Bunkai 17: Return

In the center of Yulan resided the palace where the emperor Yuki Ki lived and ruled. Within the palace were also the Officials and soldiers under the emperor and where the trainees trained. The trainees slept in rooms with flower symbols on their doors. In the Cherry Blossoms room lived only two residents: Shiro Ran and his pet companion, Chestnut. Shiro Ran was a bit more creative for his age, but he was indeed a genius to be part of the top twenty in the Imperial Exams. He was also considered strange because of his falcon that refused to leave his side since he was a child. People didn’t understand him well, but he was still happy.

Shiro slept soundly in his room, while his falcon, Chestnut, slept on his perch. Chestnut suddenly awoke and began to caw wildly waking up Shiro from his slumber.

“Is something wrong Little Chestnut?” asked Shiro rubbing the sleep from his eyes. To his surprise, he saw Chestnut fly from his perch and began to claw at the closed door. Shiro slipped out of bed still in his sleeping attire and opened the door. Chestnut immediately flew out and into the sky. Shiro stared at the vanishing form of Chestnut with bewilderment.

“Where is he going?”

Chestnut soared through the sky pass the palace walls and then glanced toward the gates leading into the center of Yulan. Going through the gate was the carriage Naohito, Reiji, and Chiriko were riding with Keiki on horseback riding beside it. What made Chestnut’s eyes lit up was at the sight of Megumi hanging from the side of carriage with the morning wind blowing through her hair. Chestnut gave out a cry and darted toward Megumi. Within seconds he was hovering in front of Megumi.

Megumi gasped and then smiled. She clicked her tongue at Chestnut making him land on her shoulder. He cuddled her cheek with closed eyes. Megumi petted his feathered head with a smile.

“I missed you too, Chestnut.”

Keiki spotted Chestnut on Megumi’s shoulder and glared daggers at him.

“Why are you here stupid bird?” yelled Keiki. Chestnut glared at Keiki cawing wildly. Keiki and Chestnut were soon in a glaring battle. Megumi sighed whispering, “The glaring battles between Chestnut and Keiki have returned.” Reiji peeked from the carriage at Megumi seeing Chestnut glaring at Keiki.

“I’m surprised that Shiro’s falcon knew we were coming,” stated Reiji. Megumi chuckled glancing at Chestnut.

“It must have been animal instincts and he hasn’t seen us in two weeks,” stated Megumi. Reiji nodded and glanced at Keiki, who was still glaring at Chestnut.

“It’s obvious that Shiro’s falcon didn’t miss Keiki though,” stated Reiji. Megumi nodded in agreement.

Naohito peeked from the carriage and stated, “The market seems to be opening now, so we should hurry back before too many people flood the streets.” Megumi nodded in agreement and leapt from the side of the carriage and landed on the dirt ground. Reiji glanced at Megumi and asked, “Where are you going, Megumi?”

“To the palace,” stated Megumi.

“But wouldn’t it be better to stay on the carriage until we get inside the palace?” asked Reiji. Megumi shrugged with a chuckle and said, “It’s OK. We are in the capital now, so we’re safe from bandits.”

“You do have a point,” stated Reiji. Megumi nodded walking next to the carriage.

As Megumi walked, Chestnut was practically purring, while perched on her shoulder. Chiriko looked over Reiji’s shoulder toward Chestnut and asked, “Doesn’t it hurt for that falcon to be perched on your shoulder?” Megumi shook her head.

“I’m fine. Chestnut is very gentle,” stated Megumi. Reiji rubbed his chin and asked, “Now that I think about it, why is Shiro’s falcon named Chestnut?” Megumi rubbed her chin and then shrugged.

“I don’t know, but the name is cute,” stated Megumi petting Chestnut’s head with her index finger. Keiki scoffed and said, “The name is stupid.” Chestnut glared at Keiki beginning to caw wildly. Keiki flinched, but then turned away with a frown. Megumi sighed as she began to pet Chestnut more to get him to calm down.

They soon entered the gates of the palace, where Megumi saw Mori Suoh walking out of a reporting post. Megumi waved at Mori saying his name. Mori looked at Megumi and smiled.

“You finally returned, Chikeimu,” stated Mori referring to Megumi by her soldier title. Megumi rolled her eyes walking over to Mori as the carriage rolled to a stop.

“Just call me Megumi like you used to before the tournament,” stated Megumi taking Mori’s hand into a handshake. Mori shook back and said, “All right, Megumi.” Megumi nodded in approval.

Megumi glanced at the carriage only to see Reiji, Chiriko, and Naohito exiting it and Keiki getting off his horse. Chiriko waved at Megumi and said, “Naohito and I will report to the emperor of our arrival.” Megumi nodded and stated, “Then Reiji and I will return to our rooms to greet the others.” Chiriko nodded waving farewell to Megumi. Naohito waved goodbye to Megumi before running after Chiriko.

Reiji went to Megumi’s side looking at Mori.

“Nice to see you, Captain Mori,” greeted Reiji. Mori nodded at Reiji in response. Mori looked at Megumi again and noticed Chestnut perched on her shoulder.

“Why is there a falcon on your shoulder?” asked Mori. Megumi chuckled, caressing Chestnut’s head.

“He just wanted to say hi to me. I have to return him to Shiro soon though,” stated Megumi.

“Shiro Ran, correct?” asked Mori. Megumi nodded with a smile. Mori found himself smiling as well. In truth, he had missed Megumi since she left for Eva Province. He snapped out of his thoughts, when he saw Reiji place a hand on Megumi’s free shoulder making her look at him.

“We should get going,” stated Reiji. Megumi nodded smiling and followed Reiji. Keiki joined Reiji and Megumi saying, “Do we really have to see them?”

“You can help the driver return the carriage,” stated Megumi.

Keiki shook his head and yelled, “I am not letting you out of my sight!”

“Of course,” stated Megumi in a semi-annoyed tone making Keiki groan and Reiji chuckle.

Mori watched Megumi leave with Keiki and Reiji and scratched the back of his head.

“It seems like Megumi grew closer with that Mafia youth and Reiji.”

Mori shook his head and headed toward the palace halls to do his duty as a soldier of the palace.

Meanwhile, Chiriko and Naohito walked side by side toward the throne room. Naohito glanced at Chiriko and asked, “Why didn’t you give Megumi the shirt?” Chiriko smiled and answered, “It didn’t seem appropriate.”

“When is it an appropriate time?” asked Naohito. Chiriko glanced at the bag on his side that held the shirt and stated, “I’ll know when it happens.” Naohito grew bewildered, but then fell forward hitting his face on the hard floor. Chiriko gasped and helped Naohito to his feet.

“I thought your luck improved,” stated Chiriko. Naohito rubbed his nose and said, “I thought so too.” Naohito suddenly remembered Megumi doing the charm on him and sighed looking at his opened hand.

“Maybe Megumi needs to kiss it again.”

“What?” exclaimed Chiriko.

Naohito looked at Chiriko and said, “Well when Megumi showed me the lucky charm, he kissed it and that’s when I felt like my luck had improved.” Chiriko showed a troubled look clenching his hand.

“I’m sure that was coincidence,” stated Chiriko. Naohito nodded as he began to trace the charm into his palm using his right index finger.

They soon reached the throne room, only to see Suha in the room placing different parchments onto a table before the throne.

“Lord Suha,” greeted Chiriko. Suha glanced at Chiriko and Naohito and smiled.

“I see that you two have returned from your long journey,” stated Suha. Chiriko and Naohito nodded.

“If you are looking for his majesty to make a report then I would advise you to wait until he awakes,” stated Suha

“He’s not awake?” asked Chiriko with a raised eyebrow. Suha nodded and sighed rubbing his chin.

“He’s been under the weather since Megumi left with you two for Eva Province, but he still manages to do his work,” stated Suha. Naohito and Chiriko looked at each other in concern and then back at Suha.

“We’ll come back in the afternoon then,” stated Chiriko. Chiriko and Naohito were about to leave the room, but stopped in their tracks when they heard Suha ask, “Where are Megumi, Keiki, and Reiji?”

Chiriko glanced back and stated, “Megumi, Reiji, and Keiki went to their dorm room to greet the others. Knowing Megumi he will greet you as well soon.” Suha nodded and watched Chiriko and Naohito leave.

Suha heaved out a sigh and looked back at the parchments on the table.

“I guess I should add one more duty to these,” muttered Suha.

