Struggle in the Waste
By Kim-chan

Chapter 1

She had proof. She knew it. So did they, they just wouldn't listen. Kara walked down the crowded sidewalk. She had long, dark brown hair pulled into a ponytail. She was wearing a long coat over her usual uniform dress to protect against the winter cold. She paused and looked at the sky. The end was coming soon. Akuma's invasion would be any day, and no one in this place would listen-not the government or the public. She was glad she wasn't from this place, this realm. The realm she was from might've been a wasteland, but at least the remaining people were open-minded. Here, her warnings were considered the ramblings of a mad woman, not someone sane.

Contrary to their belief, Kara was in possession of her sanity-as much as Akuma and her former job would allow. Her profession hadn't helped much. Four years as an assassin for Akuma would wear on anyone, even her. She had been loyal for nearly her whole life, but those days were over now. Akuma was her mortal enemy. It sometimes pained her to go against him, but she could no longer stand his oppression, and the killing, dehumanizing work she was forced to do.

She decided to leave this city. There was nothing here for her, no family. Kara simply ducked into an alleyway and opened a portal home.

The portal opened in a familiar desert. The sun beat down heavily as she ducked from rock to rock. She had to be careful here. In this realm, she was considered a terrible traitor and in most opinions, deserved to die for it. She knew there were assassins everywhere, and among them, one searching for her.

Kara slowly walked along, shedding her coat in the process preferring her lighter uniform. She paused in mid step when she heard a human voice. She slowly scoped the landscape, searching for any possible threat. Finding none, she went on cautiously. When she moved around a large rock, she found its source.

Two people sat up on a high plateau, talking casually. Seeing they weren't assassins, Kara began to climb. She approached them slowly when she made it to the top. They stood up and eyed her suspiciously. One woman started to walk away, going through a small entrance in the ground, while the other woman stood still with just a hint of recognition in her eyes. Kara recognized her. The woman who stood before her was Nanmin. She was a refugee from the wars in her homeland. She apparently had devoted her life to bringing down Akuma. She was a great fighter. Tall, graceful, able to block every punch and counter with great fury. She and Kara had trained under the same teacher years ago. Kara though, harbored bitter resentment, for she had seen many comrades die because of Nanmin.

"What do you want here? Aren't you too busy spouting your supposed prophecy?" Nanmin had always loved to twist the knife.

"No. In fact, I need refuge. I have no use for my warnings now. If the people of Arcania go to hell, I won't miss them any," Kara ranted.

Nanmin interrupted. "Odd coming from someone whose mother is from Arcania."

"Was from there, she was killed, remember?"

"Oh yeah, she was that pathetic fighter I took down years ago. Hmph, easy win."

Kara did her best to suppress the urge to kill Nanmin right there. She had always been a nuisance.

"This way Kara." Nanmin opened the small entrance, which led to large computer filled room. A surly voice yelled from the hallway.

"Did you get rid of that person out there?"
"No, she's with me right now," Nanmin yelled.

"Oh great, just give a total stranger the grand tour, here just take a look at our secret files!"

The voice was extremely sarcastic as it stepped from the shadows.

"Miranda, please be reasonable. Kara's on our side."

The blonde Miranda crossed her arms and sighed.


"Okay then. Come on Kara, you can stay."

Nanmin led her to a small room downstairs. This place was strange. It was all metal meshed with the innards of the plateau. Large sensors and computers were everywhere. The room she was given was cold and drafty, but tolerable. It was a blessing in the desert's heat.

"Make yourself comfortable, you might have to stay for awhile."

Without another word, Nanmin left. Kara decided to explore her surroundings by herself. If she was going to be here so long, she might as well learn her way around this place.

Her footsteps echoed in the hall as she strolled slowly, soaking in her surroundings. The hall was cold, metallic, and gray. So unlike the homes in Arcania, she thought to herself. She stopped herself in mid thought. Why am I still thinking about those saps when they threw me away? she wondered silently. She chuckled, for she knew the realm was doomed.

Kara tried to keep walking, but couldn't shake the feeling of being watched. Kara turned and scanned every part of the hall, finding only shadows. Suddenly, one of them started to move and stepped into the light. A dark haired man in blue stood in front of her.

"Who are you?" the shadow asked forcefully.

"Kara, who the hell are you?"

"I'm Tetsu, a warrior here and you're trespassing!"

"Whoa, wait! Nanmin said I could stay, just calm down please, it's okay."

"Fine, are you a warrior? Can you fight?"

"I trained with Nanmin's teacher and was an assassin for four years, good enough?" Kara tried to stay calm.

"I suppose, who did you work for?"

"Akuma. I couldn't stand it anymore, so I left."

"I can see why."

At this he left. After the encounter, Kara decided to get out of the basement and headed upstairs. As she walked, she heard shuffling feet and loud voices. She ran up the stairs, Tetsu not far behind.

"Hurry, follow me!" Nanmin yelled.

Kara was shoved into a huge glowing portal to who knows where.

Chapter 2

Traveling through portals was a strange experience. Like suddenly being plunged into icy water. The numbness and controlled confusion were unmatched by anything else. Coming back out was even worse, a sudden lift in the numbness, like coming into light from darkness. Blinded, it took Kara a few seconds to realize where they were. Another wasteland.

"We're on a rescue mission here, one of our comrades, Nathan, has been stranded in Arcania due to Akuma's invasion. The main threat has passed, but soldiers are still present with orders to kill anyone left alive," Nanmin explained.

She was right, three different times the group had to hide from errant soldiers wandering by. Most were misshapen creatures, a small amount of which actually looked human. Kara and the group trudged along for miles as cautiously as they could afford. Finally they came upon their goal. From a cliff overlooking the land, they saw the ruins of a small city. For miles a debris field stretched, filled with crumbled buildings and the city's dead inhabitants. An eerie, silent pall fell in thick layers over this place, a mournful feeling. After this first silent moment, their reverie was broken by a loud thud. The thud a body makes when it hits the ground.

The group looked over farther and saw Nathan, propped against a rock, beaten and barely conscious. Surrounding him were Akuma's soldiers. One member, sword in hand, was about to strike the deathblow. Before anyone could stop her, Kara jumped off the cliff, trying to kick the soldier. Everyone expected her to misjudge the landing and fall to her death.

Fortunately, the soldier's head broke her fall. Kara stood defensively in front of Nathan, daring anyone to try and fight. They backed off at first. Then one of them recognized her as the supposed traitor. He stepped forward menacingly. Minimum in build, he didn't seem like much of a threat and by this time, the others had made it down. The soldier laughed.

"Well, well, well, look at this, the ultimate traitor herself."

He circled her, Kara turning to face him each time.

"Why are you even still alive? You have 3 of Akuma's best assassins after you. You couldn't hide forever, could you?" the soldier sneered.

"I wasn't hiding," Kara said through gritted teeth"You boneheads just didn't know where to look."

"Yeah, I guess I should've expected you to hold out for a long time. After all, battle's in your blood, being Akuma's daughter and all."

Shocked that he'd said this, Kara flew into a rage and lunged at him, sword ready. His corpse was left without a head. The other soldiers tried to run, but were killed by the group. They helped Nathan up and traveled back to the base. There, Nathan was treated, and all eyes turned to Kara.

"Akuma's daughter!", shouted Miranda. "You know, you could've told us!"

Kara sighed, frustrated.

"I knew you wouldn't let me stay if I told you, I would rather just forget it."

"Okay, would you like us to forget when Akuma comes looking for us?!"

"Look, I left when I was 13, 10 years have passed and he still hasn't searched. He disowned me, he doesn't want to find me."

