I'm back! Please review.
Disclaimer: I do not own Shakugan no Shana nor it's characters.
Note: The story won't be limited to Japan anymore, so I'm making the full names in western fashion.
Yuji found himself swimming in a deep dark abyss. For a moment, he wondered where he was, but the truth was that he already knew. He was floating in the void of his own soul, which had been slowly eating through him as the threats to those which he cared about grew more and more.
In that void, he found no other entity except himself, and another. Before him, out of nowhere, stood an entity that looked exactly like he had when he had been one with the Snake of the Festival. He had his face, but it carried a cold expression. His hair was long and black as night, and he wore black armor and scarlet red sashes.
"Why are you still here?" Yuji asked. "The Snake of the Festival has already been destroyed."
"He may be gone, but you will never be rid of me," said his dark self, "because I am the real you."
"That's a lie!" Yuji denied.
His dark self shrugged. "Did Shana and Hecate really believe that the you now is who you really are?" he said. "The three of you are so naïve. I am the manifestation of your true will and desires. It is you 'Yuji Sakai' who is the lie."
"Shut up and begone!" Yuji yelled.
He lunged straight at his other self, who suddenly vanished at the last minute and reappeared behind him.
"I already told you, you can never get rid of me," his dark self said.
"What do you want from me?!"
"Do you really think your plan for creating a new world where humans, Flame Haze and Denizens can work? I can feel the doubt and fear in you. What happened to the Yuji Sakai that would take the initiative and do anything for protecting those he cared about?"
"He is still here," Yuji replied defiantly. "He has just become wiser after falling."
"I don't think so. I believe that he's just holding back. You hypocrite."
"What would you know?"
"I know everything about you. As I said, I am the manifestation of your will and desires. I know how impatient you are to regain your allies' trust. But tell me, can you trust them?"
"What are you talking about?"
"How do you know they can lead well?"
"I just have to have faith in them."
"Hmph, so childish. If you are as strong as you have always been, you can come on top of them all."
"Don't deny it. I know you still ask yourself if the Snake of the Festival may have been right, if in the end you should have gone along with his 'necessary evil'."
"But I can't change the past, can I?"
"Maybe not, but you can still find another source of ultimate power, I'm sure. Don't you remember what true power felt like? Don't you remember how incredible it was to be able to crush masses of enemies with a single glance?"
"It isn't worth it."
"You actually believe that?"
"Besides, I promised to never kill again."
"Keep telling yourself that. But the real truth behind all this is that Shana and Hecate are what's holding you back."
As Yuji's dark self spoke, the two girls materialized beside him. They both had soulless eyes.
Yuji gasped. "Leave them out of this!" he pleaded.
"Ironic, isn't it, that the very people you are trying so hard to defend are the very ones that prevent you from doing so fully?" his dark self said as he gripped both girls in the neck. "But what would happen if they were both taken out of the equation?"
Yuji's dark self crushed the necks of the two girls and their bodies burned away in fire before Yuji could get to him. His dark self also vanished. The next thing Yuji knew, he had taken his form. The darkness around him faded, and revealed a more frightening sight.
All around him, the entire world burned.
"Nothing in existence would stop you," said the ominous voice of Yuji's dark self said with a slow sinister tone.
Yuji jumped up from bed with a deep gasp. Breathing heavily, he realized that it had just been a horrible dream.
Or was it?
A week had passed since the Snake of the Festival had met his demise and Bal Masque had disbanded. But deep down, Yuji felt that though the Crimson God had been defeated, the Snake of the Festival Yuji Sakai himself had not yet been completely vanquished.
He sighed. "What should I do?"
Chapter 1: Prelude to Destiny
"Is something the matter? You look like you haven't slept in days," Shana told Yuji as soon as he arrived at Hecate's mansion. Hecate stood beside the Flame Haze.
"It's nothing, really," Yuji replied, forcing a smile.
Shana frowned. "Wh-what's with that look?" Yuji asked.
"No more secrets, remember?" Shana said. Since the New Year, the three of them had indeed made a promise to each other not to hide anything from one another.
Yuji held up his hands. "I'm not hiding anything!" he said.
"Liar," Hecate muttered softly.
Yuji had no choice but to give in. "Alright, alright, I'll tell you," he said. For some reason, he felt a chill in his spine and looked towards one of the windows of the mansion. For a while, he saw Wilhelmina's ice cold look before she withdrew behind the curtains.
"She still hates me, doesn't she?" he sighed.
"Apparently so," Alastor replied.
"Well, I can't blame her," Yuji continued as the three walked to school.
"Her personal grudge doesn't drive her as far as to damage your relationship with Shana, fortunately. She is growing up, after all," Alastor continued.
"Is that what's been bothering you?" Shana asked concernedly.
"That, and something else. Recently, I've been having nightmares again."
"You shouldn't be worried over little things like that. They're just dreams and nothing more."
"But Shana, I haven't even told you-."
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Shana said, but not angrily. She smiled reassuringly. "Forget about it. As long as you have us, there's no nightmare you should be afraid of."
Yuji sighed. She had no idea of what kind of nightmares he had been having.
But that was just what he thought. Shana suddenly spoke again.
"Besides, you're not going to lose either of us," she said. "You don't have to let that dark side of yours take control of you again."
"How did you-?!"
"We're not completely sure," Hecate answered immediately. "Somehow, we had the feeling that it was something like that."
"We better hurry up, or we'll be late for class," Shana said with a playful tone as she began to run.
"Shana, wait for us!" Yuji said as he was about to run after her, but Hecate snatched his sleeve.
"Konoe-san?" Yuji said as he turned around.
"I told you to call me Hecate," she responded.
