Green Eyed Monsters
by Karen

Kento lay on the fresh grass with his hands folded beneath his head, staring up at the scudding clouds in a blue sky. A blue so even and perfect it might as well have been painted on. Kento sighed and wriggled himself deeper into the soft grass of the meadow ignoring the industrious explorations of his nose by a black and yellow hornet perched on his nose. An inadvertent sneeze dislodged the bee and flew off in a huff. Kento laughed and resumed his spread-eagled position on the ground. He was hungry, which was not uncommon with him, but for once he would ignore the complaints from his stomach. His friends would subject him to some good-natured ribbing if they found out about that. In the back of his mind he realized that instead of lounging about he really should be thinking about what Ryo wanted them to focus on.

Ryo was entirely too serious for his own good: Ruyo, as leader, felt responsible for the welfare of the entire group, and as such sometimes acted like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. "Good for him, but Ryo could stand to mellow out. Once in a while at least,'' Kento muttered under his breath.


Far away from the sun-drenched meadow torches could barely illuminate a darkness that was not so much an absence of light, but as light had never been. It was like the darkness had weight, shape and form, as if it were alive. It suffocated one's breath in the lungs, as if it were alive, and could swallow one whole. While the man in the red lacquered armor was accustomed to this sensation whenever he entered the audience chamber of his lord and master, he could never say, even in the silence of his own mind, that he had become accustomed to it. The man in the red armor removed his helmet and carried tucked beneath his left elbow, waiting to be acknowledged by his master.

Light flickered, enough to see the shilloute of a head, deep-sunken eyes, the head encased in a metal helm and the white hair that drifted in a billowy cloud. The lips curled in a sneer.

"Lord Talpa," the man in red armor greeted, bowing almost low to the ground, his free hand smacking onto his chest in salute.

"Daius, to what do I owe the honor of this unexpected visit?" Talpa said.

"I have been thinking of ways to defeat our enemies and a devious plan has occurred to me," Dauis replied.

"It seems to me that I have heard a tune similar to this before. If I am not mistaken the last plan involved creating a duplicate of Cye of Torrent and having the copy fight the original. We both are well aware of how it failed."

Daius gritted his teeth and squared his shoulders well aware that Lord Talpa did not have a great deal of patience with failure. "I have come up with another plan, one to salvage the first."

"We are fighting a war here, Daius. I cannot afford to have any more mishaps interrupt my plans. We are nearing a turning point, and any damage no matter how slight, could upset a delicate balance."

"I understand completely, My Lord. If I may be allowed to outline my proposal?"

"Continue," Talpa replied.

"Perhaps we need another approach, attack the Ronins where they are the weakest and therefore the most vulnerable to attack. I have thought of a plan to do just that. And I have decided to target Kento of the Hardrock."

How much of a fool do you take me for?" Talpa snarled the promise or suppressed mayhem lurking like thunder beneath the silky tones.

Daius flinched, feeling invisible icy fingers clenching at his insides, but would not be swayed from his course of action.

"I will disguise myself as a female, one so seductive and alluring that the Ronins will be unable to resist her, and as a woman. I will spread dissension and jealousy among them, so that will fight amongst themselves."

"Divide and conquer." Talpa murmured. "Good strategy, odd way of going about it. However, I suspect you will succeed."

"Thank you, My Lord," Daius bowed his way out of the audience chamber.

"Fail and you know the punishment."

Daius gasped. "Yes, My Lord."


The disguised Daius emerged into an empty forest and promptly had the hem of his skirt caught in the bare branches of a tree. It's leaves lying in a brown muddle on the frozen ground.

Daius tugged at the tight fitting sleeves and adjusting the collar, wondering that he felt somewhat freer in these clothes than he ever did in his armor.

The outfit he had selected came from a torn page from a printed book containing pictures of scantily clad female humans. He had selected the appearance and manner of the physical type he had determined to be most to the liking of his target. A brisk wind blowing in from the north swirled the skirt around his legs, which made it hard to pull free.


