DARK SECRETS
CHAPTER THREE - BROTHER IN CHINA

~Ryo touched his forehead, feeling the blood dripping out of the thick gash on his forehead. He wasn't wearing his armor and he couldn't sense Wildfire anywhere nearby. He was dressed like his older brother, in the suit of a royal prince. "Brother," his voice rasped and was nearly gone, "why are you…doing this?"

"She is falling for you," his brother's blue eyes glittered dangerously. "I will not let anybody else accept her love!"

The man that was his brother unsheathed his sword, swinging it down at Ryo's chest. Bringing his own blade up, he blocked the blow, but his wrists, already worn out by his brother's attacks, couldn't withstand the jolting force and he dropped the blade. Blood streaming into his eyes, he closed them, waiting for the last blow…~

Ryo shot up, gasping and gazing wildly about his room in the small cabin he shared with his father. He half-expected there to be an enemy nearby. White Blaze lifted his head and stayed awake with Ryo until the teenager fell asleep, exhausted, around four in the morning.

*()*

Lita Kino hummed and pushed the oven door shut, twirling gently around, balancing the chocolate cake, fresh from the oven, in her mitt-covered hands, placing it on the platter and wielding a variety of colored icing tubes. A gleam appeared in her eyes and she unscrewed one of the tubes' lid, squeezing with a practiced hand. Curling shapes appeared and she realized, with an amount of depression, that she was drawing a family on the cake. She scowled and sighed, running a hand through her thick ponytail.

The phone jumped, vibrating and ringing shrilly, breaking her out of her little bout of self-misery.

Fumbling with her slippery, batter-coated hands, having taken off the mitts, she finally got it balanced between her shoulder and her ear. "Hello?"

"Lita?" It was Serena.

"Serena!" Lita smiled to herself. "What's up, girl?"

There was a hearty sigh on the opposite end. "I have some boy problems."

"Ohhh," Lita understood almost immediately. "Why don't you come over? I just made a cake!"

Bait thrown.

"Really?" Serena squealed.

Bait bitten.

"I'll be right over!" Serena hung up gleefully.

Hook, line, sinker.

*()*

Rinfi stuck her tongue out at Kento, not caring if she insulted her older brother. He promptly bopped her lightly on the head with a roll of bread. Yun and Mei Ryu giggled, snatching the bread roll off Rinfi's head and disappearing into the back of the restaurant. "Hey!" Rinfi cried. "Wait for me, you jerks!"

Chun Fa peeked around the corner, in the kitchen, where her oldest brother was kneading the bread, shaping it before he would put into the oven. "Kento, can I help?" she asked shyly.

"Sure, squirt!" he grinned. She smiled brightly and slid across the kitchen floor. Picking her up by her waist, he hoisted her up to the counter, handing her, solemnly, a small roller, cutting out a bit of the dough, rolling it into a ball for her to flatten. "Here ya go. Knock yourself out."

Beaming toothily, Chun Fa set her little heart into completing the task. If Kento trusted her to help him cook, then, by golly, she was going to give it her best!

Kento shook his head, smiling, and returned to working the bread dough.

*()*

"You kissed another guy?" Lita asked, affirming what Serena had already told her.

"Well," Serena paused, waving her fork in tiny circles in the air, crumbs of chocolate cake and itsy drops of crystallized frosting falling from the prongs, "he kissed me. Okay, I DID kiss him back." She fell silent, forking another mouthful of cake into her mouth. "Good cake, by the way," she added, swallowing.

Lita chewed on her own bite reflectively, studying the fern hanging from the ceiling as she thought. Swallowing the bite and sticking her fork into the cake, a respectable amount of it eaten, as displayed by the large indention in the side, she clasped her hands together, resting her arms on the table. "You love Darien, right?" she inquired.

Serena nodded slowly.

"Then go out with him today. That should get rid of any worries, especially if you have a good time. All right?"

Serena thought for a moment, mulling over the advice, then smiled widely. "Thanks so much, Lita! I'll see you later, okay?"

Grabbing her jacket, the blonde girl stood up and dashed toward the door, pausing only to retrieve her shoes from by the door. "Thanks for the cake!" The door slammed shut.

