Bunkai 28: Mysterious Deaths

Since Yulan was first established, Jogo Province had been the best place to get any medicinal herbs and medical treatment. The reason was because the Province was named after the Immortal Jogo, who was known as the greatest healer. His teachings in the healing arts live in Jogo Province’s legacy and it was said that no one in record had surpassed any medicine he had made. There was also a legend that the Immortal Jogo created a medicine that could heal any wound and the recipe for this miracle medicine had yet to be found. It was also said that whoever figured out the recipe and mastered it would be the greatest doctor in history, even greater than the Immortal Jogo.

The cry of the rooster echoed through Jogo Province awakening all that needed to live. One of the inhabitants in Jogo Province that answered to the rooster’s call was Reiji Kou, an Official and hard worker in Jogo Province. That very day, he got ready for his Official duties as usual and then headed out the door with financial scrolls in his grasp.

Reiji walked down the path of Jogo Province as people began to leave their houses to do their daily chores and some to open their stands for the market place of Jogo Province. Reiji took five more steps before seeing a familiar face enter the market area: Bakura Hoshi, an Official of Jogo Province.

“Bakura!” called Reiji waving his hand toward Bakura. Bakura glanced at Reiji and smirked, whipping out his fan from his long, loose sleeve.

“Good morning Reiji, off to the Official building?” asked Bakura. Reiji nodded finally reaching Bakura.

“I want to finish the finance scrolls as soon as possible for Lord Soun,” stated Reiji. Bakura shrugged and stated, “I sometimes feel that you are sucking up to the old man.”

“You shouldn’t talk ill of my uncle,” stated Reiji. Bakura chuckled with a wink.

“Well he is old,” stated Bakura making Reiji heave out a sigh.

They soon began to walk toward their workplace side by side. As they walked, Reiji soon asked, “Where is Youko?”

“He left early for work so he could get a head start on making the budget proposals,” stated Bakura and then added, “I wish he could have waited for the rooster to call before leaving, but he’s stubborn like that.” Reiji nodded in agreement, quite aware that Youko was highly dedicated to his work to the point of not sleeping at times.

Reiji suddenly remembered Megumi’s dedication during their training days and smiled wondering when Megumi would arrive at Jogo Province. He snapped out of his thoughts when he heard the whining of a horse and the wheels of a carriage rolling on hard dirt. He glanced back with Bakura and saw, hanging from a carriage, Megumi Yoh wearing a black mask. Reiji burst into a smile, but that smile faded when he realized that the carriage Megumi was hanging from was stripped of valuables and Megumi was wearing commoner clothes.

Reiji ran to the carriage dropping the scrolls in his grasp, while Bakura looked away from the carriage trying to suppress his laugh. The carriage rolled to a stop as Reiji stopped next to it looking at Megumi with concern in his eyes.

“What happened?” asked Reiji. Megumi chuckled and said, “We just had a little run in with some bandits on the way here, but we got away safely.” Reiji sighed in relief with a smile on his lips. He suddenly felt a firm hand on his head and glanced to the side to see Keiki glaring at him, while sitting on the driver’s seat next to Hatori.

“Don’t get so close to Megumi,” warned Keiki. Reiji gulped, just staring at Keiki.

Megumi whacked Keiki behind the head forcing him to release Reiji and said, “Don’t threaten him so early in the morning.” Keiki pouted looking away from Megumi. Megumi got off the carriage looking at Reiji.

“Can you please lead us to an Inn we can stay in for two days?” asked Megumi. Reiji nodded with a tint of red in his cheeks.

Reiji suddenly felt a firm hand on his right shoulder making him glance back and to his surprise, he saw Bakura smirking at him.

“Weren’t you planning to go to the Official Building early to work on the finance scrolls?” asked Bakura. Reiji gulped and nodded, but then said, “But I really want to help Megumi.” Bakura chuckled, tussling Reiji’s hair.

“Fine, I’ll take care of the work, so you take Megumi and his companions to an Inn,” stated Bakura. Reiji was about to thank Bakura, until Bakura added, “You owe me a drink and an expensive dinner.” Reiji groaned with a reluctant nod. Bakura cheered taking up Reiji’s fallen scrolls.

Bakura glanced at Megumi and smirked saying, “The mask looks good on you.” Bakura then left in a hurry with a smile on his face.

Reiji cleared his throat looking at Megumi and asked, “Shall we?” Megumi nodded and then urged Keiki to move the carriage forward.

As they rolled down the path, Megumi stood next to Reiji asking him about Jogo province. As they talked, Iori stared at Reiji from the carriage window with a bewildered look.

“Who is that Official?” asked Iori.

Len peeked through the window and smiled saying, “His name is Reiji Kou, Megumi’s friend.” Iori clicked his tongue sitting back on his chair.

“So another one of Lord Megumi’s acquaintances,” muttered Iori. Len nodded still smiling and said, “I spoke with him before and he told me he was a rank twenty like me. He works really hard and gets recognized for it. I want to be like him.” Iori could see the admiration in Len’s eyes and clenched his fists with a displeased look.

