Disclaimer : Air Gear belongs to Ogure Ito

Chapter 17:

It was as if a dragon had been freed, releasing it's first roar. The entire Tower shook from the monstrous impact of Ikki's Air Tornado. Ikki's air blast created from the void in the air, combined with the pressure of the compressed surroundings created an undeniably powerful burst of power. Compared to Ikki's Tornado, Sora's earlier trick nearly seemed childish. This was the realthing. The wind sliced chunks of metal through and through like butter, violent and unstoppable. For a few seconds, Ikki couldn't concentrate on anything but the impact of the tornado he had released. The loud sound reverberated, shaking him hard till the momentum reached his heart. His ears craned, scanning to hear the harsh cry of his opponent over the sound of metal and air whipping and breaking apart.

Ikki slowly placed a hand over his heart, feeling the beat of his heart hammering against his ribcage. He didn't even know that he was capable of creating such an impossibly destructive trick, but there it was, resonating all around him. He waited for a sound of his opponent. Yet, there was still no sound of the fall, just the sweeping sound of ash floating in the void.

Death was the only reasonable answer. No normal human could have withstood the blast and lived. Ikki hopped downwards, squinting, expecting to see the remains of the Sky King. There was nothing but a void, and there was a sudden shifting hollowness. Suddenly, the world seemed to move. Everything around him seemed to move, creak and rumble. Then, rows and rows of pipes of the mighty Tower started peeling apart, the insides of the Tower was starting to crumble. It was self-destructing.

Then, out of nowhere, Ikki heard a voice.

"..Ikki.."

Sora.

xxx

It's done.

Dr Minami slapped the table with a satisfied grin. The encryption of the "Self-Destruct" mechanism seemed complicated at first, but he soon eased into the process like a well-oiled machine. He knew the consequences of the growth of the estranged Tower. It wasn't the simple painted reason of a disturbance in the aerial system, it was the fact that the Tower was threatening innocent lives that made him grow anxious, and frustrated at his own foolishness for creating it in the first place. The moment the Tower reaches the Troposphere, the Tower would activate numerous anti-gravity plates he had planted all over the district and weaken the Earth's gravity for those parts. The idea seemed relevantly futuristic then, but now, it was a recipe for disaster.

As a man, he loved to gamble. He could enter a casino wearing the most expensive Armani suit in town and go home with not a single thread left on him. Other times he would scrape his winnings clean. It was all about risks. The riskier the better, the more he bet, the more fired up he'd get. It just didn't occur to him just how much he would potentially lose from building all of this.

The Tower wasn't just a symbol or monument of his knowledge and power, it was also a device to shatter the one thing keeping humans apart from the universe. The Sky. The technology developed from the construction of the Tower would have been sufficient to support a third-world country and outrank all of the first world countries combined. All hail Japan.

Suddenly, the screen flashed, and his smile froze in place. There was a man on the opposite side of the concrete wall, and he was staring right through the camera, as if he knew he was there watching him. Sora stood near the rubble and wreckage that threatened to fall apart at the slightest touch. The Tower was now self destructing, and it was going to go under within a couple of minutes. The other man knew this, and he stared at the camera, straight into Dr Minami's soul. His gaze was neither melancholy nor menacing, instead, there was a sort of peace in those eyes. Dr Minami had never seen the man wear such a look before. Then, his face broke out into a small smile, and Dr Minami broke down.

Sora. My little boy.

For the first time in a very long while, the walls of Dr Minami's guarded heart tore down. Has it been that long since he saw him smile? As the image of the little boy he tenderly cherished surfaced, the man in the screen mouthed a word. It was such a simple word, a basic one in fact, which was what made it all the more painful.

Goodbye

Xxx

"..Ikki."

Sora's hoarse voice echoed from beneath the veil of smoke, deeper beneath into the Tower. The man wasn't dead, and as far as Ikki was concerned, he was better off being burnt alive and fed to the dogs. Yet, fighting Sora hadn't fired up his spirit in the least, and he felt somewhat remorseful . It was an odd feeling. The more he fought Sora, the less hateful he became. Rika's death was only recent, and it was understandable for him to feel the fresh wound to sting. And yet, with every step he took towards Sora, who was now in plain view, standing calmly in the middle of the debris, he felt his vengeance slowly whisk away.

Now, Sora stood before him, a mere 10 feet separating them both. That was more than enough distance for Ikki to slice his body into slivers of human meat. It took him less than a couple of seconds to end the life of the woman who raised him, and he shouldn't even be giving the bastard a second thought. Ikki stared into Sora's black eyes. He had decided that he would kill this man, regardless what Kilik just told him. Yet, his mind was suddenly collectively undecided.

