CH 14: Balancing Acts

"I think we just set a Guinness record for the fastest computer set-up." Colin's comment garnered a chuckle from the red-head. "Hey, you got a DSL on this thing?" Clarion arched her eyebrow to the sky. Colin held up his hands as he was properly scolded. "Forgive me, forgive me." He bowed his head and they both laughed.

Clarion looked right into the camera as she typed. "Hey you folks, wake up.' "Call them on the phone."

Colin hit the one-touch dialing on his cell phone and waited while he booted the other computers. "Wake the hell up you wankers!" He smiled at Clarion.

"Good grief man, what the hell time is it?" Gregor's voice was deep with sleep.

"We'll bull shit later. Get your ass to the computer and call the boys, we need everybody up." He could hear Gregor connecting with random things in his bedroom as he rushed out of the bedroom into his dining room slash living room. "We got a chat room set up on a secure line."

"I take it the "we' is Yoshi."

"And Clarion as well." He looked to the redhead and then rattled off the address to Gregor.

"Hey, tell her to send an I.M. to Nate and he should hear it."

Colin turned to Clarion who was smiling. "I got him all ready, he's setting up his camera."

"Ya' hear that, G?"

"All right hang up, I'll see you guys."

The room hummed with energy as they waited in silence for the screens to come to life. In a matter of moments the 17" flat screen was filled with two boxes. If it weren't for the seriousness of the situation Colin and Clarion both would have been rolling on the floor with laughter at the images of the sleepy men.

"Hi ya Nate. Hey Tully." Clarion was genuinely happy to see the two boys.

They said hello in unison. "You're alive." Nate rubbed sleep from his eyes. "I told you she was alive."

Tully just shrugged. "Fool, I told you she was alive." He rolled his eyes and waved to Clarion.

"Nice hair Nate. Is that purple?"

He ran a hand through his hair. "For a party."

Clarion just nodded. "Can we dispense with the chit chat gang?" Colin grimaced.

Gregor added his sentiments. "Yeah, what's up, it's three in the morning?"

"Break out the coffee, because it's going to be a long day." Clarion moved out of the camera view to pick up the book. "I think we figured out what Stolov's got up his sleeve." She held up the book in question. "This is a Warlock book."

"A what?" Nate asked.

"Don't worry bout that right now, point is, we think Stolov is looking for a baby." Wide eyes and incredulous "whats' were her replies. "Exactly. Thing is we don't exactly know what's involved or anything."

"So baby is our keyword, is what you're saying?" Gregor spoke through a yawn.

"Precisely." Clarion put the book down. "So here's the plan-- I want to fax you guys the pages and then we're going to scan them in because I want to make a program."

"How many languages is it in?" Gregor piped up.

"You've heard of these?" Colin said with amazement.

Gregor just nodded. "It's my job." Colin smiled.

"It's in six." There were audible groans all around. "I'm thinking we can do this by hand, but that's going to take like six months and we don't have that kind of time."

"We got a program for Aramis." Tully was all smiles.

Clarion snapped her fingers. "I was counting on that. But, the question is can you make another program."

Nate sighed. "For six languages?"

"Nah, I'd give you specific words and sentences that we're looking for. Is there a way to make it specific?"

The boys looked at each and silently contemplated the question. Nate nodded and Tully answered. "Sure, might take a little time, but it can be done."

Clarion clapped her hands. "I figure with the three of us," she gestured to herself, Colin and Gregor, "we can translate by hand, since we know the words a bit better. I'm guessing you guys can run the programs and try to develop another." She watched as Nate disappeared from view. "Is he going to jump out of a window?"

Tully chuckled. "Nah, he's just booting the other computer and getting the stuff in order. So, go ahead and send the pages and we'll get to work. I'm telling you know, depending on the words and phrases it may take a little time. How many pages are we looking at?"

"Uh, about 400." She smiled as she heard Nate say, "Good God!" in the background. "Yeah, it's thick, but hopefully we can weed out the useless stuff."

Tully sighed and scratched at the stubble on his chin. "All right send the stuff." He paused and took a breath. "Hey how's tall dark and grumpy?" They all chuckled.

"She's going to be grumpy in the morn, I'll tell ya." Colin just smiled. "She got in a bit of a fight last night, so she's sleeping it off." Clarion just rolled her eyes at the man next to her. "I'll tell her you guys send her big kisses."

Tully chuckled. "Whatever dude." He yawned. "All right, I'll talk back when we got something."

"You ready to burn the midnight oil boss?" Colin directed his comment to Gregor.

