Chapter Twelve: A Promise MadeEdit
"The warriors have converged, yet their paths lie
elsewhere. Promises are made and the heart of the second
servant is won by the dark."
"So," Kimi said, leaning over her desk as Masamoto walked in. "How'd he take it?"
Masamoto simply shook his head. "As well as you'd expect. Shock. Denial. What I wouldn't give to leave that to someone else."
"Did he know anything?"
"He was too distraught for me to question him. I'm heading back over in a few minutes. Any updates I should know about?"
Kimi quickly felt around on her desk for one of the messages she had jotted down a bit earlier. "Yeah," she said as she picked up a pink scrap of paper. "St. Hebereke gave us some information we could use. It seems that another student has mysteriously disappeared."
Masamoto looked up as his eyebrow rose in intrigue. "Oh?"
"Kodachi Kuno. She was training in the soccer field during the time of the incident. After that, she never returned to class. I assumed right away that she could have been killed, or even kidnapped by the killer, but..." she led on.
"Well, the school said it was impossible. Apparently, this Kuno girl is the best fighter at the school, capable of taking out even the best teachers. In her whole history of Rhythmic Gymnastics, she's lost only one match."
"Exactly. There's another thing."
"Her father is Tamaka Kuno."
Masamoto almost fell over in shock. "Tamaka Kuno? You mean, this kid is..."
Kimi nodded. "Exactly."
Masamoto knew the name all too well. It was a name he dreaded to hear. Ten years earlier, when he was still a rookie, he had been assigned to a case. A murder case that still hadn't come out with a viable suspect.
That case was the murder of Miyuki Kuno. Tamaka's wife.
The details were etched into Masamoto's brain as if with an exacto-knife. The woman was found dead in the outside gardens of the Kuno estate. Strangled, raped and severely beaten. Normally, it would have been just another one of those cases, but what caused Masamoto to remember it so sharply, was the faces of the two children as they watch from the window.
The faces of Kodachi and her older brother.
And the father hadn't been in the country for them.
He knew the story. They had been mostly raised by the servants of the estate. Apparently, their father was the headmaster of a local school, but had spent most of his time overseas.
Either way, the news touched Masamoto right where it counted.
"Kimi?" he asked.
"Can you get me a photograph of the Kuno girl?"
"I'll get right on it. Are you going to--"
"I'm going to find her, Kimi. Even if it kills me."
"Strange, aren't they? That little one is different from Herb."
"So is the big one. He looks like an ox!"
"What's so strange about them? What about those two in the infirmary?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, they're WINGED! I know they're Phoenix, and I should hate them in that regard, but Herb says they're friends. It's confusing, I tell you!"
The chatter continued just out of earshot of Lime and Mint, who were leaning against the wall outside of the room where Koruma and Masara were being kept.
"Well," Mint said, sighing. "This isn't quite what I'd expected."
"What's that?" Lime asked.
"The breasts. They're all covered up!"
Lime nodded. "I noticed. Maybe girls in real life aren't like the girls that are in those magazines of yours."
Mint looked at Lime in confusion. "How can that be?"
Lime just pointed to the mark on his face that had been made about an hour earlier. "I asked."
"So, how long do you think it'll be before these two wake up? It's uncomfortable enough in here as it is."
"I know. I want to get back with Herb so I can find out what's happening."
"You'll find out soon enough about your destiny, boys," a third voice interrupted.
Lime and Mint nearly jumped as Kala appeared before them, her robe swaying in the wind.
"I've redirected some of the ki from the barrier towards healing your friends. They're badly burned, but at the rate they are healing now, they should be conscious within the hour, and able to travel as early as tomorrow morning."
Mint blinked as he let the words register. "Actually," he began. "They're not our friends. Herb just told us to--"
"They will be, Mint," Kala said with a smile. "Destiny requires it."
Lime scowled. "Herb may say they're our allies, but that doesn't make them our friends."
"No, I suppose it doesn't. But then, neither were you two at first, were you?"
Lime would have said something if the shock hadn't beaten him to it. The words rang true. He and Mint were the worst of Rivals while they were being trained as royal bodyguards.
There were times when either one would like nothing better than to kill the other. Several times were one or the other would have succeeded, if not for intervention.
But soon, they started to work together. Soon later, they became friends.