"He better not, because if he does, we're all dead and you'll be the first one he takes out!" Miranda ended her rampage.

"Please just shut up! I've been listening to you two fight for hours, just DROP IT!!!" Nanmin yelled.

Kara sank back against the wall, this really sucks, she thought.

Weeks later, life for everyone at the base had settled. Nathan was better and everyone was slowly coming to terms with the conquering of Arcania. Nanmin and Kara still held a mutual resentment for each other; the whole group felt this. Kara especially had trouble restraining her hatred for Nanmin. Her father Akuma's temper was always there, ready to set Kara off. Besides that, Kara's descent through Akuma traced her to a race of savage monsters known as Saru. They were indigenous to her realm, wandering everywhere, most working for Akuma. This accounted for most of her fighting skill. Fighting to them was not a skill, but an instinct. Fortunately for everyone, this influence on her was dwindling, but not gone.

Nanmin gave orders at the base to no end. By now, she was simply annoyed by Kara's presence there, irritated that she had hung around although she had nowhere to go. Kara always felt this and hated Nanmin even more for it. The only bright spot in everything was Nathan. Nathan was average height with long black hair and gray eyes. He was the only one who acted even remotely friendly in the group. Miranda and Nanmin were impossible while Tetsu was focused solely on battle with no need for friendship.

Nathan's friendship helped Kara significantly. It helped her deal with all that was around her, the battles, suffering, and her imminent death by assassin always there. He helped her forget.

Chapter 3

Being around Nanmin, for Kara anyway, was just as bad as being with Akuma. She gave everyone hell, but saved particularly odd jobs for Kara. Anything that was long, tedious, and boring, in otherwards something no one wanted to do, Kara had to do. After only a few weeks of this treatment, Kara was already on edge. It would only be a matter of time before somebody cracked.

Kara, I have something for you to do."

Nanmin was met with an animal-like growl.

"I need you to write up a report on that last fight we had, I would do it, but I'm really busy. Just remember, DETAILS!" Nanmin half grinned and walked off.

After what had seemed like days for Kara, Nanmin checked over the report. Hmmm, there are a lot of holes in this report, what did I tell you about details?"

"Nanmin, I wrote all that I could remember, I'm not a child!"

"Well Kara, don't write like one."

"Fine Nanmin."

Thanks to Nanmin, Kara was on the verge of complete insanity.

"Okay, why don't you go on and fix this report and then start fixing that computer for me, I don't know what the hell's wrong with it."

Kara couldn't stand any more orders, she snapped from frustration, lunging at Nanmin. Nanmin answered to this attack with a savage kick to the ribs. In her crazed state, Kara felt only a sting and a strong impact. She regrouped and flew at Nanmin again. Unsheathing her sword mid jump, Nanmin was easily impaled and died almost as soon as she hit the floor.

At first, Kara simply stood in the corner, trying to calm down and ignore the severe pain that was now throbbing in her ribs. She felt a slight panic rise in her, she was afraid of the repercussions this might bring from the rest of the group. At the same time, Kara felt more free and knew she would not have to worry about fighting her nemesis any longer.

Tetsu was the first to come upon the seen of Nanmin's cooling corpse and Kara, who was slumped in the corner by now, on the verge of passing out. He slowly walked over, side-stepping the corpse, to Kara.

"What the hell happened?" Tetsu asked, incredulous.

Kara's voice was shaky, but she tried to explain. "I-I killed her, Nanmin, I tried so hard not to, but she wouldn't let up, I tried…"

Her exhaustion took control and Kara fell unconscious. Tetsu was faced with moving Kara and Nanmin to somewhere. He carried Kara to her room, then laid Nanmin out in a more even position in the same room. Miranda went ballistic when she saw."I don't believe this! I told her not to let Kara in, now look, she's going to kill us all off! Get rid of her!"

Nathan overheard and stepped in.

"Stop being so paranoid. When it came right down to it, Nanmin was a tough person to get along with anyway and with Kara's temper, well, I guess this was bound to happen. Now will someone get Nanmin out of here, the blood's not a good air freshener you know."

Miranda stormed out in disbelief and disgust.

"Well Nathan, you want the body out, you're going to have to help me."

"Fine Tetsu, where to?"

"I guess out by the south edge, the sand's really deep there."

The two then somberly carried out and buried Kara's rival.

Hours later, Kara came to, desperately trying to explain herself before she was kicked out or killed herself. "I don't know what happened. I tried so hard not to-"

"Kara it's okay, we all understand about Nanmin, well except maybe Miranda, but then again, I don't think she ever will." Nathan tried his best to calm his distraught friend.

"Hmm, I expected Miranda to be that way, I bet she'd like to see me executed without a trial. She hates me." Kara laughed.

"No, she's just afraid of you, she thinks you're going to kill us all. Which by the way, if you are, I'll gladly bribe and steal if you let me go."

"I don't know, I mean seeing as I have to kill all of you, don't think that can be arranged."

"Gift basket?"

"Done, Nathan."

Both laughed, forcing Kara to forget her troubles once again.

Chapter 4

Days later, Kara had finally calmed down enough to feel better. No major repercussions ever came, except for Miranda intensifying her hatred for Kara. She was disgusted with the fact that this outsider had just waltzed in, murdered one of their comrades and was now being housed by the same people; she made sure Kara knew it.

Miranda became especially suspicious when odd messages began appearing near the base or on the computers. Usually they were small notes and short, cryptic messages, always for Kara. Miranda repeatedly questioned Kara, but she claimed to have no idea where or who they were coming from.

In reality, Kara knew exactly who they were from, but shoved it to the back of her mind. These memories of the messages' author weighed on Kara more and more. She grew more haggard by the day, from sleep loss and just general worry. Miranda saw this weakening as more proof that Kara needed to be gone from the base. She tried to explain to everyone why, but no one understood.

"Don't you all see? She's started to attract enemies now. He could be one of those assassins that's after her! Do you realize what'll happen if this character finds us all here and attacks?"

Nathan chuckled. "Yeah, a fight, a big fight."

Miranda was unmoved and growing more angry. "So, you're just going to let this go? How can you be so casual about this? Hmmm?"

Nathan turned serious again. "I am worried about this. What's going to happen to Kara and us. I mean, have you seen her lately, she can't go on like this. Something bad is behind those messages."

Miranda was relieved. "Finally, you understand, now let's just get rid of her and our trouble."

Tetsu stepped in. "Miranda, come on, we're a resistance group against Akuma, we're in deep trouble already without Kara, so how much can this add?"

Miranda, defeated, walked away. Nathan walked over next to Tetsu. "What are we going to do about her?"

"Honestly Nathan, I don't know."

"Well, I have a feeling Kara has to know something, I mean, why would she react like this? I'll talk to her and see what I can get out her."

Tetsu nodded and walked off. Nathan went to Kara's room. There she sat on her bed, eyes closed, seemingly in meditation. Nathan touched her shoulder. Kara's eyes snapped open and she gasped loudly. She looked around quickly, her eyes darting wildly.


"Kara? Hey Kara!"

Nathan put both hands on her shoulders to steady her. She seemed to snap out of whatever world she was in. "Kara, what was that? Who is Ame?"

Kara sighed, still gasping from her shock. "I thought you were him, I'm sorry."

"Don't worry about it Kara, now who is he? Who's Ame?"

"My nightmare. A man that I ran from years ago. He was a savage assassin and a rapist besides; I'm almost sure of it."

"How do you know Kara?" Nathan dreaded the answer.

