"Demons in the Doorway, Monsters Down the Hall"
By Ghost of the Dawn
Chapter Fifteen - Evil Overlooked
"So, how do I look?" Cye asked as he presented himself.
It had been a week since their experience with Nago and all those who survived it were just trying to get through their usual lives like everyone else.
Robyn looked away from the bathroom mirror where she was doing her make-up and studied him from head to toe. He was cleaned, cut, and dressed in a sharp black tuxedo with light blue trim around the collar.
"Woo, very nice. You'll be the best looking one at the Prom tonight." Robyn stepped out and circled him, running her fingers over the back of his shoulders. "Say, Handsome, how about ditching your date and taking me instead?"
She leaned in the doorway and tried to look enticing. It didn't work much considering she had only half her make-up on and there were still curlers sprouting from her head. She was wearing her dress though. It was an Oriental style with a high collar and no sleeves. Tastefully colored with bright orange, red and gold, it would have looked pretty good on her if the slit halfway up her left side didn't reveal her baggy black sweat pants she still wore underneath.
Cye laughed at the way she carried herself and put his hands on her bare shoulders. "Well, as tempting as that is, we're both promised to someone else tonight." He turned and started up the stairs for his bedroom. "Let me know when Kento gets here."
Robyn nodded with a smile and then returned to her primping. She was almost done with her make-up when the doorbell rang. Robyn slipped out of her sweats before running barefoot to get the door.
"Hey, Robyn," Kento's smiling face appeared in the doorway. He too was looking sharp in a nice black suit and tie. "Is Cye ready?"
"Yeah, I'll get him," Robyn replied as she motioned him to come inside. She walked over and called up the stairs. "Cye, your date's heeerrrreeee!"
The sounds of frenzied footsteps resounded soon after as a worried-looking Cye came down. But it disappeared when he reached the bottom step and saw Kento standing there.
"What's the matter, Cye?" Kento joked at the irritated expression on his face. "Aren't I what you expected? I hate to tell you, but the girls don't come to your house, you have to go pick them up."
"Funny," Cye retorted. "Thanks for the false alarm, Robyn."
"No problem," she grinned back.
Kento laughed as he walked up to her. "Hey, Robyn, you're looking pretty good in that thing. You might want to keep those curlers in your hair just so you don't steal everyone else's dates. Wouldn't want the rest of the girls to get jealous now." He winked and gave her a playful squeeze around the shoulders.
"Aw, you're so sweet," Robyn cooed back as she kissed him on the cheek. She made a guilty face when she noticed the red marks her lipstick left on his skin. "Oh dear, that's not going to look very good when you go to pick up your date, is it?" She tried to rub the mark off with her thumb. Mrs. Mouri walked in just then and saw what happened.
"Oh, goodness, Robyn!" she fussed as she wiped off Kento's lipstick with a wet cloth. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Sorry," Robyn said, trying hard not to laugh. Cye was chuckling while Kento took the treatment with tolerance. Sometimes Cye's mother and his own weren't that different.
"There you go, Kento; now you boys get going and have fun."
"We will, Mrs. Mouri, thanks," Kento grinned as he headed out.
"Bye, Mom," Cye said as he kissed her cheek. "Save a dance for me," Cye then told Robyn as he hastily kissed her temple then ran out the door. Kento had been dropped off at his house. Cye was taking his mom's car that night because they all thought Kento's jeep would be too loud and crowded for such a nice evening.
Robyn waved them off before closing the door after them. Only then did Mrs. Mouri realized Robyn's current state. "Robyn!" she exclaimed. "Your date will be here any minute! Get those curlers out of your hair! Get your shoes! Come on!"
Robyn hardly had time to say anything before she was yanked back in the bathroom and forced to get ready for her own date.
This year's Prom was being hosted in the lobby of one of Toyama's largest hotels. All night long, cars and cabs pulled in and out of the huge parking lot as beautifully dressed young men and women came to enjoy the school year's biggest dance. A greyish blue car pulled in and parked like all the others. Out of the driver's seat stepped Rowen and from the door behind him was Ryo. Both were dressed in their tuxedos as they walked around the car to get the doors for their dates.
