Bunkai 18: Bride

In an Official’s residence near the palace of Yulan, lived Shigure Fuji, head of industrial relations and the emperor’s closest advisor. He was a dedicated worker, but one person at that moment clouded his mind with frustration: Megumi Yoh, the Diyuan of the Imperial Exams of that year. The emperor, Yuki Ki, was obsessed with Megumi to the point that he doesn’t want to visit his own harem.

Shigure, sitting in his bed, clasped his hands over his face in frustration.

“If it wasn’t for Megumi then the emperor would already have an empress,” muttered Shigure. Shigure suddenly realized something and smirked.

“If I can find a girl that looks like Megumi then maybe the emperor can marry her and he will finally let go of his obsession.”

Shigure chuckled thinking his plan brilliant. He made the conclusion to go search for the Megumi look alike.

The very next day, Megumi was in the stables humming as she brushed the hair of the horses. One of the horses nudged her cheek making her giggle.

“I’ll get to you,” stated Megumi.

“Talking to a horse now?”

Megumi looked at the opening of the stables and saw Keiki leaning against the frame.

“Weren’t you packing up?” asked Megumi as she continued to brush the horse before her.

“I just finished,” stated Keiki as he approached Megumi. He glanced at Megumi and asked, “Do I really have to leave today?” Megumi nodded glancing at Keiki.

“That was the agreement,” stated Megumi. Keiki frowned and began to walk off. Before he left the stable, he heard Megumi say, “Goodbye Keiki, it was fun to be with you.” Keiki clenched his fist and took a deep breath in.

“I had fun too, so be well until I find a way to come back again,” stated Keiki and then ran off. Megumi glanced in the direction Keiki ran and smiled. It was hard to admit, but she was going to miss him.

Keiki ran until he reached the opened gates of the palace. He breathed heavily and then glanced back with a saddened look.

“Are you leaving already?”

Keiki flinched and looked to his side only to see Boshi and Lee approaching him.

“Why are you two here?” asked Keiki. Boshi smirked and said, “Well Lee and I were given permission to go out today after we finished our duties.” Lee nodded and then asked, “So are you leaving already?” Keiki nodded.

“I don’t really have a choice,” stated Keiki. Boshi and Lee sighed.

“Megumi’s going to get boring again,” stated Boshi. Lee nodded and added, “Yeah, he can seriously be a bummer.” Keiki groaned.

“Don’t say that. Megumi is a fun guy. You should have seen him playing in the woods with Mikan. He can seriously climb trees fast.”

Boshi and Lee raised an eyebrow.

“Who’s Mikan?”

Keiki flinched realizing what he said.

“Well…I…uh…oh boy,” stated Keiki not knowing what to say. Boshi and Lee smirked and snaked their way to Keiki’s sides.

“Come on Keiki you can tell us,” urged Boshi from Keiki’s left side.

“Yeah, we promise not to tell anybody, especially Megumi,” stated Lee from Keiki’s right side. Keiki sighed knowing that he couldn’t really escape their curiosity.

“Mikan is Megumi’s older twin sister.”

“Twin sister?” they asked in unison. Keiki nodded.

“Mikan is no longer in this world. That’s why Megumi doesn’t talk about her,” stated Keiki, leaving out the parts about the murder.

Boshi rubbed his chin and stated, “If Megumi had a twin, which is hard to believe since he’s so boring, she must have been very beautiful.” Lee nodded in agreement and added, “Considering how handsome Megumi is.”

Keiki smiled and stated, “That’s true. You guys aren’t from Go Province, so you might not know this, but Megumi and Mikan were known as the Golden Twins. They were both beautiful and admired by all.”

Boshi whistled in amusement.

“I wish I saw Mikan before she passed,” stated Boshi. Lee nodded in agreement.

Keiki pulled out a miniature portrait from his bag and showed it to Boshi and Lee saying, “This is her, but you can’t have it.” Boshi and Lee stared at the picture and raised their eyebrows.

“This is Mikan, Megumi’s sister?” asked Lee taking the portrait from Keiki’s grasp. Keiki nodded and added, “She’s my eternal Goddess.” Boshi looked at Keiki and asked, “So you liked Megumi’s sister? Is that why you were around Megumi?” Keiki nodded.

“How’d you meet her?” asked Lee in curiosity. Keiki scratched the side of his cheek sheepishly.

“I met Mikan when I was eight. I was walking around Go Province to make sure everything was in order, but then I saw Mikan wearing a light pink kimono. She didn’t really catch my attention, but then she dropped her butterfly hair pin. I picked it up for her and when I tried to hand it back, she told me to keep it. The sound of her voice and the look in her eyes made me fall in love.”

“So basically love at first sight?” asked Lee. Keiki nodded and added, “If you saw her too, you would have seen the strength she had in her and the beauty. I still remember her beautiful blue eyes and red lips.”

Boshi raised an eyebrow.

“Blue eyes?” asked Boshi. Keiki nodded. Boshi and Lee looked at the picture again and tossed it to Keiki.

“You better fire the painter because he got her eyes wrong,” stated Boshi. Keiki raised an eyebrow and asked, “What are you talking about?” Lee pointed at the picture and said, “Look at her eyes and you’ll see what we mean.” With that Boshi and Lee left wishing Keiki goodbye.

Keiki looked at the picture in his hand and saw that Mikan’s eyes were brown. Keiki thought awhile and realized that when he did see Mikan again when he was eight, she didn’t recognize him and then he met Megumi who prevented him from getting close to Mikan. He focused on their eyes in his memory and realized that Mikan had brown eyes and Megumi was the one with blue eyes or aquamarine to be exact. Keiki cringed as he stared at the picture.

“That can’t be right.”

Keiki stuffed the picture back in his bag and ran out of the palace determined to get back to Go Province and to figure out exactly if the girl he fell in love with was indeed Mikan.

Meanwhile, Megumi was leaving the stable after cleaning it and taking care of the horses. She sighed in relief as she stretched up.

“All done,” cheered Megumi.

“Megumi!” called a familiar voice. Megumi looked at the source of the voice and saw Koku Mi running toward her.

“Koku?”

Koku approached Megumi breathing heavily. He then straightened himself out and looked at Megumi.

“Lord Suha sent me here to tell you that if you are done with your duties then you are free to go outside the palace walls,” stated Koku. Megumi smiled and said, “That’s generous, but what about the others?”

“Well I gave the same message to Boshi Kou, Lee Kou, Reiji Kou, and Shiro Ran.”

“Only them?”

Koku nodded and added, “It was only because the others didn’t get to finish their duties the day before.”

“Well that’s because of the storm yesterday,” pointed out Megumi.

“I’m just the messenger,” stated Koku. Megumi chuckled and said, “Fine, so the ones that received this generous offer, are they out already?”

“Well Reiji Kou and Shiro Ran seemed to still be busy, but the twins ran out fast.”

Megumi showed a disappointed look and muttered, “I guess Reiji will come later, I hope.” Koku raised an eyebrow at Megumi.

“Are you OK?” asked Koku. Megumi nodded and patted Koku’s head saying, “Please thank Suha for me.” Koku nodded and watched Megumi walk off. He stared at her retreating back and suddenly remembered Haji’s tear covered face.

“Megumi doesn’t love Lady Haji, but I am curious on who he loves, especially since he rejected a beauty like Lady Haji,” muttered Koku to no particular person in mind.

Megumi grabbed her bag from her room and then walked down the path of the palace, but stopped in her tracks when she felt a chill run down her spine. She knew what was coming. She dodged to the side in time to avoid Yuki’s embrace. Yuki looked at Megumi with admiration in his eyes, while Megumi looked at him in disgust.

“What are you doing here Yuki?” demanded Megumi trying her best not to raise her voice. Yuki replied by immediately hugging her making her cringe. He rubbed his cheek against hers and said, “I only came to greet you on this beautiful day.” Megumi punched Yuki away and dashed down the hall with disgust in her face. Yuki attempted to follow her, but was held back by a familiar firm hand. He looked back and saw Shigure smiling at him.

“What are you doing Shigure?” asked Yuki, angered that he was prevented from following his beloved Megumi.

“Well I just wanted to see if you were available to go out today with me,” stated Shigure. Yuki raised an eyebrow backing away slightly.

“I’m not stupid, Shigure. When you ask me out, it means that you have something up your sleeve,” stated Yuki. Shigure chuckled rubbing his chin.

“I have nothing planned. I just want to hang out with you like we did as children before you became emperor and I became an Official,” stated Shigure. Yuki still looked at Shigure in suspicion. Shigure sighed and said, “If you can’t come that’s fine. I was just going to go to the market where Megumi is headed for the day.” Before Shigure could walk off, Yuki grabbed his shoulder making him look back. Shigure saw the eagerness in Yuki’s eyes.

“I’ll go, I’ll definitely go,” stated Yuki with determination. Shigure smirked glad that Yuki took the bait.

On the other hand, Megumi finally made it to the front gates and breathed heavily. She glanced back into the palace and muttered, “Will he ever give up?” Megumi shook her head and decided to go into the market to get her mind off of Yuki.

As she walked around, she glanced at each of the stands with a smile. New stands were opened since she got back from Eva province last week and as a past merchant was eager to buy. She approached a stand with beautiful designed kimonos of an array of soothing colors. She noticed a deep red kimono with a Lotus design and pointed it out to the male owner of the stand.

“Can I see that one?” asked Megumi. The owner nodded and grabbed the kimono. Megumi examined every stitch and the feeling of the fabric. It was well made for a kimono of its design. She thought of Hime and smiled as she said, to the owner, “How much for this kimono?”

“Ninety-five silver pieces.”

“How about ninety silver pieces?”

“Don’t think you can get it cheap boy.”

“Well ninety-five seems to be too much especially since it is not foreign. How about ninety-three silver pieces? Final offer.”

“Fine.”

Megumi paid the man glad that she at least got the price to go down, even if it wasn’t much. Megumi folded the kimono nicely and placed it in her side bag. The kimono was to be a gift for Hime for all the letters she sent. Megumi hoped that Hime would be happy.

