Chapter Four: Playing the PiecesEdit
"As the ball rolls, fate will intervene, and bring
the warriors of old to a single convergence. As the
unholy one continues his journey, he will feast upon
the warrior's livelihood. The ball continues to roll
downhill." ~ Unknown
Cologne watched with mild curiosity as Shampoo locked the doors and windows of the restaurant. She knew there was disappointment in her eyes, but given the circumstances, there wasn't much she could do.
From behind her, she could hear the clatter of dishes as Mousse cleaned them at a record speed, and stacked them. A sigh escaped her lips as she realized what had to be done.
"Children," she said out loud, almost the first thing she'd said all day since using the Kai Kuo Yan Jie De Meng Huan Zhe method. "I must speak with you."
Shampoo was the first to look up. "What matter, Great- Grandmother?"
"Come," she beckoned, "sit. You too, Mousse."
Mousse could only blink. He was almost never invited to the small talks that Shampoo and Cologne often had. Something serious was happening.
"What's wrong?" he asked, flipping a dish into the cupboard.
As the two teens sat at the table Cologne had perched herself on, she sighed.
And then she began.
"I... had an experience this afternoon," she began. "An experience which has left me rather disturbed."
Mousse nodded. "I thought that was the Kai Kuo Yan Jie De Meng Huan Zhe method, but I wasn't sure."
Cologne nodded. "Indeed it was, boy. Last night I was bothered by a dream."
"What was it, Great-Grandmother?"
She shook her head. "The dream itself does not matter. During my use of the Kai Kuo Yan Jie De Meng Huan Zhe method, I had a visitor."
Shampoo blinked. "A visitor?"
Cologne nodded. "Indeed. I still know not who he, or it, was."
Mousse narrowed his eyes. "No man can visit someone through dreams."
Cologne shook her head. "With enough power, a man can experience dreams dreamt by others, even total strangers. He may even interact, but what I spoke to in the dream was no mere man."
Cologne nodded. "Possibly. A demon or ghost, or some other apparition." She looked up. "I did not see his true form, so it is hard to say."
"How are you sure it was someone invading the dream? How are you sure it wasn't just a part of the dream?" Mousse asked.
Cologne shook her head. "Dreams under the Kai Kuo Yan Jie De Meng Huan Zhe method do not change that quickly."
"He say name?"
Cologne narrowed her eyes. "He did not, but he spoke of another."
Mousse blinked. "Another?"
She nodded. "Yes. He invaded the dream of another and caused her great pain. He also says I have indeed crossed her path before."
"Could be anyone, then," Mousse muttered.
"I don't think so. I believe it is someone close to here. In Nerima."
"So... then you want us to find her?"
Cologne sighed. "I believe it to be someone who we know. Any one of the Tendo girls, perhaps the Kuonji girl, or the Kuno girl."
Shampoo narrowed her eyes. "Why I want to talk to them?"
Cologne laughed. "Indeed. Mousse, you should speak with them."
Mousse blinked. "Me?"
Cologne nodded. "Yes. Shampoo will help me with the restaurant tomorrow, while you search them out."
Mousse thought about it for a moment. It did mean the day off....
He nodded in agreement. "All right."
The Kuno library was filled with thousands of books, both fictional and non-fictional. History, martial arts volumes, dictionaries from several languages, and romance novels for Kodachi.
Tatewaki wasn't interested in any of those. He instead chose the section of his library rarely visited.
And the book he had chosen had been opened but once by him, and not even read through.
He had hoped it would contain answers. Answers to why he had been so disturbed by his dream the previous night. Answers to whether or not the winged ones existed.
The book he read had no title. It was an ancient text, brought over from China in a recent archeological dig. The text was said to have come from the days of Confucius.
Tatewaki himself could read very little Chinese, which had brought him to do on-the-spot translations with a dictionary.
After several minutes of trying to piece together word after word, he finally came up with something. It was a book of prophecies. Something he rarely bothered with.
He sighed. If the Gods had intended him to know the future, they would have given him to gift directly, but nonetheless, the book he was studying had caught his curiosity.
He flipped through the pages, taking in all the information he could. It wasn't long before he paused to take in one of the several illustrations.
"Something troubling you, brother dear?"
