What came before: The night has fallen again, and the war between the "Urban Legends" and the "Folktales" resumes. Just as the sky grows dark, the Nura Clan's Supreme Commander's own treacherous son has all but reached his father. But while their destinies clash, other destinies clash elsewhere as well.
Though the Nura Clan is mostly on the offensive, one of the stronger youkai of the Rose Coalition, Death's Doctor, is intending to strike at where they are most vulnerable: at the youkai that are not good at fighting. Naturally, the Nura Clan does not intend to let him have his way…
Chapter 108 - Containing the Pestilence
I'm the Death's Doctor, a youkai created artificially by the spread of horrific urban legends. An Urban Legend created by a very little girl, who at the time was unaware of the powers she possessed. Though back then, I was called Plaguesdoctor.
I ride in an emergency vehicle, driven by one of my dear nurses. We're on our way to fulfill a grim destiny, set forth by a choice made by Zen-dono, an enemy I was quite fond of. For he started like me, but became everything that I could not be.
On my way, I remember the past for some reason. I remember my birth muskily, for an Urban Legend doesn't become sentient at once. But sometime after I did become sentient, I met the girl who created me. The foolish girl who did not know what she had done until too many people have died. Her shock and terror became engraved in my memory, and her order to leave as far as possible I took to the heart.
I was fine with just being me back then, a youkai which mindlessly spreads pestilence and kills people. It was her expression that made me question myself, which would bring me much pain until I learned to ignore it. Still-
The car got struck by something, or more likely by someone, and it flew into the air. I felt startled for a moment, but I soon calmed down. It came at no surprise that the Nuras attacked me before I reached my destination.
"Get away, and be careful." I tell my nurse just before the car hits the ground again. We both immediately jump out of it, and the good girl does as I told her and leaves. She stops to give me a concerning look, but quickly resumes her run. I keep looking at her, just in case the Nuras attack her. Though she could not die as long as I lived, she could still feel pain.
None of the Nuras get in her way, so I turn towards the large hulk in front of me. "Nice to see you again, Shouei-dono." I tell the large youkai. "I see that you have made an even swifter recovery than I anticipated."
The large youkai says nothing, and I quickly stop paying attention to him. In the distance in front of my eyes, a large crystal wall started to emerge. Though maybe a wall of ice is more likely.
Looking around, I see that it was emerging from all directions, first slowly than quickly. Soon enough, a large dome of ice engulfed me and Shouei-dono. I had no doubt that it was a very thick ice, else what would have been the point?
"Impressive. With this, you'll make sure that my carriers can't leave." I say and return my attention to Shouei-dono. "I had no idea that you had a Yuki-Onna powerful enough to do something of this caliber. And so quickly." Nura Ritsura was able to create a large blizzard, but I understand that she needed to spend days to make that possible, and also had to rely on an Onmouyji's help.
Once again, he said nothing. Understandable, he had all the reason to hate me.
"Well, I can easily see the real answer: there's more than one." I shrugged and then summoned a large sword reeking with pestilence. "Even so, you can't stop the inevitable. You can only delay it."
It was then that I realized that we were not alone: several different youkai surrounded us now. Just where were they hiding earlier?
Tsurara allowed herself a moment of relief. "Thank you again, Reira-san." She said to the Yuki-Onna from Toono.
"You're welcome. Again." Reira dismissed it, but was nevertheless smiling.
At Tsurara's behest, Reira and a few other Yuki-Onna from Toono came. Together with those that were members of the minor clans loyal to the Nuras, and some who came with youkai from the outside clans, they had enough numbers to create a barrier which should keep Death's Doctor pestilence contained to one battlefield. Previous night, he had the bad manners to send rats, flies, and other diseased creatures to spread across the other battlefields even while he himself was fighting one opponent.
Even worse, he could have just ignored everyone and left to attack the weaker youkai of the Nura Clan. But now, he would be imprisoned and unable to leave without facing his enemies in combat.
"Still though, I have to wonder…" The emissary of the Kyoto youkai Clan landed before her. "Isn't this going a bit too far for a lowly Urban Legend?" He was Hakuzozu, a large old-fashioned youkai who looked like a rabbit skeleton. He faced the Nura Clan when they were attacking Kyoto, and was seen as an honorable enough youkai that Rikuo offered him to join the Nura Clan, an offer which Hakuzozu refused.
"Here in Tokyo, you don't want to underestimate them. Even the weak ones can be crafty."
"True, you already taught me how crafty you Edo youkai can be." Hakuzozu said something that Tsurara felt was slightly insulting, but she let it pass. She was acquainted well enough with the attitudes of the Kyoto youkai.
"Hakuzozu, why are you here?" Tsurara asked.
"I'm an observer. Is it that wrong for me, the emissary of the great and loving Hagoromo Gitsune-sama, to be here and observe?"
"There must be more interesting places to be at." Like with her husband and son. Even if it were a Kyoto youkai, she would have liked someone trustworthy there. And Hakuzozu was honorable to a fault.
"Well… let's just say that I'm not actually a stranger to this enemy of yours." Hakuzozu seemed anxious for some reason.
"Really? Oh right! He was the kind that traveled around." Tsurara looked at him. "But if you crossed swords with him, then you should have known he wasn't someone weak, right?"
"Hm… we have not truly crossed swords, much to my regret. But alas, is that not a matter for another time? Should you not look at this fight yourself?"
He was right, so she turned her attention back towards the battlefield. Still, she could not but feel that something was amiss.
"That's one large dome of ice." Three of the nurses that called the Death's Doctor their master looked from a highway as a dome of ice engulfed an area of the city. "Do you think this is for the Doc?" One of them, who had scissors connected to her right arm, asked another nurse, who would have looked like a normal human had there not been a wide, deep cut on her neck.
"Who else could it be?" Answered the third one, whose eyes were stitched together. She could not see anything, so her fellow nurses learned to describe everything they saw. "Doc told our allies to keep away." He did so to make sure they did not get caught in his pestilence.
"I'm worried for the doc." The one with the hole on her neck said with hand signs. "Should we go help him?"
"You're worried for the doc?" The first one spoke in such a manner that the blind one could know what the mute one said. "Even if we could reach and enter the dome, we would just get in the way. We go on with the Doc's orders."
"True. Besides, we are part of the Doc." The blind one said. "We must show that the Doc's Fear has reached even far away from him."
"You'll do no such thing." Another woman's voice said. Everyone, including the deaf one, turned to the source of it.
"A woman in a kimono, and with long moving hair stands before us." The first nurse explained. "Must be a Kejorou."
"A Kejorou?" The blind one asked.
"A murderous prostitute." The first one answered. "Serves the Nuras."
"I'm only murderous when someone confuses me with those hoaxes." Kejorou said with a red face. Four other youkai followed after her. "And you must be some of that youkai's friends."
"Did our attire give us away?" The first one asked. "We too have allies, you know." She said, expecting her allied Urban Legends to appear behind her. "Eh?" She was confused when that did not happen.
"We knew you were not alone, so we did not come alone either. Our allies are fighting as we speak."
"Well then." The first nurse raised her scissors and transformed them into a drill. "We better play our part as well, eh?"
A human-like youkai moved slowly across the battlefield surrounded by a dome of ice. He was Gyuki, the leader of what was once the famous Gyuki Clan, a clan now forced out of its home due to a certain dragon's scheming.
He looked as numerous youkai fought and fell to the Death's Doctor, an evil Urban Legend who had put his eyes on bringing misery to the Nura Clan, whom Gyuki loyally served. None of the Nuras died on this icy battlefield though, for all but one of these youkai attacking Death's Doctor were illusions created by Gyuki. The only real youkai was Shouei, for whom Gyuki made several doubles to help keep him safe.
Death's Doctor did not strike Gyuki as a youkai of low intellect or great rashness though. He likely realized by now that his enemies were illusions, but had to ascertain just how many of them were real and how many of them were not. The smart move would have been to mix many real youkai with illusions, but Gyuki and the other leaders of his assault agreed that they did not want to risk more lives than necessary. The attacks of the Death's Doctor were not some bruises or wounds from which one could easily recover. They were diseases that would quickly kill them, especially now that Death's Doctor Fear was such that his attacks were especially efficient against the youkai of the Nura Clan. It was more efficient and safe to fight him in low numbers, and try to avoid being even just touched by him.
Gyuki had to attack before Death's Doctor realized that he could comfortably focus on Shouei and on whoever created these illusions. Just before that moment came, Gyuki would use his experience to strike directly at this youkai's Fear, thus making Shouei's job easier. As to keep his own excitement low and his head cool, Gyuki moved slowly. If he let himself get excited, Death's Doctor might notice him too soon.
Step by step, Gyuki got closer to his enemy. Step by step, he got closer to this youkai dressed in black leather, whose head was the mask shaped as a crow's beak. Gyuki wished that he was able to fully hide his presence, just like Nurarihyon and his heirs, as then he would not need to worry that this youkai would turn around, notice him, and release his pestilent animals on him.
Gyuki managed to get close enough. He gave in to the sprint and ran at the youkai who had just effortlessly slashed through illusions of Hitotsume and Aotabou with a large katana. Gyuki jumped, raised his sword, and slashed it downward.
But the Death's Doctor quickly turned around and met his attack. "Should have taken a few more silent steps, Gyuki-dono."
