Shiki. "Let's go."
Shiki nodded. Before she followed Ren out of the Shrine however, she glanced at her clenched fist. 'Ero-Sennin… Sasame… Kankuro… Miyuki… Suzuki… Ein… And Yamato, whether you are dead or alive…' she thought. 'We've come this far to stop now. All our battles and fights… It has been for this day. Let's go!'
And she stepped out of the Shrine and towards the battlefield.
The war is on.
It had begun.
A/N: And so, the war had begun! After who knows how many chapters, it had finally begun! And so, be prepared for PLENTY of character deaths! This story will probably have another five or so chapters before it reaches the end. But I have plans for a sequel, so don't worry.
Anyway, I hope that you like this chapter, and please read and review!