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Chapter 5

"It's not your fault that you're always wrong,
The weak ones are there to justify the strong"

-Marilyn Manson,"The Beautiful People"


Cale heard the grating,metallic sound of the metal chains sliding across his armor as they slipped away from him,letting the feeling of freefalling in empty air wash over him.
As he fell,he made the mistake of looking down and saw the pool of black beneath him.Naturally,he had always felt perfectly at home in the dark.The blackness of night had always comforted him.But this darkness seemed more sinister........more forbidding......perhaps a little too dark.
Before he had a chance to be completely swallowed by the void of blackness,he caught the edge of the trapdoor,where the floor met empty air.
He heard a few screams to his left that sounded like they were coming from the three ronins.The screams gradually grew quieter and came from further and further below him untill they finally disappeared.Oddly enough,not by gradually fading to silence,but by abruptly being cut off.
He tried to bury his fear as he wondered what fate awaited the others.
He struggled to keep his grip as he dangled by his armored fingertips,hanging on for his dear sweet life.......with both hands???!
The sudden realization almost made him loose his grip and plummet into the pit of black,but he barely managed to keep ahold of the edge of the trapdoor.
What the hell is going on here??!
He distincly remembered his right hand being cut off by Azrael.The memory of the excruciating pain and what seemed like a river of blood was crystal clear to him.Could it have been a figment of his imagination?Was it all some sort of illusion?It couldn't have been.It was too real.
He was quite perplexed.His hand seemed to be perfectly intact,although,between the point when his hand was severed and the present,his memory hadn't exactly been lucid.First,there was the hazy,blank block of memory when his mind had been under the powerful influence of Talpa.After that,he had been in a constantly dazed and groggy state,and he still felt rather lackadaisical,so he couldn't be exactly sure of all the happenings in that time period,and thus,had no way of knowing what had happened with his hand.
He didnt feel like thinking about it anyway,although,for some reason,his right hand did ache quite a bit,forcing him to wonder.....
He tried to ignore it as he hoisted himself from the black void,onto the palace floor.All he wanted to do right now was find a way out of the predicament that he had suddenly been thrown into.He wanted to take the direct approach and face Talpa and the others now.
He looked up from the spot where he had landed and gasped.
He stayed in his kneeling position for many moments;his mind swarming with confusion and his heart beating wildly.Never in his life,if even for a moment,had he doubted his sanity,but this one moment was an exception.
He felt as though he was reeling in a neverending dream.....a nightmare.Trapped in a world that defied all logic.Even the very unlogical logic of the magic he was used to.
Infront of him sprawled an empty room.The same throne room he had just been in,but not a single occupant in sight.No trace of Talpa or Azrael,no trace of the four demon soldiers or the menacing shadows.It was perfectly silent and brightly lit.Actually looking quite peaceful and normal.
The only thing unnerving and peculiar was the large tapestry that hung on the wall behind the throne.It was a tapestry of an intricately detailed dragon,colored in blood red against luxeriant gold.
Cale hesitantly got up and took a few steps;his eyes fixed on the enormous tapestry that had suddenly and mysteriously appeared.
The most frightening thing about it was the dragon's strangely human expression,and it's almost human.....yet very unhuman eyes that seemed to fallow him and stare directly at him,wherever he went.
He wasn't exactly sure what he should do next.Was this all happening in his head?Was this part of the "game" that Talpa and Azrael spoke of?If so;were they watching him right now?
He turned around in the direction where they had been bound and was unpleasantly surprised again.
No trapdoors.Just the same room he had been familiar with all his life.Not a single bit of evidence that anything had ever happened.
He was completely alone now,except for the watchful eyes of the Tapestry Dragon,which he could still feel staring intently at him.
He stood perfectly still and breathed deeply as he stared at the empty room.
No if nothing ever happened......
He suddenly wanted to scream in anger.He was confused almost to the point of desperation,and his right hand still persistantly ached,forcing him to think about that as well;only making the surreal situation more strange.
Do I dare turn around again?
Slowly and hesitantly he turned around once more.To his releif,and also to his dismay,nothing had changed.But this time,upon closer inspection of the scene infront of him,he noticed two small,inanimate figures seated on Talpa's throne.
