Changes in Destiny
Ch. 8: The Beginning of It All
By Emilou AKA Hatashi Kitty
(Author's note: It's been a while, hasn't it? Heh heh. Another one down. I'd like to that those who will read this, it's nice to know that some of my work entertains people. Also, there is some repeat scenes in here. That's the problem with time travel. This way, you get to see Cale's point of view through the plot. There's still new scene in this one. The next chapter will be the same, but I think it'll be more entertaining. I'm almost finished. Yay. I hope I'll see you readers soon. Thanks.)
Years had passed by since the day that Talpa had been vanquished. The Ronins had gone back to their normal lives, and their armors were at rest; so the Warlords and Kayura had supposed. Before they had split paths with the teenage boys, they had told the Ronins that they were going to fix a few loose ends that Talpa had left behind. They explained that Talpa's doors that led to the Nether Realm still existed, even if the Nether Realm didn't. The doors were invisible to most people, and wouldn't pose as any danger as long as they weren't open. But some people, those with more than usual spiritual senses, could see the doors. Before anyone could tamper with the doors, they would have to be sealed.
At least, that is the story that the Warlords and Kayura had given the Ronins. Which was all true, but not the whole truth. They didn't tell of a second danger those doors could become. Without the Nether Realm to be tied to, other dimensions could latch onto them. Creatures from other worlds could just as likely open the doors as well.
The reason the Ronins had been left in the dark was because the Warlords wished to do this duty alone. They felt that this task would help make up for everything they had done in the past. The Ronins had done enough for the world, and they should be given a rest.
It was all Kayura's idea. She had a sense of duty that the Warlords didn't share, but they went along with it since it felt right. And after a time of finding the doors, they felt their souls lighten after being away from Talpa's dark essence. They changed slowly; they came to care about mankind and each other. They became a team, and they felt no spite against the Ronins.
Except for Cale. He, too, changed. But there was a part of him that didn't change. His soul stayed in darkness, and he shunned away from the daylight. He felt no animosity for most of the Ronins, but at one mention of Halo, hatred would consume him.
They became like a sort of family, sharing memories, both good and bad. But Cale resisted becoming closer to the three. He talked and laughed with them, treating them like friends one minute. But as soon as talk came to Ronins or the past, he became moody and silent. Some days he preferred to keep to himself, and they could hear him mutter to himself as if he were talking to someone who wasn't there, rubbing the wooden bead he wore around his neck.
After a time, they avoided certain subjects around him, and he became less and less moody. The past seemed to fade away, and he smiled more.
Until danger came once more.
It had taken them years to find all the doors. Talpa had riddled the entire world with them so that dominating the planet would be a lot easier. They traveled and searched every inch of the world to find every last one of them.
When they thought that they had found all of them, they made a quick sweep of Japan. The island had been the center of Talpa's plan, so there had been more doors there. When going through Hokkaido, they found one they had missed.
It was hidden behind a shrine which had blocked them from sensing it. And it was slightly ajar.
Most of the time, the doors they had found were shut. Rare cases, the doors had been opened either by humans with spiritual senses or by the occupants of the other dimension that it led to. Worst cases they had to deal with was retrieving a human that had wandered in, or something that came out, usually something benign. But at this last door, it wasn't the same.
"This one is going to be difficult," Dais muttered as he looked the situation a little closer. The three Warlords and Kayura were on the sidewalk just outside of the shrine in modern clothes. They looked around gates of the shrine a while, knowing they wouldn't look too suspicious since a few tourists nearby were doing the same. The Warlord of Illusion looked around the gate. "The door is too close to the shrine. We're going to have to shift the door before we close it."
Kayura looked worried. "Is that really necessary? The door is already open a crack, and dark energy is seeping into this world. I'm very sure that the rise in crime and illness during the past few years is due to whatever is behind that door."
"If we move the door, more than dark energy could come out from that door," Sekhemt agreed, looking quite grim.
Dais nodded. "We can't reach the lock without moving it. If we're quick, we can move it, and shut it quickly," he told the others. During their years on the road, Dais had become a sort of leader. He didn't know how that had happened, he really didn't see himself with the qualities for the job. But in their mismatched team, he was the best candidate for the job. Even though the other's looked to him for direction, he still preferred that they all gave their opinion first before he made a decision. "What do you think, Cale?"
Cale was leaning against the cement wall, trying his best to hide from the sun. His dark complexion was unusually pale for him, even without his armor. He turned his dark eyes up to the long fair-haired man. "I think we should wait for dark to take a better look. The situation may look different once we see how far the shrine and the door are."
Kayura immediately responded to Cale's words. "It's dark energy seeping out. There's a big possibility whatever is causing the energy is stronger at night. It's best to do this during the day."
"Agreed," Dais told the young woman. "That's logical. But that doesn't mean we can't get a good look at it as soon as the tourists depart. That will at least let me set up an illusion so we don't get disturbed during our work."
It was routine for Dais to make an illusion when they were working on a door. When they worked with Talpa, he made it so nobody remembered what happened during his short reign in Toyama. However, they only had Dais's armor to help them be discrete.
"We'll come back an hour before sun-down. The shrine should be closed by then, and we'll be able to work at our leisure. If we can't finish the job by nightfall, then we can start again in the morning," Dais decided.