On the other hand, Shigure was looking through another window toward the stands of Jogo province with seriousness in his eye. He touched the half mask that covered his scar and whispered, “I need to find it.”

Just a few moments before they reached the Inn, Reiji glanced at Megumi and asked, “So are you really OK?” Megumi nodded and stated, “I can just buy some new supplies for the journey, so no worries.” Reiji nodded with a smile.

They were soon greeted to an Inn called Chua Inn, named after the healing snake from the tale of Jogo Province. The others left the carriage staring up at the Inn.

“Chua Inn, good choice Reiji,” stated Megumi. Reiji nodded and added, “They have great service here and if you are low on money, I am willing to pay.” Megumi shook her head.

“This is just fine,” stated Megumi and then glanced at Reiji adding, “Now I think you should return to the Official Building before Bakura decides to add expensive clothing to that deal you made.” Reiji nodded and began to walk off. Before going out of sight, he glanced at Megumi and said, “See you at the Official Building.” Megumi nodded waving goodbye to Reiji.

When Reiji was out of sight, Megumi glanced at Iori and Len and asked, “Can you check us in?” Len and Iori nodded. Megumi removed a couple of coins from the coin pouch they managed to take back and then tossed the pouch to Len. The moment the pouch was in Len’s hand, he ran into the building with Iori.

Megumi then looked at Hatori handing him some of the coins she took from the pouch.

“Can you take the carriage to the stable area?” asked Megumi. Hatori nodded taking the coins and began to lead the horse and carriage down the road.

Megumi then looked at Keiki and said, “We’re going to need to buy some new supplies.” Keiki nodded already understanding what Megumi was asking.

Megumi glanced at Shigure next only to see him already walking off.

“Where are you going Lord Shigure?” asked Megumi.

“To do my business, so don’t follow,” stated Shigure, before walking out of sight.

Keiki scratched the back of his head stating, “I guess it really was important for him to be in Jogo Province.” Megumi nodded saying, “It’s best to leave him be.”

Keiki and Megumi soon began to head to the market heading in the opposite direction of Shigure.

Meanwhile, Youko Tai, was in his office writing the budget proposals with a feathered pen. He gave out a long yawn before continuing to write. He was about to write down a character into the budget proposal, but the door to his office suddenly slammed open making him flinch and as a result stab the feather pen down on the proposal. Ink soaked into the proposal making Youko look down with a pale complexion.

“Youko,” stated the familiar sing-song voice of Bakura. Youko took in a few deep breaths before glaring at his so-called friend with almost murderous eyes.

“Can’t you enter my office like a normal person?” demanded Youko. Bakura chuckled fanning himself.

“But my entrance always manages to wake you up, my dear friend,” stated Bakura. Youko groaned grabbing a blank parchment from the side of his desk.

“I don’t need your wake up call, Bakura,” stated Youko, soaking the tip of his feather pen with ink. Bakura shook his finger with a smirk.

“Now, now Youko, you shouldn’t talk to me like that, especially since I have some great news.”

Youko scoffed beginning to write onto the blank parchment.

“What news can be so great that you have to enter my office…again?” asked Youko in almost a mumble. Bakura chuckled staring at Youko’s back.

“A certain High Official has entered Jogo Province today.”

Youko fell still muttering, “High Official?” Bakura nodded and added, “A High Official who got the Diyuan Rank at such a young age.”

Youko looked back at Bakura with wide eyes, dropping the feather pen in his hand.

“Is Megumi Yoh here?” exclaimed Youko. Bakura nodded fanning himself.

“If you recall, Reiji did mention that Megumi would be coming after he returned from the Capital’s Banquet,” stated Bakura. Youko gulped with his cheeks beginning to turn red.

“Do you know when Ang…I mean Megumi is coming to the Official Building?” asked Youko trying to conceal his blush.

“Well Reiji brought Megumi to an Inn with his companions and they did seem low on supplies, so maybe around noon or the evening.”

Youko seemed to grow sadden and muttered, “Is that so?” Bakura chuckled smirking at Youko.

“I can understand that you want to see your darling angel again, but he needs to be proper before coming here,” stated Bakura. Youko groaned sensing that Bakura was silently mocking him.

Youko suddenly noticed the scrolls in Bakura’s grasp and asked, “What are those scrolls for?” Bakura glanced at the scrolls and said, “Finance Scrolls that I promised to work on for Reiji, while Reiji helps Megumi.”

“You did Reiji a favor?” asked Youko with doubt in his voice.

Bakura nodded and added, “For a price of course.” Youko sighed finding Bakura’s remark normal.

Bakura shut his fan placing it back in his sleeve and stated, “I have to work for now, but if you really want to see your darling angel again then head to the market. I can assure you that he will be there.” With that, Bakura left Youko’s Office, but not without slamming the door behind him shaking the shelves.

Youko sat in his chair staring at the half filled parchment and then out his opened window toward the sundial. Youko fidgeted in his chair remembering Bakura’s words and then remembered the taste of the mint cracker that he ate on the day of the Imperial Exam. Youko blushed as he stood up from his chair and headed toward the door, leaving his work, for the first time since becoming an Official, unfinished.

