Disclaimer: I don't own Akame Ga Kill, certainty not. Aside from that, I believe we can all agree that Tatsumi belongs exclusively to Esdeath. (Yes, I was ordered to write that.)
Oh boy, this chapter will surely get people talkin'.
Jokes aside, I appreciate the support immensely, sorry for the wait!
Tatsumi was asleep. He had been sleeping for two hours, having successfully made it to the local village's inn before its doors shut for the night. His mild distraction had been dealt with, Tatsumi didn't usually leave anyone that wished him awful harm alive, but he had made an exception for the man that stood in his way on the roadside.
This wasn't because of some new-found moral code, or a vow to never kill a human being. To accept such a code, would be stupid and dumb.
Especially when you were intimately connected with the likes of General Esdeath.
Tatsumi had just left the man with a heavy dose of blunt trauma to the head and left it at that. Seeing no reason to finish the poor sap off seeing as the difference in their level of power was so humiliatingly vast, as it was. Laughable even.
It'd be when small embers began to burn into large towering flames when Tatsumi realized the grievous mistake he had made. Stirred awake by the thick choking scent of smoke, and the hurried panicked screams around him.
Tatsumi's sleeping quarters were almost consumed by the raging inferno, thankfully for him, he hadn't slept with the intention of getting a full night's rest, it'd be a nap at best.
So Tatsumi's clothes were on his person already.
Taking his equipment from the nearby candlelit table, putting his greaves on, Tatsumi planned his escape from the Inn with haste. For a fire, as uncontrolled as this, it had to be premeditated. Either the owners of the Inn had come into some trouble with the local debtors or something of the sort.
Regardless, if Tatsumi didn't escape the fire quickly, he would have bigger problems than trying to play detective.
Breaking through the wooden doorway that had been erroneously blocked with pieces of fallen wood stacks, Tatsumi stepped through and saw a familiar figure standing amidst the burning pillars of flame. It was the same man he had left alive, he had started the fire in a last-ditch attempt to assassinate him and exact his revenge.
In truth, sneak tactics were the only tactics that could work on Tatsumi now. Poison, sabotage and the likes. A forward upfront assault was suicide.
"You...! It was you who started the fire, wasn't it?" Tatsumi pointed an accusing finger that was not met with words of denial. It seemed the man was fairly proud of his attempts to destroy his enemy and bore no guilt over the lives put into danger to accomplish it. No words came from the man's mouth, just a sick smile to show for it. Vengeful frustration arose in Tatsumi, as he felt his blood boil over in fury.
Lifting a burning pillar of wood that had fallen down, Tatsumi lifted it with one hand alone and effortlessly tossed it the man. "DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME, HUH? WELL, IT ISN'T."
Surprisingly, the attack landed perfectly. Smashing the perpetrator into the wall with a violent crash. Smoke ascended to the ceiling amidst the burning carnage, but Tatsumi could see his foe without issue. His eyes, wide with a complete lack of pupils and most notably, crimson.
His teeth bared and fanged. He hadn't killed his peruser yet, but any hesitance that Tatsumi had for that before was gone, like Esdeath, he learnt from his mistakes.
And he vowed to never let anyone get the best of his mercy.
After all, he had come too far to simply turn over a new leaf. He had a son to protect, from a world that would want nothing more to hurt him. All because of the boy's Mother. By the man's own admission during their first battle, Tatsumi had learnt he had been targeted, not for his wares but because of his connection to the Ice Queen.
The man lacked the power to hurt Esdeath, so he had decided to target the seemingly weaker link instead and he couldn't pass up the chance that he had been given to inflict some serious damage to his hated enemy.
Even if Tatsumi could understand why they'd bare hatred towards him, it didn't mean he'd forgive it or allow it. In spite of their stifle and frustrations, if they were one thing that Esdeath and Tatsumi would always agree on, it was ensuring Makoto could live happily in peace. Tatsumi knew he, himself, was vital to that peace.
The flames that tried to sear Tatsumi's flesh were repelled away by the boy turned Demon's rage, wooden structures fell apart around them as the panicked screams of the escaping resident's filled the air.
"You know... If this was another life, another time, I could have sympathized with your plight." Seeing as his foe hadn't recovered from his blow. "I've felt helpless, too... More than once before."
"I might've willingly let you kill me, to satisfy your vengeful intent... But that way of stupid selfless thinking is long over now." Stepping over fallen charred wood, Tatsumi effortlessly lifted his prey with one hand alone.
His eyes hadn't stopped gleaming crimson, even whilst expressing his sad thoughts with words of speech. A counterattack was made, a concealed knife sprung from the hand of his tightly held foe and powerfully plunged into Tatsumi's waiting chest.
The knife broke into million pieces on contact with his skin. As if it had tried to pierce the hide of a well-protected Danger-Beast.
"...That was your last and final mistake, you damned fool. Any bittersweet parting words to share with me, hm?" Tatsumi quickly slammed him into the nearest still-solid wooden wall, ensuring it was one that was wreathed with flames, to ensure they suffered greatly before the end came. "Afterall, I am the last face you'll ever have the pleasure of seeing before the blackened waiting void takes you, I wish nothing more than a life of eternal suffering for you..."
"AND LET THE SAME BE FOR YOUR AFTERLIFE." At the height of his vengeful words, Tatsumi's hand violently pierced the man's defenceless chest through the centre. Breaking his ribcage, utterly destroying his heart, lungs and everything else in its way.
The hand stayed at his place, Tatsumi smeared with the man's blood over himself. The man did not scream in fear or pain, only seethed through hissed grunts. Lacking the effort to pull his hand back through the made hole, Tatsumi broke the corpses' spine further by cleaving it at its side, to free his hand.
Letting the bloodied corpse fall flat on the burning ground, Tatsumi breathed out. Sighing heavily, closing his eyes as the flames roared around him. It was hot as hell, and the structure above him was bound to collapse at any moment but Tatsumi did not care.
Even as his teeth reverted to normal, and his pupils returned back to his eyes. He didn't care, something inside himself had died but he didn't know what.
"Heh... This is my life now, isn't it? It's funny, even." Tatsumi's left hand came over to his forehead to hold it, smearing it in blood by accident. Very quietly, with growing volume. He began laughing to himself, it'd be controlled calm laughter that grew into hysterical mania at its peak.
The crackles of the flames were rendered obsolete by Tatsumi's broken laughter even as the danger grew, he didn't have a care in the world. "I don't feel sad anymore, it's as if my eyes have been opened for the first time."
"My life has been nothing but wanton awful misery since I came to this damned place... My friends, my loved ones, died and suffered at the hands of weaker fools."
"Perhaps I was better off living with Esdeath, now that I think about it... Morality means nothing to the Empire's people or it's Elite, power is all they understand, I've sacrificed enough trying to stop the corruption only to be rewarded with more pain for my service." Tatsumi looked down at his bloodied hands, leaving the corpse behind him as he walked through the burning crumbling structure that finally gave out behind him.
His morality called back to him and pulled out of his sad thoughts.
Restoring his sense of self, and his innate goodness.
He soon left the inn entirely, letting it collapse on itself as it's residents coughed and spluttered outside of it's collapsing ruins from a safe distance, those that weren't burned alive in the fire anyway.
Not everyone had made it out, and Tatsumi didn't want to stay any longer out of a belief they may try and pin the tragedy on him.
His body rested, Tatsumi continued on his journey to the Capital in the darkness of night. Not even two hours passed before Tatsumi was met by another aspiring hopeful that wanted to end his life, for the same reason, too. He didn't even spare words this time, ending the fool's ambitions without a simple blink of his eyes.
The same again transpired on the next day, whenever Tatsumi passed by a populated settlement.
To avoid this, Tatsumi slowly began taking less travelled roads that still led to the Capital. He couldn't afford to be slowed down by the actions of others that tried to stop him.
Instead of guilt and sadness when met with people that yearned for his blood, Tatsumi only felt vengeance at being forced to contend with weaker individuals that could never hope to measure up to him and his power.
Sadly, the blood spilt by Tatsumi's hand, his anger that boiled violently even at the end of the hopeless battles, meant Tatsumi was blind to the drastic horrible changes of his body as he continued on his journey.
He moved like a man possessed, driven by his need to see Makoto again. Days passed, and Tatsumi had begun to realize that with his proximity to the Capital ever-increasing, his foes were forced to change up in their tactics to stop his forward march.
They came in groups now, no longer attacking him solo.
