Author's Notes: Haha. My last chapter. And so, this time, my author's notes are going to be formal and in proper english! Woohoo! Last Chapter ... Last chapter ... Last chapter ... I dropped my mp3 and crashed it while listening to it and writing this chapter! w00t! Anyway, on a more serious note, I have finally put onto paper what I've been planning and plotting for months. And this last chapter has loads of efforts put into it. Hmm, really hope you guys will like it. Not many ppl read this story, but well, I've become attached to it and it's a responsibility of mine to continue it. Not forgetting those who have helped review this story and motivated me to write on, namely Arirang and Nanao Nagase! Woohoo, a great thanks to you guys! Don't know whether you ppl will enjoy this chapter, since the ending is rather ... well, I won't spoil it for you guys. Hmm, anyway, i may add another round of author's notes as a final conclusion to this "Dante" saga ( to reply any questions any of you might have for me or the story ), depending on whether ppl do review this. Haha, EOYs are here. So i gotta study. See you guys.
And may all of you enjoy this final chapter! Finally, pls really do read and review!
Chapter 22 --- And He Left Without A Sound
The white blossoms drifted around them, slowly descending through the air, as the cool breeze changed it course.
This girl was stronger than Dante in terms of capacity. How much did she hold?
The silence between them was cut short by her squeal.
"Are you Dante? Let's play a game!"
Dante wanted to laugh, to point out her foolishness. But he could only nod his head solemnly. A game … something a child will always be willing to play. Something, he too, once played.
A game of slaying each other.
"Can we not play this game?" Dante choked out suddenly. The child within him felt afraid of death. And he resisted the sudden impulse to run. Running would only excite the child and make her chase him. And kill him.
"No." The little girl pouted. "I want to play this game. Please. Please. Please. Puh-leeeze."
Dante did not know how to answer the child's little tantrum. "Then can we play another game? My game, perhaps?"
The little girl hesitated and thought over the idea. She paced slowly over to him in thought, advancing forth and closing up their distance. Dante looked to her and awaited her answer hopefully.
Then he saw her tiny but playful grin.
Dante closed his eyes and fought away the instinctive urge to behead his first love. And only love. The love that wasn't returned. He sighed softly and quietly expelled the scythe's blade from his chest. With one hand, he pushed Rukia away from him and took the scythe from her hands.
"What weapon is this?" Karas inquired. "It looks similar to the one I noticed that your reapers wielded."
Dante could only laugh dryly. This weapon was forged from his own aether. If it was a mere normal weapon, or perhaps even a stronger one, he would be severely injured – but, but his Sankai would be able to regenerate and vanquish the wound. Yet this one his weapon. One with a special trait that he had enchanted altogether with the scythe when he was forging it.
Thirteen Reapers. Thirteen Scythes. Thirteen unique powers.
The vampire's hunger for blood was due to the wound dealt onto Raphael from Number Five's scythe. If Raphael had not gotten his hands on Number Three's scythe and assimilated the powers of a Reaper, he would have been drained totally of his life fluid.
Yet … this scythe … this scythe … though it was weak, it was nevertheless his aether. He could not nullify it.
Dante frowned and cried out A cry of anguish and extreme sorrow. Of unspeakable helplessness. He was trapped. And defeated by his own aether. The teenage looked down unto the scythe held within Rukia's shivering fingers.
It was the Scythe of Life.
Dante swallowed and closed his eyes once more. The world spun swiftly around him and his senses weakened. The sounds grew softer and became silent murmurs against the harsh wind of the battlefield. Dante's knees gave way and he slumped onto the ground, sending tiny swirls of dust around his kneecaps. Weakness. He was being drained of life, sapped of his strength. He struggled to open his eyes but stared right into the depths of eternal darkness. He was blind.
Am I going to die now? Forever? My – my life …. Ending …. Like this?
Dante licked his lips and found them wet. Salty. He was crying. He chuckled. He laughed.
Unsheathe … Sankai of the Ixlar!
The smooth white blade of aether that was Karas vanished and the Blade King retreated back within Dante. The god waited for a moment for his wounds to be restored but felt no change occurring. A pair of hands came into contact with Dante's cheeks and held his face atop the warm palms.
"Are – are you all right?"
Dante sighed tiredly. It was Rukia. "Do I look all right to you?"
"Your – your eyes … they are bleeding. I – I didn't meant to do this … but they held Martin hostage and I – I …."
Dante found himself heaving a sigh of relief, his mood lighter. He was initially afraid that it was Rukia's intention to kill him. Yet, now it appears that she was being used.
"I can forgive you, Rukia." Dante's voice grew faint. "It isn't your first time anyway. That you are after my life."