Meanwhile, in the market place, Shigure was looking at the different herb stands. He wasn’t a doctor, but he was knowledgeable on what the herbs displayed were meant to do for the human body. All the herbs he saw were useless to what he wanted to be cured on his body. He placed a hand on his half mask feeling the sting of the burn on his face, even though he knew that the pain of the burn should have ended a long time ago.

Shigure was suddenly shoved forcing him to the ground and tossing his half mask off. Shigure concealed his half damaged face trying to retrieve the mask on the ground, but another person kicked the mask farther from his grasp. Shigure growled crawling after the mask, but another person kicked his side making him fall to the ground with a grunt. He looked up and immediately heard a child cry followed by the child saying that there was a monster. Shigure covered his injured face and grabbed the mask. He shot to his feet fastening the mask on with anger in his eyes.

Shigure walked faster through the market trying to find anything that could heal the burn on his face. What scared Shigure the most at the moment was the reaction of his wife’s face when she sees his scarred face. He didn’t want her to see such a hideous face.

Shigure heard the ringing of a bell and felt inclined to look at a stand that had a cloaked man surrounded by incense. There were no customers around this stand, but the sound of the bell made Shigure feel that he should walk to this stand.

The moment Shigure was before the stand, the cloaked man looked up with pale eyes. He seemed to be around his fifties or sixties with his strands of gray hair and the noticeable wrinkles on his face and hands.

“I see that my bell has called you to my humble stand,” stated the man. Shigure gulped feeling an unsettling feeling.

“Is this a medicine stand?” asked Shigure. The cloaked man nodded and then pointed at Shigure’s mask.

“I believe that you are searching for a medicine that will heal your face,” stated the man. Shigure nodded and then asked, “Do you have any medicines that can heal this burn?” The man nodded pulling a vial filled with light blue liquid from under his stand.

“This is the most powerful medicine that can heal any wound: Umi.”

Shigure’s eyes widened staring at the medicine.

“Umi, but no one has been able to create this medicine. Only the immortal Jogo knows of the recipe,” stated Shigure. The man chuckled.

“I found the recipe years ago during my stay in Jogo Province. I don’t flash it around to be humble and not to put the other medical stands out of business,” stated the man and then added, “I only give the medicine to people who have come to my stand and deserve it.” Shigure gulped staring at the miracle medicine and then asked, “How much?”

The cloaked man smiled as he handed Shigure the vial and said, “I will tell you the price when you return.” Shigure nodded and took the vial, not noticing the smirk of the cloaked man.

On the opposite end of the marketplace, Megumi and Keiki were going to different stands buying different supplies needed for their journey. Megumi had a woman in her sixties fill a bag of white rice and then handed her a single gold coin.

“Is this enough?” asked Megumi. The woman nodded and then handed Megumi the bag of rice along with a sack of fresh oranges.

“Take the oranges as well as a compliment,” stated the woman. Megumi nodded taking the items and then looking back at Keiki.

“I got some extras again,” stated Megumi. Keiki stared at the bag of oranges and then at the other items in the cart they bought.

“I’m amazed that you can still get good deals and freebies even without showing your face,” stated Keiki. Megumi chuckled and stated, “Well I was a merchant.” Megumi placed the bought items in the cart and continued to go forward.

Keiki and Megumi suddenly heard a woman scream and looked pass three stands. On the ground was a young woman kneeling over a young man’s body, crying multiple tears. Megumi immediately ran to the scene, while Keiki followed pulling the supplies on the cart. Megumi approached the woman and asked, “Is something wrong?”

The woman looked at Megumi with tear filled eyes and said, “He won’t get up, no matter how many times I shake him.” Megumi looked at the man on the ground and cringed. The man’s face was covered in deep gashes that seeped blood as if he had been attacked by a wild animal. Two fingers were missing from his right hand and three from his left. Megumi also noticed the blood leaking from his chest area. She ripped his shirt open and saw three gashes on his chest bleeding massively. Megumi placed a hand to his wrist and felt no pulse. This man was long dead.

Megumi looked at the woman and asked, “When did this man collapse?”

“He collapsed only a few moments ago,” stated the woman.

“Are you sure?” asked Megumi. The woman nodded touching the man’s scarred face.

“He didn’t look like this before he fell. Is this a curse?” muttered the woman. Megumi stared back at the man and then looked at the people that were beginning to surround them.

“We need to move this man out. He needs to be sent to the morgue,” stated Megumi. The men within the crowd began to grab a board and sheets and then approached the dead man.

As they began to carry the man, the woman followed with tear streaked eyes. Megumi stood up as Keiki finally reached her.

“What happened?” asked Keiki. Megumi glanced at Keiki and said, “A man died.”

“Do you know the cause?” asked Keiki. Megumi shook her head and said, “But it is strange. The woman claimed that when the man collapsed he didn’t look like this, but those gashes on him looked fresh.”

