Disclaimer: I don't own Rosario+Vampire, nor do I make any money from the writing of this story. Simple enough, ne? Just don't copy from this story and we're all good!
Again, for this one I took a few lines directly from the manga, but since I already claimed I don't own it, you all know I'm just using them.
Sworn Through Swords
Ever wonder what dying felt like?
Before, back when he was nothing, back when he had been no one of consequence, had no claim to his name but mediocre grades and a life going nowhere fast, he could admit the thought did cross his mind once or twice. Was there really a bright light? Was Death really a skeleton in a black robe wielding a scythe, or was it perhaps more gentle, an angel in white that came to relieve the suffering of the fallen with a soothing touch that took them up to the waiting hands of the Creator? Theories abounded, but through it all Tsukune Aono had just smiled and rolled his eyes at the end of his thoughts. He was a teenager, how soon would he have to worry about death?
Sooner than he would have liked, apparently. He was sixteen, and for the past number of months he had been the gracious guest of a school that catered exclusively to those of things which went bump in the night. Monsters. This might not have been much cause for concern had he actually been one of them. No, he had the rather unique experience of being the only human to receive his grades from an airheaded blonde teacher that had appendages entirely too furry and a strange addiction to sushi. That wasn't enough to warrant a fear of immediate death though, as much as the non-human element may have implied.
He had friends here, in this place called Youkai Academy. As strange as it may sound, he even thought he may have just found love there too. She was gorgeous, she was smart…and she also had a habit of sucking his blood every morning. She was a vampire. A monster amongst monsters, something feared above all others, and yet she had candy pink hair and a smile so cute it could have been criminal. If she hadn't just bit into his neck seconds after meeting him he wouldn't have believed her, but then he found out why she looked about as threatening as a kitten.
In folklore it was rather commonly known that a vampire was weak against holy symbols, crosses among them for natural reasons. Obviously what was lesser known was that they could also be used to seal a vampire's intense energy, and strange quirks could come about because of it. Like a second personality. What was hidden by the rosary around her neck was both so beautiful and so utterly terrifying that their first meeting would never fade from his memories regardless of how long he lived. Ironic, that, thinking of it now.
How could he not fall in love with her? He was a human, a pitifully average one at that, and she was this otherworldly beauty that deigned him worthy enough to be her friend. When he found out she had never had any friends before he was horrified. There was no reason for it! And the other self, the true vampiress, she was a goddess. She was haughty, aristocratic, more powerful than anything he had ever known was achievable, and quite possibly the loneliest person he had ever met.
Looking back on it now after all they had been through, it became so clear to him. Maybe it was his current circumstances. He wouldn't doubt it. Come to think of it, that was a running theme in their circle of friends. They were all outcasts or set apart in some special way that made them either too distant to befriend or too secluded to consider it. And yet somehow, they had all come together. Kurumu, Yukari, Gin, Mizore; friends. Weird friends, but friends, and the foundation of the Newspaper Club. They had only known Ruby for a short while, but he for one considered her a friend too.
They had been through so much together, so many death-defying situations that made him wonder just when his luck would run out. Moka had pulled him back from Death's grip more times than he cared to consider, making the 'death-defying' part of those mentioned situations all the more literal. Her solution to that problem left a bit to be desired however. By injecting him with her blood, the source of a vampire's unearthly power, he had been forcibly torn from the jaws of the abyss and empowered at the same time. She knew about the possible repercussions, yet as it happened again and again, it was either that or let him die. Not only did he not want to, she didn't want him to either.
He could have laughed. Really, when it was all boiled down he deserved to die. He was an idiot, a coward, a feeble little human that was all but completely defenseless against a monster of any kind, but he just kept on coming back. He had run away once, from Saizou way back when, but even then he had come back to get his clock cleaned. He had more scars than some war veterans and he was only sixteen years old! But…he couldn't leave them, he would never leave them.
Kurumu: the busty, blue-haired bombshell that came for them no matter what threatened them, be it man-eating plants or deranged law enforcement officers. Yukari: the genius prepubescent witch that had proclaimed her love for not only Moka, but him as well. Gin: the perverted, super-speeding werewolf that looked out for his friends no matter how stupid he thought they were being. Mizore: the stealthy, misunderstood Snow Woman that only wanted to find people that could identify with her. Moka. Inner or Outer, green-eyed or red-eyed, Moka was Moka, and he would never let her down, not even if she told him he was unnecessary to her, not as long as he still drew breath.
