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Clashing Blades - Arc 6

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Arc 6 of Sword Art Online: Clashing Blades.


Chapter 27

I managed to make it back to Talmia later that night. I walked through the door to Adeline’s, and seeing nobody around, I quietly head upstairs and to my room, locking myself in and falling down on the bed, finally getting some real sleep after a month and a half.

---

The next morning I got up and quietly headed downstairs. Adeline was there, and she looked up to me, hearing my footsteps on the stairs.

“Ishi!” She said, rushing up to me. “When did you… God, I was so worried! I…”

I didn’t say anything as I walked over to the door, opening it.

“Ishi?” Adeline said. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah.” I say quietly. “I’ll be fine.”

I left her at that, closing the door and going to the nearest vendor for more teleport crystals, heading to Luciad after that. I didn’t know how everyone was going to take the news…

---

I make it to Luciad and immediately head for Pendragon HQ. I step through into the building and head for the meeting room, seeing Knight, Trinity, and Avro there.

All eyes were on me.

“Well shit…” Knight said.

“Ishi!” Trinity rushed over to me and wrapped her arms around me, squeezing me tightly. “Oh my God! We… you’ve been gone for over a month! We thought something happened to you…”

“About time you got back.” Avro said, receiving a blow to the head from a cup Knight threw at him.

“I’m glad you’re alright, Ishi…” Knight paused. “Where’s Misaki?”

“Yeah…” Trinity said, letting go of me. “Is she with you?”

I say nothing. I walk up, taking Eternia off my belt and setting it down on the table.

“Is… that’s Misaki’s sword…” Knight said, looking at me. “Ishi… where’s Misaki?”

I don’t answer.

“Ishi… where is she?” He asked again.

Still, I don’t answer.

“ISHI!” He stands up and slams his fist onto the table. “Where is Misaki?!”

“I didn’t make it in time.” I say solemnly. “I’m sorry.”

Trinity gasped behind me, putting her hands to her mouth.

“Oh, shit…” Avro cursed under his breath.

Knight just slumped back down into his chair, leaning forward onto the table, interlacing his fingers together and looking down.

“I see.” He said. “Why were you gone for so long?”

“Things came up.” I say.

I heard Trinity sniffle a bit behind me, trying to hold back tears.

“So now we’ve lost two…” Knight said. “I can only be glad we didn’t lose three.”

I sit down in the nearest chair, my hand still on Eternia. Trinity rushes out of the room in a fit of tears and slams the door behind her.

“I need to go after him.” I say plainly.

“No.” Knight said.

“No?” I ask.

“Not right now. You should stay here for the time being.”

“Why?”

“Because… if you died as well, right after Gawain and Misaki… I’m afraid of what would happen.”

I stand up, taking Eternia and fastening it to my side.

“I won’t die.” I say. “But… you’re right. I should stay a little longer. Just to make sure everyone’s okay… Trinity didn’t look like she took it well…”

“I’ll check on her.” Knight said, standing up.

“Alright.” I say. “I need to do something in the meantime.”

I leave Knight to tend to Trinity while I leave the building. I needed to find him again. As much as I hated to admit it… I needed his help right now. I knew where to go to find him.

---

He was sat under the tree atop the tallest hill in Talmia plains, the one I usually visit as well. It looked like he was sleeping, but I knew he was fully aware of my presence.

“Funny how nobody catches sight of you even when you hang around the same place all the time.” I tell him.

He opens one eye and looks up at me.

“I guess it is.” Yamato said, standing up. “What do you need?”

“Two things.” I say. “Information on Corbenik, and help in hunting down and killing Kamui.”

“Right… you recently picked Corbenik up.” He said.

“But how?” I ask. “It just appeared out of nowhere… almost like I’ve had it before.”

“That’s because you have.” He says. “I’ll explain. It was back when Majora had Skeith. Originally, the two were separate, that’s true. I happened about Corbenik while I was trying to fight back Majora… the two are equal in every way, yet also opposite in those same qualities. They both hold the exact same amount of power.”

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“That I don’t know.” Yamato shrugs. “It’s always seemed strange to me why that just so happens to be. But I can tell you why you’ve awakened Corbenik out of the blue. There are a few things you need to know about both first, however.”

“And what’s that?”

“Firstly, that not just anyone can wield either. The two are picky about who can wield them, not just on account that they’re damn hard to get without getting killed. Majora was able to wield Skeith, but he wouldn’t have a chance at using Corbenik. I was able to use Corbenik, but I couldn’t use Skeith. Only certain players are compatible with either. After I killed Majora, I managed to combine the two into one perfectly balanced weapon.”

“But why did you let it go, then? Why release it back into Aincrad?”

“I couldn’t wield it.” He said. “I had no other choice. Over time, Skeith became the dominant of the two, while Corbenik went dormant inside. That’s why only Skeith was seen. But in truth, you were looking at both.”

“So… that means…”

“You’re compatible with both Skeith and Corbenik, yes.” Yamato says. “Nobody else can wield both, which is why I combined the two. I didn’t want either to fall into the wrong hands again, so I made the chances of containing either practically zero.”

“And you let it go to keep destroying things.” I note.

“Better to destroy smaller things alone than the entire game when wielded by a player.” He said. “Corbenik has also been protecting you this entire time. By this time Majora had completely lost his sanity, but you haven’t. That’s attributed to Corbenik shielding your mind as well as your extreme mental fortitude.”

“I can still hear it.” I say.

“But it’s not infecting your mind to such a degree.” He told me. “However, Corbenik can only protect you for so long. You’ll have to gain complete mastery over both in order to stay alive with them. Mastery of just one will allow the other to spin out of control… that little killing spree you had almost killed you? Skeith could’ve taken control of you right there, but Corbenik managed to bring you back, and even Corbenik out of control can be dangerous to you.”

“So I’ll have to… master both at once?” I ask.

“Yes, you will.” He said. “You’re the only player in SAO capable of doing so.”

“But why me? Why does it have to be me?”

“Fate is a strange thing, Ishi.” Yamato said. “Nobody can ever predict what will happen. The only thing we can do is deal with what we’re given.”

“Great…”

“About dealing with Kamui.” Yamato said. “That I can’t help you with.”

“Why not?”

“It’s your battle, Ishi.” Yamato says. “I won’t help you fight it.”

“Something tells me it’s not just my fight.” I say, receiving slightly surprised response from him. “You want Kamui dead too, don’t you?”

Yamato looks away, a somber expression on his face.

“Could say that…” He says quietly.

“Then why won’t you help?”

“Revenge is pointless.” He says, turning to me. “I’d hope you want to kill him out of more than a desire for revenge.”

“I don’t need any other reason…”

“But you stand for so much more, do you not?”

“Nothing else matters now.”

Yamato gives me a long and thoughtful stare, before turning around.

“You still don’t fully understand.” He says. “You have the skills but have not yet grasped the principles.”

“What are you talking about?” I say.

“You’ve gotten far enough without me answering that. I think you can manage on your own.”

With that, he teleports out, leaving me alone.

“Son of a bitch…” I mumble under my breath, staring up at the sky.

There was still yet more for me to learn, then… how much stronger was I supposed to get?

---

I head back to Adeline’s, walking slowly through the door, the bells chimed over me to signal my arrival. Adeline and Asuka were there, talking to each other at the bar. They both look to me, and Asuka immediately jumps from her chair and runs over to me, slamming into me and putting her arms around my chest.

“I was so worried…” She said, digging her face into my chest. “Wha… what happened? Where have you been?”

“Misaki’s dead.” I say plainly.

“Misaki’s… what?” She says.

I don’t answer.

“Oh no… Ishi I’m… I’m so sorry…” Asuka says.

“So that’s what’s gotten into you…” Adeline added.

Asuka held both my hands in hers, looking up at me.

“Is there anything we can do?” She asks, genuine worry in her voice.

“No.” I say plainly, walking by her and going upstairs, locking myself in my room and lying down on the bed, staring blankly at the ceiling, the back of my left hand resting on my forehead, thinking about everything. I lose track of time while just lying there, barely moving.

I’m not sure how much time had passed, but it was raining by the time a few knocks came on my door.

“Ishi?” I hear Asuka say. “It’s me, Asuka… can I come in?”

I don’t answer. I stay fixed in my position, unmoving.

“Ishi.” She says, trying the doorknob. “C’mon, unlock the door.”

Still, I do nothing. I barely even registered her wanting to get in. My mind was on other things.

“Motherfucking…” I hear Asuka mutter. “Alright…”

I open the door and see her reared up for a kick to bring the door down. She quickly stood up straight with her hands behind her back.

“Hi!” She said.

I walk past her and back to the stairs.

“Where are you going?” She asks.

“Going for a walk.” I say.

“It’s raining, though…”

I ignore that fact and step outside. I couldn’t tell what time of day it was, but it really didn’t matter in this weather. I walk through the empty streets and out of town. I didn’t know where I was going… I really didn’t care. I was just planning on walking straight, and that was it… wherever that would take me.

---

3 Days Later

I lost track of the amount of days I had been walking… 3? Maybe more? I really didn’t care. I had been just walking non-stop for however long I’ve been out. I’ve gotten tons of messages, probably from Asuka, but I never bothered to look at them.

My legs start to give out on me when I’m partway through a grassy field in the middle of nowhere, midday. My legs completely stop working soon after that, and I fail to keep my balance as I hit the ground, completely exhausted.

I pass out shortly after.

---

“He’s starting to wake up…” I hear a young boy’s voice say.

“Ah… that’s good…” Another older girl’s voice said. “Go and tell Kirei.”

“Okay.” I hear the young boy say as he gets up on his feet and runs out of the room.

“Ngh…” I groan as I open my eyes. My vision is blurry at first, but it quickly comes back to me. I see a young girl watching over me. Bright, almost white blonde hair and pale yellow eyes. She wore a pink kimono with a magenta bottom piece.

“Hey, there.” She said gently. “Are you alright?”

“Where am I?” I ask.

