Chapter 14:

Rage of the star dragon

Dive into the Night

“So … our first step should be getting intel on where Kaz could possibly be. We can try asking Oire or the animal spirits,” Touma concluded.Bookmark here

“We haven’t seen Oire since our first couple of days,” Saya said. “What kind of guide is supposed to be?”Bookmark here

“Well that leaves the animals doesn’t it?” Hayate asked. “Go on, call em’ out!”Bookmark here

Leon looked around the village, as if he was meticulously searching for something.Bookmark here

“What’s wrong Leon?” Touma asked Leon as he continued to look.Bookmark here

“Those spirits, they don’t seem to be around. Normally they would be watching from all around the village, but I can’t really feel any eyes on us.”Bookmark here

The others looked around the village as well, as they noticed the village was quieter than usual.Bookmark here

“How did you normally call them out?” Touma asked Leon again.Bookmark here

“Well I usually just call for the fox spirit, it seemed to be somewhat of a leader.”Bookmark here

May walked forward and called out to the village.Bookmark here

“Hey, Kitsu. You there?”Bookmark here

“She named it?” Leon questioned.Bookmark here

“She named it,” Touma repeated.Bookmark here

“What a cute nickname!” Saya said excitedly.Bookmark here

After a short delay, the fox spirit materialized in front of May and bowed its head.Bookmark here

“Greetings, human wanderers of the Dream. We apologize for our late appearance, as we are currently concealing our presence from all who approach.”Bookmark here

“You’re hiding? Why? I thought you were able to sneak around the Nightmares just fine?” Leon asked.Bookmark here

“A Nightmare is not one we fear. A terrible shadow has descended on the Dream, tearing a path of destruction in their wake.”Bookmark here

“You guys think that’s Kaz?” Leon turned around to ask the others.Bookmark here

“Only one way to find out,” Touma walked up to the fox spirit. “Where is this ‘shadow’ now?”Bookmark here

“We apologize, for we are not aware of their location. We have hidden ourselves away to avoid the fate of the Nightmares caught in the shadow’s rampage.”Bookmark here

“Please,” Leon said to the fox. “This is important; we have to find where this shadow is.”Bookmark here

The fox spirit closed its eyes for a moment, as if it was thinking. After a brief pause, it looked back up at Leon.Bookmark here

“Our eyes noticed activity near the east, at the northern part of the human city. Perhaps you will find the shadow there. However, we cannot be of any further assistance, for that we apologize once more.”Bookmark here

“No, that’s plenty of information. Thank you,” Leon said as he turned back to the group. “Alright, looks like we’re going to the eastern teleport point.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

Arriving at the eastern teleport house, Leon and the rest of the team took in their surroundings. They were in another suburban neighbourhood with signs that pointed to an industrial area in the distance. The overcast sky above them was covered with clouds, giving the area a dark grey tone. As they looked west, they could see signs of battle. Collapsed houses, traces of black mist, and giant slash marks everywhere.Bookmark here

“These … have to be from Kaz’s greatsword,” Touma said as he inspected the damages.Bookmark here

“All this black mist too. Just how many Nightmares did he kill on his own?” Hayate asked.Bookmark here

“Come on, let’s go further east. If we’re lucky he’ll still be there,” said Leon.Bookmark here

The group continued to make their way east, continuously passing by signs of destruction and battle. As they entered the industrial zone, they found themselves surrounded by massive factories and smoke stacks. The signs of battle continued, as some buildings had gigantic slash marks or collapsed entirely. The group eventually reached a hill that separated two of the industrial areas. Leon jumped up first while the rest of the party climbed the hill at a slower pace. As he reached the top, Leon looked into the distance and froze. After a brief moment, the other members of the team arrived at the top of the hill and walked beside Leon.Bookmark here

“Leon? What’s wrong? Why are you just standing here?” Touma asked.Bookmark here

Leon pointed in the distance and the others joined him in shock. A gigantic Nightmare descended from the clouds far in the distance. Its appearance resembled that of a snake or of an ancient serpent-like dragon.Bookmark here

“So what do we do? We ain’t gonna find Kaz if we stop to fight that thing,” Hayate said as he pointed at the dragon.Bookmark here

As Hayate was talking, Leon noticed a small object accelerate from the ground towards the dragon. As the object struck the dragon, it cried out before descending several hundred metres.Bookmark here

“Did something hit it?” Touma asked as he continued to watch the dragon.Bookmark here

“Or someone,” Leon said in response. “Look.”Bookmark here

A figure leapt up as the dragon descended, and as the figure began to fall back down it collided with the top side of the giant Nightmare. The attack pushed the creature straight into the ground.Bookmark here