Which might not be for too much longer, actually. Tsukune Aono no longer had to wonder what dying felt like, for he was sure it couldn't be as bad as what he was going through. He hurt, so very, very much. Throughout the day, each step felt like he was walking on coals, each inhalation felt like he was swallowing broken glass. Every cell in his body felt like it was being ripped apart in the most tortuous way imaginable, but he would protect her. He would save her.
His flesh may be frail, but he had the soul of a warrior. That was the only explanation.
She had tried yelling, tried telling him how perilously balanced his existence was right then, and again, he could have laughed. Did she think he didn't know that? His body was his own, and it felt like it was breaking. So what if he was dying, hadn't he shown her that nothing would be enough to tear him away from her side? That didn't matter, it would never matter as long as her life was in danger. She really should have realized that by now.
So there he stood, adding to his multitude of pains as he felt his arm and shoulder-blade fracture in a dozen different places as he withstood the attack of Midou's monstrous arm in her place. He was already bleeding mortally from the large shard of stone lodged in his back, so what was a few fragmented bones to a dead man? Moka was still weak, suffering under the onslaught of water the sprinklers were raining down on her, so as long as he could still move he was going to be her shield. Her cry of his name would have made him smile had the darkness around his eyes not started closing in. The lack of pressure on his arm made him guess Midou had jumped back, maybe in surprise, maybe in fear, and suddenly his legs wouldn't support him anymore. He felt himself fall, but arms caught him before his head cracked against the cratered earth.
"…Why? Why'd you come here, Tsukune…! Even though I told you many times you weren't needed…even so…why…?"
Why? he thought wryly. Like you'd get rid of me that easily. He was a male in the height of puberty, on any other person he would have been at least half controlled by his hormones at all times, and Moka was rapidly becoming a very attractive woman, more so than she already was. That would have been on anyone else. For him, it was a simple equation. She did need him, so he was there. That was all there was to it. But he was no good to her right now, and that above all needed to be changed.
"Moka-san…" he whispered, for that was all he could do. His chest hurt; every expansion to breathe was agony to his battered body. It felt like he was leaking inside, and as he coughed up blood he realized that one of his lungs must have been punctured. He wouldn't let it stop him. Taking another breath of pure pain, he went on. "Give me your blood, Moka-san." It seemed staring Death in the face was giving him more courage than normal. To ask this of her was a terrible risk, both to himself and to her usual temper. If it had been any other circumstance she would have probably caved his head in herself for such a bold order.
"I was frustrated…when Moka-san said that 'this is none of your concern'. To me, the current Moka-san, as well as the outer Moka-san, are both important to me…" More important than she would ever know. "That's why I…wanted power to protect Moka-san."
With power, she would have never ended up in this situation. With power, he could have saved her without being such a burden on her instead. With power, she might begin to respect him as much as he respected her. As he stared at her with his unseeing eyes, he knew the appeal had shaken her.
"What are you saying! I said it already, it's really dangerous! If I inject my blood into you right now…forget your wounds not healing, you'll certainly die…!"
He allowed himself a chuckle in the confines of his mind. She made it seem like there was a chance that wouldn't happen if she didn't. A wracking cough hit him unaware and more precious blood left his body even as it filled his lungs. So this is what dying feels like, he thought mildly. It's more…peaceful, than I imagined. Though the situation was anything but, right then there was only the two of them, both weak, but the difference between them was that one was willing to give everything to ensure the other survived, even if they didn't.
"Tsukune!" she shouted in alarm as his hacking coughs shook him in her arms. "This should be clear to you, right…? If you remain in this academy with this frail body of yours…" Grief overcame her, and anger ended up mixing with despair as she yelled, "THAT'S WHY I TOLD YOU THAT YOU WEREN'T NEEDED! HURRY…GO BACK TO THE HUMAN WORLD!"
And as if from a dream as his world continued to darken, he heard her last despondent whisper.
"I didn't want you to die, that's why I pushed you away…"
As the darkness encroached on the last of his awareness, he managed the barest twitch of a smile.
