Bunkai 26: Challenger

The fighting tournament was an event that was used to measure the potential of the soldiers of Yulan within the Capital. All soldiers participated in hopes of getting promoted and trainees trying to get a higher soldier rank when they are assigned participate as well. It introduced new fighting techniques from all the Provinces of Yulan. Before, Mori Suoh was the undefeatable champion since becoming a soldier, but now a new undefeated champion took his place: Megumi Yoh. Megumi Yoh was the first trainee to win the tournament and to be given the rank Chikeimu that allowed her to become a second captain. Her fighting style was known as the greatest form of fighting and that day was no different.

In the main fighting ground of the palace of Yulan, Megumi, who wore a dark blue Demon mask on her face, beat down her last opponent, Hatori Sou, before the final round of the fighting tournament. All present applauded her as she knelt down next to Hatori, who admitted defeat.

“You OK?” asked Megumi. Hatori nodded struggling to get up.

“You never hold back do you?” asked Hatori shaking in pain.

“Well I’m not really allowed to,” pointed out Megumi. Hatori chuckled finally getting up with Megumi standing up next to him.

They both headed out of the ring as the next two fighters, Tsai-Shen Wan and Mori Suoh, entered the ring. Megumi leaned against the wall wiping the sweat from her head. She looked toward Tsai-Shen and smiled under her mask.

“Tsai-Shen is very close to the finals,” stated Megumi. Hatori nodded and added, “He is strong, but Captain Mori will most likely beat him.” Megumi nodded, even though she did want to encourage Tsai-Shen to win.

When Tsai-Shen and Mori began to fight, Megumi suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. She glanced back and saw Hatsuharu smiling down at her.

“What do you want, Hatsuharu?” asked Megumi. Hatsuharu chuckled and said, “I was just wondering if you wanted to hang out with Gen and me after you win the finals.”

“What makes you think I’m going to win?” asked Megumi. Hatsuharu smirked and said, “I haven’t seen you lose yet and I doubt the ones fighting now can beat you anyway.” Hatori nodded in agreement. Megumi sighed and said, “I have lost to a person before.” Hatori and Hatsuharu stared at Megumi with wide eyes of disbelief.

“To who?” they exclaimed.

“It was a long time ago back in Go Province when I was four. My master had just left and this boy entered Go Province. He tried to beat my brother, Satoshi, for a dumb reason, so I fought him. His strength was greater than mine and beat me to the ground. He called me weak and left without leaving his name.”

“What a jerk,” stated Hatsuharu with anger clearly in his eyes. Megumi nodded and added, “But he inspired me to get stronger and not stop honing my fighting skills.” Hatsuharu still looked angry as he punched the palm of his hand.

“If I ever learn who he is, I will definitely beat him down for you,” stated Hatsuharu. Megumi shook her head saying, “Please don’t do that.”

Hatori smiled at Megumi and said, “I’m glad you don’t hold grudges against that guy.”

“I don’t really like him, but like I said, he never told me his name so why dwell on it.”

Hatori nodded and asked, “Just out of curiosity, how old was that boy who beat you?”

“He looked older than me so maybe nine or ten at the time,” stated Megumi trying to remember the boy.

“Anything else you remember about that boy?” asked Hatsuharu, also curious. Megumi nodded and added, “He was a foreigner judging by the color of his blonde hair.”

“A foreigner?” they asked almost at the same time.

“Getting foreigners in Go Province back than was a rare thing, but I’m sure he was a foreigner since his hair was blonde and there was this accent in his voice when he spoke to me.”

“Do you have an idea where he is from?” asked Hatori. Megumi shook her head.

“His accent didn’t sound familiar at the time,” stated Megumi. Hatsuharu’s smile became wide and said, “I’ll beat him someday, so about my question about hanging out with Gen and me after the match?”

“I don’t mind,” stated Megumi making Hatsuharu cheer, but stopped when Megumi added, “Keiki is coming though.”

“I don’t want him to come,” whined Hatsuharu. Megumi shook her head.

“You should know already that Keiki is going to come along if I go with you,” stated Megumi. Hatsuharu pouted muttering, “He’s a stalker.” Megumi chuckled learning that most Officials have been calling Keiki that lately.

They suddenly heard the gong signaling the end of Tsai-Shen’s and Mori’s match. Mori stood above Tsai-Shen, who knelt on the ground panting and sweating. It was no surprise that Mori was the victor. Mori exited the ring with Tsai-Shen practically dragging his feet in exhaustion. Tsai-Shen tripped, but Taiyo, who was near, supported him and led him out of the ring.

Megumi glanced in Mori’s direction and stated, “You sure went all out against Tsai-Shen.” Mori nodded and admitted, “He forced me to.”

They suddenly heard Shigure clear his throat loudly and looked toward him. Shigure, after the banquet, wore a half mask that covered the right side of his face to conceal the burns from the poison. It made him look more intimidating than he did before.

“The final match is going to start, so please get into the ring,” stated Shigure. They both nodded heading to the ring. As they headed into the ring, all eyes watched them. Yuki was no exception to watching them, but as usual his gaze was only on Megumi. Yuki tapped his finger on the arm of his chair hoping that his darling Megumi would win again.

Mori and Megumi stood on opposite sides of the ring gazing at each other. Shigure looked at both of them before announcing the final match of the tournament and then rang the gong. Megumi and Mori charged at each other. Their fists connected sending a wave of pain into their bodies. Mori jumped back shaking his fist and then swung a kick at her. Megumi leaned back to dodge and shot her two feet up to hit his chin, but Mori dodged back as well just barely avoiding the tip of her right foot. They both spun in the air to keep their balance and then landed on their feet. Mori and Megumi both went into their usual fighting stance.

“I see that your form hasn’t faltered since our last match,” stated Mori. Megumi nodded and added, “The same to you Captain Mori.” Mori and Megumi both charged at each other throwing their fists at each other so fast that it seemed like they had more than two fists.

The Officials and the soldiers, who had already lost cheered filled with excitement.

On the sidelines, Gen watched the fast going match with a dissatisfied look.

“Something wrong, Gen?” asked Hatsuharu as he approached his friend. Gen groaned and said, “If I didn’t lose against Captain Mori then I would have been fighting Megumi.”

“Well Captain Mori is strong,” pointed out Hatsuharu. Gen nodded. Hatsuharu suddenly smiled and stated, “After the match, Megumi said that we could hang out together.”

“You do know that I consider Megumi an enemy still, right?” asked Gen. Hatsuharu nodded and added, “But I want you two to be good friends like me and you.” Gen rolled his eyes turning away from Hatsuharu.

“I can tolerate him a little, but I will fight him again and win,” stated Gen. Hatsuharu chuckled and then turned back to the match.

All eyes were so focused on the two fighters that no one noticed a man in light blue armor climbing over the wall with his long blonde hair dancing in the passing wind. He stood on the top of the wall with surprisingly good balance and then glanced toward the ring of the match. He watched them fight and smirked.

“Weak.”

In the ring, Mori slid on the ground and then kicked toward Megumi’s face. Megumi ducked and then slammed the palm of her hand into Mori’s face. The attack was so sudden that Mori didn’t have time to react. The next thing Mori knew, he was lying on his back with Megumi pressed on top of him and her hand on his neck. Mori smirked admitting his defeat.

All clapped for the undefeated champion, Megumi, but before Shigure could announce Megumi as the winner, they suddenly heard someone laughing loudly. They looked around for the source of the voice, but no one could find the source. Megumi realized that the laugh was getting closer to her and leapt back out of instinct, just as the blonde haired man landed in the ring before her. All eyes fell on the blonde haired man that now stood before Megumi.

The blonde haired man lifted his head revealing his aquamarine eyes for all to see. He had a smug look on his face as he looked around.

Yuki rose from his seat abruptly and pointed toward the man yelling, “Who are you?” in a demanding voice. The blonde haired man looked toward Yuki with a smirk.

“The name is Helios Briareus from the country of Andragale.”

“I have heard of no such country and you are not welcome here foreigner!” yelled Yuki. The foreigner, Helios, chuckled with a shrug.

“I don’t care if you welcome me or not, but I have to say that the warriors of Yulan are weak compared to the warriors in my country.”

“What did you say?” exclaimed Yuki.

“You heard me. Even the children from my country can defeat you lot.”

Yuki looked angered at the words of this rude foreigner. Yuki lifted his hand and ordered, “Arrest that man now for breaking in and insulting the emperor!” The soldiers within sight began to advance toward Helios.

Megumi was ready to advance too, but suddenly saw a spark in Helios’s eyes and stepped back with clenched fist.

“That look,” muttered Megumi.

Gen was the first to reach Helios and before he could grab him, Helios grabbed his wrist and swung him in the air. Gen gasped as he soared in the air and then collided into a few soldiers. Hatsuharu saw this and charged at Helios with anger clearly in his eyes.