Meanwhile the Ronins were engaged in scouting out another section of the forest.

"Did you heard a scream?" Ruyo asked, shouting to be heard over the roar of the wind and pouring rain.

"I don't know you can hear anything over the racket the storm is making. It's worse than a being front and center at a rock concert," Kento shouted back.

"It's the wind," Cye said.

"Quiet," Ruyo ordered, holding one finger to his lips. "There it is again." I think we should check it out."

"I'll go," Kento offered, slinging his weapons around his left shoulder and suiting action to words, set off in the direction the scream had come from. When he was still within shouting distance from the others. Kento stopped in his tracks, looking back at his friends with a sheepish expression on his open, honest face, than ran back towards them.

"What's wrong?" Cye asked..

"Nothing, it's just that sound carries strangely around here. I was closing on the source of whatever made that scream, then it the wind changed, and the source seemed to back around to behind you guys. What do you make of that?"

"Sorry, Kento," Rowen shrugged. "At this point, your guess is as good as mine." Rowen removed his helm, and placed it on the ground next to his feet. He straightened up again, and rubbed his thin, narrow nose, as if it itched. Long coils of dyed blue-black hair escaped their tight bonds and slipped down to shade his blue eyes.

"Then what are we waiting for?" Sage stated. "If it's nothing more than sound carried by the wind, we have nothing to worry about. Otherwise, it's just noise and we can ignore it. "Let's go. Sage pounded off in the direction of the scream, armor rattling, his leather boots pounding on the broken pavement. Kento caught up with him, and Sage whirled around when Kento tapped him on the shoulder. "Uh, mind waiting for the rest of us?"

"I assumed you were following."

"Yeah, right," Kento laughed.

They had covered quite a distance before they came upon the source of the scream, and it wasn't anyone had guessed it to be. A small, petite redhead with liquid green eyes was crouched at the base of an oak tree, facing off against a squad of Dynasty Soldiers. Kento's head swirled with a variety of conflicting emotions: Surprise that there were still other humans left alive. Kento couldn't decide what made him angrier: their rough treatment or the callous cruelty of the soldiers. And he also found the beautiful girl very attractive. Kent faced his friends, and said: "I'm going to rescue her."

"Wait. We don't know anything about her, for certain. It could be a Dynasty trick," Ruyo cautioned but was ignored.

"It's not a trick. Just look at her." Kento marched in, bound and determined to play hero. The redhead darted a swift glance up at her would-be-rescuer, "Save me," she pleaded. Kento grinned, a fierce and determined baring of his teeth and began swinging his weapon around in the air, feeling the thud and counter thud of metal on metal. Bracing for the impact when it came and catching the return blows, grappling with one of his opponents when the soldier would have forcibly removed his weapons right out of his hand.

"We can't let him fight alone," Cye sighed.

"Agreed," Rowen stated, "Even if he insists on making a damn fool of himself over a pretty girl.

"Too late to worry about that now." Ruyo drew his swords and plunged into the fight with wild abandon.


With the approach of daylight, turning the black velvet sky a pastel purple, the dark clan soldiers melted away. Cye shook his head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs, it could have been a bad dream, but each blow, each parry and counter parry ringing off of their armor and their weapons felt real enough. 'Something strange is going on here.' He thought to himself, 'But then that's par for the course, so why do I get the feeling that we're being set up?' He shoved the disturbing feelings to a back corner of his mind and looked to the others to see if they would remark on a similar sensation.


"I don't like this," Cye said. "That was almost too easy. It's not like the Dynasty Soldiers to put up a token resistance. I've got a bad feeling about this."

"Nonsense!" Kento exclaimed. "We really socked it to them! Did you see how they scattered! Are we good or what?" The red head girl clung to his arm, breath coming in heaving gaps and green eyes in mingled relief and exhaustion. She fluttered her eyelids and seemed on the verge of fainting. Kento stared into those liquid green eyes and felt his hear melt into a warm lump. He put his weapons away and wrapped his arms around the girl. "My hero," she sighed. Sooner than Kento would have preferred she pulled away and tried to put her clothing to rights, with the result that she only succeeded in revealing more than she covered.

