AN: OMG. Did you think I would forget this fic? NEVER! Two years between updates? SUCH IS LIFE. Muses are fickle beings. But lo and behold, Chapter 17. Guess what..Aura, the Dark Chi Guardian, finally appears. I've had her in my brain since I first started this fic. Here she is at last. Yes, she was always going to do'll know when you read it.

Chapter 17: Severance

We make out way together, all of us.

Though, to be honest, "all of us" isn't that many.

We don't really have much of a chance, but we are together.

An orange and blue blur sweeps past me, ruffling my robes and leaving a cold wind in its wake.

Rumiko-hime shoves the two children out of the way and holds her sword up just in time. An orange talon is pressing down on her blade. Her arms shake from the effort, holding that claw away from her. Now that it is holding still, I can see what it is. A humanoid female. Her eyes are black and beady like a reptile. Her orange skin is covered with a series of brilliant blue, jagged tattoos.

She is a Dark One.

A Dark One Rumiko-hime knows.

"You!" she snarls.

The dark one smiles, cruel, merciless.

"Miss me, princess? You've been difficult to find,"

Rumiko-hime screams and lashes out at the being. It zips back.

"Been busy, princess? That little half-breed yours? He'll be easy to take care of. I'll slice those little wings off and eat them,"

Her voice is ice and darkness.

I lash out with my own power.

I feel her insides. There's nothing much there. Darkness and cold. That's all she is. She's a ball of Dark Chi come to life. A perverse and unnatural thing.

I squeeze her and neon blue Dark Chi oozes out her eyes and ears.

She falls to her knees, there is nothing for her to lean on. There is nothing inside her.

She chokes as it oozes out of her mouth.

Rumiko-hime glares with rage maddened eyes at her wounded adversary. With a shrill scream of rage and pain, she brings the blade down into her enemy, slicing a hole in her shoulder. Condensed blue evil sprays out of her.

I see fear in the thing's eyes.

It does not want to die. This abomination against nature is aware of its mortality. It doesn't like it. It is doomed no matter what happens. There is no flesh to hold her together.

With her last ounce of energy, the creature launches herself at the princess and manages to grab the sword, a mad desire to continue to exist overcoming her obviously grievous wounds.

"I will NOT DIE!" her words are garbled in the blue that floods her mouth.

All of a sudden, she's made of blue fire. She makes one last ditch effort to survive. She slashes at Rumiko-hime with her own sword with a demonic power and severs her left hand.

There's a spray of red now.

And a symphony of voices.

The dark being seizes the severed hand and holds it to her chest.

She then turns the blade on herself, severing her own hand.

It isn't much of a job, it slices through her false skin like a knife through shortening. She hastily shoves the human limb in its place. An acrid smell fills the air and in another flash of orange and blue, she zaps by in another cold wind.

Hsi Wu is sobbing infantile tears I didn't know he was capable of.

Teng pulls off her jacket, revealing her undershirt and shreds it into long strips. She manages to tie off the wound, after shoving the hysterical half-breed out of the way.

Rumiko-hime is paler than usual, her robes stained with her own blood.

Niroto rushes forward and sweeps the sobbing demon child into her arms. She returns to my side.

"She would have died without it. The Dark One. Whether you crushed her or not. They can't survive without flesh. I've seen them dissolve. They rarely last more than a few years. But...she took her hand..I...I don't know what she'll be able to do now,"

I swallow.

Things just got a lot more complicated.