Mikoto cursed loud enough to wake Mokouren (who was sleeping beside her), when Miki threw a huge pillow at her.
"What's your f**kin problem, carrothead?" she mumbled as she gathered the sheets to close over her head. "It's not even six o'clock!!!"
Miki winced at the sight of a half-naked Mokouren sprawled on Mikoto's ironically pink bedsheet. It wasn't a rare occurence, in fact, it was a relatively common sight. Still she couldn't help but feel nauseated whenever she saw the two lovebirds entwined with one another. The site of Shiju eating one of his opponents was far more tolerable.
"You finally agreed to a threesome, honey?" Mokouren chuckled as he tried to give Miki a slap on her behind which the latter quickly evaded.
"Kurei-sama wants you all up. The Uruha Kurenai that is." she shook the half-asleep female assassin. "Your match starts earlier by an hour."
Mikoto mumbled another curse and threw the covers from her face. "What the hell for? An earlier internment?" she growled. Knowing how persistent the younger girl could be, especially under Kurei-sama's orders, Mikoto wrapped the blanket around her and trotted to the bathroom.
"How's about a quickie before you go clean the windows, huh sweetheart?" Mokouren snickered as a cross expression appeared on Miki's face. "I could teach you a lot of wonderful things to make your Tsukushiro a very satisfied man."
"Go fish." Miki stuck her tongue out at the one-eyed mutant before turning away and blushing profusely.
"You could've let me finish my dream first." Joker jokingly complained to Kurei as he marched into the arena amidst the deafening cries of the audience. "Neon-han was just about to ask me to marry her."
"Particularly because it's only in your dreams that that's ever going to happen." Mikoto rebutted. "Neon wouldn't take a second look at you if you had antlers sticking out of your head."
Kurei said nothing as two of his team began noisily arguing behind him. The other two remained silent. Noroi because he was a walking corpse and Tokiya because he preferred acting like one. Kurei had his reasons for wanting to do the battle early. He wanted to finish immediately so he could watch how his dear brother would fare against the Uruha Ma. He also had a second agenda for doing so, but it was something he would disclose to no one.
The team on the other side stood gallantly as the former tournament champions made their entrance. The team called Jigoku no Ryuu were former participants of the Ura Butou Satsoujin. However, the team they had sent this year proved more skillful and more powerful than the last ones, thus enabling them to enter the semi-finals. And though Kurei is confident of a victory over this team, there was a nagging doubt that it wasn't going to be as easy as their previous matches.
A burly man with long, twisted dreadlocks and dressed in a white hakama approached the middle of the ring. Kurei, as team captain approached as well. The other man said nothing as Kurei eyed him. He had seen this one fight and had thought of recruiting him for the Jyushinshuu. Perhaps if he would live by the time the round ends, Kurei would invite him to his office for an offer he couldn't refuse.
When Kurei returned to his now quieted team, he turned to Tokiya and whispered to him. "Spare that one." he instructed, referring to the other group's captain. "He looks useful."
A smirk appeared on Tokiya's face. "He does look good to take Jishou's place."
The Uruha leader's mouth thinned upon having been reminded of Jishou's demise. It was not unexpected, as it was commonplace in tournaments like this. He only wished it had not happened to one of his more faithful men.
Tokiya looked over the opposing team and focused his vision on the team leader. This should prove an interesting bout. Particularly since the other man had caught his fancy with that madougu he was wielding. If Jigoku no Ryu's leader had a silver necklace dangling around his neck, it would've been the clincher. But since he hadn't, Tokiya satisfied himself with investigating if the other man possessed one.
And if he did have the other half of the necklace?
He would have to disobey Kurei-san then.
For he had vowed that whoever he finds in ownership of the other half would recieve a most unpleasant fate.
An eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth.
His nee-san's life was taken away. He promised himself to take one back in return. Another life. And he would.
Fuuko was doing stretches on the hotel garden's lawn when she sensed someone watching her. She turned her head to see a familiar face.
Fuuko eyed the other girl suspiciously. "Konnichi-wa."
