The beautiful sound of a lute Biwa filled the air in a secluded road. The music was a classic created in Yulan many years ago. The one playing this beautiful song was a woman with long golden hair let loose. She wore a kimono that was cut just above the knee. Even though it was cut, the sky blue fabric with golden designs were still radiant to the eye. She sat upon a large rock as she played the instrument.
The beautiful woman stopped playing abruptly and leapt off the rock just as a net covered the rock. She spun around sending strands of hair past her face and saw a man in green clothing with the mark of an assassin on his forehead. The woman smirked.
“So that noble sent another assassin. He sure has a lot of time,” stated the woman. The man retracted his net and then dashed toward the woman, pulling out his sword from behind his back. The woman’s eyes seemed to give off a spark as she lifted up her instrument to block the assassin’s sword. The assassin’s eyes widen. The woman smirked and forced him back as she did a back flip. The woman landed on the ground gracefully and pointed her instrument at the assassin daring him to attack. The assassin suddenly smirked making the woman gasp.
The next thing she knew, she felt a sharp pain in her side.
“So there are two of you?”
The woman leapt up revealing the female assassin behind her with a bloody dagger in hand. The woman leapt into a tree holding her bleeding side.
The female assassin clenched her fist screaming, “After her!” The woman jumped from branch to branch sweating.
I need to get away.
On a solid path, the Red Lotus carriage went down the path with three horsemen on either side. Inside the carriage were Hime, Sumire, Chiriko, Naohito, and Reiji. Chiriko looked at Hime with a blush and said, “Thank you again, Lady Hime for offering us a ride.”
“You’re welcome. It was unfortunate that your original carriage lost a wheel before even leaving the gates,” said Hime. Chiriko chuckled, while Naohito began to sulk knowing full well that the lost wheel was due to his bad luck. Hime glanced at Sumire and added, “We needed to head to Eva Province anyway to retrieve some goods for the Red Lotus, even if it is a little early.” Sumire nodded in agreement refusing to look at Chiriko, Naohito, and Reiji.
Hime parted the drapes of the carriage, so she could see Megumi, one of the horsemen. Hime blushed and said, “It’s also a blessing that I can get to travel with Megumi.” Chiriko raised an eyebrow at Hime and asked, “Are you by chance Megumi’s lover?” Hime smiled still blushing.
“I would like to be his wife, if only he will let me,” said Hime in a dreamy state. Sumire had a look of disgust as Reiji laughed uneasily.
Naohito tugged on Chiriko’s sleeve making Chiriko lean toward him.
“Lady Hime is just an admirer of Megumi, so nothing to worry about,” whispered Naohito.
“Why would I be worried?” whispered Chiriko back. Naohito turned red and looked away from Chiriko making Chiriko confused.
Reiji pushed a small section of the drapes aside, so he could also see Megumi. Reiji smiled still wondering why Megumi preferred to ride the horse instead of riding the carriage.
Megumi scanned her surroundings as she rode the horse. Kaze, one of the horsemen and a soldier, looked at Megumi and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to ride inside the carriage?”
“I’m fine, Kaze,” reassured Megumi. Keiki, who was the last horsemen, chuckled and asked, “Are you scared to ride with the girls?” in a mocking tone. Megumi tossed a pebble at Keiki’s forehead making him gasp in pain.
“Extra baggage should just keep quiet,” stated Megumi. Keiki mumbled curses under his breath making Kaze laugh uneasily. Kaze glanced at Megumi and asked, “I’ve been meaning to ask since the tournament: how long have you been fighting?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well I have been a soldier for ten years now and I can’t compare to your unique fighting style. I hate to admit it, but I don’t stand a chance against you at my current level, so can you tell me how long you have been fighting?”
“Well I have been fighting since I was three, but my formal training, which only lasted for half a year was when I was four.”
“Four? That’s really young.”
Megumi nodded. Keiki scoffed and added, “He was young, but he could send an adult flying.” Megumi smirked at Keiki and asked, “Are you referring to yourself?” Keiki remained silent. Megumi placed a finger to her chin in thought.
“If I remember right, you were eight at the time when you first fought me. I wouldn’t call that an adult. I also remember that you ran to a stranger crying that I beat you up.”
Keiki turned red and glared at Megumi.
“That was a damn isolated incident, bastard!” yelled Keiki. An apple suddenly collided into his head making him gasp in pain and nearly fall off his horse. He rubbed his pain pulsing head and looked to the side of the carriage. Sumire glared at Keiki from the carriage and said, “Just shut up for once, SLIME BALL.” Keiki groaned looking away from Sumire.
“If you weren’t a girl, I would smack you,” muttered Keiki. Sumire stuck his tongue at Keiki and closed the drapes of the carriage.
Chiriko sighed as he sat in the carriage and asked, “Why did we decide to bring that mafia youth with us?”
“He did offer to protect us on our trip and he’s Megumi’s friend.”
“I’m NOT his friend!” screamed Keiki making Naohito flinch in his chair. Reiji chuckled and said, “You get use to Keiki’s outbursts after a while.” Chiriko held his head in exasperation.
Hime giggled as she picked up a ripe apple from her bag.
“Keiki is a difficult fellow, but anyone who sees him and Megumi together can tell that they are like best friends.”
“Annoying best friends,” muttered Sumire. Reiji opened the drapes a little to see Megumi ignoring Keiki, who was glaring at her for something that he didn’t quite hear.
Megumi suddenly heard the trees near the path rustle and looked around alert.
“Is something wrong, Lord Megumi?” asked Kaze. Megumi remained silent as she scanned her surroundings. She suddenly heard a grunt and looked up only to see a blonde haired woman falling toward her. Megumi gasped and immediately grabbed the woman causing her to fall off her horse.
The driver halted the carriage making all inside alarmed. Chiriko pushed the carriage door open and demanded what had happened. Kaze got off his horse and said, “Megumi fell off his horse.” Chiriko’s eyes widened and looked toward Megumi’s horse only to see that Megumi was not on it, but on the ground holding an unknown woman.
Chiriko ran to Megumi asking if she was all right. Reiji got off the carriage telling Hime and Sumire to remain inside. Naohito was about to get off too, but Reiji pushed him back in telling him to stay with the girls. Naohito nodded. Reiji ran to Megumi asking if she was all right too. Megumi nodded as she looked at Kaze, Chiriko, Reiji, and Keiki, who had left his horse as well.
“Why did you fall off?” asked Chiriko. Megumi looked at the woman in her embrace.
“This woman fell from the trees. I only fell trying to catch her,” stated Megumi. They all looked at the woman, who seemed to be breathing heavily. Megumi narrowed her eyes when she saw the blood on the side of the woman. Megumi carried the woman bridal style and said, “We need to treat her wound immediately.” Reiji saw the blood as well and said, “Place her in the carriage for now.” Megumi nodded and was about to do so, until she felt a presence from above. She leapt back just as an arrow impaled the ground.
Kaze immediately drew his sword ready to fight. Keiki did the same and glanced at Reiji and Chiriko, who seemed to be shocked at the sudden appearance of an arrow.
“You two get into the carriage now!” yelled Keiki. Reiji and Chiriko nodded and ran toward the carriage. Reiji stopped in his tracks and looked toward Megumi, who was glaring upward with the wounded woman still in her arms.
“You need to get that woman in the carriage now!” called Reiji. Megumi nodded and tossed the woman toward Reiji making Reiji gasp. Reiji caught the woman and then looked at Megumi with wide eyes.
“What are you doing?” asked Reiji quickly. Megumi glanced at Reiji and said, “I’ll take care of the attackers, so get going with that woman.” With that, Megumi leapt into the trees above making Keiki and Kaze gasp.
Megumi drew her dagger from her side as she landed on a thick branch. Megumi glanced up only to see two assassins: one held a sword and the other had a bow and arrow. The one holding the sword was female and the one with the bow and arrow was male. The female assassin gasped when she laid eyes on Megumi’s form.
“You, why the Hell are you here?” screamed the female assassin. Megumi raised an eyebrow for she recognized the voice of the female assassin: Saori Chang. Megumi smirked and asked, “Are you trying to assassinate another woman for money?” Saori gritted her teeth. The male assassin glanced at Saori and asked, “You know him?” Saori held her cheek that held the mark of an assassin.
“He’s that bastard who scarred my mark,” hissed Saori. The male assassin then looked at Megumi and gasped as his eyes widen.
“Not you again,” exclaimed the male assassin. Megumi glanced at the male assassin and noticed the assassin symbol on his forehead. She also recalled the night when a male assassin tried to kill her at the palace before running off.
“You’re that assassin that tried to kill me. It was rude of you not to leave a name at least,” remarked Megumi.
“So you know him too, Bao?” whispered Saori as she looked at the male assassin.
“He’s the one who wounded my arm during one of my jobs,” whispered the male assassin, Bao. Bao seemed to turn pale when he remembered the mark on Megumi’s hip. Bao cleared his throat and whispered, “I don’t want to fight this guy right now.”
Saori ignored Bao as she glared back at Megumi and pointed her blade at Megumi.
“You prevented me from killing my target in the past, but this time I will finish my mission,” stated Saori. Megumi turned her dagger to the side with a smirk upon her lips.
