This is the last chapter of Libera Me. I can foresee the screams and threats right now, but worry not! I had originally planned to end this story here anyway, though some things have changed over time and I've come up with new ideas and plot twists along the way. Still, this point in the story marks a shift in the dynamics between characters as well as the direction of the plot, so it seems like an appropriate breaking point. I won't say more here, but all will be explained at the bottom of the page.
Before we go on though, I wanted to give a shout out to my friend, neowolf, who really helped me iron out some plot points in the next few chapters. She also encouraged me to make the "break" with this story, so if you don't like the idea you can blame her. ;P
Death by Moonlight
Beatrice opened her eyes slowly, drinking in the electric energy of the night; she could taste the potential in the air as all of nature fell into alignment with her powers. She had been waiting for this moment for so long, slowly gathering followers and searching around the world for the perfect place to open the gate; she had chosen this location because it was a little known gathering place of power which just happened to be compatible with her own. There were more ideal locales for such an endeavor, to be sure, portals of ancient energy with a stronger connection between the human world and the demon world--but those places were heavily guarded on both sides. This place, on the other hand, was easily accessible in this world, and also had the added benefit of being close to the place where her master was caged between the worlds.
"My lady, everything is prepared."
"Good." Beatrice turned to look at the servant as she stepped out into the cool, moist air of the evening. His face was partially obscured by the mist in the air, but his identity was unimportant. Smiling in anticipation, she began her descent into the valley where the door to the demon world would open, her long dress dragging over the grass. "The stage is set and all of the players have arrived. We should begin the first Rite immediately."
"Yes, my lady," the man said with a bow, disappearing into a swirl of fog.
She felt her master's presence slip into her mind. I am waiting for you on the other side, Beatrice. You know what must be done.
Yes, master. The time has come. She paused at the edge of the circle of power her followers had created, taking a deep breath and feeling a rush of power wash over her as she crossed the barrier. Beyond the edge of the circle the air was clear, a column of night rising from the ground to the dark, star-studded sky. Everything is in place, master. Even Dante cannot stop me now. The only thing that concerns me is that witch girl; you were right about her powers. She has become bold, trying to taunt me by announcing her arrival here.
Her powers are extraordinary, but she is foolish to flaunt them. She cannot control what she does not understand, and she has only an inkling of her own true powers. You needn't worry; she can fight you, but she cannot defeat you until she realizes her true purpose.
I understand, master. Beatrice stood behind the stone altar, her followers forming a circle around her, their faces hidden by thick black robes. Raising her hands slowly, her palms upward to the sky, she began drawing on the power of the charged air around her. "Bring the first sacrifice to me."
Dante felt Robin and Amon approaching before he heard them, their boots whispering over the dry grass. He could tell from just a cursory glance that his suspicions about Amon's delay in answering the phone were as much as fact; Robin's hair was loose around her shoulders and the flush on her cheeks and lips said all that needed to be said. He found their choice of timing for such amorous activities to be beyond stupid, but he also knew he had little right to judge anyone's choices in that area. He was a creature of impulse most of the time, and he knew he had made more than one bad decision in his life where passion was concerned.
"They're here, Mike," he announced into his headset.
"It's about time," Karasuma muttered anxiously over the connection.
Switching on his own headset, Amon asked, "Any word on Sakaki or Doujima?"
"Not yet," Dante replied, pushing away from the tree he had been leaning against. "But Trish found signs of nobodies."
Dante shrugged. "They're the ugly little shits that attacked us in the theatre. They kind of look like doggy survivors of Chernobyl--they have heads and appendages to spare and smell like rotten egg salad mixed with raw fish." He saw Robin shiver out of the corner of his eye and realized that his description probably could have used a little editing.
"Can you see anything from the satellite, Michael?" Amon asked so seriously that Dante figured he was trying to make up for his previous lack of responsibility with extra focus now.
The sound of Michael typing feverishly was followed by a quiet sigh. "Something's interfering with the infrared feed. I can't see much of anything."
"Maybe it has something to do with this fog," Robin offered quietly, creating whorls in the mist with her fingers.
"Probably," Dante agreed. "If you ask me, it's the magical equivalent of a smoke screen."
"I can track Trish's location through her headset though," Michael said, typing rapidly on his keyboard again. "She's almost at the position where Sakaki and Doujima were supposed to be waiting."
