Edit 10/31/15: Sorry about the false update! I didn't realize that when you deleted a chapter it would count as an update... My apologies!
Hey everyone! Welcome to the big finale of Before My Body is Dry!
Yep, you heard it right. The finale. In the end, I've decided to create a whole new story to contain the OVA and the other chapters I have planned. In that way, I think it'll give some nice closure to Before My Body is Dry. It might be kinda weird to add the next few chapters, the OVA, and then have a whole mess of chapters that take place after a time skip. So, I decided it'd be better to create a whole new section to contain them.
Anyhow, this is it ladies and gentlemen! The final fight with Ragyo! It was one hell of a journey getting to this scene, and by God I can't wait to share it with you all. 225,000+ words, and we've finally gotten to the final episode of the anime (not counting the OVA, that is).
It has been one hell of a ride for me. Never have I ever stuck with something for so long like this, and stuck to it with such passion. I've had such a great time writing this story, and an even better time sharing it with you all.
So, for this chapter, I dedicate it to all of you!
Disclaimer: I do not own Kill la Kill.
Akio bit his lip, hard enough to draw blood to ensure that he didn't sob out loud. His eyes were filled with unshed tears, threatening to break forth at the slightest of movements. In this single moment, which seemed to drag on for ages, he forgot about the world around him- even himself. His beating heart was in second place. Even with his blurry vision, his eyes never left that of his parents. All he could think about right now was his parents.
A hand rested on his shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. He didn't bother to look up to see who it was, or even listen to what they had to say. It was probably Ryuko, but he just couldn't bear to look away.
He watched Hiroshi and Kasumi's eyes, just waiting for them to blink. Begging for them to blink. Praying for them to blink. Something. Anything.
But they didn't, and they wouldn't.
Akio sniffled, his right hand moving towards them. He slowly, and very carefully, closed their eyelids with his fingertips. It was out of respect, but in reality he just couldn't stand to look at them anymore. The sight haunted him to his core.
By now, he could hear the sounds of battle commencing once more, followed by the sounds of shouts and screams. He didn't know who they belonged to, nor did he care. He honestly could care less.
A thousand thoughts raced through his head as his hand rested on the cheek of his mother, and his other took a hold of the hand of his father. Their skin felt so cold beneath his.
A few months ago, he didn't even know these people. He had always thought of them as these assholes that had chosen to give him up, but that hadn't been the case. It wasn't in the slightest. He found that they were such kindhearted people when he finally got over his grudges and gotten to know them. They had loved him unconditionally, even when he didn't return the feelings.
And now, his parents... they were...
Now look. Look what his presence as caused.
Look what he had caused. It was him. It was his presence that caused their deaths. It was his fault. If they had never contacted Aikuro, if they had never looked him up, if they had never came to visit him... none of this would have ever happened. Hell, if he hadn't of existed, the Takahiros would still be living with their five year old daughter. They would be oblivious and happy.
It was... it was his fault.
Akio's lower lip began to tremble, tears silently streaming down his face.
Just what was he going to tell Akiko? She expected the world of him, and he never lived up to those expectations, not in the slightest. He had told her he was going to find their parents and bring the home... why did he tell her that? Why did he have to promise such things? No, why did such promises have to be so difficult to uphold?
Akio buried his head in his hands, sobbing silently into his palms.
She was only five years old. Just a five year old girl. She didn't deserve to have her parents ripped from her like this. She was expecting Akio to bring them back, safe and sound.
How could he even look at her after this? How could he even be in the same room as her when he knew that it was his fault that this had happened?
"Awh! How tragic!"
Akio slowly lifted his head, looking to the demon of a girl that was now kneeling down across from him.
Was she really going to do this?
"That's just too bad, really," Nui pouted, her hand moving to poke his mother's pale cheek. "I guess that's just how the cookie crumbles-"
Before Nui could lay a finger on his mother, Akio had lashed out, grabbing Nui's chin with one hand and her forehead with the other, using his grip to twist her neck and break it with one movement.
Nui eye's rolled into the back of her head, her body slacking against the arms holding her up. Just when Akio had thought he had actually did it, Nui exploded into a cloud of yarn strings and dust. It had never been her in the first place, but just a clone of her.
Akio growled, finally lifting his head to look at the surroundings around him.
Satsuki and Ryuko were engaged with Ragyo, easily handling her now. Satsuki was fighting with her usual grace and elegance, while Ryuko was fighting with much more ferocity than Akio had ever seen of her. Each of her swings were filled with anger and hatred. She swung with reckless abandonment, each and every one of her attacks intending to do serious damage. Her strikes were so thick with emotion that they might cut through Ragyo by themselves, no scissor blade required.
Akio's gaze shifted to the courtyard below, where everyone else was fighting off a group of clones, with a crowd of One Stars assisting them in their struggle. They were all making great head way, the three Elite Four members able to nearly take on all of the clones themselves. Nui's clones were dangerous, but in the end, they were just clones. They couldn't be better than the genuine article.
Even with everything that had happened, their plan was clear and unchanged. Ryuko and Satsuki would take care of Ragyo, while everyone else dealt with the transmitter. For now, Akio was somewhere in between.
"How rude. You know it's impolite to not let a lady finish?"
Akio turned his eyes to back in front of him, where Nui was watching him with her hands on her hips.
He took a deep breath, exhaling through his nose. It looked like there was nothing for it. As much as it killed him, his time for mourning was short lived.
Here she was, right here in front of him. Something told Akio that this was no clone either. This was going to be the real deal. It only made sense. Akio was the one to harm her precious queen, after all.
Akio rose to his feet.
"Oh?" Nui grinned, her giggly and playful side beginning to resurface once again. "Are we finally going to play again?"
Akio didn't say anything. Instead, he took off his Goku uniform and laid it down of the faces of his parents, covering them. Once all was said and done here, he'd get them out of here and to safety. But first, he was going to avenge them, and it started with her.
Nui tilted her head to the side, intrigued by Akio's actions, but deciding to stay quiet for once.
Removing his gloves, Akio then moved a hand to each of his sleeves, tearing them both off effortlessly. Using the white straps of cloth, he tied them around each of his fists, like a boxer would with boxing tape.
For his final fight here, he wouldn't use his Goku uniform. There would be no Life Fibers, nor would there be any bladed gloves. No knives, no staff, nothing. Nothing but his fists and his instincts.
For this final battle, Akio would use the body his parents had gifted him with.
Akio popped his knuckles, turning his head towards Nui.
With tears still in his eyes, he glared at her, intent to kill written all over his face. Here and now, he was going to end her.
Rolling his shoulder blades, he tested his injuries. They would slow him down, but they weren't bad. Ryuko's hybrid body had been able to heal them all to a certain extent, but mostly the stab wound, which still was quite tender. The broken bones were still a problem, as they were still mending, but if Akio didn't get hit, it shouldn't be a serious one.
"This'll be fun!" Nui squealed, clapping her hands together.
Akio said nothing, his face setting in a grim frown.
Raising a hand, he beckoned her to attack.
Nui's eye twitched, her smile faltering. That had done it.
Planting a foot on the ground, Nui launched herself at Akio, her artificial arms turning into razor sharp blades once more.
