((A/N: I am a horrible person for not updating in over a year. I am also a college student, managing two jobs, and trying to write a book. I also like to make a lot of excuses.
Thank you, again, to everyone who puts up with my nonsense and sparse updates. Your reviews really do keep me writing, and I appreciate all the feedback, good and bad, that you throw my way.
That being said, please REVIEW so I don't wait another year to update! Enjoy!))
Chapter 17- Threshold
Raimundo bit back a groan as he hit the stone floor of his cell, the impact sending harsh vibrations through his bones. Behind him, the warriors who had thrown him there were leaving, save one of the captains. Raimundo struggled to turn over onto his side, and looked up at the older gentleman now looming over him.
"It's lucky I like you, Diego," he said, shaking his head. Raimundo, of course, had given them a fake name as soon as he infiltrated the fortress. "Otherwise, I might've had to report you to his majesty for breaking into his Shen Gong Wu. What on earth drove you to do that?"
"I just…wanted to see if they were real," Raimundo lied, his voice wavering convincingly. "I've never seen…Shen Gong Wu before. I'm sorry, it won't happen again."
"You're a smart kid, Diego. But stay out of trouble, or next time you'll get a lot worse than fifty lashes. Master Chase doesn't take kindly to soldiers who disobey him. Ever since that whole fiasco with the Xiaolin Dragons, he'll kill anyone he wants if he's in a bad mood."
Raimundo managed to nod apologetically, and the older captain left him in silence. The doors of his cell slammed shut, and he knew he was locked in.
He had to get out, tonight. Raimundo had been dumb enough to come here on his own, without any protection. It was easy enough to knock out a guard in one of the villages and steal his clothes, but once he was in Chase's lair, things had got entirely out of hand. Luckily, Chase barely paid any attention to the lower soldiers, but he had come dangerously close to revealing himself today.
The last time Raimundo had broken into Chase's castle, he had Clay with him. They knew exactly where to go and how to disguise themselves. Now, Raimundo was all alone and out of ideas. It had been a horrible plan to come here in the first place, but he had been full of hot air, angry with himself for hurting Kimiko and ruining the only chance he had with her.
Now, it was too late to make amends. He was stuck in the middle of Chase's fortress, surrounded by guards at every turn. It had taken him days to get into this mess, and likely weeks to get out. He didn't have that time; Chase was launching a massive attack on the rest of the world, and Raimundo was likely one of the only rebels who knew about it.
He bit back a curse of pain as he eased his aching body to the floor. If Chase discovered he had tried to break in to the Shen Gong Wu, Raimundo would be dead by morning.
The red moon had just begun to illuminate his cell from the small, barred window at the top when Raimundo began to hear noises outside. He wearily raised his body from the thin blanket he was laying on and listened carefully, his body seizing up in fear. If Chase already found out…
Quickly, he got to his feet using the uneven stone wall for support and grabbed the only weapon he had: a wooden plate with the remnants of his last meal. As scraps of bread fell to the floor, Raimundo quickly went into a fighting stance as he listened to the commotion outside.
A few grunts sounded, then a shout. Suddenly, everything went silent, and Raimundo hastily summoned wind into his palms. A shadow crept underneath the door to his cell, and a figure dressed in a guard's Roman garb appeared in the small window of the door.
Then, there was a small shuffling noise as the door was unlocked, and a creak as it slowly opened. Raimundo took a step backwards, narrowing his eyes as the figure walked in. Behind the stranger, he could see the bodies of all the guards with metallic cords wrapped around their bodies, rendering them unable to move.
The two faced each other in silence, before the figure removed his helmet. Raimundo felt his body seize up and his lips parted in slight shock.
"Jack," he said curtly.
"Raimundo." Neither of the two men moved for a long moment, until a familiar green dragon popped its head out of a pack on Jack's side.
"Are you two going to just stare at each other all day? Come on, we gotta get out of here," Dojo snapped. Jack slipped another helmet out of his bag and held it out to Raimundo at arm's length.
"Put this on. We should be able to get out undetected if we hurry."
Hesitantly, Raimundo took it but made no move to put the helmet on just yet. "Why are you doing this? Helping me? I tried to kill you."
