Chapter Nine: The Lines of MagicEdit
"The Phoenix will go to Musk lands that are not of
the Musk. Hidden in the guise of humans, they shall enter
the forbidden grounds and meet with the Prince who is and
the Princess who isn't. Six shall be their number on
entering, two shall be their number upon exit. The white
maiden will be plotted against and the not-Musk shall soon
be freed." ~ Unknown
Kima let the wind ruffle her hair as she, Koruma and Masara flew away from Mount Phoenix at an astounding speed. After the... experience she had with Saffron, she was willing to do anything for him.
She was willing to die for him before. She was willing to kill for him, but only out of loyalty to her liege.
Now it was different. It was out of love for a friend. Out of doing what's right. Not for herself. Not for her people.
"Where are we going, Captain?" Masara asked, looking up to Kima.
Kima shook her head. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Koruma scoffed. "Try us."
With a smile, she replied, "We're going to the Musk Lands."
Both Koruma and Masara did a brief dive, as if the wind had immediately changed direction. Kima smiled, knowing that it did not.
"Are you NUTS?!" Koruma asked. "Err, I mean, Captain... We trust you and all, but the MUSK?!"
Masara nodded in agreement. "Yeah, I mean... Do you know what they eat for breakfast? Fried Eggs! Who knows what they'll do to US!"
Kima shook her head. "The war is long over. The truce has been laid. War does things to peoples. Saffron has told me of a few... mistakes that we ourselves made during the war."
Koruma shook his head. "But they're bloodthirsty!"
Masara continued. "And LANDLINGS, Captain!"
"And we're over their territory," Kima finished.
If the wind changed again, Kima couldn't feel it. Koruma and Masara, on the other hand, could.
"No entry for males, Herb. You know the law," the guard said, blocking entry.
Sighing, Herb began. "I've spent the last several months calling this place home. I have since regained my royalty. My word IS law!"
The guards looked at each other seriously for a moment, and then broke down laughing.
"Royalty?!" The first laughed. "You renounced that when you embraced your more.... FEMININE side!" he chuckled.
The second was laughing as well, although not as hard. "As if a... WOMAN could actually be royalty!" he guffawed.
Herb kept his cool. He had much practice doing it over the past few months.
"Tell me," he began, "As a guard of the Musk, you were subject to basic warrior training, correct?"
The guards stopped laughing. "Yeah, so?"
Herb raised his hand to gestured to Lime and Mint. "As bodyguards of the Royal family, Lime and Mint were subject to Royal training," he said. After a moment, he smiled. "And I still descend from the dragon."
The guards looked at each other for a moment, obviously thinking the situation over.
A moment later, they moved.
"Please," the first began.
"Don't tell anyone we allowed you in," the second continued.
Herb shook his head. "If anyone asks us, I'll say we beat you to a bloody pulp."
"Thank you, Herb!" Both guards bowed.
Inside of the walls to the womens encampment, the grounds took a definite change. The walls were high to the point where nobody could see over, and slick to the point where nobody could climb to see the outside, or inside world.
But Herb knew both. He knew the attitudes of both.
And most of all, he knew the dangers of both.
Lime and Mint, on the other hand, were too busy looking at all the women.
"Look at all these BREASTS!" Lime exclaimed, his eyes wide with excitement.
"They're... all women! There's not a man in sight!" Mint continued.
Herb laughed. He had missed the antics of his friends, even as he found them annoying in times past.
But Herb knew the true danger of being there.
Walking to the main entrance to the dorms, Herb paid little attention to the approaching group of women.
"Herb!" the leader cried.
Herb ground his teeth at the call of his name. "Root," he cursed.
Lime and Mint merely looked back. "Hey, Herb. There's a woman calling your name!"
"Just keep going," Herb said, opening the front door.
"Herb, you worthless MAN!" Root continued. "Are you too afraid to face me without your contingent of fightless losers?"
Herb ground his teeth some more.
"Hey, you can't say that to Herb!" Mint called. "Even if you DO have breasts!"
"Mint, not the best of ideas."
Herb turned around, looking directly at Root, who was standing a mere ten feet away.
"What did you say to me, you little spore?" Root scowled.