Akio's nostrils flared as he raised his fists.
Gamagoori opened his eyes, his breaths coming in short ragged gasps.
The man slowly sat up, his hand gingerly rubbing his abdomen. There was a little blood coming from the wound, but it was nothing serious. The titanium-steel belly band that he had decided to put on at the last second had done its job. Harime's blade had pierced his titanium shield, but it only cut his skin slightly, not enough to be anything serious. Thank God for his relatives handiwork. If not for the metal band, who knows what damage Harime would have caused. He'd probably be dead, if not for it.
Ira winced as his stomach crunched together. Alright, the wound might have been a little more serious than he thought, but it was nothing that would hinder him. He did pass out after all.
Catching his bearings, he glanced around at the battle around him. Matoi and Lady Satsuki were engaged in battle with Ragyo, the two sisters able to nearly overpower her with their combined strength. Ira must have missed a fair bit while he was out, as it appeared that Ragyo was severely injured, and the gravity that was once weighing down on him was all but gone once more. With the Submission field gone, his limbs could move easier, and breathing didn't become so much of a chore. He could actually do something, now.
Ira lifted his head higher, glancing at the rest of the surroundings around him. His eyes widened when he fell onto the next battle.
Takahiro and Harime were currently engaged in an all out brawl, their arms moving nearly quicker than Ira could follow. Even though, it was routine even, as if it were a dance. The two, while vastly different, moved with such surprising coordination. Harime would swing, and Takahiro would dodge. The two would go back and forth until Takahiro would finally strike, delivering a vicious jab to Harime's gut or chin.
Each time Takahiro got a hit in, Harime's expression grew noticeably darker. Her attacks came quicker, and came with more ferocity. It was no secret that Harime was getting flustered with Takahiro getting the upper hand.
Ira's eyes drifted a little further from the two, widening even more.
There, several feet from Takahiro and Harime, were two motionless bodies underneath a black jacket. Ira didn't know who they belonged to, but he recognized jacket as Takahiro's Goku uniform.
Ira closed his eyes, allowing himself a brief moment to pray for those who were lost. Those deaths wouldn't go unpunished. The guilty would get their punishment.
Opening his eyes, Ira rose to his feet. Even with his quick knock out, he wasn't done yet. Ira Gamagoori still had a job to do. The transmitter was still standing, after all. It was his duty to take it down.
No one seemed to notice the giant as he turned and walked towards the edge of the cement platform, looking down at the courtyard below. Jakuzure, Sanageyama, and Inumuta were all engaged in battle with Harime clones. They were taking care of them easily, but with the greater numbers of the clones, the Elite Four members were beginning to tire.
Ira's gaze moved across the courtyard, his brown eyes landing on a familiar tuft of hair.
"Mankanshoku..." Ira muttered, his usual strict expression softening.
Mankanshoku was doing her best to fight off the horde of Harime clones, but she was beginning to falter. Her eyes looked puffy, and her hair disheveled. To be honest, she looked like a mess. Yet, she was still swinging away.
Ira frowned. Without the help of Mikisugi and Tsumugu, he wasn't sure that Mankanshoku would be able to stay standing. He couldn't, and wouldn't have that. Not while he was still breathing.
But how could he help? If he just threw himself at the Harime clones, he wouldn't be accomplishing anything. Sure, he'd give the others a chance to breathe, but the main problem would still be there: the transmitter.
Ira looked to the giant tower, his eyes looking it up and down. The red force field still protected it, but it didn't look impenetrable. As of right now, he had the element of surprise. It would be wrong to let it go to waste.
"Don't you worry, Mako," Ira said to himself as he took a few steps back to give himself a running start. "I'm coming!"
Mako wheezed as she swung her spiked bat through another Nui clone. They were endless! With each swing, her arms grew more tired, and her heart grew heavier. Honestly, she didn't know how much longer she could keep up.
Gritting her teeth, she raised her bat, readying herself for another clone.
But she wouldn't give up. Not while Ryuko and the others were fighting. Not when too many lives had already been lost for this cause.
If need be, she would swing and swing, over and over again until they were victorious. Everyone else had sacrificed so much. She couldn't be the only one to not give her blood, sweat, and tears for this. She would do Ryuko and Akio proud. She would do Akio's parents proud. They had been so kind and caring towards her and her family. She'd do them justice by staying strong.
Mako sniffled as she swung her bat down on another clone.
She would do him proud. She would show him that she wasn't just another underachiever. Mako would prove to him that she wasn't just any ordinary girl. She could be strong too.
And so, Mako kept on swinging, despite her arms protesting the movement.
But she didn't care. She ignored the cries of protest coming from her limbs. She would keep swinging until there was nothing left.
Mako could hear the sounds of battle happening all around her, but she kept her eyes focused out in front of her. She couldn't allow herself to get caught off guard. Not now.
Mako snapped her head to the left, narrowly jumping out of the way as a Nui clone swung through the air where she once had been.
Aikuro came charging onto the scene, the metallic leg of his DTR slapping the clone on the head and destroying it.
Mako nodded her thanks, then ran off to engage another bunch of Nui clones.
Nui giggled as Mako came closer, the laugh echoed by her clones. They were taunting her.
Mako sniffled and closed her eyes, swinging the bat and connecting with the head of the first Nui clone.
Now, she was no fighter. That wasn't to say that she wouldn't fight to her last breath, but this just wasn't what she was cut out to do. As much as she wanted to be, she was no Akio or Ryuko. She could only be Mako, and Mako was no fighter.
Mako opened her eyes, her heart skipping a beat. It... it couldn't be...
"You just leave the transmitter to me!"
Lifting her head to the sky, tears filled Mako's eyes as she saw Gamagoori fly through the air, his hands reaching out to tear through the shield of the transmitter.
"Ira! You're alive!"
She couldn't help it. She had thought he was dead, but he wasn't!
Her heart continued to thump in her chest, even speeding up now that she saw that Gamagoori was still alive and breathing
Gamagoori collided into the transmitter's shield, his hands ripping into the force field.
"Yes!" Gamagoori called back. "Just to be safe, I was wearing a titanium-steel belly band made at my relatives' metal works! It hurt, but the wound isn't serious!"
"Don't act tough when all you did was pass out!" Nonon yelled back.
"I will atone for my shameful behavior through my actions! Shackle Regalia: Persona Unleashed!"
With the added power of his activated Goku uniform, it was child's play for Gamagoori to tear apart the force field with his super human strength.
"Behold the power of my freed ego! The shackles undone and all pride cast aside! Taste the wrath of Bakukai-Gouteki!"
Gamagoori reeled his head back as he shouted, readying himself for his finishing move.
The sisters cried out in unison as they jumped into the air, Ryuko's scissor blade mimicking the movement of the scissor blade that Satsuki now carried.
The two slashed through the chest of their mother, their blades crossing by each other as they cut clean through.
Ragyo coughed blood as her body was cut in to. With her already weakened state, she was no match for the two sisters. At least, not at this moment.
The sisters landed on the ground behind her, immediately turning around to deliver another strike.
