“I need you to do me a favor.”
Shiori looks back at me. Surprise and wariness were clear in her eyes. “I'm already helping you escape. What more do you wish to ask of me?” It was obvious that she didn't trust me and she was vexed at me.
“Help me disappear.”
“Kozuke said that you've helped women sneak out of the country and gave them new identities. I'm asking if you can help me leave the country with a new identity.”
I don't what shocked her more, my request or my nonchalant attitude. It takes her a few moments before she responded. “Why would you want that?”
Why did I want that? The answer was quite simple. I can't live my life like this anymore. It's too much. Being told lie after lie after lie. Everyone around me keeping secrets and no one close to me willing to tell me the truth. Not knowing who to trust and constantly being targeted. The realization that the men in my life suddenly felt like strangers hit me harder than I care to admit. I refuse to be a pawn in this game between them. This is not the life that I wanted.
I considered telling her my reason but decided that she didn't need to know. “With me gone, you'll have your master all to yourself. So, does it really matter to you what my reason is?”
Shiori narrowed her eyes and stared at me for several seconds. She let out a sigh. “Okay, I'll help you. But we need to leave now before the guards don't see us.”
A few days passed as Shiori got everything in order for my new life. Today was the day I was going to leave the country and leave my old life behind.
“From now on your name is Feng Xiuying.” Shiori said, debriefing me on the details of my new identity.
I raised an eyebrow at the name. “Feng Xiuying?”
“Yes.” She said, moving right along. “You're an only child and both your parents passed away. That'll explain why you don't have any family around. One of the most important things to remember is that you can't let others know you're associated with the Blood King.”
I nodded to show my understanding. “Feng Xiuying. Only child. Deceased parents. No connection to the Blood King. Got it.”
“Here,” She said, giving me a bag. “there's clothes and some coin to help you get by.” I saw something flicker in her eyes and after a moment of hesitation, she asked, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
Her question bounces around in my head. I've asked myself the same thing. I thought about how my parents and Daichi would feel if I just vanished into thin air. I thought about how Hayate and Katsu would react. I even thought about what Kozuke would do. Even though I can't bring myself to trust them anymore, I still care about them. I know I'm going to miss them and I know what I'm about to do will affect them. But I have to do what's best for me, as selfish as that may seem. It's going to hurt like hell to go but it's slowly killing me to stay.
My answer was of absolute resolute and unwavering. “Yes.”
Shiori gave a small nod. “In that case, we need to head out. There are horses waiting outside. I'll tell you more details on the way.” Soon, we were heading towards the kingdom's border and Shiori proceeded to give detailed instructions of what I needed to do. I listened to every word.
Shiori suddenly stops so I stopped too. “This is where we have to part. Keep heading straight and you'll reach the Fánróng Kingdom. You'll have to figure out the rest once you get there. And remember you are no longer Kihara Mei and have no association with the Blood King or Kozuke.”
“I understand.” As she turned to leave, I said my farewell. “Thank you. I know you have your own reasons for doing this. But still, thank you for helping me."
She didn't say anything but gave me one more glance. With a subtle nod, she left and I was on my own.
I took a deep breath. There was no going back now. The horse I was riding gave out a neighing sound. I gently stroked its soft mane. “Guess it's just you and me now.” I muttered. I took one last look behind. To all the ones that I'm leaving, I'm sorry but I have to do this for me.
As I continued my journey, Shiori's words kept repeating in my mind.
You are no longer Kihara Mei.