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Bleeding Out (The Emperor Cries)

Chapter Text

The battlefield was littered with bodies.
Corpses of soldiers and aiders, died while valiantly wielding their weapons, swords and spears sticking from their chests, arrows planted in their heads. Lifeless mannequins that once were friends, families, lovers, maybe sworn enemies living a truce to help themselves out.
The war wasn’t kind.
The war took way more than it gave back, asking for hundreds of soul in exchange of a bloody peace. Was that peace worth all those lives?
If someone would’ve asked Yuma, his answer would have been “no”. it wasn’t worth it. Blood and tears were a price too high for peace.

 

Or at least that’s what he thought, collapsed between piles of dead bodies, the taste of blood clear and metallic in his mouth, the smell so strong and familiar he stopped being bothered by it.
His entire body hurt, broken bones barely holding up a broken soul. Bruises, scratches and cuts spread out on his flesh, painting his pale complexion in purple and red. An arrow was still stuck in his shoulder, shattered between bones and muscles.
Yuma knew that’s how he would die.
Alone, without Astral on his side, only the blank stare of the friends he wasn’t able to save tormenting his increasingly blurry vision.
Blood droplets streamed down his face, blinding his eyes, as the wound on his head bled even more than it did when Vector inflicted it to him.

 

He was still there, looming on his dying body, a sick expression in those eyes filled with madness. The Barian Emperor who betrayed his own kind stood proud and tall, trampling with disrespect and insanity the ones he killed.
Wings spread open and splatters of vivid red blood over his frame, Vector toyed with Yuma’s sword, the last bit of hope the young man summoned against him. It wasn’t enough.
The sword tore through the Barian’s stone hard body, but Yuma was too weak, too pathetic. He missed the gem on his chest, the only thing he tried to aim for, and Vector used his own momentum to fling him away. Yuma was still feeling the atrocious pain on his back, armor and fabric torn and worn to shreds, black rock splinters wedged deeply under his skin.
His resolution wasn’t enough against pure physical force, he knew it. That wasn’t a Duel, there were no cards nor monsters on the field. Yuma could be full of energy and hope, but what use he had for that? Optimism wasn’t going to give him the strength to get up and fight again. He already had his adrenaline rush, his moment of glory as he charged into battle.
Now he was slouching on blood-soaked dirt, tears of pain and defeat painting his cheeks, as he slowly bled to death.

 

Vector wanted him to beg, he knew it.
He wanted Yuma to beg for his death, to make it quick. A sword through his heart, an end to his suffering. It could have been nice.
Yuma’s breath was ragged, his lungs begging for air the young man wasn’t able to take in, and he coughed, inhaling dust and despair. Maybe he’ll get tired of this, he thought. Maybe he’ll decide to kill him there and then.
But no, Vector wasn’t merciful.
He was going to watch, a grin lighting up the only distinguishable feature of his face, eyes wide with excitement as Yuma lost his life force.

 

An infinity later, Yuma decided to close his eyes. There was no point in keeping them open, other than watching Vector’s crazed expression. The battlefield was nothing more than a hazy conglomerate of red and purple and blue stains, as dark as the sky over it, and Yuma didn’t want to look at it anymore.
His friends were lost between those bodies, and he couldn’t bear to remember their faces.

 

The feeling of cold metal against his cheek made Yuma flutter his eyes open, a tiny slither of vague colors and faint light entering his field of vision.
Vector was holding his sword, his hope, against its creator’s face. When the razor-sharp edge sliced through his skin, Yuma couldn’t sense it. He was aware only of his warm blood trickling down, dripping to the ground, as Vector moved the blade down to his neck.
So, that was his decision.
Yuma would have liked to fire at him one last remark, one last snarky comment. “Couldn’t bear yourself to wait?”, he wanted to ask him, with a brave grin on his face.
He didn’t even have the strength to move his lips.
He let him play with his life, the sword caressing exposed skin and drawing on his flesh.

