Chapter 1: Rainy Days
Cold rain poured down from the heavens, covering the city in wetness. Most people were smart enough to stay indoors where it was warm and dry, but not others. Delinquents, crime lords and others involved in the 'shady' side of life went about their normal business. In a way, the rain was a comfort for them since water washes away unnecessary things; not just physical evidence of their crimes, but emotional pain as well; pain of feeling and dreams of days prior to ending up a part of the dingy life of the city that so few people knew existed.
Stepping off the sidewalk and into a puddle of water, a young man darted across the street. His shoulder length blond hair was tied back in a ponytail and the only protection he had from the rain was the long, dark jacket that he wore. To his friends and associates, he was known as 'Fay D. Flourite', it was not his real name, but it didn't matter, it wasn't uncommon to go by a fake name in that part of the city.
Fay had lived in the city all his life. An orphan, he was discovered and taken in by a crime lord known as Ashura-ou, one of the more kinder leaders in the area but one who shouldn't be crossed with. Ashura-ou was one of the three leaders that ruled the city, along with Yuuko of the Ichihara Family and Taishakuten of the Empire Group. Fay had been lucky to have ended up with Ashura-ou, where he had been raised like a son alongside Ashura-ou's own child.
"There you are!" a voice cried out and Fay turned his head to look at the limo that was parked next to the curb. He had seen the limo earlier but had paid no attention to it. Now though, stepping out of the back of the vehicle was a person with long black hair that was tied up in a high ponytail and golden eyes. "We've been looking for you!"
Behind Ashura, quickly to place an umbrella over his head was Yasha, Ashura's lover. Yasha had originally been hired as a bodyguard when Taishakuten had threatened to kidnap Ashura to gain control of his father's organization and the two had quickly fallen in love.
"What's wrong?" Fay asked; Ashura didn't normally venture far into the slummier side of the city, preferring instead to stay among normal people. Ashura's days were filled with shopping and spending time with Yasha. Although Ashura was technically one of the best fighters that Ashura-ou had, he rarely became involved in such matters.
"You!" Ashura protested. "You're out in this miserable weather! Come home! Whatever Father is making you do, you can do it later!"
"Ashura..." Yasha said, wanting Ashura to calm down; he knew that making a scene was not the best thing to do, especially not where they were.
"What?" Ashura replied as he turned to look at his lover. He cared about Fay, whom he considered to be his brother, and didn't want to see him out doing jobs that could get him hurt or worst, killed.
Fay was touched. Although he was treated like one of the family, he often felt like an outsider, even after so many years. He supposed it was because he remembered his old family, his parents and grandfather who had tossed him and his twin brother out into the cold. Only Ashura-ou knew about his twin, knew that 'Fay' had been his name and that was the reason why Fay now went by the same name.
Fay thought about Ashura's proposal. He hadn't been to the main house in a while, even though Ashura-ou said he could drop by anytime he wanted. He had his own apartment that he preferred to stay at for most of the time, but perhaps it would be nice to visit the place where he had grown up.
"Okay," Fay said with a gentle smile. It was hard refusing requests from Ashura.
"Yay!" Ashura cried, eagerly clapping his hands together. The three of them climbed into the back of the limo and Ashura handed Fay a towel before pulling out his cell phone. "I'll call ahead to make sure the chefs create us something good to eat."
Fay couldn't help but laugh at that. As a child, Ashura had been known to pig when it came to food. It was actually pretty amazing how skinny he turned out, especially considering that he still liked to eat a lot.
Fay's smiled faded as he began staring out the window. He could sense that there was something missing from his life, but he couldn't figure out what. It was one of the reasons why he preferred spending his time alone, it allowed him time to think but so far he could come up with no answers.
Fay left early in the morning. The rain hadn't stopped and created a grey, hazy atmosphere because of it. It crossed Fay's mind to stay longer, but he still had work to do. He didn't want to slack off and be a burden to Ashura-ou.
He didn't bother saying 'good-bye' since he didn't want to be a nuisance to Ashura and Yasha who would still be sleeping, and Ashura-ou hadn't been there last night as he had been at one of the penthouse apartments that he owned. Fay was slightly grateful for that since whenever they met, Ashura-ou would insist that Fay return to the main house and live there, but Fay wasn't ready for that.
Although he intended to get straight to work, Fay found himself drawn towards a nearby park. A river ran through the park and when he was young, he and Ashura would play together there, exploring. As he reached the river, Fay saw that the rain had made the normally calm water become dangerous.
He remembered that the water had been like that the first time he had seen it when he had ran away only a few days after Ashura-ou had taken him in. He had accidently broken a vase while trying to reach for a book on a high shelf and had feared what would happen; back then he had stared down at the water and thought about jumping in so that he could be reunited with his brother. Ashura-ou had found for him before he was able to go through with it and while Ashura-ou had been mad, it was not because of the vase, he had been mad because Fay had ran away and was thinking of ending his life. On that day, Fay had promised that he would never do something so foolishly again.
Cigarette smoke brought Fay back to the present; he didn't think that someone would be at the park so early in the morning with such drab weather. Turning his head, his eyes widen in surprise when he saw the man standing a few feet away from him, wearing a suit under a trench coat and smoking a cigarette. Fay instantly recognized him as Seishirou, the number one assassin working for the Ichihara Family.
Fay silently swore as he jumped to the side, his foot slipping slightly on the wet grass. He was caught without a weapon and although it seemed like Seishirou was unharmed as well, Fay knew that wasn't case. He knew that Seishirou had powerful special abilities and could easily kill a person with his bare hands.
As the first blast of powerful spells came at him, Fay raised his arms in front of his face to protect it. Taking the blow was a risky move but Fay already knew that the wet ground would make dodging difficult and possibly more deadly.
Spying a cement walkway behind Seishirou, Fay realized that getting there would be his best chance since the ground would be firmer, making it easier for an escape. He hated the idea of running away, but knew that he had little options after getting caught off-guard.
Dropping to a crouch, Fay waited until Seishirou fired off another attack at him before springing into the air. Unfortunately Seishirou had anticipated the move and Fay found a branch of a cherry blossom tree wrapping around his leg.
Fay struggled against the branch, trying to pull his leg free but it was useless. The branch began multiplying and wrapping itself higher and tighter around his body making an escape impossible. Fay wondered what to do, he had magic of his own, which was probably on par with Seishirou's, but he had vowed long ago never to use it, even if it meant his own death.
'I'll see you soon, Fay,' he thought to himself, thinking about his brother. He didn't want to die, but it seemed fate had different plans for him. At least he'd finally be reunited with his brother, he never felt complete without him.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, Fay saw a sword slash down, cutting the branches. As he fell to the ground, fire engulfed the rest of the branches, burning them to a crisp.
Looking up, Fay found Ashura standing between him and Seishirou. Although Ashura held his sword in a stance that showed he was ready to fight, Fay could tell he must have hurried out of the house quickly since he was barefooted and Yasha was not with him.
