Bunkai 27: Blocked Path    

The rain poured down in Yulan as if the heavens were crying. The water that fell onto a cliff slipped off like a waterfall and eventually turned into a landslide as the cliff gave way and tumbled onto the dirt path. The destruction of the cliff could not be heard by any mortal human ears, but for an animal it was like the thundering of the mountains when the end was near.

The following day, on the path away from the Capital, a carriage surrounded by two soldiers on horses rolled down the dirt path that glistened in the rays of the sun. On one of these horses was Megumi in light clothing more common for a commoner and wore a gray mask with her long hair tied back into a ponytail. On the remaining horse was Hatori Sou. Within the carriage that was pulled by two horses and being driven Keiki Nue were Len Nina, Iori Kiri, and Shigure Fuji.

As the carriage rolled along, Len stared at Shigure, who wore a red half mask to cover the burn on his face, with a bewildered look. Shigure, seeming to have finally noticed Len’s stares, glanced at Len and asked, “Do you need something Len?” Len gulped averting his eyes as Iori glanced at him wondering if Len was alright.

“You asked to travel with us and I was wondering why?” asked Len with nervousness behind his voice. Shigure sighed glancing out the window of the carriage.

“I will only accompany your group until we reach Eru Province,” stated Shigure.

“Why Eru Province?” asked Iori, finally taking an interest. Shigure smirked and said, “I have to visit my wife there.” Len’s and Iori’s eyes widened at the sudden news that the Official was married.

“Why is she in Eru Province?” asked Len. Shigure chuckled and replied, “She has a weak composition, so I allowed her to stay in Eru Province with the promise I would visit her once in a while.”

Iori rubbed his chin as he stated, “But why travel with us? Wouldn’t it be faster to just take a different carriage to Eru Province?” Shigure’s smile soon turned to a frown as he looked away from them.

“I have my reasons, besides I needed to go to Jogo Province first,” stated Shigure. The tone of his voice made it clear to the two trainees that Shigure didn’t want to speak anymore, so they each decided to look out the window of the carriage to take in the scenery.

Outside of the carriage, Keiki heard their words and glanced at Megumi asking, “Did you know that Official has a wife?” Megumi nodded.

“His majesty told me before when Lord Shigure left the palace for Eru Province,” stated Megumi. Keiki glanced at the carriage and then back at Megumi.

“Why didn’t you insist that he take another carriage to Eru Province instead of traveling with us?” asked Keiki. Megumi glanced back at Keiki and stated, “Because he has his reasons.” She then turned away from Keiki leaving Keiki completely bewildered.

They traveled down the path for hours until they reached a certain part of the road that forced them to stop. In their path was a pile of dirt and rubble almost the size of a hill. Megumi got off her horse and approached the mound. She looked around and realized that going around the mound wasn’t possible since the side of the road was flooded from the rain. Forcing the carriage through would just damage their supplies. Megumi sighed and turned back to the others.

“We have to turn back and take a different road,” instructed Megumi. Hatori, as he looked at Megumi, said, “That would be difficult since the roads are soaked and there is no guarantee that the other road isn’t blocked too.” Megumi knew that Hatori had a point.

Megumi went to the carriage and yanked a wooden shovel from the top. She looked at Keiki and Hatori and said, “Let’s try to find the key stone to make a path then.” Hatori and Keiki nodded as they each grabbed a shovel from the top of the carriage.

As they began to dig, Len and Iori peeked out of the carriage toward them.

“Megumi sure is prepared,” stated Len with admiration behind his voice. Iori scoffed and muttered, “He’s not so great.” Shigure, who was listening, nodded in agreement. Iori suddenly glanced at the supplies they had and asked, “How did Lord Megumi manage to get all these supplies within one day?” Len rubbed his chin in thought.

“Well Megumi mentioned before I entered the carriage that we had enough supplies for the trip thanks to some merchant friends,” stated Len. Shigure scoffed with crossed arms.

“So Megumi still has connections in the merchant business,” stated Shigure. Len and Iori looked at Shigure and asked, almost in unison, “Was Megumi familiar with Merchants?” Shigure nodded adjusting the mask on his face.

“You two might not be aware of this, but Megumi used to be a young merchant before he entered the palace as an Official,” stated Shigure.

“Really?” asked Len with excited eyes. Shigure nodded and added, “I actually liked him better as a merchant since he was nowhere near the palace.”

Iori peeked at Megumi, who was digging in the mound, from the carriage and asked, “Do you know why he decided to be an Official?” Shigure shook his head and added, “I don’t really care to know at the moment.” Iori could sense the annoyance in Shigure’s voice, so he sealed his lips and sat against his chair next to Len, who was trying to convince Shigure to tell him more about Megumi.

Megumi shoveled out a large clump of dirt before taking a deep breath and looking at Hatori and Keiki.

“Are you having any luck?” asked Megumi. Hatori shook his head wiping the sweat from his brow.

“This will take days to find the key stone. If we had more people then maybe we could get through,” stated Hatori. Keiki nodded in agreement and added, “Maybe we could wait for more people to take this path.”

Megumi went into deep thought and stated, “That might be wise, but we are going to fall behind schedule.”

They suddenly heard rumbling from above and looked up only to see large boulders coming their way. Megumi abandoned her shovel and wrapped her arms around Hatori and Keiki pushing them back with all her strength. The place where they once stood now had a boulder buried into it.

Hatori and Keiki seemed to be in shock as Megumi breathed heavily from the rushed adrenaline.

“Megumi!” called out Len as he ran out of the carriage with Iori trying to convince him to come back in. In almost an instant, men wrapped in black cloaks emerged from the cliff above. They landed before the ground and swarmed the carriage and anyone that was outside. Swords of stainless steel were pointed at Megumi, Keiki, and Hatori; and Len was forced to stop in his tracks as one of the cloaked men held a chain around his neck threatening to cut his throat.

“If you don’t want anyone to get hurt then drop your weapons and follow us,” ordered the cloaked man that held Len with the chain. To get his point across he tightened the chain around Len’s neck making Len gasp.

Megumi cursed under her breath as she dropped the sword and dagger around her waist. Hatori and Keiki, after getting over their initial shock, dropped their own weapons before their feet. Three of the cloaked men gathered their weapons, while three other cloaked men forced Shigure and Iori out of the carriage shoving them to the ground.

“Take all that they have,” ordered the cloaked man holding Len. The other cloaked men did as they were told heading to the carriage. One of the cloaked men suddenly grabbed Shigure by the shoulder and said, “That mask of yours looks pretty expensive.” Shigure glared at the man and said, “It is, but I insist that you don’t remove it unless you want nightmares.” The cloaked man didn’t seem to hear Shigure’s words for he ripped the half mask from Shigure’s face. Within moments, the man saw Shigure’s face and screamed backing away.