 

Vector was having fun, there’s no denying it. A sadist like him could only enjoy the pattern of slashes and marks he was leaving on Yuma’s shattered body.
Finally, the blade came to a halt right above his heart, the point hovering and trembling as Vector kept on toying with him, mocking him with that fucking expression.
“Just get it over with!”, Yuma wanted to scream, paralyzed by fear as the sword lowered, inching down painfully slowly. The tip of the blade cut through the last intact piece of his armor and made its way inside the flesh.
Before it could pierce into his heart, however, something tore the shining sword from Vector’s grip.

 

 

«Get away from him before I break every single bone in your body».

 

 

That voice was so cold and ominous, yet so resounding and poisonous Yuma couldn’t help but shiver. At the same time, tears of relief started flowing from his eyes.
He tried to open them more, to clear his vision just enough to see Nash standing in front of him, but all he could see was a shapeless bundle of color, bright purple tainted by a terrifying red aura.
The Barian Emperor, the lord of all Barian Emperors, stood in front of him, defensive and ready to spring forward at the slightest hint of danger.

 

 

Vector let out a “hmpft”, a moment after Yuma could tell he was gone by the wind-wave of his wings. Something clattered and splashed on the ground (armor? weapons?), and Yuma was lifted from blood-soaked dirt and corpses by strong, granite arms and clawed hands.
He closed his eyes then, crimson blood still dripping from his wounds, as a brilliant pair of blue ones stared into his soul.

Chapter Text

The silence was unbearable. A thick, solid mass of nothingness, a soundless fog infesting every room, every corner.
Once, that palace was filled with laughter, words, life. Now, only the screaming silence left behind by those poor, tortured souls deprived of their rights.

 

Opening his eyes in the dimly lit room, a flickering light striping the floor with weird shadows, Yuma wondered why he was still alive.
Vector had his own sword on his chest, inside his flesh. One swift motion, and Yuma’s heart would have been pierced. It didn’t happen.
Frowning, his mind still switching on and off from time to time, Yuma tried to sit up and barely stifled a pained groan. His whole body felt like hell, like a thousand knives had scraped his skin and then he’d been rolled in salt.
Well, he wasn’t that far from what actually happened.

 

Dozens of cuts decorated his, now he noticed, naked body, armor and clothes lost wherever. Red lines painted his pale skin, too pale to be natural, as if they were strokes of paint left by a skilled brush on a blank canvas. Vector had outdone himself, Yuma sighed, as some of those lines marked his name.
He wondered how much pain he endured without noticing it, too distracted by an agony already in motion.
His shoulder was hurting so badly, as if someone had decided to dip his flesh and bones into a ladle full of melted metal. There was an arrow in there, somewhere. Maybe some pieces were still lost, tangled between muscles bones.

 

What tormented him the most was his back. He was laying on his side, carefully tucked in that position by an array of blankets and scraps of fabric, so he didn’t notice at first.
When he tried to shift again, though, the wounds on his back sent him a jolt of pain so intense Yuma couldn’t help but whimper, as his eyes teared up. A whip slashing through his flesh would have been no less painful, Yuma was sure about that.
But then again, he’d been lucky enough to not endure a whipping as a form of torture. Fortunately, Vector wanted him dead, not alive. Just as Black Mist wanted his other half dead.

 

Shivering, only then realizing how cold the room was, Yuma tried to use some of the blankets to cover himself and fight the chilly air. As soon as he moved again, however, another jolt of pain forced him to freeze in place, tears rolling down his cheeks.
He was too broken to be alive. Why was he alive?

 

Then, he remembered.
Nash.
Nash showed up on the battlefield, his cape flowing in dried wind, and stopped Vector just in time. He knocked the sword off of the betrayer’s hand a second before it sank into Yuma’s heart.
The thought of Nash protecting him made Yuma boil with rage as new tears, this time fed by frustration, spilled from his eyes.
He switched sides, he deceived him! Why on earth did he save Yuma?
When Nash yelled against him, screaming at him how much his Barian World was important, Yuma understood his reasons. But when he decided to go away, to turn his back and treat Yuma as if they’ve always been enemies… something broke.
Yuma was in love with him. But Nash trampled every single feeling he could step on.