Tatsumi cleaved them apart regardless, a lucky deep hit was successfully made on his left arm during the ensuing madness that pained him greatly. When they were dead and defeated, Tatsumi neglected to notice his entire arm and hand had been malformed in response to his injury by his body's adaptive biology into a misshapen claw that increased in mass in comparison with his torso, complete with dense protective layering, creating an uneven symmetry.
His index finger and the one beside it had been fused together along with the fingers beside it.
All flesh on that left side, blackened like charred ash.
At this point, Tatsumi quickly lost all sense of reason that didn't involve heading to the Capital and destroying any that stood in his way. His mind so wholly focused on his task, the changes in his body went unnoticed to the point of psychosis and a complete denial of the real reality.
He moved as if the arm's change had been apart of him for his entire life, instantly adapting to his newfound grotesque strength. His shirt tore at the stems, due to the increase in bulk and it's leftmost focus.
Coming apart, to show off his pectoral muscles in a way most horrifying.
The Sword Form of the Demon Weapon Incursio also adapted, in it's Master's hand, it now resembled an enlarged version of itself that fit tightly in Tatsumi's left grip.
The height of tragedy was that Tatsumi, a boy who had yearned to do nothing but good in the world, was forced to undergo such horrifying physical mutations that were downright monstrous when somebody such as Esdeath, could exist without ever losing the beauty she was renown for.
When Tatsumi's heroism had cost him that and perverted his body's original shape.
Dragging Incursio behind him, Tatsumi no longer needed to eat or sleep, living on his stored reserves. Incursio instead fed on the blood of it's Master's victims to sustain itself and Tatsumi. Draining them dry, leaving nothing but husks behind.
Tatsumi had begun to suspect that emotions were devoured too, seeing as his bodily changes were designed to invoke terror and thus struck immense unparalleled fear into the hearts of those that passed him by, yet no harm came to them as long as they did not stand in his way.
Even if he couldn't see the changes in his body, he felt them in his soul.
Word spread of the scattered bodies he had left behind on his journey, unlike those that came for his blood before, they knew not of his true identity.
Only that husks were left behind, hollowed out and brittle to the bone. Being able to think logically, even in his forward strive, Tatsumi's mind correctly assumed the hordes of foes that had tried to bring him down for their own selfish petty revenge, had been led to him by another party.
They shared the same aura and the same reasons. The black water dripped from every one of them, black water that he now knew he had seen before, seeing it so many times had made him realized that.
Rogers, it had been Roger's doing.
They were being manipulated by his Teigu.
Tatsumi's mind entertained no alternative. His foes had seemed controlled somewhat, acting on instinct, and now he knew that it had been because of the vendetta of one man against him, using the vendettas of others.
It had been the Lieutenant's purpose in letting him free, he had wanted Tatsumi to die at Fallhaven and since he hadn't, a correction had to be made. A correction that Tatsumi refused to allow happen. He wasn't fated to die yet, nor would he let himself be sacrificed for another's revenge either before his time.
Tatsumi's plan now was to simply wait until another hopeful came his way, then squeeze every last ounce of information on Roger's from them. Rogers had to be close, watching him from somewhere, through the eyes of his followers or his own.
It didn't matter.
The sooner that Roger's had been laid to rest, the sooner he could return to his son's side. He had to cut off the source of his distractions for good.
More days passed by, and nobody had tried to stop him since. Nobody that heeded the orders of the thorn in his side, the fact they had chosen now of all times. When he eagerly awaited their attack, to hide away from him, it was enough to twist Tatsumi's stomach into knots in rage.
Through tremendous effort, Tatsumi dispelled his frustration and laid down at a nearby tree in the forest he'd be walking through. Even now. He found no peace in his rest, Tatsumi didn't need it, after all, he had only decided to stop because of the growing uneasiness that arose again.
The uneasiness was because of Esdeath, no matter how much Tatsumi missed seeing Makoto. The closer that he came to the Capital, meant the closer he came to Esdeath.
Leaning back, Tatsumi looked upward at the countless swaying tree branches above that blocked the blue beautiful cloudless sky. He was glad that he could still appreciate the beauty of the world, despite becoming so angry at the people of the Empire.
He just needed time, time healed all wounds, didn't it? He wasn't sure that applied to him anymore, he had admittedly been through a lot, even by his own admission and Esdeath's.
The reason why he was so receptive to Esdeath's love and affection, was that she helped heal the loneliness and pain in his heart.
But at the same time, made it so much worse by forcing him to decide between it and his loyalty to his friends. And at the end of it all, Tatsumi had been forced to see the world and the way she saw their relationship from Esdeath's eyes, thanks to Tyrant's bestial traits becoming his own.
Even if Tatsumi knew he loved Esdeath earnestly, unhindered by lust, they'd always be apart of him that merely saw Esdeath as a sexual partner for the sole purpose of breeding.
Fair was fair, however, it'd be undeniable that Esdeath didn't see him in the same way herself.
Having gotten awfully comfortable, Tatsumi groaned in annoyance when he finally heard the approaching footsteps of a considerable group of people. By the pace of their heartbeats, they were calm and composed.
Opening his eyes, Tatsumi saw what appeared to be flamboyantly dressed Temple Monks draped in Gis of different colours, like something straight out of a Shounen Manga in Lubbock's bookstore. If they were indeed, inspired by such works, then Tatsumi could bet that each one of them would come complete with a cliche gimmick.
It'd be obvious that these five brightly dressed men clearly weren't allied with Rogers, Tatsumi stood up from his comfortable place and met the discernable leader of the "Super-Sentai" Squad, eye to eye. Being an admitted Fallen Hero himself, Tatsumi immediately noticed the usual self-assured look of smug heroism from the Leader that unsurprisingly sickened him to his core.
To the Monk Leader's eyes, Tatsumi looked like nothing more than a wandering ravenous monster that fed on the souls of men that had tried to flee in terror.
Painfully unaware that every last of Tatsumi's acts were acts of self-defence and that his grotesque malformation was simply an adaptive explosive reaction to previous harm caused, completely out of Tatsumi's control, thanks to the boy's unleashed emotions and his relentless unstoppable desire to be reunited with his child.
It didn't help that Tatsumi's ripped tattered clothes were positively caked in dried blood, his long hair was horribly messy and completely unkempt. He hadn't cut it since his coma. His eyes, barely visible from the brown wavy locks that fell near them.
What they were correct about, was the evil originated from the sword that Tatsumi held at his left. Keeping it trapped in the ground, for now, holding it at hilt in wait as glances were exchanged.
"Hm, hm! Now I've finished sizing you up, Demon. Allow us to introduce ourselves, we are the...!" Tatsumi had expected this, seeing as they immediately began assembling into "Jojo" poses.
The Leader in red taking CenterPoint from a kneeling position, the two in yellow and blue at his left and right, arms spread out to draw focus on the Leader. With the two in pink and orange pointing accusingly directly at Tatsumi as if he were some nefarious evil-doer that twirled and curled his moustache at the conclusion of every misdeed in Evil's name.
Unfortunately, they were wrong, dead wrong. "A collective band of colourful parading Monks, was it?"
"Because that's what you look like to me. I honestly don't care what the fuck you are, you'll be dead and sent back to whatever Temple you came from in a wooden box, if you don't take a hint and just leave me alone." Tatsumi aggressively stated. His tone of voice, a sharp guttural growl. He didn't have any time to play around with misguided Do-Gooders when he was busy waiting for an associate of Roger's to beat information out of.
With such excessive colours, they'd clearly stick out like a sore thumb. He had to make them leave, now.
"I'm not averse to taking my sweet time with you, idiots. If you refuse to get out of my way." Soon, Tatsumi began to radiate the same aura that Incursio had been doing innately. Evil, twisted aura that was inherently malicious in nature.
The same one they had used as a Wayfinder to Tatsumi's location, thanks to his arm's unnatural mutation. They were warriors that took self-righteous pride in eliminating evil wherever it hid for their sacred Temple, so they saw Tatsumi for what he was.
Least, what he appeared to be.
A malformed abomination who had tampered with mystical forces beyond his control and paid for ultimate price for it.
Annoyed at being cut off. The Leader in red immediately took arms and flung his unsheathed Katana straight at Tatsumi. Expecting this, Tatsumi simply defended himself against the strike, by sticking his left arm out.
Using it's hardened shell, it's scales, to act as the perfect unbeatable defensive barrier. Now they had struck first, Tatsumi had the perfect reason to strike back without guilt.
