Prologue: Fallen from Grace

"*Pant pant pant*" A human male was fleeing from a band of monsters chasing him. "You won't get away! Bloody Fissure Thunder Thrust: Gale!" one of the monsters armed with a sword shouted and made a sudden straight dash for the human. "Shamshir!" a monster flying overhead simultaneously fired a gust of wind at the human as well, but he moved to the side, barely managing to evade the attacks. "T-they're catching up...!" the human panicked as he darted away from the monster the slid past him.

An animal monster appeared in front of the human and tried to tackle him, aiming her claws at his body, but he ducked and slid under her, once again narrowly evading their attacks. Suddenly, a puddle of liquid appeared and a slime girl emerged in front, trying to embrace the human and trap him, but he jumped high enough to avoid her grip. "I... I can't... I can only run..." the human kept panicking as the monsters chased him.

"Is all you can do run? You disappoint me." a voice said as a swarm of fog suddenly surrounded the human. From it, a crossbow bolt was fired, impaling itself into the human's leg, causing him to scream in pain as he collapsed onto the ground. "Hmph, was that all you could do? What a coward..." the same voice said. The fog disappeared and ar tall succubus came into the human's view. A little succubus that stood next her raised her hacksaw and walked toward the human with an unholy smile the other monsters chasing him were laughing sinisterly. You... really are... going to..." the human said in fear. "I... I really am about to die... Is this... how it finally ends...?"

In a sudden flash, a humanoid figure appeared out of nowhere, standing in front of the defenseless human. This figure was wearing sleek, dark blue clothing decorated with silver intricate designs, and wore a blue ribbon on its head, and wielded a demonic-looking double-bladed sword that emitted a dark mist. "Hee hee... Are the big bad monsters being bullies?" the figure said. "What?! What is this insolence?!" the tall succubus shouted angrily.

"Who... Y-you are...!"

Chapter 1: Lone Act

It's been several days since the fall of Ilias, but the evil lingering across the world has still not been fully contained. A villain hellbent on destruction of the world had her plan failed, and is now on the run from the Demon Assassin Shadow...

At the mansion of the deceased Shirome Artiste, a colossal chimera wrecked through and flew out of the roof, causing a massive tremor around the Forest of Spirits. Beneath where the figure flew out of was the underground Biolabs, where the human and ex-Promestein underling Solomon, and the red insane succubus Akame Artiste stood. Tamamo and Shadow quickly arrived on scene. "My perfect revenge, ruined." Akame said as she shook and rubbed her head before noticing Tamamo, and immediately fled. "Shadow! Capture her at once!" Tamamo ordered to the assassin, which he complied without a word.

Akame fled to the outskirts of the mansion and was running along the ground of the Forest of Spirits, but she didn't get far, as Shadow tailed her from the treetops. "Enough running! Ghost Stab!" Shadow shouted and summoned shadowy blade in front of Akame, stopping her in her traps. With his enemy stalled, he jumped down and attacked. "Blink!" Akame shouted and teleported out of the trap, causing Shadow to miss. "Pesky little insect! First my plans fail, and now you're here after my ass!" the insane necromancer shouted as she summoned zombies to her defense. "Incompetent minions..." Shadow sighed as he instantly cut down the zombies in a flash while staying in his spot as if he never moved.

"Grr...! Death Scythe!" Akame shouted as she gripped onto her scythe tightly as its bladed portion suddenly expanded into a large red magical crescent. Shen then slammed it down into the ground, creating a large shockwave that darted towards Shadow. "... Concealed Blade." Shadow muttered as he rushed back and forth in a lightning flash, cutting and nullifying the shockwave in the blink of an eye. Shadow immediately rushed to Akame and performed a powerful slash to her chest, sending her tumbling across the battlefield and into a tree. "A rather sad attempt to flee, and even sadder attempt to fight." Shadow muttered.

As Shadow stood over Akame, the necromancer suddenly started laughing. "Our fight? Over? No... you're a fool to think that I'd go down so quickly!" she said as she stood up, immediately healing all her wounds. She teleported a distance away and then took out a potion and drank it, and proceeded to summon a large magic circle in front of her. "Blink Dagger!" Shadow wouldn't idle and quickly darted towards her and slashed five times, but all his attacks were blocked by an invisible barrier. "Tsk tsk, impatient." Akame taunted as Shadow continued attacking the barrier, to no avail. Shortly after, there was a very loud, piercing roar that shook the entire forest, and pushed Shadow away from Akame. A large figure then emerged from the magic circle.

The zombie was a very large, bipedal dragon-like creature. It possessed green coloration that faded into gray, a muscular upper body, with a thick hide littered with short, jagged spines along the back and tail, plus a narrow snout with a large lower jaw, covered in multiple rows of spines spreading outwards from the teeth. It has massive, powerful hind legs and had no problem using just the pair to stand, but, instead of wings, its forelegs were tiny and poorly developed . It let out another massive roar that forced Shadow to cover his ears. "An ancient, prehistorical brute dragon." Akame began. "With unmatched, insatiable hunger, infamous for its status as a super predator... It's not meant to rape, it's meant to devour." As she said that, the creature began to drool and proceeded to march over to the zombie corpses. With its massive jaw, it began gnawing at the flesh, making short work of a free meal. "Quite the Devil Dragon, I believe it was called. Let's see how well you handle this!"

"Ancient...? Promestein imbued herself with ancient seaweed..." Shadow muttered to himself. However, the monstrosity wasted no time in attacking, using its powerful hind legs to leap toward Shadow and take a bite. He quickly dodged and made a slash to the creature's tail, but it didn't flinch. The Devil Dragon didn't hesitate to turn around to take another bite; Shadow narrowly avoided, but the creature's saliva dripped onto his sword arm, and felt it weaken a bit. "Corrosive...? I'll have to finish this fast." Shadow muttered and went for a head-on assault. "Shadow Strike!" he shouted, attacking the creature with a powerful, focused dark slash. However, the creature again did not flinch.

The Devil Dragon reared back a bit before letting out a menacing roar again. The creature's body began to swell and turn blood red, along with its eyes, and also had a crimson lightning around its face; the monster was clearly enraged. "Twisted Demon." Shadow muttered as a dark aura enveloped around his body. The creature charged towards Shadow with its hulking body, but he moved out of the way, causing the beast to slam into a tree. It then quickly turned around and proceeded to stomp with its massive hind leg, but that too was dodged as he used Shadow Walker to teleport away. The creature then began to drool again and proceeded with another charge. This one, however, turned out to be much slower, giving more leeway to dodge, and the creature again lodged itself in a tree in a much longer period of time. "I see... So it uses excessive stamina." Shadow commented as he felt the corrosion on his arms begin to wear off. "Demonic Shadow Strike!" Shadow attacked the creature with a much more powerful Shadow Strike enhanced by his dark aura at the creature's rear, slicing into its back and severing its tail.

Drooling, the creature growled and turned around. It quickly trampled forward, but instead stopped right at its tail and began to devour it, quickly making short work of the free meal that Shadow 'presented'. "I-it's own tail...?!" Shadow said, shocked a bit. The creature then let out another piercing roar, again forcing Shadow to cover his own ears. As the creature roared, it reared back and spat out a crimson haze at Shadow, hitting him spot on and knocking him into a tree. He groaned a bit as he tried to recover, but found that his Twisted Demon was replaced by sparks of crimson lightning, and his body feeling weaker than from the corrosive saliva. "Hahaha! This is the power of the ancient dragon!" Akame boasted. "A power that'll snuff out even your darkness! Now, finish him!"

Letting out one more menacing roar, the Devil Dragon marched toward Shadow and opened its large jaw, preparing to eat him whole. He struggled to resist the dragon's power weakening him, but such efforts were completely futile. The beast moved in to devour Shadow. "Concealed Blade!" a voice shouted as a figure suddenly slammed into the beast's side, knocking it down while pushing it off Shadow. "What is the meaning of this?!" Akame's laughter turned into anger she glared at the attacker. On closer inspection, the attacker was... Shadow? "Hee hee, hello... cousin." the same, female voice said as another figure appeared from behind one of the trees: Chrome Artiste. On her fingertips were strings attached to 'Shadow'. "D-dollmaker?! You?!" Akame glared at her cousin, piloting what was actually a marionette of Shadow, as Chrome fed the real Shadow a potion. "An antidote to that Dragonblight." she said. Shortly afterward, the crimson sparks of lightning surrounded Shadow faded, and the dark aura returned.

