Rebirth: The Children of Legacy Vol. 2

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Atonement

The light from a full moon shined brightly through Aiko’s living room window. The somber young lady was seated before her piano and playing a soothing melody. It was a piece Aiko had written herself. And for the longest time, the song had no title. But during a visit from Jaycee, Aiko was given inspiration for a name.

* * *

It was a spring day when Aiko played her theme for her friend. Jaycee was standing at the window and gazing into the sky. “You have a beautiful spirit,” she said.

“Huh, what do you mean?” asked Aiko.

“That’s how you’re able to write such beautiful music.”

Aiko stopped playing. “How did you know I wrote this song?” she asked. “I didn’t tell you, did I?”

“I could just tell. The song reminds me a lot of you. Even though it’s sad, it’s still beautiful. Its beauty overcomes its sadness.”

Aiko laughed half-heartedly and began playing again. “I’m not sad,” she said.

From that day on, Aiko’s song would be called “Beautiful Spirit.” But she would play it only after her spirit had suffered a terrible wound.

* * *

Unlike other performances of her song, Aiko concluded it this time by slamming her fists onto the keys. This brought about applause from someone. Aiko turned and found Alenia standing at the far end of the room.

“I must say, until you got to the end, I didn’t much care for that song,” said Alenia. “It was just another one of those sad little melodies. But then you unleashed your rage upon it. And that made all the difference.”

“You bitch,” exclaimed Aiko, who immediately pounced from her seat. “How dare you come here.”

“You didn’t think we were through with our fight, did you? I let you go the first time so you could watch your friends betray you. Why else would I have kept you after school? Do you really think I care about you cutting class?”

“Then it’s your fault.”

“My dear,” said Alenia, “all I did was give those friends of yours some time alone. The rest was up to them. I played no real part in what they did to you. But I can offer you a small condolence. If you’d like, I can make all the pain go away.”

“I don’t care who’s to blame for this,” said Aiko, head now lowered. “I just need to take my anger out on somebody.” Aiko then whipped her head up, showing the incensed state that she was now in. “And you’ll do just fine!”

“My, my, aren’t we eager to die,” said Alenia.

Aiko lunged at her opponent but Alenia caught her by the wrist and hurled her into the wall. The impact was so great that it left a hole. Alenia followed her first attack with a blow to Aiko’s stomach, then a strike to the face.

“Have you never heard the saying?” asked Alenia. “Bad things happen to those who let bad things happen to them? You couldn’t keep those friends of yours on a leash, so this is what you got. You have no one to blame for this but yourself.”

Even in her battered state, Aiko again lunged at Alenia. And again, she was caught.

“You just don’t get it, do you?” asked Alenia. “It’s over. You can’t stop me.” And with that, Alenia sunk her teeth into Aiko’s shoulder, forcing a horrendous scream to burst from her foe. She then threw Aiko to the floor. “Now you know how it feels.”

Aiko clutched her bleeding wound and began to wail.

“You should thank me for what I’ve just done,” said Alenia. “Pain is a good thing. It’s proof that you still exist.” Alenia then kicked Aiko in the ribs. “Hmph, there’s no reason for me to kill you . . . you’re already dead. Why should I be the one to put an end to your misery? It would be far more fitting if you did it yourself.”

Aiko grabbed onto Alenia’s leg but Alenia pulled free.

“That’s why I hate your kind so much,” said Alenia, becoming consumed by a swirl of black smoke. “Because you’re just so damn weak.” Before disappearing, Alenia left Aiko with one final thought. “Desperation has been known to make a person do unspeakable things. Do try to remember that.”

Realizing their kiss was a taboo subject, Jaycee and Sage said not a word about it as they made their way home. Neither thought what they had done was right, but at the same time, they believed they had done nothing wrong.

A pulsating red light in the distance showed the pair that their fateful night was far from being over. Even from their vantage point, the two knew the light was coming from atop the tallest building in the city.

