The flight of birds filled the air as people journeyed through the market near the palace of Yulan. A group of beautiful young village girls bickered to one another about trivial things in their lives as they walked through the market. One of the girls, who was louder than the others, collided into a stranger and fell over sending dust flying all around her. The girl growled and glared at the person demanding the stranger to watch where he was going, but then instantly turned red in the cheeks. Megumi stood before her, the rays of the sun reflecting off his elegant figure.
“Are you all right?” asked Megumi as he reached his hand to her. The girl nodded taking his hand. Megumi smiled causing the girl’s heart to nearly jump out of her chest. The other girls were just as love struck by the sight of Megumi’s beauty. Megumi nodded at them and continued on his way as the girls began to bicker about how handsome he was. Megumi didn’t even notice the other admirable stares of other women, young and old.
Megumi had journeyed a long way from Go Province. The horse that was given to him by Hatori had found a new owner when Megumi sold him to a farmer with a sickly horse. Megumi had walked the rest of the way with little troubles. The time he walked was just in time for the Imperial Exam. That day, he had finally turned thirteen. There was no celebration for his birthday, but he was glad to grow up just another year. Megumi gripped the token in his pocket as he walked not noticing the other examinees making their way to the palace as well.
A twenty-two-year-old teacher named Riku Li left the school ground located at the temple with the children begging him not to go. Riku chuckled, patting one of them on the head.
“I’ll come to visit, so don’t worry,” reassured Riku. The children were beginning to slowly sob making Riku sigh. Garnet Su, a beautiful twenty-year-old brunette and Riku’s fiancé, emerged from the school in a bluish dress with crossed arms.
“I hope you do come back.”
Riku gave her a peck on the cheek and made a promise to return to her side and marry her. Garnet smiled with a light blush against her cheek and nodded. Riku ran down the road, his token in hand.
Another examinee was nineteen-year-old Youko Tai, the son of a high official. His eyes looked bloodshot as he peeked from his gate as if someone was going to jump him at any moment. He felt a tap on his shoulder and gasped only to hear his friend, Bakura Hoshi, laughing. Youko glared at him like a demon was just born from him.
“Don’t scare me like that,” muttered Youko like it was a threat. Bakura chuckled with his fan in hand.
“Now, now Youko, you have to have nerves of steel to pass the test.”
“I know that! Why do you think I stayed up all night studying?” yelled Youko. Bakura chuckled and placed a hand on Youko’s trembling shoulder.
“Studying is good and all, but you need to sleep too,” stated Bakura. Youko swatted his hand away like a fly and stated, “I don’t want to hear from a guy who hardly studies and only passed the Qualification by guessing.” Youko walked away from Bakura staggering. Bakura closed his fan smirking.
“Let’s see who will pass the test with the highest score than, my dear friend,” muttered Bakura as he pulled out his own token from his pocket.
In another part of the market, twenty-five-year-old, Shiro Ran, walked toward the palace with a falcon upon his shoulder that had his exam token between its beak. The falcon glared at people who were just passing by causing them to flinch and run off as if the devil was ready to kill them. Shiro petted the falcon calling him little Chestnut.
On a roof of a blacksmith stall, sixteen-year-old, Sora Kofu, laid on a roof with his token resting on his chest. He watched the passing clouds whispering their scientific names and then gave out a yawn. He sat up causing his token to slide to his lap. He picked the token up with a tight fist and whispered, “I better get going.” With that, he leapt across the roofs like a cat toward the palace.
In a rundown clinic, seventeen-year-old, Rumiko Hashihara, son of a doctor and an examinee, walked out with his token in his hand. He looked at his token with troubled eyes. He remembered the words of his sponsor and the promise to provide aid to his clan for many years to come, if he got one of the highest ranks: Diyuan, the top rank was preferable. He gripped the token in his hand as if it were going to run away.
“I need to get the rank of Diyuan,” he whispered as he began to run toward the palace.
A pair of twins, Boshi and Lee Kou, age eighteen, walked out of their house with smirks on their faces. The twins looked exactly alike except for their hair style. Boshi had long black hair in a braid and Lee had the same colored hair but cut to a medium length. Both of them were examinees and ready to take the challenge of who will be the top. Their tokens dangled on the side of their waists as they ran toward the palace.
Twenty-three-year-old, Suiji Yan, was reviewing his notes written in a book he picked up a few months back, using the token as a book mark. He was called a prodigy since he was fifteen, but decided to hold off from the exam until now. He remembered the words of his sponsor and shut the book with one hand.
“I need to get the rank of Diyuan to achieve my goal.”
Another examinee, who was just twenty-four, walked toward the palace shaking like a scared rabbit about to be shot down. His name was Reiji Kou, future heir of the Kou clan. Even though he looked intelligent, he was just average when it came to knowledge of politics. He had taken the exam in previous years but had failed miserably. His clan saw him as a failure so this exam was his last chance to prove himself worthy of leading the clan in the future.
Reiji walked pass Megumi, but Megumi didn’t even notice him as if he were a ghost. Megumi stopped in his tracks when he saw a purple iris hair pin resting on a stand counter among other flower shaped pins. He removed it from the stand in order to examine it closely. He remembered Mikan as she placed a similar pin in her hair in the past when she was working in the Red Lotus. Megumi smiled at the tender memory.
“Would you like to buy that?” asked the seller in the stand hopefully. Megumi nodded as he handed it to the man asking for the price. The man blushed at the sound of Megumi’s mesmerizing voice as did people passing by. The man stuttered trying to speak out the price. Megumi leaned in repeating his words thinking that the man didn’t hear his previous question. The man could have sworn that sparkles were emerging from Megumi’s handsome form. The man couldn’t take it anymore and just declared the item free and begged Megumi to leave. Megumi nodded confusion clearly in his face.
Megumi walked away from the agonizing man as he looked at the hair pin within his hand. He gripped it in his hand remembering the death he saw in Mikan’s eyes on the day of the tragedy.
“I’ll find who killed you, Mikan.”
Megumi flinched and glanced back only to see Nakago. Nakago waved at Megumi walking to his side.
“So you finally arrived?”
Megumi nodded and added, “I just got here today.” Nakago chuckled as he ruffled Megumi’s hair.
