A.N: Hello all, long time no see! Finals are upon us and so that means a new chapters of Samurai Judo will commence churning out. After the mammoths of chapter 6 and 7, both nearly 7 thousand words, have a nice and short 5 thousand word chapter. The "Travel/Intro" arc is now ending, so starting with chapter 10 we'll be kicking into a new Arc. I hope you enjoy.
Chapter 8: Silver in the night
"While you were playing hero, I the sidekick saved the world."
I'm tired, why am I so tired? I grumbled mentally as I yawned and slumped in the saddle. It's barely 2 in the afternoon, I thought checking my watch. Maybe I should have taken a nap this morning, I gave another yawn. How is Souji so full of energy? I wondered glaring at my partner's back. Who cares what type of trees we're trotting by? They're all brown and leafy. I wonder if I can catch a quick nap in the saddle.
Robin's hand suddenly flashed in my peripheral vision and I hastily halted Blanco.
"What's up?" I called, advancing again until I could halt next to Souji.
Robin glanced back at us and then turned and headed off the trail.
"Ah, wait up!" I protested. "Where are you going?" I glanced quickly at Souji who looked equally confused but set Toshiro after Robin anyway. "Guess he wants us to follow." I murmured and chased after.
"Do you think we're still in the same forest as before?" I asked Souji.
"I know not." Souji replied, looking around with a slightly deeper frown than usual.
"It feels like we're going the wrong way though…" I murmured as we wove our way through the trees.
"Do not worry; I'm sure that Commander Robin knows these forests better than us even if…" Souji trailed off, glancing over his shoulder.
"Even if?" I questioned.
"Even if his choice of spirit companions does seem a bit odd." Souji replied looking hesitant.
"What do you mean?" I asked curiously. "What's a spirit companion?"
"It depends, have you…" Souji started to reply, his I'm-going-to-teach-you-something-face appearing.
"Dismount here and remove your horse's bridles." Robin's voice cut him off.
"Why are we dismounting?" I asked in surprise as I halted Blanco, Robin didn't reply just arched an eyebrow. Once again, I glanced over at Souji and found him already removing Toshiro's bridle. "Eh? Okay then…" I murmured and swung down.
"Attach the bridles to the saddle pommel; make sure the reins won't come loose." Robin ordered watching us with narrowed eyes.
I took the liberty to check my watch first and frowned when it read, 4:30. Swiftly I removed Blanco's bridle and then tucked it around the pommel, being careful that the reins wouldn't come lose and trip him. When I had finished, I glanced up and noted with alarm that Souji and Robin had disappeared. (Switch watch to sun?)
"Sky!" Souji's voice rang out among the trees, sounding strangely muffled by the fog.
"Yeah?" I called back and then frowned, thinking, wait a sec! Fog? When'd it get foggy?!
"Do not come the Commander Robin is-" Souji's voices faded out and a surge of worry sent me sprinting towards where his voice had sounded like it came from. "Robin's what?!" I hollered back.
I burst out of the trees into a clearing and sprinted across it, my breath steaming up in front of me.
"Souji!" I yelled again and then slammed on the brakes when the steadily thickening fog in front of me disappeared.
"Whaaa?" I yelped, leaping backwards onto my butt to have absolutely no chance of falling down the Cliffside. "Why-why is…what…stupid cliff! Don't appear like that!" I gasped out and once I'd calmed some crawled over and peered over the edge of the cliff.
"Souji?" I called out again.
"Do not come, the Commander Robin has gone crazy!" Souji's discombobulated voice drifted back up to me.
"Why is he always so formal?" I muttered to myself and then yelled back, "tell me where you are!"
My partner did not see fit to provide an answer.
Ah? This is no good… I thought and briefly wondered why I had started to shiver. Is this what a cold sweat feels like?
I glanced down into the fog, trying to make out the shape or whereabouts of my interpeller.
"Yes?" I called back as innocently as I could. "Who's calling?"
There was silence for a moment and then a strange whistling sound drifted up to me, I watched with wide eyes as the fog dissipated revealing Commander Robin.
"Ah…hello there! Where's Souji?" I chirped with my most innocent grin firmly plastered in place.
Robin stared up at me for a few moments and then held out his arms. "Jump." He ordered.
