Disclaimer: I do not own Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice nor do I own Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
A/N: Tomorrow is Sekiro's 1st anniversary, at least where I am. Anyone excited? I sure am.
The Root: PT 2
For the most part, Muzan did not care for the suicidal human standing before him. He did not care for those sickly looking monks that stood in his way earlier either. Granted, it was strange how they did not show fear or pain when he eviscerated and tore them apart, as though they ceased to be humans, but it did not worry him. The dead never worried him anyways.
The shinobi was not anything remarkable but then again, the shinobi's he faced before even Tokugawa had been unremarkable in appearance until they bore their fangs. But what did that matter? What mattered was that this misfit decided he could stand in his path.
He was annoyed… no, He was livid.
He was… he IS Perfection.
And this waif dared to point that useless piece of scrap metal at HIM? It was not even a Nichirin blade – swords designed solely to slay Demons – let alone a crimson red one. Amusedly, he realized: this shinobi did not know about Demons. The amusement did not outweigh his displeasure at having an obstacle, however small it may be, in his path.
Muzan peered distastefully at the one-armed vagrant that dared to point his blade at him.
"Shinobi." He spoke coldly. "If you value your life, you will step aside."
They were useless words. He would kill the shinobi regardless of what his reply was.
"You shall not touch my liege. You shall not pass." The dragon-masked shinobi spoke laconically.
So be it.
Muzan began his attack… or at least, he would have begun if everything around him had not just suddenly exploded! His senses only registered loudness and brightness. Then just when it came back, the shinobi had come up close to him and blasted a powerful surge of fire into his face… except, it had not been fire. It could not have been fire. Fire could not glow violet. Fire could not scald his skin anymore yet this one pained him.
This was pain?
He was feeling pain?
He panicked, but it was short-lived when he realized he could still regenerate. It still burned and was so painful that if he had not had four other brains besides the one in his own head, he would have been too overwhelmed to dodge an incoming volley of shurikens. Those projectiles were not of common iron, just as that fire had not been ordinary fire. He saw how they both shimmered blue underneath the moonlight and realized that they were sacred in some way and were thus repulsing to him.
Muzan learned quickly to avoid anything that resembled blue. His arms became elongated and whiplike, lashing out at the surroundings and at the shinobi. Despite the rough spot at the beginning, the Demon began to enjoy toying with the vagrant, quickly reaching the conclusion that that was all he had to offer to him.
Then, as if he was eager to prove Muzan wrong, the shinobi reached into a satchel and threw light violet confetti everywhere into the air. The misfit's scrap metal became covered in luminescent violet with a shade of blue. Holy fire, used to purify wicked spirits and apparitions. The very same fire that had come from the vent on that prosthetic arm. The very same fire that apparently hurt him.
A quick deduction later, Muzan felt annoyed to see how much of an advantage the shinobi was gaining with that prosthetic arm, along with a strong desire to rip that false arm off just to watch him squirm. All of the shinobis – even the ones among the Demon Slayer Corps – that had once confronted him had been shocked to see their tricks and guiles amount to nothing when they tried to kill him before. All of them were now either dead or among his horde of amassed demons. Muzan briefly wondered how many tricks this one would have.
The shinobi shot forth, sword poised to thrust into him. Muzan allowed it, his multiple arms already positioned to retaliate. But just as the sword sunk into him, the shinobi ascended into the air like an owl on the hunt returning to the skies after stabbing its prey, narrowly avoiding the arms that eviscerated the space he had just occupied. Then to add insult to injury, he dove back down, spinning to attack in the air with his that fire-coated blade. He jumped around like a monkey, deftly dodging his assault from every direction, making strange stances in the air that he vaguely recognized as stances the humans made when they pray to Buddha.
Muzan did not know what they were supposed to do, only that they served to infuriate him as if the monkey was insulting him. Mimicking the Demon Slayers and their oh-so-revered Breathing Style, he took a deep breath. Released it, and at that instantaneous moment, shot himself like a spear that pierced the shinobi's defenses to stab through his heart. He felt the satisfying sensation of ribs breaking, flesh tearing apart from his limb digging heartily past the dead man. As he did though, the human stabbed his flaming sword into his face, which Muzan fixed by pushing the man out of his arm.
…It did not matter. Famed resilience of Ashina or not, a pierced heart was still not something that could be recovered from quickly. And just like that, the shinobi was dead even before he hit and rolled to a stop on the ground.
