Quiet Magics 6

Shadows in the Night

"Ranma, I'm not sure this is a good idea." Hotaru stood in the hall, talking through the closed bathroom door. Getting to this point had been hell. The petite redhead was a lot heavier than she looked, and she hadn't been very stable on her feet. Twice Hotaru had needed to 'catch' the girl. Both times the young senshi had managed to do little more than break the redhead's fall. It was not a comfortable experience.

The cursed individual really wasn't in any condition to be out of bed, but what were they supposed to do? It was like Ranma said, "When ya gotta go, ya gotta go."

Hotaru put her ear to the door, trying to decipher the sounds coming from within. She prayed the stubborn martial artist wouldn't try negotiating the tile floor without help. Apparently he had a tendency to be a bit stubborn. The senshi suspected it was his self sacrificing nature. He had been so worried the first time he'd fallen on her in the hall. His concern was sweet, really, but sometimes it just wasn't good for him.


The girl jumped at the unexpected voice. Her adopted parents stood in the hallway looking at her curiously.

"Don't do that!" Hotaru took a few calming breaths in an attempt to slow her pulse back down to something reasonable. "It's bad enough when Setsuna-mama surprises me."

Her papa smiled. "Sorry squirt. We didn't realize the bathroom door was that captivating."

"What exactly are you doing anyway?" Michiru asked.

Hotaru looked back towards the bathroom door uncomfortably. How to explain this? "Uh… Ranma, you know, the boy? He woke up and he needed some help… um… you know… getting to the bathroom."

Haruka seemed slightly surprised. "Wow. I'm impressed. I didn't think he'd be moving around any time soon."

"Is he alright?" Michiru asked concerned.

"Well… kind of." Would Ranma be upset with her if she revealed his alter ego? "He… he was really dizzy, but he seemed coherent. Other than that… well… I should probably let him explain when he's a bit more… normal."

Haruka nodded in understanding. "If he's up and walking about after only a day, then that head wound probably wasn't as bad as it looked."

"We should keep an eye on him for a few days though," Michiru considered. "He should be monitored at least until the dizziness passes. At any rate we really shouldn't leave him alone in the house, regardless of his state. Hotaru will have to stay here tonight."

Hotaru looked at her parents confused. "Are you two going out on a date tonight or something? Isn't it a bit late for that?"

Haruka frowned. "Not a date, no. We just got a call from Ami." The blonde father figured glanced at the bathroom door briefly before continuing in a softer tone. "She and Minako were attacked while checking out the scene of last night's incident. It seems they weren't the only ones interested in what happened there."

"A-attacked?" Hotaru shivered. For a moment she felt those horrible yellow eyes burning into her again. "Are… are they okay?"

"They're fine," Michiru replied quietly, "but their assailant got away. We were just on our way to go help with the hunt."

Hotaru nodded, feeling a cold twisting in her gut. Setsuna-mama had deflected her question about a new enemy yesterday. That had all but confirmed the existence of a threat as far as Hotaru was concerned, so this wasn't unexpected. Still, the young senshi was hoping the battles wouldn't start in earnest quite so soon.

Haruka smirked, apparently reading her young ward's concern. "Don't worry, we'll be just fine. From what Ami said it doesn't sound like this is going to take very long."

"In the mean time you'll need to take care of our guest, Hotaru." The aqua tressed senshi rested her hands on the younger girl's shoulders and grinned. "He's probably hungry. We've got some leftovers in the fridge."

The young senshi blushed and glanced over at the bathroom door. She knew her guardians were trying to distract her, but at least they'd hit on a good distraction. "Call if things get bad, okay?"

Hotaru's father figure patted her on the head affectionately as the two older women passed her and moved down the stairs. "We will, don't worry. Just focus on taking care of things here. We'll be back in a few hours."

Moments later Hotaru heard the front door open and close, leaving her alone in the house with Ranma. The young girl felt her cheeks heating up again at the thought and turned once more to the bathroom door. It was now open, revealing a petite and very haggard redhead.

"What was that all about? There another fight brewin'?"

Hotaru took in the flint-like hardness of her companion's eyes. Even as injured as she was, it seemed Ranma was more than willing to throw herself back into the fray.

"It sounds like they've got everything under control, Ranma. They'd have asked me to come with them if they thought it was something serious." At least, Hotaru hoped they would. Neptune and Uranus were excellent soldiers. It was doubtful that they'd take unnecessary risks.