I gaped down at him, thinking did he just say? No way, I must have misheard. I shifted to a crouched position and leaned slightly towards him. "What?" I yelled back
Yes, he definitely said that. I thought and then let my mouth take over. "Are you nuts?" I yelled, "there is no way I'm jumping off a cliff! Where is Souji?"
"It's not optional." Robin called back up. "The faster you jump, the faster you will see your partner again. Jump, I will catch you."
"That's not the point!" I yelled back, "I refuse to jump until Souji appears!"
Robin let out what might have been a sigh and then he whistled.
Why'd he do that? I wondered, standing up to stretch my back. Was he whistling for Souji? But Souj' isn't a, my train of thought was abruptly dissipated when something nudged my back and I took an involuntary step into thin air.
"Gah!" I yelled as my arms pin wheeled and I struggled to regain my balance. "No, no, no! I don't wanna fall!" The fates though had other plans for me and I landed with a grunt in Robin's arms.
"Very gracefully done, yellow." He informed and set me on my feet.
"You…you!" Was my answer as I pointed an outraged finger at him.
"Let us join your partner." Robin stated, ignoring my hand and turned to stride into a cleft in the rock face.
"Partner…? Souji!" I roared and raced into the cleft. There I found Souji, sitting on the ground looking grumpy; then again, that's his normal face. I thought, so he must be fine.
"Did I not tell you not to come?" Souji asked, rising to his feet. "Are you unhurt?"
"Just fine, Mister I'm going to scare my partner into a cold sweat and not answer when she calls!" I spat before rounding on Robin.
"I know why they call you Frog!" I snarled, pointing a finger at him once more. We do? My brain chose just that moment to resurface. No but who cares! I thought back.
Robin silently arched an eyebrow at me as he dropped his pack to the ground and stretched his shoulders.
"It's cause you kidnap children and eat them! You're like the big bad wolf, but you're a big bad frog!" I continued angrily. "Don't think we'll just sit quietly and let you roast us, Souji can take you I'm sure of it!"
Robin blinked at me and then shook his head slowly with an almost amused expression on his face.
"What? You think I'm kidding?" I snapped angrily.
"I'm sure that neither of you would have made it back on your own, yes." Robin replied as he sat down. "I am also sure that you're one of Fire's brats."
"Fire's brat?!" I repeated and then took offense on behalf of my mother. "No I'm not! I'm Aimsíodh's daughter! And proud of it!"
Robin let out what was definitely a sigh and grumbled something softly under his breath.
"Sit down you two." He ordered.
"Why? We'll be leaving in a few." I retorted mulishly, glancing at Souji for support. Souji of course was already sitting, like a good puppy.
"Hey! Don't listen to him!" I protested. "Back me up here."
"He is the commanding officer." Souji replied frowning up at me. "Why are you not listening?"
"Yellow. Sit. Down."
I flinched and found my self sitting, crisscross applesauce on the ground next to Souji. Scary! I thought; on second thought let us not make the scary man with a scar mad.
Said scary man let out another sigh and ran a hand through his black hair.
"Alright, we're going to start over." He said. "You've seen an Asteroide before, haven't you?"
I gave a nod, remembering the picture that Fire had shown me but to my surprise, Souji also nodded. When did he see one? I wondered, he wasn't at that meeting.
Robin reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper; carefully he unfolded it and set it on the ground. Robin pointed to what looked like a dog and announced
"This is an Asdoch." He said pointing at a dog like creature with two heads. "They are generally the size of large wolves, 80 to 90 cm at the shoulder. They can reach up to two meters from nose to tail. They primarily hunt in packs of 4 to 8; the Alpha's so far have always been the largest."
Yikes! I thought with a shiver. No, I never want to meet one!
"This is an Asteroide." Robin continued as pointed to the other drawing. "The average height is a bit over 2 meters. They are very strong, capable of throwing a horse or blasting a wall down. They are skilled with a multitude of metal weapons and elements."
Gah! I don't want to listen to this! I mentally wailed. Especially not without Jen and Lyg! I need a blanket to hide under.
"So? What's this got to do with us going home?" I asked when Souji failed to say anything as I had hoped.
Robin settled his gray eyes on me for a moment and then glanced briefly over his shoulder at the entrance.