"He tried once, me you know, he attacked me and beat me up pretty bad. Arashi saved me though, thank God."

"Hmmm, who's Arashi?"

"Arashi is my twin brother, just as strange as me."

Nathan nodded, taking all of this in.

"I knew those notes were from Ame, I just didn't want to face it yet. It's pretty scary you know, to have someone like that after you and with the skills he has, I don't know if I can outrun him again."

"I guess we'll have to take things as they come, including Ame, Kara. Please try to get some rest now, you seem like you need it."

"I will try Nathan, but there's no telling."

Nathan walked out more worried than ever, for Kara and the rest of the group now that he had an idea of their enemy. Nathan ran into Tetsu in the hallway. Tetsu calmly asked about Nathan's conversation. "So?"

"Well Tetsu, turns out we're dealing with one hell of a freak here. Some assassin rapist guy. I don't know how Miranda's going to take this."

Tetsu shrugged. "Like she always does, badly."

"I swear, one day her head's going to blow up. She's just going to get too worked up and BOOM!"

Tetsu chuckled in spite of himself. "We can only hope, Nathan."

The two laughed some more and walked on down the hall. Kara continued to fight her nightmares for control of her sleep.

Chapter 5

Later that day, the group had to go on yet another mission. It was a simple fight, mostly just soldiers, but it had taken a long time just to find them. Everyone was ready to leave. A portal was opened as usual and the group stepped through. Kara opened her eyes slowly to adjust, and was shocked at what she found.

Kara was standing in a completely different spot in the desert. She wasn't even sure if this was the same desert, since there really weren't many distinguishing characteristics. She decided to go and search around, hoping that maybe she'd slipped out of the portal's path somehow and ended up here. She trudged on through the sands, not very worried about the situation yet.

Kara walked on for hours, still searching. She constantly replayed what happened to get her here in her mind. She couldn't come up with any explanations for her current situation. By now it was dark and she was getting nervous. Even with her fighting skill, anyone who attacked now would have a definite advantage. Making things worse, was the fact that canyons surrounded her, shadowing everything and making an easy hiding place for anyone. Kara tried to calm herself down. She leaned back against the canyon wall and continued to attempt to figure out her situation. After coming to a dead end at this once again, Kara stood up ruefully and walked on.

As she walked, the sand seemed to be crunching louder then before. Turning around, she saw nothing. She stood and listened, but didn't hear any signs of anyone either. Finally, frustrated at her own nerves and growing more afraid, Kara turned around only to feel as though she was not alone. She gasped in shock when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Managing to turn around again, Kara instinctively reacted with two strong punches. She connected with her attacker with a loud thud. He fell back into the dust. Kara backed off, watching him closely. He stirred slightly, causing Kara to charge for another attack.

"Whoa stop! I won't hurt you!" Blood was streaming down his face and onto his red cloak. "Please, I'm really doing you a favor!" He held up his hands in surrender.

Kara stopped short, just before attacking. "Who do you think you are and why would attacking me help?" Kara was livid.

"Quiet, he'll hear you. Although even if he did, you might actually be able to take him punches like that." He forced a slight smile while rubbing his face where Kara's punches connected. "You know, I really need to stop doing this, save me a lot of trouble."

Kara was growing impatient. "Keep doing what?"

He smiled. "Saving you. I mean, I did it once before, and here I am again."

Kara stepped back further, in disbelief. "You mean you're-"

He made a mock bow, looked up and smiled wider. "Arashi."

Kara seemed surprised for a few minutes, but recovered. She looked him in the face for a few more seconds, trying to confirm what he had just said. She finally gave in and hugged him. "Man, this has been such a weird day, I mean first the portal, then you and- wait, what were you saving me from?"

Arashi took on a more somber look. "Do you have to ask? Ame. He's not to far from here. He set you up."

Kara then realized what she had just barely missed, and how close she had come to Ame. "Set me up? Where is he?"

"Calm down Kara, he set the portal up to leave you here some how, I don't have the slightest idea how he did it though."

This thought frightened Kara. "If he did it once, can't he just keep me here until he finds me?"

Arashi thought for a moment. "Maybe, but only if you try to leave by yourself, I think he's somehow set it to where he can distinguish you and hold you back; you need someone to drag you through. You do still need to be careful though. He was planning to ambush you, so don't think he won't move further down to find you."

Kara laughed nervously. "That's only a problem if I stay for any longer, which I don't plan on."

"Well alright Kara, where to?"

"Akuma's realm, I think you know it."

Arashi sighed. "Yeah, okay, come on let's see what happens."

Arashi opened the portal, took Kara's hand and both stepped through.

They came out into a calm desert night; different from the one they had just traveled from. Both Kara and Arashi sighed in relief.

"Thanks Arashi, glad that worked. I guess now we just have to head back to base."

"Base? What are you talking about?"

"It's a place I've been staying at for awhile. It's like a resistance type group. Just come on."

Arashi complied and followed Kara. Kara chuckled, Miranda's really gonna hate this, she thought.

Chapter 6

"Hey I'm home!" Kara walked in the door slowly, Arashi just behind.

Tetsu was the first to come up to greet them. "What the hell happened to you? You've been gone long enough!"

Kara smiled slightly. "You know, I've been asking myself that same question all day and I still don't have a clear answer."

Tetsu looked over Kara's shoulder at a strange movement he saw in the shadows behind her. Arashi was hanging back until he was properly introduced, mostly to prevent being shot. Tetsu was thoroughly confused. He craned his neck further to get a better view. "Kara, there's someone behind you, do you know him?"

"Yeah, his name's Arashi, he's my brother, hope you don't mind that I dragged him back with me."

Arashi stepped forward to show he meant no harm to anyone. Tetsu thought for awhile. "I guess he's okay as long as he doesn't work for Akuma, you don't do you?"

Arashi stepped back slightly. "No way, don't worry about that."

"Good thing, I would've had to kill you." Tetsu slapped Arashi on the back laughing, unsettling Arashi just bit.

Kara tried to calm him. "Don't worry Arashi, Tetsu's not the one to worry about."

Tetsu took his arm off of Arashi and looked towards Kara. "Okay, so now I want to hear about this little disappearance today. What happened?"

Kara sighed. "Like I said before, I really don't know what happened back there, but we think it may have been a set up. "

Tetsu seemed surprised. "One hell of a set up, got any ideas as to who?"

Arashi answered before Kara was able. "We think it was Ame, some kind of ambush or something."

Tetsu looked suddenly somber. "So he's started, do you think he can do this again?"

Arashi seemed to be thinking hard. "Honestly, I don't know what it is Ame can do. I'm not even sure it was him, but all the signs point to Ame."

Kara was puzzeld. "That reminds me Arashi, how do you know all this?"

Arashi shrugged. "I don't know for sure, but I talked to him a few days ago and he mentioned going to that desert. He kept mentioning you, knowing your history together, I got worried, so I followed him."

"Man, Arashi, I'm amazed he didn't catch you, I mean, he has more training than you, he's always been good at capturing people."

Arashi looked indignant. "Well, obviously something was going for me, I didn't get caught."

Kara put her arm around Arashi's shoulder. "Yes, something was going for you, the only thing that could've been, luck." Arashi grumbled. "Aww, quit whining, Tetsu, is there any room for him here?"

Tetsu nodded. "I think there's a few extra rooms, he can have his pick of them"

Kara nodded and led Arashi away.

Later on, Arashi and Kara sat and talked trying to make sense out of the day's events. "Well Arashi, this is turning into a big mess, I mean it's obvious Ame's really started looking for me."

