by the Bluhdy One
(Started December 7, 1999)

Fuuko awoke sometime around the night to go to the bathroom. She tiptoed to it both going and coming. She didn't bother turning on the lights, as a bright moon illuminated the room, with its beautiful beams sifting through the curtains and bedroom windows. She had crept halfway to the bed when she noted a strange figure on the nearby sofabed. She walked quietly towards it and recognized Raiha sleeping soundly. The sofa bed was a mere three feet from where she slept. He laid still like a statue, the strands of his long hair falling like tendrils on his face. He breathed softly, almost silently. Fuuko stood there, how long she didn't know, just watching the man who had rescued her from certain death.   

Why is he sleeping here? she thought. He said he'd be in the other room. Was it possible he was going to try to kill her during the night? But then, she thought otherwise, if he wanted to eliminate her, he would've done so earlier. Or he would've just let her die in the middle of the ocean. Unless...she then remembered his words during the Urabutosatsoujin.  

"We have a destiny, you and I. Our weapons are set to face one another someday. Your fuujin, and my raijin."  

He's been saving my life because he wants to face off with me one day, she concluded. A smirk appeared on her lips, And for a while there I thought there was some other reason he's been rescuing me. Fuuko sighed and returned to her bed. Too bad, she said to herself. She was almost inclined to think he was being kind to her because he liked her. Oh shut up, Fuuko, she laughed. That's absurd. Thinking he might be sleeping here because he was watching over her and would like to be there when she needed him. Fuuko tried not to laugh too loud. She was almost touched. Almost.   

She was up and about as early as dawn. Fuuko took a shower and changed into her now dry bikini. She topped it off with a blue shirt and a pair of jeans she had found lying on the chair next to her bed. She wondered how Raiha got clothes her size. I must be the same size as his girlfriend, she thought. Though she had risen early, she was surprised to see Raiha up even earlier. He was setting the table for breakfast when she came in. They didn't talk much during the meal, other than Raiha asking her if she slept well. Fuuko answered in the affirmative.  

The cottage from outside was larger than Fuuko had expected. It was twice as big as the one they stayed in. Apparently it was located on the same resort, as the white sandy beaches and linear palm trees looked the same. Raiha escorted her to a dock not too far away where a small speedboat was located. He helped her on the boat and took to the steering wheel.  

The minutes flew slowly as they sailed through the waters. Much as she didn't want to admit it, Fuuko rather enjoyed herself. The sun shining brightly on them and the cool spray of water on her face was exhilirating. The wind blew her hair in all directions but she didn't care. It was a great day to be alive. Ever since she put her life at stake in the battles of the Urabutosatsoujin, Fuuko realized the value of life and living. Survival then had been the name of the game, and ever since Fuuko learned to thank the Higher powers for letting her live through them all. This previous ordeal included.

Raiha stole a glance at the girl seated beside him. He felt a bubble of happiness burst inside him. He was glad he had gotten to her on time. Yesterday he had been scared half to death when he held her unconscious body in his arms. At first he didn't think she'd make it. But she did, he thought. Fuuko was a strong girl. Someone who wouldn't give up the fight for anything. She's a fighter. And he would stake his life on a bet that when the day comes that they have to fight each other, she would give it her all. She would be an opponent who wouldn't stop fighting until the last breath. An adversary who wouldn't know the word quit and who wouldn't give up the battle no matter what.  

Somehow that thought didn't comfort him.  

"Yes, Fuuko-sama?"
"I was wondering..." she turned to look at him. "You are still of the Uruha Jyusshinshuu, right?"
It was his turn to look at Fuuko. "What do you mean?"
"What I mean is..." Fuuko said, "You seem like a nice guy and all...but how come you work for someone the likes of Kurei?"
"Master Kurei is more than the man you see, Fuuko-sama." he replied, "People misinterpret him all the time. All they see is the ruthless leader of the Uruha Jyusshinshuu. He is much more than that. Deep inside, he's a man like any other, with a heart that feels for the welfare of his men. The only reason he's doing all that is because of Mori Kouran. Master Kurei has been hurt by this man more times than he could remember. Master Kurei is, I believe, afraid of getting hurt again." he paused before going on,"Of course now that he is gone, I just wish his soul would be finally in peace."
Fuuko merely nodded. She turned when Raiha spoke again.
"Do you love your friends, Fuuko-sama?" he asked.
"Why yes, of course." she answered. "I'd give my life for them."
He smiled, "So would I, Fuuko-sama. And Master Kurei is more than just my superior. He is my dear friend. He's like a brother to me. That is why I remain faithful to him and to the group he leads."
"Okay, I understand." Fuuko agreed. She was rather impressed with this man's principles. In this day and age, one could find very few of this kind of person. 