Megumi, Reiji, Chestnut, and Keiki in the meantime headed to the dorms. They passed each dorm door until they reached the purple iris room. Keiki crossed his arms and stated, “I wonder if Sora and Boshi are awake already.”

Megumi reached toward the knob saying, “Only one way to find out.” Before Megumi could touch the knob, Chestnut gave out a cry making Megumi flinch and flew from her shoulder. Megumi looked to her side only to see Shiro fully dressed. Chestnut landed on Shiro’s shoulder rubbing his cheek against his. Shiro smiled and said, “Welcome back little Chestnut.” Shiro then looked forward seeing Megumi, Reiji, and Keiki. Shiro smiled at the sight of Megumi.

“Welcome back to you too, Megumi my friend,” greeted Shiro. Megumi smiled greeting Shiro back. Shiro approached them petting Chestnut’s feathered head.

“Now I know why little Chestnut flew off,” stated Shiro. Megumi chuckled and stated, “It was a very warm welcome for our return to the capital.” Shiro nodded caressing Chestnut’s head. Keiki cleared his throat loudly getting Megumi’s attention.

“Let’s go in already,” urged Keiki. Megumi nodded reaching out to the knob, but stopped when she heard Shiro say, “I see that Keiki and you are not arguing for once.” Megumi sighed.

“I guess,” stated Megumi before turning the knob opening the room. She walked into the room with Keiki behind her. Reiji glanced at Shiro bowing his head.

“Nice to see you again Shiro,” greeted Reiji before entering the room himself and closing the door behind him.

Shiro stared at the closed door and then at Chestnut.

“They seem happier don’t they little Chestnut?” whispered Shiro with a smile on his face.

When Megumi, Keiki, and Reiji entered the room, they saw that Sora and Boshi were still asleep in their beds. Sora was sleeping soundly tucked comfortably under his covers, while Boshi was snoring once in a while with his covers completely off his body. Keiki scratched the back of his head with a frown.

“They sure look comfortable,” stated Keiki slightly annoyed. Reiji glanced at Megumi and suggested that they greet them later. Megumi shook her head.

“When that gong sounds, we won’t be able to greet them properly and I’m sure that Sora and Boshi can’t be that tired,” stated Megumi. Reiji sighed and added, “That really isn’t your call, Megumi.”

Keiki noticed the water filled pan next to Boshi’s bed and showed a wicked smile. Keiki rolled up his sleeve saying, “I’ll wake them up.” Keiki picked up the water pan next to Boshi and flung the water from the pan all over Boshi’s and Sora’s forms, Boshi getting the brunt of it. Boshi shot up from his bed sputtering and Sora gasped rubbing the water from his eyes.

“What the Hell happened?” exclaimed Boshi wiping the water from his face. Keiki burst out laughing, while Reiji looked away trying to contain his laughter and Megumi looked on with an amused smile.

Boshi looked toward Keiki’s laughing form and noticed the water pan in his grasp. Boshi glared at Keiki and threw his soaked covers at Keiki’s face.

“Take that!” yelled Boshi. Keiki gasped as the wetness of the covers soaked his face. Keiki tore the covers from his face revealing the dripping water and pointed at Boshi.

“This was my revenge for all the times you splashed me!” yelled Keiki. Boshi scoffed squeezing the water from his long hair.

Sora noticed Megumi and Reiji after wiping the last of the water and asked, “When did you guys get back?” Megumi smiled and stated, “Only this morning.” Boshi looked toward Megumi and Reiji and said, “Oh yeah, I forgot that you three left for Eva Province a long time ago. How was the trip?”

“It was interesting,” stated Reiji scratching the back of his head. Megumi nodded in agreement.

Sora rubbed his bed hair in place sitting cross legged on his bed and stated, “The gong didn’t ring yet, so why the rude awakening?” Megumi smiled and said, “We wanted to give you a proper hello without you two being in a rush, but I do apologize for Keiki’s water awakening.” Sora scratched the back of his head smiling.

“Then welcome back,” greeted Sora. Megumi nodded. Boshi smiled removing his soaked night attire and said, “Yeah, welcome back, Reiji, Megumi, and stupid Keiki.”

“I’m not stupid!” yelled Keiki throwing the pan at Boshi, but Boshi managed to dodge making it hit Sora instead. Sora held his pain throbbing head shaking. Sora glared at Keiki making Keiki flinch.

“I swear if you throw anything else at me, I will boil you alive,” threatened Sora. Keiki stepped back knowing that Sora would do what he said.

Reiji chuckled and stated, “We really are back in the capital.” Megumi nodded.

They suddenly heard the gong ringing making Sora and Boshi groan.

“Time for training huh?” stated Boshi. Sora nodded. Sora and Boshi began to change with Reiji, Megumi, and Keiki watching. Megumi rubbed her chin and glanced at Reiji.

“Should we join them in the training for today?” asked Megumi.

“But we only just get back,” reasoned Reiji. Megumi chuckled and elbowed Reiji’s side playfully.

“Come on, Reiji, we haven’t worked in the palace for a long time,” urged Megumi. Reiji stared into Megumi’s expectant eyes and sighed.

“It should be OK,” stated Reiji. Megumi cheered with a smile that sent Reiji’s heart racing. Keiki glanced at Megumi and stated, “You seriously want to work?” Megumi nodded and added, “You can stay in the room if you want, Keiki.” Keiki shook his head.

“I…”

“I am not letting you out of my sight because of my promise as a man,” interrupted Boshi in a higher imitation voice. Keiki glanced at Boshi with wide eyes. Boshi smirked tying up his long hair and said, “You always say the same thing, stupid Keiki.”

“I’m not stupid!” yelled Keiki making Boshi laugh. Boshi glanced at Megumi and Reiji and said, “You guys know the drill.” With that, Boshi ran out of the room.

Sora slipped on his clothes and added, “I would take this chance to rest if I were you guys, but I’m not you so do what you want.” Sora left the room.

Reiji and Megumi looked at each other and then chuckled with a feeling of relief that not that much had changed since they left, while Keiki was mumbling that he wasn’t stupid repeatedly.

Megumi changed into her training clothes quickly and looked at Reiji, who was still slipping on his shirt.

“I’m going to the throne room,” stated Megumi. Reiji nodded and stated, “I’ll catch up.” Megumi walked out of the room with Keiki close behind.

When Megumi left the room, she saw that Sora and Boshi were waiting outside.

“Why are you guys still here?” asked Megumi. Boshi scratched the back of his head sheepishly with a smile and stated, “Well we haven’t walked to the throne room together in a long time.” Sora nodded in agreement and added, “We should have known that Reiji would take forever though, so let’s go without him.” Megumi stared at Boshi and Sora with Keiki behind her and then chuckled. She wrapped her arms around their shoulders with a smile and said, “Let’s go then.” Sora and Boshi smiled and nodded.

Keiki stared at Megumi as she hugged Boshi and Sora and groaned. He managed to pull Megumi from them making Boshi and Sora confused and said, “Let’s go.” Megumi nodded with a raised eyebrow at Keiki.

In a matter of minutes they were walking side by side heading to the throne room. Megumi looked at Boshi and Sora and asked, “So anything interesting happen, while Reiji, Keiki, and I were gone?” Sora shrugged.

“Nothing really. Youko Tai and Bakura Hoshi went to Jogo Province for training with Lord Tomo Matsu three days ago. Rumiko Hashihara and Genba Tendo went to train in Eru Province under Lord Kogoro Tai. Sasuke Harada and Keisuke Saotome went to Ryu Province under Lord Tamoya Miya. Chances are that you already know that Ichigo Goh and Suiji Yan are training in Eva Province under Lord Shouryou Kou.”

“So eight other trainees aren’t present in the palace,” stated Megumi. Sora nodded. Boshi chuckled and added, “Well I think more of us will leave for training in other provinces like Reiji and you did.”

Megumi smiled and stated, “Do any of you two plan on leaving the palace for training?” Sora shook his head and stated, “Outside training is usually for the Officials and I’m trying to be a soldier.” Boshi smirked and stated, “I want to be an Official, but I won’t do outside training if Lee isn’t going to do it.” Megumi stared at Sora and Boshi and chuckled.

“At least I get to stay with you guys for the remaining month.”

Sora and Boshi didn’t know why, but they felt somewhat shy when Megumi said those words and blushed. Keiki noticed their reddening faces and yelled, “Stop turning red around Megumi!” Boshi glanced at Keiki trying to cover his reddening face and said, “I’m not, stupid Keiki.” Keiki glared at Boshi, while Sora turned around trying to cover his red cheeks.

