Spirit of the Battousai
Part 2: Two sides to a Sword
It was a lazy day from Akane's point of view as she sat on the porch of the Tendo household. Her father was playing shogi with Uncle Saotome as usual. Nabiki was reading something she hadn't bothered to find out, and Kasumi was probably in the kitchen. Nothing was wrong with this scene, except it was not normal. This has been the consensus dating back to the arrival of a certain pig-tailed martial artist. This worried her.
Ranma hadn't been looking very well for the past couple of days, and he admitted as much himself. Yesterday he had received an injury, which was nothing out of the ordinary by itself, but the katana was new. Akane knew as well as anyone living in Nerima, when little weirdness like this happened, more would be sure to follow.
Almost as subtle as the soft breeze flowing around, the slight ringing of the bell signaled the front door being opened. This was enough to snap Akane out of her reverie.
"Elder Cologne, how nice of you to visit us." Kasumi being the young proper woman that she was, greeted Cologne and Shampoo entering the Tendo living area.
"I'm afraid I have grave news to discuss, Child," The Elder spoke with the air of ominousness.
"What is it, Elder?" Akane asked with a hint of worry. Hesitating a moment, "It's about Ranma isn't it? Something has happened to him."
"It is so, Child," said Cologne giving her a long calculating look. "Settle down, and I'll start from the beginning. Perhaps together we can solve this mystery."
"A few hours ago, young son in law, came to seek me, sporting a wound on his left cheek and a ominous katana blade at his waist. At first glance I had already--"
"My boy has a katana!? It can't be!"
"Quiet Genma. Don't interrupt. Now as I was saying, I had already felt an evil presence from it and I had told young Ranma as much. At that moment I saw something from him I had never seen before. I can't say what it exactly was, but it was cold, and unnerving; perhaps not that different from an assassin. He wanted to seek the history of this blade, so I showed him this--"
Cologne suddenly took out a fairly large crystal ball from nowhere that only powerful martial artist, enraged women, and blind ducks can.
"This, is the vision sphere. It will show a person something he has a strong tie to. I knew ever since son in law gave me that look that the sword had enticed him in one way or another so I had thought this artifact would show him what he sought. This is where our immediate problem lies."
Putting down the ball on the Tendo table, "Please, peer into the ball and concentrate."
Seeing that Cologne was not going to say more, Akane and the rest of the household members looked on.
At first Akane could only see mist, then as if the mist started to part, an image formed. A person was leaning up against a wooden wall, a blade was hugged closely to him... it was... *Ranma?*
< OH MY! >
Ranma awoke with a haggard groan. His head was hurting and something stung on his cheek. Trying to move, he realized further grunting was needed, as his back was sore.
Putting a hand on the sting on his cheek, he felt the distinct feeling of dried blood. *The wound...* He had assumed that he had taken a flesh wound from his latest opponent out of carelessness. He hadn’t remembered it being cut, but when he woke up the morning after, the wound was there. A faint cross-shaped cut now resided on his left cheek. Ranma hadn't known how such a cut could have been made, but during the fight, he had felt distant, almost as if he wasn't completely aware of himself. These were grounds for carelessness, so he just bandaged it up and thought little else of it. Now somehow the bandage had came off...
Ranma tried to think, but it was all blurry, as if it had been a dream. Something had happened when Cologne showed him that ball. He was transported, he figured, sometime into to the past. It was dark and had started to rain. Two figures approached him, and…and... he couldn’t remember.
Ranma started to get a headache, and decided to think about it another time. *I probably got some shelter here and slept for the night* Looking around he was in some old shed. There was some kindle with a makeshift kettle not far from him. He figured that's how he was a guy again.
*Funny I don't remember boiling water...*
Shrugging the thought off, he righted himself up to go out to look for food that would fill his stomach. Almost without a conscious thought Ranma slipped his sheathed katana onto the left side of his waist. Adjusting his black cloak to better fit, simultaneously hiding the presence of the sword, he stalked out.
The first rays from the sun were blinding as customary in the morning. Ranma took a moment to let his eyes adjust to the sun. His surroundings proved his earlier thought; everything appeared ancient to his time with makeshift wooden sheds and dirt pack roads that showed a different era of Japan. Judging from this, he believed he was in a very shady run down part of the town, but Ranma was never quite interested in history so it was only a fair guess on his part.
