Akame felt her heart hammering in her chest, adrenaline and purpose spurring her to move past doubt and reservation. The light that she and the others saw was one beyond simple descriptions of bright, warm, or captivating, but something closer to yearning- a wish, a cherished hope.
There was even the light shining atop her own head, a murky white revealing the nature of her soul mired in bloodshed, yet earnest in belief. One's hands inevitably end up bloodied in this world, but not all have the characteristic of remaining firm in the face of corruption and greed.
Najenda's commanding shout reverberated within Akame, and within all who stood for a just cause, jolting them into focus.
'That's right. You already know what you must do.'
Akame's breathing evened, her grip tightening over the hilt of her sword. Her eyes narrowed, features growing frigid with resolve.
For what reason did she fight? For what reason had she been swayed by Najenda's words to join Night Raid all those years ago?
"The moment is now! There's no use for any grand speeches or bullshit like that to know what must be done!"
Before Akame and her allies, the targets had been set with a kill order.
"Aim for black. No mercy!"
Shoulders squared, numerous features hardening in the brewing storm.
Leone cracked her knuckles off to the side, Sheele pulling forth a massive pair of scissors.
"If you want to fight, then die for what you believe in!"
Bulat's form became encased in steel-like armour, the visor covering his eyes gleaming in the growing furor.
"If you want to live, then kill!"
Lubbock armed himself with freely flowing thread-like wires.
"For the true Emperor, take up your arms!"
Akame felt her emotions swell and ebb. For the longest time, she'd questioned the meaning of her existence. Why had she and her little sister been sold into slavery? Why had they been made into murderers? Was there ever really any purpose, or was it simply the lot life had given her?
Even now she didn't know, but this beating in her chest, this driving force telling her that her time of calling was here…
It was almost terrifying, this zeal.
"And for the rest of you!" Najenda's voice continued, this time directed outward imploringly to the Empire and Revolutionary troops. "If you're so blind to the meaning of what shines above your heads, then what are you fucking fighting for?!"
Silence, the wind carrying with it the end of an era and the beginning of another.
"If you want to see the future in the Sword of the Emperor's light- then Goddammit don't just stand there and watch! Buy the destined emperor time!"
Shots were fired, volleys, canons, arrows, bullets, all shot in retaliation to shut Najenda's mouth from the orders of both the Empire forces and Revolutionaries marked black. The rest with varying degrees of white, remained rooted, still in a daze.
In response, the projected shield in Shirou's left arm shifted to block the onslaught, the echoing bangs and explosions creating a hellish backdrop of oppressive violence.
Akame could see the amount of strain Shirou was enduring even now from where she was standing; Najenda even more so as she stood next to him as a support.
"The true Emperor stands with us- the heir of the First! His sword to pave the way! His shield to encompass all!"
The words may not mean much for the common citizen, but those of higher class and upbringing knew of its significance, tying the legitimacy of a rightful heir to the great Founder of the Empire.
"Offer your hearts!"
Calla's forces charged, the fervency and passion in their demeanor practically toppling the uncertainty clouding their foes. Even Chouri's forces led by his daughter Spear exuded the same avidity and fervor. Those that had even been on the fence when Chouri campaigned to garner their support could no longer sit still.
Was it Shirou's charisma? Or was this all the result of the peoples voices deep in their hearts finally being allowed release?
None of this mattered to Akame.
Dashing ahead, her sword glinted in the glow of her own light seeking to smother the dark.
"Akame, Lubbock, Selka, Sheele, Bulat, Leone, form a team and assassinate the sharpshooters in the back line to ease the pressure on Shirou!"
A swerve left, a narrow twist right, then a thrust had blood splattering over Akame hair, a head flying.
Grunting, she acknowledged Najenda's words and regrouped.
"Mine, with me. We provide cover fire!"
Akame distantly heard Najenda last few words from the wind blowing past her ears, but it wasn't worth glancing back and taking her eyes off of her adversaries. Side stepping, she slid along the ground before her back pressed up against Leone's who was the nearest to her.
"You heard the boss," Leone remarked, lion ears twitching as she chambered a fist and threw a horizontal cross that snapped an opponent's neck.
