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The Truth Revealed
The shrine’s appearance changed as the road to it changed. Against the murky red horizon, the trees which once looked full of life have been stripped of their leaves. Sharp fingers flit against the trees’ naked branches. Rather than a collection of portraits, the statues lined the road with faces that seemed perpetually agonized, their mouths open toward the sky like round holes in the sky. The road itself was foggy and dark. A blaze of wax adorned the sidewalk that led to the stairway that rose up to the shrine’s gates. There were pools of black inky liquid as the liquid dripped from the stairs. Observing Apricot as she climbed the stairs, two-winged animals sat atop the red arch, bars of incisors spangled in an open snarl.
As she reached the top, she saw the reaper squatting in the courtyard with his back to her, moving his hands. Her attention was drawn to the creatures atop the gateway. With closer inspection, she saw their razor teeth more clearly. The two-winged beasts dropped in front of her roaring when she stepped in front of the archway. With a long boney arm, one creature slashed at Apricot. When the wind of its fingertips brushed against her nose, she jumped back. On her feet she sprung forward with her blazing hand, unleashing a bolt of fire directly into the creature’s head. Upon impact, the skull of the creature bowed, crushed. After slamming into the ground like a rag doll, the creature fell limp.
Apricot withdrew her arm from the fallen body, holding the flame like a blade. As the other creature stepped forward he struck at her, but she avoided the sharp claw by tapping away its arm. Her arm retracted, and another assault was launched for her side. The flaming blade of Apricot glided along its other arm. The blade sliced the arm in half, splintering down the middle. Holding the mangled arm, it screamed. She slashed with a clean strike from the creature’s head to its pelvis without wasting a moment. Sprouting blood, the split monster turned into blue orbs before falling aside.
She paused, her gaze fixed on the reaper. Passing through the red gate, she entered the courtyard of the shrine. She felt her mind race with fear. She knew that this was the end and that he had the power to kill her with a snap of his fingers. In her first meeting with him, she had no idea how he performed that trick and had hoped it was just a trick. After repositioning his arms in front of his chest, the reaper turned to face Apricot. “My thou has’t the fury of a devil burning in thy eyes. What is it that thee plan on doing with that blazing fire of yours?”
He was in the sights of her blade. The flaming blade parts are dripping onto the ground as they impact. “I have come to kill you once and for all!” Apricot proclaimed. A small chuckle escaped his lips.
“A motley-minded endeavor. Thee cannot killeth me. I can understandeth the sentiment though. I too findeth this world a horrible lodging as well. Thee art still blind.” he said, extending his hand towards Apricot. “Cometh walketh with me.”
Apricot shook her head in protest, crying and afraid of death. “The time for talk is over!“ She shouted, tears rolling down her cheeks. Even the mere heat of his presence caused the tears to dry before falling from her face.
Apricot saw the astonished as he lowered his head towards her in what seemed like a solum stance. “Peradventure mine method wast too harsh. I apologize but I hadst to has’t thee understandeth the true nature of this world. It’s retched festering evil. So I hath sent thee on this journey, to gain wisdom. Now I giveth thee a new journey.”
“What are you on about?about?about? Apricot croaked, still pointing the blade at him. Bringing the blade closer as he glided toward Apricot, she prepared to stab him.
“Understandeth me Apricot. From the beginning I hath brought thee through the nightmare.” His voice was soothing, slow, and serene. Apricot hated the thought of it more than anything else. There was a wicked magic that filled his tone. “Thee knoweth the rate of thy friends. Thee seen the deepest torment of those above. The cries of those sacrificed in vain. Now thee art eft to taketh a rightful lodging. To end this chaos, tis in thy hands now. Thee alone has’t the choice to save this world or alloweth it to rot eternally.”
Apricot replied, “I don’t understand?”
The reaper slowed as it neared her landing. As he bowed, he lowered his head. “At which hour we first hath met. Thee wast a fool. Thee hadst no knowledge of the real world. The truth of this city. The ruling powers who abused its people. Thee didst not knoweth about the vile criminals who harm the people.
Now thou has’t seen the reality of the gangs and their overlords. Thou has’t seen the poor folk trodden upon and given nothing but misery. The royals who treat those below those folk as livestock for slaughter. The unruly demons who haunt this world.
The wars and those who maketh wars. The uncaring hearts of the hath lost. The savage minds of the abusers. The dreams, stolen from valorous people. See this truth Apricot. Together we can changeth this all. Join me, beest the god this world needeth.
By thy hands those gents don’t needeth to die. We can save all those who died. Those who were undone to this world beest hath brought to death. All those sacrificed given new life. In a paradise which thee shalt rule. All thou has’t to doth is allow me to bringeth thee across the threshold. We can cease all this evil.” The reaper said as he stuck out his clawed hand at Apricot. “So doth thee chooseth life or doth thee chooseth death?”
As Apricot’s eyes fill with tears, he lets out a sigh. “Why me!” she cries in despair.
“The Okabe abused mine plan. Instead, those gents tormented people for their own selfish gain. Those gents hath used me as a nexus for power. Urias, that gent is a madman. Kyo, the lady too wast hath lost. The ones ere thee, those gents hath lost their minds. Thou has’t endured. Tis thee I searched for and forged from hellfire. Cometh Apricot, tis time.” Apricot hesitated a bit as she entered the seal. Her steps were like those of a child. Looking up at the reaper, she saw the eyes that were behind the mask. The eyes were like a machine, fixed like dead eyes. “Very valorous, I am glad thou has’t madeth the right choice.”
As Apricot lifted her hand, she placed it among the reapers. Just above his claws, her fingertips hovered. A roar erupted from her as she brought forth a flame and quickly stabbed her blade into his chest. “You are a liar!” The reaper backed away from Apricot and howled. He stared at the blazing blade in her hand. “You’re no better than the Okabe. You murder and scheme and manipulate people. You’re no righteous god! You are a devil.”