"And I'm not forgiving you for that. But for the first time in years, we may have found a way to defeat Chase. The other dragons need you, Raimundo. And as much as I hate you, I'm not going to destroy that chance by leaving you here to rot."
Jack turned on his heels and stalked out of the cell, leaving Raimundo staring at his helmet. With just a moment of hesitation, he slipped the visor over his face and followed, nearly tripping over a few bodies in the process.
"Jack, wait!" Raimundo called. He and Dojo were already halfway down the hallway, but at the mention of his name, he turned and paused. Raimundo tripped over another bound body, but as he caught up to Jack, he stuck his hand out in front of him. "Thank you," he said, looking straight up into Jack's eyes.
Jack looked down at his hand, and then back to Raimundo. Then, he turned around and began to stride forward, leaving Raimundo's arm hanging in the air.
"I'll only forgive you if you set things right with Kimiko," he said tersely. "Come on."
Raimundo slowly lowered his hand and took a deep breath, resisting the urge to summon his element. With his eyes narrowed and lips set in a straight line, he followed Jack out of the hallway, and into the throes of Chase's fortress.
Dojo touched down in Master Monk Guan's Temple shortly before noon, just as most of its occupants were heading inside for the midday meal. Raimundo slowly slid off of the dragon's back and looked around, a grim expression on his face. Some of the rebels were giving Jack and him strange looks, and Raimundo didn't understand it until he realized that they were both still in the Roman dress of Chase's soldiers.
Jack slid off behind him as Dojo became his smaller self again, and came to stand besides Raimundo. "Are you willing to call a truce?" he asked, glancing sideways at his companion. Raimundo stiffened, then managed a curt nod.
"We destroy Chase's army and kick him off the throne. After the world's been restored to balance, I'll kick your ass once and for all."
Jack smirked. "I'd like to see you try."
From across the courtyard, Clay exited a building and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the three in front of him. Raimundo raised his hand in greeting, and the other warrior quickly made his way over to them.
"Rai…what…how…what're you doin' here?"
"Jack thought it was a good idea to go rescue him by himself in the middle of the night," Dojo grumbled. He started slithering off towards the kitchens, rubbing his shoulders as he went. "He's just as reckless as the two of you! I'm going to get something to eat, before you have any other grand ideas about flying into the heart of Chase's castle."
Raimundo smiled weekly as Clay stared dumbfounded at the two of them. Then, before Rai knew what had happened, Clay was suffocating him in a bear hug.
"Yer an idiot, you know that, right?" Clay said, finally letting him go. Raimundo wheezed and rubbed his side, where his injuries still hurt.
"I know. I'm sorry Clay, things got out of control. I've calmed down, and I'm here to make things right."
Clay extended his palm to Jack, and the two shook hands. "Thank you," Clay said gruffly. "We owe you a lot. I'm…glad that yer here."
Jack nodded and released his hand. "It's time to bring this war to an end. I want to help any way I can."
"Clay? What's going on? Someone said-"
The three boys turned to see Kimiko standing in the courtyard, her body frozen in shock. She had been carrying a clay vase, but it slipped from her hands and crashed into the hard earth, shattering instantly.
She could only stare at them for a full moment, her lips parted in bewilderment as she took in Jack wearing the uniform of Chase's guards…and Raimundo standing besides him.
"Kimiko," Rai said weakly, stepping forward. There was an uncertain smile on his face as he came towards her, his arms open to embrace her.
"Rai?" she said faintly. Her eyes were wide as she slowly walked forward to meet him, the broken vase forgotten. The two stopped only a foot away from each other, and Raimundo's smile grew wider.
"God Kim, It's so good to see you. I-"
Crack. In an instant, Kimiko's expression turned to one of rage, and she punched Raimundo in the cheek with all the force she could muster. The boy let out a sharp yelp and stumbled backwards, holding his face.
"Kimiko! What the hell-"
Fire burst to life in her palms, and Kimiko threw a fistful of flames at him, advancing on him all the while. Raimundo hastily scooted backwards, still holding his cheek.
"I can't believe you!" she shouted at him, sending another wave of fire. "After all the shit we went through, you just flew off like that? I was out of my mind with worry for you!" Kimiko formed a swirling ball of flames in her hand and shot it at him, and Raimundo had to throw himself out of the way to avoid it. He wasn't trying to fight back at all, merely trying to defend himself.
