Bunkai 9: Beauties

On the outskirts of the center of Yulan, a carriage of red and gold was entering through the main gates. A delicate hand moved the drapes of the carriage aside revealing the beautiful face of Hime Hana. Hime closed the drapes and then looked at a letter written on high class paper. The letter was from Megumi Yoh telling her about her training. Hime kissed the letter and held it to her heart.

“I’m finally coming to see you my love.”

Hime suddenly saw the seat in front of her move and raised an eyebrow. She touched the covering of the seat before her and then lifted it up. She gasped when she saw a young courtesan crouched under the fabric with her hands covering the top of her head.

“Why are you here, Sumire?” exclaimed Hime. The young courtesan, Sumire, giggled and stuck her tongue out.

“Looks like I was discovered,” stated Sumire in her sweet like voice. Hime groaned with a hand against her forehead.

“I specifically asked for you to stay behind when you asked to come. How did you even manage to hide here for a whole month?”

Sumire sat on the opposite chair, while dusting off her kimono.

“I just needed to rest when you were asleep and I had plenty of food to keep up my strength.”

Sumire smiled and added, “And you should know that I would find a way to come with you, Hime-Nee-San.” Sumire Towa, age fifteen, was a courtesan like Hime, but wasn’t as skilled, so she looked up to Hime as her mentor.

Hime shook her head and said, “I really didn’t want you to come.” Sumire narrowed her eyes when she saw the letter from Megumi in Hime’s hand.

“I needed to come so I can see HIM.”

Hime frowned for she was well aware of Sumire’s dislike toward Megumi. Hime only hoped that Sumire wouldn’t do anything to harm Megumi.

Megumi, in the meantime, was cleaning Chiriko’s office with Keiki’s assistance. Keiki groaned as he struggled to shelf a book on a high shelf.

“Why can’t these stupid officials keep their rooms clean?” complained Keiki.

“They have other duties,” replied Megumi in a plain tone. Keiki finally managed to shelf the book and then glanced back at Megumi.

“So are you really going with those two officials to Eva Province tomorrow?” asked Keiki. Megumi nodded. Keiki groaned as he picked up another fallen book.

“I can’t believe you have to travel to Eva Province just to become an official.”

“I don’t really have too, but I want to in order to get a higher position,” replied Megumi. Megumi organized Chiriko’s files, while also dusting off his desk. They suddenly heard a knock on the door followed by a voice.

“Megumi, can I speak with you?”

Megumi recognized the voice of Suiji Yan, Ziyuong of the imperial exams that year.

“Come in.”

Suiji opened the door revealing him in loose white clothing designed for cleaning. Suiji walked into the room making sure to close the door behind him. Megumi smiled at Suiji and stated, “I don’t get to see you much, so what brings you here?” Suiji took in a deep breath before speaking.

“I doubted the rumors that you were going to visit Eva province with Lord Chiriko and Lord Naohito as Lord Chiriko’s assistant for your training, but after seeing the bulletin, I now know it is true.”

Megumi nodded and asked, “Is this what you wanted to tell me?” Suiji’s eyes narrowed.

“I also heard that you were told to pick another trainee for this trip. You could have chosen the Ziyuong or the Sanbing to be your training partner, but you chose the guy that ranked rank twenty. Where is the logic in that?”

Suiji’s voice seemed to rise at each syllable he spoke. Megumi sighed unfazed by Suiji’s angered outburst.

“You don’t see it much, but Reiji studies every day after his duties. He is working hard and I believe that this trip will only make him improve.”

Suiji scoffed, while also kicking over a stack of books that Keiki had just recently fixed. Keiki cursed at Suiji as Suiji left the room. Keiki gathered the books with an angered expression.

“That guy is a jerk,” muttered Keiki. Megumi nodded and added, “But I guess he has his reasons to be angered.”

The door to the room suddenly opened allowing Naohito to barge in.

