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     Okay, here goes my attempt at my first Ronin
Warriors/Yoroiden: Samurai Troopers Fanfic, so please don't flame me
if I screw up big time. There's NO YAOI (surprising for me!)
     The Ronin Warriors are owned by Sunrise Animation (formerly
Nippon Sunrise) ... and  Sunrise Animation and GRAZ Entertainment
are in no way affiliated with this work.  Exceptions to this are the
warriors I create, which are copyrighted and owned by me.  I don't
intend to make any money at all for this piece of work, nor will I accept
any. So please don't sue me!  This is a piece for fans written by a fan.  I
am just borrowing the Ronins for this fic, and I in no way mean to
violate any copyright laws.
     All characters portrayed herein are fictitious: Any similarities to
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental
     Quoted authors in this piece are in no way affiliated with
Sunrise Animation, or with this fanfic.

     WARNING!  My work is intended for mature readers: There is
violence and some profanity contained within this piece.  I do not
condone violence or profound language, but younger readers should
use discretion when reading this.

No part of this work may be copied or redistributed in anyway without
the express, written consent of me.  I may be reached at 

Now that all the legal stuff is out of the way ...

          -by  Korogi


     "If you don't know where you're going, every road will take you
                         - Yiddish Proverb

"... and thus we return his body to the soil," the preacher finished,
closing the black leather bible and tucking it out of the drizzling rain. 
"Earth to earth ... " his hand moved up and down, side to side in the
motion of a crucifix  "... ashes to ashes ... dust to dust."
   The silver coffin was made to descend slowly into the ground as the
mourners began to throw globs of wet mud onto the flowered coffin as
it sunk into the earth.  It was indeed a dismal sight... the coffin glowed
in its own light  under the grey, dappled sky, blatantly attempting to
cheer the hearts of the friends around... HIS friends... his dear friends.
   Emerging out from under a rain-soaked umbrella, Mia Koji, her red
hair being matted to her face by the falling rain, stepped up to the edge
of the six foot deep hole and looked down as mud and earth began to
be piled on the coffin.  Rain water dripped down her face, camouflaging
the tears that rolled too in a large, continually shifting river of water. 
"Farewell Anubis," she said silently, tossing down a single red rose to the 
coffin, watching helplessly as a mound of mud slopped heavily over it, 
forever sealing it's beauty.
   The rain stopped pelting her pale face as an umbrella found its way
over her head, and a warm arm coiled around her shoulders.  Ryo took
a deep sigh, pained with sorrow and squeezed her a bit closer, failing in
his eyes at comforting his friend.  "Come on, Mia.  We all better get
    Mia closed her eyes, biting her bottom lip... but it did no good to
suppress the fear and anger... the sorrow she had in her heart.  She
coughed back another sob  and turned quickly to bury her head in Ryo's
soft, jet black hair, wrapping her long, thin arms about his neck and let
out a muffled sob, convulsing as she cried. 
    Ryo forced his eyes closed and reached his other arm around her,
trying to comfort both the weeping friend and the growing feeling of
guilt that threatened to make its presence known in his soul.  Slowly, he
drew back and looked her in the face, pushing a wet strand of red
hair from her face.  
   His eyes furiously burned with his hidden fire, giving away every
shred of emotion he fought to hide... he knew she noticed, and he
quickly hung his head, turning quickly and mechanically to herd her up
the embankment where the cars were all parked silently, awaiting their
   He passed by two more figures standing under a large, black
umbrella, but his eyes could not meet there's... for he too was crying.
    "Ryo's really taking this hard - harder than the rest of us."  Rowen
ran a hand through his blue hair and adjusted the umbrella before
returning the arm to rest on Kayura's shoulders.  "How're you doing?"
   Kayura shook her head slowly, the staff of the Ancient One which
Anubis once carried, held firmly in her hand, simple and erect.  "I can't
believe he's gone," she said softly, trying desperately to hide her pain. 
She looked up as Sage, Cye and Kento approached, each wearing the
same long faces.  Each one walked a bit slower and less boldly as she
had known them all to do... today they weren't the same young men
who filled the bathtub with shaving cream... the same young men who
poured cornstarch in the toilet... the same young men who took it
upon themselves to keep the fate of the earth in their hands.  No, today,
they were five, tired brothers hanging off the loss of a dear friend and
   Cye shoved his hands roughly in his pockets, letting the rain soak
into his clothes and his body.  Beside him. Kento scooted over
inconspicuously, arcing his umbrella over Cye, keeping his eyes set off
in the distance as if he had been caught with his hand in the proverbial 
cookie jar. They both looked at each other briefly... then back at Rowen and
   "Do you think we should all head out to Mia's?" Sage asked, looking
over his shoulder at the filling grave, tugging the collar of his coat back
up to his chin.  The violet eyes turned solemnly back... quickly, piercing
into every one of the group.
   "Maybe we should give Ryo and Mia a head start," Cye  suggested,
shivering slightly from the cold air.
    Beside him, a deep rumbling growled into existence, like a far off
thunderstorm.  It could have simply been the rainstorm... but all eyes
turned to Kento.
    "Uh ... What!!"
    Cye let a smile escape.  "For once, I agree with Kento's stomach. 
I'm a bit hungry too," he declared in his stately, subdued English
    Kento squirmed, trying to find appropriate words to express his
hunger.   'If I don't eat I'm gonna die!...No!' he thought, looking
between gravestones and his friends.  "How about we head to that new
pizza shop in Shinjuku."
   "Whatever," Rowen said, looking past his friends as he saw Mia's
jeep drive away.  "I'm not really hungry, but I'll come along anyway. 
Keep myself occupied."
   A round of plans fed through the group as the five headed
through the sloppy  terrain that was  once a well kept lawn and piled
into two cars, amazingly fitting comfortably into the two compact vehicles.
   But there were still three men left around the filling grave site, each
standing under the canopy set up for the funeral.

