Chapter Forty: Untimely Frost

"Death lies upon her like and untimely frost upon the sweetest flower of all the field."

-The Tragic Tale of Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

The orb flashed its usual green for one moment, but then a sinister black flowed inside the orb; not the regular sort of black, icy black. It beat along with the steady pacing of Ronin's heart, which I didn't even know he had. "I have no use for you now." He held his hands out at his sides and out of his gauntlets slid a glistening blade. I darted to Kiyoshi's side; we were all nearly in a formation. Kiyoshi turned to me. "Komori, I want you to take Ryou and Kish and get out of here!" he yelled to me. I crossed my arms and lifted my eyebrow. "Nuh-uh. I'm staying right here." I unsheathed my sword and struck a fighting pose next to him. He looked and me and scratched his head. "I think that's one of the reasons I love you: you're always interfering with my fights."

Ronin's face lit up with menace as he darted to us. I planted my feet on the ground, but only to be knocked down by Ronin; he pushed me out of the way. He was going for Kiyoshi. Ronin slashed away at Kiyoshi with the blades, but Kiyoshi blocked them with his sword. Ronin reached to his side and pulled out his curved saber from its sheath and started attacking with it along with one of the gauntlet blades. I pulled myself to my feet with the aid of a nearby coffee table and tried to get to Kiyoshi, but someone's arm blocked me. "What?" I turned to see it was Ryou.

"This is Kiyoshi's fight. He said he doesn't want you to help, so don't. We'll step in if he needs us." Ryou said. Kish appeared at my other side and comfortingly put his hand on my shoulder. "He'll be all right: he's a tough kid." He commented as he watched Kiyoshi and Ronin continue to duel and tussle.

Ronin wasn't losing any energy; the Chalice's power was evident. Kiyoshi was starting to wear down and I knew he wouldn't last much longer at this rate. Ronin started going even faster and nearly landed a few strikes on Kiyoshi.

I wheeled around to Ryou and Kish in despair. "Please! He's going to be hurt! We have to step in!" I pleaded. They lowered their eyes and grimly shook their heads and still held me back.

Ronin was steadily pushing Kiyoshi back into one of the far corners. My stomach quivered as if it had some sort of precognition. "Kiyoshi! He's pushing you back!" I yelled across the room in panic, not sure what else I could do. I wasn't sure if my warning had made it across the room as anything more than a muffled echo over Kiyoshi and Ronin's shouts. Regardless, Kiyoshi was still being forced back into a corner. I looked at Ryou and Kish, who were staring and grimacing, but they still weren't letting themselves move to Kiyoshi's aid.

He was now closed in, and the expression on his face said he knew it. You could see he was struggling to fend off Ronin, who was still coming at him like a whirlwind. A few strikes from Ronin's saber landed on Kiyoshi's arms. Call for help, Kiyoshi! Call for us before you get hurt any more!

Kiyoshi let out a low shout and lunged at Ronin with his sword, but missed. Ronin took the opportunity and drove his fist right into Kiyoshi's chest. Kiyoshi grunted as Ronin's gauntlet blade dove into the soft material of his shirt and directly into his heart. Ronin withdrew his fist with a jerk and Kiyoshi fell crashed to the floor and settled into the dust.

A cold freeze swept into my veins. My beating heart turned to stone and weighed down on my frostbitten lungs, my blood to ice, and my skin numb. Everyone else in the room faded out of my sight except for Ronin. The beast slipped the knife covered in Kiyoshi's blood back into his gauntlet and chuckled.

Ryou and Kish turned to me with concern and pulled me into their arms and whispered soothing words into my deaf ears. It was a hollow comfort: I was already gone. Gone and floating somewhere else, anywhere else away from this nightmare that I thought I would wake from any moment, all the terror gone and tucked snugly into my sickening pink bed I now missed so much. I opened and shut my eyes, but I didn't wake up. Kiyoshi lay on the floor unmoving with his face down on the floor, his life spilling out of him. I didn't cry. I couldn't cry; all I could do was look at Ronin and how he laughed with triumph and spite as a hunter would after butchering his innocent prey.

