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*~Seeing Crimson~*

“Crim?” a startled voice cried out into the bloody night. “Crim!” Kikari’s anguished yells called out to the rest of the Clearing, his panicked voice ringing out as he begged for help searching for his friend.  Other cries were similarly filling the chaotic aftermath left in the wake of the battle, the groans of the wounded and the desperate hopes of those that sought to aid the fallen.  He frantically looked around desperately, as a distant part of his mind dimly registered the Guardian- no, Fusion- hunched over the limp body of his lover.  A quick flare of jealousy flaring up in him as he watched a gentle blue, healing glow extend from Fusion’s hands until it enveloped Jane’s abnormally pale frame.  How easy it was for him to drag her back from the brink of death, while he could not even find a single clue as to where his dear friend had disappeared!

Pushing those feelings back deep within the bottle of his emotions, he only looked around at further devastation.  Several strides away, Triss lay among the smoldering remains of her beloved mecha.  Melted metal and shrapnel littered the ground around her, some of the shards finding their way into her defenseless body.  Kikari felt a wave of nausea wash over him, though that brief feeling was instantly intensified as he noticed with a jolt how badly her arm was wounded.  He let out a choked cry as he assessed the damage.  It was badly burnt, the surface skin scorched as he managed to make out a shard white bone breaking skin.  Despite the spreading pool of blood beneath, it looked like she would make it, especially so with the help of another healer that summarily hunched over her body.  His goal remained unchanged.  Find Crimson.

Without any more hesitation, he ran off towards the forest. He clumsily tried building up momentum, one foot falling behind another in an unsteady rhythm as he forced himself to go on.  He could worry about the others later, but Crimson needed him, wherever he was!  That is until he found another distraction as his foot snagged on something squishy, causing him to fall.  That something being a body that was lying in the grass.  The Reploid barely managed to catch himself, landing heavily on his hands, or else his body would have crashed into the scarred green body before him.  Devic.  The Mobian let out a weak groan as he struggled to open his eyes… rather, what remained of them as the mangled orbs dripped out vitreous fluids from his half-closed lids.  “… Scrappy?” he wheezed out, before coughing out a glob of blood that served to only add a bit more to what was already crusting on his fur.

“Devic?! Are you alright?!” yelled Kikari, taken aback by the gruesome sight before him.  He knew Devic could get hurt, but it was unreal, almost impossible, for him to have been bested this badly.  Whoever, whatever, his opponent was… he definitely had to have been exceptionally deadly.

“I’m fine, damn it.” The devil grinned hollowly, despite his pain.  Bloodstained teeth at least showed that he made his adversary pay dearly, the headless corpse laying several yards away from them only underlining the point.  “You’re looking for Crimson, right?” he panted out, occasionally pausing for breath or to let out a groan.  “I heard you calling for him earlier…” he explained in response to Kikari’s surprised expression.  “… Go, find him…”

“But Dev-” Kikari protested hotly, before being cut off.

“Now!” Devic interrupted, in a voice that brooked no arguments.  Sure, it was his fault for being careless but he would be damned if the Reploid lost sight of his goal because of his stupid fault.

Kikari only ignored the commands, his worry for Crimson disappearing for the moment as he gently cradled the torn up body before him.  “Here, it’ll be alright.  Let me get you somewhere safe-“

“Put me down!” Devic snarled, managing to muster of enough strength to drag a single claw down Kikari’s arm before his own arm feel and hung limply by his side.  It was too weak to even scratch the paint, but it left a sizeable blood smear owing to two of Devic’s missing claws.  “I’ll… be alright, remember? I’m not that hard to kill… and the necrophile will fix me up, anyways… Go. Find your friend.”

Kikari gulped, unable to reach a decision.  He forced himself to leave Devic behind, though he couldn’t help but put him into a more comfortable position.  “…Thank you.” Kikari managed to mutter out, despite knowing that his friend did not want to hear it.  He could not keep himself from uttering his gratitude. “Thank you… Dev…”

“Fucking… Char…ugh…” was all that the little green devil managed before slowly drifting off into unconsciousness as his wounds and final exertions managed to take their toll.  His tail, gave one last twitch before lying still, for the moment at least.

