Disclaimer: Flame of Recca, sadly, (though possibly for the benefit of us all) does not fall under my jurisdiction.
To all those kind enough to review…your time has helped feed the starving ego of this author. You have my eternal gratitude.
Presenting to you…
Elba- The Curse of the Mysterious Isle
Above, a gigantic branch that sprawled eastwards of the majestic tree mysteriously snapped, and fell with absolute disregard for its own dignity on top of the quartet with a loud 'crash!'
Dust and leaves swirled around in the drafts of air cause by the impact, obscuring Koganei's vision. The colossal branch that had fallen had successfully blocked off the other side of the road, making it virtually impossible to cross over. He was really scared now.
'Joker? Raiha? Neon?' he called out, desperately seeking an answer. 'Hello? Anybody there? Or were you…squished…by that branch…'
Vague murmurs sounded from behind the branch. He struggled to listen in, and because of this, failed to notice the figure standing behind him. An unseen hand rested itself on his shoulder.
'AAAH!' he yelped.
'Calm down…it's only me.' A voice intended to comfort, yet the speaker could not disguise the twinge of annoyance that crept up along with her words.
'N-Neon!' Relief coursed through his veins. 'Thank god! I thought you were a ghost…'
A brief look of annoyance flashed across the musician's face, but she said nothing and transformed her annoyance into something close to nonchalance. Koganei assumed she was petrified herself (in fact, her attempt at acting nonchalant was so artificial even Noroi could have seen through it. It was improving though, in fact Neon had made considerable prowess. Earlier Noroi would have definitely seen through it).
'Where are the other two?' he asked, deciding to not bring up the topic of pretense nonchalance. Safety first. Neon frowned.
'I'm not sure. I saw Joker jump behind before the impact, so I guess he noticed the branch falling. He's probably on the other side of this monstrosity. I don't know about Raiha, though. I hope he wasn't squashed.' She pursed her lips thoughtfully. 'Anyways, there's no point hanging around here. We should try to get some help.'
Koganei was about to reply when Neon shrieked (very loudly) into his ear.
He glanced at what she was pointing at, and gasped.
The skull (which had somehow retained its original shape) was hovering three feet above the ground, the cold, blue flames still flickering in its empty eye sockets.
On the other side of the branch…
'Joker…I…' Raiha murmured.
'Don't worry. We're ok.'
'That's not what I meant…I can't…'
'Then? What's wrong? Koganei and Neon are on the other side of this contraption so they should be fine.'
'No…what I meant was…could you please…get off me…?'
Joker grinned sheepishly as he realized he had fallen on top of the purple-haired ninja and was cutting off a considerable amount of his oxygen supply. He quickly leapt to his feet.
'Thank you…' Raiha mumbled, taking in a few deep breaths. 'What just happened…?'
Joker wordlessly pointed towards the colossal branch and Raiha gulped nervously. The branch had literally caused the sign to explode, and splinters of wood were scattered all over the place. The skull had been smashed into a pile of ash. Half the trail was blocked off by its immense girth. Something like that would have squashed the two Uruha assassins flatter than pancakes. In fact, it was a miracle they had escaped unscathed.
'So now what do we do?' Joker questioned.
'I guess…we should look around. Maybe we could build a boat or something and head back to shore. This place, it's…' He shivered briefly as a cold breeze blew through the forest (thematic background effects. Go figure), '…kinda creepy…'
Picking a random direction, they began to trudge through the dismal forest. It was thick, but empty. It was large, but lonely. It was completely devoid of life.
'I hate this,' Joker mumbled, after a few moments of silence.
'There's a haunted mansion up ahead,' Raiha replied, pointedly ignoring his comment.
'That's no way to lighten the mood.'
'I'm serious. I can see a huge mansion up ahead. I guess we could ask for help over there.'
Joker glanced upwards, and behind the fog saw the looming silhouette of a mansion. He could just barely identify its shape. As they drew closer, finer details began to reveal themselves. The mansion was made out of stone, most of it worn away with time. It was two stories tall, but its girth made up for the lack of height. Gothic sculptures adorned every inch of it, the most popular appearing to be a certain gargoyle with its mouth wide open, sharp fangs bared. The same gargoyle was placed on top of the front door, a pigeon impaled on its left fang. Joker winced.
'This place sure looks welcoming,' he commented. Raiha tried the door.
'It's locked,' he said, after a few moments of struggling. 'Break it open.'
'What?! You can't possibly expect me to break into some old geezer's house. You do it.'
'No way… I can't do it.'
'Give me one good reason why I should do it, then.'
Raiha thoughtfully placed a finger on his chin. 'Hmm…I wonder why. Maybe because if you don't I'll tell everyone you don't know how to swim. Such a blow that would strike to your reputation, neh?' He smiled innocently.
