Megami Fan Fiction Pt. 2

Discussion in 'Melting Pot' started by RionAgrias, Mar 16, 2016.
  1. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 9

    Servants' Quarters

    Mid-Afternoon

    Since Naoto had been given most of the afternoon off, she was able to rest and recover from her injuries caused by Lord Tanaka. It was nice to relax and she even spent a small amount of time asking a fellow servant for some water and resting in a tub. It would definitely take a while for Naoto to fully recover.

    Sure, Naoto had nothing to do until she had to bring food to Lord Tatsumi for dinner, and that was in her mind while she sat down. That was not the only thing on her mind, however.

    It was Lord Tatsumi asking her to go to the springs with Souji and him that was really occupying her mind. Could it be that Souji or Lord Tatsumi had figured out what she really was? It was rather unlikely considering how hard she was trying to hide it, but maybe Lord Dojima told Souji. If they figured it out somehow, wouldn't they have moved her away from the male servants' quarters? Unless they wanted a girl amidst all of the men… she was sure some of the men would not have minded if they found a girl was among them. She was just starting to trust Souji, Lord Dojima, and Lord Tatsumi… she hoped they had not betrayed her in anyway.

    If Lord Tatsumi did not know she was a girl though, then why did he invite her to the springs? It made no sense at all to her. What in the world did he want her there for? Could he possibly want her there because he was interested in her? But… was he interested in her as a she… or a he? She was so confused, but she had so little time to think about it at the moment because the time until she had to go to Lord Tatsumi to serve him dinner was fast approaching.

    Naoto decided that she would not be late for once, no matter how awkward it would probably be. She stood up and straightened her yukata. Sitting down caused a crease and Naoto needed to flatten it out. She washed her hands at the small basin on the far end of the room while making sure she did get any on her clothes. She took a deep breath before walking over and sliding open the door. She walked through and closed the door behind her. Unlike the times before, neither Shu nor Kaien was waiting for her. It seemed that she would have to make the trip to the kitchens on her own. It would be another lonely walk.

    Dining Hall

    Mid-afternoon

    Kanji Tatsumi was more anxious than he had been in a long while. He had many worries for sure, but he had a new one that was really nagging him. After washing away the sweat and relaxing in the springs with his close friend and sparring partner, Kanji was now clad in gold and black. His hair was slicked back, but his shock blond hair would need to be bleached again. He was sitting in the middle of the dining room table by himself surrounded by tapestries and wall scrolls. There was light from each corner, but otherwise the only other paper light came down from the center of the room.

    Kanji was worried about the lack of control he had in Nara, for sure. Tanaka was constantly testing the stability of the court. Kanji did not really know where Tanaka's true loyalties lie, but if he ever showed weakness; Tanaka would pounce on him. Lord Dojima would support him, but Lady Ebihara could eventually sway towards Tanaka. If that ever happened… Ai would bring both Kou to Tanaka's side. If Kou was with Tanaka, which meant Daisuke would side with Tanaka, and then Lady Satonaka would side with Tanaka. Lady Amagi would as well… at that. He had to make sure that did not happen.

    Tanaka did not even scratch the surface of his worries when he thought about the earlier meeting with Lady Yoshino, Lord Iori, and Lord Kido. They spotted his worries about instability right away and he was sent on the defensive right away. If it was not for the Emperor's grandson, Kanji would be still defending his right to rule Nara. The Tairas and Minamotos were getting stronger and the Fujiwaras were weakening. If they attacked… the Fujiwaras would most likely lose. Untrained footmen, lazy samurai, and only three worthwhile warriors was all that would defend Nara. In Kyoto, it would be not much better for the Fujiwaras if there was an attack.

    The door slid open and in came a single servant holding, albeit somewhat shakily, three plates of food. It was the pinnacle of all of Kanji's anxiety. Forget all of the political and military strife… this single servant was causing him to lose his mind when he slid open the door.

    Kanji had no problem looking at Naoto before today, but something… just happened this day that screwed with his head and now he was now unable to even look into Naoto's eyes. He knew it was beyond asinine and ridiculous, but he could not understand what was going on. Something was going on inside his head, and he could not figure it out. Something that his best friend had seemed to figure out almost immediately, but when he spoke of it… Kanji had to vehemently deny. It was the idea that he had the urge to see Naoto again, and that was why he called her to serve him dinner that Souji said was so important to him. For some reason, it did feel important that he made sure Naoto was the one who served him dinner tonight.

    Kanji wished he knew why his mind was so topsy-turvy. He was so calm around Naoto when he first made this peasant his servant. He may have not even saved his life if it was not for Lord Dojima's insistence. He knew Souji had something to do with it as well. Kanji was even normal around Naoto even when Tanaka started beating him during the meeting. He just hated people doing things to people undeservedly. That's why he stopped Tanaka. It must have been when Kanji took a deep look into Naoto's eyes. It was when he stared at his face. This can not be normal. He is a guy… and Naoto is a guy.

    "What is wrong with me!" Kanji thought as Naoto stepped through the door.

    Naoto noticed that Kanji had averted his gaze from her as soon as she entered. There was the smallest hue… tint of red touching his cheeks. It was something you would see on a young teenage boy looking on at his first crush. It was awkward and strange enough that Naoto nearly dropped the rice dish, meat dish, and dessert plate. Why the lord was even blushing at a servant… was beyond her contemplations. She took a deep breath before walking from the doorway and to the table.

    Outside the Palace

    Early Evening

    Souji Seta had been privy to many of the events of last night and earlier this afternoon. If he was not struggling with himself on what to do in relation to his cousin; he would be able to make sense of everything that happened.

    "Yosuke and Yuka…," Souji thought.

    He had definitely heard Yosuke last night, but he had not seen him at all today. There was a mad search for Lord Kido's servant and the lord was quite unhappy when she finally appeared. She looked composed and cleaned up, at least… but no one except those who had heard those two knew what really happened last night. Now… if they could only find Yosuke, it would be normal again. With both of them, they would probably joke around about last night's escapade. As soon as Yosuke got full wind of Souji walking Naoto all the way back to the servants' quarters, he would do the same thing. Yosuke would probably continue poking fun at his situation with the young Lady Dojima. He tried to imagine what Yosuke would say about Lord Tatsumi. The only thing that mattered is that Yosuke had gone missing. Maybe he had trailed after Yuka? He did seem pretty pissed at Lady Satonaka. If he did not show in a short while, Souji would have to think about organizing a search party.

    "Kanji and Naoto… Where to start?" Souji rolled his eyes.

    The young servant he had walked back to the servants' quarters was a stubborn person, but had turned the usually complacent Lord Tatsumi who was never interested in anything into a blushing fool. Souji did not even have to speak to Kanji to tell that there was something very wrong with him. Ever since the spar, Kanji looked so lost and confused every time Souji saw him. He would feel bad for him except that the lord snapped at him and lectured him. The whole warning about not saying anything about those nasty rumors seemed quite true. It was probably because Souji was a close friend that he got off so easily; that and without Souji… Nara would fall with a single push from any of their foes. Why Kanji was having such an issue, Souji saw how he looked at the servant. Souji tried to treat those who were respectful with respect. With Kanji basically asphyxiating around Naoto, Souji would need to do some serious investigating of his own to figure out what to do about it.

    "Lady Nanako Dojima…," Souji was thinking about the youngest member of the Dojimas when he opened his eyes and saw a very melancholy Lord Ryotarou Dojima, clad in dark blue, approaching. The leader of the Dojima house was looking pensive and poignant as he made his way to his nephew.

    "What's wrong, Lord Dojima?" Souji asked. It was being respectful to his uncle that would open him up and make him would speak more freely.

    Lord Dojima took a deep breath of his own before he said to Souji, "My wife has died."

    "I am sorry, uncle," Souji made a small bow.

    Dojima gave a small sigh, and he sounded a little angry for once as he responded, "Don't act like that. I don't want unnecessary pity. You all knew it was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time."

    Souji was a little taken aback by this outburst. Maybe it was from the death of his wife, but he never knew of his uncle to lash out like this. Souji said truthfully, "I'm sorry for disrespecting you."

    Dojima closed his eyes, "I know… I know I should not take this out on you, but… but this was my wife. I loved her."

    Love did not always occur in noble marriages. In this case, Chisato and Ryotarou Dojima grew to love each other. It was not a marriage only for producing an heir. It became a marriage of two people who cared for each other. It seemed that until she became deathly ill that she had only produced a daughter. Ryotarou loved her because she was who she was.

    "I really am sorry," Souji told Dojima.

    Souji had never seen Ryotarou's wife, but it was said she was very beautiful. Her daughter was said to be the spitting image of Chisato, so that was a good indication that Nanako would be just as beautiful.

    "Thank you…" Dojima bowed his head.

    Dojima did not leave immediately after this. Souji realized that he did not come to see him to just tell him about his wife's death. He felt a headache coming on.

    Souji saw Dojima sigh as the lord said to him, "I… I rea… I really don't want to talk about this right now, but…"

    "It's about your daughter, right?" Souji nodded in understanding, "If you want some time before we discuss this."

    "No, no…" Dojima shook his head, gaining a little confidence, "We should talk about this now."

    This was definitely not something Souji wanted to speak about. He was not ready nor had he made a decision yet. He hoped he would not have to make a snap decision and do something he would regret.

    "My daughter is now the only female link to the Dojima house," Dojima started, "A link that will all but break at my death."

    "I know where you are going with this, uncle," Souji said.

    Ryotarou put his hand on the back of his head, "I don't want to push you, but I would not ask anyone I don't trust." He sighed, "She trusts you, Souji."

    Souji held his head. He really wanted to go back to the springs at this time. "I know," he answered.

    What could else could he have said? He had really only met his cousin once. That was above the average amount that most noble men meet their wives before they marry them. She was sweet, but she was just so young.

    Lord Dojima needed some good news to try and counteract the loss of his wife. He could tell Souji was very uncomfortable. He had to try and loosen him up somehow. "Souji, what is holding you back? She is willing to take you as a husband."

    Souji closed his eyes. "I think you already know the problem."

    "It's her age," Dojima sighed.

    "If you really were going to force me… It's not like she would be the worst person in the world for me to marry, but… she's far too young right now."

    Dojima could have smiled, but he was far too sad at the moment. "You would make a terrible lord."

    Souji gave a small grin, "I know I would." He shook his head, "That's why I would never want to be one."

    He always felt that so many lords and ladies were corrupt and manipulative. There were so few that he felt were clean. Besides, as long as Tanaka was alive, Souji would never become a lord. Tanaka would make sure of it.

    "Nanako… I need to speak to Nanako about this," Dojima said suddenly.

    "If you must," Souji said, "I will be where I am supposed to be."

    Dojima was about to say something to Souji before Dojima cut himself off, "I am thinking of… never mind."

    "Alright," Souji said.

    Dojima looked even more melancholy when he turned away from his nephew than when the lord started to speak to Souji.

    "I hope he is alright," Souji said to the retreating figure. The losses of Chisato, plus Souji, his, denial of marrying Nanako probably only compound the pain Ryotarou was feeling at this moment.

    Souji felt a drop of blood on his shoulder. He looked up and felt another drop of the crimson liquid hit his white hakama. There was a dead archer that was lying dead on the battlements, unnoticed during the whole conversation. Souji may not have noticed the dead guardsman unless the blood from his slit throat had landed on his shoulder. There was an intruder, or intruders in the palace. Whoever they were, they were trained in stealth tactics; they were good at that. They completely ignored him… maybe because they did not want to fight him, even if they would have had free shots at him.

    Regardless, if someone was in the palace and they had killed a guard; they had malicious thoughts towards people in the palace. It was Souji's job to protect those in the palace. He needed to kill whoever did this. He made sure his sword would be easily accessible and he began running into the palace. May the gods help any intruder he found.




    Outside of the Dining Hall

    Early Evening

    Naoto had rushed out of the dining hall as fast as she could in geta. It was not easy, but she needed to get away from Lord Tatsumi at that moment. She was a little scared at that moment, and the best plan of action was running away. She needed fresh air, so instead of moving towards the servants' quarters; Naoto headed towards the main hall. She could reach the courtyard from there. She remembered the scary time she had serving Lord Tatsumi.

    Dining Hall

    Back at Dinner

    Kanji had to talk to Naoto at some point so he could take his food from him. He was still nervous as none other. He gritted his teeth at what he had to do. It was going to be so awkward. This whole day has been awkward and until he did something, nothing would happen to relieve that feeling.

    Naoto put the all three of the dishes in front of Lord Tatsumi as quickly as possible. She wanted to place them there and leave immediately. After the dishes were in a somewhat triangular position, Naoto started to back up… but she would not be able to leave so quickly.

    "Naoto…" Kanji said, stopping Naoto in her tracks. Kanji had forced himself to look at Naoto.

    Naoto felt Kanji's gray eyes gazing at her. She hated that. She lowered her head, trying to stop him.

    "Yes…?" she responded.

    "I have been thinking," Kanji said suddenly, "It's about something important to me."

    "What is it about, my lord?" Naoto asked.

    "Did you know my wife died while she was pregnant a few years ago?" Kanji inquired.

    This worried Naoto immensely. It made her wonder that he actually might know that she was a girl. Why else would question her about his wife?

    "Shu told me about your wife," Naoto answered. She figured that Kanji knew the name of one of his head servants.

    "I have been pressured to find a new wife. Do you know that?" Kanji asked.

    Naoto nodded, "Yes… I have heard."

    "I have been unsuccessful, to say the least," Kanji told Naoto.

    "I am sorry, sir," Naoto said to Kanji.

    Kanji sighed. It would be now or never if he did not say his thoughts. He needed to express what he was feeling at this very second or it would keep hurting him. He did not even know why he was feeling like this.

    Kanji told her, "I am thinking that… that right now… I am not very interested in finding a new wife for myself."

    "You are not?" Naoto answered politely.

    Kanji shook his head and breathed deeply, "My current interests… lie with someone else at the moment… even if it seems odd to others."

    Naoto slowly started to back up again. It did not matter if it was against decorum, or even if she was going to be punished later; she was leaving this second. She bowed and all but ran out the door when she slid it open.

    Kanji sighed. He did not know what was wrong with him. Was it something he said? Did he come on too strong? He should discipline Naoto for running away, but he did not have the heart to do anything right now.

    He picked up his chopsticks. "After I finish my meal, I'll apologize for what I said," Kanji frowned.

    He had gotten it off of his chest at least. He felt a little better… in some respects. Besides, if he caught up to him… he could look upon Naoto's soft face again.




    Main Hall

    Early Evening

    Naoto had speed-walked all the way to the main hall. She was not the far away from the courtyard where she could take some deep breaths and think. Kanji wanted her as a man, not as a woman. What in the world?

    There was a scream. She was the one screaming. Blood was strewn across the floor of the hall. A servant had two large gashes across his body that bled profusely all over the hall floor. Naoto recognized the servant. It was Shu.

    Naoto wanted nothing else but to scream again, but Shu called out to her. He was still alive, "Naoto… You scream like a girl."

    Indeed, her scream was nothing like a man. It was incredibly high-pitched.

    "That does not matter right now. What happened?" Naoto asked hurriedly, "You're hurt. We need to get you help."

    Naoto clenched Shu's hand. Shu's eyes widened, noticing the softness of her hands.

    "Don't waste your breath," Shu struggled to say, "I… I'm dying. Just leave."

    "I can't just leave you here," Naoto retorted.

    "Yes… you can," Shu said, "Lord Tatsumi is in danger. You need to find Souji." Shu shoved her away so she would go. He had one last thing to say, "To think… to think that there was a female servant in our midst."

    Naoto watched Shu close his eyes and stop breathing. She felt terrible, but he was right. She needed to find someone to protect everyone. More people could die… more people like Shu.

    Usually around this time, Souji was at the gate. Naoto started running towards the courtyard, dodging all of the blood as best as she could by tiptoeing around it.

    The archway between the courtyard and the main hall stood two men wearing masks and clad in all black. They were assassins, and they were ninja. Naoto fought back the urge to scream for help. In actuality, she could not scream because she was too scared. Both of them had short ninjato in their right hands. They must have been the two that killed Shu, and they were after Lord Tatsumi.

    "Another servant," a gruff-sounding voice said to the other one.

    A nasty-sounding voice responded, "Is it a guy or a girl?"

    "Can't tell… but we should kill the kid before it runs away," the first one said.

    "You're probably right," the second one answered.

    Naoto had shaken off her geta while the two were speaking. The gruff-sounding one took a step forward and raised his sword. Both were taller her, but Naoto had to be faster.

    The ninja stepped forward again. The gruff-sounding ninja made a thrust with his sword, but Naoto was not there when it should have connected. She had deftly ducked underneath the blow. The next moment, the ninja felt the small girl's fist connect with his head. She saw his face for the first time as it knocked off the mask he was wearing. He was middle-aged. His thinning, graying hair was parted to either side of his head. He was an ugly bastard with a prematurely wrinkly face.

    "Bitch…" the gruff ninja said, rubbing his jaw.

    Both of them seemed unhappy that the ugly ninja was hit in the face. The other ninja ran, unbeknownst to Naoto and slashed her across the chest. She gasped softly as she fell to the ground holding her chest.

    "Hurry up and put your mask back on," the second ninja said.

    "This is much better than wrapping cloth," the second ninja told the nasty, nasally sounding ninja.

    "It did not stop the servant from knocking it off," the nasally ninja smirked within his mask.

    "So, she has some skill," the gruff ninja said. He held up a hand, "Wait… listen."

    The nasally ninja turned and raised his ninjato. It barely blocked the blade of Souji Seta. Souji's strength alone nearly drove the ninja's weapon into his chest. Souji kicked with his right foot and caught the ninja in the midsection.

    Holding his midsection, the ninja jumped backwards.

    "Bastard…" The ninja growled. Any ninja would recognize Souji Seta, "I'm going to enjoy this."

    Souji saw Naoto on the floor behind the ninja, bleeding out. He would need to hurry, especially if he had to kill both.

    This ninja, like the other, was the aggressor, and rushed Souji. Souji was far more trained than Naoto, however. He would show why he was the most feared of any samurai in Japan. The ninja thrust at Souji, and the samurai moved about a foot to the left. The ninjato sliced the air, nothing else. The samurai sword connected with the right shoulder blade, however. The ninja fell to his knees and dropped his blade when Souji removed the sword. Souji took off the ninja's mask, revealing a young man with beady black eyes and messy black hair. He had a great urge to slice his head off, but he saw an advancing figure. He knew this person would execute them personally.

    Lord Kanji Tatsumi heard the girlish scream in the direction of the main hall. Just in case, he grabbed his trusty kanabo. Entering the hall, he surely did not expect to find blood and a dead servant.

    As he walked to the entrance of the hall, Kanji saw one of the black clad figures; it was a ninja. He saw another on his knees. He had been dealt with by Souji. The other seemed to wonder if he should fight Souji or not. The realization that it was Souji Seta that had incapacitated his partner must have unnerved the ninja slightly. Well… if this ninja was after him; he should deal with him. He shouldered his kanabo. Then… then he saw Naoto on the floor.

    Through the mask, the gruff-sounding ninja's eyes widened as Lord Tatsumi charged him. He raised his ninjato in a futile attempt to protect himself, but Kanji swung and shattered not only the weapon but his ribcage.

    "Bastard!" Kanji yelled as he connected with the man's chest.

    The man's breath was taken from him as he struggled to breathe. He would not breathe much longer with two collapsed lungs.

    Kanji dropped the weapon and kneeled by Naoto, who was slipping in and out of consciousness. He placed his hand on the wound, trying to stop the blood from coming out. He yelled at Souji, "Get the doctor, damn it!"
     
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  3. ClicheanimeAmerican

    ClicheanimeAmerican Moderator Team Member

  4. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 10


    Main Hall

    Evening

    The main hall of what used to be the Imperial Palace looked anything but what it normally did at the moment. There was blood everywhere, a dead servant lie with gashes across his body, and two assassins had attempted to infiltrate the palace. The stealthy tactics of the pair seemed to have worked well as they had brought so little attention to those around them that most those living here did not even know they had snuck in. Unfortunately, one of those unaware did not include Souji Seta; the samurai of near legend. He made short work of a beady-eyed samurai and was now holding him for his lord to deal with. Lord Tatsumi stumbled upon the other ninja and the actions of the ninja managed to anger him into a fury unknown even by Souji. At the feet of Souji, lie Naoto with a gash across her chest.

