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CASTLEVANIA - HUNTRESS: Burden of Duality (pt. 6)PART 6 – Burden Of Duality,I had to stop it. We had to think clearly.“Are you telling me...”“Yes. Right now, you have two options. Your choice.”My heart was beating loudly.“I never wished for your death, Adrian. It’s you who wants to die.”Alucard’s gaze was slow and inviting.Seeing how bestial he became… it was no wonder he felt that way. He was torn between honoring his mother’s last plea… and his newly-found disappointment that put all the humanity at risk. Much like his father’s vengeance did. It was one hellish duality that existed in creatures like us.“I do not wish to die, Ilona… I merely wish for the pain to cease. Sometimes, the only cure for such state is death.”“Such a pessimistic view. Death is never the solution, though.”Regardless, I understood his philosophy. It was about the pain of our existence. The pain of solitude. The pain of being feared, rejected and misunderstood. Of being used… and shunned away. We coped with it each on its own, the ways we estimated were the best for us. And sure, we both persisted somehow. But, the initiate pain still remains. It sticks with us and even when we try to peel layers of it off… forget it… bury it… it still never goes away. There’s always more of it. In different shapes, forms and people. Different decisions. And it never truly disappears.“What will it be, lady Bathory?”It's an open invitation. One I'd normally never neglect.Dhampirs are rare. And even if we weren’t rare as species… it was almost as if we were designed for solitude. Take it from me… and from Adrian. There are plenty possibilities, be it humans or vampires… but we fit to none, not even amongst dhampirs as well. Chimeras aren’t going to like other chimeras just because they fit the classification.“It’s too late for us to...” I utter, trying to compose myself anew. It was easy to give in to someone like Adrian… so easy to get lost in his eyes, his embrace, and in his lips. But there was no point in it.“It’s just been a little over a year,” he noted, and to him, it was. Technically, it was true. I put him to slumber so he could regenerate, supplied him with blood that was filling the tubes of his coffin in order to keep him fed and healed. I did the alchemistic modifications that could be viewed as magic. They required a sacrifice. And since I didn’t want to slaughter people… I had to find other solutions.“You chose to fight him over me. You chose the bloody coffin over me, to rot under Gresit for… who knows how long… if…” I whispered, reminding him of what he knew too well. He didn’t need a reminder.“It was beyond my…”“It wasn’t! That’s the point! It wasn’t!” I lost my patience. I shouldn’t have, for it only demonstrated how frustrating it still was for me. How it still hurt me. I had to calm down.“It wasn’t beyond your power of regeneration. You merely gave up,” I whispered.“I merely chose her wish over yours… and, for that, I apologize. Someone needed to oppose my father. Those capable enough refused to defy him; those who couldn’t merely decided to join him on his quest. You are one of the rare ones that had the luxury to stay neutral. I didn’t have that option. I had to stop him. For she was my mother after all, and her wish was my burden to carry. Not yours as well. I don’t blame you for choosing neither.”I looked aside, unable to face him any longer. We both carried our pain the best ways we could.“To you... I was…”I stopped myself from saying it. There was no point in doing so anyway.“You still are,” he said, surprising me along the way. I think it surprised him too… to bluntly state something like that.“If so… why did it have to be me?” I was still whispering. Had I spoken any louder… my voice would eventually break. My emotions would show. Some huntress I was.“Because you were the only one I could count on. Humans… vampires… dhampires… are all corruptible. Some would turn on me because they were afraid of my father. He was stronger, after all. Others would turn on me because he’d torture them. Force them. Kill them. But not you. Selfish as it may sound… he would never lay a finger on you, and I had to use it to my advantage.”My sigh was heavy. I needed a moment, not because I wasn’t aware of it all, but because it was rather difficult to remember it. To relive it. After all, I loved Dracula more than I loved my own father. That’s why it wasn’t an option for me to assist Alucard in taking his life. I loved them both. So, the easiest thing I could do… was to join the guild of hunters and live as a vagabond. To just be on the road. Busy with killing other monsters. Always on some quest... far away from home. Until the moment he got fatally wounded and I had to go back.“It wasn’t just a year for me, Adrian,” I spoke after some time, in my real voice. “The alchemy required something in return of keeping you functioning in that system. While you were resting… well, recovering under Gresit…”I couldn’t end that statement… but Alucard figured it on his own.“You got transported. To another time.”“Times. Dimensions, even. Centuries ahead… thousands of years apart, even.”That was a lot to take in.“In your mind… right?” he wanted to confirm.“My mind is the only place where I constantly reside... is it not?” I asked. The concept of time travelling… was complicated to perceive. I spent a lot of time in other worlds… but the flow of time there was different comparing to this one. For him, it was about a year. In this world, it was about a year for me too. But in other worlds…“I see. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. There shouldn’t have been such a price.”“My magic… required such a sacrifice. In order to maintain the Gresit system over your coffin, with Gorgonas and other keepers animated as living traps... I had to give up something precious to me.”“Your time,” he gently stated, guilt was written all over his face.At that time… we thought Alucard’s own powers would be enough. But, he couldn’t exactly match Dracula… not while the old vampire still had the power over the castle. In addition… Alucard had to use all of his own power to heal his wounds.“My dhampiric time, yes. So…”“It’s reversible, though,” he immediately offered a solution. “If you…”“It was my choice, I accepted it as it is.”I didn’t need an exchange. I didn’t need him to sacrifice his own time in order to restore the balance. I didn’t need it. After all… my dhampiric time could be dealt with in more than one way. So, there was no need for him to do anything. Unless he wanted to.Not to mention I’ve got to meet him in his other… forms. Not to mention we also had… a connection there. It wasn’t all that bad to pay the price.“Ilona…”“Don’t you dare pity me. I lived quite a life in those... other times.”That was the truth. I’ve met some interesting people… hunted some interesting monsters… and bedded some interesting men. Geralt was one of them. It’s good our dimensions intertwine from time to time, like it happened the night before.Dante was a pretty good lay too, though he didn’t appreciate me flirting with Vergil. I tried with a sloppy excuse of mistaking him for Dante since they were twins, but it didn’t work since Dante wasn’t a fool, and I wasn't particularly good liar. The whole situation was a bit of a mess, but things are fine between us now. Or at least they were when I left. I doubt I will see him anytime soon, if ever again, since he was living in a further future than I wanted to jump into again. Once was more than enough.The one I’d want to visit again, though… would be Arikado Genya. But, the same route applies to him as to Dante. Farther the future, longer the time. It took me a while to master the teleportation to the point where I wanted to return in, so I wouldn’t play with any of it again. I was the happiest in time I was born in. Call me sentimental… but I am beyond happy to return home.One thing bothered me, though. I wasn’t happy about learning about Erzebet… Countess Elizabeth Bathory. What a legacy for our family name. We were as much despised as we were famous. Not the future I wanted for my descendants.Luckily, side-effect are already taking their toll. I’ve already started losing some of those memories from the future. It’s probably a matter of time before I lose them all. But, that’s a story for some other time.While I am here… now… I have to live here and now. As a dhampir, whether I like it or not.We are either regarded as monsters… or considered abominations that needed to be avoided. We are feared just as much as vampires. We are hardly ever accepted for what we are. That’s why I keep posing as human. Why I live as human. Why I suppress my true nature until other magical users can’t even point that something is supernatural about me. And that’s why only halflings… mutants… get me so well. That’s the sole reason why I would choose Geralt or Dante or Aricado over any lord someone’d throw at me. Outcasts are just attracted to the similar types… because they share a feeling of that emptiness no one who is whole can truly get. Mono-races can’t comprehend it even if they tried. There are some exceptions… but generally, we are largely misunderstood. Adrian was heavily misunderstood.I closed my eyes, feeling the remnants of energy. Must be the fight. Must be all the lust. Similar setting provoked the sensations. I started getting glimpses.“Not all of them betray, you know,” I said, trying to peek at the core of his sadness, buried underneath his apathetic exterior. Adrian was always sensitive, deeply, wonderfully… always so gentle and full of understanding and compassion. That’s a part of him that was inherited from Lisa. And she nurtured it quite well. But there was also darkness and rage in him, well-managed behind his perfect manners and his undeniable charisma. The same kind of charisma that could make him into another Dracula, if he decided to release it that way to the world.It certainly started showing with those bodies on spikes.“You can tell they betrayed me?” his smile was filled with sadness.“I can literally sense it.”It was coming from a nearby room. The doors were wide open. The remnants of energy were circulating… like particles. Adrian approached my standing point.“What else can you sense, I wonder?”Breeze. White linen sheets, swinging from and around his bed. Curtains, moving around the opened window. And blood. There was a strong scent of blood. I followed the scent right into that room. And found it perfectly rearranged. No blood. No breeze. Windows were closed. Sheets were clean. The scent of fresh jasmine was filling the place. Jasmine… like at that time. The room looked the same as… when we…“It must be overwhelming,” he stepped into the room where he was betrayed… and where he committed double-slaughter. But this room had other meanings before it became this… execution spot for those two.“There’s so much despair. Those twins… preyed on you… on your hospitality… generosity… your kindness… and your vulnerability,” I said, feeling goosebumps all over my skin as I got all those sensations simultaneously. They fucking restrained him with that fucking wire. Hell, I’d have taken their heads where they stood. Bloody heathens.“I am not sure I am glad you didn’t suppress your magic as well. Given how you suppressed your very nature,” he stated.No wonder… he… felt so bitter. I felt his deep need to be loved… to be understood. All of his loneliness, after the Belmont guy and that speaker, Sypha… after they parted ways with Adrian, leaving him to tend to the keep and the castle… that loneliness affected him, and distorted his mind. His expectations. His faith in humanity, even.I was overwhelmed indeed. It was worse than I previously thought it would be.“Why haven’t you said anything?” I asked, feeling offended a bit. He should have told me about this the moment I entered the castle. Clarify it. After all… we were supposed to be… closer than this. He didn’t have to play the Tepes card with me. He didn’t have to be The Impaler with me. We were supposed to understand each other.“What would that change? I am already like my father. I don’t see humans are worth of being saved.”He lowered his head, bending down. I wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so I observed his movements. He reached for my boot… slowly taking the hilt and pulling the dagger out of it. He rose to face me.“Stop playing the role of monster with me, Adrian. I’ve had enough of it.”“Maybe you can’t see, Ilona... but I am a monster. And we agreed.”“Stubborn son of a…”He turned the hilt towards me, holding the dagger by the tip of the blade.“…devil. We only agreed I’d kill you if you became like Vlad… and that it would be in a fair fight. But right now, I am quite sure you aren’t what you are presenting yourself to be,” I said, taking the dagger but dropping it down on the floor. We were staring at one another.“That’s part of the problem, it seems, huntress Bathory… if you don’t recognize that the one standing before your very eyes is your target.”“Bullshit,” I raised an eyebrow.“My, my… I see all those inns affected your vocabulary. What affected your eyesight, though?” he towered over me. Damn, those twins got him well. I felt like personally chopping them to shreds after sensing what they did to trigger his current transformation. He was so hurting it was starting to hurt me as well.“Oh, my eyesight is perfect; I can see things clearer than ever. Do you want to know what I see now?”“Please… enlighten me,” he said, not without irony.“A hurt child that needs to be comforted,” I moved threads of his hair from his face, putting it behind his shoulders.“Oh, really, a child?” he rose an eyebrow.“You certainly act like one.”He gave me a long look.“What kind of comfort did you have in mind?”Remnants of their energy completely faded. What I was getting with all of my senses now… was mutual. And familiar. This room affected us both, it held too many memories. Such a shame it had to be soiled with blood. Such a pity it had to traumatize him so.“You know what kind, Adrian. Don’t act all naïve with me.”That was all the confirmation he needed. He pushed me onto sheets, enclosing my body with his own. My heartbeat was fastening. My hair spread on the soft surface in long, wavy threads. I was trembling… but not because I was afraid. We were covered in bruises and marks from the fight… pieces of our clothes were torn… but, neither of us seemed to mind.“Who’s naïve again, dear huntress?” he asked, lowering his head down. His hair brushed against my cheek. His lips felt warm against my own. He was holding my wrists pinned next to my head, as if I could suddenly change my mind and leave. As if I’d leave now.“The one who asks the obvious.”“You should have killed me while you had the chance,” he said. I kissed him instead, putting my knees around his waist, closing them to ensure he wouldn’t change his mind and stop this either.“Still puzzled about one thing. You said it was... just comfort, Ilona?” he teased, his tongue gently brushing against my lips. I missed the way he kissed. I missed the way he was holding me in his arms. His scent… his strength… his gentleness… his roughness. I missed all of him.“Just shut up, Adrian.”Our tongues intertwined. Suddenly, everything that wasn’t related to his touch seemed irrelevant. All those memories, all those people, all those experiences… couldn’t compare to this. To him. Because it was Alucard. Adrian.And because it was all about him… all of this time.