   "This sucks!!"   Kale  shook raven locks from his vision and glared as
the last of the dirt was piled over the grave site, mounding in an oozing
pile of black earth and rocks.
    "You're telling me," Sekmet put in.  "Never got along with the guy... 
but Anubis was one of us.  Like a brother,"  he sneered through oddly-
shaped round eyes and green hair, vainly flicking a straggled piece
from his vision.
   The last snorted and shook his head, snow-white hair waving about
his face like a sudden, freak snowstorm had centered just on his head. 
Daes blinked his good eye and a single tear rolled out, quickly met with
the back of his sleeve.  "He will be sorely missed."

    Cye stabbed his fork several times into the pizza as he leaned on the
table, his head resting sloppily on his hand.  Kento was beside him,
warfing down everything in existence, pausing occasionally to add in to
a sparked conversation before returning to his daily intake of food.
   Sage chewed intently on his last bite and looked out the window. 
The sun was beginning to chase the storm clouds away, and beams of
sunlight were beginning to poke through.  He smiled slightly, thinking
that Anubis could very well be up there, on a different plain of
existence, smiling down on them all.  He looked down to his friends
and the sunlight vanished.
   "Hey!" Sage said abruptly, startling everyone.  "Let's all lighten up
here!  This isn't how Anubis would want us to go on ... mourning over his
death like this."
   Rowen looked past Kayura, setting down his copy of War and Peace. 
"Since when did you become Mr. Optimism?"
   Sage scowled inwardly, but never let it touch his perfect, handsome
face.  "I know if I died as honorably as did Anubis, I sure as hell
wouldn't want my friends going through life feeling guilty or mournful. 
The least we can do is respect his judgement and continue with what he
taught us."
   "Sage is right," Cye said, picking up his pizza and biting in, fighting
off Kento as he reached to grab the last remaining piece.
   Kayura smiled, nudging Rowen to lighten up.
   ... and the sun shone brightly through the fleeing clouds.

