The leather straps loosened on Eizo's forearms as he pulled them off. Lee had proven himself extremely useful in our time of trials. I was now more sure than ever that any worries that he had over himself were nothing more than delusions. Anzen also worked spectacularly. His intuitiveness let him injure and daze Eizo for the later fights. Instead of trying to win the battle by himself like he once would have, he worked for the team and gave us much more of an advantage than we would have had if he had chosen to bite off more than he could chew.
Each of them overcame their imperfections and worries in this fight. Without them, I'm sure I wouldn't have had the slightest chance of winning.
A horn sounded in the distance. The footsoldiers must have arrived at the plateau, which meant that our time was going to be cut short, and our focus would have to be spread thin.
No matter. I had to focus on the task at hand before moving on to the next. And that task was finishing this game of cat and mouse once and for all.
Eizo took a deep breath before he shot himself forward. He would be expecting me to dodge to the left or right like usual, so instead I held my katana pointed in front of me and braced my feet. Without his shields, the dogmatic samurai would either have to move and make himself vulnerable or impale himself. In any situation, it was good for me.
A shockwave pushed Eizo to the side of my sword, with a multitude of others to slowly easing his momentum and turning him around. Although he was safe from one attack, he had just made himself vulnerable to more. I jumped forward to seize my opportunity as the previously shield bearing samurai slid backward on the icy ground with his excess momentum. He held his arm up instinctively, forgetting that he was no longer protected from my slice.
With a grunt and a bit of luck, my sword dug deep and hit bone, but with the icy ground I couldn't get enough traction to fully amputate before we both slid slightly back.
Eizo grimaced as he held his mangled arm. That pain turned to anger as he ducked down and flew forward. He was low enough that I couldn't reach him with my sword before he threw his good arm in a punch upward.
His fist made contact with my gut, sending a shockwave to push me off my feet in an instant.
In the blink of an eye, I was in the air. I could see the beam of light erupting from the summit. The many samurai and deranged doctor just climbing over the peak of the summit. Amaterasu watching me soar like a bird that never learned how to fly.
A foggy portal began to emerge below me, but quickly halted it's progress and dissipated as Eizo flew upward. When we met in the air, the furious samurai punched me again. Luckily the only angle he could send me in was flying closer to the beam of light and my companions.
I was shot in a straight diagonal line to the edge of the summit. Anzen and Lee ran to Amaterasu to defend her in their injured states while Hayato and Sora ran to me, preparing for a fight.
Eizo was already on the ground and running towards us as my two companions arrived. Hayato outstretched his hand and helped me out of the snow as Sora shot an arrow towards the injured samurai, only to have it sent off course by another shockwave at the wave of his hand.
Once he was close enough, Hayato held out his hand and materialized a portal beneath Eizo, Anzen making another over top. With little time to react after all his focus was on Sora's arrow, he fell through and began falling at an increasing rate, but with enough time to orient himself, Eizo used a shockwave to get out of the twin's attack and tumble through the snow.
Hayato tried to follow him, but another shockwave aided Eizo in standing before he could seize the oppurtunity.
Our straight-faced archer let another arrow loose, but it was deflected once more just like the last.
Eizo burst forward and swung at Hayato, nicking his shoulder as the short haired twin dodged to the side. The punch wasn't enough to hurt him in any way other than a horrible bruise later. But although the attack didn't hurt Hayato's shoulder, it was mere inches from his head, which would have certainly incapacitated or at the very least dazed him.
This time, Hayato was indeed close enough to punish the shockwave creating samurai for his lack of control in the air. As Eizo slid across the snow and gathered himself, my portal manifesting companion ran forward and swung his sword down at him.
With another shockwave, the previously shield bearing samurai shot himself to the side, but not fast enough to completely dodge Hayato's broad slice.
With a gash from his hip down to his leg, Eizo was much less mobile, allowing Hayato to sidestep so he was in front of his enemy once more. Then, he swung again towards his chest this time.
The determined samurai leaned back in an attempt to dodge as he regained his footing, but Hayato was still able to make a solid cut down his torso and injured him even further.
