Natsuki watched with hardened eyes as she let off shot after shot. None hitting their target. But even as she missed, she knew she wasn't truly trying to hit the other woman. Every fiber of her being was resisting actually doing Shizuru harm.
She'd made her decision. She knew what she had to do. Shizuru had taken down their fellow HiMEs, destroyed the First District's base. She'd hurt so many, ended so many lives and Natsuki had to put a stop to it. But Natsuki wasn't doing it out of a quest for vengeance, anger, or anything of the like. Despite what Shizuru seemed to believe, Natsuki was sure she could never hate her. Shizuru was her most cherished person. The reason Duran had come back to her once more, stronger than ever.
Strong enough to finally allow her to put an end to Shizuru's reign of terror.
But if she was honest, Natsuki knew that wasn't really why she had challenged Shizuru so blatantly. It was because she knew that, if Shizuru were to regain her sanity, she would hate herself for the things she had done. And Natsuki would be damned before she'd let Shizuru go through that torment alone.
And now it was time, time to end it. She took a deep breath and turned her focus to her surroundings. As Shizuru dodged her bullets with an unnatural grace, the battle between Kyohime and Duran raged above them. With a quick glance towards her child she gritted her teeth and broke into a run, following the other girl into the broken building.
Her steps faltered as she entered and her eyes darted throughout the wreckage within, searching for her target. Amidst the noise coming from the battle going on just outside, she could heard the quiet steps that preceded Shizuru's appearance. The other girl stepped forward from the shadows, coming to stand a mere few meters in front of her.
Burgundy orbs met emerald, both unyielding in their intensity. Two women stood, weapons in hand, mentally steeling themselves for the task at hand. Both knowing that only one of them might be able to walk away.
Natsuki clenched her jaw, trying hard to fight back the sting behind her eyes. She was ready for this. She knew they couldn't both be left standing at the end. This fight had to happen, be it now or later. It was imperative that Mai be the last HiME standing and Natsuki would do anything to make sure that was what came to be. Even if it meant she had to kill the woman who she now knew to be the person most important to her. The woman she…loved.
The woman who was swinging her naginata into position to attack her.
Natsuki let her eyes drift shut, memories of her and Shizuru together flashing through her mind. And for a moment, she let the rage she was keeping pinned down roar to life. None of this was supposed to happen. How dare they force her and Shizuru into a situation where they had to fight each other to the death? Especially now. Now…when she'd finally realized how much she cared for the older girl.
The sudden movement in front of her brought Natsuki back from her thoughts, just in time for her to throw her weight to the side. She fell to the ground and rolled forward, jumping back up into a standing position. The blue haired girl was entirely aware of how close Shizuru's razor sharp blade had come. But the truth of it all was that it didn't matter. It didn't matter who won. If Shizuru managed to destroy Duran before her child could overcome Kyohime the end result would still suffice. They would both die.
Which raised the question as to why Natsuki was even bothering to fight back. She knew she had to die for the hellish carnival to end. So why not just let Shizuru end it? But even as she considered the idea Natsuki knew it was something she could allow, even before she'd instigated the battle with her beloved friend. Whether there was a hell or not, Natsuki couldn't allow Shizuru to tally up any more sins, especially not the sin of causing her death. It wasn't Shizuru's fault that they couldn't survive, just as it wasn't the older girl's fault that the events of the carnival had led to her descent into madness.
Natsuki was determined to see that the one who felt the pain of destroying their most important person was her. She would carry the burden. Shizuru was weighed down with enough as it was.
Out of the corner of her eyes she glimpsed Duran gaining the edge and decided it was time she took the lead in her own fight.
She feinted the side, holding the position until Shizuru took her swing, then jolted the other way and let off a barrage of shots. Before she could even tell if she'd managed to hit the other girl she found herself dodging another lethal swing.
She assessed her surroundings quickly, noticing that she was boxed in by debris. While the slabs of broken concrete weren't very tall, they would make any evasive movements nearly impossible. As Shizuru readied her weapon once more she jolted to the left and heaved herself over the waist high blockade of stone and wood. Her landing wasn't as smooth as she would have liked, but she was sure she had avoided any damage besides a few shards of wood that had embedded themselves within her skin.
They continued like that for an uncountable amount of time, evading and attacking coming together then breaking away. It was almost like a dance, beautiful in its consistency. And as it progressed, it became clear that the fight was missing an element.
Natsuki smiled ruefully as she identified it. It seemed that, in the face of her hurt and anger, Shizuru was no more willing to harm her than Natsuki was. There was no aggression in their strikes, no malevolent intent behind their attempts.
A sharp sigh escaped her as she realized that she would need to be the one to amp up the fight, to coax Shizuru's hurt into a rage that would push her into actually attempting to harm her. Natsuki chest tightened as she adjusted her stance. It was time for her to do the one thing she'd wanted so badly to avoid doing again.
She's already hurt Shizuru beyond repair, she'd hurt her emotionally, and therein mentally. And now, now she would have to finish off Shizuru's triad of suffering and hurt her physically.
Decision made Natsuki's movements took on a new fervor, a stronger motivation. Within seconds she managed to graze the side of Shizuru's knee. While the wound wasn't debilitating it would hinder her movements, giving Natsuki the edge she needed.
Unfortunately for her, she hadn't realized how strongly she would react to Shizuru's yelp of pain. The sound tore through her, freezing her in place. Every part of her screamed out to rush forward, to comfort her friend and make sure she was okay.
It took her a moment to contain her emotions and regain her stance. But it was a moment too many. She heard the crash before she saw it. As she looked up she saw one of Kyohime's heads receding from the crash the child had caused. Another area of the roof had been decimated, leaving the church's bell to fall.