“Me…”

Naohito immediately tripped over Keiki’s back sending him flying toward the floor. Megumi supported him quickly with her extended right arm before he could even touch the floor. Naohito smiled at Megumi thanking her for the rescue. Megumi nodded helping Naohito to his feet. Naohito turned to Keiki, who was standing up.

“I apologize for tripping over you for you see that luck is not with me,” stated Naohito. Keiki scoffed and continued to clean not wanting to get involved with Naohito.

Naohito looked back at Megumi and said, “I came in here to invite you to come with me to the market place.”

“Why the market place?”

“Well we need to buy some supplies for our trip tomorrow and Chiriko is preoccupied with something else at the moment.”

“That makes sense, but what about my duties for today? I still have to finish cleaning Chiriko’s office and organizing some files in the Industrial Affairs archives.”

Naohito shook his hand in the air and stated, “I asked Suha if it would be all right for you to go shopping with me and he said OK. He excused you from any remaining duties for today.” Megumi smiled and nodded.

“I’ll be honored to go shopping with you then.”

Naohito cheered. Keiki suddenly touched Naohito’s shoulder making Naohito flinch.

“Where ever Megumi goes, I go,” stated Keiki. Naohito nodded with an uneasy look upon his face.

Megumi placed an index finger against her cheek in thought and asked, “Should we bring Reiji along too? He is going on the trip as well.” Naohito’s sighed and nodded.

It took about thirty minutes for them to retrieve Reiji and then head out the gates of the palace and toward the market place. Reiji glanced at the surrounding stands with a smile on his face.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been out of the palace,” stated Reiji. Megumi nodded in agreement. Keiki smirked at Reiji and Megumi.

“It must suck to be trainees who can only get out of the palace with permission from a higher official,” teased Keiki. Megumi glared at Keiki making him flinch.

“Don’t insult our training when you know I have the power to send you running,” threatened Megumi. Keiki nodded still wondering when he would be able to stand against Megumi’s wrath.

Megumi suddenly noticed that Naohito was already at a stand with a large vase. Megumi ran to Naohito already knowing what was about to happen. Naohito touched the vase lightly in fascination, but the vase ended up tipping over toward the hard ground. Megumi caught the vase in midair and placed it back on the stand table to the stand owner’s relief.

Megumi ushered Naohito away from the vase and said, “Make sure to stay close to me when we go to the needed stands.” Naohito nodded.

Reiji and Keiki saw the display Megumi did with the vase and thought that Megumi was the only thing lucky that Naohito had with him.

As they headed to a stand with a variety of ripe fruit, Keiki noticed a red and gold carriage rolling down the street in the direction of the palace. Keiki recognized the symbol of the “Red Lotus” on the side of the carriage and exclaimed, “Why is a carriage from Red Lotus here?” Megumi flinched at the mention of the top Brothel and looked over her shoulder. Megumi’s eyes widen when she caught a glimpse of Hime looking through the drapes.

“Hime?”

Naohito and Reiji looked at Megumi in confusion. The carriage rolled to a stop in front of Megumi and the others. The doors to the carriage opened revealing Hime in a beautiful deep red Kimono. Her hair was held up in a bun with a rose pin and the make-up she wore looked natural to her beauty. She truly looked like a princess.

Hime smiled brightly as she looked at Megumi. She leapt out of the carriage and hugged Megumi tightly saying her name. Megumi stumbled back as she tried to support Hime.

“Why are you here?” asked Megumi with wide eyes. Hime giggled and replied, “I couldn’t stand to be away from you, my darling Megumi.” Hime kissed Megumi on the cheek. Naohito and Reiji’s mouths were wide as they looked at Megumi and Hime.

“Who is that beautiful woman?” asked Naohito. Keiki sighed with crossed arms.

“Hime Hana, the top courtesan of the Red Lotus and Megumi’s lover.”