“You’re not killing anyone under my watch, Saori.”
Saori leapt off the branch as she swung her blade at Megumi. Megumi blocked with her dagger and then did a twirl on the branch. She then leapt off the branch and landed onto a different branch. Saori gritted her teeth as she maintained her balance on the branch she was on.
“I guess even if you’re not on solid ground you can still fight like a monster,” stated Saori in an angered tone. Megumi chuckled and replied, “My master taught me well.” Saori leapt at Megumi again swinging her sword. Megumi blocked Saori’s sword and then took the chance to kick Saori in her stomach. Saori gasped as she stumbled back against the trunk of the tree, while gripping her stomach.
Bao leapt to Saori’s side and whispered, “We should retreat for now.”
“Why?” hissed Saori as she tried to control the pain in her stomach. Bao clenched his fist.
“This guy has a mark that could be the real thing.”
Saori’s eyes widened and asked, “Are you sure?”
“It was there from what I could see, but I’m still not sure.”
Saori cursed under her breath and then leapt to another branch with Bao. Saori glared back at Megumi and yelled, “This isn’t over. We will be back to kill that woman!” When Saori and Bao were out of sight, Megumi jumped down from the trees and landed in front of Keiki and Kaze.
“What happened up there?” asked Keiki with his sword still in hand. Megumi sheathed her dagger and stated, “I scared off the assassins in the trees.”
“Are you sure?” asked Kaze. Megumi nodded. Megumi glanced back at the closed carriage and added, “I did scare the assassins off for now, but they will pursue us to kill that woman.” Keiki sheathed his sword with a groan.
“Then we better leave her behind. I don’t want to deal with assassins,” stated Keiki. Megumi glared at Keiki making him flinch in place.
“We are not leaving her behind,” said Megumi with seriousness behind her voice. Keiki gulped and nodded. Kaze sighed as he sheathed his own sword.
“I agree with Lord Megumi. I would never forgive myself if I ever left a wounded woman.”
Megumi approached the carriage and then opened the side door. Reiji was treating the woman’s stab wound with some medicine with Chiriko’s assistance, while Hime, Sumire, and Naohito watched at the sides.
“Is she OK?” asked Megumi. Reiji nodded and added, “She did lose quite a lot of blood, but not enough to kill her. She should be fine after this treatment.” Megumi smiled and nodded.
Megumi then looked at Chiriko and asked, “If it is all right, can this woman come with us to Eva Province?” Chiriko nodded with a smile.
“I would never leave a sick person behind.”
Megumi bowed her head to Chiriko in thanks and then closed the door of the carriage. Megumi climbed onto her horse and glanced back at Keiki and Kaze.
“We better journey on before those assassins decide to come back,” stated Megumi. Keiki and Kaze nodded and then mounted their horses. With a signal from Megumi, they were journeying down the road again.
After a few moments had passed, the golden haired woman began to awaken. Her beautiful eyes fluttered open allowing her to see the velvet cloth of the carriage. The woman sat up quickly. As she sat up she took notice of Hime and Sumire asleep against their seat; Naohito munching on a piece of white bread; and Chiriko reading to himself.
“So you’re finally awake?”
The woman gasped and looked behind her only to see Reiji smiling at her.
“Who are you?” asked the woman.
“My name is Reiji Kou,” stated Reiji and then looked at the others who began to take notice of the awakened woman. He introduced each of them gladly.
“Can you tell us your name?”
The woman cleared her throat and said, “Before I tell you, can you tell me how I got here first?” Reiji nodded.
“Well our friend Megumi caught you when you fell from a tree and saved you from assassins. You were injured, so we decided to treat you in our carriage on the way to our destination.”
The woman’s eyes widened. She grabbed Reiji by the shoulders and asked, “Did you say Megumi as in Megumi Yoh?” Reiji nodded. The woman looked around making the others confused.
“Where is he?” asked the woman. Reiji pointed toward the drape of the carriage.
“Megumi is riding by horseback outside,” stated Reiji. The woman pushed the drapes aside. In the woman’s line of sight was Megumi riding her horse next to Keiki, who seemed to be yelling at her about something. The woman grinned making Reiji confused.
“My, my, haven’t you grown,” stated the woman. Megumi flinched and looked at the woman. Megumi stared at the woman and asked, “Are you talking to me?” The woman giggled pushing a strand of her golden hair behind her ear.
“I’m hurt, Megumi. How could you forget me?”
Megumi stared at the woman and then gasped. Megumi remembered a time when she was five-years-old in Go Province. A traveling musician had entered the province and taught Megumi how to play music and to create charms. Megumi remembered that the musician was beautiful like a Goddess, especially with her golden hair.
The woman nodded with a smile.
“So you do remember, Megumi,” said the woman, Eve. Keiki looked at Eve and then back at Megumi.
“You know her?” asked Keiki. Megumi nodded.
“I met her back in Go Province when I was five-years-old,” stated Megumi. Megumi looked back at Eve and added, “It was a long time ago, so I didn’t recognize her right away.” Eve giggled.
“I’m just glad that you remember me,” stated Eve with a charming smile. Megumi smiled back. Keiki saw this and frowned not understanding why he suddenly felt his stomach begin to turn.
Keiki suddenly remembered that he did meet Eve before as well when she was in Go Province, but he never talked with her directly because he only saw her when he went to challenge Megumi.
Eve was suddenly pulled back into the carriage making Megumi blink in confusion. Eve fell back and looked up only to see Hime glaring at her.
“How do you know my darling Megumi?” demanded Hime feeling jealousy take over her. Eve giggled.
“Well I met Megumi back in Go Province during my travels as a musician. He was five-years-old at the time and he was so cute as he mumbled to himself about a stupid master. I wanted to see him smile, so I played him a song and learned that he had potential to learn music, so I also became his music teacher for a month.”
Naohito burst into a smile and asked, “So you know my friend Megumi as well?” Eve nodded.
“He was my only student, but I can say that his music would someday surpass mine,” declared Eve as she smiled. Chiriko rubbed his chin in thought.
“It must be destiny that you would meet Megumi again after so long,” stated Chiriko. Eve nodded and added, “I’m glad I was able to see him again.” Eve remembered a five-year-old Megumi playing her Biwa with curious eyes and blushed. Hime saw this and clenched the skirt of her clothes, while gritting her teeth.
Megumi peeked into the carriage and asked, “Are you all right, Eve?” Eve nodded as she sat up.
“I was just telling them how we met and how cute you were,” replied Eve. Megumi blushed and said, “I was a kid than.” Eve giggled.
Naohito looked at Megumi and asked, “So you can play music, my friend?” Megumi nodded and said, “Only when I feel like it of course.” Naohito smiled.
“Can you play us a song when we reach our destination?” asked Naohito with excitement behind his voice. Megumi was about to refuse, but Eve glanced at Megumi and said, “I would love to hear your music again.” Megumi sighed and nodded.
Megumi fixed herself on her horse and continued down the road. Eve giggled and stated, “Megumi is still shy.”
Sumire clicked his tongue and said, “He’s just a wimp.” Eve shook her head and sat next to Reiji.
“Megumi is brave, but I still worry about him,” stated Eve. Naohito chuckled and said, “You don’t need to worry about him since Megumi is strong.” Eve nodded.
Eve suddenly felt pain radiate from her wound making her cringe. Eve placed a hand to her side and felt the bandage. Eve frowned and said, “Those assassins cut me good.” Reiji nodded and added, “It’s a good thing Chiriko and I treated your wound quickly.” Eve nodded as she began to look through the window again toward Megumi.
“Can you tell me why Megumi is traveling with your group? I was sure that he told me once that he would never leave his family in Go Province.”
Chiriko smiled and said, “I don’t know about his family, but he is currently traveling with us for his training as a future official.”
Chiriko nodded and added, “He is thirteen-years-old, but is already gifted with God given talents and even has the Diyuan rank.” Naohito nodded and added, “Don’t forget that he is also training as a soldier and has a new rank called Chikeimu.” Eve smiled.
“I wouldn’t have thought Megumi would try to become an official or a soldier. He was always so attached to his family when he was young. His family would be so proud of him.”
Hime frowned and asked, “So you have no idea what happened in Go Province, what happened to Megumi?” Eve looked at Hime with a puzzled look.
“Well I haven’t seen him in so long and haven’t been to Go Province in years, so can you tell me what happened to Megumi?” asked Eve. Hime looked away from Eve with a scowl.
“If you really want to know then ask Megumi,” stated Hime rudely. Eve cocked her head to the side wondering if she did anything wrong.
Naohito looked toward Hime and asked, “Did something happen to my friend, Megumi?” Hime remained silent. Sumire glanced at Naohito and said, “Like Lady Hime said, you should ask Megumi. We have no right to say it.” Naohito nodded in understanding. Chiriko was eager to hear what happened to Megumi too, but he understood that concerning family matters only Megumi should speak the truth.
Reiji already knew half of what happened to Megumi’s family: that Megumi’s sister, Mikan, died in a fire. He also knew that Megumi wished that she was the one that died. Knowing this truth of Megumi’s tragedy put weight on his heart.
Eve looked toward Megumi’s riding form again wondering what had happened to Megumi in the past since they last met.
