Chapter 2  Chill Winds Start to Blow

Seiji awoke.  What a weird dream he had.  Shaking his head Seiji made to get up but felt something in his hand.  He looked down and saw that he was holding something.  Opening his hand he saw the green orb from his dream.  He bolted out of bed.  What did this mean?  Dressing quickly Seiji walked out of his room putting the orb in his pocket.  He had to get to the breakfast table, the others would be waiting and until the ‘king’ arrived it was custom that no one ate.  He would have to do away with that.  Seiji walked into the room and was surprised to see Rowen at the table as well.  It was only eight in the morning!  Taking his place at the table Seiji felt that they were all watching him.

            “What is it?” asked Seiji.

            “We need to talk.” Said Cye, “We all had some weird dreams.”

            Seiji nodded.  He had the power to see people’s dreams, their auras, and had the ability to heal minor wounds.  He also had the gift of being able to understand most things.  “What were these dreams about?”

            “Cye, Kento and I dreamt that we had these orbs and they transformed us into some kind of mystical armor.” Said Ryo, “When we awoke we found these.”  They all held out an orb.

            “I did as well.” Said Seiji, “I believe that they are mystical armors that we can call during battle.  The monk told me that they would help us.”  He turned to Rowen with a worried look remembering what had been said in his dream.  “What about you?”

            “I dreamed of war with the Unknown army.” Said Rowen crossing his arms.

            “War?” asked Seiji.  That was the one word that he didn’t want to hear. 

            “Mia and the child Jun told me that it was the Unknown army that destroyed their village when I asked them yesterday afternoon after I returned from Solarin.” Said Rowen. 

            Seiji felt just a little hurt that Rowen had been back longer than he had let on last evening but he must have spent the time talking to Ryo.  Those two were close friends after all, “So it has come to that has it.”

            “Yes, but it is imperative that we find out which kingdom that the Unknown army is originating from.  Without that knowledge we will be fighting blind.” Said Rowen.

            “But we must fight until then and put a stop to the attacks on the villages.” Said Ryo.

            “We should pull the villagers nearest to the border into the inner kingdom to protect them and set up our defense at the border.” Said Cye putting his chin on his folded hands, “Rowen and I awoke early this morning and discussed some plans about the defense lines that should be placed at the borders.  We drew some maps for you and left them in the council room.”

            Seiji sighed, “We shall continue this conversation in the council room then.”

            When the servants came in to serve breakfast they were very surprised to find that no one was there.  The Knights had retreated to the council room to finish planning.  When they emerged the group was very solemn.  War wasn’t just an off-handed decision to make.  It meant sacrificing of lives and lands to the destruction and blood of war.  It was decided that no more villages were going to be caught in the destruction of the Unknown army.  It was time to rally the soldiers.  The day was spent in training the troops and pulling the border villagers to the safety of the inner kingdom. 

            Seiji walked through the training soldiers to where Shuu was calling out orders to them.  Shuu nodded to him not missing a syllable.  Seiji watched the soldiers’ fight, training for the battles ahead.  Shuu was a good leader and Seiji had no doubt that he would make sure that the troops were prepared for battle.  Moving on Seiji made his way to where the archers were training but he saw that Rowen’s apprentice was training them and not Rowen himself.  After another slew of arrows whooshed to hit the center of the target boards Seiji walked through them and to the apprentice.  The man bowed at Seiji.

            “Seiji-sama.” He said respectfully.

            “Mukura where’s Rowen?  Isn’t he supposed to be training them.” Said Seiji.

            “He was here for three hours then he left leaving me in charge.  He told me that I needed to learn to take over for him so that in case of his absence I would be able to lead the troop.” Said Mukura.

            “Do you know where he went?” asked Seiji his brow creasing.

            “I wouldn’t know, Seiji-sama but he did go and see Sir Cye before he left.” Said Mukara pointing toward the southern tower.

            “Thank you, Mukura.” Said Seiji managing a smile for the archer, “Continue the good work.”

            “Yes, kokou-sama.” Said Mukura as Seiji started off toward the tower.  King or my liege.