The tension on the young warrior's face bled away with the reassurance. "Right… So, leftovers?"

Hotaru giggled. "Come on, let's see if we can get you to the kitchen."

Damn infernal contraption! There were no clasps, no buttons, no switches, no locks… how the hell was it staying closed? Xian'pu tried once again to force open the little blue box she'd gotten from the demon hunter's apprentice. Stupid thing wouldn't budge. Maybe it was some sort of puzzle box? Maybe there was a magic word or something? Maybe she could smash the blasted thing open by beating it against a concrete wall?

The young warrior suited thought to action and began slamming the tiny rectangle into the retaining wall that held up the east end of the canal bridge she'd taken refuge under. Stupid demon hunter, she hadn't even given Xian'pu a chance to explain!

Damn it, it was cold and wet under this stupid bridge, and it smelled like piss. Why would anyone choose to live in this noisy, stinking, rat infested city? What the hell was wrong with Japanese people?

Eventually the concrete wall began to crack and flake under the relentless pounding. Of course, the stupid blue box wasn't even scratched. There was no curse in the Joketsuzoku tongue foul enough for these silly outsiders and their stupid technology.

In the shadow of the bridge, Xian'pu slumped to the gravel floor and rested her back against the now battered wall. In front of her the inky flow of runoff surged by. The putrid water must have gathered every disgusting thing in the city because the artificial river reeked of waste and decay. Sometimes it seemed like that was all there was in the land of Wa; an entire race of people wallowing in their own filth. What a loathsome island. Why her love was so hell bent on staying was a mystery she'd never understand.

The young warrior considered the box again. Maybe she could wedge her spear tip in there and pry it open? The woman wrapped her legs around the shaft of the weapon to help steady it, and then tried to force the blade into the almost imperceptible seam that marked the box's lid. Slowly, the edge of the spearhead bit into the strange blue metal. Yes! It would work! She'd get some of the blade in and then she'd have enough leverage for-

Arcs of electrical energy burst from the cursed box and coursed through the young warrior's arms. The whole world seemed to vibrate for a second as every muscle in Xian'pu's body tried to seize up under the assault.

When the strange attack ended the box clattered to the gravel floor, leaving the young woman's teeth rattling in the wake of the onslaught. After a few seconds the trembling abated. Damn stupid electricity! It would take hours to get her hair to settle back down! Xian'pu got back up to her feet, staring murder at the wicked little box.

Still there wasn't even a dent in its pristine blue surface. The damn thing was practically taunting her! Xian'pu could almost hear it laughing at her feeble efforts to harm it.

Oh, that was it! Nobody but noting made fun of a warrior of the Joketsuzoku! The irate woman growled her challenge then punted the stupid box for all she was worth.

The little blue rectangle sailed into the darkness beyond the far bank of the man made river. Only the satisfying crash of the infernal contraption impacting the far retaining wall at near super-sonic velocity gave any clue to its fate. Xian'pu smirked. Let the stupid thing try laughing now.

Of course, it was still probably undamaged, and with her luck, Xian'pu would probably have to dig it out of a jagged little hole to get it back. Ancestors curse her short temper; the stupid box had beaten her again.

Xian'pu let out a sigh and moped towards the bank of the foul river. She was about to jump over when an otherworldly sense of wrongness penetrated her awareness. The woman's eyes turned upward, to the steel infrastructure of the low bridge.

A dark, dripping mass clung to the metal-work, slowly creeping through the shadows above towards the far bank. Xian'pu slunk back towards her spear, keeping her eyes trained on the slithering patch of deeper darkness. How had she missed its approach? Had she really been so distracted?

As the young warrior's hand closed around the heft of her weapon, the dark form broke away from the bridge, falling into the river in moist, disgusting clumps. Ripples spread away from the impact, leaving behind a flawless black mirror.

The first weeds of… concern… began to blossom in Xian'pu's heart. The water was too still, the darkness too quiet. The stench of decay had become too corpse-like. There was evil here.

Near the far shore, a dark mass broke the surface. Slowly the shape resolved itself into a horribly misshapen head crookedly sitting atop a pair of drooping shoulders. As the vaguely man-shaped figure pulled itself out of the water and onto the distant bank, Xian'pu felt her breath catch in her throat.