"Sir?" Souji finally decided to speak up, but I didn't glance at him.
"Right now the forest is teaming with them." Robin replied. "It wasn't safe to proceed."
"Ah..." I trailed off, feeling a wiggling of guilt grow in my stomach.
"What of the others?" Souji asked.
"Others?" Robin repeated.
"Ryan, Grayson an' them." I supplied catching on. "They're out there too! Do they know?"
"Oh, those others?" Robin gave a snort. "They'll be fine."
Will they? I wondered, it's not even 5 o'clock and we're already hiding.
"How about a meal?" Robin asked as he rose to his feet and dusted himself off.
"We have food? Yes please!" I chirped and decided to ignore the sense of foreboding till later.
Robin walked past us and slid into another crevice but he soon returned with three bundles. "Here, sleeping mats." He stated dropping them before disappearing again.
I wandered over to the bags. Picking one up, I opened it.
It was full with what appeared to be a coiled mat. I tugged it out and unrolling it was surprised to discover that it wasn't smelly. Cool! I thought and dragged my sleeping mat to what I deemed was a safe place.
"Food's ready." Robin stated as he set something down. I turned and bounded over with a cheerful yell.
Robin arched an eyebrow again but handed me a platter of, "Dried meat!" I cheered and plopped down to dig in.
"This is the best, I love sausage." I purred as I wrapped a slice of pepperoni around said piece of sausage and popped it into my mouth.
"The lettuce is quite good." Souji commentated.
"You're really odd, Soujster." I informed the boy and sent him a weird look for emphasis.
Souji merely arched an eyebrow and gave me, what was definitely a pointed look.
"Well, yeah." I continued, waving a hand about. "You say stuff that I don't get when you do talk otherwise you just pull funny faces. Luckily, for you I'm smart and understand but if it were someone else I'm not sure you'd get along so well."
Souji stared at me silently and I grinned smugly. Point 1 for Sky! I cheered mentally.
"He is suggesting you have more lettuce." Robin stated, not looking up from his folder.
That rather sounded like an order. I thought and decided to have some lettuce just in case.
"I'm bored." I whined as I rolled over on the mat for what felt like the 15th time.
"Would you like to train?" Souji offered, not sounding particularly excited.
"Eww! No!" I replied, "that's boring." What could we do? I wondered, "Play tag? Go climb a tree? Cannot draw, cannot read. Guess we could ask Robin?
"I know! We can play catch the frog!" I chirped, sitting up and grinning.
"What game is that?" Souji inquired looking interested.
"You may not!"
Phooey. I thought and pouted in Robin's general direction. "But Commander, I'm bored!" I whined after a brief hesitation.
Robin stared at me silently for a few scary moments and then he turned away to search for something in his bag.
I let out a sigh and rolled over again.
I blinked in shock at the book that had just landed inches from my nose. There was another muted thud, and I assumed that Souji had received one as well.
"Thank you, Sir!" I exclaimed sitting up again.
"Thank you, Commander Robin." I heard Souji say.
I opened the book and to my delight found that it was by the same author as the previous one. This one was called, "A place called Life".
Awesome! I thought and commenced reading;
"Last one to the Forges is a rotten egg!"
And it even looks interesting; I settled down and devoured the page. Sometime later an odd sound drifted by my ears. I pulled my nose out of the book and looked around. Souji was reading and Robin was doing something weird with his swords. Ah, okay that explains it, as I watched him pass a stone carefully over the blade. I went back to my book feeling oddly reassured.
When I next blinked my eyes open it was to darkness. I yawned and readjusted my blanket before patting around with a hand for my book. I pulled it over and checked my watch; 2 o'clock AM.
I let out another yawn and snuggled down, intending to catch some more hours of sleep. I was just shutting my eyes when the entire cave lit up.
"Wah?" I yelped and blinked a few times but it didn't happen again. That was really weird; I thought and lay back down again. Ah, well I can't wait to see Jen and Lyg later. I closed my eyes and opened them again, sleepiness driven away by a persistent tinging ringing sound. I'm not going to get any sleep, am I? I thought and sat up slowly.
The tinging did not stop. Okay, Sky. It's probably just some dumb bird. Souji and Robin are here, there's absolutely no reason that there is… Right now the forest is teaming with them. Robin's voice, with a note of fear that his hadn't had, rang through my head.
