Bunkai 25: Banquet

Once a year during the second month of training, the emperor holds a grand banquet for all his Officials in the Capital. It was one of the days when the palace walls only had a few soldiers for most were at the Banquet. It was also the day that the cooks of the palace were creating mountains of food offered by the Officials in the palace. The dishes would make anyone droll in anticipation.

It was during this time that Megumi with Keiki’s and Len’s help were bringing baskets filled with vegetable dumplings. Len sniffed the dumplings as he walked and stated, “I’m surprised these still smell good even though they were cooked yesterday.”

“Well I made sure that they were heated before we left,” stated Megumi, adjusting her red mask on her face.

As they walked, Keiki glanced at Megumi and then asked, “Are you feeling better then?” Megumi nodded. Keiki smiled, but immediately turned away to hide it making Len and Megumi confused.

When they reached the palace, Megumi took the basket of dumplings Len was carrying and said, “Go to the throne room to greet Lord Suha and make sure to mention that I was the one who ordered you to help me.” Len nodded and ran into the palace pass Megumi and Keiki.

Keiki glanced at Megumi and asked, “Will he really be OK?” Megumi nodded and added, “Lord Suha is very forgiving.” Keiki nodded and realized that during the training two years ago, Suha did favor Megumi quite a bit and it might be the reason why he is so forgiving when Megumi is mentioned.

They began to make their way to the banquet hall with the baskets of dumplings in their hands. The moment Megumi turned a corner, she leaned back to avoid a transparent pink scarf whipped in her direction.

Megumi looked forward and saw a young brown haired girl around her teens standing before Megumi with scarfs hanging loosely from her arms wearing a two piece. The pink blouse on top only covered her breasts exposing her flat stomach and the similar colored pants were puffed up and transparent revealing her slender legs. She wore no shoes revealing that her toe nails were painted the same color as Sakura blossoms. Her lips were tinted red and her eyes were chestnut brown. She looked like an enchantress and if she were in water, she could have been mistaken as a mermaid.

The young girl bowed her head to Megumi and said, “I’m so sorry, Lord Official.” Megumi shook her head saying, “I’m fine, so please raise your head.” The girl did as told looking at Megumi’s mask.

“If I may ask, who are you dear Official?” asked the girl.

“My name is Megumi Yoh, a high Official and you are?”

“Magnolia Yu, a traveling entertainer and today’s banquet’s entertainment.”

“Then I look forward to your great performance,” stated Megumi. Magnolia nodded and flinched when she suddenly heard approaching footsteps. She began to run down the hallway saying farewell to Megumi.

The moment Magnolia was out of sight, Keiki appeared from behind the corner and glared at Megumi saying, “Can you at least walk a little slower?” Megumi shook her head and said, “You need to move faster.” Keiki groaned walking behind Megumi.

As Megumi walked, Magnolia watched from a hidden corner. She focused on Megumi clenching a clear vial in her right hand.

When Megumi and Keiki reached the banquet hall, they saw numerous servants preparing the banquet hall. The servants were moving so fast that it seemed like some of them were in a blur. One of the servants, who Megumi recognized as Koku Mi, spotted Keiki and Megumi and ran to them asking, “Are those the dumplings?” Megumi nodded placing her basket of dumplings in front of her.

Koku lifted the lid of the basket when he reached them and sighed in relief.

“They still look fresh,” complimented Koku. Koku also checked Keiki’s basket and nodded in approval. He bowed his head to Megumi and said, “Thank you for delivering this, Lord Megumi.”

Megumi chuckled and stated, “You can just call me without the honorific like you used to do when I was a trainee.” Koku shook his head.

“I’m really not allowed to…in public,” stated Koku making Megumi chuckle. Koku picked up one basket and added, “I’ll take care of these, so you go ahead and wait for his majesty’s announcement.” Megumi nodded and left the banquet hall with Keiki by her side.

When they were out of the room, Megumi glanced at Keiki and said, “As always, please explore on your own during the time I am in the banquet.” Keiki frowned and nodded, even though he wanted to stay with Megumi.

They suddenly heard a familiar voice yelling out, “Stupid bird!” from a distance making them perk up. They also heard another familiar voice saying, “Chestnut is a falcon.”

“Same thing!”

Megumi and Keiki rushed toward the sound of the voices and when they turned a corner they saw two familiar faces: Sora Kofu and Shiro Ran. They both looked different when compared to their past selves. Sora was now eighteen and seemed to have grown taller. His black hair also grew longer and was tied into a ponytail. He wore light armor with the crest of Yulan on his chest plate and the crest of Suo Province on his right shoulder plate. Shiro, even though he was twenty-seven, looked almost the same as he did in the past, but he now wore the red Official robe. Chestnut, Shiro’s falcon, was also upon his left shoulder, but was for some reason using its left wing to smack Sora in the face.

“Sora, Shiro!” Megumi called out making the two look in her direction. Shiro smiled at the sight of her and said, “Nice to see you again, my friend.” Sora smiled as well saying, “It’s been a long time since I last saw you.” Megumi approached them and shook their hands saying, “I’m glad to see you two.”

When Megumi was trying to shake Shiro’s hand, Shiro embraced her instead with Chestnut rubbing his head against Megumi’s mask. The embrace only lasted for a minute before Keiki ripped them apart yelling, “Don’t hug Megumi!”

Sora finally took notice of Keiki and asked, “Why are you here again?” Keiki smirked at Sora, his hold still on Megumi.

“I can come as much as I want.”

Sora chuckled and said, “I guess the rumors I heard in Suo Province about you breaking into the palace were true.” Keiki groaned in reply.

Megumi pushed Keiki’s hand away from her and asked, looking at Shiro and Sora, “Why are you two here when you are supposed to be in Suo Province?”

“Well the emperor invited some Officials from the other Provinces to attend the banquet this year since he wanted to have a bigger feast,” stated Sora. Keiki stared at Sora and asked, “So why is a soldier like you here?”

“I have to protect Lord Shiro of course,” answered Sora. Megumi looked at Shiro and said, “I see that you were the Official invited from Suo Province and I’m not surprised considering that you were put in charge of Suo Province after one year of service.” Shiro nodded with a smile.

They suddenly heard Keiki gasp making them look at him. Keiki stared at Shiro with wide eyes.

“You’re in charge of Suo Province?” asked Keiki. Shiro nodded and added, “I was given the position after Lord Jio passed away.”

“But your ranking was…”

“I know I am ranked four and the one usually put in charge of a Province are the ones who ranked within the top three, but my knowledge is still high, so his majesty made an exception with me.”

Keiki still seemed to be in shock. It was suddenly at that moment, when water was dumped on his head drenching him from head to toe. Keiki was still as Megumi and Sora were chuckling and Shiro stared at Keiki wondering what had happened.

Keiki took in a deep breath and glanced over his shoulder only to see the usual perpetrator when it came to drenching people: Boshi Kou, who was laughing with the empty bucket in his hand. Keiki glared at Boshi and tried to punch him yelling, “Why do you always aim at me?” Boshi ducked out of the way and hid behind Megumi still laughing.

Keiki was shaking in anger as he glared in Boshi’s direction.

“Stop using Megumi as shield!” roared Keiki. Boshi chuckled and then glanced at Sora saying, “Nice to see you, Sora.” Sora nodded back with a smile, but his smile was short lived when Boshi splashed some water in Sora’s face from a bottle hidden in his robe sleeve. Sora groaned and tried to grab Boshi, but Boshi pushed Megumi in front of him. Sora withdrew his hand shaking in anger.

“Don’t use Megumi to protect yourself!” yelled Sora trying again to get Boshi. Boshi was laughing as Keiki and Sora tried to get to him with Megumi held in front of him.

Megumi sighed and glanced back at Boshi.

“You really should take your punishment as a man,” stated Megumi. Boshi chuckled and said, “I rather be a coward this time since Sora and Keiki together pack a really strong punch.” Megumi sighed.

Sora groaned crunching his knuckles and said, “Boshi hasn’t changed a bit.” Keiki nodded in agreement.

Chestnut, suddenly, flew from Shiro’s shoulder and soared pass Sora and Keiki making them flinch and then began to hover behind Boshi flapping his wings menacingly. Boshi glared at Chestnut holding Megumi’s back.

“I see we meet again, stupid falcon,” hissed Boshi. Chestnut seemed to be glaring at Boshi as he clenched his claws. They were soon in a glaring battle making the others watch nervously.

“I guess that falcon still hates Boshi,” stated Keiki. Sora nodded and then groaned adding, “That falcon also hates me.”

“Why?” asked Keiki, curious.

“I’m not sure, but I noticed he hated me when he tore the letter I was going to send to the Capital.”

“Who was the letter for?” asked Keiki. Sora pointed toward Megumi, who was trying to calm Boshi down. Keiki frowned and asked, “Why to Megumi?”

“I just wanted to know how he was doing since the last time I saw him was back when we were given our positions two years ago,” stated Sora and added, with a frown, “But that stupid bird always destroyed those letters.”

“Little Chestnut is a falcon,” stated Shiro as he went to Sora’s side.

“It’s the same thing!”

“I did apologize for Little Chestnut too at that time,” stated Shiro. Sora groaned with crossed arms muttering, “I still hate that bird.”

“Falcon.”

“WHATEVER!”

Keiki’s frown seemed to deepen after he heard Sora’s words concerning the letters, but tried to hide it by turning away.

Megumi, after finally calming Boshi down, looked at Chestnut and clicked her tongue. Chestnut perked up and landed on Megumi’s shoulder rubbing his head against her mask. Megumi looked at Shiro and asked, “Do you want to go to the banquet together when it is ready?” Shiro nodded with a smile.

Megumi then looked at Boshi and asked, “Do you want to come as well or do you need to accompany Lord Shigure to the banquet hall?”

