Original Stories Fan Fiction ❯ Into The Void ❯ Beginning of an Apocalypse ( Chapter 22 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]


Into the Void

By: Melissa Norvell

Episode 22: Beginning of an Apocalypse


When dawn broke and the sun began to rise in the sky, Vincent cracked his eyes open from his short-night's rest. Guard duty made him a little groggy and he didn't wake up as quickly as he usually did.

Upon opening his eyes, his hand flexed and the crisp note made a crunching noise. He looked at the letter with curious green eyes as he unfolded it and began to read.

'To Whom It May Concern,

I know this seems suspicious but I was able to reach a mailbox to send this. I don't know how long it will be until I get caught but I have vital information regarding Ibuki and Captain Aeris. Please meet me at this place-'

Vincent was forced to stop the letter due to receiving a swift kick in the butt by Udo. He let out a yell before he asked 'what the' in a slightly irritated voice and turned around to face the white-haired man.

"Quit reading your fan mail and get up. Morning is here and breakfast is ready," the sadistic man informed.

"It's not fan mail; it's a secret letter of some kind," the bounty hunter explained.

"Let me see that," Udo commanded and yanked the letter away. For Vincent's sake he'd better not be playing around. He didn't need the bounty hunter to be joking around at such a serious time. His ice blue eyes quickly scanned over the letter. "I should take this to the others. They might want to read this, where did you find it?"

"In my hand," the answer was innocent enough.

"Quit joking around," Udo shot, a little irritated that his companion would continue the joke.

"No seriously, it was in my hand when I woke," Vincent tried to reason with the ex-terrorist.

"I wonder how someone could have snuck up that close without being sensed," the spiky-haired man wondered. It was odd that someone could have gotten by his defenses when he had them on high.

"I dunno, I didn't even hear anything."

"You can sleep through an earthquake. Your point is-?" Udo asked acerbically. Vincent's answer to the question wasn't the most reliable around.

"No I can't. That was proven on Mt. Kayukus," the bounty hunter felt as if he had to reclaim his dignity. He could be reliable!

Udo sighed in irritation and uttered 'whatever' as he walked back inside of their beach house. He informed Vincent that he would show the note to the others. After that sentence was uttered, the door shut and signified that he was now inside.

In the beach house, everyone was awake but Rubio and Valentino. Ryouzonia was the first to see the two men enter the room and mentioned that they were safe and she was glad.

"Yeah, it was just patrol duty, nothing serious," the spiky-haired man replied.

"Any findings?" Agata asked.

"One," Udo held up the letter that Vincent had received. Zidane took it from him and read the contents carefully. "Vincent found it. It seemed suspicious."

Bosnia ran over towards the bald man and peered over his bent arms as her blue eyes scanned the contents. After a few moments of silently processing the words, her eyes widened. "It says that they know where Capt'n Aeris is!" The girl exclaimed.

"I don't know…" Hisamichi wondered aloud.

"What do you mean?" Sari looked back at the questioning boy.

"Don't you think if the terrorists wanted us to fall into a trap, they'd write something like this? Of course they'd know about Captain Aeris, especially if they had her hostage," he noted.

"Hostages rarely escape. My whole time being a terrorist we've only had two escape and they were taken down quickly and disposed of," Udo informed.

"That doesn't mean there isn't an option that one has and they haven't noticed yet. They do occasionally over look stuff," Zidane commented. Aeris could very well escape even though the chances of returning are slim. As the scar-faced man finished his last sentence, Vincent soon walked into the room.

"Hey, Vincent.”

"Hm?" The bounty hunter looked at the man in question.

"Where did you find this?" Zidane asked as he held up the letter in question.

"I woke up and it was lying in my hand," he explained.

"Woke up? You went to sleep?" Sari was a bit angry at the fact that he dozed off and she should since he was supposed to be watching everyone else in case the terrorists decided to invade.

"It was Udo's turn to watch over everything," Vincent blamed the other male.

"So quick to blame someone else," Udo looked unamused. It was never Vincent's fault, oh no.

"Glad there was no terrorists," Yaritza put her hands on her hips and looked angry.

"No joke, we'd all be DEAD!!" Sari agreed as she yelled the last word for emphasis.