Walking over to a wooden bucket he dipped his hands into the water that had probably been collected from last night’s rain. Thoroughly washing his face he noticed that his cut was nearly healed, it had not stung at all like a freshly made wound. *Chalk one up for fast healing-heh-* Giving a fresh scan of his surroundings there was still no one around. It had appeared this part of town was not populated.
Picking a direction he walked out to find civilization.
< OH MY! >
Kenshin lazily looked up from his comfortable resting position sitting on the edge of the wall. The sky was a beautiful blue and white after the stormy night before. But try as he would to think on better things, his thought's still resided on the attack earlier this morning.
No one had been critically hurt luckily enough. Kaoru-dono and Yahiko were perfectly fine and verbally fighting as usual. Sanosuke was also surprisingly in good health besides a body full of scuffles. It had not phased Sanosuke much at all from the injuries and was how engaged in another verbal fight with Megumi-dono. The one who was most injured was himself. That in it self was not a bad thing, the girl's target was obviously him. He did not want anyone else hurt because of that.
*Was she a Tenchu, an assassin, sent to kill me...no if that were the case the fight would have not ended there. She had held back at that moment. She might have been testing me, but if so for what reason? Her style, my style... it had to have been Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu Battoujutsu. Every attack she made was true to the form. Fast, powerful, and very unnerving to be at the other end of, especially the Ryuu-Tsui-Sen. But it was different too... It was the Battoujutsu, it was hard to imitate it to such an extent, but it had felt different. The fight was not like when Master attacked, it was...different. Perhaps she _had_ meant to kill me. Then there was the Ryuu-Tsui-Sen... a perfectly executed one that had been tilted slightly. That should have defeated the purpose of the technique by changing the angle of power, but it had almost meant my death. The wound...*
Snapping out of his reverie, Kenshin looked up at Megumi-dono.
"Is the wound causing you any more trouble?"
Giving a light smile, "No Megumi-dono, the bandaging was excellent."
A light blush came on the young apprentice healer's face. "Kenshin was your attacker really using your style? I heard she looked very much like you. Even the red hair and the scar."
Giving some thought Kenshin replied, " I believe she was. I have no idea who she is, though, there are only two parishioners of this style and I was hoping it would die with me."
*Bright red hair with a cross-shaped scar on the left cheek, the signs that identify the Battousai. What does she hope to accomplish...*
< OH MY! >
Ranma walked down the road now populated with civilians. A rough sort that signaled he was definitely in the wrong era. This was when he realized one thing. His hand full of money meant nothing right now. Food was beyond his reach giving this realization.
Looking around his stomach grumbled for nutrition. He supposed he would have to work for food. Some odd end job like washing dishes he guessed, but who would accept him. That was when he heard a noise.
There was a gathering in a shady alley near his position. They appeared to be arguing something, but moments later it was more like bullying. One person dressed fairly well, was being backed up into the alley by a bunch of obviously rough thugs. This wasn't an augment; it was a robbery. People who were within the immediate distance started to disappear or hurry along. This meant that he was not getting any help.
Ranma decided to step in.
"...come on, just a few yen. It looks like you can spare some. You should be nice and give us some, or we might have to persuade you a bit _harder_."
"P-Please, I will give it to you, j-just don't hurt me..."
A shadow suddenly loomed over the gathering. "Now this isn't very nice." The tone was very dark, if not disturbing. This had an immediate effect as everyone turned their heads towards the new arrival.
"What do _you_ want? We're just having a little chat here. Move along boy, before we get mad," one of the thugs, probably the leader replied.
"This chat is finished," unconsciously Ranma's hand moved onto his sheathed sword and twisting it ever so slightly. This not only surprised the group, it surprised him too. He had never needed to use a sword before, there was no reason to ever unconsciously ready a sword for Ranma.
"SO you think a fancy sword is going to scare me, well think again." Moving a hand to his back, the thug leader pulled on a thin stick. It was a hidden blade.
Then in a flash before the leader could unsheathe the blade to further his rebuttal, Ranma lashed out with a devastating fist. It had connected so hard the leader had flown back slamming into his gang.
