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Walking With The Dead

by P L Nunn


Chapter Sixteen


Ryo stepped onto the boat without an inkling of what he might expect. Various depressing scenarios presented themselves. Nasty things. Hurtful things. Seiji's hand on his back was like some creeping, crawling unease that had found its way under his skin and refused to let go its pervasive hold. But Seiji had other things to occupy his thoughts and stepped away from Ryo the moment the both of them were up the warped plank and safely on the deck of the boat. He said something in Arabic to the numerous swarthy natives, the lot of which were eyeing Ryo with suspicion and the vaguest taint of violence. In the darkness he couldn't recognize faces. All he saw was dark skin and beards and turbaned heads. If any of the men here had been in that room the night he'd fled -- if any of them had been the ones that had -- laid hands on him -- well, there was no telling tonight. Almost, he wished he did recognize a face. An uncharacteristic thirst for a bit of vengeance welled up inside him. A frustrated need for a little violence perpetrated by his own hand, when so much of the savagery of late had been committed against him.

But not quite against Seiji. That was a quandary of confusion that he couldn't seem to breach. Love/hate. Friend/foe. Seiji/not-Seiji. An enemy who merely used Seiji's shell and knew nothing of the soul that it belonged to was one thing, but this one knew things. This one had fooled them all for so long, drawing upon things that only Seiji knew and that only Seiji did. As if Seiji were a part of it. Seiji was. He had to be. As repulsive a thought as it was, Ryo knew that some of the things this body thief had done to him were the things that Seiji held close to his soul. That Seiji hid away, deep and dark and mostly forbidden. But not always.

Someone barked a foreign phrase and men scrambled to cast off lines. The boat was drawn slowly out into the current of the dark water. The lights of Cairo flickered behind them, growing steadily smaller. In a moment of uncertainty, Ryo slipped the phone out his pocket and into a coil of unused rope, in no way assured that he might not find himself in a position where he might find himself bereft of the sheild of clothing and Seiji would find it.

But Seiji was drawn to the river. Drawn to standing at the rail and staring southeasterly. Whatever they were heading for held a great deal of reverence for the creature inside Seiji's shell. For this ancient dead Queen that had struck a bargain and taken it beyond all expectation.

Ryo leaned against the wooden deckhouse, hair a constant tickle against his face, almost cool in the night air off the river, and watched Seiji watching the distant shore.

"What's out there?" he asked softly, bringing attention to himself against his better judgment.

Seiji half turned his head, pale hair ghostly in the moonlight. Pale skin like the finest china. Breathtaking, even when you knew there was a monster inside.

"What's out there? The Nile. The Valley. It never changes. Do you know, that in all these years, it never changes. The desert eats at the world like a cancer and then the floods come and give it a breath of life. Do you see those trees? Those crops that thrive at the shores of the river? A few hundred yards beyond and there's desert again. Astonishing, isn't it?"

"That's what you came to see?"

"No. I hate it. I've always hated it. It was never my home. I came from another place. Brought here and given in marriage. Not my choice. But then, it never is."

Ryo took a breath, shivering at the foreign words, the foreign recollections coming out of Seiji's lips, in Seiji's soft, perfectly accented voice.

"Thebes wasn't so terrible. Thebes was civilized. A myriad collection of cultures -- and religions. That's what he hated about it, my oh so esteemed husband. He hated dwelling with the common man -- with the common man's religion. He thought since he was almost a god, that he should have a religion of his own. A religion for all of those blooded people so far above the rank and file. The cult of Aten, they called it. It never did go over very well. The people preferred the old gods and the people, after all, are the backbone of the empire. So he built a new city. A city for the royals and the blooded. Akhetaten he called it. They call the ruins of it Tel-el Amarna now. He built his city and walled it in, and separated himself from all the world. Egotistical man, my esteemed husband. Anenhotep, the heretic king. But you met him, didn't you? You saw what an pretentious little man he was. I suppose he did have a taste for you. He always did like the occasional boy in his bed. They never lasted. His attention span was limited. When he sat me aside, he had another young wife to warm his bed within days. Amazing that the moment I took a lover -- or two -- the ax came down. Literally."