---------------------------------------------------Istvan… or rather, Stephen V Bathory, as he was widely known… was one of those types that ‘normal’ people would consider - to put it bluntly – insane. And there were several reasons for that.He was exceptionally bold, exceptionally charismatic... and exceptionally cruel. Those components rarely mixed well, so they haven’t proved to be an exception in his case either. He wasn’t always a good warrior; he became good in time… and with the help of adequate, carefully selected warlords by his side. However, he was greatly favored by the fortune, more often than not.And lady Fortune comes in quite handy when you fight wars. During his youth, Stephen befriended Vlad Tepes. He used to be his war alley against the Ottoman empire. Vlad’s cruelty was widely known, and while his tales sowed fear in all of his opponents, stories about man that would become my father were almost as equally terrifying. But, not all the tales about him are scary. Some of them attest to his loyalty and his bravery.He led his army into what seemed like a suicide mission… against an army thrice as big. He led his people against all odds. During that battle, his horse was killed under him, and he end up bleeding from six wounds. In the crucial moment, Pal Knizisi’s army arrived and general saved my father's life, taking him to the camp where the wounded were placed.Somehow… he refused to give up and die. Such was his persistence, and his loyalty to his duty and his own allies. At least something about him was admirable. He also had a sense of justice, albeit subjective. He loved to honor his own ‘code’ – the one where self-perseverance and self-indulgence always came first. Even after meeting the woman he’d later marry.Oddly enough, he met Justina on the battlefield. He was mortally wounded, bounded to die from excessive bleeding. He was brought in the camp, already half-dead. But then… my mother, who attended to the wounded, nursed him back to health and he fell in love instantly. He was mesmerized by her. That’s how the story went anyway.Once he got better, he asked for her hand in marriage. It was sudden, it was crazy, and un-expecting. At first, she rejected him. He was human, after all… he was too bold, too young, too impatient, too direct. Despite being a great war-lord, despite being overwhelmingly charming, handsome and alluring, she politely declined his offer. She was already betrothed, by her family, and promised to a vampire. Political in nature, that marriage should have secured her posture among nobles, making her flourish and prosper.However, whatever Istvan Bathory desired, he eventually got. For a human, it was almost impossible to wed a vampire, especially the one of her caliber.Somehow, he obtained mother’s affection and love. He was cunning - he plotted against her arranged marriage, managed to take her from her family, and managed to bed her despite all the odds. There was just something about Istvan’s advances that made her fall for him, even if I’ll never be able to truly understand it. It’s not up to me to understand it either.Stories say… he was trying hard. He was dedicated, full of love, full of attention, full of promises he’d later break. But, there’s was certain inevitability about my father, some sort of strange appeal he had which made people lured in, as puled by some invisible string towards him. For a human, he had charisma. He was sort of bewitching. He also had something utterly vicious.I guess women were attracted to solving his darkness more than anything else. Women often think they can change men. In most cases, this presumption leads to disappointment. I do believe that mom didn’t have such delusions, but again… when in love, all creatures behave quite… unlike themselves.Once my father managed to get mom’s hand in marriage, he behaved like a perfect husband. He seemed to adore her. He showered her with love, attention, gifts… everything.But, after some time… their differences started to show… and bother them.The fact that he was growing older, and she stayed young despite being hundreds of years older than him… made him envious. Despite him being quite strong, so strong that he was even a match to her… he wasn’t really as strong as some vampire would be. This bothered him, for he had to put large effort just to match her vampiric strength already.He started envying her graciousness, the attention she was receiving both as his wife and the lady of the castle. She got a lot of admirers among his friends. Many were openly in love with her.In time, he started disliking everything he used to like about her. Her looks. Her movements. Her beauty. Her pride. Her fangs.“Behave more like a human,” he’d ask of her. “For me, for this castle, for the people. You are standing out too much.”She would frown, placing her hand over her already growing belly. If she wasn’t already pregnant with me… she would have left. She would have abandoned him. I wish she did. But, with me on the way… she had second thoughts. She wondered whether he would change after meeting his child.Unfortunately… that never happened.Instead of repairing whatever was left of their marriage… when I was born, he was dissatisfied by the fact that he didn’t get a son. To this day, I am bitter about how he never treated me like his child solely because I was born of ‘wrong’ gender.“Look, Justina… just look at her fangs. Girls shouldn’t have those… she looks like a beast. Can’t you do something about it?!”My father wasn’t always disgusted by me, or by my mother. In fact… at one point, he wanted to give her the world, and to me… well, he tried to behave like a proper father. Back when he just met her, he was so mesmerized by her beauty, by her wits, grace, by her vampiric nature. To him, she was always so calm and so mysterious. Like divinity. Sometimes, he’d behave that way around me too, praising me for small achievements. But, most of the time…“Little beast. Hide those fangs when you are in presence of others… or you’ll scare everyone shitless!” he’d say, reaching for me as if he’d slap me.“Stephen!” mother would snap, turning at him. “Let my daughter be.”Her menacing aura didn’t bother him.“Your daughter. Well-put. She is truly yours, isn’t she?”“Careful,” she’d say in her calm, but dangerous tone.“But is she mine?” he would ask despite hearing her warning, mocking us both by his claim. “Are you my child, Ilona?”I would freeze, asking myself whether I truly was his. We were simply too different. Still, hearing those words from him made me feel really hurt.“If hungry, would you drink from me?” he’d continue, mocking me. Whatever appetite I had, I’d lose in those moments. “Would you open my vein and drink my blood, daughter? Little beast.”“Don’t talk to her like that,” my mom would say, “… or else.”She was slowly losing her patience.“Or else… what, dear wife?” his grin was unpleasant and offensive. “What are you going to do - suck me dry?”“I will take my child and return home. My home,” she’d retort, looking at him over her glass.“No, you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t dare to leave me. Your family rejected you, remember? You offended them by marrying a human. Dragoslav hates you to this day for choosing to marry a Bathory instead of marrying some noble bloodsucker of his choosing.”“Don’t think for a second that we vampires are like you humans. Do you really think I have nowhere to return to? Every household - Jakšić, Knisizi, Branković… every single noble family would accept me, should I chose to part from you. That aside… I am powerful enough to hold my own castle.”“Then go, Justina. Take her and go,” he’d smirk, looking at me with such evil eyes I couldn’t believe they were truly my father’s.“Mom…” my own eyes would fill with tears. I didn’t want to leave. Despite him being like that… I didn’t want to leave Hungary.“Your father is drunk, my darling. It’s not him you see now. He’s going to bed, he’ll sleep on this, and we are going to have a very long conversation after he wakes up. Then, your father will see sense. And he will apologize to his one and only daughter, much like he’ll bow his head down to his own, darling wife.”He rose from his seat. He threw his cup towards her, but mother blocked the cup with her hand, not even looking at it. She never removed her eyes from him. She pushed the cup, smashing it against the wall. His drink spilled… and the metal clung against the stone floor, echoing.“How dare you send me off in front of my little girl?!” he’d yell, as if he didn’t insult me just a moment ago. “How dare you mock me for being human? You think I am weak, Justina? Ilona! Come. Come to your father.”“No,” I’d say.“You think I am WEAK?” he’d turn at mom again. He’d pull his sword out. Silver sword, at least one meter long. My heart had skipped a beat.“I think you are pathetic,” she’d say, and her eyes would start glowing. She was intimidating, like all monsters when cornered. We can’t help but act as who we are.“To make her hide her fangs… and make her act as a human child… you are a pathetic father, and pathetic husband. You knew she wouldn’t be a human once you got with me. You knew you’d have a half-vampire. So why do you suddenly…”“If you gave me a SON, he might not turn out to be a beast!”Those words hurt even more. Her more than me, I think. After me, they tried to have more children, but it seemed the fortune turned their back on them. Or maybe it was just mother. She didn’t want another child to tie her to the man she no longer loved.To conceive… a female vampire needs more effort than a male vampire. Sometimes, those attempts need alchemy, or magic. And mother had magic in her blood. It seems she lost a lot of it when she gave birth to me. To have another child… would be too much effort to ask of her.“Gender has nothing to do with it and you know it. You are just trying to get rid of me, because I no longer keep your interest. Much like you don’t hold mine.”I was too young to realize that my father found a mistress. Several mistresses, according to what I know now. Some of them were human women, some of them were female vampires. Former friends of my mother’s. Out of some strange reasons… women of both species found him attractive. And daring. As a man, he was something I couldn’t comprehend, and thank good God for that.“You do hold my interest, you damn creature. You damn well know that you do,” he’d approach her then… and he’d try to kiss her. It was disturbing. Naturally, she wouldn’t allow it. She’d push him away, making him more furious than before.The main reason he wasn’t able to be faithful to her… was because he believed he was unworthy of her. So, he’d find ‘lesser’ women, had some fun on the side, all while being envious of mother, and in some way, always in love with her. It was a very difficult marriage. Comparing to him, she was on the range of a goddess. He always felt inferior, despite all of his power and glory.“Turn me,” he’d ask in moments when he’d try and make things right. “Turn me into the creature of the night, so I can be like you. Like her. Like my Ilona. Everything will be well then.”In moments like those, I’d cry because I knew he didn’t mean it. If he was ever turned… he’d be the cruelest vampire to ever live. He’d torture us even more than he already did. But at times, I wished for him to be like me. Just to feel better around me. And for me to feel better around him.“I don’t think it would make any difference,” mom would say. “You’d just behave the same. Personality has nothing to do with what species we are, Istvan. I will turn you if you prove to me that you’d change.”“You just don’t want me to be the stronger one!!!” he’d lose his temper instantly, proving her point immediately.Then, he’d go to Dracula, asking him to turn him instead. But, Vlad Tepes didn’t think Istvan really needed to turn. He needed to change. But as always… my father would refuse to change, not seeing that the problem was in his general behavior.That and… well, he loved being human, after all. Deep down, he hated vampires. He didn’t want to be one, even after Dragoslav offered to turn him. He didn’t want to be sired by mom’s family. Also, he changed his mind the last moment, realizing he loved his mortal life more.Mother did her best to make me not feel ashamed of being a halfling. But, I was ashamed, mostly because of dad and his whole household. I was ashamed of our family, cousins… of servants, and other children… ashamed of how strong I was… how fast I was… of how different I was.My father’s words deeply affected me. So badly I tried my best to cover any sign of my vampiric nature. Tried to fit in his human world. Tried to make him love me. It would make my mother sad… but she’d let me do how I felt. I acted human when I was surrounded by humans. In presence of vampires, I just felt like I wasn’t vampire enough. With my uncles… my grandparents… I always seemed to lack in some manner. Never a full vampire, but just a half. And a bad half.Only after meeting Adrian Tepes… I realized I wasn’t the only one who had these problems. Being born out of completely different sorts of creatures, I felt like I belong to neither. But Adrian was different in one sense. His father never felt inferior to his mother like mine did. His father supported him. My father never supported me. His father loved his mother… while mine was obsessed with mine, but in an unhealthy way.I wasn’t like Adrian in the least, despite being born as the same kind of creature. And it showed.Even now, I pose as a human because it’s easier to function that way. I mask my scent… I mask my fangs. And magic that’s in my blood. It’s just easier that way.Until the hunt requires… that I change. Like I changed for him tonight.----------------------------------------There was no point in resisting it, he could feel me as much as I could feel him. There’s just something about dhampir physiology that worked better than with any other species, with any other guy, from past or future alike. This version of Adrian… was the version I fell in love with. The one I will love for the rest of my days. I knew it then… I know it now.Certainly, there are plenty of men to fool around with, but only one could be named the love of one’s life. For me, that was Adrian. In thousand years from now, it will still be him. Don’t ask how I know.“I dreamt of you,” he said, his lips were sliding down my neck, placing butterfly kisses all over my skin. “In my slumber… I dreamt of you.”We did make love before we parted, despite his state. He could handle a little pain, he claimed. Back then, it seemed like a fitting way to end things. Moreover, it was sort of an agreement… that we could move on. Live our lives without pressure of getting back together. Hell, we even agreed upon killing one another if the situation required. But look at us now. Maybe this was to be expected, after all.“I hope those were the most pleasant of dreams,” I whispered. Secretly, I hoped we would make even better ones.
PSYCHO-PASS: PARADIGM SHIFT - 1000 Steps (pt. 6)PART 6 – Thousand Steps Back“The thing is… he claims he didn’t intend to kill Ichimoto,” Inspector Moe was explaining, while Shizuka was doing her best to keep her focus on his words instead of her fatigue. “He says he was enforcing his target... and that Ichimoto was collateral in that shot.”“MP blasts don’t exactly work that way. It’s hard to believe someone trampled with that Dominator, or that it malfunctioned somehow,” Shizuka sighed. “That aside, you know Yamatsuki. Seeing Ichimoto, out in the open… he probably thought it was his only chance.”Divison Three had a specific case. Inspector Moe was sitting opposite of Shizuka, his arms were crossed over his chest in somewhat defensive mode. He seemed upset, but he was maintaining his composure the best way he could. He had calm tone while concluding his verbal report. He also kept the eye contact with Shizuka the whole time. But, the difficulty of the situation he was facing was already starting to stress him out. His hue was currently tainted. “Is there anything we can do?” he asked.“It was an intended shot. Your subordinate was enraged,” Shizuka said, scrolling down to reread parts of the submitted report. “Your Lurcher fired out of rage and personal assumptions - not because it was his job. The blast wasn’t supposed to obliterate two people but one, the target he was aiming for. However, he purposefully aimed to obliterate Ichimoto as well. Range itself suggests this. Sibyl treats it as premeditated murder for that sole reason.”“Yamatsuki still claims otherwise,” Moe shrugged his shoulders.“Because he knows his chances to return to Division Three are pretty slim, given the situation.”Of course he will claim that. Shizuka looked at the projection of the said Enforcer on her wristcom. He was young… younger than her. He was a good Lurcher, his actions were usually effective and commendable, but he was now facing spending the rest of his days in the imprisonment, considering how high his current crime coefficient got. No amount of therapy will help someone who went that far. Both Moe and Shizuka knew that much. “To say slim… is to put it kindly. He’ll never get out of confinement,” Inspector noted with a heavy sigh. It was unusual to see him behave that way. “I know how it feels. Yamatsuki was valuable addition to your unit, it’s a pity it has come down to this,” Shizuka said. “If we neglect the fact that he was an Enforcer, he was quite useful asset to the Sibyl system…” “He used to be an Inspector beforehand, you know. His record was impeccable. Until…” “… the Whisperer case,” Shizuka recalled. There’s always that one case that messes up with good inspector. That twists their perception, their view of the world. Not many had Ginoza’s stern outlook on the world, and not many followed rules as strictly as he did. She sometimes wished she had his fortitude. It would make her life much, much easier.“It got to him, Akibara… the Whisperer. That madman got to Yamatsuki’s girl,” Moe said, averting his eyes from Shizuka. Yamatsuki had a girlfriend before, they were supposed to marry. But, the poor thing had the misfortune of crossing paths with the Whisperer. It wasn’t disclosed whether she was the target because of Yamatsuki himself, who was close to exposing that killer’s identity… but that girl was chosen nonetheless. Shortly after she arrived home… she took the climbing rope and attempted to hang herself in their shared apartment. For better or for worse… the noose broke and she survived her suicide attempt… only to obtain permanent brain damage instead. Yamatsuki couldn’t deal with the stress of it all… and his hue got heavily affected, causing his demotion. His life was ruined. Her life as well. Sometimes, he’d say he preferred if she died instead. “To an extent… I understand his point. He was after the underground criminal who supposedly could lead you all to the Whisperer. Having Ichimoto there as well… was just the icing on the cake. It was like killing two birds with the same stone to your Enforcer. He saw the chance to purge them both… and he took it. Given his status, he weighed his options and decided that ultimately… the risk was worth taking.” “How can losing his freedom be worth of taking that risk?!”