"Thank you for coming to my rescue." I am Yana."

Cye eyed the girl out of the corner of his eye, and thought to himself looking, but why do I feel this girl is going to be more trouble than she's worth.'

"I'm Kento. These are the guys, Ruyo, Cye, Sage, and Rowen." If you don't mind, can I ask what you're doing out here in the middle of the woods?"

"I'm lost. Evil men came for my family. I hid. I was so scared. And when I finally felt brave enough to come out of hiding, everyone in town had disappeared," Yana replied.

"Maybe," Rowen said. "I'm not sure. But I think we should make tracks"

"Agreed. We certainly can't stand around here discussing it," Sage nodded.

"We should head back to Mia's house and get cleaned up and something to eat. We'll question the girl and check out her story," Ruyo said.


Kento absently brushed the crisp wrinkled bits of dead leaves and twigs out of his black hair while Yana selected a spot for a picnic lunch. Kento did not particularly care where they ate as long as they ate something soon, trying to ignore the faint complaints and growling that came from his stomach. "Patience' he told that portion of his body. Yana laughed and selected a forest clearing surrounded on three sides by a grove of oak trees, whose thick branches twined around each other. Yana spread a blanket on the ground, making sure all the corners were neatly tamped down. Kento walked over to the blanket and fell rather than sat down on the cloth. He had, in his hurry to eat, Kento overlooked the case of water bottles and the picnic basket. Lying prone on the ground, the basket and the case were poking him uncomfortably in his ribs.

"Hand the basket over, and I'll get our luncheon started," Yana said, holding out her hand for the basket and withdrew plastic wrapped sandwiches with a jar of honey mustard along with small packets of salt and pepper. Inside even more containers were sliced cantaloupe, for desert. Yana selected one of the sandwiches and handed the rest to Kento. "Oh, go ahead and start, it's not like the food is going to run away." Yana laughed.

As if waiting for the invitation Kento tore the wrapping off and began eating the sandwich, turkey on rye, one of his favorites. When he could speak without his mouth full, he rolled over and kissed Yana on the lips. "You taste like honey mustard."

"And salt," Yana whispered back, rolling over to her opposite side. She looked away up at the tangled branches of the oak trees. "Kento, we've been going out now for a while. I need to ask you something."

"Sure," Kento shrugged. "Fire away."

"Do your friends mind that I'm with you. Do you they resent that I'm taking you away from more important things you could be doing with your time?" Yana asked, a shrewd, unsettling look in her green eyes.

"That's a dumb question," Kento said, coming to a seated position," Of course, they don't, they're my friends." We're brothers. "

"I'm sorry if I upset you," Yana whispered, the red hair blowing around her face in the sudden brisk wind that sprung up. "I just had to ask. Forgive me." Yana said, raising her to look Kento in his dark eyes. Kento took her chin in his hands and kissed her. "Okay, I forgive you."


Ruyo, his hands tangled in the tiger, White Blaze's fur. White Blaze stared up at Ruyo, it's green eyes held him for a moment, in hurt and confusion, at the rough treatment, wondering if it had been the cause of his master's pain.

"I know you don't like advice, but just listen to me for a sec. Let's talk for a bit, while the girls are out of the room. You've got a choice to make. Yana's just causing trouble. You see that don't you?" Cye said.

"Look, Kento," Cye said. "We can't afford to fight amongst ourselves,"

"Yana's using you to drive a wedge between you and your friends," Rowen added.

"Come off it, guys," Kento yelled. "Yeah. I see exactly what you're doing. You're just jealous. I finally found a girlfriend, and now you want to take that away from me. Yana says…" Kento choked and trailed off, unable to complete the thought.

"Yana says what?" Cye yelled.