    Ryo took a deep breath and clenched a fist under the table as Mia
brought in two cups of tea.  She set them down gently before him,
pausing to watch the steam trails billow and puff before correcting into
long wisps, rising into nothingness.  She crossed the table and scooted
her chair out and took a seat across from Ryo, sighing lightly.  "I guess
now that the Dynasty's gone, we all can take a much needed sigh of
   "Don't be so sure," Ryo bit back harshly.
   Mia did not take the comment as an insult, but realized Ryo's emotions... as
usually, he was holding all the blame on his own shoulders.  "You've
got to let him go, Ryo," she said simply.  "Trudging through life with a
chip on your shoulder and revenge in your heart will not bring Anubis
back ... nor will it do any of us any good ... "
   "Then what the hell am I supposed to do Mia!!!" Ryo yelled, jumping
swiftly to his feet, slamming his hands on the oak surface of the table.  
The table and tea cups shook under Wildfire's fury, clamoring in place.  
"What? Sit around here, smiling and joking around with the guys like nothing 
ever happened?  Like he was never there for us when we needed him?"
   "That's not what I meant, Ryo!" Mia countered quickly, rising slowly
to meet his eyes.  "I know you, Ryo.  You take everything as if it was
your fault!  Anubis gave his own life on his own free will ... "
   "Yeah, to save my sorry ass."
   "To save us all!!  Now, I'm not going to let you go on letting the
world's troubles hang on your shoulders!!"
   Ryo clenched a fist and ground his teeth together.  "I'm going for a
walk ... " and he was gone from the table in a flash, out the door
leaving it slam violently shut behind him. 
    Mia groaned and sunk back in her chair, closing her eyes and
retrieving her shaken tea cup.   "Typical."

   Ryo ran through the still pouring rain, racing in great leaps and
bounds through the wet forest, slipping on leaves and tripping over
logs.  Saplings stung his cheeks as he flew by, continuing down to the
lake at the edge of Mia's ranch.  Rain punctured its blue surface, tearing
its serenity into spikes of stormy grey, splashing to the banks as Ryo
ran down for the shoreline at a dead sprint.
   He ran down the peer that connected to the land, the edge of the
water growing nearer as he found the strength to push on.  He called
forth his sub-armor, it's brilliant red and white metal coming into
existence just before he reached the edge ... and jumped.
   With his sub-armor, Ryo sank like a rock, down to the muddy
bottom, becoming entangled in the seaweed.  The spirit of Wildfire in
him tried desperately to come forth and create the Ronin's life bubble 
...  but his armor was week against water, even more so since he wasn't
truly healed from his last battle.  Ryo found the oxygen coming to his
lungs in short, raspy gasps, growing shallower by the minute ...

   Cye sat straight up at the pizza parlor, stunned out of the current
conversation, eyes glazing.
   "Then what?" Kento insisted, leaning in and poking Cye in the arm. 
"Come on buddy, don't keep us hangin' here!"
 They all leaned in, a great collective of inquisitive heads.
   Cye stared off into space, his ocean-blue eyes hazing over, in half
fright, half astonishment.
   "Cye?" Kayura asked.  She looked to the other Ronins at the table...
one by one, they had all drifted off into the same trance that had overwhelmed
Cye.  "Um, hello... what's going on?"
   "He's doing it again," Rowen sighed, letting his head crash into his
hands as he leaned over his immense book.
   "Who!" Kayura asked, confused.
   "Does this all the time," Kento said through a mouth full of pizza.
   "He'll drown there is he's not careful," Sage said.
   "I've got to go get him!" Cye said, standing quickly up from the table.
   "WHO!!" Kayura demanded, watching anxiously as Cye bolted for
the bathrooms.

