A/N: surprisingly, we're almost near the end. originally i planned this story to be longer with more hunting chapters, but like i said before, i had to cut those. hopefully i'll be able to finish this during my spring break
The backstage flooded with people. No one could barely move an inch, and yet they still push and shove out of fear and desperation to get leave the building. Those who were magic folk would Apparate away, but it only scared the Muggles even more. Others were still trying to find their friends and family when they got separated from the chaos. The staff members did their very best to direct the crowd to the nearest exit, but it was suffocating.
The fans didn't even bother to notice Sho squeezing through the body traffic. Everyone was more concerned about getting away from the monsters than seeing their idol up close. Sho could see Aiba a few heads in front, and he was determined not to lost sight of him. They were all shoulder to shoulder, as if they were in the worst rush hour except there was more anxiety in the air.
This wasn't going to work. He pulled out his wand and pointed over his head.
"Reisei!" Sho shouted.
A shower of pink light rained down on the crowd. The anxiety, fear, and crying quickly evaporated and they all became less pushy. There was a calming atmosphere and Sho was able to make his way through the crowd much easier. Now that the crowd had calm down, the staff members made it easier for the fans to exit safely. He pulled Aiba out of the crowd and found the back hallway where there was less people. Majority of the Naruse's team were here, and so were the rest of their group.
"Oh, what a relief. I thought you guys were still back at the stadium," Ohno said when he spotted Sho.
"I'm sorry," Aiba bowed his head. "I had to go back and find someone, but the little girl was already..."
Sho could see Aiba's fist shaking again, and his eyes were misty. He, too, couldn't forget the horrible sight from before. It made him want to hurl, but he swallowed back his bile. He jolted a bit when Jun kicked down a spare chair with such rage.
"What a disaster!" Jun grunted. "I knew it. I should have never allowed this concert to happen."
"How did Yami get those Imperfects inside the stadium?" Nino questioned. "I thought Naruse's team had the exits completely blocked when the concert started."
"They were in disguise," Sho fumed. "I don't know how, but Yami managed to do so."
"So are they Imperfects no more?" Ohno frowned. "Did he somehow...made them perfect beings?"
"I don't believe it," someone spoke. Naruse approached them looking just as angry and confused as they were. "They must have been possessed already, and then just degraded into Imperfects by Yami's orders."
"He gathered that made souls from Paradise?" Nino gaped. "And then plant them to infiltrate our concert?!"
"It appears so," Naruse said. "He fooled us all. But now is not the time to look at our failures. Yami is heading for the Ministry's vault lock in our department. If he cracks them open, you'll be seeing a second war soon."
"What kind of war would this be?" Ohno sulked. "More death?"
Naruse shook his head. "Once Yami has his massive army, he can rip open the doors of Paradise permanently, and our two worlds will bleed together. You boys have been there before, so you know the potential it possesses. If people here in the living realm can manifest any creation they want, thanks to the power of Paradise, our use of magic will diminished. There will be a new war for reigning supremacy between neighbors and friends. With such power within every individual's disposal, everyone will be in suffering. Without a land of the dead to go to, we will all be stuck in a limbo-like universe."
A cold chill ran down Sho's spine before it settled in his stomach. It was worse than he imagined. Sho remembered the horrible memories of his past when Tokyo was under attack. He remembered the rain, the painful blows, the sounds, and the fear of losing everything important to him. This was the exact reason why Sho wanted to avoid joining, and he didn't blame Ohno for wanting a peaceful life. Still, he knew he couldn't run away from his past. He may have failed the lives of a hundred fans, but he would not allow millions to be doomed for eternity.
"Is there way we can stop him?" Sho asked.
Naruse nodded, "I have a theory."
"Lay it on us," Jun said, eagerly.
"Yami draws his powers from the shadows," Naruse stated. "If we shut off his power source, we might be able to defeat him. Which means that we have to shut the gates to Paradise forever; go back to the natural order when it was just a one-way path."