The thing was horrible. Its charred form was covered in hideous boils, growths, and festering pustules. It poured blood and gore from countless open wounds along its body, polluting the river with a putrid trail of slime. A mass of entrails and molten flesh tangled its legs, giving it a stumbling gait that caused bits of infected debris to tumble off in its wake.

Xian'pu choked back the bile rising in her throat. The creature stopped at the noise. Slowly its head lifted as it sniffed at the air. A lifeless skull turned to focus on the Joketsuzoku warrior. The thing had no eyes… no jaw… no nose… only gaping holes across its face that issued forth a ceaseless flow of blood and vomit.

It was the demon! It had to be! No mortal creature could be so repulsive, so wrong! Xian'pu's grip upon her weapon tightened. If her great grandmother was right, this thing had slain many of her ancestors. She should have run. She had sworn to Ku'lon that she would not fight it without her help. Strangely, though, her feet remained rooted.

Damn it, she wasn't a coward! She was a warrior of the Joketsuzoku! She was the most promising fighter of her generation! It would shame every woman of her line to run! The young woman growled deep in her throat. Curse her great grandmother for an overprotective fool!

Xian'pu roared her battle-cry into the night and leaped towards the abomination that had cost her so much this day. The purple tressed warrior soared through the air, cocking her spear for a blow that would send her enemy back to the hell that spawned it.

The horrid creature stumbled back under the awesome force of the young woman's flying charge. The blade of the girl's weapon met the creature's wasted chest and tore through as though rending tissue paper.

Xian'pu's eyes met the bleeding sockets of her foe. The girl grinned savagely at the thing as it numbly drooled a trail of vomit onto its latest wound. She yanked her weapon free of the walking corpse, expecting it to fall lifelessly to the ground.

It didn't fall. The Joketsuzoku warrior stared in morbid fascination at the creature as it continued to stand, studying its chest with its hollow sockets. The hole that had gone straight through the creature's body quickly became lost in the churning ooze of blackened gore that was the thing's flesh. Its vile head rose once more to consider the girl.

Xian'pu slowly backed away. The hideous abomination kept pace, oozing forward on legs nearly lost in dripping gore. The Joketsuzoku warrior cursed under her breath and readied her weapon for another blow. This wasn't good. A quick glance confirmed that she would soon reach the water's edge.

The creature closed. The young warrior thrust her weapon again, piercing the horrid thing's chest once more, adding yet another wound to its ruined form. The creature didn't even bother to defend itself.

Instead the creature flinched, forcing the deformed flesh around the spear to suddenly invert itself. The weapon was expelled with tremendous force, launching its wielder backwards through the air.

Cold water closed around the Joketsuzoku warrior, triggering her curse. Suddenly she found herself trapped in clothing much too large for her now tiny feline body. Survival instincts screamed for her to claw her way to the surface of the water. Damn it, she couldn't fight that monster like this!

The woman turned cat tore herself from her restrictive clothing, broke the surface, and sucked down greedy gulps of air. The shaft of her spear rode the currents of the man made river next to her. She clung to it as though it were a log.

Along the far river's edge, the terrible beast had turned from the confrontation, resuming its course towards the little blue box that Xian'pu had kicked into the darkness. The cat sighed, unable to do more than watch the creature fade into the distance as the river carried her away. Damn, her great grandmother was going to be pissed.

"Three! How… how is that even possible?"

Ah, there it was; that long familiar look of incredulity. He'd managed to avoid seeing it for a good four months now, but it was bound to show up again just as soon as someone went digging for any specific details about his life.

"Ya know, I'm not even really sure myself anymore. It's all got somethin' to do with suicide contracts, honor duels, an illiterate panda, and okonomiyaki."

The girl across from him began to twitch one of those big, pretty, violet eyes of hers. Ranma wanted to smile at her reaction, really he did, but there just wasn't any humor in this whole messed up thing for him any more. Instead he slurped down another mouth full of noodles.

"You… you're joking, right?" She began her own sickly chuckle. "It's a joke." The poor, sweet girl was looking at him, pleading with her eyes, begging for him to tell her it was all just some twisted gag.

"If it is, then the joke's on me, 'cause it's all true." Poor girl, right now she's probably thinking that she's eating dinner with a mad man. "Look, 'taru, I know it sounds a bit nuts, but that's just the way my life's been… nuts. Everyone I know, everyone I meet, they're all crazy; every last one of 'em. Hell, I'm probably a few kicks shy of a kata myself by now."