    Kanji had placed his right hand over the wound inflicted upon Naoto. It was not likely the ninja he had fought with was getting up anytime soon. His ribs were probably shattered and he was gasping for air.

    Naoto closed her eyes. It hurt… being cut by a sword, yet… as she closed her eyes. The pain was starting to go away. It was if closing her eyes dulled the pain. It was if closing her eyes was a good thing. Then she should close her eyes.

    "No…! Don't close your eyes, Naoto!" Kanji yelled.

    If this was anyone else, this would have looked extremely weird to Souji. But this was Kanji, and he obviously had some sort of connection… feelings towards this young man.

    Kanji refused to watch Naoto suffer, and if felt that if Naoto closed his eyes; that the young man was going to die. Kanji was not going to let Naoto die.

    He turned his head, while still keeping his hand on the wound, and yelled at Souji, "Get the doctor! All of them!"

    Souji got to his feet. The assassin he had struck was bleeding heavily… just below his shoulder, and was not going anywhere. With an angry glare from his friend and lord, Souji ran from the main hall towards the doctors' residences. This was the one time he believed his friendship may not matter if he failed. His punishment might be equal to any other failures of someone else.

    There was one fully-trained doctor as well as three apprentices with the most advanced equipment and medicine for its time at the residence. They worked nonstop and only were able to be effective because they slept in shifts.

    Needless to say, they were a bit shocked when Souji burst into their room and woke all four of them, "Get up… Lord Tatsumi needs you."

    "Is our lord hurt?" one of the apprentices asked. He had smooth black hair in a bowl cut.

    "No, he's fine," Souji shook his head. He needed to explain the issue. How did you explain this? He said, "Just come on… You are needed to save someone who was attacked."

    "How many of us are needed?" the head doctor had gotten up and was putting on a tunic. He was much older than the others, with wizened gray hair that was tied back in a ponytail.

    "All of you, according to Lord Tatsumi," Souji shrugged.

    The four looked at each other in confusion before saying, "We understand."

    As the four continued dressing, Souji stood impatiently, "I would hurry… if you value your lives."

    The doctor and his apprentices' eyes widened. The threat of losing their lives would make anyone hurry. The four haphazardly threw on the rest of their clothes and they took only the basic medical supplies. As the four men ran out the door, Souji followed behind. Souji did not want to be blamed for being lazy.

    Kanji had ripped off part of his robes and was now pressing it against Naoto's wound. He had failed at keeping him awake, but Kanji could at least feel Naoto's slowing breathing against his face. Where the hell was Souji with the doctors?

    As soon he was about to voice that thought, Souji came into the hall with the four doctors. Kanji breathed a small sigh of relief.

    "What do you want us to do?" the head doctor asked as he hurried towards Lord Tatsumi.

    "I want you to save this servant," Kanji replied in a panicked voice, "You have to save him…"

    The doctors looked at each other. They were unsure why their lord was so dead set on saving one of his servants. In the end, that did not really matter. All that mattered was following orders, so the head doctor motioned to the apprentice with the long black hair. The two made their way towards Kanji and the fallen servant.

    "You need to move out of the way so we can treat the patient, Lord Tatsumi," the head doctor placed his hand on Kanji's shoulder.

    Very reluctantly, Kanji removed his hand away so the two could see to Naoto. He slowly went back from his knees to his feet by pushing up with his arms. He backed up as the doctor and his apprentice moved in front of Naoto, shielding him from Kanji's view. Kanji felt a pang in his heart as he took another step back.

    He turned to the other two who were currently wondering why they were even called down here. They were staring mindlessly at all of the blood splattered across the hall.

    Kanji was disgusted at their lax nature. He snapped at them, "You two!" As the other two turned towards Lord Tatsumi, Kanji continued, "Keep those ninja alive… at least until I can speak with them."

    During his last statement, he stared straight at the ninja who he had personally crushed in his rage. Kanji was going to make that man suffer, and he was not going to die until Kanji found out every last bit of information. That went for the other one as well. They would both die… slowly.

    The head doctor turned towards Kanji. He had barely started looking over Naoto when the wizened man turned to the lord, "We need to take this servant to the doctors' residences. We did not bring enough supplies here."

    It would be lying if Kanji said he did not feel a pang of jealousy as the young apprentice accompanying the head doctor picked up Naoto in his arms and carried the diminutive servant towards the doctors' quarters.

    The head doctor followed right behind the young man carrying Naoto. The other two apprentice/doctors were dragging the two assassins behind them. Neither of them had the strength to even break free of both apprentices and escape. They would not get very far anyways.

    Seeing that the carnage was over, Souji put away his blade by running it over the sheath and then placing it in the sheath. Souji felt bad that the servant he had saved only a couple days ago had gotten hurt. The important part was that Lord Tatsumi was safe and unharmed. Looking at Kanji, Souji was not completely sure that his friend had come out unscathed after all.

    Souji had nothing else to do. It was probably in his best interest to go back to the gate anyways. He could check for anyone else hiding in the courtyard on his way there. It was times like this he wished they knew where Yosuke was. It would make life so much simpler.

    Souji tried to turn away so he could go back to the gates. He was stopped by a pleading voice, "Souji…"

    Souji turned back around and saw a very distressed and needy looking Kanji. Souji knew what he was going to ask, and it was probably going to take up even more of his time than him standing at the gate for a few more hours.

    "Souji… Can you stay… stay and make sure Naoto is okay?" Kanji pleaded.

    Souji sighed. Something about this Souji knew he was going to regret later on, but Kanji was his friend. Souji supported his friends, and he was going to support Kanji in this situation.

    Souji walked back towards Kanji and stood by his side, "I will stay here if you want me to."

    Kanji closed his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief, "Thank you, Souji."

    Souji could not really understand how Kanji was so emotionally traumatized… Yes, he could. He had some feelings… for another man.

    "Should we wait in a room near the doctors' quarters?" Kanji asked.

    "If you want to," Souji said to Kanji.

    The two made the slow walk away from the hall and to the hallways that would lead to the doctors' quarters. Kanji still had a dejected look on his face and Souji was doubtful there was anything he could do to change that. The only thing that would probably change that look was seeing Naoto spring out of the doctors' completely healthy.

    Lady Nanako Dojima's Residence

    Late Evening

    Inside the mainly cream colored walls, the only two present in the living room were Nanako and her father, Ryotarou. He had entered unannounced late in the evening to the surprise of the three caretakers. Nanako and Ryotarou were sitting across from each other at a small table.

    "It is nice to see you again, father," Nanako said to her father.

    "I am afraid I have bad news for you," Dojima told Nanako before taking a deep breath and saying, "Your mother has passed away."

    Nanako was not sure what to feel. She had never really seen much of her mother. She was brought up by the three women who are still raising her now.

    "I'm sorry, father," Nanako said to her dad.

    Dojima understood that Nanako did not really have any sort of experiences with her mother, so she it would be difficult to express the same sort of feelings that Dojima felt. He had to accept the pseudo-apology from his daughter.

    "I have more news," Dojima said slowly.

    "What is it, father?" Nanako asked.

    "Souji is having second thoughts on marrying you," Dojima said. He continued, "I think he believes you are too young."

    "If that is what he wants," Nanako's head dropped slightly.

    Nanako actually was a little disappointed that Souji was rejecting her. When she had thought about it, she was starting to like Souji.

    "It might just have been he was going to wait until you were older," Dojima comforted.

    Nanako shook her head, "I do not think that is the case."

    "We will see," Dojima said. He added, "The decision is ultimately in my hands."

    "I understand," Nanako nodded.

    Dojima was not really sure what to do, but he had to think about what would be best for his family in the future. If that meant… no, he would take time before he decided if he wanted to manipulate lives. He owed them that.

    Room across from the Doctors' Residence

    Early Morning

    Only two things kept Souji in the palace overnight… at Lord Tatsumi's side. It was because it was Lord Tatsumi asked him, and when Lord Tatsumi asked it basically was an order. The other reason was because as much as Souji wanted to go, Kanji had pleaded with him to stay. It was a person he grew up with; it was the man he served. Kanji, not Lord Tatsumi, was Souji's friend. That was why Souji was currently sitting, albeit slouching, in a chair and waiting for news on the condition of Kanji's… well… he was not going to discuss that.

    When Kanji and Souji had first arrived to the room they were currently residing in, Kanji was pacing back and forth the whole time. It seemed the tire out someone who never got tired. It was a combination of worry, stress, and emotion of the whole day that just overwhelmed the lord and knocked him out. Souji had Kanji laid out at the opposite end of the room so he could get some much needed sleep. Kanji was probably the most peaceful he had been all day. That meant Souji was the one waiting for the doctor; he would be the one to find out how Naoto was.

    Souji did not know how much more time he had until he found out the condition of Naoto, so he decided to step outside for a little while. When Souji slid open the sliding door, he saw the two apprentices that were taking of the ninja. They seemed to be patiently waiting for either Souji or Kanji to step out of this room, and Souji did so; the pair's eyes widened and they stepped forward. They were probably expecting Lord Tatsumi instead of Souji Seta.

    Souji decided to ask about Naoto, "Do you know how Naoto, that servant, is doing?"

    One of the apprentices, a shorter man, responded, "We are not really sure. We were taking care of the two ninja and we decided to take them to another room to treat them."

    "Oh…" Souji said in response. He recovered and then asked, "Are they well enough for questioning?"

    "We actually were thinking about coming in and asking you to interrogate them now," the other, taller, apprentice replied. He continued, "One has serious chest injuries and I do not think he will last until tomorrow. He is having far too much trouble breathing. With the other one, I stopped the bleeding on the outside, but…"

    The first apprentice finished his sentence, "There is bleeding inside the body. We can not stop that."

    "So… I should interrogate them now before we lose that chance?" Souji raised his eyebrows, before asking again "Is that your suggestion?"

    The two young men bowed as they said, "That's just what we believe and why we came to you."

    The first one asked, "Do you want to get Lord Tatsumi to initiate the questioning?"

    Souji thought to himself about if he should bother waking up his lord. He knew that Kanji wanted to be there and question them in person, but… he needed rest. Souji could get the information and then relay it to Kanji when he woke up. That would be perfectly fine.

    Souji shook his head, "He's resting at the moment. Lord Tatsumi has had a long day. I will start the questioning myself." He gestured with his arm, "Lead the way."

    Souji followed the pair of apprentices a very short way to where the ninja were treated. The two younger doctors had taken their supplies to this side room. When Souji slid open the door and the taller apprentice gestured with his arm for the samurai to walk through; the ninjas turned their heads very slowly. Their eyes widened at seeing Souji approach.

    They were both stripped to the waist and now bandaged up, but their conditions were only getting worse as they lie on cloth tables. It seemed as though the apprentices' diagnoses that they only had a short while left to live was correct.

    Souji put on a serious face as he said to the two, "Listen here… and listen well. I can give you the rest of your remaining time in this world, which is a very short time. If you do what I want… the rest of your life will be painless. If you do not, I will make it the worst few hours of your life."

    Souji closed his eyes. He doubted that this would be easy. He would probably have to do a little work. He asked a simple question, "Who sent you?"

    If the two assassins could look at each other, then they would have given each other the same look that they gave when they took the job.

    The beady-eyed young man said, weakly, "I can't tell you… you bastard."

    Souji sighed, "Don't make this difficult on me."

    The man with the parted gray hair began to laugh. It hurt immensely, but he laughed in Souji's face. It was insulting to Souji.

    Souji walked up to the beady eyed young man. This man could not have been older than himself.

    Souji steeled his face and grabbed the man by the bandages. He all but growled in the assassin's face as he said, "Listen fish face… If you do not want to experience worse pain than being stabbed in the shoulder…" Souji made a gesture towards the ninja's lower section, "Start talking."

    Souji could feel the sweat running down the assassin's face as it reached his chest. He was scared. This guy was really scared.

    "I… I don't know anything," the guy was panicking. He gestured to the guy who laughed in Souji's face, "He arranged everything. I just was an add-on in case he failed. I don't even know who hired us."

    Souji let him go and saw a yellow stain forming around the cloth table the fish eyed man was lying on. He was disgusted by it all.

    "You!" Souji turned to the other man.

    "What?" the balding man called out with a raspy tone. He was struggling to speak.

    "What's your name?" Souji questioned.

    The fishy man and the balding man exchanged glances and the balding man responded, "Han'nya."

    "Who told you to kill Lord Tatsumi?" Souji questioned.

    Han'nya coughed and smirked. It seemed he had no intention of answering the question. The cough brought forth a little blood, but he wiped it off.

    Souji was not going to take any bullshit. He walked over to Han'nya and struck him across the face with the back part of his right hand, forcing blood to run down his mouth. As Han'nya's face drifted, Souji's left fist went straight into his already ruined chest. Han'nya gasped and blood spurted from his face.

    "Do you want more!" Souji's voice was filled with malice. He continued, "Then tell me everything!"

    Han'nya was breathing very heavily. He was struggling to speak, "I… If I tell you… will you stop?"

    Souji drew back his hand, "I want you to start from the beginning. Tell me everything."

    Han'nya closed his eyes, "It began like this."

    Far End of Residential District near the Kusaga Shrine

    Yesterday Morning

    The man known as Han'nya was standing just outside the Kusaga Shrine. He was looking about the red terraces of the shrine for someone that was to arrive. Han'nya was not sure the man he was waiting for looked like, but… it had to be someone important. Han'nya was wearing a gray and black tunic, but was used to wearing all black for worked. The assassin coughed; he was not as young as he used to be.

    The assassin suddenly turned, drawing a small knife that reflected off of the sunlight, and pointed it straight at a man that had tried to sneak up on Han'nya. The man had slightly graying hair that had spit curls. He was somewhat tall and was obviously a lord with his regal clothing.

    "Put that knife away, you peasant," the lord said as he asked, "You would strike down your employer?"

    Han'nya put away his short knife by flipping it back into his belt loop. "What do you want me to do?" he asked. He continued, "This is an important job to you obviously if you hired me."

    The lord knew why he wanted to hire Han'nya. In the past, this assassin was used in missions against both the Taira and Minamoto families. He was a legend in his younger years. He was older now, but still revered by all. This was the person he needed.

    "It is… I have a job that I need you and your accomplice to complete," the lord answered.

    Yes, Han'nya had a younger trainee that he was grooming to replace him. This man was a Tairan servant, but had been exiled for making advances on Lady Kirishima. He had been found by Han'nya and he started to train him in the arts of assassination and spying.

    Han'nya sighed, "What is the mission?" He had asked this question already.

    "I want you to eliminate Lord Tatsumi," the lord told Han'nya. "I also want it looks like it was performed by Lord Dojima."

    "Lord Tatsumi?" Han'nya looked a little taken aback. He said, "That won't be easy. I would have to get around Souji Seta and Yosuke Hanamura." Han'nya continued, "Isn't Lord Dojima the most popular lord in Nara?"

    "Hanamura has been dealt with," the lord said. He continued, "There is a pretty little servant that came with a Tairan lord named Kido. He met the little lady and they had a little rendezvous. They haven't seen him since." The graying-haired lord shook his head, "Just find a way."

    Han'nya shook his head, "I have to deal with Seta, right?"

    "You're a ninja, no?" the lord made it obvious.

    Han'nya nodded and the lord said, "What sort of compensation do you want for this mission?"

    Han'nya took a deep breath, "My accomplice… wants a night with Lady Amagi."

    The lord smiled. "Done…" He replied. He smirked, "I'll find a way to make it happen." He asked the balding man, "What do you want as your reward?"

    "Nothing," Han'nya answered.

    "Nothing?" the lord seemed perplexed as he continued, "Surely you want something?"

    "I just want one last mission before I try… and live a normal life for the rest of my days," Han'nya explained.

    The lord smiled. This was perfect. He had one more thing to say, however. "One thing," the lord interrupted.

    "Yes?" Han'nya raised his eyebrow.

    "If you see a young man with short blue hair… you have free rein to kill him as well," the lord told him.

    "Duly noted," Han'nya nodded. He said, "I will strike tonight."

    "Good," the lord said, and then said, "I need to get back to business."

    The lord nodded and the assassin bowed. Han'nya needed to prepare for the attack. He would attack at night.

    Side Room

    Early Morning

    "It's Lord Tanaka," Souji realized.

    "Wha…?" Han'nya managed to say.

    "Nothing…" Souji shook his head. He turned, but before he did… he said, "I have what I want. You can rest in peace."

    The two apprentices were still standing outside the door, and were shocked when they saw Souji appear suddenly and slam the sliding door.

    "Are you alright, sir?" the short apprentice asked.

    "I am fine," Souji said. He said to them, "I need to think for a moment. Please give me a few moments."

    "Yes, sir..." the other apprentice nodded.

    Souji went from outside the side room to the room across from the doctors' quarters. He needed to do something serious thinking.

    He opened and entered the room where Kanji was still sleeping. He sat down in the chair he was resting in earlier. It was time for him to gather his thoughts.

    "I did not think Tanaka would make such a bold move," Souji thought, "And he wanted it to blame it on my uncle?"

    Tanaka must really think Nara was unstable if he was trying to unseat Kanji for control of Nara. He was trying to take over a good chunk of the Fujiwara family for what purpose? It was more likely because he was power hungry than he thought he could do a better job with the land. The family was weak, even Souji knew that, and Tanaka could not do any better than Kanji was doing. Kanji was doing better than anyone else could, so Tanaka was a fool by trying to replace him by causing more instability with an attempted assassination. When the news gets out that someone tried to kill Lord Tatsumi, it will cause a wave of rumors that the people have lost faith in him. Maybe Tanaka knew it would fail, and the true plan was to topple Kanji from the inside? Souji knew it was going to cause a headache if he thought about it anymore.

    All Souji knew about this was that he would have to tell Kanji about what he learned after he awoke. It would be pointless for Kanji to try and let him question the assassins once he woke up. He would only get the same information, and he would be less lenient with threats. Most likely, by the time Kanji awoke, the pair would be dead.

    His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden opening of the door.

    "Excuse me, Seta, Lord Tatsumi?" the head doctor's head popped through the door.

    "Lord Tatsumi is resting… Can I help you?" Souji answered.

    "I have… something important to tell you," the doctor nodded. He wiped the sweat off of his forehead with a cloth, "It might shock you."

    Souji got up from the chair and followed the doctor out of the room and into the hallway.

    "Try me," Souji said, as the samurai and doctor stood across from each other in the brightly colored room.

    "It's about the servant we have been working on," the doctor wiped his forehead with the cloth again.

    "Naoto," Souji said.

    "Yes," the doctor nodded, "The wound was not as severe as we thought. It was not a terribly deep wound, but we ended up treating some broken ribs as well."

    "They were caused by a lord who was treating him unfairly," Souji responded.

    "Of course," the doctor nodded, "There is one more thing."

    "What is it?" Souji questioned.

    "This Naoto…" the doctor wiped his head for the third time, looking nervous as he added quickly, "Naoto is not a he. Naoto is a she."

    "Oh… oh," Souji looked a little surprised. "That is something worth telling us," Souji nodded.

    "I thought you would want to know," the doctor said. He asked, "Do you think there was a reason she would want to hide her gender?"

    Souji thought for a second before saying, "It has not come to me yet, but if I think of it… I will tell you."

    "Well… I need to check up on her. I had to kick out my apprentice of the room. He was very well… spellbound by her," the doctor sighed, as he then asked, "So, if you will excuse me?"

    Souji nodded, and the doctor headed through the opposite door. This was a rather interesting development, indeed. At least, Kanji would be happy to know she was a girl after all, and that the person he was interested was not a guy. Though, he wondered what all the male servants would think that a girl servant was living with them for a few days. Now he knew why Naoto was so shy. She must be something if the doctor had to kick out his apprentice and she was unconscious. It was probably just because she was at least half-undressed at the time, but who knows.

    Souji was at least somewhat glad that she was okay, considering that the only reason Naoto was still alive was because he had saved her from Togodai. He was also the first one on the scene against those assassins. He shrugged; it did not really matter. He really needed to think about more important things in his life. He needed to worry about Tanaka, the Minamoto and Taira families, and his uncle's influence on his daughter. That's what really mattered. Souji would let Kanji worry about Naoto for the present.
     