"How did..." Mint began.
"It's some kind of fortune telling, right? ESP or something like that?" Lime said.
Kala simply smiled and shook her head. "Not really. The reason I knew that is because Herb told me."
If Lime or Mint had felt any more stupid, they would have hit the floor.
The blasted training.
Why his grandfather had insisted on it, he'd never know. He was strong enough in his cursed form, so he didn't need to train in human form. What was the point?
Pantyhose sighed as he went through his fairly basic kata. It was true he could never beat his grandfather. Even in his cursed form.
But then, his grandfather was the best martial artist he'd ever known. The mere chance that ANYONE could get as good as him was astronomical.
Even Ranma, that gender-bending bonehead couldn't hold a candle to him.
"Keep going, boy," his grandfather said as he noticed a lull in Tarou's kata. "At this rate, you'll never get a suitable name."
Tarou let his shoulders drop for a moment. "Gramps, why bother? I could kick that old freaks ass in a second in cursed form!"
"That doesn't mean he'll respect you. To win a battle using an advantage the opponent cannot defend against is dishonorable. With dishonor comes disrespect. To win against the opponent with the same frailties and disadvantages is to win with honor. You will gain respect. Perhaps then he will be persuaded to change your name."
Tarou just shook his head. "It's still easier to just beat him, and then do it. I mean, it worked last time! He changed my name, and I still woulda HAD a suitable name if I didn't hafta keep my promise to Saotome."
The old man merely shook his head. "Boy, come here."
Pantyhose dropped his kata and walked over to his grandfather.
"Do you ever think ahead, son?"
Pantyhose narrowed his eyes. "How do you mean?"
"Think ahead. Past the name ordeal. Say the old man dies before he can--"
"Don't even SAY that! There's no way I can accept that."
The old man smiled. "Is it the tradition of our tribe to accept what we're called, son. None of the men here disrespect you simply because of your name. They find it humorous, but no more than that."
Tarou sneered. "It's not the men I'm worried about."
"Ahhhh," the old man said, smiling. "The females. The soft tenderness of their breasts, their thighs and stomachs. The smell of their hair, the sound of their voice as it whispers your name..."
"Not all of them went running, if I recall your stories correctly."
Tarou narrowed his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"There are the ones where you ran away. Understandable, even if it is cowardice," he said as his grandson winced. "But the one you met near Shanghai. The cursed girl, did she run at the mention of your name?"
Pantyhose was speechless. "ROUGE?! Are you joking? She wanted to KILL me!"
"Ahh yes, but did she dislike you because of your name, or because of your demeanor?"
"She DISLIKED me because she's a maniac! If she weren't so hot-headed, she--"
"The point is, son," he said. "Is that even though she hated you, she did not taunt you because of your name. She wanted to kill you, yet she refused to hit your weak point."
"I--" Pantyhose thought for a moment. His words did ring true.
"You see, boy. There are some people who could care less of your name, but only of the way you act. From what I hear, she does not harbour ill will towards you anymore, correct?"
Pantyhose sighed. "No, I guess not. But she's still a maniac."
The old man smiled. "Let me tell you a story of my youth, boy."
Great. Another one of the old mans stories of his youth. Nothing was more boring.
"I once had a chance. Long, long ago to make a difference. I feared many things at that time, but most of all, I fear destruction.
"There was a woman. Her beauty had captivated me from the beginning. I soon found myself becoming drawn to her, until I found out who she stood with."
Pantyhose narrowed his eyes. "Who did she stand with?"
"An enemy of my line. An enemy who, if given the chance, would destroy me and my family in a heartbeat."
Pantyhose shook his head. "He'd have to be damn good if he even hoped to kill you."
"That wasn't it, though. The enemy had promised not to harm me in exchange for my help. I was so blinded by her beauty that I accepted.
"And the man kept his promise. We openly displayed our hatred for each other, but it was kept under control."
"So, this woman... she was his daughter or something?"
The old man shook his head. "No. She simply stood with him against an enemy all of us feared. After some time I... I found myself deeply in love with her, and I treasured the time we spent with each other. However... although she would not speak it, her heart belonged to another."
Pantyhose sighed. Of course, he'd heard the story a hundred times before, but only in movies. Then again, all of his grandfathers stories had bits of movies plugged in somewhere. It just went with the territory.