Keiki scratched the back of his head and said, “That is strange, but it really has nothing to do with us.” Megumi nodded walking away with Keiki.

As they walked, Megumi began to hear some of the people talk silently with each other.

“Another one was cursed.”

“How many is that now?”

“Close to a hundred I heard.”

“And they call this the Province of healing, what a joke.”

Megumi frowned under her mask wondering how long this “curse” had been in Jogo Province.

“Megumi!” called a familiar voice from the distance. Megumi looked ahead along with Keiki and saw Youko in the distance waving to her. He looked the same in Megumi’s eyes, except that he was little taller and wore the Official’s robe.

“Youko?” stated Megumi as Youko made his way to her. When Youko was right in front of her, he smiled and asked, “So you finally arrived in Jogo Province?” Megumi nodded.

Youko looked around Megumi and then noticed Keiki and asked, “Why is the Mafia youth with you?” Megumi glanced at Keiki and said, “He is just assisting me.”

Keiki nodded and added, “Besides, I refuse to leave Megumi’s side.” Megumi sighed, while Youko felt a small sting in his heart. Youko ignored the sting and then asked, “Bakura told me that Reiji was with you. Where is he?”

“I sent him back to work since Bakura might demand more from him if he takes too long to return.”

“Sadly, I believe Bakura would do that,” stated Youko. Youko scratched the back of his head with a light blush against his cheek and asked, “Do you need any help?”

“Not really since Keiki is here, but do you really have the time to help me, Youko?” asked Megumi. Youko nodded completely forgetting the work he left unfinished in his office.

“Well if you are really intent on helping, can you go to Lord Soun and tell him that I will arrive around one in the afternoon to discuss the matters of Jogo Province?” asked Megumi. Youko nodded, but his face looked saddened. Megumi thanked Youko and urged Keiki to follow as they began to walk away.

Youko stared at Megumi’s retreating back, but then clenched his fist and called, “It was nice to see you again!”

Megumi stopped in her tracks and glanced back at Youko saying, “It was nice to see you too.” Youko smiled at the sound of her voice as Megumi continued down the road, but still felt sad that as long as Megumi wore the mask, he would never see her angelic smiling face again.

Back in the Inn, Iori was lying on the bed, while Len stared out the Inn window with a sigh. Iori groaned glancing at Len.

“Lord Megumi will return later, so just relax,” stated Iori. Len shook his head.

“I want to wait for Megumi,” stated Len. Iori rolled his eyes rolling onto his stomach.

“I still don’t understand why you look up to Lord Megumi so much. Sure he asks for your help a lot and has VERY unusual acquaintances, but there are lots of people like him.”

Len glanced at Iori with a smile and stated, “But there is only one Megumi. He has a heart of gold compared to the people I have met since becoming an Official. I want to be like him.”

Iori groaned turning away from Len.

“Fine, be like him for all I care,” stated Iori. Len nodded turning back to the window.

Iori glanced at Len again and noticed the warmness in Len’s eyes as he looked out the window. If Iori didn’t know better, it was like Len was waiting for the return of the love of his life. Iori felt sick just thinking about it.

Iori saw Len’s smile brighten and knew that Megumi was headed toward the Inn.

Len immediately rushed out of the room making Iori gasp and run after him yelling, “You don’t have to hurry!” Len didn’t seem to hear Iori’s words as he rushed down the hall and then down the flight of stairs determined to reach the front desk. Len soon reached the bottom and felt instant joy at the sight of Megumi entering the Inn with Keiki beside her.

“Welcome back Megumi,” greeted Len, but flinched when he saw the murderous gaze of Keiki. Len gulped and added, “Welcome back Keiki.” Keiki nodded with crossed arms.

Megumi went to Len and asked, “So have Iori and you got the rooms?” Len nodded handing Megumi four keys with numbers attached to it.

“Iori and I have room number 30, Hatori and Keiki have room 35, Lord Shigure has room 36, and you have room 50.”

Keiki furrowed his eyebrow and asked, “Why does Megumi get a room to himself?”

“Well he is a High Official and I thought he would want to sleep alone. The Inn owner also insisted that Megumi get the best room since he is a High Official. It was the same with Lord Shigure.”

“You don’t even think this is unfair?” exclaimed Keiki making Len cower in place. Megumi elbowed Keiki’s side making Keiki cringe and lower his head.

“You and Iori did well, Len,” stated Megumi. Len burst into a smile, but the smile faded when he heard Iori’s angry voice exclaim, “I told you that you didn’t have to hurry!” Len glanced over his shoulder only to see an angry Iori glaring at him. Len could tell that Iori was very angry and bowed repeatedly apologizing.

Megumi chuckled making Iori look at her.

“I apologize if Len left you behind, but you both did well in what I asked,” stated Megumi. Iori scoffed looking away from Megumi.

Megumi placed a hand on Len’s back making Len glance at her and said, “I need you two to tidy up before we head to the Official Building.” Len and Iori nodded heading back upstairs.