"Man, I'm getting too old for this shit." Colin laughed. "Clarion, it was good to meet ya." The redhead nodded. "Colin, as always, it's been a displeasure." Colin flipped him the bird. "Chat later." The screens went black.

Colin leaned back and stretched out his legs. "You ready?"

Clarion groaned and stood. "Sure." Her tone was less than enthusiastic. "I'm going to go check on our patient first."

Colin rolled his eyes at the grinning woman. "I'm giving you two minutes lass. No hanky panky."

"Colin!" She touched a hand to her chest. "I am shocked and appalled."

"Great! And I'm sober." She laughed. "Go before I have to chaperone ya." She was out of the door before he even finished his sentence.


Clarion returned minutes later to find Colin surrounded by papers, several books, and a pencil in his teeth. She tried to suppress her chuckle, but it came out in a cough. He waved off the redhead and spoke without looking her. "I am old you know and the eyes are the first to go." He adjusted the wire rims of his glasses and kept on reading.

"I just think it's cute, that's all."

"Whatever, you'll be beggin' me for a pair later, when your eyes are on the verge of bleeding." Clarion chuckled and carved out her space on the floor so she could began the search. "How's the patient?"

"Sleeping like a rock. She didn't even stir when I kissed her." Clarion sounded slightly disappointed.

Colin smiled. "I'm sure your kisses are gold Claire, but she's recuperating, she can't feel a damn thing."

Clarion frowned. "Well what's the fun in being passed out?"

Colin stared at a random bookcase. "No memory I guess." They both burst into laughter. "Enough fun, let's get this done. I'll take the Gaelic and the Germanic. Gregor's going to work on the Russian and what looks like Hebrew. We gave you the Aramis and the Latin."

Clarion nodded. "Aye, aye, captain." She saluted Colin and dove into the papers at her feet.


It was reaching early afternoon when Clarion collapsed onto her back in a huff of frustration. Angry air expelled from her lips as she pounded the stone floor with the palms of her hands. Colin removed his glasses and rubbed the space between his eyebrows. "Break time?"

Clarion chuckled miserably. "I think I've gone blind. God, this is so ridiculous."

"Yes, but we have an idea."

"Do we?" She sat up and began to stretch her arms and legs.

"Think we're barking up the wrong tree here?" he asked seriously.

" "Baby' is too logical. Why not vessel? Maybe, pod person." She groaned. Tired green eyes looked to Colin expecting him to make a joke. Instead she found the Irishman's face set in thought.

"Perhaps child," he said. "Or knowing the smug bastard-- "future master'." He made little quote marks with his fingers. Clarion looked at him with a tilted head and a crooked smile. "We've been looking for the right words, but he's thinking of the future. Would he use a code?"

She shook her head as she began to see Colin's point of view. "No," she paused, "it's in here and it's obvious." They sat quietly for a moment until the shrill ringing of the computer alerted them. Clarion scrambled to the laptop to see Nate's face staring back at her.

He spoke when he saw her. "All right, the program's up and running. It's probably going to spit out some errors just because of the characters, but the Latin should be done in an hour. Then we'll run the Russian and so on."

She nodded. "So, six hours tops for the whole thing?"

"Assuming we don't hit it before then….yeah."

Clarion sighed contently. "All right then. Let's hope we hit this shit before sundown."

"Hey guys," Colin called from the other side of the room, "you think you can handle something else, since you've got the program up?" Colin sat down in front of the lap top and saw both Nate and Tully nod. "I got a list of stuff we need to find. I know Gregor's got some of the manuscripts, but I need some blueprints and I need you to track a guy named Grimladi Sandovar." Clarion's ears picked up at the familiar name.

"Grimaldi huh? What am I looking for?" Nate asked.

"A sword." Colin was so involved in his conversation that he failed to notice the small woman at his side get up and walk to the center of the room. She listened as Colin rattled of his instructions for finding Grimaldi and what the sword looked like-- all the while she began removing books and papers from atop the marble altar.

The redhead nervously tapped her nail against her front tooth as she looked at Colin. "It's called the sword of Magnus or Magnus' sword. You may find it in reference to Pilas." Clarion cleared her throat loudly. Colin practically broke his neck as he did a double take--looking from the screen to Clarion. His eyes stayed affixed to the sight of the huge broadsword and he was nearly on the verge of drooling. Larger than his Claymore, at 7 feet, the blade itself was shined to dramatic proportions. Three inches across and even from his spot on the floor he could see the grooves on the steel. His eyes were traveling down the gilded hilt and pommel, taking in the intricacy of the craftwork. He was completely oblivious to Nate.