"I was worried when I woke up and saw you weren't there," Ashura explained, keeping his eyes locked on Seishirou. There were few people in the world that could take Seishirou on one-on-one and Ashura was one of them. For the time being though, Seishirou was content to stand back and silently watch them with amusement.
"Thanks," Fay mumbled as he got to his feet. He felt slightly embarrassed that he needed rescuing. He knew better than to walk around without a weapon, even in an area controlled by Ashura-ou. He was slipping.
Suddenly, Fay felt a sharp pain across his back. Turning as he fell to the ground once more, Fay saw a pretty woman wearing a suit. It was Kendappa, Taishakuten's right hand and someone who should never be taken lightly.
"Being strong, means always knowing your surroundings," she calmly said as she stared down at his look of horror. Kendappa followed Taishakuten because she believed that he was the strongest of the three leaders. Strength was everything according to her.
"Taishakuten and Yuuko have teamed up?" he managed to ask as he coughed up blood.
"We will never work with them," she replied. "I happened to be passing through and decided to join in on the fun."
She kicked him in the ribs, causing Fay to cry out in pain. As he rolled away, he accidently rolled toward the raging river and before Fay knew what was happening, he felt himself falling into the river, where water quickly swept over his head as it carried his body away.
"Fay!" Ashura cried, wanting to go after him but knowing that it was impossible with so many enemies around.
Taking in the situation, Seishirou decided it would be best to leave without further fighting. Where Kendappa went, Souma went as well and he knew that if Ashura was there, Yasha also wouldn't be too far away. Therefore it was best to leave for the time being.
As he left, he could hear Ashura and Kendappa fighting behind him, things would be interesting if they managed to kill each other but he doubted that the Ichihara Family would be that lucky.
'Rain again...' Kurogane sourly thought as he walked down the hall of the high school where he worked as a gym teacher.
Kurogane didn't like rain. When it rained, class had to be held indoors instead of out in the back field. Of the two locations, Kurogane definitely preferred the latter; he liked being outside, plus it forced lazier students to get some fresh air for a change. Being stuck indoors all day had a tendency to be boring.
Kurogane tried not to think about it as he entered his homeroom class, where he immediately glared at the class, but no one was being disruptive. He actually liked his students, liked teaching, but he was a tough teacher. No one would get away easy with him, he would make sure that they learned, whether they wanted too or not.
Looking around the room, Kurogane saw that everyone was there. The anti-social, Shirou Kamui, was staring out the window like always. Kurogane always wondered what was so interesting out there. All that was there was the river that ran along the edge of the school's campus.
Next to Kamui was his step-sister, Monou Kotori, and one of the few people he actually talked too. Kamui's and Kotori's mothers had been lovers when they were young but forced apart by their parents, only to meet up again much later in life; nowadays they, Kamui, Kotori and Kotori's older brother, Fuuma, lived together and Kurogane supposed that they were all happy together.
Behind Kotori was Daidouji Tomoyo, who was lovingly staring at the girl next to her. It was a secret to no one, except one person, who the pretty, rich girl had a crush on. The girl she was staring at was Kinomoto Sakura, who in turn was staring at her boyfriend, Syaoran. They were cute together, despite Sakura's brother's efforts to keep them separated.
The new, clueless transfer student, Kobato, was sitting at the back to the class, talking quietly to her blue dog plushie. She was an odd but sweet child who was always quick to help others, so Kurogane normally left her alone during homeroom.
Towards the front of class was a group of three friends; Watanuki Kimihiro, Doumeki Shizuka and Kunogi Himawari. The three were always together at school, although Watanuki would often scowl and glare at Doumeki who would ignore him. Kurogane didn't know all the details but Doumeki and Himawari often had to help Watanuki with his after school job.
As the classroom quieted down, Kurogane was about to start homeroom when a voice spoke out.
"There's a body in the river."
At first Kurogane didn't know who had spoken until he realized that it had been Kamui. Since Kamui wasn't one to normally make up stories, he marched over to the window that Kamui had been looking out of while the other students attempted to crowd around, wanting to see as well. Sure enough there was a blond head bobbling in the water.
"Stay here and someone call for help!" he ordered as he hurried out of the room. He knew they all had cell phones and could trust that they would do as told.
As fast as he could, Kurogane hurried down the hall and out into the rain. The river was moving fast, but fortunately the person had got caught on a branch of a tree that was hanging just above the water. Diving onto his stomach, Kurogane reached out as far as he could, praying that the river bank held up so that he also didn't end up in the water.
Grasping the wet clothes, Kurogane dragged the person out of the water and onto the shore, making note of the blood and deep slash that was across the man's back. He ignored the wound though and began CPR. In the distance, he could hear the sires of the ambulance that was on its way.
In the back of his mind, Kurogane couldn't help but think that he had been foolish to think that it would be a boring day.
"Did you find him?" Ashura eagerly asked Yasha. It had been hours since Fay had fallen in the river. Ashura was now back at home, wrapped in a warm blanket, waiting for news on Fay.
That morning Yasha had arrived at the scene while Ashura had been battling Kendappa and Souma, who had shown up after Ashura had gotten the upper-hand on Kendappa. The girls had retreated when they saw Yasha and Ashura had immediately started the desperate search to find Fay. After hours of searching in the rain, Ashura had been ordered home by his father, but Yasha had promised to keep looking.
"No," Yasha replied as he walked over and hugged Ashura; he was soaking wet but neither of them cared. Gently he lifted Ashura's right arm and placed a kiss to the area that was wrapped in a bandage. Souma had gotten in a lucky strike when Kendappa had him distracted but the injury wasn't bad. "It doesn't matter though, as long as you're okay."
Ashura sighed, knowing he should scold Yasha for such talk, but he didn't. He knew how much he meant to Yasha as he felt the same way. Yasha was his world and he would sacrifice anything for him and knew that Yasha would do the same for him. That was why he didn't scold Yasha even though the person he considered a brother was still missing.
Wanting to let Yasha know he was okay, Ashura wrapped his arms around the taller man's neck and pressed their lips together for an intense kiss. After a minute, they broke apart and Ashura rested his head against Yasha's chest. "I just want to find him; it's my fault for not paying attention."
"No, it's not."
"It certainly feels like it does."
"Your father has already given the order to find Kujaku," Yasha softly said as he continued to hug Ashura. Kujaku was an information operative who worked for the Ashura Clan. He was one of the best in the business and there wasn't a thing that went on that Kujaku didn't know about or couldn't find out; if anyone could find out what happened to Fay, it was him. The disadvantage with Kujaku, however was that he was often busy and could go missing for long periods of time. Fortunately Kujaku and Ashura adored each other and when he learned that Ashura-ou's child was anguishing over what happened to Fay, he'd quickly show up.
"Good," Ashura replied as he closed his eyes. He was tired, but refused to stop until Fay was found. "I still want to go back out and search though."
