Disclaimer: I don't own 'em.
Warnings: Angst, pain, might be a tearjerker. This is a Christmas present for Zorra (yes, that actually is a warning).
A/N: A Christmas gift for my best friend Zorra (I'm still working on D's >.The Emperor's Servant. Sorta from Ryo's POV, it's my take on the episode. Follows the events that happened, though definitely not word for word. It also gets AU from the episode--
at some point--
*mild glare at muse* Krystal….
~*innocently* Yes? …Fine fine, I'll let up. Still can't believe you managed it.~
*mutters* You and me both.
Name Key: RW/YST
Ryo of Wildfire/Rekka no Ryo
Mia/Nasty (it's a nickname, not something cruel)
Kento of Hardrock/Kongo no Shu
Rowen of Strata/Tenku no Touma
Sage of Halo/Korin no Seiji
Sai/Cye of Torrent/Suiko no Shin
Harel's Armor of Inferno/Kikoutei
Ryo frowned, his concentration on repairing his swords faltering. He felt…something, a flicker of his inner spirit, his chi. Looking around the volcano, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.
A little wary, Ryo again opened himself back up to his armor and the volcano, ultimately to his element. His chi was tied into his element, which was why he and Rekka were connected, why they were chosen as partners. Without that tie, Rekka would have been too much for him; would burn and char him, most likely from the inside out. He suspected the other Troopers had similar ties with their elements, but they never spoke of it.
With the volcano's assistance, Ryo was able to guide Rekka's power and his own element, and repair his swords. Satisfied, he joined up with Nasty and Jun, thanking them for waiting. He stayed silent, patently waiting out Jun's excited outburst about his success, before suggesting they head back. He didn't want the others to get worried.
He hesitated for a moment, gasping as he felt something off with his chi. Looking around, over his shoulder past Nasty and Jun, towards the Volcano's opening. He tried to pierce the darkness surrounding it, while also focusing on his chi. Concentrating, he could find nothing wrong, and put it down to the exertion from repairing Rekka's swords. He quickly started for the jeep again, assuring Nasty that it was nothing when she asked.
Ryo was silent for most of the ride, focusing on regenerating his chi. It was slow going, but he'd never used his chi so directly for so long; he wasn't concerned, save for the thought that another attack would come before he was back at full strength.
He was only paying half attention to the "conversation" between Jun and Nasty. He spoke up once when 'Yaku and Kokuen-Ko were brought up, and again with some comment about Shu that he wasn't paying any mind to, so Nasty wouldn't suspect something was wrong. He himself wasn't sure if there was, but he knew that something was off.
He was about to give up on figuring it out on his own, about to decide to talk to the guys when they got back, when It appeared. A shrouded warrior, if the weapon it held was anything to go by, standing directly in front of the jeep. He knew Nasty saw it to, because she made a surprised noise and swerved, trying to avoid it.
Ryo felt his eyes widen in surprise when they passed through the figure. He watched it as it passed first through the front of the jeep, Nasty, then out through the back. An illusion…? He quickly climbed out of the jeep, vaguely annoyed when he saw Nasty had also gotten out; she'd be safer in the jeep, getting herself and Jun out of here.
Unable to find the demon, Ryo looked up to the sky, once more having that off feeling. His attention was abruptly brought forward as the ground before him erupted, and the demon came forth from it. Could the demon be responsible for this feeling?
Shit, was his first thought. His second was to stall for time, hoping the others would get there soon. He knew he wasn't up to commanding Rekka's full power just yet, even with the swords fixed. He'd be unable to protect Nasty and Jun, seeing as they insisted on staying near (but out of) the jeep, behind him. He called out to the demon, trying to buy himself (and the others) some time so he could figure out what to do. He summoned Rekka while he still could.
The demon prepared to attack with the whip that had been resting on his shoulders, around his neck. Ryo charged first, trying to get to the demon before the whip was fully removed.
The demon vanished before Ryo's swords made contact, reappearing behind Ryo. Shit! Where'd he go?! Ryo thought, looking around. He caught sight of the demon appearing behind him. The demon was already bringing his whip down when Ryo turned to fully face him.
His breath stuck, caught off-guard when the whip split into multiple tails. He was only able to block two or three; the rest made their mark, shoving Ryo back with their force. Unbalanced, he landed on his back
Opening eyes he had clenched before impact, he saw Yaku being thrown over his own body by the demon's next strike. Getting up quickly, Ryo internally winced at how sluggish his movements already were. He wanted to look over his shoulder to make certain Yaku was all right, but knew he couldn't take his eyes off the demon.
"Feeling helpless? Your yoroi is no match for me," the demon finally spoke in a snide, condescending voice. Ryo didn't hear Jun shout out in response to this as he normally would, so he assumed that Nasty had finally decided to get herself and Jun to a safer place. He wasn't about to take his eyes off the demon. Helpless? Not quite, I've managed to hold you off and keep you here. I can feel the guys, they've finally made it.
