The plan was going off smoother than was originally anticipated, every one of the pawns in this chess-match was performing as expected. Except one. The Wildfire’s sister was putting up a shocking amount resistance against his troops. Granted Brak’kat didn’t have the best control over them, but these had the Warlock’s full attention. The girl was still defeating soldiers when they let their guard down for even an instant. "Interesting," Emperor Darr’rak murmurs as he receives yet another report of the kidnapping attempt. "Are you sure this girl is not a Ronin, Zanaton?" "Absolutely, Emperor. The only thing the girl shows is a sympathetic echo of Wildfire’s power," Zanaton restates, wondering why the Dessanin Emperor kept asking such stupid questions. Emperor Darr’rak turns back to his report. Their attempts to capture the boy were proving difficult. The boy was going to become a new host for one of his youja warriors, provided they could capture him. "You’d best capture him, Zanaton. I want Talpa’s world for mine, and I need my warriors." In order to bring his most powerful warriors to the Netherworld they had to possess another sentient creature. Dessans and dessan crossbreeds were difficult to possess, they preferred human children. Zanaton shrugs and indicates himself. "I don’t see why we need human children, Emperor. If broken, half-breeds work fine." The Emperor scowls. Zanaton loved pressing it that he had managed to posses a half-breed; even though his host easily slipped his control when it wished to. However, Dessanin half-breeds were fascinatingly powerful, given their mixed blood. The typical examples were more powerful than their full blooded parent. But given his hosts blood-line, Zanaton should be infinity more careful: Great power ran in both sides of its family. Then one of his soldiers transmits an image of the battle, of course corrupted by the phantoms limited sight capabilities. Most of the time it gave him absolutely no idea of what was going on... This time, however, this girl stood out in sharp contrast to everything around her like a lighted candle in total darkness. "Interesting," he says once again. The creatures herd Rahne and White Blaze into a corner. The tiger’s pale fur is dotted with blood from dozens of small nicks and cuts; Rahne’s shoulder hurts like crazy, the sleeve drenched with blood. One of the things raises its katana for what it thinks will be the killing blow. Rahne’s blade meets it. With a lighting fast vault she disengages; coming up under his guard, slicing him through diagonally from hip to shoulder. Rahne turns to meet another downswing, blocks it. There’s a brief jarring, then the blade continues. Rahne dodges at the last second, the blade barely missing her. She tosses away her now useless weapon. That thing’d sheared the blade off completely. She risks a glance over at Yuli; the poor kid’s crying. Frightened for them. Rahne backs up into her old position in the corner. She crouches; as if in defeat. Slowly, so they won’t notice; she shifts her weight. She slips her feet under her so they’re directly lined up with her hips. Only one chance at this, Babes! Make it a good one! Rahne springs over the intruders heads and lands on Yuli’s bed. She grabs a handful of his pajamas and yanks both of them backwards off the bed. Get to the door...!! A bo strikes the back of her legs, Rahne feels her them start to give out. She grabs the elastic waist band of Yuli’s pajama bottoms and a handful of his nightshirt and tosses him out the hole she made in the door. She lands on the floor hard; a coppery taste flooding her mouth. "MIAYULIRUNFORIT!!" Rahne screams at the top of her lungs. White Blaze pounces over Rahne’s prone form. The bo strikes. But all she feels is soft fur and a grunt. The tiger’s dense muscles easily take a blow that would have crippled her; and White Blaze immediately turns, pouncing on the soldier. While White Blaze rips the soldier apart, Rahne grabs the bo as it falls. She had to get herself another sword, or else she’d be dead before she’d get any help. She charges another soldier, she brings the bo inside his guard, but he flips her over his head. Glass painfully gives against the force of the throw. And suddenly she’s falling. The gravel driveway rushes toward her. Rahne manages to roll with the fall. Her breath cruelly driven from her lungs, gravel flying up into the air as she skids painfully across the ground. Broken glass rains down all around her, bouncing painfully off her. Colored blotches flare across her vision as she gasps for breath. She shuts her eyes and tries to summon the energy to move, run, anything. When she opens them, a soldier is standing over her, his spear raised for the easy kill. Rahne shuts her eyes again, mentally