Fair warning: First part here involves a memory/nightmare.

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CHAPTER TEN

Emily tossed and turned on her bed, shifting over onto her side with a low groan. She clutched her left hand to her chest in a vain attempt to stem the stinging that was slicing through her scar.

/…/

Emily let out a blood curdling scream as she felt the crimson liquid being forced from her hand. Her eyes were open yet she couldn't see anything. Something or someone had a death grip on her left hand, pushing into it painfully to make it bleed from its open wound. She felt a strong force behind her keeping her on someone's lap. A strong arm came up and forced her face into a clothed chest after her scream had died down.

She reached her free hand up to rip the arm away, but her arm was grabbed and forced down. Another strong force rested across her knees, holding them and her arm down. A shock of pain electrified up her arm, causing her body to shake violently. Whatever was holding her down seemed to have been expecting the sudden jerking motions. The grips tightened to prevent her from breaking loose.

Emily nearly bit clean through her bottom lip as she wished for the pain to go away. A breath of hot air steamed up the ear closest to the person holding her upper body. She wanted to be sick.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" a voice hissed. "Can you feel the venom coursing through your hand?"

As a matter of fact, she could feel her hand trying to constrict from the pain shooting through it. She could feel it starting to move up her wrist, but then it stopped there.

"What a shame Master Talpa won't let the venom run its course. It would certainly do the trick in slowing you down and curbing that sharp tongue of yours."

A rough, cold kiss descended behind her ear. Emily wanted nothing more than to rip her limbs back into control and tear apart the person holding her. She felt another spasm jerk her body around and the people holding her tightened their grips again.

"Hold her still!" a voice growled from somewhere below her.

The arm around her waist tightened painfully, as if trying to squeeze the breath out of her.

"Let go of me!" she growled.

A deep chuckle shook against her back and echoed through her ears.

"No, no, no, dear girl. You won't be leaving us anytime soon. The ronin warriors are in the dynasty as our prisoners. There's nothing you or the ronins can do about it. Master Talpa will take care over the Mortal Realm and you?"

She felt the hot breath on her ear again just before she managed to elbow the body behind her hard in the stomach. The voice swore loudly in her ear before hissing, "You will never leave here."

/…/

The bedroom door creaked open as Cooper wedged himself through the doorway. He started whining low in the back of his throat when he saw how violently Emily was thrashing on the bed. The dog darted across the room to jump up on the bed and curl up next to Emily so she was curled around him.

She stopped thrashing and rolled over to grip Cooper's fur tightly in her hands as she hugged him. She mumbled incoherently into his fur. The large white dog didn't even whimper, despite the bruising grip Emily held him in. He simply tried to ease her pain by letting her know he was there. He knew from experience that his human companion was going through a night terror and would not wake until it was over.

/…/

Her left hand was forced palm down with her wrist in a death grip. She could feel the blood trickling down from the open wound. A voice murmured something to the captor behind her in a language she couldn't comprehend. Somehow she had almost completely slid off her captor's lap when his attention had been diverted and his grip weakened. She felt the arm tighten again before pulling her back up against a clothed chest.

The other two forces on the bottom half of her body moved with her. Whatever else was holding her down obviously didn't want to give her the opportunity to even attempt to break free. The hand on her head forced her back against the chest and covered her mouth just before she let loose another agonizing scream.

This particular scream was a result of her bleeding hand being upturned and something boiling hot being poured onto it. In the back of her mind, she knew the scentless liquid felt like boiling hot water, but really wasn't.

"Just a little more," she distantly heard someone mutter.

Feeling the grip slacken again, she seized the opportunity to jerk away roughly and almost broke free. The hand returned, this time shooting for her throat. She had to force herself to calm down when she gasped for breath. The hand squeezed tight as if warning her and the hot breath blew over her ear again.

"Try that again and he'll leave just enough in your hand to paralyze it," the voice growled.

Wisely choosing not to further anger the man, she weakly nodded her head as best as she could. The hand released her throat but not before giving another small warning squeeze. It did, however, move up and tap her gently on the cheek.

"Smart girl."

Emily finally felt her body give out on fighting and she slumped back into the cruel arms of her captor. She closed her eyes to rest and, hopefully, restore her energy. She felt the weight on her legs and right arm lift away. She tried to keep her breath even to keep from hyperventilating.

A pair of hands held her left arm at the elbow and wrist. Another pair of hands was dabbing at the hand with a…cloth(?) before pressing down to hold it in place. Emily relied on the motions to keep her calm. Smooth but thick bandaging was wrapped over her wound.

She flinched when her captor returned her attention to his presence. A hand came up to pull a few strands of hair behind her ear before curling into her hair. The hand roughly but slowly pulled her head back to tilt it up.