"I loved her dearly, son. I truly did. So, in loving her, I left her to the one she loved. I moved aside and allowed her feelings to run her."
The old man sighed. "And in leaving, I may have cost her her own life."
"What do you mean?"
"She, her lover, and many others died the next day while I sat under a tree, sulking. When I had found out that they had died, I nearly killed myself then and there. It was a mistake that I'm still paying for."
"But then you met Grandma, right?"
The old man smiled. "Your Grandmother came later. Much, much later."
"Hey, as long as it led up to my birth, I don't care, Gramps."
The old man nearly smiled. "No, I suppose not. Still," he continued. "You should heed the words of your old Grandpa Pari, son."
The twitch bothered him.
Ever since that morning, it had bothered him.
It was subtle at first. He shrugged it off as simple morning twitches.
But then they kept going. A finger there, an eye here. When the muscles in his thighs started to twitch, he just grabbed on to it and shut his eyes.
But now, they were REALLY bothering him.
Not only that, they were getting stronger.
"Hey, Gos." A voice taunted.
Hikaru swore to himself. Kuno and Saotome had helped him out earlier, but now there was no way they could help. He looked in fear as the four boys walked closer to him.
The leader smirked. The black eye he had received earlier was now quite prominent on his face. "Well, Gos. It seems your buddies ain't around to protect you."
Gosunkugi narrowed his eyes. Don't show fear. Maybe if... Maybe he could scare them again, just like he did the morning earlier. The black ki.
Yeah. That would do it.
Now if only he could summon it.
"Leave me alone," Hikaru said. "I'm warning you!"
The leader walked right up to Hikaru and lashed his arm out, planting it right above his shoulder, and backing him up to a tree.
"You're warning us, Gosling?" he laughed. "You ain't fit to warn a duck."
"I'm serious," he said, trying to summon up the best of his courage. "I'll do--"
"You'll do what? Hurt us?" the leader laughed. "I'd like to see that. Tell ya what. I'll give you one shot. No blocking, no strings attached. Let's see if you can hurt me."
Hikaru's heart was pounding hard. His legs and arms were shaking uncontrollably, but he tried his best to stop it.
It was harder than it looked.
The leader backed off and spread his arms.
"One shot. If you can hurt me, we'll leave you alone," he said, smirking.
Hikaru weighed his options. The chances of being able to bring up the black ki were too high. He wouldn't be able to do it.
However, if he put all of his strength into one punch, they might let him go.
He balled his hand into a tight fist and concentrated. He heard the snickers and tried to ignore it. Of course they would think this was funny. Hikaru was weak. Someone to prey upon.
Someone to torture for their own amusement. Someone to kill for fun, if it were a different time or place.
But they couldn't do that. Hikaru couldn't let them. He'd had enough humiliation. Enough torment.
He brought his fist back, and planned his shot.
Right in the jaw. That would be the best place to hit.
He let fly, and closed his eyes.
He opened them after it connected, and then winced in pain.
The leader of the gang had not let the fist hit him. Instead, he grabbed Hikaru's fist in mid-air.
"You'll have to do better than that, Gosling," he sneered as he twisted Hikaru's arm, then pushed him into the tree.
Hikaru fell to the ground amidst the laughter of the others. He was in trouble now. Humiliation, abuse. He had to prepare for it.
He placed his arms over his head protectively as the laughter grew. It began to consume him. He was going to get hurt. Badly.
His heart pounded as he felt the first blow. Not terribly hard, but enough to hurt. A kick to his side, then more laughter. He could scarcely make out the jokes and insults that were being directed at him from the others.
Red slowly began to fill Hikaru's vision.
Something was happening. The blows upon him continued, each one sending him crying in pain, but something else was happening. Something that had his full attention.
"You're gonna get it now, freak!"
Hikaru stood up and caught the next blow with his hand. The surprised look on the gang leader's face made him smile.
But he laughed after he twisted the leaders arm to the point of breakage, and it warmed his heart to hear him scream in pain.
Hikaru kicked him to the ground and stomped on the back of his head, shoving his face into the dirt.
And he had done all of it in a matter of seconds.
In fact, it was only after this had been done that the others had took notice.
