"Now, do as I told you," the Teacher said to Dragon, holding his swords out in front of him.
Dragon reached behind himself and grabbed the sword hilt, pulling it forth and swinging it around to block the sword thrusts of the Teacher. Unfortunately, he wasn't fast enough, and he received two light slaps on his ribs from the swords.
"You are becoming faster!" the Teacher said. "Again!"
Dragon sheathed his swords and put his hands to his sides. He reached behind him again and pulled the sword, this time blocking one of the thrusts before it connected.
"Excellent! Against a man of greater speed, this talent will not afford much use. But against someone with whom you are evenly matched, the ability to quickly draw your weapon is important. Now, let us begin learning the art of Iaido when drawing from the right and left sides."
Dragon sighed and moved his sheath to the right side of his waist. He was getting tired of all these drills. Finally, he felt like he was ready to begin the search again.
It was another hour before Dragon got some relief from the drills. Kim walked into the room. "Dan? Can I speak with you alone?"
The Teacher bowed and left. He cast Kim an odd glance, but shook his head as he left. Kim closed the door behind him.
"What's up, honey?" Dragon said, collapsing onto the bed. He let the sword fall to the ground beside him. "These workouts are killing me."
Kim stepped up and began massaging Dragon's neck. "I just wanted to see you alone. Are you worried about Alex?"
"Yeah. On this last case, I had to confront the possibility that he might be dead. I don't want to worry you, Kim, but why would the Wyrms keep him alive?"
"Maybe they want to brainwash him or something, Dan," Kim said.
"Yeah, maybe.I wouldn't worry too much, Kim. I know it sounds crazy, but I think I would feel it if he were dead. Listen to me. I need to get away from this mystical mumbo-jumbo for a while."
"Why don't you get a shower and we'll go have lunch?" Kim suggested.
Dragon got up and kissed her hands. He walked into the other room and stepped into the shower. When he noticed the towel rack empty, he leaned out of the door.
"Kim, could you get me a towel?"
Dragon saw a hideous, tan-furred creature picking up his sword. It had a shining black face and red eyes. Dragon recognized it immediately and hissed its name.
The creature pulled back its lips in a smile. "Yes, Golden Dragon. The Cult of the Wyrm thanks you for your inattention to your wife and child. It made them so much easier to steal."
Ketsueki unsheathed the sword and held it before him. Dragon concentrated and his costume flashed into existence around him. He stepped out into the room and faced Ketsueki.
"What do you want?"
"I want to kill you. And then I want to corrupt your wife and children."
The door to the room swung open. The Teacher stood in the door with his scimitars out. "Creature of the Wyrm!" he yelled. "You will die!"
The Teacher hurled one of his scimitars at Ketsueki. The blade struck the creature in its side, causing him to shriek in agony.
"Recover your blade, Golden Dragon!" the Teacher yelled.
Dragon moved in and pulled his sword out of Ketsueki's hands. The Teacher, moving with blinding speed, followed up by pulling his scimitar free. They both swung their swords at the creature's head.
Ketsueki disappeared, leaving only a foul black mark on the carpet. The Teacher stared at it with disgust.
"He has left. We failed to destroy it."
"Where are Kim and Mary?" Dragon demanded.
The Teacher looked at him. "I went to check on them when I sensed something wrong with Kim as she entered. They are gone, Golden Dragon. Prisoners of the Wyrm."
"Dave," Dragon said. He and the Teacher rushed out and went to Dave's room. From inside, they heard gunshots.
Dragon pushed the door open, cracking the lock. Two humanoids dressed in black ninja clothes were lying at different points in the room with bullet holes in their foreheads. The blood from the wounds was green.
Four more ninjas were surrounding the bathroom. Dave was standing on the sink, his gun smoking. "I didn't order any damn room service!" he yelled as he fired again, dropping another one.
The Teacher waded in with his swords, yelling to Dragon, "They are Oni! Use the sword, Golden Dragon!"
Dragon pulled his sword and decapitated one of the creatures. The Teacher finished off the other two with his scimitars. Dave climbed down from the sink and looked at the creatures. He lifted one of their hoods and coughed.
"Pretty disgusting, Dragon," he said.
"They got Kim and Mary," Dragon replied.
Dragon reached for the phone and called Brimstone, who said he was on his way over. Dragon looked over everything, but couldn't figure out what had happened. When Brimstone got there, Dragon was frustrated.
"Calm down, big fella," he said to Dragon. "This is my area of expertise."
Brimstone looked around the room and also around the room where Kim and Mary had been taken from.
"They teleported away? They could be anywhere. If we had some idea of the range, or the method, maybe. But we haven't got anything to go on."
Suddenly, there was a sound like baying hounds, and the room filled with gray mist. A soft opera began playing, and all the lights dimmed, leaving only a trace of illumination floating in the mist.
Dragon looked at Brimstone. "Is this yours?"
From out of the mist came a tall, emaciated man. He was dressed in a black swashbuckler costume with floppy brimmed hat and white mask. The mask was Tragedy on one side and Comedy on the other. Dragon shivered as he walked in. Even Dave looked uneasy.
"Ah, my demonic friend! And the avatar of the Dragon! I bring with me glad tidings, hope for your wife and kin."
"Totengeist?" Brimstone asked.
"Tis none other, my friend. I believe you will find what you seek in Texas. Come, let us away to your craft and be on our way."
With that, the man in black walked through the wall and the gray mist faded. Dragon recovered his composure and asked, "Who was that?"
"Totengeist," Brimstone answered. "Very dangerous. Works for something called the Council of Beyond. But if he says he knows something, he's probably not lying. Let's follow him."
They took the elevator to the roof, where Dave uncloaked the plane. Totengeist was standing at the edge, staring over at the ground and singing an opera at the top of his lungs in his bubbling tenor voice. The voice gave Dragon goose bumps.
Dave got in the plane, and as the engines warmed to life, Totengeist walked over and floated up into the plane's interior. Brimstone and Dragon followed. In his hurry, Dragon didn't notice that the Teacher had slipped away.
They were on their way south when Dave worked up the courage to ask, "So where are we going?"
"Ask not where we are going, but rather where we've been, because that is where we are going. Alas, not all of us are we, but simply you three. I have a different errand to arrange. And for that, I require the gifts that are uniquely yours. But fear not, I shall return them."
Totengeist threw his arms out wide and the plane was shrouded in mist. Dragon felt himself drifting off to sleep.
When he woke up, the mist was gone. He wasn't dressed in his costume anymore, but an outfit of leather and hide, topped off by a white cowboy hat. At his side were a pair of silver revolvers. Brimstone, still asleep, was dressed the same, but he no longer looked like a demon. Rather, he looked like a human with sharp features and reddish skin. Dave looked the same, but he was wearing a cowboy hat on his head. Dragon yelled when he saw that Dave was still asleep.
Dragon jumped up and fell over on his face. He moved his hand across his face, not believing it. It was thinner, the size of a normal hand. Pushing himself to his feet, he realized that he was only six feet tall. He was still well-muscled, but he could feel that most of his strength was gone. He ran up to the cockpit and looked out. Coming up fast was a butte of red rock.