The right side of Shigure’s face had traces of black that seemed permanent and it seemed that half of his face had melted. It resembled melted wax, but when mixed with the skin made it horrifying to look at. Shigure covered the right side of his face holding his hand at the cloaked man.

“Can I have that mask back now?” ordered Shigure. The cloaked man tossed the mask to Shigure without hesitation. Shigure fastened the mask back on with a serious look in his eye.

The cloaked man that removed Shigure’s mask noticed that one of his companions was reaching toward Megumi’s mask and screamed, “Don’t remove that guy’s mask!” His voice was so demanding that all eyes fell on him. The cloaked man cleared his throat maintaining his composure and said, “The mask must be on for a reason.” His form shook slightly making his companions bewildered, but they did as they were told ignoring Megumi’s mask.

Megumi heaved out a sigh of relief placing a hand to her mask. Megumi knew that if it weren’t for Shigure her mask would have been taken too.

The men soon gathered all their belongings and then began to tie Megumi and the others’ wrists with iron ropes. One of the cloaked men shoved Megumi’s back and said, “Let’s get moving.” Megumi nodded not wanting to put her companions in danger. They were forced to abandon their carriage as they walked down the path.

Megumi examined her surroundings as they walked wondering where they were being taken, but she was soon answered when they reached a rocky area of the cliff. It looked like a dead end at first, but at closer inspection, it was actually an opening that had a path that led to higher ground. Megumi was forced to enter this path with the others.

The path was steep making it difficult to climb. Len suddenly tripped and seemed ready to crash into the ground, but Megumi used her right leg to catch the back of Len’s head and then forced him up before continuing walking. Len thanked Megumi, but was soon forced to close his mouth by one of their captors.

Megumi nodded toward Len and looked forward not noticing that one of the cloaked men was staring at her back with a strong gaze.

The woods that they had entered seemed to get thicker as they ventured deeper. They were forced to avoid low branches, but some managed to snag into their hair. One of the branches snatched Megumi’s hair tie releasing her long black hair. Megumi didn’t even notice as some of the men around her turned red in the cheeks at the sight of her loose hair.

Within moments of their deep travel, they soon reached an area that wasn’t as thick with trees, but instead had tents among the grass covered ground and the trees that were in the area had round topped tree houses that were connected to one another using thick rope. Among the tents were goods that were obviously stolen and other men both young and old.

Keiki narrowed his eyes as he glanced around and then muttered, “These guys are definitely bandits.” Megumi nodded in agreement, while looking in every direction of the camp.

Megumi and the others were soon pushed forward as the cloaked men removed their cloaks revealing their bandit wear. If they didn’t know better, people would have thought they resembled assassins.

Megumi looked forward and noticed a man with short, deep red hair, who seemed to be in his twenties. His brown shirt was torn in the front revealing small scars on his chest. His beige pants were torn at the knees and ankles. He wore thick brown boots on his feet that had bear and wolf fur at the edges. His eyes were a deep brown that they almost looked black. A bandage that seemed age was wrapped around his neck. The thing that made him stand out the most was the cross-shaped scar on his forehead and cheek and the sword with the wolf fur scabbard and hilt.

The red haired man approached Megumi and the others with a smirk upon his face and seriousness in his eyes.

“So what do we have here?” he asked in a mocking tone. One of the cloaked men from before, who had hair the same color as mud, held his fist to his chest and replied, “Soldiers and three Officials, Kagutsuchi.” The red haired man, Kagutsuchi, examined each of them closely.

Kagutsuchi noticed that Len was visibly shaking and Iori was trying to look intimidating as he tried to stand in front of Len as if protecting him. He noticed that Keiki seemed ready to start a fight, but he was more shocked to see the Nue Clan Mafia symbol on the headband of Keiki. Hatori seemed to be strategizing in his mind, so he was of no concern to him. What made him puzzled was that Shigure and Megumi were wearing masks, which should have been taken when they were captured.

Kagutsuchi pointed toward Megumi and Shigure making Shigure flinch and asked, in a demanding tone, “Why do they have masks on, Daichi?” The man with mud colored hair, Daichi, gulped and said, “Their faces were too terrifying to look at.”

Kagutsuchi was silent and then burst out laughing. He glanced toward Megumi and Shigure and said, “I’ll trust Daichi’s words, but just to let you know, you guys are never going to return home.”

Megumi frowned under her mask and stated, “If we will never return home then at least tell us who you are.”

“Can’t you tell by just looking at me?”

Megumi and the others shook their heads making Kagutsuchi’s eyebrow twitch in annoyance.

“I see you guys are kept inside a lot to never hear of me,” stated Kagutsuchi. Kagutsuchi held a fist to his chest and said, “My name is Kagutsuchi, but I am more known for my title: Bandit King.”

“LIES!” exclaimed Keiki making most of them flinch at his sudden outburst.

Kagutsuchi snapped out of his shock, but his left eyelid was twitching in annoyance as he looked at Keiki and asked, “Why do you say that?”

“The Bandit King is famous for the diamond end sword he stole and wears on his back, but you have a wolf skin sword, so you can’t be him,” pointed out Keiki. Kagutsuchi chuckled pulling out the wolf skinned sword at the handle. He pointed it toward Keiki with obvious anger in his face.

“It is true that I had a sword like that, but it was lost two years ago, so you better think of this sword as the new symbol of the Bandit King,” stated Kagutsuchi.

“That sword still looks stu…”

Before Keiki could even get another word out, Megumi kicked his stomach making him hunch over gasping in pain. All eyes fell on Megumi as she glared at Keiki.

“I think it is best to shut your mouth, Keiki,” warned Megumi. Keiki nodded cringing in pain.

They suddenly heard Kagutsuchi laughing and looked at him. Kagutsuchi sheathed his sword smirking in Megumi’s direction.

“It looks like you’re the leader, especially how you handled that Nue Clan Mafia youth, so how about you introduce your little group before you guys are separated for good.”

Megumi nodded and introduced everyone one by one, but as she spoke Keiki mumbled curses under his breath. Keiki suddenly came to a realization and gasped making Megumi stop with her words.

“I remember now. The Bandit King wouldn’t have his sword since that Reo Bastard took it,” stated Keiki, before Megumi kicked his stomach again making him hunch over and shake in pain.

Kagutsuchi narrowed his eyes as he began to approach Keiki.

“What did you say?” demanded Kagutsuchi as he looked at Keiki with seriousness in his eyes. Keiki managed to lift his head after getting over his pain and said, “That Reo Bastard took the Bandit King’s sword.” Kagutsuchi grabbed Keiki by the hair making Keiki gasp in pain.

“Where is this Reo Bastard?” demanded Kagutsuchi.

“I don’t know,” stated Keiki. Kagutsuchi lifted his fist ready to punch Keiki, but Kagutsuchi was suddenly kicked in the face making him fall to the side and release Keiki. He glanced up and saw Megumi glaring at him with her leg lifted up in kicking position.