"Well, we should be glad that we're not," Ionna chimed in as she leaned against the door frame with her arms folded over her chest.

"Yeah, no thanks to our lame guards," Sari didn't like the idea that those two seemed unreliable and the fact that they could have died was all the more reason to worry about being left alone with them again.

"I'm only human," Udo told her. Humans got tired and if anything would have happened, he would have awoken, no doubt.

"Yeah, everyone makes mistakes," Vincent felt as if he had to defend himself as well.

"Gee, it seems to be your reputation," the spunky girl downsized.

"Hey!" The bounty hunter was the first to be offended.

"Where are Rubio and Valentino?" Udo quickly changed the subject. He was tired of being picked apart by someone who had an equal number of flaws.

"I don't know…come to think of it…I haven't seen them all day," the girl was thoughtful on the subject.

"It's just ten o' clock," Yaritza checked her wristwatch.

"They are usually up by now," Loreli stated. Neither one of them liked to sleep very long at all. They were usually up with the rest of the group by now.

"It's strange…They're not fighting or anything. I actually got some sleep last night. I wonder why they aren't down here yet," Sari wondered aloud. This was truly odd indeed.


Valentino sat nude in the middle of his futon, adorned in nothing but the bandages that clung to his body. He clenched a handful of sheets in his grasp and gazed down at them in reminiscence of the night that the two men had shared. Rubio stood by the closet as he was dressing. The male had already gotten on pants and was working on buttoning up a white undershirt. The silver-haired man managed to button three buttons before he turned around to face his love.

"You should hurry up and get dressed before you get caught," he warned Valentino.


"Valentino?" Rubio inquired as he simply stared at the other man's back.


After the moment of silence that had passed between them, Rubio walked over to the black-haired man and sat down beside of him. "Do you think you'll be able to function well…or well enough to-"

He was cut off by the long-haired man at his side. Valentino looked at him and commented. "I'll be fine…I'm just a little tired."

"Well, suck it up, hero-mine. We've got things to do," Rubio smiled warmly as he pulled his black coat over his shoulders.

His lover slowly arose and lifelessly walked towards his clothes, which still lay on the floor. He reached down to grab his cape and when he arose, who clothed arms wrapped around his chest and a pointed chin was sat lightly on his shoulder. Rubio kissed him on the cheek and told him to take care of himself. Valentino replied by placing his hands over Rubio's and giving an affirmative answer. This was a big change in his life and he was sure that with Rubio by his side, he could face his obstacles of lifestyle change.

He just wondered what the others would think about it when they found out.


"Well, I think this letter's bogus, I mean…what if we go up there and get ambushed or something?" Sari asked as the group continued their deep conversation about their findings.

"But…What about Capt'n Aeris," Bosnia didn't want them to forget her mission.

"If they have a prisoner, they won't let them live for long if at all. I say we go," Zidane replied as Rubio walked into the doorway.

"Go where?" The silver-haired man asked.

"I found a note that's telling us to meet someone because they know where Captain Aeris is," Vincent explained.

"Well, what if she's already dead?" Yaritza asked.

"…" Zidane didn't have an answer to that one but a sad look crossed his face.

"I don't think so," Udo had more faith in a stronger prisoner. Plus he thought that they had a plan of their own in the works.

"Why not?" Agata looked towards him in question.

"If she were, they'd have no reason to get to us. Thank about it," the spiky-haired man told her. If they killed off their hostage just after acquiring her, then what reason would they need to even venture up towards their base. It would make no sense to do something like that, especially if they were trying to lure them in.

"So…She's being used as bait. It makes sense," Rubio stated with a hand to his chin.

"When we get there, they may just kill her once they've got us where they want us," Agata explained. This mission was far from over and recovering a hostage was a big deal for them. She just hoped that they could pull it off successfully.

"They can't!" Bosnia shouted in dismay as tears clung to her eyes. She hated the thought of her beloved captain being slaughtered by anyone's hand. Captain Aeris was the strongest person that she knew! She couldn't just be crushed like that! There had to be a way that they could save her! There just had to be!

