AN: So, you know all those lies I always tell about not taking a whole year to update? Yeah, sorry.
You'll notice in some parts of the chapter, some basic grammatical rules about run-on sentences, capitalization, and usage of punctuation go completely out the window and these are intentional stylistic choices.
Again, not a whole lot of action in this chapter ar far as confrontations go, and really, there's not going to be any more actual (physical) fighting until the very end. There will be fights for control, of course, and a whole lot of struggle, but not a whole lot of actual action.
If anything confused you in the past, or does confuse you in this chapter, please feel free to ask me questions. I know I'm not the best at clearing things up in-story and I'm trying to work on that. So you asking questions about difficult plot points will help me be more clear in the future.
That being said, this chapter is where everything starts to truly go nuts.
Daisuke, we need to see what happened at Hiwatari's place.
The words came across the thought barrier as soon as Daisuke was beyond the school gates. Of course they did. It was obvious they couldn't just sit around and wait for Satoshi or Krad, or whoever they had become now, to do something before they even had a chance to see just what was happening.
In the small part of his mind Daisuke kept secret, he knew this wouldn't end well. Kei was dead. Kei was dead, and if Saehara was right, it was gruesome. There was no way the apartment was deserted yet, and the evidence of just what had happened there would definitely still be there.
Dark couldn't see it. He just couldn't.
We should leave it alone. Daisuke could feel a curious and suspicious spark from across their consciousness, but he ignored it. Something feels very bad over there, Dark. I think we should just leave it alone for now. Just until we get over last night.
There was a silence in their mind and for the briefest of moments, Daisuke didn't think Dark was just going to chalk it up to Daisuke's scarily accurate instincts. Yeah. If they left something there, it'd probably kill us in this state. Daisuke nodded, hiding his relief in the furthest corner of his mind. Dark bought it; everything would be OK for just a little while longer.
Dark's next words shattered that feeling of alright as Daisuke felt just as cold and separated as he had back in the museum when they had stolen the Portrait of Hikari Rio. For the first time since that terrifying ordeal, Dark had felt so distant and so completely wrong in his mind that Daisuke almost wished he hadn't said anything at all.
Let's go home, Daisuke. It's time we stopped fooling around.
When they'd come home, there were no traps. In the back of their mind, Daisuke knew there would never be any traps ever again. After all this was over, there would never be need for this training, there would never be a need to hone his senses or be on alert or go on late-night heists ever again. Because whatever was happening, it was different from anything they knew.
Nothing was going to be the same for them again.
This was the end.
That thought came from Dark's side of them, and Daisuke tried not to think about what that meant. He tried not to think of how final the word "end" was. He tried not to think that someone else was going to die. He tried not to think that Dark would die, that Satoshi would die, that he would die.
And although it was Dark's side that came up with the fact that this would be the end, Dark himself was silent and felt completely separate from that part of them.
Daisuke tried not to think about what that meant.
Dark brought them downstairs to the basement in silence until they were in the storeroom where they kept the art.
Do you know why the Niwas sealed the art all these years, Daisuke? Daisuke didn't speak, and Dark moved them over to an old painting. It was simple piece, nothing more than a vase of flowers that Daisuke remembered being rather lackluster growing up. It was much more vibrant now, but no more powerful. The same could be said about most of the art down here after all the attentions Argentine paid them. Every last piece was stunning, but chained.
Daisuke hated it.
I taught them to seal them so I could keep them away from Krad.
There was something sick in the chuckle that followed those words, in the grin that was plastered on their face. Daisuke could feel his muscles stretch into an expression he had never remembered wearing. There was revulsion there, and the feeling was so foreign, Daisuke couldn't be certain where it had really come from—
Until the memories that had once been so guarded flowed steadily into their shared mind. Vague recollections of the carnage Krad had caused not just the Niwas, but anyone who had stood in his way. Images of blood and pale faces and graves, and Krad—Krad wielding a sword that was now in their care, Krad connecting with a painting that now laid in a back corner gathering dust, Krad animating a statue that had been broken until Argentine had come along... And Dark sealing them all.
But there was something wrong, and Daisuke's blood tingled with it. His ears rang and his vision wouldn't focus properly, and there was just something so intrinsically not-good about what Dark was telling him and what Dark was about to do and who Dark was now that Daisuke had trouble living Dark's memories.
Now, their fingers ran along the frame, the hairs on their arm standing on end as if electricity surged through it. There was a reverence in their movement Daisuke had never known Dark to possess. The Dark he was familiar with hated the Hikari and everything that came from them.
The Dark in control now seemed to be just barely reigned in. There was something inside making him hold himself back for now and Daisuke could only wonder how much longer he would be able to recognize Dark before this stranger in his mind took over.
