Yunomi’s Story-Book Two

Part V: Shadow War

Yunomi arrived at Reaper’s house shortly after dawn, as he had requested. They traveled to a spot a short distance from the entrance to the Shining Caves. “It’s said these caves go under the Realm of Light,” Reaper told her, “and they are unusually bright for Dark Side caverns. I’ll go first, and you follow unseen.”

Yunomi assumed her Ninja aspect, and entered the caves a discreet distance behind Reaper. They were well into the cavern before Reaper stopped short. The chamber dimly glowed, numerous cave formations standing out in the pale light. Several tunnels led off in different directions. Reaper mindspoke to Yunomi. “Get ready, we’re not alone.” Then he called out, “Carnivean! Show yourself!” Nothing happened for several seconds, then the cave formations began to shift and move. “Gargoyles! Yunomi, we’re betrayed!”

The monsters revealed themselves and rushed at Reaper from all sides. The first unlucky one to reach the Dark Lord caught a boot full in the face, reeling back into the ones behind it and sending them sprawling. Yunomi came out of the shadows and began killing Gargoyles with her katana. She easily beheaded two, and split another from shoulder to ribs. Reaper grasped one by the throat, and swung it around to knock several others down. The beasts withdrew, dragging their wounded with them. After a few seconds, they had regrouped.

This gave Reaper and Yunomi time to catch their breath and begin backing out of the chamber. The Gargoyles rushed them again before they got far. Reaper grabbed the first two to reach him by their necks and crushed their heads together, flinging the bodies into the oncoming horde. Yunomi disemboweled two with one long sword stroke, then brought her katana up behind her to run through another. But this time the Gargoyles kept coming, slowly separating Yunomi from Reaper. She found herself backed against a wall, a good ten feet from Reaper. He was surrounded, but holding his own.

Then, to Yunomi’s horror, a hugely grotesque Gargoyle leaped up behind Reaper from a hidden niche. It was carrying a bronze mace, capped with a gemstone, which it swung like a bat at the back of Reaper’s head. The mace connected with a gruesome thud, and Reaper fell to his knees. Yunomi fought her way to her Lord’s side, and attacked the fat mace bearer. It fled with a startled shriek, and Yunomi realized that it was Carnivean in disguise. Reaper had fallen over onto his back, blood seeping from his head wound into the cavern floor. Yunomi stood over him, her mask of fury keeping the Gargoyles at bay as much as her katana.

“Reaper, get up!” she mindspoke. She had seen him knocked down in fights before, but he always got up instantly. This time, he didn’t.
“Yunomi, go! Get out! We can’t win this.” His mind voice was distant, fading. He tried to raise his head, but failed.

Yunomi positioned herself so that her feet were touching Reaper on his side and thigh. Carnivean reappeared, screaming “Get her! She’s escaping!” In the instant it took the beasts to respond, Yunomi fixed her mind, and she and Reaper faded from sight.

“Hell’s bells, I underestimated the bitch.” Carnivean muttered.
“We have what we wanted, Carnivean, we’ll deal with her later.”
“Yes, Lord Iuvart.” Carnivean dropped his disguise to reveal his simpering, toady face. He handed the mace to the Light Lord, an impossibly handsome man dressed all in white.
“Come,” Iuvart said, “we must secure what we have gained.”

Yunomi felt the hard wood against her cheek, and opened her eyes. Had she done it? With great effort, she lifted her head. Yes! They were in Reaper’s house, in his sanctum. He lay on the bed, blood soaking into the pillow beneath his head. Yunomi lay on the floor beside the bed. It had taken all of her strength to bring them both here without his help, and she was exhausted. She struggled to her feet, and checked the wound on the back of Reaper’s head. His scalp was split from crown to nape, and she could see white skull gleaming through the blood. Sick with fatigue and fear, Yunomi dragged herself to the wash stand for towels, then back to Reaper to try and stop the bleeding. Knowing that her healing powers were not up to this task because of her exhaustion, she made a compress from the towels and used one of Reaper’s bandannas to tie it over the wound. Then she lay on the bed next to him to sleep herself back to full strength, her hand resting on his heart.

The moon was high when Yunomi awoke. She had no idea how many days and nights she had been asleep, but she felt refreshed and powerful. She checked the compress on Reaper’s head, and saw that the bleeding had been stopped for some time. Carefully removing the compress, she pushed his hair away from the wound and laid both hands over the horrid gash. The wound began to grow warm and change, healing from the inside. It took a while, but when she was done, only a thin white scar remained, easily hidden by his long hair.

But still he did not regain consciousness. His heartbeat and breathing were steady, but not strong. Yunomi was perplexed and frightened. She had never seen him injured like this. He often sustained terrible wounds in his fights with Demons, but healed himself almost instantaneously.

Yunomi decided to try a mindwalk. She knelt beside him on the bed, putting a hand on each side of his head and leaning forward to touch her forehead to his. She was in his mind now, but it reminded her of the old saying-the lights are on, but nobody’s home. She wandered through the empty chambers, searching for some spark of her Lord. At last she came to the burning iron door. It stood open, blackness gaping out at her. Cautiously, she stepped inside. All was darkness, save for a small glow in a far corner. Yunomi felt her way toward the glow. When she reached it, she found an orb whose light barely shone beyond itself. Peering into it, she saw total whiteness with a small figure in the center. It was Reaper. He was sitting cross legged, completely covered in a shining white robe except for his hands and head. Golden manacles attached to the white floor held him in place. He sat hunched over, his hair hanging down to cover his face.

Yunomi gasped, and touched the orb without thinking, trying to reach him. Reaper’s head jerked up, and Yunomi was horrified that his eyes were unseeing black pits that reflected nothing. “Nomi?” he mindspoke.
“Yes, Lord, where are you?” she sent back. Abruptly, a cutting beam of light flashed across him and he cried out in pain, then dropped his head back to his chest. “Reaper!” Yunomi screamed. “Where are you?” His fading voice sounded in her head. “Lords of Light.”

