Tigergirl: *walks in the door* So, yes, it was my birthday over a week ago. The boys had me celebrating for a week. Which is why they are all *SNORE*…sleeping in the living room of my apartment.
Cye and Kento: *sleeping on opposite sides of the couch* SNORE.
Ryo: *sleeping on a bean bag chair* SNORE.
Rowen: *sleeping on a desk chair with his head down on the desk* SNORE.
Sage: *sleeping in the armchair with his arms crossed and head down* SNORE.
Tigergirl: *shakes her head* It was not easy to explain why five young men have spent a week in my apartment. Thankfully, my kitty got along with Ryo's "kitty." Wasn't easy to sneak that big tiger in here, though.
White Blaze: *curled up in the entranceway with a small cat curled up on his back* SNORE.
Tigergirl: So since the poor boys are sleeping, I'm apparently going to have to do the review mail call today. Let's start with this review from jrzgrl02. Godfather, yep. I know a lot of people were thinking father or maybe father's brother. Oh, I never said Emily actually had a tattoo, but Rowen's figuring if she ever did get one she would have it somewhere easily hidden by clothes. Thank you, thank you. I did have a pretty awesome birthday.
Kento: *lets out a snort and rolls over* SNORE.
Tigergirl: *shakes her head* Our next review comes from a newcomer. IceFire 27: Oooh, Oooh! New reader and reviewer. I'm glad to hear you're hooked. This is actually my longest story ever written that is actually going to see an ending. Here's the next chapter and I hope to read more reviews from you.
White Blaze: *whines*
Cat: *kneading her claws into Blaze's back*
Tigergirl: Shoo! Shoo, cat!
Cat: *jumps off White Blaze and darts under TG's bed*
Tigergirl: Okay. So our final review comes from one of our ever faithful reviewers, collegegal. Oh, it is totally cool. I did very little fanfic writing during my college years (except during the summer) and posted maybe once during those four years. Thanks! I'm glad you like the chapter. Just wait until you read below about those tattoos and other fun things. I did have a special and happy birthday. Thank you.
Author's Note: So, in all reality, I did have a very fun birthday. Nice dinner with friends at Golden Corral then family dinner at Perkins another night. Got to go golfing with my "old man" and shot 4 strokes under him with 3 pars and my FIRST chip & birdie! For those of you who are not golf-savvy, all that is very VERY good.
I hope you enjoy this new chapter. Sorry it took so long, but my muse decided to take a weeklong vacation to Australia. And then when it came back it decided to inspire me on another story.
/Day 11 of Winter Break, New Year's Day/
Emily crawled out of the tent still clad in her clothes from last night and her pullover. She was surprised to find only Mia and White Blaze sitting at the campfire eating breakfast. She glanced around as she walked up to Mia and accepted a plate of food.
"Wh'r are da guys?" Emily mumbled with her mouth full.
Mia gave her a funny look.
"Did you forget what the guys wanted to do with you to celebrate the New Year?" Mia asked.
It took Emily a second before she gasped. She quickly scarfed down the rest of her breakfast and ran back over to the tent to dive inside. Mia laughed as she watched the other woman zip up the tent. The tent moved around in jerky movements of someone trying to dress and dress fast. A few seconds later, the tent unzipped and Emily popped out.
In all of the excitement, Emily had completely forgotten what she had asked the guys prior to her coming back into the country. She had asked to train with each of them individually to see how far along her power had come. They had all agreed to do it on New Year's Day as a Ronin way of celebrating.
We can have our chat about my parents later, Emily said to herself.
"So I'm guessing all the guys are all at different locations?" Emily said.
Mia nodded. She could tell Emily was happy about spending the day training. She informed the young blonde that they wanted her to start with Cye.
"There's a lake nearby in that direction," Mia said, pointing.
Emily hid a smile when she turned her back on the older woman. She knew exactly what lake the woman was talking about. Bidding the other woman a short goodbye, Emily followed White Blaze down to the lake since the only way she knew to get there was the cliff. She stopped at the lakeside and spotted Cye's backpack sitting there innocently.