"Got you!" In a blinding movement, Tatsumi bashed his arm away to throw the Red Monk off balance, knocking Yellow and Blue away at the same time as they reached for their swords.
In their combined confusion, Tatsumi grabbed ahold of the Leader by his waist, his entire waist, using his claw. It's unfair size, perfectly able to trap him tight without any chance for struggle. Tatsumi could easily crush him to death in his grasp, without overexerting himself. "Hnnng-Rgh! Let me go, Beast! Unhand me, at once! Put me down, damnit!"
"Not exactly polite, but..."
"If you insist, then catch!" Tatsumi effortlessly threw Red straight at the dazed Blue, who recovered just in time to see his Leader flying at him. They'd fall into a pile, which Pink and Orange leapt over in unison.
Yellow acted instantly, performing a quick fighting pose before assaulting Tatsumi with a similar fashioned sword, for all of their silly childish antics. They were honed skilled warriors, and most curiously wore weighted clothing to train and fight with.
Tatsumi struck back, expertly parrying the smaller sword away with a bloodthirsty grin.
Even with Tatsumi's mind pushed to the brink, his impressive analytical skills which had been greatly increased through the numerous trials he had been pushed through, survived and remained intact.
He knew if he had the chance, using similarly weighed clothing could prove useful in accelerating the amount of power gained through every training sessions that he spent solo.
"Come on, already...! if you're least gonna antagonist me, then you better back up that confidence up!" Tatsumi roared viciously to taunt them, on cue, Red lost his patience and leapt straight at Tatsumi from above to perform a quick downward strike.
Just as Tatsumi predicted, who then rewarded the Red Monk with gruesome horrific impalement. Having seen the attack from a mile away, telegraphing his foe's attack before it came. Tatsumi had the time to cleave his greatsword through their unprotected chest, splattering blood all over his comrades.
To finish, Tatsumi allowed him to slide down the blade, deep enough to stick him there. Unleashing Incursio's full destructive might, Tatsumi swung his blade with the body attached even now, straight at them. Knocking the rest aside, and decapitating Yellow by the neck. "How do you like my sword, hm? No mere weapon or man can withstand it...!"
Proving his point, Tatsumi unleashed an explosive horrific wave of crimson lighting across Incursio's sealed adapted form from the hilt to the end.
Completely incinerating their Leader's corpse into black ashes in front of their wide eyes, as they had only just come to terms with losing another of their comrades as his headless body finished falling to the floor. Tatsumi's eyes, however, weren't so crestfallen or filled with fright, they were as they had been before. Pupilless and bleeding red.
"Why so scared, isn't this what you wanted?" Horns slowly grew from Tatsumi's head, pointed in the same fashion as they were when wearing Incursio. His voice changed drastically, and with his growing malice being progressively unleashed. Tatsumi's sinister aura brought the last three that remained straight to their knees, they were unable to stand up under the weight of their foe's spite.
"To defeat a demon worthy of your notice, wasn't it? That's what you wanted, to prove yourselves. Well, the joke's on you." Tatsumi ignored their silent quiet pleads, Orange had begun preparing to end his life with his sword, to preserve his honour. "You picked the wrong wandering demon to piss off today, gentlemen."
No longer having any mercy or sympathy left in him, Tatsumi helped him along by swiping his hand in the wind. Letting the resulting kinetic power from that, blow the Katana straight from his hands, with such tremendous force it caved a wider hole than the one intended.
Tatsumi moved his unfeeling eyes back to the remaining two left.
"Not to mention... You all lost this sham of a battle when you refused to perceive me as human. Because that's what I am!" A mild unleash of his innate rising power in the form of an energy wave of crimson light was it all took to reduce the two left, to charred skeletons.
Their skin blew away, stripped from their bodies and burnt into dust. Tatsumi didn't just gain an increased skeletal frame when he was nearly crushed to death by the Death Tagool. He unknowingly absorbed some of the creature's ability to project energy.
Soon, if he wanted. He could fire a beam, a stream of pure power from his hands, mouth or eyes. Anywhere he wanted. At whomever he wanted.
At the end of it all, Tatsumi just looked on. Silent and unwaveringly calm. Depression weaved deeply into his visible grimace, his eyes losing their crimson radiance but the horns stayed. In fact, he didn't even acknowledge they were present, just like his arm. Seeing them on himself would break Tatsumi's delusion of humanity, so he ignored them and went on his way to his destiny once more.
Leaving the charred burnt skeletons behind him, without a care in the world.
He was so out of it, for having to kill people, who perceived him not as some lowly nobody who didn't deserve the love of the Empire's Ice Queen, but as the same monster, she was instead.
Tatsumi's depressive state had driven him to forget about his objective of waiting for one of Roger's brainwashed lackey's to come his way. So he walked, dragging the much larger Incursio as he did.
The same emptiness that thawed deeply inside Esdeath, grew inside him.
He missed his boy, his son terribly. It might've been for a short time, but Tatsumi had loved the little peace they had together. He tried to consistently refuse that, to think like that. But he couldn't deny it any more than he could deny that he loved Esdeath.
And that wasn't getting started on the amount of immense self-loathing he felt for ruining that same peace by betraying Esdeath at Fallhaven.
Then, a stray thought came. One he had hidden away in the very depths of his subconscious mind.
Do I actually owe anything to Akame, to Night Raid, to everyone else?
Why should he be forced to writhe in guilt, when they had given him the cold shoulder?
It just wasn't FAIR.
Tatsumi quickly shook himself over. He refused to think like that, he hadn't fallen enough for that yet. But, whether it was Stockholm syndrome being played straight, or Esdeath's psychological training taking effect.
Tatsumi's heart had begun to beat for Esdeath alone, and unlike Tatsumi's brain, it did not care for the undeniable abuse she had put him through. The fact that, for all intents and purposes. Tatsumi should not be feeling what he was, for somebody so twisted and awful.
It just held tightly unto the love, the obsessive love she had suffocated him with. The love was what mattered, not the manipulative mind games.
The heavy weighing doubt in Tatsumi's heart, the part of him that feared the monster inside that existed. The part that accepted it existed, refusing to simply wish it out of his mind with psychic barriers and mental blocks.
...Tatsumi's long journey was almost over.
The day of Night Raid's departure, the day after Tatsumi had left for the Capital.
Night Raid had already made it to the port village they were to depart from, on the boat Wave had acquired and modified. The Cabin they had previously lived in, had been ransacked of their goods and brought to the boat for the trip ahead.
It took a while, but they were ready to go, everyone aside from Inori who had lingered in the village. She had promised to return by now.
Having been sent off on an errand by Leone to fetch some last-minute snacks.
Inori was already well trained to deal with any common thug she met on the way, so Leone wasn't too worried about her safety. She had Pumpkin strapped to her side, as well. For good measure. Minutes passed, everyone had boarded the boat. They grew anxious when Inori still hadn't returned yet.
Then, she did.
And she was followed.
More accurately, chased and pursued.
By Imperials, hundreds upon hundreds of Imperials. Imperials armed to the teeth, each rifleman held state-of-the-art Spirit Energy powered weaponry in their hands. Flanked by Imperials of various differing sizes, wielding broadswords.
The Imperials shoved anyone who passed them from the town unto the dirty ground below. Their sight locked with Night Raid's location at the port as Inori ran towards her friends. She ran straight forward, until looking back, she noticed the Imperials had separated away to allow the pulling of a single loaded cannon to take centre stage in their offensive assault.
It was only then, that she began to make evasive manoeuvres to avoid being blown apart into bloody pieces by rifle or singular cannon fire.
Wave had been shouting for Inori to run since then, having to stand on the boat to look after Kurome, who in turn was looking after Akame. Even Leone wasn't confident in taking on that many Imperials, she completely froze up solid, resembling a victim of catatonic distress.
Being reminded distinctively of their retreat in the canyon, the day they had lost Tatsumi.
Wave's shouts of distress stopped soon as he saw the prepared cannon. He immediately moved to activate Grand Chariot, only to stop when he realized the kinetic force that would come from the activation would likely tear the Boat's reinforced hull apart and they were already adrift in deep water. He hadn't activated Grand Chariot for some time, so unleashing its full power was needed, desperately needed.
With no other choice, Wave moved to leap ahead to the port and save Inori himself.
His leap was stopped by the violent sudden rocking of the boat as the rope holding the boat to the port was cut, by Murasame. Wave's eyes moved to Akame, just as the Imperials began to fire their weapons.