Sho quickly glance at Jun and saw the uncertainty in his eyes again. He felt sorry for Jun, and he only wished there was more he could do for him. Anything at all, but even Sho didn't know the answer.
"I don't even know how to do that," Jun confessed. "The portal was opened because I've sacrificed thousands of lives. Are you saying the only way to close it is another sacrificial ceremony?!"
"Let's not resort to that," Nino grunted.
"Hold on, we can't just leave our fans here!" Aiba panicked. "And I'm not talking about the ones who are escaping. I'm talking about the ones that are trapped like rats in the stadium."
"Aiba, they're no longer human," Naruse frowned.
"They were before!" Aiba cried. "You can't lie to me that they smiled at us, or cheered for us. What are you going to do to them?"
Sometimes Sho wished Aiba didn't have such a big heart. There was an unbearable silence hanging in the air. A huge elephant in the room, and no one wanted to answer. But even though Naruse didn't give him a direct response, Sho had a feeling that Aiba already knew what must be done. When no one said anything, Aiba just shook his head in disbelief.
Ohno sighed and spoke for him. "Maybe if we just...wait it out-"
"There is no waiting period," Naruse said bluntly. "There is no going back for them. Not ever."
Aiba covered his face, and Sho wrapped his arm tightly around his shoulders. Trying his best to muffle out his sobs.
"We...we can't just..." Jun mumbled.
"Don't worry," Naruse said. "I know you can't do it. I'll have my men take care of it."
Somehow, Sho thought it was even worse that way. Even if he couldn't do the job himself, he hated the idea that someone else gets to decide his fans' fate. Would they even remember Arashi? Would the fans blame them when they reach Paradise? At that moment, Sho wished he had done more to reach out to those that supported him. He had sometimes been crude and selfish towards his fans, but now he wished he could take it all back. It just wasn't fair.
"You're having all your men here?" Ohno asked. "What about Yami? He's after the vault as we speak."
"It's not like the Ministry is completely defenseless," Naruse said. "I may have pulled some of our best Aurors, but we have our defensive spells protecting the vault. No matter how powerful Yami is, it'll buy us some time until we stop him. Hopefully."
"Then, let's get a move on!" Aiba growled, suddenly angry. "I will hunt down this Yami if it's the last thing I do! I will not have other people suffer like our fans did!"
"Where should we start?" Nino asked. "Where is the vault located exactly?"
"In the Department of Mysteries," Naruse answered. "In the deepest level of the office. I only allow a few to enter there, but now with this crisis on our hands, I'm going to have to make a few exceptions. Personally, I would prefer going down there myself and have you stay top side. But if something happens, whatever you find down there...you must not tell anyone about it."
"I've heard about it," Sho mumbled. "The magic down there is suppose to be top secret and extremely confidential. But I've had my fair share of secrets and power. I swear I won't speak of it."
"None of us will," Ohno nodded. "You have our word."
Naruse's gaze hardened. "You do understand that once we go, we can't escape. Not until every single spirit, ghost, poltergeist, and Imperfects are either secured or put out. Yami included. I understand this isn't your real job, and I've asked too much of you already. Are you still in for this?"
Sho swallowed a nervous lump stuck in his throat. He could feel the sickening warm feeling still sitting in his stomach, that sense of fear grew as his heart rate accelerated. He faced foul creatures before, but it was always just one or two at a time. The thought that he might have to face a whole swarm of them seemed too much. He side-glanced at his friends and saw the same hesitation and fear, until he saw Jun step forward.
"I have failed this city, my friends, and my fans too many times already," Jun said, earnestly. "I won't make the same mistake to the world."
Naruse nodded to him. "We find Yami, and we cut him down."
* * *
While Naruse discussed battle plans with the remaining Aurors backstage, he and his friends took the chance to change out of their concert costumes to more comfortable wear. He slipped on his best flexible jeans and his black T-shirt. He left his bag and his hat at the dressing room, but he pocketed his wand. Nino passed around individual pouches to stock up their supplies on capturing spheres, red chalk, amethyst flower oil, and a few of Aiba's Recovering Tea Potion. Despite Aiba's potion to be the most bitter potion he's ever had, it surprisingly rejuvenates him every time they record an episode. Ohno has never tried it outside the studio, and he wondered how it'll work in the real battlefield.
