A/N: Thought I fell of the face of the earth, eh, friendly reader? Well, fear not! I've got to confess that this chapter has just been sitting around, waiting to be edited for a few weeks now. So, technically, it /I written, it just wasn't edited yet. So, here it is. Ah, no one wants to be spoiled with too much good reading, eh? Right then.

Ah, yes, a special thanks to my LOVELY reviewers.

Disclaimer: Hmm, I wonder if this is truly necessary? Well, Katsuro was created by me. So, it's safe to say he's mine, eh? Well, that sounds a bit odd, but hey... hey. Hmm, I got nothing! Whoosh! Away we go...










A brilliant display of light and destruction filled the great chamber, blinding all of the combatants with its braided rainbow. Sage, Rowen, and Cye stood, releasing their power- fueled by fervor and fear, hoping that they could reclaim their fallen leader through the powers of their armors.

The room began to shake, disturbing the already cracked and damaged walls, which readily forced the support to crumble, spilling ash and stone throughout the room. The noise was deafening, and the warriors were tempted to cover their ears with their hands, but they did not want to sever their already weakened threads of concentration.

The powers of Halo, Strata, and Torrent swirled together, forming a thick bolt of power that sped towards Katsuro, who stood his ground with a confident look in his metallic eyes. He raised his black sword in defense and grinned, shifting his feet so he had a better defensive position.

Rowen wanted to laugh. How could Katsuro, or Ryo, for that matter, believe that a sword could defend him from the power of three Ronin Warriors? Slowly, Rowen felt his energy weaken; he couldn't give much more power. He risked a glance towards Sage, who had thick beads of sweat on his brow, his face contorted in a mask of strain and concentration. Cye didn't look much better; he had an uncharacteristic expression of anger on his face.

Katsuro waited patiently for the beam of energy that was rushing towards him. He wasn't afraid of the power the warriors displayed; he knew the sword would both absorb and deflect the excess energy that he didn't take in his body. His grin grew wider; this would be most entertaining. He felt the impact when the beam met his sword and felt it when the sword could no longer drink in the energy. In one smooth motion, he raised the sword over his should and swung it like a baseball bat, forcing the energy to change paths and fly back to the waiting warriors, who appeared to be extremely weakened by their efforts.

Without hesitation, Katsuro slit open his left wrist with the tip of his black sword, relishing the smell of fresh blood, even if it was his own. He was tempted to lick the blood off of his flesh, but resisted as he dug the tip of the sword in further, waiting to feel the energy enter his body. Slowly, like a drug taking effect, Katsuro felt more powerful- invincible. His senses were heightened; he could feel the power of the three warriors that stood against him.

While the energy was still rushing into his system, Katsuro glanced up, curious to see how Sage, Cye, and Rowen were fairing. All three of them were lying on the floor, their limbs spread out like dolls that were carelessly thrown onto the ground. Taking advantage of his perfect eyesight, Katsuro detected they were still breathing.

Slowly, Cye, Sage, and Rowen stood up, grimacing as each regained his posture. Kento joined them, assisting Cye as he pushed himself up to a standing position.

"All right, man, that was some dirty trick!" Kento said, his face glowing with fury.

Katsuro bowed in response, amused by the boy's anger.

"You really pissed me off now! You're in some deep shit now that you pissed off a Ronin Warrior!"

"I... thought we were supposed to be drained completely..." Cye said, leaning on Kento's shoulder.

"We were, but we held back. I can speak for all of us when I say that we're more than hesitant. We can't be scared of hurting him anymore. We'll die here," Sage said, his face set with determination.

"Did you see what he did?" Cye asked, his voice wary.

"Yeah, he boomeranged our energy back at us, while absorbing the brunt of it with that sword. He's still powering up on our energy," Rowen said, weakly motioning towards Katsuro with his hand.

"Tired already, /I?" Katsuro called out, a tone of mockery obvious in his tone.

"One more time then," Kento said, stoically, trying his best to bite back a snappy retort, "With me."

"Right then," Sage answered, nodding.

"No holding back," Rowen said.

"No... holding back," Cye repeated, less confidently.

"Iron Rock Crusher!"

"Arrow Shockwave!"

"Thunderbolt Cut!"

"Super Wave... Smasher!"

Unlike before, a bolt of energy was not created. When the four powers combined, it was as if a bomb had exploded, leaving the four Ronins untouched as it radiated from their armors. It made its way to Katsuro, who made no effort to block the oncoming attack. The brilliant sphere of white light enveloped him, who looked so small in the gigantic ball of power.

A scream of pain and terror wrenched the hearts of the four Ronins, as they stood their ground- unrelenting. Katsuro's cries were filled with rage as well as surprise as he faced the wrath of his once fellow warriors. Sage and Rowen's faces were set, unwavering in their efforts. Kento cringed, but grit his teeth and continued. Tears spilled out from Cye's eyes. How he hated to hurt Ryo. Katsuro's screams were tearing his heart, but he knew he shouldn't stop. He had to save Ryo. Ryo was in there, somewhere deep inside of Katsuro.

Slowly, the light vanished, retreating back towards the Ronins, who were all panting heavily, barely able to keep themselves upright. One by one, they fell to the ground, their armors clattering with the stone floor, which was no longer strewn with large pieces of rock. All that remained were piles of dust and small pebbles, only shadows of their former might.

From his position on the ground, Cye looked up, terrified to see what had become of Katsuro. He could no longer hear the warrior screaming; he could hear the light whispers of ash settling and his fellow warriors breathing heavily. Cye's own breath was labored, and soon, he began coughing, the ash had found its way into his lungs. After a moment, he calmed himself, his mouth dry and his tongue heavy from both ash and fatigue.

