Chapter 11: The Beginning of the End

Author's notes: Wow....that last chapter was kinda depressing there at the end. Oh well, a little angst never hurt anyone. I know that this chapter has taken a while to get written but it just didn't want to be written. Gah....I should try to work on one thing at a time but my mind just can't stay focused on any one thing for too long. So thank you for waiting. Here is the newest chapter in KazeHa and Alexian's story. If you have the time please read my newest story "Rebirth" it's also a Misty fic (rated R for violence). Sorry for the shameless plug. Also I would like to thank my new Beta reader, kuronekotyger, for helping me with this chapter.

KazeHa looked at himself in the mirror across from Alexian's bed. He didn't look the same anymore. The gray suit just didn't seem to do anything but hang off his limbs like skin three sizes too large. The color made his caramel skin take on a sickly pallor, which wasn't improved by the depressed, dead black color of his eyes. Not even the brilliant color of his tattoo was unaffected by the darkness that seemed to seep from every pour of his being. KazeHa hung his head, but turned at the loud sigh coming from behind him.

Alexian was looking him up and down, his eyes critical. The look made KazeHa shiver. Of course, he found himself shivering anytime Alexian looked at him anymore. "These cloths definitely don't suit you." Alexian reached out and touched the gray material of KazeHa's shirt. "Maybe we can convince the Queen to let you have some grays in your own style instead. It might help you look a little less...well, dead."

KazeHa just nodded. What was the point in arguing? Now that he was a trainee he couldn't wear white, so he had to make due with gray. The gray made him sickly to look at and the style of the cloths didn't help either according to Alexian. So if the gaijin thought that he could convince someone to give him grays in the style of The Lost then that would just have to do.

"Well then," Alexian smiled, "let's get you to class. You have Weapons in twenty minutes."

"Hai." KazeHa gave the mirror one last glance and then turned and followed Alexian out of the room.

The walk out to the training field wasn't a bad one. The sun was out making the day a warm one. A light wind swirled around the grounds bringing with it the smell of fresh flowers. It was the same as the last several days. Boring. Nothing in this place seemed to change much. Of course nothing changed much day by day in Shiratoshi either. So he should be used to it, but so many things had happened to him since he had met Alexian that he found himself easily bored when nothing new happened. Not much he could do about that though. And according to these people "To have an interesting life" was a curse or something. Honestly though, after the years of strict cultural rules and boredom this new country was something else. There were so many people and all of them differed from each other so wildly that it made his head spine.

"Well, it's about time that you two arrived."

KazeHa looked up at the two people standing before them. The one closest to them was an older woman with blonde hair pulled back in a thick braid. She had clean smooth features that would have been the envy of any geisha (1). It confused him to see such a woman dressed in warrior's leathers. The man next to her was much more suitable to being found in a weapons yard. His dark hair was streaked with gray, giving him a distinguished look. His face was hard and cold, scarred from many years of fighting. He reminded KazeHa of the warrior priests of Seigi.

"Take it, I am, that you are KazeHa." The scared man looked him up at down. "See how you fight we shall."

The man nodded once and turned around heading further down the path to the practice ring and the other students waiting there. KazeHa turned to look at Alexian, who was standing very close to the blond woman and whispering in her ear. KazeHa shuddered with surprised anger. He wasn't truthfully sure why the sight angered him, but it did, far beyond anything it should. KazeHa whipped about and stalked off after the scarred man.

Kai paced through the paths of the temple of Seigi. He was worried beyond anything he had ever felt before. He knew something was going to happen, he could feel it, see it there at the very edge of his mind and whatever it was, it wasn't going to be good. The priest also seemed to be worried. None of them had heard from his sister, HoshiAsa, for weeks. It made him feel sick this waiting. Waiting for his sister, for the words of the emperor, and for that damn feeling that just wouldn't go away.

"Lord Kai."

Kai turned at the sound of his name. He could feel the vein in his forehead thump loudly at the mere sight of the man approaching him. It took everything he had to hide his sheer disgust of the man and greet him with a small bow. "Lord Yen."

The Lord smiled and stepped up close to Kai, invading his personal space. "Have you received any word yet of your sister?"

Kai snarled slightly under his breath. "No, we have not."