"And you should have kept flying." Gyuki noted as he glanced at the enemy's black wings, and retreated a few steps.
"That seems like too obvious of a tactic." The pestilent youkai said. "What would have happened if I flew? Would spikes grow out of the wall? Would ice collapse onto me? Would someone shoot me down from afar?" The youkai jumped away to avoid a piece of rock thrown at him by Shouei from afar. "I'm sure that you have thought it through, so I must be somewhat cautious, no?"
He was not wrong. Several youkai walked atop the dome, ready to crush down and attack the Death's Doctor if he flew close enough. There were also a few Yuki-Onna up there, who would certainly summon spikes.
Death's Doctor nevertheless used his wings, but only to propel himself towards Gyuki. The experienced samurai easily deflected this attack and the doctor pulled away once more. "That was quite a weak attack." Gyuki said to him.
"Could you please dispel these illusions now? I know there's only two of you." Death's Doctor effortlessly slashed through fake Shouei. "You're just tiring yourself."
Gyuki did as he suggested. "I don't like how you are trying to help your enemy."
"Why so? I'm being a good sport."
"Because you're looking down at us."
"I assure you Gyuki-dono, I am not." The Death's Doctor prepared to propel himself at Gyuki once more. "I just spent too much time in Britain." And then he propelled himself.
Gyuki met this attack with more force, and Death's doctor certainly used more force as well.
"You sure have an intense look on you, Gyuki-dono." Death's Doctor said while the two pushed against one another's sword. "Is this because I killed Zen-dono? Or because of whom I'm attacking?"
"Neither. Both I and Zen are warriors, we can't blame someone for what happens. We're all creatures from lands of the dead to begin with." Gyuki pushed Death's Doctor away. "And I don't have the right to blame others for attacking the helpless either. At least you do it for strategic reasons."
"Then what is your beef with me?" Death's doctor tried to fly away once more, but has also ceased to play around: flies have started pouring out of his sleeves.
"I don't have beef with you." Gyuki quickly moved forward and grabbed the Death's Doctor by the collar just before he propelled himself backwards. "I pity you because just like the old me, someone who revels in slaughter." Just as they landed, Gyuki put all his strength into his next attack. Death's Doctor freed himself from Gyuki's embrace, but the old samurai managed to cut the doctor's right arm.
The Doctor's sword disappeared, but he did not scream. "Then you know nothing of me, Gyuki." He said in a darker tone. A gunshot resounded, and Gyuki felt pain on his right hip. "Just like everyone else, you've no idea what goes through my head."
I remember when I was born. I did not know who I was, I did not know why I existed, I did not know anything about the world I lived in.
All I knew was that I had to kill. And how I had to kill.
Many died by my hands. People died in agony, and their families cried in sorrow. I felt no satisfaction or joy in what I did, and I felt a bit sorry for what I did. This was unlike my fellow Urban Legends, but they were not created by a child who could feel true malice. Maybe it was that lack of malice that made me so cold?
I did feel something was amiss when that child looked at me in horror and ordered me to leave as far as I could. It was not only my victims and their families who hated me, but also this little girl who made me. I wondered why. I would have been better off if I never wondered about it.
I left as far as I could, just as the girl demanded. I left for the lands outside Japan, wondering what I was and what my creator wanted me to be.
As time went on, I learned how to pretend to be a human. One of my victims was a famous Doctor, and I realized that I could imitate him because medical knowledge came naturally to me. So that was what I did. I wanted to know just what these beings that I killed were.
Maybe that was a mistake. It's not the same thing to kill something that exists solely for you to kill it, and to kill living beings that you came to like and whom you saw to be no different than yourself.
I liked my time as a doctor. I liked healing people, to see them be happy, and to see people turn from despair to joy. But alas, I had to hurt people, to make them die, to turn joy into despair. My nature didn't allow me to be different. Even if a cat respects all living beings, it couldn't live without meat.
May it not be said that I did not try to flee this cursed existence. I tried to use the force of will. I tried to bring pain upon my body. I tried to change the Urban Legends about me.
But nothing I did could change me. The humans themselves would not allow it. This part of them, where they force me to kill them… I just can't understand. Would a story of a miraculous healer not be good as well? I guess not. It was back in the ancient times though, which might say much about this current world. Now, humans believe only in dark stories.
And for that I'm evil. On other hand, there are youkai who murder and murder without their Fear demanding it from them, who could choose to be different. And they are good, and worthy of respect and life.
That's how our 'great' Lord of Pandemonium thinks, by the looks of it.
I feel envy for this youkai standing in front of me, clenching his sides because I created a shotgun and hurt him with a bullet whose wound would poison his body.
He was nothing like Zen-dono. Zen-dono was like me. He was a doctor, whose nature demanded he kills. His own poison would slowly kill him, but a youkai can grow stronger by bringing terror to the humans. Had Zen and his ancestors been loyal to their Fear, they could have lived longer. But they chose not to. I envy them for having a choice, and idolize them for choosing the right one. I may have come to hate the humans, but I know what's right here.
And though he did disappoint me by choosing humans over his comrades, I am thankful that he made it impossible for me to bring harm to the humans. For him lifting this damn curse from me. If only it came earlier…
Maybe that gratitude was why I let Shouei-dono jump in and take Gyuki to safety.
A moment of softness. I must not let it happen again, lest I break my own promise.
A bloody war may have been raging on, but one youkai spent the whole time smiling. He was of very short stature, had a deformed head, and glasses through which one could not see his eyes. He was Sorobanbou, the leader of the Demon Merchant Union, and one of the Executives of the Nura Clan.
To him, this war brought him a great amount of pride and profit. Once these dirty Urban Legends and their Sanmoto allies were squashed, his businesses could not only be safer, but he could expand them even further. Just like humans, the youkai also traded. But much to his annoyance, his business only flourished around the Nura Clan's subordinates. The Sanmotos were the ones holding monopoly over both the human and youkai world in Tokyo, followed by the Oniedas who stole much of the human market from them. What was more, Sanmotos liked to pay Urban Legends and unaffiliated youkai to cause trouble to Sorobanbou's merchants and allies.
But that would change after this night. The Sanmotos would lose most of their muscle, and Sorobanbou would even be able to make use of the turfs held by the Urban Legends. Of course, most new profit would come from new youkai clans that the Nuras would establish in territories where their influence was weaker than that of Urban Legends and Sanmotos.
Normally, Sorobanbou would spend wartime either at comfort of his home, or on the safer positions inside a Hyakki Yakou. But he wanted to maximize his profits, so this time he took his few stronger youkai, hired several mercenaries, and went out to spill some blood himself. If he did so, many of his new clients would look more favorably on him. Youkai liked warriors after all.
Yes, this was a good time. The only thing that kinda ruined his mood were the news of Kijo's, Satori's and Inuta's deaths. They were youkai he thought of as friends and youkai of similar attitudes as his own, so he was a bit sad about their passing. But life goes on.
"So? Are you ready for the attack?" Sorobanbou asked his small army. He sat on a flying snake. It was a Hebinyoro, just like the one who helped the Nurarihyons fly around, but smaller.
Before they could reply, one of the crows landed on Hebinyoro's head. "Caw! The urban youkai send a message." The crow, who served the Sanbagarasu, started. "They surrender. They promise that they are not friends with Sanmotos and beg for the Nura Clan's mercy."
"Why are you even bringing this to me?" Sorobanbou asked. "You know we can't trust them." He did not intend to accept their surrender. There was a nice place around here where he could open a few establishments for the more reputable youkai, but he could not do so if some dirty Urban Legends ran around. They would ruin everyone's mood, and that was bad for business.
"So am I to tell them you refuse? Caw!" The crow noted. "Their leader said they would like to negotiate if needed, caw. There's a lot they can tell us about-"
"No need." He looked at this lair, which was just two playgrounds where youkai liked to stay at night. Sorobanbou thought about how he could buy this off, and build a nice theater here. Or a pleasure house. Or a place to sell swords, maybe Keikains could supply them some. "The enemy will be crushed tonight anyway. They should have negotiated earlier."
The crow did not seem to have liked this. But that was not that surprising, Karasu Tengu's youkai were corrupted by Rikuo's pesky ideals after all, and desired to show mercy where it was not needed. They have gone soft and lost that which made youkai great.
"And don't bother to go back to them." Sorobanbou raised his fan and shouted: "Clear this place up!"
His youkai did not even make more than one step when something heavy fell in front of them and created dust from the impact. "Oi, you grand villain!" A loud voice echoed through the street. "Does my lacking nose smell evil tonight?"
As the dust cleared, Sorobanbou noticed that this was a huge youkai, holding an even larger axe. He was dressed in some ragged police uniform that could not possibly fit his stature. His face was wrapped in bandages, and lacked a nose.
Sorobanbou knew this youkai, and thought of him fondly only two days ago because he had helped keep his trade safe. He was one of Ao-Ju's minions, a youkai who upkeeps law and order… or law and order as defined by Ao-Ju.
But Ao-Ju was the youkai serving the treacherous son of Nura Rikuo, so now he too was an enemy. A shame, as far as Sorobanbou was concerned. Now that I think about it, where the hell were Ao-Ju and his goons last night? They neither helped nor fought the Nuras.
