The Story of Yeling Mah Pt. V

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Not a single day went by where I wanted to see you happy.

Because every single time you told me how much you wanted to die, you weren't the only one in pain.

Seeing you in so much agony was the worst feeling I could ever experience. As your friend.

And that day...

"Hey... Danny, if hypothetically, one day, I had powers... in what scenario would it be justified that I could kill everyone in this world who hurt me?"

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had to lighten things up. I didn't want to see you walk down a path that you would ultimately regret.

"Yeling, what the hell man. Don't joke about that stuff. This isn't funny."

Yeling glared at me.

"I'm serious."

I had to change the subject. I had to. We were going down a dark conversation.

Think, Danny. Think.

I was his only friend. The only friend he had that he would admit these things to.

I could save him.

By pulling him away from this path.

"Let's just focus on this exam. Look. You haven't even started studying. The exam's coming up. Let's not talk about this stuff."

Yeling clearly didn't look happy.

But I needed to make sure he would never think about this stuff again.

"Look. All I have to say is... if it comes down to it, no matter what the reason is, nothing justifies murder. Nothing. Yeling."

Yeling's fists were clenched so hard that they had turned white.

"Like you know my reasons..." He muttered.

I sighed.

I didn't know what to say.

Curse you, Yeling.

Why did you put me in such a high pedestal? I never asked for this. I'm not your hero. I can't save you when you need it. I just can't. I'm just a powerless guy. A normal human being.

And ever since that freak accident with your family, you always showed up to class in rags and a terrible odour that would make others avoid you. But I stuck around.

After all, the best I could do is make sure you weren't alone.

But don't expect me to be the perfect person in your life that could magically fix all of your troubles. Because I'm human. A cowardly human. That's all I have.

I breathed out, awakening at the shrine of Kanghui in Fa Shan.

But you know, Yeling.

That was before I came back. Before she brought me back from the dead. When I was revived, my mind was in a haze. I could only feel hatred for you, because you, Yeling, had given into the temptation. All those times I tried to steer you clear from the dark path of murder, and you showed up, killing our classmates. Killing Duncan. Then killing me.

But it wasn't until she came back, after you supposedly died, to set me straight. I owe it all to her for reopening my eyes to the real reason why we had taken advantage of that Shakujin's revival ceremony.

"He has gotten even stronger." A girl's voice behind me said.

"Yes." I replied, standing up and inspecting my inventory.

"He, along with the Fujin destroyed all of my relics. All I have is Kanghui, Yama, Lei Shen, and my evos. His flames merged with the First Hinokami as well. That is... problematic."

"You will save him. I have faith in you, Yuyan." The girl purred into my ear.

I stared at the horizon.

"I trust you, my lady. After all, it was you who instructed me to look for the gods of China. To hone my new powers. To take advantage of my undying body. I owe it all to you. I do not understand your reasons still..."

"Do not burden yourself with such musings, my little champion. All you must know, is that the grand scheme of things is all in accordance to Lord Ginga."

"But why? I still don't understand. Taras Pax would have helped accelerate his plans. But why was I tasked to eliminate him?"

The girl raised an eyebrow, putting a finger under my chin and turning me to her direction.

She was beautiful. With long red ribbons of silk decorating her body and contrasting with her round red eyes. A pair of earrings decorated her pretty face, and her hair was long, silky and smooth. Mother would have immediately wanted me to marry her and restore honour in our family. After all, considering Father had divorced her a long time ago.

"Taras Pax was merely a pawn to Lord Ginga. Even if he was his most reliable subordinate. Everything Pax had was given to him from Ginga. Whether it be Matthew Vistara, who was ambushed by Ginga's Shadows to force him to unlock Level 2. Or the formation of the Contingency Initiative. In the end, Pax failed to bring about the other Level 1 Akuma Grade Dogma holders before Ginga lost his patience. It was only a matter of time. Now you are here. Yuyan Zheng."

I nodded, grimly.

"I will do my duty. And save my friend. After all, I know how much Yeling means to you, my lady. This is... why I was chosen, right?"

The girl smiled. The arcane demonic tattoos decorated her entire body. From her legs to her arms to her face. Symbols of vines and flowers decorated her skin, and her long silky smooth hair was braided like a princess. But I knew it would have been immoral to think these things of her. For Yeling's sake.

"Oh. It is true that this particular task was one of emotional value to me. But don't get me wrong. Once Yeling is truly saved, he will be all mine."

"And he will... be happy, right?"

The girl didn't reply.

"Do you not have faith in the person who brought you back from that scorching Hinokami's flame, Yuyan?"

"No, my Lady."

The girl reached out into the sunset.

"Have faith in me, Yuyan. After all... Yeling... is precious to me. My dear Yeling... how you must have regretted it that night. But I'm here.

"Your beloved will bring you home."

I stood before her, as thunder boomed all around.

The girl regarded me.

"Confront him. Yuyan. Kill him if necessary. I need only the body. And then I will take the Shakujin and reanimate him. As long as he is with me, dead or alive. All that matters is we are united again."

Level 1 Susanoo: Demon's Overcast

Storm clouds surrounded her, as she disappeared.


It will be done.

I tried my best to convince you, Yeling. But all you did was deny me. So I will bring you back. By force.

Because she is waiting.

My Lady is waiting for you.

Hakah Mah is waiting for you, Yeling.

The Mah Bloodline

There was only one Hinokami in history who unlocked Stage Four.

Her name was Aelienne. The First Hinokami. The Firebird.

And from Aelienne, her desire to have a family and children of her own, did the Dogma lose his most powerful Hinokami, and would need to search for another.

And so did the next holder of the Hinokami become chosen.

But with each attempt to reviving the Great Akuma, the Hinokami would be slain. Either by those who served Vala, or by Aelienne herself, who meddled with his plans.

This cycle would eventually continue, until the thirteenth Hinokami was chosen.

Mah Ye Ling.

The Tidalflame.

The cycle would come full circle, as the Tidalflame would battle Aelienne, ultimately proving his worth to her, Aelienne had given him her power, in an attempt to aid him in his quest to find happiness.

And it was there, with the help of the Firebird, did the second Hinokami to ever unlock Stage Four gain conception.

I am the strongest Hinokami. Unbound by the Dogma. Unbound by the laws of the Great Akuma.

Nothing holds me back.

At least... that's what I thought, until a full 300 pounds of blubber came flying my way.

"Despair! Villain!" The son of Duke Edinburgh, Charles "Charlie" Cobblestone charged me, his sword in hand.

He began swinging wildly. I dodged, Shenlong's Rain style still engrained in my muscle memory.

"I shall take you down! In the name and respect of all women! For I am an ambassador for-"

The great son of Duke Edinburgh tripped on a rock, falling on his chubby face.

"Geh!" I gasped, as Inoko gave me a panicked expression.

"Do something!" She hissed.

"What am I supposed to do?!" I replied.

Inoko's face flushed red as she gritted her teeth, her fists clenched and her feet shifting on the dirt on the ground.

"Ugh! Fine!" She muttered, as she ran forward and knelt in front of Charlie. He looked like he was about to cry, but Inoko put a smile on her face.

"My hero! You can do it! I believe in you."

Charlie stared at Inoko and wiped his eyes.

"Y- Yes! I will defeat this monster! And take your hand in marriage!"

Inoko smiled, her eye was twitching in irritation, but she did a pretty good job at hiding it. I guess.

"Uh... yeah! Yes! Save me, Charlie! Save this kingdom from that evil man!"

Charlie got to his feet, his eyes full of fury, as he glared at me.

I stumbled back.

"Uh... Inoko, are you sure this is a good idea-"

"Just take it, Yeling. Stop being a pansy."

I sighed. Then brought my hands back, doing my best at an evil villain laugh.

"HAHAHA! Come and try, if you can! Son of Duke Edinburgh! For I am the great Demon Lord who will destroy this land! And I will take Inoko! And do bad stuff! Yeah!"

Charlie yelled a war cry, and ran to my direction, his belly jiggling as he leapt into the air.

"Ah." My evil smile melted.

"Shit." I grumbled, as Charlie knocked me to the ground. 300 pounds of pure nobleman burying me into the ground.

"I have won! Inoko! I now have your hand in marriage!" Charlie laughed, grabbing Inoko's hand as her face momentarily flashed with disgust.

I gave her an evil smirk.

"Just take it, Inoko. Stop being a pansy."

Inoko wiped her face with another fake smile.

"Ah! Well. Um. I'm so happy! When you've grown older, my hero, I will be waiting!"

Charlie pouted.

"But I want to marry you NOW!"

"Heh?!" Inoko stumbled backwards, as I held back a laugh.

"Now my lord... You are still young. You must wait until you have taken your father's place as the Duke before you can take a woman's hand in marriage." Charlie's maid approached him, with a towel in one hand, and a tray full of snacks in the other.

"Snacktime!" Charlie's face beamed with a smile, as he ran to the maid, burying his face in the snacks.

Inoko helped me to my feet.

"God that was... so embarrassing." I muttered.

"Look. Our task was just to watch over the Duke's son. Just humour him a little."

The maid bowed to us.

"I thank you. Brave adventurers. For looking after his most highest while his usual sitter is away. Lord Charles is particularly fond of you two."

Inoko laughed.

"We enjoyed it too. It's our pleasure."

"Was it though...." I muttered.

Inoko glared at me.

"Yes. It sure was."

The maid put a hand on her mouth and giggled.

"You two get along so well with Lord Charles. Almost like he is your child. It is very adorable."

I raised my eyebrows, as I turned to Inoko, her face was bright red.

"N- No no no! It's not like that!" Inoko stammered.

"We simply just enjoyed this after all. There's nothing between us! Really! We're just friends."

With each coming excuse Inoko was giving, the more I felt like my body was sinking to the ground.

Charlie turned and looked at me. Then gave me a smirk.

"Virgin." He snickered.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four.

"But in all gratefulness. We are truly in your debt. Inoko. Yeling. Thank you for looking after our lord. We will have your reward processed for you by the end of the day. In the meantime, feel free to enjoy yourselves in the village of Cobblestone."

We bowed, as we made our way out of the residence of Duke Edinburgh.

I tapped the right side of my temple, as runic reticules appeared in front of my right eye.

"Floki, revert."

Magical shimmering appeared, revealing my scorched flesh. My right eye reverted to its usual golden magical implant.

I shifted my bangs so it would cover the right side of my face, pulling hair out of my ponytail, as the brown locks gently fell under my chin.

"So... what now?" I asked Inoko.

Inoko shouldered her guard.

"I'm going to get my armour re-enchanted. How's those new clothes doing for you?"

"They're good." I replied.

They really were. After my battle against Danny. My second battle. My leather jacket was completely torn to shreds. So when I went adventuring with Inoko and the others again, Inoko helped pick out new clothes for me. My jeans stayed, since it didn't really suffer much damage, but my jacket was pretty much gone. She found something similar.

A fur coat with black dragon hide, that would be much harder to damage and would sustain my Hinokami a little bit better. The beige fur lined the collar, similar to my old jacket since Inoko figured I liked the style. She also picked out several dragon hide boots and gloves to compliment my look.

Inoko gave me a warm smile, as I felt my heart race. I kind of wish it didn't. It was never going to work out. But this was my problem, not hers.

"I'm really happy you like it! I've been told my taste for clothes is a bit drab by Shia... but my order is utility, then looks. Not to say I don't care about looks... I still want to look good.... I guess..."

Inoko began shifting. Her embarrassed face whenever she tried to awkwardly convince people that she wasn't a tomboy was honestly so adorable.

I had to look away before I got a nosebleed.

"Uh. Yeah. Well, I guess I'll see you around then, Inoko!" I waved her goodbye, as I watched her go to the weapon smith.

"Ah. Well. I guess this does beat walking around in the middle of nowhere all alone." I said, as I took in the scenery of Cobblestone. The place was exactly what you would expect in a medieval sorcery fantasy town.

I turned back to Inoko, who was speaking to the armour smith, when suddenly, a tall man with luscious green locks of hair ran up to her, taking her hands as Inoko panicked, dropping her breastplate to the ground.

"My dear! How beautiful you look today! Are you fixing up your armour? May I be of any assistance?"

"Ah! It's okay, Shen! It's really okay!"

Shen bent down and picked up the armour.

"I won't leave your side, Inoko. If you need me. I will be here for you. Now come. Let us have this enchanted." Shen took Inoko's hand and placed it on the armour. His face looked so dreamy.

And yes.

That pissed me off.

I stared at the two from a distance.

"Wait up! Big brother!" A little girl shouted, as a kid ran off. His little sister tailing him as they played with a ball in the streets of the village.

I turned around to watch the two play.

"Heh." I muttered to myself.

Seeing those two reminded me of my time with Hakah.

My own little sister.

Back when she was alive, I still held really fond memories of her.

We used to play together all the time. Obviously.

She always saw me as the cool big brother, and she wanted to be like me.

Whether it was learning to read and write Chinese. She would want to do that too.

If it was to learn to play the piano, she would want to do that too.

In a way, even when I came back feeling like a total loser in school, my adorable little sister would always welcome me home. She saw me as more than a big brother.

She saw me as her hero.

Even when we got older together, I was seventeen, and she was twelve, her feelings for me never changed.

My mama and baba were always my source of comfort. But Hakah was too, she was more.

She made me feel strong, even when I felt like shit.

I could never forget that one time I went on a school trip. She had told me she always wanted earrings. So I went out of my way to spend what little allowance I had on these pretty earrings. They had a card, with an illustration of a horse. Since our surname was Mah, Canan for horse.

When I returned home from the school trip, I gave my sister the earrings. And she had those on ever since. She believed by wearing those earrings, she would share my strength, and she could become strong. Obviously, such beliefs were silly, but seeing her happy made me happy.

Even if it was embarrassing to admit it. And I never ever like admitting stuff like this to her face, obviously. Being the older sibling.

My chest welled up in pain again at the thoughts of Hakah.

I clutched my heart, making my way to the inn.

"Mah-san. Welcome back!" The front desk lady bowed to me.

I climbed the steps to my room. This time, we were able to afford individual rooms. I guess while I was away, Shia had managed to rack up a lot of wealth from her constant adventuring. I always figured she would be good with money.

Shia was still out doing a random quest to rack loot so they could face the Guardian again.

After all, it was made painfully obvious what my limits were as Stage Four.

"Dinner time." I said, as I picked up the four trays of food and wolfed it down.

Then I turned to the desserts like a predator, and leapt at them animalistically.


With Aelienne's power, I was essentially two Hinokami's existing as one.

And with that, I was able to call upon even more of its power.

But the downside was...

I scarfed down plate after plate of food.

I needed twice the sustenance as a normal human being.

Twice the amount of food.

Twice the amount of sleep.

Twice the amount of rest.

All so I could deliver twice the amount of performance.

Aelienne didn't tell me shit about that!

I pulled the sheets over my head. And before I knew it, I was out like a light.

"Yeling! Wake up!"


I peeked from my mountain of sheets to see Shia's round little face peeking from the ground.

"I'm home!" She smiled at me.


I pulled the sheets back over my head.

"Hey! What are you doing?! I'll have you know I came back after a whole week, and this is how you welcome me?!"

"Good night."

"It's 3pm! Half the time I see you, you're either asleep, or eating, or fighting! What are you, an old man? You oldie! Gramps! Oldie! Old Man Yeling!"

Shia continued calling me names until I eventually dragged myself out of bed.

"Shia. Yeling. It is a good thing you two are here." A man in a lab coat adjusted his glasses.

I couldn't help it.

I couldn't hold it.

I let loose a massive yawn, stretching my arms, as Shia stared at me in shock.


"S- Sorry. I didn't sleep enough." I muttered.

The man laughed.

"Ah, I hope you get enough sleep soon. So sorry for bothering you with such a task."

Shia gave me a death glare.

"No. Yeling is just like that. He's like a bear. Always sleeping. So I'm guessing you called about Cobblestone's water problem?"

"Yes. It seems I've found the problem. From the samples I've tested, it seems the source is from a monster. A slime to be exact."

"A slime, huh." Shia leaned in and put a hand on her chin.

"And this slime, I'm guessing it's located in the lake."

The scientist nodded.

"Slimes have historically been a pain for this village. But one at this magnitude..."

"It's okay." Shia rolled up her sleeves.

"We got this! Right Yeling?"

I snorted awake, seconds from falling asleep.


Shia and I walked to the plaza.

"Are... you okay, Yeling?"

"Yeah, just tired and all."