I know, and that's why I would do anything, anything, to protect you.
The soul of the warrior within him burned.
Well, that was unexpected. Light was everywhere, so bright the place he was in had been dyed a blinding white. As far as the afterlife went, he supposed it was alright. A bit cliché maybe, but he didn't hurt here, not physically at any rate. Cultured, quiet laughter sounded to his side, and he spun around instantly, ready to fight if need be. The second he did that he scowled bitterly. Yeah, he would fight, and just like before, he would be nothing without her, nothing but a burden. Then, like before, he would die.
The man who stood before him though, looked like everything he could ever aspire to be. His poise was so refined and masculine he felt inadequate just by being in his presence, which was rather like what he felt like by Moka. Pale skin was set upon a frighteningly handsome face, his lips pressed into a sardonically amused smirk. White hair, so like Moka's, had been swept backwards in a way that left it in layers of lengthening spikes, yet the gaze fixed on him was not red, it was a brilliant, ice blue. Even his clothes screamed of nobility; the oriental, sapphire long-coat, the darker, armor-like vest and aristocratic scarf tucked perfectly into its collar. Even his matching pants and knee-high brown leather boots made him look elegant in the most dangerous of ways. He looked cold, but at the same time there was gentleness there, a kindness buried deep.
But why, why did this man remind him so much of himself?
"Can you hear it, the cry of a soul?" he asked piercingly. The words came from the man's mouth, but Tsukune could hear it from the air, from all around him, and from the deepest depths of the darkest parts of his being. Then he added, "What is your soul saying?"
Tsukune made to answer, then stopped. He might not be the best student in school, but something felt off, for lack of a better word. That question was one he had asked himself more times than he could count. Why did he keep going back to situations he had no place in? Why did he try when he was nothing more than a feeble human? Why was he willing to fight when everything seemed so hopeless? Because he had the soul of a warrior. And now his soul was asking the question back. It was easy enough to find out.
He smiled grimly. "What's yours saying?"
The figure returned it and answered, "Power. I want more…power."
"Wait, I know how this one ends: 'I'll take that too then'!" a new voice quipped, and from the stark whiteness of the surroundings stepped a man that looked much like the other one. His features were softer, his white hair dangled freely, and his smile was much warmer though filled with biting sarcasm. His clothes were similar as well, even if characterized by denim and bearing a lot more red. All in all, the newcomer simply looked much more relaxed, but for all their similarities, they couldn't be more different.
"But I need it!" Tsukune snapped. "If I had more power…"
Both of the strange men's expressions softened, and while hardly noticeable on the first, he said, "Might controls everything, and without strength you cannot protect anything, let alone yourself."
They might as well have been daggers plunged directly into his chest, and the young teen fought the tears boiling in his eyes. "…Yes."
The elegant man started pacing purposefully, never taking his fierce stare from the boy in front of him. "You are in an unusual position. In my life I was half devil, born from the Legendary Dark Knight and a human woman."
The other took point. "And in my life I was a human that gained some of the power of this devil, thanks to his soul and sword. We were both strong, arrogant, and focused, but I managed to save the one most important to me…"
"…Whereas I had failed," the noble completed. "Fate seems to be making up its debt to me, as each time I'm reborn I gain the chance to succeed where before I had not. I bore the blood of the greatest devil Hell had ever seen, yet I was part human, and I resented that, for I felt it made me weak when I had needed to be strong."
"And I was human before my trigger, but it was the strength I drew from that humanity that gave me the power to succeed," the denim-clad male put in.
"But you," the first said towards Tsukune, his face set in a mask of consideration, "you are a human that has been fed the blood of one of the last remaining true devils, and a powerful one at that. That is what allowed this. She never suspected your soul was closer to a devil's than a man's. You are closer to my goal than I ever was, and you don't even know it. The irony would kill me if I weren't already dead."
"So now you need to think," the second started as the white of the background slowly shrunk away. When it was gone, Tsukune saw they were standing over the Earth, but not just any area of the Earth, they were standing over the last scene he could remember. Moka, barely conscious and in water-induced anguish, had her fangs sunk into his neck while the other Outcast Ayashi watched, but it was frozen in time, unmoving. "What would you give, what drives you to get this power?"