“Keiki really doesn’t know. We only saw him by chance two years ago,” stated Megumi. Kagutsuchi gritted his teeth getting up on his feet. He glared at all the bandits near him and yelled, “Get these bastards locked up!”

The bandits immediately began to drag Megumi and the others away. As they were lead away, Kagutsuchi felt a sting in his cheek. He touched it and cringed. He knew a bruise was forming when he felt the swelling and gritted his teeth.

“Are you OK, Kagutsuchi?” asked Daichi, who still remained by his side. Kagutsuchi glared at Daichi making Daichi flinch slightly and said, “Keep an eye on that masked guy.”

“Which one?”

“The one who calls himself Megumi!” yelled Kagutsuchi before marching off into his tent.

Daichi stared at Kagutsuchi’s tent and then in the direction Megumi and the others were taken.

I guess that masked fellow hurt Kagutsuchi’s pride.

Megumi and the others were roughly shoved into different cages made of solid wood and then were left with only a single dog in their sight. The dog was rather large and there were traces of dried blood around its mouth, so they knew that this very dog was trained to kill.

Megumi glanced at Keiki and stated, “You were an idiot back there.”

Keiki groaned and said, “Sorry about that, but it was just too surprising that we actually met the Bandit King.”

Len looked toward Keiki and asked, “Who is Reo, the one that you mentioned?”

Keiki clicked his tongue and glanced toward Megumi.

“He’s an acquaintance of Megumi when he was younger. He’s stupid and apparently has a one track mind,” muttered Keiki with annoyance behind his voice.

Len looked at Megumi and asked, “So he’s a friend of yours?” Megumi nodded and added, “He taught me a little about fighting when I was younger.”

Shigure glanced at Megumi from his cage and asked, “I thought you said you only saw him by chance two years ago.”

“That is true. We met him during our return from Eva Province and he did have a sword with a diamond edge.”

They suddenly heard a loud bang and looked toward Iori’s cage only to see him kicking the wooden bars repeatedly.

“Stop that,” ordered Hatori, who was the closes to Iori’s cage. Iori shook his head and said, “We need to get out of here.” Iori was ready to kick the cage again, but the dog rushed to his cage and began to bark rapidly making Iori fall still and scoot as far away from the dog as he could. The dog soon stopped barking and began to growl glaring at Iori. The dog then huffed before turning away from the cage.

“I guess kicking the cage is a no go,” stated Iori and then groaned leaning his back against the bars.

As Iori began to sulk, Hatori glanced at Megumi’s cage and asked, “Do you have any ideas?” Megumi shook her head and stated, “Right now is too risky to make any move.”

Megumi suddenly heard Shigure groan making her look at him. Shigure glared in her direction and demanded, “Why didn’t you fight those bandits before they could capture us?”

Megumi lowered her head staring at the wooden floor of her cage.

“If I fought at that time then Len would have been killed,” stated Megumi remembering that Len was already captured when the ambush happened. All fell silent knowing that Megumi was correct.

Megumi lifted her head and added, “I promise that we will get out of here.”

“Just make sure that we get out before the next day,” stated Shigure with anger in his eyes. Megumi nodded and began to examine her surroundings in hope of finding a way out.

Meanwhile, Kagutsuchi was within his tent drinking a large bottle of Sake that he obtained from the stolen goods. When the bottle was empty, he reached out for another, but a slender hand touched his wrist before he could do so. He followed the hand only to see the green eyes of his lover: Fatin.

Fatin was a foreign beauty with her dark skin and long black hair that curled in her long braid. Her lips a deep red and the clothes she wore were violet and seemed to be made of silk. Those very clothes revealed every curve of her body that some of the bandits first believed that she was an enchantress.

Kagutsuchi smirked at her as he pulled his hand away grabbing another bottle of Sake.

“I don’t remember giving you permission to enter my tent,” stated Kagutsuchi. Fatin giggled sitting on his lap.

“Do I really need permission to please you my dear King?” asked Fatin in a seductive voice. She leaned in to kiss Kagutsuchi, but stopped in her actions when she saw the bruise on his cheek. She frowned placing a hand gently against Kagutsuchi’s cheek making him flinch slightly.

“How did this happen?” asked Fatin with displeasure in her voice. Kagutsuchi frowned placing his hands against Fatin’s.

“One of those bastards we recently captured did this,” stated Kagutsuchi. Kagutsuchi clenched his other hand on the neck of the bottle of Sake and added, “That bastard could have easily escaped by the way he was moving, but chose not to. He is trying to make a fool of me.” Fatin smiled placing her other hand on Kagutsuchi’s cheek.

“How about this: when we sell the others off, we will force that fool to work for you. If he refuses then you can cut his heart out just like you did to the other fools who made a fool out of you,” stated Fatin. Kagutsuchi smirked as he looked at Fatin.

“That’s why you are my favorite. Absolutely no mercy,” stated Kagutsuchi before taking Fatin’s lips with his own. As Kagutsuchi kissed her, he began to recall a time before he ever became the Bandit King, the first time someone made a fool out of him.

When he was thirteen, he had entered Go Province to earn a living. With “earning a living” meaning to steal from idiots that couldn’t hold their belongings. At that time, he was just starting out as a thief since that was the time when his parents abandoned him for dead just so they could have one less mouth to feed. He couldn’t even remember what his surname was, so he just called himself Kagutsuchi.

Kagutsuchi wandered the streets of Go Province taking what he could from unsuspecting bystanders. By the end of the day he would have both his pockets full of different goods. He was a natural at stealing, but then he faced his first failure on a Monday morning in the market place.

He wandered the market place as usual ready to take anything, but then he spotted a boy maybe around three or four carrying a large sack of rice. The rice seemed to be double the boy’s size, but the boy showed no sign of struggle, so the bag, despite its size, must have been light. Kagutsuchi stared at the small boy and smirked; thinking that the boy was an easy target.

Kagutsuchi lowered his hood over his eyes and rushed toward the boy. Without a second thought, he snatched the bag of rice and headed into Go Province Woods. To his surprise the bag was a lot heavier than he thought, but what surprised him even more was that the small boy he stole from was pursuing him. From his experience, young boys like the one chasing him would burst into tears after getting robbed giving him time to escape, but this boy wasn’t shedding even one tear and instead had anger in his aquamarine eyes.

Kagutsuchi looked around trying to find a path to lose the boy, but he suddenly felt the ground under him give way and darted deep into the ground tossing the rice away from his chest. He slammed into the hard ground and heard something crack and felt pain radiate through his right leg. Kagutsuchi gave out a cry, but then he heard a gasp and the next thing he knew his world had turned black.

Kagutsuchi began to hear voices as he slowly began to awake, but the words confused him. The only words he was able to understand were bandaging and medicine. When he was fully awake he was being pulled out of a well and was being led back to the village of Go Province. He was shoved into a cell, the soldiers not caring about his broken leg. Kagutsuchi cursed under his breath placing a hand to his broken leg.

