Chapter 48: Kill the Shadows
I really wish I had some sweets, thought Kurome, holding onto Wave's jacket so she doesn't lose her way.
After Tatsumi's warning of another presence in the cave along with them, the trio journeyed farther into its dark contents. Tatsumi took the lead, ready for any unpleasant threat that could appear from the shadows. The path decreased in elevation until they could no longer see the sunlight. The walk moved slower as they had the feel their way through the path. Wave offered to adorn Grand Chariot and take the forefront, but Tatsumi rejected the offer—claiming he could navigate fine even in the suffocating darkness.
Finally, after fumbling in the darkness for an annoying amount of time, the dark path opened into a small, open area. Light bathed the cavern floor from a hole far above that illuminated the cave under its grayish sky. However, the most noticeable aspect of this area sat with her back against the wall. Kurome, unable to get the words out, walked towards the sitting figure of her sister.
Wave put an arm out, meeting her eyes. He meant for her to exercise caution in approaching Akame considering she might not be herself anymore. That wouldn't deter Kurome from reaching her sister though. So, the Necromancer gave a reassuring smile towards Wave before stopping a few inches from Akame.
Her sister had seen better days. Her long hair was messy and tangled, her skin shared the complexion of the snow, and her body seemed skinny. The others made their presence known, but Akame continued to sit still, her eyes hidden by her disheveled hair. Her jacket and uniform had tears as if she wrestled a wild Danger Beast. Kurome gulped, not only hoping her sister came to her senses, but also that she was still alive.
"Sis?" said Kurome. "Can you hear me? Your adorable little sister has come to rescue you…" Kurome giggled awkwardly, trying to dispel the tension.
To Kurome's relief, Akame stirred. She raised her head, before slowly turning to look at Kurome. Her crimson eyes had bags under them, an adrift glance they carried. Before Kurome could say more to her, Akame pulled a sharp piece of stone from the ground and attempted to stab her. The swift necromancer managed to intercept her with Yatsufusa in time. Her sister carried the look of a wild animal.
"Kurome!" yelled Wave, ready to intervene with Tatsumi.
Kurome had other plans though as she yelled, "No, stay back! Let me do this!" She blocked and evaded more of Akame's slashes before striking her in the stomach with her elbow and kicking her in the side. Her sister stumbled to the wet cave ground. "Come on, Sis. Did you forget our training at the waterfall? You're quick, but you really shouldn't telegraph so much, hehe."
Akame flung herself sloppily at her again before Kurome dropped her sword, catching her in an embrace. She struggled at first but calmed down when she heard Kurome's sobs. "It's okay now. So, come to your senses already because you're too strong to let something like this change you. We've been apart for so long our entire lives…but never again. I love you, Sis…"
"… Kurome," murmured Akame before breaking out of her sister's hug, falling to her knees while clutching her head. Then, as she began sobbing too, she weakly said, "Kurome…"
Kurome went to her knees and embraced her sister again as Akame let her emotions out. The Necromancer wasn't great at these tender moments, but consoling her sister is all she wanted at that moment. Wave and Tatsumi exchanged sympathetic looks as the two sisters shared tears under the faint light of the cavern.
The intense pain in her head made itself known the moment Akame woke up next to the fire. Her vision played tricks on her as she watched hallucinations go by, accompanied by images flashing through her mind faster than she could comprehend. Then there was a voice that she heard. "Finally awake?" it asked. "We left some food left over for you since I know you're hungry, hehe."
This sounded casual enough, but for some reason…Akame didn't like what this voice said. She hated what the voice said. Then she felt intense malice as she looked upon the culprit, a demonic figure eyeing her with bloodlust. A sense of fear erupted from within her, and then a searing rage. She didn't know why, but if she didn't kill this demon here and now—it'd kill her, Kurome, and all her other friends.
And, as to protect herself and everyone else from the intruder, Akame did what she did best. She popped up before grabbing her sword. Screaming with killing intent, she attacked the demon with Murasame in hand. She screamed, shouting how it'd never hurt her or Kurome if she drew breath. Meanwhile, the demon taunted her with laughing and mocking banter. This angered Akame even more, wanting nothing more than to end its life and stop the mocking smile it adorned.