Dante recalled how he was hunted down by a baby Rukia and had almost lost his life to her. He smiled. Now it was really happening.
A trudging of boots in the distance. Martin's voice rang out. "Oh thank you, Rukia! You saved me! I can't say how much I owe you –" Dante filtered out the rest of his sweet talk. To think that his life was ending because his best friend ( at least eons ago, Martin was ) was held hostage.
Rukia was brought away. Martin left. Dante sensed a new aura in the vicinity. One akin to that of the Scythe of Life. The Reaper of Life, perhaps? He could not help but wonder how Rukia had gotten hold of the Scythe of Life.
The clearing of a throat to the right of Dante alerted him to the presence of a second aura. He recognized it as Raphael's.
"Yo, dude." Dante tasted the mud off the soles of Raphael's boots. "How are you doing, man? That wasn't my full strength I showed way back there. I figured it wouldn't take much for me to bring you down. Not that I cannot do without the help of others, but I'm just too lazy to waste my strength on you. Know what? You are way too boring. Getting yourself killed for a girl that has only an eye for someone else. See them over there? Kissing and hugging … Eew … Oh, you can't see. But I'm not sorry. By the way, I have a friend I want you to meet here."
Dante gasped for air as a pair of hands wrapped themselves tightly around his throat.
"Hi, little Dante. We meet again."
"Ki- KIBA!" Dante yelped, alarmed. He had an idea of who it would be, but he had not wanted to believe it was his teacher. Harsh facts are still facts after all, they cannot be denied. It's life.
Idril stared off into the far distance at her fallen General.
Idril gasped and shot her gaze back at the Corporal by her side. "Yea?"
"Should … should we retreat? The other platoons are. Should we follow them? It isn't safe on this battlefield anymore … so …"
Idril cast a longing look at Dante and in that short moment, made up her mind. "Nonsense, which battlefield is safe? We shall stay by our General. He gave us this fight, this very fight that we have been after for so long. Why should we back off now?"
"No buts, Corporal. We are the healing squad. If we retreat, who would heal the wounded?"
Dante struggled to sit up on the soggy mudland.
"No, no. Lie back down. And die. I want to see this student of my die slowly and painfully. I want to have my revenge back."
"What did you do to Uriel, the Reaper of Life?"
"You mean Number Three?" Kiba laughed. "Well, I –"
"I killed him." Raphael cut into the conversation. "Got to thank Mr. Shimura Kiba for that."
"The bastard of a Reaper was following me all the way and well, I ran over to the Messiah who helped me get rid of him." Kiba continued. "And we made a pact. Your life for my scythe."
Dante thought he would cry but forced back the tears. He knew it was his fault. It was him to blame for killing the Princess eons ago. And he had tried to make up for it. He had really tried to.
He chuckled. "Eh, before I die, Kiba." Dante forced himself to sit up on the battlefield. He pushed his hands into his pockets and fished out a folded piece of paper. "Take this."
Kiba spat on the floor and looked down onto his former Vice-Captain. "Why would I take it? Give me a good reason."
"The –the Princess. Her address."
Shimura Kiba frowned and bent down to snatch the paper from Dante's fingers. He unfolded it and read the inscriptions. It was an address. Could it be … There was instantly a glint of hope glittering within his eyes.
"Her incarnation." Dante smiled. "She wouldn't remember you, but you …" He slumped back down onto the mud. "You can start all over again."
But … but … I can't. It's useless when Rukia doesn't remember me. Damn it … I … I want to see her one last time before I die … I – I WANT TO!!!
Kiba bit his lips as he held the note within his fingers. He was immediately at a loss. At a loss of whether to thank this child or to remain hating him with the entire depth of his heart. Kiba looked back down at Dante and noticed a spark of aether igniting from his fingertips.
Shimura Kiba blinked and focused onto Dante's aura. It wasn't as weak as before but was steadily increasing in strength. Kiba instinctively backed off. The Messiah noted this sudden change as well and did likewise.
The aura of the fallen General burst into a glamorous, spectacular demonstration of his absolute power in the following moment. The god had summoned numerous bolts of aether from the earth's core to supplement his weakening strength. And with that, Dante rekindled his Sankai and removed himself of the wound dealt to him.
Dante opened his eyes slowly and his first gaze was directed onto the love of his life. He drew in a full view of the girl thirstily, his eyes never leaving her.
"We grant you this strength to fulfill your dying wish. It can only temporarily keep the curse of the Scythe of Life at bay. This is all we can afford without damaging the equilibrium of this world."