"It's been so long," Nino spoke in a quiet sadden voice, "since the last time we prepared to go adventuring like this."
"And to some place dangerous," Sho nodded. "It's like diving into Hogwart's lake all over again. Or facing a damn dragon."
"Expect this time, we are more prepared," Ohno said, boldly. "This time we know we're facing a tough adversary, but it's not like we've never done it before. We can still do this. We can still save people.
They huddled together, ready and armed. Ohno felt Nino's hand grip his shirt tightly and slightly shaking. Their heads were bowed down, as if ready for another concert. Expect this time, Jun couldn't make them fire up. They weren't meant to be anyway. This was a circle of prayer.
"Watch each other's back," Ohno whispered.
When Naruse and this team entered the room, Arashi straighten up and took a deep breath in unison.
"Ikuta volunteered to stay with a few others and help keep the Imperfects here in case they escape," Naruse said.
Ohno furrowed his brow. "He's not going to..."
"No," Naruse said. "He said he'll watch over them in place of Arashi."
"We head for the Ministry."
Ohno watched his uncle pull out an hourglass and set it on the floor. He chanted the Portkey spell and everyone huddled around it. Together, they touched the Portkey and Ohno felt his finger be hooked to the hourglass. He waited as they spun around until they landed.
He has never been to Japan's Ministry before. It was like a giant castle. The walls were made of stone, and the stairs were as wide as the streets. It was completely open to the ceiling like a massive dome. There were stone bridges that stretched across each level, as if it was a massive village living on top of another. However, all wasn't peaceful or elegant as Ohno thought a government building would be.
It was total chaos.
The Paradise monsters have broken loose. Wizards and witches were either fighting against ghosts and poltergeists, or running away from vengeful spirits. Blasts of red and green spells smashed into walls, ghosts, or sometimes missing their target and hitting a poor employee.
"We're too late!" Aiba gasped.
"Find Yami!" Naruse ordered. "We'll shut the vault in the lower levels. Help them fight off the spirits!"
Aiba and Nino teamed up to help out the wizards on the ground floor, where most of the poltergeist were plundering. He saw his uncle and a few of his men take the elevator down. Sho ran up the left staircase while Jun took off dashing towards the right, and Ohno followed him. He had a feeling Jun was being reckless and stubborn out of some redemption that he has to do. He followed Jun running up the several flights, trying to avoid those running and screaming to get away.
Suddenly, he felt something grab his ankle and he fell hard on the edges of the concrete stairs. He looked over his shoulder and saw a wild yellowish poltergeist grinning insanely at him.
"You look good enough to eat!" It shrieked.
Ohno quickly pulled out his wand.
A hot blast of flame engulfed the poltergeist and released its grip. Ohno reached inside his pouch and grabbed his capturing sphere. As long as the poltergeist is distracted, capturing will be easy. The flaming poltergeist cried out another animalistic scream as it glowed white and sucked into the sphere. He quickly pocketed it away and continued to climb up.
He already lost track of Jun as well as his other friends. He leaned over the edge and saw Aiba and Nino still on the bottom floor, now dealing with a raging ghost. A couple of Aurors and other wizard officials helped fight off the other loose spirits. Ohno trusted their combined skills to handle on their own. Sho is also adequate in his wandship, wherever he is. Ohno just had to find Jun and know he's alright.
An explosion shook the floor and Ohno glanced up. A few levels above, he spotted Jun fighting off a spirit on the bridge. Ohno cursed himself again for not bothering to know how to Apparate. He ran as fast as he could to the nearest set of stairs, but he was blocked off by another spirit. This one was red and angry, already past its hunger point, but Ohno stood his ground.
"The world shall be ours again," it spoke clearly and intelligently. "The dead will conquer the living. And I shall feast upon your soul!"