  5. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 11

    Across from the Doctors' Quarters

    Mid-Morning

    Souji was finally succumbing to his own exhaustion. Kanji was still snoring away on the other side of the room, and it made sleep look like an appealing option to the samurai. The only that was keeping Souji awake was the idea that the doctors were probably still awake keeping a watch on Naoto and the others. If they were awake keeping a steady eye on the patients, then Souji should be keeping a watchful eye on Lord Tatsumi after the recent attempt on his life.

    Souji shook his head and put his hand to his forehead. He needed to stay awake, but not only was he tired; there were so many new developments that were making him confused. He needed to try and find solutions to his problems.

    Souji had a female servant that pretending to be a male servant. That was definitely going to be an awkward conversation when she was well enough to talk with again. Heaven forbid what it would be like when Kanji found out that Naoto was a girl. He would be either overjoyed that the servant was interested in was actually a female, or infuriated that she was hiding her gender.

    As soon as Kanji learned of Tanaka's hiring of those assassins, he would probably try and kill him personally, but Souji could not allow that. Souji could probably take care of him with more subtly than Kanji could. It would also cause less of a stir because if it became common knowledge that an attempt on Lord Tatsumi's life happened because of Lord Tatsumi's personal execution of Tanaka… the lords would sense internal insecurity within Nara and more upheaval could occur.

    Souji had a sinking feeling that no matter what, he would be marrying his cousin. Souji liking Nanako as a friend, and marrying her were two different situations that Souji did not want to deal with. With Lady Chisato Dojima passing, Lord Dojima would make it precedence to marry his daughter to a worthy man, such as Souji. It was a pain.

    Now, Souji had the tough decision whether to wake up Kanji now. He could just wait till Kanji woke up naturally, but he would probably be pissed. Yet, it was not Souji's problem. Kanji was just so tired that it was probably best that Souji let the lord rest.

    Souji did not have to worry about wondering whether to wake Kanji or not because he began stirring behind him at that moment. Souji turned his head for a moment at the rustling noises, and saw the rising figure of his liege. Souji took a deep breath for he would a lot of explaining to do.

    Kanji rolled his shoulders and shook his head as he sat up. He had a nightmare while he was sleeping. His nightmare was a recurring event of the recent attack where he could not save Naoto. He was always one second too late to save his servant. It tore him apart as Naoto died in his arms again and again. Kanji was able to get Naoto to the doctors in reality, but he hoped he was not a second too late in bringing him here. If he had… it would be so painful that he could not speak…

    As Kanji began to wipe his eyes, he noticed that sitting in the chair that was closest to the door was his samurai, Souji Seta. "He must be watching for anymore potential assassins," Kanji thought, "I can not believe he has stayed awake this entire time."

    "Souji? Have you been awake this whole time?" Kanji asked.

    Souji nodded, "I have." Souji tried to stifle a yawn.

    "Get some rest, Souji," Kanji suggested, but it sounded more like a command to Souji's ears.

    Souji shook his head and yawned. He felt a little more blood rushing into his brain as he said, "I have been making sure it has been safe, Kanji. I still do not know if is safe here."

    "I'm awake, Souji," Kanji narrowed his eyes as he continued; "It is safe now."

    Souji shook his head in response. Kanji was a little too confident in his abilities sometimes.

    "If that's what you really believe," Souji sighed.

    Kanji knew his friend was worried about his safety, but if he was tired… he was useless as a guard until he got some rest of his own. He appreciated what Souji did however.

    As Kanji stood, he knew that he needed one more thing from Souji before he made sure that his friend got some rest.

    "Do you know the condition of Naoto?" Kanji asked, both nervously and impatiently.

    "I know the answer to that, and I also know the answer to much more," Souji nodded to Kanji.

    Kanji's eyes widened. Souji must have learned about how Naoto was doing while he was asleep. Part of Kanji was extremely angry with Souji because he knew how Naoto was doing and did not wake his lord. Not only that, it was obvious that Souji had obtained other information, and saw fit not to wake him.

    "Tell me," Kanji demanded, "Tell me everything."

    Souji wondered if he should tell Kanji about Naoto's hidden gender. It was obvious Kanji was going to find out soon enough, but was Souji really the one to tell him? It was probably something that would be too much of an issue if Souji did not reveal Naoto's femininity.

    "Naoto is going to be fine," Souji told him. Souji added, "Naoto is resting and being watched over by the doctor."

    Inside of Kanji's mind, he was breathing a huge sigh of relief. He wanted to see Naoto really badly right now, and he was going right now.

    Kanji started to make for the door and was stopped by Souji before he could slide it open. Souji had stood up and put his body right in front of the sliding door before the lord could open it.

    "What is the meaning of this, Souji!" Kanji yelled; "I want to check on Naoto's condition."

    "I told you, Naoto is resting now," Souji responded calmly. Inwardly, Souji was hoping he would awake Kanji's terrible temper.

    "I want to see for myself! Now get out of my way!" Kanji retorted.

    Kanji had placed his hands on Souji's shoulders, trying to force Souji out of the way.

    "The doctor said that he's taking care of Naoto, now let Naoto rest," Souji told Kanji.

    "I just want to see him…" Kanji murmured, with his strength and anger starting to leave him.

    "I know," Souji said, taking Kanji's hands off one-by-one, "I know."

    Kanji sat in the chair that Souji was sitting on before. He may have been sleeping before, but arguing with Souji was tiring. If he could not see and check up on Naoto, it would probably be best for him to hear what else had happened while he was sleeping.

    Kanji sighed, "What else did you find out, Souji? What happened while I was sleeping?"

    Souji spoke, "I talked to the pair of assassins. With a small amount of persuading…" Souji emphasized the word "persuading" and continued, "… they told me their story, and who hired them."

    Kanji's ears perked up and his eyes widened at Souji's proclamation of the news that knowledge had been obtained about the ninja that infiltrated the palace.

    "Tell me what you found out," Kanji said seriously.

    "The leader of the ninja… the one you crushed the body of was named Han'nya," Souji said. Souji continued, "He is… a legendary ninja from northern Japan that has performed at least a hundred assassinations."

    Kanji had heard of Han'nya, but not to the extent that Souji had. He just knew him as a simple criminal.

    "Who hired this… Han'nya?" Kanji asked.

    Souji took a deep breath. What Souji was about to say next would probably set off a deep amount of anger within Kanji, and Souji would have to try and hold off a fire storm from erupting from Kanji.

    Souji exhaled, "The pair of ninja… they were hired by Lord Tanaka to kill you."

    The words that Souji spoke gave Kanji a second to digest what he heard. His own subordinate lord tried to depose him. He could think of no other reason why… but jealousy. That must be it. Tanaka must be jealous of his power. Tanaka obviously wants more of a pedestal to stand on. Tanaka was willing to use Kanji's head as a stepping stone if necessary.

    Kanji stood up again. He needed more information from those assassins. This time… he would not be deterred by anyone.

    Souji knew that the assassins were probably on their last breath, and that we're worthless to Kanji. There was nothing more he could ascertain from questioning the two of them, except maybe their age and favorite food.

    Souji tried to move in the way of Kanji again to save him from disappointment. He felt himself getting shoved to the side.

    "Out of the way, Souji," Kanji was angry. He made no attempt to hide it.

    Souji could not match Kanji's strength and could only watch Kanji walk towards where the tall and short apprentices were standing.

    Kanji guessed that were those two doctor apprentices were standing, that was where the two killers were being held. That's why Kanji had made his way to the pair of clinicians. They bowed at the sight of their lord.

    "I want to see the people who wanted to kill me," Kanji commanded.

    The short one answered, "Really? But… they just died…"

    As the tall one nodded in agreement, Kanji took a step back. As much as he hated to admit it, Souji was right again. It just really aggravated him that Souji did not wake him when he went to question the two ninja. Did Souji not trust him enough to wake him when he was going to do something? All Kanji knew is that he had to have a few words with Lord Tanaka now.

    Kanji turned away from the doctors. As long as he was in the hallway, he might as well try and visit Naoto. Why listen to Souji's incessant harassing if he is in residing in the other room?

    Kanji headed away and went straight for the doctors' quarters. He was going to slide open the door and see Naoto, and nothing was going to stop him.

    Kanji slid the door open, and in the doorway was the head doctor. The wavy haired doctor must have heard Kanji coming and stood in Kanji's way. He was not letting anyone see Naoto.

    "I want to see Naoto," Kanji told the doctor.

    "The patient needs sleep," the doctor replied.

    "I just want to see Naoto," Kanji continued.

    The doctor remained steadfast in his position, "Naoto needs rest."

    "I'm your lord. Let me pass," Kanji commanded. He took one more step towards the doctor, trying to see his servant.

    The doctor said to him, in a calm voice, "I am this patient's doctor. I am telling you to leave this patient alone."

    If there was anyone more stubborn than Souji, it was this doctor. It looked like this doctor was not going to budge either. Kanji used his taller frame to tip-toe over and try and take a peek at Naoto. All he saw, however, was Naoto's blue hair, and cloth sheets covering Naoto's top half of the body.

    "Lord Tatsumi!" the head doctor yelled, "I need to watch over the patient!"

    Kanji was disappointed that he could not get a very good look at Naoto. He needed to get to Tanaka. If he was willing to try and kill him, he needed to confront him and be willing to take him down. Kanji would do it himself if he had to.

    Kyoto

    Mid-afternoon

    A certain messenger that had departed from Nara had just arrived in the city of Kyoto. The only reason he had arrived so quickly was the proximity of Kyoto to Nara. He headed straight for the palace, which was the command of his liege. His orders had come from a samurai, which came from a lord.

    Kyoto was even more complex, hectic, and civilized than Nara. It was very difficult for the messenger to navigate his way to the palace. It was not the Imperial Palace, but it was the home of the highest Fujiwaras.

    As the black and gray clad messenger arrived in the palace, he found himself stopped by ten archers and ten footmen waiting at the gate.

    "I have a message for a lord in the palace," the messenger announced.

    "Alright… you can pass," one of the guards said after the messenger flashed his letter and showed his proof of being from Nara.

    The messenger started walking through the crosswalks as he went through the gate. He passed gardens filled with flowers of all colors and all sorts of trees, such as oak. He went through another red gate, while reaching a hall. He was looking for Lord Tohru Adachi of the Fujiwaras.

    As the messenger walked through the hall, he was searching for an unkempt man wearing gray, blue, and green robes. He was having no luck finding him in the hall, so he began scouring the other hallways to find Lord Adachi.

    He began hearing a lot of noises as he made another left turn. He followed the noises until he came to a room with very elaborate patterns on the door. The messenger had to believe it was Lord Adachi's room. The moans and grunts were obvious, but it did not stop the messenger from calling out to the inhabitants.

    "Who's there!" the person inside the room asked. "One minute!" he yelled.

    The messenger waited patiently for the man to come out. The man that did come out was indeed Lord Adachi, but his hair was rather unkempt. His robes, the same color the messenger was looking for, were blue, green, and gray. The messenger also saw a woman with light brown hair in a bowl cut behind him, hidden in the sheets.

    "What do you want!" the man who was obviously, Lord Adachi asked.

    "Lord Adachi?" the messenger decided to try and confirm what he already knew.

    "Yes, that's me," Adachi nodded. He asked again, "Now what do you want?"

    "I have a letter for you… it is from Lord Tanaka of Nara," the messenger bowed and held out the letter.

    Adachi took the letter and opened it in front of him. He began to read it silently.

    "Lord Adachi,

    I, Lord Tanaka, am here to inform you of Lord Tatsumi's treachery. The lord of Nara is refusing to tax the peasants, which will soon lead to starvation of the land. He and Lord Dojima are obsessed with finding him an heir instead of solving the bigger problems within the land. He also refuses to punish those who harm the people in Nara. They run free without any retribution. With Lord Tatsumi in control of Nara, there will only be instability in this land. We need a new leader, or else… Nara will fall.

    Lord Tanaka"

    Adachi closed the letter and said to himself, "Interesting."

    The messenger kept his eyes down. He did not want to stand back up to look at Adachi, because his eyes would stray from him back to his "guest".

    "You can go," Adachi said to the man in gray and black.

    Adachi had a lot to think about. He was not sure if what he read was really true or not. He could not pay attention right now, anyways. He turned around… for it was time for round two. Who cares if she was not really the most willing…? It made it that much more fun.
     
  6. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 12.

    Near the Kusaga Shrine, Nara

    Mid-Afternoon

    Souji Seta had not slept in almost a day and a half and the yawn that came from his mouth betrayed his tiredness. He shifted the sword at his side, almost by instinct. He had put on his sleeveless jacket… to complete the hakama. The only thing he needed now was his yumi, but he had not used that in weeks.

    Over the course of his time awake, Souji had personally taken down one of the ninja and watched over his lord all night. He wanted to sleep, but if only he was that lucky.

    Souji wondered if he should have told his lord about Naoto's gender, but Kanji had left his sight before he could give more thought about it. Souji even went back to the doctors' quarters, but he was shooed away by the head doctor. Kanji may have found out… even without Souji telling him about Naoto.

    The reason why Souji was close to Kusaga Shrine, it was not the closest place to his own residence, was because it was close to the residence of Lord Tanaka. Souji wanted to see if his least favorite lord was around. He had a few questions for him.

    Souji was watching the monks and their disciples pass by him in the red temple. He was waiting to see if Tanaka was going to come by. Tanaka's residence was near the Shrine after all, so Souji was expecting Tanaka to show up eventually.

    The samurai needed something to happen soon, because he was going to fall asleep soon unless Tanaka showed up. Souji started nodding off as he rested against a pole. Sleep was coming before Tanaka appeared after all.

    Main Hall

    Mid-Afternoon

    Lord Kanji Tatsumi was somewhat restless, sitting in his chair in the main hall. He was waiting to see if Tanaka was coming here. It would be a grave mistake if Tanaka did. Tanaka did attempt to kill him, after all.

    A person was walking up to him, clad in blue and gray robes… a stark contrast to Kanji's black and gold. It was not Tanaka that strode towards him; he did not have the arrogant strut. Instead, Kanji saw his advisor, Lord Dojima coming to him.

    Dojima had left his melancholy demeanor behind him and replaced it with his a stoic expression. There was no more reason to be sad.

    "Lord Dojima," Kanji said as Ryotarou approached.

    "Lord Tatsumi," the older lord responded and bowed.

    Kanji nodded in return and said solemnly, "I am sorry for your loss." He was talking about the death of Chisato Dojima.

    Dojima sighed, "I have moved on. There are more important matters." He continued, "I heard you were attacked."

    "There were two assassins who attacked the palace," Kanji told Dojima. The lord continued his explanation, "The ninja killed two guards, a servant, injured another, before Souji Seta engaged one of the ninja in the hall. After Souji engaged the one, I engaged the other one after stumbling upon him."

    "So… you were attacked by ninjas?" Lord Dojima asked to himself, while placing his right hand on his scruffy chin. His next question was directed at Kanji, "Do you have an idea on who might have sent them? Minamotos? Tairas?"

    "Souji got a confession out of one of the ninjas during his last moments," Kanji sighed. He finished, "The confession was that Lord Tanaka hired them to kill me."

    "Lord Tanaka!" Lord Dojima looked a little shocked, but not completely dumbfounded.

    Dojima was seeing Tanaka trying to impose his will on the others with a hostile takeover. It was the timing that took him a little off guard.

    He had seen the signs of some sort of insurrection coming for a while now even it Ryoutarou did not expect it this very second. This provincial government had been instable even since Lady Matsunaga had died giving birth to an heir.

    The only possible reasoning for Tanaka's sudden attack was because of the old age of the emperor. Emperor Igor was almost at the end of his reign, and his son… Philemon would take over.

    Prince Philemon… He was already proposing plans that he would impose sweeping changes that would destroy the remaining power that the Fujiwaras had by forcing them to be responsible for their estates once he became the new ruler.

    Was Lord Tanaka trying to take control of the land so he could keep this land as stable as he could before it crumbled? It did make some sense… after all. He was attempting to produce an heir of his own by marrying Lady Sayoko two years ago. It was not a popular choice, and the other lords were not very approving of the arrangement. Yet, it was a key step if Tanaka was planning to take over the rule of Nara, and Dojima knew that.

    If Tanaka took over Nara, Dojima did not know what would happen to the other lords and ladies. What would happen to him, or Lord Ichijo and Lady Ebihara? Would it stop at just Lord Tatsumi, or would he cleanse the whole pantheon? He would not be surprised if he would share Lord Tatsumi's fate, seeing that he was his advisor.

    It would not stop at the lords either. Tanaka felt tremendous hate towards Souji, and if he took over… he would not escape the retribution that Tanaka could bring upon him.

    Dojima would just need to think of a plan to steady the land and help Lord Tatsumi; then deal with Lord Tanaka until normalcy returned.

    He asked Kanji, "So… what are you doing here right now?"

    "I am waiting to see if Tanaka will be impulsive enough to try and come here himself," Kanji responded. He shrugged, "He may even try something else, so I want to be ready."

    "Where is my nephew?" Dojima questioned the lord.

    "He's near Kusaga," Kanji explained.

    "So… he's seeing if Tanaka is in his home?" Dojima looked at Kanji, who nodded.

    Kanji said, "I hope Souji gets some rest. He's been up all night and all of today."

    "Maybe I should check up on him?" Dojima suggested.

    "If you do… be careful," Kanji said.

    Dojima took a deep breath, "You said you had lost a servant, and one was injured as well?"

    "Shu, he was one of my head servants," Kanji said somberly. He continued, not containing his worry, "Naoto was also injured in the attack."

    "Naoto!" Dojima looked surprised.

    Naoto was the peasant girl that he had made sure that Kanji accepted into his service. Dojima had noticed his worry, and it had seemed odd. That Naoto had been attacked during the ninjas' assault on Lord Tatsumi was very interesting. Maybe… it was not a coincidence.

    It was here at this moment that Dojima would make a huge Freudian slip. "Well… is she going to be okay?"

    Dojima had broken the one promise that he had told Naoto that he would never say to anyone. It was going to be disastrous, and the consequences… unknown.

    "She!" Kanji looked very confused.

    At first, Kanji thought it was a slip of the tongue. When Dojima made no attempt to correct himself… his eyes began to widen. How could Naoto be a girl? She had been acting like a boy ever since she was a servant under him, not a girl. Was it just an act? Why? The revelation… was shocking, to say the least.

    Kanji said quickly, "Please excuse me…"

    "As you wish," Dojima said.

    Kanji began rushing away from the main hall. He was heading for the doctors' quarters to confirm what Dojima said to be the truth. As he ran down the hall, he was not going to let the head doctor stop him from seeing Naoto this time. He had to see if Naoto was really a girl or not. If she was… it would lift a big weight off his shoulders.

    What Souji said to him while they were changing in the springs scared him, and knowing that Naoto was a girl might invalidate those stupid rumors.

    Upon reaching the door of the doctors' quarters, Kanji opened it with more force than anyone else had the past day. The person watching over the patient, the head doctor, was not amused to see Kanji in a flustered mood. He was looking just as harried as when Naoto was first injured.

    "Lord Tatsumi," the doctor looked annoyed, "I told you not to bother me while I'm looking over the patient."

    "I want to see her. She is my servant," Kanji commanded.

    The doctor never mentioned anything to Lord Tatsumi about Naoto being a girl, so he wondered where he found out. Maybe Lord Tatsumi already knew about her?

    Lord Tatsumi told him with a little force, "I told you to get out of my way."

    The doctor moved out of the way of the tall blond man in gold and black robes. It was his patient, and he had taken good care of her so far. If something happened to her; it was Lord Tatsumi's fault.

    Lord Tatsumi walked up to where the patient lies, and on that table was Naoto. He saw the heavy bandages that covered the chest, but even more… Kanji saw the rise in her chest that indicated that she was indeed a girl.

    Kanji was entranced at her rising and falling chest as he watched her take in slow breaths. He could not bear to tear his eyes away as he looked at her bare shoulders. He yearned to touch her silky hair, or caress her soft cheek.