"Is it because of your new power?"

"I think so. When Aelienne transferred her power to me, she ended up transferring part of herself. Meaning while I have the power of two Hinokami's I'm also twice as hungry, sleepy, and I need twice the sustenance. Which sucks, honestly."

I inspected my hands.

"Just when I thought I could get an edge with Stage Four, and I can't even use my powers for any longer than ten minutes! Damn!"

Shia skipped ahead of me.

"Well. You're not alone. You know that right? We can do it and tackle it together!"

I managed a smile.


We continued walking, when suddenly, Shia got distracted.

"Oh my god! Cheese buns! Wait here, Yeling. Do you want one?"

"I'm good."

"Suit yourself!" Shia ran off to the stall, while I watched.

"Your eyes." A voice appeared next to me.

I turned around and nearly jumped out of my skin.

"Ah! Uh, can I help you?"

The man looked sickly. As if he had spent weeks without eating.

"Such large eyes. Just like hers."


The man began breathing heavily.

"My Lady. She has the same eyes as you. So round. So evil. So... menacing..."

I was getting some seriously creepy vibes from this guy. I felt like booking it, but Shia was still at the stall.

"Floki: Scan"

Floki began sending me information on the guy. From what I knew, he was just a regular villager in Cobblestone. A little on the brittle side, which made sense. He looked like he was extremely malnourished.

But suddenly, something stuck out.

Something unsettling.

Floki was alerting me that this man had a connection. It wasn't direct, but there were fragments of it. Floki detected it to be some kind of master servant.

Loyalty Seal: Dogma Grade - Susanoo

"...Susanoo? Like the God of Storms?" I muttered, stumbling back, but the man stared at me.

"How did you... ahhhhhh that eye. That beautiful eye!" The man began clawing at his face.

"She knows. She knows. She will kill me. She will kill me! Help me! Protect me..."

"Whoa whoa whoa. What are you talking about? Who is she?"

The man stared at me, as he took out a knife, pressing it against his neck. Several screams erupted from the crowds, as several of the village guards confiscated his weapon, dragging him away.

"She wants you. She wants you to reunite with her. She has been waiting. For oh so long."

I stared at him in terror, as Shia ran up to me.

"Yeling! What's wrong? You're white as a ghost! Who is that guy?"

"I... have no idea..."

"No.... no.... I did my best to keep it a secret! Don't! Don't kill me! I beg you!"

The man began to squirm as the guardsmen struggled to keep him in check.

"Sir! Stay calm! You are safe! No one is here to kill you."

The man suddenly stopped resisting, a sinister smile on his face, as he looked at me.

"Last son of the Mah Clan. Brace yourself. For she has begun to make a move."

Shia put distance between us.

"What are you talking about? What are you going about this 'she'? How do you know that Yeling is from the Mah clan?"

I was going to make a witty remark. Like how my last name was Mah. But suddenly, the region around him turned dark.

What the hell was going on?!

"Yeling! Get back!" Shia shoved me out of the way as we landed on our backs.

A spectre appeared from the shadows, a humanoid figure with a blue swirl for a face. It was looking straight at me, as a mask began to take root from the swirl. Growing and gaining form.

I gasped.

No way.

I've seen these masks before.

That vision... of Matt from the Dogma. That day he was ambushed. Those operatives who wore those masks that I couldn't recognize. I always wondered about that, and at some point, I slowly forgot about it. But here they were again.

A scream erupted from the man who was detained, as a shadow had grabbed his face, sucking up his life force. The guardsmen tried to do something, but they couldn't get near without their life force being sucked away too.

Shia ran forward, summoning a big hammer.

Rain God Shenlong - Holy Water Imbuement

The hammer gained a swirling green aura as she swung, yeeting the shadows into the sky. Shia continued fighting off the shadows, as more and more formed.

"Tatsu!" I shouted, summoning the blade as it appeared in my head.

I spun around, my heart beating at top pace.

I was in no condition to use Stage Four. I was too tired.

So frickin lame!

"Floki! Hostile Scan."

My vision was covered in reticules, Floki interfacing with my nervous system from the damaged nerves of my missing right eye, as my muscles lined up perfectly.

Hinokami Rain Style Kenjutsu Form 1

My blade caught on fire, red flames emitting a red glow across the street.

Devil's Surface Slash

I swung, delivering a powerful swipe of flames which neutralized the ghosts in an area, filtering out and carefully aiming so as to not avoid any damage to the surroundings or people.

But more spectres began emerging from the ground, trying to capture the man.

"Shit!" I gasped.

Shia looked at me.

"Protect that creep! We don't know why they're after him, but we can't have him die!"

"On it!"

I ran to the creep, but was surrounded by a bunch of those spectres.

"Out of my way!" I yelled, bringing my hands back.

Level 1 Hinokami: Devil's Typhoon

I unleashed a red flame outwards which disintegrated the spectres. But the man was suddenly gone, running for dear life.

"Hey!" I shouted after him, chasing the man and slashing down spectre left and right.

"Get away from me!" The man screamed.

"I'm supposed to be the one saying that you creep!"

More shadows intercepted me.

There was no point wasting what little stamina I had on these guys.

I summoned my Chainblade and threw it into the roof of a nearby building, swinging above them, and pursuing the man.

I had no idea who he was. But for whatever reason, he knew something about me, and these people were after him. I couldn't just let him die like this.

Suddenly, a shadow appeared from within an alley, tackling the man to the ground.

"No!" The man screamed.

I blasted forward, but more and more shadows appeared from the sides of the walls of the buildings.

Elder son... The shadows whispered into my ear as my eyes went wide.

"What the-"

I swung wildly, dissipating shadows left and right, but more and more of them began latching onto me.

She awaits you. She has waited long enough. Come to her.

Come to her.

Unite the bloodline.

What the hell were they talking about? Uniting a bloodline? This, lady this man was talking about.

She seemed dangerous.

I already had Danny to worry about. I didn't need another thing on my mind.

The man was pinned on the ground, as a shadow began sucking up his life-force.

I had no choice.

This level should be more than enough. I just hoped it wouldn't eat up at my energy too much.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Two...

"Get away from him!" A boy's voice shouted.

"Wha-" I gasped, as a young man, probably around fifteen, had shot forward from a nearby building. A long dagger in his hand and armour.

He was an adventurer.

The shadows hissed at him as he landed on the ground, runes appearing on one of his forearms.

Little mortal. Do not interfere. With our Lady's plans.

"It's okay now. I will save you!"

A magic circle appeared as the kid made a fist, unleashing a powerful fire bolt which incinerated the shadows.

The kid ran forward, but was intercepted by another shadow. The two clashed.

"Run, boy! You cannot win against the Shadows!" The man exclaimed, but the boy refused to give up.

"No... no way. I won't leave you behind. Your life has value!"

The man was speechless, as the kid stood before him, fighting an overwhelming horde of shadows. He was at his limit, but he kept fighting.

I landed on the ground, Tatsu still in hand. My bangs were dancing around my face, covering most of it.

I said nothing, as I watched the kid fight valiantly.

It never occurred to me, why this scene looked so familiar.

But then it hit me.

A kid who would fight with so much effort against an overwhelming threat. But refusing to give up to protect another life.

I had seen this before.

Matthew Vistara was just like this.

Why do you struggle, boy. Your strength wanes. Surrender yourself. The spirits whispered.

"I refuse! Because... if I give up now... who will be here to protect this man?!"

... Me.

I'm still here.

I brought Tatsu up, but suddenly, a shadow emerged from the ground, grabbing my wrist.

"Tch!" I seethed, but the shadow put a hand on mine.

You are not our enemy. Elder Son. We do not wish to fight you. But the man deserves to die.

"Who the hell are you?!" I exclaimed.

You will understand in time... Eldest.

Eldest? What the hell are these guys talking about? And how did they know so much about the Mah Clan?

I watched as the kid continued fighting like crazy, when suddenly, a girl joined in. Wielding a glowing green hammer.

"Shia!" I said, as I looked back at the ghost, who disappeared.

Shia landed on the ground, swinging her hammer and knocking the Shadows away.

"Who-" The kid asked.

Shia turned around.

"Stay back."

Rain God Shenlong: Holy Rain

Shia put her hand in the air, as a sphere of green swirling energy appeared above her, flooding the sky with clouds. Green rain began pouring over the town as the shadows screamed, dissipating and melting.

I sighed.

It was over.

I was about to step out of the shadows, but a spectre grabbed my wrist from behind. It was moments from being disintegrated as well by Shen's Rainwater.

"You!" I snarled, raising Tatsu, but the Shadow simply regarded me.

You thwarted our plans. Eldest. Our Lady will be most displeased. But we will let you go just this once. Because our Lady is fond of you. She wants you. But should she change her mind, it doesn't matter if you are a surviving member of the Mah Bloodline. We will kill you if she wishes it. With no hesitation.

I stood in silence, watching the Shadow disintegrate in the darkness.

"Yeling!" Shia shouted as she ran up to me.


"Are you okay? The man is fine too. I guess Shen's Rainwater did the trick..." Shia's legs buckled. I reached out to grab her, but the kid beat me to it.

"Hey! Are you okay? Thanks for helping me back there. I really appreciate it! I really do!"

The kid bowed before Shia, who regained her composure.

"Aww... and thank you for helping defend him. What you did was so heroic! What's your name?"

"Strife Reinhart. I... I saw the shadows and the man being chased. So I went after him."

Shia raised her eyebrows.

"Those Shadows were really strong. Why would you do something so reckless?"

Strife scratched the back of his head.

"I... I'm actually not so sure... I guess my body moved on its own."

Shia and Strife continued talking. And for some reason, my heart rate went up.

I felt irritated. Almost irrational.

And I knew this feeling. I couldn't believe I was feeling it, but I was.

I was jealous.

But this wasn't the time to be worried about that. Now that there was this whole Mah Clan thing going on. I felt uneasy. What did these Shadows have in common with that night Vision was intercepted? Why did they say they were not my enemy? Who the hell was this Lady? And why did she want me so bad?

Shia looked at me.

"Yeling, are you okay?"

"Yeah." I lied.

Shia sighed.

"We still need to worry about that giant slime in the lake too. I guess let's check up on the others."

Strife Reinhart

"C- Can I come along with you?" Strife bowed.

I raised an eyebrow.

"Absolutely not-"

"Of course you can!" Shia patted him on the head, causing Strife to blush.

Inoko smiled.

"Why do you want to join our party?"

Strife put a hand on his chest.

"I... I want to get stronger. To protect this town and the people. Seeing Shia in action today, I've realized I still have a long way to go. I want to become even stronger and push myself. I want to help you guys save these people. I... want to be a hero."

Shen laughed, putting an arm around Strife.

"My boy. You already are. For your actions against those weird ghostly creatures! Saving a man you never even knew before! I approve!"

My eye twitched in annoyance as Strife was now part of our group. Majority decision.

We made our way to the lake.

Strife was getting along so well with Shia, Shen, and Inoko.

I couldn't believe this was happening. But I guess this wasn't up for me to decide.

"Hey... you're Yeling Mah right?"

I turned to Strife, hiding the look of annoyance from my face.

"Yeah. What's up?"

"You wouldn't happen to be... The Chinese Terrorist, would you?"

I stopped walking.

Everybody turned around to us, their faces full of concern.

"Why do you ask?" I said, my hand inches from summoning Tatsu.

"N- Nothing! I didn't mean to be rude. I guess... you kind of remind me of him. You have a freakishly strong aura. Kind of scary. Not in a bad way though!" Strife stammered, his hands in the air.

I took a deep breath.

This was going to be an awkward journey.

We got to the lake, and Inoko gasped.

"Oh god. It's even worse now."

I lifted my bangs.

"Floki: Status."

Strife's eyes widened.

"Whoa... is that a magical eye implant? That's so cool! You don't even need to use magic like us, that eye is basically a magic item itself!"

Shia smiled.

"Yes. Yeling's eye is special. At least... the one he has right now. He lost his other one fighting... someone very strong."

"I'm sorry." Strife said.

I don't need your pity, kid.

"Yeah. That's a slime alright." I said, narrowing my eyes as the crosshair reticules focused, magic circles forming in front of my golden eyeball.


Inoko looked at me.

"What's wrong?"

I paused.

"Aren't slimes supposed to be thoughtless creatures?"

Shia walked up to me.

"Yeah. They don't have INT stats above 5, usually. What does this one say?"

I gave Shia a grim expression.


Everybody stared at me.

"Mah Ye Ling. Are you sure the magical eye device Rui gave you is not perhaps defective?" Shen asked.

"It's not defective you stupid dragon!" I snapped.

"That's mean! How dare you mock my lack of intelligence like this?!" Shen exclaimed.

We continued bickering, until Inoko gasped.

"Strife! What are you doing?!"

Strife ran up to the source of the darkness in the pool. He was unarmed.

"Get back from there!" Shia shouted, as suddenly, the entire place rumbled. The lake monster emerged from the water. A mass of purple goo rising. Its body was sloshing and mixing with the water, as the water splashed onto the grass, disintegrating it.

"Strife!" Inoko shouted, but Strife darted left and right acrobatically, dodging the splashes.

My eyes widened as one splash came flying in my direction, but Shen stood in front of it, taking the damage head on.

"Shen!" I shouted, but Shen smiled at me. Regenerating.

"Such an attack is meaningless to a god like me!"


God of idiots, more like.

"The monster is here. Time to light this bitch up." I growled, raising my hand.

Level 1 Hinokami...

"Don't!" Strife stood in front of me, his arms wide.

"Kid! I'm not going to ask you again. Move out of the way. I'm going to kill this monster in one blow."

"No! This monster... I think I can save her."

I stared at Strife, completely speechless for a good four seconds.

"The hell did you just say?"

Strife maintained his expression.

"I can sense her pain. She isn't doing this out of her own volition. Let me talk to her."

"She is a mindless slime! You're trying to reason with a slime, do you know how dumb that sounds?"

Strife turned around, as Inoko and Shia were trying their best to land hits on the slime, evading its strikes and trying their best to restrain it from continuing to harm the wildlife and ecosystem around it.

Strife ran up to the slime.

"Stop!" Strife shouted, as the slime continued lashing out.

I looked at Shen.

"Nope. He's a lost cause. Let him get eaten. I'll disintegrate the monster after it eats the kid and what are you doing."

Shen's eyes welled with tears.

"S- So... so beautiful. His heroism. If I had met him that day, I should have transferred my power to him instead of you!"

"Are you frickin kidding me?!"

I glared at the monster, running forward with Tatsu in hand and slashing down, as Inoko picked up a boulder with her monstrous strength, and dashed out of the way, her body glowing silver.

Her speed was being amplified by Tian.

Inoko chucked the boulder at the slime, which disintegrated, as pieces of the slime lashed to her direction.

I shot forward.

Rain Style Kenjutsu: Form 10 - Peace after the Flood

Millions of slashes appeared on the appendage, reducing it to mince.

I landed on the ground next to Inoko.

Shia and Shen regrouped with us.

"Where's Strife?!" Shia shouted at us.

"He went to reason with that monster." Shen said.

"What?!" Inoko exclaimed, shooting to her feet.

"He's going to get eaten! Has he lost his mind?!"


Someone who was listening to reason.

But suddenly, the last person I would ever expect spoke up.

"No... I think Strife is onto something." Shia put a hand to her chin.

"Are you kidding me?!" I gasped.

"Yeling, when Floki read its stats, you mentioned the slime had an INT of 147. That's the same as a functioning human being. This slime... this slime wouldn't normally just be sitting in the lake like this, polluting the entire place. A slime needs to keep itself fed, not dilute itself. Maybe it's true it can listen to reason."

We looked at Strife, who continued to plead to the slime, which let loose a relentless assault. I drew Tatsu.

"I'll save you... no matter what!" Strife shouted, as he charged forward. Thousands of appendages closing in on him fast.

Level 1 Hinokami

Rain Style Kenjutsu

I spun violently in the air, sideways like a corkscrew.

Form 6 - Devil Vortex Slash

The appendages were sliced into pieces through a death spiral all around Strife as he stared at me, his mouth hanging open.

"Stop staring and talk to the monster!" I snarled, as I landed on the ground.

I grabbed my bangs, lifting them up.

"Floki, Trace Openings!"

Floki created a bunch of afterimages in my vision.

"Let's go, kid." I ordered, as Strife followed after me.

We continued running, as Strife slashed with his sword.

Turn after turn, until we were at the centre.

And I couldn't believe my eyes.

