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#141

“Everyone was so nice at the airport today! One would think that being such a busy hub, and the primary one from the United States of the Americas to Great Japan, that they would much more unpleasant. I am happy to see other people be so happy!”

Everyone in the third class compartment could not help but look back to the source of the voice. The young girl with long flowing blonde hair, blue eyes, large glasses, and wearing what looked like light mail underneath a coat of arms just kept talking. She was definitely part of the paladin order, but not a warrior. Her face was open and almost child like, but the eyes seemed bursting with knowledge. The amount of data pads her hands indicated she was a scholar. She did indeed seem to continue to pump out many facts, but the bubbly personality was slowly having an adverse affect on everyone in the plane.

Sitting not far away, a woman in her mid thirties turned to her. Her hair was long and done into a tight ponytail. The silver color of it was highlighted with traces of blue, matching the blue color of her half glasses on her sharp angled but attractive face. She wore a business suit, but a pin over her left breast showed she was a diplomat of the Order. “Alice, lets have some quiet time for now.”

“But Miss Lorin, our Paladin warrior has been without interaction for so long, should we not lift the warrior’s spirit up and…”

It was not true that everyone was staring at Alice. Sitting next to Alice was something very few people had seen. A person was there, but no one could tell anything about that person. The suit the person wore revealed no distinguishable shape of that person. The suit armor seemed to be a mix of what astronauts wore and swat team gear. It was anyone’s guess whether it was male or female. Even the height of the person was hard to tell. One thing was certain, it was a Paladin. And the Paladin just moved its hand to the halt position in front of Alice.

On the large screened face, text flashed. It read, “I am doing well, Alice. Quiet is good.” It was done in English and Japanese.

Alice just smiled, “I am so happy to hear that. Though if you need to know anything about Japan, just ask me. I will be happy to help!” The Paladin just nodded to her.

An hour latter in the flight, a little Japanese boy asked his mother, “Why does that person where that suit? It’s scary.”

Lorin looked over the boy and mother, but before she said anything, Alice was beaming at them with bright eyes. Lorin nodded that she may answer.

In Japanese, Alice said, “You want to know why that one is wearing that suit?” The boy nodded. “There are many rituals each Paladin warrior has to go through in order to become a full fledged member of the Order. One of them is called the Test of True Self. During this test, the Paladin loses his or her identity completely. The Paladin is not allowed to give any form of identity away, not even gender. During this time, the Paladin begins to truly understand what makes them who they are and what makes them a Paladin. Right now, even I do not know who is in that suit.”

For the tourist and people returning home, the members of the Order provided something interesting to talk about when they arrived at Japan.

The custom guard tilted his head the side and leaned forward before saying, “It is going to be difficult to let that Paladin by.”

Lorin knew in Japanese body language that the guard meant ‘He is not allowed by.’ She spoke with a smooth tone, “I am not asking you to let the Paladin by right now. I am asking one of you to sign this consent form before verifying the Paladin to be let by.”

The guard looked at the form, “So, one of us will be allowed to know the Paladin’s identity in order to verify the visa, but that one would have to keep the identity a secret? That is going to be difficult.”

Alice spoke up, “Lorin, I will start looking at the visa rules. There is bound to be a way too…”

The Paladin walked up to the guard and made a quick bow before pointing to a private area. The Paladin grabbed the form and pointed to where the guard should sign. A bright flash from to the side caused Lorin and Alice to look away, but what caught them off guard was the custom guard saying, “Alright, I will sign!” They turned back to see the Paladin and the guard go into a private screening room.

A few seconds latter, they both came out. The guard bowed to the Order members, “My apologies for the delay. Everything is in order. And welcome back, Paladin.”

The Paladin did a small face palm against the screened mask. The guard froze and said, “MY APOLOGIES!” and bowed again.

As the trio headed towards the train station, Lorin said, “So, you have been to Japan before?” The Paladin did not answer, but Alice was giving a wicked satisfied grin.

They looked at the train routes. Lorin and Alice showed signs of confusion. “That one says it is to where we need to go, but it seems awfully long in travel time for such a short distance. I thought there was a more direct route.”

The Paladin walked over to a couple of station workers. The mask flashed some text, in which the Paladin asked, “What train takes us directly to Hatamoto Buo Academy?” The workers pointed out one on the list.

The Paladin bowed in thanks and walked back to the others. The flash of text said, “The ones listed up there are for tourist routes. This one will get us there directly.”

The trio bought the tickets and arranged for the large amount of luggage to be delivered to the academy. As they walked to the train, Alice said to Lorin, “Well, now I am sure the Paladin is female.”

Lorin looked at Alice, “True, there are very few men Paladins, but what makes you so sure.”

Alice smiled, “She asked for directions.”

The Paladin paused for a second, but unable to make any action that could give information about identity away, kept walking on…


#142

Once again commuters on the train had an odd spectacle. This time, however, no one dared approach the two ladies and one truly strange person. The specialized suit drew much of the attention, yet in several ways it made people uncomfortable.

After the train stopped, the three got off with a few confused students. Immediately greeting them was a warrior in maid clothing and high tech glasses and a Samurai in French attire and two large swords.

“I am Hanzo Hattori, head of the Student Council police at this academy. This is Charles d’Artagnan. She and I will take you to the Tokugawa.” Hanzo watched as Lorin and Alice looked around. There were a few of the student council ninja plus two of Yoshihiko Tokugawa’s samurai there to great them. It must have been a surprise.

Still, they did not overly react. Alice started taking some notes as Lorin said, “Something must have happened on our way over.”

Hanzo did a quick scan with her glasses. Lorin and Alice rated only at higher than average in the power scale. But the person in the suit, who had most of the guards attention, her glasses could not detect a single thing. Unlike Maria, this suit jammed all her scans. “Wait!” She called out.

The trio stopped. Charles stepped next to Hanzo as if she knew already what the issue was. Hanzo spoke out, “Whoever is in that suit needs to be identified before going any further.”

Lorin rolled her eyes, but softly said, “We have clearance for this Paladin already. This Paladin’s identity can’t not be openly shown until the ritual is complete. I understand that this is inconvenient, but this Paladin was the only one available for this mission.”

Charles drew both her swords, “It is not just inconvenient, it is a security risk. Samurai, remove that ones suit right now.”

The flash of light blinded everyone for a second. When everyone has stopped blinking, the Paladin was standing right before Charles. The two handed grip had a huge Claymore lightblade coming from it. But rather being in a strike position, the Paladin knelled before Charles and offered her the blade. Text crossed the screen of the Paladin, “I swear on my honor and on the name of the Order, I come only to serve and protect those who oppose the darkness. If you feel that I am threat to the Tokugawa at any time, you may strike me down with my own blade. Please, let me continue this ritual till its completion.”

Charles wavered for just a second. She then reached down and picked up the Paladin’s blade. Immediately the blade began to withdraw into the hilt, but the Paladin put more text onto the screen, “Concentrate, and it will form what you wish.”

Charles closed her eyes and the blade transformed into a jagged edged Katana. She swung the blade down and stopped right before striking the Paladin. Lorin and Alice yelped in surprise. Hanzo starred in fascination. The Paladin did not move a single inch, and somehow everyone knew the Paladin did not even blink.

Charles withdrew the blade. “Very well. It might be entertaining guessing who you are. You may keep your blade, Paladin, for you have gained my trust.” She handed the hilt back to the Paladin and started to lead the way.

As everyone followed, Hanzo thought to herself, “If this Paladin is anything like Maria, Sen will definitely be needing me to comfort her tonight!” Thoughts began racing through her mind and did not stop until she heard Alice ask,

“Why is Miss Hattori’s nose bleeding?”…


#143

Yoshihiko Tokugawa walked around the Student Council chamber lost in thought. Sen, Yukimura, Muneakira, Maria, Matabei, and Naoe were there as well, plus a few guards. Yoshihiko turned to Maria again and said, “You are sure the Black Guard was going directly after Yagyu?”

Maria bowed and answered, “Yes Sir. I lost both of my lightblades defending him from powerful attacks. There is no doubt, the Black Guard wanted Yagyu, Muneakira dead.”

Yoshihiko tilted his head and turned to Yagyu. “I told you I would ignore your existence, but now you have foreigners coming in to kill and to fall for you.” He added the last part with a glance at Maria. Her only reaction was a slight raise in the eyebrow. “Yagyu, you cannot keep hogging all the attention.”

Yagyu spoke out, “It was never my intention to cause any problems.”

Yoshihiko waved the statement away, “It does not matter. Problems have come. And now I have to decide what to do about it. Should I remove you and claim your Samurai for myself?” Everyone reacted in shock at that statement.

Sen looked a bit more alarmed, “Dear Brother, after all we have been through, how can you say that? And, Brother…”

Yoshihiko laughed, “No, you are right, that would not do at all. But why would anyone want to kill you Yagyu?”

An unexpected voice entered the room. The girl’s voice was cheerful, upbeat, and yet a bit nervous as she said, “Excuse me, Lord Shogunate! I believe I have the answer to that!”

Everyone turned and looked as the trio from the Order, Charles, and Hanzo entered the room. Hanzo immediately went to Sen’s side as Charles went to Yoshihiko’s. Yoshihiko looked over the trio. He smiled while at the older woman, for she had a great body. He nodded at the younger girl, and then he paused looking at the one in the suit.