Intrigued,he walked forward to get a closer look.He soon realized the two objects were dolls of some sort,slumped carelessly against one another in the center of the throne.
Cale gasped quietly as he immediately noticed that they were quite clearly dressed and painted to resemble Kento and Ryo.
Infact,the resemblence was actually quite uncanny in a creepy sort of way.Their appearances had been captured perfectly with simple black brushstrokes on white porcelain,and small brown jewels serving as eyes.
As he gazed at the two miniture figures,he noticed how sad they looked.It was especially apparent in Kento,whose mouth was a simple black dot,excellently portraying a look of surprised dismay,And the light that reflected in his large crystal eyes twinkled just like tiny tears.
The expression that was plastered to Ryo's lifeless face was a bit different.Oddly enough,his mouth was curled into the slightest hint of a smirk,but when he looked deeply into the little dolls eyes,they seemed to reflect just as much suffering as Kento's.
Cale stood motionlessly above the throne and stared at the two inert dolls.He suddenly had the urge to reach out and pick them up;to somehow demolish the tortured expressions and bring them peace.Hiding behind their glittery gemstone eyes,he could almost see the last traces of their souls,crying out for help.It wasn't really anything he could see.......but rather,a feeling he got when he looked at them.
He felt like he had to reach out to them.......break them;but something.........a tension in the air,kept him still and prevented him from moving a single muscle in his trembling body.
The two dolls gazed pleadingly up at him;staring directly at him........two more pairs of eyes watching him,he realized,glancing nervously at the Tapestry Dragon.It made him wonder just how many pairs of eyes watched him......
Enter Mania!!
Cale jumped slightly at the sudden voice inside his head.It wasnt anything like an intentional thought.Almost as if it came from somewhere else......but it was inside his mind.
What was that all about??
".....And night falls systematically upon the earth,draping it's blanket of darkness over us and smothering us untill our eyes surrender to the blackness,and it is then when we begin to see our dreams........and our nightmares."
The sudden voice came from above him,and actually sounded rather musical.Not in the way that it was lovely and melodic,but in the way that it was never monotanous and constantly changed tones and inflections.
Cale reacted immediately.In one quick movement,he unsheathed his weapon and veered his eyes upward in the direction of the eerie voice.
Far above,he saw a figure garbed completely in black,levitating near the ceiling.The armored figure didn't even appear to be actually making an attempt to stay suspended in the air,for they stood completely motionless;almost as if standing on an invisible platform.
He did recognize the armor though.It belonged to one of Azrael's shadow soldiers.The one that had introduced himself as Mania.The only difference in his armor this time was the ghastly black helmet that resembled the head of a dragon.The only part of the intimidating costume that wasn't pitch black were the eyes,which glowed a deep red.It was a frightening facade,to say the least.
Mania spoke again as he stared down upon Cale." dear Cale.Let me ask.Do you want to die?!"
For the first time in a very long while,Cale found himself completely at a loss for words.He remained still and silent,every inch of his body prepared for battle,anticipating Mania's next move.
As Mania moved,Cale noticed the flecks of light flashing off the large scythe that he hadn't even realized the demon was holding.
Mania descended suddenly and rapidly,and landed in front of Cale with a thunderouse crash that echoed throughout the otherwise silent room.
Cale quickly stepped back,rather than confronting the demon.He had been wondering how powerful Azrael's demon soldiers were,and judging from the immense show of power and predominance this so called "Shadow World" had already displayed,he concluded that they would be very challenging opponents.A part of him had hoped that he wouldn't have to do battle with any of them,but apparently,that was not the case now......
Mania's sinewy,spike covered figure pranced with stealthy elegance across the room;a dark shape contrasting deeply with his brightly lit surroundings.
He twirled around to face Cale,and beckoned to him with one long,pointed claw."Come and get me,you obedient little dog!"
Cale pushed all aprehensive thoughts out of his head and tried slipping into his confident,battle ready mode that was so natural to him."Ah!Finally,some action!I thought I was going insane here!" He said with false confidence as he lept into the air and lunged with anxious determination at the demon.