I shoved away Ryou and Kish's hugs and words of solace and walked to Ronin despite their pulling on me to come back, but I continued to move forward. Ronin's eyes lazily drifted to me and narrowed while he grinned. Why are you smiling? I broke my eyes away from his and I kneeled by Kiyoshi's side. I sat in a pool of his blood, his life, and stroked his cheek softly: it was still warm. His eyes were shut and his face was relaxed as if in a pleasant sleep. The chill of death's spidery fingers had not yet met his godlike face, his raven hair, or his electric green eyes hidden under his pale eyelids. Ronin's shadow lingered over me, I had to tear my eyes from Kiyoshi's dead face to meet Ronin's alive, enraged one. He sneered and looked down on me expectantly. "Well? Aren't you going to sob? Sniffle? Hm, that's mildly disappointing." He kneeled down and inspected his work. "Well, I didn't even need the Bleeding Heart plant toxin. Ha! That's ironic! Bleeding Heart for a bleeding heart!" Ronin laughed.

"That may be, but the good die young, standing for what they believe, while the evil live for ever and have to live with their past treacheries and sins. You will reside in the shadows, your precious Yuri will have left you, and you'll be left to lament all alone. If fate is good to you, it will take your life and be merciful." I muttered so no one other than Ronin could hear me. He stared at me for a moment, genuinely frightened of my words.

Ronin's eyes widened and he suddenly recoiled back in pain, clutching his chest. Can words really cause physical harm? He began to screech and writhe on the floor as if a spear had been stuck into his stomach. Yuri wailed and ran to his side, shoving me over and running her hands over him, trying to soothe his invisible pain.

"W-what's h-h-happening?" Ronin gasped. The orb's black shimmer dimmed and Ronin calmed down for that short time frame. I thought he was about to sit back up when the orb enlivened with the chipper hues of the rainbow. Ronin was past pure pain: now he was in so much agony he couldn't even scream. He doesn't deserve this. No one deserves to die. Not even one that kills. Yuri had given up and ran over to the corner to stare on in horror. I came to Ronin's side and tried to take off the Chalice from his neck, but it was as if it were cemented onto his body. The lights intensified to where my retinas were being fried; there was nothing I could do for Ronin.

The light dimmed somewhat and let us all witness one of the strangest, ugliest, most beautiful things any of us had ever witnessed. An angelic light shone from both Ronin and Kiyoshi. A fuchsia light lifted from Ronin's chest and skimmed through the pure light in the air to Kiyoshi. The orb lifted itself from Ronin's neck and followed the fuchsia glow. The glow settled itself onto Kiyoshi's chest, right where his bleeding heart was, and sank into it as if he were water. The blood on the floor flowed back into Kiyoshi. His flesh knitted back together as the orb settled back over his neck. The lights faded and the only light in the lair was that from the enchanted torches at the walls.

Ronin lay lifeless and stiff on the floor: his cheeks and eyelids were blue with death. Yuri threw herself over him and started to sob. "Ronin! Ronin! Wake up! Oh please…please wake up!" Yuri gasped through her tears. I lightly touched her shoulder, as if it would be any compensation. She shoved my hand off and continued to grieve over his body. I more than anyone knew what she was feeling, and I knew that there's no cure for it except time.

