Ryo blocked the blade with his
arm guards and ducked under the man's beefy arms to land a solid
blow to his abdomen. The man's image of jeans and a tee-shirt
wavered and shattered, revealing what lay beneath the illusion.
Thick tan muscles rippled beneath a shirt of chain mail. The wicked
double-edged sword was held easily within hands of sinew and strength;
the bulging biceps flexed and rippled with a brute force beyond
Ryo's wildest nightmares.
Archeron swung again, this time a measured strike towards Ryo's knees. The Ronin danced backwards, out of the weapons reach. Whiteblaze launched himself, foreclaws extended for attack. Archeron could feel the claws of one paw skitter over his chainmail, but the blow knocked him off-balance. The other claws caught his face, ripping four diagonal gashes in his skin.
Archeron roared in pain, reversing the direction of his initial swing to catch the tiger. Whiteblaze was too swift, bounding out of the path before the sword came near his hide. The man's green eyes blazed with fury from beneath the heavy brow, wet with perpiration.
Ryo silently thanked the tiger for the distraction; it gave him time to summon his armor. His right fist began to glow with the white-hot heat of his armor. The familiar rush of adreniline was welcome to him as the armor sparkled into life.
Archeron hissed a curse as he looked up to see the fully armored Ronin awaiting him. Ryo had drawn the two Wildfire katanas, setting himself into defensive stance. Whiteblaze circled around to crouch beside Ryo, snarling and laying his ears flat back.
Garblufink clambered up into a tree, away from the fighting. It had never been one for battle, prefering the element of surprise and ambush over direct assault. It waited for its moment.
Ryo heard the screech of metal on metal as Archeron's sword slipped against his shoulder gaurd. The sound was unnerving, too much like a scream of pain or frustration. Ryo ducked under the next swipe of the frenzied man's strike, then brought his blades up in a purely defensive move, designed to knock away the sword and create an opening for retreat.
Archeron anticipated his move and backed away, causing Ryo's blades to strike at air. Ryo looked around for his opponent, but instead of finding the chain-clad warrior, found the ice mephit, hanging upside down from a tree branch. Before Ryo could react, Garblufink inhaled and blew out a stream of ice shards.
Ryo cried out as the tiny fragments of freezing ice needled into his skin. He dropped one of his blades, to raise his hand and protect his face from further onslaught. His eyes stung with the miniature spears of ice, rapidly melting from the heat of his armor. Whiteblaze roared and leapt at the mephit.
A single swipe knocked it free of the tree, another threw it to the ground. Whiteblaze was out for the imps death. He closed his powerful jaws about the things skinny body and began to squeeze and shake, shake and squeeze. Garblufink uttered no sound, its lungs crushed in the tiger's jaws.
Archeron saw Ryo attempting to recover from the imp's ice attack, and turned opportunist. Bearing down on the temporarily blinded Ronin, Archeron slammed the hilt of his sword into his rather thinly protected ribs. The wind left Ryo's lungs in a great rush of scarlet-laden pain. Ryo doubled over blinking against the tears. He raised his eyes to Archeron's wild ones.
"Know your death," Archeron intoned, smiling evilly. "I am your woe.. I am Archeron.."
He raised his sword for the killing stroke.
* * * * *
Mia rubbed her eyes slightly,
fighting against a yawn. The hour was late but she still hadn't
finished searching ever last droplet of information that was crammed
into the files on the Ronins. Every last shred she'd gone through,
with no luck.
Images of the five Ronin Armors flitted past her weary eyes. She was now paying the consequences of many late nights preparing her lectures, many late nights helping students, and many late nights of pure insomnia. She smoothed a hand over her hair quickly, fixing the stray strands of mahongany brown without a thought. The house was nearly quiet, expect for the hushed sounds of a Hellraiser movie echoing from the living room. Mia sighed; Cale and Kayura were probably asleep on the couch while the movie played out to the end. Lucky them.
Mia paused and looked down at the empty mug of coffee resting not too far from her elbow. She glanced towards the darkened kitchen, longing for another cup, but too tired to move and get it herself. She was about to rise wearily when a shadowy form emerged from the kitchen. Mia blinked..
"Anubis?" A pair of green-gray eyes met her questioning stare. Cale looked rather comfortable in the darkness, but shifted and blushed slightly when he realized he was in only his boxers.
"Uhm.. no, Mia.." Cale shook his head, slightly confused. "He's... ah.. dead, remember?"
Mia nodded, absently, turning back to her computer screen. Cale approached the desk and set down a mug near her.
"I saw you working, and thought you might like this," Cale offered, indicating the cup. Mia glanced over; seeing the steaming carmel liquid within, she smiled.
"Thank you, Cale.."
Cale shifted again, somewhat uncomfortably. "If you don't mind me asking-"
"I do." she cut him off, with uncharacteristic venom in her voice. The Overlord was outwardly shocked at her tone. "Well.. alright.." he began to walk toward the living room again. "Be that way about it.. I was only asking a question.." He slipped into the living room, wondering why she had even _thought_ that, after seven years, Anubis would be walking like the living. The concept was absurd. He shook his head again, and smiled at Kayura as she looked up to greet him.
He sat beside her, curling up on the couch with the woman he loved in his arms. Cale smiled happily; nothing, absolutely nothing, could have made him more content.
* * * * *
Ryo felt a warm, wet tongue
rasp against his skin. He groaned and shifted slightly, testing
his body for broken bones or contusions. His ribs protested with
a wave of pain as he struggled to sit up. Falling back, Ryo stared
up at the night sky and wondered just what had happened. Whiteblaze
nuzzled his hand gently, and Ryo realized that he was no longer
in his armor.. not even his body armor.
A cool breeze wafted across his bare chest, cooling his hot flesh with its gentle touch. His last memory was Archeron's callous words, then darkness. Whiteblaze licked his face again. Ryo figured the tiger must have saved his life and carried him here. But, the question was, "where is here?"
Ryo pushed himself up on his elbows, wincing against the pain in his bruised, maybe fractured ribs. Looking around, he recognized his surroundings. The sacred tea-house of the Ancient One stood not far off to his left, like a waiting mousehole, a sanctuary for a frightened mouse, running from a hungry housecat.
The Ronin pushed himself to his feet slowly and painfully. He had to get back to Mia's, to warn everyone that those six were there and they had something.. some sort of Jewel..
Somewhere in the darkness of the mountainous forests, a nightingale sang a sweet melody, a melody of woe...