Shortly after witnessing the light, Jaycee found a phone booth to call Aiko, but she received no answer from Aiko’s cell phone. Jaycee was sure Aiko was on her way to meet them, but when she found her calls to be futile, she called her friend at home. The phone picked up on Aiko’s end but nothing was said, making it unclear if she was home or not. “Aiko, is that you?” asked Jaycee. “Are you alright?”

“What is it?” asked Aiko.

“I thought you were going to meet us.”

Aiko was staring out her living room window. From there she could see the red light in the distance. “Another light,” she said before abruptly hanging up.

An unusually eager Jaycee led the way to the roof of the tallest building in the city. It came as no surprise to find Alenia waiting.

“Prompt, as usual,” said Alenia.

Neither Jaycee nor Sage gave Alenia a reply as they needed to catch their breath from their run. But the instant Jaycee caught her breath, she thrust her arms forward. A number of blue sickles of light then appeared and hurled themselves at Alenia.

There was no effort to get out of the way. All Alenia did was stand her ground and wait for impact. When the sickles hit her, an explosion shot into the sky.

“Did it work?” asked Sage.

When the smoke cleared, it was revealed that Alenia had been left unharmed.

“How?” gasped Jaycee.

“You fool,” said Alenia. “That magic you’re using came from my body. It can’t hurt me.” Alenia then floated into the sky. “But if you’re that eager for a show, then let me give you one that you won’t soon forget.” And with that, Alenia spread her majestic gray wings before a now cherry moon.

“They’re gray,” said Sage. “But how?”

A boisterous laugh burst from Alenia. “Yes, my wings are gray. And you know what that means. It means I’m twice the woman I was before. And your numbers have been cut in half. You don’t even have a suitable weapon to use against me in battle. So, what do you have to say for yourselves? Plan on begging for mercy?”

“We need to wait for Aiko,” said Jaycee. “We can’t win without her.”

Alenia began laughing again. “I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. That friend of yours isn’t coming. I’m quite sure of that.”

“What did you do to her?” Sage demanded to know.

I didn’t do anything,” replied Alenia.

Sage summoned his sword. It was far less powerful than the Sword of Heaven, but it was better than nothing. “This will have to do,” he said.

“Excellent,” said Alenia, extending her arm. “I see we’re ready to begin.” The Sword of Hell then appeared in Alenia’s grasp but quickly disappeared. Alenia kept her arm extended and summoned the Sword of Hell again. Once again, it disappeared.

“What is she doing?” thought Jaycee.

“Damn you,” exclaimed Alenia. “When I give you an order, you obey me!” Alenia then summoned the Sword of Hell once again. After being summoned, the Sword of Hell immediately began fading away. Alenia clenched her teeth and took hold of the blade with her other hand. “If you refuse to obey me, then you’ll be treated as a traitor! Do you understand?” The Sword of Hell continued to fade away, so Alenia snapped it in half.

“What are you doing?” asked Jaycee.

“Shut up!” exclaimed Alenia, throwing the broken halves of her weapon to the ground. “That’s the price you pay when you cross me. The little bastard must have been upset because of what I did to his sister. Well, that’s too bad. Because when you go to war, you do whatever it takes to ensure victory. No matter how horrible it may be!”

“Look,” said Sage. “Blood.”

A trickle of blood had begun seeping from Alenia’s nose. She immediately wiped it clean. “Why is this happening to me?” she said under her breath. “Why now!” Alenia then lurched over and spewed out a mouthful of blood. “Why . . .” Before Alenia could finish her thought, a blade thrust from her stomach. The gray winged demon screamed a horrendous scream as the Sword of Heaven tore through her tender flesh.

“Hikaru,” said Jaycee.

With the Sword of Heaven freed from her body, Alenia fell to the rooftop.

When Hikaru returned to human form, she began glowing a radiant white. She then collected the broken halves of the Sword of Hell. After looking them over, she turned her glare at a bloodied Alenia, then faded away.