"We should wait and have confidence that he'll soon be found," Yasha argued. Enemies could still be in the area and he didn't want Ashura to become the next tragedy of the day. "Kazuhiko and Gingetsu are out looking."
Ashura opened his eyes and narrowed them as he looked up at Yasha with a frown on his face. "Kazuhiko's search does involve more than his girlfriend's apartment, right?" It was no secret that Kazuhiko was crazy about a singer named, Oruha.
"That's why Gingetsu is with him."
Pausing his typing, Ran lifted the glasses off his head and looked at Souma as she entered the room. Inside the glasses, images from all around the city continued to wiz by. Housebound for years, it was a part of Ran's connection to the outside world and it also gave him access to be in charge of information for the Empire Group.
"What is it?"
"We got a call from Sorata and Arashi that a person was pulled out of the river while they were at school today," Souma said to him. "That's not far from where we had the fight with the Ashura Clan this morning. Taishakuten wants you to look into it."
"Understood," Ran replied as he replaced the glasses over his eyes. He didn't particularly like working for Taishakuten, but he had nowhere else to go.
"Hey!" Kamui yelled as he hurried down the street after Fuuma. School was over for the day and Fuuma was heading towards his mysterious part-time job. Kamui was desperate to learn about the job so he could work there as well. Although he was unwilling to admit it, he 'liked' Fuuma even though they had been living as step-brothers for the past three months.
"You should have gone home," Fuuma said while smiling at Kamui. Kamui couldn't help but think about nice Fuuma was. Popular and nice were two of the best words to describe Fuuma. Everyone at school liked him, which only made Kamui jealous.
"I want to work," Kamui insisted. Fuuma's job was keeping him away from home more and more and Kamui feared that they would grow apart. Working together meant they had to spend time together.
"Sorry, but there are no openings," Fuuma replied while shaking his head.
"What do you do anyway?"
"Just a simple delivery boy."
Somehow, Kamui knew that he was lying, but he let the matter drop. "Alright, but let me know if something opens up. I don't mind being a delivery boy either."
"I'll let you know," Fuuma said and he watched Kamui run off. When Kamui was out of sight, he turned towards the alleyway that he had been standing in front of. "You can come out now."
From out of the shadows walked Seishirou, smoking a cigarette and looking amused because of the scene he had just witnessed.
"Was that your boyfriend?"
"No, but he certainly is cute enough," Fuuma cheerfully replied, before growing serious. "I heard about an interesting incident that happened at school today."
"It seems like a person was pulled out of the river this morning."
"That is interesting," Seishirou said. "Was he alive?"
"I don't know," Fuuma replied. "Was it you?"
"We can't rule out the fact that the Empire Group might have students at the school. We have to consider the fact that everyone might be looking for him."
"Find him and I'll take care of it; our game was interrupted this morning."
"I'm on my way to the Green Café right now to see if Kakei has heard anything. I'll get back to you in a little bit."
On the roof of a tall building stood Sumeragi Subaru who, with a serious expression on his face, was staring down at the busy streets below. Next to him was his twin sister, Hokuto, who was looking slightly bored.
"Are you sure he's here?"
"You need to cheer up," Hokuto said as she hugged her brother. "Stop acting like you're half-dead all the time."
"I'll be okay," he replied, wanting to reassure her. He didn't want her to worry or make her sad. She always did so much to take care of him and was one of the most important things in his life. He didn't know what he would do if anything happened to her. "It'll be all over soon."
In the sky above them, the rain finally halted. As the clouds slowly parted, sunlight began streaming through to dry up the land.
Chapter 2: Out
Beeping noises were the first thing that Fay noticed as his conscious drifted awake. His eyes fluttered opened and he found himself staring up at a plain, white ceiling. His mind was partly muddled from painkillers, but he quickly realized that he was in a hospital.
"So you're finally awake," an unfamiliar male voice said. Shifting his glaze, Fay found the man leaning up against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest and his head was slightly bowed with his eyes closed.
Fay wondered who the man was; he wasn't from the Ashura Clan and it didn't seem like he was from the other two organizations either since Fay knew that he wouldn't be alive if that was the case. Still though, there was a certain aura about the man that implied he was a part of their world and was not a normal person. Fay knew that he would have to proceed with caution.
As Fay's drugged mind tried to sort out what happened, he shifted on the bed, trying to get into a more comfortable position, which caused the man's red eyes to snap open and glare at him. Fay felt captivated by him, which he knew could be dangerous.
"Don't do that," the man commanded. "You have a slash on your back that's from an experienced swordsman. I'm amazed that you're even still alive, especially after trying to take a swim like that."
"Are you a doctor?" Fay asked; his voice rough due to his throat being dry.
"No; I'm a school teacher."
"But you know about swords and fighting..."
"My father taught me."
An uneasy silence fell between them as Fay continued to wonder who exactly the man was. Fortunately, the man finally spoke again as if he could read Fay's mind. "I'm Kurogane. I pulled you from the river that you almost drowned in. It didn't seem right leaving you here without knowing if you were okay or not."
Gratefulness ran through Fay. He was alive. But it didn't seem like anyone knew yet since Ashura-ou's men would have been swarming the hospital for protection and Ashura would have been by his side. Perhaps this was the sign that he had been looking for.
"I'm Fay," he said after a bit of hesitation. He thought about telling Kurogane his real name, but it seemed so foreign to him anymore. Fay then closed his eyes and fell back into an uneasy sleep.
Kurogane closed his eyes once more when he saw Fay's breathing even out as he entered a deep sleep. Despite what he had said, he didn't know why he was still there. It was true that he originally had stayed to make sure that Fay would be okay, but the doctors had told him hours ago that Fay would make a full recovery.
He supposed it was partly due to curiosity. It certainly was abnormal to come across a person with a sword wound, let alone such a bad one. Plus Fay hadn't been in the water long so that meant whatever happened, happened close to the school. The students were his responsibility so if there was a potential danger hanging around Kurogane was going to make sure that it stopped.
Shoving himself away from the wall, Kurogane decided it was time for him to go home. Visiting hours were almost over and it was unlikely that Fay would wake again before Kurogane was forced out. He would return tomorrow though, and hopefully get the full story of what had happened from the strange, blond man.
Many people in the city liked the night; the darkness made things easier to hide, but it made no difference for Kujaku. He could blend in well during the day, but night was when he was really able to showcase his abilities, which included getting in and out of any building.
Finding Fay's whereabouts hadn't been a problem, in fact it had been quite easy. He had simply called every hospital in the area, pretending to be reporter and inquiring if a drown man had been brought in that morning. His third call had been a success, but physically getting to Fay proved to be more difficult.
Kujaku had wanted to contact Fay immediately, to get him out of there and to a safe hospital before anyone else realized he was there and still alive. Normally that wouldn't have been a problem, but Kujaku hadn't counted on a baby-sitter to be staying by Fay's side the entire time.