The shimmering translucent images of the eleven gods hovered within Dante's mindscape and vanished shortly thereafter. And so, Dante was rejuvenated, and he was glad. Regardless of how short the time he had left to live, he could finally bade goodbye to Rukia with his "farewell gaze".
And that was all he wanted.
"NO!" Karas roared in Dante's mind furiously. "You can't just die like this! You are a god! You are a god to this world! You just can't leave this world like this …"
"I'm sorry." Dante apologized, still staring at Rukia longingly. She blushed and shied away from his gaze.
"Sorry? That's all you can say?" Karas laughed. And then he wept. He hadn't realized the extent of his attachment to this boy until this very moment when Dante was to leave him.
"There's nothing I can do about that." Dante smiled. He was still looking at the girl. She was beautiful indeed. "It's actually very nice that I have these few moments to bid farewell to the world."
"Look at me, Dante."
"No. I want to die with her in my heart."
"Damn it, Dante, just look at me. We are the best buddies ever right, so look at me!"
"I'm sorry." Dante smiled. The supplement provided by the gods was fading and the colour in his face slowly receded. Death was finally here.
"Kiba. Shimura Kiba. Captain Kiba." Dante told his former Captain. His eyes were still fixed onto his first love. "You are still the father I never had and will always be. And don't – never, let your Princess down."
Dante chuckled. It was a younger laughter. The pale face of the boy was shrinking and so was his frame.
"And you, Messiah. You've won this round. But there will be a next."
Dante sighed. His height was so short now that he had to raise his neck to gaze at the towering Rukia.
"And I love you, Rukia."
They were his final words before the god was forced back into a toddler, then a baby, and finally – nothing. Dante was no more. His lifeline was fully drained and removed from the timeline and the fabric of the universe. So was the curse of the Scythe of Life.
In place of the vanished god, was the hilt of an unseen blade. The Tsubame Blade. Of course, none of the thousands on the battlefield knew what it was.
The hilt lay calmly on the battlefield before the atmosphere about it exploded into life. A number of greedy vampires who had inched up on it, in hope of looting this treasure, were incinerated by a sudden erection of a powerful aura of pure aether.
From the hollow hilt, shot out a thin shaft of aether, holy, pure, but lethal. Yet the transformation did not end there. Instead, the length of the blade continued to increase and the amount of aether accumulated. The blade no longer was or looked like a "blade" but gradually took the same of a man.
The man had the features of Dante.
Idril found herself weeping at the death of General Dante. And in the midst of her tears, she recalled Dante. Though she had a crush on him, it had died long ago during his disappearance and "death". Yet with his return, she could not deny that it was rekindled.
"Good morning." She greeted sluggishly.
Dante nodded and went back to meditating.
"What are you doing?"
The boy ignored her.
"You know, you are a strange person. I've never seen a coffin slinger with powers as weird as yours. No, not just your powers, your character, it's weird …"
He frowned slightly but continued ignoring her. Idril did not gave up that easily and prodded further.
"You are a Chinese aren't you? I've seen Chinese sitting like this. You know, you are cute. If only you'd talk more often." Idril cooed sweetly and rested her chin onto her palms, her gaze drew onto Dante and stared intently.
The boy, Dante, finally replied. Yet, he was somehow angry.
"Idiot! Don't you even have some common sense? I'm cultivating my chi right now! If I weren't a god, I could have suffered severe injuries or even worse, died!"
Dante's fiery gaze met Idril's eyes and forced her to the verge of tears. There was a momentary period of silence.
"I'm sorry if you thought I was harsh." Dante mumbled and combed the back of his head with his right hand. He sighed and walked out to the balcony.
"I don't get it … You mean …. You are a god?"
Idril smiled. He had claimed that he was a god. She had not understood the full meaning of his words, but yet, from his earlier display of strength, she believed him. A god … was this man … this god … Jesus, or Buddha, or the Jade Emperor? She didn't know and she didn't think she would ever know, now that this god was dead.
"Lieutenant, quick … look there, Lieutenant Idril!"
It was the corporal again. Idril wiped away her tears quickly and looked up. It was Dante. He had returned. Returned! Yet there was something different about this General. His hair was totally white, very different from the partially white, partially black of the previous one.
Karas jabbed a finger at the First Vampire. "Round Two starts now, my dear Messiah." He whispered menacingly.
Raphael took three steps backward, one in shock, the second in astonishment, the third in shock. "Dan – Dante?"
"No. I am Karas. Karas the King of Blades. You have severed the life of my friend, the only human I ever will get to love. Now – die."
The gaze of Karas was unbearably cold, as expected of one brimming with hatred. The Blade King spat onto the ground and gritted his teeth. "You know, Dante could have finished you off the first moment he met you. But he didn't. That's Dante to you. So kind and soft-hearted. And that's why he died. He – I – We had all the strength to crush you. But we didn't."
