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Steel of the Bull

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Not quite pain. Dullness. Fuzzy. Like static. Cotton. In my ears. What's going on?

Words. Wake up? Why? What point is there in waking up? Power. Awakeness. Damn. I can't go back to sleep, huh?

"Come on, you old thing."

"Hey, don't insult it. They were sentient, remember?... and this one is Wrath."

"They had masters. You seriously think sentient robots would need masters?"

"My name is Rage..." Fuck. My eyes won't turn on. Laughter. At me?

"Told you so." No. At the first one. High Voices. Probably two humans. Female designated.

Though if knowing Rune meant anything, it meant he knew better than to stick a gender on someone.

Systems check. Eyes malfunctioning, arms restrained, core secure, manual repairs attempted. They're fixing me. Joy.

"After you're done laughing at my expense, I can't see." Feeling my own voice roll in my chest and hearing quick apologies feels good.

At least they're obedient.

Oh, fuck, they're in my head. Literally.

I only hear my own claws grabbing at the sides of the... whatever I'm on.

Connection. Bright.

"Gaaaahhhh!" I flinch and shut my eyes against the light.

"Shit! Lex, turn off the overhead."

Scrambling and then a click. Along with immediate relief of the white demon on the other side of my eyelids.

Open. Slowly. And then... focus.

Chapter Text

"Agh... Good god..." The doji blinked slowly and looked around, "Damn, what a dump. I'm guessing you're not officials fixing me up to study me, huh?"

The place was, indeed, rather trashed. Some sort of bunker. Wait, is this the same bunker he'd hidden in?

A chuckle made him finally look to his captors. Two humans stood in there with him, one near his head and the other across the room. The first in nothing but a binder, shorts, and oil stains up to their elbows. Pale purple hair that reminded him of Milieu was wet with sweat. It was either an unstyled mohawk or an undercut meant to be tied back like it was. Oh, and they had a ridiculous grin on their face.

"...Your roots are showing," Rage observed with a slight grumble. He heard a huff in response but didn't care enough to look back before looking to the one by the light switch. Lex, he supposed. They weren't near as dirty, wearing long pants and some kind of shawl...thing... Natural, light colored hair spilled around her face freely. If the computer set up nearby with thousands of wires hooked into it meant anything...

"Let me guess." At this point, the exasperation on his tongue might as well have been tangible, "You're software and you're hardware." He nodded to Lex and then the one a little too close to him each in turn as he spoke.

Laughter rewarded them nothing but an eye twitch, but he got a nod in affirmation at least. He turned to glance back at the computer, and quickly looked away as he realized just how many of those wires were hooked up to... him...

He swallowed non-existent bile, then tried to sit up.

Red flashed in his system and he cried out just before the nearest human put their hands on his chest and pushed him back down, "Woah, careful, we haven't been able to flip you over and get repairs done to your back support..."

"You mean my spine."

"...In human terms, yes..."

"Fine... Get my damn arms untied and I'll roll over." He looked up at the nearest one. Dark eyes flicked from him to Lex. He growled, "Or would you rather me break it myself?" He snapped at them.

With a long sigh, he was reluctantly obeyed. True to his word, he flipped over with a grunt, hissing as he noticed and archived every damn joint that was sore and every wound he still had. With no master, he'd have to deal with manual repairs for now.

"So... Rage..." Oh great, now they were gonna do that whole damn small talk and introduction thing. Foot steps. It was Lex walking over to talk to him. He moved his head to glare at her.

"What?"

"I'm Lexium, Lex for short-"

"I know that, this one called you Lex earlier. Get to the point."

"Don't be rude, asshole, she's the one that woke your grumpy ass up."

Rage yelped as he felt a sharp jab in his back, immediately followed by a sarcastic; "I swear I didn't do that out of spite."

"Please don't kill each other already." Lex sighed, "Anyways, the one operating on you is Daniel. We've already assumed that you were hidden, or hid yourself, in this bunker, right? During The Hunt?"

"The Hunt. Is that what they're calling it? How creative. Yes, I hid in here from the assholes that managed to harpoon Ultimo. What fucking year is it, anyways?"

"They harpooned Ultim-?" Swiftly, Daniel was cut off mid-sentence. Rage narrowed his eyes and looked at Daniel, but as Lex spoke, all his attention was on the answer to his question.

"It's 3057."

