The River Sanzu
Chapter 15
a Ronin Warriors / Dark is Rising fusion
by Liondragon
1862 wc ~ PG13 ~ W+B

The decisive moment.

"Someone help!" Bran knelt, lowering Will near to the ground. His body was growing cold in his arms; his breaths were like a babe just fallen asleep. Even in his state, his grip on Branís shoulders did not slacken. Seiji appeared beside them. Blond hair clung to his skin and sweat beaded his lips. The ronin put his hands on Willís shoulders.

"Can you help him?"

Seijiís brow knit with concentration. "There is nothing wrong with him."

"Heís dying!" Bran shook his head as soon as he said it. Will could not die. He had said so himself.

The others were gathering at the bottom of the caldera. Seiji glanced at them, as though scenting something in the wind. "He will be all right," the warrior said simply.

In frustration Bran raised his head to the heavens. The sky glittered with stars. There was the twisted Dragon, and Llys Donn where the gods grew up, and Arthurís chariot, and Caer Arianrod, castle of death and rebirth, the Northern Crown. He wished as hard as he could that Will would see this, so much brighter than the rare cloudless nights of the roof of Wales.

Almost too bright. Gradually five stars blurred in Branís vision. They resolved into a single point.

"Itís the golden staff!" he cried. "Are we in danger again?"

"It is the priestess," said Seiji. He rose to his feet.

Ryo joined them with a flash. "Hold just a while." His energy radiated from him like the hot glow of fresh embers. The warrior of fire was not weary; he stood over them like a young god.

Bran did not like the look of his eyes. Nor the odor of burnt hair. He held Will closer. "I dropped your sword," he said.

Ryo grinned, and was himself again. "Thatís okay. You hold something more important."

The staff hovered beside the old red bridge, just above the lakeís surface. The water rippled and wavered upwards till the air itself parted like the seam between two curtains. Through that strange veil came a young girl with dark, flowing hair, and a long kimono of white and red and indigo. Bran realized this was the same lady whom Jane had seen in her dream.

Touma poked into Branís mind for translating. He too seemed relaxed.

"Kayura-sama!" said Shin.

The lady grasped the staff with a musical clink. "Donít ĎKayura-samaí me. Help me up before it drops me!" Sure enough the staff began to flicker. Lady and staff dipped closer to the water. Shuu and Kujuurou hauled her up as she kicked in mid-air. They were visibly snickering. The girl punched Kujuurou on the shoulder, then pointed toward Will.

Bran raised a brow. "Thatís Lady Kayura?" Touma mentally shushed him.

The girl herself appeared next to them, carrying a faint scent of wisteria. All business, Bran was relieved to see. Still, he wasnít inclined to let go of Will. She knelt beside them, the shakujo casting a golden light on Willís calm face.

"Whatís wrong with him? Arenít the ghosts gone?"

"Yes, they have retreated," she said in English. Her small hands moved deftly over Willís body. Bran was shocked to see she was no more than a girl. "He is drained... This is a bad place for this. Hey! Who has the closest house?"

As one the ronin pointed at Seiji.

The blond fairly squawked. "Wait a minute...!"

"Perfect. Sendai, right? Get his feet, boys. We must move fast." Kayura rose and shook the rings of the staff. A light seemed to steam up from the ground and engulf her. Bran took hold of Willís shoulders, his dark glasses askew... and then they were elsewhere. The variegated light died away. Bran realized there was a faint ringing music which also faded off.

They were standing in a back garden of carefully raked pebbles and stately zelkova trees. Seiji grumbled under his breath, but he banished his armor and ran ahead into the house. Kayura glanced at the others, giving telepathic orders. Shin and Touma took a flying leap over the pebble garden and splashed into the pond. The rest kicked off their shoes at the entrance and helped him and Will inside.

Bran barely noticed those who met them, presumably Seijiís family. "Heís so cold..."

Kayura tossed her hair back. In a haughty tone she said, "He has survived. And we will heal him." Doors slid open before them. Electric lights stung like salt in Branís eyes. She led them to a bathroom. It was so scrubbed and pristine that one might take it to be unused.

"Strip him off. Get the women to prepare the sweet flag plants from Touma and Shin-san. If you have any for tomorrow, bring them too."

Ryo seemed forbidden from helping, and Kayura and Nasuti went ahead to draw the bath. So it was Kujuurou and Shuu who helped Bran take off Willís jacket and shirt. The ronin didnít seem fazed by the former warlord.

A sharp-eyed old man in a short spring robe glanced inside. "How wan he looks. This will be a cleansing, then? Who will you need?"

Kayura answered with a low bow. "Yes, Date-sama. I am afraid we must do it here instead of a shrine, lest he attract more hungry spirits." She glanced at the staff. "As for who we need? Shin-san, for the water. Sasaki-niisan and Touma can leech the darkness out. And if she will, Yayoi-san to keep her hands upon him. She is also a doctor, is that so? His flesh must be protected in that way also."

Seijiís voice cut in. "Not Yayoi-neesan! Absolutely not."

The old man rapped something, hard. "Seiji!" This with gruff censure. Bran thought of his father; mostly he focused on propping up Will so Shin could wash his hair. Grandfather Date bowed out, and Seiji said nothing more after that.

Kayura slipped in with the shakujo and behind her came a tall woman bearing an armful of pungent weeds. This had to be Yayoi, Seijiís older sister.

At last they carried him into the inner bathroom where there was a wide tub filled with scalding water. "Heís going to cook in that," Bran said.

"It has to be hot," said Nasuti. She looked down on Will. "Be okay," she whispered. With that she motioned Shuu out, and closed the door. Bran kept his eyes on the top of Willís head as they lowered him in. He tried not to think that he looked dead.