"So, how does it feel?" Sora spoke, his voice rough from the strain. Ikki had expected a more threatening line from the man who had baited him into this battle. "To have his ass kicked? You tell me."Ikki replied. He stared at him anxiously, anticipating a sneak attack, something he could count on from a person as low as Sora. At the moment though, Sora was standing so perfectly still that he might've blended in with the atmosphere. Sora barked a short, bitter laugh. "No..To lose the person you care about the most."

Ikki sucked in a sharp breath. This guy.. He's enjoying this. "Why did you do it?" No matter how angry he was, he couldn't climb out of this wrecked tower without knowing why Rika was murdered. "She was simply in my way ; Collateral damage." He shrugged " I wanted to be King of the Sky.. but she just couldn't stay out of it. Too bad.." Sora said, without a hint of regret. His tone was positively brash and pompous. Ikki had just had about enough when Sora pushed the serrated knife of truth deeper into his wound."" He drawled the last two words longer than necessary. Suddenly, there was nothing holding Ikki back.

Sora could feel himself peeling from the inside out. The damage he incurred from Ikki's powerful blast was immense, and there was nothing left that could possibly save him. His internal organs were severely damaged, and being this deep into the Earth's core only made it worse. On top of that, the coat of protective layer surrounding them from the pressure was getting lifted off at a very high rate. There was no telling how long the Tower would eventually crash down into the Earth, but whatever it was, it wasn't going to take too long. He stood still, watching Ikki advance towards him in slow motion.

I'm coming back to you now, Mom

It felt like a lifetime ago that Sora was in the embrace of his mother. She had the most beautiful voice that would lull him into a perfect dreamland, and he had loved her to pieces. Even from the time he could remember, he could recall her prattling cheerily about the sky, and how one day, she would be flying next to the birds and airplanes. She was so fixated on her impossible dream then that it gradually became his dream as well. But of course, being married to Minami Rinta, the chasm of gravity and reality separating her and her dreams would soon be stitched together with the miracles of science. He had been building the Trophaeum Tower in secrecy for years, but when it was finally completed, she tragically passed away giving birth to their second son.

It didn't just wreck him apart, Sora, who had always been closest to his mother was the one who had been deeply affected. He couldn't stop blaming the infant for his mother's death. So one day, after being woken up by the sound of his baby brother's wails in the middle of the night, he crept out of bed and stood over the bassinet where Ikki was laying. He firmly held a pillow and slowly descended both hands to cover his brother's face. The baby's cries were muffled and Sora pressed down harder. Whoever killed mom must be killed too.. Just as he was about to exert more pressure, threatening to break the baby's neck, Minami ran into the room and frantically grabbed Sora by the waist and threw the pillow away from the baby's face.

Losing his wife had not only broken him , but she had also left him two little boys to take care after. The man tried his best, but his best wasn't good enough. He could feel himself shrinking from the fear of his responsibilities from the sudden realization that he was alone. Then, one fateful night after catching Sora attempting to strangle his youngest son, just 4 months after her death, he hit a dead end. He was a failure as a father. The only resolution he could come up with was to hand Ikki over to the Noyamano family to which the mother of the 3 siblings Ikki were to live with were working under him. That way, he could effectively keep him safe and effectively have constant supervision over him. Having sent his baby away, however, he couldn't bring himself to part ways with his firstborn. So, he kept him close.. as one of his laboratory experiments.

Dr Minami knew of the irrational hatred his son bore towards Ikki, and despite his efforts of making the boy understand, Sora became a recluse and refused to allow anyone, not even his father, to kill his newfound obsession. For years, he relented and let himself be subjected to the experiments, coming closer to the dream his mother had always dreamt of, but never lived to see. Then one day, when he finally decided that he had had enough, he slipped away, along with the secrets of the Tower.

There were no other options left for him to choose and no more paths to be threaded. Sora's knees buckled. He could feel his strength drop to the floor the exact moment his knees hit the ground. Every breath Sora took was now laboured and strained. In the next second, he gagged and coughed out a trail of. Ikki stopped short in his mid-run, eyes wide and cautious. His fist was just inches away from connecting with Sora's left brain. "The fuck are you waiting for, finish me" Sora taunted, his voice a coarse whisper.