"Any more death at this moment wouldn't surprise me. You came here wanting our help. If the mission turns out unsuccessful, then don't blame us. We're just doing the best that we can. We can't save everyone," Rubio informed. She couldn't say anything bad to them for trying at the very least. With everything that had been piled on their shoulders until this point, she shouldn't complain anyway. In fact, she should have been happy that they decided to help her at all.

"We realize that your captain is special to you but we've lost those special to us as well. It's a part of the mission," Agata explained. Not everything was done perfectly and not everything would be a success. That's just how things went.

"It sounds so cruel," Bosnia looked down.

"There really is nothing we can do about it, kid. I lost my village and my parents so I know how you feel," Sari told her.

"The most we can do is hope that she's not dead already or that she doesn't get killed off when we go," Rubio informed. The situation, as it was, was out of their hands.

"They could kill her either way," Valentino entered the room and stood by Rubio. "If we don't go, we could be doing more harm than good. They will think that she's unnecessary bait and kill her off anyway because of her insignificance not only to them but to us as well." The assassin explained.

"So, what do we do then?" Loreli asked.

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't," Zidane remarked as he sighed.

"We have no choice," Hisamichi agreed with Valentino's statement.

"In this case, it would be better to do something about it, rather than sit around, even if it is a set-up," Ionna replied.

"Then let's get going! What are we standing around here for?" Sari wanted to hurry up and get everything over with so that she could have one less stressful thing in her life.

"Seriously?" Udo questioned. He wasn't prepared to be moving out so early.

"You mean I don't even get to eat?" Vincent whined. He couldn't function on an empty stomach and he wanted to at least eat something before he headed out on a mission.

"Let's eat first," Valentino didn't want to leave on an empty stomach either.

"What?" Rubio looked to the two men in question.

"We'll need our nourishment in case we get into something big. Plus, if we're hungry, we can't concentrate on our mission," the assassin explained. They would all be too busy dealing with stomach pains to want to fight.

"Hey, Yaritza and Ryouzonia are gone," Ionna looked around the room. The two of them hadn't said a word for a while and she was wondering where they had gone.

"I think they're cooking. I smell food coming in the kitchen," Hisamichi sniffed and smiled. The smell of warm food always made him happy, especially at breakfast.

"Ahhh…It smells so good," the brown-haired man and let the smell of fresh food intoxicate his senses.

"Back off! You're not the only one who's hungry!" Sari shouted aggressively as Ryouzonia and Yaritza came out with plates of prepared food.

"We just thought we'd cook while you guys discussed what you should do. Hope you don't mind," the ninja told the group.

"Not at all, we are all very hungry anyway, thank you so much," Loreli smiled kindly at Yaritza.

"You're welcome; I made my famous Miso Soup with rice balls and yakatori. Hope you all enjoy," the ninja was happy with the results of her sweating away in the kitchen.

"I never had this stuff for breakfast, but it sounds good!" Vincent was just happy that someone had made food.

"Be lucky that they gave you any food at all," Sari cast a glare in his direction.

Rubio sat on the floor with his love close by his side. There was a plate of food sat in front of each man. Rubio complimented that it looked good and thanked everyone. Ryouzonia thanked him and Valentino looked as if he may drift off to sleep at any moment. He was half-lidded as he tried to keep himself from falling asleep on Rubio's shoulder.

"Do you want some, Valentino?" The silver-haired man handed a plate over to him. After a few moments of holding the plate with no results, he uttered 'hm' in question and turned his head to see that the other man had his head rested on his shoulder and was grasping a part of his shirt in his hand.

"What's wrong with him? Did he not get enough sleep?" Sari asked. It was almost too embarrassing of a question to answer.

Rubio sat the plate down and looked to him with consideration in his eyes. "Hey, wake up Valentino-k..kun," he uttered softly. The slumbering man didn't seem to notice his words. Rubio then shook him lightly before the assassin stirred awake and uttered Rubio's name.

"I asked you if you wanted anything to eat."

"Well, I wouldn't want to make a hypocrite of myself. You'd never let me live that down," Valentino grabbed a rice ball and began to slowly eat it.

"You okay, Valentino?" Sari was a little worried that the man kept drifting off to sleep.

"Yes, I'm alright, just a little tired. My injuries kept me up for a while," the killer covered up his true reasoning with something that was equally the truth. His injuries were bothering him but not to the point of affecting his physical functions.