With a precise jab from his scythe,Mania brutally deflected Cale's attack and sent him across the room to land below the enormous tapestry."Oh,thank you for confiding in us." Mania said smuggly,with more than a hint of amusement.
Cale glanced warily up at the enormous eyes of the Tapestry Dragon that stared mockingly down upon it's fallen prey.Us?Who is "us"??
"But you're probably right,you naive little puppy.You probably are going insane," Mania said grimly,"We sometimes have that effect on people....."
"Yeah,i'm starting to understand now," Cale said with resentment."It's not only my physical survival that I should be concerned with.You're all just like master Talpa,but worse!" He hissed.
"Did you say master Talpa?!Ha Ha!Now you're getting the right idea!" Mania laughed with manic glee,juggling his scythe between his armored claws.
Cale hadn't even realized what he had said,and immediately regreted it.Old habits were hard to break,he guessed..........But it was more than that.He knew he had made a true Freudian slip,revealing some subtle longing.
He rose to his feet to face Mania,only to find that he was gone.He quickly readied his weapon and glanced in every direction,but still couldn't spot him.With every nerve on edge,he took a few steps forward,prepared for an attack at any instant.
Thats when he noticed his shadow,dark and massive,stretching out in front of him.He seemed to remember his shadow previously being behind him,but then again,he hadn't really been paying that much attention,so he couldn't be sure.His dark shadow sprawled across the floor,even more motionless than he was.Then,to his utter shock and amazement,it lifted it's arms,raising it's dark,dimentionless replica of Cale's no-datchi,in a subtle,but menacing gesture.
Cale quickly maneuvered across the room to abandon his shadow,but he knew it would be of no avail.His shadow fallowed;still attached,but no longer mimicking his movements.
A deep laughter soon arose from somewhere nearby.It actually sounded like it was coming from below him.It was soon fallowed by Mania's voice,once again flooding the room with the potent feeling of animosity and inevitable doom."You cant escape your shadow,Cale.It will always be with you.No matter how far you run,the reaper is always one step behind you!"
To Cale's amazment,his shadow then detached itself from his body and maneuvered about the room,stretching across the floor and onto the wall,shrouding everything it touched in a veil of absolute blackness.It seemed to be preparing to attack.
Without further hesitation,Cale lept into the air and raised his no-datchi.He gathered his energy and concentrated it into one ferociouse attack.Screaming his familiar battle cry,bolts of deadly,black energy radiated from his sword and crackled throughout the palace.
His attack did manage to strike his shadow,but he had mainly directed it towards the enormous tapestry.He had the feeling there was more than just a wall behind the large red dragon,and at the moment,he would rather be anywhere but here.
Exhileration washed over him as the utmost manifestation of his power filled the room,tearing through his surroundings.The Tapestry Dragon burst open and tore to pieces with the unnerving sound of shredding flesh,revealing a void of blackness beyond.
He suddenly felt himself falling through the electricity filled room,towards the enormous black hole.As he fell past the torn remnants of the blood red material,what seemed like hundreds of pairs of tiny red eyes blinked into existence in the depths of the blackness,and watched him fall.He helplessly watched the eyes watch him plummet deeper and deeper untill they disappeared from his view,and there was only black.
For the longest time,as he fell,all he saw was the nothingness of darkness,and then,finally,he abruptly came in contact with something solid.He hadn't realized how fast he was falling.The impact was so jarring that he was rendered completely disoriented for several moments;although it seemed like an eternity.When he finally lifted himself from the haze,the first thing he became aware of was the floor underneath him.It felt hard and smooth.........and cold.The next thing that registered was the material garb he suddenly seemed to be wearing,allowing the frigid chill of the ground to penatrate his clothing and touch his flesh.
No weapons!!
Usually,he had the natural ability to see in the dark,but for some reason,his vision wasn't able to penetrate this darkness.
"Oh,this is fucking fabulouse!" He moaned sardonically as he lifted himself off the ground with his gloved hands.He quickly recognized the material that covered his hands as leather.
He gasped,wishing he had a weapon,as a bright light suddenly filled th room,revealing his surroundings.