Ikki took a proper look at Sora. He was a monster who murdered his sister. This man deserved neither pity nor forgiveness. Yet, there he was, on his knees, blood trailing profusely from his mouth and nose. He was dying. Killing him would just pull him out of his misery. Ikki stepped back and let his fist fall to his side. Counting backwards from 5 to 1, he exhaled slowly. "All I ever wanted was for Rika to be happy. You took that away from her. I should be carving your eyeballs out." He huffed. "But I won't. I'm not a murderer like you.. because I wasn't raised that way." Ikki clenched his fists tighter and turned around. Sora stared at him incredulously, disbelieving what he just heard. Even after all this, the boy still couldn't bring himself to kill him. Did he hear him wrong? He coughed more blood, this time unable to support his own weight, he slumped on the floor.

Ikki turned around one last time. Sora had slumped down on the ground, barely moving. As much as he wanted to turn around, physically, he wasn't even sure if he could even get himself out of this place alive. Emotionally, he'd simply feel like throwing the man back into the deep pit. Either way, Sora was already dying. The structure of the Tower was now unbelievably shaky. Ikki knew he had to get himself out fast before he too, would be trapped underneath. There was barely the slightest hint of wind flowing in this part of the Tower, and the longer he stayed, the heavier the pressure felt. He stealthily moved up the pipes, dodging the fallen debris of metal scraps falling from above.

As he moved up the Tower, he felt an overwhelming sense of utter loneliness settle in his chest. He had lost his sister, mother, friend and protector in a span of less than 24 hours. Ringo is in the hospital, comatose. He had no idea how he could even break the news to her if she didn't even recognise who he was anymore. There was no sense of victory in this battle. He didn't even know how they could ever get back to being normal anymore.

Xx

The entire area surrounding a radius of 20 metres around the National Library was completely closed off to the public. Sirens of police cars blared incessanty in the early hours of the morning. It is currently 5:16AM and most of the illegal AT riders working under one of the main trident in the state were already safely locked at the back of the police van. Shortly after the Tower had first began it's move into the Earth's troposphere, the alarms of the base of Windstorm G-Men blared off for 15 solid minutes. Their leader, Wanijima Kaito, a tall man with long ash blonde hair lead his troops into the scene accompanied by 5 military air force F-15 Eagle jets storming into the heart of the city. With an astonishing speed of mach 2.5, each jet transported 10 trained, professional elite AT riders within minutes after the Tower emerged. They had even successfully captured one of the main AT leaders, Nike.

However, he was mildly annoyed to find that Sora was buried deep inside the Tower. That man held many precious secrets he could've used to obtain intelligence on the Mafia Trident controlling the city. Kaito inhaled his Menthol cigarette deeply, observing the area. Ambulances were also parked near the Tower, tending to the wounded. Ikki was sitting quietly in one of the ambulance, getting his blood pressure checked. Kilik on the other hand was getting his wrist bandaged, no doubt obtained from his battle with Nike earlier on. Those two men were evidently worn out from the all the fighting. Kaito calmly exhaled a puff of smoke and walked over to the duo.

Ikki lifted his gaze off the pavement and saw Kaito's tall, menacing form walking towards him. The moment he climbed out of the Tower, he had been interrogated mercilessly by Kaito. Where is he? Who else is involved in this? What did you do to Sora? Kaito fired question after question tirelessly until his speech aligned into a series of repeated answers, like a broken tape recorder. He only stopped when the paramedics had to forcefully remove him from the ambulance itself, leaving them to tend to the boy in peace. Now he's back, hopefully with a little less tenacity. Ikki gulped. Kaito rested one arm against the door, leaning in "You better get yourself rested cause I'm still not done with you." Ikki blinked stupidly "Yeah." "Cause if I find out you're lying I'm gonna rip your tongue out." He said coolly. " Yeah? I won't be much use then, would I?" Ikki replied back steadily, smirking. Kaito rolled his eyes and walked away, shouting orders at his men.

Kilik turned to him "Finally. I thought he'd never shut up." Ikki chuckled weakly, not fully smiling. His mind was elsewhere. "Hey, About Rika.. We'll give her a proper burial. Don't worry about everything. Leave it to me." Kilik looked at him straight in the eye and placed his good hand on Ikki's shoulder, squeezing it assuringly before getting up and leaving. He didn't know where to go. At this moment, all he wanted to do was stay by Ringo's side.