telling the guys how much she loved them. The blow never comes. She feels rough hands hauling her off the ground at a dead run. Hard metal presses against her as someone in armor clutches her close, jarring her as he runs. Rahne opens her eyes to a sea of deep blue armor, as the person runs she catches a glimpse of green armor. She’s being held at an awkward angle; hands gripping her diagonally across her shoulders and hips. Instinctively she tries to get a hand hold to steady herself, and finds a ridged shoulder guard. Her rescuer stops and lays her down on a small hillock. As he lets go, she finally gets to see his face. "Rowen?!" Rahne rasps, feeling light headed. Her boyfriend smiles, caressing her face. He looks up and shouts something to someone. Rahne passes out before she can find out who. Rowen looks back down with dismay to see that she passed out. "She okay?!" Sage hollers from where’s he’s covering Rowen. They’d gotten here at the last moment. Mia and Yuli had already made it out. Sage frowns as he warily checks for any troops who might want to end the "romantic" moment over there. Sage had gotten up into Yuli’s room just in time to see Rahne flying out the window. He had been too late to save her from the fall, but he’d gotten do there in time to get rid of the soldier. "Yeah, I think. She looks like she’s been put through a blender..." Sage glances back towards the main battle; they were doing a good job of taking out the opposition. So far, he hasn’t had any even come at them. "Oh my God!" Rowen hisses from behind him. Sage risks a look behind him. That cut that first looked like it only involved her arm; actually extended all the way to the middle of her back. Sage grimaces, then turns back to his job. Rowen’s already out of his armor and taking off his shirt. He presses it against the wound, pressing to stop the bleeding. She wasn’t in any danger, but he didn’t want to take chances. The battle is short but brutal. The Ronin’s didn’t take kindly to their home being invaded. Sage and Mia check the wounded, which’s pretty much comprised of White Blaze and Rahne. Yuli had a gouge on his leg from where the door caught him during his "flying lesson", but a Band-Aid takes care of that. As Sage helps Kento lift her in a way that won’t reopen the cut on her back, he’s shocked at how much Rahne had done to protect Mia and Yuli. She took out a fair number of soldiers. But most people couldn’t even hope to oppose them. And she did. Light. It’s streaming through the window like a breath-taking waterfall. It’s morning. Rahne moves to sit up, and immediately regrets it. Mia pushes her back down, then replaces the covers over her. The covers brush and catch the rough gauze bandages that cover her injuries. She’d just finished redressing her injuries. "Stay down. The guys happen to check on you every now and then..." she tells her. "And you’re not wearing a single thing above your waist." "My T-shirt?" Rahne asks, surprised she even has a voice. Mia helps her put on a T-shirt, tugging it over her head and easing it over injured areas. Rahne gets a quick look at her bandage shrouded hands. They hurt something fierce, which from experiences in rock climbing meant she tore them up pretty bad. She’d taken her share of falls - though most of the injuries were rope-burns when she manages to stop herself - so she knows it’s going to hurt for a long time. Mia leaves for something. Rahne leans back on her pillows to relax. She hated to fight like that. For fun, yes. Sparring with her friends, sure. But she was no warrior! She feels unexpected tears spring to her eyes. The bed shakes just noticeably. Rahne can feel every footstep, some worse than others: Heavy footsteps. Door opening. Heavy RUNNING footsteps. Rahne opens her eyes to see Kento bounding into the room, a look of relief on his face. "Babes, you’re okay!" Kento grabs her up in a bear-hug. She gasps in pain as his arms press against the ‘road rash’ and cut on her back. "Oh, JEEZ! Babes! I’m sorry, Babes! Oh, God! I’m so sorry!" Kento lets her go, Rahne leans back onto her pillows; the tears now of pain. Kento rubs her arm, trying to apologize for hurting her. Rahne shuts her eyes, trying to deal with the pain. Someone puts a hand on her shoulder. She opens her eyes to see Sage standing over her, wearing a strange green and white body suit of some type. He smiles at her and begins to rub the spot where the katana cut her upper arm. At first the pain intensifies then it fades away until it’s only a nagging ache. He unwraps her hands and holds them in his own. The pain fades, but this time she can see what’s happening: the wounds are closing and healing extremely fast. He’s doing this! He’s fixing my injuries... Finally Sage embraces her and