Tatewaki slammed the book shut. He turned to the intruder, regarding her with mild interest.
"I study, sister. Nothing more."
Kodachi laughed. "What is it this time, brother? Ancient swordplay techniques? Reading through tales of Musashi again?" She smirked, "Perhaps an ill-gotten diary of Akane Tendo, or the Pig-tailed one?"
Tatewaki stood up. "Sister, do not speak to me in such a tone, I will not have it."
Kodachi laughed. "As if you could stop me, brother."
Tatewaki turned to her and narrowed his eyes. "Do you not have a gymnastics competition, or some other plebeian gathering to attend to?"
She placed her hand against her chest, aghast. "Do you mock me, brother?"
Tatewaki shook his head. "Nay sister. I... I just have not the time to deal with you."
She stepped towards him. "If that is meant to damage my mood, it has failed."
Tatewaki narrowed his eyes again. "Leave me, sister."
Kodachi placed her hand upon his shoulder. Tatewaki stood motionless.
"Come now brother, tell me what troubles you."
Tatewaki sighed. "I will not. It does not concern you."
She scoffed under her breath. "Since the return of... him... you have been rather distant from me, brother. I wish to remedy that."
He shrugged her hand off of his shoulder. "I wish it to remain that way."
Kodachi narrowed her eyes. "You think you can do well without me, brother?" She laughed. "Akane Tendo and the Pig-Tailed girl do not even regard you with the respect you think you deserve."
"Leave them out of it. They are merely innocent souls."
"I will not, brother. They have poisoned your mind." She took his hand. "They have made you unaware of where you truly belong." She pushed it against her breast.
Tatewaki pulled it away. "Leave me! Leave them out of it!" He backed away from her, "What about Saotome? Do you not harbour feelings for him?"
Kodachi laughed. "Seriously, brother? You think I'd go to his level?"
Tatewaki narrowed his eyes.
"I merely wish to have my way with him. Just one more man to add to my list of conquests. I will treat him as I have treated the others, and toss him away just as I have for everyone else." She smirked. "Except you, brother. You and I truly share souls."
Tatewaki shuddered. "I will not have it any more sister. What happened between us... it's an abomination! 'Tis unnatural!"
Kodachi smiled. "Unnatural as it may be, you were just as willing as I."
Tatewaki shuddered again. "I am no longer willing. Leave me now," he looked up into her eyes, "Sister."
Kodachi tightened her gaze. "Very well," she turned to leave the room. "I shall see you in the morning, brother."
And then she left.
Tatewaki dared not move for several moments, in fear that she might return. After he realized she wouldn't be, he moved again to the desk where he had the book.
He sat in silence. He did not open the book to continue his studying, but instead merely thought.
A moment later, he got up and left the room, leaving a small pool of tears on the surface of the wooden desk.
Ranma pushed his way past the front gates of the Tendo grounds, with Ryouga and Shinnosuke in tow.
"This is the Tendo Dojo?" Shinnosuke asked.
Ryouga nodded. "Yeah, this is the place."
"So, this is where Ranma and Akane live, then?"
"Among other people," Ranma muttered from ahead.
Shinnosuke paused. "Others live here?"
He was answered almost immediately. "Welcome home, Ranma. Hello, Ryouga," a tall, brown haired girl called once Ranma had opened the door. She looked at Shinnosuke. "Hello."
Shinnosuke bowed. "Hello."
"Kasumi," Ranma began, "this is Shinnosuke."
She blinked for a moment. "The boy from Ryugenzawa?"
Ranma nodded. "Mind if I get some hot water now?"
Kasumi nodded. "Go right ahead, the kettle is all ready."
Shinnosuke looked around the room with moderate interest. "This is your home?"
Kasumi nodded. "Yes."
"It's... big," was all he could say.
Kasumi blinked. It wasn't that big, really. Only large enough for a family of four or five, and two guests...
She quickly put her hand to her mouth. "Oh my, Ryouga. You'd better call Akari before she gets worried sick!"
Ryouga nodded. "Thanks, Kasumi!" He quickly ran up the stairs.
"Ryouga?" Kasumi asked.
"Yes?" He turned around.
"The phone is down here, at the end of the hallway."