“What freedom, though?” Shizuka asked back. Moe frowned at her retort. “Sometimes… revenge is all one can think of. Yamatsuki’s life was already ruined. His fiancée is permanently incapacitated. He got demoted. He lost his job, his position, his purpose, his sense of… well, everything. He couldn’t find sense in anything. Pulling that trigger wasn’t the only option he had, but it was liberating to him in a way. Firing that shot probably got him some calamity.” “It brought him a cell and confinement. We can’t even prove that Ichimoto was the Whisperer.” “After swiping his apartment and things… maybe we can,” she debated.The Whisperer wasn’t someone who killed people through physical means, though. He was dangerous because he could talk to people… discover their deepest fears… insecurities… and pain… and use them against people, rendering them desperate. Desperate enough to either take lives of people around them, or their own lives. It was form of suggestive killing. Psychological analysis. Killing on remote. That’s why it was so hard to solve that case. Shizuka remembered working on that profile even at time when Yamatsuki was an Inspector himself. To have this case still running… was sort of tiring. Shizuka hoped Ichimoto was their guy. That way, it would mean that the nightmare was over and that Yamatsuki’s sacrifice wasn’t for nothing. Moe was hoping that was the case too, despite being outraged by his Lurcher’s behavior. “Akibara, could you maybe… talk to Yamatsuki?” Moe wasn’t comfortable with asking, but he asked still. To Shizuka, it only showed how much he cared for his teammate, deep down. “I mean… don’t get me wrong. I mean” She understood. Moe wasn’t the type to support enforcers… but his previous colleague meant more to him than he was willing to admit. He wasn’t here merely because Shizuka was helping with the case, for the case was concluded for now. There was still possibility that the Whisperer resurfaces, but she had a hunch they won’t be having more victims regarding that case. On top of that, both Division Three and she needed some sort of closure. Preferably the one that didn’t involve Yamatsuki’s permanent incarceration. “I know what you mean, Inspector.” Word was already out, no wonder it spread through the CID.“Escapism… isn’t for everyone. It might do him more damage than good.”“It worked for you, hasn’t it? After the Butcher.” “I practiced it since I was a child. It’s not as easy as it sounds,” she was honest about it. “I am just… his hue is in critical condition. And… if therapy doesn’t work…” “He’ll be out of commission, and Division Three short for an Enforcer. I see the issue.” “Could you… perhaps…”She could tell what he was about to ask… but her look made him stop. There was no way Sibyl would grant any request on behalf of any Enforcer. Especially the one who killed someone of his own according.“I will see what I can do… but I can’t promise anything,” Shizuka said. It was all she could say to Moe. She wished she could do more about it, though… but her hands felt tied. Moe seemed pretty shaken now. “The world we live in, huh?” he sighed, not waiting for her response. It was more of a rhetorical question. --------------------------------After the meeting ended… Shizuka closed her eyes. She needed a moment of silence, a moment of peace. She needed to clear her head. “Are you really safe during your little sessions, little Inspector?” She got goosebumps, just thinking of that tone. That voice. He was waiting in the corner, grinning. He was standing in the shadows, leaned against the wall, hands crossed over his wide torso. Something was dripping down his elbows. “You aren’t real,” she mumbled, putting her head between her hands. “I am very real. Used to be, anyway. But, in a place where you reside, Akibara… I am more real than most. Real because you spend a lot of time in your head.” The chuckle was irritating.“You are a byproduct of stress. You are dead. Nothing you say now will influence my general behavior,” she said. “Maybe. Maybe not. But all that effort… all your escapism… is a bunch of crap anyway, and you know it. You aren’t safe. You are just on the margin, waiting to be pushed in front of a bullet-train. Aren’t you, Akibara?” “Shut up.” “All these cases. All that stress. Is the sex the best way to cope, really?” She reached for the drawer, opening it. The white plastic bottle rolled to the edge, close to her fingers. “All those pills just to shut me out. But you never succeeded. How many will you take this time, Akibara? It’s easy to escape when you use hyper-suppressants. How long will you last?” She closed her eyes really hard. Pitch black darkness produced flickers of yellowish strands. “Leave me be.” “How much until you snap… escapist?” Shizuka squeezed her fingers, forming a fist. She inhaled… exhaled… and pushed the drawer back. No pills. Just her, and her thoughts. Just this. “Until the next time,” he smirked, getting swallowed by the dark. -----------------------------------------She was heading out when she practically bumped into Akane.“Inspector Akibara,” the girl greeted Shizuka by bowing her head a little. She was somewhat surprised to see Shizuka’s red vest and a matching pencil skirt, but since that morning, Shizuka grew accustomed to seeing curious gazes in her direction. “Inspector Tsunemori. How are you doing?” she asked Akane. “I… I am good, Inspector. I am positive I can form good relations with Enforcers.” Shizuka recalled the footage from Shion’s lab. Surveillance got Akane’s conversation with Shinya on tape. Shizuka couldn’t resist but take a peek. She wasn’t sure it was the right choice, given how uneasy it made her feel. Why? Because Akane’s subtle crush on Kogami was already evident to Shizuka. A woman always can tell those kinds of things. If Shinya starts liking Akane as well… then he started liking her. Nothing she can do about it. But, regardless of the outcome, Shizuka swore that she won’t be the jealous type. “I am glad to hear that. Though, I’ll have to warn you not to get too close to them… for your own sake,” Shizuka stated. It was her duty to say her stuff like that. It was required of her. Warning others about enforcers was practically in a job description now. “Close?” Akane asked. Footsteps echoed throughout the hallway, and Shizuka knew he was just around the corner. “Senior Inspector,” Ginoza walked towards them, with hands in pockets of his long sleeved coat, “are you here for the case?”Shizuka pulled her overcoat a bit, as if she wanted to cover herself more. “Do you need assistance, Inspector Ginoza?” even her tone was somewhat nervous.“Additional pair of eyes won’t hurt, I suppose,” he said. He looked at her for a moment longer than necessary. He saw dark circles under her eyes. How tired she was. How she wore an outfit she usually didn’t wear. His expression stiffened.“Let’s go.” ------------------------------------------The three of them entered bureau’s vehicle, and Gino started the mechanism. Akane was sitting next to him, Shizuka was sitting on the backseat, looking through the window. Paddy wagon was following them close behind. “The victim is Shioyama Daisuke… twenty seven years old. He worked at the Haiouji drone factory. His body was found at precisely 4 am. They said he was dismembered by the drone he was testing.” “Do you think… it was an accident?” Akane wondered out loud. “I heard this is already the third casualty in the past year at this factory. It’s clearly unusual. The body was found in drone inspection’s section, the only manned area in otherwise automated production line. There are about fifty debuggers working there around the clock.” “Is that a live-in job?” the girl asked. “There are over thousand drones that need to be evaluated and verified each month. They have no choice but to work around the clock. If you can install a program that induces a malfunction in a drone before it’s tested, there’s a good chance you can make it look like an accident.” “Which means…” “This could be a murder case,” Gino confirmed everyone’s suspicion. “But, if there are only fifty suspects, can’t we just check everyone’s crime coefficient?” Tsunemori offered a logical solution to the problem. Shizuka was looking through the glass, thinking about how the place will be offline. Knowing this as well, Gino responded: “Well, it’s not that simple.”When they reached the factory, Gino pulled the car over. Tsunemori removed her seatbelt, and Shizuka exited the car, looking around. Paddy wagon stopped as well, releasing the enforcers. Kogami and Kagari walked past Akane, whose head immediately turned towards Kogami. One could tell her attention was set on the older Enforcer. “Inspector Ginoza…” Tsunemori begun.“What is it?” he asked, pulling his arm through the sleeve of his overcoat, putting it on. “I feel like I’ll be able to get along well with the Enforcers,” she cheerfully stated. Shizuka, who was looking at Gino, wasn’t surprised when he gave Akane somewhat of a cold stare. “Do you mean you’ll get along with them as a colleague? Or as their handler?” Shizuka rolled her eyes. Of course he’d say something like that. As he exited the car, he looked towards Shizuka, aiming a quick glance at her. “They say that fools learn from their experiences, while the wise learn from history.” Shizuka, who usually learned from her own experiences, just kept looking at him, hands crossed over her chest. He had to admit something, though… she could pull that skirt off quite well. “I hope you aren’t a fool,” Gino told Akane, then closed the door. The girl blushed a little, and pouted. Shizuka approached her. “That’s Inspector Ginoza’s usual mode. You’ll get used to it,” she said, hoping to brighten her up a bit. Akane sighed.Enforcers joined them. Shizuka tried to ignore the feeling in her stomach when Kogami approached them, accompanied by Yayoi. He wasn’t doing anything in particular, he was just standing behind Shizuka… but she was quite aware of his presence. She was trying not to think about the last night. It will just get her distracted. “Shepherd Two,” Ginoza called, and Shizuka reacted instinctively by rising her head, only to realize he was referring to Akane now. The girl stepped forward, accompanying Ginoza. Shizuka remained on the distance. “Remind me why you stopped wearing skirts,” Kogami sneaked on her only to utter those words in hushed whispers, teasing her a bit.“Because it’s harder to run in them,” she said, turning to face him.He smiled. “You okay?” How could she be, after that marathon they had the night before? “Why wouldn’t I be?” she raised her eyebrow. Kogami just smiled again. ----------------------------------“Welcome, detectives,” the manager approached Division One, spreading both of his arms in greeting. “I’d like to see where it happened,” Gino immediately said, cutting straight to the point. “Of course. This way, please.” ------------------------------------Shioyama was dissected by the drone under suspicious circumstances. Division One revisited the scene, and Gino sent drone to Karanomori to analyze. He instructed Tsunemori to get to the car in order to contact the lab. Gino also brought Kogami, Kunizuka and Akibara at his additional meeting with the Chief Goda. The manager provided all the necessary data on hues of his employees, seemingly cooperating. Everyone else kept silent while Gino was talking. Once he asked Goda to bring his employees out of the anechoic chamber so CID members could check on everyone by Dominators, Goda refused, saying it would disrupt their job and production. “Akibara,” Gino called for her, taking her aside. Meanwhile, Kogami and Yayoi joined Tsunemori, Kagari and Masaoka in the cafeteria.“Since he is asking of us to prove Shioyama’s death was a murder, we have to go through legal means with the ministry of Economy.”“I already sent the request,” she said. She prepared it while they were in the car, just in case. “Good. It will take some time for Shion to examine the drone too, so…” “I know.” He wanted to say something. He just couldn’t find words.“Nobuchika… are you okay?” she asked. He didn’t respond, but he didn’t have to. The whole hue analysis thing… was slowly getting to him. Because of Masaoka. Cases such as this… often reminded Ginoza of his difficult relationship with his father. “I am fine.” He wasn’t, though. He kept his stoic expression, but too many things were boiling down in him. Shizuka slowly reached for his sleeve, touching him briefly. “Hang in there, Shepherd One. You’ve got this. We’ve been through worse.” Something in his eyes changed. It was almost sad. She got on her tiptoes in order to hug him. He slowly hugged her back. ---------------------------------“Hue assessment results show… that Kanehara Yuji’s hue is yellow green. It has been for a while.” The meeting was tiring. Masaoka was explaining hue assessments to Akane, evidently amused, which irritated Gino to an extent. It wasn’t a funny table sitting. Gino wasn’t even looking at hue display while Masaoka was showing changes in colors of people’s hues. Kogami pointed out that the hue of the man whose nickname was ‘yellow-green’ was the cloudiest the day before Shioyama’s death. Kagari pointed out it brightened afterwards. “That doesn’t make sense. Why would a person’s Psycho-Pass improve after killing someone?”Masaoka said it wasn’t that strange, given how other employees used Kanehara as means to relieve their own stress levels. He also pointed out that before cymatic scans, these sorts of incidents weren’t that uncommon. Ginoza snapped, raising his voice. “Get real! Is this more of that “detective intuition” you are always talking about? You are just deluding yourself! This just proves that latent criminals like you are just the dregs of our society.”Shizuka looked at Masaoka, who was laughing, but without humor. It was awkward. She felt uneasy, but it wasn’t time to interfere. “We can’t act on some speculation based on circumstantial evidence. Our job is to maintain orderly society based on the Crime Coefficients judged by Sibyl.” “The kind of order where three people die in one year?” Kogami turned towards Gino. “Gino… leave it to me. I’ll find out whether Kanehara is the killer. I’ll have conclusive evidence before you kn…” “Enough already!” Gino’s fist smashed against the table’s surface, making everyone tense. “Inspector Ginoza… may I speak to you?” Akane’s soft voice contrasted his angry tone.They took it outside.“Damn… this really ticked him off,” Kagari sighed. Shizuka rose from her seat, looking at the screen. Then, she walked over towards Tomomi. “Masaoka-san… are you alright?” Shizuka asked. Masaoka smiled, but it felt forced. “I am alright, Inspector. This was to be expected… and you may say it was detective’s intuition.” His eyes were sad. Old man was hurting, underneath of it all. “He will come around,” she said, hoping that Gino will, once he cools off. Everyone in the room wondered what Akane will say to Ginoza.-----------------------------------Ginoza eventually allowed for Akane to go with Kogami’s plan. Kagari and Kunizuka worked around the cables. Kogami walked around the paddy wagon, looking at Shizuka who was restless. “Did something happen between Ginoza and Masaoka?” Akane wondered. “Wait, AKane… don’t tell me you seriously asked Gino that to his face?!!” Kagari burst out from laughter, amused by Tsunemori. “You really shouldn’t have brought that up,” Yayoi told to Akane.Kogami was standing next to Shizuka, thinking. “I should go and check out on him,” she said. “Maybe it’s better to leave him be for now, Shizuka.” Both were silent for a moment. Kogami reached for the cable, examining it.“So, we have 200 meters of communication cables in total. The furthest they will reach is the elevator hall on the second floor,” he exclaimed. “Can you bring Kanehara out there?” Kagari asked. “I’ll do my best,” Kogami said, looking at blueprints on his wristcom. “Um… you are just gonna talk to him… right?” Akane asked, somewhat worried about Kogami’s manner of working. Shizuka knew the answer to that question, but said nothing. “Yeah,” Kogami ultimately said, but the way he was talking to people wasn’t always conventional. --------------------------------Akane was shocked, to put it bluntly. Kogami was taunting Kanehara, dragging him out of the toilet where the later was eating. Shizuka was observing, leaned against the wall. Kogami played the bully quite well. He was yelling at Yuji, saying all sorts of hurtful things to him. “There’s nothing we Enforcers like more than putting other latent criminals in their place.” Akane looked at Shizuka, who shook her head. Kogami kept threatening, quite convincingly. Even as an act, it was stressful to watch. She only imagined how it would feel… if that sort of act was directed at her. Yuji ran towards the exit, which meant Kogami’s initial plan to stir him up worked. “W… what are you doing? Kogami-san!” Tsunemori yelled, looking how Kogami was peacefully walking after the running Kanehara. “Now we will know for sure if Kanehara is truly capable of murder. He doesn’t have the time to prepare anything in advance. If he wants to kill me, he will have to do it the same way he did it before. When he does, we can prove his crime.” “T-that’s crazy!” She’s new, Shizuka thought. Still uncorrupted by the world. What a shame she had to learn the hard way.