“Is that so? I really thought you might be late.”
“Well what about you?”
Nakago smiled filled with triumph declaring that he arrived a month before, so he had time to rest. Megumi smirked at him saying, “Lucky you.” Nakago suddenly dug in his pocket and pulled out a wrapped box. He held it to Megumi making Megumi confused.
“Your present, it is your birthday today right?” declared Nakago. Megumi took the box gently and examined it.
“Why did you get me a present?”
“It is your birthday and I wanted to show you that I care about you.”
Megumi smiled and thanked him. Megumi opened the present. Lying upon a crimson red cloth was a brush with a smooth wooden handle. Megumi fingered the brush and thanked Nakago again making Nakago smile.
Megumi closed the present and placed it in his bag upon his back. He looked at Nakago and asked if the others were already here. Nakago nodded and added, “They arrived a month ago just like me, so they might be in the palace ground already.” Megumi nodded and picked up his pace with Nakago trailing behind.
Megumi walked through the gate of the palace as did Nakago. The palace ground was filled with examinees.
Genba Tendo, age sixteen, was in the palace before anyone had arrived. His handsome features were just as dazzling as Megumi’s and many women had proclaimed their love for him, but he had rejected them all coldly. He would rather study than fall in love with idiotic girls who only wanted him for his looks. On a rare occasion, even a man would fall in love with him.
Another examinee that had arrived early was Ryouga Sou, age fifteen. He was the son of a soldier and had dreamed of becoming a soldier, but he had to pass the Imperial exam to become one. This was his chance to make his dream a reality.
Megumi stared at all the examinees and calculated that there were about fifty examinees on the palace grounds. From what he learned, only twenty would be accepted as officials in training. He had to be part of the top twenty to become an official and to achieve a step in getting his revenge.
Megumi gave out a sigh as he brushed a strand of his long hair behind his ear. Nakago saw this gesture and couldn’t help the rising heat in his cheeks. Nakago could have sworn that Megumi resembled a mature woman, but he knew that Megumi was a man. Megumi suddenly looked at Nakago making him flinch and said, “I’m going to look around, so see you later.” Nakago nodded and watched Megumi walk off. Nakago couldn’t take his eyes off of Megumi’s figure and wondered why Megumi was born a man.
Unknown to any of the examinees, the emperor, Yuki Ki, age nineteen, was watching them from the balcony of one of the towers of the palace. Yuki frowned as he glanced down at the examinees that were even studying, talking, or sleeping on the palace grounds.
“So those men there are the examinees?”
“That’s right,” stated Yosei as he stepped onto the balcony with light steps. Yuki sighed as he slumped on the balcony like a tired cat in the afternoon.
“They don’t look that bright to me,” complained Yuki. Yosei smirked as he crossed his arms.
“Well you have to look closer to see true talent, your majesty.”
Yuki sighed again. He scanned the examinees again. He suddenly saw a glint in the crowd of examinees and focused his eyes. The light of the sun reflected off of Megumi’s silky hair making it sparkle as it danced in the passing wind. Yuki turned red in the cheeks and his heart skipped a beat in his chest. Yuki burst into a smile. He pointed toward Megumi filled with excitement and asked, “Who is that guy?”
Yosei saw that Yuki was pointing toward Megumi and chuckled as he placed a hand to his chin proudly.
“That’s Megumi Yoh. He’s the one I sponsored for the exams.”
“How old is he?”
“I believe he turned thirteen today.”
“What was his rank in the qualification exam in his part of Yulan?”
“Rank one with a perfect score.”
“Is he single?”
Yosei fell silent. He stared at Yuki’s excited eyes and the redness in his cheeks. Yosei’s right eyebrow twitched. Yosei didn’t want to believe it, but Yuki might have fallen in love with Megumi at first sight. Yosei knew Megumi was handsome for his age, but he had no idea that he was handsome enough to attract men too.
Yosei was still silent, so Yuki looked back at the examinees his focus now fully on Megumi. Yuki inwardly wished that Megumi would be part of the top twenty.
Megumi leaned against the wall of the palace with a sigh. The exam was supposed to start soon, but it seemed to be taking forever. He heard footsteps and looked up only to see Boshi and Lee standing before him.
“Do you need something?”
Boshi looked at Megumi examining him closely and asked, with a smirk, “Are you from Go Province by chance?” Megumi nodded.
“I knew it! There was a rumor about a handsome boy coming from Go Province and he scored at the top of the qualification exam.”
“That’s me, but how did you hear about that?” asked Megumi with a raised eyebrow.
“From a guy named Sasuke Harada,” stated Boshi.
“He sounded pissed though,” added Lee with a chuckle. Megumi sighed knowing full well that Sasuke was still mad about the results.
“So how old are you?” asked Lee as he looked Megumi up and down.
“Thirteen: starting today.”
“Man you’re young.”
“And your birthday is today?”
Megumi nodded. They placed their hands on Megumi’s shoulders and said, in unison, “Happy birthday!” Megumi sighed pushing their hands away.
“Who are you guys anyway?”
“I’m Boshi and this here is my younger twin brother, Lee.”
Megumi nodded at them and introduced himself as well. Megumi suddenly remembered Mikan when she introduced herself to her clients and frowned. Megumi turned away from Boshi and Lee making them confused and said, “I need to be alone.” Boshi and Lee groaned and walked away from Megumi muttering that he was no fun. Megumi didn’t mean to come out as rude, but he felt like he was ready to cry as he leaned against a vacant wall.
Shiro’s falcon, Chestnut, spotted Megumi against the wall from Shiro’s shoulder. Chestnut flew off of Shiro’s shoulder making Shiro confused.
“Is something wrong, Little Chestnut?”
Chestnut soared through the other examinees making them gasp in surprise or fall over. Chestnut stopped in front of Megumi and hovered in front of him. Megumi stared at Chestnut with wide eyes and then his look softened with a smile upon his lips. Megumi used his index finger to caress the top of Chestnut’s feathered head. Shiro approached Megumi and was surprised to see Chestnut warming up to Megumi.
“Do you know Little Chestnut?” asked Shiro. Megumi looked at Shiro as he withdrew his hand from Chestnut.