Xx

One week later:

Ringo could feel herself drifting into consciousness. She slowly opened her eyes, noticing the dark room and the surroundings. I'm in a hospital.. Why am I in the hospital? Ringo turned her head slightly, feeling sore from the cramp. There was a boy sleeping next to her. He is holding her hand in his. She looked at him, trying to figure out who he was. Have I met him before..? She ransacked through her dim memory and remembered. He's the guy who carried me out of that Dome.. What was his name? Then suddenly, the boy rustled in his sleep. He moved around quite a bit before settling back into a deep slumber, all the while without releasing his hold on her hand. Ringo felt it then, the butterflies in her stomach. Her heart contracted, and she could feel all sorts of emotions for the boy holding her hand.

She didn't even understand why, but when she tried reaching out for him with her other arm which was still attached to the IV drip, a name clicked into place. "..Ikki." She whispered.

When she woke up again for the second time that day, the scenario had changed completely. Instead of darkness, the room was filled with light, and an awful lot of commotion. "Oh my god, guys! She's waking up!" There was a chorus of oh my god s and the noise level shot up the roof. She cracked her eyes open, getting used to the bright light. She could hear someone running out of the room in haste, knocking a few people on the way out, desperately shouting for the nurse. "Back off, remember what the doctor said. Give her some space."All around her, she was surrounded by familiar, smiling faces of her family and friends. "Ringo, Hey, you alright?" Somebody held her forearm, and when she turned, she came face to face with Mikan and Ume. They were beaming happily at her, Ume now gently gathering her hands with both her hands. "Hey guys, I'm fine." She smiled cheerily. Then she turned towards the rest of the group of bright, expectant faces waiting for recognition. "Guys, you don't have to look at me like that. It's not like I'm dying, really!" Everyone broke into sighs and expressions of relief, crowding up her bed. A second later, the door burst open, followed by a doctor and behind him, Ikki.

"Everyone, I thought I told you to give her some space." The doctor said, disapprovingly, looking at the bunch of sheepish, guilty faces surrounding her now. He turned his attention back to Ringo, holding out a stethoscope and placing it on her chest. "Alright, just breathe normally." When he was done, he took out the Sphygmomanometer and placed her arm accordingly, calmly taking her blood pressure. She looked past the doctor to meet the concerned eyes of Minami Itsuki. For a moment, she felt as if everyone had left and there was only the two of them left in the room. The moment was cut short a moment later by the Doctor. "Everything's stable now, but I wouldn't recommend you to move around and do anything rigorous for two, three months. You're still recovering. " He packed up and left the room. "That's a relief. You're okay!" Mikan expressed. Her eyes were glassy, as was Ume's. Then, she realized someone was missing. "Hey, where's Rika-Nee?" She asked innocently. It was as if somebody pulled out the rug from underneath everyone. There was an awkward silence following her question, everyone averting eye contact with one another. Ringo turned to Mikan. Her face was contorted with anguish. "Mikan, Is she alright?" Mikan said nothing. She turned towards Ikki who had the same expression as Mikan did. "Hey, answer me. Where is Rika? Is she alright?" Her tone rose, growing desperate. Ringo clutched Ikki's hands and looked into his eyes. "Tell me the truth." Ikki opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. He looked at the rest of the gang, motioning them to leave the room. It wasn't long till the room was cleared, looking much bigger now than it did moments ago. He cleared his throat. Ringo felt unsettled. Ikki sat by her bedside, looking at her in the eyes. "Ringo, Rika-Nee, She.. she's not here with us any longer." He took a moment, as if settling himself. "She passed away." The words "passed away" sounded foreign to Ringo's ears. Did she hear him wrong? "What? I'm sorry, I thought I just heard you say Rika-Nee 'passed away' " Ringo began, feeling uneasy. Ikki looked to Mikan and back to her, sighing. "She's gone, Ringo. She's.. dead." Just then, the words click into place and she felt the ground beneath her give way. It was a good thing she was sitting on the bed right that second, because if she didn't, the ground would've welcomed her instead. "What do you mean dead? She can't be!" Ringo shouted. She had never felt so desperate for an answer in her life. "How did she..?" She still couldn't bring herself to admit the fact that Rika had passed on. "It was during the Trophaeum Battle. Sora had strangled the life out of her." Even when Ikki regaled the story in it's full splendour back to Ringo, the pain was simply too new, too fresh and still too painful to bear. He didn't even realize it, but by the time he had finished, all 4 of them were in one tight embrace with a hole in their chest too big to heal.