Rowen's date was a girl he had met in one of his college classes. She was a mature, sophisticated looking thing with straight dark hair cut just below her jaw. Ryo's date was Kami - the girl from his chemistry class and Robyn's friend. Incidently, it was Robyn's meddling that got Ryo to ask her out in the first place. Kami had an inkling it was Robyn's fault that she was going to the prom with her secret crush. She would have to be sure and thank her friend later for that.
The two young men suavely escorted their dates into the beautifully decorated building. The place was already filling up with bodies and the music and lights were at full force. The two couples simply meandered about until Rowen heard someone call his name. He turned to see Cye and Kento, plus their dates, coming up to greet them. Kento's date was blonde, of course. Kento always had this bizarre thing for blondes. Rowen wasn't sure where Kento had met her; he had never seen her around school before. Cye's date was a shy-looking brunette he shared his marine biology class with. She went perfectly with her shy-looking male escort.
"So, Sage isn't coming, is he?" was the first thing Kento asked when he met up with them.
Rowen shook his head. "Never bothered to get a date or anything. I've been bugging him for weeks about it. He just didn't want to come."
Cye's date and Kami apparently knew each other and talked happily about their dresses and hair and things while the other two girls stood by their dates and smiled politely.
"Well, it's his loss," Cye shrugged, referring to Sage's absence.
"So let's go par-tay then!" Kento announced. His date whooped and cheered along with him. Rowen laughed. His date was good for him. Both of them were loud.
Ryo politely interrupted the two talking girls to invite Kami out on the dance floor. Anyone watching could see the stars in her eyes as she walked off arm in arm with Ryo and they started to dance.
"Robyn wasn't kidding when she said that girl had a thing for Ryo," Kento whispered to Rowen.
"Yeah, but it looks like they're both having fun," Rowen replied. "And speaking of Robyn, have you guys seen her here yet?"
Kento and Cye shook their heads. "But when they get here, I'm going to keep an extra sharp watch on that Hiroshi," Kento promised.
"Calm down, Kento," Cye spoke up. "Robyn's fine. Don't worry about it."
Rowen and Kento both looked at Cye incredulously. "I can't believe I'm hearing this from you," Kento said. Cye just shrugged casually before walking off with his date to the dance floor. Rowen and Kento looked at each other before following.
Ryo was the only one who caught sight of Robyn any time during the dance. The place was so big one could hardly find anyone without doing some serious traveling around. Ryo was dancing with Kami during a slow dance when he noticed her. She was dancing with Hiroshi; her hand on his shoulder with his hand around her waist. They seemed to be talking about something comical. Both were smiling and every now and then one or both would laugh.
Robyn looked beautiful that night in her form fitting red and orange dress. Ryo loved those colors. Most of her hair was pulled back with just the right amount of auburn ringlets framing her face. The dance ended and Robyn finally noticed him. She gave a small wave to Ryo before Hiroshi pulled her off through the large crowd and out of sight.
"Hey, slow down, turbo," Robyn laughed as Hiroshi pulled her quite quickly through the room. "What are you doing?"
"I'm sick of dancing," Hiroshi answered plainly.
"Already? We only danced once."
Hiroshi glanced at his watch before he led her to a small section that had a few tables for those who wanted a seat. He sat her down at the closest empty table and took a chair across from her. "So what now?" Robyn then asked.
Hiroshi shrugged as if he had no clue as to why he was brought there in the first place. Robyn gave him a look and then shook her head. Boys. Like they had a thought in their brains to begin with anyway. She folded her hands in her lap and tapped her foot to the music as she spent the next few minutes watching other couples out on the dance floor moving to a livelier tune. Hiroshi seemed to be looking around for something else, but Robyn didn't really notice.
"Ah, there you are," said a painfully familiar voice. Robyn turned toward Hiroshi, who was looking at none other than an approaching Miniko Hino. She had a cup of punch in one hand and was dressed in a low-cut black gown which left her shoulders bare and tightly hugged her perfect form. "I've been waiting for you," Miniko purred as she ran her finger along the back of Hiroshi's neck.
Robyn was a bit more surprised when he stood up and kissed her full on the mouth. So much for the rumor of them breaking up, Robyn thought to herself. "So what exactly are you doing here, Miniko?" Robyn asked flatly.
She grinned. "Why, I'm enjoying the Prom with MY date, of course."
"Your date?" Robyn argued. "But he-"
"Wrong!" Miniko cut her off. "You seem to enjoy making me look stupid in front of people, now it's your turn. What made you think anyone in their right mind would want to go out with someone like you anyway?"
