Chapter 5: Conclusion

Ryu Tendo and Radiguet fought in fierce silence save for the sound of their blades. Their teeth were bared as they snarled, fighting. They would not stop until one or both were dead.

But for all the sound, there was another place where nothing was heard, a place inside a dying man. "Dark. Dark and cold, and very silent." Jeff opened his eyes to find he was naked. Far above him was a distant light. "Oh. I'm dead." He started to stand up, slowly leaving the broken body beneath him. The light beckoned and he stretched towards it, but then something came floating down towards him. It was something small, chubby and adorable, with fluffy black hair. "A baby? Ah! Is it Aya?!" He reached out his arms to catch her as she floated to him.

And suddenly it was not a baby, but a slender girl in his arms, a soft white tunic covering her torso. Her hand braced on his chest and her fingers slipped under his skin. He gasped and closed his eyes as a strange pain filled his being. And she spoke to him. "I'm giving you Miina's power. Fused with the Birdnic Wave it will grant you new life." The pain eased and he opened his eyes, to find she was now as naked as he but that really did not matter. Tears streaming from her beautiful, red eyes, she told him sternly, "Because you must help my Papa!" And she shoved him, hard, away from the light and back towards the darkness and pain of his body.

"Aya-chan! I understand. No matter what the cost, your Papa -- " There was a startling feeling of impact. And then the deep beat of his heart. He opened his eyes. Two of Miina's tentacles were embedded in his chest, one of the octopus-eyes staring out. With a surprised grunt, Jeff pushed at them and they fell away, the ends touching him disintegrating. Feeling very strange, he pulled himself to his knees and stared down at the slender, limp form. "Aya-chan..." he murmured. He was crying softly. Aya. She wanted to come back but.... The pain finally faded, to be replaced by rage. With a scream, Jeff leaped into the mad battle.

Radiguet heard him coming and growled in irritation. Sometimes these humans were full of surprises. "So I failed to kill you."

"I won't die until you're defeated!" Jeff screamed back.

He was tall, and so very fast. There was fear for Radiguet, for suddenly he was faced with two furious, strong opponents. Jeff managed to get through his guard and sting his shoulder with a slash. They were attacking him in concert, and he soon became quite fed up with it. Power surged into his hands and he raised his left to blast them. Jeff, seeing it coming, sprang in front of Ryu and took the brunt of it. The blast shattered his visor and he fell in front of Ryu, who had been knocked unconscious by the blast. His face had several burns.

With a grumble of annoyance, Radiguet stared down at the human. The burns were just starting to fade. "You came back only for pain. I'll just have to torture you to death!" and he slashed his blade down.

But it only connected with the floor as Jeff regained consciousness abruptly and flipped away. He kicked up and his heel connected hard with Radiguet's chin, staggering him. Before he could recover, Jeff leaped after him. "I told you I won't die! I'll fulfill my promise to Aya!" A vicious punch to Radiguet's gut doubled the man over, and enabled Jeff to slide around and get him in a headlock. "Now, Mr. Tendo! Do it!" he cried, forcing Radiguet around to face his enemy.

Ryu had been too stunned to join the fight, and now he remained so. "But -- !" he asked tentatively.

"Don't worry about me!" Jeff told him firmly. And then he chuckled low in his throat and said a soft, "Nyah!" into Radiguet's pointed ear.

"Damn you!" Radiguet hissed back.

Jeff tightened his grip and forced Radiguet's head back so that he could look him in the eyes. Laughing, he mocked in a voice only for the enemy's ears, "Aya gave me a new life. Just so I could come back and destroy you!" Radiguet could not get free of his hold, and Jeff raised his voice and eyes to shout, "DO IT, Mr. Tendo! Take revenge for Aya!"

Radiguet was sweating with the effort to free himself, but defiant. "Yes, Red Hawk. You do this and you'll sacrifice your friend, too! So, can't you kill me?"

"It's NOT a sacrifice! It is Aya's and my wish! Fire for us!" Jeff shouted desperately.

And Ryu realized that was the only choice left. He had seen the boy die, and one should never ignore the request of a ghost. He drew his two guns. They had not changed this design at all. As five years before, the Beak Smasher's back opened to lengthen the barrel, and Ryu piggy-backed it onto the Bird Blaster to form the Smash Bomber. He tightened his grasp on the two grips. "Jeff, give me your life!" And then he squeezed the two triggers.

The blasts roared. They struck Radiege's lower chest and fire flared. The whole room lit and screamed for them.

Radiege's body below his chest had been fried to ashes. The armor that remained was cracked and blackened, skin melted and falling into the cavity of the shattered body. Beyond him lay Jeff, armor on his torso burned away, a gaping hole in his chest. Staggering, Ryu came him. "Jeff..." he mourned. He stared at the face, quiet and calm in death almost as though he were only sleeping, but for the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. "I'm sorry." And then, to his shock, something strange happened. The flesh on Jeff's chest moved, the burned organs inside shifted and covered the edges of visible rib-bones. As suddenly as it had begun, the skin had closed over the wound, looking lumpy like scar tissue. Ryu gaped, and then Jeff drew a breath in a sigh.

As Ryu gaped, dumbfounded, the young man sat up. His hair tumbled in front of his face. Then his eyes cleared and he said in surprise, "Huh? I'm alive again?"

"Jeff... your body..." Ryu managed to force out.

Jeff looked down at his chest and gave a startled yelp. "Eh? WEIRD!" But then his attention turned completely and he lifted his gaze to Ryu's. "Ah, Radiguet? What about him?!"

Ryu stared back at him in surprised confusion. "You're not worried about your body?" Then he shook himself and replied quietly, "It's over. This time it's over."

Chapter 6