Disclaimer - I'm not that satisfied with chapter 2, folks, so I may be changing it a bit, to fit with the way this story began. At least, in style and flow. Until then, I'm uploading chapter 3. As before, though, I own nothing at all.


Chapter 3 - Phantasm

She was drowning, descending deeper and deeper, her hands groping, as they clawed desperately for purchase. She glanced upwards and saw the surface, so close, yet so far from her reach. It frustrated her. Yet, the undulating waves there told her that a storm raged topside and she wasn't so certain that she would be better off. In the next moment, however, Karai saw a distorting flash of blue replace the wild, unkempt weather, with sunlight knifing down through the water, illuminating her. Finally, a fleeting parade of clouds completed the contradictory scene.

She blinked, confused with the sudden change.

Still, Karai knew she was drowning and she needed air. Yet, no matter how hard she tried to swim, no matter how determinedly she kicked and pulled at the water, she continued to sink…down…down…deeper…her body becoming more oxygen deprived.

For a moment, Karai felt panicky, but then in the next moment, she took in her general area. The conflicting actions added to her confusion, yet she still found herself looking around.

Curiously, Karai discovered that the ocean she was in was as red as Valentine roses. In every direction she glanced, she saw nothing but the crimson hue dominating the scenery. Yet, it was her perpetual decline, and not the water's color, that brought her back to her present, more important dilemma.

In short, her lungs were ready to burst.

The strange thing was she didn't necessarily feel as if her life was in danger and yet her inability to make any headway in the water perplexed her. She knew how to swim; Karai knew she was a strong swimmer, so why couldn't she reach the surface? This question tugged tenaciously at the back of her mind and it made her angry.

It was then when she turned her gaze to herself, looking down in the direction that she was going. Then, she finally understood.

She was wearing a kimono, a kimono as white as snow.

Why she was wearing one while in the water Karai didn't know, but she did wonder for a moment why the red water hadn't tinted the robe.

Strange question to have, when I am drowning, she thought.

Nevertheless, she knew she would indeed drown unless she did something about the garment. With the heavy silk material pulling her further beneath the tumultuous waves above, Karai tried to slip from the copious material. At first, it resisted and another wave of panic set in. Then, just as her outfit loosened from around her, knives suddenly ripped through the cloth from underneath!

She watched as the blades protruded through, viciously splitting the shimmery material, and shredding the sleeves. As the rest of the garment disintegrated, the ruined kimono dropped from the woman's form and sank further into the dark abyss below. Karai observed it fall, transfixed with its dance, as what was left of the material billowed out like a parachute. It then began to pirouette in small circles as it dropped and Karai continued to watch, fascinated. The sleeves, finding more resistance with the water, seemed to imitate the fifth arm position of a ballerina's dance. They dragged above the dress as it dropped deeper and deeper, its stark white contrasted harshly against the red water. For Karai, it made it easily discernable. Then, the instant before it disappeared, the white kimono changed to blue.

That was strange, she thought.

For a long moment, she wondered about it, the color. It…reminded her of something, of…someone. Before she could think further about it, though, something grabbed her attention. There was something heavier upon her than the kimono. As she inspected her body, trying to make sense of what it could be, much to her horror, she discovered she now wore her father's battle armor, with his familiar bladed gauntlets wrapped around her arms. The combined weight of the metallic suit and arm guards dragged her further down and so she, again, attempted to shrug out of the heavy costume, just as she had tried to do with the kimono.

However, it refused to budge, more so than the robe had. The suit almost seemed to be a part of Karai, like skin.

Now writhing in frantic agony and as her lungs screamed and burned for air, just as Karai thought she would indeed drown, she suddenly woke up.

With a start, she sat upright and gasped like an oxygen-starved fish. Once she realized she was awake, she looked around, wild-eyed, panting. For a moment, she found herself caught between the conscious world and that of her dream. As she became more awake, her room dark as night, she felt a sudden chill and realized that she was wet. Her pale skin glistened with moisture and perspiration and she trembled. It was then when she realized that she had had a dream…a nightmare.

Supporting herself with both palms flat against her mattress, Karai shook her head and glanced around her darkened bedroom. She smiled and recognized that she was in her penthouse at Foot headquarters, where she had gone to bed the night before. Relieved, she focused on breathing normally again

It was just a dream, she repeated to herself, chuckling, and rather amused that it would disturb her so. Then, she repeated her thought aloud, more determinedly, almost to challenge her nightmare, "It is only a dream," as if by giving her thought voice, she would sound more convincing.

Karai suddenly yawned expansively and realized how tired she was. She glanced at her alarm clock and noticed the time.

Two a.m.? She harrumphed, Only two hours of sleep, and I have to wake up earlier than usual, too. Why is it when I have to get up early, I do not sleep well?

She turned where she sat, to lie down on her side, to resume her rest. After all, she had a big day planned and needed her sleep.

However, as she settled in against the mattress, Karai realized that it was wet and so she pulled away to look at it. That was when she saw something odd. With only the scant bit of light seeping through her window and mixing with her darkened room, her white sheets were quite discernable. Yet, what she saw on her sheets did not appear to be perspiration. The stain was too dark for that.

After she crawled to her side table and turned her lamp on, Karai glanced back to the spot in question, and then suddenly gasped.

Her mattress was wet...with blood.

Surprised, Karai jumped out of her bed, her feet hitting the cold marble floor in an instant. She startled, at first, the cool temperature a striking contrast to her warm covers. Nevertheless, it was the crimson color of her mattress that had most of her attention. She starred wide-eyed, now, with confusion at the ruddy hue. After a moment, the bright pigmentation helped her to remember her deed from two weeks earlier.