Keiki crossed his arms and said, “I’ll get ready too.” Megumi shook her head and said, “I need you to remain in the Inn.”

“WHY?”

“Hatori has yet to return and I need you to tell him where his room is. It is the same for Lord Shigure. Just consider this as your first training toward the path of being an Official.”

Keiki groaned leaning against the wall of the Inn.

“You better return fast.”

Megumi chuckled and said, “No promises.” Keiki pouted in response.

Len and Iori soon returned in their training attire and joined Megumi as they began to leave the Inn.

When Megumi, Iori, and Len were out of sight, Keiki groaned sitting against the wall with a frown.

“Come back sooner,” muttered Keiki.

As Megumi, Len, and Iori headed toward the Official Building, Len looked at the passing stands with admiration in his eyes.

“This is my first time in Jogo Province,” stated Len. Megumi chuckled and stated, “It’s my first time too.”

“Seriously?” asked Iori finding Megumi’s remark surprising. Megumi nodded and stated, “The only two Provinces I have even been in are Eva Province and Go Province, my birth place.”

“So you are from Go province?” asked Iori. Megumi nodded and added, “But I haven’t been there for nearly two years since I became an Official.”

“Are you looking forward to go to Go Province?” asked Len. Megumi chuckled adjusting her mask.

“I would be lying if I said no,” stated Megumi making Len smile. Iori frowned at the sight of Len smiling at Megumi and crossed his arms.

They soon reached the Official Building that had two guards at the gate. Just the silver gate alone made the Official Building of Jogo Province look like it was meant to house a king.

Megumi approached the guards, who immediately went into attention looking at Megumi. Megumi held a hand to her chest and said, “My name is Megumi Yoh, High Official of the Capital. I have come for an audience with Lord Soun.”

The guards looked to each other and then nodded looking back at Megumi.

“We were informed on your arrival by Lord Youko, Lord Bakura, and Lord Reiji. You may pass.”

Megumi nodded and then glanced back at Iori and Len.

“These two are the trainees under my order, so please let them pass as well.”

The guards nodded allowing them all access into the Official Building.

All three of them walked in being first greeted by a luscious garden filled with fruit trees and bushes filled with medicinal herbs. Just the sight made it clear to Megumi that she was indeed in Jogo Province for all plants within the Province were dedicated to healing the people.

They walked pass the garden and into a passage with pure white pillars that were shined to perfection and down the end of this very hall was the door leading to Lord Soun’s office. In truth, this would be the first time Megumi would see the inside of Soun’s office and that thought made her slightly nervous, but her pride gave her strength, but the same couldn’t be said for Len who was shaking like a leaf with Iori trying to calm him down. It was obvious that Len was nervous to be in a new place, so Megumi glanced back at him and stated, “You’ll be fine, Len.” Megumi’s words made Len instantly calm down, but Iori frowned in discontent.

They soon reached the door and Megumi knocked softly hoping that Soun wasn’t in the middle of work.

“Who is it?” asked the loud and yet demanding voice of Soun.

“Megumi Yoh,” Megumi stated quickly, but with charisma. There was silence for a short while before Soun’s voice said, “Ah yes, I was expecting you. Please come in.” Megumi opened the door and saw, for the first time, the office of Soun Kou. The office was lined with books filled with information of Jogo Province throughout the years and at the center near the large opened window was the red desk of Soun Kou with Soun Kou sitting in front of it with his arms folded on the desk.

Soun Kou had a thick black beard and piercing brown eyes that resembled those of a tiger ready to devour his prey. He was part of the highest ranked Officials and to prove his worth, he was assigned to run Jogo Province. Just standing in his presence, you could feel how much charisma he had.

Megumi approached Soun whispering to Iori and Len to close the door behind them. At the sound of the closing door, Soun began to speak.

“I was informed by Reiji that you had a run in with bandits before reaching here, is that correct?”

Megumi nodded and held her hands to her attire saying, “The reason why I am not in my Official robes, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are equals, Lord Soun.” Soun’s serious look turned to a smile as he began to laugh.

“I see that you are still lively Lord Megumi, even after facing bandits.”

“Come on now, Lord Soun, I told you last year to call me Megumi.”

“Same to you, I told you to call me Soun.”

Megumi and Soun both chuckled with Len and Iori watching them with wide eyes.

“So you two met before?” asked Len. Megumi nodded.

Iori raised an eyebrow asking, “But didn’t you say this is your first time in Jogo Province?”

“That’s true, but I met Lord Soun last year in the Banquet, when he decided to attend and not send a substitute.”

Soun chuckled saying, “I’m glad I didn’t go since so many people got poisoned this year.”

“Poisoned?” Iori and Len exclaimed at once. Megumi chuckled ignoring the two trainees’ outburst.

“Enough of the small talk, Soun. I came here to discuss about your Province.”

“Ah yes,” stated Soun and then yanked out a parchment from his desk drawer. He held it to Megumi saying, “All the information concerning the budget flow of the Province as well as the taxes that I have collected from the people.” Megumi took the parchment and then glanced at Len and Iori.

