Copyright, Aviatrix8, 2022. Kill la Kill and all related characters are property of Trigger, and are used without permission.

xXx

Kill la Kill fanfic:

"Threads of Fate"

by Avi

Chapter 5: "Africa"

Rei slowly opened her eyes, to find herself lying down in a bed, staring up at a strange ceiling. Where... Am I? she thought to herself.

Memories of the past few days suddenly flooded into her mind. She then sat bolt upright, to find Satsuki sitting in the room with her.

"So you're finally awake," said Satsuki, with a small smile. "Thank goodness you're all right, Hououmaru."

Rei's eyes widened. "Lady Satsuki? Isn't this a hospital? Weren't we in the jungle?"

"That's right. Do you remember what happened to us?"

Rei tried to concentrate. "We were searching for the Life Fiber artifact... When suddenly, we were attacked by animals wearing Life Fibers. Then I tried to use my transformation ring... I'm not sure what happened after that." Rei then clutched her head; it was throbbing, and she could feel bandages wrapped around it.

Satsuki nodded. "That sounds about right. You were knocked out from behind by one of the animals attacking us. After defeating it, I picked you up, and ran away as fast as I could; fortunately, the animals stopped chasing me as soon as I was out of their territory. Then I called in for an immediate air extraction from the jungle, and had you flown to the nearest hospital, ASAP."

Satsuki then breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm glad to see the blow to your head didn't affect your memory, Rei. The doctor was worried you might have a concussion."

"But what about the mission? The Life Fiber artifact-" Rei tried to get out of the bed, but Satsuki was suddenly by her side.

"Don't get up," warned Satsuki. "You're still injured, after all."

"But... I failed you Lady Satsuki," replied Rei, with her eyes downcast. Her ring hand gripped the sheets tightly. "To think I let myself get hurt so easily!"

Satsuki placed a hand over Rei's. "Don't blame yourself," she said firmly. "It's my own fault for underestimating what kind of guardians the Life Fiber artifact might have; it was simply bad luck that you were knocked out."

"But-"

"No buts," said Satsuki with a stern look. "I insist that you stay in bed and heal until the doctor deems you well enough to release you. You are far more valuable to me whole and healthy, rather than not." Rei sagged slightly.

Satsuki then cleared her throat. "As for the mission... Ryuko has finally agreed to come here to Africa, to help search for the artifact. Her life fibers should give us more than enough strength to deal with any dangers that come our way. So as soon as you are fit to travel, you can fly back to Japan with no worries."

"So Matoi is finally coming, huh..." Rei murmured, looking thoughtful. "Might I make a suggestion, then?"

"What did you have in mind, Hououmaru?"

"Just another candidate for the expedition into the jungle... Just in case."

Satsuki raised an eyebrow, then nodded. "Very well. And who might that be?"

xXxXx

About a day later in Tokyo, outside a hangar reserved exclusively for the Kiryuins, Ryuko was preparing to board a private jet, as the Elite Four watched nearby.

"Are you sure you guys will be okay, handling the Life Fiber mutations without me?" Ryuko asked the Elite Four.

"We'll be fine," Gamagori reassured her. "The Elite Four has been fighting as a team for a while now, so we can handle it."

"And you know we can always call in for extra backup, as well," added Inumuta.

"Well... I guess that's true," admitted Ryuko.

"Say hi to Satsuki for us!" said Sanageyama, with a grin. Beside him, Jakuzure looked a bit sulky.

Ryuko gave him a thumbs up. "Sure thing!"

After waving a final goodbye to the everyone else, Ryuko walked up the staircase and boarded the plane. The Elite Four watched as the plane's door closed, and the stairs were wheeled away.

As Ryuko stepped inside the plane and politely returned the stewardesses' greetings, she then felt a surge of nervous excitement; this was the first time she had travelled by plane before. Ryuko then felt a twinge of regret, as she also recalled that Senketsu loved flying, and would've probably have enjoyed this plane ride as well...