"T-thanks for your help..." Shadow muttered as he turned his attention to the marionette duplicate of him from the Dollmaker. "It's already well equipped for combat? Impressive..."

Chapter 2: Shadowy Duet

During a mission to find Solomon, a formerly wanted man who evaded capture, one of Shadow's investigations led him to Chrome, a former accomplice. However, the church's doors were locked and the window curtains were rolled down, but there was a very very faint noise coming from inside. Shadow used Shadow Walker to teleport inside the church and looked around. "Ahh... M-more... S-shadow...!" moaned a voice within the church. What little visibility in the dark church showed a young-looking succubus on all fours at the altar, with what appeared to be a human-sized marionette-like figure on her rear. After a few seconds, Chrome let out an ecstasy moan and collapsed forward, with the marionette falling on top of her. "H-haa~ M-my sex doll... w-was a com-complete suc-success...!" Chrome said as she took a few deep breaths. Once she collected herself, she tried to get back up, only to look in front of her and see Shadow. "E-eek! You should have knocked, you little sneak!" Chrome shouted, blushing and covering herself with her hands.

"It's been two years, huh?" Chrome said with a smile as she sat on Shadow's lap, fully clothed. "The Monster Lord gave me a chance to redeem my family's reputation. She's deathly afraid of ghosts and despises zombies so she banned them both, but the lost arts of doll making... It's quite a passion~ Do you see this marionette before you?" Several magic strings formed from Chrome's fingertips and attached themselves to the marionette she presented. With a wave of motion from her hand, two wooden logs were ejected out of the marionette's right hand and their ends were fashioned together; it was a blade staff weapon. "Mostly I've made miniature dolls, but this a secret project of mine: making human/monster-sized marionettes. You were the base of this marionette. It's just a prototype, though." Chrome finished, smirking. "Oh? Promestein made a doppelganger of me before, but if you aren't using it for evil purposes... Even though it's just a start, your prototype seems really well-crafted; must have invested a lot of work in your new profession. I'm sure the Monster Lord will be pleased once you present your show." Shadow said while petting her head. Looking around, the human spotted other smaller dolls of various other characters such as herself and Luka; the only human-sized one was the marionette of Shadow. It was only fair for Shadow to tell her about his journey up until now; she was very amazed to hear how far he had gone.

"So, what brings you here, Shadow? It's not just to see me, is it~?" Chrome asked. "I'm looking for a wanted fugitive. Solomon. I figured he might have visited you..." he told her. She then quietly stared at two dolls; both of them resembled Solomon. "Oh, Promestein's little pet? Two years ago he tried to investigate the manor, and unfortunately for him Promestein was there to capture him. However, he hasn't visited me at all, but I will let you know right away once he does." Chrome replied, hugging Shadow. "... I see. I appreciate the offer... he must have completely passed San Ilia and made way to Sabasa Castle straight away." he sighed softly. "Hey, don't feel down. You're tying up all loose ends, aren't you? I'm sure you'll accomplish your goal!" Chrome said, cheering Shadow on. He smiled and kissed her lips. "Thank you... You've changed so much over the years, it's cute, really." Shadow smirked and laid her on her back, but she used her magic strings to stop his movements, flipping the pair over so she straddled him. "Ah ah ah! I'm not going to let you 'assassinate' me like last time~ Just lay back like a good boy and let me take care of you for the night~ I'd have to thank you here, it's a good time for me to try something new~" Chrome said, giggling as she stripped herself and Shadow and dropped her hips down on him he just laid there letting her take him on her wild ride. Letting out a pleasurable moan, she manipulated her Shadow marionette to take her from her rear; the two Shadows double teaming her. "Ahh~ Y-yes! It feels so wonderful! I've missed this so much...! To be double teamed like this... A-amazing~!"

"Only a month... and the dollmaker already created a weapon in a short amount of time? It seems that the Artiste's lost arts of dollmaking is no laughing matter. Perhaps it would have been better if you picked this talent before necromancy." Shadow commented. "Hee hee. But this talent seems far more advanced and complicated." Chrome said before turning to Akame. "My cousin... I thought you were soft, but now I see that you're completely insane. Going with the foolish Fateburn, and the useless dollmaking talent? Hah! Let me put on full display why the Artiste values necromancy!" Akame gloated as she summoned more zombies who all shambled towards the Devil Dragon. The creature recovered from its fall and drooled again, preparing to make a meal out of the newly summoned corpses.

"No, cousin. I think you're more insane than my elder sister was." Chrome said as she snapped her fingers. "Eviscerating Thread." In a sudden flash, all the newly summoned zombies were completely severed into minced meat before turning into dust; numerous thin metal threads were shimmering where they had cut the zombies. Akame looked on in surprise as her creations were cut down with minimal effort. "It's my duty as an Artiste to eliminate any outside our family who use our techniques! Akame! You have been judged unworthy of our family's secrets!" Chrome said as she sent her Shadow puppet ahead.

The Devil Dragon was clearly exhausted again as it drooled even more, especially after Chrome denied it of a meal. With Chrome's threads in place, the creature had very limited movement; the real Shadow stared in awe as Chrome's puppet zipped around the creature almost as fast as the original, striking again with Concealed Blade. "It's not perfect as the original..." Chrome said. "Not as fast, nor it can use your power of darkness... Of course it needs a lot of tweaking, it's just a prototype. But it's a good testament to my skill. Shadow Strike, my puppet!" With the creature staggering, the Shadow puppet leaped toward the creature and performed a focused slash, causing it to fall over.

Akame began to seethe. "Urgh... I won't... be bested by you! Not by this damn inferior puppet!" she angrily shouted as she began to channel magic. A black aura began to form around the Devil Dragon. "Enrage! Rise to the apex of your form!" Akame shouted, finishing her spell. The creature then stood up as the aura dispersed around it; it eyes and jaw began to glow a deep red as its entire body was now covered in a dark smoke-like aura. It no longer drooled, instead breathing out black mist. It let out another ferocious roar, this time much more louder, as if it covered almost all of the Natalia region, and began to chew through Chrome's threads with ease. "Let's see you handle this beast at the peak of its power!" Akame was panting, as if she had used almost all her strength to empower such a monster.

Shadow took a deep breath, standing a few feet before such an oppressive force; a feeling that was almost as terrifying as the White Rabbit's monstrous dark aura. Chrome, on the other hand, seemed rather terrified until Shadow put his hand on her shoulder. "... It's just a monster in an enraged state. But you've reminded me that I'm not alone here. We'll be able to defeat this creature, together." Shadow told her. Chrome smiled and nodded. "Curse Unsealed!" Shadow shouted, his blades encompassed by a deep black color and emitting a dark mist. The beast didn't idle and immediately charged Shadow at an incredible speed, who narrowly dodged as the monster crashed and took down several trees with its hard impact. "Wawawa..." Chrome panicked a little at the impact as Shadow charged in. "Wailing Banshee!" Shadow fired five curved dark energy blade's at the creature's rear. However, each energy blade bounced off of the creature's skin, deflecting into random directions and hitting various trees.

"Ngh... There has to be some weak point..." Shadow muttered. The creature wasted no time to turn around and attempted to bite at Shadow. Chrome's puppet suddenly darted in between the creature's legs, striking the pair with a Blink Dagger. Her attack didn't deflect on the pair's legs, causing the creature to flinch a little and narrowly miss its bite. The beast moved to attack the puppet, but Chrome split its body into numerous pieces to avoid the attack as it reformed near her. "My threads have no effect, plus it has a hardened body... but it still has weak points." Chrome said. "Don't worry about me, Shadow. Let's aim for the legs!"

Chrome proceeded to wrap the creature's legs around with her threads, and Shadow used Wraith's Shackles to snare the creature with a dark leash from his blade, but they were futile to the creature's strength. It responded with an attempt to pounce her. However, this created a distraction, allowing Shadow to use use Abyssal End to create a vacuum that tied the legs together and bring it back to ground, and with a powerful slash, a large explosion was created under the creature, toppling it onto its side. "Astral Phantom!" Shadow fired five astral projections of himself that assaulted the creature's legs, severing them completely. With the creature crippled and toppled onto its side, Chrome's puppet moved in and along with Shadow, the pair used Shadow Strike on the creature's underside. The creature let out one final small roar before suddenly becoming motionless, its black aura fading.