Iuvart and Carnivean stared down at their captive. “What do you think he was up to?” Iuvart wondered.
“Probably trying to contact his whore.” Carnivean spat. “I don’t think he can, but we could have some fun if she showed up.”
Iuvart eyed his cohort coldly. “You underestimated her before. I would hardly expect her presence here to be fun.”

Part VI Speed of Light

Yunomi fled from Reaper’s empty mind back into her own. She knew what she had to do now. She went immediately to the library and began searching for the books she needed. She spent the rest of the night reading, studying, and taking notes. Dawn found her curled in the black leather chair, a huge book spread across her lap. She closed it, rose, and carefully rolled up the map she had copied, then went back upstairs. Checking on Reaper’s body, she was not surprised to find his condition unchanged. She had already removed the blood soaked pillow and tried to clean some of the blood out of his hair. Now she got a blanket out of the armoire and spread it over him, lying down next to him to sleep for a couple of hours.

When she woke, she searched the armoire until she found a hooded black cloak, the Cloak of Darkness. Reaper had used it in the past, and Yunomi was fairly familiar with it’s properties. She folded it carefully and laid it with the rolled map. Another brief search turned up the dark glasses Reaper wore in the Human Realm. He would need them for protection against the light.

Yunomi closed the shutters on the windows and checked on Reaper one more time. She leaned over him and whispered, “I’ll find you, Lord,” then kissed his lips and left the house. She locked the spells, and traveled to her own house in the woods. Everything else she needed would be there.

Into her knapsack she packed a white Ninja shozoku, her dark glasses, the Cloak of Darkness, and her map. Then she went into the dojo and sat zazen, gathering her strength and courage through meditation. A difficult task lay ahead, but she could not fail. Her Lord’s life depended on her returning his soul to his body.

Yunomi arose from her meditation, and as an afterthought added a white sheet and pillow case to her pack. Taking her pack and katana, she locked her house and went out into the yard, fading from sight. She reappeared in the farthest part of the Dark Side she had ever been to. It was not far from the border with the Realm of Light. Yunomi pulled the map from her pack and was about to unroll it when a commotion drew her attention. A ragged band of Darksiders was moving toward her at a rapid clip. She drew her katana and prepared to defend, then realized they were not attacking her, but fleeing from something. She stepped out of their way, and several of them yelled at her as they passed. “Run away! Run away!” They were clearly terrified.

Well, this must be the right direction. Yunomi thought. She headed off the way the motley group had run from. After a couple of miles, she could see the Great Wall that separated Dark Side from the Light Realm. Huge cracks had broken in the wall, and a hard white light blasted through. It was so bright it hurt to look at it. Yunomi dug in her pack for her dark glasses and put them on. She crept up to a crack large enough to slip through and peered in. Seeing no one about, she quickly donned the white Ninja shozoku and fashioned a cloak from the sheet. She covered her pack with the pillow case, cut slits for the straps and shouldered it.

Yunomi slipped through the crack into the Realm of Light. Even in her dark glasses, she stood blinking in the awful light. When her eyes adjusted somewhat, she looked at her map and found the low hills where the City of the Lords of Light was located. She headed off towards them. The landscape changed from hard, bare light to open, evenly spaced forests with brightly colored flowers between the trees. Where there should have been shade, there were only pale shadows, a slight lessening of the light. Everything was uniformly beautiful. Yunomi thought of the weird, dangerous beauty of the Dark Side, of the black forests, stony wastes, and wicked, twisted landscapes. The Dark Side was Yunomi’s home, and she couldn’t fathom why anyone would prefer the Light Realm.

As she traveled toward the hills, her face hidden by her makeshift cloak, a few Light beings came toward her, heading for the breach in the wall. “Come with us, sister! We’re going to push back the Darkness!” they called. Yunomi nodded to them, but continued on. Suddenly, she heard a fluttering of wings behind her. A chubby, blond baby thing with pastel colored wings began buzzing around her.
“What are you doing?” it questioned in a child’s voice.
“Traveling.” Yunomi kept her head down.
“Where ya going?” It hovered in front of her.
“To the city.”
Yunomi lost patience and snapped, “A Darksider bit me, and I need to be healed!”
“Oh, you need to see Lord Iuvart! He’s captured the Lord of Darkness, and has great powers now.” The flying baby chattered on.
“Really? That’s wonderful! Where can I find him?” Yunomi played along.
“His palace is in the center of the city. They say Lord Iuvart keeps the Dark Lord in a special room, and shines the Holy light on him just to hear him scream.” The baby giggled merrily.
Yunomi put her hand on her sword hilt under her cloak, and wondered what the consequences were for splitting a cherub. “Thank you for the directions,” she said through gritted teeth.
“It’s not too much farther, sister. Good journey to you!” The creature fluttered off in the direction of the wall.

Now that she had a good idea of where she was going, Yunomi could will herself there. Stepping off the path, she faded and reappeared in front of a great shining palace in the center of the City of Light. Damn it, I didn’t mean to get this close! Yunomi thought, then noticed that the Seraphim guarding the door were looking up at the tallest tower of the palace and not in her direction. A cry of agony was echoing off the walls of the city. The Seraphim looked at each other and shook their heads sadly.
“An intransigent soul,” muttered one.
Yunomi removed her glasses and hood, figuring her red blond hair and gray eyes would let her pass as a Light being. She hobbled up to the palace guards. “Please, brothers, I’ve been bitten by a Darksider, and was told Lord Iuvart could heal me.”
The Seraphim were all sympathy and concern. “Of course our Lord can heal you, sister! Come inside, his servants will assist you.”

Yunomi was led inside the great hall, and told to wait while the guards found the servants. Probably sneaking peeks at the torture sessions, Yunomi thought grimly. As soon as the guards were out of sight, she put her dark glasses back on, stuffed her cloak into her pack, and headed toward the tower staircase. Her white shozoku kept her invisible against the oppressing whiteness of the palace walls. She climbed the spiraling stairs until she reached the top landing. Before her was a door of white painted iron. She heard the latch click and quickly ducked out of sight as the door swung open.