Ryuko especially swung with much more force than Satsuki. With each one of her attacks, her wild fire of emotions would bleed out. Each strike carried the weight of her anger, her hatred, her loathing.
Right now, she wanted nothing more than to put her mother's head up on a spike. Ragyo Kiryuin had committed so many atrocities, each one of them more worse than the last.
She wanted to avenge the deaths of not only Akio's parents, but her father too. Ragyo may have given Ryuko life, and may have been her biological mother, but more than that all she did was take things away. She took away lives, happiness, and now, she was threatening to take away the world they lived in.
Ryuko wouldn't soon forget the look in Akio's eyes. They were filled with so much sadness; so much despair. He had barely responded to her or anyone else when they called out to him. All he could do was look at his deceased parents. It broke her heart to see him like that, and know that nothing, even killing Ragyo would make him feel better.
That mental image fueled her, giving her strength.
Ryuko and Satsuki swung in unison, their blades cutting through Ragyo's waist and cutting her in two.
But, even with her emotions fueling her each and every move, Ryuko wouldn't lose herself. With the help of her sister and her loved ones, she would bring peace to this world. Nothing could stop her from that.
Blood shot from the freshly made wounds in Ragyo's body, covering the ground in its redness. Even with the dozens of gashes through Ragyo's body, it still remained intact and standing up right. Shinra-Koketsu must have been responsible for that.
"IMPOSSIBLE!" Ragyo growled, blood pouring from her mouth.
Satsuki flicked her scissor blade, flinging the blood from it.
"Your plan for the Cocoon Sphere Nativity has come undone, too, Ragyo!"
Ragyo frowned, before her lips slowly tugged upwards.
"Is it now?"
Akio tilted his head to the side, dodging the stab from Nui.
Nui growled, immediately sending another slash his way, which Akio dodged by jumping back.
That was how the fight had progressed since the beginning. Nui's strikes were reckless and relentless, while Akio would dodge until he found a safe opening to attack. It was like a battle of fire and water. Nui would attack fast and strong, while Akio's footwork allowed him to flow around the battlefield, giving him openings to attack.
As he fought, Akio's heart hammered loudly in his chest, threatening to break loose. It was a caged beast. With each strike that he landed, the venom in his chest built and built. His vision was beginning to go blurry with rage, while his breath began to come in short gasps.
He wanted to tear her head off.
"You're no fun!" Nui shouted, planting her foot on the ground and launching herself back at Akio.
Akio stayed put, not moving to dodge or attack.
Placing her hands together, Nui swung downwards at Akio's head.
Akio waited until the very last second and then stepped to his right, dodging the strike effortlessly.
This was his opponent? Was this really the Nui Harime that had given so much trouble to Ryuko and the Elite Four? She was fighting like an amateur. Either her fighting prowess had declined rapidly, or Akio had just become much better than she had.
Cocking his right arm back, he swung at Nui with all of his strength.
Her incompetence angered him.
His fist connected with Nui's cheek, making her stumble and fall fully to the ground.
"Tch!" Nui sat up, wiping her wrist across her mouth. With hate-filled eyes, she turned to shout at Akio.
Except she would get no chance. Akio had closed the distance between the two in a flash.
Sending his foot into the center of her face, Nui went flying into air and across the stone floor.
Nui hit the ground and rolled, slowly coming to a stop several feet away, half of her body dangling over the edge. The hit left her feeling dizzy and disoriented, slightly hindering her ability to stand on her two feet.
But once again, Akio was on her before she could even hope to do anything.
Grabbing her by her pigtails, he threw her a few feet away from the edge and immediately followed after her before she had any chance to recover.
Nui landed on her back, opening her eyes wide when Akio landed on her waist, effectively straddling her.
Nui swung her arms at him, but Akio proved faster.
With his one hand he pinned Nui's wrists together and slammed them into the stone ground. Nui struggled against his grip, but in the end it proved pointless.
In this position, Akio was hunched over Nui, his one hand pinning her two above her. All the while, his eyes bore holes into hers. If looks could kill, his just might.
"Ngh!" Nui winced and tried to fight him off, but Akio's grip was iron. Quickly giving up, Nui resorted to her last option, breaking out into a seductive smile as she looked up at Akio. "I-I didn't know you liked it so rough, Akio. If you want-"
Akio growled and raised his free hand, bringing it around and punching her across the face.
Nui's head snapped to the side, but before she could straighten her neck Akio's hand clamped down on her throat.
She immediately began to choke, her hands instinctively moving to pry Akio's off of her, except that she couldn't. Akio's other hand was still pinning them to the ground.
Akio's other hand tightened around her thin neck, his fingernails drawing blood as he choked her. There was no way he could kill her with normal methods. Just like Ragyo and Ryuko, the Life Fibers of Nui's body would repair any wound done to her body. If tearing out her own heart wouldn't kill her, what could?
Well, he had an idea. Her body might be able to heal anything, but could it still survive without oxygen?
Nui continued to gag, her waist bucking as she tried to fight him off, her feet kicking the air uselessly in an attempt to stop him.
His hand tightened even further as he closed the short distance between the two, his face only inches from her's now. Akio didn't blink as his eyes searched hers.
"Tell me something."
Nui choked, her face turning redder and redder by the second. Water filled her eyes, but it wasn't the only thing that was present there.
"Are you afraid?"
Nui's eyes widened, the look of fear becoming more prominent.
Akio's hand tightened, a satisfying crunching sound coming from beneath his grip. Seeing Nui Harime, one of the three people who had caused his life to spiral into what it was, beneath him and completely vulnerable like this lit a fire in Akio's heart. Seeing the fear in her eyes, and to feel her rapid heartbeat like this only made his own heart quicken.
This woman had played such a large role in ruining Akio's life.
She had played such a large role in killing his parents.
"Does this remind you of anything?!" Akio shouted, his faced twisting into a snarl. "Is this familiar to you?!"
His thirst for revenge was unbearable now.
Akio barred his teeth, raising Nui's head and slamming into the ground.
"DO YOU NOW KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE?!" Akio screamed, slamming her head into the ground once more for good measure. "WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO HAVE YOUR NECK CRUSHED?!"
Her face began to purple, her hips and legs finally settling against the stone surface as she gave up fighting. Just when her eyes began to roll in to the back of her head, Akio let go.
Nui gasped and coughed violently as air came back into her lungs, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she sucked it down greedily.
Akio smiled. A smile that held no happiness, only perverse pleasure.
After a few seconds to ensure she got enough oxygen, Akio slammed his hand back to her neck and tightened his grip. Then he would let go, and grab back on once again. He would wait a few seconds each time, letting her taste the sweet relief of oxygen on her tongue, only to tear that relief away.
He was toying with her.
"You deserve a worse end than the one I'll give you," Akio growled out, his hand clamping around her once more.
He was enjoying it just a little too much.
Just when Akio was ready to end it, a voice called out to them.
"Nui! Sacrifice your body."
Akio turned his head up to where the voice came from, his eyes landing on Ragyo, who had been watching the two with a smile on her face.
His snarl began to fade. Just what was she talking about?
Using Akio's brief lapse in attention to her advantage, Nui opened her mouth and bit down hard on Akio's hand.
Akio yelped and brought his hand back, unconsciously using his other to grab a hold of his injured one.