“Lover?” exclaimed Reiji and Naohito at once. Megumi frowned and said, “She’s not my lover, she’s my friend.” Hime peeled herself away from Megumi fixing her hair.

“I really wish that you would accept my love, Megumi,” stated Hime. Megumi sighed with a hand against her forehead.

“Did you seriously come here to only see me?” asked Megumi. Hime nodded and added, “I wrote so many letters, but you only sent me one. What else could I do, but visit you?” Megumi shook her head.

“I admit that I am glad to see you after so long, but you have your duty as a courtesan to serve in the Red Lotus and I have my duty to train as an official,” reasoned Megumi. Hime giggled and traced her hand against Megumi’s lips.

“I have the freedom to visit you, my love,” stated Hime and leaned in to kiss Megumi. Reiji gasped and was about to yell out a protest, but he fell silent when Sumire burst from inside the carriage and swung her fan between Hime and Megumi. Hime glared at Sumire and yelled, “What are you doing?”

Sumire unraveled her fan covering the bottom of her face.

“There was a flying cockroach between your lips and the scum’s, so I had no choice, but to interfere,” said Sumire in a sweet voice. Hime groaned, while Megumi, Reiji, Keiki, and Naohito stared at Sumire.

“Who is that new girl?” asked Reiji. Keiki pointed at Sumire and said, “Her name is Sumire Towa, a courtesan under Hime’s care.” Sumire smiled at Keiki and said, “I am glad that the slime ball remembers my beautiful name.” Keiki glared at Sumire screaming, “I am not a slime ball!” Sumire scoffed and glanced at Megumi.

“It looks like you have grown since I last saw you, SCUM.”

Megumi smirked and said, “I can say the same for you. You grew your hair and grew taller since I last saw you a year ago, PIG.” Sumire giggled.

“Well of course I would have grown since coming back from Ai Region. I return to see darling flower Mikan, but only to realize that she is no longer in this world.”

Sumire’s voice was filled with spite. Megumi and Sumire were soon in a glaring battle. Hime noticed this and stepped between them facing Megumi.

“I forgot to ask, but can you tell me why you are not in the palace for your training, my darling Megumi?”

Megumi glanced back at Naohito, Keiki, and Reiji.

“I need to buy some supplies with Naohito, Keiki, and Reiji for tomorrow’s trip to Eva Province. It is for my training as an official after all.”

Hime looked at the three boys and showed a charming smile that made their faces grow red.

“If you are leaving tomorrow then please let me accompany you for this short time.”

Naohito nodded feeling somewhat possessed by Hime’s stunning beauty. Sumire shut her fan and said, “I shall also come for I need to stick close with a certain scum of blue eyes.” Naohito nodded again, but he couldn’t help the feeling that Sumire had a somewhat menacing aura about her very form.

Megumi heaved out a sigh wondering if it was a good idea to have two courtesans with them in their little trip through the market.

At a clothes stand, Megumi picked up a red patterned cloth. She examined it closely and looked at the stand owner.

“How much for this cloth?”

“Well it is a cloth that is foreign, so it would be around seventy silver pieces.”

“It is expensive, but…”

Megumi stretched the cloth with seriousness in her eyes.

“This is not cloth from a foreign country. If you feel the fabric you can immediately tell that it was made by silk worms from our country. Also the color is made from the blood of the Ruby Bugs in Yulan’s Woods. You can tell it is the blood of the bugs because of the texture of the dye and the feel of marble between the fingers that it creates when rubbed.”

Megumi folded the cloth placing it gently on the stand in front of the wide eyed owner.

“I would pay the price of the cloth if you were an honest salesman.”

Megumi turned away from the owner, who was wondering how Megumi knew how the cloth was made.

Hime immediately hugged Megumi saying, “You were amazing Megumi. Only you would be able to see a fake in goods.” Megumi pried out of Hime’s grasp with uneasiness written on her face.

“I was just trying to tell the merchant to be an honest salesman,” stated Megumi.

