Alright, by this point I think you all know the drill with the disclaimer that's been at the beginning of the first ten chapters. So we'll skip that bit. We'll also skip the bit about why I'm not using standard Publishing Industry formatting. All that leaves for me to say is, enjoy.
Mind, Soul, and Body:
Book One: Shadows of the Past
Chapter Eleven: Scattered
By Corlock Striker
May 19, 2001 New York, NY -
Shu called them "tin cans" equating them to the mindless animated armors that Arago had sent to fight them on countless occasions. A cursory glance confirmed that assessment, but as Ryo looked closer he realized these were different. The ones Odin sent against them had spikes and horns protruding from various parts of their Samurai armor, lending a Norse flavor to it. Then there were the weapons, the standard fare was present, katanas, kusari-gamas, and naginatas. However, some of them also carried double bladed axes, round wooden shields banded with metal, and western style short swords. Why were these soldiers armed with a strange cross of Japanese and Norse armor and weaponry?
He dropped down from the bleachers and drew his second sword. Toma took his spot on the bleachers and drew an arrow, notching it in a single fluid motion. The remainder of them formed a defensive ring around Sad, Mike, Trish and Jane. He glanced over his shoulder to check on them. They bounced awkwardly in their stances, filled with nervous energy. Their eyes flitted here and there, overwhelmed by the volume of the enemy. Ryo looked for White Blaze and catching the tiger's eye flicked his head back to the four. The tiger slipped inside the ring and circled the four teenagers, a second line of defense.
The "tin cans" quickly closed to melee distance. All worries about the teenagers fled Ryo's mind, his attention directed to the enemies before him. He and the others did their best to ensure none got inside the ring, but from the sound of White Blaze's roars and of his claws tearing through metal some did. White Blaze couldn't be everywhere inside the ring and so the teenagers had to protect themselves, though that was a rare. They had gone into this fight thinking these soldiers that Odin sent against them would be easy prey. They were wrong.
Ryo and the others were some of the most skilled combatants on the planet, the three Mashou and Kayura more so, thanks to their age. However, they each found themselves hard pressed to defeat their foes. Oh, the soldiers went down, but it took far more effort to kill each one than it had ever taken to fell one of Arago's troopers. Except for the first one they ever fought. The five of them had just barely beaten that one. Ryo needing to use his special attack. After that, none of Arago's mindless minions had ever provided much difficulty.
Odin's soldiers were different. They were intelligent, they knew how to fight. They parried, blocked and dodged attacks and took advantages of the openings they created. Ryo found himself fending off as many blows as he was throwing out. Their enemy seemed endless. White Blaze too gave out injured cries, that was exceptionally rare. Ryo spared a quick glance to check on the others after felling his most recent opponent. All of them seemed to be straining to beat these soldiers, even Kayura and the Mashou. Toma fired off shots as often as he could, but spent a good deal of time blocking attacks with his bow and felling opponents with punches and kicks.
These soldiers certainly knew tactics. They were trying to take out the one source of ranged attacks available to the Troopers. In fact, they were focusing a lot of attention on Toma. Ryo tried to go over and help but found himself engaged by another opponent. As he turned his attention away, he caught a glimpse of Kayura coming to Toma's aide. He heard more sounds of conflict from the four teenagers. He gave a quick glance in their direction as he parried another blow. The four were working together to take down whatever soldiers made it to them. Far more opponents than Ryo and the others had anticipated achieving that. The four were panting but still alive, good.
Ryo parried another blow, his attention returning to his opponent and struck out with his other blade, felling it. He then dived into the mass of soldiers, blades whirling around him. His opponents fell before his razor whirlwind, but it was a short lived assault. He was getting winded. He found himself stepping back towards the circle as he parried blows from numerous opponents, unable to attack. An arrow suddenly felled one and he lashed out, taking out a second, then a third. He had to conserve his energy. He switched to fighting defensively, the others having the same idea. They all backed up, closing the ring, parrying and blocking the incoming attacks, watching each others backs. They only attacked when a clear opportunity presented itself. This was taking far too long.