"Souji!" I yelped and scrambled to my feet. My partner didn't answer. "That's going to get really annoying really fast." I grumbled, glaring around at the inky darkness. Carefully I took a step, then another, a howl shrieked through the night air and I face-planted the floor. Ouch! I wailed mentally, sitting back up. Stupid blankets! Stupid howling monster!
"Calm down Sky, take a deep breath." I ordered myself as I crawled back onto my mat. "There's no monster, it's just your imagination, and Souji would be awake if there was. Okay, thank you me." I murmured and taking two fingers tapped them twice against my chest before kissing them lightly. If you're not going to sleep, Celestial, why don't you train? I thought people have been here before; you just have to find them. Kay, I can do that. I decided and spread my mind out, imagining the cave in my head.
They soon appeared multicolored threads that covered the cave in a hue of rainbows. As always the sight calmed me somewhat and I reached and grabbed the nearest one.
A thrill of excitement slammed into my brain. A warm laugh whispered in my ears and then it shattered. A feeling of numbness spread through my entire body only to centralize in a red flame upon my left leg. An itchiness, built its way up in my throat, and the fear morphed into panic.
I gasped and let go of the blue thread but it didn't fade away as it should, to my alarm it swirled in the air before attaching itself to my chest.
"Get off! Let go! Disappear!" I protested, batting at it as I tried to back away.
You are the only one. Only for you. A voice whispered near my ear and I stopped, noticing that the threads had started to fade. Oh, no you don't. I thought and leaping forwards within my mind's eye grabbed the next nearest one.
The red thread fought and twisted in my grasp, but I held on even when it plunged it's tendrils into my skin. The warm heat of flames grew from the bite even as I tugged my hand to my chest and rapidly covered my sight. I blinked and wasn't there anymore.
I opened my eyes and noticed that I was still in the cave, but sunlight was streaming in through the entrance. I tried to glance down, but my host wouldn't humor me. Instead I felt my throat move and a light voice rang out through the cave, "Bertók, Aaron how soon till we can head out?"
Bertók, Aaron? Who are they? I wondered, wishing that my host would turn around.
"A moment, Fina. Are the horses back, yet?" A voice I didn't recognize replied, sounding tired.
Fina, hunh? That's a pretty name. I thought as my host walked towards the exit, "don't fall asleep now." I heard her toss back as we stepped out into the sunlight.
Wow! I internally gasped as I stared around. The clearing that I had seen just this morning looked as if someone had lit a bonfire among the trees. On three of my sides, the trees had been burnt down to little more than black stumps.
I felt my host's lips perk up along with my left cheek and she murmured, "not too shabby for no warning." The lips then pursed a piercing whistle cracked through the air.
Not long after, three horses appeared amidst the unburnt section of the forest. I know that horse! I mentally exclaimed, staring at the large red beast that led the way. And that black one looks a lot like Robin's. How cool is that! My host stepped forwards a bit and the red beast nudged up against her shoulder, huffing. I found myself smiling, as through my host I was able to pet him.
My host's lips tugged downwards into a frown before she patted her steed one more time and turned towards the cave entrance again.
I opened my eyes, to sunlight dancing upon a gray roof and letting out a jaw-cracking yawn sat up.
Tuesday, month of April
"Good morning Sky." A voice hailed me and I glanced around spotting Souji sitting upon his cot.
"Morning Souj'!" I chirped back and rose to my feet, unable to resist grinning. "What's for breakfast?" I asked.
"There is fruit in the side room." Souji replied.
"Thanks!" I exclaimed and bounced into the crevice, to my delight I soon unearthed two apples and returned to Souji's side.
"Where's Robin?" I asked between bites.
"I believe that he is still outside." Souji replied and turned another page in his book.
I gave a nod and bounced to the front of the cave, warily I peered out shielding my eyes from the bright sunlight. I didn't see Robin but the ground looked strangely silvery. Curious, I crouched down and stretched out a finger to poke it.
"Don't touch that. It's corrosive."
Corro-what? I thought and scrambling up to my feet spotted Robin. "Morning Commander!" I chirped after a brief internal struggle as to whether or not I could get away with tackling him.