the pain from where she skidded across the gravel fades away too. Rahne can almost feel the cut on her back closing. She lays her head on his shoulder as the dizziness and the maddening pain melt away; and she feels blissfully sleepy. Sage holds Rahne until long after she falls asleep from the effects of his healing powers and lays her back down. He covers her up, and shuts the blind over the bed. "She’ll wake up in a little bit, Kento," Sage states, ushering Kento from the room. "But I wanna stay with-!" Kento protests. Sage looks in his eyes, feeling more annoyed by the moment. "She needs to rest! She can’t do that with you hanging over her!" Kento leaves, still muttering protests and the occasional lewd comment about Sage’s anatomy. Sage leans against the doorframe for a few moments to discourage Kento from returning. He glances back in to see her sleeping peacefully. She mutters something in her sleep, then rolls over onto her side. Sage ducks back into the room for a chair and then sits just outside the door. He picks up his book from the table and starts to read again. The hallway gets a little too quiet for this house. Sage doesn’t even bother to glance up. "Cye, you’re not fooling me. Go away." Cye peeks out of the room he ducked into, "Yes, Warden." Sage goes back to reading. If I’m right, I’ll have Loverboy and Big Bad Brother here in a moment. To his surprise the next attempted visitor is Kayura. She takes one look at him, and smiles. "Cye told me you were playing sentry. May I see her?" Sage crosses his arms over his chest, "Kayura, she needs rest! Absolutely no visitors until she’s ready to wake up!" Sage scowls as one by one, everyone tries to make a visit. He only lets Mia in so she can check the dressings now that she’s on the mend. Several hours later she wakes up, and she gets the whole story about the armors and about the Dynasty. Kayura, Cale, and Dais tell her about the battle from their points of view. Dais even apologizes for stalking her. She takes it rather well for someone who had this dumped on her. Rowen takes her outside to watch the stars come out. Sitting on the hood of Mia’s jeep, Rowen starts to identify the constellations for her. "That’s Cygnus. It kind of makes a cross up there, see?" Rahne nods and moves a little closer to him. "Okay. Link the brightest stars up with the first two I showed you, and you have the Summer Triangle." Rahne uses her finger to draw the triangle in the sky. "Oh! Cooool!" Rowen wraps his arms around her and leans back on the hood. It was more comfortable this way: they didn’t have to crane their necks. He taps her shoulder before speaking again. "If I felt like getting my telescope out, I’d show you the Ring Nebula. It’s in Lyra." Rahne smiles at him, knowing his ribs still bothered him. He hadn’t let Sage use his healing powers on him, so the ribs were taking their natural course. "What’s that one? That really bright star way over by the eastern horizon?" Rowen lays his head over to look to the east. "That’s Aldebaran. In Taurus. I’m really surprised you can still see that in all the light pollution." Rahne shrugs and shuts her eyes. She was feeling tired again. She yawns and sits up. "You tend to adapt a little when you’re missing the normal hardware..." Rowen sits up with her. He leans in close to her, and shuts his eyes. God, why does he become more handsome when he’s about to kiss me? Rahne shuts hers and meets him halfway. The kiss lasts for what seems like an eternity. Sept 29. 6:00pm "I’M STARVING!!" Mia hurries with dinner, trying to placate a stomach she could almost hear rumbling almost all the way from here. There had been another battle, and the guys had just gotten home. "Where’s Rahne!? She said she’d would help!" Mia calls, wondering where she was now. Ryo comes in instead to help with dinner. He grabs the hotpads and takes the roast out of the oven. He begins to explain: "Rowen and Rahne are having a private conversation -" "WHOA!! LIP-LOCK!!" they hear Sage shout suddenly, followed by a few cat-calls. Mia smiles, and glances out the window to see them engrossed in their kiss; totally ignoring the guys. "I guess so long as they behave." "That had started out as an argument..." Ryo mutters under his breath. A little bit a childish giggling emanates from the other room, then Kento starts laughing. Mia peeks through the door to see Yuli playing with Kento. Yuli gives a whoop of joy as Kento grabs him and spins him around. "Stonecold Kento has him now!! The crowd goes wild!! WooHOOO!" Kento yells, holding Yuli horizontally and spinning him around once more. Yuli lets out excited squeals of laughter as the room flashes past. Mia ducks back into the kitchen, hoping that Yuli would be calm enough to eat in a few minutes, after