Miki took a seat beside Fuuko on the green grass. "Hey, relax." Miki smiled at a wary Fuuko. "We can't all be bad apples now, can we?" she flashed Fuuko a peace sign. "Besides, our battle is done and over with. That's the past. I want to be friends."
The fuujin-wielder shook the hand the other girl offered. Though she was still a bit hesitant, the other girl looked sincere enough in her offer of friendship. Then of course she didn't exactly fit into the Uruha mold. She also appeared nicer than the one they called Aki.
"Friends." Fuuko smiled genuinely at Miki.
"Thanks." the red-haired girl said. "I'm glad you don't hold grudges. I'm not one to, either. I mean...oh you know." she shrugged. "I may be Uruha but I not always a bloodthirsty assassin." her cheeky smile was replaced by a sad one. "After all, the only reason I am part and parcel of this organization is because of Neon onee-chan. You know...siblings have to stick together through thick and thin. So even if I am not in exact favor of everything we do around here...I don't have that much of a choice." Her slender shoulders slumped. "Kurei-sama has been the only one kind enough to take us in."
Although still a bit skeptical in the sudden turnaround of this Uruha, Fuuko felt a bit saddened by the other girl's plight. She gave Miki a squeeze on the arm. "Hey, don't be sad. One day everything's going to be alright...and you don't have to do anything you don't want to."
"You really think so?" a small smile showed on Miki's lips. "Well, I guess if it could happen to Koganei, it could happen to me too." she added on a more positive note.
"Preparing for your big match, huh?" Miki said after a short period of silence.
Fuuko nodded. "Yup. The Uruha Ma looks pretty formidable. But I know we will win. Definitely."
Miki forced herself not to burst out laughing. "Who? Magensha and his pets?" she joked. "They just look intimidating with all those creepy costumes of theirs. It helps to have a good designer you know. Now, Uruha Kurenai...Kurei-sams's team presents more of a challenge."
She was baiting for a flicker of interest and was delighted to find one in Fuuko's eyes. "That I'd love to see. Uruha Kurenai in action"
"You do?" Miki pretended to be suprised. "Well they do have an ongoing match right now."
Fuuko's brows raised. "Right now? Where?"
"In the Arena's F sector. I can take you there if you want." the other girl offered.
She wasn't about to venture on her own again. Her ordeal with the water dungeon taught her that. "Hold a second, I'll just call my niisan. He'll be curious too." she said before the other girl could refuse. If this would be a trap then she would bring herself armed!
Tokiya took a step back to reassess the situation. Under his mask, his breathing was hard. The sweat from his forehead dripped to the sides of his face. This match was taking longer than he expected it to. His opponent was helluva lot more skilled than what he assumed to be. But Tokiya could see that he was exhausted as well. They were both posed in a defensive stance, waiting for the other to make a move.
Damn but he was good, Tokiya assessed. He didn't have too difficult a time finishing off the first two. They were good, but not half as good as this one. He learned that this one was as good with his hyouma en as he was with his ensui. In fact, some of their moves were similar, as though they had studied under the same sensei. He wouldn't wonder if they did though. Meguri-sensei has long been teaching before he ever laid eyes on the old man.
We'll see who the better student is. Tokiya thought. But I am most certain it is I.
Little did he know that the other man echoed his thoughts.
"Go get him Kai-sama!!!" one of members of the opposing team cried. "Desumasuku no okama!!!" he heckled.
When Fuuko made her entrance with Raiha and Miki, the two combatants were engaged in a classic swordfight.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to announce the arrival of some members of the Hokage Team!!!" Nemi announced on the PA system. "As you know they're one of our semifinalists!!! Looks like they're here to scout the opposition!"
Momentarily, all eyes shifted to the threesome standing next to the announcer's table. Miki happily waved hello. Fuuko simply nodded. Raiha goofily smiled.
What the hell is she doing here? Tokiya thought self-consciously when he heard the announcement. A flicker of suspicion flashed in his eyes when he saw Miki with the siblings. He wondered if she did it under Kurei-san's orders.
But why would Kurei-san want to draw the Hokage here? the ensui wielder wondered. Bringing them here would only give awareness of the team of the Uruha Kurenai's tactics. Besides, they're not even certain the Hokage can breeze past Uruha Ma. Magensha and his boys were a powerful bunch.
