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Is that so? I'm honoured.
And from one thing to another, here we go. Five parts, and now we're at the end. Hope it has been worth the wait.
The men in the control room were grim. Many were the horrors they could imagine, but few as powerful as the sight of the fireball in the sky now hanging before them. Old tales from the survivors of the last time this weapon had touched the isles of Nippon had been told time and again. Cities destroyed in an instant, tens of thousands dead, poison and fire seeping into the very soil. Now they saw the cloud rising, and soon the stormwinds would rush in to the void left by hungry flames and stone-shattering shockwave.
There were the assurances that the thermonuclear flames would not poison the earth, nor would they destroy more than this sparsely populated area of land. Still the terror was there.
"It is over then." Old Yoshida grimly stated. "We have won though the price was great."
"Perhaps not yet." The major at his side cautioned. "I'll give the orders to send in the green berets in three hours, then we shall know for sure."
"Your men are brave then." The old jarl said with an approving smile. "I wish them well."
"As do I, General. I intend to accompany them." The hard-faced woman replied, her lips curling into the first smile the old jarl had seen so far. For some reason he found that he had grown to respect this one, he concluded as he turned to the flame-haired woman and offered his hand.
"May Bishamonten watch over you, Major." The old general said as she took his hand, for perhaps this old superstition would prove true as well.
For a moment the major smiled again, then she replied. "And the blessings of Warfather Odin upon you, General. I shall personally see this threat to your country vanquished."
Fifteen minutes after this parting, an uniformed woman walked out of JSDF headquarters. She smiled widely after passing the gates, the scars over her lips visible to all who saw her, yet who would pay heed to such a detail?
Swiftly she then headed into a small park near the great hall of war and sat down on a bench in one secluded part.
She gazed up into the sky, watching the skies and clouds for a moment, a toughtful look on her features. Another moment of pondering, then she spoke in a language truly strange to any man who may have overheard it.
"In truth it seems that men always are enchanted by flickering flames, aye, even in this late age of the world." She wondered for herself. "Why else would they build such a weapon, one that is a match to Muspelheim itself, a shrine to old Surtur's fury?"
"Do I not, within my thought-hoard find a verse truly appropriate for this observation?" She mused while a wide grin spread across her features.
A sharp laugh rang out to the heavens, and a clear voice called out into the sky; "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
It was only minutes later that a falcon took wing from the park, to great wonder of those who saw it. Wings beat with great power, and off it sped into the distance.
Two hours did pass. Two hours where the warriors prepared for their mission. Few of them had thought that they would ever do battle in the aftermath of nuclear detonation. Fewer still that they would hunt a creature of supernatural legend. But prepare they did. Forty-five minutes to go.
"So what do you think about that chick? Who's she?" One of the warriors wondered as they waited next to their steel steed. Hard men, called best of the best, ones who won victory though they fought fiercest foemen.
"Lessee, shows up out of nowhere with two battalions of jarheads, browbeats the colonel into letting her tag along and walks around in goddamn spit-shined boots? A fuckin' spook, that's who." His comrade replied, then spat on the ground.
"Shit, man. sometimes I get sick of all them CIA bastards. Didn't earn my beret just so that some damn spook could boss me around." The first one replied with all the disdain only a seasoned warrior could muster.
"Don't know about that." A third warrior objected. "Looks like she's seen some action doesn't she?"
To this no one could object, for her scars and her confidence proved that this woman was no mere official, not one who had lived a life of leisure, but who had tasted the gift of Odin.
"And what do you all think of that guy?" The third one again asked, pointing at the woman's bodyguard.
"Looks like a motherfucker you don't wanna fuck with." The first man laconically concluded. "Big as an ox, probably a mean motherfucker too."
"Shit, with that beard dude looks like some kinda viking or something." The second replied, then spat on the ground again.
"Probably a crazy fucker too." He continued while gesturing towards the huge bodyguard. "Who the hell lugs a sword around? A crazy fucker, that's who."
"Think he's some kinda Mad Jack Churchill?" The third asked with a smile.
"Better hope so. Could use a mean motherfucker where we're going." The second answered. Silence fell on the group of battle-hardened men. Where they were going they did not know, save that it was somewhere that had required power greater than any other battle they had ever seen.
So the time came. So the lord of these hard men gave his orders. Swiftly, led by the flame-haired woman along with her silent, giant, shadow they went into the wasteland.
