Takeo breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Makoto. She looked more confused than he had ever seen her, but at the same time she just seemed glad that the fight was over. He didn't know if he could call that "good", but he was happy that he didn't have to worry about a broken collarbone.
But all the relief and happiness evaporated in an instant when Takeo saw the "other Makoto". This was his first time seeing her, and so far she seemed to be everything he could have imagined. She was all of Makoto's worst traits balled up into one snarling, cocky bitch, much like Takeo's shadow had been to him. And she had them cornered in the courtyard. If she everything that Makoto had described to him earlier, then there would be no escape. She would just tear down the city around them as she chased them through the streets. With the images Takeo was getting in his head, he found it amazing that Makoto managed to get away in the first place, to make it this far... Wait, to make it this far? Was the other Makoto waiting for them to defeat the other him? The other Makoto did call him a problem...so it seemed like they weren't allied, after all. Far from it, in fact.
When Makoto asked him about a plan, Takeo could only remain silent. He had no idea what to do. He had nearly gone crazy trying to defeat his own shadow self, that he hadn't yet put much thought into how to handle Makoto's other self. It was his mistake, and he knew he might not live to regret it. All the more reason to think of something now, though. Think, how would his shadow fight Makoto's shadow? Probably with magic, like Makoto said. But could he do it? Now that he had "absorbed" his other self, could he do all the same thing it could do? How? He didn't feel like he had any new knowledge. His injuries felt a little better, but other than that he didn't feel ridiculous amounts of power or mana coursing through him like some video game character going through a class change or a power up.
Fortunately for Takeo, Shadow Makoto didn't seem interested in him at the moment. Her confidence knew no bounds as she flat-out admitted he could do whatever he wanted on the sidelines, and it wouldn't matter. This would be an excellent time to prove her wrong, but if only he could use half the power his shadow self seemed to have! He tried to find some sort of inner peace within his mind, project his feelings or his aura or something outward to create ice, or anything really. But nothing happened. He hadn't the faintest idea how to use any new powers he may have gained.
Then Takeo saw the other Makoto's transformation. It was everything he could have feared, something that made him realize what would even break such a rash delinquent like Makoto. If she had seen that within the first few minutes of arriving in this world, then Takeo truly applauded her for being able to keep throwing herself into conflicts like that. If he had known that something like that would be coming after him, he certainly wouldn't be picking any more fights. He would probably just keep running, futile as that may be.
However, while Takeo was horrified to see the other Makoto's transformation, it also made him recall something. His shadow self had transformed, as well, into some kind of mist. He had seen part of the transformation in the basement of the mansion, but barely five minutes ago he had seen the full thing. Apparently it was some kind of metal...thing with a mask. But what was it that his shadow self said before he merged? That there was no real difference between his forms, they were all his "true form"? And then after that, after the merging..."I am thou, and thou art I?" That was what he heard in his head. It was Skiron...
And then something just clicked.
"Skiron..." Takeo spoke quietly, as he stared at Shadow Makoto's monstrous new form. He held out his hand. This time, there was something in it - a small breeze - but Takeo could make it into something more.
"Skiron!" Takeo shouted this time, a soft aura of bright blue energy forming around him. He took the breeze in his hand and slung it as hard as he could at the other Makoto, creating a blue crescent-shaped blade of wind that flew straight at it. It wasn't especially large, but it had an edge and would certainly deal some sort of damage if it connected. At least, Takeo hoped.
Next you'll say...
Makoto felt her consciousness start to fade as her shadow advanced closer toward her. She couldn't look back at Inukai to see if he'd come up with anything, but hed been silent this entire time, so she didn't have much hope. As she leaned back in the damp grass, staring at the night sky, she felt a pleasant breeze wash over her body... I don't think I ever felt any wind in this place before...? As quickly as she could think that, there was a sound like a blade hitting flesh and something cried out in front of her. Shaking the fatigue from her body one last time, she forced her eyes open and sat up to see Inukai with his hand held out, and the demon before her reeling with a large gash across its chest. It wasn't bleeding, but strange black mist came from the wound.
"Did... was that you?" Makoto fired back at a somewhat stunned Inukai. It definitely was, no doubt about it. It didn't make any sense, but it looked like somehow he'd figured out how to use magic of some sort. Not about to let this opportunity go to waste, Makoto shoved herself back on her feet with her hands. She was still a bit wobbly, but her spirit came back with that rush of wind, and with it her motivation to keep fighting. That's right! If Inukai can beat his demon, then why shouldn't I be able to beat mine? Even if I do need a little help to do it, she added with a small grin.
Picking up her trusty signpost, she ran forward while the giant was still staggering and thrust it right into the thing's open wound - an act which splintered the metal like she thought it would, but instead of shattering it everywhere, the splinters only caused more damage to her opponent. With an extra push, the metal bar stuck deep into the giant's body until it wouldn't come loose. Makoto backed off as her other self flailed at the attack. She just had to stay out of its range until an opportunity came.
