Death by Ex-Girlfriend: War Cloud
The showdown was about to begin in the courtyard of of Izanami's shrine. The pagoda lanterns along the walkway were alight with fire, illuminating to the grounds. Tsukiakari first lunged after Isabella, but her swing was blocked by the flat end Izanami's scythe. Yoko went around the side and threw three kunai into Tsukiakari's side and leg, forcing her to pull back and pull them out.
"Congratulations, you drew first blood." Tsukiakari snickered.
Tsukiakari pulled out the last kunai, but kept hold of it instead of throwing it away. Channeling her power through her palm, Tsukiakari enwreathed the kunai in screeching electricity. She then threw the kunai back at Yoko, faster than anyone could even see. Once again, Izanami protected everyone by deflecting the kunai's trajectory with her scythe. Isabella wasted no time in throwing two grenades at Tsukiakari, prompting her to jump on the roof of the pagoda to avoid the explosions. With Tsukiakari distracted, Izanami lunged in front of her, preparing a horizontal strike that would cut her in half. Tsukiakari blocked Izanami's scythe with her sword, and the two engaged in a brief dance of blades. Tsukiakari could see heartbreak in Izanami's teary eyes. She could feel the hesitance in her, as she was clearly holding back her strength.
Izanami was abruptly hit in the chin by Tsukiakari's upper kick, and then knocked back down to ground level with a powerful side kick that cracked the stone tiles in the courtyard as Izanami tumbled towards Yoko and Isabella.
"Izanami!" Yoko yelled.
Tsukiakari's enwreathed her sword in flames as she swooped in to finish Izanami, only to find her blade meeting with Yoko's katana instead.
"Gekko! You've already shown me what's in your heart! I know you're scared, but what does this accomplish?! You're just being selfish, leaving the responsibility of killing you to us when you know we love you!"
"I'm the selfish one?!" Tsukiakari hissed. "Osamu and Izanami both lied to me! You bought me gifts and pampered me, knowing you'd only give me up to the man who ruined my life and murdered my comrades!"
Tsukiakari broke Yoko's guard and slashed her arm, leaving a bleeding, searing gash below her shoulder. Yoko scuffled backwards with an agonized yell, dropping her sword to hold her bleeding arm.
"Don't you dare call me Gekko! Don't you dare call me selfish! What were you doing this whole time?! You were all leading me right to my own funeral!" Tsukiakari cried. "You let me love and trust you only for you all to trample on it all! I finally got to live in a good house, with good people. I finally got to have a Christmas! Friends don't sell each other out. That's what I kept saying to myself. I trusted that you guys weren't like that. I knew Bishamon was looking for me, but I didn't think Osamu and Izanami would ever dare give me up to him. At least this way, you will all be the ones to kill me instead of Bishamon. But I won't let you take me down without a fight! This is your punishment too!"
"She's completely lost...and it's our fault." Isabella lamented.
"There's nothing we can do for her. It's too late anyway. After massacring the residents, Heaven isn't going to just let her roam around any more than they already have." Yoko said. "They were giving her mercy and now she just pissed it all away. She wants to die by the hands of her loved ones, so let's at least grant her that wish."
As the battle raged on, Osamu ran through the neighborhood as fast as he could, only to come to a abrupt stop as he turned the corner. The smell of blood against the concrete permeated in the air as he happened upon some of the corpses of the people Tsukiakari had murdered. He covered his nose, but he didn't dare look away. He stifled his tears as he looked upon the faces of the dead. In his mind, he was just as guilty of killing them as Tsukiakari was.
(Now I see how merciless she can be. This is why she made for such a great war goddess. Men, woman, young and old.
Osamu forged on, knowing the police would probably arrive in the neighborhood soon. He kept his eye on the small plume of smoke arising from Izanami's shrine.
(I need to follow that smoke. That should be where Tsukiakari and the others are.)
