Well hello all, happy holidays and all that. I know I've been gone for 2 months and I sincerely apologize for that. The reason has been two fold, the first was because of finals and family with the holidays but most importantly this chapter fought me tooth and nail to get it down just right. It's not that I didn't want to write it, quite the opposite really. This chapter is huge for me and this story in general so I spent a lot of time nitpicking and making sure it came out as close to how I imagine it in my head. It's probably not perfect but I think it's the best it's gonna get right now so I hope you all enjoy it, I know I did writing it.
Either way I'm back with the final installment of this arc. I'm not going to lie to you people, I never once thought that I would make it this far in my writing when I planned out this story. But because of the amazing feedback I've gotten from you guys I'm still going strong and while I'm psyched to get this chapter out I'm even more excited for what's to come. Big things are coming up and some are sooner than you would think.
Disclaimer: I tried to find a deal on the rights to Naruto and Fairy Tail on Cyber Monday but t'was for not, one day I'll own them but today is not that day.
(Medical Room: With Akira and Naruto)
The fire place crackled as wood fueled the blue flames that occupied the fire pit. The flames were the only source of light in the room as the fire bathed the room in a bluish hue.
Akira reached over to Naruto's still unconscious form and removed the now dry rag from his head and replaced it with a damp one. He had been like this ever since she stopped the ritual. Even though she knew she had burned away Kyūketsuki's vile magic he hadn't improved much.
The soft echoes of metal boots against stone alerted her to Jeremiah's presence as he stood behind her. She didn't turn to greet him or even acknowledged his existence as she cleaned the dirty rag she just took from Naruto's forehead. It wasn't that she was upset with the Templar or that she didn't want to see him, it was that she didn't have anything left to say to him, not after what had happened.
She idly noticed that Jeremiah had taken the seat next to her, his gaze lingering on Naruto's prone form before he moved onto her. "How is he?"
Akira stopped washing the rag for half a second before she continued her action, only pausing for that moment in surprise that he actually talked, most of their interactions lately had been of the silent variety. "No change, he's alive and devoid of the poison but still unresponsive. I… I don't know what else I can do."
Surprisingly he didn't make a joke or some attempt at cheering her up, he merely placed a hand on her shoulder and forced her attention on himself. "There's nothing else you can do, you need to get some rest, when was the last time you've eaten?"
Akira averted his eyes and brushed his hand off of her shoulder before returning to her original spot tending to the comatose Naruto. "There has to be something I can do, if I do nothing he'll end up just like all the rest."
Jeremiah cringed at her words. The images of human corpses that had been corrupted by Kyūketsuki's magic that didn't survive the healing process came to the forefront of his mind. It was a truly morbid thought to anyone that knew anything about the only technique they knew of to stop the vampirafication process.
It involved injecting the victim with an incredibly small amount of holy fire to try and burn away the infectious magic from the inside. The problem with that was the necessary amount of control it took to destroy the virus and not evaporate the victim's blood and destroy their internal organs was astronomically high. Being bitten was essentially a death sentence since only one person had ever been saved from being bitten, unfortunately the treatment did so much damage it crippled the man for the rest of his life.
"Akira-chan, that's not going to happen. Naruto isn't like all the others. I know you've seen it too, he has an incredible healing factor. He'll pull through this."
Akira's downcast eyes didn't show that Jeremiah's words had any positive effect on her, if anything it only made her mood worse. "His healing factor is the only reason he's still alive. I was so distraught when it happened my control was spotty at best, I lost count of the number of veins I burned through. By all rights he should've bled out within 10 minutes of starting the procedure."
"But it worked didn't it? You said it yourself, he doesn't have any of Kyūketsuki's magic left within him. And he got a kiss from you, he should be damn grateful when he wakes up."
For the first time in days Akira looked at Jeremiah willingly but it wasn't the look he was hoping for. Anger shrouded her eyes and the promise of pain to come was plainly evident. Quickly raising up his hands in a mock defense, Jeremiah let out a weak laugh. "Hehe, I was only kidding. I know you had to do it to ventilate your magic."
The two Bosconians fell into an awkward silence after the failed attempt of humor. Akira merely wishing for Jeremiah to leave and the other lost in his own thoughts.
"So that's why you won't leave his side."
The random statement caused Akira to look over at her longtime friend, confusion clearly written on her face. "Excuse me?"
Still looking at Naruto's unconscious form, Jeremiah let out a deep sigh. "You blame yourself for Naruto's condition. The damage you caused when trying to heal him put him into this condition. Ever since Bacchus woke up you haven't left Naruto's side. It's been a week Akira-chan, you need to get some rest."
"Jeremiah… I haven't left his side not because of the treatment, it's because when Kyūketsuki showed himself a week ago I was completely willing to throw Bacchus's life away to have a shot at him. If you wouldn't have disobeyed me Bacchus would've died."
Jeremiah didn't say anything to this. It was something they had already talked about. When it happened he didn't yell at her, he didn't reprimand her for her actions. He merely forced her to look at what her actions caused.
It was bad. Bacchus had been bleeding from multiple spots but none as grave as the gaping hole in his chest that insisted on letting all of his blood leave his body. It had taken Jeremiah hours to stabilize the man and even after that it was touch and go for two days. It was a devastating sight for anyone who knew Bacchus.
But even so, that didn't explain her guilt for Naruto, if anything her action to chase after Kyūketsuki was what saved Naruto's life.
"But even worse, when I found them Naruto had already been bitten. He was laying at Kyūketsuki's feet, writhing in pain. It was horrible watching him like that but at the time I barely spared him a second glance. I focused all of my attention on Kyūketsuki, all of my hate came rushing to me. I didn't care that my friend was sitting on death's door, all I cared about was killing that damnable vampire."
The bitter tone she used showed just how much she was holding back from letting her hatred show. If it was for Kyūketsuki or herself he couldn't tell, he wouldn't be surprised if it was a bit of both though if he had to guess. "It was a heat of the moment decision, I can't blame you for giving into your hatred with Kyūketsuki right in front of you, no one could. I'm sure with a level head you wouldn't make the same decision."
The silence that ensued and the way Akira used her bangs to cover her eyes formed a lump in Jeremiah's stomach, a horrible feeling of knowing the answer to his next question but a certain dread taking root about asking it, as if he was trying to cling to the idea that Akira was still the same woman he loved, if only for a few more precious seconds. "You would make the right call, right Akira-chan?"
"Jeremiah… there's a hate inside of me like some kind of master. When I see Kyūketsuki I can't think straight, I only act on instinct. The only reason that I didn't chase Kyūketsuki down a week ago was because somewhere deep down I knew that I couldn't kill him alone, I knew I wasn't strong enough. If we fight him as a group I want to say that I would look out for everyone like they would for me but I know that if it means I can get a clean shot at that bastard I would sacrifice Naruto-san or Bacchus-san to do it. I wouldn't even think twice."
The weight of her words crashed against Jeremiah like a tidal wave. Slowly and deliberately he rose from his chair, his body feeling numb as he did so. He slowly made his way for the door and as he touched the handle he turned back to the fiery priestess and whispered so softly that he didn't know if she could hear him or not. "Would you sacrifice me as well Akira-chan?"
It was like time froze for the two of them as the question hung in the air. Jeremiah standing at the door, looking at Akira, waiting for an answer. Akira just sitting there, not moving in the slightest. And then it came, a simple three word answer that brought both of their worlds into question.
"I don't know…"
The sound of a door opening and slamming shut was the only response that Akira received from Jeremiah. If she was honest with herself it was probably more than she deserved. To say that she didn't know if she would save his life in the midst of combat was one of the greatest insults that she could've given him. She knew this and still couldn't bring herself to lie to him. After everything he had done for her she at least owed him her honesty if nothing else.
Would he abandon her now? Had she finally pushed away the last person she could confide in? Was this even worth it anymore?
"He still loves you."
Akira's eyes went wide and she stared at the only other person in the room. With a prominent frown on his face, Naruto's eyes fluttered open before he focused on the ceiling. "How long have you been awake Naruto-san?"