When night had fallen, they stopped by the road and prepared a camp. As they prepared the camp, Naohito and Eve remained in the carriage. Eve glanced at Naohito and asked, “Why don’t you help them with the camp?” Naohito smiled and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
“I would only be in the way, especially with my horrible luck,” admitted Naohito. Eve stared at Naohito and smiled.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but have you angered anyone involved with curses?” asked Eve. Naohito thought a while and shook his head.
“I don’t think so.”
“When did you bad luck start?”
“When I gained the Diyuan rank three years ago.”
Eve sighed and said, “I’ve seen a curse like yours. A man is angered because someone was better than him and curses him by removing his good luck.”
“Is that so?” asked Naohito. Eve nodded. Naohito glanced toward Megumi, who was setting the fire with Hime by her side, and smiled.
“Well my lack of luck allowed me to meet Megumi. So far, my friend Megumi is the only lucky thing in my life,” stated Naohito. Eve giggled and patted Naohito’s head making him look at her.
“Even I could see that Megumi is special. I’m glad that you are close to him,” said Eve. Naohito blushed and nodded. Naohito didn’t notice it, but when Eve patted his head a glitter of light left her fingertips.
“Eve, Naohito!” called Megumi. Eve and Naohito looked toward Megumi, who now had a frowning Hime next to her.
“I need you two to stay close to the fire, while Keiki and I go out to find food,” instructed Megumi. Eve nodded and began to lead Naohito to the fire. Megumi and Keiki each grabbed a bow and began to head out to the thickness of the trees.
Sumire glanced in the direction Megumi and Keiki went and asked, “Is it really safe for two of the guards to leave us when there are assassins after us?” Kaze placed a hand on the handle of his sword and stated, “I promise to protect all of you.” Sumire just scoffed in reply making Kaze puzzled.
Meanwhile, Megumi and Keiki walked through the woods cautiously with their bows in hand and a lantern to give them light. As they walked, Keiki began to think of Eve with a puzzled look.
“Is something wrong, Keiki?” asked Megumi, noticing Keiki’s look. Keiki glanced in the direction of the camp and said, “I’m not quite sure, but I feel that something is off about Eve.”
“What do you mean?”
“Like I said, I’m not quite sure.”
Megumi rolled her eyes and said, “Eve is fine. You just need to focus on finding an animal we can eat for dinner.” Keiki nodded, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about Eve.
Megumi suddenly heard a branch break and ducked down with Keiki. Megumi dragged her feet as silently as she could in a crouched down position and moved a thick bush in front of her aside using her long bow. In Keiki and Megumi’s line of sight was a full grown deer eating a fallen red fruit from the ground. Keiki prepared an arrow on his bow.
“I’ll get this kill,” whispered Keiki. Megumi nodded as she inched to the side. Keiki pulled the string of the bow with an arrow, his focus on the head of the deer. Keiki released the string of the bow sending the arrow flying, but before it could impale the deer, the deer vanished. The arrow impaled the ground where the deer once was.
“Where did it go?” exclaimed Keiki. Megumi looked around and suddenly heard a low growl. Megumi looked up toward one of the trees and saw what looked like a wolf-eared man with a dead deer dangling from his mouth. His eyes were glowing red as blood trickled down the side of his lips. Megumi’s eyes grew wide making Keiki look at her.
“What’s with you?” asked Keiki. Megumi pointed toward the man like creature. Keiki saw the creature as well and turned pale. Keiki tugged Megumi’s arm and whispered, “Let’s get out of here.” Megumi nodded and began to run with Keiki toward camp.
The creature saw Keiki and Megumi running off as it tore a chunk of meat from the deer’s neck, but his focus was mostly on Megumi.
“Megumi,” whispered the creature with blood trailing from his lips.
Megumi and Keiki returned to the camp empty handed. Sumire scoffed and asked, “What happened to you guys getting us dinner?” Keiki looked pale as he said, “I think we should eat some vegetables and bread for dinner this time.” Megumi sighed and nodded as she sat next to the fire. Sumire was filled with confusion as were the others, except for Eve, who just giggled.
“Did you see a monster in the woods?” asked Eve. Keiki and Megumi flinched. Megumi scratched the back of her head and said, “I’m not quite sure to be honest, but it was something.” Keiki nodded in agreement. Eve smiled as she glanced up at the full moon.
“In my travels I have learned that a creature that resembles a wolf lives in the forest to feed during the full moon. He never hurts humans, but adults have told their children that he would eat them if they didn’t stay inside, so the creature is always alone.”
“Sounds like a tragedy,” stated Naohito. Eve nodded and added, “That creature is just lonely.” Megumi remembered the creature eating the deer and suddenly remembered a man she met back when she was six.
“I wonder if that creature is related to Mr. Wolf,” muttered Megumi.
“Did you say something Megumi?” asked Reiji. Megumi shook her head and stood up.
“Let me just make you guys some dinner,” said Megumi as she headed toward the food supplies. Reiji stared at Megumi wondering what Megumi had said.
The night dragged on with them eating dinner and then falling asleep around the fire. As they slept, Eve awoke and glanced toward the woods where the supposed wolf creature resided.
“I don’t know why you are all the way out here, but please remain in the forest,” whispered Eve, but if you listened closely it sounded like there was an echo in her voice. Eve then laid back down and glanced toward Megumi’s sleeping form. Eve smiled as she closed her eyes allowing her dreams to awaken.
Eve dreamed of a day long ago way before she met Megumi. She was traveling down the road with her stringed Biwa over her shoulder, but stopped in her tracks when she saw a man with long black tangled hair lying on the ground before her feet. Eve nudged his side and asked, “Are you OK, sir?” The man suddenly grabbed her ankle making her flinch. The man looked up at her with a sickly looking face and whispered, “Need food.”
Eve ended up feeding the man three loafs of bread and a bottle of water. As the man ate, Eve stared at him with a troubled look.
“So why were you lying on the road starving?” asked Eve. The man drank some water and smiled at Eve.
“While you see, I am a traveler, but I was unlucky in getting robbed, so I was hungry for three days before I collapsed,” explained the man with a laugh. He tore off a piece of bread and added, “By the way, my name is Hikaru Yoh, age twenty-two, and you are?”
The man Hikaru chuckled and asked, “So you won’t tell me your surname or age?” Eve frowned and said, “I rather my surname not be known and my age is a secret, so don’t ask.” Hikaru nodded and continued to munch on the bread.
After finishing his meal, he looked at Eve and asked, “So you play the lute Biwa?” Eve nodded and added, “I need to earn money in my travels after all.” Hikaru nodded and asked, “Can I try to play it?” Eve nodded as she handed her instrument to Hikaru. Hikaru plucked one string of the instrument creating a soft tune, but when he played the strings together he created what sounded like a cat in heat. Eve yanked her instrument away from him with an angered expression.
“If you can’t play then don’t touch it.”
Hikaru laughed and said, “I just wanted to give it a try.” Hikaru stared at Eve’s instrument and asked, “Can you teach me how to play it?” Eve didn’t know why, but she ended up teaching him as she continued her travels.
Eve remembered that Hikaru and her got close during their travels and got married, but then tragedy struck when they learned that Eve couldn’t have children. They remained together, but then one day, Eve just left without a word.
Eve returned many years later only to learn that Hikaru finally had his own children and was now on his deathbed. Eve visited him one last time as he died, but before he died Hikaru told her, “When we meet again I will be able to play our first song together.” When Hikaru died, Eve continued her travels.
“Eve, time to wake up.”
Eve opened her eyes with tears at the corner of her eyes. She rubbed the tears away as she noticed Megumi looking at her from above.
Megumi smiled and said, “We have to get going.” Eve sat up and noticed the others already packing their stuff and heading to the carriage. Eve sighed with a hand against her forehead.
“Is something wrong, Eve?” asked Megumi. Eve shook her head and said, “I’m just a little tired.” Eve stood up and headed toward the carriage with her instrument in hand. Eve hadn’t had that dream for a long time, so it was mystery to her of why she even bothered to remember a tragic event from long ago.
They continued their travel to Eva Province which was now only a few hours away. Eve’s eyes widened when she saw the sign pointing toward Eva Province.
“Is your destination Eva Province?” asked Eve in an uneasy tone. Chiriko nodded and added, “I need to speak to the official in charge of Eva Province concerning the funds and future officials.” Eve gulped and grabbed her instrument.
“I think I should leave now,” stated Eve as she headed toward the door of the carriage.
Sumire scoffed and asked, “Why are you in such a hurry?” Eve didn’t answer as she attempted to leave. Reiji suddenly grabbed her wrist and said, “You shouldn’t leave now especially since assassins are still after you.”
“I’ll be fine on my own,” stated Eve. Naohito cocked his head to the side as Eve began to open the carriage door.
“Now that I think about it, you never told us why the assassins are after you,” pointed out Naohito. Eve turned pale and then heaved out a sigh.
“All you guys need to know is that I can’t stay with you if you are headed into Eva Province,” stated Eve. With that, she opened the carriage door and leapt off allowing the carriage to roll pass her.
Megumi noticed Eve and directed her horse to walk next to her.
“Where are you going Eve?” asked Megumi. Eve smiled and stated, “I am just going to continue my travels alone.” Megumi frowned.