After a few minutes, land came into view, and Fuuko spotted the cottage where the Hokage ninjas stayed. "There!" she cried merrily, pointing out to the image before her. As soon as Raiha had docked the boat, she jumped over and ran towards the cottage.

"Hey everybody! I'm here!" she screamed as she burst through the front door. Her friends were all gathered around the living room, apparently worried sick. They simultaneously looked at her elated figure and were initially shocked. It didn't take them long to react though, as they all ran towards her.

"Fuuko-sama!" Ganko cried merrily, leaping towards Fuuko's open arms. Kagero and Yanagi hugged her as well. 

"Hey Fuuko, what happened to you?" Recca inquired.
"We were worried sick about you." Shigeo added.
"Glad to see you're okay." commented Tokiya. "For a while there, I thought you were a goner."
"My beloved, are you alright? I was so freaked out." Domon rushed to hug Fuuko who ducked, causing Domon to collide into Recca.
"Ow! watch it!" cried Recca who lay flat on the wooden floor with Domon on top of him.
"Fuuko-sama, where have you been?" Kaoru asked, "We've searched all over for you."

Fuuko was about to launch into a tale of how she got caught in the tide when everybody became suddenly quiet. She turned her head to where everyone else was staring and found their eyes focused to the figure by the doorway.

Domon walked up to where Raiha stood and grabbed him by the collar, "Did you hurt my darling Fuuko?" he aimed his fist at the other man's face, "Tell me, Fuuko what this sorry sob did to you. If you ever laid a hand on her, I'll..."

"Keep your head on, Domon." Fuuko hushed, "He didn't do anything bad." she put down Ganko and went to Raiha's side. He was a little hesitant but she led him in. "He saved my life." she declared, leaving eveyone open-mouthed.

"You're kidding." Tokiya said skeptically.
"See, this is how it happened." Fuuko launched into an account of how she got lost in the dark waters and got caught in a strong current. Raiha filled in the gaps where he had resuced Fuuko. He spoke casually, not hinting anything on how he felt about everything that occurred.

"So, you saved Fuuko." Yanagi said, "Thank God you were there."
"I was glad to be of help." Raiha said. "It was nothing."
Domon put his hand on the former's shoulder. "I'm sorry I almost hit on you earlier, man." he apologized, "I'm glad you helped by beloved. I wouldn't know what to do if I lost her."
Neither would I, thought Raiha. He smiled at Domon,"That's okay. You're just being protective."
"Thanks man." Recca nudged Raiha. "We almost lost our heads looking for Fuuko here. You just had to go swimming in the dark, didn't you?" he called out to his childhood friend.
"Oh shut up, Hanabishi." Fuuko retorted, "I didn't ask to be swallowed up by the water."
"Why don't you stay over for lunch?" Kagero invited, "It's better than eating alone in your cottage."
Raiha shook his head, "I would love to, Kagero-sama. But I have to go back to the Uruha mansion. I'm needed there." he said. He stood up, as if to announce his departure. "I have to be going. I have things to do."
"You sure you can't stay, Raiha-sama?" asked Kaoru.
"I'm afraid not, Kaoru." he paused to ruffle Kaoru's hair, "Just watch over Fuuko-sama there so she doesn't go off night swimming again. She might not be as lucky this time."
"No need to worry about that," Domon declared, "I'll have my eye on her every second of the day!"

Raiha said his goodbyes and headed off to the boat. He was about to hop in when he heard his name.
He turned to look at Fuuko who was running towards him. She stopped immediately in front of him. Raiha took a breath. She looked so radiant and blooming with the wind in her hair and the sun on her face. Her cheeks glowed a faint rose-color and her skin looked petal-soft to the touch. He felt his heart skip a beat at the sight of her so alive and warm. It was a severe contrast to the deathly pale appearance of yesterday when he carried her almost lifeless body ashore. And once again he was thanking the stars for the timely intervention.