'Or whatever you call it.' Rubio cracked a small smile. 'We'll just let them believe that…'

"You sure you'll be able to carry out the mission?" Yaritza asked.

"Yeah, we don't want to find you dead somewhere," Zidane agreed with the ninja. If Valentino wasn't ready for the mission then they should take more time off until he recovered.

"I'll be fine," Valentino reassured. He didn't want his team mates worrying about him or his condition.

"We can't really wait for him to heal," Agata stated. It would put them behind on time and time wasn't something they had to lose.

"Well since he's injured someone should be in charge of protecting him in battle," Udo looked to Rubio.

"Okay, you know what?" Rubio looked a little peeved that he kept getting volunteered to do things that he didn't want to do. "I think I've repented enough. You guys don't have to shove it in my face."

"It would be your fault you feel that way. Why don't you stop feeling sorry for yourself and start doing something to help the team. Why don't you get out of the past?" Udo glared the silver-haired man down. He was sick of a few things as well and it was about time that Rubio knew his feelings as well, since he wanted to take out his anger on him.

"Oh, like I'm the only one stuck there and you have no right to talk," Rubio pointed out. Every time someone spoke of being a ninja, the spiky-haired man seemed to go into a saddened state and reminisce about the past. How dare he even try to tell him what to do.

Udo clenched his teeth in anger and looked as if he wanted to jump out of his boots and beat Rubio to a pulp. "How dare you?" He viciously growled between his teeth. At least he had done something to help the team and he usually kept quiet about his past. It was ludicrous that Rubio even called him out about that!

"This is a pointless argument," Valentino interjected. He hoped that they would realize it and stop fighting by themselves but no one listened to his words.

"He's the one insulting me!" His love pointed in accusation at the other ex-terrorist.

"Heaven forbid someone tell you the truth," Udo crossed his arms.

"Quit trying to run my life! You can barely run your own so I'll be damned if you run mine!" Rubio blurted out in frustration. He didn't care if it made any sense at all. He wanted Udo to leave him alone and he felt as if he were backed into a corner.

"Where did that come from? I'm crazy and that didn't make any sense," the spiky-haired man replied. There went Rubio, again just saying what came to his mind with very little consideration of other's thoughts. Truly he was a reckless individual.

"Rubio, quit being so self-centered. Up until recently the only thing that you cared about was your problems and pain and your loss, then you tell Bosnia to deal with it. You should take your own advice. Your conduct is getting less and less tolerable," Zidane finally added his two cents. He was tired of hearing them argue as well and he himself was becoming irritable.

"My conduct?" Rubio was outraged.

"I'm telling you, this is pointless," the assassin tried to warn them once again.

"You're getting nowhere fast," Vincent sighed. Even he knew that once Rubio was on a tangent, there was no stopping him until you physically restrained him.

"Let me tell you guys something about yourselves that you didn't know." Sure enough, the tangent began. "Zidane, you don't give a rat's ass half of the time."

"Who'd want to receive a rat's ass?" The bounty hunter hoped that it would lighten the mood but he was just smacked in the back of the head by Sari and told to shut up. He whined and rubbed the back of his head and closed one green eye.

"The other half of you is sarcastic. Udo…"

"Yes?" The weapons tech uttered in an unamused voice. He wasn't in a mood to see what the ex-terrorist would throw at him but he decided to humor him to quell his desire to slam Rubio's head through a wall.

"You just think about sadism and bloodlust."

"But I get the job done," Udo informed, "I'm efficient and intelligent. If all you do is attack my personality then your opinion is of no importance to me. Seriously, you sound like an insecure bully."

"Not to mention you're arrogant," Rubio clenched his fist in anger.

"I'm confident, there's a difference."

"If we can't get along, we can't rescue Aeris," Loreli told the two men.

"She's right," Ryouzonia agreed. "If we can't function as a team, we can't defeat Ibuki."

"No joke, if you guys were a ninja squad, you'd be dead," Yaritza commented. It really was sad that their team lacked such people skills.

"We've made it this far, though Yaritza's right. If we had to depend on each other for team work, we'd be dead," Ionna replied.

