Time... reversed. That is the only way to describe it. One moment I am dodging out of the room as a giant explosion rocks it and watching in horror as the shrapnel rips Una apart and the flames incinerate Rei and the next... everything stops, then reverses. The next thing I know we are standing in front of the First Mind again and he is saying something about not having to track us down. We all seem stunned except High Dive. Somehow she is behind this, but... how? Rei decides not to wait around for a repeat performance and teleports us away. For a moment I am tempted to remain behind to cover their retreat but I realize that there is always the chance that it would simply ignore me and go after the others anyway so I allow myself to be taken away with the rest.
We arrive in the middle of a battlefield. Gogajin are striding about like invincible titans smashing tanks, soldiers, and Hei Shi alike. It is a slaughter and for once our side has the advantage. Then, predictably, the First Mind catches up with us. Una was waiting for it however and it is immediately greeted by a giant blast of destructive energy that sends it flying back into the building from whence it came. That was not enough to finish it of course and a hard fight ensued. Rei finished things off by doing her eclipse-causing super telekinesis thing again, this time combining both the building smashing and the waves of fire. It was true catastrophe; for the other side of course. The First Mind was defeated (though strangely we heard no announcement of a new Oni at its death) and the Goshi army as far as we could see was destroyed.
No sooner had the smoke cleared than we received reports that the Enemy had routed our forces in Starbreeze Canyon with the help of a giant Oni. That the enemy dead were raising as Eyeless and overrunning the front lines. And that the forces advancing from the former location were threatening to cut off the retreat of the latter. No rest for the wicked it seems; we called the Sennin in and hastily made our way to Starbreeze Canyon to give our main forces enough time to retreat from the relentless onslaught. Balder chose to remain behind with his fellow Gogajin, something for which I cannot blame him.
It was fully night by the time we reached the canyon and there before us was the most massive Oni we had encountered yet. It was easily three hundred meters long, two hundred meters tall, and one hundred meters wide. It strode through and over the canyon on six giant segmented legs with two enormous pincers before it. Goshi troops swarmed before, under, and behind it and both they and the very face of Karia showed signs of the proximity: festering boils and cancerous growths seemed to bloom up from the ground where the Oni stepped and magically, sickeningly, grow from the bodies of the nearby soldiers. We knew what we had to do: we swooped down to introduce ourselves.
When we got close we heard the characteristic partially-internal voice of an Oni. It boomed, "I am Kyansu Oni the One Who Corrupts." Oh. Fun. I also noticed the feeling of absolute wrongness as we approached and activated one of my Katas that protects my purity of body. A good thing too because I then saw everyone else start to grow the horrific tumors and boils that were affecting the troops below.
I shouted at Moses that I was the only one who could approach it safely so I should be dropped onto its back alone while the rest of them dealt with saving the last remnants of our forces fleeing before the vile horde. He ignored me of course. Logic does not count for much when it means leaving your friends in danger; I would have done the same. Thankfully Una activated a Kata that healed the corruption as fast as it spread. Barely.
The crew was scared so I yelled a bit and whipped them into shape. I may not be a soldier but I know a good deal about getting reluctant underlings to do their job. I commanded them to drop us off on the back of the beast and get out of its range. That they did and we dropped one by one onto the massive bulk. Just before we jumped I told Moses "Dig me a way to its heart." I am not sure if he heard me or not but when he landed he actually punched through its hide and ichor started spurting out. So I aimed for that area and when I landed I unleashed all of my hatred and revulsion for the Enemy into it. I guess I overdid it somewhat because the next thing I knew I was coming out the other side with nothing but air between me and a horde of Goshi soldiers a hundred meters below. Thankfully Keibatsu had drank deeply and I was easily able to survive the fall.
The Oni was slain and now all we had to deal with was a couple million Goshi soldiers. Things were frantic for a short time and then Rei cut off part of the battlefield by lacing one of her walls of fiery death across the width of the canyon. It was almost comical watching the soldiers pushed through by their comrades behind to heap up in front of the thing. We quickly dispatched the rest of the soldiers on our side and met up with our own troops. They were being commanded by Matthew, the giant Mechified we had met back in the Griolsa village. All of them were heavily wounded, exhausted, dispirited. And who could blame them? Rei tried her own strange version of cheering them up and I promptly took over before she said something that had them committing suicide. Then Moses decided he had not had enough and he showed us what a giant Mechified really looks like. Striding forth he casually walked through Rei's wall that had caused the deaths of so many Goshi soldiers and we heard the sounds of death and destruction from the other side. After a few minutes he came back and shrank back to his normal, albeit still rather large, size. The wall flickered and went away. And as far as the eye could see down Starbreeze Canyon there were dead Goshi soldiers and smashed tanks. It was about this time that things went bad.