She knew he heard her but he didn't answer. He just laid there, as if looking for the right words to say. After what seemed like forever to the blonde mage he spoke. "I'm good at knowing what another person feels. I don't know when I became aware of it but for a long time I've been able to sense a person's feelings if they're strong enough. He still loves you, more than you even know. He would die for you Akira-chan."
Akira's breath hitched in her throat at his words. This entire mission had been a rollercoaster of emotions for the young woman and her and Jeremiah's strenuous relationship was just piling it on. She didn't want to deal with this right now, she couldn't handle this right now. "Naruto-san, you couldn't possibly know that."
While he was still weak from Kyūketsuki's poisoning his voice was anything but weak. He spoke with a passion that showed that this hurt him nearly as much as it did Jeremiah, like he had experienced the same thing. "I do. There isn't a single doubt in my mind that he would die for you with a smile on his face. To him you're everything, a fight, even one like this, won't change that about him."
Akira let his words sink into herself while she tried to settle her own growing emotions. This was too much too quickly, she needed time to meditate, time to sort things out. Unfortunately time wasn't something that she had. "Why are you telling me this?"
Naruto closed his eyes at her question. Something about his expression screamed resignation to the woman in front of him but she couldn't understand why. "I know what it's like to love someone unconditionally and have that person you hold so dear ignore you at almost every turn. Jeremiah's a good man, a great friend, he doesn't deserve what comes with that. After this is over you need to talk to him. I don't care if you return his feelings or not, just talk to him and set the record straight, he deserves at least that much."
Silently Akira agreed with Naruto, he did deserve that much. But that was a conversation for a different person at a different time, she had other fences to mend before she could work on that one. "Naruto-san… about what I said to Jeremiah, just how much did you hear?"
"All of it. I had hoped that I meant a little more than a sacrificial pawn to you but that isn't the case. Be that as it may, I'll still watch your back when we go for Kyūketsuki. All I ask is that if you do use me as bait, make damn sure it's a kill shot."
Akira was left speechless at Naruto's words. He was OK with how she thought of him? How could anyone be OK with being used as a pawn like that? She was tearing herself up inside with how she felt about it and he just shook it off? "Why?"
This time Naruto did physically react, he opened his eyes and icy blue met hesitant aqua. "I told you when I met you, I never go back on my word. I promised that I would stand by you until the bitter end, even if you don't feel the same, to me it doesn't matter."
Naruto then paused, as if he was conflicted with saying whatever was on his mind. Cursing his own hesitance, he continued. "I also knew someone like you. So fucking obsessed with getting revenge. It was all he could think about, day in, day out. We were best friends, I saw it more than anyone else but I didn't say anything. One day he threw it all away, his status, his rank, his home, his friends, everything in the slim chance that he could get his revenge."
Again Naruto paused but not out of hesitance. He reached up towards his chest and opened the robe to show the bandages underneath. Carefully, Naruto unwove the bandages to reveal fully healed wounds and perfect skin, except for one out of place fist shaped scar resting right below his lungs. "He tried to kill me, his best friend, just because he thought it would help with his revenge. I've seen what happens when someone lets their revenge encompass them completely, I don't want to see the same thing happen to you."
Bangs covering her eyes to hide the tears that were starting to form, Akira barely choked out a response. "Thank you, Naruto-kun."
(Indoor Training Field: With Bacchus)
Bacchus took a deep breath and released it while focusing his magic circulating in his body. He had woken up three days ago to a relieved Jeremiah and a strangely silent Akira. It didn't take long to get caught up on everything. He had finished off Midori, Naruto and Jura managed to kill the last general and Naruto got his ass handed to him by the main vampire himself.
He hadn't visited his blond friend after the first time he saw him. The person he had seen wasn't how Naruto was supposed to look. Naruto was kind, strong, and confident, someone that you thought couldn't lose when the cards were down. That wasn't the person he saw in that room. He saw someone weak and vulnerable.
But Bacchus knew that wasn't what bothered him, he merely used it as an excuse to not see Naruto. What ate at him was the fact that he knew he looked just like that before he woke up, weak and vulnerable.
Midori hit the nail on the head when she broke him apart. Being strong was one of the few things that mattered to him, it was the only damn thing he could control and he was still destroyed by her. He was so damn weak!
The training dummy's head was ripped off of its body by Bacchus's palm strike and exploded after smashing into the wall a few yards away. He panted heavily not out of exertion but out of his own frustration, it wasn't good enough!
Midori picked him apart in their fight, both physically and mentally. She exploited his darkest fears and desires and even as he managed to fight past that it turned out it was completely unnecessary, she outclassed him in every way. During the entire fight he never touched her, not even once. He only managed to land a killing blow because she had already written him off as a dead man and didn't think he could channel magic.
That wasn't how he was supposed to win. He was supposed to power through anyone, trading blow for blow and coming out on top purely on his own skill and strength, not because of some stupid fluke. He needed to get stronger! After this little mission was done there was a change of pace in order, he wouldn't let himself become stagnant, he would keep moving forward, like he always did.
"You seem to be recovering well Bacchus-dono."
Bacchus turned and saw the hulking form of the monk that had offered them their temple's 'hospitality'. To be fair they had no idea that their mistress was a vampire but that point was moot now. "Yo, what are you doing here? I thought you guys had some rule against spying on others when they're training."
Jura bowed his head slightly at being reminded of his own custom but didn't make any movement to leave. "You are correct, or at least we did have that tradition. After it was revealed that we were being manipulated by a vampire many of our set in stone traditions have come into question. This being one of them."
Bacchus turned away from the large monk and went back to practicing his stances, he really didn't care if Jura was there to see it, just watching his basic movements didn't mean squat when it came to an actual fight. "Tch, sorry to hear that."
There was no sympathy in his voice, the apology was devoid of sincerity but Jura accepted it nonetheless. Being upset by such trivial things wouldn't help him, he had something he had to find out and he wasn't going to risk not learning it because of some little nuance. "It has been hard for all of us to adjust so rapidly. And your group is having just as many problems as we are with two of your members, yourself included, nearly dying only a week ago. The future is quite uncertain."
Not stopping in his motions, Bacchus gave Jura an annoyed grunt before responding. "Get to the point Jura, I know you didn't come here to bug me with small talk, what are ya after?"
"Straight to the point, very well. We all heard that you defeated the mistress but no one knows how. You seem strong in your own right Bacchus-dono but your magical reserves are nowhere near the level of our former mistress. Which begs the question, how did you do it?"
"I already told you guys what happened, we talked, did some other stuff and then we fought. She kicked my ass for most of it, I barely got a shot in until the end. She thought I was all but dead and she let her guard down. At that point I-"
"At that point you murdered her." Jura finished for Bacchus, all of his anger and hate being filled into that one sentence.
And just like that Bacchus ceased in all his movements and fully turned around to face the giant of a man. The look in Jura's eyes was all he needed to see to understand what was going on. He knew that look, he'd seen it in Akira plenty of times since he'd joined up with them. "So that's what this is about, you think I murdered Midori, don't you?"
Jura took a deep breath and set himself in a rigid fighting stance, his monk robe falling off his shoulders as he did so. "I see no other way of explaining it. Vampire or not she took you all in, she even took you to her quarters to teach you of true enlightenment and in return you killed her. There was no reason to fight her."
Seeing Jura's fighting stance made Bacchus drop into one of his own, his body already loose and ready to go at a moment's notice. "Except for the fact that the entire reason we're here is to kill those vampires. And that's not how it went down, it wasn't that simple."
The air became heavy with Jura's magic, clearly the fight earlier that week hadn't affected him at all, if anything his magic seemed stronger, more focused. "Then tell me Bacchus, what exactly happened that night?"
That was the million dollar question wasn't it? Bacchus knew just what Jura thought of Midori from their brief encounters. How do you justify to someone that you killed the one person they loved? Knowing what Midori was didn't seem to change his opinion of her in the slightest.
It was true what his old master used to say, just because someone is important to you doesn't necessarily make that person good. Even knowing that she was evil he still grieved for her, people cannot win against their loneliness. There was nothing he could say that could take away his rage, but he could tell him exactly what happened, he deserved that much.