Arashi tried to calm Kara's worry. "Ame will back off eventually, I mean he's not that determined."

Kara gave him a dubious look. "I thought you worked around this guy Arashi! You know he's so stubborn, he'll keep going until either he's dead or I am, there's no middleground this time."

Arashi grew quiet, mostly because of the accuracy of Kara's statement, the thing that worried him the most.

In the desert, the night was calm and silent, all except for the mutters made by one person. He was in his late twenties, average in height. He stood on a cliff and surveyed the darkened landscape with his violet blue eyes, black hair blowing in a slight breeze. "I know I sensed her here, how could she have gotten out? I had this whole place fixed so that wouldn't happen."

He paced slightly, thinking and running the situation through his mind. Frustrated, he sat down harshly to try and calm himself. He sat and closed his eyes. His breathing slowed into a seeming state of meditation as he cleared his mind. "Where…" he muttered. A few seconds later, his eyes snapped open in anger. "Arashi! Damn!"

He stood abruptly, glaring angrily. "Kitsune! Show yourself!"

From the shadows slinked a young woman with red hair wearing a mid-length black cloak. Her greenish yellow eyes held an air of cunning as they shone in the moonlight. "Find her for me! You know the specifics. Go on!"

Kitsune half bowed and leapt down to the sand, landing softly and running away. The man turned, walking back into the shadows, You will be found Kara.

Kitsune hated missions like this, but knew she couldn't say anything. She hated Ame anyway, but she could do nothing about her predicament without being killed by him. Kitsune abruptly paused in the desert, should be okay, she thought. Quickly, she opened a portal and jumped through.

She landed in simply another wasteland. Feels like the right place, now where exactly? Kitsune scanned the empty horizon for her target or any signs of her previous presence. Finding nothing, she continued, hoping to reach her goal soon, night missions just weren't her strong point. She continued walking, searching at the same time. She paused suddenly, head snapping up. Here! She looked around excitedly, seeing nothing but a tall plateau. She looked all around, realizing her sense was the strongest in one direction-the plateau.

Kitsune moved closer to confirm her findings. Nearing the side, her senses definitely picked up her prey, strongly. She thought it was odd, but decided to report to Ame anyway and let him do everything else. She ran back through a hastily opened portal. Finding herself in front of the familiar cliff, Kitsune hopped up, rock by rock, to her master.

Hearing her arrival, Ame stepped out from the darkness of the rocks to meet her. Kitsune bowed. "I believe I have found her, Ame." She glanced up only to find an emotionless face. "Sir?"

Ame looked down.


"In Akuma's kingdom, a large plateau towards the north. I can show you."

"I'll find it Kitsune. Go on, you're done for now." He waved his hand to the side.

She bowed again. "Yes."

Kitsune walked off, leaving Ame alone. He simply smiled and sat down on the sandy rocks.

Chapter 7

"You're mine Kara…" Kara tossed in her sleep as the voice rasped through her mind. "I know where to find you now…" Kara felt her fear rising, whimpering slightly as she dreamt, "You can't hide forever…" Suddenly Kara's eyes snapped open. She sat up slowly, eyes searching through the dark. Her sides heaved raggedly as she tried to forget her fear and calm down. Just a dream Kara, only a dream, she thought to herself. Slowly she slid out of bed, stumbling unsteadily out of her room.

She wandered down the endless hallways of the base, fighting the urge to jump at every shadow that danced on the walls. Everything was overwhelming, this situation, this place, this fear. Kara was trying desperately to deal with it all. She had wandered the hallways like this for 3 nights now, as though the solution to her problems lay in the deep blue black darkness. As she rounded the corner leading to the stairs, her foot hit something soft on the floor.

Kneeling down for a better view through the shadows, Kara deciphered the outline of a person sprawled in the floor. Her eyes widened in shock. "Tetsu!"

She checked for his pulse. Kara sighed in relief when she found it. She shook him slightly, as though she thought he was sleeping. He moaned and his eyes opened slightly.

"Kara?" he rasped.

Kara was relieved to see him conscious, but puzzled about what had brought him to this state. "What happened to you Tetsu?"

He pulled himself up and slumped against the wall. "I heard someone walking through here about a half hour ago. Whoever it was ambushed me on the stairs. All I saw was a shadow of a person, nothing definite."

Kara felt her familiar fears awaken again. She stood, eyes trying to sift through the darkness and shadows for any sign of Tetsu's attacker. She found nothing. She bent down again. "Come on Tetsu, you definitely need some rest, you've taken a rough hit."

Tetsu slowly, stiffly stood and walked down the stairs as Kara led him back to his room. After he had gone to sleep, Kara was left to wander the base again, alone in the darkness. Now her fears were realized, someone was here, no one that she wanted to meet. Now the darkness held more foreboding than before. She knew she should just go back to her room and sleep, but at just the thought of going back, every sense screamed for her to stay out here, in the shadows. She felt anxious, but just couldn't bring herself to go back, as though her room and her sleep held more danger. She finally gave up this mental war of the senses and slumped into a corner, to think, to calm down, it didn't matter to her. In the silence, thoughts flooded Kara's mind. How could this happen? How did my life end up in this state? Chased by assassins, trying to kill my own father… she chuckled ruefully as she felt warm tears start to run down her face …can't even have happy dreams anymore. If I could just get out of all of this… She hated these thoughts, abandoning her cause, her brother, her life even. I just appalled her, but seemed so right. If she stayed in this world, she would simply smother under everything, but if she left…what was there for her? Finally, frustrated, with her situation and her own mind, she stood and headed back to her room, even if it did seem like a bad idea.

Kara got back into bed, staring into the darkness. If only sleep would come quickly…she thought. Soon, her eyelids fluttered shut as a fitful sleep took hold once again. She only had the chance to doze slightly when she was awakened by a noise close by.

Rolling over on her side to face the rest of the room, Kara saw a shadow of a person dart quickly into a corner, trying to hide. Feeling her fighting senses and training come back to her, Kara sat up slowly, trying to mask her movement somewhat. Her eyes darted all around the vicinity of the corner, finding nothing. She apprehensively slid out of bed, standing as far from the corner as the walls would allow her. She paused in the silence, swallowing roughly, fear making her mouth go dry. She steadied herself and tried to build her resolve. "Whoever's in here, come out into the open, don't hide like a coward!" Kara tried to sound as forceful as she could, fearfully expecting an attacker to come flying out of the shadows.

Instead, the intruder moved slowly, with calculated movements, toward the middle of the room. He looked up, letting a bit of light hit his face as he stared Kara in the eye.

"Are you afraid?" His violet eyes flashed with a smile as he looked up.

Kara stepped back, her fears and expectations suddenly realized. "Ame." She choked on the name, voice barely above a whisper. "What do you want?"

Ame stepped forward slightly, continuing his stare. "You."

Kara flinched at his words, before gaining a look of angry defiance. "I'm not going anywhere with you. I'll kill you first!"

Ame laughed quietly. "You have a strong will for certain. Desirable trait in a warrior. You might be challenge yet."

Kara's anger reached it's peak. She angrily threw a punch at Ame's face. Calmly, he caught her fist, not even flinching away from the punch in the process.

"Nice, but really, why do you have to be so stupid? Frontal attacks, even in the dark, are useless in their nature. I thought I taught you that before."

Kara struggled against his grip, but felt no let up in its pressure.

"Maybe I should reinforce this lesson." He began to squeeze her fist, increasing the pressure by tiny amounts. Kara's eyes widened in pain as her finger popped loudly. "Oops Kara, I think I broke it. Oh well, sorry."

