My dearest anamchara, I pray that someday the eternal night will grace us with its presence again so that we may revel in its virtues. Until that time though, all I ask is that we continue to journey past the rigors of the day as though time itself has ceased to care.
A strange thought to be sure, coming from me, but it was the honest truth. And thanks to where my consciousness currently resided, which was in the core of my soul, the honest truth was all I could think of in that moment. Sighing, I thought how ironic it was to be in this place when my life had been built around lies, secrets, and deception.
Shaking off my feelings, I turned to face the crises at hand. Taking one more look at the field in my mind—an exact replica of Camelot, the only home I would claim to have—I willed myself into reoccupying my corpse. In a fashion that resembled a wave steadily growing in size, I could slowly feel strength return to my limbs, and when I felt that my blood pressure was finally out of its dormant state I proceeded hoisted myself from off the ground into a sitting position. One of the first things I noticed was how banged up I was. Fortunately none of the wounds I had included broken bones or torn ligaments, but they would prove to be a nuisance in battle if struck. The second thing that I noticed, however, didn’t leave pleasing results. As I looked around it occurred to me that I was the only resident in the dungeon who lacked any form of restraints. That meant one of two things: either a, the leader didn’t expect me to recover from his mind scramble and just lay there ready to be sacrificed, or b, he was expecting me to be in so much pain that I wouldn’t be able to escape anyway. Either way, this reaffirmed my opinion that the leader was an arrogant fool.
“Now you would think that someone as all-powerful as that would have the common sense of making it harder for his prisoners to escape. But no…he just had to treat me—the one person he went out of his merry way obliterate mentally—as though I were some common knave!” I exclaimed out loud to myself. Dropping my head in my fist, I grumbled, “Honestly…some people just don’t use the brains God gave them anymore.”
“I completely agree with you!”
As pleasing as it was to find someone was of the same mindset, I certainly wasn’t expecting a response to my outcry. Looking to my left, I found a cell that contained a man that I had run across not too long ago chained up upside-down by the legs to the ceiling. Flashing my trademark grin, I called out, “Well, well, well Tamex, fancy meeting you here. Tell me; are you in that position because you got Minx mad at you? Or is this a fetish of yours?”
His face all red from the blood that rushed to it due to his position, Tamex retorted, “How many times must I tell you to completely sterilize the scalpels before you use them?! Just the slightest bit of bacteria leftover on the instrument can prove lethal!”
“…Excuse me?” I asked utterly confused by his statement.
Ignoring my question entirely, Tamex suddenly looked directly at me and asked completely serious, “Do you know how to do CPR?”
Sighing with relief, Tamex continued, “Thank goodness! I would’ve hated doing CPR on another man myself!”
“Me thinks the gentlemen doth protest strange tidings.” I concluded flatly.
“Don’t worry Xakiah, he’s been like this for quite some time now.”
Turning far to my right, I caught of glimpse of misty white hair poking through the bars of another cell. “Why, hello Minx. How fares you?”
“Huh? Oh, well…it could be much worse, I guess.”
Nodding my head in agreement, I attempted rising to my feet when a sudden flash of pain came across my lower back. Flinching, I grunted a little and leaned against the bars of my cell for support. When the pain had subsided I stood upright and looked at Minx. The expression on her face made it obvious what she was thinking, and I answered before she could ask the overused question. “It’s alright Minx. Nothing a good amount of rest can’t cure.”
Shaking her head, she responded, “Perhaps, but we definitely can’t afford that luxury right now. You really need to let Tamex look at that.” Chuckling as she saw me raise my eyebrow to this proposition, she continued, “After I get him out of the mess he’s in, anyway.”
“And…how do you suppose you’ll do that, pray tell?” I smirked.
“I don’t suppose you could give an old comrade a hand, could you?” she asked flashing her chains.
‘Comrade?’ Well, we weren’t close and we certainly weren’t just acquaintances back in Organization Zero so I guess that term’s appropriate. Shrugging, I summoned Kage no Kokoro and sliced through the bars of my cell with ease. Treating Minx’s cell in the same indifferent fashion, I aimed my blade to cut through the metal directly around her wrists without taking off her skin. Thankfully Minx had enough grit about her to stay still even as she saw my arm swing down for the blows.
Rubbing her wrists, she looked up and said, “Thanks. Now let’s go see if we can help Tamex.” When I saw her eyes change suddenly I knew that she had sensed the same eerie feeling I did in that moment. I don’t think either of us knew just what it was, but we both made a notion to each other to remain silent as we ventured off to Tamex’s cell. When we had finally made it to the door we were confronted with the source of our discomfort.
“Minx, you go ahead and tend to Tamex. I’ll deal with this.” I announced stepping forward.
“Are you certain about this?”
“Look, I honestly don’t care what you think at this point,” said Tamex butting in, making us both turn to stare at him. “If you won’t put the antiseptics in the man’s arm, that person will die simple as that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have my hands full so do it yourself already you silly man-nurse!” Grumbling to himself, he finished his tangent by saying that girls were much more suited to the job than men.