            Seiji stalked up the tower steps and knocked on the door to Cye’s planning room.  Cye opened the door and smiled letting Seiji in.  He gestured to the map on his table.

            “The villages Roinrn, Gestern, Tabvil, Aquan, Zeebran, and Wastaln have all be evacuated and salvaged as best they could.  Everything is going as planned.” Said Cye.

            Seiji nodded at the map.  That was good but it wasn’t the reason he was here.  He took a deep breath trying not to look as angry as he was, “Cye, where’s Rowen?”

            “R-Rowen…” stuttered Cye, “Well….um…I…er…”

            “Don’t lie to me, Cye.” Said Seiji knowing that Cye would have a hard time at that anyway.

            “I can’t tell you, Seiji-sama…” said Cye quietly.

            “You can’t or won’t?” asked Seiji prying trying not to look agitated.

            “He made me promise not to tell you that he was here or where he went after.” Said Cye nervously knowing that if Seiji got angry with him he could easily lose his head. 

            Seiji sighed, “What did he come here for?”

            Cye felt a little relieved, that was something that he could tell, “He gave me these maps for future plans and references that he did in a far scale into the future.  He has planned for at least a week ahead.”  Cye showed the maps to Seiji who briefly glanced at them.  He frowned even more.

            “Is there anything else that you can tell me, Cye?” asked Seiji smiling reassuringly at Cye, “I won’t make you break your word but if there is anything please tell me.”

            “He walked in Shuu’s direction.  You should ask him in which way Rowen went.” Said Cye glad that Seiji wasn’t mad at him.

            “Thank you, Cye.” Said Seiji walking out of the room and down the tower.

            ‘Rowen’s going to get in trouble now.’ Thought Cye.  He could tell that Seiji was very irritated.

            Seiji stormed out of the tower and toward Shuu reeling in his anger once again as he approached the large Knight.  Shuu bowed to him then told the troops to take a break as Seiji motioned that he wished to talk.  Shuu walked over to him.

            “Have you seen Rowen?” Seiji asked.

            “Yeah, he came over here and handed me some troop formation papers then went toward the Calvary training fields.” Said Shuu scratching his head, “Why?  You looking for him?”

            “You could say that.” Said Seiji unable to hide some of the wrath in his words as he walked off.

            At the training fields he saw that a young boy was leading the troops in practice.  Where was Ryo?  He waved to the young boy who stopped his horse and waved to the others to keep practicing then walking the horse off to the side dismounted and headed over to where Seiji was.

Seiji was nearly choking on his anger.  The boy bowed.

            “Seiji-sama.” He said respectfully.

            “Where are Ryo and Rowen?” he asked.

            The boy shook his head, “I don’t know.  Sir Rowen showed up and Sir Ryo went to talk to him and left me in charge I haven’t seen him since.  You might ask that boy over there with Byakuen he saw them.”

            “Thank you.  Carry on.” Said Seiji turning and walking toward the young child who was watching the Calvary train.  It was the boy that they had saved earlier.  The child had seemed to become attached to Ryo for some reason.

            “Jun, where are Ryo and Rowen?” asked Seiji kneeling beside the boy and tiger.

            “Rowen came up not so long ago and gave Ryo some papers.” Said Jun smiling, “Ryo told Rowen to wait but he just kept walking.  Ryo took off after him and grabbed him by the shoulder.  They started arguing and almost got into a fight but then they both walked off together.”

            Seiji frowned even more.  “Do you know where they were going?”

            “Nope.” Said Jun smiling, “But I’m sure Byakuen knows.  He always knows were Ryo is.”

            “Byakuen?” said Seiji raising an eyebrow and looking at the tiger.  He was NOT about to ask the tiger.

            “I’m sure they will be back before dinner.” Smiled Jun.

            “Yeah.” Muttered Seiji before walking off.