-------------------------------“Why?!” Akane asked, running down the stairs after Kogami, who was leading the way. “Why would you risk doing something so reckless?!”Shizuka was behind them, trying not to think about metal clinking of the drone behind her. If Shepherd Two gets killed by a machine, it’s going to be really messy. She had to be sure rookie won’t die on duty that fast, and moreover… because Kogami’s plan was too risky. It won’t look well in front of Kasei. “Dammit,” Shizuka mumbled. Stupid skirt kept her from running properly.“This is about finding the truth behind life and death!” Kogami responded to Akane. “Of course we would have to put our lives on the line!” Shizuka smiled. She caught up to both of them. “We already caught the criminal red-handed! We need to wait for a backup…” Akane paused for breath after they’ve reached the point.Either the drone will appear… dissecting them all… or Kagari and Kunizuka will reach them first.The drone started cutting through the ceiling. Sound echoed throughout the corridor. “Kogami!” Kunizuka yelled, throwing the Dominator to him. He caught it, and Kagari used the machine to block the second drone that was under Kanehara’s control. “Crime Coefficient is 265. He is target for enforcement action.” Kogami paralyzed Yuji with his shot before turning the gun towards the drone. “Target Threat has been updated. Elimination mode: Destroy Decomposer.” The gun reshaped, enabling Kogami to completely obliterate the drone. He did the same with the drone that Kagari was keeping blocked by the transporter. “Dominators really kick ass when they get serious!” Shusei said, delighted. Akane was shaken up by the whole thing, but found Kogami’s actions radical but quite interesting. She was puzzled by him even more than before. And that’s how it begins. “Scary, isn’t it?” Shizuka asked. “He said he wanted to work as a detective… but the look in his eyes…” Akane said, confused. “He’s a latent criminal, Inspector Tsunemori. It’s to be expected. They aren’t called hunting dogs for nothing,” Shizuka recited. “He truly looked… like a carnivore,” Akane mumbled, to what Shizuka laughed.“That’s one way to put it. Don’t worry, Inspector… you will get used to it too.” She likes him, Shizuka was now sure of it. The more she observed her… the more she realized her initial assumption was correct.The girl was… almost bewitched by Kogami. Shizuka understood that fascination. He was an odd man. Odd for Sibyl, and odd for the society. How strange it must have all looked to Akane. --------------------------------------------“Heading home?”Gino was standing at the exit, and that’s where they met. “Yeah. It’s been a long day.” “I’ll take you home.” “No, it’s okay… I…” “Come now.” -----------------------------------------------They were both silent during the ride. “Masaoka-san… didn’t mean to provoke you. You know that.” “Let’s not talk about it.” He was looking at the road ahead. “Gino… can you learn… to forgive him somehow? It’s high time.”“It’s not up to you to decide that, is it?” “I didn’t mean to…” “I’ve been to lab, you know. I wanted to see Shion’s analysis of the drone. Guess what I’ve found in there along the way.” Shizuka stiffened in her seat. “A log,” she stated. “A log,” he repeated. “Authorized by you.” “You had no right. It’s a personal…” “We are personal. You and me. And what concerns you… concerns me as well,” he responded sharply. “Nobuchika, you still had no right to…” “Memory scoop, Shizuka. Of all things, you did a memory scoop.” “You wouldn’t get it.” “But he does?” Gino snapped. “He does because you are after the same damn thing? It’s delusion. A projection. You were intoxicated. You were under the influence of alcohol. Memory scoop isn’t valid in that case. Whatever you think you saw…” “I saw him. He is real. If you don’t believe it…” “Kogami does? Kogami chases Sasayama’s ghost. You are not part of the same obsession.”“What if it’s real? Why is it so hard for you to believe he is real?” “Because I trust only conclusive evidence. I trust facts, not speculations,” Gino stubbornly insisted.“How will you have evidence if you don’t trust what’s right in front of you?” “How can I trust it, coming from a mind of an escapist?!” he yelled. She sighed. “Stop the car.” “Shizuka…” “Pull over.” She was upset just like him. “No. You aren’t walking all the way home.” “Don’t tell me what I will do.” “I wouldn’t presume to do anything of the sort,” he cynically said. “It’s not the fact that I am escapist that bothers you… nor is that memory scoop that I performed. This is about something else.”And she knew what about. She was already flustered because of it. “You slept with him last night… haven’t you?” he asked, refusing to slow the car down. She wanted to lie. To deny. To say anything other than the truth. But, that’s not how they worked. “It’s none of your…” “Damn it.” Gino gripped his wheel hard. “It’s like… one step ahead, and a thousand steps back with you, Shizuka. How come that you always… always go back to him?” She bit her lip. “Is the sex that good?” “I told you a million times that it’s not about sex!” “It’s about the way he understands you, right. A latent criminal. It’s really…” “Really what? Gino… until you accept what I am… who I am… until I don’t have to censure myself for your sake… we can’t work as a couple. That’s all there is to it.” “You make is sound so easy,” he said. “Like it’s the easiest thing to do. Go against one’s nature.” “For you… I’d have to go against mine. You… would have to go against your own for me. We simply…” “… aren’t meant to be?” he asked. She sighed, tired.“We can’t learn to compromise. Even when we try… it’s always…” He pulled the car over. He was thinking. “Irritating as it is… we are already in this mess. Given how he rushed to get into your pants so soon only shows me he is afraid of losing you to me. And if he’s afraid of it… it means I have bigger chance than what he previously thought I had. Despite how arrogant it may sound… I believe I am right. Correct me if I’m wrong.” “Gino…” “There’s no going back even if we called this off. I can’t use the term ‘break up’ since there’s nothing defined to break between you and me. Also, we can’t merely be friends… so I won’t just give up on you just because you still can’t make up your mind. In some other situation… the older me would probably get more enraged… call this all off… but that’s not who I am anymore, and you aren’t who you were either. There’s still chance for us to become something… more solid,” he exclaimed. She couldn’t believe what she heard. She realized tears were rolling down her cheeks, emotions pouring out of her in a sudden outburst. “Gino… I am sorry…” I am sorry for hurting you. For hurting Shinya. For being indecisive. It’s worse than being confined in Adachi. It’s worse than being confined in my own head. It’s truly a living nightmare. “It’s fine. A journey of thousand steps again, I guess. We just have to start with the first one.” He hugged her, letting her to cry her heart out. He was, after all, her oldest friend before he became her lover. It’s not like he didn’t know she’d go to Shinya. He just hoped she’ll start choosing him more instead of Kogami… until she completely transits towards him. He waited for years. Some more time won’t be too much of trouble to him. He will do it all over again… step by step.
PSYCHO-PASS: PARADIGM SHIFT - Violent Urges (pt.4)PART 4 – Violent Urges,“Don’t beat yourself over it so much,” Kogami said, looking at strands of her hair in front of him. Shizuka was lying on his arm, and he was hugging her from behind. She enjoyed the familiar sense of his warmth, the strong heartbeat against her torso. She was playing with his fingers, thinking how this felt entirely like she’s at home. He was her home. Her family. And yet… she was restless. The sentiment lingered underneath, waiting to be resolved.“I should have looked better. If I only stood closer...”“You would if you could. We will get him somehow. Types like those… never lay low for too long.”He was reassuring himself as he was trying to reassure her.“There's still something I can do,” she figured, rising up. Kogami looked at her, wondering what she had in mind.“No,” he figured. And he didn't like it. “It's too risky, Shizuka.”“It may be worth the try,” she said. “You don't...”“No, Shinya... I must.”She already made up her mind. Kogami rushed to put some clothes on, annoyed by how stubborn she could sometimes be. -------------------------------City was glimmering in multi-colored neon lights, per usual. Night time was truly a wonderful time to observe the urban landscapes. How the technology has developed. How well it has progressed. Ironically, the humanity seemed to regress with it. It deteriorated, relying heavily on the machines, AI and other technical advances that made the life pleasing. Easier. With each passing generation, humanity seemed to get more and more rotten, more disappointing… relying on the pre-defined choices rather than making choices of their own. Comfort had a price. Where has the free will disappeared? Could they still count themselves as humans? Instead of evolving, they awfully devolved. Such a depressing thought. “It was risky to meet up in the open,” Choe Gu Song interrupted the silence along with Makishima’s thoughts. “What are you going to do if she manages to identify you?” Makishima smiled at this curiosity. It was almost as if he wanted Akibara to identify him. “We were standing too far for her to get a clear visual. Of that… I made sure,” he softly responded to his friend. There were a lot of smoke effects in that club. A lot of people, and some of them even had white hair. That aside… the girl wasn’t exactly the most reliable witness, being an escapist.“Were you that intrigued that you had to risk it, though?” Choe Gu Song wanted to know. He took a seat next to Makishima, who closed the book he was holding. “Weren’t you as well? Akibara Shizuka is one of those types that Sibyl can’t categorize. She is neither criminally asymptomatic… nor is she a regular citizen. Which makes her quite interesting to both Sibyl… and me.” “It’s rather strange, this… escapism. Was it inherited… or induced by her father?” Choe wondered. “According to data… the criminal psychologist had really high propensity for violence. He did some unethical things during his ‘treatments’. And he treated not only his patients, but also his family, for various reasons.” “Sure, the father could have been the cause due to which her escapism originated from. He was violent, which probably enabled her defense mechanism, but as far as we know… the mother might be the cause too. If not the cause, then a relevant factor. Most certainly,” Makishima was thinking. “Mother, huh? Interesting theory.” “Akibara Hana. Treated at their home, by Akibara Ayumu himself. With Akibara sisters around. Surely, we can ask ‘why’ and ‘how’ Inspector’s escapism started. But maybe ‘when’ is the answer to both.”“By the classified records, it’s stated around when she was seven.”“That’s the thing that puzzles me. Are escapists born… or made? Most likely made.” “If so... how’s approving of and keeping escapists beneficial to Sibyl? And if Sibyl still deems her… Akibara… fit to work for Bureau… then the system estimated that she isn’t dangerous,” Choe said. “More like… it keeps an eye on her precisely because she is dangerous. Escapists are phenomenon in modern society. While many people are capable of coping through escaping… escapists literally ‘live’ in their changed reality. Their brains are differently wired… which is fascinating. They are able to detach from reality more than others are.”“It’s a luxury in this time and age, since mental stability is so fragile.”Makishima agreed. “It’s also a bit sad. Don’t you think? To feel so out of the society that you never really fit, no matter how hard you try. If you need to escape, it means you just aren’t happy.” Choe knew this felt familiar for Shogo. “Indeed,” he confirmed. “Or she might just be over-privileged. Escapism is rather convenient. I am honestly surprised more people aren’t trying it.” “They are scared to engage that method, regardless of the latest political debates. There are too many escapists who succumb to the after-effects. Escapism can permanently damage you… leave you catatonic or in comatose state if over-used. I am surprised our Inspector supposedly recovered from the Butcher case. Something like that stays with you.” “Is that why you showed up in front of her? To make her… relapse or something?” Choe sometimes couldn’t tell what Makishima’s true intentions were, unless Shogo explained it himself. But, Choe’s guesses were correct for most of the time when Shogo was concerned. “That’s right. I wanted to see her reaction, and whether she would recognize my voice. If she recalled the most stressful event in her life, assuming the Butcher case was the most stressful point for her… she might have reverted to her previous state.” When Shizuka was held captive by Ichiro and put under extreme, stressful, sadistic and violent situations… which, as a consequence, triggered her escapism… Makishima observed. Her expression changed in seconds - from tormented features, distorted by pain, by unbearable suffering… she suddenly went still, calm, like her mind just shut down. Her eyes were glassy, her mouth slightly opened… and her posture completely like in hibernation. Her mind literally shielded her from the trauma by producing lasting imaginary setting. It was like she just linked onto her personal virtual reality, much more real than reality itself in that moment. One could almost envy her ability, hadn’t it been so lethal to similar users. Someone with ability like that… was able to shake the core of the system such as Sibyl. Even more so if they take additional training, and by her record, Shizuka had plenty of sessions. So why… didn’t the system imprison her just yet? Makishima smiled. “The system is challenging her. I just wonder whose side she will take, once the reality becomes too unbearable for her, or intolerant to those like her.” “Can she become asymptomatic?” Choe looked at his associate. “That’s exactly what we have to observe… during these missions of ours. It will make for an interesting addition for studying if nothing else.” According to what he knew… asymptomatic people were born like that. Could they be made, though? How thick is the line between an escapist and an asymptomatic person? “Well, I don’t have to tell you to be careful. I think we should lay low for the time being, given how quickly she acted tonight,” Choe stated. Makishima was still smiling. “Those keen noses of inspectors. I just wanted to see how she’d act… if she had at least some lead to follow. She was better than I expected. Maybe she…” Makishima’s eyes glowed as lights reflected in them. He didn’t finish the thought. “Maybe… what?” Choe asked. He had a hunch that Makishima had a plan that differed to his original intent. Which meant only one thing. “She doesn’t get it yet. But, in time, maybe she will. And just maybe…” Shogo’s golden eyes turned towards to Choe… “Are you really considering her as possible ally?” Choe asked. “She would make rather exceptional tool against Sibyl. As far as I can see, she is half way there anyway. So, if presented with the chance… why not?” “Her moral compass, for one,” Choe shrugged his shoulders, “… and do I even have to bring up how you assisted the killer she worked so hard on bringing down, and who almost raped and killed her?”“Regardless, it might be worth a try to talk her into investigating the system. If provided with the push in the right direction, or given the right motivation, she might even be persuaded. Stranger things have happened. And though the chances are slim, it would be fun to try. After all, escapists are labile, and prone to suggestive manipulations. They always oscillate. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone obstruct the system on the inside?”Choe smiled this time. Makishima’s ideas were unconventional for most of the time, but they weren’t undoable. The man proved that himself. Maybe she won’t be so hard to convince... if Makishima was the one doing the persuasion.“Whatever suits you. Just... be careful along the way.”“Don’t worry, my friend. There’s no conclusive evidence linking me to the Butcher case… or any other case. Mainly thanks to you. I won’t forget that. It also helps that I don’t have too many personal information out in the open, so even if she makes some kind of connection, I am confident that I will be able to handle it.”“Just so we are clear… you don’t really think you’ll be successful in convincing her… do you?”They had to be realistic about it.“No, not really. But you have to admit… the thought is entertaining.” “Truly,” Choe agreed. Akibara helping to expose the system would make for a really formidable story. Splendorous one, even. And like Shougo said… quite entertaining. Makishima reached for the book, and continued reading from where he stopped. He must have really liked Orwell. Choe opened his laptop, where the profile from CID was still opened. Shizuka’s most recent photo switched the last one from when she was Shepherd Two. Her looks changed… the data too. Her badge number contained a different ranking. “Akibara is promoted. She is a senior Investigator now.”Shogo lowered the book again, looking at Choe.