And wasn't that the truth. A wise man once said that the only common element in all his dysfunctional relationships was himself… Well actually he read it on a tee-shirt a couple months back, but it still reeked of too much wisdom. Sure, he couldn't see it, but that didn't mean the crazy wasn't there. After all, nobody else seemed to be able to see their own particular brand of wacko… just look at the Kunos.

Hotaru continued to gape, working her jaw like a fish out of water. "Do… do you actually love any of them?"

Now there was the hundred-million yen question. "Not sure." Here it was, nearly three years into the whole mess, and Ranma was still working on that one.

"How can you not be sure?" Wow, she actually seemed like she was more confused than angry. That was new. Most of the women that got to hear this tale had immediately started berating him for leading his 'poor fiancées' on. Maybe Hotaru was in shock.

Still, she asked a perfectly valid question. Hell, he felt like an idiot himself for not knowing sometimes. Fortunately he'd had a few months lately to puzzle out an answer. "Guess the problem is that I don't really know if I wanna' be in love. Never seen anyone in love that was happy with it… seems like it usually just ends up making people miserable."

Hotaru jerked as though she'd been slapped. "Nobody? You've never known anyone in a happy relationship? …at all?"

Ranma had to suck down another load of noodles to keep from laughing at her expression. Rather than embarrassing the poor girl farther he focused on swallowing while shaking his head in the negative.

"What about your parents?"

"Pop took me on a ten year training trip because he thought Mom would make me weak. After the curse we had to keep avoiding her because if she found out, she might make us slit our bellies over a piece of paper I stuck my hand print on when I was six. Even after we managed to sort the whole mess out, pop still eyes her like she might decide to cut his head off. They ain't exactly a ringing endorsement for the institution of marriage."

"Huh… Well, what about friends? There has to be at least one happy couple in all the people you know."

Ranma started laughing. He couldn't help himself. This was just too much. "Hotaru, almost everyone I know is hopelessly hung up on me, either that or the person that they like is hopelessly hung up on me. The closest thing I know to a happy couple is Tofu and Kasumi, and poor Doc Tofu gets so loopy when he thinks about her that he can't act like a normal person, so I'm not even sure she knows he likes her."

"Well… well it's a good thing you're here then, because you can meet my Haruka-papa and Michiru-mama. Sure, they may be an odd couple, but they really love each other, and they make each other happy. I'm sure that once you get to know them, you'll see why people want to fall in love."

Ranma smiled at his new friend. "I hope you're right 'taru. I really do."

The city stretched out below, the glow of headlights and streetlights and neon signs painting the veiled canyons of concrete with churning pools of brilliant red, green, and orange. Even at this late hour, Tokyo danced with life. From various perches amidst the loftiest towers Makoto had observed the scene countless times before.

Rivers of light flowed with tranquil ease through the corridors of the great monoliths that comprised the city. In time the lights in each distant window would fade as the weary giants of the metropolis finally succumbed to sleep. It was peaceful… orderly… It was also a lie.

Somewhere in drowsy currents below there was a deadly predator, and Makoto and her friends were once more preparing for a fatal game of cat and mouse.

Silent as a specter, Mercury alighted upon one of the lower roofs, scanning the streets below. Makoto smiled in anticipation. The blue haired Senshi had called this hunt nearly an hour ago. All who were able had come, but Makoto could tell that she was the only one who had done so eagerly.

The others would never understand her enthusiasm for these conflicts. They longed for peace, and, honestly, it was a worthy goal. Secretly, however, Makoto prayed it was still a ways off. It had been far too long since she'd truly needed to push herself. Nothing got the blood pumping quite like riding the razor's edge between life and death.

One day peace would come. The world would beat swords into plow-shears and all humanity would unite in brotherhood. When it happened Makoto would go gracefully into retirement and learn to adjust; maybe she'd even open that restaurant she sometimes dreamed about. Until that day, however, her wild heart would run free, racing with excitement at each new impossible challenge. For the moment warriors were still needed, and she would happily answer the call.

In the darkness below, Mercury pointed out their target. The Senshi of Storms tracked the gesture, following it to a thin band of shimmering silver which cut its way through the city straight an arrow. The ward drainage canal… Makoto frowned. Was their new enemy some kind of a troll or kappa or something? What self respecting lord of darkness makes his layer under a canal bridge?