'It's too bad that I'll be flying by myself,' thought Ryuko to herself wistfully. 'It would've been nice if I had someone else to enjoy this flight with-'

Suddenly, Ryuko felt herself being tackled with unexpected force. It wasn't enough to knock her down, but she did spin around on her heels until she managed to stop herself, and her assailant's momentum.

Ryuko looked down at the figure clinging at her chest, to see a familiar face smiling brightly back at her.

"Mako?"

"Hah, I got you good, Ryuko! You must've been really distracted; you usually catch me and put me down, rather than let me hug you like that!"

Ryuko scratched her head sheepishly. "Well, you're not wrong about that." She then frowned slightly. "But what are you doing here, Mako? You didn't sneak on to the plane, did you?"

"Of course not!" replied Mako, pushing away Ryuko with a pout. "Satsuki invited me to come along!"

Ryuko looked startled. "She did?"

Mako nodded furiously.

"Huh, I was wondering why didn't see you before I left... But Mako, you do realize this is isn't going to be some fun vacation trip, right?"

"Of course, I know that!" said Mako, stomping her foot. She then looked a little sad. "But you've been so busy fighting those life fiber monsters lately, that I haven't gotten to see you very much, Ryuko..."

Ryuko felt a pang of sympathy. "Mako..."

Mako's expression then brightened. "Besides, I have this!" With a huge grin, Mako held up her left hand. Upon her ring finger, gleamed an amber gem with a star mark on it.

Ryuko's eyes widened. "Oh, right. I almost forgot that you had a transformation ring, too."

"Oh, but I could never forget, Ryuko!" said Mako dreamily. "You giving me this ring was like receiving your marriage proposal; I think of it as our engagement ring!"

Ryuko flushed red. "Mako, I thought I explained this to you! Iori made you that ring so you could help out as back up, in case of emergencies. So it's from him, not me!"

"But you gave it to me, Ryuko!" Mako insisted. "So I consider it a gift from you!" She placed the ring to her cheek lovingly. "An engagement gift..."

"Aw geez..." Ryuko buried her red face in her hand.

Meanwhile, Mako rambled on dreamily. "We'll be engaged for a couple of years, then have a big wedding, and invite all our family and friends! After that, we'll be living together, eating together, sleeping together... Oh wait, I guess we already do that, huh." She then gasped. "That means you'd be my sister, *and* my sister-in-law!" Mako beamed happily.

"I'm not sure that's how that works, Mako." Ryuko frowned slightly. "Also, that sounds kind of weird, as well."

Just then, the intercom came on. "Dear passengers, we will be heading to the runway shortly. Please be seated and fasten your seatbelts."

"Guess we'd better find our seats," said Ryuko.

"Ooo, follow me! We've got some great seats together!" replied Mako.

The two girls walked side-by-side down the spacious aisle together. Ryuko noted that here were only about a dozen leather seats in the cabin, with plenty of leg room; she was definite reminded of the luxurious private jets that she'd only seen in movies or TV.

As Mako cheerfully pointed out a pair of seats by a window, Ryuko then noticed something odd.

"What's that on your seat, Mako?" she asked.

What looked like some deformed grey cushion, then stood up, walked around in a circle, then settled back into a more comfortable sleeping position.

"Is that Guts?" asked Ryuko increduously. "You brought Guts along, too?"

Mako nodded. "He insisted on coming along! Satsuki got special permission for him, too!"

Upon hearing his name, Guts stood up on his hind legs, and pounded his chest proudly with one paw. "Guts!" He then coughed, having hit himself a bit too hard.

Mako sat beside Guts and fastened her seatbelt, while Ryuko sat down in the seat facing her, and did the same. Guts then crawled onto Mako's lap and curled back into a ball.

"You two have been together for a long time, huh?" asked Ryuko, as the plane began to move, and the stewardess began reciting the safety instructions.

Mako nodded. "Yup! I've had Guts ever since he was a puppy! I guess it's been about... Um, 12 years now?"

