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Shattered Dreams: The Fallen Northern Wind (5); (closed)
Topic Started: Jan 31 2012, 03:04 PM (4,776 Views)
Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
(((Previous)))

The train plodded methodically upon the track toward the north, the steady click clack giving sound to an otherwise quiet early afternoon. The sky still wore a pale, overcast grey, and still had yet to shake off the morning's chill.

Astina didn't feel it much as she watched the landscape fall farther behind from the back of the train. Kirien stood to her left, his eyes vacant but otherwise appearing to be alive and well.

The woman took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It hadn't been easy telling the history of her cursed clan, and as she took in Dain and Phanphan's reactions to the words she spoke she had become increasingly intrigued that the one expression she had expected never appeared on either of their faces:

Disbelief.

Then, all at once it had hit her. She realized why and felt so foolish the world had started spinning.

"They're unique children who attend a school where the unbelievable occurs on a daily basis," she thought with a slow shake of her head, "How could I have overlooked such a simple fact?

Of course they wouldn't have trouble believing her. With what they've seen, it was likely their minds were open enough to believe anything was possible.

Astina cursed herself for being nine different kinds of fool. In the four years in had been since she and Kirien had reconnected she had refused to tell him about the history of his own bloodline, of the threat that existed to his life because of it.

All because she was afraid he wouldn't believe her. All because she didn't want to see the look of disbelief once held by the father mirrored in the eyes of their son.

Eyes that looked so similar to her own.

Yet time and again, in each of his letters Kirien had told her such fantastic stories about his days at Anime High. Stories that would've told anyone his willingness to believe in the unlikely, even the impossible.

Anyone who's heart wasn't frozen with fear, that is.

Astina gripped the rail so tightly that her knuckles turned white. Had she not been so afraid she could have told him, could have prepared him for what he would face. Instead she had held her tongue, had tried her best to protect him from a distance until she was ready to face the demon on her own. She had tried, she had failed, and now Kirien was suffering the worst of the consequences.

She knew the question that would be waiting for her when she returned to the compartment they all were sharing. She had needed time to prepare herself to face yet another mistake she had made at Kirien's expense.

She would face it and she would apologize to them just as she would apologize to her son when she saw him again. Breaking this curse would be her redemption, and never abandoning him again would be her salvation.

"But first..." She leaned on the rail with a soft sigh, "A moment to gather my thoughts..."
Edited by Krazycloud, Jan 31 2012, 05:50 PM.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Dain's extrapolation of how he knew Kirien couldn't have been aware of the danger he was in made sense, and Phanphan nodded as she listened. She had to wonder if it was just chance that Kirien had been attacked the one morning he went out by himself, or if he would have taken that risk if he had known. Not that it mattered now, the damage was done...

Phanphan's ears perked to attention under her hat at the sound of a knock, but the door slid open to reveal only the conductor. Phanphan held out their tickets for him to check, and when he asked where the other two passengers were she made some reply about her friend being motion sick. The conductor wished them a safe and pleasant trip without batting an eyelash and went on about his business. Phanphan would never have thought she'd ever hope for Kirien to be sick, but as she slumped back in her seat again she couldn't help wishing that that was the case instead of their current situation.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"Tch!" Dain's face shifted. His eyes narrowed, his brows shot up, his lips pulled back, his teeth clenched down, and he stood up. It had become too much to bear silently. He had kept as much of it in as he possibly could, but the pressure had bulit up further than he could hold. The hole in his chest had grown too deep for him not to fill. However, the only thing he could offer it was pain. His pain.

"Natsumori, you need to get out." Dain opened the cabin door and kept his eyes set upon the ceiling of the small room. "Don't worry, I just need to let off some steam." He waited for the girl to leave, not offering her any time or chance to make any arguments or inquiries. Then he shut the door behind her. He put his back to the door, and took a deep breath.

A thunderous roar erupted from the bellows of his stomach. Dain's fists shot up over his head and came crashing down into his knees. His legs buckled and he fell onto his face. He pushed himself up onto the broken joints and yelled out in agony. He struggled to hold his left hand steady before him and drew his right arm back, With another burst of rage he slammed the fist into his open palm. More of his bones shattered as he spun sideways and landed on his back. He cried out in pain and struggled to keep his breath as steady as possible. Once more he cocked his right fist and readied it to fire one last time.

Memories flooded through his mind and past his eyes. Images of his best friend's smile, frowns, snickers, and sneers were all he could see through a swell of tears. His laughs, encouragements, arguments, and jokes were audible even over his cries. "S-Stop hi-hittin-n your-r-rself!"

Just then his fist shot against his jaw. He felt his face fall apart and hang loose over his chest. His chest heaved up and down feverishly, fighting to keep conscious. Dain had to feel this, every second of it. He had to know what his momentary failure had cost him. Perhaps then, he would never allow it to happpen ever again.

The one time he hadn't been there at his side was the one time he had needed him most.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Astina was snapped from her melancholy by a sudden bellow. She recognized the owner of the cry and wondered what could possibly be going on. Dain and Phanphan seemed to get along well enough, had she been wrong to assume that?

Worry pushed her tired legs to walk briskly toward their compartment. She didn't risk running for fear of drawing any more attention than Dain already had. She spotted Phanphan on the outside of the door with a bewildered and mortified expression. She also saw a similar look on the face of the conductor, who appeared to be en route to investigate.

She reached Phanphan first and gave the girl a light tap on the shoulder, "Take care of the conductor while I handle Dain." she said in a hushed whisper before slipping quickly inside. Kirien's body stopped and stood stock still next to Phanphan, his eyes vacant and fixed staring straight ahead.

She found Dain in a puddle of himself on the floor. It only took a moment for her to asses the situation, "Oh, of all the..!" Fury replaced exhaustion and a spectral hand seized the boy by the shirt and hauled him up enough to bring him face to face with the older woman. She was clearly seething, but a voice of reason spoke up from the back of her mind, "Remember, Astina, he's young, and he just lost his closest friend. Take it easy on him.." She took a deep breath, acknowledging the truth of her thought.

She clucked her tongue, shaking her head disapprovingly, not appearing to be concerned in the least about Dain's physical condition, "You see, Dain-kun, this is the problem with raising boys. As long as you keep them focused they can be incredibly useful. But leave them to their own devices for too long and eventually they'll do something reckless and ill-advised..." the spectral hand gave him a firm shake, "I know what you're feeling right now, believe me. I knew it was coming and not only do I have to deal with what happened, I also have to deal with not having told him it was coming... It isn't easy." Her eyes narrowed, "But I said we are going to get him back, and that is exactly what is going to happen. No maybes, no ifs. So I need you to pull yourself together and exercise some of the self control I know that your master instilled in that broken head of yours."

She leaned closer, enough to allow him to see the fires of rage burning fiercely behind her steel grey eyes, "Because if your antics get us removed from this train, there's no telling what sort of horrors the spirits may visit upon you every time you close your eyes, leaving you unable to blink, let alone sleep..."

Suddenly the fire was gone, replaced by a look of sincere innocence and concern as she patted Dain on his rapidly healing cheek, "But I'll protect you as long as you promise not to do it again, okay..?"
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Stepping outside the compartment sounded like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and Phanphan had, without fuss. The cacophany that erupted within the tiny room after the door was shut was definitely not a moment alone to think or private tears, however, and Phanphan's eyes widened in shock. The sound-deadening in the train's compartments hardly even muffled all the racket.

"Take care of the conductor while I handle Dain."

Phanphan's eyes zipped from the door to Astina to Kirien to the conductor, approaching from the other direction. A very bitter voice in Phanphan's head wondered if Kirien's mother was always late for everything, and she hurried to intercept the conductor with a wince. Such negativity wouldn't do any good at the moment, and she had better things to focus on, like was what she supposed to say now? 'So sorry, my friend is a noisy idiot but I'm sure he won't flip out and maim any of the passengers, honest!' She couldn't imagine the trouble it would cause if they were asked to leave the train. Phanphan hadn't had this strong an urge to kick Dain in the junk since the day they had met. ...Aha!

"Sorry, sorry! It was my fault!" Phanphan spoke up before the conductor could, and bowed apologetically. She could feel the eyes of a few other passengers in the car peering out at her and hoped Kirien was still staring blankly at the door. Pushing her fingertips together and pursing her lips, she glanced back at their compartment. "I was trying to reach one of the bags and Dain-kun wouldn't help me, he's so mean, and now he's mad at me but I didn't put my foot there on purpose!" Phanphan infused the word with as much meaning as possible, and widened her eyes in a show of innocence. "I didn't even step on him very hard, he should have moved out of the seat like I asked him to, I couldn't see where my foot was going!"

"Oh, well then," The conductor cut in to her babble, clearly a bit flustered but attempting to maintain his professional demeanor. "If they aren't in need of medical attention... It would be best if you and your friends were more careful from now on."

"We will be!"

"If there is another disturbance, it might be necessary to call your parents."

"Yes, sir. I'm very sorry again!"

The conductor gave her a stern look, then nodded and headed back to the other end of the car to continue checking tickets, and Phanphan breathed a sigh of relief.