Just as Dais had guessed, at their allotted time, the shrine was deserted save for an old man who was the owner. He lived on the property in a small home. He, however, didn't stay that night due to a young woman with purple hair that came running and rapping at his door with a warning of a gas leak. The old man didn't stay there for long, and went to stay with some relatives across town.
For the rest of the waning day, the shrine looked peaceful and empty to a passerby. But if a person walked through a thin veil of illusion that was set up around the perimeter, they would have seen four large, menacing looking armor clanking around the shrine.
"Yeah, we're definitely going to need to move the door. There's not enough space for us to get in between it and the shrine," Dais said after taking a closer look. "Let's set this up. I'll move it with my aura. Cale and Sekhmet, you stand over there and get ready to push the door closed. Be quick. We can't have anything coming out," he said. As they were standing near the door, they could faintly here strange noises, distant howls and screams. It was a little unnerving.
Cale and Sekhmet nodded, taking their place where Dais directed. Sekhmet flexed his shoulders and neck, preparing for his job; he didn't notice as Cale shifted nervously.
The Warlord of Darkness breathed deeply, trying to ignore the pain. His heart and scar had started to hurt. It seemed to get worse throughout the day, but he owed it to the sun that he had been standing in. Sweat trickled down his neck into his helmet even though he wasn't hot.
Cale nearly jumped as he heard the voice, the strange voice within his head. He hadn't heard the voice since Talpa died.
Cale calmed his heart, feeling it beat painfully in his chest quicker at the presence of the voice. And for once in a long time, he wondered why the voice was back, but responded to it anyway.
We must not touch it.
Cale was confused and didn't listen as Dais direct Kayura to be ready to lock the door. He barely pulled away from the voice and his thoughts as Dais gave the word that he was moving the door.
Pushing at the dimensional door with his aura, Dais moved the door further away from the shrine and closer to the other Warlords.
"Now," Sekhmet told his companion, and quickly moved in front of the door so he could throw his weight against it. "Move it, Cale," he shouted at his companion, who hesitated to follow.
Cale's shoulder met with the door, feeling like he was trying to move a mountain. The door didn't seem to budge from two Warlord's strength.
"Push," Sekhmet grunted.
"I am," Cale growled, digging his heels into the ground. And then the sharpest pain hit him in the chest. It felt like a dozen bolts of lightning had hit him in the heart, zapping his strength.
"Cale, what are you. . .?" Sekhmet muttered in confusion, seeing the Warlord stop pushing and falling to his knees. However he could give his companion little attention as he felt himself slide backwards from the door pushing open
"Cale!" Kayura called out, seeing the man fall.
"No, the door," Dais shouted. After using his aura on the door, he was in a weakened state. But he rushed to the door as quick as he could to Sekhmet's side. "Close it."
"I'm trying," Sekhmet bellowed.
Kayura ran to Cale's side, kneeling to see what was wrong.
"Leave him," Dais commanded. "We have to close this now."
Kayura looked down at Cale, and then left him. With her added strength, the three of them were enough to close the large door. But before they could feel a sense of victory, they felt the cold darkness nearby, and then they knew something had been let out of the door. They all could feel the night closing in around them, even though there was a little light up. And then it appeared.
The creature was small, tiny, almost fragile looking. It looked like an animal half-starved, but instead of flesh and blood, it was made of shadow and blackness. It growled at them, a noise that sounded like glass in a grinder.
Kayura immediately went to Cale in an attempt to protect him from the creature. The other Warlords took out their weapons to attack it. They all knew at that moment that if they didn't put that thing back through the door, the consequences could be devastating. They slowly approached it, not knowing what it would do. They expected it to run away.
But it attacked them, its tiny figure made it agile and fast compared to their cumbersome armors. It clawed and bit ferociously, screaming and howling in victory as Sekhmet and Dais fell in pain as dark energy serged through their armors where it's teeth and nails damaged them.
"Kayura. . ." Dais grunted, but didn't say anything more.
The young girl stood up, not knowing what to do. Was Dais going to tell her to run away, or did he want her to fight as well even knowing how powerful the creature was? She stood up, and lifted the deadly weapon of the Ogre, stepping in front of Cale.
During all of this, Cale stayed on his knees. He had no idea what was going on, every bit of his concentration distracted by the pain. But he could sense something dark. It was like him, but not like him. They were the same, but different. He opened his eyes, and blurry vision set upon a shadowy creature. He squinted, the imagine familiar to him. Why was that? And as he saw the creature, he remembered the broken body of a red-headed girl. His memory was so clear, it was as if the girl was standing right in front of him, smiling sadly as blood ran down her face. He lifted a trembling hand to the image.
Run, the voice echoed in his head.
The creature seemed startled, turned around and ran away.
While the other three wondered about the strange turn of events, Cale didn't seem to notice. The image of the girl disappeared, and then his world went black.
After relaying what Cale had missed, the two Warlords and Kayura questioned their companion what happened to him. Cale answered their questions honesty since he had no idea why the sudden pain incapacitated him, or what had made the creature run away. During his time passed out, they had moved him somewhere safe, and took turns watching him while the others went looking for the creature. During that night, they kept hearing its unearthly screams and howls, but couldn't track him.
"And?" Cale asked, seeing expectation in the other's eyes.