The Reploid closed his eyes, the name of his most loathed enemy driving icy daggers into his heart.  And that was when the brutal realization hit him.  The reason for why he, the older Reploid, could not be found in the Clearing.  Simply because he was not there.  ‘He probably went off to fight Charon by himself…’ Kikari screamed inside his head, his hands clenching into fists.  Charon had promised him despair, after all, and taking everything he held dear away from him was one of the best ways to get at Kikari.

Even against his friend's wishes, Kikari could not find it in him to just leave Devic lying in the grass. He looked around for something, anything to give him some first aid before another could make their way there. However, as he frantically scrambled to get a bit of cloth or another substitute, he saw the necromancer in question running towards their location. With a smile of wordless thanks, Kikari head off into the forest with earnest.

“I can take you to him,” an unwanted voice broadcasted itself into Kikari’s mind one he made it a good fraction of a mile away from the clearing.  Close enough that the rest of Koniki’s defenders might be able to hear his pleas for help, but just far enough that Charon would already have had his way with the poor, lone Reploid.  The voice belonged to the very person Kikari hated most, and the self-satisfied drawl only served to enrage him further.

“Give him back!” Kikari shouted angrily into the night air, his voice quivering slightly as his deepest fear was about to be validated.  Whatever Charon had promised before, he was making good on that.  It was only through sheer luck and force of will that had kept there from being far more casualties.

“… Back? I don’t think it’d be any good to move him now…”  Images appeared in Kikari’s mind, definitely not his own imagination.  It featured a broken and battered Crimson, destroyed impossibly thoroughly.  He seemed to have been dismantled with a cruel meticulousness, screw by screw.  “… Oops!  I don’t think that’s fixable.”  Charon added lightly, giggling to himself.

“Damn it! Let him GO!” the Reploid shouted, the reciprocal pain enough to make him hurt just by watching.  Each of Crimson’s screams was like an icy dagger piercing into his own body, each moan a twist of the knife.  His hands were quivering, whether with fear or anger he could not tell.

“What would be the fun in that?” the voice chuckled, not entirely keen on making this any easier for Kikari.  Any further ranting was interrupted as a voice called from behind him, from elsewhere in the forest.  It seemed to slice through the maelstrom in his head, bringing with it a sobering clarity.

“Kikari? Is that you?” shouted out the new voice.  That… it was familiar.  Before he could quite place who it belonged to, Charon interrupted his train of thought.

“Whoops,” taunted Charon, before taking one last parting shot.  “At least you know what lies in store for him.  You’ll be talking to a dead man!”  With that, he severed the vocal link between him and Kikari, causing the latter to fall to his knees in numbness.

“You alright?” a gruff voice called from behind him, as a firm yet gentle hand placed itself on his left shoulder.  He was far enough to hear only Kikari’s end of the conversation, so he had a rough guess as to what happened.  There was a slight pause before the grip began to shake him gently, before gradually building in force.  “Come on, Kikky, get up!”

It was a while before Kikari was able to find his voice again.  And even when he did, it came out in a choked whisper.  “C… Crim…”

“I’m here,” he said quietly before giving the smaller Reploid a firm squeeze on the shoulder and let him go.  There was a silent pause for several long moments as Kikari slowly tried to bring his systems back under control.

“… How… how did you find me?” he whispered quietly as he stared at his bloodied hands, before dimly realizing it was from handling Devic.  “I… you were nowhere, I c-couldn’t find you...” He felt uneasiness in him as he could not help but contemplate what another failure would have felt like.  The thought did nothing to help with matters.  “I… I was looking for you…”

“…” Crimson was silent as he just let out a weary sigh.  Kikari heard the sound of the person behind him similarly kneeling down onto the ground before he felt two sturdy arms wrap around him from behind, giving him the illusion of protection and security.  “Hush now, Kikari…” he said gently, his mouth but mere fractions of an inch away from his ward’s ear.  “I’m here, now…”

There was silence for a moment, as the two just stayed in that position.  The younger Reploid would be the one to break the silence.  “…Crim?” He suppressed a sniffle, afraid to turn around.  “… How… how’d you find me..?”

