CHAPTER 5 Summary: Akira's faces his toughest challenge to date. Spoilers up to Volume 30 of SDK manga.


DISCLAIMER: I do not own Samurai Deeper Kyo anime, manga or any of its characters. Kamijyo Akimine is the true legal and spiritual owner.

By: Nekozuki 1776

Chapter 5 - The Need to Change

You have reached your limit.

What awful words.

What awful, gut wrenching words more excruciating than the sharpened edge of a Muramasa's blade.

I aimlessly stagger into the hallowed halls of Yuan's residence and in further frustration, I viciously punch the stone wall over and over again until it is splattered with my blood.

It's a miracle you've come this far.

One of Yuan's konoetaishi guards, Anthony, used his senbon technique to elevate the powers of Hotaru, Bontenmaru, and Shinrei. He was able to augment their fighting abilities to unbelievable heights in preparation for their impending battles.

But not me.

Since you are not of a true samurai blood…

Anthony took the liberty of pointing out what I had been dreading for some time.

There is nothing more that can be done for you.

I lean back against the support and observe the worthless blood flow freely out of my torn hand still clenched in a tightened fist. The burning throbs match the ragged resonance of my breathing as I become painfully aware of how alone I am.

If it's one thing I despise more than the provoking taunts of an enemy, the noisy bantering of the Tokugawa botchan, and the cries of the suffering is-

The deafening sound of silence.

A state I would rather avoid in my current condition.

Because it is within this isolated moment of solitude is when I am forced to witness my worst fear coming into fruition.

Exactly how had everything gone wrong?

The downward spiral began the moment we stepped into the realm of the Taishirou territory in the heart of Mibu; that blasted entrance to the labyrinth of the Onmyouden.

Like a tiring cliché, the omnipotent quartet pulled one of their grandiose numbers making their bow-to-us-as-we-majestically-float-above-you entrance which was nothing short of ostentatious.

And minutes within successfully passing through the gates, those inconsiderate members of the Red King's elite dropped the ground from under us.

Been there. Done that.

What poor hosts they are in their Mibu playground.

Honestly, if I wasn't so busy trying to stay alive and worrying over you, Yuya-san, I might actually have submitted a formal complaint for their lack of originality in their supposed creative tactics.

And I found myself once again being forcibly separated from the others.

And you.

But I will note one observant point during the plunge that was different from the previous experience.

This time, I wasn't standing close enough to save you from the fall. The Taishirou made sure of spreading the chasm wide enough to pull you down along with the rest of us. They ensured that everyone descended to their respective destructive nooks.

Once we reached the ground, I was unexpectedly teamed up this round with the gargantuan Shiseiten beast and for the second time, the bandana clad hassun boy.

Maybe I should cease the habit of underestimating these virtually immortal beings whose every move they make is more calculating than the prior.

Does the meddling machinations of the Mibu hold no bounds?

And soon after our pleasant plunge into the depths of the black hole, we found ourselves in the halls of The Red Tower aka The Tower Babel. Within this sacred residence of the Taishirou, we gained the pleasure of facing the card manipulating seer by the name of Tokito, the son of the late Muramasa emanating so much hate, bitterness, and power like no one could ever fathom.

Initially not wanting to sully his nails, he sent out one of his card donning soldiers, Tsukigumi no Spade, to welcome us to the seer's territory. This konoetaishi proceeded to assess our abilities under the cheap guise of mundane magic tricks before transporting us to his master's hideout.

Tokito's realm was filled with a dark and heavy aura, all cold and dank. Oh the mind games he played with us. The way he brutally skewed our emotions inside out by haughtily predicting our tragic futures and trying to plant seeds of doubt in our belief in Bontenmaru's loyalty via a cheap mirage of his supposed traitorous activity.

Of course I knew that wasn't the real Bon. I didn't hang around that muscle bound freak for all those years to not know that he would sacrifice himself before he abandoned his comrades.

Which is exactly what he proceeded to do.

Tokito did a number on Bon that tore him inside out. My heightened senses couldn't keep up with the Taishirou's lightening speed attacks he executed more brutally with each passing blow. Even in his peak beast-like state, Bon barely kept up with him.

And in his last desperate attempt to keep us from risking our lives by his side in this seemingly losing battle, Bon threw us out of the Red Tower as he braced himself for further grave injury. Or death.