Osamu stopped again, realizing something very eerie. He had taken this walk in the night towards Izanami's shrine before. He had suppressed the memory of that night five years ago, but it all came rushing back to him as if it happened moments ago. He clenched his fist, unsure if he was angry or sad, or perhaps even humored.
"Funny...I once thought of dying there, too..."
Isabella had already taken the holographic sight off of her SCAR, relying on her iron sights instead. She fired a few rounds at Tsukiakari, only managing to graze her stomach. Though the rounds hurt, they weren't enough to stop the goddess. Tsukiakari cut the rifle in half and placed her hand on Isabella's arm. Fire traveled through Tsukiakari's palm and scorched Isabella's arm, causing her skin to blister and bubble. Isabella reached for her revolver and frantically pulled the trigger. The bullet struck Tsukiakari's hand, effectively rendering the use of magic with it impossible. Yoko threw a pair of stringed shuriken around Tsukiakari's neck, but she quickly cut the strings with her sword.
Locked in a duel of blades, Yoko's endurance was put to the test by Tsukiakari's relentless and aggressive sword style. Each swing from the goddess felt like a car plowing into Yoko's shoulders. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Izanami lapped up the wind into a compressed ball that floated above her palm. Yoko noticed and promptly jumped out of the way, allowing Izanami to launch the attack. Tsukiakari was hit with high pressured air that ripped her robes apart and blew her back towards the pagoda. She staggered back onto her feet, her body covered with blood-soaked lacerations. Izanami closed in and made one more swing at her with her scythe, landing a successful hit. Tsukiakari's guard was broken, and the scythe gashed Tsukiakari above the belly button. Izanami pulled back, waiting to see if the attack had incapacitated Tsukiakari, but regretting landing it in the first place.
Tsukiakari refused to be bested so easily. She had one working hand with which she could use magic, so she held her sword in her mouth and cauterized the wound shut with her left hand. Hoping to stop her from getting back up, Isabella took out a grenade launcher from her backpack and fired an explosive round at Tsukiakari. The wounded war goddess dropped her blade from her mouth and into her left hand, slicing the round in half.
"Damn it!" Isabella cursed.
Tsukiakari stabbed the ground with her blade and cracked the tiles beneath their feet to knock them all off balance. The first she wanted to kill was Isabella. Even after being stunned and knocked on the floor, Isabella was able to raise her revolver and point it at Tsukiakari's face. At the same time, Tsukiakari had gotten close enough to press her sword against Isabella's stomach. The two were wary about who would make the first move.
"Don't do it...please...Tsu Tsu" Isabella begged.
Tsukiakari stabbed Isabella regardless, causing Isabella to shoot her and miss. Tsukiakari then stuck her sword in Isabella's left leg, destroying the bone and driving the blade all the way through to form an exit wound. Yoko and Izanami tried to save her as she screamed out in pain, but both of their attacks were dodged with a swift back flip into the air. Izanami was able to dodge as Tsukiakari came back down, but Yoko was struck by her blade. The blade pierced Yoko's lower neck, causing her blood to spray on Tsukiakari's face.
Desperate to kill her, Izanami put a great deal of energy into her scythe, causing it to radiate with a golden color.
"You really think it will work?" Tsukiakari growled, staring daggers at Izanami.
Izanami gave Tsukiakari a deadly stare before the two clashed once more. The two lunged at each other, attacking with all of their might in hopes of killing the other. The shock wave from the attack traveled down to Osamu's position, rattling the houses and power poles around him. It felt like a brief earthquake from where he stood.
(What was that?!)
Tsukiakari had prevailed. Her sword entered through Izanami's side and exited through her lower back. She pulled her sword out of Izanami and let her fall onto the floor, next to Yoko and Isabella. Just as their fight concluded, raindrops began to fall from the benighted sky. The smell of petrichor filled the air and washed the blood staining the tiles down the steps of the shrine.