Charles introduced them, “I have informed the members of the Order all of what has happened. This is Lorin, diplomat of the Paladin Order, Alice a scholar, and one of the Order’s Paladins. The Paladin is under going a ritual that loses ones all identity. I do not have the Paladin’s name.”

Yoshihiko turned to Charles, “How unexpected. I thought you would have obtained that as part of my security.”

Charles stated, “The Paladin has my trust.”

Yoshihiko seemed a bit impressed before turning to Alice and saying, “Continue.”

Alice blushed a little and said, “According to the reports from Paladin Kendrick, Yagyu Jubei appeared when the Order detected Black Guard devices being used in a ritual in Japan. I have gone through all the records and discovered this. It appears that the Black Guard have been invited to Japan after the last great Samurai battle several years ago. It seemed that there was a general lack of Samurai and generals in Japan at that time. This created a perfect opportunity for enemies of the Tokugawa to strike and for the Black Guard to gain a powerful new ally.”

“However, from what I just heard, there were no true generals left in Japan. The Black Guard knew this an acted accordingly. Yagyu saved Japan from being destroyed by simply being who he was, a true general. The maidens of death appeared to him instead of the Black Guard. He even turned one against her dark master. That is why he is such a danger to the Black Guard and your enemies.”

Yumikura said, “How so…”, though it seemed she was starting to draw the same conclusion.

Alice continued, “Jubei and Ginsen were not ‘born’ into this world, but summoned. Even though both died in the last battle, they might be summoned back. It would match several other rituals. If they can be summoned back, the Black Guard would want to make sure they appear in the right place. That would mean that no general could be allowed to interfere again. Right now, there is only one general whom the two maidens appeared too.”

Yoshihiko nodded, “So with Yagyu dead, the can summon the two maidens again and truly resurrect Him. Do you think the Black Guard is entirely behind this?”

Lorin answered this time, “No. They are trying to take advantage of the situation, but does appear to be a local threat.”

Yoshihiko spoke out, “Very well then. My Samurai and resources will immediately try to find those responsible for this. Lorin, I would ask that you accompany me back to Tokyo with those two. You can be off assistance in identifying the Black Guard.”

The Paladin raised its hand then put text on the screen, “Lord Shogunate, I request to stay here. Yagyu, Muneakira will still be targeted. It would be better for me to remain and add to his defense.”

Yoshihiko thought for a second, “Very well. A pity, I was hoping to strip that suit and find out what type of Paladin was inside.”

The ladies in the room blushed. Charles said, “You know there is a chance that the Paladin is male?” Yoshihiko just slyly shrugged at the comment, making the ladies blush more, except for Maria. The other Paladin did not react at all.

Yoshihiko spoke out once again, “We will leave in an hour.” He walked out with his guards, leaving everyone else behind.

Maria immediately walked over to Lorin and Alice. She gave both them gentle hugs as she said, “I am very happy to see you too, even if it is just briefly.” She turned to the other Paladin, “And it is good to have you here. Though I must say, I cannot tell who you are. And I am usually good at this.” The other Paladin did not say a thing.

Alice squeaked, “You kissed a man!”

Maria slightly blushed but quickly introduced everyone in the room. Lorin shook Yagyu’s hand while saying, “Maria has reported a great deal on you. It is nice to meet you in person.”

Yagyu answered, “Maria is an extraordinary lady. I am thankful that she is here.” Sen and Yukimura glared at Yagyu. The other Paladin came up to him and shook his hand as well. Yagyu thought to himself, “Wow, the suit makes it even hard to tell what type of handshake the person has.”

The Paladin then proceeded to bow and greet everyone else. Sen and Yukimura did not seem particularly happy. Maria herself seemed a bit off balanced as Yagyu followed the Paladin with his eyes. “What is this feeling?” Sen and Yukimura stood next to her, and she no longer felt alone.

Alice and the Paladin turned on Maria at the same time. Alice spoke, “Is it true you are now a Samurai?”

Maria bowed, “Yes. Lorin, I know this complicates my position in the Order, but what has happened happened. I must admit, there is now a connection between myself and Yagyu, Muneakira.”

The Paladin’s screen flashed, “It was mistake. Is that man truly worth the chance of losing your position in the order and your title of Paladin?”

Sen spoke up, “Muneakira is the very model of what a general should be. He is worth everything.”

Yukimura also said, “A person’s heart cannot be denied. I would risk everything for Muneakira, and that feeling is not something to be trifled with.”

Maria answered, “Whatever the consequences, I cannot deny that I have feelings for him. Every since I gleamed him, my heart has been connected to the pure soul that he is.” Sen and Yukimura seemed shocked by that statement, but quickly stepped next to Maria for support. The Paladin did not give any visible reactions. Instead, the Paladin turned to Muneakira.

Text flashed again, “I cannot gleam you, as it would reveal who I am. However, for to have gained the favor of the Paladin Maria Yagyu Kendrick, you must be somebody special. I will guard you with my life, general.”

Hanzo watched the conversation all the way to the end. Her last thought before the group moved on was, “So far, so good, I think…”


#144

Good job! :slight_smile:


#145

With everything that had occurred, Muneakira now faced a new difficulty. As Hanzo had yet to figure out how the Black Guard got into the academy, Muneakira was no longer going to be allowed to sleep by himself.

The quarrel on who should stay with him on guard duty quickly ended with Maria suggesting that everyone sleep in the same room, though with two people remaining awake at the same time.

The matter was settled right before dinner, and everyone had gathered there to eat. The new Paladin was a bit delayed, but when s/he entered the room s/he went straight to Maria. She seemed confused until the Paladin handed her two new lightblades. “Thank you! It is not common to carry extra weapons in stock, but that was lucky foresight!”

The Paladin did not say a word and turned around to sit outside the table. Yagyu looked at the Paladin and asked, “Are you not going to eat with us?”

Text flashed across the screen, “I cannot take my helmet off here. I will eat in private latter. Also, I will be using the men’s room for certain purposes as only Yagyu here would be the other user. That way, the rest of the ladies will not have me competing for their facility.”

Sen sat down on the right side of Yagyu and Yukimura sat down on the left. Maria sat in front of him. The arrangement at the dinner table seemed natural. Everyone looked down at the plates that Maria presented. “Italian?” Sen stated.

“Five cheese lasagna with a squid meat sauce. These mixed up food deliveries do allow for interesting experiments.” Maria smiled, gave a short thanking for the food, and took a bite. Everyone watched, but her smile encouraged everyone else to continue to eat.

Yukimura spoke after a few bites, “Say, Muneakira, who do you want to stay up with you during your shift?”

Sen looked over and said, “I say Hattori or Matabei.” Both Hanzo and Matabei blushed slightly. Yukimura frowned a little but nodded in agreement.

“Actually, it might be best if the new Paladin does Yagyu’s shift.” Maria stated.

All the girls looked at her. She continued, “After all, Paladin’s are sworn to chastity, so whether or not there is a female underneath that suit, there is very little chance Yagyu’s heart will be stolen again.” She gave Muneakira a small wink, “Plus the fact that the suit is not allowed to come off with anyone else around, the Paladin has no chance of making any move, not that he or she would.”

Everyone turned to the Paladin. It looked towards Maria as text flashed across the screen, “Paladin Kendrick, you make this sound like this dojo is like a tv Harem. Is that really the case?”

Maria nodded, “In some ways, yes. And now I am a part of it.”

The Paladin did not move for a few seconds. Text eventually flashed, “Yagyu is perfectly safe with me sharing his shift. I do not want to be part of a tv harem.”

Yagyu’s face turned beat red as the ladies squirmed a little. Matabei said quietly, “Paladins do not beat around the bush, do they?”

Everyone continued to eat until Sen spoke out. “Yukimura, Maria, and I talked about it. Hanzo, Matabei, we cannot force you to kiss Yagyu. However, given the dire need for more samurai now, tomorrow we would like to request you… you…”

Maria continued, “To go out on a date with him. Though I find it very odd for several women to be ‘dating’ the same man, the way this general and samurai contract works seems to require a different mind set. However, do not feel forced into anything, we do not wish to push matters of the heart.”

Yukimura spoke out, “As much as I hate to say this, we do need to push a little. Why don’t you ladies want to kiss Yagyu anyways?”

Hanzo and Matabei looked dumbstruck. Before they could answer, the Paladin stood up and texted, “I am going to wait outside.”

As the Paladin left, Yagyu spoke out, “Yukimura, that is an uncalled for question.”

Naoe spoke out, “You cannot ask why someone falls in love and why someone does not. That is not how love works, at least I don’t think it is… HEY, how come I am not to date Yagyu!”

Everyone looked over to Naoe. Sen eventually said, “You are still here? Sorry, but we hadn’t thought about it.”

Naoe growled in frustration, “Hey, I AM THE WARRIOR OF LOVE HERE! All this perversion and freaking talk has finally got my blood boiling here. I am going to…to… to eat outside too!”

Everyone watched her go but did not seem to care, though Maria looked over Hanzo and Matabei again. “Forget we asked, both of you. Don’t you agree, Yagyu?”

He looked at the two ladies. Though he did want to get to know them better, he knew that forcing anything was not the right path. “I agree.”

Outside, Naoe found the Paladin sitting on some steps looking at some stars. “Can I talk to you?” she asked.