Releasing a sigh, Bacchus dropped his battle stance and plopped onto the ground, his hands resting on his knees as he did so. "Here's the deal. I'll tell you exactly what happened between Midori and me last week. No censoring, no bullshit, just exactly what happened. If when I'm finished you still want to take my head off then so be it but not until I've said my peace."
Jura didn't say a word but gave a stiff nod and sat down as well. At the very least he would hear the man out, even if he doubted that it would change anything.
"Here goes nothing…" Bacchus whispered under his breath before turning his full attention on the man sitting across from him. "I'll be honest, when she brought me back to her room I was expecting to get laid, I really was. She knew that's what I was expecting and used that to pick me apart. One by one she attacked my insecurities. I don't know how she did it but she managed to pick up on every little thing, things that she had no right to know."
Jura nodded his head in acknowledgement, this was nothing new to the large man. "Midori has always had the ability to break someone down by a person's most mundane of actions, it was one of the reasons why we trusted her when she would instruct us on reaching Nirvana. She seemed so capable of reading our inner most desires, it only made sense that she would be able to help us achieve our goals but from what I understand that was never her intention."
The resignation in Jura's voice brought out a new feeling in Bacchus, one that he had been able to avoid his entire life, pity. Something about a man like Jura with that look on his face didn't sit right with the martial artist. "You're wrong, she really was trying to help you all reach Nirvana. If anything that was probably the one joy that she had left, helping all of you meant the world to her."
Confusion filled Jura's head as he processed what Bacchus said. That confusion quickly turned to anger and he turned his angered visage to Bacchus once more. "If that's true why did you kill her? If she really meant to help us why would you fight her at all!?"
"Because I didn't have any choice!" Bacchus shouted back at Jura. He wiped a hand over his face as he tried to calm himself, fighting was the last thing he needed at the moment. "The entire reason that I came with Naruto and everyone else was so I could find a great fight, so I could feel that rush of battle. There's nothing that I love more than having a great fight. But when I was fighting Midori there was nothing that I wanted to do less. I hated everything about that fight. Do you know why I despised fighting her?"
At Jura's silence Bacchus continued. "She broke me down and showed me everything that I wanted in life. She showed me things about myself that I didn't know and she put everything into perspective for me. She did something for me that I could never repay. She gave me a choice, I could join her and she would help me fulfill everything that I wanted. The downside? I had to let Naruto, Akira and Jeremiah die."
Bacchus looked into Jura's eyes with a hardness that showed him just how serious he was. "No matter how badly I wanted to take her up on her offer I couldn't abandon my friends, I wasn't going to throw away the present to try and fix the past. Naturally she didn't take that well and we fought."
Bacchus could see a look of understanding come to Jura's face but the anger was still there. "And I would not expect you to forsake them for your own happiness, I would think even less of you if you did. But I cannot shake this feeling of hatred. Even knowing this, there's still a part of me that wishes you would've betrayed your friends so that Midori could live. I cannot ignore this feeling Bacchus-san, I am sorry."
Bacchus watched as Jura rose to his feet, the earth beneath him glowing as he did so. Bacchus didn't move from his spot, his face stuck in a frown as he saw the earth begin to churn beneath him. With a quiet murmur he stopped Jura dead in his tracks. "She hated what she was…"
The earth stopped moving as the ground lost the glow of Jura's magic. His face was visibly shaken and he barely got out the question on his mind. "W…What?"
Bacchus let another sigh go as he looked at the surprised face of his would be foe. "She absolutely hated what she was turned into. She said it herself, Kyūketsuki turned her into a vampire against her will. It corrupted her magic, her very soul. Slowly it kept eroding at what she once was and it left her a husk of her former self. You want to know the saddest part? She knew what it did to her and she couldn't do a damn thing about it."
Bacchus took a breath and gauged Jura's reaction. It was a mix of doubt and confusion. The conflicted look mirrored Bacchus's own feelings that night he fought her. It was hard to swallow that someone could be forced to suffer through something like that, it must be even worse when that person was someone you cared about. "She spent the entire night trying to show me what my Nirvana was and how it could make me happy. The ironic part was at the end I was able to see what her Nirvana was. Do you know what it was Jura?"
With his eyes closed, Jura shuddered slightly before responding. "I believe I already know. Though if you would, please tell me."
Bacchus nodded to Jura's response, expecting as much from the Earth Mage. "Her Nirvana was death, all she really wanted was to be free. She finally reached her Nirvana. I know it doesn't make you happy but you need to get over it, at the very least be thankful that she finally got what she wanted."
Jura didn't say anything as he stood there, not looking at Bacchus or anything for that matter. After a moment he slowly turned away from Bacchus and slowly made his way toward the door. "I must meditate on this, thank you for your time Bacchus-dono."
"Oi Jura." Jura slowed in his walk at the sound of Bacchus's voice but didn't turn around to look at him. That was fine with Bacchus though, he could guess what Jura looked like at the moment. "She knew what you thought of her and if it means anything she planned on keeping you by her side the entire time. You were precious to her, even if she never said it."
Bacchus saw Jura hesitate in his steps for just a second, his words seemingly shaking him before he continued walking to the door. Bacchus let out a sigh as he looked around the now empty room. This shit was getting too real, he came here wanting to have fun, get a good fight in and head home. Now he just wanted to go home and think. Luckily that would be sooner rather than later, all that was left was to kill the head vampire, just one more fight.
A harsh wind blew around the group of four as they left the temple they had been using for the past week. It was finally time to end this hunt. A lot had changed since they reached Bosco, no one was in good spirits, the excitement that some had felt was gone and replaced by a cold determination that they all shared.
They were exhausted both physically and mentally and they wanted nothing more than to return home for their own personal reasons. They all knew what they had to do for that to happen and it was high time they finished this, it was time to slay the last vampire.
"Naruto-kun, are you sure you're ready so soon? You only woke up an hour ago, we need you at your best if we want to kill Kyūketsuki, we can wait one more day if you need it."
Naruto glanced at Akira and even though she tried to hide it he could see that she was still ridden with guilt. He knew it was her way of trying to make amends by showing concern over his health but it did little to cheer him up knowing she was thinking about him, things had changed far too much. With a shake of his head Naruto started walking towards the forest in the direction of Kyūketsuki's stronghold. "I'm fine Akira-chan, you saw it yourself, I'm fully healed, let's go."
She frowned but didn't say anything as the group followed after Naruto's lead. They only made it a few steps before they were forced to stop by the presence of someone on the forest's edge. Stepping into the light, the new figured revealed himself to be Jura wearing his traditional battle monk robes and a far more peaceful look on his face.
Without saying anything, Bacchus walked up to the giant of a man, stopping only when he was directly in front of him. He stared into Jura's eyes and Jura stared back and Bacchus saw it, the determination and strength had returned to the man, he wasn't questioning himself anymore. "I take it you found your answer."
It wasn't a question, he was merely stating what he saw in front of him. Even though Jura knew it as well he still answered. "I have Bacchus-dono. While it is hard to get past that almost everything I have been through up until this point had been based on lies there is one fundamental truth that I cannot deny. Finding Nirvana through fighting and honing my magic is the only path I can walk. That being said I can think of no better way to express this than fighting the creature that damned Midori to a fate worse than death. Will you have me?"
Bacchus smiled at the man in front of him before turning back towards his group. Their faces were at first surprised but none of them showed any disapproval at the new development and after seeing Akira nod her head ever so slightly Bacchus turned back to Jura and extended his hand with a smile. "Welcome aboard buddy." He said in his cocky tone.
Jura looked down at the offered appendage but couldn't bring himself to accept it. "I am sorry Bacchus-dono, after everything that has happened I cannot bring myself to forgive you, I can fight alongside you for this but I cannot accept that there was no other way for your fight with Midori to end."
Bacchus wanted to refute what Jura said but he couldn't. He couldn't because he thought the same thing. Midori wasn't inherently evil, she was just forced to fight on the wrong side. But that didn't mean he felt guilty about it, he did what he had to do. That's what war was and at this point that was what this was, war.
