Liza smiled as the last customer of the day left the shop. Once the door had been shut, the little brunette was out from behind the counter and locking the door. Once finished, she rattled the thing; satisfied that it was tight, she leaned her back against it sighing.
Summer's Rain was Thunderstorm's art shop. Here, the Cherokee sold all of her art, her paintings, sculptures and sketches of nearly every subject imaginable. Hanging on the walls of the cramped shop were paintings of traditional Japanese samurai, geishas, and ninjas. Mixed in here smaller sketches of friends and animals, of trees and people. Liza's personal favorite she kept next to the antique register, a charcoal drawing of her and Sekhmet walking in the park.
Liza sighed and made her way back to the register to cash-out. The picture caught her eye and she glanced at the clock... 5:30. She had half an hour to waste before her ride to Mia's showed up.. It didn't feel right yet to call the place "home". Liza smiled as she counted out the yen quickly, remembering a day nearly two months ago. The same day that Thunderstorm had offered her a job at Summer's Rain, Sekhmet had recieved the news that his application to SkaMusik, the nearby music store, had been accepted. A good job and good pay had soon given rise to an old used car, and an overwhelming desire to get out on his own.
From the first day that Liza had really gotten to know him, she had admired Sekhmet's desire for a "new" life, though she had never asked about his "old" one. His rare and enrapturing daydreams had caught her up into the rush.. her own pay now went to help him out finding an apartment.. just for the two of them.
Liza reached out and closed the register.. not a bad making for the day.
Actually today had given a better making than the entire last week.. only because someone bought the sculpture of the Luck Dragon finally. Liza shut off her music, and punched in the code for the alarm system, heading into the studio, partitioned off from the main apartment by a hollow pine door.
Locking the door to the shop behind her, Liza wondered what Storm's most recent painting was, standing on the tarp-covered easel in the corner. As usual, she ignored the temptation to check on it, instead leaving the day's earnings on the counter, between the purple and green paint canisters, as usual. Liza left by the back stairs, locking the doors.
The chill October breeze greeted her with a ruffling, whispering sound. She popped down the stairs to the sidewalk with a laugh. Fall always gave her a spunky edge, a cheerful attitude towards the daily worklife. She walked around the building with a bounce in her step, and once on the frontside, she sat down with an uncerimonious flop to wait out the next ten minutes in silence.
She glanced down the street, looking for Sekhmet's beat-up gray sedan. There was nothing, no living person graced the twilight shadows. Liza realized how much she hated being alone... that would just be so.. so.. lonely. In a moments time, she filled her mind with thoughts of Sekhmet, so she wouldn't feel so _watched_.
Right on time, the sedan came around the corner and pulled to a stop beside the curb. Sekhmet turned off his stereo, working where he was music kinda had grown on him.
"Hey, Liza," he smiled at her as she bounced into the passenger seat. "How's your day been?"
"Slow.." Liza answered, leaning across the seat to kiss his cheek. "Storm and Shadow want out shopping.. How was yours?"
"Yup." Sekhmet smiled turned to kiss her lips softly. "Had a few Americans stop in."
Liza laughed.. "Poor you! Us Americans are sooo strange!"
Sekhmet laughed with her, and drove away from the curb. Glancing out the window, Liza's eye was caught by a gleam of silver. She looked again, seeing a woman standing across the street from Summer's Rain, who hadn't been there seconds ago. A woman dressed all in black.. a woman watching the car...
* * * * *
Mia made a quick run down of everyone in the house. Cale was watching Hellraiser in the den; Kayura and Artemis were at the computer, helping each other out, and Dais was hovering between watching the two and reading his book. She figured it was safe.
As she headed up the stairs, Artemis caught her attention, calling out her name from the dining room. Mia paused on the stairs, a saccharine smile on her lips. Artemis joined her quickly.
"Mia, we need to talk." she said solemnly.
"I'm listening." Mia tried her hardest to keep the annoyance out of her voice, but from the flicker of emotion across Artemis' face told her she was unsuccessful.
Artemis sighed. "Upstairs, Mia... This is serious." Artemis put a gentle hand on Mia's shoulder. "It's about something I read.. something about a Jewel of Transcendance..."
Mia silently led the way unstairs.
* * * * *
"That's gotta be the house!!" Cocytus exclaimed, pointing up the hill at the huge white house.
Styx knocked him on the backside of his head. "Of course it is," she snarled, face underlit by the sick blue glow of the Jewel. "There's the car..." she pushed her brother's head down under the brush, following him down, as the gray sedan pulled into the driveway.. "And _he_'s a Ronin!!"
* * * * *
"Mia, when I was Sibyll's companion, I made it a point to try and read all he tomes.. " Artemis began.
The two were seated on Mia's bed, facing one another in an almost sisterly manner.
"And.." Mia was anxious to get the Underrealmer out of there, and to spend some time with Anubis. She sounded impatient.
"And I once remember Sibyll telling me to read about a Jewel of Transcendance." It wasn't lieing, Artemis told herself, it's bending the truth. "I was wondering if you know anything about this..?"
"If you _do_ Mia, than you must tell me." Artemis cut her off. "Sibyll also muttered something about wrong hands.. but mind you this was a long time ago."
Mia was silent.. thinking seriously about the subject. "I've decoded all of Grandfather's disks.." she murmured thoughtfully. "I don't remember anything about a Jewel of Transcendance.." Her hand raised to the Jewel of Life around her throat, caressing it lightly.
"Are you sure?" Artemis pressed, gently.
Mia nodded, still touching her Jewel. "Yeah, I'm sure.."
Artemis gave her friend a serious look; she sounded distant, preoccupied. The way she touched the Jewel of Life was almost like she was thinking of a long lost lover. Long.. lost... Artemis hid her epiphany well, smiling sweetly at the young teacher.
"Well, Mia, if you have a sudden relevation, please tell me. It could mean the difference between life and death for someone you care for." Artemis stood and was closing the door behind her before Mia could react.
"Someone I care for..." she tightened her grip on the Jewel of Life, and called silently to Anubis.
* * * * * * * * * *
Elsewhere on Earth
* * * * * * * * * *
"Listen to me.. Empress," Diamond murmured for the tenth time. "I can train you in the use of the Jewel. It has many powers.."
Styx shook her head, and brandished her broadsword. "I have no need of magic, witch. Only this. And a good army."
"But that's it.. The Jewel can bring to your command an army of loyal soldiers.." Diamond continued, barely even pausing. "An army of loyal soldiers who cannot be killed.. an army of revenants, and golems and the spawn of black magic!"
Styx raised an arched brow at the sorceress. She sounded madly fanatic about the bountiful uses of her art, just as the Five Children of Hell were fanatic about the art of war. Then, the youngest Empress of the Netherrealm looked to the Jewel hanging around her neck, glowing sick blue.
"I can raise an army with this thing?" Styx knelt to lay her sword on the ground. After straightenig she gave Diamond a serious look. "But how can they not be killed?"
"You cannot kill something that is already dead or had never lived in the first place." Diamond smiled, but the smile did not reach the milk-colored eyes. "Just think.. an army of the undead...."
To be continued....