Megumi was about to approach another stand, but stopped in her tracks when she saw an approaching carriage that she was all too familiar with: the carriage of the Goh family. Megumi hid behind a stand as the carriage passed by. Megumi was able to see a glance of Sakuya Goh peeking from the carriage, but he didn’t seem to see her.

When the carriage passed, Megumi sighed in relief and stepped out dusting off her arm.

“Why in the world is he all the way here?” Megumi asked herself and then went back to shopping.

Sakuya Goh’s carriage entered through the gates of the palace and then stopped in a clearing where a few servants were waiting. Sakuya stepped out of the carriage making the servants bow.

“Welcome Lord Sakuya.”

Sakuya nodded and stated, “So my message to the palace arrived on time.” One of the servants nodded and stated, “We were well aware that you would be coming today.” Sakuya nodded in approval. He looked around and asked, “So where is his majesty?”

“He went out with Lord Shigure to do some errands. In the meantime, you can settle down in your room,” stated one of the servants. Sakuya shook his head.

“I need to speak with the emperor as soon as possible concerning my father, so tell me exactly where he is,” stated Sakuya. One of the servants looked uneasy as he said, “Well I heard that they were going to the Red Light District.” Sakuya placed a hand to his forehead in frustration.

“What is his majesty thinking?” muttered Sakuya. Sakuya looked at the servants and said, “Please bring me to my room, so I can change.” The servants nodded and began to lead Sakuya deeper into the palace.

As Sakuya walked, he thought of Megumi and smirked. He did come to the palace to speak with the emperor, but he also wanted to convince Megumi to marry Yumi, which he wanted since first meeting her when he was fifteen. He knew Yumi was in love with Megumi since she was six and was against his little sister being in love with a commoner, especially someone with a failed clan like the Yoh Family, which was down to just Megumi’s family. He was angered even more when he learned that his younger brother, Ichigo, was also in love with another member in the Yoh family and was even best friends with the oldest son. He confronted Megumi, but when he saw her running her stand, he didn’t have the heart to lash out at her. He even bought a book by her and when he read those pages he realized how intelligent Megumi was and decided that Megumi was the right person to join his family and thus supported Yumi’s love life, even though Megumi rejected her advances. Sakuya wanted Megumi in his family even if he had to force her.

Megumi had no idea of Sakuya’s intentions at the present moment as she headed to a restaurant famous for its fried dumplings. She sat in a chair ordering the famous dumplings and then began to count all the things she bought for the people close to her. She bought the kimono for Hime, but she also decided to buy a makeup kit for Sumire, who complained to her that his makeup kit was turning to dust. She also bought a golden butterfly hair pin for Ayame, who she considered a dear friend; a pair of black slippers for Hotoru, Ayame’s servant; a silver bracelet for Ayumi, even though she only met her once; and a Sakura patterned fan for Haji. Megumi stared at the fan remembering Haji’s crying face. She felt bad for hurting Haji and for calling her Mikan, so she felt obligated to get her a gift.

Megumi bought many gifts for the girls in her life, but none for the boys, except for Sumire, as of yet. She decided to get their gifts after eating her lunch.

Just as Megumi was about to take a bite from a dumpling, a hand slammed against her table. Megumi raised her head and saw Keida glaring at her. Megumi swallowed her dumpling and asked, “What do you want?” Keida leaned toward her and said, “You remember me right?” Megumi nodded.

“I believe that you told me that you are Keida Matsuba.”

Keida nodded and stated, “You humiliated me that day when you walked away with that no good guy.”

“So what?” asked Megumi as she bit out of another dumpling. Keida wacked Megumi’s dumplings off the table making her glare at him.

“I made a promise to beat you the next time I see you, so prepare yourself, Megumi!” yelled Keida, throwing a punch at her face. Megumi dodged and then slapped his arm sending pain to his shoulder. Megumi glared daggers at him as she said, “I finally have a day off alone to myself and I don’t want to spend it fighting you, so if you don’t want to get hurt, get lost.” Keida gritted his teeth and tried to punch her again, but Megumi caught his arm and twisted it behind his back making him gasp in pain.

“Just leave me alone!” yelled Megumi with spectators watching with wide eyes. Keida growled and then kicked back into Megumi’s right shin. Megumi gasped as she leaned forward. Keida took this chance to punch her left shoulder and stomach. Megumi bent over glaring at Keida. Keida crunched his knuckles with a smirk.

“Not so tough now, are you?” mocked Keida. Keida swung a kick at Megumi, but Megumi ducked and then dashed out of the restaurant taking her bag with her. Keida chased after her demanding her to come back.

Megumi ducked behind a building wall. Keida ran pass her unaware of her hiding place. Megumi sighed in relief and stood up. She cringed, feeling the pain radiate in her leg. She crouched down and frowned.

“He’s stronger than he looks,” muttered Megumi. Megumi forced herself up and limped through the market place. She discovered an unused walking stick and picked it up using it for her support. With the stick, she was able to walk better.

Megumi was about to continue to shop until she saw someone that practically made her skin crawl: Sakuya Goh dressed as a peasant. Megumi hid behind a building as Sakuya walked passed. She noticed the smile on his face as he walked, but she could tell that it was a scheming smile. She just hoped that the smile had nothing to do with her and she wasn’t going to run into him to find out.

Sakuya looked around the market place, but frowned when he saw no sign of Megumi. He went to his room before to change into his commoner disguise and went to the market place in hope of meeting Megumi, who was supposed to be in the market place out shopping according to one of the servants he spoke to. He was not pleased, but then decided to head to the place the emperor was supposedly in.

Megumi sighed in relief as Sakuya turned a corner out of her sight. She walked out into the opening, but flinched when she heard someone say, “Megumi?” Megumi glanced over her shoulder and saw a man in foreign clothing with a beaded bag on his side. Megumi backed away nervously.

“Varad Malik?”

The man, Varad, nodded.

Megumi knew Varad Malik all too well. He was a foreigner from overseas and a rich one. He came to Yulan to buy goods for his country and apparently when he was eighteen, he came to Go Province hearing about her market stand. He met Mikan by chance and immediately proposed to her. Megumi, as always, prevented his advances on Mikan when Mikan ran to her crying. Varad left promising to return for Mikan.

“Why are you here?” demanded Megumi. Varad smirked and said, “I only came to the capital of Yulan to go shopping, but I never expected to run into you.” Megumi backed away slightly.

“Are you serious?” asked Megumi. Varad nodded and then his smirk grew wide making Megumi flinch.

“It’s been a long time hasn’t it? Two years, was it?”

Megumi nodded. Varad placed a hand to his chest as he spoke.

“I was planning to tell you when I reached Go Province, but I am even more successful now and stronger than I was before. You told me not to come back until I was worthy, so here I am. I’ve returned to Yulan to get my bride.”

Megumi clenched her fist and then ran off ignoring the pain in her leg. Varad gasped and chased after Megumi calling her name. Megumi hid behind a stand and watched Varad run pass. Megumi cringed from the pain in her leg and gripped the stick in her hand.

“Why did he have to come back?”

Megumi did tell him when she was eleven to leave Yulan and not to come back until he was worthy of Mikan, but she didn’t have the heart at the moment to tell him that Mikan was dead.

Varad looked around the marketplace and cursed under his breath. It was true that he didn’t expect to run into Megumi at the marketplace, but he wanted to see Mikan no matter what. He worked harder than ever before just so he could marry Mikan and get Megumi’s blessing. In truth, even though he was rich, he never worked so hard in his life. Varad shook his head and decided to search for Megumi after he finished his shopping.

Megumi sat next to the stand as she rubbed her leg. After a few minutes the pain lessened and she was able to stand up. It stung a little, but Megumi knew it would heal in time and continued to walk with the walking stick as a support.

Megumi thought of things to get for the boys in her life and the budget needed for the gifts. She was so lost in thought that she ended up making a turn on the wrong path. When she looked up, she saw that she was in the red light district. Megumi gasped and turned around.

“This is not my day,” stated Megumi feeling heavy hearted. Megumi suddenly stopped in her tracks when she caught sight of a person she definitely didn’t want to run into: Yuki Ki, who was dressed as a commoner, with Shigure by his side. Megumi hid between two buildings completely pale.

Yuki flinched and looked around in confusion.

“Is something wrong, Yuki?” asked Shigure. Yuki rubbed the back of his head bewildered.

“I just felt that Megumi was close,” stated Yuki. Shigure sighed and said, “Megumi wouldn’t be in this part of the capital.” Yuki’s bewildered look changed to a frown as he looked at Shigure.

“I know that, so why am I here when I should be in the market with my Megumi?” demanded Yuki. Shigure smiled and answered, “Well you don’t visit your harem much, so I thought it was a good idea to come here to see if there was a girl to your liking that you would like to add to your collection.” Yuki shook his head.

“I knew you had something planned! I don’t want anyone, but Megumi,” stated Yuki. Shigure groaned shaking his head.

“Please think this through. You’re emperor of Yulan and you need to have a queen, who needs to bare you an heir. Megumi is a boy and can’t produce children for you. There’s no way you two can be together.”

Yuki clenched his fist.

“I know Megumi can’t give me an heir, but I still want him.”

“Then you would marry him, refusing to touch another woman?” demanded Shigure losing patience. Yuki smiled and answered, “I would.” Shigure shook his head.

“Well your duty as emperor requires you to make at least one heir and that heir can be from one of your concubines.”

Yuki frowned and asked, “So if I make one heir then you won’t be against me pursuing Megumi.” Shigure remained silent and nodded with an uneasy look. Yuki smirked and began to walk around the red light district saying, “Let’s see if I can find a worthy courtesan.” Shigure nodded following Yuki closely.

Megumi didn’t hear their conversation, but she still felt a chill run down her back just knowing that Yuki was there. Megumi peeked over and saw that Yuki and Shigure were looking at the different brothels. Megumi had a look of disgust.

