She had been severely uncooperative upon learning this spell and its purpose, grudgingly agreeing only to have repossession of her physical form. But now she understood. Akamatsu Kanjiro was worth it. He was tall, handsome and a gentleman in every sense of the word. He treated Midori like a queen. He was intelligent, sensitive, sweet...the kind of man you find only in romance novels and Nora Ephron movies. He was as close to perfection as he can get.
Except that he's a lying, scheming, spy...she added bitterly.
Or was he?
Neon realized that other than his true identity, he was sincere about everything to Midori. She could tell that he genuinely loved her. With all heart and soul, she smiled to herself. Neon sighed, releasing the hopeless romantic side of hers she had long thought dead. True romance isn't dead...at least not in the Middle Ages.
The only problem now was convincing Midori this truth. Neon had tried in vain to convince the girl to forgive the deceptive Kanjiro. Just to get her spirit out of me, she had first thought. But now she was more convinced that he did deserve forgiveness. Unfortunately Midori was as stubborn as she was, or much worse.
I wonder if I was a reincarnation of her, Neon rolled her eyes upward after having failed to convince the other girl for the infinith time. Which would have been fine with her, just as long as she didn't end up falling hopelessly in love with a Joker clone. Ugh! The thought gave her goosebumps, but some part of her didn't dismiss the issue entirely. Maybe if her fellow Uruha was a little less arrogant, a little more afffectionate and a bit more sensitive. Maybe.
This is bad. Very bad indeed. Neon having traces of affectionate inclinations towards Joker...I think I'm beginning to lose it, Neon freaked out mentally. Heavens have mercy.
"Your friend has very strong willpower." Kanjiro told Joker with a smile. For the nth time, Midori had refused to be kissed by Kanjiro, and the latter knew it was due to Neon's obvious resistance.
"You call it willpower? I call it stubborness." Joker sighed exasperatedly. He couldn't count how many days its been since he's been here. Apparently forever, he thought. Everything had gone just as it had previously been in the past lifetime. He had been a silent witness to the love affair between the hunky Japanese officer and his voluptous vixen girlfriend. And despite himself, he felt rather....touched...with the way the things have been going. He comprehended now to some extent why Kanjiro had been hesitant to leave Midori. She *was* everything Kanjiro described her to be, and much more. Joker felt that if he had half the heart Kanjiro had, he'd probably fall for her too. Joker had met Ayami once when Kanjiro reported his progress to the Oni. His fiancee had come along with one of the spies the Oni had sent. Seeing her convinced Joker that Kanjiro was better off with the monk's niece.
"You had an affair with that....that...cow?" Joker asked disbelievingly, calling her a mammal for the lack of a better word.
"Remember, I was dead drunk." Kanjiro laughed.
Joker shook his head. "I wouldn't roll in the hay with her if I was comatose."
"You're too hard on her, Joker-san." the other man couldn't cease his laughter, "She's beautiful, don't you think?"
Joker shrugged. Sure she had looked a lot like a blonde Kagero in her youth but she had the etiquette of Mori Kouran. "Yeah, maybe. But her manners stink and God, who does she think she is anyway? You my friend, have very weird tastes."
"Now you know why I couldn't possibly leave my Midori." Kanjiro said thoughtfully.
It was that meeting that had paved the way for the tragic curse of one star-crossed couple. One of the villagers, a well-meaning Oduro, had overheard the conversation while gathering firewood. Hearing the term "Oni" and realizing the threat this had posed to the village, he had scurried to report to the monk Issei. They had vowed to keep this a secret, knowing it would hurt Midori, and decided that they should confront Kanjiro by themselves. This was not to be the case however, because Midori had found out herself.
"Midori, listen to me..."
"You lied to me." she accused quietly, as tears began streaming down her face.
"I was going to tell you...believe me. I was going to leave the Oni and live here, with you." Kanjiro explained.
"How many madogus have you picked up using that line, Kanjiro?" she spoke bitterly, staring darts at the man she had loved, "How many hearts have you torn apart?"
"None...none at all. You are my one, true love, Midori-chan..." he spoke sincerely.