Her parents... would they object if they knew what she was doing right now? Would she be gone long enough that they might notice? Phanphan turned and looked at Kirien's lifeless face. Before she started worrying about anything else, she needed to get him back inside the compartment. Maybe passersby on a busy station platform might not think twice about his catatonic state, but here it was very obvious that there was something wrong with him, and they had attracted enough attention already. Answers to her ever-multiplying worries wouldn't be found in the corridor, either, so she opened the door and stood out of the way, not quite sure how to herd Kirien inside.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
Everything in him told him to remain silent. To take the scolding that had been served to him with a side of empathy. Dain knew what he had done and was well aware of the consequences that would follow. A stern talking to was the least to be expected. But all the sense in the world couldn't hold the swell of emotion this loss had delivered.

Dain's wounds were almost completely gone now and his ability to speak had returned. "Don't stand there and pretend to understand Mom, because you can't." Dain shot the woman a defiant scowl,"You're his mother and I know what that carries, but he's not just my best friend. He's my brother. For six years now we've been the only thing the other's got. More than half a decade we've been keeping eachother safe, looking out for one another and caring for eachother because nobody else is around to do it. Not even our own families."

Dain blinked and lowered his sight. "I never knew what it was like to have a mother, so Kirien gave me his. He didn't have any siblings so I became one for him. We were the only family either of us knew for six years!" He looked into Astina's eyes, the same eyes as his best friend. "You haven't been around to watch him grow like I have. I've been here for all of it! To see him shape into a man, to watch him mature as a warrior, and to even see him start to fall in love!" Dain glanced at Phanphan with a painful look in his eyes.

"I'm done." Dain's face straightened and he sighed heavily. "Sorry for this, but I just couldn't let myself get away with failing him when he needed me the most. You may think I'm being childish or whatever, but I know one person out there who knows exactly what I'm saying." He took a deep breath,"And I plan on lettin' him explain it to you face to face."
Edited by Zank, Feb 4 2012, 07:03 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
And there it was.

She had gone easy on him, tried to console him and bolster his confidence and this was how she had been repaid; he had lashed out, striking her in the one place he knew it would hurt most: the ten years she was forced to spend away from Kirien.

It was a wound she had only expected Kirien himself to open. Ir struck unexpectedly, allowing the pain to flicker plainly on her face. Her heart bled, and her soul wept. But only a flicker of that was visible before the mask, a mask developed over ten long years of longing training her mind and body to face a threat that had haunted her bloodline for centuries, a mask that sealed the longing to retun to the son and husband she had left behind to protect them, fell into place. It hardened her eyes, and cut off her emotions. A blank expression regarded the boy who's few hours of anguish seemed to outpace the decade she had endured.

"And so it is. Thank you, Serlo-dono, for letting me know where things stand, and I'm sorry for not understanding."

The spectral hand deposited him in his seat, as Kirien entered behind Phanphan and took his own seat once more.

She sat, folding her hands neatly in her lap, "It seems that tensions are high, at the moment. I'm sure the both of you have questions, I will answer them as best I can."

Her gaze averted, she waited patiently for the questions to come.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
"...because nobody else is around to do it. Not even our own families."

Dain had been speaking when Phanphan opened the door, and she listened with growing apprehension, wanting to know what on Earth he had been doing in there. Apparently she had missed the explanation if there had been one. It pained her to hear that Dain had the same kind of family issues that everyone at their school seemed to have. Hearing him refer to Kirien as a warrior made Phanphan realize that she had never seen Kirien fight anyone seriously. Not that she doubted that he was capable--

"...and to even see him start to fall in love!"

Phanphan drew in an unsteady breath at these words, her eyes darting to Kirien's immobile face once more. Does he really...?! She barely heard the rest of what Dain said, her heart beating fast enough to make her notice. Once again she had to make an effort to drag her attention back to her immediate surroundings. She didn't understand the conversation Dain and Astina were having, she didn't understand what was ahead of them, she didn't understand...

"Why did you call me Natsumori-dono?"

It wasn't the most logical place to start, but it was one of the dozens of questions Phanphan had.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Astina blinked innocently.

It wasn't exactly the type of question she had been expecting, but she felt relief in kowing it was a rather simple one to answer.

"Ah, it's the theme." She began with a nod, "The present day Northern Wind clan lives in an isolated area, and sustains itself mainly on tourism. The theme is one of ancient mysticism, and many visit to speak with the honored dead. In order to keep up with the theme..." she shrugged lightly, "We play the role to the fullest, even in the way we address others..."

The question had given her an idea, "Perhaps now would be an ideal time to become better acquainted, allow ourselves a moment to cool our heads, though I am not sure how best to proceed." Inclining her head, she gestured to herself, "My name is Astina, I am 40 years old and belong to the Northern Wind Clan. I am a shaman, one who speciailzes in the manipulation of spiritual energy as well as communing with the spirits themselves. For the past ten years I've been honing my skills, training my mind and body for a confrontation that would free clan from the clutches of a terrible curse. I like writing, crafts, and..." She hesitated, then added with a nod, "Green vegetables."

She cast her gaze in the direction of the larger boy, "Would you mind telling us a bit more about yourself, Serlo-dono?"
Edited by Krazycloud, Feb 13 2012, 11:52 AM.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
The angst and depression were hard to shake, especially with his best friend's blank face no more than a feet or two before him. It was a constant reminder of what had happened. A voice in him wanted nothing more than to sit silently, listen to dreary music, and stare out a raindropped window.

Yet he tried. Not to pretend as if nothing had happened but because the two women with him were doing their best to remain calm with some semblance of collection. He'd be damned if he was going to be the only one freaking out.

"It's Dain, ma. Just Dain." He croseed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes. "I don't know how much Kirien's ever told to about me, but there isn't too much to me. I'm a student of the Rishu Dojo, damn proud of it too. I'm a lot stronger than most, a hell of a lot tougher too, and a warrior to the core."

Dain sighed as he tried to come up with anything else. "I know how stubborn and unreasonable I can be sometimes, but it's a trust thing. I've got trouble being ordered around but I've got no issue doing something if asked to." He scratched the back of his neck and shrugged,"I like music, training, and a good fight."

A second of reflection made him think of how simple his profile was. It left most of himself satisfied, but there was a bit of disappointment. Ego aside, Dain always figured himself for an interesting person, at least more than most. His evaluation had proven him wrong. "I'm a simple guy, but I'm sure Kirien had already told you all of that, right ma?"
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Astina nodded, allowing the semblance of a smile to return to her face when speaking to Dain, "He has indeed, Just Dain-kun," She made a face, "In as many words as possible."She shook her head with a sigh, "It would seem that my son tends a ramble a little." She nibbled her lip while looking thoughtful, "I'm not sure where he gets it from..."








Kirien sneezed twice. He grumbled, hugging his knees around himself tighter as he rested his back against the cold stone wall of his cell.

None of this was making any sense.

He had woken up a while ago and had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there. Every time he had tried to focus on anything that happened before waking up where he was, his head would fill with an intense buzzing and he couldn't concentrate.

So he had given up on that and decided to try and take in his surroundings. After taking a few circuts around the enclosed area, he discerned that the cell was fairly large, and that he seemed to be the only person occupying it. There was no furniture of any kind, and although there weren't any visable light sources he could see as if the area were generously lit. There was a slit of a window on one of the walls above him, too high for him to look out of properly.

That done, he had taken a seat against the wall with the window. He wasn't sure what he was doing, but there really wasn't much more he could do.

"Onii-sama?"

Kirien blinked innocently and looked around. He hadn't heard anyone enter the room, but the voice sounded close.

"Onii-sama?"

He spotted the source of the voice and gasped in shock. It was a sparrow, on the ground in front of him. It hadn't been so much the fact the sparrow was talking that shocked Kirien.

It was the eyes.

The bird, which was the size of a normal sparrow, had human eyes. Grey, human eyes, one of wich was focused intently on him, "Onii-sama is awake now. This one is pleased to see it!" The voice sounded like that of a young boy who was very relieved.

Kirien continued to stare, wide-eyed,

"And now, apparently, this is happening..."









Astina turned her attention to Phanphan, her smile brightening, "I believe that brings us to you, Natsumori-dono. Would you mind telling us a bit more about yourself..?"
Edited by Krazycloud, Feb 18 2012, 06:00 PM.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Phanphan listened to Astina's answer and elaboration about herself with less interest than she would have normally. A shaman who manipulated spiritual energy... that did seem like the kind of ability that would enable Kirien's body to move.

The only thing Dain said that caught her attention was that he liked music--it was the one thing she hadn't already heard or guessed about him. The thought of music brought up her recent and very vivid memory of dancing with Kirien at the ball, and Phanphan averted her eyes from his still form for the moment, trying not to wonder if his skin was now cold to the touch.

It was her turn to say something about herself. Phanphan had never enjoyed talking about herself, and she certainly didn't feel like doing so at the moment. It did make sense that Kirien's mother would want to get to know the people who were a part of her son's life, though, so she met Astina's gaze respectfully and followed Dain's example.