It's time you understood that was a lie. In a steady breath that burned Daisuke, Dark unlocked the painting. There was no quiet apology for using the magic, no tacit agreement that it was necessary. It was simply Dark using their body in the best and most natural way he knew how. I've told a lot of lies, Daisuke, and you deserve to understand why I had to do that. Dark inhaled a breath of a man who had gone months without a cigarette and was getting that first wondrous hit again, and with that lungful came the magic form the painting. It flowed into them as air into blood and when Dark finally felt he had absorbed all he could off that lungful, he exhaled and took in another, and another, and another, until Daisuke was dizzy from the sudden influx of power.
And through it all, the painting turned slowly black.
There was a time long ago when the Niwa art collection was vast.
There was a time long ago when the Niwas had feared Dark as much as Krad.
There was a time long ago when the main branch of the Niwa family had slowly been killed off until Dark's then-current host had been the only one remaining.
At that time Dark, with the knowledge that Krad was soon to follow, absorbed all the power he could from the works he could get to, then set fire to the store room and destroyed every last piece of art in his possession.
Krad had won soon after. Dark had been killed and he was reborn into a lesser branch of the Niwa clan.
That was when They understood that just winning was not enough.
That great fire and subsequent copy-cats that followed (be they other branches of the Niwa clan, vandals, or government officials) became known as the Cultural Revolution.
Dark had taken that opportunity to influence the more naive members of the family fate had moved him to and remake his image into one worthy of love and respect.
Through the course of over a century, Dark had been able to maintain the facade all the way to the host he lived in now.
Krad had never won a battle since.
I'm sorry, Daisuke.
And maybe Dark was sorry, but Daisuke was too overwhelmed by the influx of new information in the shared area of their mind that there was no way he could have been able to process Dark's words.
This will all be over soon.
There was no sleep to be had for Satoshi that night, no matter how long he tossed and turned in the bed Argentine had prepared in the master suite—not with his head feeling far too full with ceaseless chatter and the white noise of all the magical energy in this place. When he had been younger and weak, he had not been able to sleep because of the singular voice and influence of Krad, and now that he was strong enough to hold him off, it was his ancestors he had to contend with, along with the incessant hum of magic.
He fought for sleep until Venus rose over the Eastern horizon, then flung his sheets aside and wandered his childhood home with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders to fight off the twilight chill. His bare feet padded along the icy tile floor.
Each painting he passed reached out to him with spindly fingers, all of them weak from centuries of neglect, each of them recognizing him as Creator and Master even though his hands had never graced their frames.
It is because you are Us now, Satoshi.
I live in you; We live in you.
We are You.
We are unstoppable.
We are God.
Satoshi kept the voices pushed as far to the back as he could force them. They were wrong. He was still in control, and he was not them. He was not them, and he was not Daisuke. He could and would keep his self separate from the mess in his head for however long it took.
With a deeper breath than he intended, Satoshi willed those thoughts to be true, and that lungful of air filled with magic that he exhaled. When it was readily absorbed by the statue he was passing, Satoshi reminded himself he must be much more careful from now on. In a moment of irrationality, he had taken on much more power than he had realized or intended, and all that energy strained at his mortal shell. It pushed at him from all sides and it seemed as though he was going to burst at the seams and the constant cacophony from his ancestors threatened to drive him mad and he almost took another willful breath if only to expel that much more magic and relieve himself of that much more pressure because it was becoming too much and he wasn't sure he could take it much longer and he knew it would only cause him that much more trouble but if he didn't it would only be a matter of time before he was truly overwhelmed and—
Argentine was there before him and took both sides of his head in his hands. Before Satoshi could comprehend what was happening, their foreheads touched and Satoshi could feel the release as some of his magic passed itself into Argentine.
"i am here, Creator," Satoshi relaxed just a fraction more when he felt Krad thrum angrily in the back of his mind. If Krad and his ancestors were protesting this, then maybe Argentine was really on his side. "i am Here."
As some of the magic left him, Satoshi felt his mind silence and he lost himself to sleep for the first time in nearly three days, but not without first murmuring a Thanks to his only ally.
Argentine sank down to the ground with Satoshi and pulled back only when his eyes had drooped shut. He regarded the way Satoshi's chest rose and fell in deep, even breaths and the way the stress had melted off of his face, and the dark patches that rested under his eyes. Creator had always worked so hard, but that wasn't who was here slumped against his chest as Argentine rocked back on his heels and settled against the wall, holding Satoshi close and warding off all the other art.
This was Creator, and all the Creators before and after, and none of them at all. This was the harbinger of the end and the sum of nearly a millennium of magic and a three centuries' war. But what Argentine guarded at that moment was more base and honest than any of those observations before, and nothing like how the man behaved in his waking hours.
Satoshi was a child.