The older Lord smiled and plucked a small purple orchid from the patch near the stone path. "Perhaps it was not wise of the priests to let her go. A woman should not be unaccompanied, especially in a barbarian society. They are weak creatures, women. They need a man to control them so that they continue to do their duty and pop out many new sons for the empire."

"Speak no ill words against my sister, Lord Yen. You tread on dangerous ground insulting a priestess of Seigi!"

The old Lord stroked his beard and moved forward on the path. "I mean no ill will against her, Lord Kai. I only speak as any old man would." With that the old Lord disappeared around the bend in the path. He smiled to himself as he heard the younger Lord curse him and storm off in the other direction. The youth of today were very easy to manipulate.

KazeHa looked again at the Weapons Master. He was an old man with obvious aches in his joints, but his will was still that of a young man in his prime. Alberich was a man worthy of his respect. And as they moved silently around each other KazeHa couldn't help but smile. They danced together as he had, what seemed a lifetime ago, with Lord FaLi. The two were different in their style, but KazeHa knew that the two men who had been titled 'Weapons Master' would have found much friendship with each other.

"Enough. Fight well, you do."

KazeHa bowed. "Thank you, Weapons Master. You fight well yourself."

Alberich nodded. "Much training you have had?"

KazeHa nodded and set the practice sword back on the rack with the others. "My Father trained me when I was little, and my Uncle has been training me since."

"A soldier you were to be?"

"No." KazeHa felt distant. Memories of days spent in the dojo with his uncle and Kai flashed back to him. Such carefree days, they had been. "An emperor I was to be."

Alberich stopped. He was more than a little startled. No one had told him the foreigner had been royalty. But then he thought, perhaps they didn't know. "Told the Queen have you?"

"No, I haven't. It doesn't much matter now, does it? They told me that I could not break the bond with the strange horse and my people would never allow me to step foot in the city so tainted by the creature."

"Creatures the companions are not –"

"I know what they are, Weapons Master. It would not matter to my people and it does not matter now anyway. What is done is done. A ghost cannot rule the living."

KazeHa walked away from the confused Weapons Master and followed the students who had been outside with the blonde woman back towards the main building. He still had a long day of classes that he was told he must attend.

HoshiAsa struggled against the bonds holding her arms tight against the stone platform. She didn't know what had happened, but she knew that it was only going to get worse if she couldn't escape. Whoever had captured her had to have been a powerful warrior or a sneaky bastard, perhaps both. What he wanted with her, she didn't know but by Seigi she wouldn't let them have it! She had to escape. She still had a prince to find, and a people to save.

The leather bindings bit into her flesh anew; fresh blood flowed over the dried tracks of older blood. How long had she been here? The leather creaked, her flesh burned but still she tried. Then the binding on her left hand snapped. She was free! Yanking her body she reached her other hand and released the binding holding it down. After that it was only seconds before she was completely untied and racing away from the ruins of the strange building and whoever might have imprisoned her there.

As she disappeared from sight of the ruins a clocked figure stepped out of the shadows. The only sight that could be seen under the dark cloth was a wickedly curved smile. Things were beginning to get interesting.

1. (What is a Geisha?) The word Geisha literally translates to "arts person" or "one trained in arts" (gei = art, sha = person). It is also sometimes described as "women of arts, which is exactly what a Geisha is - a woman trained in the traditional arts of Japan such as dance, music, singing to name a few.

(Is a Geisha a prostitute?) Most certainly not! A Geisha's profession is based on preserving the traditional arts such as dance, singing and music and entertaining in a non-sexual manner.

The confusion as to whether Geisha are prostitutes or not seems to have stemmed both from the close proximity Geisha had to courtesans in the Edo era and the fact that they did technically originate from the red light districts. The main culprit though appears to be from post World War II occupation by U.S. service men.

Many U.S. service came home from Japan with wild and raunchy stories of "Gee-sha Girls" whom, for most of the part where not in fact real Geisha, but rather, ordinary Japanese women or prostitutes masquerading or calling themselves "Geisha", largely because it was easiest for the service men to understand.

Of course, the large majority of service men did not know the difference, and despite the survival of the Geisha districts after the enforcement of the prostitution laws in 1957 and the subsequent closure of the red light districts, the misconception has haunted the flower and willow world ever since.