Despite what had just happened, Alenia was able to get back to her feet. Her wings had returned to black. “No,” she groaned.

“It’s over,” said Sage.

“I don’t need all that power to finish the likes of you,” exclaimed Alenia. “I don’t need anything but my two bare hands!”

A horde of demons appeared behind Alenia.

“Then again,” said Alenia, getting her first glimpse of the army, “why should I get my hands dirty?” Alenia then pointed her bloodied hand in the direction of her foes. “Loyal demons,” she exclaimed, “kill them!”

Jaycee and Sage took a few steps back. They knew their collective power was nowhere near enough to take on such a number of enemies.

“Not so confident now, are you?” asked Alenia.

The demons failed to attack.

“Did you not hear me?” asked Alenia. “I gave you an order! Now do as your queen commands and slaughter our enemies!”

The demons held their position despite Alenia’s enraged instructions.

It was shortly thereafter when the building began to tremble. So violently did it shake that Jaycee fell into Sage. When the shaking had reached its fiercest, the part of the building Alenia was standing upon crumbled, forcing her to float back into the sky.

“It can’t be,” said a wide-eyed Alenia.

A monstrous roar unlike anything Jaycee or Sage had ever before heard consumed the night. From its ferocity, they knew the beast it had come from would make everything they had encountered in previous conflicts look like child’s play.

Like something out of the most horrendous of nightmares, a red-eyed demon standing well over a thousand feet tall rose from behind the crumbled part of the building. So immense was it that its wing span also exceeded a thousand feet.

Alenia began to shake terribly. “Master,” she gasped through quivering lips. The demon king let out another roar, then took hold of Alenia, keeping her trapped securely between his thumb and index finger.

Jaycee and Sage were stunned by the fact something Alenia had called ‘master’ would treat her in such a way. And the ease with which he did so to someone with Alenia’s power had them fearing what would happen once that anger was directed at them.

“Please, my lord,” said Alenia, who was slowly being crushed by her master’s powerful grip. “I’m not a traitor. Everything I did, I did for you. I did it to further your plans. I did it to bring glory to the kingdom!”

Clearly not convinced by what was being said to him, the demon king let out another roar, then crushed Alenia. The one time invulnerable demon let out a horrific scream that quickly became muffled by the build up of blood in her mouth. Her motionless body was then allowed to fall harmlessly to the rooftop. With that task complete, the demon king turned his attention to Jaycee and Sage.

Though he knew he stood no chance, Sage stood ready for battle. But before the fight could begin, Jaycee stood in front of him. “Stay behind me,” she said.

“You can’t,” said Sage, who couldn’t help but notice Jaycee’s shaking legs and profuse sweating. It was clear that the spell she had unleashed earlier had taken a toll.

“I’ll protect you,” said Jaycee. “I swear it.”

Rather than attacking, the demon king began growling. This prompted the demons behind him to dart toward their prey.

“I won’t let anything happen to you,” said Jaycee, arms stretched wide.

“Jaycee,” whispered Sage.

A barrage of golden arrows pierced through the night, striking down countless numbers of demons. To everyone’s surprise, the sky had become filled with an army of angels.

The demon king’s next growl prompted his demons to attack the angels. The angels with bows made way for those with swords. One after another, the demons fell.

The demon king roared, then swatted down a number of angels. Other angels then burst into flames. In what felt like the blink of an eye, the seemingly unstoppable army had been defeated, leaving Jaycee and Sage once again on their own.

Jaycee summoned a barrier just as the king of the demons had reached for the two. Though she was successful in fending off their enemy, Jaycee was rapidly losing strength, which meant the barrier would soon be gone.

“I can’t keep this up much longer,” said Jaycee, her knees buckling. “I’m sorry.” Seconds later, an unconscious Jaycee fell into Sage.

The demon king crushed what remained of the barrier within his powerful grasp.

