Disclaimer: I do not own Shakugan no Shana. I do, however own this story.

Shakugan no Shana: The Crimson

Chapter 24: Enlightenment, the Final Decision

"Ichiro… you just…" Hecate tried to say but was stunned. Ichiro somehow had performed her unrestricted method, Aster. "How is this possible, when did he learn how to use it?" Hecate thought.

"So it is true… Ichiro... you're so much like him that it's unmistakable..." Persephone thought.

"Are you alright, Hecate?" Ichiro asked the blue-haired Guze Queen sitting on the ground. The Priestess nodded, too surprised to verbally answer.

"Explain Ichiro, why did you save her?" Persephone asked him as she landed.

"No matter what they truly think of me, there is one thing that I know for sure." Ichiro started. "They're my friends, regardless of whatever traits they have they're important to me… Persephone, you told me that you once had people that you cared about, didn't you?" Ichiro asked her.

"Of course, I did…" Persephone replied.

"Well I care about them. It's really flattering that you want me out of all the people in the world to battle with you. Honestly, if things were different I would have gone with you, but I have to be here for them… so I'm sorry... I can't accept… I won't go with you…" Ichiro told her.

"Ichiro… I'm glad you made the right choice…" Seraphyne said.

"I guess there's no helping it. I can't force you to do something you don't want to. Even though, it would have been nice to have you around…" Persephone told him. Her golden orbs looked at him warmly and a smile graced her features. She disappeared from his view and reappeared behind him with her back facing him.

"Ichiro, behind you!" Hecate warned him, noticing the black-haired denizen's presence.

"I know you Ichiro, we'll meet again one day and I hope you'll have a different answer for me. I hope that you don't eventually regret your decision." Persephone glanced back at him. "Ichiro..." She said something in a quieter tone, catching his attention. "This war for existence won't be stopping anytime soon. A great hardship lies in your future. You must prepare yourself for what will come… Until then, this is goodbye Ichiro…" Persephone said before she disappeared completely.

"Goodbye Persephone…" Ichiro thought as he noticed her presence vanishing behind him.

"Hey gaki!" Margery said as she landed next to him, along with Satou. "What's going on around here?"

"A powerful denizen showed up here, but now she's gone…" Ichiro told her. "She managed to hurt Shana, Sasaki, and Hecate. Make sure that you take care of them." Ichiro explained, earning a few glances from Margery and the others when he started to walk away.

"Hang on, where are you going?" Margery asked him. She received no reply from the raven-haired boy. His bangs covered his eyes as he walked past Wilhelmina and Khamsin, not even bothering to notice their existence. Wilhelmina went over to Shana and picked her up as Sasaki struggled to stand up but was safely able to get to her feet. Hecate quickly made her way over to the unconscious mystes, kneeling on the ground to check his condition.

"I wonder what was going on with the Emissary of Twilight." Khamsin looked off in the direction that the raven-haired boy had gone.

"Hmm, it looks like for the moment he is dealing with inner turmoil. For now, we should leave him. He has to sort these things out himself." Behemoth replied.

"Alright, it's time to teleport back. I'll be able to treat everyone better at the house." Wilhelmina said, directing her attention to the blue-haired priestess. Hecate nodded and a spell insignia appeared under all of them, before they disappeared a moment later.

- -(12 hours later)- -

Yuji opened his eyes noticing that he was on a bed inside of Konoe's mansion. He looked to his right and noticed a black-haired girl looking at him.

"You're finally awake…" Shana said to him.

"What's going on here?" Yuji asked. "I remember I was fighting Bel Peol and they managed to trap me, then everything becomes blank." Yuji added as he sat up.

"That must have been when you lost consciousness." Konoe told him. "I'm glad to see that you're doing better now." She added with a smile on her face.

"I thought I heard talking in here." They heard at the door. They looked to see Chigusa, Kantaro, Wilhelmina, Satou and Khamsin walk into the room. Chigusa immediately ran over to Yuji and hugged him tightly.

"Yu-chan, you had me worried! I thought I was going to lose you…" Chigusa told him.

"Mom, don't worry I'm fine." Yuji blushed a little before he returned his mother's embrace.

"No need to be embarassed Sakai Yuji. You are among friends, after all," Alastor told him.

Yuji laughed in response to Alastor's comment before he looked around the room, noticing someone missing.