"It's not just me!" Rubio shouted. He felt as if everyone was coming down on him, since he's been in the most arguments.

"No one's saying that it is. We are all to blame; you don't have to protect me, Rubio-sama, if it burdens you," Valentino tried to calm Rubio down.

The silver-haired man grabbed his hand. "No! You've protected me. Now I'm going to return the favor." He seemed adamant about what he was saying.

"Rubio-sama…" The assassin's look softened. He knew that it was hard for Rubio but it was something that he would simply have to do for himself.

"So let's go."

Udo and Zidane remained quiet, even though they didn't think it was a good idea at all.


Everyone left and headed out for their next agenda. Most of them walked towards the front of the group but Udo and Zidane decided to stay behind everyone and talk to each other about the earlier occurrences that day.

"What's with him today? He's being more schizoid than usual," Udo glared at the silver-haired man's back.

"Who knows?" The scar-faced man lit up a cigarette. "Who cares?"

"I do, because I got bitched out," Udo remarked.

"I did too and I did was say one sentence. No big deal though, out of anyone in that group you, Ryouzonia, Valentino, Loreli and Ionna…well, besides myself, actually know what we're doing."

"Hey!" Vincent popped in-between both of the brooding men, nearly giving them a heart attack. Zidane almost burned himself with his cigarette as they both let out two masculine yelps.

"Are you guys having serious time?" The bounty hunter asked in a curious tone.

"Butt out Vincent," a vein popped out in Zidane's forehead.

"Don't you have to be annoying somewhere else?" Udo asked. It wasn't the brown-haired man's business to get in the middle of their conversations.

"Not until, two." Vincent told the two sarcastically.

Udo looked annoyed as he pulled out his giant disc-like weapon and held it above his head in a threatening manner. "Did I say the wrong thing again?" The bounty hunter asked nervously as he took off running and was his in the back with the weapon. It didn't wound him, simply knocked him down.

"Much better," the weapon's genius smacked his hands together in satisfaction and he smiled, proud of himself for such a feat.

"Hey guys, look!" Yaritza pointed to a small village. "It's the Tamara Clan." The village that she indicated was her own.

'This place looks familiar…' Udo said softly. He couldn't place a finger on it, but somehow the aura seemed proverbial. Everything about that place, even the air that filled his lungs was somehow familiar.

They began to take a stroll through the village. There were many people in the market place at the central part of town. The group glanced around at all of the people from Yaritza's clan. Sure enough, they all wore some type of metal rings in their hair. Vincent decided to state such a fact.

"They all have rings in their hair, even old men and guys…" He said thoughtfully as he glanced around at the men of her clan.

"I told you," Yaritza wasn't lying about her clan's ways.

"Didn't you have some business to tend to here?" Valentino asked the girl.

"Oh, I just wanted to tell mom and dad that I was going to be out on official business and not to worry," the red-headed clan member informed her friends.

"Since it's on the way, you should tell them now," Hisamichi mentioned. This way things could be done at a faster rate. It would be better to perform that task when in her village anyway.

"Yes but don't stay long. Keep focused on the task at hand," Agata advised.

Yaritza agreed and ran off in the direction towards their house. She told them that she would see them later as her form disappeared and intergraded with the others that had been out and about that day. Udo simply stared and was quiet for a while as visions of the past flooded his senses.

He was a young boy was training when a young boy with long, straight hair approached him. The boy had two rings in this hair and lonesome, light blue eyes that verged on being white. Udo stopped training and asked the other male who he was.

"I'm Tamara Hokuto, member of the Tamara Clan. Who are you? You don't look like you're from my clan." The other boy noted, his voice was fluid and calm.

"Rouma Udo and I'm not," the spiky-haired child told him.

"Rouma…Oh, you're from the Rouma Clan," Hokuto smiled as a young, red-headed girl ran up to the two of them. She stopped as her small body did a ski. Her sharp green eyes looked to Udo in question before she asked who he was.

"That's a member of the Rouma Clan," Hokuto told the girl. They both wore rings in their hair- a symbol of clansmanship.

"Oh, are they a nice clan?" The girl asked.

"They are our allies, so I guess they are," the long-haired male smiled gently towards him.

"I'm from a clan…" Udo uttered absentmindedly.