 

Fuming, Yuma gritted his teeth and coerced his body into a sitting position, despite his broken bones and open flesh.
There wasn’t any more blood dripping from his wound, something Yuma blamed on some kind of Barian spell, but every wound coating his body was still open. Touching one felt worse than the slash that caused them itself.
Nash wasn’t going to give him that treatment. Not after what he’d done. All the love Yuma gave him recoiled against him, made him kneel in dust and mud as he watched his best friend, turn around as a purple, mouthless stone alien.
He was a monster not by appearance, but by heart. If he even had one.

 

When Yuma tried to get up, however, for as much as he obliged his body, he couldn’t do much other than scream, in absolute agony, and collapse to the ground.
His legs were broken, bones shattered beyond repair. The strength Yuma needed to stand up was too much for that crumbled mess to hold.
He cried and spilled tears, his body arching in agony as he couldn’t close himself in a ball like he would always do, fingers clawing fruitless at a cold stone floor.
His wounded back, laying on the floor with all Yuma’s weight on it, shocked him with another wave of burning pain. The young man howled into the darkness, until that darkness consumed him again.

 

The second time, his eyes fluttered open in a room to bright to bear. He was laying down on his side, again, but his naked body was wrapped in fine bandages and his broken legs and arm were stuck in a correct position thanks to… what was that? Wood sticks? Some sort of Barian material? He didn’t know.
Another bandage was wrapped around his head, making his hair stick out even crazier than normal.
Where was he…?

 

Sure, he knew he was in Nash’s palace. Any other place was rubble on the ground, collapsed and burned down buildings and skeletal remains.
But where?
The first time he woke up, the room was bare and poorly lit. This time, artificial light filled every corner, every bit of walls, floors, every single speck of dust.
When his eyes adjusted to the light, Yuma realized he was laying on Nash’s throne, so big it was able to hold his frame just like a bed.
Only, he had to be much harder and uncomfortable than a bed, judging by how many layers of scraps and blankets Yuma was resting on.

 

Uncalled, anger sprouted again inside Yuma, thundering and stirring his guts like a violent storm in the middle of summer.
«Hypocrite», Yuma muttered under his breath, his voice too ragged and ruined for his throat to let it escape. First he turned his back to him, and then tries to be gentle and caring.
Yuma wanted to yell his fury, wrath enveloping him as tight as those spotless bandages, but he couldn’t do it.
Instead, he could only glare at the cloaked figure walking slowly towards him.

 

In spite of his ire, thought, Nash was still beautiful in Yuma’s eyes.
He didn’t care about his muted figure. His Barian form was charming, enchanting, puzzling, everything at the same time. From the deep shade of purple tinting his hard skin to the glistening red gems dotting his body.
The central gem was so bright and gorgeous, it pulsated with life, glowing and reflecting dozens of lights.
Yuma couldn’t tell if his body was shielded by armor, or if it was armor itself. Even his cape, draped over his shoulders and fixated in place by a perfect pair of gems, seemed part of his body.
He was handsome as always, pleasing to Yuma’s eyes despite his featureless face and clawed hands and foreign appearance.
It only made his anger worse.

 

«Don’t move, you can’t walk on your own», Nash told him, cautiously raising his arms. A comforting gesture, maybe. Yuma saw it as an insult.
The sweet and caring tone of his voice was poison for Yuma’s ears, corrupted and spoiled as soon as he reached his heart.
His still beating heart.

 

«Give me one single fucking reason why I shouldn’t leave».
A whisper, rough and brutally spat out, was the only response Yuma gave him.
He averted his gaze, Nash’s blue eyes ad unbearable sight in front of him. Oh, how many times he had stared into those deep oceans, swimming in bliss and happiness.
It was too painful to look in them, now.

 

«You can’t».
Nash approached the throne, his throne, with an arm still reaching out. The long claws at the end of each fingers weren’t alarming for Yuma, but he still retreated in the seat.
«You can’t leave», he repeated, his movement coming to a halt. «You can’t even move».

 

Yuma’s eyes teared up again. He was right, of course he was right.
But that didn’t mean Yuma would let the Barian Emperor lay a single finger on his body. He already did enough.
As streams of venomous memories crossed his mind, the young man closed his eyes and shook his head, his hands white as he clutched the pile of blankets underneath his devastated soul.
«Don’t come near me, you monster».