"This is no villainy." Sorobanbou decided to grace him with words. "This is war, if you have not heard of it."
"War, eh? I thought I heard a birdie say something about surrender!" The large youkai put his hand under the place where his ear should be. Just like his nose, his ears too were cut off. Eyes were the only organs left on his head. "And truthfully, this group does not look vicious to these eyes of mine. They remind me of Hanako-chan, a bunch of harmless youkai birthed by the imagination of 'lil children. They are just pulling pranks." The large youkai moved his hand away and tilted his head a little. "Also, they look like children themselves. This is kinda messed up, my man."
"Ask Satori-dono about how looks can-"
Another heavy object, another sound of breaking concrete, another cloud of dust. But this time, it struck just beside Sorobanbou, grazed his check, and threw his entire army onto the ground. The object was this youkai's axe. He now felt much more menacing than only a few moments ago.
"My righteous fury makes my Fear grow greatly!" The youkai announced.
And suddenly, Sorobanbou remembered who this youkai was. He was an Urban Legend from the Edo Period, a supposed serial killer who attacked those he saw as villains. He used a large axe, and everyone who felt impact had random wounds appear on their body for a while. Sorobanbou, who was protected by some charms he bought, only suffered a few bruises. But his mercenaries were lying on the ground, bleeding more and more as more deep wounds opened across their bodies. Nobody seemed to be dying though. This was only a warning.
"Under orders of my master Ao-Ju and Kokuhan-sama, I and my comrades shall protect the weak in this city tonight." The youkai raised his axe and now held it with both hands. "Nuras or Roses or Urban Legends. Do what you want to warriors, but should we see someone attack the helpless… oh, may gods have mercy on your souls, for we shall not!" The youkai said, his eyes now red from bloodlust.
Sorobanbou was not afraid though. What he was about to do was only a strategic retreat.
Kejorou started to second-guess her choice to fight these three nurses with such a small force. The others were quickly defeated, and now she had to fight them alone. Just now, she had just avoided another slash of giant scissors, which cut off a few bangs of her hair.
Several bangs of her hair were already lost. More seriously, she also earned several cuts and bruises, and would later need to find a new kimono. The nurses fought ferociously, as if they were the ones defending the weak, not Kejorou.
Looking back, she forgot about one rumor: that these nurses were part of the Plaguesdoctor's Fear. They had their own will and were alive, but they were also part of that youkai. This might matter now because after Plaguesdoctor's transformation into Death's Doctor, he supposedly lost the ability to harm humans but his techniques were much stronger against youkai, especially the Nuras. If the nurses were part of his Fear, then they too were like that now.
Kejorou did not doubt that it really was like that. She caught them many times with her hair, but it was impossible to strangle or properly hold them. It was as if her hair became weak whenever it touched them. On the other hand, even the smallest cut they made caused a burning sensation on Kejorou's body. They also did not seem to be weak youkai themselves.
And there were three of them, so Kejorou was outnumbered. At least she did not need to win, she only had to keep the nurses busy until the Death's Doctor was defeated. If she got any weaker, one of the Nurses may escape her and fulfill whatever vicious plan the Death's Doctor made. For the time being, Kejorou was still able to keep them all three preoccupied, but if it continued to go on like this and the nurses continued to get used to her fighting style, the question was not if one will be able to escape her grasp, but when. Once that happened, the table would turn and the other two would probably become ones to keep Kejorou occupied.
That moment came sooner than Kejorou wished. The nurse with the drill plunged at her, and too easily avoided Kejorou's bangs. Just as Kejorou prepared an unavoidable attack, the nurse with stitched eyes attacked from the other side and slashed two large knives at Kejorou. She managed to avoid their attack, but the positioning was now bad: Kejorou faced these two while the third one, who had a bleeding hole on her neck, ran behind her two sisters. "And our sister escapes!" One of the two said. For some reason, she liked to narrate everything that went on to her sisters.
"Shit!" Kejorou tried to catch her, but the blind one cut most of the bangs, and the one with the drill forced Kejorou to retreat even further away. She thought of forcing herself onward and accepting any damage to her body, but she knew it was futile. If she somehow managed to survive the knives, she would not survive the drill. The teamwork between the nurses was on another level. Now, she could only hope that she delayed them long enough to not regret anything.
Or so she thought. Some policeman with a sword ran from one of opposing streets, kicked the third nurse into her guts, and then forced her back with his sword.
"Where do you think you're going, lady?" The policeman asked. He was a young man, but so pretty and with such a ponytail that Kejorou would not blame someone for thinking he was a girl.
The nurse made some hand gestures, to which the pretty policeman tilted his head in confusion.
"One of Ao-Ju's cops has come." The nurse with the drill said as she and her blind comrade moved away from Kejorou and closer to the mute nurse. "Our sister asks what he is about to do. Will he fine her?" She translated the mute's hand signs.
"That's the idea." The pretty policeman said. "I hear you guys want to release some nasty plague on some women and children. Can't have that!"
"Aren't you on our side?" The blind one asked. "Your master has sided with Shiori you know!"
"Oh, you mean the Chief's Chief? Yeah, he did." The policeman played with his sword. "But he also told the Chief to do what he always does: upkeep the law and protect the weak. No matter the side." The pretty policeman now stood beside Kejorou, who was not too happy with this one's company. "So unless you pretty ladies turn around and leave, I may need to hurt you." He made what some would call a cute wink.
The Nurses did not leave. "Well, our own Chief had given us orders as well." The one with the drill said and her weapon started rotating again. "By the way, your face is too pretty for a man. I shall fix it."
"What a shame." The policeman said and looked at Kejorou. "I guess I'll have to help you."
She needed his help, so she had to take the risk. "Suit yourself." She said but moved a few steps away. She distrusted him, but not due to his questionable allegiances. "But if you try something again, Kaede, I will end you." No, she distrusted him because this youkai, with his fake smile and his fake friendliness, literally struck a blade into her back, a few centuries ago.
"Oh? Are we supposed to be acquaintances?" He continued to smile as he faced the nurses. "The memories of my old life are still hazy." Claimed the youkai from Edo Period, who was revived by Ao-Ju.
"Take this." Shouei said to Gyuki, whom he held in his arms and to whom he offered a bottle with a smelly liquid in it. "It should help." It was what was left from the antidote that Zen gave Shouei. He did not drink it all, just in case someone else needed it.
"You'll need it more than I will." Gyuki tried to refuse, and Shouei had no intent to fight him. He just pushed the bottle into his mouth and returned his sights to the Death's Doctor. Gyuki could hate and curse him later as much as he wanted. He did not want to lose yet another comrade to this wretched bird.
Shouei looked at the enemy taking his cut of arm and put it back. It worked, but the arm just started hanging. "You did him well." Shouei noted.
Gyuki pushed the now empty bottle away, and forced himself to stand. He would not handle any more of this humiliation. "He'll recover, but it should take a while. Probably not tonight." And then he fell onto his knee. "So… use the handicap I gave him well, Shouei."
"Will do." Shouei nodded, took a greatsword into his hand, and jumped back into the field of battle. Due to his size and weight, he made a small crater on the place where he had landed.
"Ah, Shouei-dono!" The enemy greeted him. "I see that now-"
Shouei raised his enormous sword and struck down with all his might. He knew how much this youkai liked to talk, and Shouei was not patient enough to listen to more of his bullcrap.
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Death's Doctor avoided the attack by using his wings to propel himself backwards. He used the shotgun in his hand, and also released a flock of infected crows.
The bullet did absolutely no damage to Shouei's toughened body, and most of the crows he crushed with the side of his heavy, large blade. The rest were gone with one slice that killed several.
"Impressive." Death's Doctor said only a word. The gun, which was too weak to harm Shouei, turned back into a sword engulfed by green vapor. Shouei guessed that it would be bad if that sword reached him, but he was not too worried. Shoueis' reach was much larger than the Doctor's, and he was already prepared for any enemy attempts to get closer to him.
Shouei did intend to get closer to the Doctor though. So he ran forward, into an attack that the Doctor was waiting for. Already, mice have started to leave through the holes of his trousers and he took a fighting stance. He awaited an attack that Shouei was more than happy to give him.
What he did not want was to keep it simple. But not before he kicked the nearby car right towards Death's Doctor.
The bad doctor was forced to fly up, breaking his defensive posture and any plans he had made beforehand. And leaving himself wide open for the impaling attack about to be done by jumping Shouei.
The Doctor saw it in time and, way too conveniently, turned into a flock of crows and avoided most of the attack. Through the shadows on the ground, Shouei saw the crows merge together behind him. Supporting himself with the heavy sword impaled into the ground, Shouei turned around and punched the Doctor into his guts just before he could attack with his poisoned sword. This time, Death's Doctor did not have time to transform and suffered a wound. He did manage to fly up and avoid Shouei's attempt to grab him by his head.
Though he was feeling pain from the plagued mice biting into his legs, he ignored the mice and pulled back his sword.
"You truly are a formidable opponent, Shouei-dono." The wretched doctor said from the safe distance. "But my mice-"
Shouei showed how much he cared for his words by grabbing a piece of broken concrete and propelling it right into him. The Doctor did move away, but right into the spot where Shouei was aiming, thus he got struck by it. Shouei did not know how strong this youkai's Fear truly was, but he certainly lacked the fighting experience that Shouei had. Youkai that did not need to be fully concentrated on a fight could never gain enough experience to be true warriors.