"I'm sure Izanami has some tricks up her sleeve for this kind of situation, but I imagine you two will die, Isabella, Yoko." Tsukiakari said. "One has a gash in the neck, and the other has a completely destroyed femoral artery. This battle is as good as done."
The war goddess was suddenly startled by Osamu's shout. He had finally made it to the shrine. "Tsukiakari!"
"Osamu..." Tsukiakari muttered.
(Oh no...am I too late?!)
"Osamu...get out of here!" Izanami urged, exsanguinating through her wounds.
"I remember I asked you once, how much that woman Yoko meant to you." Tsukiakari recalled. "Now I can see how much all three of them mean to you. You love and care for them so much, don't you? More than me."
"There's still time to end this peacefully. We can still drop our weapons right now!" Osamu growled.
"That sword...you bastard..." Tsukiakari fumed. "You're using Bishamon's sword."
"I intend to honor your wish, Gekko. I won't let Bishamon kill you. I'll do it myself." Osamu said. "I admit, I failed you. I hesitated. I wasn't honest with you. Now that you've done all of this...I feel like I understand you at long last. Gekko...look where we are. I came here once, maybe five years ago now, for the same purpose. I came here, at this very shrine, to die. Tonight, you came for the same reason."
Tsukiakari chuckled. "Is that so? Very well, you can grant me my wish, but not here. If you're going to be the one to kill me, it will be in our special place. You know where it is."
"Alright. I'll meet you there." Osamu said.
Tsukiakari disappeared behind a swathe of fire, leaving Osamu to witness the sight of his dying friends.
(It wasn't supposed to go down like this...I'm so sorry, you guys.)
"Izanami, are you okay?" Osamu asked.
Izanami healed her wound as she was helped up by Osamu. "She's...she's serious about this." Izanami wheezed. "We have to be the ones to stop her. We can't allow her to kill anyone else. We can't allow her to live her life as a criminal in hiding. Please, Osamu..."
(All her life, Tsukiakari has either been bound by awful responsibilities, or escaping something. Back then, she lived the life of the sword. Now, she's trying to run away from her fate. She really wants us to be the ones to kill her. Maybe she feels, in that way, she would have cheated Bishamon out of the pleasure of killing her himself.)
Looking into Izanami's tearful eyes made Osamu's heart throb in both pain and joy. He wanted to tell her just how much she meant to him right then and there, but the more he thought on his words, the less he founds words to be necessary at all. He closed his eyes for just a brief moment.
(Okay. I've made my decision. I'll do this for Tsukiakari, for Izanami, and for the others as well.)
"Izanami, save Isabella and Yoko. Don't let them die. I'm going to finish this." Osamu declared.
"Osamu, you can't! She will kill you! She didn't hesitate to try and kill us!" Izanami said.
Osamu smiled and caressed Izanami's cheek. "I know. Don't worry about me. Just make sure Yoko and Izzy make it through this."
Izanami interlocked her fingers with Osamu's. "O-okay..."
Izanami planted a gentle kiss on Yoko's lips, and then on Isabella's. It was the same healing magic she had performed on Osamu back when Isabella accidentally shot him. She seldom ever used that ability, but there was no better time to have something like it. Yoko and Isabella' bleeding stopped, but their wounds would need to be treated properly. At least, for now, their lives were saved.
(Yoko...Isabella...you two knew you could die here, but you still fought like hell for Gekko, didn't you? Thank you.)
"I think they'll be okay..." Izanami sighed.
Osamu suddenly stole a kiss from Izanami, the cold rain pelting against their faces. His body just moved without him putting into much thought into it.
(I really just did that...)
"Thank you, Izanami, for saving my life back then. I'm going to go set things right with Gekko, I promise." Osamu said. "Tell them I love them when they wake up."
"Be careful, Osamu. Please be careful." Izanami begged.
Osamu pulled away from his beloved Izanami. He savored one last look at her pale, beautiful face before he made his descent down the steps of the shrine and back into the town. Izanami worked to continue to keep Yoko and Isabella alive as Osamu made his slow walk towards the abandoned school. With that much silence in the air, Osamu had plenty of time of think.