Chapter Text

The palace was terribly cold. Despite the blankets covering him, Yuma was shivering, his teeth clattering, as the huge throne room was freezing.
It wasn’t noticeable during the day, but the night was arctic.
Initially Yuma blamed some sort of fever he could have, given all his wounds and badly treated injuries, but quickly came to notice how chilly the night was in the Barian World.
In the end, he had to talk to him, just to get a handful of blankets over his shuddering body. He could have done it by himself, but a piercing pain jolted through his flesh as soon as he tried to move.

 

Yuma hated it.
He wanted to leave, to go away from Nash and never come back. Every time he looked at him, at his back hidden by a long cloak, Yuma’s eyes watered.
He wanted Nash to hold him, to stroke his back in order to soothe his aching pain, to chase away his sorrow. But his Barian form constantly reminded him of how much he hurt him.
Yuma wanted peace, maybe a little bit of love. Not death and deceiving friends.

 

«Let me help you more, Y…».

 

«Don’t say it», Yuma hissed between his teeth, biting his lower lip to avoid whining. The blankets were heavy on his body, he felt their roughness even through layers of bandages. «Don’t you fucking dare say my name».
He didn’t want to hear his name from Nash’s… whatever he was using to talk. It sounded wrong, unnatural, something that should have been erased from every mind and memory.

Nash didn’t reply, though Yuma could feel his resigned sigh behind his shoulders. When his body started to feel warmer, he finally closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep. Maybe his nightmares won’t come, that night.

 

But they came.
Yuma was frozen in place, his legs sinking in mud and blood, as death took place in front of his eyes.
He saw his friends die one after another, killed by the lost souls of the Barian World, or by the Barian Emperors themselves.
Bronk, Gauche and Dextra fell first.
Yuma couldn’t believe how vicious Merag could be. Nash’s little sister, Rio… when she slashed the final blow, Yuma turned his eyes away. They were filled with tears, and he refused to watch as his friend dropped to the ground, his life a far away memory.
Gauche and Dextra faced their deaths so straightforwardly, so bravely…
Yuma found so hard to believe that Alito, the same Alito he’d gotten friends with, burned and trampled Gauche like a piece of flimsy paper. Dextra died right after him, tumbled in dust and tears because of Durbe. That Barian held so much light in him, yet so deep darkness, it was blinding and cruel at the same time.

 

A day after, another death stained Yuma’s heart. Thomas Arclight, that same young man who tried and succeeded to be psychotic and caring without distinctions, died by the hands of Nash.
Quattro, as he liked being called. The middle brother, the one left aside because of his harsh and quick temper.
He fought against his old nemesis, trying to get him back. He failed.
As Nash stabbed through his chest, Thomas’ lips were curved in a smile. A bitter, soft grin. His last words, as life left him for good, were filled with thankful whispers.

 

His brothers died days later. Teaming up against Mizael, Michael and Christopher had tried to get him down, but even the power of their crest did nothing for them.
Trey and Quinton fell in front of his dragon, of the roaring fury that was Mizael’s strongest ally, their life force vanishing into nothingness as lifeless bodies stayed behind.
Their corpses were pale and cold, their skin bloodied and ravished by the dragon’s rage. When he saw them die, Yuma screamed so loud his throat burned like hell.

 

Mizael didn’t stop there.
The gold Barian Emperor took Kite’s life not much time after. Their battle had been proud and glorious, the earth quaked as their weapons clanged and shrieked. But in the end, even if Kite had been able to pierce through Mizael’s stone body more than once, he was the one who died.
Bidding farewell to his brother and father, fruitlessly waiting for him back in the Human World, Kite’s last breath was for Mizael, as he recognized him as the true Master of Dragons.

 

Yuma didn’t know the fate of his other friends.
Back in the Human World, they were waiting for him, praying he would come back alive and in one piece. He didn’t have the heart to tell them he wasn’t coming back. And they yelled at him, screamed in his face, their words tangling around his limbs and chest, squeezing the air out of his lungs.
Jolting awake with a cry on his lips, Yuma shivered as a thin layer of sweat freeze on exposed skin. His screeching call resounded in the empty throne room, bouncing from one wall to another, an echoing back and forth.