Karas sighed and continued. "And I'm going to finish you off for him. You, Messiah, are going to be his sacrifice."
And with that, the Blade King rekindled whatever was left of Dante's aether. Though dead, the essence of the god was still present within the Blade King and Karas was going to use this very strength to take the Messiah's life.
"Unsheathe, Yikai of the Ixlar." Karas whispered.
Raphael, on the other hand, could not help but laugh at the wooden sword the new Dante held in his hands. This child was going to bring him down with that? However, the confidence of this freak troubled Raphael. This Blade King, or whoever he is, looked exactly like Dante, and bore the strength equivalent to Dante as well. Who is this child? There was an ancient look to him and the snowy white hand of Dante doubled that feeling it gave him.
"Retreat behind me, coffin slingers. No one is to be before me" Karas ordered his men. Wielding the Yikai, Karas continued. "Tsubame Crown Blades."
The wooden sword vanished from his hands and almost instantaneously, numerous blades had risen from the earth and impaled the vampires – "feetwards". The aura around Karas chilled even more as he extracted more of his aether to keep the execution of his attack complete.
When the last of his Yikai returned to Karas' side, the battlefield was already strewn with hundreds of vampires kneeling weakly.
"You aren't vampires anymore." Karas bellowed. "With the loss of whatever puny aether that each of you hold in your tainted souls, you are no longer cursed by the Scythe of Blood. And that applies to you, Rukia."
Karas shimmered and vanished temporarily from sight, only to reappear in front of Rukia and Martin.
"And you as well, Martin. Go get a new life." Karas placed a hand onto Martin's shoulders. "Do not ever make use of her again. You can deceive Dante. You can also deceive Rukia. But I can see through your deceits. If I ever receive word of you ill-treating Rukia …" Karas placed a flat palm onto Martin's neck and slid the edge of his palm over it. "I will make sure that you are decapitated."
"Don't – don't you love Rukia? Don't you want her?"
Karas had turned his back to them but upon the reaching of Martin's words to his ears, Karas spun around and dealt a swift blow to Martin's chin.
"Apart from Dante, I will never want a human by my side. He's dead. Do not confuse him with me." Karas snickered and then shimmered as he did before. When he reappeared, he was by Idril's side.
"Lieutenant. This battle will be yours. Lead whatever men we have left to take down the vampires. It should not be a difficult task. I expect you to accomplish it well."
Karas noted that she was blushing under his strict gaze. He squinted at her before striding away, back in front of Raphael.
Dante … it seems that I weren't the only one you left alone … Did … did that girl love you?
Karas shook his head and brought himself back to the battlefield. He glanced wearily at the Messiah who was still in shock at his army's defeat.
"Oi, look here. It doesn't matter if you don't. I would be able to kill you even easier. But please pay some respects to my Dante. This is my fight for Dante, to avenge him."
Raphael licked his lips and stared nervously at Karas..
I won't lose to this shit. I'm strong, after all. I have the strength of all those Reapers I've killed …. I can't possibly lose!
He brandished his claws and charged instantly towards Karas. Raphael flew at blinding speed, his Western suit shredded and torn by the harsh wind. His claws easily impaled the pale flesh of Karas. Raphael grinned and retracted his fist. The Messiah then proceeded to stab Karas repeatedly with his claws. When he was satisfied, Raphael leapt backwards and drew into his eyes, the image of a bloody Karas.
The Blade King wiped at his wounds with his palm and felt at the crimson blood. It was cold. Of course the blood would be cold. His heart was long cold and still with Dante's death.
"Unsheathe, Sankai of the Ixlar."
Karas' wounds healed and the flesh regenerated.
"My turn." Karas stated as a matter of fact. "Sikai of the Ixlar!"
In an instant, Karas was levitated into the air by a pair of wings forged of a hundred blades.
It was all so familiar. Too familiar. Rukia clutched at her head painfully. She remembered something. She had a brief glimpse of a certain minute part of her previous incarnation, and with that, experienced a swift moment of sorrow. Unspeakable sorrow for the death of Dante.
Why? Why am I crying? He is but another schoolmate! I should not be weeping for him!
Yet her tears continued to flow.
I love Martin! Only him! No one else!
She wept unstoppably.
Karas frowned as he glanced down at the Messiah. This was a scary world. He had realized that as a Tsubame Emperor, most of his blade techniques could not be executed on this battlefield. None of his subordinates had a blade with them, neither did the enemy's army. And to successfully execute a technique, be it "Tsubame Rain of Blades" or "Tsubame Emperor's Reign", Karas would require the blades of others on the battlefield. It was the sole reason as to why all commoners in the Tsubame world were required to wield blades at all times.