Bacchus could respect Jura's decision, understanding and forgiveness were two very different things and he didn't expect to be forgiven by the Earth Mage. The fact that Jura was willing to fight with him spoke volumes about Jura. Bacchus let his hand drop and his smile lessened but it was still there, if only barely. "Heh, fair enough."
The group became silent once again as they followed Akira through the maze of a forest. It wasn't long before they came across what they had been looking for since they started their journey.
A stronghold like structure stood in front of them, not nearly as large as the cathedral they had just left but still impressive. Two large towers connected to the sides of the house with a set of large double doors resting in the middle of the house. There weren't any windows in the building, giving it an even stranger look than it already had.
"We're here, stay close, we have no idea what to expect from Kyūketsuki, be ready for anything." Akira said as the group approached the double doors. Placing her hands on the doors, Akira was surprised to find that they weighed nearly nothing as she easily pushed them open. The inside of Kyūketsuki's stronghold was as dark as the outside, save for a few torches that illuminated the halls.
The group of five walked in silence as Akira led them through the maze of corridors, following the trail of torches that led them deeper into Kyūketsuki's base. While none of them let it show they were worried about what was to come next. It was obvious that they were walking straight into a trap. Trap or not it didn't matter, Kyūketsuki knew where they were staying for an entire week, and if he wanted to attack them he would've done it by now. No, the vampire wanted them to come to him, and come they would.
Reaching another set of double doors at the end of a long hallway, the group stopped as Akira rested her shaking hands on the door. Kyūketsuki's magic flooded the area, not out of a show of power but simply because he was there. The entire stronghold reeked of his vile magic but this was different, this was more akin to a light fog clouding everything.
Steeling her nerves she pushed on the doors and they swung open as effortlessly as the entrance doors. Sitting in his chair was Kyūketsuki, wearing the same garb that he had worn when he approached them outside the mountain weeks ago. In front of him on a small pedestal was a pristine crystal chess board with the pieces spread across, clearly in the middle of a game.
Without looking at the newcomers, Kyūketsuki reached for one of the pieces and moved it right in front of the Black King.
"White Queen to E7, Check."
It was at that moment Kyūketsuki finally decided to look at them, raising from his chair as he did so. A thin smile started to creep across his face as he looked at the mages before him. Some he barely knew their names, others he knew quite… intimately. "Welcome, all of you. I want to say that you all have made this to be the most interesting game I've ever played, and that is saying something." Kyūketsuki said with a small laugh.
Something about the way he said that made Akira's blood boil more than it should've. Fire started to grow around her hands as she glared at the vampire in front of her. "This is a game to you? Everything you've done has been merely a game to you?!"
Kyūketsuki gave her a condescending smile as he gestured towards himself. "Of course it is, everything that we do is because of our own motivations. For me it is to make my life enjoyable, how I go about that is up to me. You all are no different."
Kyūketsuki was given a series of confused and angry looks before Jeremiah drew his sword from its scabbard and grabbed the still damaged shield off of his back. "We are nothing like you, we don't play games with the lives of thousands simply to get off on it. You're a monster that needs to be put down."
Kyūketsuki chuckled to himself at the self-righteous tone the Templar was taking with him. It amused him to no end how humans justified their actions when the simplest explanation was usually the correct one. "Spare me Holy Templar, you all are no different than me, the five of you have all come here for my head yet none of you share the same reason, there isn't some righteous reason for your joining of forces, you merely are necessitating your own desires."
This time Kyūketsuki turned serious for the first time since he had run into them a few weeks ago. His face was pensive and his muscles tense. He lifted his arm and pointed at Naruto. "The Dragon Slayer is here out of duty to his country." His finger moved ever so slightly too now be pointing at Jura. "The monk is here because his religion demands answers through combat." Now he pointed at Akira. "She is here for vengeance." Again his finger shifted to where Jeremiah was standing. "He would follow her through the pits of hell with a smile if she asked." Then his finger finally landed on Bacchus. "And you, well, you're here just to fight."
"Regardless of any way you put it, all of your motivations have led you to fight, be it duty, religion, revenge, love or just because. To say that one's reason to fight is superior to another's shows a naiveté that only you humans are capable of. You are no better than me."
That was the final straw for Akira as her anger got the best of her. Her majestic blue flames erupted from underneath her and she rocketed towards Kyūketsuki. "SHUT THE HELL UP!"
Akira flipped forward mid jump and brought her flaming leg down on Kyūketsuki who merely watched her with an amused smile. Kyūketsuki coated his left hand with a purple miasma and grabbed Akira's leg before she made contact with her intended target. Holding her mid-air, Kyūketsuki used his magic to cover his other hand in the same purple vapor and struck at the defenseless girl with a knife hand strike.
Moments before Kyūketsuki struck Akira down he released the girl and backed pedaled away as both Naruto and Jeremiah came in from his sides, a spiraling blue sphere in one's hand and a glowing sword held in a downward striking position in the other.
Both men dropped their respective attacks as Kyūketsuki retreated, watching the vampire warily as he came to a stop only a few yards away. That had been way too close. With such a simple move Kyūketsuki was not only able to block Akira's attack but nearly delivered a potentially fatal counter in return. It proved that any mistake they made could be their last and the last thing they needed was Akira's anger getting the best of her. Neither Naruto nor Jeremiah wanted to say it but if she couldn't keep her anger in check she would just be a liability in the end.
Bacchus picked up on this fact and knew he needed to give them some room so they could straighten her out and charged past his allies to take the monster head on. He wasn't alone as several stone spears flew past the three stationary mages followed by Jura, clearly following Bacchus's lead.
Jeremiah turned to face Akira who had recovered from her near death experience. His face was one of frustration as he barely stopped himself from blowing up at her. "Damnit Akira! You can't do that and you know it! He's way too strong for us to blindly charge him like that. You promised you wouldn't give into your hate like that. You want to kill him so badly? Then work with us, don't do this by yourself, we're all here to help, I'm here to help you…"
Akira's eyes softened for a moment before they hardened with resolve. Not her hate induced resolve, the type of resolve that she had shown for years as she pushed herself to become as powerful as she could be, it was the same look that had made him respect her all those years ago. "You're right Jeremiah, I'm sorry. Let's do this, together."
The shout of pain brought Akira, Naruto and Jeremiah back to reality as they saw Bacchus get backhanded away from Kyūketsuki, the purple miasma now covering his forearms where he blocked the attack. The corrosive magic was eating away at the metal plating on Bacchus's arms as he tried to rid himself of the deadly magic.
Akira ran over to Bacchus, her hand igniting with her blue flames as she did so. Akira grabbed Bacchus's arms where the acid like magic was spreading and let her flames burn away Kyūketsuki's magic. Other than losing his armor on his forearms and a few minor burns on his arms Bacchus looked like he would be fine, still she had to ask, "Are you alright Bacchus-san?"
He in turn looked down at his now burned arms and flexed them once, then twice. Letting out an affirmative grunt he looked at the girl in front of him. "I'll live, thanks though."
Without saying anything else the two of them turned to see Kyūketsuki fighting off a group of Naruto's clones. None of them were coming close to landing a hit on the vampire but they were managing to keep his attention.
Destroying the last of Naruto's clones with an axe kick, Kyūketsuki moved his upper body to the side just in time to avoid a diagonal slash from Jeremiah, his sword passing harmlessly through the air mere inches from Kyūketsuki's body. Spinning on his heel, Kyūketsuki brought his other leg up and delivered a spinning kick into Jeremiah's side that sent to tumbling away from the vampire.
Watching the Templar roll on the ground until he came to a stop, Kyūketsuki openly laughed at the young man. "You'll have to do better than that little Jeremiah, it's almost like you're not even trying."
"Flame Elemental's Pyro Blast!"
Kyūketsuki's eyes widened momentarily as he saw the massive blue fireball hurtling towards him. Even from this distance he could feel the unreal heat coming off that raging inferno. Jumping straight into the air Kyūketsuki barely managed to avoid a fiery death from his favorite priestess.