Ryuko's eyes widened. "12 years? That's pretty old for a dog, isn't it?"

"Nah, Guts is in the prime of his life!" retorted Mako. On her lap, Guts opened an eye briefly, then went back to sleep. Mako patted him affectionately. "He was my best friend for the longest time, until you came around, Ryuko!" She then glanced out the window a bit wistfully. "To be honest, he was my only friend, too..."

"Mako..." Ryuko gazed at her sympathetically. She was also familiar with that feeling of loneliness, and not quite fitting in, although she used to react with violence when confronted about it. At least Mako had a loving family that always supported her; sadly, Ryuko couldn't say the same about her father, who had seemed to be far more concerned about his research, rather than her upbringing.

Mako then turned to Ryuko, with a wide grin on her face. "But that's okay, since you're my bestest, bestest friend now, Ryuko! And I've made plenty of other friends since I met you, too! Satsuki, the Elite Four, Iori, Rei...

Ryuko blinked. "Rei? Why Rei?"

"Satsuki told me that it was Rei that suggested I fly to Africa with you! Then she asked me why Rei would do that, and I told her that she must've known I was missing you, and wanted me to come along. Satsuki then chuckled, and said I could be right. Isn't that sweet?"

Mako then caught the look of worry on Ryuko's face. "What, you don't think Rei is a friend too?" she asked.

"It's not that. It's just-"

Suddenly, Mako plastered her face to the window. "Ooo look! I think we're about to take off!"

Ryuko's eyes widened. "We are? Then don't block the whole window, Mako!" She pushed Mako's head gently to one side, to get a better look.

Both girls watched eagerly as the plane taxied down the runway, and soared into the sky. After a few minutes, when the plane was high in the clouds, the seatbelt lights turned off, and they both unbuckled their safety belts.

Ryuko turned to smile at her friend. "You know, I'm glad you're here, Mako. This is my first flight on a plane, and it's nice to have someone to enjoy it with."

Mako beamed back at her. "Same here!"

Ryuko then stretched out, and put her hands behind her head. "I guess it's going to be a long flight, huh... What do want to do first, Mako? Watch a movie, maybe play some cards..."

Mako's eyes widened. "Oh, that reminds me!" Reaching under her seat, she pulled out an absurdly large amount of paperwork, and placed it on the startled Ryuko's lap.

"Is this... Homework?" Mako nodded, and Ryuko sagged in her seat.

"No buts, missy! Being too busy fighting life fibers is no excuse to let your schoolwork pile up like this! You have a lot of catching up to do, and I'm gonna make sure you do it!" Mako crossed her arms, while on her lap, Guts mimicked her pose. "You don't want to flunk out of your last year of high school, do you Ryuko?"

Ryuko sighed, and scratched her head. "I guess not. Hand me a pen, will ya, Mako?"

xXx

About a day's worth of travel later, Ryuko and Mako disembarked in Africa, where Satsuki greeted them personally. Then they were all swept up into a jeep, to prepare for the second excursion into the jungle.

Sometime later, Satsuki, Ryuko and Mako were flying over the jungle in a cargo plane; Satsuki was again dressed in camo gear, while Ryuko and Mako were dressed in tank tops, cut-off shorts and stockings. Once they were close to the required drop off position, all three of them parachuted out of the back of the plane, into the dense greenery below.

As they landed, they removed their parachutes and retrieved the gear that was dropped off with them; although there was a slight delay, as Mako's parachute had got caught on a tree branch, and Ryuko had to climb up and cut her loose. Meanwhile, Satsuki used her GPS to find their current location.

"Hmmm, good. Looks like we've been dropped off much closer to our last known location," said Satsuki, as Ryuko helped a flailing Mako down from the tree. "I even see traces of where Hououmaru and I were cutting through the foliage."

"Then let's finish the job," said Ryuko firmly, as she drew out her machete.