In the back of her mind, Emily kept telling herself to remain calm. However, all thoughts of false peace and tranquility left like a boat in the Bermuda Triangle, when her injured hand was finally released. With it went the other two captors, leaving her with the worst of the three.

With her captor's right hand holding her head in an iron grip, the man used his left hand to pick up hers. He brought it up close to her face to get a better look at it.

"Even with Halo's healing ability, it would have continued to bleed for some time. Not even your brother could have fully healed the wound. I wonder how badly scarred it is now."

Emily suppressed another scream as she felt the darkness closing in around her. She opened her eyes and was surprised her vision had returned. Her eyes darted to her left hand that was still within her captor's grasp. Yet all she saw were black shadows of darkness wrapped around her hand in a shape similar to a hand.

"I wonder how the years have changed you. I have missed you, little light."

Emily couldn't suppress the shivers that ran up her spine. Suddenly, chains wrapped around her arms and tied them together in front of her.

"When I get a hold of you, none of the ronins will be able to come to your aid."

Emily closed her eyes and flashes went off at the back of her head. Over the loud roaring in her ears, she just barely managed to hear a voice.

"Leave her be for now, Cale."

Without warning, she felt the darkness recede all at once and…

/…/

Emily's eyes shot open and she jolted backwards away from Cooper, colliding with the wall her bed leaned against. The dog bolted up right at the sudden movement and looked at her questioningly. It took Emily several minutes to assess and realize where she was.

Her eyes immediately shot to her hand where the thin scar was from a certain warlord's katana. Even in the pure dark of the room, she could clearly see the dark scar. She started grumbling something in Japanese as she climbed over Cooper and off the bed. Her grumbling continued through her changing into sweatpants and a short sleeved shirt with a pullover covering it. She bent down and shoved her already tied shoelaces onto her feet.

The college freshmen opened her bedroom door and crossed the apartment to the bathroom. She washed her hands vigorously before whipping her gloves onto her hands. Emily ignored Cooper as she grabbed up her iPod and keys and left the apartment. Emily drew up her hood and cranked the music up to the point of damaging her hearing. Emily let it drown her thoughts out as she went running.

Standing alone in the twilight

Somehow I feel you there

Shadows are move on the outside

But inside I'm not scared

At the moment you reached for me

You whispered sweetly

And we're frozen in time

When you look in my eyes

Until the end

It was you I waited for

I can't pretend

I don't love you anymore

All by myself

You were always in my heart

Until the end

'Cause I knew it from the start

I played the game but I knew my

Heart wasn't made of stone

You kept me safe even when I

Gave it to you, I know

At the moment you reached for me

You whispered sweetly

And we're frozen in time

When you look in my eyes

Until the end

It was you I waited for

I can't pretend

I don't love you anymore

All by myself

You were always in my heart

Until the end

'Cause I knew it from the start

Can't stop believing

Am I still dreaming?

You're here with me tonight

Heat and the passion

All I imagined

We're gonna make it right

From the start

Until the end

Until the end

It was you I waited for

I can't pretend

I don't love you anymore

All by myself

You were always in my heart

Until the end

'Cause I knew it from the start

Until the end

Emily moved at her prime speed, moving with the speed of the ronins in armor. She moved like a blur through the trees. Her very breath seemed to whip away from her like the wind around her. Despite her speed and the whipping wind, Emily's hood remained up.

Emily pushed her body beyond its limits until she finally ripped off her headphones and collapsed to her knees. She knelt by a lake, trying to remember how to breath normally. She lowered her head and hid her face in her hands.

Nothing was making sense anymore and the nightmares were getting worse. Emily knew by the way she had reacted to Cooper's presence that she had experienced a night terror. She sat there trying to keep the tears at bay as dry sobs wracked her body. She took a long time to come down from her emotional high.

One final thought came to her as the sun was breaking over the horizon.

I know what I need to do.

/…/

"Emily?"

The young woman picked her head up at the sound of her name. An older gentleman stood a few feet from her with a stack of files in his hands and a worn-out messenger bag slung over his shoulder. Emily was sitting on a bench outside a small cottage-like building. She had called a cab to bring her back to the college after she had realized how far she had actually run.

I still can't believe I ran a distance of what should have been an hour and a half in only a few minutes, Emily said to herself as she stood up.

"How did you know I'd be stopping by the office today?" the gentleman asked.

Emily shrugged.

"I didn't," she replied.

The gentleman smiled as he stepped closer and to the side. The large tree beside the cottage now shielded his face from the sun.

"Were you planning to stay out here all weekend long until I came in on Monday?" he asked gently.

Again, Emily shrugged and her gaze fell to the ground. The gentleman took one step closer and laid a hand down on her shoulder, causing her to look back up into his soft green eyes.