Oh. Well.

Shit.

"Damn, did I hide that well? Good lord, a whole millenia asleep. Fuck, I beat Paresse's high score." He slid a hand up gingerly to move hair out of his face.

"Well, he'll have you beat before too long. He's sleeping with the fishes now."

"They got him, huh?"

"That's what the history books say." Daniel above him muttered, "Chased into the sea and torpedoed."

"He actually ran?" Rage rolled his eyes and huffed before letting his eyelids shut, "So exactly how much do you guys know about us now? How many of us did they snatch up and study?"

"I think you mean the government, not 'us guys'. We know more about you than them. They didn't study any of you," Lex was moving back to her computer, "Blew most of you to smithereens. Vice, too."

That news hit Rage like ice. Even Vice was...? He frowned deeply. Of course Vice was dead, the bastard was too brash for his own good.

Sounds of eating; Lex must have some kind of snack with her, "Bits and pieces that washed into the back alleys where we could find them. Tried to put the pieces together. Succeeded in some parts. Ol' man down the street has just about all of Slow gathered."

"Lucky me, I got found by the black market, huh?" He edged an eye open, immediately meeting Lex's eyes as she laughed.

"Guess so. At least we're not going to gut you and sell your organs." She leaned back in her chair.

Daniel piped up with a laugh, "Technically we still could. An intact Doji power core would sell for a few pretty pennies."

Rage snarled up at him, just earning himself a smirk.

"But in all seriousness, no, we're not going to gut you. If we wanted to, you'd never have been woken up." Daniel pulled his hands out of the doji's artificial skin at last and Rage grunted at the relief of that oh, so, disgusting sensation.

"What we want to do is put you in a fight."

Chapter Text

"Okay, so, list of things we did not fucking know; Doji were 'he's, not 'it's. Doji are self-aware. Doji use human fucking terms. Doji have fucking souls. Anything else I'm missing?" Daniel's exasperated ranting could have been heard even if Rage wasn't a karakuridoji, "Oh, no, wait, I know what I'm missing. They're fucking sentient. We can't force him to fucking fight for us!"

"I tried telling you that before when I was scanning his processors—"

Daniel was having none of it, "He's a fucking living being, holy shit, could our lives have gotten any worse?!"

"I can hear you…" Rage grumbled as he rubbed at his arms, still sore. Daniel and Lex wouldn't be able to hear him from their distance away. He had sat himself up, sitting on the edge of the metal as he contemplated his new existence. The government clearly should still have anti-doji weaponry, so even if he went on a reign of terror in a raging fit for revenge of his comrades—former comrades—it was pointless. He'd be shot out of the sky or off the face of the earth. Again. His other options were to take a human form and stay that way until the humans completely forgot about doji and disabled their weaponry for good, which could take another few hundred years, or…

He could fight underground fights against disabled and reanimated doji. Just shy of a hundred doji were in the rings. Just shy of the total that Dunstan had made. Which meant that a handful were either still alive like him, destroyed beyond recognition, or in the hands of the unsavory types. Life with Fussa in his past life taught him a more neutral good wrath. Vengeance and righteous anger against those who would do you wrong. A twinge hit his chest as he thought of Fussa. Hell, of Mizho, Akira, K, even Hana. Fucking hell, even Yamato and the good masters. All executed without trial simply for associating with the doji. Rage had specifically fucking cut off from Fussa to avoid his master being killed like that. But as famous as he had been back then, practically the whole building he'd worked in was executed just for knowing him.

A sharp, pulsing blue shot through his system. Lightning. He heard a yelp and jerked his head up, realizing he'd just let out a sharp charge of electricity in his fit of anger. Sorrow, maybe. Neither of the nearby pair was hurt. Lex had fallen back, likely in shock, and Daniel was between him and her in a defensive posture. He sighed and pried his fingers from the now warped edge of the table, where he hadn't even realized he'd dug them in.

He stood up abruptly and dismissed his gauntlets and visors to appear human. He stormed past the pair without a word. He jumped up onto the ladder to climb out of the bunker into the forest above.

Only he wasn't greeted with woods and animal cries. No, the land was a flat plain now. Covered in dark green grass. He narrowed his eyes and scanned it all cautiously. Scanned the sky. A couple of birds. A rabbit far away. A rusty bucket of bolts that he assumed was some sort of hovering eighteen wheeler was close by. But no humans except for the two down below. Strange.