With Nui's hands freed, she raised her bladed arms into the air.
Akio's face fell. He fucked up.
But, instead of going towards him, Nui slashed at her own neck.
Her blades cut clean through the area Akio's hand had once been, her head popping off like a cork.
Nui's body beneath him evaporated and turned into fibers, leaving Akio straddling the thin air.
She was... gone?
"Damn it!" Akio growled, punching the solid ground beneath him. "Damn it, damn it, damn it!"
Nui's head flew through the air, it's flight stopping when two Life Fiber strings shot from the Original Life Fiber, grabbing her head and bringing it into the orange vessel.
The minute the Life Fibers absorbed the head, the pile began to glow a bright orange and began to twist upwards, forming a giant tower made of the Original Life Fiber's fibers.
Akio's anger and hatred was replaced with confusion and dread.
The tower of Life Fibers had twisted into a giant face of Nui.
It made Akio shiver just looking at it. Nui was bad enough as it was, he didn't need her face taking up the entire sky.
The tower of Life Fibers began to teeter forwards, threatening to spill over on him.
An arm wrapped around his chest, dragging him off to the side as the tower fully tipped over, Nui's giant face rushing towards where Akio and the others were standing.
Akio and Ryuko fell to the ground, narrowly avoiding the flood of Life Fibers.
The Life Fibers rushed towards Ragyo, the stream of red strings circling around her before getting sucked in by her wounds.
Akio's eyes widened, his heart dropping into his stomach as he watched the display. The entirety of the Original Life Fiber was going to get absorbed by Ragyo.
"What's going on?" Akio mumbled, his eyes refusing to move away.
"I don't know..."
"Nui, my poor daughter, the life Fibers in your body were too powerful, preventing you from ever donning Life Fibers," Ragyo spoke. "But in the end, you were able to wear them! The ultimate dress that is the Original Life Fiber!"
Ragyo's eerily childish laugh echoed throughout the stadium.
Strings that emanated from the Original Life Fiber hovered in the air throughout the stadium as they awaited their turn to get sucked in by Ragyo. Each strand of fiber was a different color, ranging from every color in the rainbow. If it were a different situation, the scene might be considered beautiful.
"Magnificent! You feel so wonderful on me!" Ragyo cried out in her throes of pleasure, her hands unconsciously rubbing herself.
Ragyo's body became whole again, the injuries she had received from Ryuko and Satsuki already healed by the power of the Original Life Fiber. Even the head wound she had received at the hands of Akio had healed.
The Life Fibers did a lot more than heal, however.
Rows and rows of rockets appeared at Ragyo's feet, lifting her eye into the air.
Akio's eyes widened even further, completely baffled by the sight. The Original Life Fiber could do such a thing? By God, Ragyo was essentially a NASA space shuttle at this point!
The woman began to squeal in ecstasy as the thrusters came to life, their rainbow colored flames kicking up smoke and dust all around.
Slowly but surely, the thrusters pushed Ragyo into the air and towards the sky above. All the while, she cried out in pleasure.
Akio had half a mind to cover his ears as Ragyo continued towards space, but soon, her unnatural squeals died off in the distance.
Rising to his feet, Akio kept his eyes peeled on the sky, watching the smoke trail that Ragyo had left behind.
Just what the hell happened? Did she really just fly into space? It just didn't make any sense, and yet, Akio had watched every moment of it. Just how could they combat that? Fly up after her? That was insane. It wasn't like they had space ships just lying around for them to use. Hell, did anyone have such technology that could combat Ragyo?
Akio blinked, turning his head away from the sky and turning to Ryuko.
Ryuko's eyes softened, her hand grabbing on to his lightly.
"We should go talk to the others," She whispered.
Ryuko was right. They had to figure out what to do next. Just thinking about it would do nothing.
Akio nodded, letting out a shaky breath. Now that the anger had left his system, he began to feel incredibly weak and tired. The harsh emotions had fueled him, giving him the energy needed to keep fighting. Without it, his limbs felt like lead.
Even more than that, he felt the sadness and guilt wash over him again. They might have been overlooked during his fight, but they were back in full force now.
His eyes traveled across stone platform, eventually landing on the covered bodies of his parents. He had to carry them out of here. He... he couldn't just leave them there.
Ryuko followed his eyes, her own darkening when they landed on the covered forms of his parents.
"Akio..." She mumbled, her hand tightening around his. "We... we should leave them here for now."
"I am not leaving them here," Akio glared at her from the corner of his eye. He'd carry them both out if he had to.
"I'm not saying we should," Ryuko frowned. "It's just, well, we don't really have the proper stuff to move them. I mean... we just... we wouldn't want to..."
Akio closed his eyes and turned his head to the ground. She didn't need to finish for him to understand what she was getting at, and she was right, of course. With their... injuries, it wouldn't be safe for Akio or anyone else to carry them. They wouldn't want to disturb them any more than they had to.
"I-I can't just..." Akio trailed off, his voice cracking.
"I know, I know," Ryuko murmured, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. "They'll be safe there for now, though. Once we've won, we can come back with stretchers."
Akio rubbed at his eyes with his free hand, nodding softly. That was the best course of action in the end. He wouldn't want to hurt them anymore than he already had by being overzealous in his duties.
"Okay," Akio sniffled. "Let's go, then."
The two began walking to the stairwell that lead to the courtyard below. As they walked, Ryuko snuck glances over at Akio, who was completely oblivious to it all. His eyes were on the horizon, listless as they stared off into the nothingness.
His mind, unsurprisingly, was elsewhere. Now that the fighting was over, all he could think about were the parents he was leaving behind.
"Akio, you know you really don't have to-"
"No, I do," Akio interrupted, his voice firm. "I do have to."
Ryuko frowned, her eyes drawn to the unshed tears in his eyes.
Stopping before they made it fully down the rickety stairwell, Ryuko turned to Akio. That snapped him out of his trance, his feet stopping and his eyes turning to the girl beside him.
Breaking the hold on his hand, Ryuko reached up and gently brushed his cheek with her thumb, stopping a tear before it could fall.
Akio flinched, slightly blindsided by her touch.
"I'm so sorry, Akio," Ryuko whispered, her bright blue eyes staring into his green ones.
"As am I," Senketsu spoke up for the first time. "The fault lies on my shoulders. I'm sorry, Akio. I have failed you."
Akio swallowed the lump in his throat. He slowly reached up to the hand on his cheek, taking Ryuko's in his and pressing it to his cheek, closing his eyes as he felt another batch of tears spring from his eyes.
"Neither of you could ever fail me," Akio whispered.
When the two finally made it down to the courtyard, the entire group was waiting patiently for them.
But, before they addressed Ryuko, Akio noticed each of the pitying gazes that were thrown his way.
Akio closed his eyes and turned away.
"Now that they're here, tell us what you've found, Inumuta," Satsuki spoke.
"Of course," Inumuta nodded and started tapping away at the computer on his wrist. "I've determined Ragyo's objective."
That caught Akio's attention, causing him to turn his head back towards the group.
The broken down projectors from the destroyed transmitter all turned out, projecting their light onto the walls and creating an image of Earth.
