Author's Notes: Many thanks
for the wonderful reviews on the prologue ^_^. I know it was a bit rushed,
but I couldn't prolong it any longer. The length of the prologue that is.
One of the reasons it got to that length is because Kurei had waltzed into
the picture. That guy has so endeared himself to me, I just *can't* not
include him in it. Especially since he'll be making appearances in the
rest of the fic. Also, you'll be finding major inconsistencies between
this and the manga (as if there aren't already!!!) and I also had to eliminate
several characters from here too...but you won't find out who yet.....
I did this to accomodate the ideas, so please be kind and not flame me
for being incompatible with both the manga and the anime. Here goes...
"You called for me?"
Kurei turned about in the swivel chair of his private quarters. The voice that greeted him sounded as icy and as indifferent as its bearer. The door was closed firmly. Kurei turned off the intercom that he used to give his personal assitant his orders. This was a conversation not to be heard in public. Not to be disclosed to anyone outside the circle of the Uruha Jyushinshuu.
Mori Kurei did not bother to offer the newly arrived a seat. The man didn't like slouching about and was seemingly perpetually on his feet. He did, however offer him a newly opened pack of Marlboro lights to which the other man politely declined.
"Abstinence?" Kurei asked, an amused smirk on his lips as he took a stick and lit it.
"I'm meeting someone important." the other figure in the office replied. "He's allergic to the mere scent of nicotine."
Kurei laughed before taking a whiff. His companion leaned casually against the door, one of his more subtle implications of impatience.
"I called you here to ask for your opinion." and with that he took a remote control that opened panels on the wall which showed a TV monitor. He pushed a button which revealed on video the face of Yanagi Sakoshita. Kurei glanced to see his guest's reaction to the girl's haunting resemblance of his deceased sister. There was none.
Excellent, he thought. He's as deadpan as they come. Meguri was right.
"Her name is Sakoshita Yanagi." he explained. "Our people had tracked her down. She has this amazing ability to heal injuries, regardless of their nature." Kurei linked his fingers together, his eyes taking a more serious appearance as he directed them towards the other person in the room. "My dearly beloved father wants her."
"You want me to get her?" came the stoic reply.
"I've already had someone...errr...suitable for the job." Kurei said. "Unless you want it of course...but I've been told Mokouren has already been, uhurm...sent to take her."
Kidnappings were not his specialty, Kurei knew. Not that it was what he wanted. The other man was a tad too special for those kinds of jobs. Besides, the less exposed to the world he was, the better. Kurei had other plans for this young man. His offer of kidnapping Yanagi was merely to see the other one's degree of interest in a girl who had an incredible facial similarity to his dead sister.
Apparently there was none, if he was to judge it by reactions and facial expressions.
Either that, or Tokiya Mikagami was such a consummate actor.
"Mokouren has this particular affinity for torturing women." Mikagami spoke at last, echoing his thoughts. "Unless you want a physically and mentally damaged healer delivered to your father, I suggest you send some more stable-minded person to collect the goods. Or at least have him or her accompany Mokouren."
"And that would be?" Kurei asked. "Any suggestions?"
"Koganei Kaoru." Tokiya recommended. "That kid from the junior ranks. He's smart for his age. I think he can handle Mokouren just in case the latter gets all excited and wants to slice your healer to doggy bites. Miki freaks out with just the thought of going with Mokouren...and having Jishou or Gashakura do it would arouse too much suspicion."
Kurei nodded in agreement. He pushed the button on a separate, concealed intercom and told his secretary Mibu to have Kaoru Koganei ready. He smiled satisfactorily and leaned against his swivel chair. Tokiya Mikagami was sharp. Kurei liked that. Which was why he valued the latter's opinion above all the other men in the Jyushinshuu.
"You know that wasn't the only reason I asked you to come up here?" Kurei asked.
"I know." Tokiya said. "I don't have an answer for you now. I'll let you know when I do."
"Very well. I'm not rushing you." the scarred one said. He paused before continuing. "Meguri-san is not getting any younger, however. The earlier I find a suitable one to take his place the better."
"I'm flattered you should think of me worthy to take his place, Kurei-san." Tokiya stretched up to his full height. "But the time, I believe, is not yet right. My answer will be known to you in due time." and with that he turned his back and opened the door, signalling an end to this conversation. "Should you need me again, I'll be in my quarters for the next hour."
