This is a story that is based on Lady Saendie's storyline with some additions to it by Darster. My storyline follows this one, but it has it's own twist to it. I hope you will enjoy it!-Satori.
MASK/Ronin Warriors Crossover 1: Family Lines, Separate Ties
The gray mist grew thicker and completely surrounded him as Sai shivered from more than just the cold. In the distance two bright lights appeared and shot right at him! The first one, a golden ball slammed into his chest as the other, a blue sphere, entered his forehead. Sai screamed as the two colors fought for control over him. Finally the blue light won as the gold vanished within Sai's body. The mist dispersed to reveal a pitch-black nothingness and a distant laugh was heard in the background . . .
Sai shot upright and banged his head against the overhead bunk. Biting back a curse he opened his eyes. Light streamed through the window of the compartment as the ship continued its voyage. Sai got up and walked with expert balance along the walkway, not bothering waking up Rowen. Better to expend his energy elsewhere than try to wake up 'Sleeps Like the Dead'. Rowen was smart, but when it came to waking him up . . . good luck.
Quickly putting his clothes on, Sai opened the door and headed toward the mess hall (Those unfamiliar with what a mess hall is, it's where you eat). The ocean breeze ruffled his brown hair as the sun began to show over the horizon. Sai stopped to watch it come up as Los Angeles came into view. They were all taking a much-needed vacation to America at Mia's insistence. White Blaze stayed behind with her to help her with her own healing. It had been a little over two months since they defeated Talpa with the Armor of Inferno and they were all beginning to feel a little odd without the Armors. Sai himself seemed to be having this weird dream every now and then, but he didn't tell the others. They all had other things on their minds. Sai ran a hand through his hair and groaned. Especially Ryo. The little boy, Yuli, had a head-on collision with a semi a few weeks ago and the leader of the Ronin Warriors was going through another guilt trip. That's why Mia sent them to the States. To get over it and start new lives. Besides, Sage's aunt lived close enough to this amusement park known as Disneyland, so why not?
He entered the mess hall and found Kento stuffing his face. Sai rolled his eyes and took a seat next to him. "This may sound rhetorical but, do you EVER stop eating?"
"What'd ya mean?" Kento asked between mouth fulls.
"Every time I've seen you on the cruise you've been eating! Don't you get seasick?"
"Seasick? HA! Kento of Hard rock NEVER gets sick."
"Unless it's something Rowen made . . . " Sai muttered.
"Before we left Rowen made this breakfast and I tried some, and, well, he's our friend and all . . . but I think he's the type that burns Jell-O."
"BURNS Jell-O? Why do you say that?"
"You'll see one day." Sai said, ending the conversation. Kento turned back to his food. Sai seemed a bit on the odd side lately, but he guessed that it was because of the missing Armor. They'd get used to it.
"I'm hungry." Kento stated as they threaded their way through Main Street USA, Disneyland.
"You're always hungry!" Sai remarked jabbing his friend in the stomach. "Tell me, are the rolls done yet?" Sai avoided Kento's punch and the others laughed.
"Hey Sage, what do you want to go on first?" Rowen asked the blond teen. "I've been here before on family reunions and I found Splash Mountain to be a lot of fun." He said pulling out a map. Ryo looked over his shoulder.
"What kind of ride is that?"
"That ride is a few little drops and water here and there . . . " Sage said as they headed into Frontier Land. Ryo fell behind the other heros and pulled out a necklace from his pocket. The Jewel of Life protected Yuli from the Dynasty, but not from the accident. He didn't know what to do with it now. Maybe the next time they saw Kayura he would give it to her.
Lady Kayura walked along the path toward the towering shrine. The Nether Realm sky was the usual green-blue with no true sun. The sky just seemed to glow with illumination . . . She picked up her robes and crossed the tiny bridge and entered the many doors until she came to the main room. The Nether Realm 'sunlight' streamed in through the ceiling and gave the room an eerie feeling as Kayura found the Staff of the Ancients in the middle. Surrounding it were the five Ronin Armor.
She still held onto the Armor of Cruelty as there were still Dynasty rebels out there and the Warlords followed her example. Kayura smiled and remember those brave young fighters from the Mortal Realm that saved them all from Talpa. She flicked one of the rings on the Ancient Staff playfully, but was careful not to knock it down. That was where the Dynasty evil was kept and only the Ancient Staff held them in that prison that she created with her reawakened memories. She turned to leave and as she closed the last door, the Staff fell forwards a fraction of an inch.
Kayura's eyes snapped open as she found herself covered in sweat. The loud clanging of the rings on the Ancient Staff echoed one more time and was silent. Kayura changed into her sub-armor and dashed out to the shrine. Throwing open the doors, the Staff of the Ancient's laid on the ground and Dynasty evil swam around the entire room. To her horror, a ripping sound was heard and then the Ronin Armors vanished, as did the Dynasty evil. Kayura was in shock for a second, but she soon found her wits and picked up the Staff. It started to glow and she looked closely at it. A vision appeared to her and her eyes filled with tears as she realized the huge mistake she had done.
In Disneyland, all five Ronin Warriors felt a sudden chill, but dismissed it as the morning weather.
Across the country, Cody Hawkes stood in front of the entrance to Boulder Hill, his dad's garage, talking to his girlfriend Annie.
"Just say the word, and I'll stay."
"Forget it." She transfixed him with those ferociously stubborn green eyes. "You and your dad have been planning this weekend trip to the Car Show for months now, and you're going."
He sighed, wondering why he was bothering to argue with her, but tried a last ditch effort anyway. "Annie, we've both had this inexplicable restless feeling for a couple days, and you know what that means. Two empaths don't just 'feel' something for no reason."
"That's right. But the key word here is inexplicable. I'm not ruining your weekend for some bad hunch that may not even pan out. Besides, you know as well as I do that we both need a break. You need a weekend out, and I need some down time by myself to figure out the craziness from the past couple weeks."
She was snowballing him, and he knew it, but there was no arguing with her. He threw his hands in the air hopelessly. "This is useless. I give up. All right, I'm going, but I don't have to like it."
She flashed him her most winning smile. "I knew you'd see it my way. You guys have fun."
He watched her pull out of the garage driveway, his empathy and his heart telling him this was a bad idea. He found himself wondering if he shouldn't stay anyway.
Rides, Shows, and Reality Calling
"Uh, Sage. You said a 'few' drops. I see just one . . . and it's big. Very big." Kento stammered as they waited in line.
Rowen stared at him. "Kento, we've fallen from much higher drops than THAT when we fought the Dynasty! Since when did you start getting frightened of heights?!"
"I don't know . . . I just got this feeling--oh well. Guess I'm just jittery."
Ryo hid a laugh with 'No Comment'.
They all piled into the log when it came their turn. The Splash Mountain ride banged and slammed into walls at every point and the guys found that they had to hold on just in case of capsizing! Near the end of the ride Kento was feeling more confident. "Ha! Those puny drops were nothing. I don't know what all that screaming is about ahead of us, but I'm sure it's just another slide."
"Just wait until we get up this 'hill' Kento." Sage said gripping the sidebars.
The two vultures stood on their perch and taunted them. "Laughing place? We got your laughing place right here . . ."
"What does that mean?" Kento asked a second before he got full view of the 'big drop'. "AAAAAAAHHH!!!!!" Kento's yell echoed the others as they plummeted downhill! A face full of water greeted them along with the happy-go-lucky music of Splash Mountain. Kento wiped water from his eyes and laughed nervously. "That wasn't so bad." Outside the ride they noticed that there were pictures being taken during the ride so Sai bought one--just for the look on Kento's face!
"Now what?" He asked.
AWhy don't we go see the Lincoln Memorial?" Rowen suggested. The others glared at him.
"We're here to have some fun Rowen, not learn. That's for school next month! Let's go on another fast one--what was that other mountain?" Kento glanced at the map. "Space Mountain. Yeah!"
"No thanks. I'll go hold a spot for us for the Parade." Ryo started to head back to Main Street.
"I'll go with you." Sai ran to catch up with him. The others went the opposite way to take the Sky Way to Tomorrow Land. "Ryo, what's wrong?"
"I know that look. You're blaming yourself again. Why don't you just face it--there was nothing any of us could've done!"
"NO! I could've done something. If I was just more--"
"More what? Alert? You were in school with the rest of us!" They sat down on the curb of the road where there would be room for the other boys. Ryo looked at the Jewel of Life.
"Why? Why didn't the Jewel protect Yuli? Our kanji didn't even show up--I felt nothing!"
"I don't know . . . maybe it only works for the Dynasty. There was nothing evil about Yuli death. He died instantly and he wouldn't want you to sulk like this. He'd want you to go on with life--just like Mia does." The sun started to shine right on them and the heat threw the temperature up a few degrees. "How do these people get used to such weather patterns?" Sai asked taking off his windbreaker.
"What's that?" Ryo pointed at a necklace around Sai's neck. It was a blue stone shaped like an oval with thousands of different hues of sapphire swirled in some kind of pattern. A silver and gold chain was strung between the hole and it seemed to glitter in the sunlight.
"This? It's just a family heirloom. I've always had it, just never got around to telling you guys about it. I used to think it was some kind of good luck charm--but you saw what happened during all our battles, I highly doubt that it did anything."
"You mean you wore that the whole time we fought Talpa? Good thing you didn't lose it!"
"Yeah, mom would've killed me." Unknown to either of them the blue stone and the Jewel of Life glowed for an instant and died as soon as it started.
"My Staff has murdered giants . . . "
The glowing rectangle zipped through the darkness dragging several others behind it as screams rent the darkness. Rowen tried to focus on SOMETHING but it was too dark to see more than Sage sitting next to him--and even that was difficult. So he held on for dear life while Kento, in front of them, whooped with joy as the car turned sharply and took a downward drop to gain even more speed. Rowen groaned. Sure, he hated SPLASH Mountain, but he loves SPACE Mountain. Better check this theory . . .