"Kimiko, stop it! Put the fire down!" he yelled at her. Raimundo summoned his element and pushed her next round of flames away just as she lunged for him.
"And then you decide to run off to Chase's castle all by yourself! Do you know what that did to me, seeing you beaten up like that? I thought you were dead! What the hell is wrong with you?" She launched herself at Raimundo, ready to punch him again, but he managed to catch both of her fists and hold her there.
"I'm sorry," he tried again. "Kim, I really am! All I wanted to do was prove myself to you. I felt horrible for what I did, and I figured that if I brought back some Shen Gong Wu, you would understand-"
"Understand what?" she snapped. Kimiko shoved her knee towards the crook of his legs, and Raimundo hastily stepped backwards to avoid her blow. "After all the hell we went through, I would have forgiven you if you'd just apologize! You could have gotten yourself killed!" She shoved his chest with fire, and Raimundo fell to the ground on his back.
"Kimiko," Jack called, quickly stepping forward. "He's injured, be careful-"
"And you!" she shouted, whirling around on Jack. "You had the audacity to sneak off in the middle of the night when you were barely healed. I can't believe it! You just snuck off with Dojo. Do you know how idiotic you are? Both of you could have died, and then we'd have no chance at defeating Chase! Of all people, you should have known how dangerous that was!"
"He saved me, Kimiko," Raimundo called out softly from behind her. She slowly turned to face him, her palms still filled with fire. Raimundo struggled to get to his feet, clutching his side. "Without Jack…I probably would have died. He saved my life."
Over her shoulder, Jack and Raimundo met each other's eyes, and an understanding passed between them. Kimiko, in the meanwhile, looked back and forth between them, still fuming. Then, she turned and stormed back to Raimundo.
She grabbed his collar menacingly and pulled him down so that their faces were only inches apart. "I do not forgive you," she growled in a low voice, narrowing her eyes. "And if something had happened to you, I never would have. I died inside when you left." Kimiko shoved him away from her and began to stalk away from the group, a trail of fire blazing in her wake.
"Idiots!" she shouted angrily. Then, she disappeared inside the Temple and slammed the door.
Clay, Raimundo, and Jack stood in silence for a moment, looking uncertainly at each other. Then, Clay began to chuckle under his breath. "Welcome back, Rai," he laughed, slapping him on the back. "Come on. Let's get the two of you cleaned up."
A few hours later, Raimundo and Jack were both bandaged up and wearing new clothes, courtesy of the infirmary. After a meal and a quick rest, they were now sitting with Clay, Kimiko, Dojo and Jesse, pouring over battle maps in her office.
Kimiko remained taciturn and angry, though she had calmed down considerably from the morning. While the boys and Jesse talked strategy, she sat near the window by herself, staring placidly out into the busy courtyard.
"Chase is planning to launch a massive attack against the world," Raimundo said in a low voice, breaking her out of her stupor. Kimiko raised her head to see him staring at her, and he quickly looked away. "When I was in his lair, he called all of his soldiers together. He's going to send his forces to every corner of the earth until he finds and destroys us."
"He's going to kill millions if he does that," Jack said softly. "Remember when he first took over? His soldiers massacred whole cities. The same thing will happen again if we don't stop him. The world is growing weak; humans won't be able to outlive another one of his campaigns."
"Rai, when did you hear him plannin' this?" Jesse asked. She looked agitated as she shuffled maps of the world in front of her, and nervously glanced around the table.
"A few days ago. We're running out of time; he's going to be sending the first wave of soldiers out in under a week."
There was a sharp intake of breath from around the table, and Kimiko slowly made her way over. "Then we have to stop him," she said evenly, sliding down onto her knees by the others. "This is our last chance. If we don't stop Chase now, we might never be able to."
"But how?" Clay asked, his brow creased with worry. "Kim, you an' Raimundo are still wounded, and Jack is still havin' trouble getting' around. How are we supposed to take down Chase and thousands of his warriors?"
"My soldiers are ready to fight," Jesse said firmly. "We can take on the army if y'all can bring down Chase. We'll get you safely to him, and my boys will handle the rest."
