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Ninjago Series Inspirations


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I receive my inspirations from so many different sources, some you may not understand how, but here they are. :)

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Key Locations in Ninjago along with Chosen Themes

Some of the locations are actual locations in Ninjago while others are strictly fictional. The themes that I have chosen for these places are for my own enjoyment and inspiration and belong to their respected creators. Please enjoy!!

Sasha's hometown: Poseidonia www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQhtMP… or if link doesn't work Final Fantasy 7 ost Costa De Sol

Kai and Nya's hometown: Ignacia *real location* www.youtube.com/watch?v=gV-ex7… starting from 0:55 and loops (couldn't find the title of said song)

Jay's home in the Sea of Sand *real location* www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl_9EJ… or if link doesn't work Ratchet and Clank 2 ost Tabora Mining Area

Cole's hometown: Temblor www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mn_PI… or if link doesn't work Assasin's Creed 2 ost Home in Florence

Ebony's hometown: Twilight City www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4eN6y… or if link doesn't work Kingdom Hearts 2 ost Sacred Moon

Zane's birthplace: laboratory (located in Birchwood Forest east of Malcalania Forest) www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Yzcc0… or if link doesn't work Final Fantasy 8 ost Find your Way

Dominique's hometown: Ninjago City *actual location* www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQMiQZ… or if link doesn't work Kingdom Hearts ost Traverse Town

Ayane's hometown: Shika www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qXX6o… or if link doesn't work Final Fantasy 10 ost Servants of the Mountain

The Destiny's Bounty: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld8t8o… or if link doesn't work Ninja Gaiden ost Monastery Destroyed

The Forest of Ramza: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwkjz-… or if link doesn't work Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Forest Temple

Music is one of my most inspirational sources to go to for my fanfiction. I hope you've enjoyed these fine tunes and I'll probably add a few more down the line once more locations are revealed. :D

Journal History

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Silence.

The wind had ceased blowing as the children traversed the shadowy meadow, inching ever closer to the ominous mansion on a hill. But despite the absence of gales, coldness draped itself over the eight as the distance between the mansion and them dwindled. Each had their own levels of apprehension and courage, but most of their anxiety hinged on the one that was leading them. The newcomer to their group, the mysterious white-haired girl, could she really be trusted?

Some thought so and some didn't…

"Oh, thank you, Cole."

Kai glanced over at Sasha as Cole helped her into his black jacket. The girl's face was fraught with worry. No doubt her mind was engulfed with Roxanne's welfare as she stared straight ahead. However, the boy beside her held a different expression, one of doubt and distrust. He was frowning at their guide's back as if expecting her to betray them at any moment, despite her earlier words.

Kai grimaced.

He knew they had a right to be suspicious. After all, the girl just materialized out of thin air it seemed. But in spite of her abrupt appearance, when Kai saw her…the only thing he had doubted was whether or not she was real. Her physical features were just so…otherworldly. She came to them like an onyx-garbed angel and informed them of the situation and what was happening. If she hadn't, most likely they'd all be standing around further back still twiddling their thumbs on what to do.

That was enough for him. She got them to move. Action. Her enlightening words had swayed him as did his instincts told him to trust her.

But like any society, trust can only be found from knowing a person. So perhaps if they asked her some questions, then maybe the others would accept her like he had.

"Excuse me…but what exactly is…a "schism"?" Zane suddenly inquired.

The girl's pace did not falter nor did she look to Zane when she responded.

"A schism is a tear in the plane of existence. It only occurs when supernatural forces are at their most potent."

"Which is Halloween night?" Put forth Ayane and the leading girl hummed her affirmation.

"Surely all of you have heard some form of superstition behind the origins of All Hallows Eve?"

"Well, yeah…" Jay shrugged. "Corpses rising from the dead to roam the streets at night, ghosts fluttering about looking for unsuspecting victims to possess, but that's all urban legend and folklore. That is…" he glanced around nervously, "until this freakish night happened…"

"Hey, we haven't seen any ghosts or anything yet, so let's not fear something that may not exist," Cole said then turned his narrowed green eyes to the girl's back. "And what do you believe? How do you know all this?"

The crunching of grass underfoot was all that was heard for a spell before the girl answered.

"I'm a firm advocate of the paranormal and have read many non-fiction books pertaining to the subject. As you can easily see… I'm different."

"There's nothing wrong with being different," Kai placated reflexively, the girl's tone didn't sound sad but it troubled him how…emotionless it was. "It's what gives us individuality. The world would be a pretty boring place if everyone was the same and believed in the same things."

"…Yes, your words have merit."

Kai smiled.

"Wait…so you mean you're not in costume?!" Jay suddenly screeched. "You actually dress like a necromancer on a regular basis?!"

Kai was just about to turn around and throw a welding tool at his friend when Ayane's peacekeeping voice stunted his temper.

"What I think Jay is trying to ask is, were you not part of the Trick-or-Treating event? Perhaps in another group?"

"No, I left my home when my amulet prompted me to."

"Your necklace talks to you?!" Jay again…

"Though my amulet is a treasured keepsake of mine, it doesn't have a voice."

"But you just said—"

Kai decided to intervene and get the conversation back on common ground before Jay fired off at the mouth again and said something demeaning or offensive.

"So, you live in Twilight then, right?"

"Yes."

Now they were getting somewhere in giving their guide an identity.

"So…what's your name?"

A momentary pause. The mansion was getting closer, larger and the climate ever so colder. The children were almost to their destination.

"Ebony."

Kai tested the name on his tongue silently. He didn't know why he'd thought she'd have a more complex name. Ebony… The name was very common and from gazing at her, even from the back, she did have a rather dark allure. How befitting…

She intrigued him.

"Okay, cool. My name is—"

Ebony halted her steps and turned swiftly around to face him and Kai's words died on his lips at seeing that piercing russet garnet gem again, always challenging him. He and the others stopped too.

"There is no need for you to tell me your names. I am not here to befriend any of you…" Her eyes, for some reason, moved to Ayane before shifting back to Kai. "…just save the girl."

Hard, detached, and completely apathetic. Kai's mouth fell open, left temporarily dumbstruck at Ebony's blunt integrity, but quickly snapped it shut and bared his teeth angrily at the girl, his temper rekindled. His first impulse was to lay into her, so that's what he did.

"Hey! I was only being nice by helping you familiarize yourself with the group, so that you wouldn't feel like an outcast!" He roared. "I was doing you a favor!"

The dark gem narrowed and hardened. "Then it's your own fault for assuming that I wanted to familiarize myself with your group. If we survive this night, it's obvious we'll never see each other again. So what's the point of attachment and camaraderie? Truth be told, all of you are hindrances. The only one among you that I may need assistance from is that one over there."

Ebony had pointed directly at Ayane.

"Me?!" The blonde squeaked, her two-toned irises widening tremendously. "Why me?!"

But Ebony didn't answer, her gaze focused beyond the group. Pensive and calculating. The little hairs on the back of Kai's neck pricked up and he and the others slowly peered over their shoulders to the dark horizon from whence they came.

In the distance…the children heard guttural growls and the rattling of chains and the eerie terrain of shadowed grass and sallow fireflies was dissipating, being swallowed up by a dense black miasma. The grass crunched loudly and sharp claws dug deep into dirt and gravel with each terrifying step towards the group. Eight hearts thumped rapidly in fear as eight glowing poison-green eyes narrowed at them from within the abyss. All it took was the sight of bloodied yellow fangs from four beastly heads to emerge, for Ebony to face forward again.

"Run! Run now!" She screamed and took off for the mansion in a mad sprint with the others mere footfalls behind her. The manic roar of indignation from the beast or beasts fueled their horror as well as their speed and soon they found themselves at the start of the incline of the hill.

"Keep going!" Kai rallied, without missing a step and the others began their frantic ascent as well.

Halfway up the grassy mound, Ebony's bare feet slipped on a moist patch. She gave a startled gasp as she started to fall forward; her eyes wide in disbelief as the ground came hurtling towards her. But her face never met the still grass, for she was suddenly jerked upright and pulled by her hand to continue the trek upward.

The boy in blacksmith garb looked behind him at the wide-eyed girl, a cocky smirk playing on his lips despite the cold sweat gathered on his face.

"Just a hindrance, huh?!" He gasped hastily, his hand firmly grasping hers as he pulled her along. "I think I'm another person that you need! The name's Kai! Got it memorized!?" (A/N: Kai, Axel…had to do it!)

Ebony said nothing, only proceeded to stare unblinkingly at the boy who most likely just saved her life.

"Geez! You two can flirt terribly later! In case you haven't noticed, there's a giant hellhound barreling after us!" Jay hollered.

Finally making it to the flight of stone steps leading up to the spacious veranda, double wooden doors flung open instantaneously as if to offer safe haven to the fleeing children, and not one of them stopped to ponder the strange occurrence. Gasping and wheezing, all eight of them made it safely inside and just as the beast lunged, the doors slammed shut, barricading the monster out.

They backed away from the doors as the abomination raged on the other side. It scraped its claws and slammed its body mercilessly against the wooden accesses, and although the frames cried and creaked in protest, they miraculously didn't break. After several long moments of this constant thrashing and howling, and unadulterated fear gripping the hearts and minds of the huddled and frightened boys and girls… it suddenly stopped and the group was met with a chilly silence.

Not daring to breathe a sigh of relief just yet, Cole bravely detangled himself from Sasha and crept towards the silent doors.

"Cole, what are you doing?!" Jay hissed and stifled a wince as his hand was in the death-grip of the samurai who clung to his side.

Cole turned his head with warning eyes to the cluster of bodies and placed a finger to his lips to gesture for them to stay quiet. He gave an assuring nod to Sasha and she swallowed nervously before nodding back.

He then reached the doors and placed his ear against it.

Ayane buried her face in Zane's chest to muffle her whimpers and the pale boy responded by bringing her closer while keeping cautious eyes on the doors and Cole.

Ebony stared down at the tan hand that still entrapped hers in bewilderment. Her mind failing to register the likelihood of her death if it weren't for said hand.

Cole pulled back from the doors, releasing an audible breath.

He turned back to face the others and spread his arms. "It's gone."

The children breathed a collected sigh of relief.

Kai loosened his hold on Ebony's hand and the girl quickly took the opportunity to slip it out of his grasp.

She turned her back to the group.

"What…was that monstrosity?" Zane whispered, standing up and releasing Ayane. Green and blue optics peered at Zane more curiously now and she wrung her hands together in uncertainty, but decided to remain quiet…and close to him.

"An Eraser…"

The seven turned to the eighth.

"We aren't supposed to be here, remember? And the evil spirit released it to come terminate us, not wanting us to interfere with its plans."

"So we're a threat!" Kai exclaimed and rammed his fist into his palm excitedly. He smirked. "That means we have a chance!"

"A threat!" Jay cried incredulously, eyeing Kai like he lost his mind. "We're not a threat, Kai! We're Kibbles n' Bits! We're walkin', talkin' tenderloin to that thing! Or to be more accurate, runnin' n screamin' tenderloin!"

"B-But the good spirit helped us just now!" Ayane reasoned boldly and all eyes centered on her, including Ebony's. "When the doors flew open and closed on their own, I…" She closed her eyes tight for a moment to try to recall the feeling that had washed over her. It had felt kind, but also desperate for aid. "I'm sure we're not alone here. With the good spirit's help, we can rescue Roxanne. I'm sure of it!" She finished with a firm nod.

"As I suspected… You can also sense spirits," Ebony deduced as she stared the blonde down, and Ayane blushed and looked to the floor, unable to meet such a penetrating gaze.

"I g-guess so…" She admitted quietly with a small stutter.

A fog of contemplative silence fell over the children until it was broken by one.

"This place…" Sasha breathed, finally taking the time to survey her surroundings. "I didn't expect it to be so beautiful…in its own way…"

Cole rubbed the back of his neck and scanned the perimeter also, the others following suit.

"Yeah, now that you mentioned it… It doesn't look too bad on the inside."

Gothic and grand were just a few words to describe the mansion's interior. Caked in a surprisingly thin film of dust, the gothic architecture was still a sight to behold. The elaborate and spacious foyer had an intimidating structure, with its dark marble floors and ostentatious staircase leading to a second level, splitting two ways at a fork. Divans and other pieces of furniture littered the room here and there, some were even toppled over with cobwebs weaved between the legs. A decaying fireplace lounged in a secluded space and within, a mound of salt and pepper ash told the tale of once being used frequently long ago.

The youngsters noticed that upon entering the front doors that the foyer led to two hallways, one to the left, and the other to the right. The pathways were much too dark to navigate safely and even more ominous were that their archways were carved into menacing gargoyles, their ferocious visages just daring the children to venture in.

Sasha tilted her head skyward and noted that the core of the ceiling was crafted into scenic painted glass. The fluorescent colors fused together to form a depiction of a praying angel. Only…the picture left her very inquisitorial for half of the angel's figure was blonde and heavenly, but the other half was very much demonic and cruel. Could there be an underlining meaning…? She wondered.

Jay strayed over to the fireplace and ran a finger across the mantle mount with a circumspective frown.

"Okay, I don't know what you guys are looking at, but this place is just creepy. And whoever runs the joint should really fire the undead housekeep because they are surely not earning their keep."

Everyone knew that the boy's comment was meant to be a joke and it did warrant a few smiles despite the harrowing situation and the most appreciative grin came from behind a grotesque mask, and milk chocolate depths softened in further appeal for the youth.

Jay cocked a chestnut eyebrow as he reached out further to the wall and slid his hand across the dust-covered surface.

"Umm…Sasha? What's Roxanne's last name again?"

"Varatojo," she answered, looking over at him. "Why…?"

"Well…you all might want to come over and take a look at this…" he said cryptically.

When the other children joined Jay, their eyes widened at what they saw. An enlarged painting of a family hung precariously over the fireplace, though the top portion where the faces of the man and woman were too badly damaged to discern, they could easily make out the two children below. Two girls, obviously sisters…and one looked disturbingly similar to Roxanne, all the way down to the snarky grin that usually played upon the girl's lips. And below the painting, engraved on a plaque was "The Varatojo Family".

"So…could this place be an ancestral home?" Mused Ayane and Sasha nodded absently, still somewhat awestruck.

"Looks that way. Rox is actually part of a very noble lineage. She comes from a family of successful politicians and entrepreneurs, all of which originated in Poseidonia even as far back as the old days when it was nothing more than a fishermen's village. The Varatojo's always held power."

"What about now?" Zane asked.

"Yep, Rox's mother is the Attorney General and her father is a member of the parliament that advises the President of the South."

Kai whistled. "Didn't know we were hangin' around such a big shot. I'm surprised she didn't gloat more about her family's power."

Sasha shook her head ruefully. "Despite how aggravating Rox can be, she isn't one of those people who flaunt their names around to impress others. She's always just herself." A sudden smile uplifted at the corners of the red-head's mouth. "And she always told me that if people couldn't accept her for her, then that's their problem. It's one of the things I admire about her and one of the reasons why we're friends."

Cole placed a reassuring hand on Sasha's shoulder and gave her a soothing smile. "We'll save her," he said simply and the others resolutely agreed.

"So Ebony, where do you think we should start the search?" Kai asked, still looking at the portrait. When he received no reply, he turned around.

"Ebony?"

The girl in question was in the center of the foyer, under the dome of painted glass. Her head was bowed, her body, still. The area around her was blanketed in a reddish tint due to the crimson moon's rays shining through the overhead dome.

Russet garnet scruntinized the floor with certainty.

"Yes… Yes, this will help, but I will need a medium…" she muttered to herself. Unconsciously, her hand reached up and fingered the smooth surface of her amulet.

"Hey, what's going on?" Cole questioned suspiciously, a frown marring his features as he eyed the long white-haired girl.

He and the rest trotted back towards Ebony when she still refused to answer. They could see she was engrossed with the ground, completely fixated. Kai, sensing the growing apprehension from the others tried again and took a step closer to Ebony.

"Eb—"

"Watch where you step!" The girl suddenly cautioned, snapping her head up to glare at the boy. Kai immediately put his foot down and balanced himself. "Everyone, look at the ground around me. Do you see the runes and glyphs? This is an octagram and it looks to be an elemental one…"

"What's an octagram?" Ayane asked perplexed, searching the floor and Zane came to stand beside her, his eyes scouring the intricate panels of glyphs and embroidered runes etched into the dusty marble tiles.

"Well traditionally, the octagram was created for the use of geometry and represented an eight-sided star polygon. However over the centuries, it has been used in a variety of ways and studies. But basically, it's just any self-intersecting octagon…much like this one."

"Yes, and one of the various studies it was used for was sorcery, the Dark Arts if you will…" Ebony deduced then mimicked Zane, "…much like this one."

Kai scratched his head, clueless. "Okay, and is this…octagram supposed to help us in some way?"

"Yeah, like give us super cool magical powers!?" Jay leaned forward ecstatically, his radiant blue eyes shining.

Cole crossed his arms and frowned. "Get real, Jay. Witches and black magic is just a bunch of stupid fairy tales. There's no such thing."

Jay countered with his own frown and logic. "Uh yeah, in case you haven't noticed Cole, we are in a fairy tale! A very eeeevil fairy tale, with giant eight-eyed beasts and creepy old mansions with ghosts! Isn't this very occurrence concrete proof that the supernatural can happen!?"

Cole kept his defensive posture, though he had to admit Jay had a point. After everything they've seen and experienced thus far, he knew he wasn't dreaming. His heart had pounded in terror at being chased by the roaring beast in the fog. He had felt Sasha's hand in his as he desperately pulled her along.

This was no fairy tale.

Cole chose to remain silent and Ebony took his reservation as her cue to continue.

"That was what I was trying to ascertain earlier. I am familiar with the incantation needed to activate the octagram, but a powerful medium catalyst must be established for the spell to occur successfully."

Not knowing what to say to that, a heavy silence settled over the children. That is, until Ayane began mutely walking towards Ebony, her steps tentative as she evaded the few panels and rune inscriptions on her way. Ebony's lips pursed in discontent as the girl neared her, but didn't comment on the fact. Ayane stopped when she was within an arm's length of her and bit her lower lip out of nervousness before speaking.