“How dare you do that to Gen!” yelled Hatsuharu. Helios dodged Hatsuharu’s attack and drew his staff, slamming it against the back of Hatsuharu’s neck. Hatsuharu gasped in pain feeling like a stone wall had slammed against his neck.

More soldiers advanced at Helios, but Helios threw punches and kicks at them sending them flying all around him.

As he fought, the Officials and Yuki watched in disbelief. If they didn’t know better, they would have thought that Megumi was the one fighting by Helios’s graceful movements in his fighting.

Mori was ready to join the fight, but Megumi held him back with one hand not pulling her gaze from Helios’s form. Mori looked at Megumi and asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m preventing you from getting wounded by that man.”

“What?”

Megumi walked toward Helios avoiding the fallen soldiers. When Helios dropped the last soldier that had advanced toward him, he saw Megumi standing before him. Helios smirked crossing his arms at Megumi.

“Are you too scared to fight me masked warrior?” taunted Helios. Megumi remained silent as she looked at Helios.

Yuki looked toward Megumi and said, “Get away from him Megumi.” Megumi didn’t even look at Yuki making Yuki bewildered. Helios glanced at Yuki and then back at Megumi.

“So your name is Megumi?”

Megumi nodded and went into a fighting stance not tearing her eyes away from Helios. Helios smirked going into his own fighting stance.

“I’ll defeat you like the others,” stated Helios. Megumi didn’t say a word as she glared at Helios. All was silent as all waited for Helios and Megumi to make a move, but none of them moved an inch.

Finally, Helios charged at Megumi. He threw a punch at her, but Megumi dodged to the side and managed to knee his stomach. Helios gasped and leapt back. He rubbed his stomach and smirked at Megumi.

“You’re strong.”

Megumi did a flying kick toward Helios’s neck, but he dodged and jabbed his finger under her knee. Megumi flinched and pulled her right leg away. Her leg grew numb making her cringe.

That move, I know it.

Helios jabbed his finger into her left shoulder next making her scoot back. Her left arm grew numb falling to her side. She held her arm with anger in her eyes.

Helios chuckled and asked, “How can you fight with numb limbs?” Helios tried to jab his finger into her right shoulder next, but Megumi dodged only to fall to her knees.

All watching felt their heart race. It was the first time that they saw that Megumi was very close to defeat.  Helios towered over Megumi and said, “Admit defeat weakling.” Megumi’s eyes widened finally remembering an event clearly that happened when she was four.

Megumi was four at the time when she was mumbling about her stupid Master Chuckles for leaving without a word. She was so mad that she began to think up ways to punish him if he ever appeared before her again like burning his feet until they were black and dangling him over the cliff he forced her to climb on before. Her mind seemed to be filled with tortured methods, until she heard her younger brother, Satoshi, crying for help. Megumi ran toward the voice and saw in the distance, Satoshi being kicked by a boy maybe around ten-years-old wearing a brown cloth around his hair that couldn’t be seen. Megumi charged at them with anger in her eyes.

She stood in front of Satoshi pushing the boy away.

“Leave Satoshi alone!” yelled Megumi in a demanding voice. The boy stared at Megumi and smirked.

“Why should I?” demanded the boy.

Satoshi held the back of Megumi’s shirt with tears in his eyes saying, “Megumi-Nii-San” repeatedly. The boy chuckled staring at Megumi.

“So you’re Megumi-Nii-San?”

“That’s right,” stated Megumi not tearing her eyes away from the boy. The boy looked Megumi up and down and said, “We look nothing alike, so how could that brat mistake me for you?”

“Excuse me?”

“That brat crying behind you grabbed me calling me ‘Megumi-Nii-San.’ How dare he mistake me for a weakling Yulan citizen.”

Megumi glared at the boy.

“It was an honest mistake and we look a little alike considering that our eyes match,” reasoned Megumi. The boy scoffed and said, “I see that our eyes match, but…”

The boy ripped off the cloth on his head revealing his long blonde hair and added, “I don’t have hair with the same color as mud.” Megumi groaned.

“So you’re a foreigner?” asked Megumi. The boy nodded tying the cloth back onto his hair concealing it.

“That’s right. I came here to see what the country of Yulan is like, but all I see are weaklings.”

Megumi seemed to snap and yelled, “Take that back!”

“Why should I?”

“My master is of Yulan and he is very strong!” exclaimed Megumi. The boy smirked going into a fighting stance.

“Prove it,” dared the boy. Megumi went into her own fighting stance. In a matter of seconds, Megumi threw a punch at the boy. The boy dodged to the left and punched her in the ribs making Megumi flinch. She leapt back, but not before kicking his right shoulder. The boy cringed as he gripped his shoulder. The boy glared at Megumi as Megumi stood before him in a fighting stance.

“Pretty good for a kid,” stated the boy. Megumi narrowed her eyes and stated, “You’re a kid too.”

“But I’m obviously older.”

“Yeah, but we are almost the same height and I’m only four,” pointed out Megumi. The boy seemed to be in shock as he stared at Megumi.

“You have to be lying. You’re nine or ten right?” asked the boy. Megumi shook her head.

The boy began to shake in anger making Megumi confused. The boy suddenly kicked sand into her face making her shut her eyes. The boy rushed at Megumi hitting her stomach. Megumi tried to punch him with her right fist, but the boy ducked and jabbed his fingers into her right shoulder. Megumi cringed managing to back away. Megumi tried to raise her right arm, but soon realized that it had grown numb. Megumi’s eyes widened staring at her limp arm.

“What did you do?” asked Megumi. The boy jabbed his fingers into her legs making them grow numb and forcing Megumi to her knees. The boy kicked Megumi’s side forcing her more to the ground.

“Megumi-Nii-San!” cried out Satoshi trying to get to Megumi, but the boy kicked Satoshi back and glared back at Megumi.

“You’re weak compared to me Megumi-Nii-San and your master must be the same,” stated the boy. Megumi glared at him with a strained face.

“Who are you?”

The boy smirked and said, “I won’t tell my name to a weakling like you.” The boy turned away from Megumi walking pass her.

As the boy walked off, Satoshi ran to Megumi’s side asking if she was all right. Megumi shook her head and said, “Get Dr. Kiha from the clinic.” Satoshi nodded and took off down the road.

Megumi glared back in the direction the boy went and clenched the sand in her only numb free hand.

“I will get stronger.”

Megumi snapped back to her senses in the present and glared at Helios. Without warning, Megumi rolled her body and slammed it against Helios’s legs making him fall forward gasping and her mask to slightly slip off revealing her lips. Using her good leg, she forced herself up and managed to grab the end of Helios’s hair with her teeth. Using as much strength as possible, she yanked Helios’s hair and managed to toss him across the field. Helios screamed and slammed against the display of staffs.

Megumi fell to her knees as all eyes fell on Megumi. Megumi smirked at Helios and said, “I told you my master was strong and so am I.”  Helios glared at Megumi and was suddenly apprehended by Gen and Hatsuharu, who had anger clearly in their eyes. Helios cursed under his breath still looking at Megumi.

Yuki glanced at Kiku and said, “Treat Megumi now.” Kiku nodded running to Megumi. Yuki then glared at Helios, who looked at him too, and said, “As for you, I believe the dungeon will work just fine for you, dear foreigner.” Helios scoffed and then tossed Gen and Hatsuharu away from him with a bored look making Gen and Hatsuharu gasp in surprise.

“I rather not go into the prison and I wouldn’t advise locking me up since I came here to Yulan baring news.”

Yuki narrowed his eyes and asked, “Why should I hear news from an intruder like you?” Helios smirked.

“Fine, don’t listen, but seeing that you at least have one strong man here, my king in Andragale might be interested in making a deal with you.”

“Deal?” asked Yuki, slowly growing interest. Helios nodded and began to look at the Officials and soldiers all around him.

“Your emperor, your king has never heard of Andragale and there is a reason. We are a country that thrives on our own. A rich country, a land of bread and honey. We are strong and we have yet to meet another country that can rival our own strength. There was never a reason to let foreigners know of our country, but my king, King Achilleus Karpos, has decided to share the wealth of our land by forming alliances with countries that can match our own strength, the countries that deserve our gift.”

The Officials began to talk among themselves wondering what this unknown country was. Yuki silenced his Officials and looked at Helios.

“If what you say is true then why did you attack my soldiers?”

“Defense, dear emperor, and to test your soldiers’ strength.”

“A test?” asked Yuki. Helios nodded.

“Andragale soldiers such as me were sent to Yulan in secret for many years since King Achilleus Karpos ascended the throne to fight your people to test their strength since one of the requirements for the king to consider the alliance was whether you could beat at least one soldier of Andragale.”

“Did we pass?” asked Yuki. Helios looked toward Megumi, who was getting her right leg massaged by Kiku as she adjusted her mask, and said, “Thanks to him. I have to admit that his strength does match mine and the skill he used to beat me, while his limbs were numb, was quite exciting.”