"Uh Nate, we're going to call you back." Clarion spoke into the air, keeping her eyes on the wide-eyed Colin, as he rose from the floor and began to walk towards the altar. They passed each other without Colin so much as sniffing in her direction. Clarion waved at Nate and cut the connection.

"By Nuada's balls! Woman, is this what I think?" Colin tiptoed around the altar and stared at the sword as if it hovered in midair. Like a nervous father, he held out a shaky hand and reached for the pommel. He touched his fingertips to the leather grip as if he was snuffing out a flame. Once, twice, and then a third time. Finally, when he was satisfied that the blade was real, and his fingers were real, and that this was all real-- he let his hand rest fully on the grip. He readjusted his hand hold several times until a child-like smile spread across his face and he began to laugh.

"Holy shit! I can't believe this!" He spoke through a laugh. Eyes that were wide with excitement and awe looked to a grinning Clarion. "How the? When, where, how?" His voiced cracked. Clarion laughed, then asked, "you're not mad at me?" Her tone was soft with worry.

"Mad? Mad!" He squealed with surprise as he released his grip from the blade. "Lass, if I wasn't afraid grumpy would wake up and kill me, I'd come over there and kiss you." Clarion blushed slightly and then smiled as she moved towards Colin. "How did you come by this?" He followed her with his eyes as she came to stand beside him.

She shrugged. "I stole it from the Winter Palace in 1827."

He nodded his head in a gesture of being impressed by her tactics. "Not too shabby." He poked her in the shoulder gently. "I checked up on you Claire…or should I say, Countess."

Clarion managed a small smile. "Hey, you have to survive any way you know how."

Colin rolled his eyes a bit. "Yeah sure. Anyway, does Yoshi know you have this?" She nodded and cringed. "Oh. I take it she was she wasn't enthused?"

"Sort of. I mean, technically, this means I knew all of this was going to occur." Clarion nibbled at her lip.

Colin put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed. "Know what…even if you would have walked up to her and given her the blade, she wouldn't have believed you." Clarion nodded as they shared a smile. "Or been strong enough for that matter." His words were quiet.

"She can't pick it up." It was a statement that was on the verge of being a question.

Colin was stunned. "What?" Disbelief colored his features as he gripped the blade and lifted. His shoulder jerked as he met with resistance. Colin blinked. He gripped the sword with both hands and pulled. Brown eyes looked to green as Clarion just stood and watched. "Hmph. Is this Excalibur or something?" The sword budged a bit, but it was obvious Colin was straining. He staggered back as he let go. Clearly, a little winded, Colin hunched over and let his hands rest on his knees as he took a couple of breaths. "Whoo! That's freaking weird." He stood up straight and smiled as he added quickly, "but expected."

Clarion eyed him with question. "Why expected?"

He ran a hand through his hair and then leaned on the altar. "Think about it? This sword is pure. It is ancient and it is pure--the last of its kind and the only of its kind. Wielding a sword like this takes a purity of spirit, strength and wisdom, that I know I don't have."

Clarion crossed her arms across her chest. "Is Yoshi that pure?" Colin guffawed and the small redhead was just about to jump to the warrior's defense, when the truth of the statement settled. "I guess that is true."

"You know it's true, but I was thinking we could find a way to remedy that." He winked at Clarion.

She smiled and then ran a hand across her cheek. "What possible way would that be?"

Colin stood with his hands on his hips and contemplated the quietly asked question. "If you want, how about I keep at this Warlock thingy and you check out the Aramis books for anything about the sword?"

"Hmm." She sucked her teeth. "It would be there wouldn't it?"

"It's as much a book of Magnus as it is Pilas."

"True." She clapped her hands together. "Fine, I will see what I can find and then I'll help you some more. Colin smiled and they both returned to their respective corners to began work anew.


Seven close calls, five almosts, and nine not even closes-- 3 ½ hours had passed, and they appeared worse for the wear. Colin ambled through the entrance of the library after a short bathroom break and stepped nonchalantly over the prostrate from of Clarion. She lay on her stomach with her face down in a pile of papers with a book covering her head, moaning softly. The Hunter barely paid any mind to her antics as he made his way back to his chair. Finally, after a full minute of her moaning he caved.

"Trying osmosis are we?" A smile crept to his lips. The book began to move as she raised her head, turned her face towards Colin, and stuck out her tongue, before returning to her former position. He grinned. "I'll take that as a yes."