"That's why -- why you agreed to help -- Seiji -- find me? When we were in hell. Because you wanted vengeance?"

A shrug. "That and the desire to be free of the prison he'd sat me in. He deprived me of so much. He deprived me of my afterlife. He separated my Ka and Ba and left me a ghost that he then trapped in a stone vessel. I'm incomplete."


"I have the one. I need the other."

"Is that where we're going?"

"Smart boy. That's where we're going."

"And when you have it? What then?"

"Why then, I start to live again. Then I start to enjoy the freedom I never knew before."

"And what about Seiji? What happens to him?"

Seiji turned then, elbows on the rail, a slight smile on his lips. "Do you really want to know, Ryo?"

Ryo looked down, away from those familiar/alien eyes. "Its wrong." He whispered. "Everything you've done is wrong. Your life was stolen from you and you regret it. Yet you turn around and do it to somebody else. He tried to help you."

"He tried to help himself." Seiji pushed himself off the rail and padded towards Ryo. "And you're a fool to think otherwise. Tried to help me!!! Ha. I was a path towards what he really wanted. You. And I gave him that. Without me, he never would have defeated Anenhotep's creature. Without me, you would have died of that wretched poison in Anenhotep's bed and all your precious friends would have likely shared a similar fate. So don't presume to preach to me. I've paid and paid and I'll have no more of it. I like this body and this power it gives me and I like this world I've awoken in. I will do terrible things to anyone who tries to take them from me. Do we understand one another?"

He didn't answer that. He ground his teeth and fought the urge to grab Seiji by the lapels and slam him into the rail.

"Ryo-?" Seiji prompted an answer. Another quality shared by Seiji and his passenger -- a need for obedience in certain things.

"I will stop you. He'll stop you."

"Fool. Stubborn, stubborn fool. You can't do anything to me and he -- he's weak and scared and almost out of time. He doesn't care anymore! He'd rather be dead. You realize that, don't you? That what he wants most now, is oblivion? If you care for him, don't fight the inevitable. He won't."

"Fuck you." There was wetness on his cheeks and he hated it. He refused to raise a hand and wipe it away. Maybe Seiji didn't even see it in the darkness.

"Later, sweet" A sibilant promise. "After we've found my Ba."

It wasn't that long a trip. Not by a boat with a motor steadily making her way down the Nile. Less than three hundred miles, if Ryo was any judge. A good deal less, perhaps. He refused sleep -- sat on the deck all night watching the shadowy shore pass by and in the shade of the boathouse the next day, eyeing the passage of Seiji's men, trying to mark a recognizable feature here, or there that would let him know who he might endeavor to take down first when the time came and how hard he planned to do it. No one bothered him. Not even Seiji, who he couldn't have stopped if he'd wanted to. They passed him by like a particularly surly dog, that they held little respect for, yet still hesitated to get within biting distance of. He'd found the phone during the hours of early morning, when Seiji had retreated inside to presumably catch a few hours of sleep and dialed the number of Rowan's cell, hoping against hope that Rowan had the damn thing with him and Ryo hadn't been a fool to run off without asking that all too important bit of information. Rowan did. Rowan was pissed off and impatient and cursed a great deal while Ryo was trying to get a word or two in edgewise. He eventually told them where they were headed. He hoped he got the pronunciation correct enough for them to relay it to someone who could get them there in his wake.

It was almost night again when the boat began heading for the shore. A desolate shore. Not much in the way of greenery. No one had bothered to cultivate this land even though the earth was fertile this close to the Nile. Not a safe area for farming, Seiji said when he asked. Not a safe area to be at all, in the midst of an area riddled with terrorists and strife. It was why Tel-el-Amarna was not the tourist trap that the Great pyramids were, or the Valley of the kings. The threat of death was always a detraction.