Reiji approached Megumi with a few clothes he had recently bought for their trip in his grasp and asked, “Which stand are you going to next?”

“Well I do need to buy a new bag for the trip and a blanket,” stated Megumi. Megumi suddenly spotted Keiki near a stand selling leather bags. Megumi approached Keiki walking past Hime, Reiji, and Sumire. Keiki glanced back at Megumi still in front of the market stand and asked, “You need something from here?” Megumi nodded and began to examine each of the bags. Megumi spotted a bag with a design of oranges and Sakura and smiled. She reached out to the bag with the intent to buy it, but a hand suddenly snatched the bag followed by a voice saying, “I would like this bag please.”

Megumi looked at the holder of the bag, Sumire, who was happily paying the owner. Sumire smirked at Megumi. Megumi narrowed her eyes. It seemed like Megumi’s form was beginning to be unapproachable. Keiki noticed this and held up a different bag with an apple design.

“Do you want this bag instead?” asked Keiki quickly with his shoulders shaking. Megumi glanced at the bag and nodded. She took the bag and paid the owner the stated price. Megumi was about to place the bag over her shoulder, but Sumire fell grabbing Megumi’s bag. The bag’s strap stretched creating a crack in the design. Megumi flinched as she held her bag. Megumi glanced at Sumire, who was getting up, and caught sight of Sumire’s malicious smirk. Megumi clenched the strap of the bag shaking in anger.

Reiji noticed Megumi’s shaking shoulders and placed a hand on her head. Megumi looked at Reiji with wide eyes.

“Just let it go for now,” whispered Reiji already catching on that Sumire was trying to provoke Megumi. Megumi nodded as she pushed Reiji’s hand off her head.

Hime suddenly hugged Megumi and asked, “Can you please tell me more about your training as we shop?” Megumi nodded walking away from Reiji with Hime holding her arm. Keiki followed after Megumi without saying a word. Reiji was going to follow until he noticed Sumire’s angered expression as she gripped her new bag.

“Is something wrong Sumire?” asked Reiji. Sumire scoffed and muttered, “I hate that scum.” Reiji watched Sumire walk ahead wondering why she seemed to hate Megumi so much.

Reiji suddenly realized something and asked, “Where is Naohito?” Megumi stopped in her tracks as she became pale. Megumi cursed under her breath and pulled away from Hime. Megumi glanced back at them and said, “I have to find Naohito before he gets hurt.”

When Megumi was out of sight, Hime sighed and stated, “I really wanted to spend all my time with Megumi.” Sumire pouted and muttered, “What’s so great about HIM?” Hime chose to ignore Sumire as she approached Reiji and Keiki.

“If Megumi is not present then Sumire and I will go to the hotel we planned to stay in. Just let Megumi know that I will be staying in Gardenia Hotel and that I wish to see him if he has the time, OK.”

Reiji and Keiki nodded. Hime gestured to Sumire to follow as she walked down the path with almost all the men’s eyes upon her beautiful form. Sumire glanced back at Keiki and Reiji with a glare and continued on her way.

“Is Sumire always so hostile around Megumi?” asked Reiji. Keiki nodded and added, “She’s only like that around Megumi because Megumi prevented her from getting close to Mikan.”

“Mikan, isn’t that Megumi’s sister?”

Keiki nodded and raised an eyebrow at Reiji.

“I’m surprised you know Mikan’s name. Megumi doesn’t seem to like to talk about her in front of you guys.”

Reiji nodded and added, “Well Megumi and I are friends; so can you tell me why exactly Megumi didn’t want Sumire near his sister?”

“I’m not quite sure. Mikan and Sumire used to play together during their off time. They were best friends and Megumi seemed to like Sumire, but suddenly Megumi became cold to Sumire and prevented her from getting close to Mikan. Mikan didn’t want any contact with Sumire either. I don’t know why their relationship got so bad, but things improved when Sumire went to Ai Region to train as a courtesan.”