The demon dodged one of her moves, rolling on the ground before standing with Mine's Pumpkin in hand. "How dare you use the Teigu of my friend!" Akame charged with Pumpkin pointed at her. She thought she'd die since the demon had a shot, but for some reason—it did not fire. Akame didn't stop to wonder why before she plunged Murasame in its breast. The former assassin smiled, joyful she killed the demonic presence and protect everyone.
And then her world changed.
The demonic figure vanished, replaced by the pained face of Mine, blood erupting from her mouth, tears falling from her eyes. She dropped Pumpkin on the ground before putting a hand on Akame's face. "D-don't blame…yourself… P-protect everyone, A-Akame…" Then, stunned, Akame lost the grip on her sword, causing Mine to fall to the ground, Murasame protruding from her.
Akame backed away, unaware of what had transpired. Her eyes told her that a demonic presence sat nearby, so she attacked it with all her might. So…why did the dead body of Mine lay at her feet? Akame grabbed her head, trying to search for answers as her mind moved a million miles an hour. She clawed at her head before screaming, losing herself to the madness. Then tears fell as she gazed at Mine once more, the weight of what she did seeping through the cracks for a moment.
Upon hearing some distant screams, Akame ran away. She didn't have a particular direction in mind; she just wanted to get away from here before anything else bad happened. Unsure of whether the voices she heard behind her were friend or foe, Akame ignored them and decided to keep running. With the world and her very identity lost to her, Akame focused on the single task of letting her legs carry her to whether they may.
She didn't have a task, a plan, or an idea on her mind… Akame just continued to run.
Kurome sat beside her sister, an arm over her shoulder as she recounted her horrifying tale. Wave stood over them, listening while keeping a hand on Grand Chariot in case Akame lost it again. Tatsumi stood opposite of them, back leaning against the wall with his eyes closed. Akame hadn't eaten or drunken much of anything after she left, so they let her consume some of their rations before continuing. Her forking down food gave a nice sense of nostalgia in this bleak situation.
"After that," said Akame, staring at the ground, "I stumbled around the island until I came upon this mountain. In my daze, I wandered to the peak before finding this cavern. I've been here ever since…"
"Hmm," hummed Wave. "Tatsumi recovered from the venom pretty quickly, and Chelsea took a bit longer but still came to her senses that very day. Why was the venom so potent for you then?"
Kurome answered since Akame didn't respond. "Maybe it just affects everyone differently. All that matters is you're back to normal now."
The Necromancer smiled in hopes her sister would reciprocate. Her expression stayed static and gloomy. This was new ground for Kurome who rarely caught Akame mopping. This predicament called for it, but seeing her confident sister fight and murder for years as easy as one learns to swim—she always expected her to be immune to this kind of thing. Kurome shook her head, ashamed she made that assumption.
There also laid the problem of Tatsumi who remained silent thought Akame's story. Kurome recounted Wave telling her Tatsumi seemed to have an ambiguous motivation for finding Akame. Considering him and Mine, while they never said it, shared a relationship that continued to evolve into something more—Tatsumi might have some hidden intentions. The fact the Tyrant consumed his mind made Kurome worry even more. If someone killed Wave or Akame, Kurome would want revenge; if Tatsumi did resent her sister, she could understand the sentiment even if she'd never allow it.
"Where are Chelsea and Seryu?" asked Akame. "Did they die too?"
Kurome tried to make it sound as good as she could. "We just had a little disagreement, so we decided to split up for now. I'm sure they're fine. It had nothing to do with you, Sis." Despite her attempts to soften the blow, Akame didn't take to it.
"… I can't apologize for what I've done because it was an unforgivable act. The blame for what's happened to Nocturne lies with me."