“Keep your enemies closer, huh?” It made him smile. Shogo continued: “Something’s wrong in Paradise. They are already at odds, Sibyl system and Akibara Shizuka. There might be a way to approach our dear Inspector, even if I don’t directly do the approaching.” The hacker next to him was typing, looking at several different terminals and opened tabs at once. Something was happening. “Makishima…” he noticed something in the side-terminal he left open. Shougo leaned, looking at screen himself. “Is that…”Choe didn’t respond. He was now typing with a serious expression which Makishima rarely saw on his face. ------ about fifteen minutes before -----The sound of electronic bell made Shion grimace. “Who on Earth could it be at this hour? Just let me sleep…” She hated being awakened in the middle of the night. Yayoi silently moved, ready to get up too.Shion sighed, putting her nightgown on, then a bath robe over it. Yayoi was already in her shirt, buttoning it up.“Karanomori?” Shizuka’s voice was the last thing Shion wanted to hear in that moment. Shion signalized to Yayoi to go back to bed, but her lover refused, and was already putting her pants on. Shion sighed again. “This better be worth it, Shizu-chan!” Shion opened, and let Shizuka in, accompanied by…“Sninya!” Shion was honestly surprised. “Are you two still working, or…” Kogami wore his training navy-blue shirt and matching gym trousers. Shizuka wore a tight black cocktail jumpsuit, and obviously wasn’t working. Judging by their appearances, they weren’t partying together. Shizuka seemed stressed, though. “Inspector?” someone spoke. “Kunizuka…” Shizuka only then noticed the beautiful girl who stood behind Shion. “Sorry for interrupting… but this is rather urgent.” “My, my…” Shion run her fingers through her hair, sighing again. “To the lab?” “Yes, please.” “Do you require assistance?” Yayoi asked both of her colleagues.“No. In fact… it’s probably for the best if you forgot all about seeing us tonight,” Shizuka said. Kogami didn’t speak, he obviously wasn’t pleased by Shizuka’s behavior.Yayoi slowly nodded, putting her hand on Shizuka’s shoulder. “If you need anything…” “Thank you, Yayoi. I really appreciate it.” Shion only then noticed Shinya’s expression. He seemed… “He disagrees with this,” Shizuka explained, and Kogami glared at her. His posture was stiff, both of his hands were pressed firmly on his hips, and he looked very discontent with his superior. Shizuka wasn’t looking at him. “It’s not only unnecessary, it’s uncalled for, and quite dangerous. It also won’t be of any use, Inspector,” he stated.“Now you really sound like him,” Shizuka was actually bitter towards Shinya. Shion felt she should interrupt before they start arguing in front of her. “Let’s go,” Shion led the way out, and they both followed. The atmosphere was getting pretty heavy. Karanomori opened the lab using her card, and Shinya frowned, looking at Shizuka who already powered up the chair, connected the helmet and put it on her head. Shion sat at her usual place, and activated her account. “So, tell me… what are we doing?” Shion asked. Kogami crossed his hands on his chest. “Memory scoop, Shion. From roughly two hours ago, and from this evening,” Shizuka explained. “Mem… wait. Shinya…” “She won’t listen to me,” he exclaimed. “She pulled her rank on me, and she will do the same to you. Don’t bother.” “By the authority bestowed upon me by Sibyl, I require your assistance, Shion,” Shizuka recited, leaning into the chair.“For such a cute girl, you can really be pain in the ass sometimes, you know?” blonde sighed, took a cigarette, and started the procedure, powering the helmet up. “Can I get one?” Kogami forgot Spinel in his residence, so Shion was more than happy to provide her Slims to him. They lit their cigarettes, looking at fast numerical scanning that appeared on the monitor. “What are we looking for, Shizu?” Shion asked. Shizuka was focusing the best she could. Stress won't do any good. “The target is male. Young. From twenty to forty years old, dressed in white shirt, dark trousers. Has a white hair. There was also a foreign companion, possibly Korean.”------ meanwhile ------Choe accessed the street scanner, quickly typing on his keyboard. “What is…” “She’s… currently connected to some sort of equipment. Helmet.” Choe was destroying any public visuals that could incriminate Makishima and him, deleting pictures from all areas where scanners could have picked up on them. He had a difficulty with accessing CID’s terminal now. Someone good was operating in the lab. “That device connects to people’s hippocampus, it extracts from temporal lobes.”“Oh?” Makishima was amused. “She’s accessing her memories then! I wonder… what is she doing with those.” Choe’s expression got even more serious. He had an idea.----------------------------“The Hell?” Shion noticed something unusual. The terminal that she was working on looked suspicious. It was a moment, but in that moment, she had this eerie feeling that something was among those lines of code. She immediately switched to another channel, substituting the procedure, and terminating, then blocking out what she previously used. She run additional safety program, heavily defending against any hidden threats from the web. ----------------------------“It’s exceptionally hard to hack. Whomever is doing the analysis is good at preventing me from getting close,” Choe briefed to Makishima, who was composed even then. “As expected of Sibyl,” Shogo said. ---------------------------- “What happened?” Kogami asked. “For a moment… it was as if someone was here with us. I must be getting paranoid or something.” Shion hoped it was just that. False alarm. Shizuka gritted her teeth, but the pain was growing stronger. She couldn’t bear it, so she let out a scream.“Shizuka?!” Shion rose from her seat. Kogami was already next to her, firmly grabbing her hand. -----------------------------“I lost the link,” Choe admitted his defeat. “I can’t tell whether they succeeded in extraction or not. I am completely blocked out.” “You can’t retrace the hack?” Makishima asked. “Piggyback the link, you mean? No. That lab is protected as NONA tower itself. There’s no chance I can access it now.” Makishima leaned on the seat, thinking. “Such a shame. What about street scanners? The web?”“All deleted. But, if Akibara…” “Memories are tricky. Something tells me we don’t have to worry about a single thing,” Makishima stated. ------------------------------Don’t think of anything other than tonight. The party. Aoyanagi. The crowd. The crowd… the crowd… don’t visualize. Focus. Don’t let anything slip. They are watching.She suppressed her thoughts. Her escapism has to block anything else. Any other night. Any other person. “Shizuka, breathe in.” "Maybe you should ask yourself… why is it so hard to choose Gino over Kogami?”Damn.“Breathe out…” Aoyanagi’s face appeared on the screen. “No. No, no…” "Sure, you were ------------ Shinya ---------- and sure --------- even forgives. But… maybe… it’s habitual. If he’s not… really upset over ---------slee----- Gin----------then, maybe…”“I am -------------- terrified that I will ------------- Kou is okay with… it becau------------- n’t love me as he used to.”It slipped. Pieces of it anyway. Damn. Damn it. She screamed from the pain again, it felt like it was splitting her head in half. Tears were biological response to it. “But ------------ can’t do --------- what’s in Gin ----------- best inter------- own best ------est in mind. And in ----------- still Shinya.”But finally… it was there. The tall, slim figure. Ethereal, handsome look, eerie, snake-like smirk. But all blurry. Just hair… just clothes… and he merged into the smoke and the crowd, quickly disappearing just like he appeared. Shizuka screamed, but this time, out of pure frustration. With her free hand, she reached for an image as if she could grab that man with her hands. Kogami pushed her back into the seat. No… no… no… “Orwell, in Nineteen ei-----------, states that reality exists in the human mind, and nowhere else. Her reality is ----------- in this moment; any kind of comfort ---------- occupied her mind b------------preparing her is what she is engulfed by. ------------ fascinating.”“Karanomori!” Kogami yelled.“I am recording!” the blonde responded. “But audio samples from scoops are always unreliable!”“Just keep on recording these,” Kogami held Shizuka, who couldn’t stop remembering now. The first voice belonged to the Butcher. The second one… “She can drift away to anything and anyone she wants. This will only end up one way.”“Before that… can you measure her hue?”“Does it even matter?”“I am merely curious. After all, this is the first time I am witnessing an escapist doing a successful escapism at this level. I wonder about her state.”“It’s 132. She’s already over the edge.”She stopped it all. She screamed again. Loudly, in high pitch, which was contrasting her natural voice.“Shinya, her hue…” Karanomori warned, reading the parameters. It was getting clouded… at the express rate. “Snap out of it. Come on,” Kogami dug both of his hands into her shoulders, squeezing them. “Come on, Shizuka!” Spasms started, she felt them throughout her whole body. He shook her. “SHIZUKA!” No response. Kogami forcefully tore the cables, disconnecting the helmet and the rest of equipment from the chair. Karanomori already powered the equipment down, and Shinya held Shizuka for a bit… until she managed to compose herself. With trembling hands, Shizuka removed the helmet. She was very upset. “What did this one do to make you so...?” Shion was sorting captured photos that could match the description of the suspicious person Kogami and Akibara were after. “Capture… that one. There. There. Zoom in,” Kogami instructed, completely aiming his focus onto that man. The image wasn’t clear. It was blurry, much like the picture he already had from Sasayama’s terminal… but she got closer. She saw him. This was another visual, a bit clearer from the last photo that Sasayama took. Karanomori was running the scan in hope to get a match. This one had to be somewhere in the system. Anywhere. Please... find him. Please...“It’s him,” Shizuka covered her mouth with her hand, and pressed the other to her stomach. “I know it’s him!” she repeated, furious at her inability to provide a better photo. But that was the same person who assisted the Butcher when he held Shizuka in that cell. “Zoom it in,” Kogami asked of Shion, who tried, but magnification wasn’t working anymore. It was the furthest she could have enlarged the photo. Shion took a smoke, irritated. There wasn’t any visual match for this guy, whoever he was. Audio analysis didn’t provide results either. Those were some serious dead-ends.“I am sorry, you two. This one was standing too far.” Shizuka was staring at the screen… reminded of what kind of mess was in her mind. She was so mad that she kept clenching her fists. “Print that, please,” Kogami asked. Shion provided the clearest image she could make and handed it to Shinya. Shizuka spoke then in a very apologetic manner. “Sorry I’ve put you through this, Shion. This is someone I was looking for… but it’s another dead-end, it seems. I have one more request, if that’s okay with you.”“Do tell, Aki-chan.”“Don’t mention this to anyone. I am working on this out of jurisdiction. That’s why I couldn’t call you before arriving. I didn’t want to be... overheard.”“Damn it, Shizu-chan. No wonder Shinya didn’t want you to do it.”She looked at her record. “Your hue…”“It will be fine,” Shizuka said. “Please… can you keep this between us?”“Sure… don’t worry about it,” Shion promised. “But I will have to keep the log.”“I understand. It’s okay. Just… don’t tell others.”“No problem.”They stood there in silence. “Well, if that’s all… I need to return to bed,” Shion said.“Okay. I am sorry,” Shizuka apologized again, lowering her head.“Don’t be. We can’t always get what we want,” Shion remarked. Kogami was looking at the photo, lost in thoughts only known to him. Unable to live with herself in that moment, Shizuka headed out first. Shion followed, keeping the door so Shinya could pass. “Inspector Akibara,” Shion called, “you have to escort your Enforcers back to their rooms, you know. It’s your duty.”Shion winked. She was doing this on purpose, in attempt to improve things between Shinya and Shizuka. Inspector was aware. But, it won't really help them. Not that night. “Let’s go, then,” she mumbled.“I am close by, though. Shinya isn’t,” Shion added fuel to the fire, and just laughed at Shizuka’s expression. Kogami looked at his blonde colleague, frowning. “For such a beautiful woman, you can really be pain in the ass, Shion,” Akibara said.“Good night, you two,” Shion saluted, leaving them to settle the rest on their own.------------------------------------They didn’t talk along the way. Kogami kept looking at the photo, thinking how, regardless of what she considered failure… this was proof that he wasn’t insane for chasing Sasayama’s alleged ghost. The same ghost in two different timelines… that was something that put his mind a bit more to ease. He was real. This was real. And he didn’t only assist Sasayama’s killer… he obviously assisted Shizuka’s torturer, the Butcher. He was an accomplice in multiple crimes, this one. Shizuka was tired. Shaken. She was still slightly trembling from the whole thing. “I am going home, Kogami. You can go on your own from…” “Kogami, huh? Aren’t you going to follow me to my residence, Senior Inspector?” he asked. She finally looked at him. Still holding onto that photo, like it meant anything.“You have my permission…” she started. “But you also have responsibility, Akibara-san,” he said. It was a signal to mend this... whatever this dispute was about. Their eyes met. He walked ahead and she followed him, unwilling to talk about the failure she was responsible for. But Shinya needed an explanation. ------------------------They went straight to his room, where he pinned the photo next to Sasayama’s image. He compared visuals. It was the same guy. Kogami knew it was a small step forward... but it was a step. “Should I tuck you in while I’m here, officer Kogami?” Shizuka asked, leaning to the door. Her ironical remark reminded him of times when they used to fight... but they never fought for more than a few days. “I wouldn’t mind that, Senior Inspector. I wouldn’t mind it at all,” he responded, casually removing his shirt, pretending not to notice her glance, or intentional avoidance of his abs. It was distracting to her. He was glad. Some things still haven't changed. Kogami reached for the Spinel pack on the desk, and pulled a cigarette out. He put it between his lips, then lit it. Drag of the nicotine helped him calm down. “I have to…” she begun, but he interrupted. “No, you don’t,” Kogami turned towards her, piercing her with his pale gaze. "What you have to do, is talk to me. And I mean really talk to me." Shizuka, who was already on the edge, suddenly snaped.“I am sorry, okay?!” she yelled. Shinya took another long, heavy drag of smoke. She was suppressing it, calming down by will. But her will was overruled by the emotional pressure. Shinya himself was in similar state.“You just had to risk it. You just had to try it,” he said, still mad at her for insisting to do the memory scoop.“You were right. I was wrong. Is that what you want to hear?” she asked, fighting the despair she was feeling among other things.“No. I just wanted you to be well. That’s all. Even some despicable latent criminal such as myself... can’t support the gravity of procedure that is memory scoop.”“My hue was fine. And it will be fine!” she insisted. It will. She will somehow manage it.“Except it isn’t fine… is it?” Kogami said. “Weight of the risk wasn’t worth the result in this case. You knew it. You just had to do something… anything… to make yourself feel better for losing the trail of him tonight.” He exhaled the fume. She gritted her teeth. “I had to do it. You were right about that too. And I am fool… for trying. I failed myself… and I failed you once more. Lately, it feels like failing is the only thing that I am good at.” “You haven’t failed me, regardless of what you may think now.”“Oh, don’t try to comfort me, Shinya!!” she impatiently yelled. It slipped… just like those memories did. She was so ashamed of him seeing pieces of those memories. “Shinya?” he repeated, smiling before dragging some more of his cigarette. “Kogami,” she corrected herself. “This is truly…” But Kogami Shinya knew her better than anyone else ever did. “This isn’t about your inability to capture him, Shizuka. This is about something else. Come on. Let's not delay talking about it any longer.”Kogami stepped towards her, lowering the end of the cigarette in the ashtray. The way she was avoiding looking at him now confirmed his assumptions.He put his arm against the door to prevent her from trying to evade this conversation. “I am sorry about not being able to capture that person tonight. I was drinking, I wasn't paying enough attention. I wasn't expecting him, I was caught up... in my own... personal...” she whispered, stiffening against the surface behind her. Words were failing her. “Life. You were caught up in real problems, from your real life. No one expects you to be Inspector twenty four hours a day. It's understandable you took some time for yourself. That you had a chat with a friend you could confide in. And it's understandable you two were talking about... two men who are currently making chaos out of your love life. It's natural you two would debate... who is better choice. But what in the world made you think... that I don't love you like I used to?” The suspense was leaving her breathless. Him, being this close, caused the same feeling she always had around him. Wasn't this going to change after... Gino?