Akari had been jumpy the whole day, ever since the call. Whenever someone would come to the door, she'd jump to see who it was. Even when the phone would ring, she'd jump to see who it was.
As it was, a telemarketer and a door-to-door salesman were on the receiving end of a very nasty Akari. The telemarketer was fortunate enough not to have to meet Katsunishiki.
But now, Akari was beginning to calm down. She almost laughed to herself. There was almost no chance of her talking to Ryouga before the day was over.
It was getting late, and she was ready to head to bed.
And then the phone rang. Akari ran to it and answered quickly.
"Hello?" She asked, frantically.
She felt her heart melt inside of her chest. "Ryouga? Where are you?"
"I'm at the Tendo's."
"Thank God you're all right," she sighed. "Stay right there."
"Stay put. I'll catch the late train out and be there as soon as I can!"
Ryouga was silent for a moment. "Akari, are you serious? Do you know how late it is?"
Akari narrowed her eyes. Although Ryouga couldn't see it, he could sense her demeanour over the phone.
"Ryouga..." She began, "...I've been waiting for over a month. I've been worried sick about where you were, what you were doing. I thought you had forgotten about me, or maybe you just didn't care."
"Of course I do, but--"
"No buts, Ryouga. I'm coming over, and that it that," she said, hanging up the phone.
She knew it wasn't the best way to treat him, but she was too anxious to wait. She hurried over to the wall and grabbed her jacket. She looked down at Katsunishiki.
"Don't worry, boy," she patted his head. "I won't be long. Take care of the pigs, I'll be back in the morning."
Katsunishiki nodded briefly. He understood.
And then Akari was out the door.
"What'd she say?" Ranma asked.
"She told me to stay put," he laughed.
Ranma shook his head. "Forceful, isn't she?"
Ryouga laughed. "You haven't seen her in a bad mood yet."
Ranma shook his head. "Worse than Akane?"
Ryouga smirked. "Remember that time I went for a walk with her at the plateau?"
Ranma rolled his eyes back in thought. "Vaguely."
"Well, a couple guys tried to mug us."
"You put 'em out of commission?"
He shook his head. "I didn't. That's just the thing. She never laid a hand on them either, she told them, in no uncertain terms, to bugger off."
"And they did?"
"I still think it woulda been better you putting them out of commission."
"I thought so too."
As the two walked back into the main room together, they briefly noted Shinnosuke looking rather nervous at the front door. He looked at them in confusion for a moment.
"You're male," he said.
Ranma smirked. "Isn't that what I said before? Anyway, where did Kasumi go?"
Shinnosuke shrugged. "She went into that room over there."
"Didn't she invite you in to sit or anything?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"So, why are you still here?"
"I told her I was okay here."
Ranma laughed. "It may help to go into that room over there, where everyone else is."
Shinnosuke looked in the directions Ranma was pointing. "Over there?"
Shinnosuke got up. "Who's in there?"
"Nabiki, my mom and pop, and Mr. Tendo."
Shinnosuke blinked. "Who is Nabiki?"
"Akane's other sister."
"She has two sisters?"
"Where is Akane?"
"Probably upstairs in her room, packing."
"Packing?" Ryouga and Shinnosuke asked simultaneously.
Akane looked at her room. It was nearly bare, save for her school uniform, her bed, her desk, and several cases and boxes which would have to be transported the next day. She leaned back on her bed and sighed.
It was a strange feeling, being in her room when it was as bare as it was. She had lived there her whole life, and had never once expected it to look like it did.
She thought about it again. The next day, she would move from her home. The only home she'd ever known in her seventeen years of life.
And then she would move in with Ranma. Not directly, of course. She wouldn't be sleeping in the same room.
That thought caused a shiver to run down her body. It wasn't that the thought was totally unpleasant, but she had never even thought of such a thing before... before Jusendo.
She got up and stared again at her bare wall. It felt alien. As if the room was no longer hers.
Soon after, a knock came to the door.
"Akane?" the voice called.
Akane sighed. "Yes?"
"Uhh," Ranma stammered. "D... do you wanna come out and say hi to Ryouga... and..."
"Yeah, I just got back from getting him and--"
"Hold on, I'll be right out."
"Akane, there's someone else, too."
