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When morning came, everything just looked bleaker. Rahne turns in a circle, surveying her prison. It was roughly circular, and even rougher carved. To her mindset, it meant good hand holds, but the ceiling would be the first problem. Without rope, she couldn’t even begin to scale across it. And then the only way in or out it seemed was through a chute-like structure in the middle of the ceiling. That would be the next. Rahne shivers as a frigid gust of wind blows down the chute. She wonders how long it would take before she came down with pneumonia. Stop it! You’re acting like some damsel in distress, you’re better than this! Rahne thinks sternly. This prison wasn’t escape proof, so there has to be a way out. In the meantime, it had been many hours since she had eaten. Rahne shifts uncomfortably, it had been a long time since she had gone, too... That creep Zanaton might be watching though. The last thing she wanted was to give him a show. (you’re not safe right now) Rahne spins around. She had just felt warm breath on her ear, as if someone had just whispered to her. But no one was there. Again. She walks over to a small basin carved into the wall, and gets herself a drink. She looks down into the water, and sees her reflection. Hovering just over her shoulder is a person’s face. Rahne shrieks and hurls her foot out at the person. No one was there of course. Rahne turns back to the basin. The face was gone. It had looked like a... monk. Rahne chides herself once again. She was acting like a scared little girl. She was jumping at shadows. The stress must be getting to her. (i won’t hurt you) Rahne stiffens, as invisible chilly hands close on her shoulders. They turn her back to the basin. Standing behind her is a transparent figure dressed in a monk’s robes. Rahne starts to panic, this was too much. The ghost clamps a chilly, invisible hand over her mouth. Rahne jerks away, frightened beyond all reasoning. (rahne sanada, i won’t hurt you. listen.) Rahne sinks to her knees and regrets ever thinking that she was that tough. She wishes she could faint on command like those girls in the movies did. She sits there trembling, with no choice but to live in a haunted cell. (i’ll help you every way i can. believe me, please.) Rahne just covers her face in her hands, and takes deep breaths. It had just gotten worse exponentially. Her hair is gently swept away from her face again and then the cell warms a little. Sometime during the night, Rahne became aware of another presence in her cell. Rahne startles as she feels an arm pressed against her back. She rolls over, ready to beat whatever it was away from her. She raises her hand and curls her fingers back away from her palm and so the heel of her hand is outward. She done the brick break using a palm strike, so she knew the damage it would do... and then stops. It was a boy, perhaps Cye’s age and sound asleep. Sometime he had crawled to her side like an animal seeking the warmth and comfort of another creature. His longish red hair was plastered to his head and neck with sweat; his face pinched with lack of sleep and malnutrition. Under his pale eyelids, she can see his eyes moving: dreaming. He moans in terror, and curls up into a half fetal position. Oh, God! Those cruel bastards! Rahne thinks, lowering her hand. She was dreaming, but this one was too real. Rahne climbs to her feet and kneels by his side. He couldn’t be too far past his fourteenth birthday, he might even be thirteen. She brushes some of the sweat soaked hair from his face, then strokes the side of his face in an effort to soothe him. At her touch he thrashes a little, then shivers, and jolts awake. He curls up the rest of the way into a tight ball with a whimper. Rahne pulls him half onto her lap and rubs his small shoulders. She winces as she feels every bone in them, can see every knob and bump on his spine. He shivers once again. "S... so cold. I can’t feel anything..." he whispers. It was the boy who had warned her about the attack. Who had saved her life. "I know. I am too." Rahne tells him, taking his hands in her own to warm them. They feel so cold, and the bones stick out too much. "I’m gonna find you for real, though. And them we’ll get out of here!" The boy looks up at her with those large emerald green eyes of his; making her heart turn over - just like Cye’s sea-green eyes could always do. "Y... you mean it?" "I don’t lie. That wasn’t just a promise, either." The boy wraps his arms around her waist and gives her an awkward hug. "Thank you. You’re so nice... what’s your name?" "Rahne Sanada." She pulls the scrap of her raincoat that has her butterfly patch on it out of her pocket; and gives it to the boy. The boy