After gathering up all of their survival gear, the three headed into the depths of the jungle, with Satsuki in the lead. She and Ryuko used machetes to cut through the dense greenery, while behind them, Mako followed, carrying a pack higher than she was tall, strapped to her back.

"Are you sure you're okay carrying all that gear, Mako?" asked Ryuko with a glance behind her, as she slashed through the bushes. "That pack looks pretty heavy."

"Nah, I'm fine, Ryuko!" said Mako dismissively. "I was carrying way more stuff during our school trip to Osaka!" A pocket above Mako's head rustled for a moment, then Guts poked his head out, and gave Ryuko a thumbs up.

"Well, just let me know if you need some help, okay?" said Ryuko. Mako nodded.

Ryuko turned back to the task at hand, to see Satsuki smiling faintly at her.

"You two are getting along. It's nice that you've found a good family to take care of you, Ryuko."

"Um, yeah," replied Ryuko, trying not to blush. "I'm pretty grateful to have them all looking after me, to be honest." She then blinked. "Oh, that reminds me... Satsuki, didn't you promise to tell me what our dad was like, when you were a kid?"

Satsuki raised an eyebrow. "What? Right now?"

"Well, it beats just mindlessly mowing down these plants for hours, don't you think?"

"I suppose you have a point there. Hmmm, let me think... It's been so long, that I hardly recall much about father, but let's see what I can remember..."

Satsuki stared into the distance for a few minutes, while she and Ryuko sliced through branches, leaves flying around in their wake. Then, she finally spoke.

"About Father... He was a very busy man, always caught up in his research for life fibers. But he did make a point of trying to spend time with me when I was little; though he was careful not to act too openly affectionate around me, in front of Mother." Ryuko nodded grimly.

"When Father did spend time with me, he was kind, and played along with my childish games. But he could also be overprotective; always telling me not to eat too many sweets because they could make me fat. I always told him that it would most likely rot my teeth rather than make me fat, but that the sugar would make my mind work faster."

Ryuko chuckled. "That sounds like something a young Satsuki would say."

Satsuki chuckled as well. "That's how Father would react too. He was always very concerned about my well-being; endlessly analyzing my growth and knowledge, and such."

That made Ryuko blink. Huh. Why am I suddenly reminded of Senketsu? she thought, then shook her head. Nah, probably just a coincidence... Dad designed him, after all.

Satsuki noticed her reaction. "Something wrong?"

"Nah, just thinking. He kind of sounds like my dad... Er, Dr. Matoi," replied Ryuko. "But I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since they're the same guy. It's just that..." Ryuko heaved a sigh. "As I grew older, Dad seemed to have less and less time for me. I mean, now I understand how important his life fiber research was and all, but still... I sometimes wished we had spent a little more time together, y'know? It'd make me feel like he cared about me, a bit more."

Satsuki nodded in sympathy. "I'm sure he cared for you a lot Ryuko, even if he didn't always show it. Still... You shouldn't dwell too much on what has happened in the past; you also need to move on, and look to the future, as well."

Ryuko raised an eyebrow at this. "But don't we also need to learn more about the past, in order to stop making the same mistakes in the future?"

Satsuki blinked, then chuckled. "You've got a point there. You've gotten pretty wise over the last year, huh Ryuko?"

Ryuko chuckled too. "Yeah, I guess I've had a little more common sense beat into me, since then."

Just then, Satsuki glanced at her GPS and stopped in her tracks, causing Ryuko and Mako to come to a halt, as well.

"Looks like we've made good time... According to the GPS, we're pretty close to the co-ordinates where Hououmaru and I were attacked for the first time. Ryuko, I think you and I should transform before we go any further, just in case." Ryuko nodded.

"Should I transform too?" asked Mako, balling her left hand into a fist.

"I'd advise against it," warned Satsuki. "I believe Ryuko and I can handle it. Mako, I'd like to keep you in reserve just in case, since we haven't really tested these rings over long battles yet; we aren't certain how long these transformations can last."

Mako saluted. "Okey dokey, Satsuki!"

