The demon warrior hurled two balls of black fire at the shinobi approaching him. Ryu effortlessly sidestepped the one aimed at him, but he noticed Bushi barely brought his katana up in time to block the unnatural fire.

“Fools!” the demon yelled. “You cannot to defeat me. The very dead themselves do my bidding!”

He slashed the air with one claw. Skeletons, still clad in the armor they died in, rose through the stone floor like soft dirt.

Ryu made two quick hand motions, signifying that Bushi should take the forty on the left, and he’d fight the forty on the right.

Gathering his chi, an aura of blue fire formed around his sword. He charged directly into the middle of the advancing skeletons, his katana darting out to sever heard and shatter arm bones as fast as the eye could see.

A few seconds later, he stood in front of the demon. Behind him, the last few skeletons were still falling, joining the pile of bones and armor.

“At least they sent one man worthy of fighting me,” the demon said.

Ryu risked a quick glance over his shoulder. Bushi was still engaging his half of the skeletons.

The demon laughed. “Leave him. If he struggles with such paltry foes, he will be of no use to you against me.”

Ryu did not want to face the demon warrior alone, any more than he wanted to leave a friend in trouble. He couldn’t go to Bushi’s aid, however, without turning his back on the demon.

He flung a handful of shuriken at his opponent. The demon blocked them with a single swing of his giant, seven-pointed sword. No less than Ryu had expected, however, and he used that moment of distraction to close ranks, negating the advantage the demon’s larger sword gave him.

The demon lashed out with one knee, though. Ryu was knocked back several feet, and looked up to see the demonic sword coming down at him.

Bushi’s katana caught it just in time.

“Sorry,” he said, struggling to push the sword back. “My heart isn’t in this fight, I guess.”

Ryu made a few fast motions with his hands, conjuring three spheres of fire that spiraled towards the demon.

“It’s Haruka, isn’t it?”

Bushi nodded as he threw a kunai. “I’m not being unreasonable, am I? She’s said she wanted to have kids some day.”

The demon swung his sword at the pair of them. Bushi dropped below it, but Ryu took the opportunity to jump on the demon’s sword. He ran up the blade, cutting off one of the demon’s horns before leaping away.

“Maybe it is a matter of timing,” he said, landing beside his brother in arms.

“That’s what she says, but the world isn’t changing any time soon.” He ducked forward, landing a blow across the demon’s leg.

“Have you told her this?” Ryu asked.

“A hundred times,” Bushi said, leaping away from another of the demon’s swings. “It always leads to the same argument. You’ve been her friend for a long time, can you talk to her?”

Ryu tossed the last of his shurikens. “What would you have me say?”

“Just…” Bushi paused as he completed the hand seals. Wind picked up debris from the cave floor and flung it at the demon. “Find out what she wants. If she really doesn’t want to have children anymore, I’ll let it go, but I don’t want to find ourselves looking back one day and realizing it’s too late.”

“I’ve got a better idea,” the demon growled. With one large hand, he knocked Ryu aside, and grabbed Bushi. “For your insolence, I will kill the two of you, and then I will hunt down this Haruka, and bite her head off!”

That was a mistake. Ryu had to flinch away from the sudden burst of angry chi emanating from his friend. Bushi’s sword flew through the air in a dozen different directions, and a second later, bits of the demon were raining down throughout the cave.

“I’ll talk to her,” Ryu promised, “if only to get your head back in the game. This shouldn’t have taken so long.”

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