"I guess I've hit the bottom" Nanaya half-chuckled.
For someone like him, everything presented in the moment, and he acted following that instant. He had "lived" following such principle, often getting into sticky situations in which he would prove his exploits, then walk away with a nasty, naughty smile, hands back in pocket, and every single gush of blood spliced intentionally.
Nanaya Shiki, or perhaps better said, this Nanaya we're talking about had no motivation but to live for the drill of excitement in his career, the career of assassination. He would face stronger opponents, one better than the last one over and over in this Ouroboros which almost mockingly, never stopped running because of the cursed Night of Wallachia. It was because of this "phenomenon" that "Nanaya", meaning "himself" was "born" into the world. Although he did understand the subject (Albeit not completely), he did not really care for the recurring.
No, Nanaya Shiki was born a wandering killer with no destination nor purpose, from the terror of the poor devils who spread a rumor of someone who had been taking strolls at night, leaving a bloody trace behind his steps.
A ghost, a reflection.
That was the most accurate way to describe someone like him. Attached to a plane he never belonged in the first place, he was just thrown into the petty world of lies.
However, what pissed him off the most, or at least did so in the beginning were not entirely his own circumstances, but the most straightforward factor that defined his existence: Being Nanaya Shiki by itself.
Who was the reflection?
Tohno Shiki had a full-fledged life drowned in the blissful ignorance, born a Nanaya, adopted into a Tohno. Nanaya did not approve of Tohno's existence, nor did Tohno approve of Nanaya's. Shiki was to become the wonderful weapon of assassination as a Nanaya, but had that stripped off when becoming a Tohno.
Again, who was the reflection?
What precisely does fake mean? Is it lacking the qualities of the "original"? Does it have to do with sharing the same point of "origin"? Or perhaps, is all that mundane?
Who is looking through the mirror? What is the real side of it?
The boy who has no memory of the place where he was born, adopted by the Tohno, and grew to be what they call today, adopting their surname into "Tohno Shiki"?
Or perhaps it's what lies locked within that boy, buried deep down in his mind's eye; that which he never accepts and hides? Those beastly instincts that time after time whisper him into doing the opposite of his outer consciousness; placing the seed of doubt on the roots of his being, questioning his ideals?
Nanaya Shiki had gained the opportunity to "exist" thanks to the Night of Wallachia and live out to his heart content, gaining form through that which "Tohno Shiki" conceals in a maze sometimes not even himself can understand. "Nanaya Shiki" was this.
So, then again, who was the reflection? Was it light side of the coin or the darker half?
…At the end of the road, don't they actually have the same origin?
"Am I not over-thinking all this a bit too much?" Nanaya pondered.
How woeful. Nanaya Shiki was having such sentimentalist thoughts in his last moments. It was not that he was regretting the fact that he was dying, neither trying to find any kind of redemption or self-retaliation in his final breathes. He also did not feel the urge to fight for his life, he had lived all this time doing what he wanted, following his own ambitions, often crashing up with others' or having to pull the chords… better said cut them to his benefit.
He lived to kill, but not killed to live. What a strange irony. It sounds almost cacophonic.
It was actually a cruel joke, one crude and very cruel joke.
"…Why the hell was I even brought into this damn reality?"
In this pathetic conclusion he had reached by his own hand, he questioned his own initial desire which pushed him to the point where he was now. To fight against what he thought to be a petty "copy", or to demonstrate his skill? Just to assassinate his long-wanted victims? Find a challenge?
…For what? Just for what did he go through all that shit?
He first started cutting all and every single foe that stood in his way, the lack of satisfaction after a while made him eventually lose interest, he then moved his attention on overcoming Tohno, yet again he lost interest again. So he decided to look out for the greatest challenge yet…
Indeed, his blood boiled to its peak, his body went past its farthest limitations, his brain burst into overdrive, his eyes could hardly match the changes in the environment, every single muscle was a shock of lightning each time he commanded them to move, the flux of adrenaline literally rocketed inside him like never before it had done, every drop of cold sweat pierced him down to the core. Indeed he had never felt so alive before. Not Tohno, none of the Apostles, heck, not even the True Ancestor had been so fun to kill. None of those had made him feel a fraction of what he had experienced killing Kishima, the Red demon. It was truly hectic, intoxicating, and most certainly ecstatic.
