As he sat across from her at the dining table, watching her as she acted very lady-like with every graceful motion, Chase smiled inside. It was good to have Akira back, and she hadn't changed at all, both personality wise and in the literal sense. He himself actually looked a little bit older than her now due to his aging longer than she before having taken the Lao Mang Long Soup, but given time it would be in reverse.
He took in her details; her golden brown eyes filled with laughter and happiness. Her jet black hair smooth and without barely a flaw. Her small, but well-toned frame from years of practice in the warrior arts. Chase recognized all of this. And he remembered.
It had been a sunny day, an average day, that time so long ago. A time before they knew the destiny that was already set in place before them. A few clouds drifted through the air, the signs of spring were blossoming everywhere in site. Two children, merely four years of age, Akira and he, raced around the meadow behind their family's home; a cottage at the edge of town. Rather than in the fine, soft fabric and garments of the monks, they wore casual play clothes. Their parents were in the merchant class as well as sold crops from their small garden whenever they had food to spare.
"Catch me, Bubba!" squealed a much younger Akira, giggling as she ran around the meadow.
"Coming, Sissy!" called out the tiny Chase as he chased after her, laughing as well.
The repetition of giggles and running soon ceased as they became out of breath. Chase slammed right into Akira and sent them both toppling to the ground, hidden under the long strands of grass. More laughter.
They rolled out their backs and stared at the sky for a while, catching their breath.
"Bubba, what do you wanna be when you get big?" Akira asked once she could talk without gasping.
"Umm…" Chase hadn't thought much about that before, "I don't know," he admitted.
"I'm gonna be a princess when I get big," said Akira matter-of-factly, "I'll come back and make bowls and stuff with Momma though."
That was hard to beat…"Wait! I know! I'll be a Samurai like great-grandpa was!"
Akira giggled some more, then lunged on top of Chase, "Samurai! I am the evil witch! You'll never beat me!"
He joined in the game, "Oh yes I will!"
The two rolled around like this for who knows how long. Soon, they began taking sticks and using them as swords, pretending to duel. They wound up running out of breath again and collapsing atop one another near the cottage.
"Meow," came a sound from above. They looked up to see their pet cat, one mottled with different patches of color in a hue of blacks, greys, and browns, had climbed up a tree, and was batting one paw at an insect.
"Rayng-Rayng, you bad kitty! Get down here!" shouted Chase.
Of course, nothing happened.
"I'll get him, Bubba!" said Akira, already beginning to scale up the tree.
"Careful, Sissy!" he said as he watched up go higher and higher.
She made it to the branch the cat was on and started shuffling down its length, getting closer, "Here, Rayng-Rayng. Come here, kitty. It's ok."
The branch began to break and sway as she moved. Finally, it broke off the tree entirely bringing her and the cat down with it. She screamed as she fell, which actually was only about four to five feet off the ground.
"Sissy!" Chase yelled as he ran to her and kneeled beside her. The cat, which had landed on his paws, started to lick himself, paying little attention.
She seemed fine at first. Then she noticed the scratch on her now scuffed up knee. After a second, Akira's lip began to quiver. Soon she began to burst into tears.
"It's ok, Sissy, it's ok," said Chase consolingly. He hated seeing her hurt. He thought hard about what their parents did whenever they got hurt or were sick. Coming to the answer, he leaned down and kissed her knee softly.
Akira's cries then started turning into a soft whimper. She hugged him tightly. Chase had hugged her back...
Those days are long past, he reminded himself. He wanted to do something else now, anything to push those memories aside.
"Brother, how did you know where to find me anyway? I did not see you whilst I was at the Xiaolin Temple. Perhaps you train with Master Monk Guan at his dwelling? I remember you being the best of friends before. Were you sent to help us?" Akira asked before dipping a ginger cookie into her mint tea and taking a small bite.
"No…to your first question. You see, over the course of the passing years, Master Monk Guan and I have grown…distant."
"Distant?" she inquired, her face registering slight shock, "Why ever for? Nothing could've torn you away last I saw."