"There's only one who can have my soul," Ohno growled. "Expecto Patronum!"
A silver crane took flight from his wand and circled around the angry spirit. The light made it shriek in pain, and Ohno took the chance to grab his red chalk. He quickly rubbed the red chalk onto the tip of his wand and pointed at the ground, just below the spirit. He circled his arm and made a quick sketch on the floor. It was sigil that works best for encasing a spirit. The red chalk glowed purple as the spirit was trapped inside.
But only for a short amount of time.
"Where is Yami?" Ohno demanded. "Where is he?"
"The Cursed Child comes and goes as he please," the spirit grinned wickedly at him. "I only serve him so that I can have my fill on sweet revenge! The life I lost will be mine again!"
The spirit starting laughing as if he was mocking him. This was getting him no where. Ohno cracked open the capturing sphere, and the spirit stopped laughing. As soon as it was captured, he took off running again. The poltergeists were the main problem since there were so many. He has yet to face an Imperfect, which made sense because the vault was only filled with spirits, ghosts, and poltergeist alike. Not seeing an Imperfect was also a good sign. Any Imperfects meant another life must be removed. Ohno continued to proceed up, hoping he wasn't too late to help Jun.
Finally, he reached the mid-levels were he last spotted Jun. The bridges were wider, but there was debris everywhere. Then, he saw dark shadows covering the walls around him. He whirled around and saw Yami standing on the other end of the bridge. A sharp spike of shadow came plummeting down, and he instinctively back flipped out of the way.
Ohno landed on his feet, but immediately felt light-headed from the sudden avoidance.
"Nice trick, old man," Yami smirked. "What's the matter? Feeling dizzy?"
"Damnit," Ohno grunted, shaking his head to stop the stars from spinning.
Another shadow charged towards him, but he raised his Shield Charm just in time. The shadow crashed into his shield and he was pushed back by its force. Yami continued going on the offense, and Ohno could only block and dodge. Suddenly, he felt his foot slip and he dangerously wobbled over the broken edge of the bridge. He heard Yami let out a maniac laugh and attacked again. Ohno quickly rolled out of the way before he raised his wand.
A powerful blinding white light emerged from his wand. Yami's shadows quickly withdraw as if they were physically harmed, even Yami himself was shielding his eyes. Ohno stood up and made sure he kept his wand fixed on Yami while keeping his distance from the edge.
"So you are afraid of the light," Ohno said. "You can't handle magic light!"
"Enough!" Yam shouted.
His red eyes were vicious and fueled with anger. Ohno's light was making Yami's shadows even larger. Realizing his mistake, he extinguished his light and stared up at the massive monster. The shadow behind Yami was enormous. It bared teeth with red glowing eyes, and its claws were deadly. It grew devilish horns and a thick black fire mane.
How was he going to beat this thing?
It was fast. He didn't even had a chance. The monster's claw swooped down and pinned him to the stone bridge. Ohno's wand was flung from his hand as the weight of the shadow crushed him slowly. Yami stood over him with a wide toothy grin.
"Didn't you know?" Yami said, his voice slightly mutated and demonish-like. "The shadow is always darkest when its next to the light."
Ohno only grunted and tried struggling himself free from the monster's heavy palm.
Yami laughed at him. "And yet you still fight? Come now. What good will it do for you?"
"Better than dying," Ohno groaned.
"But you won't have to die," Yami grinned. "Have you forgotten everything I've said? Once this world is fused with Paradise, death will be nonexistent. Everyone will be the same at last! Isn't that the ideal world to live in? To be equals?!"
Ohno frowned at him with disgust.
"You pitiful humans always fight for equality," Yami continued. "Whether it's work, gender, class, sexuality, life and death. Yet you would still fight to keep such separations?! I am trying to bring us united in so many ways! All I am trying to do is finally put things together as the way they should be!
"Do you not think so...Riida," Yami taunted. "Don't you want a peaceful life?"