"Wait, where's Ichiro?" Yuji asked. "I can't sense his presence nearby."

He immediately noticed the crestfallen look on the blue-haired girl's face when he said his name.

"Did something happen?" Yuji asked.

"It's kind of complicated…" Shana started. She told Yuji the whole story about what happened during the time he was unconscious and the encounter with the Destroyer of Light, Persephone.

"So she wanted Ichiro?" Yuji asked. "So if she didn't get him or me, what is the real problem here?"

"Persephone set things up so that we would unknowingly say that we valued you over the Emissary of Twilight and she used that to her advantage. And due to this, it has made Ichiro question whether or not he should leave the city…" Alastor explained.

"Does anyone know where he is now?" Yuji asked.

Konoe shook her head. "Ever since the battle, he has to some extent kept his distance from us," she explained. "He usually leaves early in the morning and returns pretty late at night, but he still remains in Misaki City."

"It's difficult to determine what the Emissary of Twilight will do next after the events of that last battle..." Wilhelmina looked out the window.

"Hard to read..." Tiamat added.

"Maybe I should talk to him," Yuji said.

"That isn't the wisest course of action," Khamsin replied. "The conflict that he's dealing with right now indirectly involves you. It's possible that things could become worse for him if you talk to him too soon."

"Then, what exactly are we supposed to do?" Shana asked. "He'll continue being distant like this unless we try something."

"I'll talk to him." Khamsin replied. "I've known him the longest and I'm an uninvolved person in his conflict."

"We shall talk to him when he returns." Behemoth added.

- -()- -

After they left the room, Shana noticed Konoe looking through a window in the middle of the hallway. She walked over to her curious of what she was thinking.

"Konoe…" Shana started. "Is there something wrong?" She asked the blue-haired girl.

"Yes…" Konoe simply answered.

"Is it about Ichiro?" Shana asked her.

"It is, but there's something different about this time." Konoe replied as she turned to Shana.

"Something different…" Shana repeated. "What's so different?"

"With the way he's been acting recently, I feel… disappointed at him…" Konoe replied.

- -()- -

Ichiro felt the wind calmly blow against his face as he walked through the outskirts of Misaki City. He entered the shopping district, noticing the people around him. Children were holding hands with their mothers and were playing around with each other, they seemed happy and it brought a smile to Ichiro's face.

"It's nice seeing people enjoying themselves, normal humans unaware of the war that wages on right in front of them and yet it isn't visible to their eyes." Ichiro thought. "I wonder if could find what I'm looking for around here…" His eyes scanned through the area before they landed on a familiar brown-haired girl walking towards him. The girl noticed him and waved, looking cheerful as she approached him.

"Ichiro-san, I didn't expect to see you out here." Kazumi told him. "How have you been?"

"Oh... I'm alright, thank you for asking." Ichiro replied.

"So I'm guessing that you're out here doing some shopping too, right?" Kazumi asked him.

"I'm looking for some new clothes." Ichiro noticed the bag in her hand. "So did you find what you were looking for?"

"Yeah, I was able to find some wooden slippers for tonight." Kazumi replied.

"Tonight, is there something special going on?" Ichiro looked a little confused.

"Yeah, tonight's the Misaki Festival." Kazumi told him.

"Misaki Festival?"

"That's right. It's a festival that happens around the summertime." Kazumi explained. "It's a lot of fun. If you have the time, you should buy a kimono if you don't already have one and go there tonight." Kazumi suggested. "I'll see you later." Kazumi waved to him and she ran off.

"A festival…" Ichiro said as he watched her run off.

"That sounds like a nice idea." Seraphyne started. "A festival would be the perfect atmosphere for you to be in. With all of the excitement and…"

"I already understand where you're going with this…" Ichiro interrupted.

"All I'm saying is that it would be nice to get your mind off of things. Being gloomy like this isn't going to help you in any way." Seraphyne told him.

"You may be right…" Ichiro replied before he continued his search.

- -(Konoe's house)- -

"Alright, is everyone ready?" Chigusa asked, dressed in a green yukata.

Shana was dressed in a red yukata with a golden leaf pattern on it. Konoe was wearing a white yukata with blue flowers on it. Chigusa had a brown yukata with beige flowers on it. Kantaro was standing next to Chigusa, holding Fumiko. Yuji walked into the room wearing a plain blue kimono. He noticed the three girls and looked amazed at their appearance.