“It’s not mandatory for me to go with Lord Shigure, so I’ll enter the banquet with you guys.”

Megumi nodded and began to urge them to follow her to her office. As they walked, Boshi looked at Shiro and asked, “So who did you leave in Suo Province as your substitute Lord Shiro?”

“I left Riku Li in charge for now,” stated Shiro.

“Riku? Oh yeah, I remember that guy. He was Lee’s roommate back in our training days,” stated Boshi happily and then added, “I would have loved to see the guy and Lee as well if he didn’t have to stay in Shi Province.” Boshi sighed muttering that he missed his brother.

“You’ll see him eventually,” stated Megumi, glancing in Boshi’s direction. Boshi smiled nodding. Boshi’s smile faded when Chestnut began to glare at him, while cawing angrily in his direction. Boshi groaned muttering, “Stupid bird.”

Shiro called Chestnut making Chestnut return to his shoulder. Shiro petted Chestnut’s head and looked in Megumi’s direction.

“So how have you been?” asked Shiro.

“I have been doing fine for these two years, but I do miss my friends once in a while,” stated Megumi. Shiro smiled feeling a bubbling sensation within his chest.

Megumi suddenly heard Boshi chuckle and looked at him asking, “What’s so funny?”

“When you think about it, this is almost a reunion of the residents of the Purple Lotus Room,” stated Boshi.

“I wasn’t in the room,” pointed out Shiro. Boshi waved his hand at Shiro and said, “With you as the exception.” Sora nodded in agreement and added, “We’re just missing Reiji.”

Megumi nodded and stated, “Chances are that he wasn’t one of the Officials invited.” Shiro placed a hand on Megumi’s shoulder making her look at him and stated, “He might be accompanying one of the Officials from Jogo Province, so cheer up.”

“Did I look depressed?” asked Megumi, jokingly. Shiro just smiled in reply.

Keiki was suddenly between them saying, “Don’t get so close.” Megumi pressed her hand against Keiki’s head and stated, “Then don’t get so close either.” Keiki began to sulk as a result making Boshi and Sora chuckle.

As they got closer to Megumi’s office, Sora spotted the way to the dorms. He looked at Boshi and Megumi and asked, “So who is in the purple lotus room now?”

“That would be Len Nina,” stated Megumi.

“Mr. Rank Twenty,” added Boshi. Sora rubbed his chin and asked, “Is he the only one in there?” Megumi nodded.

“The others that were in the room failed the exams,” stated Megumi. Sora glanced back in the direction of the dorms and then looked back at them.

“Can we just have a quick look at the room for old time’s sake?” asked Sora. Megumi thought a while and then said, “It should be OK, but we don’t have a key and we would need to ask Len for permission since it is his room.”

To Megumi’s surprise, Boshi pulled out a key from his sleeve pocket and announced, “I have the key.” They all stared at Boshi and asked, almost at the same time, “Where did you get that key?”

“I made a copy of the key back in my training days.”

Megumi sighed and stated, “Now that I think about it, Lee also made a copy of the key to get in your room.” Boshi nodded proudly.

“We still need Len’s permission though,” stated Megumi. Boshi wrapped his arm around Megumi’s shoulder and said, “Come on, let’s just go in. It’s not like we are stealing anything of his.” Megumi shoved Boshi’s hand away glaring at him.

“Len trusts me and I don’t want to betray that trust by breaking into his room,” stated Megumi.

Before Boshi or anyone else could say a word, they suddenly heard someone say, “You can go in if you want to.” They looked in the direction of the voice and saw Len standing before them with a mop in his hand.

“Len,” stated Megumi looking at him. Len smiled and said, “I’m glad that you were willing to ask before going into the room, but I really don’t mind as long as it is you.” Megumi smiled under her mask and thanked Len. Len nodded.

Len was ready to leave, but was suddenly pulled by the back of his shirt by Sora forcing him to look at him.

“So you’re Len?” asked Sora. Len nodded, but suddenly felt a chill run down his back when he caught a glint of anger in Sora’s eyes.

“You seem to be very close to Megumi, huh?”

Len nodded feeling sweat begin to fall from the side of his head.

“I just want to tell you that even though Megumi is close to you that you are not his favorite, so don’t get too comfortable,” stated Sora, but the way he talked sounded like a threat. Len nodded as Sora released the back of his shirt. Len immediately ran off feeling that he might lose his life if he stayed close to Sora.

Megumi looked at Sora and asked, “What did you say to Len?” Sora smiled at Megumi and stated, “Nothing.” Sora walked past Megumi toward the dorms with Boshi by his side.

Keiki glanced in the direction Len ran off and then back at Megumi.

“I’m not sure why, but Sora seems to be a little overprotective of you,” stated Keiki. Megumi shrugged and stated, “You’re one to talk considering that you always try to separate people from me.” Keiki groaned knowing that he couldn’t talk back.

Shiro walked to Megumi’s side and asked, “Shouldn’t we get to the room?” Megumi nodded and walked down the hall toward the dorms with Shiro and Keiki by her side.

Meanwhile, Yuki was waiting in Megumi’s office tapping his finger on the table impatiently. He was hoping that Megumi would return to her office after delivering the vegetable dumplings he favored to the banquet hall, but she was nowhere in sight. Thoughts of Megumi meeting with other Officials before the banquet invaded his mind. He soon began to claw at the table as anger formed in his eyes. Yuki muttered Megumi’s name his form beginning to shake.

Yuki heard Megumi’s office door begin to open and perked up with a smile, but that smile faded when he saw Shigure standing at the opened door. Yuki frowned and asked, “Why are you here?”

“I should be asking you that,” stated Shigure with a frown. Shigure approached Yuki and then grabbed his arm.

“You need to get ready for the banquet.”

Yuki ripped his arm away from Shigure and said, “Not until I see Megumi.” Shigure shook his head.

“You will see Megumi at the banquet just like last year, so please go to your room to get ready,” insisted Shigure. Yuki groaned and stood up.

“I’ll get ready, but after the banquet, I am going to see Megumi…alone,” stated Yuki and walked passed Shigure. Shigure stood still as Yuki exited the room.

When Yuki was out of sight, Shigure placed a hand on his forehead with a frustrated look. In truth, for the past two years, he had been going to the red light district, not for the touch of a woman, but to look for the young woman Yuki had shown an interest in: Aiko Cho. Shigure couldn’t understand it. Aiko hadn’t been seen in years. It was like she never existed, but Shigure refused to believe that she was just an illusion.

“I need to find her before his majesty goes mad,” whispered Shigure.

Megumi and the others soon reached the purple Lotus room. Boshi opened the lock of the door gently with the duplicate key and then pushed the door open. The room looked the same, except that only one of the beds had folded clothes on it. Boshi leapt into one of the unused beds with a smile.

“This is definitely my old bed,” stated Boshi and peeked to the left side of the bed that still had a large pot on the side.

“I see that they still didn’t remove the water pot I brought in.”

Sora sat on another unused bed and stated, “Pretty much the same.”

Keiki looked toward the area where the drawers were and stated, “If I remember right, that’s where I slept when I was with you guys.” Boshi nodded and began to chuckle.

“The first time you slept there was when Megumi knocked you out.”

Keiki groaned and muttered, “That really hurt.”

Shiro looked around the room and said, “It doesn’t seem that different from the Cherry Blossoms room.” Chestnut flew from Shiro’s shoulder and landed on the bed with the folded clothes. Shiro rubbed his chin and asked, “Is that bed special?” They all looked at the bed Chestnut was on.

“That’s my bed,” Megumi stated.

“Oh yeah, that was your bed,” stated Boshi remembering the sleeping arrangements. A thought suddenly dawned on them as they stared at the bed. The bed that Len obviously chose to sleep on used to belong to Megumi.

Without warning, Keiki, Sora, and Boshi picked up the clothes and anything near Megumi’s old bed and placed it on the bed that used to belong to Reiji.

“What are you guys doing?” asked Megumi.

“He needed to sleep in another bed,” they stated in unison with Chestnut cawing in agreement. Megumi was bewildered as was Shiro.

Megumi heard the door open behind her and turned around thinking that they were going to be attacked, but felt her eyes widen when she saw a familiar face standing at the doorway: Reiji Kou. Reiji, twenty-six, looked the same as he did two years ago, but wore the Official’s robe. Reiji stared at Megumi and Megumi stared back.

“Reiji?”

Reiji smiled at Megumi saying her name. Megumi immediately wrapped her arms around Reiji nearly making him fall over and the others gasp in surprise. Reiji patted Megumi’s back saying, “I missed you too.”

Reiji suddenly felt a dark presence within the room and looked up only to see his old roommates and Keiki glaring at him. Reiji gulped and waved at them nervously.

“Long time no see,” stated Reiji. Keiki ripped Reiji and Megumi apart and yelled, “Don’t get so close!” Megumi glared at Keiki and stated, “What’s wrong with greeting Reiji?”

Keiki groaned and yelled, “You didn’t greet me like that when you met me again!”

“Why would I?” asked Megumi bluntly making Keiki shake in anger.

Reiji chuckled saying, “Keiki doesn’t seem to have changed a bit.” Reiji felt a hand on his right shoulder and saw that the hand belonged to Boshi, who was smiling at him.

“Megumi sure gave you a warm greeting,” stated Boshi with a smile, but the smile seemed to be filled with maliciousness. Reiji nodded and felt another hand on his other shoulder. He looked to his left and saw Sora.

“Megumi never greeted me like that, so you must be special,” stated Sora with a similar feeling of anger. Reiji was glad to see his old roommates, but for some reason also felt fear.

Shiro cleared his throat getting their attention. He approached Reiji and asked, “So you did accompany the Official invited to the banquet from Jogo Province?” Reiji shook his head.