The book fell with a whap to the floor as she raised up and supported her upper body on her forearms. "This is like reading really really really good poety--but you can't enjoy it because it's for Freshman English."

Colin chuckled. "I went to one of those classes." He waved his hand through the air. "A sea of 200 weary pimpled little faces…" He trailed off into a giggle.

Clarion groaned. "Yeah well, this is awful. I no more understand Magnus' sword than what the hell is actually going on. She sighed and hung her head until her forehead touched the ground. She then let out a strangled yell and looked back up at Colin. "You want to eat?" She didn't wait for his answer. "I think I'm starved." She rolled over and stretched.

"You look like a little cat."

"I think a cat would have a better time with this stuff." She flipped the edge of the book. "How are you doing?"

He rubbed his eyes. "Honestly, I think I'm close. I've got to some entries about Exodus. I think it may be in there."

Clarion smiled weakly. "Sounds probable." She stood up and stared at the sword, being careful not to touch it. "I'm going to figure you out." She snarled at the blade, then jumped as Colin appeared behind her and touched her on the shoulders.

"Be careful, it might bite "cha." He made chomping noises.

"It's that anal, huh." She was half-serious.

Colin smiled and pulled at the sword once more with no luck. "This sword is responsible for my life--hell, even yours." He shrugged. "I guess I'd be pissed if any bloke could pick this up and start lopping off heads, ya know. I want a well-balanced chap personally." He grinned. "Pure, I guess." He squeezed her shoulders. "C'mon let's eat." He moved to the door and then realized that Clarion had not moved with him. "Your feet asleep?"

She jerked her head at his voice. "No." She paused and stared intently at the sword. Clarion held her hand over top of the blade, her palm down. She drew her hand as close to the blade as she could go, before the heat became too intense and stopped--letting her hand hover. Her hand continued to move down the length of the blade.

"You holding a séance, kiddo?" Colin looked at her with a mix of amusement and confusion.

"I'm an idiot." She finally breathed out.

Colin was at a loss. "The blade told you that?" He wanted to be serious, but he wasn't sure what else to say.

She whirled around to face Colin and slapped him in the shoulder. "Well balanced Colin, you get it?"

Colin arched his eyebrow and watched the redhead as she walked from the altar to look at the books on the floor. "I don't have a clue." He eyed her warily, thinking the small woman had finally snapped.

"Damn it! We've had the answer all the time." She slapped her palm against her forehead. "Man, it's so obvious." She smiled. "Be right back."

"Clarion, what the hell's gotten into you?" He watched her bound by him, practically skipping.

"Prophecy mon frer, prophecy."

Her words seemed to echo in his ears and he could make no sense of it--even as he stared down at the pages she had been looking at. To him, prophecy was so broad--it might as well have been crossing the Mississippi in a raft. He had made no firm conclusions to anything until he sensed her presence and turned towards the entrance. There, next to her in all her groggy glory was Yoshima. Hair mussed, shorts twisted at the waist, shirt wrinkled, and her hand firmly ensconced in Clarion's. Brown eyes took in the sight of the Hunter and the Daywalker and the words filled his thoughts. "The Hunter is unto the Daywalker as the Daywalker is to the Hunter. Balance must reign in the houses of East and West for there to be life.'

There it was in black and white, and now in front of him in flesh and blood. Dark and light, yin and yang. Perfection. Solidarity. Balance. He smiled and Clarion smiled with him. Yoshi put a hand to her mouth and yawned, still not yet fully awake. Together they moved towards the altar and Colin.

"How's the grumpy gus?" Colin asked with a smile.

Yoshi groaned and rubbed the sleep from her eyes like a small child. "I feel like somebody ran me through." She paused and cocked her head to the side. "Oh yeah, somebody did." Clarion chuckled a bit at Yoshi's dry humor. "I see you found the place okay." Colin nodded and held out his hand to meet Yoshi. They clasped each other's forearms and gave each other a short hug. "Thank you for patching me up."

Colin nodded and gestured toward Clarion as they moved away from each other. "It was all her, I just followed her lead."

A faint blush reached Clarion's cheeks and then became a robust red as Yoshi pressed warm lips to her cheek and whispered a thank you in her ear. "Thank you both then, she took deep breath and began to peruse the room." The scattered papers and books strewn about the floor caused Yoshi to raise her eyebrow in a curious manner. She said nothing and only pursed her lips as she watched the printer/fax machine spew papers like an erupting volcano. She gingerly placed her hands on her hips as she looked about the room and then her eyes finally came to rest on Colin and Clarion who now stood near each other. "Do I need to be informed of something?"