Forced to wait, Kujaku decided to investigate the person in Fay's room. It took him no time at all to gather information on Kurogane and Kujaku supposed that there were worst people to be sticking by Fay's side. What was odd though that no organization tried recruiting him even though it certainly seemed like he had useful skills, Kujaku made a note to look more into that later. For the time being, he wanted to stick close to the hospital in case someone else showed up.
Settling down in a park that was across from the hospital, Kujaku waited and watched. From his position he was able to keep an eye on the entrance, so he'd know when Kurogane left. After a long wait, his patience paid off when the man finally left late into the evening.
Kujaku could have made a move then, but instead he chose to wait longer until it was completely dark. Walking along the side of the hospital, Kujaku quickly found an area that was encased with shadows, which was exactly what he had been looking for. Taking a minute to double check that no one was around; Kujaku extended black wings his back and flew up to the roof of the hospital, making sure to avoid any nearby lights.
Gracefully he landed on the roof and returned the wings to his body before making his way over to rooftop door. It was locked, but wasn't a problem for Kujaku who easily picked it and slipped inside. No one stopped Kujaku as he made his way through the hospital halls. He learned a long time ago, that when sneaking into a place to act like you belonged there. People didn't suspect you when you act natural.
It didn't take long for Kujaku to find Fay's room. It was a private room, since his circumstances were so unusual. It only made things easier for Kujaku so he could talk to Fay without worrying from outsiders.
Slipping into the dark room, Kujaku stared down at Fay's prone body. It didn't take long for Fay to wake up; it was like he could sense that Kujaku was in room, waiting for him. Fay had known when he had awoken earlier that someone would soon come for him.
"Kujaku...?" he asked as he blinked open his eyes. Even in the dark room, he could recognize Kujaku, knowing that it would be him.
"How are you feeling?" he asked while dropping a bag of clothes onto the bed. Earlier in the day, he had gone to Fay's apartment and picked up extra clothes since the ones that Fay had been wearing were destroyed and he couldn't have Fay walking around in a hospital gown.
"Good, you better get ready so we can leave. We've already wasted more time than necessary."
Not making a move, Fay stared down at the bag, not wanting to meet Kujaku's glaze. "What if I said, I didn't want to go?"
"I figured as much," Kujaku replied with a small sigh, knowing that Ashura-ou wouldn't be pleased. Kujaku could tell for a while that Fay was getting tired of this lifestyle; he had seen it had happen before when someone had simply wanted to quit. Not always did a good result come out it, because just because you claimed you quit, didn't mean that others would accept it. "You know that I can't guarantee anything, right?"
"Ashura will be sad."
"I'll contact him when it's safe."
"Well... I'm not going to make you do something that you don't want too," Kujaku said as he turned his head and looked towards the door. There was no point in trying to convince Fay to do something that he no longer had any desire for. If a person's heart wasn't in what they did, a quick death would soon be the result. "Have fun with retirement."
"Thank you," Fay replied as he closed his eyes, needing and wanting more sleep.
Without another word, Kujaku exited the room and wasn't surprised when he found a man wearing sunglasses waiting in the hall. Kujaku recognized him as Saiga from the Ichihara Family, but he wasn't concerned; it was an unspoken agreement that those in the information business didn't become involve in fighting.
"Looks like there's nothing to be concerned about," Kujaku cheerfully told him, knowing that Saiga would get the hint. "He's dead so there's no further reason to spend time around here."
For Fay's protection, he'd have to officially be listed as dead. Despite claiming that he would contact Ashura when it was safe, Kujaku knew that it would be impossible for Fay to do. Death was the only way to save Fay from others coming after him.
"That's too bad, but what's done is done," the other man said with a grin on his face. "I guess I better report what happened to Kakei."
As he walked away, Kujaku turned his face upwards towards the security camera that was mounted high on the wall. "You understand too; right, Ran?" he asked, knowing that he wouldn't get a response, but confident that the message got through loud and clear.
An eye appeared on Kujaku's forehead as he walked down the hall. He would help Fay as much as he could but after that Fay would be on his own. He hoped that Fay would be happy in his new life.
Ran sighed as he removed his headgear and logged off his computer. He had understood what Kujaku had meant in the scene he had witnessed, but whether he would follow through with it was an entirely different matter since he didn't want to cross Taishakuten.
Ran sympathized with Fay, if he could get out too, he would, but it wasn't that simple. Taishakuten was never one who would easily give up, if he discovered that Fay was alive and that Ran had lied to him they both would be in trouble.
Mulling over his options, Ran headed to make his report to Taishakuten. He didn't particularly like meeting with the man in person, but Taishakuten had taken him in and had given him a home when no one else would, even if it had only been because of his skills. That had been two years ago and Ran wasn't comfortable around him.
Ran found Taishakuten relaxing in one of his many rooms. By his side, seated on a large pillow, was Kendappa, playing a harp. Her skills with the harp were just as good as her skills with a sword and Taishakuten liked listening to her play.
"Yes?" Taishakuten asked when he saw Ran standing in the doorway. The music from the harp continued, a sign that Taishakuten didn't believe that Ran was important enough to devote his entire attention too.
"Fay D Flourite is dead."
"That's a nuisance," Taishakuten replied before looking down at Kendappa who finally halted her playing. "You were supposed to toy with him to send a message, not kill him."
"It was an accident."
Taishakuten didn't seem satisfied with that answer. "I'm sending Souma away on an assignment; you're not to contact her while she's gone."
"Yes," Kendappa replied, clearly unhappy with the decision but willing to accept it. Ran secretly knew that she would contact Souma anyway; Kendappa didn't fear Taishakuten the way he did.
"Perhaps being away from the one you love will teach you to pay better attention next time."
Seeing that he was being ignored, Ran quickly left the room. He really did not understand Taishakuten; there were times when the man was more ruthless than anyone, but at the same time, he seemed to treasure love more than anything in the world. 'Love'; that was a word that didn't exist in Ran's language, which was why he found it so hard to relate to Taishakuten.
As he headed back to his room, Ran passed a window and he took a minute to stare out of it. There were times when he wished he had the courage to go outside, but whenever he had tried doing it in the past two years, panic attacks had overcame him. One day he wished that he would be able to overcome his fears and experience the love that Taishakuten often spoke about.
Moring came all too soon for Fay. Last night had seemed like a dream and Fay was still wondering if he had imagined it or not. Knowing he was free, made him feel refreshed, even his back did not hurt as much as it did the day before. He knew that there were still dangers but for the time being he wasn't going to think about it.
The surprises kept coming for Fay as Kurogane arrived as soon as the hospital allowed visitors for the day. He had to admit he hadn't expected to see Kurogane again so soon, but wasn't unhappy that it happened.
"Why are you here?"
"It's Saturday, there's no school today."
"I realize that," Fay replied, even though he had no clue what day it was. "But why are you here? You don't even know me."