Robyn seemed a bit hurt as she looked at Hiroshi. She would expect this kind of underhandedness from Miniko, but she thought Hiroshi was better than that. The dark-haired young man only shrugged indifferently. Well, obviously he didn't care. Robyn sighed and stood up.
"That's right," Miniko mocked. "Go on home. We wouldn't want to see you cry here and ruin it for anyone, now would we?"
Robyn merely nodded. She honestly didn't feel like crying, despite what happened. It wasn't like Hiroshi was her dream date anyway. Besides, that's what Miniko wanted and Robyn wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. She could easily go out and catch the bus home. Get out of her confining dress, put on some comfy sweats, and catch the late movie. No problem.
Robyn started to go and Miniko's blood boiled when she saw Robyn didn't seem to care. That little witch was still making fun of her. She couldn't get away with that.
Quick as she could, Miniko jumped in front of her, causing Robyn to knock into her a little. Miniko purposefully tipped her cup towards Robyn, causing the red, staining punch to splatter all over her front. That got Robyn's attention.
She gasped as she felt the cold liquid seep through to her skin. The bright red stain was dribbled all down the front of her, marring the beautiful gold designs that were woven into the fabric. "Oops, so sorry," Miniko smiled in mock apology.
Robyn's look of horror was reward enough for Miniko. She didn't bother to harass the young girl further as Robyn fled from her. The lights went dim as another slow song came on. Couples held each other close and moved slowly. Robyn was thankful as it made it easier for her to slip past the bodies and no one could really see the stain. She hurried as fast as her dress and shoes would allow out the door and then fled around the corner where no one could see her.
Leaning against the cold brick wall of the hotel, Robyn let out a deep breath to calm herself down. She brushed a few curls out of her face as she tried to assess the situation. She could still catch the bus home. But did she really want to with that bright red stain now decorating her front? It was way too far to walk. Cye would get home after the dance and dropping off his date before she would get there. Robyn could feel the lump forming in her throat but she told herself she wasn't going to cry.
So this wasn't the best night of my life; so what? No need to cry about it. This certainly wasn't the worst night either. Things could have been worse. It's not a big deal. I'm not going to cry about it. I can't let Miniko get to me. She probably planned this whole thing from the get go. So what? She's not worth it. She's just a bully. I'm not going to let her get to me. I'm not going to cry, I'm not going to cry, I'm not going to-
Robyn looked down again at her soiled dress and she couldn't stop her eyes from watering. It didn't bother her so much that Miniko had humiliated her at the dance. It bothered her that she had ruined her dress. It wasn't just a rental. A rental Robyn could deal with. She wouldn't be crying over the fact she would have to work to pay off the damages. It made her cry because it was paid for. Not only by her. Cye and his mother had also saved up to help pay for it. She didn't want to see their faces when they saw the dress now, beyond repair.
Robyn couldn't hold it back now as she cried. She sank down onto the ground, pulled up her knees and buried her face in them. Sometimes it felt like the whole world was working against her. Just once, couldn't something go completely right? Couldn't there be just one time in her life where she wouldn't end up disappointing somebody? The tears soaked the material covering her knees, but Robyn couldn't stop sobbing.
She froze when she felt someone lay a hand on her head. Who was it that was going to see her like this? One of the guys? She didn't want their pity right now. It could be just some stranger who happened to find her. Or worse, Miniko could be back to kick her around some more.
Robyn's vision was blurred from the tears when she looked up. The figure seemed friendly enough and handed her a handkerchief to wipe away her tears. The white material was marred as some of the smeared make-up from her face rubbed off onto it. With her vision clear, Robyn looked up into a pair of deep purple eyes. One was slightly covered by wisps of golden hair.
Robyn tried to hide her face in one hand. She couldn't believe HE, of all people, appeared out of the blue to see her like this. "Sage," she choked through half a sob. "What are you doing here?"
The Warrior of Light was crouched down right in front of her and gently lifted her chin with one finger. "You know, you really shouldn't hide your eyes like that."
"Why?" Robyn asked bitterly.
"Because your eyes are so beautiful."
Robyn sniffed. This conversation sounded familiar. "Is that a come-on?" she finally asked.
Sage smiled thoughtfully. "Hmm... maybe."