"What about your mother?" Ayane asked quietly, her voice barely above a whisper. "She wants to help, doesn't she? So why won't you let her?"

Ebony recoiled back as if slapped, her hand grasping her amulet protectively in a flash as she glared into kind sky blue and mint green.

"I-I-I…It's…" Ebony gritted her teeth, quickly becoming flustered at the situation. She lost her usual detachment at the mere mention of her mother. She had known Ayane possessed similar abilities to her own, but she didn't count on the possibility that her powers were developed enough to sense the origins of her precious amulet.

"Be…Because…it's too dangerous," she finally got out albeit her voice was strained. She looked fearfully at Ayane, her one visible eye wide and unsure. "What if something happened…?"

Ayane held her gaze for a spell before slowly lowering it to her side where her hands gingerly removed her mother's golden flute from its protective leather strap. She presented it to Ebony with tender hands, its lustrous hue glowing faintly under the red moon's glare.

"My mother…also wants to help, but she can't do it alone. Both of our mothers want to ensure our survival, Ebony. They protect us…even after they've passed on."

Ebony stared at the pulsing golden flute in amazement. So that's what she'd been sensing around Ayane's form, the loving spectral of her mother! She met Ayane's empathetic gaze again. This girl knew of her pain. She was a kindred spirit, a reflection of her soul. Her sights then traveled upward to the painted glass depiction of the praying angel. Half and half. A light side and a dark side. Similar yet different. One could not survive without the other.

With a resigned sigh, Ebony released her amulet and it responded to the unrestraint immediately. All the children watched in wonder as the two keepsakes detached themselves from their inheritors and levitated between them. At once, they erupted with color and power, the lithe instrument a stunning white gold and the necklace an enchanting crimson with black wisps.

Ayane felt her eyes glisten in unshed tears at seeing her mother's strength and feeling her love, but did not let them fall. Now was not the time for crying. Who knew how much time they had left before the lunar eclipse ended.

They had to hurry and find Roxanne…

With a confident smile, her gaze found and locked with the girl's in front of her once more.

"Let's do it, Ebony."

And Ebony dipped her head once before speaking up and calling out to the others.

"Everyone, listen to me! I will now begin the incantation! Close your eyes and open your minds and your hearts! Let your soul guide your body to its rightful destination and most of all…" The girl let one of the many barriers around her heart fall. "…trust me! I will not betray you!"

One by one, upon hearing the sincerity of Ebony's voice, the children let their faces alight into smiles. A bond of unbreakable friendship had unexpectedly been forged between the eight. They could feel it in the tempo of their hearts.

Zane was the last to close his eyes, wanting to absorb the aesthetically pleasing sight of Ayane amongst the subtle tint of red. Before all this, when he first sat down beside her on the bus, he had sensed something special about her. She was attuned with not only Mother Nature but spirituality as well. Being a loyal advocate of science, he had a hard time grasping the concept of otherworldly events, letting his sixth sense and Emotional Framework guide him through illogical scenarios.

But since meeting her, he had begun to feel strange. Yes, he wanted to protect her. He wanted to protect all of his newfound friends. However…his EF was sending his CPU abnormal feedback in regards to Ayane. At first he couldn't place the blissful warmth that careened through his system, only able to construe that it felt unmistakably good. But as the night trudged on, leading to this point in time, he finally figured it out.

He was attracted to the human girl…emotionally and physically.

Disturbing, right? Zane thought so. After all, what business did an android have being attracted to a human girl? It was preposterous! Regardless of his mind and body being diminished and altered, he was still a cyber-organic organism. There was no denying it. No escaping it.

I must quell my emotions and only focus on protecting her and the others… He thought as he too closed his eyes and heeded Ebony's advice just as she began her chant, her hands clasped in prayer.

"I am the Air that blows in the trees,

I am the Aqua that swirls in the sea,

With quivering spirits, the samurai and the water nymph started to walk as the aforementioned elements' respected glyph panels glowed. Sasha reached hers first and when her feet came in contact with the radiant aquamarine panel, her spirit soared. She felt submerged in purifying water, feeling blissfully at home while the gushing element literally swam through her. The path of rune inscriptions burst into color as well, traveling from the panel to the center where the two mother spirits channeled their power. As did Nobou's when he stood upon the bright royal purple panel, his heart and mind at ease once feeling a rush of wind course through his soul.

I am the Inferno that burns most bright,

I am the Terra, one too strong to fight,

Kai and Cole, both representing the strength of resolve and bravery, let their bodies move on their own. Naturally smirking in readiness, the son of a blacksmith felt the fire in his veins once the red-hot panel was beneath his feet. And Cole, always having a robust figure, felt solid as rock, indestructible, as he stood proudly on the shining bronze panel. The need to protect…stronger than ever.

I am the Frost that freezes your soul,

I am the Lightning that lacks control,

It was a calling like no other, an indescribable push and pull in the right direction. Zane felt his body move on its own volition, as did Jay with a jolt. Everlasting white seared his feet as the android found his destination. Calm, penetrating coldness… He always knew he had a strong kinship with the element of ice. Jay couldn't help but chuckle as deep blue raw power coiled and glinted around his body, the tickling sensation pleasing him immensely once he found his place on the sapphire panel. He was energy…in body, mind, heart, and spirit.

I am the Light that feeds the flowers in the meadow,

I am the Darkness that tempts wayward bedfellows,

Lastly, the two girls, the two kindred spirits, began their own trek. They both already knew where their souls were guiding them, for it was predestined for a child of light and a child of dark to assume their roles as Spirit Trackers. Ayane released a joyful sigh at feeling the warmth through her shoes and spread throughout her entire body immediately after stepping foot on the bright yellowish-gold panel. She was one with the sun and would forever remain so.

This is who I am… This is who I was meant to be… A creature of shadow and night… Mother…are you proud of me? Ebony relished the touch of coolness on the soles of her bare feet, the silvery panel below her gleaming brilliantly. Sensing that everyone was in place, she spread her arms wide and finished the incantation with valor.

Elements gather in this sacred place,

Around the 9th, which has no face,

Bring me your honor,

Bring me your grace,

Come now, I call you,

Come now in haste.

And as it is spoke, so shall it be!"

Simultaneously, all eyes snapped open to reveal glowing depths, each child's irises emitting their element's corresponding color. Supreme power surged and planted itself in the youngsters' bodies and what a glorious feeling it was! But just then…like a calamity from the sky…the painted glass dome of the praying angel shattered in crystal shards.

The beast…the one who was sent to erase the children…was back…smothering all vibrant color with its black miasma…

The force of the nightmarish creature's thunderous landing sent waves of dust and the children flying back in random directions. The four-headed hellhound roared furiously, its silver chains swinging every which way as the children quickly scrambled back up to their feet.

Ebony had no idea if the ritual had been completed or not, but she did know one thing…

"MOTHER!" She and Ayane both shouted in unison, their precious keepsakes trapped beneath the claws of their relentless pursuer.

"Arrghhh! That's it!" Kai yelled, standing firm and facing the beast. He turned his head fiercely to Cole. "We kill this thing, here and now!"

"What!?" Cole's green eyes narrowed disbelievingly. Sasha was beside him, still winded and disoriented as were Kai and Ebony to his right, but the others were scattered somewhere behind the flailing creature. "Kai, trying to fight now would be suicide! We don't even know how to activate our powers or even if we have any!"

"Then what do you suggest we do then!?"

Cole eyed the monster as it thrashed its heads around wildly. It seemed like it was trying to look behind it, but it seemed to be at war with itself. Too many heads, too many brains with different ideas…and only one body, but if it decided to focus on them…

The boy's green eyes widened. He had an idea…

"Takin' it on here will only lead to our disadvantage! We have limited mobility so we have to even the odds! If we split up, we can possibly trap it in one of the corridors! Then, we can finish it off!" Cole braced himself for what he had to say next. "We disperse in pairs, whoever it decides to follow…has to be the decoy!"

Kai didn't like the plan, not one bit, but before he could open his mouth to argue, a shout of his name made his blood run cold.

"KAI!"

Kai immediately turned to the direction of his sibling's terrified voice. It came from behind the monstrosity to the right.

"NYA!" He screamed back and tried to see behind the beast but its constant whipping about was causing dust to fog the air and hinder his sight.

He thought quickly. No choice! Protecting my little sister comes first! With it facing our direction, it's a good chance it'll follow either me and Ebony or Cole and Sasha! Dammit!

"Nya, run!" He shouted. "We'll catch up later, I promise! Jay! If you're with her, take her and get out of here!"

On the other side, behind the swinging tail and chains, Jay barely registered the "her" and the "Nya" and the light distinctly feminine voice shouting Kai's namebefore grabbing the samurai's hand and fleeing down the darkened corridor behind them.

No time to think, Jay! Just run!

"Zane! You and Ayane need to go!" yelled Cole, having caught a glimpse of the two near the opposite passageway of Jay and Nya.

Zane didn't need to be told twice. Seeing no alternative but to scoop the shell-shocked Ayane up in his arms, he turned and fled as well.

The Eraser's eight ears stood erect and flicked humorlessly, and the two outer head turned as one in the direction of the corridors. It must've sensed that four of its quarries were no longer in the room with it.

It growled in distaste.

"My—My amulet… Mother…" Ebony wept and attempted to approach the glaring beast but Kai quickly pulled her to him.

He framed his hands around her face and stared into her glassy dark gem. "We're going to get it back!" He declared fearlessly. "But first we have to leave, okay?!"

The wide eye simply blinked and the boy peered over Ebony's head to meet Cole's hard and ready emerald gaze.

"Later!" They both said. It was an agreement to meet up elsewhere, hopefully in a safe haven with the others…and Roxanne. Sasha reached for Cole's hand first and they nodded to each other before dashing up the staircase opposite of Kai and Ebony.

And Kai did the same with his partner, gripping her hand tight enough to ensure her of his resolve to not only protect her but fulfill his avowal as well.

The Eraser, sensing the growing distance between it and its prey, finally decided to act…and did the unthinkable. With a decisive roar, the four heads split from the main body, landing in a gruesome wet heap on the inactive octagram. But the horrid decapitations didn't last for long, for the sickly black miasma converged around the severed heads and when the large prone body dissipated into nothingness, four new smaller but agile bodies were reborn from the abyss and carried their grotesque mantles.

Tongues lolling out hungrily from their powerful jaws, the four Erasers leapt into action, each chasing after a pair, a boy and a girl, flesh that promised to be most sweet and succulent…
A Haunting We Will Go! Ch. 3 (I AIN'T SCARED!)
A little miscalculation, sorry! I didn't take into account the length of the chases and puzzle-solving and whatnot, so this story will stretch for about two more chapters! I really like how everything is falling together though…do you? Let me know in some comments what you think!
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Theme Nine: Dearly Beloved…

Cole stood in front of the full-length mirror in his black three-piece Italian suit, his hands trembling anxiously as he adjusted the knot of his teal tie. He then smoothed down his silver chrome vest with timorous abandon as if he was trying to iron out invisible wrinkles with the hard press of his hands alone, and although he knew better than to mess up his hair, he wanted to run his fingers through it just to give his tireless appendages more to do.

He lifted his wrist to check his watch, smiling as he caught sight of the antique silver cufflinks his father had passed down to him to commemorate this special occasion.

He was due in the church in thirty minutes.

He was going to marry the love of his life, Sasha Graciano, in thirty minutes.

Their relationship had had many transitions: passerby acquaintances at first, then ambiguous friends, then confident boyfriend and girlfriend, then amorous fiancé and fiancée, and now… the most important transition of all was about to take place, one that would bind them together for life and even after death, forever.

Eternal husband and wife.

He released a shuddering breath.

Apprehension settled in his stomach only to travel upward to lay siege to his heart. He looked into the reflection of the mirror to see his brothers and Lloyd standing behind him adorned in similar suits, although his vest was the only silver one while the others wore the mandatory teal. They were talking amicably amongst themselves in the groom's suite. Well, all except Zane that is, whose eyes remained dutifully trained on him.

"Geez, I still can't believe Sasha was able to find actual teal flowers," Jay commented while fiddling with the beautiful esteemed blossom on his lapel. "I didn't even know teal flowers existed!"

Kai placed his hands in the pockets of his slacks and let his infamous smirk play on his lips. "Yeah, Ebony said they're very rare. They're apparently called blue raspberry orchids."

"Man, did they have to smell like blue Kool-aid though?" Lloyd questioned from beside Kai. "I'm so thirsty now…and hungry… I just might eat this thing…"

Cole's eyes narrowed once he spotted something amiss from the grumbling blonde's attire.

"Lloyd, where's your handkerchief?"

The Green Ninja frowned and patted his breast pocket. "It's here. I got it. It's just not showing."

"It's supposed to be showing, Lloyd," Cole said pointedly to the reflection. "Just like ours are. Kai help him and make sure it's folded correctly."

"I don't need any help," Lloyd grumbled, pulling out the velvet teal cloth.

"Look, we don't have much time. Just let Kai help you. We have to be in position at the church in…" Cole glanced at his watch again. "…twenty-six minutes so we have to be outta here pretty soon."

"Yeah Lloyd, the groom has spoken! Don't talk back!" Jay rebuked jokingly. "When you finally decide to tie-the-knot with Dominique, that'll be the one and only time you'll get to order us around. As is the decree of any groom and let me tell ya…" The blue ninja gave Cole a meaningful side-long glance. "…having the 'oh so glorious leader' under your thumb is one helluva fun time!"

"Church, Jay," Kai growled, meticulously creasing the edges on Lloyd's handkerchief. "If I can't cuss then neither can you."

Jay covered his mouth with wide eyes upon meeting the warning gaze of the groom in the reflection of the mirror.

Cole was a Catholic man after all.

"So? What? You think I should pop the question to Dominique just so I can have you guys running around doing menial tasks for me?" Lloyd inquired, eyeing the blue-eyed man dubiously.

"Of course not," Kai countered on instinct, speaking on behalf of Jay without permission. "Marriage should only be pursued if the two people in question are ready. Unconditional love and devotion is essential without a doubt, but more importantly…" The fire ninja's eyes suddenly intensified and misted over until the gold smoldered to dark amber in retrospection. "Don't push her, lest you end up pushing her away."

Lloyd understood. However, he perceptibly surmised that that last piece of advice was directed initially to Kai himself. Not wanting to open the Pandora's Box pertaining to his sister's personal life, he settled with his own thoughts on his long-going relationship with Dominique. He loved Dominique, there was no questioning that. Although, he had wondered on more than one occasion if she loved him as strongly as he did her. He had every right to speculate this matter, given his less than stellar behavior at the beginning. And he had proven countless times in the past that he could be very selfish in regards to her, almost to the point of unhealthy possession. Dominique's fathomless kindness and pure heart were magnetizing, she always pulled him in. From her voice, her touch, her actions, the warm gentility of her smile and violet depths, he craved all of it. He despairingly realized his selfishness had no bounds and that he could even be classified as a potential danger to Dominique. Lloyd never discussed these matters that plagued his heart in fear that if his doubts were brought to light, then Dominique would surely leave him. She once told him, that above all the others, she trusted him the most. He took her that night. Overcome with a pulsating desire to claim everything she had as his… and she let him. She had let him ravish her…thoroughly. Lloyd had always feared that Dominique's naiveté would cause her pain and heartache someday and he had wanted to protect her from it. However, he never would've guessed that he would be that pain and heartache. After all, what right did he have to take her body, when he didn't even deserve to hold her hand? Well, no more, for once he was going to be the selfless one. He was going to break-up with her, to spare her of his insufferable shortcomings… Today… At Cole and Sasha's wedding.

Kai inserted the impeccably folded pristine cloth back inside Lloyd's breast pocket, letting the glossy teal edge peek out. The two men said nothing as they stepped away from each other, both lost in their own thoughts.

"Zane, do you have the ring?" Cole asked over his shoulder and Zane nodded.

"Yes, Cole."

When Cole just continued to look at him, Zane quickly dug the ring out of his pocket to present the diamond emerald band to the worrisome groom.

"Yes Cole, as you can see it is safe and sound," the nindroid assured with a smile.

Cole breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay, good…" He then turned fully to address those behind him, his face as hard and serious as any of them would expect from a leader before a mission operation, not holy matrimony. "It's time to move-out, boys. Let's go!"

While the others turned and began to head for the door, Cole took a moment to check his breath.

He grimaced, stupefied. "Why in the world do I have cake-breath!?" He questioned incredulously, looking back up to his groomsmen.

Jay cocked a scarred eyebrow. "Uh, don't you remember, Cole? You had us get you a piece to help calm your nerves."

"Lotta good that did…" Kai voiced discreetly with a smirk.

"And another…and another…" Jay counted absently on his fingers then shrugged and shook his head, "…until the entire three-tier cake was gone. You're lucky Zane had the foresight to have another one put on reserve in case of an emergency. Though…we did earn some questioning looks from the culinary staff in the kitchen during the whole escapade."

The groomsmen had to stifle their laughter as they reflected back on Cole's first panic attack earlier. Each of them had to make runs back and forth from the kitchen with slice after slice of Cole and Sasha's three-layer, three-tiered wedding cake, all the while dodging the watchful eyes of the bridesmaids and family members of both parties. It was unthinkable to allow the bride to find out her groom was experiencing a nervous breakdown… Plus, Cole threatened to post embarrassing photos of them on Facebook if Sasha or anybody else were to fathom the ninja leader at his least most dignified.

"By the way…" Jay peered at Cole with a touch of concern over his mirth. "You okay?"

Cole ignored the question and spun around to face the mirror again, widening his lips in an exaggerated toothy smile. Turning just as quickly back, he leveled his friends with a fierce glare.

"You guys were going to let me waltz out there and kiss my bride with fudge stuck in between my teeth!?"

"Whoa! How were we supposed to know?! You don't exactly smile a lot with teeth!" Jay defended.

"Heh heh, and we thought Sasha would be used to the taste by now," Kai sniped, but when Cole angrily gritted his teeth at them, the groomsmen had to wince.

"Ugh, there it is," Lloyd groaned and bared his own teeth to indicate the point with a finger. "Cole you have somethin' like…right there."

