Utsusemimaru stirs, dragging himself halfway to consciousness as a sound pierces through his heavy slumber. He opens his eyes and blearily searches for the source of the voice, but all he can see is darkness. Darkness pressing in on all sides, filled with endless nothingness that whispers, Rest, to him. His eyelids start to droop.
But there it is again, that voice trying to reach him before it's swallowed up in the darkness once more.
Who...? His question echoes in the void around him before he can speak it aloud. His eyes ache, as though an invisible force were trying to tug them closed again.
Sleep. Forget. The darkness presses closer, and when Utsusemimaru resists the pressure against his eyes, another command follows. Submit.
Utsusemimaru tries to move, but his limbs feel as heavy as lead. Something is wrong. Even with his mind clouded by exhaustion and his body ready to obey the words - submit submit - drumming in his ears, he can tell that something is very wrong. Worry begins to take seed in his mind, but it's too late. The compulsion to sleep is taking hold of him, his thoughts growing dimmer and dimmer as his consciousness slips away--
The voice yanks him back from the brink of sleep. A ripple of displeasure courses through the darkness, and though it is quickly suppressed, the command that follows - SUBMIT - carries a fierce jolt of pain in place of drowsiness. It startles Utsusemimaru awake, and in that moment of clarity he begins to struggle. Like a caged animal he lurches against the darkness without fully understanding it, twisting with panic at being trapped. He grasps with both hands at the darkness in front of his eyes, nearly wrenching his arms out of their sockets before it tears away.
The waking world hits his eyes in an explosion of color and light, dazzling him for a moment before he can process what he sees. Daigo lies in a heap before him, ragged and dirty, his eyes fixed on Utsusemimaru's face. The corner of his mouth is blotched with red, but he appears to ignore the pain of his split lip as he opens his mouth in a shout, "U-- chi--!!"
His voice cuts in and out, muffled as the darkness gets heavier and tries to pull Utsusemimaru away from the sight. He strains against it and reaches for Daigo--
But it is not his hand that responds. Massive red claws dart out, grabbing Daigo by the front of his shirt and lifting him up off the ground.
The rage nearly incapacitates him again: anger at Dogold for using his body to hurt Daigo, anger at himself for letting it happen.
Finally figured it out, Utsusemimaru-chan?
Loud, cruel laughter fills the endless void, and Utsusemimaru watches with horror as Dogold lifts a fist - his fist - to take aim at Daigo's face.
He knows he lacks the strength to defeat Dogold. Anger would just feed his power. The only way he had managed to break free from Dogold's control before was with the combined brave of Daigo, Ramirez, and Torin. On his own even tearing a small hole in the darkness within the armor was almost too much for Utsusemimaru to handle. He knows all of this, and yet he cannot do nothing. He focuses his strength on one arm, forcing it to move under his own command, not Dogold's. As he pours out his brave the darkness begins to fall away from his arm like sheets of water, and he reaches out, grasping for control with his free hand. Dogold's fist freezes in midair, trembling as Utsusemimaru tries to hold it back.
Daigo had squeezed his eyes shut in anticipation of the blow, but when the punch doesn't connect, he opens them again, fixing Dogold - Utsusemimaru - with a look of hope and concern.
He wishes he could reply, but the fight for control is taking all of Utsusemimaru's power, and he has none to spare for regaining the use of his voice. He will not yield to Dogold again. Dogold yanks his arm against Utsusemimaru's hold, but the samurai refuses to budge.
What are you doing? Dogold's voice thunders in his ears.
What I can to protect him, Utsusemimaru replies, his voice strained even within his own mind.
You'll exhaust your strength.
But I will keep you from hurting him.
The moment you falter, you are mine. Do you really intend to sacrifice your freedom for this boy? Dogold sneers.
Daigo's eyes dart from Dogold's face to his raised fist, still trembling, still held resolutely in place. Utsusemimaru can only trust that Daigo has figured out what he's trying to do. It's an odd source of hope, resigning himself to this prison if it means protecting Daigo's life. But if Daigo can figure out that he's trying to resist, maybe they will both have some hope left.
If I am, this should work out well for you.
Unexpectedly, a note of desperation enters Dogold's voice. As soon as I'm in control again, I'll cut him down where he stands. Just like those soldiers and that pathetic excuse for a lord of yours.
Utsusemimaru expects to feel that familiar surge of anger, but as he looks down at Daigo's face - hurt, worried, but undeniably determined - he feels a sort of serene confidence wash over him.
No. You will not.
King-dono will not fall by your hand. Even if you possess me completely, I will still fight to protect him. And if you try to bury me again or rob me of my memories, it will not matter. King-dono will still be able to find me within you and bring me freedom. The longer he speaks the more he realizes the truth in his words. Dogold's fist is no longer trembling.
How can you know that?! Dogold demands, fear outweighing the fury in his voice.
He has done it before, Utsusemimaru replies. I have seen firsthand how brilliantly his brave shines through these shadows of yours.
A sudden rush of warmth floods through Utsusemimaru's hand and spreads quickly, illuminating his entire body with a soft, gold glow. Dogold's fears are transparent now - all of the rage Dogold had tried to stir in him dissipates when faced with the strength of his selfless actions and unbreakable faith in Daigo. A different kind of bravery, but one that shines just as brightly.
With a blinding flash of light Dogold's armor scatters, thrown off of Utsusemimaru's body as the chevalier gives an angry howl of defeat.
The glow fades, and Utsusemimaru opens his eyes. Daigo. He gives his leader a weary smile before pitching forward in a swoon. Strong arms catch him and lower him gently to the ground.
"Ucchii, you okay?"
He takes a deep breath of fresh air and nods. "Are you?" Gingerly he reaches up to touch Daigo's bruised and bloodied face. Daigo just grins.
"I've had worse! Ucchii, do you know what you just did?"
"You defeated Dogold! We still have to track him down and finish him off, but you broke free of him all on your own! You're amazing!" Daigo seems hardly able to keep still from excitement.
"I could not let him hurt you." Utsusemimaru shakes his head, adding, "I believed in you, King-dono. I knew that if I could not defeat him, you would find a way."
"You showed brave even when the situation seemed hopeless, and it all turned out okay! That sounds like the kind of no-plan plan that I would try." Daigo flashes a victory sign.
"You do inspire me to new heights of bravery," Utsusemimaru replies and, smiling, pulls Daigo in for a kiss.