Tsukune shook in impotent rage as water streaked down his cheeks. "Anything," he rasped weakly. "I would give anything. I don't care if I become a Youkai…anything…to protect her."
The strangers shared a grim nod, but still the aristocrat scoffed. "Youkai. Pitiful creatures, fallbacks from mighty devils cut off from Hell when my brother sealed it away for the last time. So few remain that could boast the power of even the weakest of Hell's Generals! Those that were trapped here now hold hardly any of the strength of their ancestors, diluted over the ages by war, weakened breeding, and sheer lack of effort. Show them. Show them the power of a true devil. Find Yamato! Retake the Throne!"
In an instant the other young man was in front of him, lifting him clear off the ground with surprising strength. "Always remember what you made this decision for! Her blood is nothing next to the strength of your soul! Take it! Overcome it! Now what do you want?"
"Power!" Tsukune shouted unwittingly.
"What would you give?"
"For her!" he cried. It was the second time he had said it, but then and only then did he seem to actually grasp what he was saying, and the tension drained out of him as he realized the full implications. Hanging limp in the commoner's grip, he knew. "For her. I would do anything…to protect her."
The man smiled, one lacking sarcasm or any other negative emotion as he dropped him to his feet. "And that is what will make you strong. Remember, the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda was a full-fledged demon, but he had a human heart, a heart that could love another person. Hold on to that. I did. You'll never lose yourself if you do, no matter what your choices bring. My name was Nero."
"And mine Vergil," the first added, not unkindly, but still hard. "So tell me, he who has inherited my will: who are you?"
The question, the tone, the very feeling that shook like a tremor through his body told him this was far more than the simple query it seemed. He was being analyzed, judged, weighed and measured…and for one of the few times in his life he didn't want to be found wanting. The pressure was horrible, but finally he just smiled—almost serenely—straightened his back and squared his shoulders. In front of the two imposing men he probably looked like nothing but a posturing idiot, but he wouldn't back down here, not when there was so much at stake.
"M-My name…my name is Tsukune Aono," he replied, unsure at first, but by the end there was nothing but cold steel in his voice.
Another look passed between the duo, and eventually Nero snorted and started laughing. "Not bad, kid, not bad at all. You'll do just fine. You've got yourself one hell of a group of friends, trust in yourself a bit too and you're gonna be great!"
Vergil stepped forward. "And if it's power you want, what would you do to gain it?"
Tsukune smiled as he recalled Nero's opening words. "I'll do what I have to. I'll take it from you!"
Nero laughed again as Vergil's lips twitched.
"And so the pattern repeats. Very well. There are some…things you will need to know."
With that, he then stepped through him, disappearing into the void. The remaining man flipped him a two-fingered salute before doing the same, but his last words echoed in the strange realm.
"You do have the soul of a warrior, now use it."
Despair couldn't come close to what Moka was feeling as Tsukune lay unresponsive, dying, despite the blood she was pumping into him. He was going to die; he was going to die and it was all her fault. When she could give no longer, she slumped down, prepared to meet her end. He would die, but she would too, so at least she wouldn't have to live without him. She couldn't begin to imagine what that pain would feel like. Now there was an interesting thought. Maybe the knowledge of impending doom had loosened her pride enough to see what she had never hoped to find underneath? Such a wonderful time to have such a world-shaking revelation.
Damn it all.
Then something broke her fall, something warm, safe, and breathing. She didn't dare hope, but to the horror of her brittle heart she could do nothing but, and just as she looked to see healthy flesh where before it had been sickly pale, stars exploded in front of her eyes as she was struck in the back of the head and she knew no more.
Words could not describe what the assorted Outcasts were thinking as they watched what should have been a dead man not only get to his feet, but silently knock out the severely weakened vampire he had previously extended nothing but protection to. It was as if their entire battle so far had suddenly been turned on its head and they had no idea what to do in response. Then they saw him reach back and tug out the sharp piece of rock that normally would have cemented his place among the dead, where in seconds not even a scratch remained. Their thoughts on the matter screeched to a halt right about then, while Midou scowled darkly. Tsukune's eyes snapped open, and then even the misshaped monster's breathing stilled.