Carnivean emerged with a man Yunomi assumed was Lord Iuvart. He was tall, and apparently well muscled under his white robe. Long, flowing blond hair crowned him, and he was blindingly handsome in a conventional way. Carnivean was chortling and rubbing his fat hands together, while the blond man looked somber and pious. They started down the stairs, and Yunomi passed unseen into the room behind them. She found herself on another landing, with a short staircase leading down into a blazing white pit. Reaper lay on his side, chained to the floor of the pit, his unseeing eyes open.

Yunomi shrugged off her pack, opened it, and tossed out the white cloak. Behind her, two Seraphim emerged from an illusionary wall and grasped her firmly by the arms. The door swung open, and Carnivean returned with Iuvart. “My dear, did you think it would be this easy?” the Light Lord questioned. He carried the bronze mace, and handed it to Carnivean. Yunomi sank helplessly in the Seraphim’s grip as if in a faint. Carnivean pushed forward to gloat at his new captive.

He yanked Yunomi’s head up by the hair and spat, “Well, you’re just in time to see your master cleansed of his unholy markings. I bet you have a few of your own, don’t you, bitch?” He brandished the mace at her.

In an instant, Yunomi used the Angels holding her for leverage and drove both feet into Carnivean’s fat belly, sending him crashing into Iuvart, and both of them sprawling. She then shot her arms back, causing the Seraphim to crack their wings together. They lost their grip on her and she rolled forward, drawing her katana. She bounded to her feet, and with one deft and powerful cut, beheaded both Seraphim. She swung around to deliver the killing blow to Carnivean, but he had scrambled out the door and was flying headlong down the stairs, taking the mace with him. Yunomi turned her attention to Iuvart, lying stunned against the balcony railing. She raised her sword, and Iuvart pointed his right hand at her. A powerful beam of light shot from his fingertips, striking Yunomi square in the chest and staggering her back a few paces. She had never felt such searing pain, and cried out. But her cry came from ki, the warrior’s power. She leaped forward and delivered a kote blow, severing the Light Lord’s arm just below the elbow.

Iuvart’s piercing shriek turned to a long, horrified wail as he clutched his bleeding stump to his chest and crawled through the door. Yunomi slammed the door behind him and dragged the Seraphim bodies over to wedge it shut. Grabbing up her pack, she jumped over the railing and landed crouched next to Reaper. A blow from her katana severed the golden chains, and she cut the white robe away from him. She pulled his dark glasses out of her pack and placed them over his blind eyes, then covered him completely with the Cloak of Darkness. “Reaper, come on, we have to go,” she urged. He stirred, and slowly got to his feet. But he was unsteady, and leaned heavily on Yunomi. She could hear Angels battering at the door above. “Come on, help me! We have to go now!”
“I can do it, give me a minute.” he gasped. He enfolded Yunomi in the Cloak with him and held onto her tightly.
“We don’t have a minute, they’re in!” she cried.
The Angels on the balcony saw only a black shadow slowly melt into a pool of darkness on the floor and fade away.

Yunomi staggered forward a step to keep from falling. She had been holding Reaper tightly under the Cloak of Darkness, and now he was gone. She shook her head and looked around. They had made it! She was in Reaper’s room, standing by his bed. She quickly leaned over his body and called to him. “Reaper, Lord, are you there?” His eyes snapped open, and Yunomi was elated. They were the incredible sea-green eyes that she loved so much, and not the staring black pits of the Light Realm. “Lord, can you see me?” she asked.
He smiled up at her, then winced. “Damn, my head hurts,” he mumbled.

Laughing and crying, Yunomi threw herself on him, kissing him lavishly. Reaper struggled to sit up, then clasped her to him, petting her gently. She was sobbing almost uncontrollably. “Nomi, Nomi, you did it. We’re all right.”
“You did it, Lord, you brought us home,” she sobbed. “I was so afraid, I’ve never been so scared.”
“What, my fearless acolyte?” He smiled and wiped the tears from her face with the back of his hand. “You only saved me from eternal torment.” Yunomi’s sobbing subsided, and she caught her breath. “How’s your head?”
“Not so bad. It’s been better.” He ran his hand down the back of his head, feeling the scar and the dried blood. “Damn! What happened? All I remember is being in that damned light, and you pulling me out.”
“I’ll tell you, but I need a drink really bad,” she said, wiping her eyes. “How ‘bout you?”
“No, I’m okay. Wait, maybe a beer.” He was holding his head.
Yunomi touched his forehead. “You want to wait on this? We can talk later.”
“I need to know, Nomi. It’s important.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” She went downstairs to the kitchen, grabbed a beer from the ice box, then reached in the back to get her bottle of Jager. Getting a glass for herself out of the cabinet, she headed back upstairs.

Reaper had piled the pillows against the iron headboard so he could lean his aching head back while sitting up. Yunomi set the drinks on the bedside table and sat on the bed beside him. “Let me try something.” She put her hands on either side of his head, and closed her eyes. Heat radiated through her hands, and she could feel his pain decrease. When she opened her eyes, Reaper was leaning back with a peaceful expression, his eyes half closed.
“You should sleep,” she suggested.
“I need to know. Where’s my beer?”

Yunomi shook her head, handing him the beer. She poured herself a shot of Jager and downed it, then began the story with the cavern ambush. When she told about Carnivean striking him with the mace, he grew agitated. “Describe it!” he demanded. She formed a mental picture of it and mindspoke it to him. “The Mace of Thanos! he exclaimed. “It’s been lost for centuries.”
“What is it, Lord?” she asked.
“A device for the capture of souls. That’s what they used to separate me from my body and transport me to the Light realm. Carnivean probably hoped to destroy my body by hitting me hard enough. He would have succeeded, but for your quick action. It must have been hard for you, Nomi.”
“I didn’t think, I just reacted. But yes, it was difficult. I’m not sure I could do it again.”
“You will be able to, if necessary. Your powers grow with every task you accomplish."
“I saw it again in the Light Realm. Iuvart handed it to Carnivean to use against me.”
“Interesting. So that’s why the Demons had the noose, to bind me so my soul could be taken. When I returned it to Iuvart, they knew I was suspicious and had to move fast. Tell me how you found me.”