Keiki placed a hand to his head and added, “Megumi was always overprotective of Mikan. No man could get close to Mikan unless Megumi approved of the man first. I guess it was the same with Mikan’s friends. How could Mikan stand a guy like that as a brother?”

Reiji placed a hand on his chin as he looked in the direction Megumi ran off too. He could tell that Megumi was deeply devoted to her sister, but wondered how far Megumi was willing to go for Mikan.

Megumi walked around the market place calling out for Naohito. Megumi had a look of worry as she envisioned the tragic scenes that could have befallen Naohito. She was so worried that she didn’t even notice the admirable stares of the surrounding women. One of the women seemed to get up the courage to approach Megumi.

“Um, excuse me, sir?”

Megumi glanced back at the unknown girl and asked, “Do you need something?” The girl was red all the way up to her ears. The girl began to stutter making Megumi even more confused. Megumi suddenly remembered her mission to find Naohito and bowed deeply to the girl.

“I’m sorry, but I have to find my friend,” stated Megumi. Megumi was about to walk off, but the unknown girl grabbed Megumi’s hand and immediately asked, “Can you tell me what your friend looks like?” Megumi nodded and gave a detailed description of Naohito. The girl nodded and said, “I saw him enter the Kuro District of the market.”

“Kuro District?”

The girl nodded and said, “It’s where the mafia usually gathers.” Megumi cursed under her breath and said, “I better go there fast before he gets killed.” Megumi yanked her hand away from the girl thanking her for the information.

Before Megumi could run off, the girl took in a deep breath and then yelled, “My name is Jia Hatsune!” Megumi glanced back at the girl and said, “Thank you, Jia Hatsune.” Megumi ran off leaving Jia completely flustered.

Megumi ran into the Kuro District calling for Naohito, but there was still no answer. Megumi sighed and continued her search through the District.

Megumi suddenly heard Naohito’s scream and rushed down the path of the district. She stopped in her tracks when she saw a group of men looking into one area, while also cheering. Their cheers were mixed with Naohito’s scream. Megumi shoved through the crowd of men and when she reached the end of the crowd, she saw Naohito running around what looked like a fighting ring, while dodging the fists of a man who looked no older than his teens.

“Naohito!”

Naohito looked toward Megumi and his face changed to a look of relief, but that relief was short lived as he tripped and crashed into the ground. The man fighting Naohito was about to slam his heel into Naohito’s fallen form, but Megumi rushed into the ring and blocked the attacker’s foot with her forearm.

“Who the hell are you?” asked the man with a sneer. Megumi shoved the man’s foot away and helped Naohito to his feet.

“My name is Megumi Yoh, Naohito’s friend. Now tell me why Naohito is in a fighting ring against you, whoever you are!”

The man chuckled as he crossed his arms.

“My name is Keida Matsuba, the next in line for the Matsuba mafia and your dear friend, Naohito you say, entered my turf without my permission and even had the nerve to trip me and spill half the barrel of wines in our storage house. He even tore the paper currency I dropped. That’s why I just decided to challenge him, so I can have the excuse to beat his sorry butt.”

The other men cheered in agreement. Naohito shook his head holding Megumi’s arm.

“I told you that I just got lost. I didn’t even see you when I stepped back and I didn’t mean for the barrels to spill your wine. I was just trying to see what was inside them. I also wanted to return the money you dropped when you fell, but it just tore on its own.”

“Liar!” screamed Keida as he began to crunch his knuckles. Megumi sighed and pushed Naohito behind her back.

“Naohito is telling the truth. He has…terrible luck.”

Naohito nodded as he cowered behind Megumi. Keida smirked and threw a punch at Megumi screaming, “Then I guess he’s better off dead!” To Keida’s surprise, Megumi blocked Keida’s fist with the palm of her hand. Keida tried to pull his fist away, but Megumi held his fist tightly.