"Mhm," Was Akame's apt response, tilting her head out of the way from a thrown dagger.
Just as she moved to eliminate the perpetrator, a sickening crack echoed from a flying heel-drop kick which cratered the ground and crushed bone. A crater formed, the person found beneath the sole of the foot dying instantly, spine snapped in a single decisive blow.
Backflipping, Selka gracefully landed on her toes before cartwheeling, balancing on her arms, and twirling her legs full circle to clear the area. The blades she wielded on both hands, one radiating fire, the other icy vapour, then formed an enshrouding mist.
Wary of entering, Selka, Akame, and Leone gained a reprieve.
"I didn't know you could do that," Leone remarked as Selka flipped back onto her feet, sweat glistening over her skin.
"I learned it while hunting a Danger Beast with keen eye-sight. Fire and ice together make a lot of steam." Selka patted herself off, blood, dirt, and grime having clung to her clothes through the nature of her fighting style.
"Murasame's more efficient," Akame commented uncharacteristically, competitiveness forcing the words out.
"And yet you use it like a regular sword instead of just trying to cut your opponents. What a waste," Lubbock said in exasperation while appearing next to everyone by rappelling down from suspended wires.
"Now this is no way to start a mission in an army like setting," Bulat's boisterous tone sounded through the mist before the towering giant of a man appeared donned in armour. "Comrades should be getting along, not bickering in the heat of a battle."
"Mr. Bulat's right," Sheele spoke up, making it evident that Bulat's tall stature had been hiding her form. "Ms. Najenda gave us a mission. That should come first."
"Any plans?" Leone got straight to the point, her hands resting over her hips. "I doubt this mist cover will last forever, and it won't take long before soldiers are ordered to enter it regardless."
"Well, I won't say it's the same for everyone, but I'm fragile," Lubbock grimaced. "Assassins shouldn't be in an open war, but here we are buying time. Based on our overall team composition, it shouldn't be a problem to assassinate the shooters if we get within range. However, crossing the gap unscathed is the problem."
"Leave that to me," Bulat swung the pointed end of the lance hefted over his shoulders. "I'll clear a way through with Leone and Selka. With us three, we should have the brute strength and if not-"
"I'll have the Hunters of Heiwa hurl boulders and toppled trees," Selka provided her input.
"Meanwhile, Akame, Sheele, and I will use the distraction to cross the gap. Moreover, we have the boss and Mine's cover fire." Lubbock concluded before nodding. "Let's do it."
The six members of the strike group stood in a line.
Ten minutes was neither long nor short, but in this battle, it might as well have had been an eternity.
Incursio was a Teigu created from the flesh and blood of the Super-Class Danger Beast known as Tyrant. As an armour-type Teigu, it enveloped its user in the Tyrant's near-impenetrable hide, granting bolstered physical capabilities and defence.
Neuntote, Incursio's halberd was a massive pole-arm near two-meters long in Bulat's grasp.
As one of the few living Teigu of the Empire, it could evolve along with its user.
In Bulat's case, to augment his large build and frame, his physical strength was enhanced with denser armour and stronger destructive capability. The helmet and white cape over the armour's shoulders contained a hardness greater than that of even steel.
Mundane weapons and bullets could do nothing to stop his charge.
He bulldozed forward by cleaving through all before him. It mattered little if they blocked or dodged as the sheer momentum of each swing produced punishing gales that blew away the enemies.
The noise of squelching flesh and bleating shouts was only further accompanied by the rain of boulders and toppled trees hurled from a distance.
On Bulat's left and right were Selka and Leone. The two's physical capability granted naturally in Selka's case, and artificially in Leone's, allowed the two to remain head-to-head with Bulat. Lacking in any real weapons other than their fists and Selka's short range daggers, the two made due by letting Bulat toss them like live ammunition directly into enemy formations.
While Leone used the traditional method of bludgeoning and punching out, Selka's descents were accompanied by either storms of fire, or showers of ice and snow courtesy of the 'Teigu' Shirou had bestowed to her.
"Now's the time, let's go," Lubbock voiced, his shadow blending in with that of the raining debris.
Akame was no different. Unlike Lubbock who used his wires to hitch rides with the Heiwa Hunters thrown distractions, Akame weaved in and out of the Empire soldiers.