Wide-eyed astonished gasps resonated from every person except Ranma. In mere moments after the attack, the effect settled in. Everyone stumbled and nearly tripped on themselves running pass Ranma and out of the alley, their faces plaster with fear; even the person who had been saved from the robbery. In his haste he had dropped his purse with the money.
"H-Hey, you dropped your..." The owner was already far away and running farther. Ranma sighed. *I suppose I had over did it a little... but they didn't need to be that scared* Picking up the purse, there was a surprising good amount of money in there. It was enough for a meal anyway. *Well something good came out of this at least*
< OH MY! >
"Ne- Kenshin. Do you think it's going to be all right with the girl somewhere about? We should be on our guard or something... What are we going to do about her?"
Kenshin turned his head back to momentarily face Kaoru. They were currently walking home after the visit to the Doctor's. "I don't know, Kaoru-dono. I think we should discuss this further at home. It will also be safer there too."
Suddenly his senses tingled. A strange presence suddenly crossed his path. Turning around he caught the sight of a young boy with a black pigtail. It had been an eerie sense, but apparently the boy had not noticed him, with his idle look and satisfied smile.
Kenshin slowly dismissed it as the boy walked away from his sight. *Something was strange about that boy...*
< OH MY! >
"So why is Ranma stuck inside this ball or world, or whatever?" Akane asked.
"I do not know why such a thing happened. I did not know such a thing can happen. The vision sphere was not meant to transport a person anywhere. From what is known, the vision sphere should show a person what he seeks. The manuscripts are not clear in how they show it. It might be a world of what has happen, what can happen, or even what will happen. It is based on the person and what he seeks."
Giving it another thought Cologne continued, "Though I suppose no one has ever try to strike the sphere or destroy it. That is what young son in law did as he was seeing what he sought. I have no idea what could cause such a reaction, but this was clearly not foreseen."
"Maybe I can borrow it for myself sometime."
"Nabiki!" yelled out Akane with indignation. "There are more important things to worry about. How do we get Ranma out?!"
"Since such a thing has never happened before, child, I do not know how to remedy it. Perhaps only Ranma himself can come back on his own, since it is what he sought in the first place. I told Mousse to gather my books to bring them here. When he arrives we will look into more options. For now we must wait."
"Though even when he comes back, that is still not the true problem."
Everyone blinked, "Huh? What do you mean?" asked Akane.
< OH MY! >
The sun slowly set and darkness slowly covered the land. The roads slowly became devoid of people. In some parts of town it became desolated. Nature's sounds dominated the area. That is until rapid footsteps came.
A person was desperately running for his life. Heavy breathing was heard from a face wide with fear. He stumbled a few times, but his legs refused to give away as his life depended on it. Every so often he would give a frantic cry for help, but none came to answer.
In a half rotted wooden shed. A pair of eyes opened, a pair of icy blue eyes...
"Help me! Please, Someone Help me!" The person screamed. He ran into an alley and into another side road and keep twisting and turning through the different sections of town hoping to lose his pursuer. Suddenly a shadowy figure loomed over him. In his haste and indecision he fell to the ground.
Looking up with fright he saw the sword on the waist. Franticly he backed up but then he saw the face; it was a young girl, it was not his pursuer. At that moment he didn't care who it was as long as it wasn't the one after him.
"Please! Help me! I'll give you anything. Money! I have money!" scrambling into his clothes he produced a fat purse and threw it on the ground next to her. "Please just help me!"
The young girl looked down on him with those piercing cold eyes and he almost fell back again. At this point he was mad with hysteria.
"Time to die."
Another shadowy figure came into view. This one though seemed twice as large as the young girl.
She was not phased, though, by the new arrival. Calmly she stepped in front of the frantic person, putting her directly in the path of his pursuer. Almost flowing in one fluid motion her sword hand went to the sheath sword and twisted it ever so slightly.
"You want to die to, eh? Fine by me."
The pursuer was big, but he was also fast, covering the distance quickly, he raised a large sword worthy of a man his stature. He came down with a vicious downward slash on the young red-haired girl.
The blow never came though. She had struck first. A fountain of blow flew from the big body before it fell to the ground in a lifeless heap.
Giving a quick flick to rid the blood off her sword, she calmly sheathed it and turned back to face the man she had saved. Those icy blue eyes never waver but the man had. He franticly scrambled up and ran in the opposite direction. The pursuer was dead, but his savior had been even scarier.