"Morning, Sky." Robin replied and entered the cave. "Pack up. We leave in the hour." I heard Robin order as I threw my apple cores away.
"Where are our horses?" Souji asked as he rose to his feet and started rolling up his mat.
"Takoda and them are waiting for us at the top." Robin replied running a hand through his hair and staining it silver.
"I thought that was corro-si-whatever!" I yelped, forgetting to ask how he'd known.
"Corrosive and it is." Robin answered.
"Are you ready?" Robin asked again a few moments later.
"Definitely!" I replied as I carefully strapped on my watch before swinging my backpack on.
"Let's go then." Robin ordered and headed outside.
I bounced after him and then froze remembering something rather important. We'd been in a cave but to reach that cave I'd fallen…
"Umm." I started, taking a step backwards.
"Go on. It's only 10 feet or so." Robin ordered, efficiently moving to cut off my escape route.
I sent him a nervous look but took a deep breath and started climbing anyway. Wow! This is actually fun! I thought surprised and scrambled over the top. I took a few careful steps away from the edge before leaping into the air and letting out a delighted whoop when I spotted a familiar marshmallow.
"Blanco! Where've you been buddy?" I asked as I hastened to the pony's side and wrapped him into a hug. The pony gave a snort and nosed at my shoulder before resting his great weight of a head on top of mine. "Missed you to, Marshmallow but don't start eating my hair." I said and fixed his bridle.
I glanced back in time to see Robin straighten and dust himself off. The commander briefly rubbed at his left shoulder before he glanced up and noticed me staring. "Mount up." Robin ordered and strode over to his black beast.
Feeling incredibly relieved, I lead Blanco over to a handy stump and swung up. Absentmindedly I checked my watch as I readjusted the saddle blanket. "9 o'clock, hunh?" I murmured.
"We'll be there by lunch time." Souji commented quietly from my left.
I sent him a startled glance and he smiled smugly. "Unlike some, I can do math."
Did he just…? I wondered as I let out an indignant yelp. I opened my mouth to let out a witty retort but was obliged to close it when I couldn't think of anything.
"Let's go." Robin ordered and took the lead.
Souji and I fell in behind him. Not feeling like starting a conversation I stared at the trees instead. Is it just me or are they growing larger the farther we go? I thought noting that the underbrush also seemed to fill out. Blanco tugged on the reins and I let them slip through my fingers when I noticed that he was tugging to get a drink. I wonder how mad Jen and Lyg will be? I wondered, starting to dread their reactions a bit. I frowned and bit my lip nervously. Something soaked my pants legs and I let out a startled yelp, dragged from my thoughts. Takoda let out a nicker and pranced in place, splashing water everywhere.
I let out a whoop and leapt off of Blanco's back to splash the horse in return. Takoda let out a whinny, tossed his head high and then jumped in place, soaking me to the shoulders.
"Gah! It's cold!" I protested and then blinked in surprise as a wave that I didn't start hit the beast. "Yeah get him, Souj'!" I cheered when I realized what had happened.
By the time, we had pulled ourselves out on the other side and dried off it was 11:40.
"Well that was a suitable time waster." I commented as I struggled to twist the water out of my hair.
"It is your own fault." Souji replied haughtily. "It was you who started this."
"Was not!" I protested as I swung back up onto Blanco.
"If not you, then who and what time is it?" Souji questioned looking amused.
"He did!" I retorted pointing at Robin and then checking my watch let out a groan.
"What is it?" Souji asked.
"It's a quarter till noon." I grumbled. "I'm going to miss lunch again!"
"You mean, we are going to miss lunch again." Souji stated frowning at me. "I shall hold you accountable if we do not eat today."
"What?" I yelped. "That's unfair! You were playing too; it's your own fault!"
"I agree." Robin commented. "Let us pick up the pace."
I nudged Blanco into a trot and noticed that the clearing we were crossing was covered in that silver ash from the cave.
"Souj' we are so calling a meeting when we get back." I whispered leaning towards my partner.
"After lunch, please?" Souji replied, looking resigned but amused.
I let out an amused laugh and went back to working on Scientific Dream. At 1:45, we rode up to the dojo. It was strangely silent.