The two fighters were panting a bit as they turned to Akame, who also panted. Before the necromancer could do anything anymore, the dollmaker used her threads to ensnare her enemy before she could do anything. "It's over, cousin. Unlike my sister, I'm talking you captive. I'm sure the Monster Lord would wish to see you interrogated." Chrome said. Akame stood silent for a few moments, but suddenly burst out into laughter. "Over? Hahaha! You're so naive!" Akame taunted. Her words were followed by a shrill roar; the Devil Dragon had suddenly began moving again, back with its dark aura. As Shadow and Chrome covered their ears, the beast immediately fired a beam of crimson haze directed towards Chrome. She didn't react fast enough, forcing Shadow to push her aside and take the hit for her. "Shadow!" Chrome cried as she ran over to his body, which began to emit crimson sparks in addition to some black mist.

"Hahaha! Foolish cousin!" Akame shouted as her scythe levitated and severed her binds. Just as she did that, the body of the Devil Dragon had dissolved into dust before being blown into the wind. "Finally expended all its power, that Apex form really took a toll. No matter, Death Scythe!" Akame grabbed her scythe and slammed its large magical crescent into Chrome's unmonitored puppet, instantly slicing it into two. Chrome turned back to Akame in shock and horror, paralyzed as her evil cousin approached her. "Weak! Useless! That's why we let that stupid dollmaking art die! Now perish along with it! Death Scythe!" Akame shouted as she slammed her crescent blade downward into Chrome.

The young Artiste flinched and braced for impact. But after a moment, she opened her eyes, and found Shadow blocking the attack. "Shadow!" Chrome cried. "Fufufu... I'm quite surprised, even you're still able to move despite the Apex Devil Dragon's blast. But no matter..." Akame said as she noticed Shadow wobbled under her pressure. She then pushed Shadow aside with her attack, knocking him away and sending him tumbling across several trees. She then began to walk to Shadow, but Chrome stood up. "... Cousin... I won't forgive you! You hurt my best friend! Ensnare - Sap!" Chrome shouted as she ensnared Akame in threads, this time magic flowing in them, draining Akame of her remaining power.

The evil Artiste simply laughed as she was defeated. Chrome approached Shadow, kneeling towards him. He was still flickering from crimson lightning and dark bursts of mist, but was still semi-conscious. "C-Chrome... I-I..." Shadow muttered before he faded from consciousness completely. "Shadow! I lost my sister... I can't lose you either! ...Shadow! SHADOW!" Chrome cried in tears as Akame simply laughed at the scene.

Chapter 3: Nightmare

"It's gonna be okay, it's gonna be okay..." Chrome muttered as she tended to Shadow. He remained completely unconscious, weak and frail from battle, crimson sparks and black mists surrounding his body. Whatever healing spell or concoction the little nurse had only seemed to remove the crimson sparks, but the black mist remained. "Hahah!" Akame laughed, still bound by Chrome's threads. "It's pointless to try to revive him! In a matter of time, he'll be gone, erased from this world! A nuisance deleted, converted to a member of my undead army! This'll make up for Tyrannea's betrayal."

Tamamo then warped in, and was shocked at the scene. "What the hell happened?!" she exclaimed before approaching Shadow's unconscious body. She knelt over him and shook his body, but he continued to remain motionless. "Wake up! Wake up! The world's at stake again!" Tamamo then bitchslapped him, but he still remained unconscious. "T-that won't work..." Chrome said timidly. "That blast must have drugged him... It's my fault." Chrome looked down and sighed. Tamamo stopped shaking Shadow and turned to Chrome, putting a hand on her shoulder. "It's... alright. Shadow would have wanted you safe anyway." Tamamo then turned her attention to Akame, who simply laughed. "... I'd punch her but it's pointless." Tamamo muttered as she picked up Shadow and warped the group to the Monster Lord's Castle.

At the castle, Tamamo was quickly greeted by Nanabi and Yao. "Take her away for interrogation." Tamamo commanded to her hands. The two nodded and took Akame away, who still kept laughing. Tamamo sighed as she took Shadow off into her room and laid him down on her bed, with Chrome following. "... I can still feel his pulse, but it's faint." Tamamo said as she put her fingers on his neck. "... I'm sorry." Chrome muttered. "Akame revived something so ancient. A Devil Dragon, she called it. She made it undergo a form she called Apex and it blasted Shadow..." Chrome looked down again as she explained. "Apex?" Tamamo raised her eyebrow at this. "The creature she revived is more or less similar to the Giganto Weapon, but savagely sprays a breath that causes weakness. I'm not concerned about the Dragonblight, technology today can remedy it and it's only a temporary ailment. But Apex... The power of the original Monster Lord causes mutations, but creatures who cannot withstand masses of such power would enter a frenzied state, as if trying to resist the darkness, before succumbing into death. It was a last ditch effort used in the Great Monster Wars because of how very fatal it was, and could cause a virus in humans that near instantaneous death. Even the medicines we have today wouldn't cure it. But it doesn't seem contagious, otherwise we'd be infected already; Akame must have modified it. Shadow's part human and monster... and surprisingly he's still alive..."

"... I'd hate to say it but if Promestein were alive she'd know what to do..." Chrome said softly as she held Shadow's hand. "It's unfortunate, but all we can do is wait. I'm confident he'll somehow endure, this isn't the first coma he's been in." Tamamo said as she too held Shadow's hand. "Be strong... Shadow. Times like this you have to be strong. You won't succumb... We're waiting here for you, Shadow."

In the dungeons holding Akame, she simply laughed at Nanabi's and Yao's interrogations. "Shouldn't you fools be more focused on the chimera I unleashed? Like I said, your pesky lapdog is going to die and you can't do anything about it! Even I don't know how to revive him! He'll make a wonderful replacement to Tyrannea. Hahaha!"

Chapter 4: Lost

"... W-where am I...?" In Shadow's mind, he was completely surrounded by darkness. He stood alone, his body quivering. "I... Don't feel good..." He then coughed onto his hand and looked at it; blood stained his gloves. "W-why..." He stared on in confusion. He then collapsed onto his knees, continuing to cough blood. "Am I... dying...?" Shortly after he said that, Shadow saw a small light shining in the distance. The light grew bigger, and washed over Shadow and the darkness away.

A figure emerged from the light and raced towards Shadow, obscured by the bright light. "TERMINATE!" the figure shouted. Shadow's eyes grew wide as he heard this; the figure was charging him with a massive two-handed sword, aiming to strike Shadow's chest. Shadow aimed to dodge, but his body wouldn't respond, allowing himself to take the impact. The light no longer obscured the attacker: Ace, a berserker from Shadow's old days in Ilias Kreuz. Around the two, more figures began to materialize: the entire finale from the tournament in Ilias Kreuz was recreated. Part of the handle on Ace's weapon then detached, revealing a small dagger that he used to stab into where Shadow's heart was. ""I DID IT! I KILLED SHADOW!" he let out a triumphant roar as the blade pierced into Shadow's chest, causing him to cough up blood. "W-what is this...?" He clutched the large sword into his chest, but his strength was quickly sapped by the two weapons in his body. Ace then removed the sword and Shadow plopped onto the ground, bleeding out. "Finally, after an epic battle, we have come to a concluding end! Ace is our grand winner and our grand addition to Ilias Kreuz!" a voice announced as Shadow passed out, a large pool of blood forming under him.

Shadow groaned as he felt himself regaining consciousness. "Get up, you fool." he heard a voice say. As his senses were coming back around, he could feel a cold temperature around him. He opened his eyes and found himself in Yamatai Mountains, face to face with the one that led Ilias Kreuz in Noah: Python. She grabbed Shadow and forced him to pick up a sword. "Kill this monster, or suffer the punishment!" she said, but the only other figures in sight were other Ilias Kreuz members. "B-but you're gone..." Shadow simply looked on in confusion, but Venom quickly grabbed Shadow's hands and forced him to stab his own heart. He coughed blood as his chest began to bleed out again. "You're pathetic! I should have killed you earlier! You should have stayed dead!" she shouted with a sinister laugh as Shadow fell onto the ground, bleeding out and losing consciousness again.

