Kohaku felt the blood rush to his head. His feet were bound together as the rope hung him over a large tree branch. His blond hair, held together by a silver band, dangled beneath him. The end of his white cloak flailed in the wind behind his head.
"Why the hell do I always fall for these stupid traps?" he asked himself. He looked down at the forest floor. An emerald green stone carved with a rough, swirly symbol lay directly under Kohaku.
Rustling noises behind a bush caught his attention. Strange creatures with rough, blue skin appeared. They had long ears. The eyes yellow-goblins. They snickered as they approached the stone.
"Hey, get away from that!" Kohaku commanded. "That belongs to me!"
The goblins continued snickering as they ignored him. One was about to reach for the stone until a loud whooshing sound drew their attention away.
A giant ninja star-like weapon spun at high velocity towards the goblins. The weapon sliced through all the goblins- split at the torso. Their upper bodies fell to the floor and their legs crumpled to the ground.
"Oh yeah! Got them all!" A little girl exclaimed as she hopped over the bushes. She had short, black hair. On her forehead was a beige and red headband. Her brown eyes gleamed with excitement. Her outfit was a short beige jacket and shorts. Her jacket was open and she wore a red tank-top.
"Damn, nice throw, Luna," Sakuya complimented. Sakuya wore a long black coat with blue trimmings and buttons. The top of his coat was unbuttoned, showing his bare chest. He wore a black bandana over his forehead, which partially covered his eyes. His eyes were an elegant, electric blue. He had long, messy, dirty blond hair that reached down to his shoulders.
"Yes, excellent formation, as well," Yuuki added. Her long black hair blew in the wind. Her eyes were the color of the full moon-cool and serene. She wore a strapless white dress that had a black ribbon and corsage just below her breasts. Her movements were graceful and elegant.
Luna giggled, "thank you."
"Why do I have to always be bait?" Kohaku groaned from above them. Ayanami had climbed the tree to cut him down. His dark brown hair blew lightly in the wind. His eyes were crimson. He wore a long white cloak with dark red trimmings and buttons. On his shoulder was a bird with long, silver feathers that faded to a deep red at the tip. Its crimson eyes watched Kohaku, anticipating his fall.
"It's too dangerous for any of us to be bait 'cause we're pretty much the stones themselves," Sakyua answered.
"Then get Luna to be bait instead," Kohaku protested.
"Hey, you're the one who wants to hold onto the stone of earth, not me," Luna countered.
Suddenly, the rope snapped and there was a large thud noise.
"Sorry about that, Kohaku," Ayanami said, laughing.
"Ouch," Kohaku groaned as he rubbed the back of his head. "You could've at least undone the ropes around my ankles first so I could've landed on my feet instead of my head."
"Well, at least we have eliminated another group that wishes to hunt for the stones," Yuuki said, changing the subject. She pulled out a pile of paper and pulled out one sheet. The paper was almost like a biography. The sheet she pulled out had information on the goblins. She crunched the paper up and threw it on the ground. "Now, shall we get going? Night will be upon us soon."
The sky was clear as the stars and the moon shone light on the fields of tall grass and blooming flowers. Crickets clicked soothing melodies as the travelers set up camp. A fire was started to keep them warm. Yuuki pulled out large blankets from her bag. All of them were settled and comfortable.
"Hey, brother," Akihiro spoke, finally in his human form. Akihiro, Ayanami's twin brother, gave his body to his brother because he had killed Ayanami's original body. However, because the fire spirit granted him another chance, Akihiro's soul now resides within the body of a bird that serves the fire spirit. "Is there something on your mind?"
Ayanami's crimson eyes remained on the flames of the fire. "I'm just wondering about the fire spirit. It's been a long while since I had any dreams with him talking to me."
"I think it'll be fine. That dragon is the one I should be thankful to since he was able to give me a second chance."
"Ayanami," Sakuya interrupted, "I've been meaning to ask about the fire spirit you talked about. I thought that each of our spirits were supposed to be like some humanoid form. Well, mine was like that anyways. What about you, Yuuki?"
"My spirit? I suppose he was a human. Although he had wings on his back and feathers over his body. However, there are multiple wind spirits. The stones we possess are a fragment of the leader, god or deity of our elemental spirit."
"So even Yuuki's was a spirit with a human form. My spirit was a female with fins for her ears, and some on her arms and legs. They were kind of scaly too. But still human-like regardless." He looked at Ayanami. "My point, Ayanami, is that the spirit should be humanoid, no matter their original form. That dragon that spoke to you worries me."
"I trust him, Sakuya. That dragon is my fire spirit that helped guide me on my journey. He was the one that gave Akihiro a second chance. And if he's such a bad spirit, why would he have let me and Akihiro live?"
"Well, just 'cause he's a spirit, doesn't mean he isn't tainted by darkness."
"Come on, Sakuya, just leave it," Kohaku interrupted. "Ayanami's still alive and his brother's with him. We can't be too picky of how it was done."
Sakuya sighed. "I have good intuition. That dragon you talk about just gives me a bad feeling."
"Well, if something bad happens, my brother can always count on me," Akihiro snickered as he placed his arm around his brother's shoulders.
Yuuki came up beside Ayanami. "And you may depend on me as well, Ayanami."
"Thank you, all of you."
At the break of dawn, the group set out on their travels. They entered Houshin Village, a port town with many merchants.
"What exactly are we doing here, Yuuki?" Kohaku asked.
"We can sell the ores and equipment the goblins had. We do need more gold for our travels."
"Alright, alright. Suit yourself."
Yuuki entered into the crowd of merchants. She was able to sell the goblins' possessions at a fair price. While Yuuki occupied herself, Ayanami decided to walk around the stands, observing what the merchants were selling. The merchandise ranged from materials for blacksmithing to handicraft, foods and equipment. None of the merchandise caught Ayanami's eye. He simply glanced at them with no interest whatsoever.
It was nearly the end of the afternoon when Ayanami finished roaming the main area of the market. Since there was still time left before he had to regroup with the others, he decided to wander into a second area of the market. The second area seemed to have merchants selling items of greater luxury such as pets and more intricate weapons and armor.
"Hello there, traveler," a man spoke behind his table. He had a thick beard and his clothes were slightly tattered. His merchandise were mainly birds of different variety, each with their own unique appearance. "Well, well, sir, that's quite the interesting bird you have there," he pointed at Akihiro, who was perched on Ayanami's shoulder.
"Yes, he's very special to me."
"Well, sir, I think that I have some merchandise that would interest you. Please follow me". The man went into his tent. Ayanami wanted to protest and say that he wasn't interested but the man had already turned away. Ayanami sighed as he walked towards the tent.
As he lifted the curtain of the tent, a pair of arms reached out and pulled him in by the collar of his coat. The movements were so quick and forceful that Ayanami didn't have time to react. By the time he could process the speeding images, he was already on the floor. His belongings were taken away. A large man was over him, binding his arms behind his back with rope. Ayanami was suddenly pulled upright and dragged towards the large rectangular pillar that held up the tent. The large man attached him to the pillar with more rope.
"Hey, don't touch that bird!" yelled the merchant. "Don't any of you dare hurt a single feather on that bird. You fellas needn't worry so much. This bird looks well trained anyways. He'll want to stay with his master."
Ayanami finally got the chance to look at his surroundings. Inside the tent were dozens of bird cages. All were filled with exotic birds. Akihiro had landed on the floor. He sat next to Akihiro's belongings and waited.
"So, boy, would you like to sell your bird to me?" asked the merchant. "You see, I'm a bird collector. I love collecting exotic and rare birds such as the one you have there."
There were four men in total. Ayanami assumed that the merchant was the main hunter, while the other three were simply his henchmen. He felt relieved that the hunter wasn't after the stone.
"Sorry, but he's not for sale."
"Oh ho, what a cheeky little brat. You don't seem to realize the situation you're in. It's a trade of your freedom for that bird. I'm a hunter as well as a slaves trader. Even though slaves aren't so common these days, I'm sure some rich folk would be willing to have you as their slave. All I would have to do is brand you with the slaves' mark."