“I never thought that Yuki was the type to go to a brothel,” muttered Megumi. Megumi pressed her back against the building with a sigh. She knew that she couldn’t take the chance of walking out in fear that Yuki would see her and even if she did manage to get out, she might run into Varad, Keida, or Sakuya. Her day off was tuning into a nightmare.

Megumi thought of different ways to get out and soon came up with an idea. She opened her bag and stared at the gifts she got for the girls. Megumi closed her bag and ran into the darkest part of the cranny she was in. With no eyes on her, she pulled out the kimono along with the makeup kit and accessories, except for the fan and shoes. Within moments, she removed her normal clothing, except for her vest, and changed into the kimono. She slipped on the bracelet and then let loose her long hair. She formed a small bun on the back with most of her hair let loose and used the butterfly hair pin to hold the bun up. She opened the makeup kit and carefully painted her lips red and lightly colored her cheeks and eyelids with the powder. Megumi placed her regular clothes into the bag along with the makeup kit. She fixed her bag to her side and began to walk out using the stick as a support. When she was in the light, she looked like a genuine woman.

Taking in a deep breath, she walked out and began to walk through the crowd toward the exit. Megumi wasn’t used to walking in a kimono, but she still moved gracefully, even with a walking stick in her hand. As she walked the eyes of men began to wander to her. The men in the red light district haven’t seen a woman as fair as Megumi as far as they knew.

Megumi ignored the men’s stares eager to get out and return to the palace, so she could remove her disguise. The moment she was about to get out, she heard a woman’s scream. She glanced back and saw a drunken man trying to force one of the young courtesans out of one of the brothels. The drunken man tried to coax her out with sweet words, while pulling at her arm mercilessly. The woman cried out for help, but no one dared to interfere. Megumi sighed and turned away from the exit. She pulled the fan from her bag and placed her walking stick down as she approached the drunken man. Using the fan, she smacked the man’s hand away from the woman. The man flinched and glared at Megumi only to feel all his rage disappear at the sight of Megumi’s angelic face.

Megumi looked at the man with a stern look and said, “This woman is not willing to serve you when you are intoxicated dear sir.” The man grabbed Megumi’s hand saying, “Then are you willing to serve me in her place.” Megumi smacked his hand away and flipped open the fan revealing the Sakura blossom pattern.

“I am not for your amusement,” stated Megumi. The man chuckled and tried to grab Megumi’s hand again, but Megumi cut his hand using the fan. The man gasped in pain as Megumi pointed her fan at him.

“You will not touch me, you low life,” stated Megumi in a tone that made it seem like she was a Lord. The man gritted his teeth and ran off. Megumi closed her fan and was about to walk off deciding to abandon the walking stick for her leg felt better, but the woman she saved grabbed her arm making her look at her.

“Do you need something?” asked Megumi.

“Thank you for saving me and if you like, would you please come in and have some tea with me.”

Megumi glanced at the exit and then back at the girl, who seemed to be shining as she waited for Megumi’s answer. Megumi nodded, deciding to leave after getting some tea.

“That’s wonderful,” stated the woman and added, “My name is Sakura Miu, seventeen and you are?”

Megumi was about to answer, but paused as she realized that she couldn’t tell her true name when she was dressed in the kimono. Megumi cleared her throat and said, “My name is Aiko Cho, thirteen.” Sakura giggled and began to lead Megumi into the building.

Megumi looked at her surroundings and noticed beautiful women in all directions some serving some men tea or wine. She also noticed young girls helping the older women. Megumi remembered that when Mikan was an assistant to a courtesan, she also had to help the older courtesans. Megumi looked away feeling depressed once again.

Megumi was led into a room with silk drapes and a red mat with gold string designs.

“Please sit down, while I grab some tea and cakes,” instructed Sakura. Megumi nodded heading to the mat. She kneeled down on the mat as Sakura brought over some tea and blossom cakes. Sakura set the treats in front of Megumi as she kneeled down herself.

“The tea and the cakes made at Butterfly Blossom are a delicacy,” stated Sakura. Megumi took a sip of the tea and smiled.

“The tea has a wonderful aroma and roasted taste.”

Sakura nodded taking a sip from her own cup. Sakura and Megumi suddenly heard a knock on the room’s door. Sakura stood up saying, “I’ll get it, so you continue to enjoy.” Megumi nodded taking another sip of the tea.

Sakura opened the door and saw one of the young girl assistants. The assistant bowed and said, “You have customers, Lady Sakura.” Sakura nodded and said, “Bring them in.” The assistant nodded and ran off as Sakura closed the door. Sakura glanced back at Megumi and stated, “I have some customers coming over.”

“Do you need me to leave?” asked Megumi as she set her cup down. Sakura shook her head and grabbed a hat with a veil from her side table. She placed it on Megumi’s head allowing the veil to cover Megumi’s face.

“I will let my customers know that you are not part of this establishment, so please eat easy.”

Megumi nodded realizing that the hat was a sign that she wasn’t to be touched by the men.

They heard a knock on a door once again. Sakura knelt on the ground and said, “Please come in.” The door slid open revealing two gentlemen that nearly made Megumi choke on her tea: Shigure and Yuki. Megumi swallowed her tea with a pale look.

Of all the establishments to walk into, they just had to choose this one.

As Shigure and Yuki walked in, Sakura began to pour tea into two new cups before her. Shigure sat down, but Yuki suddenly flinched and began to look around excitedly.

“Megumi?” called out Yuki making Megumi flinch with an uneasy look. She just couldn’t understand why it seemed like Yuki knew when she was in the room or near.

Shigure tugged Yuki to the floor and stated, “Megumi wouldn’t be in here and if he was, Lady Sakura would have turned down our invitation.” Yuki sighed and nodded looking like a dejected puppy.

Megumi sighed in relief and munched on one of the small cakes.

Shigure bowed his head to Sakura and said, “It is nice to see you again, Lady Sakura.” Sakura nodded pushing the two cups of tea toward Shigure and Yuki.

“I always look forward to your visit Lord Shigure and I see that you have brought a companion this time.”

Shigure nodded and held a hand toward Yuki, who was still looking around absent mindedly.

“His name is Yuki and I was hoping that he would take an interest in you as have I,” stated Shigure. Sakura giggled and stated, “Well it seems that your friend is more concerned in what I have in the room at the moment.” Shigure elbowed Yuki’s side making Yuki flinch and pout.

“Can you at least look at Lady Sakura?” whispered Shigure. Yuki glanced at Sakura with a frown, but then his frown turned to confusion when he saw Megumi sitting next to Sakura with a veil hat over her head.

“Who is the young woman next to you?” asked Yuki, not tearing his eyes away from Megumi. Megumi flinched, while Sakura glanced at Megumi.

“Her name is Aiko Cho. She doesn’t work here, so I am afraid that you can’t ask for her company,” stated Sakura. Shigure rubbed his chin and asked, “Is she just here as your guest then?” Sakura nodded.

Yuki reached toward Megumi, but Megumi blocked Yuki’s hand with her fan and said, “As Lady Sakura said, I am off limits.” Yuki turned red at the sound of Megumi’s voice. Shigure noticed this and smirked.

“I know that Lady Aiko is off limits, but can we at least see her face?” asked Shigure. Megumi’s eyes widened and shook her head.

“I have the right to refuse dear sir,” stated Megumi, now eager to get out. Sakura smiled and said, “Aiko is shy, but she is a very strong willed woman.”

“Really?” questioned Shigure. Sakura nodded and sighed.

“You two came for my services, but you seem to be more interested in my new friend, Aiko,” stated Sakura. Shigure chuckled.

“Then I apologize, Lady Sakura, but you have to admit that a woman who refuses to show her face is quite intriguing,” stated Shigure. Sakura thought awhile and nodded.

“I guess you’re right, Lord Shigure, but as I said, Aiko is off limits.”

Megumi nodded in agreement as she whacked Yuki’s hand away again with the fan. Yuki rubbed his hand with a frown.

“I just want to see your face,” stated Yuki in an annoyed tone. Megumi shook her head. Yuki groaned and stated, “Then shouldn’t you leave so Lady Sakura can do her job.” Megumi placed her cup down and stood up taking her bag with her.

“You are right, so I’ll take my leave,” stated Megumi. Just the sound of Megumi’s voice sent Yuki’s heart racing. She took a step forward only to stop when Yuki grabbed her ankle. Megumi frowned as she glared at Yuki.

“What are you doing?” demanded Megumi, losing her patience. Yuki glanced up at her with redness in his cheeks.

“I changed my mind, please stay,” begged Yuki. Megumi groaned and was about to shake Yuki off, but stopped when she saw Shigure place a bag of gold coins before her feet.

“My friend seems to have an interest in you, so just for a while can you entertain us and it doesn’t have to be like a courtesan’s duties.”

Megumi stared at the bag of gold and glanced at Sakura, who was staring at the bag of gold with admiration in her eyes. Megumi shook Yuki off her feet and knelt down next to him. She pushed the gold to Sakura making her gasp and said, “I will play one song as long as Lady Sakura gets the money.” Shigure nodded. Sakura smiled taking the gold into her hands.

Megumi glanced at Sakura and asked, “Do you have a lute Biwa, Lady Sakura?” Sakura nodded and stood up. As Sakura headed to a closet, Yuki tried to remove Megumi’s veil again, but Megumi whacked his hand away with the fan making him frown. Shigure chuckled at the sight wondering if “Aiko” would still strike Yuki if she knew that he was the emperor.

Sakura pulled out a brown lute Biwa from the closet and handed it to Megumi gently.

“Is this instrument to your liking, Aiko?” asked Sakura. Megumi nodded as she placed the instrument on her lap. She looked at Shigure and said, “I will only play one song and then I will take my leave.” Shigure nodded.

Megumi took in a deep breath before placing her fingers on the instrument’s strings. She ran her fingers along the strings creating a beautiful tune that Shigure, Yuki, and Sakura never heard of before. It was a soft tune that seemed to be calling out to nature. The tune was so beautiful that Sakura was drawn to tears. Shigure almost cried as well, but was able to maintain his composure. Yuki on the other hand stared at Megumi with reddened cheeks.