They were standing in the living room of Midori's house. The same house where Neon and Joker had sought refuge from the storm. The same cursed household that bore wounds of the past, both physically and emotionally. Midori walked to her bedroom, and when she returned, she had three madougus in her possession. Both Neon and Joker had recognized one as the Fukyo Waon. The other two were half-concealed in cloth.
"This is what you want, is it not?" she asked seriously, her eyes meeting those that hid behind the dark hair.
"No." he replied honestly."Its you I want. Not those madogus. To hell with them."
A smile lifted the corner of Midori's mouth, "Then to hell they shall be." she spoke meaningfully, and with that she broke into a sprint, exiting the door and heading off to the cliffside.
"Midori, wait!!!!" Kanjiro screamed, running after her.
"Somehow that wasn't a very wise thing to say." Joker commented sarcastically, while Kanjiro ignored him. He ran lightning fast to where Midori was headed off to.
The Cursed Cliffs, as they have been called. For many a suicide or murder had been carried out in such a horrid place. A rugged mountain side that rose a hundred feet over the angry seawaters. Sharp rocks greeted the misfortuned soul who had chosen to end their life there. No one had ever had such luck as to survive a plunge in the watery depths. For even if they escape the daggered edges, they could not survive the raging waters. And as Midori approached her would-be grave, she paused to look, a last one, at the man who had caused her such an unfathomable pain.
"Don't be stupid, Midori." Neon called to the shattered girl. "Can't you see? He loves you. He really does"
"How would you know?" Midori asked the female Uruha.
"Look, I'm not exactly Dear Abby. But it's clear as mineral water how he feels about you, and you of him. I know that you know. So why not accept it, forget your pride and take him back?"
"He doesn't want me. He wants the Hokage weapons." she reasoned.
"If he wanted the Hokage weapons, he'd have gotten them ages ago! It's been what, a couple of weeks since you've met? He gained your trust as early as day 1. And your bedroom isn't exactly a very hard place to look for those weapons. If he wanted them, he'd have gotten them easier. A sly fox like him wouldn't take too long to find the madougus and hightail it out of here. But he didn't. He stayed, and that's because he wants to be with you. And when he tells you so, believe him." Neon spoke this with fingers crossed behind her back.
"I..." Midori bowed her head. More tears fell down her cheeks. Oh but Neon had a point, and God she had wanted to believe everything this woman was saying. If only she could tell if Kanjiro speaks the truth. But how? After being lied to, she found it hard to believe anything he might say.
"Look into his eyes..." Neon now spoke softly. If you can find them, that is, she mentally added, seeing how well hidden half Kanjiro's face was. "It's been said that the eyes are the windows to one's soul. Unless he's such a consummate actor, you'll find out the truth in them."
"Midoriii!" he called out to her. Midori turned her head.
"Don't get too close too soon." Joker advised, "Slow down a little, you're going to scare her off."
They stood several meters from one another. Still. The storm clouds have arrived, looking ominous with their near-black hue. The winds have begun to whirl angrily, sending the rainclouds closer. From the distance, thunder boomed loudly, lightning crossed the sky in a crackle. A storm was brewing, and it wasn't just the weather.
"Stay away from me!" she screamed at him. "Leave me alone! You will not have them!"
The scene was becoming all-too-familiar, as it replayed perpetually in Joker's nightmares. The harsh exchange of words, the hostility, the hurt....sooner or later it was going to be a tragedy all over again. Not unless he could stop it. But how? He doesn't know what inner battle his fellow Uruha is waging against the reincarnated girl. Neon couldn't possibly be encouraging Midori to be an ornery donkey could she? No. Neon wanted out of this as much as he did. He wished he could speak to her now so they can do something to prevent this curse.
Neon was anxious. She could not convince Midori to give in to the pleadings of one Kanjiro. She was just too blinded by her wounded emotion. There must be something I can do, she thought frantically, anything. God she wished she could have any communication of sorts to Joker, so they could plan something. Anything that might stop this insanity. Another flash of lightning struck, illuminating Kanjiro's sodden figure. Neon noticed something she has not noted a while ago.
Joker, use your madougu, she cried silently, trying to send a mental message to her fellow Uruha, as she had no control over her physical being. The lightning had cast a glow on the Taishaku Kaiten, which was strapped to Kanjiro's back. When and how it got there, she couldn't figure out, but it was there and its what they had needed. Neon, with all her mental power, tried moving her possessed body's right hand to signal Joker.
