happens right after the Ronins have beaten Talpa. It has
been a couple of weeks since that time and the Ronins, Mia, and
Yuli have settled into a quiet life. Ryo, Sage, Cye, Kento,
and Rowen went back to school to finish, but still wish they were
somewhere else. Mia went on to teach at their school and they see her everyday. Yuli found his family but still visits everybody at Mia's house. In the past week, Mia had been sick and can't get enough sleep. This is where the story opens.
A loud sound came from the bathroom. The Ronin Warriors have just started to sit down on the dinner table. They stopped what they were doing when they heard the sound. They all looked at the bathroom door. Mia emerged from the door, wiping her mouth.
She looked up and saw five pairs of eyes on her. She looked around her and tried to figure out if she had put on two different socks or something like that. She cautiously walked to the kitchen and went about her business.
The guys looked at each other and shrugged. They went on eating or preparing for school. As the chatter started up again, Sage came to Mia. He seemed to want to ask her something but was hesitant to pry. Mia noticed Sage standing next to her, thinking about what to ask her.
"Can I help you Sage?" Mia asked. She went over to the table and put more eggs on Kento's plate. He gobbled it up without another thought.
"Um...Well..." Sage started. He kept looking at the others then at her. "I was wondering if you were feeling okay."
"I'm feeling fine," Mia answered cheerily. She gave him a smile to let him know that she was. He knew better. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, you've been sick
for the last week, especially in the morning," he said, fully
giving his attention to her. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Sage, if I wasn't okay, I would tell you guys," she said still avoiding his gaze. "Now, sit down and eat. We're going to be late."
He did as he was told and ate. He told himself that she probably was right and he shouldn't think about it if she wasn't. While they ate, Mia busied herself with cleaning the kitchen.
"Aren't you going to eat, Mia?" Rowen asked.
"I already ate," she answered from behind the counter.
They looked at each other and knew that she was lying.
you sure?" Cye chimed in. "You better make up
your mind before Kento eats everything up." Everybody
chuckled at this remark, except Kento who gave a low growl in
between bites. He tried not to let his friends' teasing
about his appetite get to him.
"I'm sure," Mia said getting up from the floor. "In fact, I'm still full from what I ate."
"Really, what was it?" Ryo said.
"What was what?" Mia asked truly confused.
"What did you eat?" Ryo rephrased his question. "We were all up early, Mia. We didn't see you eat anything."
"Look, I don't want to discuss this any further, okay." She went over to an empty chair and picked up her bag. "If any of you want to get to school on time, you better be at the car in five or I leave without you."
With that, she left and they started to eat quickly or grab their bags. As they all headed for the door, they heard a loud thump in the living room. They rushed to the room and found Mia lying on the floor with all her papers next to her.
When they got to her, she was unconscious. Ryo, Cye, and Kento picked her up and put her on the couch. Rowen called the doctor while Sage got a glass of water. They tended to her until the doctor came.
"Don't worry, you're just fine," the doctor said as he stood. "She's just a bit tired. Stress and all. A little rest would do you some good."
"How much is a little?" Mia asked the doctor.
Rowen stayed behind while the rest went to school. Since his classes started later than the others, he watched over Mia while the others went to school to tell her classes that she was going to be late.
"A couple of weeks," the doctor answered bluntly.
"A couple of weeks!?!" She tried to get up but Rowen restrained her. "I can't afford to do that. I have a job that need me even as we speak. You must have done something wrong."
"I'm afraid not, Miss Koji." He packed his bag as he got ready to leave. "I can tell that you've been working rather hard this last week. And according to your friends, you've been getting little sleep because you were up at night throwing up. A week or two away from school and house work would get you back into shape."
"I don't want to take a leave. I have to work," she protested.
"Mia, the doctor's just trying to help," said Rowen. "Why don't you listen to him?"
"Why don't you go to school?" she shot back.
"That's exactly what I'm talking about. You are a young woman with a career that is just starting. You live in a house full of adolescent boys that are probably driving you up the wall. I'm surprised you haven't pulled all your hair, or at least turn them all white with all this stress." The doctor looked at her and waited for an answer. "Take my word for it: You need a vacation. Get away from everything: routines, people, the house. You'll feel better when you come back."