The Goshi dead started to rise, their eyeballs bursting in the sockets. And we heard voices and saw towering forms rise up above them a few hundred yards away. "I am Suraisu Oni the One Who Tears" and "I am Rensu Oni the One Who Binds". Hurriedly I told Matthew to get his men and flee as far and as fast as they could. They needed little encouragement. As the Eyeless horde rushed us Moses encompassed us in another of his impenetrable domes. I looked around at the state of my companions. Moses was hurt a little, High Dive seemed tired, Rei was fine as far as I could tell, and Una was unconscious, probably from over-exertion as I saw no visible wounds on her. I told Moses to call the Sennin back and use it to get everyone out of here. I told him that I would hold back the Eyeless so that our troops had the chance to get away. I could do it. Keibatsu hungered.
He partially listened to me. He lowered the dome when we heard Aimi chime in that she was hovering over us and High Dive snatched up Una and hopped aboard. Moses said he was staying with me and so did Rei. I told her that if she was going to stay I needed her to deal with the Eyeless who had passed us by when we were holed up, the ones who were even now running down our fleeing men. She nodded and started after them. I did not have time to muse over the fact that I had just sent a teenage girl alone after a few hundred Eyeless. Instead I rushed forward as fast as I could, calling on the power of my Kata and Keibatsu to clear the way. Hundreds of Eyeless fell like grain before the scythe and in moments we had reached the pair of Oni. I immediately launched an all-out attack upon Rensu Oni and Moses tackled Suraisu Oni.
The fighting was fast and hectic. I am not entirely sure what happened, but suddenly my arm, along with Keibatsu, simply was no longer there. My mouth opened in a silent scream of horror as I fell to my knees in shock, blood pumping unabated from my shoulder. "So easily unmanned?" the Oni mocked me. "We are coming for you. Tomorrow we will bombard you and wipe your pitiful race from the face of the planet." Before it could finish me off High Dive appeared and attacked viciously. I grabbed a nearby discarded rifle and fired wildly at the thing, missing completely. Then High Dive cried out. Her legs had been removed at the knees. Dropping the useless gun I stepped over her, guarding her tiny, whimpering form with my own as best I could. And I did the only thing I could think of: I reached my remaining arm out and I fell as deeply into the Void as I could. I concentrated. I meditated on Keibatsu and our oneness. Wherever the Oni had sent it I called it back to me. Nothing happened.
I distantly heard a scream and a raptor's cry then I felt myself being lifted by a grip around my waist. It did not last long and I vaguely noted Una crashing to the ground missing a wing. She and High Dive lay bleeding in a heap. I glanced over to see Rei laying on the ground a ways away convulsing uncontrollably. A landslide on the side of the canyon marked where Moses and Suraisu Oni were presumably now buried. Rensu Oni laughed. "And so it ends." I knew that I was our last hope. It was my duty to save us, all of us. And Keibatsu came. Silver light and runes raced up my left arm as the blade that was part of me sprang forth once more. The Oni seemed mildly surprised and said "That will not help you." Then I attacked. With everything I had, my most powerful forms with no thought, only one purpose: cut. Do not give the enemy a chance to breathe, to think: cut. Do not hesitate, do not allow weakness to creep in: cut. Cut them down utterly, cut where they are weakest, cut finally, and decisively, and without mercy. I owed it to the rest of them. Cut.
The howls of rage faded as Rensu Oni disappeared. I breathed. "Wanna bet?"
* * *
We recovered the next day as best we could. The front lines had all been overrun. The refugee camps were being shelled by Goshi artillery. Eyeless were everywhere and the Oni made regular forays, presumably to lure us out. We had all survived though, if barely. Una had been able to restore our missing limbs with her miraculous healing. Jin Kalys still insisted that a greater sacrifice was needed and several ideas were put forth. Moses had the Surgeon cut out what he called the Machine God: a First Mind artifact that had been fused to his body all this time, that had given him much of his power it seemed. They cut it out and Jin Kalys studied it to see if it would be a proper sacrifice. Moses looked somehow... diminished... without it.
I could see that we were losing. We needed something, something big, some master stroke or this war would end with our inevitable defeat. It was just like a game of Go. Our opponents had us where they wanted us and were simply going through the motions until they finished us. Who knew when the bombardment would begin? We needed a gambit. Something on which we could stake everything; our last chance. If Jin Kalys' calculations could not do it then I had an idea: attack the Wandering Star. Foolish, yes, but maybe our last hope.
Then the radio blared. The Oni were attacking the last lines of defense. All of them. We left to face our salvation or our doom.