“I was hoping you would stay with us a little longer,” said Megumi. Eve stared at Megumi and could have sworn that Megumi looked like a disappointed puppy. Eve sighed.
“Well I did say that I wanted to hear you play again, so I’ll stay, but not too long,” said Eve. Megumi flashed a smile that made Eve’s heart jump and held her hand to Eve.
“Then ride behind me for now,” offered Megumi. Eve nodded, taking Megumi’s warm hand. Eve sat comfortably behind Megumi and wrapped her arms around Megumi’s waist as Megumi rode back to the carriage. Eve rested her head on Megumi’s shoulder and smiled.
“You really grew my little Megumi,” whispered Eve. Megumi smiled back.
As Megumi rode, she didn’t notice Hime watching from the carriage window with an angered expression.
“That She-Devil,” muttered Hime as she clenched the drapes of the carriage. Reiji looked over Hime’s shoulder only to see Eve sitting behind Megumi with her arms around Megumi. Reiji frowned and looked away.
I know Megumi is a girl, so I shouldn’t worry about Eve holding her like that, but it still bothers me.
Sumire noticed Reiji’s troubled look and began to wonder what his relationship with Megumi truly was.
Keiki stared at Eve and Megumi as he rode, but his focus was mostly on Eve. He still felt that there was something off about Eve, but couldn’t put his finger on it.
They soon reached Eva Province, which had commoners going to different stands and stores and some working at those stands. Naohito looked through the carriage window excitedly.
“Can we travel through the market after our errand?” asked Naohito. Chiriko nodded and added, “Only if we have time.” Naohito cheered and began to think of what goods he could buy in Eva Province.
Chiriko glanced through the window of the carriage as well and noticed a clothes stand. He remembered that he still owed Megumi a shirt and made a note to get one when he had the time. Sumire suddenly poked Chiriko’s shoulder making him look at him.
“Lady Hime and I can’t stay long in Eva Province, so make sure to buy a carriage for you to return to the capital,” informed Sumire. Chiriko nodded making sure to thank Sumire with a smile.
Hime suddenly looked at Chiriko and added, “But we will stay a bit longer to hear Megumi’s playing.” Chiriko nodded again and found himself looking through the carriage window toward Megumi, who was looking around her in awe. Chiriko smiled thinking that Megumi looked cute. Chiriko paused in his thoughts and shook his head reminding himself that he shouldn’t think of a man as cute.
As Megumi rode her horse, Eve looked around cautiously. Megumi glanced at Eve and asked, “Is something wrong?” Eve flinched and shook her head.
“I’m fine as long as I am with you,” stated Eve with a sweat against her brow. Megumi raised an eyebrow at Eve and then turned away with a puzzled look.
They soon reached their hotel, Yemen Hotel, and began to head inside. As Chiriko was getting their rooms, Hime pulled Megumi away from Eve making Eve flinch and said, “Megumi, while we’re here, can you play a song on the Hotel stage?” Megumi sighed moving a strand of stray hair from her face.
“Only if the hotel owner will allow it and then Sumire and you need to do your own errands,” stated Megumi. Hime nodded with a smile and blush on her face, while Sumire heaved out a sigh.
Megumi walked up to one of the employees and asked, “Do you know where the owner of the hotel is?” The employee pointed at an elderly man, who wore a long brown robe, and said, “Hao Dong is the owner.” Megumi nodded and headed to the man, who looked around his sixties, with Hime still attached to her arm.
“Excuse me, Master Hao Dong?”
The man, Hao Dong, looked at Megumi with a raised eyebrow and asked, “Do you need something young man?” Megumi nodded and glanced toward the empty stage.
“If it is all right with you, I would like to play the Lute Biwa on your stage.”
Hao looked toward the empty stage and then back at Megumi with a smile.
“As long as you are playing for free, I don’t mind,” stated Hao. Megumi nodded and bowed to Hao in respect before heading to the stage. Megumi managed to slip from Hime’s grasp as she stepped onto the stage and then glanced at Eve.
“Can I borrow your instrument, Eve?” asked Megumi. Eve smiled and nodded. She handed Megumi her instrument gently as if her instrument were a fragile baby. Megumi then grabbed an empty stool to sit on. She placed her fingers on the instrument and after a few moments began to run her fingers through the instrument creating a tune never heard in Yulan. As she played all the occupants of the hotel looked up at her and listened to the enchanting music in awe.
If one could describe Megumi’s music, it seemed like it was made for the angels. As Megumi played, Eve watched with wide eyes. She remembered her beloved Hikaru and their first song together. It was the first song that Hikaru was able to play and put his own style into it to make it his own. Hikaru called the song their first love together. Eve then remembered his promise before he died. She also remembered that when she first met Megumi back in Go Province, the first song Megumi played on her instrument was the song Hikaru and her made. It was the reason why she taught Megumi more about music and charms. She saw a piece of Hikaru in Megumi. Eve smiled feeling a tear escape from her eye.
Naohito also listened to Megumi’s music in awe. As he watched, a maid in the hotel tripped sending a bowl of water his way. Chiriko saw this and was about to push Naohito out of the way, but to his surprise, the water missed Naohito by an inch and landed on the floor. Chiriko was speechless wondering why the bowl didn’t hit his brother.
Hao was also listening intently with a smile on his face. His smile faded though when he saw Eve watching Megumi. Hao frowned just as Megumi played the last note of the song.
Applause erupted from all in the hotel as Megumi bowed and leapt off the stage. She handed Eve her instrument and said, “Thank you, Eve.” Eve nodded making sure that Megumi didn’t see the tears in her eyes. Megumi did notice the tears, but before she could ask Eve, Megumi was tackled from behind by Hime.
Hime wrapped her arms around Megumi saying, “That was wonderful my darling Megumi, now only if you would play a song just for me.” Megumi sighed as she slipped from Hime’s grip.
“That’s not happening any time soon and Sumire and you should get to your errand all ready.”
Hime nodded knowing that Megumi was right, even though she wanted to stay with Megumi longer. Hime glanced at Sumire and said, “Let’s get the needed supplies at the market.” Sumire nodded and began to follow Hime out of the hotel. Before leaving though, Hime glared back at Eve and whispered, “Don’t you dare try to touch Megumi’s heart.” Eve giggled in response.
When Hime and Sumire were gone, Chiriko approached Megumi and said, “Your playing was truly enchanting, Megumi.” Megumi thanked Chiriko, but then flinched when Naohito grabbed her hand saying, “Please play again when we return to the palace.” Megumi smiled.
“Only when I have time Naohito,” said Megumi. Naohito nodded.
Chiriko then handed Megumi a key and said, “That’s the key to your room. Reiji and Kaze have their own room key and Keiki, as much as I suspect would be staying in your room too. Naohito and I will be sharing a room as well.” Megumi sighed.
Chiriko nodded and then glanced at Eve.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I got you a room as well.”
Eve smiled thanking Chiriko.
Keiki suddenly went between Eve and Megumi with a frown.
“All right, Megumi and I need to get to our room,” stated Keiki. Eve nodded, while Megumi groaned. The next thing Megumi knew, she was being dragged away by Keiki. Chiriko chuckled at the sight and added, “They really do look like best friends.” Eve and Naohito nodded in agreement.
Reiji watched Megumi and Keiki ascend the stairs together and felt something grab his heart. He placed a hand to his heart wondering what he was feeling. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice a man in a dragon design robe bump into his left arm. The man apologized to Reiji, but Reiji didn’t respond. The man shrugged and continued to walk toward Hao.
“Father,” said the man as he approached Hao. Hao looked at the man and smiled.
“You have finally arrived, Fai,” said Hao. The man, Fai, bowed to Hao.
“I’m sorry for being late, but it was hard to slip away from the bar unnoticed.”
Hao nodded and urged Fai closer. He handed Fai a rolled up piece of paper without anyone noticing.
“A target has been given for the assassins to kill.”
Fai looked at the scroll and frowned.
“So that corrupt official sent this?” asked Fai. Hao nodded and added, “He may be corrupted, but we made a pledge to serve him as fellow assassins to get the gold that he possesses.” Fai sighed and unrolled the scroll.
On the scroll was a drawing of Eve holding her instrument on her lap along with a price for her assassination. Fai grinned and asked, “I’m guessing this beautiful woman hurt that man’s pride?”
“Most likely,” said Hao with a smirk on his lips. Hao glanced pass Fai’s shoulder and said, “This job would most likely be easy for your target is in my establishment.” Fai glanced back and saw Eve standing next to Naohito and Chiriko. Fai smirked.
“She was foolish to stay in Eva Province,” stated Fai. Hao nodded in agreement and then said, “I’ll make sure no one approaches that woman’s room when night comes.” Fai nodded thinking of ways to end Eve’s life.
Meanwhile, Megumi and Keiki were in their room getting settled. Keiki sat on one of the two beds in the room with a sigh.
“It always feels great to finally feel a bed after traveling for so long,” said Keiki. Megumi placed a hand on her bed and frowned.
“I actually like sleeping outside better.”
Keiki chuckled and said, “You just don’t like the feeling of sinking.” Megumi threw a brush at Keiki’s face causing him to gasp and cover his nose.
“If you know what’s good for you then I suggest you shut your mouth.”