Many of the Empire soldiers with white light over their heads stood uncertain, not doing anything. Meanwhile, those with black light were constantly targeted and dying, forcing them to action. In any case, it wasn't to a point where those marked black would unconditionally fire on those marked white.
In the confusion and Bulat's charge, Akame was making quick progress to where the shooters were harassing the army. Sheele in contrast was just leisurely walking through it all with a vacant expression on her face as if she were one of those hesitating Empire soldiers. No one was firing on her...which in her own way was a type of skill to appear so absentminded in a war zone.
Akame reminded herself, only to stumble in the next second.
"Tatsumi how the hell did we end up here?!"
"You, you idiot!"
At the edge of her vision quite near to where the Empire's shooters were stationed, Akame noticed two individuals that she recognized from so long ago. They were Tatsumi and Iyasu, part of the people she had helped save in her past less-than-thought-out escapade.
"Once you got it into your head that we can get the most merits by defeating the shooters in the backline you snuck away without warning when everyone was staring at the Lord!" Tatsumi shouted while blocking a sword aimed at his neck. "I just followed you!" He parried and stabbed with the enemy's heart in a well practiced motion.
However, Tatsumi seemed shaken a moment later. Everyone was like that when taking human life, but to his credit, Tatsumi put the issue beside him like any professional Assassin would on their first few kills.
Iyasu winced at Tatsumi's reminder, having the gall to appear sheepish. "Hey, at least we're getting more action than Sayo. Bet you she's jealous hanging with the reserve troop with Ms. Elaine."
"And not dying!" Tatsumi argued, nearly bashing heads with his friend.
"Fools," Akame chastised in monotone, dropping by near them and killing the soldier the two had neglected in their bickering. "Less talk. Pay attention."
Tatsumi and Iyasu blinked, but by then, Akame had already continued on as Sheele arrived on scene.
"Keep close," Sheele advised Tatsumi and Iyasu. Like it or not, they were already here, and they may prove useful. "The goal is to kill the shooters marked black."
"G-Got it," Iyasu stuttered before whispering heatedly to Tatsumi. "She's gorgeous."
"Not now, Iyasu! Do as Ms. Akame said. Pay attention." Tatsumi chastised, knocking Iyasu over the head and dashing after Sheele and Akame with Iyasu in tow.
The Empire shooters weren't exactly much in the way of organization and this was before the chaos and uncertainty introduced by Shirou's efforts. They were arranged in a protected line with Empire soldiers positioned in front of them that Bulat, Leone, and Selka were distracting. With the defence out of the way, what was left were a mismatched group of ranged Tiegu and gun users eyeing each other wearily.
Some were yelling for others to man up and start shooting, and only growing further incensed when their words ended in futility. There was no cohesion, nor trust in comradery. Instead, each man and woman marked black seemed ready to flee at the first sign of danger to their lives, heedless of others.
It was kind of tragic in a way that this was the current state of the Empire several decades after its original founding, but there was nothing more to be done.
"Sheele," Akame called out, Murasame leveled horizontal near her waist. "I'll take point. Intercept the stragglers."
"Understood," Sheele replied before Akame skeptically glanced at Tatsumi and Iyasu trailing behind Sheele.
"Oh, them. Ugh, how about they escort the people marked white away?" Sheele offered.
"Hn," Akame grunted before nodding.
"We won't disappoint you, Ms. Akame!" Tatsumi and Iyasu realized that this was a chance to prove themselves immediately. Whether their efforts would prove fruitful or not, Akame was too preoccupied with her own concerns and motives.
'These bastards keep shooting at Shirou…he's already exhausted enough.'
The crimson of Akame's pupils glinted with murderous intent as her brows narrowed.
'The first step,' she mouthed.
Her foot dug firmly into the ground, pushing off a second later and shifting her into a lowered stance. Her center of gravity shifted as her figure practically glided across the ground.
Close the distance, and kill in a single stroke.
"Murasame." She lashed out, flicking her blade's edge and cutting directly into the line of shooters.
Blood trickled down Murasame's length, steaming while dripping to the ground with a foul odour and menacing toxicity. Bodies crumpled one by one, each addition reducing the rate of fire aimed at Shirou and Najenda.
