Smoke cleared quick as tendrils spun around the corrupted Kurai. Between the mass of black vines, Kokuei spotted a glimpse of something... part of Kurai's shadow had been removed, revealing pale white skin underneath. Maybe there was hope for his ancestor.
"You can't even speak, can you?
" Kokuei asked, his tendrils returning to him as he cautiously watched the mass of shadows before him continue to churn and thrive. "I can't believe you let yourself become this. To think that you are my ancestor. You aren't a strong man... you're weak. A coward. You came to this place looking for power and...
" The Nara paused, watching the mass approach him. "...Look at you.
A gust of wind emerged from Kokuei's palm, slamming into tendril mass as Kokuei quickly followed. More hand seals following, the Missing-Nin combated Kurai's tendrils with shadow spears and a raised wall-- all quickly emerging from Kokuei's own enlarged shadow that expanded around him.
The battle waged, Kokuei taking the defensive, and in these moments it was obvious to the young man. He was strong, he was so strong. Any Nara that stood against Kokuei would fall to him. He was only 20... and look at what the past few years had done to him. Losing his brother, watching his parents slip away, becoming alone... it was these cut ties and the rage that built within him that made him strong. Not like Kurai, who cowardly requested power from this forsaken place. Kokuei found his own way through hardships and trials. Between the guilt from all the human test subjects, the evil he felt build within him, it just pushed him. Now... what was there to be ashamed of? No one who mattered to Kokuei would question his motives. That died when Akiko left him.
"Shadow Possession no Jutsu!
" Kurai stopped... nearly, anyway. The shadows surrounding his body vibrated and thinner, smaller tendrils thrashed about around his person. "Come on...
" Holding the concentration hand sign firmly, Kokuei had his complete focus on containing Kurai.
"You did it...
" From afar, Elodie lifted himself up onto a boulder, watching in amazement as Kokuei used Kurai's own technique against him. Successfully.
Tendrils began to rise from Kokuei's own shadow, knocking away Kurai's as they began to pull on Kurai's shadowy flesh. "We're both monsters in our own ways. I'll be the first to admit it.
" He said, as if Kurai could even comprehend him. "But the routes we took to get here are so different. I worked for it, I struggled with the decisions I made. You didn't... you are a coward. Just looking at your notes I can tell, Kurai Nara. I accept who I am! You can't, you never could. I know I'm a monster! If you had ever accepted that, maybe this wouldn't have happened to you.
Kokuei's shadow acted more fiercely now, tendrils ripping apart Kurai's flesh, pulling the shadows down from his body like a torn dress. Underneath revealed an old styled Hidden Leaf jounin vest, pale skin, dull eyes, and mangled purple hair much like Kokuei's. The monster saw much of himself in the mindless man before him.
The tendrils continued to peel until finally they had completely contained Kurai's shadow, it struggled underneath Kokuei's mass of shadows as it was pulled toward Kokuei. "I've been waiting so long to test this technique... I feared what it would mean for me. What it would make me. But now, I don't care.
" He knew who he was. "Shadow Sealing Technique!
" Performing several hand seals, Kokuei slammed his hand into his shadow before him. Writing sprawled from his hand and forming a glowing circular seal that quickly drew in Kurai's shadow. The entire time shadowy tendrils resisted, one of them wrapping around Kokuei's leg, to which he responded by merely shaking it off. Kurai's shadow completely consumed, the blue glow faded and the black color of the writing blended perfectly into Kokuei's shadow.
He had sealed another Nara's shadow... their "soul"... into his own.
" Kokuei responded, not even turning to look at his companion as he approached the lifeless body of Kurai. "How long have you been dead for...?
" His stern tone softened as he knelt beside his dead forefather. His hand fell beside where Kurai's shadow should have been. It was gone. Defying the laws of nature, his shadow was totally gone. Consumed and neutralized inside Kokuei's own. "I'm sorry.
" Terror in her voice that Kokuei should have picked up on, he turned completely to find a large figure standing in the entrance to the cave. Towering over Kokuei, a large humanoid-like crow with massive wings, and lanky arms with powerful claws and the ends. It opened its black peak and howled like a murder of crows in terrible pain.