“Megumi!”

Megumi looked back and saw Reiji approaching them.

“Took you long enough,” stated Megumi playfully. Reiji smiled and said, “Sorry about that, but I thought you would be in the throne room already.”

“We’re almost there,” stated Sora his face back to normal. Boshi nodded in agreement with Keiki still glaring at him.

In a matter of minutes, they reached the throne room, where the remaining trainees were standing. Suha smiled when he spotted Megumi and Reiji.

“I see that you two have finally returned just like Chiriko and Naohito said,” stated Suha. Megumi and Reiji nodded as the other trainees glanced back at them. Suha picked up a parchment and tossed it to Reiji forcing him to catch it.

“You guys came so you must be willing to continue your training today, so do your best,” stated Suha. Reiji and Megumi nodded. Reiji opened the parchment and immediately left the room to do his duties.

Megumi looked back at Suha and saw him handing out the parchments to the other trainees. Megumi frowned making Keiki look at her.

“What’s with you?” asked Keiki.

“I have a feeling that Suha has something planned for me,” stated Megumi. Keiki scoffed and said, “What can he do that’s so bad?”

When there weren’t any parchments left, only Megumi, Sora, and Ryouga remained within the trainees. Megumi groaned with crossed arms.

Suha smirked at Megumi noticing her look.

“I’m guessing you have an idea of what is going on?” asked Suha with crossed arms. Megumi glared at Suha as she spoke.

“You want Sora, Ryouga, and I to do some special training for being a soldier, am I correct?” asked Megumi. Suha nodded. Sora and Ryouga smiled in satisfaction, while Megumi had an annoyed look and Keiki glanced at Megumi with a bewildered look.

“I wanted to train today as a future Official, not as a soldier!” yelled Megumi. Suha shook his right finger in her direction.

“Come on Megumi, when you won that tournament we were in agreement that you would have training as a soldier too along with your training as an Official.”

Megumi groaned with crossed arms. Suha chuckled and glanced back saying, “I hope you don’t mind me adding a third person for the training today.” Out from behind the curtain behind Suha stepped out a man in soldier attire. His armor was a deep red and his long black hair was braided in a single ponytail running down his back. He had a scar on his right eyebrow and deep brown eyes that looked serious. He walked forward looking at Suha.

“I don’t mind the extra student,” he stated. He then looked at Megumi, Keiki, Sora, and Ryouga making them flinch. Megumi couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was something that she didn’t like about this man.

The man bowed his head to them as Suha held his hand toward him looking at them with a smile.

“This man is Amida Sune, a high ranking soldier of the palace. You will be given special training by him.”

Megumi was about to say something as she looked at the man, Amida, but stopped when Sora exclaimed, “Master?” Megumi, Ryouga, and Keiki looked at Sora with wide eyes. Sora was staring at Amida with disbelief.

Amida looked at Sora and asked, “Do I know you?” Sora placed a hand to his chest and stated, “It’s me, Sora Kofu. You trained me when I was ten, remember?” Amida stared at Sora and shook his head.

“I’m sorry, but your name doesn’t sound familiar,” stated Amida. Sora felt his heart nearly break as he stared at Amida. Sora clenched his fist looking away from Amida.

Suha cleared his throat and said, “Anyway, I leave you in Amida’s care.” With that, Suha left the room.

Amida stared at all of them and then looked at Keiki.

“Aren’t you part of the mafia?” asked Amida. Keiki nodded.

“Then please leave,” stated Amida bluntly. Keiki growled and yelled, “Why should I?”

“My training is not meant for your knowledge,” stated Amida. Keiki gritted his teeth and was ready to draw his blade, but stopped when he felt Megumi’s hand on his hand. He glanced at Megumi and heard her say, “Please explore the market for today. I’ll be fine.” Keiki groaned and nodded.

Keiki glared back at Amida and yelled, “I’ll be back!” Keiki left the throne room in a huff. Ryouga glanced at Keiki’s retreating back and stated, “I thought Keiki would have put up more of a fight.”

Amida cleared his throat getting their attention.

“Please follow me and don’t fall behind,” stated Amida. Megumi, Sora, and Ryouga nodded and began to follow Amida out of them room. As they walked, Sora kept looking at Amida with saddened eyes. Megumi glanced at Sora remembering how much he talked about his master in high regards.

“Is Amida really your master?” asked Megumi in a low voice. Sora nodded and clenched his fist.

“I don’t understand why he doesn’t remember me and why he is even a soldier here,” stated Sora. Megumi noticed Sora’s hand shaking and held his hand making Sora look at her.

“I’m sure he’ll remember eventually,” stated Megumi in comfort. Sora nodded holding Megumi’s hand tightly.

Ryouga made a disgusted sound and stated, “Are you guys lovers or what?” Sora and Megumi looked back at Ryouga and then at each other. Sora noticed that he was still holding Megumi’s hand and ripped his hand away with a blush making Megumi confused.

“You OK?” asked Megumi. Sora nodded momentarily forgetting his sadness over his master. Ryouga, Megumi, and Sora were so preoccupied that they didn’t even notice that Amida had led them down a hall that was almost invisible.

In a matter of minutes, they reached an area that looked like the training grounds for soldiers, but it had some major differences. It had metal bars surrounding it and the sand on the field was that of the color silver.

Megumi looked around with wide eyes and then at Amida.

“Where is this?” asked Megumi not recognizing her surroundings. Amida glanced back at her.

“This is a training ground I designed myself,” stated Amida. He suddenly leapt into the air and landed on one of the metal poles making Megumi, Sora, and Ryouga puzzled. Without warning, Amida pulled a rope that was nearly invisible. Megumi, Sora, and Ryouga heard a rattling noise followed by a low growl. They looked behind them and saw two tigers crawl out growling with blood thirsty eyes.

Megumi glanced back at Amida, who had no form of emotion in his eyes as he spoke.

“Targets will begin to emerge from the ground, but vanish after five seconds. You must hit three targets to pass the test. Before you can hit the targets you have to find the bows and arrows hidden in the sand, while avoiding the deadly strikes of the tigers.”

“This is crazy!” yelled Megumi. Ryouga and Sora were in agreement. Amida tilted his head and stated, “Why do you think only you three tried to become soldiers? Most of the ones before you died during my training.” Megumi clenched her fist with gritted teeth. Amida held two fingers to his mouth and stated, “Hopefully none of you will die.” He blew between his two fingers creating a loud whistle. The tigers’ eyes widened and then gave out a loud growl alerting Megumi, Sora, and Ryouga.

The tigers’ ran at them making them gasp. Megumi looked back at Sora and Ryouga and yelled, “Split up and find a bow!” Sora and Ryouga nodded and ran: Sora going right and Ryouga going left. Megumi ran back. One of the tigers ran after Sora, while the other went after Ryouga. Megumi stopped in her tracks when she saw that the tigers practically avoided her.

“What is this?” Megumi muttered just as round targets burst from the ground near the metal bars. Amida looked toward Megumi and said, “It was originally supposed to be two trainees, so I had two tigers. I made sure to starve them for this battle. Those tigers only see those two as prey.” Megumi clenched her fist and ran forward. She noticed a bow sticking from the ground and yanked it up. Instead of looking for an arrow, she tossed it at Sora yelling, “Take it!” Sora caught the bow with wide eyes. Megumi ran her feet through the ground and discovered two arrows and one bow. She yanked the bow and arrows out quickly and ran toward Ryouga, who was running for his life. She tossed the bow to Ryouga yelling out his name. Ryouga caught the bow gasping.

Megumi managed to get to Ryouga’s side and shoved the two arrows into his left hand. She then back flipped and managed to discover three more arrows pierced in the ground. She ran to Sora, who seemed to be losing breath and shoved the three arrows into his hand.

“Start firing,” stated Megumi before leaping away. Sora clenched his teeth with sweat against his brow and prepared his bow. He focused on a single target and released the arrow. The arrow connected to his relief.

Ryouga prepared his bow too, but before he could fire, the tiger pounced on him. Ryouga gave out a scream alerting Megumi. Megumi picked up an arrow in her path and ran toward Ryouga. She kicked the tiger away from Ryouga sending it flying into one of the metal bars. Ryouga was gasping with fear in his eyes. Megumi looked at Ryouga and said, “Fire that arrow now while you have the chance.” Ryouga nodded releasing an arrow into a target. Megumi saw the tiger get back up and gasped.