The Paladin looked at her and texted, “Yes.”

Naoe went into a frenzied rant. She jumped from telling her side of the story from her fist meeting of Yukimura to more recent events. Her speech seemed endless, and suddenly to her surprise halfway into her description of seeing Yagyu naked, she felt a padded hand grab her shoulder. The Paladin texted one word, “Breathe.”

Naoe froze. She felt herself start to relax. But then she noticed something odd. The Paladin was shaking. “What’s wrong?”

The Paladin texted, “I am laughing, though not at you, but this whole situation. Kanetsugu Naoe, may I be blunt with you?”

She raised one eyebrow and made a concerned face, but answered, “Sure…”

The Paladin began to text, “You have an honest and good heart. However, you are rather selfish. For being the so called Warrior of Love, you do not seem to have ever truly fallen in love. Tell me, why do you follow Yagyu still?”

She scoffed, “It should be obvious. If I kiss him, I will become a powerful Samurai, right?”

The Paladin tilted its head, “Why did you finish with a question? I think I know the answer. You know, even if you kissed Yagyu right now, you would not turn into a Samurai. You have always known that. But still you follow him, not to become a Samurai, but because slowly and surely, you are becoming stronger and becoming a better person through his example. And, if you acted a bit less selfishly, you have many willing friends here.”

Naoe could not speak for a few moments. Eventually she said, “That might be right… I don’t really think about it that hard.” She looked at the Paladin, “No one has ever listened to me and talked with me like that before. Why did you?”

The Paladin seemed to laugh again, “You are fun. And I can tell you are a good person, underneath it all.”

Naoe started to tear up, surprising the Paladin, “No one has ever been so nice to me!” She hugged the Paladin and said, “Can I call you Big Sister! Or is it Big Brother!”

The Paladin slowly worked its way out of her hug. The Paladin gave her some reassuring pats on the back and head before texting, “I cannot answer that, and please do refrain from the hugging. This suit is not all that well designed for it. But, if you want to thank me, can you gather some of the dinner for me? I think I will retire into privacy for a bit have something actually cooked and prepared to eat.”

Naoe shouted, “Sure thing, Big Sibling!” before running off. The Paladin was left shaking its head.


#146

Very humorous Red! :slight_smile:


#147

Yagyu’s voice came from outside the drapes, “Sen, it was always you.”

Sen looked around. She was in her private bedroom on campus. She only had on a simple robe, and Yagyu was standing outside her bed drapes with nothing on but a small pair of shorts. “Muneakira? What are you doing in here?”

He pulled back the drapes, “Sen, you are the only one for me. I want to make our bond deeper.” He reached out and slowly traced his hands up Sen’s legs…

Yukimura was resting in the bath. She could feel the hot water flowing over her body. Suddenly, she was aware someone else was with her in the bath. She turned to see Muneakira staring at her. “What are doing in here!” she cried out.

He slowly raised one hand and placed a finger on her lips, “Sanada, it has always been you. I want to make our connection deeper.” He began to stroke her hair and rub one of her legs.

“But, Muneakira, I didn’t realize you liked small…”

“Size does not matter, Sanada. I will make you feel like a woman.”…

Maria’s blade crossed with Yagyu’s. She knew the match had lasted awhile, and both people were sweating and short in breath. She bowed, and Yagyu did the same. She turned her back, and felt a sudden slash. Her armor fell off her body. “Muneakira! What are you doing!”

He came up behind her but griped her gently, “I know you must remain chaste, but I know your heart is racing with my touch. Maria, I want our relation to deepen even further. Let me marry you tonight…”

Yagyu was sleeping on the mat in the middle of the room. He woke up to a sudden sound, only to find that the only people in the room were Maria, Sen, and Yukimura. The three of them were naked and arguing with who was going to be first with him…

Maria shook off Yagyu. “What is this!” It was everything she could do to resist. Her heart was pounding. Feelings she never truly felt before began screaming through her body. But her mind had been trained. This was wrong. Somehow she formed a ligthblade in her hand, “Who are you?”

Yagyu looked at her, his clothes disappearing, “I love you, Maria. Marry me, now.” He moved so fast that she couldn’t stop him. He touched her, and the touch sent shocks through her body. She tried to strike out but her body would not respond.

Shadows and light flashed. Not just in Maria’s dream, but in the bedroom of the moaning Sen, the bath of Yukimura, and the helpless Yagyu. One voice of distorted dread spoke out, “What is this presence?”

Maria only caught a brief glimpse as her mind surged to an actual awaking state. A girl, with long white hair and non matching eyes staring and a figure of shadow and light…

Matabei and Hanzo jumped when nearly everyone around them jumped awake. Yagyu, Maria, Sen, and Yukimura stared at each other and began to blush, but Maria did speak out, “Something entered our dreams. I saw, I can’t remember, but it was someone I never saw before.”

Yagyu nodded, “We must start protecting our minds. It didn’t feel like the Black Guard, but something else.”

Maria looked over to the Paladin sitting in the corner. The suit moved as the Paladin stirred. Suddenly, the screen texted, “Did anyone else have a weird dream about squid people and deadly rabbits?”

Yukimura answered, “Uh, no, but we are going to have everyone do some basic mind shield techniques from now on. Do the Paladins have any of their own?”

Both of them nodded yes. Naoe was still sleeping soundly, occasionally muttering ‘Big Sibling’. Maria began to prep for a more guarded sleep, but she looked over to the other Paladin. For some reason, she did not believe the Paladin had a dream about squid people, and she swore she felt on presence in her dream before…


#148

“Who authorized that attack?” The formless figures were meeting again in a room that could not exist in reality. The voice that just spoke was that of female who seemed to be given charge of the Yagyu situation.

A voice spoke out, “Somehow orders in the Black Guard ranks got distorted. What should have been an order to place more shadow watchers on Yagyu became an execution order. We do not know how it happened yet.”

“It has exposed our presence! Now we have to work in twice the secrecy!” The figure paused, “But it also has made it easier for us to actual execute our main plan to remove Yagyu. Hmmm, fortune does favor us.”

Something whispered to the female figure. She spoke out, “Gentlemen and ladies, we must move up the time table. The time for the ceremony is coming closer. Ginsen is now reaching out to her ‘general’. I will prepare to remove his interference once and for all.”…

The next few days at the Academy passed without any more incidents. During that time, Sen, Yagyu, and Maria trained students in martial arts. Yukimura worked on trying to divine what was going on and enhance the security with Hanzo’s and Matabei’s help. Naoe even started to volunteer in things without asking for something in return. Thus, the other Paladin became known as a miracle worker.

The Paladin helped with household chores and with the cooking. Oddly enough, eventually everyone seemed to catch the Paladin alone to talk with him/her. The conversations varied greatly. Hanzo talked about her job difficulties and sadness about being with Sen less often. Sen talked about how she no longer feels as in control as she used too. Yukimura talked about strategy and about feeling small. Matabei talked about cooking and how she is feeling now that Yukimura is growing up. Naoe hanged around with Paladin whenever she could.

While the Paladin was working out, as much as one could in the suit, Maria walked behind Naoe and gave a soft cough. Naoe jumped a few feet, “Wow, you are quite even with armor on!”

Maria gave a small laugh, “Sorry, Naoe, I couldn’t resist. Watching my fellow Paladin work on his or her form?”

Naoe nodded, “Yes! Big Sibling made a huge two hand mace and showed me some moves. Big Sibling is very skilled.” Naoe made a large smile but slowly changed her face to that of one about to ask a question, “You want me to go, don’t you.”

Maria bowed, “Sorry, but I would like to talk to my colleague alone for a few minutes. Is that okay?” Naoe growled, but then got up and waved good bye to the Paladin.

The faceless mask looked at Maria. Text flashed, “Paladin Kendrick, is there something I can help you with?”

Maria smiled, “You are good. I was not able to hide my identity nearly was well as you. I still can’t say for sure who you are.” She laughed a little, “And you practice the basic moves, even hiding your style.”

The Paladin texted back, “I do recall you not being as careful with your form.”

Maria stopped. “You were with me during my ritual?” She smiled again, “Is that not giving me a big hint?”

The text answered, “No, there were lots with you then. Paladin Kendrick, what really brings you to me. As a superior to me, do you have orders for me?”

Maria thought about it, “No, I am here because you are the only one I can talk too.” Maria sat down. “I am having trouble with my feelings. I get so confused each time I think of him. I know that is not wrong, but natural, but…I am a Paladin.”

She continued on for a few minutes. The other Paladin listened. Eventually, after Maria stopped, the Paladin texted back, “Love is a force. Some say it cannot be bad, only good. I disagree. Love is just a force. It pushes one. How you let it push and control you makes it good or bad. Paladin Kendrick, I can tell you are confused, but you seem happier than you have been in a long time. Don’t let this love push you into a dark corner. Explore it, with some caution. Yagyu, Yagyu seems like a good man. But please, don’t make me give the same ‘advantages of abstinence’ speech as I did to the other two Samurai.”

Maria raised an eyebrow, “Oh, I know that speech. Maybe I should talk with my new friends.” A small look of concern crossed her face before she laughed, “They are maturing girls, aren’t they. Here I am, roughly four years older than Yagyu.” Her face suddenly saddened.

“That is not much of an age difference…” The text paused for a second, “What is wrong?”