For all Akame skill however, her Teigu wasn't the best suited to eliminating numerous targets at once. That category fell into someone else's hands.
Thin wire-like thread formed an unseen and loose complex net around an entire group of shooters before abruptly tightening. The sharpness of the wire easily cut into flesh, the force and outcome like squeezing putty through a mesh.
Perched atop the numerous threads, Lubbock gestured with his fingers, each action setting off a chain reaction. A web of threads was soon apparent to all. With a tiny tug, skin ruptured, and bodies collapsed, leaving only those marked with white staring in disbelief at the killing efficiency.
"Mission accomplished," Lubbock puffed out a breath before leaping to the ground.
"Sorry, sorry for this. I really am. S-Sorry!" Sheele's troubled tone stood in stark contrast to the way her Teigu literally bisected the black marked shooters attempting to flee. The large set of scissors in her grip need only be squeezed and body parts would be divided.
Blood was smeared over all their clothing, but none of them even batted an eye much to Tatsumi and Iyasu's incredulity.
"So that's Night Raid," Iyasu whispered to Tatsumi. "I heard that they were strong, but this is-"
"They were enemies," Tatsumi shook his head at Iyasu's concern. He may have felt differently if Shirou hadn't illuminated the corrupt with his 'Teigu,' but now that the wicked were revealed, he felt little remorse at best. "It needed to be done."
Iyasu shut his mouth before he and Tatsumi moved the white marked shooters away from the fighting and regrouped with Akame and the rest.
With the shooters defeated, the burden on Shirou should have decreased considerably. However, in the overall spectrum of things, it made little difference for what still had to be done. The Empire's forces still dwarfed Calla's hastily gathered own.
"Regroup and fight," Akame said simply, Lubbock reluctantly agreeing while sighing about how his skill set wasn't fit for this kind of mission.
In the meantime, Sheele's constant apologies echoed in the background.
'How long has it been?'
Akame huffed, quickly wiping away several beads of sweat from her brow before side-stepping an overhead swing and countering with a stab. The tip of her blade pierced through a man's sternum and out the other end the body falling flat over her. Her arms trembled, a grunt escaping her lips as she shoved the body away and freed her sword with a tug.
'It never ends…'
Gritting her teeth, she swerved and jabbed the butt of her sword into an attacker's throat before backpedaling, shifting her grip, and sweeping her sword to cut through flesh and bone. However, what should have been a quick and refined movement came out sluggish and mistimed. She'd misjudged the distance and swung too short. It was practically by virtue of Murasame's poison that the nick she'd caused ended up with the man foaming at the mouth and dying immediately.
She panted for breath, stabbing her sword into the ground and using it as a make-shift crutch.
"Getting tired?" Selka stabbed her daggers into the chest of an enemy and hefted the woman at Akame's nearest attacker, giving Akame more breathing room.
By all rights, Akame should have been thankful, but it never felt quite right when the sentiment was towards the Heiwa Clan leader's only daughter. She just didn't want to lose to her, or seem inferior. It never dawned on her that the feeling had only been born recently and that it had stemmed from her general detachment of her own emotions.
In any case, watching Selka sweating, but relatively fine compared to herself, Akame grimaced.
Heiwa physiques were just unfair. Brutes. All of them.
"I'm fine," Akame forced out, her lips pursing before pulling Murasame out of the ground and jumping into the fray.
Selka frowned, but didn't say anything when she noticed Akame wobbling.
To Akame, not only was this a matter of not understanding her own emotions, but one of principle. If she could only do this much before exhaustion, then what of pressure was Shirou was facing?
She couldn't allow herself to fall. Not here. Not now.
Vision blurry, Akame blinked and panted. Shutting her mouth into a thin line, she broke into a sprint, taking note of Lubbock's wires and heading straight to where Bulat, Leone, Lubbock, and Sheele were fighting against a larger contingency of enemies.
She wouldn't lag behind.
Thinking about it now, everything practically started with her on the first night she ever visited Calla. The transition from then until now felt as if the her of back then was a stranger.
She was a killer fighting on the side of Revolutionaries as a member of Night Raid.