"I... I knew it!" Strife said, as he ran up to a young girl who was suspended in a mass of slime goop.

"A... A human...?" The girl muttered.

"Let me free you." Strife said, as he sliced at the goo.

"No... don't. The slime is toxic." The girl warned, but Strife ignored her, slashing and cutting frantically. His body was starting to show signs of poisoning as his strikes became slower.

"Strife, you can't free her like this." I said, turning to the girl.

"How did you end up like this? Is this entire thing part of you? Or are you stuck in here."

I pulled the bangs behind my head, tucking it behind my right ear, as the girl responded.

"No... I was imprisoned here. This slime feeds off my life force to survive. Please... please run. I cannot be freed."

Floki was showing me that she wasn't lying.

"Because the slime is toxic?"

I grabbed Strife, and pulled him back violently. Strife was about to protest, but I shot him a glare.

The girl closed her eyes.

"I'm... dangerous... No matter what I do, I just burden others. So please. Please. Just leave me here. Please."

I narrowed my golden eye, magical crosshairs forming in front of it. A number was next to her stats. And it was decreasing. Rapidly.

"You're not a human, are you."


"But even so, this slime is killing you."

The girl's eyes widened.

"Th.... Then maybe I deserve to die."

"And why is that?" I asked.

The girl looked at me, tears brimming from her eyes.

"Have you ever lost someone important... and the reason... was because of you?"

I paused, images of Mama, Baba, and Hakah appeared in my mind.

The girl continued.

"I killed him. I killed Uncle, it was completely by accident, but that's not an excuse. I was too powerful. So father... he exiled me. He banished me from my kind and left me in this slime for centuries. For the longest time... I've spent it alone. The thoughts of Uncle dying by my hand, and father disowning me constantly replaying in my head. So please. Brave hero..."

The girl gazed at Strife.

"Please don't save me."

I lowered Tatsu.

If we freed her...

If we freed her, wouldn't she just end up getting more people hurt? Just like what she did to her uncle?

I should just eliminate the entire slime. Forget about freeing her. The fact and reality was that if a high elf like her was freed, her destructive powers would just end up screwing everybody in Cobblestone over. But suddenly, Strife shouted.

"Is that really what you think?!"

The girl paused, startled.

Strife aimed his sword at her.

"Do you really think you deserve to die?"

"I- I don't deserve to live..."

"If you have these feelings of remorse and pain for what you did, then you deserve the life you were given! You deserve it! Your life is precious, even if the whole world is against you, there is always one person you can convince to never give up on your life and that is yourself!"

I stared at Strife.

Maybe it was because her situation was so similar to mine... I never really thought of it like that.

"Every life deserves to be lived. If you can't control your powers, then control them! I will help you!"

Strife charged and sliced at the girl's restraints, as she began begging him to stop.

"Please, hero. Don't... don't do all these things just for my sake... why are you helping me?! Why?!"

Strife continued striking, as his body was starting to fail. At this point, he was barely able to stand.

"B- Because... that's just... who I am..." Strife muttered, grabbing the girl's wrist. His hand was turning purple.

The girl sobbed.

"No... no... I don't deserve this... I don't deserve kindness..."

Strife smiled at her through the pain.

"Then I will force my kindness onto you."

Strife yelled, bringing his sword, back but dropped it, as his eyes rolled into the back of his head. The girl screamed, crying, as Strife was about to fall into the goop, but I grabbed his collar.

I set Strife down, my hand hovering over his chest.

Level 1 Hinokami: Phoenix Hearth

Warm red flames surrounded him, healing and expelling the poison, as I turned to the girl.

"He'll live." I said, as the girl stared at me.

"Wh- Why are you two going so far for someone you never met?" She whispered.

Strife coughed, barely conscious. His hand was still moving as if he was trying to slash at the goop.

"If I can't... can't... save one hurting girl... what kind of a hero... am I..."

I regarded Strife.

Even when he was on the verge of dying, he was still trying to save her.

If you have these feelings of remorse and pain for what you did, then you deserve the life you were given!

I grimaced.

This kid...

"You heard the hero." I said, as Tatsu dissipated into flame. I approached the girl until we were face to face. The girl regarded me, tears were still streaming down her eyes.

"Wha- What will you..."

"We're going to free you. While Strife is right that you deserve to live your life, there's also the matter that this idiot slime is polluting Cobblestone's water supply. So I'm going to rip you out of this thing then send the mofo to kingdom come."

The girl looked confused.

"C- Cobblestone? I'm not... in The Labyrinth?"

"What?" I asked.

"The Labyrinth, I was sealed in the slime... and I was exiled to the bottom floor of the Labyrinth. Why am I... why am I in a water supply?"

God dammit.

This whole quest just got even more complicated.

I lifted my hand.

"Wait... what are you doing?"

"I'm going to free you, by destroying the monster."

My hand burst into red flame.

"But you'll get me too!"

"Trust me."

The red flames began to give a sinister red glow which lit up my face evilly. The girl gulped, her face pale in terror.

"Floki: Selective Targeting."

My right eye socket widened, as my golden implant generated even more runic reticules, as a blue magic circle appeared around my flaming wrist.


I picked the girl up like a sack of potatoes and dragged Strife by the collar as we emerged from the remains of the slime, which had completely dried up from Hinokami.

"Guys!" Shia shouted at us, as we reunited.

"What happened to Strife?" Inoko ran up to the kid, cradling him.

"Tried playing the hero." I replied.

With the slime problem out of the way, Strife and the high elf was treated to their injuries.

Shia, Inoko, and Shen took turns visiting Strife.

I went the other way, to the other hall of the infirmary for the girls.

"Ah. Yeling. Yes, she is right this way. We can only allow fifteen minutes, unfortunately. Even for an adventurer like you. I hope you understand." The doctor bowed to me.

"That's fine."

I knocked gently on the door, as the girl regarded me. I peeked at the sign.

Her name was Arcana.

Oops. I guess I forgot to get her name. Better late than never.


Arcana smiled at me, though it looked kind of forced.


"Feeling any better?"

"I suppose... I haven't hurt anyone yet."

"That's progress."

I sat down on a chair next to her bed. Arcana regarded me.

"I sense a lot of pressure from you, but the only mana that's coming out of your body is through that golden eye of yours. That flame you used..."

"Yeah." I adjusted my sleeve, showing her my tattoos.

"It's Hinokami. The Devil's Flames."

Arcana gasped.

"Like... the Great Akuma?"

"So even high elves know about the Great Akuma, great." I grumbled.

"S- Sorry if I offended you. I was just taken aback. The Great Akuma is a very powerful spectral entity even back when I served my father as his lieutenant for the High Elves hundreds of years ago."

"He's that popular huh."

"Not he... The Great Akuma is a she."

"Uh. What?" I stammered.

Arcana put a hand to her mouth and giggled.

"Sorry. I shouldn't laugh. I suppose you came here for a few questions. Don't worry, I can answer them. But first... is he okay? The hero?"

"He's fine."

Arcana sighed.

"Thank goodness."

I managed a smile.

"Yeah. He's a good kid. Naive as hell though."


Arcana remained silent for a few seconds. I could tell Strife's "words of encouragement" wasn't enough to get her out of her mental state. But because of what Strife said... I guess I felt obligated to do something now. Which was completely out of my character.

"Since you're familiar with The Great Akuma, I guess you know about the Dogma then."

"Yes. The Dogma was the Akuma's right hand man. From what I understand, it's the Dogma who bestowed a portion of the Akuma's power to mortals to allow them to do their bidding. It's... strange that you seem free. Did you decouple yourself like the First Hinokami did?"


I shifted my sleeves.

"Still feeling guilty, huh."

Arcana pursed her lips.

"Who wouldn't, after doing something like that? I really appreciate the kind words Strife said to me, but... I feel like there isn't a single person who could ever relate to what I've been through."

I clenched my fist.


Arcana wiped her eyes.

"I... Sorry. I didn't mean to ruin things again. What were you going to ask me?"

"Yeah. You mentioned that you were originally exiled into the Labyrinth. But now you ended up here."


"Do you remember... anything? From when you were imprisoned? The water pollution only happened recently. So whatever relocation that you encountered must have been recent for you as well."

"N- No... sorry. I don't... wait."

I raised an eyebrow.

"What is it?"

"There were... figures. I remembered that much. Being with strange masks. And ghostly shadows. And one person, bigger than the rest. But everything else felt hazy. I cannot recall anything else."

Ghostly shadows.

Not those assholes again.

"Get some rest." I said, as I put a hand on her shoulder.

"Also, don't beat yourself up too bad. Strife is right. If you have the capacity to feel bad about it, then there's hope. Don't give up on yourself, kid."

"I... think I'm older than you. By a lot."


I got up and left, as Arcana laughed.

"But thank you. Mister Hinokami. I appreciate your kind words."

I stepped out of the room, and made my way to the other. There was someone I still had to see.

I knocked on Strife's room.

"Come in." Strife said, as I stepped inside.

"Oh. Mister."

"How are you doing?"

Strife rubbed his wrists.

"The toxin is out of my system. I just need to rest a bit, I guess. Doctor's orders."

I regarded him, as I sat down on a chair.

Strife gritted his teeth.

"I'm... an idiot." He muttered.

I raised an eyebrow.

"Why is that?"

Strife stared at his hands.

"I know. I'm naive. The things I do is stupid. But that's just how I am. My body will move whether you tell it to or not. And I know that's probably not how you guys do things. I... I was supposed to save them. I have to."

Strife looked at me.

"You're strong. When you sliced up all that slime that was closing in on me. I bet it was you who saved Arcana, right?"


Strife's hands were clenched. It was clear that something was bothering him. And it wasn't just this quest.

"Strife, why do you want to save people so badly?"

Strife stared at me.

"W- What?"

"Why do you feel compelled to throw your life away for another's? Even if it's someone you don't know?"

"Because... because that's just who I am. My body does it on its ow-"

I smashed my fist against the table, causing him to jump.

"No. I don't need to hear this. You want to keep playing hero? Then let's see how strong your resolve really is."

I grabbed Strife by the arm and blasted the window with Hinokami.

"M- Mister Yeling?! Where are we going?!"

I shot out of the hospital with Strife in tow, as we soared over the city of Cobblestone until we were in a field. Several mountains, a lake, and landforms, away from the town.

Strife stumbled, clutching his gear, which he had swiped last minute.

"What are you doing? Mister Yeling?"

I stood before him at a distance.

"What are you fighting for, Strife."

Strife gritted his teeth, drawing his sword.

"I don't get it! Why are you doing this?"

I approached him, the wind ruffling my fur coat, as I reached inside and took out a mask.

My Tidalflame mask.

Strife paused, as he watched me put the mask on. His face turned pale.

"N- No... y- you're... you're him..."

"Earlier, you asked if I was the Chinese Terrorist. And yes, Strife Reinhart. I am. I am the Tidalflame. The legendary pyrokinetic, wielder of the Devil's Flames, the very monster who killed millions of people, monsters, demihumans, gods, dragons, demons, and all walks of life for the Contingency Initiative."

My body swirled with red flames. My cyan eyes glowing so fiercely that I could see my reflection from his, which were frozen in terror.

"Every hero is responsible for defeating the villain. So I'm going to ask you again, Strife. Are you really a hero? In the face of Tidalflame."

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four

My body began to glow, blue flames mixing in with my red as two armoured phoenix wings sprouted from my back, armour cladding my right arm and feet until I gained a demonic and angelic appearance.

Cobalt Phoenix Ascendent

A storm of red and blue fire knocked Strife back as he slammed into a nearby boulder, cracking it. Strife coughed out blood, his eyes wide in fear.

"Show me your resolve, hero. Do you want to save the day? All heroes beat the villain. Here is a villain, right in front of you." I said, as I aimed the palm of my hand.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four

Strife snapped out of it, as he clasped his hands together, forming a rune. His body sparked with blue lightning.

Grand Ultimate Ascendent ITR

Strife blasted out of the way, as I fired a gargantuan explosion of pure red and blue flames, a sea of destruction smashing and levelling four mountains into pure ash and cinders.

I slowly turned around, to see Strife had collapsed, skidding sideways as despite having evaded the blast, the residual heat was too much for his armour.

His gear instantly crumbled to ash, vaporized. The runes dissipated too.

His protective spells had overloaded.

"Wh- Why... why are you doing this? How could you... you're good! You're a good person, Mister Yeling! How could you-"

I glared at Strife, who froze. His eyes were petrified at the sight of me in my mask.

"Your body moves on its own. You want to be a hero. You want to help others. Those words make me sick to the bone."

I approached Strife, menacingly.

Strife aimed his hand, which was shaking violently.

"Ice Barrage!" Strife shouted, as a rune formed around it, blasting a cluster of frost shots at me which vaporized instantly.

"I... I can't!" Strife said, as I continued approaching him, my hands outstretched.

Level 2 Intangibility

My body turned into a red wisp of flame, as I sunk into the ground.

Strife spun around, frantically trying to find me as I emerged from his feet, my mask inches away from his face.

"Why do you want to be a hero, Reinhart?" I snarled, pushing him with incredible force.

The kid flew backwards violently, crashing into trees.

I appeared in front of him, regaining my form.

Strife closed his eyes, tears leaking down the side of his face.

"I... I get it... I'm nothing. You're too strong, Mister Yeling. I don't stand a chance! I don't! But..."


Strife glared at me, his face was pouring with blood. His entire body was charred, and was suffering major injuries.

"Don't... hurt the villagers. Of Cobblestone..."

My eye went wide in rage, as I opened my wings, blasting to his location and slamming my fist into his stomach.

Strife vomited blood, as his shirt rippled, burning away from my punch.

"You don't get it, Strife. The Tidalflame doesn't spare anyone. Once I kill you. I'm going to kill Arcana. I'm going to kill those villagers you hold so dear. And there isn't... a single thing... you can do about it."

I grabbed Strife by the face. He looked like he was on his last legs.

"You're no hero. You're just a boy with stupid dreams. And you will die knowing you couldn't do anything, as I slaughter everybody in Cobblestone."

Strife's eyes went wide, as he grabbed my wrist. I paused.

"Don't.... don't...."

"Don't what?"

Strife glared at me, as his hand began to glow white. Little frost particles were now forming on my wrist as I felt it becoming cold.

Strife grabbed his sword and slashed at me, but I went Intangible, and slammed my foot into his face, but Strife took the blow, his bloodied face turning into a desperate frenzy.

"Don't you dare kill them!"

Strife tried to slash again, as I backed up, intercepting his blade with my wings, but I could feel the metal that wreathed the roots of my phoenix wings beginning to freeze and turn brittle.

"I will save them. I will protect them! Even if it means stopping you, Mister Yeling! Even if it means defeating the Tidalflame!"

Strife roared, as he charged, but I dodged his strikes easily, and brought my wings down, each wing slicing him, releasing a gush of blood from his cuts.

Strife collapsed, falling to his knees, as his wounds began burning. His skin was bubbling at the cuts and turning black.

"I... I'll save... I'll save them..." He muttered, dragging himself to me.

I regarded the kid as I kicked him in the face, causing Strife to flop on the ground. But Strife continued moving, despite his overwhelming injuries.

"N... Not like... this... I can't stop... I promised him."

Strife sputtered, getting to one knee.

"I promised my grandfather... that I would become a hero. So I could protect the people I love... because... because he couldn't protect my parents. From the war."

I exited Stage Four, watching as Strife got to his feet. He was breathing heavily, but his whole body was wracked with burns.

"Mister Yeling... you're strong. You're... overwhelmingly strong... But that's all the more reason... for me to.... for me to keep fighting. Every person has a reason to live... you don't get to decide whether they live or die. If people could... just understand... how valuable life is... we wouldn't have war. No more killing. Just peace."

Strife yelled, swinging his sword as I caught it.

"So you're only doing this because of your old man couldn't protect your mom and dad?"

Strife struggled, as he tried to punch me, but his hand was too weak.

"I'm... I'm all he has. I'm all... he had. I want to become strong. I want to become stronger, so I can prevent something like this from happening again!"

I pushed Strife as he fell to the ground.

"Killing is inevitable. That's just how it works in life. And so is war. There is no such thing as understanding others. When the other side fails to acknowledge it."

"Then I will make them! That's what it means to save them!" Strife shouted, as he turned to me.

"Every person who is crying. Who is in pain. It's because they need to be saved. Heroes. They kill needlessly. They don't save others. If they had just taken the time to listen to the other side... how many wars and killings would have been prevented?!"