Root wasn't by any means pretty. She was built more like a man than a woman. Her hair was cut short above her ears and her muscles rippled out of her loose cut clothing.
All in all, she looked vaguely like a barbarian woman.
"Spore?" Lime returned. "You can't call Mint a spore!"
Root let her scowl grow some more. "I'll call whomever I want WHATever I want while you're on MY land."
"Your land?" Herb replied. "This land always has, and always WILL belong to the Musk!"
"The Musk?!" Root let her scowl grow more. "I have not seen hide nor hair of the Musk in my entire life here. If I DID see any royal musk wimp, he'd regret the day of his birth!"
Lime scowled. "Musk *WIMP*?! I'll have you know Herb is not a Musk wimp!"
Herb's eyes popped open. "Lime, that REALLY wasn't a good idea."
"What? It's only a woman," Lime said.
It was Root's eyes to open her eyes in shock. "ONLY a woman? Herb is... Musk?" She smirked. "Well, now, girls," she said, cracking her knuckles as she walked around the three of them. "We've got royalty in our midst."
Herb groaned. "This really isn't the time, Root. If you'd like, we can settle this another time. For now--"
"Oh, we'll settle this now, MALE!" She sneered. "We'll settle this RIGHT now."
"No you won't Root," another voice spoke out.
Root's eyes popped open and she quickly dropped to her knees. "Kala!" she spoke in a hurry. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you--"
"You didn't know I would be so nearby?" the voice replied.
Mint and Lime looked around in confusion. "WHO is saying that?"
Herb merely smiled. "You'll see."
A rush of warmth was felt from behind the three of them, and as Lime and Mint turned around, they saw her.
Kala. Flowing white hair and matching white robes that seemed to drag along on the ground.
Kala flowed from out of the entranceway and moved towards Herb.
"It is good to see you again, Herb," she said.
"You as well, Kala."
Kala walked further, stopping in front of Root and her gang.
"Herb?" Lime asked.
Herb smiled. "Yes, Lime?"
"Who... is she?"
Herb merely smiled. "Call her a friend."
"Root," Kala began. "You know the law. Herb is not to be touched."
"I'm sorry, Kala. I... I forgot."
Kala shook her head. "You'd do better to have a more stable memory, Root. Now rise."
Root rose, her face still looking towards the ground.
"Root, I will forgive you this time, seeing as Herb is here on urgent business that may effect all of us, including yourself. You will not bother him, or his companions for the rest of their visit, understood?"
Root merely nodded.
"Good," she said, and then moved away from Root.
"Herb?" Mint asked.
Herb didn't answer, he merely smiled.
"What... just happened?"
"You'll find out soon enough."
"It hasn't been very long, Herb. Days only," Kala said, walking down the hallway along with Herb.
"I had expected to be away longer as well, Kala. But I've... had an... unexpected revelation."
Kala nodded. "The prophecy, correct?"
Herb smiled and nodded. "You never cease to amaze me, Kala."
Kala smiled as well. "Nor do I, Herb... You will find many of our contingent have missed you."
Herb smiled. "I would have expected no less!"
Kala laughed. "Still as big an ego as always, Herb. At least it's been toned down since you arrived."
"I still owe you for that, Kala. If not for you, I would have surely--"
"Don't worry about it, Herb. The best thing for you to do now is prepare for your responsibility."
Herb sighed. "Kala, you should know that... My father, he--"
"Speak it to us as a group, Herb. That will be the only way."
Herb nodded. "How are they?"
"They are fine. Gaosha is nearly full term, and Yashana is awaiting the results of her pairing."
Herb nodded. "And--"
"Pinjan is awaiting you," she smiled.
Herb let a smile grow on his face as well, letting it flow with warmth. It had only been days, but his... separation from Pinjan felt like an eternity.
"Is this the place?" Koruma asked.
Kima let her eyes narrow as she watched from the bushes. It was a walled encampment, with two armed guards in the front.
"I assume so," Kima replied. "I think it would be best we go in with human form."
Masara nodded. "We should."
It didn't take long for the three of them to find cold water. A small creek flowed only a few hundred feet away. Kima stretched her arms and ruffled her hair. There was something about being human that caused Kima to feel more... fresh.
