Chapter Seven: White Tiger
Hi everybody!! Guess what? I'm out of school finally!! YAAAAAAHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, I'm done. I'll be able to do a lot more work on this now, so YAY. Thanks for your patience. You can probably tell by now that I get my inspiration from Brother Bear. Hey, Disney kicks butt!!!!!! Plus, it's not like I'm making any direct references to any movies, etc. anymore. (looks around nervously) hahaha. As for the previous references - Naruto and Brother Bear - I just thought they were cool, and I wanted to change some of it up a little bit and add it to my fanfic. I'm seriously going for something origional here, and I'm trying my darnest to do so. That's my soapbox for today.
Half of this chap gives a brief overview of Ameko's coming-of-age ceremony, and the other half covers Chase and Orochijin's plot. Naturally, it's long and detailed, and most likely the longest dang chappie I am ever gonna do, so don't freak. :)
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own Xiaolin Showdown or anything affiliated. I only own Ameko and her friends and family, and some villains too. I'll point them out to you.
Side note: Kaoru means "fragrant." Finally found that out. (grins) Thank you, lol :)
"CHASE!!" Wuya's shrieks were not what Chase Young wanted to hear at that moment, or ever for that matter. "Where have you been?!" Pause for the enraged/paranoid gasp. "Have you been messing around with that ninja-whore -- whats-her-face?!"
Wuya shrank from Chase's draconic glare. What was she? His nanny? "Who do you think you are?! I'm a grown man, Hag!"
"Sorry... I just don't understand why you want to see her again. After all, I'm here..." The tone that Wuya took was a poor attempt at being seductive.
"First of all, you don't have a body. Even if I did want you--" Wuya's eyes got dreamy. "-- and I don't--" Back to Wuya's jealous look. "It's out of the question. Second, what I do is my own business. If it was necessary for you to know, I would've told you by now."
Chase turned slightly red when he realized just where Wuya was examining right then. She had noticed the depression in his armor where Ameko had kicked him.
"Why do you even bother with her if this kind of thing can happen to you?" Oh, the fight... She had the nerve to ask him about that?!
Before a vein on Chase Young's head had a chance to pop, he transformed into his tatsu form and bellowed ferociously, "If you have to ask, then don't bother!! It's an occupational hazard, you idiot! Now leave ... me ... ALONE!!"
Thankfully, Wuya didn't need to be told twice. Chase's head was throbbing from the high-pitched screams and the stress induced by all that had happened with Ameko and Orochijin. He needed to relax. So bad...
His breathing returned to normal after he got into his meditative state. At last, time to think, time to heal...
The plot was set to go through tomorrow afternoon on May 30th, after Ameko's eighteenth birthday celebration. If the plan went the way it should, Ameko would join Chase Young, the both of whom could never come to Hitatsuban again because of Orochijin's other condition.
The swelling in Chase's abdomen had gone down, so he could use a healing spell. However, in order to use it, he would have to remove his armor. That on its own would be mildly painful. As for the armor itself, it was time to break out the spare set for sure.
The armor was only half undone when he made a revelation. Oh shit... Well, Ameko warned him. Maybe it was a better idea to accept her help... No, he couldn't think that way. He wanted Ameko as a warrior in his cause, not a medic. Or worse, as a buddy, of all things.
Screw it, I don't care about pain. For twelve agonizing seconds, in order to undo the fusion, Chase relived the the searing hot kick that melded flesh to metal. He forced himself not to make a painful noise of any kind. After a few breaths, Chase was fine, and back to plotting.
I'll make you pay, Ameko. For this, and for what you said, Chase chuckled darkly. Soon, you'll be the one humiliated.
The next day, on May 30th:
Ameko was given today off to prepare for the spiritual element of the coming-of-age ceremony. For this, she needed to wear special regalia. Her flowing, crimson kimono would be made of a material so light that it floated whenever she moved. The obi would be shimmering gold in color.
"So, Ameko, are you ready to sing your upopo?" Ameko was relieved to have Kaoru there to help her with her make-up and everything. She needed the support.
(A/N: An "upopo" is a real form of Ainu music. Basically, it's like a round/canon that we westerners have in our choral music, only the second person mimics the first before the first has a chance to finish their part, then the third person mimics the second and so forth. At the end, the first person starts again and ends the upopo.)