Kento riled him up just now. "Y’know, I don’t think we should leave you here when we go anymore. Cale said he drove off several approaching bands of soldiers today." Mia grimaces, they weren’t sure what or who they wanted. Once Rahne had tossed Yuli out of his room during that first attempt; the soldiers had concentrated all their energy on subduing Rahne and White Blaze. "This’s done, Ryo." Ryo carefully places the roast onto a platter and cuts it. "So’s the roast." After dinner Cye suddenly announces that he’s going swimming. Rahne and Kento, as typical, go with him; even though Kento still can’t swim. Cye races his friends down to the water and dives right in. Rahne puts on a burst of speed and cannonballs off the dock. Kento throws on the breaks and goes to the water’s edge to wade. The late afternoon sun filters down through the water; the water shimmering with ripples of light. Cye shows Rahne all the fish he can call to him. He can see by the delight in her eyes that she’s enjoying this. They go up for air and then dive as deep as they can go. Cye tries to remember that his friend can’t hold her breath as long as he can. He glances back at her. She’s keeping up okay so far. Then something flashes by his vision. His back suddenly hurts like white fire. Rahne grabs his wrist and starts kicking for the surface before he can react. Something dark looking sits on the waters surface, Rahne kicks for it. It takes Cye a moment to realize that it’s the off-shore diving platform he made. Cye gasps as he hauls himself onto it while Rahne, who’s the better climber, vaults right up onto it. "What happened?" Rahne asks, massaging his back. Her hands feel startlingly warm against his skin. "Dunno." Cye breathes, looking down at the dock; trying to catch his breath. He reaches around to feel his lower back. "Hurts like crazy though..." Rahne furrows her brow, she hadn’t understood a word he just said. "Didn’t break the skin. Probably just a cramp or a pinched nerve." "Pinched nerve" ...oh shit! Cye brushes Rahne’s hands away, and calls on his armor. As he pushes Rahne behind him, he hears laughing. "ZANATON! Come out, you creep!" Kento paces back and forth on shore in full armor, watching this, but unable to get out there. Neither of them are about to send Rahne across the water when there was a Dynasty dork who could drown her with just a thought. But she was right out in harms way out there! Rahne can’t understand what’s being said, but she can just about taste Cye’s sudden revulsion. Cye yells something, brandishing his yari in a direction that looks empty. On shore she sees Kento suddenly the most furious that she’s ever seen him. Suddenly there’s a boy there, floating in the air over the water. Rahne knows it’s one of the things the guys are fighting; but he looks way too familiar. Then she remembers... he’d been in the background of every nightmare she’s had recently. The boy laughs and Rahne feels the back of her bathing suit start to rip as if two invisible hands had grabbed it. Cye grabs her wrist and pulls her till she’s tight against his armor. The rip immediately stops its descent. Rahne wraps her arms around Cye’s neck and presses tight to him, forgetting decency. The armor shifts as Cye takes a deep breath and yells something angrily again to the boy across the water. Cye suddenly turns and wraps his arms around her, and pushes both of them into the water. Underwater he presses her face tight to his armor; to her surprise she can breath. Like a whisper in her mind, she can hear Cye’s voice: * Keep your face right against my armor, I can only extend my armor's influence just so far.* Cye looks back up to see the platform explode into thousands of little pieces. An unbelievably strong current rips him off his feet. He holds Rahne tighter as he feels her start to panic. He whispers again using his armor’s power.*It’s okay, it’s only Kento. He’s getting rid of our uninvited guest.* He takes both of them to shore, and carefully out of the water. Rahne’s face is pale with barely controlled fear. Cye’s armor disappears under her arms, and he rests his forehead against hers, visibly shaken. He lets go of her and helps her to shore. "Didn’t get the bastard!" Kento rumbles, as he jogs up to them. Kento immediately turns her around so he can check her back. With a snarl more felt than heard he wraps a bath sheet around her shoulders. He too looks shaken, his face ashen with a mixture of disgust and anger. That had gone way too far. Kento runs upstairs, he needed to get away. His anger had passed the controlling point. He throws himself onto his bed and punches his pillow until he has that urge out of his system. For God’s sake, I nearly hit Yuli! Kento thinks disgustedly. He stares down at his enormous