“Is that the falcon’s name?”
“Well this is my first time meeting such a fine falcon as Chestnut,” stated Megumi. Shiro stood behind Chestnut and stated, “Little Chestnut doesn’t like strangers. It’s very surprising that he would go to you.” Megumi chuckled stating that he was good with animals. Megumi then clicked his tongue against his front teeth as he wagged his index finger toward him. Chestnut gave out a small cry and landed on Megumi’s shoulder. Chestnut rubbed against his cheek as if he were a longtime friend. Shiro smiled at the sight.
“Little Chestnut seems to really like you.”
Megumi smiled and nudged Chestnut on the wing. Chestnut flew up and soared to Shiro’s shoulder. Chestnut perched on Shiro’s shoulder and rubbed against his cheek just like he did with Megumi.
“Little Chestnut likes you better.”
Shiro smiled with a small blush against his cheek. Shiro asked for Megumi’s name introducing himself as well. Megumi stated his name and then scratched under the beak of Chestnut.
“My, my, are we having a conference here?” asked Bakura as he approached the two. Bakura flipped his fan open with a smirk upon his lips.
“We were just talking,” stated Megumi.
“Is that so?”
Bakura examined Megumi closely and then said, “You have a very appealing face. You are almost as beautiful as Genba Tendo.”
Bakura nodded and pointed his fan at Genba, who was studying in a corner.
“He has the face of an angel.”
Megumi and Shiro looked at him and stated, in unison, “He’s OK.” Bakura chuckled and said, “Then you both must be blind.” Megumi groaned. Chestnut suddenly cawed at Bakura causing him to flinch and back away.
“Is that buzzard allowed in here?” asked Bakura with nervousness behind his voice. Shiro petted the side of Chestnut’s cheek and said, “There isn’t a rule that I can’t let him in and he’s a falcon not a buzzard.” Bakura shut his fan with his eyebrow twitching.
“Then I better be on my way.”
“Can you at least tell us your name, just to be polite?” asked Megumi with crossed arms. Bakura smirked and declared, “My name is Bakura Hoshi.”
“Megumi Yoh is my name and his is Shiro Ran, please remember them, Bakura.”
Bakura frowned feeling that Megumi was challenging him. Bakura walked away from Megumi and Shiro. Shiro bowed to Megumi and wished him good luck on the test before leaving Megumi’s side. Megumi scratched the back of his head.
Megumi looked to the side only to see Toshio approaching him with a smile upon his lips.
“Toshio, long time no see,” greeted Megumi. Toshio nodded and asked, “Were you staying in a hotel this whole time.” Megumi shook his head.
“Sorry, but I just got here today.”
Toshio chuckled and said, “You should have taken my offer to bring you here on my carriage.” Megumi smirked and stated that he just needed the exercise. Toshio handed Megumi one small wrapped box and a piece of cloth.
“Your presents: the box is from me and the cloth is from Seto.”
“Why can’t Seto give the present to me himself?”
Toshio chuckled admitting that Seto was too nervous to give a present to Megumi face to face. Megumi opened the small box and saw a small white cat statue resting on a red cloth within the box. Megumi then opened the cloth. The cloth had a sewing design of a dragon that seemed like it was ready to come alive. Megumi smiled thanking Toshio for the presents and told him to thank Seto as well. Toshio nodded and then wished Megumi good luck before walking off. Megumi placed the new items in his bag.
Megumi suddenly felt an approaching presence from above and dodged to the side. Sora landed on the ground where Megumi was standing before. Sora dusted off his clothes with Megumi staring at him. Megumi noticed the muscles on Sora’s arms and came to the conclusion that he might be a fighter. Sora saw Megumi staring at him and asked, in a rude manner, “What are you looking at brat?” Megumi groaned feeling insulted.
“Who do you think you are that you can call me a brat?” demanded Megumi. Sora scoffed and stated his name and then told Megumi to leave rudely. Megumi just spat out his own name and left with a huff thinking that Sora was a brat. Sora just shrugged at Megumi’s retreating figure and leaned against the wall with crossed arms.
Megumi walked around and then collided into Youko. Megumi stumbled, but maintained his footing. Youko on the other hand collapsed before him like a rag doll. Megumi gasped and kneeled down in front of Youko’s fallen form.
“Are you OK?”
Youko gripped Megumi’s small wrist making him flinch and whispered, “So tired.” Megumi sighed as he dug in his bag, yanking his captured hand from Youko. He pulled out a mint flavored cracker he made back in Go Province as an emergency ration. He placed it in Youko’s mouth making Youko’s eyes widen. He looked at Megumi as the mint invaded his mouth.
“That should wake you up and replenish your energy…”
Megumi noticed Youko’s name on his fallen token and added his name to his sentence. Megumi then took off into the other examinees. The mint aroma awoke Youko. Youko sat up chewing on the cracker he had never tasted before. He looked around wondering where the “angel” that had saved him had run off too.
Megumi suddenly collided into Mannen. This time Megumi fell along with Mannen to the ground. Megumi groaned as he sat up on top of Mannen. Mannen glared at Megumi as Megumi sat on his stomach and asked, “How long do you plan to sit there brat?” Megumi gasped and leapt off Mannen apologizing.
“I don’t know who you are, but you shouldn’t run around the palace grounds,” chastised Mannen. Megumi stared at Mannen with narrowed eyes.
“You already forgot me?”
“Have we met?” asked Mannen with crossed arms. Megumi massaged the bridge of his nose stating that Mannen needed to carry a diary of some sort to remember people’s faces. Megumi stated his name reminding Mannen where they met. Mannen thought awhile and then hit his fist into his other hand.
“You’re that rude brat in Go Province.”
“Take that rude part out,” said Megumi in annoyance. Mannen smirked and pointed at Megumi saying that he will score higher than Megumi this time. Mannen walked off with Megumi wondering if he was going to forget his face again.
“Are you trying to pick a fight?”
Megumi flinched at the sound of the voice and saw Ryouga in the distance yelling at Ichigo who had run into Ryouga by accident. Ichigo didn’t have time to defend himself as Ryouga yelled at him. Megumi sighed as he approached them. He stood between Ryouga and Ichigo with his arms spread wide.