“Just a little house in the middle of nowhere.” She answered with a little laugh. “My little brother and I found you in the fields outside our house and we took you inside.”

“Ah… okay, then…” I sit up and roll my shoulders a bit, looking around the room. This place looked to be a traditional Japanese house, like the ones of the Feudal era.

“My name is Sakura, by the way.” She said, smiling.

“Ishi.” I say.

“Oh, the Blade Master, huh?” She said. “Your name reaches pretty far, even out here.”

“Well, that sucks for me.” I note. “I’d rather not be famous.”

“Well with the things they’re saying you’ve done it’d be hard not to be.” She says.

“And what are they saying I’ve done?”

“Well…” She thinks. “They say you’ve killed a lot of people…”

“Well… they wouldn’t be wrong about that.”

“B-but a lot of people actually look up to you!” She quickly said to try to brighten the mood. “I mean… everyone says your skills are incredible, and a lot believe you’re a good person.”

“I don’t know about that, but they can think however they want.”

“Hey, sis.” The young boy came back into the room, sliding the door open. “Kirei wants to see him.”

“Thank you, Kenji.” Sakura says, standing up. “C’mon, then, Ishi. We shouldn’t keep the master waiting.”

“The master?” I ask, standing up. “Who’s he?”

“You’ll see.”

Sakura led me outside, where a small Japanese garden was placed in the middle of the house, with many plants and a small pond. The place was bigger than I had thought. She led me around the area and into another section of the house. She led me back inside and through another hallway before coming up on another room. She slid the door back open for me and I stepped through, the door quietly shutting behind me.

It was a pretty large room; multiple blades lines the walls and a few training dummies could be seen. It was evident this was a dojo of some sort. In the middle, I see a well aged man kneeling at a table, drinking a small cup of tea. He wore a black kimono with a gray bottom piece.

“Uh…” I say.

“Ishi.” He says to me, setting his cup down. “My name is Kirei Kyosho.”

“Okay…”

“I have heard many things about you, Blade Master.” He said. “I’ve heard you can rival even Yamato.”

“In some ways…”

“I see…” He takes another sip of his tea, finishing the cup and pouring himself another.

Arondight was going ballistic at this point. There was something about this guy… I don’t know what.

“You… you trained Yamato…” I say.

He is surprised when I say this, looking to me before looking back at his cup of tea, setting it down.

“Yes… I did.” He said. “Both in this world and in our own. He was a student of mine in my school of kenjutsu. He was my greatest accomplishment. He surpassed me quite quickly… ah… it seems like our time together was so short.”

“I need you to train me.” I suddenly blurt out.

Kirei takes a sip of his tea.

“And why is that?”

“I need to beat Yamato.”

“You understand what you are asking, Blade Master?” He said. “You are asking me to train you so you can kill a former student of mine.”

“I… tch…” I look away. “It’s not just him… I failed to protect someone precious to me because I wasn’t strong enough…” I grasp Eternia on my belt. “She died… and I couldn’t do anything… I need to get stronger so nothing like that will happen ever again!”

“Death is unavoidable, Blade Master.” He said. “Surely you know this. You’ve spilled the blood of many with your blades… how many lives have you taken? How many lives have you ruined? How many families have you destroyed? And now you speak of saving people?”

I have no response to this. I only stand there, taking his words.

“You do not know what you fight for…” He said, finishing off his second cup. “Which is why I will train you.”

“What?” I ask.

“Stand up straight!” He said assertively, causing me to instinctively stand up straight. “You have potential, I can see…”

He stands up and drags the table over to a corner of the room to clear out the center.

“Well, then.” He said, grabbing a katana off a nearby rack. “Let us begin, then, shall we?”

“What? I just fight you?” I ask.

“I need to know what you are currently capable of.” He said. “So don’t hold back.”

“Ah… I don’t know…” I scratch the back of my head.

Suddenly, the old man was right in front of me, hand on his blade. I Shift out of the way and bring out my own sword, swinging it downwards and locking blades with him.

We spin around each other and break off, striking twice more before I spin around and swing my blade at him with momentum. He ducks under the strike, however, and sweeps his leg under me, making me fall onto my back. I roll out of the way of a downward stab and plant my hand on the ground and push myself back up onto my feet.

I sweep from low, cutting upwards and striking his blade again before spinning up into the air and cutting at him again. He moves in quicker than I’d expect a man of his age to, and cuts to my side. I brace up Gilgamesh and his blade strikes my armguard, opening up his guard and allowing me to swing my blade down and nick his chest as he backs up, and comes down again, slamming his blade into mine, locking me there.

“Self-taught…” He says. “And not half-bad.”

We slide our blades off each other and back up a distance.

“I think I have a good understanding of what you’re capable of.” Kyosho says, sheathing his blade as I did the same. “You have skill, I’ll give you that.”

“You’re not too bad yourself, old man.” I say. “I can see where Yamato gets his skills.”

“Yes, well, he has youth on his side. I can’t keep up with him, anymore.” He laughs. “I could barely keep up with you.”

“Don’t count yourself out just yet.” I say.

“Oh, I’m long retired from the field of battle, I’m afraid. I find much more peace staying here with my family.”

“Hm.”

The door slid open, and I see Sakura there, holding a tray of tea and rice cakes.

“I brought some food and tea, if you want some.” She said.

“Thank you, Sakura.” Kyosho said as he got the small table from the corner of the room and brought it back into the center.

Sakura placed the tray down onto the table.

“Please, sit.” Kyosho said to me.

I did so, taking a rice cake and biting into it. It was good… really good… it was almost as good as Adeline’s ramen.

“I must tell you, though.” Kyosho said. “This won’t be easy. I can see that you have been through much, but in order to get to where you wish to go, it will require more effort… and more sacrifice.”

“I’ll do whatever I need to do.” I say.

“Very well.” He said, taking a sip of tea. “We will begin tomorrow.”

Chapter 28


Kyosho woke me up pretty early in the morning to begin our lessons. It took me a little longer than usual to wake up from that. For starters, he had me dress in a white hakama with a black bottom piece, and he restricted weapon usage to a katana, which struck me as odd.

“Why can’t I use the weapons I’m familiar with?” I ask.

“My kind of training specifically uses the katana.” Kyosho explained. “But worry not. The skills you learn with this blade should pass over easily to your more preferred weapons.”

“I guess… but I’ve ever used a katana before.”

“For a master of blades it shouldn’t come as too much of a challenge.” Kyosho brought out his own blade from a rack on the wall. “Firstly, we will see how well you can work the blade.”

He pushed a training dummy to the center of the room and backed up.

“Have at it.” He said.

“Uh… okay?” I unsheath the katana, looking at it briefly, waving it around lightly to get a feel for it. It felt a bit awkward… I didn’t know why. By now I’m proficient with any kind of bladed weapon I pick up, but this just felt… I don’t know… strange.

Nonetheless, I grip the katana in both hands and position myself. I turn the blade to my right side, making a large step forward and cutting upwards, making a nice cut into the dummy.

Still didn’t feel right.

“I see…” Kyosho said. “That’s what I thought. Hand me that sword.”

I sheath the blade in its scabbard and hand it to him. He placed it back onto a wall rack and walked towards a more ornate looking rack that sat on its own little pedestal. He grabbed the sword and handed it to me.

“Try this one.” He said.

I pull the weapon out, and immediately I feel a difference. The blade felt much stronger and lighter than the last one, and it felt like I was immediately familiar with it.

“Takeru…” I say its name.

“That’s correct.” He said. “It belongs to Sakura. I’m sure she won’t mind you using it.”

“That’s why it felt strange… that other sword was just a standard blade… no real name to call its own.”

“It seems you are much more skillful with blades that have their own identity.” Kyosho said. “That is good.”

I ready myself again, holding the blade in both hands, and making the same motions, stepping up and slicing upwards, moving to the side and spinning once to cut downwards from behind. The dummy fell into four clean pieces.

“Well done.” Kyosho said. “It seems you have a natural affinity for this.”

“Whatever you say.” I say.

“It seems you have technique alone well handled.” Kyosho said. “But your mind is still not completely focused.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Yamato got to where he is now through deep meditation. He is perfectly in tune with himself, his blade, and his surroundings. You may be able to speak to blades, but you are not yet synced with your mind or your surroundings.”

“That doesn’t exactly help me much…” I say.

“Here…” Kyosho takes a nearby piece of cloth and wraps it around my eyes, tying it behind my head.

“Okay…how the hell am I supposed to fight when I can’t see?” I ask.

I receive a hard kick to my stomach that sends me to the ground.

“AGH!” I yelp as I hit the floor.

“Huh…” Kyosho said. “Thought you would’ve seen that coming…”

“I can’t see ANYTHING!” I tell him, getting back up.

“Hm…” He wondered. “Ah. I have an idea.”

I heard the sound of a sword being drawn.

“Wait… what was that?” I ask.

Suddenly I receive a moment of clarity. I could somehow… feel him moving in. I could hear the blade cut the air… feel his step vibrate the floor… I draw my blade lightning quick and strike it on his, before spinning around and making another slash, forcing him to jump back to dodge.

“Hm… you are more in tune with blades than I thought.” Kyosho noted, sheathing his blade as I did the same. “If you can temper your mind like Yamato has, there’s no telling what you could do with the skills you have already. We should work on this.”

“Wait, I’m not gonna be blindfolded for all my training, am I?” I ask.

“Mmmaybe.” Kyosho said playfully.

“Dammit!” I say. “But I like being able to see!”

“You must focus on things other than sight, young one.” Kyosho said. “The eyes can deceive, and are vulnerable to all manners of illusions. If you can see without sight, just imagine how much more you’ll see with it.”

“I… guess…” I let my arms go slack in front of me.

“Let us work on getting that same result without blades for now.” Kyosho said, walking up to me and taking Takeru from me.

I hear him unsheathe his sword.

“Woah, woah, wait.” I say, waving my arms in front of me and backing up two spaces. “I thought you said we were going to do this without blades.”

“I didn’t say I would be without a blade.” I could imagine Kyosho smiling wickedly at me.

