The creature emerged from his hiding. Legs veined and muscular. Skin ashen purple. The arm I had once cut from his body had grown grotesquely disproportioned from the other, bearing claws and twitching with eagerness. The Shogun’s face was stretched with horror over an alien skull. His mouth perpetually open in a gaping and hungered maw, moaning in both anguish and thirst for blood. His eyes were milky and wandering. Hair fallen off to show the deep black veins pulsing all throughout his person.
What a curse put upon you, to appear both the same outside as in.
Once the Shogun’s eyes finally met with mine his face frowned as much as it could while so tightly wrapped around his misshapen head. His moaning turned to frenzied chattering as he stumbled forward like a baby learning to walk.
The Shogun had turned into a monster with no recollection of balance or speech, the only thing inside his mind was his feverish hunger for pleasure and his hatred for me. With a body in continuous pain and a mind no longer capable of rational thought, the only pleasure the Shogun would find was in revenge.
Finally, what was once the Shogun’s mind clicked with the natural dexterity and predator like nature of his new species. Ducking low to the ground, he jumped toward me and attacked.
I leaped to the side, letting myself roll back on to my feet once I hit the snow. As the Shogun failed his lunge he let himself drop to all fours and began galloping towards me. It seemed it didn’t care to take the time to think of new strategies, he just wished to constantly press the attack.
The Shogun barred his jagged teeth as he got close. I only tightened my grasp to my katana. I dodged far too great so I could witness his maneuvering capabilities, now that I had learned how the creature that was once a man moved, I could parry his attack and reward his eagerness with a cut.
The Shogun outstretched one arm as he used the other to continue his stride, trying to pull me in range of his teeth. Instead of fruitlessly trying to dodge, I braced myself and swung my sword forward, letting the beast’s smaller arm release itself from his body.
Purplish black blood sprayed from the stump at the Shogun’s shoulder as he yelped in pain.
I took a sigh to keep my concentration, letting hot breath and cold air mix to steam the air in front of me. Clouds for the new light of day just halfway to the horizon now, spreading like a bright watercolor over a bleak canvas.
I looked behind me to see the yokai that was once the Shogun clutch his shoulder. With such a grievous wound, this fight would be over in a matter of moments.
But instead of bleeding, his gash clotted. The demon’s monstrous body shivered throughout as he let go of his injured shoulder, blood and tendons shot forth and twisted together in demonic matrimony to regrow the hewn arm.
That was a problem.
The Shogun stumbled forward on two legs, newly formed claws stretching and readying themselves for use. Feet dug through snow as the beast leaned forward and began sprinting towards me once again.
An enemy with infinite stamina and unrelenting healing… There seemed to be but one solution.
As the Shogun frantically ran towards me, arms swinging, I lifted my sword high. I had become vulnerable, but I had to aim for his head and kill him instantly if I wished to win. As I readied to strike, though, my gut started to churn. With my foot partially severed my sense of balance was ever so slightly off, and my positioning wasn’t correct.
That was perfectly fine, if there was one lesson I had learned through these years to reclaim my honor, it was patience and humility. With both of those in mind, I slid to the side and let the Shogun stumble himself to a halt.
There is only you and yourself. The only person you must defeat is the anger and the restlessness inside you. Everything else will follow.
With another deep breath, I stomped my feet into the ground, anchoring myself and bringing perfect balance to my form. The Shogun was sprinting towards me screaming and wailing in the demonic tones of yokai just like before, but this time I was prepared.
Once he was in range, the yokai lowered his head to tackle me to the ground, leaving me the perfect opportunity to slice deep into his brain. With his remaining momentum, both the Shogun and I fell to the ground.
Even with his exponential size and weight, I still managed to push the beast off of myself in an instant.
I looked at the Shogun’s corpse, black fluid pouring from the motionless husk.
With a sigh, I began to look over to Amaterasu and my companions, but a stirring arose below me. Ashen purple fists clenched to the snow as the Shogun’s head reformed into its previous hideousness and began moaning in pain and horror once more.
I had dealt a killing blow through the most vital organ… Yet, he still lived…
The old and deranged Doctor crawled out from under the upturned carriage in amazement of his own creation, simply chuckling with wide eyes as I grimaced.
From the sky flew an arrow with a direct course to the Shogun’s head. Sora the undeterred was appreciated, but the arrow he struck into the demon’s cranium only hindered him for a brief moment.
The Shogun stood, and raised his head into the air, screaming a horrible scream that echoed throughout the mountainside.
Chitters and screams responded in a similar tone eerily close. More yokai were flocking to us like moths to the flame.
Once he was done calling for the others of his kind, the Shogun looked back to me with a vicious fire in his eyes. He swung his claws wildly, letting me simply step back to dodge. It didn’t matter if I countered or cut, the husk that was once the Shogun would continuously regrow. The Doctor had truly created something unkillable.
Another swing and another dodge. My mind wildly raced from one prospective plan to the next, but nothing arose. In all my experience, I had no earthly idea of how to succeed in this fight. In all the demons I faced, none were as unrelenting and horrid as this.
I continued to back further towards the center of the plateau, watching my love and my companions’ retreat from the uncountable hordes of yokai crawling towards them. There were many hiding in the shadows, waiting for their new master to call upon them. No longer a twisted lord of men, but of demons and beasts without thought.