“What do you want brat?” demanded Ryouga as he towered over Megumi. Megumi didn’t even flinch as he demanded Ryouga to leave Ichigo alone. Ryouga looked deep into Megumi’s eyes and then scoffed.
“Fine, but he needs to watch where he’s going,” stated Ryouga and then left them. Megumi sighed and then looked back at Ichigo asking if he was OK. Ichigo nodded slowly backing away from Megumi.
“Something wrong Ichigo?” asked Megumi as he reached out to Ichigo. Ichigo turned bright red as he finally took off running. Megumi watched Ichigo’s retreating back wondering what was wrong.
Megumi then decided to sit against the same wall as Genba for it was the only one available at the moment. Genba glanced at Megumi noticing Megumi’s young features.
“How old are you?”
Megumi looked at Genba and told him his age.
“Shouldn’t you wait before taking the test?” asked Genba. Megumi shook his head and said, “I can’t wait.” Genba shrugged and continued to study.
Riku, who was examining the others, saw Megumi and Genba from afar and approached them. He examined them closely getting Megumi’s attention.
“What are you doing?” asked Megumi. Riku smiled and asked, “Which one of you handsome boys is from Go Province?” Megumi pointed at himself also stating his name.
“Well my name is Riku Li and congratulations on the qualification exams.”
Megumi thanked him.
Suiji, who was close by, overheard them and looked toward Megumi.
“So you made the top score in Go Province?”
Megumi nodded. Rumiko, who was also close enough to hear, looked at Megumi and said, “The top score, now that’s something.” Megumi thanked him. Genba looked away from his notes and said, “Stop complimenting him or he will get full of himself.” Megumi glared at Genba feeling insulted.
Riku examined Megumi more closely and asked, “Did you pay for your exam or were you sponsored?”
“Who is your sponsor then?” asked Riku now curious on who would sponsor a boy like Megumi who didn’t seem to have hit puberty yet.
“Yosei Ai,” stated Megumi deciding not to keep it a secret anymore. Suiji, Riku, Rumiko, and Genba’s eyes widen.
“Yosei Ai, as in the leader of the Ai Region?” asked Riku. Megumi nodded. Suiji smirked as he looked down at Megumi.
“So a leader has sponsored you too?”
“What do you mean?” asked Megumi. Suiji held a thumb to himself and declared that he was sponsored by Suha Diah, the leader of Diah Region. Rumiko also stated that he was sponsored by a leader as well named Xian Lian of Lian Region. Riku stared at them in disbelief.
“So leaders sponsored you three?” asked Riku in shock. They all nodded. Riku chuckled trying to maintain his pride.
“Well I guess I better work hard to keep you guys from beating me in this exam,” said Riku and then walked off.
Megumi stared at Rumiko and Suiji and then came to a realization. Megumi looked at Suiji and asked, “Aren’t you the one I sold a study guide to a few months back?” Suiji flinched. He looked at Megumi closely and remembered the stand he bought his book of notes from.
“You’re that young merchant from Go Province?” asked Suiji. Megumi nodded and asked, “Are the notes I made helpful, Suiji Yan?” Suiji began to sweat out of nervousness. The notes were very clear and a lot better than the books he bought before, so he studied them in order to help him pass the Qualification exam. It never occurred to him that the creator of the notes would be taking the test as well. Suiji looked away from Megumi and walked away trying to maintain his pride as a man.
Megumi then looked at Rumiko and asked, “I also seem to remember that you bought a medicine from my stand to help with your clinic’s medicine effectiveness.” Rumiko’s eyes widen asking, “That was you?” Megumi nodded and asked, “You did go to Go Province to get the medicine right, Rumiko Hashihara?” Rumiko was speechless. He remembered buying that medicine once because he needed inspiration and he remembered how effective the medicine was to illnesses and poisons. The miracle medicine nearly made him lose his confidence to make medicine and he was even more shocked when he learned that the medicine wasn’t being made anymore. It was hard for him to believe that Megumi was the seller of that medicine. Rumiko walked away in silence feeling the pressure from Megumi.
Genba chuckled and asked, “So you were a merchant?” Megumi nodded.
“Why did you close your stand?”
Megumi flinched when he heard Keisuke’s voice next to him. Megumi looked at Keisuke who was standing next to him and asked, “Why do you ask?”
“I’m just curious. I asked around Go Province about you and learned about your stand, but it was closed and no one would tell me why.”
Megumi frowned and looked downward saying that he has the right to keep certain secrets making Genba and Keisuke confused. Genba and Keisuke decide to leave Megumi by himself. Megumi hugged his legs to his chest like a child.
“Are you OK?”
Megumi looked up and saw Reiji looking down at him with concern in his eyes. Megumi nodded and added, “I just need to rest a little.” Reiji nodded and then looked around. He looked back at Megumi and asked, “Can I sit next to you to rest as well?” Megumi nodded. Reiji sat comfortably next to Megumi.
“What’s your name?”
“Megumi Yoh and yours?”
“Nice to meet you.”
Reiji smiled and then looked up at the passing clouds.
“I might not become an official.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Megumi eyeing Reiji.
“Well my grades are only average and I barely passed the qualification exam last time. I also took the Imperial Exam before and always failed. Maybe I shouldn’t even try anymore.”
Reiji looked like an abandoned puppy in Megumi’s eyes. Megumi sighed and patted Reiji’s shoulder.
“You already made it this far, so keep trying, Reiji,” encouraged Megumi. Reiji smiled and nodded feeling reassured by Megumi’s words. Megumi couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he felt comfortable in Reiji’s presence as if they had been friends since they were children.
A gong echoed throughout the palace. An aged official that they recognized as Kogoro Tai stepped out of the gates of the palace and began to read out the instructions for the Imperial exam. As they all listened to the instructions, they began to wonder where the emperor was for he was supposed to read the instructions for the imperial exam.
Unknown to any of them, Yuki had slipped into the crowd pretending to be an examinee. He traveled through the examinees making sure not to disturb them. Yuki smiled when he saw the object of his desire sitting against the wall listening to the instructions with seriousness in his eyes.