...Although in the face of what she'd just seen, that opportunity might not come. As soon as she'd gotten far enough away, it looked like the monster regained control. If anything... it looked like it was getting bigger.
"Alright girlie, you got me good with that one. But look at you. Cracked nose, bleeding from everywhere. Yet you still hold on. Now why would you think I'd go down with just a hole in my chest?!" As the monster cracked its neck as though shaking off a small muscle cramp, it straightened to its considerable full height and became surrounded in some kind of dull glow. "Last chance to pull something out of your ass, lady. Hit me again I'll kill ya. Try to run I'll kill ya. Well... maybe there's no way out. I guess it was just your fate to get killed by me. But hey, if you survive, guess you 'n' me will have some adventures, yeah? You should look forward to it, it's all you really want."
What I really want... Was that true? Did Makoto really just want to beat the hell out of everyone until she got gunned down by the police or something? It didn't sound horrible, but... she didn't think that was quite right. But again, she was brouht back to this topic. Why? Why all of a sudden was she having all these difficult thoughts? It didn't make a whole lot of sense, but it didn't really feel wrong, either. Was it important? Was that some kind of missing link?
So what do I want, then? She thought back to her life, to what she wanted to do when she first started rolling with the gang boys back in Okinawa...
~"She's just a kid, Boss, she ain't got the spirit!"~
~"Doesn't she just watch too much TV?"~
~"She doesn't know what being in a gang is really about after all!"~
It was all true, she didnt know what it meant back in the day. But now that those days were gone, she did know. It was the brotherhood that meant everything. A bunch of kids who couldn't make sense of their society struggled against the tide of pressure trying to keep them down.
~"Don't we all just wanna live our lives?"~
~"We ain't strong, right? If we was strong we'd be able to stand up and be proud of ourselves!"~
Her own words came back to her all at once, and it became obvious what had to be done.
"It's not about proving I'm the strongest..." she muttered to herself.
"Eh? What are you muttering to yourself over there? I can't quite hear you."
"If I'm the strongest I don't have to prove anything, right?" Clenching her fist, she stared her demon right in the face. "You an' I both know it. It was never about brute force. What did I- what did we really want? We just wanted the strength to be ourselves, didn't we? If we were strong enough, nobody would tell us what to do."
Makoto tightened her jaw and planted her feet on the ground, ready for an attack. "I never wanted to be the strongest enemy... I just needed to beat the strongest enemy! The thing that stands in my way! All I gotta do..." It was like there was a glow around Makoto herself, like she was leeching the glow from her demon as she ran towards it at full speed...
"...IS BEAT YOU!"
The giant before her took a large swipe toward her as she drew close, but it was way too big, Makoto could see its every move before it happened. Ducking under the powerful swing, she threw all her weight against the sign that was still embedded right where she had stuck it. With a scream like nothing human, the giant cried out and reeled backward, tripping over the damp grass and falling backwards onto the ground. With a final creak, what used to be a stop sign bent, cracked, splintered, and finally broke under the immense weight, and both halves of the metal bar now stabbed into the creature, pinning it to the ground.
"...I give," uttered Makoto's massive reflection as it reverted back into its 'human' form. "That's the end of me. I ain't got no more reason to fight you... You've won." Her mirror image raised its haind into the air, as though grasping at the sky, and Makoto helped it to its feet. Both fighters' bloodlust was gone, and it seemed like they understood each other.
"I couldn't have taken you alone... not a chance," Makoto admitted, to which the figure shrugged.
"Wasn't the point, and I think you know that now. Well, you've beaten me so you you're free to do what you want, but... what are you gonna do now, Aneki? You and your friend have earned the rights back to your happy everyday lives... you gonna stick with that?"
Makoto thought a moment and glanced at her partner. "Y'know... maybe not. Maybe now's not the time to settle with just that. We've hit on something big here, wouldn't it be a shame to just leave it at that? I'm gonna keep getting better until I'm the best, no doubt about that."
With a smile and nod, the other Makoto started to fade away, like she was disappearing into Makoto herself. "Good enough for me. I am thou, and thou art I. My true name is Ares, God of battle. I'll lend you my strength so that we may defeat any opponent who tries to stand in the way of the true path."
Before it disappeared completely, it looked very clearly at Takeo, rather than Makoto. "You might find the answers you seek within this dwelling. Remember that a door does not only let people in, but out as well."
The glow faded before long and once Makoto's shadow had completely disappeared, she turned back to Takeo and took a deep refreshing breath. "Well," she started, but got halfway through forming a second word before toppling forward onto her face as her consciousness faded away. She had pushed herself past her limits far too many times in this world, and now that everything was over, it was time to rest.