"Would you like to come in and talk, Emily?"

Emily didn't hesitate to nod her head. The sandy-haired gentleman stepped up to the cottage door

to unlock and admit both of them into the building. Emily followed him into a small entrance area that had a warm atmosphere with a secretarial desk, a large fish tank full of goldfish, and several vases of flowers.

"I'll call you back in a minute, Emily. Let me put these files away and clear away a space for us to sit," the gentleman told her.

"Thanks, Dr. Walker," Emily murmured softly.

She watched him disappear down a hallway and through a door on the right. The Counseling Services for Pineview seemed small in its little cottage, but the three Counselors were wonderful people. Emily knew Dr. Walker well due to her volunteer work as an Ambassador. One of the stops on the tour for prospective students was the Counseling Services and Dr. Walker always took the time to step out and say a few words in greeting.

She had once had the pleasure of having a long conversation with him while waiting in line at the dining hall. She had learned more about him and his family. Dr. Walker had been with Pineview for the last twenty years and before that he had worked as a Marriage & Family Counselor. He was married to a beautiful wife for twenty-something years and they had three children, a daughter and twin sons. They were the proud grandparents of four grandchildren.

"I'm ready for you, Emily," Dr. Walker called.

Emily turned her attention away from the fish tank and walked down the hallway to Dr. Walker's office. He held the door open for her and gestured for her to sit down on an old couch in the office. She sat down and rested her back against the couch. Dr. Walker closed the door and took a few steps away to sit down on a chair he had pulled up for himself.

"I'm surprised you would stop by on a Saturday. I thought the Archery Club met on Saturdays," Dr. Walker said while crossing one leg over his lap.

"Some of our group is at a car wash this morning for another club so we agreed to meet in the afternoon," Emily answered.

Dr. Walker nodded in understanding. He remembered seeing a flyer about a club car wash going on this weekend. It was a good weekend to do it since "snowbird" season had begun. He regarded Emily in silence as she sat silently staring at her feet. He didn't push her to talk; he waited for her to start.

"I'm hoping you can help me, Dr. Walker. This isn't really something I can talk to my family or friends about. I'm just not sure where to start," Emily said, ending with a short chuckle.

"I always find that starting at the beginning is a good way to go," Dr. Walker suggested.

Emily cracked a smile. She interlocked her fingers and held them up to her mouth for a moment before resting them in her lap.

"I guess it all started a little over two years ago. I had just spent a wonderful weekend with my older brother. I was supposed to go camping with a group of friends, but decided against it at the last moment. I hopped on a bus to go home, but I was halfway through a park when a group of guys abducted me."

She was careful not to give any specific details such as the fact that her abductors were immortal warlords sent by a dark overlord from another realm.

"My family didn't know because they thought I was still out camping. They wanted me because of my connection to my brother. He's very skilled at martial arts and kendo. They knew I had strong skills, too, and they wanted to push me until I showed them all I had. I was with them for a week in which they forced me to fight."

She proceeded to weave a tale of her abduction. Dr. Walker was shocked she had been forced to fight, allowing for great physical harm to come to her, and kept under constant surveillance. In addition, she had been drugged at least once to keep her from escaping.

"What happened?" he asked, keeping his voice soft and steady.

"My family (the ronins) discovered what had happened to me and a special team (guess who?) was sent in to rescue me. Their…ringleader got cocky and they were able to save me." Emily paused. "During my abduction and shortly after my rescue, I was suffering from nightmares and night terrors."

Dr. Walker uncrossed his legs and leaned forward with his arms resting across his lap.

"Nightmares can be common during great amounts of stress in life. I imagine the stress of having to fight caused you to be at ill ease when sleeping. After being rescued, I'm sure the memories were still fresh in your mind," he said, offering his advice.

Emily nodded. Only about half of that was true since she knew part of the nightmares during her stay had been from the power of a certain warlord's armor.

"The nightmares started back up a little over a month ago," Emily confessed with a hard sigh.

It felt good to say it out loud. The only other person she had told about the return of her nightmares was Tom.

"I had a pretty horrible night terror last night," Emily added.

Dr. Walker's eyebrows rose slowly as his face changed to one of deep thought.

"I must say, you do have me surprised. Night terrors are very rare. Less than 1% of adults experience a night terror episode within their lifetime. In adults, they most commonly occur between the ages of 20 and 30," Dr. Walker admitted to her.

"And I'm 18. That doesn't exactly make me common," Emily mumbled.

The good doctor chuckled as he reached across the coffee table to pat the young woman on the knee.

"No. No, you're not common. I believe you are a very special young lady, Emily."

This compliment caused Emily to relax and break out into a small smile. Dr. Walker suggested that since the two year anniversary had been not too long ago, maybe she was feeling as though her attackers may come back. She quickly shot that idea down.