Toma was the first to make use of his special attack, his shout of "Heaven's Shockwave!" followed by an arrow streaking out. A concussive blast radiated from the arrow, knocking Odin's troops to the ground or sending them flying. All landing with enough force to take them out of the fight for good. That put a significant dent in the attacking mass. It became easier to land attacks. Then Shu let loose with his, "Iron Rock Crusher!" He swung his staff down, smashing the tip into the street. The road directly in front of him rent and shook for fifty feet, energy crackling around the shifting heaps of asphalt. Hundreds of Odin's troops found themselves crushed by flying chunks of road.
"Red Lightning Strike!" Kayura leapt into the air and threw down the spiked end of her kusari-gama. Hundreds of red lightning bolts shot up out of the ground in a twenty foot radius from the landing site. They shifted into chains and trapped a large mass of the attacking swarm. The chains tightened, constricting their victims. Soon, vapor escaped from the ensnared soldiers, and they fell to the ground lifeless. "Black Lightning Strike!" Anubis swung his nodatchi in a wide horizontal slash, bolts of black lightning flying out from the blade. The bolts jumping from one enemy to the next, each one they struck falling to the ground.
"Wave Smasher!" Shin set his feet and held his yari out in front of him. A cyclone of water shot out from the tip of his spear, catching Odin's soldiers in it's deadly vortex. Shin waved it over the attacking mass, as though putting out a fire. The swarm no longer seemed endless. "Snake Fang Strike!" Ryo wasn't sure which version of his attack Naaza used, the whip or the thrusting attack with all six of his swords, the Mashou was directly behind him. Ryo had faced both versions often enough to know that either was capable of mass carnage.
Then Rajura let loose with his, "Web of Deception!" The Mashou jumped into the air and pulled the six kamas from his back, using the handle of their holster. The kamas flew into the ground, a shimmering thread trailing each one. Thousands of those threads shot out of the ground all around the impact points, forming a spider's web. The soldiers trapped with the web turned on each other, their minds clouded by Rajura's attack. Soon they all lay lifeless, done in by their comrades. Seiji let loose with his then, "Lightning Strike!" The blonde trooper thrust his nodatchi into the air, flung it out to his side then swept it forward in a horizontal slash. A ball of blue and white lightning shot out from the blade, blasting into the mass of foes. They could do nothing but convulse as life left them in the wake of the attack.
Ryo took a deep breath, there were barely any left in comparison to the number at the start. It was his turn now. He exhaled and catapulted himself into the air, joining the handles of his swords end to end, creating a double bladed staff. He raised it above his head and as he swung it down called out, "Fury of Wildfire!" A beam of liquid fire shot out from his blades, incinerating everything in it's path. He touched down, breathing heavily, all of Odin's troops were gone. He raised his head, his brow knitting. The road in front of him should look like a meteor crashed on it. It was untouched. As were the buildings that should have been decimated by his attack.
He looked around. None of their attacks had damaged the landscape, not even Shu's. Which was the strangest thing of all, since he had seen it tear up the street. He looked to the others bewildered. Toma the only one who didn't seem completely confounded, he had a pensive look upon his face. He drew an arrow and shot it at a traffic light. Instead of piercing the object, it bounced off. Toma nodded, "Yeah, we're in a time stasis."
Everyone but Sad, Mike and Kayura shot back, "A what?!"
Toma opened his mouth, but Sad beat him to it, "A time stasis. It means the flow of time in this area has been suspended."
Ryo turned to Sad, "Huh?"
Mike answered this time, "Okay, so think of time like a river." Everyone nodded. "Now, build a dam across the river. Water stops, right?"
Seiji answered back, "Okay, so time has stopped flowing completely?"
Toma answered, picking up on Mike's explanation, "Yes and no. See, the stoppage of time in this case is a localized effect. So, get rid of the dam. Replace it with a large rock. The water flows around the rock, but doesn't move the rock. The water, or in this case time, has stopped flowing where the rock is. That's a time stasis."
A unanimous "Ooh," resounded.
Shin asked, "Okay, so what does that have to do with your arrow not doing anything to the traffic light, or our attacks not damaging the city?"
