Thirty days had gone by and the eleven warriors are much closer to their goal. Without Tianzai’s interference, the journey had gone on quite smoothly that the warriors are in a good mood. But the horses they travel on seem skittish as they stop by an in a small town to rest for the night.
It was nearing sunset, warm peach colour clouds fading from the cool purplish sky. The eleven warriors had headed into town in good time, for the guards were about to close the gates for the night.
"Finally. A warm bed and food that I didn’t catch myself." Kyo stretched himself as he handed his horse over to the stableman.
"Aye. And wine too. Must remember to replenish wine." Haohmaru added as he shook his wine pouch. The seemingly never-ending wine pouch had finally ran dry.
"I’m going take a nice warm bath." ChunLi mumbled,
"Well I wait for you downstairs. I’m hungry." Ryu smiles and walks off.
"Oh no you don’t!" ChunLi reaches out to pull him back by the scruff of his vest.
"What?!" A slightly frustrated Ryu glares at ChunLi, he’s well aware of the little silent giggles and glared at Iwa, Kumori and Kyo to shut them up.
"You have to take a bath too. You stink."
"But I didn’t smell that bad to you while we’re on the road."
"The road is the road. When the opportunity of bathing comes. Take it." ChunLi said firmly. Seeing that Ryu is still unconvinced ChunLi slides up close to him. One arm around his waist and her other hand rubbing his abdomen
"If you don’t bath, you can forget about food." She hissed softly in his ear, she smiled seeing his resolve weakening.
"It would be fine by me if you’re not interested. You can sleep with the horses tonight." She showers little kisses on his cheek. Ryu’s resolve finally became air as he docilely agrees. With a smile on her face ChunLi patted Ryu’s abdomen.
"Eeeeeee. Goosebumps! Goosebumps!!!" Iwa made a disgusted look and rubbed her arms as if she was cold.
"Hoy! I thought you always like us?" ChunLi asked in a mock hurtful tone.
"Yeah. But when you get mushy in public .." Iwa grinned and stuck her tongue out at the couple.
"Owww!!!" Iwa rubs her head after a bale of flying hay hits her.
"Serves you right." Satisfied, Ryu brushes the hay off his attire. Silence answered him as Iwa sulkily heads upstairs, the others had already gone upstairs for that refreshing bath awaiting them. The couple looks at each other and shrugs, arm in arm they headed upstairs as well.
Some time later the warriors rejoined at the dining hall for their meal. Each and everyone refreshed and relaxed.
"So what will it be?" the young lady waiting the table asked.
"Your best food." Ryu called, he was wearing a new set of attire. Although he hates to admit it, he did needed that bath after all.
"Your best wine!! And fill this up with your best wine as well." Haohmaru tossed the waitress his wine pouch.
"So. How far are we from our destination?" Galford poured some tea for everybody.
"Where we need to go lies beyond that mountain pass." Iwa pointed at the mountain range.
"But before that, there is one particular stream which serves almost like a border." Kumori continues.
"After crossing that stream we all walk." Iwa took a sip of her tea as well as a glance towards the kitchen, wondering when the food would arrive.
"Walk?" Galford asked in puzzlement.
"Yes walk. And take what rations we have too."
"That stream acts as border, there’s a spell there, which kind of prevents anyone on horseback to ride on through. Its an animal sanctuary there." Kumori explains.
"And if these hunters are on foot?" Kyo queried
"They hunt, they die." Iwa said flatly
"Who in their right mind would put up such a spell?" Galford voiced out.
"HER for one." Iwa shrugs.
"Won’t there be a population explosion of prey animals?" Nakaruru’s curiosity was aroused.
"It affects people. Mainly because SHE doesn’t like the idea of anybody finding HER territory by accident." Kumori eyes the plates of food that arrives at their table.
"But then people may wander in there and still find the place." Nakaruru tries to get her point across.
"Yeah. Who can you tell when the traps get you." Iwa picks out some food from the dishes to her own plate.
"Traps. Even the easiest way in is fill with traps." Kumori found what she was looking for as well as the warning glare from Ryu.
"Stop that. Be patient." ChunLi slaps Ryu’s arm to distract him. He glance at her, then to the food and at everybody who is picking some portion of food out.
"Who in their right mind would go through such trouble?" Galford decided to add on more prawns to his plate.
Iwa and Kumori just gave him a wide grin and spoke no further. Ryu watches everybody seriously until they signaled that what they had taken would be their dinner.
"!ITADAKIMASU!!!! (I’m going to begin / I will eat)" Ryu roars as he claps his palms together in a slight bow.
With that he attacks the food on the table with such ferocity that the others held their plates with their left hand and ate with their right hand. They would rather not place their plates on the same table with Ryu. In case he grabs their meal by accident.
The others look nervously at Kyo. The young man has this sparkle in his eyes which hints that he has something up his sleeves. It seems that he alone intends to challenge the older warrior.