The other senshi began to fan out into the night, cutting off any avenues of escape. Jupiter moved as well, thrilling in the rush of the wind as heart-stopping drops vanished below her in uncanny leaps. Boots kissed the rooftops with barely a whisper and in the space between heartbeats she took flight again. Power… grace… the impossible made commonplace… this was what it meant to be Senshi!

Makoto ended her flight at the top of a streetlight several yards away from the bridge in front of which Ami had come to rest. The Senshi of Mercury seemed a tad confused.

"This is the place, alright, but I'm not picking up anything even remotely like the person who attacked us."

Makoto frowned. The air was charged with energy. She could feel it raising the hair on the back of her neck. Evil was nearby. "Are you sure? I could swear I feel something."

The brilliant young woman below nodded. "Oh, there's a presence here alright, but I can't seem to pin it down, and I'm certain it isn't the woman from before."

Makoto nodded. So, their quarry had been smart enough to ditch the computer they were using to track her. "A trap, you think?"

The blue haired senshi only nodded.

"So, are we going to go spring it?"

Again Mercury nodded. "It might cause nasty problems for someone else if we don't."

"Right," Jupiter nodded. "So, do we have a plan for this, or do we just go in and start blasting?"

"Whatever it is, we'll need to get it out from under that bridge. Do you think you can draw it into the open?"

The storm senshi grinned savagely and began loosening up. "Oh, I think I can manage."

Ranma eyed the girl sprawled out on the sofa across from him in awe. How was he not dead right now? He'd shown the girl his curse, told her about the whole fiancée mess, hell He'd even seen her in her panties! She should have beaten him to death three times over by now, and yet she'd taken it all perfectly in stride. She hadn't even raised her voice or given him a dirty look. The entire thing was completely unprecedented.

The boy turned girl felt the corner of his mouth turning up. That was a bit unsettling. It meant hope, which also meant the eventual disappointment would hurt so much more. Nobody stayed Ranma's friend for long, so it didn't pay to get attached. But still, as first meetings go, this one was looking pretty good.

Ranma let the smile settle onto his face more comfortably. It wasn't like trying to make a friend just one more time would kill him or anything. Maybe it would be interesting to see where this went. A soft snore from the girl reminded the redhead that for the moment 'this' should probably be headed to a comfortable bed somewhere.

Damn. Why did that thought have to bring back the image of star spangled panties?

Ranma did his best to shake off the blush and then released a long suffering sigh. He'd have to carry her up the stairs. Even after getting some food he doubted he was in any shape for that.

Ranma leaned back into his recliner and closed his eyes. This wasn't going to be easy. Granted, Hotaru couldn't possibly weigh more than forty-five or forty-six kilos, but in Ranma's current state that was still probably more than he could carry.

Ranma frowned. He'd just have to bite the bullet and risk changing back. Possible further injuries be damned; the extra strength of his male body was about the only solution he could think of.

Suiting thought to action, Ranma pulled himself out of his recliner and trudged back into the kitchen, only to notice the empty remains of his late night snack. Wow, he'd really made a pig of himself. Okay, turn on the hot water first, then go collect the Tupperware. That way he could change back and clean up at the same time.

Ranma nodded to himself and set to work. As he moved, images of violet eyes and a shy grin kept creeping into his thoughts. How on Earth was it possible that she was so nice. Even Kasumi wasn't as understanding as Hotaru had been all night. It just wasn't natural. Maybe it was a side effect of the whole magical girl thing? She was cute too... delicate, fragile, sweet...

Ranma clamped down hard on that line of thought. Attraction meant trouble. It would ruin everything for sure. If he kept thinking of her like that he could just forget friendship. Besides, magical power or no, the other girls would demolish her. No way was he dragging Hotaru into that mess. He'd never be able to forgive himself.

Ranma dried his hands on a nearby towel and walked back into the living room. Once more he looked down at his potential friend. Man, that tee-shirt was indecently thin.

Okay, don't think about that. Ranma tried to shake the fatigue from his limbs. Just think about getting her tucked in. Once she was safely in her bed he could go back to the guest room and try to erase the image of her bare breasts from his mind again.

