Woah. Long time to write, everyone. I've been very busy with my part-time job last summer, and then school came back around so I didn't have time to dish out new chapters.
Fanfic Recap: Eight years after the end of the series, Tsugumi and Daryl meet again and continue where their budding relationship left off. Learning of the danger Daryl was under due the Void Genome Emulator embedded into his chest, Tsugumi with the help of Shu, Ayase and Haruka convince him to visit his long-lost comrade, Rowan. But Daryl's aunt Charlotte and cousin Alex had different plans and took an orphan boy Ryo, attempted to kill Yahiro and Kanon, and during a summer festival in Oshima Island, also kidnapped Shu and Tsugumi. Haruka asks for her friend Kurachi, Arisa's assistant and a former Undertakers agent, to acquire three out of only six Emulators ever made. Kurachi, Souta and Yahiro arrive in Oshima to join the team, causing friction among Daryl, Yahiro and Ayase. Now, as they prepare to rescue Shu and Tsugumi, the three opposing personalities must set aside their differences to face a new battle.
Chapter 10: New Battle
Daryl boarded his yacht and headed for the control panel. He was in a hurry he couldn't help but stop as he entered the small room.
We were here just a half a day ago... Together.
He had to take a second to sit on a chair in front of the boat's steering wheel. He took out a piece of paper from his jeans pocket and read it again. Tsugumi had secretly slipped the note into the white gloves he lent her.
Thanks for keeping me warm, the note said in loopy cursive handwriting.
"No, Tsugumi," he kissed the small piece of paper. "Thank you."
Daryl stood to look out into the marina. It was almost midnight and only a few fishing boats were left lit. Beyond that was the dark ocean. He remembered that way they kissed that night. How he felt for the first time in his tumultuous life that he could belong somewhere. That if he could hold her tiny body and in his arms and see her smiling up at him forever, it would be the sweetest reward.
But Alex took her away from him. Of all people, why him? He was like a little brother to him and one of the very, very few people he ever trusted.
With both anger and precision, he brought down the side of his fist on a marked corner of the hard plastic panel to reveal a hidden compartment. From it, he pulled out a gun holster belt with two types of combat pistols and two high-capacity bullet magazines. One clip was filled with thirty rounds of lethal full-metal bullets while the other contained smaller quick exploding bullets.
He loaded each magazine into its corresponding silver pistol then grabbed another item in the compartment: A custom-fit white Endlave plugsuit. He took off his shirt and pulled down his pants to step stark naked into the suit. The fabric clung to every curve and corner of his lean muscular body as he zipped up as quickly as possible.
Tightly chained to a hard metal chair, Shu felt a tiny ventilation duct puffing out ice cold air behind him. His breathing fogged and his lips, toes and fingertips turned as blue as his teal cotton kimono. A single metronome endlessly ticked somewhere in the prison cell and its sound was a slow and even tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.
It drove him to the edge of sanity.
He tried desperately to guide his thoughts to Inori's secret garden but it was much easier when he listened to her songs. The unnerving ticking made him recall nothing but the blood, doom and destruction leading up to her death. In his mind, she shattered into crystals over and over and over until it made him want to scream his lungs out.
He lived in constant fear of his own anger and regret. Putting on a brave face all this time, he was living a lie. Shu spoke to audiences of hundreds about courage in the face of adversity, when, the truth was, he never felt like a hero. He only felt like a loser who couldn't stop Inori from take the burden of the world with her. He was the one who was supposed to take it.
The heavy steel door creaked open before him and a young man walked in.
"I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, Ouma-san," Alex pulled up a chair and sat across him. He made no move to halt the maddening metronome on the small glass table between them.
"Please turn it off," his protest coming out from his dry throat in a rasping wheeze.
Alex twirled a beautiful fountain pen around his agile fingers.
"The human mind is surprisingly frail, isn't it?"
Shu bowed his head and closed his empty brown eyes. They were drying out from the cold.
"What do you what from me?"
"We simply need to borrow your power?"
"Voids don't exist anymore."
"Maybe not in the form you were used to wielding, Ouma-san," the raven-haired Daryl look-alike tilted his head back. "But the heart never forgets its true form."
Shu furrowed his brows in confusion, "I don't understand what you're trying to say. And even if voids still existed, what makes you think I would help you?"
"Oh you don't need to willingly agree to help us, Ouma-san. I have a way of making you cooperate. Plus, if you were to cooperate," Alex stopped twirling his pen.
"We can bring Yuzuriha Inori back to life for you."
Shu's blank eyes shot open as his heart's pace quickened.
"No! That's impossible!" He struggled in his freezing seat to be free of his bonds, and more importantly, to free himself of his muddled state. "Besides, I wouldn't want you to."