"Humans have always been so fragile," he mockingly bemoaned as he turned away from the corpse, his face already regenerating back. So fragile he could pluck them out, figuratively AND literally.
This begged the question: why were humans, Demon Slayers especially, so obsessed with killing him? Muzan could not understand why. It was like challenging a typhoon in the midst of construction, or like stopping an earthquake with bare hands. He truly could not see why they choose to resist their superior.
His senses were alerted again and he turned around slowly.
"What… still alive?"
The shinobi was standing back up, the gaping wound on his chest sealing itself unnaturally. Muzan knew he had killed the vagrant. He heard his heart cease beating. He felt his temperature fall down to a corpse's level. His crimson-veined eyes narrowed at the gourd he pulled from his side to drink from and an object that resembled a teardrop being used.
He should not have felt surprised. It was a human with special traits. Again. Just like that one Demon Slayer who ate Demons to temporarily gain their power and ability. Just like that one Demon Slayer who was a Marechi, humans with blood so intoxicating that it stunned Demons who caught even a whiff. Just like every other human that had inexplicable bodily traits that placed them above normalcy.
…Just like him.
Well, no matter. Muzan would just have to be surer this time. Perhaps he should crush the human's skull instead.
His desire to tear the human apart renewed, he swung his tendril-like arms while remodeling his cells and tissues covertly into something far more horrifying to behold.
Combat was not an unfamiliar concept to Wolf.
Prolonged combat, on the other hand, was not an ideal situation nor was it favorable. It had only been minutes but for him, it may as well have been hours. In another span of minutes, he had already delivered fatal blows that would kill men before they could retaliate. The monster was still standing after being stabbed in the heart, perforated at the neck, and even struck clean through the head.
The beloved technique of the School of Ashina, Ichimonji and its consecutive strike, did nothing to stop the aberrant, only making it stop to regenerate its vertically bifurcated head and resuming its rage. Its secret technique, the Ashina Cross that supposedly severed Shura's arm, only made it pause to regenerate the missing limb. Shadowfall, his father's signature technique, was only ideal for striking and dodging deftly. Not even the Spiral Cloud Passage, the intricately beautiful swordplay attributed to Lady Tomoe, seemed to stagger the monster's posture despite the blessings of Minamoto, the Fountainhead.
Kusabimaru alone did nothing as if he was striking against a wall, and only with Divine Confetti could the sword do any form of damage. His other Shinobi Tools were beginning to have little effect. The Firecrackers did not stagger it much now. The fans of Golden Vortex did not amount to much when the monster could still attack backward. The Malcontent had some effect at first, only to become nothing afterward. He had yet to make use of the Mist Raven Feathers since the monster could eventually predict the pattern and take advantage of it. Only the Lazulite tools and the Phoenix's Lilac Umbrella had effect, and even then, the wounds inflicted seem to regenerate themselves as quickly as they appeared.
Another fatal strike came his way. He learned quickly that Mikiri did not work on the monster. The problem was not that he could not see the thrust; it was that even if he tried to counter, he still could not stop the beast's advances. Thus, he could only dodge and maneuver away.
He learned far quicker that any direct hit and strike from that monster was an instant deathblow. Parrying was an ordeal that made his bones rattle every time, made him lose his posture too easily. Every deflection must be perfect. Every dodge must be immaculate. Strength should not be met with more force but instead redirected like the flowing of water. So he endeavored.
This time though… he could not do anything about the impending blow. So he died. Only, he did it himself.
Wolf had killed himself with the Hidden Tooth before the strike connected and blasted him away, biting down for instant death. He knew he would not survive the hit. One death… one death that he did to himself on his own volition, and thus, the Resurrection ability of the Dragon's Heritage remain unrestricted. He could only die one more time before he had to draw from the lifeforce of others to return. He would rather not do that.
He reached for another batch of Divine Confetti as he rose once more and found there was little left in his inventory. The inhuman benedictions – the bestowals representing the warrior heroes who once fought for their country and died disgraced and corrupted – that were imparted on him through the course of this clash were failing and leaving.
Gokan's blessings wore away as the battle prolonged, his posture becoming limp.
Ungo's blessings chipped away little by little from any stray attacks that went past his defenses.
Ako's blessings faded as Kusabimaru continued to be swung.
