Grand Finale! I hope the story gets a good ending for you and that you enjoy it. Thanks a lot to all!
INTO THE WANDERER'S QUEST
Fai opened his eyes slowly. His head was resting on Kurogane's shoulder, his neck ached a little by the torsion. He breathed in deep and looked around, lifting his head.
"I'm crushing you, aren't I?" he asked quietly, seeing as he was practically lying on top of Kurogane in an awkward fashion. The ninja was sitting up, his back against the headboard, his long legs stretched out, and Fai was against the left side of his chest, his legs draped over the warrior's.
"You're actually very light." Was the calm answer. "But my legs are numb."
"I'll move… you're pale, Kuro-pon." He noticed suddenly, frowning. He was a pale a sheet of paper, and his eyes were dark. He backed away from the ninja to take a better look at him.
"You look really bad." He said wearily. Instinctively he took his hand to the taller man's forehead and found it too hot for his liking. His frown deepened. "I think you have a fever, Kuro-san…"
"It's the acid, I think." The ninja answered.
"What?" Fai felt suddenly alarmed, he shifted to kneel and swallowed back the urge to yank the man's black shirt off him. Instead he carefully moved the collar to expose the shoulder. He froze. "Kuro-tan take off your shirt."
"I would." The ninja said in that same quiet, monotone even tone that was crisping Fai's nerves. "But I can't move my right side."
Dread grew in Fai's gut and spread to the rest of him as he nervously helped the man take off the cloth. The whole right side of his body was paralyzed, and soon Fai understood why.
From the burn mark, thin lines of black had extended through the veins to the rest of the long body. They had reached down the arm to the fingers and half the chest, below the waist where Fai couldn't see them because of the pants. As the Mage remained frozen kneeled in front of Kurogane the lines kept growing, moving across the chest at torturously low speed.
"Kurogane…" the terror in Fai's voice made the ninja smirk.
"Tried to wake you, but you didn't budge."
"I'll get Fuu-chan! Stay here and don't move!"
"No worries." Kurogane chuckled. "Not going anywhere like this."
Fai jumped off the bed and lunged to the door. He shot down the hallway searching desperately for Fuu's presence with his senses, running down the wide hallways like a lightening.
Suddenly he collided with something. He fell back and looked up blinking.
"Fai-san, you alright?" Umi looked at him wearily. Ascot climbed to his feet rubbing his left side.
"Umi-chan, quick, where's Fuu-chan?" Fai got up in a jump and took her arm. Umi looked at him worried.
"I haven't seen her yet, she's probably in her room. Is something wrong?"
"The acid is hurting Kurogane!" Fai explained as quickly as he could.
"What? I thought he said he was fine!" Umi frowned. "Stubborn idiot! Let's go, I know where Fuu's room is!"
"I'll get Guru Clef!" Ascot said turning and running down the hallway.
Fai followed Umi across a few hallways auntil she finally stopped in front of a door. She knocked it loudly and called for the blonde girl. After a minute, the door opened. Fuu fixed her glasses blinking. She was already fully dressed and ready for the day.
"Umi-chan? Fai-san? Is something wrong?"
"Kuro-tan is not well." Fai said, now more calm at the sight of the collected young girl.
"Oh?" Fuu's eyes widened in alarm. "Show me."
The three lunged down the open corridors towards Kurogane's room. Fai had left the door open. Fuu went through it like a brisk o wind and was by the ninja's bed in a second. Umi held back a gasp when he saw him; he lines had spread through the tone abdomen and the neck already, although apparently had dodged the area of the chest located right above the heart.
Kurogane was out, and his breathing was irregular. Fuu touched his face and turned his head to her, calling him softly. It took a long moment for the ninja to open his dark, heavy eyes to her.
"I'm going to use my magic on this." She said clearly to him. "So just trust me, okay?"
"Wait, Fuu-chan!" Guru Clef came through the door gasping. "Before healing it you have to stop it, or it will just keep growing."
Fai gave two long strides and leaned over the ninja, pouring all his magic into hi healing abilities. He could stop the poison, like he could stop bleeding, even though he didn't have the knowledge to actually heal it.
Kurogane grunted when he used his magic, but didn't flinch. Fai realized with horror that the man didn't have the strength to do it and cursed his heavy sleep. He backed away, breathless after using his magic, and stumbled. Umi caught his arm lightly and smiled encouragingly at him.
"Healing Wind!" Fuu didn't wait a second more. The green tornado of soft wind enveloped Kurogane like a solid cocoon. Fuu frowned a little, surprised by the peculiar form, but didn't stop.
Fai heard a light gasp and turned to the door.
Sakura stared at the bed with wide eyes, scared.
"What…?" she asked wearily, and Mokona jumped forward to Fai's arms. "What's wrong with Kurogane-san?"
"Nothing, Sakura-chan." Fuu smiled warmly at her. "We're just taking care of that burn."
"Um, well…" Sakura hesitated, but suddenly frowned. "I don't think that's true. He wouldn't be in his bed if it was. I want to know the truth, please."
