1Kimiko's Dilemma part 5

Raimundo's mind was reeling now. So much had happened in such a short time. There were so many things he didn't know that he really wanted to know. But unfortunately, he had no time to worry about that right now. He was with his teammates, fighting off round after round of Jack-bots.

Raimundo looked up at Jack, who was floating above all of the action with his heli-bot. By the look on his face, Rai could tell that he must be getting to somewhere near the end of his rope. He wasn't calling on more Jack-bots, so they must be nearing the end of them.

"Reaching the end of your rope, huh, partner?" Clay asked mockingly, confirming that he'd also noticed Jack's sudden hesitation.

"You wish!" Jack said, but his face didn't show the confidence that was evident in his voice. "Don't think you'll win so easily!"

"We will not stop fighting until our friend Kimiko is back with us, safe and sound," Omi said, shaking his fist at the Heylin triumphantly.

"Heh, well, lots of luck to you, then," Jack smirked. "Considering you get your little buddy back-which you won't!-you're gonna have a hell of a time bringing her back to your side."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Raimundo said, suddenly curious as to Jack's true intentions. "Why did you want Kimiko in the first place? You've tried this plan before and it failed. Why would you try it again?"

"Well, the last time I tried this, when I 'failed'-" he put air quotes around the word "failed," as if to say he hadn't really failed at all (which he had.) "I realized that that plan had many holes."

"Yes! It was clear as crystal, Jack Spicer!" Omi said.

"Just like every other 'plan' you conjure up in your moronic, little head," Raimundo said.

"Well, this time, I used the real, honest-to-God Kimiko," Jack said. "And she agreed to help with my plan. Shows how much she really cares about you losers."

"Kimiko would never do that!" Omi said, still looking hurt all the same.

"Kimiko is way too stubborn to give up that easily. We could barely get her to work together with us when she'd first gotten here. She'd never agree to anything like that," Raimundo said. The others look surprised when they turned to face him, thrown off guard by his nonchalant stab at Kimiko's "independent" nature. Raimundo was perfectly aware of what he'd said, but he'd decided long ago that he was the only one who could tease his teammate. Anyone else who dared to speak of her negatively would be beaten to a pulp swiftly and painfully.

"I admire your trust in your friend, but what I say is the truth," Jack smirked. "She is mine now and nothing you can say will change that." Jack threw his pale head back and cackled, but his gloating was interrupted when he heard a slight sound to his right. "She's my bitch now."

The second Jack looked down, Raimundo's fist connected with his cheek, sending him spiraling to the ground. Jack's head was hazy and his head was spinning. The pain in his jaw would only be duplicated if he were to be hit by a mallet, and tears stung his eyes as he attempted to look up at his attacker.

Raimundo's face was what some might call terrifying. His eyes were narrowed dangerously and his emeralds had a furious glint in them. His lip was curled back into a wicked snarl.

"Don't you ever…." He paused and took a deep breath that was so ragged with rage it sounded like Rai's throat was lined with glass. "-call her that."

"Wha-"

"How dare you!" Raimundo said, winding back to hit him again. He was about to swing, but his arm was stopped in mid-air. Clay and Omi had grabbed his arm (although Omi was just hanging on Raimundo's arm), holding him back.

"Rai, you need to calm down. He's not worth it," Clay said.

"Yes! Violence is not the answer!" Omi said. Strange thing for a Xiaolin kung-fu warrior to say.

"Yeah, but it'll feel good!" Rai said, trying to wriggle free of their grasp.

But before he could do anything else, a piercing shriek pierced the night air, stilling everyone's hearts for a second, and then sent them pounding.

"That's Kimiko!" Omi yelped, scared. "Where is she?"

"Anyone seen Wuya?" Jack added, mostly to himself.

Without another word, Raimundo bolted off in the direction of the girl's screams, followed closely behind by Clay and Omi, Jack bringing up the rear.

"Get out of my head!" Kimiko squealed, inside her own head, clutching her throbbing skull. I don't understand it. Why was this happening? I don't want to,,,

"Your head?" the other Kimiko chuckled. "You should really check the scoreboard, child. Who's the one talking to herself?"

"Stop with your jokes!" Kimiko snapped, however in doing so made her head throb harder. "Get out of my head!"

"Its not really your head anymore," the voice said. "In fact, its not really anyone's head. Your body is just an empty vessel now."