"I see." Karas mumbled and he looked away from the Messiah, his eyes wandering to the gathering dark clouds in the sky. "I will have to finish you off the traditional way then. Unsheathe, Erkai of the Ixlar."
And with his crimson blade, he began the historical battle. Karas lowered himself towards the ground with his wings and swooped down menacingly at Raphael, a malicious smirk by the sides of his lips.
Raphael emerged from his daze and instantly sensed the attack from a nearing Karas. He instinctively erected an astral projection before him, effectively constructing a shield and nullifying Karas' slash.
"Fuck you, monster! You are going to die today!" Raphael snarled and reached within his suit, withdrawing a revolver. He cocked the pistol in his hands and began firing recklessly at the approaching Karas.
Karas drew his Sikai before him and effortlessly deflected the bullets. "Who are you calling a monster, vampire? Take a good look at yourself first, before you dictate my position to me."
"How the hell did you get those powers? You aren't a coffin slinger!" Raphael took a step backwards as he hurriedly threw another astral shield before himself. Karas licked his lips excitedly as he hacked Dante's Erkai down at the shield. It broke upon contact and Karas advanced forth. It was getting increasingly easier to destroy these astral projections that the Messiah threw between the two.
That could only mean one thing – the Messiah was tiring.
Karas would have grinned from this impending success, if not for Dante's recent death. He was in no mood currently for the thrill of any battle. All he wanted now was to obtain revenge for Dante. Karas flipped the hiltless Erkai between his fingers and with one definite blow, struck through whatever remaining shields that barricaded him from Raphael.
A flap of his Sikai propelled Karas forth at a blinding speed, bringing him inches before Raphael, forfeiting the Messiah any chance of escape.
"I am not a monster. Neither was Dante." Karas tightened his grip around Dante's crimson blade. "With this blade … by this blade …" Karas found himself tearing uncontrollably once again. "By this blade … Dante had slaughtered thousands. And all those who fell under his sword, deserved their sentences." Karas breathed in slowly and then jabbed the tip of the Erkai at Raphael. "You, Messiah, are not spared either."
A fearful Raphael fired multiple shots at Karas who was forced back by the impact. A coffin slinger would have succumbed to these wounds. But not the Blade King.
"After all," Karas explained as he strode forth towards Raphael. "I am not human, neither am I a living thing. I cannot be killed."
Raphael swallowed dryly and retreated a few steps backwards, but he did not lose his composure. Raising his left hand before his chest, he summoned a crimson mist of blood from his breath and forged a blade of aether.
Karas shook his head in disappointment. "What impure aether. I can't believe you were the one who killed Dante. You'd better put up a good fight. It's going to be your last, after all."
The duo charged towards each other and met at the borderline between their two armies. Two long swords clashed, the collision ringing throughout the battlefield. The earth beneath their feet exploded from the sudden exchange of aether.
"It's not going to be last fight, monster." Raphael retorted. "I'm strong – having assimilated six of those ignorant reapers."
The edges of the two swords met and department and then clashed into contact once again at inhumane speeds. It soon became a duel of swordplay, the exchanges of strikes growing increasingly in depth and speed, and soon the blades could not be seen anymore, and neither could their wielders. The two armies stood in the battlefield, engaged in their own clumps of fights, and once in a while, they halted to look up, only to glimpse short flashes of sunlight reflecting from the blades.
"Not bad." Karas commented as he received and nullified another hack from Raphael's curved blade. "But it isn't sufficient to defeat me. Your fall is inevitable."
Raphael smirked and initiated another attempt at beheading Karas. "I'm a high school student after all. It just happened that I come from a noble clan that is obsessed with their own tradition of swordplay."
Karas nodded. "However, this swordplay you claim to be proud of seems to be riddled with loopholes." The Blade King stuck his Erkai to the left and instantly obstructed Raphael from fully executing his technique. Without hesitation, Karas raised his other free hand and punctured a hole directly through Raphael's chest.
It was a neat attack, with Karas' fingers emerging from Raphael's back, clutching tightly onto a dislodged heart.
"You have received your death, Messiah." Karas whispered triumphantly and kicked Raphael's corpse away. He watched the lifeless carcass slump silently to the dirt.
"You wish." Raphael's voice rang from behind Karas. The Messiah's curved blade howled through the air yet just as it was about to slice through Karas' shoulder, the huge metallic wings swung backwards and swiftly removed Raphael of his wrist.
Karas frowned. "You aren't dead yet?"