That. Idiot.

That brawny creature is just too dumb to know when he has had enough. He's too stubborn to let that frighteningly powerful Mibu brat get the better of him.

My desperate screams of his name trailed our descent as Benitora and I fell downward to our unwanted escape and I watched in horror as Tokito's realm within the Red Tower underwent a massive explosion in the form of Bon's ultimate attack.

The clanging drag of my sword against the stone wall resonated the Mibu grounds as I buffered the speed of the hard fall.

The cold plunge into the safety of the water did little to snap me out of my fury as I continued to yell out his name. I nearly froze Benitora and myself along with the lake in frustration of my helplessness.

How dare he protect us. Or rather, protect me. At least Benitora is worth saving with all his hierarchical responsibilities. And Bon holds the bloodline of a powerful samurai with the whole weight of the Date clan riding on his shoulders.

There is nothing for me.

Bon should have let me fight Tokito. Unlike them, I don't hold any noble responsibilities beyond this god forsaken land. That idiot deserves to go forward to the pinnacle of the Red Tower and fulfill his father's wish.

In the brash days of my childhood, I oftentimes labeled Bon as a loud mouthed, arrogant idiot. But underneath the noisy bravado was a guardian who always watched over me in his own rough and tough patriarchic fashion.

And like the demon eyed mentor that I looked up to as my big brother, Bon was a father figure I never had and always wanted.

This prideful samurai who consistently followed me from behind during our travels as I ambitiously trudged on ahead to catch up to my almighty brother. And Bon never seemed to mind lagging behind. I eventually realized that this was his way of protecting the rest of the Shiseiten.

How ironic to know the one person who possibly held the strongest of all samurai heritage readily taking the anchor position to watch over me.

He's still alive. I know he is. I would know if something happened to him. He is too stubborn to know when to call it quits. I swear that I will return with a vengeance to fight for Bon. After all, he still has his goals to reach and people to protect.

As I have mine.

And it makes my mind wander to the unwanted as I wonder how you are doing.

In my darkest moment of despair, the silence inevitably brings out thoughts I promised to have sealed away.

My emancipation from my feelings for you explodes into dusts in my time of mental weakness and I allow my mind to be filled with the warm comfort that is you.

During my brief collapse following my battles with Saishi and Saisei, your gentle fingers treated my wounds with the firm efficiency of a person who was now quite adept at handling these types of impossible injuries and yet managed to do so with a sincere grace that had an alleviating effect to my soul.

I smelled the salty tears you determinedly repressed when you saw me in my torn state. As wonderful as you are as the unofficial caretaker of the group, I knew that you were painfully aware of the limitations the medicine and your abilities held.

I desperately wanted to pull you close to offer you a shoulder that was long overdue and take your trembling form in mine as I let the pads of my sword calloused fingers caress away the unshed tears. I was tempted to coax you in my arms and take in the fragrance of your ribbon bound hair flowing loosely like softened strands of gold.

I know I needed to refrain from these thoughts especially during this time of historical chaos when it was not the time (and still isn't) to deviate from our duties let alone immerse ourselves in the luxuries of excessive emotions.

But how could I continue to ignore the person that helped me see and feel in ways I haven't in a long time? It was your presence that gave me the additional strength to go on. I seriously doubt I could have reached this far without your belief in my convictions.

And I know that I'm not the only one sharing this feeling.

You truly are the healing factor to so many of our ailing souls.

Right before we were parted for the second time, I felt you radiating of worry and insecurity. I suspect this was due to your continuing concern of your role within our group of fighting warriors.

Power comes in many forms, Yuya-san. And you're still oblivious to the inner power you emanate from within. The belief, the spirit, and the beauty displayed inside out wrapped within a fiery temperament and the sincerest of souls.

You think you're helpless? It is your inner strength that has brought us all together to confront the Mibu soldiers, the Jyunishinshi, the Goyousei, and now, the Taishirou.

Weak? I don't think so.

I have witnessed your shooting technique and your fighting ability. And although it doesn't surpass our powers, you more than hold your own and further compensate with the medicinal care and the emotional support you provide us all.

You are truly deserving to stand shoulder to shoulder along with the rest. And even more so because of your unique ability.

Kami, how you affect me so. How you have earned my respect and my heart.