“Lord Soun couldn’t make it to the banquet since the mafias in the area were getting out of hand, so he sent me as a substitute.”

Boshi chuckled pulling Reiji into a hug making Reiji flinch.

“Now this really is a reunion,” stated Boshi happily forgetting the anger he was feeling before. They all nodded. Reiji smiled pulling away from Boshi.

“I didn’t think we would meet each other again in our old room,” stated Reiji.

“Why did you come in here?” asked Sora.

“I wanted to see the room I was staying in during my training days for old time’s sake.”

“Same as us,” stated Sora.

Shiro looked toward the door and asked, “I know this is off topic, but who is staying in the Cherry Blossoms room?”

“Two soldiers in training: Taiyo Hatsune and Tsai-Shen Wan.”

Shiro smiled and said, “I hope they find the room comfortable.”

They soon began to talk about their training days within the room with smiles on their faces, even though Megumi’s smile couldn’t be seen behind her mask. As they talked, Megumi went to Reiji’s side and asked, “Are you doing well in Jogo Province?” Reiji nodded.

“I have a lot of work to do, but it is really rewarding.”

Megumi nodded and asked, “Are you staying after the banquet?” Reiji shook his head.

“I will have to head back immediately,” stated Reiji. Megumi’s form looked saddened, so Reiji immediately added, “But if you want we can take a walk and talk before I head back.”

“That would be nice,” stated Megumi, smiling under her mask.

It was at that moment, they heard the gong signaling that the banquet was ready for the Officials. They all left the room one by one. Megumi was the last to leave. She glanced back into the room remembering the old days and then shut the door tight.

On the way to the banquet hall, Keiki separated from them and said, “I’ll see you guys after the banquet.” Megumi nodded at Keiki and watched him walk off, but Keiki suddenly stopped and looked back at Megumi.

“Don’t let that stupid emperor touch you!” yelled back Keiki and then ran off out of sight.

When Keiki was gone, Reiji looked at Megumi and asked, “Is the emperor still…?”

“Yes,” interrupted Megumi and continued on her way fixing the back of her mask. As she walked, the others stared at her wondering how she could stand the advances of the emperor.

The moment they entered the banquet hall, the servants separated them to lead them to their assigned seating. Megumi sat in her assigned chair and wasn’t surprised at all that her seat was next to the emperor’s. She just hoped that Yuki wouldn’t get drunk again like the year before and try to rip off her mask. At that thought, Megumi lifted up her glass and sniffed it. Megumi sighed in relief when she smelled no sign of alcohol. This was the banquet that happened once a year and she didn’t want to ruin it by getting drunk, even though she still had no idea what she does during her drunken state.

“You shouldn’t drink before the banquet even starts, dear Megumi.”

Megumi flinched at the familiar sound of the voice and glanced up only to see the Official in charge of Eva Province, Shouryou Kou, looking down at her with a smile. Megumi bowed her head greeting Shouryou. Shouryou nodded and said, “It’s good to see you too considering the last time I saw you was when you were still training.” Megumi nodded in response.

“So his majesty has invited you as well from Eva province?” asked Megumi. Shouryou nodded and added, “I left Suiji as my substitute in Eva Province.”

“Did you bring someone with you?” asked Megumi, remembering that Shiro brought Sora with him for protection. Shouryou nodded and began to chuckle.

“I brought two fellow underlings.”

“Underlings?”

Shouryou gestured toward his area of the banquet. Megumi looked in the direction and saw Ichigo Goh sitting in a chair with Miroku Tou standing behind him with crossed arms.

“Ichigo and Miroku?” asked Megumi in a surprised tone. Shouryou nodded. Shouryou smirked at Megumi and added, “I brought Miroku to protect me, but Ichigo insisted on going.”

“He did?”

Shouryou nodded and said, “You should greet Ichigo.” Megumi nodded as she got up from her chair.

Megumi went to Ichigo and then said his name in greeting getting his attention. After so long, Ichigo finally looked her in the eyes, even though a mask blocked her face. Ichigo seemed nervous at first, but eventually smiled and greeted Megumi back.

“I heard from Shouryou that you insisted on coming to the banquet. Can you tell me why?” asked Megumi. Ichigo scratched the back of his head sheepishly.

“Well I haven’t seen you in such a long time, so I asked to come,” stated Ichigo.

“Even though you avoided me before?” asked Megumi. Ichigo turned a shade of red.

“Well I…I…I just couldn’t stand to see your face. I would feel sick every time I saw your face, but now that you are wearing a mask, I can talk to you just like before.”

“Before my sister rejected you?” added Megumi. Ichigo paused and then nodded with a saddened expression. Megumi lowered her head and said, “I can’t say I am happy to hear that you got sick looking at my face, but I am glad that we can talk again without you running away.” Ichigo nodded with a smile.

They suddenly heard Miroku clear his throat loudly and looked at him.

“Sorry to interrupt, but Lord Megumi should return to his seat before the emperor arrives,” pointed out Miroku. Megumi and Ichigo nodded. Megumi turned in the direction of her seat and then glanced back at Ichigo.

“Maybe we can talk later during the banquet entertainment,” stated Megumi. Ichigo nodded. Megumi then directed her gaze at Miroku making him flinch.

“Protect Ichigo and Shouryou well, Miroku,” stated Megumi and turned away.

Miroku could have sworn that he saw sparkles escape from her hair. He then remembered the dream maiden and shook his head rapidly, also remembering that the dream maiden only appeared because Megumi had kissed him in his sleep. Just the thought made Miroku’s heart race and it was because of Megumi’s method of giving medicine that he tried his best to stay healthy and why he begged to be moved to Eva Province two years ago, even forgetting about his rivalry with Gen.

Another thought dawned on Miroku as he began to look at the different food placed on the table before them. It was during the banquet when he was first poisoned. He hoped that the poison incident wouldn’t happen again.

Ichigo, on the other hand, was staring down at the food with reddened cheeks. He could speak to Megumi normally like he used to when they were best friends, but it puzzled him why his heart still felt like it was racing. It might be an automatic reaction from all his times running from Megumi or maybe it was something else that he couldn’t name.

Megumi sat back in her chair as Shouryou headed back to his seat next to Ichigo, but the moment she sat down she saw a familiar figure standing before her: the Official in charge of Go Province, Sakuya Goh. Sakuya smiled at Megumi as Megumi stared back. Sakuya couldn’t see it, but Megumi had annoyance on her face.

“What do you want Sakuya?” asked Megumi trying her best to be polite. Sakuya chuckled and said, “I guess you’re not happy to see me.”

“Why would I be?” demanded Megumi. Sakuya laughed sitting next to Megumi making her flinch.

“I don’t blame you since I always tried to force you to marry my sister,” stated Sakuya and then added, “But I still want you to marry her.” Megumi groaned.

“I heard Lady Yumi was engaged to another man from Shi Province.”

“That engagement failed when my father passed away, so now she is free again and I don’t think I need to tell you that she is still desperately in love with you. You didn’t see it, but she was crying a river when she heard that she was engaged claiming that she wanted you.”

“Well she should know that I still refuse to become her husband and you should also know that his majesty will never allow it,” stated Megumi. Sakuya’s smile was replaced with a frown. He leaned forward resting his hands under his chin.

“That is true. His majesty is quite possessive of you or so I heard,” stated Sakuya. Megumi nodded.

“When you return to Go Province, please tell Lady Yumi that I still refuse to marry her,” stated Megumi. Sakuya shrugged standing up from his seat. He patted Megumi’s head making her flinch and said, “I will find a way to have you enter my family.” Megumi eyed Sakuya with his hand still on her head and asked, “Why are you so determined to get me in your family?”

Sakuya seemed to fall still at Megumi’s question. He withdrew his hand and said, “I have my reasons.” Sakuya left Megumi as Megumi adjusted her mask.

Sakuya glanced back at Megumi and began to wonder himself why, out of everything in his life, was he more determined to have Megumi in his family when it was obvious that it was dangerous since the emperor was involved. Sakuya snapped out of his thoughts, when he heard his soldier and guard, Ryouga Sou, calling him to his seat. Sakuya took one more glance at Megumi before sitting in his assigned seat.

As Sakuya sat down, he suddenly noticed Ryouga looking in Megumi’s direction.

“Why are you looking at Megumi?” asked Sakuya. Ryouga flinched and looked at Sakuya.

“Sorry Lord Sakuya, but I haven’t seen Me…I mean Lord Megumi for a while,” stated Ryouga and added, “I’m still not used to seeing him with a mask.” Ryouga suddenly crunched his knuckles and muttered, “I wonder if he can still fight.”

“Don’t even think about it,” warned Sakuya. Ryouga nodded placing his hands to his side. Sakuya noticed that Ryouga was still looking in Megumi’s direction and frowned. Sakuya had a feeling that the emperor might not be the only obstacle in getting Megumi into his family.

When Megumi finally finished fixing her mask, she heard the sound of the gong signaling that the emperor had entered the banquet hall. She lifted her head and saw Yuki enter the hall with Suha Diah on his right and Shigure on his left. Megumi noted that during the banquets only one region leader came and that was Suha Diah, leader of Diah Region. It was considered rare when all three region leaders came. Suha and Shigure took their seats, while Yuki headed to Megumi’s side. Megumi averted her gaze from Yuki as Yuki looked at all the Officials and soldiers invited to the banquet.

“I’m glad most of you could come to the banquet. You all know that the banquet is held for the Officials working within the Capital, but this year I wanted the Province leaders along with the people they trusted to come as well. Without all of you, the Capital of Yulan would have fallen, so this is my thanks to you and I also decree that this is what the banquet will be from now on.”

Yuki lifted his glass of clear wine above his head and said, “Now please enjoy the banquet to your heart’s content.” The Officials and soldiers applauded before getting their serving of food.