"And. . .we just wanted to see if you had any ideas. Suggestions. Any kind of guess as to what happened last night," Sekhmet continued on.
"I just told you, I don't know," Cale growled.
"But you must have a hypothesis," Sekhmet pestered. "Could it have something to do with darkness? I could see that the creature's world is seeping with it."
"Is it now?" Cale asked with little care in his voice.
"That's how it appears. Why do you think that is?" Sekhmet asked suspiciously.
"Leave him alone. It isn't his fault," Kayura told the green-haired man.
"We know it's not, but it would be a good idea to know what's going on with this thing," Sekhmet said. "We know little to nothing about it, and it's still out there doing who knows what."
Dais nodded. "And whatever Cale has that repels it would be a great advantage."
"If you didn't notice," Cale growled, "but I was also in a lot of pain. Does that sound like an advantage?"
"The two may not be related," Dais argued.
"That's too big of a coincidence," Kayura said. "But it's a start. I think Sekhmet is right. Just as the sun rose, the creature's calls stopped."
"Then it's weakness is light. It must be hiding somewhere during the day," Dais concluded. "We still have a chance of finishing this thing. We'll find where its hiding, and take care of it. Let's go."
But they never found it. As the sun sank below the horizon in the evening, the creature's calls rose once more. The four tracked it by the sound, but couldn't find it before the sun came up again. By that time, they were exhausted and couldn't continue until the next night.
It was a strange defeat when their enemy had ran away. Not only did they not know who or what their enemy was, but they had no idea how to track it. For the time, they could only lock the door to the other dimension and wait. And they had to wait for a long time; time that was spent scouring the city and the countryside, looking for whatever it was that came out of the door.
It was Sekhmet who spotted it next. Or rather, it spotted him. A man had ran into Sekhmet while in armor. They all had been careful not to be seen while in their magical armor, and it was a complete surprise that Sekhmet didn't sense the man until he had rounded the corner. He expected the man to looked shocked and surprise, yell or cry out for help or something of that sort.
The man growled at him instead, crouching to the ground like an animal, his face looking darker due to the shadow of the building he was in.
Sekhmet was the one who was surprised by this, and thought that there was something wrong with the man. He asked the man what was wrong to try and help him. It didn't take much to sense the darkness that emitted from the man.
"Whoever you are, something is wrong with you. I will try to be kind in handling you, but I guarantee nothing," Sekhmet said to the man, and started to approach him with caution.
The man stood his ground, like an animal growling and snarling. He didn't back away from Sekhmet, but attacked him instead.
Once again, the Bearer of the Armor of Venom was surprised by the man's actions, and knew that he was mad. He dodged from the attack easily, the man's strength was nothing against his armor. However, he tried to grab a hold of the man. When his hand grabbed the man's bare arm, dark energy surged through his armor. Sekhmet cried out from the shock, feeling his armor weaken, and he lost his grasp as he fell to the ground.
The man growled again, and scampered away from one building shadow to another, running quickly through the patches of sunshine.
Sekhmet noticed the man's strange behavior, and noticed that he did not attack until he had stepped into the shadows as well. Sekhmet smiled at the knowledge that he learned. He stood up despite the pain, and followed after the man.
He was faster than the man, and quickly blocked his way into the shadows.
The man's face was full of feral desperation. He attacked once again, but Sekhmet knew now not to let him touch. He pulled out his swords, and blocked the man with the flat of the blade, dancing around him. He pushed at the man, making him move further and further from the shadows, glad that nobody else was around to see this. The last thing he needed was a crowd of people interfering with his business.
After a while, the man was sweating badly, tiring down.
"Don't worry, you'll thank me later," Sekhmet told the man. "Perhaps some more time in the sun will take away that darkness."
The man then fell to his knees, and started to heave. He growled and coughed like a sick cat, crying every once in a while like a human in pain.
"It hurts," the man cried out, grasping his stomach. Then he heaved once more, and a black vomit passed through his mouth onto the pavement.
Sekhmet took a step back with disgust, clenching his teeth to prevent himself from feeling sick.
Then the vomit puddle took form. It pulled away from the ground and shaped into a four-legged creature. It cried and screamed like an animal in pain, hissing at Sekhmet. But instead of attacking, it ran toward the shadows.
Sekhmet's battle instinct kicked in, and he followed the creature. Just as it was going to reach a shadowy place, he sliced down at it.
The creature dodged away, howling an unearthly cry and ran in a different direction.
Sekhmet blocked the creature's way and expected it to run away in a different direction. However, the creature ran through his legs swiftly, barely sliding past Sekhmet's blades as they targeted it. Sekhmet turned around quickly to go after the creature, but suddenly felt very weak. He fell to the ground with no strength left in his body, the weight of his armor pressing down on him. He could only lift his head long enough to watch the creature run away. If he stayed conscious long enough, he may have noticed that he no longer cast a shadow.
That was only one of many confrontations they had with the creature, each one giving them new and horrifying information on the creature, but hardly giving them a chance to capture the beast. But the more they learned, the more they knew of its weaknesses and able to test new ways to fight it.
It didn't take them long for them to realize that anything that had to do with Cale hurt the creature. They used that to their advantage, even though it hurt Cale as well. Kayura, Dais and Sekhmet didn't know what was worse, dealing with the creature or with Cale after they use him as a weapon. But every advantage had to be used.