What was that? Joker thought, as he looked at Midori in the body of Neon-han. Her hand had been giving out a signal...was she writing? Kanji...it was like kanji...madogou...madougu...it signalled...and Joker remembered the madugou strapped to Kanjiro's back...his back actually, concealed by a cape. The Taishaku Kaiten, of course! He had been carrying it all morning, refusing to leave it under the bed where Kanjiro insisted on keeping it (But of course the latter had not known it was a Hokage weapon, thinking it was merely a pitchfork for fightng).
"Goodbye, Officer Akamatsu."
The three dreaded words had been spoken, as if giving the command for her death. Lightning struck, and just as it was about to touch the ground, Joker had seized control over his own body and threw the Taishaku Kaiten towards Midori. A look of shock registered on the young girl's face as she saw the alien weapon flying fast towards her. She moved her head, and the dreaded weapon hit her left arm that had held the madogus. This had sent all three psychic devices flying, one of them geting hit by the approaching lightning.
"The madougu..." Neon watched in awe as one of the three Hokage weapons absorbed the thousand-volt electricity into its crystal. Joker was just as stunned. Then as quick as it had been struck, the madougu and its two other companions fell haplessly to the violent waters beneath.
Neon found herself nailed to the ground, her left arm trapped in between the fork of the Taishaku Kaiten. She had overcome the shock as quickly as it came. She breathed a sigh of relief. Joker's madugou had saved them...Midori from falling to the cliff, Kanjiro from his despair, an entire generation of Akamatsu from a curse and the two of them from being stuck in this blasted island. She however noted that Midori was still in her body. Did that mean the curse still wasn't broken?
"Midori...." Kanjiro rushed to his beloved's side, and before she could do anything, he had taken her in his arms and kissed her.
Oh, hell....Neon groaned inwardly. Even if it had been Midori in that body, she could feel every sensation happening to her now. This was what she had been trying to avoid the past afterlife. And she had suceeded so far in preventing Kanjiro getting this intimate with Midori, for even if it would be Midori kissing Kanjiro, technically, it was her body!
Joker was kissing her!
"Midori, my beautiful Midori...." Kanjiro murmured softly under his breath as he withdrew from his kiss. He looked lovingly into her eyes, and for the first time since she had known him, Neon was able to see what Joker's eyes looked like.
They were amber-colored, almost gold, with tiny flecks of hazel playfully spread around the pupils. They have a mischievous glint in them, so much like the man who owned them. They bored into her own eyes as if dissecting her inner being, reading her mind, interpreting her emotions.
Neon swallowed. She felt her heart thumping erratically in her chest. This wasn't what she had in mind, but heck if it breaks the curse and gets them out of this wretched island, then so be it.
"The madugous...." Midori spoke, she got up slowly as Kanjiro pulled out the Taishaku Kaiten from the ground and freed her.
"Never mind the madugous." Kanjiro said. He cupped her face in his hands, again meeting her stare with his. "Don't you realize, Midori-chan? It is only you that I truly want. I don't care about the madougus. I don't give a damn about the Oni, and Ayami does not interest me any more."
Midori's heart warmed over as she felt the sincerity of his words. Tears again found their way into her eyes, but these ones were that of joy. She embraced her beloved happily while he carried her off in his arms, taking her back to her house. The rain had begun to fall then, and Kanjiro rushed to the house to prevent them from being drenched.
"Midori," Neon asked the elated young woman, "What were those two other madougus? I recognized the third to be my Fukyo Waon."
Midori replied, "The fuujin and the raijin."
Kanjiro brought her to the bedroom Neon had recognized as the one she had slept in when she had first come to this island. He put her down on the bed.
"You better change, Midori-chan." he said, taking a step back. "You might catch a cold." He proceeded to push the door panel when Midori called him.
He turned around. Midori stood up and walked towards him, slowly. She stopped immediately in front of him, her eyes glowing with the warmth of her undying love for him. "Kanjiro....forgive me...."
She raised a hand to his damp cheek, touching it. Kanjiro held her hand, "No, forgive me. I did not mean to cause you pain. I had intended to tell you about this deception but Oduro had gotten ahead of me."