“Run!” yelled Megumi. Ryouga saw the tiger as well and ran just as the tiger pounced into the place he was sitting in before. Megumi dodged the tiger’s path and then back flipped to Ryouga. She kept up with his pace and shoved the arrow into his hand.

“Don’t miss,” stated Megumi before leaving his side.

Sora prepared another arrow, but tripped over a stray arrow buried in the sand. The tiger was ready to pounce on him, but Megumi kicked it away and immediately helped Sora to his feet.

“Watch the ground as well as the targets,” instructed Megumi. Sora nodded before firing another arrow into a target. Megumi and Sora saw the tiger approaching once again and took off running. Sora prepared his last arrow and glanced at Megumi.

“You better start firing too,” stated Sora. Megumi nodded leaving his side. Megumi picked up an arrow, but then noticed that Ryouga was stopping to shot another arrow. Megumi cursed under her breath and then yelled, “You have to keep moving while you prepare your bow and shoot!” Ryouga flinched and managed to dodge the tiger before taking off running again. Ryouga’s hand was shaking as he ran trying to prepare his bow. He fired the arrow, but the arrow collided into a metal pole instead. Ryouga cursed under his breath. Megumi shook her head running to Ryouga.

Megumi ran to Ryouga’s side handing him the arrow she picked up.

“Keep running, but make sure to examine your surroundings. Believe that the targets are moving at your pace and that your arrow will always hit it,” instructed Megumi. Ryouga nodded and prepared his bow. He focused on a new target taking in a deep breath and released the arrow. The arrow impaled the target. Ryouga smiled and stated, “That’s the first time I hit a target, while moving.” Ryouga looked at Megumi thanking her. Megumi nodded and left Ryouga as he fired his last arrow into a target.

Sora leapt up to avoid the attack of the tiger and shot his arrow into his last target.

Amida nodded in approval and looked at Megumi.

“You have yet to hit a target,” stated Amida. Megumi narrowed her eyes and then smirked. She kicked the sand up around her revealing a bow and three arrows. She set the three arrows into the bow at the same time and released them. The three arrows whistled through the air and then impaled three different targets. Sora and Ryouga stared at Megumi in disbelief as she pushed back a strand of her hair.

“No problem,” stated Megumi. They suddenly heard the tigers growl and noticed that the tigers were still advancing toward Sora and Ryouga. Megumi glared at Amida and yelled, “The training is complete so call them off.” Amida glanced at Megumi and stated, “I forgot to mention that the tigers have to be killed for the training to be complete.” Megumi groaned, while Sora’s and Ryouga’s eyes were wide with fear.

Megumi clenched her fist and suddenly noticed that the silver sand under her feet seemed to glimmer and felt hot. Megumi smirked and grabbed a handful of the sand. She tossed it at the approaching tigers making the tigers give out a cry of pain. Sora and Ryouga looked at Megumi asking, “What did you do?” Megumi revealed the redness in her hand and stated, “The sand is called Fudo. It heats up under sunlight and burns like real fire. This is your chance to kill the tigers.” Sora and Ryouga looked at each other and then smirked before running at a tiger each. Sora kicked the Fudo sand into the tiger’s eyes making it cry out in pain and then kicked it into the ground. He then grabbed an arrow and shoved it into the tiger’s eyes. The tiger struggled as blood poured from its eye. Ryouga kicked the sand at his tiger until it was practically pressing against a metal bar. He then began to punch it around the chest repeatedly until its heart stopped beating. The tiger fell to the ground, just as the second tiger finally bled out.

Sora and Ryouga were breathing heavily as they stared at the dead tigers. When their minds cleared they cheered and ran to Megumi laughing.

“We did it!” they cheered. Megumi nodded with a smile. They suddenly heard clapping and looked at Amida. Amida jumped down from the metal pole clapping.

“Congratulations on surviving.”

Megumi glared at Amida and yelled, “We could have died!” Amida lowered his hands and stated, “Only the strong can survive my training.” Megumi growled. Amida pointed at the only opening of the area.

“Walk down that path and you will return to the palace,” stated Amida. Megumi and Ryouga nodded and walked toward the opening. Megumi noticed that Sora was still standing in place and walked toward him.

“Sora we have to go,” stated Megumi. Sora seemed deaf to Megumi as he approached Amida. Sora stopped in front of Amida making him look at him.

“Your training was never like this with me. Why did you change?” asked Sora. Amida stared at Sora and then looked away.

“I have never trained a man as weak as you,” stated Amida. Sora gritted his teeth and then ran toward the opening pass Megumi and Ryouga. Ryouga ran after Sora without looking back.

Megumi glared at Amida as she walked toward him. She stopped in front of him clenching her fist.

“Sora looked up to you as his master and you just forget him. What gives you that right? What gives you that right to call him weak when he is indeed strong? What gives you that right?”

Megumi’s voice was rising with her anger. Amida looked at Megumi as he spoke.

“I am not his master and if I was his master, I can see why I left him for he is weak,” stated Amida. Megumi punched his right cheek making Amida gasp. Amida held his reddening cheek and looked back at Megumi, who was glaring daggers at him.

“I hope you rot in Hell!” yelled Megumi and then ran out of the area.

Amida stared in the direction Megumi ran and for the first time showed a wicked smile.

“That strength, that determination, he’s the one I need. He’s the one I need to get stronger.”

Megumi finally entered the palace with anger clearly in her eyes.

“Hey Megumi,” stated a familiar voice in a sing-song voice. Megumi looked forward and saw Hatsuharu Saito leaning against a pillar with a spear attached to his back.

“Aren’t you Hatsuharu?” asked Megumi. Hatsuharu nodded and practically pranced up to her making her flinch.

“I’m glad you remember my name, Megumi,” stated Hatsuharu. Hatsuharu suddenly swung his spear at Megumi, but Megumi leapt back and went into a fighting stance. Hatsuharu chuckled flinging his spear back onto his back.

“You really are a great fighter, Megumi,” stated Hatsuharu. Megumi narrowed her eyes.

“What do you want?” demanded Megumi. Hatsuharu smiled and stated, “I want to be your friend.” Megumi raised an eyebrow.

“Why?”

“All the people stronger than me are my friends,” stated Hatsuharu. Megumi looked bewildered as she stood up straight.

“Are you serious?” asked Megumi. Hatsuharu nodded and added, “You even survived Amida’s death training in the shortest time, so you are definitely strong.” Megumi narrowed her eyes again.

“You went through that training too?” asked Megumi. Hatsuharu nodded.

“Gen and I were the only survivors in that training and Amida is a monster fighter if you try to go up against him. You wouldn’t believe that he caught those tigers in just three days and made sure to give them the scent of their prey.”

Megumi clenched her fist and stated, “So those tigers knew Sora’s and Ryouga’s scent thanks to Amida, that bastard.” Hatsuharu nodded with crossed arms.

“I have to agree with that, but I want him to be my friend because he is stronger than me too,” stated Hatsuharu. Megumi sighed and stated, “You’re pretty accepting of his attitude.” Hatsuharu nodded with a smile.

“I believe people stronger than me need to be my friends whether they are crooked or not,” stated Hatsuharu. Megumi shrugged and began to walk off saying, “I’ll decide whether to be your friend or not in the future.” Hatsuharu nodded staring at Megumi’s retreating back. He rubbed his chin and then smirked.

“I better make sure that Gen and him get along first though.”

Megumi walked down the hall with a hand against her forehead. The training, even though it was short, still tired her out especially since she was mostly protecting Sora and Ryouga. Megumi suddenly felt a chill run down her spine and stopped in her tracks. This chill reminded her that she was indeed back in the palace and this chill meant that something was coming.

Megumi immediately jumped to the side just in time to avoid Yuki Ki’s embrace. Megumi’s eyes were wide as she looked at Yuki.

“Yuki?” exclaimed Megumi. Yuki looked at Megumi with a bright smile. He immediately embraced Megumi before she could dodge and pressed his chin against the side of her neck.

“Megumi, I missed you so much,” cheered Yuki. Megumi gritted her teeth and managed to shove Yuki away.

“For crying out loud. Would you stop harassing me and just go to your harem?” yelled Megumi. Yuki shook his head and tried to embrace Megumi again, but Megumi avoided his touch again.

“Why do you keep avoiding me?” asked Yuki with hurt in his voice. Megumi groaned and walked pass Yuki saying, “Who wouldn’t avoid you when you keep trying to touch me?” Megumi marched down the hall, but Yuki embraced her from behind and kissed the side of her neck sending shivers down her spine. Megumi broke from his embrace and kicked him into a pillar before taking off down the hall.