His jaw dropped as he surveyed the room.He found himself standing in the middle of an utterly gorgeous and extravagant ballroom that appeared to be decorated to celebrate christmas.It was embellished with glittering gold and silver,and a shiny,black,marble floor.A row of large windows lined the circular room,and rimming those windows were red,velvet curtains,tied back with huge bows.In every corner sat a large,lavishly decorated christmas tree.Packages wraped in glossy paper spilled out from beneath each one.A large,slowly rotating,glittering,crystal chandalier hung from the center of the cieling,which he realized was actually one enormous mirror.Outside each large window,the same round,silver moon could be seen against an eerie,deep cerulean sky that was streaked with violet and misty,grey coils of cloud.
Cale then examined himself.He was wearing black leather gloves and boots,a black tuxedo with a blood red,silk shirt underneath,and to finish it off,pinned to the left side of his tux was a tiny golden pin of a wolf,howling at the moon.
At first,he didn't notice any occupants in the room,but was soon thoroughly relieved when a familiar figure materialized next to him.For the first time since this whole ordeal started,Cale found himself smiling with relief."Dais!" Cale rushed over to Dais,who was similarly garbed in formal wear,and even wore a similar pin of a little gold spider,creeping up his chest.
Dais turned to Cale,looking utterly confused."What the hell is this place?" He said softly,turning away to get a better look at the odd decor.
"'re real right?You're" Cale asked,anticipating another deception.
Dais turned back to him,looking thoroughly amused."Yes's really me.....But,of course,you really have no way of knowing for sure...." He paused mysteriously before continuing."These demons have proven to be quite tricky so far."
After a few moments of uncomfortable silence,both were relieved to see two more familiar figures materialize in front of them.
Kayura and Sage appeared in the ballroom,looking equally puzzled and nervous;Both dressed in elegant formal wear as well.Kayura wore a simple,black,velvet gown and long leather gloves with matching knee-high leather boots.Sage was dressed to match Cale and Dais with only minor alterations.
"Oh,boy,am I glad to see you guys!" Sage said with relief upon noticing the presence of the Warlords.He then realized the irony in his words.
"Yeah.......but now what?What is this place?" Kayura asked nervously while studying the room with wide-eyed bewilderment.
Cale shrugged."I havent a cl...."
"Welcome,little samurai!"
All four of them gasped and spun around at the sound of the voice.It came from behind them and sounded neither familiar nor friendly.
Seated across the room,at one of the many tables that speckled the marble floor,was Mania,accompanied by the female dark elf whom they all recognized as the one called Vanth.
"Come......have a seat." Vanth demanded,motioning to the four empty chairs that surrounded the table.
Sage and the three warlords exchanged nervouse and doubtful glances,and then looked back at Mania and Vanth.
Both wore the same formal attire that the others were.They didn't seem to be armed nor did they seem to be intent on attacking.
"Come on......there's nothing to be afraid of."Vanth said in a serious and demanding tone,while keeping her shiny,green eyes locked intently on the four.
For some reason,the idea of sitting down with the two demon creatures was actually starting to seem logical.The four samurai couldn't really imagine a fight breaking out here,and Mania and Vanth didn't seem nearly as intimidating in this situation.After a few moments of hesitation,they reluctantly walked over to the table and sat down.
Dais and Kayura quickly chose the middle seats,leaving Cale and Sage sitting closest to the two demons.The table they were seated at was circular and had a white,lace-trimmed tablecloth draped over it.Atop the table sat a golden vase,filled with aromatic,dark red roses in full bloom.Standing next to it was a bottle of dark wine and six crystal goblets,and curiously,a rather large knife lay beside the rose-filled vase.They all took note of the weapon.
"So,what do you want with us?" Sage demanded.
"Well,really,we're just having fun with you." Vanth said as she wraped her spindly,gloved fingers around the bottle of wine.
"Yeah,I figured." Sage muttered angrily."So where are the others." He said sternly,trying to sound assertive,but failing.
"Oh,they're tied up at the shouldn't worry.They might be okay." Mania said with irritating seriousness.
"Have some wine." Vanth demanded as she began to fill the goblets with the dark red,suspiciously thick beverage.
"I......dont......think so." Cale refused,staring disdainfully at the glass of wine that was pushed towards him.