Kimiko straightened a little at that. "Wha… What do you mean?"

"I mean, you're only here because somehow you were able to get past Wuya and get here. Right now, you're just floating around in your subconscious, caught between nowhere and nothing."

"Wha- No!" Kimiko said, shaking her head, bringing another jab of pain to her temples. "I don't want to-!"

"Don't want to what? Disappear?" the other Kimiko said. The voice cackled. "Darling, I'm afraid that has long since past. You are gone forever."

Kimiko said nothing, listening in despair as her voice taunted her.

"Once you get to this state, there's no way you can return to your body. You are gone. All that's standing between your body and me is you. You're never going to be able to go back, so you might as well just give up."

"No! I will never give up," Kimiko said, more to herself than, well, herself.

"Oh, why not? It'll make both of our journeys a hell of a lot easier," the other voice practically whined.

"Because I'm not going to believe that this is over," she said. "There has got to be a way to return to my old self. And I'm not going to give up until that happens."

"Ugh, why do you keep this up, human? You're just hurting yourself," she said. "Who cares about Raimundo? Its not like he could possibly care for you."

Kimiko didn't want to hear what her voice had to say, but for some reason, she just couldn't escape it.

"He's just the smart-ass kid who thought he could have a good time by messing with the first girl he saw. That's how guys are, sweetie. That's how they all are."

"I don't believe you! There's no way..." Kimiko trailed off, her mind wandering back to the moment Rai had lost the Showdown. She was being spirited away by their arch-enemies and he had done nothing to stop them. He'd just stood there as they took her. He didn't help, he didn't fight for her... He didn't care.

"See? He's just a guy. Guys barely ever take anything seriously. They think that girls are just their little play things that they can manipulate and screw with until they get bored, then they just throw them aside and find a new toy. Raimundo no different than any other guy. It's the circle of life, kid. About time you learned it," the other voice stated bluntly.

"But Raimundo wouldn't..." Kimiko's real mind couldn't find any more ways to argue against the other side. Raimundo had humiliated her. Her?! How dare he! He was just an insensitive pig. Its about time he got his.

But there was always that little voice in the background, not really connected to Kimiko, but still trying to get through to her.

No! Raimundo is my friend! Sure, he hurt me once... or twice or.... But he didn't mean it! You've got to fight it!

But Kimiko couldn't fight back anymore. Slowly, ever so slowly, her other side was overshadowing her. She couldn't think of anymore arguments, and that little voice in the back was just a faint, almost inaudible whisper.

"Kimiko, if you let yourself go and let me take over, all the pain will be over. We will get revenge on that wretched boy. Won't you like that? Wouldn't you like to see him suffer? After all he put you through? He deserves it. Just let yourself go, Kimiko. Just let it all go," the voice spoke in a calm, relaxing voice, egging Kimiko on. And it was working.

And slowly, she was beginning to forget what had happened and what she was trying to fight against.

What kiss? I don't remember. He bet me in a what? Xiaolin Dragon? What is that? Omi who? Clay who? Raimundo who?

It was almost all gone. Kimiko could feel herself disappearing, but she didn't care. She couldn't even feel what was going on. She was detached, unaware, ignorant.

"You know... you're my best friend, right?" a small, frail voice trickled to her ears. She was leaving herself, but the sound still traveled to her ears. And the instant that sound hit her, she perked up.

"More than anyone... even back home in Rio," the voice continued. What was that voice? It was smooth and familiar, hearing it made her feel safe. But no matter what, the owner of that voice just wouldn't appear to her. The face just wouldn't return to her.

"Kimiko, they were threatening you, I had no other choice!" the voice sound angry now. Angry and worried. This time, the sound of the voice made Kimiko's heart hurt. Why? What was this voice that gave her such a feeling of ecstasy and heartbreak at the same time?

"W-Who is that?" Kimiko spoke, but her voice sound raspy and low, like she was losing it. She suddenly returned to herself and she realized how much this all hurt. She could feel herself going away and it caused her immense pain. But no matter what, she had to find out who this was. She didn't know why, but for some reason, finding out who this voice belonged to was more important to her than anything ever.

"I think I'm Raimundo. In fact, I don't think, I know," the voice said, echoing as it faded.

"Raimundo?" the name sound familiar and the very mention of it sent chills down her spine. Good chills. Yes, Raimundo! She knew him! But from where?

