Chapter 30 (or, "Cold Hands")
Rikimo had one chance to make this work, and she drew the right card.
The yuki-onna was a force to be reckoned with in a storm. Since it could create storms in its path, using snow and wind to lure children and others away from their villages, it could retake control of this storm. Rikimo had been more concerned with getting her footing back while dangling to reach for her card pack, but now that she was safe in Canberra’s arms -- albeit falling down a rocky crevice with no knowledge of when she would hit the bottom -- it did leave her card dealing hand free.
The yuki-onna sprung from Rikimo’s card, whipping the wind around them to a tornado that lifted them both into the air. They spun with the tornado, then as it died down, they reached the bottom and landed, falling to the ground from a meter up. Canberra finally let go of Rikimo as they hit the snow. They both tumbled across the clearing, coming to a stop, and finally, all was silent.
“Return,” Rikimo called out, and the yuki-onna card came back to her. She returned it to her small deck, then turning to find Canberra. He was doubled over, knees bent, sitting in the snow. Against her better judgement, Rikimo shoved her fears to the side and crawled toward him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up, eyes hollow and scared, and Rikimo realized how afraid he was. She had watched his television appearances, so she knew how bold and brave he typically was in the arena. It was the same facade he had kept up this entire time, save for right now. Right now, she was looking at the real Canberra.
“I should have built a Fire deck,” he muttered, and Rikimo tried not to laugh. This would actually work in their favor. They were still in her territory.
“Frost Ninja,” she said, taking out the card. The Ninja materialized and bowed to its owner. “You need to show us the way out of this storm,” Rikimo told him. “The faster, the better. Canberra, can we ride on the Dogs? They’ll follow the Frost Ninja out of here and back to the rest of the world.”
Canberra nodded as he got to his feet. He pulled out the card, and the Dogs appeared again, their huge bodies giving some shelter against the wind. Canberra gripped one of the Dogs and pulled himself up. “There there, Kagami.”
“They have names?”
“Yeah -- based off of the three treasures of Japanese folklore. All of the Dogs have the same names.” Canberra reached out his hand. “Need help getting up?”
Typically Rikimo would have brushed it off, but she took his hand. Her sword jolted against her body, and she winced as she felt the blade against her hip. She hadn’t forgotten about it, but wasn’t used to having it right there at all times. It was supposed to be virtual, her version of a navigator.
“You know, I could kill that suited man with this,” she said as she reached for the blade and pulled it from its sheath, away from Canberra..
He stared back in shock. “What is that?”
“I guess you could call it my navigator. It’s a double edged sword. I use it as a cursor on my tablet.” Rikimo paused. “Where did Growl go?”
“Oh, Growl?” Canberra’s eyes faded. “I don’t know where he went. I hope he’s okay. I lost him somewhere during that battle in the castle.” He was quiet. Who was that man who had started their battle and had made the castle collapse?
“I think,” he said with little warning, “we need to find the others. Erika and Rhiannon. At the very least, Rhiannon should know what to do about this situation. And that man.”
Rikimo nodded. “That man. I still think riding on the Dogs is a good idea.”
Riding the Dogs turned into a full fledged thrill ride. Rikimo knew from the Trio of Light Dogs card that the dogs could travel in excess of 100KPH, so she knew they could track the Frost Ninja, but she had never believed they would actually move that fast. If she had only formed a spirit deck instead of an ice deck, she could have gotten away from Canberra and the others faster when this had all started.
But then again, if she hadn’t formed an ice deck, a lot of things would be a lot different.
Within fifteen minutes, they were out of the snow and back to crossing the desert. Rikimo looked over and saw that Canberra’s disposition was improving the warmer it got. Some people could get accustomed to the cold, but not Canberra. Hopefully he would be back to his cheerful normal self soon.
Canberra’s Dog ran parallel to Rikimo’s. “We should try to get to the middle of the game map, to Disasterville,” he yelled. “Find the others. Find Rhiannon.”
Rikimo nodded and gave a thumbs up. Canberra smiled back, then bounded ahead, Rikimo’s dog not far behind.
They covered a good bit of distance and stopped at an oasis ahead. There was no shelter from the sun, save for a cactus, but there was a pool of water that had formed in the valley of sand. Canberra was able to let the dogs drink, and then he and Rikimo took what they needed. Since Jason, Rosa, Jaci and Storm were no longer with him, Canberra could divide his remaining rations between the two of them.
“There’s nearly nothing here,” he said as he pulled out half a box of crackers and two juice boxes. “But if we move at this same speed, we should be able to get to Disasterville tomorrow.”
“Are you saying we should camp out here for the night?”
“That we should. We don’t know when that man is going to find us, and if the Light Dogs can stand guard, we can get some sleep.” Canberra paused. “It’s been a long day.”
“That it has.” Rikimo finished off the package of crackers. “Are you tired?”
“Still on edge. Thankfully not cold anymore.” Canberra took off his happi coat and laid on the ground, bunching it up and using it as a pillow. “We lost most of our supplies with Jason and Rosa.”
“Why did they disappear like that?” Rikimo didn’t want to admit what had happened to them. “What was that man doing?”
“I don’t want to think about it.” Canberra turned toward where Rikimo was sitting, near the pool’s shoreline. The cactus gave them shade as the sun approached the horizon line, sending a huge shadow cascading across their forms. “I don’t want to think about anything else today. I just want to sit here.”
Silence. “You’re traumatized.”
“You’ve never been through anything like this. Nothing bad has ever happened to you, Canberra Longshore. You’ve gone through life having everything handed to you. You moved from Korea to Japan and everybody in both countries loves you.”
“Okay, look.” Canberra sat up. “I know. Life is kind of easy for me. And I get that you’ve had things rough a lot of the time. You don’t talk about it, so I can’t know what exactly it was. But that doesn’t mean that everything is perfect and sunshine and rainbows all the time. I’ve got issues. I have to keep a perfect face all the time. Today’s been the first time in a long time that I’ve been legitimately scared about something.”
“Oh, yeah? What was that? Losing your perfectly styled mane?”
“...actually, I was scared I’d lose you to that creep.”
Rikimo felt the blush crowd her cheeks. She had never forgotten that, once upon a time, Canberra Longshore had confessed to her. She had been running ever since. Nobody could love somebody like her. “You don’t mean that.”
“You’re right. Not the way you think. What I mean is that nobody deserves to die at the hands of that creep. I want you to use that sword and run him through when we get the chance, Yoshida-san. I don’t care what it takes. I know you can do it, and you have every right to.”
Rikimo stared out across the pond of water as the sun finally set in front of it. “You can call me Rikimo, I guess. We’ve been through enough, Canberra.”
Her words went unanswered; Rikimo looked back to see Canberra asleep. She laughed to herself, packed up the items she had left, gave them to one of the Light Dogs to guard. She took off what armor and details she could, curling up in a ball and trying to sleep. It was fruitless until she felt something soft at her side; turning, she saw the Dog she had ridden on providing his fluffy body as a sleeping mattress. Soon enough, Rikimo was asleep, arm over her eyes and the stars above her head keeping watch, ready to warn at a moment’s notice of the man who had ruined everything.