“Holy, they just took down that thing in a single hit!” Hayate exclaimed.Bookmark here

“Come on, let's try to get a closer look,” Touma said as he jumped down the hill.Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

As the party approached the area where the dragon fell, they could already hear sounds of a battle taking place. The sounds of falling rumble, collapsing buildings, and the Nightmare crying out. The group finally reached the location of the fight, just to see a gigantic object fall to the ground in front of them. As the dust began to settle, they could see the Nightmare was already dead; its body slowly dissolving into black mist. They also noticed another figure standing on top of the Nightmare. With the dust fully settled they could immediately tell it was Kaz, as he carried his signature greatsword with him. His appearance was somewhat different however, his eyes lacked light and there was black mist that trailed from his body. Kaz looked over to the group as he ripped his greatsword out of the dissolving Nightmare.Bookmark here

“Kaz, that you? Where have you been all this time?” Hayate began to ask as he walked towards Kaz.Bookmark here

Leon continued to watch as Hayate walked closer to Kaz, until he noticed a slight movement from Kaz.Bookmark here

“What are ya just standi- “Hayate started to say before he was cut off.Bookmark here

Leon dashed forward and pushed Hayate back, at the same time he raised his spear forward just as Kaz dashed in and slammed his greatsword down with one hand. Leon managed to stop the strike with the cross pommel of his weapon, but the attack still caused him to recoil. With his attack stopped, Kaz leapt back to create distance.Bookmark here

“Kaz, what the hell happened to you?” Leon asked as he kept his spear forward.Bookmark here

The rest of the party ran up beside Leon and took up a combat stance with their weapons. Kaz began to grunt before he screamed at the top of his lungs.Bookmark here

You. All of you Nightmares that stand before me. ARE. MY. ENEMY.”Bookmark here

“He thinks we’re Nightmares?” Touma questioned.Bookmark here

“I didn’t think Hayate was that ugly,” said May in response.Bookmark here

“Hey!” Hayate began to say.Bookmark here

“We have no time for that!” Touma cut in. “I don’t think this is a fight where we can afford to hold back.”Bookmark here

The black mist that surrounded Kaz began to solidify. It formed pitch black armour all over his body, finishing off with a dragon-shaped helmet on his head. The mist also formed large black wings that sprouted from Kaz’s back. His greatsword was also covered in the mist, increasing its length and width.Bookmark here

“Here he- “Leon began to say.Bookmark here

Kaz dashed forward again in the middle of Leon speaking as he pulled his greatsword with one hand. The party split apart in different directions as Kaz swung his greatsword downward, cracking the ground and instantly creating a crater from the force of the impact. Hayate tried to counter attack by dashing back behind Kaz with his katana raised. Kaz swung his greatsword back around him and struck Hayate, sending him flying into one of the buildings. Kaz was then struck by several light arrows from above, he turned around and saw Touma preparing to cast another volley. Kaz broke the ground as he dashed towards Touma, with Saya stopping his attack as she jumped in front of Touma. As Kaz began to push Saya back, a spear flew in from Kaz’s left towards his head. He raised his left arm and caught the spear right before it impacted his head. Crushing the spear with his left hand, Kaz looked over and locked eyes with Leon. He front kicked Saya away before dashing towards Leon, who dashed towards Kaz in response. As they collided, Leon gripped his spear with both hands and began to match Kaz’s every attack. Bookmark here

This is insane, every one of his attacks has either doubled or tripled in strength from when we first fought. Leon thought to himself as he focused on parrying all of Kaz’s attacks. Bookmark here

Kaz continued his onslaught, swinging his greatsword from multiple angles one-handed. Seizing the opportunity, May dashed behind Kaz and prepared to attack with her arm blades, but Kaz grabbed her with his left hand before she could strike. He tossed May into Leon and swung his greatsword down towards them, his swing only stopped by Touma’s mana barrier. As Kaz looked back towards Touma, Hayate rushed in and thrusted his katana into Kaz’s back.Bookmark here

“You can’t look in every direction now can ya?” he asked Kaz.Bookmark here

Hayate ripped his sword upward, creating a long gash through Kaz’s armour. Kaz swung his greatsword at Hayate, who parried the swing and thrusted his katana into the front of Kaz’s chest before slashing again; creating another gash. Kaz swung multiple times at Hayate, who switched his focus to parrying the strikes.Bookmark here

“No matter how much of a genius you were, you’re no match for the Shien sword style!”Bookmark here

