Standard Boring Disclaimer: I (still) don't own Tecmo. I own half the characters mentioned in the story, the other ones you should recognise. Too bad I can't swap.

The Facing Side of the Coin
By Kochan

Chapter 1: Mission of Mercy - The Wind, the Mist, the Falcon

The scarred, tortured walls of the Hida Limestone Cave loomed forth from the darkness, glowing an eerie purple from the glow stick he held out before him. The fouled air itself was dank and heavy, an assault on his senses. as he drew in what he had to before expelling it. Even the bats had chosen not to reside this deep in, knowing that whatever lay within the bowels of these caves was not to be disturbed.

Hayate frowned as he noted the stalacmites increasing in number. Most of them were large enough to crush a man's head in a fall. A light twist at the strap at his shoulder and he tightened the sword about the jacket of his dark combat Gi. "So tell me more about this demon, Ryu?" called the Mugen Tenshin Shinobi Clan leader.

His best friend and ally Ryu Hayabusa came forward, easing the buckles about the kevlar chest plate he wore. "Well, he's fat, he's got a big white beard, wears a red suit and rides around in a sleigh with a whole lot of reindeer."

Hayate could see the grin on Ryu's face from the corner of his eye. "I wasn't talking about Bankotsubo, Ryu." said Hayate, referring to their last common foe, a smirk spreading across his lips. The Tengu Bankotsubo had succumbed to corruption of the soul and turned against his own kind and man alike, seeking little more than utter chaos in his destructive wake. The battle hadn't been easy, but they had prevailed.

A soft giggle echoed from the side, bringing Hayate's thoughts back to the present. He turned to catch Kasumi's warm smile, returning one of his own. His sister seemed to enjoy it when Ryu and him shared their personal jokes in her presence, seeing as the two men never conversed as such when others were about.

He watched her panther-like movements, shadowing his own in silent, graceful steps not far behind, stepping where he stepped, not straying from his path. The ceremonial knee-length silk Gi flowed like a blue mist about her as she moved, her silken waist-length ponytail a sensual compliment. The Gi was cut high above the hip at the sides, providing for an outfit of deadly distraction with the white, thigh-high stockings she chose to complete it with. The Gi had once belonged to their late mother Ayame, and Kasumi refused to wear anything else whilst on a mission. Who was he to deny her that?

He turned back to Ryu, the Hayabusa Shinobi sliding one finger up to ease his headband as he spoke, "He's known as Hoteinokouken. Served the Tengu as the King's personal guardian. Seems he was cursed when Bankotsubo slew his master. He's rotting from the inside, soul first, becoming more undead with each day that passes. When it all but consumes his mind, the curse will have him leave these caves and seek to spread itself." Ryu paused to clear his throat, taking a breath, "We can't allow that. The pain's already driven him insane, and unless we stop him in time, well..." he shook his head, "We won't be able to."

Hayate frowned again, "Undead?" it all begin to make sense now, "That's probably why he's down here then." he fingered the dark scarf at his neck as he continued on his descent. "The oxygen content gets lower the deeper you go. He must have retreated to the very depths of these limestone caves to slow the curse's effect."

Ryu let out a quiet 'hmph' and a shrug, "Good for him then."

"Not for us." said Hayate, avoiding a pool of foul smelling water with a small leap, watching as the others did the same. "We need the oxygen a lot more than he does. Worse than that, the carbon dioxide level is more than likely to be lethal down there. We'd have a few minutes, maybe less before we start feeling the effects." He held up a finger in assertion, "That's assuming we're lying still, which isn't very likely when you're trying to lay a demon to rest."

His best friend's turn to frown, arms folded as he paused, "And how do YOU know so much about this?" came Ryu's questioning tone.

The Tenshin Mon Shinobi smirked as he turned, holding a fist to his chest, "I went to College, you didn't." This moment was rare. more often than not it was Ryu that played the lecturer's role.

Ryu chuckled and rolled his eyes, following at his side once again, "Anyway, he's reportedly like a Western Griffin. Imagine a twenty-foot long, winged lion armoured at the head and body. Only weak spot at the neck, or so Toyoma says."

"Toyoma? He's from..." Hayate's eyes narrowed as he wracked his memory.

Ryu nodded, "The Otoshi clan. They sent a team of five men in here. He was the leader." he paused for a breath, "Toyoma was the only one who returned. He's the reason we have what we have on Hoteinokouken"

"Five huh?" Hayate let out a chuckle, "What sort of difference are the three of us going to make apart from providing Hoteinokouken a female for his supper instead?"