Robyn choked back a laugh and wiped her tear-stained cheeks again. Sage stood and held out his hand to her. Robyn allowed him to pull her to her feet. She still couldn't believe he was dressed in a tuxedo. Why did he ever get one if he didn't bother to get a date? Robyn began to think Sage enjoyed confusing the heck out of people. He sure did it often enough.
Sage furrowed his brow when he saw the condition her dress was in. Robyn wrapped her arms around herself to help hide it. But that didn't make her feel any better. She felt wet and sticky and all around gross. "Do you want to tell me what happened?" Sage asked casually. It wasn't a request, but more of an offer if she wanted to take it.
Robyn sighed heavily and leaned back against the wall. She slowly relayed what had happened that night. Sage leaned against the wall next to her in his usual pose and listened quietly. Robyn never told him, but she was starting to be thankful for Sage's company that night. After she was done spilling the beans, the topic shifted over to Sage and the other Ronins. Robyn asked him a few general questions and Sage seemed more than willing to give a straight answer.
It was nice having him there. Every once in a while a couple would peek around the corner, looking for a dark place to make out or whatnot. Of course, they wouldn't stay with the two teens already standing there. For whatever reason Sage came, Robyn was glad for it. The last thing she really wanted right now was to be alone.
Robyn wasn't sure how long they had been standing there when Sage pulled away from the wall and turned to face her. "Come on," he said, holding out his arm to her.
Robyn didn't ask why as she put her arm through his. She figured Sage was probably going to take her home now. She got a surprise when she found out he was heading back into the hotel.
"Sage," Robyn protested as she started to drag her feet. "I can't go back in there! Can't I just go home?"
"This is the last dance for the night," Sage insisted. "Afterwards, I'll take you home."
"But look at me - look at my dress," Robyn whined. "I look horrible!"
Sage slipped his arm out of hers and wrapped it around her shoulder, pulling her close. "Trust me, no one will notice," he said to her.
At that point, Robyn gave up and let him pull her to the dance floor. The last song of the evening was already playing - soft and low. Sage guided her through the crowd of slow swaying bodies before stopping in a spot that suited him.
Robyn was more worried about who might be watching her when Sage grabbed her hands in his. She looked at him questioningly as he guided her hands up to his shoulders. Then he wrapped his arms around her. One went around her lower back while the other hugged her shoulders. Robyn stiffened when his embrace pressed her body against his.
"There, now no one will be able to see," he whispered to her.
It took a while, but Robyn's body finally relaxed against his. Sage seemed to excel in the slow dance as well as fast and the way he swayed to the music calmed and soothed her. It didn't feel wrong at all for her to be there with him. She knew by now that Sage was, without a doubt, her friend.
Robyn allowed herself to close her eyes and, just for a little while, revel in the moment; whatever it meant to either of them. When she opened her eyes again, she was treated to the site of Miniko, dancing in the arms of Hiroshi, staring with an expression on her face Robyn could not describe. It was the perfect payback, but Robyn took no time to bask in the revenge. She didn't want to see Miniko or have anything else to do with her for as long as she lived. So she buried her face in Sage's shoulder and tried not to think about her.
"Sage," Robyn asked in his ear when they had rotated away Miniko from her field of vision. "Why did you go through all this trouble for just one dance?"
Sage lowered his head until his breath tickled her ear. "For me, one is enough," he whispered simply.
The song ended and the lights came on. Robyn was the first to pull away. She wrapped her arms around herself consciously. Sage took off his jacket and slipped it around her shoulders. Robyn looked up at him and he put his arm around her and gently led her off the dance floor. "Let's go home."
Robyn merely nodded and let him lead her out. It was a bit of a long walk since Sage, being one of the last people there, had to park the furthest away.
The four Ronin boys all left the dance at the same time. Kento and his date were still in rare form and chattered happily as they all exited the hotel. Cye's feet hurt; he wasn't used to dancing so much. Rowen was trying to be tolerant of his date, who continued to yack about certain college classes they had together. That's the last time I ask out someone with a grade average similar to mine, Rowen thought to himself. How can anyone stand to talk about school after we've been studying in it all day?
"Hey Ryo," Kami tugged on his arm. "Isn't that your friend Sage over there? Who's he with?"
Everyone turned to where she was looking. There he was about halfway across the parking lot. "That can't be... Robyn, can it?" Kento squinted his eyes to see in the darkness. "What are they doing together? Maybe we should go and - hey, Cye, where ya going?"
