Shulato #12

"Fierce Battle! A Friend Found Among Tears"

synopsis by Arcadia

At Byakkoden, Shulato and Gai face off. Gai fires a blast of Sohma. Shulato dodges, but Gai wasn't aiming for him; he was aiming for the door the the temple. Now the door is sealed with Gai's Sohma, and the only way Shulato will be able to reach the crystal sphere and activate the holy light is by killing Gai. Shulato tries to reason with him, saying that Tenkuukai will be destroyed if they don't do anything, but Gai doesn't care. As Gai readies another attack, Lakshu steps between them, calling Gai a coward for fighting a wounded opponent. Gai levitates her out of the way, throwing her to the ground. Gai tells Shulato to prepare himself, and that Ryouma is waiting for him in hell.

Reiga and Kuuya are fighting at Suzakuden. Reiga teases Kuuya, saying that all his training has affected his brain. Kuuya refuses to let Reiga make him mad, but calls Reiga lazy for not training enough.

Flashback. Kuuya is sitting on an island, directly under a huge waterfall that flows from the top of Tenkuuju (ouch!). He is meditating, apparently oblivious to the torrent of water. Hyuga, Dan, Renge and Ryouma watch him from the shore of the lake, amazed. He was sitting there when they last saw him the night before, and must have been there the whole time. They're impressed.
Hyuga notices that Reiga isn't there and asks where he is. They decide he must be skipping practice, which brings an annoyed response from Reiga, who was sitting in a tree near them. He'd decided to take a nap. Hyuga's attempts to convince him to come down get nowhere.
Indrah and Vishnu arrive on the scene, wondering what all the yelling is about. Everyone (including Reiga) kneels. Ryouma tries to tell Kuuya that Indrah and Vishnu have come, but he doesn't hear him. Indrah had noticed that Reiga wasn't at practice and asks why. Reiga tries to talk his way out of it. He says he was admiring the view of Tenkuukai, and it made his even more dedicated to protecting it. Indrah doesn't fall for it, though. He suggests that Reiga test his dedication by sitting under the waterfall like Kuuya. Reiga isn't quite up to the challenge.
Vishnu congradulates Kuuya on his hard work, but Kuuya is still in a state of nothingness and can't hear her.
Reiga isn't as impressed as the others. As far as he's concerned, sitting under the waterfall was skipping practice, just as much as taking a nap.

Another flashback. Later that day, Reiga returns to the lake, and Kuuya is still there. He hears a noise in the bushes behind him. Four kids- three boys and a girl- come out of the bush and yell for Kuuya. They're Kuuya's younger siblings. When their brother hadn't come back to the village, they'd gotten worried and come looking for him.

Kuuya is grateful that Reiga took the time to watch over his siblings, but it's not enough to change his mind. The both charge at once, colliding in mid-air. Neither is willing to back down, even though the energy released by their attacks starts crumbling the statues around them.

Finally, Kuuya drops to the floor. Reiga throws feathers at him, but he deflects them easily. Reiga fires a Karula Hanefubuki, but Kuuya manages to shield himself from it. Kuuya fires a Dappa Suikourin, which Reiga deflects. They're evenly matched, and it doesn't look like either will win easily.

However, to Kuuya's surprise, Reiga drops his rings. He doesn't want to fight his friend. He creates an army of feathers and sends them all over Tenkuukai. One of them finds Kuuya's siblings. His sister is dying of Sekishuuhan. Not wanting to believe it, Kuuya insists it's a trick.

Another feather flies toward Tenkuuden, but is disintegrated by the energy field surrounding the palace. Not willing to give up, Reiga creates more feathers and send them all toward the palace. One by one, they're all destroyed. This takes its toll on Reiga- the feathers are part of him, and if they're destroyed, it means a part of him was destroyed. Finally, a single feather makes it through and finds its way to Vishnu's chamber, where Indrah is strengthening his spell on Vishnu. Indrah senses the feather almost immediately and destroys it, but not before Kuuya saw what he was doing.

Kuuya still believes it was just a trick. He starts chanting, and disappears. Before Reiga can figure out where he is, he fires a Dappa Suiraisen, taking Reiga by surprise. Reiga realizes that he hadn't attacked at full strength, and assumes it's because seeing Indrah confused him. Kuuya insists that isn't true.

Knowing that he can't fight what he can't see, Reiga creates another army of feathers, and leaves them hanging around the chamber around him. As Kuuya moves to attack, he disturbs one of the feathers. As soon as Reiga realizes where Kuuya is, he fires a Karula Yokushiran, but holds back at the last instant. Kuuya senses what he did and asks why. Reiga explains that he suddenly remembered a promise he made to Kuuya's little sister.

Flashback. Reiga is walking Kuuya's siblings back to their village, carrying one of the brothers on his shoulders. The little sister, Lebi, asks Reiga to protect her brother. Reiga says that since he's the strongest of the Hachibushu, that shouldn't be a problem. Lebi says that her brother is the strongest. Reiga says that if he's the strongest, he wouldn't need his protection, but agrees to do it, anyway.

As Kuuya gets up, he hears his sister's voice. Reiga's feather shows Lebi dying and her body disintegrating. Kuuya calls out to her. Using all his Sohma, he goes into the world of the dead to find her. When he finds her, she tries to tell him something, but he can't hear her. Lebi's image disappears, and is replaced by Vishnu's. She is crying. Kuuya realizes why, and realizes that he's made a terrible mistake.

Kuuya returns to the world, exhausted from the effort. He collapses, crying for his dead sister. Reiga offers to help him up, but collapses, too. Shocked at what he's done to his friend, Kuuya fires the last of his Sohma at the door to the crystal sphere, destroying it. Reiga rushes to his side. Kuuya asks if he had managed to activate the sphere. He hadn't, but Reiga lies and says he did. Kuuya dies in Reiga's arms.

Reiga goes to the sphere, and fires two blasts of Sohma into it- one for Kuuya and one for himself. A pillar of light rises from the temple.

Shulato sees the pillar and rejoices. Gai takes advantage of his momentary distraction and attacks. Suddenly, a third pillar of light, this one coming from Seiryuuden, shoots into the sky. Seconds later, Ryouma's spear knocks Gai's sword out of his hand.

Ryouma and Shulato face off against Gai...

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