 

«Yuma!».
Running up the steep set of stairs, Nash came to a halt in front of the throne. Yuma was gripping his blankets so tight his fingers and knuckles were completely white, and tears ran down his cheeks like flooding rivers.
«What happened, are you…».

 

«Don’t fucking touch me!», Yuma yelled, slapping away his reaching hand. He winced in pain as his soft skin met claws and granite, but didn’t tone down his frown. «Stop caring about me!».
“It hurts too much”, he wanted to add, but refrained himself from doing so. Nash didn’t deserve to know how much Yuma still wanted him at his side. He didn’t deserve anything Yuma had given him to that time.
His help, his stubborn attempts at friendship, his unconditional support.
Nothing.

 

Nash stepped away with a wounded light in his eyes, his whole body shifting uncomfortably as his feet drew back.
«I want to help you», he said.
Yuma could feel the pain in his voice. But that didn’t mean it was real. How could it be real, when he backed off from their friendship without batting an eye?

 

«I don’t want your help. I don’t need it», Yuma replied, unforgiving.
His body was burning in agony, as Yuma sat up abruptly and violently, but Nash’s help wasn’t something he wanted. Not again.

 

He closed his eyes, his ocean deep eyes, so similar to the ones his human self had.
Then, he sighed and turned away, stepping down the stairs: «You deserve so much better than me», he whispered.
His footsteps were deafening, stone hitting black marble, and he almost missed Yuma’s answer.
«Stop lying».

 

Gritting his teeth, Yuma forced his body to stay up a little more, his back protesting as much as his pattern of wounds.
«I deserved you. You were the best I could ever ask, and I deserved you because I went through hell and back to take you home».
Yuma groaned in pain as he tried to shift in place, but compelled a laugh to escape: «Don’t lie to me by saying that. You’ve already lied enough times».

 

As he lay back down, closing his eyes only when he was sure Nash finally left him alone, the only thing Yuma wanted to do was escape from that prison and never come back.

Chapter Text

Hidden from Nash’s sight, Yuma was absently fidgeting with  a small, sharp knife. Its blade shimmered under the flickering light of a hundred lit candle, catching and reflecting it like a polished mirror.
He didn’t know how much time had passed, since the Barian Emperor brought him in his palace. He’s been sitting on that cold throne for a while, now, but how long that while was… he had no idea.

 

Yuma had gotten aware of the passage of time only because he noticed how his energy was slowly coming back, filling his body and trying to light a spark in his soul.
Just trying.
His soul was too spent and weakened to receive its old fire back. Something Yuma would have never thought if someone was to ask him.
He always had his Kattobingu at max level, in every situation, even the most desperate ones. His father taught him to never give up, to always go forward and fight. But a war… a war was too much to handle for a young man like Yuma.

 

He’d jerked awake screaming, again, a few hours before. The night was still cold and merciless, and Yuma could feel ice on his, now bare without bandages wrapping it, skin as he flung away his blankets.
Now he was just laying there, naked and shivering, with that knife between his fingers.
He could have asked Nash to pick the blankets up and cover him with them, since he was still unable to do it himself. The Barian was there, after all, surely still glancing every now and then at his slashed back.
But he didn’t want to. He deserved Ryoga, not that traitor that wanted his love back.
Yuma’s love was gone, following his dead friends in whatever place they went. They deserved it more than him.

 

«You’ll go into hypothermia, like that».
Nash’s voice echoed in silence, hitting walls and windows as it made its way through the room.
He was worried, for real, but Yuma didn’t care. He could tear his crystal hair out of his head, if he wanted to.

 

«Then let be it», he couldn’t stop himself from replying. His voice was even harsher than before, contaminated with… what? Hatred?
No, Yuma didn’t hate him.
Revulsion, that was it.
Nash disgusted him. Yuma saw him kill Thomas, stab into his chest with no regrets or mercy. How could he be so thoughtful and loving, all of a sudden?