"This…this cannot be happening…" she spat quickly, "this is not the apartment; this is my bedroom, in my father's penthouse." Closing her eyes tightly, Karai willed the vision to flee. Slowly, she opened them again.

The blood was still there.

"NO!" she screamed in defiance, her hands fisted at her side, "This is not…is not REAL!"

Karai pressed the heel of her hands to her face, grinding her palms into her eye sockets. With her mouth contorting in agony, "This cannot be happening…" she cried, and continued to rub, hoping that by doing so she would rid her mind of the awful visage. After a moment, and when she was satisfied, Karai dropped her hands, but then gasped again. Blood dripped from her fingertips, spilling over her nightgown, the drops spreading out as the material soaked them up.

It was then when a quiet sob escaped her lips, "He…he is dead..." she whispered, her voice hoarse from her emotions, "...his blood wiped clean from me. This is…impossible…he is…is no more…I know this. I am only having a dream, another nightmare." She then laughed a little, "That is it; I am dreaming again, I have to be." Karai almost felt relief, amused.

She looked at her bed, again, yet it remained stained as before.

"It MUST be a dream!" she demanded insistently, pounding a fist into her thigh.

Suddenly, her eyes widened as the bloodstain began to glisten, then pooling, as if freshly spilled. Next, it began to bubble upwards from the center of her mattress, like a mountain spring, spreading out beyond the initial stain. Incredulously, it continued its journey towards Karai, miniature rivulets growing and moving like a living entity, heading towards the mattress edge. Without slowing, it tumbled over the precipice, like a waterfall, pushed along by the generous flow behind it. For a moment, it collected along the floor as it pooled.

As more of the ruddy liquid fell from the mattress and added to the puddle, it suddenly began spreading outwards, like an advancing army of crimson ooze.

Karai took a frantic step backwards, uncertain and confused. She held her breath and watched as the ruddy stream came towards her. It seemed to have come alive, branching out, before splitting into many fingers of red, all of it heading straight for her! It was then, when Karai realized its true intent. She raced for her door.

However, the door, locked tight, would not open, no matter how hard she banged against its surface, or twist the handle. It refused to budge regardless. She screamed in rage and then Karai snapped around, glowering at the rushing tide, almost challenging it. And then she suddenly felt an unfamiliar panic overtake her.

Yet before she could utter a call for help or leap over the flow, the scarlet aqueous fingers grabbed her ankles. The blood flow quickly snaked its way up Karai's calves, to her thighs, over her nightgown, and along her torso. As it did, it constricted around her like a python. In horror, she found the higher up it went, the faster it moved, the tighter it grabbed her, until, the moment it encapsulated her head, Karai screamed.

And then she woke up - again, drenched in sweat, her breathing rapid, and her heart nearly pounding from of her chest. Karai swallowed nervously and jerked around to stare at her mattress. She smiled. There, dressing her bed, she found the same clean, white sheets beneath her as she had slipped between when she had gone to bed hours earlier. Her nightgown, too, seemed unsoiled and as pristine as it had been when she first slipped it on.

Satisfied that she was indeed awake this time, Karai closed her eyes, and - as she did before in her subconscious state, took a cleansing breath.

It was just…a dream, another dream.

Relieved, Karai turned to lie down in her bed, to resume her sleep, again, but as she did, she suddenly noticed a shadow by the window. At first, she was confused as to how anyone could be there, considering the location of her bedroom, eighty-five stories above the streets of New York. Then, reality set in. Determinedly, she sat up and reached under her pillow for the knife she kept there. To her horror, though, she it found it gone. Concerned, Karai glanced at the window again, only to discover that the shadow was now in her room!

Then, the figure stepped further into her bedroom. Moonlight seeped in from between her drapes to backlight him and, as he stopped to turn and observe her, it fell across his face. At that precise moment, Karai noticed the color blue wrapped around his head. It caused her breath to catch in her through, yet, what she saw next nearly stopping her heart.

Silhouetted against the soft, subdued lunar rays, Karai recognized the curved knife that Leonardo had gifted her with, and the same one she had 'given' back to him. Yet, it was this very knife that now protruded from her 'visitor's chest, with only the decorative, hand-carved hilt exposed. She looked at him fully, now, and as she did, he seemed to radiate with his own illumination. It was then when she noticed his slit throat, trails of blood running down his plastron, pooling along the marble floor where he walked.

And, as her nightmare strode towards her again, his steps tentative and predatory, Karai realized who he was and…screamed again.

Outside Karai's bedroom window, eighty-five stories above New York City, a lone figure waited. Shrouded in darkness, he had heard her shouts, her angry declarations, and then her screams. Still, he continued to stay where he was, a snarl on his lips. He had already decided how this would end, if indeed he had been right. As the wind whipped at his red bandanna tails, the 'shadow' pressed harder into the concrete. He was determined to complete his task. With climbing claws buried into the stone-like material and his toes wedged between the mortared brick, despite the strain on his body, he remained stationary. He listened again, silent, invisible, one with the night.

As he listened, he heard her talking, furiously raging on about something, and then hotly uttering a string of Japanese expletives. Then, she was quiet.

After half an hour and convinced she was alone, that whomever she was talking to had left the room, he gave a quick glance around to make sure that no one was nearby.

Satisfied that he would be unobserved and with practiced ease, he snipped the wires he had exposed earlier. Effectively disabling security around the window, he then unlocked the latch.

As Raphael slipped quietly inside the room, he grinned malevolently. Payback would be his tonight, for tonight…he would avenge his brother's murder.