The roller coaster finally stopped and they found themselves in a cardboard replica of a 'space ship' with a line stretching to the middle of Tomorrow Land! Kento jumped out and grabbed Rowen before he fell back. His vision swam for a little while, but settled in an instant. When they got on the elevator to take them back to the surface, Rowen looked over at Kento and smiled. "Kento, I want to test a theory."
"What kind of theory?" Sage inquired.
"A mountain theory."
"What are they doing? Riding every mountain here?" Ryo asked as Rowen and Kento went off to Matterhorn Screamer Mountain (Or whatever it's called). Sage took a bite out of his churro.
"There's not all that many left to go on. Maybe we should check out Tom Sawyer's Island. There you will get your energy out for sure."
"Sound's great Sage, but let's see if Rowen's little theory is true." Sai watched his best friend fidget in the horridly long line. This outta be interesting.
Ryo suddenly turned around and took a fighting stance. "Who's there?" He demanded, but all he got were strange glances from the passer-byers.
"Ryo, what's wrong?" Sage asked.
"I-I felt something. Like when we were fighting Talpa, it was the same feeling."
"I don't sense anything. Relax, Talpa's gone, the Dynasty's in ruins, Kayura's cleaning up the mess, and we're getting back to normal." Sage said matter-of-factly. "What could possibly happen?@
Off to the sidelines a lone figure hid further in the shadows. That was close. Too close. Ryo of the Wildfire almost found him out! He'd have to wait until later to get his target. Maybe at this Tom Sawyer's Island.
"Is it safe?" Kento asked looking at Matterhorn. "Looks a bit rickety."
"You're not scared, are you?" Rowen taunted.
"NO! At least I didn't all dizzy on Space Mountain."
"Well, let's see how you fare against THIS mountain." Kento looked at the blue haired genius. Just what was he up to?
"OUCH!" Kento commented as the sled bashed and slammed into the track. "I don't like this!" He shouted to Rowen in the seat behind him.
"Why?" Rowen shouted into the wind.
"I just don't!" Then he saw the oncoming water and let out one more yell, which drew snickers from the people in line. "I hate that ride." Kento declared as they went to meet their friends.
"So was your theory correct?" Sage asked handing Rowen a Pepsi.
"Partially. It seems Kento has a physiological problem--"
"I could've told you that."
"--WITH unstable terrain and water. The thing is, he's perfectly fine in the dark. I still need to get some more info before officially declaring him a loon."
Ryo crouched low in the shadows and checked his ammo. He still had plenty left. Then footsteps echoed down the tunnel and Ryo jumped up and blasted Sage. Sage returned the favor. Finally, soaked, they banded together and went in search of their other friends. They were all on Tom Sawyer's Island playing a good old-fashioned game of War. As they passed under the tree house, Sage just so happened to look up and see the business ends of Kento's and Rowen's Super Soakers just before he was bombarded with H2O! Ryo fired at them and soon they were all out of ammo and drenched. Amazingly Sage's hair was still in the normal form! They all sat down on a ledge in the sun to dry off when Ryo started to look around. "Where's Sai?"
"Over here!" They all turned to view Sai with his own Soaker trained on them. "Surrender?" He offered. Kento waved a white souvenir bag and Sai took a seat by his friends. "Just let your opponents wear themselves out--then attack." He explained. "Amazing what you learn from cartoons."
Ryo grabbed Sai's gun and unloaded it on him.
"Trapped." Ryo muttered as he viewed the sea of people that blocked all exits out of there. Fantasmic sure was popular around here. "Okay guys, we're going to need a meeting spot because there's no way we're getting out of here together."
"How about the statue in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle?" Rowen suggested.
"The Main Street Electrical Parade goes through there soon after this show. It may be a while before we get back together." Sage said.
"As long as we do before the park closes." Ryo then turned to look over the water as the lights in New Orleans Square dimmed.
The crowds cheered as Fantasmic ended and then immediately started to shove people everywhere! The friends were soon separated. Sai ended up being walled in by a bunch of tall people. He cursed his small size and tried to find another way out, but then he felt a stinging pain in his back. The pain spread and the world blacked out and he collapsed. A man reached out and grabbed him before he hit the ground and smiled triumphantly.
Rowen finally found an air pocket in the crowd near FantasyLand. These Americans were impossible! He pulled out a book and found a secluded spot to read. Just because it was a break in school didn't mean he couldn't study. The words in the book blurred for an instant, but when Rowen blinked the words were back to normal. He rubbed his eyes and shook his head. The change in time zones was probably getting to him.
Sage, having been through all this before, easily wove his way through the people and found a spot to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. Lots of food sellers went up and down the street selling desserts and soda. Sage suppressed a groan as he saw Kento buying candy left and right. Sage looked up and down at the gathering of people in rows along the cubs, winking at the girls and getting dagger glares from the guys. Kento found the blond haired teen and squeezed into a spot next to him.
"What?" Kento asked as he saw Sage's facial expression.
"Do you ever stop eating?"
"You know, Sai asked me that--and yes I do stop eating. Gotta have time to sleep too."
Then Sage and Kento dropped their sodas at the same time. "What the--"
"My hand just went limp--how did that happen?" Sage stared at the spilled drink.
Ryo grabbed his head as a sharp pain seared into his forehead. The pain subsided quickly, but it left small after shocks. Leaning against a pillar for support, he caught an odd feeling of terror, but that too was gone in a moment. What was wrong with him? No, not him . . . someone else . . . He went off in search of his friends, but was stopped by a wall of people all looking up to watch the fireworks. No way around--damn it! He stood and waited until the crowd started moving again.
Annie rolled over and pulled the covers tighter, sighing as she fell into a deep sleep. Her psychic shields still held, but relaxed a little, letting her subconscious open wide. She dreamed . . .
"Give it back!"She screamed loudly.
She was suddenly ten years old, face as red as her hair, green eyes blazing fire, and fists balled in anger. Two of the older boys stole her necklace on the way home from school. Her mom had just given it to her as a gift. She said it had been in the family for generations and it was good luck. It hadn't worked well so far.
"Give that back!" She yelled again.
"Make us," they taunted. "Yeah Carrot Top, make us!"
If she lost the stone, Mom would never forgive her. It was anger and fear that lent the emotion to her final cry.
"GIVE THAT BACK!!"
Annie watched, shocked, as the stone flashed a brilliant, burning white. The boys dropped it like a hot potato, running away and yelling.
"That things possessed!!"
"Yeah, you can have it!"
A man picked up the stone and handed it to her before she could say anything. His hair was the same red as hers, his eyes were a sparkling blue, and he wore Japanese robes of some kind. Annie had never seen the man before, but she got a strong feeling that somehow she knew him.
"You should be more careful," he said, kneeling down to talk to her.
"Thank you," she replied somewhat shyly.
"You also shouldn't talk to me," he warned. "I'm a stranger."
"But I know you," she blurted innocently.
His look shifted to one of mild interest. "You do? Then what's my name?"
"Anubis," Annie replied quickly. Her empathy picked up a lot more that she didn't understand, but she knew that Anubis was a friend.
"Very good," he said with praise. "That stone looks very valuable. You shouldn't loose it."
"It is," she replied seriously. "Mama said it would protect me."
"You and a lot of other people," Anubis mused to himself. To Annie, he said, "Well, since I'm not a stranger, maybe I better walk you home so you don't have anymore trouble."
"Okay," she agreed.
Annie woke up, slightly confused. The dream felt like a memory, but it was a memory she didn't remember, or couldn't till now. It wouldn't be the first time blocked memories resurfaced--her mind was chock full of them.
She sighed and got out of bed. Damn, she hated this. It would take her forever to get back to sleep. She paced around, considering calling Cody, until she remembered his weekend trip. She wondered for a minute if she should've asked him to stay at the house with her, but was glad she didn't. Her guilt alone would've ruined any kind of fun they planned, so she'd just have to suffer alone.
The white light suddenly filled her bedroom. Annie whirled in surprise, staring at her nightstand where she laid her stone the night before. It blazed furiously like a signal beacon in the night.
"This is odd," Annie mused, picking up a very bad feeling. The stone amplified her psychic and empathic abilities, true, but in the time she'd been using it as such, she was quite sure it had never done this. Out of habit, she reached out and picked it up to investigate.
Suddenly, reality jerked out from under her, spinning, then finally solidifying into what seemed like a darkened void. Amazingly, Annie wasn't scared, just dazed and more than a little bewildered.
"Annie, it's time."
The voice seemed to come from inside the darkness. As her night vision adjusted, she could make out a shadow that stood out from the main mass.
"Time for what?" She demanded. "And who are you, anyway?"
The shadow moved as the white light from her stone illuminated his features. Annie stared in shock and disbelief.
"Anubis?" She whispered. "What are you talking about? What's going on?"
"No time to explain," he replied, "they need you."
"They? They who?"
"Never mind, just go."
Her reality wrenched again, and this time it was her staring out from the shadows . . .
Sai slowly awoke and immediately wished he hadn't. His back hurt, he had a headache, and felt incredibly weak . . . and where was he? He could barely see a thing beyond the small light that illuminated a tiny portion of the area. Sai tried to move but found that he couldn't. He was leaning against a stone pillar of some kind with his arms tied in chains behind him. Sai pulled against them, but he was too weak. The chains gave enough slack for him to stand up at least. Then a man entered the small, lit area. Sai didn't recognize him at all. "Who are you?" He demanded.
The man let out a small chuckle. "You don't know?"
"If I did, I wouldn't be asking!" Sai snapped, becoming rather peeved by this guy. The man reached out and took the blue stone from around Sai's neck. "Hey! Just what do you think you're doing?! Give that back!"
The man feigned a hurt expression. "Is that any way to talk to your ancestor?" The man smiled as the stone began to glow. Sai looked at him funny. Just who was this nut? "Think back." The man looked into Sai's eyes. "It wasn't too long ago, but the Armor of Inferno did a fairly good job to me."
Sai gasped in shock. "Talpa?" He whispered in a barely audible voice. "But how?"
"Doesn't matter. We have work to do."