He mockingly let go of Kara's injured hand. She cradled it in her other hand painfully, gritting her teeth.

"Don't worry, it should heal, it's only a small fracture. Maybe you'll remember next time. But anyhow, I think this fight's a little unfair now, even if it is just a finger. I'll wait awhile, maybe until daylight. Then you'll have help." He turned to leave. "Maybe they'll be more of a challenge."

Kara grew furious at Ame and rushed him from behind. He turned quickly and threw a savage punch to the head, knocking Kara out. "I hope they fight better than you Kara."

Ame then walked off, leaving Kara on the floor, blood oozing from a fresh wound in her head.

Ame continued down the hallway, feeling proud about what he had done. A part of him told him to go back and capture her now, but Ame enjoyed challenging work. Ame began to think as he walked I can wear her down for sure. But not directly, Kara requires something special.

Chapter 8

"What happened to me?"… Kara muttered as she stiffly sat up. She looked around her quickly, eyes darting around the room. Morning…how? She didn't think any time had passed, had it? Slowly, Kara stood, catching herself on the doorknob for balance. Man, what is this? Slowly, Kara's sense of balance returned to her, her head throbbing. She sat down on her bed trying to recount the events from earlier. Everything seemed like a haze, very vague. Then it all hit her. Ame. The fight, what little went on. She looked down and tried to move her fingers, wincing as she did so. That finger was definitely broken.

Suddenly she remembered it all clearer, realizing that Ame was probably still here. Quickly she stood, fearful of where he was, what he was planning. She walked over to a corner of the room, relieved to spot a dagger, which she grabbed, concealing it in a sheath at her side; she then ventured slowly out of the room, apprehensive about her search.

The hallways and corridors of the base were brighter than before, easing some of the tension, but not enough to make a big difference. Kara was still feeling dizzy, having to stop every now and then to regain her balance. Quietly, she slipped upstairs; silently hoping someone else was awake. Then she spotted him, there he stood, back to the stairs, seemingly in deep thought.

Kara paused and then stepped back down into the stairwell. The last thing she wanted was to draw attention to herself.

"You know Kara , you really don't have to stand there, come on up." Ame sneered as he turned to face her. "I really don't understand you Kara. You always insist on making things difficult."

Kara stepped into the room, staring straight at Ame. "You just have a distorted sense of reality, Ame. Why do you even bother with me anymore?"

Ame chuckled. "Honestly Kara, I don't know. Maybe it's your strength of will. You've always been able to elude me."

Kara crossed her arms, smiling in defiance. "Well, maybe I should stop running, it's obvious you just won't let up," Kara said mockingly. Kara inched towards Ame, hoping her balance wouldn't give out on her again. "I mean, why run anymore? I get so sick of cat and mouse games." Kara was almost standing Right next to Ame. "Especially when they're so easy to stop." kara carefully slid the dagger out of its sheath, keeping her eyes on Ame the whole time. Kara inched a little closer, concealing the dagger blade behind her arm. "Maybe I should just leave with you, Ame."

Ame was growing more and more confused at Kara's sudden change of heart. He didn't understand it, but was willing to go along with it. Kara put her arm around Ame's shoulder. This gesture alone disgusted her, but she was determined to hold her composure.

"After all Ame, you trained me to be what I am. An assassin. There aren't many of us left."

Kara drew her hand back, as though she were going to pat Ame on the shoulder, flipping out the dagger in the process. Ame spotted the dagger and tried to dodge, but Kara still managed to stab Ame in the arm.

Ame stumbled, screaming with rage and pain. He held his arm, which was turning crimson with blood.

"Whoops, how'd that happen?" Kara laughed at Ame's struggle. "I think you taught me a little too well." Kara kneeled down beside Ame, who was now on his knees. "Or perhaps you let your guard down just a little too much, hmm? Whatever you did wrong Ame, I think it's going to cause you some roblems." Kara smiled at Ame. "You're not the only one who can be cruel."

Ame looked over, his eyes wild with pain. "You…why the hell did you do that?"

Kara chuckled. "You mean you don't know? Take a look." She pointed to the wound on her forehead. "The little bump on the head you gave me. Not to mention the fact that you've hounded me to no end. "

Soon, Arashi walked in on the scene. He didn't really know what to think.

"Kara, what the hell are you doing?! Why is Ame here?"

"Oh, hi Arashi. Ame just decided to visit us, even though no one invited him." At this, Kara punched Ame with her good hand. He fell flat, still groaning with pain. "Nope, nothing to see here."

Arashi was beginning to fear for his sister. She seemed like she had gone back to her old ways-as an assassin.

"Kara, what exactly are you trying to accomplish here anyway?" Arashi said apprehensively.

Kara stood and shrugged.

"Kill him I guess. I want him to suffer a little first. We aren't exactly on good terms you know."

Arashi looked from Kara to Ame and back again.

"Kara, I know it's Ame we're talking about here, but don't you think you're being pretty cruel?"

Kara laughed at Arashi, then grabbed him by the shoulders, turning him away from Ame.

"Are you supporting him? I mean, come on, Arashi, you know he has to die. He won't ever leave us in peace unless he dies. Besides, he deserves to die for all the things he's done." By this time, Kara had turned her back on both Ame and Arashi, staring off as she spoke. She turned at the sudden silence. "Arashi?"

Arashi was slumped over Ame's good shoulder, Ame having stood by this time.

"Kara, you have made a grave mistake crossing me like this. You need to learn to kill your enemies swiftly, 'cause they can always fight again if you don't." Ame smirked. "I'll come back again Kara, maybe I'll bring Arashi too. You'll probably want his body back to bury." Ame waved at Kara and opened a portal.

"AME!!!" Kara leapt at Ame , falling to the floor as the portal closed leaving only air. "Arashi." Kara was answered only by silence.

After sitting in the quiet for what seemed like hours, Kara finally stood, only to run into Miranda.

"Watch it Kara. What the…?" Miranda was shocked. "Kara, what is all this? Why is there blood all over the floor?" Kara glanced over at Miranda, in no mood to argue with her.

"Ame was here. I managed to stab him in the arm. I have to leave though."

Miranda turned to face Kara, who was now walking off down the stairs. "Wait! What do you mean leave? Where?"

Kara stopped and turned. "Ame's home. He has something that belongs to me."

Miranda was growing more agitated. "What could he possibly have that's yours? And why was he here?"

"He was here because he insists on hunting me down. And now he has my brother." Kara was growing impatient with Miranda's questioning. "I'm sorry I left everything such a mess, but I don't have any time to waste, Arashi's life depends on it. Are you coming with me? I'm going to see if Nathan will help."

Miranda looked off to the side. "I guess I'll go, but not for you! You've just made a mess of things." Kara conceded and walked down the hallway to Nathan's room, Miranda close behind. "I mean, if it weren't for you Kara, Ame wouldn't even know about this place."

Kara walked quickly seemingly distanced from everything Miranda was saying. Finally, she came upon Nathan's room, walking just inside the door. "Uh, Miranda, I think we've got a problem."

Miranda stepped up next to Kara. "What is it?"

"Miranda, Nathan's gone! Look!"

The room was in total disarray. Everything was strewn about, as though a struggle had taken place. Kara was livid.

"Ame. Come on Miranda, we have to leave, NOW!" Kara ran to her room, Miranda struggling to keep up.

"Kara calm down, do you even know where he's taken them?"

No, not for certain." Kara stopped in the middle of her room, seemingly searching for something.

"Kara, what are you looking for?" Ignoring Miranda, Kara stooped and grabbed her sword in its scabbard leaning against the wall. She turned to Miranda.