Without a moment’s hesitation I leaned over and picked up a nearby stone. Tossing it once in the air as a form of warm-up, I then pitched it right for Tamex’s head and was pleased with the loud whap! it made upon impact.
“Xakiah! What’d you do that for?!” asked Minx panicked.
“Because,” I started calmly with my grin turning more innocent, “I didn’t want him interrupting my fight. And besides…it’s not like he’s completely knocked out. Look.” Pointing in his direction, we watched him as he swayed around groaning all the while. “Now if you’ll excuse me…” I finished as I walked toward the direction of…whatever it was that was emitting that strange aura. As I got closer I realized that it was coming from a creature that was perhaps the most visually least complex that I had ever had to confront. Basically, the creature was a gigantic, semi-solid dark blob with razor sharp talons and three glowing, purple eyes. In short, this was the thing that barged through your closet at late at night hoping to scare you into submission. I thought it rather marvelous to behold such a simplistic yet effective apparition until I realized that this was the reason why the leader hadn’t put much effort into keeping me in chains; whatever this thing was, he was confident that it would slay anyone foolish enough to try and escape. Smirking to myself, I thought of how surprised the leader would’ve been if he knew that he was dealing with the biggest fool of them all.
After a brief stare-down with one another, I used a little of my power to numb me from my previous injuries and braced Kage no Kokoro for the inevitable. Without any word of warning, the creature lunged at me at full speed with its talons spread wide for the kill. Ecstatic to bypass the pointless formalities of combat, I decided to go on the defensive by extending my blade forward to increase the distance between us. Abruptly halting from its charge to avoid a direct pierce into its chest, the creature stretched out its massive arms to go around my sword and head straight for my neck. Fortunately I caught wind of this sudden development at the right time and retreated to the shadows before its talons could penetrate my flesh.
Reappearing right behind this giant fellow, I took a quick slash at its back only to find that it mimicked my exact strategy. Intrigued, I repeated this same move two more times to see if there were any similarities in our abilities. At the end of the brief study I deduced that our abilities were indeed similar, but that the main difference between me and this abomination with regards to disappearing was that while I moved into a parallel plane, it could shift its current position to anywhere it desired. My first instinct was to abandon this ploy altogether, but instead I opted to restricting my visits into the shadows in hopes of breaking the pattern. However, the creature made it clear that it would continue its vanishing act for the sake of gaining whatever upper hand it could. To make its job a little more difficult, I activated my spell Lock Heart so that I could better keep track of its movements.
Stretching its arms out at me for the fourth time, I kept true to my change in strategy by embracing the dark, rubbery appendages and abraded them with a rapid series of slashes as I made my way to its torso. Upon arriving at my destination I dug my right shoulder into its gut to knock it off balance. Although I had managed to succeed in knocking his chest back its legs were still glued to the spot it stood on. I had already anticipated this, and allowed myself to fall on top of the creature as it collided with the floor. Twisting myself around after it made impact, I forcefully drove Kage no Kokoro deep into its third eye.
Hissing angrily at this, the shadow creature yanked my blade out, threw it across the room, and sprang itself back on its feet. In the process of getting up it unsuccessfully tried to take yet another slash at me. Effortlessly evading it, I withdrew Kage no Kokoro’s sheath from my side and used like a club against the back of the creature’s head. Hissing again as it took a few steps forward the shadow creature took one more look at me before splitting itself into five identical beings, disengaging my detection spell. They were considerably smaller than its original size and proportionally weaker, but the fact remained that now I was out-numbered. Summoning my weapon with my will, I smirked at the five doppelgangers as they took their positions to surround me. I already had a plan in mind as to how to handle them, and it was only a matter of time before they would fall prey to my trap.
Almost an exact repeat to the start of our battle, the shadow creatures charged at me all at once. Launching myself into the air at the last possible moment, I attempted executing the plan I had in mind when I ended up ensnared in a trap that they had concocted on their own; grabbing me by my left ankle, one of the creatures slammed me back down to the earth while others secured my other limbs. Seizing its chance, the fifth one of its party began to carve its talons into my stomach, ripping every bit of skin and muscle it could in the process.
Holding back the screams that begged to be released from my throat, I focused my mind on pinpointing the creature that had the most amount of slack in its grip. Discovering that it was the one pinning my left arm into the ground, I applied all of the strength I could muster in that moment to that particular limb to free myself. Succeeding in this venture, I quickly grabbed the creature subduing my sword arm by its weakest talon—the equivalent of the thumb—and jerking it in the opposite direction. Hissing in pain as it reluctantly released me, I revived my earlier vigor by slashing at the ones holding my legs down. With four temporarily paralyzed, I dove after the one that clawed into my flesh before it could react and proceeded to execute my earlier plan as if the this event never occurred. I knew I didn’t have much time to waste before the other four had a chance to process what was transpiring so I took my leave of them just as the fifth one clutched its eyes with its morbid hands.