Talpa held the blue stone between them and the small glow intensified to fill the entire area. "Let's see just how powerful you are." Talpa closed his eyes and the blue glow turned to gold. The kanji of Trust flared in defiance and Sai's body became a blue light, but a hint of gold started to show through. The stone centered on that and Talpa too began to glow. All three became blinding lights and Sai screamed as his soul was forced into submission. The lights died. The stone fell to the ground from Talpa's lifeless hand. Sai's eyes opened, but they weren't their normal blue. They were red.
Talpa breathed deeply for a few moments. That was difficult. He wasn't expecting THAT much resistance. He used the hidden power to release his new body from the chains. Not bad for someone so far down the line. He grabbed the stone and put it around his neck. Sinister figures emerged from the darkness. Dynasty Soldiers, Shadow Demons, Nether Spirits, and more horrors converged around Talpa, awaiting his orders.
Annie looked down. Her stone, much the same as the one the man now possessed, glowed with a fierce white brilliance, drawing the man's attention to her. She suddenly felt as if every evil in the world centered on her, and felt the man scanning her. She heard him laugh as a ball of energy flew straight toward her. The stone exploded in a white light of protection . . .
Talpa dismissed the intruder as of no importance. He had other things on his mind.
Annie stumbled, falling to her knees, back in the safety of her own bedroom. She tried to calm the fierce beating of her heart and the intense emotions she was feeling. That was no dream--it happened somewhere. Realization hit her like ice water. She'd been there. She didn't know how, or why, but she'd been there.
Hastily, she stood up and threw on a T-shirt and jeans. She placed the white stone around her neck and concentrated her psychic energy through it. She didn't know where or why, she only knew that she had to go.
It was almost midnight and Disneyland was practically deserted. Four lone figures sat around the statue of Mickey and Walt Disney before the entrance of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. "Did he get trampled or something?" Kento asked getting irritated.
"It's not like Sai to be this late. Something's wrong." Ryo gazed in the darkness back toward New Orleans Square.
"What do you mean?" Sage inquired.
"Well, I got this weird feeling earlier, but I don't know why--"
"You mean when you tried to harass the crowd this afternoon?"
"No, this was different. Painful actually."
"Painful?" Kento asked incredulously. "Who's the loon now Rowen?"
"Don't start." Sage ordered. "Maybe we should go look for him."
"Bad idea," Ryo naysayed. "Better to just wait for him here than risk all of us getting lost."
"I've been in the park before, I'll take a quick look around." Sage took off toward New Orleans Square before anyone could protest again.
Annie stumbled only slightly this time. Teleportation wasn't a new concept to her, but normally it required a lot more psychic energy than she ever dreamed of having. Perhaps the stone enhanced that ability also.
She looked around for a moment, examining the surroundings. Judging by the Disney paraphernalia and the lack of Epcot Center, she guessed Disneyland. For a moment, she questioned her own sanity, wondering why she would have teleported to one of the most popular amusement parks in the States.
Annie turned to see a young blond man addressing her, and suddenly got the feeling she'd found a piece of her mystery.
"You haven't seen a guy come by here, have you? Small, brown hair, blue eyes, kinda cute. A lot like you," he added flirtatiously.
The image of a frightened young man chained to a pillar came to mind, but Annie wasn't sure how to try and explain that to him.
"I'm taken," she replied pointedly, "but I haven't seen anyone. Is he a friend of yours?"
"Yeah, he was supposed to meet a group of us before the park closed, but we haven't been able to find him."
Annie felt the boy's worry, and it seemed to tie in with her search.
"Sorry I can't help, unless you want help looking," she offered nonchalantly.
He gave her a flirtatious look, then grew serious. "No, thanks. My name's Sage, if you see him, tell him his friends are looking for him."
"I'm Annie, and I will."
"Thanks," he said, walking back toward the park.
Without hesitation, Annie followed. He was the key to part of this mystery and she wasn't about to loose the only lead she had.
Sage met up with Ryo, Kento and Rowen just before he saw a familiar person come out of Adventure Land. "Sai!" The others saw their friend walk toward them and started questioning him
"Where were you?"
"Did you get lost?"
"What took so long?"
"Were you with a girl?" They stared at Sage. "Just thought I might be rubbing off."
"Get over yourself." Kento groaned, then noticed Sai wasn't answering any of their questions and he kept his eyes on the ground. "Hey Sai, what's the matter?"
Sai turned and started walking down Main Street USA and the others followed, figuring he was just tired. Ryo caught up to him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Never better Wildfire."
Ryo jumped back when he saw Sai's red eyes. "What the---"
"Let's not go through a long explanation. Take them!" From all around Main Street, a small force of Dynasty Soldiers appeared and grabbed the four Warriors before they could fight.
"Sai, what's going on?!" Rowen demanded, straining against the Soldier that held him. "This isn't funny!"
"But it is." Talpa remarked. "You will all pay for your interference in my plans and ruining my Dynasty!"
Ryo stared at him. "Talpa? No way--you're dead. We killed you."
"That's what we thought last time." Kento reminded them.
"Yeah well third time's a charm!" Sage threatened.
"You won't get that third chance, and don't worry about Sai. I have special plans for him." Talpa laughed raising his hand. Power was drawn from the air itself and a pulsating ball appeared. "Good-bye Ronin Warriors!" Talpa released the ball at them.
The Stone of Mouri
The ball lanced out at them and they braced for impact. The Jewel of Life around Ryo's neck flared to life and stopped the oncoming projectile. The explosion threw back the Dynasty forces, but the Jewel protected the heroes. The light from the Jewel reached out to engulf Talpa. The blue stone around his neck started to glow gold, but then turned blue and harmonized with the other Treasure. The kanji of Trust appeared and Talpa's soul was thrown out of Sai's body. His eyes turned back to blue as his reawakened soul took over, but there was something left behind . . . He didn't even have time to wonder as he was slammed into unconsciousness. The two powers died and silence filled the park.
Another ball of energy, this one a flaming white, flew through the air. This one headed straight for the Dynasty Soldiers as if on a homing beacon. Half the soldiers were destroyed, but the rest of the Dynasty, their bravado coming back, moved to recapture the boys. The Ronins didn't take time to guess where the other attack came from as Kento grabbed Sai and they hightailed it!
Annie watched the five boys make their escape. She fired another flaming ball of retribution from her stone, then she too ran away, following the trail of the five young men.
Talpa's discarded shell glowed for a moment as Talpa reclaimed it. He growled in annoyance at that little development. He was so close! He watched the young girl run with a mixture of surprise and fear. It was the same intruder from before, and he wondered if he had another unknown descendant. Using his own power, he teleported outside and began to work on his next move. He vowed to watch the girl closer to see if she might be of use to him.
Sage threw open the door to his Aunt's apartment and they all rushed in. Slamming it shut and locking it, he tried to calm down. Okay, he could handle this. His heart returned to its normal pulse and he walked into the living room.
Sai was laid down on the couch with the others standing over him. Finally Rowen spoke up. "What happened back there?"
Ryo shook his head. "I don't know."
Sage brushed aside Sai's hair and the kanji of Trust shined for an instant. Sage let out a sigh of relief, knowing that this was Sai, not Talpa. But why was Talpa in Sai's body--and where did that necklace around Sai's neck come from? "Now what?" He asked Ryo. "My Aunt won't be back for another day, so we have time to think things over."
"Good." The four boys turned toward the door to see Lady Kayura in formal robes and holding the Staff of the Ancients.
"Where'd you come from?" Kento demanded.
"I've come to help." She walked into the living room. "You see, this is all my fault."
"What do you mean?" Ryo asked her.
Rowen heard a groan from the couch and helped Sai to sit up. "Feeling better?" Sai shook his head, not trusting himself to speak.
Lady Kayura walked over and sat on the coffee table facing Sai. She gave a sad smile for reassurance, but it quickly faded. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry for what? I don't get it." Ryo said trying to get a coherent explanation.
"I suppose it would do to start from the beginning. It all started well before Talpa became immortal. He was human then, and had a family like any other human. Before he left to the Nether Realm to create the Dynasty, he gave his family a treasure. It was to insure that he could keep track of them in case one of them started to show potential." She pointed to the necklace Sai was wearing. "The Stone of Mouri."
Rowen shook his head in disbelief. "You can't be saying that Sai's a descendant of Talpa?!"
Lady Kayura continued on with a strained voice. "When I took the Armors to the Nether Realm, it left you all exposed. I knew then that Sai was of Talpa's blood, but I didn't think it would've mattered--"
"Mattered?!" Sai nearly launched himself at her, but with a great effort, he stayed still.
"With you being so far down the line, I would never have thought that you held any of his powers. I guess it was the Armor of Torrent."
"Wait a minute, if Talpa was human, then how did he get any powers before hand?" Sage asked.
"You all have inherent capabilities, but Talpa was just more adept at using them. The Staff showed me the past, and he was very powerful even then." She paused for a moment. "A short while ago, I made a mistake in the Nether Realm that released a lot of the Dynasty evil. It was so great that it ripped a hole between the Nether Realm and the Mortal World. They escaped with the Armors before I could stop them. Talpa took over the body of a young man and started gathering his forces. He wanted revenge so badly, so of course he wanted you all dead. But the moment he saw Sai . . . he knew." Lady Kayura looked at Sai and directed the last statement at him. "The Staff showed me something else. Talpa has plans to make you Dynasty Heir."
"That's not possible!"
"It can't be!"
"Kayura are you serious?!"
Lady Kayura waited until they were finished. She could tell that they were extremely upset by this, but she had to go on. "Listen, I know this is difficult to accept--"
"You got that right."
"But you must. Sai, there's something else you need to know--"
"NO!" Sai stood up and glared at her. "I don't want to know any more. Why are you doing this?" Kayura lowered her eyes and said nothing. "Is it this?" He yanked off the Stone.
"That Treasure is basically a tool. It can be used to focus power and/or divert it. You need to learn how to use it." Sai shook his head and dropped the Stone in her lap and left the room. He turned the corner to the hallway and slid down the wall to sit. It just wasn't true. Lady Kayura looked at the other four and saw she was walking on very thin ice.