Yunomi told him how she decided to try a mindwalk when he didn’t respond after healing. When she told him about the burning door being open, he turned pale.
“What did you find inside?” he almost whispered.
“You, Lord. There was an orb that showed you to me. We mindspoke, and that’s how I knew to look in the Light Realm.”
“Nothing else? No one?”
“No, it was too dark to see anything but the orb.”
“Then Carnivean must have him,” Reaper mumbled, shaking his head.

Yunomi waited patiently for him to elaborate, but when nothing else was forthcoming, she decided to ask. “Reaper, please share this with me. What’s going on?”
He gave a huge sigh, and rubbed his eyes. “All right, I owe it to you. But I need some of that,” he pointed at the Jager. She poured a hefty shot and handed it to him. He tossed it back and began his story. “I have a younger brother.”
Yunomi was stunned. She had never considered that Reaper might have family. Reaper continued. “His name is Kane, and he’s a Fire Lord. But he’s not...right. Some would say he’s insane. We only had each other. I used to watch out for him, try to keep him in line. But we fought, and Carnivean took advantage of the situation to lure Kane away from me. It was...difficult to regain control over him. I felt I had no choice but to trap his soul, as Iuvart trapped mine. Now I realize what I’ve done to my brother all these years. He must truly hate me now.” He looked away from Yunomi and gazed out the window.
“Reaper, you did what you thought was right. Are you sure Carnivean has control of him again?”
“Probably. He would use my capture and Iuvart’s torture of me to show Kane what he could do. I have to find him.”
“And lock him up again?” Yunomi was uneasy with this.
“Yes. No realm is safe from him. He has great powers that he can’t always control.”

Yunomi’s intuition told her that Reaper was slipping far away from her. As she watched his face through his story, she could see that the situation with Kane was beginning to consume him, and she would not be a concern of his until it was resolved.

Reaper rose from the bed, walked to the window and stared out. He turned to Yunomi and said “I have to go.” Yunomi nodded, got up and went downstairs. After a while, Reaper came down and walked out the door without a word. Yunomi watched him walk out in the yard and disappear. She sighed and sat down at the kitchen table with her Jager and glass.

Part VII Freak On A Leash

Yunomi waited at the Badlands house for three days. Reaper returned once, haggard and distracted, slept for a few hours and then left again. She decided to return to her own house. Gathering her pack and sword, she locked Reaper’s house and traveled to her own. As she was about to climb the porch steps, a large figure materialized out of the shadows. Yunomi’s blood ran cold. “Carnivean.” He held his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels, grinning obscenely.
“Hello, dear. I missed you, so I decided to pay you a visit.”

Yunomi dropped her pack and started to draw her katana when she found herself restrained from behind. Someone or something had her in a choke hold. As she struggled, Carnivean stepped forward with his palm outstretched as if to blow her a kiss. Instead, he blew a powder into her face. Yunomi held her breath, but as the powder hit her skin, Carnivean’s leering face dipped and swam before her, quickly fading to black.

Yunomi awoke, but kept her eyes closed, trying to feel where she was. Her wrists and ankles were restrained with manacles. She moved her limbs slowly to determine how much play there was in her chains. Not much, she found out. She was lying on a concrete floor, against a steel wall. Struggling to a sitting position, she studied the room around her. It was dimly lit, and seemed like a laboratory or medical facility of some sort. Her chains were anchored in the wall and floor, and a red warning stripe marked off the area of her maximum reach. The room smelled of Demon stench and burnt...something. There were two doors, one on either side of the room. Carnivean entered from the one on her left.
“Good morning, dear. Have a nice night?”
“Damn you, Carnivean, don’t f*** with me,” Yunomi growled.
Carnivean chuckled malevolently. “Well, dear, I’ve been damned for eons now. As for the other, you know anything can happen.”

Yunomi spat at him, but he deftly sidestepped her missile. He beckoned to a figure standing in the opposite door. The man who entered the room was huge, over seven feet. He was dressed in a long sleeved red henley shirt, black jeans, and boots. But most startling was the red and black leather mask that covered his face. It was made to look like flames against a black background. Carnivean spoke to Yunomi in a friendly tone. “The Angels are looking for you, dear, they want you very badly for the damage you caused. They don’t realize what you are. I have other plans for you, so I’m leaving you with a bodyguard.” He patted the masked giant on the arm and spoke to him as one would to a child. “You stay here and make sure she doesn’t leave.” The big man nodded, and stood in front of Yunomi with his arms crossed, just outside the red line. Carnivean went back out the way he had come in, stopping at the door. “I have an errand to run. You two play nice,” he cackled, then left.

Yunomi wriggled around, testing her chains and trying to get comfortable. Her guardian stood almost motionless, watching her out of his one ice-blue eye. She settled leaning back against the wall, her feet curled to one side, studying her watchdog carefully. He was a little taller than Reaper, and a little more muscular. His hair was the same dark red, but not quite as long and with more curl. Yunomi couldn’t determine the color of his left eye, but the blue one stayed focused on her. She gave him her most dazzling smile. “You must be Kane.” The man nodded. “I’m Yunomi.” There was no response. Yunomi sighed. Great, this will be really entertaining, she thought. The big man sat down cross legged in front of her, still outside the line, cocking his head at her. He seemed more curious than menacing. Yunomi smiled at him again. Kane pointed at the crow tattoo on her arm.
“Reaper?” he rasped in a cracked and ruined voice, barely audible.
“No, it’s Tengu. I lived with them for a while.” Yunomi was pleased to get a response to something. Without warning, Kane leaned forward with a speed Yunomi would not have believed possible and pulled down the neck of her shirt, exposing the black heart tattoo. She sat frozen, not knowing what to expect.
“Reaper.” Kane stated flatly, then released her and sat back. He pushed up the right sleeve of his shirt to reveal twisted swirling burn scars from his wrist to his elbow, then held his arm out for Yunomi to see. “Reaper.” he said again.