"I still refuse."
The merchant approached Ayanami. His large hand around his throat. "Suit yourself. I hope you enjoy being a slave for the rest of your life". He raised a long metal rod. At the end was a slaves brand. The end had been heated over a flame. Ayanami could feel the heat radiate off the rod as it came closer to him.
"Hey, when did you get him here?" one of the henchmen yelled. All the men turned their attention towards the same direction.
"I was here the entire time," replied Akihiro. He was in his human form. His hair was the same color as his feathers. He had pulled on some pants which he took from Ayanami's bag. He didn't have enough time to pull on the coat. "Now," he cracked his knuckles in each hand, "it's time you let my brother go."
The three henchmen came at him. Each of them were large and buffed up. Their muscles bulged from their sleeveless shirts. One swung his fist at Akihiro. He dodged and tripped the man. As the other two came at him, he jumped and grabbed onto one of the wooden beams that held the tent. He swung himself and kicked the two men simultaneously. Akihiro landed with grace.
"Is that all? I didn't even break a sweat," he taunted.
"Akihiro, behind you!" Ayanami warned.
Akihiro turned but it was too late. The man that was first to be knocked back had come up behind him and grabbed Akihiro. He held him tight. Akihiro struggled but the man's strength was too great.
The other two men approached him. Akihiro thought fast. He planted his feet to the ground and with all his might, he flipped the man that constrained him over his back. The man was flung at the other two and they were all knocked to the ground.
The merchant watched in horror as is henchmen fell by the hands of a single boy. Akihiro grabbed Ayanami's belongings from the ground. He drew a weapon-Ayanami's sword. The blade was completely red, while the handle and sheath were black. On the blade was a small symbol that represented fire.
Akihiro pointed the sword at the merchant. "Get away from him or you'll be feeling some pain," he threatened.
"Alright, alright, I give up". He stepped away from Ayanami. He watched as Akihiro went to untie his brother. "Die!" the merchant came at Akihiro with the burning rod. The swing missed. Akihiro slashed the blade at the merchant. A long gash appeared on his chest and the merchant fell back, thudding loudly on the floor.
"Seems like he just fainted. The cut wasn't that deep," Akihiro shrugged.
"Let's go, Akihiro. The others are probably waiting."
As they exited the tent, they saw Sakuya, Yuuki, Luna and Kohaku.
"Where were you two?" Luna asked. "We were about to go search for you."
"We just got held back a bit. It wasn't too big a problem," Akihiro replied.
"Anyways, let's get going. My ship's over at the harbor," said Sakuya.
The night breeze was refreshing as Sakuya's ship sailed on the ocean. Ayanami leaned on the ship's railing, breathing in the salt filled air.
"Why are you here by yourself, Ayanami?" Yuuki walked up beside him. Her eyes sparkled beautifully in the night.
"Just getting some fresh air," he sighed. "It seems so relaxing, now that I have my memories back and I'm not in conflict with my brother anymore. I guess I feel too relaxed."
Yuuki leaned her head on his shoulder. "I suppose that with what you have experienced, it must be difficult to adjust to a more soothing lifestyle". They stared at each other. Yuuki had realized that Ayanami hasn't always been himself lately. He was constantly thinking, always lost in thought. She placed her hand over his. "Please, Ayanami, depend on me. I do not wish to see you suffer alone."
Ayanami placed his hand on Yuuki's cheek. Their faces were close. Their lips touched gently. Then Ayanami pressed a little harder. Yuuki didn't resist. She embraced and welcomed his kiss, wanting to ease his thoughts, even if just for a moment.
"You guys should get a room," Kohaku coughed. Ayanami and Yuuki separated and glared at him. Yuuki made a small flicking motion with her hand. Gusts of wind rose up at Kohaku, knocking him back. He gasped in pain as he made contact with the ship.
"It's okay, Yuuki". Ayanami smiled. "Kohaku's somewhat right. Let's use one of the cabins."
Ayanami led Yuuki towards a cabin. As they entered the room, Ayanami took off his white coat and hung it over a chair. Yuuki had already sat down on the bed, shivering slightly.
Ayanami joined Yuuki on the bed. They both began kissing slowly and passionately. Ayanami slid his hand up Yuuki's leg and up her dress, placing it on her back.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked in between the kisses.
"Mhm," Yuuki mumbled, breathless.
Ayanami slid off his shirt. He was about to Take off Yuuki's dress- but stopped. Yuuki was trembling in his arms. "Maybe we shouldn't do this after all." He began to get off of the bed.
Yuuki caught him by the wrist. "Please, Ayanami, don't go."
Ayanami sighed. "Alright, I'll stay. We can take this one step at a time. You don't need to rush into this at all, alright?" He raised the covers of the bed and lie himself down.
"I understand". They both lie in the bed. Yuuki laid her head on Ayanami's arm. She could feel his muscles tense as he held her. He was warm. She felt comfortable and safe in his presence. He felt better than any soft blanket.
Morning arrived with calm ocean winds. The seagulls' calls could be heard throughout the ship. Ayanami and Yuuki lay within each other's embrace.
A knock was on their cabin door. "Rise and shine, guys". It was Sakuya. "Get your butts out of bed."
Ayanami looked at Yuuki, who had opened her eyes slightly because of Sakuya's call. Her head nudging lightly against his chest.
"Good morning," Ayanami spoke softly.
Yuuki looked up at his face and smile. "Good morning," she replied.
Ayanami sat up and got out of bed. He pulled on his shirt and coat. He looked at Yuuki. She was still dressed in her white dress. She began brushing her long hair until she noticed Ayanami's gaze. Ayanami approached her and placed his hands on both of her cheeks. They gazed into each other's eyes and their face came closer for a kiss.
As Ayanami left the room, Akihiro began flying down. He perched himself on his brother's shoulder and nudged his head against his cheek.
"Good morning, Akihiro," he smiled. Ayanami turned to Sakuya, who was steering the ship. "How much longer until we reach the other continent?"
"Not much longer. Although we could go faster if you and Kohaku opened the sails bigger so we could catch the wind better."
Ayanami nodded and went to work. He pulled the ropes and adjusted the sails. The ship rumbled as it picked up the winds. It began accelerating gradually.
The hours passed and they finally reached land. Sakuya docked the ship at the harbor and threw down the transport plank. As they descended the ship, two men stood in wait for them.
"What business do you have here?" asked the larger of the two.
"We're just travelers, good sir," replied Sakuya.
"Travelling on a pirate ship?"
"I am a pirate- or was a captain. But I disbanded my crew. All I'm doing now is travelling with some companions."
The two men looked at each of the travelers. The smaller man continuously eyed Ayanami. Then they whispered to each other for a moment.
"Alright," began the bigger man, "enjoy your voyage, travelers."
They all thanked them as they disembarked from the ship.
The group entered Lacuna Village, the port village of this continent. This village seemed to be in a poorer state compared to Houshin Village. The houses looked as if they were about to crumble at any moment. The streets had many people, old and young, dressed almost in rags. The market area wasn't very lively. There were less people roaming around.
"Are we actually going to stay in this place?" Kohaku spoke.
"I kind of agree," said Luna, "I don't exactly want to stay in this village either."
"Alright, let us leave."
Outside of Lacuna Village was a small field, followed by a pathway leading up a large mountain. The travelling path on the mountain was very small and unstable. The group took their time travelling the mountain. The winds grew stronger as their altitude raised. The temperature began to decrease.
"Thank god Yuuki is always prepared," Luna chattered between her teeth. She was sharing a thick blanket with Sakuya. They huddled together as they walked. Yuuki and Ayanami were sharing another. Akihiro was under their blanket, held in Ayanami's hand. Kohaku decided he could lead the group through the mountain so he had a blanket to himself.
Suddenly, Kohaku raised his arm to the side, cautioning the others behind him. They all stopped. Kohaku listened carefully to his surroundings as he looked down at his feet. Pebbles rolled and hit his shoes. His head turned and looked up at the mountain, eyes wide. "Look out!"