She took orders, and eliminated any who was deemed in the way of the cause or a cancer on the Empire better off culled. The missions that she carried out weren't done out of a sense of propriety or personal investment, but out of a sense that the ends would justify the means.
The way she acted was if she were a tool. A sword unfeeling and methodical.
'I want to see it.'
She thought of the vision Shirou could see in what he was fighting for- no what everyone was fighting for. To stand by his side, she couldn't allow herself to fall here.
Open war was something she'd never trained in or grew accustomed to. No matter how many enemies she eliminated, they just seemed to keep coming endlessly, but so what?
She leapt forward, summersaulting over a swung sword and twisting into a slash mid air. The marked soldiers around her raised their arms in defence, but Teigu were often stronger than conventional armours. Pauldrons and gauntlets managed to halt the momentum of her swing, but parts were cut through and drew blood. This alone was enough.
More soldiers dropped dead, but in their ranks, more came to replace them.
'How long has it been?'
She dodged and swivelled, using her lithe form and dexterity to her advantage.
"Die!" A spear was thrust, easily telegraphed.
A simple twirl would have been enough to avoid it. Akame did so swiftly, but just because one tried to ignore exhaustion didn't mean that it didn't exist.
Her body stalled mid-dodge, her muscles screaming in protest. As her eyes widened in shock and disbelief, her analytical mind in the midst of battle was quick to draw a conclusion.
'D-Dammit. There's no time to-'
A hand grasped her shoulder and lurched her backwards.
"If you're tired, then you should say so," Selka grumbled, pulling Akame out of the way and using her daggers to intercept the spear, clanging it to the side and killing the wielder…at least that was the plan.
'Teigu!' Akame couldn't react.
The spear seemed to have a mind of its own. Even after Selka eliminated the user, the spear snaked towards Akame's chest, glowing a dull crimson. Raising her guard, her fingers gave out on her and her grip on Murasame slackened, the sward clattering to her feet.
Trying to dodge, it was simple to understand that she just wasn't in a state to move fast enough, but someone else was.
Blood splattered over Akame's face.
In front of her, Selka stood before her. The daggers Selka held in her grip had parried the blow from somewhere aimed at the heart down to her stomach. The glow exuding from the spear dimmed as Selka's blood matted over it.
Most Teigu were made from and utilized aspects of Danger Beasts. This Teigu was no different but was likely from some lower class as it stopped functioning after drawing blood and no more prompts from its wielder.
Selka staggered as she pulled the spear out and tossed it aside. She may not have been as tired as Akame, but it didn't she wasn't fatigued. In a better state, she could have easily parried the spear away from her by using more force.
"W-Why?" Akame forced the word out.
Selka's knees wobbled before she teetered forward onto her knees.
Akame managed to catch Selka before she crumpled completely. However, Selka's weight was too much in Akame's exhaustion. Worse, this was war, and it didn't take long before they were surrounded again. "Dammit," she cursed.
"Leone!" She called for aid.
"Let us help," Tatsumi and Iyasu who'd been fighting nearby instantly moved to defend Akame and Selka as Akame's shout echoed to Leone in the distance.
Leone widened her eyes when she glanced over and immediately moved to help. She had an augmentation-type or enhancement-type Teigu meaning that she didn't grow as quickly fatigued as everyone else.
She came dashing through anything in her way while Bulat, Lubbock, and Sheele provided interference.
Pursing her lips, Akame noticed the paleness of Selka's complexion and then back to the current state of the battlefield.
Akame pursed her lips, desperation bleeding into her features. People were dying, many in Calla injured or already dead, yet still they fought. She should be used to this; losing people, she meant. It still terrified her.
Tatsumi and Iyasu stood back-to-back, swords held in their grips as they kept a protective perimeter around Akame and Selka. "Tatsumi, I think we're going to die today…Sayo's going to kill us." Iyasu winced while grunting from a stab wound. "Actually, do you think that girl would cry?"
"Not now, Iyasu!" Tatsumi parried a blow, sparks grating off of his sword.
"Let…go..of…me." Selka swallowed down a moan of pain.
"I don't think that's a good idea. Sorry, but Akame don't you dare listen to her," Leone said gruffly, having forced her way through several soldiers. Swiftly, she moved to Selka's left side and slung her arm over her shoulders in support.