“I said I would protect you with my life,” said Sage, gently laying Jaycee on the ground. “I won’t go back on my word now.” He then stood in front of Jaycee and gripped his sword tightly. “I refuse to let any harm come to her,” he said.

The demon king thrust his monstrous hand at Sage. With the blade that had saved him countless times, Sage struck the demon king’s claw. The demon king had to use only minimal effort to snap Sage’s blade. And with the same claw, he slashed Sage across the chest, bringing an immediate end to the fight.

Jaycee opened her weary eyes and found Sage lying motionless beside her. Blood was flowing rapidly from his chest. “Sage,” she gasped.

The demon king let out a victorious roar.

With what little strength she had left, Jaycee crawled on top of Sage.

“We made it so far,” said Sage. “But we couldn’t make it all the way. Still . . . I’m glad we could make the journey together.”

“Sage, no,” said Jaycee, tears filling her eyes.

“You need to get out of here, Jaycee.”

“No, I won’t leave you,” said Jaycee, taking Sage’s hand. “If it’s our fate to die here, then we’ll die here. We’ll die here together.”

Before the demon king could bring an end to his foes, a pillar of golden light appeared between the battling factions. From it emerged the Angel of Golden Light.

Showing no awe for such a grand spectacle, the demon king grabbed hold of the newcomer. The Angel of Golden Light directed her glare at the demon king, and after she did, her captor’s hand exploded, forcing a terrible howl to burst from him.

Pillars of golden light began shooting down from the heavens, forming a circle around the demon king. As the monstrous beast continued to howl in pain, a pillar of light shot into his mouth. The light then consumed the demon king, obliterating him in a fantastic show.

With the threat vanquished, the Angel of Golden Light lowered to the rooftop.

“Please help us,” said Jaycee. The young lady had crawled off Sage and was now on her knees beside him. “I can’t save him on my own.”

The Angel of Golden Light made a move toward Jaycee but stopped from advancing any further. Unable to look her in the eye, the Angel of Golden Light averted her gaze. Twinkling golden lights then consumed her and took her away.

“Wait,” exclaimed Jaycee. “Please come back.” Jaycee’s focus was put back on Sage when the young man began to stir. “Sage.”

“I don’t know why,” said Sage, “but I feel happy.”

“No, don’t give up.”

“That’s not it,” said Sage, who had enough strength to kneel before Jaycee. “I think I’m gonna be alright. So don’t worry.”

A smile brightened Jaycee’s face. “We still have to get you to a hospital.”

“Alright,” said Sage. “But I have something I need to tell you first.”

“What is it?” asked Jaycee, eyes glimmering in the light of the cherry moon.

“Jaycee,” said Sage, his heart racing. “I . . .” Before Sage could utter another word, Alenia ran her arm through his back and out through his chest.

Jaycee’s breathing came to an immediate halt after witnessing the horrific sight.

“Guess I was wrong,” said a bloodied Alenia, removing her arm and allowing Sage’s limp body to fall into Jaycee. “I didn’t need both hands, just one.”

“Sage!” screamed Jaycee, shaking him. “Sage! Sage!”

Alenia staggered back, laughing heartily as she did. “I told you I would finish you,” she exclaimed. “I may have paid a horrible price to get to this point, but I regret nothing.”

“Sage,” whimpered Jaycee.

“Now it’s your turn, you little bitch,” said Alenia. “You’ve just seen first hand what someone can do when they’ve got nothing left to lose. So you can only imagine what kind of unspeakable act I have in store for you.”

Jaycee gently placed Sage down, then stood. Her head hung down and her body shook visibly as her tears rained down upon the ground.

“There’s nothing left that can save you,” said Alenia. “Don’t think that I didn’t see what happened earlier. If you use what little magic you have left, you’ll die. Besides, your magic won’t even work against me. Even in this state, I’m still too powerful for you to stop. There’s nothing left for you to do now but die!”