Whatever else the demon had to say was cut off by one of Touma's arrows landing just in front of him. The demon quickly jumped out of the way, further back, lest another came.
Ryo meanwhile, was grateful that most of the guys had jumped down in front of him. Only Shu was behind him, but his focus would be more on the demon then Ryo. Getting his breath back, Ryo warned the others that the demon was dangerous.
He had just finished his warning when the demon attacked. Leaping into the air from his position in the tree, the demon had his whip coming down upon the Troopers as he descended. Ryo, having only just regained his breath, didn't have the energy to move out of the way. He could only watch in horror as the others followed his lead, even as the whip split and went for their throats. Ryo belatedly realized that at some point Shu had moved up in front of him, with the other Troopers.
Silently thanking the creator of adrenalin, Ryo brought his swords up, trying to hack away at the whip. When it didn't cut, Ryo wasn't sure if it was because of what the whip was made of, or because he himself was so weak.
He could hear the demon laughing and speaking, but couldn't spare the energy to comprehend what was being said. Shortly after the voice stopped, a black current, the demon's energy, enveloped him. He was vaguely aware that the others were suffering the same.
His attention was instantly snapped back to the demon coming down upon him. His body was frozen, paralyzed by both surprise and pain, and no small amount of fatigue.
Yaku's name was torn from his throat (he wasn't sure where the renewed energy was from, but he was nonetheless grateful for it) as the tiger jumped in front of him, taking and deflecting the demon's blow.
Ryo demanded the demon's name as it rose in front of him. Silently fighting to stand and stay upright, Ryo hoped to keep the demon's attention on himself, giving the guy's a chance to break free of the demon's energy. The demon responded, and he was pretty sure he heard Touma and Seiji speak back to it. But he still couldn't afford the energy to understand what was being said.
Oh shit, now what? Ryo mentally moaned, as the demon in front of him started to glow. Damn it! Ryo thought fiercely, forcing his arms up, bringing his swords crossed above his head for protection. It hurt to move, like each joint was frozen in place, and all his tendons were made solid.
The demon was still bearing down upon him, his halberd stopped only by Ryo's twin blades. It was taking all he had to keep his arms in place, all his body wanted to do was collapse in on itself. Distantly, he could hear voices, Three, I think, but couldn't focus on them, couldn't recognize them.
His strength waning, his arms slowly lowering, Ryo silently praised Yaku, even as he unknowingly called out his name. The tiger had jumped at the demon (Kokuyoen, an unfamiliar voice whispered in the back of his mind), drawing it away from Ryo and blessedly allowing the fire warrior to lower his arms. Painful as it was to move, it was doubly so to keep the arms raised.
Ryo twisted around, making only a half turn before cursing himself for doing so. Through a pain filled daze, Ryo watched as Yaku and…Kokuyoen faced off. He knew he called out only because of the pain lancing through his jaw and checks.
He watched, horrified as Yaku was struck and enveloped in the demon's energy. He watched in fascination along with Kokuyoen as flames from the heavens surrounded Yaku. Though unlike Kokuyoen, Ryo had no idea what was happening until the flames were absorbed.
Kokuen-Ko sent the energy from the flames to Ryo, temporarily returning his strength. He recognized Kokuen-Ko, and then the Swords of Fervor. Seeing both those and his own swords resonating, he knew to whom his renewed energy was owed.
Shu drew his attention to the others, and seeing that all the armors were glowing, Ryo knew what was about to happen.
I must have been borrowing a small bit of their energy this entire time! That's how I managed this long, and why they've been unable to do much. I was able to tap into the bond created by the Kikoutei without wearing the yoroi. That would also explain how I felt them getting closer.
Focused on his thoughts and realizations, Ryo was mildly surprised to hear the others telling him to summon the Kikoutei. They don't realize I've already drained some of their energy. "But the yoroi will suck all the power out of you!" he cried out, trying to make them understand.
He was…both saddened and wounded that they didn't understand, that they thought he was worried over the usual. They didn't understand he was serious, speaking literally.
Maybe…maybe I can…. Decision made, Ryo turned his back to his friends, facing Kokuyoen's sword and stopping it right between his own eyes. Using Rekka's and Kokuen-Ko's energy, Ryo held the blade in place; bringing his own chi into play, he threw the sword back. Allowing his own chi to flow through him, it became less painful to move, like his joints and tendons had thawed.
Summoning the other Trooper's powers, he controlled how much he took from them (this taxing his own energy, not that he cared). It wasn't as much as usual for summoning the Kikoutei, but because of his earlier drain on them, they didn't notice. Mouth open in a silent scream, Ryo fought to control the energies he was absorbing. Fought to make it summon the Kikoutei instead of replenishing his own lowered chi.