I've tried so hard to cease these thoughts and in turn found myself wanting to behold you from afar.

Do you know that I once observed you while you were sleeping?

In a rare moment when we were given an opportunity for a brief repose, I pretended to be asleep and instead observed you in your state of slumber.

I mentally justified this act under the guise of protecting you while you slept. This is true as I wanted to secure you from any potential harm but my conscience recognized the side benefit to this secretive act.

For the first time, I was able to sense you in your completely unguarded state. I listened to the even rhythm of your breathing occasionally interrupted by a rustling sound of your hair splaying over your kimono. The soft inhales and the puffs of exhale lulled me into a tempting warmth I didn't want to escape.

It made my heart beat a little faster and my head rush in a swarm of dizziness.

It was one of the few times I felt your aura unbridled with guilt, anxiety, or fear. You were resting in a peaceful calm without the pretense of displayed bravery for the sake of others. The expression was very much like the aura you exude when you tend to our wounds.

Unconditional compassion.

It made me wonder if in this contented state if you were dreaming of your past happier days or maybe thinking of the potential bounties to be had.

It also made me think of a dream I once had of you.

As much as I try to keep my thoughts clear of any personal distraction, it is unfortunately in my dreams that I inevitably have no control of what I visualize.

And as much as I hate to admit it, there was a part of me that gladly gave into seeing you in my dream.

I once dreamt of you sitting next to me under the full moon in the serenity of night. We conversed of many things including the fond memories of your brother.

I felt like I was in a scene written by Murasaki Shikibu in which you rested your head in the crook of my arm to escape the chill of the evening air and I readily pulled you in close as I welcomed your warmth seeping into my skin.

The soft luminescence of the moon and the stars further accentuated your ethereal glow. And I couldn't help but to bask in your aura.

The dream felt so real that it will forevermore be etched in my thoughts. And all it takes to relive the dream in my mind is something so simple of a trigger such as observing you sleep, hearing your pleasant laughter, or smelling your heavenly scent when I am around you.

Did you know that you exude the scent of florals and fresh grass? In the midst of the blood, sweat, and grime that we've encountered throughout our battles, you still manage to emanate a hint of your genuine presence.

It's not a manufactured sweetness cloaked in perfume, but a subtle floral fragrance mixed with a sharp hint of greens that can only be pulled from nature and you.

And what a heady feeling it is to be in the presence of that sweet essence.

Pure, fresh, and natural. Undeniably you.

Although the recent set of hardships wore you down, you still retained a sense genuine empathy that had not waned in the least.

You still go about with a determined naiveté of what we all see and you don't. And there are times when you speak out with the sincere wisdom that rivals the most enlightened of sages.

Your boundless spirit is pure and contagious. And I realize that I can't keep denying these feelings as I struggle to gain control of my feelings for you.

I know I've made convictions of sealing you out of my life. And the thought of doing so now makes me shiver to the core.

Because it is that same conviction that frightens me of a life without you.

The resistance, the denial, and the need for you all pulled together in an amalgam of emotions that I know I must confront. It needs to be dealt with before it drives me mad.

But before I come to terms with these feelings, there is one important event that must take place.

I need to change.

I need to face my demons and throw caution to the wind.

And not believe in everything that has been said and ingrained.

So what if the blood of a bonafide samurai fails to course through my veins.

It has no bearing on my abilities.

Everything I have been taught, I've learned. Everything I have learned, I've perfected. It has taken me years of discipline and many sacrifices.

But I have done it.

I accomplished this under the brutal tutelage of the toughest mentor that I've ever known. Despite all the odds, I have learned to fall, learned to stand, and learned to fight past all challenges set before me.

And now, within the hallowed halls of Yuan's realm I clench the hand now encrusted with blood and reaffirm my convictions as I mentally prepare to face my greatest challenge to date.

Your have reached your limit.

How little do they know that I don't respond well to limitations. And I refuse to succumb to their code of manifested destiny.

It's a miracle that you've come this far.

I am not a product of a miracle. I've arrived here on my own merits and it will remain as such. I refuse to have years of dedicated hard work and discipline be minimized by a mere presumption. I am worth more than that.

There is nothing more that can be done for you.

I don't need to rely on some Mibu bestowed augmentation to elevate my powers. Like the multi-faceted technique of my Muhyou Getten, there is more than one way to defeat an enemy.