My eye went wide, as an image of Danny appeared in my head.

Yeling. All I ever did was try to help you. But sometimes, I didn't know what to say. How can I make him feel better? Maybe if he knew we were all suffering, it would make his pain feel less significant. But day after day, it was like everything I did to try to help you MADE IT WORSE. The pressure buildup. My family back in China pressuring me to return home. All this pressure. I can't be the perfect friend, Yeling. I'm human. So on that day, it was too much.

If I had just listened to Danny...

From the start...

I wouldn't have killed him so viciously.

And Transplant would never have happened.

All of this would never have happened.

Strife glared at me.

"So even in overwhelming odds... I will do my best to save everyone. You. And Transplant. And all the villains and monsters that people perceive. I know there is a reason. There had to be a reason why you became this. And there had to be a reason why Transplant is the way he is. It just takes a hero to see that. That's what being a hero is all about."

Ice formed all around his body, as his wounds regenerated.

"That's why I want to be a hero. And if that isn't enough for you, then you'll have to kill me!" Strife readied his sword and charged but I shook my head.

"Nah. That's all the reason I need." I said, as I held out my hand.


Tatsu appeared in my palm as I sliced, severing Strife's sword, then pointing it at his throat.

"This quest... Shia, Inoko, Shen, and I are on. It's dangerous. We plan on taking down the Guardian. Then I will fight Transplant. If you want in, you need to understand that the power you displayed against me is like a drop in an ocean compared to his."

Strife stared at me.

"M- Mister Yeling? Are you saying..."

"I'm saying you can come with us. But you need to understand your limits. There's nothing wrong with wanting to help others. But if you're reckless about it, you'll get yourself killed. You'll get your allies killed too. So in a way, you not only failed to save people, you got people killed. Do you see that now?"

Strife looked down.

"I... I do."

I put Tatsu on my back and held out my hand.

"Good. Let's head back then."

"Th- Thank you, Mister Yeling. Thanks for everything. But..."


Strife gave me a determined look.

"I refuse. I will work on getting stronger first. One day. I will become strong enough to carry out my goals."

I smiled.

"Alright then. When you reconsider, the offer is still on the table."

I reached out my hand, and Strife nodded.

Strife took one step but stopped.

"Strife?" I said, as Strife's face suddenly went pale, tipping forward, and collapsing on the ground, unconscious.

"Shit." I muttered.

I must have overdone it as Stage Four.

I was only using 5% of my power too. I guess 5% was too much.


(Yuyan's POV)

"Are you sure you don't need a lift?"


"Come on, Transplant. Lighten up a lil! With my speed? I'll get you to Fa Shan lickity split!"

Slipstream showed off his blue tattoos.

"No one can beat my Stage Three Suijin. Not even Yelin-"

I grabbed Slipstream's mouth.

Slipstream tried to squirm, but his mouth was turning black.

"Yu- Yuyan you're..."

Slipstream stared at Yama's blade, which I had stabbed myself with, his power coursing through my undead veins, arcing up my arm, to my hand, and spreading to his body, preventing him from turning into water.

"Do not say his name. You don't deserve to speak his name." I hissed.

Slipstream eventually calmed down. I set him on the ground.

"Sorry, Transplant. I didn't mean ta touch on such a sensitive topic. Ya know. I was jus trying to help. The walk from Arii to Fa Shan is crazy far. Just saying. With my Suijin you could get there in minutes."

I eyed Slipstream.

The Level 1 Dogma holder of Suijin. He was initially an operative with the evo of superhuman reflexes and an all seeing eye. An Outer Shadow, who would be more involved in the field. But not strong enough to be considered a high rank. But that was until he received a calling from the Dogma, and became the holder of Suijin. The massive increase in power he had gained only recently was enough for him to climb the ranks.

His allegiance was to Lord Ginga, as a Inner Shadow. Meaning he was one of Ginga's right hand men. Along with my superior Hakah and a few other Inner Shadows.

Every Inner Shadow possessed power that was unrivalled.

But Ginga had explicitly stated that no Inner Shadow would reveal themselves or their power to the world.

Not until the time was right.

"Damn... Still. That fight you had, you seem to have been on the ropes."

"I'm warning you, Slipstream."

Slipstream chuckled.

"Aww come on, kiddo. You know what I'm trying to say. He's gotten strong enough to bypass all those gimmicks you have. You don't wanna let Hakah down do you?"

I grimaced.

Hakah had brought me back to life. She nurtured me, and brought me back to my senses, when I went on a rampage. No one was there for me when I was reanimated. Everybody tried to kill me.

And Yeling had tried to kill me again. With no mercy.

I could never forgive him, because of everything he did to everybody in our university. And he felt no remorse, when I reanimated. He tried to kill me again. Over and over again.

But it wasn't until Hakah had found me, dragging my severed corpse after being sent flying by Mirage and Patcher, did my mind start to heal.

"Do you hate my big brother, Yuyan?" Hakah had once asked me.

"I... I don't..." I was at a loss for words.

Hakah laughed, running a finger across my face.

"It must have hurt. Being burnt by big brother's flames. It's okay. I was burnt too."

Hakah lowered her collar, partially revealing her chest, which caused me to instantly look away.

"Oh dear, you're just so sweet. I forgive you for hating my big brother. But you mustn't destroy him entirely. I want to see him. I want him."

"Yeling is broken, Hakah. I don't know what to tell you. He was always broken, and becoming the Hinokami only made it worse."

Hakah ran her hand across my face and stroked my hair.

"But you were his friend, were you not? Yeling always bragged about you at the dinner table."

"He- He did?"

"Mmm. He saw you as his only friend. Maybe he isn't broken, but he is hurting. You are all he has. I think he needs to be healed. Don't you think?"

"I suppose."

For the next few days, Hakah always checked up on me.

No girl had ever done that for me.

Much less one so beautiful as her.

Yeling and I, we shared that much in common. We couldn't talk to girls. I always made jokes about it, but that didn't mean I was okay with it. I hated being lonely. And I knew Yeling hated it too.

"I made you dinner, Yuyan." Hakah sat down next to me, a tray in her hands. She was wearing a white dress, which showed her curvy attractive figure. I had to blink and snap out of it.

There were a number of Chinese dishes on the tray. All elegantly cooked. Just like those seafood restaurants I always went to.

"Did you make these yourself?" I asked, astonished at how well they were prepared.

"Yes! I just simply adore cooking. Especially for someone else."

Hakah clasped her hands and smiled at me. But I pursed my lips.

"I... I can't eat. At least, I haven't eaten. I'm technically a zombie after all-"

"No! I cannot have you stay with me knowing you haven't eaten. That would make me really sad."

I stared at her.

She was... pouting. Her face was... so cute...

And my heart, that should have been dead, began beating. Releasing a bunch of chemicals into my body as if something had just kickstarted.

Hakah took a pair of chopsticks and held out a spring roll, dipping it in soy sauce, holding it out to me.

"Say ahhh!"


The spring roll was filled with flavour.

Hakah saw my eyes light up and giggled.

"Is it good? I'm so happy! If you need anything, call out to me. Say, Mah Ha Kah! I need you! And I will always drop everything I'm doing to come to you. I promise!"

Hakah held out a pinky.

"Pinky promise on my soul!"

I paused.

Yeling... had done something like this before.

We're bros. Best friends. Okay? If one of us goes down, the other will do everything in their power to be there for em. Pinky promise on my soul.

A tear ran down my cheek as Hakah was startled.

"Huh? Yuyan? What's wrong?"

"N- Nothing... it just seems familiar is all..."

Hakah took out a napkin and wiped my face, I was turning red.

"Big brother and I do this all the time. A pinky promise on the soul. We never go back on our word."

"And... you do keep it."

"Of course! If it's one thing I learned from Big Brother, is a promise must always be kept no matter what. So no matter how bad it gets, there is always a part of him worth saving."

Hakah smiled at me, lowering the napkin.

Her face was so pretty. And she was so caring. And knew how to cook. And... And...

I needed to marry her.

No wait, what was I saying? What would Yeling think?

"Yuyan?" Hakah tilted her head.

Hakah was so sweet and kind...

It was almost like a complete contrast to Yeling.

"Nothing. I just... you seem like a completely different person compared to your older brother."

Hakah laughed.

"Aww, he just wants to look tough. He's actually a big softie."

Hakah put her fingers around her earrings, which comprised of a card attached to each one, of a horse.

"He is kind and sweet. He bought me those earrings after I told him I wanted a pair. He spent his own hard earned money on one. Whenever he would get an A in his class, which rarely happens, baba would give him a 5 cent coin. I was one of the reasons he worked so hard. He spent all that money, four years worth of savings on these earrings."

I stared at her.

This was a side of Yeling I never knew existed.

Hakah then leaned forward, breathing into my ear.

"I know you hate big brother. It's okay. But please. Don't think he is all bad. I need him. Bring him back."

Hakah began pressing her lips against my skin, until her beautiful, gorgeous face was inches from mine. Her silky smooth long hair, braided on one side, covering my arms like a soft cloth.

Was there a girl ever so heavenly?

Someone so sweet. So cute. So nurturing.

Someone like that, who would be so kind to a man who should have been dead. A man that wasn't even technically alive. My whole life was spent alone. Without any girl ever approaching me. I was that unattractive.

If I had been reanimated, the chances of me finding a woman in my life should have been even lower.

But Hakah...

It was as if she didn't care about that at all.

Her lips were brushing against mine and her breath smelled like raspberries.

"Bring him back for me, 'kay?"

"I will... My Lady. I will do it for you."

Hakah smiled.

"Thank you, Yuyan. You are my Champion."

I was shunted back into reality.

Slipstream was chuckling at me.

"Hakah... you sure roped in quite the character. I hope this zombie doesn't end up banging you and making zombie babies."

I clenched my fist.

"Don't you dare speak about my Lady like that!" I snarled, summoning my axe and swinging, but Slipstream only regarded me. His body flickered, and before I knew it, my body exploded into a shower of blood.

I stumbled back, as Slipstream disappeared into millions of lines, darting across the entire landscape. Patterns and strange trails of energy that even Guan Yu couldn't keep up. And he was the Chinese God of War.

"Just who..."

A force slammed me into the face as my neck snapped, twisting and everything went momentarily black, but I managed to regenerate.

"Do you think you are..."

More and more cuts slammed into my body. I couldn't regenerate in time.

"Speaking to an Inner Shadow like that..."

I fell to one knee, as Slipstream appeared above me, a sniper rifle in hand. His body had transformed, revealing a black cloak and teal lines all over his body. A massive horn was sticking from his forehead and his eyes were black as night.

"You must think you are some immortal creature. But all walks of life, living or undead, have a soul. Unlucky for you. It's pretty easy for me to see that with my all seeing eye."

Level 1 Suijin Stage Five: ANTI-LIFE BULLET

A teal swirl of energy spiralled into the barrel of the gun as he aimed at me. I couldn't regenerate in time.

I couldn't regenerate.

I'd fail my mission if I died here.

And I won't be able to bring Yeling back to her.

I needed my Lady.

"Help me.... HELP ME HAKAH MAH!" I shouted, as Slipstream laughed crazily.

Suddenly, the skies darkened.

Purple thunder boomed.

Level 1 Susanoo Stage Four: Demon's Catastrophe Art

The body of a woman emerged from the clouds. Two long devil horns sprouted from her head, and her long hair glowing a blinding purple.

Slipstream paused, staring at her.

"Wha- I-"

Hakah glared at Slipstream, as he tried to get away, but his feet were locked on the ground by storm clouds. Purple electricity arcing all over his body as Slipstream screamed in agony.

In the blink of an eye, Hakah appeared before him.

"Hey. Just what do you think you're doing to my precious little Yuyan."

Slipstream fell to the ground, choking and gasping for air.

The storm clouds that had surrounded him were sucking all of the air from his lungs, causing him to suffocate.

"L- Lady Hakah... I was just... playing around... I didn't mean..."

Slipstream choked, his Stage Five transformation disappearing.

"I don't want an apology. I want payment." Hakah said, coldly, as she took off her slippers stepped on Slipstream's head. Her feet had talons. And she began cutting them into his skull.

Slipstream screamed in pain.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!"

Hakah's face was full of malice. The cute girl that I had seen...

Her eyes were full of murderous intent.

Of all the Inner Shadows, Hakah was one of the strongest.

Despite all those times she was so sweet, seeing her like this was...

Frightening. There was no denying it.

Her power surpassed Stage Five.

I coughed, as Hakah suddenly stopped, and turned to me, brushing her hand against my face.

"Dear Yuyan... did he hurt you? It's okay. I will make sure he doesn't do that again."

Slipstream got to his feet, but Hakah simply smiled her cute and sweet smile.

Before I knew it, a black cloud appeared and flickered.


Something fell to the ground.

I stared at Slipstream in horror, as his hand had been severed. Slipstream's face white as a ghost, his mouth opening as he let loose a blood curdling cry.


Hakah continued stroking my face.

"My poor Yuyan... I'm so happy you're safe..."

Hakah brought me closer.

Hakah will always be here for me. No matter what.

And I love her for that.

So for your sake, Yeling. I will bring you back.

Otherwise your little sister will be sad.

And I cannot allow that.

(Yeling's POV)

After ignoring Shia's scoldings for beating the shit out of Strife, I made my way to my room and belly flopped on to the bed.

"Ugh. I still need to eat dinner. Chrissake."

I shifted around in the blankets. Stage Four definitely was not a good idea. Now I was too tired to do anything.

I reached out lazily, trying to take out a menu.

"Gahhhhhh dammit..." I grumbled, fumbling with it and looking at it from within the folds of the pillow.


What to get.

The cheesy pasta with tomato sauce...

It reminded me of Spaghetti Bolognese. From Cha Chaan Teng, where I would always go to with my family.

I'm going for it.

I hovered my hand over the magical device.

"Mister Yeling?" A girl's voice appeared from the coms unit.

"Oh, it's you again." I said.

"Will it be Spaghetti Bolognese?"

"Y- Yeah..."

Shit. Did I order it too many times or something? Also why was it always her who answered my room service requests? I mean, it wasn't like I was complaining or anything. But damn.

Didn't she have any other residents to serve?

It didn't even take fifteen minutes, and I heard a knock on the door.

"Come in." I said.

The door creaked open, as the maid stepped in with a cart of the dish. Along with a mug of milk tea.

"Oooohhh.... awesome.... thanks. You're the best." I said, as I got my lazy ass out of the bed and approached her.

The maid had her hands behind her back. Her face looked like it was blushing.

Did she have a fever or something?

"H- Hey." I said, as the girl stared at me.


"You're burning up. Are you okay?"

"Y- Yes! Don't worry about me, Mister Yeling. I'm okay!"

"You're not like this because you keep serving me right? You seem to always be the one to answer my room service requests."

"I'm fine. Really. Really, don't concern yourself with me."

I raised an eyebrow, taking the tray.


I gave the maid an exasperated look.

"You're hungry, aren't you."

"Absolutely not!"


"Come on. Come on in. I'll treat you. Consider it my tip. Since I don't have any loose change on me."

"N- No. It's okay. I really don't need to-"

"You're denying my request for company?"

Her face became even more red.

"No! It's- It's not like that! I'll come in."

A few minutes later, we sat across from each other from the desk.

I shared a portion of my food with her.

It felt nice to reward her once in a while. She was clearly overworked.

And it wasn't just this one off thing. When I say she was the first person to answer all of my room service requests. She literally did everything for me. Even outside maid work.

She would always offer to make me lunches and meals before I would leave for quests.

She would always offer to clean my clothes.

I mean... it was almost she was offering to become my housewife.

Unfortunately, she wasn't my type. As cute and pretty she was.

I already had to deal with Miss Five One Student Council Shia Megumi on a daily basis.

I really didn't need to deal with any more cute types off of adventuring as well. Thank you very much.

But she was really sweet, and so kind.

I didn't want to break the news that I wasn't interested in her.

"Hey. So uh. Do you have a name?"

The girl paused, staring at me.

We looked at each other in awkward silence.


I only realized that now.

I had her do so much stuff for me for free, the least I could have done was ask her for a name. This entire time.


"Hailey, huh. Cute name." I commented, as Hailey's face flushed red again.

I finished eating, as I was about to put the trays and stuff away, but Hailey got up quickly and grabbed my stuff.

"Mister Yeling! Please, let me put it away for you."

"No, I don't need you to do that. Come on. You've done enough."

We began wrestling as Hailey got in close and yelped, falling into my arms. We stared at each other.