“I don’t want to fight you, but if you try to lay a hand on Naohito then I will beat you to the ground,” stated Megumi in a low voice. To make her point clear, Megumi squeezed Keida’s hand making him cringe from the pain. Megumi shoved Keida back making him stumble.

Megumi led Naohito out of the ring. She glared at the surrounding men forcing them to clear a path for her and Naohito.

Keida clenched his fist as he glared at the back of Megumi. He was known as the strongest male in the Kuro District, but now he met someone that could be even stronger than him. Keida promised himself that if he ever met Megumi Yoh again, he would beat her down.

As Megumi and Naohito walked out of the district, Naohito stared at the ground with a solemn look. Megumi glanced back at Naohito and asked, “Are you OK?”

“I always cause trouble for you,” muttered Naohito. Megumi chuckled and said, “You do cause trouble for me, but I am always glad to see that you are safe in the end.” Naohito glanced up at Megumi and asked, “Really?”

Megumi nodded and added, “We are friends after all.” Naohito continued to stare at Megumi and could have sworn that a halo had formed over her head and that she was beginning to glow in his eyes. Naohito turned red and looked down again saying, “Thank you, Megumi.” Megumi nodded and continued to lead him.

Megumi and Naohito walked down the path away from the district not noticing that Jia was watching their retreating backs. She smiled as she watched Megumi walk off and placed a finger to her lips.

“He really is the man for me to be able to stand up against Keida.”

Jia turned her back on Megumi as she entered the Kuro District. Her long hair bounced up slightly revealing the symbol of the Hatsune Mafia Group on the nape of her neck.

Meanwhile, Hime was in her hotel room brushing her long black hair in front of a tall mirror. Sumire was sitting on the bed of the room with her hands over the bag she bought from the market. Hime glanced back at Sumire and said, “You might as well train yourself while with me, so why don’t you go back into the market to get yourself a make-up kit.”

Sumire nodded and draped the handle of the bag over her shoulder. She headed out the door saying that she would return.

Hime paused in her actions as she looked toward the door Sumire walked through.

“I should make her return to Go Province before she gets hurt,” muttered Hime.

Sumire walked through the market humming a tune that she heard during her travels to Ai Region. It was a soothing tune that she grew to love. Her mind began to wander to the days she spent with Mikan. Sumire smiled at the sweet memories of them together, but that smile faded when she remembered Mikan talking endlessly about her twin brother, Megumi. Sumire frowned.

“Curse that scum,” muttered Sumire. Sumire suddenly collided into someone causing her to fall to the ground on her bottom. Sumire rubbed her sore bottom and looked up at the person she collided into. Sumire’s face became pale as she looked up at a dangerous looking man, who had a scar around his neck and tangled hair. He glared down at Sumire’s fallen form.

“Watch where you’re going, WOMAN,” he stated in almost a grumble. Sumire nodded, not wanting to get involved with the man. Sumire shot to her feet ready to run pass the man, but the man grabbed her thin wrist making her gasp.

“You’re not just going to leave without saying sorry are you?”

Sumire tugged at her arm apologizing repeatedly. The man noticed how Sumire was dressed and smirked.

“Are you a courtesan?”

Sumire refused to answer as she attempted to free herself from the man’s grasp.

“If you’re a courtesan, how about you grant me a night with your body to apologize for bumping into me,” bargained the man. Sumire turned pale and began to scream for help. No one seemed to care as they walked pass the man and Sumire.

The man pulled Sumire roughly to him and leaned toward her lips. Sumire shut her eyes still hoping for someone to save her.

A flying kick suddenly connected to the side of the man’s face forcing him to release Sumire and go flying into the wall of a building. Sumire opened her eyes and saw Megumi standing before her glaring at the fallen man.

“Megumi?”

Megumi didn’t answer as she crunched her knuckles. Megumi approached the man as the man began to recover. The man looked toward Megumi and gasped when he noticed the anger in her eyes.