Sage nudged away the glass that had been slid in front of him."We're not going to drnk this.How stupid do you think we are?"
Vanth sipped the red liquid and grinned,revealing her row of steely,razor teeth."You dont want to know."
"Oh,you little bitch........" Dais snarled,glaring intently at the dark elf with his one twinkling blue eye.
"So what is this place?"Inquired Cale."Why the christmas motif?"
"This room......" Vanth motioned at the surroundings with one petite,twig-like arm,"....It represents all of the most perverted and pathetic desires,filth and head games of the human world.I imagine it must have the most impact on our dear little Sage.........It is christmas on your world,is it not?" She grinned with sickeningly taunting false innocents and stared at Sage.
Sage glared back at her,but felt as if he was only making a fool out of himself by letting himself be reduced by her frighteningly intent stare.He felt as though her strangely fish-like eyes were gazing directly into his soul.......
"Oh yes...." Mania began with a menacing grin,"...It's christmas mourning and all your friends are dead."
Sage felt tears welling in his eyes and had to look down and grit his teeth to keep the tears from spilling.
Vanth examined his behavior with a look of pleasure and continued talking."Your spieces is a foolish one.You really must know I am truly astonished at your unbelievable stupidity.You are a world of mind-numbed zombies,all playing the same silly game without even knowing seems that those who cheat are the only winners.You claim that you are civilized and the best thing that evolution has to offer,yet you are too idiotic to realize that you are nothing more than mistakes.Although you refuse to beleive it,you are driven purely by your instincts,just like the animals that you look down upon with disrespect.Obsessed with violence and sex,and continually proceeding down a path of unstoppable self-destruction.Too afraid of salvation to acknowledge the truly superior and intelligent among your kind." She shook her head and sighed,"....just plain sad,in my opinion."
It was then that the tears of anger spilled from Sage's eyes."How could you say that?!" He snarled.
"You know that it's true,Sage." Mania began smuggly," We all live life as a game.You obediently fallow the cliche filled rules,enforced over the years by the mass majority of your brain dead species,whereas we create our own rules.You have no idea what it's like to live,untill you are a creature of the shadows.......a creature of nightmares."
"Yes,why destroy yourselves when you could destroy others to make your own world stronger?" Vanth added,taking a sip from her goblet."I'm sure the warlords understand...." She turned her gaze quizzically to the warlords.
"No!......I mean......I....I..." Cale yelled in frustration.Her words would be scathing no matter how he answered."Stop doing this.If you are trying to turn us to your side,you wont succeed.I think you underestimate our power." His tone carried a hint of uncertainty,as if not quite genuine.He,and the other warlords knew there was a pittance of truth to her words.
"I think that perhaps you overestimate your own power.In time,your insolence will deteriorate and you will realize that you are no longer the most devine power in your world." Vanth smirked and lowered her gaze to stare into her glass of sanguine liquid,letting a dark shadow conceal most of her facial features.
A soft tune began to fill the room;starting quietly and gradually increasing,but stopping at the point of background music,so as not to overpower any conversation.
Several pairs of dancers began to appear on the ballroom dancefloor,seeming to meld out of the background,as if they had been there all along but left unnoticed.
Vanth spoke again,but didnt bother to meet anyones gaze."observe,if you dare.......another pathetic downfall of your monotanouse society......"
The dancers that slowly cavorted about in the background were decked with typical human formal wear.The females wore mostly ugly pink and pale blue gowns,adorned with unflattering ruffles and bows.Even more revolting was the fact that every one of them was decapitated.Thick,dark blood gushed from the spots where their heads should be.It flowed down their formal dresses and suits,soaking in and distorting the colors.The music they danced to was recognized as 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen',but with much more twisted and dark instrumentals.It was a horrifying sight,to say the least.
"What the fuck......!?" Cale exclaimed,staring wide eyed at the ghastly scene.
"Uuuuuuhh....." Sage began,not sure what to say.
"They......They have no heads...." Kayura exclaimed,pointing out the obvious.
Mania and Vanth exchanged amused glances before speaking again.
"If they had already posessed working brains,they might not be able to survive without heads,but....well....Anyway,they are headless to prevent them from flirting obnoxiously and spewing silly and cliched pick up lines." Vanth said,bluntly.