It took no time at all for the earth to turn dry and arid. Stone and sand and dirt that seemed to stretch forever. Rocky, uneven terrain with the unappealing outline of canyons in the distance. The ruins of the city were like occasional bones protruding from the dry earth. A spine of some ancient building here, the shadow of a wall there. A column that had survived the ages, but mostly it was laid out by archeological lines secured to pegs driven into the hard ground. Mostly it was no more than a distant echo of what it had once been. But the city wasn't Seiji's destination. They trooped past it without a pause and hiked, what might only in the vaguest terms be considered a trail, beyond it towards the canyons.

"Another idiosyncrasy of my esteemed husband." Seiji said. "Every other decent king built his burial ground on the west of the Nile, so that his soul could go to the sitting sun. Not Anenhotep. His he built beyond his royal city to the East. Fool."

Ryo said nothing, wondering if they'd venture down into the depths of those intimidating canyons at night with only flashlights to guide them. They didn't. They sat up camp in the lee of a great slab of stone. Some of Seiji's natives disappeared into the darkness with automatic weapons over their shoulders. Others built a small fire and pitched a series of pup tents. They warmed food and drank from canteens, sitting about in nervous intensity, whispering things that Ryo couldn't understand. Reverent things that echoed the reverent looks they cast at Seiji.

"In here." Seiji directed him, after a while, when they'd both had water and a bit of dinner. Ryo had refused everything but water and a few bites of bread, more from nerves than stubbornness. Seiji urged him into one of the little tents and slipped in behind him. Pressed up to his back and worked his hands down Ryo's arms to his wrists.

"I have something for you." He whispered against the hair at Ryo's neck, and produced a set of metal cuffs which he promptly snapped around Ryo's left wrist then his right.

"You don't have to --" Ryo started a protest.

"Yes, I do. I'll have no interference's in this." But that was all he did. Secure Ryo's wrists, then settle comfortably at his back, one arm draped over his waist, one leg pressing into the hollow Ryo's knees made.

He had to sleep. After going all last night without, there was no question but that exhaustion take its toll. He fell into a deep, dreamless slumber. Woke up with his face pressed into Seiji's shoulder and his cuffed hands nestled against Seiji's crotch. It was barely dawn, but there was enough light filtering through the nylon dome of the tent to make out the lines of tension on Seiji's sleeping face. To see the rapid movement of his eyes under his closed lashes, and the tight set of his mouth. One of Seiji's hands curled in Ryo's hair, clenching and unclenching. Dreams plagued him. Or nightmares. Or maybe it was a conflict between the two beings who presently occupied his body. Maybe in sleep, Seiji -- the real one -- could fight his way to the surface and vie for dominance.

"Seiji?" Ryo whispered.

The lips moved, murmuring something. The brows drew down. The fingers tightened in Ryo's hair pulling his head back. Blue eyes blinked open and focused on him. It took a moment for recognition to sit in.

"He's not here." The lips bent to Ryo's throat and pressed a soft lingering kiss there, tongue flickering over the salt of dried sweat. "But -- he'd like to be. I think we need a fix, sweet. Abdula!!" Seiji sat up, pushing Ryo away, calling for one of his minions, who promptly unzipped the tent flap and stuck his bearded face into the tiny space.

"See to him --" Seiji started, then corrected himself and repeated the phrase in Arabic.

"What? More drugs?" Ryo hissed, indignant at the notion.

Seiji didn't bother to answer, and the Egyptian grabbed Ryo's arm and hauled him out of the tent to grant his master the time needed to see to his/her needs.

Ryo took care of his own, grudgingly, with his hands still cuffed together before him and an overly attentive Egyptian at his back. Maybe one of the ones who'd laid hands on him back at the temple. He wasn't sure, but the look in the man's eyes hinted at interest.