Ryuko leaned over towards Satsuki. "Are you sure? Won't Mako be safer if she transformed?" she whispered.

"True, but the animals attacked Hououmaru while she was trying to transform. I think the sight of us using life fibers might've angered them, somehow."

"But... Oh, fine then. I just hope you're right about this, Satsuki."

Satsuki sighed. "So do I, Ryuko... So do I."

Ryuko and Satsuki then held up their ring hands, and cried out: "Life Fiber Transformation! 5-Star Generals!"

As Ryuko held up her left hand, a Life Fiber streamed from the red gem on her thumb, enveloping her, then engulfing her in flames. "5-Star Hellion Regalia!"

Placing her right hand below her left shoulder, a Life Fiber spun out from the blue gem on Satsuki's thumb; a flash of golden light then shone behind her. "5-Star Valkyrie Regalia!"

No sooner after both girls had transformed, than all three of them found themselves surrounded by snarling, life fiber-clad wild animals. Quickly, Satsuki and Ryuko drew out their own life fiber weapons.

"Run!" yelled Satsuki. "Follow me, you two!"

"C'mon Mako!" added Ryuko, grabbing her by the hand.

Led by Satsuki, all three ran further into the jungle, with Ryuko and Satsuki slashing furiously at anything that got in their way. As life fibers flew, animals fell limp, and trees crashed down in their wake. Despite her heavy pack, Mako was surprisingly able to keep up them both, while Guts clung for dear life on her head.

"Man, you were right, Satsuki! These animals are pretty pissed!" exclaimed Ryuko.

"Oh look! That tiger is wearing a bow! How cute!" cooed Mako.

"Oh yeah? Well, that cute kitty is trying to claw our eyes out!" snapped Ryuko, as she sliced the bow off the tiger.

"This feels weird somehow, beating up all these poor animals," said Mako sadly, as the tiger fell unconscious. "It's not their fault the Life Fibers are controlling them."

"Well, it's either beat them, or be beaten!" said Ryuko, between gritted teeth.

As sypathetic as Mako was to the animals' plight, she was getting a bit worried. Yes, she was able to keep up with Ryuko and Satsuki's breakneck speed, but her backpack was feeling pretty heavy... She could feel the breath of the animals chasing them on the back of her legs, as if they were ready to bite...

And then... They stopped. Mako blinked.

All three of them were now standing in a clearing, with nothing but the sheer, rocky face of a mountain before them. In the jungle behind them, they could hear the animals retreating into the distance.

"They... stopped?" said Ryuko, lowing her Scarf Blade warily.

"It seems so," replied Satsuki, glancing at her GPS. "I think we've reached our destination."

"But why did they stop chasing us?" asked Ryuko. "Weren't they guarding this place?

"I'm not certain. Perhaps they regard this place as sacred to the Life Fibers, or something."

"I guess... But there's doesn't seem to be anything here, except solid rock," said Ryuko, knocking on the surface. "Not even a cave, or anything like that."

"Then let's look around," said Satsuki. "Perhaps there's an entrance around here, or maybe a path up the mountain. According to these co-ordinates, the Life Fiber artifact must be somewhere nearby."

Satsuki began to feel around the rock face. Ryuko started to look around... When she noticed something was amiss.

"Where's Mako?" asked Ryuko, in dismay.

"She was standing right behind us... Wasn't she?" said Satsuki.

Ryuko and Satsuki gazed at each other in alarm... It was then that they noticed a muffled cry, coming from the solid rock.

"Hey, over here!"

"Mako?" Ryuko touched the surface of the rock face, and felt alongside it... Until her hand went through.

"What in the...? Is this... cloth?"

"I suppose that's one way to camouflage the entrance," mused Satsuki. "They are Life Fibers, after all."

Ryuko felt inside the rock gingerly. "This crack feels a bit narrow, but I think we can make it through inside."

