Autumn Breeze Brings Change

By Vikki

Disclaimer: Heaven only knows how badly I wish I owned Uriko Nonomura, let alone Kenji Oogami.  But, unfortunately, I don't … Raizing and Hudson own all Bloody Roar characters and transformations thereof.  Please don't sue me.

Author's Notes:  I'm an American fangirl, but I'm pretty stuck on Japanese … I use a few – very few – Japanese phrases/words here and there.  Since they shouldn't take away from the experience of the story, I'll translate even the most basic of words at the bottom of each chapter.  The characters retain their American names for the most part … some spellings have changed, such as 'Ohgami' became 'Oogami', and 'Shen Long' became 'Xien Long' (which is the closest to the proper Chinese Romanization as I could seem to find).

SPOILERS for Bloody Roar 2!  Keniko pairing!  Yulice pairing!  Cruelty to Kenji and Yugo, and a bit to Uriko!  You stand warned!

And now … Enjoy!

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Chapter 1: There's Trouble Afoot

                It was a cool autumn night; the breeze was crisp and a bit stiff, tugging the crackling, dying leaves off of the trees up and down the neighborhood street and swirling them in dry circles along the pavement.  Wind chimes sang and wood creaked.  What clouds there were hung low in the sky, but the moon, a mere sliver, barely lit their edges bright enough to see; shadows danced on the edge of light like ethereal ghosts.

                It's the things you never see that kill you

                Three shadows did not move as the others.  Their dance was far more … deadly.  Invisible.  Soundless.  They sought something … or maybe, someone …

                They did not find their quarry that night; they met opposition.  Silent battles were fought in the faintest of moonlight, one versus the three.  The wind hid the faint squeal of a creature in pain and the thud of bodies striking the ground.  Like light rain the combatants took to the rooftops and dashed across them; blows were again exchanged.  The three were tiring; the one was wounded.  The sky drew black as dawn hovered just beyond the horizon.  Hasty retreats were made as shadow's foe warned of its approach.

                "We will have the cat!" they hissed as they ran, beaten severely.

                The one was victorious.

*   *   *

                "Kenji!  Over here!"  Uriko Nonomura, 15-year-old student at Hiryuu High School, waved madly from where she was sitting for lunch, patting the bench next to her with her free hand.  "Come on, sit!"

                Kenji Oogami, 16-year-old student of the same school, summoned a smile for the girl and waved back, his own arm pressed gently against his side.  "Coming …" he said slowly, hoisting his backpack with the slightest wince.  In just a few moments he was seated next to her and opening his bag lunch.

                Uriko immediately began to chatter away as she was wont to do, and Kenji began to mostly tune her out as he usually did, looking at the table and eating, nodding once in a while, and stealing glances at the girl next to him.

                Kenji liked Uriko.  He'd liked Uriko since the first time they'd met, back when the Zoanthrope Liberation Front was busy experimenting away on the very species it claimed to protect.  Granted, he found her habit of speaking loudly and without ceasing rather annoying, but it was worth putting up with because of her bright personality, so different from his own.  He admired her strength and willpower.  On the other hand, what Uriko thought of Kenji was something that occasionally nagged at the young man.  But was that really any of his business?  She liked him enough to ask him to sit with her at lunch, and that was enough for now.

                Normally as he sat next to Uriko, ate his mayonnaise and ham sandwich, and tuned her out, he thought about Uriko.  Occasionally he thought about school.  But today …
                "Ne, Kenji?  Wasn't that awesome?"  Uriko elbowed him gently, seeking a response from the silent youth.

                Kenji had no idea what she was talking about, but he nodded his agreement anyway, fighting to keep the wince of pain off his face.  "Yeah, awesome."

                Today he was thinking about the night before.

                It had been nearly a year since the ZLF's fall and Kenji's bout of time as the assassin Bakuryu, brainwashed subject of the crazed scientist Busuzima; Yugo-nii-san had taken Kenji back into his home after the month-long ordeal, asking no questions, but he'd also begun leading the cause of zoanthropes in the free world – in between boxing matches, of course.  Kenji stood in proud support of his brother … but his own past troubled him.

                When he'd come back to himself standing over the beaten body of his brother Yugo, the memories of Bakuryu hadn't left; Kenji recalled every body he'd left behind, every drop of blood staining the claws of his altered form, and he shuddered at the thought.  He had nightmares about them.

                But he'd also retained all the things he'd learned about Xien Long's organization …

                And he was certain that it wasn't as obliterated as it appeared to be.

                Last night stood as proof.
                Kenji had an extraordinary sense of smell – some sort of side effect of being a mole zoanthrope, not unlike Yugo's unusual taste for red meat and Uriko's ability to charm as only a cat could – okay, well maybe that last didn't really apply.  In any case, Kenji had woken up in the middle of the night, knowing only that something smelled … off.  Familiar.

                Kenji had known the Kato Ryuu Ninjitsu for as long as he could remember (which really wasn't saying much; he couldn't recall much of anything before the age of nine), and although his ninja outfit reminded him of that horrible time and the Name That Was Not His Name, it was the best outfit for midnight excursions.  Since Yugo was off on yet another business trip – the unfortunate result of being the leading spokesperson for the zoanthrope cause – he'd changed into it, not bothering to notify anyone, and climbed out the window and onto the roof, where he waited … waited for what smelled so familiar and more … deadly.