Takeo was surprised that his wind attack had managed to harm the great beast of a shadow. That he was even able to cast magic was a shock to him, even if it did make logical sense - though it wasn't like slinging around razor-sharp gales of magic wind made much sense in the first place. Nothing in this place really did. Nevertheless, Takeo still hadn't figured out exactly where the magic came from, all he knew was that it was connected to his other self, this "Skiron" that was now inside him, that used to be inside his evil shadow self. But both of them were now inside him. Or was that shadow self Skiron all along? Yeah, that was the part he wasn't too certain about. Regardless of where it came from, he was just glad that it had some effect on the beast, and it managed to spur Makoto to keep on fighting.
And fight she sure as hell did. After firing herself up, she was able to defeat her shadow self, and a familiar event played out. After the shadow self had seemingly given up, it reached some sort of agreement with Makoto, and fused with her. Does that mean she now had the power to turn into some kind of large demon? Takeo didn't really want to imagine that. Before it completely faded away though, it said something to him. "A door not only lets people in, but out as well." Somehow the other Makoto had a drastic change in personality right before she vanished, just like his own other self. Very strange.
But now wasn't really the time to be thinking about that. Makoto collapsed, and although Takeo panicked and rushed over to her at first, he stopped when he saw that she was smiling. It had truly been a brutal fight, and for Makoto to go through that right after putting up with his own shadow self and everything else they had been through since dropping into this world...it certainly said something about her stamina. But now, even that had finally ran out, and she certainly deserve some rest. But did it really have to be on the ground? He sighed and shook his head, before turning to his grandfather's mansion. Would it be a safe place to sleep? It didn't seem like any more of those shadow creatures would be inside, but Takeo couldn't be too sure. Nonetheless, sleeping out in the open definitely wasn't a better option. There was only the matter of how to move Makoto. Takeo tried nudging her with his foot and shaking her a bit, but she didn't stir. She was out cold, so if she was moving anywhere, it would be by his hands. Normally Takeo would just forget it and leave her outside, but even if their shadow selves weren't running around anymore, there could always be more of those beasts. And besides that, Takeo owed her a lot, so this was as good a way as any to start paying it back.
Unfortunately, Takeo wasn't a very strong man. He couldn't even carry Miki when she was too exhausted to move after a competition last summer. Then again, Makoto looked like she would be much lighter. She was a lot shorter than Miki, and even a bit thinner. She didn't have any open wounds, and so long as Takeo was careful with her leg, she definitely wouldn't be in any danger from being carried. Takeo tried lifting Makoto up by the arms to see how heavy she was, but she was heavier than he expected. Either that, or his muscles were just weak from the days events. Regardless, he probably wouldn't be able to carry her over his shoulder - in his state he could easily end up dropping her on their way up the stairs to the second floor. It would have to be bridal style.
It was completely ironic to the point of being a little embarrassing, but who was going to see them? Takeo rolled Makoto over, keeping one hand behind her shoulders, and sliding the other one under her knees. After a few deep breaths, he lifted her up. Like this, it wasn't so bad. He probably wouldn't be able to carry her any sort of long distance, but if it was just into the mansion and up the stairs to a guest bedroom, he would be alright. He walked into the mansion and took the stairs easily, making sure not to bump Makoto into anything or put any strain on her leg or any of her other injuries. He kept his eyes ahead and not on her, since he didn't want to feel any kid of awkwardness about this, though the fact that he was even thinking that would suggest he felt some awkwardness anyways.
Since the layout of the shadow world's mansion was the same, Takeo easily found a guest bedroom. The door was already cracked open, so all he had to do was force it open with his side. Inside was a simple, jarringly-plain room compared to the rest of the mansion, that had only a bed with white pillows and sheets inside of it, and a single square window. Takeo quickly moved to the bed and set Makoto down gently, and then stepped back. She was still unconscious, and still smiling. The bed would actually be a little small for him, but for a girl like Makoto it was perfect.
"I would've never imagined bringing a girl to bed under these crazy circumstances..." Takeo grumbled, popping a few of his joints after all the lifting. He found himself watching Makoto sleep for a bit, and he couldn't help but smile just a little.
"Well, maybe it isn't so bad." he said out loud, for no reason he could think of. He quickly gave himself a light smack on the cheek, to wake his brain up. Ever since he cast that spell on Makoto's other self, his mind had become exhausted. Was it an effect of the spell? Regardless, he could really go for a few hours of rest as well, before they figure out how to get back to their own world. He couldn't imagine what kind of effect their stay in this world would be having on the real world, but at that moment he didn't care. He shut the door to the room and sat down, putting his weight against it to hopefully prevent any would-be intruders from sneaking into the room. He could go find the master key to lock it, but he couldn't remember where it was, and he was just so tired...
Before he could even rationalize his laziness completely, he had closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.