"Kimiko," the sound of this Raimundo's voice echoed over and over in her head, calling her to him, but she couldn't voice, she couldn't reach out to this voice.

"Raimundo..." she said again, slowly regaining a picture in her head. First, she saw the chocolate-colored hair and the mocha-colored skin that coincided perfectly with it. The skin glowed with a beauty that she couldn't comprehend, and she felt like she didn't need to. Next, came the emerald crystals that he was famous for, the forest green gems that sparkled like stars, even in the darkest of times. Then, finally, the rest of his face materialized, laughing, smiling, looking all around elated. But the face was still faint, transparent, empty. The faint sound of his rich, hearty laughter lapped at her ears. But she wanted more! She wanted to bask in that wonderful sound.

"Raimundo..." Kimiko moaned, feeling everything come back to her suddenly in a rush. A rush so hard that she regained her pounding headache.

"Raimundo... is my.... friend?" Yes! A friend! But from where? How did she know him?

The picture became a little more clear and the sound became louder.

"Raimundo and I are friends... we met...." she struggled to remember, but just trying to remember back that far caused her headache to escalate into a migraine.

"Ai, girl, you look like a kid's dress-up box threw up on you," Raimundo said, the voice dripping with sarcasm.

Okay, that's not exactly what Kimiko would call a particularly happy memory, but she was happy to remember a little more.

"We are friends because we...." her mind went back to Raimundo's speech about her being his best friend. They were... training! Yes! They were training because they were.... Xiaolin Warriors together.

She'd figured out who the voice was! Raimundo Pedrosa, her best friend and teammate. But why was it so important to remember him?

"No! What are you doing? Don't you want your revenge, you fool?" Kimiko's detached voice screamed.

"Revenge? For what? On who?" Kimiko asked, looking around for the source of the disembodied voice.

"On Raimundo! For kissing you!" the other Kimiko screamed.

Raimundo, Clay, and Omi were running, scouring every inch of the courtyard of the vast temple, trying to find their fellow Dragon, Jack at their heels. Although not admitting it, he was also searching for Kimiko from the air, worried.

They all strained their ears, trying to hear any sign of Kimiko, another shriek, a moan, a whisper. But there was nothing. Silence.

After searching around the temple almost twice, Clay finally found her, hidden in a dark corner between two walls. She was lying on the ground, her arms and legs splayed limply and uselessly. Clay's mouth was hanging open for a few seconds, but then he closed it and his eyes fell to his feet.

"Clay! Clay, have you found any sign of our friend-" Omi ran up next to him, unaware, and Clay wished he'd been able to warn Omi before his saw her. And the instant he did, Omi's eyes widened. "Clay… Clay, what's wrong with her? Why does she look so… so…" Clay just shook his head, telling Omi that he didn't need to finish his question.

"Raimundo will not like this at all," Omi said, his voice cracking.

"What won't I like?" Raimundo said, walking up behind his friends.

"Um… well… its…." Omi tried to explain but Clay put his hand on his shoulder. Then, he pointed towards Kimiko's limp form.

The second Raimundo saw her, Jack flew up behind the group, confused. He was about to say something, but then his eyes landed on the petite, motionless form of the Japanese girl, he shut his mouth quickly. This was his fault, wasn't it?

He turned, glancing once back towards the sad group, then started to fly away.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?"

Suddenly, a wall of hardened, dark earth burst up out of the ground right in front of where Jack's copter was heading, and he wasn't able to steer away, so he slammed right into the wall.

Then, as he fell, a powerful gale of wind twirled Jack through the air until he was upside-down facing the ground. Then, the gust disappeared and he dropped heavily to the ground.

Raimundo and Clay were standing by Jack's head when he fell, staring down at him with a murderous look that could only be topped if Jack had killed their families.

"What is wrong with her?" Raimundo growled.

Jack lifted his head off of the ground and groaned, "How should I know? I'm just as clueless as you are. I just walked up now too."

"You're not bull-shitting your way out of this one," the Brazilian growled darkly. "What's the matter with her?"

At that moment, the violet spector Wuya emerged from Kimiko's lifeless body.

"Wuya!" Jack said, his eyes widening as if he suddenly understood what was going on, then he changed his expression quickly. But it was too late, the Xiaolins had noticed.

"Wuya! What did you do to her?" Raimundo practically snarled.