 

«I’m not letting you die», Nash immediately retorted, his lowered head springing up in an instant. «Not while I’m here».
Oh, really?
Yuma turned the knife in his hands one more time, gazing into its blade. The reflection he got back was one of a destroyed boy, his old smile wiped out to make space for weariness and despair.
His red eyes, once so beautiful and shiny, were dull and lifeless as if they belonged to a doll. Even his hair, once unruly and crazy, hung miserably on his shoulders.

 

When he looked at the summoned that knife, the first thing that passed Yuma’s mind was to throw it away.
He didn’t know how he did that.
His dream showed him a chained up Astral calling his name, pleading him to run away and break free. And that same knife, Yuma had used that same knife to end Astral’s suffering there and then.
Right after he opened his eyes, cold sweat coating every inch of his skin and the knife in his hand. Maybe one last gift from Zexal?

 

Yuma didn’t know. Yuma didn’t want to know.
But when he decided to not fling it to the other side of the room, Yuma knew what he wanted to do with that knife.
«Maybe we have different plans, then», he said.

 

It was only a whisper, but Nash turned around nonetheless.
And when he turned around, Yuma was seating on the throne, leaning on the backrest. And he was holding the knife right above his heart.
«Because I really, really want to die».

 

Nash froze mid-step, as Yuma pressed the point of the knife on his skin the moment he tried to approach: «You better put that knife down», he told him.

 

Yuma laughed at him, a laugh so ill and unpleasant Nash shivered in fear: «And what if I don’t? What are you going to do?».
He knew provoking him wasn’t a good idea. He knew it, but he still did it.
Therefore, he didn’t get surprised when Nash straight up teleported in front of him, his clawed hand bolting to the knife.

 

Yuma’s hand, however, “accidentally” slipped right before Nash could grab it, cutting his skin and drawing new drops of blood.
He winced in pain, the blade red with his lifeblood, but his smile didn’t falter. Despite the tears in his eyes, the young man was still grinning at Nash.
And Nash’s eyes were filled to the brim with pure and utter terror.

 

«If someone has the right to die, it’s me. Kill me, not yourself», he managed to say, still in shock. Yuma wasn’t serious, right?

 

The right to die?
«I’m not gifting you this», Yuma gritted his teeth, barely talking through them. «You don’t have any right to die and get this over with».
Looking at him in the eyes, his gaze locked in those lies that oh so badly reminded him of the friend he loved, Yuma raised his free hand and took Nash’s.
It was as cold as a rock left outside during winter, his claws so sharp Yuma felt them wound his fingers. It wouldn’t have been bad, if the person behind that faceless mask was his Ryoga.

 

«And besides, the dead have no mouth to speak», Yuma added, wrapping those claws around his other hand, the one holding the knife. «So don’t even try».

 

«You don’t want this», Nash shook his head, not daring to pull his hand away. Tears pooled in his eyes, a last reminiscence of his human self.

 

Yuma snorted a pained laugh, as tears rolled down his cheeks. They burned like fire, just as much as the never ending sense of loss.
The guilt that had piles up corpse after corpse, the helplessness as he watched his friends die, the heartbreak from understanding how much Nash had lied.
Everything was so overwhelming and too much for Yuma, and all he could do was laugh again. And again, and again, until the throne room was filled with that sick sound.

 

«I don’t want this», he said in the end, words and letters drowned in sobs. His shoulders were shaking, but his hand was still steady. Still holding the knife above his heart.
«I want to live, to meet my friends again, to love everyone until I have nothing else to give. I want to laugh and run and duel. I want to have fun, to go back and hug my sister, my grandma, my fucking stupid O-bot».
His tears fell down one after another as he glared in his eyes, as he tightened the grip over their hands: «I just want to erase all of this, and go back to my life. I want to be happy, I want to fail, to succeed, to try», he almost yelled.

 

«If you really care about me», Yuma coerced out his voice, lost in the crying mess he’d become: «push than knife into my heart».

 

And Nash, tears spilling from his eyes on his featureless face, his own soul screaming at him not to do it… Nash forced the blade through his beating heart.
Yuma didn’t even whisper away his last words, before closing his eyes for the last time, his pierced heart no longer alive.