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Old February 23rd, 2011 (1:21 PM). Edited February 25th, 2011 by EmeraldSky.
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Episode 22: The Icy Road West

[BGM: New Day in Town]

"Here we are...the great city of Hese." Janine smiled as the group approached two guard towers with sloped roofs before addressing the guard in the western tower. "I have been called on a journey to the outside, and wish to gather supplies here before departing." The guard nodded and waved the group through.

"Why are all the buildings with sloped roofs?" Dawn asked as she admired the many sloped roofs around her.

"Both a form of beauty and function--it promotes balance, and is excellent for taking shelter in rainy weather." Janine explained as they approached the magnificent marble temple overlooking the north side of the town square, its beacon a dull purple ball floating in the afternoon sky. "I will be in the market buying supplies..."

"And we will be inside, asking Anima for safety on our travels." Dawn assured Janine. Janine nodded and darted off into the crowds that were filling the eastern market district.

Maybe Anima can point us towards the remaining six Beads--cause I have no idea where the others are... Ash asked as he admired the tapestries depicting the glyphs in the Kaiji script for the different gods that hung from the walls. While most of the god's tapestries were on the walls, Anima's tapestry was draped in the left hand of the statue of Anima, with the purple tapestry representing Dorcha, the god of the good side of darkness and Anima's lover, hanging on the wall to the statue's right.

[BGM: Calling on the Goddess of Light]

Dawn approached the statue of Anima as the others looked on, singing a call to prayer as the boys knelt down before the statue of Anima. "Lady Anima, I come before you in the midst of a great journey...thank you for guiding us and fighting alongside us as we have searched for the Beads..." Ash whispered quietly over the song, every so often glancing up at the statue.

"...but now we don't know where to search next, so we come asking for direction and guidance." Brock added, his own prayer seemingly picking up where his companion's left off. "Send us a sign that will tell us where to travel next..."

[BGM: It is I, Anima]

When the song and the prayers concluded, the statue glowed with a soft white light as an image of Anima appeared in the room with them. "You have called, and I have come, bearing the information you seek." Anima smiled.

"So, where is the next bead?" Ash asked.

"Your journey now leads you to the western mountains, where there are many fears and worries coming from Chairo." Anima replied. "I have instructed Saidas, goddess of ice, to meet you on the pass and guide you through."

"What sorts of fears, my lady?" Dawn asked.

"The mayor's daughter has been stricken by a sickness the clerics there have not seen before." Anima replied. "I have stablized her for now, but if she does not get help quickly, she will succumb. The mayor will tell you more when you arrive."

"We will do what we can to get there as quickly as possible." Brock assured Anima.

"In addition, I have new spells and powers to grant you..." Anima continued, before waving her hand over the group, making Brock gain a red aura, Ash a blue aura, and Dawn a yellow aura.

"What was that?" Ash wondered.

"Since you are traveling to a cold place, I have given you two fire songs to combat the ice, ye who sings magic." Anima explained to Brock. "Next, I have given you a song that commands the four primal elements to locate something or someone for you, Sir Mage." she told Ash, who nodded in reply. "Finally, I have given you the knowledge of all creatures, so you will know the best way to fight, my lightbringer, if the minstrel cannot sing."

"Thank you, my Lady." Dawn replied. "We will use these powers well."

"May I try mine out?" Ash asked, fishing out the Dreamer's Flute from his bag as he stood up.

"You may." Anima replied.

[BGM: Song of the Tracking Cycle]

Ash focused for a moment before calling "Four elements, reveal to me where Janine waits! Tracking Cycle!" With that, he played a playful melody down the scale for the Earth section, followed by a mystical response up the scale for the Fire section. After repeating the playful call again for the Wind section, a quiet response for Water completed the cycle, revealing Janine walking through the market crowd to the town square. "Janine's on her way back..."

"We must part for now, great lady..." Dawn mused as the group turned to leave.

"We'll tell our companion of all you have said and done!" Ash agreed as he rushed out the temple gate.

"Farewell, heroes--we will be watching over you always." Anima replied before her image faded away.

Later that day...

[BGM: To the Mountains!]

"So Anima said that our next objective was to the west?" Janine asked. "Aren't the western mountains infamous for their blizzards?"

"They are, so we need to hurry and cross them now." Brock cautioned as the group got on the road to the western pass. "And if we do get caught in blustering ice and snow, we need only ask for the aid of Saidas, the goddess of all things snow."
Janine nodded before noticing the thoughtful look on Ash's face. "Is everything well, Ash-san?"

"Yeah...I'm just curious as to who this 'Dokusentoki' is you and the other ninjas always speak of." Ash replied.

"Well, since we have a way to go before we reach the pass into the mountains, I don't see any problem with Janine telling us." Brock replied.

"Master does know a few episodes of his story, but only a ninja would be able to tell you who he was--they see him as a legendary hero." Kissa added before beckoning for Janine to begin.

"Kissa-chan is correct--he is a great ninja said to have founded Hese, which the five villages encircle." Janine explained as Pikachu claimed aboard Kissa's back. "How he got from a humble village to there encompasses numerous stories and adventures."

"You don't mind outsiders hearing his story?" Dawn asked.

"Not at all--we take pride in our heritage, and we are grateful that others want to learn more about Dokusentoki and other heroes of ours." Janine assured Dawn. "But the story does not begin happily...I will try my best to tell it, but I am not a geshou like Karakashu-san by any means."