But he supposed a lot happened in the amount of time he'd been gone. Hell, he'd even slept past his official 'birth' in 2989. He groaned and dragged himself out, slamming the entrance shut behind him. He began to pace almost violently. Back and forth rather quickly. His fists clenched and relaxed rapidly. The whiplash of being suddenly in a completely new time had rattled him to his core in seconds as it hit.

And with the news that even Vice was— don't think about that.

He shook his head and huffed inwardly. Vice deserved it anyways. Had it coming.

shit, that didn't mean he still couldn't miss the bastard.

He stopped pacing and knelt into the grass, holding his head. It was way too damn much for him. He was quite possibly the last functioning doji and every last thought that could have caught up with him did. He curled his fingers in his hair, his teeth gritting as he fought back a yell. Hot red anger and pain welled up in him with a vengeance he'd never felt before.

Everything. Everyone. Was gone. Could he even fight in the rings? Against the dead shells of the people he'd once loved? Sure, he never let them know, his heart too stone cold and shrouded in anger and hate that even Jealousy didn't double take at him. But he did. The Evil Doji Branch had been almost a fucking family. Who else did they have to look after them but themselves?

And just like that it was all gone. He'd gone into hibernation in the bunker only a week after it had begun. Vice was supposed to gather the other evil doji to join him there so they could weather it all… No one got the memo apparently.

He shook his head. That shouldn't matter. He had to get his head out of the past. He stood again and kept pacing. The ache in his chest wouldn't go away. No matter how he tried to convince himself of one action or another. If he went rogue in human form, he'd just end up living as a human. Jumping between lives to avoid suspicion as he never aged. Never anyone to stay constant in his life.

… 900 years. He'd been activated in pre-war Japan and ever since the other evil doji and the good doji had almost always been a constant.

Trapping yourself in the past again.

900 years he'd known them.

Stop thinking about it, you fucking idiot!

And they were all fucking gone.

You have a future ahead of you even without them…

He'd gotten fucking dependent on them and never fucking realized it.

His mouth had just loosened to scream when he heard the entrance to the bunker open. He whipped around, piercing eyes glaring daggers into Lexium as she climbed out. She froze when she stood and met his glare. His stature was rigid. His whole body appearing coiled like a trap. Faux muscles clenched under artificial skin, legs bent slightly in a shallow crouch, prepared to spring forward.

She visibly swallowed, "Rage, it's okay." She lifted her hands up, "I'm not gonna do anything to hurt you."

"Put me back under." His voice cracked, like the foundation of a building carrying too much weight, "I want to hibernate again. I don't want to ever wake up again."

"Rage, that's just running away."

"Then let me fucking run!" He snapped back, "I'm not ashamed to. And don't let me ever be woken up again. I don't want to be here, I don't want to face this shit, and I don't want to be conscious again if they're all gone!" His voice rose high, and he brought a hand up to his face, covering it as he lowered his head, "I don't want to be awake without them… They were all I had and they're fucking gone!" His other arm wrapped around himself and his knees buckled a second time and his rigidity crumbled and he became a trembling mess.

He didn't even react when Lex kneeled in front of him.

"It's okay, Rage. Let it out. It's okay to not be okay."

"You… you fucking sound like a fucking… good doji…" The utterance was somewhere between a harsh whispered insult and a whimper.

"Ironic, given my background. …Look, we can't make you fight. After seeing you like this, I don't even want you to. You could just help us with the doji we have. It, er, He's not even a major sin, you probably didn't know him." She began to talk and for now he clung to her words. Every little thing he could to keep his mind out of his rampant mind, "You know how to fight. You can teach Daniel and me how to operate him. Help us train with him."

"…Who was he…?"

"Deceit, we think. At least, that's all that was on a shard of his core that we found."

Rage's head felt numb as he nodded. He'd never really known any doji outside of the major sins and virtues. He sensed more than saw Lex reach out a hand to him, "Come on. Daniel's inside gathering everything up. Let's go help…?"

His body moved of its own accord as he took her hand and stood with her, then followed her back in. The thoughts would come back. He knew. But for now they were muffled under the doji equivalent of emotional suppression as he seemed to move on auto pilot helping Daniel and Lex pack up all of their equipment and load it into the rust bucket of a hover-truck outside.