"You don't? Are you sure?"
The hero of the Fourth Apocalypse remained silent. His hot breath was shallow and erratic, fogging heavily into the cold. Alex could see that he succeeded in breaking Shu just enough to let him mess with his memories at near full capacity.
"You seem to be having a hard time making up your mind, Ouma-san."
Alex flipped his pen into the air and assumed a stabbing stance. The Void Emulator in his chest lit up as he caught the writing instrument and threw it straight into the King's Heart.
"Let me help you."
At the Ouma beach house, Rowan was crouched to Ayase's side, installing wires from the Void Genome Emulator into a metal notch in the hip of her own red plugsuit.
"So Rowan-san," Ayase asked while nervously retying her red hair into a ponytail. "Could you briefly explain how I'm going to make my void work?"
Rowan smiled kindly at her as he discussed.
"Well, Aya-chan, the entire plugsuit responds to your personal genomic resonance which links with and allows you to control your Endlave. This is possible through the Endlave's cybernetic response that takes a minimum emission of genomic resonance. What this Void Emulator I'm connecting to you does is to increase your void power output such that you'll be able to make a resonance link with any physical object and channel your void's power into it. Of course, not just any object will do. As a manifestation of your power, it should at least resemble the void's true form."
"I see. But I can't make the void physically manifest out of thin air like Shu could, right?"
"That's correct. The Apocalypse virus exteriorized and materialized the 'hearts' of the infected into a tangible form. The Void Genome Emulator is unfortunately more limited than the true Power of Kings. Channelling your void through this device involves physical contact, but you can also retain void power in an object for a few seconds even after throwing it."
"By the way, Aya-chan," Rowan got up and held his hand out to the girl in the wheelchair.
"Your void should activate all over your suit. That includes your legs."
Ayase's brown eyes lit up in surprise and her sudden burst of emotion made the Emulator blaze with light. She glanced down as red lines lit up across her plugsuit, then quickly looked up at Rowan, looking for confirmation in his eyes.
He pushed up his silver eyeglasses, smiled and nodded in reply.
"Hey, Rowan!" Daryl arrived and tapped his old comrade in the back. "What am I supposed—"
"Shhhhh!" The man in glasses interrupted him as he grasped both of Ayase's shaking hands. "Watch this."
Ayase first tried to wiggle her toes gently and gasped in astonishment when she found that she could do it. Her eyes blurred with tears as she stood up on her own two feet for the first time in eight years.
Now, it was Daryl's turn to feel awkward in the midst of such a personal moment in Ayase's life. Blushing, he turned away.
Yahiro shouted in pain as Haruka carefully connected a wire to the nerves under the skin of his chest.
"I'm very sorry Yahiro but please endure it." She plugged the other end of the wire into the Void Genome Emulator and it immediately glowed faint purple. She inserted the emulator into a small pouch which she strapped onto Yahiro's chest. She then handed him back his shirt and coat.
"Remember not to overdo it, okay? The way I installed and Emulator on you should give you enough void power to fortify the cutting power of any object but not at the capacity that Daryl can use his. Without a plugsuit and surgical implantation, you're only giving out at most half the genome resonance that he can."
"But, you have a very dangerous void, Yahiro," she warned as she packed up her tools. "When your light and your darkness collide, this forms what we call a 'void'. Your heart's true form, its most powerful weapon, draws its power from your greatest complex. Please be very careful when using it."
Yahiro strained to put his coat back on and replied through gritted teeth, "No need to worry Haruka."
"Alright, I'll leave you to rest a while." The voluptuous woman stood up and paced towards the door.
"By the way, Yahiro," she turned and looked at the family altar in the far corner of the room. "There's something under the family altar that you might want to bring along."
Souta snapped away with his camera, taking photos of a happy Ayase cautiously walking across the porch and testing her legs.
"Yeah! Just like that! Strike a pose for me, baby!"
"You pervert!" Ayase lunged after him, snatching his camera away.
"Hey, give that back!" He whined, trying and failing to grab it right back. "That's my livelihood you know!"
Rowan laughed heartily, "Hahahaha! Yes, yes, Aya-chan give it back or else we'll have nothing to open the top secret underground base with."
"WHAT?" The youngsters both exclaimed.
Daryl scoffed saying, "But he doesn't have an Emulator."
Kurachi stood up from quietly sitting by the edge of the porch and replied, "You can let someone use their void by touching them."
Haruka arrived carrying a quite a mysterious box in her arms that squished against her ample breasts.
She set the box down on the wooden porch and commanded, "Aya-chan, please hold Souta's hand, while you, my dear boy, try to open this box with your camera."