Masara and Koruma, on the other hand, merely grumbled.
"I hate legs. Why can't humans have wings too?" Koruma said.
"Because then they wouldn't be human. They'd be our kind!" Masara replied.
"Hardy-har-har," Koruma replied.
Kima just gestured them to follow. "Let's go."
After a few moment of walking, they had arrived to the front gates.
"Well, look at this!" one guard said.
"How'd she escape the barrier?" the other asked, blinking in disbelief.
Kima looked confused for a moment, but walked forward.
"We request entrance," she said.
The guard bent over to examine Kima for a moment, checking her over. "Don't look familiar," he said.
"Nope, but we should get her back in there anyway. Herb's gonna come back out in a few minutes, so it wouldn't do to have this one out here when he does come back, our hides are REALLY in for it."
The first guard nodded, and moved aside, opening the gates. "Go on," he said.
Kima smiled. That was almost too easy. The three of them began to walk in.
"Hold on!" the second guard said. "Where do you think YOU two are going?"
Koruma blinked. "Uhh..."
Masara gasped in surprise. "We're uhh.. with her."
The guard shook his head. "No you ain't. This here is the women's encampment. No men allowed inside."
"Hey," the second guard said. "But we just let Herb in there."
"Yeah, but he's royalty. That's okay."
The second guard nodded.
Kima just looked back at the two of them and winked. It was a message. It said 'I'll just fly out if there's any trouble.'
As Kima turned around and walked into the encampment, she felt a strange sense of... confinement. Shrugging it off, she continued her way in. It was probably just her not used to not having wings.
She continued her way in.
"I don't get it," Lime mentioned. "A lot of these women look like warriors. Why don't they just jump the fence?"
Herb laughed. "You won't find a single woman in here that would jump that fence, Lime."
Mint nodded. "That's right! They may be warriors, but WOMEN can't jump that high."
Herb shook his head. "Mint, remember when I turned into a woman a while back? Remember that Saotome girl.. er, boy?"
"Hey, yeah!" Lime interrupted. "Saotome could jump high as a girl! Girls can jump high too!"
Kala smiled. "There is a barrier held around the grounds. A magical barrier that prevents any living being from entering or exiting."
Lime blinked. "Really? But we got in!"
Kala nodded. "I maintain the barrier. I, and my lineage have been maintaining the barrier for generations. The time will come when I will have to pass my responsibility to the next of my lineage."
"You maintain it?" Lime asked. "How?"
Kala walked to a window, on of the many windows that littered the hallways of the inner dormitory. She raised her hand, palm up, with her fingers spread wide apart.
"Ki has no hold in here," she said.
Lime blinked. "What?"
"It is why Herb was unable to protect himself from Root on his first visit. Herb is a master of Ki, however, if Ki becomes dormant within his body, he loses his abilities." She looked towards Lime. "All the women in here are utter warriors, but they lack Ki manipulation techniques. I take it from them."
Mint's eyes widened. "How?"
Kala shook her head. "My lineage has spent hundreds of years trying to figure that out. We can extract Ki from any subject, and use it against them. The Musk clan employed our services long ago, and we will continue to serve those purposes until the last of our line. The barrier is made of pure Ki."
"Which is why nobody has escaped," Herb said.
Kala shook her head. "That's not completely true. Some have escaped. Very few, though."
Kima sucked in her breath and looked around. The grounds were rather large, she was almost certain if she were to fly in, she would come by unseen.
But then there was the problem of being seen as one of the Phoenix, which she didn't want to do. She wanted to be seen as human, just like the rest of them.
She was almost certain that the guard would have noticed Kima's human form was quite obviously Japanese in origin, but the worries were unfounded. The Musk kept to themselves a lot, so they wouldn't know.
Now, to find this Herb fellow.
Kima hadn't known this place was a womans encampment at first, but she did know of the Musk's attitude towards women. But he had also mentioned that Herb was here, and that Herb was royalty.
Kima put two and two together and came up with the most obvious solution.
Walking forward, she walked towards a group of women she could ask for help. One of them was a large, well built woman.