Zane sighed. "You three are not helping," he lamented softly then turned to Kai. "Kai, can you check the bathroom to see if there are any dental hygienic utensils available?"

"Yeah, sure. Might as well drain the anaconda while I'm in there too."

"Don't you mean grass snake?" Lloyd countered with his own personal smirk just as Kai passed him. The elder just glared at him over his shoulder, mumbling something about "cheeky blondes…" before shutting the bathroom door.

"Great…now we're going to be late because I got distracted by my dad and Sasha's dad giving me death glares and all my relatives and her relatives asking questions and…"

"Cole…?"

The three remaining groomsmen stared worriedly at the raven-haired man's back when he turned around once more to the mirror. His shoulders rose and fell in rapid succession to match his sharp and quick breathing. In the mirror's reflection, they saw his mouth agape and his pupils downsized to mere pinpoints, emerald battling jade as his eyes shifted then stared at nothing, only to shift again. Cole's powerful hand gripped the side of the mirror for balance, but Zane and the others quickly moved forward when they heard the first crack.

"Bro, what's happening?! Are you having an asthma attack?!"

"That would be alarming if he had asthma, Jay!" Lloyd snapped then looked to the ice ninja for help. "Zane!?"

Zane frowned. "Looks like an anxiety attack." He gripped Cole's shoulders and led him over to a chair. "Sit down, Cole," he ordered, but the latter just shook his head.

"I don't…have time…to sit, Zane," He gasped, his neck muscles were so tight that a rather thick vein protruded from the side of it. "I have to—"

"And you will!" Zane interrupted sternly. "But first, you have to sit and calm yourself," he continued in a softer more placating tone. Jay came on the other side of Cole and placed a firm and comforting hand on the groom's back when he finally heeded Zane's advice.

Lloyd came in front with a stray wedding program in hand and began fanning Cole to bring in cooler circulation.

"Alright…now, remember your zen training… Regulate your heartbeat, control your breathing, and regain your impeccable composure…" Zane coached.

Within only a few minutes, Cole's breathing evened out. His brow furrowed and his eyes closed in concentration, his chest expanded with each deep inhale and deflated with each exhale. When he revealed his irises again, jade and emerald no longer shifted and fought with each other sporadically. Equilibrium had been restored though there was still a smidgen of anxiety left within the tranquil optics.

And the other Ninja noticed.

With a final elongated release, Cole leaned forward, balancing his weight on his knees with his elbows and interlaced his fingers in front of his face.

"Cole…" Zane started tentatively. "I sense that your heart is heavy… Are you perhaps having doubts about your marriage to Sasha…?"

Cole shook his head. "It's not the act of marrying Sasha that troubles me… It's the transition from being a boyfriend to a husband. It's not the same thing. Nowhere near as close. I keep thinking…what if I mess up too many times? What if I can't make her happy?" Emerald-jade became dark and hooded. "I know it's a two-way street in any and all relationships but…" A despondent sigh. "…I don't know…"

"Well of course you don't know, ding-dong!" Jay quipped, but there was an air of seriousness around him and in his voice as he eyed Cole with knowing. "Nobody knows! But you still want to, right?! I mean, do you remember me on my wedding day?! I was crazier than you!" A wide crooked grin suddenly spread across Jay's mouth as he lifted an eyebrow sardonically at his elder. "Then again that eating a whole cake-thing…took the CAKE! Eh?!"

"Jay…" Lloyd and Zane deadpanned.

"Anyway, what I'm sayin' is that I had almost the exact same mindset as you. But when I saw Nya walk down that aisle…her eyes shining and full of love for me, and that gorgeous smile behind that veil…" Jay sighed dreamily. "I knew then that I could do it. I knew that we could do it, together. I was beyond happy and when we both finally said the words, 'I do.', I felt utterly relieved…" He looked at Cole with a sincere smile on his lips, ocean sapphire locking with emerald jade. "No relationship is perfect, Cole. Just keep doing what you're doing, okay? It was enough to keep Sasha by your side for this long, right?"

Cole looked from one of his most trusted friends to the next, each wearing an encouraging smile for him.

He rose steadily to his feet and hugged them each individually. "Thanks, guys. I'm extremely grateful to have friends, fellow ninja, and brothers like you… and you too, Lloyd." (A/N: I don't know who else agrees with me or if I'm alone here, but I don't really count Lloyd as part of the brotherhood since he was specified as the "protectorate" and the other four as the "protectors". Not to mention, Cole and the others taught him.)

Cole smiled. He was indeed feeling much better. He no longer doubted himself, all he could think about was waiting by the altar…waiting for Sasha to make her grand entrance with her father and walk purposefully towards him. He couldn't wait to see her! Jay was right. He desperately wanted to say the words, "I do." To make their everlasting bond official. Their love would hold them together, through thick and thin, good and bad. He had absolute faith in that.

"Kai, what in the world are you doing in there!?"

Cole, Zane, and Jay glanced over at the door to see Lloyd banging his fist against it.

"Cool it, Yosh!" They heard from the other side. "I guess I shouldn't have had that Route 66 strawberry limeadeon the way over here! Now it's coming out of me like the Cetra Falls!"

The three brothers had to chuckle at Kai's response and Lloyd's snort of derision.

Zane rested his hand on Cole's shoulder and caught his eye with a sure grin. "Don't worry, brother… We'll make it on time."

Cole didn't even steal a glimpse at his watch. He simply nodded with his usual relaxed smile. "Yeah, I know.

*~DB~*

Further down the hall in the bridal suite, Sasha stood at the ready, adorned in her elegant one-piece wedding gown. Her bridesmaids flocked about her festooned in their long, sleeveless, teal dresses made of silk and satin, busying themselves with different matters of her apparel. Some mindlessly touched-up their hair or fingered the lengthy, translucent, silver scarves around their necks as they diligently endeavored.

Ebony's keen eyes roved the exquisite piece of jewelry in her hands with appreciation. Per Sasha's request, she had reformed Sophia's Pearl into something a bit more graceful to suit the occasion. The large pearl now sat in a silver crest embroidered by beautiful custom-cut teal prasiolite quartz. It hung daintily in the center from the third string of a three-string pearl necklace, and the white-haired maiden felt it would definitely serve its purpose and ornament Sasha's neck beautifully. The faint smile on her lips dissipated however when her mind forced her to think about a certain golden amber-eyed man with soft dark chocolate spikes and a captivating smirk. Kai… The conversation she had with him a week ago still haunted her and she had childishly been avoiding him ever since. Very unorthodox behavior for someone as blunt and confrontational as her, which only proved how much the discussion had…frightened her.

Ebony masked her melancholy with mastered stoicism.

She and Kai have been together for over three years. It was only natural for him to want more…and unnatural for her not to. Truth is, she was content with the relationship she built with Kai and didn't want it to change, didn't want it to graduate into something as foreboding as marriage. Not that she didn't love Kai enough to marry him, if the situation was different, if Kai only wanted to marry her and not have children, then she would happily uptake the treasured mantle of bride instead of bridesmaid. But that wasn't the case. Kai wanted her to bear his children. He wanted to finally make love to her. He confessed as much during their conversation. She had tried to reason with him, saying how it was too irresponsible and dangerous for her to bring life into the world, how any child of hers would be…different…and tormented by society because of it and ultimately succumb to seclusion. However, he had disagreed and argued that the child's life would be dissimilar from hers, since they would have both parents to love, shelter, and protect them.

She never liked arguing with Kai, detested it actually. And so…she had struggled out of his grasp, turned, and fled. And she's been dodging and evading him ever since, trying to piece together her thoughts in hopes to persuade him to drop the matter.

Ebony subtly released a heavy sigh. If the past three years with Kai had taught her anything, it was that if there was something the Ninja of Fire was adamant about, then he never gave up to see it achieved. So then… What am I to do…?

Ayane bit her lip in indecisiveness. Sasha had tasked her with finding the perfect veil for her and sure enough, she had… Not to say she didn't spend countless hours in debate over the issue though. The bride opted to not want anything obstructing the splendor of her dress so chose to have her hair affixed intricately into a braided chignon, which subsequently left her upper back and shoulders exposed except for a few carefully chosen braids that lingered against her back and over her shoulders. Following up on Sasha's principle, the huntress thought to bring further glory to the bride's attire and picked a sheer floor-length veil decorated masterfully with crystals in the large pattern of a swan in full flight near the bottom, while more crystals embellished the hem. The veil would circle and spread around Sasha flawlessly like a tent, the only dilemma Ayane faced was what headpiece to use to set atop Sasha's crown, from which the veil would spill from. She had narrowed it down to two choices: the aqua-jewel encrusted tiara or the circlet of intertwined sterling silver with teal gems implemented in a silver setting on each curve, and at the center of the headwear dangled a small star-shaped diamond that would settle betwixt her eyebrows if worn. Both were magnificent and would accentuate the veil nicely but… Which one? Thought Ayane, glancing from one to the other repeatedly.

On the far side of the room, Dominique was helping Sophia sort and finish tying the bouquets of white double-flowered tulips and blue raspberry orchids that they would all carry down the aisle. While Sophia talked animatedly about the majesty of her big sister's wedding and how she hoped her own wedding would be just as grand, Dominique listened with half an ear and engrossed herself in the multiple bouquets. After binding a set of flowers, Dominique would take the time to finger and caress each petal and outer shell of the gathered blossoms, marveling at their smooth texture. She smiled with half-lidded eyes and pressed her face in a finished bouquet, inhaling deeply. It was a unique combination of scents, fruity tartness and a light sweet flora. Just being around the flowers reminded her of that time not too long ago when Lloyd took her to an expansive field full of flowers. And although she couldn't see the vibrant colors that were around her, she had discerned the variety of shapes of swaying blossoms and scented the deep intoxicating aroma of various floras. The flowery meadow held a special place in her heart, for it served as the setting for her and Lloyd's first time.

Dominique blushed but kept to her work and nodded to a random comment made by Sophia.

The past came back to her in a blinding flash. Though the date had been planned, the intercourse had not been. They were just sitting together, conversing back and forth. The conversation had been light and friendly, the mood tranquil and optimistic. Then she had confessed how much she loved and trusted him, and the next thing she knew, he was kissing her passionately. A kiss that had been so fervent and amorous, that it was beyond worthy of being inserted within the pages of a best-selling romance novel. She then found herself on her back, her hands clutching the soft fabric of Lloyd's shirt, then splaying to feel his back muscles taut and ripple. Then…it happened. It was the single, most erotic experience of her life. Her mind had been hazy with rapture, but she could easily recall the feel of Lloyd's hands, his lips against hers and on her skin, his unadulterated passion…and desperation. There was a lovable clumsiness to his movements then, but his inexperience matched hers. It was what made it so endearing and most of all…real. Their voices had harmonized with each other at the elation of becoming one. Yes… She had no regrets. But since then, Lloyd had been acting strange. Distant and withdrawn. His aura was shrouded by confliction and turmoil.

Does he regret…? Dominique thought worriedly, securing the final knot on a bouquet. She decided that after the ceremony, she would talk to him. And hopefully this time, he'll respond.

"It's almost show time, ladies!" Sasha suddenly called out. "How are those bouquets coming?!"

Sophia tied the last knot of her stack and glanced over at Dominique's to see hers prepped and ready as well.

"Finished, irmã! Now we're just waitin' on you!"

Sasha sighed blissfully. "Excellent…"

Behind her, Nya smiled as she continued to lace up the back of her best friend's dress. She remembered when they all went to the Bridal dress shop weeks ago to look for the "perfect dress" that would fit Sasha's taste and how she had spent almost the whole day trying on a plethora of gowns and always finding a flaw in the style or decorum. That was, until they found "the one". Sasha had gaped and hooted her joy when Ebony had suddenly turned around, holding up another dress and plainly asked, "What about this one…?" Though Ebony looked indifferent, she and Ayane had gushed right along with Sasha at the stunning dress. And what a supreme piece of clothing art it was! White with an enthralling teal trim, the satin bridal gown was sleeveless with a sweetheart neckline and flattered Sasha's figure with its A-line silhouette and gorgeous chapel train. But the most fetching features about the dress were the crystal embroideries. Delicate crystal vines embellished the lower front of the silhouette and torso, and trailed to the back to decorate the flowing teal nuances down to the train.

"So Nya, you and Jay still in the honeymoon phase, or what?" Sasha questioned slyly with a hint of teasing.

Nya laughed lightly under her breath, taking a brief moment to look about the suite and notice all eyes were on them. "Even though we've been married for almost a year, I'm delighted to say we still are," she answered. "It's been a cornucopia of experiences and pleasures since our own special day."

"Oh? Like what?" Ayane asked, smiling. "That is, if you are willing to tell."

"But please bear in mind that I reserve the right to say stop at any time," Ebony put forth, checking the clasp on Sasha's modified necklace. "Certain details should be kept to a minimum."

"Oh Ebony, where's your spice and flare?! Juicy details are the best part!" The bride countered and turned her head some to peer at Nya from her peripheral. "C'mon Maid of Honor, don't hold back!"

A dust of fine rouge lighted on vanilla cheeks as an even wider grin fleeted across comely cherry lips. "It was bound to happen…despite not really trying… Of course it was going to happen…"

Multiple gasps filled the atmosphere and Sasha whirled around, forcing Nya to let go of the silky teal ribbons so as not to cause any unwanted damage to the gown.

"Sasha!" Nya cried, but the euphoric Brazilian ignored her.

"Great Leviathan… Nya, you…you're pregnant…?"

The redness broadened to her entire face as she just nodded. And in just moments after that simple gesture, chaos ensued in the bridal suite. Shrieks of joy rebounded off the walls from the gathered young women, except from Ebony of course, who just gave a kind congratulatory smile at the revelation.

With her face still ablaze, Nya held up her hands to figuratively ward off all the rambunctious attention directed at her and tried to answer the mass of questions fired at her.

"How far along are you!?"

"You're not showing so…"

"How did Jay react?! Wait… Does he even know?! He hasn't said a word!"

"Not very long," Nya began steadily. "Only a week and two days and…" Her eyes became downcast with regret. "There just hasn't been the right moment to tell Jay yet. We've been so busy and I wanted the mood and setting to be just right for the announcement."

Her eyes immediately lit up in resolve. "But I will, soon!"

"Why not today!?" Sasha suddenly burst. "Here, after the ceremony, at the reception?! News like this should be addressed foremost with your husband, sure, but also with family and friends, right?"

She winked. "Also, I think everyone would like to see Jay faint."

"No Sasha, I couldn't possibly steal your thunder like that?!" Nya fretted, but Sasha just waved her worry off like a bothersome fly.

"Girl, Odin and Thor combined couldn't steal my thunder today!" She boasted cheerfully then regarded her best friend with sisterly love. "I'm not saying you have to, but you can if you want, and all of us here can feign surprise pretty well, especially Ebony!" She quipped, jutting her manicured thumb in the youngest kunoichi sister's direction, two of which, russet garnet eyes blinked impassively.

"Surprise, yeah." Having made her decision on which headpiece to attach Sasha's veil to, Ayane moved to sit beside Ebony and interlinked their fingers. "But I think our soeur has learned to show plenty of emotion over the years, especially when Kai's involved."

Surely Ebony was used to this sort of playful teasing by now, but alas she could not stay the blush that found its way to her cheeks nor did she pull away from the bright blonde's grasp. In fact, she tightened the hold of their hands as she looked away, her heart and soul still heavy about her passionate partner.

Ayane felt the anxious squeeze to her hand at the mention of Kai's name and took the gesture to heart, knowing that any nonverbal communication Ebony expressed had great significance. Though that did not mean she knew how to assuage her sister's troubles. Thus all she offered was a supporting squeeze back.

The other young women in the room, however, didn't catch the silent exchange. Nya especially since her mind was ascertaining the idea of Sasha's earlier suggestion. The reception would serve as a wonderful setting and the ambience would also be divine, and she couldn't help but smile at the likelihood of Jay fainting from the news of her pregnancy.

The whole scenario was definitely growing on her.

Suddenly the door to the bridal suit opened and who sauntered in but Sasha's mother, Aiesha. The middle-aged beauty had on a similar teal dress like the bridesmaids, but instead of a scarf, Aiesha adorned a short silver overcoat and an elegant chrome linked belt around her waist. And attached to the lapel of her coat was a single white tulip.

She clapped her hands hurriedly. "Alright ladies, it's ten til! Y'all should've been out the door by now! What's the hold up?!"

All the women jumped to attention at the presence of the elder and most dominant of females. Commandeering the situation, Aiesha ushered the ladies to work hastily and finish her daughter's final preparations. Nya finished lacing up Sasha's bodice and tied the ribbon into a neat bow at the bottom, letting the long silky strands run down the train. Ebony fastened Sasha's new necklace on quickly, giving her a soft smile at the bride's elation of the recreated necklace then moved to affix the matching pearl bracelet to her right wrist, having already given her the pearl earrings earlier. When that was done, Ayane stepped up with the exquisite circlet headpiece and crystal veil attachment. It took all the women to get it on right and make sure it flowed properly, but once it was in place, all that was left was to hand Sasha her bouquet. And Sophia gave Dominique the honor. With the bride's entire ensemble completed, all the women stepped back to admire Sasha in all her bridal glory.

"My baby…" Aiesha whispered.

No other words were spoken, Sasha was simply breathtaking. Beyond the sheer crystal canopy, she radiated the regal authority of a queen, which was why Ayane chose the circlet. A princess tiara would be too demeaning and would not bring justification to Sasha's stature. She was the Kunoichi Leader, the Alpha of their little society and would be treated as such. Her jewelry highlighted this fact as well, 'the teardrops of the moon' associated her with the ocean, her element and symbolized her origins as a Poseidonian. And with the added effect of a touch of mascara and teal eye shadow, her platinum orbs had never looked more intense…and ready. Full, glistening, cream-colored lips stretched into a picturesque smile. Oh yes… Sasha was more than ready.

Sasha's mother broke the silence with a sigh and approached her eldest daughter.

"Now, before you walk down that aisle, your daddy wants to have a few words with you."

"Oh momma, don't tell me he and Cole are still going at it?"