The doctor left after making sure Rowen could follow all his instructions. Rowen walked the doctor to his car and watched him pull away. He got back inside and found Mia trying to get ready. He stopped her just in time.
"Mia," Rowen said, taking her bag away from her. "Remember what the doctor said: No stress."
"But I have to go teach," she said as she reached for her bag. "Rowen, I'll just go to school to tell them I won't be there."
"The others have already done that for you." He went to the other side of the room still carrying her bag. "I'll stay here all day to look after you just like the doctor said."
"I thought I told you to go to school!? You're going to miss out on the day's lesson." Mia was trying to make him go. It wasn't working.
"I'm sorry Mia. I'm just going to miss school today to look after you. When the rest of the guys come back, we'll discuss this."
Rowen spent the day trying to prevent Mia from doing anything. He succeeded most of the time but being with the Ronins for so long, Mia picked up a couple of tricks that fooled Rowen. She still hadn't done anything major when the rest got home.
They all discussed what happened that morning. They all agreed that Mia had been working late into the night and waking up early in the morning. They all decided to send her on a vacation. Against Mia's requests and in between Cye and Kento's arguments, they agreed on sending Mia to Paradise, a mountain resort. Since it wasn't winter yet, vacationers won't be going to the resort for another couple of weeks. They had picked the perfect time to send her since there won't be many people up there. She was set to go in two days, which left her only time to pack and call the school about her hiatus. When she
left, all of them wished she would come back feeling a little more free and changed. They had no idea how "changed" she would be.
I can't believe
I got talked into this, Mia thought as the bus carrying her to
the resort stopped. She picked up her carry-along and made
her way towards the door. Even though winter wasn't officially
there, Mia saw there were a lot more people there than she thought.
I hope the guys know what place they're putting me in.
As she got off the bus, a man in uniform came up to her. He was carrying both her suitcases with relative ease. He sat them down next to his feet while he reached into his coat and pulled out a piece of paper.
"Are you Ms. Koji?" the man asked.
Mia looked at him, stunned. "Yes, I am," she said as she tried to figure out who this was.
"I am a guide here hired by your friends to help you with anything," he said cheerily. "My name is Osuna. If you would need anything, I'm the person to call on."
"Well, thank you."
Mia followed Osuna to her room. She thought that the guys worried about her more than she did about them.
When they got to her room, Osuna gave her the keys to the room and left his number with her. He left the room, telling Mia that he would only be a ring away. She quickly unpacked her bags since she would be there for the next two weeks. She
decided to explore the resort before the sun started setting. She took a coat with her and stepped out unto the world.
The resort was less crowded than at the bus station. Good thing the resort was like a small community, not needing all those people to make it feel alive. Perfect for someone like Mia. The streets were lined with shops and crafts stores. Mia guessed that this was the front of the resort. The recreational facilities must be in the back. She mingled with other people, going into shops, talked to people, and seemed completely at peace. All her worries seem to leave with the bus that brought her there.
She left a small diner at around ten o'clock and decided it was a day. Besides, she was suppose to call home the moment she got there. She thought better of it and thought that it was their turn to worry about her. As she walked the almost deserted streets, her mind began to wander. Suddenly, her vision focused on somebody she thought she knew. She rubbed her eyes and looked again to make sure. True enough, it was somebody she knew. Somebody she knew a long time ago.
But he couldn't be alive, could he? she thought. There he was, under the lamp on the corner of the street she was on. She had already looked a couple of times and had confirmed that he was Anubis. How could that be possible? I saw him die the last time the Ronins fought Talpa. He gave up his armor to Kayura to save her. That can't be him, could it?
She decided that she had to get to the bottom of this. She headed for the lamp where the man - Anubis? - was under. Her path was suddenly blocked with a flood of people coming out of a restaurant. She lost sight of him for a second but got through the crowd okay.
When she got to the lamp, he was gone. She looked around and almost gave up when she caught a glimpse of that familiar cinna-brown hair. She followed it, always disappearing around a corner and appearing long enough for her to follow again. She went down one street and up another when the figure disappeared around another corner. When she got there, all that met her was a wall. She turned around and couldn't find any other way out but a door on one of the walls. She got there and tried to open it only to find it locked with a "Closed" sign hanging on the window. She looked up and found herself in front of
a store called "Edo: Gate to the Inlet". By the light above the door, Mia could see a large picture window next to the door saying the same words. She tried to look in but the room was too dark. She finally decided that whoever that was that played hide and seek with her had gone home. She also went back to her room still thinking about the store and the figure.
