Canto 8: Taking Care Of Business
So, the battle for the our world, its very fate, and the lives of everything on it are held in the hands of two groups of warriors. One group is from our time, a group that stands not only at the beginning of a new century, but an entire millennium! In just a couple of years, we will be in not just the 21st century, but the second millennium. We will have come to our second thousand years.
What will this hold for mankind as a whole? Will we begin to make strides toward obtaining peace and ending hostilities between ourselves? Will it be not only at an international level, but at a one-on-one basis with those around us? Will we be able to go where we want, without having to fear for out lives because we are of the wrong color, nationality, religion, or beliefs? It is a possibility.
Then again, it could be the exact opposite. Though we are not of The Bloodline, we may all become "Drunk with...Blood!" Could it be that we'll slaughter those who "don't fit in," despite knowing that this is wrong? Will it come to slaughtering people for trivial things, like who "belongs" in a city? Those who aren't a part of it will be forced from their homes, imprisoned, or even killed in bloody riots, mobs, and wars? Perhaps we will become so devoid of values that we will kill merely because "our blood boils!" Will the time come when we come to the point that we don't care if we are killing others; or even to the point of enjoying it?
The Orochi Clan says so. Amongst these men and women who now fight for our destiny is one of this clan. He is perhaps THE darkest and most deadliest of the clan. His power is top-notch with few matching him in any form, physically, mentally, or otherwise. Ryuji Yamazaki may be one of the biggest threats in this tournament.
"I don't care what Geese says, Terry! That scumbag's up to something, and it can't be good."
"I agree, Joe. So far though, nothing has happened yet to indicate otherwise that this is more than just a simple tournament 100 years into the past with Samurais. But you are right, Geese and Krauser wouldn't be holding this tournament for no reason. There has to be some reason."
"Oh, let's see now! Maybe while we all beat the shit out of each other, they have a lot of jollies! Then, after they've had their laugh, they can leave us 100 years into the past! I couldn't help but notice your concern in that! Nope, I don't see anything to indicate any kind of trouble! Nope, none at all!" finished Mai sarcastically.
"Now wait a sec, Mai! That's not what Terry meant...I don't need to guess how it was for you to be stranded here, always wondering if you'd be able to come back. But still, it's..."
"STOP! I know you're close to Terry, and I understand that. You've told me what it's like for your, having the image of your father's murder played over in your head, but you do need to focus on other things too. You need to let those of us who are alive in and help you go on with your life."
Then, spontaneously, Mai got up and left. She needed to go and be alone. She needed to clear her head. She had been through a lot, and she wasn't sure what she wanted to do next. Andy was right though. To be stranded here, for the rest of her life without him; it was unthinkable to her. But she didn't want both of them to be stuck, so far away from home.
"Uh, well...that went pretty well. At least she didn't try and rip your head off."
Kim calmly answered, "I doubt that has been of much help, Joe. It does show that you can at least try and be human."
"Hey there! Where do you get off..!"
"I think I should try and talk with her. I'm not sure what I can do, but I can try."
"No, Kim. I think it would be best if I went. I was the last one to be with her before--the incident. I think it would be helpful for her."
"It will also be helpful for you, Mary. I know you still feel guilty about what happened. It wasn't your fault, you know that?"
"Thanks Terry. Wish me luck guys."
It didn't take Mary long to find Mai. Maybe it's intuition, or maybe it's where she'd go if she was in Mai's position. She was on a bridge about five minutes from them, watching the calm stream pass by.
Well, here it goes, she thought.
"May I join you, Mai?"
For a while, they simply stood on the bridge, watching as small fish, frogs, and other animals past by.
"Is Andy ok? I was kinda hard with him back there. But I don't want him to think that I hold him responsible for this. I know I can be a pain at times, but I love Andy so much. I guess it's true, you often hurt those that you love. Am I making sense?"
Mary, being a girl (maybe), understood it all and nodded her head. Mai smiled back and was about to speak, when Kim came up. There was no need to ask what he wanted. They knew what it was. It's Time!
"I don't know how any of you can simply sit here without some sort of feeling in the pit of your gut. If it's not Amakusa, then Zankuro. But to have both of them, and these two `crimelords' from the future working with them, it makes my gut turn inside-out!" complained Galford, who was obviously expressing the tension that not only he felt, but everyone else who was with him.
"I do not like it either, Galford. However, we must simply wait for our foes to make a move. To try and move in without a plan would be both fool-hardy, and suicidal," replied Hanzo, being as emotionless as he always was.
"I'm scared! We are 100 years into the future! That part I don't mind, but how in the world do we get back home? How do we know these creeps will even bring us back and not just simply strand us here, or worse?" voiced the young Rimururu.