"No, but she is on her way."
Akane blinked. "What?"
"It's someone we met not too long ago," he paused, "I guess you met him a lot sooner that I did."
Akane narrowed her eyes and opened her bedroom door. Her jaw dropped immediately.
"Shinnosuke?" she asked.
"Yeah, dad?" he called from his desk.
"It's... getting late, son. Don't you have school tomorrow?"
He nodded. "Yeah, I'm just doing some studying."
His father cracked the door open a bit wider. "What are you studying? English? Math? Literature?"
"No, dad. Just some personal research."
His father narrowed his eyes. "It isn't that magic crap your uncle got you into, is it?"
Gosunkugi sighed. "No, more like... martial arts."
His father scoffed. "You've got enough martial artists at school."
"What's the matter, son?"
Hikaru looked up to his father. "What do you mean?"
His father shrugged. "You... you just seem more distant. Ever since you went to that wedding yesterday."
"Failed wedding," Hikaru corrected.
He shrugged again. "Whatever... it's just that," he sighed. "Nothing. Good night, son."
Hikaru smiled. "Night, dad."
As his father left the room, Hikaru closed the book he was reading and rubbed his eyes. He wasn't lying. The book he was reading at that time were based around martial arts. Battle auras to be exact.
But, for all he had read, he couldn't figure out what could cause a brown battle aura.
"A bride?" Akane asked, sitting down in the tea room.
Shinnosuke nodded. "Yes, I can't return without one."
"I... uhh," she stammered.
Shinnosuke could only laugh. "Don't worry, Akane. I have no plans to make you my bride. It is obvious how you feel about Ranma."
If Ranma was within earshot, he would have jumped at that remark. Fortunately, he wasn't. He was off in a corner, talking to Ryouga about something.
"Do... do you think so?" She asked meekly, trying unsuccessfully to hide a blush.
Shinnosuke smiled. "Indeed. I've spent many nights thinking about it. But I always come to the same conclusion..."
"But, if you can't return without a bride, then how are you going to find one? It's not like one will jump out at you."
Shinnosuke laughed. "I know that, and I plan to find a bride," he exhaled. "Where is the best place to look?"
Akane tried to stifle a laugh. "There aren't really any places to look, you just go out and find someone."
Shinnosuke smiled. "I apologize... It... it is merely that I'm unaccustomed to life outside of the forest."
Akane smiled. "That's all right," she looked off toward Ranma.
"Very obvious," he chuckled.
"So Akari is supposed to come here. You guys going to spend the night, or leave right away?"
Ryouga shrugged. "Hard to say. Up to her, I guess. Would it be all right to spend the night?"
Ranma shrugged. "I guess. The old freak hasn't been back in a few days. I guess you could sleep in there, or if not, we could always set up some bedrolls in the Dojo."
"What about Shinnosuke?"
"Him too. I don't think Mr. Tendo will have much to say about it."
"Well, I don't like to become too much of a bother to them."
Ranma shook his head. "I really don't think they mind."
"I guess not."
"Just a question... Why aren't you trying to kill me anymore?"
Ryouga stared at him, dumbfounded. "What?"
"Why aren't you trying to kill me?"
Ryouga blinked in confusion. "I... I was trying to kill you, wasn't I?"
Ranma leaned towards him. "I think 'Ranma Saotome, prepare to die' kinda gave it away."
Ryouga laughed. "I guess I just don't have it anymore."
"The will. Before it was because I lo..." he paused. "Because I thought I loved Akane. Now that I know I'm only P-Chan to her, I found Akari."
Ranma smirked. "You love her, don't you?"
Ryouga thought about it for a moment. "Yes. Yes, I do."
"Anyway, what's this I hear about you and Akane moving somewhere?"
Ranma laughed. "Yeah, uhh. I guess my mom kinda set that one up."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I got back from school today, and next thing I knew, my mom had talked Akane into moving in with us."
"And she accepted?"
"Yeah. I thought that was kinda weird myself," he smiled. "You know what, Ryouga?"
"I love her."
Ryouga laughed. "You know, if you had told me that a month ago, I wouldn't have believed you."
"After the Orochi and Saffron, it was pretty clear."
"What do you mean?"