They weren't red, as they had been, or even brown, as they should have been. Incandescent cerulean light seared from sapphire irises radiating an equal amount of disdain. They were hateful eyes, powerful eyes, and they were directed solely at them with such intensity that the bitter stench of urine began emanating from more than one place in the throng of onlookers.
Baleful blue sparks seemed to generate from his skin alone as he started walking decisively towards the progenitor of his whole day's problems, and it soon became very obvious that those sparks were not a sign of pain as they were with Moka, rather an indication of power. What was more disconcerting was none of them felt the telltale chills that came from being overwhelmed by another's Youki; their reaction was entirely instinctive. It wasn't Youki, it was a pressure, an ingrained existence that was just there merely because he was, and the students that fancied themselves important because of their group found their bodies screaming at them to get away.
Midou was practically snarling with rage by the time Tsukune stood in front of him, infuriated by how he was responding to the small teen. "What the hell makes you think you're so hot you damn purebred?" he roared angrily as he drew back his huge fist and prepared to make the supposed vampire standing before him nothing but a stain on the ground. The Youki he was putting out was enough to cause his friends to shake, though not who he wanted. His scream was near shrill as he brought down the weapon of destruction, and Tsukune calmly raised his hand.
The earth buckled and shattered, the building around them groaned from the newest quake, but Tsukune Aono stood unharmed behind the massive appendage he was holding off.
"So," the freshman muttered quietly, "he was right."
Hellgates, Devil Arms, demons that truly lived up to their names—as residents of Hell, as in Hell Hell—Yamato, a sword that could cut through the fabric of space itself, and the Dark Slayer style that had been forged with it; it all seemed so hard to believe. He had been a human, but force-fed the livelihood of a true devil. This had empowered him for a time, yet simultaneously destroyed the humanity it was saving. As the heir to the soul of a Sparda, his last cry brought about unintended consequences. Similar to Nero, he had drawn on his soul's power, but this time there were added variables that changed the outcome. A human sacrifice, demonic blood, and a devil's soul. Instead of his soul reaching through the ether for power it had once known, the blood of an actual devil resonated with that call and the death of a pure human made it even more potent.
The truth was he had died the moment Moka injected him with her blood. He had died with untainted intentions—virginal, as Vergil had so embarrassingly put it—already weakened by and filled with the lifeblood of devils. Those were heady ritualistic ingredients, and when the soul—a Sparda soul, one of both demonic and human origins—within made that last gamble, he came out as the purest devil to be seen in the human realm for untold years. He would no longer be pushed around. Now to see what he could do, and repay Midou for the agony he had put Moka through.
The punch he delivered into Midou's stomach cracked ribs and made him spit blood and bile. Oh was it satisfying, but it wasn't enough, not enough for making Moka scream like she had when the water hit her, not ever enough for the blood she shed as she was shamelessly attacked during her weakness. Midou was scum, a disgrace to those who fought with honor. He was going to teach him a lesson he wouldn't soon forget.
The Outcast leader didn't stand a chance under Tsukune's onslaught. His form was full of openings to begin with; unable to rely on his strength to compensate in the face of a greater power, those openings were exploited to the fullest simply because Tsukune was so fast. The give of muscle and the crunch of bone beneath his fists made the new devil smile darkly.
"How does it feel?" Tsukune hissed as a punch sank into the untransformed half of Midou's face. "How does it feel to know that you're going to lose and there's nothing you can do about it? No more underhanded tricks, no more hostages, and no one to save you." Seeing as Midou couldn't answer for himself, the others flung themselves into the fray after recognizing that their leader really did need saving. Glowing blue eyes regarded them almost lazily. "Okay, let me put that a different way: no one can save you."
To be seemingly without limits was potentially consuming, and admittedly he was enjoying himself far more than he would have normally. He blamed his new nature. He and his friends had been life's punching bag ever since he had started school, but now he was on the other end of things for a change, and the objects of his wrath deserved everything they got. He wasn't above abandoning Midou to avoid damage from the oncoming attacks, where he weaved through the brutes jumping at him with tightly restrained awe. They were all so slow. Well, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. These…creatures had the audacity to kidnap an innocent girl with every aim of injuring, if not outright killing, both her and who came to save her. They wouldn't be getting any mercy from him. Hell, that would be the last thing they would get from him. He chuckled as he neatly sidestepped an oncoming strike from arms that were longer than they had any right to be, then just as neatly snapped their bones with a vicious double-handed hammer-punch. Actually, that was all they would be getting from him: Hell.