Yunomi was taken aback. She well knew how cruel her Lord could be, but to his own brother? “Kane, you’re a Fire Lord, you shouldn’t have been burned.” she blurted out. He pulled his sleeve back down and looked away from her, the conversation apparently at an end. Yunomi shifted positions and tested her chains again, then tried to reach Reaper with mindspeak.
“He can’t hear you, Carnivean has set a spell here.” A deep, pleasant voice, not unlike Reaper’s, was in her mind.
Yunomi was startled. “Kane?” she mindspoke.
“Yes. I share this gift with my brother.” He was silent for a moment, then “Carnivean says you’re my brother’s whore.”
Yunomi bristled for an instant, then shrugged. “Carny doesn’t like me very much.”
“He fears you.”
Yunomi shrugged again. She knew he did, but had no clue why.
“You’re not a whore.”
“No, I am Yunomi, acolyte and companion to the Lord of Darkness.”
Kane cocked his head to one side, staring at her. “Is he kind to you?”
“He can be.”
“Do you love him?”
Yunomi considered her answer carefully, then decided the truth would be best. “Yes, I do.”
“Does he love you?”
Again she considered, then answered truthfully. “I don’t know. Possibly.”
“When we were young, he said he loved me, but he wasn’t kind.” Kane sent bitterly.
“He told me that you fought.”
Kane looked away from her. “He wanted to rule me.”
“My brother wanted to rule me also.” Yunomi sent.
Kane looked back at her, then seemed to hear something and yanked out of Yunomi’s mind so fast that she was momentarily dizzy. He stood up and resumed his guard dog pose.

Carnivean strode into the room, fat and satisfied. “So have you children been good? If you have, I’ve got some news for you!” he chortled. “Reaper is tearing up the Dark Side looking for you, my friend!” He patted Kane’s shoulder. “And the funny thing is,” he began giggling so hard he could barely continue, “he doesn’t even know his whore is gone!” Carnivean wiped tears of laughter from his eyes and pointed at Yunomi. “Your precious Lord hasn’t even missed you.”
“I’m sure he has more pressing matters to attend to,” Yunomi said calmly, “like carving up your fat ass for his vultures.”

Anger flooded Carnivean’s face, and he took a step forward with his fist raised to strike Yunomi. This was what she had been waiting for. He stepped just inside the warning line and she shot her feet out in a sweeping arc parallel to the floor, catching him at the ankles and sending him sprawling. Carnivean scrambled backwards away from her, shrieking curses and foul names. When he felt he was a safe distance from her, he stood up and dusted himself off, regaining his composure.

Kane stood motionless through the entire incident. Now Carnivean placed one hand on Kane’s arm and pointed at Yunomi. “She’s been a very bad girl. Teach her how to behave.” With blinding speed, Kane had Yunomi by the throat, lifting her as high as her chains would allow. She struggled briefly, then felt something give in her neck. Kane felt it too, and casually dropped her to the floor. As she lay holding her neck and gasping for air, Carnivean ventured to kick her in the back, hissing “Who’s f***ing with who now, bitch?” He turned and headed for the door with Kane close behind. As he reached the door, Carnivean turned and said “Think about your transgressions, child.” He shut off the light as the door slammed behind them, leaving Yunomi in total darkness and pain.

Hours passed. Yunomi tried to assess the damage Kane had done, but every time she moved screaming pain shot through her neck and shoulder. She lay still, gasping in the darkness. She was finally sleeping fitfully when a voice sounded in her mind. “No fear.” She snapped awake and realized that Kane was kneeling over her. “No fear.” the voice came again.
“Okay,” she mindspoke, “no fear.”
“I didn’t want to hurt you.” Kane’s voice sounded in her mind.
“No, but Carnivean wanted you to.” There was silence then, and she felt Kane’s hand on her neck. He lightly touched her throat and neck, searching for something. He pushed her bra and tank top straps off her shoulder, feeling her trapezius and collar bone areas. Yunomi tensed, not quite trusting him. But his voice sounded in her mind again, “No fear.” At last he found what he was searching for, the damage that was the source of her pain. He pressed hard on the site, and she felt a searing burn. Then he moved to her neck, found another site, and pressed hard again. Yunomi felt the burning pain, and then it was over. The pain was gone, and she had full mobility in her shoulder and neck. Kane was breathing heavily, unused to the effort of healing. Yunomi drifted off to sleep, Kane’s hand resting on her neck. He gazed down at her thoughtfully. My brother’s whore, he mused. But she is strong and fearless, and shows me no animosity. He shook his head in perplexity, rose and shuffled off towards his quarters.

“Sleep well, dear?” Carnivean was prodding Yunomi with a long iron rod from a safe distance. She sleepily sat up, and Carnivean aimed a strange globe at her. The image of her in chains, disheveled and confused, was captured in the glass.
“You could have let me freshen up,” she muttered.
“Oh, no, dear. I like this effect much better. More natural, you know.” Carnivean apparently didn’t notice that her injury from the day before was gone. “So how do you like Kane? He’s your Lord’s little brother, you know.” Carnivean gloated.
“Pretty quiet guy.” Yunomi countered.
“Well, he should be. Your precious Lord burned away his face and his voice. He almost destroyed his own blood kin.” Carnivean sounded very self righteous.

Yunomi had no answer. She knew what Reaper was capable of, and was afraid that it was entirely possible that Kane was telling the truth. He didn’t seem insane, just different. Carnivean called for Kane. “I have work to do. Stay here and watch our guest, she’s too tricky to be left alone.” Kane nodded and stood in front of Yunomi with his arms folded. “I hope you have an entertaining day, my dear. After all, Kane is almost family to you.” Carnivean cackled merrily all the way to the door.

Kane listened for the sound of the outside door closing, then sat down on the floor just out of Yunomi’s reach. She ran her fingers through her hair, and rubbed her eyes. “Good morning, Kane. Thank you for healing my neck last night.”
“It was necessary, you were in pain,” he mindspoke. “Tell me about your brother.”

Reaper had searched every corner of the Dark Side for Kane and Carnivean, questioning dozens of it’s less savory inhabitants. He had come to the conclusion that they had remained in the Realm of Light. Fine, he thought bitterly, let him burn up the Angels. Reaper returned to his house for the first time in almost a week. Yunomi was not there, nor was her sword or pack. He assumed she had gotten bored and returned to her own house. Reaper felt vaguely guilty about neglecting her, especially after she had risked everything to save him from Iuvart. He still couldn’t remember all that had happened there, but rumor had it that the Light Realm was still in an uproar and Iuvart had not been seen.