It was very strange. While Miguel got along splendidly with Cole's father and mother, Lou and Francesca, he and Cole had a bit of a falling out. It was to be expected for the father of the bride to show a little wariness and reluctance when being introduced to the man who wished to betroth his daughter, but after the two of them started talking and getting to know each other, all seemed well and Miguel eventually gave Cole his blessing. However, all familial camaraderie between them soured once the wedding expenses came into play. Cole, wanting to prove his financial mettle and providing skills, opted to pay for everything himself. This did not sit well with Sasha though, and she determinedly convinced him to let her help at least with the florist, the cost of her wedding dress and bridesmaid dresses, and accessories. Now, since the motif was 'Aquatic Paradise' Sasha wanted to serve an all seafood menu at the reception which Cole agreed to. But, by that time the expenses were really adding up even with Sasha's help. Not only had Cole booked the finest Catholic cathedral in Poseidonia but he had also flown in his desired pastor from Temblor to marry him and Sasha. Apparently the man had baptized Cole when he was a baby and the groom requested that his parents find him. That being said, the only way to break even was to cut corners in the reception costs. And Cole had really let his frugalness shine through, having wanted to buy discounted seafood from the back of a seller's truck. Sasha had quickly intervened and reminded Cole that her father was a professional fisherman. Thus, he could supply the food they needed for free and could even help with the remaining reception costs. Unfortunately, Cole had been very stubborn. He didn't want his brand new father-in-law to have to fork up any money for his daughter's wedding, in fear that it would both discredit him as a worthy husband and emasculate him as a provider. Miguel had literally laughed in Cole's face and told him, he was more than happy to make his little water nymph's dream wedding a reality since he was unable to. Sasha had winced when Cole's face darkened in fury. It seemed the two men of different generations and heritage shared the indecent attribute of poor consolation tactics. Cole had flat-out refused help from Miguel then and a full-blown argument between them had ensued. It was then time for mother and daughter to arbitrate and tell the quarrelling men what's what. Sasha had demanded her father to apologize to Cole and Aiesha told the ninja leader that accepting financial help was nothing to be ashamed of, especially if the help came from family. Cole and Miguel had muttered their appeasement and all they did was pout and sulk afterward since then about the matter. Sasha and Aiesha had come to the same conclusion that male pride could be such a pain to deal with sometimes.

Aiesha laughed sweetly. "Oh I think they've cooled down since then, baby. I'm sure your daddy just wants to send you off with love."

Sasha bit her lip unsurely but nodded nonetheless. "Alright… Well, we better get out there," she said and with bouquets in hand, the women exited the bridal suite and made their way to the church.

Sasha hung back when she saw her father striding her way. She gripped her mother's hand tightly before letting go and sent a silent prayer to her Lord Leviathan that all would go well.
Chibijago! Dearly Beloved...
Sorry for the delay on an update, but here is the latest for Chibijago! Unfortunately though, this one will have to be a two-shot though it sill counts as one theme. :)

This was a request by megietheballerina: You should do one shots for all of the ninja couples (cole-sasha, jay-nya, kai-ebony, zane-ayane, lloyd-dominque) on their wedding days

Was modified to just Cole and Sasha's since I'm not allowed to reuse themes and Cole and Sasha are her favorite pairing. Sorry for the wait! Hope you and everyone else enjoyed the first part!

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The seven children and their parents and guardians arrived at the luxurious Eclipse Hotel in Twilight at different intervals. Barely missing their fated meetings throughout the day, but the 30th had come and gone and now Halloween night had finally come…

It was time to stop prolonging the inevitable and unite the children one way or another.

"Alright Dad, I'm ready," Cole announced, strapping on the finishing touches of his costume. He buckled the black boot covers over his leather boots and stood up from his bed. He strolled over to the full length mirror and adjusted his black jacket with a smile. He had to admit that he looked good in this particular costume and it was indeed inspirational to wear. He was adorned in an exact replica of Michael Jackson's BAD attire, from the red line that traveled down the left of his pants' leg to the numerous decorative belts around his trim waist. He was going as the King of Pop on Halloween night!

Lou soon exited from the bathroom grinning broadly. "Well son, I see you like your costume. Tell me, do you feel the flow of performing energy coursing through your body?!"

Cole ran a hand through his noir locks and smiled back at his father. "I feel great, dad," he said and cocked an eyebrow once he saw Lou's formal dress attire. "Looking pretty spiffy yourself, I hope you and the other Royal Blacksmiths kill it tonight at the Ball."

"Of course, Cole!" Lou replied and performed a Cincinnati timed-step effortlessly. The sound of his tap shoes were muffled due to the carpeted floor of their room, but the rhythm was easily discernible. "They won't regret hiring the greatest quartet of all time! Now, let's be on our way!"

Cole and his father noticed quite a few things the moment they left the hotel and stepped into the windy autumn night. Twilight City was alive with brilliant nocturne décor! Cole's young eyes widened in wonder and awe as he tried to take in as much as he could of the breathtaking scenery. Orange and white lights wrapped snugly around every black three-pronged lamppost as far as the eye could see. And sitting stagnant and haggard upon the limbs of scattered bare Oaks and Maples, were ominous black crows with scarred beaks and beady white eyes that peered at each passerby inertly. He even saw a few black carriages being tethered to frighteningly creepy skeletal horses, their ghoulish appearances as stunningly realistic as their equally ghoulish coachmen, with their tattered and worn tailored suits and blistering black whips. The streets were bustling with activity as all the citizenry, young and old, celebrated All Hallows Eve. It was easy to see that Twilight City was the place to be at this particular time of year.

"Stay close to me, Cole. I don't want to lose you in the crowd," Lou said as the two made their way to the bus stop down the street. Though young, Cole had always been a rather brave individual. It was his little brother, Dante, who had always been the emotional and timid one. No, Cole embraced Halloween like he embraced Christmas, with open arms and a jovial smile. He openly gawked and hooted cheers with other spectators as he and his dad passed a sallow-faced woman in a black satin body suit riding atop of an enlarged black widow. Another reanimated contraption that looked hauntingly real. So real in fact, that some kids who happened to be within headway of "Madame Spider" cowered and cried behind their parents in duress. Kids… With a pitying shake of his head, Cole waved good-bye to "Madame Spider" when she pivoted her saucy bald head his way with a wink and a small wave of her own.

Up ahead, he could already see the headlights of what had to be the buses that he was going to do his trick-or-treating tour on and as they got closer, more parents with their kids were seen standing in line on the sidewalk beside the curb where they were parked. Endless excited chatter chorused through the ambience as the Belmontes waited in line to board one of the three buses for the exclusive Halloween program.

Cole's father glanced at the ticket in his hand. "Let's see…yes! This is your transport son, the Phantom Bus," he said and handed Cole his ticket. The dark-haired boy looked to the side of the black bus and sure enough saw the depiction of a cartoonish ghost along the side from the doors down to the caboose.

The line moved swiftly enough despite the torrid of caterwauls from the ecstatic children all around, and soon Lou was ushering his son forward to have his ticket stamped by one of the many adult chaperones and bidding him farewell.

"Alright Cole, be good, stay in your assigned group, and listen to the adults," Lou instructed seriously to his eldest son.

Cole resisted the need to roll his eyes and just nodded. "Alright, Dad."

The Royal Blacksmith then pulled him in for a quick hug. "Have fun. I'll be back at nine o'clock."

The two separated and Cole clambered onto the bus. Whoa…he thought, impressed by the grandeur of his surroundings. While the bus didn't look anything but big from the outside, its interior was positively exquisite. Along the dimly lit chrome walkway, Cole noticed lush crimson carpeting underneath the freshly oiled leather booths. With four costumed children to a section, betwixt each booth was an immaculate granite tabletop with a large silver bucket embedded in the middle filled with ice and an assortment of cold beverages. Each stylishly tinted window was lined by velvet red curtains secured by golden tassels and to top it all off, two crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, casting a dividend glow over the multitude of masquerading occupants.

"Geez…thanks, Dad…" Cole breathed, still taken and transfixed by the lavish accommodations his bus provided.

"Hey, move it MJ! You're holding up the line!" Someone yelled from behind him, probably the driver.

"Oh! Yeah, sorry!" Cole shouted back and immediately started forward down the spacious aisle to find his seat among all the prattling children. He glanced down at his ticket briefly and saw he was seated at "20-21". On the way to his assigned seat, he noticed that he was not the only one to go as the King of Pop this year, although he was the only "Bad" era MJ on board. Three others were adorned in the more flashy "Thriller" attire and there were other musician celebrities as well such as Usher, Lil' Wayne, Justin Beiber (Cole got the feeling that kid wouldn't be getting much candy…), and even the entire band of Evanescence. He also picked out more traditional costumes like Wolverine from X-Men, Gambit, Nightcrawler, and other superheroes from Marvel and DC alike. Then he, of course, passed by a whole group of uppity Disney Princesses until he finally reached his destination where three other kids sat.

He couldn't see two of them very well since their backs were to him. All he could see from his perspective was bright blonde hair with streaks of green highlights embezzled in and a tasteful array of colorful feathers on one and the other next to "feathers" had a shock of some mysterious gravity-defying hair, the color looking very unnatural, like a combination of silver and platinum blonde. He also spied two large screws poking out of each side of the boy's neck.

However the third child, he saw very clearly, her top half anyway. A girl with caramel-imbued flesh and the most solid red tresses he'd ever seen! What made her look even more exotic though, were the tightly woven braids that weaved criss-crossed through her scalp. Her costume had to be something aquatic-based if the peach starfish and cream clams fastened along the length of her braids was anything to go by. A crown of white beads sat on her brow, and dangled in trident loops down to her bare shoulders. Her face had a fair bit amount of make-up on it, especially around the eyes and the top of her cheeks. A dazzling shade of aqua deeply embellished the outskirts of her irises in fin-shaped outlines. While further in, her eye shadow and blush became stunning dark cobalt. Swirls of glittering gold spiraled out from the corners. And tiny aquamarine gems followed below the arc of her red eyebrows, stopping where they ended, and when her gaze suddenly strayed upward to meet his, he took into account the lovely shade of grey she possessed.

Glossy butter-cream lips smiled warmly and he unconsciously smiled back.

The seat next to the young enchantress was empty and above her chair, emblazoned on her headrest was the number "20" in neat crimson gothic script. Cole swallowed thickly and suppressed the involuntary need to run a hand through his hair out of nervousness. Calm down, this is no biggie. You've seen pretty girls before… He chided himself mentally and with a quick breath, mustered up his steel courage and took his seat beside the fascinating sea creature.

She blinked in surprise when he plopped down rather heavily on the leather cushion next to her, gathering her arms from underneath the table to place them on top of it instead. Gold and silver bangles clinked solidly against the surface as she interlaced her fingers loosely together and upon the now closer inspection, Cole could clearly see she was wearing some sort of sequined two-toned halter dress with a diamond-like jewel affixed between the folded layers of her happily developing bust. Most enthralling however, was that amongst the brown-candied flesh, patches of her skin radiated a shiny nuance and were colored to match her dress-Cole's breath hitched when he uncovered the mystery of this particular cosmetic detail…The scattered patches were actually illusions of scales…?

Cole's ticket crumpled in his hand. Forget pretty… This girl is beautiful… He innocently wondered how the turquoise-cobalt scales felt in comparison with her skin. Would the texture be flaky like real fish scales or smooth?

He was just about to introduce himself properly when a delicate giggle and the sound of shifting ice interrupted him. With an embarrassing jolt, he swiftly averted his gaze to the other two children across the table that he had rudely ignored.

"I told you you're costume was very eye-catching, Sasha."

Cole stared transfixed at the sun-kissed girl stationed across from the red-head next to him. She, the one who he had dubbed "feathers", was the one who spoke. Her looks made her appear wild but gentle, with her naturally unkempt bright blonde mane and benevolent irises.

Whoa…did she lose a contact or is that natural?

Fascinatingly so, the girl's eyes were not mirrored by color, with the left being a fair sky blue and the right a cool mint green. Her golden-tipped eyelashes fluttered as she blinked and gave a 100-watt smile to Cole, further enhancing the green, white, and black butterfly facial design that painted the top portion of her face beautifully. The thin straps on her shoulders were twined with vine and pliable braided twigs, and segued to a lively shade of forest green which covered her upper body. More flexible kindling with sunflower flower heads circled and twisted around her green cloth-covered wrists and forearms, and looped around her neck was a white choker decorated with more lavish feathers.

"As is yours, Ayane." The boy across from him said, his pale finger balancing a single ice cube on top. Pure hazel eyes glanced briefly at Cole before moving to the girl beside him. "Out of most of the children I've seen tonight, I say I have the most humdrum and generic costume."

Cole had to cock an eyebrow at that. He had to admit that there wasn't really anything spectacular about the boy's outfit. Aside from the convincing stitch work lining his forehead and the large silver bolts on his neck, the rest of his front looked ordinary. A regular white shirt with the number "03" printed in black, and a ruby and onyx Twilight Panthers school sports jacket made up the majority of his attire and Cole was willing to bet he had on a pair or ripped blue jeans and red Converse tennis shoes.

Kid Frankenstein. Cole guessed straight-away.

"Oh Zane, your costume is good," Ayane praised earnestly. "If it's any consolation, you're probably the smartest Kid Frankenstein out there," she ended with a light blush ghosting her cheeks.

The boy named Zane chuckled before popping the ice chip in his mouth. "I wasn't degrading my costume, Ayane. I was just stating the facts…" He eyed her with a substantial amount of approval. "…You and Sasha are both very bewitching and believe it or not…there is a lot of irony associated with my costume. My father has a healthy since of humor."

Not knowing how to respond to that, Ayane bowed her head still wearing her blush though she did shoot Zane a glance of curiosity.

"Bewitching, huh?" Cole mused out loud, speaking for the first time. "That is a rather fancy word."

Zane rolled the ice cube in his mouth, clearly enjoying the chill of the solidified water. He sent Cole a smile. "But befitting, right…?" His eyebrows lifted expectantly.

Cole took the hint, once again feeling abashed that he had yet to introduce himself. He'd been raised better. "Cole," he said finally. "My name is Cole. It's a pleasure to meet you guys…" He spared each child a nod in turn. "Zane, Ayane…" However, when he turned to his booth mate, he couldn't help but blush again. "Sasha… And yeah…" He breathed. "You and Ayane…very bewitching. What are you two suppose to be?"

While Ayane's face reddened further enough to resemble a butterfly resting on a hibiscus, which Zane observed with acute fascination, Sasha looked a bit startled and confused.

"I-I'm a wood sprite," Ayane stuttered out, her eyes keen on staring at the half-empty bottle of Sunny D in her hand.

"Uh…" Sasha gave pause and noted the pleasant smile on Cole's lips to go along with the faint redness on his olive cheeks. Remembering her father's conversation with her while on the Hispaniola, she bit her bottom lip nervously before giving a small but appreciative smile. "I'm a water nymph and…thank you, Cole."

Over the rambunctious chatter of the other children, a joyous chuckle permeated the air originating from the booth adjacent to Cole's party.

"Wow Sasha, kinda easy to forget about Carlos now, huh?"

"Roxanne!"

Sasha had splayed her palms on the tabletop and leaned over to glare heated daggers at the one over yonder. The other three pivoted their heads to the neighboring booth as well.

Roxanne. A girl adorned in complete green camouflage army uniform sat at the crossing booth on Cole's left flank, nearest to the aisle. With standard black and green war paint streaked aggressively across her grinning face, she unstrapped her combat helmet to let the strings dangle. Her legs swung with a jaunty swagger across the leather seat until her perfectly tied army boots planted themselves squarely on the chrome walkway. She then pointed a finger of ridicule at the red-head, the silver specks within her green irises twinkling mischievously.

"Ha! We haven't even left the bus stop yet and already you have a MJ, a mummy, and a monk coming after ya! A MONK! Sure can't wait to tell falcon-boy 'bout this when we get home!" She tsked with a finger wag of reprimand.

Sasha sneered angrily. "Why do you always have to start stuff, Rox?! Those boys, including Cole here, just like my costume! Not me, you dolt!"

"Yeah right! You the dolt! Just look at this guy's face!" She declared, nodding at Cole. "He's redder than a candy apple!"

While Cole's face was indeed red, it was more out of the embarrassment of being called-out than infatuation at the moment. Sure he was attracted to the girl seated next to him, but that wasn't any of this nosy chick's business!

Cole's slack jaw clicked shut into a staid frown.

"Hey, anybody else wish this good ol' hammer of mine produced real lightning right about now?"

Cole looked passed Roxanne to the boy beside her who was tauntingly waving a large steel model of Thor's Hammer around. Shoulder-length blonde hair, the beginnings of a vibrant red cape, remarkable silver-plated armor and chest guard, and eyes so blue they rivaled the likes of actual sapphires. It was blatantly obvious who this kid was masquerading as.

Roxanne huffed indignantly. "What are you quacking on about, Jay?" She snipped, giving a side-way glance at the boy over her shoulder.

The boy dubbed "Jay" shrugged. "Just sayin' even I know when to stop. If MJ there wants to hook-up with the Little Mermaid then let 'em. Mind ya business and go do some push-ups somewhere, G.I. Lame," he said, playfully boinking her on the head with his hammer which caused her helmet to sink lower and cover her eyes.

Another boy with spiky brown hair sitting across from Roxanne smirked. "I hear ya, Jay. And if that doesn't work, I could always use my tongs to pinch your mouth shut, Roxy."

Since he was stationed in a designated aisle seat too, Cole could see the other boy's clothes fully. Though the top two buttons were undone, a white long-sleeved dress shirt fitted loosely on his torso and was tucked-in a pair of belted maroon pants. A lengthy apron of dark orange suede covered his front and pocketed a vast arsenal of authentic blacksmithing tools and brown loafers snuggled his feet. And to accompany the devilish smirk were sharp eyes imbued with the rare shade of golden-amber.

"You can try Kai, but I'd soon snatch those tongs and pinch something of yours that you may need in the future…" Roxanne's own smirk plastered teasingly on her lips as she pushed her helmet back up to glare triumphantly at the brown-haired youth, "…or…maybe not!"