“Shit…”

Kyosho comes at me, and I instinctively dodge his blade, a bit clumsily, allowing him to come in and nick my arm just a tad. He could’ve done more, but he purposefully only grazed me. I stumble back, losing my balance and falling on my ass.

“Agh…” I say, rubbing the back of my head.

“That won’t do, Ishi.” Kyoshi said. “Again.”

“Gah…” I get up to my feet and prepare to try again.

Kyosho lauches a horizontal slash that I am able to duck under, but before I knew it he had come in closer to swing again, and I sidestep a vertical blow. He quickly makes a swipe at me that I don’t catch in time and he nicks me in the cheek this time. I stumble back but catch my balance this time.

“Damn…” I mutter.

“Come now, Ishi.” Kyosho said. “Surely you can do better. You’ll never beat Yamato like that.”

That got me motivated. I stand up straight. I take off the blindfold, but keep my eyes closed. I take a deep breath through my nose and back out again, just as Kyosho launches another attack.

I see it coming.

I sidestep a slice before backing up to avoid two more. I duck down and then move left, spinning underneath his blade and jumping back. He comes at me again. This time I move up and narrowly dodge his blade to get into his guard, slamming my hands against the hilt of his sword and his hands to keep them pinned.

I opened my eyes.

Kyosho was smiling.

He withdraws and sheaths his blade.

“Well done, Blade Master.” He said. “Very well done… I think that concludes training for today. We will continue tomorrow. I believe it’s lunch time.”

I nod, and we both leave the room and head to the dining room.

---

1 Week Later

I sat on my knees outside on the front porch. I sat before the rolling green hills, some farmlands situated near the house, and the trees that bordered them, as well as the mountains beyond, though my eyes were closed. I hold a cup of warm herbal tea in both my hands, and I take a sip as a soft breeze sweeps by me.

I had been training with Kyosho for a week now, and it’s definitely showing. I had been instructed by Kyosho to keep my eyes closed until he told me I could open them again. I was reluctant at first, but not long after it began to take effect on me. I felt… calmer… more relaxed than I ever have been, even outside the game. I didn’t feel like the world was bearing down on me, rather I was flowing with the world, just as the wind carries leaves from the along its path. It was a welcome reprieve from everything that’s been going on. I found that even with my eyes closed it didn’t hinder me too much. I guess Kyosho’s training was working.

“Hey, there.” Sakura says, sitting down with me. “How are you?”

“Fine.” I say, taking a sip of my tea.

“It’s beautiful out today, isn’t it?” She asked.

“It is.” I reply.

A moment of silence followed.

“Sakura.” I say. “I have to ask you something.”

“Hm?” She looks to me. “What is it?”

“Every time I hold Takeru, I can feel its story… everything it’s been through… everything you’ve been through. Just over these past few days it’s been becoming clearer.” I look her in the eyes. “You loved Yamato, didn’t you?”

She took on a look of surprise, but it quickly turned to sadness, and she looks away.

“I… did…” She said slowly. “Once… a while ago.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” She said, looking away.

I place my hand over hers, but don’t say anything. She looks to me, but I stay with my eyes closed and facing forward.

“Alright…” She said, leaning a bit into me. “We were childhood friends, Yamato and I… we were close. We went to Kirei’s school of kenjutsu together, on account of him being my grandfather and all… as we grew closer as we grew older, and… by the time we entered this game I… I loved him… though I couldn’t really tell at the time if he shared these feelings…”

She stopped for a moment, and I nod to notify her that I was listening.

“We set out to complete the game together. That was our first goal. This was our home. We stayed here together… trained together with Kyosho to become stronger and beat the game. Then Majora came across Skeith…” She paused again. “Yamato was betrayed and almost killed… from that day he swore to kill Majora. He began changing after that… I didn’t notice at first, but it became more apparent as time went on. It happened pretty quickly. He was becoming much stronger as a swordsman but at the same time… he became more distant. I tried to keep up with him but couldn’t… and when he became a player killer and captured Corbenik… I feel that’s when I truly lost him. He tried to uphold good intentions, but I could tell there was doubt in him. Above all he wanted Majora to die, no longer for revenge, but because Majora was threatening to take over and destroy Aincrad with Skeith.”

She pauses again, then continues shortly after.

“Along the road, Yamato became legendary in his skills… he earned the name Legendary Player Killer first, Wandering Swordsman shortly after… he left me behind.”

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“He did it on purpose… to protect me. He didn’t want me involved with him anymore because he was afraid I’d get hurt… or die. He told me he loved me and… then he left. That’s when I decided to leave the battlefield and settle down with my grandfather and my brother. I haven’t seen him since…”

I don’t say anything, and Sakura looks to me. I had opened my eyes and was looking down at my empty cup of tea, a solemn expression on my face.

“What’s wrong?” She asks.

“All this time I thought of him as just a player killer…” I say. “Just a villain I needed to kill… but he was never bad in the first place…”

I look down at my right hand.

“Why is he doing this?” I ask myself. “I’ve fought him toe-to-toe on multiple occasions, each fight I should’ve died in… but he never kills me… he never really even hurts me. He just… fights… and tells me to get stronger.”

I clench my fist.

“He must realize that at this rate he’ll…” I stop there.

“He’ll what?” Sakura asks.

“Sakura…” I say. “Yamato and I… we share something. A bond between two masters of blades… something that only we can share. But one day we’ll have one last duel… one last fight… and when that time comes it won’t end until one of us dies.”

“What?” Sakura says, distraught in her voice. “Why? How do you know?!”

“I don’t know…”  I say. “I just do. It’s what fate has put in front of both of us. We won’t be able to avoid it… I don’t know when, or where… but sometime soon, we’ll face each other down at the peak of our ability… and that’ll be it. One of us will walk away victorious, and the other won’t walk away at all.”

“That’s…” Sakura trembles. “That’s not fair… that’s not fair!”

“We don’t choose the path we’re put on… life will often take us on unexpected turns and down rough roads to test us. We can plan all we want, we can set expectations, but not matter what we do we can never really determine where we’ll end up. The only thing we can do is ride it out and take our lessons from it so we can become stronger to face whatever lies ahead.”

Sakura looks down at her lap in silence as another soft breeze rolls past us.

“I don’t know why…” I say. “I don’t know why he’s doing this. I know he knows the same thing, and yet he’s not just finishing me while he can… he’s allowing me to become stronger and stronger so when that time comes we’ll both be as strong as we’ll ever be. But I do know one thing…”

“What’s that?” Sakura asks.

“There is no name for what I am… and there is no name for what I will become.”

We stay in silence overlooking the wilderness around us. Sakura trembles at what I had told her. I wasn’t faring much better… it hurt… I really didn’t want to kill Yamato, I realized. I really didn’t… nor did I want to die by him… but one or the other was going to happen, whether I liked it or not. Kyosho probably already knew this from the start… probably before I even met him.

I notice someone coming up across the plains. I focus in on it and see it’s Asuka.

“Huh…” I say.

“Who’s that?” Sakura asks.

“That friend I mentioned.” I say.

Soon enough, Asuka runs up to the house and smiles widely at me.

“Didn’t think you’d get here so early.” I say to her.

“Well I couldn’t just leave you alone, could I?” She said with a smile. “Besides, I need to get stronger too!”

“Hm…” I say.

“You look strange in that get-up.” She noted.

“I guess you’re just used to me in the jacket and all.” I say.

“I guess so.” She grinned.

“Ah…” Kyosho says, stepping outside. “So this is the young lady I’ve heard about. My name is Kirei Kyosho. I’d be honored to have you come in for some tea.”

“Oh! I’d love to!” She said.

“You two should come in as well.” Kyosho said. “You’ve been out here for long enough.”

We both head in with Kyosho and Asuka and we have a little lunch together.

I had invited Asuka here yesterday since I figured she could use some training as well. I had taught her almost everything I could so it would be beneficial for her to learn from someone else. Besides… I… sort of missed her as well. Though I’m not about to tell that to her face. By this time everyone else knew where I had gone and what I was going as well, and they were fine with it.

After lunch, Kyosho made Asuka put on a hakama like the rest of us, one with a white top and a red bottom piece, almost making her look like a temple priestess. It begged the question why Kyosho had so many hakamas lying around.

“Thank you for the wonderful meal, Sakura!” Asuka said. “It was delicious!”

“Thank you, Asuka.” Sakura said with a smile.

“Now, then.” Kyosho said standing up. “Ishi, Asuka. We should begin training for today.”

“Right…” I stand up with Asuka and we both head to the dojo to start Asuka off proper.

My mind was on Yamato the whole way there.


Sakura was right… it wasn’t fair.

Chapter 29

1 Week Later

It was raining.

I sat on the porch overlooking the lands around us as the weather was dark and gray, and the water fell from the sky as far as the eye could see. I felt calm… I always do whenever it rains. I can’t explain why, as I’d imagine most people wouldn’t be able to. My favorite kind of weather was when it was raining or about to rain.

May be strange to some people, but I’ve never been one to care about what other people think.

I had my eyes closed, and I was in deep thought. I had been meditating like this for some time. I couldn’t say how long, since the passage of time escaped me soon after I had started. I felt like I was in my own world where time didn’t matter… where time didn’t even exist.

My thoughts were clear at first… but like the gray skies above me they slowly began to darken. My mind trails to Misaki… how I couldn’t save her. How I just stood there and watched as she was killed right in front of me… how I didn’t even make a move to save her… I knew it wasn’t… but it felt like it was my entire fault somehow. My heart felt heavy in my chest and I can feel it sink.

I could see it happening again… Kamui up at the top of that hill. Misaki impaled from behind and tossed down to me like a broken doll. I saw the color leaving her skin and her eyes as she desperately tried to cling to life. I watched as her body went limp in my arms and she shattered… I felt the rage consume me and felt the weight of all those lives account onto me, and all the lives I had taken previously… everything came at me full swing… and it hurt.

