When news of Rigaldo’s awakening reached Isley, he ripped his black card in half and sent the pieces to the Organization. Isley wasn’t sure they would understand what he meant by that or what their response would be but he quite looked forward to it. They weren’t fools but they weren’t him; he could only expect so much from them.
With Rigaldo’s transformation into one of those beasts Isley was now the last warrior of the original generation. Being the last wasn’t a surprise but he’d expected to be the last alive. The others weren’t exactly dead. They’d ceased to be human though so perhaps it was the same thing in the end.
Isley turned his face North and began walking. There should have been some pride at being the last remaining warrior. But there was no pride like this. There couldn’t be. As the last male warrior, as the warrior designated as Number One, he would be expected to hunt down the people he had once fought with.
Isley wasn’t fond of most of them but that was still a depressing prospect.
But they couldn’t be allowed to live. Just like the yoma they had fought, they now craved human intestines, and many of them were strong enough to not only fight off the warriors that came after them. Some, like Rigaldo, would kill them.
For both the warriors’ and humans’ sakes all of Isley’s former comrades had to be killed. The new generation of warriors would slaughter them like beasts instead of putting them down with any measure of dignity or honor. They didn’t have the same bond as Isley did with the other male warriors.
As he travelled further into the North Isley welcomed the distant chill even as it was just another reminder that he was less than human. There were fewer yoma the further he went, as if they had been scared off. The few he found were just side notes and he slew them without a second thought.
But there were no other warriors. It was as if something had already run them off. There were certainly enough people in the Northern lands to feed multiple awakened and yoma alike.
Isley avoided his hometown and wandered about. All too soon he felt someone following him. He smiled to himself and kept on.
It was a familiar yoki but different enough that it gave him pause. Rigaldo’s yoki had never been so massive. But then, if he had awakened, he of all people wouldn’t bother to control it. There was no need to struggle to rein it in once you passed your limits after all.
Isley had just left Dabi when he felt that yoki coming towards him. He smiled to himself and neatly dodged the strike Rigaldo aimed for him.
Rigaldo scowled at him. He was in human form still and Isley blinked a little in surprise as seeing Rigaldo’s hair so dark. Isley was used to seeing him with his hair drained of color.
“Isley,” Rigaldo said in greeting. “I thought it was you.”
Isley stopped and looked around. They were far away enough from the nearest village that any destruction wouldn’t be too damaging.
“Have you come to kill me, Isley? You won’t find it so easy,” Rigaldo said, eyes bright with anticipation. He was ready for a hard fight and looked forward to it.
Isley smiled at him. The world needed simple people.
“You said you would never accept the position of Number Two until we had fought.” Isley took his claymore from his back.
Rigaldo lit up even more.
“I did say that.” He licked his lips then frowned. “If you’re here on the Organization’s orders you may as well leave. Even you can’t kill me now. And it won’t be any fun if you’re just here on their orders.”
“What about my pride as Number One?” Isley said in a joking tone. Rigaldo scowled as Isley knew he would; he was still so easily riled up. Isley had said countless times he didn’t care for the numbers. He pointed his claymore at him. “I’m a warrior of the Organization and it’s my duty to kill yoma, then.”
“And warriors who become monsters,” Rigaldo said.
“Exactly. But take comfort, Rigaldo, for I don’t come on Organization orders.”
Rigaldo watched him for a moment then smiled. He began to circle Isley. Isley didn’t move except to follow Rigaldo’s path around, waiting for him.
“It does, though I would not be so cocky, Isley. You don’t know what it’s like. Letting the yoki take over you. It’s sublime. And I’m stronger now. I’m sorry, Isley, but this fight will lead to your death. Will you still fight me even knowing that?”
“So dramatic,” Isley said and charged.
Rigaldo dodged and avoided each strike of Isley’s sword in a way he should have never been capable of before. So this was an awakening. Isley had only ever fought the weaker numbers who had survived yoma only to go over their limits.
Isley grit his teeth. This wouldn’t be as easy as he thought. Rigaldo had been Number Two but there were seven other single digits to deal with after. Not to mention all of the other numbers who still lived as awakened creatures.
“Come on,” Rigaldo taunted, sensing his doubt. “Let’s see the golden eyes of the Silver King! Don’t you dare hold back on me now, Isley! I want to kill you at your peak!”
Isley grimaced and attacked again. Rigaldo jumped and with a kick sent him to the ground. Isley shook snow out of his hair and stood back up.
“You won’t be able to fight me without releasing your yoki,” Rigaldo said, laughing.
“You speak some truth in that,” Isley said. He allowed his yoki to pulse to life and charged at Rigaldo, slicing into Rigaldo’s arm.
Rigaldo screamed in laughter and delight at seeing Isley’s gold eyes. Every cut and blow Isley landed on him only riled him up more. But they were only scratches and bruises, and Rigaldo was allowing each and every one of them. None of them bothered him.
Isley needed to use more strength. He scowled at Rigaldo’s amusement.
“I want more than ten percent, Isley.”
“You’re troublesome,” Isley said in response. He rushed at him, hoping to cut off his hand, but Rigaldo side stepped him with ease.
“I want to crush you. But not kill you. Killing you wouldn’t satisfy me, I can see that now. I want you to live subservient and loyal to me when I win.”
“Sure, sure. You’ve had a lot of time to think about this while you were Number Two, huh?” Isley swung again but Rigaldo just stepped out of the way. He almost looked bored.
“I should have been Number One,” Rigaldo said in a far away voice. He wasn’t even paying attention and Isley couldn’t hit him. Isley gripped his sword harder in frustration. “Look, you can’t even keep up with me.”
