The River Sanzu
Chapter 4
a Ronin Warriors / Dark is Rising fusion
by Liondragon
1887 wc ~ G ~ W+B

The ronins are properly introduced.

Will woke to a rattle of plates and hushed chatter. Even before he opened his eyes, he was immediately at ease. The sounds of a large family gathering for mealtime was music to his ears.

"Aha, you’re awake!" Bran pulled a chair next to his cot, a steaming bowl of won-ton soup in his hand. "But I guess you’re too tired to eat." He waved the bowl next to Will’s twitching nose.

His stomach grumbled. "Prat. Ugh... where are we? What time is it?" He tried to sit up, but one of the ubiquitous sisters noticed and waved him down frantically. Bran and Will got out of her way so she could prop up his pillows. It wasn’t that different from Barbara fussing over him when he was younger, except these were Hello Kitty pillows and she was speaking Chinese.

Also, she was eyeing Bran when he wasn’t looking. Will thanked her in suitably clumsy syllables. "She fancies you," he said.

"She does not!"

Will scooped a won-ton out of his bowl while Bran sat looking appalled. "What happened?"

"You gave me a bloody scare, is what." The tawny eyes were sharp on him now. "Whatever you were doing, I could feel the life going out of you..." He shook his head, glancing at the bustling family. "Then this brood’s big brother came in. Broke through the door and just plucked us out. Dunno how we got here, Will. We’re out of our depth."

"I don’t know." Will frowned. He did feel safe here, but this time he was not inclined to trust all to his senses. He touched the wood of the bed, letting his mind reach in, and down. Yokohama, then, likely somewhere in Chinatown. To transport the two of them this far... almost two and a half hours by bullet train. "The family seems all right."

"Eat your soup," Bran said firmly. "At least they know how to feed a man properly. They run a restaurant downstairs." He was frowning. "I knew this would be peculiar, but not this much."

"Sorry." Will grasped around for more words, but there were none.

"It’ll be a proper adventure. If we survive it," Bran said sourly.

Just like the last time, Will thought. At least he knew a little something of their attacker.

He was about to ask about ‘big brother’ when the man himself burst in. Built like an ox, he immediately grabbed the center of attention. "Hey! You started eating without me!" His younger relatives teased him, and his companion nudged him in the side. Will counted four siblings calling him ’nii-chan. The rest were presumably cousins or friends.

"What is it?" said Bran, following his gaze.

"’Big brother’ feels familiar. He reminds me of the one at the shrine." Will turned his attention to the other man, who was of slighter build but no less strong. "And that one too." Across the room, their eyes met, and Will felt a jolt of recognition. Calm filled his body even as vain hope made his heart jump. Surely not... but no, the quiet one shifted his gaze to Bran, and did not recognize him.

They watched him refuse a seat at the table and come towards them. "Hello," the young man said in English, bowing. "My name is Mouri Shin. Just Shin is okay." He smiled, touching their shoulders. In that brief connection, a wave of reassurance and trust washed over Will and Bran. The tension and gloom from the morning’s attack seemed to lift.

They introduced themselves, and Shin took their empty bowls. "You must be very tired. If you’re feeling better, we can move to a spare bedroom?"

"Hang on," said Bran. "Not that we mind, with all the trouble you’ve gone through, but who are you? Why are you helping us?"

"We went back and claimed your things," Shin went on, "And paid for the damage Shuu did. Naturally no one could quite explain the framed mirror bursting out across the room, so we paid for that too." He smiled at Bran, whose eyes had narrowed. "All in good time, Bran-san. Shuu’s family knows of us, but they should not be drawn in."

"Agreed," Will said, watching the homey scene before him. One little cousin waved at him, and he waved back.

Their belongings were indeed waiting for them in the spare bedroom. It was a child’s room, with the child long since moved away, his belongings tidied and kept. Will took in the unfamiliar architecture — the swathes of lucky red, the flashes of wrought metal, a frayed rugby poster captioned with bold Japanese characters — and thought that it was not so different from his home in Buckinghamshire. Each Stanton child by unspoken vow rotated their visits, so the house was kept lively at least once a month. Will sighed. He looked at Bran and wondered if he was feeling homesick too.

Ah, he should have known Bran better than that. His friend had closed the door and was going through Will’s jacket. "If you’re so hell-bent on staying here and sticking your neck out, maybe we should get a bit of work done." He tossed him his phone. "Go call that number."

Will tugged him over to the bed. "Only if you catch some sleep. At least try?" Bran shook his head, white hair falling over his eyes, but he kicked off his slippers and stretched out on the bed.

Will went to the narrow window. The sun was catching on the rooftops and windows, the glaring neon signs switched off for the day. He dialed the number.

Instead of the traditional moshi moshi, he got a woman’s voice yelling over traffic. "Ryo! Remember to check your voice mail! I’ve been calling you all day!"


