Chapter Eight

A shattering sound sent shards of color raining down.

The kunoichis feet hit the ground evenly on the broken ground. She could feel her heartbeat in her chest almost in rhythm with the hurried footfalls. The scenery blurred around her as the sound of crunching glass was offered up from her feet. Behind the door ahead she could hear the sound of feet hitting concrete accompanied by muffled voices. At last coming to her destination her hands moved in front of her sending the impact up her arms as she pushed open the large wooden door of the forgotten foyer.

She stood frozen at the sight before her. The room was vast color from the remnants of the stained glass window falling down over Hayate as his fist struck that of his opponent. Long dark red hair accompanied by a flash of black…

Ryu Hayabusa.

They continued to move seeming oblivious to her presence. The sound of their feet, their breath and hands echoed. Ryu stepped back his hands coming forward to hit centered on Hayate's chest. The karate instructor issued forth a sharp breath, catching himself as he fell back. Without pause his leg moved in an attempt to sweep Ryu's from under him. Easily avoided by the ninja who saw the opportunity he needed.

Ayane's lips moved no words formed. A few green leaves scattered down Hayabusa appeared behind Hayate. Raising his arm he brought it down between the karate instructors shoulder blades. The reaction was immediate his legs giving out beneath him. He fell to his knees before resting completely at the feet of the stone goddess. The statues face was tilted upward as if in denial of an unworthy subject. Hayate's face was turned to the side eyes closed. The sharp breath she released seemed to echo in the stillness.

The absence of activity allowed her to become more aware of the details of her surroundings. Dust danced in the light beams filtered through the shattered glass. A myriad of fragments lay near the window, a broken garden of color. Hayabusa's back was to her as he looked down at his fallen former comrade. The windows to the side shone their own light down tattooing the floor in places. She wanted to step forward but remained as Hayabusa rose.

He didn't even turn as he spoke to her. " Ayane." Her name emerged even though it held the tone of command. Her footsteps echoed filling the room with the sound of heel striking against concrete. Into the open air of the sanctuary the air was cooler prompting her to cross her arms as she closed some of the gap despite her hooded jacket. Upon closer view the Hajin-Mon could see the sweat that was cooling on Hayates face. It prompted her to consider just how long the match had lasted before she arrived. The stone goddess's arms were raised her eyes focused heavenward. Small cracks adorned her features a single large one cutting a deep ridge across her cheek. High above the direction of her sight is a large bell long silenced. Time had been a cruel mistress in this place.

Ryu turned to regard her his expression revealing nothing of his purpose. "When rumor had reached the clan that Hayate may be present at the tournament I took the mission in addition upon myself. Finding you here as well things couldn't have turned out more opportune." Ayane couldn't help but wonder how long it had taken Hayabusa to track Hayate. She had initially believed from the note that the tournament was to be held in japan alone it was only once she arrived that she had learned of the changing locals.

He had not been easy to follow he advanced through the ranks quickly.

The kunoichi's gaze shifted from Ryu to Hayate, still lying at the foot of the statue unmoved. Standing in this position between them she could think of many ways things could have gone better. His voice gave no indicator though his eyes hinted that he believed something more had taken place. " Due to recent circumstances it would be best if you returned as soon as possible."

The anxious feeling that had surfaced during their fight reawakened. Circumstances. The word seemed to reverberate in her mind. Ryu's expression didn't change though his tone softened a degree. " Ayane, I am sorry but Genra has been taken. You must be returned to Hajin-Mon as soon as possible."

As her shock turned into anger Ayane felt her fingers dig into her arm. "How could this happen?" her voice was as sharp as broken glass.

"There had been activity within the DOATEC that was of concern to both the Mugen Tenshin and Hajin-Mon. We believe them to be involved in Hayates disappearance as well as that of Genra." His face remained a mask although his voice had hardened at the importance of their return.

DOATEC… the people running the tournament it only made sense they were the ones who sent Hayate the note. The letter her foster father had sent…he had been trying to contact her concerning the recent activity that's why he had called for her return. Even as the thought threatened she knew it was an invalid form of guilt. There would have been nothing she could have done and yet…

Ayane felt as though she were under assault, Alternating between anger, hurt and frustration at her inability to change her circumstances. Who did these people believe they were what rights did they believe they had? The kunoichi knew Hayabusa must know something more than he was letting on. The way he was telling her something and yet nothing sent a flash of irritation to join the other emotions tumbling within her. Steel seemed to straighten her spine; aside from being his daughter in Genra's absence she would become the highest-ranking Hajin-mon. The very least she could hope for was to be spoken to in a direct manner.

"There must be some idea on motives." She pressed taking another step as if the action itself would bring her closer to knowing what she needed to. Though he was Hayate's best friend and had been present during their childhood she hadn't had much dealing with Ryu since her first mission when she had served as his messenger. Things had not all gone, as they should have in all accounts. She had always felt as though a part of him might harbor the feeling that she had known more than she had let on.

" Ayane, while it is true that…"

A sudden sound drew their attention. Hayate had raised into a seated position his back resting against the figure of the stone goddess. His hand held his forehead. Copper colored hair had fallen to conceal his features from her. Vulnerability in his posture was wounding her. Before she realized it her lips parted whispering his name like a long kept secret that had finally escaped.

"Hayate." It was a little more than a breath escaping her but it drew his attention. He looked up his gaze moving from Ayane to Hayabusa initial confusion giving way to a type of realization.