Lita sighed. Glaring at the family on the cake - although the boy had been eaten off it - and standing up, she looked at the picture of her parents, perched delicately on a small table. Blinking back tears, she wished she had as charmed a life as Serena. "I need to get out," she muttered, wiping at her eyes. "I'll just get lunch someplace…"

*()*

Chun Fa sang softly to herself, sitting on the low bench outside the family restaurant, dressing up her gingerbread doll. It had been her birthday present from Kento, a round, chubby doll made from gingerbread coated with layers of hardwood polish. Mama Faun had sewn clothes for it and her siblings and Pop had donated accessories made from objects lying around the house. "Pretty dress, Meiling," she told her doll, holding up a tiny pink dress Mama Faun had made from a scrap of pink velvet. "You wanna wear it?"

A sudden wind caught the dress and blew it towards a tall, forlorn appearing teenaged girl. Glancing up just in time, the girl snapped her hand out, catching the dress. Looking over at Chun Fa, she smiled, crouching in front of the child and holding out the dress in her palm. "Is this yours?" she asked, voice rough, but pretty to Chun Fa. The little girl had already decided that this teenager was her heroine.

"No," Chun Fa said truthfully, lifting her doll up for the older girl to see. "It's Meiling's dress!"

"Well," the older girl said thoughtfully. "It's a very pretty dress, Miss Meiling. Do you have a hat for it?"

Chun Fa giggled. "You're nice," she said adoringly. "What's your name?"

"I'm Lita," she smiled. "And you are…?"

"Chun Fa!" she jabbed her thumb into her puffed up chest proudly. "My Pop owns this restaurant!"

Lita shifted her glance up at the restaurant. "Good food?"

"Th' best!" Chun Fa nodded confidently. "You wanna come in?"

"Why not?" replied Lita, standing and waiting for Chun Fa to join her. "Lead me, Lady Chun Fa!"

*()*

The restaurant had a homey, pleasant feel to it, everything accented by the delicate smell of Chinese herbs and decidedly Chinese cooking. There were a few families eating there, laughing and joking around. A pleasant-looking woman shepherded Chun Fa away from Lita, leading the small girl and three other children into a back room, smiling all the while.

Lita found her way to an empty booth, sinking into it and rubbing the heels of her palms into her eyes. She wasn't crying, she wasn't crying, she wasn't crying, she wasn't…oh, heck. She leaned forward, elbows sliding along until she was pressing her nose into the table, forehead resting on the crux of her arms crossing, a few tears trickling down her nose. She missed her parents so much; it wasn't fair! How could everybody else have a family, but not her?

It. Wasn't. Fair!

There was the sound of sneakers slapping against the polished hardwood floor, rhythmic and squeaky, and Lita squeezed her eyes shut as tightly as she could, inhaling deeply with her nose, attempting futilely to clear her sinuses. Please, she begged, don't be the waiter!

"Can I take your order, ma'am?" came the polite words, voice distinctly male. Kento, being the owner of said male voice, wrinkled his nose and, deciding to hell with it, poked her in the shoulder with the blunt end of his pen. "You awake?"

If there had been such a thing as Most Mortified Trophy, Lita would have won it right then and there. Not only was she crying in public, she was crying in public in front of a BOY. Weakness!, her mind blared. Never show weakness in front of a boy!!

Shut the hell up, she then thought to herself.

Looking up, cheeks already swollen from the drying tears, Lita gave him a watery glare. "No," she stated snippily, "I am NOT sleeping."

"Geez," Kento whistled, sliding into the seat opposite of her, "what happened?"

Lita had opened her mouth, ready to curse at him fluently, then froze, jaw hanging open idiotically. What, no teasing?

"Are you okay?" he persisted. Mistaking her unhinged look, he added quickly, "If you want me to shut-up, I'll just go…"

"No," she interjected quickly. "I just…don't feel good."

Kento clucked his tongue sympathetically. "Headcold? Hate those. Damn things screw with my brain."

She almost laughed. Instead, she swiped the back of her hand across her eyes and cheeks, drying them, offering the other hand. "I'm Lita Kino."

"Kento Rei Faun," he winked outrageously, slapping her hand instead of shaking it.

Lita half-snorted, half-laughed.

"Kento!" Chun Fa's voice broke the comfortable feel, her voice teary and wailing. "Rinfi to'k my dolly and tol' me t' grow up!"