    The whole scene was kind of sickening to the doctor. The fact that Lord Tatsumi seemed to be spellbound by a servant was a little disturbing. He felt bad for her in a way, because if he ever really wanted her… she would have no choice.

    Kanji was still looking at Naoto, gazing at her sleeping face… when she began to blink. At seeing that Naoto was waking, Kanji began backing up. He did not want her to know that he was staring at her. As Naoto's arms began to move, Kanji took another step back. His legs felt the fabric of his robes, and he could feel himself falling to the ground.

    The doctor chuckled at the sight of falling lord, but he was peeved at as Lord Tatsumi hit the ground; Naoto's eyes suddenly opened. It was not expected for Naoto to wake up this soon, and because of the loud noise; she did. It was all Lord Tatsumi's fault, because he had ogled the poor girl.

    Naoto's head was turning to the left and as she was looking in that direction; she saw Lord Tatsumi on the floor, staring straight on her. He was looking dumbfounded, and it was confusing to Naoto. It was then that Naoto realized that the only real thing covering her body was fresh bandages and a sheet over the lower half of her body.

    Naoto wanted to scream, but she could not. He knew… Damn… Why did she have to get injured? It was so painful and degrading… she could die. The one secret that Naoto had… was gone because of someone. Why?

    "Naoto…" Kanji stumbled through saying her name. His face was flushed and was bright red.

    She could not stand being exposed like this. "P… Please," She was stuttering, "Please, Lord Tatsumi… could you leave?"

    He noticed both the awkward position that they were in, and that it would probably be for the best. "I will check on you later," Lord Tatsumi picked himself up off the ground. He continued, "I need my servants healthy." He tried to compose himself as he turned around and straighten his robes.

    Kanji opened and closed the door hurriedly. He headed straight for his own quarters, straight past servants down the gilded hallways. He would need to drown himself in alcohol as soon as he reached his room. All the events of the past days had… overwhelmed him, and he had no idea on what he was to do next. He felt a little better now about his thoughts of Naoto, but she still flooded his mind. He needed to focus, but it was going to be so hard.

    Naoto could die. Now, Lord Tatsumi knew that she was a girl. The way he stared at her… it was exactly why she hid her body. She doubted that her lord was the only one who found out that she was a girl besides this. Souji probably knew now, too. She should have just let Tanaka kill her. It would have saved her from their prying eyes.

    "You need your rest, child," the doctor told her.

    The wizened doctor put a hand on the girl's right shoulder, glad to finally be able watch over of his patient again.

    "I understand," Naoto said softly. She closed her eyes as she let sleep take over her.

    Campsite- South of Nara

    Evening

    Lord Kido had set up camp with his servants on his way back to report on the meeting with Lord Tatsumi and the Minamotos. The sometimes mild-mannered, sometimes hot-headed lord was in a bad mood right now.

    His personal servant, Yuka had disappeared the night before they were supposed to return home, and they had to postpone the trip back until they found her. The pretty little girl did not seem very apologetic about having delayed the trip. What's worse… the girl almost seemed… cheerful. It was very… odd.

    He decided that he would straighten things out with her once and for all. He set out from his personal, yet fancier makeshift tent and around the fire where a few of his guard were sitting. After receiving a few nods and "my lords" Reiji kept moving past other tents where a few of the other servants where staying. Stopping at the drab tent where Yuka was residing at the moment.

    It was a secret to everyone else, but Yuka and Reiji used to be close… very close. He still harbored some of those feelings, even if Yuka did not.

    That's why it was a surprise when he heard noises coming from her tent. He was a little unsure at first. His feelings turned to fear when he noticed a sword outside the tent, and he heard a female scream from inside the tent.

    Someone was killing Yuka. Though it was only a servant, Reiji was not going to allow this. Yuka was Reiji's personal servant, and if someone was to harm Yuka… there would be suffering.

    Reiji cracked his knuckles. He did not need his guards. Whoever was harming Yuka did not have his sword, and therefore would not be able withstand Reiji's fists. The tent flap was thrown open, and Reiji saw a man with bushy brown hair and brown eyes lying with his unclothed servant in a pile of messy sheets.

    The shock at seeing Lord Reiji Kido clothed in gray, curly black hair, and two wicked scars; Yosuke rolled off of Yuka in an instant, and then Yosuke rolled out the sheets. He then tried to find something to cover himself with, while Yuka just lay and covered herself with the disheveled sheets. Her hair was in the same shape as the sheets.

    "Who are you!" Reiji all but yelled at Yosuke.

    Yosuke had finally found something, and had stood up. He was using Yuka's green and gray yukata as a shield of his nakedness. However, he was not speaking.

    Reiji finally recognized the man from a previous war, "I know you… You're the partner of Souji Seta… Yosuke Hanamura." Reiji's growled, "You're a Fujiwara."

    "I'm… I… I just like your servant," Yosuke tried to defend himself.

    The excuse did not seem to work as Reiji strode towards Yosuke and gave him a right hook into his face. Yosuke felt something in his face break as he fell to the ground, unconscious.

    "Lord Kido!" Yuka yelled.

    "Don't "Lord Kido" me, Yuka," Reiji said to her. He commanded, while pointing at the clothes at Yosuke's feet, "Go put some clothes on."

    He turned around to leave, but not before taking one long look at Yuka. He missed those days.

    As he opened the tent flap, Reiji yelled, "Guards… we have an intruder that invaded and violated one of the servants. Tie him up and we will let Lord Toudou and Lord Suou deal with him."

    Kusaga Shrine

    Sunset

    Souji was dead tired. He was going to go to his residence and sleep until morning. There was no point in waiting for someone who was not showing up.

    Besides, the setting sun was beautiful on the red shrine. It was intoxicating, and he could not concentrate on searching for Tanaka if he could not pay attention.

    As Souji's eyes drooped, he drew his sword in the nick of time and flashed it around. The 180 degree turn, parried the thrust that was aimed at his head. Souji jumped back slightly to get a good look at the man who had tried to take out his left eyeball.

    The man was wearing a dark blue tunic and long pants. The tunic was a lot fancier than most and both the pants and tunic were very well taken care of. The man's cold eyes stared straight into Souji's as he held his sword straight at the samurai. Sitting atop of those cold eyes was a navy blue hat, covering black-ish hair.

    Yet, this was not what unnerved the samurai. It was what the man said next to him.

    "Where is Naoto?" the man asked slowly.

    "Naoto?" Souji looked confused.

    "Yes, Naoto," the young man repeated. A small black cat circled around his legs.

    "She's at the palace… in the doctors' quarters," Souji responded.

    The man's cold eyes flashed momentarily; Souji noticed that it was a sign of anger. This was bad.

    The cat moved out of the way as the young man darted forwards at tremendous speed. Souji tried to track the man as his shorter blade lashed out, but it was futile. Souji's parry failed, and it resulted in a small cut on his left forearm, courtesy of the young man. Just as soon the cut formed, the man darted back, and had thrust again at the samurai. Another line of red drenched his white hakama.

    "I need to focus," Souji muttered.

    "It's futile," the young man said, "You harmed Naoto… Souji Seta."

    Of course this man would know he was. He was Souji Seta after all. Whoever he was, he did not know. All he knew was that this man was a brilliant swordsman, and he wanted to know who sent him.

    "I did nothing to her!" Souji yelled. He continued, "I don't even know who you are!"

    "I am Naoto's cousin," the young man said calmly, "My name is Raidou." The coolness of Raidou's eyes magnified the pain of Souji's cuts, if possible, "I am here to kill you for what you did to her!"

    "I didn't do anything to her!" Souji retorted.

    "Illogical," Raidou said as the cat meowed in the background.

    Raidou made another run at him, sword at the ready. This time, however, Souji was ready as well. As Raidou made a cutting blow, Souji put his hands on his sword and made a feinting motion.

    Raidou had jumped back momentarily. Souji knew that Raidou had a large speed advantage, while he had the strength advantage. Souji just had to think like Kanji would. He was screwed.

    Fifteen seconds later, more blood was spilled. Souji had been struck again with Raidou's thinner blade. Souji parried a couple of times, but Raidou always hit him in the end. His left leg hurt from where Raidou had made a diagonal cut.

    "I'm not going to lose," Souji thought, "I don't lose, and I'm not going to start by losing to him."

    With a grunt of pain, Souji went on the offensive this time. He charged the thinner young man. Souji made a desperate thrust towards Raidou's heart.

    All Souji saw was flashes of steel as red started flying from his body. Cuts were forming all over his body, and he began to fall. Hitting the floor with a thud, Souji felt himself staring at the man who was responsible for his injuries.

    Souji was wondering if was going to die because of something that Raidou said he was responsible for. It was rather ridiculous, was it not? And now he was lying here in his own blood because of Naoto's cousin felt it was his fault. He did not even know why Naoto was suffering.

    Raidou's expression had never changed during the whole fight; he was the picture of calm.

    The black cat… the cat from the beginning, began to walk around Souji's prone and bleeding body. As the cat's feet began tracking Souji's blood on the stone floors of the shrine; it suddenly began to meow.

    "Hmm?" Raidou looked at the cat, "What is it, Gouto?"

    The cat, obviously named Gouto, rubbed up against Souji. He purred and meowed again. Souji felt soothed by "Gouto's" presence.

    "The cat seems to think that it was not your fault that she was enslaved and now hurt," Raidou said, "and that I should not kill you."

    Souji would have said something to agree with the cat, but he could not speak at the moment. He did not even know what was going on… like how a cat was stopping Raidou from killing him.

    Souji felt another presence behind him, and he would have turned if he could.

    A girl in a green tunic and brown pants stood at Souji's head and drew her sword. She did not look happy.

    "Why is the boy still alive, Raidou?" the girl responded.

    "Calm down, Nagi," Raidou responded. He answered, "Gouto said it was not his fault."

    "You should not let the cat rule your life," Nagi chided.

    "And you are far too headstrong," he retorted, "Geirin always said so."

    "What should we do with him?" Nagi asked Raidou. She was miffed that Raidou brought up Geirin. Geirin treated her like a second granddaughter.

    "Someone will find him," Raidou responded. He turned around, "Let's go home. Naoto is being taken care of. We will save her soon."
     
  7. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 13

    Residential District, Noble's Residence

    Midnight

    Souji awakened in a place he was unfamiliar with. He had no idea where he was. The only thing that Souji knew was that when he had opened his eyes he was still in a terrible amount of pain.

    "Where the hell am I?" Souji thought.

    Souji did not recognize this building… this residence. Who found him?

    He felt bandages on his body, but they did little to mask the pain of what had just happened to him. Souji had been embarrassed by the young man, Naoto's cousin… this Raidou. Souji could not even track Raidou's sword when he unleashed it at the end; the blade moved like it had a mind of its own. The only reason he was still alive was because some cat had "said" he had not abused Naoto. What the hell was with that?

    Souji blinked and took another look around the place he had been taken to. It was a lavish residence, that was for sure, but Souji could not make out where he had been brought.

    The one thing Souji noticed was that he was definitely not in the palace. The room he was in… he saw lots of pink. The pink sheen blinded Souji, so much so that he had to close his eyes. It was then he realized that though he had been bandaged in small strips all over, otherwise… he was naked except for a blanket that covered him and his bandages from the waist down.

    "Oh god…" Souji thought.

    The door slid open… and the person that walked through… scared the hell out of Souji. He would rather be fighting Naoto's cousin again than seeing this person come through the doorway.

    "It's my worst fucking nightmare!" Souji thought as Lady Kujikawa walked to his side.

    The petite lady, wearing pink, had actual red hair drawn back into two pigtails. She was extremely pretty, but she had a very seductive smile on her face. Souji had never seen Lady Kujikawa before in his life, but he had never planned on seeing her.

    Even if he had never planned on seeing her, she was now standing in front of where he lay. At least the seductive look that Lady Kujikawa was showing him turned into one of worry before she spoke.

    She asked Souji, "Are you feeling okay?"

    Seeing Souji nod, she continued with a smile that made him groan internally, "You were so lucky that I had sent of my servants out to buy something for me. She was just passing by when she found you all cut up. We just had to take you in and bring in a doctor as fast as possible."

    "I see," Souji said softly.

    Tears started to form in her eyes, "I was so worried about you, Seta. You were so injured… you had so much blood on you."

    "Oh dear," Souji muttered softly.

    The tears were falling from Rise's face now, "I thought you were going to die!"

    "I wasn't planning on it," Souji responded, "I wasn't even planning on getting into this position…" He meant his injuries, "in the first place."

    Rise Kujikawa had dropped to her knees and placed her head on Souji's left shoulder. It hurt Souji a little. Maybe Rise expected her tears to dull the pain as she told him, "Don't ever scare me like that again!"

    "Why couldn't Nanako's caretakers have found me instead?" Souji thought.

    Souji knew that he had been injured pretty seriously, but not seriously enough that he would be incapacitated for a very long time. He had to get out of here before…

    Rise's teary eyes started to dry as she lifted her head. Souji knew they were not real tears. She had regained that seductive look when she said to Souji, "No one will harm you anymore. I'll keep you safe. You just stay here… with me."

    "Why me?" Souji thought.

    Souji believed the only thing keeping Lady Kujikawa away from him at this moment was that if she put any serious pressure on his body; that would make all of Souji's wounds open up again.

    Souji needed to head this off before it got worse, at least try to… He said to Rise, "Did you know? I am betrothed to the Lady Nanako Dojima."

    Rise chuckled. She laughed in Souji's face. "So…?" Rise smiled, "We can get around that easily enough. Don't worry about being promised to a little kid. We'll have a good time together."

    "Somebody save me!" Souji thought as Rise moved even closer to him.

    Nara- Palace: Kanji's Quarters

    Midnight

    Kanji was in not in the mood to sleep this evening. It was more like… he could not fall asleep this evening. He had given up rolling around in sheets, and had moved on to pacing around his room to try to tire himself out.

    Far too much had happened to Kanji today, and it was likely that the revelations had just begun for him.

    As much as Kanji wanted to deal with Lord Tanaka and his possible intentions with the attempt on his life… he just did not have the heart to. Besides, Tanaka never showed up in the palace, so his motivation was shot.

    He wondered what Naoto was trying to hide from him, from everyone… by pretending to be a boy. Was there an underlying motive to her actions? He would not have minded if Naoto had just told him straight out that she was a girl. Instead, she tried to hide it from him, and he only found out her true gender when she nearly died. How long was Naoto planning on hiding it from him?

    Kanji sat down between the gold and black curtains that hung from the ceiling. He still had the great urge to see her again. He could not explain his need to see his servant either. It was driving Kanji insane.

    Could it be… could it be… this was what Lord Dojima was talking about? If this was true… then, what was he going to do? Was it so wrong then… if she was no lady? Kanji didn't think so, and who was going to tell him otherwise?

    Kanji had to see her; there was no doubt about it. He had stood up, and had shaken his head, and had slid the door open.

    Kanji walked through the doorway and made a slow turn left... towards the doctors' quarters. He had a girl he wanted to see... no, he had a real lady to see.

    Kyoto- Fujiwara Palace- Adachi's Room

    Early Morning

    Lord Tohru Adachi had kicked out his daily woman out of his bedroom earlier than usual this morning. He normally would have kept her around for a while longer, but he had work to do. The recent news that he had gotten was important enough that he needed to actually pay attention early in the morning.

    The note he had received from Lord Tanaka's messenger was somewhat disturbing. Adachi was unsure if everything in the letter was true, but if it was… he had a lot to mull over.

    This letter from Tanaka said that Lord Tatsumi could not control his own court. He was letting his own people run amuck, it seemed. He would not punish wrongdoers, peasants at that. Adachi wondered if someone had challenged him by now. Tanaka could very well have done something about it. He was still made rash decisions at times… even at his age, headstrong, but he was thinking about the health of the Fujiwara family after all.

    It was true that the Fujiwara family needed stability, but a total insurrection in Nara may not be the best thing for the area at the moment. They were weak already, and if Tatsumi was having trouble leading them… they might need a new leader. Yet, a new leader should be subtle in his actions. Tanaka would not be Adach's first choice. As much as he did not want to admit it… the best choice was probably Lord Dojima to lead Nara. He had a young daughter that could keep the family line going and though his nephew was technically Lord Tatsumi's guard… he knew where Souji Seta's loyalties lie.

    As Adachi shook off the robe he had been sleeping in and moved towards a basin filled with water to wash his face in, he muttered aimlessly, "I should probably send a lord or someone to check up on them."

    There really was no one in the Fujiwara family in Kyoto that was worth sending. Taro Namatame…. He was a worthless dumbass. He was not going to send Namatame's wife, Mayumi Yamano. Adachi had too many plans for her. Lord Teddie… He would spend too much time trying to get into all of the servants'… well, he would never get the job done. It was pointless trying to think of people that he would not want to send.

    He should really think if he could bully any of the Imperials into going to visit Nara. Lord Theodore had just visited, so Adachi could ask him about the situation once he returned. Otherwise, he had no idea where he was. The status of Nara may have worsened since then, so he probably should send someone else. There was his twin, Lady Elizabeth… but she made frequent visits to the Minamotos. Liz could not be trusted. Theodore did the same, but his loyalty lie with the Fujiwaras… Adachi believed. There was the older sister of the twins, Lady Margaret. That was a definite possibility. The only problem… they all had been blessed by Shinto priests at some point, and so even Adachi feared their connection with Amaterasu. That went for their father as well, Prince Philemon. He was rather creepy with that mask. Adachi was never going to ask Emperor Igor to leave the capital. It was forbidden, after all.

    He waited for a servant to arrive before he dressed to begin for the morning's formalities. He had plenty of other things to do besides worrying about Lord Tatsumi, Lord Tanaka, and Nara.

    As a servant clothed him in a set of gray robes, he said softly, "I'll talk to Lady Margaret tonight."

    It was his best bet… after all. He just prayed that he would not have to do anything drastic.

    Nara-Palace Gates

    Mid-Morning

    Lord Nagase, Lady Ebihara, and Lord Konishi were standing by a depleted gate. It was oddly vacant today as there were no samurai and minus two archers. The two archers were those that died a gruesome death at the hands of the assassins. The two lords and single lady found it a little eerie and a little dangerous to be so unprotected at the gate.

    "First Hanamura… and now Seta?" Lady Ebihara muttered, while glancing around, "Where are those two?"

    Her husband, Lord Kou Ichijo tried to answer, "I believe Hanamura has been missing for a while. Seta… I don't know where he has gone to."

    "It must be important if he is missing from his post," Naoki Konishi added quietly. His solemn expression never wavered. He used to be lively before his sister's mysterious demise.

    "I hope no one tries anything dangerous while Lord Tatsumi's guards are away," Lord Ebihara said worriedly.

    "Apparently, someone already tried to kill him," Lord Konishi said in a monotone voice.

    There had not been a formal meeting between all of the lords and ladies, so it was news to the other two.

    "Wait… what are you talking about?" Lord Ichijo asked with concern on his face.

    "That's why there are less archers at the moment," Naoki explained, "They're drawing in more from the outlying countryside, but there two assassins. They killed a few before they snuck into the palace."

    "What happened!" Ai exclaimed.

    "Supposedly, the two killed a servant or two… something like that. Then, they ran into Seta," Naoki explained.

    "So, that's what happened," Kou nodded, "He massacred them."

    "He held them down long enough for Lord Tatsumi to get there," Naoki nodded. He finished, "Lord Tatsumi was not happy to see intruders in his palace."

    Everyone knew of Lord Tatsumi's mean streak, and even though they did not know about what had actually happened; they could picture it.

    "I could almost feel sorry for the assassins," Kou shook his head.

    "I wouldn't," Ebihara shook her head in reply, "They killed people/"

    "True…" Naoki nodded. He said, "What's done is done. We can not worry about what has happened. We must deal with the present."

    The others agreed with the statement. Kou did wonder if the peasants had finally cracked under the pressure they were putting them under, or someone else was feeling malicious enough to try something.

    Kou's thoughts were interrupted by his wife's words. She asked, "Do you know where your cousin is?" She continued, "I have not seen him since he proposed to that woman."

    Kou smirked. That was something that took both of their endless pushing to get Daisuke to do. It was to get Daisuke to propose to Lady Satonaka.

    He chuckled, "Well… I don't think he's left Lady Satonaka's residence in days."

