wished he was.
A smile formed subconsciously on her lips. Physically he wasn't here, but in spirit she knew he was somewhere out there...watching. She could feel his presence, oddly enough. And her vivid imagination was much contributory. She couldn't get him out of her mind for the past few weeks. His handsome face was etched on her books, her breakfast, even on the bathroom mirror! Even deep into her sleep, he invaded her thoughts. The scene that would keep replaying on her head would be the day he had given her her first kiss, romantically set by the white sands and clear blue waters. This would alternate with a dream on the second time their lips had met, under a magnificent moonlit sky. And then and there, she would touch her lips in reflex, as if feeling that incredible sensation over and over again. A warm tide would engulf her and she could feel the thrill down to her toes. Her heart would skip a beat faster and her skin would blush. It was like being trapped in his embrace forever...
Holy cow, what's happening to me? Fuuko thought. She's never felt this way before, and her more sane mind would tell her how stupidly reacting to everything she was. She felt like a sick puppy. And yet...it felt strangely right...
She turned around a street corner to go to a grocery store to pick up snacks when she saw a pair of booted feet barricading her path. She looked up to see a hooded man blocking her. She had scarcely time to react when more hooded men leaped from out of nowhere and surrounded her. Fuuko dropped her bag and posed to fight. Her eyes scanned the enemy and found about a dozen men in black hoods around her. They carried swords of different sizes and were posed to attack. She took out an array of small knives from her pocket and threw it at them, injuring a few. She leaped out of place when they jumped in to slash her. Fuuko ran fast towards the nearby wood park as more ninjas followed her.
"Kazenitsume!" she cried, releasing her flying blades towards the approaching ninjas. The sharp knives wounded several more assailants while Fuuko ducked for cover. As they ran past her hiding place, she ran towards the opposite direction. She had gone barely a few meters when a ninja jumped her from behind and had his sword across her neck. Fuuko could feel the cold metal blade on her skin, and she was about to counterattack when the sword suddenly dropped in front of her followed by the ninja who held it, falling dead.
"Sorry I'm a little late," came the familiar male voice, "I was stuck battling over half-a-dozen of them." Fuuko turned to see Raiha reinserting his blood-stained sword. Before she could say anything, he took her hand in his and pulled her away.
"What's this about?" she said, as they scurried through the wooded areas, dodging the flying stars that came their way.
"Remember when I said they were after you?" Raiha replied through breaths, "Well this is it."
"And for a while there I thought they had forgotten me." she joked. Raiha pulled her to conceal behind a thick clump of bushes. He looked around to see if they've been tracked down, and was relieved when they weren't.
"How'd you know..." she began to ask, then said, "Oh, yeah I almost forgot. You were stalking me."
A hurt expression registered on his face, "Fuuko-sama, I apologize if it had inconvenient for you, but you know I had to watch over you. It was dangerous....and you know I couldn't bear it if anything had happened to you..."
"And why is that?" she almost blurted out, but Fuuko held her toungue in check. She nearly blushed at his comment, but merely dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "Hey, I didn't mean it that way. Don't take it too seriously..."
Their dialogue was stopped short by another attack of metal stars, falling within a hairline distance on Fuuko's face. They got up in a blink of an eye and set off to face the adversary, namely a dozen more assassins. Fuuko called upon the wind currents of her fuujin and sent a tornado blasting the men surrounding her off to the lake. Raiha, on the other hand, fought with his sword, annhilating everyone in his path. Fuuko was amazed to find more ninjas attacking. She used the trees as leverage and attacked using her kazenitsume, firing continously at the assassins coming at her. She dodged the kodachis and katanas coming her way. She leveled the enemy to the ground using the powers of her madougu. She moved swifly, calculating and wisely evading. She however, got her left foot trapped in between some large tree roots. One assailant saw this and swung his sword at her. She tried blocking it with her fuujin but it managed to make a small wound on her face. She kicked him with her free foot and sent him tumbling over. Fuuko finished him off with her small knives.
alright?" Raiha approached her, wiping the trickle of blood on her cheek
with his hand.
"It's nothing." she assured him. "Watch it!" she screamed. She pushed him out of the way as an attacker aimed to stab him with a kodachi. He missed Raiha but the knife found its way to Fuuko's shoulder. She recoiled in pain as the wound began to bleed. The assassin was about to finish her off when a Raiha's sword came flying towards the former's abdomen, sending him off to the Nether world. Seeing no more attackers, Raiha rushed to Fuuko's side and removed his headband. He quickly tied a knot around her upper arm to hold off the bleeding.
"We've got to get you over to the hospital." he said, a concerned look painted on his face. He attempted to carry her in his arms when she protested.
"I can walk, thank you." she argued. She got on her feet and tried not to wince in pain from her wound. She looked over at Raiha who apparently got only minor scratches, "No fair, how come you didn't get any injuries?" she kidded.
"Fuuko-sama..." he was about to insist on assisting her when a sudden look of pain crossed his face. A film of sweat appeared on his forehead and Fuuko watched in awe as he fell forward. She caught him at the last second to prevent his face from hitting the ground. She turned her head around and saw the assassin whom Raiha stabbed earlier holding a a blowing tube in his mouth. He smiled wickedly before finally falling dead. Fuuko's gaze shifted to Raiha who was holding the left side of his chest. She removed his hand and found a small blade buried in a spot just above his heart. She ripped his clothes off and saw the blade was embedded deeper than it appeared, and it was beginning to bleed profusely. She took his torn robes and tried to dampen the blood that was flowing. She muttered a curse and put his arm around her shoulders as she assisted him standing up.