Once again, Shouei broke into a run. He reduced his own size somewhat to become faster, and then threw his greatsword into Death's Doctor, who was still falling and holding his fresh wounds. The sword struck through his left shoulder and wing, for which Shouei hoped that it would make it impossible to fly.
He did not stop moving towards the Doctor though. The sword fell onto the ground, but the Doctor was still heavily wounded. Shouei intended to finish him right there and right then. The youkai who spread the plagues however still had some strength left and avoided Shouei's attempt to crush him with his fist, and even managed to slash through him with his venomous sword.
Shouei kicked him away, and the Death's Doctor released a swarm of insects and mice onto him, all of which bit into Shouei, who fell onto his knee.
"This was close… too close." The Doctor declared and relaxed.
"No, it's right on mark." Shouei said and soon the Doctor's neck found itself held by Shouei's large hand.
"What… How…" Shouei did not know the limits of this youkai's power, but he had no doubt he put all his Fear into this last attack. This attack should have probably killed him.
"You dared to underestimate Zen's antidote, fool." Shouei raised the bad doctor up and then smacked him right into the ground and let go of him. "And now, you shall become endemic." Shouei raised his fist, preparing to crush this evil youkai's head with one swift punch. Zen's cure saved him, but he still felt nauseous from those bites. "Let me show you Doctor… what happens to those who hurt someone's dear comrade."
"No, I'll show you!" A woman's voice shouted from behind him, followed by the sound of a chainsaw.
Shouei quickly turned around, only to be slashed across his chest by a chainsaw wielded by a furious nurse.
He was so focused on the Death's Doctor that he had forgotten that he had not come here alone.
I saw one of my nurses… my daughters... strike Shouei. She had saved me and inflicted major damage on Shouei-dono, but this did not make me feel relieved. Quite the opposite.
I forced myself to rise up. As quickly as I could. And I used my wounded wings to throw myself forward.
I did not get there in time. She was struck by his open fist and thrown away in a bloody shower. Bit I did dig my own fingers into one of his arteries and released poison right into his bloodstream.
He tried to hit me, but his movements have become sloppy and I managed to avoid him. He then jumped away, and collapsed onto his knees. I ignored him and ran towards my nurse.
"You should stop looking like that whenever we get wounded, Doc." She said to me, bleeding from her guts. "It's not like we can die while you live."
"I know." I said as she turned into raw Fear and merged with my body. "But you can still feel pain." And these poor women had enough of it.
All of my nurses, which are now part of my Fear, were once their own youkai. They were born from Urban Legends spread by humans, like most newborn youkai were.
The stories about vengeful and suffering women not being able to find peace in death never grew old. Humans love such stories. And because they love them, these youkai exist.
But all those stories are based on real women who suffered murder, torture, rape, mutilation… often all of it. Yet, even in death they could not find peace, for human love for horror stories returned them into life and turned them into monsters, forced to suffer and make others suffer until the humans got bored with their stories and then they grew weak until they just faded out of existence. A slow and miserable end to their already miserable lives.
I guess their inability to flee such a tragic fate was what attracted me to them. And somehow, I was able to make them part of my Fear, I was able to make them into my Nurses. As such, they could not die, they were not haunted by memories of their old lives, and they could act more out of their own will. I failed in many things, but I'm glad that I managed to save these poor women. If the entire world is standing against us, then youkai like us have to stay together against it.
What I'm doing now is for their good as well. The Lord of Pandemonium, who should be helping us, decided that youkai like us have to die. Then what choice do I have other than to strengthen our Fear in hopes we become true youkai, like the ones born in less decadent times, and to save my Mother, the last hope for a true ally for the youkai like us?
I looked at Shouei, and saw that he was in pain, but not dead. But I did not intend to get close to him. I had a feeling that he still had enough strength left to attack me. So instead I turned into a flock of crows and flew away. I had to flee this icy prison and finish my mission. I had to strike fear as no other into the hearts of the Nuras. As long as I reached the wall, it would be alright.
But then an icy storm started and struck all of the crows that I turned into. This forced me to turn back into my true form and fall onto the ground.
"I can't have you leave." A woman's voice spoke up. "I'll be your enemy now."
I rose up and saw the wife of the Supreme Commander of the Nura Clan, wielding her icy naginata.
A formidable enemy for me in best shape. A deadly one now that I was in such a shape after fighting Gyuki and Shouei-dono.
Tsurara looked at the Death's Doctor from top to bottom.
She expected someone extremely terrifying. And she got it, when she looked at him from afar earlier. But now that he had gone through Gyuki and Shouei, he looked almost pitiful. One of his arms was just hanging, his wings were broken, and he was bleeding from several wounds. It was hard to be afraid of him now.
However, he still had a fight left in him. Though she could not see his face through the mask, she could feel that he was determined to get past her. For whichever reason, the fulfillment of his dark, gruesome goal was very important to him. Which meant that she could not go easy on him.
No words had to be exchanged. They were enemies, and they both strove to accomplish victories for their respective side. Just like Gyuki and Shouei, Tsurara only had to attack.
Yet, she felt compelled to talk. "What are you doing all this for I wonder?"
"Oh?" The enemy seemed surprised to be given a chance to talk. "I want us to win, of course."
"You know what I mean."
"Hm… I need Mother to survive and keep fighting because she is our last hope. And I need to save as many of my comrades as I can. I hoped that this attack of mine would divert some of your force's attention onto me, but alas… I guess I overestimated how many would come after me."
"We all know that you aren't the type that should be faced in groups."
"So instead you sent a few strong youkai with a good plan. I underestimated you. I better rectify that."
And with those words said, the Death's Doctor plunged forward, releasing all his Fear into one fatal attack that would kill all but the strongest youkai. Tsurara was not so high up the ladder.
But she did not need to be. For a slight moment, she was annoyed that his head was an emotionless mask, as a part of her would have liked to see the surprise on his face once he realized his failure.
Tsurara created a thin layer of ice across her entire body, and thick enough that none of his germs or viruses could reach her body. And even if by some chance it reached her, she was ready to freeze everything inside her body.
Moving broke that ice of course, but as long as it was only a few moves she could restore the layer quickly enough. Fortunately, Shouei and Gyuki weakened the Death's Doctor enough that she was able to pierce him with one, quick strike. "Guaah!" The Doctor groaned in pain, and the pestilence he had just created evaporated. She could sense that his Fear was on the verge of disappearing. He had no more fight left in him. "I guess… I overestimated myself once more."
"You said earlier that you do all this for others. But I can't see it that way." Tsurara continued their conversation. "If you really cared about them, you wouldn't be here. Why attack the ones who don't fight when those who do kill your friends?" She looked back down at him. "What is it that you want exactly?" She asked him once more. "Don't lie."
"Hah. I…" He looked into the air for a few moments. "Now that you mention it, I guess you're right. I didn't fight to help, but to make you all pay… for your betrayal."
"For our.. .betrayal?"
He now looked at the ground. "A lot of us believed in the Master of all Youkai, you see. Nura Rikuo seemed like a youkai who will finally unite them all together and bring an end to their pointless war. He will bring peace to youkai and humans, and restore the respect humans have towards youkai. He will help guide youkai to greatness, to make their Fears become pure and true. Many of us believed that it included all the youkai."
"But it does not include all youkai, only those he thinks are not evil. He puts humans too high on the pedestal and doesn't accept that much of their world is rotten. To him, all the Urban Legends are part of the Hyaku Monogatari, whom he hates so much. And now, he decided that our fate is to die by his hands." He tried to rise up, but fell back onto his knees. "I understand why he did it. I do. You can't save everyone. You can't protect both good and evil youkai and then expect the human world to accept you. And maybe we should have done more on our part. He did give us time, and some have used it to bring him and his family harm. I understand it. I do." A few moments of silence ensued. "But even so, I feel… angry."
All while he talked, Tsurara's head went through many excuses she could make. In her younger days, she would shout and make them clear. But she knew most of them were pointless. "I'm sorry for that. And I bel.. I know that Rikuo-sama also wished it did not have to come to this. We hoped it would be… cleaner." She tightened the grip on her naginata. "But to us, you left us no choice. You can't expect us to bow our hands while the likes of Gorozaemon, Otone, and others make us suffer."
"I know. I truly hope that someday all this is just a note in history best left forgotten. However… don't expect the Urban Legends to forget this night. No matter how it ends, the Urban Legends from Tokyo to Nagasaki will view the Nura Clan as their greatest enemy."
"We know." Tsurara said with a sad tone.
"It's tragically funny what that means, right? You can't make peace anymore, so you need to wage war. The best choice for you now is to utterly crush us here, and ruthlessly crush those alike elsewhere. Things will just keep getting worse."
She wished to say that she hoped it would not be so. But it felt arrogant coming from someone who was, from the perspective of this youkai, the attacker.
"Still, you're right. I should have stopped what I was doing when it was clear that you are not taking the bait. And I should have retreated after Shouei-dono's beating. What I tried to do was wrong."
"I think so too. What you did was just suicidal." Tsurara scowled. "Anything else you want to say?"
"I'll eat my pride and pointlessly ask you to spare me."
Her scowl worsened. "Do you promise to keep from attacking my clan?"