"Of course I'm ready. I just wonder if other people are ready for me to sing it!" Ameko chuckled. The billowing sleeve bobbed gently as she pulled some of her stray hair back. Her hair was always so difficult when it was down; the only way to keep it under control was when it was up!
Kaoru smiled at her cousin's spirit. She took out her totem and looked at it longingly. Then she picked up a simple hairpiece of gold wire and set to weaving it into Ameko's long black hair. "I wish I could have gotten the hawk of adventure instead of the fox of mercy. Maybe then I could get some of your spunk on my journey. I've always admired it so."
"Whatever, Kaoru," Ameko said reassuringly. "You don't have to be 'spunky' to become an adult. Besides, you have a gentle nature, and I admire that about you. Just be yourself, you know?"
Ameko shrugged. "No problem." A strange feeling came over Ameko. "Hey, Kaoru, do you know where Bakuto is?"
"He should be in school right now. Metsuke said that he'd go get him later."
Bakuto was an inch away from circling the last elusive, right answer on the quiz when Masashi, the youngest son of Orochijin, reached up from behind and hit him on the head with a comic book. The thought was driven away from Bakuto's mind, never to return. Damn, and he had studied so hard...
"You jerk!!!" Bakuto bolted around and gripped Masashi's collar, fist clenched and ready to strike.
Unfortunately, the teacher only caught what Bakuto had done and not what had provoked him in the first place. Typical. "RONOTARO! OFFICE! NOW!!!"
Bakuto scowled at the floor and kicked imaginary pebbles all the way down the hall. It wasn't his fault he got his temper from his sister. Why did crap like this always happen to him?
"Oomph." Bakuto hit a cloth pillar. He looked up... right into the scariest pair of red-brown eyes he'd ever seen.
"Well, well, well," the voice belonging to the eyes hissed. "Young Ronotaro, all alone without his precious big sister. Or a hall pass..."
Most of the people that gathered at the base of Mount Tokachi that morning were close friends and family, and the monks as well, who were interested to see what sort of rituals their sensei would go through.
"I'll bet she gets to go on a special ninja mission on her own," Raimundo whispered to Omi with a nudge.
"OOOH! Maybe she'll have to walk on hot coals!" Omi whispered excitedly. "Do you think that she will, Kimiko?!"
"That's in India, Omi. Second, I'm not from Hokkaido. I'm from Honshu, the Big Island?" Kimiko explained patiently. "I don't know what they're gonna do."
Ameko, who was lingering behind and out of sight of everyone there, laughed silently at the conversation. The crowd cheered as the shamaness who would lead the ceremony came into sight and stopped in front of the miniature waterfall that tumbled down into a stream at the base of Mt. Tokachi. Time to be quiet now, Omi. Kimunko-baa-sama is about to speak. Ameko thought as Kimiko and Clay shushed Rai and Omi.
(A/N: The Ainu people believe that everything in nature has a kamuy, or a spirit. The shamaness, Kimunko Kamuy, is named for one of the main gods, the kimun kamuy, or bear god.)
"The time when a young person comes of age is a very special, important milestone that we all pass on our journey to adulthood." Even though Kimunko's voice was slightly wavering, she spoke with fervor and with wisdom. "To guide us on this journey and the Great Journey we call Life, we are each given a totem in the shape of the animal that best embodies the soul or spirit of an individual person.
"That is why we are all gathered together on this fine morning. Coming of age is especially important for a young woman, because it means that she will soon marry, and thus pass on our traditions and way of life to the next generation."
Ameko smiled to herself. Not soon, I won't. Got too much to do before I settle down.
"Ameko, come here my dear," the elderly shamaness crooned.
The four monks all turned to look in the direction that Kimunko was looking, and their mouths gaped open at what they saw. Ameko's face and any visible skin was painted earth brown. She had on gold eyeshadow that went all the way up to her eyebrows and a little past the far sides of her eyes. Ameko smiled at her students. I honestly don't understand what the deal is. I mean, I'm not even pretty!
As Ameko walked past the monks, they noticed that her hair was so long that it went all the way down to middle of her thigh. It was loosely bound by the gold hairpiece that ran parallel to the middle of her back. Onlookers chuckled at the monks' expressions. For them, this was the norm for many a girl's coming-of-age ceremony.
Taking care not to kneel on her dress, Ameko sat upright. Her eyes shone with pride.