She nodded, "I understand now." She stood on tiptoe and whispered to his ear, "I love you, Kanjiro."
"I love you too, Midori-chan."
Midori put her arms around Kanjiro's neck and pulled him closer. The moment their faces came within the shortest distance, she gently pressed her lips to his. She kissed him longingly, and he returned it with just as much passion.
Oh God, Neon thought. She tried controlling the other spirit who was lurking in her body but she could not. Midori had apparently overpowered her. Now she finds herself in the arms of her fellow Uruha. It wouldn't have mattered if only Midori was the one experiencing the sensation, but it wasn't the case. Everythig Midori felt, she could feel too, even if only physically.
Neon felt warm all over despite the fact that her clothes were damp from the rain. Her head began to swim and her knees began to buckle. Only Kanjiro's tight embrace prevented her from falling. She could feel the tenderness coming from him. The incredible thrill she felt electrified her from her head down to her toes.
She found herself lying on the bed, his gentle lips now traced a path from her mouth down to her neck, moving lateral to her exposed shoulder and planting a kiss with every trail. She put her arms around him, following the contour of his fine, muscled body. She could feel his fingers entangling themselves in her hair. Neon pressed her body closer to him, enjoying the warmth his closeness provided.
His other hand then found itself on the belt of her red kimono, tugging it gently to loosen it. She did the same, parting open the upper part of his wardrobe to expose his strong chest. His lips found its way back to her own, kissing with slightly more passion than when he first laid his mouth on hers. It expressed a want to be closer, of an unfulfilled longing, of a kindling desire. And Neon could not help voicing it out.
It was as if ice-cold water was splashed on them.
"What did you say?" they spoke in unison.
They parted as quickly as two magnets of similar poles. Joker jumped out of the bed and turned his face to the wall while Neon quickly retied the belt of her kimono and turned her back to him. Neither of them knew it but they had both turned red down to the roots of their hair. A very awkward silence followed, interrupted only by the distant sound of a thunderclap and the heavy pelting of the rain on the rooftop.
"W-weren't you supposed to say Kanjiro???" Joker stammered in a tone so unfamiliar of him.
"Well, weren't you supposed to say Midori?" Neon fired back in a less-assured manner.
"Breakfast is ready." Hiroshi called happily through the slightly open door. She didn't seem to notice that their two guests were a little bit uncomfortable, both catching their breaths with their hair and clothes dishevelled.
"Coming." they replied in unison, still not looking at each other.
Yukiko-sama looked liked the cat that got the canary at the breakfast table. Hiroshi was her quiet self. The two Uruha Assassins, even if they sat across one another were looking at everything but each other, evading any glances that might throw at one another.
"I apologize...." Yukiko spoke first. Their two guests looked at her at the same time. "I'm sorry I had to put a spell on you kids." She bowed her elderly head, "But it was the only way I could put an end to the curse that has plagued my family for so long. There has been nothing but bad luck since the day Midori-san died. Hopefully, now her soul and that of my great ancestor can rest in peace."
"It's alright, Yukiko-sama." Neon said, "I...we...were glad to be of help. No harm done." she put a stress to her last sentence, causing Joker to steal a glance at her. "It's the least we can do for giving us some shelter."
Yukiko smiled widely, "I know." she turned to Hiroshi, "See Hiroshi, even members of the Uruha Jyushinshuu can show a little kindness every once in a while."
Neon and Joker's heads snapped upon hearing the old woman's words, "You know us?"
"Of course." Yukiko laughed. "What don't I know? I am Yukiko Akamatsu, spellbinder, fortune teller, witch doctor. However you may call it. Genjuroh is a distant cousin of mine. Very distant though. I haven't seen him in twenty years, that old geezer."
Joker and Neon turned pale at her remark. Surely she wouldn't tell Genjuroh what happened, would she?
"I am not a kiss-and-tell person, if that's what you're worried about." she spoke as if reading their minds, sipping her sakura tea. "I suppose it will be alright for you to travel now. The sun is shining and the land has begun to dry."
Still not speaking to each other after breakfast, Neon and Joker went out unto the porch. Indeed the sun had been burning brightly in a cloudless sky. For some reason, the storm a while ago had disappeared just in a blink of an eye. An uneasy silence ruled over them. They stood side by side, unmoving, as if waiting for a cue from the other.