Pulling out flashlights, Ryuko and Satsuki carefully edged into the hidden cave, hugging the wall... And found Mako not too far inside. She was lying flat on her back, flailing her limbs, held down by the weight of her huge pack.

"Oh good, you guys found me!" said Mako, her face red. "It's so embarassing, but I can't stand up!"

"How did you find this entrance, Mako?" asked Ryuko, helping her to her feet.

"I didn't! I was leaning on the rock to catch my breath, when I just fell through!"

"Well, you helped us find this cave, which is a big help," said Ryuko with a smile. At this, Mako beamed. "Now, let's go find that Life Fiber artifact!"

Ryuko was about to step forward, when Satsuki blocked her path with an arm.

"Not so fast, Ryuko," warned Satsuki. "You'd better watch your step, before we go any further."

Satsuki shone her flashlight down the tunnel ahead, revealing gleaming red Life Fiber threads strung all across the rock walls and surfaces.

"Oh cool!" said Mako. "It's like those laser beams you see in a Mission Impossible caper! Pew, pew!"

Meanwhile, Ryuko looked disgruntled. "Great. I'm guessing touching any of those would be bad, huh?"

Satsuki nodded. "Most likely. You'd better take off your pack and leave it by the entrance, Mako."

As Mako removed her pack, Satsuki took out a portable floodlight from it and set it on the ground, to shine down the tunnel. Then, all three of them began the arduous task of navigating through the life fibers without touching any of them. Fortunately, there seemed to be enough room in between the red threads for an average teenage girl to squeeze through, but that didn't make the task any less harrowing or dangerous.

At long last, the tunnel of life fibers finally ended, and they all breathed a sigh of relief. As they continued on, the tunnel slowly widened; Ryuko had been sensing a dampness in the air for a while now, and was not surprised when the tunnel opened up into a cavern with a large underground lake before them, with small pools of light shining from above.

There appeared to be nothing but water ahead, and no other way to move forward on foot... Except for a strange staircase at the edge of the water, right before them. The stairs were made of a dark, damp wood, and looked way too suspicious to Ryuko. She then peered up above, to see if she could see what was at the top of the stairway, but could see nothing but mist and darkness.

"Oh cool, it looks like one of those stairways to nowhere!" said Mako, as she walked up to the water's edge.

"Wait!" cried Ryuko and Satsuki, at the same time.

Mako turned around, but it was too late; she had already placed one hand on the railing. There was the sound of rushing water, and the staircase suddenly started moving upwards, like an escalator; Mako was then whisked into the mist up above, her voice barely audible over the water.

"Mako!" cried Ryuko. She tried to run up the moving stairs, but was held back by Satsuki.

"Hold on, we don't know where that leads to!"

"I know where it leads to now; it leads to Mako!" snapped Ryuko. She pulled her arm away from Satsuki, and bounded up the damp, moving steps, while trying to not slip. With a sigh, Satsuki followed right behind her.

As Satsuki caught up to Ryuko, she glanced over the edge of the railing curiously, and her eyes widened. "Strange. Is this wooden escalator actually a giant water wheel?"

"I don't care what it is," growled Ryuko. "It took Mako, and I'm going to get her back!"

xXx

Meanwhile, Mako found herself lying on a cold, stone floor, spluttering water. She had a vague memory of quickly moving upwards, then going through a curtain of water, which landed her... Here.

As Guts jumped off her head and shook himself, a faint glow suddenly caught her eye. She got to her feet and walked towards it, with Guts trailing at her heels.

She seemed to be standing in a small, round chamber made of stone; only a single pool of light from above illuminated the area, shedding light on a strange object in the middle of the room.

Mako came closer, to get a better look. The object before her appeared to be an old-fashioned, wooden spinning wheel. Upon it, stood a golden spike, around which a cloud of rainbow-coloured threads were wound around, glittering in the light.

Despite Guts growling at her feet, Mako walked up to the spinning wheel. As she got closer, the spindle of threads upon it seem to be glowing brighter... Or was it just a trick of the light?