   Cye closed the bathroom door and did a quick search of the stalls. 
He was alone.  Trying to calm down, he reached into his coat pocket
and  pulled an icy blue sphere from its depths, holding it firmly in both
hands.  Teleportation by way of their armor orbs was an easy feat for the
Ronin Warriors, and one Cye had quickly mastered, more to get away
from Kento's constant annoyances.  Cye thought of the lake out at
Mia's place ... the way it smelled during a rainstorm, the grey, broken
surface it held ...
   And he disappeared in a blinding flash of blue light  ...

   ....  to appear in full armor at the end of the peer jutting out into Mia's
lake.  Cye looked around quickly, scanning the far-off lake shore.  The
orb had brought him here, so ... he looked into the water. 
   Deep below some distance from the edge of the peer a fading red deep 
within the green seaweed 20 feet below him throbbed.  It pulsed slowly with 
Ryo's beating heart, slowly dimming ...  and Cye dove in.
   Cye suddenly felt weightless and extremely powerful ... he was in his
element and his body began to forget the aches and pains of past battles
as he swam fiercely to the bottom of the lake.
   Ryo felt Cye's presence long before he could see the bulky armor
swimming easily towards him, Cye's face peering through the face mask
to him.  He twitched and opened glassy, black eyes as Cye reached him. 
 : I .. I'm sorry, :  Ryo's thoughts came to Cye as a blue, armored arm
gently picked him from the seaweed.
   : Don't worry, Ryo : Cye thought back.  :  Everything will be alright :