Sad and Mike shrugged.
Toma answered, "It means that we cannot make any changes to our environment. We can't damage things because they're frozen in time."
Shu spoke, "But what about my attack, it tore up the street when I used it. Now the street is fine."
It was Toma's turn to shrug. Kayura provided the answer, "It is not impossible to effect the environment in a time stasis. In order to so, you need to use magic. In this case, your attack Shu. However, once the magic has ended, the environment returns to its original state."
A soft round of applause drifted down from above their heads, "We are very impressed. You figured it all out. You should be very proud. Such concepts are quite difficult for the average mortal to comprehend so quickly. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. You are all far from average mortals. Especially you Loki." Sad glared up at Odin, as did the rest of them. Seiji placing a hand on Sad's shoulder prevented the boy from speaking and identifying himself to Odin. Odin chuckled, "Mm, we shouldn't be surprised that our step son is so adept at hiding. Cowering has ever been his specialty. We imagine you are wondering why our soldiers gave you so much trouble, yes?"
Ryo forced out a snort, "Trouble? I think you need to get your eyes checked. They're all gone. We're still here."
Odin chuckled, "Yes, we know. We also know that you had to use your special attacks to defeat them. Such attacks should only be utilized against tough opponents, don't you agree? Of course, you were fighting the Einherji. We would have been sorely disappointed in our Valkyries if the Einherji had not forced you to use such means."
Ryo looked around and mouthed the word Einherji to the others, Toma and Sad responded, "The souls of the dead warriors chosen to fight by Odin's side during Ragnarok. Only the most worthy of warriors who die in battle are given that honor." Ryo nodded in thanks.
Odin rubbed his neck with his left hand, "But we grow tired of this. It is high time the games ended. You are not nearly strong enough to stand against us and we are not in the mood to humor your attempts at resistance." He raised his right hand in front of his face, a swirling mass of energy concentrating around it. He balled his hand into a fist and flung it out in front of himself, splaying his fingers wide at the last instant. A blinding flash of light engulfed them. Ryo felt more than saw Kayura and the Mashou and the four teenagers go flying, reduced to nothing more that colored balls of light, streaking across the sky in all directions.
Just before he felt himself and the others being pulled away, he heard Odin say, "Hmm, that is most unfortunate. We did not expect that." And then he was pulled away from Times Square. This felt different than the time that Arago had caused their armors to retreat to their resting places, at least to him. The sensation from the other Troopers felt different than that as well The sensation he got from the Mashou and the four teenagers flying off felt exactly like when the others had been flung to their resting places though.
Odin was rubbing at his throat once more, as he dropped his right hand to his side and turned away from the ledge of the roof, "Hmm, that is most unfortunate. We did not expect that."
Thor knitted his brow in consternation, "What did you not expect All Father?"
Odin looked at him absently, "We intended to kill the bearers and leave their armors behind. Sadly, they live still. They have been scattered. We also did not realize that this action would result in Heimdallr and Diana scattering along with them. A shame. Still, we found Heimdallr once, we know where to find him again."
"Then let us go retrieve him. I will be happy to bring him back to you, father."
"No son, we appreciate the sentiment, but there is a better use for Heimdallr at the moment."
Ares spoke, that nasally voice grating in Thor's ears, "A better use, All Father?"
Odin nodded absently, "Yes, bait. The five in the white armors, they were not scattered by my spell. Something else pulled them away from here. They will seek out the others. We will watch them, follow them, ambush them and subdue them when they are at their weakest, when they are separated. If they somehow manage to survive that. Well, we will watch where Heimdallr sleeps and prepare. When they come for him, we will destroy them, without fail." Odin rubbed at his neck once more, looking back over his shoulder at the spot where the thirteen had stood in defiance, "We need to know more about our enemies. Learn their weaknesses. We will choose which of you confronts them at each location. We want you to take their memories. We will provide you with the necessary means. Their memories will serve to help us break them, should you fail. Yes, that will work nicely."