[BGM: A Tale of Wonder]

After clearing her throat, she began. "As I said before, Dokusentoki was a great ninja that had many adventures before founding the great city of Hese--we believe that even now, his courage and wisdom live on through his descendants."

"No wonder everyone makes a big to do over your father." Dawn mused.

"According to our records, my grandfather's father was one of the children of Dokusentoki's sons, Chisentoki--so Father is distantly related to Dokusentoki." Janine replied. "But I am straying from the story...he lived in a small village with his father and grandmother. His father, a warrior himself, taught him many things in addition to fighting."

"Like?" Ash beckoned Janine to go on.

"History, literature, how to survive in harsh conditions, how to tell which plants in forests were safe to eat, how to speak to Pokemon, art, music, science, and smithing, to name but a few." Janine replied. "One day, his father went out to help guide a hunting party through the plains, as he often did. But the hunters saw his many medallions, pelts, and feathers; and desired to have them for themselves. So that afternoon, as his father rested under a tree, they ambushed him and killed him."

"Rrrgh..." Ash growled, appalled that someone had the gall to murder someone's father in cold blood.

"His grandmother was understandably devastated, and after the funeral rites were complete, she vowed to continue teaching Dokusentoki all she could, so that son could avenge father." Janine continued.

"I hope those...those..." Ash sputtered, trying to think of the words to describe the hunters in Janine's tale. "...FIENDS got what they deserved!"

"Easy,'s just a story." Dawn assured Ash as she laid a hand on Ash's heaving chest in an attempt to calm his anger.

"Some months later, Dokusentoki's grandmother instructed him to bring her the Raikou pelt that his father had hung over a wire on that fateful day." Janine continued, unfazed by Ash's anger. "She then used the fine pelt to make him a tunic and leggings, and taught him to run as swiftly as a Raikou, and swim as fast as Kyorge. Hunting season came not long after this, and the party that had slain Dokusentoki's father came to the plains, eager to capture the many Sawsbucks that roamed there."

"And then?" Ash asked, noticably calmer.

"Dokusentoki's grandmother saw them as well, and instructed her grandson to swim across the river and run past where the Sawsbucks were approaching the river--this way, they would think him a Raikou on the hunt, and chase him." Janine paused to sit down on a rock by the road and massage her aching right foot.

"You're doing wonderfully so far...what happened next?" Brock urged Janine to continue as he sat down by a nearby tree to rest.

"Sure enough, the hunters thought Dokusentoki was a Raikou trying to steal a Sawsbuck, and hurried to their boats to chase him." Janine continued, massaging her foot all the while. "Dokusentoki was ahead of them, running swiftly on one bank, before jumping across to the other with all the speed and grace of a Raikou. Finally, just as the hunters started to catch up to him, Dokusentoki cried out to the sky--a signal for his grandmother to cast a kaze jutsu. While what jutsu she used is not known, it was strong enough to cause waves on the river and capsize the boats, making all inside drown. But Dokusentoki was not satisfied with having his father avenged--there had to be even more that had suffered as he had, and they needed to be helped. So with his grandmother's blessing, Dokusentoki gathered his few belongings and set out onto the plains, searching for people in need. He did not know of the many adventures that were soon to come."

[Cut BGM]

Dawn applauded. "Talk about starting off with a bang!"

"Bravo!" Ash agreed as he applauded.

"If that one tale was enough to anger you--most episodes of the cycle are like that." Janine warned as she hopped off the rock and led the way down the road.

Ash blushed. "I'm's just that I tend to get angry when someone suffers unfairly like that, even if it is a character in a story."

"I can see you have a strong sense of justice, but there are times when even the fire must be tempered." Janine cautioned as the group approached a small hill as the sun dipped below a cloudy sky.

[BGM: To the Mountains!]

"This is it...the Western Pass." Brock smiled as he lead the way over the hill and onto a steep trail that wound around rocks at every turn. That, and snow was beginning to fall, though it was not falling hard enough to warrant a blizzard.

"I only hope we're not delayed on our journey to Chairo by snow." Ash grumbled as he wrapped his cloak around him to shield himself from the snow falling around him. He seethed at how calmly Kissa was walking through the cold for a moment. She has her own built in coat, and I'm stuck in a cloak...

Janine noticed Ash shivering. "If you are cold, I can lend you one of my extra fur mantles I keep for cold like this."

"Please do." Ash replied, allowing Janine to drape a large mantle over his back.

"How did the weather get so cold so quickly?" Dawn asked as she dug a fur cloak from her bag.

[BGM: In the Prescence of Gods]

"Rest assured, I would never send snow to torment you..." came a young female voice, which materialized into a young woman clad in a magnificent blue, white and purple armored bodice with a long flowing deep blue and purple skirt hiding a layer of chain underneath. "I am Saidas, Guardian of Ice--Anima informed me you were on your way through the mountains and bade me to protect you from the blizzards that rage in these lands."

"Can you tell us how far to Chairo?" Ash pleaded. "Or where we can take shelter just in case we are stranded?"

"Chairo isn't far from where we are--but I can't guarantee that the icy spirits here will hold back." Saidas cautioned before engraving something inside a a layered rock that looked like a musical staff. "If you are stranded here, play this song to summon my envoy." Once sure that the group could see the cryptic tableture, she continued. "In addition, I sense a newcomer to your party awaiting you in Chairo--you'll know more when you get there." With that, she disappeared in the swirling snow that was beginning to pick up.

Ash sighed--why was it that gods had to be so vague?

To Be Continued...
The world will be saved by four heroes with a song in their hearts....

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