Everyone turned to the mountain side. Boulders were rolling down at them. One had rolled down behind Kohaku. Sakuya lifted Luna, and jumped out of a boulder's path. Another boulder was headed straight for Ayanami and Yuuki. This boulder was larger and faster than the others. Ayanami quickly pushed Yuuki towards the others. Kohaku caught her.
"Ayanami!" Yuuki cried.
Ayanami was hit by the boulder. He fell down the mountain along with the rock.
When Ayanami regained consciousness he felt his body being shook. Akihiro was at his side, constantly calling his name.
"Ayanami, brother, wake up!"
"I'm alright, Akihiro," he groaned as he sat upright. He looked around him. His surroundings were completely different than he thought the bottom of a mountain looked like. He wasn't in a field of grass or by a river. He was at the side of a volcano. The rocks he lie on were black. Running rivers were filled with lava. The strangest thing that he saw was that there was a large palace at the volcano side. The pillars of the entryway were carved with a familiar symbol. It was the same symbol that was carved on his sword- the symbol of fire. "Where are we?"
"You are in the spirit realm, Ayanami". A man with scaly skin and red eyes spoke. He wore an elegant dark red robe that began opening up at the waist. His pants were fairly baggy. He had longs nails and horns on his head. On his back were wings. However they weren't feathered wings. They were wings of a dragon.
Ayanami recognized the style and pattern of the horns, as well as the voice. "You're the fire spirit! But how are you in a human form?"
The fire spirit chuckled. "I am glad you still remember me. While I am in the human world, I am unable to maintain my human form. However, I am able to choose my form within the spirit world."
"Fire spirit, why're we here in the spirit world? Are we dead?" Akihiro asked worriedly.
"No, no, Akihiro. When you both fell from the cliff, I saved you by bringing you here. Also, you may call me Kagutsuchi."
"Ayanami, the others are probably worried. We should return to them". Akihiro turned to Kagutsuchi. "Can you take us back to our companions, Kagutsuchi?"
Kagutsuchi sighed. "I am afraid I am unable to, Akihiro. I do not know where your companions are. If I were to take you back to the mountain, you would return to the last moment before I took you here- in the air, about to fall to your deaths". The spirit thought for a moment. "However, you both may remain here as honored guests until I am able to locate your companions. Perhaps I will discuss this matter with the other elemental spirits."
"Alright," Ayanami began, "I guess we'll stay for the time being. Thank you for your hospitality, Kagutsuchi."
Kagutsuchi smiled, "you are welcomed," he said as he led the two boys towards the palace of fire.
"They disappeared!" exclaimed Luna.
"How was that even possible?" Kohaku asked, Yuuki still being supported by him.
"Yuuki," Sakuya placed his hand on her shoulder, "did you see what I saw?" She nodded in silence.
"What did you see?"
"There was a red aura that wrapped around Ayanami. The fire spirit was with him."
"Are you saying that the fire spirit saved him or took him?" asked Luna.
"I don't know," Sakuya replied. He began walking. "Come on, we better get off this mountain. Who knows if there will be another rock slide?"
By the time they reached the bottom of the mountain, it was already nightfall. Camp had been set up under the trees to help block the cold night winds. It was hard for them to feel at ease, knowing that two of their companions had mysteriously vanished. They had all begun to fall asleep, exhausted from their earlier hike.
Yuuki found herself in a pitch black area. She was alone, except for one figure that stood in front of her. He had long, silver hair that was partially done up with a black hair ornament. On the hair ornament was a white curvy symbol. It was the symbol of wind. He wore a long white robe with beautiful swirling lines, similar to what the nobles of ancient times wore. His hands were pressed together inside the long sleeves. He approached Yuuki gracefully like a calm morning breeze.
"Yuuki, my chosen," his voice was alluring. As he spoke, wind rose from out of nowhere and began blowing around him.
"Wind spirit, Fūjin," Yuuki bowed lightly. "What do I owe this honor to?"
"You called for me, Yuuki. Is there not something you require from me?"
Yuuki hesitated a moment then she swallowed. "Please, can you tell me if Ayanami is in the spirit realm? I saw a red aura circle him right before he vanished".
Fūjin closed his eyes for a few seconds. He reopened them slowly. "Yes," he spoke, "he remains in the spirit world at this moment, along with his brother."
Yuuki breathed in a sigh of relief. "He is safe then".
"Not quite," he interrupted her calm thoughts, "he is in far more danger in that world than in the human world".
Yuuki's eyes widened. "What do you mean. The fire spirit, Kagutsuchi, who currently rules over all the fire spirits, was the one that saved Ayanami when he fell off the cliff".
"The fire domain has been behaving strangely lately. It has been many years since I last heard Kagusutchi's voice. Even the other rulers of the element, Ame-No-Mi-Kumari of water and Haniyasu of earth, have not heard from him either."
"I need to go to the spirit world. Ayanami could be in grave danger. Fūjin please tell me how to get to the spirit realm."
"I understand. However I will advise you to bring the other stone bearer as well". Yuuki nodded. "When you wake, inform him of what I have told you. Once you both are prepared, I will take you to the spirit world".
"Thank you, Fūjin".
Yuuki awoke right after her conversation with the wind spirit. The sun had already begun to rise. She walked over to Sakuya, who was already awake. He leaned against a tree as he looked at the sunrise.
"Sakuya," Yuuki walked over to him.
"What is it, Yuuki?"
"I had a conversation with the wind spirit in my dream. Ayanami could be in great danger. We must leave for the spirit realm."
"How do we get there?"
"If you are prepared, we may leave right away."
"Where are you guys going?" Kohaku interrupted, eyeing them suspiciously.
Yuuki and Sakuya stared at him. "We will be going to the spirit world".
"I'm coming with you," Kohaku declared.
"Kohaku, I do not even know if you are able to. The wind spirit only told me to bring the other stone bearer."
Suddenly, gusts of wind surround their camp. Luna jolted up, waking from the sudden winds. Within the winds, the wind spirit appeared.
"Yuuki, you called?"
"So, you're the spirit of wind," Kohaku examined.
"Fūjin, Kohaku wished to come along, however you only told me to bring a stone bearer, and Kohaku is not one."
"Yes, only a human being the stone bearer has the privilege of entering the spirit realm". Fūjin turned to Kohaku. "Are you certain you wish to come?"
"Yes, I can't abandon Ayanami".
"Very well. Please give me the stone of earth". He extended his arm, palm open, waiting to receive the stone. Kohaku placed the emerald green stone in his hand. Fūjin then clapped his hands together, the stone in between his palms. He began chanting as he lowered his eyes, then looked at Kohaku. His hands extended in front of him. The index and middle finger pointed at Kohaku, while the fourth and fifth crossed over each other.
Kohaku felt something grab him at his feet. Tree roots had moved around his legs, holding him in place. Long grass wrapped around his ankles and flowers began blooming around his feet.
Fūjin made a sudden loud noise and Kohaku felt like he had been stabbed in the chest. The stone was out of Fūjin's hands. It was now in Kohaku's chest. It began sinking deeper and deeper into his body. He felt pain go through his entire body then it vanished instantly. Kohaku dropped to the floor. Hands and knees on the ground. He was panting heavily.
"You are now a stone bearer-the stone bearer of earth," spoke Fūjin.
"Wait, what about me?" cried Luna. "Don't leave me here all alone."
"You, child, have an important task." Fūjin placed his hand on Luna's shoulder. "While the others are in the spirit realm, you must guard their bodies until they return."
"Our what?!" Sakuya was shocked. "We're separating from our bodies?"
"You must. If you enter the spirit realm in your bodies, if a spirit is strong and willing enough, you may lose your body and become a spirit for eternity".
Sakuya swallowed hard. "Let's get this over with."
Fūjin led them into a cave. He instructed the stone bearers to lie down. Luna sat beside them, watching the spirit do what he had to do. Wind began swirling around the cave. It blew right through Kohaku, Yuuki and Sakuya. Fūjin began fading away as the three souls left their body.