"Guess you've gone under," Emily muttered.
Placing her backpack down beside his, Emily took a deep breath before diving down into the water. Like early this morning, she felt the pinpricks of ice shoot through her body but her body adjusted quickly as she thought of Cye and the Torrent armor. As she began to dive down into the surprisingly deep lake in search of Cye, Emily thought about her ronin power.
In the beginning, she had unconsciously channeled power from the separate armors. For example, she would astral project any time she took a short nap and she had set off the school fire alarm at least a dozen times when her temper (and fire) had flared. Her brother had worked with her on meditation which had helped her in figuring out how to channel each armor.
Emily touched down at the bottom of the lake and found Cye waiting in his subarmor. He greeted her by way of bowing and she returned the bow. With fish swimming all around them, Emily watched as Cye began moving the water with small motions of his arms. Only the one part of the water was moving with him instead of the entire lake.
After a short time, Cye moved his arms and directed the small water current over to Emily. Using much wider motions with her arms, Emily separated the medium-sized current into two small currents. She directed each current with a hand each, moving her arms above and around her. Cye watched her with a nodding of his head.
After her arms started to tire, Emily swept the water back into its normal state. Without warning, Cye launched himself at Emily who instantly evaded him. Because she wasn't wearing armor of any kind, Emily had to wrap a shield-like exterior of water around her body. This allowed her move fluidly through the water like a fish.
They sparred each other half-heartedly with their main goal to practice, neither one actually wanting to harm one another. Finally, Cye landed a light blow on Emily's stomach and she lost the concentration of her shield. She also noticed that it was over an hour for her to be underwater without the need to breath and she could feel the pain starting to seep in.
Emily quickly but carefully shot up to the surface and promptly took in a big breath of air before swimming over to the water edge. She lifted herself up onto the grass at the same time Cye surfaced. He swam over to the edge and rested his body on his arms as he floated half-in, half-out of the water.
He watched in mild fascination as Emily held her arms open out in front of her. With her eyes closed, Emily called upon Wildfire to dry and warm her chilled body. Cye noticed that the kanji for Spirit appeared on Emily's forehead started to glow not in her usual light green, but red.
/Must have to do with the particular armor power she's using./
Emily smiled as she shook the last few drops from her hair. Cye chuckled as he propelled himself onto his back to float.
"We're all going to meet back up tonight for dinner at eight. I decided to make pigs in a blanket."
"Okay. So who am I going to see next?"
Emily grinned. "Sweet."
With a quick wave goodbye, Emily was off in the direction she knew she would find Kento. White Blaze trailed along beside her with his tail gently beating against the back of her legs.
"All right, squirt! Let's see what you got!" Kento cheered, smashing a fist into his other hand.
Emily grinned. They had started out with an arm wrestle in which Kento had easily pinned Emily's arm. The blonde had secretly sworn revenge on him.
Kento picked up a large stone with a grunt. "Ready, Em?"
The blonde nodded as she bent down a little. Kento smiled big before hurtling the large rock up into the air and towards Emily. Feeling the strength of Hardrock radiating through her body, Emily felt it travel down her arms and to her hands. Putting her gloved hands into fists, Emily waited for it to get close before pulling her right hand back.
She moved her whole body forward and punched the boulder with her right hand right as it would have smashed into her. The stone broke into two smaller pieces where Emily had punched it with the pieces falling to the ground behind her. Kento let out a loud whoop before picking up another boulder of similar size and throwing it at Emily.
This time, Emily punched with her left hand and got the same results. This went on for a few minutes with the energetic ronin chucking large rocks at her and Emily alternating on different ways of breaking the stones. She mostly used her hands but broke a few with kicks using her feet and legs. She really took him by surprise when she returned the favor.
By now, Emily had worked up quite a sweat and Kento immediately threw her into a sparring match with him. THUD! Emily blocked a hard punch to her face with the steel, bony side of her arm. Their sparring lasted until Kento dodged backwards and Emily ended up punching the ground, causing a small crack in the ground.
"Phew! Man, you've gotten good!" Kento cheered, clapping Emily on the back.