Ignoring the blood that was slowly seeping from my gut, I waited patiently as the other four rebounded from their temporary confusion to launch their counter-offensive. Organizing themselves into a diamond formation, the four once again charged at me. However, only one of them managed to reach me in time to receive yet another blow to its torso as I readily met with it. The other three, especially the one that carried the rear, were met with the fifth shadow creature as it began to lash about uncontrollably. Good, I thought to myself while smirking wide, it seems that the Muchitsujo no Yoru works even on those who aren’t Nobodies. Maintaining my position to avoid getting into direct conflict, I watched as the others struggled to deal with their berserk comrade. Not that it would aid them in the slightest; this new technique of mine that I spent the last three weeks honing in the Betwixt and Between operated like a mental disease, subjecting the infected party into temporarily believing that fantasy is reality and vice-versa. Summoning a cloth bandage from my sword’s sheath, I quickly wrapped it around my gut to prevent it from bleeding any further and moved in to join the lethal brand of fun taking place before me. Laughing hysterically all the while, I aimlessly swung Kage no Kokoro around knowing that whatever it would strike would be my opponent and taking pleasure in the way that they would shrink somewhat with every blow.
Unfortunately, my thrill was short-lived; in a matter of moments the five creatures reunited and had managed to disengage the Muchitsujo no Yoru. Frustrated by this, I laughed yet again and decided to end this apparition’s existence by using my signature move, Kage no Kokoro, while its back was still turned. About three slices into the attack I immediately noticed that something was amiss. Abruptly ending my attack, I focused my magic into my eyes to see what was occurring within. What I saw shocked me; almost completely void of bones or tissue, this creature was mostly constructed of pure energy. Also, that energy consisted entirely of shadows.
Well that explains a lot…especially the growing and shrinking act. Sighing, I expelled the concentration of magic out of my eyes and prepared to even the odds between us. “Here,” I started, “have fun with this for a while.” Holding the sheath up to my mouth, I bewitched it to attack the shadow creature. Keeping true to its role, it kept the monster at bay while I thrust Kage no Kokoro into the ground, absorbing all of the shadows in the room.
I was almost heartbroken at knowing that I couldn’t actually use all of this power that was vibrating in my hands. Then again, knowing that I was about to hinder my enemy with what I was about to do next, I was more than satisfied. Looking over my shoulder, I shouted, “Minx! Back yourself against the wall right now!”
“What’s going on?” she asked, staring at my blade.
“Just do it!!!” Without another word she did as she was told. Aiming for the hallway that stood between the cells, I shouted, “Relinquish!” and launched a ball of energy that ripped through the doors of the other cells in its path, ending with a loud explosion at the end of the hall fifty yards away.
Finally escaping from my sheath’s bombardment, the shadow creature went mad and attacked me as though I had just slain its best friend. For all intents and purposes of course, that’s exactly what I just did. Only, if I didn’t finish this battle soon enough, that friend would be restored in about ten minutes. Taking pleasure in the fact that we were both fighting with nothing more than the basics, I engaged our battle dance with as much enthusiasm as one would opening presents at Christmas.
For the first five minutes, it appeared as though I had the upper-hand despite the fact that as the smaller the creature got the more ferocious it became. After that, the creature managed to kick me in the gut, knocking the wind out of me and sending me clear across the room and right where Minx was currently attending to Tamex. Throbbing with pain and unable to hear what was being said to me from them, I looked up in time to see the shadow creature summon a huge orb of shadows from within it. Gasping at the magnitude of the power of it and realizing how devastating it would be for my comrades if it made impact, I immediately launched Kage no Kokoro like a javelin towards the creature. Fulfilling its purpose, Kage no Kokoro lodged itself into the creature’s neckline and put a stop to the attack.
Producing a sound that was a cross between a gurgle and a hiss, the creature took a few steps back and made a move to remove my blade. This time, however, I wasn’t going to allow it the chance to dishonor my sword by meagerly throwing it way. Racing in at blinding speed, I withdrew Kage no Kokoro myself, grabbed the creature by the shoulder, slashed it from the tip of its forehead down to the navel, and kicked it in the kneecaps to bring it to the floor. When it collided with the floor I produced a second gash, this time going from one shoulder to the other, for the sake of making it flinch long enough to prevent the use of its arms. Taking advantage of that one moment, I dived in for the kill, beheading it where it lay.
At first, the shadow creature just laid there as stiff and as quiet as death and in a few moments it simply faded away. Its aura completely vacant from the premises, I knew that the battle had been won. Exhaling, I clutched my gut which, despite my bandage, had reopened during the skirmish, and casually walked over to where Minx and Tamex where.
Honestly, I’ve never even thought of putting Xakiah up against somebody that could absorb her powers. Thanks for the opportunity Soji! ^_^
Okay! All yours Soichi! ^_^