"You're a strange person with an abnormal wound," Kurogane sternly said. "Yet, the cops were barely around yesterday and there's been no appearance from them today. Don't you find that odd?"
Fay realized that Kujaku must have taken care of things, but he certainly couldn't tell Kurogane that. "It was simply an accident," he lied, a fake, cheerful smile appearing on his face. "Some friends and I were playing in a park by the river. I slipped, was accidently stabbed and fell into the river. The water was strong due to all the rain and I was swept way before my friends could save me."
"I don't believe you."
Fay dropped the fake smile from his face, realizing that Kurogane wouldn't be fooled; Kurogane was smart for someone who was normal person. "It doesn't concern you. Its better if you don't know."
"It does concern me if there was fighting near the school. I have students to protect."
Fay sighed, Kurogane had a point, but there was no way that Fay could tell him the truth, at least not yet. "It won't happen again. Yesterday was an exception; fights usually happen far away from here."
"So you are involved in something."
Fay gave Kurogane a hard, serious look. "Not anymore."
Yasha gently brushed at the dried tears on Ashura's cheeks; they were still in bed together and the latter still fast asleep. They had stayed up late into the night keeping hope that Fay would be found and when they had received word from Kujaku that Fay was dead, Ashura wouldn't rest until he had finally cried himself to sleep early that morning.
"Yasha..." Ashura murmured in his sleep as he shifted closer to his lover. Yasha hoped that Ashura was having a good dream because when he woke, there would be nothing to be happy about.
Despite not wanting to, Yasha knew that he would soon have to wake Ashura up. Funeral plans had to be made and it would be best if they got things settled as quickly as possible for Ashura's sake. After that it would be time to move on, so that he healing process could begin.
"Ashura, it's time-"
"Let him rest."
Caught off guard, Yasha quickly turned his head towards the door. Even though in the main house should be safe, Yasha didn't relax until he saw who it was. It was clear to anyone who looked at them that Ashura-ou and his child were related; the same pointed ears, same golden eyes and same long black hair, although Ashura-ou's hung loose instead of in a ponytail.
"Did something happen?" Yasha asked, but Ashura-ou ignored his question.
"He'll be alright," Ashura-ou said and it seemed like he was going to add something but instead he turned and walked away, leaving Yasha to wonder what had just happened.
"Yasha?" said a sleepy Ashura as he blinked open his eyes and stared up at the other man.
"Go back to sleep," Yasha replied, remembering Ashura¬-ou's words.
"I thought I heard my father's voice," he murmured as he closed his eyes.
"It's okay." Yasha began gently stroking Ashura's hair and soon the younger man was asleep once more.
Thick smoke filled the room causing Watanuki to hold back a cough. He hated it whenever Yuuko decided to smoke and drink all day, it meant that he would be forced to spend hours cleaning up after her.
Being in Yuuko's debt and forced to work as her maid was a pain, but he had to admit that she was pretty nice when sober. He didn't have much of a clue as to what she did, but when he asked her once she had cheerfully replied "we grant wishes" and left it at that. Watanuki hadn't exactly known what she had meant but he sensed she was being honest with her response.
"... And that's what happened," spoke a male who was standing in front of Yuuko. Watanuk recognized the person; he was Fuuma, the older brother of a girl in his class. Watanuki couldn't help but wonder what Fuuma was doing there as he had never seen him there before. But he got the impression that Fuuma and Yuuko were a lot alike.
"Pity, I liked him," Yuuko replied. It seemed like she had not noticed that Watanuki was there, but Watanuki knew better. Yuuko was not a person to underestimate. "Ashura-ou will be sad."
"Ashura will be sadder."
"What's going on?" Watanuki finally asked, drawing their attention. As he suspected, Yuuko didn't seem surprise to see him.
"A player in a game we're playing decided to quit," Yuuko explained with a cheerful expression on her face. "This is Fuuma, another one of our players."
Looking at Fuuma, Watanuki saw that his expression matched Yuuko's, which immediately made Watanuki suspicious of them. He didn't know what they were up to but as long as it didn't involve him, he didn't care. Unfortunately, Yuuko's plans often involved him, much to Watanuki's displeasure.
"Hello," Fuuma said, in an attempt to be friendly, but Watanuki wasn't buying it.
"I know who you are. Kotori is in my class."
"You didn't tell me, you had a sister!" exclaimed Yuuko, turning her attention back to Fuuma. Watanuki suddenly felt very sorry for Fuuma since he knew what Yuuko could be like when she decided something was 'interesting' or 'fun'. "Bring her along sometime."
"Not going to happen."
"I think that's a wise decision," Watanuki said to him. He was starting to like Fuuma, at least the teen knew what kind of dangers Yuuko was capable of. If Watanuki had a younger sister, he wouldn't want her around Yuuko either.
"Does she have your gifts too? If she did, she'd be very useful."
Fuuma's smile never wavered but Watanuki could tell that Fuuma wasn't completely happy with the way the conversation was going. "Nope! She's completely normal."
"Pity," Yuuko replied, looking kind of sad.
"Gift?" Watanuki asked, finally registering what Yuuko had said. "You can see ghosts too?"
"I see wishes."
"Wishes?" Watanuki didn't know that such a thing was possible.
"That's why Fuuma's so useful," Yuuko said with a smile returning to her face.
"Don't tell anyone," Fuuma added. "I'm sure you understand why."
"Yeah," Watanuki agreed. He knew all too well what kind of reactions people gave when they find out that you're not normal. When he was a child, he hadn't known that he was weird would freely tell the other kids what he saw, making them afraid to be around him. It wasn't until he met Doumeki and Himawari that he had a true friend.
"Watanuki, get us something to drink," Yuuko ordered, deciding that their casual talk was over.
Knowing that he shouldn't argue with her, Watanuki walked off, scowling the whole way, knowing that he'd have to clean up a huge mess later, which was the one thing he wanted to avoid. Once he was out of sight, Fuuma and Yuuko returned to their conversation from earlier.
"We might have a problem," Fuuma said, "involving Seishirou."
"We knew that he'd be an issue when he was allowed to join," Yuuko reminded him. "But keep an eye on him."
"His wish is an odd one; it concerns me." Fuuma frowned. He liked Seishirou, but at the same time he was afraid of what the man was capable of.
"Has Kakei heard anything regarding that subject?"
Fuuma shook his head. "Not yet, but he claims that Saiga is working on it."
"I'll contact some people as well to see if they've heard anything."
"Outside help?" Fuuma asked, knowing what she was getting at. That was the benefit of seeing wishes. Not even Yuuko could keep things hidden from him. Fuuma figured he was one of the few people who knew the truth about things.
"Mind your own business," Yuuko said, but she was also smiling. She didn't mind Fuuma since he knew how to play his role well. "I'm a lot more tolerate than some people out there."
"I know," Fuuma replied. "I'll make sure to watch my back."