But after that… what was left? He was now lying as miserably as the decapitated corpse of Kishima Kouma but a few meters away from him, lifeless corpse that had seen its last breath in his hands, by his knife.
"Am I truly that pathetic?" Nanaya rambled, more to his insides than anything.
What was all that for? Why did Nanaya so desperately perform such nonsense? Was it his nature? Was it the thrill itself? Did he fight to find the reason?
This motive, unknown to himself, was actually a lot simpler than all this: He wanted recognition.
Just like a child would expect from his parents after a job well done, or in a more twisted way, like a man who had performed a complete genocide and is remembered as such for a long time; Nanaya had always only wanted to be recognized as an individual, as Nanaya Shiki, without any prior engagements or bindings to Tohno, as his own self, his own person.
He was truly pathetic.
And now, just like that, he was going to disappear from the world, unknown to it, unknown to others, even unknown to himself. Leaving neither mark nor print, Nanaya Shiki was going to disappear without any trace of having ever existed.
He bitterly, reluctantly accepted his sealed fate as his consciousness began failing him. He raised his arm up, along with his knife, seeing how distorted everything was becoming, all this further aggravated by the "Lines of Death" covering his vision, which were now pinpointing his incoming end. Covered in blood, his uniform scorched and torn, the Nanaya, or Nanatsu-Yoru, reflecting coldly the moonlight, his hair all entangled in his face, Nanaya kept his characteristic, naughty smile; he was smiling to the incoming, bitter end, and kept smiling as if to receive death as an old friend.
"Silver moon, eh?" He laughed. "Such a sight… I don't know whether to consider it a proper scenario or not…"
Silver… that color reminded him of something, or rather, of someone. A certain silver-haired girl, dressed in white, with blood-red eyes who would speak in a rude tone every time that Nanaya poked her about her short height or cute reactions whenever he pinpointed her weakness for sweets, how she would boss him and fluster when that thing called "Neco" came around, panicking in a weird but very proper way of her. She would demand Nanaya to do some ridiculous chores for her as well as demanding to bring her sweets.
White Len had been his only point of anchor ever since he got into this world. They had formed a contract some time ago, in which Len would maintain his existence through her TATARI abilities, while he would supply her with prana and serve as her guardian of sorts, guard to her dream world. Not once did Nanaya find a true interest or focus on it. He used Len and Len used him… that's what he believed anyway.
However, fate is a mysterious thing. As much as Nanaya had thought that it was nothing more but a symbiotic relationship, he was not capable of foreseeing the incoming: He had grown attached to Len: he had grown affection for something living other than himself. And this was the droplet which made the glass drip: one simple emotion was more than enough for Nanaya to sink into confusion.
However, he would never admit it in front of anyone, let alone Len. To have the perfect assassin, Nanaya, questioning his own drive, and by such "trivial" matters, was rather unsettling.
Thus, a confused Nanaya eventually found the answer in having to let go of such emotion and go back to his former self, and what better way of doing so by going after the one who killed his father, one of the most prolific Nanaya of all time?
Yes, it was definitely the perfect opportunity for Nanaya Shiki. Nanaya Kiri had lost against Kishima Kouma, even though he was described as the most powerful Nanaya that ever existed.
However, it must be noted that, while Nanaya Shiki would now pursuit (and assassinate) Kishima Kouma, he shouldn't, no, mustn't have any ulterior motive behind his action but just the truth of seeking the ultimate challenge, there must not be any desire of revenge, neither hatred or anger, just an assassin with his pride of finally facing the challenge of his life, because his final stronghold was his family name, the pride of the Nanaya. The only thing that should come out had to be the sensation of accomplishment.
Yes, in the end, Nanaya only followed his pride up to this point of the inevitable conclusion, which was crossing the boundary once again to the world of the dead.
Yet again, who was he to complain? He was dead since the beginning (Or at least wanted to think so); he had no further basis but to live for killing.
And once again, the image of Len popped in his consciousness… Why did she keep appearing over and over again through this? He did not understand that.