“What is left for you to love in me?” she asked, shuddering. She closed her own arms around her shoulders, feeling really horrible about what she did to him. Kogami wondered where this came from.“Are you serious?”“Maybe it's time... to... reconsider someone who'll treat you differently. Better than I did. Who might be a better match,” she had a hard time saying it, but she still had to say it. It was only fair. And fair could really hurt sometimes.“Do you have anyone particular in mind?” Shinya raised an eyebrow.“You must have noticed. Come on, Shinya, you aren't that oblivious. She isn't hiding it all too well,” Shizuka pointed out. “Akibara Shizuka... don't tell me you are jealous of the newbie girl. She knows me for about... what, a week? Also... must I remind you that she shot me with a Dominator? Not the best start of a love story if you ask me,” Kogami said. “I knew you for about an hour before I realized I liked you romantically,” Shizuka said. “And while you may not think so, you are appealing, and very charismatic person. It's no wonder she already likes you. You two would be a good match. About ninety percent good.”Kogami's eyebrow twitched. For a second, but it did. “You figured it all out, didn't you?” Kogami then smiled, closing the space between them. “You even found me a girl. Made a comparative analysis, even. Is that how badly you want to end things with me?”He wasn't sure he wanted the answer.“She would probably be a better match,” Shizuka said, admitting to herself that she was a bit envious of the girl. Tsunemori had gentle nature. She was smart. She scored seven hundred points and she was top of her class. And although she was still learning to function in the system... her heart was in the right place. Shizuka could tell. Shizuka liked her... so why wouldn't Shinya? Shinya could also like her in a way that Shizuka couldn't. “You are forgetting the most crucial thing,” Kogami remarked. “She's an Inspector... and I am an Enforcer. Only one Inspector is foolish enough to get involved with her Hound,” he teased. “Except Risa is with Ryougo too,” Shizuka pointed out. “Ah. Well... maybe there are more foolish Inspectors than I thought there were. The point still stands.”“I think Akane...”“Shizuka... stop. Those are all lame excuses for calling things off with me,” he said. “Unless you give me stronger reason... like, tell me you are leaving me for Gino... I won't take it seriously. And I won't accept anything else.”She sighed. He will, once he realizes Akane's qualities. She could tell. Being well versed in psychology meant she read people well. For the most part.“It's not about...”“No? Well, I see he got you well the last time. I didn't know he could be so sly... our Nobuchika,” Shinya smiled again, not without irritation. He towered over her.She gasped, feeling Shinya's warmth. His words made her blush... out of shame... because of memories she was glad Shinya didn't see. His hand slid next to her, not touching her, but creating that sense of longing... to be touched. She instinctively bit into her lip, unaware of what effect that movement alone caused in Shinya.“He got you so conflicted that you are seriously considering breaking up with me... based on the sense of guilt alone,” Kogami stated. “How are you not disgusted by me?” she asked. “I would understand if you hated me. I would understand if you yelled at me... even if you punched me, or threw something... if you made any kind of scene. But... I can't understand how you are fine with me... cheating on you with your best friend. How can you be so calm, and act as if nothing major hasn't changed... as if I hadn't betrayed you in the worst way possible!”Kogami's expression changed for a moment. He seemed more serious. “I wasn't fine any more than Gino was when he felt that we cheated on him the first time we got together,” he said. “Would you prefer if I showed how I truly felt? If I caused a scene?”“No... of course not. But... maybe you took my betrayal so calmly... because you just don't care about me the way you used to. And it's fine if that's the case... I don't have any right to complain...”“Calmly? Every time I think of you and him... every single time... I get the most violent urges you can imagine,” Kogami said, clenching both of his hands into fists. He took a moment to cool it off, using both of his arms to keep her against the door. “Haven't you heard, my dear Inspector? I am a latent criminal. It's in my very nature to suppress any violent urge I get. And so, I keep suppressing them. If it looks to you like I am calm... then maybe you don't know me as well as I thought you did.” Kogami lowered his head, looking closely in her eyes now. “I am so sorry,” she whispered.“For being in love with him?” Kogami asked. “For not being able to keep what we had,” she said. He leaned against her, now feeling her heartbeat. She stopped breathing, sensing the tension more than before. “I could say the same, considering how I was the one who got demoted. I was the first one to ruin what we had, so... don't apologize for that.”Kogami made it unbearable for her. His proximity just... did things to her. She inhaled, realizing something.“You two are the same,” she whispered. “You always were. The way you both act... the way you both make me feel...”Even if the situation was somehow reversed... even if Gino was the one she used to have a life with... Shinya would be in the picture, and the situation would still end up the same. She would always end up being tempted by the one she couldn't have. And she would still end up unsure of which one to choose. Most likely, anyway. “We aren't the same. But, we happen to want the same thing,” Kogami said. “Do you really?”“I know that you love him. You always did, in a way. It wouldn't be such a mess if it was only lust. But, like you love him, I know you still love me. And I know it's not the only thing you feel when we are together,” Kogami said, brushing his lips against hers. She gasped, accepting the begging of the kiss... and Kogami slowly bit into her lip, pulling it with his teeth before sucking on it. That kiss was fierce. There was anger in his passion, anger that only passion could satisfy. She lost her breath, overwhelmed by the sensation. She kissed him back, hungrily, wrapping her arms around his neck. “There she is,” he whispered on her lips, “there's my girl. And if you wonder if this is a habit... then, know... if it is, it's the best habit in the world.”Another kiss reassured her... of his feelings for her. One kiss more... and she was completely consumed by the fire. “If you want to stop... now's the time. I don't think I can control myself any longer,” he admitted. And Hound out of control was a challenge to her. She put her temple against his, trying to calm the storm that was rising within her. She closed her eyes, controlling her breathing. She was thinking.For the first time, Shinya wasn't sure... of how she'd act. Of what she will choose. And it made him rather anxious....
DWOAH: Kanji Tatsumi vs Shizuo HeiwajimaDeadliest warriors of all historyKanji Tatsumi vs Shizuo HeiwajimaCall me violent again and I’ll kick your ass!Kanji Tatsumi info:Height: 6 foot 1Weight: 143lbsWeapons: Bare Hands, Folding Chair, Takeji ZaitenStrengths: Acts as the ‘muscle’ of the Investigation Team in Persona 4, Superhuman strength (Can harm and kill Shadows with his Bare Hands, Can harm the likes of Tohru Adachi and Izanami with his Bare Hands, Has shown to be able to lift things several times his own weight with ease, Is arguably the strongest Persona user physically in the series), Superhuman durability (Can tank blows from Shadows, Can survive being electrocuted/set on fire/frozen solid, Survived attacks from Izanami), Massively hypersonic speeds (Can dodge Lightning and Laser attacks), Despite being deemed a delinquent and a thug Kanji is in fact fairly bright and has a naturally inquisitive mind, Has an incredible healing factor (Can suffer from debilitating injuries in the TV world but comes back into the real world completely fine), Is completely immune to Electrical and Wind attacks (Despite starting out weak to Wind) by the end of the game, Helped in the defeat of Tohru Adachi, Ameno-Sagiri and Izanami.Weaknesses: Can be fairly slow on the uptake of things, Is highly impulsive.Shizuo Heiwajima info:Height: 6 foot 1Weight: 154lbsWeapons: Bare Hands, Street Sign, Anything he can grabStrengths: Is one of the main characters of Durarara! and can be considered the strongest character physically, Superhuman strength (Thanks to a brain defect that doesn’t shut down his muscles under stress Shizuo can perform many unnatural feats of strength, Lifted a several ton truck and threw it, Destroyed an AK-47 with a slap, Threw a man so hard he went higher than a skyscraper), Superhuman durability/Pain tolerance (Thanks to constantly breaking and harming his body as a child Shizuo has developed superhuman durability, Shrugged off being hit by a speeding truck, A Ballistic Knife could barely pierce his chest, Didn’t realise that he had once been shot until he passed out from blood loss), Superhuman speed (Can keep up with a speeding truck), Possesses an incredible healing factor, Is completely immune to all known drugs.Weaknesses: Has a split second temper which prevents him from thinking things through.Battle begin!Humming to himself as he finished the last few stitches Kanji bit off the end of the string to finish up his repairs to Naoto’s jacket before lifting it up to inspect his work, grinning to himself as the tear that once marred the material of the jacket was now fixed to the point that the clothing looked like it had never been damaged.Setting the jacket down he then reached for his phone to text Naoto to tell her that her jacket was ready when the sound of shattering glass and something crashing through his family’s textile store downstairs made him jump out of his seat “what the hell?!” he exclaimed, jumping to his feet and grabbing his own jacket to throw over his shoulders as he stormed out of his room to head downstairs.Expecting to find someone ransacking his store Kanji burst through the door already swinging but to his surprise the only person he found in the store was unconscious and the way he was strewn out across the knocked over tables and sewing equipment showed that he was thrown inside rather than smashing through the window himself.Looking out of said broken window Kanji then saw the culprit to all of the property damage, a well dressed blond man standing in front of the store dusting himself off with a look of disgust at the man he had thrown into it before turning to walk away.“Hey jackass!” Kanji snapped drawing Shizuo’s attention “ya think you can just wreck a guys place and walk away?!”.“Take it up with my employer, it’s not my problem” the Bodyguard stated taking another step away only to stop when the stores cash registers suddenly struck him in the back of the head.“I’m making it ya damn problem!” Kanji barked as he then ran at Shizuo full pelt and rammed his Fist to the Bodyguards face before he could fully turn around, the punch having more force behind it than a speeding truck as it sent Shizuo straight off of his feet and sending him across the street to crash into the wall of the adjacent building.Rebounding off of the wall to land on one knee Shizuo hissed in annoyance as the hit has broken one of the lenses of his glasses, the Bodyguard rising to his feet only to suffer another punch to the head as Kanji lunged at him, Shizuo this time quickly recovering to then catch another swing from the Persona user stopping his arm in its tracks “you’re strong kid” he ‘complimented’ as he forced Kanji’s hand back whilst standing up “but I’m just stronger”.With that he pulled Kanji closer before harshly headbutting him across the street, Kanji clutching his head as he slid to a halt just in front of his store nursing his now spinning head, looking up just in time to see Shizuo calmly take hold of a Street Sign and rip it straight out of the concrete as if it was nothing “holy shit…”.Smirking at the look of shock on Kanji’s face Shizuo then spun the Sign like a Baton as he charged at the Persona user, swinging the Sign like a Baseball Bat as Kanji raised his arms to shield himself, the Sign bending in half at the handle as it made contact with his body showing an unnatural toughness to him despite the grunt of pain he let out from the hit.Cursing Shizuo gripped the Sign tighter to bend it back into shape which left him open for a left hook from Kanji, staggering him which left him open for several more brutal punches, each one resonating through his body making him stagger and stumble before Kanji landed a crushing blow to the top of his head with a jumping elbow attack to his skull and a shout of “get bent!!!”.Being brought to his knees by the blow to the head Shizuo then suffered a brutal knee to the face sending him onto his back, just managing to roll over of the way as Kanji then brought his foot down hard enough to leave an indent in the concrete where the Bodyguard had just been.Spinning himself up to get back on his feet Shizuo kicked out at Kanji’s legs as he did so, knocking the Persona user to the ground before grabbing his leg and throwing him full force back into his store, further wrecking the inside of the store as his body crashed through the remaining equipment that was still standing.“Oh, you’re gonna get it now!” Kanji’s voice came from inside the store as he then stormed out carrying a metal Folding Chair with him, the Persona user then raising it high above his head before running full pelt at Shizuo.As Kanji jumped at him with the Chair Shizuo swung his Street Sign to intercept the Chair, both metal Weapons rebounding off of each other before Shizuo then swept the Sign upwards to strike the Persona user across the jaw, lifting him off of his feet before he swung the Sign like a Bat again to send Kanji flying across the street again and down an alley, his Chair clattering to the ground as he did so.Slamming his hand to the alley wall to slow himself Kanji winced as he clutched his aching gut, the Persona user then looking up as he heard the clanging and groaning of metal from the alley entrance, his eyes widening in shock as he saw Shizuo lifting a car high above his head “eat this!” the Bodyguard then barked hurling the car as hard as he could at Kanji, the tight constraints of the alleyway cutting off nearly any point of escape for Kanji and helping the thrown car make a beeline for him.“Shit!!!” Kanji exclaimed raising his arms to shield his face as the car came down towards him, bracing himself for impact when he suddenly felt a surge of power from within him and heard the car smash into something in front of him.Looking up Kanji grinned at the sight of his Persona standing before him having blocked the car “good to have you back man” Kanji sighed in relief as Takeji Zaiten then cast the car away, sending it flying out of the alleyway making Shizuo duck “now let’s kick this bastards ass!”.As he ducked to avoid the car Shizuo left himself open for Kanji to rush him, the Persona user tackling him full force before throwing him upwards for Takeji Zaiten to attack him with its Flaming Sword, hitting him three times in a Kill Rush attack with the final blow slamming him back down to the concrete.“Ziodyne!” Kanji then commanded prompting his Persona to which it cast a Thunderbolt down upon Shizuo, severely shocking him before he could get back to his feet, damaging his clothing and slightly charring his skin.Despite this Shizuo still rose up swinging, clocking Kanji in the jaw hard enough to make him stagger before forcing him back with a brutal punch to the gut, leaving him enough space for him to head to the nearby Street Light and grab hold of it.Gripping the metal of the Street Light hard enough to start to warp it Shizuo then heaved with all of his might, grunting as the concrete around the base of the Light started to crack and give way until he finally tore the Light out of its moorings, dragging the live wires out with it which he then lashed out at Kanji, the live wires swinging around like thrashing Snakes as they then wrapped around Kanji’s body sending thousands of volts through his body.Grinning as he expected Kanji to fry from the voltage Shizuo’s smile fell as Kanji still stood strong, his hair simply standing on end as the strong current coursed through his body “this barely tickles” he stated as he then broke free of the wires and grabbed them, using them to drag Shizuo forward via his grip on the Street Light.Wrenching Shizuo off of his feet Kanji then tore the Light out of his grasp and threw it aside before starting to rain brutal punches upon his face and upper body, making him recoil harshly with every hit before pulling him in for a bear hug “you seemed fine with the first shock but let see how you deal with this one! Takeji Zaiten! Maziodyne!!!” he then barked commanding his Persona to attack again.Raising its Flaming Sword high Takeji Zaiten then summoned an even more powerful Thunderbolt down from the sky to strike both Kanji and Shizuo, the Persona user tanking the Bolt in his stride whilst Shizuo screamed in pain as his body was quickly overwhelmed by the Lightning strike, the entire area flashing white for a few seconds before the attack ended.As he gradually was able to see again Kanji then flinched with an exclamation of shock as he found Shizuo was reduced to a blackened skeleton in his grasp, the Persona user quickly dropping the ashen bones and dusting himself off “god damn, I went really overboard there” he commented before looking back at his ruined store “Ma is gonna kill me…”.Winner: Kanji TatsumiWell that fight was shocking...yeah I should never try to imitate Boomstick.So anyway, why does Kanji beat Shizuo?Well in everything aside from outright strength Kanji has Shizuo beat, he’s tanked attacks from a literal God and thanks to his Persona possesses speed that allows him to dodge Lightning and even Lasers meaning that whilst Shizuo would be able to put a hell of a beat down upon Kanji anything he does simply wouldn’t be enough to put Kanji down before the Persona user quickly overwhelmed him.