Maria shook her head. “Yagyu is the same age as my brother. I just remembered the one time I ever questioned being a Paladin. Compared to that, this isn’t really a trial at all. You are right, there is nothing wrong with exploring this relationship, with a bit of caution.” She added the last part with a wink and walked away. The Paladin, unable to make any expression, watched her go.


#149

Yukimura made a disgruntled face as she entered into the tub, but she had to admit was there was still enough room. Naoe was relaxing at the other end as Matabei soaked near the middle. Since the dojo was getting crowded, bath time had to be shared when it could. It was not bad, but still, Yukimura could not help but notice the other two women’s assets.

Matabei instantly noticed the look and crouched down further while saying, “Sorry.”

Yukimura got a little angry, “Matabei, don’t be sorry. You should be thankful for what you have.”

Naoe said causally, “Oh, I am grateful. Hehe, I sure have filled out.” She glanced at Yukimura, “But, Sanada, I am sure you will beat me soon!” Her eyes did not hide the lie very well, but Yukimura was surprised that Naoe tried to cheer her up.

Matabei sighed a little. Yukimura frowned and said, “Matabei, spill it. Don’t think I have noticed you have been down for awhile. What is wrong?”

Matabei became a bit bashful and said, “The attacks have been unnerving I guess.”

Yukimura moved over and put her face right into Matabei’s. Naoe watched as parts nearly touched each other. “Don’t lie, Matabei. It has been going on longer than that.”

Matabei’s face turned red. She looked away, but after a growl from Yukimura she finally answered, “Lady Sanada, do you really need me anymore?”

Yukimura jumped back, “What? What do you mean?”

Matabei turned to her and looked sad but comforted at the same time, “You have grown so mature, Lady Sanada. You are a Samurai, you have Lady Sen and Muneakira, and you no longer ask me to keep a light on while you sleep, or to sleep with you when you are scared, or even to scrub your back anymore.”

“You just cleaned my back!”

“After I asked if I could. You are independent now, Yukimura. Do you really need me anymore?”

Yukimura hugged Matabei. Matabei blushed, but then held Yukimura back in a gentle embrace. Yukimura said through the hug, “STUPID! You are not my servant nor ever had been. You are my closet friend. I will always need you in my life.”

Naoe sighed, “AAAHHHH, just like sisters! I wonder if Big Sibling will let me hug her like that after the suit is gone?”

Though still holding each other, Yukimura asked, “What if it is a guy in there?”

Naoe’s smile turned a bit wicked, “Oh, I will be hugging him differently then.” Her face froze for a second, “I shouldn’t think such thoughts!” The other two ladies groaned.

A knock at the outer bathroom door caught them off guard. Matabei called out, “Who is there?” There was no answer. She got out of the bath and grabbed her spear near by. Quickly she headed to the door even as Yukimura said, “Uh, Matabei, aren’t you forgetting…”

Matabei opened the door right in front of the suited Paladin. The Paladin quickly turned around. Matabei was confused for a second but some text appeared on a small screen on the back of the helmet. “I did not turn around to show disrespect, but in respect. You forgot something, Lady Matabei.”

Matabei covered herself suddenly, “I am sorry.” Her eyes widen, “Oh, we have been in here far too long. It is your turn now, isn’t it?”

The text came back, “Yes, but take your time in getting out. I really can’t enjoy a soak. I just get to pour water in and have the auto clean system do its job. Right now it is far to risky to take a real bath.”

Matabei smiled, “You were right Paladin, about Yukimura was going to still need me.”

The Paladin tilted his head towards Matabei, though not enough to actually look, “It was obvious you two are more like close sisters than anything else. If you ever catch a good guy, Matabei, you would make a wonderful mother.”

Matabei smiled and said, “Thank you,” before closing the door. It was long before the door opened again and three robed women were walking out.

Naoe shouted, “Sorry, Big Sibling! We didn’t mean to hog the bath. Can you forgive us?” She added the last part with a hug.

Text flashed, “Easily forgiven, but please no hugging. The suit is not good for it.”

Naoe sulked a little but stopped. “Well, see you at the sleeping mats tonight.” She ran off.

Yukimura nodded to the Paladin, but before Matabei left, she said, “Sorry in advance,” before giving the Paladin a small hug herself.

The Paladin texted, “What was that for?”

Matabei smiled, “I don’t know who is in there, but you are a good Person.” She walked away with a bit confused Yukimura.


#150

Muneakira wasn’t sure where he was or what was going on, but he knew Jubei was there with him as well as all his friends. The sun was shining, he felt happy, yet slowly and surely the tugging on his shoulder broke the spell of the dream.

His eyes slowly cracked opened as he looked up at the faceless mask. Text crossed it, “Sorry, it must have been a good dream. But I let you rest a bit too long already.”

Yagyu got up and stretched. It was time for the Paladin and him to be on watch. “How long did you let me sleep in?”

The text answered back, “Fifteen minutes. I do not mind. I cannot exercise fully in this thing and have not been able to tire myself out for awhile.”

The two went to their respective sitting positions. After awhile, Yagyu broke the silence. “What is it like, being in that suit.”

The Paladin faced towards Yagyu. Text crossed, “It is not comfortable at all. However, the whole point of the ritual is to find yourself. Losing my identity to others, where only my actions and texted words can define who I am, it has been a real test. Slowly, I can see the reason behind it. I do know myself better.”

Yagyu laughed lightly, “It sounds difficult. I wouldn’t want to do it.”

The Paladin stood up and walked towards Yagyu. The Paladin stopped right in front of him and leaned a little bit over him as if staring him down in an appraising manner. Text flashed, “No one at first wants to do this. Who in their right mind would? But I am certain you could do it. I can see you as a Paladin. It would be very interesting to have you at the Paladin training grounds.”

Yagyu became a bit uneasy. The Paladin was quite close. Though the Paladin never gave a strong hint on identity, Yagyu could not help notice that the Paladin was a good listener, did not react strongly to the presence of naked ladies, could cook, and in many ways seemed like a gentle soul. The image that came to his mind of who was inside made it uncomfortable for the Paladin to be so close.

Sen’s voice broke the trance, “Are you blushing, Muneakira?”

Yagyu looked over to see Sen dressed and sitting near by. Before he could say anything, the Paladin texted, “Lady Tokugawa asked if she could have private conversation with you tonight. I will be heading out. And, Yagyu, careful what you wish for.”

As Yagyu reeled back, Sen rose an eyebrow and said, “Don’t tell me you have fallen for Yagyu…”

The Paladin turned to her text flashed, “Interesting. I choose not to answer. Though keep in mind, the Paladin order has its own set of rules and morality. A major part of it is not judging others on things outside those parameters. Though we are sworn to chastity, the Paladin order does not object to sexual orientation, only to sexual actions. Even if I did answer yes or no, would it really help you in guessing what is underneath?” The Paladin walked away while making sure not to wake anyone else. Text flashed, “I will take a walk for awhile.”

After he stepped out, a confused and a bit worried Yagyu looked over to Sen. “Are you okay? I can see you are red even in the dark.”

Sen shook herself and forced the image in her mind to be removed. The faint trace of Yagyu and a handsome stranger embracing her finally shattered as she forced herself to look at Yagyu. “Sorry, I am fine. Yagyu, I… you know I love you. You are my general. But lately, I can’t help but feeling the responsibilities of me being a Tokugawa are not being kept up with. I am used to giving orders, not receiving them. I run this school. I give you orders since you are an instructor. I am having trouble, seeing where the line is between us.”

Yagyu thought for a second, “Sen, I have never thought of you as a subordinate. I could never image giving you orders like that. You are my friend. And I lo… and I have fee…lings for you as well. Don’t think of it as who gives the orders. I think as a general, I am to lead by example and help direct you, not give selfish orders. Your my partner in that regard. At school, yes, you are my boss. I know you well enough not to get that mixed up.” He added the latter part with a playful submissive move.

Sen grew red again and said, “Well, good. Glad that is cleared up.” Her face remained red, she tried to say something else, but all Yagyu heard was, “Forget it,” and a whisper that sounded like, "Damn advantages of abstinence speech,’ before she went and laid down on her mat.

The Paladin came back shortly after. Yagyu thought of something, “Say, I heard you knew Kendrick.”

The Paladin looked up, “There are many Kendricks. But I know you mean Maria. Did you know she has five siblings. Two older sisters, one older brother, and one younger sister and one younger brother. All three of her sisters joined the Paladin Order. Her older brother tried, but did not make into the Paladin ranks.” There was a pause, “It would be best to let her describe what happened with her younger brother.”

Yagyu looked at the sleeping Maria. Even in sleep, she kept a modest pose and looked well refined. “What was she like in training?”

The Paladin texted, “I cannot give you a full answer there, as it might give me away. But I have others tell me that she was at first very mischievous for a Paladin, yet held her convictions better than most. She was far more out going and friendly before, well I will have to let her tell you that.” There was a pause, “Swear to me you will not repeat what I am about to say until I have taken this mask off.”

Yagyu froze, “Okay.”

The Paladin turned and grabbed Muneakira by the shoulders, “Thank you. I have not seen her this happy in a very long time. You have brought her joy and eased a burden she has carried for far too long.”

Yagyu did not move for several seconds. His mind raced, until he said, “She said I reminded of her younger brother. Is he…dead?”

