The River Sanzu
Chapter 5
a Ronin Warriors / Dark is Rising fusion
by Liondragon
1873 wc ~ G ~ ?+?

This bit of lesser known canon is from the Nether Realm.

They ended up in a private dining room with a round table. Will took his seat at Branís right hand. The coincidence made his hair stand on end.

Once or twice Bran caught his eye with an apprehension Will did not share. Willís eye for judging people had sharpened in his years of watching for the Light. The five young men were not only linked at some deep level, they were close friends. Close as brothers. Most of all Will appreciated this closeness, for these loving bonds were strong, and had been tested besides. Warriors, if Will read the signs right. They would make fine allies if they were trustworthy.

Shuu naturally took care of their appetites first. On the lazy susan was stacked a variety of snacks and light fare, two heaping bowls of rice, and an array of sauces. Their host also distributed drinks, each oneís favorite: three different local beers for Touma, and Ryo and himself; a small cup of warm sake for Seiji, a fizzy juice concoction for Shin; and a soft drink for when Nasuti arrived. Bran softened a bit when Shuu produced some ales from back home.

"You can get almost anything from Tokyo, my friend," Shuu grinned. "From my private stores." Despite having just eaten, he ladled a fourth of one rice bowl into his own plate.

"Your private stores last more than five minutes?" Shin laughed, patting his belly. Shuu waved a drumstick at him menacingly.

"Here I am!" A smartly dressed young woman stepped inside, closing the heavy doors behind her.

"Onee-chan! Quick before Shuu eats it all," said Touma. Will mouthed Ďbig sisterí to Bran, who nodded.

"Ne, Touma-kun, you mean before you eat it," said Ryo.

"Now, now, boys. Ryo, I keep telling you about your voice mail?"

"How are you, Nasuti?" said Shin.

"Eh, Iíd like driving more if parking werenít such a hassle." For the first time she noticed Will and Bran. "Etoo..."

Will offered his hand. "Hello. We spoke on the phone, Professor."

"Mr. Stanton...!"

"This is my friend Bran Davies. It seems there are other forces bringing us together," Will said with a glance around the table.

Her astonishment melted into stern comprehension. All the banter died away. "All right. Please, tell me everything," she said.

"It starts with me, actually." All eyes turned to Touma. "I was in Kyoto yesterday morning when I ran into Will-san. I got an... interesting vibe from him, so I chatted him up. Shuttup, Shuu," he said, kicking him under the table. "And then..." He stopped abruptly, as though something had occurred to him.

They all fell silent. "And then?" Will prompted. Bran sat up as well. Touma had locked eyes with Ryo, with a lieutenantís deference. Will pursed his lips, and reached into the rushing streamó

Dark blue and glittering. /I canít tell this story without mentioning Tenku./

Flame-red, burning. /And I donít want to bring any more innocent bystanders into this./

Cool ocean depths. /We trust Nasuti. We trust Jun. Sometimes we cannot do it alone. Their information could be the only lead. Theyíre not the bad guys, I know that much./

Solid, churning rock. /They arenít? That Bran guy looks like a ghost himself! How innocent are they if a yuurei is after them?/ Will bit back a retort.

Light through leaves. /You lack subtlety, Shuu./ The cool irony was unmistakably Seiji. /Besides, Davies-san is not the one whoís been listening to us all this time./

óand pulled away no more than a second later. Shuu sprang up. "Masaka...!"

"Beg pardon," Will said quickly. "It was rude of me to eavesdrop." Branís brow rose at that. Shuu eventually took his seat. "I understand if youíre reluctant to divulge your secrets. However, timeís of the essence. If we donít figure this out... everyone around me is an innocent bystander."

Ryo nodded slowly. His glance fell on Bran, and in that moment Will realized how similar they were in bearing. Ryo seemed a plain, ordinary fellow: at first glance a vessel of clearest glass, yet brimming with power. It was with this authority that he regarded Bran. "Tell them, Touma," he said at last.

"Un. I was standing there and my armor, Tenku, sensed something in the trees."

"Armor?" said Bran.

"We canít summon them here..." Touma looked to Seiji. Reluctantly the blond concentrated, his hand in a tight fist. He opened his palm. Nestled in it was a talisman, emerald green, the size and shape of a large marble. A five-stroke character at once floated on its surface and resided several translucent layers beneath. Will gasped softly. He could sense the resonance between Seiji and the object, yet the power was bound so tightly that nothing escaped from the object itself.

"The five legendary armors," Nasuti said proudly. "Both shield and weapon. They were forged long ago and imbued with the purest of human virtues. Their powers are channeled through human souls worthy of bearing them."

"Thatís us," said Shuu. Shin elbowed him. Seiji closed his hand, and the marble was gone.

Touma continued. "I had a feeling to turn you around. I didnít know Davies-san would be there, but I was glad you did go away with him. It felt like a low pressure system. A storm warning without the storm. After twenty minutes, something jumped out of the trees and took over the lanterns."

By then they had hailed a taxi and were halfway back to the hotel. Will was still bemused that he hadnít sensed anything in advance.

Bran frowned. "Taken over? The lanterns were... possessed?"

"If by possessed you mean sprouting feet and exploding over people, yeah." Touma looked grim. "I got everyone out safely. It focused on all the places where you were, Stanton-san. They started several fires before I could cut down half of them. Then the police arrived and I had to take off."