'Who says I don't know how to swim? Where'd you get such a crazy idea from, anyways?' Joker snapped.
- Flashback -
'Joker, I am going to kill you!' Neon screamed, bobbing up and down in the water. Her dress/skirt had filled up with water and she currently resembled a lilac umbrella.
'I told you we should've let it go…' Raiha muttered. 'And Joker, please get off me.'
Joker grinned weakly, and whispered something only Raiha could hear. The ninja shot a strange look at him and smirked.
- End of Flashback –
Without another word, Joker used his madougu and broke down the door (while he didn't say much, his movements gave away his frustration). The inside of the house was no more welcoming than the exterior. For one, it was a treasure trove of cobwebs. God knew whether the owners of those webs were still around. Every inch of the place was covered in dust, enough to build a replica of the same mansion in dust. An enormous foyer sprawled out in front of them, with two stairways leading up into the darkness of the second storey.
'See? I knew you'd sober up to me,' Raiha said cheerily. 'Go on inside. I'll follow you.'
'But I broke open the door!'
'Exactly why you should go in first.'
'What kind of logic is that?'
'None at all. Now, please go in. Are you trying to tell me that the great Joker is afraid?' Raiha asked slyly, before giving Joker a solid push that sent him careening through the door. His fall left a Joker-shaped hole through the mass of cobwebs (which also managed to get stuck to his rasta braids. Tsk tsk. The inconvenience of long hair.) Raiha conveniently stepped through the path cleared by Joker.
'Hello? Is anyone here?' Raiha called out. 'Guess it's empty. Come on. I'm gonna look around.'
'Whaaat? Don't tell me you want to look around this dump…'
Raiha shrugged nonchalantly. 'Do you have a better idea? I sure don't. I'm guessing we could find a phone or something.'
'Yeah, one that stopped functioning half a century ago.'
'Worth a shot. Come on, don't wuss out on me now.'
Joker opened his mouth to object, but it clamped shut as he was forced to scramble after Raiha. His companion was now climbing up the stairs (which were also covered in their fair share of dust. Cleanliness was obviously not a priority in this household) which expanded both ways into long corridors. One of which was blocked by a heap of rubble almost as tall as Joker himself.
'Hurry up.' Raiha's voice called from up ahead, making Joker aware of the fact that he was still around. In the darkness that enveloped them, he could barely make out his surroundings.
'Hold on a sec. I think I've got a matchbox on me.' Searching his pockets, Joker pulled it out and set a plank of wood which he had collected from the earlier mound of rubble on fire. Instantly his surroundings began to reveal themselves. The corridor was falling apart. Literally. Raiha was standing up ahead, his nose wrinkled in disgust.
Joker came up to see what the matter was, and his face immediately contorted itself into a mask of repulsion. Embedded in the wall was a skeleton, the grinning skull staring blankly ahead. A rusted spear was embedded in the wall between its ribs. Raiha poked at it experimentally. The skull fell off, and somewhere inside the wall a mechanism clicked. The wall slid back, revealing a hidden passage that lead down into the depths of the basement.
Joker stared at the secret passage. 'How cliché…' he muttered.
'Yikes!' Koganei yelped, somersaulting to a side as the skull flew towards him. It crashed into a tree and blew into smithereens. 'That was freaky…'
'Are you alright?' Neon asked, obvious concern flitting across her face.
'What the…' Neon stared in disbelief at the fragments of the skull littered across the floor. Each bone fragment had sprouted into a new skull, the blue fire still gleaming in their eyes. And they were dancing all around the place, attempting to knock someone's head off in the process.
Without another word, Neon and Koganei turned and fled.
'What the hell is going on?' Neon demanded (no one in particular) as skulls whizzed all around her.
'Neon! Up ahead! A car!'
'What's a car doing on a deserted island like this?'
'Who cares! Just get in!'
Without further objection, Neon threw open the door of the tiny car and clambered inside, Koganei following suit.
It was empty. Neon attempted to grab the wheel, but the car rolled forward. No one was driving it. But the car was moving.
'AAAAAH!' they yelled.
'A ghost car? We had to get into a ghost car?' Neon shrieked.
The invisible driver took no notice of this and the car continued to hurtle through the forest. The skulls were long gone. Now the only threat that remained was the car in which the duo was seated. And to make matters worse, it was on a crash course with an oak tree. The mocking laughter of the skulls seemed to resonate through the forest.
Just then, a hand reached in from outside the window, and the car swerved to a side, narrowly avoiding the tree. It rolled to a stop a few feet away. Neon and Koganei huddled in a corner, unsure of what this new ghost had in store for them.
They didn't expect a silver haired teenager to stick his head through the window and say, 'So you're the jerks who got into the car while I was pushing it from behind…'
End of Chapter Two