    "Sounds like when you proposed to me," Lady Ebihara smiled back.

    Naoki did not say anything, but you could tell he was slightly disgusted. He coughed to break up the awkwardness. When the two looked at Lord Konishi, he said, "I think we should find Lord Tatsumi, unless you think it's unsafe."

    "I don't feel safe here," Lady Ebihara sighed.

    "I'll stay… you go home," Kou told his wife.

    The woman wearing cream and almost orange robes left her husband behind. Only two men, one wearing blue, and another wearing gray remained. They walked past cherry blossoms as they went to find the leader of Nara, Lord Tatsumi.

    Main Hall

    Mid-Morning

    Lord Tatsumi was in a bad mood, and he was very tired. He never really did get much sleep last night. He did try to see Naoto in the middle of the night, but it turned out to be a miserable failure. When he came to the doctors' quarters, he found the head doctor… the one with the wispy hair… blocked his way again. This time, the doctor was far more adamant about keeping him away from his patient.

    "Whoever the patient may be… to you," the doctor explained, very tired and very frustrated, "You told me to take care of her. I will not let anyone see her in the dead of the night!"

    Even threatened with pain and punishment, the doctor would not budge. When Kanji thought about it, he could do nothing to the doctor. There were four doctors, but none as skilled as him. She needed the best care, and he was the best. He did manage to get one glance at her beautiful sleeping face before he left. It was intoxicating… more than any rice wine than he had been ingesting earlier that evening. If only that one look was enough to make him sleep.

    Now, Souji was missing too. Both of his personal samurai were absent. Hanamura was probably chasing some girl, but Souji… he trusted him. He would need to admonish Souji. Thinking about it, Souji drew many girls' eyes and hearts to him… both single and married. He was all but betrothed to his own cousin, but drew Lady Amagi and Lady Kujikawa to their knees every time he passed by their residences. Lady Kujikawa was just more… flamboyant about it. Souji received heavy attention from Lady Ebihara before she married Lord Ichijo. He was childhood friends with Kanji's now-deceased first wife, Lady Matsunaga. Lady Ozawa liked him until she became the ruler of the house when her parents died. Now… she is as gloomy as Lord Konshi. He never bothered with Lady Satonaka, but that was only because Yosuke was sleeping with her everyday until Lord Nagase got his hands on her.

    Souji seemed to ignore all the attention he received from every girl that came towards him. No wonder people like Yosuke would tease him about liking the boys when even Kanji knew that was not the case. It was just the way he was. It was like… he was just waiting for the right one. That's why they all fell for him; they thought they were the right one.

    The reason why they treated Souji, a samurai, so well… was because Souji came from a noble family that was disgraced in the past. Souji was a lord in their eyes, so they treated him like one. They treated Souji better than a samurai, better than most lords. It made him, Lord Tatsumi, jealous at times.

    The thing that really worried Lord Tatsumi was if Souji ever had an effect like that on Naoto. Souji was the first one to meet her, after all. Without Souji, she would not even have made it out of the farm alive. Lord Tatsumi was grateful, but what if Naoto was "grateful" as well. What if that was the reason she was hiding her gender from him? If it was to hide her shame… then Kanji did not want to think about it.

    He did know that he wanted to see her again. The doctor had to let him in sometime. Next time… he promised himself… he would not be quite so nervous and be so shy that he would not be able to even hold a conversation with the girl.

    The thoughts and reassurances almost gave Lord Tatsumi a chance to relax… almost a chance to sleep. It was not that simple as Lord Konishi and Lord Ichijo were approaching his gilded chair in what seemed moments after his last thoughts.

    "Lord Tatsumi, I trust you are fine after the incident," Naoki said, walking up to Kanji.

    Kanji blinked a few times. He had almost fallen asleep. He responded, "Yes… yes. Unfortunately, I can not say the same for everyone in the palace. People were injured… some were killed." Kanji stressed the "injured" part of his dialogue.

    Kou stood to his left, "But, you are okay… That is all that matters, in the end."

    Kanji shook his head, "It is the people who run Nara, not one person! Without the people, there is no Nara."

    Kou and Naoki looked at each other. What was wrong with Lord Tatsumi?

    "Did something happen?" Kou asked, "Did something happen to Souji?"

    "I have no clue where he is," Kanji responded. He rebuked, "Don't ask me."

    "Do you know who set up the attack on your life, Lord Tatsumi?" Naoki asked.

    "Of course…" Kanji said, which brought surprised looks to the two lords' faces. It had even broken the façade of Naoki Konishi. Kanji smirked, "It was Lord Tanaka."

    "Lord Tanaka!" Kou exclaimed, "Why!"

    "I don't know," Kanji responded, "Must have turned crazy."

    Naoki said nothing. He instead began thinking of Tanaka's intentions. The lord with the most riches… what was he trying to gain?

    Kanji cut thought the air with a proclamation, "I want you to find Tanaka and bring him here… alive, of course."

    Kou bowed, "Understood."

    Naoki did not bow, but just said in a sort of agreement, "Hmm…"

    Kanji added as the pair turned around, "Tell all of the other lords and ladies to marshal their men and bring in Lord Tanaka."

    "I will, Lord Tatsumi," Kou said.

    Kou walked quickly past the gray columns, while Naoki took a slowly gait down the hall. Could it be that Tanaka was actually trying to keep the Nara region of the Fujiwaras together? If that was the case, was it necessary to do things so violently? A planned assassination was a little outlandish over his tastes. But… what was best for the future of Nara? Lord Tatsumi? Lord Tanaka? Somebody else?

    Taira Camp

    Afternoon

    Right about now, Lord Reiji Kido was wondering if he should kill Yosuke Hanamura right here and now and then dump his body in the next ditch or river they pass. The only thing stopping him from doing this act… was Yuka's puppy eyes. If she was not looking at her lord with such a desperate face and asking her to spare his life… saying she'd do "anything" if he would only spare his life. Reiji just could not say no to her.

    So, Yosuke was tied up to one of their packhorses, still naked. His sword… well, it had been confiscated along with all of his other belongings and placed in Lord Kido's care. The sword was of very fine craftsmanship and the clothes marked him as a samurai. He did not really want to touch the clothes though. Reiji did not want to know what Yosuke had done in those clothes, or who else had been touching those.

    Reiji had tried questioning Hanamura. If they had one of the most powerful warriors of the Fujiwara clan in captivity, he must know something about if they were going to make any possible attacks, right? He turned out not to be the sharpest arrow in the quiver. Yosuke seemed to really only be good at two things. He was good at swinging a sword… and good at… well, getting it on. He told Reiji that's why samurai usually carry two swords. Reiji lost his temper and hit him over the head after that. Reiji hit him again when Yosuke questioned why Reiji had not given his clothes back when he questioned him. Reiji did not need to give an explanation. Yosuke was a prisoner, and prisoners are to be treated as such.

    They would be back soon, and then Hanamura would be at the mercy of Lord Naoya Toudou, Lady Maya Amano, and Lord Tatsuya Suou. The future of this samurai would not be very bright.

    Kujikawa Residence

    Noon

    Souji awoke in the white and pink sheets and blankets refreshed, and that's what disturbed him. In actuality, two things about waking up refreshed disturbed the samurai.

    The first part was pretty obvious. He was in the Kujikawa Residence, he was a bandaged mess, and the person lying with her arm around him… was none other than Lady Kujikawa. He just thanked the heavens that she was above the sheets and not under. He had been cut up pretty bad, and thankfully, Rise was being carefully not to touch anything with bandages over it. There was a long gash on the front of his right shoulder, and she was making sure her hand did not graze it. He just wished she would stop nuzzling against him.

    When Souji really thought about it, it was not the worst situation to be in, and it didn't feel so bad. Yet, Souji did not ask for this. It was making Lady Kujikawa look like a common whore, and he did not want her to look like that. If he wanted a woman, it would have to be for the right reasons… not because they just threw themselves at you. As much as he did not want to say it… this was something Yosuke would accept.

    He knew he must have nuzzled against Lady Kujikawa at least once or twice during the night, as much as he did not want to accept it. It brought him towards his other disturbing thought over the evening. His dreams were not filled of being with the red-haired beauty that had wrapped her arm around him. It scared Souji because… his dreams were filled that little petite girl with the blue hair. It was the one that Kanji fawned over.

    He probably knew that she was a girl by now. He could be a bully, even to doctors. Every couple of minutes in his dream, Souji was killed by either Kanji, or Naoto's cousin. He would be walking with Naoto, even reliving the scene where Souji was helping her return to the servants' quarters; they would come for him then. One or the other, they would always kill him, and it was always painful.

    He understood why they were killing him in his dream. Kanji obviously had a huge crush on this girl, if he knew she was a girl. Naoto's cousin? Well, that was obvious… he just about killed him for saving her life. Imagine what he might try to do to Kanji if he tried to really get serious?

    In the end, it did not matter he had some passing thoughts about Naoto. He was basically set to marry his cousin, no matter what he said. Dojima had the final say, after all. The only one who might convince him otherwise would be his daughter, and Souji knew her thoughts. Those thoughts would be Lady Nanako Dojima becoming a Seta… in name.

    That's why none of these idle thoughts mattered. His life was set before him; he just had to follow the path.

    As his eyes stare at the light pink ceiling, Souji wondered where his sword lay. He hoped someone from the Kujikawa's picked it up. He felt the arm around him squeeze. Rise must have awakened.

    "How are you feeling?" Rise's cheerful tones echoed into Souji's ears.

    Souji muttered, "Never better."

    "I'm happy," Rise smiled as she tightened her grip, making Souji feel uncomfortable.

    It was going to be another long day, and his mind could not fathom an escape plan at the moment.

    Nanako Dojima's Residence

    Noon

    Ryotarou Dojima had made it a habit to visit his daughter more often now. Maybe it was partly because his wife had died, maybe it was partly because of possible wedding implications, and maybe… it was because of today's issues.

    As the youngest caretaker, with black-haired and cream colored robes, opened the sliding door for Ryotarou, she announced, "Lady Dojima… your father is here to see you."

    "Thank you," Nanako nodded politely. She looked in the direction of her father and said, "Hello, father."

    "Nanako…" Ryotarou smiled. His face hardened slightly, "I do not have happy news, Nanako."

    "You do not always have happy news to share, father," Nanako responded.

    "Someone attempted to take our Lord Tatsumi's life," Dojima told her.

    "Is he okay?" Nanako bit her lip.

    "Lord Tatsumi is fine," Dojima answered. Seeing that Nanako's expression did not change, he added, "Souji was unhurt as well."

    Nanako's face immediately softened at hearing that, "I am glad."

    "My other news also relates to Souji," Dojima said.

    Nanako looked straight into her father's eyes as Dojima said, "He has gone missing. Both of Lord Tatsumi's personal guards… have disappeared. We can not find Souji Seta."

    Nanako looked crestfallen, "You have no idea where he is?"

    Dojima shook his head.

    Nanako said softly, "Father?"

    "Yes, daughter?" Lord Dojima leaned close.

    "I want to marry him," Nanako told Ryotarou.

    Ryoutarou nodded.
     
  8. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 14

    Kyoto- Fujiwara Palace

    Evening

    Adachi was confused, but somehow he had managed to convince Lady Margaret, granddaughter of Emperor Igor, to travel to Nara. The purpose of the visit was to see if Lord Tanaka was correct when he said there was instability throughout the court. If that was so, then Adachi would think about taking action. After all, the Fujiwara family needs to be strong…

    The reason on why he was confused was because… he had to all but promise to sleep with the granddaughter of the Emperor to make her promise to travel to Nara. Normally, that would be something Adachi would be interested; sleeping with a woman as beautiful as Lady Margaret. However, sleeping with a woman as dangerous as Lady Margaret was not as appealing to him as some girl he would usually sleep with. Mainly… it was because of what she knew about Adachi.

    A few hours before

    Adachi walked right into the Imperial Palace's gates with some trepidation, but mostly… a good deal of confidence. Adachi knew what he needed to do. He had to convince one of the royalty, preferably, to assess the situation in Nara. He certainly was not going to travel there himself. He had too much to take care of in Kyoto.

    There were only a few choices for Adachi in possible candidates to send to Nara. He needed a descendent of Emperor Igor. Emperor Igor was not to be allowed to leave Kyoto. It was entirely out of the question for Adachi to even think of asking him to do that.

    Igor's grandson, Theodore, had just been to Nara for a meeting with all three families. Adachi could ask the middle child of the situation, but the letter almost sounded like it was fluctuating almost daily. Some of it might also be affected by the other families. If Adachi really wanted to send Theodore back to Nara; he could not afford to wait for his return. If the letter was true, the situation could be even more volatile than even he believed. Adachi needed a person that could leave for Nara right away, not someone who would obviously be exhausted.

    Theodore's twin, younger by only a few seconds, was someone Adachi would never ask to go to Nara. Elizabeth was not even in the palace, anyways. She had disappeared again, probably on one of her secret visits to the Minamotos.

    "One of these days, she won't return," Adachi thought, "She'll cling right to Lord Arisato."

    Lord Arisato was married to Lady Takeba, but everyone knew he had at least one go around with every lady in the Minamoto court. It was common knowledge, even to the other families. Lady Yamigishi, Lady Kirjio, Lady Fushimi, Lady Nishiwaki, and then Lady Elizabeth of the royalty; all of this was happening in secret, unbeknownst to Lord Arisato's wife. Of course, that was nothing compared to the exploits of Lord Arisato's sister, that skank.

    Yes, Adachi could not count on Lady Elizabeth for an accurate account of the information that needed to be obtained. She would most likely eventually betray them instead of help them.

    There was only one choice for Adachi. The icy cold oldest daughter of Philemon, Margaret, was that one choice. Adachi had to convince Margaret to come to Nara to investigate the letter's accusations.

    As Adachi passed through dark pillars illuminated by what almost looked like blue light, he had no trouble getting past the guards; he heard entrancing music in the background. It was like someone was singing. It was coming from the five thrones in the back of the hall. Three of the five gilded chairs were occupied at the moment.

    Adachi recognized the somewhat ugly and ancient emperor, Igor, in the largest chair as he neared the three. The emperor was a short man, who had tried to pull the strings in the court. Sadly, it was for naught because the Imperial Court was actually controlled by his heir, Lord Philemon.

    Lord Philemon was sitting in the next largest chair. Emperor Igor may be clad in dark blue, but Lord Philemon was wearing drab brown. That was not his most noticeable feature, however.

    It was Lord Philemon's white and black mask that had made the women swoon. It was said that the son of Lord Igor was burned as a child and that he always wore a mask to cover his face. Lord Philemon held resentment in his heart towards his father because the fire claimed his mother, and Philemon's father did nothing to save her. Philemon was saved by his own personal caretakers, not Lord Igor or his servants.

    After this tragedy, Lord Philemon had made it a point to find a way to pull the strings in the court. He started as a young man, placing his feelers into the cracks, and then sliding his way in. Philemon used his mysterious nature to captivate the nearby lords, including some of the Fujiwaras.

    Philemon's nature was alluring enough to capture a blond-haired woman in his web. He ended up siring three children, though his wife ended up dying giving birth to Elizabeth. Philemon was far too focused on regaining control of the Imperial Court to be fazed about it.

    Multiple times, Philemon had thought about assassinating his father. A mysterious death would not be too suspicious for the populace. Yet, there was always the chance that the shadow of doubt would be pointed towards him. He could not take that risk. Philemon would just have to enjoy watching the old man see his power slip even more than it already had. He was a puppet thanks to the Fujiwaras, but his influence within this court was losing its luster thanks to his son. Old age would take him soon enough, and Philemon would return the Imperial Throne to relevance once again. He would crush the Fujiwaras, the Minamotos, and the Tairas in his fist.

    Imagine the anger it brought to Philemon's burnt face when he saw the leader of the Fujiwaras, Lord Adachi, approaching his father, his daughter, and the heir.

    "What does he want!" Philemon thought, trying not to express his thoughts out loud, "If Adachi bothered coming here, he must want something."

    Philemon smirked. At least Adachi had enough brains in the swelled head to show respect to the family by bowing to them.

    Adachi raised his head after bowing to the three of them. He looked to his left. There looked like there was an artist making quick brush strokes on a canvas. Maybe… he was drawing the scene that was unfolding before them. This was interesting. The singing was coming from a somewhat older woman with gray and black hair to the right. Both of them were clad in blue. The only one not clad in blue… was Lord Philemon. Adachi had to admit… it was a little creepy. Yet… it was not as creepy as the blind musician that was playing behind the singer to the left of the royalty. Even the musicians… even the artist was wearing blue.

    Adachi expected all of this, obviously. He had to wonder though… where the royal guard was. He passed all of the petty guards on his way in, but he had not yet spotted the elite soldiers. Even Adachi needed to keep his eyes open.

    Igor nodded at Adachi's presence. He said to him, "Lord Adachi… We welcome you. It is always wonderful to have you in our court. What business do you have with us today?"

    Adachi tried to ignore the old and wrinkly face that he was now staring out as he answered, "Emperor Igor… I have a favor to ask of your family and the Imperial Court."

    "A favor?" Igor looked at Adachi sideways, "What could you possible need of us, Lord Adachi?"

    Philemon sneered under his mask. He knew Adachi needed something from us. He wondered what it was, but he was sure it was trivial and pointless. It was probably something like another woman.

    Adachi took a deep breath. He had to ask someone to visit Nara now, or Adachi would be stuck trying to find someone else that the lord probably could not find.

    The lord of the Fujiwaras bowed again before he said to them, "I have received a disturbing letter about the state of affairs of our people in Nara."

    Lord Igor motioned to him, "Do you have it with you?"

    Adachi pulled the letter out from his robes. He thought it might be useful if he kept it with him. Igor looked at the brown scroll-like letter as Adachi placed it in his hands.

    Igor unfurled it and read the information. He passed the letter to his son, while Margaret gave an icy stare straight at Adachi. It made the leader of the Fujiwaras feel a large shiver down his spine.

    "I see," Igor finally responded. He added, "So… one of the other lords seems to think that Lord Tatsumi is losing his grip on his own court?"

    "That is what the letter says," Adachi answered.

    "Do you have proof?" Philemon questioned.

    "That is why I came here to ask for a favor of you," Adachi said. He continued, "As you know, Lord Theodore visited Nara, but that was before I received this letter."

    Philemon nodded, "He was there to mediate between the families, if I remember right."

    "Yes, that is correct," Adachi said.

    "So, you need someone else to go to Nara?" Philemon asked.

    "He's a selfish bastard, isn't he?" Philemon thought.

    Listening to his son, Igor believed Philemon to be correct. Igor knew that Adachi wanted another person to visit Nara. He obviously did not want to do it himself, or feel like sending someone of his own family either.

    "What services do you require then?" Igor inquired.

    "I need someone else to visit Nara to assess the city," Adachi said.

    "I hope you do not expect me to go," Philemon told Adachi. He was not hiding the contempt in his words.

    "I was not planning on asking you," Adachi rolled his eyes.

    "Ohh…" Igor's eyebrows rose. He turned his wizened face towards his grandchild, Margaret. Margaret's icy glare stared straight at Adachi. She knew what Adachi wanted her to do.

    Margaret's icy words cut right into Adachi, "Well… Asking me?"

    Adachi stared straight back at the young blond-haired woman. He had enough, "You know the answer, obviously."

    Philemon looked at Margaret, who looked at Igor. Margaret looked back at Lord Adachi as she said, "Follow me."

    The oldest daughter of Lord Philemon stood up from her chair and beckoned for Adachi to come with her.

    Adachi was a little bewildered by the situation. He was not sure where he was being taken to as he blindly followed the pretty young woman. For all Adachi knew, he could be following Lady Margaret to a room where a hundred guards were waiting to murder him. It would be an opportune moment to get rid of a Fujiwaran leader and lord.

    Adachi was led to a small room that had two servants and two armed men at the doorway. It was as if Adachi's premonition was true and that he was going to be killed by this woman. He should not have followed her.

    "Come, Lord Adachi," Margaret said as one of the servants came forward and slid the door open for them. She continued, "We have things to discuss."

    Adachi reluctantly followed Margaret into the small room. He looked behind to see if any of the guards were going to join them, but none followed. The same servant slid the door behind Adachi.