Seijiís gaze was sharp on Touma. "Didnít anyone see you, in armor? And why didnít you call us? Why didnít you mention this when you called Shuu?"

"I was researching," Touma said. He didnít meet his eyes. "There are a limited number of things that can possess inanimate objects. Much less coordinate them. But now Iím back to the beginning, with the yuurei."

Nasuti nodded. "Theyíre spirits rooted to the earth, driven by one immense negative emotion. They arenít usually harnessed to serve a specific purpose."

"Itís very strange that it didnít attack them outside the shrine," Ryo said.

Shin shrugged. "Roads are like rivers. Especially in the old capital. It may be difficult for great evil to enter such a stream."

"Our enemy lacks accuracy. It fumbles like a blind man," said Seiji.

Quietly Will translated for Bran, who inclined his head thoughtfully. A kind of resolve hardened his eyes, and he spoke. "Weíve got another piece of the puzzle. The reason I came here."

He explained Janeís dream, then recited the poems, his accent softening the harsh chant. The others listened raptly.

"She saw Kayura-sama!" Ryo burst out. "Your friend. In the dream. She is... an ally. We have not heard from her in years."

"You didnít call her Kayura-samaaa when she was kicking our butts," said Touma dryly. This got a laugh, and everyone took it as a cue to refill their plates.

"She used to be our enemy in the youjakai," Ryo explained. "Controlled by the demon emperor Arago."

"So you did fight, before," said Bran. "You five have that look about you."

"Crazy days, ne?" Shuu said.

Shin sighed. "Armies of spirits and demons! We were fighting for our lives most of the time."

Ryo grinned wryly. "I still remember the first time. I thought I was finished, then Tou-chan jumped right in and saved me. And everyone else too." Touma snorted at the diminutive Ď-chan.í He was doodling chicken scratches on his napkin.

"So your enemies came from the youjakai?" Will asked.

"Former enemies." Nasuti had fired up her laptop and was entering in the poems. "The youjakai is an other-world for the spirits. Sort of like Hades. Kayura was taken out of her time and brainwashed into Aragoís service. She and his warlords were among many in his army. It turns out her true birthright was to fight against Arago."

Touma continued in his clipped English. "Her clan was led by the maker of the armors, Kaosu-sama. Originally it was Aragoís; then the demon armor was split into nine parts. Five came under the protection of warrior clans ĖĖ our ancestors. Four were retaken by Arago and given to his warlords. That was hundreds of years ago."

"And thereís no contacting her?" Bran was tapping Willís knee under the table, a tacit sign that something had stirred him up.

Seiji shook his head. "The spirit world is for the spirits. The gates of the youjakai have remained shut since our final battle. To our knowledge only four human beings have been allowed to live there permanently." Will noted a spike of tension from Touma. It was gone before anyone else noticed.

Nasuti let out a frustrated groan. "I donít see anything in these poems. Touma, come look at it."

Shuu set his beer down. "Saa, translate for me, Shin. Itís all English to me."

"I have been translating!" Shin protested. Nevertheless he recited both poems in formal Japanese.

"Shikutta!" Touma jumped up, dropping his napkin and nearly knocking over his drink. "Nasuti, weíve heard this before!"

"Calm down, Touma-kun. Where?"

"íWinding water distantly dreams.í Makimizunara toku, haruka kimi ga tame..."

"But thatís not exactly what it says," began Ryo. Then his eyes widened.

"Thatís my line," said Shin. "The verse for water. Back when we first met."

Touma slapped the table triumphantly. "Itís the ancient poem that reunited us!"

Will laughed to himself. "Of course. It would be written differently in Japanese. Your Kayura would have come through as English to Jane, but she was actually speaking Japanese."

"The old poems donít have any spaces between syllables," explained Nasuti, as they cleared more space for her and Toumaís notes. "We had to take the kanji charactersí sounds, rearrange them into new words, and figure out locations from each line. It was a very complex riddle."

Touma chattered on. "The next one gives it away. ĎImmortal fire consumes young greens.í Our poem said Ďpicking greens, hiding immortality.í Which didnít make sense until it was moved around to form Ďwarrior of fire.í "

Bran looked to Ryo. "That would be you, then?"

Surprised, Ryo ducked his head. "Hai. Rekka no Ryo. Ryo of Wildfire."

Nasuti peered over Toumaís shoulder, correcting his sloppy handwriting. "The originalís key was the four seasons. Except for Tenkuís line."

"Anou, that makes no sense," Shuu said plaintively. "The next is Seijiís for the light, then mine for the mountain. Touma is last. There is a verse after that."

"íThe green forest which never dies.í" Shin looked to Will and Bran. "Could that mean one of you?"

"Not me, surely," said Bran. "Mountains and valleys are my land. And a lot of mud. Not a proper forest."

"Donít forget the sheep," Will added. In truth he wasnít sure about his own connection. He was born in Bucks, where the forest was still thick. And though he would pass from the world when his Watch was over, a mortal manís death was not for him. "It might be me. But we have our own separate verses."

"That gives me trouble. I donít think it means anything in Nihongo," Touma said.

"Thatís because it means something in English," Bran answered, quite softly. "I think, Will, itís past time for you to explain it."

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