Shadow came to again, only to feel something sticky under him. "B-but... She's dead..." Shadow muttered as it didn't take him long to recognize the source of the stickiness: Cassandra, the leader of Lady's Village. The house of her digestive organs began to materialize, surrounding Shadow in a sticky surface. He was already too weak from the previous encounters to even move, anyway. "Are you ready, human? To be dissolved and eaten away? Hahahahahaha!" Shadow could hear her voice in his weakened state. He began to feel another strange thing on his body: corrosion. Shadow could only helplessly squirm as the flesh surrounded him, melting away his own body. The immense pain and weakness continued to pour onto Shadow, rendering him unable to let out even a yelp as no flesh or bone remained.

"Ugh... I'm... not dead...? ... Why... Why is this happening..." Shadow still felt pain and weakness, but was surprised to feel that his body remained intact despite being dissolved earlier. But he knew that the nightmare going on was far from over. "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How does all the pain feel?! Makes you want to die, huh?!" another voice came from the nightmare. Shadow looked up to find Raven, a Next Doll chimera that was created using Shadow's own power. "Y-you're supposed to be dead... too..." Shadow weakly grunted as she radiated a dark aura. "Shadow Strike!" Raven shouted as she attacked the defenseless Shadow with a fatal slash. He coughed blood as his chest bled out again. "Ah, the glorious sound of your demise~! Now die!" Raven exclaimed. Shadow's eyes closed again, and all he heard was the sound of a stabbing noise and felt a cold metal blade pierce his chest again.

Shadow was returned to the darkness from the beginning, curling up and quivering. "What... is this cycle...? I... lost... T-that's not how I remember them..."

Back in the real world, Chrome and Tamamo were monitoring Shadow's unconscious body. Nanabi and Yao entered. "... Apologizes, mistress. But we are unable to get Akame to talk." Nanabi said. "She proves immune to our interrogation methods. Physical pain, sexual pleasure, even hypnosis failed." Yao said. Tamamo nodded to her subordinates. "... I see. Both of you are dismissed then. I shall handle the next interrogation." The two hands nodded and left. "Shadow's managed to survive a full day... Does Akame want him to experience a slow, painful death...?" Tamamo muttered to herself before leaving the room.

Chrome looked over Shadow in worry. "... His pulse hasn't changed much... But he's sweating a lot, as if he's in deep trouble..." Chrome said as she wiped his forehead with a wet rag. She quietly sighed and held Shadow's hand. "... Whatever is happening in there... Shadow, don't forget... you have me by your side. We're waiting for you..." Chrome then pressed her forehead against Shadow's hand.

Chapter 5: Alone

"Why... am I being shown this...? It's the past..." Shadow quivered as he was curled up. "I defeated them all... I'm sure if it... So why..." He coughed again, spitting out more blood. He looked down on his body and saw that his entire body was covered in blood. As his body shook in panic and fear, as if slowly beginning to accept the danger, another light entered the domain of darkness.

Shadow slowly mustered the strength to get back onto his feet, but his eyes widened in surprise when he saw the next figure approaching him. "At last, Shadow-boy." the figure said. "A-Alma..." Shadow recognized the figure from the Grand Noah's colosseum. His legs wobbled, and as Alma Elma approached him, he instinctively reared backward, but fell. He tried to crawl backward, but his movements were too slow as it didn't take long for Alma Elma to reach him. "Lets play, Shadow-boy~!" The audience cheered for 'Kyuba' as she rushed toward Shadow at impossible speed, and aimed a punch toward his chest. Shadow was too weak to dodge, but recalled that Alma Elma never uses full violence. However, to his surprise, the punch struck with a devastating force behind it, launching him deep in the colosseum's wall, creating a large crater around where he landed. Shadow coughed blood on impact, but Alma Elma's assault didn't stop there; she quickly rushed toward him and used a palm strike to launch another lethal blow to Shadow's groin. He screamed in pain and coughed more blood as the impact sent him piercing through the colosseum wall, sending him out of the building and caused him to tumble along the ground repeatedly until he reached the square of Grand Noah.

Completely covered in deep bruises and blood, Shadow was unable to move, but was still conscious and coughed blood. Alma Elma flew over to him and picked him up, taking off and dropping him high in the air above the center of the colosseum. After he landed with a thud, another figure appeared in the sky, falling down directly towards Shadow. "Demon Skull Beheading: Blaze!" the figure cried and was suddenly encompassed by a flaming aura, as if it were a flaming meteor. "G-gran..." Shadow struggled to speak as he recognized the figure, but she said nothing as her flaming blade crashed down into his skull. Shadow let out another scream of pain and slowly slipped into unconsciousness, only hearing cheers from the audience.

"T-the Heavenly Knights... Using full force...?" Shadow quietly pondered when he regained consciousness, but had difficulty opening his eyes. He felt a liquid beneath his body, but wasn't the feeling of blood; it was water. "Ugh... Eru..." Shadow quickly knew the next thing coming, as he felt another wet, slimy, heavy substance crawl on his hands. "I dislike humans... Why have you trespassed on my territory?" the voice began to say. Shadow still couldn't get his eyes open and his weakness left him laying flat on the ground, all while feeling more slime covering his body. "I'll melt you away... Feel the anger and sorrow of our race as you dissolve into nothing." the voice said again, and shortly afterwards Shadow felt a massive force of water slamming into his body. His painful scream was muffled by the water, and began to feel his body crush from the pressure of the water, worsened by the water flowing into his lungs, as if he was deep under the sea and drowning; it wouldn't take much long for him to pass out.

Shadow awoke again from the feeling of heavy, earth-like pressure crushing on his body. In addition to a loud scream of pain, his eyes opened and spotted his next attacker: Tamamo. "Fufu... You have no chance of victory. Just give up or I'll make it tighter." she said with a smirk, and tightened her tail's grip on Shadow. "N-no... W-why..." Shadow weakly said as Tamamo. "Oho... are you ready to give up?" she continued tightening her grip. Shadow could only weakly mouth a "no" due to the heavy weakness on his body and immense pressure surrounding him. Tamamo then stared at Shadow, but to his surprise a wide, sinister smile came across her face. The other three Heavenly Knights present began to chuckle with Tamamo. "I'm so disgusted with you." she said, her sudden emotionless expression surprising Shadow. "I don't even know why I took an interest in you to begin with, you really are weak and useless after all. You don't belong in this world, no, perhaps you're better of dead." Tamamo laughed evilly as she greatly increased the strength of her tail, intending to strangle Shadow to his death. Shadow could only let out a weak scream as his body was crushed from the extreme pressure exerted on him. Her eight other tails began to join the fray, cutting off his vision as he was surrounded in a fluffy hell death vice-grip.

"Get him!" Shadow heard another voice say from his awakening of consciousness. As his eyes open, he found himself lying on the ground, with zombie arms holding his arms and legs down, but unlike the Heavenly Knights they wasn't very powerful. Shadow looked on to see his attacker: Chrome, who stared at him with emotionless, cold eyes. "Chrome..." Shadow found himself weakly speaking to her. "N-not you too... I don't... understand... w-why...?" But her expression didn't change; she continued to look down upon Shadow as if he were the enemy. "Because, you're a fool that gets in everyone's way." Chrome coldly began to say. "Your existence disgusts me, and all you've done was interfere with my research. You're no help at all, and most importantly you're no friend. You're not even worth a guinea pig and you're definitely not worth a zombie. Goodbye, Shadow. I hope to never see you in my life again!" Chrome began to laugh evilly, just like the Heavenly Knights in the previous nightmare. She then pulled out her hacksaw and began to sadistically saw Shadow's body. He could only cry out in pain as his body was being cut from the open, his blood spilling out and pouring onto Chrome. Her black body was quickly covered in red, but her sadistic attacks didn't relent. Shadow was now not only broken physically, but also mentally: Chrome's rejection and her declared hatred for him sunk in deep into his mind. Tears began to form in his eyes, knowing that his best friends have completely turned against him. Chrome couldn't care less about the tears; she continued her intentions of sawing off Shadow's body. His eyes were blinded with tears of despair, soon coated red by the blood of the fallen.

"... Finally broken? Worthless scum."

"... Akame expects Shadow to be dead on the third day, but she still won't talk. I don't know what kind of sorcery or technology she used to manage to keep herself shut like this..." Tamamo sighed as she telepathically contacted Chrome in the real world. "U-understood... Should I give it a try...?" Chrome replied. "... I'm worried she'll provoke you, but I won't stop you from trying. Unfortunately, the other Knights and I are going to be accompanying Solomon to fight the chimera that escaped the mansion tomorrow. I trust Shadow in your care." Tamamo said before cutting off the telepathy.