Raphael stood a few feet away, clutching at the stump of his left hand. "No, I can't die. Not until you manage to finish all of my children. Even if you kill me, I will emerge, seizing over the form of another vampire."
"How?" Karas asked, bewildered.
"They have my blood. I sired them. All I need to do is to direct my existence to them and they will assume my form." Raphael laughed. "And even now, my men are siring others. Look to the battlefield!"
Karas gritted his teeth indignantly. He must not lose. He … he needed to avenge Dante's death.
"I shall wipe out all of you then …"
Once again, both men charged at one another.
You there in the earth's core, I don't know who you guys are. You've helped Dante. I need your help now …
"WHAT HELP DO YOU WANT?"
I need to use my technique – Emperor's Dimensional Blade. It would require a lot of aether to trespass into the dimensional abyss. With Dante, it wouldn't be difficult. But me alone … Could you lend me some strength?
There was no reply, but Karas was instantaneously blessed with an enormous charge of aether flowing from an unseen vault within the depths of the planet's core. The Blade King,, gloved within a holy aura of pure white aether, began preparing for the execution of his ultimatum.
Dante's Sikai slipped and retreated back into Karas' shoulder blades and the Blade King landed from flight skillfully unto the earth. He would need to conserve his aether for this one. The crimson blade vanished from his fingers as well.
Raphael noted this and backed away warily. Yet he could not foresee what would happen in the next few moments.
"Tsu-" Karas started and clutched the wrist of his straightened left hand with his right. 'Tsubame Emperor's Dimensional BLADES!!!"
Karas flattened his palm and summoned a ring of aetheric blades circling around his aura. He gently closed his eyes and sent the blades flying and rotating about him. Raphael took another step backwards and grew even more wary. The Messiah positioned himself further away and motioned two dozens Marquises, the highest ranking of the vampires apart from Raphael himself, to guard himself. Raphael then proceeded to barricade the battlefield before him with layers after layers of astral shields. The finishing touches to this defense was a protective aura of a blood mist hovering about Raphael.
"DIE!!" Karas roared abruptly and balled his palm into a fist. The ring of blades had already spun into a blurry white aura about Karas and when he had finally released his command, the ring fluidly shifted itself into a spat of fiery aether which easily penetrated through whatever defense Raphael had put forth.
One by one, each aetheric blade pierced and penetrated Raphael's heart; the impact throwing the astonished Messiah off his feet and into his crowd of bodyguards. Raphael hurriedly sat up and stumbled up to his feet. He could not afford to rest now – now that he was on the losing end. The Messiah wiped at his lips with the back of his hand, and a sudden controllable urge sent him spewing blood onto the patch of earth by his feet.
"How – how?" Raphael whispered weakly.
"Dimensional Blade … one of the many techniques that only an Emperor of an elite ancient race of assassins can ever hope to master." Karas smirked. "Whatever defenses you put forth will be nullified, for these blades travel in between dimensions, where no obstacles stand between you and me. And one more thing. You are now unable to force another of your minks to take your form. My blades have enveloped your soul and trapped you within your current material frame."
Raphael shook his head fearfully. "You are lying! You – you are lying!"
"Say, why would I lie?" Karas laughed sadly. "I just want you dead."
"Guards- guards, get him, get him away from me!" Raphael yelled desperately and began running away from Karas. Almost instantaneously, the two dozen Marquises lunged for Karas' various vital points. An annoyed Karas batted them away with his aura and incinerated them under the searing fire of his aether.
Karas summoned his Yikai and charged forth. He halted suddenly and released the wooden sword in his fingers, hurling it as though it was a javelin.
In a split second, the Messiah was dead, pinned to the battlefield like a dead rat. The battle was won. Dante's death was avenged. Karas collapsed into a pool of mud, totally worn out and expended.
Karas opened his eyes wearily and instinctively raised an arm to shield himself from the bright candle. It was dark and his sight wasn't accustomed to the sudden light. The Blade King struggled to sit up but noticed a small figure slumping asleep by the bed on a chair, her head rested on his arm.
It was a familiar figure. Familiar to Dante's memories that resided within the King of Blade. Karas squinted his eyes and struggled to recall this girl.
"Ah." Karas whispered. It was Idril.
Idril stirred and lifted her chin to glance at Karas. Upon realizing that he was returning her stare, she immediately stood up and saluted. Karas noticed that Idril was blushing.
"Ge –General. You – you are awake!" Idril stammered, breaking the silence between them.
Karas nodded. "I'm awake. But I'm not your general. I'm not Dante." He sighed and found himself crying again. "I'm sorry. I wasn't able to protect the person you loved."