I’m suddenly shaken out of my thoughts and I take a deep breath, as if recovering from a shock. My head is lowered, eyes wide open, hyperventilating mouth agape as tears streamed down my cheeks and dropped from the tip of my nose onto the wooden floor. I cringe as my nails drag against the floor and my hands curl into fists. I shut my eyes tight, clenching my teeth and breathing in sharply, trying my hardest to fight back tears.

“Dammit…” I mutter. “Dammit… dammit… dammit!”

Guilt and regret took hold of me, as I sat down against the wall and waited for it to pass over. It hurt… it hurt a lot.

“Ishi?” I hear Sakura say as she rounded the corner and knelt beside me. “Ishi, are you alright?”

I didn’t answer her.

“Ishi.” Sakura shook me lightly. “Hey. Are you okay?”

I open one eye determined, and stand up, wiping away my tears and leaning up against the wall. I still don’t answer, resigning to simply keep staring out to the rain, which was still falling well after more than likely the few hours I’ve been here.

“Ishi?” Sakura said again.

“I’m alright.” I tell her.

“You don’t look alright…”

“I just…” I shake my head. “I’m still trying to get over losing someone I… I really loved.”

“Oh… I see…”

We both stared out through the rain for a few more seconds before Sakura speaks up again.

“What was she like?” She asked carefully.

I think of the right words to explain it, and Sakura waited for my reply.

“She was…” I began. “She was really everything I could’ve asked for, but never really bothered to… she seemed to have everything. I really… I really loved her. More than anything… I should’ve told her that… I should’ve told her just how much she meant to me… but I never did. I really wish I had.”

“I’m sorry…” Sakura said. “It must be hard.”

“I just keep thinking I could’ve done something…” I say.

“Ishi, you can’t blame yourself for what happened. It wasn’t your fault.”

“You don’t understand… I mean, I pretty much just stood there and watched her die! I didn’t even try to save her!”

“You can’t save everyone, Ishi…”

“Well what’s the point when I can’t even save one?!”

“My, my, what’s all this racket?” Kyosho says, meandering around the corner behind Sakura with Asuka. “Even in my old age I can hear you from across the house.”

“Nothing.” I say, looking away.

“Didn’t sound like nothing.” Asuka says.

“I can sense your troubled mind.” Kyosho says. “Besides the point that you’ve made it fairly obvious.”

“Just shut up, alright?” I say, agitated. “I don’t need this crap right now!”

“Ishi, calm down, will you?” Asuka said.

“Ishi we aren’t trying to hurt you or anything…” Sakura added.

“Just leave me alone.” I say sternly, stepping out into the rain and walking away.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Asuka shouted over the rain.

“FOR A WALK!” I yell back, leaving the house and going wherever. It really didn’t matter to me where. I needed to cool off right now.

---

I had been walking for a good half an hour, walking straight through the forest around the house and ending up in another plain beyond. It was still raining, oddly. I figured with how far I had gone I’d have walked out of the storm by now. The wind had picked up as well, the rain appearing as diagonal streaks as thunder rumbled loudly.

“Dammit…” I say. “I should probably head back…”

I turn around, but right as I do, I see a black blade come at me. I lean back and let the blade right over my face before backflipping and planting my hand on the ground, kicking outwards at my aggressor, hitting him in the chest before flipping back onto my feet.

“Grimm.” I say.

“I’ve been looking for you, Blade Master.” He said, his scythe held back handed and ready to strike again.

“Why can’t you give it a rest, already?” I ask. “Seriously, don’t you have anything better to do?”

He makes another go at me. Unarmed, all I could do was dodge his incoming attacks as best I could. I managed, evading his strikes cleanly and finding an opening to punch him in the chest. He grabs my arm and prepares his scythe. I sidestep the blow as his blade plows into the ground, allowing me an opportunity to kick him. He sees it coming, however, and jumps forward to evade it, dragging his scythe from the dirt and flicking some my way, making me brace my arm up to keep any from getting into my eyes. He uses this to his advantage, coming low and slashing upwards, managing to scrape my arm just a bit before I Shift out of the way.

“I just want you dead…” Grimm said. “Nothing else matters anymore.”

“What exactly did I do to you?” I ask. “Why are you so bent on taking me out? It can’t be just because like you say it is.”

“I don’t need to explain anything to you.” He charges in again, making his strikes quickly, but not quick enough to not allow me time to get out of the way.

“You… your kind is a disease…” He continues while attacking. “All of you… you, Yamato, Kamui… you all deserve to die!”

“Fucking…” I jump out of the way of a low slash before rushing into his guard and planting a few solid punches before kicking him square in the jaw, making him jump back to gain distance.

“Why are you so determined to wipe out player killers?” I ask. “You must have a reason better than that.”

“People like you…” He said. “I hate all of you!”

“You have some issues, don’t you?”

“Just DIE ALREADY!” He came at me again, more angry this time.

I didn’t get it… why was he so angered all of a sudden? Other times I fought him he was relatively calm but now… something was off. I dodged his attacks skillfully, taking my marks whenever I could to punch or kick him before backing off quickly. He began to take the upper hand soon, however, as without weapons I was at a disadvantage. I tried the best I could, but he was making it more and more difficult to get through his guard. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end so well.

“Ishi!” I hear Asuka shout, followed by Sakura calling my name as well.

They both come up behind Grimm, Asuka with Flamberge drawn and Sakura with Takeru. They strike at the same time, and Grimm braces the handle of his scythe behind him to block the two strikes before sweeping his weapon back, Sakura jumping out of the way and Asuka blocking it.

“You…” Sakura said, recognizing Grimm.

“You.” Grimm repeated. “You’re Yamato’s girl, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not.” She said, readying her blade.

Asuka attacks Grimm from the side, and he blocks the attack and manages to kick her firmly in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. Before Grimm can finish her, though, Sakura comes in and slashes at him, forcing him to put his guard back up to block a flurry of attacks from her katana. She finished her onslaught by sheathing her blade and quickly drawing it again, making a hard and precise strike that threw Grimm off balance slightly. Asuka had recovered by this time and made another run, attacking him quickly before charging up her blade with flames and slashing outwards, but in the rain the effects were nullified and the fire was quickly snuffed out.

Grimm made a quick slash through the steam created and slashed into Asuka, taking a good chunk of her HP out. Grimm was about to go for another slash but I quickly grab the handle of his scythe and give him a good sucker punch right in the face before kicking him back into Sakura, who is quick to draw her sword out. Grimm spins around unexpectedly however, cleaving into her hard, slicing deep into her side and drawing blood. She manages to block another strike before she backs up, holding onto her side as she coughs up splatters of red.

“SAKURA!” I shout, rushing towards Grimm and attempting to get inside his guard again. I have to Shift out of the way of another slash as Asuka came at him again, only to be kicked in the face and hit again, sending her to red HP.

“Dammit!” I yell, back up a distance. He comes at me hard, though, and I don’t react in time to evade a good three slashes to my chest and another to my leg, putting me down onto the ground, before receiving a hard kick to the face that sends me back. I slowly get up, gripping my injured leg and fighting back pain from the gashes in my chest.

I see Grimm rear back and charge his blade up with white energy, ready to rush up and take me down.

“Death Scythe.” He mutters, as he rushes up

Time slowed down as he appeared in front of me, ready to strike. All was silent… I didn’t hear or feel the wind anymore… everything just stopped. I could even see the droplets of rain suspended in front of me. I felt somehow calm… I didn’t feel the pain in my leg or my chest. I could see his movement, feel his movement…

Corbenik flashed in my eye.

I reach out and gently grab his blade with just my fingertips, stopping it dead and without a single scratch.

His eyes went wide with shock as time continued normally, before I Shift backwards and back in again, punching him so hard it took out a 4th of his HP.

“Ishi!” I hear Sakura say from the ground, tossing me her blade as Grimm rushed me again.

Flawlessly, I draw the blade and counter his next two strikes, before curving my blade down and up as he swung, redirecting his sword over my head as I spun, switching to backhanding the blade as I thrust it backwards, impaling Grimm through the stomach. His scythe flew from his hand and imbedded itself into the ground as I withdrew the blade, swiping it through the air once and returning it to its scabbard as Grimm fell to the ground.

I look down at the dying Grimm on the ground. He had an almost peaceful look in his eye as his HP dropped. He smiled as the last few droplets of rain fell and the skies parted to make way for the sun. It shone down on his face as he chuckled lightly.

“I guess… I got my wish, then…” He said. “Though… I’d expected Yamato do be the one to… take me down.”

“Why?” I ask plainly. “What was the purpose of The Reaper?”

“Honestly…” He began. “I don’t really know anymore… I guess I had lost my way a long time ago…”

 “Wanderer…” I mutter.

“I can see what… Yamato was on you about…” Grimm said. “You really are… just like him…”

Then he was gone. He shattered, leaving only his black bladed scythe in the ground.

Sakura and Asuka step up beside me. They were hurt, but not grievously so, and Sakura had used a healing item to stop her bleeding and relieve the pain, though she was still clutching her side. I walk over to his scythe in the ground and pick it out, inspecting the dark blade.

“Corvus.” I announce its name, spinning it around and putting it in my inventory.

I go back to Asuka and Sakura, giving Sakura a hand and letting her lean on me as we made our way back to the house.

It didn’t feel right killing Grimm without any real reason to. I didn’t know why he did what he did… I had no idea about his past or anything. Seemed like it was only a matter of who was more willing to kill who… I guess I’m the more willing.

---

It almost seemed like waking up from that same damn dream was becoming routine for me. I was thinking about the dream as well as Grimm as I cut into the air with my new scythe, spinning it in my hand before delivering three fast slashes ending with a back-handed wide-arced swing, spinning the blade around before resting it on my shoulder.

I had tried to talk to Corvus multiple times now, but any attempts to get a response from it were in vain. It wouldn’t answer no matter how hard I tried. I had hoped that I could get a few answers by talking to it, to see its story… but I couldn’t figure it out. It was remaining stubbornly silent, even as I practiced with it. I find that I am quite skilled with even a scythe, and the weapon allowed me to use momentum to its fullest to allow for quick successive strikes as well as high power ones over a large area.