Chrome turned towards Shadow and noticed he was sweating more profusely, accompanied by heavy breathing. Chrome wiped off his sweat and poured water down his throat, but it did little to help his condition. "Shadow... You can't die. I... love you..." Chrome took off her clothes and straddled Shadow's lap. However, it didn't take her long to realize her sexual efforts did nothing on the unconscious person. She sighed softly, and leaned her head against his chest. "... I'm so sorry... I'm not much of a help, am I...?" Chrome quietly whimpered as she curled up against him and rested her eyes.

Chapter 6: Defeat

"Hopeless, useless, foolish... You're wasting your time. He'll be dead soon, any minute now..." Akame smirked. It's been nearly three hours since she was capture and Shadow was incapacitated, and interrogation has gone nowhere. "Y-you... You're insane!" Chrome exclaimed, beginning to seethe with anger and frustration. "Oh dear cousin, spitting insults and getting all mad, that doesn't suit you at all." Akame taunted. As Chrome tried to get her anger under wraps, a two-tailed Kitsune burst into the dungeons. "Wawawa... C-come quick...!" the Kitsune said to Chrome. "S-shadow...!" Without letting her finish, an alarmed Chrome immediately rushed out of the dungeon. Akame simply chuckled to herself. "Third day... My prediction was correct."

"... Finally broken? Worthless scum." a voice had said, one that Shadow did not recognize. Curled up again in the darkness, bloodied and crying his eyes out, he slowly looked up at the figure that had approached him. "Do you now finally understand how worthless you are, and always will be? Don't worry, Akame's here to teach that to you." The figure said. Shadow's eyes grew wide in surprise as he stared at the mastermind. He then managed to get onto his feet. "What... What the bloody hell is this?!" he shouted. "To use me... as an experiment to your sick and twisted games?! Screw you!" Shadow, using all his strength despite the pain, managed to materialize his swords and slashed Akame. She made no effort to dodge or block, but Shadow's blade came to a halt on her arm, unable to cut through it, or even pierce the skin.

Akame simply laughed and materialized a scythe. She aimed a vertical slash against his chest, knocking Shadow away. He coughed blood as his back landed on the ground, struggling to get back up. "Pathetic. See how you've grown so soft and weak?" Akame chuckled as she made another slash. Shadow tried to block it, but his defense was effortlessly pushed away and Akame sent him tumbling across the field. "It's pointless to cling to whatever remaining life you have. No one cares about you, and even if you escape here the things you've seen won't change one bit. Just die already!" Akame went over to Shadow and raised her scythe up high. "Goodbye, Shadow. Everyone's wish of you not existing anymore will come true with this last slash." Akame said before she swung her scythe down.

"N-no... You're lying..." Shadow muttered as he used all his strength to leap backward and evade the slash. He stumbled a bit due to his weak bloody legs, but managed to keep his balance. "Some way... I'll defeat you... and put an end to all this." He then turned around and began to ran; even though his speed was dramatically weakened he knew he was outmatched. Akame simply sighed. "You really are going to waste your time with this, huh?" She then snapped her fingers, summoning her twisted nightmare versions of the Four Heavenly Knights, who didn't hesitate to chase down Shadow.

Chrome barged into the room where Shadow was resting. "SHADOW!" Chrome cried and spotted his body. Not only did she sense Shadow's life force fading, the dark haze that had surrounded him was larger and pulsing much faster, and Shadow's entire body was undergoing a convulsion. "No... No! NO!" Chrome rushed to Shadow and held his hand, tearing up as she tried using healing magic. "You can't die... You can't!"

"*Pant pant pant*" Shadow was clearly exhausted as the Heavenly Knights chased him, but he did his best to ignore his fatigue. "You won't get away! Bloody Fissure Thunder Thrust: Gale!" Granberia shouted and made a straight line dash for him. "Shamshir!" Alma Elma, who flew overhead, simultaneously fired a gust of wind Shadow as well, but he moved to the side, barely managing to evade the attacks. "T-they're catching up...!" he panicked as he darted away from Granberia as she slid past him.

Tamamo appeared in front Shadow and tried to tackle him, aiming her claws at his body, but he ducked and slid under her, once again narrowly evading their attacks. Suddenly, a puddle of liquid appeared Erubetie emerged in front, trying to embrace the human and trap him, but he mustered enough strength to jump high enough to avoid her grip. "I... I can't... I can only run..." Shadow kept panicking as the monsters chased him.

"Is all you can do run? You disappoint me." Akame said as a swarm of fog suddenly surrounded Shadow. From it, a crossbow bolt was fired, impaling itself into his leg, causing him to scream in pain as he collapsed onto the ground. "Hmph, was that all you could do? What a coward..." Akame chuckled. The fog disappeared, revealing her and also Chrome. The little succubus raised her hacksaw as she approached Shadow with an unholy smile while the other monsters chasing him were laughing sinisterly. "Chrome... You... really are... going to..." Shadow began to tear up. "Sheesh, I'd thought it'd be much harder to break you. How disappointing." Akame joined in on the laughter. "I... I really am about to die... Is this... how it finally ends...?"

Chapter 7: Defiance

Chrome stood a few feet away from Shadow, staring at him with cold eyes and a sinister smirk. She held her hacksaw up to where Shadow's throat was, intending to decapitate him. "Chrome..." Shadow teared up. Akame simply laughed as she watched. "Begging for mercy? Pathetic. You should be honored that Chrome is the one doing this." Akame smirked and snapped her fingers. "Go ahead, finish him off." The little succubus, a twisted nightmare version of the one Shadow loved and treasured so dearly, made no hesitation to swing her hacksaw at Shadow. He quickly shut his eyes, and braced himself. He then heard the sound of flesh being cut.

A few seconds later, Shadow realized nothing cut him. He opened his eyes, and what he saw surprised him: a figure wearing sleek, dark blue clothing decorated with silver intricate designs, and wore a blue ribbon on its head, and wielded a demonic-looking double-bladed sword that emitted a dark mist. "Hee hee... Are the big bad monsters being bullies?" the figure, possessing a female voice, said. "What?! What is this insolence?!" Akame shouted angrily as the nightmare Four Heavenly Knights engaged a battle stance. "A Shadow... defending Shadow?! How are you interfering with my nightmare?!"

"Who... Y-you are...!" Shadow began to say, but was cut off as the figure look-a-like of him grabbed his hand and helped him up. As she grabbed him, a flow of darkness was transferred from her hand to his, surrounding him in a dark aura. After the aura disappeared, Shadow examined his body; his clothes were no longer stained with blood, and all his cuts and injuries were healed completely. "I am you, but I am also not you." the figure said. Shadow looked at her and stared blankly, who returned with a sly smile. "I simply prefer to be called 'Phantom', thank you very much." Shadow quietly blinked as he stared at Phantom. "... Seeing you here... Everything but you... is an illusion?" he muttered.

"What the freaking hell?! Wake up!" Akame shouted, but Chrome stood in a daze. Shadow approached her, but as he did so he heard a voice. "SHADOW!" Shadow stared at Chrome, but her lips didn't move at all. "N-no! NO! This can't be happening! Nothing's supposed to get past this nightmare!" Akame angrily shouted. "No... No! NO! You can't die... You can't!" the voice said again, and Shadow quickly recognized who it belonged to. He also felt something warm squeezing on his hand, causing his weapon to materialize. "Ch... Chrome...?"

"You can't die... You can't!" Chrome cried out to the unconscious Shadow, pressing her forehead on his hand and holding onto it even tighter. "Ch... Chrome...?" she suddenly heard Shadow's voice say. Surprised, she moved back up, and saw the dark haze pulses slowing down and shrinking. "S-Shadow...?" Chrome called out again. After a brief silence, the lips of Shadow's unconscious body were moving. "Chrome...?" he said again.

Chrome began to cry tears again. "Shadow! It's Chrome! I'm here!" she called out again. "... Good... I knew... you were here... all along... This is... such a dumb... nightmare... P-please... S-stay... A little while longer... A-and it'll be over... I-I promise..." Shadow weakly said. Chrome quickly nodded and leaned in to kiss his lips. "I'm here! I'll stay by your side forever! No matter how long it takes, I know you'll be back! I... love you, Shadow!"