"We should get moving, then," Amon stated flatly, his lips pressed into a thin line.
Dante looked at him in surprise. "Don't you want to know whether they made it or not first?"
Amon's slate grey eyes focused on him coldly. "If they didn't make it then we should move even faster."
"Amon," Robin said faintly, her hand catching in Amon's sleeve. She was looking off through the trees to their right with an unfocused gaze, swaying slightly on her feet. "Beatrice is starting the ritual."
Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Dante glanced up at the patch of sky above them framed by crisscrossing tree limbs. Indigo clouds glowing with lightning filigree swept across the stars as he watched, moving swiftly toward the horizon. The sky had been clear without a sign of rain only minutes before, but now the weight of an approaching storm was heavy in the air. He didn't even have to consider the possibility that it was natural.
"She's a showy bitch, isn't she?" Dante said with a smirk.
"What's happening?" Karasuma asked over the headset, a hint of fear in her voice.
"Looks like a spring shower just blew in. Somehow I don't think it's going to bring any 'May flowers' though." Without looking back to see if Robin and Amon were following, Dante took off through the trees, flexing his hands and considering pulling out a gun or two just to feel the reassuring weight of them. He knew that conventional weapons would not be his chief method of attack in this fight though, so he left his guns in their holsters and his sword in its sheath, readying himself mentally instead.
The desperate sound of his own breathing echoed in the quiet, and Sakaki looked up at Doujima, the metal of the gun slick beneath his sweaty hands. He had gone through half his ammunition, but had barely made a mark on the creatures that had swarmed around them. Doujima, on the other hand, had turned into a cool-headed, fearless killer, her gun held comfortably in her hand and her posture perfect as she dropped beast after beast with her deadly aim.
He had never seen her like this before, though--now that he was over his jealousy--he found he rather liked it. For the first time since he'd met her, he found himself comparing her to one of the kickass female game characters instead of one of the buxomy, brainless sidekicks. Still, he couldn't help wondering where her sudden nerve and poise had come from. Had she only been playing the fool before?
"Hey, Doujima," he began, finally allowing his gun arm to drop to his side.
She shushed him hastily, her gun still raised and ready in her hands. Her eyes darted around the misty shadows drifting between the trees, and Sakaki followed her gaze in bewilderment. What did she see that he didn't? A soft, wet squelch followed by the whoosh of Doujima spinning in the direction of the sound startled Sakaki's heart into action again.
"It's just me," a feminine voice announced and Trish materialized from the shadows, dragging her left boot over the grass as if to wipe something off.
Doujima lowered her gun slowly and Sakaki watched her, still amazed by the shift in her personality. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for you," Trish replied, glancing around the carcass-strewn clearing. "We got worried when you didn't answer your phones." Turning in a slow circle as she observed the carnage, she added, "It looks like you were pretty busy."
Smiling as she put her gun away, Doujima said, "You could say that."
"You can't see much from here, can you?" Trish asked, approaching the edge of the cliff where Sakaki and Doujima had been observing the preparations for the ritual. The fog was now so thick that nothing could be seen of the valley but clouds of slowly swirling white.
"The fog rolled in just before we were attacked," Sakaki replied, standing next to her and peering into the mist.
Touching her headset, Trish continued gazing into the murkiness below as though she could see through it if she stared at it long enough. "This is Trish," she announced a moment later. "I found them. Everything's under control, but this fog is thicker than clotted cream."
Sakaki reached for his own headset, pulling it over his ear and turning it on in time to hear Dante laugh on the other end. "I know. I'm walking through it right now. It has a funny smell--kind of sickly sweet, like sour milk."
"And it cuts like butter too, I bet," Trish said with a smile.
Sakaki raised an eyebrow at Trish. "What's with the dairy references?"
"I don't know," Dante replied, "But it's just a damn good thing there's no butter in hell or we'd be in real trouble."
Doujima smirked. "Maybe Beatrice is really a cow."
"Then it's time for slaughter," Amon cut in, his tone deathly serious as he ruined their fun with his typical fervor. "Move into your positions as quickly as you can. Beatrice has already started the ceremony. Report back when you've found the edge of the fog but wait for my order before proceeding."
"How do you know there will be an end?" Sakaki asked, exchanging a glance with Doujima.