The creature continued to run. Many times, it wouldn't chance a fight, but looked only for escape in the shadows or in the darkness of the hearts of men. That's where it could hide the best. Some men's hearts were very dark, and fed the creature's hunger. Because of this, casualties were hard to avoid. Once detected, the creature would abandon its host, most of the time the human wouldn't live after the separation.
It wasn't long until they realized that the creature wasn't just running away, it was running to somewhere. Or something. They followed it through half of Japan, and to their bewilderment, it stopped in the one city they wished never to come back to.
Using a technique that Cale had created with the other's help, they herded the creature in a small part of the city, keeping it out of the residential areas and more into the factory districts where there was less population. They patrolled the city to make sure the creature couldn't feed, and kept it at bay. But they were fighting a battle where neither side gained any ground.
That was when Kayura suggested to request the help of the Ronin Warriors.
At first the Warlords disagreed determinedly. They didn't need the help of boys. But after a small lecture from Kayura, they backed down. That night as Kayura went to see their old enemies, the three Warlords sat on a hill and kept an eye on the territory that Cale's dark net encased. Sekhmet and Dais sat next to each other and talked, but Cale kept to himself. Since he learned that he was to come to Toyama, he had an uneasy feeling. For the first time in years, he pulled out the wooden bead necklace that he had around his neck. His fingers felt over the crude carving of the kanji Protect.
He hadn't lived up to word through most of his life. And he often wondered if it was because there wasn't anything he wanted to protect. There was nothing he cared about enough to try and protect. He didn't even see his own life worth enough to protect. It was just instinct to raise his weapon now, but he didn't fear death. If it came to him, he wouldn't regret it.
No, there was one thing he'd regret. He would do anything to pay Halo back for the crimes he had committed.
Cale clenched his hand over the bead. Perhaps this was his chance to do that. Perhaps Fate was giving him this opportunity to do just that. Cale nodded, and kept that in mind.
Later that night, Kayura came back to them and told them when and where they were going to meet that Ronins. Once the sun rose, they would be heading out. But there would be no sleep for them. They still had the rest of the night to watch over the city. They split up to patrol the area, watching for the creature, and making sure the creature found no more victims.
However, Cale's mind wasn't on protecting the city. He had tucked the bead away into his armor once again, pushing the kanji's shape out of his mind. He had another goal in mind for when they teamed up with the Ronins the next day.
"This isn't good," Dais muttered as he looked out into the fog.
"It isn't natural either," Sekhmet added. "There's not enough moisture for the fog to linger this long when the sun is up. It must be the creature's doing."
"It feels so cold," Kayura said, rubbing her arms even though she was in armor.
Cale didn't say anything, but deep down he was grateful for the sun being covered up.
"If this continues, the creature will be able to go anywhere during the day," Dais said darkly.
The four of them knew if it came to that, there was just too many people to watch over. They were already over taxed by just watching it at night. And with it starved, who knew what it would do to get a meal.
"The Ronins can help us," Kayura told the others. "Our plan will work."
It didn't take long for her to explain it, and afterwards they didn't have to wait until the Ronins had arrived at the rendevous point.
"Thank you for coming, Ronins," Kayura greeted them, the rings of the staff clinking together as she walked. "We don't have much time to explain. We need to get rid of if this fog as quickly as possible."
"So, this fog is the demon's doing?" Halo asked.
"The demon is a creature of darkness," Sekhmet said to the Ronins. "It's trying to block out all light so it can come out."
"You can feel it, right Halo?" Cale asked, glaring eyes on the blond. "You can feel it trying to get rid of your element. Your armor feels very threatened, doesn't it?"
Cale saw Halo turned cold eyes onto him. He felt an inward satisfaction of being able to get under the young man's skin.
"The fog is getting thicker, we don't have much more time," Dais told them all as he slowly shifted his weight from one leg to the other in anxiety.
"Please, follow us, Ronins," Kayura requested, and then disappeared into the fog with the
The nine armor bearers ran in a line, Ronins and Warlords mixed together as they traveled through the city and up the taller buildings, much like they did when they were fighting in Talpa's war not too long ago. Kayura led them all to the tallest building in the city where she stopped and waited for the rest to gather.
"Halo, Strata, you are the only ones that can clear the fog," she called to the young men. "Use your armors together to clear away the fog. The light will weaken it and then scatter it with the wind."
Strata and Halo stepped forward, their weapons ready as they released their surekills.
Cale felt a sense of nostalgia stir within him as he heard Strata shout to call out his armor's power. But then Halo's light crackled and snapped throughout the atmosphere. Cale stepped back with bared teeth, the light causing his armor to react. His heart beat quickened at the presence of light, and an old familiar ache was there. A whisper of a thought flashed through his mind.
Cale looked away from Halo, and forced himself to relax. He focused his mind on the task of destroying this demon of darkness, and then he would be able to get as far away from Halo as possible.
If Cale had thought that being in the same city as Halo was too close, then being crammed into the same restaurant booth as the bearer of light was definitely invading on his personal space. But Kayura had been giving him the warning eye whenever they looked at each other ever since the Ronins had joined up with them. Cale would bear it, but he was determined not to enjoy it..