Moments later she bent down and picked up the purse. She did not leave, though, instead she looked on into the darkness. This seemed to continue for a bit until a person showed itself.
"Hello there young one" a middle age man greeted her with a smile.
"Who are you?" the flat cold voice replied.
"Me? Why I am a person interested in what you did. You see, he was an official for the foreign embassy. He was supposed to have been killed, but it seems you had stepped in. A pity. The man you killed was good assassin, if not a little boastful."
"Well it's not all that important anymore... Now what I have is a proposition for you." A moment pasted and seeing that she was not going to reply, he went on. "Why don't we go to a more...warmer... place and discuss it?"
Her features never wavered and after a moment followed him.
< OH MY! >
"What do you want?"
They were in a small neat room with fine furnishings. A table separated the two with sake for each person. The middle-aged man was sipping his. She never touched her's though.
"You should know what business I am in and you are very skilled. I want to offer you a job. The pay will be very well."
A long moment past between them, "What do you want me to do?"
The man raised an eyebrow towards her. "Well...let's see... ahh. There is an official staying here. He is residing on the lower part of this town, on the county side, a place on top of the mountain. I wanted him killed, but since he was staying there, it is quite heavy guarded. The man...you killed couldn't do it..."
A memory flashed before the girl's mind. "Fine."
Not waiting for the man to continue, she stood up and walked for the door.
"I'll do it tonight." With that she left.
< OH MY! >
"It's not possible... That can't be Ranma. He would never do such a thing... to kill like that..." No one else could believe what Akane had said either, but...
"I doubt son in law would on normal circumstances. But this is our true problem. It would seem that the cursed katana had somehow possessed him."
"Still even possessed Ranma would never..." Akane could not believe it. It was not the Ranma she knew.
"Yes, son in law would not be so easily taken by such an act. He is very strong willed and should have fought back, but..." Pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, "I believe there is more to this story. You see Ranma was still in conscious control when he was in his male body but we saw him fully possessed in his female form. This is what I believe the sword did."
Seeing as her listener's did not fully understand, Cologne elaborated. "You see, everyone has parts of themselves they try to hide. Feelings, thoughts, or experiences, they lock away within their subconsciousness. For Ranma, we know that he resents his female side very much, given Genma's influence on him," She gave Genma a sidelong glance. "Because of Ranma's feelings, the cursed sword used this to its advantage. It probably hides its influence while he is a male, but when female the sword takes over. To what end or what purpose, I do not know yet however."
"I see...something had been odd with Ranma today. SO how to we rid the possession?"
"Demonic possession is a very delicate thing. I am holding my options until we have more information. That is another thing I hope to achieve soon. But even then we may be too late."
"What do you mean elder?" Akane had a bad feeling about the answer.
< OH MY! >
"I hadn't thought you would cause such a big disturbance there, young one."
The middle-aged man had already retrieved the proper information before she came back. It was as well as she had not explained to him any details, just that the job was done.
"Do you have a problem with that?" That voice had been as cold as ever.
"Ahh... of course not. The job was successful. I just had not expected you to go straight through the guards. Quite a mess it seems, a bunch of dead bodies all around."
He did not cause a reaction from her though.
"Were you hurt? There seems to be an open wound on your cheek, little one."
There was a red cross-shaped cut on her left cheek. Bits of blood had dripped down, signaling a fresh wound.
He raised an eyebrow at that. Now that she mentioned it. The wound was red when he had met her the night before. He figured it was a past wound and not of much relevance.
"Anyway, here is your payment." He took out a metal pass. "This will let you open a security box in the bank near here. I think you will find the payment satisfactory. If not we can always negotiate to a settlement."
She took the pass in silence.
"Now then, I suppose you are eager for your next job." 'Eager' was a stretch by any imagination. "I want you to dispose of a swordsman that resides at the Kamiya Dojo, on the south side of town. He is a fairly young man in his twenties with bright red hair and a cross...shaped...scar..." The man's words started trailing off as he realized something.
"Fine." Yet still the girl had not provoked a reaction. She had immediately moved towards the door.
"By the way, what is your name?"
She turned back, briefly stopping.
"Adako. Himura Adako."
< OH MY! >
"Kenshin! Big news!" Kenshin looked up to find Yahiko running towards him with Sanosuke trailing behind.
