"Shards of Reality"
By Jinx&Jedi

Special Thanks to She-Ronin
And co-written with Jasson Knight

Chapter Five

      Later that day at the mall. Mia remembers running through here with Dynasty Soldiers exploding out of every nook and cranny. Yuli and herself being used as bait to separate and isolate the individual Ronins...
      Now it’s filled with people once again.
      She gently squeezes the small hand holding onto hers. She had gotten work off early and was taking Saen shopping for clothes and toys.
      The little boy looks around nervously and sniffles a little, his tears finally dry. He didn’t like crowds one bit; that much had become apparent the moment they’d walked in here. Either that or he knew what happened here...
      "Mia, why is that lady so mad with that other lady?" Saen asks nervously, watching two women arguing in he toy department.
      Mia sighs as she see one of the women holding what appeared to be THE toy of the year. "Oh, that lady wants the Furby that other lady has."
      Saen's face becomes thoughtful, his features a copy of Anubis’s when he had been contemplating something. Then he looks up at her in confusion.
      Mia sighs and feels tears begin to flow unbidden from her eyes.
      "Mia? Why are you crying?" Saen asks, his tiny voice frightened. His mouth begins to quiver. "I’m sorry..."
      Mia dashes the tears from her eyes and picks Saen up with a forced smile. "No, Honey. I just miss your daddy."
      Saen blinks his eyes and wraps his arms around her neck. "I wanna go home!! This place’s scary... Bad stuff happened here..."
      "How do you know?" Mia exclaims.
      "Feels bad here." Saen pokes Mia’s temple. "The bad men were here... They got all the people..." His eyes go lost looking for a moment, then he starts crying again. "Talpa!!"
      "Shhhhh... shhhhh..." Mia says, rocking him back and forth. "It’s all right. He’s gone. He’s gone, sweetie."
      Saen nods into her neck but shudders. "I can feel his badness..."
      Mia sighs and continues to rock him back and forth. He’s too young! Why should he have to feel this, he’s just a baby!! she thinks as she grabs a shopping cart.

      Meanwhile; on a deserted beach something is brewing...
      Storm and Flame. Earth and Water. Light and Shadow. Each roared to life as pillars of pure energy. They burned and shimmered with pure, primal power; unhindered by the souls that possess their solid counterparts.
      Slowly the pillars grow shorter, and then begin to take on a form distinctly human. The flame is the first to coalesces into a male human-like form. Made purely of fire, he crosses him "arms" over his chest and waits for his comrades to complete the transformation it took to enter this world.
      So this is the puny mudball? the Shadow asks as it molds itself into a seductive feminine form.
      A pity the last of us was corrupted, the Storm drawls, idly killing a small furry animal with a longish that had ventured too close out of curiosity. We could have razed this pathetic place.
      Yes, the Earth elemental agreed. Armor is such a waste of energy. Why couldn’t the Inferno have chosen a more fitting form for that beautiful power?
      Enough, the Flame orders before the exchange can go further. Lord Zanaton needs more life energy from these primitive humans!
      The Storm raises his arms slowly until the clouds boil overhead. The Flame looks up and down the beach for a new target.
      Far down the beach a male and female are walking away from them, holding hands. The Flame smiles with his newly formed lips as lightning crashes.

About two hours later...

      Cye’s teacher had cancelled his class for some family emergency. He’d gone to the mall to check out his Tropical Fish store and had run into Mia and Saen as he was on his way. Mia had handed the four-and-a-half year old to him so she could do some shopping for herself.
      He sighs contently as he leads the little boy into the dimly lit store. Tanks on racks filled with colorful, ornamental fish from all over the world under the bright lights of the aquarium hoods.
      For his part, Saen seems to be enchanted by the colorful fish swimming contently in the tanks.
      Cye heads for the brightest lit section of tanks. He ducks the sign that proclaims this to be the salt water section and watches fish swim through real coral. Fish of every conceivable color and shape swim around inside huge tanks around colorful coral and flowerlike anemones. The air smells faintly of salt water, and is filled with the sounds of running, bubbling, and flowing water.
      Torrent smiles contentedly and shuts his eyes lightly; reveling in the relative peace and quiet of the store.
      "CYYYYYIIIIIEEEEE!!" Saen squeals, tearing around the corner at the speed only an excited child can achieve. He crashes right into Cye’s leg, clinging to the dark green material. "BIG fish!!! BIG FISH!!"
      Cye chuckles and picks the little boy up. He didn’t totally believe that Saen knew the real definition of a "big fish". He bounced Saen up and down on his arm, "What big fish?"
      "BIG and really flat and spotted and he had this REALLY long tail and when I went like this," Saen tapped Cye’s shoulder to demonstrate. "He swimmed to me!"
      Cye wandered around the corner he’d seen the child run around; his curiosity piqued, and found himself looking into a huge tank.
      It has to be at least a couple hundred gallons! he thought, peering into the clear waters. It didn’t take long before a fairly small, spotted ray swam into view.
      Saen squealed with excitement and wriggled like a puppy in Cye’s arms. Cye laughed and put the child up onto his shoulders.
      "Cye! Can we get THAT fish?!" Saen asked, patting his head in his excitement.
      Cye groans, he didn’t even need to see a price tag to know that he’d never be able to afford the tank, much less the ray.
      "Oh." Saen says softly, sniffling. Cye blinks his eyes, and then realizes the child read his mind. "Can we PLEASE get a fishy?!"
      Cye boosts the child off his shoulders and puts him back down. "No, Saen, I don’t have any money," he says as patiently as he can.
      "B-But Kento got Alex a kitty..." Saen murmurs.
      Cye leads the child out of the store, trying his best to resist the urge to whip out what little money he has for fish. "But Alex doesn’t know about the kitty yet, does he?"
      The little boy bites his lip, and then admits in a small voice, "No."
      The warrior of Torrent looks down at the small child, wishing Mia hadn’t dumped Saen with him. After all that time with Yuli, Cye had come to the conclusion that he didn’t care much for young children. True, Yuli had been a asset as much as Mia had been; but he’d also gotten them into plenty of jams too.
      "I-I-I’m sorry..." comes a tiny voice beside him.
      Torrent sighs and kneels in front of the child. He puts his hands on Saen’s small shoulders, and looks into his deep green eyes.
      "Saen, it’s Christmas. We have to get things for everyone else, not get stuff for us." Cye brushes the dark red hair gently with his hand. "Do you understand, Saen?"
      Saen nods and steps up for a hug. "If it’s Christmas, why doesn’t Talpa’s badness go away?"
      Cye tosses Saen up gently and puts him on his shoulders. He lets a long silence hang between them for several long minutes as they walk through the crowds. "Talpa’s evil went deeper then just him. He twisted what normal people want and desire--"
      "Like how Mia’s rich?" Saen asks softly.
      Cye nods. "Her family wasn’t always rich. They had to work hard. Mia’s grandpa didn’t become respected until he did a lot of hard work." Cye pauses, looking at his list of things to get. "Talpa twisted people’s wish to be rich, and that made them do evil things. It’s not something that can go away soon, Saen."
      Saen rests his arms on Cye’s head, his voice timid and dubious. "Okay..."
      "Hey, cheer up!" Saen calls up to his passenger. He suddenly leaps nimbly over a guardrail and down into a small sunken lounge.
      The red head on his shoulders giggles wildly, wrapping his small arms around Cye’s head. "AGAIN!"
      Cye takes a running leap and leaps up the small flight of stairs. Saen giggles rapidly as Cye skips down the walkway on his way for Christmas presents.