Idril's eyes were wet, but she refused to weep openly, before a man who bore the same looks as Dante. "May … may I ask of my past relationship with Dante? I – I seem to remember having spent days with him before, if you don't mind, please tell me. He – my brief memories of him seem to haunt me. Who was I? I don't think my ties with him began only in this incarnation. I don't really believe in incarnations but …. But it seems to be true! Please tell me …. If – if you don't mind."
Karas was speechless. This woman was daring and bold. Yet it was expected of a Lerant, and not a normal Lerant, but one of the top stronger ones. At least that applied in the past.
"It's best if you don't know about it." Karas replied after a while of regaining his composure. "Do you really want to know?"
Idril nodded. "I'm very sure of it."
"It's your decision then." Karas stood up and walked to the windows. "You were his sister." He lied. "Elder sister."
Karas licked his dry lips and took a quick glimpse at her. "It's the past now. So just forget him. I'm leaving."
The Blade King unbolted the windows and gently leapt out of it. He unsheathed his Sikai and flew away into the darkness of the night.
Karas soared in flight above the city. Life for the commoners had long returned to normal. He had earlier learnt that he was in a coma for five weeks. There weren't many wounds to be healed, but the battle had taken a lot out of him and Karas figured he was knocked into unconsciousness by the extreme fatigue.
Where should I go now? I …. I belong to the other world – The Tsubame's World. Not this. But this is his world. I guess I should bid farewell to it .. Before I return, there's one last person I must meet.
Karas sighed. It suddenly dawned upon him that he was adopting more of Dante's traits. He had unconsciously begun to care for those Dante loved. The world, he realized, was gloomy without Dante – he was sighing more often.
How should I deal with Rukia …
It wasn't difficult to find Rukia. All he had to do was to search amidst Dante's memories. He took to the land and alighted gently on the windowsill. He knelt by the curtains and listened quietly.
"Rukia. You are going to be mine tonight …"
"Don't be like this … I – I haven't …"
"Who cares about condoms? You are going to be my wife anyway."
The lights went off and all Karas would hear were soft moans and whispers.
Karas turned away and took to the sky once more. He was in a rage, yet could not bear to behead this girl and his boyfriend – once Dante's best friend. Karas sighed again. He hovered above the city and watched the lights in the apartments go off one by one.
So … this is the girl Dante died for? This is the world Dante died for?
Karas chuckled. The hundred blades on his back glinting sorrowfully under the moonlight.
Is this love? Having no eye for others but the one you would die for ….
Karas looked down again to the humans living their own lives beneath his feet. Perhaps, one day he would return. There were other matters that he would need to resolve.
But I'm not the god of this world! And those eleven in the earth's core aren't that powerful either. They are too weak to even step onto the surface of the earth. Gah … let the Reapers deal with what happens next. I can't do much neither. Dante was the only one that could change this world and weave the fabric of the universe … Without him … this world is as good as dead … Why am I still attached to it?
Karas grunted and took one last glance at the skyscrapers and the horizon before erecting a dimensional portal in the air. He stepped into the portal and allowed it to close shut behind him.
Goodbye … then.
Karas stepped out of the portal and into his world. He found himself standing in the Ceremonial Hall, amidst a court session. Karas looked to the Throne and found himself matching the gaze of his master.
"Master- Master!" Karas knelt immediately to the ground.
The masked god gazed down from his golden seat and took the image of Karas into his eye. Finally, he spoke.
"Ah … Karas, my weapon. You are back." The masked god frowned. "Where's Dante? Your hair's all white, where is he? That young god?"
"Are you sure?" The masked god inquired worriedly.
"Have I lied even once to you, Master?" And in a fit of anger, Karas stormed out of the Ceremonial Hall and made his way to his chamber.
Karas lay on his bed. It was comforting to be back where one truly belonged to. He was about to strip and turn in when the doors to his chamber was burst open. In tumbled Tessa and Akiko.
Oh god …. I've forgotten about them ….
"DANTE! You are back!"
"Why didn't you pay us a visit?"
"Are you alright?"
Karas sighed and sat up on his mattress. He decided to tell the truth.
"No. Dante isn't okay."
The two girls halted in their tracks. "Why? What's wrong with you?" It was then at this moment that they noticed his paleness and the snowy whiteness of his hair.
"Sorry. He's dead. I'm Karas. I believe he has spoken to you about me before."
Akiko finally asked. "Ka – Karas? You are Karas?"
The Blade King nodded.
"Why do you look like Dante? Are you sure you aren't playing a prank on us, Dante?"
Karas shook his head. "I am Dante's blade. He is my host. We have been partners for so long that our souls are intertwined. He is dead, but I have assumed his looks."