You seem to forget that that was a long time ago, he wanted to tell her, but instead he said, "Let's just say duty and our own personal agendas forced us to separate."
"Oh, I see…"
Chase could tell by her tone and the slight frown she gave that she knew there was more than that to this particular story. She would get suspicious if he didn't find some way to ease her mind and he wasn't willing to see her reaction to his becoming Heylin just yet. Not until she at least knew she wouldn't be harmed by him due to it.
"As to your second question; yes, I arrived to help you. I was informed you had returned and needed to see for myself," then he told a white lie, "it seems I had arrived too late."
Akira watched her brother's expression shadow for a moment. Standing up, she strode over to his seat and embraced him, "I'm thankful you came when you did, but I'm even more grateful and we have united once more. Nothing will change that again, I swear on my honor."
Chases eyes widened. She offered her loyalty to him as if it was merely a dandelion seed to the wind. Her honor? She was still so vague that she accepted him into her heart so easily. Why of all things would you dare promise that? A warrior's honor, no matter how seemingly small the promise, was to be bound and kept. If, by chance, it was broken, the consequences could be severe.
Neither refusing nor accepting her offer, he got up from his chair and took her hand in his, "If you are finished and you are feeling well enough, I have a surprise I've been longing to show you."
"A surprise? Brother, you've done so much for me already," she stated.
"Don't worry, it's nothing too extravagant. It's something I believe you'll be happy to acquire though."
Chase led her through the multiple halls and levels of his lair until they reached the roof and open air. For a while, Akira stared at the view of the world below the volcanic mountain. Chase moved off to the side to collect the items and returned by her side without a word and merely a casual grin on his face.
Turning around to face him, Akira face dropped in awe. In one of his hands was a silvery, white colored weapon. The one she had found and mastered as a Wudai Warrior. It was as light as it appeared, making it suited for flowing, acrobatic motions. The curve of the axe-like blade on one end was intricate, but sharp. The design down the length of its shaft was by far beautiful, with softly detailed carvings of swirls and flowers running down it like water.
"The Guardian's Glaive…How on Earth did you manage to recover it?" she asked. She had thought it to be gone forever after her final battle before being trapped for so long.
"Master Dashi had retrieved it after defeating Wuya that day, and kept it hidden after we lost you. After some time searching, I discovered its whereabouts." He handed it to her and gave her a minute to examine and familiarize herself with it once more. "I understand you're a little out of practice now, go ahead, give it a try."
At first, she attempted a few, delicate swings and chops with it, going through basic motions. Then, her speed soon began to increase. She fluently sent it twirling above her head and around her form, making it look more so like a type of dance. Pressing a near-invisible button on top part of the shaft, she activated the glaive's special trait.
Suddenly, the blade lashed out, hooked only to the rest of the glaive by a long, thin chain that would wind up and stay tucked in the shaft normally. With equal grace, she was able to whip it around, swinging it to rocks just off of the roof for targets. The rocks were shattered into fragments from impact.
As Akira retracted the glaive back to its original appearance, Chase gave her a nod of approval. "Well done. You always did learn quickly."
Akira smiled and bowed her head to him. "That is because I had a wonderful brother helping me along the way."
Chase grasped the other item he brought in both hands. It was his own Wudai Weapon from so long ago, once cast aside and forgotten as another unwanted reminder of his days on the Xiaolin side. It was simplistic compared with Akira's own weapon. It appeared to be made of a solid, dark wood, with ashen black specks covered it, giving a smoky, bursting effect on the ends. The weapon itself spoke of power, strength, and mystery. It was dubbed the Rod of Wrath due to its durability against anything it struck or struck it in turn, and that the master of this weapon seemed to fall into an unshakable focus when using it in battle.
"Would you care for a friendly spar for a short while?" He smirked, curious to how this would go. Both had been exceptional when they trained together, and had equal strengths in battle. However, now Chase had a lot more experience than she, and the powers of Lao Mang Long Soup had increased his strength as well. When he had been in his reptilian form fighting her in the showdown, he had been using a fraction of his power.