Still suspended in midair, Kyūketsuki only had a split second to bring his arms up in an 'X' to block a wind incased fist courtesy of a blond Dragon Slayer. "Iron Fist of the Wind Dragon!"
Kyūketsuki took the brunt of the attack and could feel the wind blow past his ears at an astounding speed as his body rocketed towards the ground. Turning his body in the air, Kyūketsuki released his magic from his hands so that it would fall on the multitude of earthen spikes that was awaiting his eventual fall to earth.
His magic quickly ate away at spikes that littered the ground and left nothing but a smooth floor for Kyūketsuki to land on. Kyūketsuki braced himself as he landed on both of his feet, the ground cracking under the force of his landing. Kyūketsuki didn't have a second to spare as both Jeremiah and Bacchus were on him the moment he hit the ground.
Working in tangent, the swordsman and martial artist drove the vampire further into the room. Regardless of how closely they overlapped their attacks neither of them could land a clean blow, he always managed to maneuver himself in such a way that he didn't take any damage.
A small smile formed on Kyūketsuki's lips as he watched Jeremiah's sword begin to glow with the power of a dragon. He was coming straight at him while the palm user came in from the side, how original.
"Holy Dragon's Divine Rapier!"
Instead of releasing the energy built up in the sword for a ranged attack like he normally did, Jeremiah kept the power in the blade and lunged at Kyūketsuki while Bacchus did the same from the side. Kyūketsuki saw them the entire way and moved forward to meet Jeremiah. Moving ever so slightly to the left, he reached forward and grabbed Jeremiah's extended blade arm and let the sword pass under his shoulder harmlessly.
Moving his and Jeremiah's body, Kyūketsuki forced Bacchus to give up his own attack or risk being impaled on his ally's weapon. Still spinning with Jeremiah in his grasp, Kyūketsuki reached out with his other hand and grabbed Bacchus by the throat and with a show of strength he threw them both across the room to where their friends were.
Kyūketsuki watched as Bacchus and Jeremiah were helped to their feet by Naruto and Akira. This time all five of them came at him. Naruto, Jeremiah and Bacchus coming head on while Akira and Jura started to loop around to attack him from behind. A true grin broke out on Kyūketsuki's face as he watched them get closer. He couldn't help it, they just made things so much fun!
Letting his magic flow out of both of his hands, Kyūketsuki jumped into the air and spun in a circle, using enough power to rattle the ground and blow all of them away from him in one move. "Vampiric Consecration!"
Landing softly on the ground, Kyūketsuki casually walked back to his throne and sat on it in a lazy fashion. His smile still present as he watched his opponents pick themselves up from his attack. "That last go was scary, you nearly had me, really."
Akira bit back the pain that washed over her body as she made her way to her feet, a growl escaping her throat as she glared at her tormentor. "Don't mock us Kyūketsuki, by the end of this night you will be dead, mark my words." She said heatedly.
Kyūketsuki raised a single eyebrow at the woman and let a low chuckle leave his mouth. "Oh Akira-chan, do you really believe that? Your little group of friends are strong for humans but none of you really have a chance. You have only one thing going for you and you aren't even taking advantage of it, it's pathetic."
"Look at you all, five powerful mages in your own right and yet you have yet to land a single blow on me. You have nothing in the terms of team work. You try to make up for it by moving in tangent with one another, attacking one after another trying to fill the gaps before I slip through. But that's the problem, you don't know how to work together, you can't predict one another's moves and you always hesitate for just a second before you follow up, a second that you can't afford to give me."
This time it was Akira's turn to laugh, it was the first time any of her friends had heard her laugh in weeks. "I see something completely different. That second of hesitation in our attacks is the only reason you're alive. The longer we fight the less we hesitate, eventually you won't have that second to escape. Soon you won't have anywhere to run you coward."
Kyūketsuki hummed to himself as he looked at the ceiling, a few stray sun rays leaked through as day turned to night and twilight set in, oh how he loved the turning of the day, nothing made his day more than the turning of day into night. "A coward? Is that what you see? What an interesting interpretation, I assure you though my dear Akira-chan, I'm not running from anything."
Naruto shifted nervously as he watched Kyūketsuki stare up at the ceiling. The way he looked through the window into the sky unnerved him, something was wrong. Kyūketsuki hadn't made one attempt to actually harm any of them, he was just dancing between them, doing nothing more than making sure he didn't take any damage.
Akira was right about their timing getting better, Kyūketsuki wouldn't be able to keep up his dance with death much longer but he had to have known that so why wasn't he doing anything about it?
Naruto's eyes widened as he realized just what Kyūketsuki was doing. The only problem was that he didn't know why. "You're waiting for something, what is it?" Naruto shouted at the clearly distracted vampire.
Kyūketsuki smiled slightly again while he continued staring up at the turning sky. "So one of you figured it out, but what am I waiting for? What indeed, only time will tell."
"If you're trying to buy time then why haven't you sent your hordes of vampires at us? I know you have them, we've fought plenty of them already. We have reports that say you have upwards of a thousand." Jeremiah said with confidence in his voice. He knew Kyūketsuki had more vampires at his disposal, he himself had written half of those reports.
Kyūketsuki chuckled to himself without taking his eyes off of the sky above. How foolish these children were, but soon none of that would matter, only a few more minutes now. "What would a horde of level 2 and 3 vampires do against 5 A, nearly S rank mages? If you were alone they could overwhelm you but together? It wouldn't be much of a fight and what's a King without subjects? No, I would much rather have them here for after I deal with you. I mean after all, I don't need them to deal with the likes of you."
While clearly angered by Kyūketsuki's assertion no one made a move on him. The way he stood before them, barely acknowledging any of them as he continued to stare up at the ceiling didn't sit right with any of them. He was begging them to attack him, it didn't get any more obvious than that. But that led into a different problem, Kyūketsuki was waiting for something, what they didn't know but it couldn't have been good for them. It was a catch 22 if there ever was one.
It was then that Kyūketsuki said something completely off topic that none of them expected, just a simple question that didn't make any sense. "Do you know what we were called before we were labeled as 'vampires'?"
Silenced reigned before Kyūketsuki continued with his seemingly random strain of thought. The strange thing was that it looked like he was starting to look sick, his skin almost giving off a blue hue. "The strongest of us were considered to be true demons, Night Terror, the Bogeyman, any name that you humans have come up with to describe the evil creatures that lurk in the shadows of night, it didn't matter what you called us, they all meant the same thing."
A few stray rays of light then snuck into the room, landing on Kyūketsuki as he continued to shift from his pale complexion to a pure blue color, his face starting to actually crack vertically with each passing second as more moon beams illuminated the room. "We were hunters in the night, monsters without equal, that was until our perpetual night came to an end."
More drastic changes happened as he continued to speak. His clawed hands became larger with the rest of body, his muscles expanding before them and the black shirt he was wearing was torn to shreds by the transformation, leaving him in only his pants. "I remember the first day, the weakest of us died from the exposure of the sun, the one's that didn't adapted, we evolved, we… I became a Day Walker, Night Stalker."
At the utterance of those words the final changes in Kyūketsuki's apparent transformation occurred. Dark blue wings erupted from his back, stretching themselves out to show an impressive wingspan. A long blue tail broke through the back of Kyūketsuki's pants and landed on the ground with a loud thud behind him. The most disturbing part was when the crack that had formed on his face opened to reveal to rows of teeth running vertically up and down his face until they connected with his original teeth.
It was Jeremiah who uttered the word but the sentiment was shared by all, they had no idea that Kyūketsuki could become this… this thing. If the transformation wasn't bad enough Kyūketsuki's magic output became nearly overwhelming as he flooded the room with his new found power.
"Do you like it?" Kyūketsuki asked as he examined his new body. "This is the true end of our evolution. It takes over a millennia to reach this level. Not one vampire had ever reached this stage, only the first Night Stalkers were able to gain this power and I am the last of the originals. Now let's begin once more, this time in earnest."
One second, one second was all it took Kyūketsuki to go from standing on the other side of the room to being in front of Jeremiah with his fist cocked back. The Templar didn't even see the punch coming before he was sent spiraling backs from the force of the attack.
