Mia had the same dream again. The rest of the girls dreamt about nothing. Royda got up early as usual and found a great red tiger in the middle of the hallway of their bedroom floor. It was slightly smaller than White Blaze with the same markings, but it was female. She wasn't surprised at all that Red had followed the white armor's return.
"What do you mean she would rather have him here in person than in spirit?" Reva eagerly raised her head up to Royda's turned back. Royda knew what she was talking about and took a moment to flip the eggs.
"Do I have to go through our Ronin History? Do I have to tell you what happened when Mia, Anubis and Yuli came back from acquiring the Jewel of Life? Do you want me to go through a detailed..."
"Okay, I'm sorry I asked." Reva raised her hand to surrender when Royda came to her with a hot pan. She placed eggs and bacon on her plate and moved on.
"That is the only explanation as to why she would follow him, isn't it?" Kishin said from the door. She passed the tiger without another notice and sat in front of Reva. She did a double-take and stared down at the tiger's emerald eyes.
"How did she get here?" pointing at the tiger.
"You know that Red follows the white armor everywhere it goes. She probably go here sometime last night." Irritably, Reva raised a toasted bread to her mouth.
Kishin was about to answer back when Mira and Kala suddenly burst into the room, heading straight for the tiger. They apparently were less shocked at her appearance.
"Would somebody please hide her before she scares the hell out of Mia?" Royda's voice stopped the two from playing with Red.
"Why? She knows another tiger and probably wouldn't even notice her." Kala was uncharacteristically talking back.
"With red fur and her not being here before, believe me, she will know." Heat started to rise and they knew that Royda was not to be denied.
Kala and Mira reluctantly shoved Red to a corner and tried to cover her with a blanket. The big tiger seemed to have understood what they were doing and stood still just as Mia entered the kitchen. They all looked at her briefly and went on with their duties. Kishin got up from the table and walked toward the coffee pot where Mia was.
"You had a good rest?" Mira raised her head.
"I had the same dream again." Kishin saw that she had been crying.
"I think you better sit down."
Mia sat and saw that she was surrounded by questioning eyes. Royda had finished cooking and had sat at her customary place at the head of the table. Mia waited for the plan she knew they had talked about.
"Mia," Royda started. "Would you risk the life of somebody you...care for? Would you let their lives depend on the hands of a stranger?"
Mia looked confused as to how that question would answer anything. She looked around her and stared at Royda.
"I guess I do." Deep down, she knew she had to trust the hands of the stranger. If she didn't, then her chance at a happy life with the one she cared for would go away.
"Then would you trust us to bring back Anubis?"
Mia's eyes grew wide at the bluntness of the question. She hadn't anticipated it at all. The rest of the girls hid their smiles, knowing that Royda was always blunt about everything.
Royda looked into Mia's eyes and knew what the answer was. She smiled and motioned to the girls to pack. They were going on a little camping trip.
Mia was introduced to the red tiger shortly before they left. She didn't seem frightened, only shocked. Mia thought that Red was the splitting image of White Blaze, expect for her red fur.
They all piled into a van and headed for the mountains. They had packed for a good two days since that was what it would take. It was still pretty early when they headed north for the top of the mountain.
A couple of hours later, Mira's directions led them higher than they expected. When the van couldn't move anymore, they went on foot. They didn't need to go far since the site Mira wanted was just over a ridge and trees.
They broke through the forest and found themselves within an enclosed lake. Mia quickly recognized her surroundings as the place in her dream, only with minor changes. She hadn't spoken on the way up and she couldn't seem to speak then.
They looked around and started to drop their gear under a huge pine tree. Royda looked up at a small ridge just a few yards from the water's edge. She knew that they needed to go up there.
Mia wrapped herself with a blanket and huddled near the bulk of Red. The tiger seemed to welcome the company. The other girls went about trying to figure what they should take. Royda looked at all of them and, as if they were commanded to, stopped what they did looked at her. She walked to where Mia was seated with Red.
"We're going over that ridge and bring him back. Don't worry if you see anything unusual coming off the top of the ridge. It is imperative that you don't go over that ridge to look at what's happening. We don't know what would happen to normal human eyes if they saw what we will see. Understand?"
Mia shook her head yes. She huddled closer to Red. Royda knelt next to the tiger.
"You protect Mia for now, okay Red." She looked intently at the green eyes and gave her a soft pat on top of her head. She got up and started walking for the ridge. The other girls did the same to Red and gave Mia a reassuring smile. None spoke to her, all of their minds trained on the task ahead.