“Come on…” I say, looking at the scythe. “Why won’t you talk to me?”

It stays silent… I could imagine that it’d probably be pissed that I killed its previous master, but I’m pretty sure blades can’t really form allegiances. Or maybe its personality is the same as Grimms… who knew? I couldn’t figure it out.

“What’re you up to?” I hear Sakura ask from the porch. I look over to her, seeing her sat down, her cheek resting in her hand and a smile on her face.

“Nothing much.” I reply, spinning the scythe around in my hand so fast it practically turned into a disc, before resting it on my shoulders again and walking over to her. “What about you? How’s your side?”

“Fine enough to get around.” She said. “Stings a bit but other than that I’m alright.”

“That’s good.” I say.

With Sakura having been exposed to Skeith by Majora it wasn’t a surprise that she was able to feel pain as much as I was… It made me realize just how lucky Asuka was to still have an HP bar after that one time…

“You alright?” Sakura asked when she noticed me lost in though.

“Huh?” I say. “Oh… oh, yeah, I’m alright…” I look up to the sky, putting Corvus away and sitting down with Sakura.

“I heard Pendragon Court and The Guardians of Darkness are starting to elevate their little war.” She said.

“How’d you know?” I ask her.

“Word gets around.” She says. “They’re apparently fighting it out on a few fronts right now…”

“Well if that’s the case we can’t stay for too much longer.” I say. “We’ll need to get back when we’re needed.”

“Right…”

We both stare out into the fields like we’ve done many times before, and I look into my right hand, thinking about everything… wondering how all this was going to turn out.

With Skeith and Corbenik together I was something dangerous, and I’m right in the middle of a war between two powerful forces… not only with Pendragon and The Guardians of Darkness… in my own mind. I could feel Skeith and Corbenik reacting to one another… they weren’t meant to be so close together… and I could tell that I had the potential to save this world… or burn it all to dust.


I didn’t think the choice of which was entirely in my hands.

Chapter 30


2 Weeks Later

I dodge Kyosho’s blade by ducking under it before rising and delivering three quick slashes which he blocks, sheathing Takeru and bringing it out again at lightning speed, slashing off his blade and forcing him back slightly. He regains his step quickly, however, and forces me to block and evade his next few strikes.

We go at each other with extreme skill and speed, synchronizing our movements so perfectly that the spar was perfectly matched so far. Sakura comes into the room as we duke it out.

“I got tea and rice cakes.” She announced.

We both stop dead, blades to each other’s necks and look at her curiously.

“Tea?” Kyosho said.

“Rice cakes?” I said at the same time.

We stop there and have our lunch all together. I merrily inhale any rice cake I can get my hands on while Asuka tries to pick her share of the things before I got to them all. Sakura just giggled at how I was enjoying the rice cakes while Kyosho was calmly sat drinking his herbal tea as usual.

Afterwards Kyosho told me secretly to meet in his dojo at around 10 for some reason.

I didn’t know what he was on about, but I decided to go with it anyway.

Come 10 o’clock at night I walked across the house to his dojo, the only room in the house lit up at this time of night. I enter the room and shut the door quietly behind me, seeing Kyosho sitting in the middle of the room at his usual table drinking his usual tea.

“So what’d you want?” I ask.

“Have you ever used both Skeith and Corbenik at once?” He asked plainly.

“Is that even possible?” I ask.

“It’s never been done before… but considering how the two work it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine.”

“How do you know how they work?”

“I knew both Yamato and Majora well.” He says. “I’ve seen both in action… I’ve seen both against each other. I’ve yet to see both with each other.”

“Well… I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to try.” I say.

“Well the effects of the two should cancel each other out.” Kyosho said. “Nothing should really happen, in theory.”

“We could also all explode. In theory.” I point out.

“That too…”

“WELP! Nothing ventured.” I say.

I hold out both my hands in front of me and focus, taking a long and deep breath. I make my attempt to summon both at once. Skeith flared in my left hand while Corbenik sparked in my right. It was hard… really hard… the two were resisting each other. It felt like my mind was being split in two. My breathing became heavy an pained, and I gasp sharply as an intense pain surges through me, forcing me to stop and yelp out.

“Agh!” I shout. “Holy shit, that hurt!”

“Don’t strain yourself.” Kyosho cautioned.

“No, it’s okay.” I say. “I almost had it…”

I go for it again, charging up the two opposites in my hands, feeling my mind just about to explode, but bearing with it. I manage to have both Skeith and Corbenik fully activated at once, and after that, the pain went away, and I was left staring at the two together.

“Woah…” I say, looking at both of the data clusters.

“I see…” Kyosho said. “So it is possible to have both at once.”

“Hard as hell, though…” I say.

I noticed that the side of either that was nearest the other glowed brighter than the rest of it. When I brought the two closer, the brightness intensified. Experimenting with it a few times had the side nearest the other begin to turn multicolored. Skeith and Corbenik began resonating with one another, the two drawn together but repelled with a greater force that prevented them from being too close.

“Strange…” I say.

“Ishi…” Kyosho says. “Yamato has told you that he once managed to combine the two, did he not?”

“Uh… yeah.” I say. “I think he did.”

“That resonance you feel is both Skeith and Corbenik willing themselves together… the two are only parts of a much greater whole. But Skeith and Corbenik reflect aspects of your personality, as you may know, and those two aspects are not yet at peace with each other.”

“Which I’m guessing is why they’re being repelled from each other.”

“That’s correct.” Kyosho went on. “The weapon formed when the two are joined is something that has omnipotent power to change this world. Akasha.”

“Akasha?” I say. “Is that what Yamato created?”

“Yes.” He said. “But Yamato could not wield Akasha, as he was not compatible with Skeith, so he released it into Aincrad.”

“But I can control both…”

“That’s right. You have the power to wield the greatest weapon this world has ever seen.”

“I wish it didn’t have to be me.” I say honestly. “I don’t want that kind of responsibility.”

“I understand your feelings towards all this. It is a great burden to bear… you must be mindful of how you wield the power bestowed on you.”

I deactivate Skeith and Corbenik and look down at my hands.

“Damn…” I mutter.

“In any case.” Kyosho said, standing up. “That was all I wanted to talk to you about. You should get some rest, now.”

I nod and leave the dojo, going back to my room and lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling.

I try to clear the thoughts out of my head and roll over onto my side before closing my eyes. It was difficult, but I eventually got to sleep.

---

I woke up slowly, rolling out of bed and taking the blanket with me, wrapping it around me as I lazily spun around the room, bumping into walls and furniture before resorting to take the blanket off my face and set it back down onto the bed before getting dressed for the day.

I get a message from Knight while I was finishing up getting dressed, and I open up my messages.

It’s time.

I message back.

For what?

We’re going after Kamui.

I don’t answer back. I jump out of my hakama and fit my original outfit back on, fitting Gilgamesh over my arm and Arondight to my back, Eternia and Aphelion to either side, before rushing out of my room, going to Asuka’s room and waking her up.

“Asuka, wake up!” I say. “We’re leaving!”

“Whaaa…” She said tiredly. “Leaving? Why for?”

“We’re going after Kamui.” I say. “Get your stuff.”

“Wait, what?” She asks.

I leave, though, running through the halls only to bump into Sakura.

“Oh, what’s the rush?” She asked.

“I need to talk to Kyosho.” I say, leaving her and running through the house towards the dojo, rushing in and finding Kyosho doing his usual thing, sitting and drinking tea in the center of the room.

“Good morning, Ishi.” Kyosho said. “I see you’re back in your normal attire.”

“We need to leave.” I say plainly. “Asuka and I.”

He calmly takes a sip of his tea and set it down on the table.

“And why would that be?” He asks.

“We need to go after Kamui.” I say. “Got word from Knight that they’re ready to take him on.”

“Kamui…” He repeats the name. “That’s the one who killed Misaki, right?”

“Right…”

“I apologize.” He takes another sip of his tea.

“I need to take him down.” I say.

“Not out of revenge, I’d hope.” Kyosho says calmly. “I’d hate for everything we’ve worked on go to waste.”

“What do you mean?”

“Revenge is a dangerous path, Blade Master. It is quite easy to lose your way when walking a path that’s dark.”

“He killed Misaki.” I reiterate.

“Surely that can’t be the only reason you wish him dead.”

“It’s the only one I need.” I say, turning to leave. I could tell the old man was shaking his head behind me.

I open the door to leave and see Sakura there. She jumps back and yelps a bit. I give her a look.

“I, uh… heard you were leaving…” She said.

“Yeah.” I say, about to walk past her, but she puts a hand on my chest.

“Before you go…” She walks into the dojo and grabs Takeru from its shelf, before coming back to me and holding it out. “Here.”

“You’re giving me your sword?” I ask.

“I’ve no use for it anymore.” She said. “My days of fighting are over… it’s best that it be with you.”

I reach out and grab it.

“You sure?”

She nods, letting me take the blade from her. I look it over, before nodding to Sakura and fastening it to my left, replacing Aphelion, which I put in my inventory,

“Thank you.” I say.

She smiles warmly at me, before wrapping her arms around me and giving me a light kiss on the cheek before releasing me.

“Be careful, okay?”

I nod and return her smile.

“I will.” I say.

I turn and see Asuka standing next to me. She had an entirely new outfit on. A black top, with black pants and black heeled boots, with a red dual belt around her waist, and a white two-tailed jacket to finish the look. Her hair was also done differently.

“What’s with the new look?” I ask.

“Oh, you know…” She said. “Just thought it was time for a bit of a style change…”

“Alright, then.” I say. “I guess we’ll be leaving now.”

“Good luck, you two.” Sakura says, as we leave the house and teleport to Luciad.

---

“Welcome back, Lancelot.” Knight says as Asuka and I walk through the door.

“MY FRIEND!” Iskandar rushes me and wraps his huge arms around me in an affectionate friend hug, pretty much crushing my organs in the process, but letting be go before I coughed up blood. “It fills me with such joy to see you again!” He pats me on the shoulder.