Colin spoke up. "Well mon amie, I think we got something." Clarion could only shake her head at his attempt at a Cajun accent. Yoshi folded her arms across her chest, which Colin understood as her universal sign for him to continue. "Stolov doesn't want to kill Clarion…he wants her ovaries." Clarion tried to stifle her giggle with not much success. Yoshi's brow creased and she opened her mouth to say something, but it was clear she was confused and a bit shocked. Colin just nodded his head and held up his hand indicating that Yoshi not even try to form a thought. "He's looking for a baby."

Her voice finally came to her. "What!"

"He's not necessarily concerned about becoming Master-- I mean that's part of the package, but he wants little kids."

Yoshi gathered her hair in her hands, squeezed, and then released. "Why not just turn humans?"

"It's not the same." Clarion answered. "Turning humans doesn't give you all the benefits of breeding Vampires." Clarion took notice of Yoshi's arched eyebrow and continued. "Think about it, you get a Vampires' strength, all the amenities, plus you can walk in the day. To us it seems like a form of extermination, but to Stolov…it's evolution."

Yoshi said the word with Clarion as she shook her head in thought. "How does this work without you? Can he just go and pick up some random child and be done?"

"Doubtful," Colin replied with a shrug.

"Doubtful or no?" Even though Yoshi's voice was soft, her words boomed through the room with intensity. Gone were the remnants of sleep, to be replaced by an authority that only she could wield.

Colin swallowed the small lump in his throat and spoke. "No." He met and held Yoshi's gaze. "We're sure it's not some random child--but we're not sure where to look."

The corners of Yoshi's mouth creased as a small frown formed. Clarion watched the woman and began to pace in the small distance from one end of the altar to the other as she spoke. "Our best bet is the Warlock book. I figure he came across something in almost 1500 years. He'll become a Master with or without or help, it's his time. But, how powerful is up to him." She stopped and began to lightly rap her knuckles against the palm of her left hand. "For Stolov, power is the difference between being able to implode someone's mind at will and knowing that you've created a race of beings who can do the same."

All three were silent as Clarion stopped her pacing and leaned back against the alter, keeping attentive green eyes affixed to the dark woman who was lost in thought. Clarion found herself trapped in the strong gaze and felt herself being examined. She fidgeted a bit under the almost palpable weight of Yoshi's indigo gaze and couldn't help but chuckle nervously. "I got a piece of spinach on my forehead or something?" Clarion's question was meant to break the tension, but her question elicited no response.

Finally, a slender finger pointed in the redhead's direction. "He's looking for another Daywalker." Yoshi ran her tongue across white teeth and made a clicking noise against the roof of her mouth as her own words settled in her psyche. "Another, like you. It doesn't have to be a Vampire but definitely a hybrid. Fifty- fifty, no more one way or the other. That's who he's looking for or it won't work." Clarion shook her head in obvious confusion. "The ritual won't work."

Colin snapped his fingers loudly drawing Clarion's attention. "Goran!"

Yoshi nodded, glad the Hunter was following her train of thought. "Exactly."

"Who the hell's Goran?"

"Stolov's predecessor." He looked to Yoshi. "What year was that?"

Without hesitation she answered, "1260."

"What happened to him?"

"She happened." Colin patted Yoshi on the shoulder.

Dark hair swung as shook her head and rolled her eyes. "Anyway, he tried to become Master before his time and it didn't work."

Clarion nodded and stood up straight, clearly bored with the path of the current conversation. "That's great and all and we can add a new item into the search, but that's not why I woke you up."

Yoshi was amused as she turned towards Clarion. "You were just going to let me sleep through all this excitement?"

Colin scoffed. "Hell, I wanted to wake you hours ago, but she said, "no let her sleep.'" He huffed causing them all to smile. "So go on then and tell her why you woke her, cause this I want to see." He smirked.

Clarion ignored the Irishman, grabbed Yoshi's hand, and pulled her towards the altar. She let out a small breath and looked up at the tall woman who was beginning to eye her with a small amount of suspicion. "I want you to pick it up." She didn't bother to cut her eyes towards the sword, since Yoshi's eyes automatically fixed on the sword.

The Hunter shook her head vigorously. "We've tried this." She sighed and spoke quietly, "I can't."

Colin coughed loudly. "Oh, come on, it's not like you can't get your dick up-- just pick it up."

