Iron Blooded Orphans: The Devil's Reprisal

My other half was shattered. Collapsing around me. Too tired to dodge. Three rounds hit, aimed at my chest armor. I could feel the metal break just a little more. The cracks spread. Barbatos was in agony. The cockpit fractured just a little more around me, in creaking spiderwebs.

Her voice screamed through the shattered intercom.

"Why is it? Why do you still resist? It's useless! What cause can you have to fight such a purposeless battle?"

It took me a moment to register. Thinking... came slowly. My vision was dark at the edges, growing darker with each and every heartbeat.

"Cause? What's that? Purposeless? Maybe." I smirked. They always love to talk... might as well answer... "I never had any purpose. But..."

Three Gjallarhorn Grazes charged in, roaring out of the dust. They raised their weapons, preparing to fire.

"No! Don't go near him!"

I ran around the girl. My last burst of speed. I could feel my body breaking. But not yet. I'm still alive. And they are so slow...

I threw one Graze into the other, and I grinned, tasting the blood on my teeth. More lambs to the slaughter.

My tail reached out, the blade angled just so, coming from underneath... and impaled them both through the cockpits. The Grazes fell to the ground, limp, motionless, skewered. I could feel the red dripping from the blade.

I love my tail.

I charged the last Graze, ducking under the wild swing of an axe, angling my claw up from below, going around and under the thick forward block of nano-laminated armor. The cockpit block in the Graze models was always weak from below, where no one could normally angle the hit.

My claw tore into the cavity. I ripped out the Graze's cockpit and crushed it. It was crunchy. Like ripping out the seed of one of my fruit candies. Blood and oil dripped to the ground. I could feel the hot fluid flowing...

"You devil..." The girl whispered over the intercom, her voice sick with horror. Her voice washed over me, ignored. Unregistered. The darkness of my vision closed in.

"But now... I have purpose that Orga gave to me. I used to have nothing at all... but so many things are... overflowing from my hands now."

I breathed, in tired realization.

"That's it."

The kind of understanding that comes at the end of a long road.

I turned to my final enemy.

"We'd already made it."

We hadn't needed to fight at all. My memories flashed to Atra, to Kudelia, to the rest of Tekkadan. And then I realized.

'Yeah, that's right...'

My body's fuel tanks began to explode. The pain was strangely distant. My thoughts were so slow now...

"What is with you? With no cause to commit to, why?"

I charged her wordlessly. But I was so tired... my tail couldn't reach her. I couldn't move my body to dodge her bullets. My armor shattered and cracked open. I could feel the wind.

It was warm.

A voice came over the intercoms. "He's already unconscious..."

'The place we truly belong...'

It was with each-other. It had been, all along.

My body gave out. I fell against her, feeling nothing. The world went dark.

She stood still like a statue for a time, soundless, motionless.

'Right, Orga?'

'Yeah, that's right... Mika.'

She stabbed me, and twisted.

My head erupted in agony, but it felt strangely distant. The connection severed. I was just me now. Just Mikazuki, the crippled boy. I couldn't hear my other half any more. I couldn't hear Barbatos. My heartbeat began to fade as the Gundam went dark around me. Blood poured from my eyes, a river, staining Atra's wristband red.

'Ah... I've gotten it dirty again... Atra's going to be mad at me. I wonder... if Kudelia... will help me apologize... her...'

I fell.

A voice roared through the air, not coming through the dark intercom, but through the air itself, buoyed by the cacophony of wild cheering.

The girl.

"Here, under the authority of the Arianrhod Fleet Commander, Rustal Elion, the Devil of Tekkadan has been defeated!"


The world changed, and time passed.

It could have been minutes. It could have been years. I couldn't tell. My thoughts came so slowly... everything was so achingly slow. I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't see anything. It wasn't darkness or light, but something in between.

There was a vague sensation, a weightlessness that couldn't quite be felt, a tone that couldn't be listened to, fading to nothing if focused on. There were indescribable geometries and colors. I could see them only at the edge of my vision. Anything I focused on, disappeared, replaced by an indefinity of shapes and colors in the elsewhere.

I knew this feeling. The old man hadn't been able to explain it, but I somehow understood. It had only begun after I fought the mobile armor, after the better half of me went into Barbatos, made stronger, fiercer. No longer limited by flesh and blood and breath.

This void was the dissonance that came when the higher brain and the body were separated, the timeless moment as the split senses struggled to comprehend their own fracture. The bleeding of two halves forced apart, leaving behind pieces of agony. The sensation of complete and utter sensory deprivation made real. The feeling of being separated from Barbatos and adjusting to a smaller, lesser, body.

The void had never lasted for this long before.

The old man had warned about separating from Barbatos while synched. The certainty of brain hemorrhage. Is that what happened?

Time passed.

And then something changed.

My eye felt heavy, felt slow and dark. Like a stone that was nearly, but not quite, too heavy to lift. The other eye was just dark. Barbatos had long ago taken its light. But I looked up.

My other half was standing there, broken and shattered. Scoured by blade and scarred by gunshot. Red oil dripped from the cracks, mingling with my own blood. I could see my body in the cockpit, broken. Barbatos was dying by degrees. Dead already, to anyone but me.

My other half was headless. But still looking at me, with a sight beyond sight.

My other half shuddered. I ached. The darkness at the edge of my vision closed in. Everything felt so heavy.

Barbatos is crying... I realized. Then my other half spoke. The words weren't spoken. They weren't even words. They were impressions, whispers, whispers that thrummed in the air, that echoed through me.

...Not yet. Not yet...


...we had only just begun to live...


My other half's eyes flashed red.

The world vanished.

I knew pain. I had lived pain, breathed pain, dealt pain, walked through oceans of it without flinching, without ever stopping.

All to find the place where I belonged. Only to realize, too late, that I'd already found it.

But this pain... it wasn't like dying. Dying had happened by degrees, like frostbite. Becoming colder, becoming more tired, in a thousand blurred steps.

This was different. This was everywhere. My bones burned. My eyes burst. My skull fractured. My organs failed. My teeth cracked. My skin sloughed off. My tongue split. I could taste nothing but cinder, smell nothing but sulfur. The heavy copper of burning blood filled the air.

I imagined that it was like being born. Being born in fire.

I screamed.

My right eye opened.

And then I woke up.