Damn! He didn't want Fuuko here. He didn't want her finding out...at least not until after he's told her of his status. And he had planned to tell her tonight after a carefully worded speech he formulated last night. He didn't need her finding it out now. Kuso!!! Whatever got into Miki's head to drag the Hokage here? He didn't have a clue.
Fuuko and Raiha took a seat on the announcer's table as they watched the match. Raiha chatted happily with the referee cum commentator, but his eyes were trained on the match. Fuuko observed interestedly at the ongoing battle. Needless to say she was impressed as the two warriors duked it out. They showed similar fighting skills. And the fact that their madogus were similar made it more interesting.
Her eyes were particularly drawn to the man in the sleek black outfit. He was strong for someone with a lean build and he moved fast, like the wind. His body was slender but muscled. His long, silvery hair dramatically flowing through the air as he moved gracefully. The mask that adorned his face was ominous to say the least. He reminded Fuuko of that character she had once seen in an old movie, The Phantom of the Opera.
Is that who he reminds me of, or perhaps...someone else?
Her eyes suddenly widened at the thought that entered her brain.
It couldn't possibly be...
But no...how would that happen? Tokiya was a gentleman. He may have an icy exterior but deep inside he was warm and gentle and kind and...
Ofcourse she had known him only for a while. Which didn't speak much, did it? For all she knew he could be some kill-for-thrills assassin or some whacked-up psycho on medications. It was difficult to imagine him that but these days...one never quite knew. He didn't look the part for sure....still she could not put two and two together and come up with anything logical. She took a good look again at the man who moved with such lethal precision on the arena floor. The man who fought against the dreadlocked guy from Jigoku no Ryuu had the same hair color, same hair length, same body built as Tokiya but she couldn't imagine them being one and the same.
Hundreds of men come to fight in the Ura Butou Satsoujin, her mind reasoned as it tried to reject the horrendous idea. There's this huge probability that there would be *someone* out there who had the same physical characteristics as Tokiya, wouldn't there?
Another part of her thought otherwise.
The look on Fuuko's face made Miki smile. The plan was beginning to work, she thought happily. Making sure that Fuuko's attention was fully focused on Desumasuku, Miki moved her hand so that her bracelet would catch the light from the arena ceiling and flash brilliantly.
Tokiya's eyes narrowed at the flurry of icicles that broke from the tip of the hyoumaen of his opponent and begun flying towards him. He swiftly twisted his sword to shield himself, effectively reflecting them away, but not before recieving several shards that buried themselves in his left upper arm. He winced behind his mask as a piece pierced deeply into a muscle. But that did not alarm him as much as what had transpired next. For a fair number of icicles that had missed him flew towards the audience, particularly at the announcer's table.
Fuuko, whose eyes have been nailed to the one called Desumasuku, almost didn't see the flying icicles headed their way. She quickly ducked under the table to avoid them, and was narrowly missed by a particularly large piece that smashed against the wall behind her.
The referee, however, was not as quick and had a particularly nasty-looking icicle directed towards the area where her heart would be.
Fuuko reflexly pushed Nemi out of the way and landed atop the panic-stricken referee. She wasn't able to notice all else as everything happened in a flash. When everything cleared, the announcer's table was upturned and everyone who had been sitting there thirty seconds ago were all on their backs, laying supine on the concrete floor. Fuuko, Nemi, Miki, and...
The fuujin-wielder's cry pierced throughout the arena. She scurried over to where her brother laid flat on his back beside the red-haired Uruha, a meter away from her. He had heroically shoved Miki aside, preventing her from being on the recieving end of the flying icicles. In the event of which, had the shards piercing his right mid-shoulder.
Raiha visibly winced when his sister pulled out the offending piece from his flesh. There wasn't much blood coming out, but he percieved that it was a nasty injury, regardless. His right arm felt numb and he could barely move it.
"Nii-san..." Fuuko tried unsuccessfully to supress the anxiety in her voice. She wasn't particularly a worrywart but this was her niisan they were talking about... and he was injured! Badly! While she knew it wasn't fatal, she knew it had its consequences.