Xx

It didn't take Ringo too long to regain her memories. She would wake up screaming in the middle of the night from violent, vivid dreams of the battle, and most of the time Ikki would come running to her to hold her close until she calmed down. Sometimes, she would regain almost an entire chapter of her lost memories, but other times she could only hold onto strings of it. It was painfully frustrating for her to not be able to remember. Everybody seemed to know what had gone down during the battle, but she was the only one grasping around the edges of nothing. Ringo gazed out the window of her bedroom, thinking of what the doctor had said. He warned her not to push herself too much, to simply let the memories waft in naturally, but he didn't lose a family member. He didn't understand. Knock knock Ringo didn't peel her eyes away from the horizon. She already knew who it was behind that door. "Come in." Ikki pushed the sliding door open, holding a tray with a cup of hot chocolate and biscuits. "I brought you something to eat." He walked over and set the tray on her bedside table. Ringo turned and smiled at him "Thanks. You don't have to keep doing this, you know. I'm already fine, the doctor said so." She said as she gingerly picked a biscuit and placed it into her mouth. Ikki sat down next to her on the bed and folded his legs. "It's alright, I want to. Besides.. If I left you alone in the kitchen, it might just burn down." He said. Ringo shot him a look as if saying "please". Some biscuit crumble stuck to the side of her mouth, and Ikki absent-mindedly thumbed them away and licked the remains off his thumb. "See what I mean?" Ikki laughed, jabbing her lightly on the arm. Ringo blinked, feeling her face warm up. That touch stirred something within her, like she's felt it before.

Her hands shot out and grabbed his and she gently put his hands at the side of her face. Closing her eyes, she tried to remember. "Tell me something no one else knows." Her long shadow covered him, covering his slightly taken aback expression. During the past two months, she had never shown any indications of affection, or any emotion that would tilt towards adoration, much less love towards him. She had put a mask of poker face, much unknown to him. She was the same girl he fell for, but somehow a changed woman in little ways. She didn't look at him the same way the old Ringo did, she didn't love him the way the old Ringo did. She was still his best friend, but he felt as if he had lost her. So when she asked him this question, he didn't know where to begin.

"You're a stubborn, pain in the ass, haughty, bad ass bitch who doesn't like to admit that she's wrong, even if I do prove you wrong you will always manage to manipulate my words and convince me, or anyone else for that matter, that they're wrong. Then again, you are pretty smart-"

Ringo opened her eyes and eyed him for a long while and very slowly said "Tell me something no one else knows."Then in that moment, Ikki found himself looking into the eyes of the girl who still loved him, even if that girl wasn't technically the same person, it was still her. Ikki thought for a moment, gauging that challenging look she was giving him. "Fine. You want to know? You have a birthmark underneath your right breast, I know because I kissed it. I also know that you get really hot when I slip my hands on your hips, like this-"He took away his hands and placed them on Ringo's hips, pulling her closer till their chests were touching. "And I know how your breath hitches when I kiss your shoulder.." He placed a supportive hand behind her back and dipped his head low until his lips was inches apart from her collarbone. As if on cue, she sucked in a sharp breath. Then when she realized she did exactly what he said, she tried to regain control of her breathing, but failed anyway when he placed a tender kiss on her neck. Ikki smirked and resurfaced, looking at her, challenging her to ask more.

Breathless, she couldn't say a thing. The moment was so perfect, as if time itself was standing still. As she looked into his eyes, her brain did a double take. Those eyes were very familiar, and not in the sense that she had been seeing the same person everyday for the past two months, this was different. It felt like her senses awoke at his , she remembered. Her head reeled at the sudden rush of memories that flooded her mind. Every detail of him was suddenly clearly portrayed in her mind. She could see the contours of his body, every sharp, bruised angle of him was suddenly there in her mind. It never really left, but it simply hid in a corner, waiting to be found. She had never felt so peaceful, so protected, so perfectly complete. Slowly, she placed her fingers on his neck, drawing him down. As if it was the most natural thing on earth, they kissed, and they felt whole and alive. Not once since Rika's passing did they experience something like this, emotions so erratic and uncontrollable, it was unreal. Then for the first time since two months ago, they felt as if that hole could be fixed. When they broke the kiss, neither one said a word, but in that silence itself, a thousand words were spoken.

I love you, and I'll always be by your side, protecting you.


Author's note:

There, it's finally finished! I'm sorry for taking a thousand freaking years to upload the final chapter -_-" I got lazy, and I eventually forgot about my own work. God. Anyway, thank you so much for reading my fanfiction! I hope you had fun reading it, cause it.. wasn't so fun for me. Haha