Hayate sped up his strikes and began to take off more chucks of Kaz’s armour with each successful parry. Changing his attack, Kaz turned his greatsword around and gripped it with both hands as he swung it sideways towards Hayate, who brought his katana into a guard stance. The greatsword shattered Hayate’s katana on impact before hitting Hayate and sending him several metres back. Kaz immediately dashed after Hayate, his greatsword brought to his side as he prepared to swing again. He stopped his dash and quickly jumped back as a spear impaled the ground in front of him. Kaz looked up and saw Leon standing on the roof of one of the factories, he looked down on Kaz with another spear in his hand.Bookmark here

“Hey buddy,” Leon yelled down at Kaz. “Catch.”Bookmark here

Leon tossed a second spear at Kaz, who swung his weapon forward to intercept the projectile. As his greatsword impacted the spear, both May and Saya dashed in from Kaz’s sides. May slashed at Kaz’s right arm before she raised her arm blades to block his counter swing, whereas Saya slashed at Kaz’s left arm multiple times before he attempted to grab her again; being only able to grab her arm shield. While this was happening, Hayate dashed back in after repairing his Mana shield. As he arrived in front of Kaz, Hayate performed an overhand slash downward into an upward slash immediately after, putting more damage into Kaz’s armour. Kaz turned his attention towards Hayate, only to be struck in the back by a flurry of light arrows. With a flap of his wings, Kaz emitted a shockwave that knocked the three attackers back. With another flap, he flew upward towards Leon. Although when Kaz looked up, Leon had already leapt off the building towards him; spear in hand. When Leon made contact with Kaz, he struck his spear into Kaz’s chest plate; causing it to crack. Leon’s dive pushed Kaz all the way to the ground, kicking up a dust cloud upon impact. As soon as they landed, Kaz grabbed Leon’s leg and tossed him out of the cloud of dust. The other members of the party regrouped with Leon as Kaz stood up and ripped the spear out of his chest plate.Bookmark here

“Hey, I know he was strong, but this is just ridiculous,” Leon said as he got up.Bookmark here

“Maybe there’s some way for us to talk him back to his senses? Saya asked. “We might end up hurting him.”Bookmark here

“Doubt it, plus doesn’t seem like he has any qualms about hurting us,” May replied.Bookmark here

“One step at a time, let’s focus on getting that black armour off of him first,” Touma said as he swept his hair up. “Saya, do you think you can draw his attention without taking too many hits?”Bookmark here

“I-I’ll try to,” she answered.Bookmark here

“I’ll be supporting you directly. Everyone else, stick to hit and run attacks so you can stay out of the range of his greatsword. Close in if only if you can safely get a chuck of the armour off.”Bookmark here

Kaz summoned another greatsword as he roared, he swung the weapon back as he charged forward.Bookmark here

“Here he comes again! Let’s go, everyone!” Touma yelled.Bookmark here

Saya charged towards Kaz with Touma right behind her as the rest of the party scattered in different directions. She blocked Kaz’s initial swing of his greatsword as she counterattacked with her own sword. Touma fired more light arrows from behind Saya as he continued to channel a Mana barrier in front of her. Meanwhile, Leon, May, and Hayate continued to chip away at Kaz’s armour by jumping and dashing around the area, cutting at Kaz with each pass. Kaz continued to trade blows with Saya as he slowly lost the armour from his torso and his back. The three attackers then closed in for a synchronized strike. Kaz parried Saya’s attack and tossed his greatsword at Touma, pinning him to a wall. He then grabbed Saya and swept her around himself, knocking back the three attackers. Kaz summoned another greatsword and began to slam it into Saya’s side, breaking Touma’s Mana barrier after a couple hits. He continued swinging, eventually cracking Saya’s own mana shield and causing her to cry out in pain.Bookmark here

“Saya!” Touma cried out as he freed himself from the wall.Bookmark here

Kaz raised his greatsword and prepared to swing it down onto Saya, but a spear flew in from his left side and impaled his left arm. Even as he lost his grip on Saya, he continued to bring his greatsword down. Leon dashed in front of Saya and blocked the greatsword with a spear in his left hand. In the same motion, Leon summoned a second spear in his right hand and stabbed it into Kaz’s helmet. Kaz then used his left hand to grab Leon’s right arm in an attempt to pull his hand away from his spear. Leon proceeded to front kick Kaz away as he tore his spear out of Kaz’s helmet; shattering it. The others rushed over to Leon and Saya.Bookmark here

“Is she okay?” Leon turned his head and asked.Bookmark here

“Her mana barrier was broken, but it seems like you got there just before any more damage was done,” Touma replied.Bookmark here