"Good luck," Luna whispered.
The three of them found themselves in a strange palace. The walls were decorated with intricate patterns done with golden paint. They were images resembling clouds and winds. On the clouds were people. There was a single dragon flying by the side of one of the men. In the room they were in, it looked like the throne room of the palace. At one end, there was a large, elegant chair. It was made of gold and had a large feathery cushion. Within the room were many large, white pillars. Just above the floor, a thin fog could be noticed. In the center of the room was a white dragon. It looked at the stone bearers menacingly. The dragon was large and its wings were folded back. The head was lowered as a white smoke seeped from its mouth.
"Calm yourself, Kazeryu. The stone bearers are our guests. Please show them proper respect," Fūjin spoke.
The dragon instantly relaxed. Its entire body glowed white as it began to change shape. A man took form. He had short white hair. His eyes were the same style as a reptile's. The whites of his eyes were a pale yellowish color. He wore authentic armor made of white scales, similar to the ones while he was in his dragon form.
"Welcome, honored guests. I am Kazeryu, the dragon of wind." he said as he bowed.
"Kazeryu, will you send messengers to Ame-No-Mi-Kumari and Haniyasu, informing them that the stone bearers are here and we wish to discuss important matters?"
"Right away, my lord". Kazeryu bowed and departed from the throne room with swift, graceful movement.
"Fūjin," Kohaku began, "why did the spirits create stone bearers in the first place? What purpose does that even serve?"
"Within each domain, there are many spirits. And naturally, the strongest spirit shall become the god or lord of that domain. However, to be a god requires tremendous strengths. Therefore, it was decides that a god should be able to defeat his enemies without the full use of his powers. Every god or goddess of a domain must relinquish a portion of their power and still be able to continue to rule over their domain. Of course, since a portion of our power is encased within a stone, we as a god must find a suitable carrier or host for our powers. If we are careless, another spirit wishing for god-ship or power could easily take it and eliminate us."
"Why did you choose humans to have to carry it, Fūjin? Were you not able to leave it hidden within your palace?" Yuuki asked.
"No, the god of all spirits, Kami, has made this decision. The gods of the four domains must follow his command for he is on a much higher level than the rest of us."
"So where exactly is this god of all spirits?" Sakuya asked.
"Kami resides in the central domain, surrounded by the four elemental domains," Fūjin replied.
Ayanami and Akihiro remained in their room. It was large and elegantly decorated. There were two large beds with what seemed like silk sheets. The entire room was mainly colored a flame-colored red. The walls had beautiful curvy lines that spiraled throughout.
Ayanami lay on the bed while Akihiro walked back and forth. Kagutsuchi had told them that they were allowed to roam around as they pleased, as long as they avoid rooms with closed doors-which weren't many. However, they had already explored the majority of the palace and were now bored with nothing to do.
"I'm going to walk around the palace again," Akihiro stated.
"Akihiro, you're not thinking of going into a closed room, are you?"
"Maybe," he smirked. "Want to come along?"
"No thanks. I'd rather not get on Kagutsuchi's bad side".
"What harm can be done if I just wander around?" he said as he opened the room door.
"Just try not to cause too much trouble, Akihiro".
Akihiro left the room and shut the door quietly behind him. Every hall in the palace were vast. There were many and it seemed like you could lose yourself within this labyrinth.
The young boy finally reached a closed door. The door looked like all the other doors and there seemed to be nothing special about it. But it made him curious as to why Kagutsuchi didn't want him and his brother to enter any of the rooms with closed doors. Did the fire spirit have a secret?
As Akihiro approached the door's handle, he began to feel uneasy about his thoughts; although he didn't know why he would, since the fire spirit was the one who still let him live and gave him another chance at life. He placed his hands on the handle. A sudden jolt of heat rushed up his fingers and went throughout his entire body. The energy he felt was alarming and furious. It was as if somebody's final emotions were felt as he made contact with the room.
When he finally opened the door and peered inside, the room itself looked extremely large and dark. In the room was a mini waterfall of lava that pooled into a small lake. The room itself looked like the stone that was formed after lava was rapidly cooled.
The one thing that distracted Akihiro the most was what lay against the wall of the room. There was a strange coffin shaped case. It looked as if it was made of some type of glass. However, within the see-through coffin was transparent, red liquid. What was in the liquid was a man. He had flame red hair that floated within the liquid. His eyes were covered in some type of bandage with strange symbols throughout. And his body, with arms crossed over his chest, was also wrapped up with the same bandage. The body was also chained to the coffin.
Akihiro couldn't help but stare at the man. He wondered who the man was; perhaps he was a convict or a bad spirit. Akihiro then placed his hand on the glass-the same jolt of emotions rushed through his body again. This time it was much stronger and his eyes shut tightly.
"Beware of the dragon who calls himself the god of fire," a male voice could be heard within Akihiro's mind.
"Who are you?" Akihiro asked, his eyes still shut.
"I am the true fire god, Kagutsuchi. The dragon, Hiryu, has trapped my body within a deep slumber. Beware, for he seeks my power to become the spirit god himself."
"Ayanami's in danger?!"
"Yes. If Hiryu is not stopped, then order within the domain of fire will be lost and chaos will arise."
Akihiro removed his hand from the glass coffin. He looked at the face of the man within it as he clenched his fist at his side. "I have to warn Ayanami". He turned around and took a step until he froze and saw someone at the other end of the room. The door shut behind him.
"Akihiro, I specifically instructed that you were not allowed to enter a closed room". The voice was all too familiar.
"Well, you can't blame me for becoming bored. Unlike my brother, I must keep myself moving, Kagutsuhi-or actually, Hiryu".
"So you know," his voice was calm.
"What is your true intension, Hiryu? Why did you bring us here?"
Hiryu chuckled. "Not you, necessarily. I wanted Ayanami. However, it would have been troublesome if Ayanami could not reinforce his trust towards me. Therefore, I needed you to support his trust".
"What exactly do you plan to do to him?"
"I require the powers of Kagutsuchi. What better way to obtain the powers of a god than from a human? I will take Ayanami's body and absorb the spirit stone of fire within him".
"How do you even plan to take his body? We're in the spirit world".
"Exactly my point. Within the spirit world, a physical body can be taken away. That is the reason why I brought him here entirely, and not within his dream. Of course, however, without a body, the spirit will be unable to return to the human world".
"So the only reason you made me give Ayanami my body was to complete the fire stone-to make it whole?"
"That was my intension. It did not matter which body the stone resided in. As long as I had the chance to make it complete, I would take that chance. And now everything is set. All that remains is the taking of the fire spirit stone".
Akihiro stomped his foot forward. "Do you think I'm just going to sit by and watch you do as you please? I won't let you hurt Ayanami!" Akihiro yelled.
Hiryu laughed. "You stop me? That is quite the amusing statement, child. Please demonstrate your futile efforts".
Akihiro ran right at Hiryu. He threw punches and kicks, but the dragon spirit dodged effortlessly. Hiryu raised his hand at Akihiro. And with a sudden movement of his arm, Akihiro fell to the ground. It felt as if the weight of gravity suddenly increased and began pulling down on him. He lay crumpled on the floor, unable to move.
"You see? You are no match for me," Hiryu declared. "Your body was given to you by me. The only reason why you do not return to your animal form is because I control it. I allow you to remain human so I am able to keep watch over you". Hiryu snapped his fingers. Two men suddenly appeared within a red smog at his sides. They were summoned by him. They had red skin with a strange glow. They were minor fire spirits that only served the dragon of fire.
The two spirit servants approached Akihiro and hauled him up by his arms. He felt the weight of the gravity return to normal but he couldn't remove the grips of the two spirits. He didn't even know that spirits could have such physical strength. The spirits dragged him to what looked like a crystal ball near the glass coffin; except the bottom of it was flat, as if to not roll away. He was thrown into the spherical chamber and his arms were chained behind him. The length of the chain that attached him to the ground only allowed him to stand on his knees.
"What do you plan to do with me? If I go missing, Ayanami will know for sure something's up".