"Geez, imouto-san, don't panic!" he joked, managing to smile despite the pain shooting through his body from the injured site. "It's just a cut. It won't kill me!"
Miki was temporarily stunned, more to the aftermath rather than the preceeding event. Kai, the blithering idiot, had misdirected, purposedly or otherwise, over a dozen icicles her way. She would've ended up an icicle cushion had it not been for the bravely ninja who tackled her out of the way. She almost felt guilty getting the nice Hokage injured, but she quickly shoved away that thought. Right now she had to see the result of the plan she and her oneechan had orchestrated the night before.
The rest of the arena was quiet, momentarily stunned. A few members of the audience had not been as fortunate and had pieces of the flying frozen particles stabbing them in several places. Paramedics had come in to take the injured away. Kai was standing still, his breathing hard. His lip tight. His eyes nailed to the scene before him. He had done the Uruha Jyushinshuu's bidding and he had hoped it would satisfy them.
In his head he could clearly see the appaling vision. His pregnant wife, Sorata and their four-year old boy Hiromi, bound and gagged, their eyes filled with fear and their mouths forcibly stilled, the sound of terror choking in their throats. Beside them two of Kurei's men were holding katanas against their necks with Neon of the Jyushinshuu watching over. He would've defended them with his life had he been at home. But he was not. He was here, at this tournament which ironically, was what he wanted to win for them. The message had been delivered through a video in his quarters.
"My conditions are simple, Kai-san." Neon had informed him. "I'm not asking for you to deliberately lose in the semis. No, no, no. We don't work that way. Regardless of what you think of us Uruha, we still enjoy winning honorably."
"What do you want then, you b**ch?" he had muttered under his breath, the sight of Sorata's tears crushing him.
"Nothing much." the flute-player had laughed. "Tomorrow, during your semi-final round, my sister, Miki-chan, will bring a member of the Hokage to the announcer's table. What I want you to do is...send some of those fancy flying icicles her way."
"What for?" he growled.
"None of your business." she answered sharply. "Not much to ask for is it?" she paused to look at her polished nails. "That is, ofcourse, if you can do it. Without harming my sister naturally."
"I can do it." Kai snarled, his hands turning into fists. "Just leave my family out of this."
"Until you get the job done." Neon raised a brow amusedly. "If and when you perform the job well, then your family will be left alone. Otherwise..." she laughed a derisive one as she eyed the frightened mother and child.
"You've got yourself a deal."
Kai didn't know what Neon had hoped to accomplish. He had been specifically instructed to send his flying shards of ice towards Kirisawa Fuuko of the Hokage. Not enough to kill her, but just enough to injure her. He had also been told to make sure his opponent Desumasuku would see it, as well as Kurei-sama. He hadn't the least idea why, but he followed her instructions anyway. He loved his family way too much to risk it.
He sighed as he watched the female Hokage help up her injured brother. He felt sorry for having injured him. He had met Raiha a few days back and had instantly liked him. He would have preferred to have hurt some annoying members of the audience instead. He wondered if Neon would consider this job enough. He had aimed his icicles towards Fuuko Kirisawa, but he had missed his target and had near hit the referee instead.
Desumasuku had deflected his aim.
And while his opponent had blocked it so fast that the audience barely noticed it, Kai's trained eye did. Desumasuku knew that the flurry of icicles were not meant for him. Kai had thrown them at least half a foot away from the masked man. But he had thrown them off-course with a speedy turn of his ensui, which to the untrained eye would mistake it for a self-defensive manuever.
Unknown to the leader of the Jigoku no Ryuu, he wasn't the only one to notice.
Behind an iron mask, a frown registered.
Kami-sama, let me be mistaken.
Fuuko was cursing Kai under her breath as she helped her brother up. With assistance from Kukai who had been watching the match, they helped Raiha back into the infirmary at the back of the stadium where members of the audience and participants were being given treatment.
"Oniisan..." Fuuko sat beside her brother. "This is my fault...if I hadn't dragged you along..." she said bitterly.