  Mia looked up from her computer at the strange noise.  Her ears
strained to hear anything besides the pitter-patter of rain.  She had been
extremely jumpy ever since the Dynasty first showed it's claws just a
year ago, and now every out-of-place sound made her jump.  Relaxing,
she opened her ears to everything around her.
     But no alien noise came to her ears.  "It's just the storm," she
assured herself, laughing slightly, and she  turned back to her computer
to began typing away.
slosh  slosh
   She stopped cold, freezing in place.  She was sure she heard it this
time, off in the living room downstairs.  She closed down her computer
and got to her feet, inching quietly for the door, ears alert.  The rain
mocked her hearing, increasing in force as she strained to listen to the
sounds of the house, deftly slipping through the lamp light.
   "The door!"
   She ran quickly down the steps to the living room, grabbing a
wooden practice katana off the wall as she ran, taking it into her hands
as if she knew what she was doing.
   Mia reached the bottom of the stairs and flattened against the wall,
breathing slowly and quietly to herself, mentally coaching.  She could
hear muffled whispers coming from the kitchen, and two sets of muddy
footprints lead from the front door to the shiny linoleum.  Her heart
began to pound.  'Prowlers' she thought.  'Just what I need.  And the guys
aren't here.'.
   She slid silently along the wall to the edge of the doorway leading
into the kitchen.   It grew steadily closer as she grasped the wooden
katana tightly in her hand, watching the spilling yellow light inch closer. 
Her heart pounded louder, threatened to give away her location.  She
thought of all those stupid horror movies Kento made her watch... she
gathered her courage and swung into the opening.
   "STOP RIGHT THERE!!! she screamed.
   "AHHHHHHHHHH!! came her response.
   Ryo hit the floor with a muddy, soaking 'plop' as Cye, still in full
armor, bashed an armored hand into his face, flailing at the yell Mia
   Torrent fought for his breath a moment, clutching his chest. "Jesus 
Mia!! You scared the bloody daylights  out of me!!" Cye
yelled frantically, trying to justify his actions.
   Mia lowered her katana with a relieved as Ryo groaned and sat up.  Their 
eyes met and he knew instantly he was in for it.  "Oh boy, I'm in trouble 
now," he said outloud, thinking more to himself.
   "What in the name of wonder happened to you two?" she regarded
the mud and seaweed dripping off the both of them with a thin brow. 
Each resembled the swamp thing in close detail.  "And you've tracked
mud, sand and water into my house!!" she looked down to the floor. 
"You've got two minutes to explain ... "
   A set of headlights turned into the driveway and stopped at the
house, throwing much of the livingroom behind Mia and the two mud-
monsters into sharp shadows blazed by yellow light.
   "You think we should hide?" Ryo whispered as Cye helped him to his
   "Sounds like a good idea."  They turned to begin sneaking out of the
kitchen ...
   "Not so fast, you two!!"
   "Hey Mia!  We're home!!" It was Kento.  Soon his heavy frame
followed the footprints into the kitchen, standing widely, looking the
scene over with a raised eyebrow.  "Woah!  Return of the Muck Men,
Part Two!!"
   "Very funny, Kento," Cye said, slipping on the mud all over the
linoleum, nearly becoming a permanent feature on the kitchen floor.
   "That's a good look for ya, Cye," Kento laughed, entering into the
kitchen.  He bent back and laughed heartily.  "You should see your
selves!  Ha ha ha  --  OOF!! "  a large clump of seaweed sailed expertly 
across the kitchen and wedged itself firmly in Kento's big mouth, drawing 
a loud chuckle from Ryo, and Cye congratulated himself with a triumphant 
   Kento spat mud from his mouth, holding the clump in his hand
threateningly, drawing the sleeve of his shirt across his face.  "Why you
little ... "
   "Kento!" Mia began, her tone like that of a scolding parent.  "Don't
you even think about ... "
   The clump flew despite Mia's warnings,  and Cye successfully
countered with the sink sprayer, dousing his friend and half the kitchen
in the process.
   The others soon found their way to the kitchen, and stopped to gasp in
astonishment.  Kento and Cye were each throwing seaweed, mud and
sand at each other, Cye with the sink sprayer, desperately trying to
defend himself, and Kento was ducking up and down behind the
breakfast bar.  Mia was yelling frantically and Ryo was trying to sneak
away, being hit by the occasional loose mud clump.
   A shrill chiming rang to everybody's ears and all motion stopped
... except for Mia who was still yelling "STTOOOOOPPP!"
   Lady  Kayura stepped into the kitchen in statued glory, regarded Ryo,
Kento and Cye with a look each.  "Honestly!  And you're all HOW
   "Kento's still in training diapers," Cye spoke eagerly, met with a
clump of mud in the face.
   "Hey!!" she yelled, chiming the staff once more.  Behind her,
Rowen and Sage were beginning to chuckle, desperately trying to hide
their amusement behind strategic hands.
   "Something wrong, blondie?" Kento said from his hiding place, cornering
Sage with a look.  A large mass of sand and seaweed shattered into pieces 
on Sage's perfect face and Rowen fell instantly to the floor, rolling 
with laughter.

   Cye threw the towel in the laundry and descended down the stairs,
the last of them to get cleaned up.  The kitchen had been thoroughly
cleaned, along with the mud prints on the floor, and everyone was
settled down watching TV quietly.
   Mia was passed out on Ryo's shoulder, Sage and Kento were arguing
over control of the TV remote and Rowen and Kayura were quietly
conversing in the corner of the couch.
   "We're watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre ... " Kento whined
shrilly through clenched teeth.
   "Over my dead body, Hardrock!"  Sage fought back as they
wrestled on the floor for controller domination.
   Cye took a seat on the couch between a passed out Mia and Rowen.
He glanced over and caught Rowen's eye, watching as he reached a fist
over to Cye to hand him something.  "Here," the friend said.
   "What's this?" Cye asked, receiving the gift with an unsure
expression.  He opened his hands to find three short and skinny objects
reading 'Duracell' blinking back at him.  Cye looked over to Rowen
with a puzzled glance, Both Kayura and Rowen giggling.
    "Hey! There ain't batteries in this thing!!" Kento yelled loudly from
the floor, startling Mia awake.  Kento turned and spotted Cye, holding
the batteries with a worried look.  "Why you little English sneak!!" and
Kento was on the couch in a flash.  "Give me those batteries, man!!"
   Ryo and Mia groaned.  "It's going to be a long night."