First it was shock, but as they ran up to assist their leader, it was rage. Pure and simple.
The first was flung to one side like a cat batting a mouse with its paw. He was easily taken care of, sent head- first into a stone wall.
The second was taken care of more efficiently. He was hit in the face with a punch so hard it could break concrete. Consciousness was lost immediately.
The third, however was lifted into the air by the throat with one hand.
Hikaru's smile grew as the dark ki crackled all over his body.
How easy it would be the snap his neck. Just a pinch, and it would be all over. They'd never bother him again.
Hikaru did it. He snapped his neck. It was only after the boys death had come along that Hikaru's senses returned to him.
"Oh my God," he said, dropping the body to the ground. He looked around.
He had killed one. Perhaps more, they were all lying unconscious.
But the fact remained... They were dead.
"Rather unimaginative, if you ask me," a voice called from atop a nearby wall.
Hikaru looked over.
Oh God, someone had SEEN him do it.
He vaguely recognized the girl. It was one of Saotome's suitors. Tatewaki Kuno's sister. Kodachi.
She had seen him do it.
"Couldn't you have at least livened it up a bit?" Kodachi asked.
Hikaru narrowed his eyes. "What?"
"Oh, never mind. I wouldn't expect one such as you to understand anyway. Why he was reborn into one so lowly as you I'll never understand."
Hikaru swallowed. What was she saying?
"Anyhow, now that this is dispensed with, you've got business with our master."
Hikaru narrowed his eyes. "Master?"
Kodachi sneered. "Why yes. Our master, Rogi."
"Do you want us all to wait out here?" Ranma asked, leaning against a wall.
Ukyou nodded. "I think that would be best. If he wants to come out, I'll take him. But I don't think he wants strangers around him right now."
Akane nodded. "That would be best."
"Miss Ukyou?" Konatsu spoke up.
"I guess this means shopping will have a rain check, right?"
Ukyou just nodded halfheartedly, and walked inside of the restaurant.
A moment later, Feng Bo gasped.
"What's wrong?" Shinnosuke asked.
"I... felt it. He has his second servant now."
Feng Bo nodded. "Yes."
"What will happen now, then?"
Feng Bo sighed. "They will travel to the sacred valley, only to stop to replenish their army."
"Replenish their army? How?"
"Even then, there were men who would follow Rogi's way, only to gain fame and fortune. There still exist those who would serve Rogi for that purpose."
"What do you mean?"
"Outside of Xining, there exists a monastery. Although the priests of this monastery are not Buddhist. They are warriors of the highest caliber. For hundreds of generations, they have trained for the return of Rogi, knowing only that he would return, but not when."
"Are you serious?" Akane asked, listening in.
Feng Bo merely nodded. "The Brotherhood of the Darkness have been there for five thousand years, and Rogi knows this. They will be his first destination."
"So, you're saying we've got to go there?" Shinnosuke asked.
A nod was Feng Bo's reply. "We have no choice."
Akari was the first to speak. "Hold on a second. It's all fine and dandy you hotshot martial artists can go, but what am I doing here? How do you expect me to fight?"
Mousse narrowed his eyes. "You're Maya in the dreams, right?"
Mousse pulled something out of his robes and handed it to Akari. Her eyes went wide as she saw it.
A katana. A simple blade, with a sheath.
"You carry that thing around with you?" Ryouga asked.
Mousse smirked. "You seem surprised."
"What... am I supposed to do with this?"
Mousse simply shrugged. "Just try to get used to it."
Ryouga shook his head. "Hold on, Akari can't come with us! She can't fight!"
Feng Bo sighed. "If it is her wish, she may stay. I will force nobody to go, but I only plead that you all come. Every extra hand is useful."
Ranma sighed. "I don't like this. This is all coming down too fast."
"Ranma..." Akane said, reaching out for him.
"No, I'm serious. This thing with Ukyou, the whole dream thing. We're supposed to be reborn warriors from five thousand years ago? I don't get it. Then now Ukyou's friend is dead. It's coming down too damn fast. Too many changed too quickly!"
Feng Bo sighed. "And I apologize for that, but it must be done."
Ranma just shook his head. "Figures."
"Soon, we should depart for China. Everyone must decide who will come and who will stay."
"How soon is soon?" Shinnosuke asked.