"...oh! Sumimasen, I thought you were someone else. This is Professor Yagiyu..." She paused, and someone’s horn blared. Will winced. "How may I help you?"

"Sensei, we can talk later," when it’s safer for you, he thought. His brother James often drove while calling, which sent all his siblings mad with worry. "My name is Will Stanton, I’m a writer from England. The police station in Kyoto passed me your number."

She laughed. There was a lilt in her voice that was distinctly European. "Anou... that’s okay. Trust me, I can do two things at the same time. It’s just stop-and-go traffic. I guess this is about the shrine bombing?"

"Yes, perhaps we can meet? I hope it’s not out of your way. I’m in Yokohama." There were voices in the hallway. Another one had arrived.

"I’m on my way there too! How fortunate. Where are— ’kuso. Sorry Mr. Stanton, I have to find parking. The signal won’t carry. I will call you back later." Will heard the phone click even as Shin knocked on the door.

Bran sat up, casually taking his shades out and putting them on. "Come in," said Will.

"...Nasuti says he’s on his way but none of us have reached him," the new arrival was saying, behind Shin.

"I’m sure he’ll find his way here, Seiji-kun," Shin said. "These are Will Stanton and Bran Davies. Will, Bran, you’ve met Shuu. He doesn’t like his perfectly good given name, so we just call him that." Shuu made a face at him. "And this is Date Seiji."

The man was so purely Japanese that Will was compelled to bow when he did. But that was not what riveted his and Bran’s attention. Seiji of the Date clan had thick blond hair, their golden strands falling naturally over one pale violet eye. Will mused that he must have seemed a foundling child, when he was born. He was as casually beautiful as Bran was casually majestic.

Bran was not so impressed. He stayed seated, not even offering a handshake. Will could tell his eyes had narrowed behind the shades. "Now that we’re all cosy, I think we’re owed an explanation for all this."

Shuu glared. "Hey man, I saved your lives back there!" Both his companions checked him.

"Thank you for that, Shuu-san, and for your family’s hospitality." Will said formally. He knew he was not imagining it now: from these three ordinary humans came a resonance of power that was fathomless. "However from the beginning we’ve had no idea what we’re dealing with. A little orientation would be helpful."

"I’m afraid we can’t just do that..." Shin said, glancing at the other two.

"Doesn’t that sound familiar," Bran murmured. He stood, taking the glasses off, exposing an arrogant stare which made Will’s heart quicken. "I wasn’t born yesterday. The fact is, Will saw one of yours at the shrine before it was attacked, and at the police station when we asked after it. Twice in as many a day is hardly a coincidence. If this is some sort of business amongst you... we don’t want a part of it. So either tell us what you are, or let us go."

Shuu looked confused, and Shin thoughtful. It was Seiji who answered for all of them, his voice cool and deep. "Respectfully, we must decline. We are not the only ones who must hide our true natures from the world." He was looking at Will.

Gently Will touched Bran’s arm, to stay him. "You are guardians, are you not? I know your family names. The Mouri were a great naval power. The Date held much of the northern country." They were political powers as well; Will reminded himself that a family name might still count for something in this part of the world.

Shin nodded, continuing in his mild voice. "Something like that, yes. It’s our birthright. Our responsibility." His eyes were sad. "This time we are fighting something with an unknown purpose. The two of you are the only ones who have seen it. Please, it would be better if you could tell us about it."

The atmosphere seemed to grow heavier. "It didn’t have a face," Bran said. His fists where clenched at his side.

Will cast a silent apology to his friend. Excess suspicion would only delay them. "It was a yuurei," he said. "A vengeful ghost. It waited until we were both lying flat. It had no hands, and no feet. But as for not having a face... I should have known there was something more there. If I cannot see it, I cannot name it, nor push it back to where it belongs."

Shuu was spooked. "Freaky. You couldn’t see what it was?"

"Nor could the ghost see him," Seiji said, in English.

"Yes, it was masked," Will nodded. "It was not the ghost itself, but what was controlling it."

"Like a horse with blinders on," said Bran. "That still doesn’t explain your two fellows stalking us."

Seiji and Shin exchanged a glance. "But only Touma was in Kyoto—"

"Ee, ee! Call my name and my shadow appears! Open the door, Shuu, your bedroom is too small for all of us." And in popped the blue-haired boy from the shrine, jaunty as ever. So this was Touma. "Hey everyone! Look what I found."

The last was a dark-haired young man with the look of hard living under a mountain sun. He looked out of place among his urban companions, but they greeted him as one. "Ryo!"

Before Shin could make introductions, Will held up a hand. "Your name is Ryo? You don’t happen to know a Yagiyu-sensei, do you?" Bran raised his head, recognizing the name.

"Nasuti-chan?" Touma said impishly.

"Yeah," Ryo said. "She’s parking the car."

Bran groaned. "Will bachan, I give up. Let’s just tell them the rest."

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