Odin turned his head away from where the fools had stood. He took a few more steps, shimmered and then faded from sight. Thor looked around at the six others present, sneering at Ares. They had all best perform to the All Father's expectations. He followed after his father, shimmering and fading, returning to Asgard.
Seiji opened his eyes, raising a hand to his head and blinking at the bright light. He must have passed out. He tried to sit up, a familiar hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Rest Seiji, you are safe here. Jessica will explain everything when you have recovered." He leaned back onto whatever surface he was resting on. It seemed soft enough and closed his eyes as Nasté requested. Sleep took him.
He awoke a few hours later, the pain in his head gone. As he opened his eyes he noticed that the room was rather dark. He sat up, finding himself laying on a twin sized bed. He looked around the room, the shades had been pulled down and the red and blue plaid curtains drawn, light softly illuminating the curtains around the edge of the shades. The walls were painted in a light shade of yellow, a large set of antlers hung above his bed, a taxidermy of a fish hung in the middle of the wall behind him, another bed was to his right, above that was a smaller set of antlers. Toma lay on the other bed. He knew this bed room, it was Sad's. He threw back the denim comforter and swung his legs out, rising to his feet.
All he had on was a pair of boxers. He scanned the room, his clothes were on a chair in front of a dark wooden desk, Toma's atop a matching dresser. Desk and dresser against the wall opposite the heads of the beds. Seiji walked over to his clothes and pulled them on. They smelled like they had been freshly laundered and ironed. He shook his head, Nasté didn't need to do that. He looked over at Toma's, they had been cleaned and pressed as well. He slipped out of the room, careful not to wake Toma. There was a door across the narrow hall from Sad's bedroom and another to his right.
A hand reached out and grabbed his arm. He looked down to his left, Nasté was sitting in a chair just outside the door of Sad's bedroom. It looked as though the chair had been there, rather than that she had placed it there. She put a finger to her lips, and stood. To the left of the door in front of him was a stair case, to the left of that another door, left of that a cabinet with packed bookshelves above it, at the far end of the hall was yet another door. Across from the stair case there seemed to be another hallway leading deeper into the house. Seiji craned his neck slightly, on the far side of this hallway was another door.
He stepped closer to this other hallway, it abruptly ended in another doorway after the one to the right, and across from that door was a twin to the other cabinet, it's bookshelves packed as well. The door at the end of this short hallway was ajar, and Nasté wasn't holding him back from exploring here. He peaked his head through the door, it led to a bathroom. He pulled his head out and turned around. As he did, the doorway to the left of the staircase cracked open. Ryo stepped out, yawning and stretching. He caught sight of Seiji and froze, then Nasté hushed him as well. She went down the staircase. Seiji and Ryo followed after.
At the bottom of the stairs Nasté turned to the left. To the right was a wide, open, arched entry way, it led to the dinning room. Nasté continued to the left through a similar entry way, into a pink walled room. There was a fireplace in the center of the far wall, to the left of that was what looked to be a grand piano in a dark wood, to the right of the fire place tucked away in the corner a chest of drawers. In front of the fireplace a round cushioned seat with no back or arm rests. To either side of that an arm chair. An empty space before a dark wood coffee table sat in front of a pink couch across from the fire place, an end table at either end of the couch. At either end of the coffee table another arm chair. Tucked away in the far corner of the room, diagonal from the chest of drawers was a wing chair.
Jessica sat in the arm chair at the far end of the coffee table. Her eyes were closed and her hands were shaking. Tracks of smeared mascara trailed down from her eyes, she'd been crying. Ryo tensed and was kneeling at her side before Seiji even realized he had moved, taking one of her hands in his. She opened her red rimmed eyes and looked down at him, then over to Nasté and Seiji. She took a deep breath to steady herself and choked back a sob. "I am glad that the five of you are okay." Her grip tightened on Ryo's hand for a moment. " Nasté told me about what Arago did after your first fight with Shiten. It seems Odin tried to do the same, with similar results."
White Blaze padded into the room, winding his way around the people and furniture to sit on the opposite side of Jessica and plopped his head into her lap. She absently pet the tiger.