"T-thank you... I love you too... Chrome." Shadow said as the feeling of his warm hand generated his weapon. Without hesitation, he decapitated the false Chrome, her lifeless body collapsing to the ground and fading into dust. "F-f... Damn it all!" Akame angrily shouted and snapped her fingers, commanding the false Heavenly Knights while summoning the other nightmare remnants. "This ends NOW! Finish him! Especially the one interfering with all this!" Akame ordered. Phantom then stood next to Shadow. "Oh my, she's really starting to get really angry." Phantom giggled as Shadow stood with her, back-to-back. "... You're not an illusion of Akame, else she wouldn't take such drastic measures. T-thanks for your help... Phantom." he calmly said. "Hee hee. I should be thanking you! It's finally nice to go out and stretch again, after so many years of being cooped up. Let's dance together, Shadow!"

Chapter 8: Dark Crescent

Shadow and Phantom gripped their weapons as they were surrounded on all sides. The Shadow Chimera Raven quickly darted towards Shadow, who responded with a parry. "Shadow Strike!" Raven shouted as she slashed with a powerful, focused dark slash. However, Shadow blocked the hit with minimal effort as he retaliated with his own Shadow Strike, slashing her apart in two. "... Pathetic. You're simply an inferior copy. It looks like Akame didn't do much of her research." Shadow muttered.

At the same time, Alma Elma attacked Phantom with her wind blades from Shamshir, flying at impressive speed, but were completely offset by the dark energy blades of Phantom's Wailing Banshee. "Oh my... What a gentle breeze." Phantom giggled. Alma Elma quickly jumped into the air and crashed down with a powerful fist, but Phantom evaded with Phantom Walker and followed with Wraith's Shackles, trapping Alma Elma with her leash and slamming her into the ground. "Abyssal End." Phantom calmly said as she slashed Alma Elma twice, the following explosion from the slash vaporizing her into nothing. "We don't need to waste more time fighting the little minions."

"What a waste of time." Shadow muttered as Cassandra and Erubetie approached the pair, flooding the floor with their slimy, sticky body." The two assassins jumped up and leaped away as Shadow retaliated with Ghost Stab, erecting his shadowy blade from between the two monsters, while Phantom used Deadly Specter, using a small speck of darkness attached to Shadow's Ghost Stab to create an explosion to disorient the pair. "Melt Storm." the slime pair quickly recovered and their assault only grew bigger and larger, producing a massive flood that began to rise up. As Shadow performed his double jump, the flood grasped onto his foot, slowly weighing him down. "Twisted Demon." As Phantom cloaked herself in the power of darkness, she grabbed onto Shadow's hand and performed a triple jump, pulling him out of the flood. "Sheesh, is the nightmare still getting to you? Don't be so foolish to get weighed down like that." she said as the jump propelled them high enough to evade the flood until it died down.

"Tch... I shouldn't be so sloppy... Twisted Demon." Shadow muttered as he and Phantom landed, the former also cloaking himself in his dark aura. "There you go, now that wasn't so hard, was it? Ready~?" Phantom giggled. The pair turned to the slime monsters and charged, who responded by flooding the floor again. However, the darkness encompassing their boots negated the sticky surfaces, allowing the assassins to run across them freely without restriction. "Concealed Blade! Wraith's Shackles!" Shadow and Phantom shouted respectively, the former quickly rushing through the slimes while the latter restraining them, cutting through their body before the flood could escalate again, however they weren't through yet. "Black Reaper! Wailing Banshee!" Shadow used the power of darkness to elongate his blades and cut through once more while Phantom summoned ethereal dark blades. The slime monsters desperately summoned a thick wall of their slime in an attempt to block the attack. However, the blades cut through the slime wall and impaled themselves into the enemies, eliminating the two as they dissolved rapidly.

Granberia leaped in to strike Shadow as Python aimed to take down Phantom. "Demon Skull Beheading: Blaze!" Granberia shouted as she used a flaming overhead strike, but Shadow leaped away, evading the attack. "Bloody Fissure Thunder Thrust: Gale!" her assault continued with a straight dash moving like thunder, but Shadow retaliated with Concealed Slash, offsetting the attack. "Let's end this with a final attack! Vaporizing Rebellion Sword!" Granberia shouted as she attacked with a whirlwind of flames. "... Just die already. Demonic Shadow Strike." Shadow calmly said as he retaliated against her blaze with a dark slash. The aura enveloping around Shadow strengthened his force, overwhelming the flames and slashing through the attack, causing heavy damage to Granberia and forcing her on her knees. "... Nothing like the original." Shadow sighed as he aimed to decapitate her. "Cursed Sword: Decapitation!" Granberia, with fight remaining in her, suddenly moved the tip of her blade towards Shadow's neck, narrowly piercing the skin, but his attack was much faster and he decapitated her first.

Python didn't hesitate to reveal her true angelic form, but Phantom wasn't phased. "How boring... A lapdog of that wretched Ilias. As an illusion, there's no holy magic here." Phantom said with a bored sigh as the angel summoned six serpents that transformed into their master. "Serpent Strike!" Python's and her clone's swords stretched and shot out like elongated snakes. "What are you, Third?" How sad. Wailing Banshee." Phantom sighed again as her weapon fired energy waves to cut away the 'snakes'. Python let out a hiss as the 'serpents' regrew. "Wretched monster! Devil's Fang!" Python shouted as she and her clones each fired seven energy waves that resembled snakes. Phantom quickly evaded with Phantom Walker to approach the real Python from behind, but before she could attack, Phantom unleashed Demonic Phantom Blow and fired astral projections at her, her dark aura having strengthened its poisonous and bleeding power. Python, weakened by the blow, collapsed and disintegrated into dust, along with her clones.

Seven of nine illusions were eliminated, the remaining two stepping up. "BACK OFF! THEY'RE MINE!" Ace let out a berserker roar, ordering Tamamo to stay away. "Sheesh, what a child." Tamamo gave off an annoyed look that only served to infuriate the berserker more. "DECIMATE!" Ace roared, charging toward Tamamo. She quickly summoned an earthly defense, but Ace pierced it with ease, impaling his gigantic sword into her stomach. He then proceeded to lift up his blade and slam it down multiple times with Tamamo riding on it, brutally smashing her into the ground repeatedly. Once he stopped, all that's left was a bloody, foxy corpse. "Oh my... How violent." Phantom said with a sly smile. "At least he saved us the trouble of fighting our mistress." Shadow smirked.

Ace then turned to the pair of assassins. "RELENTLESS!" he shouted, engaging an offensive stance before charging the two. "What a crazed man... How did you ever meet him?" Phantom said. Shadow merely rolled his eyes as Ace appeared before him and Phantom. "ULTIMATUM!" he shouted as he did a powerful upward swing with his massive sword, which was dodged. "Curse Unsealed!" both assassins empowered their weapons, Shadow's gaining a dark mist and Phantom's glowing a deep black. "Concealed Blade!" both assassins quickly rushed to retaliate with a lightning speed slash. "IMPENETRABLE!" Ace suddenly switched to a defensive stance, his body unflinching from the attacks. "ULTIMATUM!" Ace quickly retaliated with an upward swing as he resisted his attackers, knocking Shadow and Phantom away with a powerful swing, causing them to tumble across the ground.

The assassins stood back up and dusted themselves off, but Ace didn't wait. "RELENTLESS! EXECUTION!" without pause, he returned to his offensive stance and crashed his blade toward the assassins. The two evaded with Shadow/Phantom Walker, avoiding the shockwave that entailed from the impact. "HELL WIND!" Ace quickly spun around eight times while cleaving all around him. Shadow and Phantom returned with Blink Dagger, but the overwhelming force forced them to break away. "BLOODY MOON!" Ace followed up with an upward crescent swing from both sides, which the assassins narrowly avoided.

"I'd forgotten... How ferocious berserkers can be..." Shadow panted. "We... need to end this... now." Phantom also panted, but resumed her ready stance and charged first. "IMPENETRABLE!" Ace resumed a defensive stance, but Phantom stopped feet before him. "Cursed Astral Phantom!" Phantom used her dark astral projections to assault Ace. Shadow took the opportunity to strike Ace from behind, using his darkness empowered Cursed Shadow Strike to pierce through his defensive stance. Ace's body was ravaged from the assault, dripping blood down his body. "RELENTLESS!" Ace shouted again and ignored his wounds after Shadow's attack. "DIE! TERMINATE!" Ace quickly slammed his weapon down, producing a large shockwave, forcing Shadow to move away, but was too close and was hit. Ace then readied himself to charge and impale his weapon into Shadow's heart. "Keep still. Abyssal End." Phantom quickly slashed Ace, opening a black hole vacuum to keep him in place despite his resistance. However, he still kept charging and partly escaped the black hole explosion, but was delayed long enough for Shadow to leap back in the nick of time just as Ace tried to stab him. Left wide open, Shadow and Phantom kept their distance and aimed a Ghost Stab into his heart, firing off four blades in total from the darkness. The berserker finally released his sword and collapsed onto his knees before fading into dust.