Raiha smiled assuringly at Fuuko, reaching up his good arm and sweeping aside the hair on her face. "It's just a minor wound. I'll be okay. Don't blame yourself."
Fuuko smiled to appease her brother, but deep inside guilt gnawed at her. If only she hadn't gone to spy on Uruha Kurenai this would've never happened. The pang of guilt even got worse when a physician attending them frowned upon seeing the wound.
He did a few tests before instructing a younger doctor to stitch up and bandage the damaged arm.
"It's not that serious an injury." he informed Fuuko, much to the fuujin-wielder's relief. "One of his muscles was hurt, but it would heal by itself. Unfortunately," Fuuko braced upon hearing the word. "The particle grazed his nerve. Luckily it wasn't transected, but it's swollen."
"Which would mean..."
"The swelling will go down in a day or two. Not immediately." the doctor said. "He's going to feel numb and will be hardly able to move it. I suggest he give it a rest. No fighting for him in the meantime."
"That's not possible!" Raiha objected, having overheard the conversation. "I have to fight. I have matches!!! I have a battle in less than an hour."
"Not now." the doctor insisted. "Unless you want to be an invalid the rest of your life. I'll check on it tomorrow and see what we can do." and with that he took leave of the siblings.
The expression on Raiha's face was indignant. On Fuuko's it was repentant. She turned towards her oniisan, tearful.
"Gomen nasai, niisan." she apologized. "This is all my fault. If I hadn't been so nosy...you..."
She was quieted by Raiha's index finger on her lip. "Hush now, imouto-san." he reassured. "Nobody wanted this to happen. It's not your fault. No one is to blame."
A sudden thought entered Fuuko's head. A flash of anger appeared on her features. "Hah! I bet that Miki had all to do with this. She was the one who lured us there! The Uruha Jyushinshuu probably planted us there so we'd get hurt before our match and lose to Uruha Ma!"
Raiha shook his head. "Don't be too harsh judging the Uruha, Fuuko." he said. "After all, the attack didn't come from them. It came from Kai of the Jigouku no Ryuu." The purple-haired Hokage grew silent. He couldn't think of a reason why Kai would attack them. After all, they'd grown pretty amicable when they first met some days back. "Come to think of it, you should be thanking the Uruha."
Fuuko's eyes widened. She eyed her brother incredulously. "Thank them, why?"
"Desumasuku deflected the icicles." he explained. "If he hadn't twisted his sword the way he did, they would've pierced straight through us and the injuries would have been worse. It could've disabled you...and me, permanently."
The fuujin-wielder grew silent,
as her sibling. To say that they were oddly puzzled with the previous events
was an understatement.
"Keep still Fuuko-chan." Yanagi said as she tried to concentrate on the wounds on the fuujin-wielder's back.
"I can't." she squirmed, wincing at the pain. "It goddamn hurts."
Reeca's hime sighed as she sat back on her heels. The lashes on Fuuko's back were difficult to heal, particularly because they were burns combined with lacerations. She had grimaced when she had first seen how severe they were. It didn't help either that she had tended to Raiha first, then Koganei, then Recca and Domon. Fuuko had been the last to receive treatment on her own insistence. She had felt guilty for her brother's disability and his lack of fitness to fight and had refused to be healed until her brother was okay. Despite protests from the rest of her teammates, she had taken on Gashakura, which was supposedly Raiha's opponent and had received this harsh beating.
"You look tired." Fuuko noted. She put on an oversized white t-shirt to keep the fabric from rubbing against the remainder of the wounds that Yanagi haven't touched as yet. "Take a rest. We'll continue the treatment tomorrow morning."
"No buts." she said firmly. She stood up and exited the bedroom they shared and went outside.
Nightfall was starting. The moon just began to rise and the sun with its last shades of purple, mauve and orange closed the day. Fuuko decided to walk to clear off her head that was presently being bombarded by a hundred confusing thoughts.
Who was that masked man?
It sounded like a line from one of those old western reruns she'd seen on cable. But it was the precise question bugging her now. Who the hell was he?