"Yana thinks that I'd be better off on my own. And that you're jealous," Kento muttered.

"Jealous! "Ruyo shouted. "You have got to be kidding me! If anything I'm worried about you. Something's not right about this entire situation. Hasn't been since the day we 'rescued Yana. Come to think of it, wasn't it convenient, finding her in the forest like that…."

"I don't care," Kento yelled. "I'm going out again tonight with her." Kento tossed over his shoulder and stomped off into the kitchen to find something to eat.

"We can't afford to fight amongst ourselves," Ruyo replied, his hands tangled in the tiger, White Blaze's fur, who stared up at him in mingled hurt and confusion, at the rough treatment, wondering if it had been the cause of his master's pain.

"Give it up as a bad try," Sage muttered. "You how stubborn Kento can be when gets all worked up like this. The best the thing to do right now is let it boil over."

"Yeah, they don't call him Kento of Hardrock for nothing," Ruyo laughed, but it was a forced one and ended in a guttural coughing fit.


Meanwhile, Yana stood outside the house and leaned on the closed door, listening to the raised voices. She, or rather he, was not what she appeared. If Yana had been she would have stormed into the living room, broken up the quarrel either by words or by force, and found a peaceful solution to the dispute. Because the current situation of discord and jealousy was exactly the outcome she sought. Content to allow the argument continues to its conclusion. In truth, the outward appearance was all an elaborate illusion, concocted by the master of illusions, Daius, one of the Dark Warlords of the Dynasty. His enemies did not need to know that, however.


Kento stormed outside, fists clenched and his face flushed as red as the roses in Mia's flower garden. He couldn't believe how stupid and stubborn and resentful and jealous of his new girlfriend. He wasn't concentrating on the storm of his inner turmoil and was not paying attention to external obstacles and collided into Yana, knocking both himself and her off the porch and onto the ground by the street. Kento got up and felt some of his angry burning away, and thought that maybe he should go back inside the house and apologize, but then changed his mind. "I'll wait for them to apologize first. The nerve of Cye, saying that he saw her first, and he deserved to be the one she dated! I'll. I don't know what I'll do, but I will figure it out."

Yana stood up and grasped onto Kento's army for balance. Kento suddenly felt rather uncomfortable about the entire situation and mumbled an apology for the rough treatment. "You okay?" he asked. Kento had felt burning hot before coming outside, but in an instant his felt chilled to the bone. He gave Yana a quick searching glance, and looked for the first time into her green eyes. What he saw there forced Kento to take several steps back, they weren't filled with light, laughter, and love; no instead they were filled with darkness, guile, and cunning. "Something's really wrong with this picture! Guys! Come outside!" Kento yelled.

"I'm fine. You don't need 'them' anymore. Why don't you run away with me?" Yana said.

"Huh?" Kento said, and found himself flat on his back from a back handed chop at his neck delivered by Yana, who disappeared from his sight for a heartbeat and when his vision cleared and he could think again Kento confronted the business end of mace. The arm holding the mace was no longer slender, and clad in a frilly blouse. Instead the arm was clad in red armor and the man the armor belonged to was one of the Dark Warlords.

"I should have known," Cye shouted. "Daius." "You should realized by now that your parlor tricks won't fool us."

Daius snarled, "Really. Everything was going according to plan, until this fool tripped the illusion by sheer dumb luck.

"You mind telling me what the hell is going on here?" Ruyo demanded, coming to stand beside Kento, who appeared to be frozen where he stood. In less time than it took his friends to blink twice. Kento reached up and wiped a streak of blood from a small cut on his throat. "Okay, so you got first blood drawn, not it's time you got some of your own back. Kento whirled on his heel and a mighty shove of his muscled arms shoved his enemy away from him. Daius sprawled in an ungainly heap in the ditch that run parallel to the road, watched as his weapon flew from his hand and stuck in the slats of a nearby fence. Daius snarled, and bit down on his nether lip, drawing blood. Judging from the twisted expression on his pale face, Daius found it to his liking. Daius rose to his feet in a swift, twisting motion. "It would have been so much easier, all you had to do was destroy yourselves. Now your deaths will be one of pain."