In response she bowed and got into a stance similar to his. Soon, the spar began.
Up above, going through the daily routine of attempting to spy on his adversaries, Hannibal Roy Bean rode on the back of a vile looking bird, with grey and red feathers and beady black eyes. He was honestly surprised to see his mortal enemy, Chase Young, outside for a change. Even more so that he was with someone that he seemed content with. He flew farther down to get a closer look.
"Well, what do we have here?" he said, speaking his thoughts out loud, just out of ear shot, "It seems Chase Young has a friend from the past." When he had been searching for someone to drink the Lao Mang Long Soup and turn Heylin, he had spied on all of the Xiaolin Monks during the time of Wuya's rein. He knew the pair must have a good connection, but he didn't bother looking into details about them save for that they were tough opponents together.
During the spar, Chase spotted the recognizable bird out of the corner of his eye. To get rid of him as well has keep Akira unknowledgeable about it, Chase flipped over to the bird's direction and out of Akira's reach, having her shot the blade of her glaive out. Chase, expecting it, dodged so it would head right into the direction of Hannibal.
"Agh!" Hannibal screamed as they barely missed it, he growled angrily for a moment and glared down at Chase.
Chase decided now would be a good time to end the spar. Raising a hand and holding his weapon at his side, a sign of submission, he smiled at Akira, "We can't have you overexerting yourself. You're still injured. Besides, I have much to show you. Allow me to give you a full tour of my home." Akira, reluctantly, agreed. Chase began to lead here to the stairwell down, but looked back at Hannibal and gave a look of warning.
"Humph!" then he came to a solution about what to do about the girl and Chase, "It seems the girl doesn't know of Chase Young's true nature," Hannibal gave the bird a crooked, evil grin, "Ying-Ying, I think we'll have to take it into our hands to inform her." They few off to a place nearby to formulate a plan and lie in wait.
Akira woke up the next morning in the room Chase has placed her in. She stretched her arms behind her head and smiled as morning light poured in through the skylight above. Suddenly, she heard something tapping on a nearby window.
Curious, she stood up and walked over to it to find the Ying-Ying bird, looking at her sadly, dragging one of its wings. Hannibal was not with him. Believing the bird to be a harmless creature, Akira gently picked him up and put him on the bed.
"It's alright, little one. I'll heal you," she said calmly. Akira reached out a hand to touch the bird and began healing, but Ying-Ying jumped off and began hopping- sometimes fluttering in the air- to the door and out into the hall.
"Hey, wait." Akira called to him, not wanting to scare the bird, but not wanting him to harm himself further. Sometimes the bird would pause and look back at her, tilting his head, then continue its journey through the lair. Akira followed.
They eventually came to a room off of the dining hall. Chase hadn't shown her this one, but she had assumed it to be for storage. The bird went behind a large, scarlet curtain hanging on one wall.
"Little one, it's alright, your safe-" Akira cut herself off with a gasp once she pulled the curtain back. Behind it were shelves crowded with Lao Mang Long Soup, and she wasn't so foolish as to not know what it was or what it did to people. Putting a hand over her mouth, she backed away slowly.
Chase Young had heard her progress through the halls and had followed quietly. He stood behind her and frowned, "So, now you know…"
She spun on one heel and stared at him. Pain and betrayal was clear in her eyes, making Chase wince inside. "…How…When did you…" she finally stuttered out.
"Months, maybe a year, after your imprisonment," he answered.
"…Why?" She was on the verge of tears.
"Akira," he sighed out. She turned her head away, "Akira, look at me…" He came over and hugged her. He felt her go rigid, but she didn't refuse it and returned the gesture, weeping.
"I…I need time to think," with that, she let go of him and ran off down the hall.
"Akira!" Chase called after her. "Akira!"
She kept running until she had exited the structure out front and had skidded down the extremely steep slope from his home. Hannibal watched her go after Ying-Ying had returned to his side. "Good work, Ying-Ying. I didn't think you could pull off acting that well." They flew off to keep an eye on the girl and see where she would wind up.