A storm was coming.
From where he stood on the eastern border of the Kurosaki territory- a jagged cliff overlooking the ocean- Lord Haruki could both see and sense the signs of the coming tempest. The wind, already heavy with promised rain, blew in strong gusts around the demon's ears and wings. Overhead, the gathering clouds were thick and dark, slowly erasing every star in the sky. Glancing down, Haruki could see waves smashing against the sides of the cliff. Anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the currents could expect to be lifted up in a foamy embrace before being dashed against the massive rocks and sinking into an eternal watery sleep.
"And so it must be," the great bat demon muttered.
Raising his head, Haruki sighed and glanced over his shoulder.
"You can stop concealing yourself."
"Believe me, I never bothered." Ladahlord stepped out of the thick shadows behind Haruki into a patch of remaining moonlight. The sorcerer carefully approached the old bat demon, noting that Haruki's formerly imposing posture was gone. In its place was a sense of weariness and the great golden eyes were filled with resignation. Haruki eyed Ladahlord before turning away to look at the ocean.
"I know why you have come, Ladahlord. But this is what must be."
"With all due respect, my Lord, no, it does not. You still have a good number of years in you."
Haruki let out a bitter chuckle. "Oh, I know. I have quite a few years to grow older than I already am. Quite a few years to grow even weaker."
"Quite a few years to be blessed with grandchildren."
Haruki's great head swung around so that he fully met the sorcerer's penetrating gaze. "Are either of my sons expecting to have children at the moment?"
"No, but judging from the way Takashi was looking at Suzume at the victory feast, I would hazard a guess that it won't be too long before the inevitable happens."
"Indeed so." Haruki turned away again. "But I will not be here long enough to see my sons wed nor to see them welcome their own children into the world."
Ladahlord frowned. "Yes, you seem determined to die now and rob yourself of a joy plenty of people would kill to experience. Are you certain there wasn't a mule ancestor somewhere in your family tree?"
"Mind yourself, sorcerer. I am still more than capable of turning you into a pile of shredded flesh!"
"Ah?" Ladahlord held up his hands, allowing them to glow white with magic. "Come then, my Lord! En garde!"
Haruki bared his fangs at the sorcerer, but instead of a growl, a hissing laugh escaped from his mouth.
"Clever, Ladahlord. Very clever. But no, my mind is made up on the matter and goading me to fight will not sway me." Lord Haruki turned away from Ladahlord to stare at the gathering storm clouds, sinking into a sitting position.
With a sigh, Ladahlord dispelled the magic and moved closer to the demon lord.
"Come now, Lord Haruki. You were ever the fighter. Are you truly going to give up on life now?"
Haruki's ears twitched at the sorcerer's voice, but his eyes remained fixed on the dark horizon.
"Tell me, sorcerer, how old are you?"
"I cannot say, exactly. I have been roaming the world since there was a world to roam."
Haruki nodded. "I thought as much. I, however, was in my prime during Japan's Feudal era. Ahh, those were proud days for demons. We held sway over so much of the land and only a certain few could dare stand against us! Though, there were none who could even get close enough to even scratch me!
"But those times are over now, Ladahlord. Japan has opened its boarders and I have grown old." Haruki shook his head. "In those old days, Noburu would not have had a chance to wait for me to tire. I could have stood against twice his number, turned them all to dust and still have been fresh enough to rip that fool's heart from his chest. But I am not as young or as strong as I once was."
"Such is the natural order of the world, my Lord."
"Quite so. All living things have their time to die. And so my time has come."
"As I said-"
"I know what you said. But I cannot allow myself to just grow old and wither. My reputation has been built on a legacy of strength and power. True, I managed to defeat Noburu, but I needed help to do it."
"Somehow, I don't think my distracting Noburu is what people will remember. Ripping someone's heart out with your teeth? Now that tends to leave an impression."
"And so it shall. That is my intention, Ladahlord: to leave my sons a legacy of strength. If I were to die to die against another demon, my legacy would die with me and it would be my sons who would have to defend our home against any challengers. And believe me, sorcerer, there would be many demons who would love to prove themselves by challenging the Kurosaki name.
"But if I die now, fresh from a great victory and falling to an enemy no one can hope to defeat," Haruki nodded at the gathering storm, "there will be far fewer who would seek to cross the new Lord. That is my hope, Ladahlord. That, is what I wish to leave to my sons."