            Cye winced as they sat down for dinner.  Ryo and Rowen had yet to show up.  The sun was starting to set but Seiji’s temper was starting to rise.  He glanced over at Shuu who glanced back.  The large Knight was nervous as well.  Seiji was trying his best to remain calm but he was very angry with the two absentees.  Dinner didn’t last long and was over before it had barely begun.  Cye and Shuu quickly excused themselves wanting to get as far away from Seiji’s wrath as they could.  Seiji stewed for a few minutes before glancing down at the tiger, which was purring not that far from the table.  Ok, so he would ask the tiger.

            “Byakuen, where is your master, huh?” asked Seiji petting the tiger’s head.

            Byakuen growled softly then got up and slowly padded out of the room with Seiji following.  The tiger led him to the stables and growled lightly in the directions of the horses.

            “I need a horse?” Seiji asked.  The tiger nodded and yawned lightly.

            Seiji saddled his horse and led it out then mounted.  Byakuen padded off starting at a slow lope then changed into a blinding run.  The trek took nearly over an hour before Byakuen finally stopped then smelt the ground growling softly as he sensed that Ryo was close.  Seiji dismounted and pat Byakuen on the head.

            “Thank you.” He said.

            Byakuen just growled softly then took off the rest of the way.  It was one of the empty border towns.  Seiji saw Ryo’s horse tied outside of one of the empty houses.  Byakuen walked up to the house and entered through the open door.  Seiji quietly walked up toward the house until he could hear their voices.

            “Byakuen!” said Ryo as his tiger entered, “I was wondering when you would show up.”

            “What’s the tiger doing all the way out here?” came Rowen’s voice.  It sounded a bit weak.

            “Byakuen always follows me.” Said Ryo then frowning at Rowen who was wincing as he tried to tie a bandage around the bleeding gash just beneath his ribs, “Quit moving.  You only have yourself to blame for this.”

            “Shut up, Ryo.  I never asked you to come along.” Snapped Rowen.

            “Well, if I hadn’t you would have gotten more than just this gash.” Said Ryo, “And you’ll be lucky if you don’t get worse when we get back to the castle.”

            “You’re in trouble as well for coming with me even though I told you not to.” Said Rowen then hissing in pain, “Gods that hurts.  Are you trying to kill me?”

            “Quiet you.  I know but I couldn’t let you go and do something stupid without trying to help you.” Said Ryo, “And it wouldn’t hurt if you stopped squirming as I tied the bandages.  We are friends after all.”

            “Yeah, thanks.” Said Rowen smiling for once.

            “Now what are we going to tell Seiji-sama?  He’s going to be furious.” Said Ryo, “And I for one like my head right where it is ON my shoulders.”

            “I don’t know.” Said Rowen sadly, “I think he’ll kill me first.”

            “Shizuka ni!  Seiji-sama isn’t that cruel.” Said Ryo finishing tying the bandages, “Another thing is how we are going to get you back to the castle tonight?  This has been the fifth time in a half hour of travel that we’ve had to stop and reapply these bandages.  You’re bleeding a lot.  I really don’t think that you’ll make it to the castle if you insist on traveling on.  We should stay here for the night and rest.”  Shut up!

            “Alright.  You go on and I will stay.  I don’t want you in anymore trouble that you’re already in.” said Rowen wincing again.

            “Sure good plan.  I go back to the nice safe castle and let you bleed to death out here.  Yeah, that’s smart Rowen.  I’d have to kill myself for letting you die.  No, we are both staying here.  That’s final.  Damare and get some rest.” Said Ryo crossing his arms then walking outside to retrieve the saddle bags from his horse and take the equipment from the horse’s back letting it loose.  Don’t say anything.  Same as shut up.

The horse would find somewhere to spend the night then come back in the morning for its passengers.  Seiji hid while Ryo did that, he didn’t want them to know that he was here.  Ryo walked back in the hut carrying the stuff.  He looked over at Rowen’s glowering face and started a fire in the hearth with his ability.  The flame flared on his hand for a second then caught the logs on fire.  He smiled then turned back to Rowen.

            “I’m going to make something to eat.” Said Ryo taking out several supplies from the saddlebags.

            “What are we going to tell Seiji when we don’t show up until tomorrow?” asked Rowen attempting to cross his arms but failed miserably from the pain.