Seiji felt his brow lower, "Then why are we here and not in our armors' resting places?"
Jessica smiled pitifully, "Always so clever, Seiji. You and the others hinted at it when you snickered at the Mashou's armors in the restaurant. Do you understand?" He gave her a puzzled look, "Ah, you don't quite see the connection yet. The five of you, your armors have been reforged since their creation. They are and are not the same armors that Odin forged into the Armor of Creation. His connection with your armors is far weaker. His attack had no effect on the five of you."
Ryo asked the shared question, confusion plain in his voice, "Then why are we here and not in Times Square?"
Jessica let out a half laugh, half cry, "My grandmother was scrying the battle. As soon as Odin lashed out at the thirteen of you she realized what was happening, that the five of you would be left there. You were exhausted from your fight with the Einherji. Had you remained behind you would have been easy prey for Odin and his followers. She could not allow that to happen. She acted quickly, too quickly. She had to get you out of there as the others were being scattered, so Odin would think he had flung you away as well. She teleported you five back to her house."
Seiji stared at her in horror as he realized what she was leaving unsaid, "Jessica..."
Ryo had yet to pick up on it but there was great concern in his voice, "Then why are we at Sad's house?"
She smiled sadly down at Ryo and ran a hand along his face, "Ah, Ryo, you're not quite as clever as Seiji, but your heart, it is so radiant." Tears rolled down her face, the hand that had trailed along Ryo's face shaking violently. Her other hand clenched Ryo's hard enough to make him wince. She tried to give voice to the answer, but no sound came from her lips. Her lips wide, forming an o, quivered as she tried to force them into the necessary shape. Concern was plain as day in Ryo's blue eyes.
Seiji felt his heart rending, "Because she couldn't stand to be in that house anymore Ryo."
Ryo turned to him, "Why not?"
Seiji let out a sigh and collapsed into the chair opposite Jess. Nasté perched herself on the couch, in the seat nearest him. Her hand wrapped around his left forearm, lending him strength. Seiji raised his head and looked directly at Ryo, "Jess just told us Ryo. Her grandmother acted quickly, too quickly. For a mortal the power necessary to achieve instant teleportation is enormous. Kayura could manage instant teleportation, so could Jess. I'm sure Jessica's grandmother could as well, since she obviously knew the spell. But it would take them a substantial amount of time to gather the necessary energy to do it safely. That's why Kayura always travels through the nether realm. Summoning one of those gates requires much less energy. Then from the nether realm, she can open another gate to take her wherever she wishes in our world. Fast, safe, effective, though not quite instantaneous, travel."
Jessica nodded along with Seiji's explanation. Ryo's eyes growing wide with horror as he realized what Seiji was getting at. "You don't...you can't..."
Seiji dropped his head again, "I do, Ryo. Jessica's grandmother, she had to teleport us and do it fast. She didn't have enough time to safely gather the necessary energy and she couldn't use a gate, not for this. She did what Kaos did when he created that bridge to the nether realm for us. She fueled the spell with her life."
Jessica broke into full sobs, her upper body collapsing into her lap and onto White Blaze's head. The tiger rubbed his head against her. The knuckles of her hand holding Ryo's turned white. Ryo looked back to her and rose partially, sitting lightly on the arm of her chair. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him. Her hands clutched at his back as she sobbed against him. White Blaze kept his head in her lap and rubbed his head against her stomach.
Seiji lifted his head and flopped his torso against the back of his chair, his head landing along the top. He stared up at the ceiling, blinking back tears. Nasté's grip on his arm grew tighter, she turned away, burying her face in her other hand as her elbow rested on her knee. Seiji reached over with his right hand and gave the hand on his forearm a reassuring squeeze.
This war had claimed its first victim, how many more were to come? Someone cleared their voice in the entry way of the room. Seiji rolled his head to the side, Toma, Shu and Shin were standing there. When had they arrived? How much had they heard? From the vacant look in each of their eyes, they had heard enough. Three teenaged boys stood behind them, Sad and Mike's friends. Seiji closed his eyes for a moment, seeking his inner calm. When he opened them he was in control of his emotions once more. He stood and faced the others, holding Nasté's hand, lending her his strength now. "Well, we all know the drill. We look at the poem, figure out the places it's talking about. Then we go there, fight the foes that followed us there and wake up our friends. Any questions?"