"Do not worry, Akihiro. Once I have obtained what I desire, you will both be reunited and remain forever within the spirit world".
Akihiro struggled within his shackles but it was useless. Suddenly, clear, red liquid began filling the spherical prison. It continuously rose, filling his small, glass chamber. It looked like the exact same liquid that was within the glass coffin.
The liquid had already risen up to his hips. His legs felt numb as the fluid entered the pores of his skin. The numbness made him sit on his knees. They wouldn't hold him up, as if he couldn't control his legs anymore.
"Relax yourself, Akihiro. You will simply be put into a deep slumber until all is complete".
The fluid rose over his chest and began rising towards his neck. He felt his pulse lower as his muscles relaxed, and he could hardly move his body any more.
As the liquid rose over his head and filled the glass sphere entirely, Akihiro was surprised that he could still breath within the liquid. But that thought didn't last long. His mind drifted in and out of the darkness. He tried to stay conscious, he tried to move but his body wouldn't obey. He tried to call out a name. But all he could do was shape the name with his mouth before his mind was lost to the dark.
At the central domain, Fūjin and the stone bearers waited for the arrival of the other two spirits. The central domain looked like a large courtyard. There were stone paths leading to the palace. In one area, there was a small waterfall with a garden. It almost looked like this surroundings could've been found back in the human world.
From the waterfall, a woman walked towards them. She had wavy, dark blue hair and ocean colored eyes. Around her head was a beaded accessory. A small stone that hung from the accessory lay on her forehead. The symbol of water was carved into the stone. The woman wore a short, high neck, sleeveless shirt that ended just above her stomach. She wore a short skirt that had a see-through, cape-like style attached behind it. The back of her forearms and the sides of her legs had fins. Around the fins were some scales that were lightly blue. She also had fins for her ears.
"Hello, stone bearers," spoke the woman, "I am Ame-No-Mi-Kumari, the goddess of water. You may call me Kumari".
"Welcome, Kumari. It has been a while," Fūjin said.
"Yes, it has, Fūjin". Her smile was vibrant.
"Hey, Kumari," spoke Sakuya.
"Ah, Sakuya!" she shrieked as she ran over and hugged him. "My, you're even more handsome than the last time I saw you".
"And you're as beautiful as always, Kumari".
"Oh my, am I interrupting?" a voice spoke behind the group. The man had brown hair and emerald green eyes. He was shirtless. Around his neck dangles a green stone on a chain. The stone was carved with the symbol of wind. "I see you've assigned me a new stone bearer, Fūjin".
"Welcome, Haniyasu. This boy, Kohaku wished to come to the spirit world, along with the other stone bearers. Since he was in possession of the stone of earth, I thought I would aid him in coming here. Also, you never cared for who was in possession of the stone, which is why that frail girl became the host".
"Let us get to the main topic, please," Haniyasu spoke, looking away.
"The fire domain has been behaving strangely recently. We have not had contact with Kagutsuchi in many years. Also, the stone bearer of fire has been summoned into the fire domain; in his physical body," Fūjin explained.
"Perhaps someone is wishing to over throne Kagutsuchi and become the next god of fire," Kumari suggested.
"No, if it is such, it is taking too long. A battle for god-ship may last several days or weeks, but not years. I am certain something must have happened to Kagutsuchi".
"Fūjin," Yuuki began, "is it not possible to have Kami resolve this issue within the fire domain?"
"Kami, the god of all spirits, will not interfere with conflicts within a domain. He will only interfere if it is a conflict between domains".
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the ground a few meters away from the group. Within the flash of light, a man appeared. His hair was long and black. Eyes were a golden color. An elegant cloth laid over him. There was a fan within one hand. He approached the group.
The three spirits bowed down to him immediately. "Kami, my lord," they spoke in unison.
"Fūjin, you are correct that I do not interfere with matters within a domain, however this situation is quite troublesome. I do not feel Kagutsuchi's presence and I do not feel any presence of a new god. Kagutsuchi was one who had compassion for the weak. He would defend them. Fire spirits are usually quite restless and are easily angered. Without him, the fire domain will be thrown into chaos. I cannot allow this matter to increase any further".
"What do you plan to do, Kami?" Haniyasu asked.
"I will request that you enter the fire domain and investigate this matter. Once the cause of this matter is revealed, I may pass down judgment. This situation is very worrying, especially since the physical body of the fire bearer is within that domain, most likely unknowing of his situation".
"Kami," Kohaku spoke, "Akihiro, Ayanami's brother, was also taken into the spirit world. Surely he could keep Ayanami safe".
"He has no more power than a human. The only thing that is different with him is that he possesses a body that a spirit gave him. However, his presence, like Kagutsuchi's, has disappeared. It was mere moments ago that I could not sense him anymore".
Ayanami lay in his bed, staring at the intricate design on the ceiling. It had been a while since Akihiro left, he thought. He wondered if his brother had gotten into trouble if he had looked into one of the closed rooms.
He suddenly sat upright with his legs crossed as someone knocked on the door. "Come in," he spoke.
Kagutsuchi-or rather, Hiryu, stepped into the room and looked around. "Ayanami, where has Akihiro gone?" he asked, holding back his cruel grin.
Ayanami thought he shouldn't tell Kagutsuchi that Akihiro went to explore a closed room, so he said, "I don't know. He went to wander around some more I think".
"Alright," he replied, suppressing a laugh. "Ayanami, I came here to see you, in fact. I wished to show you something. Please follow me".
"Okay," he replied, eager to rid himself of his boredom.
The imposter Kagutsuhi led Ayanami through a long, vast hallway, which led to a closed door. When Kagutsuchi opened the door, there were steps that led downwards. The walls and stairs had been made with stones. Ayanami felt cold and began to shiver as he descended. At the end of the steps was another door, as if it was there to ensure that if one door was opened, the other would be shut, preventing any unwanted entry.
The end of the stairs led to an extremely large room. At the furthest end of the room was something that glowed brightly. Kagutsuchi walked towards it, not turning to look at Ayanami; expecting him to follow behind.
As Ayanami continued to walk, he felt something touch his chest and slightly pushed him back. But when he looked down, nothing was there. He suddenly felt uneasy, as if he shouldn't proceed any further. But at the same time, he felt as if he was drawn to the bright, white glow at the end of the room.
Kagutsuchi stopped walking. "Why have you stopped, Ayanami?" he spoke without turning around.
"I'm coming," he replied, walking again.
Ayanami felt the strange feeling again-the feeling of something pushing him back. He ignored the feeling, but realized he wasn't shivering anymore. He didn't feel cold at all. It was a strange feeling, as if his sense of temperature was gone.
He continued walking, the distance between him and Kagutsuhi had grown. Suddenly, a strong force pushed at him, almost making him stumble back. Ayanami called Kagutsuchi's name, but no sound came out. His eyes widened. He placed his hands over his throat. His mouth moved, but he couldn't hear anything.
"What is the matter, Ayanami?" Kagutsuchi asked, finally turning around to look at Ayanami. He had a large grin on his face. His expression was dark. The bright glow from behind Kagutsuchi allowed Ayanami to only see his shadowed figure, making him look more sinister.
*Kagutsuchi,* Ayanami thought, *what's going on?*
"Do not worry Ayanami, please continue to follow me."
*You can hear my thoughts?* he spoke in his mind.
"Yes, I can."
*Then tell me what's going on? What's happening to me?* he questioned within his mind.
"Your soul is being separated from your body."
*What?! Why is this happening?*
"Because I wish for it."
*What does anyone gain from me separating from my body?*
"I will gain the spirit stone of fire."
Ayanami stared in confusion. *You're the fire spirit. You put the stone in me. Why do you need it back?*
Kagutsuchi laughed, throwing his head back. He crossed his arms. "I am not Kagutsuchi. I am the dragon of fire, Hiryu. The god of fire is currently in a deep slumber-along with your brother".
*Akihiro?! What did you do to him?*
"Nothing. I simply placed his body in a state of sleep. Now, Ayanami, come," Hiryu ordered.