Isn't this a nice start to my vacation, she thought as she entered her room. I leave civilization for a stress-free two weeks and what do I do the moment I have free time? I go around chasing a dead man. Talk about stress-free. Talk about Paradise.
She took a shower and changed for bed. As she lay on the bed thinking, she can't seem to get the thought of the man she followed that night. She also can't seem to forget the name of the store the figure led her to. She thought nothing of it until she woke up in the morning. But somewhere within herself, she knew there was a purpose to the visit and that store. She would find out in the morning.
out unto the sun, into the early morning bustle of the little
town. The village looked even friendlier in the morning
than the night before. The shops were just opening up and
the owners stopped long enough to wave to her as she walked down
the street passed them. The streets were lightly covered
with snow and the people cleared them away from their front doors.
Everybody seemed to be busy except Mia. I'm busy, she thought.
I'm looking for a stone.
She retraced her steps and found the store while asking for directions. When she got to the front of the store, she noticed a few helmets and weapons on the display window. The name of the store was stenciled in white on the window but didn't obstruct the viewer's perspective of the artifacts. She looked up and found silhouettes of ancient samurai armors on stands and glass cases. Mia has a special knowledge about armors since she did help reunite the Ronin Warriors all that time ago. Without her, who knows how long the Ronins would have taken to come back together.
"Maybe it's the call of the armors that brought me here," she said out loud. Even if the owners didn't know about any man walking down the alley, they would still have a good conversation about the history of armors.
She stepped in and a little bell rang above her. She seemed to have been transported to another time. Armors were all around her. All the weapons and other accessories a samurai would have used circled around each individual armor. Though the store looked small outside, the interior definitely was larger. At the center of everything was a battle scene.
The battle consisted of four warriors, all dressed in different armors and with different weapons, attacking four other warriors. All eight warriors had different poses. Their actions really made you feel like you were part of the scene, part of a great attack with the backdrop of snow. The lighting, expressions, and movements of the figures gave the
scene an eerie life.
"May I help you?" a woman's voice made Mia look away from the center of the room. When she looked up to see who had spoken, she had another flashback. She shook her head and told herself that she was dreaming. But when she looked again, she saw that she was right. The woman that called to her looked exactly like Kayura.
Great, first I follow a guy that looked exactly like Anubis, now I'm at a store owned by a Kayura look-alike, she thought.
"Miss? Can I help you?" the woman repeated. She stepped out from behind the counter and stood before Mia. She was wearing a blue jumper with a halter top and skirt bottom. Underneath it, she wore a red turtleneck and light blue stockings with white sneakers. She looked taller than her height of about 5'4". Mia quickly came back to reality when she saw that the girl's similarity to Kayura ended with their looks.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I was just admiring your collection here." Mia walked over to the nearest statue. "Some of these armors have never been proven that they even existed anymore."
"Oh, another avid collector," said the girl.
"No, not really," Mia said as she faced her again. "I have done a lot of studying about them, though."
"Well, it's great to finally meet somebody who knows the armors other than us."
"Us?" Mia asked with a puzzled look.
"Where are my manners?" the girl suddenly said. She rushed up to Mia and shook her hand. "My name is Royda. I am one of the owners of Edo. I am sorry to have acted so suspicious earlier."
"No need to apologize. Besides, I didn't think you were suspicious at all.As they started to talk about the armors around the store, another girl about Royda's age and looking exactly like her, stepped through a door behind the counter. She was wearing
khaki pants and a white button down, long-sleeved shirt. She had on boots and was carrying a clipboard. She didn't seem to notice Mia since she was so interested with what was written on the clipboard. She went straight to Royda and almost ran into Mia.
"Oh, sorry," she said with a distinct accent.
Royda introduced Mia to the store's secretary Reva. Mia couldn't believe that girls this young could operate such a business with such professionalism. Nevertheless, she shook her hand and stood aside to let them talk.