"Pff… I'm becoming even more human now" He said, again to no one in particular. "Let's stop thinking so much about it"
And so, Nanaya closed his eyes, feeling the weight of the blood on them, exponentially increasing their weight. He was tired. His sense of touch, all of his members were going numb. His limbs were failing, his organs about to burst more blood inside his flesh. His mouth was sour and dry, not a drop of saliva to ease his burning throat. The only thing left for him was a blurred vision and a half-assed whistle of wind flowing through the grass around him.
A befitting end, indeed… or was it not?
Nanaya's drowsiness would have allowed him to fall asleep to death in this pitiful, but peaceful set-up, alone, like he came into being.
Or perhaps that was what he wanted… He would have it all changed in a second, however.
"Why did you do this, Nanaya! Why did you let yourself end like this?" A female voice unexpectedly called his name in the middle of his half-asleep state.
He was a little surprised, just a little. It was an all-familiar voice which had called him so many times and been his only point of human interaction for a long while now.
"My, aren't we resilient?" Nanaya spurted with blood in his mouth, though he did not make unnecessary amends and painfully spitted it in his mouth, in his face. "To think I failed to assassinate somebody… I have REALLY hit the bottom"
White Len did not answer immediately, forcing herself to keep her composure. She did not like seeing him in such a deplorable state.
"I was able to defeat a True Ancestor, what makes you think an idiot of the likes of you could kill me?" She found the answer, throwing it back in an almost defensive tone, yet a little of irony. However, she was beating down her true impulses beneath the cold façade.
"Hehe, as expected of my dear Master" Nanaya calmly replied.
He was not able to see her at all; his vision was nothing but a screen of darkness, even though he had half-opened his eyes to the unexpected visitor. All he could do was to remain on the soft grass, lying helplessly. He had no strength to clear his vision, let alone budge a single limb besides his mouth, and that also was gradually becoming harder to move.
"Do you want to die this much, Nanaya?" She finally asked after a minute of awkward silence, still trying to conceal her genuine urges.
"A befitting end for a befitting fellow, I would say" He answered.
"But… just… why?" Len found it harder and harder to veil herself.
Nanaya did not respond immediately.
"What's the big deal?" He finally spurted. "I'm not real anyways"
Nanaya's breath was staggering.
"I'm just a shadow. I have no purpose, no reason to live"
"And just because of that you went ahead to get yourself killed!" Len finally let a heavy burden be freed through her words.
"My, I didn't know my Master cared so much about my welfare" He chuckled. "Jesus, you're not making this any easier".
"CUT THE CRAP NANAYA!" She spurted.
With her sudden outburst, she had now covered the grass field in snow, having the pure white rain of light shower them both to a softer shade of green and blue. A cold wind blew from all directions, unexpectedly refreshing Nanaya back to his senses.
There she was, White Len, his master, holding him dearly in her tiny arms. When did she embrace him? Had she ever done such thing before? No, definitely not.
Finally catching a glimpse of her, she was on top of him, arms wrapped around his neck, having her face just beside him. He could feel her breath on his neck, as well as her cold skin in his ear; however, there was something else besides that, it was very warm and liquid-like.
It did not take him long to realize what those were: tears.
What… the… hell?
He didn't doubt once when swinging his knife, not once did he hesitate when shooting back any response, not one single time did he pull back his train of thought, there was not an instant in which he felt insecure or plagued by such strange sensation. But there's always a first, right?
Right now, Nanaya had his mind clear of anything. He could have sworn his heart had already stopped beating and his brain functioning, but there he was, with Len on top of him, tightly embracing him between her arms, like he would disappear the moment she let go of him.
"What… are you doing?" Nanaya was able to connect.
"Idiot. Giant idiot. Incredible stupid idiot. Giant incredible stupid idiot" She responded, speaking quickly and almost stammering between words.
"What… are you doing?" He repeated even fainter than before.
"Why do you want so much to go ahead and disappear?" She repeated for the third time.
"I…" His voice faded into silence.
She finally pulled her face away and looked him straight in the eyes, his vision having returned, though it was still weak and slowly vanishing; however, he was able to see her face. That expression he was now seeing was something never seen before on her, so uncharacteristic, so unsettling. It was so sorrowful that it caused him pain to see her like that.