The earth was charred, nothing alive remained after the flames had done their work. Like black Surtur himself would have swept over this land with all of the sons of Muspelheim, so he deemed it. Great spells had he seen woven, star-shaping sorcery and a pyre to scorch the heavens themselves, but a mere weapon, forged by men of Midgard, that was of such power?
Truly terrible, truly impressive.
"Fire, fierce-flowing, like swiftest stream,
Fenrir's fury-fang flashed forth,
Fallow fields fill once-proud plain,
Fimbultýr's foe freed from his fetters."
His powerful voice called out these staves, yet no reply was forthcoming. Spread out was the command, and these warriors of later age had obeyed without question, leaving only him and his charge, if he could be so called. Or perhaps calling him 'she' would be more appropriate for the moment?
"Indeed, mortal warrior. Fine work, was it not?" A woman's woice called out as she appeared from behind a half-toppled wall, half-obscured by the fine dust still flowing through the air. Flame-haired and dressed in strange clothes, an uniform they were called.
And then she shifted. Not morphing, not changing, yet in one moment a woman, in the next a red-eyed man, lips scarred and hair of the same burning colour as she had.
"Why, I must ask, would great Loki Laufeyson disguise himself as a woman?" The song-smith wondered, his lips curling into a half-amused smile.
"Ever are warriors more easily shamed into action by a woman's voice, Sigurd Daemonslayer." The God of Fire replied with a chuckle. "And besides that, it is refreshing on occasion."
"Always seize every advantage, mortal warrior." The trickster god then told as they forged onwards through the wasteland. "And even though men are easily tricked, this was one of my finer moments."
"That high Odin's eye watched the plans and plots of Midgard's mighty lords I knew. Thus you knew their minds, and so you shifted their scheme to your own ends." The great song-smith replied. "Yet how did you trick the mighty men in two places at once? Both these men of the east, and those of the west you misled."
"Let us say that I had help." Loki replied, another smile coming over his lips. "Though few are as skilled, the changing of shape is not known to Loki alone."
This explanation seemed to satisfy the silver-tongued warrior. In silence the two then disappeared into the dust, for this hunt had to be swift indeed.
She had never felt such pain. She crawled, dragged herself forward with bloody, half-healed fingers. This power, this fury. Never had she imagined that the lowly cowards, these merciless killers, would have possessed the power to kill all life in such a large area.
A few strands of scorched hair fell down on her face, the acrid smell of burned hair filling her nostrils. She didn't care to brush them away, for too weak she was this great beast of legend. Without life, without the warm sun and the all-present plants, she had no strength to spare for such matters. They were so far away, but still she had grasped what little life remained in this scorched desert and the faint threads of power flowing from outside the destroyed area, and painfully drawn her body together.
To be Youkai was to be life. And as long as she had the will to live, no enemy would lay her low.
It was then when she heard the voice calling out to her.
"Here you lie, great beast of flowers. Helpless like my own son in his chains, fettered by weakness and laid low by blazing flames." It told, the hint of mockery within the words igniting the embers of rage within her chest.
Slowly she drew upon her own reserves of power and staggered to her feet. Though burned and battered she still was an impressive sight, though her clothes were in tatters and her hair blackened, she still was regal with her parasol in hand, a queen among all beasts of this world.
There she met the gaze of the Trickster God, one with eyes filled with fire, like hers were the colour of blood.
"Chains, O flowerborn, are ever evil things, yet sometimes necessary." The Son of Fárbauti told her, bowing respectfully to the great beast of Gensokyo. "As I well know, for I am Loki Laufeyson, God of Fire and Trickery."
"Charming." Yuka replied, her voice coming out as a hiss from ruined lungs. "What do you want?"
The fire-god gestured towards his companion, the great, bearded man with his steel-grey sword bared, then smiled widely and addressed the flower-beast once again.
"This is my associate, Sigurd Daemonslayer. He is here to kill you."
For a moment the flowerborn beast watched the mortal man standing in front of her, then she smiled weakly.
"You? Will you kill me?" She wondered, voice half-mocking though it was strained. "I'm weak, but not so weak that this boy could do it, slayer or not."
To this the God of Fire did not reply, merely shrugged his shoulders as the song-smith stepped up to the challenge.
He met the gaze of the great beast, and his powerful voice spoke.
"Grey blade drawn, deathbringer,
Great beast's bane, famed foe-bane,
Gram, bears it, a name known to all."
For a moment he fell silent, then raised his sword in salute.