Reva held the clipboard up to Royda's face. Royda took it and studied the inventory sheet on it. After a few seconds, she looked at Reva.
"This is the new delivery, right?" she asked.
"Yeah," Reva answered.
"I don't see anything wrong with it."
"Well of course there isn't, except for one minor detail." Reva went up to the clipboard and pointed half way down. "It says here that there were three daggers in the crate: The Dragon, Gaiden blade, and Blood Hunger."
"Yeah. They're all here. What are you getting at?"
"If I recall correctly, you ordered four daggers: those three and the..."
"Sung Rai Dagger!?!" Royda finished for her. Royda's eyes went wide with disbelief when she realized her mistake. She was clearly angry and didn't even excuse herself from Mia. She went behind the counter and straight for the phone. As Royda punched in numbers to the phone, Reva had a chance to talk to Mia.
"Sorry about Royda's behavior," Reva started, still looking at Royda being animated. "She usually keeps her cool longer than all of us. Lately, there had been a number of things that had not gone according to plan."
"Was that really the Sung Rai Dagger you were talking about?" Mia asked. She recognized all four names but the Sung Rai got her attention.
"Yeah, Royda has been looking for that dagger for ages now. She came close once and now that dagger is apparently not with the shipment."
"What do you mean you made a mistake?" Royda's voice elevated to a violent pitch. "How hard could it be to pack a dagger with the other three that I ordered together?" A pause. "Don't give me excuses. I want that dagger or the next order you pick up is your coffin." She was about to slam the phone down when she heard a voice in the line. "What did you say? You did not just call me that, right? Well, even if you find that dagger, I'm still going to send you your coffin." She slammed the phone down hard, almost breaking it. She stood there starring at the phone, then just turned around and went to the door.
"I'm really sorry about that," Reva said turning to Mia.
"You must have a great business here to afford all this." Mia looked around her.
"Well, not really," admitted Reva. "Most of these armors were part of Royda's grandfather's collection already. We just knew where to look for bargain armors."
When Reva was about to tell Mia the history of one of the nearby armors, another girl that looked like them came down the stairs behind a far wall. She was wearing jogging pants and a short-sleeved shirt. She had slippers on and looked like she just got up. As she reached the last step, she looked around the store. She found Reva and Mia starring at her and went to them. She was introduced to Mia as Kala, then she started talking. "What was all that noise down here?" Kala asked still half asleep.
"Mt. Royda just erupted over the phone," Reva answered. Kala's eyes snapped to attention. Hearing about Royda's rare lose of control was enough of a wake up call.
"Really?!" she probed. Reva nodded. "Why didn't you say so? I always want to see Royda loose control even if it happens once in a blue moon." She headed for the back door with eager eyes. "I also love watching her chew those guys out."
"You're going to have to excuse her," Reva apologized for Kala. "She gets carried away very quickly."
As Reva turned to the armor, Mia's eyes were still on the door. Gradually, her attention shifted to what Reva was talking about. Their conversation turned toward the figures in the center of the room. Reva explained that they had made the statues themselves. They had all learned to carve wood at an early age and found that it was cheaper to make their own statues than buy them. There were also other carved figures scattered around the store.
The back door opened again and got their attention. Mia saw another girl looking exactly like the last three except that her right eye was covered by her hair. She was wearing leggings and an over-sized shirt. She made little noise with her sneakers and backed out of the door. Though the door was only opened a second, Mia could hear Royda's voice telling the movers where to shove their money to. Kala's encouraging comments could also be heard.
The girl that came in looked around nervously. When she saw Reva, she gave her a little shake of the head and a smile. She made her way towards them and stopped before Mia. Reva introduced the store's treasurer Kishin.
"I hope you weren't too offended by what you heard from back there," she said as she
shook Mia's hand. "Royda's nerves have been on edge lately."
"I suppose I would be too if I were getting the Sung Rai Dagger," Mia replied.
"Well, I'm sure Reva has already told you that she keeps her cool the longest around here. Losing control is not a good thing when it's her that loses it." She turned to Reva. "Where's Mira at?"
"I think she's still upstairs, sleeping," Reva answered.
Kishin quickly went up the stairs to wake the last of the sleepers. Mia couldn't shake the feeling that this Mira would look exactly like the other girls. She turned to Reva to ask a question.