Megumi finished the last note breathing out and looked at the others.

“I have finished the song, so I will take my leave,” stated Megumi. Megumi stood up, but was suddenly hugged and pushed to the ground. Megumi gasped and saw that it was Yuki that grabbed her.

“What are you doing?” demanded Megumi. Yuki smiled with a blush against his cheek and said, “Your voice and presence is just like Megumi’s.” Megumi flinched and attempted to shove Yuki off, only to make the hat with the veil fall off her head. The hat fell to the ground revealing Megumi’s face for all to see. Yuki’s and Shigure’s eyes widened as they looked at Megumi’s exposed face. Megumi gasped trying to reach for the hat.

Yuki’s face seemed to brighten as he hugged Megumi tighter and stated, “You even look like Megumi.” Megumi shook her head and said, “What are you talking about? My name is Aiko. So please let me…”

Megumi was silenced when Yuki pressed his lips against hers. Megumi’s eyes widened as she tried to separate from Yuki. Sakura’s eyes were wide in shock, while Shigure was smiling.

“I found her,” muttered Shigure.

Yuki removed his lips from Megumi’s and smiled as he looked into her eyes.

“Please marry me.”

Megumi’s eyes widened. She managed to shove Yuki away and stood up taking her bag. She glared at Yuki with clenched fists.

“We’ve only just met today and you propose? Well I’m sorry, but…I’m already promised to someone else,” lied Megumi, more eager to escape than before, even if it meant lying. Yuki’s eyes widened and asked, “You’re engaged?” Megumi nodded and then looked at Sakura.

“Thank you for inviting me for tea, but I need to go now.”

Sakura nodded and watched Megumi head for the door. Shigure suddenly stood up and blocked Megumi’s way making Megumi groan.

“Please move yourself, dear sir,” demanded Megumi. Shigure smirked and said, “My friend has shown an interest in you, so I need you to come with me to the palace.” Megumi shook her head.

“As I already said, I am promised to someone else,” stated Megumi. Megumi pushed Shigure aside and walked out the door. Shigure tried to grab Megumi’s wrist, but Megumi avoided his hold and continued to walk down the hall. Shigure was about to follow, but Yuki ran pass him calling for “Aiko.” He saw Megumi take off running with Yuki on her trail. Shigure smirked as Sakura approached him.

“What is Yuki to you that you would allow him to pursue Aiko?” asked Sakura, now concerned for Megumi’s well-being. Shigure chuckled and glanced at Sakura.

“Yuki is a dear friend that needs to find a wife. Believe it or not, Lady Aiko is the first woman that he has taken an interest in,” stated Shigure. Shigure rubbed his chin and added, “I am willing to do anything to get Lady Aiko for Yuki.” Sakura’s eyes were wide in shock as Shigure left the room.

Shigure thought of “Aiko’s” face and Megumi’s face and smirked. He actually found a girl that looked like Megumi and Yuki seemed to be smitten by her. As he said, he was willing to do anything to get that girl for Yuki.

Megumi ran out of the Butterfly Blossom with desperation in her face. She glanced back and saw that Yuki was still running after her. Megumi groaned turning away. She thought Yuki would give up if she said that she was engaged, but it looked like it didn’t work. He was bad enough when he made passes at her at the palace when she was dressed in her normal clothes, but his infatuation seemed to grow worse when he saw her dressed as Aiko, even though he had no idea that it was really Megumi. Megumi at that very moment wanted to get out of his sight.

Megumi ran out of the red light district only to crash into a man. Megumi maintained her balance, but the man still grabbed her shoulders as if she were already falling.

“Are you OK, young lady?” asked the man. Megumi nodded and looked at the man only to gasp when she saw that the person she bumped into was Varad. Varad stared at Megumi realizing that she resembled Mikan, but with silkier hair and aquamarine eyes. Megumi was ready to run pass him, until she heard Yuki calling, “Aiko” repeatedly. Megumi gritted her teeth glancing back at the approaching form of Yuki and then back at Varad.

“I apologize in advance for this,” whispered Megumi. Varad looked puzzled, but that puzzlement was replaced with shock when Megumi placed her hands on his cheeks and pulled him down until her lips met his. Varad was so shocked that he couldn’t even push Megumi away.

Yuki stopped just a few inches from Megumi and Varad when he saw them kissing. Yuki felt like he was struck by lightning. At that moment he felt like he was watching HIS Megumi kissing an unknown man.

“What is this?” asked Yuki, his voice beginning to break. Megumi removed her lips from Varad, who was as still as a statue, and glanced at Yuki.

“I told you that I was promised to someone, so please leave me be, dear sir,” stated Megumi wrapping her arms around Varad’s arm.

Yuki clenched his fist and turned away. His look seemed to grow dark as he walked off.

Megumi sighed in relief when she saw Yuki retreating and looked at Varad, who still seemed to be in shock.

“Dear sir?” asked Megumi, not willing to reveal her identity to Varad. Varad snapped out of his shock and looked at Megumi asking, “Why did you kiss me and who was that man?” Megumi clenched her hand to her chest with an uneasy look.

“I met that man only today. He was so insistent that I marry him, but I don’t want to, so I lied about having a fiancé. He still wouldn’t back down, so I ran and ran into you and I just…”

“Just decided to make me your pretend fiancé to have him back off?” asked Varad with crossed arms. Megumi nodded. Varad scratched the back of his head and glanced at Megumi.

“I don’t mind pretending to be your fiancé,” stated Varad. Megumi gasped looking at Varad with wide eyes.

“Really?”

“Just until the sun sets though.”

Megumi nodded and held her hand to Varad.

“My name is Aiko Cho, thirteen, and you?”

“Varad Malik, twenty, nice to meet you,” stated Varad taking Megumi’s hand into his. Varad pulled Megumi to him gently and said, “I was planning on going to the red light district, but now that I have your company, I would rather take you shopping.” Megumi nodded and followed Varad.

While Megumi was in Varad’s company, Yuki was walking back to the Butterfly Blossom with downcast eyes. Shigure walked out of the brothel with a smile on his face, but his smile faded when he saw Yuki’s downcast look. Shigure walked to Yuki and asked, “What happened to you?” Yuki remained silent. Shigure looked around Yuki and then asked, “Where is Lady Aiko?” Yuki clenched his fist.

“She ran to her fiancé, a foreigner.”

Shigure frowned and asked, “She was telling the truth?” Yuki nodded and then looked at Shigure with a dark look that sent shivers down his spine.

“Aiko looks so much like Megumi and even has the same presence as him, but she is promised to that foreigner? I will not allow that.”

Yuki walked pass Shigure with seriousness in his eyes. Shigure was about to call Yuki back, but stopped when he heard someone call his name. Shigure looked back and saw Sakuya approaching him.

“Sakuya?”

Sakuya nodded and stopped in front of Shigure.

“It took me a while to find you in this red light district,” stated Sakuya.

“But why are you here?” asked Shigure, quite aware that Sakuya was supposed to wait in the palace when he arrived from Go Province.

“Well I needed to speak with the emperor as soon as possible. You know that my father won’t last long.”

Shigure nodded and then sighed.

“I know your situation, but as you can see, the emperor isn’t in sight.”

“You let him wander by himself?” exclaimed Sakuya. Shigure groaned and said, “If you didn’t show up, I would have seen where he went.”

“Well, we better look for him,” stated Sakuya. Shigure nodded and began to search for Yuki. Shigure knew that Yuki was angered about Aiko’s fiancé, but the state Yuki was in, he wouldn’t be surprised if Yuki drew his blade. If he found Yuki before anything major happened then he would look for “Aiko” and try to convince her to choose Yuki instead. She was after all the only girl Yuki was currently interested in.

Sakuya on the other hand wanted to speak with the emperor quickly, so he could continue his search for Megumi. He knew that after speaking with the emperor and returning to the palace he would have to prepare to leave the next day to return to Go Province, where his father waited in bed. The main reason for Sakuya’s arrival in the capital concerned his father who fell ill from an unknown disease. If Sakuya’s father died then he would need to take over as the Official for Go Province and he needed the emperor’s approval as well. Sakuya wanted the position, but he also knew that having that position would prevent him from seeing Megumi unless she was assigned under his command, but that wasn’t likely. He considered this his rare chance to get Megumi into his family.

Sakuya’s and Shigure’s minds were in a jumble as they searched around for Yuki.

Yuki, on the other hand, leaned against a wall nearly covered by darkness. Yuki bit the tip of his thumb and then blew on it drawing blood and a whistling sound that could barely be heard by normal means. Within seconds, a man around his twenties wearing all dark blue landed before Yuki. The bottom half of his face was covered only revealing his brown eyes and on his hips hung two daggers. The unknown man knelt in front of Yuki bowing his head.

“You called for me, your majesty?”

Yuki nodded and showed his bleeding thumb.

“I expected you to arrive faster,” stated Yuki. The unknown man narrowed his eyes.

“I am an assassin, but I’m not that fast.”

Yuki smirked and said, “Fine.” Yuki crossed his arms concealing his bleeding thumb.

“Now heed my words, Wanibuchi. I need you to kill a foreigner for me. He has short black hair and green eyes. He will be with a woman named Aiko Cho. He’s most likely in the market place. If you kill him, I am willing to give you as much gold as you can count.”

The assassin, Wanibuchi, smiled and said, “Killing a foreigner is no trouble, but what has he done that the emperor wants him dead.” Yuki’s look looked darker as he spoke.

“He made me see something that I never wanted to see. Kill him and make sure he suffers before he draws his last breath.”

Wanibuchi nodded and then leapt up out of Yuki’s sight. Yuki chuckled and then licked his thumb with a crazed look.

Meanwhile, Megumi was walking through the market place with Varad at her side. Megumi glanced at Varad and noticed that as he looked at the stands his lips were moving.