“Good,” Leon said as he turned back towards Kaz. “You guys keep her safe.”Bookmark here

Leon walked forward with both of his spears in his hands.Bookmark here

“Hey Kaz, have you finally snapped out of it yet?”Bookmark here

Kaz held his head with his left hand as he staggered backwards, the rest of the dragon-shaped helmet broke apart and fell to the ground. The black mist slowly converged back onto Kaz, forming a thin layer of armour. Kaz slowly looked up at Leon.Bookmark here

“L-Leon…”Bookmark here

“Hey, it’s good that you remembered my name. You’ve been gone for a couple of days now. Come on, let’s go back. Everyone’s worried.”Bookmark here

“Everyone… he … hehe… hahahaha!”Bookmark here

As Kaz transitioned into a crazed laughter, he summoned his greatsword and dashed at Leon, bringing it down with both hands as he arrived. Leon raised both of his spears to block the attack as he looked at Kaz.Bookmark here

“Kaz, I know about what happened. We can help you.”Bookmark here

Leon overpowers Kaz and sweeps him with both of the spears, knocking Kaz back.Bookmark here

“Help?! What can you even do to help me?!Bookmark here

Leon and Kaz both dashed towards each other, with Leon tossing his spear mid-dash towards Kaz. As Kaz blocked the spear, Leon transitioned into a two-handed stance and began an onslaught of slashes and jabs, forcing Kaz onto the defensive.Bookmark here

“You’re our leader Kaz. You can rely on us!”Bookmark here

“And what makes you think that I wanted any of this?!”Bookmark here

“Huh?”Bookmark here

Kaz blocked another hit before he pushed Leon back with the side of his greatsword.Bookmark here

“The Ryusei Group, this Dream, my whole life. Did you think I asked for any of this?!”Bookmark here

Kaz dashed in and began his own offensive, forcing Leon to parry his attacks.Bookmark here

“Did you think that I wanted to be born a Ryusei?! To be labelled a ‘genius’ and have all these unrealistic expectations placed on me?!"Bookmark here

Kaz raised his arms to bring his greatsword down on Leon.Bookmark here

“Did you think I wanted to inherit all of the Ryusei Group when I’m only twenty-four?!”Bookmark here

Leon repels the strike with his weapons and causes Kaz to lose his grip on his greatsword, Leon then tossed his spears aside and punched Kaz in the face. Kaz staggered back before returning his own punch as the two began a fistfight.Bookmark here

“All my life I just wanted to prove that I was more than a Ryusei, that I was Kazuya.”Bookmark here

They continued to trade blows, their mana barriers eventually started to crack.Bookmark here

“Everyone that I ever wanted to prove myself to is dead! What do I have now?!"Bookmark here

Leon could see the tears in Kaz’s eyes as they continued to pummel each other. Kaz eventually knocked Leon back, he summoned his greatsword and leapt towards him, bringing it down from above. Before Kaz’s sword made impact, Leon summoned both of his spears to guard the blow. Leon pushed back Kaz and caused him to recoil for a brief moment. Seizing the opportunity, Leon raised his leg and kicked Kaz in the jaw, knocking him back and causing him to land on his back. Leon rushed forward and tossed both of his spears at Kaz’s shoulders, pinning him to the ground. Leon got on top of Kaz and began to repeatedly punch him in the face. Kaz tried to raise his hands to summon his greatsword, but his arms were pinned down by the spears.Bookmark here

“You goddamn idiot! We didn’t follow you because you were a ‘Ryusei’ or because you were a ‘genius’. We followed because we believed in you, and because you believed in us. We wouldn’t have fought alongside you for this long if that wasn’t the case."Bookmark here

Leon stopped punching as he realized Kaz was not resisting anymore.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, I know that I can’t relate with what you’re going through. All I can do is offer you an ear to listen to your troubles.”Bookmark here

“No. You’re right. I cause you all this much trouble because I was too stupid to see the selfishness of my own desires. All I could think about was what others thought of me. Was everything I did through my life just for this pursuit of perfection?” Kaz paused for a moment. “I guess I really did not deserve to be your leader, huh?”Bookmark here

Leon noticed that Kaz had begun to fade from the Dream, his body was dissolving into white mist while the black mist around his body dissolved with him.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, for all of this. Maybe when I wake up, we can talk over a cup of tea?” Kaz said before he disappeared.Bookmark here

Leon looked up to the sky after Kaz had vanished completely.Bookmark here

“Dumbass, you were the best leader we could have asked for.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.