"Jesse, how many warriors do you have here?"
"'Round fifteen hundred, last time I checked, why?"
"Chase has at least ten thousand warriors at his fortress alone," Raimundo said glumly. "There's no way we could bring them all down. We're seriously outnumbered."
"Jesse, there are other pockets like this 'round the world, right?" Clay asked. "What if we send 'em a message to get 'em all here to fight?"
"We'd probably get our numbers up to 'round five thousand, then," she replied. "But it'll be hard enough to get 'em here unnoticed by Chase's warriors. I'm sure there are tons of rebels out there, but we don't have the means to contact 'em."
"We'll just have to make do," Raimundo said. "Get a message out to those we know of as soon as possible. We don't have time to lose."
"Rai, we're still outnumbered two to one!" Kimiko interjected. "There's no way such a small number can take on those forces. Think of how many of us will die! We might not even make it to Chase if we're that seriously out powered-"
"We won't be," Jack said quietly from the end of the table. Everyone stopped to look at him in confusion as Jack slowly rose to his feet. "I can build the rest of your army. Robots."
"Jack, there's no time-"
"Chase made me build thousands of robots for his own use," he interrupted. "I never deployed them; most are still waiting in holding areas until I give the order. If I can get back to my lab and reset them to follow me instead, we might actually have a chance. And I can make weapons, whatever you need."
There was silence for a moment, as Jack's words weighed heavy in the air. Then, Raimundo raised his head and nodded. "I trust you," he said slowly. "We'll get you back there as soon as possible."
"I'll go with him," Kimiko said quickly. "He's still hurt, and he needs someone to protect him. Clay and Jesse can work on gathering the troops together, and Raimundo…you can help train any rebels we can get."
She met Raimundo's eyes challengingly, and while the dragon across from her stiffened, he gave her a terse nod after a few moments.
"Well, let's get goin' then," Clay said heavily. "We got a lotta work to do if we wanna make it out of this alive."
The country meadow where Jack had made his home for the past three years was completely silent as Dojo came to a gentle stop. Kimiko slid off of his back and looked around hesitantly, as she had never seen Jack's home from the outside before. All the windows had been bolted shut and she never had the opportunity to look outdoors when Jack controlled her.
There were no signs of other buildings, and Kimiko assumed he had made his home as far away from any towns as possible. In the distance, she could see a small, one-story dwelling that must have been his house. Without thinking, she started out for it, but Jack grabbed her arm before she had taken three steps.
"Careful," he warned. "Let me make sure no one else is here. I don't want us walking into a trap." Jack pulled out a strange looking device that he had managed to create from scraps of technology at the Temple, and carefully began patrolling the grounds. Kimiko raised an eyebrow and hung back with Dojo until Jack finished and strode back.
"We're clear. No other life forms or technology…Just the ruins of my life." He looked slightly pained as he glanced over at the building, then extended his hand to Kimiko. "Come on, let's go."
"I'll be back to pick you up in a few hours," Dojo called. "Jesse and Clay need me in the meantime."
"Don't worry about it. I'll make something to fly us back," Jack said confidently. "We'll be home by nightfall."
Dojo nodded and took off into the skies, leaving Kimiko and Jack alone. Together, they began to walk towards his house, Jack growing more nervous with each passing step.
By the time they reached his home, it was clear the building had been abandoned since the day they had been captured by Katnappe. The door was still fallen in, and weeds had begun to spring up around the threshold. The two carefully made their way inside to see the kitchen covered in a thick layer of dust, with broken tile, windows, and sheets of metal everywhere.
With a deep breath, Jack descended down into the basement, Kimiko following close behind.
The lab was a wreck. Broken robots lay everywhere, and scraps of metal littered the floor. Half of the doors had been torn off of their hinges, and his tables were overturned. Jack looked crestfallen as he gazed upon all the damage, and his shoulders dropped.
"Are you okay?" Kimiko asked gently, slipping her hand into his. Jack took a deep breath and nodded, unable to keep the pain out of his eyes.
"Yeah. This was just…my life's work…and now, half of it's destroyed." He exhaled and took another look around the room, then squeezed Kimiko's hand assuredly. "I have your friends to thank for this, you know. Oh well. Let's get started."