Yuki sat down after drinking from his cup and glanced at Megumi, who was beginning to gather a plate of brown sauce noodles. Yuki leaned toward Megumi making her flinch and asked, “So why weren’t you waiting in your office?” Megumi nudged Yuki away from her with her chopstick and replied, “I was visiting some old friends.”

“Old friends?” asked Yuki with narrowed eyes. Megumi nodded placing some of the dumplings she made on her plate. She then glared at Yuki and added, “I have a right to see my friends during this time and if you do anything to them then I will make you regret it.” Yuki smirked leaning toward Megumi again.

“You don’t need to threaten me, my dear Megumi, since I know that you are mine,” whispered Yuki. Yuki tried to place his hand on Megumi’s right leg, but Megumi immediately jabbed his hand with her chopsticks forcing him to pull his hand away with gritted teeth.

“I would like to eat, your majesty, before the food goes cold,” stated Megumi. Yuki nodded, even though he was displeased by Megumi’s sudden attack.

Yuki saw Megumi begin to lift her mask and placed a hand on her hand making her look at him. Yuki pulled a red half mask from under his chair and handed it to Megumi.

“Wear this mask so you can eat better,” stated Yuki. Megumi nodded taking the mask and ripping her hand from Yuki’s grasp. Megumi turned away from the guests and the emperor and pulled her mask off making sure to replace it with the half mask before anyone could catch a glimpse of her face. She adjusted the half mask on her face and turned back to the table revealing that only the top half of her face was concealed.

Yuki smiled saying, “It looks good on you.” Megumi frowned, but muttered her thanks to Yuki before beginning to eat. As she ate, some of the Officials seemed to be in awe at the sight of her lips. Most of the Officials have only seen Megumi with a whole mask, but now that she was wearing a half mask, they were able to see half her face and that made them feel uneasy. The ones who knew Megumi also felt uneasy since it had been a long time since any of them saw a piece of her face. In truth, they had forgotten how Megumi’s face looked like after so long of being apart.

Yuki noticed the looks the Officials were giving Megumi and clenched his fist. Yuki had the urge to claw out those Officials’ eyes demanding them to never look at Megumi. Shigure noticed Yuki’s rising anger and nudged his side making Yuki glance at him.

“Calm down your majesty,” whispered Shigure. Yuki nodded still clenching his fists with Megumi not even caring about his change.

As the banquet went on, Keiki, meanwhile, explored the palace grounds. He had originally planned to explore the market place, but decided it was best to stay in the palace. Keiki stopped in his tracks when he suddenly realized that he had reached the North Gardens. Keiki knew that the North Gardens was forbidden to him and turned to leave, but stopped when he heard a scream followed by a splash. He turned around and was shocked to see a woman maybe a bit older than him in the pond of the North Garden soaked from head to toe. Keiki looked around first before running to the woman’s aid. Keiki reached out to the woman telling her to take his hand. The woman did as told trying to wipe the pond water from her eyes. With one tug, Keiki had gotten the woman out of the water and onto solid ground. What he didn’t expect was for the woman to lose her balance and collapse onto him sending him to the ground. Keiki lay on his back as the woman lay on top of him.

The woman raised her head and gasped when she saw that she was on top of Keiki. She slipped off and bowed deeply before Keiki as her forehead touched the grassy ground.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized, afraid that she would be punished, but to her surprise Keiki said, “No problem.” The woman lifted her head watching as Keiki stood up and brushed the dirt off his clothes. The woman got a good look at Keiki as he stood before her and felt her heart begin to race. Since moving to the palace as a Concubine a year ago, she had never seen such a handsome man that could send her heart flying.

Keiki glanced at the woman and asked, “Are you going to stay on the ground until I leave?” The woman shook her head and immediately stood up. The woman bowed her head with red cheeks and said, “I apologize again for falling on you and if I may have your name?”

“Keiki Nue,” answered Keiki.

“Well my name is Rin Lian, nice to meet you,” stated the woman. Keiki just nodded and began to walk off saying, “I was just passing by, so I better leave before a soldier sees me.” The woman, Rin, gasped and tried to grab Keiki’s arm, but stopped herself drawing her hand away from him.

“Will I see you again?” asked Rin. Keiki stopped in his tracks and glanced back at her.

“You might see me since I am staying in the palace for a while,” stated Keiki and then finally left.

Rin placed a hand on her beating heart and smiled hoping to see Keiki again and glad that her clumsiness was helpful for once.

As Keiki left the gardens, he had an annoyed look on his face.

“That girl was weird,” muttered Keiki. Keiki suddenly smelled the scent of food coming from the kitchen area and felt his mouth begin to water. It was at that moment that he realized that he hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, so he followed the scent to the kitchen. As he got closer, he soon realized that there was an unfamiliar scent mixed in with the aroma of the food.

Keiki peeked into the kitchen trying to figure out what the strange aroma was and gasped when he saw a couple of the palace cooks lying on the ground with their throats slit and one of the other cooks tied to a chair and gagged. Keiki would have run in, but stopped himself when he saw unfamiliar men preparing the food. He watched them closely and saw them adding a white powder to the food. Keiki sniffed the aroma once again and turned pale when he finally recognized the smell: poison made from an overseas tree. He only recognized it since someone once tried to poison Ryuunosuke with that same poison. He didn’t know what it was called, but he knew that it was incredible deadly.

Keiki began to hear the men converse and lowered his breathing to hear well.

“Is this the last dish?”

“It is, but are any of the Officials showing effects of the poison yet?”

“Not yet, since most of them are eating those vegetable dumplings.”

“I can’t believe we missed those.”

“Anyway, send out this last dish and make sure that all the top Officials devour the poison.”

“I will, but if the poison isn’t fast enough to kill the emperor…”

“Then Li Mei will finish him off during the entertainment.”

Keiki’s eyes widened realizing that all the food in the banquet, except for the dumplings Megumi and him made, were poisoned. Keiki was about to run off to warn Megumi, but a man in deep blue clothing with his face covered appeared in front of Keiki and slashed his blade at Keiki. Keiki leaned back to dodge and then jumped to his left to avoid another strike from behind. Keiki slammed his back against a wall and looked at his two attackers: the man in deep blue and a man in all black from the kitchen. Keiki smirked going into a fighting stance.

“I don’t know who sent you assassins, but I won’t let you kill anyone.”

Keiki heard them chuckle and raised an eyebrow. The man in deep blue lowered his mask revealing the assassin mark on his right cheek and said, “What is a mafia youth like you doing here?” Keiki narrowed his eyes realizing that they recognized the Nue Clan Mark on his headband.

“I don’t have to answer you,” hissed Keiki. The man wearing all black also removed his mask and said, “It doesn’t matter since you are going to die today.” Keiki shook his head.

“I’m not dying today,” muttered Keiki.

“And what makes you say that?”

Without warning, Keiki took off running making the two assassins gasp. Keiki ran down the hall and looked back at them saying, “Because I’m going to warn Megumi before you can kill me.” The assassins glared at Keiki before taking off after him.

As Keiki ran, he thought of Megumi and hoped that she didn’t eat any of the poisoned dishes.

In the banquet hall, Megumi ate her dumplings and then glanced at the other food on her plate. She usually liked the food presented, but after one bite, she realized that it just didn’t taste right. Megumi swallowed her dumpling and then looked at Yuki, who was eating her dumplings happily.

“Did you have different cooks this year?” asked Megumi. Yuki shook his head and then showed a dissatisfied face.

“I guess you noticed that the food tasted strange too?” asked Yuki. Megumi nodded and was about to say something, but Yuki suddenly held a glass of Sake to her and asked, “How about a drink to get rid of the strange taste?” Megumi pushed the glass away from her with a frown.

“You know I can’t drink, your majesty,” scolded Megumi. Yuki smiled and said, “But you really should.” Megumi groaned and was about to refuse again, but suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She glanced back and saw Gen standing above her.

“Gen?”

Gen nodded and stated, “I haven’t seen you for a long time.” Megumi nodded and asked, “So you were the guard sent from Ryu Province for Lord Tamoya?” Gen nodded.

“I was actually planning to greet you earlier, but Lord Tamoya insisted that I stay with him as he ate.”

Megumi glanced toward Tamoya’s seat and saw that it was empty.

“Where did he go?” asked Megumi.

“He left for the clinic with Dr. Kiku since his stomach started to feel strange. I insisted on coming along, but he wanted someone to represent him still in the banquet.”

Megumi smiled at Gen and said, “Well I am glad to see you and Hatsuharu would be glad too. He’s missed you since you left.” Gen nodded and suddenly smirked adding, “Maybe I can spar with him and I would definitely like to spar with you too.” Megumi nodded knowing full well that Gen still wanted to beat her since she beat him two years ago.

Megumi suddenly noticed Yuki’s angered face as he looked at Gen and elbowed Yuki’s side making Yuki flinch.

“Gen is doing nothing wrong by speaking to me, your majesty,” stated Megumi, but it sounded more like a warning for Yuki. Yuki clenched his fist and nodded. Yuki focused on Gen making Gen flinch and smiled saying, “If you are representing Tamoya Miya, then please sit in his seat.” Gen nodded filled with nervousness knowing that Yuki just wanted him to get away from Megumi.

As Gen left them Yuki faced Megumi and said, “Just for today, please only look at me.” Megumi shook her head.

“I have friends here I want to speak to like Naohito and Reiji. You are not the only person close to me,” stated Megumi taking another dumpling into her mouth. They suddenly heard Naohito puking making all the Officials in the room flinch. Megumi looked toward Naohito and saw that he was coughing out clear liquid with Chiriko by his side trying to help him out. Megumi was about to run to Naohito’s aid, but Yuki stopped her and stood up from his chair.