There was no point in invoking the blessings of Gachiin. Wolf knew that he could not escape in this state. No, he could not afford to flee, just as he could not afford to be passive and reactive to this Demon's onslaught. He had everything to lose from retreating.
"…You are quite an interesting specimen, did you know?"
Wolf took that moment to recover and raised his sword back up.
"I've only ever had to kill a man once for him to be dead. But you? I've had to kill more than once. Even that is unusual for one such as I," the aberrant spread his arms in a placating manner, which were transmogrifying back into human limbs. "Not only that, but you have also landed many blows that you must believe should have killed me. You should know and accept by now that you cannot hope to defeat me."
…What was it doing? What scheme was it concocting?
"So let's stop this charade. You cannot kill me, and I tire of killing the same man over and over. Instead, let us make a deal."
The monster smiled kindly. It was a false one, an engineered expression that was so close to the genuine article.
"Serve under me."
Wolf frowned. So that was what it wanted.
"I can see the infinite potential you possess. I can see the being you could become if you do not have the limitations of the human body. I can see the overwhelming force you can deliver to your enemies if you stop clinging to the drabble that you call your 'past'. In other words, I want to help you realize your power, shinobi. Let me help you."
The benevolence and charity were rich with micturition.
"Allow me to open your eyes, shinobi. Become a Demon. Serve under me, Kibutsuji Muzan, and all of your desires, all of your dreams shall be granted."
He did not even entertain the thought. His mind was already made.
The façade dropped entirely. The monster's smile morphed into a contemptuous sneer.
"Heresy… you say?"
Wolf stiffened. The assault was beginning anew. Everywhere was chaos. The arms transformed into more arms, fanged blades as they all ventured to slash him and the surroundings apart. Rock and water were flying everywhere, forcing him to focus both on the changing terrain and the monster. Its entire torso became a gaping mouth that would crunch down if he came too close. From its back, tendrils resembling said fangs sprouted out and aimed squarely at his sword. It was a strange tactic at first that Wolf believed was only to misdirect the sword into a mistimed parry. By the time he realized what the aberrant was actually planning, it was too late.
Wolf felt his stomach drop, not out of fear but of shock.
A sword was nothing more than a tool to kill. That lesson had been drilled into him since his foster father picked him out of that battlefield on that fateful day. It was as much as a tool as his hands, legs, lungs, and head were. There was no use in attach sentimentality to devices. But Kusabimaru… it was special. It was the very sword by which he pledged his oath to Lord Kuro. It was the symbol that indicated his bond with his lord, Immortal Oath or not. To see it shatter before his very eyes…
It gave him conniptions.
He did not bother to hear what drivel the Demon was spouting out. He knew it was insult and gloating. He had no need for either of them. It was more than just duty and obligation that led to his outrage. It was why he glared balefully at the Demon, so hatefully that he felt something stir within him, it suddenly froze and backed away as if in discomfort.
Solemnly, he sheathed what remained of the heirloom of Hirata… and tempered his anger towards the Demon. His body went through the beginning motions that represented the violent Yashariku, and through it, he was bestowed the fallen hero's blessing and curse. He had not wanted to resort to Yashariku due to the danger the spiritfall placed upon him in exchange for greater power, but now that he saw the pattern behind the monster's new movements, he could react more easily. It was really fast and he did not know whether or not it had more patterns to defer to, so he did not hesitate in his decision.
He reached for the last of his arsenal, retrieved it off his back, once he adopted Yashariku's final stance. As he did, he remembered Isshin's advice regarding the Blade of Severance.
'Who, or what will you kill? You must be sure of the answer before drawing it.'
…He will kill the Demon that dares to threaten his lord and his will.
Muzan had been preoccupied with a thought before then. Why was this mortal still alive… no, how? He had sent forth attacks after attacks that would destroy even the strongest Demon Slayers if they even brushed against them. Blocking? Parrying? Deflecting? Those were useless tactics. Not even that Yoriichi was exempt; that monstrosity of a human still dodged and scurried about as though his life depended on it in their first and only encounter.
This waif, on the other hand, had already been directly hit many times. Every hit from the Demon was a fatal strike that would decimate a human upon contact even if they had been parried. The first time, the Demon's progenitor dismissed it as pure luck on the shinobi's part. The second time, he dismissed it as a trick of the light. The third time, it stopped being funny. The fourth time… he felt a sliver of unease. After that, he began measuring the amount of force he used in all of his limbs. They were gradually increased as he began to coat his limbs in his own blood, feigning lacerations inflicted by the useless scrap metal. Somehow, somehow, the shinobi saw through the ruse and began using those blue tools that somehow hurt him.