"What?" Zidane asked as he barely caught what the other man was saying.

"I'm following Yaritza. I need to ask her something," Udo mentioned as he took off running. Ryouzonia gazed at the man through sharp, salmon-colored eyes.

"Anyone else want to leave?" Sari asked.

"Not me," Ionna told her. She planned on staying with the group.

"What do we do now?" Hisamichi asked. Things would be difficult with people separating from the group.

"We move ahead," Ryouzonia noted.

"What?" The red-headed boy questioned.

"We have their permission. They'll catch up," the spunky girl reassured. At the very least, she had faith in Udo and Yaritza.

"Yeah, let's go save Capt'n Aeris. We have to hurry. Who knows what they are doing to her," Bosnia fretted. The more information that leaked out among the members of the group about what happened to prisoners, the more worried the girl became.

As Udo ran through town, he glanced around at the many citizens who went on with their daily life. Suddenly, out of his preverbal vision, he caught glimpse of a man who possessed long, dark brown hair with the same two silver metal rings in the front. He stopped and stared at this man. Could he have been the one from his past?

The ex-terrorist decided to find out. He ran ahead a few feet and ducked into a nearby alleyway. There, he waited for the man to walk past him. As he slowly made his way past the alley that the spiky-haired man had hidden in, a masculine hand clamped tightly over his mouth and his wrist was grabbed as he was drug into the alley. Udo rested his face on the frightened man's shoulder. The long-haired man felt the soft spikes of white tickle his skin.

The long-haired clansman made a muffled noise in protest of being captured.

"Oh, shut up and listen to me," Udo said playfully as he ran his tongue down the man's right cheek in a seductive fashion. "Don't freak out, you know who I am…Tamara, Hokuto."

A light colored eye darted back to closer examine the face of the other male.

"If I take my hand away, you won't call out for help, will you?" It would be a bad thing to get into trouble with the Tamara Clan, so he had to keep his victim in check.

The man, who was assumed to be Hokuto, shook his head. Udo then removed his hand and wrapped his arms around his chest, in case he tried to bolt on him. "Hello, Hokuto," He spoke softly.

"Who are you?...That white hair…Those eyes…"

"You know me from long ago."

"I don't really remember."

"My last name is Rouma."

"I used to know a lot of Rouma. Their clan was allies of ours," Hokuto was semi-used to the Rouma's sadistic streak but something seemed familiar about this particular one. He tried to remember but things seemed a little fuzzy as well.

"I'm Udo, the kid you met in training in this village," Udo tried to jar his memory with their first encounter.

"I met you when I was ten and you were seven." It worked. Hokuto remembered who he was. "I'm surprised that you remember me." After all, it had been so long ago.

"Of course I do…my old friend," Udo smiled against the man's neck. He was happy that Hokuto remembered him. The long-haired man then turned with his face extremely close to Udo's. They were still locked in embrace and their noses nearly touched.

"You're…" Light blue eyes widened at the 'x' symbol that he adorned on his uniform and his headband.

"I'm just what it says ex-terrorist," Udo reassured his uneasy friend. He had seen the shock written on his face when he had laid his eyes upon that dreaded symbol.

"You know they killed your clan," Hokuto seemed sad when he gave his friend the news.

"Could have guessed," the spiky-haired man's voice became more monotone as he uttered that phrase. He didn't expect anyone to be alive but he wished he had heard otherwise.

"It was five years after we've become friends. I missed you."

"I missed you too."

"Did you ever get to be a ninja, as you wished?" Hokuto had wondered about his friend's dream of one day becoming a skilled ninja. It was a big thing for him when he was small. Every day, he practiced with all of his heart to achieve his goal. With diligence like that, he should have already achieved his goal, or one would think.

The spiky-haired man cast a crestfallen gaze towards the ground and muttered. "I've given up on it."

Hokuto was semi-shocked at such an answer from the other man. He had expected far more from him then that answer and he wondered why he would have given up his goal. What happened that it affected him so much that it would make him want to quit the one thing he loved?


"It's so good to see you guys again!" Yaritza smiled brightly as she hugged her mother and father.