When they reached the small plateau, Royda looked at her surroundings. The mountains and the volcano balanced each other out, as well as everything else. It was even more beautiful up there then she originally thought.
The other girls followed closely to her heels and stopped just behind her. They knew what their roles in this little escapade was. Mira broke from the group and wandered around the plateau. She raised her hand as if to feel for something. She slowly moved around, trying to feel the energy of the Opening.
Mira stopped at the other end of the plateau, which wasn't very far away. She felt around and felt a powerful presence. She motioned to the others, then they formed a circle around the spot she pointed at.
They held hands and closed their eyes. Suddenly, the air became thick with magic. The girls' bodies began to glow different colors. Royda burst into flames as well as Kala, but neither were burned; Kishin was glowing a strong blue and her hair was blown by a gust of wind that blew only for her; Reva, emanating a blue-green color, was showered with water, but wasn't wet; and Mira glowed a healthy brown and was slowly turning to stone from the foot up.
Their elements covered their
whole bodies until their features couldn't be seen anymore.
They simultaneously opened their eyes and their elements dispersed.
The power that surrounded them accumulated in the middle of the
circle. It mixed the colors and
blended it, becoming black then gradually to white. Royda let go of Mira and Kishin's hands and stepped forward. The rest of the girls let go of the hands they held but stood still.
Royda stepped in front of the white opening. The girls behind her formed a square around the portal, waiting patiently and concentrating. Royda stared at the opening and entered it without another thought.
With little care for what happened to her concentration, Mira's eyes brimmed with tears. A single drop fell down her cheek and that was the only thing she allowed. She didn't dare break her concentration for fear she might lose her only true family left.
The white light was blinding for a second then returned to a normal glow. Royda looked around the place and it was all too familiar. Everything was white and everyone seemed to be happily going about their business. It she had time, Royda would have liked to stay there for a while longer.
She was always the one to step into that portal to transcend the mortal and spiritual world. They had said that her will was stronger than the others and was easy to locate to get her out of there quickly.
She saw the same things that she did the last time she was there over four hundred years ago: Little kids playing tag around her now spiritual body; Adults watching with happy faces, not a worry or a frown. Royda shook her head and concentrated on the task at hand.
She was pulled towards a group
of men with their heads turned from her. She approached
them silently and recognized some of the Clan members in the circle.
Her gaze traveled from one head to another and finally settled
on one with white hair peaking
under his hat.
The man slowly turned around and looked up at her. A smile crept to his face and he stood up.
He gave her a hug and looked her over. She too was smiling, finally happy for once that week. He steered her away from the circle and spoke to her in whispers.
"I suppose you wanted to see him?"
"Yes, Grandfather. He is very much needed by somebody in the mortal world."
"I know. He has been looking forward to this time. You can find him over there."
Royda turned and found a man with red hair flowing past his shoulders hunched over with his head in his hands. His blue-green eyes stared out into space, intently looking at something that wasn't there. She excused herself from the Ancient and approached the man.
The man raised his head and looked at her. His hard stare fell on eyes with equal hardness. She looked down at him, waiting for him to move. When he didn't, Royda decided to take matters into her own hands.
"I suppose you'd just let me guess."
Anubis ducked his head back down and continued to stare into space. He didn't seem to know why this girl was there.
Royda was visibly getting mad and very agitated. She clenched her fists in order to stop herself from grabbing him and pulling him out of there. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Anubis! You are going back with me to the mortal world and you will not give me trouble."
Anubis raised his head with a jerk and looked at her. His eyes had a look of shock and anger as to what she said to him. All she said was stand there, crossing her arms over her chest. Anger was written all over her beautiful face.
"Why should I follow you?" Anubis tried to keep the anger out of his voice.
"If you don't, my friends and sister have just wasted a ton of energy on you. Besides, I think you would want to see Mia again, wouldn't you?"
She turned around, heading for the exit from where she came from. She felt a hand on her arm that turned her back around. She found herself gripped in between two powerful hands and eyes that bore through her. Is she was a normal human, she would have been intimidated, but she just gave back a stare of her own.
"Did you say Mia?"
"If you don't mind, I would like to leave now. Whether with or without you is your choice."
She jerked away from his grip and stood back. As she looked at him, she saw different emotions pass through his noble face. She knew that this was hard for him and she knew that he knows the consequences of this trip.
"Look, we don't have much time. I can feel my sister straining already. You have to make a decision now!"
"Then we go."
Anubis shoved passed her towards the opening she came from. Royda couldn't help but smile, sometimes being blunt was all stubborn people need to get them going.