What trickery was this wretch using?
Was this a Breathing Style he was unaware of?
Or were those of the Ashina just so naturally resilient to attacks that even death cannot stop them?
Now that he observed it, the shinobi's Breathing was a mishmash of differing Breathing Styles, but they were not the Breathing Styles he knew of. Not Flame, Stone, Wind, Lightning, or Water. Not even Moon or Sun.
That was why he had stopped the battle to deliver his offer. Not only would the shinobi serve under him, but he would also have the chance to ascend. Instead of clinging onto that joke that humans loved to call 'humanity', he would become a Demon. Far more powerful. Far more capable. No need to ever worry about growing old and decrepit. No need to ever worry about becoming sick and feeble. He could avenge all the misgivings the world had administrated onto him. He could fulfill his desires without anyone or anything getting in his way. Coupled with that resurrection ability, the shinobi could become something far above undying; he could possibly conquer the Sun. He could possibly become the very shortcut to the goal Muzan had strived towards for the past millennia.
Not to mention, he would have a reservoir of knowledge pertaining to Ashina and its secrets.
What better blessing could it be to serve under him?
That was why he felt personally affronted beyond anything by the accusation.
"Heresy… you say?"
He could not feel any more offended. There had been humans who rejected his gift, but they had only ever replied in the negative and continued their vain struggle.
None of them had proclaimed blasphemy.
…He was done entertaining the human, allowing him to feel like he was gaining the advantage. It really did not have to end this way. Regardless, he would disable the human's only means of resistance. With it, the human shall die for his transgression.
The sword broke.
The shinobi froze.
In that instant, Muzan felt a profound sense of glee in shattering that scrap metal. He relished in the shock that permeated his face. He was going to enjoy this moment far more than he should deserve to.
"Did you believe yourself to be a guardian of Buddha? Did you believe yourself to be Nioh?"
Muzan knew those stances and postures the shinobi had made during their exchange, and now that the shinobi's main weapon was shattered, the knowledge served to amuse him. They were the stances made by the wrathful guardians of Buddha, the ones that served to slay the enemies of Buddha.
Not so much now, were they?
"Which one was it? Agyō? Ungyō? Well, it does not matter-"
There was a flicker in the worm's eyes. It had been an infinitesimal moment but Muzan perceived it, just as he perceived everything and misunderstood nothing. Something had stirred in the shinobi's eyes that instantly made his instincts scream at him to run away.
For a moment, he obeyed his instincts and backed away a respectable distance.
Then his pride made him stop to make sense of what just happened.
It was a shadow of a being greater than that human, perhaps even greater than the one he had witnessed on the outskirts. Another Demon? No, he did not recall giving blood to this vagrant. He watched the shinobi unstrap an ōdachi from his back whilst performing yet another dance routine, one he recognized as the stance before the onslaught of Yaksha. Not Nioh, but a-
…Whatever attention and concentration Muzan had was now focused on that blade alone. Why he had not paid any attention to the blade that laid on that rat's back like an ornament was beyond him. The clink of that blade had been nothing else than resounding.
Muzan did not want to know what it could do. That crimson Blade, as if blood was evaporating from it, was cursed. It hissed as the shinobi began drawing it out. Etched and scored by the passage of time, its edge was dull and devoid of finesse. It was not the same crimson red Nichirin blade of that Yoriichi. Not once did Yoriichi's red blade cause him to perspire upon first glance, only after it slashed him apart.
Why this one then?
This one, it vividly brought forth all of his brushes with death. Death. DEATH. DEATH. DEATH. DEATH.
IT DESIRED TO HAVE HIS FLESH REND UPON ITS EDGE.
IT WAS THROUGH ITS BLADE THAT HIS DEATH SHALL BE REIFIED.
He had been on Death's doorstep for the first years of his life until his ascension as a Demon. He did not miss those painful twenty years in the least.
Death was agonizing.
Death was repulsive.
Death was scary.
He did not want to die.
His impressions of the one in front of him instantly changed. The trash was not trash after all. He was a killer, a Wolf ready to sink its fangs into its prey. The Wolf… no, this was not a Wolf he was facing. Behind that dragon mask, he saw it clearly. He did not know yet what it was, but to others, it was unmistakable.