With a grunt, Ranma lifted the sleeping girl into his arms. His ribs screamed in protest as the boy suppressed a hiss of pain. Damn! At least the pain would keep the dirty thoughts at bay for a bit.

Achingly, the boy worked his way up the stairs. Fortunately the girl's room was easy to find. In her haste to put some clothes on earlier, she must have left the door open. Gasping, Ranma dropped Hotaru into the bed, nearly collapsing on top of her.

Seconds passed as Ranma tried to collect his breath. The close proximity of the still sleeping girl made the process much more difficult than it should have been. The boy quickly noticed that her nose was just millimeters away from his own. He could feel her breath dancing across his lips, and he found himself holding his own breath for fear that it would somehow disturb her.

Ranma tried to ignore the intimacy of the situation in favor of assessing his options. Everything felt like it had survived the fall, but it seemed one of his arms was pinned under the sleeping girl's head. Wonderful.

Gently, Ranma tried to ease his trapped arm from it's position without waking Hotaru. His efforts were thwarted as she stirred slightly in her sleep to toss an arm over him.

"Hotaru?" Ranma whispered. "...um, I could use a little help here."

The girl's only response was an indistinguishable murmur as she nuzzled her head into the crook of his trapped arm. Ranma tried once more to extract himself from her embrace, once again to no avail. He'd either have to wake the poor girl up and embarrass her, or he could wait here and hope she rolled over in her sleep.

"Well" the boy sighed, "so much for getting you off my mind tonight."

Shadows lingered over broken, uneven stones. The gravel was littered with all the various debris that the canal had deposited over the years. Overturned shopping carts, spare tires, even an old refrigerator, they all hung in the darkness like creeping wraiths. A carrion stench wafted up from the murky waters. From above, the river had been a silver band, reflecting moonlight in a merry dance. From here the water seemed more like rancid tar, heavy with the weight of decay.

Jupiter crept farther into the darkness, painfully aware of the familiar, uncomfortable itch between her shoulder blades. Unfriendly eyes were on her, making her skin crawl. In the shadow of the bridge, cut off from the lights of the city, this now seemed like a really bad idea.

The tall brunette glanced back for a moment. The glow of the city wasn't more than ten feet behind her. Three good strides would put her back in view of the others. With a shout, her friends would storm this little alcove like a vengeful flight of Valkyrie. Makoto adjusted her posture and strode farther into the darkness.

Near one of the retaining walls, a metallic glint flashed. It was brighter than the corroded, slime encrusted trash around it. Jupiter moved in that direction, crossing the shadowed corridor.

The Mercury Computer… It was just sitting there on the floor, untouched… like someone had just discarded it absently, like it had drifted down stream with all the trash. The Senshi of Storms circled it wearily, scrutinizing the darkness beyond for some hint of her enemy. Nothing resolved from the shadows. She picked it up.

"Do you see anything?"

Jupiter's head shot up. Mercury stood in the light at the far end of the canal.

"I've got your computer." Makoto relaxed and began walking back towards the light. "Honestly, I'd expected something a bit… I don't know… more. This place really gives me the…"

The look on Mercury's face was all the warning Makoto got. The Water Senshi's eyes widened in horror; her hand came up to stifle a gasp. Makoto twisted around to meet whatever attack her companion had seen coming.

A lifeless skull met her gaze from mere inches away. Charred and bubbling flesh poured around it from above, filling in a grotesque parody of a body even as Makoto stumbled backwards in disgust. She hadn't moved fast enough.

Makoto found herself trapped, like a fly in amber, stuck fast to the sickening gore as it poured down from the iron infrastructure above. The vile creature literally formed around her, smothering her in its bulk. The Senshi struggled to tear herself free from the growing mound, but each thrash only managed to tangle her farther in half-formed limbs and endless coils of entrails.

The churning, diseased flesh edged its way higher along her neck, seeking to engulf her completely. Makoto stretched away from the corrupted mass, horrified beyond rational thought. For one brief second her panicked eyes locked with her companion. Mercury continued to stare in shocked horror, shaking her head in denial of what she was witnessing… and then there was blackness.

Author's Notes-

Wow, it's been a while. Sorry about that. I'd like to beg forgiveness and promise I won't do it again, but honestly I'm just not finding the time to write that I used to have.

That being said, never fear that this project is being abandoned. I do work on it from time to time. Do expect delays though. Sorry.