Kai's face twisted into red-hot outrage and soon a two-way insult match commenced between the blacksmith and the army girl. As that was going on, Jay snatched a package of Capri Sun from the center of their table and gestured to it. His eyes fastened on the person sitting opposite of him. That's when Cole finally noticed the dark armored being sitting beside Kai at the window seat.

He squinted his eyes curiously as the kid shook his or her helmed head from side to side in a polite "No thank you." gesture. All Cole could clearly discern from his position were the polished royal violet and noir of distinguished samurai battle armor. Affixed on the shoulder pads were fierce golden dragon heads and decorating the sturdy plate mail was a depiction of a flaring eagle of purple and gold. The large and prominent crescent moon ornament sat proud atop of the forehead protector of the helmet and was matched in splendor by the yin-yang encrusted gauntlets. But the grotesque mask of insane bulgy eyes and protruding fangs the individual wore kept the person's gender imperceptible. All in all, it was a truly elaborate costume.

"Hmm, I do believe we are in for titillating good fun," Zane said with an easy smile and Cole couldn't help but agree with him….after remembering what the word "titillating" meant. Still absorbed in the antics of his neighbors, Cole reached blindly for a drink from the center only to retract his wondering appendage when he brushed another's. He quickly turned his head to apologize and came face-to-face with Sasha's bashful smile.

"Sorry." They both said simultaneously, though Sasha's apology was more for Roxanne's rudeness earlier than accidently touching him. Nonetheless, it resulted in a quick rush of blood to fill their cheeks. Recovering first, Sasha handed him a bottle of blue Hawaiian punch while she took one for herself. Her platinum orbs roved his figure admirably before she allowed herself to speak.

"So, are you just a Michael Jackson fan or are you an avid performer yourself?" She asked politely.

"Both honestly," Cole admitted. "I've always loved MJ's music and my dad is teaching my brother and me how to sing and dance. He wants us to make it big."

"Really?" Sasha awed, genuinely surprised at his words and just as intrigued. "I want to be a professional performer when I grow up too. It's my dream as well as my passion."

Cole didn't bother on correcting her about his own wants and desires in life simply because he didn't know what they were himself. The whole singin' and dancin' thing was more of an inconsequential hobby to him than an actual ambition. But regardless, he offered her a smile of encouragement at seeing the resolve and fortitude shining in her eyes.

"Wow Zane…that's so cool! You have really steady hands!" Cole and Sasha heard Ayane gush and turned their attention to the other two across the table to see the blond gawking at Zane as he balanced five ice cubes, one on the tip of each finger.

"How are you even doing that? And look! They aren't even melting!" Ayane exclaimed, entranced.

And indeed they weren't. If anything, it looked as if the cubes were getting colder with the appearance of water vapor forming a wispy column from each one. Not only did Sasha and Cole ogle at Zane's balancing-ice-cubes-while-not-allowing-them-to-melt act, but the other four from the neighboring booth gaped at him as well.

Yeah… Cole thought as Zane calmly flicked each cube into his opened mouth one by one. …I'm surrounded by some pretty interesting folks tonight.

xHappyxHalloweenxFromxVelvetPersonax

After all five buses were safely loaded and the chaperones calmed their charges, the Twilight exclusive Trick-or-Treating Event officially began. Much was learned and discussed between the eight children aboard the Phantom bus: hometowns, family, hobbies, aspirations, and the like. None of them originated from Twilight and lived countless miles apart from each other. Sasha and Roxanne were both from a port city situated on a vast peninsula called Poseidonia and Kai introduced that the small samurai seated next to him was actually his little brother, Nobou.

As it turned out, the event was handled with an almost military-type precision and tandem. Although the buses separated to venture to different parts of the city, there was a synchronized rotation utilized to allow them to get the most out of each visited area, from fantastic sights for the rides in between traveling to different neighborhoods to be exciting and joyful, to reserved routes for the buses to move at a reasonable pace. Whether on or off the bus the adults monitored the children with an alert discipline and made sure no child strayed too far from the group while going trick-or-treating. However, this orderly conduct did nothing to dissuade the children from having fun going from house to house. They laughed, joked, teased, and commented on the variety of candy they accumulated.

With eleven houses in and only an hour left before nine o' clock, Jay gave a jubilant whoop and rushed to join his clique of eight.

"Cotton candy! Cotton candy! Finally, some cotton candy! I was starting to get worried!" He cried, falling in step beside Kai.

The others watched amusedly as Jay tore open the bag and immediately plucked away a fluffy piece to insert into his eager mouth.

Roxanne rolled her eyes. "I hope someone here knows the Heimlich Maneuver…" She mumbled.

Jay grinned cheekily after he swallowed his mouthful. "Aww, worried about me Roxy?"

"Don't flatter yourself, blue eyes. I just don't want to be caught near a person who died of cotton candy inhalation. Wouldn't look good for my family's image."

"And what image would that be?" Kai asked snidely. "Superior crankiness?"

While the others continued to talk and joust amongst themselves, Ayane peered heavenward to the full golden moon. She didn't know why but as the night carried on, she had been getting more and more compelled to look up at it. Almost to a point where it became an instinctual yearning.

What's going on…? She wondered. Being a purebred country girl, Ayane appreciated and loved the splendor of Mother Nature and her children, but she had never felt such insistent tugging at her soul before.

"Maybe it's just the city…" She mused aloud in a subdued tone. "This is my first time being in one…"

A sudden stray nor'easter howled down on the group and although most of them were properly clothed, Ayane was not. She had traded the green and white decorative jeans her costume came with for her much preferred yellow shorts. With a miserable sigh, she pulled the handle strings of her treat bag further up her arm and hugged herself in a futile attempt to ward off the abrupt chill. Her shivering didn't last long though, for a warm jacket was soon placed on her shoulders.

She looked up at Zane like he was God-sent. "Thanks. I really should've tried wearing pants like my uncle said despite how constricted they make me feel. Pretty silly of me, huh?" She asked with a blush, but did a double-take once she got a good look at Zane's profile. His pure hazel eyes were narrowed as he looked down the crudely lit sidewalk, his face pensive.

Ayane eyed him worriedly. "Zane?"

"Ever since my father and I entered Twilight airspace, I have felt uneasy. And now that feeling has increased ten-fold…"

The pale boy's gaze scrutinized the dark distance relentlessly with the wariness and caution of a hunter. Ayane was reminded at that moment of the grim faces of her village's Hunting Pack right before they entered Asuta Jingu for an evening hunt.

"You sense it too, do you not Ayane? Something is trying to disrupt the natural grace of nature… Something…ominous…"

Zane's grip on the petite blonde's shoulder tightened and he deliberately brought Ayane closer to his side.

"Whatever happens…stay close to me, alright? And we should warn the others before it's too late."

Apprehension pricked at her spine like needles and her heart began to thud quickly in her ribcage in response to her escalated anxiety. Her body trembled regardless of the warmth instilled in Zane's jacket.

"W-What? W-What's happening, Zane? Warn them about what?"

"Did you guys find it weird that the house before last gave us pancakes and packaged syrup instead of candy?" Cole questioned. He and the others were completely unaware of Zane and Ayane's sense of dread.

"Yeah, what's up with that? Me and Ny—Nobou have never celebrated Halloween this way before, but I still thought it was odd." Kai divulged, quickly saving himself from a blunder when the little samurai beside him pinched the skin on the back of his hand. He gave a subtle once-around at his group of friends to see if anyone caught on, but luckily they hadn't noticed.

"People improvise when they run out of candy, right? But I have to admit, I've never seen or heard of pancakes being a substitute," Sasha added with a thoughtful expression.

Roxanne shook her head. "Baked cookies? Maybe. But pancakes? That's ridiculous."

"Hey they were blueberry," Jay supplied after swallowing his final mouthful of cotton candy. "That makes it more than okay." He finished with a wink.

Just then, without warning, the glare of the full moon was obstructed completely by darkness. The sound of the other children around the group of eight dissipated until even the whisper of the wind was mute. The houses, the streets, the sidewalk underneath their feet, the entire landscape vanished into shadows and each child was thrust into their own individual abyss.

Zane held fast onto Ayane when she shrieked in terror. "Everyone! If you can hear me listen!" He shouted, trying to manually augment his neuro-optics so he could see but unfortunately finding it difficult. "Do not panic! Do not move! Grab onto the person next to you and take heart!"

"Take heart!?" Jay countered incredulously. "What does that even mean!?" He had dropped his treats bag altogether and grabbed blindly for the person next to him, who he hoped was Kai and not a zombie.

"Zane!? Jay!? Does that mean we're all here!? Everyone say something!" Cole commanded tersely. When the moon was suddenly blotched out, his first instinct was to protect the girls thus he hastily grasped Sasha's hand and pulled her close. He would've reached for Roxanne too if she had been near him, but she was on the opposite side of Sasha.

"Yeah! I got Nobou!" Kai confirmed, feeling his sibling's gloved hand grip his tightly. "And…" Kai rolled his eyes. "…Jay is clinging onto me like a sticker bug so yeah…" He deadpanned. "We're cool."

"I-I'm with Zane!" Ayane called out shakily, clutching the surprisingly hard body next to her. However her brain couldn't focus on how peculiar that was, only on holding onto him for dear life.

Sasha's voice was locked in her throat. She had been grasping at thin air on her left ever since Cole had grabbed her. She could not feel Roxanne anywhere. It was like the girl had disappeared completely along with the environment.

"R-Rox…Roxanne?" She whispered, her voice quaking terribly. "W-Where are you? Where are you?"

Sasha was becoming frantic. She began to struggle against Cole's hold. "Roxanne!? Roxanne!?"

"Sasha, you have to try to stay calm!?" Cole warned and tightened his hold on the panicky girl. "What… Oh crap…"

"She's gone, Cole! Rox is gone!"

At once, sight returned to the children as well as the landscape. Only, their surroundings were different now…much different. The residential area they were in had been replaced by a wide open meadow inhabited by eerie lightning bugs. The shadowed grass tickled their knees as it swayed gently in the whistling breeze. The place was barren, isolated from civilization and the sky was completely starless. Like the field they were in, a blood-red moon hung in seclusion in the hovering darkness.

The gathered children slowly released each other and gaped up at it.

"How…?" Ayane covered her mouth and shook her head at the impossibility.

"Okay… Pretty sure there isn't supposed to be a lunar eclipse tonight…" Kai breathed, also taking into account just how cold it was getting.

"More importantly, where are we?" Cole questioned warily. He surveyed the otherworldly terrain with a hard frown. He was at a loss at what action they should take since it was obvious they weren't in Twilight anymore. At least, it didn't look like it to him.

"And where is Roxanne?" Sasha put in, clearly fretful.

"And where's our candy?" Jay added, equally terrified. "That's not cool! It's just gone! Sure I dropped my bag, but—"

"JAY!" Cole and Kai exploded.

"Your friend was taken during the schism."

All seven children turned in unison in the direction of the new voice and reflexively took a step away from the strange girl now before them.

All except Kai…

He simply stared. Is she real…?

The night wind screamed and beckoned long snow white hair to dance to its will. Half of her face was obscured by a curtain of white, but Kai marveled at the ethereal visage that was revealed. With skin as dark as bronze and just as finely polished, he locked-on to the piercing russet garnet eye that calmly challenged him.

He swallowed and narrowed his eyes, not permitting her gaze to intimidate him.

Covering the length of her body was a black tattered cloak, her legs and feet concealed by the long grass. And encircled around her neck on a silver-linked chain was a large crimson amulet surrounded by translucent quartz.

It was beautiful…

Almost as beautiful as the girl…

"Only one was needed. So only one was taken," she finished stoically, her tone low and matured despite her young age.

Kai braved a step toward her. "What do you mean by that?" He asked.

The girl's half-mast eye slowly lowered fully to perform a blink. The delicate crimson within the iris glowed most unnaturally amongst the sallow light the fireflies provided.

"A lost soul needs a vessel and most likely the one that was chosen was a kindred spirit, someone who the soul could take with little resistance. And since you all were with the chosen vessel when the schism occurred, you were brought through the tear and placed uncaringly here."

"Okay, so we aren't supposed to be here," Kai deduced and scratched the back of his head idly. "But what about Roxanne? Where is she?"

The white-haired girl turned slowly and the others followed her lead. "Somewhere…in there…"

"Oh dear God no…" Jay lamented and placed a hand on his face miserably. "That is not what I wanted to see..."

In the distance, sitting on a hill, a dark Victorian-style mansion loomed in the encroaching darkness. Its presence chilled the hearts of the youngsters. Its gothic grandeur tormented their souls. Were they really going to have to venture inside there to find Roxanne?

"I must say…that place doesn't look entirely welcoming, does it?" Zane inputted needlessly.

"All of us are only granted one life and once that life is over, there are no second chances. There are two spirits wailing from within, one for salvation, one for vengeance. And time is of the essence…" The mysterious girl moved her gaze upward and once again the others mimicked her action.

"If we cannot exit the mansion with your friend before the lunar eclipse ends and return to this field…then she will be lost to possession and we will be torn asunder."

Cumulative gasps filled the air, but before hysterical uproar could start, Cole peered at the girl dubiously.

"Wait, how do we know we can even trust you? Sorry, but this has trap written all over it."

The girl kept her eyes forward. "I guess you don't and your instincts are probably right. Inside the mansion are most likely heinous traps and paranormal conundrums. All I can advice is for you all to come inside with me because despite what's in there…it's much safer than being out here."

The boys glanced around quickly.

"Wow, how consoling…" Jay mumbled.

Sasha squared her jaw in determination and attempted to move forward, but Cole held her back.

"Sasha—"

Her head whipped around to level Cole with a glare. "I'm going in there with her, Cole. I have to find Roxanne. She may be a pain-in-the-butt sometimes, but she's still my friend."

"I know, but this…" He struggled with his words and looked around himself again, his eyes catching the ill-omened mansion on the hill before returning to hers. "…This is just too damn eerie." He concluded hopelessly.

"I don't think we really have a choice," Ayane whispered solemnly. "It would take a long time for her to search the mansion by herself and we don't know how long the eclipse will last. We have to help rescue Roxanne."

A russet garnet eye evaluated Ayane critically and after muttering something under her breath, the girl started walking forward, her cloak fluttering noisily behind her.

Kai took a deep breath but before he could follow after her, Jay's voice stopped him.

"So let me get this straight… Not only are we willingly venturing inside a haunted mansion that is most likely littered with booby traps and ghosts, but once we get inside, we automatically have to split up!? Are you serious!? That's like the two biggest "no-no's" you don't do in a horror movie! And do you guys want to know what number one is?!"

"Not really…" Kai grumbled.

"Trusting a necromancer!" Jay finished, pointing an accusatory finger at the retreating girl's cloaked back.

Kai whirled around. "So what are you sayin', Jay?! That we should take our chances out here?! Exposed!? Just waiting for Ifrit knows what to come eat us!? If we're inside then at least we have walls around us and we might even find something for protection! So c'mon! Roxanne is in there, we can trust her!"

Kai started forward again while the others pinned him with looks of concern before trailing after him.

Jay blew a few blond strands out of his eyes in exasperation. He looked over at the one who chose to stay by his side…Kai's little brother, Nobou. The samurai took his hand gently and tugged slightly in the direction of the others. Jay's eyebrows lifted in shock at first since he thought he saw a glimpse of soft chocolate orbs within the dark eye sockets of the mask. But shook himself mentally and gave the younger kid a lopsided grin.

"I hear ya, Nobou. We can't stay out here because the Children of the Corn might come get us." The samurai's hand squeezed his assuredly.

"Okay…" He sighed and started forward. "Let's go to the haunted mansion to find a mean chick."
A Haunting We Will Go! Ch. 2 (United We Stand!)
I know what you guys are thinking. WHAT THE HELL, VELVET!? A FULL YEAR BEFORE AN UPDATE?! Yeah, yeah, I know I suck. But hey, here is chapter two! I appreciate the reviews posted for this little holiday story and hope you all continue to take pleasure in my writing! I'm not sure if I can finish the final chapter by Halloween, but I sure will try!
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Today is Wednesday. A day of elective classes: morning class I have Cole for Art and evening class I have Sasha for Home Economics. The two of them almost never assign any homework which I'm grateful for since I'm usually buried with other assignments and projects from all my other classes. Wednesday is most definitely my "Chill Day" and regardless of Dominique's appearance, I am going to chill.

I had taken a shower to freshen myself up from training but I completely ignored the whole "dress to impress" spill Cole had teasingly suggested and donned some faded blue jeans with a few rips along the right knee, a regular green t-shirt, and a pair of my oldest white sneakers. Tch! Since when does a person dress-up for Art Class? And even though I'm not a very messy painter, I wasn't about to put on some good clothes, especially not for a blind girl no less.

Depending on varying circumstances, sometimes classes are hosted out on the deck. Today however, isn't one of those days as I stroll in the den area and see it transformed into a makeshift art studio. Old white sheets lined the carpet and furniture to protect them from stray spills and such and easels and other art supplies littered the room as well. The beige walls of the den had a few completed paintings decorating them, all of which were done by Cole. Everyone had agreed that the ninja leader's paintings were good enough to be displayed and although Cole showed a fair bit of modesty and reluctance, he relented and decided to hang a few around the ship. And yeah, I'll admit that they're good, though some of them are really weird. I don't know. I don't really have an in-depth eye for the arts, but Cole had explained to me that his "weird" paintings were called "abstracts", just nonfigurative things he chose to immortalize. And it was his "weird" works of art that Zane, Ebony, and Sensei Wu were the fondest of.

And…speaking of my uncle, sometime after his death, Cole painted a portrait of him and hung it in Sensei's room. I was speechless when I first saw it. The semblance of it to the real thing was just so amazing! Cole had captured every line or wrinkle on Sensei's face, the perfect white of his beard and kimono, his famous straw hat and tea set, and most especially his wise onyx eyes. My uncle's eyes always had this all-knowing penetrating look in them, like he always knew what was going on or what needed to be done. Not once did I ever see confusion or indecisiveness within, just pitch black depths of eternal wisdom. Cole had said that, it was just something he felt he needed to do and I was extremely grateful to him…we all were really. I remember crying and hugging him in appreciation, still being emotional after his passing and since then, I know everyone visits his room from time to time, including myself. Though I'm not allowed to sleep in there anymore.