“Chiriko, please bring your brother to the clinic to be treated,” ordered Yuki. Chiriko nodded taking Naohito under his arm. Naohito staggered out of the banquet hall with Chiriko’s help looking completely pale.

Megumi stared in the direction Naohito and Chiriko went and then back at Yuki asking, “Can I go to the clinic to check on them?” Yuki shook his head.

“I won’t let you leave the banquet hall to check on other men,” stated Yuki with jealousy beginning to show in his eyes. Megumi groaned and was about to yell at Yuki, but stopped when she heard Ichigo begin to cough. She glanced at Ichigo and noticed that his face was slowly losing color as was Shouryou, who just covered his mouth as his face began to lose color.

Megumi clenched her fist and then bent over covering her mouth. Yuki gasped and asked, “Are you OK, Megumi?” Megumi looked pale as she spoke to Yuki.

“I don’t think this food should be eaten. I feel sick.”

Yuki looked panicked and then looked toward Ichigo and Shouryou, who were staggering out of the banquet hall.

“Bring Megumi to the clinic with you,” ordered Yuki. Shouryou nodded and looked at Ichigo with teary eyes.

“Please get Megumi,” ordered Shouryou. Ichigo nodded and began to walk toward Megumi only to fall over coughing. Yuki gritted his teeth with his hand against Megumi’s back. He looked around and then spotted Captain Mori standing in the corner.

“Captain Mori!”

Mori perked up at the sound of Yuki’s demanding voice.

“Take Megumi and those two Officials to the clinic quickly,” ordered Yuki. Mori nodded and began to gather Shouryou, Ichigo, and then Megumi. Megumi left Yuki’s hold and into Mori’s. As Megumi left the banquet hall, Yuki stared at her back filled with worry. In truth, he wanted to go with her, but his duty as emperor prevented him from doing so.

Yuki suddenly glared across the banquet hall and ordered, in a roaring voice, “No one else touch the food and if you are feeling sick then please go to the clinic quickly!” Yuki had a feeling on what was going on, but all he could do was prevent any more of his Officials from falling ill.

Meanwhile, Mori led the two sick Officials and Megumi down the hall toward the clinic. Ichigo nearly fell over again, but Megumi caught him and said, “I’ll make some medicine for you when we get to the clinic.” Ichigo nodded still very pale. Shouryou chuckled with sweat against his brow as he looked at Megumi.

“You look a lot better,” stated Shouryou. Megumi smirked at Shouryou and said, “I pretended to be sick.” Mori flinched and glanced back at Megumi with wide eyes.

“Why would you do that?” demanded Mori completely in shock. Megumi chuckled in response and said, “His majesty wouldn’t have let me leave if I wasn’t sick.”

“But…”

“I needed to leave so I could make a medicine for the sick Officials.”

“Dr. Kiku can do that,” stated Mori. Megumi shook her head and stated, “Dr. Kiku has told me before that he was not that familiar with foreign poisons, so he wouldn’t be able to make a strong antidote for this.”

Mori, Shouryou, and Ichigo looked at Megumi with wide eyes and asked, almost at the same time, “The food had poison?” Megumi nodded.

“The symptoms I am seeing are from poison and the amount of time it took to take affect makes it clear to me that it is a foreign poison called Lemkusyu. Lemkusyu poison looks like salt and even tastes like it, but what gives it away is the smell it produces while over a flame. The smell is like body odor, but disappears when it leaves the flame. Another thing that would give it away is that when eaten it has a heavy taste that most people can’t handle. In the foreign countries it was mostly used to get rid of rats, so the other name for it is rat poison.”

Megumi’s lips formed a frown and added, “This poison is strong and if not treated quickly then the person will most likely die.”

At those words, Mori lifted up Shouryou nearly making Shouryou puke and said, “I’ll get Lord Shouryou to the clinic quickly. You take Lord Ichigo and hurry it up.” Megumi nodded lifting up Ichigo as Mori rushed down the hall.

Ichigo was shaking as Megumi held him in her arms.

“Am I going to die?” asked Ichigo. Megumi shook her head and stated, “I won’t let it happen.” With that said, Megumi rushed down the hall just as Keiki entered from another hall running.

Keiki didn’t notice Megumi as he rushed to the banquet hall. He was almost there, but was immediately blocked by the two assassins he was running from. Keiki cursed under his breath and went into a fighting stance. The assassin in the dark blue drew his blade from his back as did the other assassin.

“You might as well give up. The effects of the poison must have killed most of the Officials by now.”

Keiki gritted his teeth sliding his foot back. He remembered Megumi when he cooked with her yesterday and what he was about to say to her in the bath and clenched his fist.

“As long as I am able to save at least one of them then I won’t give up,” stated Keiki and then immediately ran at the assassins. The assassin in the dark blue swung his sword at Keiki, but Keiki ducked out of the way and then slammed the palm of his hand against the elbow of the assassin forcing the assassin to release his sword. Before the sword could touch the ground, Keiki grabbed it at the handle and shoved it into the assassin in the dark blue’s left leg making him scream out in pain. The assassin all in black tried to impale Keiki with his own sword, but Keiki yanked out the sword in the other assassin’s leg and blocked the attack using the flat of the sword. He kicked the assassin back, sprung to his feet, and sliced the assassin’s head clean off. Blood poured onto Keiki’s clothes as the headless body fell to the ground.

Keiki looked at the remaining assassin, who was gripping his bleeding leg, and grabbed him by the hair forcing him to look at him.

“I need you to answer me now or I will cut off a finger,” threatened Keiki. The assassin had pure fear in his eyes as he looked at Keiki. He and his partner were known as one of the best, but this mafia youth managed to wound him almost instantly and kill his partner. The assassin felt like he was looking at Death at that very moment. The helpless assassin gulped before speaking.

“What do you want to know?”

“What is the poison you used?”

“Lemkusyu, a poison from Agotane.”

“Who sent the assassination order?”

“I don’t know. The order was from someone anonymous. They just sent us, assassins, money to kill all the Officials, especially the emperor, and that was it.”

Keiki groaned and then asked, “Where is the antidote?”

“There’s none.”

Keiki gritted his teeth, before breaking one of the assassin’s fingers making him scream out in pain and slammed his elbow behind the assassin’s neck, knocking him out. Keiki stared down at the unconscious assassin and then turned to the door of the banquet hall. He kicked the door open only to see that most of the Officials were already leaving with pale looks. Keiki walked passed them and looked around the room. He saw no sign of Megumi making his heart race. He saw Yuki sitting in chair eating Megumi’s vegetable dumplings and ran to him asking, “Where is Megumi?”

Yuki frowned at the sight of Keiki.

“You’re not supposed to be in here,” scolded Yuki. Keiki was about to speak, but stopped when he heard some Officials scream. He looked back and saw that they were screaming at the sight of the headless assassin at the door. Yuki noticed the commotion from the distance and glanced at Keiki.

“What did you do?” demanded Yuki.

“I only killed one of the assassins aiming for your lives. Anyway, stop eating the food, it’s poisoned.”

Yuki chuckled tossing another dumpling in his mouth.

“I already suspected as much when my Officials grew ill. The servants are already disposing of the poisoned food, so no need to worry.”

Keiki sighed in relief and then asked again, “Where is Megumi?” Yuki clenched his fist saying, “Megumi fell ill, so I had him sent to the clinic.” Keiki turned pale at those words. Keiki immediately took off out of the banquet hall with Yuki staring at Keiki’s back.

Yuki gritted his teeth with his form shaking. Yuki wanted to also run to the clinic to check on his darling Megumi, but he couldn’t because of his duties. Yuki at that moment envied Keiki.

Keiki ran down the hall toward the clinic with desperation in his eyes. The words “no cure” echoed in his head making his heart race. If Megumi fell ill then she was poisoned and that poison had no cure. If there was no cure then she would die. Just the thought nearly drew Keiki to tears.

Keiki burst into the clinic exclaiming, “Megumi!”

“Do you need something Keiki?” asked the familiar voice of Megumi. Keiki stared into the clinic toward Megumi, who was giving medicine to Ichigo. Keiki pointed at Megumi with a bewildered look and asked, “Are you really sick?” Megumi shook her head handing a bowl of medicine to Naohito, who looked to be getting better, next.

“I pretended to be sick to get out of the banquet hall to treat my friends,” stated Megumi. Megumi was about to head to the medicine table to prepare more medicine, but was forced to stop when Keiki suddenly embraced her from behind. Megumi didn’t even get to speak when she saw the tears flowing from Keiki’s eyes.

“I thought you were poisoned,” muttered Keiki. Megumi chuckled and said, “I only ate a little of the poison, but I’m fine now since I took the medicine on time.” Keiki still refused to release Megumi making her sigh.

“Keiki, I really need to make more medicine for the Officials that are still sick.”

Keiki nodded finally letting her go. Megumi turned to face Keiki and saw tears still flowing from his eyes, but also saw the blood on his clothes.

“What did you do, Keiki?” asked Megumi. Keiki wiped his tears and said, “I took care of some assassins. They would have killed me if I didn’t kill them first.” Megumi stared at Keiki and then handed him a towel.

“Wash that blood off and stop crying already,” ordered Megumi. Keiki nodded trying to stop his tears.

Megumi went to the medicine table and then looked toward Kiku, who was placing a cloth over Tamoya Miya’s face.

“Lord Tamoya didn’t make it?” asked Megumi. Kiku nodded and said, “He got the antidote too late.” Megumi frowned and went back to preparing the medicine.

“I apologize for not coming sooner,” stated Megumi. Kiku shook his head and smiled at Megumi.

“I’m just glad you’re here to make the antidote,” stated Kiku. Megumi nodded in response.

Keiki, who had removed his blood covered shirt, suddenly, looked toward Megumi and said, “I thought this poison had no cure.” Megumi smirked and stated, “There is always a cure and Dr. Jogoun taught me how to make antidotes for all foreign poisons.”