"You can call me Phanphan. I'm a Nekojin." She paused to decide if that was a sufficient explanation. "I study Judo, but I'm not as much of a martial artist as Kiryu-san or Dain. I don't get into many fights." Phanphan was also unsure what else to add; she was having trouble thinking of anything she enjoyed at the moment besides being around Kirien. "I like reading, and playing tennis. And..." Fishing for a third something, Phanphan glanced at Kirien again, then at Dain as her lips twitched into a reluctant smile. "Ice cream."
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
The sparrow looked up curiously at Kirien with it's wide, grey, and very human eyes,

"Is Onii-sama alright?"

Kirien ran a hand through his hair and laughet nervously,"At first I thought I was just suffering from amnesia... Now I'm wondering if things aren't much worse..." The bird gave him a blank look, blinking once. Kirien sighed and shook his head, "Nevermind. So, who are you?"

The sparrow fluttered it's wings a bit, "This one has forgotten his true name so that he may remain free."

Kirien tilted his head curiously, was forgetting things something that happened regularly around here?

"Um... I see. Well, my name is Kirien."

The bird hopped about, fluttering excitedly, "This one is happy to meet Onii-sama at last! This one was afraid Onii-sama would never wake up!"

Kirien nooded very slowly, "O...kay. Any idea where we are?"

The reply came amid a series of seemingly frantic hops, "Onii-sama and this one are in the Master's keep!" He paused, cocking his head to the side,"More specifically, the dungeon."

Kirien's sigh blew his hair out of his face,"How in the world did I end up in this mess..?"

A silence followed, which was finally broken by an uncertain chirp,

"If....If this one had to make a guess...It would be that Onii-sama was definitely captured at some point.."

Kirien fought the urge groan, and instead nodded, "Um...Yeah, that makes sense. Thanks."

The sparrowed puffed up proudly, "This one is honored to help Onii-sama!"

Silence descended in the cell once more and the small bird began to preen himself. Kirien was lost in thought.

"I still don't have the slightest clue as to what's going on or how I got here... But now at least I have a goal." He stood, brushing himself off, "I'm gonna break outta here and get myself home..." his shoulders suddenly slumped,

"Wherever that is..."









Astina's smile was warm and her eyes twinkling, "Thank you for that..." She nodded to Dain as well, "Thank you both." Kirien's body had resumed it's 'sleeping' position, and appeared to be rather peaceful.

"I am grateful that Kirien has people in his life willing to come to his aid in his time of need. I will see your efforts rewarded and we will all be reuinted with him soon."

The door to the compartment opened just then and a man wearing a snake mask and wielding a shotgun stepped in. Behind him, a second man could be seen entering the compartment across from theirs. The man in their compartment cocked his gun in what apparently was meant to be an intimidating manner,

"The Orochi gang has taken control of this train. Hand over your wallets and purses without a fuss and no one gets hurt."

Astina blinked innocently at the man, "Oh dear... How terribly unfortunate."

The Orochi gamg member growled, "Nothin' 'unfortunate' has to happen to ya if ya just cooperate!"

Astina shook her head slowly, smilng sweetly while giving the briefest of glances at what by now must have been a fuming Dain,

"I meant unfortunate for all of you."
Edited by Krazycloud, Feb 21 2012, 02:43 PM.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
It almost brought a smile to his face. What terrible luck for a bunch of ridiculously disguised fools. Of all the trains in all the world, of all the days in all of time, these poor saps somehow got stuck with his. Part of him wanted to thank the gods for giving him a conduit to release the rest of his wrath through. The other part wanted to cry, much like the actors and actresses of Hollywood did after receiving a prestigious award.

"You dumb bastard, ya picked the worst day to come and screw with me." Dain rose to his feet slowly and stood before the intruder. His massive body dwarfed the man and Dain made sure every muscle was fully flexed.

The man's eyes narrowed as he pointed the barrel at Dain's face. "Don't make me kill ya big boy. Last time I checked, I was the one with the gun. So when I tell ya to do something, ya do it or ya die!"

That's when it got to be too much. Dain could no longer contain himself. Those words had provided the extra nudge of excitement that would tip the balance in his fight to keep from smiling. His wolfish grin seemed to stretch the limits of his face. "I've got a problem with takin' orders from people weaker than me."

Dain quickly grabbed the center of the barrel and squeezed it shut. "I you guys give yourselves up right now, I'll let ya live." The teen's jaw cocked to the side as his enemy rammed the butt of his gun into Dain's head. After a second he slowly forced it back to meet the shakey gaze of the armed man. "I tried, oh well."

Dain's hand shot out and clamped over the gunman's neck. He lifted him up as high as the small compartment would allow, spun on his heels and slammed him through the window. He held him there, dangling outside while the wind rushed by them. "Shame to die for wallets and purses right?!"

In his eagerness, Dain had forgotten about the man who had been behind his target. All the ruckus and racket had alerted him to his partner's plight. With a quick step he was in the doorway with his weapon pointed at the back of Dain's head. "Drop him!"

The titan glanced back and arched a brow,"You sure about that?" Dain's eyes shot over to Phanphan and looked for any sign of assistance. If she froze up now, he'd have a painful headache when he healed back up.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Phanphan had heard heavy footsteps in the corridor, but it didn't strike her as any more than background noise. The second the door opened, she knew something was wrong, and nothing about the sight of a man stepping into their small compartment wearing a mask and wielding a large gun deterred her from that instinctive conclusion.

This is not good.

Her senses were on high alert during the brief exchange between Astina and the would-be mugger. Phanphan felt a powerful urge to jump in front of Kirien and protect him from the source of danger while he was unable to defend himself. It didn't occur to her in those few seconds that Kirien was in the least danger of all of them in a way, being already technically dead himself. Instead Phanphan breathed evenly and made no move to give up her schoolbag from where it was tucked under her seat.

This is very not good.

It was just like one of the scenarios just like they discussed in Special Powers class. A human has a gun pointed at someone in front of you: what do you do? A wild part of her mind wondered if this was even some kind of test--but no, she recognized the scent of gunpowder from her homeroom, and from other memories her very occupied conscious mind couldn't spare the attention for. The weapons were real, and they had been used before. She wasn't sure if Astina's brief glance at Dain was a warning not to do anything rash or subtle permission to do just that. Whether Dain took it as the latter or just made his own decision regardless was also not apparent.

The conductor is going to be so mad at us!

Phanphan was already up out of her seat and moving before Dain looked her way. She had been staring at him and the first snake-masked moron he smashed through the window, but her eyes were on the second man the moment he entered the doorway. Trusting Dain to handle the first (possibly into a pulp) and Astina to deal with herself and Kirien, Phanphan stepped in front of the other man.

In one smooth motion, Phanphan took the muzzle of the shotgun in her left hand and pushed it up toward the ceiling as her right hand darted to cover the man's left. A quick rotation of the gun under the man's elbow, around to bear down on his forearm from the outside, and his wrist snapped easily between her hand and the gun. She yanked the weapon free with predatory satisfaction at his pained howl, and followed her successful disarm with a measured strike to the man's masked face with the stock of the gun. Still off-balance, he was knocked sprawling back into the corridor. The people in the compartment across the way were staring in alarm, frozen in place.

"Shut the door!"

It wasn't much protection, but honestly, there was no use politely inviting intruders in! Phanphan turned and held out the shotgun toward Astina, either for her own use or just to keep away from any more assailants. Her ears were still trained on the doorway... and the only visible indication of her distress at this ill-timed and alarming fiasco was a certain bushiness to her tail.
Edited by Phantasma, Feb 23 2012, 12:34 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Astina could only watch as the two teens made short work of their would be muggers. She would assist if absolutely needed, but at the moment her power was nearly exhausted, and she was physically pushing herself to the limit as it was. She accepted the shotgun from Phanphan and nodded.

"Stay alert, I will try to discern just how many of these thugs are present..."

Taking a deep breath and sitting in her seat once more, Astina suddenly slumped over.

Her spirit stood and floated past Phanphan. Their group was in the last compartment of the train and she made her way forward, passing through the walls as she scanned the area. From compartment to compartment, she saw that the gang had sent two men to handle each section, and the two at the front were accompanied by a man who's mask was gold plated. Her vision began to get fuzzy, not something that normally happened when she spirit walked, but her fatigue was piled high enough to make even this simple act a strain. She drew her spirit back to her body quickly, feeling her consciousness beginning to slip...

She snapped awake with a deep breath and had to shut her eyes tight as the room was spinning widly. She realized then how dangerously close she had been to pushing herself much too far. She had to watch it, she'd be no good to Kirien or anyone if that happened...

"There are six more cars on this train..." She looked more than a little pale, "Two men in each car, and their leader has taken the conductor hostage...Please...Be careful...You two..."

She slumped back again, this time having fainted.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"Guess we won't be needin' you anymore buddy. You take care out there and be sure to think about maybe makin' some sort of life changes. I don't think you're cut out for a life of crime. Maybe try, pottery or painting." Dain smiled and gave a two finger salute,"Bob Ross be with you." He released his hold on the man and didn't even bother to watch him tumble or crash, alas there was no time.

He tore his sight from the sack of potatoes that had become Astina and placed them on his interim sidekick. "Alright Robin you heard Oracle, that makes six for the each of us. Remember, they've got hostages and enough firepower to harm them." Dain stepped past her, into the narrow hall, and lowered his body to keep from being seen through the car's window. "I guess stealth's gonna be the name of this game, at least until wee can ensure everyone's safety. That means I'm gonna be relying heavily on you." He waved her forward and moved back,"You take point and I'll try to remain unseen until you launch an attack. From here on you lead until we can get to that last car."