A short laugh escaped her as she considered the irony. She had wanted the flow of the fight to alter, but this certainly hadn't been her idea. Nevertheless, it might end up being precisely what she needed. As she waited for the impact, her eyes landed on a figure she knew well. Somehow, she and Shizuru had ended up where they'd started off, standing mere meters apart, waiting for the inevitable.
The bell made contact, missing her by mere inches on every side. And though nothing touched her, save a few pieces of rock and wood that scraped her bare legs, she found herself in agony. Sound ricocheted all around her, deafening her and messing with her balance. It didn't matter if she was still able to move, there was no way she would be getting out from under that bell any time soon.
But if turned out that she didn't need to try. She was beginning to regain her senses as she saw the fissures in the circumference of the metal. Just as it began to break down completely, she heard it as well. Just in time to hear it shatter completely as something curled around her body with a vice like grip.
As the chain made contact with her skin, she felt the pressure of its grip acutely. The agony was almost instant, ripping a pained grunt from her throat. She didn't know when she'd closed her eyes, but she welcomed the darkness it provided. She gritted her teeth, keeping her eyes tightly shut in spite of her situation, and attempted to focus on anything but the unyielding pressure that held her in pain's grip.
Oddly enough, her respite came from the sound of Shizuru's voice. She couldn't hear what she was saying, but the mere timber of her tone relaxed her somehow, and the lack of tension made the chain's grip easier to bare.
It felt like she'd been strung there for hours, days, waiting for Shizuru's next move. And when it came, she was completely taken aback. Shizuru shifted her weapon, the force she exerted pulling Natsuki forward and into her arms.
Shizuru's scent overwhelmed her as she brought her into an embrace. Natsuki couldn't help but feel overwhelmed. It seemed as though it had been so long since she'd been able to be so close to her friend. And the contact was diminishing her resolve. How could she hurt the one she loved?
A small noise emitted from her mouth as she had a moment of clarity. Yes, she did have to destroy Shizuru's child, and in effect destroy Shizuru herself. But that didn't mean she had to end it painfully. Maybe…maybe if she could give her friend some small respite before the end…it might make all the difference.
Without a second thought she leaned back and looked into familiar wine-red orbs, lightly brushed the other girl's hair back. Her lips curved into a faint smile before she leaned in and slotted her lips against Shizuru's.
The brunette's reaction was instantaneous. Her body froze and a sound that could have been anything from a gasp to a protest emitted from her. She remained that way, body tense and eyes wide even after Natsuki pulled back.
The separation was sort lived as Natsuki wrapped her arms around the taller girl, pulling her close once more. She couldn't have said what really went on next. Words begun spilling forth in a haze as she tried to say anything to comfort her friend and everything she'd wanted to say but had held back. But if she was asked after, she wouldn't have been able to repeat any of it.
Her heart felt like it had swelled to a size too large to be contained in her chest as she held the girl she loved close. Even though it was definitely not the time nor place, she couldn't help but revel in the feel of Shizuru's body so close to her own.
But it couldn't last long, and she acknowledged that as the sounds of battle brought her back to the moment she'd wanted to avoid. She leaned back and met the other woman's gaze and the sorrow and confusion there nearly broke her resolve. She wanted to do anything, say anything to make the other girl happy again. And though she knew she couldn't do that, there was something that could come close. "I love you too."
And it was then that Shizuru's eyes finally began to clear as her cheeks flushed and her eyes widened once more. But through the confusion and pain, Natsuki could see some hope and warmth in the eyes she loved so much. For her, that was enough.
"So…" As she turned her head to focus her eyes on the childs battling behind them she felt the anger, the hatred, the sorrow, the love, the happiness, everything that she'd felt in the short time that had passed since the carnival had begun. In some form of twisted irony, Natsuki had to admit that the Carnival had been both the worst and the best thing to ever happen to her. And now…it was time for her part in it to end. It seemed her timing was impeccable as her eyes quickly surveyed Duran and Kyohime. If she was fast she'd be able to put an end to her role in the game, as well as Shizuru's. Then…they could face whatever came next together.
And while that made it easier, Natsuki still couldn't help but hate herself as she gave Duran the final order. "Duran! Load Silver Cartridge!"
The sound Shizuru made tore through her as she paused. But there was no choice. It had to end. And it had to end now. "Fire!"
This time, when Shizuru emitted another pained noise, Natsuki allowed herself to give into her urges and pushed forward, wrapping her arms around the other girl. Natsuki glance over her shoulder and watched as Duran's attack blasted through Kyohime and ricocheted back. Relief filled her, contrasting with the explosion that blasted debris towards them.
It was done, finally over. They had played their part and now…now it could end.
Shizuru's words were quiet but made their way to Natsuki despite the air barreling past them. Natsuki tightened her grip imperceptibly. It didn't matter what came next. She had Shizuru back, even if only for their last moments, it was enough.
And as they disappeared, Natsuki couldn't help but regret the time she'd spent denying how she'd felt. This one moment in time, meant everything to her. And it was a moment she'd denied for so long. A denial that had hurt the one she loved.
Panic rose in her chest as she began to think of all the things she'd never said. Things that she should have said, things that she should have done. But it was too late. And even as she felt her voice fade, her panic was replaced with grim acceptance and a silent promise.
If she was somehow granted a second chance, she would make the most of it. And she would finally make Shizuru see, just how much Natsuki felt in return. But for now, she'd done her part. And it was time to give into whatever plan fate had in store. And the rest…?
"The rest is up to you Mai."
In essence, this is my little rendition of what was going through Natsuki's mind during her and Shizuru's last fight. For some reason the idea just wouldn't let me go. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed. Keep on being your awesome selves.