The Paladin tilted his/her head in thought, then righted it before texting, “No, I know he is alive. But she did purposefully try to kill him. That is her story to tell, though, not mine.”

Yagyu did not know what to say after that…


#151

Yoshihiko Tokugawa laughed a little as he watched Alice tear through another book. So far, the search for the Black Guard and anti-Tokugawa faction had not gone well. Still, there had been no reported attacks since the Black Guard was killed.

On another monitor, he had a live video feed to the Academy. He smiled as his sister trained some of the students in basic moves. Hanzo was near by watching closely. Yukimura was watching as Yagyu and Kendrick demonstrated self defense moves. Yoshihiko laughed as the female Paladin flipped Yagyu over her shoulder. “Lorin, perhaps I should talk with the Order and my Father. I would love to have a Paladin like her near by.”

Charles, who was not far, rolled her eyes. Lorin, who sat near Yoshihiko, simply said, “I am surprised that your father has allowed so many of the Order into Japan. He must trust your word that the situation is dangerous enough to warrant it.”

Yoshihiko nodded, “That, and my father knows who the two paladin warriors are.”

Lorin looked up, “He knows Maria Kendrick? Wait, how does he know who the other Paladin is, even I do not know.”

Yoshihiko gave her a slight smile. In a teasing tone, he said, “Well, the Paladin did have to give a full id to enter our nation. I even looked it up. Let’s just say, I was surprised.” He turned the screen to a market place near the Academy. Matabei, Naoe, and the Paladin in the suit were shopping at the food stands. “That Paladin does not give any hint, does it? Though, if you want me to tell you, perhaps over dinner?”

Lorin leaned back a little. She was thirty five, and he was in his mid twenties. She knew she still looked young and had an impressive body, but still his attention was surprising. “I do not think dinner or you giving me hints would be appropriate.”

Yoshihiko laughed a little again, “Charles, make that dinner arrangement for you and I then.” Charles smiled a little. She knew that he was not seriously flirting with Lorin, for she had seen him seriously flirt before. It must have been his attention to go with her in the first place.

Another Samurai entered the room and whispered something into Charles’s ear. Charles’s eyes widened. “Lord Tokugawa, one of our Samurai is missing!”

A report appeared on the screens in the room. As everyone looked over them, Alice said, “That is not good. The blue rose at the seen… Lord Shogunate, do you know about the Red Rose Ronin?”

Tokugawa looked to her with slow understanding coming to place, “Yes, they are Master Samurai who lost their general. They kept a red rose to show their eternal connection to that general as they continued to serve the Tokugawa clan. However, they had become very limited in their capabilities, even though they were still highly honored.”

Alice nodded, “Well, the Blue Rose Ronin blamed the lose of their general on the Tokugawa. The Blue represented their frozen hearts. I have looked and looked, and though they are thought to have been wiped out, I think they might have found a way to continue that society even to today. I have found signs and hints of their presence throughout the reports, and now an actual blue rose. This could be bad.”

Tokugawa thought for a second. An actual look of concern appeared on his face, “We must find her, that missing Samurai. Charles, get her name. The Samurai are more than just weapons, and I fear she is in great danger.” Charles nodded and began to prepare the doubled search effort…

Yagyu scrunched his face in pain, “Did we have to teach the students the best way to defend aggressive men?”

Maria laughed, “Self defense is critical where ever you go. And I know first hand that Japan suffers sexual misconduct as much as any where else that has horny men.” She leaned a bit closer to Yagyu, “Beside, you played the role very well for being such an innocent young man.”

Yagyu looked into her smiling eyes. Even though there was a small age difference, she felt so young and yet so more mature to him. He began to blush, making her smile even more. Then, he remembered what the Paladin told him last night. It must have appeared on his face as Maria stopped smiling and raised an eyebrow. “Is something wrong?”

Sen and Yukimura had started walking to them. The three ladies were going to do some Samurai practice. If he was going to say anything, he had to say it before the other two could here, “Lady Kendrick, uh Maria, I talked to the Paladin last night. The Paladin told me that you had to tell me the story of your younger brother.”

Maria’s face changed enough to have Yukimura and Sen stop a second before rushing up. Yukumra quickly said, “Muneakira! What did you say to upset Maria!?”

Yagyu looked surprised but before he could stammer anything, Maria said in a controlled voice, “Yagyu did not say anything wrong. I WILL have a talk to that other Paladin though. How much did that Paladin say?” One look at Yagyu confirmed Maria’s suspicion. She turned to everyone and said, “I am not ready to talk about it. Not yet. But, I promise, I will. Lady Tokugawa, you might understand the best.”

Sen looked at Maria with confusion, “Understand what?”

Maria sighed, “Why I had to try to kill my younger brother.”

Even though a mask covered the Samurai’s face, one could tell she was shaking in fear. Two girls in masks but of a different style stood next to her as the tied the Samurai up to the wall. One older woman in dark Samurai armor and decorated in blue roses watched from a little ways off. The Samurai was being tied over a small pool. Around that pool, several robed figures slowly began to chant.

A Black Guard stood next to the blue rose soldier. His voice was cold and calculating, “All is prepared on our end. I have made sure that my people will not interfere with the ritual, yet at the same time use it to dispose of Yagyu and his ilk.”

The blue rose soldier smiled as she steeped into the empty small pool and walked towards the Samurai. “How wonderful. Who would have ever thought the Tokugawa would give us the very tools in which to destroy them. Artificial master Samurai, how splendid they are. Much like us, yet so mechanical in nature.” She began stroking the Samurai. The young girl inside made some noises at being touched. “My, My. So innocent, yet turned into a dangerous warrior without even asking. I should feel sorry for you. I know, I will end your suffering…after you have suffered a lot more.” She snapped at the other two blue rose guards, “Begin the ritual! Even though artificial, this one will truly summon the two maidens.”

As she stepped out of the pool, the hooded figures began to chant. The Black Guard activated several devices, most of which seemed unnatural, and the two other rose guards began nailing pipes into the screaming Samurai. Blood began to trickle into the pool…


#152

Naoe cringed a little as Matabei picked up several vegetables. “Do we really need those for dinner?”

Matabei gave her a side glance, but then gave a small knowing smile. Naoe groaned again but helped in gathering more items. The Paladin was talking to the butcher for some cuts of meat, and was already carrying some fresh fish.

As they continued along, the stares at the Paladin had slowly died down. Naoe looked at the Paladin and said, “I am glad they stopped staring at you Big Sibling. Can I carry some of that?”

The Paladin looked over to Naoe and said, “If you want too.” The Paladin handed over a couple bags. Naoe grabbed them but then made a surprised face.

“You must be a gal, a gentleman would never let a girl carry a bag!”

The Paladin turned and looked towards Naoe, “Several Paladins of either gender would not allow others to carry a bag. I just do not see why I should stop someone from being nice for the sake of my potential pride. Who knows, maybe I am guy in here, or a gal. You can keep on guessing.”

The Paladin stopped then. The body language showed sudden agitation. Even Matabei seemed to feel something was off. A large boom from the Academy made everyone in the area look up. Matabei called out, “Sanada!” as the trio dropped everything and ran back.

They did not make it very far when the Paladin rushed ahead and stopped the other too. Power seem to ebb from the Paladin, but not quite like it did from Maria. Bands of light and dark swirled around the Paladin. Text flashed on the mask, “I sense you Black Guard. Trust me, if you choose me as an opponent, you will have made a grave mistake.”

A woman covered in spiked armor stepped out from some shadows. Matabei couldn’t believe she was hiding in there. She pulled her short sword out as some shadows followed the Guard. Her voice was cruel, “You know, Paladin, you and you lightly armed friends should be no match for me. However, I must say what I feel from you is different. Perhaps I should let her destroy you.”

One of Tokugawa’s samurai stepped out, drew blades, and struck out towards the Paladin…

Hanzo ran towards the Samurai and Yagyu. “Lady Tokugawa, there is something wrong! Our security system just failed. I have the academy guards getting the students to safety now. Your brothers Samurai are coming to us.”

Instantly the three girls activated their powers. Yagyu looked around, “Do we know what is attacking?”

Hanzo shook her head, “No, not yet…”

The blast came from no where, but somehow every dodged it. Sen lashed out with some lighting and Yukimura used wind. The attackers were forced into sight. They were Tokugawa’s samuria.

Maria took one look and shouted, “They are mind possessed!”

A dark voice came out, “Very good Paladin. I am surprised you could tell so quickly, to bad it won’t help you.” A Black Guard with spiked armor was standing on top of one of the roofs. Besides him, two women in Japanese light armor smiled with wicked grins. Each had a blue rose pinned to their chests. “Ladies, you know what to do.” They attacked along with the other two Samurai…

Yoshihiko starred at the monitors. “What is going on!”

He saw Yukimura barely dodged a deadly strike from one of his own Samurai. Sen slashed at a Blue Ronin, only to get hit by a ice strike from the other. Maria caught one Samurai in bindings of light that appeared from her back, almost like wings. She was doing her best to keep herself in between Yagyu and the Black Guard.

Another screen showed the streets of the city in chaos as shadow figures attacked Naoe and Matabei. They were using anything they could grab to fight back. Desperately trying to help them and fight of a Samurai was the Paladin in the suit. Elemental blasts rang out between the two, yet the Paladin was losing ground as the shadows and Black Guard always kept to out flank the Paladin.