“What were you doing to that woman?” demanded Megumi. The man couldn’t seem to get any words out as Megumi glared down at him. Megumi grabbed the front of the man’s shirt and screamed, “Do you have any respect as a man?” The man began to tear up as Megumi held him at eye level.

Sumire watched from the distance with wide eyes.

“He’s defending me?” muttered Sumire.

“Are you all right?”

Sumire flinched and looked to her side only to see Naohito looking at her in concern.

“You’re that official that went missing right?” asked Sumire. Naohito nodded and added, “But I’m all right now thanks to my friend, Megumi.” Naohito glanced in Megumi’s direction.

“It seems like Megumi also saved you,” stated Naohito. Sumire stared toward Megumi, who was lecturing the man, and clenched her fist.

“Scum.”

“What?”

The man soon ran off mostly in tears as Megumi approached Sumire and Naohito.

“I don’t think that man will bother you anymore,” stated Megumi as she looked at Sumire. Sumire glared at Megumi and screamed, “I never asked for your help, SCUM!” Megumi narrowed her eyes.

“Is that how you thank a person for helping you? I could have just walked away like the others, but you cried for help, so I helped. You can at least show some gratitude, PIG!”

“I did call for help, but not for you and who are you calling pig, SCUM.”

“Only you, PIG!”

“SCUM of the earth!”

Megumi and Sumire were soon in a glaring battle. Naohito stared at them nervously wondering what he should do. Naohito spotted Reiji and Keiki and waved to them. Reiji waved to Naohito, while Keiki just walked toward him with crossed arms.

Keiki glanced at Sumire and Megumi and said, “So Sumire and Megumi met up again. No wonder the atmosphere sucks.” Sumire glared at Keiki and screamed, “Shut up Slime Ball!”

“Who are you calling a Slime Ball?” yelled Keiki. Keiki seemed ready to start a fight.

Naohito sighed and looked at Reiji.

“Do you know how to prevent them from fighting?”

“I don’t think so, but what caused this in the first place.”

“Well Megumi saved the young lady, Sumire, from a man harassing her and Sumire just started to yell at Megumi.”

Reiji narrowed his eyes looking in Sumire’s direction.

“You should thank Megumi for helping you, you know,” stated Reiji. Sumire scoffed and began to march away. Megumi crossed her arms and said, “She’s always like that.” Reiji approached Megumi’s side and placed a hand on her shoulder making her look at him.

“I’m saying this as a friend. You should speak with Sumire and get a proper thank you and apology from her.”

“What if I say no?” asked Megumi. Reiji smiled and leaned toward her ear.

“Then you will have to speak to me about your problems all night and I know that you don’t want that, right?”

Megumi frowned and walked in the direction Sumire went telling Reiji, Naohito, and Keiki to meet her near the palace. Reiji nodded waving goodbye to Megumi. Naohito glanced in the direction Megumi went and asked, “Will he be OK with that girl?”

“Maybe,” said Keiki and Reiji in unison.

Megumi marched through the market trying to find Sumire. She spotted Sumire near a stand specializing in foreign make-up. Megumi peeked over Sumire’s shoulder and saw a make-up kit that resembled Mikan’s old one.

“Are you trying to buy that make-up kit?” asked Megumi. Sumire flinched and looked back at Megumi.

“Why are you here you stupid scum?”

“I wanted to get an apology and a thank you,” stated Megumi. Sumire groaned and turned away from Megumi.

“No way in Hell,” stated Sumire. Megumi frowned and said, “I expected this from you, but I still want at least one thank you for once.”

Sumire tried to slap Megumi, but Megumi caught her hand. Sumire’s eyes showed anger.

“I will never thank you or apologize. You don’t deserve any of those words for letting Mikan die so horribly!” screamed Sumire. Megumi frowned and suddenly noticed that people were looking at them. Megumi pulled Sumire into an alleyway where no one could see them. Sumire yanked her hand away from Megumi.