"Bring it on," Ryuo replied, drawing his two swords, and maneuvered him into a battle ready stance.

Cye and Rowen absorbed this and with quick nods of their heads. "I can't believe Daius would go to all this trouble. He must really be running on over-confidence if he thinks he can take all five of us by himself." Rowen grinned, calling on the supernatural forces of the mystical Ronin armor to summon his armor and his weapons. Cye following his example a heart beat later. Cye lifted his weapon, a bow and arrow. "Can I get first crack at him? I have been waiting for a rematch after Daius used his powers of illusion to make me fight that cheap copy of myself."

"I should," Kento interrupted. "It's my fault we're in this mess."

"Guys, this is exactly what he wants," Sage muttered.

"At this point," Rowen said, stepping in between Cye and Kento, "It doesn't matter. We've got to fight as a team, as we've always done. Who cares who's to blame, it doesn't matter.

"Rowen's right," Ruyo said. "Shall we," he added, making an inviting gesture towards the cringing Dark Warlord, "End of the line, Daius."

A point of blackness began to pulse where the sharp-edged steel blades met and darted away, much like flowing water. The Ronins drifted to where openings presented themselves, then springing away. They never broke, and resolutely absorbed every blow. It was as if an opening had been torn in the fabric of universe and emptiness seeped through.

The movements of the Ronins became more fluid, with each and every parry and return blow, wove a web of steel that could not be penetrated.

Daius leapt to his fight, hurling his weapon a whirling arc, finding it difficult to try to hit five moving targets at the same time and keep their return blows outside the circle of his own guard. Somewhat late, Daius discovered the fundamental flaw in his scheme, his disguise had been penetrated; he was out-numbered, out-flanked, and fighting a desperate holding action. At the instant it occurred to him to call on reinforcements from the Dynasty Soldiers; the chains from Kento of Hard Rock's numchunks hit Daius below the ribs, forcing him to concentrate on the task at hand.

Fending off that blow, he never saw the flaming energy arrow fired by Cye, that pierced his armor, or the flames of Ruyo of the Wildfire calling on the mystical power of his own weapon. From the opposite direction, the energy weapons of Sage of Halo and Rowen of Strata attacked him from behind and to his unprotected flank.

Bitter as it was, Daius had to admit, he was defeated. When he looked up, he saw blackness and the Dynasty Soldiers, faceless, voiceless standing above, looking down at him in silent disapproval. Seconds later, they dragged back into the darkness.

"No! Not yet! Lord Talpa! I was so close!" Then he was gone.


"It's over," Kento gasped.

"I can't believe that his disguise so completely fooled us," Rowen said, shaking his head, wispy trendils of blue-dyed hair, sweat- soaked, falling down over his eyes.

"I'm just glad we were able to see past the illusions and come together in time," Sage added, blue eyes narrowed in concentration. Sage began yanking on his helmet until he had it off, then hung onto it, staring at the ground.

"I'm sorry, guys," Kento gasped. "Really, I am."

"Stop it," Cye said, "I told you already. It's nobody's fault. We should know by now that all the Dark Warlords try and play off our weak points." Cye cocked his head to one side, thinking the matter through. "Although, I got to admit, this was a clever one, in a sick and twisted way."

"I'm starved," Kento said. "Let's find something to eat."

Cye began laughing and fell down on the lawn. "I'm sorry. But Kento, after all the weird stuff that happens to us, it's just comforting to know the some things never change and Kento being hungry is one of them." Cye walked over and gave Kento a friendly smack on the shoulder. "You're cooking!"

"Oh, all right," Kento sighed, a blush spreading over his broad face, "Enjoy, the joke at my expense, let's just get back to doing things like normal. Well, as normal as they ever get for us."

"Sounds good to me," Rowen said, turning around and led the way back inside the house.


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