"Pinjan?" Herb asked, entering the room.
Pinjan's eyes popped open as she turned to the door. She got up and ran over to Herb, embracing him in a warm hug.
"Herb! You're back!" she squealed. "I thought you'd be gone for weeks!"
Herb smiled. "No. I was only gone for a short while, but..."
"Have you come back to stay?" Pinjan smiled, her hair flowing over her shoulders.
Herb sighed. "I've... I've been pardoned."
Pinjan's muscles relaxed as she dropped the hug, and looked at Herb with teary eyes.
"P..Pardoned? You mean..."
"I can stay in the outside now."
Pinjan looked down. "I... I understand. I guess you've come to say goodbye, then."
Herb bit his lip. "I... don't plan on staying there for any longer than it takes. I... I have something I need to do, and then I will spend the time in here with you."
Pinjan lit up. "You... You will? But, what about... your freedom?"
Herb shook his head. "It's not worth it unless I've got you."
Pinjan smiled. "I... I can't ask you to--"
"I'm sorry to interrupt," Kala said, walking into the room. "But it's time to speak to the group."
Herb nodded. "I've got something I need to tell everyone."
Lime and Mint were in heaven. That was the only explanation.
"Have you EVER seen so many breasts?" Lime whispered to Mint.
Mint shook his head. "Even Japan didn't have THIS many women!"
"Do you think... They'll let us TOUCH them?"
Mint blinked. "Maybe we should ask?"
"Okay," Lime looked around. "How about that one?" he pointed towards a woman sitting in the corner.
Mint shook his head. "Her stomach is bigger than her breasts. I think she's been eating too much."
"I'm pregnant, you fools!" the woman in the corner shouted over.
Lima blinked. "You could... HEAR us?"
The woman got up clumsily and looked over towards the two. "Of course. This room has good acoustics."
Mint's jaw dropped. "So you could ALL hear us?"
The woman nodded. "And it's very unlikely we'll let anyone but our husbands touch our breasts."
Several other nods went throughout the room.
It was true. Many of the women in the encampment were already married, but marriage only went so far mating, and childbearing. Other than that, there was very little contact.
Male children were delivered to the fathers, while female children were kept with the mothers.
"But, even if we asked politely?" Mint smiled.
After a short laugh, the women all shook their heads.
"Lime, Mint," Herb said, looking at his friends. "Everyone." He smiled.
"Herb!" The name resounded throughout the room, coming from the voices of nearly every woman present. They all gathered around him and hugged him, patting him on the back all the while. After a few moments of pleasantries, Herb sat down and prepared to speak.
"As most of you already know," he said. "I'm a prince of the Musk."
"And a princess!" someone joked.
Herb sighed. "And a princess not of the Musk." He stood up and looked over towards everyone. "My father is near the end of his term. His heir will soon take over."
"But I thought you were disowned," another woman said.
Herb nodded. "I was, but I was pardoned. My royalty has been returned. I... have also been charged to complete a task," he said. "A task that will potentially change the Musk empire drastically."
"So what does that have to do with us? We're not part of the Musk."
"That's just it," he said, turning to Kala. "I plan on incorporating you into the Musk. I plan on... giving you freedom."
Several gasps were heard throughout the room. Lime and Mint let their jaws drop in shock.
"But... if you do that... We'll be free!" one woman shouted.
"I know it may seem intimidating, ladies," Kala interrupted. "But it is the Prince's prerogative. I serve him and his family, and I shall do whatever he asks of me."
"I will have to soon leave for Mount Phoenix," he said.
"Mount Phoenix?! You'll be eaten!" a shout came.
"I must serve my people. And you are my people, as are the Musk. There may come a time when a war will be fought, with the Phoenix fighting alongside us against a common enemy."
The women all gasped. "Fight? You want us to FIGHT?"
Herb sighed and nodded. "Should you choose not to, I will allow you to stay behind. But should you choose to fight, then I will allow that as well."
The room erupted in the white noise of endless chatter, each woman talking to the other. All of the women there had fighting skills, some of them were highly effective, but to use it in actual battle outside of the camp. It was intimidating.
There were also the several pregnancies.
