The Fifth Element

Disclaimer: Considering that I more or less flunked my art exams, I doubt that I'd be able to draw an entire manga series. AKA, I don't own these characters. Don't sue me, I'll never pay up.

The noise is deafening, all those people cheering, screaming for blood. To them the UBS is only a form of entertainment. They don't understand the stakes, the gambles that we take for their pleasure.

Some fight because they want to, others because they have to. Some fight for the things they hold dear, others fight because they have lost what they cherished.

I fight, because I want to know the truth.

I tighten my grip on the handle of my Kougan Anki, waiting silently in the middle of the wild crowd. As I finger the red bandana tied loosely around my wrist, I can't help wondering…

Does he know that I'm here?

The man who took me in and cared for me - a helpless, suicidal orphan. Who trained me, taught me how to take care of myself and gave me my weapon. Who made me feel that I was someone and could accomplish something. Whom I trusted and looked up to as my elder brother.

Who betrayed my trust and broke all the promises he made to me.

He probably knows I'm here. He must have known, when he sent the invitation to me, that I would come, despite the threat of death hanging over my head. He probably knew, also, that Raiha would try to persuade me to run away, but that I would not do so.

After all, that's how he trained me to be. Never run away in the face of danger. Besides, I have nothing to lose, only my life, and even that is worthless to anyone else but me.

If I were to die here, would anyone actually, really miss me? Mourn for me? In the first place, does anyone care about me? Does my existence mean anything to the people around me?

I shake my head to clear it of those thoughts, focusing my attention once more on the battle arena before me. The tall doors at one end open slowly. The crowd goes wild.

"…Team Hokage!!!" The referee's voice rises above the commotion of the crowd.

I crane my neck, trying to see past the people around me. After scanning the scene below me, I realise that they are short of two members. The wind girl and that big guy with less brain cells than an ant. From what I can make out, there seems to be some sort of dispute going on between Recca and the referee.

"…I'm sorry, but this match will be a walkover unless you can find someone to replace your teammates…"

I see Ganko volunteering herself and that silly stuffed fox beside her, offering to fight with them, only to be rejected. I smile slightly, thinking how innocent and naïve she still is. To tell the truth, I kind of miss those times we had back at the mansion, when he would teach us various tactics of survival, sometimes disguising his lessons as games. He hardly, if ever, actually played with us, that made those lessons even more special to me. The smile fades from my face as it suddenly dawns upon me…

He must have arranged this whole thing.

Their convenient disappearance coupled with my presence at this match…

Coincidental?

Maybe.

But most probably… Not.

The referee gives Recca a dismissive wave and raises her microphone. I realise that she is going to announce Uruha Maboroshi as the winner of the round. I know that now is the time for me to make my move.

Heart pounding from excitement, not fear, I rise from my concealed position. In a fluid motion, I hurl my Kougan Anki into the battle-square. It lands, embedding its point into the floor with a metallic clang, a few feet away from the surprised referee. The crowd starts murmuring excitedly, wondering at this new development.

Pausing only momentarily to survey my work, I vault lightly over the rails of the stands and land gracefully in a crouch on the handle of my weapon. From my perch, I observe the various reactions about me, especially that of Recca's, which are amusing to say the least.

I grin at the brown-haired healer standing slightly behind him, next to the water swordsman, and greet her cheerily. "Long time no see, Yanagi-oneechan!"

"Kaoru-chan?! What are you doing here?!"

I hop off and pluck the Kougan Anki out of the tiles, slinging it carelessly over my shoulder. Sauntering up to Recca, I say in a confident voice, "Looks like you could use some help."

"From you? No way!"

I cringe inwardly. His reaction is exactly what I expected, but still… it hurt to be rejected like that. "Hey, if you don't let me join your team, you're gonna get kicked out of the whole tournament before you've proven yourself." I pause. "And you won't even get to face off with Kurei."

Recca is silent. I know what he is thinking. The offer of help certainly is tempting, but he is afraid that I will turn traitor. After all, I was once Uruha. What proof does he have that I was no longer loyal to them, though I claim to have severed all ties with Kurei?

The referee waits silently at the side, but I know she is getting impatient from the way she is tapping her foot on the floor.

He asks slowly, "Why do you want to join the Hokage?"

Flashing him a fanged grin, I reply cheekily, "Cos I think I can do a better job protecting Yanagi-oneechan than you can!" I quickly dodge behind Yanagi as he turns red and lunges at me.

"Recca-kun!" She admonishes him as she stands protectively in front of me.

"Get your hands off my Hime!"

Kage Hoshi steps up behind him and whispers something into his ear. He calms down slightly and says grudgingly, "Fine. You can join us. Just don't turn traitor on us, or else I'll make sure you regret it."

Yanagi and Ganko protest at this remark. Kage Hoshi and the water swordsman only observe us silently from the side, but they don't seem to be very hostile towards me.

As I step up the platform, Yanagi calls out, "Go for it, Kaoru-chan! I know you can do it!"

I turn and grin again at her, thinking that, perhaps if I did die here, maybe, just maybe, one person would miss me.

I make my way to the center of the arena and face my opponent, Shiju. He bares his teeth at me in anticipation, but I feel no fear.

"My, my, my, if it isn't the little traitor. After all that Kurei did for you, you still have the cheek to show up here. Neon should have killed you that night, I wonder why we let you go," Genjuro remarks mockingly from the side. "Oh well, I guess that this arena will be your grave, and I promise you'll die a death worthy of a traitor – slow and painful."

I raise my weapon and reply, "Dream on!"

"Round 1!!"

Can you see me, Kurei?

"Kaoru Koganei versus Shiju!!"

I know you're watching me somewhere.

"Begin!!"

I'll show you, I'm not such a little kid anymore.

I lunge at Shiju, all my battle instincts rising up within me.

I've got lots of questions for you…

A quick slash on my part, an enraged snarl from my opponent.

And boy do you owe me lots of answers.

This is only the beginning. I must, no, I will live on until the end.

I am Kaoru Koganei, the Fifth element of the Hokage.

Insane author's notes:

First of all, don't flame me for changing the plot/conversation/whatever in this fic. The last time I watched the anime was more than one and a half years ago, and the last time I read the manga on this particular scene was also about the same as above, so I can't really remember very clearly what happened, only bits and pieces of this scene.

If this fic doesn't make any sense whatsoever, please forgive me, cos the idea for it struck me at 12.30am when I was about to hit the sack, so probability of me thinking straight at that time is kinda low. Ü Then again, probability of me thinking straight at any given time of the day is also rather low… *sheepish grinz*

Erm… oh yes, if anyone is wondering about the title, I choose it because according to the Chinese (I think), there are five basic elements that constitute the balance in nature aka the Yin and Yang (Earth, Fire, Water, Gold/Metal, Wind). At least, that's what I could gather from reading Cardcaptor Sakura. My translation skills aren't that great. Also, I'm not very sure whether or not wind is one of those elements, cos I've read somewhere else that sometimes it's wood or something else… *shrugs* I dunno, I'm one very confused person when it comes to those things.

I'll try to post the last chapter of Yesterday's Ashes ASAP… currently having some problems with the chapter cos it sounds rather strange IMO.

Thanks for reading, please R & R ok? Ü