"So, who's going over to... check?" Cye asked, furiously trying to wipe away the tears that had streaked down his face.

"How about we all go?" Rowen suggested, his voice unusually quiet and hesitant.

"Let's take off our armor first. It's too heavy, and plus, it won't do us any good," Sage said, once again assuming the position of the leader.

One by one, the warriors shed their armor, clothed only in their subarmor, which Kento complained was still too heavy. They half crawled, half dragged themselves over to where Katsuro was lying, strewn across the marble floor, still surrounded by large boulders that were placed around his body like a fortress.

"He obviously blocked a lot of the attack. Look at the pieces of rock, a lot of them are still whole," Rowen said, motioning to the boulders.

"The question is, how much of the attack was he able to block?" Cye murmured.

Sage cautiously moved up to Katsuro, kneeling down beside him. He carefully rolled him onto his back. Katsuro was limp and unmoving.

"It's Ryo, right?" Kento asked, hope ringing in his voice.

The Ronins circled around the figure on the floor, attempting to half climb, half lean on the gigantic rocks. He did indeed look like the Ryo they had once known and loved. The features appeared to be softer, and the expression of malice and rage was no longer visible to them.

"He looks so innocent, like the old Ryo," Cye pointed out.

Sage lifted his fingers to Katsuro's neck, searching for a pulse. He smiled softly as his fingers were met with a soft thumping, relieved that Ryo was still alive in there, somewhere.

"It's weak, but it's there," Sage said, brushing the hair away from Katsuro's forehead. He slowly examined Katsuro, making sure he wasn't hurt anywhere else. He discovered that three of his ribs were broken, and he had endured a concussion. He also noticed that the fallen warrior had various bruises dotting his skin.

"Hey, what about the blood, dude?" Kento asked, lifting Katsuro's arm so Sage could better examine the source of the blood.

Sage's brows furrowed as he flipped Katsuro's arm over, revealing a wrist covered in a thin coating of blood.

"Hmm, we didn't do this. He must have cut himself with his sword in order to better absorb our energy," Sage concluded.

"I've never heard of that technique before," Rowen began, "It sounds... dark."

"The use of blood often is," Sage remarked quietly, slowly putting Katsuro's arm back on the ground.

"Time to go?" Cye asked hesitantly.

Sage stood up from his crouching position, dusting his knees off. He ruffled a hand threw his hair, which was covered in a fine sheet of ash. He paused a moment, savoring the feeling of his heart assuming its normal, slow pattern. He turned to his friends, who were still gathered around Katsuro's body. All the Ronins were covered in ash; their faces masked by the dark soot, making them look like demonic in a way.

His eyes softened in concern when he noticed clean lines of skin on Cye's faces, created by tears that had no doubt streaked across his face. Sage walked over to Cye and put a hand on his shoulder in support.

"It's okay now, Cye, really. Theoretically, Ryo's physical injuries shouldn't transfer over to what we call the real world, " Sage said softly, trying to smile.

Cye nodded slowly, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He slowly turned away from Katsuro and his fellow warriors, trudging back to the far wall.

"Man, he must feel guilty," Rowen mumbled.

"Either that, or he has to take a piss and doesn't want us gawking!" Kento said, his voice ringing out, forcing Cye to look back, a mask of sadness still present on his features.

"Kento!" Sage said sharply, giving Kento an admonishing look.

"Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood, man," Kento said, holding his hands up in defense.

Sage raised his eyebrows, ready to lecture Kento, but closed his mouth when he felt a hand on his shoulder. The blonde looked over to discover Rowen staring deeply into his eyes, telling him he didn't have time.

Sighing, Sage walked over to Katsuro and knelt down next to his limp figure. He placed his hands on the sides of the warrior's face and closed his eyes. Suddenly, a jolt of pain shot up threw his body, forcing his muscles to spasm, but he didn't let go of Katsuro's face.

"Is that supposed to hurt?" Kento asked, kneeling down next to Sage.

"I...don't know!" Sage answered, gritting his teeth.

"Cye, come over here!" Rowen exclaimed, kneeling on the other side of Sage.

Immediately, Cye ran back towards his friends, his face contorted with confusion. He knelt across from Sage, flanking Katsuro's body.

The Ronins knelt there, squished between the rocks, waiting for Sage to tell them what needed to be done. A sweat broke out across his body, and his face was wracked with pain and concentration. His hair clung to his head, making his blonde hair appear darker than normal.

"Oh... shit!" Sage yelled, jerking his hands away from Katsuro's face as though it was suddenly on fire.

"What? What?" Kento asked, his eyes wide.

"It's not over," Sage answered, turning to look at Kento, his one visible violet eye clouded over with defeat, fatigue, and horror.

Alarmed, Kento looked down at the figure lying on the floor. Katsuro looked so helpless, so innocent. Suddenly, his eyes opened, and slowly Kento understood what Sage had felt, what Sage had /I.

Red eyes, the color of blood met Kento's. And in that split second, Kento understood terror.

A/N: Ah, another cliffhanger. Now, now, friendly reader (and future, soon- to-be-reviewer), don't get frustrated. Your reviews just make the whole process easier, and therefore, faster for you. There may be one or two small grammatical errors, but hey, I'm only proving I'm human. Heh. I'm in the process of four other stories; most of them are just getting started, so in the future, you may see some new stories. Don't worry, I'll remind you... a lot.