Finding Kane was more important, he told himself. Yunomi could take care of herself. He decided to go over to Casino el Camino and have a beer. It was a good place to hear rumors and gossip. All kinds of information passed through the place, and he hadn’t been there in a while. As he walked in the bar, he nodded to Bob, who pulled a pitcher of stout for him. Bob knew Reaper well, and could tell by the look on his face what he would be drinking. Reaper sat at his corner table, facing the door as usual. No one ever sat there but him, and those he invited. He was halfway through his pitcher when a Gnome timidly entered the bar, climbed up on a barstool and whispered to Bob. He indicated the corner table, and the Gnome approached cautiously, red cap in hand.
“Lord Reaper?” he asked.
Reaper eyed the creature with mild curiosity. Gnomes rarely ventured outside of their corner of the Dark Side, and to see one in The City was rarer still. “Lord?” the Gnome persisted.
“What?” growled Reaper. He was not in the mood.
“I need a favor, Lord, and have news to exchange for it.”
“What favor?” the Dark Lord asked. The Gnome pulled over a chair, climbed up on it and whispered his request. Reaper nodded. Easily done, he thought. A small favor for a small being. Secretly, he admired the Gnome’s courage in coming to him at all. “Now what’s your news?”
“Lord Carnivean was at Bella Donna’s last night. He had an image globe that showed a woman in chains. A Troll told me it was your lady.”
Reaper slammed his mug down so hard that the Gnome almost fell off his chair in fright. “Describe her,” he demanded.
The Gnome quivered. “She was a well made Human, with blond hair this long. She had black birds marked on her arm, and looked hurt and tired.”
Reaper took a deep breath, then patted the terrified Gnome on the back. “You have done well in telling me this. Your favor will be done. Safe journey to your home.”

Realizing he was dismissed, the Gnome nearly ran from the bar. Reaper downed the rest of his pitcher in one long gulp, then stepped out the back door and disappeared. He reappeared at Yunomi’s house, and called out to her. The house was dark, and there was no answer. Yunomi lived in part of the Dark Side where the seasons changed, and it was now late autumn. Leaves blew about the yard, and lay in piles here and there. Something caught Reaper’s eye. It was Yunomi’s pack, half buried in the leaves. Ghouls had gotten into it, and scattered the contents. Reaper kicked around in the leaves until he found her katana. “Damn, damn, damn...” He held the sword and scabbard against his chest and bowed his head, then climbed the steps into the house.

“Kane, I need some water. Then I’ll tell you all you want to know.” Kane cocked his head at Yunomi, then rose and disappeared into the right hand door. He returned with a metal cup and slid it across the floor to her. Yunomi cautiously tasted the water. It was slightly sulfurous and salty, but otherwise clean. She took a few sips and set the cup down. “Thank you, Kane. I told you my brother wanted to rule me. We were raised under the Samurai code. He was older, and male, so thought I was nothing. But I studied Ninjitsu and Kenjitsu, and I had skill and honor. We owned a small dojo, where I taught others. Some men wanted it and offered us money. My brother wanted to take it, but I refused. The men murdered me, and my brother sold them the dojo. He was not sorry for my death. Reaper claimed my soul, but I wanted revenge. I learned what he had to teach me at the time, then stayed to claim my vengeance. My brother was without honor, and I denied him an honorable death.”
“What did you do to him?”
“I showed him my murdered face, and drove him insane.”
“What did Reaper do when you defied him?”
“He was angry at first, but then accepted me as his acolyte. I’ve always been drawn to the Dark Side, and now it’s my home.”
“Your Lord sounds very different from the brother I knew. My brother would have cast you into Hell.”
Yunomi smiled. “He threatened to, but I have ways of making others see my side of things.”
“You are very strong, Lady. I doubt my brother realizes the extent of your powers.”
“I think he does. He offered me my freedom some time ago, but I chose to stay with him.”
“That may not have been a wise choice,” Kane sent thoughtfully.
Yunomi sighed. “Sometimes I think it wasn’t. But I do love him, whether he feels the same way or not.” She surprised herself with her candidness. Somehow, she had an innate trust of Kane. She felt at ease with him.

“Tell me about the Tengu.” Kane changed the subject abruptly.
“Okay, let’s make a deal here. I would really like enough water to wash with. If I can get that, I’ll tell you stories about the Tengu.” Yunomi had realized that Kane desperately needed the communication she provided, and decided to see what he was willing to trade for it.

Kane seemed to think for a moment, then got up and disappeared through the door. He returned shortly with a metal basin full of hot water, and a towel. Cautiously, he set the basin outside the warning line and pushed it over to Yunomi with his foot, then remained standing.

Of course, Yunomi thought, as a Fire Lord, he’s wary of water. He’s afraid I’ll throw it on him. “No fear,” she mindspoke to Kane. Still, he kept his distance. Yunomi dipped the corner of the towel in the water and washed her face, then her neck, shoulders and arms. She wet her fingers and ran them through her hair, pushing it back from her face. All the while, Kane watched her closely, head cocked to one side, apparently astounded at the pleasure a little water afforded her.

Yunomi finished her bath, then pushed the basin back over the line. Kane retrieved it and disappeared through the door again, then returned and sat down in front of her. “Tengu,” he mindspoke. Yunomi smiled to herself. A man of few words, she thought.

“Thank you, Kane, I feel much better.” She took another sip from the cup and began to tell Kane stories about living with the bird faced mountain spirits, who were also master swordsmen. She told him about the long hours of practice in the dojo, the wild chases through the dark forests, the raucous all night drinking bouts, and the tricks played on unwary beings of both the Dark Side and the Human Realm. She explained the circling crows tattoo they had given her as a reminder of their teachings.
“You were happy with the Tengu.” Kane observed.
“Yes, I was very content there.”
“Yet you went with Reaper when he called you.”
“That was our bargain. I would train with the Tengu until I could defend myself on the Dark Side.”