It was an issue that they all knew lurked in the back of their minds, yet none of the more experienced wished to think about it, at least not until the time came. For some time, all was silent.
Kyoshiro then asked, perhaps in an attempt to break the eerie silence, "Where's Haohmaru? He's not here. Does anyone know where he is?"
"I think I do," and without waiting, Charlotte left.
Whatever it was that guided her to him, perhaps not even Charlotte knows for sure, she had little trouble in finding him, although it took her eight minutes to get to him. Haohmaru was doing what he always did when he needed to be alone and clear his head, slicing and dicing. As he worked, she couldn't help but wonder what had been going through his head after all of this time. She wasn't sure how long she had been gone, but it had been a long time for Haohmaru. Then, she had a thought that caused a surge of pain to surge throughout her body, like the guillotine that the peasants had used. Oshizu.
However, after a moment, she pressed on. She couldn't let her feelings get in the way of her duty. Haohmaru also needed someone to talk to, and she decided that she was the woman for the job.
"Haohmaru, I think we need to talk," she said, getting to the point as usual.
"Charlotte-? Uh, yeah. In a bit. There is still some stuff I need to do."
"Haohmaru, we need to talk, now!" she demanded. He knew it was useless to try. Except for the most heavily guarded and most personal issues, if she wanted to talk about it, it was going to happen. She just had ways of making it happen. One day, Haohmaru knew he'd learn just how she did it.
"All right, what shall we talk about?"
"Don't play innocent with me, Haohmaru! I know you better than that. I can already imagine what has been going through your head. I can tell by looking at you that you've been through a lot. I've been through much, myself. While this is the future, I've seen even more of it. Trust me, it can be very unnerving. However, the rest of our friends are looking to you for leadership once more. I know it's a position you didn't ask for, and is also one you don't really want to have, but you are needed. The fate of our lives may hang in the balance. If for nobody else, do it for Oshizu."
Oshizu! Usually, he thrilled at hearing that name, so why did it mean so little to him? Was it someone from a previous life? Did the name itself hold any meaning to him? Did it ever? Without realizing it, he was standing right in front of Charlotte, and just starring at her blankly.
"Whatever your decision, I'll stand by you for it. I'll help you in any way I can."
He was just about to reply when Kyoshiro came bouncing in. They both knew what it meant, there was only one thing it could be. Without anything more, Haohmaru started back. One day, Haohmaru, she thought to herself.
They all gathered in a sort of theater, each wondered as to what was really going on. Each of their worst enemies were at the front, together. Some of them couldn't care one way or the other as to who was and who wasn't there. They would all die should they attempt to get in the way of their goals.
Some wanted revenge for the wrongs that had been done to them, while others had personal grudges that they deemed necessary to settle, here and now. One thing they all had in common was that they were all determined to emerge the victor, proving that they were the best beyond any doubt.
Krauser was the first to speak, and what he would say would set the pace for this tournament.
"Welcome contestants to the fight of your lives. This fight will test not only your skills, but your own skills for survival. ANYTHING goes here...including the demise of your defeated opponent. This has been designed by those of us here before you. Just to make it clear, these matches will be one-to-one. There will be no teams in this fight, meaning you must rely on your own abilities and cannot look for your partners to help you, as some of you have in the past. Only the strongest of the strong will pull out of the first round in this multy-round tournament. From there, it will only continue to grow in intensity, pain, and desperation as the tournament nearly ends. Now, let us check to be certain that all of the players are here!" and Krauser finished with a light laugh.
The names of each warrior was called, and when it was all established, there were murmurs from several members of the audience. Some were surprised that certain warriors had even been invited, considering how difficult it was in finding them. A few had even been thought dead, so hearing their names was a large cause for commotion amongst those that knew them.
Then, Zankuro spoke in a voice with the authority it seemed that he always carried with him. It seemed to also carry a slight note of disappointment as he said. "We have just gone over the roster, and it seems that we are short by two fighters."
"NO! You aren't! I've come to fight in this tournament as well!"
All turned in the direction of the voice to see a blond man in an orange gi and a black belt standing in the entrance.
From somewhere in the audience, the name Ryo Sakazai was heard.
"Ah! Ryo Sakazai," breathed an enthusiastic Krauser, "It has been a while since our paths last crossed. You are welcomed to this fight!"
"Yea, whatever! If I have to fight in this twisted tournament of yours to find out what's going on, then so be it. I've fought in the King of Fighters with and without partners. I'm at no disadvantage!"
"Very confident, young one," retorted Zankuro, "but you may find that you are out of your league here. It is your choice, and since my partners approve, welcome to your end. Now, we need one more brave (or stupid) soul to step forward to make the fights even."
From behind Ryo, came the reply, "I volunteer for this fight!"
"You didn't think you could lose me that easily, Ryo?"
"Now, to business!"