"Well what do you think Yu-chan?" Chigusa asked as she directed her arms towards the two girls in front of him. "Don't you think they look cute?"

"Of course, you both look very cute." Yuji replied.

"Shut up, Shut up, Shut up!" Shana said as her face turned as red as her yukata.

"Thank you…" Konoe added with a light blush on her face.

"Are you sure that you can handle Fumiko for the night?" Chigusa asked her husband.

"I'm sure Chigusa-san, you all go have fun." Kantaro replied.

"Thank you…" Chigusa told him. She turned to the brown-haired girl leaning against the wall. "Aren't you coming with us, Sasaki-chan?"

"No... I think I'll just take it easy and stay here," Sasaki replied.

"That's surprising coming from you. Lately, you've been difficult to find just like Ichiro." Shana looked concerned.

"You're worried about me?" Sasaki's eyes sparkled. She hugged Shana tightly and started gushing over her. "Don't worry Shana-chan! We can hang out together when you get back, just you and me..."

"Okay I get it, just let go of me!" Shana told her. Sasaki released her, but still wore a satisfied smile on her face.

"What about you Satou?" Yuji asked him.

"I'll be around a little later." Satou replied. He looked down at the blond-haired woman sleeping on the couch. "And if she ever wakes up, I'll bring her with me."

"Alright then, we'll see you later." Yuji told them as they left the house and headed over to the festival.

- -(1 hour later)- -

"It's starting to get dark out…" Ichiro walked through the doors to Konoe's mansion. He headed up the stairs to his room, his keen sense picking up a presence behind his door. He opened it, revealing the middle-eastern flame haze standing next to his window.

"So you've returned…" Khamsin turned to him.

"Khamsin-san, is there any particular reason that you're in my room?" Ichiro asked him.

"Actually, there is. Sit down." Khamsin motioned to the bed. Ichiro sat on the bed, watching as Khamsin looked over at him. "Now then, tell me there's something troubling you isn't there?"

"I guess you could say that…" Ichiro replied. "It's complicated though…"

"Explain it to me," Khamsin said.

"Khamsin-san…" Ichiro started. "Tell me, I haven't really changed since the last time that we met, have I?" Ichiro wore a serious expression on his face.

Khamsin looked confused. "What exactly are you getting at?" Khamsin asked him.

"What I'm getting at is the fact that I'm still really just the same. Back when we met, I was just a kid that wanted to be strong and stop the threat of the denizens…" Ichiro replied. "And just like a kid, I've let greed get the best of me. I guess I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I know that Yuji's an important person to Shana… and to Konoe as well… in fact Konoe may eventually grow to like him…"

"I think I'm starting to see where you're coming from." Khamsin told him.

"But now I realize that I can't control the way people feel. Only selfish people try to change people's emotions. I won't allow myself to end up that way," Ichiro replied.

"What are you planning to do?" Khamsin asked.

"I don't know... For now, I'm doing the only thing that I can…" Ichiro started. "Live… I made a promise to Akane after all. More importantly, I've learned that I'll have to grow up and know that there will be things in this world that I won't be able to have… but it is facing these facts and overcoming them that will help me grow stronger."

Ichiro walked through the door to the room, raising his hand as a sign of goodbye, leaving Khamsin behind.

- -()- -

Ichiro headed over to Misaki Festival, walking through the crowds. He could detect them nearby, he was certain of it.

"Excuse me, sir." He heard next to him. He looked at the stand and saw a bunch of apples on sticks. "We're selling candy apples, they're very delicious. Would you like to buy one?" The woman asked him.

"Sure, why not." Ichiro handed the woman some money and took a candy apple. "Thank you…" Ichiro said. He turned and his eyes widened as he noticed the group a few feet away. Shana was talking with Chigusa. Konoe was clinging onto Yuji's sleeve as she talked with him. He watched as Yuji looked confused and leaned his head down. Konoe lightly pecked him on his cheek, much to Shana's annoyance. Ichiro closed his eyes and smiled before turning away and walking off in the opposite direction.

Konoe looked surprised as she looked around like she was searching for something.

"Something wrong Konoe-san?" Yuji asked her.

"I just could have sworn that I felt Ichiro's presence nearby, but now it's pretty far away." Konoe replied.