Ryo zipped up, turned around and met the man's dark eyes, his own paler one's dead serious and dangerous. They didn't need to speak the same language for the meaning to be clear. He wasn't playing at being a victim now, cuffs or no cuffs and wouldn't tolerate being viewed as one. At least not from Seiji's bunch of scruffy natives. From Seiji --- ? That was a more uncertain matter.

He struggled with the temptation of awareness. Of cognizance of something other than the void into which he'd sank. A grateful oblivion. A welcome one. Interrupted by a desperate query and a set of wide blue eyes. Damn him. Damn the stubborn, stupid fool for coming back when he'd been told in no uncertain terms to flee. How could Seiji embrace dissolution when Ryo had placed himself back into the mix?

It was warm in the void she had forced him into. Colder when he struggled back towards the surface. She held him at bay easily. She'd pumped more poison into his body and dulled the sharpness of his resistance. Not the smoke of opium that had so badly disoriented the both of them before. She'd procured her drug of choice and injected it back into his veins and he'd sank into peacefulness like the whipped thing that she'd made of him. Only thoughts of Ryo kept nagging at him until he hovered near the placid surface of reality. She didn't seem to mind him there, as long as he was dormant and bound by drugs and the strength of her age old will.

He saw through her eyes and felt what she felt. Remembered what she remembered. She knew the path. She was steadfast in her pursuit of it. Blind to everything else but the following of it. Glimpses of Ryo here and there caught his attention, but he could never hold the thought -- too easily baffled by the constant rippling of her contemplation's.

It was nothing more than a crevice in the wall of a ragged cliff face. A scar that wound up to the heights and was no more than the width of two men at the foot. The natives withdrew powerful halogen flashlights and ventured in without hesitation. She/he strode among them. A narrow, low ceilinged decent, as if this were nothing but a natural fissure. She put her hand on Ryo's arm when he had trouble keeping balance with his cuffed wrists and he glared and jerked away from the assistance.

She let him, smiling, distracted momentarily from her tunnel vision by his rebellion. She enjoyed it to a degree, Ryo's reluctance. Ryo's fortitude and his obstinacy. She took pleasure in overcoming them. Like Seiji, which made him shiver inside his prison at the similarity.

Leave him alone. It took everything he had to murmur that warning. She turned an inward eye on him, amused at his own willfulness.

No. Not for a river of gold or a peaceful journey into the afterlife. I enjoy him too much. He's a rare thing indeed and you've so thoroughly tamed him to your touch. And mine.

Bitch. He seethed. But of course it was true. Untamed. Seething, burning -- wildfire. And Seiji could quench the flame. Or allow himself to be consumed by it -- depending on his mood. And he'd accomplished the task so well that even now Ryo couldn't tear himself away from the shell that had been Seiji Date.


He hadn't the slightest notion which one of them he accused of idiocy.

There were steps carved into the stone. Steps strewn with rubble and crumbling here and there from earthquake or antiquity. It was no gilded passage. No painted walls and no royal trappings. At least none that had survived time and tomb raiders. There were along the walls the shallow cubbys of tombs cut into the stone. All of them desecrated, the plaster that had sealed them chipped away and what few funerary items that had been placed within with the mummified remains broken or stolen. It had been a place to bury servants to the Pharaoh. Servants to the royal house that deserved some semblance of honor since they had had contact with a living god. She seethed that she had been dishonored so by being placed among them.

He wondered how she even knew. He wondered how she could know this path when she'd been dead when she last traveled it. But then echoes of her thoughts and memories seeped into him and he knew. He felt the hovering spirituality of Her. Of her ka and her ba as they hovered over the remains of her physical body. He saw the shaved heads of the men who bore her here. The dark skin and white robes of the priests and the shamans who were to practice an atrocity upon her. And why? Because she had practiced what her very own husband was accomplished in. Because she had taken lovers with abandon when he sat her aside to indulge in his own.