“And you’ve been toying with me.” Isley tried to keep the annoyance out of his voice. He wasn’t entirely successful judging by amused look Rigaldo had.
“An indulgence.” Rigaldo said with a slight smirk. “I spent far too long beneath you.”
“If I may ask a question. You don’t seem to be as mutated as the other warriors were,” Isley said, taking a step back.
Rigaldo hummed and raised his hand. He studied it for a moment, turning it over.
“Not right now. I thought you’d appreciate this form more.”
“I’d really prefer the monster. You can’t use all of your yoki in this form, correct? I’m here to fight you just as much as you’re here to fight me, Rigaldo. Don’t give me less than your best, Number Two.”
Rigaldo chuckled and as he did, his body began to shift. Accordingly, his yoki began to swell and Isley didn’t deny to himself that he was impressed. If Isley hadn’t been a warrior Rigaldo would have certainly been a worthy Number One.
To his surprise, Rigaldo’s human face turned animalistic instead of monstrous, and the roar he gave only confirmed the lion’s form.
“I’ll show you what a mistake that was, Isley. I should have been Number One!”
Isley barely raised his claymore in time to block the blow Rigaldo aimed for him. It still pushed him back and to the ground. He rolled away as Rigaldo punched the space where he had just been, sending dirt and snow flying.
Isley ran, narrowly avoiding each strike as Rigaldo turned the once smooth path into craters and rubble. But in a flash Rigaldo caught up with him and sent him to the ground with another blow.
“You’re obsessive over those stupid numbers,” Isley said, panting a little now. He got up and brushed away a bit of blood from where his teeth had bitten into his lip.
“I’ll take that ‘stupid number’ away from you,” Rigaldo said, baring his teeth. “Though I suppose monsters don’t get numbers. Does that make it pointless from your perspective?”
“Nothing of the sort,” Isley said. He stood up and drove his claymore into the ground, hand lingering for a moment on the hilt. “I told you I didn’t come on the Organization’s orders. This wasn’t a fight for numbers. I never cared about that.”
Rigaldo looked confused. He blinked a few times and frowned.
Isley released the rest of his yoki. Rigaldo hadn’t lied; he’d downplayed it. The power surging through him was exquisite. Isley hadn’t even the words for it.
It didn’t even hurt as his body morphed to accommodate the strange power he had forced into it. This new body felt right in a way his human and half human body had never felt.
Isley exhaled, newly formed skin still trembling from his transformation. His entire body felt electrified, ready, and for the first time in months he could feel again the chill of the wind. Isley closed his eyes and took a deep breath in, the cold sharp and cool in his lungs.
He opened his eyes to see Rigaldo’s look of shock.
“The world looks different from up here,” he remarked, looking down at Rigaldo then back around, enjoying the power pulsing through him. He’d rarely released his yoki as a warrior. It was downright intoxicating.
“You’re bigger, but that only means you’ll be slower,” Rigaldo said and Isley watched as Rigaldo’s claws tore at him. They both watched as Isley’s wound knit itself back together.
“Do you want to try again?” Isley asked, disappointed when Rigaldo roared in anger and attacked. He didn’t resist, fascinated by the speed at which his limbs and skin regenerated. It happened so fast and he didn’t have to will it.
Isley blocked Rigaldo’s next attack and pushed him back, sending him flying to the ground. A crash and wave of earth sprung up and Isley frowned at himself, still trying to get a handle on his new strength.
“Let’s see now,” he said aloud, and in a rush of wind, was behind Rigaldo just as he stood up. “Ah. Too fast.”
Rigaldo was staring, gaping. His speed had always been his biggest asset. And Isley had just obliterated that with hardly an effort.
Taking advantage of his momentary surprise, Isley swung his arm at Rigaldo, sending him crashing to the ground once more.
“Come on, Rigaldo. Give me a good fight,” Isley taunted.
“Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you,” Rigaldo was saying, more to himself than to Isley. He roared again, shaking the ground beneath him, and rushed at Isley.
Isley was about to say something again when he felt something pierce his arm. He looked down in surprise to see Rigaldo’s nails had extended to pierce him like a yoma’s would.
It was a stark reminder of what they were now.
“I’d forgotten,” Isley said to himself.
Rigaldo retracted his nails and tried again. But this time Isley was ready for him and he held out his arm to block. the appendages bounced off and Isley stared at his arm. It had changed and become a shield.
With a thought it morphed and became a bow, arrows growing in his hand and he aimed. Rigaldo ducked but only barely. He was frothing at the mouth, enraged but still fighting. Isley sighed, a little fond; it was comforting to see how little Rigaldo had changed.
The next volley of arrows pierced him.
Rigaldo coughed, blood splattering onto the ground and remaining snow. His nails were grinding the dirt as he tried to break free.
Isley shifted back to his human form. Something was nagging at the back of his head. It’d been something important that he couldn’t remember. It’d had to do with the other warriors, he was sure. It’d been important. He brushed it aside and smiled at Rigaldo’s surprise.
“I never had a chance,” Rigaldo said through gritted teeth.
“No. But we never said it was a fight to the death. And I believe it’s clear now why I was given the rank I had.”
Rigaldo looked away, his face a mixture of anger, shame, fear, and relief. Isley reached out a hand. Rigaldo stared at it for a minute then pulled the arrow out, shifting back to the shape of a man and accepting Isley’s hand.
He had his eyes lowered and Isley remembered his taunt from before about servitude and loyalty. Isley had never intended to collect on the promise but Rigaldo could do as he pleased. Isley certainly intended to.
“Come. I want to see all of the North for I’ve decided to take it for my own. And if the Organization or anyone else attempts to change that, well-” Here Isley smirked. “I believe you’re the very man to inform them of their mistake.”