Mount Fujikasane, Site of Final Selection,
Ai bounced up the steps, looking at the purple flowers, "They are so beautiful."
Tanjiro smiled, touching the wisteria flowers, "These are wisteria flowers, but…they don't grow at this time of year."
"Oh, mysterious," Ai blinked, watching the flowers again, touching them, smiling as she walked up the mountain. When she reached up, many people were there, many of whom had come to take the test.
She felt a pull on her kimono and looked over her shoulder to see Kanao, who had a smile on her lips. Along the way, she wasn't the only one that tried to talk with Kanao; even Tanjiro did but to no avail. But even this gesture must have been for something important.
Ai followed her gaze to the two young girls, one with black hair, the other with white.
"Greetings, everyone. Thank you for gathering tonight for the Final Selection. Mount Fujikasane holds Demons that Demon-Slayer Swordsmen have taken alive and trapped here."
The other continued, "Demons hate Wisteria Flowers, even out of season. They cover the mountain from its foot to halfway up the slope. However, from that point on, the Wisteria doesn't have blood. So Demons roam free."
"You must survive there for seven days; you will have passed the Final Selection if you do. Now go."
"We three part ways here," Kanae said and left before the two of them even had the chance to say anything. Ai and Tanjiro exchanged a look before shrugging.
Ai went towards the right while Tanjiro took the front. Once, she was halfway up and came across the first demon. Although it wasn't anything she thought it would be.
"Hey! It's that time when we finally get to feast!!"
Ai turned her eyes towards the demon, pale, and it looked malnourished, with its bones visible. A wide grin plastered on its face with no hair and white eyes.
She took a deep breath, 'Total Concentration – Water Breathing…."
Water started to warp around the blade as she slashed forward, but before it hit the Demon's neck, she turned the edge away, hitting him from the side of the blade, hurling the Demon in the distance.
She stopped herself, her feet dragging against the sand, her eyes focused on the Demon as she gasped for breath.
"Hahahahaahahahaha!! Lovely!! Not only do you look delicious, and there is meat, but also soft of heart! What didn't have enough guts to kill a Demon?!"
Ai's eyes trembled, the Demon blitzed towards her, slashing its claw, but its eyes became wide, feeling its body hurled away again. It rolled on the ground, standing up to find its hand gone, screaming, "Aghhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Aggggghhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!"
It rolled on the ground until its hand slowly closed, healing very slowly. It got on its feet, gasping for breath, looking at the human girl with golden blonde hair, and green eyes, wearing a yellow kimono with a black sash tied in a butterfly knot.
She was holding his hand, with a dull look on her face, nothing like the person he came across, "Hahaha!! I figured you out!! Even though you cut my hand, you could have killed me with that speed! I am a Demon! I will restore!"
"No, it's not that," Ai dropped his head, letting out a sigh, "It's not that I can't kill you, but rather I don't mind killing you. I don't feel a thing."
She slowly walked toward him, and when he tried to attack her, she cut its legs off, letting it torse drop down to the ground. She bent down, holding him by the old cloth he was wearing, dragging him to the rock on the side before sitting down on the rock.
She turned her gaze up to the sky, watching the stars at night, "You see…I am not from this place, and I have no stake in the fight. I lived a peaceful life where I came from…well, as peaceful as it was, me being a Ninja."
She smiled, keeping her broadsword on the side, leaning back, keeping her palms on the rock to support herself, "But, I loved reading books, and so my father presented me with this library, filled with books from all over the places. Places that seemed to be from different worlds even, and there were these where the protagonist was sent to a different world and a fight he didn't want to fight."
She raised her broadsword, slamming it down, cutting the tongue of the demon that tried to eat her, continuing, "And in books…the protagonist…lost all touch from the world, and did whatever they wanted, murder, genocide, revenge. All with flimsy justification came down to the fact that they couldn't connect to the world. I thought…if it ever happened to me, then I would be better."
"You know what…I couldn't feel a thing when I was about to kill you. My justification is that you are a Demon, and I seek to be a Demon Slayer, but even torturing you like this…nothing. This…even after all these months…when I thought I was better…feels surreal."
She lay down on the stone, resting her eyes, "And…I don't know how…to feel anything over your death."
"Who wants your pity!!!! Who wants you to feel anything!!! Just kill me, you bitch!!! Kill me now!!!!"
Ai heard the demon wailing, pressing her lips, and opened the digital screen, "Dad…tell me…what should I do?"