The older girl sobered immediately, feeling once again the familiar ache of her lack of family.

"Oip!" Kento sighed. Glancing at Lita, he thunked her nose with his thumb. "Have I got a job for you…"

After he finished explaining, Lita grinned.

*()*

"I'm tellin' ya," Yun said conversationally to Mei Ryu, "it just doesn't get much worse than this."

Mei Ryu looked a bit green around the edges. "I'm gonna be sick…"

Both boys were being held upside down by Lita, who was cheerfully swinging them around after they had requested a 'swing.' The fact that Rinfi still hadn't recovered her equilibrium did nothing to stop them from swinging. Yun was beginning to experience the effects of previously unattained speeds and Mei Ryu was looking progressively more and more ill.

Chun Fa didn't really care; she was far too busy playing with Meiling to worry about something as silly as her brothers!

Kento and Mama Faun were baking something Chinese and delicious in the kitchen that involved mass quantities of hot sauce; Papa Faun had told her, hands down, to stay for dinner and she hoped, privately, that she could have her own personal water barrel to keep from exploding. As much as she loved spicy foods, she was fond of living much, much more.

"He's gonna hurl!" Yun yelled and Lita flipped Mei Ryu back into the normal upright human position, holding him over the large sink basin. Yun was dropped on his head and he shook it a few times while lying on his back, marveling at the new constellations fluttering across his vision.

"I'm gonna be physically ill," Rinfi muttered, running out of the room as Mei Ryu began making pitiful sounds.

Chun Fa frowned and discarded a toy dress.

From the kitchen, there was a yell of, "No, Kento, don't eat that! WE have to eat, too!"

*()*

Rowan's shirt was almost too tight and when Ryo gave him an appraising look, he lifted his hands defensively, saying, "I was staying with my mom, okay? She can't do laundry to save her life?" The super genius then proceeded to mutter darkly under his breath and zip up his navy blue windbreaker. "I still can't believe," he started up again, returning to the current thread of conversation, "that you didn't at least get her phone number!"

"I was too busy having a good time," Ryo retorted sarcastically. "Heaven help me, I'll never succeed at life." He frowned. "But it was weird. I've been having dreams for the past couple of weeks-"

"Anything worth screaming over?" Cye asked in concern, referring to Ryo's innate ability to have vivid nightmares.

Sticking his tongue out, the athletic boy continued, "-and Serena reminded me of this girl that's been in them."

Rowan arched an eyebrow. "What kind of dream?" he smirked.

"Jerk," Ryo scowled.

Cye was quiet, thinking over the information and drumming his fingertips thoughtfully against the McDonald's restaurant table. Taking a preparatory swallow of his warm milkshake - he grimaced immediately after drinking it - and leaning forward in his seat, he said, very seriously, "She's your soulmate."

Rowan broke out into peals of laughter, choking on his soda. Despite the whole mystical-armor-and-floating-heads-being-reality thing that had skewed his perspective on the world, there were still a few things he was skeptical about. Soulmates being one of them and at times Cye's sanity.

Ryo gave Cye a wary look.

"I'm a romantic, okay?" the auburn-haired boy defended.

"But soulmates?" questioned Ryo incredulously.

Rowan wheezed and clamped his teeth down on his lower lip so as to keep from losing consciousness due to lack of air. Having lived most of his life a loner, he didn't really notice if he insulted anyone with any of his actions at various points.

Cye nodded sagely, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "Yes! The dreams, your kissing her on the first meeting, the lingering love…"

"Infatuation," coughed Rowan into his napkin, blinking innocently with large owlish blue eyes. "What?" he asked of Ryo and Cye.

"I don't know," Ryo sighed gustily, falling almost instantaneously into one of his depressed mood swings.

Blue eyes skimming dully across the mall's corridor at the girl's clothing store opposite the Japanese McDonald's, the only teenager in the Sanada family absently recognized a petite blonde girl with hair tied up in buns, trails of glimmering gold hair cascading down her back. Half of a heartbeat passed, followed by another, before he sat straight up, surprise lighting his eyes. "That's her!" he hissed to Rowan and Cye, jabbing his index finger at Serena's happily chattering figure.

"Not to burst your bubble," Rowan pointed out with a soft voice and light flick of his own slender index finger, "but who's the guy she's with?"