(So odd. I can just feel it. It's in the air. It's like a silent whisper of an angel walking beside me. I...somehow, I just know. I'm going to die, aren't I? I won't make it out of this one. Every cell in my body is telling me that, as if I've already seen the outcome of this fight. But still, my body is moving forward towards my fate. It's not cowering. I'm not even shivering at all. I feel calm and warm inside. I'm ready. If I'm going to die, I'm ready. If it's for Tsukiakari, I'm ready.)
Positive that Yoko and Isabella were on the road to recovery, Izanami could no longer stand to sit and wait for Osamu. She ran down from the shrine and tried to catch up with him. Though Osamu had always been a reliable person, she had an awful feeling about this night. Whatever Osamu felt as he walked, Izanami felt it too. She tried following the faint feeling of Bishamon's energy, remembering that Osamu was carrying his golden sword.
(I can count each heartbeat in my chest now. Each one feels so precious. How many more will there be? How many more breaths will I take? How many more times will I blink? How many more until there is no more? I wonder, Gekko...can you answer those questions?)
On his way to the school, Osamu could hear a very familiar voice singing in the night. It was soft and sweet, and accompanied by the melancholic melody of an acoustic guitar.
He turned the corner and saw Aika sitting on her front porch. She was the source of the music. Aika noticed Osamu walking by and stopped to say hello. It wasn't that she remembered him, she was just polite and loved to say hello, good morning, and good evening to everyone.
"Hello there!" Aika cheered.
(Aika...I'm so glad to see you right now...)
"Hey." Osamu waved. "You sound really beautiful"
(You are beautiful.)
"Oh gosh, thank you! I was just practicing a bit." Aika giggled. "Umm, is that sword real?
Osamu realized how much of a murderous madman he probably seemed to be, carrying around a massive, golden sword. "Oh, no. It's a prop that I have to return to someone. Figured I should do it now than wait until sunrise."
"Oh! It looks pretty impressive! Well, be safe!" Aika sang.
Osamu smiled and bowed. "Thank you. You too."
(Any fear I may have felt is easily quelled by Aika's singing. She really did get to start over. I'm so glad.)
The night, the moon, and the rain. Darkness, moonlight, and water from a crying sky all washed down on Tsukiakari as she sat on the swings of the abandoned school, where she met the one and only love of her life. Tsukiakari held her sword up to the moon as she sat on the swings, half left cheek covered in Yoko's blood. Her blade shimmered in the moonlight, as if she were holding a star in her hands.
Osamu finally arrived in front of the old school. His heart raced and throbbed in his chest as laid his hands upon the twin doors at the entrance, hesitating to proceed. Knowing this would be the end of his life, he couldn't help but cry.
"Just when I found happiness..." he sobbed.
He leaned his forehead against the door, trying with all of his might to hold himself together. He couldn't tell if he was shivering because of the rain, or because he was scared to die. His thoughts turned to Izanami, Yoko, and Isabella, and their funny, crazy antics around the house. Everyday was a surprise with those three. You'd never know what was going to happen next. He thought of Aika, who had found a new purpose in life at the cost of her memories of Osamu and the girls. His only regret was that he wouldn't live long enough to see her become a star. Finally, he refocused his attention on Tsukiakari. She was absolutely fearsome, a war goddess of old with a hot temper. Deep down, she was no different from any other girl that had been through hell. To Osamu, she was a goddess that deserved the earth itself, but she decided that she couldn't be any happier if she could just be with him.
He understood the depth of her affection for him. Seeing where she had originally chosen to die, Osamu felt that he could really understand her. So, if it was for Gekko, he wouldn't mind dying. The thought of her lifted the agony and dread off of his shoulders, giving him the courage to push through the school entrance and meet his fate.
(Our special place. This place means everything to you. Though it was so long ago, it means something to me now, too.)