Under his breath, the reaper growled. An enormous gash covers his chest, and his claws extend below the sliced fabric into the metal casing. “I am not flesh. This is a manifestation of me. If ‘t be true this how it must beest, then I shalt taketh what is mine by force. Apricot thee shalt beest mine, willing or as mine unwilling host. I shalt ride thee as a horse if ‘t be true I must!”
While his claws aimed at her heart, he lunged toward her. By sidestepping the reaper, Apricot blocked his assault with an arm. “You want to strip people of their will. Even me, the one you desire to change the world. You want to strip my will from me.” Apricot avoided his next punch over her head. As she hit him upward, she severed his mechanical prosthetic. Upon being knocked to the ground, the twitching leg reveals cables and hanging cords.
“Every world is not complete without a god and a devil. Thither cannot beest valorous without evil. Balance is the key.” The reaper slashed Apricot’s shoulder, blood spurting out and the pain radiating from her muscles. She let out a cry of pain and tried to back away from him.
Despite rolling off the blow, Apricot was shaking from the exhausting pain. “Balance is a lie! Evil always wants balance because it is nothing against good. Evil is evil and good is good! The only ones who try to blur the lines are the evil ones!” Apricot roared sharply as she sliced the reaper’s face with her flaming blade. The mask crumbled. They reveal a mechanical manikin
Mechanically, the reaper shook. For Apricot, it seemed like the machine was falling apart. She seized this opportunity and cut effortlessly through the torso and left arm of the reaper. The upper body of the machine floated out in front of her and grinned artificially. “Flesh is undone by mine spirit. So I has’t addressed thee with the spirit of phantoms. Wherefore doth thee bethink I hadst thee hunt those folk and gaveth thee the power to absorb their energy. That is wherefore thy soul blade hath grown stronger. Now thee art eft to beest wed with mine spirit. Alloweth me in!”
Appricot sprang away. “You want to possess me?”
He nodded his head. “Forsooth. You art mine vessel. That is what you art destined to beest. Now surrender yourself. I has’t damaged thee enough already.” The flying body charged Apricot, ejecting black fluid. Apricot attempted to sidestep, but he was moving too fast. A silver rod whipped between the reaper’s claw and Apricot. Her heart pounded as she saw Shiori forcefully pressing the rod against the reaper, glaring into its eyes. “Shiori wherefore doth thee cease me? We hadst a deal!”
“Don’t you know when you have been doublecrossed?” Shiori muttered, throwing the reaper to the ground. Using his teeth, Shiori removed the white glove covering his hand. “Run Apricot. Get outside the seal.” He commanded as he rammed his hand into the reaper’s back. In a flash, Shiori was covered in a red glow as though struck by lightning.
“What has’t thee done!” he barked. “It’s over for you.”
Initially, Apricot hesitated. The mechanical body went lifeless and she suddenly became terrified. “Shiori, what is happening?”
“Apricot, help me. The reaper is in me. Come help me out of the lock!” Shiori gasped, his mouth foaming.
Appricot stepped carefully towards him as he shook his head. “Apricot no!” a familiar voice called out. “Don’t touch him.” Hunter was standing at the threshold of the seal when she turned her head. “Get out of the seal!”
“But Shiori.” Apricot whimpered. Her eyes went wide as his skin sliced, his body decaying in front of her. “Shiori, I am sorry.” she said. Tears rolled down Shiori’s cheek as he smiled. As Apricot escaped, Shiori bowed to the side. Hunter held up his hand as Shiori’s body jerked attempting to move but instead held in place.
as the pieces fall; its artificial blue eyes and blond white hair dangle from the jester’s cap. “Nothing about you is real.”
“Thee wench! Cometh back thee wench! Don’t leaveth me! Thee art going to rid the world! No, this cannot beest! Shiori, thee fool. Doth thee very much expect to survive. We art going to beest trapped in the dead world! Is this what thee wanteth?” The reaper screamed from Shiori’s mouth.
As Hunter placed his hand on the rim of the seal, Shiori cynically commented, “Let’s see what your world is like.” The symbols and signs formed as the ground turned pitch black. While the symbols exploded with a thunderous roar, Shiori got sucked into the darkness. Apricot looked up to see Hunter holding her arm as the two escaped the powerful vacuum winds. After one last boom, the grounds vanished, reappearing as a deep chasm at the temple’s center.
Apricot rose from the ground and walked toward the destroyed temple’s courtyard, where the polished bricks once lay. It caused her heart to beat faster. There was no sign of him. He had been taken to that horrible place. “Shiori!“Shiori!“Shiori!”, she screamed with tears streaming down her face. She shook her head, clutching her face. “Why did it have to end like this?” She sniffled. “What the hell Shiori?” She looked toward Hunter. With his back turned toward the pit, he watched as the city’s glow faded into a vague haze.
“You!” Apricot screamed. “You did this! You knew! You knew he would die! Didn’t you?” She waited for his reply, but it never arrived. Without another word, he walked to the stairs. “Don’t ignore me.” He sat down at the top of the step. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
As he pats the ground adjacent to him, Hunter frowns. “Because, you would not have allowed us to do it,” he replied sourly. Apricot walked up to the staircase and sat down next to him. “Don’t be mad at me. He made me swear not to tell you. I knew, and he did too.”
The first rays of morning light showed up over the horizon, and the two could see the sounds of battle had disappeared. Instead, sirens descended from every street. “It’s over now,” Apricot said, making his way towards Hunter who was also sobbing. She grabbed at his shoulder and pulled him in for a hug. In the early morning light, the two waited for hours. After the sirens subsided, Apricot and Hunter left together.
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