"Her destination is the REVOCS communications satellite," Inumuta declared, the image depicting a rocket slowly traveling into space and to a satellite orbiting Earth.
Akio blinked, slightly confused.
"So, Ragyo and Koketsu are trying to hook directly into the satellite and broadcast the Absolute Submission signal around the world?!" Aikuro exclaimed, ridding Akio of his confusion.
So that's what she was going to do. She was going to enact the final part of her plan, and wrap the world into one giant cocoon.
"Yes," Satsuki answered. "But since this is an awakening signal, it can't render our Goku Uniforms powerless. We will be able to counterattack."
Off in the distance, someone shrieked.
"The sky! Look at the sky!"
Akio frowned, turning his head up to the starry sky, his eyes widening in fear at the sight that awaited him.
Hundreds of thousands of small red containers floated into the air, drifting straight into the outer layers of the atmosphere.
It was starting.
Beside him he could hear Ryuko take a deep breath, followed by her slowly exhaling.
"Huh?" The group collectively gasped, turning to face Ryuko.
Ryuko met each of their surprised looks, her back straight and her fists clenched at her sides. Akio knew that look. It was already decided.
"I'll go," She repeated.
Akio didn't say anything, but he couldn't help but frown. He knew that it was what had to be done. In all honesty, the only one with even a glimmer of a chance at stopping Ragyo was Ryuko. No one else held a candle to Ryuko's strength. Out of all of them, she was the only one that could match Ragyo one on one anymore.
The thought of it scared him. A small, selfish and stupid part of him didn't want her to go. He didn't want to risk the chance of losing her, too. He loved her too much to not be worried about what could happen, even if he fully believed that Ryuko could beat her. He knew it was a stupid worry, but he just couldn't stop himself.
He just... he pictured what would happen if she failed, and it killed him inside. He didn't want to lose anyone else.
But if she didn't go and win, the entire world would be over as he knew it. Including everyone else. Aikuro, Mako and the Mankanshokus, Satsuki... they'd all perish if Ryuko didn't go and win.
"Ryuko! Let's go on a date of our own!"
Akio blinked, his trance broken when Mako popped up between him and Ryuko, her hands raised to the sky.
"Huh?" Ryuko tilted her head to the side, equally taken back by Mako's outburst.
"Listen! When you get back, let's go on a date of our own! Just us girls!" Mako gushed, doing her normal routine and dancing and parading around as she went on one of her famous rants.
It was nice to know that Mako could still be Mako, at least.
"You're making this a world where girls can eat ice cream and go shopping while wearing a cute dress and cute accessories and can wear whatever clothes they like and get all dolled up without fear! Without fear... without fear..."
When she finally decided to finish, Mako was down on her knees, winded from her little speech.
Ryuko blinked dumbly at her friend for a few seconds, before breaking out in a wide smile.
Akio looked around, realizing that the entire group had circled around the three now.
"It's in your hands now," Satsuki stated. "The survival of the human race-"
"For the sake of girls' fashion!" Mako interrupted with a fist pump.
"Right," Ryuko pounded on her chest. "You can count on me."
Closing her eyes, Ryuko took a deep breath as she began to concentrate for her final battle.
This was it. If Akio wanted to say any kind of farewell or wish of good luck, now would be it.
This could possibly be the last time the two would talk to each other.
He glanced around at the crowd around him, wishing now that there weren't so many people, but it wouldn't be enough of a hindrance for him to squander this small chance.
Ryuko flinched, raising her head and opening her eyes.
Her blue eyes immediately fell on to Akio.
Akio took a deep breath and stepped towards her, placing each of his hands on her shoulders, giving the cloth over them a slight squeeze.
He had so much he wanted to say to her in this final moment, but so little time to say them all. It was amazing how much came to his mind when the time didn't allow it.
He wanted to tell her how he cherished each moment with her, even before the two even became friends.
He wanted to say to her how grateful he was for her, and how grateful he was for giving him a real "teenage" life.
He wanted to thank her for always listening to him when he needed it most. There might have been a few rough periods, but Akio would be eternally grateful for the positive change she had brought to his life, rather she meant to or not.
He wanted to tell her how he wished he could follow her up there, and how much it pained him to have to send her off like this.
He wanted to tell her how much he needed her, now more than ever.
He wanted to tell her how much he loved her, and how much he thought about her.
He wanted to tell her that she was the star he had always been chasing.
His hands moved up to her cheeks, softly cradling her face in his hands.
Akio's eyes searched hers, his brain finally realizing what he wanted to say.
Closing the distance between the two, he lightly pressed his lips to hers, instantly cherishing the touch of her soft lips against his.
Ryuko was taken back at first, but quickly recovered herself and returned the kiss, closing her eyes and leaning into it.
Akio savored the moment of intimacy, no matter how brief it might be. To be able to feel her this close to him, with his own two hands... It made the pain that plagued his heart lessen ever so slightly.
Pulling his lips away from hers, Akio moved his head to her shoulder and wrapped his arms around her back.
"Promise me that you'll come back to me," Akio whispered into her ear.
Ryuko smiled and returned the hug, burying her face into his shoulder.
If time wasn't a factor, he could have stayed like that for awhile.
But it was, and he couldn't. Neither could she.
Akio nodded and broke away, taking a few steps back.
"Give her hell for me," Akio told her.
"I will," She answered.
Akio turned his head to Senketsu, giving the Kamui a nod of respect.
"Good luck, Senketsu. It has been an honor."
"The feeling is mutual," Senketsu replied. "It's been a pleasure getting to know you, Akio. I wish only the best for you, my friend."
Akio narrowed his eyes at the final part. Why did it sound so... final?
Ryuko inhaled slowly, closing her eyes and tilting her head down, once again concentrating on the sound of her heart beat.
Energy began to pool around her, enveloping her in an orange light. The wind began to pick up, whipping through the courtyard.
Akio gasped, his eyes widening as the energy began to billow upwards, similar to that of a flame. Now this was something he had never seen before. She was actually beginning to radiate light! It was, well, it was beautiful.
"I'm going to put on all of your Goku uniforms!"
The crowd around her outstretched their arms, their Goku uniforms activating as Ryuko began to absorb their energy.
Akio looked down at his pants and white shirt, noticing that the remnants of his own uniform were beginning to emit star-shaped flashes of light.
Within seconds, the clothing from Akio and everyone else was stripped from them, leaving them all naked. The uniforms were all turned into energy, which was in turn absorbed by Ryuko and Senketsu.
Senketsu's other shoulder piece began to change form, finally revealing his second eye. The rest of Senketsu began to turn a bright red as his fibers re-wrapped around Ryuko, forming another outfit entirely.
"Senketsu-Kisaragi!" The two shouted in unison.
Akio's jaw dropped. It was... incredible.
Senketsu had changed to a red color, matching Ryuko's now orange hair. His shoulder pieces expanded, nearly matching the length of the four orange tails that had formed from the back. The two hair pieces in Ryuko's hair had expanded as well, now at least half a foot long each.
Orange Life Fibers began to form around the two, twisting upwards to make a makeshift rocket, similar to the one that Ragyo had used only moments before.