Well shit.

One could conclude many things from this.

And it would all be misunderstandings.

"Sorry! I didn't mean to push you like that!"

Hailey gently got up and untangled herself from me. And that was when I noticed it.

"Hailey... what's that in your hair?"

Hailey stopped, putting a hand against her ear.

"N- Nothing..."

"It looks really weird. It's like- budged inside the folds of your hair. Can you undo your ponytail?"

Hailey got to her feet, her eyes wide.


I jumped, startled. Hailey stumbled back.

She looked so scared, and petrified, as if I said something incredibly creepy.

"S- Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you like that..." I held out my hand, but Hailey looked away.

"It's... okay..."

"I mean. Like. It's attached to your earlobe. But the string is like... going to your hair. Are those earrings?"


"But why are you wearing them like that? It looks so weird." I laughed.

Hailey slowly turned to me, her eyes looked sparkly.

Then I realized it was sparkly because it was wet.

"Oh shit. Sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. I shouldn't make fun of a girl's appearance. I should know better." I said, as I put the trays in the garbage.

"Mama would be so disappointed in me." I muttered.

Suddenly, a warmth spread across my hand.

I turned around, to see Hailey had taken it, clasping it in hers.

"H- Hailey?"

"Yeling... I..." Hailey looked like she was really struggling with her words.

"Hey. I think you should really lie down. Take the day off. You've probably been working too hard. It's not good for you, you might get sick."

I put my hand on her forehead.

It was burning up.

"You have a fever."

Hailey closed her eyes.

"It's okay."

"Ummm no. No I don't think a fever is okay. You need rest."

"Can you... do something for me?"

"What is it?"

"Let me rest here. Please."

Hailey looked at me. Pleading almost.

Almost something familiar, sparking deep inside me, but I couldn't quite pinpoint what that exactly was.

"Yeah. Alright."

I picked Hailey up as her head bounced against my chest. She completely relaxed. Almost like she was constantly under tension until I brought her into an embrace.

"You trust me a lot, don't you." I said. But Hailey was fast asleep.

I slowly put her on my bed and brought the covers up.

"Have a good sleep." I whispered, as Hailey smiled slowly, her ponytail becoming undone as her long black silky smooth hair tumbled down her back and reached her waist.

And that was when I realized it.

Her earrings...

A card was attached to each one.

A card of a horse.

My heart exploded in pain as I stumbled back.


This girl...

There was no way...

You should have been dead. No.

I clutched my chest, hyperventilating.

No there was no way that was her.

Calm yourself, Yeling.

That pair of earrings I had bought. It wasn't a one of a kind. There were a lot that was like it in that shop.

It could have been entirely coincidence that this girl had bought a pair as well.

She looked Chinese. And she was really pretty.

Sure Hakah was cute, but there was no way she would grow up to look like that. No way.

But then again, it was hard to gage it. She was still a little girl when she died. I would never really know what a nineteen year old Hakah would look like. That would have been the same age as I would have been back when I was CI's Tidalflame.

Such good looks would have run in the family, and if that was true, why wasn't I getting any ladies?

And there was also the issue that she should have died in that fire that night.

It had to be coincidence.

There was no other reason why she would have these earrings.

But seeing that horse...

"Ha.. Kah..." I murmured, trying to regain my composure. Too many memories and emotions were flooding my head right now.


This girl couldn't have been her.

Stop bringing your hopes up, Yeling.

Your family is dead.

I slowly got up, and opened the door. Heading out of the inn to the town of Cobblestone.

"Hey." A voice said to me from the edge of my vision.

I stopped.

"Yeah. You."

I turned around, to see a man with one hand. He was wearing a long overcoat. It was nothing like the attire of the people in Cobblestone.

"You the Hinokami?"

I readied my hand.

This guy was bad news.

Every cell in my body...

"Hey. Whoa there."

The man held up his hand, revealing an intricate set of teal tattoos.

A surge of fear went through my body.


What was a Dogma Holder doing here?

"My Lord says to stay in the shadows. But I can give a little push if I feel like it. After all. No one can catch me. I am the fastest Level 1 Akuma Grade Dogma holder in history. Would you like a demonstration?"

The man smiled evilly at me.

If this wasn't a bluff, he would have the capacity to land blows on me before I could even summon Tatsu.

What if I tried overheating myself?

But that would damage my surroundings.

My only option...

"Floki: Selective Targeting." I whispered.

My golden eye began targeting the man, the reticules covered by the bangs that hid my right side.

Who was this guy?

He was giving me all kinds of bad vibes.

Floki finished scanning, and my heart crawled into my throat.

Dogma Holders were often classified by ranks to assess their ability. This system was around when Contingency Initiative was a thing.

It was around even now.

When I first joined CI, I was considered an A+ Class, which was already disaster level. Capable of destroying entire cities if I wanted to.

The average operative in CI was B Class. Everybody in Squad Four was at least A Class.

Matt was S+ Class.

When I unlocked Stage Two, I became SS Class.

At Stage Three, I was SSS Class. With Anarchy Form, I was rated Omega Class.

Aelienne, according to the Dogma, was considered Beyond Omega Class, or God Class.

And this guy...

Name: Unknown, Power: Dogma of Equivalent Exchange, Level 1 Suijin. Rank: Beyond God Class.

Beyond God.

The Dogma had told me that Aelienne was the strongest Hinokami in existence.

But.. that was just Hinokami.

And this guy...

To know that he had achieved a power that surpassed Aelienne... and only recently...

"By the way." The man pushed himself off the beam, tapping his cigarette and regarding me with morbid curiosity.

His teal eyes were glowing a devilish light.

"No point trying to scan me with your little artificial eye. I'll save it the effort. You can't beat me. Not even with your borrowed Stage Four Hinokami."

I gritted my teeth.

He could even tell I was using Floki?!


What do I do?!

The man crossed his arms, leaning back on the beam.

"Relax. I'm not gonna kill you. It'll be stupidly anticlimactic. And the last thing I would want is to piss her off again for attacking another one of her loved ones."

"What? Who is her?"

The man smiled at me.

"Oh. You don't need to know. Not yet, anyway. But I'm not here to scare you. Well, maybe a little."

I was sweating bad.

Beyond God Class.

Floki was still scanning him, and more and more abilities were added on to him.

He didn't just have a Dogma of Equivalent Exchange.

He also had an evo.

Two to be exact.

Motion Sponge: The ability to store kinetic energy.

and All Seeing Eye: The ability to see anything that is physically hidden.

"Ah. Looks like your little magic helper finally figured it out. Yeah. My evo. All Seeing Eye. I have... no blind spots."

"Why are you here? If you're not here to fight?"

The man laughed.

"Aw. Well. I'm here to tell you to stop screwing around with that girl, and go help out your comrades is all."


"Unless you want the Guardian's kill to be stolen by someone else..."

My eyes widened.


"Where are they?" I asked.

The man pointed south.

I was about to run off, but the man called me.


I turned around.

"You made yourself quite the circle of friends. But you know it's never gonna last."


I blinked, and the moment my eyes opened, in that split second, the man was gone. Just a breeze.


"Yeling!" Shia called after me, as I found her, Inoko, and Shen.

"What's going on?" I asked.

Shia looked terrified.

"The Guardian. It came. I don't know why, but it didn't come for us."

Inoko quickly geared up.

"It came for Arcana. Swiped her before any of us could do anything."

"What? Where is he now?!"

Shia grabbed my shoulders.

"That's why we called you over! Use Floki!"

I spun around, lifting my bangs and scanning the entire place.

"Floki: Magical Signature Tracking"

Floki got to work.

"Dammit!" Inoko swatted a nearby cup as it smashed into a nearby wall. Everybody in the bar jumped.

"Sorry." Inoko muttered, cleaning up the mess.

Shia put up her hands.

"Guys. We need to stay calm. No point panicking, it's not going to do anyone any goo-"

Shia suddenly stumbled, clutching her chest. The light momentarily left her eyes as she coughed violently.

My heart skipped a beat.

"Sh- SHIA!" I shouted, as Shen, Inoko and I ran forward, catching her before she could collapse.

"Oh dear. Oh dear me. Oh dear." Shen whispered in a trance.

Inoko cradled Shia's head on her shoulder.

"Shia!" Inoko called out to her.

"Can you hear us?! Shia! SHIA!"

Floki was still scanning, millions of magical runes and pathways trying to pinpoint Arcana's location. My vision was flooded with the damn things.

But all I could focus on...

Was Shia, who was convulsing.

"In... Inoko..." I said, my voice trembling.

"Yeling...?" Inoko asked.

I slowly lifted my finger.

"Bring down the collar of her shirt..."

Inoko slowly brought her collar down, and to our horror, all we could see was brown corroded flesh.

Inoko gasped, putting a hand to her mouth.

"No.... no this can't be..."

Shen quickly put his hands on Shia's chest.

"By the divine word of Rain God Shenlong, bring about holy renewal to this mortal girl."

Shen's hands glowed green, but nothing was happening.

"Shen... why... why isn't this..."

Shen closed his eyes.

"It's the curse. The curse that Focal had put on her. We... we spent so long trying to get the artifacts, we didn't notice..."

Shen looked at us, his face was full of despair.

"Four months have already passed."

Shia let loose another violent series of coughs.

"Shen! Just... do what you did to me! Decouple her from the curse! Do something divine!" I screamed, as I grabbed Shen by the neck, shaking him back and forth.

Shen and Inoko could only look at Shia. Their faces were still in shock.


"Mah... Ye ling... I'm a god no longer... you must understand-"

"I DON'T CARE." I yelled.

"I chose to break off my contract with you. I did. I made you a god again. Right? I did it! I made you a god. You're the God of Rain. You're the almighty Storm Dragon. So please... please..."

I sobbed.

"Please don't let Shia be taken away from us..."

Shia coughed again, but slowly lifted her hand, placing it on my face.


"Shia?! Shia you're awake! Save your strength. Save your strength." I replied, desperately.

"The Guardian... if... I die..."

"That won't happen. That won't happen, I promise." Images of Lewis dying flooded my mind. Then...

The memory of Hakah burning to ash before me.

"Yeling... even if I die... the Guardian will still... hurt Arcana..." Shia croaked, her eyes were losing life.

I gritted my teeth.

"How can you be thinking about others when you're like this, Shia?"

Shia regarded me with those annoyingly adorable eyes.

"Maybe I got it... from you... Old Man Yeling."

Shia coughed, as I quickly scooped her up and ran to the inn.

I kicked open the door, as the front desk ladies went silent, staring at me.

"Shia needs help! Please... someone call a doctor. She needs a bed. And... and..."

"Yeling!" Hailey ran up to me, as she saw Shia in my arms.

"Is this... your friend?"

"Yes. She needs help. Please help her. Please..."

Hailey put a hand on her forehead.

"She's cursed..."

"Yes. I... I'm going to see if I can get the cure as fast as I can. Just... call someone to keep her alive. Please. At least until I come back with the cure. I'm begging-"

Hailey put her hands on mine, her face determined.

"I will protect her."

"Hailey..." I stared at the maid, as she helped me load Shia onto the bed in my room.

"If a friend of Yeling needs help, I will do everything I can to assist. Pinky promise on my soul."

I stared at her. My blood ran cold.

"Wha... What did you just say?"

Suddenly, all the lines in my vision converged into one point.

Floki had pinpointed the Guardian.

But I was still staring at Hailey.

"Hailey... can you... repeat what you just said-"

Hailey regarded me, as she placed a damp cloth on Shia's forehead.

"Get the cure, Yeling. Or you will lose another loved one."

I stumbled back, the shock and horror and overwhelming emotion disorienting my mind, scrambling it, but Shen caught me.

"Mah Ye Ling. We must go. NOW."

I looked at Inoko and Shen.

"Yeah." I steeled my nerves.

I'll figure this out after the Guardian is dead.

"Keep up with everything you got. Because I'm not holding back." I growled, as Inoko and Shen nodded.

Shen transformed into a dragon, as Inoko's body glowed silver with the power of Tianlong.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four: Cobalt Phoenix Ascendent

Two wings sprouted from my back as I shot into the air, breaking the sound barrier. Shooting to the location of the crosshairs shown by Floki.

Shen and Inoko were trailing behind, doing their best to catch up to my speed.


I will make you face us.

I will kill you.

I can't afford to have another death.

If I can avoid it. I will do everything I have. Use everything I have.

I swear by it.

Not another Lewis lost.

Not another Hakah lost.

Floki pinpointed the Guardian, which looked like a giant crustacean. It was covered in black and blue armour. Inside, Arcana was within its mandibles. Blood was leaking from where the sharp parts were gripping onto her body.

"I'll get her out!" Inoko shouted.

"I leave that to you!" I replied, as Inoko blasted forward.

The Guardian slowly turned around, as Inoko roared, slamming her fist into the Guardian's hide so hard the armour cracked.

"Let her go!" Inoko shouted, as she ripped the mandibles apart with her bare hands.

Shen swooped in and grabbed the girl with his jaws, flying off, but not before the Guardian roared, and reached out, grabbing Shen's tail.

Inoko drew her axe, slashing as hard as she could, but the blade glanced off its skin.

"Dammit! It adapted again!"

Stage Four Hinokami Rain Style Kenjutsu

I brought Tatsu back, my eyes wide in rage.

Form 1

Tatsu exploded into violent red and blue flames. Glowing brighter and brighter as the blade's temperature increased exponentially.

Grand Ultimate Surface Slash Ascendent

I let loose an overwhelming slash which severed the arm. The Guardian stumbled back, howling into the air as I shot forward.

Stage Four Hinokami Rain Style Kenjutsu

I reared the blade's tip.

Form 7

Inoko rushed forward, as the Guardian swung its claw, which caught her square in the cheek. But Inoko gritted her teeth, grinding her face across the surface of the spiky shell, blood droplets all around, as she grabbed the monster and slammed it into the ground. Immobilizing it, open for my attack.

Grand Ultimate Sharp Winds Ascendent

I unleashed a powerful thrust with Tatsu, as the blade penetrated the shell, letting loose an explosion of Hinokami fire.

The Guardian roared, as it stumbled back.

"You're finished!" I yelled, my eyes in a frenzy. My golden eye was sending me a bunch of warnings.

"Shut up Floki!" I screamed, as I willed the implant to be quiet.

I had to end it.

I had to end it now.

"Wait! Yeling, he's adapted to your-"

I will save Shia.

I can't lose her.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four

I brought my hand up, aiming it right at the hole in the Guardian's chest.

Memories of our time together. When I lived in her flat. Back when we used to go grocery shopping together. When she showed me all across the town of Yon.

Every time we would walk home, and every time.

She saved me from my life as Tidalflame.

What kind of person would I be, if in the most crucial hours.

Where my success would decide whether she would live or not.

I failed.


I roared, unleashing a blast of flame which instantly flooded the inside of the Guardian. The flames exiting its eye sockets and creating two tornados of red and blue fire. The flames began uplifting all the trees and vegetation as I roared.

I was swept back from the shockwave of power.

Inoko landed on her back, as she stared at the destruction.

And to our horror, the Guardian...

Was still alive.

"HOW?!" I said.

"Yeling, he adapts to damage. Don't you remember what Shia told you?"

"But this is Stage Four we're talking about! I don't care how much he adapts. He can't beat me. I have the power of Aelienne and Hinokami on my side. I will kill him! I will-"

"YELING!" Inoko screamed, grabbing me by the collar with her fist.

"This is NOT going to work! It won't!"


"I KNOW!" Inoko said, her eyes were streaming with tears.

"I know! I know, we need to kill him as fast as we can! But that doesn't mean we can lose our cool! If we do, we won't be able to kill him in time, and Shia dies! So in a moment like this, the last thing we need is to lose ourselves."

I tried to calm myself, taking multiple breaths.

"He's adapted to Hinokami. And he resisted your axe."

"Yeah. So now he has invincibility to Hinokami and physical force. Meaning..."

We glanced at Shen, who had returned to us, roaring at the Guardian.

You dare compromise Lady Shia's health? You impudent crustacean.

Shen opened his mouth. A powerful ball of Rainwater forming.

"We need to hold the Guardian in place!" I shouted, as Inoko and I blasted forward, but the Guardian spun around, smacking us with its claws. We went flying back.

Shen fired his beam, which grazed the Guardian, who grabbed the dragon by the throat and slammed him into the ground.

Shen reverted back to human form, as the Guardian began punching him while he was down. Shen's face getting more and more bloody with each strike.