"Just like my void?" He looked at Ayase. The redhead shrugged and handed him his camera.
Instead of its normal flash and shutter click, the tiny digital camera released a burst of white light and a thundering electronic shutter sound. The box broke down to reveal a pair of roller blades.
"Excellent!" Haruka excitedly clapped her hands and picked up the skates. "These are for you, Aya-chan."
"Oh thank you, Haruka!" She balanced on one leg to slip the other into the skates.
"Were these Gai's?" Ayase asked. She couldn't imagine Shu on a pair of anything that went too fast.
"No, actually, those used to be Shu's. Believe it or not, he was the braver child when they were younger."
Yahiro came trailing behind her.
"No, I don't believe it," he smiled at their eclectic team.
The intrepid explorers got through the high security gates protecting the former GHQ facility from intruders. The area used to be the stronghold guarding the valuable meteorite carrying the Apocalypse Virus which crashed in Oshima Island many years ago. Since being abandoned, the place became cold, creepy and very poorly lit.
"Brrrr," Souta shivered. "This place is giving me the chills in more ways than one!"
"You don't say?" Daryl rolled his eyes and then spotted a figure standing in the end of a dark tunnel.
"Shu!" Ayase called out.
The group started running towards him when a heavy steel barrier suddenly came down from the ceiling separating Haruka, Rowan and Souta.
"Souta, open the door!" Haruka knocked her fists against the barrier furiously, desperate to see her son.
"I can't! The ones with Emulators are all on the other side!"
Haruka slumped her body forward, pressing her tear-stricken cheeks against the thick barrier. Kurachi approached her dear friend and pried her away. She quietly cradled her in her arms.
Rowan took his coat off and wrapped it around Haruka's wavering shoulders as she continued to sob.
"Haruka," he the tears from her beautiful face. "Let's wait here. Ayase and Yahiro are on the other side. I'm sure they'll get Shu back to you as soon as possible."
"Daryl, too?" she asked Rowan, strands of her caramel curls matted against her wet cheek.
He tucked the stray locks away and cupped her chin with a gentle hand.
"Yes, Haruka. Daryl, too."
Daryl and Yahiro tried to push the barrier up but it was locked tight. Ayase paid no mind to the sudden slam of the barrier and kept her eyes fixed on Shu. He was still wearing his yukata from the festival, but the collar hung low revealing a metal disc faintly shining on his chest.
"No," Ayase stopped in her tracks. "What have they done to you?"
Daryl turned to look and was surprised at the Emulator in Shu's chest.
"That's impossible! How could you be standing! It took me a week to recover from the surgery wounds!"
Yahiro stepped forward and drew his swords. "There's only one void power that could have healed him that quickly."
"Yahiro," Ayase called out without averting her eyes. "Do you remember what Shu's power was?"
"The King's Heart," Yahiro stood beside her. "It allowed him to use voids borrowed from other people."
"Fuck," Daryl stood just behind them. "So if emulating voids is just about 'remembering the heart's true form' or something… You think it's possible that he can use any void he's used before?"
"He's looks different," Ayase observed.
"He definitely seems like he's not himself," Yahiro whispered.
"But it's Shu. I'm sure it is," she worriedly mumbled.
"I don't really care," Daryl removed his guns from the holsters on his suit. "I'm not going to let him get in my way."
Just then, Shu covered his face with his mechanical hand. The lines along this arm glowed from his elbow to the tips of his fingers. When he revealed his eyes, they were burning bright with a dark red hue.
"I think he can see us now," Ayase's voice quivered. "He channelled Kanon's void into his eyes."
"Things just got much more complicated," Yahiro muttered.
"Ha," Daryl smirked. "I think that just made things more interesting."
He knelt to touch the floor then fired his silver pistol. Shu easily deflected the bullets to the wall with a swipe of his katana, but instead of getting embedded into the thick cement, the projectiles ricocheted right back. The entire half-barrel space of the old tunnel glowed with a purple network of beehive barriers as Daryl conducted his void Kaleidoscope along its surface.
"No!" Ayase tried to stop him. "You'll kill him!"
"I'm just trying to knock some sense into him," he replied, not taking his focus off Shu. "I suggest you do the same."
Forming a barrage of bullets rebounding in an incomprehensible pattern, Daryl rapidly used up an entire thirty-round magazine. Individual hexagonal sections of the walls lit up as his void responded to each shot. Shu channelled Ayase's void into his legs and Inori's void into his sword to evade and slice each incoming bullet with his heightened speed. As he deftly slashed the last bullet, he poised himself to launch a counterattack.
