"He laid down his life so that others may live."
Gregory P. Wong
Chapter 9: Phoenix
It had been... total slaughter. Liang sat down on the ground, exhausted. The Musou energy had left him already.
As soon as the Sraida had been cleared away from the immediate area-which had been incredibly fast in their Musou modes-the energy had left them.
Or, not left them. The energy had compacted and was again stored in their bodies, waiting to be unleashed.
He watched the rest of the battle.
Hovering tanks, hulking armored suits, armored troopers with imposing weapons, all destroyed the now-outpowered aliens.
And when the Titans were deployed from their underground holding cells, it was over horrifyingly quick. Bars of white fire stretched from cannon muzzles to explosions instantly. He supposed he understood the physics. The CAWs were firing at fractions-of-light-speed velocities, which wasn't perceptible as motion to the human eye. The white actinic fire was air molecules being torn apart by the impossibly fast ultravelocity projectiles. The streamer of white fire and explosion from the slug's impact materialized instantaneously.
But that was done already. The UNT Marines had declared it a secured area, and hunter-killer teams were engaging the other landers and assault forces.
The world had been saved, but at a high cost. Yukimura was dead, as were over five thousand UNT men and women.
He heard boots crunching over dust, and he saw his wife sit down, cross-legged, beside him. She was just as bloodstained as he was, but she wasn't hurt badly. Scratches here and there, but nothing the modern medical technology couldn't handle, no?
He saw Ying shake her head sadly. "I wish we could do something for Makie."
He nodded wordlessly. The poor young woman was cradling Yukimura's still form to her, utterly distraught.
"What pain she's feeling right now," his wife murmured. "God, I can almost feel it."
"Me too," he agreed. "If anyone, he shouldn't have died. He was brave almost beyond belief..."
"And his fearlessness killed him," Ying spat bitterly. "It's good that the techo-block is neutralized. At least no more are going to die from those horrible creatures."
"And it took Yukimura to do it... his psionic force and his life force."
It had taken the ultimate sacrifice, to knock the Sraida out of sync and empower them... with... their...
"I have an idea," he whispered more to himself than to Ying.
He looked at his wife. "Yukimura gave us his power to jump-start our own Musous, right?"
"Right, but then..." Ying trailed off. "Yes, of course!"
He nodded eagerly and ordered his PAD to connect to the thirteen other warriors.
"Everyone! Meet me by Yukimura!"
"It might work," her husband said after listening for a bit.
Nouhime was a bit surprised. For the first time, he wasn't showing outright hostility towards the Sanada warrior.
"I need everyone to cooperate in this... if even one person does not willingly give back energy, it will mean nothing."
She noticed that a few of the others were looking quit pointedly at Nobunaga.
There was an awkward silence, and then her husband stood straighter.
"He and I will always have our differences. In many cases, we will argue quite passionately about things.
"But that does not mean I cannot respect one who-literally-saved a universe. I will partake in this procedure."
Perhaps her husband could change, for the better.
Nothing... Nothing had happened.
They had all stood over her husband's body and allowed some power to flash from their bodies into Yuki's. She'd even had a go herself.
But it hadn't worked. He hadn't even stirred in her arms.
The Liang man looked dejected. She wondered if he had attempted this whole thing just to make her feel better. Who cared? It hadn't done a single damned thing.
They had walked away after nothing seemed forthcoming. Considerate of them, leaving her to grieve. They all seemed sad, even Nobunaga.
And that was the part that was way too much for her to get her head around.
They had all looked up to Yukimura in one way or another... except herself. Yuki's own wife wasn't even there for him when he needed her the most.
Yuki looked so peaceful, as if he was resting after a hard days work.
Except this rest was eternal.
She thought about her daggers for a moment. It would take a quick slash across her throat, and the pain would be over, and she would be with him again.
Dammit, no. Yukimura had died to save /everyone/, including /her/. It would be like spitting on his body to do that.
She stroked his dirt-streaked cheek tenderly.
"Yuki, I'm sorry for everything," she whispered. "I know you've loved me, and I knew I loved you. I was just too damn selfish to allow it." She sniffed. "I guess that's what fate is, huh? I guess this just had to happen." She stopped for a moment. Even when he was dead, Yuki was still one handsome dude.
God, she loved him so much.
She felt more tears well up, and she bent down to lay her cheek against Yuki's.
The power absorbed by Yukimura's will, given to him by others, coursed and flowed, folded and rearranged, expanded and grew, forming a gateway. The soul of Yukimura saw two lights. One leading towards a bloody, painful battlefield, another towards a gleaming paradise of eternity.
Yukimura was torn. He had nothing left to return to. His wife was gone, and he had nothing else to do. The battle was done, and his warrior spirit needed nothing more.
But then, Yukimura heard some words echoing from the battlefield gateway. It sounded like... impossible.
But his senses were not deceiving him.
"...I love you."
Makie knew her crying was done. No more water to let out, after all.
She would wait here until the UNT medics took him away. Yuki deserved this from her.
She felt something flick her forehead.
Anger blazed. Already whatever this place had for bugs were going for him. But she couldn't do anything against flies. She took her face from his to brush away over whatever had landed there.
She felt eyelashes.
"Kunoichi?" a broken voice rasped.
Yuki's eyes looked crusty, and they looked like they were fighting to stay open. But they were open, and dead men didn't open their eyes!
"YUKI!" she screeched, hugging him close.
"Hey... Kunoichi," her husband croaked haltingly.
She hadn't thought she was capable of crying anymore. She was--she didn't like the pun, but it seemed somehow appropriate--dead wrong. Tears of joy streamed down her face.
She sobbed. "Yuki... I'm not her anymore. I'm Makie."
She heard her husband say "Just... Makie? Why not... Kunoichi?"
She should have been mad... but not now. "No. I can't both be the female ninja and your wife at the same time. Kunoichi's going to need to go."
"Reh... really? Who... said that?" rasped Yuki.
"I guess you could say someone who knows hearts."
"But I guess... you don't"
"What do you mean?"
Yuki shifted a bit, and she moved to support his head.
"What's the... biggest difference... between Makie and... Kunoichi?"
What kind of question was that?
She was about to say something, but Yuki continued. "Makie and Kunoichi both... have psionic powers. Both are witty and uh... upbeat. Both are incredibly beautiful. But... one can... love me... and the other... can't."
She understood. It hit her.
Makie and Kunoichi were at the same time unbelievably similar and irreconcilably different. The difference--God, the biggest difference--was that Kunoichi couldn't love Yukimura, and Makie could.
But, in all other respects, Makie wasn't one iota different.
That's what had been meant. That's why she would have to choose. Makie... or Kunoichi.
Yes, definitely Makie.
And her choice wouldn't cost her the identity that Yukimura loved so much.
Letting her grip slacken a bit, but not the tears, she looked at Yukimura's face. He looked unbelievably tired
"Oh, my God. How are you feeling?"
"I feel like damp cardboard that's been... trampled by a herd of Sraida." A smile. "But I'm alive, and... that's a great... feeling. But it's nowhere... near as good... as feeling your touch again. I love you."
Well, she simply broke down after that.
It looked like everything was going to be all right.