"Kayura," Ryo began slowly. "What else is there? Can Talpa find us here?"
"Maybe, it all depends. Sai should be the first one to know this, but I think if it came from one of you, it would be easier on him. When Talpa took over Sai tonight, the Stone linked them."
"Linked?" Rowen looked at her funny.
"Soul-linked. It was a side-effect of the possession of having two souls in one body. Talpa can find Sai anywhere now, but I don't think he'll attack anytime soon."
Kento wandered away to find his friend, sick of hearing all that. Kento found him just out of earshot of the others and sat down next to him. "You okay?" Sai shook his head. "I don't think I could've handled all this, must be tough." Sai didn't say anything. Kento placed a hand on his shoulder and Sai flinched. "Hey, it's me Kento. Like any of that," He gestured toward the living room. "Is going to change anything. You're still our friend."
Sai finally looked at him. "You sound like Sage." He smiled weakly. "Kento, I don't know what's going on, but I'm . . . " His voiced trailed off.
"Scared?" Kento whispered. Sai paused, then nodded.
Annie stopped in the shadows outside an apartment complex, trying to catch her breath. The flurry of emotions from inside told her empathy that this was definitely the right place. She had no idea what she was doing here, or what she was going to say, but she nonchalantly walked through the apartment complex, trying to look as much like she belonged there as possible
She saw the same young man from before sitting outside the apartment. Even without her empathy, his face showed the anger, confusion, and fear he was trying to deal with. Annie still had no idea what she was going to say, but she figured the direct approach might work.
"Are you okay?" She asked, stepping out of the hall shadows.
The boy jumped to his feet and whirled on her. "'Who are you?!"
"A friend, I mean, I think . . . "
He looked at her like she was insane, and eyed the stone around her neck warily. ""You think?"
"Well, I know it's not usual to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, but I was talking to your friend Sage while he was looking for you, and then I saw the scene in the park. I wanted to make sure everyone was okay."
The last seemed to strike a memory in him, and he looked at her wide-eyed. "You were there,"" he whispered in astonishment.
She knew he was talking about before, and she nodded solemnly. "I'm sorry--I wanted to help then, but I couldn't. That's why I'm here now."
He looked at her as if gauging the truth of her statement, then he said absently, "You better come and meet my friends."
The round of introductions was made without too much fuss. Sai rested quietly, trying to get his mind to put this chaos into some semblance of order. He wasn't sure what to make of any of this. Annie's heart broke at the sight.
She probably would've gone to comfort him, except that Kento stood protectively close to his best friend, eyeing her with evident mistrust. Annie realized that all the self-defense training in the world wouldn't stop him if he took a dislike to her. He was big.
Rowen looked at her thoughtfully, assessing her qualities in his mind. He seemed to be the brains of the outfit.
Sage sat next to her on the couch, flirting terribly. He had no problem with the fact she'd appeared out of nowhere, offering her assistance. It seemed that Sage didn't mind anything, especially if it was female. He was rather cute, but she and Cody shared a bond for life. She almost wished he were here to see this, just to see how he'd reacts.
Ryo, the natural leader, paced a hole in the floorboard. He tried furiously to put this all in perspective and failed.
"I'm not sure I understand," he stated resignedly.
"That makes two of us," Annie replied. "I'm not sure I understand any of it either."
"How could you be with Sai when he was possessed by Talpa when WE couldn't even find him?" Kento asked, distress and mistrust finally having an outlet.
Annie lifted the jewel from around her neck. It still emitted a soft white light. "With this."
Kento's eyes widened in shock. "Not you too!"
Rowen spoke up finally, eyes as wide as Kento's. "Kayura, that's not . . . " Fear prevented him from finishing the thought.
Annie's nervousness grew as all five boys looked at her in astonishment. Kayura, previously standing in the doorway, walked over to Annie. "May I?" She asked, taking the stone.
"Uh, sure, but would someone please explain why you're all looking at me like I'm a demon from another dimension?"
"Sai's jewel has some 'interesting' qualities. We thought yours might too," Sage explained, suddenly serious with regard to her.
"Only that it enhances my psychic abilities."
"You're psychic?" Ryo asked
"Empathic actually," Annie replied. "In fact, I think that's how I got here. Sai's fear was so overwhelming that the emotional pull was too strong to shield out."
"Even so, how could it pull you that far across the United States?" Ryo pointed out.
"Practiced psychics can teleport themselves limited distances, but it takes a lot of energy. The stone must've just enhanced my natural ability."
"It looks a lot like the Jewel of Life and Sai's stone," Sage noticed.
"It is the same family, but more than that I can't say." Kayura decided. "It's very well tuned to you. Where did you get it?"
"My mom," Annie answered. "She said it's been in the family a while."
"An heirloom?" Sai exclaimed fearfully. If it was also one of Talpa's markers . . .
Annie shrugged. "I guess. I used to have nightmares a lot, so mom gave it to me as a good luck charm for 'protection.' I always thought it was something she made up to make me feel better, that is, until it started working in tune with my psychic abilities."
Kayura turned it over in her hand once more, then returned it to Annie. "The staff showed me nothing of this. I must go gather some more information. I suggest you all get some sleep."
They all found their own places to rest for the night, believing that everyone would be in better minds in the morning. Sai stared out the window at the nearby Disneyland and shuddered. It was like he could feel Talpa . . .
After lying on the bed staring at the ceiling for what seemed like eternity, Rowen got up. Sleep was impossible tonight--too much had gone on. He figured he may as well keep watch while he was awake.
He walked into the living room and found Annie staring out the window in somewhat of a daze. They'd offered her the couch, but she obviously couldn't sleep either.
"Penny for your thoughts?" He quipped, trying to break the ice.
She turned, green eyes seeming to look through him before she came back to herself. "Huh? Oh . . . nothing. Just thought I'd keep watch."
"Couldn't sleep either?"
She shook her head. "No. Too much information to digest."
"Is this just something you do?" Rowen questioned suddenly.
She quirked an eyebrow at him. "What do you mean?"
"Do you always come to the rescue of complete strangers?"
Annie let out a soft chuckle and grinned widely. "Something like that. Have you ever heard of MASK?"
It was Rowen's turn to look at her insanely. "The Anti-Terrorist Strike Team? Yeah, I've seen rare news clips." The implications of what she was saying suddenly hit him. "You . . . ?"
"And a couple others." She grinned at him again and he could see how Sage wanted to flirt with her.
He became serious again. "Well, you're a bit out of your league if you think modern technology is going to help with what we're up against."
Rowen thought he saw a flicker of fire in her eyes. "Yeah, how so?" She asked somewhat challengingly. If he thought she was some airheaded fluff chick, he had another think coming.
"That is a long story."
She shrugged noncommittally. "I've got all night."
Rowen smiled, then took Sai's vacated chair. Annie sat down on the couch and settled back to listen. Rowen took a deep breath, then began.
"Well, it seems Talpa was human once, but gave it up to become emperor of an alternate dimension called the Dynasty. Picture any kind of evil imaginable and that's what he rules over. But he wasn't content to stop there--he set his sights of conquering Earth too."
"Wonderful. Another maniac bent on world domination. Like the world isn't already full of them."
"Speaking from experience?" Rowen joked.
"You could say that. So, let me guess, that's where you five come in."
He nodded. "We were chosen to wear five magical armors to fight against Talpa's Dynasty. The armors are the only weapon against him."
"So where are they now?" Annie asked. "Shouldn't you be using them?"
"Ideally, yes." Rowen sighed again. "You see, a couple months ago, we fought Talpa with the Inferno armor, a combination of all five armors. We thought we'd destroyed him then, so Kayura took them back to the nether-realm for safekeeping, along with the Dynasty evil which was trapped in the Staff of the Ancients."
"But Talpa's not dead," Annie inferred.
Rowen stood and paced with nervous energy. "No. Kayura accidentally released the Dynasty evil from the Staff. Talpa stole the armors and hid them somewhere. We're waiting to hear more from her."
"So he has an axe to grind with all of you," Annie said in understanding, "but why Sai in particular?"
"The stone he wears marks him as one of Talpa's descendants. Talpa wants to make him Dynasty Heir."
"Ohhhh," she said in comprehension. "No wonder Anubis sent me here."
Rowen whirled on her. "What did you say?!?!"
"I said Anubis sent . . ." She repeated, cut off by his shocked glare.
"Are you reading my mind or something? I haven't mentioned him to you."
"No," Annie soothed. "I met him. Once when I was ten and almost lost my jewel to some school bullies. He said something cryptic about taking care of it, then he walked me home. I met him again tonight, right before the situation here."
Rowen stared at her in disbelief. "That's impossible."
"Rowen, I'm not lying. We were in some kind of dark void. He said: 'they need you', and that's when the stone sent me to Sai."
"Anubis died saving Lady Kayura in our last battle with Talpa. Unless your psychic abilities extend beyond the grave, you couldn't have seen him tonight."
She waxed thoughtful for a minute, then stared back at Rowen. "It's possible," she explained slowly. "It would require a VERY strong psychic link, the odds of which are staggeringly low, but it's possible."
"How could you possibly have a link to an ex-Dynasty Warlord who was over 1000 years old?"
She leaned against the side of the couch, heaving a huge sigh. "I don't know." She closed her eyes, wanting nothing more than to fall asleep and pretend this was all a dream. She got her one wish.
Rowen watched Annie as she slept, the train of thought they'd engineered running through his mind. As he looked at her, he couldn't help noticing the resemblance between her and the fallen warlord. The hair definitely, and some of the facial features, but physically, she seemed like too much of a lightweight to have anything to do with the Warlord of Cruelty. Though Rowen did sense a strong inner power that reflected in her stone. The 'Stone of Protection' as he christened it, pulsated with a soft white light as she slept. As he stepped in for a closer look, he began to develop another theory. If the Stone of Mouri marked Sai as Talpa's descendant, then maybe this stone marked Annie as one of Anubis'. It would explain the resemblance as well as their unique communication ability.