Keiki smiled and said, “Your medical knowledge really did help.” Megumi nodded and then glanced back at Keiki.

“How did you know about the poison?”

“The assassins told me when I caught them poisoning the food,” stated Keiki slipping on a plain white robe. Megumi handed the new batch of antidote to Kiku just as more poisoned Officials entered the clinic. Kiku immediately handed out the antidote to each of them.

Megumi, on the other hand, approached Keiki and asked, “Did you hear anything else from those assassins.” Keiki nodded and added, “They said that they had no idea who sent them since the request was from someone anonymous and that if the poison failed to kill the emperor in time then someone called Li Mei will finish him off during the entertainment.”

Megumi frowned and immediately began to leave the clinic. Keiki followed after Megumi and asked, “Where are you going?”

“I have to get back to the banquet hall to make sure his majesty is safe.”

“But he should be heading to the clinic to…”

“His majesty didn’t eat anything, except for the dumplings I brought. He even brought his own bottle of Sake, so he didn’t touch anything poisoned.”

Megumi walked out the clinic with Keiki behind her and then began to rush down the hall. As Megumi ran down the hall, she suddenly saw Boshi and Sora entering the hall. She stopped in front of them and asked, “Is his majesty still in the banquet hall?” Boshi nodded looking very pale.

“He can’t leave the hall unless all the Officials leave the room,” stated Boshi. Megumi, bewildered, asked, “Who is still in there?”

“Reiji and Lord Shigure,” stated Sora and then covered his mouth to prevent himself from throwing up. Megumi frowned and then said, “You two hurry to the clinic to drink the antidote.” They both nodded and walked pass Megumi.

Keiki went to Megumi’s side and said, “Let’s go.” Megumi nodded picking up her pace.

In the banquet hall, just a few moments before, Yuki ate another dumpling with Shigure by his side drinking the Sake they brought. Reiji sat at the farthest end eating Megumi’s vegetable dumplings as well. Yuki looked in Reiji’s direction and asked, “I already told all Officials to stop eating, but why haven’t you eaten any of the other dishes?”

“Well I wasn’t that hungry to begin with so I thought the dumplings would be fine for now,” answered Reiji. Yuki smirked and added, “These dumplings were made by Megumi.”

Reiji paused and asked, “Is that so?” Yuki nodded. Reiji smiled warmly and admitted, “The dumplings are really delicious.” Yuki frowned as he looked at Reiji. In Yuki’s view, he thought Reiji was actually saying that he favored Megumi. Yuki’s frown faded when he felt Shigure holding his wrist. Yuki looked at Shigure and asked, “What is it?”

“I think we should end the banquet early considering that almost everyone is gone,” stated Shigure. Yuki shook his head.

“They’ll return, but until then we are going to enjoy a little of the entertainment.”

Shigure sighed and then nodded. Shigure stood up and announced, “We are ready for the Desert Flower to appear.” Right on cue, Magnolia entered from a hidden door wearing an Arabian costume and bells on her wrists and ankles. She shook her hips from side to side and then swung her right leg making the bell ring. Her movements were filled with grace.

Shigure watched in awe, but then noticed that Yuki stared at Magnolia, but he didn’t seem to be entertained at all. He looked bored. Shigure was about to question Yuki, but stopped when he heard the door slam open. All fell silent as all looked at the door. Standing at the door was Megumi and Keiki.

Megumi and Keiki approached Yuki walking pass Magnolia, who seemed shaken. Yuki shot up from his chair glad to see Megumi looking well. Shigure looked annoyed to see Megumi and Reiji smiled at the sight of Megumi.

“Are you all right?” asked Yuki. Megumi nodded and stated, “All the Officials were poisoned and some have already passed away, but I made an antidote in time for most.” Yuki nodded with a smile, but his smile faded when Megumi added, “But there is still an assassin after your life.”

“Who?”

“Someone named Li Mei.”

Megumi suddenly ducked avoiding a dagger swung by Magnolia. Keiki tried to grab Magnolia, but Magnolia jumped away landing on an empty table. Megumi smirked looking toward Magnolia.

“I believe the beautiful dancer is the assassin Li Mei.”

All eyes fell on Magnolia, revealed to be the famed assassin, Li Mei Yu.

Li Mei gripped her dagger glaring at Megumi.

“I’m surprised that you were able to make an antidote for the Lemkusyu poison. I guess you weren’t just a lazy Official.”

Megumi stood up saying, “I am far from lazy.” Li Mei then glared at Yuki, who stood his ground glaring at her, and stated, “We, assassins, failed to kill all the Officials, but I will end the life of the emperor.” Li Mei leapt up ready to strike Yuki, but a silver cup suddenly collided into her head forcing her to the ground. Megumi looked in the direction the cup came from and saw Reiji still in throwing position.

“Good one, Reiji,” complimented Megumi. Reiji nodded and watched Megumi rush at Li Mei. Li Mei immediately recovered dodging Megumi’s attack. Li Mei suddenly wrapped her legs around Megumi’s neck and tossed her into the floor. Megumi gasped in pain. The force of the impact was so strong that the mask she wore was thrown off. Megumi immediately covered her face with the sleeve of her Official’s robe.

Li Mei was ready to strike Megumi as Megumi tried to conceal her face, but Keiki immediately blocked her path and slammed his fist into her exposed stomach. Li Mei stumbled back placing a hand on her pain throbbing stomach. She glared at Keiki as Keiki maintained his fighting stance.

“I won’t let you touch Megumi,” stated Keiki. Li Mei gritted her teeth, but suddenly grinned making Keiki’s eyes widen in bewilderment. Li Mei pulled a clear vial from between her breasts and threw it toward Yuki. Keiki gasped realizing too late that Li Mei was just waiting for the chance to attack Yuki.

The vial turned in the air toward Yuki at an almost impossible speed. Yuki didn’t have time to dodge and just lifted his arms hoping it would lower damage that was about to befall him. Before the vial could touch Yuki, Shigure blocked the vial making it collide into his right shoulder. The liquid from the vial coated Shigure’s shoulder and the right side of his face, but some of the liquid still managed to hit Yuki’s left shoulder. Shigure screamed out in pain, while Yuki cringed gripping his left shoulder. The parts the liquid touched slowly began to burn and the skin begin to bubble like a boil.

Reiji gasped and immediately ran to their aid as Li Mei chuckled and Keiki looked at her with disbelief in his eyes.

Li Mei pulled out another vial and was ready to throw it, but Keiki gritted his teeth and immediately tackled Li Mei to the ground making her gasp in surprise. He held her down with anger clearly in his eyes. He punched her face repeatedly making her gasp at each punch. Keiki’s fist was beginning to drip with blood as he continued his assault. Before he could deliver another punch, he felt someone grab his fist. He looked back and saw Megumi standing over him with the half mask back on her face.

“She’s already dead,” stated Megumi. Keiki looked back at Li Mei and saw that her face couldn’t even be recognized anymore. It was as if a boulder was recently slammed against her face. Keiki gagged turning away from the body.

Megumi pulled Keiki to his feet and said, “Help me take his majesty and Lord Shigure to the clinic quickly.” Keiki nodded his body beginning to shake.

Keiki and Reiji grabbed a hold of Shigure, while Megumi grabbed Yuki. They headed to the clinic quickly, but as they walked, Megumi could see that the poison on Shigure and Yuki was eating at them quickly.

When they reached the clinic, they saw Kiku running around frantically giving the Officials the antidote. Most of the Officials looked better, but others seemed close to death. Megumi gritted her teeth and then sat Yuki against a wooden table. Megumi was about to run to the medicine table, but Yuki grabbed her wrist preventing her from doing so.

“Let me go,” ordered Megumi, but there was earnest in her voice. Yuki shook his head and said, “I need you to stay here.” Yuki looked ill and the poison on his shoulder began to make his skin bleed. Megumi shook her head and ripped her hand away from Yuki.

“I need to make you the medicine or you will die.”

Megumi turned away from Yuki and ran to the medicine table. Yuki stared at Megumi’s back with pain in his eyes.

While Megumi was making the medicine, Reiji was trying desperately to stop the burning on Shigure’s right shoulder and face, but nothing he did seemed to have an effect. Keiki, on the other hand, was trying to wipe the blood from his fist with disgust in his face. Reiji noticed Keiki’s actions and asked, “Are you OK?” Keiki clenched his fist his form shaking.

“I hate it when there is too much blood on me,” muttered Keiki.

“Then why kill the assassin in such a gruesome way?” asked Reiji. Keiki glanced at Reiji and stated, “If I didn’t kill her then she might have thrown that poison at Megumi and I couldn’t live with myself if I allowed that to happen.” Keiki turned away from Reiji with a troubled face, while Reiji went back to helping Shigure with his pain.

Megumi returned to them with a large bowl full of yellow medicine and set it on the table. Megumi looked at Reiji and Keiki and said, “Hold Lord Shigure still, while I apply the medicine to his wounds.” Keiki and Reiji nodded grabbing hold of Shigure. Megumi dipped a rag in the medicine and immediately applied it to Shigure’s burns. Shigure screamed out in pain making all around him flinch at the sound. Shigure was screaming non-stop as Megumi applied the medicine. Shigure was about to bite his tongue, but Megumi shoved her left arm into his mouth. Shigure bit on it hard making her flinch, but Megumi continued to apply the medicine.

As Megumi took care of Shigure, she didn’t notice that the other Officials in the room and Yuki were watching. They could see blood begin to run down her arm, but her face didn’t show any sign of pain and her movements in applying the medicine was not out of sync. It seemed like she was painting a creation as she treated Shigure.

When Megumi was done applying the medicine, she removed her arm from Shigure’s mouth allowing the blood on his teeth to show and began to wrap his wounds. She wrapped his face last and then said, “That should do it for now.” Shigure didn’t even mutter a thank you as he lay on the table silently.