“I can’t believe this,” he muttered. He never expected to be caught by the soldiers of Go Province and to make matters worse it was because he stole from a child, who didn’t cry.  That child made a fool out of him. He shook in anger and then noticed his bandaged leg. The bandaging was well made making him wonder who had treated him.

Kagutsuchi returned to reality at the sound of Fatin’s voice asking, “Are you OK, my King?” Kagutsuchi nodded and kissed Fatin. Fatin suddenly touched the bandage around his neck and asked, “Shouldn’t you remove that bandage now?” Kagutsuchi pulled Fatin’s hand away and kissed her wrist saying, “I only wear it to remember why I became Bandit King.” Fatin smiled kissing Kagutsuchi as they both began to drown in their desires.

Night had soon fallen, leaving only three torches lit around the cages that Megumi and the others were in. The others had fallen asleep from exhaustion, but Megumi was wide awake still examining her surroundings in the darkness. She suddenly heard footstep and looked up only to see the one Kagutsuchi called Daichi approaching her cage with a plate of what looked like bread, soup, and water. The guard dog didn’t seem to care as Daichi pushed the plate into Megumi’s cage and said, “You should eat something.” Megumi stared at the plate and then back at Daichi.

“Am I the only one allowed to eat?” asked Megumi. Daichi smirked glancing at her sleeping friends.

“There’s no point in giving food to the restless,” stated Daichi. Megumi frowned under her mask and then pushed the food back to Daichi.

“Thank you for the food, but I’ll pass. It’s not right for me to eat when my companions have had nothing to eat,” stated Megumi. Daichi shrugged and tossed the plate of food to the dog, who immediately devoured the scraps. Daichi stood up staring at Megumi.

“I will tell you this now: you humiliated Kagutsuchi with that kick of yours so be prepared to face punishment tomorrow,” stated Daichi and then left the caged area.

Megumi stared in the direction Daichi went wondering what was planned for tomorrow, but her thought process was interrupted when the dog went to her cage and began to bark rapidly at her. Megumi sighed already figuring out that the dog mostly barked at Shigure and her when they looked at the dog making it clear to Megumi that the dog disliked masks. Megumi tossed a rock from the cage at the dog saying, “Just leave me alone.” The dog followed the rock barking loudly.

Megumi pulled her legs to her chest wondering how to escape. She soon felt the pressure from the steel ropes around her wrists and began to loosen her joints. When her right joint was loose, she pulled out her hand slowly allowing the ropes to grow limp. With one final pull, she was free and just untied the last bit of rope from her left wrist. She pushed her joint back into place rubbing it to make it less sore.

“Haven’t done that for a while,” muttered Megumi. Megumi placed her hand gently on the wooden bars of her cage and shook it slightly in a way that wouldn’t attract the dog to her cage. The bars were loose, but the main problem was still the dog and it didn’t help that the dog absolutely hated her mask.

Megumi glanced at her sleeping companions and realized that even though the dog was there, she had to get them out before the sun rose or they would be forced into slavery. Taking a deep breath in, she shook the bars gently until they broke in half one by one. She tossed the broken pieces to the back and crawled out of the cage.

When she was out, she stood up holding a wooden bar piece just in case she was spotted. To her relief, the dog was nowhere in sight. She approached Len’s cage first and was about to break the bars, but paused when she heard the dog bark behind her and suddenly whimper before falling completely silent. Megumi glanced over her shoulder and saw a man that she recognized holding the dog’s corpse by the neck in his mouth: Mr. Wolf.

“Mr. Wolf?” muttered Megumi. Mr. Wolf nodded dropping the dead dog into his right hand allowing the blood to run down his lips.

“Megumi?” asked Mr. Wolf. Megumi nodded. Mr. Wolf knelt to her height placing his free hand on her mask.

“Why are you wearing a mask?” asked Mr. Wolf. Megumi touched his hand and said, “It was an order.” Megumi removed Mr. Wolf’s hand from her mask and then asked, “Why are you here?”

“I should be asking you that. This is a bandit camp and you are definitely no bandit,” stated Mr. Wolf.

“Well my companions and I were captured on the way to Jogo Province. I’m actually in the process of trying to escape,” stated Megumi. Mr. Wolf furrowed his eyebrow with a frown on his face.

“Did they hurt you?” asked Mr. Wolf. Megumi shook her head and added, “But I did hurt their leader.” Mr. Wolf chuckled and patted Megumi’s head.

“You still haven’t changed,” stated Mr. Wolf. Megumi pushed his hand away again turning back to Len’s cage.

“I would love to talk more, but I have to get my companions out of here before the bandits notice,” stated Megumi. She held the wooden bars and began to break them off one by one. She suddenly felt Mr. Wolf’s breath against the back of her neck making her flinch and look back at him.

“Mr. Wolf I really need to…”

“Let me help,” stated Mr. Wolf in a stern tone. Megumi stared at Mr. Wolf seriously and then nodded saying, “Break the bars of the others’ cages.” Mr. Wolf nodded rushing to Keiki’s cage first, while Megumi slipped into Len’s cage slapping his cheek slightly.

“Len,” whispered Megumi, but in a high enough tone to ring through Len’s ears. Len opened his eyes and saw the outline of Megumi’s mask.

“Megumi?”

Len snapped awake staring at Megumi with wide eyes.

“How did you get out of your cage?” asked Len. Megumi began to untie Len’s hands as she said, “I broke the wooden bars while I wasn’t being watched.”

Len rubbed his free wrists and asked, “What about the dog?”

“Dead,” stated Megumi bluntly. Before Len could say another word, he heard Keiki gasp and then fall silent. Len peeked over Megumi’s shoulder and saw Mr. Wolf pressing his hand against the mouth of Keiki, who was visibly scared. Len turned pale asking, “What is that?”

Megumi glanced at Mr. Wolf and stated, “My friend.”

Megumi helped a shocked Len out of his cage and walked toward Mr. Wolf, who was glaring daggers at Keiki with his sharp nails visible in his free hand.

“Scream and I kill you,” warned Mr. Wolf as he glared at Keiki. Keiki could only shake as he felt the cold hand of Mr. Wolf on his face.

“Don’t hurt him, Mr. Wolf,” stated Megumi and then added, “I need you to help me get the others out.” Mr. Wolf nodded removing his hand from Keiki’s scared face. Mr. Wolf continued to glare at Keiki and whispered, “If you weren’t Megumi’s companion, I would kill you.” Keiki gulped watching Mr. Wolf crawl out of his cage and head to Hatori’s cage.

Keiki slipped out of the cage, his eyes not leaving the wolf like man. Len went to Keiki to untie his hands and asked, “Are you OK?” Keiki nodded still staring at Mr. Wolf.

