Jade, Hizuka and their mentor Fang watched as Rachel sagged to the ground, exhausted, Jade's older sister had just finished the final stage of a series of punishing rituals that none of their guests had been allowed to witness due to clan tradition, some of them who had fought Rachel when she was the Ruby Spider and had also seen her change her ways and search for redemption as the vigilante Shoukan had protested; but Jade had explained that this was one of the Eagle Clans most oldest and sacred rituals and it was kept secret.
The truth was that Jade had been terrified that her friends would have tried to help Rachel or protested at the rituals severity and as a result despite good intent; would have doomed the former villaness to ritual execution.
At a nod from one of the masked elders, Hizuka paced forward and activated her magic, bright shining blue bandages extended from her fingers and cocooned the battered young woman and healed the injuries she had taken during the rituals.
Rachel had had to face the trial by blade, where she had stood in place, legs chained to the floor as each of the elders threw a shuriken close enough to cut strips of skin away from her exposed arms and leg. Blood still stained the sandy floor of the ritual chamber from this.
Other trials had involved recanting and explaining her crimes committed while under the malign influence of the clans immortal enemy; Lord Hideoyoshi. For each crime she spoke of, she was struck with a bamboo pole.
Other even more brutally punishing rituals had been carried out at Rachels' request – she had wanted to go through everything in order to prove she was still a child of the Eagles. As Hizuka finished healing her wounds as far as her powers could go. Rachel was released from the bandages and handed a grey kimono.
“Rachel Hasegawa! You have done well in recanting your sins, this is the only reason why the Sapphire Hawk has been permitted to heal your wounds from the trials. However, there is one more issue we must discuss before you are allowed back into the clan”.
Rachel looked up in confusion. “What task must I face?”
“No task child, you have within you the guardian spirit of the Spider Clan one of our sworn enemies, we have to decide whether or not to remove it”.
Jade stepped forward at once her eyes blazing green with power; “I would speak for the penitent one”.
The masked elder stepped forwards holding up one hand. “Jade, we cannot allow you to speak, you did well in returning her to us as it is”.
“I am not Jade”. People gasped as Jade's entire body grew bright green and she hovered slightly off the floor. “I am her guardian spirit, Asuka”.
The elders bowed in respect. “You are channelling through Jade?”
The spirit laughed. “In a way yes, Jade wanted to speak for her sister but knew she could not, I however, can”.
Fang stepped forwards. “Asuka speaks true, the words of our guardian spirit can over-ride that of the council, however the guardian spirit has not chosen to speak in this manner for decades”.
Jade's head bobbed as Asuka carried on. “You fear that the spider spirit within her is evil, it is not, it has manifested alongside myself and Hitomi when needed to fight a powerful foe.
“What you say shows merit, but we need to speak to the spider spirit, but we do not know its name to summon it forth.”
Asuka laughed, it was a strangely musical yet cold sound. “Hitomi and I can call her out”.
Sapphire stepped forwards, now glowing blue as her avatar took hold. “True speak, we can call her to speak to you, however like us. she is aware of everything said in this room and what you have done to her host, she will not be in a good mood”.
Asuka and Hitomi waited, glowing with energy as they council decided to risk it. “Mitsuki join us!”
Rachel climbed to her feet slowly as she glowed red her avatar fully awakening. “You have finished torturing my host?”
“She had to pay for her transgressions against her Clan and her own bloodline!”
Mitsuki shook Rachels head, irritation masking her face. “She has been paying for it ever since she regained control of her mind, if her sister and Sensei can forgive her, then her clan should too.”
Mitsuki shook her head and let her true battle form take place, she now looked like a drider of legend with Rachels' body held inside it like a cocoon. “You can tell the moron hiding behind the wall that I am shielding and fully bonded with Rachel, you will not be able to drag me out unless she and I want it to happen”.
A shame faced council member came out from behind the wall holding a crystal tuned for spirit trapping. “Are you saying you are bonded with her for good purposes?”