[Oh boy, you can be so troublesome sometimes.]
Ai sat up, hearing a reply from her father after such a long time. She watched as there was another message on the digital screen.
[To Unlock System's Full Features Master Total Concentration Constant.]
[Special Ability Granted – 3/3]
[Ability – Unknown (Owner – Ai Senju) – Unmastered.]
[Activates when the owner's sword kills someone. A choice would be given.]
Ai gazed at the messages and picked up the broadsword before slamming it down, cutting the neck of the Demon that was wailing. The time around her seemed to stop the moment she did, and a message appeared.
[Do you wish to activate Unknown Ability?]
Ai nodded, and energy surged inside her body, too complicated to follow her and her eyes shone. The green eye shone with turquoise color, and the scarlet one with scarlet light. The world in front of is divided into three windows, the colors one, the scarlet one, and the turquoise one. She didn't know what part of her ability was skipped and mixed, forming a well of colors, guiding her to light on the other side.
Her body fell to the bottom, into the light, and she found herself in front of a house, seeing the boy whose face met with the Demons that were about to die from her sword, having a picnic with his family.
She stayed here from the time they enjoyed their time together when they came across a Demon when they were destroyed, and then her heart pulsed, watching the Demon King turn him into a Demon, with no interest, but just because.
Her fingers trembled, her heart shouted for the first time since she came to this world, she wanted to save him. She wanted to save this demon but couldn't touch it no matter how much she tried.
And then her surrounding disappeared, and she found herself standing above the Demon who was turning into the ash, tasting it on her tongue. She knelt in front of him, and her tear dripped down on his face, making the Demon look up as she stroked his hair, much like his mother did, "Rest…it's over."
The Demon gave relief; his eyes became hazy, "It's over…? That's…good…. I wonder…if…I could still see them…no way…right?"
Ai parted her lips, pressing them, smiling, lying, "Yes, you surely will."
"Liar…" The Demon turned into ashes and disappeared, leaving behind Ai, who wiped her tears.
She supported herself on the broadsword, taking a shuddering breath, "Two more…its better to not kill anymore, not unless necessary."
There was a choice that she kills the Demons without and rejects activating the ability, but that is not what she wanted.
She took a step forward, and the screen popped up in front of her; party poppers blasted off on the screen.
[First Demon Killed!! First Time Reward Only! Story Weaving.]
[Story Weaving – Weave The Story of The Demons on The Sword.]
[System Note – Stories Weaved Cannot Be Read but Could be Dreamt by the Wielder.]
[Daddy's Note – Be careful of the Nightmares Love.]
[Do you wish to accept this Ability?]
Ai, let out a short laugh, looking to the side, "Hah…thanks, Dad…."
Without hesitation, she clicked on yes, accepting the ability. The ashes rose, turning into scarlet and turquoise strings, wrapping themselves around the two hilts with a gap between them, forming a much larger handle.
But that didn't give her the freedom, but she didn't care about that. She smiled, "I guess beggars can't be choosers."
After all, this was her choice, and she wasn't the best smith or designer, "Oh, well. Now, this is my sword."
Her eyes were fixed on the two rings, one scarlet, the other green, the story of this body, the one that she wanted to protect.
She moved forward, but rather than going back, she chose to go toward others, kill the Demons, and save the memories of as many as she could. She killed them one after the another, and their memories turned into strings, finely etched on the hilts.
A total of nine strings were etched when she heard the screams of a few humans. She changed her direction, taking a deep breath, and she rushed forward in that direction.
When she stopped on top of the branch, looking towards the massive Demon, giving off a different feeling than any other. It was a monstrously large, veining, a hulking monster with olive-green skin, blood-red fingernails, and beady yellow eyes with cross-hatch-shaped pupils.
Its hand was cut apart, falling to the ground, and Tanjiro was in front of it, on his knee, protecting another of the contestants behind him.
"Two foxes, huh. This is new…."
The Demon stood in front of them without acting, looking up at the night sky, "Tell me, fox boy…right now…what Meiji Emperor sits upon the Throne?"
'Hm,' Ai blanked out for a moment hearing the question, looking towards Tanjiro since she had no idea about this matter.
"The Imperial Family is Taisho!"
The eyes of the Demon widened, and it let out a roar filled with annoyance, "GAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!! I have been here so long!! Dynasties have risen and fallen!!"
"Again and again!! All the while, I have been trapped here!! Gahhhh!!! Unforgivable!! Unforgivable!!"