The thrusters kicked on, sending Ryuko and Senketsu barreling into space, directly after Ragyo and Koketsu.
Akio watched them fly off into the distance, his eyes lingering on the smoke trail as they flew out of view.
Ryuko and Senketsu now held the fate of the world in their hands.
As Akio watched the smoke trail begin to fade away, he felt another emotion fill his chest. It wasn't sadness or anger. It wasn't hatred or self-loathing, either. It was something warmer. Something kinder.
It was hope.
Ryuko gritted her teeth as she flew past the layers of Life Fibers that now covered the Earth's atmosphere. Her destination was just past them, waiting for her.
This was it. Her final battle. It felt so weird to actually think that. Her entire life she had been filled with fighting, either for a just cause, or an unjust one. It felt like yesterday she had set out to find her father's killer, and now here she was, soon to be in a fight to the death with her mother over the sake of humanity.
It was absolutely insane to think about. Just how the hell did she end up here? Only a year ago she was a somewhat regular seventeen year old girl. And now? Well, that also hurt to think about.
Even so, she wouldn't change a single second of it. Well, of course there were some parts she would change, obviously. But she would never, ever give up Senketsu, Akio, Mako, Satsuki, or any of the other friends she had made through her time here.
Ryuko took a deep breath as she and Senketsu cleared the last layer of the Life Fibers. As of now, the two had now cleared the Earth's atmosphere.
She just needed to defeat Ragyo, and then she could be with them all, when they didn't have some big bad goon to fight. She could actually enjoy their company for a change, instead of having a worry in the back of her mind about what came next.
"We're almost there."
Ryuko shook her head. Now was no time to be reminiscing or thinking about the future.
"Right," Ryuko nodded, patting Senketsu's eye just as Ragyo and the satellite came into view. "Let's do it, Senketsu!"
Senketsu's thrusters sped up, sending the two barreling directly towards Ragyo.
Ragyo was none the wiser to the two's approach, her attention completely taken up with her satellite. Shinra-Koketsu looked more daunting now, as the cloth of it seemed thicker and harder. Not only that, but what looked to be eyes had sprouted out of Ragyo's shoulders, similar looking to both Junketsu and Senketsu's.
"What?" Ragyo murmured, finally noticing the two's approach when it was already too late.
The two closed the distance between them and Ragyo in a flash, their bodies slamming directly into Ragyo's.
Ragyo grunted in pain and surprise, her body being thrown into space and away from the satellite.
She quickly righted her course, flipping around in mid air to face Ryuko and Senketsu.
"That's far enough, Ragyo!" Ryuko shouted as she came to a stop, the four orange coattails that were spinning around her waist coming to a stop.
Ragyo's surprised look slowly turned to a neutral expression as realization dawned on her as to how Ryuko had followed her up there in the first place.
"Ah, I see. You made a patchwork garment out of all the available Life Fibers to come up here," Ragyo observed. "But still, you are too late.
Ryuko frowned, but otherwise gave no reaction to her mother's words.
"Look at the surface. The signal has reached the Life Fibers all across the world! Humanity's conversion into fabric cannot be stopped!"
Ryuko refused to look down. Not because she was afraid to see Earth covered in layers of red Life Fibers, but because she refused to accept it. When she was done here, they'd all be gone.
"I can't give up that easily!"
Slowly but surely, Ryuko raised her arms into the air, her two scissor blades connecting at the hilt to finally form the one scissor they were always meant to be.
"I have loved ones waiting for me back home! I can't, no, I won't lose to you here!"
"You and your nonsense," Ragyo sighed, shaking her head.
Ryuko shifted her grip on her scissor, pointing it's tip at Ragyo as the blades expanded.
"Chew on this!"
Ryuko shot forwards, closing the hilt of her scissor and trying to cut through the cloth of Ragyo's Koketsu.
The blades slammed together, but were stopped by the cloth of Shinra-Koketsu. Even if her scissor blade was completed, it still wasn't sharp enough to cut through the cloth of Ragyos's uniform.
Ragyo laughed at Ryuko's failed attempt, more than a little amused by the outcome.
"What's the matter?" Ragyo continued to laugh before calming down. "That scissor blade is also made of hardened Life Fibers. It is powerless before the Absolute Submission, which is the master of all Life Fibers!"
Ryuko gritted her teeth, her expression darkening.
"Still, you must be punished for the sin of turning your blade against this grand cloth-"
White tendrils appeared from the back of Koketsu, each of them pointing directly towards Ryuko.
"-Which is the equal of any god!"
The tendrils shot directly towards Ryuko, each of them sharper than the last.
Ryuko growled and dodged the first one, then used her scissor to block the next three.
But, despite her valiant effort, they proved too much for her.
She wasn't fast enough to dodge or block the rest of the tendrils. Each of them pierced Ryuko's body, punching clean through her flesh and out through the other side.
Ryuko cried in pain as they lifted her into the air, the spikes digging even further into her body.
Without a moment's notice, the tendrils threw her off, sending her hurling towards Earth.
Ryuko's vision blurred as she plunged towards Earth, the wounds caused by Ragyo already healing.
"Ryuko!" Senketsu cried! "Hang in there!"
Ryuko shook her head, ridding her mind of its momentary lapse.
"Yeah, I'm okay!" Ryuko shouted back as she righted herself. "I'm still good to go!"
The two flew back towards Ragyo, Ryuko's determination still burning bright in her chest.
Ragyo laughed at their plight, leveling herself out and flying to meet the two.
The two forces of nature met halfway, Ryuko's scissor blade clashing with Ragyo's Koketsu.
"My poor daughter who was entangled in Soichiro's dying wish," Ragyo spoke as the two exchanged blows as they flew through space. "With all your power, why do you not understand the fundamental principal of the universe?!"
The two were flashes of light as they collided, Ryuko orange and Ragyo purple. They were moving faster than the human eye could track, possibly even faster than the speed of light as the clashed against each other. Their fight was otherworldly.
A duel fit for the Gods.
"Look, Ryuko, at the blue world," Ragyo continued as she went on the offensive, forcing Ryuko to block or evade. Even then, a fair amount of strikes got through and bit into her flesh. "At the shining sun! At the twinkling stars! This is the cosmos. But even this beautiful vista will one day be destroyed. Creation and destruction. They have been preordained since this galaxy was born."
Ryuko grunted in pain and annoyance, just waiting for Ragyo to shut her trap.
"The Life Fibers work in the same way! They are part of the law of the universe!"
"When are you going to quit monologing?!"
Ryuko dodged Ragyo's next strike, and attacked with one of her own.
Ragyo blocked it easily, Ryuko's scissor blade hovering only inches from her face.
"How can my very own daughter be so dense?!"
"It ain't like I was raised by you!"
"Oh, yes! That was a mistake!"
Two tendrils shot from Koketsu, digging into Ryuko's gut and chest and pulling in opposite directions.
Ryuko was thrown away, her deep wounds already mending as she came to a stop.
If Ryuko had been paying attention, she might have noticed Ragyo wince.
"It'll take more than that to do me in!" Ryuko smirked, but on the inside she was filled with pain.
Ragyo scoffed and shook her head.