Ranma nearly blew up. "What the HELL do you mean? Are you actually considering this?"
Shinnosuke just ignored Ranma. "I will come. How soon will we leave?"
"Tomorrow," Feng Bo said. "Perhaps the next day. It depends how long our preparations take. And who survives the first meeting."
Ranma paused. "What do you mean?"
Feng Bo sighed yet again. "The book of five Millennia states that before this day is out, there shall be a confrontation between rivals. One of which serves under Rogi, and the other is one of us."
"The Book of Five Millennia?" Kuno asked, eyes wide open.
Feng Bo nodded. "It has been a long time since I laid eyes on it, but I remember the words as though they were my own."
Tatewaki wore a stern look. "Before the end of the first day, rivals shall meet, it is up to fate who alone wins, and who is met with defeat. The servant of the dark will be quick as a fox, while the warrior of light will fight for emotion. Both are equally matched, but neither is immortal."
Feng Bo's eyes widened. "Those words... The Book of Five Millennia!"
"It bears no title, but those are the words they speak."
"Had I known the book could have fallen into your hands! I must see it!"
Tatewaki nodded. "I can... retrieve it. However, there are things that worry me about doing so."
Ranma just shook his head. "You guys are talking nonsense, but if it'll get me away from here, I'll go with you."
Tatewaki narrowed his eyes. "Saotome, your vile self does not have need to--"
"Jeez, does EVERYTHING I do have to be construed as being a vile sorcerer?"
Kuno paused for a moment. "You are correct, Saotome. I apologize for jumping to conclusions."
If anybody could be more shocked than Ranma was at that time, they would be beyond human. However, Ranma quickly collected himself and started to walk away with Kuno, in the direction of his estate.
Feng Bo blinked. "Why is everyone so speechless?"
"Occhan?" Ukyou called gently, walking into the restaurant. The grill was still on, and it was heating up the place quite well. Still, it was much too hot. She climbed over the counter and turned it off.
"Occhan?" she called again. "Are you here?"
After the sound of the grill went down, she could hear the soft whimper of her friend coming from a far corner of the restaurant. She went to investigate and found Occhan sitting on the floor by the phone, sobbing.
He didn't look up.
"I keep expecting her to walk in, Ukyou. I keep expecting her to walk in, sit herself at the grill, and order the special."
Ukyou remained silent.
"But that won't happen. It can't, because she's dead. The only person besides you that treated me like an actual person, and she's dead."
"So what do I do? What? Do I go on with life like it never happened? Will I be talking and laughing with customers as early as next week?" He began to shake. "I can't believe I'm so insensitive. My only sister is DEAD and all I can think about is myself. I don't deserve to live!"
"Occhan! Don't say that! Do you know what Sasumi would say if she heard you say--"
"Sasumi is DEAD, Ukyou! She can't do ANYTHING now! Hell, we can't even identify the goddamned BODY! Don't you talk to me about what Sasumi would say, Ukyou! Don't you even bring her UP!"
Ukyou paused in shock. She had never heard her friend explode like that before. Never.
"Occhan, I..." she paused. "I don't know what to say. Only that you shouldn't torture yourself over something that wasn't your fault. Listen, Occhan, I--"
"Do you know what she said last night?"
Ukyou blinked. "What?"
"She said 'I love you, brother.'
"She said, 'Thank you for getting me into St. Hebereke.'
"Ukyou, I'm the one who worked so hard to get her into that school. The school she died at. The school that--"
"Occhan, please stop. There was no way you could have known that. No way. I understand your grief, Sasumi was my friend, and I feel the loss. But you can't torture yourself. You can't do this to yourself."
Occhan just sighed.
"Occhan, maybe you should head back to Kansai for a little while. If you'd like, I could run the restaurant for you."
Ukyou put her arms around her friend. "I'm here for you."
"Ukyou, I'll... I'll go back to Kansai. I'll leave on tonights train, but I want you to promise me something."
Ukyou smiled. "Anything."
"Ukyou, I want you to kill the person who did this to Sasumi. I want you to track him down and show him the same respect he showed my sister."
Ukyou paused. He was asking her to...
But she could. She could do the deed if the murderer was ever found. She could kill him, and would enjoy it.
And it scared her to death.
"I promise," she said.