Half an hour later, Jack had managed to restore power to the building, and was working on getting his Yes-bots charged and up to speed. Kimiko took her time cleaning up the best she could, but it was hard not to let the memories overtake her.
Underneath one of the tables, she found the white bands that had kept her under Jack's control. She hastily threw those away before he saw. Here was the hidden shelter where he had prevented her from reaching her friends, and over in the corner was the door to her room, miraculously still intact. Kimiko couldn't help but poke her head inside, and a wave of dizziness hit her as she saw the same little cot, complete with the cameras in the ceiling.
Kimiko had only been here a few weeks ago, but so much had changed since then. When she first arrived at Jack's, she had been weak and helpless. Now, the fate of the world was in her hands. She would be facing Chase in just a few days time. Part of her wanted to curl up on the cot and go back to pretending she was safe and hidden in Jack's hideaway, even if he was her worst enemy.
When she exited the room, Jack had found another pair of his spiral goggles, now perched precariously in his messy hair. He pulled them over his eyes and picked up a blowtorch, then set to work soldering two pieces of metal. Several Yes-bots scurried around behind him, picking up computer chips and stacking them on his desk.
Jack put down the torch to sort through the technology, until he found one that he needed. Then, he hurried over to his computer and ducked below it. Kimiko watched as he messed with the wires, sending a few sparks into the air, until the computer screens lit up with life.
With an ecstatic grin on his face, Jack scrambled out from underneath the computer and looked at his glowing screens. Then, he ran to Kimiko and picked her up, whirling her around in the air.
"We're back in business!" he shouted. Kimiko couldn't help but laugh, and she lightly kissed him as he set her back down.
"Let's get started," she said, as soon as he broke away. "Tell me what to do while you deal with the big stuff. We have an army to build."
The days were passing too quickly for Kimiko to handle. She was up by dawn every morning to train with the other dragons, and didn't go to sleep until two or later. Jack was working every waking hour build whatever he could; most nights, he never even returned to the Temple to sleep. Although she was worried leaving him on his own, Jack was now surrounded by a small army of vicious robots that could protect him.
New forces were arriving every hour, and Jesse was setting them all to work preparing for the battle. After receiving a crash course on what Chase was up to, the new rebels would be outfitted with a uniform bearing the four elements and a variety of weapons, courtesy of Jack.
Kimiko watched all the activity anxiously. Although she knew this was their final chance to bring down Chase, she wondered how many of these people would die, just to see him fall. The rebels were as young as fifteen and as old as seventy, and she couldn't help but worry that most wouldn't live to see past this battle. Clay and Raimundo seemed to share the same sentiments, but they barely showed it; instead, they were more preoccupied with discovering Chase's secrets.
Jesse's warriors, who had been undercover in Chase's castle for over a month, had returned. They brought news of all the soldiers preparing for battle, and ready to destroy anything that stood in their way. Clay had set to evacuating all the villages between the Temple and his fortress as discreetly as he could. Innocent people were sure to die if they didn't get out of the way.
Everyone was moving quickly, trying to prepare themselves for when the walls between them and Chase finally broke down. This was humanity's last stand against evil…and Kimiko was in the middle of it all. She and the other monks were the only hope left for the world. And if they failed, Kimiko knew she would die. She would not run away again, and hide from Chase. Kimiko wasn't afraid to face him- merely to watch the ones she loved fall around her.
With a chill in her bones, Kimiko took the Wings of Tenabi and set out for Jack's lair just three days before the attack. Clay and Raimundo were busy training the rebels in any way they could. Most were willing to dedicate themselves to the cause, but very few knew how to use a gun, or even fight with their fists. Jack's weapons, such as the capsules, were helping, but most would be throwing themselves blindly into battle.
It only took her an hour of steady flying above the clouds to reach Jack's house, and she touched down before the front door. Inside, she ducked through all of the debris and entered a security code on the basement door before slipping down the steps. Jack was back to work with his blowtorch, and a variety of black garments and other gadgets surrounded him.
"Jack?" she called hesitantly, stopping as a robot whizzed by her with a stack of metal. He looked up and turned the torch off, then yanked the goggles off of his eyes.