A simple nod by the spirit as she looked at the council members. “You are forgetting the spirit chooses the host, I was forced into her by the Spiders but not allowed to bond to her properly due to the drugs and mind control they were using, now we are bonded”.
Fang stepped forwards. “I ask the spirits to recede back to hosts, the longer you are manifest the more tired they are and they have their wedding to get through”.
The spirits nodded and receded back leaving three tired looking ninjas in robes. The elders nodded to each other and then to Fang before leaving in silence. Rachel looked on in confusion. “Hang on...they did not say whether I was forgiven or forsaken”.
Fang grinned and hugged her. “You are forgiven my child, you are finally part of the family and clan once more”. Jade and Hizuka ran over and joined the group embrace, tears of all four people rolling down their faces with joy and relief.
“Jade”. Fang sighed as he broke up the reunion. “It is time to get dressed for the ceremony, you and Hizuka must go change for the Bonding ritual, Rachel; you too must change I have provided robes for you in the guest room of the family lodge”.
“Hai”. They all ran off at speed and Fang walked outside with a tired sigh. He turned as he heard the rustle of leaves nearby. “Hello Athena”.
White Owl dropped to the ground neatly, her white costume glimmering in the bright sunshine. “Fang it is good to see you once more, the girls looked happy, all is well?”
Fang nodded as they sat on a worn stone bench. Rachel is of the Eagles once more, I have all of my students and family that is alive back once again”. He sighed and looked up at the falling cherry blossoms. “I am glad I saw it while there was still time”.
Athena took the old warriors hand. “Fang? What is it?”
He chuckled at her show of compassion and alarm. “Nothing to worry about, I just feel my age sometimes, I am a pensioner after all”. He stood up with vigour, his fatigue passing. “I promised to show you our archives and museum, we have time before the ritual, it will be two hours at least before the girls are ready”.
Athena grinned and took his arm as they walked into the clans archive temple. Fang nodded towards a Jade statue that dominated the room. “Jade's mother”. Athena walked with him to see the statue, Jade was certainly following her mother, even so far as to be almost identical to her. Athena remembered though that Jade had her fathers eyes and his sense of humour rather then that of her mother. She gazed in awe at the valuable statues and artefacts as Fang continued to explain the history of the clans further.
“There is one thing I do not understand fully”. Athena frowned as she shaped the question in her mind. “I thought the Spider Clan lords founded all of the clans?”
Fang nodded. “True but when the Clans were summoned before the Emperor; The Spiders tried to assassinate him and seize power for themselves”. He sighed sadly. “The clans have been at war ever since, you have had time to look around child, you have seen how low our numbers are now, some of the other clans are barely in existence now”.
Athena nodded as they walked back outside “It is such a shame that allies have turned on each and fought like this for centuries”.
“This is true, hence the importance of this bonding ceremony, it should promote more inter clan pairings”. The two friends walked onwards chatting as they waited for the ceremony to start.
Tiffany Johnson, otherwise known as the Crimson Valkyrie was having a more energetic time, sparring with some of the Eagle Clans fighting instructors, she had decided to to use her powers other then to be transformed to her heroine persona, but had soon found herself impressed by how fast and powerful some of these teachers were/ She jumped backwards avoiding a powerful thrust kick that would have knocked her senseless with the impact, grabbed the leg and span throwing her sparring partner out of the sparring circle.
The warrior shakily regained his feet and bowed. “I yield to you, I see why You were taken as a blood sister by Jade, she speaks highly of you and all her allies”.
Crimson nodded and turned as footsteps echoed across the arena floor. “It is time for the Ceremony of Bonding”.
Crimson turned and filed out with the other females in the room and accepted the ceremonial gown she was offered, it fit well over her costume. She walked outside along with everyone else to the open aired area beneath the peach and cherry trees to observe the ceremony she smiled as she saw a pale, tied but excited face amongst her friends. Rachel was in ceremonial robes too and had removed her mask She raised one eyebrow and got a nod. Crimson smiled as she turned to watch Jade be escorted up the gravel path by Fang. Happy to see Jade at peace and to know that someone who once she had come close to killing as an enemy, was now cemented with luck to the path of light once more.