After the instructions were given, Megumi followed the others into the palace making sure that his token was visible. As Megumi walked, he felt that he was being stared at. Yuki was indeed staring at him from behind among the crowd. He stared at Megumi’s walking form and wondered how Megumi could be more beautiful than any man or woman he had ever seen before. Yuki noticed that some of the examinees were also staring at Megumi with love struck eyes and cursed them under his breath.
When they arrived at the test site, they sat on their designated area. Kneeling before a blank piece of parchment, they looked front awaiting the signal to start. Kogoro revealed the topic of the exam marking the start. Megumi held the brush next to the parchment gently and dipped it into the ink on the ink stone. He wrote the words upon the parchment making sure that each character was perfect. The way he moved his wrist was filled with elegance. Some examinees became captivated by his movement and his looks and ended up writing in mistakes on their parchments.
When time was up, Megumi placed his brush down next to the parchment with a sigh escaping his lips. Megumi blew on his parchment gently to make the ink dry and then handed it in. All the papers were gathered.
Kogoro straightened out the papers and announced that the results would be announced in two days’ time and that they would remain on palace grounds during that time to prevent any answers from being leaked. He also added that the rooms would be assigned. They all left the room.
Outside of the room was a small boy no older than ten with a basket filled with tokens in his hands. He showed the basket to them with a smile upon his lips.
“Hi my name is Koku Mi and I am here to assign your rooms. Please draw out one token from the basket. There’s a flower character on it and that flower character will be on your assigned room door, understand?”
Without delay, they drew out a token one at a time. On Megumi’s token was a purple iris. Megumi and the others left the palace to the dorm grounds. They scattered trying to match their token to their room. Megumi found his room and nodded.
“You got the purple iris room too?” asked Reiji as he approached Megumi. Megumi nodded showing his token to Reiji.
“What the hell is this?” stated Boshi as he approached them. He glanced at Megumi and groaned with crossed arms.
“This is just great. Why do I have to share a room with a boring guy like you?” complained Boshi. Megumi glared at Boshi. Boshi looked toward his brother, who was assigned the Blue Orchids room, and asked, “Can we switch rooms?”
Lee saw Megumi and shook his head and added, “I can live without that brat around me, so good luck dear brother.” Boshi cursed at Lee as Lee entered his room with his roommates.
Sora approached them and asked, “Is this the purple iris room?” Megumi, Boshi, and Reiji nodded. Sora sighed looking away from them as if they were an annoyance.
Yuki suddenly emerged from the examinees and said, “I’m part of the purple iris.” Yuki waved the token around in the air.
“You don’t have to be so loud,” stated Megumi. Just the sound of Megumi’s voice sent Yuki’s heart racing. Yuki chuckled with a light blush against his cheek. Yuki noted that Megumi was even more radiant up close in person.
Megumi inched away from Yuki as Yuki stared at him, feeling a disgusting feeling cover him.
Megumi, Boshi, Sora, Reiji, and Yuki entered the room. The room only had four beds and other necessary furniture. Boshi groaned complaining that they miscounted. The others nodded in agreement, even though Yuki knew the reason for the miscount.
“So one of us has to sleep on the floor or share a bed.”
Yuki raised his hand and stated, “Megumi and I can share a bed together.”
“Denied!” exclaimed Megumi bluntly. Yuki sulked in a corner as if mushrooms were ready to sprout around him. Megumi sighed and volunteered to sleep on the floor. Yuki shot up from the corner, screaming, “I object!” He held Megumi’s shoulders making Megumi flinch.
“A young man like you should sleep on the bed or it could affect your health.”
Megumi slipped away from Yuki and said, “I’m on the floor, so please enjoy the bed.” Yuki began to sulk again. The others were in agreement about Megumi sleeping on the floor. Megumi prepared a thick blanket on the floor next to the only bookshelf in the room. He looked at the others and noticed them undressing.
“You’re changing now?” asked Megumi as he looked at them.
“Well we aren’t leaving the room and our meals are going to be delivered to our rooms,” said Boshi bluntly with his shirt completely off revealing his hairless chest. The others nodded.
“It’s always like this,” stated Reiji as he slipped on more comfortable clothes suited for sleeping. Yuki knelt in front of Megumi and said, “You should change too.” Yuki was about to unbutton Megumi’s shirt, but Megumi slammed his fist into Yuki’s cheek forcing him away. Megumi stood above Yuki with fire practically in his eyes.
“Are you gay or something?” demanded Megumi with his fist clenched. Yuki touched his cheek with a smile upon his lips.
“Don’t get me wrong. I am not gay, but…”
Yuki looked at Megumi with a spark in his eyes.
“I do find you irresistible, Megumi.”
Megumi shuttered as he backed away from Yuki as if Yuki was ready to jump him. The others did the same. Megumi looked away from them claiming that he would change his clothes later. Reiji, Boshi, and Sora were in agreement, while Yuki was asking “Why?” repeatedly.
They suddenly heard a bunch of different screams outside their door. Reiji opened the door and saw three other men running for their lives. Reiji looked at their retreating back wondering what was wrong. His question was answered when he saw Chestnut soaring after them with anger in his eyes. Reiji fell back into the room when Chestnut flew pass him.
“What happened?” asked Boshi in curiosity. Reiji pointed toward the open door and said, “A falcon is chasing away some men.”
Megumi stepped out of the room with Reiji warning him not to go out. Megumi peeked out and saw Chestnut hovering over three scared men in a corner. Megumi clicked his tongue with his hand raised toward Chestnut. Chestnut heard Megumi’s call as he looked at him. Chestnut abandoned the scared men and obediently landed on Megumi’s shoulder. Chestnut cuddled his cheek making Megumi smile.
Boshi, Reiji, Sora, and Yuki stared at Megumi in amazement. Boshi pointed at the falcon and asked, “Is that falcon yours?” Megumi shook his head as he petted the top of Chestnut’s head.
“He belongs to Shiro Ran,” stated Megumi.
Megumi looked to the side at the approaching Shiro. Shiro saw Megumi and greeted him politely. Megumi nodded sending back a greeting. Shiro went to Megumi’s side and asked, “So little Chestnut left me to go to you again?” Megumi shook his head. Megumi pointed at the three men still shaking in a corner.
“Chestnut seemed to dislike them.”