"A new leader does not inherit the old leader's accomplishments, Lord Haruki."
"Yes I know. I won't be able to stop other demons from challenging my sons. My hope is that fewer of them will do so. To die fighting a storm rather than another demon will remind my enemies that I died undefeated and that I allowed another to take my place." Haruki paused, then added,
"My death here and now is the only way I can ensure that my sons face the fewest challenges to our rule. I'm certain of it."
"This is truly the path you wish to take, Lord Haruki?"
"Then take this."
Haruki's eyes widened as Ladahlord drew a gleaming glass bottle from one of his coat pockets. From within, the glow of the sun and the moon cast their radiance over the demon's claws as he took the bottle.
"A powerful potion," the demon noted. "And just what will it do?"
"I'm don't know," Ladahlord admitted. "But I do know that it was meant for you, Lord Haruki."
The great bat demon stared at the potion for a few moments. Then he uncorked the bottle and tipped the glowing mixture down his throat.
"It tastes... promising." A small smile stole across Haruki's face. "Thank you, Ladahlord."
"It was my honor, Lord Haruki."
Haruki raised his head as a fresh gust blew across his ears. "My sons will be here soon." He fixed the sorcerer with his golden stare. "If you so desire, you may watch and listen, as what I have to say to Takashi and Tomoko may concern you as well. But please keep yourself concealed for now. I... I would prefer-"
"You would prefer to keep this intimate between yourself and your children. My Lord, I would not dream of intruding. No, I will stay and watch from the shadows."
"Tondemo arimasen, Lord Haruki. Farewell."
Ladahlord took shelter further back in the shadows, quickly shielding himself with a magical barrier. Haruki had turned away from the cliff, his gaze focused on the sky. Soon, the sound of beating wings filled the air, signalling the arrival of Haruki's sons. From within his barrier, Ladahlord watched the scene unfold.
Takashi and Tomoko landed before their father, their wings folding about their shoulders against the wind.
"My sons," Haruki greeted them, inclining his head.
"Father," Tomoko began softly. "Do you truly mean to fight the storm?"
"Yes, Tomoko, I do. My time has come."
"Father!" Takashi exclaimed. "Surely you do not mean that."
"I do indeed. My rule over the Southern Bat Demons has ended. And yours has begun, Takashi."
"My rule?" Takashi glanced over at his brother, who stood silently beside him. "But Father-"
"Yes, your rule, Takashi Kurosaki, and long may you reign. I have no doubt that you will lead our people well. And I hope you will do so with Lady Suzume at your side."
"I... Yes, Father."
"Good. Treasure your mate, my son, and any children you have." Haruki turned to his younger son.
"Ahh, Tomoko. If I believed for a moment you desired to rule alongside your brother, I would have named you a Lord as well. But I know that is not your heart's desire, is it, my son?"
"No, Father, it is not," Tomoko answered softly and from within his barrier, Ladahlord felt a surge of pride for his friend run through him.
"I didn't think so. As such, Tomoko, I give you my blessing to roam the world as you see fit."
Tomoko's eyes widened at his father's words. Haruki chuckled.
"I am not blind, Tomoko. You wish to see what the world has to offer a demon? Then it is time you found out. I am certain your friend Ladahlord could show you much of the world. Go with him, experience what the world has to offer, and know you can always return home if what you find does not suit you."
Tomoko bowed before Haruki, blinking away tears of gratitude. "Thank you, Father. I shall do as you say and carry your memory with me always."
"As will I, Father." Takashi bowed before Haruki as well.
"I am proud of you both." Haruki gazed at his sons one last time. From his back, his massive wings unfurled. "Do not grieve for me, for my death is a triumph. I see my sons rise!"
Haruki leaped into the air as the rain began to fall. The heavens rang with the sound of his roar as he dove straight into the stormy clouds. From where they stood, Takashi, Tomoko, and Ladahlord watched the powerful demon soaring amidst the raging wind, pouring rain, and flashing lightning. Haruki soared through the storm, his claws batting at the streams of rain and flying directly at the lightning. The strong winds didn't deter the powerful demon; his wings beat the air hard enough to rival the pounding of the thunder. But, as Haruki himself had said, no one- not even a demon- could win a battle against the forces of Nature.
And so ended the rule of Lord Haruki Kurosaki.