“I need you to calm down,” stated Megumi. Sumire clenched her fist shaking her head.

“You promised to always protect Mikan. I trusted those words when I left for Ai Region.”

Sumire glared at Megumi with tears forming in her eyes.

“If you never interfered with my relationship with Mikan then I would have been able to protect her and she would be alive!”

Megumi clenched her fist as she glared at Sumire.

“I only interfered because Mikan ran to me crying saying that you kissed her.”

Sumire wiped her tears and said, “I only kissed her because I loved her.”

“Girls don’t kiss other girls on the lips,” pointed out Megumi. Sumire frowned. Megumi crossed her arms.

“I really did want you and Mikan to remain friends, but after you made her cry, I couldn’t let you two be together and Mikan thought the same way.”

Megumi suddenly approached Sumire and grabbed her wrist making Sumire gasp.

“You say that you could have protected Mikan, but you don’t even have the strength to fight off that man from before or me for that matter.”

Sumire felt Megumi’s strength through the grasp and cringed. Megumi released Sumire’s wrist and added, “How could you have protected Mikan as a MAN?” Sumire’s eyes widened as she clenched the front of her kimono.

“You know?”

Megumi nodded.

“Since when?”

Megumi crossed her arms and replied, “Ever since I first lay eyes on you, I could immediately tell that you are a boy.” Sumire turned pale.

Sumire ever since “she” was born was always a boy. Sumire needed the money for his family and trained to be a courtesan because his strength as a man wasn’t enough. He kept up this charade of a woman for years.

Sumire shook his head and clenched the front of Megumi’s shirt making her flinch.

“Don’t tell anyone. I beg of you,” said Sumire quickly. Megumi pushed Sumire off gently and said, “I’ve known for years and never told anyone. Why would I tell someone now?” Sumire was struck speechless.

Megumi sighed and added, “As much as I hate you, I would never reveal a secret that would hurt you.” Sumire clenched his fist with tears in his eyes.

“I know that you’re a good guy. You always helped Mikan when she was in danger. Why couldn’t you save her when she needed it most?”

Megumi glanced at Sumire with a sad smile.

“I ask myself the same question. I always wish that I was the one who died, instead of Mikan.”

Sumire could tell that Megumi was ready to cry. Sumire clenched his fist and said, “I’m sorry for calling you a scum when you saved me.” Megumi looked at Sumire with wide eyes. Sumire turned red and added, “And thank you for saving me and for promising to keep my secret.” Megumi smiled and thanked Sumire. Sumire blushed and turned away from Megumi.

“I hate it when you smile,” stated Sumire. Megumi chuckled and began to walk off. She patted Sumire’s head as she walked by and whispered, “Good luck in your training.” Sumire touched his head muttering that he still hated Megumi with flushed cheeks.

Megumi headed back to the palace with her hands behind her head. Megumi still disliked Sumire, but felt that they may have gotten closer.

Megumi reached the palace where Reiji and Keiki were waiting. She approached them and asked, “Did Naohito go in ahead?” Reiji nodded and added, “He told us that he promised to go to Lord Chiriko after the market trip to show that he was all right.” Megumi chuckled.

Keiki examined Megumi closely making her look at him.

“So Sumire didn’t try to attack you?” asked Keiki. Megumi sighed and said, “She did try to attack, but she’s not strong enough to hurt me.” Megumi placed her index finger to her cheek and added, “But I think we may have made a connection that isn’t so hostile.”

Keiki frowned and asked, “Are you getting attracted to Sumire?”

“Not in a million years,” stated Megumi quickly. Reiji laughed uneasily. Megumi pushed Reiji and Keiki through the palace doors with a smile on her face.

“We better rest up if we want to be energized for the trip for tomorrow,” stated Megumi. Reiji smiled and nodded. Keiki, on the other hand, began to yell out protests for Megumi to stop pushing him. Megumi laughed feeling that the trip would bring about new changes for her.

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