“That guy does look like a wolf, right?” asked Keiki. Len looked at Mr. Wolf and nodded adding, “Megumi mentioned that he was a friend, so I don’t think we need to worry.” Keiki flinched and shot a look at Len.

“That thing is Megumi’s friend?” demanded Keiki. Len nodded.

“When did he meet that thing?” muttered Keiki. Keiki suddenly remembered the first time he saw a man with wolf like features two years ago and turned pale whispering, “We’re not deer to him, right?” making Len tilt his head in confusion.

They heard Hatori gasp in surprise followed by him grunting. They looked at Hatori only to see him lying on the ground with the remnants of the steel rope lying on his back. Hatori immediately shot up from his feet pushing himself as far away as he can from Mr. Wolf. Mr. Wolf flexed his claws as he glared at Hatori saying, “You scream and I kill you.” Hatori was frozen in fear as Keiki and Len stood behind him.

Keiki looked at Len and asked, “Are you sure we shouldn’t worry?” Len nodded, but with nervous sweat against his brow.

Megumi, in the meantime, broke the bars of Iori’s cage and Shigure’s cage at the same time and called their names to wake them up. Iori was the first to awaken and see Megumi.

“So you finally found a way out?” asked Iori. Megumi nodded and added, “With a little help.” Iori seemed confused at first, but his confusion was soon replaced with shock when he saw Mr. Wolf towering over Hatori with his claws extended. Iori was about to scream, but Megumi immediately covered his mouth and whispered, “Mr. Wolf won’t hurt us, so keep quiet.” Iori nodded with sweat running down the side of his head.

Megumi removed Iori’s bindings just as Shigure began to stir from his slumber. Shigure saw that his cage was opened and slipped out with his hands still tied, but fell completely silent at the sight of Mr. Wolf. Shigure rubbed his eyes a few times to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating, but no matter how many times he looked, the man with wolf like features was still in his sight.

Megumi and Iori took notice of Shigure and went to his side. Iori untied Shigure’s hands as Megumi glanced at Shigure and said, “Mr. Wolf won’t hurt us, so don’t be afraid.” Shigure glanced at Megumi managing to point a finger at Mr. Wolf.

“You know that man?” asked Shigure. Megumi nodded and added, “He’s a friend who has come to help us.” With that, Megumi went to Mr. Wolf placing her hand on his extended wrist. Mr. Wolf looked at Megumi lowering his claws and softening his look.

“Are your companions out?” asked Mr. Wolf. Megumi nodded and added, “We just need to find a way out of this bandit camp without any of us getting harmed.”

Mr. Wolf nodded and glared at the others making them flinch in place.

“Stay close to Megumi or I will kill you,” stated Mr. Wolf. All of them nodded visibly shaking. Mr. Wolf took the dead dog in his right hand and jumped to a high branch of a tree. He glanced down at Megumi and said, “I’ll find a safe path, so wait here.”

Megumi nodded and called back, “I will tell you this. We will move if a guard comes.” Mr. Wolf nodded and leapt through the trees.

When Mr. Wolf was nowhere in sight, Keiki ran to Megumi asking, “Is he really your friend?” Megumi nodded and added, “I met him when I was very young.”

Hatori rubbed his chin and said, “To think that the wolf creature from the Provinces’ tales were true.” Shigure nodded and added, “I am more surprised that Megumi has met him before.” They all nodded in agreement.

Len looked at Megumi with excited eyes and stated, “You really are amazing to make friends with a creature like him.” Megumi chuckled and stated, “You guys would like him too if you got to know him.”

The atmosphere they had was suddenly broken at the sound of approaching footsteps. Megumi and the others hid in any place that could conceal them: Megumi hid behind a tree with Len; Keiki ducked behind a barrel; Shigure and Hatori ducked behind a large bush; and Iori hid behind the wall of a shack.

As they suspected, the approaching presence was indeed one of the bandits with a torch in his hand. This bandit wore a headband stained black and clothes that seemed ready to fall apart.

The bandit gasped at the broken empty cages and looked around. He was about to run back and call for back-up, but Megumi leapt from behind the tree and karate chopped the back of his neck, knocking him out completely.

The others slipped out of their hiding places looking down at the unconscious man.

“I think we should get moving,” stated Megumi. The others nodded in agreement.

They went down the same path the bandit emerged from looking in every direction to make sure they wouldn’t be ambushed. Megumi suddenly heard approaching footsteps and groaned looking back at the others.

“Someone’s coming,” stated Megumi. Keiki and Hatori prepared to fight, while Shigure, Len, and Iori hid behind them. Megumi went into her unique fighting stance, but paused when she saw a sliver of light from the corner of her eye. She nudged the wall where the light leaked from and smirked under her mask when she saw that the wall was actually a hidden door. She pushed it open all the way and urged the others to follow her in. They did as they were told and the moment they were in, Megumi shut the door just as two bandits walked passed, unaware of their escape.

Megumi heaved out a sigh of relief and glanced back at the others.

“Everyone OK?” asked Megumi. They all nodded, but Len was visibly still shaking.

Megumi noticed a lantern in the room and lifted it up to illuminate the room in light revealing a row of different colored clothing and goods. Iori touched one of the garments and commented, “This looks like one of the clothing that the bandits were wearing.” Shigure nodded in agreement and then grabbed a pouch filled with gold coins from a shelf.

“I’m guessing this is also where they store their stolen goods,” stated Shigure.

Megumi glanced around the room and spotted her dagger and sword lying on the ground. She picked them up refastening it to her belt. She looked at the others and ordered them to search the room for their weapons or anything else they could use to fight back. They nodded and began to search the room.

As they searched, Megumi began to grab some of the clothes that were similar to the bandit clothing. Keiki noticed what Megumi was doing and asked, “What are those for?”

“To avoid meaningless fighting, I think it is best that we disguise ourselves as bandits,” stated Megumi.

“That’s a good idea, but wouldn’t your mask give us away?” asked Keiki. Megumi touched her mask and then tore a piece of the clothing. She twisted her dagger in her right hand and then began to slice two holes into the cloth. When she was done, she immediately removed her mask, without anyone having a glimpse of her face, and wrapped the cloth around the top half of her face. The holes in the cloth revealed her eyes and the bottom half of her face, but everything else was concealed.

“I think this will do for a mask,” stated Megumi. Megumi glanced at Keiki and noticed how red his face had become as he stared at her.
“Something wrong?” asked Megumi. Keiki shook his head scratching the back of his head sheepishly.

“It’s just been awhile since I saw the color of your eyes clearly,” stated Keiki. Megumi rolled her eyes as she began to organize the clothes she removed and added, “Don’t get used to it.” Keiki nodded with a saddened expression.

After a few minutes of searching, Megumi and the others left the room they were in wearing the bandit clothing. On their faces were cloths that covered the bottom half of their face, but Shigure wore a hood that nearly concealed his face since his half mask couldn’t be removed. Megumi, on the other hand, still wore the makeshift mask, but also wrapped a cloth around her long silk like hair revealing the back of her neck.