Megumi glared toward Helios and yelled, “Even if it was for a test, you should have told us before breaking in and wounding fellow soldiers!” Helios whistled in amusement and added, “That Megumi guy also has quite a temper.”

Megumi groaned as she stood up thanking Kiku for his assistance. Megumi rubbed her left shoulder and looked toward Yuki.

“Knowing you, your majesty, you plan to lock him up anyway, but I insist that you don’t. If what he says is true then I suggest that you speak alliance terms with him and discover what this unknown country is.”

Yuki smiled at Megumi and said, “If you insist.” All eyes fell on Yuki with disbelief in their faces. Megumi then looked at Helios and said, “I don’t like you, but if your country is what it is then an alliance will help our country.” Helios chuckled with crossed arms.

“If I didn’t know better, I would think you were the emperor,” stated Helios. Shigure, who was listening, glared at Helios and yelled, “Hold your tongue!” Helios scoffed rolling his eyes.

Megumi then looked at Shigure and said, “You should declare the end of the tournament now.” Shigure nodded announcing Megumi as the winner. All clapped even though they were still shocked by the words the foreigner spoke.

As all began to leave, Megumi approached Gen and Hatsuharu and helped them to their feet.

“Are you OK?” asked Megumi. They both nodded with frowns. Hatsuharu pouted and said, “He’s stronger than me, but I don’t like him.” Gen nodded in agreement and glanced at Megumi.

“His hits felt like yours,” stated Gen. Megumi sighed and stated, “Well he has been strong since he was a child.” Gen and Hatsuharu looked at Megumi with wide eyes and asked, “You know him?”

“I think so. I think he’s that foreign boy who beat me when I was four,” stated Megumi. Hatsuharu gasped in surprise, while Gen seemed to be in shock at the news that Megumi had lost before. Megumi adjusted her mask and added, “I’m not sure though, but they have the same presence.”

Megumi glanced back at Helios, who was standing in place looking toward Yuki, who was speaking with Shigure. Megumi noticed his eyes remembering that the boy had the same eye color as her. She looked back at Gen and Hatsuharu and said, “We should get going so his majesty can speak to Helios.” They nodded and began to leave the tournament area.

As they left, Helios stared at them from the corner of his eye with a smirk and then suddenly realized that Megumi’s fighting style seemed familiar.

As Helios thought this, Chiriko, who had yet to leave the tournament area with Naohito, who had fallen in a puddle, looked at Helios. He remembered how Helios nearly beat Megumi and clenched his fist feeling anger that Helios was not getting punished for his actions, but what angered him the most for some reason was that Megumi was the one protecting Helios from punishment. It made him wonder if Megumi knew that foreigner from the unknown country.

Chiriko helped Naohito to his feet turning away from Helios and suddenly heard someone call his name. He looked back and saw Miboshi Miyashita approaching him with a smile. Chiriko had a feeling that Miboshi wanted to speak with him alone, so he looked at Naohito and said, “Go back to my office ahead of me. I’ll meet you there.” Naohito nodded and walked forward nearly tripping over uneven ground. Chiriko made sure that Naohito at least made it to the exit before facing Miboshi. He bowed his head to Miboshi and said, “Hello Lord Miboshi.” Miboshi chuckled and said, “Call me father, Chiriko.” Chiriko shook his head.

“I am not yet your son in law, Lord Miboshi.”

“But you will be,” stated Miboshi and urged Chiriko to follow him out of the tournament area.

As they walked, Miboshi looked at Chiriko and asked, “So when do you plan to see my daughter, Chiriko?”

“Not until the wedding Lord Miboshi.”

Miboshi sighed rubbing his bearded chin.

“Nene really wants to see you again and you don’t have to wait until the wedding day to see her,” stated Miboshi. Chiriko shook his head.

“I rather wait,” answered Chiriko. Miboshi stared at Chiriko and then looked away.

“Tell me, Chiriko, why did you agree to the marriage now after I asked you many times in the past?” asked Miboshi.

“I just thought it was time,” stated Chiriko, but his eyes widened when Miboshi asked, “Aren’t you in love with another?” Chiriko stared at Miboshi in disbelief. Miboshi smirked at Chiriko.

“The look you are showing is of a man that is suffering through unrequited love.”

“How would you…?”

“I have shown the same look before. I was in love with a girl during my youth, but she was in love with another. I felt the world was nothing and married my wife to escape my loneliness.”

Miboshi looked at Chiriko seriously and asked, “Are you marrying my daughter to escape your loneliness?” Chiriko was silent trying to come up with an answer. He remembered Megumi’s laugh and shook his head. He bowed his head at Miboshi with shut eyes.

“I will marry your daughter and make sure she has a comfortable life, so please accept the marriage.”

Miboshi chuckled and said, “I want you as my son in law, so don’t worry, but I also care about you and my daughter, so if you decide that you want to pursue your love for another then please do.” Miboshi walked pass Chiriko and added, “I will return to the Capital next month for the wedding.”

As Miboshi walked off, Chiriko thought of Miboshi’s words of loneliness and unrequited love. He thought of Megumi when she first helped Naohito, but her face wasn’t as clear. Chiriko clenched his fist feeling close to tears.

Meanwhile, Yuki, Suha, and Shigure were in the throne room with Helios before them. Yuki sat upon his throne looking down at Helios.

“So tell me more about this country, Andragale.”

Helios nodded before speaking.

“As I said, Andragale is an independent country that flourished on its own. You could call it paradise through the eyes of foreigners that managed to find it. We never needed to make alliances, but King Achilleus Karpos, decided to open our country to deserving countries as a show of friendship.”

“And we qualified because Megumi beat you in a match?” asked Suha next to Yuki. Helios nodded and added, “Because you passed, you will be able to go to our country and have a chance to make an alliance with our king.”

Yuki raised an eyebrow and asked, “When you say a chance, doesn’t that mean there is another test?” Helios smirked.

“Correct. You proved your strength, but we also want to know if our crops can survive in your country and whether your knowledge will sustain anything from Andragale.”

Yuki sighed and asked, “If we pass that test, will that be all to form an alliance?” Helios nodded and added, “You would need to see the king as well, but around that time, a new king should take the throne.”

Yuki shot up from his throne and exclaimed, “So your king is going to change soon?”

“Well in a year’s time, but the king’s sons have all agreed to continue the alliance test when the eldest son takes the throne.”

Yuki narrowed his eyes and asked, “So we would need to go to your country when a year has passed than?” Helios nodded.

“Why so long?”

Helios chuckled and stated, “Well your country needs to get a boat that can withstand a long travel and supplies that can last for two months. I don’t believe you can do all that in such a short time.” Yuki groaned knowing that Helios was right. Yuki sat back on his throne and said, “I understand. I will send the most intelligent Diyuans to your country when a year has passed.”

“You won’t be coming dear emperor?” asked Helios with a raised eyebrow. Yuki smirked leaning his right elbow on the arm of his throne.

“I cannot leave Yulan unattended to for I am the emperor. If I were to leave the country then there will be a chance of an uprising.”

“You can’t have a substitute at the time?”

Yuki shook his head and added, “The only one I am willing to leave as a substitute is needed in his own region, so the Diyuans I will send will let me know if my country passed or not for your gracious gift.” Helios smirked and said, “We will wait than.” Yuki nodded.

Helios bowed his head and added, “I am not sure of the Diyuans you will send, but please also send that warrior, Megumi, to Andragale.” Yuki narrowed his eyes.

“Is it because he passed the strength test?” asked Yuki. Helios nodded. Yuki looked displeased as he said, “I will send Megumi, since he is a Diyuan as well.” Helios nodded in approval.

Yuki looked toward Shigure and said, “Please lead Helios to a guest room.” Helios shook his head before Shigure could speak and said, “I rather sleep under the stars, dear Emperor.” With that, Helios turned toward the door and began to walk off. He glanced back and added, “When it is time, please head toward the West until you see the Star Crane protecting the tiger in the sky.” With those final words, he was out of Yuki’s sight. Yuki sighed placing a hand on his forehead.

“He speaks our language quite well for being a foreigner,” stated Yuki.

“Well he mentioned that soldiers from Andragale have been sent to Yulan for years,” stated Suha. Shigure nodded in agreement.

Yuki stood up for his throne facing Suha and Shigure.

“Send messengers to Ai Region and Lian Region to notify Lord Yosei and Lord Xian of this foreigner from an unknown country and have them come to the Capital, so we can discuss who else to send for the test in Andragale.”

Suha sighed and stated, “I’m guessing I won’t be returning to my region anytime soon?” Yuki shook his head and stated, “Send a messenger to your son that he would need to watch your region a little bit longer as your substitute.” Suha nodded.

“Should we also let the Diyuans join this meeting as well?” asked Shigure. Yuki shook his head.

“This meeting will only be for the Region leaders and myself. I don’t want the Diyuans to fight among themselves during the selection time.”