Although Hecate had taken the form of Konoe Fumina to keep her memory alive, she wanted to be called by her "nickname".
"Oh, sorry, Hecate," Yuji corrected himself. "Did you need something?"
"Have you confessed yet?" Hecate asked him. The Mystes blushed and fidgeted.
"You haven't yet."
"No, I still have a lot to do before I can."
"Like getting back on the good side of your future mother-in-law, Wilhelmina Carmel?" Hecate said with a small smile, followed by a giggle. The former Priestess of Bal Masque, once known for her coldness, was growing even more human since the fall of her former organization.
"Yeah, something like that."
"Don't worry, I'll support you Yuji," Hecate said, widening her smile. "I'll help you in any way I can, so don't be afraid to ask."
"Hurry up slowpokes!" Shana yelled up ahead.
"We're coming, we're coming!" Yuji responded as he and Hecate tried to catch up.
Despite having gone through one of the greatest battles in the history of both the human world and the Crimson Realm, the trio had recovered quickly and a sense of normalcy had returned.
But how long will it last this time? Yuji asked himself suddenly.
"I don't know, but we should enjoy it while we can," surprisingly, Shana replied to his question.
They were not surprised to find Sydonay still teaching in their class. However, the Thousand Changes had stopped using the disguise known as Hebito Okami and instead appeared in his usual form. Despite the sudden change in his appearance, no one seemed to notice, save those with knowledge about the Crimson Realm and the Truth of the World.
As usual, Shana and Hebito Okami, aka Sydo-sensei, did not hold back in arguing about the current subject in front of the entire class. And of course, the latter continued to show favoritism for his favorite student, Hecate.
During free time, it should also be noted that since Kazumi had stopped pursuing Yuji, she was now trying to get to know Ike. However, before she could, Fujita would get in her way.
When Shana, Yuji and Hecate went into the school's library, they found Margery Daw working there as the new librarian.
"We felt your presence close by," Shana told her.
"What are you doing here anyway, Margery-san?" Yuji inquired.
"Since we all decided to start our own group, we're sure to be cut off from Outlaw. So we have to earn a living on our own, without their support," Margery answered as she sorted out the library's books. "I'm not regretting that decision though, so don't get all melancholic again."
"Hey, I'm not like that!" Yuji denied, but the three women around him just stared back at him.
"But why here?" Hecate asked.
"That's a secret," Margery replied with a wink.
"If you're looking for Satou-kun, he skipped school again," Ogata said as she and her boyfriend, Eita, passed by.
"What?! I was sure he was-," Margery said, then blushed a bit.
"Too bad for you my stricken dove, Margery Daw," Marcosias teased. "Maybe you should pay more attention to what your bo—ow!"
Margery bashed the Grimoire with her fist.
"Then where is he?" she asked.
"We're not sure," Eita said. "But recently, he told me something about wanting to find work."
Margery sighed. "That idiot," she said.
"Well, at least he isn't goofing of like he used to, right?" Yuji said. "By the way, are Khamsin and Leanan-sidhe looking for work as well?"
"The geezer and geezerette?" Margery responded. "They're going to be leaving on a journey with that Lorelei girl tomorrow, right?"
"Oh yeah, I almost forgot," Yuji said. "We should say goodbye to them later."
On the way home, Shana decided to take a detour from the trio's usual route. Soon, they ended up at a bakery.
"What are we doing here?" Yuji asked the girl with long dark hair.
"This bakery was set up just a couple of days ago," Shana said with an enthusiastic feeling. "I want to try their melon bread."
"Wait, how did you know this was here if it was set up that recently?" Yuji asked. "Come to think of it, how come you know the exact locations of every bakery in Misaki City?"
"She has her sources," Alastor said.
"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Just come with me," Shana said as she grabbed Yuji and Hecate and entered the shop.
"Welcome," said a familiar young man with blonde hair behind the counter. "Oh, it's you guys. What a pleasant surprise."
"Johan?" Yuji said, somewhat surprised.
"Who else?" Johan replied. "Pheles and I got a pretty sweet deal on this place, which happens to come with a place to live in on the top floor."
"How come we didn't sense your presence?" Hecate asked.
"After studying the Tessera you kept, he developed a perpetual Unrestricted System that prevented our presences from being detected," Pheles said as she came in with a fresh batch of melon bread, which Shana immediately helped herself to.
"As much as possible, we want to avoid unnecessary battles," Johan said. "You guys should be on guard too. Not every Denizen or Flame Haze that enters the open gates of this city could have good intentions toward us."
"Which is why it's up to us to uphold the justice between the different beings in this city," Alastor said.
Yuji, Shana and Hecate stayed in the bakery until nightfall, then went back on their way home.
"So Shana, how did you find their melon bread?" Yuji asked.
"It's not bad, but there's still plenty of room for improvement," the Flame Haze replied. "I mean, it's too crispy on the outside, but not airy on the inside. And the shape is just right. But it has a bit too much flavor..."
"There she goes again, passionately talking about melon bread," Hecate said. Yuji chuckled.
"But after a time, you get used to it," he said.
They passed by a couple on a date. Immediately, they sensed that the female was a Crimson Denizen that had once been part of Bal Masque.
"It feels a little strange," Shana said when the couple was a few meters away from them. "I used to attack Denizens like that on sight, but now…"
"We're all moving in a better direction," Yuji said.
"He's right," said Alastor. "You've learned to become wiser Shana."
"And Hecate's once cold heart thawed out, and she's learned to become human," Yuji said. "But what about me?" he mumbled.
"You're maturing too," Hecate said.
"You may not know it, but you're becoming an even better person than you already are, Yuji," said Shana.
Or are you, you fake? said an ominous voice from within the Mystes.