Kyo aims for a piece of roast chicken, reaching in with double quick time he ends up grabbing air, for Ryu happens to notice and is slightly faster. Kyo frowned and glared at Iwa, Kumori and Rimururu. The trio tries hard to hold on to their plates and not laugh at the same time.
"Waitress!! More food! And keep it coming." ChunLi calls out as she watches the food disappearing, a glance to her left tells her that her plate of food is still in her hands despite having look away for a short moment.
"Disconcerting isn’t it." Zannah asked.
"After being married to him for so long. He has improve slightly if not much." ChunLi smiled weakly.
A gust of wind blows sand around their feet, a tall stranger walks in slowly as leaves swirls around him. He takes the empty seat beside Chizuru, a look of disappointment forms on his face. He had doubts as to whether he could beat Ryu to a nice rice cake.
. I came late." He mumbles, ignoring the burning glare Kyo gave him.
"Sorry. Wasn’t expecting you." ChunLi shrugs.
"Here." Chizuru offers Geonitz a rice cake.
"Much thanks Aiko. I would not be staying long. So worry not, young Kusanagi I have better things to do then to steal your dinner.
"You two did inform them of the rules?" Geonitz checks with Iwa and Kumori. The duo nodded in return.
"You worry too much." Chizuru handed him a piece of roast pork.
"I had to check on you. It seems that Legrene is following you."
"Legrene ." Iwa growled.
"Be careful. She might use those rules against you. Be alert. So long Aiko. I will return when there is a need to." Geonitz got up and bows. The wind caused his coat to flap around his legs as he makes his way out. He vanishes like a breeze passing through.
Dinner was silent for the name of Legrene marred the mood. It seems that she had crossed swords in with quite a few people and left her poisonous mark.
"Who is this Legrene." Rimururu asks, breaking the uncomfortable silence.
"The devil herself." Iwa hissed as she slams her fist on the table. It seems that she is most irritated by that name. Since she had finished her meal she took her leave without saying much more. One by one they all left the table.
ChunLi and Ryu headed back upstairs to rest at the inn’s roof garden. Sitting there on the bench with the stars twinkling in the night sky and the gentle wind caressing their face.
"The two of them seemed nervous about going there." Ryu put his arm around ChunLi, he realized that it had being a while since they took time out to watch the stars.
"You noticed too?" She felt the cool of the wind on her skin as well as Ryu’s warmth.
"Who won’t notice. They’re usually very relaxed. But mention ‘there’ or ‘HER’ and all seven of them turn cold. You have dealt with their kind longer than I had. Care to teach me a little secret or two." Ryu took a deep breath in, the lily based perfume on ChunLi’s skin once again reminded him of things he nearly forgot. But then he was sick with worry for the last two or three months.
"It’s a tomb. The place we’re going is their tomb." Gently she took up Ryu’s hands.
"They’re afraid of dying?"
"No. They’re afraid for all of us. Me and you in particular." Ryu’s puzzled silence answered ChunLi.
"Us all. Because they would break a rule by bringing us there. Me and you because they can’t guarantee if SHE would help us." With Ryu’s hands in her palms she began rubbing them to bring some warmth to his cold hands. She found it strange that he actually has cold hands.
"What large fists you have." She mumbles as she opens and closes his hands.
"The better to punch somebody with." He whispered back, a soft giggle answered him.
She knew what he means by that. She herself had being at the receiving end of those magnificently powerful fists before. But this pair of fist can fiercely offensive or lovingly gentle. She knew them like she knew him.
She was starting to miss those days, those days when they spent hour sparring whenever the mood hits them. And oddly enough they both have a liking for sparring on streams, seashores and grass fields. All for the sake of the effects of ripples, splashes and shock-waves
"If the implications are so serious, why do they still take the risk?" Ryu brought the topic back again.
"Iwa’s excuse was that she had grown rather attached to us. Kumori said roughly the same thing but she was mumbling." Feeling that she had warmed his hands enough she let them go.
"You realized that when tomorrow comes there would be no turning turn back." Ryu nuzzled his wife’s head with his nose. ChunLi hops onto her feet, bending forward towards him with her hands on her hips.
"If you’re having regrets you may go." She said sternly to him.
"Me regret? Never. Whatever it is. I’m going through it with you." Ryu leans forward till his nose touches hers.
Satisfied with his answer she rewards him a kiss on his nose. She then smiles at him as she pulls him to his feet. He bows while she curtsied, slipping his arm around her waist and pulling her close to him. They both began twirling around the around garden in accompaniment of some silent song.
Overhead a shooting star streaks across the sky. Good or bad omen depends on whose watching.
"Aisai. Look a shooting star. Make a wish." He whispered softly.
"Already have." She answered and rewarded him another kiss.
The scent of the flowers carried by the cool wind leads them back into their private dance, this one precious moment marks that whatever the results be they would still have their moments. But then as long as some things are possible they’ll still fight through it.
For Tianzai and the mysterious ‘HER’ are indeed the proverbial rock and a hard place that they were stuck between. Oblivious to howling wolves ChunLi and Ryu dances on, for they have decided to face whatever obstacles tomorrow throws at them.