Vergil's idea of what 'things' he needed to know were still jumbled in his head. The finer points of the Dark Slayer style for example, there was no way he was pulling off half of that stuff without some serious training, and Yamato, naturally. It had been an integral part of both Vergil and Nero, and now that he knew of its existence it felt like a piece of himself was missing. Finding it was a whole new can of worms, along with any of the other Devil Arms that might still be hanging around. The Summoned Swords Vergil favored would have been greatly appreciated in this situation, but as it was he knew he had about as much chance of conjuring the great sword Sparda out of thin air as he did the imitations of Force Edge, which was, of course, none. All he had going for him for now was significantly enhanced speed, strength, agility, and a healing capacity that a vampire would be jealous of, at least until he learned the finer points of directing his new power.
...When he thought of it that way, it really wasn't that bad.
The ground shook yet again as he smashed one of the latest combatants into a self-made crater, ducking almost absentmindedly under another attack from behind and planting his elbow into the wannabe gangster's gut. For all their proclamations that mixed monsters were just as good as the so-called 'purebreds', there only seemed to be a select few of them that had any real strength, otherwise they subscribed to the 'strength in numbers' line of thinking. Which was fine, he supposed, as long as they didn't bite off more than they could chew.
That was when he noticed some of the more intelligent members sneaking past the immediate warzone…over to where Moka still lay unconscious.
Those sparks which had occasionally been dancing over his bloodied clothes increased tenfold.
He wasn't human, not completely, not from what Vergil had told him. Did that bother him? No, he had made the choice willingly. Devil or Vampire, he wouldn't have cared. He had the power to protect his friends, he would never stop being Tsukune Aono. He was a devil masquerading as a human, just as Sparda had so long ago, but with more human elements. Still, he didn't Trigger like Vergil and his twin, he simply assumed his true form. They wanted to play dirty? So would he.
To those trying desperately to regain the upper hand, keeping one eye on their destination and one on the massacre taking place, they knew something had gone terribly wrong when the forming dog-pile was blasted back like a grenade had gone off in the center. They soon found themselves wishing that had been the case.
What was standing amongst them was unlike anything they had ever seen. It's pale, ridged blue skin glowed by inner light, covered in strategic places by bony crimson armor that seemed as much a part of it as the skin itself. Lines of orange marked the scarlet carapace as if showing where individual growths met and sealed to create it, and while its—his?—right hand was empty, its left arm had a strange curved offshoot that extended from its wrist like a solid wing, or perhaps a shield. They never would have guessed scabbard. It's face was oddly familiar, the blue skin smooth unlike the rest, surrounding cheeks inscribed with golden streaks trailing from the gilded backdrop of its intense indigo eyes, and framed by hair that had hardened into the same dark red armor and scorched by identical orange highlights, while still being clear as to what it was.
It was beautiful in a sense similar to an explosion: amazing from afar, but destructive up close. Whatever it was, it put out an impression of imminent ruin stronger than Tsukune ever did. Then it growled, and they realized that wasn't the case, for what they thought was an 'it' was in fact a 'he', and that 'he' was Tsukune Aono.
"Get away from her!"
A ghostly hand stretched from his outstretched arm and grabbed the nearest monster from over twenty feet away, dragging him back into a bone-shattering blow that crumpled him like paper. From there it only escalated, turning into outright slaughter from the mismatch it had been. Bodies were thrown without discretion, oftentimes right into others, with an ease frightening to behold. Tsukune was grossly lacking in skill, hardly doing much more than inflicting as much damage as he could while trying to avoid taking any, but he was succeeding solely because he was their better in every way. He had to give them credit for trying; they kept on coming at him no matter how many were taken out of the fight, and he kept making sure they would need to be hospitalized. He dodged, spun, kicked, and punched as the situation called for, using his enemies as much as his body, littering the drenched ground with moaning people and turning puddles red with their blood.