A impact of memory and sensation that rocked him to the core. Of her/him spreading thighs and inviting an oiled and perfumed lover between them. Of penetration that was harsh and intrusive and wonderful all at the same time. Of her/his nails biting into a man's broad back, leaving bleeding gouges in their wake. Of knowing this man would treasure her/his mark because he worshipped her/him. Of beckoning another waiting in the shadows to take the first one's place and reveling in the thrust of his flesh inside her/him. And a third in this night of carnality that was in itself a vengeance. A black skinned grinning face over her/him, a presence inside her/his that sank into her/his guts like a proud fist and spilled its seed. Ah. True vengeance indeed. Anenhotep had thought her/him barren but it was his own seed that was deficient. And when she/he swole with child, he even thought it might have been of his making, until the babe was born with skin as dark as night, darker by far than any get of Anenhotep's had ever been. And he knew. He'd killed the babe and the servant from the north that fathered it. And her/him --- her/him he disposed of another way. For mocking him -- for making a fool of him -- he devised a terrible revenge. He stole from her/him the peace of the afterlife.

At the end of the corridor there were a few columns carved into the stone. Nothing to explore further. Nothing to tempt grave robbers. She/he hesitated, reliving the moment. Watching from some indistinct point above as a pristine priest lifted a hand and pressed at a innocuous chunk of stone. Something gave way. Stone shifted and sand and loose rock slid down to fill a gap somewhere. The column gave way just slightly. Just enough to let out a stale sliver of air and hint at a cool darkness beyond. The natives murmured. They rushed forward to put shoulders and backs to the column and force it further into the rock. A narrow passage was revealed beyond. It was lined with cobwebs and dust. Untouched for two thousand years.

Ryo hesitated at the opening, wide eyed and wary, as if he expected some slithery creature to crawl out at him from the darkness. One of the natives laid hands on him to force him forward and he snarled, jerking out of the grip. A rifle butt was raised to strike him for the impertinence and she/he lifted a hand at that. Damaging Ryo was no one's prerogative but hers -- his.

"Go on." She/he urged, putting a hand to the small of his back. "No snakes. Promise."

"How do you know?" A very wary Ryo who had never been fond of closed, dark spaces and who had developed a more recent phobia of snakes. "Because I do." She didn't know really, but lying came smoothly to her.

Into the darkness of the chiseled path with natives before them and natives behind, chasing the shadows away with the harsh beams of their lights. There was writing on the wall. Hieroglyphics. Runes and spells and a testament to her/his rightful punishment. She seethed and turned her eyes away. There was a narrow hole that slanted down at a dangerous angle. The natives were wary, but she/he forced them down it. She followed when they'd reached bottom safely and found herself in a hall fronting the sealed door of a final chamber.

"Break through it." She directed her men calmly. Behind it lay her goal. Beyond it lay the resurrection of her soul.

"Come on, Indiana, get a move on."

Kento paused in adjusting the rim of his new fedora long enough to glare at Rowan unappreciatively. Rowan was distracted enough not to care. Rowan was staring at the approaching shore line with focused intent. He barely heard Sai's bickering with the riverboat captain. The man had not been eager to take them out here where terrorists factions found the desolation and the rugged terrain fine hiding places. It had taken a great deal of money -- care of Seiji's plastic -- to bribe the impromptu trip. Sai was having to offer a good chunk more of it to have the man wait for a mere six hours for their return. God help them if they couldn't accomplish what they were about in that time. If they didn't, they'd probably all be dead anyway at the hands of the armor of Halo.

They were let out twenty yards from the reed lined shore. The water was a little more than chest level and they waded to the shore with packs held above their heads. At least Kento and Sai did. Sai wouldn't hear of letting Rowan shoulder his own weight. Sai wasn't happy about Rowan being here at all, but there was damn little choice and even Sai saw that.