    The room was small, but it was well-furnished. It was also very, very blue. There were curtains around everything… and they were… they were… blue. There was very little in the room that was not that particular shade of blue. The only other vibrant color was the creamy face and the shining blond hair drawn back into a ponytail of Lady Margaret.

    Adachi took a good look at her… a look that her father would probably not appreciate the lord taking if he was still in the hall.

    Her robes were blue… "Of course they were blue. Everything in this palace is fucking blue!" Adachi thought.

    Only the small cuff-like yellow ridges that rode up her arms were a different hue than the rest of the robes… the rest of the palace, really.

    "Are you done staring?" Margaret's voice cut into Adachi's reverie.

    Adachi shook his head and looked at Margaret's face again as Margaret said, "You want me to go to Nara, correct?"

    "Yes, I would you like to go there," Adachi nodded.

    "Why should I do that… especially if no one else will go?" Margaret questioned.

    "There is no one else," Adachi responded.

    "I see," Margaret's cold voice replied.

    Her golden eyes were still looking straight at Adachi. It was unnerving to say the least, and Adachi did not like that.

    "You expect me to just go with nothing in return?" Margaret said suddenly, never taking her eyes off of the lord.

    Adachi's eyes widened as he said, "Huh?"

    "You can not expect me to do this for free. Right?" Margaret had a devilish smile on her face.

    Adachi was not used to people trying to bully him around. He was the lord of all of the Fujiwaras. Nobody tried to push him around. There were usually consequences that came with that. Yet… he was a little scared of one of the blessed granddaughters of Emperor Igor.

    "What would you possibly want?" Adachi asked.

    There were a pair of chairs in this room, and Margaret beckoned for Adachi to sit on one. Adachi sat, and Margaret sat across from him.

    For the first time, her voice softened slightly as a small smile formed on her face, "Well... we will decide on that when I return. I know my father would want me to choose something more advantageous for him, but I have my own ambitions."

    Adachi's eyes widened again. She could not… She would not…

    Margaret stood up from the chair and smiled, "I know that you prefer young women. That little Konishi girl did not just disappear and die at random."

    "What!" Adachi's mouth opened wide.

    He had made sure that was kept a secret between only him and his closest confidants. He did not want anyone else to know that he had brought the older sister of Lord Naoki Konishi to his side by force. Telling those around him that she had disappeared and was murdered was a perfect cover. How this woman had figured this out… he did not know.

    "I'll make sure that you are escorted out… Lord Adachi," Margaret smiled.

    Adachi was a bit terrified at the leverage that Margaret had. It was true that he had a penchant for younger woman, but really… he enjoyed women of any age. Yet, Margaret knew one of his dark secrets.

    "At least she'll go to Nara for me," Adachi thought as the door slid open and the guard motioned for him to follow.

    Fujiwara Palace

    Present

    Adachi thought to himself, "What have I gotten myself into? Should I have just tried to send one my own to Nara? Maybe that would have been safer."

    Residential District- Nara

    Evening

    As soon as Souji Seta felt Lady Kujikawa's lips touch his own, it felt very wrong to him. He could not explain why, but it just did. He needed to express those thoughts to her.

    "Please stop," Souji used his good arm to push Rise away from him.

    Rise had been at his side almost the whole time since her servants found him. They bandaged him the best they could, and he had been resting ever since then. When he awoke this afternoon, he found the lady lying next to him… thankfully above the covers. It was the fact that the only thing that was covering him besides the sheets were bandages was the reason Souji was thankful. He was grateful to Lady Kujikawa for taking care of him… helping him so. She even helped Souji eat dinner this afternoon. Being spoon-fed was quite an interesting experience for Souji. He was sure Rise enjoyed it even more than he did.

    It was about an hour or so after that Rise put herself on top of him and started kissing him. The force of her body coming on top of him hurt tremendously. The only thing that was out of place was that she did not throw back his covers right away. Souji was grateful to Rise, but this could get out of hand… really fast.

    Rise was a little perplexed at why her lips were no longer in contact with Souji. Souji pushed her away from him? She should talk to the poor boy.

    "What's wrong, Souji?" Rise asked. Her face was still only a few inches from Souji's body. Souji could feel the pain from when she threw her general body weight on him.

    "I… I don't," Souji muttered. He was in a lot of pain at the moment.

    "Ohh… sweetheart," Rise smiled. The pink robes on her body looked like they were a much looser fit than usual. Her smile made Souji sick. She asked, "Is this your first time?"

    Souji's eyes widened. It made Rise chuckle as Souji's eyes shifted away from Rise towards the ceiling.

    Rise added another question as she slowly grasped Souji's face and brought it back into her view, "Or… is this your first time with a woman?"

    Souji downright gasped at that statement. That she would have the nerve to say that… it sickened Souji. Who was she to ask these demeaning questions? It was not like she was giving him a choice on if she was staying with him or not tonight, anyways. It was for reasons like this that he did not go sleeping around. It disgusted him.

    "That's none of your business, Lady Kujikawa," Souji responded curtly.

    "I guess you'll have your secrets, sweetheart," Rise smiled again.

    He needed a place to get away to. It did not matter who, or where, or what; he just needed to escape.

    Rise saw the frown forming on Souji's face, so she said to Souji, "You're not thinking about you and I compromising your whole thing with Lady Dojima."

    That was his escape. Nanako! Souji had an escape after all. Lady Nanako Dojima, the young woman and his own cousin who was rather taken with him, was a perfect plan for Souji to escape this place.

    "Don't worry so much about it," Rise winked, causing a look of confusion on Souji's face. She continued, "Do you really think that Lord Tanaka is completely faithful?"

    Souji looked straight at her as Rise said, "Besides… you were murmuring the name, 'Naoto' the whole time you were sleeping last night."

    Souji could not avert his face as Rise had her soft right hand around it as she said seductively, "I am so… so sure you will be faithful to your wife, Lady Nanako."

    Souji shut his eyes. One half of his reasoning was because of the shame that Rise heard the murmurs that came from the dream; the other half… was now Lady Kujikawa had a weapon to use against him. It was a weapon that would force him to be with her.

    Souji had no way out anymore… no way to escape. What could he do?

    Souji felt Rise closing the short distance between them again. He needed to say something… anything. He just needed some time… time to think.

    "Can you wait a minute?" Souji asked. He said that out of the blue.

    "Hmm?" Rise looked somewhat confused.

    "It's not really worth it if only one person is into it, right?" Souji commented, so he finished, "Why don't you give me a few minutes?"

    "You're right," Rise nodded, "Just be ready when I come back."

    Rise removed her hand that was cupping Souji's chin and went from her knees back to a standing position. She smiled one more time before turning towards the door. Souji could tell how loose those robes really were. They were meant for being removed… removed quickly.

    Souji breathed a sigh of relief as soon as Rise left his line of sight and the door slid shut behind her. He had to think of something, anything that he could do to escape this place. Rise was just not the girl for him. Using both of his arms, including the one with the bad arm and shoulder… he pushed himself up to a sitting position.

    Souji nearly passed out in pain at feeling the stretching and pull that the sudden drive of his muscles caused… and that was only pushing up to a sitting position.

    "What can I do?" Souji thought.

    Souji knew that there was no easy exit out of this room. The only way out was through the room that Rise went through only a minute ago. The Kujikawa Residence was one of the larger ones in the district and Souji was not sure how many rooms there were in here. If he had to make his way through the front… he could not run into Rise.

    Souji threw back his covers. He would have to find some clothes at that. The only thing covering the samurai… were the bandages that had been wrapped around him when he had been found. Souji could understand his sword being missing, but his clothes… where were they?

    Souji ended up wrapping the covers and blankets around the lower sections of his body. At least… he looked somewhat decent now. The hard part for Souji would be standing up.

    If the pain of pulling himself to a sitting position was excruciating; the pain Souji felt pushing his legs up so he could stand… made him beyond woozy. He was extremely close to collapsing as soon as he pushed himself to his feet. Souji had very little to balance himself on, for that matter. He was going to fall over unless he could find something to balance on.

    Souji began limping towards the sliding door. When he was about to reach the sliding door, it suddenly opened itself. Souji was deathly afraid that it was Lady Kujikawa returning for her prize. It was a shock that it was instead of a brown-haired young man with a part down the left wearing white and pink. It was the first man he had seen outside of himself in the Kujikawa compound. The man was even younger than Souji.

    The sight of this new person shocked Souji, and it seemed to shock the young man.

    The young man said to Souji, "I'm here to see if you are ready."

    The young Kujikawa retainer was completely shocked that the man he found in the Kusaga Shrine was now standing in front of him.

    "I'm leaving," Souji told the retainer.

    "I have orders not to let you do that," the young man explained to Souji.

    Souji looked at the sword at the young man's side. He almost wondered how well the underling of Lady Kujikawa could use it. The retainer saw Souji glancing at the blade and that Souji was slowly limping towards the door again. The young man placed his hand on the blade, so Souji used his good arm to lunge towards the scabbard.

    The young man was under orders not to harm Souji, so he drew the whole weapon, scabbard as well. That proved to be his undoing. Souji's right arm grabbed hold of the younger man's wrist and used his good leg to twist the servant into the ground.

    Rise's retainer hit his head on the floor and stopped moving. It was unfortunate, but at least Souji had a weapon now, unsheathing it and holding it in his good arm. Souji staggered through the sliding door once he opened it. Luckily, there seemed to be no one around the first couple of rooms. They were all so pink and lavish. It was sweet enough to make Souji's teeth fall out.

    Souji could not imagine his luck. He was staggering through all of the rooms without any of the other servants being present. Souji had not even seen Rise. If only his luck could hold.

    "Souji! You're walking!" Souji heard Rise's voice from behind.

    Souji shivered. He had just gotten to the front entryway and she just had to show up. This was annoying. Souji was not going to stand for it. He turned around to face his demon.

    "Is it hurting you?" Rise asked.

    "Of course it hurts," Souji answered.

    "Then come and lie down," Rise smiled, "I'll make it all better."

    "No…" Souji pointed the blade he had taken from Rise's retainer at her.

    "That's Rion's sword…" Rise said, looking a little taken aback but rather calm, "He is rather clumsy."

    "I'm leaving," Souji told Rise, "You aren't going to stop me."

    "In that condition?" Rise questioned.

    "Yes…" Souji said, as he continued, "The only thing that may keep me longer is if you tell me where my clothes and my own blade are."

    "That will cost you something," Rise smiled.

    Souji pointed the blade at her again, which caused Rise to smile. Rise walked over and opened a side door, and inside the closet… were the remnants of Souji's hakama and his personal blade.

    Rise smiled one more time as Souji staggered in to take his possessions. Rise said to her interest, "I'll be seeing you again."
     
  9. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 15

    Nara- Palace: Kanji's Room

    Evening

    Kanji had had a very unproductive afternoon. The Lord of Nara should have probably been focusing on something more important than the young girl, but he could not stop thinking about her. He should be dealing with Tanaka and sending people to look for his two samurai, but he was not exactly focused right now. It was just that… Naoto was so distracting.

    When Kanji had forced his way into the doctors' quarters, he saw the outline of a young girl's curves… even if they were covered by sheets. Kanji was somewhat ashamed to say, but it aroused him to see the luscious curves of Naoto's upper body. Every time Kanji thought about it… it was like when Kanji saw Naoto in the doctors' quarters for the first time.

    Kanji just could not believe that Naoto was pretending to be a boy all this time. What could she possibly gain by doing all of this? It was rather pointless in Kanji's eyes.

    "Maybe… she was hiding from me?" Kanji thought.

    That thought… made Kanji a little angry, but at the same time… ashamed. He was Lord Kanji Tatsumi; people should be falling at his feet. Why would Naoto be concealing her gender from him… especially if she looked like she did? It was ridiculous to think that she would even bother doing something like this in the first place. If only Naoto had acted like a girl in the first place.

    It ended up that was Kanji was standing around in his room, wondering if he should try and see Naoto again. He stopped pacing a few minutes ago; the pacing usually caused him to get caught in the black and gold curtains hanging from the ceiling. Daydreams were dangerous in that sense.

    The only problem with going to see Naoto was the stubborn head doctor who would most likely not let Kanji see her. Kanji would have to force the doctor to let him see Naoto. Then… he would be able to see Naoto. It's just… should he go see her? Did she want to see him?

    Kanji walked to the edge of his room and slid his door open with a great amount of force, startling a nearby servant to the left of his room, who was carrying a tray of food and rice wine. She almost dropped the tray.

    "I have dinner for you, Lord Tatsumi," the servant bowed her head.

    "Leave it in my room, I'll eat it later," Kanji responded, somewhat nervously.

    The servant was slightly puzzled by both his words and his tone of voice, but she knew to follow orders. She said, "As you wish, my lord."

    The servant walked into Lord Tatsumi's room, while Kanji headed in the opposite direction where she had come from. He had made his decision. Kanji was headed towards the doctors' quarters.

    "Screw the head doctor… I'm seeing Naoto," Kanji thought.

    Kanji wondered if Naoto would be awake. Kanji also wondered if he would have the courage to talk to Naoto.

    The present was all that mattered now. Kanji walked straight down the gold-inlaid hallway and then around a corner. He passed a few servants in gold and black as he took another left.

    There were two doctors' rooms; one for the apprentices, and the other for the head doctor. Where they were working at the moment depended on the amount of patients and the situation. They were not going to put the assassins in the same area as Naoto, for example. Though… Kanji would have killed them if they had done that.

    As Kanji placed his hand on the side of the door to slide it open… he was hoping for one of two things. Kanji was hoping that either the doctor was sleeping, or if that the doctor was awake; he would not protest at all to his intrusion. He was hoping that Naoto's eyes were open... so Kanji could try and muster up the courage to speak to her.

    The door was flung open, and Kanji stood in the entrance. His aspirations, his wish… Kanji's hopes were granted as the doctor was sitting to the left, sleeping in a hard-backed chair. Her eyes were open… Naoto's eyes were open as she lay on her left side, though still covered by the sheets and the somewhat bloody bandages over the cut. Kanji could make out every curvature on Naoto's body. The red on Kanji's cheeks as he stood in the arch of the door was only matched by Naoto's as she spotted him.

    "I can't believe my eyes," Kanji thought to himself.

    Nara- Residential District

    Mid-Evening

    Souji had changed from makeshift clothing to a ratty light-colored hakama that was the result of a lopsided fight with a mysterious warrior that appeared to be Naoto's cousin. That cousin seemed to have a sister as well, so who knows how skilled she was.

    As Souji staggered outside the Kujikawa Residence, he shivered a little bit. It just had to start raining that evening. The samurai felt very weak while he was trying to escape the Kujikawa Compound, but he did not realize just how pathetic he had become until he had begun walking outside in the downpour. His cuts on his arms, legs, and body were hurting all over as the water seeped into the bandages.

    The problem was… Souji was not exactly sure where he was headed. When Souji left, the samurai was torn between heading towards Lord Tatsumi's palace and under the lord's protection, or Souji's own residence. Souji could either get changed into warmer clothing and rest under a familiar setting at his own quaint residence, or see the most reliable doctors in the city at Lord Tatsumi's. The negative with heading to Kanji's was that Souji would need to head through the Mercantile District as well. Souji's own residence would be closer from his current position, but there would be no one to treat him until he left; that would not be at least until tomorrow.

    "I should go to Kanji's," Souji thought, shaking his head.

    Souji made a turn towards the Mercantile District, which was still a ways away. Lady Kujikawa's district was not at the entrance of the Residential District, but at least it was not as far away as say… Lord Tanaka's.

    Souji limped on past Lady Amagi's Residence, the pain in his injured leg throbbing. No one had said anything to Souji about Lady Amagi recently… maybe she had given up?

    Regardless, all of his injuries were starting to pain Souji. Souji's bandages were now soaking wet and his wounds were open again. There was blood running down his injured leg and arms, as well as his left shoulder and the samurai's cut cheek. In the amount of time Souji had began walking, he had made very little progress.

    Souji had enough trouble walking through the Kujikawa Compound, and now he was trying to make it out of the Residential District, through the Mercantile District, and to the Nara Palace; that was in the rain as well. Souji's knees were buckling as he stopped at a crossroad. It was a big mistake to try and walk all the way to the Kanji's and Souji knew that.

    Souji finally fell… He hit the ground, knees first before landing on his injured left shoulder. Souji scuffed his knees, bloodying them. Rolling onto his shoulder hurt Souji even more.

    "Damn it," Souji thought as he lay on the ground.

    If Souji were to get up, the pain would be even worse than the last time the young man pushed himself to his feet. Souji was not sure if he would be able to get back up.

    Souji still tried to push with his left arm and left leg to bring the injured samurai to a standing position. That was another mistake for Souji. He made it six inches off the ground before he fell back to the road. It was a sad sight indeed if anyone was indeed watching. Lady Kujikawa was probably laughing her ass off, waiting to take him back in her arms… waiting to sleep with him. Not like Souji was in any condition to take part in that sort of action in the first place. What she was thinking this evening, Souji had no idea.

    Souji was not going to try and get up again. The pain was unbearable for Souji, and he doubted he would be able to regain his balance by trying again. If nothing else, he would lie in the wet road as he was pelted by the rain. Souji sighed as he closed his eyes.


    Nara- Doctors' Quarters

    Evening

    Naoto was downright terrified at the sight of Lord Tatsumi in the archway of the room she was residing in. It scared her… scared her beyond belief.




    Minutes ago

    Naoto still felt rather weak, but she at least had the strength to eat dinner by himself. The head doctor had been really kind to her. He propped up her head and left the room so she could use her arms to eat her dinner.

    The young servant was able to sit up by herself and then pull her arms out of her sheets so she could eat. Naoto did not eat a lot, but it felt nice to eat something for the first time since she was injured by the assassins. She was tired of having liquid poured into her mouth as well. Naoto was able to drink the water by herself. She placed her tray back to the side as she finished. After Naoto finished her dinner, she lay back down and covered up again. As if the doctor was psychic, he entered as soon as Naoto covered back up.

    He said, "I'm going to get some rest."

    The doctor had not slept not much at all since Naoto was injured, and he was going to get some sleep.

    As the doctor sat down in a wooden chair to the right of where Naoto was lying, Naoto turned over. She wanted to get some rest as well. If she recovered faster, then maybe she could leave… and return home. She could leave and see her grampa.

    "Lord Tatsumi," Naoto shook her head as much as she could.

    The lord found out Naoto was a girl while she was injured. Lord Tatsumi looked far too surprised when he saw her. It was quite confusing on what in the world Lord Tatsumi wanted.

    Naoto was not going to worry about it right now. She only wanted to get back to her family.




    Present

    Naoto wanted to be anywhere but here at the moment. What was Lord Tatsumi doing here? The lord just stood there blankly, blushing. He should have left! It was not like Naoto could go anywhere. She just blushed, while she lay there… covered in those sheets.

    Then he had the gall to say, "Naoto…"

    Kanji was blushing the whole time as he said that. It was embarrassing to Kanji. That's all he could manage to say… her name! Pathetic… that was rather pathetic. He can do better than that.

    Kanji choked out, "Umm… How are you doing?"

    Kanji was still blushing like a madman throughout his words.

    "Uhh… A little better, I guess," Naoto said, feeling very self-conscious with what she was wearing.

    Kanji did not move, but his cheeks stayed the same shade of red. He said to his dream girl, "I'm… I'm glad to hear that." Seeing the empty tray, he told Naoto, "I see you're eating again."

    "This was my first real meal since… well, you know," Naoto nodded. She never even turned around since Kanji came into the doorway.

    Kanji looked reserved, "You should get your strength up. You can only get better by eating."

    Naoto did not say anything. She already knew what she had to do to get better. It was if Lord Tatsumi was searching for something to say. He was certainly blushing enough. It was probably because he could not stop looking at her bare shoulders. If only she did not get hurt, then Lord Tatsumi would never have found out that she was a girl.

    "I'll do my best, Lord Tats…" Naoto started, but not before Kanji butted in.

    "You can call me… Kanji," the lord told her.

    "I understand, Kanji," Naoto said, still formally.