Dain smirked and shot Phanphan a wink,"It's exciting right? I mean, this is a classic train scene ripped right outta some video game, anime, or tv show!" His head quickly swayed as he gave her two thumbs up. "You got this! So let's kick some Cobra ass!"

He set his sight on the door to the next compartment but turned them right back upon her once more. "Hey, if you can, you should provide some witty banter or something! It'll be awesome." He looked to the door, then back to her,"Just a suggestion though." Back to the door, then again to her,"You should totally do it though." Door, then her,"Seriously." And once more to the door.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
"There are six more cars on this train... Two men in each car, and their leader has taken the conductor hostage...Please...Be careful...You two..."

Phanphan watched Astina slump over again in concern. She had felt the presence of Astina's spirit as it left the compartment and returned, and she glanced at Kirien to see what effect any of this might have on him. He appeared just as catatonic as before.

She also watched Dain drop the man he was holding out the window, and flailed.

"Dain! What are you doing?! You can't just fling people out the window!"

Obviously he was perfectly capable of doing so, and it had been more of a release than an actual flinging, but Phanphan flailed anyway. I guess at least it's one less person trying to hurt Kiryu-san! One of Phanphan's eyes twitched as she turned her thoughts back to their immediate course of action, listening to Dain's plan of attack. The idea of leaving both Kirien and his mother there unconscious made her uneasy, but it was obviously necessary. They didn't have time to waste. She could only hope Astina would wake up before the man she had knocked out.

"How are you going to remain unseen?"

Her grumble was only half directed at Dain as Phanphan stripped off her jacket and dropped it on her seat. She would have to draw attention away from the door they entered from if Dain was going to do anything remotely stealthy. She hesitated for a moment, then pulled off her kitty hat and left that behind as well. If they were going to be fighting, she wanted her hearing unobstructed, and she doubted anyone would even remember seeing her ears after her bossy Batman started smashing things. Phanphan exited the compartment after Dain and shut the door behind them, stepping carefully over the unconscious man on the floor.

"I'm not providing witty banter if you're just going to babble comic references at me!" Phanphan poked Dain in the chest for emphasis as she moved past him toward the door. Carefully easing up to the small window, she peeked into the next car and saw two masked men with shotguns, just as expected, still collecting purses and wallets. "They're both moving around in there, so I'll try to get them turned toward the other end of the hall. I can't smush the guns like you can, the less of those anyone can use again, the better. Ready?"

As soon as the words left her lips, the moment Phanphan was watching for arrived; both gunmen stepped inside different compartments. She yanked open one connecting door, then the second, dropped into a low crouch, and sprang into the next car. The angle of her jump hadn't been high with the ceiling to consider, but Phanphan still managed to land on her feet at the opposite end of the corridor. She turned and tucked her tail behind herself, folded her ears flat to her head, and...

"AAAH!"

...let out her best girly scream, in the tradition of females providing a distraction in all of those video games, anime, and TV shows Dain had mentioned.
Edited by Phantasma, Mar 9 2012, 06:10 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
As predicted, the doors to their respective compartments opened and out into the corridor stepped both Orochi gangsters, shotguns in hand. The one closer to Phanphan was tall and lanky with a shrill voice.

"Well, what have we here..?" One could practically see the sneer behind his mask, "Its alright, Choza, just some otaku chick. I've got this covered."

Choza, a portly henchman closer to Dain's side of the corridor, shrugged his shoulders and moved to reenter the compartment while his companion advanced upon Phanphan, weapon at the ready.

"Heeere, kitty kitty kitty..." The eyes behind the mask looked the nekojin over and his voice took on a more sinister tone, "Hmm, if you're a good kitty, I'll be nice and give ya something to lick clean when this is over..." He took another step, bringing him to within 5 feet of the girl.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"Ain't exactly what I would've gone for but it looks like it worked,"Dain whispered to himself as he peered around the corner of the door of the car. He waited impatiently for the thug closest to him to return to his looting duties. The other advanced on Phanphan, which caused a considerable amount of worry to Dain. But if there was to be any chance for them, as well as the hostages, to make it out unscathed they'd have to play their cards wisely.

Besides, he was a scrawny looking fellow. And if there was one thing the neko knew, it was how to knockout a scrawny guy.

Dain stepped as lightly as he could manage. Luckily for him, the train was noisy enough to mask most of his footsteps. He hadn't been spotted yet and he was almost to the compartment the one called "Choza" had gone back to. Stealth was not a skill he had invested too much in but his size often made an unaware enemy falter long enough for Dain to capitalize.

This time was no different. As he spun into the doorway the gangster inside was taken aback at the giant that towering over him. He stepped back once and Dain smirked as his right fist shot up and over the man's head. Choza hurried to point his gun in Dain's direction his hands unsteady and clumsy. There was a low thump as Dain's fist knocked down upon the center of Choza's cranium.

The lowly henchman swayed to the side before finally crumpling to his knees and falling flat on his mask. Then the sound of his gun falling onto the floor was suddenly louder than the ambiance of the train ride. Heavy metal banging against other metal signaled for his partner's attention.

Dain cringed in as he realized his failure to do what he'd set out to do;remain silent and hidden. Surely the lanky one would figure something was up. The most Dain could do was hope that Phanphan's feline instincts would give her the edge in speed and agility she'd require to get out of the situation alive.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
"Heeere, kitty kitty kitty..."

Phanphan sighed, glad her ears were already flattened at the annoying sound of the man's voice. At least the guy had mistaken her for an enthusiastic cosplayer. His associate turned away and went back to what he was doing almost immediately, and she felt a fleeting irritation that her plan to keep the guns pointed away from Dain had flopped. Well, you don't look very intimidating, of course they thought one was enough to handle you. Phanphan stood her ground and kept her eyes on the Orochi member approaching her. She'd have to deal with this one before worrying about the other.

A swift step forward brought her in range to put the same disarming technique to good use, startling an exclamation from the man which was quickly cut off as she drove the end of the shotgun into his solar plexus. Phanphan met his face with her knee as he doubled over, forcibly reversing his trajectory toward the floor, sending the back of the man's head to impact it with a solid bang. She propped the gun she'd taken over one shoulder, planted a foot on the thug's unconscious form, and held up her fingers in a V.

"Don't mess with us otaku chicks!"

The clatter of metal on metal distracted Phanphan from her victorious moment, and her ears twitched toward the source of the noise. She stepped on and over the anonymous thief at her feet and was relieved and pleased to see that Dain had taken care of the one called Choza just fine, without resorting to ejecting him from a window.

"Here, squish this one." Phanphan held out the shotgun toward Dain, her ears swiveling toward the next car. "What's the plan for when we get to the ones with the hostage? We'd never pull off impersonating these guys. Maybe I should try the roof?"
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Success! The last two cars had been reclaimed, and now 4 of the Orochi gang had been subdued without injury to any of the passengers. Also, not a single shot had been fired thus far.

Five cars still remained, and the next one ahead had both snake masked thugs in the hall of their car, having just finished swiping their loot from their hapless victims.

Orochi Member E had his eyes on the door that led to the car Dain and Phanphan were currently in, as he waited for the other four members to get back with their hauls.

"What the hell is taking them so long...?"

He walked over to take a peek into the next car, the boss wouldn't be happy with any sudden hiccups in the heist...
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
The barrel of the gun bent like taffy in Dain's hands. He was glad that they had successfully gotten rid of four of the terrorists, but he couldn't be more unpleased with the interruption of his friends rescue mission. Sneak missions weren't his speciality and the he figured the faster they finished it, the faster they could get back to planning out how they'd save Kirien's soul.

"Yeah that sounds like a plan." Dain tossed the gun out of the window, shattering the glass. "Get yourself up there and to the very front car. We're gonna end this right now. I'll create a distraction and draw their attention. You flank them and we'll get back to our car for some R&R."

As he stepped out of the compartment Dain turned his head to see another masked man at the door of the next car. He had seen the giant, but it didn't matter. In the seconds it took the crook to look back and warn his partner Dain had dashed towards him, hopped up and slammed his foot into the steel barrier. There was a heavy 'thunk' followed by a 'thud' as the man crashed hard into the door on the opposite end.

"Alright you snake bastards! Come and get me!" His voice was like thunder, booming over the ambiance of the train. In the back of the young man's head he hoped that his feline partner was moving fast enough to help save the lives of every passenger.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Phanphan watched Dain render the weapon useless as instructed... and double facepalmed in disbelief as he broke another window on the train chucking it out. Sneak missions were not his specialty, and the faster they finished this the more of the train would remain intact for the rest of the ride!

"Okay." Phanphan ruffled her fingers through her hair in frustration, then took a deep breath and looked up to give her destructive partner a nod of assent. He was already moving into position when she added a hasty caution. "Just be careful!"

Muttering in Chinese, Phanphan stepped gingerly over to make use of the window which Dain had effectively opened. She stuck a hand outside to test the drag of the air passing over the train. This was going to be tricky. How am I going to get inside again once I'm up there? Phanphan climbed up into the window, avoiding the sharp edges of glass left behind, and looked up at the edge of the top of the train.