“What are you doing, Lord Varad?” asked Megumi. Varad flinched and glanced at Megumi with a smile.

“I have a habit of guessing the price of goods I see in stands and please call me Varad,” stated Varad. Megumi nodded.

“Have you always had this habit?” asked Megumi, remembering that when she first met Varad he didn’t seem to have the habit of guessing prices.

“This habit started two years ago,” stated Varad.

“Two years ago, can you explain?” asked Megumi with wide eyes. Varad nodded.

“Don’t laugh, but I used to be a spoiled brat. I would go to foreign countries buying anything I wanted not even caring about the price. I bought some goods for my country, but most of the goods were for my own pleasure. That changed when I fell in love two years ago.”

“Fell in love?”

Varad nodded.

“I heard about this stand in Go Province and went there hoping to find something interesting. I found the stand, which was run by an eleven-year-old named Megumi. His goods were splendid, but he got angry at me when I asked to buy something for fifty silver pieces. You wouldn’t believe this, but he lectured me about knowing what to pay for a good and not to waste money. He was actually angry that I wanted to overpay. I was angry that this kid had the nerve to lecture me and then I saw her…a girl named Mikan.”

“The one you fell in love with?” asked Megumi. Varad nodded.

“Mikan was beautiful and kind. I fell in love with her and proposed, but she ended up crying and hugging Megumi, her brother. Megumi told me not to get near Mikan. I was angry, but then he said, if I truly loved Mikan I would come back a better man worthy of her hand. That’s when I realized how rotten I was. I left Yulan to try to improve my skills and strength, so I can be worthy of her. I worked hard for two years. During my training I picked up the habit of guessing prices, most likely because of how Megumi lectured me. This habit isn’t so bad and it improved my way of marketing and made me closer to getting Mikan.”

“You worked hard to improve yourself for that girl Mikan?” asked Megumi. Varad nodded and added, “I will always love, Mikan, and I hope her brother gives his blessing.” Megumi clenched her fist and forced a smile on her face.

“I’m sure that boy would give his blessing to you.”

Varad chuckled and glanced at Megumi.

“You look so much like Mikan, but you have Megumi’s eyes,” stated Varad. Megumi flinched and cleared her throat.

“Don’t make a pass at me, Varad,” stated Megumi. Varad chuckled and looked at a stand muttering its goods’ prices. Megumi sighed and looked away from Varad with saddened eyes. Megumi knew that she had to tell Varad about Mikan sooner or later, but she wasn’t looking forward to it, especially since now she knew how much Varad loved Mikan.

Megumi suddenly saw Keida walking though the market and gasped grabbing Varad’s arm. Varad looked at Megumi and asked, “Is something wrong, Aiko?” Megumi gulped and glanced in Keida’s direction.

“That boy scares me.”

Varad saw Keida and recognized the mark of a mafia clan on his waist belt. Varad pulled Megumi closer to him and whispered, “Let’s go somewhere else.” Megumi nodded and followed Varad. She stared at Varad as they walked and saw how determined he looked in wanting to protect her. Megumi smiled thinking that if Mikan was alive, she would have wanted Mikan to be with the changed Varad.

Keida, on the other hand, looked around the market place with an angered look.

“Where is that bastard?” mumbled Keida. Keida was going to turn a corner, but stopped in his tracks when he felt a chill run down his spine. He turned around in the direction Varad and Megumi went. Keida clenched his fist and walked forward.

Varad and Megumi walked until they reached an area with closed market stands. Varad groaned and said, “We strayed too far.” Megumi nodded in agreement and stated, “We should turn back.” Varad nodded as he turned around with Megumi still in his hold.

Megumi suddenly sensed something approaching and pushed Varad away just as a metal chain fell from above into the place where Varad was standing in before. Varad collided into a closed stand cringing and Megumi stared at the chain with wide eyes.

“A chain?” muttered Megumi.

“Ah, looks like I missed.”

Megumi looked up and saw Wanibuchi standing on one of the buildings with the end of the chain in his hand. Megumi backed up and asked, “Who are you?” Wanibuchi smirked from under his mask looking at Megumi.

“The name is Wanibuchi Maeda and you must be Aiko Cho.”

Megumi’s eyes widened.

“How do you know my name?”

“I just happened to hear it when I was in the red light district,” stated Wanibuchi. Megumi narrowed her eyes.

“Why are you here?” demanded Megumi.

Wanibuchi pulled down his mask revealing the assassin’s symbol on his left cheek.

“I’ve come for my target.”

Megumi gasped and yelled, “Who is your target?” Wanibuchi chuckled and stated, “So many questions from a woman.”

“Answer me!” yelled Megumi raising her voice. Wanibuchi smirked pulling back his chain and then lashing it out at Varad, who was starting to get up. The chain connected to Varad’s face scratching his right eye. Varad screamed out in pain as he covered his bleeding right eye.

“Varad!” exclaimed Megumi. She ran to his side as Varad knelt down shaking in pain and blood covering his hand. Megumi glared at Wanibuchi.

“Why is Varad a target?” demanded Megumi. Wanibuchi yanked the chain back and stated, “Let’s just say that the foreigner angered someone.” Megumi gritted her teeth. Wanibuchi lashed the chain at Varad again, but Megumi blocked the chain using her fan. The force of the chain shattered her fan sending the broken pieces to the ground. Wanibuchi chuckled.

“You know how to block well, woman, but you should use something stronger.”

Wanibuchi lashed the chain at them again and added, “I’ll make sure you suffer along with that foreigner.”

Megumi prepared to block the chain with her forearm, but someone stood in her way and the next thing Megumi knew, she heard the chain shatter and fall to the ground. Megumi’s eyes widened and focused her sight. Standing before her was Keida with a steel staff in his hand and seriousness in his eyes as he glared up at Wanibuchi.

“You?” muttered Megumi in disbelief. Keida glanced at Megumi and said, “I’ll take care of this assassin, so get that guy out of here.” Megumi glanced at Varad, who was shaking in pain, and then back at Keida giving a nod and whispering, “Thank you.”

Megumi helped Varad to his feet and began to lead him out of the area.

Wanibuchi growled as he dropped his shattered chain and leapt from the roof yelling, “I won’t let you get away!” Keida intercepted Wanibuchi making Wanibuchi land just inches from him. Keida pointed the metal staff at Wanibuchi.

“You have some nerve to try to kill someone in Matsuba Territory, ASSASSIN.”

Wanibuchi smirked.

“Oh yes, a mafia youth. You mafia have always hated assassins for killing off most of you, but why try to prevent me from killing a target not related to the mafia?”

“It is my mafia clan’s duty to kill here. An assassin like you has no right here, so leave before I kill you myself,” warned Keida with spite behind his voice. Wanibuchi chuckled crossing his arms.

“The mafia is a joke. Assassins are above you,” stated Wanibuchi. Keida growled and charged at Wanibuchi swinging his metal staff at Wanibuchi as Wanibuchi drew both his daggers ready to fight.

Meanwhile, Megumi and Varad walked back into the market place with Varad leaning against Megumi’s shoulder for support. Varad still covered his bleeding eye with one hand. Megumi leaned Varad against a wall near a clothes stand. The stand owner gasped when he saw the bleeding Varad.

“What happened to him?” asked the stand owner, in a panicked tone. Megumi looked at the owner and said, “He was attacked by a thug, so please get a doctor right away.” The stand owner nodded and ran off leaving one of his employees to care for the stand. Megumi looked back into the direction where Keida and Wanibuchi was and clenched her fist. She then looked back at Varad.

“I need to stop that assassin from killing you,” stated Megumi. Varad shook his head and looked at Megumi with his one opened eye.

“You don’t need to do anything about that assassin,” stated Varad and then pulled Megumi to her knees and into his chest.

“I just need you by my side,” stated Varad his form shaking. Megumi clenched her hand against Varad and said, “All right.” Varad smiled thanking Megumi.

Megumi separated from Varad’s hold and saw the amount of blood falling from his wounded eye. She looked at the clothes stand and asked the employee for any type of cloth not being used. The employee did as told shaking. Megumi tore the cloth into a long strip and removed Varad’s hand from his wounded eye. Megumi cringed when she saw a long gash that reached from his eyebrow to the end of his nose. Megumi wrapped the wound making sure not to cover his nose.

“Is it bad?” asked Varad. Megumi frowned and said, “That eye might never open again.” Varad began to laugh as tears escaped from his remaining eye.

“How can I face Megumi and Mikan with my face like this? They’ll call me a monster and I’ll never be with Mikan,” stated Varad near hysterics.

Megumi suddenly slapped his cheek making Varad fall silent and his eyes widen. Megumi looked serious as she spoke.

“How could you even say that? You told me that Mikan was kind, so do you really expect her to call you a monster because of one wounded eye? The same with Megumi, is he so heartless to turn you away because of this? Do you think so little of them?”

Varad clenched his fist and stated, “But I…”

“If you truly changed then face Megumi bravely and ask for Mikan’s hand,” stated Megumi, trying to fight back her tears. Varad smiled and whispered, “Thank you, Aiko.” Megumi nodded.

Megumi saw the stand owner running with a doctor by his side toward them and smiled. She kissed Varad’s cheek making him gasp and then stood up. She bowed to Varad and said, “See you soon.” Megumi ran off before Varad could say a word. The doctor arrived and began to treat Varad, who looked dumbfounded. He felt heat on his cheek where Megumi kissed him and chuckled.

Strange woman.

Megumi ran back to the closed market area and then ducked behind a wall. She peeked over and saw Keida and Wanibuchi clash weapons. Keida blocked Wanibuchi’s daggers with the metal pole and swung it toward Wanibuchi’s neck. Wanibuchi spun out of the way and swung his right dagger toward Keida’s side. Keida managed to dodge to the right, but to his surprise he felt a sharp pain in his right arm. He glanced to his arm and saw Wanibuchi’s left dagger buried in his arm. Wanibuchi smirked as he twisted the dagger before yanking it out. Keida gasped in pain stumbling back with blood seeping from his arm. Wanibuchi spun his left dagger in his hand with a smirk.