Eizo outstretched both his hands and sent a shockwave in return, sending my friend flying backward. Although it was a good effort, Hayato was determined. Creating a portal behind himself, he was thrown out the other that Anzen had created behind our samurai adversary, knocking both into the snow.
The dogmatic Eizo immediately shot Hayato into the air as he pushed himself up from the snow, but another portal was quickly manifested so instead Hayato was threwn sideways and not up, letting him slide and recover quickly.
He made another portal and appeared next to the trapped samurai, only to be pushed away once more.
This could work. Eizo couldn't rid himself of Hayato, and although slowly, he was draining his stamina. Eventually, he wouldn't be able to make anymore shockwaves and would be completely vulnerable.
That plan would have worked, if not for the oncoming wave of samurai. I called out to Hayato. "Stop!"
He briefly switched his attention to me and opened a portal next to us. Jumping through, he asked in shallow breaths. "What's wrong?"
Eizo had already began to propel himself forward, so I had to be brief. "I need you and Anzen to focus the soldiers. Use your portals or else we'll be overwhelmed."
Hayato seemed reluctant to leave a winning fight, but we both knew that winning this fight didn't matter if the doctor captured Amaterasu. With an unsure nod, my portal creating companion jumped into the foggy gate manifested behind him and united with his twin to disrupt the enemy.
Eizo was close. He was no longer strong enough to send himself flying to us in a single bound, so instead he bounced every few feet to gain similar momentum without the physical strain.
Sora was next to me aiming his shot. He had missed the last two, so he had spent as long as he needed to clear his mind and find his mark this time. Once Eizo landed from one of his jumps, my quick witted friend let loose an arrow. His target had already lifted himself in another leap, leaving the arrow to hit his hip instead of his abdomen which would have ended up as a crippling shot.
Although the arrow didn't hit exactly, it was certainly still a powerful shot. Eizo was sent off course and tumbling into the snow.
Sora tried to capitalize on the shockwave producing samurai's vulnerability, but instead, his projectile found itself planted in the snow. Eizo was so mobile even when rolling through the snow hitting him was a near-impossible task.
I saw only two more arrows in the quiver on my blank faced friend's side. He realized this as well, as he lowered his bow to conserve them. Sora's jaw unexpectedly clenched and eyes furrowed. Although his expression stayed only slightly off from the emotionless face I just saw him wear, I also saw the fire of determination and concentration in his eyes. Instead of running, the now steadfast Sora began to walk towards Eizo as he darted closer.
My attention was brought to the sideline as I followed behind him. Hayato and Anzen had moved to the front of the plateau while Lee and Amaterasu stayed by the beam of light at the summit. The twins created an enormous portal under many of the soldiers' feet and sent them tumbling down the edge of Mt.Fuji. The two brothers continued to subdue and herd the untrained soldiers as I turned myself back to my bow wielding friend and the shogun's chosen samurai.
Said dogmatic samurai was only a moment away from us as Sora switched to holding his bow with his offhand and pulling the small dagger Anzen had gave him earlier in Amaterasu's palace out from his kimono with his primary hand.
He swung with the footwork I had taught him those many months ago while sparring as Eizo swung at him to dodge the attack. The determined archer took his dagger and sliced the similarly as determined samurai in the arm, causing him to reel back.
Once he stumbled backward, I jumped in to attack, but Eizo pushed me away with another one of his shockwaves. I was leaning forward enough that I was able to slide and stumble back without falling, but it would still be a brief moment before I returned to the fight.
In that brief moment, Eizo swung for Sora with his least injured arm. Sora replied by swinging his dagger in a colliding course with the previously shield bearing samurai's fist, causing the beaten and battered Eizo to pull his punch back before he ruined his only good arm.
As Eizo pulled back, my determined friend moved using his expert dexterity and split-second intellect to make an unexpected attack. With his offhand holding his bow, Sora swung it forward and tilted it, allowing the dogmatic samurai's neck to be caught between the string and the bow.
Sora pulled him forward with one arm and jabbed his knife out with the other. As Eizo was stabbed he tried propelling himself away from the determined archer, but with a tight grip on his bow they both simply fell to the ground.