"He isn't too far away. We could try to go find him." Shana suggested.

"Are you planning on going somewhere?" Chigusa asked as she walked over to them.

"Yeah, we're going to check something out. You guys can go home ahead of us, we'll catch up." Yuji replied before they ran off.

- -(Konoe's house)- -

"Margery-san…" Satou started. "Aren't we going to the festival?" He asked her. Margery was taking out an expensive looking bottle of wine when she looked over at him.

"No way in hell!" Margery replied. "That brat promised me all the expensive wine I could drink and damn it if I'm not going to drink!"

"I honestly wonder how you were, when you were my age," Satou said, watching her empty the contents of her glass.

"Oh come on, here…" Margery told him as she poured some wine in another glass. "You want some?" Margery asked showing him the other glass.

"I don't see why you're offering it to me, but fine I'll take it," Satou replied as he reached for the glass only to see Margery swipe it away from him.

"Uh, uh, Keisaku you're not old enough yet." Margery teased.

"That was a dirty trick!" Satou turned away from her. He glanced over his shoulder at the blond-haired woman, taking another sip of the burgundy wine before she leaned back and relaxed on the couch. He didn't understand why, but a smile appeared on the young man's face. Some things never changed...

- -()- -

Ichiro was sitting on a hill that had a great view of the sky. He took a bite out of the candy apple feeling a rush of sugar enter his mouth.

"This is very sweet!" Ichiro said looking down at it.

"Well what did you expect? It's a candy apple!" Seraphyne replied sounding amused. She started laughing, but stopped when she noticed that Ichiro seemed serious. "Ichiro, when you turned away back there…" Seraphyne started to say.

"Did you not hear my moving speech back at the house?" Ichiro asked her. "I told you that I wouldn't interfere with any of that… Remember when I brought her to the city? I gave her the promise that she would be free to make any of her decisions and this situation's no different." Ichiro told her.

"Is that truly what you want?" Seraphyne asked him.

"Who knows?" Ichiro replied as he lay down on the grass. He looked up at the night sky, his mind wandering as he remembered the things the stunning, black-haired denizen had said.

"You're a fool. Ichiro has more value than the Mystes of the Reiji Maigo will ever have!"

"Unlike those people around you, I know your true value."

"Emissary of Twilight, Ichiro. My name is Persephone. I've been waiting a long time to meet you."

"So all of you are going to fight me? Fine then, if I have to fight for Ichiro, then so be it. I will kill all of you where you stand!"

"A great hardship lies in your future. You must prepare yourself for what will come..."

"What did she mean by that? I wonder... What should I do now?" Ichiro muttered to himself.

"What was that Ichiro?" Seraphyne asked him.

"Nothing Seraphyne…" Ichiro told her. He noticed someone's presence behind him. Looking up, he noticed the blue-haired girl walking towards him. "Konoe-san…" Ichiro said as he sat up.

"You've kept your distance from us long enough." Konoe told him firmly. She looked surprised when Ichiro smiled.

"That doesn't matter to me anymore." Ichiro told her. "I've done a lot of thinking and I've decided that I would grow up and deal with it. That's how I'll handle my situations now." Ichiro said as he stood up. "I'm sorry about the way I've acted, because of it I've pretty much changed your perspective of me haven't I?"

"Well, you're right… it has…" Konoe replied. "I honestly don't think that things will be the same between us anymore…" Konoe thought. Ichiro ruffled her hair before noticing the other two.

"You're free to make your own decisions…even if that decision is who you want to be with… Konoe-san." Ichiro thought as they walked over to them.

"Ichiro…" Yuji started to say.

"Yuji-san, you're a person that truly has luck on your side. You should cherish it, who knows the things that make you lucky could be the people that are closest to you." Ichiro told him looking at Shana and Konoe. Ichiro took a few steps away from them. Shana was about to say something when Ichiro interrupted her.

"Don't worry I've decided that I'm not leaving Misaki City…" Ichiro said. He looked up at the sky. "At least I think so..."

"This war for existence won't be stopping anytime soon…" He heard Persephone say in his mind.

"You're right…" Ichiro muttered to himself.

"Misaki City is a battleground and this Maelstrom of Warfare may never end…"

And that's Chapter 24 everyone. This chapter ends the Crimson saga.

Thank you all for reading and supporting my story until its conclusion. Later!