After Dais apologized to the Ronins for their tired and unkempt appearance, he gave a short explanation of the creature's night habits which left little room for them to sleep. From there, more questions came from individual Ronins since Kayura gave them very little information the night before. All of it was redundant information that Cale had discussed with Dais, Kayura and Sekhmet over and over before, so he tuned everything out. At least until Halo had sent him a dark look.
"Most armors," Halo muttered.
"What are you saying?" Cale growled, narrowing his eyes. Cale knew Halo was accusing him of something, but had not be paying attention to what was being discussed.
"You tell us. Your armor's domain is the darkness," Halo denounced. "You must have some sort of connection to this thing."
Cale was able to guess what was chaffing Halo, and took immediate offense to it. "Don't you dare compare my armor to that abomination. I would never connect myself to such evil," he shouted, standing up and pounding a large fist on the table.
Halo was on his feet in a second. "You associated with Talpa, and you have lived in darkness for years. How do we know you really have changed?" he demanded.
Kayura, the peacemaker, stepped in. "Halo, Cale, this is not the time. The past has been behind us for years. Let it go."
Cale felt the girl's touch on his arm. It was one of the few things that would have stopped him from continuing this argument. He didn't say any more, but still didn't sit down until Halo had done the same.
The conversation returned to the creature, and this time Cale listened to what everyone was saying. But all through breakfast, he kept his dark eyes on Halo.
I'll stop you, Halo. I'll show them all what you really are, Cale thought to himself. He tried to remember what exactly Halo had done to have inspired such loathing within himself, but all he could remember was the word murderer, murderer, murderer.
At the first sight of a couch, Sekhmet and Dais stumbled toward it. It was an awkward race, the two like a pair of zombies lurching toward the furniture and collapsing in a pile. Sekhmet pushed the other Warlord off the couch, and snuggled up with a pillow. Dais didn't seem to care that he had lost since he was already asleep once he hit the ground.
"Make yourselves at home," Strata mumbled to the two.
Kayura tried to stifle her giggles, and politely asked for a couple of blankets to cover the two.
"Since you're still standing, do you want a real bed?" Strata asked Cale.
Cale looked around the tiny apartment, deja vu falling over him. Or was it nostalgia? How did the home of Strata feel so familiar to him?
"Hey, are you awake?" Strata asked, waving a hand in front of the Warlord's face.
"Uh. . .yes, I'd like a bed," Cale said, remembering what the question was.
"Then follow me," Strata said, and moved down the hall. "It's kind of small, but I cleaned it recently. If you need anything just ask." He opened a door in the hall to a small room, and then left.
Cale felt like he was intruding in a space that he wasn't suppose to even though the owner had just let him in. His thoughts felt even more muddled than before, as if something inside him was preventing him from remembering. He stepped into the room and looked around. There were posters, books, school texts, a desk and lamp among other things. Cale swept his eyes around and saw pictures on the desk. He moved closer and spread them out with a few fingers. They were of the Ronins, some of them in front of a school, some outside in a grassy area, smiling and laughing. Cale felt his muscles tense as he saw Halo happy. What gave him the right to be happy? Didn't he care about the wrong he had done to Cale? Or was it the wrong he will do?
One photograph caught his eye, one under most of them. It was of a red-headed girl, but her face was turned away from the camera as if she was trying to hide from it. Cale didn't know this girl, at least not that he could remember, but he had a desire to see her face. Did she have green eyes? What did she look like?
Suddenly his heart started to hurt, as if a clawed hand suddenly clenched over it causing it to have to work harder to pump blood. Cale stumbled as he turned away, and looked around to see what would cause him to hurt. He looked at the window, and glared at the bright sunlight pouring in. He stumbled to the blinds to quickly shut them and block out the light. He breathed more easily in the darkness, his heart free from the sharp pain.
Without the ache, Cale wanted to look at the picture again, to gain back the feelings he had while looking at it. But it was so far away now, and the bed was closer. He fell forward onto the mattress, and fatigue took him.
It was hard for Cale to wake up. He had been a warrior for a very long time, and was used to waking up quickly and immediately, becoming aware of his surroundings. But this time it was different. He felt sluggish and slow, like after he had been sleeping for years. Or when he was younger.
Cale frowned as he tried to clear his head from sleep. When he was young? Could he even remember that far back? It felt so close, those memories that were so far behind him. But why were the brought to him now?
He shook his head and looked around. At first he didn't recognize his surroundings, but then he remembered coming to Strata's home. He looked at the blinds that covered the window. The little light that shone through was dim. It was almost dark. He quickly got out of bed and moved silently out of the room. He located the other Warlords, still sleeping where he left them. There was no sign of Kayura or the Ronins. But in the quiet, he could hear the sounds of voices conversing from a distance. He moved from the living room to the kitchen and the voices grew loud. He saw the Ronins out on the apartment balcony watching the sunset. He couldn't hear what they were talking about, but he didn't try to move closer. After a while, the glass door slid open.
For some reason, Cale moved into the shadows, and blended into them. If he wasn't who he was, the three Ronins who came back into the house would have noticed him. But the shadows were part of him, and he remained unseen. When the Ronins left, Cale crept closer to the glass door. He could still hear two voice out on the balcony. And with the glass door open, he could hear what they were saying.