Ryo's world stopped for a moment, then imploded suddenly, viciously, painfully, leaving a heavy burning ache in his chest that almost seemed to sear his flesh.

"I need to go," he said finally, in a strangled voice.

Cye watched, worried, as Ryo left, then Rowan.

"Oh, dear," he murmured.

*()*

"Mama?" Rini whispered, feeling the tall, beautiful woman that was her mother hug her gently. "Mama, why do I need to go again?"

As if carved from loving ivory, Neo-Queen Serenity smiled down at her daughter, eyes glistening warningly. "I need you to help a friend of mine, a young man I was very close to…"

The queen took a deep, steadying breath, blinking swiftly and trying to keep her body from quivering. She opened her hand, holding out a simple, unadorned key to her pink-haired daughter. "Find Ryo Sanada and tell him it isn't what it seems to be. And tell him that he must never, ever leave on the night of December 18th from where he is living."

Rini wrinkled her nose in slight confusion. "Okay, Mama. If you say so." She smiled trustingly and lifted the key, crying out the words that would take her away on a puff of silver-soft fog.

When her daughter vanished from sight, Serenity collapsed against the wall of her daughter's bedchambers, crying and gasping silently.

And then, softly, achingly, she whispered one word, one name.

"Ryo…"

*()*

When a giant youma, drooling and looking like a twisted cross between a cockroach, a woman, and a frog, screaming that its name was Kieneea appeared in the Crossroads district of Tokyo, the panicking and screaming began. A few unfortunate souls who were always situated near every youma attack simply continued calmly with whatever task they were doing. Two, a young couple of a boy and girl named Michel and Kiki, respectively, just kissed with more fervor.

As Convenience would have it, as would Luck and her twin brother Chance, Kieneea had opted to grace the stretch of road near the Faun family's Tokyo restaurant.

Mama Faun and Rinfi stalled Lita, keeping her from seeing Kento sneak out a back way into a small alley, his clothes shredding to reveal orange-and-white sub-armor that he had summoned automatically. Oddly, Lita was unaware throughout the entire battle that there was even a fight going on. She was enjoying herself too much, being treated like a daughter and sister. Wistfully, she wished the Faun family would be her official family…

Taking a quick estimate at the monster's strength, judging by the size and depth of the impact craters left where cars had once been and Kieneea had walked, he came to the quick, amazingly intelligent (for his headstrong personality), conclusion. Unless he felt like becoming a flat piece of hardware, he was going to need his full armor.

"Armor of Hardrock: Dao Gi!"

His facemask sliding into place, Kento of Hardrock whipped out his choice weapon and leaping high into the air, grinning maniacally.

"Hello, ugly!" His face grew grim. "Iron Rock Crusher!"

The ground, the road, tore up in huge chunks of rock, piping, cement, and metal, each piece flying through the air into Kieneea's flesh. The creature screamed and glared at him.

Dashing forward, Kento punched the thing in its tender stomach, not even noticing it make no attempt to stop him.

Kieneea vanished without a trace and left Kento blinking.

On the ground, unseen by him, nineteen spider creatures shot to their feet, tiny and virtually invisible. Instinctively, they scattered, hiding swiftly in dark places.

"What the hell's going on?" Kento inquired, standing in the one small perfect circle of road still standing.

*()*

"Bye, Lita!" the younger kids chorused, waving energetically, all except Rinfi, who simply smiled. Mama Faun shooed them inside, following after them.

The sun had set, heralding another night.

"See you, Kento," Lita smiled, holding her hand out.

He slapped it playfully. "Anytime, Lita," he told her with great sincerity. "You need a brother, I'm here."

"Cool," she smiled even wider. "My brother in China."

*()*

Author's Notes: In the original Dark Secrets, the battle was two pages long, involved all the Scouts and Ronins, who knew each other's identities, and it took place in the first freakin' chapter. Oi. Next chapter: Raye Hino wants nothing to do with men or boys, and most certainly not a cocky know-it-all boy-man named Rowan Hashiba. He simply doesn't like her; she irritates him. Can the two work together to stop a sinister woman who serves a dark prince?…Darien sees Ryo and recognizes the younger boy, even though they've never met. Serena goes through more confusion, especially when she has a befuddling dream and Rini startles Ryo, then Serena. Heck, I might even throw in a plot point or two…