Two sets of evil eyes sliced in Colin's direction, but the man stood his ground. Yoshi gritted her teeth and Clarion just sneered. "Not another word now, or I'm kicking you out."

Colin barely nodded. "I'm just giving encouragement."

Yoshi hissed at him as Clarion spoke with a slightly pronounced Cajun accent. "Much obliged, but no thank you." She turned her attention back to Yoshi and began to calm herself. "Like I said, I want you to pick up the sword." Yoshi began to protest, but Clarion cut her off with a wave of her hand. "No bull pahtna', just pick it up." She smiled warmly at Yoshi and let go of her hands as she moved to the side.

Yoshi stood before the altar and pinched the bridge of her nose as she sighed. She turned her head to the right and looked at the silent encouragement of Clarion's smile. "Clarion, we've done this…I, I can't." She let out a breath of dejected air.

Clarion was still all smiles. "Please--

"But Claire--

"Please, just pick it up for me, just try." She caught Yoshi's gaze, before blue eyes could focus on the floor, and held her there.

"What purpose does this serve? What for?" She moved her hands as she spoke.

Clarion sighed and Colin answered to her dismay. "Look you lug, regardless of rituals and babies, Stolov needs to be stopped…killed. And we all know, no toothpick of a sword's gonna do it, we need this…so fucking stop being a baby and pick it up."

The words seemed odd coming from Colin and Clarion wanted to go on the defensive, but perhaps there was method in his madness. Surprisingly, Yoshi didn't fly into the expected rage and only stood there facing the sword. Hair, the color of a starless night, lay across the span of her shoulder blades, as she looked down at the sword. She kept her hands at her sides, not yet having the mental strength to even reach for the sword of Magnus. The Hunter stood quietly for a full minute with the eyes of her friends upon her. With a heavy heart and what she deemed a weak spirit she reached for the pommel of the sword. To her enemies it would have been a moment of triumph to see the great Yoshima struggle to even grip the blade of the sword; and that she did. Small beads of perspiration gathered at her temples as she closed her hands around the pommel and began to pull up.

Clarion watched until the pain became too great for her. She touched a gentle hand to the small of Yoshi's back. "It's okay." Yoshi let go and only remained in place because she felt Clarion's hand at her back. She hung her head. Colin ached to give Yoshi an earful of his own wisdom, but perhaps it was not his belligerent off-color remarks that she needed. He met the green eyes that were searching for his own eyes and waited. "Colin, can you give us a minute?" He nodded. "Grab the lap and tell boys what's up."

"Sure." He picked up one of the lap tops and began to move towards the door. He turned to Clarion and mouthed the words, "she can pick it up."

Clarion nodded and added just as silently, "I know."

When Colin exited the room Clarion situated herself in between the altar and Yoshi. She placed her hands on Yoshi's cheeks, effectively cupping her face. "Hey, look at me." Her tone wasn't forceful, but careful. Slowly, the dark head raised just enough so that she could meet her eyes. "You okay in there?"

Yoshi sighed and grabbed Clarion's hands at the wrists and took them away from her face. She let go of the wrists and held Clarion's hands. "I've been better, but what do you want me say, I can't do the one thing we need."

Clarion shook her arms causing Yoshi's to shake as well. "Look, will you just listen to me for a second."

Yoshi's ears picked up on the faint sound of annoyance in Clarion's voice. "Of course I will."

"Good, just clear your mind of all the bullshit and just trust me." She made sure she had Yoshi's attention. "You trust me right?" The Hunter grinned as if the question was ludicrous and nodded. Clarion was mindful of not raising her eyebrow in skepticism. "You trust me? I mean really." Yoshi tried to pull back, but Clarion held on. "Really, I mean you're not afraid that one night I'm just going to roll over and rip out your jugular?" Yoshi looked at the redhead oddly. She wasn't fearful of the woman in front of her, but she didn't know how to answer, so she could only shrug. "What's that supposed to mean, either you do or you don't Yoshi." She allowed the barest hint of anger to filter into her voice in the hopes of goading the Hunter.

Again, Yoshi tried to pull away but the small hands held tight. She blinked rapidly in confusion at the situation, but managed to gather her thoughts. "Of course I trust you…I love you."

Clarion kept a straight face. "You love me?" She spat out the words like they were a bad joke. "And that's supposed to make everything all right?" On the inside she cringed at pushing so hard, but she kept her face void of emotion.