Jaycee lifted her head to show her eyes, now glowing bright blue.

“I told you I couldn’t be stopped!” exclaimed Alenia. “But you just had to persist, didn’t you!” Alenia dug her nails so deep into her palms that her hands began to bleed. “Oh, how I’m going to enjoy this. You don’t know how long I’ve dreamt of this moment. For a thousand years I’ve waited. But it will all be worth it. To watch your life slip away, to see you take your final breath. I will gladly give my own life for that!”

Jaycee let out an enraged shout, prompting a violent wind to begin swirling.

“Fool,” exclaimed Alenia. “You have only one option left. Use the rest of your magic and finish yourself off. What a fitting end this is going to be. This is how it should have been from the beginning. The two of us perishing together.”

High in the night, a golden light appeared.

“What is that?” asked Alenia. “What did you do?”

The golden light was rapidly approaching the rooftop. And when it had come close enough, it became evident what it was.

“The Sword of Earth,” said Alenia. “It can’t be.”

The Sword of Earth plummeted from the heavens and into Alenia’s chest. A series of horrific screams burst from Alenia before she crashed to her knees.

After a tumultuous struggle to remove a sword that would not budge, Alenia went silent. Her gaze then turned to the sky. “Lords of Discipline,” she whispered. “How could you betray me?” Alenia’s eyes then shut and she toppled onto her side. Her body then proceeded to melt away into a black substance that evaporated shortly thereafter.

After her eyes returned to normal, Jaycee crumpled to the ground. The cherry moon faded back to white and the once crumbled building became whole again.

Jaycee awoke some time later, feeling as if she had just escaped the most terrible of nightmares. She found herself lying in a hospital bed. She immediately sat up but the sudden movement created a terrible pain in her head. “How did I get here?”

It wasn’t long thereafter when a nurse entered Jaycee’s room. She was carrying a tray containing a glass of water and a pair of pills.

“What am I doing here?” asked Jaycee.

“Someone found you on the roof of some building,” replied the nurse. “You and your friend were both hurt pretty bad. It’s a good thing someone found you when they did.”

“Sage,” gasped Jaycee. “Where is he?”

It was immediately after being told where Sage was when Jaycee went to him. She knelt at his bedside and held his hand tightly, hoping desperately that he would soon wake up.

A doctor and nurse were standing outside Sage’s room.

“Were you able to contact the boy’s parents?” asked the doctor.

“Not yet,” replied the nurse. “But we did find a piece of paper with a phone number written on it in his pocket. We left a message on the answering machine.”

“What an odd case,” said the doctor. “I was told those two were found unconscious on the roof of some building. And the injuries that boy suffered. They should have been enough to kill him. What could have kept him alive?”

Jaycee had begun to weep as she caressed Sage’s hand. “Sage, please wake up,” she pleaded. “It’s all over. We can finally go back to the way things were before. Just you, me and Aiko. We can be happy again. You remember when we were happy, don’t you? Things can be like that again. But you have to wake up.”

The only response Jaycee received was a consistent beep coming from the machine tracking Sage’s heartbeat.

“Please, Sage . . . I can’t lose someone else I love.” Jaycee was having trouble speaking through her sobbing, forcing her to stop every now and then to catch her breath. “You can’t leave me. You have to wake up . . . I’m begging you.”

Unbeknownst to Jaycee, Aiko was the person the hospital had called, and she was now standing outside Sage’s room, listening to every word that Jaycee spoke.

“Sage . . . let me know that you can hear me. Let me know that everything’s going to be alright. Please . . . Sage.”

Aiko had also begun to weep. But she was crying for a much different reason from Jaycee. Aiko believed she should be the one by Sage’s side.

Just when it seemed Jaycee would receive no response, Sage squeezed her hand. The small action sent a shiver through her body. “Sage,” she gasped. It wasn’t long thereafter when Sage’s grip went completely limp and his hand fell from Jaycee’s. A long beep then filled the room. “Sage,” whimpered Jaycee. “Sage!”