"Ladies," Kala spoke up. "When Herb returns from Mount Phoenix, I will do as he says."
"There is more. My father will oppose your freedom, by no doubt," Herb began. "But I will battle his decision with my very soul. I know what it is like in here, and I know how much better freedom is outside."
"Kala!" a woman by the window yelled, looking outside. "There's trouble on the grounds!"
Kala ran over to the window and looked outside. A gasp filled her lips.
"Excuse me," Kima asked. The woman who was crouched to the ground talking to a group of women looked towards her, and then rose.
"Who are you?" she asked. "I haven't seen you here before."
Kima thought quickly. "I... I'm new. I was born on the outside and my father hid me for years, but I was found."
For the moment, the woman seemed to accept the explanation.
"You're different from the rest of us," she said. "You don't look the same."
"If we all looked the same, how would we tell anyone apart?"
The woman rolled her eyes back in thought for a moment.
"Are you trying to confuse me?" she asked.
Kima shook her head, "No. I'm just looking for--"
"Listen here, you. You should get used to the pecking order around here. There's me, and then there's everyone else. Understood?"
Kima sighed. Just what she needed. "Listen, I'm not looking to cause any trouble, I'm just looking for H--"
"I don't think you get it," she said. "You either do as Root says, or you get pounded."
Kima was in a bind. Her fighting skills were limited as a human. She didn't want to get into a fight she knew she would probably lose.
"Listen, Ms. Root, I understand. I will follow your rules, whatever you say," Kima said, calming down as she noticed Root calm. "Now, as I was saying, I'm looking for someone named Herb--"
She never even saw the punch hit her square in the stomach. Kima was thrown several feet across the yard. She stood up, coughing as the wind was knocked out of her.
"Herb?!" Root yelled. "Why the HELL are you looking for that... MALE?!" She stormed off towards her.
Kima had to think quickly. She looked around, looking for a place to run, or a--
She saw it. A kettle burning on a fire. If she could get back to her normal form, she could easily fight back.
She ran over, picked up the kettle and poured the contents over her head.
"Is that... an angel?" the woman at the window asked.
"Herb," Kala began. "Get out there, now. I'll supply your ki."
Herb nodded, and ran. His speed seemed to increase tenfold as he zipped out of the building, only to face down Root, who was looking dejectedly at the creature in front of her.
"Wings?" Root muttered, and then let something dawn on her. "You're one of the Phoenix!"
Root drew her dagger.
"Eat our babies, will you?!" she said, lunging towards Kima.
Kima rose into the air and dodged her with total ease. "I don't wish to cause trouble," Kima pleaded. "I am only here to speak with--"
"Root, stop," she head a voice call from behind her.
Kima twisted around in the air and saw him. A young man, perhaps no older than Masara or Koruma. He stood confidently, staring at Root.
"Herb, of course YOU would protect these baby- eaters!" she scowled.
Herb brought up his hands. "Kala's given me my Ki, Root. You'd do wise to--"
"Ki or not, Kala or not. I've had it with you! YOU ARE DEAD!"
She didn't make it three feet before Kima had grabbed on to Root's clothing and lifted her into the air.
Herb stood, watching in confusion.
"Hey! Lemme go!" Root yelled. "Help! She's gonna eat me!"
Kima decided to play on it. "Mmm, mmm. Scrumptious!"
Herb could only laugh at the pathetic whimpering sounds Root was making.
"Herb, of the Musk?" She called down.
Herb looked up and nodded. "That's me."
"I've been sent to escort you to Mount Phoenix. We are running short on time."
Herb nodded. "I will accompany you, but I have two others that will come with me."
Kima nodded. "Understood," she said, dropping Root and turning back towards the outer wall. She called out, "Koruma, Masara! Come on!"
Realization dawned upon Herb. "WAIT!"
"I think we made a good investment here," Koruma said, using the thermos of hot water that he had thought to bring along to turn himself back into one of the Phoenix.
"Well, we can say this much about the humans. They sure do make some neat stuff," Masara said, also pouring the hot liquid on his head.
"So, how long do you think this'll take?"
"Well, if Kima's not out in two hours, I say we go in after her."