Sure, Akame's behaviour had taken a turn for the worst, but he'd have never imagined this. Kurome herself agreed with her sister's action, and responded by steering the boat away from the dock and towards sea-access, helped along by the wind current.
The boat was entirely independent of a sail, so being stranded due to huge tears in the sail wasn't a reality they'd be facing.
Wave's mouth was currently agape in distress, while Leone stood motionless, clearly holding back tears.
Motionless and silent, everyone was.
Soon as they realized the choice they had made.
Aside from the distinct sounds of gunfire from their rifles, their cannon being loaded and fired. Loud oppressive orders being yelled by the Imperial Commanders tasked with ensuring Night Raid's inevitable destruction and the screams of the town's fleeing residents.
Nobody else said a word. They couldn't even see Inori in the distance anymore as they sailed away.
Kurome, however, was completely uninterested with the lives of everyone that wasn't Wave or her sister.
By now, Inori had managed to flee into the nearby maze of houses to the left of the ensuing chaos, she knew when the fold them and she wasn't that much of a strong swimmer anyway. Avoiding Imperial pursuit by sheer luck. It seemed as if they were solely determined to take down Night Raid at its source.
It's namely source being Akame, with Najenda dead. she was the face of Night Raid. And true enough, she carried the hopes of a dead Revolution.
Exploding cannonballs powerfully crashed into the sea, one by one, narrowly missing their escaping target to sink straight to the bottom of the seafloor. Nonetheless, the Empire was determined to sink them with their fired arterially. The fishing boat wasn't by any means fast, but it was doing its job in getting away successfully.
Thanks to Wave's modifications, it's hull held tight even midst the gunfire that came at it.
Wave hadn't exactly predicted this, but he had reinforced the hull for a reason. Be it oceanic Danger-Beasts or angry Imperials, he had to be ready for whatever came.
A singular deep hull breach would easily sink their vessel to a watery grave within' a matter of mere minutes, and he knew that not everyone was prepared to swim to shore if they managed to avoid the oncoming rifle assault.
Thankfully, unlike Mine's Pumpkin, the torrents of spirit-energy being sent at them in droves didn't seem to pack as much of a punch as it's Teigu counter-part did.
As the sounds of concussive gunfire began to fade away in the far distance, Leone and Wave collapsed to their knees in unison to at the sides of the boat's deck. Shaken with guilt over leaving their comrade, a girl barely out of her teens behind.
Akame and Kurome merely stared at the other in silent agreement with each other over the choices they had made during their escape.
The two silently agreed with each other that Inori's escape was a saving grace of sorts, she wasn't a face known to the Empire, least according to them. They weren't aware of the girl's encounter with the main player behind the scenes, Great General Esdeath.
So, to them.
This was a chance for Inori to start a new life, but she had taken Tatsumi's lock of hair for a reason.
And now it was time to use it for that reason.
The Imperial Palace, the present.
It had been quite some time since the Elder, Tatsumi's father had been ousted by force from his village to serve another purpose. A replacement had already been selected and positioned, within' the week of his departure, Matsura Village's standing guard had tripled.
It's medicine and food supplies doubled, with more on the way. Architects hired to begin arranging the future foundations of the Village's new buildings, once the Landscapers were done ensuring everything could be placed with enough room for public works, statues and the like.
Statues of Tatsumi, their saviour.
Esdeath had already made certain that this investment was worth it by performing a quick DNA test upon their initial return. The test showed that indeed, Mr Matsura was Tatsumi's biological parental father.
The revelation was a mixed blessing for the man in question since now he'd never allowed to leave the Capital, no less the Imperial Palace. He had already seen the awful depth of his benefactor's obsession with his son.
But he also knew, that behind the madness.
She was simply a woman in love.
"I know we already went over the terms of your... Extended stay here when you arrived, but let's go over them again."
"I want to make sure that you're aware of what'll slide with me, and what won't. So without further ado..."
"Now that you're finally settled here, Father-in-Law." Esdeath's smile was wide and happy, they sat across from each other inside the Elder's room. He had been given his own quarters on the same floor as her own, fitted with windows that only a single arm could stretch through instead of no windows at all.
His room was thoroughly decorated with items from his departed home, only the furniture was unique to the room itself. " I have to say, I'm so happy that you've been a cooperative guest, but you're a guest no more."
"Then what am I, Esdeath?" He replied.
"You're apart of my family, and as you can see, I look after my own." She finished, sipping some of her wine from the small decorative coffee table they shared.
Drinking his own beverage, some mildly warm tea. Esdeath's "Father-in-Law" responded on cue. "...You do, I have to say. You've surprised me... You've surprised me a lot."
"I expected you to be a debased woman... Surrounded by lavish garments and items stolen from our neighbouring continents." Esdeath's eyebrow perked with joy, she crossed a leg over the other and leaned forward to show further interest. "Go on."
"But instead, to my surprise, ever since I've arrived here... You've asked for little, and offered me much." He'd have a very discernable sense of confusion in his voice as if he couldn't understand why she wasn't what he had thought, or why he was saying what he was. "I only want your happiness, Father-in-Law. Your happiness is my own, our interests align nicely."
"You want Tatsumi to be happy, so I do." Whenever Tatsumi's name was dropped, Esdeath's tone became very gentle and sweet.
"And there is no one that he'd be happier with, but me. There is no question of that." Esdeath grinned, leaning back with her arms folded now. "Financial security for your homeland, protection for your people. Freedom from the hefty taxes that have cruelly burdened you for so long without any hope for release from their grasp, until now."
"That said, I only intend to begin any lavish spending when it comes to the question of my children's joy, I've never had any real interest in getting things for myself."
"Tatsumi's marriage to me, will not be one marred with severe unhappiness and crippling emotional pain."
"Hnhn." The Elder murmured in agreement as he drank some more, trying to avoid facing facts at the same time.
"Nor will it be childless, ridden with burdensome illness or well, shall we say? ...Boring." Rubbing her nails across her uniform's leftmost breast-pocket, Esdeath swirled the leftover wine in her glass. Grinning with giddiness and joy at what she was about to say. "By the time we have our sixth child. Your village will probably be a bustling cityscape filled with growing new families like our own, Elder."
"Surrounded by the joys of winter nature, smiling faces as they enjoy the riches I provide and the odd poorly assembled snowman."
"Indeed, both of our futures are bright. Our cooperation yields many benefits, as I've seen, Esdeath." He agreed with a nod, Esdeath had promised him oversight and direction over the developments of Matsura Village, but secretly, Tatsumi would be the only one allowed to actually influence things if he wanted. Until then, the Elder had control over how things progressed.
Esdeath decided to change topics, heading back to what she was asked before when they first met. Deeply interested if he had changed in mind and opinion now that he had seen what she could provide. "But do tell me, have you reconsidered my generous offer? To expand the Matsura Bloodline, Father-in-Law?"
"It's just that, well," She spoke between sips, swaying slightly in her place on the sofa as she did.
"I don't want there to be any bad blood between us. When I merge our bloodlines together into one, you understand." She cheerily stated, placing the now-empty wine glass down to the coffee table. Yawning briefly, resting her head against one of her fists.
"I will think about it some more if you don't mind."
She sighed deep but brushed it off.
"Fair enough, fair enough. I will relent for now, but I'll be back to prod you again in time." Creating a smallish pole of ice, Esdeath childishly began jabbing it's blunt end into the Elder's arm to state her point clearly before phasing it away. "Your appearance is very deceiving, I have to say... I cannot tell if that were a failed genuine attempt on my life or a joke of ill-taste."
"Oh, please. Father-in-Law, if I aimed to kill you... I'd have impaled you straight through your left eye at speed unperceivable to it, then let it move straight through your brain." She scoffed, amused by his little joke.
"Your life is precious to me, I have said this as much, already. Aside, my handsome little stud. Your son in question, if you must." Until Makoto returned, the elder's true role would only be as leverage against disobedience to her beloved mate.
Keeping with pleasantries had been why she had lost him in the first place, so unlike before without excessive provocation, Esdeath was eerily fine with calmy making very real threats against the wellbeing of the loved ones she held captive at the drop of a hat if Tatsumi refused to do as he was told.
But leverage or not, she valued the blood connection that gave him importance.
A lot of importance.
"You are the only person alive that I can trust to properly take care of my young whilst I am away from the Capital on matters that involve my service to the Empire, but you knew that already."