“Bet you didn’t see that coming,” stated Wanibuchi. Keida gritted his teeth swinging the metal pole at Wanibuchi. Wanibuchi dodged making sure to cut Keida’s other arm. Keida gasped dropping the metal pole. He tried to pick the pole up, but his hands had no grip. Wanibuchi chuckled pointing his daggers at Keida.

“Don’t bother trying to pick up your weapon. I cut the pressure points on your arms, so you have no grip.”

Keida gritted his teeth and glared at Wanibuchi.

“I can still take you down!” yelled Keida. Keida tried to throw a punch at Wanibuchi, but Wanibuchi dodged and stabbed Keida’s shoulder. Keida screamed out in pain as Wanibuchi yanked out his blade. Keida fell to his knees shaking in pain.

“Like I said, assassins are above the mafia,” stated Wanibuchi. Wanibuchi swung his dagger down at Keida, but to his surprise his dagger collided into something hard. Standing in his way was none other than Megumi with her left arm raised in defense.

“You again, but how did you block my dagger?” demanded Wanibuchi. He suddenly noticed the bracelet on Megumi’s left wrist and smirked.

“Using your jewelry to block a weapon, well played,” stated Wanibuchi in amusement. Megumi glanced back at Keida, who was shaking in pain, and said, “Leave this assassin to me.” Keida glared at Megumi.

“What can a woman like you do?” demanded Keida. Megumi smirked as she moved aside the end of the kimono revealing her right leg.

“I’ll show you,” stated Megumi. To Keida’s and Wanibuchi’s surprise, Megumi leapt up and swung her leg at Wanibuchi. Wanibuchi barely dodged Megumi’s leg, but was even more shocked when he felt Megumi’s elbow connect to his cheek. He stumbled back clenching his cheek. Megumi landed back on the ground going into her fighting stance.

“What, never expected to be struck by a woman?” taunted Megumi. Wanibuchi smirked twisting his daggers in his hands.

“This should be interesting,” stated Wanibuchi. In a matter of minutes, Wanibuchi and Megumi went into heavy combat. Wanibuchi swung his daggers at her, but Megumi dodged each swing, except for one that managed to cut her right sleeve. Megumi swung three kicks at Wanibuchi that he easily dodged and then threw two punches toward his face. He ducked out of the way and kicked at her feet. Megumi leapt up avoiding his kicks and turned in the air before landing behind him and kicking his side. Wanibuchi rolled over and jumped to his feet clenching his side.

“You really are good,” stated Wanibuchi before leaping at Megumi and swinging a kick toward her side. Megumi leapt to the side and then blocked his dagger using her bracelet. They leapt away from each other breathing heavily.

“You move just like an assassin,” stated Wanibuchi. Megumi glared at him and stated, “I am no assassin.” Wanibuchi could see the defiance in her eyes and smirked. He sheathed his daggers as he stood up straight. He held up his hands and stated, “I give up.” Megumi raised an eyebrow.

“Are you serious?” asked Megumi. Wanibuchi nodded.

“I live to kill, but even I can see when a fight is hopeless. I can see it in your eyes. Even if I cut your limbs off, you will still fight me to protect that mafia youth and my target, am I right?”

Megumi remained silent glaring at Wanibuchi. Wanibuchi touched his assassin mark on his cheek and stated, “I promise on this mark that I will not kill that foreigner or that mafia youth as long as you live, Aiko Cho.” Megumi straightened up and nodded.

“A promise on your mark binds the agreement, am I right?” asked Megumi. Wanibuchi nodded and added, “You are well informed.” Wanibuchi glanced at Keida, who was staring at Wanibuchi in disbelief, and stated, “You should bring him to a doctor too.” Megumi nodded and headed toward Keida.

Before she could reach Keida, Wanibuchi intercepted her making her flinch. Wanibuchi placed a hand on her cheek and pressed his lips against hers making her eyes widen. Wanibuchi pulled away and whispered, “Consider this as my gift to you, Aiko.” Wanibuchi then leapt up disappearing from Megumi’s sight.

Megumi snapped out of her shock and wiped her mouth on her sleeve with disgust in her face.

“The nerve,” muttered Megumi angrily. Megumi heard Keida groan in pain and ran to his side. Megumi knelt next to him and asked, “Are you OK?” Keida cringed and said, “Well considering the extreme pain in my arms and shoulder, I am doing OK.” Megumi sighed and helped Keida to his feet.

“Don’t act tough in front of me,” stated Megumi. Keida cringed as he began to walk next to Megumi. He swallowed the cry that was struggling to get out and glanced at Megumi.

“Where did you learn to fight woman?” asked Keida. Megumi glanced at Keida and stated, “I learned from my teacher and my name is not woman, it is Aiko Cho.”

“Then tell me Aiko, why did you protect me, you don’t even know me?”

Megumi chuckled and stated, “Why not, you protected me and Varad, so why shouldn’t I return the favor, dear sir?” Keida grinned and stated, “Just call me, Keida. You really are a strange woman.”

“Aiko, not woman, Keida,” corrected Megumi. Keida burst out laughing momentarily forgetting his pain.

“I never thought I would meet a woman that acts like Jia.”

“Now you’re comparing me to another woman?” asked Megumi with a raised eyebrow. Keida chuckled and leaned his head on Megumi’s shoulder making her flinch.

“Just like her.”

Megumi remained silent as she led Keida to the market place. To her relief, she saw that the doctor was still there treating Varad. Varad noticed Megumi and called out her fake name. Megumi nodded at Varad in reply.

Megumi stopped near the doctor making him look up. The doctor gasped when he saw Keida bleeding on Megumi’s shoulder.

“What happened to him?” asked the doctor in shock. Megumi placed Keida next to Varad and said, “A thug attacked him, so please treat him too.” The doctor looked at Keida and then back at Varad. The doctor sighed and said, “This is going to be a long day.” Megumi placed a few silver pieces in the doctor’s hand and said, “Please treat them, dear sir.” The doctor looked at the silver pieces in his hand and nodded. He instructed a few men to carry Keida and Varad.

Before the men carried Varad off, she leaned toward his ear and stated, “You’re safe now, so get well soon.” Varad nodded. Megumi was about to walk off, but Varad grabbed her wrist making her look back at him.

“I will ask Megumi for Mikan’s hand,” stated Varad. Megumi smiled and stated, “Then good luck.” Varad released Megumi’s wrist allowing Megumi to walk off. As she walked off she felt a tear escape the corner of her eye. Megumi wiped it away removing some of the powder on her cheek.

Keida noticed Megumi’s tears as he was carried off and frowned. He glanced at Varad and thought that “Aiko” truly loved Varad to the point of tears when Varad told her that he was going to propose to someone else.

“Slime ball,” muttered Keida.

As Megumi walked through the market, Wanibuchi watched from above. He rubbed his chin staring at Megumi.

“She was willing to risk her life for that foreigner and he chooses another woman. That foreigner has no idea what he’s missing out on.”

Wanibuchi suddenly remembered Yuki and groaned.

“What am I supposed to do about that emperor now?” he asked himself. Wanibuchi stood up still looking at Megumi. He smirked and leapt from roof to roof.

“There are always other jobs.”

It was at that point that Wanibuchi decided to abandon the emperor. He glanced back at Megumi and smiled.

The next time I see you Aiko, I will have you.

Megumi felt a chill run down her spine and glanced back. She saw no one and sighed.

Being dressed like this is troublesome.

Megumi went into a dark corner and changed back to her regular clothes making sure to remove the makeup on her face. She placed the kimono with the jewelry back in the bag and then noticed that everything, except for the hairpin and slippers were in shatters. Megumi groaned deciding to buy new presents for them next time, but at the moment she just wanted to rest.

Megumi adjusted her bag on her shoulder and walked out. Megumi was ready to head back to the palace to finally rest, but stopped in her tracks when she remembered Varad’s words. Giving out a sigh, she changed her path to the medical house.

In the meantime, Yuki was leaning against the wall in the red light district licking his bleeding thumb. Yuki frowned when he realized that Wanibuchi hadn’t returned.

“Knowing the fool, he got bored,” muttered Yuki with spite behind his voice. Yuki knew that Wanibuchi had betrayed him once and he promised not to do it again, but Yuki knew better than to trust an assassin’s words. He just wished that Wanibuchi didn’t betray him for this assignment. Yuki bit his thumb drawing more blood out of anger.

“What are you doing Yuki?”

Yuki glanced to the side and saw Shigure and Sakuya approaching him. Yuki smiled at Shigure and Sakuya and said, “I just lost my patience.” Shigure immediately tore a piece of his sleeve off and wrapped Yuki’s bleeding thumb.

“We should get that treated,” stated Shigure. Yuki glared at Shigure making Shigure flinch.

“I’m fine Shigure,” stated Yuki. Shigure nodded. Yuki walked pass Shigure and stood in front of Sakuya making Sakuya flinch.

“So why are you here, Sakuya Goh?” asked Yuki with crossed arms.

“I needed to speak to you about my father,” stated Sakuya. Yuki nodded and urged Sakuya to follow saying, “Let’s speak in my palace.” Sakuya nodded and followed Yuki with Shigure behind him. As they walked, Yuki rubbed his wounded thumb letting the blood seep through the cloth with a dark look.

I want that foreigner dead. I want him to die.

Megumi soon reached the medical house in the Capital. She walked through the door saying, “Is anybody here?” The doctor peeked through an opening and asked, “Do you need something, young man?” Megumi nodded.

“I heard that you have a foreigner patient here,” stated Megumi. The doctor nodded and stated, “I do, are you a friend of his?”

“You could say that.”

“Well, I just finished bandaging his eye, so you can see him, while I treat the other patient.”