                They came.

                Kenji could smell them before he could see them; they smelled bloody and excited, letting off the very unique scent of adrenaline, and it was only a matter of seconds before Kenji had engaged the first of three warriors – ninja like himself, but not of the same school.  They moved like deadly shadows, but Kenji had a few stealthy techniques of his own, and the battle raged silent and rough.

Unfortunately, the odds were stacked against the younger ninja, and he'd been forced to his transformation.  What he'd hoped would be a short dispatch became an hour … two … he was wounded and he needed this to be over, but even though he laid into them with his claws, he held back.  He would not kill them … he would not.  He'd had enough killing for many, many lifetimes.

And they still did not back off, until the sun threatened the horizon.  Their advantage of poor light was lost, and they fled.

But their last words chilled Kenji to the bone.  "We will have the cat!"

… they confirmed his very worst fears.

                "Kenji!  The lunch bell rang!"  Uriko was shaking his shoulder, worry etched into her childish features.  "You were daydreaming again … come on, class is starting.  We don't want to be late."

                Kenji stood with a slow wince, his lunch completely forgotten.  "Yeah … thanks, Uriko-san."

                "Nuh-uh.  'Chan' – Uriko-chan! I keep telling you!" Whatever her preferred suffix, she steered Kenji towards the classroom doors.  "Now we're late, and it's all your fault."

                Class?  Who needs class?  The core of the ZLF is alive and well and wants to take you and we're going to class?

                … I wish Yugo was here right now.

                "Are you listening to me, Kenji?"  Kenji suddenly focused again; Uriko's face had resumed its worried frown.  "You keep spacing out …"  she reached out to hug him or support him, he didn't know.

                Kenji jumped back instinctively, cradling his wounded side and exclaiming, "Don't!"

                Uriko stared at him.  "Kenji?"

                "…" Kenji looked at the ground, ashamed by his reaction.  He just didn't … he didn't want Uriko to know he was hurt, because then she'd worry … just like she is now.  "It's nothing, Uriko, just a little preoccupied …" He put his arm around her hesitantly so she came into contact with his good side, hoping to placate that rejected look in her eyes.  "… Thank you for worrying about me."

                She blushed, which, Kenji thought, was a rather extreme reaction to having one's arm wrapped around you.  "L-let's go to class!" she squeaked, zooming off into the building.

                "… She's weird …" Kenji muttered to himself as he picked up his backpack and shuffled inside.

*   *   *

                "What do you mean, a mole attacked you?"

                The ninja, who was having the deep slashes on his chest  and arms dressed and bandaged, bowed his head to his master and flinched at the movement.  "Exactly what I said, sir … it was a mole zoanthrope.  He fought like the devil before he even transformed … very skilled in ninjitsu, sir."

                The master had turned away, but at these last words he spun about sharply.  "Ninjitsu?"

                "Yes, sir …" the ninja trailed off, completely bewildered.

                "…" the master said nothing for a long moment, brooding, his chin in his hand.  "Bakuryu …" he muttered.  "He fights on …"  He looked up.  "You say you wounded him?"

                "Kenkatsu managed swipe him with his bugnuks, and it wasn't like we were completely defeated," the ninja replied, affronted.  "Master, we nearly brought him down once, but then he transformed."

                "Hmmm …" the master didn't seem too impressed, but neither did he seem disappointed.  "So, the mole has shown his face again," he muttered.  "Perhaps it's time I made a visit to the Oogami residence …"

                He cackled evilly, causing the ninja before him to give him a bewildered look.  "Master … you never cackle …"

                "I just felt I ought to do so," the Master replied with an amused, cruel smile.  "For you see … someone has to laugh at young Bakuryu's foolishness …"

*   *   *

-nii-san:  A Japanese suffix meaning 'older brother'.

-san: A polite way of referring to an acquaintance or a classmate, male or female.

-chan: A suffix indicating far more intimacy than '-san', '-chan' comes off meaning, more or less, 'cute'.  Uriko wants Kenji to call her that because she considers them good friends.  Similarly, she doesn't use any suffix on Kenji's name, which implies a deep relationship indeed.

Author's notes: … okay, forgive my weirdo sense of humor.  I swear I won't put too many corny lines in there … and I know this isn't a Japanese comic book or anything, so maybe I shouldn't use all the suffixes, but seeing as Kenji and Uriko are both attending a Japanese school at the end of BRII, I thought it only appropriate they use the same mannerisms.

… can you guess who the master guy is?  *cackles evilly*  … of course you can, it's pretty obvious.  And if you're not sure, you'll know by the time the next chapter is finished.  *sniff* Poor Kenji, getting hurt defending Uriko … won't be the last time, folks!  I am not known for being nice to my cute little boys.

Well, um … enjoy … please review …

Oh!  Next chapter: Kenji and Uriko suffer through a class, Kenji goes home to a not-so-pleasant situation, and Uriko worries over everyone's favorite ninja while evil is plotted behind the scenes.

Reviews are very good!  Encourage me to write more!