Megumi closed the door firmly behind them and then glanced at the others saying, “Try not to say a word.” They nodded and were about to walk out when they heard voices yelling, “The Prisoners have escaped!”

Len seemed ready to panic, but Megumi held his hand gently and said, “Act natural.” Len nodded as he followed Megumi with the others out of the pathway.

When they finally exited the path, the bandit camp was in chaos. Bandits ran around trying to search for the escaped prisoners and some were even grabbing weapons.

Keiki scoffed and whispered, “All this fuss because we got out?” Megumi shook her head and whispered, “Something’s wrong.”

One of the bandits suddenly spotted them and yelled, “What are you doing just standing there?”

“What’s going on?” asked Len, but immediately covered his mouth after.

The bandit narrowed his eyes and said, “My Gods, you guys are stupid. The prisoners have escaped. The ones that took almost all of us to capture.” Megumi narrowed her eyes and asked, “What about the ones we captured this morning?”

“Who cares about them? They are still locked up, but those prisoners that escaped are dangerous. They might kill us all, so get to work on finding them.”

As the bandit ran off, Megumi and the others looked at each other coming with the same conclusion: this was their chance to escape unnoticed.

Megumi and the others walked through the running bandits with the exit in their mind, but Megumi was forced to stop in her tracks when she heard the voice of Kagutsuchi yell, “You over there!” Megumi looked toward where Kagutsuchi’s voice emerged from and saw him standing near his tent with only his torn pants and the bandage around his neck on. Megumi pointed at herself and asked, “Are you talking to me?”

Kagutsuchi nodded making Megumi frown. She looked at the others and whispered, “Head to the exit.”

“But…”

“That’s an order,” whispered Megumi. They all nodded and left Megumi’s side as Megumi headed toward Kagutsuchi. Even though they were leaving her, they all, except for Iori and Shigure, were worried for her wellbeing.

Megumi stood before Kagutsuchi with seriousness in her eyes.

“What do you need Leader?” asked Megumi, already figuring out that only close people called him by his name. Kagutsuchi stared at Megumi and asked, “How long have you worked here?”

“I just entered the bandit group recently sir,” stated Megumi with no nervousness behind her voice. Kagutsuchi had a suspicious look, but then said, “I need you to search the camp with Daichi.”

“Why me sir?” asked Megumi.

“You look strong enough,” stated Kagutsuchi and then headed back to his tent. Megumi groaned staring at his closed tent, but then felt a hand on her shoulder making her turn around. Standing before her was the bandit named Daichi.

“I heard Kagutsuchi’s order, so let’s go,” stated Daichi. Megumi nodded and began to follow Daichi hoping that her companions made it out of the camp.

Daichi and her roamed the camp that was still in chaos. Megumi glanced at Daichi and asked, “I wasn’t there when we captured the prisoners, so can you tell me about them?” Daichi nodded with seriousness in his eyes.

“They’re known as the Reapers, a group of three people that had their families killed by bandits. It wasn’t our gang though that did it. They stole from countless bandits and wiped them out. We don’t know why, but the way they fight is like they had abandoned any form of humanity they had left.”

“Why take them prisoner then?” asked Megumi.

“Kagutsuchi hoped to get the information of where the stolen goods that the Reapers took were hidden. It took almost all of us just to capture them and lock them in a cage, but they got out somehow and now we don’t know where they are or if they are planning to kill us all.”

Megumi frowned and stated, “Can you win against the bringers of the dead?” Daichi nodded and added, “As long as Kagutsuchi is here.” Megumi nodded realizing that Daichi truly worshipped Kagutsuchi as a leader.

Megumi suddenly heard a scream that quickly ended and looked down the path which led to where her cage was before. Megumi frowned coming to the realization that the two bandits that went down that path didn’t report them missing, which made her come to the conclusion that those bandits never left that path.

Megumi nudged Daichi’s side making him look at her and whispered, “I think they might be down that path.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I remember seeing two bandits go down that path and they haven’t come out at all or is that normal here?” stated Megumi. Daichi frowned gripping the handle of his sword.

“Let’s check it out,” ordered Daichi. Megumi nodded following Daichi, while also drawing out her sword.

They entered the path with cautious eyes looking at every corner of the path. As they ventured further, they began to smell the thickness of blood. Daichi gritted his teeth as he emerged from the path to the caged area that had blood and body parts all over the ground. It seemed like the two bandits had been torn apart by wild animals. Daichi cringed at the sight and looked at Megumi, who stared at the bodies with wide eyes.

“You have good instincts,” stated Daichi. Megumi nodded, her eyes not leaving the horrific scene before her. Megumi suddenly took notice of the bandit that she knocked out and sighed in relief when she saw that he was still breathing. Megumi ran to his side making Daichi stare at Megumi with wide eyes. Megumi knelt next to the unconscious bandit and then looked back at Daichi.

“This one is still alive,” stated Megumi. Daichi nodded running to her side, but then he came to the realization that the guard dog was nowhere in sight and that the cages were broken and empty.

“So these prisoners escaped too,” muttered Daichi. Megumi nodded and stated, “We should focus on the dangerous ones first.” Daichi nodded in agreement. Megumi attempted to lift the unconscious man, but stopped when she heard a rustle from above and her instincts told her that this approaching presence was no friend. She immediately lifted the unconscious man onto her back in a swift motion and then jumped from the spot toward Daichi yelling, “Get down!”

Just as Megumi landed in front of Daichi, the place she once stood in was engulfed by flames. Daichi stared at the sea of flames with Megumi and then they both heard a high pitched laugh. They looked up and saw standing in the trees, a girl with mud colored hair with barely any form of clothing cackling as she looked at them with crazed eyes. In her hands were a lit match and a bottle of what looked like Sake.

“The Flame Reaper,” muttered Daichi with horror in his eyes. The Flame Reaper chuckled as she chugged the bottle of Sake and then held the flame to her lips. In a matter of moments the liquid left her mouth and touched the flame creating a stream of flame heading toward them. Daichi and Megumi rolled out of the way as the flames flowed out. Megumi suddenly saw a glimpse of silver from the corner of her eye and turned quickly just as a rain of shards emerged from behind her.

Megumi looked at the source of the silver shards and saw a slouched man with scars covering his entire face that it was hard to see if he even had a face at all. Even his skin seemed to be oozing with age old puss and fungus. The only clothing he had covered his manhood, but just barely for that little clothing was also in tatters. His hands were covered in blood and in his left hand was a sack with traces of silver shards peeking out from the tears. He seemed more like a monster than a man.