"Because Beatrice couldn't do shit in this fluff," Dante answered for Amon. "I can barely see my own hand in front of my face."
"Sounds great," Trish said as she stepped gingerly into the fog. Sakaki followed her reluctantly, the damp air clinging to his skin as he moved through it.
"Beatrice might be hiding other creatures under this cover," Amon warned, his voice still gravely serious. "Be prepared for an attack."
"Check," Doujima replied, following Sakaki with her gun raised.
Robin's uneasiness grew with every step she took. Dante's leather-clad back was nearly obscured by the swirling veil of white as he strode purposefully through it ahead of her, and the only other identifiable landmarks in the mist were the vague shapes of nearby tree trunks and the brush scattered across the ground under her feet. It felt as if they had been wandering through the hazy, dreamlike landscape for hours already with no end in sight, and Robin was beginning to wonder if there was, in fact, an end to the fog at all. She could feel Beatrice's power raging somewhere in the distance, but no matter how far they walked, it never seemed to get any closer.
She didn't trust her own wits much at the moment, though, so she didn't voice her fear that they were quickly becoming lost. Her reasoning skills had been fairly mushy ever since she drank that last martini, though the drowsy haze the alcohol wrapped around her mind had been blown away fairly efficiently by her encounter with Amon in the car. Just thinking about the incident sent a thrill of excitement through her, but it was quickly followed by a wave of shame. She felt guilty for initiating the contact, especially considering the circumstances, and there was nothing Amon could say that would lessen that guilt. She had acted like a temptress and taken advantage of his weakness; she still didn't know where the thoughts had come from or why she had acted on them so willingly, but she could only assume they had something to do with the alcohol. She vowed silently to never touch the substance again.
"We must be going in circles," Amon said suddenly, startling her out of her thoughts. "We should have reached the edge by now."
Dante stopped so suddenly that Robin nearly ran into him, her hands instinctively coming up between them and landing just beneath his shoulder blades as she stumbled to a stop. He gently pushed her to the side as he turned to face Amon with a scowl, but the light touch was enough to send shivers running down her spine. Ever since the moment when she had felt Amon's craft stir and her own craft had responded, her body had felt overly sensitized, all of her senses heightened to an almost unbearably reactive state. Apparently even Dante's feather-light touch was enough to make her body tremble now.
"I've been walking in a straight line," Dante said resolutely. "Either we were farther away from Beatrice's location than we thought or this fog is more than just a smoke screen."
"What are you implying?" Amon asked with a hint of annoyance, as if he still believed that Dante had been purposely leading them astray.
"Maybe this fog does more than obscure our surroundings."
Considering this, Amon snapped, "Michael. What is our position relative to the target?"
A crackle of static over their headsets almost swallowed Michael's words completely. "...mon. I can't...io...tion."
"Michael!" Amon said sharply, but there was no response aside from more static. "Sakaki, Doujima?"
"Great," Dante said with a wry smile. "This is like déjà vu all over again."
Amon did not respond, narrowing his eyes at Dante. A rumble of thunder shook the ground, and Robin hugged her arms to herself, wincing as she found that her skin was hypersensitive even to her own touch. Amon swept his gaze over the gauzy white clouds around them with a fierce frown, and she could feel his frustration with his own indecision. "Robin," he said finally, still staring into the mist, "do you think you could burn off some of this fog with your craft?"
"Maybe," she replied. "But Beatrice would know for sure that we're here then."
"I don't think we have much choice at this point," Amon said impatiently.
Robin nodded, pulling her glasses out of her pocket and placing them delicately on her nose, trying to ignore the chill of the metal on her skin.
"Careful," Dante advised. She glanced at him quizzically and he added, "Remember, wood is highly flammable. Only you can prevent forest fires."
She gave him a small, reassuring smile before reaching out tentatively with her craft. She analyzed the fog briefly before she began heating the moisture laden air, cautious of touching the trees or grass around them. The fog resisted the heat, billowing and slipping out of reach, but it finally began to dissipate slowly, more and more trees coming into view as she pushed the wave of heat wider. She gasped when the receding fog revealed more than just trees. Hundreds of deformed, skulking creatures crept out into the open, their growls mingling with the thunder. Beyond the wave of creatures, though, Robin could make out a large fire rising into the night and figures wrapped in dark cloaks silhouetted against the light.