“I understand, your majesty.”

Yuki nodded in approval and before Suha and Shigure could leave the room, Yuki smiled and asked, “By the way, do you know where Megumi is going right now?” Suha and Shigure shook their heads making Yuki groan.

“Then can you please get me one of the servants to search for Megumi,” stated Yuki, but in a somewhat demanding voice.

Shigure nodded, even though there was displeasure written all over his face. Shigure left the room with Suha.

When Yuki was by himself he leaned back on his chair with his right hand against his forehead. In truth, he was feeling exhausted after witnessing that day’s event, especially when Megumi was nearly defeated. Yuki clenched his left fist feeling anger build up inside him. He wanted to punish Helios for hurting Megumi, but he knew Megumi had a point that they shouldn’t harm him in order to make the alliance with this so called abundant country that would be considered paradise in their eyes. Yuki managed to subside his anger and smirked.

“I will feel a whole lot better after seeing my darling Megumi.”

Meanwhile, Megumi was leaving the palace ground with Gen and Hatsuharu. Megumi felt a chill run down her back and glanced back making her companions look at her with bewildered looks.

“Something wrong?” they asked.

Megumi shook her head when she saw that no one was following them. When they went through the gate, it was no surprise to Megumi when she saw Keiki leaning against the wall near the opening. She approached Keiki calling his name. Keiki glanced at Megumi and asked, “The tournament is already done?” Megumi nodded.

Keiki noticed Gen and Hatsuharu standing behind her and asked, “Why are those two with you?” Megumi glanced back at them and said, “I promised to hang out with them after the tournament.” Keiki glared at Megumi springing away from the wall.

“But you promised that we would go to the market together after the tournament!” exclaimed Keiki, obviously displeased.

“Well we are going to the market together, but Gen and Hatsuharu are coming along too,” stated Megumi. Keiki groaned knowing full well that when Megumi made her mind up it was hard to change it.

Hatsuharu crossed his arms with a pout, looking at Keiki, and said, “I don’t want you to come along, but Megumi most likely won’t come unless you come too.” Keiki’s anger seemed to subside as he looked at Megumi.

“Really?”

Megumi nodded and added, “I did promise after all.” Keiki began to turn red in the cheeks as he said, “Well I was going to come anyway.” Megumi chuckled and looked back at Gen and Hatsuharu.

“Shall we go?” asked Megumi. They nodded and began to head toward the market place.

When they entered the market place, they saw countless people buying from stands or just walking side by side talking to one another. Megumi seemed ready to approach a clothes stand, but stopped when she heard a small girl scream near her. That was when Megumi remembered that she was wearing an Oni mask on her face. She looked at her companions and said, “I’m just going to buy a mask real quick, so wait here.” Hatsuharu and Gen nodded, except for Keiki, who began to yell out protests, but Megumi paid them no mind as she ran toward a stand selling masks.

As she browsed through the masks, she didn’t even notice Helios walking along the roofs of the nearby houses of the market place. Helios stretched up and then scratched the back of his head.

“That emperor doesn’t seem so great,” muttered Helios. Helios then remembered Megumi as he fought her and smirked thinking that compared to Megumi, Megumi was the better person. Helios suddenly noticed Megumi down in the market place picking up a sky blue mask from a mask stand. Helios crouched down looking at her back. He noticed Megumi switching her Oni mask with the blue mask with no chance to see her face and smirked.

“I wonder what his face looks like under that mask.”

Helios looked in all directions, before jumping from the roof and landing to the ground in a graceful manner. He approached Megumi from behind and asked, “Are you busy?”

Megumi turned around abruptly with the blue mask on her face and saw Helios standing before her. Megumi maintained her composure as she asked, “Weren’t you with his majesty?”

“I was, but we already came to an agreement,” stated Helios. Helios reached out to her mask, but Megumi slapped his hand away. Helios chuckled and asked, “Why do you wear a mask?” Megumi turned away from Helios.

“It was his majesty’s order, so if you have nothing else to say then I will return to my companions.”

Megumi was about to walk pass Helios, but Helios grabbed her wrist with surprising strength and forced her to look at him.

“What do you look like under that mask?” asked Helios. Megumi groaned and yanked her hand away from Helios making Helios’s eyes widen.

“That is none of your concern, so please leave me be,” demanded Megumi. Megumi ran away from Helios toward her companions. Helios stared at his hand that held Megumi before with bewilderment in his eyes.

“That strength is greater than mine?” muttered Helios. Helios shook his head and smirked in the direction Megumi went.

“Now I am even more curious about that man.”

Megumi returned to her companions holding the Oni mask in her hand.

“Nice mask,” complimented Hatsuharu. Megumi thanked Hatsuharu for the compliment and then asked, “So which stands do you want to see?” Hatsuharu pointed at a store house that sold a variety of weapons and said, “Let’s go there first.”

Keiki groaned and said, “Well I want to go to the clothes stand, I really need some new pants.”

“I want to go to the armory to have my armor repaired before I have to return to Ryu Province with Lord Tomo,” stated Gen with crossed arms.

Megumi rubbed her chin in thought.

“Well the weapons store is the closes, so we’ll go there first. We can then go to the armory to get Gen’s armor repaired, but that will take time, so during the repair we can go to the clothes stands and then get something to eat at the Dango Restaurant. We will then return to the armory to get Gen’s armor and that should complete the day. Sound good?”

They all nodded in agreement. The minute they agreed, Hatsuharu grabbed Megumi’s hand and began to drag her toward the weapons’ shop happily.

“Let’s see if there are any new weapons to try!” stated Hatsuharu excitedly. Megumi couldn’t even speak as she was dragged off. Gen sighed following behind; while Keiki dashed pass Gen toward Megumi and Hatsuharu yelling, “Don’t drag Megumi away!” Gen watched as Keiki managed to grab Megumi’s free arm, while Hatsuharu looked at Keiki with a pout still holding Megumi’s other arm. In Gen’s point of view, the three before him looked like long-time friends. Gen in truth felt a little jealous of how close they were, especially since he used to be Hatsuharu’s favorite friend, before Megumi appeared. Gen snapped out of his thoughts as he finally entered the weapons’ store.

Hatsuharu managed to drag Megumi to a sword rack with Keiki still attached to Megumi’s arm and pointed at a sword with a red colored blade.

“This sword definitely looks new,” stated Hatsuharu filled with excitement. Megumi nodded in agreement yanking her arm from Keiki.

“By the looks of the blade it was made by a special type of ruby called Agwemina that could be altered into a sword. It is pretty rare to find and whoever made this was sure dedicated to search the mines in Yulan.”

“It’s not a foreign sword?” asked Keiki, now interested.

Megumi shook her head and stated, “The craftsmanship of the sword is definitely of Yulan culture and the Agwemina only develops in the mines of Yulan. The mines are mostly located in Rei Province, so the sword is most likely made in Rei Province and was transferred to the Capital.”

Megumi and her companions suddenly heard someone clapping and looked back only to see Helios clapping with an amused smirk on his face. Megumi groaned and stated, “I told you to leave me be.”

“Well you are just too interesting to ignore…Megumi, was it?”

Megumi nodded with a groan. Helios seemed ready to approach Megumi, but Gen stood in his path, while Hatsuharu and Keiki stood in front of Megumi with annoyed looks.

“Megumi already asked you to leave him alone,” stated Gen. Helios smirked and pushed Gen aside making Gen fall to the ground with a grunt. Helios chuckled and said, “You really shouldn’t pick a fight with me, weakling.” Gen gritted his teeth and shot up to his feet.

Gen seemed ready to throw a punch at Helios, but before he could do so, Megumi blocked his path to his, Keiki’s, and Hatsuharu’s surprise. Megumi glared at Helios through her mask.

“You shouldn’t insult Gen’s strength when he is indeed strong and don’t provoke him to fight you,” scolded Megumi. Helios chuckled.

“Was it that obvious to you?” asked Helios, but there was sarcasm in his voice. Megumi nodded and added, “You really haven’t changed.”

Helios raised an eyebrow and asked, “So we’ve met before?” Megumi nodded.

“I wasn’t quite sure, but after hearing your sarcastic voice, I am definitely sure that you are that foreigner I fought with back in Go Province.”

“Go Province?”

Megumi nodded and added, “You kicked my younger brother and insulted my master and then you beat me to the ground using your paralyzing techniques, remember?”

Helios went into deep thought trying to figure out what Megumi was talking about. Helios suddenly remembered an event when he beat up a four-year-old boy in Go Province when he was ten, but then shrugged and glanced at Megumi with a smirk.

“The only boy I beat up in Go Province that I remember was a weakling named Megumi-Nii-San.”

“That was me,” stated Megumi bluntly. Helios fell silent and then looked at Megumi with widened eyes.

“But your name is Megumi, right?”

“Megumi is my name.”

“Then how is your name also Megumi-Nii-San?”