Chapter 3: New Meetings
It was a sunny afternoon as Ashura walked through the halls of the Ashura Clan's main house. Despite the sun, Ashura's mood was foul; he still couldn't believe that Fay had died three days ago. Even though everyone tried telling him that it wasn't his fault that Fay died, he still felt responsible and no matter what anyone said, they couldn't get him to change his mind.
Currently Ashura was seeking out his father. Although Ashura often ignored any business when it came to the organization, he decided earlier that day that he wanted to take on a larger role. He wanted revenge, but also, he couldn't help but think that Fay's death could have been prevented if he had practiced combat skills on a regular basis.
As he reached his father's home office, Ashura paused slightly when he heard a phone ring on the other side of the door. It surprised him since he realized that the call wasn't coming in through the normal line and it had an odd ring to it that Ashura had never heard before.
"I thought I told you not to call," Ashura heard his father say through the door. "I'm not speaking to you right now."
Curiosity got the better of Ashura; pressing himself up against the door, he decided to continue listening in on the conversation. He knew it was wrong, but at the same time, he got a feeling that his father would deny that the call took place if asked.
"I don't want excuses or apologies; you're always pulling stunts to get my attention and this time you've gone too far". Ashura-ou sounded mad, which only made Ashura's curiosity grow. "I'll call you when I've decided to forgive you."
After that Ashura heard a click as his father hung up. Lost in thought, and forgetting that he had wanted to speak to his father, Ashura wandered away. His father had been angry, very angry, but the only thing that happened recently was Fay's death and surely there was no connection there. His father loved Fay like he was his own son, but Ashura had to admit that he seemed really angry on the phone and it was possible that Fay's death shouldn't have happened.
Ashura's paused as his mind went into overdrive. It was crazy to think that his father had something to do with Fay's death, even if it was accidental. But at the same time, Ashura couldn't get his father's words out of his head.
Moving once again, Ashura hurried to find Yasha who was currently partaking in some training exercises elsewhere on the grounds. He needed to talk to someone, someone he could trust and who wasn't afraid to call him crazy.
Like always, Ran was busy with work. He rarely did anything but work since he would become bored when he'd have too much free time. Relaxing was a nice thing in theory, but Ran didn't know how to truly relax.
Ran's current mission was to investigate members of the Ashura Clan. With Fay gone, someone would soon be promoted to a higher role within the organization and it was Ran's job to make sure that the Empire Group stayed up-to-date of all things going on in the Ashura Clan.
Currently a picture of a man named Kazuhiko was on his screen. Information rapidly scrolled as Ran read the man's profile and he quickly dismissed the man of having any advancement. It seemed that Kazuhiko was very attached to his girlfriend who wasn't involved in their lifestyle. That would make him vulnerable since she could be put in too much danger.
Moving onto the next person, Ran's eyes fell upon a picture of Gingetsu. Ran knew who he was of course, Ran knew who everyone was in both the Ashura Clan and the Ichihara Family, but there was something about Gingetsu that made him different in Ran's eyes. Maybe it was because they both knew very well how lonely life could be.
Only hesitating for a second, Ran frantically typed at his keyboard and soon he found a live view of Gingetsu, who was currently in a night club with Kazuhiko. They were seated at a table together, watching the stage where a beautiful woman was singing. Ran assumed that the woman was Kazuhiko's girlfriend, since the place appeared to be closed and they were receiving a private concert.
"Ran…" a voice said and Ran quickly changed the computer screen back to Gingetsu profile. Turning his chair, he found Kendappa behind him.
"Yes?" he replied as he held his breath. When taking care of business, Kendappa would be completely serious, but away from work, she was rather nice, even when Souma wasn't around. The problem was, he never knew which Kendappa he would be dealing with.
To his relief though, Kendappa smiled and ruffled his hair. "Relax; I'm not going to bite."
"What do you need?"
"Taishakuten is angry," she said, growing serious. "He wants someone from the Ashura Clan taken out."
"Is that wise? We just killed one of their members."
"I know, but orders are orders. We follow Taishakuten because he's strong, so he must know what he's doing."
"Who's the target?" Ran asked. Even though he respected Taishakuten, it didn't mean that the man was always right.
"We'll just go with him," Kendappa said as she pointed to the screen behind Ran to where Gingetsu's profile was still displayed.
"Are you sure?" Ran asked, keeping his emotions hidden, but not knowing how to talk Kendappa out of it without giving himself away. He didn't know why he cared about Gingetsu so much, he just did. "I'm sure there's someone more important that could be targeted; like Ashura or Yasha."
"It's fine; Taishakuten said that anyone would do." Turning around Kendappa began walking away, ending any chance Ran had of changing her mind. "I'm going to contact Sorata and Arashi as backup; they could use some more experience."
Being left alone once again, Ran wondered what he was going to do. He didn't want for Gingetsu to be a target but he couldn't exactly go against Taishakuten's word without endangering his own life. Ran was unhappy with his life, but that didn't mean he wanted to sacrifice it.
As he went back to work, Ran knew that he had a lot of thinking to do.
All around Kurogane students were hurrying from the school for the day. He was keeping a watchful eye on them all, making sure that they were all staying safe. Even though nothing had happened since Fay was found in the river and repeated assurances from Fay that fights normally didn't happen in the area, Kurogane couldn't help but be concerned.
At the end of the walkway, Kurogane noticed that two students seemed like they were having an argument. He recognized them; they were Arisugawa Sorata and Kishuu Arashi. They were both in his homeroom class the year before.
Walking over to them, to stop the fight before it increased, Kurogane couldn't help but overhear a part of their conversation.
"But I want to go out," Sorata complained.
"We got a call for a job," Arashi replied with an annoyed voice. "You know that when we get called for jobs, we have to stop everything and do it."
"We should quit," Sorata said. "Let's run away somewhere and get married. We can get out of this city and go somewhere where they can't find us."
"You know that's not possible."
"Knock it off, you two!" Kurogane yelled. He had already heard more than he wanted, but it had been an accident.
As the two students wandered away, Kurogane couldn't help but think about what he had accidently heard. They seemed liked they were involved in something, which often meant trouble. Speaking of trouble, Kurogane's thoughts turned to Fay. He knew that Fay had been involved in something as well and he wondered if there was a connection. He made a mental note to ask Fay when he visited the injured man later that afternoon.
Hokuto shoved an apple into her mouth as she walked through the busy streets, carrying many bags of groceries in her arms. They had rented a cheap apartment, not knowing how long they would they would be in the city and Hokuto had volunteered to go shopping for them.
As she hurried along, she eyed a clothing store with envy. Her own clothes were fine, but since that incident, Subaru had taken to only wearing plain and dark clothing. Hokuto desperately wanted to give him a make-over, but there was no time for that at the moment.
Hokuto sighed as she continued on her way. She wanted Subaru's quest for revenge to be over. She lost count how many years it's been since they had entered the veterinary clinic to find the place covered in blood. No body had been found, but due to the amount of blood and the fact that Seishirou hadn't been seen since, it was clear that something horrible had happened to him that day.