She reached him while he was standing before the portal. She put her hand on his shoulder and ushered him in before her. They went in head first and felt their bodies getting heavier.
Royda, being experienced at this, held on to Anubis, knowing that if she let go, he won't only be lost to them but he would lose all his memories as well. She couldn't let that happen. Not again.
As they neared the end of the portal, she closed her eyes and gripped his hand tighter. Anubis held on to her hand, knowing somehow that letting go now would be suicide even for a spirit. The intense light covered them and Anubis had to close his eyes or become blind from the glare. All Anubis remembered was the light, then the dark, then hard rock.
Mia looked up from where she
sat. Over the ridge, she saw the same light from her dream.
She restrained herself from getting up and checking it out, remembering
Royda's warning. The red tiger seem to know what she was
thinking and was ready to stop her.
"Don't worry." She patted the soft fur. "I won't do anything you told me not to. I have enough sense you know."
I just wish I knew what was happening up there, she thought.
The voice sounded so far away.
Royda opened her eyes and two blurred figures hovered over her
face. One of them was holding her head and seemed to be
crying while the other one was talking but she couldn't hear her.
She shook her head vigorously and looked at them again.
The figures became clearer and she quickly recognized their
forms: Kishin and Mira.
"What's going on here?"
Mira's red-rimmed eyes grew wide with surprise and relief when she spoke. She hugged her sister, not caring if she approved of it or not. She was happy that she came back alive and well.
Royda forced herself up with Mira still hugging her. She let her, although she highly disapproved of this show of affection. She turned her eyes to Kishin to be filled on the details.
"You came through fine," answered Kishin, knowing that look all too well. "You brought back Anubis with time to spare. He's over there resting. I think becoming alive again has taken its toll."
Mira finally pulled away from Royda and helped her up. Royda knew that the time they had left was very short and had taken almost every ounce of their energy to maintain the portal open. She felt the fatigue creeping from Kishin and her sister's bodies. They couldn't tell her their problem after what she's been through.
The three joined Kala and Reva, who were with Anubis. He was still wearing his monk garb and the hat was beside him. He slowly opened his eyes and looked at the girls. "Where am I?"
Horror fell over Royda's eyes as well as the others. After all that work and energy spent, they can't have Anubis, back from the dead, loosing his memory before he met Mia! His next words assured Royda that his memory was just fine.
They let out a sigh of relief and looked at each other. They were all pretty exhausted and can't seem to do much else. Royda helpfully pointed to the direction of the lake as to where Mia was.
Anubis go up slowly, getting used to the pull of gravity that was holding him down again. He had to remind himself that he wasn't a spirit anymore. He was bound to the earth and was about to meet the woman he loved.
Mia couldn't help but think that something was going to happen soon. She got up from her seat and went to the water's edge. She looked towards the horizon and saw the sun setting below the tree line. Its golden fingers reflecting off the crystal blue lake.
Suddenly, the clanking of a familiar staff brought her back from her day dream. She turned around and knew that this was her dream all over again. What she saw was a man in a monk clothing with his head ducked under the wide hat. The staff was nowhere to be found but it kept ringing from somewhere.
She didn't dare step forward for the fear that a force would push her back. She didn't need to move, the man walked straight towards her without hesitation. She couldn't see below the brim of the hat, but knew this wasn't the Ancient. The Ancient could never make her heart pump this fast. Only one man did and he was dead. Or was he.
When he was a few feet from her, he took her hand. Mia's heart raced and held on to his hand. True to her dream, she had to ask.
"Who are you?"
The figure's bowed head didn't lift his eyes to her.
"I think you already know."
Mia couldn't contain herself. She untied the ribbon holding his hat in place and took it off. A slight breeze blew the man's red hair and the sinking sun's glow glinted off his blue-green eyes.
"Anubis," she whispered.
Her eyes brimmed with tears
at the sight of the man she loved. A single tear fell and
she felt his hand wipe it away. She couldn't take her eyes
off his and couldn't seem to stop her hands from touching him.
She finally clamed down and stood before him. He brought
up his hand to her cheek and leaned his head towards her.
True to her dream, she stood up straight and closed her eyes.
When their lips touched, it was like magic was unleashed in great proportions upon the world. There was no bright light that separated them, so the kiss went longer then either expected. And who was to complain? Mia had waited for that moment for a long time and wasn't about to pass it up. Anubis had watched her long enough and felt it was time for some action. They didn't even see five very tired girls standing on a ridge, looking down at them. All they saw was each other.