   Ryo was awakened in the middle of the night by a cold nose on his
cheek.  He snuffled awake to find White Blaze standing over him,
nudging his face, growling an occasional sentence.
   Ryo spat tiger hair from his mouth and attempted to sit up.  "What is
it boy?  You need to go outside?" he grumbled through sleep-laden
    White Blaze growled a negative and took Ryo by the shirt sleeve,
pulling him clean out of bed, covers and all.  "Whoa, boy!  Easy!"
   The white tiger dragged a sleepy Ryo down the stairs and out onto
the back porch looking down to the lake.
   "White Blaze... " he yawned.   The cool night air brought the musty
smell of the past rainstorm to his nose.  Ryo stretched and leaned over
on the railing, folding his arms before him. "What in the world could be
so important as to get me up ... "
   His eyes became wide as he looked out through the moonlight
to the lake.  It gleamed yellow from the moon as it reflected off an icy
surface.  "The lake's frozen solid!!"
   Ryo leaped over the edge of the porch, calling forth his sub-armor
before he landed lightly on the soft ground below, sinking in about half a foot
from the weight.  The rain had stopped, but it left everything wet and
musty.  White Blaze landed beside him with a muddy dismount,
spraying mud everywhere... and the two raced off into the forest.
   Ryo dodged the logs and saplings that did him in last night as he ran
the same path again, White Blaze hot on his heels.  Stray drops of
water smashed to his face and trees lightened their wet load on him as
the two crashed through to the edge of the forest, bursting quickly out
into the banks of the lake.
   The trees ended in green grass, ending abruptly in a thick ice.  Ryo
stopped to catch his breath, taking in the sight before him.  The ice had
uprooted the boar peer clean out of the water, cracked the sandy shores, its
icy edges ended in razor sharp juts, glinting in the pale moonlight.  He
came forward slowly, White Blaze loudly expressing his concern beside
him.   Ryo bent down slowly, keeping a steady eye on the surface as he
reached forward to touch the ice.
   As if it was alive, it writhed under his hand, a coldness rose so quickly
and uncontrollably even for the power of Wildfire that it drove him
quickly back, and Ryo suddenly realized how desperately cold it was
around the lake.
    He drew to his feet and held his armor globe to the sky, the 'virtue'
kanji flaring red hot in it.  "Armor of Wildfire!  Dao jin!!" and a clap of
thunder rang through the hills as Wildfire broke out of stasis.
   A thawing heat surged into Ryo's body as the Wildfire armor joined
with him in a glowing, hot radiance of red light that promptly exploded
into thousands of pink, feathery cherry blossom petals.