Without saying another word, he dipped his hands into the sack and then tossed more shards toward Megumi in a swift motion. Megumi turned out of the way, but was forced to dodge more flames that emerged from above. Megumi heard Daichi scream and darted her eyes in his direction only to see him fighting a man in blood stained clothes. This very man’s hair was a tangled black mess and to her surprise had no nose and only had one ear on his right side. The ear on his left was long gone, most likely sliced off. In his hands were twin blades and his eyes looked blood red that he already seemed like a demon born. This man swiped his blades at Daichi repeatedly making it hard for Daichi to block.

Megumi tried to run to his aid, but was forced to dodge again when a rain of silver shards came her way. She did a back flip holding the unconscious bandit still on her back. She landed on her feet glaring at the two Reapers before her.

“I can see why it was hard to capture you guys,” muttered Megumi. Megumi placed the bandit upon her back on the ground gently and whispered, “I’ll protect you.” Megumi then went into a fighting stance before the two Reapers.

In a matter of moments, the silver shards mixed with flames darted toward Megumi. In a swift motion, Megumi drew her sword and dagger and began to deflect the flame covered shards in different directions. Megumi smirked realizing that deflecting the shards were nothing compared to her training with her master Chuckles.

Megumi held her weapons in hand as the shards remained buried in the ground before her. She could tell that the two Reapers were shocked by her deflecting ability, but they still had eyes that barely showed any human emotion. Megumi prepared herself for any attack from the two Reapers, but before she knew it, a shadow appeared behind the Flame Reaper and shoved her out of the tree. The Flame Reaper slammed into the ground, but was very much alive as she staggered to her feet.

Megumi glanced up at the tree and saw Mr. Wolf standing on the same branch the Flame Reaper once stood on with seriousness in his eyes. Megumi smiled saying his name. Mr. Wolf nodded at her with a smile, but then turned to a frown as he glared at the two Reapers below his feet. He extended his claws baring his teeth.

“How dare you attempt to harm him,” growled Mr. Wolf and then pounced at the two Reapers. The two Reapers threw attacks at Mr. Wolf without a second thought. Mr. Wolf swiped at the silver shards coming at him without even flinching and when the flames came at him, he just raised his hands allowing his arms to take the damage.

Megumi stared at Mr. Wolf’s fighting style with wide eyes, but snapped out of her awe when she saw Daichi get shoved into a wall. The Reaper with two swords was ready to slice Daichi’s head clean off and even Daichi believed that his life was about to end, but to his and the Reaper’s surprise, Megumi was between them blocking the swords of the Reaper with her own blades. The Reaper gritted his teeth as he whipped his blades away from Megumi and attempted to cut her legs, but Megumi leapt up and kicked his chin forcing him back in a tumble.

Daichi stared at Megumi’s back and whispered his thanks to her, while rubbing his still intact neck. Megumi nodded and said, “Stay focused.” Daichi nodded as he stood up grabbing his own blade, but seemed to turn pale, when he finally took notice of Mr. Wolf fighting the Flame Reaper and the Silver Shard Reaper.

“A wolf man?” muttered Daichi. Megumi glanced at Daichi and said, “He’s not an enemy.” Daichi gulped not too sure of Megumi’s words.

Daichi snapped out of his shock when he saw a stray silver shard heading toward him. Megumi pushed Daichi down, but the shard managed to slice the cloth around Megumi’s hair, letting it loose.

As Megumi’s hair began to flow down, Daichi seemed mesmerized staring at her loose hair. Daichi gulped and whispered, “Are you one of the escaped prisoners?” Megumi nodded and whispered, “You can focus on capturing me later.” With that, Megumi forced Daichi back up and made him face their current opponent:  the Reaper with the two swords, but better known by Bandits as the Butcher Reaper. The Butcher Reaper stood up glaring at Megumi and Daichi.

Megumi and Daichi went into fighting stance facing the Butcher Reaper who seemed ready to slice them at any given moment. It seemed to happen in a flash when the Butcher Reaper charged at them and was suddenly in front of them. The Butcher Reaper swung his blade toward Daichi’s neck in a quick motion, but Megumi was faster for she blocked his blade with her dagger and then kicked him away before swinging her blade at him. The Butcher Reaper managed to dodge her blade and thrust his blade forward toward her stomach. Megumi leapt back just as Daichi swung his blade at the Butcher Reaper. The Butcher Reaper dodged and spun his second blade toward Daichi’s leg. Daichi barely managed to dodge as he stepped back and leapt up swinging his blade at the Butcher Reaper again. The Butcher Reaper blocked with both blades, but gasped in pain when Megumi’s blade connected to his shoulder. The Butcher Reaper pulled to the side yanking Megumi’s blade from his shoulder sending blood shooting to the ground.

The Butcher Reaper glared at Megumi, but Megumi didn’t even flinch. Without warning, the Butcher Reaper threw a blade that was hidden in his back at Daichi. The blade buried itself in Daichi’s right leg making him scream out in pain and fall to the ground gripping his impaled leg. Megumi gasped looking at Daichi and the Butcher Reaper took this chance to run at her with the pointed blade of his swords at her. Megumi saw the Butcher Reaper in time and blocked both blades with her own blades, but was forced back into a wall. The Butcher Reaper didn’t withdraw his blades, but only pressed the blades harder into Megumi’s blades trying to force them to break. Megumi gritted her teeth, realizing that the Butcher Reaper’s strength was almost unnatural.

Megumi lifted her leg to knee him between his legs to make him lose the fight, but the Butcher Reaper suddenly fell still and blood began to trickle down his lips making Megumi’s eyes widen. The Butcher Reaper slipped to the ground falling face first into the ground. Blood flowed from a wound on his back and the one that stood behind him was Mr. Wolf with blood on his hands.

“Mr. Wolf?” muttered Megumi. Mr. Wolf glanced at the Butcher Reaper who seemed barely alive and then at Megumi.

“I took care of the ones that tried to kill you,” stated Mr. Wolf. Megumi looked over Mr. Wolf’s shoulder and cringed. The Flame Reaper and the Reaper with the silver shards were covered in blood and seemed to be almost torn apart. Megumi glanced at Mr. Wolf and asked, “You killed them?” Mr. Wolf nodded lowering his head.

“I didn’t want to kill them with you here, but they were no longer human and needed to be killed before they hurt more people,” stated Mr. Wolf. Megumi stared at Mr. Wolf and showed a small smile saying, “I know that you killed them for a reason, so please don’t cry.” Mr. Wolf looked up with traces of tears in his eyes.

Megumi suddenly heard the Butcher Reaper cough and looked down at him. He seemed to be choking as he tried to say something. The Butcher Reaper coughed out blood gripping his blades.

“I need…need to…kill…those bandits,” whispered the Butcher Reaper trying to get up with blood flowing from his back. Megumi knelt in front of the Butcher Reaper pulling his blade from his grasp.

“I’m sorry, but your revenge ends here,” stated Megumi. The Butcher Reaper clenched his fist and whispered, “If only I knew where those bandits are…the ones who killed my family.”