"Are you bringing anything Miranda?" Miranda shook her head.

"Kara, are you sure you can find Ame?" Kara looked down, smiling sadly.

"I'm not sure of anything anymore. But I've got a pretty good idea where he's gone. So you're not taking anything? No weapons?" Miranda shook her head once again.

"Good, then we're ready to leave. Let's hope for everyone's sake that I'm right." Kara turned and opened a portal.

"Ok Miranda, let's go." Both stepped through, the portal closing up behind them, leaving the base silent and empty.

Chapter 9

"So here we are." Kara said quietly. "Ame's near here."

Miranda searched around expectantly, finding no sign of anyone. "Kara, I think you're wrong, there's no one out here. No buildings or anything."

Kara stared off absently. "So it would appear." She turned to face Miranda. "But he's here, trust me."

Kara turned and continued to stare. This part of the realm was different from the rest. The landscape was less harsh, with grass and even the occasional tree growing here and there, although it seemed to be hollow, a bleak landscape still. Suddenly, Kara started walking off. Miranda, startled by Kara's sudden movement, rushed after her. "Wait up! Do you even know what we're looking for out here?"

Kara stopped briefly. "That way, that's where Ame stays most of the time, it's really just a large fortress of a building. Should stand out pretty well in these plains."

Miranda looked in the direction Kara was staring, seeing a cluster of trees just ahead of them. "You're sure Kara?"

Kara nodded. "Just through those trees, there's a drop in the land, his home is there." Kara started to walk off quickly, Miranda close behind. They walked through the gathering of trees and out into a clearing. The clearing led to a small slope, at the bottom of which lay a decaying fortress. Miranda stared over Kara's shoulder.

"What a dump, why would Ame live there?"

"Ame's not a people person, he wants people to stay away. I guess he figures no one but those who have to will go near the place." Kara chuckled. "I can see why." Kara looked around in all directions quickly. "Come on, we better get going, Ame's not a patient person."

The two ventured down the hill, reaching the huge entrance of the building. The cracked stone door opened easily into a long corridor lined with the occasional torch. Cautiously, Kara and Miranda stepped in and began making their way through the hall.

"This is a really creepy place Kara, maybe we should try to find another way to Ame."

Kara stared straight ahead. "I understand, this is a dangerous way to go. Too easy to be attacked. But I think we're going to have to go this way. Come on."

The two continued, walking for some ways before reaching a dead end.

"What?!" Kara slammed her fist against the wall. "It's like a maze in this place. Gotta think."

"I can help you."

Kara and Miranda both turned at the soft voice.

"Who are you?" Miranda asked suspiciously.

"Kitsune, why are you here?" Kara was shocked.

"I was Ame's assistant for a while. I've always despised him and here's my chance to get rid of him." Kitsune stared at them both intently. "I know where he is. I can lead you to him."

Kara paused, thinking.

"I don't know, I mean come on Kitsune, how could you find your way through this mess?"

Kitsune seemed surprised.

"I live here Kara, just like you used to. I'm surprised you're having trouble."

Kara looked toward the wall in frustration.

"Fine, so I've forgotten my way. How do we get to him?" Kara looked to Kitsune expectantly.

Kitsune turned, motioning for them to follow.

"This way is the fastest, you weren't that far off."

Kara turned to Miranda. "I guess we should go."

"I don't know Kara, should we trust her?"

Kara looked toward the form moving away from them. "Not too much, but she's the only chance we've got if we want to find Ame and everyone else."

Kara and Miranda started walking, trying to catch up with Kitsune. Kitsune was skillfully moving through the halls, having no problems finding her way through the dim light. Suddenly, she stopped and turned, Kara and Miranda nearly running into her.

"Here is where he should be, I feel him here." She pointed to two large brown stone doors. She shoved them, opening the doors with a loud creaking and grinding. Kitsune looked to Kara and Miranda before they entered. "I can't follow you, Ame thinks I'm dead and I'd rather keep it that way. Good luck, to both of you." Quickly, Kitsune turned and darted down the hallway, leaving the two standing in the doorway. Kara looked to Miranda.

"Guess we should go, he knows we're here by now."

Miranda nodded. "You're right, let's go."

Both walked cautiously through the door, walking slowly into the middle of the room's comparatively bright light. To their surprise, it was empty. Both fighters looked around them and at each other.

"Where is he? She said he was here!" Kara was growing angrier.

Miranda was nearing the same state. "We shouldn't have trusted Kitsune, stupid liar!"

"How true."

Both turned to the new voice coming from the doorway.

"You can't trust Kitsune, she's out of her mind. " Ame stood in the doorway, holding a limp Kitsune by the throat. He lifted her higher and laughed. "Look at how pathetic she was. Annoying little rodent of a person." He tossed Kitsune's lifeless body into a darkened corner. Ame then proceeded toward the two fighters. "Kara, what brings you here? And whom did you bring me this time? Hope she puts up as much of a fight as your friends."

Kara clenched her fist in anger, ignoring the pain in her hand. "What did you do with them?"

Ame chuckled. "Oh, I don't have both of them now, just Arashi. I handed the other one off to Akuma."

"Where is Arashi?!" Kara was ready to kill Ame.

Ame turned around toward another corner of the room. "He's right there."

Ame pointed. Arashi stood in the corner, staring straight ahead. "He makes such a good slave. And with all that strength and skill at his disposal."

Ame turned back toward Kara. "You'll have to go through him to get to me."

Kara's eyes widened in anger. "Let him go! What kind of fighter are you anyway? Kidnapping and enslaving people to fight for you!"

Ame looked Kara in the eye.

"A resourceful one." Ame waved in Arashi's direction and then jumped to the side.

Arashi leapt from the corner, straight for Kara. Kara grabbed his fists, trying to deflect the punches he was throwing. Ame went for Miranda. The sheer force of Arashi's lunge caused Kara to fly into the wall behind her.

"Arashi! Stop this now!!" Kara screamed.

Arashi held a cruel stare, not paying any attention to Kara's pleas.

"Arashi, you've gotta stop this, don't let him control you!"

Kara was losing her grip on Arashi's fists. She let go and rolled away out of desperation, Arashi falling forward. Kara quickly stood and pinned Arashi to the floor. "Dammit Arashi, don't make me fight you!" Arashi struggled against her grip, rolling and throwing a savage punch. Kara was thrown back, blood streaming down the side of her face. "Fine Arashi, I guess I have no choice but to fight you."

Kara quickly stood, watching Arashi leaping at her for the next punch. Kara quickly ducked under him and punched Arashi in the stomach. Stunned, Arashi stumbled briefly, giving Kara the chance to sweep Arashi's legs out from under him. Kara stood back, readying herself for Arashi's next move. He soon flew at Kara again, throwing a flurry of kicks and punches.

Miranda was having little luck fighting Ame. He had blocked most of her punches and kicks so far. Miranda managed to dodge most of Ame's moves so far, but was growing tired. She threw a punch at Ame's head, trying to knock him out. Ame quickly reached out and grabbed Miranda's hand, pinning her in front of him. Swinging out with his fist, he hit Miranda as hard as he could, twisting her head brutally to the side. Kara looked over in time to see Miranda fall to the floor. Turning back, she just barely ducked another punch from Arashi. Kara came back up with an uppercut. Arashi fell heavily, head hitting the stone floor, knocking him unconscious. Kara kneeled down quickly, making sure Arashi was still alive. Seeing that he was, Kara stood, turning to Ame, eyes widening in shock.

Ame stood holding Miranda by the throat, much like Kitsune. He laughed.