Yoshi matched the strong grip that Clarion had on her hands and stood her ground. She let out a breath and answered, "yes." It sounded like a question the first time she said it, but the second yes came with more authority, and then the third was tempered with finality. "The only thing that matters is that I love you, there is nothing else, and it does make it all right."

On the inside she was jumping for joy. "And this is what you want-- me…us, this is it?"

Nostrils flared as she answered. "What?" She breathed and calmed herself and pulled Clarion to her so that there was no space between their lower halves. "What do you mean is this what I want? How can you ask me that? Do you know where I've been?" She sighed realizing that she was getting off topic. "Never mind, you listen to me." Blue eyes mirrored the intensity that was in green. "I love you and that's all that matters. If you just want to pick and run away, well then f-f-fuck it, let's go." Clarion couldn't keep in the grin that pulled at the corners of her mouth. "I won't lie, I don't know if I trust you all the time, but that's only because I don't know if I trust myself all the time. But what ever I may be scared of, what ever freaks me out, I'm not that worried because I have you. I do have you don't I? I mean you're with me as much as I am with you? Am I wrong?"

Clarion just shook her head and let a full smile come to her face as she let her forehead rest on Yoshi's chest. "Are the answers on my shirt?" Clarion pulled back and then immediately raised her head and planted a thorough kiss on Yoshi's lips. "The answer isn't there either smart ass, so don't say it." Clarion said as ended the kiss. "I am with you, just like I should be and just like I want to be. There are things about us that make my hair stand on end, but where I come from, you just go with it ya know." Yoshi nodded. "I just want to be sure. You know I'm not big on responsibility. I'm like a 16-year-old with a new license, who just got the keys to the brand new Porsche. I may not know what the hell I'm doing, but that's not going to stop me from going 125mph." They both chuckled. "Look we both know the same thing. The difference is, I believe it. You and I both know you can pick that sword up, it's completely within you. You just have to want it."

She kissed the top of Clarion's forehead. "I know it is and I do want. I want badly, but I'm just---" Her words ended in a sigh.

"I know what you mean, you're just kind of used up. Not really empty, but so very tired." Yoshi could only nod at the truth of the statement. "Will you let me be that for you then. Just open up enough to let me be that for you. I know you love me and you trust me, at least as far as you could throw me. And that is pretty far." She stopped to laugh. "Have faith in me that I have the strength to handle your burdens. Hell, have faith that I have the strength to carry my own. What you don't have, I do, and vice versa. I'm so sick and tired of hearing about who used to be and what you used to be…this is all I know of you. I know the woman rescued me time and time again. I know Yoshima who opened up just enough to believe my bullshit, because I was pretty shady in the beginning." They both laughed.

"Yeah you were, but I so wanted to believe you."

"Then believe me now. If you can muster the strength I'm not going let you down or go."

Yoshi didn't quite have the words to say what she felt in that moment, but the wide smile she wore was filled only with love and awe at the woman before her. "You're really sure about this aren't you?"

Clarion nodded deeply. "Did I mention I wouldn't be wearing any seatbelts when driving that car."

"Not an airbag in sight, huh?"

"Defeats the purpose, baby. I'd rather explode into the cosmos then fizzle in pool of stagnate water."

Yoshi cocked her eyebrow. "That's odd statement, but it works."

"Good, so reach that hand out and just pick it up."

Yoshi took a deep breath and one last look at Clarion and then turned her attention to the sword. With her left hand she held onto Clarion's right and using her right hand, she gripped the handle without effort and let out a breath. Without looking at Clarion she spoke. "You know, if this doesn't work you owe me twenty bucks or something?"

"I'll double that if you do it girlie." Colin stood in the doorway and grinned.

"You're on." And with that she pulled up on the handle.

There were no bells or whistles as the blade left its stand. Light did not break forth from the heavens and the winds didn't swirl with might. But, there was a rumbling. There was a deep, charismatic and wonderful rumbling. The Hunter laughed. She chuckled as the blade cleared the stand and as she held the massive sword in her hand. She raised and lowered the blade in disbelief of her actions, but all the while she shook with laughter. She squared the blade, the hilt even with her sternum and breathed in the metal. She carved lazy eight's through the air not once, but twice and then squared the blade again. This time she caught the reflection of her eyes in the three inch expanse of steel and for a moment her breath caught. She saw what Colin idolized, what Clarion always believed, and what she had forgotten: she was magnificent. Blue eyes that were no longer weary with self-doubt, or lack luster with self-disgust, were once again a determined blue that wavered between cobalt and the blue of the sky right before dusk.