What it wouldnt explain is why she was still here. Maybe the stone marked her as Anubis descendant, and amplified already existing powers, but its not like it gave her new ones.
Or did it? Being careful not to wake her, he pushed aside Annie's bangs. There were no signs of a kanji . . . it was all theorizing at this point. Even so, maybe he should mention it to Kayura.
The sunlight streamed in through the windows and Ryo pulled the covers over his head in annoyance. He didn't want to get up--who knows what ELSE will happen. But duty was calling and he grudgingly got up. He was half expecting White Blaze to knock him down when he remembered the tiger was at Mia's place. Ryo walked into the living room and found Annie asleep on the couch. Her mysterious appearance was just the icing on the cake of the events of the previous night. He wandered into the kitchen and his eyes widened. Rowen? Up early?! Rowen was hunched over a cook book with a bunch of food scattered around the counters. "Morning." Ryo greeted. Rowen, who hadn't heard him come in, was startled so much that he banged his head on a hanging light. It seems Sage's aunt was a little on the short side. Ryo stifled a laugh and pulled up a chair. "You're never up early unless you have to, what's wrong?"
"Just couldn't sleep. Too much happened last night, so I kept watch." Rowen said opening the fridge.
"Yeah, too much happened . . . Rowen, do you believe all this?"
"About Sai? The logical side says it possible, but the rest of me says it's impossible." Rowen pulled out two similar looking bottles and put them next to the stove.
Ryo pressed on. "But why Sai? It's not like he's the best fighter or anything. Do you think there's something about him we never saw?"
"What do you mean?"
"When we had our Armors, we were very powerful, but I always found Sai's Armor to be weaker--I mean it would work really good in the water, but on land it was another story."
"You think the Armor of Torrent was blocked somehow?"
"But what does that have to do with last night?"
"Kayura said something about Sai having some of Talpa's powers right? That power that Talpa hurled at us was incredible, but whose was it? His or Sai's?"
Rowen dropped several ingredients into a large pan. "Wait, let me get this right. You're saying that if--IF Sai has Dynasty powers, the Armor of Torrent is less powerful because of that?"
Ryo buried his face in his hands. "I don't know what I'm saying. Let's drop it." He looked up to see Rowen put one more thing into the pan and nearly choked. Mayonnaise?! "Uh, Rowen are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Of course." He put a lid over the pan with complete confidence. Then Kento came in and took a seat by Ryo.
"I'm so hungry!" He said grabbing a plate. "You're cooking?" He asked Rowen. "Great! Let's see if what Sai said was true."
"What did he say?" Ryo asked.
"That Rowen burns Jell-O."
Rowen frowned in annoyance. "That was only twice."
Ryo stared at his friends with a rather stupefied look on his face. "Here." Rowen said putting platefuls of breakfast in front of them. "Go on." They tried to back away, but the look on Rowen's face told them to stay put. Slowly they took a spoonful and wished they hadn't. "Is it good?" Ryo managed a nod while trying to keep the tears from falling. Kento had a hand clamped over his mouth and they both ran out to battle their way to the bathroom. Rowen watched them go and looked between the two bottles, noticing one looked a little wrong. He read the label: Vinegar.
A First Time for Everything
The two orbs whirled in a perfect circle, each keeping an equal distance from one another. Their colors were of the same soft illumination, but the gold one seemed to be glowing brighter. Sai watched the two spheres over head in confusion. What did they mean? He started to form an idea with the two colors from when he was captured. He knew his Armor color was light blue, so that must represent him, and the gold one . . . The spheres vanished and the area lit up to reveal a long hallway. Both ends stretched on forever and he seemed to be in the middle. "Where am I?" He wondered out loud. His voice echoed off the walls, but no one answered. He looked up to see if the spheres were back, but an odd sky showed through. It was a mix of bronze and violet with a few--stars?! "What the--" He cut off and dodged a lightning bolt. Sai looked over at the smoldering hole where he was standing only a moment ago. Behind him, the wall twisted and blurred to reveal a Dynasty Gate. The doors silently opened inward and an army appeared. Sai turned around just in time to avoid a Nether Spirit and leapt back. "Armor of Torrent! Dao Shin!" He waited for the familiar transformation, but nothing happened! Dynasty Soldiers grabbed him and Sai tried to break their grasps but he found himself being dragged into the Gate! "NOOOO!!!" Sai snapped awake and nearly fell off the bed. Then he laid back down and stared at the ceiling. Images of the dream flashed in his mind as he tried to block them out.
Giving up, he walked out of the room and moved aside as Ryo and Kento went running past. Sai shook his head, knowing those looks right away. Rowen's cooking does it again. Sage opened his door to find out what was wrong now and only got a shrug from Sai. Then Lady Kayura went running past. Sage decided to find out what was making them all run to the bathroom. He nearly got to the kitchen when Sai held him back.
"Trust me, you do not want to go in there."
"You want to end up like them?" Sai pointed at the group at the end of the hall.
"Where the heck's the fire?" Sai and Sage turned to see Annie staring sleepily toward the kitchen. She wrinkled her nose, then added "And what's that smell?"
Bravely, she stepped in the kitchen where Rowen stood with a sheepish grin on his face. "Uh, care for some breakfast?"
"I don't think so." She opened up the lid of the pan and became overwhelmed by the smell of acetic acid. She threw the pan and all into the garbage, and eyed the ingredients on the counter, wondering if Rowen was as smart as he looked.
"Who's for doughnuts?" She asked Sai and Sage.
"Not me, thanks." Sage said, backing into the living room. "I think I just lost my appetite."
"Rowen, do me a favor and never cook again." Kento pleaded while recovering on the couch. Rowen seemed unaffected though. "I just need to keep practicing."
"Julia Child you are not," Annie added pointedly.
"All right you guys, that's enough." Ryo ordered. "Well, we can't let Talpa and his goon squad run around Disneyland because sooner or later, they're going to leave and spread out all over the earth."
"So what do we do?" Sage asked. "We don't have our Armor."
Lady Kayura spoke up then. "As far as I know, Talpa has them hidden in secret locations in Disneyland."
"Probably guarded like Fort Knox too."
"I think there might be a way to get to the Armors before Talpa."
"But you just said he already had them."
"Ever wanted to time travel?"
Ryo groaned. "Great. Now Kayura's gone bye-bye."
Kayura held the Staff in front of her. "There's someone here who can do it." She looked over at Sai and everyone followed her gaze.
Sai blinked and looked to his right, then his left. Then it hit him. "Me?!"
"With this to help." She held up the Stone of Mouri.
"This is crazy! I don't have any powers like that!"
"Yes, you do."
"No, I don't."
"All right. Here, prove me wrong." She tossed the Stone at Sai. He caught it and looked at the odd pattern. Peering closely at it, he saw on either side of it two small circles.
"No." He dropped the stone in his lap. "I can't."
"Not even if it means retrieving the armors?" Kayura coaxed.
"Sai, it's not the stone that's evil," Annie said softly. "It's how you use it that counts."
"Weird." He muttered. Then he hesitantly put it around his neck. "Now what?"
"Just follow my directions. Close your eyes and concentrate hard. Envision each of us and focus on the Armors themselves as well." Sai tried to do all that, but his mind just kept on slipping. The others stared in amazement as Sai continued to glow a light blue and the Stone a darker shade. "Find Disneyland in your mind and think of last night." Kayura continued.
"I know this won't work." Sai tried to convince himself. Then he felt something, an odd feeling that made him light-headed and tired. Suddenly he was falling and landed hard on his back. He opened his eyes to look around. The first thing he saw was a night sky, then trees and rocks came into the picture. "I guess it did work." He sat up and saw that he was in the middle of a dirt path. "Hello?" No one answered. The only light source Sai could find was the Stone of Mouri, still glowing from the power use. He quickly put it underneath his jacket and got up. The world swam and he had to grab a tree for support. Took a lot of energy to do that, I guess. He thought to himself. But where was everyone?
The light faded from Sage's eyes as he found himself on a hill of gold! He turned to his right to find his skeletal companion and lost his balance and slid down the treasure. Boats streamed past and pirate music echoed throughout the tunnel. Sage stood up and walked over to the edge of the water. He definitely knew where he was. "Pirates of the Carribean."
Rowen felt like a giant as he found himself in the middle of a small city. Sailing pirate ships went around the cramped room and Big Ben let the world know it was midnight. Again. And again. Rowen carefully picked his way through and caught a glimpse of a boy in green. "Peter Pan?"
Kento materialized face to face with a stone snake. He backed away and nearly knocked over an artifact. "Whoops!" A jungle jeep rumbled past and Kento jumped into it ready for action. "All right! Indiana Jones!"
"Oh no. No, no, no, no. Not this." Ryo protested as clashing colors and strobe lights whirled around him. Toon cabs spun past on a very obvious path and loud music played in his ears. Avoiding the many obstacles, Ryo searched quickly to find a way out! Toon Town had to be the most annoying place in the whole park!
"Have at Yee--Yee bloomin' cockroaches!" The pirate captain yelled at the fake land fort only ten feet away. Sage crossed his arms and leaned into his seat. He'd been on this ride so many times that he knew the entire 'insult speech'. The robot continued to 'fire' shots at the fort and they always fell short and became lights at the bottom of the canal. Sage sighed and ran a hand through his hair. Just where were the bad guys?
"Hello? Any REAL threats around here?" He called into the mass confusion of the pirate invaders. Sage glanced up at the pirate ship in time to see a Dynasty Soldier appear on the main deck; others soon joined him. Most were Soldiers, but some were weird demon-things. Sage tried to focus on them, but his eyes seemed to avert on their own! Then they attacked. One Soldier thrust with his sword, which Sage expertly grabbed and tossed the loser overboard. Using the sword, Sage smashed the cannon fodder left and right, but then he came to the shadows. He sliced on in half, and it promptly became two! "Oh great!" He said, then leapt high to avoid a barrage of spears. His little boat turned the bend to the ransacked village and Sage missed his landing. He fell into the hip-deep water and dodged a sword swipe. Sage sloshed through the water until he got to the land scene and jumped out. He kicked up a barrel and tossed it at the Shadow Demon, but it went right threw the projectile and pummeled Sage into several pirates. Sage raised his sword to deflect an axe, but it broke in half and he took off running. He could've used some help about now! He ran down the village and slipped on the deck and fell into the canal again.