Keiki groaned rubbing his nose. Megumi suddenly heard a knock on the door and opened it only to see Kaze before it.
“Do you need something Kaze?” asked Megumi. Kaze nodded.
“Lord Chiriko and Lord Naohito want you to come with them to Lord Aoki’s residence right now.”
“Is that so? Is Reiji coming too?”
Kaze nodded and added, “They want Keiki to remain here though.” Keiki swung the door wider so Kaze could see him and screamed, “Why?” Kaze gulped with a sweat against his brow.
“Well you aren’t an official in training and Lord Megumi needs to be away from you at some points,” explained Kaze. Keiki groaned and gripped Megumi’s wrist.
“Where ever Megumi goes, I go too!” exclaimed Keiki. Megumi sighed and yanked her hand away from Keiki making him look at her.
“Chiriko and Naohito already said you can’t come. Just go around the market place in the meantime like you did back in the palace when I went to the fighting tournament.”
“Just stay away from me!” yelled Megumi making Keiki flinch. Megumi walked out of the room leaving Keiki as still as a statue.
Megumi sighed in relief and said, “Feels nice not to have him hanging around me.” Kaze glanced back toward Megumi and Keiki’s room and asked, “Shouldn’t you have said it a little nicer.” Megumi shook her head.
“Keiki wouldn’t listen then.”
Megumi and Kaze headed downstairs, where Naohito, Chiriko, and Reiji were waiting. Megumi waved to them and walked to Reiji’s side.
“Are we going now?” asked Megumi. Chiriko nodded and began to lead them out of the hotel. Chiriko looked back at Kaze and ordered him to stay to watch over their rooms. Kaze did as told watching them leave down the road.
Megumi glanced back at the hotel and asked, “Where did Eve go?”
“She headed to her room before we sent Kaze to get you down,” explained Chiriko. Megumi nodded and looked forward. Megumi remembered how uneasy Eve looked and began to wonder if Eve was in trouble because of something happening in Eva Province.
Eve, in the meantime, sat on a bed in her hotel room playing her Lute Biwa. As she played remembered Hikaru and Megumi’s playing. Eve smiled as she stopped playing.
“I wish I could stay with Megumi a little longer.”
Eve suddenly heard the knob of her door turn and immediately rolled off the bed and under her bed. When the door opened, she saw the feet of a female hotel worker. Eve sighed in relief hugging her instrument close.
I can’t hide forever.
Megumi, Naohito, Chiriko, and Reiji walked through the market place side by side as some commoners looked their way. Reiji looked around and stated, “Is it uncommon for officials to walk the market place?”
“Well I have heard that in Eva Province, Lord Aoki hardly leaves his residence, so others do the same,” stated Naohito.
Megumi looked around and noticed that most of the houses looked empty and the stands looked like they had broken more than once. Megumi placed a hand to her chin and asked, “Is Eva Province low on money?”
“I don’t know about that, but we can ask Lord Aoki when we see him,” stated Chiriko. Megumi nodded.
They soon reached a large residence that seemed to stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of the houses for it was radiant to the eye with its use of the expensive red and blue paint and solid walls with no trace of a crack.
“This is Lord Aoki’s residence?” asked Reiji. Chiriko nodded and approached the door. He knocked on it a few times until a servant of the house opened the door.
“Can I help you?” asked the male servant.
“My name is Chiriko Shi. I have come from the palace to speak with Lord Aoki about Eva Province.”
The servant nodded and opened the door wider for them to walk in. When Megumi walked into the residence’s yard behind Reiji, the servant closed the door behind them tightly. As they walked through the yard, Megumi noticed that the trees were filled with luscious fruit only found in Yulan and the garden was decorated with expensive statues. By Megumi’s calculation, just one statue would be enough to rebuild two houses and a market stand.
“Is something wrong, Megumi?” asked Reiji. Megumi sighed and said, “I’m not quite sure. Eva Province seems poor when looked at closely, but this residence is extravagant, so I don’t know if Eva Province is poor or not.” Reiji nodded in agreement.
“It is puzzling.”
They entered the building of the residence, which had halls that were almost shining. If Megumi didn’t know better, she would have thought that she was within the palace walls.
The male servant, who was leading them, looked back at them and said, “Lord Aoki would be in his study, so if you will, can you please head to the banquet room? It is just down the hall to the right.” Chiriko nodded and added, “Please let Lord Aoki know that we would like some tea to drink as well.” The male servant nodded and ran off.
They headed down the hall until they reached the banquet hall that was unnecessarily large. Megumi examined the banquet hall and asked, “Is Lord Aoki married or living with family?” Chiriko shook his head.
“Lord Aoki has yet to get married and his family lives in a different residence,” stated Chiriko. Naohito nodded and added, “I heard that Lord Aoki is very picky with his women.”
“He sounds difficult,” commented Megumi. Reiji nodded in agreement.
“Well a good woman is hard to find.”
Megumi looked back and saw a man she had never met before walk into the room. He had long hair tied in a bun and wore an Official’s robe. Chiriko smiled and greeted the man as Lord Aoki.
“Nice to see you too, Chiriko,” greeted the man, Aoki, clasping Chiriko’s hand into a handshake. Aoki shook Naohito’s hand as well saying, “Nice to see you as well Naohito, glad you are still alive.” Naohito nodded. Aoki looked toward Megumi and Reiji and asked, “Who are these two?”
Chiriko held his hand toward Megumi and Reiji.
“These two are my assistants for their training as new officials of the emperor: Megumi Yoh and Reiji Kou.”
Megumi and Reiji bowed in respect. Aoki focused on Reiji and chuckled.
“I see that the famous Reiji Kou from the Kou Clan has finally gained the right to be an official,” said Aoki. Reiji flinched and asked, “You know of me?”
“How could I not? You took the Imperial Exams and always got dead last. I thought you were just as dumb as a mule, but looks like you have graduated from a mule to a horse instead.”
Reiji clenched his fist his form shaking. Megumi saw this and glared at Aoki making Aoki flinch.
“Your words were unnecessary, Lord Aoki. Reiji is a gifted man and he passed the Imperial Exams because of his hard work, so don’t insult him for that.”
Reiji stopped shaking as he looked at Megumi with a smile. Aoki scoffed and looked at Chiriko.
“Your assistant is quite rude. Tell me what rank he got that gives him the right to talk to me like this?” demanded Aoki. Chiriko smiled with crossed arms.
“Megumi Yoh is the Diyuan of this year.”
“That’s right and actually has new rank called Chikeimu for his soldier rank given to him by the emperor himself.”
Aoki frowned and said, “I see, I couldn’t expect less from someone you chose as an assistant.”
“And yet you had the nerve to insult Reiji,” stated Chiriko making Aoki flinch. Aoki managed to laugh it off and said, “Well you all should sit at the table while we discuss some matters.” They all nodded and headed to a different chair each.
Reiji placed a hand on Megumi’s shoulder making her glance at him and whispered, “Thank you for standing up for me.” Megumi nodded with a smile that sent Reiji’s heart aflutter.
As they took their seats, a servant came in with a tray of cups and a teapot filled with green tea. The servant placed the tray on the table and began to pour each of them a cup as Chiriko began to speak.
“I need to know how much money you have collected for this month,” stated Chiriko.
“Didn’t you see the amount that I sent to the palace?” asked Aoki. Chiriko nodded and said, “I did, but I noticed that there was a miscalculation.”
Chiriko nodded pulling out a scroll from his robe sleeve. He unrolled it on the table next to the tea.
“It says that you have collected two thousand gold pieces total from Eva Province, but there was a festival this month that should have collected at least five-hundred gold pieces extra.”
“So the extra amount is missing?”
Chiriko nodded and added, “I don’t mean to offend you, but this is highly unusual for you to make such a blunder.” Aoki chuckled.
“Well I am only human. I’ll be sure to make the correction.”
“That will be most helpful and now concerning the new officials in…”
Megumi suddenly raised her hand and asked, “How much money has gone into your residence?” Aoki looked at Megumi and asked, “Why do you ask?”
“Just curious is all,” stated Megumi. Aoki looked around the banquet hall and smiled.
“Thousand gold pieces by my estimate,” stated Aoki. Megumi frowned and looked around herself.
“That’s a rather low estimate. I know that the paint used for your residence is foreign because of a small lingering smell of oak and the stones of the walls and statues are rich in nature and rare. The correct estimate for such a marvelous house would be ten thousand gold pieces.”
Aoki flinched and forced a smile on his face.
“That is quite high,” stated Aoki. Megumi nodded and glanced at Chiriko.
“Chiriko, how much money comes from Eva Province every month?”
“At least two thousand gold pieces unless there is a festival, but that’s usually around five hundred more gold pieces,” answered Chiriko. Megumi smirked.
“If my estimate of the residence is correct wouldn’t that mean that Lord Aoki is receiving more gold than the emperor?” asked Megumi. Chiriko calculated in his head and gasped.
“You do have a point. Even with Lord Aoki’s wage, he wouldn’t have the money to build this place unless he’s…”
Chiriko glanced at Aoki and asked, “How much tax are you collecting from the villagers?” Aoki grinned.
“You can’t possibly believe that I am increasing taxes on the Eva Province residences.”