accepts it as if she had bestowed to him all the wealth in the world. He stuffs it in the pocket of his trousers. "Rain. Rain - that’s so pretty. Thank you!" He buries his face in his hands for a moment, his face giddy with the crush he just developed. Rahne laughs at him, pleased with the sudden hope that glows all over his face. "And yours?" Rahne laughs, rubbing his shoulders. He’s a silly little thing! But cute, in a little boy sort of way. "Sorry! Mines -" "NONE OF THAT!!! HOW DID YOU GET IN THERE?!" roars Zanaton’s voice. "It’s him! He found me! RAIN!! Don’t let ’em get me!" rhe boy screams in panic; tears running down his terrified face. Rahne wraps her arms around him, trying to fight something she wasn’t sure she could. The chute in the ceiling looms over them like a grinning demon. The boy is ripped from her grasp so fast her arms sting. She lunges after him; but she’s too slow... Rahne wakes up slowly, feeling angry and frustrated, and not a bit surprised to find herself standing in the center of the cell. It hadn’t been her dream, it had been the boy’s. There was nothing she could do at the moment, though. Rahne lays back down; she would rest, but no way in hell would she sleep. Zanaton leans back in his chair, feeling pleased with himself after finishes the latest gauntlet of tortures. In his mind, he could still sense the boy’s psychic agony. "(It serves you right for visiting the bitch,)" he tells him psychically. "(If you had stayed away from her I wouldn’t have to do this.)" The boy denies this down to the core of his being, practically screaming the girl’s name. "(She can’t hear you, brat. You only exist in my mind. No one even knows you still live.)" The boy denies this again and starts screaming for his parents. Zanaton has to laugh at this, the boy still wouldn’t believe that his parents were dead. "(Scream all you want. Maybe I’ll let you watch when I rape and kill her.)" The boy falls silent with horror. Then starts screaming with anger, trying to break the bonds once more. He screams the Dark Warlords' names, and then for what he does know exist: The Ronin Warriors. Zanaton laughs and unleashes another volley of tortures. (wake up.) "Guardian, go away," Rahne groans, trying to ignore the apparition as best she can. Zanaton had apparently taken the evening off, so she had taken the opportunity to get some real sleep. Apparently, her ghost had a different idea. (wake up.) "Lemme alone, I’m sleeping!" Rahne protests once more. (wake up. now is your chance!) Rahne rolls over, away from the direction of the spirit. (zanaton is sleeping! you can sneak out . . .why am i talking to the back of your neck?! rahne!) "Wha - ?" She was sleeping, and didn’t want yet another conversation with the ghost. (get up! now!!) "You’re getting really bossy all of a sudden..." Rahne murmurs softly, still attempting to ignore him. "Can’t you leave me alone and go haunt something?" (no.) The spirit snarls in frustration. (your brother wasn’t nearly this obstinate. are you sure you and Hardrock weren’t separated at birth?) "Don’ eat nearly enough," Rahne murmurs once again. (look, i’d love to argue this point for all eternity, but i think you’d like to leave this "charming" establishment.) "When’d you get so talkative?" Rahne asks, finally coming awake. "Get too much Ectoplasmic Java this morning?" (like in that delightful movie yuli likes so much? george of the jungle? no, i prefer mine with water, thank you.) "You’re annoyingly obnoxious. Do you know that?" Rahne grumbles, getting to her feet. (i’ve been informed that on occasion.) "Now, what did you want me up so much for?" Rahne asks, stretching. (i found a kusari-gama. can you use that to climb up to the chute?) Rahne looks to her side to find the weapon neatly coiled on the floor a few feet from where she had been laying. She picks it up and attempts to figure out how to grip it correctly. She feels icy fingers trying to adjust her grip on it, and loosens her hand. After almost a week of living in this place with a poltergeist, she had become accustomed to his antics. The psychics on TV, the ones who claimed they knew everything about ghosts, were quite wrong on at least this one. Guardian knew quite well that he was dead, but he actually didn’t care. He knew her friends and brother, and made it routine to bug her about it daily. "Maybe, I need to anchor it to something up there first." (throw the counterweight.) Rahne looks at the end of it, and finally noticing the clawed end of it. She clumsily throws it at the chute. It falls short of it’s mark, she reels it in disgustedly. (try swinging it, give it some momentum) Rahne scowls. Was that amusement? She starts to twirl the end, careful not to hit the ceiling. (faster. keep it