Aiko immediately sprinted down the hall and to the elevator where she repeatedly hit the down button with nearly enough force to break it.

A group of doctors and nurses rushed into Sage’s room. One of the nurses took Jaycee and forcefully led her out of the room.

“No, Sage, don’t leave me!” screamed Jaycee, struggling with the nurse. “Let me go!” In her chaotic state, Jaycee thought she had caught a glimpse of Aiko down the hall just before the elevator doors closed. But with the girl’s head lowered, Jaycee was unable to tell if it really was Aiko she had seen.

Later that night, Jaycee was given the news of Sage’s passing. She was the only person left in the hospital lobby, but even if there had been other people, Jaycee still would have felt as if she was all alone in her time of great need.

Mustering her courage, Jaycee placed a call to Aiko. She had no idea how she would break the news, but Jaycee knew that Aiko needed to be told.

After numerous rings, someone picked up on the other end. “Aiko,” said Jaycee, who could barely speak through her sobbing. “Aiko, is that you?”

“It’s you,” said Aiko.

“Aiko,” said Jaycee, unable to think of what to say next.

“Shut your mouth,” said Aiko. “Don’t you dare say another word.”

“Aiko. . .”

“I know, Jaycee,” said Aiko, tears streaming down her face. “I know what you did. I was there that night. I saw you. I saw everything.”

“What?” gasped Jaycee.

“You have to pay for what you’ve done.”

“Aiko, please listen to me,” said Jaycee.

“Meet me on the roof of the tallest building in the city,” said Aiko. “You know which building it is. It’s the building where you let Sage die. We have something we need to settle. If you don’t show up, I’ll know our friendship meant nothing.”

“Aiko, please don’t do this.”

“If you don’t show up . . . I’ll kill myself.” Aiko then hung up.

After ending her call, Aiko gazed at the pictures of she and Jaycee. She looked at them only shortly before slamming them to the ground, shattering the frame.

It wasn’t long thereafter when Jaycee and Aiko were facing one another atop the tallest building in the city. The distance between the two was only a few yards, but to Jaycee it felt as if the two were miles apart.

“Aiko, please,” said Jaycee, “you have to let me explain.”

“There’s nothing you can say that can change what happened,” said Aiko. “What you’ve done is unforgivable. You took away the only man I ever loved. And because of you he’s dead. I was supposed to be with him, not you! You ruined everything!”

“Aiko, please.”

“I guess I can’t blame you for what you did,” said Aiko. “You never respected me. Not that I ever deserved your respect. I’ve never done anything to earn anyone’s respect. I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever done. No matter how hard I try, I never get anything right.”

“Aiko,” whispered Jaycee.

“You knew what I really was,” said Aiko. “You could see it from the very start. You knew that I was nothing but a fake. So I thought I at least had your pity.” Tears then began to well up in Aiko’s eyes. “Because if I didn’t have your pity, then I had nothing.”

“I never thought that way about you.”

Aiko turned her back on Jaycee and began gazing at the sky. “Happiness is like the moon,” she said. Aiko then reached for it. From her vantage point, it looked as if she had clutched the celestial body within her grasp. Aiko then drew her hand to her chest. “It’s always within sight, always seems so close.” Aiko then opened her hand, revealing that nothing was in it. “But just when you think you have it, you realize just how far away it really was.”

Tears began to fill Jaycee’s eyes. “Please, Aiko,” she said. “I never meant to hurt you. I made a mistake. I just felt so alone.”

“Tell me something, Jaycee,” said Aiko, turning to face her. “If everyone you’ve ever cared about is gone, then why am I still here? Is it because you never really cared about me? Is it because you never loved me the way that I loved you?” Tears then began streaming down Aiko’s cheeks. “I would have done anything for you, Jaycee. And you still betrayed me!”

“No,” said Jaycee.