Kyūketsuki didn't let up there and continued to pursue the Templar. Kyūketsuki used his wings to glide along the floor until he was on top of Jeremiah again, another fist raised to bash him into the ground.
This time Jeremiah did see the attack coming and swung his sword out at the Night Stalker while still rolling from the initial attack. The blade deflected the claw that was aiming to take his life and threw Kyūketsuki off course which allowed Jeremiah to dig his sword into the ground to stop his momentum.
Jeremiah's move didn't grant him any breathing room as Kyūketsuki was on him again, his fist coated in denser version of his magic. "Night Stalker's Void Fist!"
"Holy Dragon's Vanguard!"
Jeremiah brought up his only defense just in time to intercept the attack. Deep purple and white covered the room as the two opposing forces fought for dominance. Normally Jeremiah would feel confident in his shield stopping Kyūketsuki's power, however nothing was normal about this situation. Kyūketsuki had a trump card that no one had known about and more importantly his shield was already gravely damaged.
The feeling of Kyūketsuki's magic slowly seeping into the cracks in his shield caused Jeremiah's eyes to widen as the lacrima inside the shield detonated, blowing both combatants away and sending debris everywhere.
Jeremiah came to a stop when his body impacted painfully with the wall of the room, his body being slightly indented before he fell forward, only able to catch himself with his sword as he used it as a crutch to stay standing. His left arm lay lifelessly at his side, completely devoid of any armor and covered in third degree burns from the explosion.
With his left hand now useless, Jeremiah looked up just in time to see Kyūketsuki charging him again looking only slightly damaged. Jeremiah saw him coming but couldn't move to respond to it. That explosion did more than rid him of some armor, it rocked his entire body and he was still reeling from that. Luckily for him he didn't have to move as a massive rock wall rose up in front of him, shielding the Templar from Kyūketsuki's claws that were determined to take a pound of flesh.
Kyūketsuki grunted to himself as he had to pry his arm out of the wall that had risen to save the Templar's life. Looking up Kyūketsuki stared at the descending form of Bacchus who had both of his arms raised above his head in what appeared to be a double palm strike.
Kyūketsuki closed his eyes before he reopened them and glared into Bacchus's determined orbs, sending his magic out through his eyes when Bacchus made eye contact. "Fear Quiets Magic."
The image of Kyūketsuki's now deformed face appeared in Bacchus's mind right before he came into striking distance. While shaken, Bacchus didn't stop in his attack and landed both of his palms on Kyūketsuki's chest which should've been a critical hit with his magic.
But Kyūketsuki didn't even move from the impact of the attack. He just stood there looking at Bacchus's hands and then at Bacchus, as if expecting something more to happen. After waiting a few seconds Kyūketsuki raised his claw and slammed it into Bacchus's chest much like Bacchus did to Kyūketsuki moments ago.
Bacchus flew head over heels from the attack, only stopping after hitting one of Jura's stone pillars from earlier in the fight. He looked down at his hands and tried to channel his magic to them but every time he tried an image of Kyūketsuki's face appeared in his head, the menacing face of a true demon, his hand shaking at the thought of trying to fight him.
He looked up to notice that Kyūketsuki was slowly walking over to him, like a predator stalking its next meal. That was until a wall of blue fire sprang into life between Bacchus and the Night Stalker.
Relief filled him before the form of his best friend filled his vision, concern clearly written on his face. "Bacchus are you alright, what happened?"
Bacchus only looked down at his shaking hands, unable to look his friend in the face. "I… I don't know. One second I was going to pulverize him and the next I couldn't channel my magic. All I could see was his haunting face."
The way Bacchus shuddered at the thought made Naruto grit his teeth. Kyūketsuki had done something to him right before Bacchus attacked. He knew Bacchus wasn't a coward, the man would fight anyone and anything, it sounded like a subtle illusion that triggered when someone tried to channel magic. Which really sucked because Genjutsu was Naruto's worst field, even more so considering it was magic related. Judging from the bruise that was now forming on Bacchus's chest simply hurting him wasn't going to be enough to break the illusion. Bacchus wasn't going to break it on his own either since he couldn't even access his magic so that left only one option for Naruto.
Placing both his hands on his friend's chest, Naruto tried to force as much as his magic into Bacchus's system as he could to try and destroy whatever Kyūketsuki had done. It seemed to work as the fear left Bacchus's eyes and he stopped quivering all together.
Bacchus mumbled a barely coherent thank you as he stood on his own, clearly embarrassed to have been subdued that easily. That embarrassment quickly turned to anger as Bacchus set his sights on the hunter in the night.
That was of course until Jura's giant body came flying at the both of them. Jura landed on both Naruto and Bacchus which resulted in all three of them being sent to the ground in a giant mess. Trying to free themselves from one another, Naruto noticed the large, bleeding gash on Jura chest that still had some residual purple miasma left in it. "Oi Jura-san, you ok?"
Covering the near fatal wound with his hand, Jura pushed himself to his knees where he winced in pain, clearly moving quickly wasn't the best move for the mountain mage. "I have been better Naruto-dono. I only need a minute to catch my breath, go help Akira-dono."
Naruto looked up to see Akira fighting Kyūketsuki by herself, fire was going everywhere as she was clearly working herself into a frenzy in a desperate bid to kill the creature. Naruto gave Bacchus a slight nod before he charged Kyūketsuki's blind spot with a kunai in hand.
Coating the blade in wind chakra, Naruto let the blade fly at Kyūketsuki's unprotected back. Without missing a beat Naruto gathered his magic in his lungs and let out the strongest roar he could muster. "Wind Dragon's Roar!"
Naruto's kunai was accelerated by his attack, gaining its original velocity several times over. The downside was that Kyūketsuki easily heard the attack coming and tried to avoid it. Still, knowing about an attack and being able to avoid said attack were two completely different things.
The blade hit Kyūketsuki in the right shoulder, tearing through muscle and bone before it exited the other side and tore through the concrete walls. It wasn't Kyūketsuki's heart where he had been aiming but it was something, just seeing Kyūketsuki bleed and to hear his anguished howl was enough to bring a smile to Naruto's face.
The small victory was short lived however as Kyūketsuki brought his full attention onto the blond shinobi. He came in hard and fast, Kyūketsuki's elbow lashing out and striking Naruto across the face. Naruto spun from the force of the attack but still managed to stay standing. He tried backpedaling away from the massive creature but he wasn't nearly as fast at the Night Stalker.
Again Kyūketsuki lashed out with a knife strike but was blocked not by Naruto, but by Bacchus who had grabbed Kyūketsuki's wrist and directed the hand into the air, easily missing Naruto. "Remember me freak?"
With Kyūketsuki's arm held in the air, Bacchus slammed his body into him with enough force to move the beast back. Not stopping there, Bacchus brought his free arm up and delivered a devastating open hand palm strike to Kyūketsuki's chest, right over where the lungs were.
Unlike before, Bacchus had full use of his magic which caused Kyūketsuki's lungs to indent and collapse under the force of his magic and sent Kyūketsuki flying across the room. In midair Kyūketsuki used his wings to generate enough lift to stop his momentum so he could right himself where he turned in the air to face Naruto and Bacchus before he landed on the ground, sliding only slightly as his clawed feet dug into the ground.
Kyūketsuki wheezed as he tried to gain any use of his lungs. Bacchus's palm strike had collapsed not only both his lungs but the rib cage itself. Slowly he felt his magic work at his injured organs and bones, mending them at a pace that could only be achieved by demonic methods. All the damage that was done between Naruto and Bacchus had been repaired in only five seconds, which gave him three extra seconds to deal with the three mages charging him. "Vampiric Nova!"
Gathering his vile magic in his hands, Kyūketsuki then released said magic in a cone in front of him, hitting Naruto, Bacchus and Akira at the same time, blasting them into the air and far enough away from himself to give him some much needed breathing room.
Those brats were getting better with each passing second and he knew it. Their teamwork, their method of attack, how they defended themselves from his attacks, all of it was improving by leaps and bounds. He had his fun, it was time to bring an end to this, but to do that he needed to break their morale, and he knew just how to do it.