uniform. faster. faster. faster. now!) Rahne whips it at the wall - The counterweight buries itself in the wall of the chute securely. (good.) It’s voice fades away with the word. Rahne carefully hauls herself up to the chute. She almost falls right back off. She kicks and lodges herself sideways in the chute. Just like a rock chimney... She takes a moment to reel the chain back in before stating to climb up the chute. She presses her back against the wall, and inches her way up the chute. Shift the legs up, and then inch the back up. Legs, back. Legs, back. Sweat runs down her face and into her eyes. Rowen had gotten her a headband because of this, but she didn’t have it with her. She did have her fingerless leather gloves though. She pauses a moment to slip them on, and uses the backs to wipe the sweat away from her eyes. The chute finally ends. Rahne hauls herself out of it and into a huge subterraneous chamber. (there’s a walkway a ways up.) Rahne sighs and takes a few deep breaths to steady her nerves. She takes a running jump at the wall. Her hands meet with ample handholds. She settles into her old rhythms and the climb becomes a meditation. Higher: The word throbs in her veins and through her instincts developed through hours previous climbs. The black fingerless leather gloves feel comfortable against her aching hands. Higher. Hand-hold. Foot-hold. Her hiking boots brush the rock wall, her hair stirs with a slight breeze. Every millimeter of muscle know their parts; instincts defeating instincts, mind free to calculate weight/handholds/angle. Her muscles soon loose the lingering aches from being too cold for too long. Higher. Hand-hold. Foot-hold. She can feel the spirit hovering just over her, but keeping silent. Rahne feels a pang of guilt for being so mouthy and obstinate. Higher. Hand-hold. Foot-hold. She can see the walkway now, maybe three-hundred feet in front of her. She grins at how good this feels. She knows right now that she’s hanging over a chasm too deep to survive if she falls. She also knows she won’t fall. Higher. Hand-hold. Foot-hold. Hand. Foot. The walkway looms in front of her. She realizes that she’s lost track of time. A quick glance at her watch - then gives up. It was dead. It seemed that technology didn’t work here. She wishes that she was outside, on the surface. She could at least gauge time out there. The edge. Rahne kicks her feet free as she reaches up over the edge. Her arm muscles alone supporting her weight. Pain flares as muscles complain against the abuse. She pulls herself up and onto the walkway. Rahne stumbles forward to get off the walkway and tumbles into a heap into a small recess in the wall. Well over five-hundred feet over in what seemed to be moments. The way her muscles hurt however, she was more willing to bet that it was more. She falls asleep where she fell, resting from the exhausting climb. Guardian leaves to scout ahead. It’s warmer and drier up here, more comfortable. Rahne begins to dream of her brother and her friends. Kento was playing, pinning her to the carpet as she tried to rise by throwing his legs over her shoulders. She’d laughed and tried to wriggle away, knowing he’d never do anything to harm her. He lets her up and she thanks him by attempting to smear his chocolate cake all over his face, but he lunges forward with his mouth open. The entire piece of cake was gone before she could blink. "Pillsbury! You’re incorrigible!" she’d blasted at him, poking his bellybutton. It does nothing except encourage him to pick on her worse. He gave a huge belly laugh and grabbed her so Rowen could plant a kiss on her. Rowen kissed her soundly, and then started pecking kisses all over her face. The guys threw cat-calls and cheers. Their roughness frightened her, she shoved Rowen backward, but tripped over someone’s legs. She stumbles backwards onto Kento’s lap. He called an end to the rough-housing. He rubbed her shoulders, apologizing for letting it get out of hand. She liked his cologne, it smelled good. She snuggled against him, needing the comfort. It had been too soon since Salius’s death. He was like a big brother, he accepted who she was no matter what. Ryo’d knelt beside her, blinked his own tears out of his eyes. She’d finally found family. But Zanaton had taken her from that... She comes awake to that feeling of being in danger flooding every cell in her being. Zanaton kneels over her, his face twisted into a evil leer. Rahne screams and tries to back away. He pins her roughly to the ground, Rahne realizes what he’s about to do. The self defense training Kento had taught her takes over. Rahne knees him in the groin, putting all her strength behind it, but connects with body armor instead. He only winces as it digs in