The ceremony as mostly carried out in Japanese, but there as no mistaking the emotions on display as Jade and Hizuka each lifted out a pendant from around their necks split it in two then joined them together as part of each others. They then linked hands and stood face to face, the green and blue ceremonial robes blending together in the slight breeze as their hands were bound together with a thin silken cord.
“You are now bonded for eternity, by love, by soul and by mission, you may kiss”. Fang finished in English for everyone to understand and everyone cheered as Jade and Hizuka kissed softly in front of the gathering.
The witnesses soon peeled away leaving Jade, Hizuka and her guests and mentor Fang. A messenger ran up to Fang and handed a scroll to him before running off.
“You finally did it little sister!” Rachel hugged them both, you fulfilled your honour oath and got married in the same day!”
Jade giggled and hugged her sister back. “What now?”
Fang smiled, all of you go to the Hasegawa home and celebrate, I will join later if able, I must return to the Prophecy hall for a moment”.
“Grandfather?” Jade watched him walk away. “I do not understand”.
Crimson smiled at her. “He probably wants to let the younger folk get it out of their systems before he arrives”.
Jade smirked at that. “Maybe but he does have his responsibilities now he runs the clan”. The girls all went to Jades home and started to celebrate. Fang however had no mind for partying. He re-entered the hall he had earlier shown Athena around, however he now went over to a statue where they had chatted but pulled on one of its arms and a secret panel opened. “Wish I could have shown Athena this but even I cannot break this taboo”.
Fang paced rapidly into the dusty room and knelt before an altar. “What have you seen, Master Spirit?”
A pale figure that resembled Jade but looking older formed in front of him. It held out a scroll that became solid as soon as he touched it. “A dark year approaches for your granddaughters, that scroll has the details”.
“Give me information Master, I beg of you!” Fang flicked the scroll open and raised his eyes after a second in horror.
“The information is there Fang”. The the voice as ever sounded light and musical even during a dark omen. “One of the avatars will not survive the year, it will be totally destroyed. Host and Spirit killed.”
“The Avatars cannot be killed!” Fang shook his head in disbelief, I feel you are wrong my Master”.
“Fang I hope you are right, no prophecy is ever fully correct, but this one feels like it will, there is danger too for all allied to the Jade Eagle and Sapphire Hawk, there is a year of Darkness coming, the Lords of Shadow are on the move. Jade and Hizuka are ready now, but the others? That remains to be seen”.
Fang collapsed to the ground, shaking. “I cannot tell this to them on the wedding day!”
“Then do not, wait until they are back in America, or do not tell them at all, if makes no difference”.
The following morning as everyone gathered for the trip back, Fang looked tired and with drawn but smiled and bade goodbye to his students and friends. “Fang? Are you not returning with us?”
He looked to Athena and shook his head. “I cannot yet, but I have need of your aid my friend”.
Athena nodded and smiled. “Of course, how can I help?”
“Fang handed her a sealed scroll casing. “I hope to be in America soon If I am not back my Valentines day, please give this to my students, it is a prophecy for the coming year, I wish them to study it deeply, it does not begin until March so that will give them time to prepare”.
Athena nodded a sombre look on her face. “Something is wrong isn't it?”
Fang shook his head then sighed. “I do not know for certain, that this prophecy is accurate, but one thing in it I do believe, Jade and Hizuka re about to face the biggest test of themselves and their powers in the coming months”.
Athena stowed the tube quickly as Jade came over, “We have to get moving, I will see you soon Grandfather”. She hugged him close and kissed the old warrior on the cheek then ran with Athena for the boat back to mainland Japan.
Fang shook his head and sighed. “I am getting too old for this, the spirit better be wrong, I must pray and meditate.”
He returned to the temple and shut himself inside, his heart heavy with dread.