Fascinated, Mako reached out a hand towards the gleaming spike... Only to have a damp, leather-clad arm stop her from doing so.

"Ryuko!"

"Geez Mako, what are you thinking?" said Ryuko rebukingly. "Don't you know better than to touch strange, sharp objects like that?"

"Of course I do! I've read Sleeping Beauty! I just wanted to get a better look, that's all!"

"Ever heard of 'Look with your eyes, not with your hands?'"

Mako stuck her tongue out at her, causing Ryuko to put her in a headlock. Meanwhile, Satsuki had also stepped into the room, her clothing damp, having also walked through a curtain of water from the entrance behind her.

"I take it this is the Life Fiber artifact?" mused Satsuki, as she walked up to the spinning wheel.

"You think?" said Ryuko, as she finally let go of Mako. "If there's anything that looked like an artifact around here, that'd be it."

"Well to me, it looks exactly like rainbow-coloured cotton candy!" declared Mako. "Huh, I kind of want to eat it now..." she added, as a trail of drool trickled from her mouth.

"Please don't." Ryuko sighed.

Meanwhile, Satsuki had knelt down, to examine the spindle on the spinning wheel. "Hmmm. I suppose all we have to do now, is figure out how to remove the Life Fiber artifact without triggering any possible traps."

"I'll do it!" said Mako brightly.

"NO!" snapped both Ryuko and Satsuki.

"Aw..."

Satsuki turned to Ryuko. "I think you should try and remove the artifact, Ryuko."

Ryuko blinked. "Me? Why me?"

"Since you have Life Fibers within you, I believe the artifact will recognize that, and that should protect you. Well... Hopefully, anyways."

"Gee, that's reassuring," grumbled Ryuko.

"Don't worry Ryuko! If you happen to prick your finger and fall asleep, I'll happily kiss you awake again!" added Mako.

Ryuko tried not to blush. "Um, thanks Mako."

After taking a deep breath, Ryuko walked up to the spinning wheel. "Okay, let's do this. Besides, what's the worst that could happen?"

"Rocks fall and kill us?" said Mako cheerfully.

"This room could fill up with water and we would drown to death," added Satsuki.

Ryuko groaned. "That makes me feel so much better, guys. Thanks."

As Satsuki and Mako stepped back, Ryuko knelt beside the spinning wheel, and peered at it closely. She looked at it from every angle, slowly rubbing her chin... Then, with a swift movement, Ryuko snatched the golden spindle of threads off of the spinning wheel.

Everyone in the room flinched. But after a few moments, nothing seemed to happen, and they breathed a sigh of relief.

"So this is the Life Fiber artifact, huh?" commented Ryuko, as she held up the spindle of rainbow threads, mindful to keep the sharp tip pointed away. "Wasn't it glowing more when we came in here?"

"Perhaps it was a trick of the light," Satsuki replied. She had pulled out what appeared to be a glass canister from her pack, and had unscrewed its metal lid. "Here, place the artifact in here, Ryuko."

Carefully, Ryuko placed the spindle into the glass canister. Then Satsuki screwed the lid back on, and slid it neatly back into her pack.

"Are you sure that thing can help us cure the Life Fiber mutations?" asked Ryuko skeptically.

"I hope so," Satsuki sighed. "If the artifact is a powerful as it supposedly is, it might give us a clue on how to prevent the mutations."

"Well, I sure hope you're right, sis. I'd hate to to think this was a wasted trip."

"It wasn't a wasted trip!" Mako protested. "We got to fly on a jet and everything!"

"I suppose you do have a point there," said Ryuko, with a wry smile. "But now it's time to go home... Let's get outta here." She then sighed. "Aw man, I really don't want to go through the life fiber tunnel again..."

"Aw, but that was fun!"

"You have a weird idea of fun, sometimes, Mako..."

The girls' voices trailed off as they left the stone chamber, leaving the wooden spinning wheel standing forlornly in the dim sunlight.

TO BE CONT...

Next chapter: "Queen of Hearts"