“I don’t want to believe it, but Megumi makes a good point,” stated Chiriko. Aoki groaned and slammed his fist on the table spilling the tea onto the table.
“I am in charge of Eva Province and I will determine what needs to be done here even if I have to increase taxes!” yelled Aoki. Aoki turned away from Chiriko with anger in his eyes.
“My mood has turned sour, so it would be best if you leave now,” demanded Aoki. Chiriko sighed and said, “As you wish.” Chiriko, Naohito, Reiji, and Megumi walked toward the exit of the banquet hall.
As they left, Aoki glared at the back of Megumi.
When they left the residence of Aoki, Naohito looked at Chiriko and asked, “If Lord Aoki really is increasing taxes shouldn’t we intervene?” Chiriko sighed.
“We would need proof of that and a rich residence isn’t enough,” stated Chiriko. Naohito frowned and said, “It really isn’t fair.” Chiriko and Reiji nodded in agreement.
Megumi looked up at the setting sun and stated, “We should return and try again tomorrow.” Chiriko nodded and then patted Megumi’s head making her look at him.
“I know Lord Aoki was angered, but you did well.”
Megumi smiled and nodded thanking Chiriko. Chiriko felt his heart skip a beat and placed a hand on his heart with a puzzled look.
As Megumi and the others returned to Yemen Hotel, Aoki was headed to his room. Aoki entered his room and slammed his fist against the wall.
“Curse that boy,” muttered Aoki. Aoki pulled out a small whistle in the shape of a miniature flute from his sleeve pocket and then blew through it. To others it would seem that there is no sound coming from the whistle, but to the trained ear of a dog or assassin it emitted the sound of wind going through wind chimes.
“You called my lord?”
Aoki looked back lowering the whistle and saw Fai standing behind him with a sword attached to his back.
“I’m glad you’re here Fai,” said Aoki. Fai nodded and responded, “Bao and Saori seem to be out of range at the moment.” Aoki chuckled and sat on his room chair.
“Well I only need you for this assignment,” stated Aoki. Aoki entwined his fingers as he continued to speak.
“Two officials and two trainees have come to my province to inquire about my ruling here. The boy trainee, Megumi Yoh, somehow figured out that I have been increasing taxes. They don’t have definite proof, but I have a feeling that boy would find the proof in a matter of time.”
Fai smirked and asked, “So you want me to kill that boy: Megumi Yoh?” Aoki nodded and added, “I would also appreciate you killing Chiriko Shi as well with an increase on your pay.”
Fai bowed his head and said, “As you wish.” Fai then lifted his head and added, “I must inform you that I have also located that woman.” Aoki grinned.
“Then make sure to get rid of her as well,” ordered Aoki. Fai nodded and then jumped out the window in a flash. Aoki chuckled.
“I won’t tolerate anyone defying me,” muttered Aoki.
Megumi, Reiji, Chiriko, and Naohito soon returned to the Yemen Hotel, where Kaze was waiting for them. Kaze bowed before them and said, “Welcome back.” Chiriko nodded and then glanced at Megumi and Reiji.
“You two get some rest now.”
Megumi and Reiji nodded and then entered the hotel. Reiji headed up the stairs of the hotel with Kaze, while Naohito and Chiriko headed up together. Naohito noticed that Megumi was still on the bottom stair and asked, “Aren’t you coming, my friend?” Megumi smiled up at Naohito.
“I want to see something first,” stated Megumi. Naohito nodded and ran up the stairs after Chiriko.
Megumi heaved out a sigh and scratched the back of her head. In truth, she didn’t want to return to her room, where Keiki was waiting, just yet. She remembered that Eve should be in her room, so she went up to Hao, who was talking with one of the employees.
“Excuse me, Master Hao Dong?”
Hao looked at Megumi and smiled.
“Ah, the young man with the Lute Biwa.”
“The name is Megumi Yoh, Master Hao Dong.”
Hao laughed as he shooed away the employee.
“So what do you need this time, Megumi?” asked Hao with a smile.
“I would like to know what room Eve is staying in?” asked Megumi. Hao raised an eyebrow.
“Why would you like to know that?” asked Hao. Megumi scratched the back of her head.
“Well Chiriko, my superior, forgot to tell me what room she was in and I promised to see her before she leaves,” stated Megumi. Hao eyed Megumi and then said, “All right, but it is only because you played for my hotel for free.” Megumi thanked Hao.
Hao pulled out a hard covered book with a list of the guests of the hotel and pointed at Eve’s name.
“She should be in room 13, but please don’t stay too long. It is against regulation for me to show you her room in the first place,” stated Hao. Megumi nodded thanking him again.
Megumi ran up the stairs just as Fai was entering the Yemen Hotel. Hao greeted Fai with a smile and asked, “So you responded to our Lord’s whistle?” Fai nodded rubbing his ears.
“If I didn’t respond then he would continue to blow it,” stated Fai in annoyance. Hao chuckled.
“So what was the assignment this time?” asked Hao as he placed his closed book down on his counter. Fai crossed his arms and said, “He wants me to kill one official named Chiriko Shi and one Official in training named Megumi Yoh.” Hao frowned.
“Did you say Megumi Yoh?” asked Hao. Fai nodded.
“I just sent that boy to that woman’s room.”
“You mean my first target?” asked Fai. Hao nodded and added, “It’s disappointing that you have to kill that boy.” Fai smirked uncrossing his arms.
“A target is a target and you just made my job a lot easier by putting two of my targets into one room.”
Hao sighed and said, “Just try to keep it quiet when night completely falls and don’t spread too much blood in the room.” Fai nodded. Hao opened up his book of the guest list again and added, “When those two are gone, you can find Chiriko Shi in room 20 with his brother, Naohito Shi. You should kill Naohito Shi too to spare him the loss of his older brother.” Fai nodded again and headed to the bar saying, “See you soon, father.” Hao’s frown deepened as he muttered an apology.
Megumi went to room 13 and took in a deep breath before knocking on the door.
“Eve?” Megumi called in.
“Megumi is that you?” asked Eve through the door.
“It’s me, can I come in?” asked Megumi. Eve’s door opened wide revealing Eve with her hair out of order. Megumi stared at Eve with wide eyes.
“What happened to your hair?” asked Megumi. Eve placed a hand to her hair with a smile.
“I was lying down in bed before I came to the door,” stated Eve. Megumi peered into Eve’s room and then asked, “If it isn’t too much trouble, can I stay in your room for a while?”
“Whatever for?” asked Eve. Megumi scratched the back of her head glancing to the right.
“Well I want some time away from Keiki a bit longer and I wanted some alone time with you,” stated Megumi. Eve giggled and pulled Megumi into her room saying, “No problem, Megumi.” Megumi smiled as she closed the door behind her.
Eve sat in her bed as Megumi looked around her room.
“Chiriko sure got you a good room,” stated Megumi. Eve nodded and then asked, “I’ve been wondering, why do you call the two officials by their first name without an honorific?” Megumi smiled as she spoke.
“Well they seemed like good people, so I thought it was OK to call them by their first name and they don’t seem to mind it either,” responded Megumi. Eve smiled at Megumi.
“It looks like you are happy where you are now, but can you tell me how your family is doing?”
Megumi’s smile faded as she looked away from Eve.
“My father is dead. He died from pneumonia the same year that you left Go Province.”
Eve’s eyes widened and then asked, “What about your mother, brother, and sister?” Megumi clenched her fist.
“Mother and Mikan were murdered in a fire and Satoshi was kidnapped.”
“That’s horrible,” stated Eve. Megumi nodded and looked at Eve with seriousness in her eyes.
“I’m only trying to become an Official in order to avenge Mother and Mikan’s deaths and to find Satoshi,” stated Megumi. Eve frowned.
“I’m guessing you are going to find those people using your power as an official?”
Megumi nodded and said, “That’s the only reason.” Eve shook her head.
“Megumi, I know how you feel, but getting revenge never does anyone good,” stated Eve. Megumi frowned and looked away from Eve.
“What do you know?” spat out Megumi. Eve stood up from the bed and placed a hand on Megumi’s shoulder making her look at her.
“I can’t give you details, but I know a thing or two about the results of revenge,” stated Eve and then hugged Megumi. Megumi hugged Eve back.
Megumi suddenly felt a chill run down her back and pulled Eve down making Eve gasp. The minute Megumi and Eve were on the ground, a round blade flew pass their heads and into the door of the room. Megumi and Eve stood up looking at the blade in disbelief.
Megumi and Eve looked toward the window of the room and saw Fai sitting on the edge of the window sill with the bottom half of his face covered and a long sword attached to his back. Megumi pushed Eve behind her and went into a fighting stance.
“Are you another assassin after Eve?” demanded Megumi. Fai chuckled as he stood up.
“Well I am after that woman, but I am also after your life,” stated Fai. Megumi raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why me?” Fai drew his sword from his back.
“I have my orders to kill you and that woman,” stated Fai. Fai charged at Megumi swinging his blade at her. Megumi dodged to the side taking Eve with her. Fai chuckled and glanced at Megumi.
“You seem to have fighting experience, but it’s not enough to save your life, boy.”
Fai swung his blade at Megumi again. Megumi was about to dodge again, but Eve suddenly grabbed her Lute Biwa and blocked Fai’s sword making Fai’s eyes widen.
