This is where everyone dies. I’m sorry.
Mei watched it unfold before her. The Light began to turn the Darkness as the Darkness once blighted the land. A smile formed across her face.
It was Keijiro’s voice calling from behind her. No. She couldn’t be distracted. The bond between Kesshen and her could be seen as a beam that connected the two. They were moments away from it shattering forever.
Mei finally looked down. A stone spike had ripped out of the ground and thrust its way into her back and through her chest. She tried to scream out, but blood had filled her throat and snuffed her voice.
Why wasn’t she dead?
The spike was marbled with veins twisting through the stone. She didn’t notice it before in the dark, but it was hard to miss them now. They were glowing a sick green. The stone was blighting her flesh, rotting it black. The same green veins were now twisting its way through the blight and into her chest.
The plan was never to kill her. It was to poison him.
She realized it too late as she saw the bond between them start to flicker and turn, the light shifting to a similar green.
Kesshen, who was a giant compared to his a usual human shape, turned as the corruption also caught his attention. He turned away from the rift, letting it continue to burn away the darkness.
“Mei!” Keijiro was the one screaming out and ran to her. Before he could move a step, another stone tendril shot out of the ground, this time coiling around and shattering the Ninja’s leg. All he saw was white before he crumpled to the ground.
Yan tried to look past Mei to see the new source of screams. The tendril apparently did not need to corrupt him the way it needed the Priestess, it simply needed him out of the way. He saw a figure emerge from behind him. It was their apparent traitor.
“Tomoe.” Yan could barely hear himself breathe the name.
It couldn’t have been her. It must have been an imposter. After all, they had found the body, lifeless and alone. Not that they had any means to investigate that further. He moved closer, past the impaled Priestess and the fallen Ninja.
It wasn’t her. It was a ghoul. Or perhaps at one time, it was. They buried her in the forest, meaning to come back for her body once the crisis was resolved. The corruption must have taken her. It must have killed her, and once they had gone, taken the woman as its host.
I am already in your Realm.
It was the right choice. As much as Mei was the soul of their group, Tomoe was its mind: strategic, logical, and privy to all of their collected knowledge.
He couldn’t think of when the corruption even began. Even if he wanted to, he didn’t have the time. The ghoul’s cold, lifeless eyes stared through Yan. There was a moment of recognition before the ground began to quake, even more tendrils shooting out and piercing Yan through his limbs.
When the ghoul turned its onslaught onto the two companions, the green glow in the stone veins started to waver. It was the chance Mei needed to pull herself off of the spike. It had missed her heart. After all, it needed her alive. She looked upwards at the glowing giant coming towards her, trying to fulfill its purpose and protect her.
That was more of the trap. The closer he got, the faster the corruption moved along the bond. She would not let it have him. I’m sorry, she mouthed, before coughing out enough blood for a final order.
Razor sharp shards had littered the ground where the tendrils had grown. She grabbed one, the edges digging into her palm. She took one more look at her fallen comrades and dragged the stone across her throat.
The blighted land and twisted sky shook as the Darkness screamed out, watching the bond disintegrate before the corruption could reach the enraged spirit.
It was already too late.
Without the Priestess to anchor her magics, the rift was now uncontrollably. Light poured out from the heavens and burned away the darkness. It was blinding, draping itself over everything it touched as it grew outwards and flooding the summoned Spirit.
When it reached out as far as it could, covering all of the blighted lands, time froze again.
Then, in a blink, the light receded back to the rift, leaving in its wake ground scarred from the accursed energies. For all those outside of the vortex, it all happened in a breath.
Within the vortex, all that remained was Kesshen.
His mortal allies had fallen. The ghoul that wore a familiar face was being penetrated by light from the rift. Then, the light started to return. He saw the edges of the vortex start to draw in. He looked between the Ghoul, where every instinct he had said to strike it down first. Then he looked at the rift.
No, he reached out with his sword drawn. He raised its edge, ready to end this once and for all.
The compulsion halted him in his swing. He could advance no further. The bond was severed yet the orders remained within him. Kesshen was full of the rift’s light. When it began to call the light back, it pulled him with it.
He tried to fight it. He felt the pull dragging him back. He thrust his sword into the ground and tried to keep hold.
He turned to the rift, just moments before making contact with it. He knew what lied on the other side. The Spirit Realm. Beyond that, the Heavens. If he let it take him, he would no longer be alone. He looked to the ghoul, who seemed to be resisting the Light’s influence. He needed no convincing. He turned his sword and sent it flying at the rift.
The tip pierced the rift. A ring ran through the vortex. Again, there was an explosion of light. And then, there was nothing.