Her body now shaking uncontrollably, Aiko lowered her head. “I’m sorry, Jaycee,” she said, “but now you have to die.” It was at that moment when Aiko’s beautiful spirit lost the battle with the darkness, leaving behind a girl driven only by rage and hate.

The cherry moon took its place in the sky.

The instant Aiko whipped her head up, she began her charge.

“Aiko, no!” screamed Jaycee, shielding herself with her arms.

Aiko bypassed the defense easily, slamming her fist across Jaycee’s face and sending her foe staggering. Aiko followed with a number of furious blows to Jaycee’s face and stomach. The beating left Jaycee unable to stand, leaving her in a heap on the ground.

Not at all content, Aiko then crawled on top of Jaycee and let loose another series of blows to her one-time best friend’s face. Jaycee waved her arms frantically but could do nothing to stop the barrage of strikes.

“Die, you bitch!” screamed Aiko. “Die!”

“Please stop!” screamed Jaycee.

“Not until one of us is dead,” said Aiko, taking Jaycee by the shirt and pulling her face close to hers. She then threw Jaycee back to the ground and got off of her. “If you want to live, then you’d better summon your weapon.”

Jaycee shakily got back to her feet. “No,” she said, wiping blood from her mouth and nose. “I won’t.” She then met eyes with Aiko. “What happened between me and Sage wasn’t supposed to happen. We never meant to hurt you.”

“I don’t want to hear any more of your lies!” exclaimed Aiko, covering her ears and shutting her eyes as tightly as she could.

“Aiko, please,” said Jaycee, cautiously making her way to her. Jaycee knew she was taking a risk, but it was a risk she had to take. “You have to listen to me.” The instant those words were spoken, Aiko caught Jaycee under the chin with a thunderous blow. Jaycee collapsed to the ground, looking as if the life had just been knocked out of her.

Aiko froze after Jaycee hit the ground as if she had just then realized that things had gotten horribly out of control. But once Jaycee began to move, the feeling quickly went away. “Get up,” demanded Aiko.

Having taken the brunt of the impact to the back of her head, blood began to seep from Jaycee’s newest wound. Clutching her injury, a series of high pitched wails began escaping from Jaycee’s bloodied mouth.

“Get up, goddamnit,” exclaimed Aiko, now standing over Jaycee and watching her as she writhed in pain. Not getting what she wanted, Aiko crawled on top of Jaycee and gently placed her hands around her throat. With all of her strength, Aiko proceeded to choke the life out of Jaycee.

A bloody gasp shot from Jaycee’s mouth and her eyes began to bulge. She tried to remove Aiko’s hands but could do nothing to break her grip.

“Why are you fighting me?” asked Aiko. “Why can’t you let this happen? I’m trying to send you to a better place. You’re too beautiful for this world. It doesn’t deserve you.” The tears that fell from Aiko’s eyes were raining down into Jaycee’s and becoming her own. “You’ll be a lot happier where I’m sending you.”

Knowing she hadn’t the strength to pry Aiko’s hands from her throat, Jaycee placed her hands on Aiko’s face. The tender moment was short lived, however, as Jaycee then drove her thumbs into Aiko’s eyes. Aiko screamed from the pain, then fell off Jaycee.

Jaycee gasped desperately for air as she struggled back to her feet. She then did as Aiko had demanded and called upon her staff.

Aiko wasted no time in going back on the offensive. But every attack she unleashed was deflected by Jaycee’s staff.

“Please stop this,” begged Jaycee. “It’s too late to change what happened.”

“You’re right,” said Aiko, trying frantically to catch her breath. “It is too late to change the past. But we can still destroy the future!”

Jaycee knew another attack was imminent, so she struck Aiko across the face with her staff. So powerful was the blow that it sent Aiko to a knee. “I don’t want to fight you anymore,” said Jaycee. “So please stay down!”