The six figures shook their heads. Ryo spoke out, resuming his command, "Then let's get started." His voice rang with the cold sound of steel. "We start with the Mashou."
Seiji and the others nodded. Jess was still clutching Ryo's hand, pressing her face against it, her body heaving with silent sobs. One of Sad's friends spoke up, "Why aren't you going after Sad. He's Loki, isn't he? Isn't he way more important?"
Ryo stared at the boy, a cold, undirected rage storming in his blue eyes, "Two reasons, and I know they're going to sound cold. When we were awakened after Arago scattered us, we had to be awoken in the order we were listed in the poem. The stanza about the Mashou comes before the stanza about your friends. When dealing with things of a mystical nature, you have to play by the rules. From what we know the rule is you follow the order in the poem. The far more important reason is the Mashou are better fighters. They'll be more of an asset to us than your friends. That makes them a higher priority. Maybe if the stanza with your friends came first we'd go after them first. Though even if that were the case, I'd likely still want to go after the Mashou first. I'm sorry, but that's the truth."
The three boys said, in unison, "Oh." They promptly shut their mouths.
Ryo spoke again, "Does anyone know where the copy of the poem Jessica had is?"
Jessica lifted her head to try and answer but found herself unable to. Nasté also was at a loss for words. The tallest of the three teenagers, easily over six feet, spoke up, "I do. I heard Jessica mention it to Nasté." He was Sad's friend, Seiji thought his name was Oliver.
Seiji broke in, sparing Ryo the trouble of having to remember the boy's name, he knew Ryo was horrible with names, "Would you mind getting it for us, Oliver?"
"No problem." The boy turned and disappeared, returning with the scroll Jessica had shown them before. Oliver started to hand it to Seiji. Toma intercepted it, Seiji nodded gratefully to him. He would have had to ask someone else to take it anyway.
"Shin, Shu, would you guys mind clearing off the coffee table?" The two snapped awake at Toma's request and hurried over to the coffee table, as did the three boys. All of them gathered up the contents of the table, a few coffee table books, a silver dish, a wooden box with a glass top, a needlepoint unicorn under the glass. The items were carefully set aside. Toma set the scroll down on the table and unfurled it. He cleared his throat and began to read, translating it into English out of courtesy to all in the room,
"Torch of Spirit, sought through five,
Drinking strength from immortal fire,
The darkest prison sheds the light,
Churning beneath a swirl of salt,
Burning within a throne of rock,
Floating amongst the eyes of ages,
Unmoored in the stream of the sky.
Sands of Time, sought through four,
Standing guard over the sacred blooms,
Eternal snow cloaked in the longest night,
Meditating amid mirage and haze,
Rotting away with trees unaged,
Sunken beneath a sea of green.
Essence of Being, sought through six,
Hiding in the House of the Dragon,
Bathing in scarlet with the Countess,
The Stone Rejected grants absolution,
Resting beneath the Place of the Skull,
Chasing after the lily stag,
Watching o'er the sacred bridge,
Fixed in place with horn in hand.
The gods gave their powers,
Upon these few all hope rests."
Seiji scratched at his forehead, "Alright, so we know the first stanza applies to us five. Since that was the stanza that we used when Arago scattered us. All of the stanzas follow a similar pattern in the first line, establishing how many armors they're talking about. The second stanza mentions four, so that's the Mashou, the third mentions six, so that's the Armors of Humanity." They had been over this already, he was just establishing it for the three newcomers.
Toma nodded, "Yeah, exactly. Then the second line of the second stanza deals with one of the Mashou. It mentions sacred blooms. Well, flowers are most associated with Spring. That would be Kayura then, her armor, the Armor of the Oni is the armor for Spring. And this poem was penned by someone who was Japanese..."