"Only for tonight. I can't promise for the future. Not now that my Fear command me to hunt the Nuras."
Tsurara took her naginata into both of her hands. "You understand that I can't accept it?" She held some sympathy for him, and regret for what they were doing. But she could not allow herself to be sentimental. If he intended to bring harm to her clan, she could not let this opportunity pass by.
"I understand. But you know, I had to try lest I have regrets in my death."
"Farewell then. I'll make it quick." She raised her naginata and swung it down.
Only for something to crush the ice above them and strike into the ground between them, forcing Tsurara to jump away.
"What?" She looked up, and saw a massive spear at the place of impact. She was surprised to see who flew down to take it back up. "Hakuzozu?!"
"Aye." The Kyoto youkai, the loyal servant of Hagoromo Gitsune greeted her. But he averted his eyes to the youkai behind him. "We meet again. You sure seem sorry compared to the last time I saw you."
"My apologies… but what is the meaning of this?" Death's Doctor spoke the words that were on Tsurara's mind as he rose back onto his feet.
"I am just helping an old… friend. Whose master lived up to her promises." Hakuzozu then faced Tsurara once more. "I suggest you hurry now. The Nuras won't just stare forever at us."
"I… thank you very much." Death's Doctor nodded and transformed into a flock of crows. "I'm forever in your debt." The voice coming from the crows said before they rushed through the whole in the dome.
"Caw! Taurara-sama! Caw!" A different crow, one loyal to the Nura Clan, landed beside Tsurara. "Orders! Orders!"
"Let him be." Tsurara said after confirming that he was moving in the opposite direction of his old target. "It's not worth pursuing him." He may have been beaten up, but she was afraid that he was strong enough to harm any pursuers they could send. No weak youkai should be facing him, even now. "Tell everyone to go wherever reinforcements are needed."
"Caw! I'll report to the executives too. Caw!" The crow said and flew away as well.
"Now…" Tsurara sighed and faced Hakuzozu once more, with an almost murderous scowl on her face.
"Hakuzozu, what is the meaning of this?!" Tsurara yelled while walking with fast, but heavy, steps. "Why did you help that youkai?"
She was joined by Gyuki who walked with Shouei's help, but was pale as bone, and Karasu Tengu who had appeared as well. The Nuras had expected many things, but a Kyoto youkai helping the Death's Doctor was something inconceivable. The Kyoto youkai were among the oldest youkai, for they were the only ones spared by the Nue's first cleansing, and they viewed all other youkai as inferior upstarts. The Urban Legends should have been even below that level.
And their leader, Hagoromo Gitsune, was the most arrogant youkai that Tsurara knew. She could not possibly approve of this.
"Ah yes, I understand the reasons for your fury!" Hakuzozu spoke in his usual dramatic way. "For me to-"
"Hakuzozu, have you ever angered a really distressed and nervous mother?" Tsurara's patience was limited these days. After all, even if she tried not to think of it during the battles, her world was falling apart.
Hakuzozu looked at her for a while, and then relaxed his posture. "I guess I may have been a bit insensitive there. Sorry." He scratched his head. "He and I had a little bit of history. I was somewhat paying him back for something I once did."
"Hakuzozu-dono…" Karasu Tengu joined in. "What you did was help an enemy whom we risked everything to take down. If not for the Supreme Commander strongly wanting to keep our two clans friendly, we would consider this a declaration of war."
"Hmm…" He thought about what he was told. Hakuzozu was the kind of youkai who sometimes acted first, and thought later. "True, please do have my apologies. If he tries something tonight, I'll… ask him to stop."
"I can't help but notice that you seem to be friendly with him." Gyuki spoke up. "And I heard you say something else to him…"
"Hm… ah… well… Hagoromo Gitsune-sama did not say it was a secret, even if I was asked to not bring it up. But I guess…" He shrugged. "It's embarrassing to admit it, but we have made some deals with these people. This Doctor, and one legless girl, were the emissaries that came a few times."
"Wait… what… give me a moment here…" Tsurara grabbed her face with one hand. If Hakuzozu aiding him was strange, this news came from a realm of fantasy. "Of all people… you guys allied with them?"
"It's no alliance. Just some arrangements." He sighed. "A tad bit annoying, but they lived up to them."
"What… what even-" Tsurara started, but Gyuki put a hand on her shoulder, as to let her know that he would handle this.
"Do you mind us asking what these deals are, Hakuzozu-dono?"
"Certainly not. For one, this Shiori maiden promised to not act against us, and to make sure that the few Urban Legends in Kyoto and other towns answering to us do not get in our way, and to show proper respect to Hagoromo Gitsune-sama."
"Huh? Since when does she…" Tsurara wanted to ask how Shiori could control the Urban Legends from outside Tokyo, but Gyuki's tap on her shoulder made her stop.
"We also promised to help one another against our common enemies. Just so you know, Hagoromo Gitsune-sama made sure your clan is exempt from this. You better show gratitude!"
"That we will." Karasu Tengu said, though it did not sound like he meant it. He said it just in case Hakuzozu wanted to hear it.
"We would also both share all the info we had about the Shin Sekai and the Kyushu upstarts." Hakuzozu looked over their scowling faces. "And just so you know, they gave us more in one year than you people did in a decade." His skull could not scowl, but Tsurara knew he would do so if he could. "And unlike your clan, they are also more than happy to help us against the yakuza youkai in Kansai."
"And for that reason you allied with the worst of the trash." Shouei could no longer contain his own anger. "And what's more, with our enemies!"
"Hmmm?" Hakuzozu could not scowl, but he could clench his weapon more tightly. "They are not our enemy. And last time I checked, we weren't exactly allies with you either."
"Should I remind you of Minagoroshi Jizou?" Shouei did not falter. "He's the same kind of trash that stabbed you in the back! Is your mistress-"
"Shouei, silence!" Tsurara yelled. The air had gotten cold, and it had nothing to do with the collapsing dome of ice or her own Fear.
"I shall pretend that you did not just insult my great mistress." Hakuzozu's voice had turned cold. "And as usual, I'll pretend that certain arrogant youths do not view us as their lessers. Unlike the fools flying around, the Kyoto Clan means it when it says that your master is not the Lord Pandemonium, and that we do not answer to him. That title belongs to our Mistress alone, and we shall die before accepting anyone else's claim."
Hakuzozu and the Nuras stared at one another in silence. This very moment was the kind where one could not say anything that could not make the matters worse, so all that could be done to avoid mistakes was to wait for everyone to calm down.
They knew what he meant. Everyone would know it. Few youkai clans in Japan would admit that the Nura Clan was their overlord, but fewer even meant it. All the youkai clans that came here this morning by themselves rather than by emissaries were actually answering Nura Clan's commands.
The proud Kyoto Clan was not among those, and Hakuzozu was here as a sign of goodwill. That she did not come herself or send anyone else said a lot, even if any emissary from Kyoto was welcome in Rikuo's eyes. The proud Kyoto youkai would probably perish before they accepted the Nura Clan's supremacy.
This was not a topic that should be pushed. Not now.
"As it were, I said what I had to say. I shall leave now, before someone does something we would all regret." Hakuzozu announced. "But I regret not helping that youkai. He is, after all, a friend who knows his place." And without any further words, Hakuzozu flew off.
The Nuras looked at him as he flew away.
"Karasu-Tengu, what does this all mean?" Tsurara asked the clan's primary advisor.
"Several things. All worrisome." Karasu Tengu flew up and down in frustration.
"Would that fox really make a deal like this?" Shouei shook his head. "Can she seriously be so foolish?"
"It's politically sound, if risky." Karasu-Tengu noted. "It's risky, but she gains an ally against the more dangerous enemies. What's probably most important is that she gets something that we were desperately looking for: the information on the Shin Sekai, and maybe even some intel on the Kyushu Clan."
"And the Kyoto youkai shared nothing with us." Shouei's scowl worsened.
"Yet another gesture from the fox." Gyuki said. "Hakuzozu was pretty passionate at the end there. They know that our clan overshadows them now, and foolishly they will do everything to make it look like they still matter."
"Sorry, but I don't think the Kitsune is as foolish as to make an enemy of us for such a petty reason."
"I agree." Gyuki nodded. "But they gain a lot from these deals, and who knows what else is being negotiated. Hagoromo Gitsune might even be testing us. If we make too much of a big deal from this, she will take it as a sign that we consider them ours, and will become hostile." He scratched his chin, and then coughed some blood. "It's fine… we should also look at this without the Roses in the picture. Hagoromo Gitsune and her clan are proud and never gave up on the dream that they will return to ruling over the youkai world."
"They used to put all their hopes into the Nue." Karasu Tengu added. "But then he betrayed them."
"Yes." Gyuki sat down, clearly still exhausted and sick from the fight. "So now they have to either give up on their dreams, or find different means of achieving them."
Tsurara remembered Hagoromo Gitsune. Just the thought of her pitch black eyes and the gaze that saw everyone as worms gave her shivers. Even when she was at her friendliest, she was still a terrifying person. "There's no way a youkai like that would ever give up."
"I agree." Gyuki nodded. "The Roses may be just one of the groups she is conspiring with. The Commander will not like to hear it, but we may be forced to view the Kyoto Youkai as a potential enemy once again."