Jumping onto the top of the car took more nerve than skill, but a flexible spine and a tail certainly helped. Phanphan waited for just a moment to make sure she had the feel of the train's motion beneath her feet, then darted forward to hop the small gap to the next car. Classic train scene, indeed. Phanphan's lips curled into a feral grin. She was the ninja on the roof right now, about to execute a flying kick in through a window and knock out the head bad guy. These fools in masks were going to regret causing trouble on the train she was on when Kirien needed her help!

The front car of the train was like the others; streamlined and lacking any good handholds. Phanphan's vision of kicking in one of the windows fizzled, and she settled for laying down flat on top of the car and sneaking herself toward the edge to cautiously peer inside, wondering (with a growing sense of foreboding) what exactly Dain had in mind for a distraction.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
The gang leader known as Orochi was having a pretty good day. His morning rice had been cooked perfectly, the first time that had happened in ages (he had just employed a new gang chef), as he watched the news he saw that his favorite sumo (which he himself sponsored) had defended his title, all of the small businesses he collected protection money from were on time, and even his horoscope told him that "big things" were in his "immediate future".

Suffice it to say, Orochi wasn't surprised that his train heist began without a hitch. The conductor surrendered without a fight and train security was being run by some guy who should've retired in the last age. He was now firmly in control of things and once his men got back they would all depart from the train considerably richer.

And then it all went so horribly, horribly wrong.

It had been taking his men far too long to report back, and the guy he sent to check on them, as well as the guy he sent to check on the guy, didn't report back either. Then he heard weapons discharging, crashes and bangs, and from what he heard after that he could only assume his men were being mauled by a rather angry bear. Who brings bears on a train, anyway!?

Now, Orochi was pacing frantically, cradling his gold plated shotgun and wondering what he should do. The sounds of violent thrashing and rage filled growling weren't subsiding and..

"Seriously, who brings a bear on a freaking train!?" Orochi shouted at the tied up conductor (who shrugged in response). He needed to get out, preferably out without meeting the business end of the bear that was having it's way with what was formerly his gang.

That's when he spotted the windows. Sure, the plan was crazy, but it was either that or... His blood suddenly ran cold as he heard his right hand man (a black belt in Judo) begging, no, crying for mercy.

After muttering several colorful explicatives, the panicked gang leader leveled his shotgun to shoot out the closest window. Throwing himself from a speeding train seemed much, much better than whatever was going on out in those halls.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
:$
Edited by Krazycloud, Aug 12 2012, 04:07 PM.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"How many is that now anyway?" Dain asked himself as he kicked aside the body of one more troublemaker. The car was empty and the door to the next one was still shut. The lack of anymore reinforcements must have meant that the next car was possibly the last he'd have to inspect and rip asunder. "I suppose it doesn't matter how many I've already beaten the hell out of." The young man's voice cried out even louder towards the next car,"The last one's always the most fun!"

He allowed himself a twisted cackle as he grabbed the door handle and bashed it open with his left shoulder. "Now tell me where it is you are so I can tear you apart!" He stomped through as heavy as he could. There was no telling whether or not hostages were being held, Dain had to draw his enemy out of hiding to get a better assessment of the situation. "I'm gonna take your legs and turn you into my own personal wishbone! And when one wish doesn't come true I'll just make another with your arms!" He let out another twisted laugh and moved forward into the car.

"If you give up now though, I'll let my partner kill you instead. She's probably a little more merciful than me." Dain glanced into the first compartment and saw nothing. "Then again, she's always talking about the way she likes to play with her prey." Just keep talking and checking, there had to be more terrorists somewhere on board. "Something about using their genitalia as toys for her cats! So maybe ya better choose dyin' to me! Cuz otherwise that's your nuts!"

The behemoth wondered where Phanphan had run off to and, more importantly, whether or not she could hear the obscene slanders he was hoping would get a response from his next victim. "Heh heh, her kittens just looooooooove balls of yarn!"
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
After her first glance inside the front car of the train, Phanphan was relieved, concerned, and confused in quick succession. One bad guy, the driver tied up, bad guy pointing a gun at a window on the opposite side of the car. What? She had a brief moment of panic at the thought of Dain silently sneaking along the train behind her to kick in through a window as well, an action that might well derail the entire vehicle. She actually popped her head up to check, but the top of the train was unoccupied except for herself. A telltale dull roar moving along the train toward her confirmed that Dain was still inside, creating the expected distraction of Smash Everything Loudly. The ruckus was having the desired effect, though; the armed man in the front car seemed to have decided not to stick around.

The moment was right for her part of the plan. Without further ado, Phanphan swung herself out and down from the roof of the train with a well-aimed kick and the loudest "KIYA!" she could manage.

Time slowed as glass exploded everywhere. Phanphan could have sworn in the fraction of a second she was flying through the air that she heard Dain's voice nearby shouting something about balls and yarn before her feet made violent contact with the back of her target. There was a near-deafening bang as the shotgun went off inside the enclosed space, and the seemingly simultaneous crash of the window opposite breaking.

Phanphan twisted and hit the floor on her hands and feet, along with a shower of glass and her victim. Or at least his legs, as some portion of his upper body had made contact with the other broken window before it was quite so broken, and the man was now slumped against the wall. Phanphan sprang to her feet to look out for his weapon, but the shotgun was gone.

As the gunless gunman slumped to the floor with a truly pathetic moan, her sense of time passing sped up again, and Phanphan surveyed the carnage with satisfaction, not sparing a thought just yet for the poor driver. She pointed a stern finger at the possibly unconscious gang member.

"That will teach you to slow down the trains!"
Edited by Phantasma, Jul 31 2014, 03:14 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
The last two members of the Orochi Gang standing between Dain and the lead car were visibly trembling. From all of the commotion they had just heard, this virtual mountain of a lad had just single-handedly dismembered their entire crew. Surrender was seeming more and more like a good idea at this point, besides, they had both long ago conceded that Orochi didn't pay them nearly enough to throw away their lives protecting him. So, as Dain moved forward they rather hastily laid down their arms and raised their hands with a shrug of their shoulders, the senior of the two speaking for the both of them, "If it's all the same to you kid, uh, sir, we'll be giving ourselves up now."

The other nodded quickly, "Yeah, we won't be stealin' any more trains! We promise!"

* * *

It all happened so fast.

One moment Orochi was ready to make his escape out the train window, then in the next he saw a foot, heard shattering glass, and then the lights went out. As he sank toward the floor, his plan thwarted, his life ruined, the soon to be former gang leader could only be thankful that he wasn't mauled by that bear.

The conductor watched, wide eyed, as a girl came flying through the window to disarm and disable the man who had hijacked his train with a well placed kick to the head. He would've cheered out loud had it not been for the gag, so instead he sort of bounced around joyously, glad to be able to live to conduct another day. No sooner had the fiend been dropped than he began to scoot himself toward his rescuer, who he could now see was...A girl cosplaying as a nekojin? The man shrugged, beggars certainly couldn't be choosers when it came to being rescued from a life and death hostage situation.

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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"I knew you'd be able to handle the situation up here on your own kitten." Dain moved into the last car with both of his hostages in tow. The men had been tied up in their own clothes, save for their underpants. Alas, the young man had no rope and he couldn't very we'll leave them unsecured. He tossed the both of them at their leader and glanced at the scene. "Gotta say I'm rather impressed with the way ya stepped up to the plate there Phanny. Kirien's gonna say the same thing when we finally get that lazy layabout back on his feet. Can't wait to see his face when he hears about our team-up."

He shot her a quick smirk before turning his attention to the conductor. "Hey pops, I hope ya don't mind speeding this train up. My friend and I here both have someplace we've gotta be yesterday. So punch it and don't let up until we get to the station." He pointed over to the gang members sprawled about on the floor. "I'd hate it if these guys somehow got out of their restraints and started terrorizing you again, ya know."

They had wasted a lot of time and energy rescuing the passengers from the poorly executed heist. "I think it's about time we got back to Mom and made sure she and Kirien are alright, don't ya think Natsu?"
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Phanphan's ears perked up at Dain's appearance. Her grin turned into a wide-eyed stare at his trophies before she quickly looked away. Why are those guys naked?! Did he steal their clothes to punish them or something? Dain's suggestion to the driver that the criminals would escape and start over again produced images in her head of the same scenes playing out with gangsters dressed only in their snake masks and undies. She shuddered.

"Yes, we should get back." The feeling of victory deflated somewhat with the knowledge that Kirien was still sitting comatose on the train, sans soul. Phanphan turned to the driver, hoping that speeding up the train would be possible, and realized for the first time that he was also tied up.

"Oops!" Her nails made short work of his bindings, which she was very thankful were not his clothes. She was sure that destroying the uniform of train personnel would be penalized with a serious fine. Once he was freed Phanphan bowed to the driver. "Sorry for the mess, please do your best to get us to the station quickly!"