"What do you think of Cale? Am I just imagining it?"
Cale recognized that as Halo talking.
"Everyone noticed how he behaved this morning toward you. There is something strange about him, but at the same time he feels. . . familiar. Like a relative you've only met a few times coming to visit."
Cale knew that to be Strata, and he wondered about his words. A relative? Familiar? Yet, he felt something akin to Strata's words to the boy. But it was something more. Something he didn't know the name to. He listened on.
"Yeah, I know it sounds weird," Strata went on. "Just forget what I said."
There were some sounds of footsteps.
"Enjoy your star gazing."
Halo entered the house softly.
Cale clenched his fists, ready to defend himself if Halo spotted him. But the young man didn't look around, but just went in further into the apartment. Then Cale felt angry, suddenly guessing what the Ronins were talking about. They were talking about him. And Halo must have been in the thick of it, trying to poison the other Ronins with ugly ideas of Cale. Halo was trying to turn all of them against him. And at the end, he gave his best friend a double dose, making sure that Cale would be seen as the bad guy if anything happened.
Cale frowned as a thought disturbed him. He never was interested in the personal lives of the Ronins, it was a war back then. So, how did he know that Strata and Halo were best friends?
He was brought out of his thoughts by Strata's voice, and he almost forgot that the last Ronin was out on the balcony.
"Star light, star bright."
Almost automatically, Cale opened his mouth and said, "First star I see tonight." He didn't mean to give away his hiding place, but he couldn't help it like it was an old habit that never could be broken. He stepped out of the shadows where Strata could see him, and out onto the balcony.
"Actually, it's not a star. It's a planet. Venus. It's sometimes called the evening and morning star."
Strata looked nervous. Could the boy know that Cale was spying on him and Halo? He tried to act casual.
"Stars, planets. What's the difference?" Cale spat with contempt for the balls of light that were starting to appear against the dark blue. "They're all the same. Balls of light that do nothing, but sit there uselessly."
"Maybe to you," Strata shot defensively. "Without the stars, we wouldn't know North from South. We wouldn't have calendars, maps, telescopes. If there weren't any stars, men wouldn't have dreamed about traveling beyond the Earth, and we wouldn't have rocket ships, satellites, or any of our astrological science. It's like they inspire man to dream. Some people even believe that stars can predict the future."
"Dreams? Future?" Cale laughed with mocking smirk. He turned his dark eyes onto Strata. "You sound like an idiot, boy. Dreams are for those who can't face reality. And as for a future, it's never what anyone thinks it will be. I'll tell you what dreams are made of. Nothing. Beyond the so called future, there is nothing. There is nothing but darkness. That is where I am." Cale could feel the darkness all around him, and knew this to be truth. His future was darkness, and so was everyone else's.
"Maybe it's because you don't have any dreams, and you think you don't have a future," Strata muttered looking like he wanted to start a fight with Cale.
Cale grinned sadly. "You're right. I lost my dreams a long time ago. And when they were gone, I didn't care about my future. I only had darkness."
"Is that why you are a Warlord?"
Cale couldn't remember that far back, or something made him forget. He could only grin. "Yeah, I guess that's the reason."
Silence followed Cale's words, but he continued to watch Strata with a piercing glare. He was studying the youth, trying to figure everything out. His brain was so muddled, but it seemed like this young man was centered around all of it. He was the key to understanding who that red headed girl was.
"But you're not fighting for Talpa anymore," Strata broke the silence. "Then why are you still acting like Sage is your enemy?"
Cale's eyes went from interest to hatred. "Because Halo is still my enemy."
"But the war is over," Strata protested.
"Not this one," Cale growled at strata. "This war isn't over yet."
"But why?" Strata persisted.
This is Halo's doing. He's put so much of his filth into these boys' heads, they'll turn against me at a moment's notice. Well, I can play at that game too, Halo, Cale thought to himself.
Cale grabbed Strata by the shoulders and pulled him until they were face to face. "Because Halo is a traitor and a murderer!" he whispered like a wolf would, glaring at the youth. "He may claim to fight for right and protect the weak, but he's nothing but a dirty, filthy. . ."
"That's not true!" Strata denied and broke from Cale's grip. "Sage was right; there is something wrong with you."
Cale chuckled. Oh, naive fool.
"Is that what Halo said about me? Like he knows me? Halo knows nothing about me, but I know all about Halo."
"What do you know about Sage?" Strata shouted at him. "You claim you know Sage, but you obviously don't. I've known Sage since we were kids, and I know he's not what you've said he is."
Cale chuckled and wondered if there really was something wrong with him. Why would he laugh at a time like this? It was Halo that had done him wrong, not the other way around. But Cale knew that Halo's true nature will eventually show through. And it will not be on his head if this boy didn't listen to him. "Fine, be a fool. But I won't let Halo trick me again. But listen to me, Strata. You say Halo is your friend, but watch him closely. He will betray you, and he'll do it soon. Watch him very closely."
Cale didn't expect Strata to become so hostile as the young man grabbed his collar jacket.
"Sage is my friend, and I trust him with my life," Strata said with as much conviction as any man. "And I wouldn't be his friend if I just stand here while you trash talk his name. I'm warning you, if you try to hurt him or any of my other friends, I'll definitely make sure you don't have a future."