"Yes, Fuuko-sama?" he asked.
"I came to say Thank you," she began, "I seemed to have forgotten that." she admitted shyly. "How can I repay you?"
He flashed a smile at her, "You are most welcome, Fuuko-sama. And don't think of repaying me. It's my pleasure." he then stopped for a second or two, "Someday Fuuko-sama, when we meet head on...give me the fight of your life...that would be enough payment for me."
"You can bet on that one." she laughed. 'Well...thanks again. Have a safe trip. Bye now." 

Fuuko turned to leave when she feltt his hand grasp her arm. She was about to ask why when all of a sudden she found herself in his arms. She had gotten caught in his embrace and in a matter of second found his lips on hers. Fuuko was so shocked she couldn't move. She closed her eyes as she felt his warm mouth meeting hers. All at once her head began to swim and her feet felt like water. Her thoughts all seemed to have vanished in air and all that was left was the strange thrilling sensation his kiss was giving her. She didn't know how long she stood there trapped in Raiha's tender hold. but when he finally let her go, she almost lost her balance. She held on to his arms for support as she tried to regain control of her senses.

He stood there, looking almost as surprised as she was, but unlike her, he seemed to have control of his footing. "I...I....I'm sorry, Fuuko-sama. I didn't mean to..."
"I...." she muttered, as though she had lost her tongue. She tried shaking her head to get her awareness back.
He steadied her before turning his back. He boarded the speed boat without looking back at her and said, "Please forgive me, Fuuko-sama. I don't know what got over me. Good bye." he apologized. With that he started the boat and drove it away quckly. Fuuko was left there without uttering much of anything. She merely watched as the boat sped away until it finally disappeared throught he horizon.

Fuuko didn't realize she was touching her lips that still felt warm from Raiha's unexpected kiss. She turned about slowly, still trying to grasp what happened in the last few minutes. When she looked up, she saw Yanagi by the shore, looking at her with a wide-eyed stare. 

"Fuuko...?" Yanagi asked tentatively.
"You didn't see anything...Yanagi." It sounded more of a request than an order. Fuuko passed the other girl without batting an eyelash.

"First love..first kiss, oh what feeling is this? Electricity flows with the very first kiss. Like a break in the cloud, and the first ray of sun...something new has begun..."
"What took you so long?" Neon confronted Raiha as he arrived at Mori Kouran's mansion. "I've run out of excuses to make up for your absence!"

"I didn't ask you to make excuses for me, Neon." he dismissed, "Although I do appreciate the effort. You are a good friend. Thanks."

"Raiha!" the red-haired assassin cried, "You know Mori Kouran doesn't like delinquent workers!"

"What I do is none of his business." he defended, "My loyalty and service is to the Uruha Jyusshinshuu, not to any one person." Raiha headed off straight to his quarters nonchalantly. He was changing into his ninja gear when Neon burst through the door.

"Where have you been, anyway?" Neon lowered her voice as she closed the door. "No, let me guess. Off to spy on her again, aren't you?"

An amused look appeared on Raiha's face, "I wish you wouldn't use the word, SPY, Neon. It sounds so...criminal." He tied on his head band, "So I wanted to see her, is that so bad?"

"I warned you already about how dangerous this is, Raiha." the woman stressed, "That raijin-fuujin excuse of yours can only hold up for so long. One of these days, Mori-sama is going to suspect and if he does..." Neon shot her colleague a warning look, "The only place you might go to see your Fuuko-sama is the cemetery...that is, if you don't join her there."

"You are but morbid, Neon, my friend." he said. The expression on his face then cloudened. "I won't let that happen, Neon. I won't let Mori Kouran lay a hand on Fuuko-sama. Not as long as I breathe."

Neon laughed bitterly. "You are foolish my friend...a fool for love, perhaps?"
"Aren't we all?" he returned verbally. "I remember you do the same for Master Kurei...that wasn't too long ago was it?" He laughed upon seeing the crossed expression on Neon's face.
He stopped when he heard a knock at the door.

"Yes, who is it?" Raiha asked.
"Only I, Raiha-sama," one of the servants replied  from behind the door.
"Come in," Raiha invited, "What is it you want?"
The servant looked directly into Raiha's eyes. "Mori-sama wishes to have a word with you."