"Are you excited?" Kimunko asked with a light chuckle. "You should be." The shaman's rheumatic hands held out an object as long as Ameko's palm and as wide as two of her fingers. "Ameko, your actions must be guided by one thing..." Ameko's heart pounded. What is it? What's my totem?
"Empathy!" Kimunko declared happily and put the totem around Ameko's neck.
Ameko examined her totem in dismay, almost embarrassment. "The phoenix of empathy?"
"Yes, my dear. Empathy is understanding the emotions of other people and showing compassion for them. The phoenix totem is given only to those with a benevolent, caring heart and an untamable spirit."
In the crowd, Ameko could see Sayoshin and his group smirking and joking. "Look at Miss Big-Bad Ninja-ko," she read on Sayoshin's lips. "She's a real pussy after all!" Ameko had to fight herself to keep from lunging at him. Instead, she sent him her trademark glare.
"Ameko, listen to what I say," Kimunko took Ameko aside and looked her in the eyes. "It takes more courage to reach out to a person than it does to take up a sword against them; and there is more honor to be found in kindness and compassion that military prestige can ever win. When people make fun of you because of your totem, take heart and carry yourself with dignity."
Her voice lowered to a whisper. "You have a kind, loving heart, with a strong desire to protect the ones you care about. These are all wonderful gifts. As long as you live, Ameko, never lose them. Hold on to them tightly and never let go."
Ameko embraced the shamaness and whispered, "Thank you Kimunko-baa-sama. You always know what to say."
Kimunko smiled. "I speak from experience."
Kimiko followed Ameko more closely as they walked to Hinotsuki Elementary. "You look amazing, Ameko-sensei! The dress and everything is just so cool!" Her eyes grew large with admiration.
"Thank you, Kimiko. Omi, you're staring at me," Ameko said teasingly.
Omi blushed slightly. "Sorry sensei. It's just that we've never seen you so... feminine and... pretty."
Ameko laughed for a moment, then a feeling of dread swept over her when she saw Kaoru and Metsuke running up to her.
"I'm so sorry Ameko," Metsuke said haltingly. "I can't find Bakuto anywhere!"
A fuzzy image of Orochijin appeared before Metsuke, Kaoru and Ameko, then turned clear and Orochijin himself was there. "There's a fire at the Elementary School and we need medics! Ronotaro Kaoru, you have to come now!" he said urgently.
Oh, God, please no! Ameko removed her regalia in a few quick motions (she was wearing her ninja clothes underneath the costume). "I'm going too. I can help put out the fires."
Since Orochijin could only transport Metsuke and Kaoru as well as himself, the monks and Ameko leaped through the trees as fast as they all could. The smell of the smoke was already making Ameko's stomach churn.
Suddenly, Ameko's feet were swept beneath her on a tree limb, and she went crashing down onto a limb below her, hitting her back. The blow sent bolts of lightning in a diagonal direction from her right shoulder blade down to her left hip bone. Her arms instinctively reached through the pain to try and grab other branches that flew past, but to no avail. Ameko landed hard on her right arm and lay there on the ground, sprawled out. "Oog, ouch," she groaned.
"Having a bad day?" Chase Young called out above her. He was holding a large bundle underneath his right arm. Ameko couldn't tell what it was because of the shadows that surrounded him.
Ameko sighed irritatedly. "Oh, shut up. I don't have time to deal with you right now." She rolled over onto her knees, but another jolt passed through her back and she clutched the area, breathing in and out through her teeth.
"You're quite sure?" Chase paused to sneer. "Your little brother wants to speak with you."
No way. He can't really know... The pain didn't matter anymore. Though shaky, Ameko pulled herself to her feet. To her horror, Chase Young was telling the truth. There he was, her beloved baby brother wrapped up under the arm of the greatest menace she had ever met. Bakuto didn't hold his head up; he was - Ameko prayed to God - probably unconscious.
From Chase Young's viewpoint, Ameko's mind seemed to freeze over. Shock turned into anxiety, anxiety into fear, fear to disbelief - all discerned from the nearly lifeless expression on her face. It was time for the clincher. Chase jumped down to the forest floor.
"If you even try to make a move, I swear I'll kill him," Chase warned. Ameko looked more closely and saw that Chase had his right hand wrapped around Bakuto's neck, and the other was nearby, opening and closing at intervals. If Ameko got too close, Chase would undoubtedly wring Bakuto's neck.