"Nothing! Really!" Wuya said defensively, her raspy voice hinting some guilt. "All I did was overshadow her for a second and then she became a completely empty vessel."

"WHAT?!" the three boys all shrieked at once.

"Wuya! I told you not to overshadow her while she's in this state!" Jack said, then the look on his face said he instantly regretted it. He smacked his hand over his mouth.

"What state?" Clay asked angrily.

"Well, its just that, well…"

Jack was hoisted up by his collar and was forced to look right into the forest green eyes of the Wind Dragon.

"Start explaining."

"H-He kissed me?" Kimiko felt a dark blush coming to her pale cheeks as the words brushed past her lips. "W-Why is that such a problem?"

"Because he doesn't mean it," her other voice said. "He just wanted to mess with you. You don't mean anything to him."

"No, t-that's not true. Raimundo is my… friend," she moaned as the pain in her head intensified again.

"Why would you want to return to someone who doesn't care for you and would only want to hurt you?" the voice taunted.

"But he does care!"

"And how exactly would you know, child?" the other Kimiko said doubtfully. "Your mind is just telling you what you want to hear. You have no idea whether he cares for you or not."

"But I-I care…" Kimiko mumbled.

"What?" the other voice said, obviously not having heard herself. "I didn't catch that!" She shouted forcefully and angrily at Kimiko, not giving her any choice other than to answer.

"I care about him!" Kimiko shouted. And in an instant, it all came back. "I care about him more than anything! He's my best friend and I… I… love him."

"Love him? You sure are a masochist. This is only going to hurt you!" the voice chuckled. "Maybe I should bring you back to life. I wonder what would hurt you more. Actually dying, or going back to a life where nothing but pain and ignorance waits for you."

"Y-You can send me back? You have the ability to bring me back?" Kimiko looked around again for the source of the voice but found nothing.

"Y-Yes I do. I am you after all. I can do what I please with your body and your mind," the other voice said, as if being able to control something that could be thought to be treading on God's domain was normal.

"Then send me back!"

"Don't wanna," the external voice said, as if she were a child that had just been asked to clean her room.

"Send me back! I don't want to die! I still have-"

"What are you saying, mortal?" the voice chuckled. "A couple of minutes ago you were more than willing to give your life. You were on the verge of disappearing forever until you regained yourself."

"That doesn't matter now! I have to go back now!" Kimiko screamed, her blue eyes sparkling with a new round of tears.

"Why?" the other voice said. Even though she was just a voice, she seemed to be talking with a smile on her face, Kimiko's distress was like music to her ears (non-existent or otherwise.)

"I have to go back because… I have something to live for on the other side!"

"Dead?" the words escaped Raimundo's mouth in the kind of breath one would use to speak his dying wishes. His heart stopped for a second but it seemed like longer and Raimundo didn't breath again for so long that he thought that the next second would be his last. And that would be fine with him.

"How could she be dead?" Clay growled, staring down at the goth teen as he stared at his own feet.

"Well, to put it in scientifically, because her way of thinking changed so suddenly due to… ahem, outside forces, her mind was in a very delicate state and anything like a certain ghost hag overshadowing her could possibly cause her nervous system to shut down completely," Jack said, emphasizing only the parts in which he was not to blame.

"So she's dead?!" Raimundo screamed at the red-head, not able to contain himself anymore. "I'm going to kill you!"

"Wait, Raimundo! She's still breathing!" Omi said, his hand underneath Kimiko's nostrils, obviously feeling for any sign of life in his friend.

"What the hell are you talking about then, Spicer?" Raimundo yelled.

"Well, the most likely result is death. The other one is an indefinite state of vegetation," Jack said thoughtfully.

"So there are only two outcomes?!" Clay shouted. "Either she's brain-dead or actually dead?!"

"But I don't want Kimiko to be dead," tears filled Omi's eyes and he looked down sadly at his friend.

Raimundo was shaking. He couldn't believe it. He'd never be able to talk to Kimiko again. He'd never be able to laugh with her again. Argue with her. He'd never be able to be with her.

It was all his fault. He was so stupid.

"You're going to go back to that world where the man you love ignores you?" the other voice asked.

"Every other girl in this world deals with it. I think I should too," Kimiko said, smiling. "Even though there are many other reasons to live on, one of the first reasons is that I don't care if he doesn't love me back. I just want to see him again."