She immediately pushed him away and took a step back.
"Dude, you stink!" Emily exclaimed.
Kento chuckled. "You're not exactly a fresh daisy, either."
Emily reached forward and shoved him hard, making him stumble a little bit.
"You go take a shower. I'll see you back at camp later."
After a quick dip in another nearby lake, Emily ran off to meet Ryo. Her time with him went by in a blur and before she knew it she was standing in a dark cave with her brother. Or at least, she hoped her brother was present and not standing outside the cave with that "evil" grin on his face as she stumbled through the dark. The cave was so dark she could barely see her hand in front of her face.
"Sage?" she called.
The only sound she heard was her voice echoing through the dark space. She stumbled into the wall with a groan. How was she supposed to work with the power of the Halo armor if she couldn't see a darn thing?
[Not all light can be seen by the naked eye.]
Emily sighed in frustration. [If that is true, big brother, then how will I be able to find you and White Blaze?]
She heard a familiar chuckle echo through the cave, but she couldn't pinpoint the direction it came from.
[The most common light sources are thermal. A body at a given temperature emits a characteristic spectrum of black-body radiation. Close your eyes and use the armor power to detect us.]
Sighing again, Emily let her eyes close. She put her arms out in front of her with her palms face-up. She took a deep breath as she summoned the power of the Halo armor to her. The light began radiating from within before she felt it reach out like a beacon. Invisible waves of light bounced off objects among the cave and bounced back to her.
A smile broke out on her face as a particularly large wave flowed back to her.
"There you are."
She opened her eyes and continued to use Halo to guide her through the cave. She could tell the cave was large with plenty of open space. She walked around a corner and found her brother standing nearby with lit candles placed on the ground.
"Good job," he praised her.
She laughed as she looked around her. She didn't see White Blaze anywhere but it was a pleasant feeling to see her brother in his subarmor and know there was no danger nearby.
"So is there where you and I spar until it's time for me to go find Rowen?" she asked.
He surprised her by shaking her head. He explained that he wanted her to continue using the newest ability he had just taught her to find White Blaze.
"He's somewhere deep within the cave and I want you to find him. Sometimes, I didn't always have the ability to light up the darkest of places so I had to rely on Halo to extend my other senses."
Emily frowned, but then she nodded her head with understanding.
"That kid in the mountains. The one you found in the blizzard of '09. Did you use this ability to find him?" she asked.
Sage nodded. "I couldn't see anything yet I think the armor was trying to guide me. The ability sort of…just came to me."
Emily smiled. She knew very well how that felt. She was learning new tricks every day to her seemingly endless amount of ronin power.
"For a six hundred something pound feline, you sure hide pretty well."
White Blaze purred loudly while rubbing up against Emily's side. She had spent a lot more time than she had anticipated searching for the tiger. The sun was low in the sky as she trudged up to the house. For some odd reason, Sage had sent her back to Mia's house to see Rowen.
As the two neared the house, Emily calculated that she really only had time for an hour with Rowen before they needed to head back out to the camp site. Upon arriving at the house, they found Rowen standing near a trampoline and setting up some targets that were tilted upwards. Emily glanced up on the trampoline to see the bow Rowen had given her for Christmas and a few of her old arrows.
"What are you up to, love?" Emily asked in a hesitant voice.
Rowen motioned to her to get up on the trampoline. Shooting him a confused look, Emily lifted herself up onto the trampoline and stumbled a little as she tried to get her feet under her. White Blaze crawled underneath the trampoline and laid down, managing to worry Emily just a little about bouncing.
"I wanted to try something with ya that trick archers have tried mastering. I know Strata has given you the ability to astral project, but I want to help you improve your archery," Rowen explained.
"O-oookay," Emily drawled out, still quite confused.
Rowen chuckled as Emily picked up her bow and one of her arrows. His next question threw her for a loop.
"Come again?" she asked.
He reached up and took the extra arrows off the trampoline before repeating his question.
"What do you notice when I'm launching an arrow?" he asked.