"Oh......I see....." Sage said,feeling a bit taken aback at her words.
"You all belong on that dance floor......especiallly you Sage.You obnoxious little flirt." She snarled disdainfully."Your coquettish behavior is an ideal example of the true evil that plagues your society.Everyone pretends to be innocent,yet no one truly is.You hide behind a mask of innuendo all your life and never dare to unleash the beast inside you......the real you."
Sage and the warlords exchanged glances that expressed mixed emotions.After an uncomfortable silence,Vanth continued speaking."Sage......You say that your virtue is courtesy,yet when we strip away the facade that you have grown to believe is the real you,we see the self-centered,sex-obsessed,uncaring animal.Correct?"
"I.....I....." Sage felt a hot,plump tear streak down his face.The shocking bluntness of her words hurt deeply.
"Do you enjoy making Sage cry?" Cale inquired,glaring at Vanth.
Sage shot an indignant and humiliated glare in Cale's direction.
"It's just so easy to make you humans cry." Replied Vanth as she plucked a rose from the vase."This rose.....if you prefer metaphores,it is an ideal representation of what you all are.You see,even the most sweet and beautiful things.......have thorns."
"Yesssss......" Mania added,also stealing a blossom from the golden vase,"......and roses should die." He ran his long pointed fingers across the many thorns,and then,in one quick movement,popped the head of the flower from the slender stem.The delicate bundle of petals bounced across the pearly white tablecloth and came to rest in front of Cale.
Cale looked down at the red blossom,letting a chunk of his amazingly voluminouse,blue hair fall in front of his sea blue eyes.The lugubriouse music pounded throughout his head,once again drawing his attention to the grisly sight of the decapitated dancers.
"You all belong with Talpa and Azrael.It is only then that you will truly'll be happier.....take my word for it kiddies." Vanth said with a smile.
"No!" Dais yelled reflexly."I'd rather die than be a pawn....and if you were truly viruous you would feel the same!" He glanced at the shiny,sharp knife that sat patiently on the table.It seemed to be beckoning to him....
"You know it's true Dais." She said with dead seriousness.
Her words filled him with animosity.He could almost hear her bitchy little voice calling out to him in his head.Pick up the knife Dais.........C'mon......pick up the knife.SLICE ME TO PIECES!!
It suddenly seemed like a perfectly good idea."Alright.......thats it!" He wraped his gloved fingers around the handle of the knife and snatched it off the table.He violently grabed Vanth by her wirey white hair and yanked her head back,probably hard enough to break her neck.He quickly drew a brutal,crimson line across her neck.Hot blood gushed from the deep gash and spilled across his clothing.
He heard a few sounds of exclamation coming from beside him and it was then that he noticed that the strands of hair spilling from between his fingers were not white.........but dark blue.And attached to the mass of dark blue hair was Kayura's motionless,blood-splattered body.
Dais looked first at the deep cut across Kayura's neck,and then at the stunned and terrified expressions of Sage and Cale.
"K.....Kayura?" He gasped,trying to comprehend how this could have happened.
"Whoops!" Vanth exclaimed with taunting glee."This certainly does put an end to our conversation,dosn't it?"
Dais turned to her,thoroughly enraged."Why,you little....." But before he had a chance to do anything constructive,Mania and Vanth simultaneously catapulted onto the table,their clothing tearing away to reveal their dark and sinister armor underneath.
"Aaaaahg" Sage and Cale both tumbled out of their chairs while making an attempt to elude the demons.
Vanth raised her right hand and a large battle-ax materialized in her grip.
"You lowly creatures will soon become our prizes.More souls for our masters shrine!" Mania growled,directing his attack at Cale and Sage,who both remained unarmed and defenseless.
Dais skillfully managed to dodge the blade of Vanth's ax as she took a swing at him,but found he was unprepared for her next,most unexpected move.
She lept into the air and dived straight into his black stretch of shadow,as if it were a portal of some sort.
He gasped in dismay and desperately tried to call upon his armor as she began to pull him in along with her.He felt himself sink rapidly,and the scene of chaos in front of him soon vanished from sight as he disappeared into his very own shadow....