"I am Sigurd, Odin's chosen. Let our battle be one that shall be remembered for ages to come."
His sword whistled though the air, only to be met by the parasol of the flower-beast. She parried, and then, swifter than the eye could follow, her sharp claw slashed forth.
Swifter than any mortal Odin's champion dodged her hand and swung down again with his blade. Blow was traded for blow, for no strength for spells had the flower-beast left, and in this dance Sigurd song-smith had the advantage.
She thrust with her trusty parasol, too far and too fiercely, for grey Gram whistled down upon her wrist and it was over. Wound-water welled forth from the stump to the great surprise of the beast of flowers. For a moment she stared at the red ruin, eyes not quite believing what they beheld.
"No need to look," The silver-tongued warrior told her, "It is as you think, the hand is gone."
"So it is. A flesh wound." She replied, and filled with the joy of battle she leapt as the warrior, her good claw flashing forth towards his heart.
But his fang of sorcerous steel was longer. Grey Gram pierced her heart, and his weight behind it knocked down the beast of flowers. Again the blade flashed out and in, severing her spine at the waist. Warrior's duty done, he stepped back and let the sorcerer begin his work.
"This..." The beast of flowers said as Loki Laufeyson stepped forth. "Is of no consequence."
"No matter how much you hurt my body, it will regenerate eventually. This is no victory for you." She wheezed forth, a pained smile spreading across her bloodstained lips. "Tell me, God of Fire, who will have the last laugh?"
"Ah, O beast of flowers, true you speak." Loki calmly replied, his own smile growing even wider. "No God of Fire could slay you, for your spirit is far mightier than any other, aye not even the other daemon could match it."
"But is Loki only the God of Fire?" He asked with a wicked smile, "Is he not blood-brother to the lord of battle, and is he not the father of death's mistress?" With this question posed, he raised his voice and called upon the powers taught to him by Odin himself, that wise master of runes.
"A twelfth I know: if I see in a tree,
A corpse from a halter hanging,
Such spells I write, and paint in runes,
That the being descends and speaks."
The power of the runes rumbled within his mind, the power over the dead that Odin won by his sacrifice his to wield this day. Yet runes alone would not be enough, this he knew. How fortunate then, to have other powers to call on.
"Dark is the hall, cold the hearth, in the realm below Svartalfheim's soil." He chanted, delving down into the sorcery of the netherworld.
"Hear me, for Loki calls, hear the words of your father." He called again, conjuring the shades of death's mistress, those cold wraiths who all men fear, aye, even that great beast felt the dark touch of fear graze her heart in that moment.
"Death, I ask for, a death for the deathless! Answer me, answer my voice." Dark was the spell chanted before song-smith's eyes, darker than any other he had seen, for this power no man or god dared call, none save Loki himself.
"Wield now thy curse of death, hear me O Hel!" His voice roared, shadows swarmed, and great beast screamed in rage as her spirit was taken by Hel's hand and bound by Odin's rune-spell.
Then the magic faded, and she lay still. So was the great beast slain, so ended the tale of the Slaying of Yuka Kazami.
Loki staggered towards the song-smith, the confident and powerful god now truly at the end of his strength. The song-smith understood this well, for no spell had he yet seen of such power.
"Now, mortal, this matter is out of our hands." He told Sigurd Daemonslayer in-between laboured breaths.
"Is she truly slain, her spirit shattered and destroyed?" He asked of the exhausted god, for ever is caution the way of the wise, and what if the corpse lying there on the ground was not as dead as it seemed?
"No. I doubt anything could kill a spirit so strong. She is merely bound for a time." Loki replied, his lips curling into another smile. "Let us hope the rest goes well, shall we not?"
"There is more then?" The mortal warrior wondered while cleaning his blade. "Is not our part in this tale over?"
"In this tale, aye." Loki replied, then sagged down to sit against a large piece of rock. "Yet not our troubles." He added with a laugh.
"How so, O son of Laufey?" The song-smith asked, half-dreading the reply he would get.
"As far as I can tell, three armies of these mortal men still surround us. And as you see, I will weave no spell of illusion in some time." The trickster answered the question, the threw his head back and laughed for a moment until his strength failed him.
"A fine mess." Silver-tongued Sigurd said with an ironic smile, for somehow he had expected this.
"Ah, mortal warrior, did you not know that the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is to live dangerously?" Loki Laufeyson wondered, then laughed again, the merry sound echoing though the air.