Ameko struggled to stay together. "... Let the boy go, Chase."
Chase Young smirked. "You know how this works. I'll only release him when you swear your eternal loyalty to me."
A small groan escaped Bakuto's mouth. So the kid's awake. This'll be interesting. An evil smile creeped across Chase's lips.
"Sis...?" the kid moaned feebly.
Ameko snapped back to life. "Hold on, kid! ... Promise that no harm will come to him when I leave."
Bakuto started to squirm and kick. "No, Sis, no! You just can't join this wierdo, you just can't!!"
Chase tightened his grip on Bakuto's throat and brought his other hand closer to the boy's head. "If you don't tell your brother to stop squirming..."
"Bakuto, quit," Ameko said firmly. Bakuto looked like he was going to cry, but Ameko just shook her head. "Do you promise or not?"
"Not by me. Satisfied?" Chase continued after Ameko nodded. "In exchange for this extra condition, you can never return to your village. Is that clear?"
The tears flowed freely down Bakuto's face. "Ane-chan... I'm so sorry."
Branches in the trees rustled, and the monks jumped down from the limbs.
"Sensei, we saw you fall and --" Omi stopped short.
"What the sam hill is goin' on?" Clay interjected.
Ameko didn't look back. "All of you just go."
Rai's voice shook slightly. "But, we can't just -- What's happening anyway?"
"None of you can help her now," Chase's voice had a razor sharp edge to it. "So you can forget about coming to your sensei's aid." The edge was directed back to Ameko. "Your time is running out. Swear your loyalty to me now, or else."
Bakuto summoned all the air he had in his lungs. "SIS!! DON'T DO IT!!"
The world around Ameko seemed to fade to nothingness.
"Wait, that's your brother?" A female voice. Kimiko? (think echo effect after this.) "Sensei...! What's...?!"
Male, female. Tree... person... rock... wind... sky -- where does each begin? Where will it all end? Ameko didn't understand anything anymore. "I swear! I swear!" Are those the only two words I know?
"Finish it, Ameko!" The harsh voice of the enemy. Ameko collected herself, and shouted the words to the cold, gray sky.
"I, Ameko Ronotaro, swear my eternal loyalty to you, Chase Young!!" The last of her strength was drained out of her. Ameko could take no more of this heartbreak.
Chase Young allowed himself a cruel chuckle in celebration of this small victory. "See how easy that was? Here." He let Bakuto fall onto the ground, who had gone limp from crying. Then, he picked the boy up by his ribcage and threw him to his sister. Ameko ran up to him and caught him just in time. "I'll let you have one minute. No more, no less."
Ameko heard him, but she didn't care. She held her brother tighter as his tears made a small spot on her uniform. "Bakuto, listen to me. Listen. This was not your fault, do you hear me? Don't ever think that it is, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise." Ameko whispered more quietly. "Stay with Uncle and Metsuke, and don't go anywhere. I'm going away, but you'll still be safe. Keep to your prayers, brother. No matter what... I love you."
With that, the reverie was butchered. "Time's up," came the icy call. Snap!
Ameko's body shuddered inside. The words came out strained. "Bakuto... run away..."
Not waiting for a protest, Ameko pushed Bakuto to the side as gently as she could to get her point across. Ameko's body trembled all over, and buckled in on itself as she fell to her knees, groaning from the pain resulting from her body's resistance to the spell. Reluctantly, Ameko forced her body to let the change come. Her leg bones shrunk slightly and became stronger and covered with fur; her arms did the same. Harsh snaps and cracks could be heard as Ameko's ribcage expanded and grew longer. At last, Ameko's long black hair faded into her back to become black tributaries in the sea of white forming on it. Bakuto's sister no longer had a human body, but now stirred and rose in the form of a massive blue-eyed white Siberian tiger.
Whoo! That took a long while, huh? You know, even if you aren't thinking of putting a transformation sequence in your fanfic, picturing the process is still a good writing exercise to do when you're having a case of writer's block. That's what broke me out of mine. You really have to think about the changes the person's body would go through as they're transforming, and make them as vivid as possible. I recommend picturing a person's body transforming into an animal if you're in a tight spot.
I'll write more soon! Promise!