She heard Dante and Amon take positions beside her, drawing their guns as the grotesque creatures charged toward them, but she was already summoning her powers. The first dozen "nobodies" sent ear-piercing screams into the night as they were enveloped in flames, but more creatures filled the gaps almost immediately.
"Amon!" Michael's voice rang clearly through the headset as Robin focused her craft on more nobodies. "The interference is gone! I can see...oh my God..."
"What's happening?" Trish asked when she heard Michael cry out suddenly over the headset, which had been strangely quiet up until that point. A sudden wave of heat washed over her and she staggered slightly in surprise, amazed as the fog evaporated around them.
"I can't believe it!" Sakaki said with a laugh. "The edge of the fog came to us."
"Look out!" Doujima shouted, pointing to the nobodies creeping out of the shadows toward them. "More of those things!"
Pulling out the twin guns holstered at her hips, Trish took off toward the swell of creatures with a sardonic smile. "It's show time," she announced with Dante-like enthusiasm, showering the fiends with bullets as she ran toward them.
"They're completely surrounded!" Karasuma cried, leaning closer to Michael's computer in horror as she watched the hundreds of blips moving across the screen. Her hand brushed against the edge of the phone in her pocket; the Hermit, wherever he was in the chaos she was watching unfold from a distance, was waiting for her signal. She hesitated, reminding herself that he was only her last resort in killing Beatrice.
His fingers racing over the keyboard, Michael zoomed in on the area and switched frequencies, a soft sound of frustration escaping his lips. "Something's happening." He pointed at the brilliant white patch surrounded by dim red spots near the center of the screen. "Something more than the bonfire is creating that heat." Zooming the camera in even further, Karasuma saw what he was talking about, a fractured shape in the infrared image where the fire had been, but far brighter.
"Is she opening a door already?" Karasuma asked, her fingers brushing over the edge of her phone again.
A sharp cry from Robin over the headsets answered Karasuma's question.
The force of Beatrice's pull on her craft was enough to knock the breath out of her and Robin stumbled, crying out only when she saw the explosion of brilliant lightning illuminate the heavens and flash down to the ground where the ceremony was taking place. The light cracked through the air and a crash of thunder sent tremors ripping through the earth under her feet.
Hands caught her before she fell, and she nearly cried out at the contact--her skin felt raw like an open wound. She sensed Amon beside her and felt him pouring cool energy into her through his touch, his hands tightening on her waist as he supported her weight. Her vision was splotchy, but she blinked away the tears in her eyes and leaned against Amon as she struggled to hold on to the energy Beatrice was wrenching away from her.
Dante was still fighting the shadowy shapes of nobodies, his figure outlined against the glow originating from where the lightning had struck the ground. He danced around the creatures, cutting through them with his sword, sparks of energy flitting off his blade and into the darkness like fireflies as he moved. She felt his pain dimly above her own as the demon spawn swarmed around him crying defiantly into the night, their claws tearing into his skin and their poisonous breath choking him.
"Dante!" she managed to cry weakly reaching out a hand toward him, but Amon held her back.
"Focus, Robin," he said roughly, shifting his grip on her as one of the creatures got past Dante and rushed toward them.
Amon fired several rounds at the creature, but it just kept coming, contorting and shrieking madly along the way. Robin considered using her craft, but she couldn't draw it to the surface, Beatrice ripping the power out of her fingers as soon as she touched it. Amon's craft roared to life around them suddenly and she squinted into the wind, watching in revulsion as it tore the creature limb from limb. She knew his reaction had been purely instinctive, but it showed that he was gaining at least a shred of control over his craft and that thought eased her mind slightly.
A roar of fury from Dante returned her attention to him as he leapt out of the swarm of creatures and up into the air. To her surprise, he jumped again in midair, a dim red circle glowing faintly beneath his feet for a moment, the ornate symbols drawn through it reminiscent of an ogham wheel. Silver hair shimmered in the light as he flipped in midair, swinging his sword around and using the momentum to dive toward the creatures, landing with enough force to send a small shockwave through the ground. The remaining creatures cried out one last time, and she looked away sharply when she heard them explode in a spray of fluids.
When she returned her attention to him, Dante was staggering against his sword as a cloud of toxic gas rose from the misshapen forms at his feet and billowed around him. A cough wracked his body and she found herself fighting Amon's grip on her waist again, reaching out with her craft toward him, but Beatrice managed to steal away even that bit of energy before she could touch him. Dante's head snapped up, his eyes glowing faintly red in the darkness as he focused on her.