Yuki leaned against the pillar feeling the pain radiate through his body. He stared at Megumi’s retreating back and reached toward her.

“Megumi.”

“Your majesty?”

Yuki looked to the side and saw Shigure looking at him with seriousness in his eyes. Yuki cracked a smile at Shigure.

“Do you need something Shigure?” asked Yuki. Shigure nodded and stated, “Chiriko and Naohito are in your throne room waiting for you.” Yuki nodded and began to stand up straight cringing. Shigure watched Yuki stagger down the hall and asked, “How long are you going to allow Megumi to keep his hold on you?” Yuki stopped in his tracks and smirked back at Shigure.

“As long as I live,” stated Yuki and continued to walk forward. Shigure followed Yuki with narrowed eyes. Shigure knew that ever since Megumi left for Eva Province, Yuki was depressed even though he did his duties as an emperor. It was only when Suha informed Yuki of Megumi’s return that Yuki finally smiled again. Shigure hated it that Yuki loved Megumi so much. He hated how Megumi had the emperor under his power. The thought of ending Megumi’s life crossed his mind.

Megumi continued to run until she reached the opened gardens. She leaned against the railing breathing heavily. She remembered the feel of Yuki’s lips against her neck and cringed pressing her hand against the side of her neck.

“He really makes me sick,” muttered Megumi. Megumi suddenly heard the splashing of water followed by laughter and looked into the gardens only to see Ayame Roku and Hotoru Suwa sitting by the pond and running their hands through the water giggling.

Ayame took notice of Megumi and gasped with redness in her cheeks. Hotoru noticed Ayame’s look and looked back and gasped at the sight of Megumi.

“Megumi is that you?” asked Hotoru. Megumi nodded with a smile.

“When did you get back?” asked Ayame remembering that Megumi left for Eva Province.

“This morning,” stated Megumi. Ayame smiled and said, “Then welcome back.” Megumi smiled back thanking Ayame. Ayame was red as she looked at Megumi with adoration. Hotoru noticed this and groaned. She stepped between Ayame and Megumi looking at Megumi.

“Princess Ayame Roku belongs to the emperor, so don’t try to sway her heart,” stated Hotoru. Megumi stared at Hotoru and closed her eyes saying, “I know that, but I can still be friends with Ayame.” Ayame looked down with sadness in her eyes. Megumi leaned against the railing still smiling.

“Maybe one day, we can go to the market together,” offered Megumi. Ayame looked at Megumi and asked, “Why would you want to go together with me?” Megumi chuckled.

“I told you before: you are an important person to me,” stated Megumi. Ayame’s heart was a flutter, while Hotoru grew red as well. Hotoru began to drag Ayame away saying, “We must go.” Ayame nodded even though she wanted to stay longer. Megumi waved goodbye to her and then walked down the path.

When Ayame and Hotoru were out of the garden and back into the harem quarters, Hotoru glared at Ayame and stated, “I know you like Megumi, but please forget those feelings.” Ayame held her hand to her heart.

“I don’t want to forget,” stated Ayame making Hotoru groan.

“I know what you mean.”

Ayame and Hotoru looked back and saw Haji Diah sitting in front of a table sewing a handkerchief. Haji looked toward Ayame and said, “You like Megumi too right?” Ayame blushed and nodded, but then asked, “What do you mean too?” Haji sighed placing her sewing down.

“I love Megumi Yoh just like you.”

Ayame gasped and asked, “But what about your obligations to the emperor.”

“That hasn’t stopped you and that emperor hasn’t even touched me once,” stated Haji. Haji sighed with longing in her eyes.

“I love Megumi, even though I was already rejected.”

“He rejected you?” asked Hotoru with her hands on her hips. Haji nodded and added, “It hurt, but the rejection didn’t make me stop loving him.”

“So what are you going to do?” asked Ayame now curious. Haji smiled.

“I will continue to love him until I fall for someone else,” stated Haji.

“That sounds like your fickle,” stated Hotoru. Haji giggled and stated, “I know, but I have to accept sooner or later that Megumi doesn’t love me and that there is a girl already in his heart.”

Ayame’s and Hotoru’s eyes widened.

“He’s already in love with another girl?” asked Ayame. Haji nodded with saddened eyes.

“A girl he can never forget even when trying to stop my tears,” stated Haji.

Ayame clenched her fist and asked, “What is her name?” Haji clenched her fist and said, “Her name is Mikan.”

“Mikan?” muttered Ayame. Ayame didn’t know what she was feeling, but it clenched her heart as she thought of Megumi with another girl. Haji stood up and walked off saying, “I hope you find happiness someday.”

When Haji was gone, Hotoru looked at Ayame and said, “She could be mistaken.” Hotoru’s eyes widened when she noticed the tears running down Ayame’s cheeks.

“Ayame…”

Ayame bent over as the tears fell from her eyes.

“I didn’t want to know this. I didn’t want to know that Megumi loved another,” stated Ayame crying into the palm of her hands. Hotoru kneeled next to Ayame rubbing her back trying to soothe her sobs.

Unbeknownst to them, Ayumi Mutou was also listening with her back pressed against the wall and her cat Snowflake in her embrace. Ayumi bent forward feeling her heart breaking. She rocked back and forth saying Megumi’s name repeatedly.

Megumi didn’t know what was happening in the harem as she walked through the palace. Her stomach suddenly growled making her groan. It dawned on her that since the training she still had yet to eat lunch. She walked forward heading to the kitchen.

When she entered the kitchen, she saw Ryouga sitting on the kitchen ground eating a bowl of ramen with Lee Kou, Boshi’s twin brother cooking at the stove.

“So you guys got hungry too?” asked Megumi. Lee glanced at Megumi as Ryouga continued to eat.

“Well it is already noon and breakfast is so brief for all of us,” stated Lee. Megumi nodded in agreement as she grabbed a piece of bread from the bread basket. Megumi looked over Lee’s shoulder and asked, “So what are you making?”

“Just some simple curry for a change,” stated Lee. Megumi nodded taking a bite from the bread in her hand.

“I noticed that mafia guy isn’t with you,” stated Lee. Megumi nodded and sighed in relief.

“It is heaven for him not to be here,” stated Megumi. Lee chuckled.

“Boshi was right when he said that you became more fun with Keiki around,” stated Lee. Megumi sighed.

“Does Boshi report everything to you?” asked Megumi. Lee nodded as he poured a ladle full of curry into a bowl.

“Boshi is older than me by a couple of minutes, but I am the mature one,” stated Lee. Megumi chuckled and added, “You don’t say.” Lee smiled and then walked out of the kitchen with a bowl of curry.

Megumi looked down at Ryouga, who was trying very hard to avoid eye contact.

“Are you OK, Ryouga?” asked Megumi. Ryouga nodded taking a noddle into his mouth. Megumi shrugged and was about to walk out of the kitchen with a bowl of the curry too, but stopped in her tracks when she heard Ryouga say, “Thank you.” Megumi glanced back at Ryouga.

“What did you say?” asked Megumi. Ryouga gulped still refusing to look Megumi in the eyes.

“Thank you for helping me during that death training. If it wasn’t for you then I would be dead,” stated Ryouga. Megumi chuckled making Ryouga flinch.

“This is the first time I’m hearing you say those words. It sounds nice and you’re welcome, Ryouga,” stated Megumi. Ryouga looked at Megumi just as she left the kitchen. He stirred the ramen with his spoon with a serious look.

“I better train more to get stronger than him,” stated Ryouga.

In the meantime, Keiki walked through the market looking at different stands. As he explored the stands he didn’t notice the members from other mafia groups were watching him. They would have attacked him, but they were given orders not to attack other mafia members unless it was for territory. Among the members was Keida Matsuba, the heir to the Matsuba Mafia Clan. He tapped his foot impatiently as he looked at Keiki.

“Why is that bastard Keiki Nue here anyway?” he muttered clearly angry. He suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder and looked back only to see Jia Hatsune, the heir to the Hatsune mafia Clan.

“Maybe he was asked by his father to see me,” stated Jia. Keida groaned.

“Then why hasn’t he seen you already?” asked Keida. Jia giggled as she looked in Keiki’s direction.

“Well he is against the engagement between him and me, so I bet he wants to avoid me as much as possible,” stated Jia. Keida groaned and added, “He’s nothing special. He doesn’t deserve you.” Jia nodded.

“You don’t deserve me either,” stated Jia before walking away. Keida clenched his fist as his anger grew.