He blinked. The boy before him was truly a lost child. Ohno finally understood what Naruse sees in him, or what he lacks of. Yami's goal to bring everyone to equal grounds was a false concept. It takes away the meaning to protecting something worth fighting for. If everyone was equal to fend for themselves, who would he protect? Who would he risk his life for? Who would risk for him? Having one life is precious because it has only that one chance, and Ohno will give it only when he knows it's called for. And Yami just doesn't see that.
"You truly are a cursed child," Ohno muttered. "And not because you don't belong in either worlds, but because you don't understand what it means to live."
Suddenly, a red light struck Yami's back, blasting him over Ohno. The boy yelped while his shadow creature let out a massive reptilia roar in pain. The shadow hand lifted up and he was able to breath properly again. Ohno looked up and saw Naruse with his wand brandished out. He suffered from cuts and bruises, but he was whole and stood firmly. Naruse dashed towards Ohno and helped him up.
"Thanks," Ohno breathed.
"I'm only glad I made it," Naruse said.
"What about the vault?"
"We barely made it," Naruse grunted, staring at Yami. "We had to seal off the vault. We couldn't get all the spirits into their capture spheres. If we don't stop Yami soon, the Ministry is done for...as well as the rest of Japan."
Yami started giggling again as he got up on his feet.
"Foolish wizard," Yami said. "Even if you did defeat me, the Gates of Paradise are still open, and more spirits will come here on their own free will. They don't need my provocation or leadership. It only takes a few to stir up the masses. And with powers like mine, nothing will end me."
"Tell me something Yami, did the shadows really become your friends...or did you steal it for yourself?" Naruse spoke loudly.
The dark boy narrowed his eyes. "What did you say?"
"For someone with so much power, surely you never intend to use it to help the spirits," Naruse pressured on. "I once held great power and intended to keep it for myself until it nearly destroyed me entirely. So how long do you have to keep those shadows? Is it a way to keep those hungry spirits from eating you?"
Ohno could see the anger rising in Yami's shadows, as if they took shape in flames.
"Do you fear death, Naruse?" Yami growled. "Because I can give it too you if you're so wanting of it. And I'll make sure you don't come back!"
Naruse tightened his grip. "I do not."
"Yes, you do! Everyone does!" Yami shouted. "You think you're so special because you're a skilled wizard! You only fear death until you know it's the only option left!"
"I do not fear it," Naruse said, calmly. "In fact, I'll accept it if it means I can protect those that matter to me. It has taken me a long time to understand this, but I know where my life stands. You, on the other hand, are the one that fears death. For someone who's neither alive nor dead, where will you go when you pass? Who will remember you when you're gone? This is what you fear, don't you? And that's why you've created this whole ordeal. To avoid death entirely."
"Shut up! You don't know a thing about me!" Yami shouted like a spoiled child. "You don't know anything about how I feel! What I've been through! What I had to do to get here!"
"But I do," Naruse answered, almost gently. "I understand what it feels like. The suffering and the years of hatred and self-loathing. I've been through it all. I thought the light will never reach me when I was so deep in the dark, but it's not true. You have more options. There is hope."
Ohno could see the boy was contemplating with Naruse's words. It was heartbreaking to see such a young child surrounded in darkness looking so lost. However, his red eyes only flared a look of resentment. For a brief second, Ohno thought he saw tears.
"No!" Yami shouted. "I don't believe it! This is the only way and I have to do it!"
The shadow monster grew again and let out another screech. Wordlessly, Naruse fired more hexes, but Yami's creature shield them all. It was as if the monster was absorbing it. Ohno saw the shadows slither across the stone bridge. Naruse and Ohno quickly leaped out of the way before they tried to grab hold of them. However, separating from each other was the wrong move. Ohno was still wandless. The monster's eyes began flashing and shots of red energy fired towards him. He tried leaping out of the way, but the force was so powerful, he flew back meters away.
The impact made a painful blow to the back of his head, and he had a hard time getting up. It hurts just to open his eyes, and he wanted to shut everything out. The smell, the lights, the noise. He groaned and rolled to his side, trying to get up, but he felt completely sick to his stomach.