Her mother smiled warmly. She was a short, pudgy woman, who looked in her 40's and had short, red hair which was pulled back in the same fashion as her daughter's. The woman possessed two large rings in the front of her head that dangled down on the two tufts of hair on either side of her head. "It's good to see you too dear. Did you happen to see Hokuto in town?"

"No…I didn't…" The girl tried to remember if she'd seen her brother anywhere but nothing familiar came about. "I was wondering where he was and why he wasn't down here. He was the only one who didn't greet me."

"He's been in town for an hour now," her father seemed to be a much older version of Hokuto with a mustache and those same, kind eyes. "He said that he was taking a walk. It's so good to have you back. It's been so long…"

"I really missed you, but…" Yaritza looked down. This was very hard for her to say. "I have to go."

"Why?" Her father asked. After all, she had just arrived.

"Because I'm on a mission with some people who really need me, I hope you understand. I came to tell you not to worry about me. I'll be home soon. Give Hokuto a big hug for me and punch him in the head for not being here," the mischievous girl smiled.

"I suppose that I can't hold you back anymore," her father stated. "You've been on missions before and I trust you to come back alive."

"Thanks dad," she was glad that he understood.

"We understand as fellow ninja that you do what you must. Good luck, sweetheart," her mother put a pudgy hand on her daughter's shoulder and leveled her with a kind gaze. "Good-bye."

"Bye mom, bye dad, I love you both."

"Bye, take care," her father bid her farewell as she ran out of the door and rushed back to rejoin with the group. It was a bittersweet reunion and she was happy to see her parents again. She just hoped that next time she was coming home to stay.


"Oh…" Hokuto looked as if he were about to cry upon hearing the painful news of Udo's past. "So you quit being a ninja for those reasons…That is truly sad. I wish I could convince you otherwise but I suppose if you're set in your ways that it cannot be helped."

"I used to want to be a ninja but to become one now would be a long road of repentance and a complete restoration of my honor," Udo informed with a downcast expression.

"Well, I wish you would become a ninja…Perhaps after you defeat Ibuki, you can regain your initiative."

"Well, I would like that moment to come. Thank you for believing in me, though your faith may be wasted."

"Before you go, I want to tell you something," Hokuto was a little sad at his loss of interest for his own success.


"I…Udo…I l-" He was about to admit but Yaritza broke up his moment of confession.

"Udo, what are you doing here?" She looked to the sadistic man.

"Just talking, let's go," he grabbed her arm and preformed a replacement. Since they were in a hurry, he didn't get to say goodbye to his friend but he hoped that he would understand. They had to hurry to save Aeris.

"Never mind…" Hokuto looked down and wondered when he would see his friend again and get the chance to tell him what he should have told him when they were young.

"Hey, who were you talking to?" Yaritza asked as the two of them appeared in front of their group. Upon their arrival, everyone tensed up at the sudden white smoke. They didn't know who it was but they were going to be ready if they had to fight.

"An old friend…Hm?" Udo glanced around to see his team mates with serious expressions. Some of them were even in battle stances.

"Why do you guys have serious looks on your faces?" The red-headed ninja questioned. There was nothing to be afraid of, it was just them.

"Don't do that to people! We thought we were getting ambushed!" Sari exclaimed. Part of her was afraid and the other part angry. People shouldn't just pop in out of nowhere either!

"Where are we?" Yaritza looked around at nothing but what seemed to be a pitch black room.

"I don't like this place," Udo stated as a serious look crossed his face.

"It's a trap," Zidane remarked. They had a right to be on their guard and now, they would have to be even more so.

"What?" Rubio asked.

"He's right…" Valentino confirmed as everyone heard deep, evil laughter that echoed throughout the darkness.

"What!?" Udo's eyes widened in shock and recognition of the voice, it was all too familiar to him.

"I should have known it was you," Zidane sneered. The very sound of that man's voice irritated him and at that moment in time, he was happy that he couldn't see his face.

"Who?" Sari's head turned from side to side in a swift fashion, as if she were trying to see through the darkness to find out who this man was and where he was located. "I don't see anyone but I sure do hear them."

Valentino's eyes narrowed as Shigeki walked up to them, emerging slowly from the darkness. Only portions of his figure were seen because of the dim lighting but no doubt, it was him.

"The stage is set."

To Be Continued…