Before he could move forward, he shifted his weight to catch the real Ayase's void-infused kick with the flat side of his katana. The force of the kick sent Shu careening backward several meters across the concrete floor. Ayase turned her body before landing to throw several small knives at him. He quickly rolled out of the way and picked up a piece of debris. He fed void energy into the rock and hurled it at Ayase before getting back up on his feet.
Ayase, having just landed, barely had the time to react to the potentially damaging projectile approaching her. She twisted desperately to the side, with the deadly rock missing her face.
However, the void-powered rock cut the ponytail off her cherry brown tresses. When she spotted the long chunk of her carefully grown locks fall to the cold hard ground, Ayase ran her hands through her now short hair in panic, checking her scalp for any blood.
"Shu! Stop it!" she yelled frantically.
Shu rushed forward, aiming to take advantage of her moment of pleading, but sensed movement to his left. He leaped to the opposite direction and met Yahiro's double blades with his sword.
His old friend pleaded, "Snap out of it, Shu!"
The double blades were a pair of short swords passed down through the Ouma family. Ironically, or perhaps, fittingly, these kinds of blades were used in the samurai era for ritual suicides.
Metal met metal loudly as the two men exchanged blows and parries. Yahiro crossed his twin blades into the Shears of Life, locking down the katana. He dug in his heels and concentrated void power into his weapon, overwhelming Shu and pushing him back.
Shu jumped away from danger. Yahiro lost sight of him and the next thing he knew, he had pushed him from behind. He staggered and stumbled to the ground. It was a push much like the one he gave Shu from a metro train eight years ago.
"Now, we're even," Yahiro quipped before ducking out of the way as Daryl unleashed another rain of lead.
Shu flicked the katana with his mechanical hand to send razor sharp energy waves in the blonde's direction. At the same time, Ayase glided toward Shu with her lighting fast skates, launching herself up for a high velocity missile kick. He responded by grabbing her leg and using her speed against her. In one fluid motion, he slammed her to the floor.
Daryl's protective six-sided panels were annihilated in front of him, exploding before his eyes with flashes of white light and a familiar camera sound from the shock waves that opened up his Kaleidoscope. Realizing what had happened, he braced himself as the next few waves headed right for him.
Shu stood over Ayase, his eyes completely emotionless, blazing red with void power. When he raised his katana for the finishing blow, a cluster of reflected shockwaves boomeranged after him. He waved his sword in that direction to cancel out the force, sending a flurry of dust into the air.
Suddenly, Yahiro dashed out from the cloud, twin blades poised to strike. Shu messily swatted it with an upward slice that sent the large pair of shears flying off Yahiro's grip. Shu grabbed Yahiro's forearm and threw him down with a judo toss. He knocked Yahiro to the spot on the floor where Ayase should have been laying.
Ayase had gotten up while Shu was distracted and hit him with a blinding fast kick, throwing him against a wall. Ayase jumped up to catch Yahiro's wayward weapon in mid-air. From the side, Daryl immediately put up a Kaleidoscope barrier on her landing spot which served to propel her in Shu's direction with the Shears of Life in her hands.
She could have ended his life then and there, but a moment of doubt caused her to waver and miss the target. She couldn't do it. Shu recovered and brutally kicked her across the room with the same Athlete's Bracers that allowed her to fly.
The three fighters were pushed back to the same side of the tunnel from which they first arrived. Yahiro, his black coat covered in dirt, could barely stand as he endured the pain of his earlier impact with the floor. Ayase coughed out blood from Shu's powerful kick and the damage on her thin plugsuit revealed the skin on her thighs and arms.
Daryl stumbled back and slid down against the thick metal divider. He zipped open his white plugsuit halfway down his torso to relieve the burning sensation around his overheated Emulator. The agonizing gunshot wound on his shoulder throbbed as well.
Yahiro and Ayase both reached out to him.
"What do you want?" Daryl scowled up at his two allies.
Yahiro laughed. "Don't just sit there, blondie."
"He's right," Ayase added. "We have work to do, you idiot."
The former GHQ soldier's eyes widened as he realized that, for the first time in his life, there were people who truly needed him. He felt the heavy gate he was leaning on and thought about how Rowan waited from behind this door while Tsugumi waited from behind the other.
Daryl grasped the two outstretched hands to let his new friends help him back up on his feet. Finally, the unlikely trio set aside their differences and accepted that they must entrust their lives to each other. After all, war makes for strange comrades.
"Fine," Daryl grinned. "Let's go kick some ass."
End of Chapter 10: New Battle
I had such a hard time describing fight scenes that I had to ask help from another writer, Mr. Sebastian Claide, who deserves a round of applause for all his helpful insights!
Two chapters to go, guys! Hohoho~!