"Kimiko!" he exclaimed. "Come see what I made last night." He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her forward to the tables. She noticed that he was back to wearing jeans and t-shirts, but the cloth looked rumpled and there were dark bags under his eyes.
"Did you sleep at all since I last saw you?" she asked. Jack shrugged, and motioned to a gallon-sized coffee pot bubbling on another table.
"A few hours. I've had so many ideas running through my head that I haven't had time to rest. It's like being back here has put me on steroids or something. I can't stop thinking. But look."
Jack grabbed one of the garments and held it up to her. It appeared to be a black bodysuit, made of a strange material Kimiko had never seen before. The crest of the four elements had been embroidered on the front, just like the uniforms Jesse and her soldiers wore.
"What is it?" she asked uncertainly, fingering the sleeve.
"Armor," he said proudly. "I figured out how to make metal into fabric last night, then set my robots to duplicating it. It's tough enough to slow down bullets, and even block a sword. I also made boots, weapon belts, and arm and leg guards to go with it. Plus, the material stretches and moves with you; you'll be protected without the bulk of regular armor."
Kimiko silently watched Jack as he hurried around the lab, grabbing a set of what looked like earpieces. "Plus, I made these headsets. We'll be able to keep in contact with each other all throughout the battle. Oh, and- what's wrong?"
He paused in his excitement as he saw Kimiko's sober expression, and the paleness of her face. "Is everything okay?"
Kimiko managed to nod. The impact of the battle had just hit her; Jack was intending to fight, along with everyone else she cared about in the world. What if one of them was killed? She didn't want to think about it, but now she was slowly being overwhelmed with all the possibilities.
"I'm scared," she bit out at last, then bitterly laughed at how weak her voice sounded. "I'm terrified, Jack. I don't want to do this. I don't want anyone else to die."
Jack slowly came to her side and wrapped his arms around her, cradling her body to his chest. "I know," he murmured. "I am too…but there's no turning back now. We have to do this. If we don't make a stand, millions of others are going to die."
"I keep having nightmares about him. I keep seeing him killing everyone I love. And I don't want to lose anyone else! Not Raimundo, not Clay, not Dojo or Jesse- and definitely not you!"
"And I worry every day that I'll lose you," he said against her hair. "Do you know how much it kills me to know you'll be in danger?"
"I don't want you to fight, Jack. Please, don't go with the forces. Stay out of harm's way."
"What? No! I'm not letting you go in there by yourself-"
"Someone needs to control the robots from the outside, Jack. You're the only one smart enough to handle all the operations. I need to know you're safe…I need to be able to protect someone during all this mess."
"Please, Jack." She broke away from him and looked up pleadingly into his eyes. "Do it for me. I'll let you know whenever there's trouble; we can stay in contact the entire time. Just stay out of the fighting."
The two were silent for a terse moment, and Jack let out a heavy sigh. "For you, I will," he said at last. "But don't think I won't be watching over you. If you so much as get scratched, I'm coming after you."
"Thank you," she whispered. Standing on her toes, Kimiko reached up and kissed him softly, wrapping her arms around his neck. His own hands encircled her body, pulling her close.
Their kiss became deeper and deeper, and soon Jack found his hands wandering along her body, tracing the gentle curves of her hips. She pulled him closer to her, as if this were the last time they would be together. Kimiko felt desperate to feel his lips against hers. Fire had ignited somewhere inside of her, and she could feel it warm every inch of her skin.
Somehow, Jack had maneuvered them back towards his bedroom, and she didn't resist as they crossed the threshold. Her fingers skimmed the bottom edge of his shirt before she pulled it over his head. Jack paused for a moment to tear it off, and their eyes met. His skin felt electric against hers, and Kimiko pressed herself hungrily against him as he lowered her to the bed. There, he slowly glided on top of her, and wrapped his arms around her.
His fingers slowly reached for the tie on her robes, but just as his fingers skimmed the fabric, he pulled away. Jack took a deep breath and tried to sit up, but Kimiko's hand's laced around the back of his neck.
Blue eyes met red, and Jack felt warmth run through his body. He gazed down at her as she brushed her fingertips along the side of his face.