"What is it Yahiko?"
"Last night, there was a murder. An official staying in Tokyo was assassinated. It was a slaughter too. They found dead guards all over the compound."
Kenshin was at a lost of words to that. *Such violence...*
"I have a guess on who it could be. It may be just coincidence, but still..."
Kenshin gave some thought to that. It was just a little too much of a coincidence.
"What's wrong, guys?" Kaoru came out asking.
Suddenly Kenshin's sense spiked. "Yahiko, Sanosuke, please go with Kaoru back into the house."
"Huh?" was the dumbfounded reply.
Moments passed when she came in, the young girl who possessed his style.
Outwardly both Kenshin and the girl looked calm, but inside Kenshin strained with readiness and fear. He knew full well the girl was quite prepared no matter how she looked.
He took a long step forward, facing the girl. "Who are you? What do you want?"
Her sword hand flowed towards her sword and twisted slightly. That was all the warning Kenshin had before she came, hard and fast. But this time he was prepared and met her attack. He knew from their first encounter, a defensive strategy was not good. She had been too fast, too skilled to read. Even now she was lightning quick, as fast as he was, maybe more so. In a way she was a mirror image of himself, if not a twisted mirror image.
Blade met reversed blade. In the air, on the ground, loud pure rings of steel clashing resonated throughout the household as Kenshin's companions look on in horror. Their speeds were incredible.
*Is she using the Battoujutsu? She must be. Is she trying to read my moves as I am trying to her? She moves too fast and hides her moves too well for me to read her accurately. Can she read mine? Why does it feel so different? As if she is not using the Battoujutsu...*
The attacks continued and Kenshin met each one with his full ability. There was no margin for error in this battle, as she was just as powerful. Kenshin moved, parried and rebounded off the wall. She came and followed with equal speed and precision.
She attacked to the side, from the air, and twisted. To Kenshin it looked like she disappeared, but he knew better. *She's using the wall!* Pivoting himself he prepared himself for her attack.
The attack came as she reflected off the wall and came at him. But something was wrong *The angle is wrong, she not aiming...* Then he saw her form... *Ryuu-Sho-sen!*
Kenshin immediately changed his stance bracing for the technique. It came and he felt something different. *The angle is wrong again!* He still felt the powerful attack and flew back, but to his side. He had to wrestle with the torrent of power, twisting in mid flight to stumble onto his feet. Still it had not ended there.
Kenshin looked up to the sky and saw her next move *Ryuu-Tsui-Sen! No choice, I have only one chance...*
She came down on him, and he prepared his own attack. With a yell Kenshin screamed out, "Ryuu-Sho-sen!"
Two powerful techniques met in mid flight. Kenshin's devastatingly powerful technique that slashes up met her attack coming down. A loud ring flew from the clash as both swordsmen flew back.
Kenshin strained to keep himself on his feet and prepared another stance. He was breathing heavily now. The powerful attack did not leave him so well off, but it was better than the alternative.
*Again, it was a perfectly executed Battoujutsu technique, but the angle was slightly wrong. It should not have been done that way, but it has served its purpose well. If I had not acted as I had, if I had been one moment slower...* Kenshin took a long look at her. *She is so much like me, but at the same time different. She can use Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu Battoujutsu as well as I can it seems, but she uses it different. The same, but different, why? Why is she doing this? Who is she and for what reason does she have to kill me?*
"Who are you!?" But she still did not reply.
He still waited for an answer, but she started her attack again. Her speed never wavered as the renewed attacks began. Kenshin again met every attack, but now he went on the defensive. *Who is she? Why is she doing this? Why is it the same, but different?*
Suddenly her attack didn't come and she disappeared from his view. *What?* flashed by his mind before he felt a solid hit on his abdomen. He felt the wind being knocked out of him. She had ducked and.. *She kicked! It can't be! Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu doesn't use kicks!*
It was not over though as the girl performing a risking kick spun and for a moment a wide-eyed Kenshin was at a lost. But at that last moment before she completed her spin, he saw it. *Ryuu-Kan-Sen! A deadly technique that uses the power of the body's spin into a powerful attack. But now it had been modify, with her being on the ground, like the other technique, Sou-Ryuu-Sen, an attack that is suppose to have 'god speed' power*
Kenshin grunted moving with all his ability and positioned his reversed-blade to block it. It was only a chance, but there was no other choice.