“That’s what my brother called me since I am his older brother,” stated Megumi. Helios was in deep thought and then came to another realization.

“How old are you?”

“Fifteen.”

“So you’re not around your twenties?” asked Helios. Megumi shook her head. The next thing Megumi knew, Helios was throwing a punch at her face. Megumi ducked and then rolled to the side to avoid another punch of Helios. Helios’s fist connected to a blade of a sword and shattered it making people gasp and scream in surprise.

Megumi groaned and looked toward Gen, Hatsuharu, and Keiki, who seemed to be in shock at the shattered blade.

“I’ll lead him out, so just wait for me in the armory,” ordered Megumi and then ran out of the weaponry store with Helios hot on her tail. Keiki was the first to snap out of his shock and scream out Megumi’s name hoping for an answer.

Megumi dashed through the market avoiding as much contact from the people with Helios behind her. Helios seemed to be blinded with rage as he chased after her. Megumi saw a crowd of people in her path and knew that it would be impossible to push through without the risk of Helios hurting them, so with a mighty leap, she landed on the roof of a cloth stand and then jumped onto a roof of a house. As Megumi predicted, Helios followed suit, his eyes never leaving her form. Megumi dashed across the roofs as Helios continued his pursuit.

Unbeknownst to them, a face familiar to Megumi was staring up at them as he grabbed a basket of sweet apples from the cart.

“What’s going on with them?” he muttered, but flinched when he heard a voice saying, “Hurry up with the merchandise, Yuma.”

Yuma nodded and carried the fruit to the front for a customer still wondering what was happening on the roof.

Megumi slid to a stop on top of a stone roof and glared back at Helios, who also slid to a stop. They glared at each other as they both got into a fighting stance. Without warning, Helios immediately threw a kick toward her neck. Megumi dodged to the left and then karate chopped his extended leg. Helios cringed and yanked his leg away shaking it in the process.

“You really have gotten stronger,” stated Helios. Megumi smirked and said, “I would hope so.” Helios groaned and stated, “I still can’t believe that you were that Megumi-Nii-San I fought before.”

“I was surprised myself that I would see you again.”

Helios threw a number of punches at Megumi, but Megumi dodged them and jumped back.

“Why are you so determined to fight me again, even though I already beat you?” asked Megumi. Helios groaned and said, “I can’t accept it.”

“Accept?”

“I CAN’T ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE NOT THE SAME AGE AS ME!”

Megumi stared at Helios with wide eyes.

“You’re angry because I am younger than you?”

Helios groaned and stated, “We’re the same size, so we have to be the same age.”

Megumi came to a realization and chuckled making Helios flinch.

“Do you have a height complex by chance?” asked Megumi. Helios seemed to turn red in the cheeks still remaining in his fighting stance. Megumi chuckled turning away from Helios and making Helios glare at her.

“Stop laughing!” yelled Helios.

“Did it ever occur to you that I might be tall for my age?” asked Megumi between chuckles.

“Are you?” asked Helios, half hopeful.

Megumi nodded and stated, “Considering my age, I am pretty tall.” Helios’s anger seemed to subside as he lowered his fighting stance.

“Feel better?” asked Megumi. Helios nodded and was suddenly in front of Megumi reaching toward her mask. Megumi grabbed Helios’s hand and yelled, “What are you doing now?”

“If I remember right, you had the same color eyes as me when I first met you as a child, so I am definitely curious to see how your face looks now,” stated Helios, trying his best to grab Megumi’s blue mask.

Megumi kicked Helios away and repositioned her mask.

“You are not allowed to see my face.”

“Because of the emperor’s order?” asked Helios with crossed arms. Megumi nodded. Helios tried to grab Megumi’s mask again, but Megumi again grabbed his hand.

“Stop that!” ordered Megumi.

“One peek won’t hurt you,” stated Helios. Megumi kicked his stomach making him keel over and then kneed his face making him fall back in pain. Megumi glared at Helios and said, “I can never reveal my face or the emperor would have me banished.”

With that, Megumi began to run across the roofs passed Helios. Helios watched Megumi’s retreating figure and smirked.

Megumi jumped off the roof of a house landing to the sandy ground of the market. Repositioning her mask, she walked down the path in the direction of the armory, where her companions were told to wait for her.

Megumi saw the armory in sight and before she could approach it, she heard a familiar tune being played by a Lute Biwa. Megumi followed the sound and saw, sitting in a corner of the market, her old friend and teacher, Eve playing her Lute Biwa with a smile on her face. Megumi turned away from the armory and approached Eve calling her name.

Eve stopped playing abruptly and looked at Megumi.

“Do I know you?” asked Eve with a bewildered look. Megumi pointed to herself and said, “It’s me, Megumi Yoh.” Eve gasped shooting up to her feet.

“Megumi, but why are you wearing a mask?” asked Eve. Megumi chuckled and said, “It was his majesty’s order for me to wear the mask in order to become an Official.”

“To become an Official? Doesn’t that mean you’ve been wearing a mask for two years?” asked Eve. Megumi nodded. Eve frowned and said, “I was hoping to meet you again, but not like this.” Eve touched Megumi’s mask gently with a saddened expression.

“This is too heavy a punishment,” stated Eve. Megumi shook her head pulling Eve’s hand away from her mask.

“I’m fine Eve,” stated Megumi. Eve seemed ready to say something else, but stopped when she noticed Helios standing behind Megumi. Eve noticed Helios looking at Megumi and asked, “Is that man with you, Megumi?” Megumi glanced back following Eve’s line of vision and groaned when she saw Helios.

“Would you stop following me already,” stated Megumi.

“I’ll stop only if you show me your face once,” stated Helios. Megumi shook her head.

Helios looked toward Eve and asked, “Are you another one of Megumi’s companions?”

“You could say that,” stated Eve. The next thing Eve and Megumi knew, Helios was behind Eve holding the back of her throat.

“Eve!” exclaimed Megumi. Helios smirked and said, “If you don’t want her to get hurt then I insist that you show me your face.” Megumi clenched her fist, her form shaking in anger. Megumi punched Helios in the face before he could react forcing him away from Eve. Megumi pulled Eve to her side glaring at Helios.

“Do not involve my friends in your games!” yelled Megumi. Helios rubbed his cheek and chuckled.

“Fine, but I still want to see your face,” stated Helios. Megumi attempted to kick Helios this time, but Eve held Megumi back saying, “Calm down Megumi.” Megumi breathed heavily trying to maintain her anger.

It was at that point that Megumi heard Keiki calling out her name. Megumi followed his voice and saw Keiki running toward her with Gen and Hatsuharu behind him. Helios smirked, seeing Megumi’s companions too, and muttered, “Here comes more of your companions.”

Keiki stopped in front of Megumi and seemed ready to throw a fit, but stopped when he noticed Eve standing behind Megumi.

“Why is Eve here?” asked Keiki. Eve smiled at Keiki and said, “I was just visiting the Capital for some change, Keiki.”

Gen and Hatsuharu approached next staring at Eve wondering who she was. Eve noticed them too and looked at Megumi asking, “Are these two other men your friends?” Megumi nodded. Eve smiled looking at Hatsuharu and Gen.

“Nice to meet you two, I am Eve,” introduced Eve. Hatsuharu and Gen blushed muttering their names as well. Eve giggled and looked down at Helios allowing Keiki, Hatsuharu, and Gen to finally to take notice of him.

“I’m guessing you are an enemy of Megumi’s so please keep your distance,” stated Eve. Helios chuckled in response and stated, “You talk big for a woman.” Helios stood up looking toward Megumi.

“I believe you want to spend time with your companions, so I’ll give you two hours before I rip that mask from your face,” stated Helios and then ran out of sight. Megumi groaned placing a hand on her mask.

Keiki looked at Megumi and asked, “So he wants to remove your mask?” Megumi nodded and added, “I won’t let him.”

Gen suddenly cleared his throat making all of them look at him.

“My armor is already being repaired, so let’s stick to the plan before that stupid foreigner decides to interfere again,” insisted Gen. They all nodded.

Megumi looked toward Eve and asked, “Do you want to explore the market with us?” Eve smiled and nodded saying, “I could find a better spot to play my music for the people.” Megumi smiled under her mask, but that smile faded when Keiki yelled, “I don’t want Eve with us!” Megumi elbowed Keiki’s side making Keiki groan in pain.

“Please ignore him,” stated Megumi. Eve nodded with a giggle.

Hatsuharu went to Megumi’s side before they started walking and asked, “So how do you know Eve?”

“She trained me in music when I was five-years-old back in Go Province.”

“An old friend then?” asked Hatsuharu. Megumi nodded.

Eve giggled and stated, “Such a wonderful time. Megumi was so adorable as he sat in my lap to play the Lute Biwa.” Megumi felt her cheeks heat up under her mask as she looked at Eve and said, “Please don’t mention that to them.” Eve giggled in response.