Cole gives me a nod of recognition as he places a new canvas on his easel, his body fitted in a pair of loose salt and pepper-colored trousers, a black tank top with three silver "X's" going across the chest, and black wolverine boots. I eye him a bit warily as I take my place on the stool in front of my own easel, not sure if he was going to start teasing me or not. He looks harmless enough though, not giving me any sly smiles or anything, so I shrug and go about my business mixing a few of the colors stationed on the table near me.

"So Lloyd, think you'll be able to finish your painting today?" He asks and I look at my half-finished canvas in thought.

"I don't know…maybe," I reply with another shrug. My picture had no real structure, just my interpretation of what Lord Bahamut may look like. It was a close-up of his face and all last Wednesday I had spent developing and comprising his horns and the shape of his head. Cole had taught me what brushes and paints to use to create realistic shadowing and light for his scales and he said it looked pretty good for something completely missing a definitive representation.

Minutes of silence tick by with just Cole and I and I lean a little out to check the entrance of the den for any sign of Dominique…not that I really care or anything…

I frown a little and start with the finishing touches on Bahamut's eye ridges.

"So…the Kunoichi back yet?" I question with as much indifference as I can. There's movement to my right and I see Cole placing different clays and modeling materials on one of the covered tables.

"Yeah, they got in some odd minutes ago. Don't worry, Dominique will be here shortly—"

"I'm not worried!" I snap back automatically and he lifts a thick black eyebrow at me. My face flushes deeply and I lament the fact that I don't have a hood to hide under. I quickly break eye contact and return stiffly to my work.

Please don't say anything. Please don't say anything. Please don't say anything!

"Ya'know Lloyd—"

Goddammit!

I frown miserably and sag my shoulders in defeat as Cole begins to drone about his crush on Sasha and how he handled it. I sadly admit that I kinda walked into this one…

"H-Hello?"

A sudden jolt courses through me at hearing the soft spoken voice.

"Oh hey Dominique, glad you made it," Cole greets pleasantly, but I don't say anything. I hurriedly dabble with some green and play-concentrate on my canvas. I know she can't see me because of the easel and I look at her from my peripheral when she walks into view towards Cole. With Dusk ever present in her arms, she smiles lightly at Cole then glances over at me.

I quickly avert my gaze back to my painting.

"Hi, Lloyd," she says gently.

"…Hey, Dom," I reply dully after a moment of hesitation.

"Dom? That's sort of a masculine nickname, don't you think?" Cole points out and I roll my eyes. Like it's really any of his business what I call her.

"Oh—um…it's okay," Dom says quietly. Even if I'm not looking, I can tell she's smiling. "I like it, short and easy. And it make me sound tough."

"Makes." I correct instantly while mixing the white and black paints with an air of diligence. I think the King of Dragons would have a very nice metallic color to go along with the green.

"Sorry…yes, makes me sound tough…" She reiterates and I hear a low growl come from Dusk, which I apathetically ignore.

"Right. Well Dom, as long as you're okay with it," states Cole evenly. "Now come over here and sit down where I am. Since I thought painting or drawing wouldn't exactly be your forte, I figure you could take a shot at sculpting instead."

"Wow…Okay! I would…like to try, thank you!"

Out of…mild curiosity, I subtly let my eyes wander to Dominique as she takes the seat Cole offered to her. She releases Dusk onto the table and he snoops around the gathered clays and materials on the surface with interest. In all areas of sensibility, it's logical to assume Dom would get more out of sculpting than painting. While I don't really know the extent of her sight in regards to colors, a painter must be able to see their work if they wished for their trade to be perfected. However, when compared to sculpting, one doesn't really need "sight" per se, only dexterous hands and a clearly imaginative mind's eye.

"I really can't claim to be an expert on sculpting, but I did read about it and got the gist of it down."

Cole comes around to the opposite side of the table and gestures to the assembled supplies.

"Can you make out what's on the table here, Dom?" He asks and I watch as the little violet-eyed girl's face contorts into fretful concentration.

"Um…I think so…" Her hands move, grasping at each of the items in turn. I hate to admit it, but…I'm fascinated by what I see. She utilizes every one of her fingers, sliding the digits slowly over every contour, curve, slant, or point of the varying materials in hopes of identifying them for herself. While her eyes, from where I'm looking at least, stare at said hands…not the object in her hands like one would expect, but…the slight incline of her head is lower than what a normal person observing something in their grasp would be.

Does she see her hands…?

It makes me wonder…

What exactly do you see when you look in the mirror, Dom…? You see everyone else's shape and aura, but have you ever seen your own…? You have had to, right…?

Cole continues to wait patiently for Dominique to come to some sort of conclusive realization. I know what he's doing…He wants to know the full extent of her sight, to know what she can and cannot do. And without a doubt he's taken notice of how her hands, her sense of touch, are in primary use.

I frown in thought as she begins to call out the names of the items on the table. It dawns on me how difficult her life must've been. As Shinobi, we trained extensively to adapt to any given situation and that includes the loss of sight. Darkness is a friend to any ninja or kunoichi, but Dominique was not trained like we were. She was born into darkness and had to adapt using move conventional means. So hypothetically speaking, if two ninja were to face-off against each other and one was blind and the other not, there would still not be any advantage to the one with sight. It would still come down to combat prowess, skill, and concentration to determine the winner. Looking at it that way, it seems that albeit rough, Dom has already mastered one crucial aspect in being a shinobi. Functionality despite the absence of sight.

But still…that doesn't mean she has the mentality to be one or the physical strength.

"Very good Dominique," Cole congratulates with a smile. "You got them all right. Now all you need to get started is to pick a model. Do you know of anything or anybody you would like to immortalize?"

"Something to last…forever…" Dom trails off and tilts her head to the side in thought. I turn back to my painting, feeling my face heat up.

C'mon Lloyd, don't start! You did not just think she looked cute when she did that!

"Dusk…you are…my best friend. Come here, boy."

Curiosity gets the better of me again as I lower my arm and turn back to the three at the table. Dusk barks and happily trots toward his master and Dom runs a single hand over his head and uses the other to tilt his chin up.

She smiles kindly, her eyes soft and loving. "Just the head…I want to make certain…I get everything right," she purrs and the red fox kit immediately closes his eyes and wags his tail contently.

All I do is watch…

How can something so simple, so ordinary be so…captivating?

She uses both hands and starts at his chin, massaging and caressing her way upward. A soft whine meanders from Dusk and his tail thumps loudly against the cloth-covered table. Every single honeyed finger is purposefully used, not a strand of fur goes untouched on the fox's head. Even his whiskers and lips get the same delicate treatment and since Dusk's eyes are closed, Dom smoothes her thumbs carefully over his eyelids before continuing upward.

A strange feeling is bubbling in my chest…and I don't like it.

Am I…am I seriously getting jealous…of a fox!?

When Dom's fingers reach the back of Dusk's ears, the little kit opens his eyes and begins to pant excitedly, his tail now just a sunset white blur.

And then…I want to say I fell asleep suddenly and was now dreaming, but I know that's not the case.

Dusk…his blue eyes slightly pivot to my direction… He's looking at me…

A blink…a wink!?

My eyes widen and my jaw drops. I'm being…taunted by a damn fox?!

/Suck it loser! She's touching me and not you! I am awesome and you're not!/

*SNAP*

I break the paintbrush in my hand as I reel back in shock, causing my stool to tilt and fall. I land with a loud *thud!* and an "Oof!" on my back and stare up at the ceiling disbelievingly.

"Oh my gosh! Lloyd!"

A rushing sound of footsteps…small gentle hands on my chest…large pools of violet looking worriedly down at me…

"Lloyd…are you okay?"

My dazed gaze zeroes in on pretty lips…ones that emitted soft words laced in a thick Spanish accent…

Still too shocked to get angry at her for touching me, I nod absently to answer her question.

"Y-Y-Yeah...I-I-I…." Geez, I'm stuttering all over the place! And my body is even shaking!

I try to push myself up using my forearms, but struggle. That's when much larger and stronger hands grip my shoulders and help me to sit up.

"Lloyd? What happened?"

Cole's voice is calm and I'm thankful he sounds genuinely concerned and not teasing me. I shake my head roughly and take a few minutes to get my breathing under control.

Did I just imagine that or did Dusk really just…

I look up at Dom still kneeling beside me. "Can Dusk talk?" I ask her flat-out, but she looks completely taken back.

"What? No, he…he never say—s-said anything," she replies, now looking at me with even more concern than before. "Are you sure…you are…okay, Lloyd?"

"Yeah, yeah…" I sigh, shaking my head again.

That proves it then. I mean, I've heard animals speak before, but they were the Kunoichi's summons and Dusk couldn't possibly be like them. He's so tiny and doesn't look even remotely special, except for maybe the blue eyes thing. Man, what was that…? Huh?

I glance down distractively...Dominique's hands are still on my chest. However, she retracts them with a quickness that I didn't know she possessed and I peer up at her face just in time to see her look away with a blush. Which, frustratingly, causes me to blush also.

Geez…

I get to my feet easily and dust myself off.

"Lloyd?"

"I think I'm just getting hungry," I say dismissively before Cole can question me further. "I'm fine."

Dom casts me one more fretful glance before heading back to her seat and Cole just ruffles my hair before going back to his station. Once alone, I cut my eyes to the source of the unnecessary ruckus. While Dom starts building her armature with the roll of wire for the fox's big dumb head, he sits idly on the table looking straight at me.

My eyes narrow accusingly at him as he yawns loudly and scratches behind his ear with a hind leg.

I'm not jealous of you.

                                                                                           *~PoA~*

The rest of Art class was uneventful and needless to say, I didn't finish my painting. During lunch, which consisted of curry chicken crepes and grilled brie sandwiches courtesy of both Zane and Ayane, Dominique excused herself early stating, she wasn't hungry just tired and escaped to her room. She had ordered Dusk to stay behind and eat his meal. That's when I learned the results to the Kunoichi's training session this morning. My sister could activate her Ascension at will now. However, it was thanks to Dominique's assistance in directing her to draw power from the heart, not just from the Element within which led to her success. And with her help, it seemed that Dom had unlocked one of her own powers too. The Element of Darkness. As it turned out, with Dom being the Phoenix, she does have the four Counter-brink Elements within her just as Sasha speculated a few days back, as well as some other fifth element that's completely unknown. The Kunoichi were worried that Dominique's powers were going to be too much for her body to handle. Unlike me, even before I became the Green Ninja of Creation, my body was already accustomed to strenuous activity, having traversed a lot of Ninjago during my days as a delinquent. Dom however…the Kunoichi informed me she had fainted after unlocking one of her Elements and…she fainted yesterday too. Not to mention, she's been having frequent bouts of headaches as well. Everyone fretted over Dom's physical and mental health and it was suggested by Ayane that starting her training regardless of whether or not she stayed may be their only option, if only to safeguard Dominique's well-being while she helped them train and came to a decision on whether or not to accept her destiny as the Phoenix of Prophecy.

It wasn't finalized, but it was something they were considering, but I didn't like it one bit. To me, it sounded like they were taking Dom's fragility too lightly, like if they just trained her for a few days then she'll be strong enough to withstand the unlocking of her powers and whatever else comes her way. Have they already forgotten the life she came from? Being blind for ten years, what blind person they know ran on a daily basis? Or got deeply centered with their Chi and the inner machinations of their spirit? Or did any kind of arduous physical or mental activity for that matter? None, I bet. It may be cruel to say, but the handicapped are taught caution before anything else. They move through life slowly with an ample supply of wariness to their environment. How do I know? So sue me! I looked it up on the Game Room's computer yesterday night while everyone else was dead asleep. I was…curious…that's all…

Anyway, Dom's had her new sight for only a little over a year and fine, maybe she does get around well enough, but that doesn't exclude how…delicate she is. She's just so young and…different. Maybe if she was older and had more experience with herself and the world…It's wrong! Okay?! It just feels so wrong to me! Am I really the only one who can see just how…out of place she is among us? I really am considering cornering her and explaining outright what is expected of her. Does she know she's supposed to go up against an entire race of powerful beings? Does she know she may have to take lives despite if she wants to or not? Dominique helped my sister get stronger, but I wonder how Ebony truly feels about her being here. Especially while knowing her people could be at risk the longer Dom stays active as the Phoenix. What consequences will there be in the future when everything comes full-circle? My head hurts just from thinking about it… I remember the flash of…something that flickered over my sister's face the last time her people were mentioned.

I'm…really beginning to dread the future…

And another thing that happened during lunch was that Cole decided to use Kai's plan. He and Sasha would venture into Monsoon as visitors to inspect the village thoroughly and Zane and Ayane were chosen to scout and survey the caravan when it left the village into the woodlands. The rest of us were to stay here and keep our guard up…and protect Dominique. Cole deduced that the operation shouldn't take more than twenty-four hours and wanted everyone to meet back at the Bounty at dawn Friday morning. So yeah, this operation takes place first thing tomorrow.

It wasn't long before evening hit and Dom and I were standing in the kitchen waiting for Sasha to show up. She had been telling me happily that, like Art Class, she hoped cooking was not totally off-limits to her too since she wanted to learn. Apparently, her grandpa did all of the cooking when she was at home. I was just about to ask about her parents when Sasha came striding in. I could tell from the look on her face that something was bugging her and it was then that she announced that Home Ec. was cancelled due to an emergency meeting she was going to call with the other Kunoichi. Before leaving however, she instructed me to teach Dominique a few breathing and Chi exercises until the guys got back from their supply run.

Now here I am, sitting cross-legged on the plush carpeted floor of the Game Room with Dominique a mere two feet away in front of me, watching and observing with the kindest of smiles in place. I think about smiling back but decide against it, keeping my expression neutral. Ebony would be proud.

Besides, it's not like it would make much difference if I did smile or not. Hell, I could stick my tongue out at her and she wouldn't bat an eye, I bet. Not like I would do something so childish and stupid though.

I release a subtle sigh. She lacks the ability to see details. If she wants to get a clear picture in her head about what something of someone looks like, she'll have to rely on her hands.

A conventional method of the visually-impaired…

I cast a glance over at the animal pair on the couch. For once, Dusk isn't paying much attention to Dominique. His deplorability seemed to be most concentrated on the sleek blackness that was Mydnyte as the two lounged on the thick black velvet cushions together. The red fox kit was leaning somewhat heavily on the flank of the cat, his eyes closed and his tongue lolling out of his mouth in content and Mydnyte, the feline epitome of indifference, was showing not only tolerance to the kit's affection but giving some of her own by delivering a few consecutive licks to the top of his muzzle.

I can't say I really know what to make of this honestly weird happening, all I can recall is the feeling of…whatever that was in Art Class when Dom was mapping-out Dusk's face with extreme tenderness and thoroughness. It wasn't jealousy! I absolutely refuse to believe that! It was just…

I can't help but give a huff of indignation as my face once again begins to call forth more blood than necessary. This is seriously getting ridiculous!

"Lloyd…? Am I…sup—supposed to be breathing…the way you are?"

My brow puckers dubiously as I try to make sense of what she said. I bite my lower lip in anger when embarrassing realization plows into me. How in the world did I forget what I was supposed to be doing that fast!?

"Ah…no," I say, clenching my disdainfully clammy fists tight on my knees. "I was just thinking about what exercises to show you first."

I know it was a shameless lie and from Dom's frown I think she knows it too. But as soon as the frown appears, it leaves and a slender cinnamon eyebrow arcs up playfully.

"Do you always…think in anger?"

I stare at her and feel a little unnerved when a smile tugs at my lips. "Only on hot days."

She grins too. "I will…wish for cooler days then."

"Wishful thinking never got anyone anywhere," I counter swiftly, "especially once summer kicks in full force."

"There are…cool days in summer."

I shrug. "Who's to say I don't think in anger on cool days?"

"You did."

"Huh?"

Twin amethyst pools glimmer in triumph. "You said, "Only on hot days."

I can actually hear the figurative slamming of a cage door. Trapped. "I lied!" I snap back in a panic.

"Again?"

Time freezes as our eyes lock and just like that, the spell is broken and we both erupt into laughter. It's hard to wrap my head around the craziness I just willingly took part of. Who in their right minds would banter back and forth about the weather and how it affected a person's thought process and mood?! But you know something…it has actually been a while since I laughed like this. And who brought it out of me, but a girl I've known no less than forty-eight hours. A girl I was dead-set on not liking the moment I saw her. And yet, here I am basking in her presence, happily intoxicating myself in the relaxation and cheerfulness I've been depriving myself of since my uncle died. And looking at her and hearing her joy, has its effects on me too.

Cute… Pretty… A beguiling laugh…

She really is different. Everything from her mannerisms to her demeanor screams dainty and girly, like she's some sort of debutant. None of the Kunoichi have Dominique's layer of softness, not Nya, not Sasha, not Ayane, not even Ebony with her level of refinement. And it's not like I'm calling Dom refined or anything just…soft. Kind of like the red rose I had planted in the kitchen for Sasha to find back in April. Only Dom is more like crystal, more priceless and fragile and that's why I want to protect her. I won't deny that simple fact. That's why, despite what everyone else says, I will get Dominique off this ship and see to it that she returns home safely. I have to tell her. She deserves happiness not horror and if she stays, then that's all that awaits her on the Blood-soaked Bounty.

My legs feel a little numb from sitting in this position for so long. I don't know how Zane and Sasha can do it for hours on end. I take another peek at Dusk and Mydnyte on the couch and find them fast asleep in the same position they were in previously.

Good, no distractions.

I stretch out my legs and lean back on my hands, my light grin being dutifully replaced by a hard frown. Dom keeps her smile though and lifts a hand to her hair to twirl a finger around a curly strand.

I swallow as my mouth goes dry. My "symptoms" are coming back.

The sooner I get this over with, the sooner everything will go back to normal.

I open my mouth, but Dom's voice comes out before mine.

"You have a…a nice laugh, Lloyd. It is…nice to hear…" she compliments in her quiet Spanish purr, moving her finger counter-clockwise to unravel the strand caught around it. Her half-lidded gaze is centered somewhere around my legs and after a moment, as if following my lead, she relaxes her own posture and sits with a slouch, letting her left hand bear the brunt of her weight while her legs curl femininely to the side.