"I must be subconsciously pulling my punches," Ragyo noted to herself. "It would appear that I still have a bit of humanity left within me."
Ryuko's eye twitched, her smirk turning into a snarl.
"...Humanity?" She mumbled. "Humanity?! Where was your humanity when you killed his parents! How dare you say such a thing to me!"
Ryuko charged Ragyo, cocking her arms back to deliver a vicious swing at Ragyo's chest.
A tendril shot out and blocked Ryuko's strike, followed by her next one, and the one after that.
"Don't you dare use a word like that!" Ryuko shouted as she swung.
"I suppose you're right," Ragyo sneered, showing her fangs.
The hood she was wearing began to mutate, pooling at the sides of her head and expanding outwards to form what looked to be horns.
Ryuko gritted her teeth in preparation as hundreds of tendrils snaked out from behind Ragyo.
"This ends now!"
The tendrils all flew towards Ryuko, impaling her faster than she could hope to block or dodge.
For each spike that dug into her flesh and pulled out, another three took its place.
Ryuko cried out in pain, doing her best to stay conscious during the onslaught.
Distancing herself from Ragyo and her onslaught, Ryuko took a breather as her wounds began to heal completely.
"I'll decide my own ending! I don't take orders from you!"
And just like that, Ryuko charged Ragyo again, sending herself back into the thick of it.
This time, however, she was able to repel each of her attacks
"The strength of your Life Fiber compatibility is a precious thing!" Ragyo laughed as four tendrils snuck through her defenses and impaled her, throwing her to the Life Fiber layers below.
Ryuko hit the makeshift floor and bounced, rolling across the ground for a few seconds before stopping herself with her back foot.
As she rose back to her full height, the last of her injuries had already healed. Even with this strength she had, time was running out. Both for her, and the rest of the world. The small area that was yet to be covered was beginning to close. If she didn't end this soon, the world would be completely covered.
"Ryuko, this is bad," Senketsu spoke. "We're running out of time!"
"I know," Ryuko replied and raised her blade. "This will end it!"
Pushing herself off the ground, Ryuko began sprinting on the Life Fiber layer, her blade raised and ready.
Vaulting into the air, she brought her blade back, letting out a war cry as she flew at her mother.
Ragyo laughed and raised her arm, the cloth turning into a razor sharp blade.
With a single swing Ragyo pierced Ryuko's abdomen, nearly impaling her entire front. Blood began to pour from the wound, more than a regular human would even have in their body to begin with. Blood dribbled down from Ryuko's mouth, slowly moving down her cheek as she tilted her head back.
"What is going to end?" Ragyo squealed in delight. "Your life?!"
"You're the one who's finished."
Ragyo stopped laughing. "What?"
Grabbing Ragyo's arm, Ryuko lowered her head, pulling herself further up on Ragyo's arm.
"Did you forget? The closer I come to dying, the stronger I bounce back!"
Realization washed over Ragyo, her eyes widening.
"You... deliberately took the brunt of my attack?"
"I gritted my teeth and took it as a dose of tough love from Mom," Ryuko spat, the venom clear in her voice.
Black and red streams of energy began to pool in Ryuko's wound from the space around her.
"And I will until Senkestu and I max out our growth!"
Ragyo gasped, her head turning back and forth as she watched the energy get sucked in by Ryuko.
"Perhaps," Ragyo admitted. "But still, Life Fibers cannot injure me!"
Ryuko smirked as the energy she absorbed increased.
"Even if I absorb that Absolute Submission field?"
One of Koketsu's eyes turned to dust as Ryuko's absorption increased in power.
Ryuko's grip tightened around Ragyo's arm, her glare intensifying. In that moment, it all became clear to her what her dad's true intention was.
"Dad's ultimate weapon wasn't some stupid scissor blade!" Ryuko shouted as she pulled herself closer. "It was me and Senketsu!"
"It's the infinite absorption ability he gave us!"
It was all so clear now. That's why she had been able to absorb the Life Fibers from the foes she defeated. It wasn't just for show, or some trophy of their victory, it was meant to nourish her power!
"I am evolving," Senketsu yelled, as he too understood. "I have free will, and I can make myself understood by humans!"
"We're neither human nor clothing!" Ryuko began.
"But at the same time, we are both human and clothing! We are everything!" Senketsu finished.
"People can't become clothing! People are people, and clothing is clothing!"
"What's this nonsensical garbage you're spouting?!" Ragyo screamed, as an unfamiliar emotion clouded her heart.
"Nonsensical is our thing!" Ryuko retorted.
The flood gates finally opened as the streams increased in intensity, enveloping Ryuko in a heavenly light. The rest of Ragyo's Koketsu had been absorbed by Ryuko, leaving the would-be destroyer of humanity naked and useless.
Throwing Ragyo off of her, Ryuko reached out and grasped a hold of the satellite, bringing the makeshift microphone to her mouth.
"People are people, and clothes are clothes!" Ryuko repeated herself, her voice going far and wide across the cosmos.
A great flash of light emitted from Ryuko and the satellite, covering Earth in its rays.
Ragyo could only watch stupefied as her plan began to unravel completely.
"Turn all humans back into humans!"
A cracking sound echoed throughout space as cracks began to form on the cocoon that covered the Earth's surface. The breaks began to spread like wildfire, and soon the entire layer of Life Fibers began to deteriorate as the human hostages were freed from their captivity and sent back down to Earth.
"This can't be happening..." Ragyo mumbled as she watched the very last bit of the layer crumble away. "Everything is returning to nothing?"
The battle was over. Ragyo had lost, and Ryuko had won.
Ryuko let go of the satellite, turning to face her mother one final time. Senketsu had reverted back to his regular state, the energy given to them from the Goku uniforms now depleted. Not that it mattered anymore. Victory was assured.
"That's right, Mother," Ryuko spoke, her voice but a whisper. "The Earth will never be a Cocoon Sphere now. Come back to Earth, and face trial for your crimes against humanity."
And more importantly, her friends. Ryuko would never forget what her mother has done to them.
Ragyo stabbed herself through the chest, pulling out her own beating heart and holding it high.
"I will decide how I die."
Ryuko only frowned. Not a single fiber of her being would tell Ragyo to stop. Not after what had happened here today. If she wanted to commit suicide, so be it.
"Ryuko, this is not the end," Ragyo sneered as she held her beating heart in the palm of her hand. "Life Fibers are continuing their advance across the cosmos. More will come to this world! Of that you can be sure."
Ryuko remained neutral. Empty threats from a beaten woman would not scare her.
"Even if they do, people will go on being people. Of that you can be sure."
Ragyo only giggled, her hand closing around her heart and crushing it.
Ragyo's body exploded into thousands of red fibers, the fibers dispersing and spreading throughout the cosmos.
Ryuko watched long after the last fiber disappeared. So that was it. It was done.
Unbeknownst to her, Senketsu was doing much more than just losing a bit of energy.
"Let's go home, Ryuko."
Ryuko blinked, finally turning her head away from the vast nothingness and down towards her sailor uniform.
She finally noticed the bits of his cloth that were beginning to degenerate.
"What's wrong, Senketsu?" Ryuko asked, a seed of worry beginning to grow in her heart.