“I am going to look over this quickly, so please ask anything about Jogo Province to Lord Soun,” stated Megumi. Iori and Len nodded and went to Soun, who waited for them with a smile.

Iori cleared his throat feeling nervous around the Official.

“So what taxes do you collect here?”

“Simple taxes like the use of the Herbal water lake, the market stands location, and property tax, but I’m pretty sure you are familiar with the last two.”

Iori nodded rubbing his chin in thought.

“The Herbal water lake tax is only here in Jogo Province since there is only one lake like it in the entirety of Yulan.”

“That’s correct. It is said that the Immortal Jogo created the lake, but we can’t risk it drying up so we put a tax on it to protect it.”

Soun glanced at Len and asked, “Any questions from you young man?” Len nodded.

“In Eva Province we have a festival and half of the money made there is sent to the Capital. Is it the same here?”

“As a matter of fact, yes; we have a festival here to celebrate the harvest of herbs on the sixth month of the year and half of the money is sent to the Capital.”

Len and Iori felt their eyes glow in admiration at Soun’s clear answers. They continued their questions about Jogo Province to Soun, but fell silent when Megumi suddenly asked, “Lord Soun, can you answer my question?” Soun nodded looking Megumi’s way.

Megumi showed the parchment and pointed at the characters that translated to the morgue.

“Can you explain why the morgue and burial site’s money has increased?”

Soun frowned and gave out a sigh.

“So you noticed. I’m sorry about that, but the money needed to be sent to those locations to accommodate the bodies that have piled up.”

“Piled up?” asked Megumi. Soun nodded making Len and Iori’s confusion rise. Soun folded his hands together with a serious look.

“It started the beginning of the year: every day a person dies and they are dead on the scene, but what’s strange is that no one touched them and yet they have wounds that look fresh.”

Megumi narrowed her eyes and stated, “I witnessed that just today.” Soun’s eyes widened and then clenched his hands in frustration.

“I don’t know the cause of this and it could be a plague and yet I haven’t heard of such a disease.”

Megumi shook her head placing the parchment down.

“I haven’t heard of the disease either, but if you let me examine the body, I may be able to find something.”

“Examine the body?”

Megumi nodded and stated, “If you remember right, I am quite skilled in medicine and the body, so please allow me and if I can find the cause then Jogo Province will be better balanced.”

Soun smiled and bowed his head saying, “Then I place my trust in you.” Megumi nodded. Soun handed her a plaque that would give her permission to do whatever she pleased in the morgue and then she glanced at Iori and Len.

“I want you two to stay here with Lord Soun, while I head to the morgue,” ordered Megumi. They both nodded, when they saw Soun nod in agreement.

Megumi walked toward the door and then glanced over her shoulder saying, “I’ll come back to retrieve you two.” Len and Iori nodded once again and watched Megumi leave the room.

The moment Megumi was out of the Official’s building she began to head to the morgue of Jogo Province. As she got closer, she noticed the solemn looks of the people she passed. She knew that it was difficult in the Province since the deaths were large and no one knew who would be next.

Megumi soon stood before the morgue that was completely black as if it was calling Death over. Megumi took in a deep breath and entered the morgue where there was no one in sight. All she saw was the furnace to burn the bodies and a covered body on a brown table. It didn’t take Megumi long to realize that the body was the one brought in that day and wouldn’t be burned until night had fallen in respect for the dead.

Megumi approached the body and could smell the smoke from the furnace. She ignored the smell and reached out to the cloth of the body. Before she could even remove the cloth, someone grabbed her wrist tightly. She looked to the side and saw a black haired man wearing a brown stained white cloth over his mouth and nose glaring at her.

“What are you doing here?” demanded the man tightening his hold on Megumi’s wrist. Megumi smacked the wrist of the hand holding her forcing the man to release her. She glared at the man saying, “I was given permission to examine the bodies of this new plague that has invaded Jogo Province.” She then flashed the plaque given to her by Soun. The man examined the plaque and then nodded.

“I apologize, but there have been body robberies since this so called plague hit.”

“Body robberies?”

The man nodded and bowed his head to Megumi.

“I never reported this, but all the bodies that have come to this morgue as of late have vanished before I could cremate them.”

“Is that so?” asked Megumi. The man nodded. Megumi held a hand to her chin and asked, “Is there any trace of anyone breaking in?” The man shook his head.

“I will look into this, but make sure to report this to Lord Soun as well. This cannot remain unknown.”

The man nodded saying that he would let Soun know when night falls. Megumi then ordered the man to leave, but asked for his name before he left.

“My name is Romi Hanako. Ask me anything about this morgue if needed.”

Megumi nodded and when she was sure he was gone, she removed the cloth from the body. Unlike the first time, the blood had already dried up and rigor mortis had already taken effect. She first held the body’s hand examining the places where the fingers were missing and noticed that the flesh where the fingers should be showed signs of teeth marks and tears like it was ripped off. She then examined the wounds on the face and chest. By her observation, she noted the wounds were most likely caused by a bear attack. Jogo Province was close to the woods, so it didn’t surprise her that there would be bears in those woods, but it was still a mystery how this man could hide the wounds and then just die in the market where a woman claimed that he had no such wounds.