Osamu walked through the halls of the school, making his way towards the playground.
Tsukiakari laughed to herself on the swings, sensing Osamu's presence. "My love is here. My one, true, and first love has come to kill me."
Osamu finally stepped out into the moonlight, his sword gleaming and the rain soaking his hair. The two who were once so close couldn't be any further apart from each other now. Or at least, that's what Tsukiakari believed.
Tsukiakari stood up from the swings and undid her hair, letting it fall to the rain-soaked ground as she threw the pins aside.
"Gekko..." Osamu muttered.
"Don't you dare call me that now. If you wish to kill me, then use my birth name." Tsukiakari demanded.
Osamu closed his eyes and stifled his heartache. "Tsukiakari... This is goodbye."
Osamu raised his sword, pointing it at Tsukiakari. His hands did not shake as he held the glimmering blade. "Goodbye to the others. In exchange for granting your wish, I want you to grant mine as well. You and I are going together. I won't let you die alone."
Tsukiakari recoiled. "What? Are you serious?"
Osamu nodded. "I love you, Tsukiakari. No matter how many people you kill, no matter what happened to you in your past, and no matter the scars you carry, I love you. I want you to believe me when I say that, so I've decided. We'll kill each other and end our lives right here, right now. Together."
Tsukiakari bowed her head, wiping her tearing eyes with her sleeve. "I can't believe you waited all this time to say that, dumbass."
Osamu smiled. "Until tonight, I've always been a hard-head."
Izanami, as wounded and bloodied as she was, ran through the halls of the school and found them both much too late.
"Osamu!" Izanami screamed
Osamu and Tsukiakari rushed towards each other with the speed of a lightning strike. To Osamu and Tsukiakari, it all seemed to happen in slow motion.
(You know...Tsukiakari. Though my memory of you was hazy when you first returned...I wish now...more than ever...)
The intent to kill, the very core of her nature as a warrior, shined brightly in Tsukiakari's eyes. She was already wounded and knew this one strike might be the end of her.
(...That you and I had the chance to truly love each other. You and I both will die here, in the place where we met.)
A blinding, white light sparked from their clash. Izanami's eyes readjusted to the darkness of the night and saw Osamu and Tsukiakari both on the ground, motionless. She ran to Osamu first, flipping him over and kissing him to try and save his life, to no avail.
"Why isn't it working!? Osamu! Osamu! Oh god, please don't die! You can't leave me like this, Osa!" Izanami cried.
There it was. There was that feeling, the chill down her spine that Izanami got whenever someone died. Osamu Ashikaga had died instantly from that one clash with Tsukiakari, who was also on her way to death. She had just a few more moments than him to enjoy the feeling of the rain on her face. Her last sight was of the dilapidated chariot house, a symbol of a dream she never got to see come to fruition.
"Osamu..." Tsukiakari whispered, the light leaving her eyes.
Izanami cradled Osamu's body in her arms as his chest bled onto the ground. She put her forehead against his and kissed his face and blood-covered lips. Her lover and daughter-figure both dead before her, Izanami fell into a sea of sorrow, sobbing until her eyes and throat burned. No one could possibly understand the grief Izanami went through, to lose the man she loved and the woman she viewed as a daughter in a single night. Crying turned into screams that were capable of shaking heaven and the mountains of the earth. She screamed as if her very heart was being ripped out.
Bishamon watched from the school rooftop, shocked, but pleased with the outcome. "He bravely marched on to his own death. He truly does share the same spirit as I do. His death is worthy of praise and respect indeed. You did well, Osamu. You managed to take her with you. That's one more loose end tied up for good."
The rain ceased and the clouds parted. The sky slowly changed from a dark black to a deep, ocean blue. It was morning now, and the smell of rain lingered in the air.
On the morning of December 27th, the 128th day since his return, Osamu Ashikaga, alongside Tsukiakari Senkumo, lied dead in the playground of their old school.