"Are all of you sisters?" she asked bluntly. Reva looked at her and almost laughed.
"No, fortunately not," she said with a hint of humor. "Out of the five of us, only Royda and Mira are the real sisters. The rest are just orphans their grandfather took pity on."
They resumed their tour of the store. Mia kept having an ear out for any other noises of people. As a result, she missed most of what Reva had to say about the armors. Kishin got down from the stairs a moment later. She was followed by what looked to Mia like a miniature Kayura of Royda in pajamas. Kishin all but dragged her to the back door, like
meat for a hungry lion.
"Why did Kishin wake Mira up?" Mia asked when the two disappeared through the door.
"Since Mira is Royda's little sister, it's only logical to think that Royda would only listen to her. Besides, Royda wouldn't dare set a bad example for the baby of the family."
Mia more of less got the logic of that. She supposed a group of girls would really have a powerful sense of family within the group since there's no other to call family. Mia was really impressed by how all five of the girls seem to have a role in their "family." In some ways, the five girls were closer together than most of her friends' families.
Reva noticed that Mia wasn't listening to her anymore. She stopped and just looked at Mia for a moment. Ever since Mia stepped into the store, Reva has had a feeling she had known her before. Not exactly her, but someone that Mia used to know had somehow rubbed off at her and Reva thought that was what she felt. Either way, Mia seemed like an old friend to her.
A little bell ring brought back both women from their trances. They were in the back of the room already, so whoever came in didn't see them. Reva pulled Mia behind an armored statue. They could see that a fat man had walked in and brought with him a few feet of snow. He seemed to not have looked at a mirror before leaving the house because from where they stood, Mia almost went blind for just looking at him. He wore a purple checkered knicker over multi-colored golf socks. His top was a multi-colored striped sweater under a bright red jacket. He wore green shoes and a bright orange hat on top of
his head. He took it off when he entered and exposed a shiny bald head.
Reva couldn't help but laugh behind her hand. Mia couldn't see to laugh but did anyway. All the man heard was a few chuckling and looked around nervously. He thought the statues had come alive. He was about to investigate where the chuckling came from when the back door slammed open. The chuckling stopped instantly and the fat man stopped on
Royda stepped back to the store again, clearly calmed down but still visibly angry. She walked up to the fat man and looked down at him (he being a foot shorter then her). When the man looked up at her, sweat began to pour over his face like a dam. While the fat man stared at Royda's blue eyes, Mia asked Reva a question.
"Who is that?"
"That's Mr. Peer," Reva answered in a whisper. "He owns the local museum here and hoping to add another branch to it called 'Ancient Samurai'."
"What do you want Peer?" Royda asked with a controlled voice.
"I came to visit?" was his answer, giving her a broad grin.
"Bullshit!" Royda emphasizing on the syllables, spitting on Peer. "We all know what the hell you want here."
Peer couldn't answer her. Who could? She looked beautiful with all her anger. Peer couldn't think of anything but how her breasts heaved whenever she talked. With her ducking low, Peer was more face to face with her breast than her.
Sensing that Peer was undressing her with his eyes, Royda gave him a blow upside his head. She stood up straight and waited for Peer to get back up. Even if she doesn't admit it, Royda enjoyed giving Peer what he deserved.
"Oh, yeah," added Reva. "I forgot to mention that he's got the hots for Royda and wants to marry her. He's already proposed to her twice, both times he got a broken nose." With that, both of them started laughing behind their hands again.
Peer heard the chuckling and looked around again. Knowing that Royda could not be held up, he decided not to mention the chuckling. He thought he was probably hearing them inside his head from her blow.
"I came to see if you had all your cargo," he said immediately when he got up. Royda gave him a suspicious look.
"How do you know we had a delivery?" she asked.
"Well...not many people could miss a delivery truck," he answered nervously. Sweat came down his face like rain. He struggled to wipe them off his brow and look Royda straight in the eye. He looked like he was keeping a secret that was very near to exposure.
"Keep your nose out of our business," Royda said, pushing him back towards the door after every word. All Peer could do was fall helplessly back, bracing himself from the impact of her blows. She advanced after every push and was almost on top of him when he reached the door.