Her own pain overwhelmed her again when she felt another force yank on her power, and she heard her own scream before she realized she was the one making it. "Robin," Amon gasped, his voice tight as his craft gained strength around them. Her tears evaporated in the wind and she strained to see Dante as he approached slowly, his hair whipping around his face. It was only when his hand seized her arm roughly that she realized he was the other force pulling on her craft and understood why; she could feel Beatrice's rage as the tide of power turned directions and some of the energy began flowing back into Robin.
Doujima shoved another clip into her gun, bracing herself against a tree trunk as she focused on the few remaining creatures still blocking her path. She could just faintly make out the hum of fervent chanting above the gunshots and cries of dying creatures, and the sound sent chills down her spine. A column of sickly yellow light was spiraling up into the night sky at the center of the circle of witches, and she knew their time was running out quickly. Beatrice's figure was silhouetted against the blazing light, her arms splayed upward to the small patch of star-strewn sky showing through the center of the storm clouds whirling above.
Breathing a brief sigh of relief as Sakaki finished off the last creature, Doujima emptied her clip and switched to her orbo gun. Amon had said to wait for his order when they reached the edge of the fog, but obviously they were beyond such reasoning at this point. When the fog had evaporated, she had seen Amon, Dante and Robin on the other side of the clearing, and they had been fighting a crowd of demonic creatures as well. Most of the sounds communicated over their headsets were nothing more than incoherent cries and the sounds of gunfire, and, judging by the ear-splitting scream she had recently heard from Robin, Amon didn't have time for strategizing at the moment.
Trish had already taken off for Beatrice's gathering, lightning sparking at her fingertips, and Doujima followed at her heels, firing off orbo bullets at the nearest witches as she went. The witches barely reacted, too absorbed in the ritual to retaliate, and between her orbo and Trish's lightning the two nearest witches wavered and fell to their knees. This had been the part of the plan from the beginning, though they had hoped to eliminate as many of Beatrice's followers as possible and weaken her significantly before she could even begin opening the door. As they drew closer, Doujima realized just how late they were when she saw a fissure opening in the earth at Beatrice's feet, the column of light erupting through the opening like lava through the mouth of a volcano.
Another witch stumbled and fell and she heard Sakaki running beside her, pelting the fallen witch with several more shots to make sure it stayed down. She paused to catch her breath for a moment, letting Sakaki overtake her, but her breath caught in her throat when she noticed the fur-covered boots hanging limply off the edge of the altar. Her eyes focused on the three bodies lying motionless on the stone surface and she felt a pang of guilt for the comments she had made earlier. The reality of their failure to save the innocents hit her like a blow to the gut; they hadn't even had a chance to attempt rescuing them.
Then, another thought distracted her from her guilt as she realized that one of the "sacrifices" was missing. She searched the circle for Zaizen, but he was nowhere to be seen. Had he escaped?
Something shoved her roughly to the side, and she slid across the grass as she fell. A heavy stone cracked against the tree she had been standing in front of, and she looked up to see Sakaki standing over her, aiming his gun at a witch who was retaliating. The witch had stepped out of the circle and was sending other objects flying through the air toward them, but they toppled harmlessly to the ground when Sakaki's orbo bullets hit him square in the chest.
Doujima was in the process of clamoring back to her feet when she felt her phone vibrating against her hip. Her eyes widened, and she snatched the phone out of her pocket. The caller id lit up and a shock of panic shot through her. Sakaki heard her gasp and looked back at her to make sure she was all right, but she didn't have time to consider his concern. She grabbed at his arm and started dragging him with her as she turned her back on the chanting figures and the column of light.
"Doujima!" he exclaimed, digging in his heels. "What the hell are you doing? The witches are that way!"
Remembering the headsets suddenly, she spun back to face him, snatching the headset off his head and tossing it off into the darkness. She flung her own headset after it a moment later and turned back into the woods again.
"What has gotten into you? Is Beatrice controlling you?" Sakaki's voice was furious, and he used his full strength against her then, pulling her back toward him and turning her around.
"No, you idiot!" she hissed. "I'm trying to save your life." She tried to pull away from his grip, but he shoved her back against a nearby tree.