Akame looked on in surprise as all nine of her illusions were defeated. "Now do you see? All bite and no bark. What a fool!" Shadow and Phantom said in unison. "D-damn... To think they were all defeated... by some cheap clone!" Akame growled. "No matter, they should have weakened the Shadows enough. I'll end this..." Akame generated a pair of scythes, readying for battle. "It's over, Akame! The nightmare's end draws near!" the assassins said.

Chapter 9: Full Moon

"Let's kill this monster, Phantom!" Shadow exclaimed as he charged Akame. "Death Scythe: Devil Hunter!" Akame shouted as she created a large crimson magical crescent on both her scythes, only three times more larger than the normal form of Death Scythe and more deep in crimson. She fired her two massive waves at the pair of assassins, creating a large shockwave that traveled along the ground, but the assassins countered with Wailing Banshee.

Shadow and Phantom approached Akame with their lightning speed, rapidly slashing her with their four total blades from all directions. With only two blades to defend herself, Akame struggled greatly as some of the stray hits struck her body. "How irritating! Death Spiral!" Akame shouted as she spun rapidly, trying to cut off her attackers. "Blink Dagger!" the assassins retaliated with their own multi-slashes, offsetting the attack and forcing Akame to teleport away. "Oh my, already retreating? How foolish to underestimate us." Phantom giggled as Shadow dropped a Ghost Stab exactly where Akame teleported, striking her foot. As she hopped up and down from the pain, Phantom followed up with Deadly Specter, whose darkness enhanced state locked her down in a shadowy web after exploding, giving Shadow the opportunity to dash in and land a Black Reaper.

Akame tumbled as she was struck by the slash, but regained her composure quick and generated a dark sphere in her palm. "Evil Shock!" she fired the sphere upward, which exploded in the air and began to shower smaller spheres, exploding on contact with the ground. The pair of assassins quickly darted around, avoiding the spheres and making their way towards Akame. "Yes, rush closer to your death. Black Space!" as the assassins were focused on dodging the exploding spheres, a massive black vortex was summoned by Akame, drawing in all the spheres and the assassins with sheer force. The pair quickly darted away, but one stray sphere manged to impact Phantom, sending her off her feet and flying into the vortex. "Abyssal End!" Shadow leaped after her and opened his black hole, trying to keep Phantom from being sucked in Akame's Black Space. Phantom quickly regained her composure and used her own Abyssal End on top of Shadow's expanding its power to counter the black vortex that began to explode after absorbing the explosive spheres.

Once the chaos died down, Shadow and Phantom canceled their black hole and darted toward Akame again. "Shadow Meld! Phantom Meld!" the pair turned invisible to the naked eye from Akame, who responded by throwing up a magic barrier. The assassins turned visible as they surrounded the barrier from both sides. "Cursed Astral Phantom! Cursed Shadow Strike" the pair shouted and assaulted the barrier, chipping it away and shattering it. Akame, shocked, quickly teleported away once her barrier was destroyed.

As the fight dragged on, both sides were growing exhausted. "A bit more..." Shadow muttered as it was a bit difficult for him to stand. But Akame simply smirked. "I think I've waited long enough." she said as she began to conjure magic. Shadow tried to muster all his strength to stand, but Phantom motioned him to stop. "It's alright. Even her final trump card is futile." she chuckled. Shadow raised an eyebrow, but he trusted her and waited. "Oh, finally accepting your demise? Then, do you remember the White Rabbit? I thought I wouldn't have to resort to this, but lo and behold!" Akame exclaimed as she summoned a large, colossal monstrous body. This body was lined with various monster parts; breasts, tentacles, venus flytraps, suckers, and so forth. A body that replicated the White Rabbit.

Shadow's eyes grew wide briefly, but on closer examination of the body he was unimpressed, as was Phantom. "Hahaha... Huh?" Akame's laughter stopped as she noticed her enemies' lack of expression. She then turned around to look at the White Rabbit, and quickly noticed what Shadow and Phantom had seen. "W-what...! There's... no one!" Akame gazed in surprised at the White Rabbit; while the entire body was present, there was no central figure inside to control it. "W-what happened...?" as Akame pondered, Phantom quickly took the opportunity to attack the dazed necromancer with a quick dash. Akame turned around too late, receiving a slash on her chest that knocked her away. "U...ugh..." Akame groaned as she got back up. "A-a minor setback... I'll control this thing, then." she then levitated herself and flew into the core of the White Rabbit body, merging with it. The body was no longer a husk; Akame now had full control over it. "S-see if you can stop me now...!"

"Sheesh... How disgusting. Is that what it really looked like?" Phantom sighed as she approached Shadow and held out her hand with a smile. "Come, my dear Shadow. Let's kill this monster together." she said. Shadow looked up and grabbed her hand, gripping it with all his might. "The darkness within us, true and strong, forever lasting and eternal. Blessed and granted to us by the Dark God." as Phantom chanted, the dark aura surrounding them grew larger, forming a large mass around where they held hands. "Now, awaken the demon lurking in the abyss. Bring forth malevolence to snuff the light, and massacre every evil. Break the seal that separates us, bind the Shadow and the Phantom together as whole again! Devil's Curse!"

A much more massive aura of darkness grew from the pair of assassins, surrounding them in a dark fog. "W-what is this...?!" the nightmare necromancer looked at the pair, confused. The dense fog began to lighten, revealing a silhouette of only one figure. The fog faded, revealing only Shadow, his skin now encompassed by a dark mist, appearing as if he were now one with darkness itself. "What... Reducing your number to one?" Akame chuckled a bit as the figure approached her. "Ahh... It feels so good to be whole again~!" Phantom's voice exclaimed as the figure stretched. The figure then looked down at its hands and body. "Whole...? I see..." Shadow's voice said. On closer inspection, Akame noticed the figure possessed Shadow's feather ornament and demonic horn and Phantom's ribbon, being an amalgamation of the two.

"Drawing every single dark power from within us, this form already spells doom for all that witness it." Phantom said as their shared body stared down Akame. "You both fused? What good will that do for you? There's now only one body to focus on!" Akame exclaimed as her White Rabbit's countless organs darted toward Shadow/Phantom. "Tsk tsk. That's only if you can touch us." Phantom said as she raised her left sword. "Darkness - Malevolent Astral Phantom." she then began to spin it counter-clockwise. The weapon's dark mist that surrounded it began to intensify as the dark figure's left eye began to glow intensely. The dark mist began to surround Shadow/Phantom's skin, intensifying their already darkness coated body. The dark figure calmly evaded the White Rabbit's organs, which came inches away from touching their skin but close enough to brush against the darkness coming off from their body. The dark figure slashed in retaliation, summoning a large black hole that vacuumed the organs in one spot, with shadowy chains being released from the hole and grasping onto the organs. Several dark ethereal blades and the figure's astral projections emerged and assaulted each organ, creating a series of explosion in its wake. After the attack, each organ was immediately rendered lifeless and fell to the ground.

Phantom simply giggled. "Oh my, who's the one hallucinating now?" Shadow then calmly looked up at Akame. "I see... This is our true power, isn't it...?" Shadow wondered. "I'm surprised illusions can hallucinate. But we'll make this quick. A big body like that can't move at all." he said as he raised his right sword. "Death - Massacring Shadow Strike." he then began to spin it clockwise. The weapon itself turned black and radiated power as if it became darkness itself, with Shadow/Phantom's right eye glowing intensely. They then rushed toward the defenseless Akame and created a very wide slash, with massive dark power drastically improving its reach, coupled with insane, near instantaneous speed. The attack cleanly cut the White Rabbit, instantly severing it and Akame's body into two, the top half sliding off and collapsing. "N-no... I-imposi--" the illusion of Akame finally became lifeless along with her false White Rabbit body. "F-finally..." Shadow fell to his knees as the darkness on his slowly subsided, forming a dense sphere covering his body, and once it disappeared, a pair of figures were left laying on the ground, exhausted.

