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CHAPTER SEVEN

"Who's more foolish - the fool or the fool who follows them?"
     
                         - Obi-wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

   Ryo slowly opened his eyes to a serene, indoor bonsai garden.  It smelled brilliantly of fragment
flowers although he saw none.  He got to his feet, finding the pain in his body gone.  A small
stream meandered through the soil in the garden and out a tiny hole in the wall.  He bent down to 
touch it, feeling its cool, calm waters flow through his fingers.  He wasn't dreaming.  
   Something brushed by a large bonsai, immediately passing out of view.  "Hello?" he called, but
he didn't get a response.  Something rustled behind the bush , and slowly he started towards it. 
As he drew closer, a growl began, freezing him in his tracks.  "Who's there?"
   A black nose and shaggy white head poked out from behind the tree and the body emerged.
   "A polar bear?"
   "Yup.  Her  name's  Yuki."
   Ryo turned slowly to see Sarjenka seated atop a stone statue that greatly resembled Talpa. 
"Welcome to my home, Ryo."
   He looked around.  "OK, now what?"
   "What do you mean."
   "Why me, huh?  Why bring me here of all people."
   Her forehead wrinkled as she jumped off the statue.  "I'm still not sure of what you're getting
at?"  She walked by him, brushing up against his back and leaned down by the huge, white polar
bear.  "You want to know why you traded your freedom for your friends lives, is that it?"
    "Yeah ... " he turned to watch her get tackled by the enormous polar bear.  He missed White
Blaze and wondered how he was doing.
   "Uh, could you help me out here?" she smiled up to him, struggling to remove the bear that
was chewing playfully on her armored shoulder.
    Ryo moaned and reached down, pushing the polar bear over onto its back.  Sarjenka reached
up and grabbed hold of his shoulder and lifted herself up.  The polar bear grumbled, rolling over
onto it's feet and it nuzzled Sarjenka..  
    Ryo watched the spectacle a moment and stared back at her coldly.  "What do you want?"
 he asked quietly but forcefully.
   "Show me how to use the Inferno's power."
   Disgusted, he pushed her back, plowing her into a bonsai tree.  "Over my dead body!"
   "Easily arranged," she said, regarding her injured tree.  The polar bear grumbled what might
have passed for a laugh and Sarjenka threw her pet a look.
   "So that's what this is all about!! You think I'm going to reveal to you the secrets of the 
Armor of Inferno?"
   "That all depends."
   "Oh great, I knew there had to be a catch to all this!"
   "When I rule your planet Earth, I'm going to need someone to remind me of what it once was
like.  And since everyone else is being  put into slavery for the Dynasty, I figured you were just
the man for the job."
    "Oh puh -lease!!  You really think that I'm that dim?  I wouldn't help you for anything!  I'm
only here to save my friends."
    "How noble, Ryo, formerly of the Wildfire.  And you think your words will sway my
actions?"
   "You think yours will sway mine?"
    She paused for a moment.  "Good point."  She looked to her polar bear.  "Yuki. Keep him
company while I'm gone girl."
   "Hey!  Where are you ... " 
   ... and she vanished in a flurry of snow flakes.
   Ryo cursed.  The polar bear looked to him with a playful demeanor as Ryo went to the
wall.  He raised a fist and struck. 
   The wall shrugged his hand off like a pebble, neither shuttering nor giving in to his furry.  
Again, he struck the wall, only to have nothing happen.  He turned back to the room.  It was 
circular with no windows or doors, just the tiny holes on either side that the small stream 
trickling through.

   The ground shook under Mia's ranch house as the guys all stood around her.  The sky was
sickly deep green and they could hear the Dynasty soldiers beginning to swarm on the house.
   Rowen beat a fist into the couch cushion.  "This is nuts!  How can we beat off all of those 
Dynasty goons?  We can barely call our sub-armors!!'"
   "Yes, but WE have full range of our armors," Kale said pointing a collective finger to the
Warlords.
   Anubis struck the ancient's staff on the floor once.  "Kayura.  Do you still have my Armor of
Cruelty?"
   "Yes."
   The glass sliding door to the porch shattered behind them, showering the room in glass shards
and revealing at least ten Dynasty soldiers.  Kayura tossed over the green orb and Anubis caught
it.  "Armor of Cruelty…!"
   Daes, Kale Sekmet and Kayura each took up fighting positions in front of the Ronin's.
   The soldiers entered into the living room, but came no further than the couch.
   "Come on and get me!!" Kale taunted, but the soldiers held their ground.  Instead, a flash of
light brought Sarjenka into view.
   Sage took a step backwards as she laid cold green eyes on him.
  "Not you again!" Kento groaned loudly.
   "I come with a message.  Your friend Ryo is my captive, sharing with me the secrets of the
Ronin and Warlord armors."
   "That's a lie and you know it!!" Cye yelled.
   "Yeah, Ryo wouldn't betray us!" Sage shot in with force.  The soldiers were all moaning like
the dead as Sarjenka carefully stepped her way into the living room, circling a glance to each
person in the tight space.
   "You give us back Ryo, or else I'm gonna ... " Kento stepped forward, fists clenched.
   The couch in front of him suddenly sprawled over backwards on top of Kento, pummeling him
to the ground.  The others rushed to his side, easily lifting the couch off their dazed friend.  
"Or else what, Kento?" Sarjenka countered.  "You're helpless, Ronins."  She twirled her sai around
playfully.  "If you want Ryo back, come and get him."  She threw a look to Kayura and
vanished completely.
   The soldiers began to shift in place.
   "This doesn't look good," Rowen said.
   "We've got to get out of the house!" Mia said.
   "Good idea."  The first Dynasty soldier swung his axe as they all turned to flee the house.  
The Ronins and Mia were the first to run out into the dismal environment, followed closely by
Kayura.   "Armor of Cosmos!" she yelled.
   The four Warlords exited next, followed closely by the vanguard of soldiers, breaking through
the side of Mia's house.
   Kayura reached to her twin sai's and held them before her as she skidded to a halt.  "I hope
this works," she breathed.  A single star shone through the thick fog.  "I call upon the gates of 
the Dynasty to appear!!"