Hatsuharu looked toward Eve and said, “Megumi is lucky to have a beautiful woman like you as his companion.” Eve nodded.

Keiki scoffed and stated, “Even though she is really an old lady.” Eve flinched and then smiled toward Keiki saying, “Dear Keiki, you must never call a woman like me OLD.” Keiki could see Eve’s smile, but the tone of her voice and her very demeanor made her seem like a messenger from Hell itself. With that vision in mind, he knew it was best to keep silent in her presence until she calmed down.

Megumi rolled her eyes realizing Keiki’s discomfort around Eve, but all she did was continue to walk forward to the busiest side of the market. Megumi noticed the crowd of people up ahead, realizing, that she was back in the area of the market where she was being pursued by Helios not too long ago. With her curiosity increased, she approached the crowd of people with her companions behind her.

Megumi pushed through the crowd making sure not to use her full strength. She soon reached the front of the crowd and met face to face with the seller of a cart’s goods: Yuma Mao. Megumi stared at Yuma in surprise, but Yuma, on the other hand, smiled and asked, “Is there something you want?”

“Yuma?” muttered Megumi. Yuma raised an eyebrow and asked, “Have we met before?” Megumi nodded standing up straight and pointing at herself.

“It’s me, Megumi Yoh.”

Yuma processed the information with a smile still on his face, but that smile soon turned into a frown.

“WHY ARE YOU HERE?”

“I am an Official of the Capital,” stated Megumi bluntly.

“Then why are you wearing a stupid mask?” demanded Yuma, completely forgetting the other customers, who were slowly growing impatient.

“His majesty’s order,” answered Megumi. Yuma seemed ready to say something else, but stopped when he heard Goran, from the cart, say, “Yuma please serve the customers.” Goran poked his head from the cart and noticed a masked Megumi standing in front of Yuma.

“Who are you?” asked Goran. Megumi pointed to herself and said, “Megumi Yoh.” Goran processed the information fast and immediately emerged from the cart. He seemed to be flying as he approached Megumi and then embraced her into a tight hug.

“It’s been so long!” cheered Goran. Megumi nodded pushing Goran away from her gently. It was at that point that Goran and Megumi were separated abruptly by none other than Keiki. Keiki glared at Goran and yelled, “Don’t hug Megumi!” Keiki suddenly grew stiff when he realized that the one he had separated from Megumi was Goran. Keiki backed away slightly muttering Goran’s name. Goran smirked at Keiki and said, “I also see that Keiki is here as well.” Keiki could sense the urge to kill emitting from Goran and cowered behind Megumi shaking like a scared puppy.

Hatsuharu, who was standing behind Keiki, chuckled and asked, “Looks like Keiki is scared.” Keiki glared at Hatsuharu, his form still shaking, and said, “If you knew his personality, you would be scared too.” Hatsuharu chuckled in reply.

Goran cleared his throat and then looked at Yuma.

“Please serve the customers, Yuma,” ordered Goran. Yuma nodded, even though he still looked angered at the presence of Megumi.

As Yuma served the customers, Goran looked back at Megumi and asked, “So why the mask?”

“It was his majesty’s order and please don’t ask why,” stated Megumi. Goran nodded sensing Megumi’s uneasiness.

Hatsuharu stood in front of Goran, to Goran’s surprise, and asked, “So you’re another friend of Megumi’s?” Goran nodded with a smile. Hatsuharu smiled and stated, “I wonder if we’ll meet more of Megumi’s friends.” Keiki shook his head with uneasiness in his face.

“I don’t want a repeat of meeting Megumi’s FRIENDS like in Eva Province,” muttered Keiki. Goran chuckled looking back at Megumi.

“The way this boy speaks is like you met other old friends before seeing me today,” stated Goran. Megumi nodded and stated, “I met Eve before seeing you.” Goran flinched and asked, “Did you say Eve?” Megumi nodded.

At that moment, Eve and Gen finally emerged from the crowd. Eve fixed her hair and said, “That was quite the crowd.” Eve looked toward Megumi and flinched when she saw Goran standing in front of Megumi.

“Goran?”

Goran stared back with wide eyes saying Eve’s name. Megumi looked at Eve and then back at Goran and asked, “Do you two know each other?” Goran gulped scratching the back of his head.

“Yes and no,” muttered Goran making Megumi bewildered. Eve was suddenly next to Megumi and pulling her slightly away from Goran.

“Don’t speak to Megumi so casually,” warned Eve with anger in her eyes. Goran glared back at Eve grabbing one of Megumi’s hands.

“Megumi was my student, so I have the right to speak with him,” stated Goran. Eve groaned and pulled Megumi back more, while Goran pulled on Megumi’s arm. From other’s point of view, it seemed there was a massive tug of war between Megumi.

The tug of war was immediately cut off when Megumi yelled, “LET GO BOTH OF YOU!” Eve and Goran stopped in their actions and looked at Megumi. Megumi brushed the hands away and said, “It was nice to see you both, but I believe I came here to shop with my companions.” Megumi walked toward Gen, Hatsuharu, and Keiki and then added, “If you want to see me again then do not fight among yourselves in my presence.” With that, Megumi walked off with her companions.

Goran and Eve stared in the direction Megumi left and then glared back at each other yelling, “It’s your fault!” They seemed ready to go into a heavy argument, but were stopped when Yuma threw a wooden brush at the back of Goran’s head with anger in his eyes.

“If you two are going to have an ex-lover spat then get out of my sight,”
demanded Yuma, his voice slowly resembling the command of a wrathful demon. Goran nodded and pushed Eve away from the cart.

In an empty alley, Goran and Eve glared at each other. Goran took in a few deep breaths before speaking.

“It has been a long time since I last saw you,” stated Goran. Eve nodded and said, “It has, but if I knew you were in the Capital as well, I would have changed directions.” Goran smirked with a shrug.

“Still a head strong woman,” stated Goran.

“And you’re still a push over,” talked back Eve. Goran took in more deep breaths trying to control his urge to yell at Eve.

“I’m not happy to see you either, but we can’t really lash out at each other in public like we did in front of Megumi,” stated Goran. Eve nodded in agreement.

“Megumi did seem angered,” stated Eve. Goran raised an eyebrow at Eve and asked, “How do you know Megumi anyway?”

“I met him when I visited Go Province before. I taught him how to play the Lute Biwa before I left Go Province,” stated Eve and then added, “Now tell me how you know Megumi.”

“He was my student before when I visited Go Province. I taught him how to be a merchant and even wanted to take him with me to train him as a traveling merchant, but he declined my offer because of his family.”

Eve smirked placing her hand gently against the strings of her Lute Biwa.

“Such a coincidence that we both met Megumi in the past and trained him in our talents,” stated Eve and then added, “Megumi might have also met Erumu, but I’m not sure on that one.” Goran chuckled with crossed arms.

“No way Megumi met Erumu. Erumu hates to have contact with people,” stated Goran. Eve nodded in agreement. Eve looked toward the exit of the alleyway and said, “I better go and entertain the people with my music before the sun sets.”

Goran nodded and then looked toward Eve saying, “I’m telling you now, but don’t force your beliefs on Megumi. Megumi is my student, not yours.” Eve chuckled and smirked back at Goran.

“Megumi is my student too and if I find out Megumi gets harmed because of you then I won’t hold back in cutting your throat,” stated Eve and then walked off out of the alleyway. Goran stared down at the ground and clenched his fist.

“Even if you did that, our curse would never end.”

Meanwhile, Megumi was at a clothes stand examining all the different cloths. Keiki, Hatsuharu, and Gen could tell that Megumi was in a sour mood, but that didn’t stop Hatsuharu from asking, “Are you feeling alright, Megumi?” Megumi heaved out a sigh as she picked up a cloud patterned cloth.

“I guess I am feeling a little annoyed after seeing Eve and Goran fight over me,” muttered Megumi. Keiki, feeling that it was safe to speak, stated, “I’m more surprised that they knew each other.” Megumi nodded in agreement as she paid the clothes stand owner for the cloud patterned cloth and then said, “Hopefully they’ll make-up.” Keiki nodded, even though he hoped they wouldn’t run into them again.

Megumi placed the cloth in a bag on her side and then looked toward Keiki asking, “Is there a certain stand you want to go to?” Keiki nodded and walked toward a stand selling men’s pants.

As they walked, Gen looked at Megumi and asked, “I’m just curious, but did you want to go to the market with Keiki because you are leaving the Capital tomorrow?” Megumi nodded.

“The trip is going to be a long one,” stated Megumi. Gen nodded in agreement remembering that Megumi was going to visit all the Provinces.

Hatsuharu suddenly gasped making Megumi and Gen look at him. Hatsuharu seemed saddened as he said, “I completely forgot that you are going to leave the Capital tomorrow too.” Hatsuharu whimpered and added, “I really don’t want to be separated from you two.”