Megumi nodded and walked toward the doctor. The doctor pointed into another room. Megumi peeked into that room and saw Varad lying on his back on a medical bed on the floor. His wounded eye had new bandaging and his one good eye was shut. Megumi sat next to him and nudged his side with her right hand. Varad opened his good eye and saw Megumi looking down at him.

“Aiko?”

Megumi slapped his forehead lightly making him cringe.

“Who are you calling Aiko, Varad?” stated Megumi. Varad stared at Megumi in disbelief.

“Megumi?” asked Varad. Megumi nodded.

“Why are you here?”

“To see you.”

“How did you even know I was here?” asked Varad filled with confusion. Megumi smiled.

“I ran into a woman that looked like Mikan. She told me that her name was Aiko Cho and she told me that you were in the medical house for an injury. She convinced me to come as if her life depended on it.”

Varad smiled and muttered, “Aiko is a kind woman.”

“I guess,” stated Megumi. Varad glanced at Megumi with his good eye and stated, “I want to ask you something important, but can you first please tell me honestly whether you see me as a bad person?”

Megumi sighed folding her hands on her lap.

“To be honest, when I first met you, I saw you as a despicable human being. You threw currency around like it was trash and even had the nerve to try to buy Mikan from my family, even though she was already in tears.”

Varad gulped and said, “Your words really are like daggers.”

“But when I spoke with Aiko, she told me what you told her. How you worked so hard after you left Yulan to try to improve your skills and strength, so you can be worthy of Mikan. How you will always love Mikan and that you wanted my blessing.”

Megumi touched Varad’s wounded eye and added, “Aiko also mentioned that you were trying your best to protect her, even though you two ended up running into an assassin and lost your eye.”

Varad chuckled as Megumi removed her hand from his eye and stated, “She told you a lot.”

“She did and looking at you now, I can see that you look better than you were before two years ago.”

Varad smiled and added, “Is that so? I kind of thought that you still hated me, when you ran off after seeing me today.”

“I was just too shocked to face you then,” stated Megumi. Varad chuckled and glanced at Megumi.

“I really meant it when I said I’ve come for my bride. When I go to Go Province I want to marry Mikan and I want your blessing before I ask her. I’ve changed, so please let me have her.”

Megumi closed her eyes and bowed deeply to Varad.

“I’m sorry Varad. You can never have Mikan, but it isn’t because I don’t approve. It is because Mikan…Mikan…she died in a fire months ago.”

Varad’s eyes widened feeling his heart skip a beat.

“What did you say?” asked Varad hoping that he heard wrong.

“Mikan died in a fire with my mother months ago.”

Varad grabbed Megumi’s hand sitting up and forcing Megumi to look at him.

“That can’t be true. Mikan can’t be dead,” stated Varad in denial. Megumi fought back her tears as she looked at Varad in the eyes.

“It is true. Mikan is dead and she will never come back.”

Varad released Megumi’s hand shaking. He burst into tears in his good eye and fell forward covering his face saying Mikan’s name repeatedly. Megumi stared at Varad as he cried and bowed her head saying, “I’m sorry, Varad.”

Varad looked back at Megumi with sadness in his face.

“Why didn’t you save her?” asked Varad. Megumi flinched and whispered, “I wasn’t there, but I wish I could have died instead of Mikan.” Megumi felt a tear slip from her eye and immediately wiped it away. To her surprise, she felt Varad wrap his arms around her and pull her into his chest.

“Varad?”

“Don’t say that you should have died. You loved Mikan too, so live for her,” whispered Varad. Megumi chuckled with a small tear falling from her eye and hugged Varad back.

“Dummy,” muttered Megumi.

After a few moments, Megumi and Varad calmed down. Varad sat on the medical bed with redness in his eyes and said, “Mikan is gone, but I promise that I will continue to work hard for her.” Megumi nodded with a smile.

“She would have liked that.”

Varad nodded and then glanced back at Megumi.

“I’m glad that I met you and Mikan. If it weren’t for you two then I wouldn’t have changed.”

“That’s good to hear.”

Varad then brushed his hand through his hair and added, “I’m also glad that I met Aiko Cho. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had enough courage to speak to you after I wounded my eye.” Varad chuckled and added, “She reminded me of Mikan and you mixed together.”

“That’s not funny,” stated Megumi with a pout.

Varad smiled and stated, “Now that I think about it, I remember overhearing you talk about your mother with Mikan. Your mother’s name was Aiko, wasn’t it?” Megumi nodded and added, “Mother had a beautiful name.” Varad nodded in agreement. Megumi picked up her bag as she stood up.

“I have to go, but it was nice to speak with you and I am glad that you are really a better person,” stated Megumi. Varad thanked Megumi as she headed toward the only opening in the room. Before Megumi walked out, she glanced back at Varad and added, “If Mikan was alive, I would have approved of you two being together.” Varad smiled and watched her leave the room.

Varad remembered Megumi and Mikan when they were at Megumi’s stand in Go Province and smiled whispering, “Thank you, Megumi, and goodbye my heart.”

Megumi walked toward the exit of the medical house, but stopped in her tracks when she heard a familiar voice yelling, “I’m fine!” Megumi looked to the side and saw Keida marching out of a room with bandages all over his arms and the doctor walking after him begging Keida to get back to bed. Keida and Megumi locked eyes with each other. Megumi had a look of disgust and Keida had a look that was ready to kill.

“Finally found you, blasted Megumi!” yelled Keida and tried to run at Megumi, but ended up getting a dizzy spell and fell forward with the doctor gasping. Megumi glanced down at Keida and asked, “Are you OK?” Keida glared at Megumi.

“I’m fine, so get ready to feel pain,” stated Keida, but Megumi could see his form shaking in pain. Megumi sighed and crossed her arms.

“I’m not going to fight an injured man like you,” stated Megumi. Keida growled and yelled, “I can still fight!” Megumi shrugged and kneeled in front of Keida. She whacked his forehead slightly making him gasp and then groan in pain.

“If you can’t stand a hit like that then you aren’t fit to fight,” pointed out Megumi.

“But…”

“JUST SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE AND GET BETTER YOU IDIOT!”

Keida flinched and nodded. He didn’t know exactly why, but he felt like he had been scolded by his father.

Megumi looked at the doctor instructing him to take Keida back in the room. The doctor nodded and tried to help Keida to his feet.

When Keida was back on his feet he pointed at Megumi and stated, “I will fight you after I recover.”

“Sure, if you can find me,” dared Megumi. Keida scoffed as the doctor led him away.

Megumi suddenly remembered Keida protecting her and Varad when the assassin came and glanced back at Keida saying, “Thanks for protecting Varad and…Aiko.” Keida flinched and looked back at Megumi just as she was leaving through the door. Keida raised an eyebrow wondering how Megumi knew that. Keida remembered Aiko and shook his head.

Not possible.

Megumi walked down the market path noticing the darkening sky. Megumi pushed a strand of her hair back and muttered, “I should return to the palace.” Megumi suddenly felt a familiar chill down her spine. Megumi knew that feeling all too well. She jumped to the side just as Yuki pounced at her. Megumi cringed as she looked at Yuki, who was hugging air.

“Yuki?”

Yuki looked at Megumi with bright eyes and a smile.

“I finally ran into you, Megumi,” cheered Yuki and immediately hugged her. Megumi shivered in disgust. Megumi pushed at Yuki’s head saying, “Why are you here of all places?”

“Destiny of course.”

“That’s not funny!”

Megumi noticed Shigure and Sakuya standing behind Yuki watching. Shigure had an angered look, while Sakuya had a look of surprise. Megumi groaned focusing on Sakuya.

“Why are you here, Sakuya?” demanded Megumi. Sakuya cleared his throat and said, “I needed to speak with his majesty concerning Go Province.” Sakuya looked toward Yuki, who seemed to be in heaven in his mind as he hugged Megumi.

“Why is his majesty hugging you?” asked Sakuya with a raised eyebrow. Shigure cleared his throat glancing at Sakuya.

“I guess you haven’t heard, but as you can see, the emperor is quite fond of Megumi,” stated Shigure. Sakuya still seemed confused. Megumi groaned still pushing at Yuki’s head and said, “Yuki is just being a parasite.”

Megumi suddenly noticed Yuki’s injured thumb and asked, “What happened to your thumb, Yuki?” Yuki glanced at his injured thumb with one arm still around Megumi and said, “I just bit it.” Megumi groaned yanking Yuki off her. She held his thumb at her eye level and said, “Are you really an idiot? Don’t bite your thumb until it bleeds. It could get infected.” Megumi began to fix the bandaging with Yuki staring at her with reddened cheeks.

Yuki remembered Aiko and then that thought was replaced by Megumi. Yuki smiled and immediately kissed Megumi on the lips forgetting about Aiko and the foreigner. Megumi’s eyes widened as did Shigure’s and Sakuya’s. Yuki removed his lips from Megumi’s and whispered, “You really are the only person I truly love.” Megumi gritted her teeth and punched Yuki into the air toward Shigure and Sakuya. Megumi ran off yelling, “You idiot!”

Yuki rubbed his injured cheek with a bright smile.

“Megumi is strong as ever,” stated Yuki in bliss. Shigure groaned and asked, “What about Lady Aiko?”

“Who?” asked Yuki making Shigure groan. Shigure stared at the love struck Yuki and remembered Aiko. Shigure gritted his teeth wondering where Aiko could have disappeared to.

Sakuya, on the other hand, seemed to still be in shock. He glanced at Shigure and asked, “The emperor, does he love Megumi?” Shigure nodded with anger clearly in his face. Sakuya gulped and gritted his teeth. With all his planning, he never thought that the emperor would have become an obstacle in making Megumi Yumi’s husband.

Megumi finally reached the palace gates rubbing her mouth on her sleeve. Just the thought of Yuki kissing her made her want to throw up.

Megumi suddenly heard two voices in unison calling her name and turned around only to see Boshi and Lee approaching her.

“Oh yeah, I was informed that you two had a day off too,” stated Megumi. Boshi and Lee nodded.

“We had plenty of fun in the market place,” stated Boshi and then Lee added, “And in the red light district.” Megumi flinched.

