Kei kept a watchful eye on his surroundings. The place where Michel had decided to fight Kei to the death was here. Much to Kei's dismay, he had no choice. With Alexandria's life in danger, he had to come. Of course, of all places he had to choose, it was a factory that manufactured lead. There were machines everywhere he looked.
Kei: (So, this is it huh? All the hot lead makes me nervous.)
???: Good. You came.
Kei looks up in the direction of the voice. standing on a walk way suspended above the hot lead, was Michel. A devilish grin crossed his face.
Kei: Where is Alexandria?
Michel: Oh, don't worry. She's fine. She's locked away in the office of the building. If you win, I'll tell you where the key is.
Kei: And if I lose?
Michel: Do you have to ask?
Michel places his finger sideways across his neck and simulates a cut across the throat. Kei growls at him for the gesture. He finds the nearby stairs and begins to climb.
Kei: (Why fight in such a place? If one of us makes a wrong move...)
Kei looks down at the hot lead. It sat there, with the occasional bubble popping from the heat.
Michel: What's the matter? Are you afraid of death?
Kei steels his nerves and finishes his climb up the stairs. He keeps his wits about him as he walks closer on the walk way
Kei: Michel, we don't have to do this.
Kei didn't like any bit of this. This went completely against his honor code. He didn't want to kill anyone if he could manage it. However, Michel had other plans.
Michel: Its either you or Alexandria, pick.
Kei growls at him again as he draws his sword. He had no choice. He had to save Alexandria, no matter what lengths Michel would go to.
Kei: You'd let yourself die, even if it meant your daughter would be without a father?
Michel: I don't give a crap about that little girl. She's weak. She lost.
Kei: You don't deserve to be a father.
Michel: And you don't deserve to look down on me.
Michel charges forward while Kei takes methodical steps forward. Their swords clash against each other. For the second time, Kei is prepared for Michel's attacks. Kei manages to defend himself against both blades. It is Kei who is on the offensive this time as he begins to poke at the holes in Michel's stance and attacks. Each movement by Michel and Kei were like a dance of two titans. Neither wanted to give an inch. Michel attempts to chop off Kei's head, but he ducks underneath and shoves him in the stomach. Michel rolls back and recovers and starts walking toward Kei slowly. He uses his blades to cut the sides of the walk way, meaning one false step and they'd fall.
Kei: The hell are you doing?!
Michel: Rising the ante Fido.
Michel charges right back in at Kei, the side rails of the walk way now gone thanks to Michel's strikes. Michel's revamped attack puts him on near equal footing with Kei. Neither could get a strike in. It would be deflected before it got close enough.
Kei: (He's determined to make this a life or death struggle.)
Michel: Come on Fido, show me your 'metal'!
Kei groans at the pun as the two continue their battle. Their sword caught in a tango, ever dancing sparks fly as they clash.
Kei: (How the hell am I going to get him off this thing without killing him?)
Kei thrusts his foot forward to give himself better position and it results in his hilt hitting Michel's stomach. Michel staggers backwards before recovering. He jumps in a forward arc. Unbeknownst to the two of them, with the side rails gone and the pressure they were putting on the walk way, the metal holding the walk way up was beginning to give. Kei keeps his wits about him. He takes methodical steps backwards trying to lure Michel off the walk way, but he doesn't buy into it. He jumps over Kei and begins to push him back the other way. With each passing moment, the walk way they stood on could no longer exist.
Kei: Michel! Stop this!
Michel: Today is the day this ends Fido! One of us WILL die today! And I want it to be you!
With Michel's next thrust, Kei is able to knock one of the weapons out of his hands. An audible clang of metal is heard on the ground, having avoided the hot lead beneath them. Michel alters his attack, placing both hands on his remaining sword. Kei does the same. It was as if the two were now in a Kendo match. Kei takes a step backwards to account for Michel's heavy emphasis on his one blade. Michel keeps the pressure on, forcing Kei to defend. As Kei moves backwards, his eyes catch sight of the metal beginning to give way.
Kei: Michel! Stop! We have to get off!
Michel: No way! I'm going to send you to Hell! Even if I have to take you with me!
Michel jumps forward and as he lands, the metal could no longer take the pressure exerted on the walk way. The metal walk way swings away from the metal bars it broke apart from. During this time, Kei sheathes his sword and jumps backwards, grabbing another metal rod that was bolted to the ceiling. As he does, he tries to grab Michel's hand. However, Michel just throws his sword at Kei, which misses and clangs off the metal above him and begins to follow him towards the hot lead.