Sage was too busy swerving in and out of the way of flying weapons to even notice the kanji of Wisdom on his forehead. Then Sage's foot caught on something and he fell face first into the water, saving him from a head injury via a dagger. His hand found some kind of round object in the water and he pulled it free. The golf ball sized object mirrored Sage's kanji and he smiled donning his sub-armor. Deflecting a spear off his arm guard, Sage jumped onto his little boat again and faced the enemies. "Now you're in for it!" He threatened. "Armor of Halo! Dao Chi!" The familiar Armor solidified onto Sage and he felt renewed strength flowing into him. The Soldier fell back, but the Demons charged. Sage's Halo Sword cut them down easily and they vanished in sparks of light as his Armor added a little bit of revenge in the power. Then he raised his sword overhead and drew upon his signature attack. "Thunder Bolt Cut!" Green and gold power lanced out and took out the rest of the Dynasty annoyances. Half the ride was taken out in the process as a nice smoldering hole appeared in the wall. Sage of the Halo walked out and winced. Seems his power didn't stop with the hole. It went about a mile out! Oh well, insurance will cover it. He walked over the bridge about the Pirates ride overlooking New Orleans Square and startled to whistle. The distinct sound of a certain song filtered throughout the silent night. 'Yo ho, yo ho, a pirates life for me!'.
Rowen was usually level-headed, calm, and composed. Now he was irritated. "Where is it??!" His lack of success at finding his Armor was getting to him. He carefully picked his way through the 'streets', being careful not to knock any over or knock his head on the ride itself. The pirate ships flew so low that he constantly had to duck! He gave up on the London model and headed in the direction the ships were going. He nearly lost his footing in the dark, but was able to trudge his way to the next room. Just as he rounded the corner a spear became lodged in the wall. Rowen whirled around and his foot hit something making him fall to the ground with a loud thud.
He rolled, ignoring the blazing pain from the back of his head. He stood up near the Peter Pan and Hook figures as a wave of dizziness caught him. He staggered suddenly and the thrown weapons missed their target. Rowen forced himself to focus and grabbed Hook's sword and looked at these attackers. Dynasty Dorks. Rowen grimaced. "Don't you ever get it?" He asked rhetorically. Then the Dynasty force attacked. Rowen brought his sword up to block the sword in one Soldier's hand, but the Dynasty sword went right threw it like a hot knife threw butter! "Of all the--" Rowen broke off in his curse and dodged a thrust to his side. He couldn't fight them all like this! So, he ran. The Dynasty stood stupidly for a moment then noticed Rowen was rapidly retreating and took off after him. Rowen entered another room, this one with a large dip in it, which he promptly slid into. Then he saw a soft glow in the darkness and the crystal just sitting there. "Huh?" Rowen looked at it suspiciously. "I thought it would be harder than that." But he grabbed it anyway and called his sub-armor. Then the Soldiers came trampling through and Rowen jumped into one of the pirate ships as they fell into the same ditch as he did. "You guys are really lame, you know that?" Rowen boasted.
Unnoticed by all, one single Dynasty archer stood off to the sideline and aimed at Rowen. The archer let loose an arrow and it sailed toward Rowen's head. Rowen saw it at the last minuet and moved to the right, but the arrow sliced through his headband and a few blue locks of hair. Rowen reached up and pulled the broken headband off along with a few strands of hair. He stared at it, then his anger began to rise. A Dynasty Soldier's jumped up onto Rowen's ship and Rowen outright punched his lights out! The Soldier's fell back with a domino effect and Rowen dodged more arrows by the single archer. The one who cut his hair and the headband he'd had since childhood. When his parents were still together! Rowen lost all control and called his armor. "Armor of Strata! Dao Inochi!" The dark blue Armor came at Rowen and he felt like he was being reunited with an old friend. Then he drew back his golden bow and took aim at his main target. The archer backed away as Rowen drew in power and the Warrior let loose the arrow with "Arrow Shock Wave!".
The power incinerated the one target, then Rowen faced the pile below him. Some threw feeble attacks at him, but he let them bounce off his Armor. "You have exactly five seconds." He said casually. The Dynasty stood their ground. "I warned you." He said before calling another Shock Wave to get rid of them. He ended up creating a mushroom cloud of debris destroying the Peter Pan ride along with several other nearby rides and attractions. Rowen walked out and looked around FantasyLand, or what was left of it. "Ouch. That's gonna need repairs." He commented about King Arthur's Carousel. He reached out to pull the Sword from the Stone just for fun when another explosion echoed through the night.
He turned toward Toon Town and watched as a ragged figure emerged in red Armor. "Ryo!" Rowen ran up to him. "What happened?"
"Just saying farewell to the most annoying place on earth." Ryo of the Wildfire said smugly. "Anyone else around?"
"No one I've seen. Ryo, have you noticed how easy it was to get our Armors?"
"Yeah. All I had to do was blast some Soldiers and here I am. Maybe it's the American atmosphere. Lazy."
"No, I think there's something more important than our Armors that the really tough guys are guarding."
"What could possibly be more important than our Armors?" Ryo asked turning toward Critter Country.
"Sai." Rowen whispered.
Kayura watched as the Ronin Warriors disappeared in a wash of blue light, but found herself still there in the apartment. She stared in momentary confusion, then realized why she wasn't teleported. She already had her Armor. She looked about to see that even Annie, the young girl that had 'found' them, had disappeared also, maybe back to her home. Suddenly she remembered the vision she had seen in the staff last night, and she made her way back to the Nether Realm--there was work to be done.
Sai gave up on *that* side of the island and began to head toward the other. He figured out that he was on Tom Sawyer's Island just by the Injun Joe boats parked on the sides. His eyes were adjusted to the darkness by this time, but he also noticed that it was getting close to false dawn. And he still had no idea where his Armor was or any of his friends. Sai suppressed the urge to call out for them, knowing that if this was Disneyland then Talpa was around.
Annie opened her eyes, bit back a curse, and waited for the world to stop spinning. Bad enough teleporting yourself, but being jerked around by someone else is quite another. She stood and dusted herself off, looking around her surroundings. She'd never been to Disneyland, but she read enough Twain to recognize Tom Sawyer's old hideout, but she had no clue why she was here. It's not like she had an armor or anything. Speaking of armors, where was everyone else? On an unspoken cue, she picked up Sai's presence just a few feet ahead of her, and began to move in that direction. She suddenly felt something ELSE and ducked as a flurry of arrows flew overhead. Four or five Dynasty Spirits moved to attack, but Annie's instincts took over. A touch of concentration and a quarterstaff appeared in her hand, her weapon of choice when she went medieval role-playing. This was as medieval as it was bound to get. She whirled, taking out half the Dynasty soldiers, then paused for the next attack. The hair on the back of her neck prickled with danger, but she reacted too late as the ball of energy smashed into her full force. She screamed as the intense pain lanced throughout her body and she was thrown to the ground, half-conscious.
Two Dynasty Soldiers yanked her up by her hair, and she stood facing the emperor of the Dynasty. He lifted the jewel from around her neck, and it responded to his power by developing a gold tinge.
"Very interesting," Talpa mused, examining the stone. "I had no idea..."
"Go to hell," Annie managed to spit.
Talpa smiled. "Been there, done that. Let's see what this thing can do."
He held the stone between them but never touched Annie's primary shields. The stone rejected him outright, burning his hand as he tried to concentrate through it. He dropped it like a rock, surprise and shock written on his features. As if drawn to a magnet, the stone leapt into Annie's hand. She focused all her anger through the stone, charging it with righteous fury. The white ball of fury encompassed her vision--it was all she could see. It exploded outward . . .
The blast took out half the island, leaving only Talpa unaffected as his shields were locked into place. Enough of this cat and mouse, he was playing for keeps now.
Sai found himself passing under the tree house where Ryo and Sage were 'ambushed' and looked up. Sai dodged as a Dynasty Soldier jumped down and slashed with a spear at him. He backed away from it, but a hand grabbed his arm and a sharp point was suddenly in his back. "You didn't stay away for very long." An all too familiar voice said into his ear. Sai tensed and tried to keep his fear from showing. Then a huge army of Soldiers appeared! Talpa tightened his grip on Sai, but spoke to the Dynasty army. "The Ronin Warriors are headed this way, stop them!" The army dispersed and soon Sai was left with Talpa. Alone.
Kento grimaced. His arm was already slashed, his head hurt from too many fists hitting it, and he still had no Armor. "You know, I really hate to fight and run but . . . " He took off in a random direction and was quickly followed. He jumped over the too slow jeep and spin-kicked a Soldier. Soon he came to a bridge and began to cross it when he suddenly lost his balance and it began to swing! He fell over and was nearly thrown off, but he grabbed hold of the track and held on until it finally stopped the motions. When he looked up, he saw he was surrounded by on both sides of the bridge. "Uh, hi." He smiled and looked down. Fire sprang up to meet him and he backed away. Kento checked his options.
One, run away. Been there, done that.
Two, fight and die in the process. Nope.
Three, find Armor. Working on it.