A gradual spread of pink appears along her cheeks and just like this morning, my brain comes to a screeching halt as the temperature in my body escalates and my heart begins to pound soundly in my ears.

"It…It is strange though…" she continues thoughtfully and painstakingly slow, using the same finger she utilized to play with her hair to draw small circles on the carpet. The same way she did this morning on my sleeve. "I…remember it…It like…" a frown of concentration, "It is like…a memory…from a dream…"

"What?" I ask confused. What is she talking about?

Her eyes finally dart up to look at me and a sudden urge shoots within my soul to get closer, to stare deeply into dark and rich violet pools. My forehead is beaded with sweat and I grimace as my hands claw and clump into the carpet, not willing to give in to the stupid temptation.

Pretty wild orchard lips purse briefly in indecision. "…Can I…tell you a secret, Lloyd?" Her whisper is so quiet that if I didn't have such owl-like hearing, I surely would've missed her words.

Strange that I don't even have to think before I answer. "Yeah."

The amethysts shift to the left, over my shoulder to the door before quickly fleeting back to my face. "I…I had a dream last night…" she begins in the same delicate undertone. "I did not tell them….because…because I cannot make it…make sense…and a part of me…did not want to…"

"But you…want to tell me?" I ask for clarification and she nods. "Why?" I blurt out next. That alone doesn't make sense since I haven't been exactly forthcoming or friendly towards her.

"Because the dream…had something to do with you…I think…And I want it…between us."

This visibly shakes me. "You want what between us?" A weird sensation is prickling in my chest. It feels like excitement mingled with something else.

Alarm? Intrigue? …Want? Do I actually want something between us?

She inches closer, crawling towards me in between my legs and reaches out to touch my shoulder before settling back on her knees. My face feels so hot that I wouldn't be surprised if my entire head burst into flames!

"Let me…tell you the dream," she whispers and I nod absently, my mind too focused on allowing my lungs to fill with her flora scent than produce coherent thoughts at the moment, and my eyes relish at getting the chance to stare blatantly into deep depths of violet. But when she does begin again, I listen intently.

"I wasn't myself…I was a bird…and I was flying. My sight was the same…as it is now…and…flying beside me…was the beautiful green aura…and shape of a dragon…It was the same…beautiful green…as your aura…only…no darkness…"

I stay silent.

"I could not move…the way I wanted…I could not say what I wanted…I was…living-dreaming…of a memory, I think. It felt…very real…so real that I can clearly…recall the way…the warm air felt through my feathers…beneath my wings. My name or…the bird—the phoenix's name was Aurora…and the dragon's was Flaragon. They were searching for…others—foes…powerful foes, a Black Phoenix and a Black Dragon. And during the search you—I mean Flaragon laughed about…something…and even though his laugh was much deeper and growly, your laugh…stirred my memories of the dream…It is very mysterious, right?...Lloyd, I think maybe…"

"You can't stay here," I interrupt sternly, whatever was happening I had to stop it before it got worse. Before it got uncontrollable. She looks at me, her eyes wide in shock. "It's too dangerous. It's not safe. Do you understand?" I carry on, but even as I say these things to her, flashes of my own dream from the dragon's perspective assails pointedly in my mind's eye.

Her hand is still on my shoulder, but her soft grip loosens until it's able to slide down to the center of my chest, over my heart. "Lloyd? What…what is wrong?"

Doesn't she get it! Fine, I'll make her get it!

I move forward, no longer leaning back and bend my legs at the knee. One hand takes hold of her shoulder while the other buries itself within the mass of cinnamon sable curls. Something stabs at my thundering heart, an insistently strong and ancient instinct that tells me that just touching the silken ringlets wasn't enough. I was supposed to bury my face into the soft twisting forest and relish in the feel of having her so close.

Another memory flashes in my mind and tunnels down to my heart. All I see is darkness but I can feel the unmistakable heat of fire and suppleness of feathers. The sublime and tantalizing mixture of feels was against my scaly cheek and I loved it.

I loved her.

Flaragon and Aurora?

I determinedly fight through the dragon's memory and focused on what I wanted—needed to say.

"What's wrong is you being here. You don't belong with us and especially not with me, so whatever you're thinking just forget about it and go home."

"Forget? How can I?"

"You've only been here for a few days, Dom," I argue logically. "That's not enough time to make us your friends and bond with us. You should have no problem returning to your normal life."

Her face turns stricken and her eyes flee downward, causing her long lashes to partially obscure dark lavender and lilac. "That…That is not true. The Kunoichi…I…what I feel from them…they care…" her irises lift back up to my face, "…and so do you. You would not be saying this…if…if you did not."

My eyes narrow at her for using my own words against me. "You're a frail, scared little girl and I've been taught to protect the weak. That is the extent of my caring," I strike back coldly.

"Yes, I am…" she admits quietly. "…and I am aware of the danger, Lloyd—"

"Are you?" I challenge. "Are you aware that you could get killed? Are you aware that you may have to kill others?" My predictions about the future turn dark and morbid. "Commit genocide? Obliterate an entire race of people?!"

My voice grew louder and more forceful and her face pales considerably. "N-No, I will never go against my beliefs…no matter what. I will never…take a life…"

"All the more reason for you to get out of here." I say through gritted teeth, my expression hardening further. "Or do you prefer to be surrounded by killers?"

"I have…I have no right to judge anyone and—and I know you all are good people…" her small hand trembles on my chest but she still manages to fist my shirt tight, "…especially you, Lloyd… And I know I will never be a kunoichi…"

"If you know that then why stay here? What are you aiming to be?"

"That is…what I want to find out…" There's an inner sense of fortitude and resilience that I can easily feel from her and see in her eyes. "And…I know I can only…find the answer here. Do you…know what it is like, Lloyd? To look in the mirror…and see nothing…but a phantom?"

"What? A phantom?"

"For a while…every night after…I received my new sight…the Celestial would…visit me in my dreams…to teach me…the many colors of the universe…He said…it was important for me to know them all…since my sight will change slowly over time…" She smiles serenely and my hand that had remained unmoving in the recesses of her curly mane, comb tentatively through it. I marvel at how unnaturally easy it is to do so.

"…Every color…every mixture of shades known to Man…and beyond…is im…imprinted on my mind… During my grief…my time with the Celestial helped me…with the still fresh wounds in my heart… I was healing and…well…I always avoided looking in the mirror be-because…I wanted to wait until I knew all the colors…so I could…name it, I guess… I thought that…my aura would be very pretty…and grand…like a princess…" I frown when I hear her laugh, it sounded so empty and hollow. "When I finally did look…I was…very d-disappointed… I did not have a shape even…all I saw was a…a scraggly blotch of…of nothing…just the dullest blacks and grays…I do not look in the mirror anymore…"

Words spew forth before I can stop them. The need to console her is so strong. Strange, when just hours ago I enjoyed seeing her vexation. There's a difference this time though, her eyes have never looked so sullen…and I don't like it. I don't mind seeing her bothered…but I have a problem with seeing her sad.

"Forget about your aura! You do know what you actually look like, right? I mean, your aura isn't physical! You had to have felt your face! You have to know you're pretty! You have—" My fingers grope through the naturally spun locks of her hair. "—the softest curly brown hair ever! And it's not just brown either! When the light hits it just right, you can see black too! And your eyes…" She's looking at me with such anticipation and a strange part of me doesn't want to disappoint her. "They're this…deep, deep purple. Unimaginably beautiful…I bet no one in any realm has eyes like yours."

"Lloyd…" Her face turns bright red and I turn away from her, feeling my own face flush scarlet.

I reflexively pull on a scowl to try to save some form of my dignity. "Anyway…you know that, right?"

She's silent and I take the chance to inwardly berate myself. Bleh! How could I carry on like that!? I feel like a dorky character from one of those cheap, tawdry young adult romance novels I hear Nya and Ayane sometimes harp about!

I don't know what has come over me. None of it makes any sense. When I saw her eyes dull, it felt like a clawed-hand had gripped my heart savagely and I instantly knew I wanted to make her feel better. What are all these temptations I have now concerning Dominique? Why am I beginning to feel such burning desires? I have feeling this has much more to do with than just puberty…

Freakin' Zane…

"M-My p-parents and grandpa told me…what I look like…yes…"

I hesitantly meet her eyes again. Her face is still red, but her amethysts sparkled vividly with gratitude. "But…they never told me with such…passion… Um…thank you…Lloyd."

I bite my lip to keep from yelling that it wasn't "passion" just…something else. Instead I reply with a shaky, "Y-Y-Yeah…"

We're quiet for a spell.

Her hand still fisting my shirt.

My hand still embedded deep in her hair.

We're still so close to each other… Why…?

I decide to break the silence. "And…I'm sorry about your parents. Ebony didn't tell me that they were gone."

She nods solemnly. "They were killed…in a car problem—I mean car…c-crash…a year ago."

"I'm sorry," I say again and she nods again.

Another silence.

"It sounds like you're staying," I say quietly and she looks up at me and shakes her head.

"I do not know…I have to still think…"

I sigh, feeling very tired and fatigued. "I still feel the same," I state flatly.

"I…had a feeling you would…"

She gives me one of her small delicate smiles and I return a somewhat lop-sided one and retract my hand from her hair and she gradually loosens her grip on my shirt and lets her own hand fall away from my chest.

Whether from tiredness or that strange instinctual urge from before, my body protests the distance I put between myself and Dominique. I scoot back while she remains where she is, her eyes watching me carefully. I re-cross my legs achingly once enough space is between us and she copies my positioning.

And as I begin instructing her about the numerous expansions and decompressions of her lungs when using structured breathing…another one of Flaragon's memories flash into my mind.

And the sight left me feeling…something I couldn't put into words…

The vision of the phoenix named Aurora…her demeanor beaten and her once vibrant violet gaze forlorn as she looked at me—Flaragon…And…a much larger, obviously male phoenix was beside her…his plumage and feathers as dark and black as an endless abyss of nothingness… and his eyes…gold and silver, cold and taunting as he wrapped his sinister wings possessively around her…and disappeared from sight.
Power of Aura Chapter 8
And here's the last of my double whammies for this update bonanza! Same things apply: fav, comment, download if you like! :heart:
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I tighten my hold on Ebony as she leaps acrobatically about like I weighed nothing. We had long-since caught up with Sasha and Nya, though they are still somewhat ahead of us, and I spy Ayane and Dusk's auras beside us too. Riding on the back of Sasha's Guardian, Nagendra, was beyond stellar and exciting, but I never knew riding on the back of a kunoichi would be equally as exhilarating!

They all moved with unimaginable grace and speed. Shouts of joy and whoops of charged elation all fill the air from the majestic women. I even hear Ebony chuckle deeply, the sound vibrating merrily through her back and into my heart. The beautiful colors of their auras would zip in and out of my line of sight, leaving a tailwind of their respected elements to follow their flurrying paths, and as Ebony flips rapidly from wall to wall upward…I feel…weightless… I feel like I'm flying…in my own way…

Time seems to slow down as I look at the world from behind the shoulder of a natural master of the environment.

I…I want to be like them…

I want to be an embodiment of absolute freedom…

I want to soar through the air with my own body…I want to achieve this unfathomable nimbleness that they all posses. They move and adjust with the terrain around them without a single hint of hesitation or complaint. When it rises, they ascend. When it falls, they drop. When it curves every which way and that, they shift their bodies accordingly like dancers to an unbreakable rhythm.

I close my eyes and can delightfully feel the change in wind and momentum, the almost nonexistent pull of gravity. The long scarf around Ebony's neck tickles my cheek every now and then with its silkiness and a mysteriously exotic scent of seared leather and fine blossoms wafts from it.

I wonder…can I really turn my back on the possibility of becoming like them? In their entire physical prowess? I don't want to fight or hurt anybody, but…I guess it would be nice to not feel so limited. It would be nice to feel…strong…and…beautiful…

Lloyd is a ninja and I bet he can move like this. And if he can, then surely I can too! I-I think…if I worked hard enough…

So then…do I join them? No…I can't base my enlistment just for my own wants to be graceful. If I join…I have to be in it for the long haul. I have to think about this carefully…

"Ah-ha! This looks like the perfect spot here, ladies!" Sasha suddenly shouts and I open my eyes to see we have come to a very high but stable piece of rugged flat land. Ebony lowers to the ground and I detach myself from her person. Dusk hurriedly jumps from Ayane's arms and starts prancing and yipping around our little group excitedly. It looks like he had just as much fun as I did coming here.

I glance up to the black skies and can barely detect the pillowing grey substance of moving clouds. The sun is supposedly a sphere of blinding light. Although no matter how long I stare at it, I don't feel any pain or strain to my retinas. I let my fingers button-up my jean jacket when an unexpectedly strong wind rushes through us.

I'm glad Lloyd mentioned the slight change of temperature… It is a little colder now.

"Okay, so how should we go about this?" Ayane asks as I return my attention to the ones before me.

"Let's not try to activate our Ascension right away," Ebony recommends and unsheathes two strange-looking three-pronged silver weapons from her sides. "We should go about our normal routine and get warmed-up first."

"Warmed-up, eh?" Nya responds with a whimsical edge of teasing, the magenta gales inside her vibrant purple form dancing to and fro. "I thought that was what my brother was for?"

Ayane and Sasha giggle at Nya's playful remark while I look on curiously as the crimson radiance peeks once again from behind curtains of shadows. But as soon as it revealed a sliver of itself, a decisive convergence of silver and black covers it up again.

"I've decided not to even dignify that with a response," Ebony replies. "However…" she twirls her weapons readily, "because of your silver tongue, I think I'll use you to get my blood going."

I smile. It has only been a single day since I've been acquainted with these four women and yet along with my curiosity, I feel a natural kinship with them, like a magnetic pull to their souls. Their auras inform me of who they are; something words would take too long to do and…it's there… I can literally feel a connection to them.

Like I'm supposed to be with them…like I'm supposed to learn from them…

My heart stirs and begins thumping hard in my chest. What am I to do…?

Nya taunts the other kunoichi with a cometh wave of her hand and my eyes widen with alarm as three extremely long and sharp claws abruptly extend from the pulsating violet covering around her appendage. "Ready when you are, little sister…" she beckons and the two quickly square-off, each settling into a low and ready stance that made their auras pulse with power.

But before either of them could move, Sasha thrusts a rather menacing and perceptibly lengthy staff between them. As expected, it is imbued with the same color of her aura though stunning drops of aqua drip continuously from it. I wonder if she can feel the water leaking from her weapon or maybe she's the one causing it to be so sodden to begin with.

"Yeah, yeah, but before we get started, let's discuss Dominique's role first," she says and Nya and Ebony relax their posture and turn to me. Ayane follows suit and lowers a mystical bow she once had strapped to her back. However…I can see no arrows…

"Dominique, simply observe us to start with. No doubt our auras will change as we train, thus let us know if you see anything worth mentioning. We'll be attempting to activate our Ascension during combat with each other and hopefully all goes well. Stay at a safe distance too, okay?"

I nod in understanding and walk further away from them to plant myself on an elevated slab of rock. Dusk soon joins me and lays his head on my lap. The Kunoichi once again spring into action and face-off against one another at a reasonable distance away from me.

I swallow a little worriedly as I see Ebony and Nya brandish their deadly weapons. I have a feeling one won't attempt to hurt the other too badly, but I guess it's just the sight of their lethal arsenals that I'm concerned about.

Will I have to wield something like that if I join them? The thought didn't appeal to me at all. Weapons were created to harm and kill swiftly…and other times slow and painfully…also, the ones that the Kunoichi had, displayed that brutality in the rawest sense. But…weapons were also created to protect. Those who weren't strong enough to defend using their own power or needed to even the odds against a foe who had a weapon of their own has to adapt to the situation to guarantee the safety of their life or the lives of the ones they sought to protect. When looking at it that way, weapons are ordained as a "necessary evil…"

I shake my head and look to Ayane and Sasha. Hmm…I can't say I understand what I'm looking at since I lack any sort of combat knowledge, but from what I can see, Sasha looked to be at the most disadvantage from going up against Ayane. The tall lithe aqua kunoichi spun her staff in a relaxed manner as she simply walked to cover the distance between herself and the sunny aura. And Ayane stood as still as a statue, her long and divinely lit bow cocked and ready to release…

What exactly…Oh!

At that moment, Ayane's aura pulsed and the bright whitish gold within her manifested outwardly and loaded itself to the holy white string of her bow.

Then…a beam of pure light was released…directly aimed at Sasha.

This got the action to stir up rapidly. No longer lax, Sasha dodges the shot and all but charges at Ayane, the gap between them dwindling fast. However, Ayane was on the move as well and with each pulse of her aura, an arrow of holy light streaked through the air.

Sasha repeatedly either deflected or dodged the shots fired at her, while Ayane wisely kept her distance and deployed multiple volleys of light to halt the water kunoichi in her tracks. Who was exerting the most energy though? I can see as well as feel Ayane pull power from her aura in order to use her bow and surely leaping back and twisting off walls of rocks to stay away from Sasha is taking its toll on her body. Was it equal then? Sasha is doing some fancy maneuvering herself to keep out of harm's way, the twirling of her staff a blur of watery aqua.

I turn back to Ebony and Nya and almost gasp in fright, although my heartbeat does start to pound anxiously. Their fight looks way scarier than Sasha and Ayane's! Up close and personal is the only way I know how to describe it. Their weapons are a complete and absolute extension of their bodies. A resounding clang of metal upon metal resonates through the atmosphere each time their blades connected with each other. A flurry of kicks and punches, dodging and weaving to avoid potentially fatal injuries…it really looks like they were trying to kill each other now!

Dusk nuzzles against me, I know he's trying to get me to calm down, but I've never seen any form of combat before! I've only touched very light bases on the wars that used to ravage our world in Social Studies. I stroke his head and try to keep focus on the fiercely pulsating auras of Dark and Wind. The two look evenly matched to me, although Nya seems to be able to attack more often than Ebony. But then Ebony seems to be pushing Nya back due to the sheer force of her parries and counters.