Michel: You win Kei! I'll see you in Hell!
With a psychotic smile, Michel drops into the hot lead along with his weapon. Kei looks away as he can hear the molten lead reacting to Michel's decomposing body within it. As all becomes silent, Kei looks back at the hot lead, and he can only stare.
Kei: This isn't the way I wanted this to end, Michel.
Kei hangs for a moment as he tries to get his other arm on to the metal rod. However, his grip on the metal rod he suspends from is anything but sturdy. A sudden stairway of earth, suddenly reaches him. Kei jumps on to it and begins to quickly walk down to the bottom of it. He sees Terra standing there. The hilt of Michel's sword grasped within her hands.
Kei: I am sorry, Terra. I was trying to save your dad.
Terra: Please, leave.
Kei understood that Terra wanted to be alone. Kei takes off towards the factory's office. He scrounges around for a key and finds it behind the office. He opens the door and finds Alexandria asleep in the corner of the room.
Kei: (She must be tired from her ordeal.)
Kei walks in and picks her up. He positions her arms around the front of his neck and begins to carry her. He quietly and slowly walks away from the office and past the area where Michel and he had been fighting. Terra was nowhere to be seen.
Kei: (Where'd she go?)
With no sign of her within the factory, Kei quietly exited. He kept his gaze away from the factory, unhappy with how things had ended.
Kei: (Michel. I want to think what Alexandria told me is true. That you were once a loving father until you got your weapons. I hope Hell is not where we meet.)
Kei continues his quiet walk back home and Alexandria stirs.
Kei: Morning, sleepy-head.
Alexandria grips more tightly seeing that Kei was the one carrying her.
Alexandria: I was so scared.
Kei: Its alright. I'm just glad you're okay.
Alexandria: So you must have won, right?
Kei: Its a bittersweet victory Alexandria.
Alexandria: Then what happened?
Kei: Michel decided to make this our final battle.
Alexandria: You mean...?
Kei: Yes, Michel ended our rivalry when he fell.
Alexandria: Oh no...poor Terra...
Kei: I want you to know that I did everything I could to stop him from going through with this Alexandria. I don't relish in taking my opponent's life. Michel forced me into a corner. He made his bed, and now he has to lie in it.
Alexandria solemnly nods. It is quiet the rest of the way home. With the day's events, Alexandria was tired. Kei takes her to her room and lets her go back to sleep. Kei walks back into his living room. Shigure, Athena, Yui, and Saori around the table.
Saori: So Michel is no more.
Shigure: That means we should be expecting another person from 'The Branch' soon.
Kei quietly sits down with them.
Shigure: How's Alexandria.
Kei: She's tired but fine. Michel didn't harm her.
Shigure: That's good at least.
Kei: I wish I could've done something.
Shigure: You did all you could Kei. From everything you've told us, Michel was making it impossible for the two of you to both escape with your lives.
Kei: Still, there had to been some way of saving him.
Shigure: Kei, not everyone can be saved.
Kei: As much as I hate hearing that, you're right. This isn't the way I wanted things to end between the two of us. I'm almost certain that it was the weapons he wielded that caused him to act in such a manner.
Shigure: We'll never know for sure.
Yui: What about Terra?
Kei: She needs a chance to mourn. I doubt if I tried to bring her here, she would let me.
Saori: Still, you survived.
Athena: That calls for a drink!
Kei stands up.
Kei: You guys can if you want. I'm not interested.
Kei moves himself to the back porch. The dusk sky littered with stars coming into view and the moon hung in the air as if on a string. Shigure comes out and sits next to him.
Shigure: You okay?
Kei: No. I'm not. I tried to get him off that walk way. Tried to make him move that way, but he was too stubborn. In the end, he took his own life. He set this all up.
Shigure just quietly listens.
Kei: Its his fault, but I feel like some of the blame is mine.
Shigure: Its not your fault, Kei.
Kei: There had to be some way of stopping him. I want to believe that.
Kei: Somehow, I want to believe he could've been saved.
Shigure lifts her hands to Kei's face and turns his head towards her.
Shigure: Kei. I understand.
Shigure quietly kisses him on the lips. Kei is stunned, but goes along with it anyway. When she removes her lips from his, her eyes stare into his.
Shigure: You did everything you could. You tried to save him. He wanted to take you with him. I'm just glad you and Alexandria came back safely. We'll convince Terra somehow.
Kei quietly nods. Shigure stands up and leaves him on the back porch. Kei goes back to looking up at the night sky.
Kei: (Sorry, Mitch, I guess I'll have to break my promise to you.)