"You're an idiot, just like all humans. You are living on false hopes. Its pathetic really. Just give up," the other Kimiko growled, but there was something like worry in her voice.

"No," the young Japanese girl said.

"What?"

"NO!" Kimiko's hands were suddenly ablaze with a dark, angry fire and her sapphire eyes were narrowed into a scowl. "I don't care if he toys with me. I'm not going to let it end this way." Her lips curled into a smile. "I have something to live for on the other side."

Raimundo shifted his weight so that the body of his best friend rested comfortably in his arms. She looked so innocent; her head was slightly elevated on his elbow and her petite body was folded even smaller in his arms.

He carried her carefully into her bedroom and placed her down gingerly on her cot.

She looked like she was sleeping, her pale face looked so peaceful.

He sat against the wall in her sectioned-off room and stared down at her, but he couldn't bear to look at her. His heart started racing every second he watched her, because he knew she'd probably never wake up again.

What am I going to do? He thought miserably. I-I can't live without her.

He leaned his head back against the wall, tears gathering in his eyes. He closed them and before he knew it, he was asleep.

Kimiko was suddenly surrounded by nothing but darkness. She couldn't move, but she felt herself beginning to stir and everything was coming back to her. Her senses and her feeling returned to her.

Her eyes finally fluttered open but all she saw was darkness. But she could also see the shapes and traits that made up her room. She was back.

She heard a small groan next to her and she sat up, scanning her small room. Raimundo was sitting against her wall, fast asleep. Her heart almost exploded and her face instantly reddened.

She got up on all fours and shuffled her way over to where Ramundo was and looked up at him.

Raimundo moaned a little in his sleep. "Kimiko…"

Kimiko's face turned deep red and she leaned in closer to him. She placed her hand on his face and tapped him gently. "Raimundo." He did nothing. She tapped a little harder. "Raimundo!" Nothing. She groaned a little and sighed. "RAIMUNDO!" She raised her hand and then smacked him across the head as hard as she could. His head flew backward and he toppled down onto the ground.

"Ow!" he moaned sleepily. He rolled over to glare at his attacker, but when he saw who it was his eyes widened and his mocha skin turned pale.

"Kimiko…" he sat up, his eyes shimmering with incredulous tears and he was rubbing his head, even though he didn't feel any pain. "You're… you're…"

She covered his mouth with her hand, her eyes narrowed. She appeared to be contemplating something but she also seemed to be determined about something.

"Look, I know its been a crazy day and you're exhausted and I'm exhausted and I probably have no idea what I'm saying right now since I was just about to die but I'm just gonna say it now. I love you, okay?" Both of their faces reddened at the same time and Raimundo opened his mouth to say something and Kimiko waited for him, but he seemed to be having a mental block and nothing came out of his mouth, so Kimiko continued.

"I've loved you for a really long time. Probably since the day we met. I'm sorry it took so long for me to say it, but you don't care anyway so it doesn't matter. I didn't want to push you away when you kissed me, its just that you caught me off guard and I… I don't even really know why I pushed you away. Whatever, now is the part where you laugh at me for being so stupid as to believe that you'd actually like me."

Raimundo looked like he'd finally gotten his right mind back but then he was stunned into silence again. When he finally got his voice back, his voice was dripping with confusion.

"Laugh at you? What are you talking about?"

"Well, you obviously just kissed me to make fun of me, right?" Kimiko said flatly. She put on the fakest smile she could muster and she knew that probably even Omi would be able to sense how false and meaningless it was. "But its okay. We can still be friends."

"You think I was just doing that to screw with you?" Raimundo's emerald eyes suddenly became stormy and his face had darkened. "What kind of person do you think I am?"

"Oh, I don't mean it against your person. Its just me," Kimiko said.

"Well, I take offense to that," Raimundo said sternly. "I would never do that to someone unless I meant it. How could you think I'd lie to you like that?"

"Wait, what are you saying?" Kimiko's heart had started beating faster and her palms were sweating.

"I'm saying that I love you too. And that this is the part where I kiss you, because you're the best thing that ever happened to me."

Raimundo leaned over and kissed Kimiko. She was surprised for a second, then she kissed him back. She broke them apart for just a moment, long enough for her to say, "Just so you know, I'm still mad at you for everything that happened to today."

Raimundo smiled. "I can live with that."