"SHEN!" Inoko shouted, as she blasted forward, stopping the Guardian's strikes with her strength.

I leapt into the air, slashing with Tatsu, but my blade glanced off of its shell.

The Guardian tried to slash at me, but I blocked it with my wings.

"Shoot him again! Shen!" I shouted.

Shen held out his hand, generating another ball of Rainwater and fired, but the blast disintegrated upon contact.

He adapted to Shen's power as well.

The Guardian turned to me and went for an assault, as I used Rain Style to evade and block.

"Inoko! How long before his damage adaptation wears off?!"

"Four hours!"

Four hours was not enough.

I had to do something.

But every weapon we had against this guy was done for.

We should have approached this guy coordinated.

But we didn't...

Because I was just too much in a hurry to end the fight.

Shia was going to die.

* * *

"Your right side isn't ugly." Shia said.

"Oh yeah?" I asked, as I leaned in close.

"Say it again. Now that I'm right in front of you. Look me in the face and tell me that this disgusting half of me isn't ugly."

Shia didn't flinch.

"You're too close."

"See? I told you-"

"No. I meant you're too close. I can smell your breath. Maybe I should stop adding onions to our stir fry."


Shia put a hand on my face, running it across my right side, as my eyes went wide.

No one ever touched my right side.

No one even bothered looking at it, much less touch it.

"What are you-"

Suddenly, Shia smirked, and twisted her hand, shoving my face away.

I fell on my back.

"Hey! What's the big deal?! I'll kill you!"

Shia laughed, as my rage melted.

"Yeling, what are you trying to say? Are you saying I need glasses? My vision is perfectly fine, thank you."

"But my right side-"

"Oh my god! Yeling! Get this through your head!"

Shia stood up. She wasn't exactly towering over me. Even when I was flat on my ass. Since she was only 5 foot 1.

But she gave me the most stern look a sixteen year old high school girl could ever give.

"You may think you're defined by your right side. But that's not enough for me to turn you away. Because to me, you were the man who saved me from those bandits. You were the man who kept me company, even after I admitted to not having enough money to keep a roof over your head! It isn't just your appearance."

Shia took out her spatula and jabbed it at the left side of my chest.

"YOU. I became friends with Yeling Mah! Not Yeling Mah's face! You are my friend. Even if your WHOLE face is burnt. I will still be your friend. Always."


"Yeling, when this is all over. When my curse is lifted, and you know. When Danny is gone. You wanna keep adventuring with me?"

I stared at her.

"What did you just say?"

"Well, I want to keep adventuring with you. And Inoko, and Shen. It's so much fun."

"You're not going to go back to school? Go back to Yon and-"

"No! I want to be an adventurer and go on lots of awesome quests and everything! This is the dream!"

"Well, you can still do that without me-"


Shia ran up to me and put her hands out, blocking me from moving forward.

"Um... what are you doing?"

"Promise me! Promise me, that we will keep adventuring together! Even after everything is over! Forever and ever!"

"But why me?"

"Is that even a question? Because we've been through so much together. Yeling. The only reason this has been so fun... was because I got to do it with you. If you go, and I end up in the craziest, most wackiest party ever like all those isekai I always watch. It will never be the same. It won't ever be the same without you in my life."

I sighed.

"You're not gonna let me go, are ya."


I laughed, startling Shia.

"Huh?! What's so funny! That's creepy, you old man!"

"Alright. I'll entertain you."

I held out my pinky.

"I'll be your comrade. Even after everything is over. Pinky promise on my soul."

Shia stared at me.

"What does that mean?"

"It's a pact I used to always do. With this, no matter what happens. I will always fulfill the oath. No matter what. On my soul. I will keep my promise."

Shia put a hand on her hip.

"Jeez. A twenty four year old man. Still doing pinky promises. What are you, a little kid?"

"You want me as a comrade or not?"

"UGH! But that's so lame!"

Shia and I linked pinkies.

"But... it's worth it."

Shia smiled at me.

* * *

It's worth it.

I have to use it. Even if it breaks me.

I brought my feet back.

"Inoko! Shen! Get out of here! I'm going to use everything I have to take this guy down. No amount of resistance will protect it from this."

Shen grabbed Inoko.

"What are you going to do?!"

Everything I have.

I had to keep my promise.

I roared, powering up.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four

The flames begin to gain shape.

Skeletal features forming all around me. My ultimate trump card.

With this, I was only historically able to access it in Stage Three. In Stage Two, the effects of the flames charred my brain after five minutes of use.

In Stage Three, it made me feral in five seconds.

As Stage Four...

I would lose myself instantly.

But I needed to do it.

Because Shia deserved to live.

"You... you saved me Shia. So I will save you." I muttered.


My body exploded in flame.


Massive wings sprouted from my body as I was lifted into the air, my golem forming, armour cladding it in a red and blue tornado of pure destruction.


Suddenly, the Guardian went limp.

I stopped transforming, as I fell to the ground.

"What...." I muttered.

Life energy was flowing out of the crustacean, entering the blade of another fighter's.

My dizziness subsided, until I was face to face with a man who was around the same build as me. A white scarf was dancing in the wind as he regarded me.

"Yeling." Danny said.

I gritted my teeth, as Danny pulled Yama's sword out of the crustacean's back. The Guardian slumped forward.

"He adapts to damage right? You need different damage types. Now he's immune to life stealing attacks."

The Guardian roared at Danny, but Danny spun around.

"Lei Shen! Destroy this creature!"

Thunder boomed, as a green arc of lightning incinerated from the Guardian from the sky. The monster exploded into black dust, revealing an orb of liquid.

Danny quickly took out a vial and captured it before it could go to waste.

The cure...

Danny regarded me, as I summoned Tatsu.

"Give me the cure, Danny." I growled.

Danny inspected the vial, as Inoko and Shen stood next to me.

"No." He said.

"WHAT DID YOU FUCKIN SAY?!" I roared, rushing forward, but Danny raised the vial. I stopped, my vision red with rage.

"I will give your comrades the vial. In exchange. I want you to come with me to Fa Shan. Alone. So we can finish this. No more games. Your comrade will finally be lifted from her curse. There are no more excuses for you to avoid facing me."

"Yeling..." Inoko said.

"Mah Ye Ling, fighting him alone is unwise." Shen warned me.

"I know. But..."

I turned to my comrades.

"We need to save her. We need to save Shia. If this gives her the cure, then so be it. I'll deal with Danny. You guys get out of here. She doesn't have much time left."

Inoko and Shen were very clearly not okay with this, but they knew we had no options left.

If we tried anything, Danny would probably just smash the vial and fuck us all over.

We needed to do this.

I needed to do this.

"Fine." I growled.

"We'll have our little match."

I walked up to Danny, as he grabbed me by the shoulder.

Danny tossed the vial to Inoko, who caught it. Shen transformed into a dragon, as Inoko climbed on top. She gave me one last look before the two took off at top speeds.

"Good luck. Yeling."

I nodded grimly, as it was just Danny and I alone.

"Fa Shan. Right?" I said.


Suddenly, shadows began to emerge from the ground.

I stumbled.


"Relax. They're with me."

I glared at him.

"They're working for you?!"

"Not exactly... they're... assigned to me."


"Doesn't matter. They will take us to Fa Shan."

The shadows regarded us.

Last son of the Mah Bloodline. Do not disgrace our Lady with this bout.

I gritted my teeth.

Danny raised an eyebrow.

"Wait you can understand them?"

"What? Can't you?"

Danny shook his head.

"No... I don't..."

What did they say the last time I encountered them?

You are not our enemy. Elder Son. We do not wish to fight you.

That was what they told me.

The swirls on the shadow's face... they looked like storm clouds in a vortex. It was unsettling.

Danny turned around, as the shadows swirled, circulating around the both of us as our environment began to warp and change.

"Yeling... there's so many things I want to talk to you about. So many things I want to tell you. I guess fighting was really the only way, huh."

"You killed my friends. You killed Lewis. You killed Whitney, Maika, Flint. You killed my family."

"And you took Duncan away from me."

I clenched my fists as hard as I could.

"I made a mistake. Of ever calling you a friend."

Danny glared at me.

"And I guess that makes two of us."

The Final Showdown

"RAAAAAAAAAAUGHHHHH!!!" Danny roared into the sky, Kanghui emerging from his shrine.

We were at the tallest mountain in Fa Shan.

The same place we faced off last time.

Red wooden shrines were uprooted from the ground as Kanghui merged into Danny, thunder booming in the sky, swirling like a tornado.

Trees uplifting and a massive windstorm turning the entire province of China dark.

I glared at Danny from a distance. At the bottom of the stairs of the mountain.

Danny was going all out.

His entire body was smoking, but sparking with electricity all around.

"Huang Dai Sin's Regeneration, Guan Yu's Battle Memories, Kanghui's Power, Yama's Sword, Hundun's Speed. Baosheng's Health. Lei Shen's Storms. Assist me to take down The Devil's Flames."

He made a contract with that many gods... even after we had shattered his relics.


I brought my foot back, as red and blue flames swirled all around me.

Level 1 Hinokami Stage Four

My body exploded into flame, two massive cladded phoenix wings emerging from my back and four demonic horns sprouted from my head. Golden ancient armour cladding my arms and jeans.

Cobalt Phoenix Ascendent

I held out my hand.


Tatsu appeared, as I clutched the hilt.

"Floki: Enemy Scan. Full takedown tactics."

I pulled my hair back, revealing my right side.

Numerous magic circles appearing in front of my right artificial eye.

Scan Complete: Countermeasures installed.

The two of us readied our weapons. Danny's axe and Yama's sword. My Tatsu and Chainblade.

"ROOOOOAAAAAAAAHH!!!" We cried out together, charging.

We clashed our blades, shattering the entire mountain. A massive crater blew everything back as everything went down.

"I will... destroy you..." Danny gritted his teeth.

I roared, going Intangible and slipping past him, spinning around.

Form 6: Grand Ultimate Vortex Wheel Ascendent

I unleashed a massive tornado of red and blue flame which decimated the entire mountain, throwing Danny back.

But Danny blocked the attack with his blades, shooting to me with blinding speed.

But Floki had already predicted it.

I weaved out of the way, Danny's eyes wide.


I reeled my fist back.

"RARRR!" I snarled, slamming my Chainblade as it sunk deep into Danny's shoulder.

Danny growled in pain, as he tried to sever the chain, but I yanked, throwing him into the air.

I flapped my wings, blasting to the air to his location.

Danny swung Yama's sword, as the blade disintegrated my afterimage.

"YOU-" Danny shouted, as I appeared behind him.

I slashed as hard as I could with Tatsu, as Danny narrowly blocked with his axe.

"GRRRRR" The two of us seethed as our clash caused our respective auras to alter the very weather.

"Kang...hui...." Danny snarled, as the dragon instantly left his body, allowing me to win the clash. But the momentum thrusted me forward, as Danny smashed into the ground, creating a massive shockwave which decimated all of the wildlife in Fa Shan.

I lost my footing as Kanghui appeared behind me, about to release a torrent of water.

But Floki had already installed the appropriate movements into my body.

Floki already figured it out.

I descended from the sky, and spun violently, spinning my wing and slicing the jaw off of the God of Water.

Kanghui roared, as I brought Tatsu back.

"This is for Squad Four!" I roared.

Form 8: Grand Ultimate Ascendent

I swung Tatsu four times, each slash ripping the body of Kanghui apart violently.


Kanghui moaned, his body collapsing as Danny tried to shoot to me, but his power had declined significantly.

"Senkaku!" Danny tried to shout, but I held out my hand, my Chainblade exploding in flame as the blade soared to his location.

Danny tilted his head, dodging the blade, but I yanked it, pulling a giant boulder from the land.

The boulder smashed Danny in the back of the head as he flew into the ground.

I turned back to Kanghui, who's copper head was melted and torn apart from Hinokami.

You... you can't... I am a god...

I glared at Kanghui, my red and blue flames illuminating my face sinisterly.

"Chinese folklore once said that you lost to Zhurong. You never lived it down. Well. Now, you're going to lose to another God of Fire. This is payback. You stupid dragon."

I released a blast of flame which disintegrated the God of Water instantly.

"KANGHUI!" Danny shouted, as I closed the distance.

Danny coated his body in flames, but that wasn't enough.

Rain Style Empty Handed Technique: Flowing River Dance

Danny and I exchanged blows.

"Your style is nothing compared to Guan Yu!"

Danny overwhelmed me in strikes, as he slammed my face with a strike, then smashed me into the ground, but I went Intangible again.

Swapping between Intangibility and tangibility, striking and countering, as Danny continued to try to hold me off.

Danny launched another back kick, but I caught it with my hands. Floki's magical circles still projecting from my right eye.

"That eye!" Danny snarled, as I slammed his leg into the ground and breaking it.

Danny stumbled back as I went close, smashing my fists into his body and bypassing all of his defences.

Countermeasures detected.

"Execute." I said, as my body went on autopilot, I launched a barrage of punches and chops that disabled all of his joints, then went straight for his neck, breaking it and twisting it.

Danny swung again, but I weaved, dislocating his joints all around.

Danny fell to his knees, as I grabbed him by the face, firing a bolt of Stage Four Hinokami as I flipped in the air, slamming my old friend into the ground and forming a massive chasm that seemingly split China apart.

"YELING!" Danny screamed, falling into the abyss.

I hovered in the air, readying Tatsu and my Chainblade.

Floki was still detecting Danny from within the darkness. His limbs were all dislocated, but he was still making his way to the top.

I blasted to his location, pinpointing him and began slashing violently all over his body with my two swords and wings.

Danny coughed out blood, as I strafed him again, releasing my Chainblade and slashing at him from a distance.

I shot inwards, my fist brought back and slammed him out of the chasm, sending his body flying into the sky.

"RAAAAAHHHH!" Danny screamed, releasing Lewis' evo, thousands of golden beams my way.

I went Intangible, flying through it, as the beams incinerated and destroyed the entire land below.

Danny shouted, releasing Matt's Senkaku arms my way, but Floki analyzed the movements, as I bobbed and weaved out of the way, closing the distance.

"NO NO NO NO NOOOO!!!" Danny screamed, releasing Maika's evo, millions of afterimages of himself, as he began to try to siphon my life-force with Whitney's evo, but Floki highlighted the real Danny, as I launched a Form 1 Surface Slash that overwhelmed his lungs.

Danny began choking, glaring at me, as he took out his axe and flew higher into the air, trying to evade me. But I was making eye contact with him, closing the distance with a crazed expression.

"Get... get away from me!" Danny shouted, as Flint's portals formed in front of me, but I unleashed more Hinokami, overloading them before it could redirect me.

"You dare disrespect them... using their evos after you killed them?!" I snarled, appearing above him.

I slashed Tatsu, as it sunk deep into his neck, slicing all the way to his hip, as Danny sputtered blood, choking and retching.

I pressed my hand against his face, unleashing an ITR in a fury.

Danny descended from the air, as I brought out my hand.

Hinokami Stage Four: Phoenix Covenant

A massive red moon formed, as I threw it at Danny, which engulfed him and unleashed a red explosion which shook the entire world.

Danny roared, as he landed on the ground, his body charred.

I smashed into the ground before him, flames and wind swirling around me.

Tatsu in hand, and my Chainblade wrapped around my other arm.

I approached Danny and ripped Yama's blade out of his hands.

"I... I'm not done..." Danny's body suddenly regenerated instantly.

Dammit! The gods he contracted with! He had godly regeneration and health!

Danny grabbed me by the next and retrieved Yama's sword, slashing at me as I went Intangible, but that wasn't enough. As I made distance and skidded backwards, my leg exploded in pain.

"ARGHHH!" I growled, clutching it. The wound was leaking black fluid.

He corroded my left leg.

Danny shot forward, as Floki's auto piloting allowed me to block his axe with Tatsu.

I slashed with my wings, cutting deep into his body, but Danny's vitality was enhanced by Baosheng.

"YELIINNNNGGGG!" Danny roared, slashing with Yama as I leaned back, but my leg collapsed, causing me to fall on my back.

Danny leapt into the air, his body glowing blue with Joe's evo.

I flapped my wings, blasting me out of the way before Danny could create another chasm.

I managed to sideways step, but the moment I regained my senses, Danny had launched another slash with Yama, which cut me deep in the chest.

I coughed out black blood, as Danny zipped in and kicked me in the stomach, shooting me through dozens of houses.

Villagers and civilians screamed at the chaos, as I lay suspended in thousands of pounds of debris.