            “The truth of course.  You were too weak to travel.” Said Ryo stirring a soup of sorts then turning back to Rowen, “Lie down.  You’ll heal faster if you take the pressure off of your side.”

            “Then what do we tell him about this?” Rowen asked gesturing to the bandage wincing again.

            “We?  No, no, no.  What YOU are going to tell him is the truth, Rowen.” Said Ryo getting up from making his stew and forcing Rowen to lie down then covering him up with a blanket.

            “Yeah, that’ll go down really well won’t it.” Said Rowen sarcastically, “If I tell him that for some fool reason I dreamed that the Unknown army was part of the Kurayami no sono Wakusei Okoku and that they were planning an attack on the castle then I decided to see if it was true; Seiji will kill me.  For one thing, I neglected to tell him that at the meeting because I was afraid that he would worry.  He already has enough things to worry about.  Two, I made the decision to go by myself to keep the endangerment level down but Ryo no baka decided to come along so I endangered two lives instead of one.  The penalty for that is high enough.  Three, I left the training in charge of Mukura instead of doing it myself like I was supposed to.  Leaving the post is punishable by death.  Four, I risked starting a war by going to the Kurayami Okoku to check it out but I didn’t take any armor so I wouldn’t be recognize as belonging to Korin but then you came along still dressed for training.  If they saw us Korin will be in even greater danger.  That in itself is punishable by public execution.”

            “Rowen, they ARE in charge of the Unknown army.” Said Ryo crossing his arms, “They’ve started the war.”

            “But if I was wrong I would have started a needless war.” Said Rowen, “But I had a plan for that too.”

            “That’s why I came.  You were going to get killed in case you were wrong so they couldn’t trace you back to Korin.” Said Ryo his face angry, “That was foolish; we need you Rowen.” 

            “Not if it would have caused another war.” Said Rowen, “Besides I left all my research with Cye, Shuu, and you.”

            “Yeah, but what about the future block head.  We are friends.  Losing you would affect the rest of us greatly.”  Said Ryo then putting some of the stew in a bowl, “Now eat this and get better.”

            “Fifthly, I lied to Seiji.” Said Rowen sadly as he took a sip of the hot soup, “That’s treason.  Again, punishable by death.”

            “Rowen,” started Ryo, “You just didn’t want him to worry anymore than he had to.  And you did that because you are his friend trying to make his daily load just a little lighter for him.  Besides you didn’t lie.  You just didn’t tell him about the whole dream, which bothered you so much that you woke early to think about what to do.”  He petted Byakuen’s head and gave the tiger a bowl of stew as well, “You did what you thought was the right thing to do as did I when I followed you.”

            “Yeah…” said Rowen sighing, “I sure screwed up didn’t I.”

            “I don’t think so.” Said Ryo, “We found out where the Unknown army was coming from didn’t we.”

            “And I got shot while I was at it.  I’m an archer, how can I draw an arrow with just one arm, I can barely move anything on this side?” demanded Rowen, “I can’t believe that Seiji will keep me around.  They get rid of wounded soldiers, you know that, Ryo.  Besides my head is already under the guillotine, this handicap has just rendered me useless.”  

            “Maybe Seiji can heal you with his power.  I’m sure that he would.” Said Ryo eating.

            “Have you been listening to a word that I’ve been saying Ryo?  He’s going to kill me, not heal me.” Said Rowen, “Besides his power isn’t that strong the most he could do is stop the bleeding.”

            “Well, it wasn’t your fault that you got shot.  That even surprised me at first.” Said Ryo, “Who knew that wherever you came from people grew up in one instant.  You might be taller but I must say from carrying you around that you don’t weigh much more.  Yet another reason you should shut up and eat this stew.”

            Seiji blinked.  Grow up?  Cautiously he stalked toward a window and peeked in.  Rowen was lying on a bed trying to eat the stew, which was resting in a bowl on his chest.  He seemed much taller than last he had seen him.  He seemed at least a year older.  Perhaps he was actually their age and not younger than them.  Going back to the hut’s porch Seiji sat on the first step.  Now that he knew the truth what was he going to do?  Well, it was time to let them know that he was here.