Ryo spoke up, "So, the sacred bloom would likely be the cherry blossom. The only place I know of where anyone would stand guard over cherry blossoms is the Imperial Palace in Tokyo."
The four of them nodded, Toma voiced his agreement, "Yeah, that makes sense. Alright, I'll go after Kayura." The rest of them smirked, of course Toma would choose to go after her.
Seiji tackled the next line himself, "'Eternal snow cloaked in the longest night,' definitely the armor for winter, which is Anubis's Armor of the Black Jackal. I'd say it'd be the north pole. Permafrost being the 'eternal snow'. As for the 'longest night' if I remember correctly at a certain time of year night lasts for a quite a while up there. Something like 40 days?"
Mike's friend, Jake, broke in, "Yeah, that's right. Um, sorry, it's just there was a really good comic book series called 40 Days of Night. It took place in a town really far north during the time when night lasted for forty days. Premise being that vampires heard about this and decided to make the town their hunting ground during that."
Shin responded less than enthusiastically, "How delightful."
Seiji nodded absently, staring down at the poem, "I'll go after Anubis. Since he and I have such lovely history together." The other Troopers chuckled.
Toma took over again, "'Meditating amid mirage and haze' well the Mashou most likely to be meditating would be Rajura, plus mirages and haze fit in perfectly with his illusions. And they're associated with deserts, and that's pretty much like eternal summer, and that would be the Armor of the Phantom. I'm guessing the Sahara, it's the biggest desert I know of."
Sad's friend Luke broke in, "I imagine you'd want to go to Mt. Kilimanjaro. It's the largest landmark around there, literally." The others turned their heads to look at him. He took a gulp of air, "Sorry, it's just geography is sort of my thing."
Oliver backed him up, "Yeah, Sad's always talking about how Luke's knowledge of geography blows his mind. He says that Luke can give you the entire history of any country on the planet."
A slight flush came to Luke's face, "Well, yeah, I guess I can sort of do that. So, um, yeah, if you're going to the Sahara, I'd start at Mt. Kilimanjaro. It's the best landmark there." Seiji and the other troopers gave Luke an appraising glance.
Toma turned to Shu, "Alright, I guess you should start at Mt. Kilimanjaro, then." Shu looked at Toma in shock, pointing at himself. He stopped, considering then nodded in assent. "Good." Toma looked back to the scroll, "Um, alright, so that leaves Naaza, obviously. The Armor of the Spitting Cobra."
Shin spoke, "Well, I'll go after him, since everyone else is taking the one whose company they most enjoy. Well, at least Toma is." They all chuckled.
Toma rolled his eyes, "Alright, so 'Rotting away with trees unaged,/Sunken beneath a sea of green.' Well, I'm guessing that means a swamp of some kind. But I'll be damned if I know which swamp it means." The five troopers looked at each other at a loss.
Once more Luke cleared his throat, "Um, well, it says, 'sunken beneath a sea of green.' My guess is that means a peat bog."
Toma nodded, "Yeah, that would make sense..."
Luke continued, "The largest and most famous peat bog in the world is Vasyugan Swamp in Siberia."
All five of them looked at Luke just a little impressed. Toma spoke up, "Alright Shin, I guess you're going to Siberia then."
Shu broke in, "Don't forget some vodka." They all laughed, Jessica even managing a grin at that. She had stopped crying for now. She was resting her head against Ryo's hip, her arms around his waist. Ryo had an arm draped protectively over her shoulders.
Ryo spoke up, "I guess that means I should tackle the first of the Armors of Humanity. Who's that and where am I going?"
Toma looked down at the scroll, "'Hiding in the House of the Dragon.' Um, well, we know next to nothing about those armors, actually. Which means I have no idea who you're going after Ryo. As for the 'House of the Dragon,' I'm not really sure. I feel like I should know it, but I just can't recall."
Jake, Oliver and Luke all let out a disappointed sigh, "Ugh, Castle Dracula, duh."
Everyone looked over to them, "Huh?"
Oliver took over the explanation, "Dracula, the name means Son of the Dragon. He's probably the most famous actual dragon in the world. Thus the most famous House of the Dragon in the world would be Castle Dracula."