The Butcher Reaper pointed at the blade in Megumi’s hand and added, “The ones with the same name as my weapon.” The Butcher Reaper coughed out blood as his eyes became pale and his form became still.

Megumi dropped the blade with a frown on her lips.

“Megumi?” stated Mr. Wolf as he reached toward her. Megumi stood up abruptly making Mr. Wolf flinch and then whispered, “So they have even made people go mad to the point they are no longer human.”

“Who are you talking about?” asked Mr. Wolf. Megumi’s frown deepened and stated, “The ones the Reapers called bandits. The BANDITS’ true name was the Blade Gang.”

Mr. Wolf could see the hate in Megumi’s eyes and immediately hugged her telling her to calm down. Megumi gulped extinguishing the anger within her and whispering her thanks to Mr. Wolf.

Megumi heard Daichi gasp in pain and looked at him. She saw Daichi trying to pull the blade from his leg and immediately ran to Daichi pushing Mr. Wolf away gently. She placed a hand on Daichi’s hand making him look at her.

“Don’t pull out the blade, until you stop the blood flow,” stated Megumi. Daichi gulped and nodded with pain apparent in his face. Megumi tore a piece of her shirt and began to tie it tightly to Daichi’s leg. Daichi cringed as the pressure in his wounded leg increased. He managed to look at Megumi as she tied his leg and asked, “Why did you stay?”

“I was called by your leader, so I had to stay, but I did manage to get the others out of your camp at least,” stated Megumi, not tearing his eyes away from his leg. Daichi then glanced at the dead bodies of the Reapers and then asked, “Then why did you stay after getting rid of the Reapers? You could have left me here to bleed and escaped. Why?”

Megumi smirked at Daichi and said, “Because I’m human.” Daichi fell silent staring at Megumi, but he snapped of his thoughts when he heard approaching footsteps. Megumi seemed to hear the footsteps too and stood up.

“I have to go, but your companions should be able to help you and your unconscious friend,” stated Megumi. Megumi was about to walk off, but Daichi grabbed her ankle making her look back at him.

“My name is Daichi, please remember it.”

Megumi nodded and said, “Remember the name Megumi as well, Daichi.”

Megumi slipped from Daichi’s grasp and seemed ready to run off, but she was suddenly grabbed by Mr. Wolf and was dragged to the trees above out of sight making Daichi gasp.

Within moments, Daichi’s bandit companions ran into the area, some coming to his aid. Daichi didn’t seem to hear their voices as he stared in the area where Megumi once stood.

Megumi could feel the firm grasp of Mr. Wolf around her waist and looked back at him as he leapt through the trees.

“I could have escaped on my own,” stated Megumi. Mr. Wolf shook his head and whispered, “I didn’t want to take the chance.” Megumi chuckled placing a hand on his arm whispering her thanks. Mr. Wolf turned red in the cheeks as he leapt into another tree just above the camp.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Wolf and Megumi, from the bottom they were spotted by Fatin, who stood out of Kagutsuchi’s tent. She stared at Mr. Wolf’s form as he leapt into a tree, mesmerized by his wolf features and graceful movements. She felt like her heart was fluttering just at the sight of him. She felt that she had to possess him.

Her thoughts were abruptly stopped when she heard Kagutsuchi call her name making her look at him.

“Get back inside, Fatin,” ordered Kagutsuchi. Fatin nodded and took one last look up at the trees hoping to see the wolf man again.

Mr. Wolf and Megumi soon reached the main path, where Mr. Wolf landed. Mr. Wolf placed Megumi down gently and said, “I’ll make sure those bandits won’t interfere with your journey again.” Megumi nodded and added, “Just don’t kill them.” Mr. Wolf nodded and jumped back into the trees out of sight.

Megumi sighed and then looked toward the main path. To her relief she saw her companions at their abandoned carriage. Megumi ran to them calling their names.

Keiki was the first to react at the sight of Megumi and ran to her saying her name. Before Megumi could say another word, Keiki pulled her into an embrace making Megumi gasp in surprise.

“Stupid, I…we were worried,” stated Keiki, hugging Megumi tighter. Megumi smiled pushing Keiki away from her gently.

“I’m fine,” stated Megumi calmly and then headed to the others with Keiki following. Megumi was immediately greeted by Len and Hatori, while Shigure and Iori stayed next to the carriage with annoyed looks. Megumi smiled at them saying, “I’m glad you’re unharmed.”

“Well those stupid bandits were distracted,” stated Iori in annoyance. Shigure nodded in agreement. Megumi chuckled finding Iori’s words kind of appealing, but then she noticed that the path that was blocked was now open. Megumi pointed at the place that once held the rubble and asked, “What happened to the rubble?”

“It was gone when we got here,” stated Hatori. Megumi looked at the area and then noticed an imprint of a foot with claws and smiled.

“It looks like Mr. Wolf helped us a lot this night,” stated Megumi. Megumi suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder and glanced back only to see Shigure’s serious face.

“We are moving out tonight, but I want you tell me more about this Mr. Wolf character,” stated Shigure. Megumi nodded and finally took notice of the two horses near the carriage.

“So you guys managed to get horses too?” asked Megumi. Len nodded and showed an apple saying, “I used your suggestion on taming the horses.” Megumi remembered her suggestion to Len on the day they first met and smiled saying, “You learn quickly.” Len’s cheeks became tinted red as he looked away from Megumi shyly. Iori noticed this and found himself in a sour mood once again.

Megumi and Keiki strapped the horses to the carriage and then looked at the others saying, “We’re ready to go.” Shigure, Len, and Iori went into the carriage, while Keiki and Hatori both climbed into the driver’s seat of the carriage. Megumi opened the carriage door and climbed in. Before she closed the door, she looked in the direction of the bandit camp and remembered Mr. Wolf, bringing a smile to her lips.

“Hope to see you again, Mr. Wolf,” whispered Megumi and then shut the carriage door. The moment she was seated, she slipped on a black mask and the carriage finally began to move again toward the first Province in Megumi’s journey.

Meanwhile, Kagutsuchi was within his tent with Fatin by his side chewing at his right thumb nail. He was irritated at the news that the Reapers he had tried so hard to capture were practically slaughtered by something unknown. He had questioned Daichi, but Daichi claimed to know nothing that the slaughter happened in a flash. What really angered Kagutsuchi the most though was that his new prisoners had also escaped during the confusion. His mind wandered to Megumi and her mask. He bit the tip of his nail off with anger in his eyes.

“Kagutsuchi, are you all right?” asked Fatin. Without warning, Kagutsuchi slapped Fatin’s cheek sending her to the ground.

“My king?”

“Leave.”

“But…”

“LEAVE NOW!”

Fatin gritted her teeth running out of the tent, clenching the side of her slapped cheek.

The moment Fatin was gone, Kagutsuchi grabbed a bottle of Sake and gulped it down. He slammed the bottle down on his table breathing heavily.

“I will find you. No matter where you go, I will find you, Megumi.”

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