Changes in Destiny

Prolog: A Glance at the Storm

By Hatashi Kitty

What have I done?

The young man lay on his family's couch, starring at the ceiling through the strands of thick blond hair that covered most of his face. His violet eyes were fixated onto one spot, but he didn't really see what was in front of him. His pale face was gaunt and hollow from lack of sleep, and from too many missed meals. He felt like he had no more energy for anything, much less to read the textbook draped over his chest. This same young man held within him a power of an ancient armor, one that chose him to protect the weak and innocent.

What have I done?

But that power wouldn't help him here. The Armor of Halo couldn't turn back time and change the events that had weighted down Sage for so long. He had battled demons, Warlords and Nether spirits, yet he was reduced to a pitiful puddle of flesh brought down by deep sorrow.

How could I have let this happen? What have I done?

Just as he had done many times before, the memories of the past invaded his thoughts and unwanted tears flowed freely down his pale face. A past that scarred him beyond anything else past trials had torn at him.

Why did it have to happen this way? Why couldn't it have been me? It should have been me? If only I could have prevented it. If only. . .

As much as he wished he could and how much he tried, Sage was unable to return to the life he had only a few weeks ago. How could such a short period of time change his entire life? He couldn't concentrate at school, even though he only had a week and a half until graduation. He couldn't even focus on living, most of the time someone had to remind him to eat. The only thing he could really think about is what happened to Robyn. . .and what he did to Rowen.

Rowen, I'm so sorry. I don't know why I did it. I'm sorry what I did. I'm sorry I couldn't save Robyn.

The words he wished he could say to his best friend would forever hang over his head, unspoken. It had been a week since Rowen had disappeared. After what happened to Robyn, Sage didn't think his heart could stand the sorrow of losing someone else. Sage had scoured the city in his armor, looking in any place Rowen could have been. But it wasn't just sorrow that drove him, it was also regret and guilt. Sage needed to find his friend soon, or the pain within his chest would burst out. He had to tell him everything, he had to explain everything that he should have told Rowen at the beginning. How sorry he was, his pain, how much he needed his best friend in this time of sorrow, and what had happened that horrible night.

Tired of crying, Sage turned onto his side so he could curl up into a fetal position with his face against the cushions of the couch, as if hoping to block out everything until the world righted itself. Sage knew if he turned around, he could still see It out of the corner of his eye. But he didn't need to see to know that It lay in a long glass box on the mantle above the fireplace for everyone to see and admire, reminding him of the night Rowen ran away.

It was his Grandfather's katana, passed down from one generation of Date to another. Why did it had to be that sword? Why did it had to be in his hand at that exact moment? Why was it still there where Sage could see it and haunt him?

Sage closed his teary eyes to stop the images in his head, but they still came relentlessly. They kept on flashing through his mind, like an old movie projector. Faster, and faster, and faster. . .

RING!

Sage jumped as the phone broke the silence. It felt strange to be startled by something so normal. Sage could feel his body strain as he lifted himself up to answer the phone.

"Hello?" Sage said weakly.

On the other end, nobody answered.

"Hello? Is anyone there?" Sage pressed his ear closer to the telephone, straining to the sound of someone breathing softly. "Who is this?" Sage asked tentatively. A thought came into his head and his heart beat quickened as he silently prayed. "Rowen? Rowen, is that you?" Please let it be him. Please.

To the teen's disappointment, a cold, cruel laugh seeped through the receiver. "Guess again," a deep voice mocked.

Sage felt a twinge of familiarity as the voice laughed again. "Who are you?" Sage demanded.

"I thought you would remember your old friend, Halo."

At the name of his armor, Sage stiffened.

"Think, Halo. Think very hard."

"Cale," Sage spat the name out.

"That's right. It seems your virtue is a little rusty," Cale laughed.

"What do you want?" Sage muttered.

"We have some unsettled business, old friend." Cale spoke the last words full of scorn.

"Sorry Cale, but I'm not up to dealing with you," Sage growled, ready to put down the receiver.

"I don't think you understand. You and I will fight," Cale pressed on. "I wouldn't want to have to do anything to Strata."

"Rowen! You have Rowen!" Sage whispered trying to keep his temper, his blood starting to boil, but some part of him was relieved to have some sort of idea where Rowen is. "Where is he? Is he okay?" Sage waited for a reply. "Please, let me talk to Rowen, to make sure he's okay."

"You'll see him soon," Cale answered curtly. "But if you're so desperate to hear him, I'm sure I can make him scream for you."

Sage's stomach twisted and shrank at the sadistic threat. "You pig faced, son-of-a. . ."

"Oh, did that hit a nerve?" Cale laughed again. "At least I have your attention now."

Sage was very quiet. It took all his willpower just to keep himself from yelling at his caller.

"We shall meet at midnight tonight," Cale continued, his voice very serious. "Fifty miles South of where you are, there is a plot of sand dunes. You can find me there. If I don't see you there, I might have to get ugly with your little pal. And come alone."

Then the line went dead.

Sage stood by the phone, not making any movement to place the receiver back on its hook. Instead, his grip started to loosen and the phone slipped out of his hand and down to the floor. He was shaking uncontrollably, not just with rage but a mixture of fear and relief. In a few hours he would see his friend again. Sage wanted to sink to the floor, the strain almost getting to him. But he had to be strong for the fight soon to come.

The Bearer of Halo looked out the window. Already the sun was sinking slowly into the mountains, leaving a trail of warm colors on the sky and cloud. He could see the moon slowly coming up into the sky, and the stars starting to sparkle in the sky. But soon the nightly lights would be blotted out by large thunder storm coming toward Toyama.

The dark night will give him an advantage, but the lightning from the storm will give me more power, Sage observed. Did he intend for us to fight during the storm when both our armors will be at their strongest?

Sage reached into his pocket, and withdrew the small green orb that was the essence of Halo. Inside glowed the Kanji of his virtue. Wisdom. Right now, Sage was feeling everything but wise. How can I be wise when I have let down so many people? Sage thought. Is there any redemption for all the pain I caused?

"Wisdom," Sage reminded himself and closed his eyes in concentration. He needed to be as close to his virtue for the Armor of Halo to be at its best. He soon felt the weight of his orb disappear, and the touch of cold metal on his skin. When he opened his eyes, Sage was fully armored.

For hours, Sage sat in a lotus position, meditating and preparing his mind and body for the battle. Soon it was time to leave. He stepped out of his house into the whipping wind and the beating rain. Lightening flashed viciously, zigzagging across the sky, highlighting the Armor of Halo. A clap of thunder shook the air and earth soon after.

Good, Sage thought. This storm is just how I feel. Beware Cale, I have sworn to protect this world and especially those I love. Not only is it my duty, but my destiny.

Sage smiled sourly. What was it that Rowen said before?

"I am a Ronin Warrior. Destiny chose me to protect this world. So I will."

Sage smiled, the words his friend said two weeks ago echoed in his soul giving him strength. He is a Ronin Warrior, too. This battle may not be for the world, but he was protecting something just as important.

"I'm doing this for you, Rowen," Sage said into the wind. "And when I get you back, we'll talk. Then maybe things will get a lot better." With that promise, Sage's determined grip on his long sword tightened, and stepped out into the storm to meet his opponent.