Tsurara remembered what happened after the fight with Abe no Seimei, and how Hagoromo Gitsune offered to save Rikuo when he was mortally wounded. Tsurara was the one who decided to trust her, and the trust paid off.
But kindness from the fox was due to the fact that the soul of Yamabuki Otome, the first wife of Rikuo's father, still resided within her. But Rikuo said that she had passed on.
Still, she knew that Yamabuki Otome left her mark on Hagoromo Gitsune, and that she was still kind both to Rikuo and to their children. "We need to be careful. A war can easily be avoided I believe." She added.
"Still, how did this alliance come to be?" Shouei rejoined the discussion. "I can't believe that Hagoromo Gitsune would ever consider talking with Hyaku Monogatari, not after all that Minagoroshi Jizou and Sanmoto Gorozaemon did to her."
Tsurara knew how. "Kashaimaru." She said one word, and everyone's attention was back to her. "He allied with us last night but… didn't he say that he was in cahoots with Shiori?" Tsurara did not pay much attention to all that happened last night, but the Gokadoin were important enough to garner even the attention of a distressed woman.
"Yes… that's it." Gyuki closed his eyes and put his hand on his forehead. "Hagoromo Gitsune and he get along. If he vouched for Shiori…"
"That darn shithead is responsible for all this." Shouei kept losing his cool. "Joined us… yeah, sure. But only after helping that bitch every way he could."
"I'll immediately ask you to hold back from saying such words next time we meet with him and the Gokadoin." Karasu Tengu admonished him. "Peace with at least some of the Gokadoin is too valuable to-"
"I know! Don't think me a fool!" Shouei clenched his teeth. "I'll make sure to stay away from him. Just don't forget that we can't really trust this guy."
"I meant no offense, it's just easy to get emotional these days." Karasu Tengu looked into the distance. "That goes for all of us."
"Let's hope that Shiori and her servants are done for tonight." Gyuki, whose face finally regained its color, spoke again. "If we get rid of this threat, then most of our problems will be resolved."
All but Tsurara nodded. But there was no certainty in those nods.
Tsurara knew why it was so, and that fact ripped at her heart. The Nura Clan had no doubts that they could hold in Shiori, and keep even the mightiest youkai parades away from her. It would take a miracle to turn the tides around.
But Nura Clan's youkai were no strangers to miracles. The Nurarihyons did them all the time after all, and with them on their sides everything felt possible. But one Nurarihyon was not their enemy, and everybody felt like he could find a way to save the girl. And if the girl gets away…
"Even so, we should be ready for the worst." It was Gyuki who spoke again. "Our war against the Roses goes way too easily, and I can't but wonder if it's because Ritsura-sama captured their leader. If she gets out, the war might become messy."
"Could she really do anything at this point?" Karasu Tengu wondered. "Even if it gets messy, all we need to do is call upon the youkai from the west to stop looking and join the fight."
"No, I agree." Shiuei crossed his arms. "We are talking about a wretched woman who made the Sanmoto House strong again, who stole our heir, and who somehow allied with the Hagoromo Freaking Gitsune. Even the Plaguesdoctor's transformation into a stronger youkai was her doing, and she was imprisoned at the time." Shouei shook his head. "Among those damn schemers, she is the worst. We'll win no matter what, but she can make it hurt."
"Then all we can hope is that Rikuo-sama puts both her and…" He looked at Tsurara. "...his son into place." Karasu Tengu noted and turned around. "We spoke enough. I'm going to report all we learned to others, and prepare a more thorough report for the Commander. You guys return to your own duties." And then he flew off towards his crows. "You guys have heard it all, right? No go and…"
"What will you do, nee-san?" Shouei looked at her, and so did Gyuki.
"Pray. That's all I'm willing to do now."
As much as Kejorou hated to admit it, Hanae proved to be a valuable ally. Though they were nowhere near to defeating the three nurses, they were unable to move away from this place. Time was on her side though, for either her allies will be done with the nearby Urban Legends and come to help, or Death's Doctor would be defeated and so would be the Nurses.
The latter seemed to be the more likely scenario as the Nurses have grown weaker compared to before, their eyes constantly looking towards the dome of ice. They may even be able to defeat them, but she did not want to get too close to them unless needed. She did not have to.
"Come on ladies, I know what you want." Hanae called up to them. "Just turn around and go help your dear Doctor! Leave this poor plan behind!"
Kejorou clicked with her tongue. She did not forget to distrust this youkai, but she did kind of forget that his goals were different than hers. Them leaving and helping the Doctor survive was fine for him, though it was not that fine for Kejorou.
"Fuck the police!" The blind nurse tried to be witty.
"Well, you're not my type." Hanae pretended to be embarrassed. "But I guess I could keep an open mind…"
The Nurses had even less patience for his antics than Kejorou, so the one with the scissors attacked him while the Nurse with the drill attacked Kejorou. The third one kept ready to assist any of them. Both Hanae and Kejorou were ready to meet him.
Then suddenly all three of them moved away and looked up. "Doc!" Hanae and Kejorou did the same, and noticed a flock of crows in the sky. They were not the crows serving the Sanbagarasu, and they did not even feel like they were living beings.
And they were not, at least not individually. They swarmed to the ground, and merged into a youkai whom Kejorou immediately recognized as Death's Doctor. "Damn it… so he escaped… " Kejorou was now worried. Did he actually defeat everyone? He looks bruised, but… no, it can't be. Even so, she now wanted to hurry towards the dome and check on others.
The Nurses seemed to be as distressed. "Doc! You are beaten up! What happened?" The one with the drill asked.
"We're stopping the plan…" He looked as if talking was a pain. "I'm sorry… but can you go back to me for now?"
"Of course!" The two of them said, while the third made some hand signs, and then turned into raw Fear and joined with him. Kejorou was annoyed to see that some of his wounds healed, and that an arm that was hanging until now had started to move.
The wretched youkai now turned towards Kejorou. "My congratulations. Not only did you stop me, but none of my Nurses seem to have moved away much. At this point, I've to admit that I'm a fool for thinking this could possibly be easy." His speech was still shaky, but not as bad as far.
Hanae spoke before she could. "Did I understand it right? Did you say that you are letting go of your evil ways?"
"I'm… accepting the Third Solution. You've won." He said all this while looking at Kejourou instead of Hanae. "I'll leave now and recover. Then I'll rejoin the fight, but this time I promise I'll keep to fighting the fighters."
"I won't let you-" She started to move forward, but then Hanae turned around and faced her. "Get out of my way."
"No can do. Our friendship ended now that the civilians are safe."
"See you later." The Doctor nodded, turned back into a flock of crows, and disappeared into the sky.
"Damn it…" Kejorou showed her teeth at Hanae. "I feel like you live only to anger me."
"Will I need to defend myself." He girlishly put his hands together and tilted his head. "Or can we both go our separate ways?"
"I want to strangle you… but I've no time to spend on you." She would most rather turn around and leave, but she would not show her back to this man ever again. "So go away."
"Ahhh… what did I do to deserve such a treatment?" Hanae sighed and turned around. Kejorou would lie if she said that she did not want to attack him at that moment. "Well, cya then."
Only when he was far away did she turn around and start to run toward the icy dome.
"And say hi to the Thief for me!" Hanae's voice echoed from the distance. His memories were obviously not as murky as he claimed.
"Whjy you…!" She quickly turned around, ready to strangle that lying traitor, but she could not see him anywhere.
Rikuo leaned against the glass wall of the Tokyo Tower with his eyes closed. He was not resting though. As a matter of fact, his senses were more focused than ever before.
He kept his attention on his hostage, an annoying but evil girl whose abilities were still a mystery to him. He kept his attention on his loyal youkai, to make sure that none were breaking the orders he gave. He kept his attention on the outside, to make sure that no unknown Fear got close to the tower.
And most of all, he kept his attention on this one youkai, who was moving slowly toward him. Technically, he was trying to hide his Fear, but his meagre attempts were failing to have an effect on Nura Rikuo, the Lord of the Pandemonium.
He finally opened his eyes and looked at this youkai as he just arrived. "You're finally here, son." He greeted his only son. He last saw him yesterday, but so many things had happened and so many things had changed between them since then that it felt as if he had last seen him over a year ago.
He was filled with different conflicting emotions. Maybe it were those conflicts that made it easy to keep his cool. He may have wanted to shout with all his strength, and may have also wanted to beg his son to see reason, and may have wanted to ask a thousand questions. But he kept it all in, and faced his son as he thought a father should. Looking back, he was never too sure how he had to act like a father, especially in such emotional situations like this one.
So he was the only thing he knew what to be: the Supreme Commander of the youkai.
"Sorry for being a little late." His son let himself smirk. If he was going through his own inner turmoil, he certainly did now show it on his face.
Rikuo still could not perceive what went through his son's mind. If he could, this betrayal would not have caught him off-guard. Rikuo saw this turn of events as his own failure. He should have seen this change in his son, or at least not pretended it was not happening, but his tendency to put unconditional trust in those he cared about had turned against him.
He threw a glance at Shiori. She seemed anxious, but stayed silent. Rikuo expected her or him to make a sudden move. His son's goal was to save this girl, while Rikuo's goal was to make sure that this did not come to pass. He would not let Rihan move past him, nor let the girl do something unexpected.