"One down, one to go."

He threw Miranda down next to Kitsune. "You're mine Kara."

He rushed at Kara, striking out at her with a kick. Kara barely managed to jump back before Ame leapt at her again. Kara met him with a punch to the face, sending Ame sprawling. Angrily he got up, Kara rushing in with a kick to the jaw. Ame fell, screaming with rage.

"What's wrong, Ame, not having any fun now?" Kara picked Ame up by his cloak. "Why not? Is it because you aren't torturing or killing someone?" She threw Ame down. "You've ruined so many lives, Ame. You've killed hundreds and taught others, including me, to do the same."

Ame struggled to stand, Kara pinning him by the throat with her foot. "I think you need to retire Ame. It's obvious you've lost touch with reality and your skills."

Ame glared angrily up at Kara.

"I'm glad to watch you die, Ame."

With that, Kara twisted Ame's head around with her foot, causing Ame's struggling to cease, his eyes glazing into a cold stare. Kara stepped back, sighing as she looked behind her. Two dead and her brother turned into a slave. What a disgraceful assassin, too bloodthirsty, she thought. Just couldn't stop him soon enough. Kara slowly walked over to Arashi, hoping he would come to soon.

Kneeling down beside him, Kara could already see Arashi's eyes open just a bit. He looked over at her. "Kara, what happened? Why are you here?"

Kara looked at Arashi sadly. "I was trying to save you, but I didn't do well enough."

Arashi sat up. "Huh? What are you talking about?"

"Arashi, I didn't fight well enough. I couldn't save Miranda. I know she hated me, hell, those feelings were mutual but…still, she didn't have to die."

Arashi tried to comfort Kara. "You did what you could I'm sure. Let's just clear everyone out of here, give them the burial they deserve."

Kara turned back toward Arashi. "We can't do that yet. Nathan's with Akuma, we have to find him. After that, we can come back here to get everyone."

Kara stood, helping Arashi up. "Sound like a good idea?"

Arashi nodded, standing unsteadily. "Sure Kara."

Kara and Arashi turned, walking to the doors. "Let's go then."

At that, the two walked out, heading for Akuma's palace.

Chapter 10

"It isn't that far from here is it?" Kara asked quietly.

Arashi paused just behind her. "I really don't remember just how far his palace is from here, maybe we should head back."

Kara turned. "Head back where? Not Ame's place, not yet."

"No, no, not yet, I mean back to base, maybe Tetsu can help us. Maybe we can get a better idea of where we are."

Kara thought for a minute, staring off toward the horizon. "Hmmm, good idea I guess. We need all the help we can get if we're going to take on Akuma. I just wonder if he's up to it. He got hit pretty hard."

Arashi shrugged. "Come on Kara, he's a fighter, he's taken worse than that."

"I guess you're right Arashi, but we better make sure he's ok before we drag him off to Akuma." Kara sighed. "Let's just leave."

Arashi nodded and opened a portal.

Stepping out at the base, Arashi and Kara both went downstairs quickly, looking for Tetsu. They both entered his room slowly, until they saw he was awake. Arashi approached him first.

"Tetsu, how are you feeling?"

Tetsu rubbed his eyes, looking from Kara to Arashi before answering.

"I've been better, but I'll be ok."

Kara stepped closer. "Feel up to a fight?"

"I guess so." Tetsu shrugged. Kara and Arashi both sighed.

"Good, cause we have a big fight ahead of us."

Tetsu took on a solemn expression. "What's wrong?"

"Nathan's been kidnapped and sent to Akuma. We've got to try and get him back."

Tetsu seemed surprised. "What about Ame?"

Kara smiled slightly. "Don't worry about him, we took care of that problem."

"Oh, alright then. And Miranda? Where is she?"

Kara looked off to the side, trying to keep calm. "Um, well, she didn't make it through the battle. Ame was too strong." Arashi said quietly.

Tetsu looked to the floor momentarily, then stood. "I guess that's always a possibility in a battle. We should probably go. You guys ready?"

Kara nodded. Arashi shook his head. "We've still got to pinpoint the location of his palace."

Tetsu glanced at Arashi. "Oh don't worry about that, I know where it is."

"You sure?" Arashi asked hesitantly.

"Yes, I'm sure."

Arashi shrugged. "Well ok, but you're going to have to take us."

Tetsu sighed, opened the portal, and stepped through.

The three ended up on the top of an old tower on the palace. All three surveyed the surroundings. Still the scraggly landscape as before. "Man, seems like nothing's changed." Kara scanned the horizon as she spoke. "Nothing."

Arashi put his hand on her shoulder. "Come on, we've got to get going, they'll catch us here."

"But Arashi, they'll catch us no matter where we are, it's just a matter of how long until then." Kara said.

All three turned around to see to strangers standing near the entrance to palace. All took a step back. The two appeared to be warriors, wearing black cloaks and carrying lances.

"Tsume, Kenmei, why are you here?" Arashi asked apprehensively.

"Because of you. Did you really think you could just get through here with no problems?" One of the two stepped forward, dark hair blowing in the breeze.

Arashi chuckled, taking on a fighting stance. "No Kenmei, but we were willing to try."

"Well, we can probably help you get to him. Akuma's becoming a tough person to work for."

"What do you plan to do?" Arashi asked.

"We can say we've captured you, it'll give us a reason to take you straight to Akuma." Kenmei said.

"I don't know, Arashi, are you sure about this? They are supposed to be guards..." Kara asked.

"Shouldn't be anything to worry about, they're old friends of mine." Arashi walked over toward the two, Kara hanging back.

"Nothing to worry about, right Kenmei?"

Kenmei laughed. "Of course not. Unless you plan on escaping."

Before Arashi or Tetsu could question this, Tsume knocked both of them unconscious with the lance he held. Tsume caught them both as they fell. Kara stepped back, fearful of what was coming. She tried to keep backing away, but found herself at the edge of the tower. Kenmei walked toward her.

"Come on, Kara, don't make this difficult."

Kara looked over the ledge. The palace overlooked an ocean, with very little land in front of it. Looking a little further up, Kara spotted a ledge not too far down. She turned back, seeing Kenmei walking closer, hand outstretched.

"Come on Kara, why should I have to hurt you?"

Kara jumped up on the ledge, watching Kenmei closely. She then turned and leapt from the ledge, landing and rolling on the ledge. Kenmei looked over angrily. He turned and ran inside the palace, Tsume following him.

Kara found herself on a large balcony. She walked through a huge archway that led to an empty room. The room was large, with marble walls and floors. She wandered through it until finally coming to a doorway. Opening it slightly, she found herself in a brightly-lit empty hallway. She recognized the hallway. Just down this hall, on the left. She thought. After walking about midway down the hall, Kara turned to the left, finding herself at the entrance to an assembly hall. She slowly shoved the heavy doors open and walked in. She found herself in the same room as her father.

Akuma stood at a balcony, looking off into the distance. His dark brown hair blew around his face in the wind. He turned quickly at the noise of the door shutting. He seemed surprised at first, but calmed.

"Ah, I was told there were some visitors." He stepped toward Kara. "Why have you come back?"

Kara tried to keep calm, to not be afraid.

"I came here to get my friend back, Arashi is here too."

"Friend? Hmm, who was it, that character that Ame brought in here?" Akuma seemed to be thinking.

"Yes, that's him, I've come here to rescue him." Kara tried to sound forceful.

"Well, then, you better hurry, his execution's today, in about 3 hours or so."

"What?! Akuma, let him go now!" Kara was growing frustrated.