“Ah! And the young lady, as well!” He goes over to Asuka and bows to her, making her a little bit flustered at the courtesy.

I notice Hao is also sitting at the table, legs up and crossed over.

“Good to see you again.” Hao says.

“Sure.” I say. “So you say we’re going after Kamui now?”

“We’re ready to make a move on him.” Knight says. “We’re going to force The Guardians of Darkness as far back as we can by taking fortresses they’ve set up around the floors. If we can do that he’ll be forced back to his main base of operations. We can strike there, and that’s where we’ll take him down.”

“We’re going to do this all at once?” I ask.

“Right.” Hao says, sitting up normally in his chair. “We’ve already put up Iskandar’s soldiers outside every major fortress they have, and have sent one member of Pendragon to each as a commander. If we can take each fortress, Kamui will be forced to retreat.”

“Surprised we have the manpower for something like this.” I note. “How many of these fortresses do they have?”

“They have 10.” Hao said. “Knight and Iskandar will be commanding two other assaults while you will need to command one yourself.”

“Which one?”

“Castle Grandis. You’re familiar with that one.”

“I’d say we both are.” I remember going to save Asuka from that place when Kamui had captured her… when I first became a player killer.

“We’ll be starting the assault when it hits night time.” Knight said. “There’s a force of soldiers waiting for you at the fortress.”

“Alright.” I say, turning to leave to head to Castle Grandis, but stopping when Asuka doesn’t follow. “You coming?”

“Huh?” She says. “You want me to come?”

“Don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t.” I say.

“Well, you usually do things on your own.”

“It’d be nice to have some company.”

“Well… okay, then.” She says, following me out.

Once outside, we both teleport to the location nearest Castle Grandis.

---

We meet up with the force of Iskandar’s soldiers after the sky begins to go dark, meeting up with them just at the outskirts of the walls of the fortress, under the cover of night and the darkened trees of the forest surrounding the castle. The one who looked like the highest ranking of the group came to meet us.

“Hello, commander.” He said. “Good to have you with us.”

“You can just call me Ishi.” I say. “What does the enemy look like?”

“They have around 12 men stationed outside and from initial scouting reports they have at least a hundred inside.”

“Has Kamui been sighted?” I ask.

“Not that we know, but this has known to be a forefront in the enemy’s operations so it’s possible that he could be here. If not we could find out from the commander of this fortress, no doubt.”

“Right.”

“Do we have a plan?” The soldier asks.

“Does go in and kill everyone we see count as a plan?” I ask. “Because that’s about the only plan I really ever have.”

“Um…” The guy scratches his head.

“I have an idea.” Asuka says. “I can climb up this wall, here, and get inside the base. I can use my runes to set up explosives around the perimeter of the walls and set up some especially high powered ones near the entrance, then I can sneak back out and blow it all up.”

“Alone?” I say. “That’s a bit risky…”

“Relax, Ishi, I can take care of myself.” She says. “Once I get back out and blow everything up that’ll probably take out a lot of their forces as well as create quite a bit of confusion, that’ll give us a great upper hand.”

“Sound plan…” The soldier says.

I had to admit, it did sound like a nice plan.

“Okay, Asuka.” I say. “Get in there and do that. Just be careful, okay. Don’t get caught.”

“Don’t worry about me, Ishi.” She smiles, before running up to the wall and jumping up, kicking off the wall to gain some extra height before bringing out two knives in either hand and slamming them into the wall. From there she makes her climb up, and soon after reaches the top of the wall and jumps down from the other side.

We spent about half an hour waiting for her to return. We didn’t hear any alarms or loud noises from the castle yet, so we assumed she was still working and hadn’t been caught. Sure enough, soon after I see her looking down the from atop the wall towards us before jumping off and slamming a knife into the wall to slide down it, jumping off at 5 feet of the ground and landing silently on the grass, rushing up into the cover of the forest trees with us and out of sight.

“It’s done.” She says. “Just give the word and I can blow this place to hell.”

“Nice work.” I say. “Are we all ready?”

“We’re ready.” The leading soldier said, nodding.

“Do it.” I say to Asuka.

She nods and charges her new runic glove on her right hand, forming a fist and having the rune on it glow brighter before releasing to the sound of multiple fiery explosions from within the castle walls. We watch as fire lights up the night sky and the front gates of the castle were blown apart from the inside, taking down the guards stationed on both sides of the gate.

“Let’s go.” I say, leading the charge as we run from the forest and into the castle. Fighting began almost immediately, with me having to duck under a blade before drawing my own and slicing my attacker down, and blocking another with Gilgamesh and impaling its wielder, kicking him off my blade.

Asuka’s fireworks show definitely caused the chaos expected. The enemies were disorganized, and were easy to take down with the skill and teamwork of our forces. It didn’t take long for us to clear out the first courtyard.

“Asuka!” I shout over the battle. “Head for the right courtyard! Take some men with you! I’m going to the top floor!”

“By yourself?” She asks.

“Yeah.” I say, turning to the leader soldier. “Hey! Didn’t catch your name!”

“Misanthres!” He says, cutting down a soldier with his blade after deflecting a blow with his shield.

“Take some troops and head for the left courtyard! Asuka’s going to take the right!”

“Got it!” Misanthres pulled together some troops and headed for the left courtyard while I went up to the main building.

I enter the building and find myself in a main hall, where multiple enemies were stationed. They took notice of me and immediately drew their weapons and ran at me. I don’t bother much with them, however, as the commander of this base was my main target, and I run through the hall towards the stairs, only cutting up those that got in my way.

I practically fly up the stairs, remembering the layout of the place from the last time I had visited, and cutting through any enemy that tried to stop me, reaching the upper levels in no time and entering the office of the previous warden, where I presumed the commander would be. When I open the door and run through, my leg trips something near the ground. I look to it and notice a tripwire which I had pulled. I look ahead and see explosives all around the room.

“Shit…” I curse, just as he entire room explodes and sent me flying back and out the top window. I ragdoll through the air and crash into the nearest roof, slamming hard into it before rolling off and slamming into another roof before rolling off that one and hitting the ground on my stomach. Just as everything else began to explode around me. I passed out, but only for a minute or so before I regained consciousness. My body hurt all over, and I was bleeding in a lot of places, including internally. I coughed up a bit of blood and staggered to try to get up. My ears rang and my vision was blurry, but I could just make out the shape of a dark cloaked figure in front of me. He grabbed me by my neck and pulled me up, staring at me behind his skull mask.

“Ka… mui…” I say weakly.

He just shakes his head and drops me onto my back, walking back towards the main building that was on fire and looking like it was about to collapse. It takes me a while to get the strength to stagger onto my feet. As weakened as I was from that explosion and falling quite a distance I began to follow him, walking uneasily towards the building that I just got blasted out of. Once inside, I see everyone I had bypassed were gone. Most likely killed by the explosions. I make my way back up the stairs, as it was the only way Kamui could’ve gone, and with effort, reached the upper floors, which were completely destroyed by the explosions I accidentally set off. I work my way around dust and debris before reaching an open space that was once the warden’s office, now exposed to the open. Kamui was there, overlooking the carnage below.

“So you’ve come after me.” Kamui said. “I can see why Yamato has taken a liking to you. You’re as stubborn as he is.”

Despite having been victim to a bunch of explosions, I was able to ready myself to fight, though I didn’t know how I’d fare, really.

“I’ll kill you for what you did to her…” I said.

“Will you, now?” He said, turning to me, drawing his black and red blade from underneath his cloak. “And then what?”

“Huh?”

“What will happen after you kill me?” Kamui asked. “Will Misaki magically come back to life? Is that what you expect?”

“I just want you dead.” I point my blade at him. “I know Misaki won’t come back…”

“Then what good will killing me do?” Kamui said. “You won’t gain anything from it.”

“I won’t lose anything, either.”

“Won’t you really?” He said. “You’re still so simple minded… such a shame. Has Yamato taught you nothing?”

“Shut your mouth!” I shout, before running up to him and making a slash at his head, which he effortlessly blocks due to my injuries, before he kicks me in the stomach, sending more blood out of my mouth and putting me to the ground.

“Come, now.” Kamui said. “Surely you can do better than that.”

I feel Skeith flare in my left eye and I suddenly receive new energy as I jump up and make more slashes, quicker and more powerful, forcing Kamui to put up his guard. He tries to make a swing at me, but I grab his blade with Gilgamesh and slash at his face, cutting into his mask a bit, forcing him to back up. He looks at me, and I could tell he was ready for a fight. He brings up his blade, readying himself.

“Come, Blade Master.” He says.

We both run at each other, clashing blades multiple times before locking them together, pushing each other back, before spinning off one another. We run in again, trading blows as we both try to get the upper hand. I dodge a few of his strikes before Shifting inside his guard and making a slash that he barely manages to sidestep, before he makes his own, which I guard against, before kicking him in the stomach, sending him back a bit.

He recovers quickly, however, and I’m forced to brace my blade up to defend against an overhead strike. I retract Gilgamesh and reach to my side for Eternia, slicing it outwards underneath his sword and cutting into him once before he kicks me back hard. I slide along the ground a bit but regain my footing, rushing him again and making quick and hard strikes with Arondight and Eternia, keeping him on the defensive and giving me the upper hand. It hurt like hell, with all the injuries I had sustained, but I didn’t care, I was so focused.

I make a downwards swipe with Arondight before making a horizontal swipe with Eternia, grazing his arm and forcing him once again to back up. I was about to go for him again when the entire building shook, making us stumble around attempting to keep our balance. The entire floor we were on began to tilt backwards, and I look behind me to see the entire side of the floor tilting down. I have to run up a bit before slamming Eternia into the ground to keep me from sliding down. It hardly mattered, though, as soon after the entire building began to crumble around us. I look to Kamui, who I saw run upwards and jump off the building, leaving me behind to be crushed by the falling building.

The entire structure tipped over and fell, taking me with it.