Shiro looked at them and claimed that they were his roommates. Shiro looked at Chestnut and asked him to return. Chestnut cuddled Megumi’s cheek again and then landed on Shiro’s shoulder. Reiji, Boshi, Sora, and Yuki peeked from the room.
“So you’re the owner of the falcon?” asked Boshi as he looked at Shiro. Shiro nodded.
“That’s pretty neat,” complimented Boshi. Boshi reached out to Chestnut, but Chestnut immediately bit his extended hand. Boshi screamed out as he yanked his bleeding hand away. Boshi glared at Chestnut and threatened to kill him. Chestnut seemed indifferent. Megumi went up to Chestnut and smacked the top of Chestnut’s head.
“No biting,” scolded Megumi firmly. Chestnut lowered his head. Shiro looked at Megumi and said, “I’m amazed that little Chestnut didn’t retaliate.”
“Well he knew that he did something wrong,” stated Megumi. Megumi bowed to Shiro and said, “My roommates and I should return to our room.” Shiro nodded and watched Megumi walk back into his room with his roommates. Shiro looked at his roommates and said, “We should be going.” His roommates nodded and were about to get up until they saw a menacing aura around the very being of Chestnut. His roommates began to wonder if they would die in the room before the results were given.
In the Purple Iris room, Megumi was wrapping Boshi’s bitten hand. Boshi cringed as Megumi bandaged him.
“Stupid bird,” muttered Boshi. Megumi finished the bandaging with a sigh.
“That should do it,” stated Megumi. Boshi looked at his wrapped hand with Sora, Reiji, and Yuki looking over his shoulder.
“This is wrapped pretty well and it doesn’t hurt, are you a son of a doctor?”
Megumi shook his head and stated, “I had to learn some medical knowledge in order to treat my sick mother before.”
“How is your mother?” asked Reiji, curious to learn about Megumi. Megumi fell silent as he remembered his mother’s smile as she complimented the work he did for his stand. Megumi looked away from them refusing to talk about his matters. Boshi groaned calling Megumi a boring guy.
Sora scoffed and asked, “Are you just being secretive with us?” Megumi remained silent. Reiji noticed the dark aura emitting from Sora, so he asked Sora to tell something about himself. Sora smirked.
“Well my name is Sora Kofu, age sixteen. This is my first time taking the imperial exam and I am trying to become a soldier.”
“Not an official?”
“Nope! An official’s job is too stressful for me. I am much better suited to be a soldier.”
“So you know how to fight?” asked Megumi. Sora nodded and added, “I’ve been trained to fight since I was ten.” Sora smirked as he spoke.
“My master was the best teacher in the world. He taught me all the fighting techniques he learned from traveling. He made me stronger than any man.”
Sora’s eyes were filled with excitement as he spoke. He explained what training he went through and the places his master took him.
Megumi smiled and said, “Your master sounds so nice.”
“Of course,” stated Sora proudly. Megumi suddenly grabbed Sora’s hand making him gasp in surprise as did the others. Megumi felt up his arm and smiled.
“These muscles are proof that you are strong,” stated Megumi. Sora yanked his arm away with a blush against his cheek.
Boshi smirked and said, “So you can tell how strong a person is by feeling their muscles?” Megumi nodded and added, “Master Chuckles taught me this.”
Boshi tried to stifle his laugh as did the others. Megumi nodded.
“Like how Sora has a master, I did too. He trained me when I was four-years-old in Go Province.”
Megumi nodded. Sora crossed his arms and asked, “Why would he train you when you were so young?”
“I forced him,” stated Megumi bluntly. All of them fell silent. Megumi smirked and stated, “He didn’t want to train me at first, but after I begged and tossed him into a stable, he accepted.”
“You tossed him?” asked Reiji in disbelief. Megumi nodded and added, “He only trained me for half a year before leaving Go Province, but it was enough for me to get stronger.” Sora smirked and sat cross-legged in front of a small table. He placed his elbow firmly on it and looked toward Megumi.
“Arm Wrestle me, so I can see exactly how strong your master made you,” challenged Sora. Megumi nodded and placed his elbow on the opposite end of the table. They locked hands as the others looked on. Yuki begged Sora to go easy on Megumi, but Sora ignored him with annoyance written all over his face.
After a short wait, the contest began. Sora thought it would be easy to push down Megumi’s hand, but to his surprise Megumi’s hand didn’t move an inch. He pushed harder his body beginning to tremble, but to no avail. It felt like he was trying to push down a stone wall. Megumi focused on his hand and then pushed down, slamming Sora’s hand into the table. Sora cringed as Megumi removed his hand from Sora’s. Sora looked at his fallen hand and noticed how red the palm of his hand had become.
“You’re kidding,” muttered Sora in disbelief. Megumi rubbed his hand and stated, “You still need to increase your strength to beat me.” Sora flinched and glared at Megumi feeling insulted. Reiji realized that the dark aura from before had returned, so he looked at Boshi and asked Boshi to tell something about himself to take Sora’s mind off the defeat.
Boshi smirked and stated, “Well my name is Boshi Kou, eighteen. I have a younger twin brother named Lee. We are always trying to be the top and we dislike boring things. I am trying to be an official.”
“Kou, so you’re related to my clan?”
“If you have a Kou in your name then yes.”
“Well my name is Reiji Kou, age twenty-four and I’m trying to be an official.”
Boshi looked at Reiji and stated, “Reiji Kou, aren’t you the stupid heir to the Kou clan?” Reiji flinched.
“The same Reiji Kou I heard about that failed the Imperial Exams over and over again?” asked Sora momentarily forgetting his defeat. Reiji flinched again.
Yuki chuckled and added, “Oh yes, he’s the one who was always at the bottom of the ranks. I wonder why he keeps trying to take the exam again.” Reiji felt something stab his heart as he faltered. Megumi noticed Reiji’s depressed form and sighed.
“At least he tries. He manages to pass the qualification, so why not take the imperial. He will pass eventually if he keeps trying,” stated Megumi. Reiji looked at Megumi as if Megumi had become his “angel” of salvation.