            Ryo jumped up as he heard a knock on the door then taking a sheathed knife answered the door.  His eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he saw whom it was.

            “S-S-Seiji-sama?!” Ryo stuttered taking a step back, “W-what are you doing here?”

            “May I come in Ryo?” asked Seiji.

            “S-sure.” Said Ryo retreating into the hut.

            “Seiji!!” exclaimed Rowen his eyes widening.  He bolted up knocking the bowl of stew to the floor.  There was a tearing sound then Rowen doubled over the bandages turning dark red.

            Ryo rushed to Rowen’s side, “Crap, you broke it open.  We’ll have to bandage you again.”

            Seiji walked over to Rowen and put the tips of his fingers on the bandages.  Closing his eyes Seiji fed the power through his fingers and through the bandages to the wounded flesh beneath.  The bleeding stopped.  Rowen looked up at Seiji mystified. 

            “You are right.” Said Seiji looking at Rowen, “All I can do is stop the bleeding.”

            “You heard us?” asked Ryo looking nervous and worried.

            “Yes.” Said Seiji as he started to change the bloody bandages carefully.

            “How-how much did you…” started Rowen.

            “I got here a little after Ryo started changing the bandages.” Said Seiji wrapping the wound.

            “Oh, Gods.” Muttered Rowen.  That signed his death sentence.

            “Rowen meant no harm.” Said Ryo.

            “I know; I heard it all.  And I, “ started Seiji tying off the bandages, “Forgive both of you.  Even though I don’t approve of anything that I heard.  I want to know what happened.”

            “Well, “ started Ryo, “When Rowen gave the plans for future combat I knew that something was up so I approached him about it finally forcing him to tell me.  In the end I went with him to keep him from getting himself killed.  We went to the Kurayami Okoku and spied about.  That’s when we saw a troop of spirit demons in armor leaving from the back of the castle in secret.  It was the Unknown army.  Having our confirmation we started to leave but one of them saw us and they started firing arrows at us.  We were dodging and would have gotten clean away but suddenly Rowen started glowing, light flashed and suddenly he grew up to this.  In his momentary pause he was shot with an arrow but if that wasn’t enough when we were running he fell and the arrow caught on something tearing a gash across below his ribs as it was torn out.  From there we made it to the horse and escaped a few yards.  There I first bandaged him but the bleeding was so bad that we had to stop several times to change the bandages.  Then we ended up here at night fall.”

            Seiji nodded, “I see.  Both of you should really be thrown in the dungeons but, “ Seiji smiled, “I heard why you did it so I can’t really be angry anymore.”  He looked down at Rowen, “No, I’m not going to kill you.  I’m sure the wound will heal fast.  Cye can take care of you when you get back to the castle tomorrow.  I’m going back now so the castle doesn’t get in an uproar.”

            “Thank you, Seiji-sama.” Said Ryo bowing.

            “I can’t do without two of the most important people to me and the kingdom.” Said Seiji as he walked out of the hut, “Take good care of him for now Ryo.  Get back to the castle as quickly as possible.  There we will discuss your findings of the Unknown army.”

            Byakuen escorted Seiji back to the castle safely for there was things lurking about near the town that night to make sure that was lost would be found.  Seiji told his findings to Shuu and Cye who were very much relieved that it was all over now.  That night however Seiji dreamt a dream, which bothered him, he would not see his two friends again after that night.  The dark claims all, which knows its secrets.  Seiji tossed and turned finally bolting up in bed.  Ryo and Rowen were in trouble he just knew it but it was still two hours till dawn.  Dressing as he felt the feeling grow stronger Seiji left his room and found that Shuu and Cye were awake as well.  They felt it too.  Without waking the rest of the castle the trio rode off into the dark with a troubled Byakuen leading the way.  When they arrived they found the hut in shambles, but no sign of either Ryo or Rowen could be found.  Shuu pointed out the hoof prints outside telling of at least five horses.  The two had been taken and all three of them had a sinking idea of who it was.   

                                          Kurayami no sono Wakusei Okoku.


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