---

I wake up, finding myself in complete darkness. I try to look around, but am unable to move my head. I realize that I was under quite a bit of rubble from the building and was probably hurt pretty badly. I try to move around, but the weight of the stone on top of me prevented me from doing so. The only thing that I could really move was my left hand, which was still holding onto Eternia, while my right was still holding onto Arondight. I struggle around, getting the hand a bit loose, before bringing my arm back to me and using it to help turn me onto my stomach, giving me some more room to maneuver. I manage to get myself onto my hands and knees, and it was then as easy as pushing upwards to get me out of the rubble.

And by easy, I mean hard as all hell considering there was an entire building on me.

Slowly, though, I work myself free of the rubble and get up to the air, where I claw my way out of the debris, battered and bruised, walking two steps before falling down onto the rubble, breathing heavy and body aching all over.

“God damn…” I say, struggling to get back up. I manage to, though, and I sheath my weapons before staggering out of the wreckage of the main building. I see Asuka make her way out of some dust and debris herself, and thankfully she didn’t look too badly hurt. She noticed me immediately.

“Ishi!” She shouted as she ran up to me to catch me as I fell forward. “Ishi, are you alright?”

“Ah… I’ve been better.” I say. ‘You ever have a building fall on you? I do not recommend it…”

“Sir!” I see Misanthres say as he ran up to us, slightly injured, along with a few of his men.

“Misanthres…” I say. “How many men did we lose?”

“I lost most of mine…” He said. “That building fell into the left courtyard… most of my men were crushed.”

“Most of the ones with me survived.” Asuka said. “So it looks like we lost around half.”

“Will you be okay, sir?” Misanthres said to me.

“I’ll be fine…” I say. “Kamui got away…”

“Kamui was here?”

“Yeah…” I say. “He jumped off the building when it started to fall, but I know he’s still alive…”

“Don’t worry.” Misanthres said. “We’ve successfully eliminated this fortress. If our other forces have done the same then Kamui will be forced back to his main base. We can go after him there.”

“So… mission success, then?” I say.

“Yes, sir.” He said. “But, ah… we should probably get you back to Luciad to get those wounds checked up.”

“Probably…” I say.

So we all leave the wreckage of the castle and teleport back to Luciad. I could only hope that the others were successful as well. We’d have to wait to receive word.

Chapter 31


“You really should be more careful.” Bedivere scolded as she patched me up, wiping off a cut to my back.

“Nag, nag…” I say sarcastically.

“I’m serious, Ishi!” She says. “You don’t have an HP bar anymore. Something as normal as a small cut to the neck can kill you!”

“Yeah, I get it.” I say. “But it’s not like I haven’t dodged death before.”

“It wouldn’t be good to make a habit of that.” She pressed firmly down on the cut, making me gasp sharply.

“Agh!” I say. “Dammit!”

“Hold still…” She said, applying a bandage before getting some gauze and wrapping it around my chest, covering the injury before making sure it was securely fastened there. “That should do it for now… just don’t work yourself too hard until it heals.”

“Yeah, fine, whatever.” I say quickly, grabbing my shirt and putting it on before outfitting my jacket over it.

“Ishi.” Bedivere says in a warning tone.

“You know I have to go after him.” I say. “Injured or not, we’ve managed to push Kamui back. We need to jump at the chance while we can.”

“Why do you have to do it?” She asked.

“He killed Gawain and Misaki!” I tell her. “I’m not going to let him get away with that! I’m going to make sure I’m the one who takes him down.”

“Am I interrupting anything?” Trinity asks when she walks into the room.

I turn to her, shaking my head.

“No.” I say. “Are we ready to get going?”

“Not quite yet.” Trinity says. “Hao is still working on triangulating the location of Kamui’s main fortress.”

“Well let’s see how he’s doing, then.” I say, walking out of the room, Trinity following me to the main hall where I see Hao and Knight busy at work on a large map, discussing things.

“How’s it going?” I ask.

“We’ve almost have a location.” Knight said. “Give us a bit longer.”

“Damn…” I say.

“I know you’re anxious, Ishi, but you can relax.” Hao said. “Once we’ve pinned him down, Kamui will have nowhere left to run.”

“How long?”

“A bit longer.” Knight said.

“How long is a bit longer?”

“A bit longer!” Knight repeated in a more agitated tone.

“Fine, then…” I say.

“Feeling a bit antsy, Ishi?” Asuka says as she walks through the door with Avro.

“Could say that…” I sit down in a chair, kicking my feet up onto the table and crossing them, leaning back on the chair.

“So am I!” Avro says. “I haven’t seen any real action in forever!”

“Well it looks like it’s going to take some time before we can get going…” Asuka noted. “Want to get something to eat, Ishi? It’ll probably help to have a full stomach before we get underway.”

“Yeah… I guess.” I say, getting up. “To Adeline’s then.”

---

We arrive at Adeline’s and order our lunch, sitting down at our usual table reserved for just us while Adeline prepared our meal.

Haven’t had any of her ramen in a pretty long while. Couldn’t wait.

“Here ya go!” Adeline said as she set down both our meals in front of us. “Missed you, Ishi. Where’ve you been?”

“Eh, just out and about.” I say. “The usual.”

“We were picking up some extra training.” Asuka corrects me.

“Ah, I see.” She says. “Well I got other customers to get to, so I guess we’ll have to catch up later, yeah?”

I nod, and take a nice slurp of my ramen as she goes off to another table.

Asuka and I eat in silence, thinking about the coming battle that would most likely decide this war. I didn’t know how things were going to turn out in the end, but I knew that one way or another, I was going to kill Kamui… that was the only constant in the thousands of possible scenarios.

“You’re really going to kill him, aren’t you?” Asuka asked.

“Huh?” I say, taking a sip of my drink.

“Kamui.” She says.

“Well, yeah.” I say. “Wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know…” She said. “I know someone like him doesn’t deserve to live… it’s just… I can’t see myself being the one to kill him.”

“Well you won’t have to.” I say. “I’m going to be the one to kill him.”

We both instantaneously remember when we had said those exact words when referring to Akihiko… when we had first met and I was escorting her to Vespera… more than a year ago. That was so long ago… we’d come so far since then…

I look up to Asuka, realizing for the first time just how much she had grown in just the past year. When I first met her she wasn’t much to bother with… she had barely any skills of her own other than her rune crafting, and she could barely fight with her sword. Looking at her now… I could tell just by looking at her that she could hold her own against anyone, and I didn’t even have to tell just by looking at her; I had seen her fight firsthand. She had really matured as her own.

“Something on my face?” Asuka asks curiously when she catches me looking at her so intently.

“Ah…” I snap out of my thoughts. “No, sorry.”

“What were you staring at me for, then?”

“No reason.” I look away, taking another bite of ramen, nearly finished with the bowl.

“Do you think Misaki would want you going out to kill him just out of revenge?” Asuka spoke up after a brief silence.

“It doesn’t matter.” I say. “She’s dead. Dead people can’t have an opinion.”

“That’s kind of cold…” Asuka says. “Even for you.”

We finish the rest of our meal in silence before I get a message from Knight.

We found it.

“Let’s go.” I say, immediately getting up and leaving, Asuka following as I teleported to Luciad.

---

I walk through the doors to the meeting room of HQ assertively, Asuka following closely behind as I walked up to Knight and took a look at the map on the table.

“So where is he?” I ask.

“Castle Arundel.” He says. “Second floor, wouldn’t you know.”

“Why would he place himself at such a low floor?” I ask.

“Castle Arundel is one of the most heavily fortified places in the game.” Hao said. “People say the place is haunted, but that’s only because people who have gotten too close to the castle are always killed by The Guardians of Darkness there.”

“So this castle has been their main base all along?” I ask. “How did we not figure this out sooner?”

“It was supposedly abandoned.” Knight said. “Investigations in the area showed up with nothing, so we suspected that was the case. We were wrong, it seems.”

“We should leave now.” Iskandar said. “I will have my men ready siege weapons for the attack.”

“Alright.” Knight said. “Ishi, Asuka, let’s get moving.”

“Right.” Asuka and I say simultaneously.

We headed out, and teleported to the second floor. It was time to end this.

---

It took hours for all our forces to prepare for the attack. Legions of Iskandar’s soldiers as well as siege weapons of all kinds were lined up along the outskirts of the plains where Castle Arundel could just be seen in the distance. We were at such distance so as not to be seen by any who would be watching out for anyone.

Knight, Iskandar, Hao, Trinity, Avro, Agravaine, Gareth, Vincent, Guren, Kana, Diana, Asuka, and I stood lined at the front of our forces, looking out over the plains.

“There’s definitely going to be a lot of resistance from that place.” Knight said.

“No doubt.” Hao agreed. “More than likely they have most of their forces holed up in there.”

“How many?” Iskandar asked.

“Hard to say…” Hao said. “I’m guessing more than 500.”

“That’s a lot…” Knight said. “How many did we bring?”

“Around 300.” Iskandar said.

“So we’re outnumbered then.” Knight thought things over in his head.

“No need to worry!” Iskandar assured. “Any one of my men is worth FIFTY of theirs!”

“I guess I’ll have to take your word on that.” Knight said, before looking to me. “You ready, Ishi?”

“Just give the word.” I say, eyes fixed on the castle in the distance.

Knight nods and holds up his hand in a fist to gain the attention of all soldiers present, before throwing his arm out and pointing forward to the roar of the soldiers beginning their charge. I was the first to make a break for it, running full sprint towards the castle as fast as my legs would carry me. I ended up running ahead of the pack and received the first of the enemy’s retaliation. Heavy scattered projectiles launched from trebuchets on top of the walls rained down on me. I easily dodge them by Shifting sideways whenever one was heading for me. When I got closer, archers began to line up their sights on me. Just as easily, I weave my way through the rain of arrows that descended on me. By this time our trebuchets were in range to begin throwing heavy balls of heated metal at the walls of the castle, while the other siege weapons and soldiers ran ahead, straight into the volley of arrows that I had just weaved my way past. Only a few fell to that, while the rest ran straight through. I get to the closed castle gate just in time for a large trebuchet projectile to slam right into it and punch a hole through the side, which allowed me entrance. Before long I was cutting up the enemy ranks inside the fortress, and not long after that the rest of our allies began storming the gate through the bigger hole made by a battering ram.