The Hayabusa Shinobi shrugged, waving an open palmed, gloved hand before him. "Well, the Hayabusa and Mugen Tenshin clans seem to be running on a better stream of luck these days." He jested with a cheshire grin on his face. Ryu glanced back a moment, then leaned a little closer, "That's the other thing, why her?" he whispered.

Turning back, Hayate met the concerned gaze of his sister's soft, doe-like eyes as she kept pace several steps behind. A smile and gentle shake of the head to reassure her and he faced Ryu once more, "Ayane isn't mature enough for this and as it is, she has her own demons to excise. Besides, there's no way Genra would have approved . Zwei would be the natural choice, but you and I both know that she can't be least not at this point in time." He let out a long drawn sigh, allowing it to trail into his next sentence, "Sooo...that leaves you, me and Kasumi. And I'd like to think Kasumi's safer down here with us than up there with half of my clan scouring the countryside for her." His walking slowed and he came to a stop, the cave now at an end.

Silence came over Hayate as he peered over the immense, vast pit that mawed open before them. The glow from the lightstick seemed to hesitate in fear before seeping in, hampered by the mist that stood guard over the blackness like a lingering breath of poisoned air. A hundred million years ago, this had been an underground sea. Now it was dry, it's soul barren, leaving a dark void that threatened to swallow whole anything, anyone fool enough to enter.

Ryu sucked in a deep breath as he regarded the same, "Personally, I'd rather take my chances up there." he smiled, "After all...they're only men."

Hayate felt soft fingers entwine with his own, a gentle squeeze as Kasumi joined him. "Onii-Chan. He's down there isn't he?" she echoed his thoughts in her sweet, quiet tone.

He tucked the light stick into his belt with his free hand to secure it. "Yes, he is." He nodded, then returned the squeeze at her hand with his own

"He knows we're here." she whispered without taking her amber eyes from the void below. Hayate didn't doubt her in the least; His sister's intuitive and perceptive skills were second to none. Indeed, her natural beauty was only one of the many gifts inherited from their late mother.

Hayate thought to ask Kasumi if she wished to remain behind, but knew she wouldn't hear of it. "We'll go...together, yes?" he whispered, laying a gentle kiss at her forehead. Her soft smile took the place of her answer, and he assured himself that bringing her along would not be a mistake.

A nod of acknowledgement to Ryu, and the Shinobi lowered himself over the edge to the first of many jagged ledges that stretched down beyond his sight, though he hoped not beyond his imagination.

'Dancing with the devil at his very own party.' he thought. 'Only we're not invited.'

* * * *

Author's notes

Hida Daishonyudo (Great limestone cave) - An 800m (open to public) long cave located in the Gifu Prefecture of Japan. It was formed some 300 million years ago. Relatively touristy, but Ryu, Hayate and Kasumi access the lower, hidden parts of it via a different (secret) entrance.

Mugen Tenshin/Hayabusa - 2 different factions of Ninjutsu. Hayate and Ryu are the respective leaders of these clans. Mugen Tenshin can be further split into the Tenshin Mon and Hajin Mon factions. (Sorry DOA fans - this is for those folks that don't know anything about DOA)

Tengu - The Tengu are birdlike creatures characterized by their long beaks and wings. They have a man's body, arms, and legs. Sometimes Tengu of high status are depicted as having a red face with white hair and a long nose (Bankostubo). It is thought that Tengu may be descendants of the Yama no Kami, Mountain Gods, and are sometimes perceived as guardians of the forest. Like many Japanese Yokai (demons), the demeanor of the Tengu is not clear. Tengu are often depicted as mischievous creatures who amuse themselves by antagonizing Buddhist priests. They may kidnap them, incite them to think sinful thoughts of greed and pride, or by trick them into eating dung disguised as scrumptious food. The Tengu are commonly feared as using their powers of illusion and possession to abduct children. However, sometimes Tengu are depicted as benevolent creatures who act as teachers, bestowing their knowledge and power on Samurai warriors.

(This information is taken from Elizabeth Lord's very informative Japanese Demon page here -

Hope you had as much fun reading it as I did writing it! There will definitely be more chapters coming after this one, which I thought up and drafted in 1 1/2 hours in a McDonald's (Amazing where you get your best idea from sometimes). Enjoy! And feel free to drop a review if you'd like *^^* - Cheers!! Ko-chan