"Shinra-Koketsu's power appears to be greater than I thought," Senketsu whispered.
Ryuko's eyes widened. "Wait, are you-"
Senketsu moved on his own, flying upwards and then plunging back towards the Earth's atmosphere.
"Hurry! There's not much time!"
"Not much time? What do you mean?!"
Senketsu didn't answer. He could only make sure that Ryuko got home safely.
As the two plummeted towards the Earth, the heat from reentry began to increase, so much so that flames were beginning to break out around them. If they kept going like this, neither of them would make it back alive. Something had to be done.
Senketsu slithered off of Ryuko's body, placing himself in front of her head to protect her from the heat of atmospheric entry.
He did not let any cries of pain or anguish escape him as the flames licked at his body. He couldn't, and he wouldn't.
"S-Senketsu!" Ryuko stammered as tears came to her eyes, the worry now almost too much to bear. "Don't do anything crazy!"
To that, Senketsu could only chuckle.
"Coming from you, who has done nothing but?" Senketsu stated calmly, his eyes meeting hers. To him, there was no reason to be afraid. He knew exactly how his story ended.
And as long as Ryuko was safe, it would be worth it. It would all be worth it.
Ryuko gasped, her eyes widening in fear. The severity of the situation was made clear to her as Senketsu's cloth body began to catch fire.
"Even so, this is fine," Senketsu spoke plainly as the fires began to engulf him. To him, it really was fine.
As long as she was safe... As long as she was safe, nothing else mattered. Senketsu would protect her till his dying breath.
"I am sure your father is satisfied," Senketsu continued, undisturbed by the fires now eating at him.
His voice cracked as he continued.
"I had a wonderful time meeting you."
For someone like Senketsu, Ryuko had given him the greatest gift he could ever ask for.
"Idiot! S-stop sounding like you're wrapping things up!"
Senketsu tried to move his sleeve to wipe away her tears one final time, but it was already gone, eaten by the fire.
His words would have to do.
"Don't cry, Ryuko. The time comes when a girl outgrows her sailor uniform. From now on, wear whatever you want. Clothing that is cuter than I."
Senketsu smiled at the thought of it. Ryuko all dressed up and having fun. At the thought of his best friend enjoying the rest of her life, happy and carefree.
Even this, his own death, would be worth it if that wish came true.
Ryuko began to cry fully, tears streaming down her face as she stared into Senketsu's eyes one final time.
"You got it... I'll do that... I-I'll even wear clothes that'll make you jealous!" Ryuko cried. "Skirts, dresses, you name it!"
Senketsu closed his eyes, his heart finally at peace.
"Good. I'm... glad."
With his final words, Senketsu turned to ash.
Ryuko watched in horror as Senketsu's ashes dispersed in the air, disappearing as quickly as they had appeared.
Senketsu was gone.
Ryuko continued to plummet towards the Earth's surface, her arms outstretched in the slim hope she might be able to feel her sailor uniform one final time.
Akio's eyes had never left the sky since Ryuko's departure. He had kept on watching, waiting for a sign that Ryuko was returning. Anything.
And he wasn't the only one.
Satsuki stood beside him, her eyes trained on the horizon as she waited to see her sister's return.
Of course, there was the slim chance that Ryuko had perished in the conflict, but neither one of them would mention that. Never would they mention that.
They would keep on watching. They wouldn't believe in any other outcome than her safe return.
Akio's eyes widened.
Without a second thought, he began barreling towards the opposite side of the stadium.
Satsuki's eyes widened too when she caught sight of what Akio had saw.
There, like a shooting star flying through the sky, was Ryuko, her body motionless as she fell back down to the Earth.
"RYUKO!" Satsuki screamed as she began to run after Akio.
Ryuko wasn't moving. Her body was completely still as it fell.
"SNAP OUT OF IT RYUKO!" Satsuki screamed once more as she caught up to Akio. She wouldn't dare to believe that Ryuko might have perished.
"Damn it," Akio grunted, pushing more energy into his legs as he turned his head up towards the sky. "RYUKO, WAKE UP!"
His body was tired, but it was beaten.
He would reach her.
Akio and Satsuki locked hands as they ran and raised their joined arms. The two knew what they had to do.
"RYUKOOOO!" The two shouted as she came plummeting towards them.
Ryuko slammed into their conjoined arms, the force of it sending them skidding backwards on their feet.
Both of them wrapped their other arms around her protectively as their feet dug into the ground.
Mako came running up behind them, throwing her body into the three to stop their skid.
Even with their combined efforts, the force of Ryuko's impact was too much.
The Elite Four came next. Nonon first, then Inumuta, then Uzu, followed by Gamagoori at the rear.
Even then, it wasn't enough.
The Mankanshokus came next, followed by Aikuro and Tsumugu, and then finished off by everyone else.
The crowd slammed into the destroyed tower, the tower itself crumbling at the impact.
They hit it hard, but not enough to cause any real damage to themselves. With the combined efforts of everyone, they had been able to stop Ryuko's descent.
They had done it.
Akio panted, a smile growing on his face as he looked down at the girl in his arms.
"You kept your promise."
Ryuko smiled weakly up at him.
"Of course I did."
It was over. It was finally over. The battle that Akio had been fighting for years was finally finished. From here on out, they wouldn't have to worry about the future. The worry that had always been gnawing at his brain would finally be gone. No longer would there be any fear that tomorrow might never come. No longer would there be any fear as to what the next day might hold.
Their victory didn't come without sacrifices. The wounds that had been inflicted might take months, even years to heal. Their hearts would always carry the scars given to them over the course of this seemingly never ending battle.
Those who were lost today would never be forgotten. They would live on in the hearts of those that loved them. They would carry them within their hearts, where ever they went, always and forever. In that way, they could be immortal.
In the end, they would honor them by living on.
By continuing the life that Senketsu had always wanted to protect.
By continuing the life that Hiroshi and Kasumi Takahiro had created.
In that way, they could live for them.
Akio and Ryuko might not realize that now, but as time passed by, they would. With the love that Ryuko, Akio, and everyone else shared with each other, the wounds would lessen to some degree, but they would never be forgotten.
With one hand running through Ryuko's hair, and his other hand still connected to Satsuki's, Akio turned his head up to the sky.
The sun was beginning to rise as a new day began, but the stars of the night sky could still be seen.
In fact, they had never been brighter.
A battle has been fought, and is now over.
Place your sword upon the ground, and rest in the temporal peace.
After dozing in the warmth of a dream, a new day will begin.
The days keep passing by...
And we still chase the same star we once saw.
And there you have it.
Credit goes out to the great visual novel/anime Fate/Stay Night for the excellent poem that I borrowed at the end. I found it rather fitting for the ending to this chapter. I love this little tidbit of writing, and I couldn't help but use it as a little send off. So, remember that! It comes from Fate/Stay Night! It is not mine!
It was quite the emotional roller coaster to write this chapter, I'll tell you that much.
A big thank you to everyone that helped me brainstorm, come up with ideas, and those who shared your ideas with me!
Well everyone, that's that! I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already, so stay tuned for the next installment in the story of Akio Takahiro and Ryuko Matoi!
Until next time!