Wait, it caused him pain? Nanaya had a sudden quirk of uneasiness clouding the back of his mind. Did he really hate so much to see Len crying? Since when…?
"I don't know" He finally linked.
There was no sarcasm, no irony or hidden meaning behind his words. He was able to say it with such a straightforward face that he felt awkward.
They continued looking at each other straight in the eyes. Why did Nanaya felt like drowning in those crimson orbs of hers which burned with a chaotic whirlpool of emotion greater than any before? And why did they seem to be piercing him worse than any knife, sword or gun? Down to the flesh, into the bone, deep into his very existence? Was it that she was staring into his soul?
The feeling Nanaya was experiencing was something he had never ever suffered before: He was being disarmed up to the core, and he was not able to fight back. Not even years of the most arduous training or the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception would help him fight back against this. Like how a veteran marksman separated every single component of his gun, turning the deadly tool into harmless individual pieces, Nanaya was now utterly neutralized.
He found himself lost in the red eyes of Len, incapable of breaking contact with them, was he hypnotized?
No, Nanaya most certainly knew that hypnosis would consist in imposing the other's consciousness upon the other. Len was not doing anything besides performing something very common between normal people, to simply lock eye contact with another person.
As much as Nanaya tried to rationalize what was going on, he was not able to find any explanation to his current state, and that was because the coherent, cold, almost frozen-hearted Nanaya was meeting the emotion, the side of his consciousness he had always considered useless for the mind. He was an assassin, and assassins have no need for such things such as affections, likings, or love.
However, once the forbidden fruit is bitten, it's impossible to go back.
Everyone runs away from that which they dislike, do not comprehend or fear: A child would run away from the dark, one would avoid other ones "undesirable" to say the least; one would simply stay away from the unknown, at home, with the all familiar warmth. It was just natural.
"How late do I realize this" Nanaya thought. "I really haven't been able to throw away these affections"
He found this warmth, and tried to shrug it off; he thought he had successfully done it. How wrong he was.
This was now proving it; he was being disarmed and taken aback by his own one-sided way of thinking. He was breaking apart to just a girl crying in front of him, having faced death so closely in so many occasions, being able to see it in everything around him, having faced the most ruthless of creatures and illusions plaguing this world, yet he was breaking down to a crying girl.
And so, was this a lie as well? Just another reflection?
As much as Nanaya tried to convince himself that it was, he could not accept it as the truth.
Oh, was he not like just a little child now? Like when the prehistoric man discovered the fire, Nanaya was now learning one of the fundamental aspects of humans: The emotional side of their consciousness. Something that almost always crashes your rationale; the emotion is truly a mysterious thing. Not in his own twisted way, with his own limitations and own vision upon the subject, he was now looking at it through the eyes of a normal human. Nanaya was indeed becoming what he desperately evaded so much.
"…Before it was like I was talking to some kind of beast, now you seem almost human" Were the words of Kouma a while ago.
"Aah, I had found some duties and lingering affections, but I could die happily at moment to be perfectly honest. Well, before that-"
"Hah, tried to become human but still couldn't toss aside that one thing. So you severed your ties, performed your duties, and all that's left is what you defined by yourself"
"Yeah, sounds about right. I need accomplish my pride as a Nanaya or else I won't be able to move on to the next world. This will be my first and last demon extermination, so let's burn each other out!"
Nanaya had really thought he had no regrets in his final moments, well just a little one, having been incapable of completely throwing away his bindings to this world, and right now that was becoming really troublesome for him.
Not once had he broken eye contact with the girl of white in front of him.
"You're cursing me, you know?" He connected with a whole-hearted smile.
Len was not letting him go. Through Nanaya's face soaked in blood, shone his blue eyes fiercely, not even in his last moments had they lost their flame.
"I'm cursing you how?" She moaned painfully, not clearing any tears from her cheeks.
"Now I can't leave at peace, knowing that I was unable to kill one of my targets" He joked. "The Nanaya have really hit the bottom, Jesus"
Len's tears were now overflowing; just how many tears was she capable of producing? This further aggravated his guilt.
"What do you expect me to do without you?" Her eyes' sclera's as red as her iris'.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"What am I going to do without you Nanaya!" She shouted.