I have people to protect and battles to be fought.

I will overcome this supposed barrier placed upon me and will surpass all things that were written in their tablets of destiny. I refuse to be snuffed out like their preordained candles of life fading slowly into the dead of night.

I will become stronger. For their sake. For yours. And mine.

I will find a way to become stronger in my own terms. I will fortify the body, the mind, and the soul to make myself worthy of facing my mentor and achieve the position of the second strongest in the world.

And lastly, I will seek the strength from deep within to come to terms with a certain emotion.

Damn the Mibu with their prophetic notions.

I will prove to the elevated gods that an ordinary being can be every bit as powerful as their sanctified warriors.

Let them try to break me with their fate altering games.

I'll be ready.

I am Akira of the Shiseiten.

Let the real games begin.


A/N – (March 10, 2005) – A big thanks goes out to The Narrator for creating the awesome Akira/Yuya fanart for this story. I have uploaded the picture in my profile page for a limited time. Click on my pen name to check it out. Arigato to all the readers and your continued support. -Nekozuki

Helpful terms and additional information. Spoilers below. PREVIOUS DISCLAIMER APPLIES.

ANTHONY – (pronounced /an-so-nee/) The lead Taishirou konoetaishi of Yuan. He utilizes power infused senbon (specialized needle) as a weapon and a conduit to augment people's powers. Anthony is also a younger brother of Yuan.

BONTENMARU (Bon) – Formal name: Date (pronounced /da-te/) Masamune The first person to team up with Kyo as a Shiseiten. His father was a powerful samurai who was killed by an ally. His goal is to carry out his father's wishes to "obtain heaven with his own hands."

BOTCHAN – A word used to describe a well to do young male normally of a prestigious and wealthy background. In the manga, this term is often used in a teasing manner to address Benitora.

KONOETAISHI – Term used to describe the personal soldiers of the Taishirou. Each Taishirou have their own individual konoetaishi. Tokito has his Tsukigumi no Spade, Heart, Clove and Diamond. All of Yuan's siblings are konoetaishi including Anthony.

MUHYOU GETTEN – Akira's trademark technique utilizing his two swords to create a series of ice daggers for a variety of attack and defense moves.

MURASAKI SHIKIBU – Lady Murasaki Shikibu is the distinguished Japanese author most famous for her work, The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). She wrote the book during the early 11th century and is considered one of the first in history to write a full fledged novel. The Tale of Genji is based on a journal she kept concerning a real prince by the name of Genji. It is one of the most eloquent stories I've ever read that delves skillfully into the human emotions and contains many descriptive settings based on nature.

RED TOWER – The prime headquarter of the Taishirou. The main battles with each of the Taishirou so far has taken place here. The Taishirou's personal residence is also located in The Red Tower. Side note: In the manga, Akira makes a comparison of The Red Tower to the Tower of Babel.

The Tower of Babel comes from the Old Testament in the Bible referring to the structure the Babylonians tried building as high as the heavens in their attempt to reach God. In anger, God punishes them by mixing up their language which causes miscommunication in the building process. This prevents the completion of the tower and also brings about the birth of different languages. (Genesis 11:1-9)

TAISHIROU - A powerful group comprised of four virtually omnipotent beings only second to the Red King.

The four members of the Taishirou (with focus on Yuan and Tokito):

1. Fubuki – current leader of the Taishirou.

2. Hishigi –Has the longest affiliation with Fubuki out of all the Taishirou. Akari was a former disciple of Hishigi. The quietest of all the Taishirou.

3. Yuan – A powerful empath and possible soul stealer (?). Might be blind because his eyes are always covered. Or it might be a technique to facilitate his inner sight. Yuan's Taishirou soldiers consists of his siblings including Anthony. There are hints in the manga that Yuan became a Taishirou for the sake of his mother (a former Taishirou).

4. Tokito – The most powerful seer of all Mibu (probably with exception of the Red King). He predicts the fates of people through the usage of his sacred deck of cards. He can also control a person's future to a certain extent. (as seen in the Room of Time scene with Bontenmaru in Volume 15, episode 118 ). He is the son of Muramasa, the former mentor of Kyo. Tokito holds a deep grudge against Muramasa whose reasons are yet unknown. It may have something to do with when Muramasa severed ties and left the Mibu territory.