and nothing more. Rahne tries to struggle, but he’s pinning her too tight. It feels like she’s suffocating, she screams again. She would rather die than be raped. Something screams with a voice that no longer belongs to the living. Zanaton is thrown off her so fast he has no time to react. Rahne clamps her hands to her head as her skull seems to explode, but it does nothing to block the assault on her senses. (run, rahne! get away!) Guardian. Rahne feels icy hands boost her to her feet and shove her down the passageway. Half senseless she barrels down the rough hewn corridor, not caring which way she goes. The Lord gets to his feet and attempts to run from the now visible spirit. In a flurry of blues and whites the spirit pursues him. Zanaton runs through another passageway, trying to escape. This can’t be happening! (give my son his body back!) the spirit chasing him screams. It hurls an object at him, but Zanaton dodges. (alexander.) Suddenly his host stops running. He tries to force it to keep running. His host’s mind slowly acknowledges this voice. (alexander.) Zanaton feels his host’s mind starts to awaken for real. Groping in the darkness for life and freedom; fighting the nightmare he’s been living all these years. "(Father?)" his host’s mind whispers. Zanaton screams as the boy unleashes all of his psionic potential. The Lord actually feels a small pang of surprise: The brat had been the pacifist of the family. The thought is his last, as Alexander feels an energy singing through his veins like a symphony of pure golden notes. A gold colored forehead kanji flares briefly as he frees himself from Zanaton and destroys him. "Rain..." He whispers trying to run in the direction she went. Then he collapses to the floor in a dead faint. Kayura wakes up screaming in agony. Her Armor of Loyalty had been literally ripped away from her; without so much as a warning. The metal rings on her Staff of Ancients are clanging and ringing against one another madly. She slaps her hands over her ears and attempts to gain mastery over the pain. Her head seems to just about explode with pain. She screams once again, as fiery rings of barbed wire seem to encircle her brain. Hard hands close tightly on her thin wrists, pulling them away. She opens her eyes to see Dais standing over her. His healing face is filled with panic. He shakes her roughly, trying to make her stop. His single, bloodshot, blue eye goes vacant for a split second; some of the pain fades, but only for a moment. It washes over her again like a tsunami. He shouts something at her as she screams again. The others are clustered around her bed, looking terribly frightened. Then her armors back; she slumps against Dais as the staff goes silent. Dais cradles her suddenly fragile body close, trying to comfort her. "Kayura, what happened? Can you hear me?" Sage asks, kneeling in front of her. "M... m... my a... armor left... me s... so f... fast...!" she manages shakily. "That it hurt?" Rowen finishes for her. She nods exhaustedly. She stares at her staff for a long time, trying to piece together what she felt. Suddenly a vision clouds her vision: A gaping hole in the ground. The sky is the yellow of Netherworld’s sky, and the grass is the lush unearthly green of it’s frequent rainstorms. The hole stands out like a spot of blood on a white cloth. "She’s underground..." Kayura whispers. She had run into more soldiers, but she had been able to outrun them. She curses herself for dropping the kusari-gama, at least she had a weapon then. Rahne had been wandering through this maze for a good part of the day. The only difference between night and day here was that she could see better in the day. Rahne peeks around a corner. There was no one there. Rahne ducks back behind the corner, her braid swinging with the motion. She’d already run into that creep, Zanaton. She still couldn’t believe he was the same age as herself; he was so cruel and sadistic. He probably would have killed her had Guardian not frightened him off. Rahne smiles at her name for the ghost. She had managed to lure it out of him that he had been a great warrior-turned-warlord-turned-monk. He had called himself "one of the guardians of the mortal world" or at least he had been. She didn’t know which way to go. The past few times she had tried to get him to talk, she hadn’t gotten any response. "Guardian...?" Rahne whispers to the air. (all clear.) Rahne sets off down the tunnel, sticking close to the walls; wary of every shadow. "What were you doing? You were gone a while." (zanaton won’t be bothering anyone anymore. i suggest you leave it at that.) Rahne grimaces, forcing herself to remember that he had killed all those people - that he had tried to kill her. She still didn’t like