Cye never stopped as he escorted his date down the stairs. "Come on, Kento, it's late. Let's take the girls home."
"Uh, okay man, it's your car," Kento said, following his friend with a puzzled expression.
Cye understood his confusion. The Cye Mouri a week ago would have ran after them, demanding what happened. But Cye was tired of making a spectacle of himself every time Robyn threw him a curve. He would rather see Robyn with Sage than with that Hiroshi guy anyway. He now realized Robyn was right to get angry with him for nosing around in her daily business. If she wanted to tell him about it later she could. He wasn't her parent, he was her friend. And as a friend, it was not his job to lecture, but to understand.
"Come on, Ryo," Kami said, pulling his arm again. "Let's go catch up to Robyn. I haven't been able to see her yet."
Ryo let her drag him down the stairs and across the parking lot. Rowen and his date looked at each other and then followed behind them at a slower pace.
Robyn froze when she heard Kami call her name. "Oh no," she groaned. "So close to freedom, yet so far away..." Sage gave her an almost whimsical smile as he tightened his hold on her shoulders and spun her around. Robyn smiled weakly as her friends approached. Please let it be too dark to see my face. I look horrible.
"Robyn," Kami cried as she came up. "Oh, you look so pretty tonight."
Woa, it must be darker than I thought "You, too," Robyn replied sincerely.
"I saw Hiroshi with Miniko," Kami went on. "They were so horrible to do that to you. I'm sorry."
Robyn shrugged. Ryo looked up at Sage. "Did you know they were going to do that?" Sage didn't answer. Robyn waved to Rowen when he approached. As she did this, Ryo caught a glance of the huge stain on her dress. He was about to say something about it, but the look Sage gave him inclined Ryo to keep his mouth shut.
"So, you decided to come anyway, huh?" Rowen asked.
"For a little bit," Sage replied. "But we should be going now, excuse us." They both said their quick good-byes before retreating to Sage's car. Sage opened the door for her and Robyn practically dove inside. She heaved a heavy sigh as the door was closed behind her and Sage got in the driver's side.
"What a night," Robyn breathed as she laid back in the seat. "No offense, Sage, but I would rather not have to go through something like that again for the rest of my life."
The Warrior of Light just gave her an amused smile before starting the car. There was no further conversation as they pulled out into the street and started for Robyn's neighborhood. The car remained quiet as they reached the Mouri house. None said a word as Sage opened the door and escorted Robyn to the porch. Robyn paused before opening the door.
"Thanks for being there, Sage," Robyn said to him. "I don't know why you were there. I don't know if I want to know. But it was nice spending time with you."
Sage's reply was a quick kiss to the cheek, leaving Robyn a bit surprised. "Thank you for the dance," he said in her ear. Then he turned on his heel and walked away. Robyn was awestruck as she watched him go. Her expression was trance-like as a hand floated up to touch her cheek. She blindly reached for the door handle and, of course, tripped through the doorway on her way in. Shutting the door behind her, Robyn groaned and hoped nobody saw that.
"Cye, stay awake," Kento told him. "I don't want you to crash before I can get home."
Cye mumbled from behind the wheel of his mother's car and did his best to keep his eyes open. The night had completely wiped him out and all he could think about was going home and getting into bed. It took longer than they had both thought to drop off their dates at home. The traffic was bad with the dance now over and each of the girls lived far out of the way in separate parts of the city. Cye couldn't remember the last time he had been up this late. He, too, hoped that he wouldn't fall asleep behind the wheel before he made it home.
"Here's my street," Kento reminded him. "I don't want you to miss it."
"I see it," Cye muttered.
Cye could see the green street sign reflected in his headlights as they drew closer. But what he saw next made his blood run cold. Next to the sign stood a figure so black the night seemed to swallow it up. It was humanoid in form; raw flesh wrapped in black cloth with the limbs hanging to its grotesque body by threads.
Of course, if it could speak, the two would never have been able to hear it. But an unspoken voice seemed to reverberate in their ears. I'm still here...
The thing watched with glowing red eyes as the car continued to drive right past Kento's street. Cye's knuckles were white on the wheel and it took all his strength just to keep his foot on the gas pedal. His eyes were wide as he watched the road in shock.
"I'm not going down that street," he whispered.