" Ryu…I remember you…" He spoke as though he were reaffirming it by hearing it aloud. Suspicion narrowed his eyes as he spoke again." Ayane… I don't understand what…"

Hayabusa didn't give her the chance to respond " Soon enough everything will be made clear." He moved to help Hayate to his feet. Though he hesitated a moment he took the super ninjas hand allowing himself to be raised to a standing position. Ayane's gaze met with Hayate's only briefly as they turned to go. Beneath her feet she once again heard the crunch of glass and the echo of her own footsteps as they moved. The Hajin-mon's violet eyes took one last look back at the broken scenery the Goddess at its center her cold features stained by fragments of color forever in denial.

>>>>>>>>

The kunoichi's hand flexed after pulling on the taut leather glove. After a few quick movements it molded to her hand perfectly. The soft glow of the candlelight illuminated her features in the large mirror above the small rack that cradled her weapon. Often she had come to this place with Genra when she was growing up for her studies. Now not even a full decade later she stood ready to assume his position if he could not be returned. How swift the passage of time could be. One day moves into the next until years have passed by.

Nearly eight months ago …She would never forget when they had returned. They had reentered the clan under cover of darkness upon reaching Ayame's home Kasumi had been the first one to the doorway Ayane remembered looking through so often when she was a child. The soft firelight had given Kasumi's features a glow not entirely unlike how it did her own at this moment. The kunoichi with whom she shared half her blood needed to speak no words. Relief was evident on her features seeming ease what was left of the dark circles that rimmed her orange brown eyes. Ayane had not remained at the small reunion long feeling uncomfortable in the presence of both her own mother and Shiden.

A part of her was amazed at just how fast everything had gone back to being as it had been for most of her life. Though her main concern lain with her foster father she couldn't deny the sting she felt when she saw Hayate. Once she had gone to the place where she and Hayate had liked to train. She had heard the soft sound of laughter bringing her to pause. Kasumi was sitting at his side a small smile played at her lips with his words. She had turned then to leave not making it that far before Kasumi tried approaching her. The last thing she had wanted was to discuss anything she was feeling with the Mugen Tenshin girl.

There were times she thought she had seen him watch her for a moment but never for long. She couldn't help but wonder if he felt shame about what had almost happened now that he knew the truth. The fact that he brought it up was both a source of solace and wounding.

None of that mattered now. Her fingers traced over the scroll that rested on the stand before her. Finally word had been returned to her. Now she could take action. It was her duty to put her foster father out of the misery that had been placed upon him. Soon enough the DOATEC itself would also pay for what they had done. She had just heard the movement behind her seeing a shadow cast she knew she was no longer alone.

"Ayane" She didn't turn at the sound of the voice she would know anywhere. This was expected that he would show wanting to discuss clan matters with her as always. His reflection was visible in the mirror now. He wore his white uniform. A deep blue headband made a path across his forehead and under his copper colored hair. The dark circles she had seen the stress of leadership create before Germany shadowed his deep brown eyes. He took her silence as an admission. Still she didn't turn her eyes only focusing on his refection in the glass as he spoke. " That mirror would serve better if it were a full one like the dojo had."

Surprise sent a stain over her cheeks sending butterflies of anticipation through her abdomen. A part of her had known that eventually this would have to be addressed in some way. Still she found herself at a loss only nodding.

"Would serve as a training aid then. Might make teaching a few things easier."

A lot of things were easier then. She shoved the thought away as soon as it had come.

"There are some things I need to discuss with you." Reflected back at her his face was unmoving now as he continued to speak. " The next tournament I am sure you have been informed what is to take place. Also what position must be in this matter."

Ayane felt a flash of hurt go through her at how easily he had changed subjects. She was the leader of the Hajin-mon in Genra's absence she didn't need to be told what anyones place was. Especially in a matter that was just as much if not more in her right.

"This isn't about you or any position I had hoped you would understand…" she hated how her voice trailed. A larger part of her had believed he would still understand than she had realized. His expression was resolute cool as the glass that presented it.

"Leave this matter to me Ayane." His eyes had fallen closed his words held finality. He remained only a moment before turning his exit as silent as the arrival. She confronted only her own image now suddenly aware of the night outside. Crickets and other soft sounds as the shadows had grown longer in the room. Her fingers moved to grip the weapon on the stand lifting it she sheathed it at her back.

Allowing her eyes to fall closed a moment her thoughts gathered once more. Reguardless of what had happened or would for now the only thing that mattered was Genra. The Hajin-Mon opened her eyes as she knelt blowing out the candles her violet eyes adjusting to the only light the night offered when she made her way out of the temple toward whatever was to come.

Wow this has been such a long time coming but it has come the end of "Drawn to the Flame." I have some people I really would like to thank for their support of my writing, pointers or just support in general as friends it has meant a lot to me as I made my toward completing my first chapter fic. Not all of you helped in the writing process but all of you have read and appreciated my work being honest at ALL times (pokes Niisan ) something that will always mean a lot.

Jared, Niisan, Natalie, Mari, Jen this is for you :)

An extra special thanks of course goes to my Fiance' Jared for being so loving and supportive:D

To everyone else who has read this from start to finish or even in part THANK YOU! I have tons more ideas where this one came from it's just a matter of choosing now expect more from this name soon:)