Jia walked back into the Kuro District and smirked as she remembered Megumi’s form.

“That boy Megumi is the one that deserves the great me.”

Keiki shook wondering what he had just felt. He shook his head and headed to a noodle stand. He sat in the noodle stand ordering a bowl of spicy ramen. He waited for his order, but suddenly saw an aquamarine hair tie hanging from a stand. He ran to the stand and remembered the color of Megumi’s eyes. He bought the hair tie and stuffed it into his pocket. He sat in front of his finished ramen with red cheeks.

“He just needs a new hair tie is all,” muttered Keiki as he began to eat.

Back in the palace, Megumi finished her lunch and decided that it was best to bathe, so she headed in the direction of her dorm room. Before she could take another step, she collided into Mannen Sai, who was holding a mop and bucket. The force of the collision made Mannen fall back tossing the water filled bucket in the air. The water spilled out of the bucket and onto the floor. Mannen groaned as he sat on the floor as Megumi, who managed to keep her footing, looked at him with concern in her eyes.

“Are you OK, Mannen?” asked Megumi. Megumi held out her hand to help Mannen to his feet, but he slapped her hand away glaring at her.

“Of all the people to run into, I just had to run into you, huh Megumi,” stated Mannen in an angered tone. Megumi sighed apologizing in the process and then suddenly realized something.

“Did you just say my name?” asked Megumi. Mannen nodded dusting off his form.

“Don’t you always forget my name and the others’ names?” asked Megumi with a raised eyebrow. Mannen frowned as he picked up the bucket.

“Well that is true, but after you slapped me, which really hurt by the way, I kept writing your name down repeatedly in the time you were gone, until I could memorize it,” stated Mannen. Megumi stared at Mannen in disbelief and then chuckled making Mannen flinch.

“What’s so funny?” demanded Mannen.

“Sorry, but you going through the trouble to remember my name makes me happy,” admitted Megumi with a warm smile. Mannen turned red to the cheeks and looked away from her.

“Well don’t be happy and please move along, so I can clean this hall,” stated Mannen eager to make Megumi leave. Megumi nodded walking pass Mannen. As she passed him she stated, “Try to remember the others’ names too.”

When Megumi was out of sight, Mannen picked up the mop with reddened cheeks and muttered, “That’s too much trouble.”

Megumi finally reached her dorm room and opened it only to see that Sora was sitting on his bed with a saddened look. Megumi approached Sora and then tapped his shoulder making him look at her.

“Megumi, why are you here?” asked Sora. Megumi smiled and stated, “I just wanted to grab my bathing suit and towel, so I can take a bath. What about you?” Sora sighed pulling his legs to his chest.

“I just needed to think to myself,” stated Sora.

“About what?”

“I was trying to figure out why my master doesn’t remember me,” stated Sora. Megumi sat next to Sora.

“I’m just curious, but you told us that your master trained you since you were ten, but you never told us how you met him,” stated Megumi. Sora smiled as he lifted up his head.

“Well I met him when I was ten in Shi Province. I was a pickpocket than and tried to rob him, but he caught me red handed. For some reason, he didn’t turn me into the authorities and just brought me to a hut in the Shi Province Forest. He tied me up to a wooden chair and then told me that I had to get out of those ropes on my own. I managed to get out of the ropes within five minutes and then he asked me if I wanted to become his student in fighting. I accepted the offer and was trained by him. We traveled to so many places in Yulan and after a year and a half had passed, he vanished without a word.”

Megumi narrowed her eyes and asked, “He just left without a word?” Sora nodded and added, “After he left I trained myself harder hoping to meet him again.” Sora glanced at Megumi with a small smile.

“If I remember right, your master did the same thing to you: leaving you without a word,” stated Sora. Megumi nodded and then punched the palm of her hand.

“That’s right and when I find him, he is so going to feel my wrath,” stated Megumi. Sora chuckled.

“In my case, I was hoping that when I met him again, I was going to show him how much I improved,” stated Sora. Sora looked saddened again as he added, “I met him again after so long, but he doesn’t remember me and he calls me weak. I really haven’t improved at all.” Megumi noticed a tear about to escape Sora’s right eye and reached over. She pulled his head to her shoulder making Sora flinch.

“What are you…?”

“You’re not weak Sora. Out of all the people I met so far in my life, you are one of the strongest and hopefully your master will see that too.”

Sora didn’t understand why, but he felt the frustration build up inside him and burst into tears clenching Megumi by the shoulders. Megumi smiled and rubbed Sora’s back as he cried.

After Sora stopped crying, he dried his eyes looking away from Megumi with reddened cheeks.

“Don’t you dare tell anyone, especially Keiki and Boshi, that I cried,” stated Sora. Megumi nodded with a chuckle. She got up from his bed and grabbed a towel and her bathing suit from the drawers. She glanced at Sora and asked, “Do you want to go to the baths with me?” Sora glanced at Megumi and sighed saying, “I don’t mind.” Megumi smiled and headed to the door saying, “I’ll wait for you outside.” Sora nodded watching Megumi’s retreating back.

When Megumi closed the door behind her, Sora collapsed onto his bed pressing his hands against his face. He didn’t want to admit it, but he sometimes wished that Megumi was a girl, but when the thought of Megumi being a girl crossed his mind, he would remember the bath house incident and turn red in the face.

Megumi leaned against the railing as she waited for Sora to leave the dorm room. As she waited, she didn’t notice that Toshio Hibiki and Seto Kumi were walking her way with two bath buckets and towels along with a change of clothes. Toshio was the first to notice Megumi and waved to her calling her name. Megumi looked Toshio’s and Seto’s way and smiled.

“Toshio, Seto, it’s good to see you,” greeted Megumi as she shook Toshio’s and Seto’s hands. Toshio smiled and asked, “I didn’t get to ask you this morning because of our duties, but how was Eva Province?”

“I guess you could say it was exciting,” stated Megumi. Seto rubbed his chin and stated, “I heard that you were the one who discovered that Aoki Hiro was corrupt and made him on the run.”

“It was just a calculation. He was the one who gave himself away,” stated Megumi. Toshio chuckled and added, “Maybe if I manage to do outside training, I’ll do something exciting as you.” Megumi chuckled as did Seto.

Sora finally got of the dorm room and saw Megumi chatting with Seto and Toshio. Sora knew that Toshio and Seto were from the same Province as Megumi, but he also remembered hearing that they only really spoke with Megumi when she took the Qualification Exam. The way they were speaking to each other made it seem that they were long-time friends. Sora had to admit that he was envious of their closeness.

Sora snapped out of his thoughts, when he heard Megumi say his name.

“Are you ready to go?” asked Megumi. Sora nodded going to Megumi’s side.

“Where are you two going?” asked Toshio. Megumi glanced back and said, “We were going to the baths just to wash up from our training.”

“That’s where Seto and I are going too,” stated Toshio. Seto nodded and added, “We needed a bath after cleaning the stables.” Seto then smiled and suggested, “How about we go together?” Megumi thought a while and nodded.

“I don’t mind,” stated Megumi and then glanced at Sora asking, “How about you?” Sora shrugged and said, “Fine by me.”

Megumi, Sora, Seto, and Toshio walked down the bath toward the bathing areas. Megumi glanced at Seto and asked, “So Toshio and you had the same assignment today?” Seto nodded and chuckled.

“Toshio was hilarious in there. A goat managed to get in the stable and chased Toshio everywhere. Toshio was even calling out uncle when the goat tugged on his sleeve with tears in his eyes.”

Toshio turned red and said, “Come on Seto, don’t tell them that. Besides, goats are devils.” Sora and Megumi began to chuckle making Toshio grow redder.

They soon reached the bath house, where they saw that Riku Li was about to enter.

“Riku,” called Megumi making him flinch and glance back at her. He noticed the others with Megumi and asked, in an uneasy tone, “Are you guys having another bath gathering?” Seto scratched his cheek sheepishly and stated, “You can say that.”

Riku sighed and seemed ready to leave, but Sora looked at him and asked, “Aren’t you going in?” Riku glanced at Megumi and said, “No offense, but after taking a bath with Megumi in the last bath gathering, I just can’t feel comfortable.” Megumi frowned.

“Come on Riku, you’ll be fine and what’s wrong with taking a bath with me,” stated Megumi. Riku stared at Megumi and felt the intense of her stare that he felt that he had no choice but to join the bath gathering.

They entered the baths together and saw the hot water pouring from an opened fountain.