"Oh, that" Nanaya's thoughts switching to the most obvious. "Haha, I'm pretty sure you'll find a contractor more than soon. After all, you can defeat True Ancestors, right?" He spoke as lightly as his condition permitted.
"That won't do!" She quickly shot back.
"Come on, you're more than capable for a Master". He chuckled. "Although you need to drop on the sweets"
If there had been other circumstances, White Len would have sent Nanaya to hell more than obviously; however, these were not them. Len would not afford to lose Nanaya; she did not want him to disappear, not like this.
"I want YOU, Nanaya! No one else will do!" She cried.
Now he was really feeling useless. Right when he had closed the door again to those affections he had discarded, there was someone who said that wanted him. One part of his mind expected the emptiness of being not wanted, while another would cling upon the promise of the uncertain.
"What the hell are you saying?" He retorted hurtfully.
"I said I want you, and that no one else will do!" Len replied, her face red.
Was she blushing?
Len remained silent for a little while, bowing down her head, hiding her expression, although the pink shades in her cheeks revealed the truth.
"I love you, idiot!"
Without caring for his consent or not, Len had now pushed her soft lips against his, having them entangled in a sweet kiss. She closed her eyes while Nanaya's widened in exasperation, yet he did not try on the minimum to resist. Although clumsy and forcefully, Len was now kissing her beloved Nanaya with passion. Her own first kiss given to the one she wanted to be with…
What an odd development, completely unexpected, as much as surprising; not even in the farthest of scenarios would he have anticipated this finale.
One second, two seconds, a minute, an hour, the equation of time relativity had never been truer. Nanaya had an upright wave of chaos crushing his head, what seemed to be hours inside his mind were in reality nothing but a rough 20 seconds to his trickster perception. Yet, there was not anything that he had wished to last more, just for a single second would have been enough, even the battle with Kouma was lacking compared to this. The chaos storming him began fading away. He eventually closed his eyes and let himself be swayed by the flow of things, his mind falling into a blank slot, to enjoy the moment.
What a curious ecstasy. It was completely different of anything up until this moment, completely unlike the one he was so familiar with. Like when you discover a new flavor of an all familiar sweet, this marvelous sensation was filling him up to the top.
He liked it. He would surely get addicted to it.
He knew the subject from the rational side. He knew how people would often follow the emotion, putting aside the reason, the congruent half. He had always found it as a shallow, meaningless and more than anything, useless fascia. But now that he was disarmed and vulnerable, he had finally found the warmth he had always been looking for.
The kiss ended as clumsily as it began, Len pulled herself back while panting, having contained her breath all the while. As clumsily as it may have been, that was definitely a whole-hearted act. Slowly and carefully, Len retired her lips from his'. She was trembling.
There were no immediate reactions from neither of them. Len kept herself back, her face completely red, while Nanaya was still processing what had just happened.
"Do you hate me?" That was her shy question.
No, definitely not. Nanaya did not hate her, rather, he was fond of her, but even so, he felt he had to reassure her, however he still wasn't sure how he "felt" towards her. He did appreciate her, he did enjoy being around her, but to pinpoint something like "love", he was still unsure of how he should react or what to feel. It was too early to jump to conclusions.
"I don't" he faintly responded. "But I can't say what you did"
Nanaya would be lying if he said something like "I love you" to her, he was far too inexperienced in the field (as much as her).
"You idiot" She shot back. "Here I am, telling you straight how I feel; I have overcome my pride and came after you, telling you my truth, and you respond with such half-hearted words. You're the worst". She rambled defensively.
Nanaya could not help but laugh, quite weakly, though, at the scene unfolding.
"I could play along" He said. "But I don't want to lie. Not to you"
Len's expression softened at the same time her cheeks reduced their red hue.
"As sentimentalist at it sounds" Nanaya continued. "You gave me a purpose and a place to return to, and I was too much of a blockhead to see it. Here you have me, knocking on hell's door".
"I don't want you to disappear, Nanaya" She followed.