Back at school....

      Sage caught Rowen.
      The period had ended, but he’d caught him in the halls in the next class change. Now he was almost gleefully pummeling his roommate.
      Rowen was trying to block, or at least wriggle away. However, Sage wasn’t giving him a chance to get away. A slim arm shoots around his arm, holding him back from performing the next punch.
      Sage stains against the young woman’s arm, but the arm wasn’t giving. He could feel shockingly strong muscles trembling against his back.
      "SAGE, STOP THIS!! LET HIM UP!!" a shrill and off tone voice nearly screams in his ear.
      Another female’s hands grip his arm and tug backwards. "C’mon! You’re hurting him!!"
      "Is there a brain under there, Hair-Boy!?"
      Sage springs to his feet, nearly bowling the two girls over. He advances on them menacingly. Sweat runs down his face and drips from his chin, but it’s ignored in his fury. The new girl takes a step backwards, but Rahne Sanada holds her ground.
      "What did you call me?" He asks in a dangerously quiet voice.
      "Hair-Boy. Thank Sharra." Rahne answers, her voice now even and surprisingly calm. She then purses her lips thoughtfully, "I kinda like it."
      "Shut up, Sanada..." Sage growls.
      Rahne had never been afraid of him. "Why? You going to hit me? Not advisable."
      "No, bitch," he snaps.
      "Ooooh, big words. I guess we can call you "Green Ranger" now, can’t we?"
      Sharra takes a deep breath and realizes that Rahne probably has it under control. She steps around and helps Rahne’s boyfriend to his feet.
      The name calling gets decidedly vicious and obscene. Rowen shakes his head, wondering where in the world she picked up language like that.
      Sage moves close to her so that he towers over her, trying to intimidate her.
      "What’s wrong, afraid I’m going to hurt your boyfriend?" he asks gruffly.
      Rahne gets a cross look on her face and puts her fist up near his face. No one else can see what Sage does, but tiny sparks are swirling around her raised fist.
      I don’t care how mad you are or how much he upset you. But this is wrong, Sage... Please stop, you don’t get this mad at your friends normally. Her kanji gleams ever-so-faintly under her bangs.
      It’s not definite words; more like a feeling. Sage suddenly realizes who he’s looking down at. Shame floods him as he sees Rowen dabbing at the blood flowing from his nose. *Rahney... God, I’m so sorry, Rowen...!*
      Rowen steps behind his girlfriend and leans heavily on her shoulder. *No. I was wrong. I went too far... I deserved it.*
      Sage nods and rubs the back of his neck a little in embarrassment. Everyone was staring at him as if they all had gone stark-raving insane.
      "Umm, sorry," Sage says softly, red faced and acting as if his plan had backfired.
      The teachers came running as they got word of the fight. They would have a lot of explaining to do...
      Six figures clad in the school’s uniforms watch the commotion bemusedly.
      "That was fun," the lone girl murmurs to her companions in obvious amusement. "I like playing with our mortal puppets."
      The leader purses his lips and then grins. "Yes. Too bad those females showed up and ruined things."
      "When do we move to the next phase?" Another boy drawls, watching as Sage excused himself as "not feeling well" and that Rowen had "just gotten on his nerves".
      "Soon," the leader replied, guiding his troop away from the fight. All too perfect...

 End Chapter Five

      Sorry for the long wait, but college is taking up more of our time than it did last semester. I hope this chapter wasn’t too dull... and we’d like to thank She-Ronin for all her help; and to DSJ Warlord (Jasson Knight) who helped us write this! Thanks guys!