Kane was silent. He could not understand why this powerful woman would ally herself with his brother of her own free will. He heard the upper door open, and quickly pulled out of Yunomi’s mind. He resumed his guardian pose in a slightly different position.

Carnivean jiggled into the room, obviously pleased with himself. “Hello, dearies,” he smirked. “I’ve been a busy boy.” He pointed at Yunomi. “Your boyfriend should know that I have you by now. We’ll see what he’s willing to do about it.”
“I told you he has bigger pigs to stick,” Yunomi snarled.
“Oh, no, whore, not this time. I’m too excited about the possibilities to let you get to me now.” Carnivean giggled merrily and bounced out of the room.

Kane mindspoke to Yunomi. “Reaper won’t come for you.”
“I know. Carnivean wants his soul, and that’s not possible.”
“Carnivean will keep you here and hurt you.”
“I know.”
Kane shook his head sadly and walked back through the right hand door, closing it behind him.

Reaper had redoubled his search for Kane. He was sure now that Carnivean had Yunomi as well. There was no further word about Carnivean making appearances or of the image globe. Reaper traveled to the Gnome’s land to fulfill his obligation and to check out any leads stemming from the incident at Bella Donna’s. As always, it was a dead end. Carnivean had vanished from the Dark Side. After days of fruitless searching, Reaper came to Yunomi’s house. He had cleaned her katana and placed it on the sword altar when he found it. Now he added fresh incense, and sat staring at the altar. He knew Yunomi was still alive, her death would have broken their mind link, stabbing his conscience like a knife. But he couldn’t contact her mentally. Frustrated, he left and returned to his own house.

Days passed, and still there was no sign of Carnivean, Kane, or Yunomi. Reaper had continued his search, but without much hope. He was sitting at his table at el Camino when an Ogre approached. “Carnivean wants a meeting,” it growled, “at your whore’s house, at sunset.” It turned and vanished before Reaper could get to it.

Reaper arrived at Yunomi’s house just before sunset. Carnivean appeared out of the shadows. “You know what I want, Dark Lord.”
“And you know that’s not going to happen.” Reaper stood with his arms folded.
Carnivean chuckled. “I figured that would be your answer. I’m proud of you, Reaper. Your heart is as black as the one you marked your whore with. She’s alive and well, by the way. Your beloved younger brother has become quite fond of her. Why, just last week he stopped short of breaking her neck.”

Carnivean vanished as Reaper lunged for him. All the past weeks of frustration burst forth. Reaper raised his arms and shouted to the sky. Wind, rain, and thunder crashed around him. He blasted trees with lightning bolts from his fingers, then flung the shattered remains about with his bare hands, all the while screaming with fury. Finally, his energy spent, he sat in the yard with his head in his hands.

Yunomi was frustrated, too. She had tested her chains repeatedly, but found them too strong and too deeply embedded to break or pull free. The locks were spell locks, and she was unable to use her Ninja skills to pick them. She used her time alone to try and figure out exactly where she was. A tunnel, perhaps, or a cavern, not too far from the Dark Side. The sleep that she got was enough to keep her alive, but not to increase her strength. Carnivean came and went, making obscene allusions as to what was in store for her. Kane continued to mindspeak with her secretly, but still revealed nothing of himself or their location.

One day as they sat speaking, Yunomi could contain her curiosity no longer, and asked Kane if she could see his face. He stared at her with his blue eye for a moment, then slowly removed his mask. Yunomi was surprised, but regarded him without comment. There were indeed burn scars over half his face, but she had seen worse. She could tell that at one time Kane had been as fiercely beautiful as his brother, but in his own way. Actually, she thought, there still is that wild beauty in his face. Surely he must realize he’s not repulsive. She decided that he used the mask for intimidation.

Kane sat with his mask in his hand and carefully watched Yunomi’s face. He saw no signs of repulsion or fear there, and was relieved. He felt close enough to the Lady, as he called her, that it would have been devastating for her to reject him now.
“Kane, you have your own face. Please don’t hide it from me anymore. Tell me what happened between you and Reaper.”

Kane was silent, staring thoughtfully at the mask in his hands. “We fought,” he said at last. “I was burned. He said it was an accident, but I’ve never been sure.” He looked up at Yunomi. “You are the only being that has shown me true friendship. You’ve asked nothing from me but simple kindness, something that is difficult for me to show. I’ve never had a friend that didn’t want something from me, to control me in some way. But you are my brother’s lady, and I cannot trust him.”
Yunomi sighed. She was afraid it was true. Reaper couldn’t be trusted to deal honestly with Kane. “What would you like to happen for you?” she asked.
“I would like to go my own way, and be left alone. Others consider me insane, and they fear me. They feel like they have to control me.”
“You’re not insane, you just see things differently. Would you reconcile with your brother if you could?”
“I am insane, everyone says so. But yes, I would reconcile if he would leave me alone.”
“You have a fine mind, Kane. You should be able to take your rightful place on the Dark Side, owing no one. Carnivean treats you badly, like a servant. How did you come to him?”
“He said he would help me be free of my brother, but he’s made me a slave. I lived in the Light Realm for a while, but they feared me too much. I’m too ugly for them. I don’t belong anywhere.” He stared at his mask again.

Yunomi reached her hand towards Kane as far as her chain would allow. He looked up, and hesitantly extended his hand to meet hers. “You’ll find your way, Kane. I know you will. I’ll help you if I can.” Yunomi was afraid it was a hollow promise on her part. Reaper wasn’t coming for her, and Carnivean planned to keep her a prisoner for eternity. She only hoped she could trust Kane to keep things from getting too bad for her. She wasn’t sure of the extent of Carnivean’s influence over him. It had only been a short time before that Kane had almost broken her neck at the Demon’s bidding. But Kane had apparently kept their conversations a secret. The Demon Lord had no idea that his prisoner had bonded in friendship with her terrifying guard.

Kane and Yunomi continued their secret mind talks in Carnivean’s absence. Now when they were alone, Kane would remove his mask. He seemed more at ease, but always listened carefully for the Demon Lord’s return. Yunomi told Kane Samurai legends, ghost stories, and tales of the great sword masters of Japan. He listened attentively, occasionally asking for clarification. It’s as if he’s in school, Yunomi thought. He’s absorbing all this knowledge. She was telling him about the kamikaze pilots of World War II when Kane stood up abruptly and quickly replaced his mask. Uh oh, Fatso’s home, Yunomi thought bitterly.