They had a map, showing the river bank and their landing point and where the ruins of the city and the burial grounds beyond lay in relation to it. It was past dawn when they found the trail leading from the ruins of the city down to the canyons beyond it. None of them had slept the night before. There hadn't been the time or the inclination. They were running on adrenaline and hope now and no small bit of fear.

Finding the entrance to the set of tombs they wanted might have been a task in and of itself, had Seiji not thoughtfully left a man outside the crevice to guard his heels. Rowan took him down silently and efficiently with the handheld cross bow gun Kento and Sai had procured for him. The barb that lodged in the man's neck had enough sedative to knock out a horse. A man would instantly succumb.

They stepped over the body, Kento sliding into the shadows first, with a stout wooden staff in his hand and a grim set to his mouth. They all had flashlights, but only Sai used his, and that he shielded with a hand to prevent unwanted eyes drawn to their presence.

Rowan wished he might have had the time and the leisure to enjoy this. The shadowed glimpses of broken tombs were enough to wet his taste for discovery. Delving into the depths of this system of caves would have been a grand adventure at any other time. So ancient. Time worn and crafted by hands long turned to dust. At the end of the funerary corridor they found a passage revealed between the stone wall and a column recently shifted. Beyond that the world became even more immersed in the flavor of antiquity as Sai's shallow light danced over time worn writing on the wall.

Rowan felt the hairs on the back of his arms stand up in alarm. They were close.

There were six statues carved out of stone set about the walls of the central room. The walls were crowded with hieroglyphics. In the center was a platform upon which sat a stone sarcophagus, itself covered fully with line after line of picture script. Ceramic pots and jars sat about the base of the sarcophagus. About the outer edges of the platform a stone trench had been cut out of the bedrock. At the apex and foot of the dry moat, a stone rune sat.

Seiji walked about the sarcophagus silently, not setting foot over the trench, eyeing the dust filled writing, almost grazing a hand over this stone rune or that. Ryo thought he saw his lips moving, silently reciting the written words.

"This is -- where your body is?" Ryo asked, breaking into the deathly silence. His voice echoed eerily in the chamber. The natives stood nervously at the edges of the room, not daring to approach the sarcophagus. Ryo did. Ryo held very little fear of it, or any shriveled dried remains it might hold. It was the spirit of the thing inside that stone box that worried him.

Seiji held out a hand when he got to close, glaring a warning.

"Don't cross the line. Not yet. There are guardians that must be appeased before that which is imprisoned may be released." He took hold of Ryo's arm and pulled him away, towards the wall and one of the statues. "In fact, I think you're better off hobbled while I go about it."

He unlocked one of the cuffs and fastened it about the metal ring that adorned the nose of the bull headed statue. Ryo glowered and tested the security of the millennia old metal. It held fast. He wasn't going anywhere soon. Not of his own violation at any rate.

Seiji sat down, cross-legged outside the trench, and stared at the sarcophagus. Chin propped on the knuckles of one hand he softly mouthed the words inscribed on the stone box as he read, drawing his brows at times, biting his lip in confusion or displeasure at others.

The man that Ryo assumed to be the leader of Seiji's followers approached, whispering a question, indicating the rune stone at the head of the sarcophagus and Seiji nodded thoughtfully. He rose, taking the man's offered hand to assist himself to his feet and the both of them went to stand before the runestone.

"What's that supposed to be?" Ryo broke the reverent silence with his question. The native cast an irate glare at him. Seiji shrugged and explaining, having nothing to lose by doing so.

"Its the vessel which imprisons my Ba, My Ka was trapped in a similar one when your friend freed me. Its only a matter of breaking the spells that seal it and I shall be whole."

And once she was whole, Seiji wouldn't have the remotest chance of forcing her out. Ryo shivered, reflexively pulling at the cuff and accomplishing nothing more than tearing the skin of his wrist.

"And you think you can free it?"

"Yes. In fact, I was just reading how. Kind of them, don't you think to describe the process they went through to trap it? The fools. But we always did like to make a narration out of the trails of the dead."