Four, see Three. Okay, but how to ditch these losers . . . A thought came to him and he nearly dismissed it, but then again. He raised his hands and clapped twice. The lights went out. "Gang way, coming through!" Kento jumped and shoved his way through the cannon fodder and fought his way through the darkness. He bashed into several walls, but soon found a narrow hallway that glowed in the dark. Skeletons shot wisps of air at him, but he ignored them and continued. The Soldiers were soon catching up and Kento stopped suddenly. In the middle of the hallway he saw a crystal ball reflecting the kanji of Justice. "Huh?" Then Kento smiled. "Hey, that works." He strode forward and called his sub-armor and turned to face the oncoming tin cans. Several kicks and punches kept the majority away, but some of them were getting hits on Kento. Fine, have it your way! Armor of Hard Rock! Dao Gi!" The Armor came to him and Kento's wounds were already healing. "Nighty night. Iron Rock Crusher!" The Armor of Hard Rock let loose its 'sure kill' firepower, but it seemed a bit rusty. One more time. "Iron Rock Crusher!" This time the power incinerated Indiana Jones Adventure, Frontier Land and good majority of Main Street. Matterhorn was missing its summit by the time the Crusher died out.
Sage turned at the sound of the first explosion, but the second one made him move. He ran down the empty street and found the smoking remains of Indiana Jones Adventure. Kento of Hard Rock emerged and Sage of the Halo ran forward. "You okay?"
"*Koff* Yeah, I'm fine." Kento looked over at Sage's demolition site. "Not bad. I did better."
"You blasted it twice!" Sage defended. The two Warriors continued to argue over whom did the most damage as they headed back toward the Fantasmic site.
Ryo of the Wildfire and Rowen of the Strata silently traveled toward New Orleans Square after exiting Critter Country. "So where is everyone?" Ryo asked for the thousandth time. Rowen suddenly turned and dragged Ryo behind a tree. "Wha--"
"Shh!" Rowen hissed shutting Ryo up. Ryo listened and soon heard two voices that were gradually getting closer. Then he turned at jumped at the closest one.
Kento and Sage walked around the viewing site, looking a bit bored. "I could really use some more exercise." Kento said to the sky before he was suddenly thrown forward. Kento turned and saw Ryo standing over him, ready to smash him to pulp! "Whoa! Ryo! Chill---it's me!" Ryo's eyes grew wide as he realized that he nearly pounded Kento but good.
"Yeah, well, just look next time." Then all four Warriors exchanged confusing fight stories. "So why did we all get wusses protecting our Armor?"
"I think I know." Rowen spoke up. "They're too busy taking care of the one person who's on their main target list."
"You mean Sai?"
Rowen nodded. "Yeah. I wonder where he is?" Just as Rowen spoke, soldiers appeared out of thin air and they were soon surrounded. "Oh joy."
"C'mon! Let's recycle these guys and find Sai!" Kento then attacked the nearest Soldier. The others soon joined the fray.
They battled for a while before Ryo called out to the others. "Guys! We can't keep this up. We'll wear ourselves out!"
"Got any ideas?" Kento asked before facing a group of bad guys. "Iron Rock Crusher!" The power lanced out and destroyed them, but continued onwards to smash into the small island.
Kayura looked down at the unconscious girl, pushing Annie's hair back to reveal the white blaze of the kanji of protection. The same kanji mirrored in the small crystal Kayura held in her hand, and she sighed in relief as she realized the girl had fully unlocked the power of the stone of protection, the key to the Armor of Nature. Unfortunately, battling without the armor had nearly killed her, but Kayura was positive the armor would heal her.
"I should wait for your assent, but there's no time. Your friends need you."
She opened her hand, and the crystal flew toward the stone as if drawn to a magnet, then bonded with it. The stone enveloped Annie's unconscious form in a soft green glow as the sub-armor appeared on her body. Kayura watched the healing power of Nature at work...
Annie lay on the ground, unconscious, yet awake in a way she never dreamed of. She felt the strength of a thousand redwoods flow into her prone form. Her spirit soared on the breath of the west wind, its power lifting her higher and higher. Finally, the light of the sun shone down on her, healing her with its warmth. Annie awoke, whether from the shaking of the island, or the excess of healing energy, she wasn't sure. She jumped up off the ground as power like she'd never felt before flowed into her body. She felt different, more aware, as if she could sense the feelings of the entire world. She looked down at the stone of protection, which was now swirled in a pattern of green and white. She saw the sub-armor on her body, and looked up at Kayura in astonishment. "What did you do??"
"There is no time for an explanation. Go help the others! I will meet you shortly."
With that Kayura disappeared, leaving Annie gaping, wide mouthed. She didn't have time to consider it further as a second force of Dynasty Spirits gathered around her for the attack. Annie's eyes blazed green fire, and anger hardened into determination. "I'm in a really bad mood. Leave now or die."
In response, the group charged her. "Have it your way," she yelled. She called the armor instinctively, and lightning cracked from her fingertips, frying the dynasty dupes. She hadn't begun to tap her power, but she felt a strong pull from the center of the island, the pull of a life or death struggle in the balance. Without hesitation, she followed it, hoping she wasn't too late.
Sai and Talpa lost their balance as Kento's attack rocked the island. Sai got up and bolted without a second glance, but was yanked back. He slipped out of his jacket and the Stone of Mouri lit up the area in a bright blue light. Talpa shielded his eyes and the young warrior took off toward the sound of the fighting. Talpa attempted to follow, but his eyes clouded over and he leaned against a tree for support. He was running out of time!
Sai almost went into the water as he neared the edge, but stepped back when he saw the fight. He wouldn't be of any help without his Armor. Where could it be?! He looked around the immediate area but found nothing. Biting back a curse, his eyes came to rest on the glowing Stone around his neck. Maybe . . . He gripped the Stone of Mouri and focused on what his Armor looked like, willing it to come to him. He gasped as he felt a power drain, but opened his eyes to see the Armor of Torrent sitting before him. "Armor of Torrent! Dao Shin!" Sai called his Armor to him and smiled as he felt stronger than ever.
Sage turned as a blue flash of light caught his attention across the water. Then he did a double take as he saw that Sai was the blue light, then he was Sai of the Torrent! "Guys! The island!" Sage called to them before heading over toward the lone Warrior. The other Ronins finished bashing their current opponents and followed Sage. "Sai!" Sage called as he approached. Sai looked startled for a moment before breaking into a wide grin.
"Sage! What took so long?" He asked casually.
"Just the normal cannon fodder." The rest of the Ronin Warriors caught up to them.
"Sai, you okay?" Kento asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Talpa just couldn't hold onto me."
"I won't let go this time."
All the Ronin Warriors turned to see Talpa standing on the platform of Fantasmic, alone. "We're not letting *you* get away Talpa!" Ryo threatened. Guys here's our chance, let's blast him so that he never comes back."
"The Inferno Armor." Rowen confirmed. The Ronin Warriors gave their powers over to Ryo in a multicolored blaze. The Inferno Armor shined brightly in the darkness and the Jewel of Life added additional power, but Talpa seemed to be paying it no mind.
"I hate re-runs." Talpa commented as Ryo put his swords together.
"Rage of Inferno!" Ryo combined the Inferno and Jewel of Life in a power blast that was unlike any that they'd ever seen before. Talpa staggered for a split-second. Sai screamed as the soul-link between them shared the pain Talpa was feeling. Sai fell to the ground and mentally willed the power to stop hurting him, but it wouldn't--so he blocked it. A barrier suddenly appeared between Talpa and the Inferno blast. Ryo looked over and remembered Kayura's words about the link! He immediately tried to pull back the power, but Talpa wouldn't let him do it easily. Talpa used the Stone of Mouri to take more power from Sai and redoubled the Inferno attack and sent it back at Ryo at lightning speed. The Warriors fell to the ground, their powers and energy gone.
Sai fought unconsciousness with a tremendous effort and pushed the pain from his mind. He knew his friends were down and watched as Talpa came toward him. No, he wouldn't go with Talpa no matter what! Sai rose to his feet, banishing his Armor as it was useless to him now. He faced Talpa in his sub-armor and the Stone of Mouri glowed fiercely. "No, I won't let you do this." He whispered. He drew upon powers he never knew he had and threw it all at his ancestor. Talpa saw it coming and erected a barrier with his own power to shield himself. The two powers collided and the world seemed to glow with blue and gold lights. Talpa held the shield for a while before dropping it and boomeranging it around to hit Sai. As they fought, Sai knew he didn't have enough control to kill Talpa and survive, but it didn't matter. His friends were more important than his life to him. As Sai used the remaining life energy he possessed to do away with Talpa once and for all, it involuntarily pulled back, refusing to let him use them to the death!
"Let your opponents wear themselves out, then attack." Talpa's voice was heard in Sai's mind as his own words, spoken earlier, brought on a meaning that terrified him. Talpa knew that Sai's powers wouldn't go through with it! Talpa smiled and launched one more attack at Sai. Sai's powers shielded him, but it knocked him out. His breathing was incredibly shallow; the battle left him with barely enough life force to say alive. Then all the lights died.
Ryo opened his eyes to see Sai fall to the ground and Talpa standing. He felt tears come to his eyes as he helplessly watched Talpa pick Sai up. Ryo felt the guilt come on him like a flood. This was *his* fault! If only he'd been more prepared, remembered Kayura's words, something! He was the leader and he couldn't even save the one who trusted him the most!
Sage, next to him, stirred and opened his eyes. The scene quickly focused and he watched in horror as Talpa started to walk away with Sai. Sage closed his eyes to hide his shame. He'd always thought Sai was weak and unimportant. Now he was more powerful than Sage would've thought possible. There was so much he didn't know about Sai, and now he never would!
Kento felt as though the world was crashing down on him. Talpa had won. And was taking his best friend away forever! He was the strongest of the Ronin Warriors, but he couldn't move to help the one person who meant the most to him! Sai was always there for him to make a meal or just talk, he was there. Now, he wouldn't ever be there again.
Rowen watched the scene replay over and over again in his mind. Sai falling and Talpa winning. This wasn't right! It wasn't the way it was supposed to turn out! He didn't care what happened to him anymore, but he had to do something. Blocking all pain and drawing upon his depleted life force, Rowen slowly rose to his feet. The other Ronin Warriors stared at him in amazement and felt the confidence come back to them as their Armors began to recharge. "Talpa! I won't let you get away with this!" Rowen lifted his bow, holding a golden arrow already nocked on the string.