Floki was alerting me.

Techniques deviation detected. Recalculating.

Danny had changed his style again.

Danny brought his foot in a circle, readying his axe and sword.

This wasn't what he used before.

"Guan Yu, he already figured out your first style. We need to switch it up."

"Danny!" I yelled, as I charged forward, but the sky rumbled, a bolt of Lei Shen's lightning smashed me in the back of the neck. I crashed into the ground.

Danny ran up to me and brought his foot back, kicking me in the face as I flew into the air.

Lei Shen's storms continued to ravage my body as my coat ripped off.

"Damn... you..." I snarled.

Grand Ultimate Devil's Hurricane

A firestorm broke through the clouds, tearing it apart, but Danny swung his axe, appearing in front of me.

Floki couldn't predict his next move.

I brought Tatsu up, but I wasn't fast enough, as the blade severed my left pinky. Pain exploding, my eyes wide.

"AAAAARGHHH!" I yelled.

Danny knocked me into the ground, and landed, his body smoking with Joe's powers.

"WHY?!" Danny screamed, punching me in the face with his enhanced strength over and over and over again.


I tried to block his attacks with my wings, but Danny roared, grabbing them and ripping them out of my back.

Danny continued punching me.

A tooth flew out of my mouth, clattering to the ground.

"We were... best friends..." Danny muttered, as his blows began slowing down. Vala's power output was too much for his body even with Huang's and Baosheng's power coursing through it.

I roared, sitting up and slamming my horns into Danny's forehead, blood gushing as I heard his skull crack.

Danny fell backwards, as I grabbed my Chainblade and began stabbing him in the chest over and over again.

But my movements were getting duller by the second as well.

Yama's poison was spreading through my body, weakening me.

If I wasn't Stage Four, I would have been long since dead.

"How can you still be going on about that..." I snarled, as Danny tried to retaliate, but I slashed his hands straight off with my blade, continuing to stab him over and over.

"After you killed the people who loved and cared about me, when no one in New Ulysses did."

Danny tried to summon Lei Shen, but I slashed at his throat, his eyes went wide, blood exploding from his neck and splattered over me.

"I LOVED LEWIS." I screamed at my old friend.


Danny tried to fight back, grabbing my Chainblade and yanking it away with Joe's strength, but I grabbed his shoulders and began head butting him with my horns.

"Lewis... he cursed Shia, because he thought that would be enough to help me awaken my power to defeat YOU. You are the reason all of my friends are suffering. YOU were the reason I was suffering!"

Danny kicked me in the chest, sending me back, as he grabbed a brick and slammed it into Floki, causing sparks to fly.

Half of my vision disappeared.

Danny held up the brick again, but I punched him in the face.

Then grabbed him by the collar, shooting into the air.

The two of us started pummelling each other, as we were thousands of feet airborne, the night sky above us.

Danny punched me in the face, shattering my horns, but I retaliated, slamming my fist into his stomach then the side of his head.

The two of us wrestled, as we fell from the sky, slamming back into Fa Shan with a big


Stage Four dissipated, and I could tell it was the same for Danny, because his aura was now gone, and his body was smoking.

Danny's throat slowly closed up, as I rushed forward and threw him to the ground, but we wrestled, and soon, Danny was on top of me, pummelling my face.

"Their deaths... were because I was in a frenzy... they came for ME. What else did you think I wanted to do? Let them kill me? Do you think you're in the right, Yeling?!"

I kicked him in the face, as we circled each other, bloodied.

We took off our shirts, which were tattered and torn.

We both knew that if we kept them on, the other person would try to use it to strangle.

We both thought on the same wavelength.

"Every time I thought I could see you get better, you threw it all away to become this Tidalflame again."

"Like you understand my reasons!"

"This all started because you refused to see that! Yeling! This entire time, I was TRYING to understand! I was TRYING so hard! Why couldn't you see that?!"

"RAARRR" I ran forward, as did Danny as we began slamming our fists into one another.

Rain Style Empty-

Danny socked me in the jaw as I fell backwards.

"Guan... Guan Yu-"

I swept my leg, as Danny fell to the ground, conking his head on the pavement.

I climbed on top of him, summoning my flames, and began squeezing his throat.

His healing was now gone. I could sense it.

His flesh was completely carbonized by Hinokami, and all those healing powers he had, were exhausted because of his now zero stamina reserves.

"It... It's too late to understand... now..." Danny choked, as he chomped down on the stump that used to be my pinky finger. I screamed in pain.

Danny began to writhe, shaking his head and ripping a chunk of flesh from my hand as I fell backwards, clutching my hand in agony.

Danny spat out a mass of red and tried to charge forward, but he fell flat on his face, his teeth were chipped.

I gritted my teeth and struggled forward, stomping my foot on his head.

Over and over again.

As Danny yelled in pain.

I breathed heavily. My vision was turning blurry, as I stumbled.

"P- Pinky... promise..." Danny muttered, as I turned around.

"We promised... to look after... each other..."

My eye went wide.


Danny tried to get to his feet but fell back on the ground again.

"If one of us goes... down..."

"No, Danny. That's enough. It's... it's over..."

"I tried... but no matter what I do to try to help... it only made it worse. I'm sorry... Yeling..."

"There's no point... there's no point anymore Danny."

That pinky promise...

I made that a long time ago.

But nothing excuses what you did to my friends.

Nothing excuses that at all.

"We've both taken lives from both sides... there's no merit in this promise anymore. I'm going to end it all... right here."

I slowly walked forward, but fell.

The strength in my legs were gone.

"On my soul... we promised to look after.... each other but you broke it... we broke it Danny..."

Danny gasped for air, each breath he was taking was squirting blood into the air.

"Shadows... take him... to the Lady. Help me..."

The ground began to turn dark.


Shadows began creeping from the cracks of the ground.

"What are you doing?" I gasped.

You may be the last son of the Mah Bloodline. But we serve our Lady. If it means bringing you to her, we will assist Yuyan.

The shadows began to wrap around Danny, overloading his body, until he got bigger and bigger and bigger.

A massive of darkness of black and blue lines towering over me.

I didn't even have the strength to stand.

"I may have broken the promise with you. But I made another. I let you down, Yeling. But I won't let her down."

"No..." I muttered.

The monstrous golem reached out to grab me, but suddenly, green projectiles appeared all over it.


The kunai exploded, causing the golem to buckle as someone grabbed me from behind, putting her arms around me.

"Yeling!" A familiar voice appeared.

I stared at my stump of a head, as my pinky regenerated. My wounds healing, but only part way.

This was...

Rain God Shenlong: Holy Water Renewal

"I won't let you die on me, we still have so many adventures to go on together. Don't ever leave me. You stupid old man." Shia said as she helped me to my feet.

Shia smiled, her body glowing green with Shen's power.

"Looks like he's quite the handful. Need a hand?"


Shia and I faced Danny together.

"Yeah. I did make a promise to you as well. That I would be your comrade after all of this is over."

I held out my hand.


Tatsu appeared, as I slashed down.

Danny roared at us, no longer the same guy I used to know in uni.

He was now a thing. A grotesque monster of pure shadows.

And if we let him rampage, it wouldn't just be the end of me, it would be the end of the world.

I will take you down.

Pinky promise on my soul.

Danny roared, groaning as he brought his fist down.

"Yeling!" Shia shouted, as I fired Hinokami from my palms, evading as the two of us went into the air.

"Where are the others?" I asked.

"I was the only one who could make it through the portal. The transport from Cobblestone to here was too far in such a short period of time. They told me that I deserved to go, since I was the one who guessed Fa Shan's location, based off of what you told me when we used to live together."


You remembered something like that? After all this time?


Danny reached out again.

"Let's go! Yeling!"


Shia summoned a katana, as green lines arced all over her arms.

I brought out Tatsu as we both shot forward, our movements synchronized, as if our movements came together like a thread.

Rain Style Kenjutsu: Form 2 - Sun Wheel

Vertical slashes appeared on both sides of the arms, as Danny groaned, the hand dispersing into a flock of shadows that closed in on me.


Shia shouted, holding out her hand, a magical circle appearing in her palm. Suddenly, thousands of swords appeared out of nowhere, impaling each shadow with a glowing green light.

Level 1 Hinokami: Inverse Tsunami Release

I blasted a torrent of flame, incinerating the shadows as we flanked the monster, slashing the sides.

Shia flew, her green aura sparkling in the chaos. Whenever a shadow arm tried to come after her, she would use her summoning powers to create a blade, reinforced with Shen's Rainwater, to slice it up.

She was no longer the helpless girl that I knew for so long.

She worked hard to learn Shen's power and to master her summoning magic so she could stand here today.

I had no excuse to stay weak.

I clutched Tatsu, and delivered several Form 1 Surface Slashes at Danny's ankles, causing him to buckle.

Danny's massive mouth opened, spewing black liquid at me.

"Yeeelinngg....." He groaned, as the sea of black came flying my way.

Rain Style Kenjutsu Form 3: Laminar Downpour

I swung and bent, in a winding motion, slashing everything in the vicinity, and creating a flowing path of red fire, cutting apart everything and revealing an opening at his mouth.

Shia appeared in front of it, as she swung a chain at me.

"Catch!" She shouted at me, as I grasped it.

Shia's body glowed green as she yanked me to her direction.

I brought the tip of Tatsu back.

Rain Style Kenjutsu Form 7: Sharp Winds

I delivered a thrust, which cut a massive hole in Danny's mouth, as Shia brought her hands up, more magical circles surrounding her as thousands of spears came flying out, ripping and shredding at the shadows.

"I won't... fall... no...."

Danny's voice was muffled, low and sinister, probably from the mound of shadows that was covering him. He was the size of a multiple storied building.

A shockwave blasted us point blank.

Shia and I skidded backwards, facing the giant, as police cars and law enforcement tried to evacuate the place, but they were being crushed by the mere footsteps of Danny's berserk golem.

"Shia, I don't know if we have the firepower to kill him like this. He keeps regenerating with those shadows."

"Yeling, how much gas do you have in the tank?"

"I can probably call upon Stage Two, but only for a few seconds."

We watched as Danny stumbled, stepping on everything and creating mass destruction and havoc. All the houses and buildings that were once part of Fa Shan were completely decimated.

"If he keeps rampaging around, it won't just be Fa Shan that's going to be doomed." Shia said.

"Gah! What do we do then?!"

"We need more firepower." Shia said, as we dodged another blow from Danny, flying in the air. The shadows were just too much to count. Every shadow we cut down seemed like a drop in the ocean.


I went Intangible, but only barely, as I instantly regained shape and smashed into the ground of a nearby building roof.

Shia summoned a shield, but Danny's punch sent her flying.

I blasted to her location and caught her, crashing through a window and landing on the ground.

Several people screamed at me.

A family.

I stared at them in horror, as the remnants of my flames began to set the carpet of the house on fire.

"Ti- Tidal- Tidalflame..." A little boy stammered, as I slowly got up.

My mind flashing to my family, as I clutched my head.

"Yeling? Yeling! Get a hold of yourself!" Shia urged me, grabbing my elbow.

"You guys need to go! Run!" Shia urged them, who were still in a panic as the flames began racing up to them.


No it was happening again.

Shia stared at me.

"Yeling! Are you going to let a repeat of what happened to your family happen again? You're strong now! You can stop that flame!"

I snapped back to reality.


I am.

I can avoid this.

I brought my fist up, and willed the flames to return to my tattoos.

I knelt down in front of the family. Speaking Canan.

I hope they knew what I was talking about, there were some words that overlapped, maybe pronounced a little differently than Mandarin. But this one had to.

"Run!" I shouted, as the family ran as fast as they could, the roof of the house ripping off, revealing Danny's grotesque giant face.

"I got this!" Shia said, as she summoned several rafts, holding the family and flying off with them to somewhere safe.

Danny reached out, destroying and making room for his hand as I darted to the side.

"Come... with me... Yeling... My Lady needs you..."

I continued running but collapsed.

I was out of stamina.

I brought up my hand and fired another Inverse Tsunami Release, blasting the shadows that comprised the giant hand that was closing in on me, slowing it down as much as I could.

"GAHHHH!" I yelled. My forearm felt like it was about to break. My muscles were all aching and crying out.



Tidalflame's face appeared in my mind. From Tian's test.

And when this is all over, when this quest is over, it will be us to destroy Transplant. Not them. They will leave us, Yeling. They will leave you. And be happy. While you will continue to suffer alone.

Am I...

Going to die alone?

"GET AWAY FROM HIM!" Inoko's voice suddenly broke through my trance, as a giant sword slammed down, slicing the hand in two, then a Rainwater beam disintegrated the two halves.

Shen and Inoko stood in front of me, putting distance between me and Danny.

Inoko's sword gleamed with a silver tint. The same sword from when I first met her in Arii.

Inoko turned around, her face flush with relief.

"Yeling... are you okay?"

"Y- Yeah."

Danny roared.


Suddenly, a giant spear appeared from the sky, launching down and impaling him from the top of his head.

Danny's golem went slack, slumped on the ground, as his hand began reaching for the lance, ripping it out of its body, as Shia appeared next to us. The four of us emerged from the house, standing before Danny.

Danny's body became visible, at the center of the giant.

"You guys... don't understand... Yeling must come with me. For her. She needs him. You don't get it."

Inoko looked at me.

"Your friend is a total nutcase."

"He's not my friend. Not anymore."

"Then your stalker is a total nutcase."

I smirked.

"Yeah. Yeah, he is."

Inoko burst into a silver sparkling aura, readying her great sword, while Shen transformed into his dragon form.

Shia stepped on a floating summoner disk.

"Distract him so he'll focus on you guys. And not the surroundings. I'll come up with something."


The three of us charged Danny, who tried to retaliate with his shadows. But Inoko leapt into the air using the debris as leverage and bounding from one chunk to another, slashing and cutting in a frenzy, while Shen would occasionally provide aerial footing for her, and Rainwater beams that would damage Danny's giant.

Danny continued trying to come after me, as I evaded. Leaping from building to building and shooting into the air with blasts of Hinokami.

"BRING IT!" I roared, holding my hand up as I strafed along a telephone line, blasting dozens of fireballs at the giant from a distance, causing Danny to roar.

Shia appeared next to me.

"I got it!"

"Jesus, Shia, don't scare me like that!"

"Relax, this is just a hologram. Listen. You know that one move you have? The Devil's Pebble?"

I gave holo Shia an annoyed expression.

"Do you mean Devil's Comet?"

"Yeah that. I don't know! You have like a million names for it! Meteorite, comet, pebble-"

"I never once called it pebble! Meteorite is the stronger version of Comet, but I don't have the stamina for it!"

"Nevermind what it's called! I've just given Inoko and Shen instructions. What I'm going to do, is I'm going to summon a Rainwater chain to loop around Danny's neck, and Inoko will use that to force him down. Then Shen will fire a wide Rainwater blast to weaken the whole thing. But this will use up all the mana we have, the rest is up to you. Devil's Comet to the center where Danny is, and force him out of the torso. That should dissipate the golem."


I nodded, grimly.

"Let's do it."

We continued evading, as Shia summoned a chain, looping it around Danny's neck.

Inoko yelled, leaping into the air and grabbing the chain and yanking with everything she had, forcing Danny's monster form to fall on its knees, bending down on all fours. And from the sky, I heard Shenlong's roar.

A wide beam of green light shone from the sky, divine, as the shadows screamed in agony.

The light began shining all over the land, as the darkness turned bright. The soil that was all around me began to sprout green buds of wildlife, as if Shen's attack had revitalized the entire province of China.

"NOW! YELING!" Shia shouted.

"DO IT NOW!" All three of my party members yelled at me, as I roared, powering up with what little stamina I had left.

Level 1 Hinokami: DEVIL'S COMET

I blasted forward, my body turning into a red streak of flame like a bullet, going straight to Danny who stared at me, his eyes wide.

"It's over." I muttered.

Five years.

It took me five years to put you back into the grave.


Sorry it took so long.


Yuyan Zheng.

There weren't a lot of people who would keep in contact with me in school. Even after the semester ended, many of the people I knew ended up leaving me.

We would never talk again.

That was how it always was.

Because in the end, I wasn't much to them. They always had someone else to turn to.

Their own niche.

I was always the odd one out.

How could I have someone to turn to when everybody else already had someone else?

Every girl I talked to would always end up ghosting me. As if I had perverted motives.

When that just simply wasn't the case.

I just wanted friends.

And so, every day, I would show up to school, completely alone.