Megumi rubbed her chin in thought, but when she was about to lift her hand away, she felt a slight burn in her left armpit and then saw the body jerk making her eyes widen under the mask. The hand with the two missing fingers suddenly clasped her wrist and then the body’s mouth opened with a gasp of breath. Megumi ripped her wrist away jumping back, but the head of the body suddenly faced her and said one word: “UMI.” The body then immediately went limp and the burning she felt under her arm subsided as well.

Megumi approached the body cautiously and tried to feel for a pulse, but felt nothing.

“He’s still dead,” muttered Megumi, but then remembered the words the man spoke before he went limp again.

“Umi…isn’t that the medicine of the immortal Jogo? What does that have to do with anything?”

Megumi immediately covered the body deciding to hide the fact of the body moving from any outsiders, since it would be hard to believe, especially since she finds it hard to believe herself, but she would at least report her findings to Soun. She then exited the morgue and glanced at Romi, who was standing next to the exit.

“Do not burn that body just yet and hire some guardsman to watch over that body.”

Romi nodded and stated, “I will do so before reporting to Lord Soun.” Megumi nodded in approval and began to make her way back to Lord Soun’s residence.

On her way, she noticed Shigure leaning against a stone wall that surrounded a house staring at a vial filled with light blue liquid in his hand. Megumi noticed the uneasiness in Shigure’s face and approached him calling his name. Shigure glanced at Megumi hiding the vial behind his back.

“Why are you here?” demanded Shigure.

“I should be asking you that. This place has no stands open and you are standing here like decoration.”

“You know that sounds very insulting right?” asked Shigure with a frown. Megumi chuckled and stated, “Then just move. I am headed to Lord Soun’s place to report what I found at the morgue. You are welcome to come and then we can go to the Dango Restaurant for lunch.” Shigure was ready to reject the offer, but fell silent when Megumi added, “You would need to eat something before taking medicine anyway.”

Shigure clicked his tongue stuffing the vial in his pocket and stated, “Then let us be off.” Megumi nodded walking at Shigure’s pace.

As they walked, Megumi glanced at Shigure’s mask and asked, “Is the mask uncomfortable?”

“You ask that now?”

“Well we are never alone together and you easily get angry around me, so I thought you would like to save face by us talking alone about that mask.”

Shigure groaned and stated, “I just find you annoying at times, especially when Yuki fancies you.”

Megumi sighed and stated, “I didn’t ask for his Majesty to ever fancy me and you know that I have been rejecting him since I was a trainee.” Megumi then placed a hand to her mask and added, “Though accepting his feelings will allow me to remove this mask.”

“Then why won’t you accept?”

“For one I am a boy and second I don’t love him in that way,” stated Megumi with crossed arms. Shigure noticed that she also gave a small nod as if to affirm her words and found it surprisingly cute to the point a small chuckle escaped his lips.

“So you have no special feelings for Yuki.”

“None.”

“Then if I were to get him married to another woman, you wouldn’t object?”

“Go for it, but you would have to convince his majesty to get a wife,” stated Megumi and then added, with a finger tracing her mask, “His infatuation in me is pretty strong.”

“I know,” stated Shigure with a frown, but then he remembered the girl named Aiko from the red light district and smirked.

I just need to find that girl that resembles you so much.

Unaware of Shigure’s thoughts, Megumi once again asked, “So is your mask uncomfortable?”

Shigure, snapping out of his thoughts, placed a hand to his half mask and stated, “It fits fine, but I don’t like it.”

“Because it reminds you of the scar on your face?” asked Megumi. Shigure nodded and stated, “That’s why I needed to come here: to find a medicine to heal this scar.” Megumi nodded in understanding and then remembered the vial of light blue liquid that Shigure stuffed in his pocket.

“So that vial is for your scar?”

Shigure nodded.

“What is it called?”

“…That I will not answer.”

Megumi sighed realizing that Shigure wanted to get off the topic, but soon saw Soun’s residence in sight. She held Shigure’s hand and began to pull him along to pick up the pace and stated, “We can’t keep Lord Soun waiting.” Shigure nodded trying to pry his hand away from Megumi, but groaned when he noted how strong her grip was, even though it wasn’t painful. Shigure could never understand how so much strength remained in such a small body such as Megumi’s.

Megumi bowed to the soldiers as Shigure and her entered, making her way to Soun’s office, where she last left Len and Iori. Megumi knocked on the door of the office waiting for an answer from Soun, but, to her surprise, Len opened the door giving her a greeting.

“I see that you are still here,” stated Megumi, who peeked in the room noting that Soun and Iori weren’t in sight. She then looked at Len and asked, “So where are Lord Soun and Iori?”

“Iori asked to see some land records, so Lord Soun took him to the library,” stated Len and then smiled adding, “I had a feeling you would return soon, so I decided to wait here.” Megumi nodded with a smile under her mask, but then noticed the uneasiness in Len’s face and noticed that he was staring at Shigure that stood behind her.

