Shulato #37

"Smash the Charm-water, the Shadow that Attacks Tenkuukai!"

synopsis by Arcadia

Lakshu begs Shulato to take her with him. She's worried about Hyuga and wants to help. And, her massive entourage of bodyguards and handmaidens from Tenkuuden have finally caught up with her, and she doesn't want to go back with them and miss the action. Shulato refuses, but promises that all of the, including Hyuga, will come to Tenkuuden to visit once it's over. Ryouma says goodbye to Matsuri and they set off.

After flying into the woods for a while, Reiga notices Matsuri watching them from the trees. She followed them to watch out for Ryouma. They'd better find Hyuga quick, so Ryouma can get on with his honeymoon :)!

They all wonder what could have happened. The little naga was hurt badly, which doesn't look good. But with the Asura gone, what else could have caused it?

Unable to sleep, Lakshu decides to follow after them. However, her entourage is still awake and alert, and there's no way to sneak past them.

Morning comes, and the Hachibushu arrive at the forest village where Hyuga was staying. But the village is gone! The buildings are nothing but ruins. The ground is nothing but mud, and the remains of the buildings are still dripping wet, like there was a huge flood. They don't see any people around. Either everyone got out safely, or they were all washed away. But what could have caused a flood? There are no large lakes or rivers near the village, and besides, now that Tenkuukai is peaceful again, there are no floods *anywhere*. The only thing they can think of is the Asura gods, but that's impossible, since they were all destroyed a year ago. Could one or two of them have avoided being sucked back into the Idoukyuu before it was destroyed?

Maybe they'll know the answer once they find Hyuga. They decide to split into two groups. Ryouma, Shulato and Reiga will search the east side of the forest, and the others will search the west.

Ryouma, Shulato and Reiga fly around the cliffs at the edge of the forest, calling for Hyuga. Suddenly, they hear something. At first, it's almost too faint to make out, but it gets louder and louder. It sounds like waves, but...

Suddenly, a giant tidal wave of reddish-colored water rises over the cliffs and heads straight for them. The fly upward and avoid the flood, but three large whirlpools spout from the mass of water. This isn't normal water- ot's following them, almost like it was alive! Not knowing what else to they, the three of them run away.

They come to a dead end, with the strange water still bearing down on them. They're trapped! Suddenly, they hear a voice overheard. They follow the voice and find a cave in the cliff wall. Inside the cave, they find Hyuga! He had been helping the villagers to escape the flood and had gotten caught there.

After the rest of the Hachibushu join them, they help tend to the wounded villagers. Hyuga explains that the strange water was Charm-water. The Charm-water floods had happened before, caused by confusion and discord among the people of Tenkuukai. But with Tenkuukai at peace, why would the Charm-water even still exist? There must still be some of the Asura's black Sohma left over in Tenkuukai, and it must have unsealed the Charm-water and caused the flood.

Reiga recalls another Charm-water flood that happened three years before. All of Tenkuukai was almost overrun, and it took Indrah's power to stop it. (Incidentally, this is the same flood where Indrah apparently becomes possessed.)

Dan returns from scouting out the water. It's still flowing around the edges of the forest, where they first saw it. If they can contain it in one of the crevices in the cliffs, they won't have to worry about it flooding any more villages.

When they reach the cliffs, the water follows them. While trying to dodge one of the seemingly-alive whirlpools, Shulato thinks he sees something shining inside it. It feels dark and evil, and gives him the chills. But Renge dissipates the whirlpool before he can get a good look.

Kuuya and Ryouma wait at the entrance to one of the crevices. After the others lead the water into the crevice, they block the entrance with a rockfall.

However, the water apparently takes exception to being trapped. Giant waves crash against the rocks, threatening to break through. The Hachibushu try to use their Sohma to keep the barriade up, but the water keeps seeping through cracks between the rocks. Seeing that they won't be able to hold it, everyone runs.

Part of the barricade crumbles and a whirlpool shoots at Shulato. Again, he seemsthe strange blue light inside it. For a moment, he stands there frozen, trying to figure out what it is. Then he recognizes it- black Sohma! The whirlpool overtakes Shulato and he disappears.

Floating in the reddish water, Shulato hears Gai's voice inside him. Gai tells him that Sohma is the answer. If he releases his Sohma, he can destroy the water. Almost unconsciously, Shulato does so. The Sohma he releases transforms the Charm-water into ordinary water, and the crevice in the cliff becomes a new lake.

Shulato wakes up on the ground, but doesn't remember how he got there. He vaguely remembers hearing Gai's voice, but that's all. Everyone explains what happened- that he used his Sohma to transform the Charm-water- but he doesn't remember it.

Still, the black Sohma inside the water is gone. Now that the last of Asura's leftovers is destroyed, there's nothing more to worry about. Shulato isn't so sure the Sohma that caused it came from the Asura, though.

Now that they've found Hyuga, Ryouma suggests they go on to Tenkuuden like Shulato promised they would. Lakshu's waiting for them. Reiga teases him that he should be more worried about keeping his wife waiting than Lakshu. Ryouma has a fit, and everyone laughs.

As they walk off, Shulato looks back at the lake. For an instant, he sees a black cloud coming from the lake. But no one else saw it, so maybe he imagined it after all.

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