"Lovely braid." Kurei commented as Mikagami turned. "Aki-san's work I assume?"
"You know Aki-san. She's very persistent." the other one commented drily. Tokiya hated having to bind his long, silvery mane in anything other than the occasional ponytail. And he did that only when he practiced his sword techniques.
"She's in love with you, you know."
Tokiya merely shrugged. "I'm not encouraging her to any degree, if that's what your worried about."
Kurei laughed. "Oh I'm not worried about it at all. Not at all." He was telling the truth. If there was one thing he knew Tokiya Mikagami was capable of, it was keeping at bay the numerous females vying for his attention.
The door had been long closed before Kurei stood up from his position. It was a good thing Tokiya did not have any unusual reactions to the Sakoshita girl. He had a nagging doubt in his mind that his favorite assassin might not like having bound and gagged a girl who looked like his sister. He even entertained thoughts of Tokiya trying to save the kidnapped healer. But if he was to judge by Tokiya's reaction to her, or the lack of it, the initial idea of his seemed ludicrous. The ensui master didn't look like he gave a damn.
He would have to give Meguri Kyoza more credit than the old man was due. He had acquired for the Jyushinshuu the perfect assassin. Of course half the credit would have to go to himself as well. Mori Kouran had doubts taking under his wing the then 14-year old Tokiya who had been skinny as a bamboo pole when Meguri-san first brought him. But Kurei was able to convince his father otherwise. The boy showed much promise with his sword skills.
Besides, Kurei still owed Tokiya's ancestors a favor. He might have been only 5 years old then, but he knew the face of Mizumi Mikagami well. He owed her this second chance of living...and carrying out his vendetta. One look at Tokiya and his ensui was enough to convince him of the boy's bloodline. And if Tokiya was half as good as his lovely Hokage ancestor, he had it made in the Jyushinshuu.
Four years later, Tokiya had proven his worth. And much more.
He had a pokerface, a heart of stone and a manner that made an icestorm pale in comparison. He carried orders without question and without failure.
Meguri Kyoza just found himself the ultimate replacement.
Tokiya entered his quarters quietly. A glance at the wall clock told him he had at least an hour before meeting his assigned target. A high-ranking government official who had been dealing with Kurei-san's father for the past 5 years who suddenly wanted out and had intended to squeal to the government of their organization's activities. Needless to say Mori Kouran wanted the man silenced. Quickly. Cleanly. Quietly. It was his specialty.
He took off the form-fitting black shirt that was his usual attire, as was his black jeans. He chose from his wardrobe an immaculate white suit, laundered and pressed to perfection. Innocent-looking. Pure in intention. So unlike his purpose. Hopefully he doesn't get too much blood on it. Akiko, his laundrywoman, would have a fit. He decided to leave his hair in the elaborate braid Aki-san had put it in. No sense breaking the poor girl's heart. Besides, it made him look more human.
More human. What a strange word. It didn't suit him at all.
He knew he stopped being human the day they took his nee-chan away.
He opened his favored scent of expensive musk and treated his upper body to the intoxicating fragrance. According to Kirin-san the old geezer, his target, liked his young men smelling like musk.
Damn but he hated closet queens.
He hoped he could extinguish the life out of his dear victim before the latter could lay his dirty hands on him. Sometimes he felt the hour-long soaks in the bathtub he takes after his assignments didn't get the nauseating smell of his victims off his body. Not that any of them ever got more than a hand on his shoulders. He never let them live past that. But the thought was worse than the act itself.
In the back of his mind was a thought he tried to push aside but kept nagging at him anyway.
She looks so much like nee-chan.
He wondered if the similarity ended there.
She was on the railing by the waterfront, a stone's throw from her house. Her legs dangling and swaying as she sat there. The clear waters beneath running smoothly and silently. The wind toyed around with her already dishevelled purple locks. The rays of the setting sun casting their orange-pink glow on her steady form as her bluish-purple eyes watched the massive ball of fire takes its' rest for the day.
There were times she still could not believe it.
That baka no baka Recca was now someone else's ninja.
Someone else's servant.