"I want to feel alive," she whispered, her eyes pleading, "before…before…"
Jack silenced her with a kiss.
The day of the battle arrived with a blood red sun, spreading eerie rays across the broken land. Kimiko watched as the light oozed like blood across the darkened hills and suppressed a shiver. How much blood would be spilt today?
She turned away from the window and crossed back over to her bed, where her armor had been laid out. After slipping on a thin shirt and pants, Kimiko pulled the strange armor suit over her body. The material felt stiff and unyielding at first touch, but she still could run and move around in it like her other clothes. Clay, Raimundo and Jesse had all tried the uniforms out in training, and while Jack had not created them for the entire army, they knew the armor would definitely give them a personal advantage.
Next came a pair of tall, black leather boots that had a sneaker-like bottom, and arm and leg guards that would be helpful from avoiding swords. Her weapons belt was equipped with several of the binding capsules and a variety of daggers. She also had the Wings of Tenabi strapped to her back, while Raimundo had the Ring of Nine Dragons and the Mantis Flip Coin, and Clay had the Fist of Tebigong. She slipped the small headset over her ear, and had just picked up the matching black helmet when the door to her room opened.
Raimundo stood in the doorway, already dressed in his uniform. The armor followed the contours of his body perfectly, and she had to stop for a moment to take in its effect.
He looked deadly. Raimundo had always been strong, but with the black ensemble, he looked dangerous. They paused and stared at each other for a moment, and Kimiko wondered if they were thinking the same thing.
"Hey," he said softly. Raimundo looked her up and down one last time, and managed a weak smile. "You look…great."
"Thanks," she replied. "You look like you could rip my head off in seconds." Raimundo laughed, and his familiar cheeky grin returned to his face.
"I was just thinking the same thing about you. If we get through this, I think you'd be great at being a crazy biker chick."
Kimiko laughed and shook her head, while Raimundo moved to her side.
"So this is it, huh?" he asked, leaning on the windowsill next to her. "I can't believe it…after three years of running, all of this is really going to end."
"I know," she said ruefully. Kimiko took a deep breath and turned to face the window with him. Outside, the troops were beginning to gather in their own respective uniforms, with a multitude of weapons at their sides. Jesse strode by below them, barking orders and looking formidable in her own uniform.
They turned to face each other at the same time, and Raimundo looked sheepishly down at her. Kimiko had stopped getting angry at him from when he first returned, but this was the first time they had been alone together since he had attacked Jack. Both of them were nervous.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry," he said softly, reaching for her hand. There was nothing aggressive or controlling in his actions, and Kimiko looked up to see worry radiating in his eyes. "Nothing turned out like I expected it to. And I wish things had gone a different way, I really do."
"Me too," she replied, managing a smile. "But it's too late now. Rai, I forgive you, I already had. You're my best friend. I don't want to live without you."
He pulled her into a hug, and Kimiko exhaled against his broad chest. "Whatever happens today, just know that I love you," he whispered back. "And I will always be there for you, no matter what."
A knock on the door startled them, and the two broke apart to see Clay standing in the doorway. "Y'all ready?" he asked. "Jesse's got the troops ready to go. She wants us to say somethin' to them before we go. This is it."
Kimiko nodded and grabbed her helmet, while Raimundo tucked his under his arm. Together, the three Xiaolin Dragons made their way down the stairs and towards the courtyard where thousands of warriors from around the world had gathered. Jack was waiting by the door, leaning against the ancient wooden paneling. He too was dressed in the black uniform, though he had watches and other technical gadgets strapped to every inch of his arms.
Clay and Raimundo nodded to him, and the four exited the building together. A deafening roar went up around them as the warriors shouted their names and punched their weapons in the air. Kimiko felt her heart begin to pound as she faced the mass of people, adrenaline rushing through her veins.
At last, the crowd began to quiet, and Kimiko felt herself be nudged forward by the others. She turned around to see them staring at her expectantly, and Raimundo mouthed, "You say something!" Her mouth parted in the unfairness of it all, but as she turned back around, every eye was on her.