hands and feels ill. He was too strong and too big to hit anyone smaller than he is. But then his temper had snapped. Zanaton and his goons were after Rahney now. He isn’t sure what’s worse: His anger, or nausea. Rahne means more to him than just a friend, she had passed that point a while back. She was like a sister to him. Zanaton had tried to satisfy some perverted fantasy out there. Only the Torrent Armor had saved her from that humiliation. He remembers how she had looked, unconscious and bleeding in Rowen arms. His imagination goes on overdrive on all the "What if?" questions floating through his brain. All the blood that was smeared on his arms as he carried her into the house rises unbidden to his mind. Her back had looked like raw meat, it had been torn up so bad by skidding across the gravel driveway. White Blaze had bitten Ryo as he had tried to treat his injuries. Sage and Mia had been busy, so he’d bandaged his arm. It had turned his stomach then, when he saw how deep the bite wound had gone. Kento hiccups, his breath tasting foul, and tries to relax. Kento’s stomach suddenly rebels against him. He rushes to the bathroom; trying to be quiet about it. He leans over the jon, shutting his eyes tight. When he’s finished, he sits on the floor; and tries to calm his upset stomach. He wishes for once that he didn’t eat so much. Blood didn’t usually bother him, but today had been different. He feels stupid: he was supposed to be the Warrior of Strength. That wasn’t anything close to the definition. "Kento? It’s Cye." His best friend looks at him worriedly from the door. "If yer wondering if I’m okay, the answer is no." Kento gets up and brushes past Cye to get something for his stomach, avoiding the kitchen at all costs. Dark greenish clouds blot the sky, turning the land dark looking. The land is eerily quiet and the sense of danger almost palpable. The Ronin Warriors lead the group as they walk towards the unknown danger in front of them. This time though, they have non-fighters to watch out for as well. Rowen moves closer to Rahne, Mia, and Yuli. He doesn’t like having them here; it raised the stakes too high for his taste. Yuli reaches up and takes Kento’s hand. Poor kid’s been scared out of his head since they tried to grab him. Kento squeezes his hand gently in reassurance. He looks ahead to see Rahne fingering the grip of the single jitte Kayura loaned her; very similar to the ones the Kayura herself had once carried. Kayura adjusts her grip on the Ancient’s Staff, she had felt a brief flash of truly evil intent a few minutes ago. It had felt like someone was laughing at them. They were after Rahne now, but that could only mean in addition to Yuli. In a burst of steam and flying rock soldiers explode right out of the ground. Kayura spears one with her Staff, while glowing webs of energy lance out in all direction from Dais. Rahne pushes Mia and Yuli back away from the fight, slashing soldiers daring enough to attack them. Ryo’s blades dart through the air, leaving a path of carnage in his wake. His armor sizzles as his foot encounters a small puddle. The no-datchi shimmers in the air as Sage begins to unleash his Thunder Bolt Cut. Rahne shields her eyes, trying to keep the light from them so she can fight. She’s surprised when Mia spins in a tight pirouette, clubbing then slashing a soldier intent on grabbing Yuli. Cye and Kento take on a whole group of soldiers hacking their way through them like they were mowing grass. Arrows rain down all around. Rowen turns and uses his bow to take down an approaching soldier. He lunges over to his girlfriend and yells: "Get ‘em outta here! GO!" He could see the overwhelm tactic at work here again. She pushes Mia and Yuli towards the empty area Cale just cleared for them with his Black Lightning Slash. This was getting bad! Soldiers pour after them. The ground quakes a little as bolts of energy flash from Kayura’s Staff. Rahne pushes Mia and Yuli faster. Close quarters combat wasn’t what she needed right now. She brushes her little finger across the jitte’s hilt. The blade flashes, then jumps to its full length. There’s that sense of danger again. Rahne lunges forward to meet the soldier head on. She leaps, her blade slashing under her body in a figure eight pattern. There’s a burst of dark steam and the soldier collapses. The ground suddenly leaps up to meet her as sparks from something fly. Kayura half lands on her; thrown backward by the axes downswing. The girls climb to their feet, never taking their eyes off the soldiers. The soldier wielding the huge battle axe circle them. Kayura makes a sweeping gesture to Rahne. They charge, Kayura ducks under the youja’s guard, while Rahne leaps over him. He falls to the ground in pieces.

Chap. 6 pg2