Yuki noticed the admiration Reiji was directing toward Megumi and clenched his fist. Yuki stood between Reiji and Megumi and warned Reiji not to touch Megumi. Megumi sighed, while Reiji inched away. Boshi looked toward Yuki and asked, “How about you tell us a little about yourself?” Yuki flinched turning pale. Yuki hadn’t thought that far ahead. Megumi noticed Yuki’s uneasy look and decided to intervene.
“Maybe he wants to be secretive like me.”
Yuki looked at Megumi, when Megumi added, “But he can at least tell us whether he is trying to become a soldier or an official.” Yuki smiled as he looked at the others.
“My name is Yuki, age nineteen, and I’m trying to become an official. My dream is to help the country of Yulan prosper to something great that many generations in the future will remember. I can only achieve this dream by working with great officials willing to work with me.”
The air around Yuki made it seem like he was a ruler to them. The moment of Yuki’s was broken when he suddenly held Megumi’s hands together tenderly and added, “But now I also have a new dream of staying with Megumi forever.” Reiji, Sora, and Boshi fell silent. Megumi just showed a smile and then slipped his hands away. He immediately grabbed Yuki by the front of his shirt and tossed him into the opposing wall causing the room to shake. Megumi crunched his knuckles warning Yuki to keep away from him. Yuki crouched in the corner feeling depressed and feeling the pain of the impact.
Megumi looked at Reiji, Sora, and Boshi making them flinch. Megumi smiled at them and asked if he could go for a short walk. They nodded. Megumi walked out of the room.
When Megumi was out of the room, Sora looked at Reiji and Boshi and asked, in an uneasy tone, “How old is Megumi again?”
“He’s so young, how can he be that strong?” muttered Sora feeling intimidated. Reiji and Boshi were just as confused.
Megumi walked on the pathway of the dorms feeling relieved to be separated from the obsessed Yuki. Megumi shuttered at the thought of Yuki’s goofy smile.
“Bakura you jerk!”
Megumi flinched at the sound of the sudden outburst. The next thing he knew, the door in front of him flung open just barely missing him. Out of the door stepped out Youko with his shirt open at the top. Youko stared at Megumi with wide eyes. Megumi immediately recognized him as the collapsed scholar with the name “Youko Tai” on his token.
“Hi again, Youko Tai. Are you feeling better?” asked Megumi in greeting. Youko pointed at Megumi and stated, “Angel?” Megumi blinked in confusion.
“My name is Megumi Yoh, not Angel.”
Youko’s face felt like it was burning as he stared at Megumi’s radiant face. Bakura peeked from behind Youko seeing Megumi.
“Why if it isn’t Megumi Yoh; have you come to see your fellow rivals?”
Megumi shook his head and stated that it was just coincidence. Megumi wished them farewell as he walked off. Bakura looked at Youko’s red face and noticed that Youko was watching Megumi run off. Bakura smirked realizing that Youko was talking about Megumi when Youko spoke of an “angel” that had saved him.
“My, my, you really are something to be love struck by a male,” teased Bakura. Youko turned even redder screaming that Bakura was wrong. Youko suddenly clenched his forehead and added, “I was just shocked that a boy could be that beautiful.” Bakura chuckled.
“True, it is a waste that he was born a male.”
Youko clenched his fist as he closed the door back up trying to ignore Bakura’s presence.
Megumi journeyed through the hall of the inner palace letting his mind wander. He suddenly felt someone collide into him and looked down at the person. The person was none other than Koku Mi. Koku had fallen to the ground as a result of colliding into Megumi. Koku groaned as he looked up at Megumi.
“Aren’t you an examinee?”
Megumi nodded as he helped the boy to his feet. Koku brushed himself off and stated, “If you’re hungry then please wait in your room. We were going to bring in the food later.” Megumi smirked crossing his arms.
“I was just walking around to stretch out my legs.”
“Is that so?”
Megumi nodded and then asked if Koku needed any help with anything. Koku shook his head.
“I’m going on an important errand to help with the new princess coming in, so you can’t come.”
Koku nodded and added, “She’s going to be a concubine for the emperor.”
“What’s her name?”
“Her name is Haji Diah, the third daughter of Suha Diah.”
“So it isn’t Ayame Roku from Lian Region?”
Koku flinched as he looked at Megumi with wide eyes.
“How do you know about Princess Ayame?” asked Koku in surprise. Megumi pointed at himself and claimed that he met her before on his way to the palace. Koku frowned and said, “You lucky bastard.” Megumi smacked the front of Koku’s head making him gasp. Koku clenched the front of his head as he glared at Megumi.
“What was that for?”
“A boy your age shouldn’t be cursing,” scolded Megumi. Koku groaned mumbling that Megumi was the devil. Megumi remembered his brother’s annoyed expression and chuckled making Koku confused. Megumi smiled at Koku and stated his name to Koku and thanked him for conversing with him. Koku nodded as he began to walk off wondering if Megumi was all right.
Megumi returned to his dorm room, where the others were either studying or reading a book for fun. Yuki was ready to embrace Megumi, but Megumi immediately smacked him away causing Yuki to curl up in his bed feeling depressed at the rejection.
It was a long day, so after eating their fill of the food brought into the room, they went to sleep in their respected places. Megumi slept soundly in the blanket upon the floor dreaming of better days.
Yuki, who had pretended to sleep, got up from his bed and approached Megumi making sure not to make a sound. He bent over Megumi’s form feeling his heart beat against his chest. He stared at Megumi’s angelic face and smiled. He never felt so much love before for a person with just a glance. He believed before when he was young that he would fall in love with an angel and make her his queen. He never expected that his angel would be a male. He traced his right hand on Megumi’s cheek. Warmth emitted from his hand making Megumi smile in his sleep. Yuki blushed at the sight. He leaned toward Megumi’s lips with the intention of pressing his own lips to his. Instead of feeling the butterfly feel of Megumi’s lips, he felt something cold like ice. He opened his eyes and realized that he was staring at his own reflection against the flat of a sword. He followed the source of the blade and saw that Suha Diah was gripping the handle, while glaring down at Yuki. Yuki turned pale.
Suha tapped his finger on the handle of the blade.
“Yosei had a feeling that you were with the boy Megumi when you didn’t show up to greet my daughter.”