To the onlookers it happened in one horrifying motion. Kenshin in shock as the attack came. A loud sound was heard and Kenshin flew back crashing into the wall.
It took awhile for the smoke to clear, but Kenshin slowly struggled up. His companions breathed a sigh of relief, but Kenshin was not that well off. He was breathing haggardly now and slouched into a defensive stance. On his left hand, a deep gash was seen. The only way he had been able to block the full force of the blow was to use both hands in defense, and since his blade was a sakabatou, the sharp side of the blade had cut deeply into his hand.
*Who is she? Why did she use a kick? The Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu incorporated no unarmed attacks into its style, yet she used it in perfect conjunction with the Battoujutsu. No this is not the Battoujutsu...*
*The Battoujutsu is a close area fighting style against multiple opponents. It draws its strength from reading an opponent’s moves and counter attacking with both speed and power, thus the name Battoujutsu. A normal opponent is open when the counter attack comes, but this girl... her style is different from the Battoujutsu, it... transcends it. She doesn't just counter attack, she breaks down their defenses. She changes her own style to adapt to her opponent's style. Like the first time, the slight attack to cause a wound was not accidental but perfectly placed. Then the kick had been used to break down my defense and... In a sense her style is specialized for an individual opponent. It's not the Battoujutsu but...*
Kenshin stared into the eyes of the girl. Those icy blue eyes were cold and emotionless. Suddenly he caught something. A flicker perhaps, maybe more. Turning he looked towards his companions as they watched on. He glaze fell over to Kaoru. Finally he knew.
*She doesn't use the Hiten Mitsurugi Ryuu Battoujutsu, but a revised version of it. Shaped it into a personal style to do one thing, to kill an individual. In short Revenge. She is out for revenge, against me. Something I did to her...*
Kenshin finally understood now. His stance relaxed and he looked towards his companions. He smiled, a soft gentle smile. He knew what to do now.
Slowly Kenshin straighten up and lowered his guard. The reversed blade now stood idly lowered by his side. Kenshin still smiled that gentle smile. To everyone else it was warm and inviting, completely defenseless and inviting. And she took it.
The red haired girl, with the cross-shaped cut on her left cheek came in. She never wavered, never slowed down her speed. She came on to Kenshin and attacked. It was precise and complete and Kenshin never moved a centimeter. His companion's cried out a warning in shock, but he had not heard them.
Kenshin fell to the ground in a heap and the cry of "Kenshin!" was heard. Smoothly the girl sheathed her sword and started walking towards the exit.
His companions rush towards their friend. Everything had been forgotten except the safety of their friend.
"Speak to me!"
Kaoru tear's freely flowed from her cheeks as she held Kenshin's motionless form in her hands. She couldn't believe it. Kenshin had been killed. Suddenly something came to her. Her hands were dry. This meant one thing. Looking down, she again checked to make sure. There was no blood. Kenshin wasn't dead.
As if on cue Kenshin began to stir. He groaned and opened his eyes. He was still weak, but alive.
She hugged him. "Kenshin you're alive! But how..."
Kenshin gave a smile and replied, "She reversed her blade at the last moment."
"Baka!" was all Kaoru could say before she dug her head into his chest.
Kenshin looked up with a serious at the retreating girl's form.
"Don't misunderstand. You will die." Her voice was still as cold as before.
"Who are you?" asked Kenshin.
"Adako." And she left.
This sparked a reaction from the group.
"Adako as in the carefree child?" asked Yahiko in confusion.
"Adako as in the flirtatious child?" asked Sanosuke in equal confusion.
"Mou- it's a wonder how a child with that name grew up to be like that!" commented Kaoru.
Kenshin, though, wasn't really listening.
"Adako, the child of revenge."
Everyone looked at him with a startled expression.
< OH MY! >
"What I mean child..." Cologne gave Akane a long look.
"Perhaps it is better if I use an old saying: When a man walking down a path realizes where the path leads to, he has little choice but to continue following it no matter the consequences."
"You don't mean..." Akane breathed out.
"Right now Ranma is not fully aware of what he has become, but there will be a time when he will finally realize this. When that happens, the Ranma we know will be changed forever."
"That can't be..." Akane couldn't finish off her