Subaru had taken the news hard. Although he had been reluctant to admit his feelings for Seishirou, he only realized how much he cared once Seishirou was gone. Hokuto had felt guilty about that; she had pushed for Subaru and Seishirou to be together despite their age difference. Perhaps if she had held back, Subaru wouldn't be in as much pain as he was currently in.
For years they travelled the world for some sign of Seishirou's killer, but never found any leads. Finally when they arrived in the city the other day, Subaru had told her that the killer was there somewhere, he just knew it. Hokuto didn't want to think about what would happen when they found that man. She didn't like her brother's quest for revenge, but she stayed by his side because she feared what would happen to him if she wasn't there.
Crossing the street, Hokuto was almost back at the apartment building when she accidently bumped into a teenage male that was standing on the sidewalk, looking around as if he was lost.
"I'm sorry!" she cried as she tried not to drop her bags. Fortunately the teen helped to steady her so that nothing was dropped.
"Are you okay?" he asked, although Hokuto could tell that he was rather grumpy. At least his mother had apparently taught him to be polite.
"Yes, thank you," she replied, giving him a smile. She wasn't about to let a little grumpiness to let her down. "Do you live around here too?"
"No," he replied while looking away. "I was following a friend but I lost track of him."
"Would you like some help in finding him?" Hokuto asked. "I can just take these bags upstairs and come back down."
"No, it's okay."
"Good luck then," she said, a little disappointed. She liked helping people but if the teen refused, there wasn't anything she could do about it. "My name is Hokuto if we ever meet again. What's yours?"
Hokuto watched Kamui as he walked away. She had a feeling that he did need help but wouldn't admit it. She hoped that he would be able to find his friend without too much trouble.
Kamui was annoyed; he thought his plan was clever; all he had to do was follow Fuuma, keeping far enough back so that he wouldn't get caught and he would be able to find out about the mysterious job that always occupied Fuuma's time.
But he had failed, he had lost sight of Fuuma and now he was lost in a strange neighbourhood. He knew he should have asked that lady, Hokuto, for help, but he was too prideful. He would never admit that he was lost, at least not to a stranger like her.
It was his pride that kept him walking, hoping that he would stumble upon Fuuma. He had liked Fuuma ever since they first met five months ago. He didn't know then that their mothers had known each other a long time ago and didn't know that they would quickly marry after being reunited. Nevertheless, he still liked Fuuma. Besides Fuuma was rarely home anyway so it was like they had a sibling relationship.
Spying a café, Kamui decided to admit defeat and enter it; at the very least he figured he could find out where he was. To his surprise however, he found Fuuma inside, talking to a man who was standing behind the counter.
Ducking down in a booth, Kamui wished that he could get closer so he could hear what they were saying, but didn't in case he was spotted. The last thing he wanted was for Fuuma to realize that he had been followed.
Fortunately for Kamui, Fuuma only stayed for a few more minutes before leaving and he didn't appear to notice Kamui on his way out, for which Kamui was grateful for, but it also made him concerned. He couldn't be certain, but it seemed like Fuuma was involved in something dangerous. That was the only reason he could think for why Fuuma would be so secretive of his job.
Kamui knew that he needed to get to the bottom of things, before Fuuma got in over his head. He knew he should trust Fuuma, that he should know that Fuuma was smart enough not to get involved in anything that was deadly, but he couldn't help but think that this time, Fuuma needed his help.
"You're here again?" Fay said as Kurogane entered his hospital room that afternoon. Every day since the accident Kurogane had visited him and even though Fay had started to expect the visits, he was still surprised when they happened.
"Since I'm the only one who visits you, I wouldn't complain," Kurogane replied as he dropped into a vacant chair. Fay could tell that he wanted to ask why no one else visited but wouldn't since he considered it not his business.
It had only been a few days, but Fay was already feeling a lot better. He was allowed to sit up and his days were spent reading books that both Kurogane and the nurses would bring him. He had to admit though, that even with the books, he was often bored throughout the day and longed to get out of there, even though he had no where to stay.
"How was school today?" Fay asked, not knowing what else to talk about. "Any suspicious activity?" He knew that Kurogane was still worried that something could happen to one of the students, even though Fay had told him plenty of times that he was being paranoid.
Kurogane remained quiet for a minute and Fay had started to wonder what was wrong when Kurogane finally asked the question he had been holding back. "Are students involved in… whatever you did?"
"No," Fay immediately replied, surprised at the question. "My adopted brother and I started young, but that was only because of his father's connections. Someone with a normal life wouldn't be bothered with."
"And you're sure about this?"
"Did something happen?" Fay asked, not liking where the questioning was going. Kurogane was always pretty serious, but today he was more serious than normal.
"I overheard a conversation between two students," Kurogane told him. "The guy wanted to go out on a date with his girlfriend, but she said they were too busy, that they had a 'job' to do for someone before they could go on their date."
"That sounds like a normal teenage conversation," Fay replied with a small laugh. He had feared something far worst since he couldn't guarantee that the Empire Group and Ichihara Family weren't recruiting teens into their organizations.
"No," Kurogane replied with a shake of his head. "It didn't feel like a normal conversation."
"If students are involved, I know nothing about it," Fay said. It was the truth, even with himself and Ashura, they were only allowed to train and always had to put school first. It wasn't until he was older that he had been allowed to take on a more active role in the organization. "But if you're right, stay out of it. These people should not be messed with."
"Students of the school are my responsibility; especially if they're involved in something they shouldn't be in."
"They're not going to see it that way. They're going to see an outsider interfering in a place he shouldn't," Fay warned. "Only useful people with special skills are recruited. If these kids are involved, they'll know how to kill you."
"I can take care of myself."
"You're not listening!" Fay cried, getting frustrated. Despite only knowing Kurogane for a few days, Fay cared about what happened to him, but he didn't understand why Kurogane cared so much about protecting his students. "They're not going to care that you're a teacher at their school, that you've might even have taught them before. All you're going to be is a target who needs to be eliminated."
Angry red eyes glared at him and Fay knew that he had said too much. "What exactly are they involved in?"
"You have no idea what goes on in this city," Fay replied as one last chance to make Kurogane drop the subject. Unfortunately it didn't work and Fay could tell that Kurogane was determined to drag the truth out of him.
"Then tell me."
Fay sighed as he looked away. He had full intentions of never telling Kurogane about his past. It was better for Kurogane if he just forgot about it all and moved on with his daily life, but Kurogane appeared to not want to do that. "I won't tell you about the organization I belong… belonged to. After everything they've done for me, it's the least I can do in return. Besides, they aren't involved; things wouldn't have changed that much in a few days."
"Just exactly how many organizations are there?"
"Three. The Empire Group is run by a man named Taishakuten. His right hand is a woman named Kendappa and was the one who put me in here. Would he have high school students working for him? I don't know. I never saw any in my encounters with them.