And that someone was Yanagi.
Make no mistake however, that she resented the girl. Despite the initial dislike she had for Sakoshita Yanagi, that feeling had soon been overcome by a more amicable one. Yanagi was a very likeable person. She was sweet and gentle and pretty. She belonged to a prominent family and though not a genius, was a member of the sophomore's upper class.
In short, she was everything Fuuko wasn't.
Which was why, she concluded, Recca had wanted to be Yanagi's ninja. The other girl was a prime example of what a girl should be. Not like her. Never like her.
As her dear mother would often remind her.
She laughed aloud, thinking what she would have been like if put in Yanagi's shoes. She'd probably have waist-length, neatly coiffeured hair instead of her aberrant uneven mop. Then she'd be wearing pink ribbons and frilly peach dresses replacing her usual fare of headband and jeans. She'd probably giggle while covering her lipstick-smeared mouth instead of tossing her head in near-convulsive laughter. Then spend her afternoons watching Card Captor Sakura & Wedding Peach rather than her favored Yu Yu Hakusho & DragonBall Z.
The picture that formed in her mind made her roar out like a lunatic, drawing the attention of more than a handful of passers-by.
Fuuko clamped her mouth shut and lowered her head when the stares became all too many. A crimson tide flooded her cheeks self-consciously. Her eyes turned towards the crystalline stream that flowed quietly several feet below her.
Vivid blue eyes. The color of a fathomless sky. Through the blue mirror that the water beneath had created, those eyes collided with a stony purple gaze. Collided and held on for little more than a breath.
He was clothed in spotlessly clean white. A business suit. His hair gray...no silver, bound in a skillfully done braid. His face angelic, yet was as expresionless as a stone cherub atop a pristine Christian chapel. A pair of silver-rimmed spectacles could not shield the frosty glare that he threw from behind them. He stood motionless on the opposite side of the water banks.
She sat there, gaping, though obviously not knowing she was. Her unruly locks getting twisted by the playful afternoon breeze. Her attire bespoke her status as a student in one of the local high schools. Her pair of blue-violet eyes had a playful glitter in them. As though she had found something entirely amusing that caused her to express it out loudly thereby drawing everyone's attention.
Somewhere the powerful clap of thunder was heard.
Fuuko looked up and saw an advancing armada of dark clouds coming their way.
Strange. I could swear the sky had been sober a minute ago, she said to herself.
Then her eyes returned to look at he who had caused her a momentary distraction.
He was gone.
A sharp pelt of raindrop made itself known on her cheek before she could do anything further. She hopped off from her perch as more of them began to fall mercilessly and rattle the initially calm waters below her. She ran towards the opposite direction, heading for her house. She was halfway there when she casually took a glance over her shoulder to see if he had gone far.
Apparently he had vanished in thin air, as Fuuko could make out none of the man in the white suit.
Perhaps he was nothing more than an illusion?
Or maybe he was her guardian angel...if those things truly existed. Maybe he had come down from the heavens to tell her to get over that blithering idiot Recca and get on with her life.
He was a very good-looking angel, though, she smiled inwardly as she rapped on the door of her home. She wouldn't have minded if he would make more appearances out of the blue. At least she could hold on to a man's attention for something other than to pick a fight with.
Never mind that he was a figment of her playful mind, or that he was something more than ethereal.
Now where did that thought come from? she asked herself.
It was totally out of character for her. To be thinking of a male as anything other than a fly to be swatted or a nuisance to be rid of. And yet...
It was a good thing he had left before the downpour started, Tokiya thought, as he sat comfortably at the backseat of the sleek limousine that picked him up, otherwise he'd be soaking in the vile rainwater by now. He was nursing a glass of wine in his hand, savoring its flavor as its warmth trickled down his throat. It was a product of one of the best French vineyards in the world. Only the best for the men of the Jyushinshuu. Kurei never did like settling for anything less. Which is why he expected the same from them.
Tokiya leaned back and closed his eyes. At times like this, after a kill, he ordinarily distracted himself with a trip to the Uruha's private sanctuary, an underground bar just at the outskirts of Tokyo which hosted everything that a quirky assassin would ask for. He often spent a couple of hours there, soaking in the hot springs and delving in whatever decent book he could get his hands on. In his youth, Kurei would send a private tutor there to give him the advantages of modern education sans the inconvenience of having to go up to public school. These days, he took on to studying on his own.