Individual responses to reviews: I usually answer general questions in a Q/A format but I will try to answer in this fashion every few chapters or so.

Lazeralk – Heaven knows Akira deserves a hug… and a kiss. Thank you for the kind reviews.

Alyson Metallium – I'm glad you liked Akari in this story. I love his (ducks a flinging shakujyo at the erroneous use of pronoun) role in keeping the humor and fright within the dynamics of the Shiseiten. Your reviews always help me bring out the inner Akira in my writings. Thank you Alyson.

Starian Princess – I agree with your assessment of certain parallels between Akira and Kenshin. I am not as familiar with RK as I am with SDK (I've only seen some parts of the RK anime), but I definitely sense the similar self-unworthiness vibe coming from Kenshin. As you stated, I think Akira does have a better grasp with his inner battle. But as you can see in this chapter, more challenges await him that will test his mental and physical will. I am curious to see how Akira handles this. BTW – I am looking forward to reading your Yukimura/Yuya story. Hurrah for alternate pairings!

Lady of Genesis – I know Ch 4 was an angsty one. I hope this one was a tad more upbeat. (at least the ending…) More challenges lay ahead for Akira-kun. Thank you as always for all your kind reviews.

kazemar-kaemi – I'm glad you liked the flow of the story. Although it is a bit of a challenge to keep the fluidity intact, this is in fact one of my favorites that I will continue to write as long as I can.

Genjy0-Sanz0 – Thank you for complimenting my knowledge of the Shiseiten. I tried hard to integrate Akari's true characteristics. Although this story will remain in Akira's POV, I do plan on writing a few oneshots and a series of introspectives of certain SDK characters, one of them which involves Kyo.

The Narrator – Thank you for your support in all of my writings, especially the Akira/Yuya stories. It does seem like Tokyopop could speed up on the translations a bit more but alas it looks like it will continue to go on at its sluggish pace, ne? And I can't bow enough /peko/ for the awesome Akira/Yuya fanart. Thanks to you, you've brought some much needed color to my profile page. You truly are talented in the field of writing and the arts.

Chibi Tenshi – Ah, you're always so kind with your reviews. One of my favorite Akira / Yuya comedy moment is when everyone reacts to Yukimura's scandalous question to Yuya. Akira, Akari, and Benitora in rampant denial, Kyo with his stoic indifference (heaven know what he's thinking), Yuya looking dazedly confused, and Yukimura looking wickedly amused. And all in front of a comedy prop a la bear stew, ne?

Triste1 – Your review is further affirmation as to why I like Akira so much as a character and why I continue to work on this story in the way I choose to write. Your kind words make me blush. Thank you.

Happster360 – As I mentioned to Chibi Tenshi, the bear stew scene is in fact one of my favorite comedy setting. Akira's reaction is just as amusing as Yukimura's naughty inquiry. Thanks for your support on this story from the very beginning.

Shiseiten Hikari – Hurrah for the kuma nabe scene! Akira's reaction to Yukimura's suggestive comment to Yuya was priceless indeed. I hope you enjoyed this chapter too. And thank you for the offer of information on the later SDK episodes. For now, however, I think I will limit myself to the bi-monthly released tankoubon to keep me disciplined. You did pique my interest, though. /slaps self from the lure of temptation/ You know what they say about what curiosity does to a neko…

Dagorwen of Ithlien: ok ok ok : ) I hope this update was to your liking.

somethingeternal: Thank you for the kind review and a nice assessment to how I hope the readers capture Akira's emotions throughout this story. I think Akira has so much unexplored depth and there will definitely be more adventures lined up for this favorite character of mine.

JadOo – Wow. What a nice thing to say. I'm so glad you're enjoying this story. Thank you.

Lidens – You brought up some interesting points in your review. After 30 volumes, I am still unsure of whether the SHE Akira refers to is Sakuya or someone else. Although I tend to agree with you that SHE might not be Sakuya, I can't entirely cross her off the list just yet since there is still very little known about her. It's amazing after her appearance in the first few volumes that she's practically disappeared off the pages with the exception of the scene with Yukimura. Thank you for your thoughts as well as the kind reviews.

tenkage onna - Your kind words make me blush! Thank you for your support in this story. Somehow, I accidentally missed your review at first due to fanfiction moving it to the very end of the section. Sorry about that.