Emily scrunched up her face in deep concentration. It had been a while since she had seen Rowen in his royal blue armor. She thought about the battle between him and the two warlords just before their last capture.
"The air. You're usually…floating?...in midair," Emily guessed.
Rowen nodded. He explained that he was going to get her to attempt to do the same. At first, he had her just jumping with the bow and arrow in her hands with her gaze on the targets. Emily admitted it did feel quite awkward, but after a few minutes of bouncing she felt comfortable enough to raise the arrow to her bow
"Good. You're looking good. Why don't you try releasing the arrow now?" Rowen suggested.
Emily was a little nervous about that, especially with him standing so close to the targets. However, she chose that moment to push off hard from the trampoline, quickly raise her bow and release the arrow. Emily hated to admit it to herself or out loud that she was disappointed when the arrow struck the ground.
When she came down, she allowed herself to bounce with less power so she could come to a standing stop. Rowen tossed up another arrow to her and encouraged her to try again. It took a few tries and twisting her body back so she was pointing downwards at an angle to land an arrow on a target.
After that, she jumped off the trampoline and landed next to Rowen after performing a front flip in midair. Rowen congratulated her with a soft but deep kiss on the mouth. A rough shove at his knees caused him to break the kiss. White Blaze stood there giving him the look.
"Sage been talking to you again?" Rowen mumbled.
White Blaze nodded his head once, earning him a muttered curse from Emily. After Emily stashed her bow and arrows in the house, the trio ran back towards the camping site. Emily beat them both there by dashing from tree to tree via the limbs above.
The early evening went by quick as Rowen took a shower while Emily assisted Cye with dinner. Then Emily went over and took a shower after Rowen returned to the campsite. Emily sat nervously during the group munching on pigs in a blanket. Sage must have picked up on her nervousness because he stood up and walked over to sit down to his sister.
"What's wrong, Em?" he asked, placing a hand on her arm.
She smiled softly at him and shook her head.
"Nothing's wrong. In fact, everything's great. I just need to talk to you guys about something," she answered.
The others grew quiet, having first heard Sage's question then Emily's response. She excused herself to grab something from her and Mia's tent. She returned with two pictures in her hands. Sage couldn't see what they were when she sat down beside him. She handed one quietly to him while holding the other.
Sage stared down at the photograph quietly. It was a photograph of a man holding a small baby. He passed it around to the others until it reached Rowen who sat on Emily's other side.
"Em, who is this?" Rowen asked.
"That's me…and Andrew. My father."
The ronins and Mia gasped.
END OF CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
Tigergirl: Okay, so the ronins are all still asleep in my apartment. Hope y'all enjoyed the chapter and love me for this complete fake-out. PSYCH! The chapter's not done yet. Keep reading, everyone!
It took Emily several minutes to calm everyone down and explain her full story of how the picture had come into her possession. Then she showed them the other photograph, the one of her father and the Ancient One. She told them everything, starting from her sleepy walk to the bathroom to her returning to the tent.
They had been a little hesitant to believe her but Emily had never lied before and the photographs were strong evidence.
"There's something else. Something else the Ancient O-,…my godfather told me about," Emily said.
"What's that?" Kento asked from across the firepit.
Emily stood up and rolled up the sleeves to her pullover.
"Do you guys remember those markings you supposedly saw on my arms?" Emily asked.
Everyone including Mia nodded. Mia had been told about the incident before they had gone camping. Emily closed her eyes and breathed a big sigh. Sage and Kento nearly stumbled backwards off the logs they'd been sitting on while everyone else stared in astonishment.
Slowly, as if an invisible being were using paintbrushes, thin, black lines glided across her arms. The overlapping lines appeared light green just like the two times before. Sage shot up to his feet to take one of Emily's arms with both his hands.
"H-How…? Wh-wha-what?" Sage struggled to formulate a full question.
"Take a deep breath, Sage," Emily instructed.
Sage drew in a big deep breath which seemed to settle his nerves a little.