"Mikagami-sama, you wish to go to the Tendou?" his chauffer inquired, referring to the assassin playgrounds.
"Not today, Seki-san." he replied politely. "Take me home." he said, indicating the Uruha mansion. He replaced the empty wine glass on the drink holder and leaned back. His vision focused on the rainstorm bathing his outer surroundings while his mind was split into thinking of two very nouveau ideas.
Neither of which Kurei would be very agreeable upon, had he known them.
He had bathed and changed into a black tank top and matching jeans when he ran into Kaoru Koganei at the mansion hallway. The younger man seemed to have paled a bit upon bumping into him.
"Gomen nasai, Mikagami-san." he all but blurted out as he quickly picked up the packet he had dropped on their collision.
An amused grin raised the corner of the older man's lips. "It's alright Koganei." he assured.
Kaoru wasn't afraid as much as he was distrustful of this man. He saw little of Kurei-nii-chan's right hand man and knew just about as much as the usual bodyguards do. Nothing. Save for the fact that Kurei kept the other man close at bay and let no one, save for a chosen few, hold anything but a casual conversation with him. Not that Mikagami-san had let on much either. He shut up like a clam and always kept to himself. His facial expression varied little and the best that could have been said of his attitude for the rest of the Uruha was tolerant.
Kaoru didn't like him one bit.
The only thing he did, however, hold for him was a high level of respect. He had, on more than one occassion, seen the way Mikagami-san fought. The man was a master at handling his personal madogu, the ensui. He was a sly, calculating warrior that went straight for the kill. No frills, no flamboyant acts, no prolonged speeches on "What I'm going to put you through before I kill you." And if any of Mikagami's partners had any hesitation on doing what he was supposed to, the former finished it off.
The man was a perfect executioner.
Almost too perfect, in fact, that Kaoru knew the man had to have flaws somewhere.
And he was more than curious to find them out.
Kaoru halted in his tracks, turning his head slowly in response to that call to his name. He hoped Mikagami-san did not notice the packet of food he was carrying for the pretty girl he had captured. "Yes Mikagami-san?"
"Your prisoner. Where is she?" he asked.
The boy smiled, a sheepish expression registering on his face. Uncharacteristically, he scratched his head. "What prisoner are you talking about? I was on my way to play Counter Strike."
"Sakoshita Yanagi." Tokiya said. "No use in denying such. It was I who recommended you to Kurei-san for the job."
He didn't want to tell him, as he knew not of the other man's purposes. But he knew Mikagami would find out sooner or later anyway. "Last room at the East wing." Kaoru answered.
"Arigatou." was the word thrown back at him. And before Kaoru had gone far, he heard the ensui master utter another sentence. "No need to worry, Koganei. I won't tell Kurei-san you're bringing her food." he chuckled afterwards.
It was the first time he had heard the man laugh in amusement and he didn't quite like it. Perhaps he should warn Yanagi-nee-chan. Or stay behind to protect her. Kaoru began to walk faster.
"Yanagi's been kidnapped?" Fuuko exclaimed in response to Recca's declaration.
Recca nodded as he started putting fire powder in a bag. "And Tatesako-sensei too."
"What would they want from Yanagi-chan? Money?" Domon interjected. "But isn't that guy Mori Kouran rich?"
"Baaakaaa!" Recca screamed at his two friends who both fell over. "This isn't an ordinary kidnapping! It's my hime's life at stake!"
"Okay...okay...we get the picture." Fuuko sweatdropped. She eyed Recca's ninja outfit disapprovingly. "I'd be willing to help you...but next time, can't you try for a more subtle attire? You look ridiculous..." she rolled her eyes heavenward.
"Ahhh...shut up." Recca sneered.
"The question now is...errr...do you know where to find them?" Domon brought up.
The two childhood friends appeared dumbstruck.
He made sure there was no one in the corridor before he entered the enclosure that was on the East wing.
"Kaoru?" came the question. Yanagi turned about, gasping as she made out a totally different figure in the scant light of her prison. She held her tongue as the tall man approached slowly. He took careful, long strides as his eyes focused on her face. She didn't like the way he seemed to be visually appraising her. The look in their crystalline depths appeared to have a mixture of amazement and doubt.