"The acid turned out to be poisonous." Umi said flatly. "It's spreading through his body so Fuu-chan's doing an emergency healing. She's doing all she can."
"Oh! Yes, I'm sure of that." Sakura said, approaching the bed. "I trust Fuu-san. I just don't want to be kept from things like these anymore. I don't need to be protected like that."
"We didn't want you to worry and be sad, Sakura-chan." Fai said, sitting on the chair, his hands still a little shaky.
"I'm worried, and I'm scared." The girl admitted. "But I'm alright. I trust in Kurogane-san's strength."
"Well, in any case" Guru Clef said. "He'll still be weak after this, so I'll get a medicine for him so he'll get better quickly."
Umi moved her blade in a fluid motion to her right, saluting her adversary, and fell to her flawless fencing stance.
Syaoran unsheathed his sword and faced her, taking it with both hands. The styles were diametrically different, which was good for the training. Their swords were more matched than Ferio's and even though the girl was a little taller, their complexions were similar, thin and light.
When it came to Kurogane, the mismatch height and superior weight and strength always represented a problem for Syaoran. Usually heavier means slower, but a man that had dedicated his life to training with his sword didn't have the common disproportion, and Kurogane was almost impossible to defeat for the lean boy. When height and strength are on the other's side, a swordsman will rely on skill; but Syaorna was new to swordfight, and could not outmatch the ninja in that sense.
Umi was a more similar opponent, although the obviously higher skill made her a difficult sparring companion as well. Syaoran was well aware of that, but the chance of fighting someone of his complexion was welcomed.
The girl gave a short step forward and threw a tentative thrust. Syaoran blocked and attacked her lef shoulder, seeing a gap. Her blade blocked faster than lightening and with a simple circle she thrust his sword up and attacked his leg. Just in time he jumped back and managed to block a hit to his shoulder.
Umi's specialty was closer quarters combat. Syaoran wasn't used to that, since he usually used his athletic body to jump and move back acrobatically. Ferio was just like that, and Kurogane could follow the rhythm as well, albeit he usually grounded Syaoran to have the upper hand.
Umi was swift and firm; she advanced regularly, alternating between long and short steps, diving for a thrust or attacking a side shortly, throwing a cut to his left to finally attack his right. The constant, quick movement of her thin sword was dizzying. He didn't always obstruct; when he tried to block the right the sword wasn't there, and he had to move back instinctively to dodge the right handed attack.
"You're left side is slower." Umi observed coolly attacking his right thigh. "Do you not see well?"
"I'm…" Syaoran hesitated, blocking her blade, and she kept still for a moment, sticking the swords together. "I have a blind spot there." He simplified, a little out of breath.
Umi withdrew her sword and stood straight. "Your sword is very light, like mine." She said. "In fencing you need to see your adversary's weak points. You're slower on the left. Between the two of us there aren't much you can take off me, but when sparring someone like Kurogane-san think this; height."
"He's much taller than me. That's a disadvantage, right?"
"Not always." Umi tilted her head, the long curtain of blue hair following the movement like silk. "Not if you can penetrate his defense from below. When he swings down his sword, if you're fast enough, you can get inside the triangle formed by his shoulders and the hilt."
"He doesn't usually use both hands with the sword."
"Then he'll always be weaker on the lower part of the side opposite to his sword." Umi answered. "If he wields it with the right, his lower left, waist of hip are unprotected. A blow to the hip won't kill him, but it'll slow him down."
"I see…" Syaoran said thoughtfully. He looked at the girl with a slight frown. "You don't use much slashes, do you Umi-san?"
"That's right." The girl smiled. "My sword is shaped like a foil; I thrust with the point rather than slashing with the double edged blade itself. Remember this; when you have a sword like mine, attacking or defending it's the same, there's no advantage. When you have a sword like yours or Kurogane-san's, it's always better to defend unless you're very, very skilled. If you have a saber like sword you better attack first. Remember that in case you need to change your blade for one or other reason As you start getting better at this the sword will become an extension of your arm. First you need to understand the distance needed between you and the target, and the target and the point of your blade, to inflict damage. That's going to be very automatic when you get used to the length of the blade. The length of the sword you carry determines the amplitude of your safety field, no one should enter that circle. That circle is your personal space."
"I understand… the taller you are you need a larger sword, so as your grow your circle grows with you."
"Very good!" Umi patted his head like a proud older sister. "Exactly. Kurogane-san is very tall and his sword is very long, so his personal space is wider than yours or mine. When you become very accustomed to have your weapon, the invasion of your personal space may become a little uncomfortable, but you learn to accept it when you're not fighting."
"Umi-chan! Syaoran-kun!" Hikaru came running through the door with Lantis behind her. "We're having tea in the spring garden!"
"Alright." Umi let go of her sword and it dematerialized back into her glove. She stayed still for a moment studying Lantis's tall forma with an interested gaze.
"Yes?" he asked politely.
"I was just thinking… you aren't much taller than Kurogane-san, right?"