"When are you going to do it?"

"Why, I believe I shall start now." A smile lit Seiji's face. Beautiful and eager and even a little bit turned on. He put his hands on that stone and began a whispery chant - - -

"Son of a bitch." Kento whispered and slammed an arm back, knocking Rowan into the wall and gesturing wildly for Sai to kill the flashlight. There steps coming up the inner tunnel. And the dim radiance of a light. Rowan held his breath. He felt Sai tense up next to him and Kento grip the staff tighter in his big hands. If whoever coming up that tunnel didn't see them against the wall, then it would only be by the luck of the gods. Rowan sent up a prayer to whatever gods might be lurking in this place asking just that.

Two of them. Trekking back up the path, either on patrol or sent to get something left behind. Either way, they had guns and most likely no hesitation about using them.

The gods must have heard Rowan's prayer, because the two were talking among themselves and not paying a great amount of heed to the path in front of them, more interested in flashing the beam of their lights over the writings of the walls they passed. Neither one saw the end of Kento's staff slam out of the shadows. It took the first one up against the side of the head and by the time the second one realized what was happening and was fumbling with the gun slung over his shoulder, Sai had darted out and swung the heavy flashlight full circle, clocking the man on the jaw hard enough to break bone.

"Hey, we've got guns." Kento remarked, crouching over the bodies.

"Leave them." Sai warned. "I don't like guns."

"Guns have their place." Rowan argued, not minding the evening of the odds a little.

"We're not out to kill people." Sai reminded the both of them.

"Just Seiji." Rowan hefted one of the guns.

"Rowan, you know what I mean. Leave it."

"No. You take it. It might be a good distraction if I can't get in a good shot at Seiji right away." He tossed the thing at Sai and Sai unwillingly caught it.

"I hate guns, Rowan."

"Yeah, well. Get over it. None of them are gonna have the slightest conflict over filling us with lead."

Kento slung the other one over his shoulder with an apologetic shrug at Sai and started down the tunnel again.

There was another guard standing over a dark opening in the floor. Rowan took him out with another silent crossbow dart. That was four down plus the one man they'd seen guarding Seiji's base camp. From what they'd been able to see that night at the dock and from what Ryo had been able to discern when he'd called them that one time, Seiji had about a ten guys with him. That meant there were five more still watching his back. Rowan had six more darts and had no intention of wasting them before he got to Seiji. Which meant somebody might have to go down harder than Sai might like.

Down the hole into the dark unknown and they found themselves in a short outer chamber with the shards of a very recently broken stone seal littering the floor. The man guarding this last portal had his back to them, intent on watching whatever was happening inside. Stupid of him. Seiji really needed to get better guards.

Kento, who could be damn quiet when it suited him, crept up from behind and wrapped one thick arm about the man's neck and the other over his mouth, dragging him backwards even as Sai rushed forward to wrestle the gun from the man's hands. It took the impact of Kento's rather hard forehead against the back of the man's head to quiet him.

Sai slipped up to the ragged portal and risked a quick look inside. He drew back and nodded silently to Rowan and Kento. Held up four fingers to indicate that there were four more men inside in addition to Seiji.

Ryo? Rowan mouthed. Sai took another quick look and nodded, then tapped at his wrist and gave Rowan a frown. Ryo was incapacitated then, which sucked for them not having that extra bit of help. Then again, it might not be all that bad of a thing, considering what they were about and what they hadn't told Ryo and what his likely reaction might be. Seiji might have done them a favor after all taking Ryo out of the equation.

Rowan slipped a dart into the crossbow gun, took a breath and mouthed. Seiji first. Sai nodded, clutching the gun he hadn't wanted, pressing his back to the wall as Rowan moved to the other side. It was now or never and if they didn't succeed on the first try -- well, they were shit out of luck and this place would probably house a set of fresh corpses to keep company with the dried remnants of the old ones.



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