“Shigure and I ran into each other, so I offered him to eat lunch with us,” stated Megumi in an attempt to calm down the nervous youth. Len nodded, but still had traces of sweat along his brow.

Len stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him and then stated, “I’ll go retrieve Iori from Lord Soun and I will also make sure to let him know of your arrival.” Megumi nodded allowing Len to step away to complete his errand.

As Len walked out of sight, Megumi crossed her arms glancing at Shigure, who was still frowning.

“You could act a little happy when facing the trainees.”

“I have no obligation to do so, especially when you are around.”

“Ah, I thought we made a connection before getting here.”

“There was no such thing,” snapped Shigure making Megumi giggle in amusement.

Megumi attempted to start a conversation with Shigure, but she suddenly heard a rustle from within the closed office of Lord Soun and paused in her actions focusing her line of hearing to the closed door. She heard another rustle and swung the door open surprising Shigure. Near the shelves was a man with silver hair with a bundle of parchments in his grasp.

“What are you doing here?” demanded Megumi, but the silver haired man only clicked his tongue before jumping out the opened window. Megumi dashed after the man after telling Shigure to call the guards.

Megumi didn’t even hear Shigure’s reply as she jumped out the window after the man. She ran through the outer garden not tearing her eyes from the silver haired man ahead of her. She picked up her pace, but was puzzled that the man also increased his pace, but his pace almost matched that of a hunting cheetah. He was almost a blur to her, but she picked up her pace with sweat forming on her brow.

They were soon out of the residence of Lord Soun and rushing through the back woods that led to the outside of the village. It was here that Megumi finally managed to catch up with the man before tackling him to the ground sending the parchments scattering to the dirt covered ground.

Megumi pinned the man down demanding who he is. The man only smirked before shoving Megumi off of him nearly making her fly off. Megumi managed to keep her feet on the ground, but the strength of the man was almost greater than hers. The man shot to his feet smirking at her as his silver hair danced in the passing wind.

“Interesting, you kept up with me and even had the strength to withstand my own strength. Who are you?”

“I asked that of you first,” hissed Megumi as she stood in fighting stance before the man, sensing the killing intent emitting from the man. The man chuckled pushing a strand of his silver hair behind his shoulder.

“A mortal like you has no need to know my name, but know this…”

A burst of silver light erupted from the man sending Megumi flying against a tree.

“I won’t let you off easy if you interfere.”

The next moment, the man and the fallen parchments were gone. Megumi cursed under her breath as she stood up rubbing her sore shoulder wondering who that man was. She let out a sigh before heading back to the residence.

When Megumi returned, she was met with about five soldiers along with Soun, Shigure, Len, and Iori. Soun approached Megumi with the soldiers close behind and asked, “Where is the intruder?”

“He got away,” admitted Megumi. Soun cursed under his breath and stated, “I thought we had him this time.”

“Had him? You mean he has broken in here before?” interrogated Megumi. Soun nodded and added, “Files from my office have been disappearing without seeing the thief, but this is the first time someone has actually seen him.”

“Files…what files did he take?”

“I would have to check, but he usually takes files related to hunting parties and the hospital.”

“I don’t see a connection,” stated Megumi. Soun sighed and placed a hand to Megumi’s shoulder saying, “Shigure gave me the description of the man, so you just get something to eat, while my soldiers search the village.” Megumi nodded and approached Shigure, Iori, and Len.

“Let’s go.”

Megumi led Shigure, Iori, and Len out of the residence, but as they walked, Shigure faced Megumi and smirked saying, “I’m surprised you didn’t catch him.”

“It was difficult,” admitted Megumi and then faced Shigure saying, “That man did something I never saw before.”

“Never saw before?”

“A light so strong that it blew me away.”

“Do you expect me to believe that?”

“Well you have seen Mr. Wolf, so maybe you can believe this.”

Shigure clicked his tongue realizing that he still needed to discuss with Megumi about that wolf man.

Len suddenly went to her side asking, “Were you injured?”

“I am unharmed,” stated Megumi patting Len’s head making him sigh in relief. Iori, on the other hand, looked disappointed that Megumi didn’t get any injuries from her encounter with the mysterious man.

Megumi brushed a strand of hair behind her ear and looked at Shigure saying, “After lunch, I need to investigate about that man and the files that he had stolen before.” Shigure nodded deciding that he would interrogate Megumi about the wolf man at another time.

As they headed toward the Dango Restaurant, they failed to notice that the same silver haired man was watching them from the roofs of one of the buildings. His gaze landed on Megumi with a smirk on his lips.

Does this boy truly believe that he can catch me?

This silver haired man had to admit that Megumi’s speed was indeed unnatural to match his, but he still saw Megumi as an insignificant mortal worm. His gaze then landed on Shigure amusement flashing in his eyes.

I wonder why he waits to drink the vial? No matter, his destiny is sealed.

The silver haired man suddenly vanished leaving not traces of his whereabouts.

Previous Chapter

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