"Oh," in unison from all but the three boys.
Luke spoke, "I'd go to Poenari Castle in Romania, not Bran Castle. Vlad the Impaler actually lived in Poenari Castle. Bran's a tourist trap. It has almost no real connections to Vlad the Impaler."
Jake took over next, "And 'Bathing in scarlet with the Countess' that's referring to Countess Elizabeth Báthory." The five of them gave him blank stares. "The one that killed all those girls and supposedly bathed in their blood to stay young. Tons of vampire stories surrounding her. She's the only person they could mean by a Countess bathing in scarlet. So, you're looking for her castle. I just can't remember what it's called for the life of me."
Luke once again provided the answer, "Oh, that'd be Csejte Castle in Slovakia."
Seiji gave each of the boys an appraising look, they were proving quite useful. Sad seemed to have a way of attracting those he'd need to himself, either directly or through his friends.
Oliver took the next two lines, "'The Stone Rejected grants absolution.' Well, St. Peter is often referred to as the stone rejected upon which Christ built his church. He's buried in the catacombs under Vatican City. That's probably where that armor is. And then 'Resting beneath the Place of the Skull.' Well the Place of the Skull, that's the translated name for Golgotha outside of Jerusalem."
Luke tackled the next line, "'Chasing after the lily stag.' Well, we saw the fight thanks to, um, never mind. Odin referred to the two he had taken as Heimdallr and Diana. Diana is a Greek goddess, the goddess of the hunt. She's known for hunting a lily stag in her forest. The most famous forest in Greece is Dadia Forest. That's where I'd look."
Jake tackled the last two lines, "'Watching o'er the sacred bridge,/Fixed in place with horn in hand.' Well, Odin called one of the two he pointed out to you guys Heimdallr He's a Norse god, stands watch over Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge." The Troopers gave him blank stares, he elaborated, "The passage between Midgard or Earth and Asgard. Heimdallr watches for the coming of Ragnarok, and when he sees it approach he will sound the alarm with his horn, Gjallhorn. That's who these lines are referring to, and they're telling you that he's at one end of Bifrost. But I'll be damned if I know where that is."
Everyone in the room let out a defeated sigh. They knew where to find all but one of the sleeping armors. Oliver's eyes lit up and he turned to Luke. "Luke, the Vikings all lived pretty far north right?"
Luke looked a little taken aback, "Well, yeah."
"Far enough north to see the Northern Lights?"
Luke's eyes widened with comprehension, "Definitely, yeah."
Shu looked puzzled, "So?"
Luke, Olive, Jake and Toma all turned towards him, "Rainbow Bridge, Northern Lights. The Northern Lights are like a constant rainbow in the sky. The cultures that believed in the Norse Gods, they would have seen the Northern Lights every night. Since they look like a rainbow across the sky, they could have easily thought they were seeing Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge."
Toma got excited now, "That means the last armor is somewhere up towards the North Pole. Not sure exactly where though. But Seiji, once you get Anubis, maybe you two can try and figure that out?"
Seiji nodded, "Yeah, we could do that."
Ryo clapped his hands, "Alright, great, we all know where we're going. Seiji even knows where he's going after he gets Anubis. The rest of us, once we finish, we come back here. The first ones back go to Slovakia. The next go to Vatican City, after that Jerusalem, and then Greece. Okay?"
Jake asked the most important question of the day, "Um, how are you guys going to get to all these places?"
He was answered with silence.
I'd appreciate any feedback anyone is willing to give. Just contact me by e-mail or through the site. My only request is that you put something in the subject line about your e-mail being in response to my Ronin fanfic. I get a lot of spam, and I tend to delete mail from SNs I do not recognize. If you put something about your e-mail being about my writing, I won't delete it and then I will respond to you; if you don't do that I can't guarantee anything. My e-mail address is in my profile.
Hmm, this next story arc seems familiar doesn't it? Well, I hope to have a few surprises in store for you guys. We'll have to see if I can manage that. Chapter 12 is called Sakura.
Thanks for reading.
- Corlock Striker