Eyes widening, Kokuei stood up arms at his side as the Guardian wasted no time rushing toward the young man.
Quick movements and tendrils, Kokuei dodged and blocked several powerful swipes of the Guardian's claws. A powerful and swift bat of its wings threw Kokuei against the wall before pushing himself off and bouncing against the ground to find himself at the entrance of the cave, the Guardian a few meters inside. "Damn it... it's so...
" Another blur of black and Kokuei found himself defending again. Though, not as successful as it cut through his black cloak causing red liquid to splatter against the beast. A mass of tendrils pushed back the beast as Kokuei clutched his chest as he screamed in pain.
"I... I am Kokuei Nara!
" He wouldn't let himself be pushed around by a beast. This abomination that every monster in this place feared. Kokuei would not give in to the fear. "I know what I am!
" A weird thing to announce, again. But it was a relief for the man. For so long he struggled with the choices he made, who he was. In this place, this awful place, Kokuei figured it out.
A glowing white deer caught Kokuei's attention to his far left. The same deer that had tempted him before. On his right, a simple crow cawed as it perched onto a tree... it was shrouded in darkness. Kokuei understood now. Options laid before him, and he had a choice to pick. Yin or yang. Light or darkness. He never wanted to be a bad person, evil, but did picking yin... darkness... make him this? These were the things that Kokuei struggled with. Picking darkness would change him in ways he wanted to be changed, not evil, not bad, it was just his path. And Kokuei would push forward without fear.
The deer vanished into the forest, and the crow remained, ever watching Kokuei.
Kokuei's shadow leaped from the ground and totally surrounded its master. "I know who I am!
" He screamed, the shadows transforming him into something new.
Hunching lightly, black wings spread from Kokuei's back as shadowy feathers exploded from his person. Elongated claws emerged from his hands and a peak protruded from his face. His appearance had changed to almost mimic the Guardian's own.
On all fours like a beast, Kokuei charged the Guardian, the Purgatorian beast barely able to defend against Kokuei's very sudden and powerful onslaught before Kokuei had it pinned to the ground. A hatchet grew from Kokuei's back, raising in the air before slamming against the cave floor, cutting clean through its neck.
Silence fell, Elodie watching from a safe distance as the monstrous Kokuei rose slightly, looking at the dead beast. A moment later the shadows that surrounded Kokuei fell again. He examined his hand and then the shadow below him that had calmed. "What...
" It felt as if he had shared a mind with his own... shadow. It didn't make sense, but he wasn't sure how else to explain what had happened to him.
"Are you sure you're all right?
" Elodie, arms crossed, watched as Kokuei put the final touches to the symbol drawn on the cave wall. A pool of blood next to the Guardian had been greatly disturbed as Kokuei using it as paint for the symbol.
Long purple hair waved slightly as he looked to the Djinn. "A little shaken... but... I'm good. For the first time in a long time. I'm good.
Stepping back from the sigil and reading off of the sheet of paper that Kurai had left behind, Kokuei quickly spoke through the incantation.
The wall began to crack, and suddenly it collapsed into itself. Behind it revealed a glowing bright light as a circular hole remained in the wall.
" Elodie called out, Kokuei looking to her in confusion.
"I'm not going to leave you.
" Kokuei said, forming a series of hand signs. "I made a promise. And... I am in your debt.
" His eyes faltered away from his companion.
Smiling, she watched calmly as Kokuei's tendrils surrounded her. "Sorry I doubted you. You remember where I said my body was buried, right?
" She brushed some strands of black hair from her face, Kokuei merely nodding in response to her question.
Slamming his hand on his shadow before him, a glowing blue light emerged from Elodie as she became pulled into Kokuei's shadow. Another seal appeared onto his shadow before the glowing faded and blended into the darkness of his shadow.
Standing straight, Kokuei looking into the white light which would bring him home. To find his brother. To stop the Decay bandits. To make Akiko pay.
[ End ]