    Kanji had fought so hard to bring himself to speak to Naoto. Every word he spoke to her, every second his eyes gazed upon her, and every time she spoke… it made his heart melt. It did far more than melt Kanji's heart. He was unsure how long he could keep talking to her until the blushing would become too much, or the arousal he was feeling… Kanji did not want to lose control.

    Naoto shut her eyes. Lord Tatsumi… what was wrong with him? He needed some serious help. Her arms were underneath the sheets; she placed them over her bandaged and covered chest.

    "Umm…" Kanji was struggling for a new topic.

    It really was hard to talk with Naoto when she was lying there. Kanji tried to stare at the other tables and the piles of white sheets, but… his eyes always drifted right back to Naoto. It was hopeless… there was nothing Kanji could do.

    Kanji was saved from having to think of anything else to say and Naoto was saved from having to find a way of getting rid of Kanji when a sudden intrusion by another doctor awoke the head doctor.

    "Sir!" the youngest and short doctor tried to run into the room… when he spotted Kanji.

    The short doctor looked surprised enough, "Uhh… Lord Tatsumi!" the young doctor with the part, exclaimed.

    The head doctor's eyes fluttered open and then anger flushed to his face as he rose from his chair, "Lord Tatsumi! What are you doing here!"

    Kanji knew he was in trouble with the doctor. He had a lot of explaining to do.

    "I'm… I'm here to see my servant," Kanji said, "I wanted to see how she was doing."

    "She's doing fine!" the head doctor exclaimed, "Now let her rest and get out!"

    The wizened head doctor with the large bald spot all but pushed Kanji out of the doctors' quarters. The doctor was pissed at the lord. How dare Lord Tatsumi enter the room without his permission?

    "Are you okay?" The head doctor asked Naoto.

    As Naoto nodded briefly, the most experienced doctor turned his body towards the youngest apprentice who entered the room after Lord Tatsumi had been banished from the quarters.

    "What is the problem?" the head doctor asked with consternation on his face.

    "Lord Dojima found an injured samurai on the edge of the Residential District," the apprentice explained, "Souji Seta…"

    "Souji Seta?" Naoto murmured.

    "Is he on his way here now?" the head doctor wondered why the apprentice was not dragging Souji with him right now.

    "Lord Dojima is helping him reach the doctors' quarters," the apprentice said. Seeing the unsettling look, the young man said, "Someone was trying to patch him up earlier. Looked like did not work out too well."

    The head doctor shook his head. Samurai were idiots… all of them. He hated patching those fools up; they were so twitchy. Some of them said they were feeling no pain, but others were whining like babies in the end. It was a pain in the ass.

    Lord Tatsumi had been listening outside of the doctors' quarters. It appeared that they had found one of his injured samurai. He had wondered what happened to Souji, but Kanji guessed the samurai just got injured somehow.

    The only thing… they better not stick Souji in the main room with Naoto!

    "I'll kill them all!" Kanji thought as he walked off.



    Edge of Residential District

    A while earlier

    A few days ago, Souji would be passing multiple servants and scaring them until they prayed for mercy. It was not like he would ever want to harm them, though. Now… he was on the ground, being pelted by rain, and completely incapable of getting on his feet. Leaving suddenly though was probably his fault, after all. He ran away from Lady Kujikawa… because he was scared of her. Rise was going to injure him even more than he was now unless Souji left.

    Souji was stretched out on his side when he felt a hand brush his uninjured shoulder. Souji was turned over by that hand and saw Lord Dojima in soaked gray and blue robes.

    "What are you doing here?" Dojima asked, incredulous.

    "I was injured," Souji muttered.

    "I can see that," Dojima said.

    Dojima glanced over Souji momentarily. Dojima shook his head as he saw the large abrasions and lacerations on Souji's legs and arms. Dojima also had the same reaction at the possible broken collarbone. Overall, Dojima thought Souji looked terrible and a complete mess.

    "I was attacked, and someone attempted to patch me up," Souji said.

    "Shouldn't you be resting then?" Dojima responded.

    "It was Lady Kujikawa," Souji said softly.

    "Ohh…" Dojima understood that he must have been trying to escape. He nodded, "You know… Lady Dojima was very worried for you."

    Souji nodded as best as he could, "I'm happy for that."

    "Where were you going, Souji?" Ryotarou questioned.

    "I was trying to reach Lord Tatsumi," Souji tried to explain. He continued, "The best doctors are there."

    Dojima, from his knees, pulled Souji up to his feet. Dojima then placed his arm underneath Souji's good shoulder so Souji could balance on Dojima's weight. Dojima, with Souji under his weight, stood up and took the first steps away from the Residential District.

    "I assume that I am taking you to Lord Tatsumi's?" Dojima nodded. He turned his head towards Souji, "I could always take you to Nanako instead."

    Souji noticed that Dojima emphasized his daughter's name. There must have been some crazy conversations going on between father and daughter. Souji had a good idea about the topic of those conversations.

    "I think it would be best to reach Lord Tatsumi," Souji responded. He finished, "I need to get back and heal. I need to show him that I'm alive and well enough to protect him."

    "I see…" Ryotarou said, understanding that the situation probably needed Souji to head to Kanji for reports.

    With Souji being supported by Dojima, they reached the Mercantile District with ease. The stands that were usually full of peasants and merchants trying to hawk wares were bare and vacant. The only thing that supplanted the walking pair was the rain that came on top of their heads.

    "We'll have to prove we are not someone trying to kill Lord Tatsumi," Dojima said.

    Souji and Ryotarou were near the gate of the Nara Palace, but it was dark and the gate was closed. That meant the guards would not have a good view of either of them from the top of the wall. If they believed they were enemies; that would definitely turn out to be an issue for both the lord and the samurai.

    The guards… still shorthanded since the attack eventually noticed the shadows from below. Their arrows were cocked behind their ears, and were about ready to fire upon the two men.

    "I am Souji Seta!" Souji called out, "Samurai and servant of Lord Tatsumi of the Fujiwaras!"

    Lord Dojima explained in a much calmer voice, "My name is Lord Ryotarou Dojima, counsel for Lord Tatsumi."

    The pair of guards with the arrows drawn slowly lowered their bows as they looked at each other. The guards needed more light to confirm Souji and Dojima's identity, but if it really was one of their missing samurai… then they would need to let him in.

    The door creaked as the gate started opening and Souji and Ryotarou began walking inside Nara's palace and fortress.

    Before Souji could even reach the cherry blossoms in the courtyard, they were met by a somewhat tired apprentice doctor who had come on the account of a rumor that Souji Seta was back. The only way Souji Seta could leave for that long and not check in… he had to have been hurt. The apprentice was right and was in shock in the shape Souji was in.

    "My… what in the…" the apprentice was lost for words as he met Souji and Dojima on the edge of the courtyard. He continued, "We need to get you to the head doctor."

    Souji nodded as Dojima answered for him, "He seemed to have been attacked. He has not told me much else."

    The apprentice said to the pair, in obvious haste, "Take Seta to the doctors' quarters… I'll go ahead and inform the head doctor of your presence."

    As the apprentice turned and ran past the wet cherry blossom trees in the courtyard, Dojima said to Souji, "Well… why don't we get you to the doctor already."

    Souji sighed as they made their way to the main hall, passing Kanji's gilded chair. The black and gold-inlaid monstrosity was specially made for someone of his height. Lord Tatsumi had always been freakishly tall for his age.

    They made the turn out of the main hall, moving in between stone pillars as they made a beeline towards the doctors' quarters. Souji's blood had soaked through his bandages and was getting on Dojima's robes.

    "This is going to be troublesome for the servants to get out," Dojima thought. He continued to think, "Glad I'm not the one that will have to clean it, but it sure feels uncomfortable to have Souji's blood on these robes."

    Present

    Lord Tatsumi did not understand what could possibly be taking so long for his samurai to show up. Maybe… he should just be relieved at the fact that Souji had come back in one-piece… well hopefully one-piece. As much as Kanji wanted to go back and say goodbye to Naoto, he knew that was not going to happen either. The head doctor was rather pissed at him, and that the head doctor was the one person he could not do anything to at the moment because he was the one taking care of Naoto.

    The only thing Lord Tatsumi could do… was getting some rest. He knew it would probably be another sleepless night, but at least lying down would be better than standing around and pacing. Walking away to the right… Kanji would miss the incoming samurai by only thirty seconds when turned the corner.

    Souji was given to the apprentice doctor by Lord Dojima. Dojima was somewhat glad to have Souji off his shoulder. The samurai was not heavy, but he was not light either. Souji was… fit. The apprentice doctor struggled a little bit when he put Souji under his arm. The apprentice was smaller than Ryotarou.

    Dojima nodded before he left and told Souji, "I'll tell Nanako that you'll be okay."

    Souji responded, "You do that, Lord Dojima." He was really thinking, with a sarcastic tone, "Great…"

    As the apprentice helped shuffle in the injured samurai into the room, seeing Naoto as she was not as much of a shock to Souji's system as when Kanji laid eyes upon her. Naoto, however, still had not gotten over being around Lord Tatsumi in that compromising position. Now, Naoto was seeing another young man in front of her, even if he was beaten and injured. She could not help… but to blush.

    No conversation passed between the servant and samurai. Instead the head doctor had a few choice words for Souji.

    He exclaimed, pointing out the blood soaking through his bandages "What happened to you?"

    "I had an accident," Souji said softly.

    "Accident, my ass!" the head doctor responded, "You got into a fight, didn't you!"

    The head doctor looked at the cuts on the samurai's arms and legs as well as the slumped shoulder on Souji. What the hell did he get himself into it?

    "It wasn't my fault. It was an ACCIDENT!" Souji emphasized. It was one… after all.

    "Whatever…" the old doctor said. He asked, "It looked like someone tried to bandage you up. What happened?"

    "Lady Kujikawa found me and attempted to take care of me," Souji explained, "I had to escape."

    No other words needed to be said between the doctor and samurai.

    The head doctor looked at the apprentice with a strained look, "Well… hurry and get that foolish boy on one of those tables. He needs his bandages changed after we close his wounds again."

    Naoto looked horrified as the apprentice started moving Souji towards the table next to her. What made her even more horrified was when the apprentice said to Souji, "When I boost you onto the table, take off your hakama."
     
  10. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 16

    Nara- Residential District: Tanaka's Residence

    Late Evening

    Tanaka had been lying somewhat low since he had hired those two assassins to eliminate Lord Tatsumi for the sake of not only of Nara, but also the Fujiwaras. This was actually the first time Lord Tanaka had been in Nara since the failed attempt. Tanaka was a bit unsure who was looking for him. It might be only Lord Tatsumi and Seta, or it might be the whole Council of Lords in Nara.

    That being said, Tanaka was anxiously waiting a report from his head retainer, the samurai, Togodai. Though he was injured by Naoto, Togodai was still incredibly dangerous. As the sliding door opened, the black hakama of Togodai came through to one of Tanaka's living rooms.

    Togodai was unshaven as usual, the scruffy black stubble was apparent. It amazed that Tanaka could send Togodai on a task such as an espionage mission to find out the status of Nara after his failed mission and that he return alive. Tanaka was amused that his retainer looked pissed as usual. Togodai's arm was still bandaged from when that bastard servant of Lord Tatsumi kicked Togodai's ass. In the smallest sense, it was slightly amusing that a peasant injured a samurai with such skill.

    Tanaka motioned for Togodai to sit at his table. He did not want the samurai to disturb Lady Sayoko while she was resting. Togodai sat, but Tanaka would not do the same. Instead, Tanaka asked Togodai in a commanding voice, "What news comes from Nara while I was away? Who is chasing me?"

    If Togodai felt affronted, he did not show. The retainer was used to this treatment. He answered, "Lord Tatsumi is waiting to if you are stupid enough to show your face in the palace."

    "I did not know he was that stupid," Tanaka said.

    "He seemed kind of out of it lately," Togodai continued, "He looked like he was in a daze."

    Tanaka scratched his chin. Tanaka wondered if he could use Lord Tatsumi's idle mind to his advantage. If Tatsumi was not focused… he could strike at Tatsumi.

    "Go on…" Tanaka nodding as he was still thinking.

    "Seta was searching around your residence for you. The Kusaga Shrine, mostly. I think he knew you were gone," Togodai explained.

    "Souji Seta is too smart for his own good," Tanaka thought, "Someone should take care of him."

    "Listen to this," Togodai interrupted Tanaka's thoughts, "Someone hurt Souji. He was hurt pretty bad."

    "Really?" Tanaka looked happy for a change, a small smile appearing on his face, "How do you know?"

    "It was raining," Togodai said, "I saw Lord Dojima supporting him to take him to Lord Tatsumi."

    "I wonder what happened to Seta," Tanaka thought.

    Tanaka had one more question about Lord Tatsumi, "Why do you think Lord Tatsumi is so distracted?"

    Togodai smiled, "Well… I was walking past Lord Tatsumi's bedroom when I heard him murmuring… 'Naoto' over and over."

    "Naoto!" Tanaka was astonished, "Is he in love with the peasant boy?"

    Togodai shook his head, "I also heard Lord Tatsumi mumble something about a 'she' and 'would it be wrong if I see her again?'"

    "This peasant servant was a girl?" Tanaka thought.

    Tanaka suddenly chuckled in the direction of his retainer, causing Togodai to look at Tanaka funny. He asked, "What is so amusing, Lord Tanaka?"

    "You were injured by a little girl, Togodai" Tanaka chuckled.

    Togodai sighed in shame, "I am aware of that fact."

    Tanaka looked at Togodai, "How were you able to walk in and among the palace without drawing attention to yourself as my retainer?"

    "I dressed as one of Lord Tatsumi's servants," Togodai answered, "The other servants did not notice me."

    Tanaka nodded in understanding. The fact that Lord Tatsumi now seemed to be interested in a peasant girl was yet another reason he needed to be replaced. The fool did not have his priorities straight. Lord Tatsumi should be focusing on keeping the Fujiwara family together and safe. Instead, according to Togodai, Tatsumi has his head in the clouds over a little girl. Tanaka had to laugh though. The surprise it must have been for Lord Tatsumi when he found out that little bastard was actually, a girl.

    Tanaka made a passing wave at Togodai. He had a lot more to think about. It was mainly logistics, really.

    Togodai knew that meant he was supposed to leave. He did not want to face Tanaka's fury. Tanaka could work up quite a storm of hate when he wanted to. Togodai wanted to avoid that.

    "Goodbye," Togodai stood and bowed.

    Togodai's retainer made his way towards the sliding door and exited promptly, giving Tanaka the room to himself.

    Tanaka ran his hand through his black hair with the graying roots. He could get to the thinking later. It was time to disturb Lady Sayoko. He was her husband after all.

    Tanaka promptly turned from where he was standing so he was facing the bedroom door. He walked, maneuvering various objects, and slid open the door. He shut it behind him softly. Yes… Lord Tanaka would think about things later.

    Inside the Kusaga Shrine

    Late Evening

    It was near pitch black inside the Kusaga Shrine, save for a small fires burning here and there. In the main temple, only two people were present. Well… two people and a cat to be exact standing in front of a small fire.

    The young girl, clad in a green tunic and white pants asked the other, who was clad in all black, "You sure this is really the right time to try and do this?"

    "Yes…" the young man responded, "This time… it will work."

    "It's just… the last time, they nearly ripped your arms off," the young woman said.

    "Trust me," the young man told her, his face bathed in the warm light of the hot fire.

    The temple fire showed a chiseled face with black eyes. He was set on his task. His task… was to bring back his cousin, and bring eternal suffering upon those who brought pain to her. If he had to summon those who would bring his soul into the depths to eternal damnation; it would be worth it. He was Raidou, and he had already dealt with one of those who brought pain to Naoto's. Now... it was time…

    Raidou moved to the left of the fire as his sister moved to the right of it. They both went to their knees and began to pray. The demons Raidou were trying to summon were fearsome. If he lost control of them… like the last time; they would most likely rip him apart. His sister was trying to summon a damn kimono-wearing fairy. It was nothing like the minotaur-like monsters that would be coming from the depths of Raidou's soul.

    The black cat that Raidou knew as Gouto dropped three small tubes from his mouth. Where these three tubes came from, Raidou did not know. All that the young man knew was that they were the catalyst for his summoning of the two demons.

    As Raidou and Raidou's sister, Nagi, both kept their head bowed to the floor… the fire suddenly went out. Three black portals appeared around the young man and woman as the three tubes were sucked into the void. It would be time to see if their hard work would come to fruition.

    Doctors' Quarters

    Midnight

    The whole time Souji was being looked over by the head doctor, Naoto was hiding in her sheets. Naoto had even gone so far as to pull the sheets over her head so she would not have to look at him. Of course, Naoto did not want Souji to look at her, either.

    After looking Souji over, the wizened doctor had concluded that Souji had not broken his shoulder. Instead, it seemed that Souji had separated the shoulder in a fall. It was a slightly better prognosis for the samurai, but no less painful, as Souji would find out.

    Souji found out when the head doctor popped the shoulder back into place forcefully. Naoto never expected Souji to yell out in pain. The cry of Souji's pain was enough to make Naoto pop her head out to see if someone had come to finish the job.

    Naoto had put her head back underneath the covers after the yell had subsided. The sight of Souji's muscular chest was ingrained in Naoto's mind. She was not going to look anywhere else while the doctor was working on him.

    Naoto heard a voice call out after a few more minutes from hiding under the sheets, "I want you to stay there and rest. You are not to leave that bed… no matter what. If you want… I can ask for someone to bring you some food."

    "Maybe in a little while," a voice that was clearly Souji's called out.

    "I understand," the voice was the head doctor's.

    Naoto heard heavy steps and the door sliding open and then closing. The head doctor must have left the room. She sighed. There was a small part of Naoto that was curious about Souji. Souji was considered this indomitable force of legend, and here he was… supposedly injured… injured enough that the doctor had to make him yell like a little girl.

    She could not contain that curiosity, so Naoto popped her blue-haired head out of the covers. Only her head came above, less than an inch of her neck was visible. Naoto turned her head towards the injured samurai that had been brought in a short time ago. The short-haired girl saw a young man with a sling over his recently fixed shoulder and various re-wrapped bandages all over his arms and legs. A small cut Souji's cheek had been swabbed by the head doctor. The part that really made Naoto blush was the same image from before… it was that Souji's whole chest was visible.

    To her surprise, Souji did not blush. Instead, he smiled and said to her, "Don't worry… I'm still wearing the bottom half of the hakama."

    If that statement did not make things worse for Naoto, she did not know what would. Souji was a damn moron.

    "Souji?" Naoto shook her head, trying to clear the blush from her face. She was sure Souji noticed it.

    "Yes?" Souji responded.

    "How did you get hurt?" Naoto questioned him.

    Souji used his good arm to push himself up to a sitting position. It startled Naoto. She thought that the samurai was going to disobey the head doctor's orders.

    "I was attacked. He was faster than me," Souji told her.

    Naoto withheld a chuckle, "I thought you were supposed to be invincible."

    "Not against your cousin, I guess," Souji shook his head.

    As Souji sighed, Naoto tried not to gasp. She did not expect her cousin to come so quickly. Her cousin was the one who injured Souji? Why attack Souji?

    "Why did my cousin come after you?" Naoto asked.

    "He wants revenge on everyone that made you suffer, supposedly. I guess it was because I was the one who took you to Lord Tatsumi," Souji could not shrug, so he nodded to the left side of his head.

    Now Naoto understood why her cousin Raidou went after Souji. Yet, Souji was probably the least deserving of those who caused pain while she was here. Her animosity towards Souji was a bit unfounded… well, she had not spent enough time around him to know for sure, but at least she thought it was unfounded. He wanted Raidou to go after Togodai and that bastard Tanaka instead of Souji. Lord Tatsumi was just an idiot.

    Souji looked confused. Naoto was blushing again. Silly girl…

    Naoto said to Souji, "I'm sorry."

    "What for?" Souji asked.

    "My cousin… that he hurt you," Naoto nodded as best as she could from her covers.

    "What's done is done," Souji responded. Souji's face suddenly turned serious. That look… it scared Naoto. He said, "If he comes after Lord Tatsumi, however. I will fight much harder."

    "Lord Tatsumi…" Naoto shuddered.

    Souji almost laughed, "Is he giving you a hard time?"

    "He keeps visiting me," Naoto confessed, "It's disturbing."