"You're wrong!" exclaimed Kurome sternly. "It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone in Nocturne's fault. If there's anything to blame, it's those in the Empire that have made it hell for those who dare to question them. You've always done what you thought was right from day one, Sis. What happened was out of your control, but now you're back in control. You believed in me when I lost my way, so I'm going to believe in you. All of Nocturne does."
"… No, I fear I've burned that bridge too far to rebuild."
"We don't blame you, Akame," said Wave. "We've all done things we've regretted. I attacked you all when I found out what happened to my village, Kurome and Seryu regret their time in the Empire, even Tatsumi has things he wished he could take back. The point of Nocturne when I pitched the idea to you three was that we'd forget our past mistakes to focus on a greater problem—the corruption in the Empire."
Instead of a rebuttal, Akame's eyes landed on Tatsumi. Wave and Kurome watched as Tatsumi kept his eyes closed, his silence stalwart. The unspoken thing Akame tried referred to is the person in Nocturne that won't speak. Kurome wanted to call out to him, but Akame stood. She grabbed the sharp piece of stone from her side before approaching Tatsumi at a calm pace. Kurome and Wave prepared themselves for anything crazy to happen.
Instead, Akame stopped in front of Tatsumi. He opened his eyes to meet her gaze with his human and inhuman eyes. Then, Akame held out her stone dagger in front of Tatsumi before she said, "If you want to kill me, I won't resist."
Wave gasped before Kurome yelled, "What are you—"
"This is what I've decided to do for atonement, Kurome," said Akame. "Tatsumi, I can tell, you hate me for what I did to Mine. And it's not the Tyrant part that wants to exact revenge on me, it's you. I held Mine very dear, and I know you had special feelings for her. For those reasons among others, if you decide to kill me—I'll accept my death if it's by your hand."
"It'll never happen!" yelled Kurome. "Tatsumi, tell Sis she's crazy and that you forgive her… Don't you forgive her…Tatsumi?"
Reading Tatsumi's expression bordered on the impossible. Kurome hoped he'd have sympathetic expression before passionately yelling about how he didn't blame her for the tragedy. Instead, his expression remained static, unfazed by Akame holding out a knife to him. He simply stared back at her.
"… Why are you still here?" asked Tatsumi. "If you came to your senses, why did you stay in this cave?"
"She probably thought she'd be a danger to others," guessed Wave.
"Not exactly," said Akame. "It's not so much that I didn't leave, but I couldn't leave."
Kurome, Wave, and Tatsumi all exchanged confused glances. "Is it because you didn't have the strength?" asked Kurome.
"No, I could've left on my own power; however, once I tried to leave this cave…I quickly found out the true nature of this mountain. Tell me, when you all climbed here—did you notice the lack of other Danger Beasts?"
Wave nodded. "Yeah, we didn't see many living things."
"That's because of the Danger Beast that lives here. Tatsumi, did you sense anything?"
"When we got near the peak…I felt this overwhelming sense of dread suddenly. That foreboding feeling got increasingly potent, but I couldn't see anything around us. Wave and Kurome said they didn't say anything either."
"Because that's it's power. I managed to catch a glimpse of it one day as I tried to escape. I don't know how it does it, but the creature is able to turn itself into a shadow and fuse itself with the ground."
Wave pounded his fist in his palm. "No wonder we couldn't see it! Man, what kind of freaky ability is that? You ever hear about a Danger Beast that could do something like that Kurome?"
Kurome mulled it over, but nothing came to mind. "Nah, I don't think so. I have a puppet that could do something kind of like that, but with the way it's presence wards off other Danger Beast and worries Tatsumi—we could have another Doomsday-Class level Danger Beast on our hands."
"I don't get it," said Tatsumi, crossing his arms. "If this mountain is it's hunting grounds, why did it let us get all the way to the peak before revealing itself? With how fast I felt it coming, it could've had the jump on us in no time."
"It might enjoy the sport," said Kurome, hypothesizing. "It lures its prey wandering up here so it can trap them like a fly caught on a web. It'll lie in wait until its prey gets desperate enough to risk escaping… Then it goes for the kill. Only thing I can think of since it's ability makes it the perfect hunter."