He turned his attention back to Rihan. If the boy planned to make a run for it, he did not show it. He stood in place, smirking and holding a sheathed sword.
"What happens now?" Rikuo broke the silence. He was anxious, and afraid. He was not sure what would happen, what had to happen. And most of all, what he had to say. He even wished that his wife, or even his grandfather, were here. Maybe even have Ritsura try to reason with her brother.
"Would you please let my girl go?" His son made a simple demand. "And make peace?"
"You know I can't." Rikuo gave a simple reply. He wished his life was simpler, then his son's requests could be easier to meet.
"Then we fight, I guess." Rihan shrugged. His expression did not change.
Rikuo thought of a thousand things he could say to try to make his son change his mind, to open his eyes, to make him reconsider… but somehow he knew that it would be pointless. Now, as he looked at his son and his eyes, he knew it would all be for naught. It was too late to do anything. "Is there really nothing to make you change your mind?" Even so, he asked.
"Right back at you, Dad."
"I do all this to keep everyone I care about safe. All my friends and family. That includes you. It shouldn't have ended like this." It was the attack on his mother, and even more so all the things that happened to his son, that pushed him to having to make such a decision. Again, he wondered how could such a decision, with such motives, end like this. This all was supposed to make his family safe, not rip it apart. This made no sense.
"I've kinda started to find it funny how things can get turned over on their head like that." His son did not sound as depressed.
Rikuo sighed and moved forward a little, holding his sword. But he still could not make himself unsheathe it. This whole situation was too wrong.
"You really think you can win this?" Rikuo asked. Just stop already… just say that you want to talk. Understand how foolish this is!
Rihan opened his mouth to reply, but then a powerful Fear, which was not his, exploded around him. As a matter of fact, it felt like there were three distinct Fears, none of them belonging to his son, though two of them felt very familiar.
"Alone, he can't accomplish anything." An unknown but powerful voice spoke.
"Just like how we could accomplish nothing alone." Another voice added, which Rikuo recognized as Sanmoto Goroazemon's.
"Now there's four of us." The voice of the Nue said, though he did not seem to be as excited as the other two. It felt as if he was forced to participate in a play against his wish.
"The three Demon Kings you Nurarihyons have sent to hell!" The first voice spoke once more. "Now your son is ours, and your light shall be smeared in darkness for eons to come!"
"Rihan… with these guys? Really?" Rikuo asked. "This is absolute foolishness." Gorozaemon, Nue, and someone Rikuo did not recognize but who felt as evil as these two… Rikuo could not believe that these monsters managed to get their hands on his son.
Was this also your doing? Rikuo glanced at Shiori, who too did not seem too happy about it. "Love, you don't need to depend on these three bastards!" For one, Rikuo and Shiori seemed to be on the same leaf.
"Hahaha! It's you who forced him to this!" The unknown voice mocked Rikuo while Rihan raised his sword and started to unsheathe it. Rikuo could feel that it was not an ordinary sword and, now that Sanmoto's Fear was there, he could recognize that this sword reminded him of Maou's Hammer, a sword made out of Sanmoto's Heart, which broke into pieces when he defeated Abe no Seimei. "This is the birth of a new Demon King! Start of a new period! From now on-"
"Oh shut up!" Rihan said and stabbed his sword… right into the darkness enveloping him.
"Eh?" The three voices said in unison.
"I think you misunderstood something." Rihan said aloud, his eyes closed and his sword stabbed right into their combined Fear. "I did not let you flutter around me like pixies and annoy me with your bullshit words because I wanted to kiss your ass so you could spoon feed me your power."
"What is the meaning of this?" Koshin's voice asked, and much to Rihan's satisfaction it was very, very annoyed. "You must make a covenant with us if you want to win!"
"I don't need a covenant with you." He opened his eyes and made a wicked smile. "This is a plunder. I'm not accepting, but taking the power from three losers."
"Why you little-" One of the voices started, but Rihan had no intention to listen anymore. With his own power, and the power of his sword, he started to steal their Fear. "AHHHHH!" Two of them screamed as a piece of them was ripped away, while one managed to pull himself away just in time. Based on the fact that his power did not feel like a pure youkai's, he guessed it was the Nue. "You will regret this… to turn against Three Demon Kings is…"
"I'm sorry, but I'm already taken by someone sexier." Rihan continued to mock them, and then glanced at Shiori. "I've already sworn my heart and soul to a certain Demon Queen, you see." To this, she blushed.
"You will-" Koshin started, but his voice and presence completely disappeared as the black mist that represented their Fear exploded into a blizzard of black cherry leafs.
"Thank you, Yuezakura." He said to the sword, which he just named himself. The black petals swirled, and entered his sword. As if answering, a carving of sakura branches holding a skull and a monkey's head appeared and shone red for a moment before the blade turned pure black again. Even so, he could still feel that the power of two Demon Kings was in it, power which he would find useful in the battle to come.
"Kyaaah!" Shiori suddenly jumped. "This was so cool!"
His father sighed, though Rihan was not sure if it was due to relief or because it was yet another kind of trouble. "Just what was that?"
"It's my own form of Matoi that I came up with. It kills a youkai and steals his essence."
His father seemed angry to hear this. "That goes against what this technique is about."
"I am a traitor." Rihan said with a smile. "Though I came up with it while I was still loyal."
His father scowled even more. "Is this how you intend to defeat me?"
"I'm no fool, I know I'd need much more than even they could give me. It should make sure you don't wipe the floor with me before we even start to fight. Even so… I won't lose."
"You-" His father started, but he would not have any time to finish, because Rihan immediately ran at him and swung his sword. Though it was clear that his father expected him to go towards Shiori, and as such was prepared to stop him, he nonetheless easily met Rihan's attack. For some reason, he kept his own sword sheathed.
"Now!" The boy yelled, and the youkai hiding in his shadow leaped out towards Shiori. His father noticed it and Rihan pushed his sword forward to distract him, but one strong kick was enough to throw the younger nurarihyon away.
Fortunately for Rihan, the Endless Thief managed to grab Shiori and jump away behind him. "Boss, let's go!" The Thief called up to him.
"Don't act senile!" Rihan shouted back. "I told you I will stay behind!"
"Rihan-,what are you-" Shiori started her complaint as well.
"NOW, YOU IDIOT!" Rihan screamed from atop his lungs, and Thief immediately disappeared. And not a moment too soon, because his father's sword struck the place where the Thief stood just a moment ago. "Uhhh… that was close." Had the thief hesitated just half a second more, he would have been dead for good.
His father silently turned around. He looked pretty angry to say the least, but also confused.
"What?" Rihan asked, still holding his sword and ready for a fight.
"Wasn't your goal to save the girl?"
"If she and I fled together, would you leave us alone?" Rihan smirked. "No, you would just keep hunting us. And seeing all those youkai who came here… I now know that if I don't stop you tonight, it's all over for us."
His father said nothing, but his hold on his still-sheathed sword strengthened. He knew where his son was going with this.
"I'm sorry, Father." Rihan's smile disappeared as he raised Youzakura, which shone in indigo light. He took a while to continue with his answer. "We've to win, no matter what." He then raised his tone a little, so that it would not miss to reach the microphone. "And Shiori must make sure that the Nuras stop winning."
Rikuo sighed. "I actually hoped, for a moment, that those demons truly did possess you. Then all I would have had to do was beat them up." He finally unsheathed his sword and threw the sheath away. It was no Nenekirimaru, but Rihan knew it was a sword strong enough to withstand his Fear. "I'll have to defeat you and both of your ambitions then. Then, maybe, you two can stop with this foolishness." He said with eyes filled with determination and dread.
To that, his son earnestly smiled. "No need to be like that, Dad. We're youkai. Let's enjoy this."
Shiori raised her hand and looked at it as she lay on the floor of some unfamiliar apartment. She wished that she could open the same kind of dimensional portal that the Endless Thief could, and that this way she could pull Rihan away, saving him from whatever he was about to do.
To be honest, she did not know how to feel about what he had done. The nice part of her did not want him to lose even more of his old self. The other part of her was glad that he was ready to go so far for her. As was so often the case, her mind and heart were a mess.
"Ara ara!" A black-haired girl wearing a white blouse appeared above her. "Did the Princess finally escape the tower?"
"Hika…" The girl looked like Furuta Hikari, Shiori's older cousin. But it was not her: she was younger, and her eyes were filled with life. She was a doppelganger who killed and replaced the real Hikari.
Shiori would have hated her, but she had no right to do so. After all, it was she who created this girl in order to kill the very person whom Shiori once held dear.
"What are you thinking about?" The fake Hikari asked. "Your mind must be a mess after all that you went through! You should let your Onee-chan check you up." She suggested with excitement in her eyes.
"You-" Shiori started but a certain voice cut her off.
"We've to win, no matter what." Rihan's voice spoke from a device in Hikari's hand. "And Shiori must make sure that the Nuras stop winning."
"I believe that he spoke to you." Fake Hikari said and let the device fall into Shiori's hands.
Shiori clumsily caught the phone-like device. "Roger that." She said and turned it off.
"Did you just… turn it off?" Hikari put a hand on her mouth.
"His voice will just distract me." She said and started to rise up. "Where are we?" She asked as she looked around. By the looks of it, it was a penthouse. It would have looked as an ordinary place for rich people, were there not a large computer with several monitors, a large microphone and some connected devices near the table, and a few youkai, including the Endless Thief, standing in the corners.