Now, the blade cut through air with more force. She made sweeping arcs and fierce downward strokes that were all controlled with turn of her wrists and the movement of her fingers. She wrote her name in the air just for the hell of it and the blade moved as if it had no weight. Clarion watched in awe from her side and began to ease her hand out of Yoshi's. In the doorway, Colin could only smile as he saw the warrior come to life. Without even batting an eye, Yoshi raised her other hand to the sword and gripped the pommel with both hands. What she could do with one hand paled in comparison to the show she put on with two. Like a schoolgirl, Clarion shivered with excitement, backed up to a spot next to Colin, and watched. The air became audible as Yoshi sliced through imaginary attackers as she ran through several forms. The blade moved over her head, around her body, tossed from hand to hand, drawn across her body, pushed out and back, and repeated all over again. All at once she came to a stop, squaring the blade once more and catching her reflection once again-- not to marvel at a relic of the past, but to say hello to the awesome sight of a Hunter's future.

She breathed deeply as she opened and closed her eyes slowly. The blade, she held to her side as she turned in the direction of Clarion and Colin, who stood in their spots by the entrance. She smirked. "I guess I figured it out." She shrugged and then flipped the blade by its pommel, inadvertently bobbling the heavy sword, nearly dropping it. She grimaced but still chuckled and then placed the sword carefully on its stand. "We'll just leave that there." All three burst into laughter.

"I'm proud of you, buggar. Glad you listen to her." He squeezed Yoshi's shoulder and winked at Clarion.

"So am I." She put her arm around Clarion and pulled the shorter woman to her.

"Now we can call the boys and tell them some good news." Colin nodded.

"That's not the only people we should be calling."

Colin grinned like the Devil at Yoshi's statement. "Ready to send up the bat signal are we?"

She nodded. "Yeah, let's do this. I got a feeling time's a wastin'."

Colin pounded his fist into his open palm. "Great, I was beginning to think I was the only one."

Clarion smiled as she watched Colin bound out of the room like a teenager just set free from punishment. "He's awfully happy." She wrapped her arms around Yoshi's waist and looked up at her.

Yoshi kissed the small nose before her and grinned. She sobered quickly as she spoke. "He's always happy when we go to war."

"War, eh?"

She shrugged. "I thought that might sound less cheesy than saying " saving the world.'"

Clarion laughed out loud. "You're horrible, but okay. To war!" She raised her fist in the air.

Yoshi chuckled at the shorter woman pumping her fist. "Actually, it's more like, to arms."

Clarion furrowed her brow. "What about my arms?"

Yoshi sighed and let go of Clarion. "How about you stay in the car while this all happens?" The dark woman, could barely hold in her laugh as she watched the redhead scowl.

"You tell me to stay in the car one more time, I'm gonna put my foot in your ass." She pointed her finger at the retreating woman. "What do I look like to you, huh? Huh?"

"You look like a beautiful creature of--

"Creature! What!" Clarion wanted to laugh as the taller woman stumbled over her words and backed herself into a corner both literally and figuratively.

"Woman! Woman! That was what I was trying to say. What a creature of womanhood you, my God you're gorgeous!" She held up her hands as Clarion encroached on her space. "Please don't hurt me."

Clarion burst into laughter. "I believed you right up until then." She stood on her toes and kissed Yoshi. She tugged on her hand pulling her from the wall. "Let's get this show on the road and maybe we can have a little quiet time to ourselves."

"It doesn't have to be quiet, ya know. I'm real partial to loud."

Clarion stopped, not believing her ears. Gone was the stoic Hunter of three words and here was this cocky warrior with bright eyes and more smirks than Clarion could count. "Have you been hiding this cock-sure punk all this time? Shit yea! I'm shocked and appalled but I love it. And you know what, if we don't save the world, I think we might just destroy it." She smiled and got a kiss on the cheek as they left the library.

"Hey, no air bags right?"

Clarion could only smile as she felt the surge of energy pass between them, and as much as it scared her it made her feel whole in a way that she would never be able to explain. She gave Yoshi's hand a squeeze as they walked down the hall and then threw her fist in the air, yelling, "To Arms!"

Yoshi rang out the words with her until their voices seemed to fill every room and every passageway. Colin stood over the computer in the kitchen typing away and smiling as he listened to the women howl with laughter and shout the words into the air. Colin nodded his head as he typed and felt himself fill with the hope that he had been clawing at for months. Finally, he thought to himself, finally….to arms.

* * *

Chapter 15

Return to Main Page