“An instrument?” muttered Fai. Eve forced Fai back into a wall and pointed her instrument at Fai with seriousness in her eyes.
“I won’t allow you to kill Megumi, assassin!” yelled Eve. Fai chuckled holding his sword in a horizontal way.
“I can see why other assassins had a hard time killing you, woman,” stated Fai making Eve flinch. Fai was about to charge at Eve, but a black shoe suddenly collided into his face making him close his eyes and the next thing he knew, he felt a sharp pain in his stomach that sent him flying against the wall roughly. Fai groaned in pain as he opened his eyes. He saw Megumi standing in front of Eve in a fighting stance with one show missing from her right foot. Megumi glared at Fai and yelled, “I won’t allow you to harm Eve!” Fai frowned through his mask.
“You two are making this job a lot harder,” stated Fai. Fai charged at Megumi swinging his sword. Megumi dodged and managed to kick Fai in his stomach. Fai stumbled, but managed to maintain his balance. He swung his sword at Megumi again, but Megumi grabbed Eve’s instrument from her hand and used it to block the blade. Megumi forced Fai back and did a flying kick into his face sending him to the ground. Fai cringed struggling to get up. He felt like that he had been punched by ten men as he got to his feet.
“Looks like you’re strong too,” muttered Fai. Fai charged at Megumi again, but Megumi kicked his chin this time tearing off his mask. Fai tried to cover his face, but Megumi immediately kicked his sword away and did five punches into his stomach and side. Fai fell over shaking in pain. Megumi was breathing heavily and glanced back at Eve.
“Are you OK?” asked Megumi. Eve nodded and looked down at Fai.
“So what do we do with him?” asked Eve. Megumi knelt in front of Fai and grabbed him by the hair forcing him to look at her.
“Who sent you to kill Eve and me?” demanded Megumi. Fai remained silent. Eve shook her head.
“He’s an assassin, Megumi. He won’t say anything even if his life is on the line.”
Megumi sighed and ripped the front of his shirt making Fai gasp. On Fai’s chest was an assassin crest tattoo. Megumi scratched Fai’s tattoo with her nails drawing blood making Fai cringe and said, “Now he can talk.” Fai cursed under his breath.
“Now tell me who sent you?” Megumi demanded again. Fai clenched his hand.
“Lord Aoki Hiro, the official of Eva Province. I was sent to kill that woman and two others: you and the Official Chiriko Shi.”
“You were close to taking down Lord Aoki and I believe Chiriko Shi was the same. That woman, Eve you call her, humiliated Lord Aoki in some way.”
Megumi glanced at Eve and asked, “So you know Lord Aoki?” Eve nodded.
“I refused his advances and the next thing I knew assassins were after my head. It didn’t take me long to know that he was the culprit.”
Megumi frowned and looked back at Fai.
“I want you to stop the assassins from killing Eve and to help take down Aoki Hiro.”
Fai smirked and said, “Why should I? It’s true that you managed to scar my symbol, but you already interrogated me, so that’s all you can do.” Megumi grinned making Fai flinch.
Megumi suddenly pulled him closer and bit the nape of his neck slightly. Fai cringed with gritted teeth. Megumi withdrew her mouth revealing a red mark and whispered, “Haedap.” Fai’s eyes widened as did Eve’s.
“How do you know that word?” asked Fai his voice shaking. Megumi smirked and said, “My master taught me.”
Megumi released Fai’s hair and said, “You are bound to my word at this moment, now end the assassination attempts on Eve and stop Aoki Hiro.” Fai gulped and bowed his head.
“As you wish.”
Fai immediately grabbed his sword staggering and leapt out the window with frown on his face. Megumi heaved out a sigh and looked at Eve.
“Looks like you are safe now from Lord Aoki,” said Megumi. Eve nodded and asked, “How did you know that method to make an assassin obey you?” Megumi smiled and sat on Eve’s bed placing the instrument to her side.
“Master Chuckles taught me a long time ago. He told me that if I ever needed to make an assassin obey unconditionally, I had to mark the nape of his neck and whisper that special word.”
Eve had a troubled look and asked, “Was he the master you were talking about when I first met you?” Megumi nodded and then punched her fist into the palm of her hand.
“The same master I am going to beat when I see him again,” said Megumi. Eve stared at Megumi and then giggled.
“You’re still so cute,” stated Eve. Megumi blushed and said, “You shouldn’t call me cute you know.” Eve smiled and pressed her forehead against Megumi’s.
“Well that’s how I see you, my dear Megumi,” whispered Eve. Megumi smiled back.
They suddenly heard a knock on the door making them separate from each other.
“Who is it?” asked Eve looking toward her door.
“It’s Keiki,” stated Keiki through the other side of the door.
“What do you want?” asked Eve with a troubled expression.
“I wanted to know if Megumi is in there with you.”
Eve glanced at Megumi, who was shaking her head to Eve. Eve sighed and answered, “Megumi isn’t here.”
Keiki cursed through the door and said, “If you see him, tell him to get his butt to bed.”
“I will,” said Eve with a giggle. Megumi and Eve heard Keiki walk away from the door and heaved out a sigh.
Eve glanced at Megumi and said, “You should go back to your room, he does sound worried about you.” Megumi scoffed.
“He’s annoying. I rather stay here with you,” stated Megumi. Eve blushed and then giggled.
“Well you did save me, so you can stay the night,” said Eve. Megumi smiled and hugged Eve making her gasp. Megumi whispered a “thanks” making Eve smile and hug Megumi back.
Meanwhile, back in Aoki’s residence, Aoki was in his study looking over his documents of the taxes on Eva Province’s people. Aoki looked at the high sum of gold charged on the people and smiled.
“With that boy and Chiriko Shi gone, I can continue to gain more money,” whispered Aoki. The documents were suddenly swiped from his desk making him gasp and look up. Before him: stood Fai with the bottom half of his face covered and the documents in his hands.
“What are you doing?” demanded Aoki reaching out to the documents. Fai pulled the documents away from Aoki’s grasp and said, “I was ordered to take you down, so I would need these documents.” Aoki’s eyes widened.
“What are you talking about? You only obey me,” stated Aoki. Fai shook his head.
“As of tonight, I have a new master and my new master’s orders were to take you down and to prevent you from sending assassins after Eve.”
Aoki gritted his teeth and tried to grab the documents again, but Fai drew his sword and sliced off Aoki’s right hand below the wrist. Aoki screamed out in pain clenching his handless arm as blood spread on the floor before Fai’s feet. Fai turned away from Aoki and said, “I would advise you to leave Eva province now before I give these papers to the Official, Chiriko Shi.” With that, Fai leapt out the window leaving Aoki in shock.
Fai headed back to the Yemen Hotel, but suddenly Saori and Bao landed in front of him with seriousness in their eyes.
“Saori, Bao, what brings you two here?” asked Fai removing his mask. Saori and Bao removed their masks as well. Saori crossed her arms and asked, “Why did you betray Lord Aoki?” Fai scoffed.
“He was no longer my master.”
Bao’s eyes widened and asked, “What do you mean by that? Did someone pay higher than Lord Aoki?” Fai frowned.
“There was no money involved,” stated Fai. Saori walked to Fai and clenched the front of his shirt yelling, “Then why?” Saori suddenly noticed a mark on the nape of Fai’s neck and gasped. She withdrew her hand and asked, “Did someone use the obedience vow on you?” Fai nodded placing a hand on the mark on the nape of his neck.
“I never expected my target would know this technique especially since only the assassins know it,” stated Fai. Bao looked at Saori with a troubled expression and then back at Fai.
“The one who did the obedience vow, is his name Megumi Yoh?” asked Bao. Fai nodded and added, “He was young, so I didn’t expect him to be so strong either.” Saori cursed under her breath.
“Megumi Yoh is always interfering,” growled Saori. Fai raised an eyebrow at her.
“So you know him too?” asked Fai. Saori nodded and showed the assassin symbol on her cheek.
“He scarred my symbol to stop me from killing my target,” stated Saori in a bitter voice. Fai frowned placing a hand to his chest.
“He did the same to me in order to make me talk,” added Fai. Bao looked at both Saori and Fai and clenched his fists.
“Megumi Yoh knows secrets that only assassins like us would know. Could it be that the symbol on his hip is the real thing?”
Fai looked at Bao with seriousness in his eyes.
“What do you mean by that?” demanded Fai.
“Well, when I tried to attack him in the palace, I saw an ancient symbol on his hip that looked like the top assassin’s seal.”
Fai’s eyes widened and then burst out laughing.
“That is only a fairy tale. That boy fights well, but he is no assassin,” stated Fai. Fai walked pass Saori and Bao and stated, “I have my orders to stop the assassination attempts on Eve, so back down.”
When Fai was out of sight, Saori clenched her fist and whispered, “What the Hell is Megumi Yoh?”
The next day, Keiki was walking in the hallway of Yemen Hotel mumbling different curses with bags under his eyes. Keiki in truth barely slept a wink waiting for Megumi to return to their room, but Megumi never returned. Keiki stopped in front of Reiji and Kaze’s room door and banged on it yelling, “Get your butts out of bed.”