"I concluded the same thing," said Akame, scratching her shoulder with her one remaining arm. "Did you all notice the bones scattered among the cave floor when you entered? Some of those are Danger Beasts that wandered up here, oblivious to the threat. But there were much older bones that belonged to humans. My guess is they faced the same predicament we're in now, having no way out."
Wave clicked his tongue. "Shit, while that's good news because it means there could be humans here…what if one of the people that died here is Baratelous?"
"I admire your persistence, Wave," said Kurome, bopping him on the head, "but I'm less concerned with the Teigu grandpa and more concerned with getting the hell out of here. Sis, you think there could be a way out if we keep exploring the cave?"
"I'm afraid not. All I found were dead ends and bottomless pits."
"Only one option then," said Wave, a determined grin. "We gotta take that damn thing down. I don't know who those bones belonged to, but I bet none of them were Teigu users. We have four here. Hell, if Kurome or Akame gets a cut in once, the fight's over right there."
Kurome smiled before carefully grabbing Murasame by the string on its sheath. "It's time for the invincible sisters to hunt again, Sis." Before Kurome could hand Murasame back to its owner, Akame gasped before backing away. Tilting her head, Kurome said, "Sis?"
"I'm sorry…" murmured Akame, staring away from her sword. Kurome couldn't recall a time when her sister looked this frightened. She wasn't unlike a young girl who didn't like going in her closet in fear of monsters hiding. "I can't… I'm not fit to wield Murasame any longer…"
The four stood in silence before Tatsumi said, "Fighting that thing during the night would be impossible. Let's wait until the sun comes up so it's easier to find its position." Tatsumi walked towards the entrance. "I'll stand guard in case that thing or anything else comes in here."
"Tatsumi," said Kurome, "do you forgive my sister?" Tatsumi kept his back at them, silent.
"You all became trapped here because you searched for me," said Akame, eyes to the ground. "I'll lend what strength I have left to help everyone escape. Then, you may do whatever you're thinking right now, Tatsumi. I suppose that death pact we made will come to fruition after all…"
Tatsumi left after that, still refusing to give his say on the matter. Kurome worried, but Akame already went back to the wall—leaning against it while hugging her knees. Wave gave her a sympathetic look before giving her a quick peck on the forehead. "I'll hang near the entrance with Tatsumi," he said. "Get some rest; we're in for a big fight tomorrow."
Kurome nodded, watching as her beloved went towards the entrance too. The Necromancer gazed at the faint light emanating from the hole above before joining her sister.
"Mind if I sleep next to you?" asked Kurome.
"Of course not."
"Sis, I know you feel responsible, but it isn't your fault. You heard Mine's last words; she certainly didn't hate you in her last moments. I don't want to rush you on this, but we're going to need the master of the demon sword tomorrow to get out of here. What, do you not think you'll be as good with only one arm? Knowing you, you'll adapt quicker than most could."
"I don't think I could use Murasame if I wanted, Kurome. Before, the sword and I matched so perfectly—I never felt a thing when I held it. Now…I don't think my heart agrees with the malevolence of it anymore. For the first time…I saw the monster I was, and because of that…I've come to hate what I am…"
"What you are is a hero. Is this thing about you being like Esdeath still bothering you? It took some unknown venom we've never encountered to make you do this—it had nothing to do with the real you at all."
"… I've been thinking about why the venom affected me more than Tatsumi and Chelsea." Akame met her eyes with a narrow glance. "If my thinking is correct, the venom doesn't make you more aggressive… The venom only exacerbates the aggressiveness you already had. The fact I fell under so much harder than the others, well…it can only mean the darkness I carry in my heart is that much greater than anyone else—"
"Stop it!" yelled Kurome. She didn't intend to raise her voice, but her temper rose as Akame kept speaking. "Sis, when you ran away…all I wanted to do was find you no matter what. Damn the Empire, rebellion, or Nocturne…I wanted you back. And it wasn't because I needed your skills as a killer; it's because you're the greatest person I've ever known… So, just…stop talking like this and take the damn sword!"