"The Ichihara Family is run by a woman named Yuuko. She has a laid back approach to life, unlike Taishakuten's ruthlessness, but that only makes her more dangerous. There's something about her that makes people want to trust her. If students are joining any organization it's probably hers, but again, I've never encountered any during any battle."
Kurogane didn't say anything when Fay had finished speaking. He seemed lost in thought and Fay hoped that was a good sign, that Kurogane would drop any nonsense about it being his responsibility to protect the students. If students were involved, they didn't need protecting, and if they weren't involved it was unlikely that they would ever be affected by what happened between the organizations.
It was early in the evening when Gingetsu left Kazuhiko at the night club and began walking home. He knew that the other man wanted to spend time with Oruha before she performed for real that night since it was rare that they received a night off. Normally they wouldn't have even had that night off if Fay's death hadn't quieted things inside the Ashura Clan for the time being. It seemed odd to Gingetsu that no order for retribution had been given yet, but it wasn't his place to question Ashura-ou.
Expecting a peaceful night, Gingetsu was surprised when a call came through the communicator that was attached to the dark glasses that he always wore. He was even more surprise when he heard a voice that he didn't recognize.
"Act natural," the voice said. "You're being followed and we can't let them know that I'm speaking to you."
"Who are you?" Gingetsu asked, unconcerned with the news; he could handle himself in a fight. The voice belonged to a male that much Gingetsu could tell, but other than that he had no clue to the identity of the person. "Only someone from the Ashura Clan should have access to this device and I don't recognize your voice."
"That doesn't matter," the person quickly replied. "Just follow my orders and I'll get you out of there."
"I think I'll take my chances with the person following me."
"It's not just one person; there's one behind you and two in front."
Gingetsu wasn't worried. "That doesn't seem like bad odds."
"One of them is Kendappa."
It didn't surprise Gingetsu that the Empire Group was behind the attack. He figured that they would make another move now that the Ashura Clan was down a man; it was the perfect opportunity to try and gather more control over the city. It did surprise him however that Kendappa was involved, but he was glad, because if Kazuhiko was also being targeted, it meant that the other man would have an easier time dealing with the attackers. Gingetsu wasn't worried about Kazuhiko since he knew the man was able to look after himself.
"Don't slow down," the commanded and Gingetsu realized he would have to play along for the time being. Even in a one-on-one fight he doubted that he could beat Kendappa and he had no clue who the other assailants were.
"A name makes things easier."
"It's Ran," the voice said with a bit of reluctance. The name wasn't familiar to Gingetsu but he could tell that Ran was telling the truth and that it wasn't a fake name. Gingetsu wondered if he was also part of the Empire Group, or worked for someone else.
As Gingetsu continued to walk along the sidewalk, he saw that he was about to reach the corner where the traffic light was currently red. Gingetsu began slowing down to stop when Ran suddenly spoke out again.
"Don't stop," Ran said and Gingetsu heard typing in the background. He knew whoever he was dealing with had to be a skilled hacker, which would also explain how Ran managed to break through the security codes that were in place for the Ashura Clan's communications.
True enough, before Gingetsu had reached the corner, the lights had suddenly turned green. "Move quickly, but try not to stand out."
Gingetsu wasn't even reached halfway across the intersection, he saw that the lights were already flashing 'caution' and knew that it was Ran's work. Around him, other pedestrians quickly hurried across and he easily blended in with them.
"Did it work?" he asked Ran when he was safe on the other side.
"You lost one, but the other two are still in front of you, one of which is Kendappa."
Gingetsu tried to hide his frustration. If it had been Kendappa behind him, he would have tried taking out the others before she had a chance to catch up. Instead though, he realized he had to listen to Ran a bit longer and hoped that he could trust him.
"Turn left and head down the alleyway."
"It's a dead end."
"On your left should be a door."
True enough, Ran was right again and Gingetsu wondered how many cameras were currently on him. Ignoring that thought, Gingetsu grabbed the handle and tried to pull the door open, only to discover that the door wouldn't budge.
"Just a moment, it's an electrical lock," Ran said and Gingetsu heard typing once again. "I can unlock it from here."
It didn't take long for Gingetsu to hear a click as the door was unlocked and he hurried inside before he was spotted. The door had barely closed when Ran locked it again, giving Gingetsu an opportunity to look around where he currently was, but there wasn't much to look at since the place looked abandoned as the floor was covered in a thick layer of dust.
"What is this place?"
"A lab that was abandoned seven months ago," Ran replied. "And before you ask, we had nothing to do with what happened here."
"So you are from the Empire Group."
There was a long pause and Gingetsu wondered if he had angered Ran, but when Ran began speaking again, he sounded sad and lonely. "Yeah…"
An awkward silence fell between them before Gingetsu began speaking again. "So why are you helping me?"
"Because… it's wrong… with what they're doing to you…"
Without another word, Gingetsu began following Ran's directions for getting through the lab. Ran assured him that there was another exit that would be clear and Gingetsu had little options but to listen to him.
"Turn left here and then at the next hallway go right."
"Have they found this place yet?"
"Yes," Ran replied. "I'm trying to stall them and giving them false leads but Kendappa is insisting on searching inside the lab."
"Are they inside yet?"
"No, I told Kendappa that the electrically to the door had been cut off so there was nothing that I could do. She's going around to the main entrance now so it won't be long until she finds a way inside.
"Go left; you're almost at the exit."
Turning the corner, Gingetsu found himself at another metal door and heard the sound of Ran unlocking it. Briefly he thought that he could be walking into a trap, but he felt the honesty in Ran's voice and knew that he could trust him.
"You'll be exiting out onto a side street. Go right and make your way to the next street. From there you should be able to get away on your own without trouble. I'll keep them stalled until you're far enough away."
"Thank you for your help," Gingetsu said. "Will you be contacting me again?"
"No, I don't want to get either of us in trouble."
"You better not have sacrificed your own safety to help me."
"It's okay," Ran quickly replied, but Gingetsu didn't believe him. He knew that Ran had taken a serious risk in helping him; a risk that could cost Ran. "I'm good at covering my tracks. Watch your back though, I think Taishakuten will calm down after awhile and forget about you, but I can't be positive."
"Take care of yourself and contact me if you ever need my help," Gingetsu said. It was just as well that he wouldn't be hearing from Ran again, Gingetsu hated to be bothered by matters that were unrelated to work, but then again, he couldn't help but feel a bit of concern for Ran.
The communicator went silent and Gingetsu found himself alone once again. As he headed outside and returned to the busier streets the thought of Ran's sad voice was still on Gingetsu's mind. He wondered why Ran's voice was like that.
Pushing thoughts of Ran out of his head, Gingetsu placed a call to the Ashura Clan. They needed to know what happened so that the other members of the organization could be put on alert. He then called Kazuhiko so that they could go together to the Ashura Clan's headquarters, so that they could receive their orders for how to respond to the new threat.
Their night off was now a long forgotten memory.