Touma caught Branís eyes, flashing a mental message: stars as far as the eye could see, watching out for him and Will. Bran smiled at him weakly.

Kayura shook the staff. "Let us find out what is wrong." The clear water turned to liquid light, so bright that Bran had to look away. When the light dimmed, Kayura was holding Willís left arm, palm up.

Branís hands shot forward and grasped Willís wrist. For whirling moment it was as though he held something terrible and dazzling, though there was only the lamp fixture for light. A livid scar was stamped on Willís skin: a cross within the circle. Over this scar was a bruise shaped like a birdís feather. "This wasnít here before,Ē Bran said slowly.

Kayura traced the scar, prying Branís hands off. "His flesh has been inhabited for... how long?"

"Three days, my lady," said Kujuurou. Bran briefly shut his eyes.

"This mark was a final seal on his sickness. Now he walks with the dead. If we cannot call him back, he may surrender his flesh entirely," said the priestess.

"But he canít." Bran brushed Willís hair. "He is an Old One. Walked out of the legends, he cannot die."

Kayura did not answer until she let Willís arm drop. "None of us can die, Davies-san," she said.

Yayoiís eyes widened. The others were grimly silent. Kayura scooped water over Willís brow. "Oh, we will grow old and live as other people do. But the armors are pure power harnessed by our souls. The danger which takes Stanton-san is the same as ours. We have mortal souls. We can keep the armors pure, or we can fall to darkness and walk with the dead."

"Itís not the same," said Bran. "I donít think. Heís simply that way. Heíd never choose this."

Kujuurouís voice was low and solemn. "Stanton-san was tricked." Shin glanced from him to Touma, pursing his lips thoughtfully.

The lady stood. "Magic alone will not save him. We must recall his soul to walk with the living. Kujuurou-niisan and Touma will draw out the taint. The rest will see that his body is not strained."

Seijiís sister Yayoi began to break the sword-like stalks and throw them into the water. They gave off a smell like cinnamon, pleasing to the soul. "The reeds are for Boysí Day, tomorrow," explained Touma. "They purify the sons of the house to be free of ailments."

Yayoi nodded. "When he was little, we took precautions with Seiji, too. For tonight Stanton-san is also a son of this house."

"And a member of this family," said Shin.

The family of the ronin. "I understand," said Bran. He breathed in the fragrant steam. Then he plunged his arms into the water and locked them around Willís chest. The room dimmed, then brightened as Touma and Kujuurou combined their armorsí powers. Kayura began to chant in Japanese.

How fragile Will felt, thought Bran. He remembered when they had met. Will Stanton, convalescing from illness, winded just crossing a field.

Then Bran realized that he did not entirely remember that year. Not precisely. The past we shared has separated us. But no more. It doesnít matter, my friend. What I want is a future, not a past. Come back to me.

At that, a black fluff rose to the waterís surface. Down from an enchanted wing? Shin stared as Kujuurou and Touma pushed their armors. A jackal helmet coalesced over Toumaís head, and the golden horns flickered over Kujuurouís. Setting his jaw, Shin called on his armor to flush the pollution away from Will.

Bubbles of steam churned the water. The reeds were crumbling from the heat. Bran glanced at Yayoi. The doctor touched Willís brow and shook her head. Just the same he braced to pull Will out. Suddenly the shakujo began to ring. Kayura stopped, and grabbed Willís hand from the water. The Sign seemed to resonate, light throbbing from the flesh itself. Bran flinched automatically.

"Now!" said Touma, but Bran had felt Will jerk, and was already yanking him out.

"Oof, heís heavy." He looked less wraith-like as well. Shin was banishing the bathwater, while Touma and Kujuurou leaned against the wall, exhausted. Yayoi wrapped Will up in towels before he could start shivering. He was warming up, though still passed out.

Bran said, "Is it over? Is it done?"

"See for yourself."

Hesitantly Bran raised Willís wrist. "Still looks like itís burned. But the bruise is gone."

"That burn was always there. I suspect it cannot be removed."

Bran looked up at Kujuurou, who was having a mental exchange with Touma. The scar on his face shone pale over his working jaw. Purity he could grant others, but not himself... was that how it was for Will?

"Can I show you to a room, Davies-san?" asked Yayoi.

Bran nodded absently, scooping Will up. "Thank you," he mumbled. He didnít let go of Willís wrist.

~Back~ ~Next~

Main :: Ronin Warriors :: Gundam Wing :: WeiŖ Kreuz :: Digimon :: Art :: Sub Rosa :: seXtras :: Contact

Most graphics by Angel's Webgraphics
Unauthorized duplication and distribution strictly prohibited.

"Red for Pleasure" copyright © 2000-5 Sameshima Shuzumi. All content is mine; HTML and layout are produced by me. Background and button graphics are courtesy Angel's Webgraphics.

"Yoroiden Samurai Troopers" is owned by Sunrise / Bandai, Nagoya TV, and Sony; its English dubbed version, "Ronin Warriors" is produced by Graz Entertainment and Ocean Group. The Dark is Rising sequence is copyrighted to Susan Cooper and her associates. "Shin Koudesenki Gundam Wing" is copyright to Sunrise / Bandai, TV Asahi, ANB, Sotsu Agency, and BEI and Ocean Group. "WeiŖ Kreuz" is owned by Tsuchiya Kyoko, Takehito Koyasu and Project WeiŖ. "Digimon Adventures" is a registered trademark of Bandai, and is produced and distributed by Toei Animation, Fox Kids, Disney / ABC, and Saban Entertainment. No income is made from this site.