"At a safehouse." Hikari noted.
"I see." Shiori said simply and started to slowly walk towards the large windows with closed shutters.
She was worried about Rihan, but with each step her thoughts slipped away from him. She loved him, but there were others she held dear as well. There were other thoughts and emotions in her heart as well, the ones she had to contain while she was a prisoner. But she was no longer a helpless prisoner, and she had no more reason to contain those thoughts and feelings. She may have been a certain young man's lover, but she was also a leader and creator of many youkai.
Youkai who had been dying for days now, and whom she was unable to protect. She let all the feelings that she felt because of it consume her.
When she reached the shutters, she opened them. She heard the fake Hikari shout something behind her, but she did not care enough to pay attention to that doppelganger's words.
Her eyes could not see anything, but she could feel the creatures of darkness clashing. All the humans could, yet alone her. As a Tale Maker, she could even see all important happenings in life of her creations and those whose Tales she took over. Especially their final moments, the sorry ends to Tales that once held promise. She could see it in the same way a writer could see scenes they made up in their minds.
And now that she was away from Ritsura and Rikuo, those youkai with strong Fears, her sight was clearer than ever. It was all far, far worse than she had thought. The Nuras were more brutal and unforgiving then she had, foolishly, expected.
She had prepared so much for a war with the Nuras, but Ritsura had outplayed her, and because of that Shiori was unable to do anything. One small mistake, and almost everything she had built, everyone she cared about, everyone she swore to protect, everyone who believed in her… was almost turned to ash. And still might be.
"Close the shutters!" The fake Hikari yelled and closed them, robbing Shiori of the pointless sights. "I know you're going through a phase and that you feel angry enough to…" The girl started, but paused for a moment when Shiori looked at her. "My… those are some scary eyes. Just what are you thinking about?" Just like with the real Hikari, Shiori felt as if this girl too could look right into one's soul.
That, together with her looks, reminded Shiori of the younger Hikari, on whom she often depended as a younger girl. "Tell me… Hikarin…" Shiori used the first name that came to her mind. "Why is it so hard to not be soft?"
"Hmm… strange question, but I can guess what Midorin means with that. It's about not finding it in your heart to be… evil towards others, right?" She put one hand under her chest, and the other under her chin. "Well, for the most part that's because it's scary. You fear the retaliation, if you could get away with it, and if they will hate you. And there's this part of us that wants to be good, not evil. And hope that if you play nice, that good things will come your way."
"And what do you think about it? Is it bad or good?" Shiori smiled while asking the question.
"I'm a psychologist, not a philosopher, or a theologian, or anything else." Hikarin shook her head. "Sometimes it's the right choice, other times it's not. The world isn't that simple." She looked back at Shiori. "But does my answer really matter to you right now?"
"I guess not. I was just curious." Shiori turned away, but did not stop talking. "Mercy is a useless thing. During the last three years, I should have struck the Nuras. But I was soft, I wanted to play friends with their heirs, I feared that the Nuras would discover me if I got bold." Shiori walked away from the window. "But the Nuras were smarter. There was no hesitation, no mercy. They struck with all they got, taking no risks." Nura Rikuo even admonished her for it. "Rihan is right. There is no place for sentimentality. The Nuras are enemies, and the only thing you can do with them is crush them."
"I admit, it's pretty interesting that Rihan found it easier to attack his family, then for you to attack these enemies." Hikarin said while following after her.
Shiori clenched her teeth. The fake Hikari was right in that regard.
Shiori turned around and faced this girl head on. "Speaking of which, on whose side are you on? Out of all people, I expected you would hide somewhere." Shiori's plan was to create a doppelganger for Hikari who would bring her ruin, and she always expected that this double would be meek and retreat from the family business. But this girl did not meet those expectations. But then again, could someone with Hikari's memories ever be normal?
"Rihan abused my feelings for him to convince me to aid him. So, I'm now the only Sanmoto who is fully on your side." Hikarin grabbed the ends of her skirt and made a small bow. "I hate and envy you though, so please bear with that part of me."
"...that makes me more worried than relieved."
"Don't worry, Rihan will hate me if I do anything to you. Or let anything bad happen to you."
"I read once that if a woman can't get a man to love her, she will at least want him to hate her."
Hikarin raised a finger and opened her mouth to say something, then looked down, then started thinking of something. "Hm…"
"Ah, forget it. I don't have time to fool around anymore. You can still sing, right?" Shiori was not sure just how much Hikari's memories affected this girl, but she needed both her powers as an Utahime, as well as her more mundane abilities.
"Yes, I have Otone's power of singing." Hikarin then glanced towards the microphone. "And I was preparing myself for using it. But… do you really think that we can still do anything? We're losing big time."
"You just get ready to sing. Let me take care of the rest." Shiori said and turned around once more. "I'll put my own life on the line for this fight." She said, but in a whisper.
"By the way Shiorin, one more thing." Fake Hikari's voice changed a bit, and then she grabbed Shiori's shoulder. "I will not serve evil, and I'll not be evil, ever again. If you ever go over the deep end, I'll take you down." Shiori glanced back at the girl who was no longer smiling. "And if I have to take Rihan down with you, then that's what I'll do."
"Thank you for the warning." Shiori slapped away her hand. "Now get to work. We wasted enough time." And with those words, Shiori moved on.
Time for preparation was over, and she had done enough planning while she was still imprisoned. It was time to put all the plans she had to work. She had to trust Rihan, but she was sure that he would be alright. His father would never hurt him, and she could always come to his rescue as well. She could freely focus on her own part, and believe that Rihan would accomplish whatever he had set out to do.
The Nura Clan, all the Folktales that came to answer their call, and all my other enemies… I won't let you do as you please anymore.
She stopped and looked at her face in a mirror. She did not look like someone who was ready to kill. Instead, she looked like a tired little girl.
She grabbed her face with her hands, rubbed it with all her strength, and then let go of it, revealing a villainous smile. Yes, that's better.
I'm not some poor, scared girl. I'm a mass murder who had killed hundreds, who uses everyone as pawns, and who even murdered her beloved cousin just because she was in her way.
And I can make the world burn… and now, that's just what I intend to do.
"Now… let's have some fun~"
- this chapter focused more on Death's Doctor's background, revealing that in many ways, he was just like Kashima Reiko. Though unlike Reiko, he once looked up to Rikuo and the Nuras, which now fuels his grudge against them
- as per orders of Rijan Jr., Ao-Ju and his youkai protect all the helpless, no matter their allegiances. Thus, one of them has stopped Sorobanbou, and another one has stopped the Nurses
- Sorobanbou is a canon youkai, one of the Nura Clan's executives… and one of youkai who schemed against Rikuo in the early Manga chapters. In TSS, he was shown to still be one of Rikuo's enemies and was in cahoots with the Chubu traitors. It should then come to no surprise that he commits vile deeds during this time of war
- Hanae appeared in the story previously during Otone's arc, but I can't blame you if you forgot him as he had very few appearances (though the readers did seem to like him when he was introduced). Most notably, he appeared while investigating the Dollmaker, and he had annoyed Reiko who at the time still hated Rihan Jr. and "his goons"
- all of Ao-Ju's youkai are old Urban Legends related to police or who saw themselves as upkeepers of justice. Many of them are from Edo Period as the human that turned into Ao-Ju was a fan of those stories. The Nura Clan's youkai recognize some of them, and it should not be surprising that some of the Nuras even had history with some of them. Hanae had history with Kejorou and Kubinashi, and not a good one if Kejorou's reaction are anything to go by
- the Death's Doctor has been defeated, and without as many victims as he hoped there would be. No matter how many buffs he got, Nuras are OP when they fight to protect their own
- following Death's Doctor's defeat comes worrying news: the Kyoto Clan and the Roses are negotiating. Not something anyone could have anticipated. The scene felt a bit infodumpy even to me, but some may want more info on it now, and there would be enough infodumping at the end of the arc without adding all the info from here
- Hagu-chan will appear in the story before the arc ends, and the Dark Lady will from that point on be an active character in the story, rather than someone who is just being mentioned from time to time. And as it was hinted here, she very much intends to restore the Kyoto Clan to its old glory. If Seimei won't help, then mommy will take the things into her own hands
- Seimei is looking back at his life, at his choices. What did he do that he ended with guys who make Team Rocket speeches? At least he got away before his Fear was stolen, thus showing he is better than the other two Maous
- Rihan has just given a name to his new fancy sword: Yuezakura (Night Sakura). A similar name to his sister's sword, Yukizakura (Snow Sakura). Truly, a milestone has been reached!
- Rihan has saved Shiori, but unfortunately that does not mean this is all over. The boy has decided that the fight with his father must happen, and nothing will make him retreat. That's bad news
- another bad news is the fact that the most dangerous member of the Rose Coalition has escaped, had sipped several levels deeper into darkness, and is now ready to join the war and unleash her objectively horrible poetry. Still, she better learn to trust others, because having an entire faction depend on one person is… well, not healthy for it
A Mysterious Guest: "And I would like to ask about one line in Inuta and Kohana's exchange :"IS THAT A GODDAMN JOJO REFERENCE?""
Was there any doubt that this is a JoJo reference? ;P