He laughed. "Ranma, you beat a dragon for her. A DRAGON. I didn't even think they existed before then."
"And if anyone is more deserving of her than you are, then I'll eat my bandanna."
Ranma smirked. "I may hold you to that, you know."
Ryouga smiled. "I hope you do."
As the hours passed, more people disappeared to their respective bedrooms. Since his mother had moved into the Tendo home weeks earlier, she had assumed his room, which left Ranma to sleep elsewhere.
Elsewhere usually meant the dojo, or even the tea room. That night, it meant neither. He was sitting up, wide awake with Akane, Ryouga, and Shinnosuke.
Shinnosuke nodded. "Yes, a squirrel. I repaired the beam as much as I could before I left, but I'm still kind of concerned about it."
Ranma shook his head. "Your Grandfather seems like a tough enough old man. Especially after fighting the Orochi."
"He is indeed strong, even if a little emotional."
Akane scoffed. "You got that right."
"Akari should be here soon," Ryouga mentioned.
"How long does it usually take?"
"Not too long. Even the late train is pretty quick," he looked out the window. "I hope she's all right."
Ranma smiled. "Don't worry about Akari, She'll be fine. You said yourself she's a tough one!"
As if on cue, a light rapping came to the front door. Ryouga was the first to bound up and run to it.
Upon opening, he smiled. The form beyond the door threw itself on him.
"RYOUGA!" Akari cried.
Ryouga smiled in return. "Akari, you should be more quiet. Everyone is asleep!"
Akari loosened her grip on him. "Do you know how long I've waited to do that?"
Ryouga shook his head. "I've missed you too, Akari."
Akane and Ranma smiled from the entrance to the tea room. Shinnosuke stood behind them, watching with mild interest.
"I suppose she is his girlfriend?" He asked.
Ranma nodded. "Yeah. They make a cute couple."
Akane nodded in agreement. "It's so good that Ryouga's finally found someone."
"How did they meet?"
Ranma laughed. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." He looked towards the hugging couple. "Are you two gonna do that all night, or do you want someplace to sleep?"
Akari looked at Ranma for a moment. "Hi, Ranma, Akane." She looked at Shinnosuke. "Hi there... uhhh..."
Shinnosuke smiled. "My name is Shinnosuke."
"Nice to meet you. I'm Akari."
Shinnosuke bowed. "Pleased to meet you, Akari."
"So anyways, you want us to set up some bedrolls in the dojo?" Ranma interrupted.
Akari glanced at her watch for a moment. "It is late. I had hoped to get back to the farm before morning."
Ranma shook his head. "Not much chance of that. Besides, you'll need your sleep."
Akari sighed. "I... I suppose Katsunishiki could handle the other pigs by himself if need be."
Ranma nodded. "I wouldn't be surprised. There's not much else that pig can't do."
Shinnosuke blinked. "Pig?"
Everyone in the room laughed. Except for Shinnosuke, who was busily trying to ask what was so funny.
"What will we do?" the figure to her right asked.
"The only thing we can do," she replied.
"Go forth upon the attack on the valley?" the figure in front of her continued.
"Yes. We have no choice. Rogi has forced this upon us," she answered again.
"Lady Amaterasu," the figure to her left began, "you know that we trust your judgment above all else, but to attack straight out..."
"Kedakai, for once I can give you no assurance of the outcome of this battle, but Senkyo believes it may be the most effective form of attack. They will be expecting something sneaky."
The figure lowered to the ground in front of her. "Very well, Lady Amaterasu. We will do as you wish."
"Kedakai, rise," she ordered. "As we fight upon foreign soil, and we are in this cause for the same reasons, you are my equal."
The figure of Kedakai rose once more. "As you wish, Lady Amaterasu."
She turned to face the figure to her left. "Jiao, gather them."
"Yes, Lady Amaterasu," he said as he pulled away from her vision.
"Heisei, I can trust you with tending to Taka, can I not?"
"Indeed, Lady Amaterasu," the figure from the middle answered.
"Then please, attend to his wounds. Allow them to heal for the battle tomorrow."
"And of his sisters?"
"Maya and Torako should fight as well. Any who can must fight tomorrow."
The figure continued. "The wise ones?"