Akame didn't react at all to Kurome's outburst. Instead, she turned her head, still unable to even look at her sword. "Sorry, I'll help you all with the Danger Beast as best I can. But I will not bear the sword… As I am now, I couldn't." Akame turned to her for a moment with a dry grin. "Yatsufusa will be enough. I always said you were the stronger one regardless."
After that, Kurome left it alone, not knowing what else to convince her. The incident damaged her sister's will to fight, and only time could heal it. Kurome hugged her knees as well, allowing herself to drift off to a light slumber before the battle. She tried to steer her mind away from Tatsumi's motivations and what she'd do it turned for the worst, but she dwelled on it regardless before falling asleep.
The dawn had arrived, bright and sunny, and with it—yet another fight for survival awaited the four walking side-by-side to the battlefield. Kurome glanced at the three; Wave gave her a reassuring look while Akame and Tatsumi competed to see who could look more unemotive. That didn't matter now, though. Regardless of the tension in the background, they were going to do what got them this far—unite in the face of a common enemy.
"Funny," said Kurome, the darkness covering the four, "I remember we walked like this to Wave's village. That seems like a hundred years ago… The dynamic between us is definitely different from what it was."
"Yeah…" murmured Tatsumi. "Back then, I didn't know if I could trust you or Kurome at all. You were just the two former Jaegers to me back then."
"I don't want to chime in with more self-loathing," said Wave, "but I do partly take responsibility for everything that's happened. The idea of Nocturne started with me in the ashes of my village, born from my need for avenging my parents. Still, even after Shula let me know they could be alive, I still wanted to fight with Night Raid because…you're all my friends."
To her shock, Kurome heard a faint laugh from Akame. "Isn't this the part where you say all this sentimentality will trigger too many death flags, Kurome?" asked Akame.
"Heh, we've triggered so many during our time as Nocturne—I don't think it even matters anymore."
Daylight stung their eyes as the entrance of the cave awaited. None of the four stopped their pace as they walked into the cool morning. Just like their accent, Kurome didn't see any Danger Beast in the skies or roaming on the ground. That only meant their foe awaited in the shadows somewhere, ready to strike.
"We didn't go over this Tatsumi because I already guessed your answer at this point," said Wave, "but, knowing the next time you use Incursio will probably be the last…"
"If there isn't another way out, I'm using it. The moment I do…run from this place and never turn back."
The silence surrounding them after that, only broken by the faint breeze. They kept their eyes peeled on the ground for any moving shadow. Kurome jumped several times, sure she spotted the beast—only turning out to be a passing cloud from overhead. If their assertion of the beast was true, it loved the hunt. It wouldn't do this quick; the beast would attack them in a cerebral manner. For this reason, the four stuck close by each other while covering all sides.
"Sis," said Kurome, her jacket flowing in the wind as she stood with Yatsufusa in hand, "you get a good look at how big this thing is? If it's the size of a Doomsday-Class, we're screwed in every directions if it can just pop up below us."
"I didn't get a great grasp of its size; however, I don't think it's the size of Enti or Leviathan."
Kurome felt relieved. "That some good news at least."
"Hold on to that good feeling," said Tatsumi. "It's coming… He should be near us any second. Shit…this thing might not be the size of one, but his presence resembles a Doomsday-Class."
Kurome darted her eyes towards the ground, searching for any sudden moment. She spotted something moving out the corner of her eye. She turned, not daring to blink as she examined the area. There the beast was, or at least she thought so. A large shadow zipped across the ground, darting from side-to-side, coming straight towards them.
"There you are!" yelled Kurome, using her full speed to intercept the shadow. Leaping into the air, she brought her blade down on where the beast would land. Before she could, a razor-sharp tail swung from the ground, making Kurome guard before she was sent flying in the opposite direction.