With a deep breath, Kimiko looked at all the faces around her, and finally found her voice. "My fellow warriors," she called out, her voice wavering. "For three years, we have been tormented by a monster. He has swooped into our homes and into our hearts, spreading fear and hatred across the world. We have watched as our skies turned red, our cities were decimated, and our children were stolen from us. We have watched mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, and friends and enemies be struck down in front of us. I have watched those I love die in my arms, all at the whim of a man named Chase Young.
"Our families, and even our civilizations, are threatened by his rule. Soon, Chase Young will send his soldiers to every corner of the earth, destroying anything that stands in his way. He has the power to destroy millions like never before, and unless we gather together, nothing will stop him."
Her heart was pounding erratically in her chest, but the crowd of people was completely silent, hooked on her every word. "Today, we change that," she challenged, her voice going stronger. "For weeks, I have walked among you. I have seen you, soldiers of every race and nationality, united for a single cause. Together, we have the strength, the courage, and the determination to finish him. We will hide in the shadows no longer! We will take back our world. I will no longer stand by as children are sold into slavery, and our humanity is pushed to its limits!"
"There are some among us right now who may never return. If you are unprepared to go on that journey, please, remain here. You have already aided our cause by standing by our side in the face of adversity. As for the others, walk into battle today with bravery, and fight for your family. Fight for your loved ones, the ones around you today and the ones already gone at the hands of Chase Young. It is my every intention to bring you home alive to the arms of your families, in a world without fear."
"We are the Xiaolin Dragons! With your help, we have the power and the means to destroy Chase Young. We will meet him today in battle, and bring retribution for all the evil and destruction he has caused. We will take back our homes, save our children, and restore the world to its natural balance. We are warriors, and we will fight to the end!"
The roar started up around them again, and Kimiko felt dizzy as she stepped back into the arms of her peers. From either side of her, Raimundo and Jack both took her hands, and she squeezed them tightly as they raised their arms together to the sky. The roar of voices continued around them, and Kimiko had to force back tears as she realized just how many humans were on their side.
"Come on!" Jesse shouted, motioning them towards the Temple gates. The warriors had begun to form ranks behind them, and were preparing the march to Chase's fortress. Most had horses and some of Jack's inventions to ride, and Kimiko couldn't help but gape as a few joined what looked like an army tank at the back.
The four took off for the front of the Temple, where Dojo and Jack's own transportation was waiting. He had created a flying command center, so he could both stay in reasonable distance of the battle and still direct his robot troops. Jesse went off to join the front lines as leading general, while Clay and Raimundo helped Dojo with his own form of armor.
Jack pulled Kimiko aside to his ship, and for a moment, the two wordlessly held onto each other in a tight embrace. "Is this goodbye then?" she murmured, a sudden spike of fear running through her.
"No, just good luck," he whispered back. They pulled away from each other and stared into each other's eyes, both of their thoughts transparent in their faces.
"Be safe, Jack," Kimiko whispered at last. He smiled and wiped away a tear at the corner of her eye.
"You too, Kimiko. Kick Chase's ass for me. I'm depending on you for that."
She managed to let out a weak laugh, and kissed him as hard as she could, desperate to feel his arms around her one last time. From behind him Jesse let out a shrill whistle, announcing it was time to depart.
They reluctantly broke apart, and Kimiko could only manage one last look at Jack without tearing up before she turned and ran to her companions, leaving Jack standing forlornly behind.
Together, Clay, Raimundo and Kimiko climbed up onto Dojo, while Jack hoisted himself into the cockpit. He firmly fitted his headset over his ears, and pulled his spiral goggles down onto his eyes.
"Ready for this?" Raimundo asked. Kimiko grabbed her helmet and lowered it down over her face.
"Let's do this," she said, her voice deadly. "Chase Young is going to pay for everything he's done today." She looked over one last time to see Jack behind the tinted windows of his plane, and nodded. He returned her gesture with a thumbs up.
Jesse whistled again, and Dojo took off into the sky. Below them, the massive block of warriors began to move. Jack started the engine of his plane, and within a few seconds, his ship was hovering along behind them.
Kimiko took a deep breath, and looked straight ahead. There was no turning back. Today, Chase Young would fall at her hands, or they would all die at his.
She grabbed Raimundo and Clay's hands in hers again, squeezing them in reassurance. Then, together, the last of the Xiaolin Dragons flew off into the blood red sun.