Somewhere, where it was all black and cold, two girls slowly began heading towards the sounds of a dark, murmuring chant…


#153

Matabei slashed a shadow with her short sword. She always had it in her hair, but it was for worst case scenarios only. This was one of those scenarios. She was fighting with everything she could muster but was being pushed back. Naoe had taken a street sign post and turned it into a weapon, but even she could stem the tide against them.

Matabei looked over to the Paladin. The Tokugawa Samurai sent another lighting blast at it which it barely caught with its lightblade. A couple shadows tried to jump the Paladin then, only to be blasted by a flash of light. It stunned them, but did not destroy them. When she thought it could not get worse, the Black Guard laughed cruelly as she through a dark spear at the vulnerable paladin.

The Paladin turned and made the lightblade into a katana. The spear split in half, but the halves kept going a cut through the tops of both shoulders of the Paladin. Blood began to drip over the arms. The Paladin reeled back, but the stood stronger as text flashed, “BIG MISTAKE!”

As Matabei slashed at another shadow, she could not believe her eyes. The Paladin took some of his/her own blood and tossed it onto the near by shadows. A voice rang out, distorted, harsh, unnatural. It came from the Paladin. The shadows that had the blood spilled onto them shook violently, then leaped onto the shadows attacking Matabei and Naoe.

The Black Guard shouted, “Impossible! That was a Shadow Spell! You… you can’t be… Samurai, kill the Paladin now!”

The Paladin texted to Mabei and Naoe, “Distract the Black Guard.”

Naoe shouted, “Yes Big Sibling!” as she threw the sign post as a missile at the Black Guard. Matabei ran past the fighting shadows and slashed at the dodging Black Guard. The Guard crashed dodging both attacks.

Matabei glanced back at the Paladin. The Samurai charged him/her again, but instead of dodging, the Paladin created a bright flash. The distracted Samurai’s sword was caught in one hand by the Paladin, while the other moved punched her stomach. “That move is familiar.”

Matabei slashed at the Black Guard as she tried to form another weapon. The Black Guard leaped back onto the top of a roof glaring at Matabei and Naoe. The she glanced back at the Paladin and shouted, “NNOOOO!”

Sen, Yukimura, and Maria were being pushed back. Slowly but surely, the two Blue Ronin, two possessed Samurai, shadows, and Black Guard were getting closer and closer to their objective. Yagyu already had a few cuts from close calls, but the number of death blows sent his way were only increasing.

Sen shouted, “We must protect Yagyu!”

Yukimura, “Even if it costs our lives, we protect the one we love!”

Maria shouted, “For duty, for faith, for love, YOU WILL NOT GET BY!”

Little did they know a girl with Red hair heard them from the darkness.

Though the shouts were brave, their enemies now had them surrounded.

Matabei did not know what to make of it. The Paladin had smeared some of his/her own blood into a shape on the Samurai’s head. The unnatural voice, which didn’t sound human, came out once again. A black, misty cloud appeared around the Samurai’s head. The Paladin reached up and grabbed around it with a hand. She made out words in the odd voice, “Darkness that binds and blinds now see the light, ring of black I command one thing, shatter!” The ring that had no form broke as glass.

Text flashed across the screen, “I have sworn to protect the innocent, help those in need, guide those who are lost, and save all who I can. Even if I die in sacrifice today, Black Guard, know that you will still lose!” The Paladin did seem weakened.

The Samurai jolted awake. She looked at the Paladin in some confusion, but then looked at the Black Guard. Her sword was now pointing at the real enemy. But the Black Guard was shaking in shock, “DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU JUST DID?!”

The Black Guard facing Yagyu smiled as he prepared to send in a dark spear. His allies attacked on all sides at once. His smiled dropped with the two Tokugawa Samurai struck the Ronin instead. Both Blue Rose warriors were now injured. Yagyu’s three Samurai struck and destroyed all of the shadow warriors. The Black Guard felt a surge of energy as the spell controlling the Samurai had been violently broken.

Yoshihiko was in the armored car racing towards where they had begun to triangulate where the spell was coming from. Unfortunately, his Samurai could not approach the area. Only Charles and the two from the Order plus his normal assault guard were coming. He prayed it would be enough. Alice suddenly looked up from the screen, “By the Heavens, The Spell just got Trashed!”

Inside the secret chamber, the Samurai girl screamed in pain again, though it was much weaker. The pool was filling as everyone waited. The leader of the Blue Rose Ronin smiled, “Soon, the maidens will be here, and soon we will have our new master.”

Two devices from the Black Guard shattered. It just happened for apparently no reason. Confusion was felt from everyone in the room. Too late, did the leader realize the girl had stopped crying. “I am not yours to sacrifice!”

She watched as the Samurai pulled one arm through a pipe, grabbed another one, and stab herself in the head. She fell dead. The ritual was ruined. “NNNOOOOOO!”

At that moment, two lights appeared elsewhere. Yagyu looked up to see one forming near him, as Matabei and the Paladin observed one near them…


#154

Yagyu couldn’t believe it. It was just like when he first arrived. The light surged above him, the wind kicked up around him, and a form began to take shape. One of the Blue Rose warriors shouted, “We must secure that maiden!”

It was too late for them though. Five Samurai now had them surrounded. It took only a second, but they decided to flee instead of fight. Unfortunately for the Samurai, the Black Guard used a shadow spell to aid in their escape.

Yagyu rushed to the descending form. His heart raced with anticipation. He reached out his arms to catch the falling girl with red hair…

The Paladin watched as a girl fell from the sky, straight into the water nearby. Though injured, the Paladin was not in mortal danger and knew immediately what to do and dove in.

Matabei helped chase off the Black Guard. She then turned to see the Paladin pull a young girl out from the water. “It can’t be, Gisen!” The girl had long white hair, a similar face, but she only appeared to be nine to ten years in age. Matabei then realized the girl was not breathing.

The Paladin looked over the girl. The Paladin reached up and hit a few buttons underneath its helmet. It blew off the Paladin into the air. Matabei could not see clearly, but the unmasked Paladin immediately tilted the girls head up and started CPR. She watched as the Paladin blew air into the girl again and again. Suddenly, the girl coughed, spitting out water, and slowly opened her eyes. One of them did not match the other.

The Paladin looked up to Matabei. She saw his face for the first time. Several features matched Maria’s, but he was younger, and had a huge scar going down the left side of his face. The left eye was artificial. He smiled at Matabei, “Every time I come to Japan,” he said in an exhausted but relieved voice. He looked down to the girl, “Are you okay?”

She answered by reaching up and kissing him on the lips. He failed to move back in time. Light began to flash all around them…


#155

Yagyu held Jubei in his arms, but he did not understand. Jubei only appeared to be nine to ten years old. But he knew it was her. “Jubei?” He called to her in a concerned voice. Jubei slowly opened her eyes and looked at him.

She smiled, “Big Brother…” She reached up and kissed him. Dark shadows swarmed around her, sweeping her out from Yagyu’s arms. The adult Jubei was standing before him.

Yagyu smiled, “Jubei, it is you!” But he stopped when she drew her sword and pointed it at his throat. The other Samurai were coming back and were surprised at what they saw.

“Jubei?” The statement came from both Yukimura and Sen.

Maria asked, “That is Jubei?”

Jubei looked around. “I know you, don’t I?” She turned back to Yagyu, “My general? AAGGG” she hunched over as if in pain. Dark shadows swirled again. When everyone looked back, a young Jubei was holding onto Yagyu’s leg, “Big Brother!”

The adult Gisen stood up by the water. She looked at the man who just saved her. “You are an interesting one. I think I might keep you around.” She gave a wicked smile as he looked at her in confusion.

He said, “Hold on. Who are you and what…” He tried to move but what felt like chains kept him from moving. He looked around but saw nothing.

Gisen traced her fingers on his face and down his scar, “Don’t worry, I won’t harm you yet. The others…”

Matabei, Naoe, and the other Samurai were posed to attack Gisen. She laughed and pulled out her sword. Matabei spoke out, “Step away from him.”

Naoe looked at the Paladin, “Uh, Big Brother, can’t you move?” She was having a tough time concentrating on either Gisen or the Paladin.

Gisen laughed again, “I am not sure who you are, but I know I want you dead.” Cold air began to swarm around her, “Time for me to make that…”

The voice was unnatural, strong, and ominous. “You will not hurt my friends.” Gisen froze as if the statement was more than just a command. She looked back at the Paladin. He stood up, his voice returned to normal as he stated while looking directly at her, “I am Marcus Yagyu Kendrick. I am a Grey Paladin of the Order. I will not let invisible chains hinder me from helping my friends nor will I allow you to hurt my friends. I have fought the darkest demons imaginable and have been saved from them. If you think you are going to trap me and use me to hurt others, you have thought incorrectly.”

The chains snapped around him. He raised his light blade and formed a katana. “Yield.” He stated.

“Aaaggg!” Light swirled around Gisen. When everyone looked back, a scared girl was running to Marcus. “I am sorry Big Brother!” She gripped his leg and cried onto his side.

Marcus looked up to Matabei and said, “Okay, this is getting weirder than any other Japan visit. Can someone explain what is going on?” while glancing back at Gisen in confusion and giving her a few pats on the head for comfort.