"These markings are rare in the Nether Realm. They come with the genetics of being a Shadow. My father had the recessive Shadow gene and it turns out it's…uh…active with me? The Ancient One wasn't even sure it was going to be active with me. It turns out that the Shadow gene can show at any time between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Both parents don't need to have the gene for it to be passed on and active."
They had a million questions to ask. What was a Shadow? Were the markings the only indication of being a Shadow? Was she only part Shadow?
"The Nether Realm, obviously, is different from our "realm" and so are its people. When Andrew was only a kid, there were several people that had the Shadow gene. All of them were full-blooded Shadows. Even back then, they were considered a rarity. No two Shadows showed the same markings or coloring in the overlapping lines."
Emily paused to collect her thoughts and let some of the information sink in. All eyes were on her and it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop over the crackling of the fire.
"By twist of fate or genes or whatever the f-OOH!" Sage, who had still been standing right next to Emily, had jerked his arm around her and quickly covered her mouth with his hand.
Sage gave her a pointed look. [Use a different word, baby sister. You're not to use that type of language around me until I'm dead plus three days. Just to make sure I'm really dead. ]
Emily grinned at him through her hand. She silently promised to tone her language down a smidge. Only then did Sage remove his hand. Everyone's nerves had loosened in that comedic moment between the siblings.
"As I was saying, by whatever twist of fate, I am a half-Shadow. My father had the half-blood gene, too, but my godfather explained that there's no real way to explain how the genetics passes down. And I, for one, consider that a headache for another day."
Rowen nodded his head in agreement. He had a high IQ and even he was having a hard time following all the logistics of what Emily was saying. Finally, one of them spoke up.
"What does being a Shadow or half-Shadow entail?" Mia asked.
"Well, apparently, I can call up these markings, for a lack of better word. The Ancient One isn't sure what Shadow abilities I may inherit, but the shadows supposedly act as a warning system of sorts. I thought I was getting paranoid back at the college, but he says it must have been the early stages of hearing them. He believes I may have the capability to shift through the shadows with practice," Emily explained.
"Shift?" Cye asked.
"Kind of like teleporting, I guess. The Ancient One wasn't quite sure how Shadows "shift." He thinks I may be one of very few Shadows left. There's very little knowledge of their history and abilities."
"I'm confused about one thing."
Everyone's eyes snapped to Kento. They all thought "Only one thing?!" and wondered exactly what that one thing could be. Emily nodded her head for him to speak.
"The Ancient One sacrificed himself so we could travel between the realms like the warlords did. How is it that you can see him, hear him, feel his touch?" Kento questioned.
Emily explained it had been a special sacrifice. Having used the Staff of the Ancients to foresee what would happen, the Ancient One had performed a ritual that would keep his spirit from going on after his death. She explained he had had multiple reasons for doing this. One, he had wanted to further guide the ronins should they need his guidance. Two, he had not wanted to leave Emily without any ties to her real parents.
"He would have come to me sooner, but he knew mom and dad were going to tell me in time. So he waited."
With that said, everyone stayed around the campfire, trying to digest all the information Emily had just dropped on them. It was certainly a lot to take in and in such a short amount of time. However, they were all thankful for one thing. Emily now knew about her true parents and even a godfather she hadn't already been aware of.
Sage put an arm around behind his sister's shoulders and placed a soft kiss on the side of her head. He felt at peace that Emily had someone to talk to about her biological family and that that person was the Ancient One.
Perhaps now life can return to normal, Sage thought.
END OF CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
 This is where Emily did a small version of air quotes.
 I love this quote from Ice Age: Continental Drift. Best quote ever written! I may be a little off on the sentence, but I know I'm awful close or spot on.
Tigergirl: So I finally finished off this chapter. I'm on chapter four on that other story my muse decided to inspire me on. Sadly, it is still untitled. The summary is a work in progress but I may list it on the next chapter here and ask for some suggestions for titles.
Ronins and White Blaze: SNORE.
Tigergirl: *glare* I don't know how they are still sleeping. Or why for that matter. Either way, I'm getting them up if they ain't awake by tonight.
White Blaze: *snort*
Tigergirl: Harrumph. *smile* Anyway, please read, review, and enjoy!