The fact that he had the same hair and the same build as Tokiya bothered her to no end. The possibility that it was Tokiya bothered her even more. How a kind person such as the man she knew could kill so ruthlessly and maim people without remorse was unthinkable. Desumasuku, although she had only witnessed him in action now, had a widespread reputation of being second only to Kurei when it came to heartlessness. She had heard that he destroyed without second thought. That he vanquished his enemies in a blink of an eye. That he scored victory over victory with a sea of blood behind him. The thought caused Fuuko to shudder. She couldn't even close to imagine that he and the Tokiya she had known were one and the same man.
It was impossible!
Unless he was one amazing actor.
No! It couldn't be! It wasn't true! It couldn't be!!!
They just look the same! Maybe Tokiya had some identical twin he got separated at birth from! Or Tokiya's father had an illicit affair sometime in his day and had a lovechild. Maybe they just happened to have the same hair...dangit!
The subject of her thoughts appeared in front of her so suddenly Fuuko had to bite her lip to keep from exclaiming in surprise.
"I hope I didn't scare you." he smiled sideways, his usual one that sent a thousand girls swooning.
"Almost." she managed to smile back.
"You were lost in your thoughts." he observed, taking his place beside her. "It isn't another man now, is it?'
It was her turn to cast a sidesmile. "Does it matter? What if I say it is?"
"It does matter. I'm quite the jealous type."
She felt a momentary cease in her heartbeat at his words. And though her more sensible side reminded her that he was only being a tease, she can't help that little somersault her insides were doing at his words.
Drat...if only I can be sure...
"Care to walk with me?" he asked.
As they strolled together and talked, Fuuko found it harder to believe that Tokiya and Desumasuku were one and the same man. The impression that Tokiya gave her was anything but that of a bloodthirsty, coldhearted assassin. He had his moments of putting up that stony expression of his, but for the most part, he'd let his guard down. He voiced out his cynical opinions of the world but they were nothing short of a practical man's view. Nothing about him struck her as odd or evil or anything that would point out that he was heartless.
He had bought her a cappucino when they passed by the hotel's cafe and got one for himself as well. They were sipping it in silence sitting under a huge tree on the grounds when Fuuko spoke up.
"Why do you do this?"
Tokiya looked up from the cup he was drinking from. "Why do I do what?"
"This..." Fuuko shrugged. "Oh...you know what I mean. Why do ask me to go walk with you or talk to me? You know...all that stuff."
He looked at her intently, pausing before giving her an answer. "Am I required to answer that?"
"Well, yeah." she said.
He crushed his empty paper cup and made for a basket in a nearby trashcan. "Honestly? I haven't the slightest idea."
The question in Fuuko's eyes did not abate, however, and as the silver-haired assassin ventured into their depths, he knew she wouldn't be satisfied until she got any kind of definite answer from him.
Hell, he'd do anything to get an answer from himself too.
He withdrew his glance from hers, before he could drown into her eyes again. "I guess its because you fascinate me."
She had just happened to take a sip of her drink and his reply sent her choking. "Fascina...*coughcoughcough* ting? Who? Me?" she was tempted to laugh but the look on his face was anything but funny. "You've got the wrong girl here, mister."
An amused grin found its way to his lips. "You should stop being insecure about yourself, Fuuko-san. It doesn't suit you." He turned away and shifted his attention to the evening sky. "You do fascinate me, you know? You and your fiery personality."
"I take it that that is a compliment?" she inquired, her brows raised.
"Believe me, it is." his mouth drawn into a smile again. Inside himself he was just as amused. He always found himself in such a state every time he would talk to her. And it felt good. Really good. She brought out a somewhat happier side of him onto the surface.
He liked it. He liked her.
"It's your fire. The fire in you that seems to glow, so alive. Your love of life. Joie di vivre. You look at the world through rose-colored glasses, Fuuko-san. I admire that. You're so vibrant...happy...I really cant put a word to it." he explained. "You value life so much...living as if there's no tomorrow. And you respect that life with regards to others too, like with Fujimaru...allowing him to exist even if he treated you with such cruelty." A flicker of anger momentarily distracted him at the mention of the dishonorable member of the Kuu, then he continued. "When I see you or talk to you, you infect me with that fire you know. You're contagious." he laughed a little as he realized he spoke the truth. Hell, that was the silliest line he's ever delivered to a girl, but it's the sincerest one too. He had flattered many a woman with amorous lines of praising their clothes, their figure, their perfume...and here he was telling the girl he liked that he found her bouyant personality attractive.