*What do you plan to do with my body?*
"I do not require your body, but the spirit stone within. I will obtain that power and become the next god of fire. Kagutsuchi does not deserve to be a god. He is too soft. Fire is meant to be fierce!"
*You won't get what you want!* he yelled in his mind. Ayanami ran towards the door and up the stairs. But it was futile. The door at the top of the stairs was locked from the outside. Ayanami banged his fist on the door, hoping a spirit outside would hear and unlock the door for him. But no one came.
The surroundings of the fire palace were quite deserted. There were no spirits in sight. Although it made it simple to infiltrate the fire domain, it caused worry for the gods. It was decided that the stone bearers would go and search for Ayanami, while the spirits went to search for Kagutsuchi.
"Is it just me or is the fire domain not as hot as I thought it would be?" asked Kohaku.
Sakuya grinned, "all the better for me then. I thought since the fire domain would be all fiery hot, I wouldn't be able to use my powers. But now I know I can use the moisture from the air".
When they entered the palace, it was deadly silent. It seemed as if all the spirits had left. The halls were deserted as the stone bearers walked through. However, that changed as they entered the throne room of the palace.
In the center of the room was a pile of large, reddish stones. As they approached the center of the room, the stones moved, forming a giant golem. It roared as it raised one of its stone arms. Then smashed it towards the stone bearers. They all jumped away from the blow.
Sakuya commanded the water in the air to change from its gaseous state to liquid. Water became visible around him. Then he flung the water at the golem, splashing its entire body. As quickly as the water came in contact with the golem, it became ice, freezing the stone monster.
The golem roared as its stone body became redder. Steam came off its body as the ice began melting.
Sakuya cursed nervously as he watched the golem regain its mobility. "Your turn, Yuuki," he tried to laugh away his nervousness as the golem approached him.
Yuuki commanded the winds and pushed the golem back. The golem shattered to the ground. But it suddenly began rebuilding itself. It roared again with its arms in the air, almost taunting his opponents.
"What an annoying opponent," Sakuya spoke.
"Let me give it a try," Kohaku stepped forward. "Good thing it's a stone golem, at least there is still some earth in it". He raised his arm and his hand was opened at the golem. Then he suddenly clenched his hand into a fist, as if he was crushing something within his palm. "Turn to dust!" he yelled.
The golem did as he commanded. It shattered into tiny dust fragments that sprinkled to the ground.
Sakuya wrapped his arm around the back of Kohaku's neck. "Well, I'm actually glad you came along with us, stone bearer".
Kohaku pushed his arm away. "Yeah, you better be glad," he grinned.
Hiryu took Ayanami to one of the towers of the fire palace. A fire spirit with four arms held Ayanami, restricting his movements. He struggled to free himself from the spirit's grasp but it was useless. He wanted to yell at Hiryu, to scream for help, but he couldn't without his voice.
The room they were in had only a large, round mirror. Ayanami looked at it, seeing their reflections.
"Ayanami," Hiryu spoke, "I will remove your soul from your body and claim the stone of fire. Of course, I wished to avoid using this mirror, however you have provided me with very little choice".
The multi-armed spirit gripped Ayanami's head, forcing him to face the mirror. Hiryu stood beside the mirror and places his hand on the elegantly decorated frame. As soon as the spirit touched the mirror, a light glow appeared over the curvy symbols on the frame.
The mirror became dark and Ayanami only saw himself reflected in the mirror. Even though there was a spirit right behind him, holding him and stopping any possibilities of escape, was not visible at all within the mirror.
A strange feeling went through Ayanami. He felt his body freeze. He couldn't move, couldn't resist. He yelled in his mind to make his body move, but nothing went his way. His vision suddenly went dark as a wave of dizziness went over him.
Once he was feeling somewhat back to normal he realized the spirit wasn't holding him anymore. It was dark around him. He placed his hand on his head, trying to steady himself. Then he looked in front of him and saw the multi-armed, fire spirit. Hiryuu had stood beside him. Bu the strangest thing was that he saw himself standing by their sides. The figure that looked like him had no expression. It seemed to have no life within it.
"Farewell, Ayanami. I shall be taking your body now". Hiryu laughed as he walked away, the spirit and his body, following after.
Ayanami banged at the glass mirror that seemed to just be a window for him. His mouth moved to yell but no voice came out. Then the door of the room was shut.
Ayanami leaned his back on the glass and slid himself down to the floor. He sat with his knees bent. He wrapped his arms around his legs as he hugged himself. "Damn it. Damn it," he cried in his mind.
The sound of mumbling voices diverted Ayanami's thoughts. He raised his head and peered into the darkness that surrounded him. Only light came from the other side of the mirror. It didn't aid him at all to see his entire surroundings.
Suddenly, something shot out from the darkness. It wrapped around Ayanami's legs and pulled him, making him fall on his back. Ayanami quickly rolled so he was on his stomach and used his hands to sit upright. But more threads came at him. It grabbed him fiercely and endlessly. His arms were wrapped behind him. He almost felt like a caterpillar, that had to bend it's body to move. The threads then wrapped around his mouth and was about to wrap around his entire face until he heard another voice. The threads stopped coming at him.
A man came out of the shadows. He had black wings on his back and he had a beak on his face. His eyes were a dark, bloody red. His arms were covered in black feathers. "Perhaps we can make use of this human spirit".
As the stone bearers continued further within the palace, they opened few doors but looked into many rooms. Then they encountered the final door of their hallway.
"There is a strange aura coming from this room," Yuuki noted.
"That means this might be the room we're looking for".
As Yuuki opened the door, she couldn't see much at first. The room was dimly lit by a small fountain of lava.
"Akihiro!" Yuuki yelled.
Akihiro floated within a spherical glass prison. He floated within a clear, red liquid. His eyes were shut. He looked as if he was sleeping. But his wrists were bound in chains that held him down.
"Hey, you might want to check this out," Kohaku said. He stood in front a glass coffin. Within the coffin was a man chained inside. His eyes and body was wrapped with a strange bandage that had many symbols. His red hair floated in the liquid.
"Who is he?" Sakuya asked.
"Kagutsuchi?!" yelled a voice from behind them. It was Kumari. The spirits all entered the room, joining the stone bearers. "We must set him free!"
Fūjin placed his hand on the glass coffin. "It will be difficult to break this. We require the powers of a fire spirit in order to break their prisons".
"So it seems like you still haven't found the stone bearer of fire," Haniyasu spoke.
"No, we encountered a golem then we came here."
"Sakuya, Yuuki spoke, "I will go search for Ayanami. You and Kohaku remain here."
"No way, Yuuki," Sakuya objected. "It's way too dangerous to wander around here alone."
"I agree," Kohaku spoke, "plus we need to stick together. We're all after the same thing after all."
Fūjin placed his hand on Yuuki's shoulder. "It will be alright. We will remain here and watch over Akihiro and Kagutsuchi while you search for Ayanami."
Yuuki clenched her fist and nodded. "Alright. Let us hurry then."
"We're right behind you."
*Who are you?* Ayanami thought.
The man looked at Ayanami, surprised he could hear his thoughts. "I am the tengu of fire, Taimatsumaru". More fire spirits approached behind him. "We are fire spirits that Hiryu sealed within this mirror because we did not wish to follow his rule".
*You can't gain anything from me. Whatever you're planning is useless.*
Taimatsumaru chuckled. "I think you should not disregard yourself like such, Ayanami".
*How do you know my name?*
"You are Kagutsuchi's beloved human. All fire spirits know of you, Ayanami," he spoke. "Now all we must do is wait. The other stone bearers are travelling in the palace, searching for you".
Ayanami's eyes were wide. *Yuuki and the others are here?*
"Yes. The feeling is faint but they are here." Taimatsumaru bent down beside Ayanami. "They have come to rescue you. Once they arrive here, they must set us free in order to save you".
*So you're just making me your hostage?*
"Yes. However, once we are set free, we will stop Hiryu. He is not fit to rule over the fire spirits".