"There was a massive fire that broke out. We know for sure the ringleader didn't survive and there's no way my abductors could have survived either."

"Have there been any recent overdue amounts of stress in your life?" Dr. Walker asked.

He, like the rest of the campus, already knew about her long term engagement to her boyfriend. He doubted the news would have brought on enough stress to be hurting Emily so much. Her next reply was so quiet the only reason he knew she had spoken was that she had picked her head up slightly.

"I'm…sorry. My hearing's gotten a little worse with my aging," the counselor apologized.

Emily lifted her head and gave him a small smile.

"I'm adopted." Emily paused to let the information sink in. "I was only a few months old when my family adopted me. My siblings and I were none the wiser until recently. Mom and Dad asked Sage to tell me."

Dr. Walker understood now why he had been seeing a slightly less happy Emily around the campus recently. She was in her freshmen year of college and very far away from her family and had just been informed she was adopted. With another pat on Emily's knee, Dr. Walker stood and walked over to his desk. He pulled something out of the top drawer and sat down next to Emily after she scooted over.

He held out a small photograph which Emily took gently into her hand. Emily gazed at the photo with a smile. The picture depicted a young woman with a small baby bundled up in a thick, blue blanket. Dr. Walker tapped the photo lightly.

"This is my mother, Elena. She was eighteen, almost nineteen when I was born. She made the hard decision to give me up for adoption. I was adopted by Walter and Amelia Walker, a married couple in their late thirties. I was only five when Elena passed away. My parents always told me how much she loved me and gave me a special box she had made of things for me," Dr. Walker explained.

Emily felt her heart rise up from her stomach. Dr. Walker understood what she was going through. It wasn't just that he was a counselor, but he had the same life experience as her.

"How much do you know about her? About your birth mother, I mean?" Emily asked as she sat up and handed the photograph back.

"I learned a lot from my parents about her. She had stayed in touch with them ever since the adoption and she had left many things to me before she passed on," he answered.

"My family doesn't know anything about my biological parents. A man, a supposed best friend of my father's, brought me to my family."

For the next two hours, Dr. Walker shared his story of being adopted with Emily. As gratitude for having made her feel better and offering her good advice, Emily offered to buy him lunch.

"I will have to take a rain check, Emily. I promised my son and daughter-in-law I would join them for a late lunch today," he apologized as they both stood up.

Emily nodded as she headed for the door.

"I have an opening Wednesday mornings and I will keep it open in case you'd like to stop by," Dr. Walker told her.

With her hand on the doorknob, the young blonde turned and smiled at the college counselor.

"Thank you, Dr. Walker."

Emily turned the doorknob and opened the door. She was halfway through the door when she heard him say, "Samuel." Emily stopped and shot him a confused look over her shoulder.

"Call me Samuel. It is my first name and I would like it very much if you were to use it," Dr. Walker explained.

All that the shocked Emily could do was nod.

/…/

"For the love of all that is holy, turn that off!"

The loud blaring sound of drums and bagpipes was suddenly turned to in inaudible level. The group of archers all let out sighs of relief. Glancing over her shoulder, Emily chuckled before returning her attention to the task at hand. Emily relaxed her shoulders and brought her bow arm up to shoulder height. She pulled the elbow of her bow arm back away from the string.

Ignoring the trio messing with the radio and trying to find a decent station, Emily stood straight and kept both her shoulders as low as possible. The string of her bow touched the middle of her chin with her index finger tucked under her chin. Her body created a near perfect straight line. She held the bow firmly to keep her hands from shaking.

The target stood 50 feet away and she had it set in her sights. Emily closed her right eye and kept the bow steady. She relaxed the fingers of her draw hand, allowing it to drop and draw backwards. The arrow zipped from her bow, slicing through the air with ease. Her hand relaxed in the air behind her ear and she kept herself aimed at the target until it hit the target.

Down by the targets there was a bench off to the side where two of the Archery Club members were taking a break from shooting. One of them jumped off the bench and jogged over to the target Emily had hit. After checking the target, he faced back where they were and raised his arms up in a touchdown-like manner. She smiled as she dropped her arms just before one of her friends clapped her on the shoulders from behind.

"Another perfect landing, Em!" he cheered.

"Thanks, Philip," she replied.

The teammate down the field pulled Emily's arrow out carefully and returned to the bench. Emily smiled weakly around at her team of friends. The Archery Club was made up of a dozen college students with Emily, surprisingly, being the only female and freshmen.

With the night terror and whole adoption issue still fresh in her mind, Emily drew another arrow, aimed for the target, and fired.

END OF CHAPTER TEN

All Ronins: YAY! LONGEST CHAPTER EVER!

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