Tessa backed away and ran out of the chamber shrieking. "I – I don't believe Dante is dead! You are lying! Liar! Liar! I will wait for him till he's back!"
Karas wept again.
Karas looked up and dried his eyes.
"I don't think you are lying. But I will wait for Dante to come back."
And with that, Akiko exited the chamber.
Karas slept throughout the afternoon, slipping in and out of dreams he didn't recognize.
"Hey, Dante! Look what I've got you." She passed him a tiny parcel.
Dante received it and unwrapped the brown paper. It was a green harmonica. He felt it in his hand as he ran the other over the surface.
"Do you like it?" Rukia giggled as she skipped around the lawn.
Dante nodded. "It's nice. How do you play it? And why buy me a gift?"
"It's your birthday." She stopped skipping and gave her brother a tight hug.
"Really? I didn't know that I had a birthday." Dante put the harmonica to his lips and blew into it lightly. A deep monotonous tone droned into the air.
"It's not really your birthday, but today marks the fifty year we found you."
Dante looked at her in the eye and then gazed back to the harmonica in his hands. "Thank You."
Rukia blushed slightly. "You want me to teach you how to play it?"
"You know how to play this thing?"
"Not really, but the uncle who sold me the harmonica gave me this manual. You could take a look." Rukia passed a thin leaflet to Dante and he looked through it.
"It sure looks confusing." He mumbled. After he felt that he had read enough, he put down the leaflet and placed the harmonica to his lips again. Dante blew through the holes in them and swayed the harmonica slowly from right to left.
"Ouch." His fingers shot to his lips as the harmonica slit its surface.
Rukia hurriedly brandished a handkerchief and wiped away the tiny amount of blood oozing from Dante's lips. Their eyes made contact briefly but it was enough for them to lock onto each other.
Why is she looking at me like this? What have I done wrong?
"Look, I'm sorry about …"
His words were muffled out instantly as Rukia's lips covered his.
"Rukia …" Karas moaned. "Rukia …. Don't – don't leave me …"
A pair of timid hairs shook the Blade King awake.
"Sir Karas … Sir Karas …"
Karas grunted as he opened his eyes sleepily. "Yea?"
"The Emperor demands that you meet him in court."
"Yea, yea. I will be right there." Karas sighed and shook his head free of whatever lethargy that still clung stubbornly to his mind.
Karas strode into the Ceremonial hall and knelt down smartly. "Greetings, my Master."
"Rise, Karas, my sword." The masked god stood up from his throne. "I apologize for my harsh words which I spoke heartlessly earlier on. But my words have a reason behind them."
"A reason?" Karas asked, his tone growing increasingly dangerous.
"No reason to get heated up, Karas. I see that you have changed a lot since the merger with Dante. Well, let me explain this reason I am speaking of." The masked god stuck out a hand and beckoned Karas to draw nearer. "First, I will need to confirm my suspicions. Come over here and give me your hand."
Karas did as he was told. The grip around his wrist tightened and a strange current of aether gushed into his veins. For the next few moments, Karas felt as though his body was stripped and hacked right through, and every bit of his flesh and memories was explored thoroughly.
The inspection finally ended abruptly and the masked god turned his back to Karas. Apparently, his master was deep in thought. They stayed like this for a long time. Karas eventually grew impatient.
"Master, what did you find out?"
"The weapon that killed him. What did it do?"
"It drained his lifeline and expelled him from the universe, my master. It was a blade that he had forged and gave to the Reapers when he restarted his world."
"Well, that's good."
"What – what do you mean by good, master?" Karas wasn't pleased by the masked god's words. Dante was dead, and yet the god said it was a good thing?
"He is dead."
"He isn't dead? Why? How? Where- where is he now? Why can't I feel him?"
"Have you not forgotten that his lifeline is intertwined with yours, Karas? Even if his life is sapped, yours would be supplying a minute part of it and thus, his lifeline will never run dry. In addition …" The masked god paused and strode back to his throne on which he sat upon. He continued. "In addition, upon arrival in our world and staying here for months, Dante has had anchored a part of him here. Therefore, even if he is expelled and uprooted from his world, he is still attached to ours, and cannot die off."
"I see. Damn it, why didn't I think of it before?" Karas wondered.
"Because you are a blade without brains, Karas." The masked god laughed. "You asked where he is. Don't forget that he has just been merely wounded. Even a god like me would have to take weeks to repel that curse. And more importantly, we have to note that the curse was his own enchantment, therefore Dante may have to wait for decades till the curse wears off. "
"How long exactly do we have to wait?"
"How would I know?" The masked god shrugged. "It's all up to him. Perhaps if he has lost his will to return, he never will."