Cale looked into Strata's eyes, and the young man's expression changed from anger to something else. Pity? Cale pulled away from Strata's grip and chuckled. "Fine, but I'm not the one you should be worrying about." Then he moved back into the apartment, leaving the young man to himself. As soon as he went inside, he suddenly felt very tired. He touched his forehead and it was hot and moist, like he was sweating. It almost felt as if he were near that horrible dark creature, but without the pain.
Cale shook his head, shaking off the idea. It was crazy. He put his hands in his pockets, and went to find the other Warlords. It was almost time for the hunt.
Just before they split up, they divided into groups of three. Cale listened to the discussion in silence. In each group, either Halo, Strata or himself had to be in each group, which was fine for him; the less he saw of Halo's face the happier he'd be.
But as the night grew deeper and darker, the Bearer of the Armor of Corruption felt agitated. Something in his memory stirred and made him restless. He could sense something in the air, as if fate was pulling on their strings in a certain way. Something was going to happen that night, and it wasn't going to be good. Cale was so preoccupied in his own thoughts that he didn't even notice Ryo pulling Kayura aside to talk in private. It was only after a tap on his armor from Kayura's hand that he came back to reality.
"Hey, we have our assignment. Let's go," the young woman told Cale, and twirled her staff. "Come on, Torrent."
"Coming," Torrent said, hesitant to leave his companions behind. He looked unsure of his new team mates especially since theirs was the only group with a single Ronin.
"You know Toyama better than we do," Kayura said as she pushed the map and walkie-talkie at Torrent. "You should lead us."
Torrent looked surprised and even more unsure of himself. It was obvious he didn't expect to lead anyone anywhere on this expedition. But he stumbled through a suggestion of where they should start their search, and after an encouraging smile from Kayura went on with that plan.
As the Ronin led the way on a rapid run, Kayura dropped back so she could talk to the Warlord.
"Is everything going well, Cale?" she asked and waited for those dark eyes to look down at her.
"Yes, everything is well save for the creature of darkness attacking the innocent," Cale told her, his tone telling her that he wasn't in the mood for small talk.
"Yes, besides that, are you okay?" Kayura pressed, matching the Warlord's tone. "Is there anything bugging you?"
"No," Cale stated.
Kayura pursed her lips together, preparing for another line of attack, so to speak. "You seem to be very irritated lately. You've been grumpier than usual."
"I'm fine," Cale told her, glancing slightly her way before concentrating on what was before him.
That was when Kayura knew this wasn't going to be easy, and decided to stop pussy-footing around it. "What's the deal with you and Halo?" she asked, her voice telling him that he better tell her or else.
"Mind your business, girl," Cale told her with a growl.
Kayura's face bunched up in a deep frown. She opened her lungs for maximum capacity as she spoke in a loud voice. "What you do and how you act is my business if it affects your performance on this mission. You obviously haven't forgotten that we are stalking a dangerous creature, and every minute that it is free could mean another victim, so you should know as a warrior how to keep your personal feelings to yourself so that you can be fit for battle."
"This has nothing to do with that," Cale shouted at her. "I can fight just fine. . ."
"If you have something against someone on your team, you deal with it in case it impairs your judgement," Kayura rounded on him. "And I don't want to have to hear about this again."
"Oh, was one of those Ronins complaining?"
The two were yelling so loudly at each other, they didn't seem to notice what Torrent was doing. The Ronin watched them fight at a distance, but then someone spoke his name over the radio, so he turned his attention to the walkie-talkie. Torrent talked normally through the radio, often looking back at his companions while they continued to argue.
Suddenly, someone was shouting over the radio, their voice urgent.
"Rowen, what is it?"
"I. . I think we found it. Sekhmet says that it's definitely the creature that we've been looking for."
Torrent gripped the walkie-talkie like it was a snake that he had caught, and if he let go it would bite him. He shouted at his companions, "Rowen's group has found it."
Kayura and Cale immediately stopped fighting with each other, and gathered around him listening to the voices on the walkie-talkie.
"Where is it?"
"We're at the high school, in the football field."
Cale grabbed the walkie-talkie from Torrent, and asked into it urgently. "What is it doing?"
He recognized Strata's voice answering. "It looks like it's attacking the air, it can't go any further."
"It's the shield." That was Dais' voice from Ryo's walkie-talkie. "It's been attacking that area ever since we put the shield last night."
A half-formed thought came into Cale's mind, one that he wasn't all too certain of. It almost felt like animal instincts telling him what was going to happen before it did. He knew which team was closest to the area. He shouted into the radio with such power that Kayura and Torrent stepped back, "Halo, get over there now."
Ignoring all other talk that came from the machine, Cale took off in the direction of the high school without being told where it was, and not caring if the other two armor bearers followed. Dark whispers told him he shouldn't go in that direction, that he should keep away. He had lived with those dark whispers for so long that he wondered why he didn't heed them. But there was another voice that spoke to him, a voice that he was sure he knew, but hadn't heard for a very long time. It told him to hurry in that direction.
And he ran.
"The creature is out! It's out of the net. How did it get out?" Strata's voice shouted from the walkie-talkie.