Being in no mood to take orders from Jaycee, Aiko stood back up. For this, she was struck across the face once more by Jaycee’s staff. When Aiko dropped back to a knee, she was promptly struck across the face again and once more to the top of her head. The final blow sent Aiko’s limp body crumbling to the ground.

Jaycee took a few timid steps back, unsure as to why she had continued attacking Aiko even though she had shown no signs of being able to fight back. “Please put an end to this,” she said. “No good can come from more fighting.”

Much to Jaycee’s dismay, Aiko attempted to stand. Jaycee thrust her staff into Aiko’s back and tried to force her back down, but it was a futile effort. Aiko had long ago become possessed by fury and would let no mere girl and her staff stand in her way of gaining the retribution she so badly craved.

“Please stay down,” exclaimed Jaycee.

Aiko was able to get back up, and after she did, she took Jaycee’s staff. “You know what it feels like to hit someone with your weapon,” she said before striking Jaycee across the face with it, “and now you know how it feels, too!”

An adrenaline fueled Jaycee grabbed hold of her staff. Neither girl would back down in the slightest. And with so much damage done to both fighters, their depleted energy made them near equals in what was undoubtedly a life or death struggle.

Deciding she had no further need for a weapon, Aiko kicked Jaycee in the stomach, sending her and her staff to the ground.

Jaycee was able to get back to her feet, but little more. She was nearing exhaustion and the next attack might be the one that finished her, so Jaycee began backing away, though there was nowhere to go as the edge of the rooftop was looming.

Seeing her opponent in such an obvious state of fatigue, Aiko charged. Jaycee thrust forward her staff, driving it into Aiko’s stomach. Though the staff was driven into her stomach, Aiko gripped it and pushed, forcing Jaycee closer to the edge of the building. Having no other choice, Jaycee swung her staff, sending it and Aiko over the side of the building. Using every ounce of strength she had left, Jaycee kept her grip on the staff, preventing it and Aiko from making the horrible fall.

Holding onto the staff with only one arm made it all the more difficult for Aiko to be pulled to safety. She was allowing her body to hang perilously over the drop rather than clinging to what little hope she still had left.

“Aiko, climb up and grab onto me,” said Jaycee.

“All this time,” said Aiko, gazing at the drop. “That little voice inside me was telling me things were going to be alright. But it was all a lie. It was only trying to get my hopes up. That way . . . I would have further to fall.”

“Aiko, please. I can’t hold on much longer.”

Aiko gazed into Jaycee’s teary eyes. “I used to think you were so weak,” she said. “Even the smallest of problems could make you cry. And I would always have to come to your rescue. But now I see how wrong I was. I thought I was supposed to save you. But it turns out I was the one who needed saving.”

“Aiko,” groaned Jaycee, body trembling visibly.

“Time after time, something precious was taken from you. But somehow you always managed to survive. You were always able to move on.”

“Please, Aiko,” whimpered Jaycee. “I’m losing my grip.”

“Then the same thing happens to me. Everything was taken from me, and look at what I did. I finally realized how you’ve felt all these years. And once I felt that way, I was ready to end everything. Now I see who the weak one really was.”

“Aiko, please,” sobbed Jaycee.

“I can only dream of becoming as strong as you,” said Aiko. “But I know fate will never give me that chance after what I’ve done. I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

It happened simultaneously and was impossible to tell with the naked eye which happened first. Both Jaycee’s hands and Aiko’s hand slipped from the staff, sending Aiko plummeting to her demise.

“Aiko!” screamed Jaycee.

With a body that had gone completely numb, Jaycee staggered back to the middle of the rooftop. Her eyes were bulging and she was clutching tightly the sides of her head. Having no more strength in her body, Jaycee fell to her knees, then let out a series of ear-piercing screams that ended only when her voice gave out. In her crazed state, Jaycee began pulling at her hair, hoping to bring back any feeling, even if that feeling was pain.

When she had completely exhausted herself, Jaycee curled herself into a ball and wept the most bitter tears her eyes had ever shed.

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