He was a sleeping, defenseless child who had taken on far too much far too soon, and there were many rushing in to take advantage of it all. There were ancestors and art and Krad and even the magic itself, all clamoring to overwhelm and control the brittle form in his arms.
And Satoshi was brittle, and so very close to breaking, and Argentine was acutely aware of it all. Perhaps, Argentine considered as he watched Satoshi relax deeper and deeper in slumber, it was because he had seen Satoshi act before in all his fragile, human ways that he was so willing to protect him. Perhaps it was because Satoshi had saved him once in the only way he knew how that he was so ready to act in his benefit. Perhaps it was because everything was taking too harsh a toll that Argentine was willing to take some of it on himself.
Perhaps it was because he was old, and They were old, and he was just so tired.
Argentine held Satoshi that much more tightly at that, knowing where everything was headed and knowing there was nothing he could do to stop it or change what would happen. He could ease the way and make sure everything ended properly, but that was where his abilities would end.
"i can't save You."
They remained that way, completely and utterly still save for their breathing and Argentine's occasional squeeze until the sun cast its first rays through the far window and Argentine's mood finally settled.
Knowing it would not matter much, Argentine sapped some more magic from Satoshi to strengthen himself and rearranged the boy in his arms before he rose and carried him back to bed.
Satoshi would need as much proper rest as Argentine could offer, and Argentine would be sure that was what he would get.
When Satoshi woke, it was late in the day and to voices and buzzing and he understood then that whatever peace of mind he attained, it was transient and this ceaseless noise would always come back, and with that thought in mind, he threw off the sheets determined not to waste any more time acclimating himself.
The longer he tried to withstand this, the more likely he was to fall.
Satoshi would not allow that to happen.
As if he had sensed Satoshi had awaken (and when Satoshi thought about it, that was probably exactly what had happened) Argentine entered the room. "You have a Visitor."
"Who is it?" Argentine had already been under orders not to let certain people anywhere near the mansion, so the fact that someone was here and had been allowed to even approach the building was an oddity in and of itself.
There was an uproar in the back of Satoshi's mind from the very mention of the name that Argentine had to hide a flinch of sympathy at. Unable to so much as hear himself think and be absolutely sure the thoughts he heard were his own, Satoshi went with his instincts. "I'll go to him."
Satoshi followed Argentine through the hallways to the foyer where, indeed, one Kosuke Niwa was admiring a painting from a safe distance back, hands behind his back as if to broadcast that he wasn't here to cause any trouble. Satoshi stopped in his tracks, not sure why he was so shocked to see Kosuke actually here, in the Hikari mansion, when things had so recently gone pear-shaped, and it took Kosuke noticing him to jump-start his brain again.
All it took to affirm that this was all very real was the standard Kosuke grin and his ever-cheerful Hello.
It did not, however, banish all the suspicions from Satoshi's thoughts. "What are you doing here?"
Kosuke continued to study the painting in front of him. It was nothing extraordinary or interesting, but he took it all in nonetheless. "I thought with the ways things are going around here, you might need some help."
The part of Satoshi's mind that still belonged entirely to him wasn't amused at the vast understatement. "You do know that what I'm planning to do is probably going to kill Dark."
"Yeah." Kosuke's eyes were still on the art, but his focus was obviously elsewhere as he tried to piece together exactly what he wanted to say and how it was best to say it. "I married into the Niwa family because I love Emiko, Satoshi, not because I wanted anything to do with Dark. And right now, I don't think Dark is someone we should be trusting." Kosuke paused then, gathering his thoughts again, and finally brought his attention to Satoshi. "Everyone has suffered because of this whole Dark and Krad business long enough and it's time someone did something about it."
It didn't seem to be the time nor the place to remind Kosuke that Emiko would definitely kill him over this someday, and so all Satoshi did was nod in acceptance. "Alright."
Kosuke's idiot grin took over his face again. "OK. We need to finish up here was soon as we can. Dark's been making short work of the art."
Those words gave many of the voices pause and Satoshi's apprehension came back in full force. "What has he been doing?"
Dark surveyed the once formidable store of art before him, now drained nearly dry. This would have to do until he could locate more of the art. The feeling of magic pulsing in his veins was downright intoxicating and he found that he had missed it more than he had previously thought.
It was obvious now, however, that someone had been sneaking more than just books away and that simply wouldn't do. Dark had been stockpiling all this art for a reason and for some of it to just up and disappear between the combined efforts of Argentine and Kosuke almost killed the manic grin on Dark's face. Almost.
The room gleaned before him with kerosene and Dark breathed deeply once more, feeling out with his magic to be certain Emiko and Daiki were still out of the house, and to his satisfaction, he found himself to still be alone.
With Daisuke still too dazed in the back of his mind to be aware, Dark lit the match in his hand and gave it a toss.
And just like that, the second Great Cultural Revolution began.