And as speed was the order of the day, Phanphan beat a hasty retreat from the front of the train, anxious to check on Kirien and his mother... and to avoid getting into any more trouble. "Let's go, Dain!"
Edited by Phantasma, Jul 31 2014, 03:13 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
The conductor took turns bowing profusely to both Dain and Phanphan as he thanked them for their help. Thanks to those two, he wouldn't have to turn in his conductor's hat and live the rest of his life in exiled shame, disowned by his family and forced to live under a bridge wearing only a loincloth as he haunted trains in remembrance of who and what he used to be. He really couldn't thank them enough. He assured the two that now that the hijacking had been thwarted he would make all haste toward their destination; if for no other reason to turn over the lot of brigands to the proper authorities. He thanked them several times more before asking if they would politely return to their car, with a promise that no one else need put their life in danger to protect the train.

Astina yawned and stretched as the Nekojin and boy entered their cabin, blinking sleep from her eyes, "My, what a powerful nap. It feels like I've slept for a year or two...Almost." Her gaze passed from one youth to the other as Kirien's remained fixed on nothing in particular, "I trust that everything was taken care of and the trouble resolved..?" She let out a sigh of relief with their confirming nods, "I'm relieved to hear it. Hopefully there will be no further interruptions...I think I speak for all of us when I say that I've had quite enough of this train."

* * *

The remaining hour of the trip was uneventful, and as the authorities took custody of the foiled Orochi Gang, Astina led her party quietly from the train and away from the station platform to an open carriage, complete with horse and driver, that appeared to be waiting for them. She ushered everyone inside before taking her seat beside Kirien and lightly tapping the driver on the shoulder, who nodded before beginning the second leg of their journey.

The sky was still pale grey as morning quietly slipped into noon. The carriage followed a broad, unpaved, east/west road that fell next to a gently flowing narrow river. The landscape on either side had little in the way of trees, and rolling hills went on seemingly forever to the north and east while they gave way towering mountains that disappeared into the clouds in the distance toward the south and west. As they made their way further west, several large rice paddies came into view, revealing several traditional style farms and houses.

"Welcome to the land of the Northern Wind." Astina's voice had no trouble being heard over the din of the carriage, "Though I wish we could have arrived under better circumstances. We'll be arriving at my home village soon, where we'll meet with the seer to discuss our next move."
Astina wondered what thoughts could be passing through the minds of the two teenagers that had chosen to accompany her for the sake of her son. Dain's perpetual scowl seemed easy enough to read, which made Phanphan the more curious of the two to her. She found the girl to be almost hyper vigilant, constantly aware of her surroundings Was this a trait passed through her from her heritage? She certainly would have liked to discuss the matter with the girl at some length, and made a mental note to do so at some point as she got to know the nekojin better. In the meantime she let the silence hang, curious as to what, if anything, the two would offer to fill it.

* * *

"Tatsu." Kirien said at last, nodding with a sense of finality.

"Oro?" The response from his small, winged companion was clearly confused.

"I've been thinking of what I should call you." Kirien explained, "Since you don't remember your name, and 'Sparrow' just seems kinda silly." He sat with his back to the wall opposite the door to his cell, one leg pulled in close as he rested his arm on it, "I've decided to call you Tatsu, if that's okay with you?"

"Onii-sama will call this one...Tatsu?" the sparrow tilted his head in his usual, curious manner.

"Yeah, if you don't mind?" Kirien asked again.

The sparrow hopped in response, flapping his wings excitedly, "This one will have the honor of being called Tatsu!"

"Awesome!" Kirien gave a small fist pump at his success in finding his companion a name, "And you can call me Kirien!"

"Onii-sama?" Tatsu replied, tilting his head again.

"No, no, Ki-ri-en." The boy pronounced slowly, "Now you try."

"O...nii......." Tatsu tilted his head in the opposite direction, "Sama..?"

Kirien facepalmed, "We'll...We'll work on it." He conceded with a sigh as he stood and stretched. He paused midway, as the air around him suddenly felt colder. He glanced toward Tatsu, who began chirping loudly.

"They've come! The master's servants have come to take Onii-sama away!"

Kirien froze, then slightly lowered his stance as he sharpened his hearing to listen. Sure enough, the sound of footsteps approaching his cell was unmistakable. He felt his heart began to race as he grew tense all over. Finally, he'd have an opportunity to gain some answers as to what was going on. He braced himself as he watched the door, swallowing hard.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
How long had it been now? A day or so maybe? These hours were feeling like years and having this walking husk around certainly wasn't helping the state of things for Dain. Kirien had only been lost to this world for a moment now yet it was as if the boys had been separated much longer. He kept thinking up wisecracks only to remember that there was no one around to appreciate his humor. Then his attention would go to Kirien's body and so would ensue his fight to keep from punching his emotionless face. Any reaction would do, any sign of his old friend, any indication of life! Anything more than....this.

"This place seems nice, I get why Kirien's the way he is now. Country bumpkin type all the way." His eyes weren't anywhere particular, simply doing their best to avoid those around him. Dain hated waiting but it was the only option he had. Trusting Astina was the only hope there was, but that hope had started to choke him now. This uncertainty of his friend's state was an abyss he was struggling to escape. "Remind me to tell him that later." He said to remember as well as reassure himself that he would get to deliver the message for real. As painful as this hope had become, it was all he had to hold on to.

He wasn't in the mood for talk, it wouldn't accomplish anything at this point. Someone somewhere was gonna tell them someway to get his soul back from some place some time soon. It just wasn't now. Until it was, Dain wanted to do little more than try to keep from losing his cool.

Being in a land filled with more spirits was putting him on edge the closer they got. He wondered what the people at their destination were going to be like. Would they all insist on seeing, hearing or speaking with ghosts? He imagined several crazy folks running around in hysteria, it was unpleasant. Then he tried to picture all the gravestones that would probably be there, it was unbearable. Nothing about this was going to be pleasant. And what's worse was not having Kirien to joke around with about all of it.

The black cloud had descended.
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Phantasma
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[ * ]
Phanphan had made equal efforts over the past hour or so to keep herself together. Under normal circumstances she tended to let her thoughts wander, counting on a keen sense of hearing to keep her aware, but she did her best to keep her focus on what was happening around them and occupy her mind with observations.

The horse-drawn carriage came as a surprise. Phanphan wouldn't have expected such a hokey tourist gimmick to be Astina's choice of transportation, but the fresh air and lack of school groups were a welcome change from the dull bus rides she'd endured as a child on field trips to Shirakawa-go or Gokayama.

Phanphan wasn't sure how serious Astina was being about consulting a seer, but she nodded politely at the welcome. Dain's sudden break in silence to comment on Kirien being a country bumpkin surprised her. Before, she would have thought she was the country girl in the group with her family living in Toyama, but this was on a whole different level. Had he really grown up in a place like this? Out in the middle of nowhere?

She made the mistake of looking at Kirien for some indication, and her heart sank as his condition jumped to the front of her mind again. She had been avoiding the gaze of present company as well. A sideways glance at Dain made it obvious his excitement over the diversion on the train had also long since faded. Phanphan scooted closer to her friend and returned her attention to the rice paddies, hoping the scenic view would calm her own rising anxiety about saving Kirien... not to mention to potential of meeting more of his family.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Kirien's eyes remained fixed on the door as the footsteps drew closer. Questions and multiple scenarios fired through his mind rapidly; should he play it safe and go along with his captors? Try to overpower whoever it was that opened the door? Was this all a mistake and he was being set free? He held his breath as the steps halted in front of the door. There was a sound of metal scraping against metal before there was an audible click and the door opened with an ominous creak. Kirien steeled himself, ready for any possibility.

Or so he had thought.

The figure that entered had to duck and turn sideways in order to fit inside the doorway. Once through, it rose to a full height of what Kirien figured to be roughly seven feet. Kirien also would have guessed it to weigh nearly a ton, and wouldn't have been at all surprised if that ton was comprised entirely of muscle. The head and face resembled that of a minotaur; only there was a third horn growing from the middle of it's forehead. Jet black, beady eyes peered down at Kirien with no more consideration than a man would have for a gnat.

Kirien immediately abandoned all hope of forcing his escape. To say that overpowering the three-horned minotaur appeared impossible would've been a massive understatment, as it occurred to him that not even Dain on his best day would be able to wound such a thick and muscular hide. The boy swallowed hard as the new arrival raised a rock solid hand to point at the much smaller occupant of the cell before speaking. It's voice was deep and altogether menacing, booming enough so that Kirien could feel the words as well as hear them.

"Come. The master would speak with you."

The diminutive youth felt he had no other option but to comply and, letting his shoulders sag, he began to shuffle along behind Three-horns as he turned and led the way out of the cell.

* * *

The carriage passed into a area with several old, traditional style Japanese houses, the area giving off an ancient vibe while still appearing highly functional and well kept. It followed an unpaved road that led to the largest of these houses, which was the only building of multiple stories, of which there were three, before it came to a halt. Ushering everyone out, Astina led the way inside to what appeared to be a grand foyer. Two girls dressed as traditional shrine maidens greeted the group shortly as they entered, their bows giving way to wide eyed shock as they recognized Astina. After a brief exchange they were led down a side hall an into a dimly lit room which while large was mostly empty, save for a large wooden rectangular table which several chairs were arranged on either side of. After the maidens exited Astina sat at one of the middle seats, Kirien moving stiffly to sit beside her. She motioned for the other two to join on either side of them.