Grunting as she hit the ground, Kurome regrouped and focused on the mysterious Danger Beast as it stood in full view. The beast had sharp claws and burning red eyes, its scales glimmering with the hue of a night sky. Kurome gulped the beast stared back at her. If hostility had a true form, it stared back at her right now with a ravenous look. It didn't have the size of a Doomsday-Class, but the fear persisted all the same. The tail had hairs resemblance glass; if Kurome hadn't blocked, she'd be a bloody mess on the ground.
The beast disappeared back into the ground before Tatsumi came down, making a small crater in the ground where his scaly fist collided. "Damn!" he swore, examining the area with his inhuman eyes. "Where the hell did it go!"
Tatsumi got his answer when Wave screamed in frustration, the beast appearing below him before putting his body in a vice grip with its tail. The beast's tail didn't pierce him because of Grand Chariot, but Wave couldn't move as the nasty screech of the tail grated against the wonderous metal.
Akame sprinted into action, her dagger made of stone at the ready. The Danger Beast didn't even turn its head as Akame's dagger shattered once it hit its hard scales. Akame fell back, the momentum sending her from her feet. Whether she couldn't put in enough force because of her one arm, or if the beast's scales were simply that tough—it didn't change that the shadow beast aimed its fangs at Wave's head.
But Kurome acted quicker by yelling, "Doya!" before the cowgirl shot the beast in the head with her pistols. The bullets didn't pierce, but it annoyed the beast enough for it to disappear back in the ground.
"How the hell do you hurt something that can blend with the ground and has a natural armor!" yelled Wave.
That posed a problem, but something more troubling occurred. Kurome gazed into the sky with terror as an unfortunate cloud covered the sun—creating an overcast. Reacting to the shadow beast when they could see its shadow bordered on insanity; now, who knew where it'd choose to strike next? Right now, the four had a good distance between each other because of the fight, their necks getting a great workout as they searched for any movement they could find.
And then an idea popped in Kurome's head. If this beast did like to hunt, then that gave her a good idea of its mentality. Hunting Danger Beasts with Esdeath gave her great inside into the mind of a hunter. "In order to make the game fun when hunting a group instead of a single target," murmured Kurome to herself, repeating the words Esdeath said to her once, "one must not go for the strongest of the pack first. To make the sport more fun, a hunter should go for—"
Kurome's blood went cold. She figured out who the beast would want to go for, and that made it that much scarier as the nightmare flashed in her head. For the sport, the hunter would pick off the weakest of the pack first. Any other time before coming to this hellhole of an island, this wouldn't be true. But now, Kurome knew who the most vulnerable out of the four of them was.
Even if her hypothesis wasn't right, she grabbed Murasame by the string before she yelled, "Sis!" Kurome summoned a strong corpse puppet, commanding it to throw the sword to Akame. Her sister gazed at the blade coming to her with indecision. Kurome recalled what her sister said last night, but she wished more than anything her sister could overcome it for a few seconds.
The blade hung in the air, close to Akame as it fell to her. She reached her hand out, intent to grab it.
But it wasn't to be as the blade hit the ground, Akame freezing before she could grab it.
"No…" murmured Kurome. Then, the beast appeared from the ground, fangs bared for Akame. Kurome's heart fell, desperately hoping what she thought was paranoia. If she could switch with Akame, she would. Instead, she yelled, "Akame!" so loud, strong enough to puncture her lung. Tatsumi screamed as well running for her. But he wouldn't make it. And Akame couldn't react in time as her sister gazed at Kurome, a face resigned to death.
Please let a miracle happen, thought Kurome.
That "miracle" came when Akame's form hit the ground—replaced by Wave. The man of the sea stood strong in her place, making it in time to intercept the beast. But instead of a fist or his patent kick, Wave dove for the creature's mouth. Kurome's world stopped as she witnessed her love's body disappear into the creature's mouth, swallowed in seconds. The creature roared in victory, as Kurome lost the strength to stand up.
"Wave!" yelled Akame, tears in her eyes.
"Damn you…" mumbled Tatsumi, gazing down before grabbing Incursio. "Damn you!"