She visibly flinched when he reached out to touch her, closing her eyes as she did. She was relieved when he merely took a lock of her hair, examining it curiously.
"A bit too long, but, nonetheless..." he said.
She opened her eyes and took a good look at he who was scrutinizing her like a piece of meat on the rack. He was a beautiful man, too beautiful, in fact, she almost mistook him as a female. She was wise enough not to comment on it, as she knew he would react violently as any male would at the mention of his feminine appearance.
"Nee-chan..." she heard him whisper. "You look so much like her..."
A sound coming from his beeper seemingly shook him out of his reverie, and his expression had turned into a more serious one as he read the message on it.
"Another time, Sakoshita-san." he remarked as he disappeared in the darkness as suddenly as he had appeared. Yanagi breathed a sigh of relief. For a minute there, she thought he was going to do her harm.
Kurei was watching amusedly on the giant screen by the time he got to the control room. Had he not known it was a viewing area for mansion intruders, he'd think the Uruha's head honcho was watching an action flick. It sure had seemed that way as he glimpsed a bit of a fight scene on the screen.
"You should have seen it earlier, Mikagami-san." one of Kurei's men excitedly told the ensui master as he came to stand beside the master of the blue flame. "Those kids outwitted Maria!"
"Unfortunately the same couldn't be said of you." he remarked snidely, causing the other man to keep quiet. "You'd never outsmart a brainless statue in an IQ game." He often wondered how idiots like these ever got employment in an organization like the Uruha. Will wonders never cease?
Tokiya then looked at the monitor, only to be struck by lightning it seems, for the second time in the span of a day.
"Oi, Fuuko! Come on! What the hell are you looking at?" Recca stood beside his childhood friend as she stopped to stare on the upper part of the wall on which, unbeknownst to her, perched a hidden camera.
Someone is watching me.
At the waterfront.
Who are you?
My guardian angel, are you watching me from above?
You seem familiar, and yet...I know I've never seen you until today.
Are you going to take care of me?
Earlier that afternoon as he rode back to the Uruha mansion, Tokiya had two thoughts that he knew Kurei would disapprove of had they been made known to him.
One was the fact that their new prisoner had looked too much like his nee-chan. He had to see her to believe it, and he had. Their likeness was almost unconceivable, but true.
This was the other.
She looked at the hidden camera, although it was quite obvious she didn't know it was there. It was as though she was staring directly at him...and he at her. The screen between them seemingly did not exist.
You...have we not met before?
I feel your eyes on me, you must be out there somewhere?
You've...been on my mind, such a bother! Why so?
Will you protect me? I wouldn't mind...even if I'm used to protecting myself.
"What are you standing around there for?" Recca doubled back to pull her away. "Let's go!"
Tokiya would have thanked the silly-looking monkey in the ninja outfit for pulling the girl away. For some odd reason, he couldn't seem to get away from that look she was giving him.
It was disturbing.
He turned away and walked from the room before Kurei had a chance to see that look in his eyes.
A resolution formed in the ensui master's head as he strode through the dark, winding corridors of the Uruha mansion.
He was going to find out
who she was.
Okay! That was part one. What do you think? ^_^;;; (Massive sweatdrop). As I've said before, this is going to go waaay deviated from the manga and the anime as well. So please don't ask me what happened before this particular time with the Hokage, like who Recca battled in the Hall of Mirrors and all. If I inject that in the storyline I could end up with an entirely different manga series of my own ^^. Anyway, in case you didn't quite get it, the some parts interjected both Fuuko & Tokiya's thoughts. Fuuko's is the one in bold while Tokiya's is the one italicized. And if its bold and italicized, it goes for both of them. A final word to Mikagami-lovers...sorry I had to make him a nicotine-inhaling, black-bedecked, stonefaced homophobe in a braid. I did warn you I had to twist a couple of facts to accomodate this fic. Besides, this is Tokiya Mikagami of the Uruha Jyushinshuu. He's going to be, in some ways, WAAAY OOC. Okay? On to the next chapter y'all....that is, if you still want to read, heee ^^;;;
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