Koruma nodded. "Yeah, that would--"
He paused as he heard a voice call from over the wall. It was Kima, calling them over.
"That was quick," Masara said.
"Yeah, let's go."
They rose into the air and flapped their wings, heading towards the grounds.
The noise of their flapping drowned out any further warnings.
The flash almost blinded Kima as she watched Koruma and Masara try to fly over the wall.
And then something dawned upon Kima. The guard had mentioned a barrier.
She turned towards Herb. "Quick, we've got to help them!"
Herb narrowed his eyes. "Kala!" he cried.
Kala came running out and looked up at Kima. "Oh my... I... I didn't know they were coming!"
"Can you drop the barrier?" Kima cried.
Kala nodded. "Go, quickly! Bring them so we can treat them!"
Kima flew over the wall and dropped to the ground.
The both of them were unconscious. Burns had littered their bodies and their clothes were charred and smoky. Kima bent over to pick Koruma up.
She winced. His wing was broken, the bone sticking out of the skin.
She hopped him over the fence with a quick leap, wings extended, and then came back for Masara.
"Will they be all right?" Kima asked.
Kala nodded. "We will attend to them. Their burns are the worst of the damage. As for the younger ones broken wing, we will have more success treating that if his curse is triggered."
Kima's eyes widened in surprise. "You.. you know?"
She nodded. "It makes it very simple for me to see Jusenkyo curses. You'd be quite surprised. Herb has one too, you know."
Kima looked over towards Herb. "He... does?"
Kala nodded. "Yes. It's not too dissimilar from yours actually, similar lines of magic, but... there's a minor change."
"Did he fall into the spring of drowned girl?"
Kala nodded. "I can sense similar lines from you, but... not. A new spring?"
"Ahh, I see. It was a temporary spring. The 'drownee' wasn't drowned, I see."
Kima smiled. She knew quite well that if someone fell into a blank spring and did not die, their form would infect the first person to jump in afterwards. After that, the spring was once again blank.
It served the purposes of the Phoenix quite well.
"But I sense a minor connection between your curse and Herb. It's as if... the 'drownee' and he had crossed paths before."
Kima narrowed her eyes. Had Herb come into contact with Akane Tendo?
"I wouldn't worry too much about it. Your friends are what is most important right now. The younger one is in worst shape, but in human form, we need but use acupuncture to repair his wing."
Kima nodded. "And the burns?"
"I have some ointment that we may use. It is strange, there haven't been this many men here at once since the beginning."
Kima nodded. "It's archaic, but--"
"Archaic as it is, it is the responsibility of my lineage to obey the Musk. They were... shunned, you see. Long ago, by the Joketsuzoku."
"I've had my share of exposure to them," Kima said, recalling.
"Yes, I can sense that as well. But the connection between you and Herb is strong. It's as if... you've fought the same foe before."
"I'll assume you don't mean Root, Kala?" Herb said, walking into the room.
Kima looked up. "Herb," she said. "I... We should go to Mount Phoenix. Saffron wants to meet with you to discuss... the prophecy."
Herb nodded. "I will leave Lime and Mint here. When your friends regain their health, they will bring them to Mount Phoenix," he looked back towards Kala. "Will that be acceptable?"
Kala nodded. "The ladies will be grateful to have the chance to care for so many handsome men."
Herb smiled. "If Lime and Herb get too fresh, smack them up a bit for me."
Kala nodded. "It would be an honour."
"Shall we go, then?" He asked Kima.
Kima nodded. "Should I carry you?"
Herb brought up his hand and let the Ki crackle between his fingers. "I think I'll manage to keep up with you."
Kima nodded, and then walked towards the exit. She knocked on the door, and waited for it to open.
"Hello, boys," she said to the two guards who opened the door. The guards were too dumbfounded to make any motions other than to let Herb and Kima pass.
Even as Herb started raising from the ground to an altitude of one foot, and Kima started to fly away at an incredible speed with Herb in tow, they never regained their posture.
Finally, they figured it would be wise to close the door.
"Hey," one guard said.
"Yeah?" the other replied.
"Should we... ah... report that?"
The guard nodded. "Good point. I don't know what I'm talking about."