#156

Hanzo was slow on getting up. Her whole body hurt. Her glasses were smashed nearby. “Damn,” she thought. “I have very few extra pairs, and those are expensive to replace.” Suddenly, she remembered what happened. She was running to where Sen was, and the Samurai with her suddenly struck out. They struck at her.

She tried to jolt up. She had to warn Sen, but pain stopped her. She wasn’t going to give up. “Sen, I have got to save my princess!”

“Hanzo, slow down, let me help you up.”

Sen’s voice was filled with concern. Hanzo looked up and saw Sen reaching out her hand. There was a look of concern on her face, but she was smiling as she said, “You got hit, but thankfully you are not badly hurt.” She was truly relieved.

“Princess…” Hanzo said as she took her hand. Slowly she got up, and then hugged Sen. Sen stood motionless for a second, the lightly hugged her back.

Sen spoke, “Don’t apologize for anything you might think you did wrong. You warned us in time, and I am very glad you are safe.”

Hanzo calmed down and let Sen go. After straightening herself up, she used a com link and got the Academy guards back into action. Sen then told her about Jubei’s reappearance.

Hanzo couldn’t believe it. “Where are they now?”

Sen answered, “They are in the Dojo. Yukimura is very concerned over Matabei. Maria is a bit concerned for the Paladin and Naoe.”

Just then one of the guards contacted Hanzo. Hanzo listened and then reported, “Those three are coming back into the Academy now. The Paladin is injured, but he seems to be carrying a girl with… What do you mean ‘he’ and what girl?”

Sen blinked, “The Paladin is a he?!” She did not know whether to feel relieved or even more concerned.

Matabei looked over to Marcus again. Her concern must have shown as he responded, “The suit has already healed my injuries. Carrying Gisen is no trouble.” Gisen held tight to Marcus’s back, but seemed to be asleep. Naoe just glared at the girl.

“Marcus, that girl is extremely dangerous.” Matabei did not hide her dislike in her voice.

Marcus stopped for a brief pause, “I am aware, but she is not dangerous now. Thus, there is still hope.”

Matabei paused herself as well as Naoe. “Hope?” she thought. “Hope for what?”

She looked up and saw Yukimura running to meet her. She smiled and began to head towards her. Yukimura stopped as she saw the Paladin and who he was carrying. Shadows swirled around her and she took her Master Samurai form.

Marcus looked up in surprise. Yukimura spoke out, “Drop the girl, Paladin.”

Marcus’s eyes grew cold, and power began to seem to surround him. Sen and Hanzo came down at the same time. Sen’s reaction to seeing the girl was the same as Yukimura’s. Now with two Samurai staring him down, Marcus seemed even more cold.

“Put her down, Paladin.” Sen said.

“So, if I refuse, you will cut me down as well? Hate has its purposes, but to see it control such lovely young ladies is rather sad. Especially since to threaten a Grey Paladin with hate would just play into his hands. I will say this, I will not put her down until you gain control of yourselves.”

The two girls looked at each other. Yukimura spoke, “You don’t know what you have there Paladin. She is far to dangerous to let live. Put her…”

Matabei spoke out, “She is not dangerous at the moment.”

Yukimura did a double take with Sen towards Matabei. Yukimura quickly said, “For now, but what about later? That girl nearly summoned the worst general in Japan’s history in order to destroy Great Japan. She nearly killed us all. I say get her now before it becomes too late.” Her eyes seemed to show in confusion as to why Matabei would side against her.

Maria, with Yagyu next to her, spoke out surprising everyone. “Ladies, stay your blades, now!” Yagyu gestured to them they should do so, though he kept a close watch on Gisen. Jubei, who was behind him, looked at everyone in curiosity.

The two Samurai went back to normal. Maria walked up towards the Paladin. She simply said, “Matabei, take the girl from him, please.” Matabei was confused, but Marcus handed her the girl.

He turned back to Maria, put his arm across his chest and bowed his head, “Greetings, Paladin Maria Kendrick, big sister.”

She returned the gesture, “Greetings, Marcus Kendrick…” Her Samurai powers sprang to life as her ribbons picked Marcus into the air as she shouted, “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN LITTLE BROTHER! WHY DIDN’T YOU CONTACT ME! They didn’t say where they took you! WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY WHO YOU WERE! WHY DIDN’T YOU LET ME KNOW!” She pulled him down and hugged him.

He hugged her back. Everyone besides Matabei and Naoe were gaping in shock. Marcus softly spoke to his sister, “Well, obviously I have been trained as a Grey Paladin. Grey Paladin training is top secret. And as for the rest, I was in that suit doing that dang ritual. But, sister, I have kept my eyes on you, and, it is so good to see you now.”

Sen spoke out, “Uh, Maria, is that the brother you tried to kill?”

Maria straightened herself as she separated from Marcus. She nodded back towards Sen, “Yes. His name is Marcus Yagyu Kendrick. And if that young girl is the Gisen you mentioned to me, I can understand why she might have been drawn to my brother.”

Yukimara looked over at the sleeping Gisen in Matabei’s arms. “Wait, she appeared to your Marcus?”

Naoe then spoke out, “The tramp kissed him while he was off guard. Turned to adult form and nearly attacked us, but Marcus told her not too and poof a kid again.”

Everyone outside the returning trio froze for a second. Yukimura spoke out, “You mean she marked Marcus as a general?”

Both Matabei and Naoe stopped to think for a second. Sen spoke out, “Wait, Maria, you guess that already. Why?”

Maria said, “Let’s get in doors. It is time to tell a story.”


#157

Several years earlier…

The Osoka sky line could be seen off in the distance from the dojo the two teenagers were walking too. Though both had Japanese traits, their Caucasian features made them stand out from the crowd. Not to mention was in the garb of a Paladin.

One was a fourteen year old boy with dark brown hair, slim but strong build, and a outlook of general wonder on his face. The girl next to him was sixteen, blonde with long pigtails, but with a stern and passionate expression. She turned to the boy.

“Marcus, we’ve studied in Japan before, why do you look like a tourist? We are here for training.”

“Come on Meagan, Grandpa has never taught us at this dojo before. Yes, we have been to Japan, but not so far in it. This is great!”

“Call me Paladin Kendrick.”

“What? You are still in training, and we have three sisters that can be called that already. Paladin Meagan?”

“You can be a pain brother.”

She said that right as they reached the dojo entrance. Marcus looked around and saw the rope to the bell. He pulled it and the rang echoed out. “Don’t see this much in Japan.”

Meagan answered, “Mom gave it to him. Grandpa thinks it will help scare away certain spirits before a person crosses the threshold. Plus, it does act as a doorbell.” She made sure she was standing straight and her clothing was in order before the door opened.

A Japanese man past his middle ages opened the door. He looked at the two teenagers with a stern cold glare. Both bowed to him, “Greetings Honored Grandfather, Sensei.”

He kept the glare going for a few more seconds, then slowly a small smile broke the expression. He reached out and hugged the two with a mighty squeezing force. “Welcome! I am so happy you came here. How are you two doing! Enjoying your new study here in Japan? Well, I will make sure you don’t leave without mastering some of the Yagyu art! You have a tradition and obligation to your ancestors. Don’t forget it!”

He released them. Marcus was smiling as Meagan readjusted her attire. The grandfather waved them in and they followed. He spoke, “Where is Maria? I thought she would be here for sure. She would not miss her final lessons from me for the world.”

Meagan answered, “She had to take a later flight. Marcus just took the tests to enter Paladin training, and she is awaiting the results.”

The Grandfather shook his head, “I don’t know why my daughter fell for your father, and why all three of you followed his side into that Order.” He looked over Meagan, “But there is something similar about it. Maybe the spirit of the Samurai are not unique to Japan? Well, Paladin, Samurai, whatever, you are here to learn the style passed down by the Yagyu family. Let’s get to it.”

Maria stood frozen for a second. She blinked, “Wait, what did you say?”

She was standing in the office where several elder members of the Order were waiting. The members were dressed in long overflowing robes with the crests of the various divisions embroidered onto them. Maria was wearing the armor of a newly confirmed Paladin.

The first elder spoke out, “We need you to bring your brother back from Japan immediately. The results of the tests are a bit, how to say, disturbing.”

Another one chipped in, “There is a balance of light and shadow in each person. More often than not, a person has more of one power than the other. Paladins usually have a great excess of light power, though sometimes it is an excess of shadow.”

The first one spoke again, “The power of Light and Shadow is not of good and evil. Good and evil comes from a persons heart. However, good does tend to favor light over shadow.”

Maria shook her head, “I know all of this, but what does this have to do with my brother?”

The elders looked at each other. “You and Meagan and your half sisters have a great excess of Light power in you, plus more than average of shadow. Still, the light surpasses the shadow. Your brother’s Light and Shadow power match each other in strength. Both greatly exceed normal. Rarely have we seen such power matched at that limit.”

The only male elder spoke out, “Your brother’s test of heart shows he is a good young man, honest and cheerful, and caring of others. However, the tests shows he has a unique understanding of evil. Though his heart does not lead him towards evil, his heart is capable of great evil. If the Black Guard or some other group found out about this, they have ways of turning a persons heart…”

The first elder spoke out, “And your brother would be able to wield the light and shadow together in the most dangerous of manners. We have decided that your brother must remain secured in this compound until we can make sure he is safe to be free.”