"Leave them. They should choose whether they fight or not. They may be able to battle easily against the hordes of Nekkyo's army, perhaps even Maigo and Saiko themselves, but they stand no chance against one such as Rogi."
"And what shall we do once we reach him?"
"Do not attempt to kill him. I will do so."
The figure paused. "Lady Amaterasu, we cannot--"
"We are equals in this fight, Heisei. I will fight alongside of you, as is my choice."
The figure paused again. "Very well, Lady Amaterasu."
"Thank you," she replied.
"How fares your wound, Taka?" the figure approaching him asked.
"It doesn't pain me as much as it used to," he replied.
"I should work on healing it quickly," the figure continued, "Lady Amaterasu says we attack tomorrow, and we will need you in good health."
He felt a smile grow on his face. "It's about time we show that abomination what's what."
"I see no need for overconfidence, Taka," the figure replied. "Lady Amaterasu herself is unsure of our victory."
He shook his head. "Heisei, Amaterasu is your Goddess. From your land, not mine. Nor is she to be worshipped by Maya or Torako."
"I understand, Taka, however Amaterasu is all we have right now. The Gods of your land do not seem to care."
He sighed. "I understand, Heisei. She is all we have."
"Come," the figure sat down next to him, "we should work on healing that wound."
He watched as the black figure placed its hand upon him. He felt a quick moment of pain, and then pleasure as the wound began to close.
"You won't be worn out for tomorrow, will you?"
The figure shook its head. "No, if need be, I can fight alongside you. My talents as a healer will not go to waste."
He laughed. "Heisei, I've never once seen you fight."
The figure paused. "I know the art. I had never... I had never thought I would be using it to fight, but this is a force that cannot be defeated in any other way," he sighed. "I will fight."
He patted the figure on the shoulder. "It will be good to have you, Heisei."
He was unused to the outside world. Having lived five thousand years under the mantle of the earth, and a short time living through the dreams of mortals, he had found gravity to be much of a nuisance.
Standing and walking had been okay, but running was a total blunder for him, which is why he chose his current option.
He was flying at a rather fast speed over the land.
The only disadvantage to the flight, is that so soon after his revival, he found himself drained. He would have to stop soon to find some form of fuel.
Luckily for him, he didn't have to look far. The barren road he was traveling down was empty, except for a small house, and a pen of some sort. Though he couldn't see what was housed in the pens, he knew it to be livestock.
As he descended upon the fence encircling the pen, he smiled. A wide, evil grin.
Pigs. He loved pigs. Sometimes even more so than humans, since pigs could not become his servants.
He looked towards the house. First, he would have to feast upon whoever was inside, otherwise he wouldn't be able to feast.
He stood upon the ground and stepped towards the house. Getting in would be no problem, he reared his fist back and threw it forwards. The hole was then large enough for him to enter.
He frowned. No humans were in the house. But he could feel something. There had been a human, not long ago. He could tell from the scent that it was a female. But there was something else...
He smirked. What luck. He had found the home of one of the Resistance. Reborn, of course, but one of the Resistance nonetheless.
It was then that it hit him. Literally, a large mass of something hit him, and managed to send him flying back out of the whole he had made.
Still drained and somewhat disoriented, he looked up.
A pig had done it. A large, massive pig. The likes of which he had never seen.
"You dare, swine?" He asked the pig. "You dare strike me down?"
The pig narrowed its eyes.
He flashed his fingers forward, dark electricity emanating from them, and then his battle aura flamed. A pure black, evil aura.
The pig backed away, visibly intimidated, but holding its ground. The pig bared its teeth and snarled.
He stepped forward. The pig attacked again.
Unfortunately, he had been ready for it. The pig had come within mere inches of him, when he clasped its head between his hands.
A moment later, the pig fell limply to the ground. All life sucked from within.
As his battle aura flared down somewhat, he sat down in front of the pig. He smirked and then started to lay his hands upon it.
"Interesting specimen," he smirked as he grabbed the animals leg, and ripped it off in one swift jerk.
It wasn't long before he had finished the entire pig, leaving only the bones and rope that had been tied around its neck.
He leaned back for a moment. That single pig had nearly quenched his hunger. He got up and walked towards the small pen.
There was no need to allow the others to go to waste.