"What are you talking about?" he demanded.
"Listen, Haruto, I don't have time to explain," she said, her voice rising to a fevered pitch. "They're going to be here any minute! We have to go!" He glared at her, uncomprehending. "You're just going to have to trust me," she pleaded, wriggling out from between him and the tree and tugging him after her again.
"What about everyone else?" he asked, finally allowing her to lead him away.
"We have to hurry," she said, ignoring his question.
"Just hold on, Robin," Dante murmured, his voice tight. "Let us do the work."
They were losing the fight. Dante was honest enough with himself to admit that fact. He was pouring strength into Robin as quickly as it was being drained away and the chasm before them continued to expand. They were only helping Beatrice. He couldn't hold on to the power, couldn't get a firm grip on the thread they were playing tug of war with, and his demon side was reacting. He growled words of encouragement to Robin, but for every momentary victory they made as they turned the tide, Beatrice only pulled back all the harder, and now they were reaching the point of no return.
The gate--if it could be called by such a name when it was nothing more than a gaping hole in the ground that absorbed and bent the light around it while exuding an unearthly, pulsating glow--was widening slowly, and Beatrice's cackle of victory was really starting to get on his nerves. They managed to stop the tide of power for several moments and reverse it a fraction, but the effort cost them more than they gained. Dante felt his devil trigger hovering on the edge of his senses, but he refused to transform completely until he knew that the wealth of energy his demon form gave him could be utilized and not wasted.
"You're too late!" Beatrice screamed at them, and Dante caught sight of the curl of black smoke swirling out of the chasm at her feet. Obscured by the haze, a dark shape was clawing at the edge of the opening, and Dante recognized the scream the creature made as it strained to break through the barrier between the worlds.
"No!" Robin cried. "He's breaking through already! She has the devil's full power on her side now." Dante didn't take the time to correct her, too busy trying to think of a way to use his limited devil trigger to the best advantage. This was not his kind of fight; he liked barging in with guns blazing, thinking about strategy in the split second between action and reaction and living each moment as if it might be his last. He liked the edge of adrenaline and the thrill of danger. This battle included none of his favorite things; it was utterly and heart-wrenchingly exhausting, and hovered on the edge of awareness rather than in the physicality of weapons and blood.
"This isn't over yet," Amon managed to say, though his voice was hoarse. "She won't win."
Dante frowned at him, knowing the man had exhausted most of his power nearly at the beginning of the struggle simply because he had no control over it. It had flowed out of him in a torrent of raw energy, much of it lost along the way, but he had continued to fight and give support to Robin with what remained of his strength. Dante could tell that Amon had exhausted his reserves now--though he still had not stopped the flow of energy into Robin. The power had to come from somewhere, and Dante would bet money that it was coming from a place Amon should never have drawn from; he would regret giving so much of himself later when he realized that not all of the power would regenerate on its own.
"I don't know about you," Dante countered angrily, "but I'm running out of steam. We'd better come up with a new plan soon, or this is going to be over before we know it."
Beatrice yanked at the flow of energy, and Robin doubled over in pain. "I can't last much longer," she gasped, and Dante knew it was true. If he didn't use his devil trigger now, he wouldn't have a chance or a reason to use it afterward.
Then, he heard that unnatural, bestial scream again, and his gaze snapped back to the gate. It was far wider than it had been before, and the Abyss Goat he had heard making noise earlier finally tore through the opening, beating its wings as it leapt into the sky. Two more followed the first and Dante cursed, letting go of Robin's arm.
"Dante!" she cried, but he didn't take the time to look back.
"Sorry babe. We have to stop those things before they get away. They breed like rabbits." Brandishing Ebony and Ivory, he released the power building up inside of him and went into full devil trigger, beating his wings to gain altitude quickly and pelting the creatures with bullets along the way.
Hearing the desperation in the voices of their companions, Michael buried his head in his hands. It had finally become very obvious that there was absolutely nothing either he or Karasuma could do on their end to aid them at all. He had been screaming into the headset for a good five minutes before Karasuma finally gripped his shoulder tightly and told him quietly that they weren't listening anymore.
His body trembling with anger, Michael pushed himself from the desk finally, standing up and kicking the chair away violently. "We're useless," he said through clenched teeth, spinning around to face Karasuma. "All we can do is listen to them die."