"I…said…I'm…fine," Selka rasped out stubbornly, her head lulling.
"Stop struggling dammit, and just stay conscious!" Leone grimaced while shifting Selka's weight on her shoulder due to Selka constantly trying to stand on her own feet. "You're the stubbornness person I've ever had to look after!"
"Leone, how much time has passed?" Akame swallowed.
"I don't know. I can't keep track with things like this, but we can't last for much longer. Even Najenda's stopped calling out orders and is too focused firing with Mine."
"It's got to have been ten minutes by now. I-I don't want to lose anyone anymore."
Akame glanced at her feet, hands balling into fists. Any longer and everyone was going to die, and not for a lack of skill, but a lack of numbers.
"Akame…" Leone trailed off, Selka going still as she too recalled the despair of losing the people she cherished.
Everyone present today had their own pasts and tragedies, each motivating their goals and ideals. What was it that they fought for, or what was it that they wanted as an outcome?
It wasn't glory, nor was it honour, or meritorious service, but something simpler than all of that: Change.
In this world suffused in the corruption of man, there were dreams buried in the dark left collecting dust and forgotten. 'It can't be true,' 'it can't be real,' 'it's impossible,' expressions such as these had long since been ingrained into the heart of the oppressed even without them realizing it.
But did you know? No matter the place, or the circumstances, humanity will still dream, carrying their visions and aspiration aloft even in times of despair.
"Roar of Heaven and Earth."
Light, radiant, and blinding began to shine once more at the center of the battlefield.
A gasp escaped Akame's mouth as she looked up.
"That bastard. Took him long enough." Leone cursed, but was practically beaming.
Following this was a single command crying out through the storm
"Rally to the Emperor!"
"We should head out," Elaine said, unable to keep still any longer and already pulling on the reins of her horse.
Chouri had other considerations and shook his head, barring Elaine's path and halting her orders. "You're being rash. Your emotions getting the better of you. We wait. This is enough."
"What, why?" Elaine snapped. In the ten minutes that the others were buying for Shirou, she'd try to urge the rear guard to come to their aid numerous times but was stopped by Chouri again and again. "Look! We have the momentum and the initiative! This is the time to move!"
"You neglect one more distinct aspect, young lady."
"Elaine. My name is Elaine."
"Isn't calling women young lady a compliment at any age or am I getting too old?"
"Get to the point!" Elaine bristled.
"You really do remind me of my daughter in many ways…" Chouri brushed a hand over his beard and sighed. "In any case, you're definitely more level-headed than her. Do you not understand, from the moment the Lord had acted? Time was always on our side."
Elaine stilled, her mind processing Chouri's words until she glanced from the battlefield, to Shirou, and then back to the battlefield.
"The light…" she uttered in realization.
Confusion and unrest were still running rampant within both the Empire and the Revolutionaries ranks at the emergence of the light over their heads, but not all of them were headless chickens.
"They themselves should be able to infer the significance of the light's colour, if not now, then in due time. Which is why, we wait-"
"And let our forces increase after the confusion settles," Elaine concluded.
The nature of black hearted people meant that they wouldn't trust easily and were always cautious of each other. With the characters of individuals so blatantly out in display, once the disorientation wears out and rational thought is returned, what would the black marked individuals do with the white marked individuals?
An opportunity was brewing here, and Chouri wasn't a man who would miss it, or else his years as a Minster would have all been for naught.
"You're a shrewd man." Elaine huffed.
"And what does that say about you if you're able to follow along with what I'm thinking?"
",,,that I really don't like you."
"Ah, you're in Spear's rebellious phase then."
"…" She was done.
Done with this senile old man.
Thanks for reading, and sorry if the chapter feels a bit off or slow at times. I'm the intern in the place I'm working at, and my manager gave me more work than I expected so I'm running on fumes. I actually planned for more events to happen and conclude the battle, but I'll have to save it for next chapter which will conclude this first tripartite confrontation and debut of the Empire's 'true' Emperor.
Thanks to my newest patrons: Waifus, Marco B, and Smilewithme!
Next update: Fate Sword Order
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
The Lonely Peak
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