    Mia sat straight up in bed at the ring of thunder.  She never could
sleep through a rain storm.  She looked out her window to find there
wasn't a cloud in the sky.  "That's odd." she whispered to herself.
   She sank into her slippers, threw a housecoat on and trudged groggily
out of her room and went down stairs.  Her stomach felt empty as she
reached the living room, noticing a yellow light pouring from the
kitchen.  "Kento must be up."
    She rounded into the kitchen and was surprised to find an annoying
pair of pink bunny slippers leaning into the fridge.  "Kayura?"
    The bunny slippers jumped, and Kayura hit her head on the inside of
the fridge door.  "Geeze, Mia.  Don't sneak up on people like that!"
Kayura whispered, pulling a carton of milk and half a chocolate cake
from the fridge.
   "Sorry.  Hey Kayura, did you just hear that loud clap of thunder?"
   Kayura plopped down at the table, unloading her stock of midnight
snacks.  "Yeah, sure did.  Strangest thing, though."  She shot a thumb 
over her shoulder as she took a fork full of cake.  "No clouds."
   "Yeah, I know.  Are the guys still all here?" Mia asked, swipping a
fork full herself.   Kayura just shrugged.  
   Out of a whim, Mia got up and crossed into the living room over to 
the porch window.  The air was colder tonight than it had ever been.  The 
moon shone brightly down and glared off the lake strangely.  Mia leaned 
over the edge and saw a faint, red glimmer moving along the edge of the 
lake.  She wrinkled her forehead and followed the porch around to Ryo's door,
keeping an eye on the lake for as long as she could.  The door to his
room was open... and the room was completely empty.
    Kayura gulped down a glass of milk, happy to have found the cake
before Kento the Stomach devoured it.  Mia came running into the
kitchen, gasping for breath and nearly white.  "What?" Lady Kayura
said through the cake.
   "Ryo and White Blaze are gone!!"
   "Ah, White Blaze probably needed to go for a walk and Ryo just
joined him," Kayura said simply, waving a hand, dismissing the entire
   "No, they're down at the lake!!"
   "And Ryo's in his armor!!"
   Kayura stopped in mid bite and stared up at Mia, the cake paused
centimeters from her mouth, hanging on the brink of tumbling off the
fork to the table below.  "In his armor?"  She rose from the table, only
to have Mia grab her wrist and pull her across the living room to the
   Mia threw the other glass doors open, reeling Kayura around, turning
frantic eyes to the lake.  "See!!" Mia pointed anxiously.
    Kayura squinted.  Ryo was down there alright, and in his armor. 
He played as a red dot somewhere on the lake, seeming to float above
where there should have been water. She summoned the magic staff
and beckoned the stars to shine a little brighter, feeling her familiar
starlight nature returning slowly.  As they did, the sickly yellow glow
from the lake intensified.  "Oh Grief!  The lake's frozen!.  Mia, go
wake the guys!" 