Chapter 10: Revival and Rebirth

Shadow and Phantom managed to get back on their knees. "I'm... proud of you... my dear Shadow." Phantom said as she smiled warmly to him. "Phantom... I... couldn't have gotten out of this mess if it wasn't for you. Thank you." Shadow replied as the two hugged. "My my, you really are quite soft, huh? I was hoping you'd never run into any trouble like this, but it does feel nice to be back again." Phantom giggled.

"Of course... Black... Alice." Shadow said with a sly smile. Phantom stopped her giggling and looked on in surprise for a moment. With long flowing lime hair, a blue ribbon on her head, and crimson eyes, she smiled at Shadow. "Oh my... was it that easy to figure out?" Phantom, or Black Alice formerly the 8th Monster Lord and the original Demon Assassin, giggled. "The playful attitude, the Demon Assassin relation, her distinctive facial features and that ribbon, even Black Alice herself appearing unconnected to the White Rabbit... Your presence heavily distorted the nightmare, something that I doubt Akame anticipated." Shadow said. Black Alice simply giggled more. "After you put a stop to my White Rabbit... I was about to leave with Heinrich when I felt a tug. Your-- our soul was fusing itself back together. Even though we couldn't depart together, Heinrich accepted that and insisted I stay with you." Shadow looked at her in awe. "I... see. I unknowingly chained Black Alice in this world. But perhaps Heinrich was right; without you, I wouldn't have survived here and carried on the Demon Assassin legacy, nor would I be complete without the other half of our soul."

Phantom slowly stood up and helped Shadow on his feet. "Hee hee... Now it's finally over, we can both leave this wretched nightmare." Phantom held Shadow's hand and he in turn gripped it as a white light finally came into view and shined across the blackness of the nightmare realm. "Remember... You're not alone, Shadow... The Phantom will still be here, waiting and watching in the shadows."

"Shadow..." Chrome whimpered quietly as she clung to Shadow's body. Suddenly, the dark haze began to flash intensely around Shadow's mouth before it opened wide and expelled a massive amount of the haze, causing Chrome to back away in surprise. "S-shadow...?" as soon as the nightmare left his body, Shadow coughed several times before finally opening his eyes. He blinked a couple times before turning to the one figure next to him. "Chrome...?" he said weakly.

"Shadow!" Chrome exclaimed and jumped on him, snuggling on him tightly. "A-ah... Hey, I'm glad to be back." he smiled and weakly patted her head. "Shadow..." Chrome sniffed as she clung to him again. "It's over... You're not going to lose me ever. I'll always be here... Since you were with me all the way." he smiled as he weakly closed his eyes, trying to rest with Chrome on him. The little succubus kept snuggling on Shadow, holding onto him with a smile.

"Hey... It's been four days. Welcome back, Shadow." Tamamo said as she playfully tapped his forehead. Shadow opened his eyes and looked up at her with a sly smile. "Mistress Tamamo... I'm happy to see you too. Care to fill me in?" she nodded and explained about Akame's chimera which was stopped by Solomon, how Chrome reacted to Shadow's coma, and that Akame resisted interrogation. "I... see." Shadow then patted the sleeping Chrome before setting her aside. "I... feel rested. It might take a few more days for me to be back in full action, but I'm going to see Akame."

Shadow visited the castle's dungeon. When he spotted Akame, she simply smiled. "Day... four. Preparing their funer-- ...?!" Akame stopped when she opened her eyes and saw an alive Shadow standing before her. "W... What?! How did you survive?!" Akame looked on, frustrated and in shock. Shadow used Ghost Stab, conjuring a shadowy blade on her leg, piercing the surface of her skin. "... Your plan with the chimera failed. Your back-up plan to kill me and use me as your puppet failed." Shadow said with a glare. "You've lost, rot in here forever, you insane bastard." Shadow turned around and snapped his fingers, using Deadly Specter to create a small explosion on Akame before leaving. Akame angrily yelled for several long minutes before her frustration quickly quelled with calmness as she suddenly smiled and whispered to herself. "... No matter. I don't know how you survived, but the leech went exactly as planned."

Elsewhere, a hidden laboratory held six capsules, each holding figures. Each were connected to a tube filled with a dark haze that filled the capsules. Once the transfer was complete, about a fourth of the haze in the tube remained as the stasis of all six capsules shut off. All six figures exited their capsules and opened their eyes, a black aura slowly surrounding each.

Shadow walked back to his room as he was greeted and welcomed back by the castle's inhabitants, but Shadow insisted they let him rest. "My my... the current Demon Assassin, so popular~" a voice giggled once Shadow was alone in the hallway. Phantom slowly materialized from the darkness, in a physical form. "Ahh... It feels so good to be back! It was so boring, being in hibernation like that." Phantom exclaimed as she stretched. "Now that Black Alice returned..." Shadow smiled slyly, but she cut him off. "Oh no no no, I'm not Black Alice, I'm Phantom, the other active half of your soul. I have no desire to take over the world ever again, nor do I have the magical power as the Monster Lord anymore, yet our power is at its greatest but costliest once we're fully combined." she giggled before stepping back into the shadows. "We'd best rest for a few days until we're at full strength again. Remember, I'll be waiting and watching from the shadows... and I'll be there when you truly need my help again."

Epilogue: Forever Allies

It's been three days since Shadow awoke from the nightmare, but since then he had something on his mind, something he needed to say to someone.

"Chrome?" Shadow said, knocking on the church door of San Ilia. The door openly shortly. "E-eh? Shadow? I didn't think you'd be the one to knock. Last time you sneaked in." Chrome said as she invited him in, looking at him curiously. "C-Chrome..." Shadow began to say nervously. "I... This isn't like me for me to say this but... I wanted to thank you. If it wasn't for you and your marionette's aid, I wouldn't have been able to capture Akame, or escape the nightmare she sent me into. Your presence... helped me be at ease." Shadow said, explaining his experiences about the nightmare while looking at Chrome's marionette copy of him. "You helped me realize that I wasn't alone... As silly as it may seem, I met someone in there, an ally exactly like me, only more feminine personality-wise. When I met her, I remembered you, so I placed my trust in Phantom. If it weren't for both of you, I wouldn't have escaped. I really wanted to thank you for this, Chrome." Shadow smiled a bit and hugged her. "I've always fought most of my battles alone... but you helped me understand that I'm not truly alone."

Chrome looked up at Shadow in awe and surprise, then blushed and hugged him back. "Shadow... It's quite touching for you to say that. I'm quite glad I could help. You along with Luka really did help see the errors of my ways back then, so I thank you for that as well. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have gotten far with puppetry. Your story is quite intriguing, really."

"Hmm~ Hmm~ So this little girl is what inspired you to me~?" a female voice rang from inside the church. A figure appeared then appeared from the shadows on the ground, standing a few feet away behind Shadow; she wore the exact same clothing as him. "Oh? I didn't think you'd come out and play, especially since you're so reclusive, Phantom." Shadow said as he turned to the figure. "Ah? So you're Phantom? It almost seemed like you were a figment of Shadow's imagination. You almost feel... familiar somehow." Chrome giggled as Phantom approached and petted her head. "She's quite adorable isn't she~? I see why you've taken a liking to her~" Phantom giggled before turning her attention to Chrome's puppets. "My oh my, a dollmaker! A lot of fun toys here and there~ We could all have a tea party~!" Phantom smiled as she pulled out a stuffed bear and started hugging it. "Eh...? She's not what I expected..." Chrome looked on, puzzled. "It's a much longer story..." Shadow sighed.

"Oh~ Another Shadow~?" Phantom stared curiously at the marionette copy of him. "How interesting~! We could all have a tea party right now~!" Phantom giggled as she summoned a tea set from the shadows and sat in one of the chairs. "E-eh...? Huh?" Chrome was even more puzzled than before. Shadow simply sighed and sat in one of the chairs. "Oh don't mind me, I'm just playing along to her wishes." Shadow said to Chrome. "Uhh... Oh, what the heck..." Chrome giggled and sat in one of the chairs and magically manipulated her dolls to join as Phantom started pouring tea.

"Each and every being always carry out their duties in a group, and never alone. Even though figures don't appear to be in unison or have tension from the start, they will forever have each others backs. Now knowing that Phantom still lives on with me, I feel that I can truly accomplish anything and everything."

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