"Even so, I can only trust the people under my rule, as much as I can pay them to do as I say." Esdeath wasn't stupid, or ignorant of the way everything worked. Money talked. And it talked loudly. If she knew that Tatsumi could be brought with money, then she happily already would've done that. They'd be no price she would not pay for him.
Everyone else however within' her sphere of influence hadn't proved so incorruptible as him, when money was involved. Everyone had a price in the end.
Everyone could be brought.
But that was why she couldn't trust them fully, because Esdeath didn't value money.
Tatsumi was her soulmate because he didn't value it either in the literal sense. He could never be brought by a third-party, never be swayed to turn against her when it came to an offer of percentage, he was different. Soon as she secured his loyalty to their family, they'd be no going back for him.
Tatsumi's true value came when it involved the lives of the people he loved, and soon, Esdeath would begin the happy process of creating people he could do nothing but love.
His weakness, his Achilles heel, wasn't one commonly found in the Empire. Its corruption was rooted deeply in the populace like a malignant cancerous tumour that could not be cut away, no matter the tool used.
She knew that wholly, like Tatsumi, she was from the North.
And like so, as expected. Tatsumi's Father didn't value money either.
The Father and Son weren't entirely alike, however. Esdeath had noticed that as long as she made good on her promises, and provided evidence for him to believe in. He obeyed what she asked, Tatsumi had proven difficult to control, even when she provided evidence that she would protect his village if he did what was asked.
Yet so, even if the Elder was less resistant to Esdeath's incredibly strong pull or sway, he'd have a firm moral core built with a solid foundation.
Sadly, like his son, his lingering resistance would crumble eventually, just as soon as Esdeath's desired wish was granted. After all, he had a hidden desire, too. He ultimately never intended to reveal the truth to Tatsumi, but he had always wanted to become a grandfather. To many grandchildren.
It seemed as if the world was now working for Esdeath's interests now, having previously denied her of victory at Fallhaven.
She resumed her speech, clarifying her point in full.
"You are blood, blood is drastically thicker than water. There is no such thing as "Family of choice", my humble Father. Water pales in comparison to blood, and I have spilt plenty. Entire rivers of it, in my time."
"...Tatsumi is mine. Mine, mine." She let slip out, narrowly keeping a hiss of rage restrained.
She breathed out, mentally counting to ten and then back. Esdeath hadn't completely recovered from Fallhaven, what she discovered at Tatsumi's village was the only reason why she was able to act like her usual self. The Ice Queen's mask of sanity was still missing a few bolts, and it would not be completely sealed on until she had restored the status quo.
Resuming yet again, now that she had a firm grip of her psyche.
"...And so, when you see their sleepy faces wrapped up in cloth as I emerge victoriously from my long nine-month battle, you will be met with a biological uncontrollable need to look after them. To bring them happiness beyond measure, as soon as you see them. I know this because, like Tatsumi, you have a strong moral core that defines you."
You could almost hear the sound of a trap being sprung in the background, metaphorically at least.
"It is your weakness. Your shared weakness."
"And I'm capitalizing on that, capitalizing on it, exploiting it wholly. It will be both of your shared downfalls. I have been denied so many times, because of Tatsumi's refusal to embrace his inner selves wants, but no more." Esdeath suddenly stood up from her place on the comfortable decorated sofa she had been on, spurred into anger yet again as soon as she thought unto the times she had been so close but so far. So close to creating her own little happy peace with Tatsumi.
Only to be stopped by either his rejection or his thoughts of Night Raid.
"And so, just as we've gone over before, your task will be to act the role of the loving wise Grandfather for my family, our family. Attend birthday parties, encourage and praise their education-related efforts. Listen to their troubles as they sit on your lap to rest, amaze them with outlandish tales of how things were back when you were young and impressionable."
"You get the idea." She shrugged, eerily casually as she dismissed some of her previous indignations.
"You will be provided with everything you will ever need for your role, and extra provided I have your full cooperation. You have no choice in this, this can either be joyous reality or a simple facade for you. But if you break it, break my babies' sweet little hearts by revealing the coercion then I'll break you." She meant this, completely and entirely.
Esdeath was fine with knowing the reality and the awful truth behind the circumstances behind this transaction, she was the one arranging it, of course. But they couldn't, they could never be allowed to know.
Esdeath would happily cut her own hand off and feed it to a pack of feral starving dogs before she let it happen.
Not even Makoto, the oldest of her brood, could be allowed to know that she had forcefully orchestrated a grandfather into their lives, so they could feel closer to their father in turn. Ironically enough, Esdeath did not care about doing the same for her own Father herself.
She bore him no love, or special love anyway. No real reason to introduce him into their lives through stories and tales, the sheer irony was too insane to ignore.
She, who thought nothing of her own parents, desperately craved and yearned to be loved as a Mother by her infants to the point of madness. Of obsession.
Even if she couldn't kill Tatsumi, the same couldn't be said for his father. She already bore mild hatred towards him, for trying to erase evidence of his parentage to Tatsumi. The love of her life, the only love of her life.
To Esdeath, this was his chance to earn his way back into both of their good books, herself and Tatsumi.
If he squandered it, they would be no forgiveness.
His death would be inevitable.
No courage was left for him to say anything that could be taken as resistant to her words, he didn't have any power to stand against Esdeath's ways. Any power that he had was just because of Tatsumi, his relation to his son and what he meant to the relationship that he shared with Esdeath.
It wasn't a bad deal, to be honest. The Imperial Capital's financial state of affairs in regards to its people wasn't as horribly awful as pro-Revolutionary propaganda stated that it was, but awful nonetheless.
The Empire enjoyed vast riches, but not everyone bathed in the fruits that victory in warfare brought.
Esdeath wasn't squandering what she had, like the nobles she hardly associated herself with. Just people's lives. People who had already done something to end up under her abuse, whether it be for crime or some other twisted reason.
And so, the Elder made his choice.
For him, it was easy when met with facts. In his years alive, he had seen plenty of death. Lost plenty of friends, too. He had made choices that had only caused more death, and he knew that making a bad choice at this moment would not only lead to his own but Tatsumi's too.
He was an honest boy, not like his old man. More like his mother but that was his weakness.
It wasn't the Elders.
"You have a deal, my future... Daughter-in-law."
His hand came forward, ready to exchange a simple handshake to seal the deal properly. "As long as your love for Tatsumi stays true, Esdeath. The very instant you betray him, our deal is void and rescinded. I trust you'll honour your marital vows to the letter and to the day you die."
"Only pitifully weak lesser women feel the disgusting pull and allure of extramarital affairs with men they hardly know or love, I know this and so do you." The way she viewed relationships, refused to consider women who dishonoured themselves and their vows of love as actual people with rights.
But to the Ice Queen, marriage was only valid when it was with the person that you loved the most in the world, your true love.
"Don't be so afraid, instead, be happy. I know I am. And well, I wouldn't be half the woman I am today without Tatsumi and his intoxicating brand of love either. He just completes me, in ways so magical I can hardly begin to describe them."
"Trust me when I say this." Esdeath pressed with a resolute stern gaze.
"Of any of that, there is very little doubt in my mind. In time, you'll be happy that you chose this." A giddy pleased smile came through. The hard visage immediately faded away when they finally shook hands, Esdeath couldn't be happier that Tatsumi's father had opted for the path of no, or least resistance.
Rather than suffer the presence of another do-gooder in her midst that she couldn't simply kill off with an exhausted hail of countless ice spears, without completely de-railing her plans anyway.
Everything was going smoothly, all that was to be done now were a few tying of loose ends.
Namely, to give the Revolutionary Army's leaders that had been dwelling down in the dungeons, locked away from the world. The fitting send-off they thoroughly deserved, Esdeath had previously stalled this obligation of hers, because of the pain she felt in her heart.
The agonizing ache had kept her at half-strength, now she had consolidated her claim to Tatsumi by setting the building blocks that would soon become the Partas Bloodline.
She felt better than ever. Better than she had been in a while, but it wasn't enough.
Although muted, the feeling of emptiness lingered in the depths of Esdeath's heart. It would remain, for as long as Tatsumi and Makoto stayed away from their place at her side. She vowed to never suffer the injustice of their absence again, and now that she held the chain to Tatsumi's biological father.
She never would.
The mechanical loud clicking chimes of the abandoned Clocktower's rusty gears could be heard from the outside of it, they were still surprisingly operational.