Ryou and Kish darted over to me with small grins on their faces. They silently picked me up from the floor and took me over to where Kiyoshi lay. A healthy, alive glow came from Kiyoshi's soft ivory skin. A spark of hope melted my frostbitten spirit. His lips were returning to their usual warm color and his eyelids fluttered slightly. My heart jumped and leaped and danced with glee in my chest. Kiyoshi's eyes slid open and his gorgeous crystalline eyes shifted directly to my face. He tentatively raised his stiff arm and held my face in his palm. He smiled weakly and whispered, "Komori?" I held his hand in mine and stared through tears at my beautiful miracle. Kiyoshi laughed lightheartedly and slowly pulled himself up from the floor that had been his grave. I pulled him to me and wrapped my arms around his waist and tacitly vowed to never let go again. He ruffled my dirty hair playfully. "Nice to see you, too." Kish and Ryou couldn't contain their excitement and relief either; they tackle-hugged Kiyoshi and I, squealing how sorry they were and how thankful they were that he was back. After managing to dampen our hysterics, Kiyoshi cleared his throat and tried to be more serious.

"So…what happened?" Kiyoshi asked, staring at Yuri sobbing over Ronin's corpse.

"We're not even sure." Ryou mumbled.

"Tell me what you saw, then, even if you don't understand it. I'll try to fill in the blanks." Kiyoshi said and pulled me a little closer to him and cradling me like a helpless infant.

"You had just been…killed, and Komori, being the absolute nutcase that she is, walked over to Ronin and said something to him…then he just started screaming and convulsing…" Ryou explained, getting quieter when he said 'killed'. Kiyoshi turned to me. "What did you say?" he asked softly. I could tell he was sorry that he'd given me such a scare, not that he really could have prevented it.

"Heh. I just gave him some insight into his future; I guess I was a little off." I sniffled.

"And then?"

"Then…he started screaming and clutching his chest like there was a fire inside him. It seemed to me that the Chalice had something to do with it since it started going wacko right when he started screaming. Then he just…died."

"Oh! And this freaky pink light came out of him and settled right on your wound. After that the orb settled around your neck, and here you are, as healthy as could be." Kish added. Kiyoshi chuckled and fingered the pulsing orb. "A dog never forgets his true master." Kiyoshi laughed. Kish, Ryou, and I stared at him with puzzled faces.

"Who do you think Ronin stole the Chalice of Life from in the first place? Why do you think I've been chasing him like this? The Chalice of Life belongs to my family. To me. It won't work for anyone except the owner it chooses." Kiyoshi glanced at Ronin and shook his head in an I-told-you-so way. "Commanding the Chalice can have dire consequences if you're not its chosen master."

I stared at Kiyoshi blandly and gave him a soft slap on the cheek. "Ow! What was that for?"

"For not telling us that in the first place! Do you know how scared we were?"

Kiyoshi giggled and hit the back of my head in response.

"I tried to, but I was interrupted by Ronin, the stupid bastard."

Ryou stood and dusted off his filthy jeans. "I think we should get out of here before something else happens." He said, glancing at Yuri and flinching at her cacophonous wails.

"What should we do with Miss Mandrake over there?" Kish asked as he stood up; Kiyoshi took my hand and yanked me up as well. We watched Yuri, together in silence, not sure what to do; and many times in the future we would still look back and cringe at her wails and filled with despair at knowing there was nothing to do.

"Leave her to mourn. Let her decide her own path: if she needs our aid, she'll ask for it. Let's get out of here." Kiyoshi concluded, grasping my hand.

"Kish," Kiyoshi asked, "Do you have enough energy to transport us back to Ryou's house?"

"Mansion." Ryou corrected; Kish nodded and herded us all together.

"Three, two, one." Kish counted down. Just before we faded away, I took one last glance at Yuri. She had stopped wailing and stared at us with angst and envy burning in her eyes. I had lost Kiyoshi, and she lost Ronin, but I got Kiyoshi back. I still couldn't destroy the pang of guilt in my side even after she faded from my sight and the blessed vision of home painted its way onto my eyes. The night was cool, but humid; the perfect blend. The windows had a warm glow from lights on inside.

Ryou flung himself on the concrete steps and kissed them gratefully. "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Kish rolled his eyes and stepped over Ryou to get into the house. I leaned my head on Kiyoshi's shoulder and sighed gratefully. He kissed my neck and led me into the house.