After what seemed like so long but in reality was only a few short minutes, the entirety of the Outcast Ayashi that had been with Midou were decimated. The armor-clad devil walked calmly through the aftermath as he tried to come to terms with what he saw in the water's reflection. He was who he was, even his form still looked like him in most ways, but now he had power, the strength he needed to survive and protect those important to him. No, he would never regret his decision. Changing back turned out to be as easy as a thought, and though soaked to the bone and more tired than he had ever been, he had one last thing to do.
Moka was laying exactly where he had left her, her body occasionally twitching from the shower of anguish she was now mercifully unaware of. Hurting her like that had been hard, but it had spared her more pain and kept her from seeing what he had done…and what he had become. He would have to show her eventually, but not right now. He didn't know where the water was coming from, so rather than search, he gingerly picked her up. She needed to see a doctor. Her healing abilities were well recorded but she had taken some hard blows, a few while water sucked the lion's share of her powers from her. Those were the ones he was afraid of, especially since he hadn't helped by knocking her out.
She looks so unlike herself, he thought as he cradled her in his arms and moved to leave the dilapidated building that had been meant to be their grave. Inner Moka was always strong, always proud. Now her creamy skin was pasty white, shivering in pain and still sparking sporadically from the water's effects. She looked frail, small, too much like the teenager she was rather than the immutable vampire she made herself out to be. She took too much on her slender shoulders, finally he could help rather than hinder her. Their friends would too. Even though Mizore was still trying to find her place with them, it would happen, and they would be stronger because of it.
And he would be there every step of the way.
A howl of mindless rage made him tense with dread, and on instinct alone he ducked down, tucked his precious cargo into his chest and Triggered. The blow to his back launched the air from his lungs and made him taste copper. The pain was intense, but at least nothing seemed broken. Gently lowering Moka to the ground, he spun on the ball of his foot to see Midou barely staying upright. Fury erupted inside him at yet another dirty tactic employed by the Outcasts, and an ephemeral hand wrapped around Midou like he was a child's toy, where Tsukune then slammed him into the hard dirt face first. He didn't move, though he was still breathing. That was all Tsukune was going to give him.
His anger exhausted, he changed back and picked her up again, just in time for the rest of their friends to come rushing out of the foliage, led by a near frantic Mizore Shirayuki. When he thought about it, her stalking habits had probably seen her not far away from the building he was led to right at the time he was led to it. After she had assessed the strength of what they were up against and realized by herself she would just be delaying the inevitable, she had done the smart thing and gone for reinforcements. Of course that had taken time, and the old structure was far away from the main schoolyard, not mentioning how long it would take to find the others, even in the ideal case where they were in one place, and get back. Her eyes shone with relief when she saw him, and quickly darkened as the state of his clothes was taken in. With good reason, most of the blood on them was his. Kurumu looked like she wanted to jump onto him but held herself back, and Yukari simply looked horrified at the conditions of her love-interests.
"You're okay?" the Snow Woman asked tersely, clearly on the lookout for threats.
"Been better. Just on my way to the hospital," he replied with tired amusement.
"Bu-bu-bu-bu…" Kurumu rambled nonsensically, pointing between his disheveled appearance and who he was carrying. "You look like you've been through a war! What happened?"
His gaze turned flinty. "I took care of it. Please, let's go. It'll help that she's out of the water, but Moka-san needs to be looked at."
"What about you?" Yukari cried, even as he began to walk away.
He offered her the best smile he could at the moment, though he was comforted more than he could say that they were all with him again, just in case. "It looks worse than it is."
Of all the things to happen next, a robed man flying out of the forest followed by an equally robed woman definitely wasn't expected; having that woman throw off those robes to reveal a friend they hadn't seen for weeks even more so. Yukari instantly threw herself at the older witch gleefully, and she patted the small girl on the back affectionately, but her eyes never left the two battle-torn students.
"Ruby-san! Why are you here?" the pint-sized genius inquired.