Tatsumi, in his rage, was going to allow the Tyrant to takeover and rip this beast to shreds. Akame yelled something at Kurome, presumably telling her to run away from here. Kurome couldn't hear her. Kurome couldn't hear much of anything right now. Her ears went deaf to the world the moment the beast devoured Wave before her eyes. Even though her sister didn't die, Kurome's will to live wasn't strong enough to pry her knees from the ground.
Just as Tatsumi held Incursio to the sky, he paused and stared at the beast. The Danger Beast started wailing in pain, thrashing about as it refused to meld back in the ground. Then, a deafening wail broke from the monster's jaw as Wave erupted from its stomach along with a sea of blood and intestines. His body glistened with the blood as steam came off him like a freshly cooked meal.
"Wave!" yelled Kurome, she, Tatsumi, and Akame running to him. He sat on his hands and knees while the shadow beast lay on its side, motionless.
"… That's one way to do it…" said Wave, weakly.
Tatsumi felt relieved, happy to see Wave had survived. When the beast devoured him, he blacked out an almost used Incursio. "You could have let us in on the plan. I was about to go full Tyrant."
Wave remained on his hands and knees, panting with a pained sound. "I wanted to save Akame and it kind came to me when I was doing it. I figured it was the only way we could damage the thing…"
Kurome wanted to hug him, but the heat forced her to hover over him instead. "You damn fool!" she yelled. "Do you know what you put me through!" She tried to hide it behind an angry expression, but her tears didn't lie. "Don't do that again…"
"Sorry, Kurome. But I'd rather have you upset with me now rather than Akame and the rest of us being killed."
Akame wiped her messy hair to the side. "At least we can take solace that this fight is—"
The peace didn't last as the shadow beast roared to life before lunging at Wave. The suddenness of it didn't allow any of the agents to react beyond staring in horror as the beast wanted to devour Wave one again. Only this time the creature wouldn't swallow him whole.
Then, from above, a large dragon swooped down before grabbing the shadow beast in its jaw. The shadow beast let out a few more squeals before the beast went limp, its neck snapped in half. The brilliant blue dragon tossed the corpse aside, little doubt the shadow beast could survive that. It roared as the Nocturne agents backed away, exchanging concerned looks. And Tatsumi didn't know if it was just him, but the temperature in the air fell several degrees as his breath became visible. He hadn't felt an aura of strength like this from any beast since Enti.
"I thought I felt my kin nearby," said the blue dragon. "Seems I wasn't exactly right."
Unlike when Enti spoke for the first time, Tatsumi didn't gasp when the feminine-sounded dragon talked. He didn't know why, but he just knew the creature in front of him had that ability as well, like a faint sense of familiarity. This dragon had a soothing voice with a gentle tone to it, a stark contrast to Enti's imposing voice.
"You can talk!" yelled Wave, surprising Tatsumi. "Why the hell can I understand you!"
"Wait," said Tatsumi, "you hear her too?" Wave nodded, confusing Tatsumi even more. "But, why didn't you hear Calabra when he spoke?"
"I don't know… I remember feeling weird back then too, but I definitely didn't hear Enti as clear as I hear this one… Maybe this dragon has something special about her?"
"Calabra you say?" asked the blue dragon. She peered down at them; staring into her giant cerulean eyes gave Tatsumi the feeling of diving into a crystal lake. "So, you've met him as well?"
"Some people in the desert tried to resurrect him for their own gain," said Tatsumi. 'We managed to stop them, but then we had a little fight with Calabra. We settled it though, and he flew off somewhere."
"I see… Somebody broke the ice seal I made. Well, that's for the best I suppose. These hundreds of years should've given him time to cool down a bit. I doubt it, though."
Tatsumi smiled, sure this dragon meant no harm. "If you don't mind me asking, who are you? And how do you know Calabra?"
"My name is Lumenia. I've known Enti since we were mere hatchlings. In fact, we had quite a duel that led to me concealing him in that ice all those years ago. It pained me to, but he was too driven by fury back then. If he did spare you, then maybe he's changed now…"
Guess that explains that scar on her back, thought Tatsumi, noticing the nasty scar she had.
