Squalo never defeats Tyr. The only fragments he has left of his vow to himself are those memories of all the times he came close. Instead, someone else had slipped beyond him silently, unknowingly, and cut down his fervent goal. Now vicarious defeat burned in his veins and oh, how Squalo choked at the reins to prove that person wrong.
There was meant to be no other Sword Emperor but him.
It’s pathetic, those words. It disgusts him beyond comprehension that when he hunts the former emperor down, he comes to look for explanations, excuses- that Squalo feels hopeful. He couldn’t rip out that fluttering feeling, that certain faith he had, that somehow it had been a mistake.
Tyr is simply the same. The gray hairs are timeless. His hands, somewhat tanned and wrinkled with work and age, and the plain, light shirt he wears like so many other Italian men who dress coolly for summer, are all so mundane. The old man’s weary, weary calm infused that simply apology, and Squalo, from that statement, can’t even look at him.
What the fuck was there to apologize, for? He wasn’t chasing Tyr- he never was. He chased the title and the title alone and he refused to think that somewhere, down the line, sword emperor became synonymous with this rather ordinary man, with Tyr.
A sigh exhales out behind him and the clink of a glass against the cracked wood of an old-world table is the only noise of movement before Squalo feels a touch, steady and light, against the cuff of his hand. Tenseness floods through him at this stupid overture, whiteness spreading across his knuckles and pain shooting in his jaw from clenching. Squalo practically vibrates with unchecked rage, and he doesn’t even try to analyze where it comes from but only lets it wash across him like a wave too long in coming.
The hand moves away, and somehow, somehow it does nothing to relax him. Squalo whirls around, the building in his chest of something too angry to be called pain shoving his limbs to action. A quick strike of his arm knocks over the bottle, a kick at the bar table spills the wine in a glass onto the floor. He has to hold himself in check from slamming the old man into the wall and screaming.
“I’m not sorry.”
He’s not sorry, he’s not and Squalo doesn’t need this, that damn understanding look in Tyr’s eyes like he knows something Squalo won’t even think about, much less admit in his head. Bitterness still floods his mouth as he storms across the room, slamming open the bar door to leave and never see this stupid, feeble old fool again.
He has a Sword Emperor to defeat, and there’s no time to waste on weak, pathetic losers.
He’s not what he expected. A kid, a fucking kid.
Squalo doesn’t like him right away. Who in the world chooses a field, a field like in some sort of ridiculous B grade dueling scene, to meet their enemy? The boy, Yamamoto Takeshi, had called him, and asked to meet him. He didn’t have to wait and hunt the brat down, he didn’t have to do anything. It was so neatly arranged that Squalo can’t help but think that fate, the gods or whatever the fuck had nothing to do with something so coincidental. Only one man could have asked that brat for this, and Squalo was not pleased.
“Haha, I guess you’ve got to be wondering who I am.”
A vein throbs in Squalo’s head, his arm burns with the need to cut open the brat’s innards and string them about the grass. He had a fucking katana in his hand, there’re only so many things he could be!
“VOOOIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII, I DON’T FUCKING CARE WHO YOU ARE I AM GOING TO KILL YOU.”
The brat’s easy stance never changes, even after Squalo slips aside and starts cutting with his sword, slicing right up to the new, young sword emperor, who barely dodges his attack. Tyr, Tyr had lost to this embarrassment, this fool.
They move around the field in fluid, juxtaposed strikes and counters. Squalo is direct and to the point, sharp cuts and fine, straight rushes leaving the foreign boy almost no room to maneuver. There are no testing strikes, but a full on rain of blows and bloodthirsty steps that brilliantly try to corner and trap. The pattern of Squalo’s moves are seemingly haphazard, chasing and quarrying helter-skelter in a blinding series of charges.
Yamamoto never gets caught, though. He’s exactly the opposite of what Squalo expects, the style is so unlike Tyr’s that somehow, he can’t even fathom that this is now what being the sword emperor is. Instead of well timed, skillful jabs, incisions precise and laced with power and purpose, everything is fluid.
Yamamoto is blank, there are no testing strikes but instead chance encounters that make his katana slip beneath Squalo’s defense. His steps don’t move of his own accord, they move only to the rhythm of the other, infiltrating any tiny crack they could. The pattern of Yamamoto’s moves are tranquil, their purpose unknown until the very last second, perhaps not even to the kid himself.
Squalo hunts and hunts and hunts, and Yamamoto eludes as best he can, both of them edging around each other and locking themselves into a clash that doesn’t seem to end. The deafening wail that shatters the silent air around them distracts both Squalo and Yamamoto as far off in the distance the alarm of a train passing through rings out. Squalo deftly plunges into a poorly wielded defensive stance and his strike is minutely deflected, though Yamamoto’s cheek now pours with blood. The shine of the metal edge glitters right by the brat’s ear, ready to slice into his head.
It isn’t till a millisecond later that Squalo feels the tugging sting of a shallow cut against his side, the lowered arm of the boy holding in loose but competent stance the straight blade of his katana, ready to cut softly into his opponent’s abdomen.
Rising from the depths of his gut, Squalo feels the question spill out from his lips, unfathomable and crazy with rage as they both stare at each other.
“Why did you leave him alive?”
The golden eyes that gaze back tell him nothing, tranquil and filled with something alien to Squalo’s thought.
“He’s old, he didn’t need to die. I defeated him and that was it. He seemed like he’d been done a long time ago.”
It’s too confusing; it’s too unfinished and completely different from Tyr and Squalo, and Tyr and Squalo’s unspoken agreement. He can’t look away from that stupid kid’s- Yamamoto Takeshi’s- earnest features. Tyr was either the emperor or he was not, and if he wasn’t he should be dead. Squalo would have cut him down and let him bleed to death before his feet, no regrets or uneasiness to haunt him. This was how they were supposed to live.
He shoves the the kid away from him, Yamamoto stumbling back like a clumsy oaf as he looks at Squalo with startled eyes. He could have killed the brat then and there, he had the clear advantage. Yamamoto would only severely injure him at the least, where he had the killing strike either way.
Some invisible reason, unrevealed to himself, had made him stop. Perhaps it was the thought that it had been true. Somehow he hadn’t been good enough to kill Tyr, and this…this Yamamoto had. He usurped it all in one fell swoop, and the swordsman can only silently rage at the injustice of his title stolen, Tyr alive, and Squalo himself left bitterly unsatisfied.
“I hope you’re good kid. When I take that worthless title from you, there is no such thing as living in a battle against me.”