She hesitated, but only for a second. "The headmaster hired me as his assistant. He sensed something was wrong and we…well…"
"A bit late," Tsukune remarked dryly. He recognized the man from the school's opening assembly; he was indeed the headmaster of Youkai Academy, chairman of the school board and how many other titles, but after what he had just been through, Tsukune wasn't feeling very charitable anymore. Ruby flinched even though his glare wasn't directed at her, but the priestly man just stared back impassively. "I want every person in that deathtrap behind me expelled. They kidnapped Moka-san, chained her up, threatened her life to get me to come, then nearly killed both of us! They're a gang, they practically admitted it! They planned this entire thing, right down to the ins and outs of a vampire and where they could exploit it best! They. Planned. To. Kill. Us! If they're this bold, why haven't you done it before now?"
The chairman sighed. "Because before now it's been an ideology more than anything, and if anyone was attacked, they were either too scared to tell who or the attackers had friends to alibi them out. It's also been impossible to find all the members. I take it the perpetrators are inside?"
"What's left of them," the young man muttered, but said to the administrator, "Yes, and they'll need medical attention. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way to get some too. If you need a witness or something, you know where to find me."
"Where's Moka's rosary?" Kurumu asked in confusion, and that stopped him.
"Somewhere in there," he said over his shoulder. "I'd rather not go back. I don't know where they turned the sprinklers on from, so you'll need to turn it off before you go in. Ruby-san, could I ask you to get someone to bring it to me after you're done here? I know you'll be busy because of this mess, but I'd appreciate it."
She nodded happily, and following a small bow in her direction, he walked away from the scene, his friends in tow. Together with her employer, they strode to the opening of the rundown building and stilled at the mayhem they encountered.
"Unreal…all this before we made it here," the witch murmured.
The headmaster just took in the scene thoughtfully.
Something had happened here, something big, and he had a feeling the forces at work in Youkai Academy, and the world, would never be the same because of it.
Moka Akashiya awoke with a start from a terrible nightmare, one spawned from her inner self's memories. Clutching her heaving chest as she gulped in air, she looked around frantically, wondering what had happened and where she was. The gown she was wearing, the white walls and the stale smell of antiseptic all led her to believe she was in the hospital annex of the school, but left no clue as to how she had gotten there.
I was…so weak…and there was water. Pain…Tsukune blocking Midou's…
Their breaths caught.
A mumbled protest halted her attempts at movement, and who did she see when she looked down but the object of her thoughts. He was sitting in the chair beside her bed, but had fallen asleep on the pieces of unused mattress by her waist with his arms as his pillow. It was evident he hadn't left her side, as while he wasn't wearing his wrecked clothes anymore, he had only replaced them with some standard hospital scrubs, which was probably all he could get his hands on. He was safe. The rest of their friends occupied the remaining chairs of the room, and Moka felt her heart burst with warmth. They really did care for her.
Softly running her hand through his hair, she enjoyed the tingle that shot up her arm. He was alive, they both were, and Ura-chan seemed much more accepting of her feelings than she did before, which was a surprise. After stating confidently for so many months, even earlier that day, that it was only her—the outer self—that would miss him in any way, Inner had obviously had a change of heart. It was about time in her mind.
Something had happened, something big in their heart, and she knew nothing was going to be the same because of it.
Were it not so dark, she might have noticed the shadow he cast was no longer what she saw in front of her.
Something big had happened, and as the young vampiress shut her eyes and returned to Morpheus' embrace, no nightmares plagued her, instead were dreams of a better future, one held by both parts of the woman. What would it be like, they wondered, if they were united in a cause, especially one of the heart?
They would soon find out, and what a journey it would be.
Author's Notes: Well, after the surprisingly underwhelming response to the latest chapter of Here In My Arms, I felt it was pretty clear I needed to just have some fun again, so I decided to write down another of the odd ideas that had been floating around in my head. Oddly enough I've got a whole plot thought out for this one if I get around to it, but again, it all depends on reader response.
As you can tell I've pushed back the timeline of the DMC games, but that's not very hard when you think about what the people in DMC4 were wearing. They looked like they were stuck in the middle ages, yet not, at the same time. So I took some creative license and here's what came out. It's going to be obviously AU, with more elements of the game mixed in in place of certain plot-points of the canonical version of R+V, but I think it definitely has potential.
Plus, I'm a huge shipper of competent!Tsukune and powerful!Tsukune, so any story I can make that includes that is fun to write.
So hey, if you got to this point, why not tell me what you think?