Through the flames
They had been attacked. It was the same thing again and again. This time, the Karuma Beast hadn't even bothered to check and see if they killed him. For the love of Buddha, why did they have to get him now? Granted, he wasn't really hurt, but it wasn't himself that he was worried about.
The fact was that, as usual, when he had Chiaki with him, the girl had managed to go missing and right now really wasn't the best of times.
The flames that raged around the still form of Zenki threatened to completely overwhelm him if he didn't move soon. The forest had caught fire rather easily, due to the severe lack of rain. Zenki shook his head and groaned as he stood, his head throbbing. His mind was still a little fuzzy, and he was having trouble remembering all the details of what had happened.
He did know though, that the beast that had attacked him had forced them off the road some ways back. The guardrail had broken when Chiaki's motorbike had slammed into it, and both he and Chiaki had gone over and into the forest. There hadn't been a drop, thankfully, but the side of the mountain had been very steep. Zenki shook his head for a moment as his eyes shut and the throbbing in his temples receded. He remembered the seal being broken and taking a tight hold on Chiaki while the two of them had slid down.
The memory of what had caused his temporary status came back to him after a few more seconds. The beast had fired at his feet and the explosion had forced him forward. He'd let go of Chiaki after they had hit the forest floor and before he'd stopped moving.
But the question was, where was Chiaki now? She couldn't be that far away.
"Woman!" Zenki called as he took a step forward. A large oak snapped behind him and crashed to the ground as it was overcome with flames. "Chiaki, where are you?" He called again. He wasn't in any danger from the flames, and all the smoke would do would be to irritate his sense of smell for a while. But Chiaki was a different story. Too long in the smoke and heat would kill the girl. He was about to call out to her again when the faintest of tugs on his mind stopped him. Stopping dead in his tracks, Zenki turned his calling inwards and towards his master.
Where are you, woman? he asked, his voice casual, but inwardly in a state of panic.
Her reply, when it came, sounded weak and fuzzy.
I'm not sure, Zenki. I remember you letting me go and hitting the ground... I think I rolled a bit but after that...she paused for a moment, trying to remember. I don't think you're too far away from where I am.
Can you tell me anything about your surroundings?
Can't see anything, but fire and smoke. I can show you though.
A low growl escaped Zenki's throat.
Don't you dare, woman! Doing that takes too much of your energy.
His order was met with amusement.
I'm not going anywhere, Zenki. I'm stuck, and I think I hurt my leg when I hit the ground.
Whatever amount of worry the demon had carried moments before, tripled.
Chiaki's reply brought a slight sense of relief for the briefest of seconds.
She was starting to sound far away. Zenki knew he had a choice to make; neither of them good. He could either refuse Chiaki's offer of showing him where she was, and risk not being able to find her, and her dying; or he could let Chiaki show him, and risk her dying while he made his way towards her. The only good thing that came out of Chiaki showing him, was the sense of exact location that came with it. There was a sigh in the demon's voice when he replied.
His surroundings began to fade and change almost immediately.
His point of view shifted, and after a moment, he could smell smoke and feel the heat from the flames. He spent the first few seconds disoriented, before he was able to think clearly again. He was trapped, and trapped good. He cringed as he turned his head in order to look at his left leg. It was pinned underneath part of a fallen tree. Smoke was stealing his breath away, filling his lungs, and he couldn't breathe...
Enough! Zenki snarled as he pulled back into himself, breaking the effect of Chiaki's spell.
Sorry. Chiaki's voice whispered in his mind. And it was just that; a whisper. A barely there voice; but that was okay, he knew where she was now.
The girl had been right, he was close barely a few hundred feet away. But the flames rose higher with every passing second, and he knew that if he didn't hurry, Chiaki would either be badly burned or dead by the time he found her. The fire burning around him was devouring everything it touched, like a hungry animal. The flames made seeing where he was going difficult. It only took him a minute to reach the area where Chiaki was, but over that minute, his awareness of Chiaki had faded at an almost alarming rate. Needless to say, it didn't take Zenki long to find her.
Chiaki was lucky that she hadn't been squished by the part of the tree that had fallen and trapped her. It didn't matter though, for it would only take Zenki a few seconds to free her; all Chiaki had to worry about was the fire that was steadily creeping closer with every passing second, and the derbies that were falling from above. But then, that was still more worry for her.
It wasn't hard for him to lift the fallen part of the tree and free her.
Ruby eyes ran over her almost instantly. No permanent damage. She'd be coughing for awhile and would probably need stitches, but that was about it. Much to the demon's amazement, she'd escaped the flames with only slight burns, and those weren't very bad. Harsh coughs racked his master's body, as her lungs tried to exchange smoke for air. Tears welled up in her eyes from the effort and when she spoke, her voice was small and weak.
"I hate Karuma Beasts, you know that?"
Zenki couldn't help but chuckle.
"I think, woman, that that is a hatred we are both beginning to share. I just don't understand why they didn't come after us. They probably could have finished us off, if they had been lucky."
Chiaki smiled at him. It was often that her overly-confident Guardian Spirit bragged about his skill in battle, and even so, he seemed to be restraining his ego, for the time being. Chiaki glanced up, now that they were far enough away from the smoke and flames, to actually see the sky; and saw a possible reason for the Beast's retreat.
"Maybe it doesn't like storms," Chiaki said, as the first clap of lightning flashed across the sky. Zenki looked up and let out a short groan before looking back down at her.
"Will we ever catch a break?"
"The day we do, hell will freeze over."
The first splatters of rain struck soft notes off of Zenki's armor and the demon couldn't help but agree with his master.
"That sounds about right, woman."