Megumi then turned to Yuki and said, “Your treatment shouldn’t take long.” Megumi did the same treatment with Yuki, but Yuki didn’t scream like Shigure and only gritted his teeth as pain radiated in his shoulder. Megumi soon wrapped his shoulder and said, “Just rest for now, your majesty.” Yuki nodded with a smile and said his thanks.

Kiku suddenly approached Megumi and asked, “Can you make more of the antidote?” Megumi nodded and headed back to the medicine table. As Megumi walked off, all eyes watched her. They knew she was a talented Official as well as a soldier, but some of them didn’t expect that her medical knowledge could even surpass the head doctor of the palace. There was no doubt Megumi was gifted.

As Megumi worked, Reiji looked at Shigure, who was still silent, and asked, “Why didn’t you thank Megumi?” Shigure frowned, but there was pain apparent in his face.

“I rather die than thank Megumi,” muttered Shigure. Reiji didn’t understand why Shigure hated Megumi so much, but even though Shigure showed a sour face, he was thankful that Megumi saved his life.

When everyone had drunk the antidote, Megumi sat on the side and began to bandage her left arm. Reiji approached her and asked, “Do you need help with that?” Megumi glanced at Reiji and asked, “Do you know how to bandage?” Reiji nodded sitting in front of Megumi. He wrapped her arm gently as Megumi watched him closely.

“It’s a good thing that Lord Soun didn’t attend,” stated Megumi. Reiji nodded and added, “I’m just glad that I only ate your dumplings during the banquet.” Megumi smiled at Reiji.

“I’m glad too,” stated Megumi. Reiji felt his cheeks heat up, but refused to let Megumi notice.

Before Reiji could finish bandaging Megumi, he was pulled away by force by none other than Keiki. Keiki forced Reiji to the side and said, “I’ll bandage Megumi, so you get out of here.” Megumi whacked Keiki in the back making him cringe and look at her with wide eyes. Megumi frowned and said, “I’m fine with Reiji bandaging me, so YOU leave.”

“But…”

“Don’t you dare say that you have to stick with me because of your promise as a man. I’m not in the mood.”

Keiki groaned and sat on the ground next to Megumi instead.

“I’m staying,” said Keiki in defiance. Megumi rolled her eyes and said, “Fine, but I do plan to go for a walk with Reiji after this.” Reiji’s and Keiki’s eyes widened as they looked at Megumi.

“You still want to go for the walk after all that’s happened today?” asked Reiji. Megumi nodded and added, “I also want to introduce you to a friend of mine.” Reiji smiled and nodded, while Keiki groaned with crossed arms.

As Reiji continued to bandage Megumi’s arm, Yuki watched from the distance with sweat on his brow and Kiku by his side checking his bandaging on his shoulder. Yuki clenched his fist as he watched with anger clear in his eyes.

“Don’t touch him,” muttered Yuki, low enough that no one could hear, but Shigure heard it in his pained state. Shigure clenched his fist ignoring the burning in his face.

“Aiko, where are you?” whispered Shigure, before drifting off into unconsciousness.

After a few minutes in the clinic, Reiji, Megumi, and Keiki went for their walk around the palace. Megumi glanced at Keiki and said, “I planned to go for the walk ALONE with Reiji.” Keiki scoffed and said, “I am not letting you out of my sight.” Megumi shrugged turning away from Keiki.

Reiji glanced back toward the clinic and said, “I hope the others will be all right.”

“They should get better after taking the antidote, but some took it late and have already passed like Lord Tamoya,” stated Megumi with a frown. Reiji rubbed his chin and stated, “I wonder who will be in charge of Ryu Province now.”

“His majesty will decide that, but for now the substitute in Ryu Province will be in charge of the Province.”

Reiji nodded. Reiji suddenly noticed the servants heading in the direction of the banquet hall with mops and buckets and stated, “I feel sorry for the servants that have to clean up the mess.” Megumi nodded in agreement.

“I just hope that the assassins that died today will get a proper burial still,” stated Megumi. Keiki scoffed and asked, “Why should they get a proper burial?”

“Because they are human,” stated Megumi making Keiki fall silent and Reiji smile.

Reiji held Megumi’s hand making her look at him and asked, “Do you want to introduce me to your friend?” Megumi nodded and began to lead Reiji down the hall back toward the dorms. Keiki followed behind with crossed arms.

As they walked, they didn’t notice that a couple of other assassins were watching from the shadows. A male assassin drew his blade intent on killing Keiki, the one closes to him, but another male assassin pressed his hand against the assassin’s shoulder shaking his head.

“But he killed Ling and Li Mei,” whispered the assassin.

“I know, but it isn’t wise to attack him now, especially when that masked man is with him, Zong-Xian,” whispered the other assassin. The assassin, Zong-Xian glared at the other assassin and asked, “Why fear him when he only knew how to make the rare antidote?”

“I fought him before and he shouldn’t be taken lightly,” stated the assassin and added, “He also knows our secrets and could use them against us if we attack now.” Zong-Xian clenched his fist sheathing his blade.

“I don’t know who that masked person is to you, but when he isn’t close to that mafia bastard then I will strike,” stated Zong-Xian and then escaped to the roof of the palace.

The male assassin glanced in the direction Megumi went and placed a hand to his neck whispering her name.

Megumi, Reiji, and Keiki soon reached the Purple Lotus Room. Reiji glanced at Megumi and asked, “So your friend is in here?” Megumi nodded and added, “Considering what time it is.” Megumi knocked on the door gently and then heard the familiar voice of Len asking, “Who is it?”

“Megumi,” she answered back. In a matter of moments, the door opened revealing Len wearing his night attire and his hair let loose. Megumi chuckled and asked, “Did I wake you?” Len shook his head and stated, “I was just getting ready to rest, but I don’t mind you coming in.” Megumi nodded and walked in with Reiji and Keiki.

Len closed the door behind him and then sat on the edge of his bed and asked, “So why have you come?”

Megumi glanced at Reiji and said, “I wanted to introduce you to an old friend of mine.” Len looked at Reiji, who bowed and said, “My name is Reiji Kou an Official of Jogo Province.” Len nodded and introduced himself as well.

Megumi placed a hand on Reiji’s back and said, “Reiji passed the Imperial exams the same year I did and was ranked rank twenty, just like you.” Len’s eyes widened staring at Reiji.

“You were rank twenty?” asked Len. Reiji nodded and scratched the back of his sheepishly.

“It took me a long time to reach the top twenty, but I am glad that I am finally an Official and I am even praised by Lord Soun in Jogo Province for my hard work,” stated Reiji. Len smiled and asked, “Will I be like you when I get my position?” Reiji smiled and said, “If you try hard enough.” Len’s eyes seemed to be glowing with respect for Reiji making Megumi chuckle.

Reiji looked toward Len’s bed and stated, “I see that you are sleeping in the bed I used to have when I was staying in this room.” Len glanced at the bed and stated, “I was actually sleeping in another bed, but when I got back to my room my belongings were moved to the bed next to it.”

“Which bed was it?” asked Reiji. Len pointed at Megumi’s old bed and stated, “I was going to move my belongings back, until I heard the knock on the door.”

Keiki was suddenly in front of Len making Len flinch and stated, “Don’t move them back.” Len nodded feeling that his life was in danger.

Megumi rolled her eyes and said, “Don’t threaten Len, Slime Ball.”

“Don’t call me that!” roared Keiki. Megumi turned away from Keiki and looked toward Len.

“Len, I also came here to inform you that after the date of the fighting tournament I am going to leave the Capital for about four weeks.”

Len’s eyes widened and asked, “Why?”

“I made plans to visit the other Provinces to see how they are doing and make sure that their money flow is still sufficient.”

Len seemed to grow depressed, until Megumi added, “I would like you to come with me.” Len perked up with wide eyes struck speechless.

Keiki glared at Megumi and asked, “Are you serious?” Megumi nodded and added, “He is very intelligent and traveling to other Provinces will be good for his training.” Len gulped and asked, “Are you sure about me?” Megumi nodded.

“I also plan to have the Diyuan travel with us, so do you agree?” asked Megumi. Len smiled and nodded saying, “yes” repeatedly. Megumi nodded in approval and glanced at Reiji, who was looking at her with wide eyes.

“I hope to see you soon in Jogo Province.”

Reiji smiled and nodded. Megumi then approached Reiji and gave him a hug making Keiki gasp and Len stare in silence. Megumi leaned toward Reiji’s ear wishing him farewell and thanking him for not leaking her secret. Reiji nodded and was about to hug her back, but Keiki ripped them apart with anger clearly in his eyes. Reiji understood that Keiki just wanted him to be away from Megumi, so he looked at Megumi and said, “Goodbye, Megumi.” Megumi nodded watching Reiji leave.

Megumi looked at Len, who was still silent, and said, “Sleep well Len.” Len nodded and watched Megumi and Keiki leave.

When they were out of Len’s dorm room, Len lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He remembered Megumi hugging Reiji and felt something like a sting in his heart.

“They sure are close.”

Near the end of the day, Megumi and Keiki began to leave the palace. Keiki glanced at Megumi and asked, “So in about five days we are going to travel?” Megumi nodded. Keiki clenched his fist and asked, “Are you going to Go Province too?” Megumi stopped in her tracks and looked at Keiki.

“I plan to go there as well, but only for business,” stated Megumi. Megumi continued to walk, but Keiki could see the sadness in her face. Keiki, more than anyone, understood that Megumi felt pain in her heart just thinking about Go Province, since that was the last place she saw her family alive.