The dagger fell out of Sora's hands as he took hold of the string of his bow. With enough effort, he was able to position himself behind Eizo and began pulling.
Our frantic samurai frantically tried to use his shockwaves to push them apart, but Sora's grip was tight and Eizo had little energy remaining. I arrived as he finally settled down and looked at me. The chokehold ceased as they both waited for what I had to say.
Before I could speak, he sputtered out words as he still struggled for breath. "You don't understand what kind of chaos you're causing! The people need the shogun to lead them! The old man told me he could save him with her blood! It's my duty!"
I respected Eizo's loyalty, but it was given to a deceiving cause. "The shogun is beyond saving. The doctor lies to you."
The still dogmatic samurai frowned deeply at my words. He was honor-bound, and the only chance at not having failed his responsibility to the shogun was a mere facade. He knew that, but he still blinded himself to it. "You're a criminal! A deserter! I will not abandon my oath, even to the gates of hell!" I noticed that Sora wasn't holding on to Eizo as strongly as before. And, although Sora was strong from training with his large bow, Eizo could have easily broken free. I knew Eizo was also tactical, and he needed to have had more reason than a simple eagerness to run so far ahead of the other soldiers or to abuse his ember to the edge of exhaustion. I began to have the feeling he knew as well as I did there was no salvaging the shogun, or his honor. He didn't come here to kill me or take Amaterasu.
He came here to die without dishonoring himself.
The dogmatic samurai spoke once more as I stared at him, now more collected. "If you're going to kill me, then kill me. I won't surrender to the likes of you."
We both stared at each other. He seemed calmer once I understood why he walked so blindly into us. "As you wish." Without struggle, Eizo grimaced as I gripped tighter to my sword and pointed it at his chest. "You fought well. Die with honor."
His eyes closed as I pushed forward, gently pulling my katana back out and spilling hot blood over the cold snow.
Sora let him go as Eizo took a few deep breaths. Although he seemed defeated, he also seemed satisfied, in a way. After just a brief moment, his chest stopped moving and his grimace lessened to nothing but a blank expression.
Sora stood as I turned. I looked to the battle going on at the plateau as he commented. "He seemed a logical decision maker when we fought previously, yet he acted extremely recklessly attempting to fight us alone... Why?"
I shook my head. "There are some things that you can only understand once you've experienced it yourself." I faced dishonor by hiding, Eizo faced it by dying with his honor as to not lose it.
Sora picked his dagger from the ground and tucked it back into his kimono, thinking on my words.
After such events it was difficult, but I was able to calm my breathing and focus on the fight ahead of us. The twins had a solid grasp on maintaining the footsoldiers. The furiously shaking carriage with the doctor on it now stood alone. The old man began to climb off as Lee ran over to the twins.
Lee spoke with some sort of plan, which both seemed unsure of. The twins looked to Amaterasu, who nodded with determination.
After having her approval, Hayato and Anzen moved their attention from the soldiers and created a portal beneath the metal-plated cart and sent it toppling as it fell far away from the edge of the plateau and near the center. Lee backed away to protect Amaterasu as the twins kept the soldiers at bay. Sora looked at me, and, after I nodded, left my side and began circling the carriage. He only had two shots, and once he ran out he needed to stay with Lee and Amaterasu.
That left only me next to the upturned vehicle and the frantic doctor. The old man pulled his leg from under the carriage where it had gotten pinned. Whatever was left of the shogun had toppled the cart in its animal fury, and as the doctor tried to stand, he realized it was fruitless with his broken leg. So instead, with an expression of both frustration and desperation, the deranged old man began to crawl to the back of the carriage. I had already begun running to stop him, but I was too far away as he unhatched the end and revealed consuming darkness and foul stench.
The beam of light next to us cast dense shadows out of all our forms, not letting me see into the carriage's depths.
The doctor manically crawled away as the cart rumbled and something heavy and large stood.
An enormous, ashen purple arm grasped the edge of the cage as two pale white eyes opened. An ungodly snarling reverberated from the metal box.
I thought to myself as I swung the blood off my katana. The doctor and his monster, equally as vile and infinitely selfish.
It was time to do what I should have done seventeen years ago.