Suddenly, Ayanami felt the threads pull at him. A giant chest-like spirit appeared from the darkness. The lid was open with teeth inside. It looked like a real mouth. It began to drag Ayanami towards its mouth. A wave of fear rushed through Ayanami. The mouth of the chest gapped widely as it prepared to engulf him. Ayanami was pulled into the chest. More thread wrapped around him, keeping him from struggling out. And the chest lid slammed shut with him trapped inside.
The door of the tower suddenly swung open. Yuuki entered the room, with Kohaku and Sakuya following closely after. Yuuki approached the large, circular mirror. She looked at it intensely. She placed her hand on the glass of the mirror and she saw a wave of white light pass over the mirror, as if light had gleamed over the mirror. Then she gasped. What she saw in the mirror wasn't her own reflection, but the image of many different fire spirits. Kohaku and Sakuya were quickly at her side. They starred into the mirror. A shocked expression came over their face.
A winged figure turned around and looked at them. "Hello there, stone bearers".
"Who are you? Why are you all retained within this mirror?" Yuuki questioned.
"I am Taimatsumaru. We are the fire spirits that serve Kagutsuchi. That is, of course, until we were sealed away within this mirror by the fire dragon, Hiryu".
"Have you seen the stone bearer of fire," Kohaku asked.
Taimatsumaru chuckled. With a flick of his finger, a chest-like spirit hopped forward. Its lid opened. Ayanami was on his knees. He struggled desperately to free himself. He looked at the others on the other side of the mirror. He bent forward, trying to tell them something, but he couldn't even make a muffled noise.
"Ayanami!" Yuuki cried. "What have you done to him," her expression was furious.
"Calm yourself, wind bearer. Although we now hold him captive, we did not bring him into the mirror. It was Hiryu's doing that trapped Ayanami's spirit in this mirror. He had separated the boy from his body. All we desire is our freedom from this mirror. Then we will deal with Hiryu".
"How do we get you and Ayanami out?" Sakuya asked.
"You must insert energy into the mirror. The thoughts that run through your mind must allow us to leave. If your thoughts are incorrect, we will be unable to leave," Taimatsumaru explained.
"I understand," Yuuki spoke as she went over to the mirror's side and placed her hand on the frame. She commanded the wind around her. Its energy flowed through her entire body then left from her palms, entering the mirror frame. The symbols of the frame lit up as the glass of the mirror began to glow.
In a sudden flash, the room was filled with many spirits. They were all turning their heads, looking around the room, as if to make sure that they weren't in the mirror anymore.
Taimatsumaru turned to the stone bearers and bowed. "Thank you, stone bearers. We are in your dept".
"Please release Ayanami at once".
"Of course," he nodded. The chest was beside Taimatsumaru. Its mouth remained open. Ayanami was still inside. He was calmer, or exhausted, he stopped struggling and waited. The threads around him unwrapped and receded deep within the chest. Ayanami stepped out of the chest.
Yuuki ran and wrapped her arms around him. He held her gently. Yuuki looked up at his face. He was smiling with a sad expression.
"What is the matter, Ayanami?" she asked.
"It seems he had lost his voice," Taimatsumaru answered in his stead.
"Lost his voice? How?"
Ayanami turned and looked at Taimatsumaru. He nodded in reply, hearing his thoughts. "Since I am somehow able to hear Ayanami's thoughts, he has requested I speak for him. He says 'when I was following Hiryu, I was led to a cold room. At the end of the room was a strange bright light. As I walked closer to that light, I felt like I was being pushed back. Each time I got pushed I felt like I had lost something. It was too late when I realized that I had lost my feelings of temperature and my voice. Hiryu had planned it all along. He wanted my body to get the spirit stone so he could become stronger and gain position as the god of all fire spirits. When I tried to run away, I got stopped by one of his followers. That's when he brought me into the tower and sealed me within the mirror.'"
Ayanami looked at the others. He thought they would look down on him, for being so weak, but their expressions weren't of pity at all. They were filled with rage at Hiryu and empathy for Ayanami.
"Don't worry, Ayanami," Sakuya said as he placed his hands on his shoulder, "we'll stop Hiryu and get you your body back".
Ayanami raised his head suddenly and began looking around.
"What's wrong?" Kohaku asked.
"He asked 'where is Akihiro'?" Taimatsumaru translated.
Their eyes opened wide in recollection. "That's right! Akihiro and Kagutsuchi are trapped and they were put to sleep by Hiryu. We can't set them free because we need the powers of fire".
Taimatsumaru's mind went alert at the name. "Please, take me there right away," he said.
"Oh my, fancy meeting all the spirit gods here of all places," he chuckled. The crimson eyes of his body gleamed in the light. "Please move away from Kagutsuchi. I will rid him of this world once and for all".
"We will not allow you to kill him!" Kumari yelled. "A dragon like you is not fit to become the leader of the fire spirits".
Hiryu felt his furry and anger rise. "It is Kagutsuchi that is not fit to rule. I am simply correcting the wrong!" Hiryu turned into his dragon form. He was extremely large. If the room wasn't so vast, the walls would have crumbled. He then blew flames at the spirits. His body was entirely covered in flames. Hiryu roared at the spirits as he spat a large fire ball directly at them.
The spirits knew that if they dodged, Kagutsuchi and Akihiro would be hit for sure. The only choice they had was to block the blow. Kumari summoned the water in the air and created a barrier of water. As the fire ball hit, the water barrier sizzled and evaporated at the heat. Steam covered the entire room.
Fūjin rushed out of the stream and ran towards Hiryu. His arm was extended at his side with blades of winds swirling around it. Fūjin jumped high into the air and swung his wind-bladed arm at Hiryu.
Hiryu roared fiercely. A shockwave of sound pushed Fūjin back in mid-air, disabling his attack. "Futile," Hiryu laughed. He swung his tail and Fūjin was knocked against the wall. The impact caused him to gasp in pain.
"Fūjin!" Haniyasu yelled.
Then suddenly, Hiryu was upon the spirit of earth. He swung his claw at the spirit. Haniyasu screamed in agony as gash marks on his chest burned his skin and clothes. His blood dripped to the floor as he struggled to stand.
Kumari ran to his side. "Hang in there, Haniyasu".
Hiryu laughed in triumph. "You are foolish! Fire will always be the ultimate spirit. You cannot win against me."
"Not unless we do something about it!"
Hiryu turned. At the doorway stood the stone bearers and a fire spirit, Taimatsumaru. They all rushed into the room.
"So, you managed to escape the mirror, Ayanami." Hiryu shifted back to his human form. He looked exactly like Ayanami, of course, since Ayanami's body was now in his possession. "Your body is truly, wonderfully powerful."
*Give me back my body,* he yelled in his mind.
"I am unable to fulfill that wish, Ayanami. Not you, nor anyone here may take this power away from me.
Taimatsumaru's eyes trailed towards the other end of the room. He saw a glass coffin filled with clear, red liquid. And inside was the god of the fire spirits. "Kagutsuhi!" he yelled as he dashed towards him. He began gliding at high speed just above the floor.
A fiery rope was flung through the air. It was aimed at Taimatsumaru. The rope wrapped and coiled itself around Taimatsumaru's throat and he was pulled to the ground. His skin felt the burn of the rope as he hit the floor. At the other end of the rope was Hiryu. He held the fiery rope in his hand. The rope was in full tension as the fire dragon pulled Taimatsumaru's body at the other end.
"I will not allow you to do that, Taimatsumaru. I will kill Kagutsuchi and all you fire spirits will submit to me."
Taimatsumaru coughed up blood. "I will never show you any loyalty! You betrayed the fire god. You do not even deserve to be the next god." He stood on his knees as he held the fire rope, trying to loosen it from his neck.
Suddenly the tension in the rope broke. In the air was steam as the fire rope began to fade and die out. Hiryu had taken a step back to not fall from the break in tension.
"Go, Taimatsumaru!" Sakuya yelled. Water floated around him, forming from the gasses in the air.