"Thank you for saving me," said Wave bowing. "But what are you doing on this island?"
"This is where I was born. For as long as I can remember, this island has always been a safe respite for its inhabitants from humans. Because if that, nature here has stayed preserved for thousands of years. I've no ill will towards humans, but I ask that you don't bring any of your forces here to take the island away from its natural inhabitants."
"That's not our intention," said Tatsumi. "We came here to look for somebody. We've had it pretty hard in that regard…"
"Sorry, but can somebody explain what's going on?" asked Kurome, as she and Akame stood by. "I'm guessing this is another Doomsday-Class Danger Beast. I can't seem to recognize this one either.
Wave reassured her with a smile. "Yeah, no worries. She's the dragon who fought Enti in that desert a long time ago. Apparently, she sensed out location because of Tatsumi's transformation and all." Wave's eyes widened as he turned back to Lumenia. "Wait, but you said you sensed both of us. Why me?"
"It's not as potent, but I sense the blood of a dragon in you too. The one you call Tatsumi is nearly identical to one…but I can feel your change fast approaching too."
Wave stared down, as Tatsumi narrowed his eyes. He hoped since Grand Chariot was the perfected version of Incursio, Wave wouldn't change the same as he did. However, if Lumenia told the truth, it could very well happen. It'd explain why he suddenly could understand the tongue of dragons.
"I see…" Wave murmured.
"Lumenia stared at the sky, her scales reflecting the sun. "I've only ever had three humans understand me. You two, and this young girl that attacked me on the frontier all those years ago. She was a one-in-a-billion type. Bathing in my blood gave her even more newfound strength. I can only imagine what heights she's grown to since then."
"On the frontier…?" Tatsumi met Wave's eyes, and he could tell they both thought the same thing. But the coincidence seemed too great. Still, who else but Esdeath could fit that mold as a little girl. Could it really have been her?
"You four possess this strength too," said Lumenia, spreading her wings out, ready to fly. "I wish you four luck in your endeavors."
"Before you go," said Tatsumi, "Why exactly did you and Calabra fight?"
Lumenia stayed silent for a moment before she said, "Lover's quarrel." After that the great blue dragon took to the skies, her huge form vanishing in no time."
"This has been some day," said Wave, releasing Grand Chariot before turning to the group. "I want to go back to sleep already…"
Tatsumi, Akame, and Kurome all gasped. Tatsumi's fears became reality as one of Wave's eyes had become inhuman just like his. In fact, his hair had changed like Tatsumi's did when the transformation first became visible as well. Wave would share his fate of becoming a dragon in the future, perhaps not as distant in the future as Tatsumi would've hoped.
"No…" murmured Kurome, heartbroken along with Akame. "Wave…you…"
Since Wave still looked confused, Kurome held up the reflective metal of Yatsufusa to him. After a few seconds of examining himself, Wave's smile faded. His scars might've healed, but this premonition of losing himself only brought more despair.
"Well…shit…" said Wave. Breaking the despair was a sound in the distance that caught both Tatsumi and Wave's ears. And if he heard correctly, Tatsumi's spirits went up at the possibility for some good news. "Did you hear that, Tatsumi?"
"Yeah, horns. And the way someone's blowing it…it's another human."
Anyone that's been keeping up with this story probably noticed I've been updating much more infrequently lately. Due to many events happening in real life—and I don't mean that negatively because most of it has been incredibly good—I don't have as much free time to stick to a consistent writing schedule like I could before. However, since I've come so far with this story and we're remarkably close to the finale, I'll try my best to conclude it sometime in the future—hopefully early next year but I'm not sure. So, I'll keep doing my best in the meantime to work on it, and I apologize for the inconvenience.
Also, this chapter concludes this ark that took place on the exotic island full of Danger Beasts. The thought of the group exploring such a primal place always appealed to me, so I'm happy I finally got to it. The final ark of this tale is next!