Scanning over all of the prospects in front of him, Kyūketsuki's eyes rested on Akira as she struggled to regain her footing. She was the closest to him when he released his attack and thus had taken the worst of the damage. She would be concussed for at least a few more seconds, the last few seconds of her life.
Kyūketsuki brought his hands together as he channeled his magic into a small ball. The ball started expanding rapidly as he pumped more and more power into the attack before he had to open his hands to let the ball grow more in size. At its apex it was just bigger than his head. Watching his target stumbled in her attempt to get up Kyūketsukicould only widen his smile as he let his attack go soaring at the unsuspecting priestess. "Voidless Night!"
Akira tried to push herself onto her feet but only managed to get to her knees. She was way too close to Kyūketsuki when that attack went off. She had been on the receiving end of his attacks before but they were nothing like that. His magic was at a completely different level from before. But even so she couldn't help it, he was open for a split second and she honestly thought she could close the distance. She was so close, if she was only a half second faster she would've had that bastard.
"Akira-chan watch out!"
"Akira-dono in front of you!"
"Damnit you stupid woman, move!"
Time seemed to slow as Akira looked up to see a ball of pure Vampiric magic hurtling towards her. Her eyes widened as she looked at the object with pure horror. That was it, she couldn't dodge that, there was no way to block it. She was caught in a defenseless position and Kyūketsuki wasn't playing around with her anymore, he was finally ending their little game.
Akira closed her eyes as a sort of surreal peace washed over her instead of the ice cold dread that most would expect when they knew their death was coming. She didn't fear death, she hadn't for a long time. Her entire life had been dedicated to killing Kyūketsuki and if she died trying to accomplish that goal, well, that was something she had come to peace with years ago.
It was so weird, she didn't feel any pain from the attack but she knew it had landed, she had heard the magic explode on contact with a human body. She felt the wind being blown past her and the ground shaking beneath her from the sheer power behind the attack.
A few seconds passed and Akira knew something was wrong. She could still feel the subtle shifts in the air, the ground under her, if she couldn't feel pain after being hit then why could she still feel anything at all? Tentatively, Akira opened her eyes and her mouth opened in shock from the sight in front of her, a silent scream on her lips as she failed to get words out.
In front of her with his arms outstretched stood Jeremiah, his sword still held in his hand even as pieces of his armor plating feel uselessly to the ground. "Je-Je-Jeremiah?"
The sound of her voice seemed to finally knock the Templar off his feet, his grasp on his sword failing as the blade cluttered to the ground as he fell backwards. Akira managed to regain enough of her senses to catch him before his body hit the unforgiving floor.
With Jeremiah in her arms she gasped as she looked at the extent of the damage. His entire chest plate had been blown off and the rest of his armor was either in the process of shattering or were fractured beyond repair.
Akira idly hovered her hand over what was left of his chest, the skin had been completely eroded away, only leaving his muscle and veins. There was so much blood pouring out of his wound that she knew somewhere in the back of her mind that he was going to die in less than a minute if he wasn't dead already.
"Akira-chan…" Whispered Jeremiah.
Her eyes snapped up to his half dulled eyes. The pain wasn't registering in his mind anymore, he had probably gone into shock the second the attack landed. She cupped his bloody cheek with her hand as tears started to well up in her eyes. His weak voice nearly broke her when she heard it. "Jeremiah… you…"
Through half lidded eyes Jeremiah looked at Akira, his breathing heavy with labored breaths as his body tried to fight through the pain. "Are… you ok?" He managed to ask, even saying that was a monumental achievement for him at this point.
Tears started falling from Akira's face as she stroked Jeremiah's hair in an attempt to comfort him. She choked on her own words as she tried to give him something that would reassure him, to let him know he would be fine but every time she tried her body wouldn't let her do it. Finally she got out a response. "I-I'm f-fine. Jeremiah…w-why"
And then he did something that surprised her, he smiled up at her, bloody face and all. He looked so calm, so at peace with what was happening, how could he be happy when he was on death's door?!
"You already know that answer Akira-chan. I love you, I always have." Jeremiah told her through violent coughs as his body tried to remove the blood that was filling his lungs. His body trembled with each second that passed as he continued to lose all feeling in his body. "Akira-chan, live, for me."
Feeling Jeremiah's body go limp in her arms caused Akira's breath to catch in throat before she started softly shaking his body. "Jeremiah… Jeremiah, don't you dare die on me! Jeremiah!" She shouted at her best friend's body before she broke down into sobs. He couldn't be dead, he said he would always be there, he said he would always protect her. How could he protect her if he was dead?! This wasn't how this was meant to end, he wasn't supposed to die!
The room was silent except for Akira's soft sobbing, the other members in Akira's group not knowing how to properly register what just happened, shock setting into each of them as they looked at Jeremiah's dead body.
Then a loud, slow clap started from Kyūketsuki, a twisted smile on his face. "Oh how marvelous, truly touching my dear. Just when I thought you couldn't provide me with any more entertainment this happens. If I would've known killing the Templar would've gained this kind of reaction from you I would've done it years ago."
Silence reigned while Kyūketsuki continued taunting the emotionally destroyed woman. "This is poetic don't you think Akira-chan? Wasn't this how your mother died to me? Shielding you from my attack because you were too weak to deal with it? Love is such a silly thing, throwing one's life away for someone else, it would be funny if it wasn't so pathetic."
Akira's eye's snapped up and stared at Kyūketsuki with the deepest loathing she had ever felt. The tears that were falling did nothing to deter the look of pure hatred she was giving the vampire, if anything it made her look fiercer, a look that promised death. "Oh my, I like that look." Kyūketsuki said under his breath as he prepared himself for her inevitable rampage.
Akira gently placed Jeremiah's corpse on the ground before slowly standing, having long since recovered physically. She took a step forward as she let her bangs cover her eyes, then another step, and another before her flames came forth from her body and covered her torso and feet. Her eyes were filled with a blind rage as she leapt at the monstrosity in front of her.
The only thing on her mind was tearing Kyūketsuki limb from limb and she had every intention to do just that if she could get her hands on him but even though she was releasing insane amounts of fire to try and propel herself at him she wasn't getting any closer.
Looking down she saw two arms wrapped around her waist, holding her in place like an anchor. She turned her head to see Naruto behind her with strange markings running across his skin, they were light blue, nearly white in color. They reminded her more of blotches than any actual symbol but that didn't matter right now. "Let me go Naruto! I'm going to kill him!"
Naruto grit his teeth as he dug his heels into the ground and used chakra to keep from moving anywhere. Akira was letting off waves of fire as she tried to remove herself from his grip. His clothes were the first to suffer from her fire, losing all of his top and a good portion of his pants due to her not caring about who her flames were hitting, just as long as Kyūketsuki was caught up in it, that was all that mattered to her at this point.
Even as the fire burned his flesh he refused to let go. The only reason he hadn't been completely burned away was because he had finally unlocked the first stage of Dragon Force, his scales providing a much needed buffer between himself and her flames. Watching his friend die had awakened the ancient power inside of him but he was able to keep his mind, deciding to hold Akira back from her own self destruction instead of going on the offensive.
She was hurt, physically and emotionally and he knew if she attacked Kyūketsuki like this he would kill her with ease, she would be sloppy and self-sacrificing just to land a blow on him, no matter how minor. "I won't! I'm not letting you die too!"
His words caused Akira's body to stiffen and she stopped trying to break out of his grasp, her flames dulling but they still licked at her clothes. "But… he killed Jeremiah… just like mom…" She half whispered half sobbed the last part before her world came crashing down again, reality setting in unlike before. Before she was numb to the idea and her rage gave her an avenue to vent and not truly come to grasp with what had happened. Naruto took that luxury away from her and her legs collapsed from under her, no longer able to hold up her weight.
Naruto went to the ground with her and held her as she started sobbing again all the while he kept his eyes on Kyūketsuki who had yet to move from his spot, instead deciding to merely watch their exchange.
Kyūketsuki shifted his body to the left just in time to dodge a palm strike from Bacchus. The strike shattered the pristine floor that Kyūketsuki was just standing on. The destroyed floor did nothing to slow Bacchus down as he cartwheeled and axe kicked Kyūketsuki who was still trying to move away from the initial surprise attack.