DWOAH: Harley Quinn vs Junko EnoshimaDeadliest warriors of all historyHarley Quinn vs Junko EnoshimaThe joy and despair of insanityHarleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn info:Height: 5 foot 7Weight: 140lbsWeapons: Bare Hands, Baseball Bat, Giant Mallet, Dual Revolvers, Pie Bombs, Jack-in-a-box Bombs, Bud and LouStrengths: Ever since her introduction in the animated Batman series Harley Quinn has become one of the worlds most beloved comic book femme fatales, Peak human strength (Despite her lithe frame Harley has shown remarkable strength, Can lift and swing her oversized Weapons like they were weightless, Has knocked out Batman on several occasions, Nearly broke a mans hand by squeezing it too hard, Managed to resist and crawl out of a Gravitational Field that left her in a small crater), Above peak human durability (Harley has shown several near superhuman feats of durability on multiple occasions, Shrugs off falls from great heights, Survived being struck by Killer Croc, Shrugged off countless beatings from the Joker, Laughed off several shocks from an Electruction Chair), Peak human speed/Hypersonic reactions (Can casually dodge bullets from even point blank range, Jumped over a speeding car), Genius intellect (Despite her ditzy demeanour Harley is extremely intelligent, Has a doctorate in psychology), Is extremely athletic and a natural gymnast, Is a master combatant of both Melee Weapons and Firearms, Her physical has been improved twice by Joker and Poison Ivy (Increasing her strength and durability and making her immune to nearly all known drugs and poisons as well as Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin to the point that she jokes that she huffs it for fun), Managed to tame two Hyena’s (Bud and Lou are extremely intelligent even by Hyena standards), Possesses both a Black and a Red Lantern Ring, Both survived in Hell and was kicked out for being too cheery about her situation.Weaknesses: Despite her intellect she is prone to ‘ditzy blonde’ moments, Her feelings towards the Joker whether it be love or hate can be easily manipulated, Despite her enhancements Harley is still below a superhuman in attributes.Junko Enoshima info:Height: 5 foot 5Weight: 99lbsWeapons: Assorted Traps, Baseball Bat, Ice Pick, Grenades, Knife, Monokuma Units, Ultimate Despair TapeStrengths: Is one of the most recurring and arguably the main villain of the Danganronpa series, Peak human strength (Despite her lithe figure Junko has shown feats of impressive strength on multiple occasions, Knocked out Makoto Naeji with a single hit, Threw a metal Wrench so hard it became embedded in a wooden beam), Superhuman durability (Despite being completely human Junko has shown feats of near impossible durability, Shrugged off being hit by a Firetruck, Being burned alive and even being sent out into space before reentering Earth’s atmosphere), Peak human speed/Hypersonic reactions (Scales to Yasushiro Hagakure who dodged Helicopter Machine Gun fire), Genius intellect (Is easily one of the smartest characters of the series, Convinced over 2000 students to commit suicide, Caused the tragedy), Is the Ultimate Analyst (This allows her to figure out nearly everything about someone with a single glance), She is also the Ultimate Despair (This allows her to make almost anyone lose hope and kill themselves).Weaknesses: Despite her superhuman durability it has been inconsistent at times (Was knocked out by Izuru Kamukura), Is so obsessed with Despair it causes her to leave gaping holes in her plans just so she can experience the Despair of loss from time to time, Those with extremely strong wills can overcome her Despair, Her Monokumas had a weak spot in their left eye.Battle begin!(Hope's Peak Academy)Junko looked up from her phone as the sound of a nearby explosion drew her attention, the Ultimate Despair sitting up in her makeshift throne as she called for one of her many robotic Minions “Monokuma!” she snapped to which one of the murderous Bear Bots rushed to her “I didn’t order for one of the Grenade Traps to be set, care to explain what’s going on?”.“I believe we have an Intruder ma’am! They should already be being dealt with” the Monokuma Bot stated to which Junko decided to check by pulling up one of the security camera feeds for the Academy.But instead of a fresh new corpse to go alongside the students she had convinced to kill themselves the screen showed countless destroyed Monokuma Bots and among them a lone woman in Clownish makeup wielding a comically large Mallet.“Sheesh, looks like Toyman had a field day here” Harley commented, kicking one of the ruined Monokuma’s at her feet “kinda cute though, shame about tha Claws and trying ta kill me”.As if on cue as she said that the sound of more Monokumas rushing down the hallway drew her attention, Harley grinning gleefully as a good ten more came at her prompting her to reach behind her as they leapt at her.As the first Monokuma bared its Claws and was ready to slash it was suddenly struck in the face with a Pie, the cream of it coating its visual sensors preventing it from seeing the beeping Bomb that was stashed in the Pie before it detonated, the explosion destroying the first six Monokumas whilst leaving the remaining for ‘dazed’ with damaged sensors leaving them easy pickings for Harley’s Mallet.Laughing to herself as she pulverised the last Monokuma to sparking pieces Harley only stopped when a screen lowered from the ceiling and sparked to life showing Junko’s image on it “now who do we have here?” Junko asked as she eyed Harley from top to bottom, her Analyst ability kicking in telling her everything about the intruder “let’s see, Harleen Quinzel, psychologist, lackey to the Joker”.“Hey! That’s ex lackey!” Harley snapped back “I run my own thing now! And what do ya have my Wikipedia page open or somethin’?”.Scoffing at Harley’s words Junko responded not with words but a button press, opening the floor underneath Harley’s feet to reveal a Spike Pit underneath “bye bye!” Junko beamed almost childishly, waving as Harley fell into the Pit “well that was easy”.Yelping as she fell into the Pit Harley stuck her arms and legs out to press them to the sides of the Spike Pit, showing off her great strength and acrobatics skill as she then proceeded to work her way up the Pit, hopping out a mere ten seconds after she had fallen in making Junko raise a surprised eyebrow “ok, let’s try Grenades!”.With that she pressed another button on her phone prompting several ports in the walls and ceiling around Harley to open up causing a volley of live Grenades to fall through towards her “fore!” Harley then shouted gleefully swinging her Mallet hard as the Grenades came at her.As Harley’s Mallet made contact with several of the Grenades the camera feed went dark alongside the sound of a distant explosion bringing a smile to Junko’s lips, her smiling being short lived however as her eyebrow then twitched “no, she survived that” she stated with a sigh as she then got up “if you want something done right you have to do it yourself” she muttered getting up from her throne and collecting several Weapons “I bet the bitch isn’t even that charred”.As stated in the now blackened and destroyed hallway Harley Quinn skipped out of it only with minimal damage, her Mallet having smacked the Grenades back against the wall giving her ample time to duck and cover to avoid the majority of the blasts “”this place is fun! Wonder what’s next for me” she pondered as she tossed her now smoking Mallet away, the wood of it having heavily charred from the close proximity to the explosions as she swapped to her ‘Goodnight’ Bat.Turning a corner and walking through a doorway leading into a large courtyard Harley grinned wider as she was met with yet more Monokuma units, the Madwoman pulling out another Pie Bomb whilst twirling her Bat in her other hand as they noticed her “come on, let’s get crazy!” she exclaimed as the Monokumas rushed to attack her moving much faster than the ones before them.Ducking and weaving as the first Monokuma wildly swung its Claws at her Harley grit her teeth as she felt its Talons rake across her left shoulder, drawing blood as it cut through her costume “oh I’m sending whoeva made you tha bill for that!” she snapped before quickly ducking as a Beast Monokuma lunged at her, its Claws raking at the air where her head had just been allowing her to quickly stick her Pie Bomb to its body and allowing it to fall into the crowd of other Monokumas as the Bomb went off destroying them.Giggling at the sight Harley then turned at the sound of marching to see Bomb Monokumas marching towards her, the Robots decked up in Riot Gear whilst Destroyer Monokumas shot up into the air over them via Jetpacks.As they advanced on her Harley swapped her back for her Revolvers, spinning the chambers before pulling back the hammers with a wild smile, her eyes wide with glee as she then opened fire, expertly shooting each Monokuma in the left eye having noticed a structural weak point in that area after realising that the Robots went down much easier when hit there.As the Monokumas fell Harley sighed rubbing the side of her head with the still smoking barrel of one of her Revolvers “phew, this is quite-a workout” she panted before suddenly grunting in pain as she felt a sharp stabbing pain through her abdomen, looking down to see that an Icepick had been forced through her back and out of her front neatly impaling her.“You’ve been breaking my toys” Junko hissed before quickly jumping back leaving the Icepick inside of Harley as the older woman spun around to try to strike her with the handle of her Revolver, Harley quickly reloading and starting to shoot at Junko who promptly dashed away deftly avoiding the bullets as she disappeared through a window back into the school hallways.“Oh, wanna play hide and seek?” Harley grunted as she then pulled the Icepick out of herself, tossing it aside and holstering her Revolvers before bringing her fingers to her lips and whistling loudly.Within seconds of her whistling the sound of chattering laughter echoed down the hallways before two Hyena’s emerged from them, Bud and Lou eagerly running to their Mistress to which she happily stroked their manes “wanna play babies?” she cooed as she then picked up the Icepick, holding it by the tip and bringing the handle to her Hyena’s muzzles allowing them to get Junko’s scent from it “go find her boys, it’s snack time!” she then beamed, sending the Hyena’s cackling down the hallways to hunt for their prey.Heading into one of the classrooms Junko drew her Knife as she could hear the rapid paw falls and echoing laughter coming down the hallway after her, the Despair steeling herself as the door to the classroom suddenly burst open with Bud and Lou charging through to lunge at her.Lashing out with her Knife as the Hyena’s were upon her knocking her back onto a desk Junko carved across Lou’s side drawing blood and making the Hyena yelp before she planted her feet to his stomach to kick him off of her.Flipping the Knife in her hand Junko then aimed to stab at Bud when suddenly Harley was upon her, bringing her Bat down hard upon Junko’s head as she was preoccupied with Bud, the hit having enough force to break the desk beneath her sending both women to the floor.With Junko pinned beneath her Harley pressed her legs to Junko’s sides to further keep her in place before starting to bring her Bat down upon her head over and over, the satisfying ‘thunk!’ of the Bat meeting the Despair’s skull echoing out over and over but to Harley’s annoyance Junko’s skin barely even bruised let alone her skull cracking.“Come on! Come on! Where’s! Tha! Splatter?!” Harley exclaimed as the floor beneath them started to crack and give way, Junko gripping her Knife tighter as she took the repeated blows to the head in her stride before suddenly stabbing Harley in the shoulder, Bud narrowly missing a bite to her arm as he tried to stop the attack on his Mistress as Harley cried out in pain “fucking bitch!” she then snapped bringing her Bat down even harder upon Junko’s head, the impact of it cracking the rotting floor even more causing it to give away sending both women down to the floor below.Tumbling as she landed in the darkened long since used classroom below Junko grunted as she rolled, groaning at the throbbing in her head before she picked herself up, looking around to see that Harley was nowhere to be seen “come out come out wherever you are” she hissed pulling out her own Baseball Bat when she began to hear a jaunty little tune.Was it...pop goes the weasel?Looking down as she realised the tune was coming from the floor she noticed a Jack-in-a-box that was unwinding itself, playing its happy little tune until the final crescendo as its lid popped open.But instead of the Jack jumping out on its spring a Bomb with a lit fuse shot out right in Junko’s face “ah shit!” she just managed to let out before it went off in her face, the blast knocking her back and straight through the classroom wall making her slam into the lockers in the hallway outside.“Ha! Fell for the oldest trick in tha book!” Harley laughed as she emerged from around a corner, palming the head of her Bat as Junko slowly picked herself up, her uniform scorched and smoking from the Bomb blast “come on, let’s get crazy!”.As Harley then raised her Bat again Junko then suddenly pulled out a remote and pushed the button on it, causing a large screen to be lowered from the ceiling drawing Harley’s attention as Junko then turned on the Ultimate Despair video.As soon as the flashing images started to play on the screen Harley stood transfixed, her already warped mind starting to break even further as she, for the first time since she found out that the Joker never truly loved her, began to give into despair, her Bat falling from her hand as it then inched to one of her Revolvers, drawing it and slowly bringing it to her head, the sight making Junko grin and laugh maniacally.Watching eagerly as Harley then placed a finger on the trigger Junko’s grin fell as suddenly Harley began to laugh “ha! What a riot!” she cackled moving the Revolver from her head and shooting the screen to turn off the Video.“What?! How did you resist that? Now one can survive the Ultimate Despair!” Junko shrieked to which Harley laughed again.“Oh sweetheart I spent years shackled ta an abusive Clown, was in and out of Arkham more times than I can remember and I’ve been to literal Hell! Some flashy little video nasty ain’t gonna do shit ta me! Sick her boys!” Harley snapped back with a snap of her fingers prompting Bud and Lou to rush out from the shadows to attack Junko again.Enraged by Harley’s resistance to the Ultimate Despair and her mocking tone Junko rushed at her whilst Bud and Lou snapped at her, their Jaws snapping at her leg and arm clamping down hard enough to draw blood as Junko collided with Harley, the force of the tackle along with the sheer weight of Bud and Lou knocking Harley off of her feet, all four of them hitting the rotting floor hard enough to break through it again sending them down into the basement floor.As they landed both girls rebounded off of the floor, Junko rolling as Bud and Lou released her whilst Harley fell a few metres away and screamed in pain as a broken piece of rebar that was jutting out of a broken wall impaled her through the leg effectively pinning her in place.Grabbing at the rebar Harley started to try to pull it free, Lou rushing to her side and biting at the rebar himself to try to pull it out of his Mistress whilst Bud attacked Junko again, the Despair reacting faster to knock the Hyena down with a swing of her Bat before striking Bud over and over about the head until he stopped trying to get back up, the Hyena whimpering as blood trickled down his fur.Looking back to Harley Junko was about to insult and go into a monologue when suddenly her Analyst ability kicked in as Harley suddenly pulled out a Ring from her costume and put it on, the images and information Junko was getting from it making her blood run cold and screamed at her to get away and made a tactical retreat.Turning to make her retreat Junko flinched as she felt sharp Fangs around her ankles and looking down she found that Bud had recovered slightly and was now clasping at her leg “get off of me you filthy!” she snapped raising her Bat again when she felt a human hand grab at her side.Looking down her eyes widened in horror as she found the reanimated body of one of the students she had forced to suicide now grabbing at her, the girls neck still red raw and broken from hanging herself as more reanimated students came shambling out of the shadows towards her.