At long last, he managed to open his eyes, and saw Yami leaping in the air. The shadow was supporting him like a kite. Yami created a small crater in his landing, and he easily stood up straight again with his overlarge shadow monster behind him. Ohno looked around, but he realized his wand was still far back. He couldn't see Naruse anywhere. He was defenseless!
"Perhaps when you go back to Paradise as a dead soul, you'll see why the spirits are so desperate to live again," Yami muttered. "You'll see...I do understand the importance of living."
The monster's eyes began flashing again. It was only a matter of time before Ohno will be obliterated. Suddenly, a silver shield blocked between him and the red blast. Ohno rolled over and saw Jun standing on the other end of the bridge with his wand raised.
"Jun!" Ohno gasped.
"So, the Gate Keeper has finally-"
Jun charged at Yami as if he was rampaging bull. Jun acted as if he didn't even had a wand and he grabbed hold of Yami with his bare hands. It startled Yami completely, realizing he had no idea how to handle a grown man in such close contact. At last, Naruse was by Ohno's side and help him stand up again. Ohno saw Jun and Yami wrestling, and somehow Yami was too disoriented to direct his shadow monster to attack. That's when Ohno saw the red eyes flashing again.
Jun's footing slipped, but his arms were still around Yami. They fell over the edge of the bridge, and the monster's red eyes were at level with Ohno. He saw the jet of red light headed straight for him, but he was pushed out of the way. Everything grew deaf to his ears. The debris of rock and dust in his eyes were moving so slowly as he saw his uncle take the full blast. He dropped his wand, and the brave man stumbled over the edge as well.
For a second, Ohno couldn't breath, but he reacted quickly. He grabbed his uncle's wand and wordless cast a levitation charm just in time before his uncle crashed to the lower stone bridge. Ohno's hands were trembled. He couldn't see Jun or Yami anywhere, but somehow a dark twisted feeling inside made him think they didn't matter at the moment. He got up and nearly fell from his wobbly feet as he race downstairs. He finally reached the lower bridge and saw his uncle laying there completely still.
He dashed towards him and dropped down to his knees at his side. His eyes were closed and a small trail of blood leaked from the corner of his mouth. His suit was torn up, and yet he looked peaceful. Ohno dropped the wand, his hands shaking as he lifted his uncle up to his lap.
"Hey! Hey, get up!" Ohno yelled, shaking him. "Come on! I know you're awake. Get up!"
A lock of hair gently flew across his forehead. His body still felt warm, but he couldn't hear any breathing. Ohno was too much in shock to accept it.
"Wake up already!" Ohno shouted, "Please, Uncle! I still need your help!"
His uncle remained still and silent. An overwhelming fear was settling in.
"Uncle?" Ohno croaked. "Uncle Ryo? Wake up."
"You have a child coming! You can't just leave Shiori like this!" Ohno shouted at the man he thought he always hated. "What am I suppose to tell her?! And my cousins?! You can't leave them!"
He was desperately holding onto his uncle's jacket, but the man in his arms would not wake up. He will never wake up, just like the fan he lost the first night he faced an Imperfect. Or the countless other fans back at the stadium. But this was different. This was his family. Somehow, Ohno felt something inside him died as well. He lowered his head and their foreheads touched together.
"You can't leave me...," Ohno whispered.
end of chapter 9
To Chapter 10 - http://arashiforyou.livejournal.com/51009.html
seriously, someone lock me away before i destroy more feels.
so i did the one thing i thought i never do. kill off the greatest character, naruse ryo.
at least he didn't die in shame or doubt or pity or any self-loathing. i think i made him a bit too heroic. haha! but i don't know how else to explain it. i had to do it!
also, some made up spells i created since i couldn't find a good harry potter spell. "Reisei" means "calm", used for creating a calming atmosphere. pretty obvious
a thing about this chapter's title. It's a quote of Nathan Hale during the American Revolution. "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."
I was watching Liberty's Kids XDD