Megumi chuckled and said, “I’ll be back before the month is done, so don’t worry.” Gen nodded and added, “I’ll write to you when I return to Ryu Province.” Hatsuharu looked at them both with stern eyes.

“Promise?”

Gen and Megumi both nodded. Hatsuharu flashed a smile and hugged them both chuckling.

“I really like you two the most,” cheered Hatsuharu. Hatsuharu’s happiness was short lived when Megumi was ripped from his embrace by none other than Keiki. Keiki glared daggers at Hatsuharu and yelled, “Don’t hug Megumi as you please.” Hatsuharu groaned as he glared at Keiki.

“I definitely hate you,” muttered Hatsuharu with hate in his voice. Keiki scoffed and began to drag Megumi away from Hatsuharu and Gen.

Gen watched them walk off and scratched the back of his head.

“Now that I think about it, Keiki seems too attached to Megumi,” stated Gen. Hatsuharu looked at Gen with a bewildered look.

“What do you mean?”

“Well the term stalker fits, but the way he acts is like he is trying to prevent men from getting his lover,” stated Gen in thought. Hatsuharu turned pale and immediately ran toward Keiki and Megumi yelling, “I will not allow such a relationship!”

When Hatsuharu attempted to rip Megumi from Keiki’s grip, Keiki began to curse at Hatsuharu and tug on Megumi’s arm. Megumi was soon in the middle of a second tug of war. It didn’t last long for Megumi ripped her hands away from both men yelling, “Enough!”

Megumi walked away from them and then glared back.

“If you two are going to be fighting as well then I rather shop alone,” stated Megumi, finally losing patience. Megumi then walked off leaving Hatsuharu and Keiki dumbfounded.

When Megumi was out of sight, Hatsuharu and Keiki glared at each other and yelled, “This is your fault!”

As Hatsuharu and Keiki began to argue among themselves, Gen watched them with a bored look. Gen only commented before since he did find the relationship between Keiki and Megumi strange, but he never expected that Hatsuharu would make such a big fuss over it and cause Megumi to leave them. Gen then looked in the direction Megumi left and began to wonder where she would be heading since it was obvious that they weren’t going to stick with their original plan for the market.

In the meantime, Megumi wandered the market by herself. Her steps were heavy as she walked making it obvious that she was angry. Megumi wanted her trip around the market to be peaceful, but it was ruined when that foreigner tried to remove her mask, her two old teachers fought among themselves, and when Keiki and Hatsuharu almost ripped her arms off while fighting among themselves. Megumi then stopped in her tracks and heaved out a sigh.

“My trips to the market are never really peaceful,” muttered Megumi. Megumi glanced back and wondered if she should return to them, since she might have gone a bit too far by just leaving them.

Megumi seemed ready to turn back, but stopped when she heard a voice calling her name. She turned around and saw Yuma approaching her. Megumi turned to face him and asked, “Do you need something?” Yuma smirked as he stopped in front of her. He jabbed a finger at her and announced, “I want to challenge you.”

“No,” stated Megumi bluntly nearly making Yuma falter. Yuma clenched his fists and exclaimed, “Why not?”

“I’m not in the mood and I still need to buy the supplies for my trip to the Provinces.”

Yuma groaned and said, “How about this: if you win the challenge, I’ll give you everything you need for your trip…free of charge, deal?” Megumi glanced at Yuma smirking under her mask.

“And if you win?”

“You…give me a painting of Yumi Goh,” stated Yuma. Megumi chuckled with crossed arms.

“I see that you still have no talent in painting,” stated Megumi.

“Is it a deal?” asked Yuma with gritted teeth. Megumi nodded and asked, “So what is the challenge?”

Yuma pointed at the market stands.

“We will buy five items, each from a different stand. Write down the prices on a parchment and try to resell the items and make a profit. The one with the higher profit wins. Deal?”

Megumi nodded and asked, “Will Goran’s stand last without you during the challenge?” Yuma nodded and added, “I made sure that Master Goran could take care of things.” Megumi nodded and then gave out a chuckle.

“Let’s hope Goran isn’t too angered when you give me the supplies free of charge.”

Yuma groaned and turned away from Megumi saying, “I won’t lose, especially since you are wearing a mask.” Megumi shrugged and headed to one of the stands, while Yuma headed to another one.

Megumi went to a clothes stand and began to scan through the objects. She saw a pure white squared cloth lying next to a red blouse and picked it up. She examined it closely and then held it to the stand owner asking for the price.

“Five copper pieces.”

Megumi paid the man and then headed to the next stand that was selling paint. She saw a deep red paint that caught her eye and bought it for three copper pieces without a second thought. The pot of paint was very small and seemed to be the type of paint you would use to paint small jewelry. Right next to that stand was a thread stand. She chose a red strand that seemed to match the paint and paid two copper pieces for it. Afterwards she spotted a stand selling crafts supplies for small children. She looked through these crafts and chose a small container of beads that looked more like golden glitter for 4 copper pieces. The last stand she went to was another clothes stand. Instead of looking at the clothes’ selection, she looked at the stand owner and asked, “Do you have a sewing needle that you are willing to sell?”

“Uh, how big?” asked the old man of the stand with a bewildered tone. Megumi held her fingers up showing half an inch. The old man handed Megumi a half an inch silver needle and asked for one copper piece. Megumi paid him thanking him for the sale.

Megumi had her five items, but the goal was to sell for a profit. She immediately recorded the prices of the items on a small folded parchment she kept in her pocket and then leaned against the wall as she began to tinker with the items. She tore two pieces of the parchment and wrapped one each on her left index and thumb. Using her wrapped fingers she held the white cloth she bought and began to pour the red paint on it gently using her right hand making sure that every white on the cloth was gone. The moment the paint was gone, the cloth was already a deep red. She waved it a few times to make it dry faster and then began to fold it in different ways. At first it looked like she was just crumpling it, but if one looked closely they could see that each fold had detail. With the last fold, the red cloth had turned into a rose. Megumi then grabbed the needle and thread and immediately attached the thread to the end of the needle and began to sew into the rose form of the cloth. Her sewing technique was quick, but the detail that went into the sewing was amazing. The thread looked like the veins of the rose and the thread held the cloth together in its rose form. She used the remaining thread to sew the glitter beans into the petal making it look like a real flower shining in the sun. As the final piece, she slipped the needle behind the rose. The final product was a rose that would always glimmer.

Megumi suddenly heard the voices of the people increase in excitement and looked up only to realize that a huge crowd had gathered in front of her and were staring at her final product with awe in their eyes. Megumi glanced at the rose and then back at the people.

“Are any of you interested in buying this flower pin?”

Before Megumi knew it, many women and even men were bidding for the flower pin. In the end, Megumi sold the flower pin for twenty silver pieces to a man and his wife. The look on the man’s wife as she wore the rose pin was as if she had just seen heaven.

Megumi slipped the silver pieces around a single string and saw Yuma standing in front of her with an angered expression.

“Something wrong, Yuma?” asked Megumi. Yuma held up the ten silver pieces he gathered and the parchment and said, “I made a five silver profit, but seeing that you have twenty silver pieces and bought cheap items, I can tell that you already won.” Megumi nodded showing the silver pieces and the parchment with the prices of the items.

“You can do the math,” stated Megumi bluntly making Yuma groan. Megumi handed the silver pieces and parchment to Yuma making him flinch and said, “Go to my residence when night falls, so I can get my supplies, Yuma.” Megumi then handed a parchment with her address on it to Yuma and then walked off. Yuma clenched the parchment with anger in his eyes.

“He hasn’t been a merchant for two years and he still beats me,” muttered Yuma in defeat. Yuma hated Megumi, but he knew that Megumi had talent in the merchant trade.

Megumi walked down the dirt path of the market feeling completely refreshed. It had been two years since Yuma last challenged her and she enjoyed especially since she got to be a merchant again. She almost forgotten how fun it was to make the goods and see the happy faces on the customers that bought them. Megumi smiled under her mask, but it was sad. She threw away her dream to be a merchant, but she knew she had too since she had to become an Official to get the information on the people who took her family away from her.

Megumi’s thought process was cut short when she was forced to duck as she avoided the extended hand of an intruder from the roofs. Megumi groaned recognizing Helios standing before her. Megumi rolled away from Helios glaring at him through her mask.

“Why are you bothering me again?” hissed Megumi. Helios smirked with a clenched fist.

“I told you I would be back after two hours to rip that mask from your face,” stated Helios. Megumi groaned placing a hand to her mask.

“I am forbidden to remove this mask if I want to stay an Official,” stated Megumi. Helios chuckled as he began to approach Megumi.

“That’s a stupid rule,” stated Helios and then reached toward Megumi saying, “Now show me your face.” Megumi dodged Helios’s hand and rushed down the path of the market place. Helios chased after her determined to remove her mask.