Megumi glanced at the others and said, “I’m just going to change in another room to make you guys comfortable.” With that she entered a small room in the bath area. Sora scratched the back of his head before beginning to undress. He looked at the others and noticed them staring at the door where Megumi went through.

“You know Megumi is just trying to be considerate since you guys aren’t used to seeing him undress unlike me,” stated Sora. Toshio laughed uneasily and said, “So that’s why he went into that room.” Sora raised an eyebrow at Toshio.

“Don’t tell me you still think Megumi might be a girl,” stated Sora. Toshio flinched turning red.

“It comes to mind sometimes, but then I remember the last bath gathering and reality falls into place,” stated Toshio with red cheeks. Seto nodded in agreement, while Riku looked annoyed as he removed his clothes.

When all of them were undressed, Megumi left the small room in her bathing suit. She crouched down in the water and began to rub soap into her hair with the others doing the same. Riku still looked annoyed as he cleaned himself.

“Is something wrong, Riku?” asked Megumi. Riku frowned as he poured water over his head.

“I don’t think Lord Suha told you yet, but you have many more letters of proposals waiting for you since you left for Eva Province,” stated Riku. Megumi sighed.

“Seriously, why can’t those Officials understand that I am not interested in getting married to their daughters,” stated Megumi. Seto whistled in amusement.

“You really are the popular type and if I remember right, even Lord Ryuran’s daughter, Yumi Goh, wants to marry you.”

Megumi nodded and said, “That is true, but I rejected her so many times. She doesn’t want to give up and she even went to Eva Province to try to convince me to marry her.”

Sora chuckled and stated, “Sounds like a stalker.”

“She’s getting there,” stated Megumi in a troubled tone. Riku scoffed and climbed out of the bath. He grabbed his clothes and a towel and said, “I’m going to my room.” Riku stormed out of the bath area leaving them all bewildered.

“What is wrong with Riku?” asked Megumi. Toshio sighed and stated, “Well I heard this from Bakura before he left for Jogo Province that Riku has been upset because his fiancé hasn’t answered any of his letters.”

“His fiancé?” asked Megumi. Toshio nodded and added, “Chances are that he is just upset that you are basically the only one getting letters and not him.” Megumi scratched the back of her head sheepishly feeling sorry for Riku.

“Why won’t Riku just go visit his fiancé? She can’t be that far,” stated Sora.

Toshio sighed and said, “I thought the same thing, but apparently his fiancé worked in a temple as a teacher and had to move to another temple in Suo Province, but it is just a rumor.”

“He must be lonely,” stated Megumi with a saddened expression.

Seto suddenly cleared his throat getting their attention.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but we should get out of the baths before we all look like prunes,” stated Seto. They nodded in agreement and began to step out of the water. Megumi headed to the small room rubbing the towel through her hair and looked at the others.

“You guys go ahead,” stated Megumi. They nodded and began to head out in their change of clothes with their towels over their shoulders.

Megumi slipped into the small room and began to change back to her original clothes. As she changed her clothes, she suddenly heard the door to the bathing area open. She pulled her clothes on quickly and opened the door asking, “Who’s there?” In her line of sight, completely naked was Nakago Gurada. Nakago turned pale as he looked at Megumi. Megumi smiled as she greeted Nakago.

Nakago snapped out of his shock and turned away covering his manhood.

“What are you doing in here, Megumi?” asked Nakago completely red. Megumi walked out of the small room with a towel over her shoulder and said, “I just took a bath and was getting ready to leave.” Megumi saw that Nakago was still turned away and went to his side making him flinch.

“Is something wrong?” asked Megumi. Nakago gulped still trying to cover himself from Megumi’s gaze.

“Nothing is wrong,” stated Nakago uneasily. Megumi chuckled and patted his shoulder making him flinch.

“Wash up to clear your head Nakago,” stated Megumi and then left the room. Nakago stared at the closed door and crouched down placing a hand on the shoulder Megumi touched.

“Why were you born a man?” muttered Nakago as he felt his heart race.

Megumi walked down the path of the palace smiling with a refreshed look.

“I didn’t get to see everyone because of outside training, but it was still nice,” stated Megumi. She suddenly saw Keiki walking toward her and smirked.

“Done shopping?” asked Megumi. Keiki nodded crossing his arms in front of him.

“I see that you finished your training,” stated Keiki. Megumi nodded and added, “It didn’t take very long, so I spent the day talking with the others.” Keiki flinched and glared at Megumi.

“You mean I could have stayed in the palace to wait for you?” exclaimed Keiki. Megumi shrugged and stated, “I thought the training would be long too, so there was no way I could have told you.” Keiki groaned grabbing Megumi’s hand.

“Let’s go back to the room,” stated Keiki and then began to drag her. Megumi looked at Keiki with a raised eyebrow.

“Why do you sound so angry?” asked Megumi. Keiki frowned.

“I’m not angry.”

“You sound angry.”

Keiki groaned and said, “Well maybe I am. I’m leaving next week, so I want to spend as much time with you as I can.” Megumi smirked pulling her hand away from Keiki and making him stop in his tracks. Megumi’s face grew serious as she spoke.

“I’m not here to play you know. I’m doing all this to avenge Mikan and my mother’s deaths and to save Satoshi. Don’t forget that,” stated Megumi and then walked passed Keiki. Keiki followed Megumi with a frown.

On the way to their room, they saw Reiji with two books under his arm ready to enter their dorm room. Megumi called out to him making Reiji look her way. Reiji smiled saying her name.

“Are you done with your duties for today?” asked Megumi. Reiji nodded and then showed Megumi the two books.

“I also found these books that explain how to calculate faster without a pen and scroll,” stated Reiji. Megumi smiled looking at the books.

“Sounds interesting, mind if I read them too after you’re done?” asked Megumi. Reiji smiled back saying, “Not at all.” Keiki suddenly went between them and said, “Let’s just go into the room.” They nodded.

Keiki opened the door first and the next thing he knew he was soaked from head to toe. Keiki stood perfectly still as Megumi and Reiji stared with wide eyes. They suddenly heard Boshi laughing and peeked into the room. Boshi was sitting on his bed laughing, pointing at Keiki’s soaked form, while Sora was sitting on his bed reading a book on martial arts.

Keiki glared at Boshi and yelled, “Seriously, why is it always me?” Boshi tried to stifle his laughter as he looked at Keiki.

“I meant to hit Reiji and Megumi too, but you getting soaked is always amusing,” mocked Boshi. Keiki was ready to draw his sword, but Reiji held Keiki back with an uneasy look. Megumi chuckled making Keiki’s anger grow. Megumi walked into the room looking at Boshi.

“So how was your training today?” asked Megumi. Boshi smiled widely and said, “Easy as ever.” Megumi nodded with a smile. Reiji, Keiki, and Megumi entered the room making sure to close the door behind them. Boshi told them to sit down with a chuckle. They did as they were told and then Boshi pulled out a bottle of Sake from under his bed.

“It’s a bit late, but this is your welcome back party,” stated Boshi with a smile. Sora sighed and yanked out a plate of pork buns from his side table.

“Just as Boshi said, this is for welcoming you back,” stated Sora. Reiji, Keiki, and Megumi stared at them as they set the food items upon the floor before them and then smiled saying their thanks.

They began to munch on the pork buns, while Boshi poured each of them a cup of Sake. He handed them their cups, except for Megumi. Boshi instead handed Megumi a bottle of peach juice. Megumi stared at the bottle and asked, “Is this for me?” Boshi nodded and added, “You are definitely forbidden from drinking alcohol.” Reiji, Keiki, and Sora nodded in agreement with a blush on their cheek. Megumi raised an eyebrow still unaware of what she did to them the last time she drank alcohol.

As they ate and drank, it became even darker outside. Megumi suddenly heard a knock on the door and glanced back.

“Who is it at this hour?” Megumi asked herself and then headed to the door making sure to place her cup of juice down on the floor. She opened the door a crack and saw no one in sight. She was about to close the door until she saw a small package sitting on the ground. She picked up the package and saw that her name was on it. She opened the box and saw five peach blossom cakes. Megumi smiled and tried to look for the name of the sender, but there was none. Megumi glanced at the cakes again and headed back into the room making sure to close the door behind her.

Unknown to Megumi, Yuki was watching her from behind a pillar. He smiled as he stared at her dorm room door and began to walk off with reddened cheeks and his heart practically a flutter.

Megumi sat with the others again and showed the peach blossom cakes saying, “Looks like a gift for our return.” Boshi was the first to grab a cake with a smile.