She looked back at him with a similar expression of anguish, but then she reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out her phone, her expression changing to one of determination. "That's not entirely true," she said softly, pressing a series of buttons before shutting it again abruptly.
Looking at her in utter confusion, Michael shook his head. "What did you just do?"
Karasuma shifted her gaze back to the computer monitor. "You'll see soon enough."
Michael approached the computer again slowly, studying it anxiously. A minute later, he gasped in surprise as a large red shape appeared at the edge of the display. "What is that?"
Robin watched Dante transform through the spots in her vision, feeling the power tearing away from her more quickly when he was gone, though Amon tried valiantly to hold it back on his own. She no longer had the strength to fight for it herself. She could feel her consciousness quickly slipping away, darkness wrapping around her like a heavy cloak. Straining for breath, she clung to Amon and turned to look up at him as she felt her legs buckle beneath her.
His eyes widened in alarm when her grip loosened on his shirt, and he guided her to the ground when she lost her strength entirely, cradling her in his arms. "Don't give up, Robin. Hold on," he repeated like a mantra, but she knew that it was already too late.
She looked up at him through eyes blurred with tears, and whispered, "Amon," though she didn't know if he could even hear her in the chaos. Reality began to crumble around her, the sounds of the battle fading to a distorted hum and numbness seeping through her body. The only sound that was still real to her was the frantic sound of Amon's breathing as he squeezed her tightly to his chest. Even his touch was starting to loose its reality, though, and she felt her eyes drifting closed. Please, God, she cried in her mind, don't let it end like this!
"No!" the word tore through her heart as Amon sobbed against her hair. "Don't leave me!"
A small smile touched his lips as he rose through the chaos between the worlds, his shackles finally broken. How many ages had passed in this world while he hung in that place, suspended in limbo between his own world and this one, the human world? How long had he waited, searching both worlds for an easy tool to orchestrate his release? He could no longer remember...but time no longer mattered. He was free.
Nobody: This is actually the name of that creature from the games, but when I found out their real name I died laughing. Anyone who's played any Kingdom Hearts II will know why. I kept hearing Christopher Lee in my head saying "No...bodies." And then, because he's Christopher Lee, I also heard him say, "They are nothing more than foooooolllls."
Butter in Hell: A reference to Cold Comfort Farm. I've only seen the movie adaptation, but there's a fiery preacher (played by Ian McKellan) who talks about how terrible hell is going to be and that when you get burned by the fires of hell you won't even be able to put butter on your burn as a salve because "there'll be no butter in hell!" It's always cracked me up, and with all the hell references...
Who would have guessed that "Libera Me" referred to freeing Beatrice's master? Not me. ;) I think it might have been in the back of my mind all along, but I'm glad I didn't spoil myself until the last second. So...
IT'S OVER! Or not...
As those of you who have me on Author Alert have probably already noticed, I've posted the first chapter of a sequel to this story (titled "Confutatis") as well. It's two for one week in Yellow Dancer land! One other important point to mention is that I've uploaded a revised version of Dante's dream sequence back in Chapter 15. It will become more important consistency-wise as the story continues in Confutatis, so I thought I should mention it here. One last little note about Confutatis: I wanted to give it a higher rating, so you will have to search for it with "M" ratings selected.
So, I'm sure some of you are wondering why I decided to stop this story here and start a new one. I guess I just felt that at some point people would get tired of scrolling through the endless list of chapters in this story, and this chapter really had the feeling of the end of a season--if this was a TV show and not a fanfiction. I'm a sucker for multipart stories anyway. ;)
Oh, and a random aside that really doesn't make much difference now that this is the last chapter... Someone pointed out to me in a review that there are a lot of stories on this website by the name of "Libera Me," and I wanted to bring it up and see if anyone else had noticed it too. I remember when I used to want to find my story on the website quickly and didn't feel like logging in, I would do a search and it was the only one by this name. Now there are like dozens. What's that about? Seriously. Is there some reference in pop culture recently that's made it popular, or what? If anyone has an answer, I'm curious to know. (I almost named the sequel "Dies Irae," but that's a REALLY overused title on ffnet--besides, Confutatis is a frickin' awesome movement in Mozart's requiem.)
See you in the sequel! Don't forget to leave a review before you move on though. It's your last chance to review this story. :)