Reiji opened the door with his long hair let loose and tired eyes. Reiji yawned and asked, “What do you want Keiki?” Keiki pushed Reiji aside and marched into his room. Keiki glanced around, but only saw Kaze getting out of his own bed yawning. Keiki cursed under his breath and left the room.
Before Keiki could take another step, Reiji grabbed his shoulder and asked, “Is something wrong?” Keiki groaned pushing Reiji’s hand away.
“I’m just looking for stupid Megumi,” stated Keiki. Reiji’s eyes widened and asked, “Megumi isn’t with you?” Keiki shook his head and crossed his arms with a pout on his face.
“He never came back to the room last night,” mumbled Keiki. Reiji rubbed his chin in thought.
“Maybe Megumi stayed with Eve last night.”
Keiki shook his head and said, “I went to Eve’s room last night, but she told me that Megumi wasn’t in there.”
“Did it occur to you that she may have been lying for Megumi?” asked Reiji with a raised eyebrow. Keiki paused and then yelled out a slur of curse words as he ran toward Eve’s room. Reiji heaved out a sigh and looked back at Kaze, who was removing his nightshirt.
“I’m going to make sure Keiki doesn’t get into trouble,” stated Reiji. Kaze nodded and watched Reiji run down the hallway in his nightshirt.
Reiji chased after Keiki telling him to calm down. Keiki didn’t seem to listen as he crunched his knuckles.
“That bastard left me waiting all night!” yelled Keiki. Reiji managed to reach Keiki by an arm length and said, “Maybe Megumi just wanted some time away from you.” Keiki stopped in his tracks making Reiji bump into his back. Reiji stumbled back, but managed to keep his balance as he looked at Keiki.
“Time away from me? I’m just keeping close to him because of my promise as a man,” said Keiki in a low voice.
“Well Megumi does need his space once in a while,” explained Reiji. Keiki clenched his fist and ran down the hall yelling, “Well too bad!” Reiji groaned and chased after Keiki again.
Keiki stopped in front of Eve’s door and, instead of knocking, broke open the door with his foot.
“Megumi, you bastard!” yelled Keiki. Keiki fell silent with wide eyes. Reiji finally reached Keiki and said, “Keiki, you really should…”
Reiji fell silent staring into Eve’s room.
In the room, Eve and Megumi were sleeping in the bed together holding hands with their faces only inches away from each other. Reiji was as still as a statue, while Keiki began to tremble in anger. Keiki clenched his fist and glared toward Megumi with redness in his cheeks.
“I wait the whole night for him and he is in bed with a girl?” said Keiki his anger slowly rising.
Megumi awoke from her slumber with a yawn. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes sitting up from the bed and finally took notice of Reiji and Keiki.
“Why are you two here?” asked Megumi. Keiki threw a punch at Megumi, but Megumi caught his fist with her right hand with a bored look.
“Damn Bastard!” yelled Keiki, trying to punch Megumi, but Megumi blocked every one of his punches. Megumi then kicked Keiki into the wall making him grunt in pain. Megumi frowned and stated, “This is not how I want to wake up, slime ball.” Keiki growled clenching his fist.
Reiji looked at Megumi and asked, “So you really spent the night here with Eve?” Megumi nodded and asked, “Is there something wrong with that?” Reiji shook his head, relieved that he knew Megumi’s secret or he would have thought Megumi did more than spend a night with Eve.
Eve awoke next stretching up like a cat. She saw that Keiki and Reiji were in her room and asked, “How did you two get in here?” Keiki paused and looked at the damaged door. Keiki gulped when he felt a chill run down his back. He glanced at Megumi and saw her angered expression. Keiki backed away and said, “I was looking for you, so I didn’t realize that I…”
Megumi punched Keiki into the wall before he could finish his sentence. Megumi then towered over Keiki saying, “This would cost a lot of money, so you better get to work.” Keiki gulped and the next thing he knew, he was kneeling in front of the broken door trying to repair it with a brown board on his back saying, “I am a jerk, so don’t approach.”
Reiji stared at Keiki’s solemn form and asked, “Was this really necessary, Megumi?” Megumi nodded with crossed arms. Eve giggled and patted Megumi’s head.
“Still so cute.”
Megumi blushed making Reiji flinch.
“Do I even want to know what happened here?”
Megumi and Reiji looked back and saw Chiriko and Naohito approaching them. Reiji and Megumi bowed their heads to them.
“Good morning,” greeted Megumi and Reiji in unison. Chiriko nodded with a smile. Reiji looked at Chiriko and asked, “Are we going to see Lord Aoki today?” Chiriko’s smile became a frown making Reiji confused.
“Is something wrong?” asked Reiji. Chiriko nodded.
“I found Aoki Hiro’s documents in my room dresser this morning. The documents prove that Aoki has been increasing taxes and doing other illegal activity. As of this moment, I am evoking my power as an official to strip him of his official status.”
“You can do that?” asked Reiji. Chiriko nodded and added, “The emperor had given me this right when he sent me to Eva province.”
Megumi glanced back at Eve and then back at Chiriko and asked, “Now that he’s not an official, what will happen to him?” Naohito spoke this time.
“He would be banished from Eva Province and put in Prison for as long as the emperor sees fit,” explained Naohito. Megumi nodded and asked, “When are you getting him?”
“I have already sent Kaze to get him, so no need to worry,” stated Chiriko. Megumi nodded and then asked, “So who will be in charge of Eva Province now?” Chiriko smiled and said, “I will send a messenger to the palace and then the emperor would most likely send a new official for Eva Province in a week’s time.”
“What do we do in the meantime?” asked Reiji rubbing his chin. Chiriko chuckled.
“Well we can take care of Eva Province in the meantime and have at least one day off to go shopping,” stated Chiriko. Reiji and Megumi looked at each other and then smiled and nodded.
“Sounds good,” stated Megumi and Reiji in unison.
Megumi suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder and looked back only to see Eve smiling at her.
“Looks like you are going to busy, so I should take my leave,” stated Eve. Megumi showed a disappointed look and asked, “Are you sure?” Eve nodded with a smile.
Eve looked at the others including Keiki and said, “Thank you for your hospitality.”
“What about the assassins after you?” asked Naohito in concern. Eve giggled and glanced back at Megumi.
“After last night, I am sure that I will be safe again,” stated Eve. Eve was about to walk off, but stopped in her tracks and looked back at Megumi.
“I almost forgot,” stated Eve walking back to Megumi. Before Megumi could react, Eve kissed her on the lips. Reiji, Naohito, Chiriko, and Keiki stared at Megumi and Eve’s kissing form with wide eyes. Eve pulled away looking at the wide eyed Megumi. Eve smiled and said, “I did promise to give you a kiss before leaving the second time we meet.” Eve giggled and then held Megumi’s right hand kissing the tip of her index finger.
“I hope I can see you again,” whispered Eve and then walked off giggling.
Megumi stared at Eve’s retreating form, wide eyed. Reiji approached Megumi after getting over his shock and asked, “Why did she kiss you?” Megumi touched her lips with the tip of her right index finger and then said, “When I was five, I told Eve before she left that if I meet her again, she better give me a kiss before leaving.” Megumi giggled and added, “I didn’t think she remembered that promise.”
Reiji felt a sting in his heart and placed a hand on it with a troubled look. Naohito also felt the same sting and tugged on Chiriko’s sleeve asking, “Is something wrong with me, Chiriko?” Chiriko remained silent making Naohito look at him.
Naohito flinched when he saw Chiriko’s pale face.
“Are you OK, Chiriko?” asked Naohito in an uneasy voice. Chiriko’s face regained its color and cleared his throat.
“I am fine, Naohito,” stated Chiriko, but his face looked troubled.
Keiki stopped fixing the door for a short while feeling a sting in his heart, but suddenly gasped and yelled, “Now I remember!” They all looked at Keiki with puzzled looks.
“Remember what?” asked Megumi. Keiki looked at them with wide eyes and said, “When I met Eve I was nine and she looked exactly like how she does today.” Their eyes widened as did Megumi’s. Megumi realized that Eve since Megumi was five hadn’t aged one bit. Megumi placed a hand to her forehead in confusion as a glimmer of light in the shape of a cherry blossom emitted from the tip of her right finger that Eve kissed.
Meanwhile, Hao was in his study of the hotel writing his documents. He saw Fai enter the room and asked, “So did you deliver the documents?” Fai nodded with crossed arms. Hao suddenly chuckled and said, “Who would have expected that an outsider like that Megumi boy knew how to do the Obedience Vow?” Fai frowned.
“I don’t want to talk about that,” mumbled Fai. Hao chuckled and said, “Well you have to serve him as an assassin until that mark he made on your nape disappears.” Fai covered his neck glaring at Hao.
“I promise you father that after this mark is gone, I will kill Megumi Yoh.”
Hao smirked and said, “We’ll see, Fai.” Hao chuckled wondering what other surprises Megumi would reveal.
Eve, on the other hand, left Eva province with her instrument in hand. She glanced back at Eva Province and smiled. She remembered that when Megumi was five and she was leaving Go Province, she kissed the tip of Megumi’s right index finger creating a cherry blossom mark that vanished soon after without Megumi noticing.
“Continue to grow my sweet Megumi with my mark on your finger tip.”