“You wouldn’t believe the kinda stuff ya can buy online” Harley commented as the Black Lantern Ring on her finger shown a deep unholy black, it’s power allowing Harley to resurrect all of Junko’s victims in the school grounds which promptly started to advance towards their murderer.Starting to panic as more Zombies shambled towards her Junko started to wildly swing her Bat at them whilst trying to pull her leg out of Bud’s Jaws, the Hyena refusing to let go until Harley whistled for him to come to her prompting him to release Junko and stagger back to his owner who had managed to remove the rebar from her leg.As Junko was quickly beginning to become overwhelmed with the reanimated bodies of her victims Harley turned to take her leave, taking a moment to plant several Pie Bombs on one of the structurally integral cement pillars of the basement before placing a Jack-in-a-box Bomb at its base, giving herself just enough wind up to allow her and her Hyena’s to leave as more Zombies shambled by her towards Junko.“Toodles!” Harley then beamed as she then ascended through the hole in the basement wall, Bud and Lou clambering up the rubble after her leaving Junko to fight off the Zombies to the tune of pop goes the weasel.Cracking one of the last Zombies skulls with her Bat Junko stood panting with her body now covered in bite and scratch marks, her eyes wide and manic as she looked around for Harley only to see her ‘parting gifts’ at the base of the load bearing pillar as the tune reached its end, her eyes widening further and her lips twisting into a broken smile as she realised what had happened and she was filled with the addicted overwhelming despair she loved, the blonde seemingly accepting her fate as all the Explosives went off, destroying the pillar and causing the entire structure of the School to come down upon her, crushing her and her victims under several hundred tons of debris whilst Harley watched smiling from the outskirts.Winner: Harley QuinnNow I’ll admit that this was a match up in which the outcome was set to be completely different until I did some last minute extra research on Harley and realised that she had access to literal Lantern Rings.Without the Rings however the fight would have still been extremely close as even though Junko had the durability advantage along with her Analyst ability to tell her near everything about her opponent Harley had the advantage in every other category, mainly in sheer skill in combat as Harley has always been hands on with her fights whilst Junko preferred to use her Traps and Monokumas to mainly do the killing for her and whilst Monokumas can easily slaughter regular people Harley has taken on and beaten several Metahumans in the past so the Robotic Bears would be childsplay for her.The fact that despite having a weaker durability Harley can take one hell of a beating herself having walked away from things that should outright kill normal people.And people might argue that Harley should have been forced to suicide via the Ultimate Despair Video to which I retort that Harley has gone to literal Hell before and was so ok with her situation that Satan kicked her out for essentially ruining the mood so a video showing her several atrocities would essentially be the same as America’s funniest home videos to her.So whilst I understand why a lot of my readers voted Junko for this fight the fact that Harley has access to LITERAL LANTERN RINGS tipped the favour of the fight to heavily in her favour upon using one that I had to side with her in the end.At least Junko got to have one last rush of despair before the end.
DWOAH: Arthur Pendragon vs Saber ArtoriaDeadliest warriors of all historyArthur Pendragon vs Saber ArtoriaThe true King of BritanniaArthur Pendragon info:Height: 5 foot 7Weight: 141lbsWeapons: Sequence, ExcaliburStrengths: As the Ruler of Britannia Arthur is one of the most powerful characters in the Seven Deadly Sins universe outside of the Sins themselves, Extreme strength (Was able to match pre-transformation Hendrickson and harm him, Can kill Gray Demon’s with ease, Defeated True Form Cath, Managed to match Assault Mode Meliodas for a short amount of time), Extreme durability (Tanked dozens of attacks from pre-transformation Hendrickson, Was unphased by Chandlers Exterminate Ray, Tanked blows from True Form Cath, Survived a four way attack from Meliodas, Zeldris, Chandler and Cusack), Massively hypersonic speed (Was able to surprise Chandler and Cusack with his speed when both Demons can move so fast that Merlin cannot sense their approach, Cut off Cusack’s arm before he could react), Possesses the full power of Chaos (Allowing him to bend time and space and as stated by the Mother of Chaos itself ‘can create worlds and life from nothingness’, Simply wielding Excalibur allows Arthur to use his full potential (Something most mortals never achieve).Weaknesses: Whilst Excalibur allows Arthur to use his full potential it doesn’t show him the means to do so prompting Arthur to overexert himself in hopes of finding the way to do so, Using Excalibur causes intense strain on Arthur’s body causing extreme fatigue in a short amount of time.Saber Artoria Pendragon info:Height: 5 foot 5Weight: 92lbsWeapon: ExcaliburStrengths: Is one of the most famous and powerful Servants of the FATE universe, Demi-Godlike strength (Can match the likes of Berserker Lancelot, Blocked an attack from Berserker that made the air itself shake, Was able to pin Berserker’s Sword beneath her foot with enough force that he could not lift it, Her battle with Lancer caused an Earthquake, Can lift hundreds of tons with ease), Demi-Godlike durability (Survived being near bisected, Her Armour grants her amazing Magical resistance to the point that she ran through a Casters Spell without damage, Tanked a series of Wind Spells that reduced a house behind her to rubble, Tanked a brutal beating from Berserker Heracles, Human Weaponry cannot harm her), FTL speed (Can match Lancer who can land 100 attacks in a second, Can move faster than thought, Destroyed a group of Bone Warriors so quickly that their destroyed remains looked like a snow storm, Deflected Arrows that were fast enough to travel over four kilometres a second, Can be clocked at Mach 400 at her peak), Possesses a heightened healing factor (Healed her bisection wound in an hour), Possesses the Magical power of a Dragon, Can walk on water, Can transform into her Saber Alter form for a power boost.Weaknesses: Is weak to Anti-Dragon Weaponry, Is overly competitive and too headstrong for her own good, Using Excaliburs full power consumes most of her energy.Battle begin!(The Brocéliande Forest)Standing before the Stone Saber stared incredulously at the Sword embedded deep inside of it, the Servant having long since drawn her version of Excalibur from the Stone but before her was another, the Phantom King keeping one hand on the hilt of her Excalibur as if checking that it was still there whilst reaching out with her free hand to grasp at the hilt of the other.As she was about to touch it however another hand clad in golden Armour grabbed the hilt and pulled it from the Stone, the Servant’s eyes widening in shock that another had drawn Excalibur that in response without even thinking about it she drew her own Excalibur and swung it with enough force that the air current it created fell several trees in front of her as the Sword ‘Thief’ jumped over the attack.“Whoa! I don’t know why you’re so angry I took Excalibur, it’s not like you could have pull it...out...anyway” Arthur stated as he landed and took notice of the Sword in the Servant’s hand, whilst the design of the Sword she held was different to his there was no denying that it too was Excalibur, Artoria seemingly having the same thought as him as they then stared at each other.Imposter.Sheathing his Excalibur not wanting to draw upon its power too early Arthur unsheathed Sequence, the non-Magical Sword glinting in the sunlight as he took a defensive stance, planting his feet to secure himself as Artoria made the first attack, her Excalibur clashing with Sequence making Arthur’s Sword dent and creaked as sparks flew between them.Pushing against Artoria’s Sword Arthur was surprised to find that it felt like he was pushing against an immovable mountain despite the blondes petite frame, Artoria then quickly breaking the Weapon lock with a flick of her wrist before slashing her Excalibur vertically across Arthur’s chest, the sheer force of the strike sending him flying back several hundred feet whilst the air pressure caused by the attack cut a neat groove in the dirt that ran nearly as long as his ‘flight’.Landing hard as he struck a boulder hard enough to crack it Arthur grunted as he fell to one knee, the blow having more winded him than anything but do his shock he found that the attack had cut a clean groove down his golden Armour near all the way through “I need to be more careful” he chastised himself before suddenly jumping up as Artoria appeared, the Servant lunging forward at blinding speeds to run her Sword through the boulder where he had just been.Wrenching Excalibur from the boulder Artoria looked up just as Arthur jumped off of the boulder to attack, the swing of his Sword being easily a decapitation strike but as he landed and his Blade made contact with Artoria’s neck from behind Sequence stopped in its tracks unable to cut through her skin.Shocked as his Weapon left no damage upon the Servant Arthur jumped back before lunging back forward with a Death Pecker attack, stabbing at Artoria with blindly fast stabs only to find that she remained rooted in place whilst his Sword bounced off of her with every attack.As Sequence made contact with her again Artoria grabbed it with her free hand and with a simple squeeze snapped the non-Magical Sword clean in half leaving Arthur with just the broken half in his grasp whilst she tossed the top half aside.“Tsk, weak” the Servant commented before attacking again, swinging her Excalibur down aiming to cut Arthur down in one clean strike only for her Blade to be stopped as it was met with his Excalibur, both Swords giving off a borderline divine light as they clashed.As they both pushed hard against each other the ground beneath them started to crumble and give way, the sheer pressure of the power emanating from the Swords breaking the very earth beneath their feet, Arthur once again finding Artoria to be near immovable as the Servant then once again pushed him away with ease before flash stepping out of sight.As she left his sight Arthur went back on the defensive both stumbling as he was struck from the side with a blinding flash, Artoria moving so fast that Arthur couldn’t even see her as the young King blindly swung in the direction of the attack only to be struck from behind making him fall to one knee.As he fell Artoria continued to strike at Arthur from every possible angle whilst he struggled to strike back, his Armour getting further cut up with every attack as blood now poured down his face from a Sword strike to the head.Along with the blood however came a dark aura that started to rise from his body as his Chaos Powers began to activate, Arthur suffering several more hits before his Chaos Powers came into full effect allowing him to suddenly stand and intercept Artoria blocking her Excalibur with his before shunting her back.Landing on her heels Artoria quickly righted herself before starting to flash step around again, striking from all angles once again to which Arthur retaliated with his Dance of Avidya technique, the Sword Style allowing him to judge and intercept each and every one of her attacks as if automatically, starting to effortlessly block every single one of her attacks before he found an opening in her swings and lunged forward with another Death Pecker.Unlike Sequence however his Excalibur actually did damage to the Spirit, the Magical Sword cutting through her Armour and puncturing the skin underneath before finally he drove his Excalibur straight through her to impale the Servant through her abdomen and out of her back.Coughing and spitting up blood as Arthur pulled out his Sword from her abdomen Artoria stumbled back clutching her wound with her left hand as a dark aura started to rise from her as well, the Servant growling with both pain and anger as she then swept her Excalibur in a horizontal slice to force Arthur away as her Armour suddenly turned from blue to jet black, her Excalibur taking the same dark tone as the metal of the Blade blackened.With both Kings fully engulfed in their dark powers they both stood facing each other in a cold silence, Artoria’s stomach wound slowly closing up as the area around them started to warp and decay from the sheer pressure of their power.Running the tip of her dark Blade in a crescent fashion along the dirt Artoria then launched herself at Arthur who in turn swept his left arm out in a crescent fashion himself.As he did so the world around them seen to shatter, falling away to darkness as the ground around them warped and rose, turning into floating platforms as both he and the Servant were carried up by them, stopping Artoria in her tracks as she realised that the sky that had been above them had now given away to a jet black void of nothingness, sheer emptiness spanning for miles around until her eyes fell upon some sort of...being hovering several hundred feet above them.“Mother of Chaos...Excalibur...grant me your full power!!! So pleads Arthur Pendragon! King of Britannia!” he cried out raising his Sword to the air as it began to glow a divine gold, the dark aura around him intensifying as the being of both Chaos and Creation seemed to answer his plea.Enraged by his decree Artoria let out a near feral shout as she launched herself from her ‘platform’ swinging her Excalibur down towards Arthur “you’re no King of Britannia! I AM!!!” she screamed as she slammed her Sword against Arthur’s.As both Kings held their Sword lock the sound of clashing metal filled the Void as to human eyes it looked like they were both standing stock still in their Weapon lock but in fact they were both moving so fast that they couldn’t be seen by the mortal eye, returning to their Weapon lock every half second to ‘maintain the illusion’ whilst their actual combat carved the floating platforms around them apart before they finally broke the lock to both jump back several dozen metres each to land on one of the remaining platforms each.Readying her Sword again Artoria leapt at Arthur only to be struck out of the air by a small meteorite that he manifested from the Void itself, the attack doing more to knock her off balance than to harm her as it sent her careening through the Void until she struck another platform.Landing hard the Servant quickly rose to her feet and turned to face Arthur only to scream in pain as he was suddenly upon her, his Sword coming down upon her left shoulder slicing the arm off at the joint, sending the limb falling into the endless Abyss below as she then desperately swung at him one handed with her Excalibur only for Arthur to repost and with another swing of his Excalibur rid her off her Sword arm sending both it and her Sword down into the Abyss.Watching in horror as her Excalibur disappeared into the blackness below Artoria then looked at Arthur with a bitter resentment in her eyes, seeming to both relent to her fate but also show that she was silently cursing his very being as he gave her one last moment of life before swinging his Excalibur again.This time when Arthur’s Sword met Artoria’s neck it cut through like a hot Knife through butter, the Servant standing for a few moments frozen before finally her head fell from her body plummeting to the darkness below, her body following moments later as Arthur watched silently, the King then silently sheathed his Excalibur before returning the world around him back to normal, giving a silent thanks to the Mother of Chaos for aiding him in the battle.Winner: Arthur PendragonOk first of all I’d like to apologize for the lack of content this month, a mixture of family stress and working a lot more this month has killed my will to write, I promise to make up for it next month.So anyway, why does Arthur beat Artoria?Well to be honest when I had first planned this fight it was around the time Arthur had died in the Seven Deadly Sins and I had no idea that he was going to be revived so at the time Artoria had the clear advantage in near everything and if I had written it at the time she’d have near shitstomped the young King.But I decided to wait until the series ended just in case and honestly I’m glad I did because I’d have felt like a right idiot for low balling Arthur so much, yes with his base stats and power the fight could still have gone Artoria’s way but the moment you factor in the Power of Chaos the favour is tipped near entirely in Arthur’s favour.Whilst Artoria had the advantage in both strength and durability categories and the fact that has a healing factor far greater than Arthur’s normal human healing rate the sheer power granted by the Mother of Chaos gives Arthur control over Creation itself meaning that the moment he called upon it Artoria was essentially a dead Servant walking.