How odd. Excessively unusual. Different.
But it was the real him who spoke now. He had said all of that in spontaneity. For the first time it was too. Not a rehearsed litany of flattery. No lies here whatsoever. It was nothing but the plain, simple truth.
He had lied so very often that when the real thing came it struck one as something inexplicably foreign. He's told women countless times that he would be drawn by their physical aesthetics or their charm or their wit. It was only in this time and situation that he told anyone he was smitten by her "contagious fiery personality."
He heard her laugh, that infectious tinkle of laughter that made him want to join in with its joyful resonance. And join in he did.
"Was that supposed to be a good thing?" she asked in between bouts of laughter.
He ceased, although the amusement still lingered in his eyes. "Do you doubt it?" he asked.
"No. It just strikes me as strange." she shrugged. "Okay, maybe not too strange but I suppose I'm not an expert when it comes to receiving compliments. I don't get them quite often you know."
"Don't be silly." he reprimanded.
Fuuko stilled when she felt his warm hand on her cheek. She felt the color creep up to them. She felt her mouth go dry as his gaze, now serious, met up with hers. He had that look in his eyes that told her something she didn't think she was quite ready for.
Ofcourse she could be gravely mistaken.
Both of his hands cupped her face now.
She flushed crimson all the way to her toes.
"Believe me." he spoke huskily. "When I tell you that I find you attractive...that I do like you...that I enjoy spending time with you...that you pull me as no other person has...that you're like a burning flame and I am the moth who is hypnotized by you...drawn by you..."
And before she could utter a single word of objection, Tokiya drew her into his arms and closed his mouth over hers. She gasped as his lips first came into contact with hers, causing her mouth to part slightly. Nothing in her sixteen years of existence has ever prepared her for such a devastating assault of her senses. She felt a tingle that started from her lips, running a slow, sensual course throughout her body. She couldn't pinpoint exactly how or when it started, but she could feel it, giving her a goosebump here and a pricking sensation there, tickling her toes and flooding her head with a sense of surrealism she's never experienced.
Subconsciously their bodies drew closer, with Tokiya drawing her to him, his arms encircling her pliant body. Her inexperience of anything even close to this sudden attack rendered her defenseless, as she allowed herself to be pulled further into a vortex of uncharted territories. And she felt herself lost...lost in him, in his kiss, in his embrace...as she had never before.
"Agape mou..." he whispered in between breaths. "Mon amour...mo miann..."
"W-what...are...you..." she asked, unfamiliar with the terms of endearment he murmured in her ear. "Anou...wait...I..."
He gently pulled away when he felt her flinch, accompanied by a short gasp of pain. "Gomen nasai...did I hurt you Fuuko-san?"
Fuuko nodded as she bit her lip. In the midst of passion, he had pulled her close, enveloped her in his strong arms and had pressed her against him...nearly crushing her...and compressing the unhealed wounds on her back. She tried not to cry out in pain but she could only hold on for so long..."I have uhm, wounds from my battle a while ago and they're not fully healed yet." she mumbled.
"From the electric fence..." he spoke grimly as he released her, careful not to touch her back. "Mori-sama has gone overboard with this absurd set-up."
The fuujin-wielder looked up at him with probing eyes. "You were watching?" she asked.
"Too bad I didn't see you." she said, as her brain began to go down from the heavenly perch it was on a while back. "I would've introduced you to my friends and my niisan."
"I was watching from the monitors outside the arena." he said. "Gashakura is lucky I wasn't there. If I had been he'd be a helluva lot worse than he is already..." he paused to brush aside an aberrant strand of hair from her face. "I never want to see anyone hurt you."