After a short wait, the door slid open again and an elderly woman in an elaborate kimono shuffled into the room. She was stooped, hardly any more than five feet tall and the long braid that trailed down her back and past her waist had only wisps of black among the predominant grey. Though time had marked her weathered face full of creases, it was easy to see the faint traces of the rich beauty that once lived behind those features in her youth, and a quiet strength still radiated from her steel grey eyes as she sat in the seat opposite a somewhat surprised Astina.

"Okaa-sama?" Astina bowed her head respectfully, "I'm pleased you've come to meet us, however, I was expecting Midori-sama."

Astina's mother returned the bow with a polite inclination of her head, her voice sounding worn but having no difficulty carrying in the large room, "I'm sure you did, Tina-chan. You'll meet with your sister soon enough, through if what I've sensed is correct, I believe it best you and I speak first. You know how Midori can be."

Astina winced slightly, her hands clenching slightly in her lap before the moment passed, "I see, so you know what has happened then."

The old woman nodded, "I do," Her attention turned curiously to the companions at her daughter and grandson's side, "Though first, I believe introductions are in order?"

Astina nodded, rising, "Indeed. Okaa-sama, I'm honored to introduce Dain Serlo, Kirien's closest friend and sworn brother, and Phanphan Natsumori, a girl from his school which Kirien feels a... strong connection with." She ended a bit abruptly before shifting to the next introduction, "Dain, Natsumori-san, It is my honor to present Lady Kaguya, former Seer of the Northern Wind clan and my Honored Mother."

"The honor is mine, children," Kaguya bowed her head slightly to first one, then the other, "I wish we could have met under better circumstances." She returned her attention to her daughter, who moved to sit once more, "And now back to the business at hand, I'm afraid. Were you able to recover the Eye, Tina-chan?"

"I have," Astina nodded, removing the amulet and placing it on the table in front of her mother. "I'd ask that-"

She was cut off as her mother raised her hand, "I know, child, I know." She gave Kirien a withering glance before shaking her head sadly. It was a few moments before she spoke, and her voice sounded surprisingly soft and frail, "Astina, daughter, are you trying to have yourself branded a necromancer?"

Astina was visibly taken aback by this, she pressed her palms to the table and leaned forward, her voice heavy but low, "Okaa-sama, The Demon stole Kirien's soul, that's the unnatural act at work here! I'm just keeping him safe until we've gained it back!"

Kaguya sighed, placing one hand on the Eye of the Wind and pulling it closer to look at it, "I understand...I do, but convincing Midori..."

Astina cut in as her mother trailed off, slamming her hands on the table, "Is something that we must do!"

Placing the amulet back onto the table, Kaguya reached out and rested one of her hands over Astina's, "Calm yourself, Tina-chan. I know how difficult this must be. And I'm sure your sister will understand as well. I will speak to her and the other Elders on your behalf." Astina moved to protest but Kaguya again silenced her by raising her hand, "This has been a dark day; both for the Clan and for you, Astina. We will do what we can to help Kirien as well as the Clan. Take some time, get some rest, show your companions around our humble home. When the Circle convenes I'll have you sent for."

Astina was tense, staring either at, or completely through the amulet that rested on the table. After what seemed an eternity, she finally let out a soft sigh, "Alright."

"Thank you." Kaguya patted Astina's hand reassuringly, "Also, allow me to care for Kirien, to give you a chance recuperate your strength..." She glanced at the soulless youth again, her gaze growing sharp, as she heaved another heavy sigh, "I'm sure you'll need it for what's to come."

It wasn't until the group was outside, minus Kirien, that Astina spoke up again, "Well now.." She turned to Dain and Phanphan, and while her smile seemed genuine, there was clearly a forced quality to it, "How about that tour?"
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
And there they stood, with nothing more than what they had arrived with. No, scratch that. They'd also lost Kirien and his super, magical, one-of-a-kind amulet. They now had even less than when they had arrived off of the carriage. "Awesome." He whispered to himself as they stood outside wondering what the hell to do now as they waited even longer. This time to find an answer to a question he hadn't even really heard get asked!

He was confused, frustrated and growing lonelier by the minute. To make matters worse, his eyes had caught glimpses of the folks around. Dain judged them all to be a bunch of hippie looking weirdos who wore clothes that looked like something out of an ancient shrine. He knew they were probably already staring at him, praying to their ghost buddies to screw with him even more than life already had! The veins in his body began to boil as he felt tickled along his neck and then something brush his hair. Dain hadn't even noticed that he'd started to let out a low growl as his eyes scanned for paranormal activity.

Just after Astina made mention of a meandering through her village Dain's phone rang out from his pocket. It buzzed as it played Disturbed's "Down With the Sickness" alarmingly louder than even he had expected. The teen rummaged through his pants and glanced at the screen. His eyes narrowed and he glanced to his companions,"Go on without me, I gotta take this."

With that Dain turned, tapped the screen and began walking away from the women. He cleared his throat as he raised the phone to his ear and spoke as gingerly as he ever had,"Hey Sis, what's up?"

From the other end of the receiver was a voice like Christmas Eve. It was pure as snow and smooth as ice, yet more warm and comforting than any fire or blanket. This woman's voice sang out softly into his heart,"Hello Dain, it's good to hear your voice my dear brother." There was a second of silence as he waited for her to speak. Sure, he talked to his older sister often enough but it was always scheduled and expected. This was the first time in years he'd ever been caught unaware by her. That meant something serious.

"Do you know why I'm calling you Dain?" She was calm and friendly, the way she always was when they talked. "Well, seein' as how I got that email from the pops not too long ago I'm gonna go ahead and guess that it's to tell me he wants me on the next plane home?" His tone was that of a pissed off teenager, but then that's what Dain was right now. A really, really pissed off teenager.

"I know you may not like this Dain, I myself still think it's unfair to make you live a life you want no part in, but the two of you made an agreement. I know that you'll hold true to your word brother, you're an honorable boy." She was delving blows he couldn't defend, attacking spots he'd forgotten he even had to guard. "Look, tell him I'll head on over as soon as I take care of something I got goin' on over here. It's concerinin' Kirien so I don't care if he's got a problem with it, he's gonna have to wait and then I'll take my happy ass back."

"Yes, I suppose I forgot to mention, Father's not waiting for you to come home. He's on his way to your new home as we speak. There's a good chance he'll probably be waiting for you whenever you go back home. I just thought it'd be better to warn you Dain." For the first time in his life, Dain's jaw slacked and sagged. His eyes drifted off to the side, as if there's be a cue card to instruct him on how to respond. "Dammit, you could've started off with that ya know!"

He tapped the screen once more and the call was done. The young man shook his head and leaned against a tree along the path he had been walking. The universe was dropping more weight onto his shoulders and he figured he'd best rest a bit before taking it all on at once. It was in that moment that he looked from side to side. He was lost. "No." He stood straight and stepped onto the trail,"Where...." His voice trailed off as he tried to remember how he'd gotten there. He was lost. "No, no, no." He groaned as he started pacing. Passers by regarded him with scowls and arched brows, while Dain continued to panic more.

"Ahhhhh dammit." Dain was lost.
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Phantasma
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:33
[ * ]
Phanphan was unhappy.

Meeting Kirien's grandmother hadn't been as bad as she'd feared. Being too young and not trained in the spiritual discipline required to be included in the conversation was actually welcome. Especially after she was rendered speechless with embarrassment at Astina's description of her. A girl from his school which Kirien feels a... strong connection with. It took all her effort to keep her tail still under her sweater. Astina's words drove home the awkwardness of this entire disaster. She and Kirien had barely gotten to know each other well enough to plan a first date, and yet here she was tossed in among his family members, having their relationship spelled out for everyone to know.

The burning in her cheeks did not subside as things progressed. Her relief at bringing Kirien's body safely to people who had the ability and the knowledge to help him was slowly evaporating, and hearing the elderly woman's concern about necromancy... Anger overrode humiliation, nearly to the point of prompting her to speak out of turn. Her cheeks felt hotter than ever, and all the hesitation made her want to be the one who could slam her hands on the table and demand action. But it was obvious that Astina did need to let her powers recover, whatever other nonsense involving a meeting was going on, so Phanphan kept quiet until they were outside once more.

Phanphan looked over at Dain again to see how he felt about a tour. He wasn't handling this well--no, that wasn't exactly right. Given what had happened to his best friend, he was handling it well, but he was obviously just as unhappy about it as she was. Phanphan had been keeping quiet up until now because she was in shock and because the presence of someone she hadn't met before was making her nervous. She had felt she could trust Astina in theory, but Dain was someone she trusted in practice, if for no other good reason than because Kirien trusted him. It was distressing to see him so upset, not just being moody like the drama queen he often was but going through the same cycle she was feeling of frantic adrenaline and impotent depression about wanting to help Kirien and not knowing how to do it. His phone ringing startled her just as badly, and she felt increasingly upset with every step he took away from them.

Realizing that Astina was still waiting for an answer, Phanphan returned her attention to the woman next to her. She couldn't care less about seeing any more of this place if it didn't involve directly helping Kirien, even if it was someplace he'd spent part of his life... but the thought of staying still any longer produced a tightening in her throat that usually proceeded a growl. The tip of her tail twitched under her sweater as Phanphan forced herself into an appropriately polite bow.