"I'm sorry, but his crimes are too great to pardon. His continued attacks have become too much to ignore, I'm afraid he must die. Just as you and Arashi must also. For your crimes are more severe."

Kara crossed her arms, trying to act as defiant as she could.

"You'll have a big fight ahead of you if you want to capture me. None of your lackeys could do it."

"If that's what you want, daughter, then so be it."

Without warning, Akuma lunged at Kara, throwing a punch at her head. Kara reflexively jumped back, kicking out at Akuma. Akuma dodged, ducking down and tripping Kara. Kara fell with a thud, rolling away from Akuma's kick. Kara jumped back up, elbowing Akuma in the back, causing him to fall. She grabbed and twisted his arm, pulling him up from the floor. Kara looked at him coldly before throwing a series of punches that knocked Akuma to the edge of the balcony. With sweep of her legs, Akuma was thrown into a freefall, landing on a ledge below. Quickly he hid beside the wall hoping Kara hadn't seen his landing. Kara had turned, trying to rest for a bit. Akuma slowly began to climb the wall, making it back up onto the balcony. Kara turned in time to see Akuma flying at her.

Akuma rammed Kara in the stomach, causing her to fly back into the opposite wall. She was knocked senseless, unable to stand. Akuma picked her up roughly by the throat. Kara sighed painfully, realizing her fate. Akuma walked to the edge of the balcony, overlooking the sea. "This is your execution daughter. Just remember that it didn't have to be this way."

Kara tried to gather her strength, her anger rising. She kicked Akuma in the chest, trying to free herself. Akuma let go from the shock. Kara fell, grabbing onto the ledge and pulling herself back up slowly. She stood, Akuma recovering from the last hit.

"You're right Akuma, things didn't have to be like this. But the past is finished and I can't forget all the things you've done. To me, Arashi, my friends, to innocent people. Just didn't have to be."

Kara sighed, pulling Akuma over to the balcony's edge once more.

"Guess I ought to feel bad about this." Kara chuckled. "But I can't, killing's just a part of my life, thanks to you, father."

With this, Kara punched Akuma as hard as she could in the head, knocking him out. She then shoved his limp body off the side of the balcony, watching as he fell into the sea and drowned. "Goodbye."

Kara slowly walked away, trying to think of where Arashi, Tetsu, and Nathan could be.

Chapter 11

Kara walked back out into the hallway, searching for the prisoner's quarters. She soon found them, at the bottom of a long stone stairway, Kenmei and Tsume standing guard at the entrance.

Kara slowly stepped down the stairs, eyes locked on the two fighters. Both of them stared back, eyes showing no emotion.

Kenmei stepped forward. "Look, she was dumb enough to come back! Why are you here? Surely not for your pathetic allies."

Kara shrugged. "You must be the dumb ones, thinking you've got any real chance. You've got no one to back you up here anymore, I killed Akuma."

Kenmei stepped back, his face taking on a determined expression. "My master will not die in vain!"

Kenmei rushed up the stairs at Kara. Kara leapt from his path, landing in front of Tsume. Calmly, she turned back toward Kenmei. "Do you miss your babysitter that much?"

Kenmei chuckled, prompting Kara to turn in time to be hit by Tsume's fist. Kara staggered back, stopping at the stairwell's edge, hands over her face. She quickly glanced up as Tsume leapt in for another hit. Kara ducked, rolling away from Tsume. Kara stood, grabbing her sword. Tsume turned, trying for a kick. Kara dodged and stabbed Tsume. He stumbled and slowly collapsed. Kara looked up at Kenmei, who was still on the stairs.

"Do you want to try?" Kara said calmly.

Kenmei raised the staff he held and jumped off the stairs, landing inches from Kara. He chuckled. "Why not?"

Wasting no time, Kenmei struck out with the staff. Kara dodged, narrowly missing the weapon. She jumped to Kenmei's side, throwing a punch to his head. He ducked, tripping Kara with the staff. She hit the floor with a heavy thud. Slowly standing, Kara searched for a weapon. She knew her sword was no good against Kenmei's staff, he could just block it. Her eyes darted around the room for anything useful, finally resting on the now dead Tsume. He held a staff identical to Kenmei's. Quickly, Kara grabbed it, readying herself for the next attack. Kenmei ran forward with the staff, leaping at the last second. Kara blocked his hit, shoving him away. She rushed in and rammed him with her staff, sending Kenmei flying back onto the stairs. Kara leapt up the stairs, pinning Kenmei down with the staff. He struggled to get free, but couldn't. Kara pressed down on his neck.

"Tell me how to get my friends loose." Kara said angrily. Kenmei continued his struggle. "Tell me, Kenmei!" Kara pressed harder.

"Here," Kenmei said, handing Kara a ring of keys. "That last one is to their cell."

"Thanks, thought you'd see things my way." Kara smirked.

"Now let me up!" Kenmei choked out.

Kara laughed. "Whoops, can't do that, I'm not that dumb. Sorry, Kenmei." Kara reached for the small dagger she had with her, stabbing Kenmei. He slowly stopped struggling. Kara stood, throwing down the staff. She walked into the prison, searching for her friends.

After walking for quite awhile, Kara found the cells she was looking for. To her surprise, Kenmei had not been lying, the keys worked. "Are you guys alright?"

Tetsu and Arashi, who were sitting in the floor of their cell, stood. Arashi looked himself over. "Yeah, I'm okay, are you ok Tetsu?"

Both looked at Tetsu. "I'm fine." Tetsu shrugged.

Kara turned. "Then let's find Nathan and get out of here."

The three walked out of the cell and began looking further down the hallway for Nathan. Arashi walked nearly to the end, looking in each cell; most were empty. He soon stopped suddenly, waving at Kara and Tetsu. "I found him, bring the keys!" Arashi yelled.

Kara and Tetsu ran to the cell, Kara sorting through random keys as she went. They finally made it to the cell. Nathan sat in the floor, staring out the door at his friends. "I don't know exactly which key works for this cell, so I'm just going to have to try a bunch ok?" Kara picked a key a shoved it in the lock, having no luck turning it. Nathan watched the lock expectantly. It went on like this for three more tries before the right key was found. The lock unfastened and the door swung open. Nathan stood a happy look on his face.

"I'm glad you got here, they were planning an execution for me." Nathan chuckled as he walked out of his cell.

"Well, in that case, we should probably get out of here," Kara said as she turned to leave. Arashi grabbed her shoulder.

"Wait, what about Akuma? Shouldn't we go after him?"

Kara turned, smiling at Arashi.

"Don't worry about him, he's gone." Kara turned again, walking away. The rest of the group followed Kara up the stairs and into the palace's halls. They all walked out of the huge front doors, into a courtyard. "Well now, let's get out of this place. I've never liked this part of the realm much." Kara opened a portal.

Back at the base, everyone sat silently, taking in the realization that the largest part of their missions were over. All they had left to deal with now were small organizations following Akuma, which would be no real problem. Kara and Arashi finally went back to their rooms downstairs, packing up the few belongings they had. When they came back up with their belongings, Nathan and Tetsu were shocked. Tetsu stood, walking over to Arashi.

"What the hell are you two doing?"

Kara walked over to the two, a slight smile on her face. She put a hand on Tetsu's shoulder. "We're leaving this place. There are still a lot of enemies left, and every one of them is a threat. I'm sure we'll come back sometime." Kara turned to Arashi. "Ready to go?" Arashi nodded. Both Kara and Arashi waved and left the two warriors in stunned silence.

"Goodbye to both of you," Kara said. Then the two walked out into the deserts once more.

The End