Soon my desperation had caught to my physical self, causing me to trip as I watched us become hopelessly surrounded.
The Shogun jumped toward me, but I hadn’t given up completely just yet. A clawed hand swung towards me and a clawed hand was severed. A mouth moved to tear out my throat and a jaw was cut from his skull.
I frantically cut from my spot in the snow, but the Shogun only continued to grow back at an increasing pace, each failed attack getting ever so closer to ending my life.
Finally, the demon of my past grew too close for me to swing my sword, so I lodged my katana between his teeth and let his claws dig into my abdomen.
The world grew slow as I felt the daggers pierce flesh. Everything I had worked for was at stake. Everything I wished to reclaim would be lost again. Seventeen years in hiding only to come back to the light and lose it all again.
No. I wouldn’t let myself fall into nothingness once more. I wouldn’t lose my last opportunity to live the life I had lost.
With all my strength, I pushed my katana as deeply through his head as I could before I felt no more resistance. In the instant the Shogun went limp, I rolled out of his grasp and stood.
The demonic thing was quick to regrow his head and follow, watching me writhe in pain with its obelisk eyes. With one hand clutched to my bleeding stomach and the other holding the katana gifted by Amaterasu so many years prior, I glared back at the creature. One final attempt at victory had crossed my mind as I stared at the yokai, backlit by the beam of sunlight shooting from the summit’s mouth.
I ran forward, and so did he. He was heavy, but I was determined. My feet dug into the snow as I continued to push. His claws tore into my back but I failed to care.
Lifting the yokai I once knew as the Shogun from his feet, I screamed in pain and determination. I could barely see from the light of the sun, I could only feel the blades leave my back as I pushed the Shogun off of me.
His face so horribly stretched over a foreign skull seemed confused as he shrieked in desperation. The Shogun stumbled trying to bring himself back to his feet in time, but he was too lazy and too stupid as he had been from the start.
His body emerged into the flowing pool of light, vaporizing into ash on contact. The only thing to be heard was the echoes of his horrid shrieking across the mountaintop. The world was finally rid of the fat and selfish Shogun. A weight left my shoulders as I finally accomplished the task I had sought to do so many years ago.
Finally, the beam of light at the summit ceased as the sky turned bright blue.
The sun shone from the peak of the sky, it’s light flowing down and burning the yokai surrounding us.
The evil and shadow in the world screamed in plea one last time as the light scoured the land, ending the demon therein.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The tormentor I had grown so acquainted with was dead. The demonic creatures I had failed to exterminate were eradicated. Only a final enemy remained.
Sheathing my katana, I turned back and looked to the broken carriage. The Doctor stared at me in horror. I had destroyed all he had worked for, letting us both know this was the end of our game. He began to run towards the end of the plateau as I walked steadily closer to him.
An arrow shot from Sora rendered his knee useless, causing him to quickly buckle under his own weight. The rest of my friends sheathed their swords and began to make their way to us.
Falling onto his hands and knees in the snow, the sniveling Doctor turned to look at me with fury. I looked back down at him with nothing but determination to finalize it all.
“He was immortal! We could have all been immortal! You fool!” He hissed as my companions grew near.
I didn’t care to respond, as I had no remark to make. The only fool was the man kneeled before me, using his lies and cruelty in a vain attempt at godhood. “No one lives forever.”
Under his breath, the old man let out one final disdainful retort. “I could have…”
I shook my head as my hand hovered to the hilt of my sword. “May those you wronged find peace. And may you find justice.” For all those times you called me your friend, I still feel no sadness at your departure.
His eyes grew in selfish realization. Hastily forming another malformed lie, the Doctor shouted. “I-!”
My katana reflected the light of the blazing sun in a beautiful glowing streak. In its wake, nothing but a misty cloud of sanguine red.
It was finished.
I took in a breath in the cold air of Mt.Fuji. Clarity and peace that I hadn’t felt in decades washed over me as I looked at the stark expanse of daylight. Even though I was injured, I felt as though I was born anew.
Hayato was the first to put a hand on my shoulder. My friend that had been with me from the start of our journey. With the smile he seemed to always wear, he spoke. “I knew you could do it, Kenshi.”
Sora nodded, his blank exterior breaking to show a genuine smile. “I am… Happy to see the day again… Thank you.”
Lee nodded with confidence and optimism. “We did well. I’m happy I was able to help us make it here.”
Anzen looked at me as he moved aside for Amaterasu to enter our formed circle watching the beautiful view of Nihon. “My faith was well put. I wouldn’t have wished for anything else but to fight this fight with you.”
Finally, Amaterasu ran up to me and gently wrapped her arms around my shoulders, being aware to not squeeze my injuries as she leaned in and kissed me. “I missed you more than you could imagine. And the sky is more beautiful than I had ever seen before.”
I smiled at her as we turned our attention back to the vista at our feet. The entirety of our home shimmered in bright colors as the heat of the sun beamed down on us.
A smile came across my face as I held tightly to Amaterasu, with no intention of ever letting go again.
Through the wind rustling the lilies and the birdsong in the trees, you could hear it.