   Ryo took a deep breath, shivering slightly from the sudden change in
body temperature.  White Blaze had in turn transformed into Black
Blaze, loudly voicing his displeasure and uneasiness as Ryo continued
to slowly walk about the horridly cold ice.  It seemed odd under him, as
if it wasn't normal ice at all.  He unsheathed a Fervor Sword from the
scabbards on Black Blaze's armor, giving he dark fur a ruffled pat as
he did.
   He narrowed his eyes, looking down at the frozen surface.  Gnarled
fingers of seaweed tried to reach their bodies to the surface, away
from the clutches of the deep cold.  The Fervor Soul Sword quivered
slightly as Ryo brought it down to touch the ice gently just above the
frozen body of a lake carp, arched beautifully in the ice.  He drew the sword
back, watching the ice writhe and churn, and brought the tip close to
his cheek.  A numbing cold radiated from the blade...
   The stars seemed to brighten overhead, casting the forest into
deeper shadows all around him.  Black Blaze growled his concern
behind him.  "Yeah, I don't like this either, boy," Ryo agreed carefully
as he stepped up onto an ice shelf.
   Normally, any sort of water would have instantly turned to steam
under the heat of the Armor of Wildfire.  But this ice held no
indifference to him.  It simply smirked back up at him as he began to
walk across.
   "So you're the one Sabre Strike relinquished the Fervor Swords to?"
a sudden female voice sparked in, colder than the ice could ever be.
   Ryo spun around in the direction of the female voice, every nerve in
his body on edge, the hairs on the nape of his neck twitching and
standing erect.  The voice echoed all around him, and he frantically began to
turn in circles trying to find the source of the voice, spinning around
like a deranged top.
    He stopped his frantic circle to stare at Black Blaze just out of sheer
will, uncertain why he would suddenly turn all his attention to his
furry companion.  The tiger stood perfectly still, his now black furry
face pointed up to the sky as the stars dimmed, like a black sculpture in
the moonlight.
   "Black Blaze?" Ryo took a few cautious steps forward, cocking his
head slightly in the great, armored helmet.  The tiger stood stone still,
neither acknowledging his masters call or turning attention from the
stars above.
    Ryo began swiftly forward, watching as the tiger neither moved nor
growled.  "Black Blaze!!" He continued on at a run and slid to his
tiger's side, nearly plowing into the immense creature.  The huge cat
was stiff as a board, like he had been petrified in place, and Ryo
reached out to touch him.  "He's frozen solid!!  Black Blaze!!"  He
shoved the cat feverishly, knowing it was a useless attempt, but its
feet were deeply rooted in the ice.  Ryo raised the Fervor Sword in
his frustration and sliced at the ice at the tiger's feet. The sword merely
marred the surface of the ice, only to have his attempted cuts seal up
instantly, forming back in the perfect, rippled surface.  He reached
around his frozen tiger and grasped the hilt of the other sword.  It
would not budge.  
   Ryo kicked the ice and backed up.  "Alright, lady!  Show yourself!!
NOW!!" Ryo yelled to the sky.
   "I'm right behind you," the arrogant female voice answered.
    Ryo reeled around at the sound to face a lightly  armored woman,
her face completely hidden by a silver face plate.  Her armor, although
it only covered her shoulders, face and chest shimmered silver, like a
frosty morning, glimmering with its own inner light.
   Ryo faltered a moment before he managed to raise the sword
defensively, bringing out a Wildfire Sword to join it.  "Who are you
and what do you want!"
   "I am no one of concern to you yet, boy ... and I happen to want
your armor, little man.  So hand it over."  The figure shifted slightly,
crossing her arms over her chest boldly, sending glimmering shards
from the armor to play about the frozen lake.
   "Think again, lady!" Ryo boomed, the flames of his anger feeding
the words.
   "I always get what I want," she answered, matter-of-factly.  "I'll give
you one last chance... "
   "Can the crap and release Black Blaze!!"
   "I see.  Men ... they're always so sure of themselves."  From a
holster on her back, she produced a thin long sai, its triple spiked
blade ending in gleaming points.  "I gave you a fair chance ... " She
touched the end of the sai to the ice.  "Arctic Lightning-Break!!"
   The frozen lake shuttered violently and sections burst forth,
throwing hard-as-steel daggers of ice raining down on Ryo.  He hit the
freezing surface roughly as the shrapneled ice broke to pieces on his
armor, driving him down deeper and deeper into the thick ice.  Chunks
ripped the armor from his back, tearing Wildfire and his sub-armor
from his body, exposing frail skin to the unforgiving cold of the ice.  A
dull and pulsating pain began to creep into Ryo's body as Wildfire was
beginning to separate from his soul and life force.
   Ryo struggled quickly to his feet against the stunning cold, blood
beginning to trickle from a wound in his head.  Snow began to descend,
blanketing the ice.  The snowflakes burned as they touched Ryo's skin
... only to find out they were pieces of his own armor, reduced to 
shrapnel and sharpened to deadly points.
   Ryo reached down to retrieve his swords,  discovering them firmly
imbedded in the thick ice.  His shoulders ached in pain as the last of the
razor snow fell.  The deep, haunting laughter of the woman in armor
before him came to his ears.  The snow swirled off the ice and
reformed back into Wildfire, standing obediently beside her.  "One
down ... but you're far to much of a nuisance to let live.  So ... " she
raised the sai.
   "... Thunderbolt Cut!!!!!" came a rallying cry from the woods.
   "What!!" the woman yelled.
   "Ironrock Crusher!!"
   A flare of pressuring lightning exploded from the Halo Sword as an
earthquake split the iced lake virtually in two as Sage of Halo and
Kento of Hardrock double teamed as they broke out of the forest and into 
the frozen lake.
   Ice flew up into the air, melting instantly and returning to the lake in
freezing, splashes of cold water.  Some hit Ryo, burning with a
freezing pain into his wounds ... and he fell to his knees.
   "Hold on Ryo!!" a voice called, Cye's.  Ryo's vision became blurry,
and the world turned dark.