"Damn, Urokodaki!! Damn Urokodaki!!!! Damn him!! Damn him!!! Damn Urokodaki!!!"
"You know Urokodaki?" Ai asked, and the monster's eyes turned, fixing on him.
"Oh, I know him! Urokodaki was the one who captured me! I will never forget it. It's been 47 torturous years!! Back then, he was still a Demon Slayer! In the Edo Period…The Keio Era!"
"That's impossible! No Demon has lived that long! They only put Demons up here that have Eaten two or three people and get killed during the selection! Plus, Demons eat each other too!"
The boy that Tanjiro protected shouted, his face covered in a ghastly expression.
"I have surprised, and I have eaten 50 of you, brat!"
'50' Ai's and Tanjiro's thoughts went back to when Urokodaki told them about the Demon's strength and how they grew stronger the more they ate. It was no wonder why this one felt so much different than any other they had faced till now.
"13…14…15…Yes. You two are the 14th and 15th …."
"What are you talking about?"
"Of how many students have I eaten of Urokodaki's! Thirteen of them, but two I remember above all. Colorful jacket and the strongest by far. He had peace-colored hair and a scar by his mouth; the other brat wore a kimono covered in flowers. She was small and not so strong, but very agile."
"He called it Warding Mask? I ate them all BECAUSE they wore the mask! It's like Urokodaki fed them to me!"
"Hehehe, the girl-brat wept and grew angry when I told her that! Hehhehehehehe! Soon her movements became shaky, and I tore!"
Tanjiro dove in, cutting the Demon's numerous arms as it attacked, but his breath was uneven. The Demon managed to punch him in the stomach, hurling him in the distance until his back stuck against the tree.
Ai, who heard the thumping voice, turned her shocked, fixed eyes away from the two she saw. The Demon described the one, and then they became hazy, turning into a mist as if they were a dream.
She sucked in a cold breath, 'Total Concentration.'
She jumped in front of Tanjiro, defending his fainted body, clashing with the Demon. Since it was large, her broadsword dealt much more damage than Tanjiro's katana, cutting three of four arms with one swing, faster than it could heal.
She put force in her voice, "Tanjiro! Wake up!"
Tanjiro opened his eyes, hearing another voice in his head, and the first thing that registered in his brain was the smell that came from below him. He leaped up, and numerous hands rose from the ground to catch him, but the Demon didn't let go even in mid-air, wanting to eliminate him.
Ai dashed forward, cutting the arm, dragging her legs against the ground to come to a stop, shouting again, "Tanjiro!"
Tanjiro didn't need her to tell; he already took a cold breath, concentrating, "First Form! Water Surface Slash!"
He created a mighty slash, cutting the Demon's neck in one go as his head dropped to the side, slowly turning into ash.
Ai walked back to him, dragging her leg, watching Tanjiro hold the hand of the Demon that slowly turned into ash. Two strings came out, scarlet and turquoise, wrapping around the hilt, but her eyes weren't on that.
Her eyes were fixed on the two standing in front of her, the ones he described, the Souls of the Dead.
"You can see us after all," The girl smiled, "Thank you, and thank him from our side."
Ai pressed her lips in sadness, "Sorry…."
"Don't be. We both suffered at the hands of Demons, and both of us wanted to fight against them in hopes that one person less suffers at their hands. Sadly…our journey must end here. Even though I don't want to."
Makomo, the girl smiled at her, watching her sword, "Say…does that weapon eats Demons?"
"Eat?" Ai didn't look towards Tanjiro, who was confused about whom she was talking to but answered the two, "Nothing like that…it keeps the record of the memories of the Demons I killed. I hope to remember them…as the Humans they were and as the Demons, and this sword answer my wishes."
"That's a special sword," Sabito put his hand on it, exchanging a look with Makomo, who smiled, doing the same, "Then don't mind us…making it our home and fighting with you."
"Wait-!" The two turned into light before it even registered to her, fusing with the weapon. It was almost as if the metal came around, reconstructing itself into a Katana. Two Katana, facing each other to make a sword. Its hilt was much thinner than any other, making her wonder if it would hold against more challenging fights. The hilt wasn't around but flat from one side, and those two flat sides came together, forming a tiny broadsword.
"Wha-wha-what happened!! How did that happen!!" Tanjiro pointed at the sword in surprise, almost freaked out, only to see a sad smile appear on Ai's lips.
"Now…this is my fight," She raised her eyes as the wind blew her bangs, revealing her hidden scarlet eye, "And I plan to win."