Suha then lifted Yuki off the ground forcefully making Yuki gasp. Suha dragged Yuki out, even though Yuki was screaming out protests. Suha ignored Yuki’s cries and slipped out of the room.
Megumi awoke from his sleep at the small racket and gave out a yawn. He immediately noticed that Yuki wasn’t in sight in his bed and got up. He looked around the room and came to the conclusion that Yuki went out and might be back in the morning. Megumi with that thought slipped back into the blanket on the floor.
Two days had passed since the exam and Yuki was still nowhere in sight. Megumi didn’t like Yuki and found him extremely annoying, but he didn’t want anything bad to happen to him. Megumi was deep in thought trying to figure out what happened to Yuki. Reiji noticed Megumi’s troubled expression and asked, “Is something wrong?” Megumi nodded.
“Don’t you find it strange that Yuki just vanished on the first night and hasn’t returned?”
Reiji nodded and added, “It is strange, but maybe he just decided to give up on being an official.” Megumi shook his head.
“When he told us his dream of making this country memorable, he sounded like he meant it. I don’t believe he would throw away his dream so easily.”
Reiji could tell that Megumi was worried for Yuki, so he ruffled the top of Megumi’s head and said, “After we hear the results, we will ask for everyone to search for him, so relax.” Megumi sighed and nodded.
Boshi peeked into the room and said, “Unless you guys want to be left behind then you better get moving.” Megumi nodded and followed behind Reiji.
They entered the throne room for the first time and saw that the throne was empty. Kogoro, who was within the room, ordered the examinees to sit upon the chairs that were placed in the room. Megumi sat in the chair next to Reiji. Kogoro looked at them seriously.
“The results will be read by his majesty, so bow your heads.”
Megumi and the other examinees did as told. Out from behind a curtain stepped out the emperor. Megumi peeked up and felt his eyes widen. Before them stood Yuki with an emperor’s crown upon his head and in an amazing gown specifically made for an emperor. Yuki smiled but seriousness still in his eyes. He sat in the throne and announced, “I am Yuki Ki, emperor of Yulan.” Megumi, Boshi, Sora, and Reiji’s eyes widen at the sudden news.
“That gay guy?”
“Are you serious?”
Sora looked toward Megumi and wondered if Megumi would be punished for rejecting the advances of the emperor. Megumi sighed and placed a hand against his forehead wondering why Yuki was in their room in the first place. Reiji smiled toward Megumi and whispered, “At least we don’t have to do a search party now.” Megumi nodded feeling relieved.
Yuki was given a scroll and looked at the examinees that sat before him.
“I usually have one of my officials read the results to conceal my identity, but this time, I want to see the ones who are chosen to serve under me. I will only read the top twenty, so if your name isn’t called, then you will leave the palace and try again next year. The top twenty will remain here for training.”
Yuki unrolled the scroll and began to read the names starting from the bottom of the top twenty.
“Reiji Kou, rank twenty.”
Reiji smiled when his name was finally read as a passing grade. Megumi whispered a “congratulations” to him. Reiji nodded feeling the tears of joy struggling to come out.
“Ryouga Sou, rank nineteen.”
Ryouga smirked when he heard that he had passed. Megumi thought to himself that Ryouga’s last name sounded familiar.
“Sora Kofu, rank eighteen.”
Sora mouthed a “yes” at his victory of passing the exam.
“Riku Li, rank seventeen.”
Riku pouted feeling disappointed at his rank, but glad that he had passed.
“Mannen Sai, rank sixteen.”
Mannen cursed under his breath believing his rank to be too low for his status.
“Seto Kumi, rank fifteen; Sasuke Harada, rank fourteen; Toshio Hibiki, rank thirteen; Ichigo Goh, rank twelve; Keisuke Saotome, rank eleven; Nakago Gurada, rank ten; Genba Tendo, rank nine.”
Genba’s eyes widened for he believed that he would surely get the Diyuan rank.
“Boshi Kou, rank eight; Lee Kou, rank seven.”
Lee smirked at Boshi for his great accomplishment of getting a higher rank than his older brother. Boshi pouted muttering that he will beat Lee next time in their next contest.
“Youko Tai, rank six; Bakura Hoshi, rank five.”
Bakura chuckled at his accomplishment, while Youko pouted at being defeated by Bakura yet again when it came to rankings.
“Shiro Ran, rank four.”
Shiro smiled at his accomplishment while petting Chestnut’s head.
Everyone grew silent when they realized the top three ranks were about to be given.
“Rumiko Hashihara, rank three, title: Sanbing.”
Rumiko gasped at the sound of his name. His body felt heavy of failing to get Diyuan rank.
“Suiji Yan, rank two, title: Ziyuong.”
Suiji clenched his fist at the failure to get Diyuan. His body trembled wondering who had beaten him. A heavy air filled the room as they waited for the top rank with their bodies trembling. Megumi clenched his fist hoping for the best.
“The one who got the top rank and the title of Diyuan is the youngest of all the examinees and in the history of Yulan. I expect great things from him to make this country great.”
Yuki read the name out proudly for all to hear.
“Megumi Yoh, rank one, title: Diyuan.”
All eyes fell on Megumi, who was just as surprised. Megumi absorbed the information and felt himself smile at his victory of passing the exam. Yuki rose from his throne ordering the ones who didn’t pass to leave the palace grounds. The failures left feeling heavy hearted. The top twenty remained in their seats.
Yuki pointed at the ones who were victorious in the exam with a smile plastered on his face.
“You will be under the guidance of the officials in the palace as you train here for three months. After the three months, I will decide where you will be assigned to serve me.”
Yuki smiled at all of them, but specifically at Megumi and stated, “We expect great things from you.” The top twenty stood up from their chairs and bowed to Yuki.
In another room, Yosei was gathering his promised thousand gold pieces from Suha and Xian. Yosei smirked and said, “This should help my Region just nicely.” Suha crossed his arms and said, “I’m surprised that such a young boy passed with the top rank.” Xian nodded in agreement. Yosei chuckled as he pulled out the book he got from Megumi a few months back.
“I knew he could pass after reading his work,” stated Yosei. Yosei stared at the book in his hand and added, “I believe he will help Yulan prosper to something great.”
This was just another step in Megumi’s life.