Located near a distant town, he assumed some of the townsfolk had worked on it to prevent it from becoming too much of an eyesore.
Tatsumi had been led here, by the information he had obtained from several of Roger's puppet followers. They gave it up easily as if they wanted him to know where they wanted him to be. Everyone but the last, as the trail came warmer and warmer.
Tatsumi's impatience grew as it did, so when the last refused to cough it up. He jumped from a slippery slope that Tatsumi vowed that he wouldn't, using torture to get what he wanted.
The stakes were too high, however.
He had already seen where mercy got him.
That was Tatsumi's justification for his current cruel ways, they were already being controlled. They likely didn't feel any pain at all, just like puppets on strings. As written before, Tatsumi had spent days trying to make his way to the Capital. It should've been an easy journey, if not for Roger's vengeance-seeking men disturbing him on every road and every crossing.
In fact, Inori who had set out later than him on a separate route to the Capital. Unknowingly had managed to completely overtake him, thanks to the fact she had not been targeted herself.
So, it had come to this.
Tatsumi knew that they'd be no way for him to reach the Capital without being pursued into its busy streets. For obvious reasons, he wanted to avoid that scenario. Especially seeing as it'd likely draw the eye of Esdeath, Tatsumi didn't intend to instantly throw himself at the Palace's gates as soon as he arrived, he had to be smart and use freedom of movement as wisely as he could.
He had to kill Roger's influence at the source, at the puppeteer himself. He didn't have a lot of information on the kind of Teigu that he had, but he knew enough to beat it.
If Tatsumi had confidence in any one of his abilities, it was being able to confidently beat the shit out of people and, or things.
Mainly, people, if he had to pick one.
"Alright, enough backwards fuckery. Let's get this over with." Tatsumi kicked the eroded wooden doors wide open and leapt straight unto the rotating platform that would serve as their duel ground. Rogers was already waiting for him, having anticipated this. Planned this. Standing meters away, his arms folded with a certain air of satisfaction about him.
Frankly, it pissed Tatsumi off more than words could express.
"What're you looking so pleased about, huh?! Is it because you've finally managed to drag me out here, is it?!"
"Explain yourself already! I'm killing you either way, at least elaborate on why you've gone through so much trouble! I want to put it on your tombstone when I'm done with you!" Tatsumi yelled out with a distinct growl in his words, hunched over like a beast, due to the weight of his malformed Dragonic arm. Unlike Tatsumi's current stance, it seemed as if Roger's wasn't prepared to fight at all. Which annoyed Tatsumi even more, seeing as if it weren't for his tiresome distractions, he'd be at the Capital by now.
And he just wanted to talk?!
"...Jeez, what's got you all hung up? Oh, the assassination attempts, right. They must've got you good because that arm of yours is lookin' pretty beaten up." Rogers remarked, laughing at his own joke. A true psychopath, no question.
He continued his explanation, with a very pissed off Tatsumi as his lone captive audience. "Yeah, I admit. They weren't as greatly planned as the first two. You know your campsite on Mt. Fake, that was me. I planned to just have you gruesomely killed by the nocturnal Danger-Beasts in front of your boy when they tore you apart."
"But well, you can see how amazingly planned that was either, who knew that kid of yours was the real deal. You really had me fooled with that adoption cover story you two made up, but there's no question that kid is yours. He looks like a spitting image of you, Tatsumi."
"Thing is." He changed tones, madly rambling.
"That same cute kid tore the shit out of Fallhaven, with a gigantic Kaju-sized Ice Demon Beast from the fiery depths of hell itself... I never figured that hell could freeze over until I saw what I saw, and I had the best seat in the house. All in all, quite a kid you've got there, chum."
"You must be so proud." Roger's current tone of voice, however, implied legitimate amusement and compliments.
None of that mattered to Tatsumi, especially now that he knew for certain that Roger's had been trying to actively kill him for a while now. In truth, he wouldn't be almost as angry as he was if he had just targeted himself instead, but he got Makoto involved and as implied by his words, he was next on his list.
With his son involved, they'd be no turning back. They'd be one person walking away from this fight, or none at all.
Rogers had ruined their first official outing together as Father and Son.
In fact, a very vocal part of Tatsumi wished he hadn't freed him from his confines in the first place, least then he could have avoided owing him for that favour.
Oh well, Tatsumi figured relieving Roger's head from his shoulders was a satisfactory favour in return too.
"I knew it. Hell, I was stupid for doubting myself about you. So that's why you wanted me loose, so I could fuck up things for you. Isn't it, you piece of shit?" Tatsumi took several steps closer now. He wasn't hunched in wait over anymore either. His posture upright and firm, keeping eye-level with the man across from his way.
Glaring intensely, a glare that did not cease.
Every facet of Tatsumi was in agreement with their next course of action, including his emergent bestial side that he had tried so desperately to restrain. "Oh come on, now. Can't we be civil, name-calling won't get us anywhere. Sure, I've tried to murder you in cold blood, numerous times before but I've never done it directly."
"Hell, I even tried to have your lady kill you, I've tried to be nice as pie to you, Tatsumi."
"In another life, we could've been friends, y'know. Besties, BFFs. If you hadn't left Night Raid when you did, we'd have been pals!"
"Yeah, I agree with that... Sorta, you kinda freak me out. It's a shame you had to ruin it by bringing my son into this, you don't even have the right to mention him, no less namedrop him. Which is something you'll never have the chance to do." Even if they were conversing now properly, the tension still remained.
Tatsumi's senses informed him that Roger's wasn't simply here for a face-to-face talk with him about their lives and what could have been. Seeing as Tatsumi also knew that Roger's was joking about that, trying to hide his scorn for him behind a joking facade.
"Just so we're clear. You're not leaving this place alive, Rogers. You're leaving in a box."
His foe gasped aloud, acting legitimately hurt and stunned.
"Now that's just plain cold, Tatsumi. I really originally planned to kill you with good ole' fashioned explosives, sadistically burying you alive under ten thousand tons of broken brick and cracked mortar so I can land the final killing stroke, you might've actually picked up on the sulphur scent of the gunpowder if you hadn't been so riled up about wanting to kill me, y'know!" True to his word, Tatsumi's nose only now picked up on the faint scent of sulphur inside barrels below the platform.
He had acted way too fast, so determined to kill his annoyances at their source that he hadn't even seen the barrels of explosives lying in wait, but there was no point lamenting over it now. If there were any luck, Rogers would find himself buried alive too, if he activated the explosives.
"I've got them connected to every central support structure in this old place, and that isn't many seeing as this place is already ruined to shit." He chuckled, tapping his trouser pocket gently with a wide smile, implying much with the gesture.
"Oh, and that's for starters. I took a few things from Stylish's armoury while I was grabbing Akame's prosthetic arm, so I can blow this place with one touch of a button. No matchstick needed. He's got a shit-ton of space in there now that he's sold that tin-man of his, probably for additional funds for research or whatever. Guess without wars to fight, he's practically useless now."
"Damn shame, too. That guy must've killed like... One thousand and two of our guys back at Fallhaven, that's a bullet for every average joe we had, a real killing machine if I ever saw one." Learning about what Stylish did Seryu's BFF didn't particularly interest Tatsumi, but he'd be able to sleep easier now knowing he wouldn't have to keep an eye out for a monster made from flesh and steel whenever he lingered anywhere close to Stylish's turf in the palace, Fortuna usually took up a whole hallway so he was hard to miss but you get the idea.
"Aside from you, pumpkin. You're a superhuman monster."
"Ok, that's it. You're dead meat, I'm done playing nice with you, Rogers." Tatsumi now began to march over towards Rogers, who stopped him in his tracks with his next words.
For good measure, he'd leap over towards Tatsumi's side, meters away and tried to change the tone of their conversation entirely. "...I do pity you, Tatsumi. I really do, that's not a joke or a wisecrack, I do. Unlike what everyone else in the Ice Queen's Military believes, she's not a meal ticket, she's a black swan."
"Somebody who shouldn't exist, but does. A mind-bending paradox. And now, presumably, by the way, she behaves around you. She wants you to knock her up with more of herself."
"Why are you telling me things I already know, Rogers? It's all she can think about, I've been lead to believe that. You're just wasting time," Tatsumi growled, snarled even, fixing a hateful glare at Rogers whilst pacing like an impatient beast in wait. "Tsk tsk, there's more I have to say, Tatsumi."