    "He thinks you're cute," Souji admitted.

    Naoto blushed and laughed. Naoto had to stop blushing.

    "Quit laughing," Naoto finally told Souji.

    Souji shook his head, "I have to admit. You made a convincing boy."

    Naoto sighed, "I have had a lot of practice at it."

    "Looks like it," Souji told her. The personal guard of Lord Tatsumi ran the hand from his good arm through his hair before he said, "I warn you… if Lord Tatsumi has his eye on you. Well, do I really need to explain things to you?"

    Naoto shut her eyes in frustration. Souji was basically saying she had no choice but to submit to that bumbling fool of a lord that had trouble speaking to her. Naoto could not do that. Life might be unfair for a peasant girl, but this would not happen to her. She would find a way.

    She opened her eyes and looked past the black and gold walls of the doctors' quarters and straight into Souji's gray ones. Naoto asked the young man, "Will you… will you help me?"

    "With what?" Souji responded, "Getting away from Lord Tatsumi's advances?"

    As Naoto nodded, Souji shook his head, "Kanji is going to be pissed enough that I was lodged in the same quarters' as you,"

    "You called him by his first name, uhh, can I call you Souji?"

    "I don't care," Souji said. He explained, "I call him Kanji because I've served under him since I was a small child. We grew up together."

    "I see," Naoto said. A sad face came upon the peasant, now servant girl, "So… that's why you can not help me. He's your friend."

    "No, no…" Souji shut his eyes in frustration. Souji told her, "It's because… I have to serve my lord. If I don't… for the first time; he will punish me."

    Naoto was truly crestfallen. She turned her head back around so her back was facing Souji. Souji would not admit it, but he felt bad for Naoto. Though… right now, what could he do for the poor girl? Souji guessed it really was possible that Kanji could jeopardize his whole city by executing his personal samurai if Souji interfered with Naoto.

    It was late, and as soon as Kanji realized he had been brought here, not in the side room; he would be dragged forcefully to who knows where by his old friend.

    Souji lay back down. He wondered if the old doctor was going to come back with some food, but after waiting for a few minutes; he never did. Maybe that old man really did trust Souji more than he thought. Souji closed his eyes. Restful sleep… something he had not had in a while, might do him some good.

    Meiwa Town, Mie Prefecture

    Morning

    Yosuke had been knocked out, bound, and blindfolded… again. He was not even sure where in the world he was. He was starting to regret running off to see Yuka when she left Nara with the rest of the Tairas. Well… what could he do? Lord Kido could kill him if he tried to escape, and it was not like he had his weapon on him. They only recently gave him his clothes back so he would not freeze to death when the storm came in.

    Yosuke was incredibly groggy when he awoke at the feet of a regal-looking woman in gray robes with short black hair that barely reached past the nape of her neck. The girl was well-known to Yosuke. She was one of the highest-ranking Taira in the land. Her name was… Lady Maki Sonomura.

    Yosuke tried to look up at Lady Sonomura, but his head was pushed back down by Lord Kido.

    "I'm sorry for this fool's ignorance, Lady Sonomura," Reiji told Maki.

    Maki looked at the young man and asked Kanji's samurai softly, "Why did you follow us?"

    When Yosuke did not speak at first, Reiji kicked him in the ribs and commanded, "Lady Sonomura asked you a question!"

    Maki scowled at Reiji and lowered herself enough so she could grasp Yosuke's chin and raise his head, "Why did you join Lord Kido's camp?"

    Yosuke's ribs hurt, but his voice choked out one word, "Y… Yuka."

    Maki smiled as she let Yosuke's drop back down and stood back up to her full height. "I understand now," she said to Yosuke.

    There were a lot more questions that she could have asked, but Maki already knew all the answers to what she was asking Yosuke because while he was knocked out; she had discussed what had happened with Reiji.

    "So… what should we do with this intruder?" Maki asked Reiji.

    "I think we should get rid of him," Reiji told her, "Yosuke is one of the Fujiwaras' best."

    Maki thought about what to do with the lesser samurai of the most feared duo of all of the Fujiwaras. The only members of the Tairas that could match them in fighting skills were lords or ladies. The Taira lords Toudou or either Suou would be an even match for Seta or Hanamura.

    Maki sighed. Yosuke looked somewhat pitiful after being dragged around from the middle of the Nara prefecture all the way to Meiwa. After seeing that face with crusted blood and bruises on his face, could Maki give the command?

    "Send Hanamura to a holding area," Maki told Reiji.

    Reiji completely disagreed with that decision. Lord Kido would have rather killed Yosuke at the spot, but Lady Sonomura's word was the law. The lord picked up the samurai by his neck and roughly shoved him away from Lady Sonomura. Reiji would have shaken his head at Lady Sonomura if he could, but it was obvious he could not.

    As Yosuke was being dragged by Lord Kido, he saw various gray-robed servants that were serving not only members of various hierarchy, but also members of the religious sect. Meiwa City was inhabited by a religious princess at one point, and it seemed to have continued even now. Where exactly he was being taken now, he did not know… All he knew was something about a holding area. One thing was for sure… Yosuke knew it was highly doubtful he would ever see Yuka ever again.

    The servants might have been clothed in gray, but the walls were in a bright red. Yosuke barely noticed as he losing consciousness from Lord Kido's grip on his neck. When he was finally thrown to the ground, it was in a room that was void of furniture and furnishings.

    Yosuke lay on the floor. He was not only in pain, but mentally exhausted. He was somehow still alive after being brought to a Tairan stronghold. Why? Not even Yosuke really knew. What the hell was Lady Sonomura was thinking when she kept him alive instead of executing him like Lord Kido alive?

    "What's next?" he thought.

    Kusaga Shrine

    Midnight

    Raidou's sword was drawn and was struggling to hold its own against a blue minotaur-like monster's axe. He was not the strongest warrior, but he could probably hold off the demon for the while. The probably was that he had summoned a second, similar demon with an axe as well. He lost control again… probably because he tried to summon two at once. He was overextending his summoning skills and it could finally hurt him.

    Raidou at least had some help from his sister. She managed to somehow control the pixie with blue wings that was wearing a kimono. The brown minotaur-ish monster was being contained by the pixie's wind attacks. Both of them were using their swords to futilely hold the demons off.

    It was a mistake, and Raidou knew it. If they could stave off this attack, perhaps this would mean that Raidou would have control over the summons and he could use them against those who harmed Naoto.
     
  11. The Phantom

    The Phantom Member

    Samurai and Ninjas Chap. 17
    Nara- Palace: Kanji's Room

    Morning

    Kanji Tatsumi brushed back his slicked hair. He really needed to calm down because he did not sleep very well again. It was what… the third day in a row or so that he had struggled to sleep? Lying around with his eyes wide open was pointless in Kanji's mind. Kanji's mind was too full of other things anyways.

    It was bad enough that the lord had a young blue-haired girl on his mind almost constantly. Now, Kanji had to worry about the fact that though they found his missing samurai; he was injured badly enough that he was worthless in a fight. With one injured retainer, and one missing, was there really only one truly capable warrior in all of Nara left? By that he meant, himself.

    It annoyed him so much… that he wanted to see her, but every time he tried; Kanji was blocked by that doctor. Kanji was now waiting for one thing… for Naoto to get well enough so Kanji would not have try to maneuver around when the doctor was and when he was not there.

    What was Kanji to do? He could not yet visit Naoto without issues, and he did not know where Souji was being treated. If they put Souji anywhere closer than a room away Naoto, he would not be amiss to punishing the doctors in one way or another. He was their lord, after all.

    What if Souji was that close to Naoto? What if the doctors were for some reason treating him in the same room? What would be going on in there? There would be no way that Souji could resist that sweet boy-ish, yet beautiful looks and charms of Naoto. Souji had already been around her, so he would have no problem falling for her. No! Naoto was his. Naoto was Lord Tatsumi's! Lord Dojima said that if there were no viable ladies that caught Kanji's eye, then he could have who he wanted. Kanji knew who he wanted, and it was a diminutive blue-haired young woman that lay in the doctors' quarters. If Souji ended up being there, and tried anything on his Naoto… he would just be short one samurai.

    But… if there was another assassination attempt, Naoto might get hurt again. He needed a meat shield like Souji to get in the way of anybody who might hurt her. So, Kanji had a plan to get close to Naoto today… without being stopped by that old man.

    "It's time to make a stop at the servants' quarters before they head out to pick up the food for breakfast," Kanji said to himself.

    As Kanji opened the sliding door and passed through, he made a turn in the opposite direction this morning. He had a plan that would not fail him… not today.

    Residential District- Lady Dojima's Residence

    Mid-Morning

    A few months ago, Lord Dojima would never have thought of visiting his daughter, especially at the frequency he was now making these visits. Ladies of the court are supposed to be secluded. Only in rare cases, such as Lady Sayoko Uehara, wife of Lord Tanaka, or Lady Ai Ebihara, wife of Lord Kou Ichijo, did noblewomen venture outside of their residences. Though Lady Ai and Lady Sayoko were exceptions to the rule; that did not mean that they had free rein to be outside whenever they wanted. They did not attend every council meeting that Lord Tatsumi held, and obviously, they had to listen to their lords/husbands.

    Visiting a lady was a very complicated business… so much so that it was complex, even for a relative as close as Nanako's father. Ladies could normally only be seen by her husband in person, and rarely at that. The only ones that could be out in public were very high ranking ones. If the lady had a daughter, she generally took care of her once she was old enough that the caretakers were deemed unnecessary. The father played no role in the upbringing. That was not the case in this situation. Most non-maternal visitations took place with no face-to-face contact. Before the loss of Chisato, it pained Ryotarou some that he would almost never really get to see his daughter grow up. The loss of Chisato, forced a lot of face-to-face contact between father and daughter. Besides, Dojima had never seen such maturity in a young child like Nanako.

    If the complexities of father meeting with his daughter were complicated; then the issues with Nanako meeting with her cousin were beyond belief. The normal courtship method between lord and lady was the use of fans that were sent back and forth between the pair. The two never saw each other in the exchange, only reading each other's brilliant artistry. The issue was that one of them was seven and the other was not a lord. Dojima was determined to coerce Lord Tatsumi to return the Seta family to prominence by making his nephew a lord and Nanako his wife. She was more than willing; she was quite enthusiastic with the idea of becoming Souji's wife. With that in mind, Dojima broke decorum on multiple occasions and had Souji and Nanako meet in person a few times. This seemed to strengthen Nanako's resolve to marry him, though Souji seemed a little noncommittal. Dojima would not be deterred. He wanted to make his daughter happy, no matter what.

    Dojima was meeting with her this morning to tell her what happened last night. The news would probably frighten her a little, but he needed to tell her any news about her future husband.

    Dojima was met just outside of the entrance of the residence by the short-haired caretaker in the cream yukata.

    "This way please, Lord Dojima," the brown-haired girl motioned with her hand, and then bowed.

    "Thank you," Dojima said.

    The caretaker was embarrassed. Lord Dojima was always very courteous to the caretakers and thanked them. Not everyone was so kind to their servants.

    The young servant raised her head and walked to the sliding door and opened it. She motioned again and bowed as Dojima passed through the entrance.

    There was another caretaker waiting for Dojima as he entered the central room of the residence. She had a teapot in hand.

    "Tea, Lord Dojima?" the caretaker with long black hair asked.

    "No, no thank you…" Ryotarou waved her off.

    The caretaker almost looked disappointed as she placed the teapot down on a nearby table and bowed. Dojima needed to talk to Nanako. If he missed the council meeting, that would be okay. He doubted everyone else would be there, anyways. Lord Tanaka and Lady Sayoko were on the council, and well… they were not showing up.

    He looked at the second caretaker… whose head had lifted by now, as to ask if Nanako was ready to see him. She nodded and said, "Whenever you want to enter."

    "Thank you," Dojima told her.

    He slid the door separating him from his daughter wide open as softly as he could. Dojima The third caretaker was working with Nanako on calligraphy again. The middle table was strewn with scraps of discarded work and breakfast that the caretaker would probably take care of later.

    "Nanako has gotten a lot better," Dojima thought, taking a look at the calligraphy at the lay on the table. She would probably send some work to Souji soon… fans, he meant.

    At that moment, Dojima's daughter, clad in a white and pink kimono turned her head. A small smile crept onto the face of the young girl.

    "Hello father," Nanako greeted her.

    "Hello daughter," Dojima responded.

    Seeing that Dojima had arrived, the third caretaker pushed herself to her feet and said to Nanako, "We'll start again tomorrow."

    After receving a nod and smile from Nanako, the caretaker quickly moved to the center table to pick up the breakfast platter. When she tried to pick up the calligraphy scraps, Dojima stopped her.

    "You can leave these here for now," Dojima told her.

    The tallest caretaker bowed and headed out of the door.

    As the caretaker, Nanako smiled and Dojima returned the gesture. Nanako asked, "What news do you have of Souji? Did they find him?"

    "They did… well I found him," Dojima answered.

    "You found him!" Nanako looked happy, "Thank you, father, for finding him."

    It was a bit of a lie, and Dojima felt it was best to tell the truth. He said to her, "Well… I was not the first to find him."

    Nanako looked confused, and expressed her confused, "I do not understand, father?"

    "It seemed some of Lady Kujikawa's retainers found him a day or so before I found him," Lord Dojima explained.

    "Lady Kujikawa?" Nanako still looked a little confused. She questioned, "Another lady? Did he run away for me?"

    "I wonder…" Dojima scratched his chin. It was possible. He explained his thoughts, "Lady Kujikawa is interested in your Souji… and Souji knows all about it. It may be possible that he needed to escape for some reason."

    "Lady Kujikawa wants to marry him?" Nanako looked angry.

    Lord Dojima sighed as he tried to explain, "I don't know if Lady Kujikawa wants Souji as a husband. It's… umm… complicated."

    "He just wants him as a toy?" Nanako inquired, still angry.

    "I guess you could say that," Dojima shook his head. Nanako was pretty smart.

    Nanako looked even angrier than before, "Is there anything you can do to her?"

    "Not really," Lord Dojima shook his head again.

    Nanako shut her eyes, trying to calm down. "So… where is Souji now?"

    "With Lord Tatsumi, to the best of my knowledge," Dojima told her. He continued, "At the doctors' quarters, recovering from injuries."

    This alarmed Nanako, scaring her, "Is he okay?"

    "I believe he will be fine, soon enough," Dojima nodded, "The only real injury was his shoulder. I don't know what happened to it."

    Nanako looked really scared, but Dojima expected it. He said, "I think Lady Kujikawa's retainers helped clean up a few of his wounds… enough so that it made it easier for the head doctor of Lord Tatsumi."

    Lady Nanako breathed a sigh of relief. So, she had one redeeming quality. Though, it was probably just to get Souji healthy enough to make him her toy.

    "Is that everything about Souji?" Nanako asked with a new smile on her face. She had to smile… smile for Souji.

    "All the news about Souji, yes," Dojima responded.

    "Anything about Nara that is important?" Nanako asked.

    Ryotarou sighed, "I guess you could say that our Lord Tatsumi has been acting a little strange lately. A little different, that's all."

    Nanako nodded, "I see, father."

    "I'm going to go, daughter," Dojima said suddenly, standing up, but not before saying, "Keep working on the calligraphy. Soon, you will be able to give a fan to Souji."

    Nanako smiled at that as she said, "Thank you, father."

    Dojima walked quickly out of the residence, again politely refusing the tea. He doubted he would make the council meeting, but he had to try and make it.

    He made it to the entrance of the residence where the short-haired girl bowed once more to Dojima. He suddenly spouted the words, "Oh shit!"

    Dojima had just figured something out. Souji was placed in the doctors' quarters when he was injured. There was someone else in the doctors' quarters that the doctor was watching over. It was the person that when Dojima made his slip up about, he went crazy and ran straight towards the place. Souji and Naoto were in the same room right now. At least three things could happen. Naoto could still feel animosity towards him and bring harm to him somehow. Lord Tatsumi could find out that Souji was in the same room as Naoto and go ballistic. That would probably compromise the health of Nanako's future husband. Finally, with a cute girl and a handsome boy in the same room… injured or not; Ryotarou definitely did not need to go into details.

    Dojima might miss the council meeting, but he would protect, save, or chastise Souji. Ryotarou brought about a pace that nearly made him trip over his robes. Getting to Souji was his goal.

    Servants' Quarters

    Mid-Morning

    The usual business of the servants rushing around and getting ready in the morning for the early tasks had died down, which made it perfect for Lord Tatsumi to execute his ingenious plan.

    The male servants' quarters, void of any servants at the moment, was in the same layout as when Naoto was there, masquerading as one of them. The washing basins were still in the corner, recently used by the servants getting ready. Kanji used it to change his hairstyle and wash off the little amounts of work some servants applied to his face early in the morning. There were rows upon rows of servants that lived here, judging by the room's layout. The thing Kanji was looking for was… an extra black and gold yukata.

    Kanji's plan was to find one and slip it on to look like one of the servants. Then, he could go to the kitchens where he could pick up breakfast to take to the doctors' quarters. That would get him past the old doctor without having to deal with him and spend more time with Naoto. Nothing would fail him this time around.

    The only issue for Kanji was finding a yukata that would fit the tall man with the muscular build. He had a very unusual build, indeed. It took him at least five minutes of searching throughout the whole quarters to find one that fit him. It was still a little short in the arms and legs.

    "This will have to do," Kanji shrugged.

    Kanji started to hurry his way from the servants' quarters towards the kitchens. He needed to get their in time to serve the food to Naoto. He made a quick turn and then another turn down a long hallway. Kanji moved so quickly, he was nearly out of breath when he reached the kitchens.

    The cooks were in far too much of a hurry to pay attention to see who was picking up the food for the doctors' patients. Kanji would be able to get to the quarters then.

    "Hurry, you're late," one of the cooks said, as he passed the food to Kanji to take to the patients.

    "Yes, sir," Kanji bowed before he took the food. He needed to play the part, after all.

    Kanji could not help but feel excited. He had food that he could take to Naoto and speak with her. Kanji could speak with Naoto again. The only thing that might be an issue was if Souji was in there.

    Kanji carefully made his way with the food in his hand, passing servants with his head slightly down. No one even noticed him, which he was very thankful for. Kanji did not even pay attention to the servants making their way towards the main hall to prepare for the council meeting.

    As Kanji held the food in one arm, and preparing to open the sliding door with the other… he took a deep breath. There was no doctor present when Kanji opened the door. In fact, the only person that was there was the girl of his dreams, a blushing blue-haired girl. That's exactly what he wanted to see.

    Doctors' Quarters

    A short while ago

    Naoto woke up in the morning and turned her head. She saw a fully-clothed Souji sitting across from her, not exactly looking at her.

    "Good morning," Souji said, trying to rotate his injured shoulder. It was extremely sore, but he needed to get the full range of motion back into his arm. His now ratty hakama was no detriment to his recovery process.

    "Umm… good morning," Naoto responded.

    "How are you feeling?" Souji asked.

    "Miserable," Naoto told him. She said from underneath her sheets, "How would you feel if you had no choice in your future?"

    Souji did not have anything to say in response. What was he supposed to say to that? She would be forced to… It was completely ridiculous.

    A single tear dropped from Naoto's left eye. It looked like she had given up hope in resisting Kanji's advances.

    "Don't give up hope," Souji told her. That's basically all he could say to her.

    "What hope…?" Naoto turned her head back.

    Souji shook his head. "There is always hope."

    "You should leave," Naoto said, while looking at the ceiling.

    Souji looked at her, "In case Kanji comes in?"

    "Yes," Naoto said, "I don't want you hurt because of me."

    "I will be alright," Souji explained.

    Souji turned away from the blue-haired girl as he stood up from his sitting position. He walked over to where some spare clothing lay. Without looking, Souji threw it at Naoto without looking at her.

    "You should put it on," Souji said, "I'm sure you're tired of having Lord Tatsumi coming in on you while you're not wearing anything."

    Naoto blushed slightly as Souji walked out the door. At least he was thinking of her. It would be really painful when she tried to put these on.

    Doctors' Quarters

    Back to Present

    Kanji was exuberant to see Naoto, but was surprised to see her clothed and using her arms to support herself. Yet… across from her bed was the ruffled sheets of another.