   Ryo calmly bent down to the serene stream and watched the little goldfish swim by him.  He
reached a hand in and chased them around as the huge polar bear pushed its face under Ryo's
arm.  He smiled slightly and rubbed the soft, white fur behind her ears.  "How did you get mixed
up with Sarjenka?"
   The room lit in a flash of light.
   "Well, speak of the devil ... " he rose to his feet.
   "You flatter me, Ryo," Sarjenka said, hinting sarcasm.  She sheathed her sai and looked
around quickly.  "No, this won't do at all."
   Ryo scratched the head of the polar bear and watched as Sarjenka began to nervously pace the
room.
   "I've got it!!" she yelled.  "Come on, Ryo.  It's time to take a field trip."  She crossed the 
room toward him.  Ryo backed behind the polar bear, surprised that Yuki gave a muffled growl in
the direction of her master.  Sarjenka rounded the bear and took Ryo by the wrist.  "Come, now."
   "Where are we going?"
   "Talpa's castle."

   Kayura slowly opened her eyes to find the huge red gates to the Dynasty looming over her.  "It
worked," she breathed.
   "Great, Kayura!!" Sekmet yelled back.  "Now, will you come give us a hand?"  The Dynasty
soldiers were swarming all over the Warlords as the Ronin's tried to help fend them off.  
   Kayura rose her twin sais to the sky.  "Listen to the cry of the night from my Starlight
Swords!!"  The fog was suddenly pierced with starlight as the stars began to punch holes in the
thick mist.  "Star Storm Scream!!"
   The stars suddenly exploded with energy, sending down two beams of purple lighting.  The air
turned to a sickly heat as the Ronin and Warlords hit the deck.  Over them, the lightning struck
the ground in a rolling thunder as the earth began to shake under them  The beams of lighting
quickly circled around the Dynasty soldiers in a huge, devastating arc.  Trees were torn roughly
from the earth and disintegrated ... the grass was singed as the lightning continued to circle,
becoming swifter as it narrowed in, leveling the terrain and the Dynasty soldiers in the process.
   And then all around them grew deadly quiet.
   Rowen raised a cautious head.  The ground was now barren and steaming with the lightning’s
heat as the sky faded back to the foggy darkness.  He struggled to his feet and looked around. 
"Geeze, Kayura.  You think you could have left the forest alive?"
  "It was either that or let you guys become dinner for the Dynasty."
   A sharp creek rang through the ionized air and all attention turned to the open gates looming
over them.
   "What are we just standin' around for?" Kento burst in.  "Let's go find Ryo and that frozen
fruit-cake!"

    Ryo jerked his hand out of Sarjenka's grip and slid to a halt.  Around him, Talpa's old, run-
down castle moaned and shifted under his feet in the gloomy darkness.  An occasional torch was
lit, spilling firelight into the stone halls, sending spiders and other furry little creatures 
scurrying into cracks around him.
   Sarjenka turned slowly and stood calmly in the firelight.  "Something wrong, Ryo?"
   "What are we doing here?"
   "Going to see an old friend.  Come on!" She reached out to take his hand, but he easily avoided
her icy grip.
   Ryo backed a few paces down the hall, putting distance between himself and Sarjenka.  "Exactly
which 'old friend' would that happen to be?"
   "Oh, I'm sure you know, Ryo ... you being so cleaver and all."
   "Talpa?"
    "Don't be silly!" she laughed, amused.  "There's virtually no way he can come back from the
abyss.  Try again."
   Ryo took another step backwards, determined to use the guessing game to his advantage. 
"Da'la,"  he answered, certain he could keep this up.
   "Nope."  She smiled and crossed her arms across her lightly armored chest.
   Again, he stepped back.  "Lord Sabre Strike?"
   "Close, but no cheese, Ryo.  I'll give you one more guess."
   Ryo played the part of someone in deep thought, taking one final step backwards.  "Sarenbo."
   "Yup!"
   "What!!!" Ryo screamed.  "But he's dead!!"
   "He's an immortal, just like Talpa was.  He was given one last chance to redeem himself, and
now, he works for me."
   Ryo about choked on his own tongue, trying to find words.  He had to get away from her, and
it looked like making a run for it was all he could do. He had to divert her attention somehow.  
Ah ha! Ryo suddenly stood straight up and stared past Sarjenka into the darkness, wide eyes.
   "What are you looking at?" she asked and turned completely around.
   Ryo turned and made a mad dash down the dark halls, instantly loosing himself in the labyrinth
of Talpa's castle.
   "You must be seeing things Ryo," she said turning around.  "There's nothing .... "  She stopped
cold.  The only thing in the hall behind her was her polar bear, Yuki, happily licking her front
paws.  "WHERE THE HELL'D HE GO!!!" she boomed.
   The polar bear sat straight up, listening to Sarjenka's voice echo throughout the halls.

On to Chapter 8