The Kikoutei's appearance was even more painful then usual. With his lowered chi, Ryo had to fight harder with it to have it do as he wanted. He'd known all along that there was more to the Kikoutei then the other yoroi. He'd never said anything to the others because: a) he didn't want to frighten them away from using the Kikoutei when it was needed (the Kikoutei would rip their power from them if it felt it needed to), and b) he was afraid his concerns about the Kikoutei would be downplayed, possibly even belittled. And that would ultimately hurt him more then any Kikoutei summoning.
He was still once the Kikoutei had formed, drawing his strength and energies together. He even waited a bit to draw the swords from Kokuen-Ko.
The Kikoutei brought with it some clarity and Ryo was able to understand what Kokuyoen said; though if it was through his own devices or because the Kikoutei knew it was involved in the demon's actions, Ryo wasn't certain. Using as little energy as possible, Ryo demanded what the demon meant by "duties," and then the identity of the demon's "Master."
Ryo had been suspicious when the demon sheathed its sword, and started gathering the Kikoutei's power, combining it with his own chi. As the demon worked his magic around him and his friends, Ryo took what energy Kokuen-Ko could spare, and also gleaned a small bit from his friends. He refused however, to suck any of them dry.
He continued to concentrate, even as the ice covered him and the surrounding area. It rose up and consumed him, and he assumed the others behind him as well. He couldn't spare the focus or energy to reach out with his newfound senses to check on them.
As he started to release the gathered energy, he felt a sharp pull at his own chi and heard the ice above him crack before the power reached it. Shoving that information to the back of his mind, Ryo focused on destroying the ice and releasing himself and his friends.
Focusing everything into his swords, Ryo paid no head to what the demon had to say. Even as he focused his power, Ryo felt his chi draining at an alarming rate. While he completed his attack and destroyed the demon, something clicked in the back of his mind.
Though the demon disintegrated, Ryo could still feel the energy radiating around the yoroi. With realization and resignation, Ryo followed the Kikoutei's commands, knowing the results would help the Troopers.
Releasing what energy he had left in the way the Kikoutei commanded, Ryo wasn't as shocked as the others when a Netherworld gate appeared. Weary, Ryo let the yoroi slowly move closer. He didn't know what the Kikoutei had in mind, but he knew he couldn't stop it. It was with relief that he saw Kokuen-Ko in front of him, stopping the Kikoutei in its tracks. His attention was quickly returned to the gate as it opened.
He was surprised enough to hear Arago's voice coming from the gate, that he managed to speak it. He let Arago's words wash over him, but was aware that the Kikoutei was very intent on what was said. After his initial outburst, Ryo only spoke up at the Kikoutei's insistence. He didn't have the energy to concentrate on Arago and keep the Kikoutei in check.
As the gate faded, so to did Ryo. Standing there, staring at nothing where the Gate had been, the others behind him, Ryo struggled with the Kikoutei. He was only able to send the other Troopers' energy back to them because the Kikoutei had had to weave its own energy with Ryo's chi so that its host would survive.
Having that support ripped from the tattered remains of his own chi, Ryo collapsed as the Kikoutei faded. The guys, who had been discussing Arago's words amongst themselves, weren't too surprised or worried. They knew how draining the Kikoutei was on Ryo.
Banishing their yorois, Seiji was the first to reach Ryo. Like the others, Seiji was still in his undergear. He was surprised to see Ryo was in normal street cloths, but decided not to make a fuss about it, as it would let him check for injuries much easier. Bathing Ryo in his chi, Seiji looked for anything serious.
Shin, who was standing near the jeep watching Shu and Jun goof off, chocked when he felt…a stab of fear, pain, anger, hatred, and remorse, all at once. He was at Seiji's side in an instant, not quite knowing how he knew those emotions were Seiji's; he noticed that Touma and Shu were right behind him.
Looking over the blonde's shoulder, Shin didn't even need to ask what was wrong. Lips purple, skin pallid, open eyes a dull wisp of the vibrant blue they once were. And the bright, warm presence in the back of his mind, its existence noted only now in its absence.
The small part of his mind that wasn't paralyzed with horror noted that Shu was near the cliff where the gate had appeared, shouting. What his mind couldn't process. Touma had fallen to his knees at Ryo's other side, and Shin could hear Nasty getting Jun into the jeep. No doubt she'd figured out what was wrong by Shu's screams. Or any of their behavior, really. Shin hadn't realized he'd laid a hand on Seiji's shoulder until he felt Seiji's on top of his own.
Looking down, eyes locking with Seiji's tear-filled eyes, Shin could only nod in response to Seiji's whispered, "He's gone…."