And for moment, just for a flash of several seconds, Fuuko saw an expression she had seen only once on the fair features of the man before her. A look she had witnessed before, but wished she didn't have to again, as it struck a chord of uneasiness within her. A look of pure hatred...supressed anger...burning in his eyes like a raging fire. A fire that threatened to consume anyone who would dare provoke its wrath. She had seen it first when he had mentioned about his sister's murder and his thirst for revenge. Now she sees it again.
This was the other side of the Tokiya she knew. The side of him who cared so much for the one he loved that he'd gladly break the rules of man to defend them. That part of him that can be provoked by hurting the ones he cared most about, thus triggering a facet of his personality that laid hidden beneath the calm surface. A rather disturbing side of him that she didn't think was the least bit plausible.
Suddenly it came crashing down on Fuuko that the probability of Desumasuku and Tokiya being one and the same was no longer impossible.
His voice interrupted the appalling thoughts presently bombarding her brain. "Fuuko-san?"
The fire in his eyes had seemingly died down, replaced by the gentle look that she was accustomed to. "I'm sorry for hurting you...your back I mean. I hadn't realized they haven't been healed yet. I thought Yanagi-san had cured you totally."
"You know Yanagi?" she blurted out.
Tokiya's gaze narrowed. "Who doesn't? She comes with you Hokages to the arena all the time."
"It's not that..." she said, as panic began to form in her head. "How did you know Yanagi could heal?"
"It's common knowledge." he shrugged. "That's why she became your team's wager in the tournament, is it not? Mori Kouran wants her for her healing powers."
Say it aint so.
But she was shaking her head in disbelief now. Yanagi's healing prowess was not common knowledge. To a select few, it was. And the fact that Mori Kouran wanted her for that reason was...Fuuko's eyes shifted to the left sleeve of Tokiya's shirt. In their shared moment of passion, she had remembered running her hand on his left arm and had felt something bulky beneath the fabric. She had not paid much attention to it at the time as she was too caught up in the rapturous moment. Now, as she took in his general appearance, she had noticed that the sleeves of his shirt were not symmetrical, that on close inspection the left side was bulkier than the right. It wasn't particularly obvious and thus she had not seen it at first. But having felt it and now having observed it, she knew it was different.
"Fuuko what are you..."
Before the ensui master could utter another word, Fuuko had sprung at him, targetting in particular his left arm. Using the gimlets she often carried in her pocket, she tore at the sleeve of his shirt. She had done it so quickly the silver-haired assassin could do little do avoid it thus narrowly escaping a cut. Not much could have been said of his clothing that tattered to where she had set her attack.
Fuuko held back an utterance of shock as she stared disbelievingly at the exposed arm of the man who had held her heart. The bandage beneath the shirt had been ripped off by her sharp weapon, exposing three irregular cuts now neatly stitched with surgical sutures. But the mark on them was unmistakable. Indented on his skin were the shapes of the objects that had hurt him and had caused the cuts.
The mark of icicles.
A tear fell down her cheek.
"It was you."
Author's rants for the chapter:
Again, I apologize for taking a while to put this up. I got stuck somewhere in the storyline. Writer's block. You know. And believe me when I say love scenes are the *most difficult* to write. Particularly because you want your reader to get caught up in the moment without sounding too mushy. I don't know if you could call this mush, albeit I am the self-professed queen of it. The other day I was tempted by the idea of inserting a bit of lime, but as you can see I scrapped that thought and cut the lovey-dovey scene short (after all, I don't want this to take *forever*). Anyhow, before you ask me what was up between the Kurei-Neon-Kai entanglement, it would be explained in the next chapter. Actually, it is a bit explained in this one, if you read between the lines. The thoughts in bold are Fuuko's, the italicized ones are Tokiya's and if its bold and italicized, it goes for both of them, save for one. Gawd I know I have totally messed up the original Rekka no Honoo storyline, but you will forgive me ne? ^_^;;; Thanks for reading. Reviews are appreciated...and to the wonderful reviewers...Domo arigatou! I'd never have the will to go on without you people. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
"Love arrives when
you least expect it. It has an endearing way of slapping you on the back,
grabbing you by the arm , swinging you round and kissing you full on the
mouth. When this happens, you leap right into it."
Ana Veciana-Suarez, from "Second Time Around", Reader's Digest Dec. 2001
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