Taimatsumaru nodded as he dashed once again towards the coffin containing Kagutsuchi.
When he reached the fire god, he placed his hand on the glass coffin. His body felt hot as he began pouring spiritual energy over the glass. The top of the glass began disintegrating and the transparent, red liquid began flowing out. Taimatsumaru had crushed the chains with immense strength, releasing Kagutsuchi from the coffin. He lay the fire god down on the ground.
Kagutsuchi was wrapped with a long scroll that had been marked with symbols of sealing. His arms were crossed beneath the wrappings of the scroll, his eyes also wrapped by the scroll.
Taimatsumaru began to slowly remove the scrolls around the body. He was being cautious to not injure his lord. The scrolls had wrinkled his beautiful clothes, similar to a yukata. The top was a burning red color. The sleeves had designs of fire. The lower portion of his yukata was black. On his chest was a thin breastplate, made of strong iron. There was also some light armoring on his shoulders and at his sides.
Finally, Taimatsumaru began unraveling the scroll around Kagutsuchi's eyes. As soon as the scroll came off, Kagutsuchi's eyes flashed open. Flames burst around Kagutsuchi. His energy finally being released from its building up after many years. Taimatsumaru was blown back by the explosive power. He hit the wall hard and landed on his feet. His legs trembled as he stood, watching his lord awaken from his bounded slumber.
Kagutsuchi looked directly at Hiryu. He didn't bother to take notice of all the other spirits that filled the room. Kagutsuchi's eyes were filled with anger. His wet hair, now dry, looked like it defied gravity; it looked as if it was pointed upwards, just like a flame. Multiple strands of hair barely covered his forehead. "Hiryu," Kagutsuchi breathed.
"Kagutsuchi," Hiryu grumbled. Sweat dripped down his face. He wiped his hand over his face then placed them over his eyes as he began chuckling.
"What amuses you so, Hiryu?"
"Just when I thought killing you was going to be boring when I sealed you," he muttered. Hiryu removed his hand from his face. "At least this way I will receive the pleasure of destroying you with your own power."
"You dared to take the powers of a god. Now you will be punished!" Kagutsuchi raced towards Hiryu.
Hiryu laughed as he summoned fire in the form of blades and sent them towards the fire god. The blades penetrated the spirit's clothing, leaving holes of burnt fabric. Cuts scarred his skin beneath his clothing. The scars left a burning sensation over his body. Perspiration seeped from the pores of his skin.
Kagutsuchi breathed heavily, inhaling the smoke-filled air of the room. He opened the palm of his hand as he extended it outward. Flames surged around his hand, forming a sword handle. Then the flames grew, changing to a sword.
"Now, now, Kagutsuchi," Hiryu spoke, "do you truly wish to attack me while I possess the body of your beloved human?"
Kagutsuchi's body tensed. He let out a small groan of irritation as he allowed his blade to fade away. He turned towards the stone bearers. His eyes met Taimatsumaru.
Ayanami took notice of their gaze. He watched as Kagutsuchi and Taimatsumaru seemed to be having a conversation within their thoughts. Taimatsumaru nodded suddenly and faced Ayanami. Their heads side by side. Ayanami gasped quietly at his sudden movement.
"Come. We must leave quickly," Taimatsumaru whispered in his ear. Before Ayanami has the time to protest, the spirit grabbed him at the wrist and a wave of heat circled them. Ayanami heard a voice cry out his name as he and Taimatsumaru faded away.
"What are you planning by sending those two into hiding, Kagutsuchi?"
Kagutsuchi didn't reply. He prepared himself. His body lowered down into a defensive stance. His eyes glaring at the traitorous spirit.
Hiryu sighed with a smile on his face. "Fine, have it your way, Kagutsuchi." The fire dragon summoned swords of fire that floated around him. They turned and pointed directly at Kagutsuchi as Hiryu charged at him.
Ayanami opened his eyes. The room was small and dark. He wasn't in the chamber with his companions and the spirits anymore. Then, his eyes were directed to the object in the center of the room-a large mirror.
"Quickly, we must take the mirror and trap Hiryu within it," Taimatsumaru spoke.
Ayanami stared. *How do you expect only the two of us to carry this huge mirror,* Ayanami asked within his mind.
Taimatsumaru placed his hands on Ayanami's shoulders. "You, who shares the powers of the fire god, are capable of using this mirror and trapping Hiryu within it. Only you have the power to do this task."
*How can I do that? I am powerless..*
The spirit shook his head. "The powers given to you by the god shall never fade. You are the one he has chosen. Even if your soul is separated from your body, your power shall remain with you."
Ayanami removed Taimatsumaru's hands from his shoulders. *If I still have any power at all, I should be capable of trapping Hiryu within this mirror without him being in front of it.*
Taimatsumaru starred. "I have not heard of such a thing. However, the knowledge of special items and its uses are kept only with the god and the dragon. I, even as the god's right hand, have limited knowledge to the possible uses of the mirror."
Ayanami walked over to the mirror. His fingers traced the elegant design of the frame as he looked deeply at his own reflection. Then, his eyes stopped focusing on his own reflection and looked at the background within the mirror. Suddenly, his own image began to fade away and the background within the mirror began to shift. The image bent and curved, forming a new image. The mirror showed Kagutsuchi and Hiryu. They were battling. However, Kagutsuchi seemed to be restraining himself in order to not harm Ayanami's body.
Ayanami remained silent as he focused on the images within the mirror. He knew he had to help Kagutsuchi as quickly as he could. He couldn't bear to watch as Kagutsuchi allowed Hiryu to hurt him.
Suddenly, the image of the mirror became focused on Hiryu. That was when Ayanami knew this was his chance. He quickly placed his hand on the frame of the mirror. The elegant designs began to glow from his touch. *Hiryu, I trap your soul within this mirror!* Ayanami yelled within his mind.
Within the mirror, Ayanami could see that Hiryu froze. The spirit's eyes widened. His body trembled as he tried to move a muscle. Ayanami could hear Hiryu's frustrated voice. Ayanami's eyes widened. He saw Hiryu's spirit separate from Ayanami's body. Ayanami's body collapsed onto the floor as Hiryu was fully pulled from the body-becoming nothing more than an empty shell.
The images on the mirror began fading into an unending darkness. Nothing was reflected. Nothing was shown. All that could be seen within the mirror's surface was Hiryu. His expressions were confused and injected with fear. Then he turned and his eyes locked with Ayanami's. The expressions turned to anger and rage.
"Release me, fool!" he commanded as he smashed his fists against the transparent wall trapping him.
Ayanami ignores him and turned to face Taimatsumaru. *Please take me back to the others, Taimatsumaru*.
The spirit nodded and placed his hand on Ayanami's shoulder. The last sight of the room that was seen was the face of the raging Hiryu, trapped inside the mirror.
Ayanami blinked as his eyes adjusted the light of the lava fountain. He was back in the room where everyone awaited him.
"Ayanami," Yuuki spoke gently as she loomed over him.
Ayanami swiftly sat upright. "I-" Ayanami's eyes widened. "My voice-I can talk."
"Forgive me, Ayanami," Kagutsuchi apologized. "I have been careless towards Hiryu and have placed you in grave danger."
Ayanami shook his head. "It's alright. I'm just glad that it's all over." Ayanami looked at the others around him.
Suddenly Akihiro wrapped his arms around Ayanami. "I'm so glad that you're alright, brother. I was so terrified when I found Kagutsuchi asleep inside the prison. I thought Hiryu had won when he trapped me as well."
"I'm sorry, Akihiro. You were right about Hiryu. I should have believed you."
"Shall we take all back to the world of the living now?" Kagutsuchi asked.
Ayanami smiled. "That would be the best way for us to go".
Everyone's eyes opened simultaneously. They all looked at Luna, who had suddenly jumped up as her companions regained consciousness.
"You're all back!" Luna looked around. "Where's Ayanami?"
They all looked around the cave. Suddenly, Yuuki's head shot up and looked at the entrance to the cavern. Her eyes were wide as she stared at the figure and everyone's eyes followed hers.