"Yahoo! We're back Blanco!" I cheered and swung down. The pony tossed his head and snorted as if in agreement.
"Wait." Robin ordered and I let out an exasperated sigh as I hopped from foot to foot.
A haunting call cut through the air, startled I spun around and watched Robin lower a black horn.
The silence exploded and I stared wide eyed as Fire came storming out of the dojo. I bounced lightly on my toes awaiting a welcome home but Fire stalked straight past me, heading towards Robin.
"What are you doing here?" He demanded coming to a halt, planted his feet and resting is arms on is hips. "My yellows are late!"
"Hello to you to, Fire. I am well thank you and yourself?" Robin replied with nary a change of expression
Fire's eyes though narrowed and his expression looked thunderous. "That's…!"
"Now, due to a minor safety issue I have decided to escort your brats back." Robin continued, overriding Fire's protests. "If you have an issue, please fill an official complaint to the Commandant. Now if you'll excuse me, je pense que je serais plus à l'aise si je descendais..."
I watched with wide eyes as my commander was effectively shut down and then obliged to step back when Robin swung down.
"What did you do?" I thought I heard him demand.
"What's this I hear? Did you fall into a pit of rose's bushes like the good Commander Bastian?" Another voice hailed and I looked towards the dojo as Cheyenne strode up.
"Hello Cheyenne. How have you been?" Robin greeted leaning against his horse.
"Humph!" the female commander gave a snort and crossed her arms, looking like a fuzzier version of Fire.
"Why are they not happy to see Commander Robin?" Souji asked as he stepped up to my side.
"I dunno." I replied watching the three commanders exchange quiet words.
One of them suddenly let out a whistle and the meeting apparently disbanded.
"Ryan, Jacques, Kurin! Come take care of the horses!" Fire ordered spinning away from Robin and striding towards me.
I straightened instinctively and allowed Ryan to take my marshmallow.
"Welcome back." The orange belt murmured quietly as I handed him the reins and I grinned back.
I watched until Blanco disappeared into the stables before turning to Souji to ask a question. There was a flash of gold out of the corner of my eye and the next thing I knew I was on the ground.
"Hello, Jenny." I said with a groan.
"Hello? Hello! You disappear for three days and all you say is hello?!" My best friend snarled, glaring down at me.
"I'll tell you all about it later?" I offered, smiling guiltily up at her.
Jenny kept glaring.
"I Promise." I added. "Can you stop sitting on me though, you're kind of heavy?"
Jenny let out a huff but rose to her feet and offered me a hand up. I accepted and was promptly pulled into a hug by my other best friend.
"We were worried." Lygin grumbled, her face buried in my shoulder.
"I'm sorry; it was 100% Commander Fire's fault." I replied with a straight face and patted her on the back.
"You want to spend the next month on KP? Is that what I hear?" The commander in question asked, arching an eyebrow at me.
"Wha? No Sir!" I replied alarmed whilst Jenny and Lygin snickered at me.
"Lunch?" I heard Robin question and my stomach rumbled happily at the thought.
"Food can wait. There's work to be done." Fire replied, waving a hand.
That is definitely the idea of someone whose already had lunch. I thought and unleashed my tongue.
"Commander! Are you nutso? I'm starving!" I started to protest.
"We have not eaten since we broke our fast this morning! It would be unjust to force us into more work, Sir!" Souji exclaimed at the same time.
I stopped my own protests to gape at Souji, once again wondering where he'd learned to talk. Souji noticed of course, and stopped talking to stare back at me.
"Yes, Sky?" He asked but I just shook my head silently at a loss for words.
"As I was saying, let us allow them to eat. We've much to discuss anyway." Robin stated, looking a bit amused.
"I swear, you get lazier the more you age, Robin." Fire grumbled and crossed his arms with a humph.
"If I am lazy, I am quite curious as to what you would be classified as then." Robin retorted.
"As an indolent or slothful brat." Cheyenne said.
"What's slothful? Is that even a word?" Fire asked, frowning again.
"Means you're a sloth." Robin replied, "I must agree with Cheyenne on that point."
"I'm a sloth?! Agree with that crazy woman?!" Fire exclaimed, eyes going wide.
"Come on. Let's go eat." I muttered to Souji.
"Please." My partner replied and the four of us headed inside.