He stopped holding back. Everything he had modified and transmogrified within his body was no longer restricted behind the humanoid façade. Everything he had cooked up in the past millennia was displayed in all of its unholy glory. Everything, from the cells he carried since his inception to the cells he created for the sole purpose of conquering the Sun, roared and howled at the threat that sought to dismantle it.
Muzan unleashed everything.
…He should have done it earlier. Much earlier.
It was only a single slash; a Flash reminiscent of a Dragon descending down on its prey.
The blade itself was not excessively long like a nodachi. However, the vacuum created by the sheer force behind the ōdachi's swing displaced the air itself, creating a nearly mystical phenomenon that was similar yet dissimilar to the illusion of an extending blade. A crimson, picturesque trail of bloody mist slashed down, effortlessly chopped through him from his shoulder down to his groin. Then, as if the world itself had been taking a moment to marvel the blade's action, a shockwave carved through the entire space it occupied, indenting through the earth itself. It… it was impossible to comprehend immediately. Muzan had been so astonished by how easily he had been cut down that by the time his brains – his remaining brains – caught up to speed what had happened, there was nothing to say.
'I… I'm not regenerating? I'm d-dying?'
The blade had not even been close to his neck. It had not dug through all of his viscera. It had not even brushed all of the organs he deemed necessary for his survival.
But the slash… he felt it. It hurt. IT hurt. IT HURT. IT HURT! IT HURT! IT HURT! IT HURT!
He screeched out in pain deafeningly. Every part of his body recoiled as he screamed like his very soul had been set on fire. He felt his cells rupture near the area that had been cut, every forcefully regenerating part killing themselves as they attempted to reassemble themselves. He could feel his body killing itself as if it was rejecting life itself. He could not even maintain a form even barely resembling a human, his body melting into an unworthy resemblance of a blob.
He fell back, unable to process the insurmountable tide of change that was before him.
He loathed that word beyond any other. Change meant decline. Change was the forebearer of regression. Change was mujō; transience itself, the antithesis of permanence…
Perfection was absolute, the state of immutability that could only be attributed to godhood. Perfection was irrevocable, the state that could never be taken away. Perfection was eternity itself, the complete and utter rejection of the end; Death.
Whatever fear or terror he had experienced at that moment was instantly snuffed out by an incandescent hatred he had not felt since his encounter with Yoriichi.
Muzan glared up venomously at the one responsible for the disgraceful position he was in.
The Shinobi seemed surprised that Muzan had not died and did not hesitate to follow through with a second attack from that accursed blade.
That blade was no blade.
It was the essence of Tenchū; Divine Punishment.
"You shall not stop the Dragon from returning home."
What was this freak talking about? What did he care for dragons? Why was it that the Sengoku spawned so many monsters that could kill him?! First, that wretched Yoriichi, his Breath of the Sun, and his utter lack of presence and now, this Wolf and his crimson Blade! Anathemas, all of them!
…NO. He refused to accept this fate. He was the perfect being. HE IS PERFECT!
His teeth ground slowly, then faster as the seconds pass that it created a screech in itself. His body, whatever was still able to listen to his command, convulsed red. The sun was almost brushing the horizon. It was time for him to retreat. As disgraceful as it was, he had no wish to die before attaining his goal. Willing whatever cells and tissues that he could still control…
…He exploded. Into hundreds of pieces. His body parts splintered the ground and his blood coated the vicinity. The vagrant had somehow predicted it and vanished at the exact time he exploded, expelling raven feathers as he did.
Even if the blood explosion failed to kill that shinobi, it was still a tried and true tactic to run away that had not yet failed him. No matter how much of his body was destroyed by the sun, so long as a single piece remained, he would recover eventually. He made sure to burn the image of that accursed sword into his mind, ensuring all future demons and any current ones, like Kokushibou, to be wary of that Mortal Blade.
One more weakness to watch out for and surpass.
One more failure to endure in the upcoming years.
One more scar as proof of his imperfection.
One word escaped his scattered lips with the utmost abhorrence. That one word had once been uttered by that damnable Ashina Isshin. That one word would remain in his memory for life.
A/N: A short battle, and decidedly so. It would sound really out of character for Sekiro to prolong a fight or a kill. It makes sense in a Shura ending, but this is not following the Shura ending.
P a treon. com (slash) DarkAkatsuk1