“They smell great,” stated Boshi before biting out of the cake. The sweetness danced on his tongue making him smile more.

Megumi handed the others one cake each and then took one for herself. They munched on the cakes with smiles on their faces.

“Who sent them anyway?” asked Keiki as he munched on his cake. Megumi shrugged and said, “There was no name, but you don’t have to worry about poison. I made sure to sniff them first.” Keiki groaned and said, “I wasn’t worried.” Megumi chuckled and then bit out of her cake.

As time passed, the others began to fall asleep in where they sat. Megumi could tell that they were almost completely drunk by the redness in their cheeks. Megumi nudged Reiji, who was sitting next to her, and said, “Come on, get in your bed, Reiji.” Reiji groaned and, to Megumi’s surprise, Reiji grabbed her wrist and pulled her into a tight hug.

“Reiji, what are you doing?” asked Megumi as she attempted to free herself from Reiji’s grasp. Reiji just continued to sleep holding her tighter. Megumi cringed and managed to slip out from his grasp before falling back into Keiki. Keiki grunted, but continued to sleep. Megumi sighed and stood up, but flinched when she heard Keiki say, “I want to stay longer.” Megumi shook her head and glanced at Keiki.

“Not going to happen, Keiki,” stated Megumi, knowing full well that he was still asleep. Megumi heard Sora groan and looked his way only to see him sitting up with flushed cheeks.

“So you’re still awake?” asked Megumi. Sora nodded and glanced at Boshi, who was snoring loudly.

“I guess the others are out cold now?” asked Sora. Megumi nodded and asked, “Can you help me get them to bed?” Sora nodded getting to his feet. Megumi and Sora dragged Reiji and Boshi into their beds making sure to change their clothes and prepared Keiki’s bed on the floor in the corner. Megumi pulled Keiki to his makeshift bed and covered his trembling form. Sora smiled at Megumi as she tucked Keiki in and stated, “You seem nicer to Keiki now.”

“You guys have been saying that lately,” stated Megumi as she stood up. She sat in her bed and, to her surprise, Sora sat next to her too.

“Wrong bed, Sora,” stated Megumi. Sora shook his head and laid on her bed with a goofy grin.

“Your bed is more comfortable, Megumi,” stated Sora. Megumi groaned and pulled Sora’s arm saying, “You’re drunk. Clear your head and get to your own bed.” Sora only moaned pulling Megumi’s pillow closer to his face. Megumi sighed and stood up saying, “I’ll sleep in your bed today.” Sora suddenly grabbed her wrist and pulled her back in the bed. Megumi gasped and the next thing she knew Sora was on top of her. She could smell the alcohol in his breath.

“Sora?”

Sora cuddled her neck and whispered, “I don’t want to separate.” Megumi finally had enough and punched the side of his head knocking him out. Megumi breathed heavily as she pushed him off her. Megumi groaned and made a note to hide the alcohol the next time any of them bring it in.

Megumi carried Sora to his bed and tucked him in. Megumi changed into her night attire and then headed to her bed. She lay on her bed pulling the covers over her.

“Drunks really are the worst.”

As the night went on, Megumi and the others slept soundly. Megumi was dead tired, so she didn’t even notice the door to their room opening. The night was dark, so the figure that walked in couldn’t be seen except for the glimmer of the blade of the knife. He approached Megumi’s bed side silently.

When he was next to her, he raised the knife with the intent to kill. Before he could bring the knife down, a firm hand held his wrist back. He looked behind him only to see Sora glaring at him.

“What are you trying to do, master?” demanded Sora in a bitter voice. The intruder was indeed, Amida with eyes that looked eager to kill. Amida yanked his hand away from Sora with a smirk.

“I thought you were asleep,” stated Amida. Sora glanced at Megumi’s sleeping form and stated, “Megumi’s punch from before sobered me up, so I was able to hear you coming in.” Amida narrowed his eyes as he gripped the knife in his hand.

“It doesn’t matter that you are awake. I still plan on killing that boy,” stated Amida.

“Why do you want to kill Megumi? He never did anything that gives you the right to kill him,” stated Sora. Amida chuckled placing the blade of the knife against his cheek.

“I need to kill him, so I can eat his heart and become stronger,” stated Amida. Sora’s eyes widened and asked, “What are you talking about?”

“You humans aren’t familiar with my kind. I am known as a Beelzebub, a demon that needs to eat flesh to get stronger.”

Amida glanced at Megumi licking his lips.

“I prefer to eat the hearts of strong men because it makes me stronger. Eating their hearts I gain their abilities and strengths,” stated Amida. Amida looked at his hand and added, “Just like this man.” Sora gasped.

“Are you telling me that you ate my master to get stronger?” demanded Sora. Amida nodded and then frowned.

“I ate that man over a thousand years ago, even before this country Yulan came into existence. He was truly delicious, but too strong for me to take over. His mind managed to make my own body his own and wandered for a long time leaving me trapped in my mind. Sadly, in order for him to continue to live, he had to devour human flesh. His agony of devouring human flesh eventually released me from my prison. I told him that I would let him live if he offered me a strong warrior to devour, but there was none that satisfied my taste, so he decided to make one.”

Sora’s eyes widened and asked, “Me?” Amida chuckled.

“I never met you, but Amida did. He trained you, while I slept in my mind. I guess he had second thoughts because when I awoke to eat you, you were nowhere in sight. I trapped him in my mind and decided to become a soldier to search for the strongest man to devour and make me stronger. Five years, I saw strong men survive my challenge, but none of them were worthy for me to devour until today.”

Amida glanced at Megumi again with a smirk.

“After this boy punched me, I saw that he was indeed the strongest man I have ever met.”

Sora shook his head and stood in front of Megumi in a fighting stance.

“I won’t let you kill Megumi,” declared Sora. Amida noticed that Sora’s form was shaking and chuckled.

“I have the strength of the strongest men that history hasn’t even recorded, so what makes you think that you can stop me weakling,” stated Amida. Sora narrowed his eyes and stated, “Even if I lose an arm, I won’t let you kill Megumi.” Amida frowned and raised his knife.

“I guess I better kill everyone in the room before day comes, starting with you,” stated Amida and then lunged at Sora. Sora was prepared to block, but Amida suddenly stopped in his movements making Sora gasp.

Amida was shaking as he said, “What is this?” Amida stabbed his left arm making him gasp in pain and Sora flinch. Amida was still shaking, but his eyes seemed to soften. Amida looked at Sora and smiled.

“Sora?”

Sora recognized the soft look and asked, “Master?” Amida nodded and twisted the knife in his arm making Sora gasp and run to his side.

“Master, are you OK?” asked Sora in concern. Amida nodded with sweat against his brow.

“I tried so hard to break free, so I can prevent this monster in me from killing others.”

Amida smiled at Sora and added, “I wanted to save people after meeting you. You made me human and that’s why I saved you by leaving you.” Sora smiled with tears in his eyes.

“I thought you left because I was weak.”

Amida shook his head and said, “I left because you were strong and wanted to make sure that you would grow up to be an outstanding man.” Amida flinched.

“Master?”

Amida’s eyes grew serious.

“I can’t hold him back forever,” stated Amida. Amida looked at Sora and said, “If you want to save your friend then please kill me.” Sora shook his head.

“I can’t.”

Amida shut his eyes cringing.

“Then I will continue to try and hold him back, but I have to leave the palace. I have to leave Yulan to protect you all.”

“But….”

Amida clenched Sora’s shoulders and added, “Promise me that you won’t tell anyone of what happened tonight.” Sora nodded saying, “I promise.” Tears began to escape from Amida’s eyes.

“If you do see me again and I am that monster then please kill me then,” stated Amida with tears running down his cheeks. Sora nodded. Amida hugged Sora once and then ran out the door with blood running down his arm.

Sora stared at the opened door with tear filled eyes.

“I’ll save you someday, master.”

Sora suddenly felt arms wrap around his shoulders and looked back only to see Megumi.

“Megumi?” whispered Sora. Megumi nodded and whispered, “I heard everything from when that monster revealed himself.”

“You did?”

Megumi nodded and added, “I’m so sorry, Sora, but remember your promise to your master and if you need to talk then I am available.” Sora’s tears fell like a waterfall as he buried his face into her chest. Megumi rubbed his back staring out the door. She heard the feint screams in the distance and placed her hands over Sora’s ears as she closed her eyes.

That night was known as the full moon slaughter for ten soldiers were slain by a single man named Amida, the once great soldier. The return to the capital was both happy and yet sad.

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