“You two went there?” asked Megumi in an uneasy tone. Boshi and Lee nodded. Boshi chuckled and said, “We just talked with the ladies though. We didn’t go all the way.”

Lee chuckled and added, “We didn’t want to pay extra for THAT.” Boshi and Lee suddenly were by her side, Lee on the left and Boshi on the right.

“So how was your day off?” they asked in unison. Megumi scratched the back of her head with a frown.

“It was good in the beginning until I ran into some hateful people.”

“Hateful people?”

Megumi nodded with narrowed eyes.

“A man from the mafia; a foreigner that got on my nerves before; his majesty,” mumbled Megumi her form shaking. Boshi and Lee raised their eyebrows.

“The emperor was out of the palace?” they asked. Megumi nodded and suddenly remembered the kiss. Megumi rubbed her lips clearly angry.

“He really is a parasite,” muttered Megumi. Lee and Boshi backed away from Megumi feeling that if they continued to stay by her side, she was going to kill them within seconds.

Lee glanced at Boshi and asked, “I kind of wish Keiki was here, so Megumi could vent his anger.” Boshi nodded in agreement.

Boshi gathered up his courage and went to Megumi’s side. He placed a hand on her shoulder making her look at him, but there was anger clearly in her face.

“You must be tired, so how about we head back into the room and eat dinner with Reiji and Sora.”

Megumi’s facial features began to soften.

“That would be nice,” stated Megumi. Boshi sighed in relief and did a thumbs-up at Lee letting him know that Megumi had calmed down.

Boshi, Lee, and Megumi walked through the palace gates as their surroundings began to grow darker. As they walked, Megumi placed a hand to her chin and stated, “I wonder if Reiji and Shiro got to go out today.” Boshi shrugged.

“Well Lee and I didn’t see them in the market place or in the red light district, so they might have stayed in the palace to work.”

“That’s too bad,” stated Megumi with a disappointed look. Boshi noticed that Megumi’s mood had become gloomy and stated, “I don’t know about Shiro, but Reiji would get depressed if he knew that you were getting gloomy because he didn’t go out, so cheer up.” Megumi nodded with a sigh.

Lee suddenly showed a basket of leaf wrapped rice balls and stated, “If it’ll cheer you up, I can give you this to share with Reiji, Sora, and Boshi.” Megumi nodded with a smile accepting Lee’s gift. Lee chuckled and added, “With that offering, can I eat dinner with you guys?”

Before Megumi could answer, Boshi wrapped his arm around Megumi’s shoulder waving his hand at Lee.

“Sorry but only Purple Irises are allowed for this dinner gathering, so please return to your room dear Blue Orchid,” stated Boshi referring to their assigned rooms. Lee pouted in a playful manner and walked ahead saying, “I’ll just eat with Riku, my Blue Orchid Brother.” With that, Lee was out of sight. Boshi chuckled and glanced at Megumi.

“If we make it back to the room first, we can prepare a surprise for Sora and Reiji.”

Megumi chuckled and stated, “You know that Sora is going to curse you out if you do that, right?” Boshi chuckled and rubbed his chin in glee.

“But it will still be worth it.”

Megumi rolled her eyes brushing Boshi’s arm off her shoulder.

“Let’s head back.”

Boshi nodded following Megumi.

When they reached their dorm room, Megumi placed the basket of rice balls on a side table, while Boshi began to prepare a pan filled with water over the closed door from the inside. Megumi pulled out a food tag from the book shelf and glanced at Boshi.

“If you want to eat, get that pan out of the way, so I can place the food tag on our door,” stated Megumi. Boshi pouted as he removed the water filled pan. Megumi opened the door placing the food tag on a hook in front of the door. The food tag was to let the servants to the trainees know that they wanted to eat their meal in the room and to bring food to the room. Megumi was ready to close the door until she noticed a bottle of Sake sitting on the floor. Megumi picked it up with a raised eyebrow. She looked in both directions of the hallway and saw no one in sight. In the end, she decided to take the Sake inside closing the door behind her.

“Where did you get that?” asked Boshi as he headed back to the door with the water filled pan.

“It was sitting in front of the door. It might be a gift,” stated Megumi. Boshi smiled and said, “Well we can drink that when the others get here…except for you of course.” Megumi nodded in agreement placing the bottle of Sake next to the rice balls on the side table.

Boshi was about to place the pan over the closed door, but the door suddenly opened revealing Reiji and Sora. Boshi gasped and exclaimed, “You’re back.” Sora nodded spotting the water filled pan.

“I see that you were ready to pull a prank on Reiji and me,” stated Sora. Boshi nodded.

“Too bad you had no time to prepare,” stated Sora with a smirk. Boshi grinned and tossed the water all over Reiji and Sora making them gasp. Boshi chuckled and stated, “I still got you wet.” Sora began to yell out a slur of curse words, while chasing Boshi around the room with the intent to punch him. Boshi was laughing as he ran around.

Reiji wiped the water from his face and stated, “That water sure woke me up.” Megumi went to Reiji and asked, “Were you sleeping somewhere?” Reiji nodded.

“Koku told me that I had the day off after I finish my duties, but the work was so exhausting that after I finished my work, I fell asleep in the library. I was lucky Sora woke me or I would have slept until morning.”

Megumi chuckled and stated, “That would have been troubling, but at least you got to rest.” Reiji nodded. Megumi scratched the back of her head and added, “I actually hoped that you would go to the market place, so we could shop together, but I’m fine as long as I know you got to rest.” Reiji blushed at Megumi’s statement, but immediately hid his red face using the sleeve of his clothes.

“I give up, I give up!” yelled Boshi repeatedly as Sora held him by the shirt holding his fist dangerously close to his face.

Megumi chuckled and said, “Let Boshi go or I won’t share the rice balls from the market.” Sora glanced at Megumi and then finally noticed the Sake and rice balls sitting next to Megumi’s bed. Sora released Boshi, dumping him on one of the beds. Sora then sat cross-legged on the floor and stated, “I’ll let Boshi off for now, but he will see the afterlife sooner or later.” Boshi laughed uneasily.

Megumi shook her head with a smile and dumped a towel over Sora’s head.

“Get dry first self-proclaimed ferryman,” stated Megumi. Sora pouted rubbing the towel throw his wet hair.

After Reiji and Sora dried their hair and changed into dry night clothes, they all sat on the floor with the basket of rice balls and the bottle of Sake. Boshi tossed Megumi a bottle of Peach juice and said, “No Sake for you.” Megumi nodded opening the bottle and pouring a glass for herself. Sora was already munching on a rice ball, while Reiji prepared three more glasses. Boshi opened the bottle of Sake smiling.

“This should go well with the rice balls,” stated Boshi. Boshi poured himself a glass of the Sake and then poured into two more glasses for Sora and Reiji. Megumi sipped the peach juice and then glanced at the front door.

“We should actually wait for dinner before drinking,” stated Megumi. Boshi shook his head picking the Sake filled glass from the floor.

“I rather drink Sake first and then eat,” stated Boshi. He drank the Sake fast and then poured a second glass. Megumi suddenly smelled something emitting from the bottle and stared at it as Boshi placed the bottle back on the ground. Reiji was about to take a sip, but then noticed that Megumi was staring at the Sake bottle.

“Is something wrong, Megumi?” asked Reiji, placing his cup down. Megumi picked the bottle up and sniffed it. She could smell bitter almonds from the opening of the bottle. Megumi gasped and yelled, “Don’t drink anymore, Boshi!” Boshi looked at Megumi with red eyes and his skin seemed to grow red as he fell back dropping his glass. Megumi ran to Boshi, while Sora and Reiji seemed to be in shock.

Megumi held Boshi up as he began to convulse and struggled to breathe with foam forming in his mouth. Megumi glanced at Sora and Reiji and screamed, “Get the water jug next to Boshi’s bed!” Sora was the first to react. He ran to Boshi’s bed and lifted up the water jug without any trouble. He handed it to Megumi in a hurry. Megumi forced Boshi’s mouth open and began to force the water in the large water jug down Boshi’s throat. Boshi choked and jerked forward throwing up. Megumi continued to force the water into Boshi’s mouth forcing him to throw up.

“Why are you doing this?” asked Reiji as he grabbed towels from the dresser.

“Boshi swallowed poison. He needs to throw it up or he will die,” explained Megumi forcing more water down Boshi’s throat. Sora held the jug steady and asked, “How long do we force him to puke?”

“Until Gastric juice comes out, now hold that jug steady, while I press his stomach,” instructed Megumi. Megumi put pressure on Boshi’s stomach making him throw up on the floor. Reiji ran toward the door yelling, “I’ll get Doctor Jima!” Megumi nodded as Reiji ran out the door.

Megumi noticed that the throw up was getting on Boshi’s clothes and ripped his shirt off making Sora gasp.

“Was that necessary?”

“I can’t take the chance that the poison will seep through Boshi’s skin!” yelled Megumi dumping the clothes far from her. Megumi noticed a clear liquid coming from Boshi’s mouth and sighed in relief.

“We can stop now.”

Sora nodded pulling the water jug from Megumi and Boshi. Boshi coughed violently with water running down the side of his lips. Megumi picked Boshi up placing him in her bed. She covered Boshi’s sweating form with a thin blanket and then wet a towel using the water from the jug. She wiped the sweat from Boshi’s forehead making him groan as he slowly passed out.

Sora peeked at Boshi from over Megumi’s shoulder and asked, “Is he going to be OK?” Megumi nodded and stated, “I’ll tell Doctor Jima what the poison is, so Boshi can be treated.” Sora nodded and then glanced at the opened Sake bottle.

“Where did you two get poisoned Sake anyway?” asked Sora. Megumi glanced at the bottle with a troubled look.

“It was in front of our door. I thought it was a present, but it looks like it was an assassination attempt.”

“On who exactly?” asked Sora. Megumi narrowed her eyes glancing back at Boshi.

“For now, I think the target was all of us.”

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