"He is actually more than a few inches taller." Lantis answered. "Why?"
"Oh… looking for some tall sparring matches here… interested?"
Kurogane's eyes opened slowly. The red orbs were still darker and his head ached on the temples, but he blinked and find he was much, much better. He sat up in the bed, the covers and sheets pooling in his lap.
"Welcomed back, Kurogane-san!" Sakura smiled at him, sitting on a chair next to his bed.
"Hey, Princess." The ninja answered. "How long did I sleep?" he took his hands to his right shoulder and lightly ran his fingers across the skin. No marks, no pain.
"All day. It's already dark out." She answered.
"Hn. You stayed here all day? Where're Fai and the brat?"
"I sent Fai-san to rest a couple of hours ago. Syaoran-kun is training with Umi-san."
"Good. You can go sleep now, I'm fine."
"Kurogane-san." Sakura's eyes suddenly were serious. Sensing the change in her mood, the ninja turned back to her and looked severe as well, waiting for her to say what she wanted. "How long do you pretend to treat me like a child?"
Kurogane frowned. "I don't have that intention. But you're still a kid to me."
"I fell like you three take all the danger, pushing me away… like a child about to hurt her herself stupidly."
"Well, it's good that you're open about it to me, but the truth is we don't treat you like a child. We protect you. We thought that's what we had to do."
"Yes, and I thank that." Sakura smiled at him. "But I want to help too."
"You can't wield a sword. I won't teach you."
"I don't mean to." The princess answered. "Fuu-san taught me to shoot a bow. But I don't mean that either. What I want is for you to be frank with me about what happens. Stop hiding things to protect me. I can take it."
"I didn't mean to imply you're weak minded." The ninja replied. "Some things will hurt you if you know about them."
"Everything you do is because of me." Sakura frowned. "At least I want to share the pain I cause you."
Kurogane rose from the bed, walked to her and crouched down in front of her, so their eyes were at the same level.
"You don't cause pain." He said. "If you want to know everything, then fine. We'll tell you everything. But don't get sad every time something happens, or worry too much. It's better to see you smiling and carefree."
She smiled. "I can do that too."
"Good." Kurogane stood up and grabbed his cape. "Let's get out of this country. I wanna go home."
"Alright!" Sakura jumped to her feet, smiling. "I'll wake up Fai-san and find Mokona!"
"I'll get the brat." Kurogane clasped the cape to his shoulder. He turned and smirked at the girl. "And just for the record; I don't mind getting hurt for you, Princess. You're not as annoying as Tomoyo."
"It's a pity you didn't get to train with Lantis or Lafarga." Umi said. "Do you have to leave already?"
"Yes, we have to move one." Syaoran smiled at her. "Thank you very much for you teachings, Umi-san." He made a reverence for her and she laughed warmly.
"My pleasure! Come back when you're a little better and show me what you can do, okay?"
Hikaru let go of Sakura and smiled happily at her. "Come back anytime! And tell your brother not to annoy you! I know what is like to have big brothers!"
"Brother Touya won't annoy me again!" Sakura said with firm determination.
"You owe me a fight." Kurogane grunted.
"I am ready whenever you are." Lantis smiled.
"Yeah… next time around, alright?"
"It's a promise."
Mokona jumped to Kurogane's shoulder, waving hr little paw away. Fai came running back just in time while Fuu touched Sakura's head with tender care, smiling warmly at the smaller girl.
"You're late." Kurogane growled at the Mage.
"I was saying good-bye to Eagle!" Fai waved at Hikaru, the white gemstone in his glove reflecting the sun light with a pearly shine. He latched to Kurogane's right arm to make sure they didn't get separated in the journey.
"Let go, idiot!" the ninja yanked but the blond didn't budge. "Who the hell's Eagle?"
"I'll tell you later Kuro-pon!"
"Mokona is ready to go!" Sakura took Kurogan'es left hand and Syaoran's left arm and smiled widely at the Cephirians that were watching them as Mokona spread its feathery wings out.
Wisps of magic started flowing around them. Hikaru jumped up and waved her arm enthusiastically. "Don't forget us!"
"We won't, Hikaru-san!" Fai said laughing. "And thank you! For everything!"
The red haired girl smiled at him and watched as they disappeared in the clear blue sky, the magic fading.
"Hn?" Guru Clef turned sharply. Lantis did as well, pulling out his sword in an instinctive motion.
"Oh? Lantis, is something wrong? Guru Clef?" Hikaru asked.
"Mm… no… For a moment, I felt like we were being watched." The Magician said, lowering his staff.
"An impression?" Umi asked.
"…I don't think so." Lantis answered. "I felt it too."
"I hope it didn't have anything to do with those four?" Fuu said touching her fingertips to her lips lightly.
"Five with Mokona." Ferio said.
Well! Thanks a lot for all you reviewers and readers that stuck with us me throughout this adventure! It was slow, and hard, but we made it. Accidents apart, the story managed to get an end.
Thanks to all for sticking around!