Kento, who shared his friend's wide-eyed expression, only nodded. They ended up at the only other place they knew to go - Cye's house. Warily watching the street corners all the way, they didn't see anything else before they got there. But Cye was surprised to see another car parked out in front of his house.
Cye and Kento got out and carefully made their way to the other vehicle. Cye opened the door to find Sage sitting there. "Sage? What are you doing here?"
Sage jumped out of the car and practically tackled Cye down. His face was more pale than usual. "Cye, tell me we beat that thing," Sage pleaded. "It's gone now! We got rid of it! It can't come back!"
"You saw it, too?" Kento exclaimed.
Sage swallowed as he continued a bit calmer now. "I - I saw it by the roadside on my way home. I didn't know where else to go but back here."
Cye was about to reply when the screeching of tires filled the air and a speeding car raced up to the house. Ryo jumped out before the vehicle could even lurch to a hasty stop. Rowen quickly killed the engine and then ran after him. Everyone was still wearing their tuxedos. "What the heck is going on here?!" Rowen demanded.
"You guys all saw it, too?" Ryo asked at the same time.
The others nodded.
"What about Robyn?" Ryo asked again. "Is she okay? Has she seen it?"
"We all just barely got here," Kento replied. "We haven't gone in the house yet."
"And my mom's going to be asking a LOT of questions if she sees all of you out here," Cye worried. "Come on, guys, we'll all have to sneak upstairs. Hopefully she's asleep by now."
The five Ronins crept into the house with Cye in the lead. The kitchen light was on but no one seemed to be up and about. Cye directed everyone else up the stairs before heading up himself.
"Cye." He spun around when he heard his mom say his name. Luckily, she didn't seem to notice the others before they could get out of sight. "I thought I heard you come in. Did you have a good time?"
"Yeah, Mom." Cye tried to sound casual. "But I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to bed now."
"Okay, good night," Mrs. Mouri replied as she turned off the lights and headed to bed.
Cye breathed out in relief and then hurried up the stairs. He found the others in Robyn's bedroom. But Robyn wasn't there. "Robyn's gone," Kento stated the obvious as he looked at the open window.
"She just left??" Cye sputtered.
"Well, there's no evidence of a kidnapping, if that's what you're thinking," Sage offered.
Cye paced around the room, running his fingers agitatedly through his hair. "But why? Why would she leave and where did she go?"
"She must know that thing is back, too," Ryo concluded.
"Do you think she went to go fight it?" Rowen wondered.
"But where would she go?" Kento asked. "I mean, the docks were wiped out by the Inferno. There's no way she'd go back there."
"There's got to be something we're forgetting," Rowen stated. "Something this thing is connected to that we've overlooked."
"And just what is that, Rowen?" Kento demanded. "Robyn's the one who knows about this stuff, not us. She's the only one who knows what it is. She's probably seen this thing before, we haven't."
There was a small span of silence before Cye spoke up. "I have."
"You what?" Kento asked.
"I've seen it before," Cye replied quietly. "Several different times, in fact." He had everyone's attention now as they all listened carefully. Cye's gaze became unfocused as he remembered. "When I was little, in my old house. I could always feel something watching me. And sometimes I would see it - in the doorway, down the hall, in a mirror. Always just a glance of it. I keep telling myself I just dreamed it up, but I was fooling myself. I know that it was real because Robyn saw it, too. She was the one that protected me from it. When I was scared she promised me she would never let it hurt me. And before we moved she said it couldn't hurt me because it-" Cye suddenly gasped.
"What is it?" Ryo asked.
"I know where she is," he breathed. Cye wasted no time in dashing out the door; nor did the others in following him.
Robyn walked slowly down the dark, unlit street. She was dressed in regular clothes though her hair was still done up from the dance. Her heart was beating hard enough to burst from her chest. Long ago she had promised herself she would never come down this street again. She still feared it, even now. Feared it so much she would run away from two of her friends just to get away from it.
But tonight, the fear had to be put aside. There was no room for cowardice now. She had to do this or forever live with the hurt and fear brought on by this place. Her footsteps felt heavier as her destination came in sight. But she pressed on until she was standing right in front of it. It was a bent, dilapidated old house, greyish and tired looking. Some of the windows were broken. The paint was peeling and the frame was rusted. It loomed over her like a foreboding omen.