"Don't say such things! You just need to come back to town, I said I would treat your wounds, and I wasn't lying back then, and neither am now"
"Isn't it a bit too late?" Nanaya chuckled. "I wanted to disappear just like dust, yet I seem to still have some attachments here. Jesus"
Len observed the fallen assassin lament. Even though it had been a bloody kiss, it was still her first one given to Nanaya, yet he still kept rambling on disappearing and all that. How much of a dense blockhead was he?
"Though, I don't mind having you here in my final breath" He continued. "Jesus, I'm really beginning to sound like a sentimentalist"
"Come with me" Len quirked.
Nanaya returned his failing gaze at her.
"It's too late for me"
"No, it's not!"
"I can't be saved"
"Take responsibility!" She cried. "You made me fall for you, now you have to take care of me! It's just fair! I…" Her voice trailed off into silence.
"You what?" He pressed
"I don't want to be alone"
A single phrase held so much strength.
Nanaya turned back his gaze to the silver moon shining up into night's veil. The snow had already begun to build up, covering the once-green field of grass into a sea of white. This sky was much more beautiful than it was supposed to be, Nanaya thought. Even in this world of lies, he had found a warmth and light. A spark of desire had now ignited inside him. He wanted to protect this sky; he wanted to protect the girl holding him with so much affection. The world had always been against him, and he fought back, alone, thinking there would be no profit or reward in any of the stages.
Yet, now he had a new motivation, previously unknown to him: To fight to protect the ones dear to him. The world had been ganging up against him, so he would make a new world, and this world would be these ones. Even if it was just Len, he would fight back without retreating or looking back, to protect the world that she treasured and envisioned.
It's curious how humans can change. Since the beginning, Nanaya was human, but he was too dense to see it. We all change, and there are always many factors surrounding it, and Nanaya's was Len. Yes, he was finally able to be acknowledged as human.
He wondered if that had differentiated him from Tohno… Tohno had things to protect as well: His own world, his own family, his own friends and truth.
He had indeed become just like Tohno, yet he did not feel repugnance or aversion to it.
"Let this be the last time" Nanaya gathered all his energy into newfound strength.
He commanded his hands to move and clenched them into fists, followed by his arms, then by his legs. With inhuman strength he cast away all numbness and painfully incorporated.
Len could only observe in awe.
"Let this be the last time I fall" Nanaya confidently spoke, with newfound force, like a phoenix. A phoenix is reborn from the ashes, always stronger than before. And Nanaya had just done the same. "I won't get crushed down again. I swear with my pride as a Nanaya that I will never fall down again, and if I do, I'll stand up again, and become stronger each time, no matter how many times I face death"
Len's flush increased farther. Nanaya could say cool things every now and then…
However, Nanaya was not able to keep his stand for long, and once again fell down. Jesus, he really was hopeless.
"Don't push yourself too hard, you idiot" She sweetly spoke as she gave support and helped him incorporate, not minding the stench of blood or her –already- stained dress. "Now you really can't go dying on me"
Nanaya laughed lightly. "Yeah, I guess I can't"
Len was now helping Nanaya stand up as she offered backing. Slowly, they walked back home.
Because it was now a home the place Nanaya could return to, as long as Len was with him.
Nanaya Kiri had visited the good old doctor for a medical check-up, nothing special, just a routine procedure. He had always been coming frequently for his rounds, and the doctor was a good friend of him, even though he failed to see it.
"Say, how's your child, Kiri?" Sougen had casually asked.
"He's doing just fine" Kiri simply replied.
"Haha, I see. Just be careful not to get him killed" Sougen replied with an unusual calm, though it was proper of him when talking to Kiri.
"…yeah" Kiri hesitated to reply.
"What's wrong?" Sougen questioned.
Kiri had to stop for a moment before responding.
"I don't want him to follow my steps, Sougen" He said thoughtfully. "I don't know why or how to explain it"
"Ohoho, and why would that be?" The good doctor questioned the same, repeating the thoughts of Kiri.
"I don't know. I just don't want him to do the same as me. I really don't know why"
After Nanaya Kiri had finished, he took his leave, as quick and swiftly as possible, like usual.
"You really are an idiot" Sougen calmly chuckled. "As much as you may not know it, you already love that child. It's only natural for you to not want him to follow your steps. Now, where did I leave my tea…?"