"Yeah, but what good does just talking about it do?! Talk, talk, talk, for what, huh?! I thought you called me here to settle things, not help me with couples therapy." Tatsumi scoffed, clenching each of his fists tightly to suppress his rage.
He wasn't willing to make the first move, purely because he didn't know what Roger's would do, not because he was afraid of the consequences. Esdeath was exceedingly scarier than anything Rogers could muster.
"Aren't you a party pooper, huh? But since we're on the topic of good ol' Esdeath... Well,"
"If we're being honest with ourselves, she really doesn't have any actual hobbies aside you and blood-curdling life-ending torture, Tatsumi. That's all you are to her, a hobby. But for us, you say? We're less than hobbies, less than people. I understand that now. The rest don't, they're delusional, convinced if they remove you... Then it's open season on Esdeath, but it doesn't work that way. It'll never work that way, Tatsumi."
"The role she's given you is there for life."
"You are quite literally, the primal driving force of that deranged woman. As beautiful as she is, at her core, she's a lonely broken animal with too much power in her hands, stunted emotions and complete with an entitlement complex to boot. And it just so happens, that same twisted animal wants to breed with you, but since you're not letting her... Predatory possessive animals tend to get violent, very violent." Esdeath's mannerisms were distinctively animalistic when came to him.
Tatsumi blamed it on the Ice Demon's Extract since his own instincts were given animalistic roots by Incursio, but that wasn't the bulk of the issue when Esdeath was involved. He was correct that it was apart of the problem, but what Tatsumi didn't realize was that Esdeath was simply raised that way.
It was second nature, ingrained without any involvement of the Extract.
Tatsumi couldn't even begin to count how many times, Esdeath had complimented him on his body's natural odour when she sniffled him deeply.
"Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the first thing she did as soon as she saw you at her doorstep, was rape you until you bled from your thighs. You're so damn lucky you aren't a woman, Tatsumi."
At the conclusion of his twisted laughter, Roger's grew serious once more and wiped the smirk literally from his face with his sleeve. "As horrible as that sounds, and I am genuinely sorry for saying that aloud. It's the truth. Fallhaven showed that to me, in full, Tatsumi. She destroyed it because she blamed it for taking you away from her. But you weren't dead, she knew that." Tatsumi froze up at the revelation that Esdeath had completely destroyed the city, it was in an awful state before he had left it but he wasn't expecting that she'd simply destroy it outright.
Guilt grew then died, soon as Tatsumi's eyes lifted themselves back up from the floor to where Roger's was standing.
He had a mission, guilt could come later if he could still feel it by then.
"So what if you died, what would that cause? Interesting question, isn't it? Well, I already know the answer. The world is seventy-one per cent made of water, Tatsumi. If you were paying attention in school, you'd know that. And what does water do, when it gets cold? It freezes. If you die, if the world takes you away from her? They'll be nowhere left for us to hide."
"Everything ends. If you piss her off enough, she could likely freeze the planet's core stiff and turn this mudball into a real party on a whim." He finished, waiting for Tatsumi's reaction as it came. He hoped that Tatsumi wouldn't delude himself and instead, see the truth of his words.
"That's impossible, she'd wouldn't...!" Tatsumi interrupted, he already knew what would happen to the world if he perished. It wouldn't simply be destroyed as Rogers said it would, but then something passed through him.
A premonition of dread, then he started to believe Roger's words. It was true that in the future, Stylish was responsible for society's collapse. But that future, that Esdeath, had been different.
Calmer, less tense.
As a result, less powerful.
The Esdeath of the future had never developed the Ice King Trump Card or anything of the same extreme, she never had a reason too. She had not been greeted by a perfect son, made with the man of her dreams.
No maternal instincts awoke in her youth, they awoke when she felt her unborn son's heartbeat inside herself, a mere six weeks into her pregnancy when Imperial enforced peace reigned. This Esdeath, however, was different, very different.
Namely, way more mentally unstable.
She hadn't taken the news that despite achieving everything she wanted, it was her sworn fate to have it cruelly stripped away from her, very well at all. Esdeath's response was simple, quicken everything up tenfold. Marriage, babies, everything.
But as seen with Tatsumi, he wasn't as lucky as his future counterpart in either two departments. Psychology or lifestyle.
Future Tatsumi managed to avoid severe mental trauma, thanks to his wife's less intense way of intimate coercion. The power that Tatsumi was currently wielding at this moment in time, hadn't come until Makoto was soon to debut.
That unnatural power came with its costs, namely, loss of humanity.
All of that combined, made Tatsumi realize that he couldn't bet the actions of one Esdeath on the actions of another very different one, with full confidence at least.
This revelation forced Tatsumi to reconsider his current plan entirely, was it worth risking every life on the planet, just to refuse Esdeath's one desire and avoid becoming victim to her twisted sense of love, yet again?
Tatsumi couldn't tell, he wasn't even sure he was allowed to decide that. Trying to find an answer that would preserve his dignity and prevent everything from going back to as it was before, Tatsumi momentarily took his eyes from Rogers.
A bad mistake.
"Oh, and when I said I pity you. I don't pity you enough to spare and help you, but I pity you enough to kill you, Tatsumi." Even if his current action of painfully driving a dagger through Tatsumi's heart seemed counter-productive to his aims, as told by his words.
His daggers had been specifically designed to kill somebody like Tatsumi, able to pierce his skin with ease.
Rogers had come very preparedly for this.
He hadn't lost sight of his explained aims, Rogers simply had another path in mind. It namely involved just killing Esdeath before she caught wind of Tatsumi's death to prevent world-wide apocalyptic destruction. As expected, Tatsumi lost his balance in a daze and fell to the floor into a puddle of his own blood. Fatally bleeding out.
Rogers was an Assassin by trade, like Tatsumi.
"One down, two to go." He sighed.
He hadn't expected Tatsumi's reaction to be so stunned by that specific revelation as he had been, so deeply worked up with himself, just long enough for his waiting foe to make a successful killing strike. His gamble ultimately worked in his favour. Rogers did, however, feel a nudge of sympathy when he realized that, perhaps Tatsumi despite appearances, wasn't so much of a monster after all.
Even if Tatsumi surely looked like one, Rogers didn't know any horned humanoids in his life that weren't beast-folk, who ended up becoming respectable members of society, so he wasn't willing to give Tatsumi the benefit of the doubt, or put his faith in him. He breathed out as the threads of his mission began to wrap themselves up neatly, Rogers was finally ready to finish the first stages of his plan by finishing Tatsumi off.
Mere seconds had passed.
More than enough time, indeed.
His closing act had unexpectedly failed before it had begun, even as Tatsumi laid motionless, paralysed into submission by the crippling precise attack and dying in agony with a few pained weak gasps to show for it.
It would have worked perfectly fine and dandy if Tatsumi was dead, the wound was fatal but it had not immediately killed him.
Tatsumi's heart was still beating and still pumping blood throughout his body, whilst pierced even now.
Even worse than that, he was smiling.
Disturbed by this, a shudder of horror passed through Rogers like a wailing ghost.
"You'll be dead soon, is that why you're grinning like that, Tatsumi?" Rogers asked quietly, completely oblivious to the rapid biological changes that were currently underway inside Tatsumi's body. Rogers nonetheless continued, taking a second specialized dagger from his coat pocket to end things when the time came.
Considering Tatsumi wasn't the scum that Night Raid usually dealt with, seeing as he had previously served in it himself. Rogers felt morally obligated to listen and stay by Tatsumi's side as he said his last few words if they were any to be exchanged.
But Tatsumi did not speak, his sad smile just grew and grew.
"Stop grinning, Tatsumi. Stop grinning. If it's something funny, then why don't you share it. Go on, speak up!" Rogers stepped closer then stopped, as he noticed another slight change in the wind's breeze, it was no ghost. A bad omen was rising quickly and he could feel it, something clearly wasn't right.
Taking that cue, by no means blind to the situation that was unfolding before his eyes. Rogers immediately morphed his disguised Teigu from the basic form of his clothing into the fully formed protective covering that completely surrounded him like a black skintight suit, taking no colour other than blackness. The only human feature seen from glance was the rough outline of Roger's mouth and it's cheek curves beneath it.
Like an inkblot.
Acting on instinct, Rogers summoned a tendril straight at where Incursio had been dropped. Kicking himself internally for not getting rid of it sooner. Lifting then hurling it away, straight down to the depths of the Clocktower to prevent any second heroic winds from it's dying Master.