A sigh, as he patted Kikari on the head.  “I got back several minutes after you left.  I asked around, and someone from the Inn pointed out which direction you went… Janelle, I think was her name.”  He made light of it, using one hand to gently remove Kikari’s helmet and drop it to the side so that he, Crimson, could rest his chin on his friend’s head.

Kikari seemed to be struggling with something inside him before he seemed to have made a decision.  “… Crim?” he asked tentatively, afraid that he might get the completely wrong answer.

“Yes?”

“… Promise me you’ll never leave me again, alright..?”  He whispered, a hint of fear and doubt entering into his plea.

Crimson was silent before taking one of Kikari’s hands in his own, giving it a reassuring squeeze.  “I promise, Kikky.”  He answered firmly and confidently.  “I’ll be by your side, for as long as needed…”  The larger Reploid made sure to use the pet name he had made for the other one, in an attempt to try to put his friend at ease.

“I… I should have said it sooner, Crim…”

“Said what… are you feeling alright?”  He was beginning to feel more than just a little alarmed, now.  Even given his friend’s tendencies towards overreacting… whatever Charon did, it must have been really bad this time.

Kikari turned around, hugging Crimson as tightly as he could before pressing his face against Crimson’s chest.  “I… I love you, Crim....”

Crimson could only feel a strange flutter in his chest, before forcing himself to calm down.  He could not have meant it… could he?  It was the stress and pressure talking, now that it reached a breaking point.

“… Not… not just as only a friend!  You mean the world to me!”

‘There’s the barb,’ thought Crimson wryly, unable to help but feel a bit empty inside.  But it did not matter how he felt.  This was about Kikari, not him.  And it would always be.  “I know, Kikky.  I know.  You don’t need to remind me…”

“I… I just had to make sure you knew…”  He murmured a bit defensively, feeling kind of stupid now but glad he got the pressure out before it was too late.

Crimson nodded, planting a light kiss on Kikari’s forehead before just embracing him tightly.  “I understand, but I need you to promise me something, in turn.”

“What is it, Crim..?”

“Be happy.”

“Wha… what do you mean?”

“I mean… be happy,” he placed a hand to Kikari’s chest, right where his heart would be.  “Just… don’t be so sad all the time, you know?  Smile.”  Crimson closed his eyes, tears forming in his eyes before they slowly slid down his cheeks.

“I… I’ll try, Crim…”  Kikari looked up in alarm.  “Wh-what’s wrong, Crim?!”

“Oh… and another thing.”  Crimson continued on, despite the interruption.  “Remember me.”

“… Crim?  Crim!  Y-you’re really scaring me..!”

“Farewell, Kikari,” choked out Crimson, the tears falling down unabated now.   He slowly began to fade, his weight on Kikari lessening with every passing moment.  Before long, Kikari would be able to see the ground and surrounding vegetation through the patch of space his friend was occupying.

“Crim?! CRIM!!” screamed Kikari, panic overtaking him.  He tried swiping at his friend in desperation, trying to grab onto him.  Something, anything to stop him from disappearing.  “CRIM!!  COME BACK!!” he yelled as his hands only passed through the phantom image.  “CRIIIIIIIIM!!!!”

His only answer was a bitter-sweet smile.  “Remember the promise, Kikky…  Don’t give in to despair.”  The fading paused for a moment, causing Kikari to pause in hope.  But it was not meant to be, as the final image of his friend shattered into pieces.

“… Be happy, Kikky...

“…Don’t forget me…

“I love you.”

~Seeing Crimson, Finished!~

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