Bacchus pursued the hunter in the night with a ferocity that Kyūketsuki had never seen before. Tears were easily seen on the man's face but were completely insignificant compared to the look of pure determination to end him that was written all over Bacchus's face. Bacchus's body trembled with each movement but from what Kyūketsuki had no idea.
Side stepping another palm strike, Kyūketsuki lashed out with a fist of his own which was blocked by Bacchus's free hand before he spun inside Kyūketsuki's defense and slammed his elbow into Kyūketsuki's stomach.
Kyūketsuki stumbled backwards and heard a crunching noise as his foot smashed something on the floor. It was a bottle of empty sake, now smashed into a hundred different pieces. Kyūketsuki didn't have time to ponder the bottle's meaning as Bacchus was upon him again, throwing out dozens of palm strikes, all of them aiming at different critical spots.
With each passing second Bacchus's attacks grew in power and speed, it was like the entire fight up until then had meant absolutely nothing to the martial artist. It was then that Kyūketsuki noticed something different about the man in front of him. His body had a slight yellow hue to it, almost like an aura. But the man was a martial art magic user, his power shouldn't be visible unless…
Bacchus let another palm strike fly that connected with Kyūketsuki's forearms which was crossed in an 'X' over his chest. "You son of a bitch. Out of everyone here you had to kill him didn't you? Everyone that came for you was here for our own goddamn reasons. We all had something to gain, everyone except him! He was the only one that wasn't here for himself. HE WAS THE ONLY ONE THAT DIDN'T DESERVE TO DIE!"
Kyūketsuki felt his bones crack under the pressure Bacchus was exerting on them. He was blown back by the sheer force of Bacchus's magic. The faint yellow hue that once surrounded Bacchus was now strong and vibrant, growing in size with every angered yell Bacchus let lose. He knew what the man was, he was a berserker. A group of humans that were able to use extreme emotions to enhance their magic power to astronomical levels. They were mostly extinct due to the major drawback of using their own life force to fuel their power boast but the few that could master their innate ability were incredibly dangerous, even to a full-fledged Night Stalker.
"Iron Rock Wall!"
Kyūketsuki's eyes widened as a massive rock wall rose from behind him. He didn't have time to slow himself down and his back slammed into the dense earth with enough force to even rattle him. He didn't get a reprieve however as Bacchus had never let up on his attack. He didn't relent at all as he brought his right arm up and drew back his fingers except for his pointer and middle fingers which he used to stab at Kyūketsuki's chest.
Drunken Hawk's Talon!"
Bacchus pierced through skin and buried his finger up to the knuckle while simultaneously forcing Kyūketsuki's body through the solid stone wall. Instead of reeling away from Bacchus from his vicious attack Kyūketsuki grabbed a hold of Bacchus' extended arm and pulled him in where he planted his demonically enhanced fist into his stomach. "Night Stalker's Void Fist!"
Unlike with Jeremiah, Bacchus didn't have anything to take the brunt of the attack and was sent rocketing across the room, a silent yell escaping his lips as his body imbedded itself into the chamber's wall. The wall itself indented enough from the force of the attack that Bacchus remained there, unable to move himself from the spot, his body completely going numb from pain. Even so he refused to let unconsciousness take him.
"Iron Rock Fist!"
A large stone fist rose from the ground and launched itself at Kyūketsuki who was still recovering from Bacchus's last attack. The fist connected with Kyūketsuki's back and sent him tumbling forward before he regained his footing and charged the earth mage. Jura responded by sending multiple stone spears at Kyūketsuki who weaved between all of them, gaining speed as he used the last spear as a spring board to push himself even closer to Jura.
At the last second Jura brought his hands together and formed the strongest defense he could muster. "Iron Rock Mountain!"
The hastily made defense did little to stop the powerhouse vampire as he dug through the rock like a hot knife through butter. Breaking through the defense, Jura didn't have time to react as Kyūketsuki clawed him over the same spot he had clawed earlier, then he brought his knee up and rammed it into Jura's stomach before reaching down and grabbing Jura's head with his massive claw.
Kyūketsuki squeezed Jura's head slightly before he flexed his arm muscles and threw Jura across the room. Kyūketsuki laughed to himself at how he had dismantle this rag tag group of humans that thought they could kill him. Now they were all but defeated. "Now where is the-!"
Pained erupted from Kyūketsuki's back and chest as he looked down to see the end of a blade shoot out of his chest, the result of him being run through by said blade. It only took a moment but Kyūketsuki felt his strength start to leave him at an alarming rate. The blade itself was glowing white and Kyūketsuki stared wide eyed at the weapon of the dead Templar. "Ho-How? I thought I kil-"
"Killed him? Yes you did. And now you die"
Kyūketsuki moved his head to the side just enough to see spikey blond hair and vibrant blue eyes staring back at him, a mixture of anger and satisfaction were in those powerful eyes. "Uzumaki…"
Naruto gripped his dead friend's sword tighter before sliding it in deeper into Kyūketsuki's chest. He could feel the swords purifying ability working as Kyūketsuki gave less and less resistance the more he shoved the sword through him. Quickly Naruto forced Kyūketsuki to his knees, easily moving the vampire after all of his strength was stolen from him.
The sound of footsteps made Kyūketsuki look up and see Akira standing in front of him, dead eyes gazing into his own. A sneer made its way onto Kyūketsuki's face as he looked at the flame priestess. "Not going to say anything? Has the Templar's death hurt you that much? Pathetic."
Akira didn't say anything to Kyūketsuki's taunt and merely raised one of her hands and grabbed the top of Kyūketsuki's head where her flames started to smolder. "You killed my mother, you killed my most precious person, but now you die, burn in hell Kyūketsuki."
The dead tone she used to carry out his death sentence made him sneer up at her. "Don't call me Kyūketsuki. That was the name you humans gave me. My name is Balanar."
That was the last thing he said before a torrent of flames ripped him apart, the smell of flesh permeated the room as Akira refused to let up with her fire. She stood there for ten straight minutes, just letting her fire completely eradicate the spot the now named Balanar sat.
Naruto walked behind Akira and placed a hand on her shoulder and tried to muster a somewhat happy face, all he managed was a slight frown. "Akira-chan, he's dead, it's over."
Akira let her fire burn a few more seconds before she finally let the fire extinguish itself. The ground was completely black where Balanar had been, the only thing remaining were his ashes and Jeremiah's holy sword.
Akira turned to Naruto and looked him in the eyes, a little life returned at the moment before she fell forward into his arms, silently sobbing while muttering to herself. "It's over, it's finally over…"
Naruto grabbed onto the girl and held her in his arms and stroked her back while she cried on his chest. His frown morphed into a sad grimace as he looked around. Bacchus was still in the hole in the wall that Balanar had put him in, tears rolling down his cheeks while he stared up at the moon.
Jura had managed to work his way over to Jeremiah's body and had started a small prayer for him. Even though Jura's injuries were extensive he didn't pay any mind to them as he went through his ritual.
Then his gaze returned to Akira's now sleeping form. She was still crying but her body had completely succumbed to the exhaustion she had been fighting.
It was finally over, but no one had won, it was a hollow victory.
AND BOOM. How was that? Didn't see that coming did ya? Dropped a big old feeling bomb on yall.
Though seriously I want to know who thought that I was going to kill Jeremiah off. I'm hoping I wasn't too predictable with this outcome but what's done is done. This end scene was why this arc was as long as it was. If I would've killed Jeremiah and the arc was like 2 chapters then there would've been 0 connection with him, for the characters or the readers. This way we (hopefully) have both.
Next chapter we'll be back in Fiore so get ready for some awesome development with your favorite characters as Naruto makes his rounds. I've got a ton of awesome stuff planned for Naruto once he gets back to Fiore so I hope you all are excited as I am because shits gonna get real real quick.
Like always leave a review about what you liked, what you didn't like, ways I can improve or any questions you might have, I'll be sure to answer anything or clarify if something didn't make sense to you, Cya!