"This is nothing, Fuuko-sama." he tried speaking amidst the excruciating difficulty of breathing. "Escape while you can. There might be more of them. I'll be alright."
"Oh you shut up." she scolded him, "How many times must I tell you I can take care of myself." she paused to cast a concerned look at him, "You're seriously injured. I'll get you help as soon as possible. Don't die on me, okay?" It sounded more of a plea than a command. Fuuko swallowed and tried to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. With all her might she half-dragged Raiha to the more populated area of the park to get help.
"Coming! Coming!" Recca called as he hurried to answer the deafening ring of the doorbell. He was shocked when he opened the door and found Fuuko in her blood-stained uniform, assisting a pale and half-conscious Raiha. "Come on in." he said at last, helping Fuuko bring Raiha to the nearby living room.
"What happened here?" Kagero rushed from the kitchen upon seeing the two bloodied figures. She quickly took off the cloth covering Raiha's chest and gasped upon seeing the blade buried there.
"We were attacked by ninjas....Mori Kouran's troops..." Fuuko explained in a voice that was trying hard not to quiver, "We pretty much beat them...but one of them got to Raiha...he blew this dagger from a flute-like thing..."
Kagero instructed Recca to fetch Yanagi quickly. She then rushed to prepare hot water and some towels in order to remove the blade from Raiha's chest. Meanwhile, Fuuko held his hand which felt cold and almost lifeless. She wiped the sweat from his forehead and tried whispering encouragements in his ear.
"God, don't let him die....please..." she prayed silently. She was choking on unshed tears, as she promised herself not to break down now. "You're going to be alright...they're getting Yanagi." she told him softly, as if speaking to a child.
Raiha was gasping for breath, and despite all the pain, managed to look at Fuuko. He smiled faintly, "Fuuko...."
"Okay." Kagero reappeared, carrying a basin of warm water and some towels. She sat beside Raiha and set off to remove the blade. "Let's get that blade out of you."
Fuuko closed her eyes and turned her head, not wanting to see what Kagero was doing. She felt Raiha squeeze her hand tight, and she assumed Kagero had been pulling out the piece of metal. When she opened her eyes, she saw a two-inch silver blade in Kagero's hand. The latter was staring intently at the thing she had pulled out. A worried expression was registered on her face, causing Fuuko's heart to skip faster.
"What...what is it?" she was almost afraid to ask.
"It is an ordinary blade..." she said, but before Fuuko could breathe a sigh of relief, she added, "But there seems to be something at the tip." Kagero took a sample of the yellowish substance mixed with Raiha's blood from the edge of the sharp object. She spread it with her fingertips and tried to figure out its consistency. Kagero smelled it, and the look on her face caused Fuuko to be anxious.
"It's poison...." the older woman concluded, "I'm not too sure...but it looks like curare..." She took more of the substance to get a better look.
"Curare?" Fuuko shot a puzzled look at Recca's mother who was now appearing as worried as she was.
"It's a plant poison that is used in hunting...and killing...Sometimes we ninjas apply this to the tips of our weapons...to be used in battle." said Kagero, who was seemingly choosing her words. "It paralyzes the muscles for breathing....and..."
"Is there a cure?" the younger girl asked. Her voice was beginning to crack. When Kagero did not answer, Fuuko looked down at Raiha. He looked a deathly pale. The color had gone from his face and he was breathing labourously. Even the hand Fuuko held showed little, if any strength at all. "Raiha..." she said almost inaudibly.
"I had to watch over you....I couldn't bare it if anything happened to you."
His earlier words echoed in Fuuko's thoughts. He was dying because he had to protect her. If he hadn't gotten involved in this skirmish, he wouldn't be here, lying helpless in what would appear to be his death bed. Fuuko was certain she could handle herself, that she didn't necessarily need his help to face Mori Kouran's henchmen. And yet he helped her out, in the want to protect her, save her from this danger caused by a demented man. A lunatic who also happened to be his master.
"You know you didn't have to..." she accused the semi-conscious figure on the sofa bed in the Hanabishi's living room. "You didn't have to..."
Raiha forced his eyes open, and met a pair of blue ones that were now filled with tears. He tried managing a smile on his lips, "I...I know that...." he said hoarsely. "Y-you're a strong girl..Fuuko-sama....you can take care of yourself...you didn't really need me...did you?" He gasped in pain before speaking again, "I did it...because I wanted to..." he became more pale now, and his breathing was becoming more laboured. "I wanted...to. Because...aaah.." he paused to look straight into Fuuko's eyes. "Because I...love you..."
Fuuko's mouth fell open. She stared at him in apparent disbelief, as if she wasn't hearing all of this. "Raiha..." she said. But Raiha's eyes had closed again, and she could no longer ask him. Fuuko bit her lip and buried her head in his chest, letting her tears fall freely now. She felt as though her heart would burst, though whether it was in joy or sorrow, she couldn't tell. All she knew was that something was crushing her inside, and only the tears coud give justice to whatever she was feeling.
"I can't bear it if anything happened to you..."
"Neither can I, Raiha. neither can I..." Fuuko cried.