My brow furrows in concentration as I peer closely at the Kunoichi of Darkness. That crimson radiance has appeared again…and here I thought it showed itself only when Kai or happy moments were afoot. However…I'm starting to understand now that that's not the case. Ebony…is very different from the other Kunoichi. It seems…that beautifully rich red is in fact her soul and she's more in tune with it than I bet even she realizes.

As the seconds tick by and more power is excised from her aura, I observe that Nya is being continuously pushed back and Ebony gaining the upper-hand.

Strange…what's that…?

The crimson radiance blinks silver and a fine line of blood travels upward from it until it reaches the location where her eyes would be if I could see them, then…

This time I actually do release a gasp at what I see. It was just for a brief second if that, but…the sockets of her eyes had flared red and intricate markings were etched around them. The silvery black shadows of her aura pulsed dangerously rapid like a heart going into cardiac arrest and I instantly leap to my feet in alarm.

"WAIT! WAIT! EBONY, STOP!" I yell, but my shouts fall on deaf ears. I never did have a very loud voice so I'm not all that surprised they couldn't hear me. Plus, I don't scream or even get upset very often. Still, I have to get their attention right away!

This is going to be risky but, what choice do I have…

"EBONY, NYA, EVERYONE, PLEASE STOP!" I yell again, running towards the aggressively active women. I wave my arms about frantically and Dusk even lends his voice to my cause, barking and whining loudly. And thankfully, it works. All four combatants stop their attacks and look to me and Dusk as we stop in front of Ebony and Nya.

"Ebony…" I breathe and swallow a quick gasp of breath, immediately putting my hands on her body. Above everything else even my special sight, touch is the most important and potent sense I have. The texture of her attire is smooth and stretchy, similar to spandex yet tougher and more durable. Her aura still pulsed more sporadically than the others and her lustrous crimson soul was still visible.

"What is it, Dominique?" Ebony asks. If I alarmed her with my physical approach, she didn't show it. Her voice was still as calm and silky as ever. I'm glad she didn't freak-out and I'm usually not this forward with touching other people, but I just had to feel this power within her for myself. Seeing it was simply not enough.

"This…right here…" I begin tentatively, sliding my hands up to stop along the length of her sternum, right where her red soul rested. The area feels incredibly warm yet…foreign…in a way… Maybe…"unique" is a better word. "Do you feel okay?" I ask next. The beat of her heart is strong and as I lift my gaze upward, I notice that fine line of blood stopped short of her esophagus. That new power was still trying to express itself, but I wander…

Why did her soul flicker silver…?

"I'm fine. Why do you ask? …You look frantic and disturbed," she replies in a low and calculative tone.

I shake my head, glancing up to her face quickly before focusing once more on her lively aura. "You have to feel more," I say as strongly as I can, wanting her to understand. I'm afraid if she becomes too idle, her element will hide her soul again. "Feel inside you…yourself. Call power from where heart is… Your…your element wants to help more."

"She obviously sees something, Ebony," I hear Ayane say off to my right and Sasha concurs.

"Yeah…why don't you give it a shot, irmã?"

Ebony's eyes are solely on me. I can feel them. "Alright…I'll try."

The other three step back, but I stay where I am. I feel that I have to and Ebony doesn't seem to mind and no one comments.

"I will…I will help you," I say. I sound kind of strange, like distracted and focused at the same time. I don't know what it is I feel. I just know I have to stay where I am and help her.

"As you wish… Please guide me, Dominique…"

At once, her entire aura moves rapidly within her. Shadows of black and silver dance and swirl, fogs of metallic and chrome miasma constrict and dilate, but the crimson radiance doesn't react. If anything, it dims. She was drawing power from the wrong source!

"No!" I shout desperately. "Do not focus on only element but heart too!" I think about all the times I've seen the crimson radiance appear. When she was happy and laughing in the dining room or when Kai was near or when Kai was mentioned by Nya earlier, or even when she was with Lloyd. "Think about…love, who matters most! Think hard and hold on to it!"

Amazing…

Her soul…that enchanting crimson radiance…thumps with the rhythm of her heart and expands. And as her soul shines brighter, her mysterious element seeps from the confines of her body and outward to surround her…and me.

"Domin…you…ill…kay…?!"

"Eb…! Wha…oing…on?!"

"Sas…should…do?!"

The other Kunoichi's voices were loud but distorted. I unconsciously move closer to Ebony and I feel Dusk curl his body around my ankles.

I do not fear this…This darkness does not feel evil at all…Me and Dusk are safe…

I close my eyes serenely. It's tangible, this incredible dark power. It's hard to believe that such strength is housed inside a mere human. What's more, there's something else I feel…wrapped in comforting darkness…memories suddenly flood my mind's eye.

Memories…that were not my own…

A black dome of protection encircled around both Ninja and Kunoichi and frightening red auras had to remove their long appendages from their once captives in fear and pain. Furious hisses thunder through my mind and fear courses through me. The black dome lifts; cradling the Shinobi within safely and in a brilliant flash of crimson…disappears altogether.

DO YOU FEAR THE DARK, DOMINIQUE?

A supreme and booming voice…one I had not heard in months…

No…of course not… It's hard to fear something you've been familiar with for ten years since the day you were born…

YES, AND WITH THAT FAMILIARITY, YOU SHALL EMBRACE AND UNLOCK ONE OF THE FIVE ELEMENTS THAT DWELL DORMANT INSIDE YOU.

My head feels like it's going to explode from the sheer magnitude and resonance the voice carried. I try my hardest to hang on, not clearly understanding my Lord's words.

What…? There are five…? But, my Lord…I haven't decided to—

I KNOW. AND YOU WILL. NOW, BRACE YOURSELF, LITTLE ONE.

I'm falling. I'm slipping and falling inside the black of darkness. My heart decides to replace the resonant voice of the Celestial and pounds relentlessly in my ears. I try to grasp on to anything to keep from falling to deep and from my desperation, strong hands grip my shoulders tightly. And just from their touch, my eyes snap open and all I see is the foreboding and ominous aura of Ebony and her Element and apparently…mine too…all around us. The perfect balance of shadow and chrome with her radiant blood-red soul shining brightly from her heart's position.

I blearily lift my gaze higher and focus on a pair of otherworldly eyes that flared red and seem to penetrate me right down to the core. The glowing designs are also back and are permanently etched around her dominating stare.

My head hurts again and for reasons beyond my understanding, I feel the prick of tears stab the corners of my eyes as vertigo assaults me with a vengeance. Something strange is happening inside of me, an unraveling of such and it's not long before that something becomes completely unhinged. It travels through my body curiously like a comatose person waking from their deep sleep and trying to get a feel for their surroundings. It feels heavy but not overwhelmingly so and soon…it stops moving and simply settles in content.

And from it, I feel an even deeper connection to the one holding me…a bond of nocturnal value.

"Dominique…"

Her voice chimes in echo and still maintains its velvety candor that I'm sure only she has.

"…thank you…" are the last words I hear as my body gives out and my mind is once again embraced by darkness.

                                                                                          *~PoA~*

*THWUMP THWUMP* *THUNK, THUNK* *THWUMP*

The heavy bag swayed gently at the result of each of my attacks. It was satisfying to hear the impact my fists and feet caused upon the sand-filled training tool.

*THWUMP THUNK*

The chains overhead rattled in discontent, but whateve's I needed to release my anger out on something since the brunt of my training was over.

Training…yeah right!

All four of those scoundrels may have had serious expressions during the whole exercise, but since they had begun training me in awareness and team unity and such, I had noticed almost straight-away their laughing eyes when they thought I wasn't looking or distracted. Tch! I even caught their obstructed snickering and breathless whispers behind my back, all because of my humiliation this morning with Dominique.

I growl. They were most likely still making fun of me right now! It has only been about fifteen minutes since Cole instructed me to go train independently while he and the other Satan-worshippers discussed what adjustments needed to be made to my training regimen.

Regardless of the sweat amassed on my face and my hair clinging to my forehead, I kept my hood on refusing to give them the satisfaction at seeing my mortification.

*THUNK, THUNK, THUNK*

I still can't believe how I spazzed-out up there! Why did she have to speak so softly with that thick accent of hers!? Why did she have to touch me so gently!? Why did she have to look at me with such caring violet eyes!?

I clench my fist tight and follow-through with a staggering straight punch that causes the bag to swing back violently and hit the wall behind it before jumbling forward within range of my wrath again.

My face continues to burn in both anger and embarrassment. Mingled in with the scent of sweat and exertion the Ninja Training Hall always seemed to permeate, I can still smell the fresh aroma of gardenias…

Aaaaarrrrgggghhhh!

*TWUMP TWUMP TWUMP THUNK TWUMP THUNK—SHLIT!*

The sharp force of my last kick actually makes a cut along the thick hide of the bag and sand pours forth from the opening like a rushing river onto the hardwood floor.

"Y'know Lloyd, as much we enjoy watching you release all your pent-up puberty energy, replacing training equipment ain't cheap," I hear Kai snipe behind me and I cut my eyes over my shoulder to glare at him, my breath coming out in ragged pants.

I was obviously done training. "Can I go now?" I sneer in obvious contempt at my teachers.

Cole crosses his arms and shrugs nonchalantly. "Sure, but we just want to let you know you did well today. We'll have to hold-out on training you for the time being however until the stake-out on Monsoon is complete. I want the majority of our effort and focus to be on possible preliminary Serpentine activity."

"Nya and I have already started working on the amplifier for Zane, so it'll be ready by tomorrow," Jay informs us while throwing back his hood and running a hand through his damp hair. "Hopefully though, we won't need it."

"Hayate has reported no unusual activity thus far. Nevertheless, he has shown footage of a group of civilians traveling back and forth between the marshlands behind the town and a dense woodland area twelve miles southeast from here. It looks to be just a caravan for harvesting and hunting, like I said, nothing unusual. There have been zero sightings of the Serpentine," Zane supplies in his matter-of-fact manner.

"Those marshlands are the same place we found those snake tracks, Zane," Cole frowns, his green eyes dark in concentration. "Even if it is just nothing, have Hayate keep tabs on that caravan. We can't afford to miss anything. The Monsoon populace could very well still be in danger…or worse yet, under the control of the Serpentine."

"Damn them! They better not have!" I hear Kai growl under his breath. He then turns his fierce golden gaze to Cole. "Hayate can't be everywhere at once, Cole. I really think we should up the ante on this and have one pair of Shinobi scope out those woodlands while Hayate just stays in the marshes. Meanwhile, another pair goes incognito in Monsoon as visitors or somethin'."

"Hmm…while we do have enough man-power to do that…" Cole fades-off, his brow furrowed intensely as he, no doubt, weighs the pros and cons of Kai's suggestion. "We don't want to spread our forces too thin and leave the Bounty defenseless in case the Serpentine launches a surprise attack…"

"And let us not forget about Dominique," Zane contributes. "It must be our utmost priority to see to it that no harm befalls her," he says gravely.

I scowl. No harm will befall her if you all would just send her home! I think viscously, but I keep my opinion to myself of course, knowing that they would only contradict me and explain her importance and most likely even extend my punishment just for the hell of it.

"Right…" Cole sighs and looks to Kai. "Let me think it over. I'll come to a decision later."

"What's to think over!?" Kai suddenly erupts hotly. "Like you said, we do have the man-power to pull it off and as long as Dominique stays on the Bounty that leaves five capable Shinobi behind to protect her and deal with any issues pertaining to enemy threats! Furthermore, if by chance they did need back-up or somethin' the other four are not that far away and would be able to get back here in no time!"

Cole shakes his head. "Yeah, I know that Kai, but you're not looking at the big picture here. What if the other four are detained somehow? What if a large force of Serpentine attacks the Bounty? What then? A few mistakes are all that's needed to turn even a good plan awry if not thought about carefully."

"Ha! You worry too much, man! The Serpentine aren't that smart," Kai smirks confidently. "All that matters is who you send. Right, Jay?"

When everyone looks over at the blue ninja for his input, I quirk an eyebrow at his blank expression. His eyes were glazed over as if deep in thought, but when Kai calls his name again, he jerks into attention.

"Huh?! Oh, uh—right on!" He shouts with a raised fist of false agreement. He sighs and scratches the back of his head in contrition though when we just stare at him.

"Is something on your mind, Jay?" Zane asks politely. "You have been rather preoccupied…Does your diverted behavior have anything to do with Nya?"

"Ah, that obvious, huh?" He smiles. "It's not anything big or anything—no, scratch that! It's huge!" He exclaims, throwing his arms up in the air for emphasis. Jay runs a hand through his hair again, looking a little torn. "It's just…well…the wedding in all. I talked to her a little about it yesterday before we started working on the amplifier and stuff and…well…she agreed with me that we should write our own vows to each other."

"Okay, so what's the problem?" Kai questions, mimicking my raised eyebrow.

Jay looks at us with seriousness that I've only seen a rare few times. "I have too much to say. That's the problem, Kai," he laments. "I've already written out four pages, front and back mind you, of the vows I've decided to say to Nya and I know I should shorten it, but…" he shakes his head solemnly, "if I omit some of them then I'll feel like I'm reneging or being a coward…Argh! I don't know! I guess I'm just already experiencing those pre-wedding jitters. I really want our big day to be perfect."

Right, Jay and Nya's wedding. I remember when it was first announced months ago and I had desperately wanted to be the ring bearer for the ceremony. I scoff inwardly at my innocent state of mind back then. Needless to say, I renounced my voluntary involvement with their wedding after my uncle's murder. On that day, I just want to blend in with the rest of the crowd.

My brow creases however when a certain thought occurs to me.

But…if Dominique stays…will she be at the wedding too? Wearing some…girly dress or…have flowers in her hair? Would they ask her to be their flower girl or something? Would she…ask me to dance with her at the reception…? …Especially when I don't know how to dance!?

My temperature spikes again and a rush of blood settles on my cheeks.

Ugh! Even when she's not in the room, she embarrasses me…I really don't like that girl!

Cole chuckles good-naturedly. "Don't worry, fratello. We'll help you make your vows to Nya short and sweet without making you sound like a total weenie," he says with a comforting smile. "Ya'know, I already wrote mine to Sasha. Got em' down on two little index cards no less." He winks then turns to me.

"Hey Lloyd, why don't you go ahead and head up? Class starts in less than an hour and the Kunoichi and…Dominique should be back shortly. That leaves you plenty of time to freshen up and…dress to impress," he says slyly.

I eye him incredulously. "She's blind, genius! What difference would my clothes make?!" I retort angrily.

"Ah but Lloyd," Zane smoothes his unwanted two-cents right on in. "The visually-impaired are usually inclined to touch what they cannot see. It is how they configure a sense of normalcy. She may be interested in feeling your state of dress or even your skin if you allow it—"

"I don't want her to touch me!" I yell vehemently. Gawd! Just what were these conniving dogs playing at?!

While the other three snicker, Zane looks at me with the patience of a teacher as well as a father.

"Now Lloyd, surely you feel an inclination to be civil with Dominique. Why, despite your rather brusque attitude with her earlier, you are still on a promising path in establishing a friendly relationship—"

Having heard enough, I bolt for the door. But before I take off upstairs, I turn back and scream at them.

"I don't want a relationship with that girl, okay!? So lay off!"

I then proceed up the stairs, already feeling the cooler climate above dispel some of the heat off my body. I stop in my ascent however when I hear Jay call up after me.

"Hey Lloyd, make sure to pack some scuba gear, huh?! Don't want you drowning as you swim through denial!"

I ignore the chorus of guffaws that followed down below and high-tail it back to the safety of my room.

So yeah…that crap happened!
Power of Aura Chapter 7
Sorry for the prolonged absence, everyone! I'm back though with two chapter installments for PoA! Please don't forget to fav, comment, and download to show your love! I really appreciate it! :hug: 
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CHIBIJAGO HAS BEGUN!

Journal Entry: Wed Sep 3, 2014, 1:26 PM
Chibijago! is a 100-Theme challenge-fic given to me by my best friend! It will contain

100 random themes that may not or vaguely coincide with my series, but mostly not!

She has given me until June of 2015 to get it done and if it's completed by the end of

that month then she'll give me one HELLUVA birthday present! I really want to win

this, but I doubt I can come up with 100 different themes so please! If you have time,

leave a request either in the comments below, through notes if it's private, or in the

comments where a chapter is posted! Please bear in mind that I've posted the same

fic on FFN and I'll be getting requests from there as well, so don't get upset if you

don't see yours for a while or something! I'll be going in the order from which they

are received as best I can!

Thank you very much and have a resplendent day! :D 

-------------------------------------
Journal skin by TheWritingDragon
CSS coding by TheWritingDragon
Artwork by Jermmgirl
  • Mood: Compassion
  • Listening to: Moving and Powerful Music
  • Reading: Hetalia fanfiction
  • Watching: Game Grumps
  • Playing: Assassin's Creed Unity PS4
  • Eating: Strawberry Cake
  • Drinking: Milk

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VelvetPersona
Sondreia
United States
Greetings and salutations everyone!!
I'm no artist when it comes to drawing, but I love art in general and all it entails. A friend of mine from fanfiction.net suggested I come here and post some of my stories about Ninjago, so that's what I'm going to do!!
I think I'll remain anonymous about the details of myself, but that may change in time.
Pleased to meet you everyone!! :D
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:iconsnakesskin:
snakesskin Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Oi, sondreia dear, send me your email~
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:iconvelvetpersona:
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Nov 10, 2014
lol, here ya go! sondreiag@gmail.com
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:iconsnakesskin:
snakesskin Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
t.co/GnHkRfHMC4. See if that works :3
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:iconpokeninjagirl:
Pokeninjagirl Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy birthday!  :cake:
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:iconvelvetpersona:
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014
Thanks! :)
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:iconpokeninjagirl:
Pokeninjagirl Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
NP!  ^^ How are you doing so far? 
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:iconvelvetpersona:
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2014
I'm doing well. Had a great day with my bf and I'm fully recovered from my accident and surgery. Life is great! How are you?
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:iconlidygarmadon:
LidyGarmadon Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Student Writer
Happy birthday! :D
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:iconvelvetpersona:
VelvetPersona Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2014
Thanks!
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:iconlilogirl2000:
lilogirl2000 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2014  Student General Artist
Happy birthday girl! Have an awesome year!
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