"It would be nice to stretch my legs and be outside for a bit longer, thank you."
Edited by Phantasma, Jul 31 2014, 03:10 AM.
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Krazycloud
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Kirien: "Wanna go a round..?"
[ *  * ]
Astina watched the retreating figure of Dain until the boy disappeared from sight. She then lowered her head a looked at the ground, letting out a soft sigh, "You know, Natsumori-dono, there's a place I would like to visit." She turned her gaze to the young nekojin girl and smiled softly, "We'll come back for Dain-kun afterward."

As Kirien's mother led the way through the village streets the mystic theme was quite prevalent in the style of both the buildings and the dress of those that went about their daily business. The village was far from crowded, but it did have its own sense of bustle about it. The two came at last to a small house which Astina entered first before beckoning Phanphan inside. The floors were neatly polished and both the furniture and decorations were simple, keeping up with the historic theme of the village.

"Welcome to my home, Natsumori-dono."

She continued on to lead the girl on a short tour, showing off the small kitchen and common area, then her own bedroom. Lastly, she stopped in front of a sliding door near the end of the hall, "And here we have Kirien's room." The inside of the room didn't feature much, a plan futon, a writing desk, bookshelf, and dresser all clean and in good condition, "He's only been here once since his tenth birthday, so this room naturally doesn't have much...However..." She smirked a bit, leading the way to side room that was revealed to be converted into a closet by the sliding door. She then stepped inside the small space and once again beckoned for the cat-girl to follow, maintaining her curious smirk all the while. Once both were inside, she slid the door shut and turned in the dim light, finding a small indentation in the wall and pressing it until it clicked. The room suddenly lurched and felt as if it were lowering.

"This village has stood for quite some time, Natsumori-dono, and as it turns out it harbors quite a few secrets. Kirien stumbled upon this one when he was very young." She shook her head with a rueful smile, "The little scamp worried me half to death when he suddenly disappeared for several hours. When he finally came back he couldn't understand why his father and I had been so upset at his little 'game'."

The lift stopped. Astina opened the door and with practiced steps moved to brighten the two lanterns built into the wall to reveal a small room that appeared to be part of a cave, "This was Kirien's true room when he was younger. He would spend hours down here, playing and reading to his heart's content." The room had a smaller futon and a more worn bookshelf. She also led the way down a small tunnel (she had to stoop a little to navigate), that ended with a small wooden door around which a cool breeze could be felt. Unlatching it, the door swung out to a small gully at the bottom of which the river they had followed to the village ran gently.

Upon returning to the main room, Astina led Phanphan to the worn bookshelf. It stood no higher than her shoulders and had a circle small, fist shaped rocks that sat upon it. Kirien's mother looked upon these stones with reverence, and touched them lightly, "Kirien had a very active imagination when he was younger, and he oftentimes eschewed manufactured toys to play with much simpler things. Take these stones, for example." She smiled softly, "They're not stones at all, but dragons. A circle of dragons that maintained order and balance throughout the universe...Or so little Ki-chan explained to me." She patted the stone before turning toward Phanphan with a soft shake of her head, "He'd make up all sorts of stories involving his dragon circle. They were surprisingly entertaining considering how young he was when he dreamed them up, and I suppose it was a great comfort to him since he didn't have any brothers or sisters to play with..."

She suddenly sighed, then leaned against the wall next to the bookshelf, crossing her arms and averting her gaze, "Natsumori-dono, may I ask if you have any siblings, and what your relationship is like with them..?"

* * *

The people of the village, in a nutshell, were terrified of Dain.

Where the young man saw icy, jugemental glances being thrown his way from every which direction, the villagers were instead fearful of the far taller than average young man dressed like a visitor but carrying a perpetual scowl. He was an intimidating sight. So they avoided him just as much as he tried to avoid them. The scenery didn't change much, however, and nothing he passed was looking the slightest bit familiar. He was, as he had suspected, hopelessly lost.

"Boy! Oy, Boy!"

A voice called out to Dain, one that sounded as gritty as sandpaper, "You're lost, boy! You've passed by my hut three times now!" The source of the voice made its presence known, a withered old man that wore his great age clearly on his liver spotted face, hands, and arms that showed through his old style clothing. The man had a hard look about him, however, as if in spite of his age anyone who tried to put in him in a grave before he was good and ready was going to regret it, "Get over here, boy! Help an old man out and I'll help you find your way." The man tapped his walking stick for emphasis, "Not that I want to help a lost boy like you, it's just that seeing you wander about time and again with that lost puppy look on your face is making me tired! Now go on, get over here!"

* * *

Kirien scanned his surroundings as he walked quietly a short distance behind his guard. From the looks of things, the tall ceiling, the suits of fancy samurai armor, and the gaudy decorations, this was once a grand castle. But it had fallen into a severe state of disrepair, dust and rust covered everything, and it looked as if most of the areas he was being led through hadn't been used for quite some time.

He noted possible escape routes as he looked around, but he didn't dare run just yet. Not only would he not know where he was going, the one who would likely be giving chase did, and Kirien was already at far too many disadvantages as it was. Not only that, he was curious about the 'master' of this place. Perhaps it would turn out to be a case of mistaken identity and he'd be let go after all. Perhaps it was a longshot, but it wasn't quite out of the question, so he forestalled any escape attempts for the time being.

He was led to a massive set of double doors, which Three Horns threw open without the slightest bit of effort. It was clear this was the throne room of the castle and, unlike the rest of the place, it was well kept and every bit as grand as Kirien would have expected from the rest of the castle. Though he had little time to admire the scenery, as seeing those gathered before him made him feel very, very cold.

There were others there, at least a dozen or so, with humanoid bodies but they all had the heads of animals. Foxes, bears, badgers, it was the single creepiest thing he had ever seen. Every beady pair of eyes was focused intently on him as Three Horns lead him down the center of the room, toward the throne. When they drew to within 10 feet of it, Three Horns gave a fierce salute, then stepped aside, revealing to Kirien the figure seated atop the throne.

It was a demon with the head of a wolf, that had blood red eyes.
Edited by Krazycloud, Aug 4 2014, 12:55 AM.
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Zank
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Nowhere Man
[ *  * ]
"If there's anything I hate, it's being lost. And if there's anything more I hate than being lost, it's being lost in a literal ghost town!" Dain let out a heavy sigh as he came to a stop. He'd no idea where he was at, nor a clue as to where he should even be headed. "Snake guys, archaic towns, and now this. Thanks a whole hellova lot Kirien."

Then he heard a crotchety old man break his nervous frustration. "Ugh. And the show just keeps going." He had little patience for spiritual mediums and people of that nature. They always went on about nonsense and the afterlife. Dain imagined the earful he'd have to hear, but soon found he didn't have to because it was happening already.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah old timer. I'd appreciate any help I could get but spare me the criticism. I separate from the group one time and Lady Luck lures me into a trap once more." He made his way over to the old man and paid him a smile. "Name's Dain mister, I'm afraid before we go anywhere I'm gonna have to know yours."

Sure he was a stranger, who could probably summon ghouls and demons. And maybe there was a slight chance he might try making Dain's bad day worse. But at that moment the boy remembered his old master for just a second, and that was all the assurance he needed to have a word with the gentleman. After all, if things went bad he could just punch him. He was an old man after all.
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Phantasma
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[ * ]
Phanphan followed after Astina obediently. Without a target for her anger, the Nekojin girl couldn't hold onto the negativity. By the time Kirien's mother had led her to his childhood bedroom, Phanphan was calm enough to be curious again. Very curious, in fact, when she was ushered into a closet.

The familiar feeling of an elevator lowering them underground almost brought a smile to her face--another strange thing she and Kirien had in common. The lift at her house didn't start in a closet in her room, though; the freight elevator that led to her father's basement laboratory was quite a bit larger to accomodate bringing materials in and inventions out. She half-expected to see a similar lab once the closet lift had stopped, since Kirien had mentioned to her that his father was also a scientist and they had both lived here at one point. The cave made more sense in a village this old. She could imagine a rope pulley system lowering villagers down the elevator shaft before modern technology made the descent easier. Phanphan did smile a bit at the pet rocks she'd heard about before from Kirien... he hadn't mentioned that they were anything as grand as dragons.

Astina's question had caught her off-guard, but Phanphan had already told Kirien about her family more or less. She linked her fingers together and responded politely.

"Yes, I have two siblings, an older sister and and older brother. We get along mostly... when Kentarou isn't being a pain." Phanphan's ears twitched as she paused to think. She wasn't sure exactly what about her family situation Kirien had related to his mother, but there was a possibility that they would meet at some point... "I was adopted, so my parents made sure Kasumi and Kentarou didn't pick on me too much when we were younger. We didn't fight a lot or anything. Kasumi is four years ahead of me, so we haven't ever been at the same school, and Kentarou goes to Toyama Daiichi--he's not meta, like my dad." She wasn't sure what else to add about her relationship with her siblings. They had played together when she was younger and she was close enough with them now. Phanphan glanced at the little circle of stones again. The thought of Kirien growing up without anyone to play with was sad... Surely he hadn't been an outcast here for being metahuman with so many others around? "Weren't there any other children in the village?"
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