Cale's heart quickened, and he ran faster. There was someone in trouble. The creature was after someone that he cared about. He was certain of that. He had to get to her. He had to save her and protect her. Cale's head was so full of thoughts and memories that were bubbling out from the past that he didn't notice Torrent taking the walkie-talkie away.
"Where are you? Where is it going?" Torrent shouted into the walkie-talkie.
"It's after Robyn!" Strata's voice answered.
Cale didn't see Torrent's face drain of color because of what Strata had said. The name "Robyn," it was such a strange name. It wasn't a common name, but it was familiar with him. Suddenly, his head hurt as if a red hot poker was shoved into his brain. He slowed down as more and more memories flooded in his already confused mind. He could see things that had happened, but they hadn't happened.
Cale vaguely heard Torrent plead into the radio, "Rowen, you gotta save her! Please!"
She must be saved, Cale knew that above everything else. He was in great pain, but he knew only one truth. This Robyn must be saved. And there was only one who could do that.
Cale snatched the walkie-talkie, and shouted in it, "Where is Halo? He needs to be there. He's the only one that can keep the creature at bay."
"Sage, where are you? Hurry, we're there." That was Strata's voice. And then they heard him swear.
"What is it, Rowen? What's going on?" Torrent asked, his voice shaking.
"Y-your house," Strata said in a soft voice. "It's a wreck."
"I don't know," Strata confessed. "We're going in. I'm not going to be able to talk in this thing."
"We're right behind you," a strong voice said in the walkie-talkie.
"Where the hell have you been, Halo?" Cale snarled.
There was no answer.
"It would probably be best if we kept radio silence now that some of us are on the battlefield," Kayura told Cale, and gently took the walkie-talkie from Cale. "And we should pick our speed up. We are further away, and we should join our comrades."
Torrent was already further in front of them, especially since he knew better where they were going.
Cale clenched his teeth like a wolf bearing his teeth. That girl better be alright, Halo. Because if she isn't, I'm holding you responsible. It was strange for him to think those kind of thoughts. How could he be so passionate about someone he had never met before? What was happening to him? He couldn't answer any of these questions.
Suddenly, his heart seized as if a hand of nails had grabbed a hold of it. The shock of the sharp, intense pain made his legs lock up, and he fell to the ground, his armor preventing him from being hurt by the fall. But any injuries he would have attained from the fall would have been drowned out by the raging agony in his chest. Vaguely, he was aware of Kayura shouting and standing above him. For a few minutes, he was unable to move or even think. His world was a searing white even though it was night, and he forgot everything else.
Then, just as it came, it left.
Cale looked up and in the dark sky, bright beams of light jumped from the ground at a distance. It was like a few dozen bolts of lightning were dancing with each other, flashing and crashing all around them.
"Halo, he made it," Kayura said with an exhale of relief. "That's his surekill."
"Halo," Cale growled so softly Kayura couldn't hear him.
"Is he going to be okay?" Torrent asked.
"He should be. We've learned that the proximity of the creature causes him pain," Kayura admitted. "But the distance has never been this great. It must have been masking its power until now."
Cale sat up, his breath heaving. As he did, he could see Torrent's face looking toward where the lightning was with a look of horror and ultimate concern. It bothered him. Even though he was utterly exhausted, he stood up. "We better go see what the damage is," he said in a husky voice.
"But you should rest some more," Kayura said, noticing how slowly her companion moved.
"I'm fine," Cale said simply. "I can make it that far. Let's go."
For a while, Kayura and Torrent had to go slowly for his benefit, but after a few minutes, he improved immediately.
"The creature is gone," Cale told the others.
"Is it destroyed? Did they get it?" Torrent asked quickly.
Cale shook his head. "I doubt it. The pain slowly went away."
They ran the rest of the way without a sound. It wasn't hard to tell when they arrived to the site. A two story house was literally ripped apart with boards and furniture littering the yard and road as if a tornado escaped from the home. Several of the armor bearers were nearby.
Torrent ran faster than Cale and Kayura, going to where Dais, Hardrock and Halo surrounded a red-headed girl. Dais and Hardrock were yelling at each other.
"Robyn!" he shouted, and wrapped his arms around her.
Kayura quickly ran up to Dais, and shouted in her angriest voice, "Oh, stop it, you two. You promised me you wouldn't cause any trouble, Uncle Dais."
Torrent let go of the red-headed girl to watch Kayura yell at the men, and everything that was said after Cale shut out. The girl looked around at all the armor bearers, and for a second her eyes rested on him. He froze as if he had been struck by lightning. It was the same red hair and green eyes, the same face that had been haunting him for centuries. When she looked at him, everything came back to him all at once. The random images, the blurry thoughts, everything that had been disturbing him for lifetimes, it all cleared up. History fell into place. Any question of his identity, of where he came from, were all answered. It all happened with just a glance of those eyes, the first time he'd seen them in person for years.
He didn't know how long he had been looking at the girl, but was suddenly brought to reality from an elbow in the ribs. He looked over, and saw Dais next to him.
"What is it?"
"You were starring."
Cale tried to act nonchalant, and looked away from the girl in a casual way. Looking away quickly would only look suspicious. "No I wasn't. I'm just tired," he lied.
"Fine," Dais said and left to address the other Warlords.
Cale started to follow, but he looked back at Robyn, the girl who had been staring at him for centuries. And he remembered why.