I hated showing up to class and having everybody talk to their respective niches.

I hated being in a social environment because somehow, that was even worse than being locked up in my own room.

It was so much worse.

Until you came along.


Because for the first time in my life, it felt like I saw someone eye to eye.

We were both alone. Sure you had Duncan, but Duncan had his girlfriend.

And we were both alone.

We both couldn't speak to girls, and we were both loners.

For the first time in my life, you were the only person who would maintain contact with me even after semester ended.

And we would always talk.

For years after.

Even after opening up about my mental health, most people would avoid me, but you didn't.

You stayed by my side.

So when my family was killed by the Hinokami, you were all I had left.

The closest thing I had to a brother.

So can you imagine the massive hurt, when you decided to stomp on everything I had shared to you?

Can you imagine the pain and betrayal I felt when you sided with Duncan to step on my mental illness that day?

I closed in, launching myself at Danny and ripping him out of the shadows as the two of us tumbled around in the torso of the giant shadow golem.

Shadows surrounded me.

Come with us.

Do not resist, Last Son. Return to her. Return to our lady.

Level 1 Hinokami: Devil's Typhoon

The shadows let loose a blood curdling cry as they dissipated.

Danny struggled to his feet, his entire face bloody. He grimaced, as I faced him down. My ponytail had become undone, as my bangs covered my bloody face.

I panted, as I inched forward.



We charged, as Danny swung his fist and caught me square in the jaw. My head snapped back, but I stamped my foot behind me, launching an uppercut.

Danny yelled, slamming me into the side of the walls of the torso.

"Take you back... I'll take you back... to her..."

Danny began punching at my ribcage, causing my side to explode in pain.

"RAAAAAH!" I yelled, remembering that day Danny had turned his back on me, walking with Duncan.

I picked Danny up with monstrous strength. Danny's face full of surprise as I slammed him onto the ground, climbing on top and punching him in the face.

Blood sprayed everywhere.

I couldn't tell if it was his or mine.

"Get off of me!" Danny screamed, grabbing my face and pushing his finger into my eye socket which housed Floki.

I could feel my nerves being torn as I yelled in pain.

"Floki: Discharge!" I yelled, as a massive electrical current arced both me and Danny, electrocuting us both.

"AAAAAAH!" We yelled at the same time. Floki popped and smoked, as I fell on my back.

The smell of burnt hardware filled the air, as Danny struggled to his feet, dragging his hands off the ground to me.

I roared, kicking with all my strength, catching him square in the face. Danny flew to the other side of the torso.

I stumbled, holding up my hand.

Level 1 Hinokami: Inverse Tsunami Release

A weak sputter of flame exited my red tattoos, catching Danny in the stomach. But Danny growled, ripping a shadow and using it to pat himself off.

Danny held out his hands.

"Yeling... I don't... I don't wanna do this... but..."

Two flashes of light appeared in his palms, as two pistols were aimed at me.

"Just... surrender yourself... please I'm begging you." Danny sobbed, the barrels of the guns aimed right at me.

"So now you're begging? You two faced prick." I snarled, as I staggered forward.


The bullets caught me in the right angle and left thigh, dropping me to the ground as I roared in pain.

"Stop this... Yeling... just stop resisting. For once in your life. Just let it happen."

I grabbed Danny's legs, as he fired another shot which caught me in the back.


I threw Danny to the ground, as his guns clattered on the ground.

Danny tried to scramble to get them, but I fired a bolt of flame which caused one of the weapons to explode, igniting the gunpowder in it.

The explosion caught Danny in the face, incinerating the left side of his face as Danny screamed in pain.

Danny stumbled, hand on his left side, as he slowly removed his hand.

I breathed heavily.

Level 1 Hinokami...

I lifted my hand, but suddenly, my hand exploded into sparks.

I had no more stamina to use Hinokami.

Danny rushed forward and grabbed my wrist, as I pummelled his face with my other hand.

Danny held on.

"Stop this... just STOP! YELING!"

"Shut up! Why are you acting like you want me alive all of a sudden?! Why?!"

Danny head butted me as I fell backwards.

He was breathing hard, barely able to maintain his composure.

"Because I know... finally... what it's like to be all alone."

"Like hell you do-"

"I DO. Ever since I reanimated, I had no one. Everybody was trying to kill me, like some god damn Elimination Contract! Has it not occurred to you, Yeling?! That I have no one! Ever since I woke up!"

I paused, as Danny clutched a nearby piece of the golem, which was falling apart.

"You have Shia, Inoko, and Shen. Every time I tried to fight you, you had people trying to... trying to protect you. People who hold you dear... But me?"

Danny pointed at himself.

"Even before Uni, all I had was you and Duncan. And even when I spent time with Duncan, he always had his girlfriend. Did you really think I would put him above you?! You both were precious to me! So in a way... I was alone back then... and now that I'm back from the dead... I'm even more alone than before..."

Tears streamed down his face.

"Even my Lady, who acts so compassionate for me... I know in the end, she wants you too. I'm not stupid. We both went to the same prestigious university together after all. I'm not an idiot. I'm just a means for her... So she can put up a sweet act all she wants, but she won't ever choose me in the end. She wants you. It's so obvious she wants you over me."

"What are you talking about-"

Danny knelt down, picking up his gun.

I couldn't do anything.

He had blasted my legs, and Yama's poison was now fully working on me now that I was no longer Stage Four.

It would only be seconds before...

Before the poison was going to kill me.

Danny inspected the barrel.

"Yeling... this new life you have... you've finally done it. You found people you love who love you back. Who see you as someone precious-"

Danny's voice broke.

"I never once hated you, Yeling. That day I abandoned you, it was because I didn't know what to say. I was too scared of triggering you. You were so unstable when your family died. I was terrified. I left with Duncan that day..."

Danny looked at me, his eyes bloodshot.

"Because I wanted to figure out a way to make it up to you with him."

I stared at Danny, as the entire place was coming down.

"But... what about... what about all those times you told me that my mental health wasn't an excuse?"

"To tell you that... you weren't alone in your suffering. Because I know you more than anyone else. The last thing you want in this world is to be alone. Being lonely is the most painful feeling a person can ever feel."

My heart crawled into my throat.

It felt hard to swallow.

"Danny... why are you telling me this now..."

"Because..." Danny muttered, as the entire golem crashed onto the ground, light breaking through the torso.

Danny aimed the barrel of the gun, but it wasn't pointed at me.

"DANNY! WAIT!" I shouted, as I tried to get up, but I was too injured.

Danny smiled one last time.

"Seeing you happy and no longer alone, is enough for me to rest. So... be happy for my sake."


I stared at Danny, as the blood exploded, painting the walls red.

Danny's corpse slumped over, his eyes still open but devoid of all life.

I breathed heavily, hyperventilating, as the reality finally hit me.

Danny Zheng.

My best friend.

Had killed himself in front of me.

The shadows dispersed, surrounding me, as I heard Shia and Inoko shouting my name from the distance.

The shadows began swirling in one point before Danny's body. And from the tornado of darkness, stepped out a girl.

She was wearing red silk, black stockings and had a curvaceous figure. Elegant and pronounced, but her aura.

It was extremely dangerous.

More dangerous that Danny's.


Somehow more dangerous than that man I had encountered before, the Suijin holder.

Purple tattoo lines decorated her entire body, from her thighs to her arms and chest. Flowers decorated the lines, and her long black silky smooth hair was tied back with a magenta ribbon, braided along one side.

The girl knelt down next to Danny, checking his pulse.

Then she looked at me. Her round eyes looked so familiar, red as night.

The shadows who had swarmed me suddenly bowed in allegiance.

Our Lady is here.

We give our lives to our Queen.

The Queen of the Susanoo.

The girl smiled at me, as she ran her hand across Danny's head.

"You sacrificed yourself for him. How noble. How... foolish..."

The girl laughed crazily, as she snapped her fingers, barring Inoko and Shia away from us.

I turned around.

Storm clouds.


The girl approached me, her face had a large smile on it. Like she had suddenly met someone who she had not seen in ages.

"My dear Yeling... I missed you so much..." The girl murmured, fiddling with something on her ears.

My heart stopped.


With a card of a horse on each side of her head.

"What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost!" The girl laughed.


The girl smiled evilly.

"Now... it is time... it is time for you to come to me, my precious precious Dai Goh."



This can't be happening.

"HOW DARE YOU?!" I roared, my voice emanating so loud that I could feel my veins bulging out of my forehead. My lungs aching from the effort of the strain.

The girl paused, her face startled.


I glared at the girl, getting to my feet. Rage and adrenaline was now taking over my body, ignoring all of the gunshot wounds. All of the broken bones and sprained joints. All the cuts and bruises that I had sustained.

Pure fury.

"You dare... you dare impersonate her?! HOW DARE YOU IMPERSONATE HER?!" I yelled, as marched to the girl.

The girl tried to touch my face.

"N- No... Dai- Yeling! It's really me! It's really-"

"NO! SHUT UP!" I snapped, as I grabbed her wrist, yanking her violently as the girl lost her balance, stumbling.

"Ouch! Yeling! It hurts!"

"You... so you're the lady Danny has been talking about. Who's been manipulating my best friend. As if that wasn't bad enough. You were the one who sent all these shadows here. You. It was ALL YOU."

"Yes! I did all of this so I can see you again! So I can-"

"And above all things... how could you... those earrings... calling me that..."

I raised my hand, as it exploded into red flame.

"How dare you pretend to be her. How dare you disrespect my little sister's name."

I glared at her, the rage and fury and malice was so strong in me that I could sense it just from the reflection of her eyes.

"I'll fuckin kill you." I whispered.

The girl stared at me, her low lip quivering. Tears were leaking down her face as the shadows surrounded us.

You dare threaten our Lady? You ungrateful boy!

Give the command, divine goddess. And we shall slay him. We shall kill him without question.

The girl glared at the shadows, as they backed off.

"Please... just listen to me... just listen!"

My breath was shaky.

Not from exhaustion.

But pure anger.

"Hakah died that night. She died. Do you know what it's like to lose loved ones? Huh? Every single day, every single time those flames came out, I was reminded of their deaths. Every time I would see a girl walk by with earrings, I'm reminded of her. Of how much I missed her. Of how much I loved my little sister. Do you know what it's like? Can you possibly comprehend..."

I slammed the girl into the side of a decaying tree trunk.

My hand inches away from cutting her head off.

"Of course you don't." I hissed, my face getting in close as the girl closed her eyes. Tears were streaming down her eyes. But I didn't care.

I don't care anymore.

Not for someone like her.

"Otherwise, you wouldn't do this. The absolute unthinkable. To pretend to be her. To pretend to be her and USE HER FUCKIN NAME!"

I lifted my hand, about to strike, when suddenly the girl made a sound.

"Mmn... Mmn...."

"What are you-"

The girl opened her mouth.


I stumbled back, as the girl put her hands to her eyes, bawling and crying.

"NO! It's not like that at all! I'm not lying! I'm not!!! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!"

I watched as she continued crying, sliding down the tree trunk and falling to her knees as she continued crying and screaming.

"I worked so hard! I worked so hard! Everything I did was for you! IT WAS ALL FOR YOU!"

The girl panted, hyperventilating as she took in quick successive gasps for air.

"How could you say these things... how could you say such hurtful things..."

The girl looked at me, her eyes bloodshot from crying.

"Goh goh... I'm telling you the truth...."

My eye went wide, as the wildlife around me crumbled to ash. The flames dissipated.

Goh goh was Canan for brother. In a cutesy way. Anyone could pull that off, anybody could just pull that out of the hat if you just studied basic Canan slang.

But the way she said it...

"H- Hakah...?"

Hakah sobbed, as I slowly stepped forward, reaching out as she continued crying.

"I... I had these earrings on... the entire time... everybody told me I was crazy to still want... to keep on something like that after that night..."

Hakah clutched her earrings, so tightly that her knuckles were white. Her silk threads were stained with the mud as it began to rain.

"Goh goh... I've been thinking about you this entire time... and now you're here... I don't want to lose you again..."

I slowly raised my hand, wiping the tears from her eyes as she began hiccupping from her crying.

Hakah always hiccuped like crazy whenever she cried.

The more I wiped her tears, the more she calmed down, as she looked at me in surprise.

I gritted my teeth.


Hakah suddenly threw her arms around me and buried her face into my chest.

We stayed this way for a good twenty minutes.

The only sound was the rain pitter pattering on the charred ash of what was once the province of Fa Shan.

Even the shadows had retreated, circling us but at a large radius.

"Goh goh... please come back with me..."

I stroked the back of her head as she loosened, melting in my arms and relaxed.

"Hakah... Danny's resurrection... was that you too?"

Hakah sniffled.


I closed my eyes, gnashing my teeth.

"Why would you do something like this? How could you?"

"Because this entire time... I watched you kill and kill and kill as Tidalflame... you were so cool. And I looked up to you so much. The feared Hinokami. But..."


Hakah shifted in my arms, as she rested the side of her head against my chest.

"You weren't getting stronger... that Fujin outclassed you. You are my Dai Goh. You should have made him pay. Because the Fujin was weak. And you lost to him."

My heart skipped a beat.

"What did you just-"

Hakah ran a hand over her thigh, which was covered in purple tattoos.

"When you unlocked Stage Two Hinokami I was already Stage Four Susanoo, Goh goh. That isn't right. It's not right. I cannot accept it. So I brought Danny back from the dead to make you strong again."

Hakah looked at me, as I suddenly realized it.

Every level unlocked by the Dogma of the Equivalent Exchange had to have a sacrifice.

Was Hakah's sacrifice...

Her kindness?

"Goh goh is supposed to be stronger than me. Because he is my hero. The hero I love who always protects me and loves me. Tidalflame being weaker than me and the rest of the Inner Shadows is not right. I couldn't accept that. So I made Yuyan destroy Contingency Initiative and Taras Pax to make you stronger by force. And now you are Stage Four just like me."

I stared at her.


There was something wrong with Hakah.

Something was wrong with my little sister.

"Hakah... you need help. Let me help you. Let me-"

Hakah's face suddenly turned dangerously dark.

"You are still weaker than me. Goh goh."

A rush of fear ran through me.

This wasn't my sister anymore.

This girl was no longer Hakah Mah. Not the Hakah Mah I knew.

"But don't be scared, Goh goh. Come with me. Lord Ginga will make you strong. Like how he made me strong. He will make you strong. And then we will capture the Hachi, Shakujin and Fujin and awaken the Great Akuma. Together. We will kill everybody together."

"Hakah... do you know what you are saying?"

Hakah pulled away from my embrace and stood up, as the shadows swirled around her.

"You will come with me."

I tried to get to my feet, struggling.

"And what about my friends?"

Hakah regarded them.

"Dai Goh does not need friends. He is strong. He will kill his friends to become strong."

I clenched my fist.


Hakah's face suddenly was filled with hurt.

"Huh? What did you..."

I pointed a finger at her.

"Maybe you've forgotten. But I'm the Dai Goh here. You're the Sai Mui. And I'm telling you NO. Do not go back with this Lord Ginga guy. Killing everybody? Killing friends to become strong? That's wrong. Absolutely wrong. You're crazy if you think I'm going to follow suit on that!"

A tear ran down Hakah's face as she stared at me.


"Hakah... you may be my Sai Mui. But I this doesn't excuse EVERYTHING you've done. Because of what you did, because of what you did to bring Danny back, you cost the lives of entire civilizations. Because of Transplant's rampage. Because of his destruction and our battles. Strength means nothing if you acquire it like THAT."

Hakah's bottom lip quavered.

"You're not... coming back with me...?"

"If it means destroying mankind? Without question. No."

Hakah's face suddenly turned into a snarl.

"Goh goh is sick. Goh goh is sick. So very sick. I must make Goh goh better. I must tell Lord Ginga my precious Goh Goh is sick."

Hakah turned to her shadows, as they acknowledged her.

Yes, My Lady.

Hakah glared at me.

"You are not my big brother. I will save you, Yeling. As your sister. I will save you from this world. I am going to make sure you are by my side, when we destroy this world. Lord Ginga will make a move. He will."

The shadows surrounded me as a massive windstorm blew me back, shattering the storm cloud barrier, as Shia and Inoko and Shen ran up to me.


I stared at Hakah as she rose into the skies.

I slowly reached out to her, as she also reached out too, our hands almost touching from my perspective.



I closed my eyes, and I knew she said the same thing too. Because we were brother and sister. We were flesh and blood siblings to the Mah Bloodline.

"I will save you."