Carnivean fairly danced into the room, beside himself with merriment. “Well, my dear, your Lord and I had our little talk today, and guess what? You’re mine, bitch!” He laughed obscenely and began to open his robe.

Oh, shit, I wondered when this would come down. Yunomi scrunched against the wall as tightly as she could. This was what she had feared most. Demon rape was one of the worst things that could happen to a Darksider. The few who survived were left as hollow shells, physically and psychically blasted. Yunomi was strong, and immune to Demon poison, so Carnivean would be able to use her for a long time.

The Demon Lord began rubbing himself grotesquely, leering at Yunomi. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this, dear. Kane, hold her!” he ordered.
“No,” Kane rasped in his ruined voice.
Carnivean stared at him, stunned into silence. He had no idea that Kane could speak, and was furious that his order was refused. “What, the monster speaks?” he finally managed to get out.
Kane stared back, unmoving, then pointed at Yunomi. “Mine.”
Carnivean’s expression of shock and fury slowly changed to a nasty grin. “Oh ho, so you want first dibs, eh? Well, I suppose so, since you’ve spent all this time guarding her. All right, then, I’ll settle for sloppy seconds.” He closed his robe and stepped back to enjoy the show.

Kane mindspoke to Yunomi, “No fear.” She prepared herself to fight him as best she could, but hoped he had a plan to help her. Kane crossed over the warning line and leaned down, reaching for her. She struck at him, but he easily caught her fist and aimed a blow at her jaw. At the last instant, he pulled his punch, but Yunomi rocked her head back and went limp. Kane thought the spell to unlock her chains, picked her up like a sleeping child, and headed toward the right hand door.
“Wait!” Carnivean wailed. “Aren’t you going to let me watch?”

Kane passed through the door, set Yunomi down, then closed and locked it behind them. “Okay.” he mindspoke. Yunomi sat up and looked around. This was obviously Kane’s room. All of the fixtures were metal, many of them blackened and scorched. The walls bore scorch marks, too. There were no flammable materials anywhere in the room, but a few piles of ashes here and there. Kane could feel the questions in Yunomi’s mind, and seemed embarrassed when he answered. “Sometimes I get angry. Things burn.” Yunomi nodded. This must be what Reaper was worried about. Kane sent again “You need to go, Carnivean will hurt you badly. Follow me.”

He led her out a door on the other side of his room, into a dimly lit tunnel. She followed him for what seemed like miles, always taking the up-sloping fork. At last they emerged from a hidden opening into a bleak scrub land. Kane pointed to his left. “Go that way,” he sent. “You will come to a place you know and can get home from there.”
“Kane, come with me. I can help you face Reaper. We’ll convince him to let you be,” Yunomi pleaded.
“Not now, you need to go home. I’ll come and see you soon. Listen for me.”
Yunomi grasped his huge hand in her two, and lifted it to her lips, kissing the back of it. “I’ll listen for you,” she promised. Then she turned and took off at a run in the direction Kane had indicated. He stood watching until she disappeared into the gloom, then returned to the tunnel.

Yunomi ran until she could run no more, then hid in a thicket to take stock of her situation. She was sure Kane could delay pursuit until she was relatively safe. Looking around, she realized she was near the trail that led to the Realm of Light. She could get home from here! Getting her bearings, she stepped out of the thicket and willed herself to her house. She glanced at the shattered trees in the yard and wondered what had happened, then bounded up the steps and through the front door. She closed and locked it, leaning with her back against the door breathing heavily. Regaining her composure, she looked around the front room. Something was different. Her sword! It was clean and on the altar as it should be. Fresh incense was burning. Yunomi was puzzled. Surely the Lord of Darkness hadn’t converted to Buddhism in her absence, but he was the only one with access to her house. She shook her head. She was too tired to figure it out now. The locking spells were intact, the house was safe. Yunomi got in the shower and scrubbed, trying to remove weeks of Demon stench off her skin. She tossed her filthy clothes out in the yard for the Ghouls to play with, then crawled into her bed. I should contact Reaper, she told herself, Tomorrow, tomorrow, then fell immediately asleep.

Reaper arrived at Yunomi’s house late that night. He entered the front room and knelt in front of the sword altar, trying to clear his mind. Yunomi had taught him to sit zazen, to meditate, but he just didn’t have the patience tonight. He wandered back toward the kitchen in search of a beer and stopped short when he saw the door to Yunomi’s room was open. He was sure he had closed it the last time he was here. Reaper approached the door carefully. There could be no one else in the house, the protection spell had been intact when he arrived. He realized someone was in Yunomi’s bed. He knelt beside the futon and gently pulled the blanket back. “Nomi?” he whispered, not believing it was true.
She half opened her eyes groggily and murmured “Hey, Reaper,” then turned over, pulling the blanket back up to her chin.
“Nomi, how did you get here?” he asked, but it was no good. She was deep in her restorative sleep again. Reaper reached out and stroked her hair, noticing the wounds from the chains on her wrist, and a strange scar at the base of her neck. It was possible that Yunomi would sleep for days. She was safe here, and Reaper decided to return to his own house. She would come to him when she awoke.

She did awake days later, refreshed and feeling good. Her manacle wounds had healed during her sleep, leaving only faint scars on her wrists and ankles. She put on her kimono and entered the dojo. “Reaper?” she called. She was alone in the house, and decided that she must have dreamed he was there. Then she noticed the fresh candles and incense on the altar. She knelt down and sat zazen, trying to understand why Reaper had maintained the altar in her absence. That is so not like him. He must have really missed me. Then her thoughts turned darker. She must confront him about Kane, and it was sure to be unpleasant. She had no idea how she was going to approach the subject. She got up, showered and dressed, then headed off to Reaper’s house.

Yunomi Book Two, first page.
Yunomi Book Two, second page.
Yunomi Book Two, third page.
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Yunomi Book Two, fifth page.
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