Robyn clenched the gasoline canister she held tighter as she walked through the wild weeds growing up through the sidewalk to the door. She hastily splashed gasoline all over the front of the house. When the canister was empty, Robyn reached for the lighter in her pocket.
Crouched, shaking by the steps, she attempted to ignite it. But all she received was empty clicks as the lighter refused to flame. Robyn growled in frustration as she worked it again and again. It was brand new, there was no reason why it shouldn't work.
She was finally able to get a flame, but a gust of wind came out of nowhere and snuffed it out. Robyn tried again. This time, the flame made it to the gasoline-soaked wall, but it wouldn't light. Try as she might, she couldn't get the house to start on fire. "Burn, you stupid thing," she growled at it.
Robyn fell over and scrambled away from the house when she heard an eerie laughter echo through it. She could feel its presence now, thick as the darkness around her. An unspoken promise seemed to reach her ears as she stared in fear at the house towering over her.
You can't get rid of me. No matter where you go, I'll still be here waiting. Your friends, everyone you care about will come to know me. You can't stop me.
Robyn rose to her feet, wide-eyed as she heard the voices of her past somehow echoing in her ears. She heard their voices coming from the house - everything she had heard there. The yelling and the screaming, the insults, the threats. Her own cries of pain and fear - even her quiet sobbing in the dead of night when no one was awake to hear. It all replayed itself back to her and for a moment, Robyn felt overwhelmed with it all.
But then she realized how old it had become and she was tired of it. Clenching her fists, anger replaced the fear that once filled her heart. Didn't she deserve a normal life? Didn't she deserve to be happy? Just once, couldn't she be left alone? Robyn felt the tears of frustration and rage sting her eyes. She walked down the sidewalk and, picking up a large rock, threw it as hard as she could at the old house. The shattering of a broken window did little to appease the emotions boiling inside, but she did it again. And again and again. Letting her rage fly with each object she hurled it.
"Burn, you damned house!" she screamed at it. "Why won't you burn!? Go back to hell where you came from!" The last throw took all her energy and she sank to her knees, crying and pounding weakly on the cracked walkway. "Go away. Don't hurt my friends anymore," she choked out, her throat tight from sobbing.
Her body shuddered as she wrapped her arms around herself. It was so cold and she felt so helpless. There was nothing she could do.
Through her misery, she was vaguely aware of the warm, gentle arms wrapping around her. Robyn didn't have to look up to know who it was. She leaned into the embrace and just let herself be held.
"That's it, huh?" Kento asked as he looked the house over.
Cye nodded from where he was crouched and holding Robyn. Sage stood next to Kento. Just looking at the thing was giving him the creeps. He could feel the dark energy practically oozing from the house. "So what do we do now?" he asked quietly.
Rowen walked closer than the others and picked up the discarded lighter. "Robyn had the right idea," he said. "Fire is the only way to get rid of it. Here, Ryo, you could do it better than any of us."
Ryo took the small object and nodded. As he approached the house, the bearer of Wildfire could actually feel the resistance coming from it. It felt thick and forbidding, and yet... afraid? Ryo flicked the lighter; it caught flame the first time. A breeze rose up as if trying to put out the fire, but Ryo would have none of that. The flame was strong with him; they understood each other. Ryo pressed it to the house and it burned immediately.
Cye helped Robyn to her feet and they all stepped back as the house was swallowed in flames. From somewhere within, above the snapping and crackling of the small inferno, one could almost hear a cry of defeat rising up with the smoke.
They all stood together and watched as Robyn's childhood house burned down. But Robyn didn't feel any regret. It was never home to her. She looked at the five young men standing around her. The light of the fire reflected on their faces as they watched it burn. Of all the bad things that had happened to her, they made up for it all. They must have been heaven-sent, there was no other explanation Robyn had for them. Five angels of mercy had appeared out of no where and blessed her life. Because of them she could now live a peaceful, happy life. At last, it was over.
Author's Notes: Well, that's it for me. A big thanks to everyone who stuck with me until the end. I'm really proud of this fic. It's still one of the most successful ones I've ever written in my whole fanfic career. Thanks to everyone for all the comments. Especially Dixxy who was with me reviewing this story clear back in 2001 when I first started writing it. You're great. Anyone interrested in seeing my original author's notes on this fic or some really old fan art based on it can find all that at the URL in my author settings. Thanks guys! You rock ^.^