Incursio's metallic clangs were heard, echoed, as it fell into the abyss below.
"Otherwise, it's safe to say a monster like you has nothing to smile or laugh about. Especially when you're bleeding out and well, dying slowly... I'm not the villain, or the Big Bad in this story, Tatsumi. You are, this is just collected karma doing its work, nothing more."
"And soon, Esdeath and your son will get theirs as well." His voice echoed, much like Tatsumi's when under the effects of Incursio's protection.
His Teigu, The Living Shadow provided similar abilities to its host, as long as they kept it sustained with regular meals. This was why Rogers had been seen taking more than his regular portions in the Imperial Cantina, since he had to keep the Teigu under wraps, too.
The biological Teigu didn't have sentience, but it was known to get rather aggressive with it's chosen host when it wasn't kept in good condition via constant meals.
"It's... Funny, almost." Tatsumi coughed blood up, as he had been doing since the initial surprise attack, but now he spoke. The puddle of blood kept growing around him, nearing his would-be murderer's feet as the gears of the Clocktower stopped suddenly, grinding to a halt together in unison.
On his back out flat, Tatsumi wasn't even looking at Roger's anymore, instead, he was looking upward at the internal workings of the Clocktower as if they meant something to him. Two realizations were at least revealed, at this awful part of Tatsumi's sad life. "...This happened before, you know... At Fallhaven. I got stabbed. And I got better."
"...I always do."
Tatsumi's eyes fell on his left arm, and at last, accepted the truthful awful reality without ignoring it, dismissing it away as fiction. They saw it's current form as it was, not as he recalled it. The shattered delusion sank Tatsumi's heart deeply, angry tears began to form in his sunken eyes. The weight of his dragonic horns above his head now felt for the first time, the realization struck him deeply at his core and produced an emptiness that did not cease.
He wasn't human, not anymore.
Rogers had helped him realize that, in the most twisted form of self-therapy. It was bound to have happened eventually, he was warned and warned about it. He didn't listen, since Tatsumi knew that if he didn't quickly grab unto the power in his sight and take it for himself, then he'd just be forced to simply give his life away to somebody else who had the power he craved.
Somehow, he had always known of his change since Fallhaven but he refused to believe it. But seeing the horrific eldritch transformation that his body had undergone, sealed it all. Tatsumi had hoped that even if he had proven his might over Tyrant's control, his humanity would be unaffected.
It was affected, and thoroughly so.
So thoroughly, his human mind...
And like everything else, when pushed to the limit and eventually destroyed, it revived.
His body, however, had a different idea in mind. The dagger that had been imbedded deep through Tatsumi's heart shattered into tiny insignificant pieces that could not hurt him anymore, unable to stay stuck inside the heart that now grew ten times its original size, tough as steel, as did everything else.
Soon, Tatsumi's writhing body pulled itself up from the floor as if yanked upward by a puppeteer's string only to come loose as soon as he was on his feet. Tatsumi's right fist clenched, his nails deeply tug into his skin then relaxed to reveal they had become talons in that same instant.
His pectoral muscles grew larger and then, tearing the skin so excessively, the muscule fibre underneath could be seen in its full gory glory.
The rest followed suit, one by one, they changed.
Slowly yet quickly, horrifying in every way.
Tatsumi's skin darkened drastically, now positively stricken with pumping veins, to a thick shade of charcoal black at his arms and chest. Which served as the primary centres of his transformation. His vital points. His heart could still be seen from the small gap in his chest that could not close, rhythmically beating and pounding away.
The violent extreme suddenness of Tatsumi's mutations made it clear to the observing Roger's that this wasn't something his foe had planned himself whatsoever.
A knee jerk reaction, of horrifying proportions.
There was no telling where Tyrant began and Tatsumi ended anymore, only what came next.
His already malformed left arm continued in its growth, growing abnormally large in comparison with his right, which kept its human features and moderately increased proportions to balance. He couldn't balance himself properly, causing him to lean towards one side, due to the massive weight of his arm.
Spine-like teeth emerged from the left arm's downward length itself to serve as a makeshift battering ram and weapon if needed, appearing as thorns if anything. Tatsumi's clothes ripped and tore apart at the seams by the sheer horrifying increase in muscular mass, partly pierced by sharp growths of thick bone that came his back.
Howls and screams of feral rage midst transformation were the only sound heard, power always came with a price.
And this one was pain, tremendous pain but it'd be worth surviving death for.
Even Rogers experienced it, experienced pain. Simply watching it slowly transpire before his eyes, seemed like a cruel horror show without an end.
The sudden increase in muscular mass had burst apart several non-important blood vessels from Tatsumi's head straight down to the toe, along with the drastic increase in his BPM to support his renewed revived body, drenching him thickly in freshly spilt blood as they escaped the confines of his blackened armoured skin.
The last vestiges of Tatsumi's physical humanity crumbled away, with each passing moment.
His mental human core had deteriorated away, with Tatsumi's tears.
By now, all he was lacking was a tail.
Tatsumi's head was largely unchanged, mercifully so. His human ordinary teeth however soon became teeth that could only belong to a beast, utterly sharp and unforgiving. Minor changes continued to grow within' him, rapidly improving on every fault and error that Tatsumi's "Human" body had.
At his face, wild unkempt hair covered glowing pupilless eyes completely. A grim permanent smile had been fixed to his face, thanks to Tatsumi's cheek muscles being horribly stretched and warped apart during the transformative madness.
It appeared as if something was trying to break out from underneath, suffocated by the skin.
Pure nightmare fuel incarnate. If Tatsumi had the "fortunate" luck to see himself this way, he'd likely wish for a merciful death than to live with that horrible image for the remainder of his life.
But it wasn't Tatsumi in the driver's seat or Tyrant for that matter.
It was the desperate need to survive taking control, quite literally.
Rogers was beginning to wish, whilst he stood his ground with a questionably firm stance, that he had just left Tatsumi alone.
Very much so.
The tattered remains of Tatsumi's ruined shirt, as it fell from him piece by piece into scraps of cloth with each deep passing breath and exhale.
His absurdly stretched trousers, which had mercifully held on tightly to their Master's waist during his long-awaited traumatic awakening.
They were shed away, like useless skin when they were no longer required anymore.
Tatsumi had accepted his predestined fate by now, accepted that he would never be what he was before and with that, liberation came.
Only humans had to obey human laws, and Tatsumi wasn't human.
And so, his new life began when the other ended.
His life as an unstoppable, unkillable monster that preyed on humans, weak humans without an ounce of mercy.
Humans that wished nothing but hurt and illness on him.
Then came the second realization he experienced and perhaps probably, the one that hurt the most.
In his dying moments, his mind wandered for what seemed like hours through his life's events. And in that time, he had also realized why Makoto had been so disconnected from the world at large, so detached and unconcerned, when it didn't involve his parents, aside what Tatsumi already knew of his life's history.
His son was the same as him, the same species, half of it anyway. Makoto himself had felt this way for years and now his unending loneliness made perfect sense.
Without his father around, his Mother could only provide so much comfort to him and his existence must've been comparable to a desolate void, for so long.
By now, Tatsumi's ability to parse as a human was deeply questionable, many Danger-Beasts often took the guise of humans to trick and mislead their prey and Tatsumi was no different at this time.
His mutations were largely random and instinctive, lacking any desire to look normal.
And to any observer or witness.
Tatsumi would be seen as the villain of this story, of this fight and, after all, traditional good guys and stalwart brave heroes did not transform into sickening monsters when they were pushed. This tense confrontation easily pitted Roger's as the clear-cut protagonist without any additional context, and for once.
Tatsumi as he was now, as he always will be.
Happened to be perfectly fine with that.
It sounded almost pleasant.
Firstly, credit where it's due.
Thank you so much for your continued support of the story, and for the favourites and followers. Special Mention goes to Shadowlord, who's been predicting everything I had stored away and has given me some GREAT ideas, too! Thank you! ^^'
I hope everyone's been looking after themselves during this awful time for human history, so stay safe!
Anyway, that wraps up Chapter 33. I hope it was worth the hell of a wait, I'll be giving it a few edits and updates to polish everything off in the meantime.
I plan to immediately start on Chapter 34, asap. In the months that have gone by, I've practically written enough story in a separate document, for least ten chapters ahead of our current point in time.
(And provided you guys keep enjoying the story, we aren't even halfway finished yet.)
That's all from me, have a great day/evening guys! See you in the next chapter...!