the thought of killing, but she guesses that it had to be done. (i must leave you for a time, again.) The ghost tells her. (follow the wind, it leads to the exit. i think.) "Oh, thanks for the confidence builder." Rahne snaps, trudging down the hall, alone again. Sensations flood his every pore as he comes back to consciousness, but he doesn’t bother to put up any guards. It feels like water for someone who’s crossed a desert. He drinks in the feel of the cold stone, and the sounds of dripping water. His mind reaches out as his crippled telepathic abilities heal themselves and revealing the psychic peace and quiet of an empty cavern. Why was he here? He can’t remember. He remembers a pretty girl. She reminded him of the princesses in the legends his father used to tell him. What was her name? A random word floats to mind: Rain. He smiles, he liked running around in a warm rainstorms, it was fun letting it wash all over you. But why is this so wrong... Alexander sits bolt upright, remembering what had almost happened. He glances up and down the hallway. No one was there anymore. Alex climbs painfully to his feet. He stretches, grimacing at how many places hurt. That damned bastard pissed off people left an’ right, and let them take it out on a disposable body. Mine. Why the devil did he hurt down there? When did that happen? Then he remembers. He opens his pants and removes the offending body armor that Rain had so graciously kicked and that Zanaton had funneled the pain it caused right into him. He tosses it in disgust over the edge of a nearby walkway. As Alexander fastens his pants once again, he wrinkles his nose at how sweaty and nasty he smells. The lord obviously didn’t bother to bathe much. He runs a hand through his hair in his old gesture, and stops at the revolting feel of his hair. He pulls one absurdly long lock of hair to look at, and stops. "HE COLORED IT USING GREASE!!" Alexander growls in disbelief. He shucks the coat off and uses it to wipe some of the grease out of his hair. The shirt that had been underneath it was a "decent" white. Disregarding the stains is the only way you can think of this as a decently clean shirt. Alexander gives up, vowing to bathe the first chance he gets. He begins to backtrack down the passageway, and comes across a kusari-gama. He picks it up and checks the weight and heft; it wasn’t the type that you could accurately throw, but he’d rather have a weapon than go without. He suddenly stops, remembering. He pulls something out of his pocket. It was irreparably stained now, but it was the patch that girl had given him. Rain. He extends a telepathic probe to figure out where she is. He realizes where he is. Netherworld. "Oh God!! Rain! Don’t go that way!!" Alex tears down the passageway, following the residue of her presence. Psi-trailing. Memory takes over, and he realizes how deep they’re both in. Cale let him come with him here only once. And once was more than he had ever needed. As he rounds a corner he sees her duck down another passage; trying to get away from another band of soldiers. "SHIT!" Alexander bellows, chasing after her. That hallway was one big trap! Alexander throws caution to the wind and dives down the passage after her. She continues to run for a ways, then the ground drops out from under her. Alex grabs a spear on the fly as it shoots from the wall-trap. He dives down the trapdoor after her. Rahne hits frigid water; the impact disorienting her. Something whips out and snags her ankle, dragging her deeper. Rahne fights, trying to break free. A spear narrowly misses her ankle, severing whatever has her ankle. A firm, but gentle arm wraps around her waist in a tight grip. Strong legs brush and bump hers; propelling them up. Blackness closes on her vision as her air runs out. She awakens a short time later; vomiting up water and shivering convulsively. When she’s finished, a finger jabs down her throat, and she vomits again. Then those same hands offer her a canteen of some liquid - fresh water from the taste as she washes her mouth out. "(That pool was salt water, Rain. That much salt in your system would have poisoned you.)" (i told you i’d help you every way i can.) The strong arms pull her close, shifting her so she’s facing up. Rahne shuts her eyes and leans her head against the person’s chest. Her rescuer’s shivering too; both of them were dangerously close to hypothermia. Rahne opens her eyes and looks into a face from her living nightmare: Zanaton’s face. Rahne screams, her throat feeling raw; she fights his grip, trying to get away. "Rain! Shhh! It’s me!" Zanaton’s face yells, imprisoning her flailing hands against her chest. Startled, Rahne stops struggling. "(Zanaton doesn’t exist anymore, Rahne! It’s only me!)"