When they reached Megumi’s residence, Keiki stretched up and began to head to the bathroom to wash up. Megumi closed her residence door, but suddenly remembered the sick Officials. Besides Reiji, all the other Officials and soldiers would need to remain in the palace until they completely recovered. Some she was glad that they could stay like Shiro, Sora, and Ichigo; but some just made her want to stay from the palace like Sakuya. When these thoughts crossed her mind, she suddenly remembered the assassins.

Megumi headed back to her room quickly. When inside, she grabbed the whistle from her wall and blew into it softly. Megumi couldn’t hear the sound of the whistle, but she continued to blow until she heard the window of her room fling open. She stopped blowing and glanced back only to see Ju-Long standing behind her with a smile on his face.

“You finally called me, Megumi.”

Megumi nodded. Ju-Long knelt to the ground bowing his head to her and asked, “What do you need?”

“I need you to make sure that no more assassins approach the palace until the Officials have fully recovered.”

Ju-Long raised his head and asked, “I’m guessing you are talking about the poisoning incident?” Megumi nodded. Ju-Long smirked and said, “Those assassins were stupid for trying to take a target during the Banquet.”

“Why do you say that?”

Ju-Long rose to his feet and said, “I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but most of us assassins have learned that the banquet was meant to lure out assassins to be captured.”

Megumi frowned and muttered, “I suspected as much and now that you told me I definitely want to punish his majesty for putting my friends in danger.”

“But you can’t, right?” asked Ju-Long. Megumi’s silence was answer enough for Ju-Long. Ju-Long shrugged and said, “I’ll obey your orders and I’ll make sure not to get caught, so rest easy.” Megumi nodded.

Ju-Long leapt out the window leaving Megumi in her room. Megumi closed her window and then sighed. Megumi was exhausted, but she needed to clean up before retiring to bed.

Megumi grabbed a towel and slipped on her bathing clothes and then headed to the bathroom. The moment she reached the bathroom, she heard Keiki grunt inside the bathroom. Megumi tried to open the bathroom door, but it was locked form the inside. Megumi began to hear banging from within the bathroom and immediately slammed the door open by force. It took one hit from her body to open the door and witness Keiki fighting an assassin with a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Keiki!” called Megumi. Keiki noticed Megumi, but didn’t answer as he avoided a sword strike from the assassin. Megumi charged at the assassin and then grabbed his back and tossed him across the bathroom. The assassin gasped in pain when he collided into the bathroom wall. As the assassin tried to recover, Megumi approached him with Keiki watching her and then grabbed the assassin by the front of his shirt. She ripped his mask off revealing him as Zong-Xian with an assassin mark on his left cheek.

“Who are you and why are you here?” demanded Megumi.

“My name is Zong-Xian Zhi and I have come to take revenge on that mafia bastard.”

Megumi narrowed her eyes and asked, “Are you one of the assassins from the banquet poisoning?” Zong-Xian nodded and then glared at Keiki.

“I don’t care that I failed to kill those Officials, but I do care that that mafia bastard killed Ling and Li Mei. I won’t rest until he is dead.”

Megumi frowned and immediately scratched his assassin mark making his eyes widen.

“I have scarred your mark, so I forbid you to kill Keiki.”

Zong-Xian gritted his teeth and managed to slip away from Megumi. He stumbled to his feet staring at Megumi with wide eyes.

“You really do know secrets of the assassins,” whispered Zong-Xian. Megumi nodded. Zong-Xian’s form was shaking in anger. He glared at Keiki and said, “Your friend here might have prevented me from killing you, but I promise that I will make you regret your actions on this day.” Zong-Xian slipped out of the bathroom, before Keiki and Megumi could go after him.

Keiki glanced at Megumi and said, “I could have handled him.” Megumi crossed her arms as she adjusted the half mask on her face.

“I just didn’t want my bathroom to get wrecked,” stated Megumi. Keiki pouted. Megumi glanced at Keiki and asked, “Why didn’t you retaliate when Zong-Xian said I was your friend?” Keiki faced away from Megumi with clenched fists.

“Because I…I…I really think of you as my friend,” admitted Keiki. Megumi looked visibly surprised as she stared at Keiki.

“Really?”

Keiki nodded.

“This is a joke right?”

Keiki groaned and glared at Megumi with reddened cheeks.

“I really do consider you a friend. I don’t admit it in front of anyone else, but if you died or got hurt I would feel miserable. Just thinking that you might die drives me crazy!”

Megumi stared at Keiki and then smiled from under her mask.

“I do consider you a friend as well, but you are still annoying,” stated Megumi. Keiki groaned crossing his arms. Megumi chuckled and said, “If you are done in the bathroom, I would appreciate it if you left the bathroom so I can wash up.” Keiki nodded and began to leave the bathroom. He walked pass Megumi and said, “Good night.” Megumi nodded just as Keiki left the bathroom.

Keiki leaned against the door of the bathroom placing a hand to his reddening face. He was shocked with himself that he admitted that he didn’t truly hate Megumi anymore, but then he remembered the girl he was searching for. Even though he admits his friendship to Megumi, it wasn’t enough for him to admit that his heart yearned for an unnamed girl not Mikan. He was afraid that if he admitted it to Megumi then Megumi would surely turn her back on him and that very thought scared him more than death.

As Keiki sat outside the door, Megumi washed herself without her mask upon her face. She made notes in her mind that she should reinforce her walls to prevent assassins from entering her residence and the budget required to do so. When she reached to grab a bar of soap, she took notice of her breasts under her shirt. They had grown over the last two years and it was becoming harder to conceal them with her current vest. Megumi covered her breasts with her arms hoping they wouldn’t grow anymore. If they grew more, it would be harder for her to pass out as a man.

Keiki’s and Megumi’s minds were filled with worry as they sat on opposite sides of the door that separated them.

On the other hand, Zong-Xian ran across the roofs breathing heavily. He remembered the mask of Megumi and clenched his fist.

“What is that masked official?”

“When you say masked Official, I am guessing you are talking about Megumi Yoh, right?”

Zong-Xian gasped stopping in his tracks. He glanced ahead and saw Ju-Long standing before him with crossed arms. Zong-Xian drew his blade staring at Ju-Long in disbelief.

“Aren’t you the Body Eater?” asked Zong-Xian. Ju-Long chuckled and said, “That was a long time ago. I am now only Ju-Long.” Zong-Xian narrowed his eyes.

“Why are you here?”

“I like to stay close to my master.”

“Master?”

Ju-Long nodded and pulled the cover of his neck down revealing the burn mark.

“Megumi Yoh, that masked Official, is my master and if you tried to hurt him then I will hurt you back.”

Zong-Xian flinched stepping back.

“That masked Official, Megumi Yoh, you call him knows too much about us assassins if he was able to do an Obedience Vow on you.”

Ju-Long covered his burn mark again with a frown.

“I am surprised Megumi knows all this, but he is my master and I will follow him wherever he may go.”

Zong-Xian frowned and sheathed his sword.

“I won’t fight you, but I will tell others about this masked Official and of your whereabouts.”

Ju-Long smirked and said, “Go ahead and if they come here, I will destroy them.” Zong-Xian glared at Ju-Long one last time, before running into the distance.

Ju-Long stood in place and then said, “I see that you are still spying on me, Fai.”

Fai emerged from the shadows lowering his mask. Fai approached Ju-Long from behind and asked, “So you knew I was watching?” Ju-Long nodded.

“I recognize my old partner’s presence,” stated Ju-Long. Ju-Long glanced at Fai and asked, “Are you still planning on killing Megumi?” Fai nodded placing a hand to his covered neck.

“When this mark disappears I will kill him.”

“I told you before, but I will stop you if you try to harm Megumi,” stated Ju-Long. Fai nodded in understanding. Ju-Long placed a hand to his chin and asked, “How is it that the temporary mark is still on your neck after two years?” Fai turned away from Ju-Long with seriousness in his eyes.

“Megumi bites very hard,” stated Fai before escaping into the darkness. Ju-Long was bewildered by Fai’s words. Fai’s mark should have vanished a long time ago, but Fai claims that it is still there. Ju-Long didn’t understand Fai like he used to and he didn’t care since as long as Fai still had the mark, he wouldn’t have to fight him to protect Megumi.

Meanwhile, in the palace, Yuki was sitting in his room as Kiku checked his vital signs. Kiku glanced at Yuki and said, “Your heart rate is normal, so I would say that Megumi’s medicine for your poisoned burn is working very well.” Yuki nodded and then looked at Kiku.

“In your opinion Dr. Kiku, do you think I should stop the banquets after this incident?”

Kiku frowned and said, “I have to admit that this is the worst case of assassination attempts since you established the banquets, but we did capture a lot of assassins and they will be executed tomorrow. I believe the banquets should continue.” Yuki nodded and then remembered Megumi.

“What if Megumi got hurt?” asked Yuki.

“Megumi is smart and discovered the type of poison quickly, so I believe he will survive the banquets in the future.”

Yuki frowned and added, “But it was still dangerous.”

Kiku placed his medical supplies in his medical bag and then looked at Yuki with serious eyes.

“I understand you are worried about Megumi, but don’t use your concern to cancel something that could save countless lives,” stated Kiku. Kiku stood up and headed toward the door saying, “Get some rest, your majesty.”

Yuki was left in his room filled with silence. Yuki headed to his bed and then removed the ribbon from his head letting his long hair run down his back. He stared at the ribbon and remembered Megumi when he kissed her in his room taking the ribbon that held up her hair. He kissed it with reddened cheeks, but then remembered Megumi as she looked at Reiji. Yuki clenched the ribbon placing his hands on his bed. He was shaking as he whispered, “Why do you look at that Official with such gentleness?”

Yuki fell face first into his bed and then ran his hand against his pillow still holding the ribbon. Yuki shut his eyes and whispered, “I want you to only look at me, Megumi.”

The banquet had ended, but the day was filled with questions of who sent the assassins and how each person was affected by the events.

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