Maria’s face froze as she realized she had just been ordered to imprison her own brother…

The bell rang outside the dojo. Both of his grandchildren were putting away their belongings in their separate rooms, so he went and opened the main gate. Three teenage girls were standing there smiling. “Can I help you young ladies?”

“We are friends of Meagan and Marcus from School. Can we see them?”

He looked over their uniforms and they did match the school nearby. He nodded and said, “Well, I guess you can say hi. I am starting their training soon, so if you could wait right over there, they will be out in a minute.”

The girls smiled and said thanks. The grandfather went back into the dojo to grab some of the training supplies. He thought to himself, “Good looking girls. Sure they are more likely Meagan’s friends, but if they mentioned Marcus, he is one lucky guy. Maybe a girl can keep him in Japan? He sure moves fast if…” He froze. “They were wearing a local school uniform, not one of Tokyo’s. Meagan and Marcus had to study there due to the visa’s. Why would they have local friends?”

He dropped the equipment and went back outside. The girls were not there. Meagan came out, though she held a light weapon in her hands. “Grandfather, I sensed something very odd. Where is Marcus?”

As if to answer her question, a car peeling away was heard outside…


#158

One month had passed since Marcus disappeared. Four young women watched a report on a television placed in the meeting room. With them were a couple of intelligence officers of the Order.

On the screen, two paladins engaged a tall shadowy figure. The surroundings put them in a small town in non Japan controlled China. The two Paladins fought well against the multiple shadows sent against them, but their light attacks against the shadowy figure seemed to have no affect. Just when it appeared they might get the upper hand, the shadowy figure used a light spell. The strength and the fact it was a light spell threw the Paladins off guard. Both fell to the ground and were quickly pinned down by the remaining shadows. The screen went blank afterwards.

The intelligence officer with her hair in a tight bun and crescent glances spoke. “We know that shadow warrior did not kill them. However, both Paladins were latter executed by the Black Guard. This has become a very dangerous situation.”

The male officer continued, “Please don’t tell anyone we showed you this. But, do you really think that the warrior was him?”

Maria and Meagan looked at each other. Meagan, though still in her teens, now had a streak of white in her hair. The fact her little brother was snatched right under her nose caused a major change in attitude for her. Gone were the days of her haughty heiress displays. She became far more focused and open to others.

However, Maria knew Meagan was thinking the same thing. “We honestly can’t tell. That warrior is taller than Marcus, and the techniques he used are not ones he knows.”

Maria looked to her half-sisters. The half Scottish, half Mexican twins looked at each other. Athena and Minerva both stated, “That warrior was using an older Chinese fighting style.”

The female officer spoke out, “We know the Black Guard was trying to summon the spirit of Lu Bu, a famous and dangerous warrior in Chinese history. What you saw might have been his spirit possessing someone. And they would need someone very strong in the powers to be able to host that spirit.”

Maria thought to herself, “Lu Bu… the flying general. Non could match him one on one. He was very treacherous though.” She asked, “Why does the Black Guard want Lu Bu?”

The male answered, “The Black Guard wants China to be a supporter nation. They agreed to do so, if they take back all of China for them. Lu Bu is capable of doing that, so they think.”

After a few moments of silence, the two officers sighed. “That figure is covered in shadow armor and protected from all scans. I guess it is impossible to tell who is in there.”

Maria looked at a few of the pics again. She froze, “Wait, after he knocked that Paladin down, the way he aborted the killing blow. He used a Yagyu maneuver on himself!”

Meagan looked over her shoulder as well as the twins. Meagan said, “Uh, Maria, I am not sure I see that.” The twins did not seem convinced either, but they remained interested.

Maria spoke confidently, “It is him. He is fighting back against the possession. That is why this warrior doesn’t fight at full strength nor very often. He is constantly fighting an internal battle.”

The two officers quickly looked over their files. The male finally said, “That would explain several things.”

All four girls said at once, “We are heading for China!”

The two officers were taken aback. Not just at the sudden outburst, but by the fact another Paladin had entered the room.

The girls turned and saluted their commander. She looked at the girls with her eyes of wisdom and simply said, “It is far to dangerous to send you there. The fact he is your brother is not a strength, but a weakness that would be exploited against you. We will handle this.”

The twins, being higher in rank, spoke in unison, “But he is our brother. Yes, half brother, but we will not back down now we know where he is.”

The commander sighed, “Yes, you are to back down. That is an order. You are being given assignments now, and you will be watched.”

Meagan was sent back to training. The twins were sent to Africa. Maria was kept near the Paladin base Mexico City. Her mission was still being determined. She walked back and forth in the small quarters provided when a small knock on the door caught her attention. A Paladin the same age as Maria entered. Her green hair with two braided pig tails and the large glasses instantly gave her identity away. Maria smiled and hugged her while saying, “Julia, I am glad to see you.”

Julia smiled and said, “I have been ordered to watch you. And I intend to do so. Even while you sleep.” She added the last part with a slight wink and a stroke Maria’s chin.

Maria rolled her eyes, “Julia, I am sorry but that won’t distract me now. It is madding. My brother is out there right now…”

Julia placed her finger on Maria’s lips to shush her, “I have been ordered to watch you. They forget to say anything about stopping you.”

Maria’s truly smiled for the first time in over a month.


#159

Combo breaker…

Had an idea for a comedy anime.

A 26 year old guy with a dead end job is returning to the city one night. While still in the mountainous area, he disappears. No trace of his car or him is found.

2 years later, outside the home of his parents. The scene would start off with a blurry vision of inside a car. You would hear two voices of inner dialog. One is a young female’s and the other a young male’s. The are in sync at first, saying, “Where am I? What happened? What was with that dream?”

Then they start going into different trains of thought after, “I feel funny.” The male’s voice says he doesn’t feel like he used too. The female’s starts saying she feels very different, till the point she shouts “Where is it! Where did these come from!”

Finally, the audience gets to see the inside of the missing mans car. There is a fourteen year old male and female who look very much alike. They see each other for the first time. The girl shouts immediately, “OH MY GOD I SWITCHED BODIES WITH A CHICK!”

These two kids both have the memories of the missing man, and are basically clones of him. The memories of him stop right as the man entered the mountains. The show would revolve around them trying to figure out what happened, going back to high school again, and getting used to who they are now…


#160

Samurai Girls story continued…

The city of Hong Kong bustled with the sound of thousands of workers. Lights flashed, advertisements were everywhere, and the number of tourists almost equaled the number of vendors. It was fairly easy for the two young women to move about unnoticed. Their simple clothes and back packs blended well.

Maria couldn’t believe how many people helped her get to this city. It paid to have friends. Customs didn’t even search their storage luggage very closely. Julia grabbed her arm and whispered into her ear, “I found the alley way.”

They quickly entered an alley that most people overlooked. At the back side of a unnoticeable building, a small stair case lead to an underground shop. Both girls walked down. A small sign at the door said closed.

Maria knocked anyways. There was no answer, but she felt a presence at the door. She said, “Might does not make one right.”

The door slightly opened. An older Chinese women looked through the crack, “If one has might, they don’t need to be right. What do two young Paladin’s want with me?”

Maria spoke, “Please, I am in search of my brother. Only you can help me.”

The women looked into her eyes. She felt her presence, old and scarred, but still strangely calm. She huffed, “Fine. Such love for family. It is almost sickening.”

The two girls entered the shop and lady closed the door immediately behind her. Julia looked around at all the objects in the store. Dried lizards, dragon bones, various fungi, and several other home remedies covered the walls. Various objects of unknown purpose scattered the tables. Julia simply said, “Whoa.”

The lady gave her a gruff cough, “Listen, I don’t want to hear anything preachings from you Paladins. This stuff is all for show. I no longer deal in shadow powers. Now, tell me about you brother.”

Maria went over what she knew. The old lady listened without blinking an eye. After Maria finished, the lady seemed to ponder. “Strange, that might explain some rumors I have been hearing. Stay here for tonight, Paladins. I will confirm a few stories I heard.”

Maria bowed and said, “Thank you. I don’t how I can repay you.”

The lady growled, “The Paladin Order saved my life. This is nothing. But don’t act sweet to me, Paladin. You are half Jap. They occupy half our nation still. It is not something we tolerate well. The only reason I haven’t kicked you out on sight is that you are American. Even Japs wouldn’t consider you a Jap, so I won’t either. Take the third room down the hall. I have some food in the fridge. Don’t touch anything in the store.” She immediately walked away and out of the shop.

Julia blinked, “Wow, she got quite a bit of info off that gleam. Maria, are you okay?”

Maria nodded, “Yeah. I have gotten over my feelings about that. My family accepts me for who I am. That is all the acceptance I need from Japan. Now, I am still recovering from jet lag. Perhaps we should take a rest.”

The room was very small and only had one bunk. Julia gave a wicked grin, “Oh, just the two of us tonight in one bunk. Whatever could happen?”

Maria rolled her eyes, “Julia, I love you, but not that ‘way’. Also, sworn to chastity ring a bell?” She added the last part with a slight knock to Julia’s head.

Julia laughed, “It isn’t a deal breaker oath though. And I will win you over yet, Maria. Then maybe I can ring your bells…”

Maria’s shocked expression of whether or naught Julia was serious caused Julia to burst into hysterical laughter.