“FORWARD!” I hear Iskandar shout over the chaos as I cut my way through the enemy lines, making my way through the courtyard and to the main building. I have to stop a few times to counter multiple strikes from multiple directions, but never got hit as I cut through anyone standing in my way. Skeith fires up inside me, and my eyes go wide as my left turns red, and I slam through the enemy even faster, corrupting them as I went, mauling anyone foolish enough to try to face me. Only one thing was on my mind as I slaughtered my way through these men… find Kamui, and kill him. It was the only motivation I needed.

With Skeith backing me up it didn’t take long for me to breach the main building, finding the nearest set of stairs and making flying up them. This castle was notably taller than Castle Grandis was, so it took a bit longer for me to make it to the roof, from there I got a vantage point to scope out the battle. I didn’t see Kamui anywhere on my way up, so he wasn’t in the building. I looked around quickly, and saw a group of cavalry galloping out of the back gate of the castle, Kamui leading them as they made their escape.

“Got you now!” I shout, jumping off the castle and running down the wall, Skeith flaring as I reached the bottom and kicked off the wall so hard it propelled me straight forward, where I rolled once and made a full sprint at the horses. Skeith gave me extra speed as I made my pursuit, not letting the horses out of my sight. I see a crossbowman load up his weapon to shoot back at me, but he misses when he shoots, and I throw a knife straight forward, nailing him in the head and scaring his horse, causing it to rear up and whinny, allowing me to catch up to it and jump on, where I immediately spur it to go full sprint after the rest of the party.

I have to dodge a few more archers before I catch up to one of the horsemen. He makes a strike at me with his sword, but I steer my steed out of the way and move in quick to slice the guy in two, before moving onto the next one. He shoots an arrow at me which I duck under, before he loads up another one and aims at my horse, nailing it in the neck and causing it to stumble before falling. I stand up on the saddle before this and jump off towards the archer, managing to grab a side harness on the horse and kick up off the ground, pulling out a knife and stabbing the rider in the neck, throwing him off and taking his crossbow as I pull myself up on my new ride, aiming at another and putting an arrow through his eye, and throwing a knife at another. Now there were two left, then Kamui.

The other two pull back to try to stall me, raising their blades and trying to flank me from both sides. They get to either side of me and close in, thrusting their blades in on me. I grab one with Gilgamesh and dodge the other, standing up on my horse and kicking the one to the right in the face, dazing him, before throwing the blade I had grabbed up and quickly drawing Takeru so quick and so precisely he couldn’t even think about what happened before he died. The one I had kicked tried to come after me again, but I lean back to the left side of my horse, hanging off the reigns as I take a hard left, before sliding my feet onto the ground, letting go of the reigns and sheathing Takeru before Shifting towards the horseman, slicing him cleanly and ending up sailing over his horse to make a run on the ground towards Kamui. I run faster and faster, and faster still, until I was gaining on him. I make my move, Shifting up and grabbing him in the back of the head with Gilgamesh, tearing him off his horse and throwing him over my head, making him slide across the ground before kicking himself back up onto his feet. I draw Arondight and point it at him.

“You’re mine now.” I say as Skeith shines red in my eye.

“Hm…” He says. “Very well, then.”

Kamui reaches up and takes off his mask and removes his hood, revealing his blood red eyes and black hair, before splitting his cloak over his shoulders to make it look more like a cape. He draws Lamentation from his side.

“Come, Ishi!” He jeers.

I do just that, moving in on him almost too fast for him to react to, slamming my blade into his with such force that his blade threatened to fly out of his hand. He comes back down on me, though, striking off my sword a few times before spinning back and swiping horizontally. I dodge the move effortlessly and slam Arondight back into him, managing to kick him in the stomach to send him back a ways, sheathing Arondight and bringing out Mordred from my inventory in a flash of light, slamming it hard enough to make the metal of the blade splinter, and making Kamui fly back a ways. I rush him, Mordred dragged along and jump up, slamming the blade down on him, forcing him to brace up his sword in defense, but being put to the ground by the sheer force of the blow added onto the already heavy weight of the blade. I relinquish Mordred and bring out Arondight once more, attempting to stab him on the ground. He catches wise, however, and manages to kick me back in time and allowing himself to get back up on his feet.

“You’ve improved, Blade Master!” He said. “Let’s see how far it takes you!”

“Bring it on!” I shout angrily, rushing him again and cut forwards, striking his black blade a few more times before locking swords, pushing back against each other.

“All of this for one girl?” Kamui taunted.

“You would never understand!” I say, pushing him back enough to allow me a good opening to back-hand my blade and cut into him twice before he regains his guard and blocks a third strike, sending a punch my way that nails me in the stomach, forcing me to Shift out of the way of an overhead strike.

“Hm…” Kamui chuckled. “Truly Yamato has failed to get through to you. Even I see the reason in his methods, despite how much I despise him.”

I go at him again, faster and stronger this time, catching him a bit off guard as I furiously assaulted him. The metal of our blades strike against each other so hard that sparks shear off the edges as we continue our battle. We lock blades again and attempt to force each other back.

“I like your eyes, Ishi…” Kamui says. “A killer’s eyes.”

Skeith sparks furiously in my eye and I pull my blade down before launching it back up hard, throwing Kamui back. I rush in for him again but he catches me and managed to kick me in the stomach before swinging his blade at my face, nicking me in the shoulder as I attempt to dodge it. I didn’t back up far, which allowed me to close the distance quickly and strike at him again, this time clawing at him with Gilgamesh as I push his blade downwards and launch myself over it. He isn’t able to dodge it and I gouge a good bit of his side out when I gash his side before I spin around and slice at him with Arondight once before finishing with an uppercut slash from my clawed gauntlet, sending him into the air before I jump up and grab his leg, throwing him back down into the ground hard.

I look to the claws of Gilgamesh, dripping with Kamui’s blood. I swipe it in the air, flinging blood off the blades before I take up a battle stance, allowing Kamui the time go get up.

“That’s it, Ishi!” He says. “Show me what you can do!”

I Shift up to him and rear back far, throwing my entire weight into a punch so hard in made him cough up blood and sent him flying across the ground, sliding to a stop quite a distance away.

“COME ON!” I shout into the air. “FIGHT ME, ALREADY! I WANT YOU TO FIGHT BACK!”

“Heh…” Kamui laughs, getting onto his feet and wiping some blood from his mouth. “Oh, I almost forgot… how’s that girl of yours?”

I stiffen up.

“Not the one I killed, the other red-haired one… Asuka! Right, that was her name.”

I start to get angrier…

“Did she ever tell you what happened to her when I had her locked up? Oh, we had a LOT of fun torturing her… the way she squealed when we put a knife to her neck… how she struggled against her binds as we threatened to take her eye out… she felt all of it, of course, the effects of Skeith on her hadn’t worn off by that time…”

I literally begin to growl.

“Some of my boys were even thinking about raping the girl… I guess that was fine…” He gives me a smirk. “Of course, I’d get the first turn.”

I completely lose it, Skeith completely taking over again as I roared the entire way running full sprint at him. He makes a slash at me but I slam my sword into it to parry, and I begin carving him up with my blades, shrieking like a madman the entire way. His blood flew through the air as I mauled him, before grabbing his head and throwing him back, throwing Arondight his way, having it impale him in the leg, preventing him from moving too quickly. I rush him again, and this time he makes another swing, but I grab the hellkarium blade with Gilgamesh, growling fiercely as I put such pressure on the metal that it shattered in my hand. I drew Eternia from my side and screamed as I plunged the blade deep into his heard, straight to the hilt, before I put my hand on his shoulder, pushing him down to his knees and tore the blade upwards and slammed it back in twice, before pulling it out. I grab his head again, and crush his skull in, finishing him off in a bloody display.

After that was done, Corbenik kicked in and broke Skeith’s hold over me. That’s when I screamed not in rage but in severe pain as my mind felt like it was about to explode, and I fell to the ground, breathing heavily. It takes me a bit to calm myself down, and I look around. It was almost night time… we had been fighting for hours… the battle at Arundel was probably over by now. I sigh deeply and begin to retrieve my two blades when I look up and see Hao standing over me.

“H-Hao?” I say. “What-”

He interrupts me by placing his hand over my chest, and I swear he was tearing my insides out through my ribs as he clenched his fist and pulled back. I screamed in sheer agony as my mind goes numb and my vision shakes and my ears ring loudly. I can see Hao tearing something out of me… I couldn’t focus, the pain was too much… but one last hard tug from Hao saw the pain come to an end, and I’m left hyperventilating on the ground, convulsing from the aftershocks of that pain.

“Ah, there we are.” Hao said as I look up to him, still in a great amount of pain.

I see him holding Skeith in his hand, smiling victoriously as he forced it into an amulet of some kind… as a matter of fact, I knew that amulet… it was the artifact I found for The Chroncler. Hao watched as the color of the amulet turned a blood red and shined brightly, before the light receded and the amulet went silent. Hao then looked to me, kneeling down.

“I’m sorry about this, Ishi.” He said. “Truly, I am. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but the utmost respect for you… but…” He raised the amulet containing Skeith and chuckled lightly before looking back down to me. “Someone like you would never allow me to accomplish my goals.”

He turned to leave, but I began to get back up.

“Hao…” I say, retrieving Eternia from the ground and attempting to stand up. “I always knew...”

“You suspected, yes.” Hao said, turning back to walk towards me. “In fact, you’ve nearly blown my cover quite a few times.” He walks up to me, unsheathing his blade from his back. “But you should know that I plan for every contingency. That’s why, despite all your skill and ability.”

He thrust the blade right through my chest without any effort, before leaning into my face.

“You fall just the same.” He pulled the blade out and I fell to the ground, the life leaving me as I desperately try to cling to it and pull it back. It was no use… I had never felt more sure that I was going to die as I was at the instant before I lost consciousness.

I was sure I was dead.

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