Talpa turned in surprise and nearly laughed. "And just how do you propose to stop me?"
"With my help." The Ronin of Nature stepped out of the shadows, red hair blazing against the forest green armor she now wore. The supple armor fitted to her features as if made of cloth, not metal. "Nature protects her own."
Talpa did laugh this time, eyeing the newborn Ronin with evident disdain. "Really? Take a look around you. They've been trying for months to defeat me and still haven't succeeded. And you think you can? You're out of your league, girl."
Rowen's words boomeranged back to Annie's ears, hardening her resolve further. "Maybe I'll go down trying, but I'm taking you with me."
Talpa chuckled. "Your ancestor thought the same thing, and look what happened to him."
Everyone but Rowen stared in surprise . . . his theory had proven true. Annie drew a sword from the scabbard at her back, but it wasn't made of metal. Golden sunlight streamed outward from the blade, sending some of Nature's healing to the fallen warriors. "I've always been a quick study." She spun it in a circle, one-armed, powering up her sure kill. "Sunfire Scorcher!" She cried, burning sunlight racing toward Talpa.
Rowen of the Strata released the arrow and before Talpa could dodge, the projectile was embedded in his forehead. Sai felt out of his arms and landed hard on the ground. His breathing shuddered before giving out entirely. Then Talpa joined him on the ground, dead. The power of sunfire lent extra energy to Rowen's attack, and Talpa's host incinerated in the blaze of fury. The excess sunlight swirled around Sai, but even Nature's healing was useless to him now.
The Ronin Warriors stood up, their Armors having enough energy to at least be mobile. Kento was the first to reach Sai just before Sage joined him. "Sai? Wake up bud!" Kento shook him, but Sai gave no response. Sage reached over and felt for Sai's pulse, but found none.
"No . . ." He whispered. Kento looked at Sage's pale face and saw the look in his eyes told him everything.
"SAI!!!!" Kento screamed and held Sai's lifeless body close as he cried. Suddenly Sage grabbed Sai from Kento. "What are you---"
"Quiet!" Sage ordered and recalled how he healed Ryo's blindness once, maybe he could bring Sai back. The Warriors watched as Sage desperately tried to bring Sai back. Annie, her newfound powers raging, gauged Sage's strength. He'd never pull it off alone, but maybe together . . . She knelt down beside Sage and placed her hands on his. He instinctively knew what she was doing, and she easily established rapport with him. She channeled her healing abilities through him, and concentrated. They both lost all sense of time---then Sai's body convulsed and he drew a huge breath. Sage's healing power died and the Warriors began to either cry, laugh, or both. Sai breathed in ragged breaths and gripped Sage tightly, forcing himself to live. Annie shifted her focus to Sai, using the last of her energy to heal him until his heart slowly stopped pounding so hard and his breathing became more regular, then he actually opened his eyes. He smiled weakly at them and Sage gave Sai over to Kento.
Sage looked up at the Ronin of Nature, no words able to express his gratitude. All their gratitude. She seemed to instinctively understand, nodding slightly. The newfound armor disappeared, and she suddenly tumbled into his arms, overcome by exhaustion.
"Looks like you got your wish," Rowen quipped, trying to break the tension of the moment.
"Yeah," Sage said softly, picking the unconscious girl up in his arms. Without a second glance at the ashes that remained of Talpa's corpse Kento gently picked Sai up and they left Disneyland noticing that the sun had come up. When they got to the parking lot, they turned and saw the destruction that was caused in that one night. "Big mess." Ryo commented. Then they reverted back to street cloths as Lady Kayura came running at them.
"You're all right!" She caught up to them with a wide grin. The Staff of the Ancients clanged in protest at the running she'd been doing. Suddenly Ryo took off the Jewel of Life.
"Here, I was going to give this to you." He handed her the Treasure. Kayura took it, debated, and then turned to where Kento was holding Sai.
"No, Sai needs it more than I do." She placed it around Sai's neck as he dozed quietly in Kento's arms.
"What do you mean?" Sage asked wearily.
"The soul-link is still there," Kayura answered softly.
"What?! But Talpa's dead!" Rowen protested.
"But Sai isn't. As long as Sai's alive then Talpa's spirit is still connected to his. But as long as Sai wears the two Treasures, he'll be protected from Talpa." Lady Kayura said, hoping to relieve them a bit. "I cannot stay for much longer, there are still duties calling me back to the Nether Realm and I must go. I'm not taking the Armor's with me this time though. There's still Dynasty evil out there that got away during the battle and you must deal with them."
"Kayura, wait!" Sage cried. "What about her?" He asked, indicating Annie in his arms.
"Talpa said something about her ancestor," Ryo added cryptically. "What did he mean?"
Kayura turned back to them. "You have a new ally in your fight against the Dynasty. Talpa isn't the only one with human descendants." With that she vanished. The Ronin Warriors stood in the empty parking lot and wondered what the future held for them now.
"I wonder what she meant by that," Kento asked.
"I think I know, but I'll explain it later," Rowen replied. "Let's get out of here."
Thunderhawk stopped in front of the gates of Disneyland, the only thing left standing of the park. Two figures stepped out of the car and surveyed the damage, wide eyed. Scott removed Spectrum, tucking the MASK underneath his arm. "What happened here?" He asked, astonished at the level of damage the park had undergone.
Dee followed suit, removing Boreal, and stepped up beside him, pushing her long brown hair out of her eyes. "I don't know, but whatever it was, Annie was right in the middle of it." Her blue eyes turned glassy for an instant, then she turned back to Scott.
He hefted a huge sigh. "That girl gets us into more trouble. . . So, where is our passionate redhead?"
"Her psychic trail leads back toward Los Angeles...but it's different somehow," Dee answered absently.
"I can't explain...maybe Annie can," Dee said resignedly.
"After we find her," Scott added.
Annie's psychic residuals led the two young MASK agents to an apartment complex in Los Angeles. Both sat in the car for a moment, watching the building and assessing the situation.
"We should go in and check it out," Scott said finally.
"I already have...and everyone's fine. Exhausted, but fine. We should leave well enough alone and wait for Jeff and Cody to meet up with us." Dee nixed his plan as she felt the undertones of fear and suspicion from the building. No way was she going into an unknown situation.
"Man, there is going to be hell to pay when they find out about this…" Scott said in forewarning.
As if on cue, Firecracker pulled up behind them, and Cody jumped out, not even waiting for the truck to come to a complete stop. His brown eyes darkened to black, whether from fear or fury no one was sure until he surveyed the situation and then spoke up. "If she lives through this, I may just kill her myself."With that, he got back in the truck and sat back to wait.
Annie woke slowly as her psychic shields finally regained normal strength. They automatically performed a routine scan of the area, and she felt the presence of all five Ronins. To herself, she wondered how Sai was recovering; hopefully her healing energies had helped.
She felt someone sit on the bed and brush her forehead. She felt a sudden jump-start of energy, and opened her psychic shields slightly. In her mind, she saw the swirl of blue meet with the swirl of green and white, and she smiled sleepily to herself.
:Who's checking up on whom now?: She asked Sai psychically, shoving a sleepy yawn at him.
Annie opened her eyes to see Sai nearly fall off the edge of the bed in shock. Her warm laughter echoed over their psychic conversation and he stared even harder at her.
:Get used to it. You're gonna be slightly psychic now that you've unlocked your powers.: She shielded again and cut off the link. "Better?" She asked aloud, grinning at him.
"I guess you'll have to teach me that," he answered, nodding. "Did I wake you?"
"No, in fact, I was just wondering about you."
He looked at her strangely. "You were?"
"I think I felt it. When I passed by the door . . . not really a pull, more like a passing thought."
She nodded in understanding, then they both stiffened as the sound of crashing pots and pans eminated from the kitchen. "You don't think Rowen's stupid enough to cook again?"
In response, they both ran into the kitchen to find Rowen buried amidst cookware. He cursed the pans thoroughly before turning on Annie and Sai. "They just jumped out of the cupboard at me...you two wouldn't know anything about that would you?"
The pair exchanged grins before Sai replied, "No."
"But I thought about it," Annie added, biting back guffaws of laughter.
"Well, the culprit left us a box of doughnuts, and a note," Sage called from the living room.
Kento took the whole box and began chowing down while Annie took the note off the top and read it. "I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation for this, so when you're done, I'd love to hear it. Tell your new friends they're welcome... Tar Top."
Annie folded the note and stepped over to the window to see Cody leaning against Firecracker, trying to act calm and cool. Her well-tuned link to him told her he was failing. She flashed him a warm smile, and he returned a slight wave. She sighed inwardly; time to face the music.
"You're leaving." Sai stated more than asked.
She nodded. "I'm needed somewhere else."
"I need you."
She smiled and shook her head. "Kayura said as long as you keep both stones, you'll be protected from Talpa. She left your armor here, and you've got four of the best friends a guy could have. I think you'll be fine."
"Okay, I'll miss you," he corrected.
"So stop out for a visit sometime. By the way, the doughnuts are a gift to save you from Rowen's cooking."
"Are you sure you won't stay?" Ryo asked. "You're a real natural at this you know."
"Yeah, a real force of Nature," Sage quipped.
Kento smacked him upside the head and continued eating, never missing a bite.
"We could always use your help fighting the Dynasty." Rowen offered.
She gave him a conspiratorial wink. "Someone once told me that modern technology couldn't compare with a Ronin armor. I think I'll test that theory. Besides, you guys have to save the world from the Dynasty. I'll try saving it from itself. Ill be around if you need me."
She walked out the door, silently closing it behind her. The five boys stared at each other in surprise.
"Who would've thought Anubis had human descendants?" Kento asked himself.
"Who would've thought they'd end up in America?" Ryo questioned.
"Who would've thought out of all of them, a GIRL would inherit the power to unlock an armor?" Sage quipped. "And she wasn't even interested in me!"
"I never even got to thank her," Sai whispered softly.
"Just like Mother Nature," Rowen philosophized, "get a good look at her soul, and then she turns around and disappears."