Megumi turned multiple corners to avoid Helios, but Helios refused to lose sight of her. The next thing Megumi knew she was able to see Keiki walking before her mumbling curses under his breath. The moment Megumi reached Keiki she grabbed his left arm and dragged him behind her making Keiki gasp in surprise. Keiki seemed ready to yell at her, but gasped when he saw that it was Megumi.

“Megumi?”

Megumi glanced at Keiki and said, “Try to run on your own.” Keiki nodded running next to her with her still holding his arm and asked, “Why are we running?” Megumi gestured behind her. Keiki glanced back and was shocked to see Helios hot on their trail.

“That guy really wants to remove your mask,” stated Keiki. Megumi nodded. Keiki glanced back at Megumi and asked, “So why am I running away from him with you?”

“Helios might use you as a bait to get to me. I don’t want to take the chance of you getting hurt,” stated Megumi. Keiki felt his cheeks heat up, but immediately shook his head.

Keiki and Megumi were suddenly forced to stop when someone landed in front of them saying, in a jolly voice, “MEGUMI!” That someone turned out to be Hatsuharu. Before Megumi could say anything in surprise, the string of her mask was undone. Megumi held her mask up right away, while yelled out curses toward Helios.

Helios smirked as Megumi backed away from Helios fixing the string of the mask.

“So close,” stated Helios. Before Megumi knew it, Keiki and Hatsuharu were standing before her protectively. Helios chuckled saying, “You really have loyal companions.”

“They’re my friends,” stated Megumi. Hatsuharu nodded and added, “But Keiki isn’t.”

Keiki glared at Hatsuharu and yelled, “I am his friend!”

“You’re not,” stated Hatsuharu bluntly. Keiki groaned and said, “I was much happier when you weren’t around. Why are you even here?”

“I saw Megumi running and followed him. I just didn’t expect to run into you again,” stated Hatsuharu. Keiki and Hatsuharu seemed ready to fight again, but Megumi cleared her throat loudly making them look at her.

“I think we should take care of Helios first before you guys fight each other again,” stated Megumi. Keiki and Hatsuharu nodded in agreement calling for a temporary truce.

Helios chuckled as he looked at them with a sarcastic smile.

“You really have them on a leash, Megumi, but they can’t stop me from removing your mask,” stated Helios.

“Is my face so important?” asked Megumi.

“I’m just very curious,” stated Helios. Megumi clenched her fist trying to come up with an idea to make Helios change his mind.

“If you see his face, you will leave him alone?” asked Keiki with crossed arms making all of them look at him. Helios nodded. Keiki dug in his pocket and then tossed a small frame to Helios. Helios caught it and then looked at the small portrait of Mikan that Keiki always carried with him.

“Who is this?” asked Helios.

“Her name is Mikan Yoh, Megumi’s older twin sister. They look alike except Megumi’s eyes are aquamarine like yours,” stated Keiki. Helios stared at the picture and scoffed. He tossed the portrait back to Keiki and said, “I guess that will do for now, but I will see his face someday.”

Megumi groaned and said, “That day isn’t anytime soon.” Helios smirked and waved his hand toward her saying, “Maybe I’ll see your face when you visit Andragale.”

Helios was soon out of their sight making them heave out a sigh of relief.

Hatsuharu looked at Keiki, who was about to put away the portrait and asked, “So you have a picture of Megumi’s twin sister?” Keiki nodded and added, “I always carry it with me.”

Megumi approached Keiki making him cringe and asked, “Can I see that portrait?” Keiki nodded handing it to her filled with nervousness. He had never informed Megumi that he had Mikan’s picture and feared that Megumi would take it from him permanently. To his utter surprise, Megumi looked at the picture and then handed it back to him.

“Thanks for having her picture,” thanked Megumi making Keiki turn red in the cheeks. Hatsuharu suddenly elbowed Keiki in his side making Keiki gasp in pain and nearly drop Mikan’s picture. Hatsuharu didn’t even look at Keiki as he asked Megumi, “So can we eat together in the Dango Restaurant?” Megumi nodded and then glanced at Keiki asking, “Are you alright?” Keiki nodded, while glaring toward Hatsuharu, who didn’t even bother to look at him.

As they headed toward the Dango Restaurant, Megumi looked at Keiki and said, “You really saved me back there.”

“It was nothing,” stated Keiki trying to hide his embarrassment. Megumi chuckled and looked toward the sky.

“I never expected that Helios would give up so fast after seeing Mikan’s picture.”

Keiki glanced at Megumi and said, “Well you two look similar, even though you aren’t exactly alike.” Megumi nodded.

Keiki cleared his throat and asked, “So are we still shopping after this?” Megumi shook her head.

“I won a deal with Yuma, so he’s coming to my residence to deliver the supplies we need for the trip,” stated Megumi proudly. Keiki chuckled and muttered, “Yuma really needs to learn that he can’t win against you.”

“He might win someday, but that someday isn’t today,” stated Megumi. Even though Keiki couldn’t see her face, he could tell that she was truly happy at that moment.

They soon reached the Dango Restaurant, where Gen was already eating some barbecue flavored Dango. Gen noticed them and smiled.

“So that’s why Hatsuharu rushed out,” stated Gen. Hatsuharu nodded urging Megumi to sit down, while ignoring Keiki. Megumi sat down and looked at Gen as Keiki and Hatsuharu began to bicker who would sit next to Megumi.

“I’m planning to return to the palace after this, if that’s OK,” stated Megumi. Gen nodded and added, “I don’t mind, but Hatsuharu might throw a fit.” Megumi nodded.

Megumi glanced toward Hatsuharu, who was still bickering with Keiki, and then back at Gen.

“To make up for this, can you tell Hatsuharu that he has permission to visit my residence tonight?” asked Megumi. Gen raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why not ask him yourself?”

“You know Hatsuharu. If I told him, he would cling to me refusing to let me return to the palace,” stated Megumi. Gen chuckled and nodded saying, “You’re right. I’ll tell him.” Megumi nodded as she took a piece of the Dango from a plate.

Just as Megumi said, she began to return to the palace with Keiki. Hatsuharu did throw a tantrum that could rival a child’s, but Gen managed to calm him down when he mentioned that he could visit Megumi’s residence that night.

As Megumi returned to the palace; Helios watched from the distance leaning against a lone tree. He stared at Megumi’s back and remembered the portrait of Mikan that Keiki showed him.

“How can a Yulan citizen have the strength of my people?” muttered Helios. Helios in truth pursued Megumi because he believed that she was actually one of his people in disguise, but knowing that she had a twin sister, who was obviously of Yulan, he had doubts. Helios smirked and began to walk off hoping to see Megumi again in the future.

Megumi soon returned to the palace with Keiki, but suddenly saw Suha looking her way. She could tell that he wanted to speak with her, so she looked at Keiki telling him to wait for her in her office. Keiki took one glance at Suha and then nodded before taking off.

When Keiki was out of sight, Suha approached Megumi. Megumi bowed her head to Suha in greeting. Suha nodded his head and asked, “Did you enjoy your market trip?”

“A little,” replied Megumi making Suha chuckle.

Suha then grew serious and said, “Putting the market aside, I want to inform you that it was decided that you are one of the Diyuans that will be sent to Andragale next year.”

“Is that so?”

Suha nodded and added, “We will announce this later with the other two Region leaders, so don’t be too surprised.” Megumi shook her head.

“I already suspected that I would be one of the Diyuans sent when I won against Helios,” stated Megumi. Suha nodded in understanding.

Suha suddenly noticed that Yuki was peeking from behind a pillar and frowned as he looked back at Megumi.

“Before I go, I want to know how you truly feel about his majesty,” stated Suha. Megumi seemed to grow silent as she averted her eyes from Suha. She then looked back at Suha and said, “I respect his majesty as my emperor, but that is all. I can never recuperate the feelings he has for me.” Suha nodded and dismissed Megumi.

When Megumi was out of sight, Suha approached the pillar Yuki was behind and saw him leaning against the pillar with clenched fists and tears in his eyes.

“I’m sorry you had to hear that, but Megumi does respect you at least,” stated Suha in an attempt to console Yuki. Yuki glared at Suha and said, “I’m not giving up. My Megumi will look at me differently. I just have to be patient.” Yuki then stormed off not bothering to hide his tears.

Suha stared at Yuki’s retreating back with a solemn look and muttered, “Your love for Megumi is too deep.”

Yuki stormed down the halls with thoughts of Megumi invading his mind. When he reached his room, he slammed the door behind him and sat on his bed. He pulled the black ribbon from his hair remembering when he first got the ribbon from Megumi. He kissed it softly and then leaned back onto his bed with flushed cheeks.

Yuki envisioned Megumi by his side and muttered, “I really want you Megumi.” Yuki clenched the illusion of Megumi in his fist with the need to possess Megumi.

Megumi didn’t know of Yuki’s mental state at that moment since her remaining thoughts were to finish what work she had left for the day and to prepare for departure to the Provinces.

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