"I think you better leave while you still can. Besides, your costume is making my eyes hurt."
She reached behind him and for the doorknob. He defensively tried to block her hand since he thought she was going after his nose or the back of his head again. She all but pushed him out of the store with a hefty shove. As she closed the door behind her, she couldn't stop smiling at what she had just done. She had done worse things to him, but
that was just perfect for a day like that was turning out to be.
"OK," she said aloud. "You can come out now Reva. I think your giggling has already done its job."
Surprised, Mia looked up at Reva who was looking very sheepish. Reva shrugged her shoulders and got up reluctantly. Mia had a quizzical look on her face but got up along with her. They emerged from behind the statue and found Royda looking at their direction. She shook her head at them but with still a smile on her face. They walked up to her and Mia's face asked Royda how she knew they were there.
"I knew you weren't in the back room. Reva wouldn't have taken you upstairs since she is very self-conscious about the appearances of out rooms. You couldn't have left since I didn't hear the bell ring. I heard you giggling and the only person I knew that would hide and spy on the store was Reva."
Mia looked at Reva. She gave her a big grin that didn't hide any of the guilt she possessed. All Mia could do was shake her head when she realized she had been part of a daily routine between these girls.
The rest of the girls joined Royda in the main room. Now that all five of them stood together, Mia really looked confused on who was who. When they introduced each other again, Mia felt better. She had a terrible urging to ask Royda if they knew anybody named Kayura. She went against it because she hadn't known these girls for that long. They all
stood around talking and sometimes included Mia in their conversations. Mia felt like they had known each other for a long time. The girls, however, felt like somebody from their past had come back to them. A small coo-coo clock rang the hour to nine o'clock. Mia checked her watch and apologized for leaving so soon. She had a morning workout scheduled for that morning and was already late. She promised them that she'll be back as soon as she can.
Royda went to the window over the door and pulled away the curtain. The rest of them peered through the large picture window next to the door. They all followed the trek of the figure that just left their store. Somehow, even when she was long gone, they still can't shake the feeling that they had met her before.
"Was she the one you sensed?" Royda asked Mira.
"There were two of them last night," Mira answered. "The first one was very strong, but the second was definitely her. I didn't expect her to come here but I think she doesn't know how we are."
"I hope we keep it that way," chimed Kala. "I don't know about her, but I'm sensing something powerful inside of her. It's grown since she came in."
"She's right," defended Reva. "I was with her. She doesn't seem to even know that she has that kind of power within her. If she knew, she certainly can hide it."
"Well, I like her," Kishin said startling the rest of them. They all looked at her to explain. Kishin just kept looking outside. "She didn't feel very evil and she most certainly didn't look like it. I know that looks only count for a small percentage, but I sensed nothing evil within her. She is the most kind person I've sensed since we got here. I stand by her and say she's not here to expose us. I think she was sent here by Him to find somebody out. Somebody essential to her life."
Kishin stood there ready for their rebuttal, but none came. All of them seemed to be digesting what she had said. They haven't thought of that scenario before and it seemed to them the most logical. All they can do is wait and learn more about this Mia Koji.
Somewhere in another world,
a great group of military personnel gathered in front of what
looked like a throne room. Seated on that throne was a girl
with long white hair, wearing a menacing armor. She looked
over the sea of people and gestured at one of them on the front
row. The hooded figure seemed to glide over the floor to
her chair. It bowed low
and produced a scroll.
"We are disappointed to inform you that your father, the Emperor Talpa, is now dead," the figure read from the scroll. "Having no last will of testament, the netherspirits of his domain have decided to join yours for a more powerful Dynasty. Including with them would be his castle and the netherworld he formerly ruled over. His dark warlords could
be summoned but be advised, they have found the path to the truth and would not come back easily. Do you accept these gifts?"
While the netherspirits talked, the girl had closed her eyes and folded her hands in front of her. She seemed in deep thought when he finished. When he asked her the question, she looked up from her trance.
"Yes," was her only answer.
All the beings there: monsters, spirits, her guards, didn't make a sound. They knew that whoever tried to do that to her father would surely pay for it. A very heavy silence fell on the crowd. Not even the newly-crowned Empress of the Netherworld moved a muscle. They all knew that there were a lot more in store for the people of Earth than they