"Quite a spell wasn't it?" Joker spoke first. His usual smug tone of speaking curiously absent.
"Very...strange." Neon echoed. "I wonder how long it's been...how long we've been here."
Joker shrugged, "It felt like we've been here for weeks...or so. Kurei-sama probably thinks we're dead."
"No...I feel he sent out a search party to look for us." Neon returned.
"Actually you've only been here 24 hours," Hiroshi piped up in a cheery voice, interrupting their conversation. They looked at here disbelievingly. "Gomen nasai, for my interruption. But grandmother told me to reassure you."
"Twenty-four hours?" questioned Joker.
"Yes, Joker-sama." Hiroshi assured, "Grandmother sent you back in time, but stopped time here. So even if you did spend a few weeks there, you only spent a couple of hours in the real world."
"Interesting," Neon said, turning to Joker. "You think perhaps we can borrow the spell so we can go back in time?"
A naughty smile appeared on Joker's lips, "Why so, Neon-han? You want to repeat our little uhhmmm...fling?"
"That's not what I meant!" Neon snarled, her veins popping.
"Ooooh...peeved I see...is it because we were so rudely interrupted?" Joker chided.
"Such is not the case." Neon sneered. She snubbed her fellow Uruha, "If I didn't know you better, you knew Midori had already left my body during that little 'play.' You just went on carrying that Kanjiro charade because you knew you had a snowball's chance in hell of ever doing it to me in my unpossessed state."
"Look at the pot calling the kettle black." he countered, sporting that all-too-typical smug look on his face, "You're the one who knew I was already back to my senses when you started kissing me. And besides," he gloated, "You're the one who first called out 'Oh Joker-han' like a spell."
"Ohaiyo, are you two alright?" called the old woman from the house. She was carrying a lunch pack in her hands as she appraoched the two. "Here, I thought you might get hungry for your trip." The two Uruhas were still glaring at each other like children who fought over the last piece of Oreo.
"Domo arigatou, Yukiko-sama." Neon accepted the lunch pack from the old lady.
"Well, have a safe trip, children." Yukiko smiled as the two prepared to depart. She laughed as the two began bickering again after saying their goodbyes. She shook her head, laughing at the two Uruha assassins who were acting anything but. She smiled as she realized the success of her mission to ward off the curse of the Akamatsu clan. It had not been easy luring the two assassins to this island, and creating that storm to trap them here took the wind out of her. But it was all worth the effort. Kanjiro was happy. Midori was happy. She can finally rest knowing she had cast off the bad luck that had loomed upon them for the past 400 years.
"Grandmother," Hiroshi asked, "When did the spirits of Kanjiro-sama and Midori-sama leave their bodies?"
"Why, as far as I know, they've set themselves free immediately after the said their 'i love yous'." she said, "Whatever happened afterwards is the result of their own, errr......longing."
As if on cue, Neon turned about and looked at the old woman and the little girl who stood innocently at the front porch. "Can I ask you something, Yukiko-sama?" she inquired.
"Why ofcourse, Neon-san. What is it?"
Neon thought for a second before voicing out her curiosity, "I was wondering. You've been here for ages...and I don't think we're the first male-female to get stranded in this island. How come the spell didn't work back then?"
A smile found its way to the old lady's lips, "You are correct in assuming that there have already been a fair number of males and females who have been trapped here. But there is an essential ingredient for that spell that I found in none of the other people who were stranded in this island, except for you two."
"And...what would that be?" Joker questioned.
The two Uruhas felt a crimson tide flooding their cheeks. And for a second time they turned about, refusing to look the other way as if a little secret would be revealed if they so much as looked into each others' eyes.
"Oi! There you are!"
The cheery, purple haired Uruha ninja popped out of the bushes sporting a smile on his face. "Thank heavens I found you. Kurei-sama thought you might've eloped."
"Don't be ridiculous, Raiha!" Neon snapped in a slightly overreactive tone. "I wouldn't elope with this punk if you paid me."
"I'd rather be with Noroi." Joker stated defensively."For all that funny smell he has."
Raiha sweatdropped, "Geez, I was just kidding. No need to take it seriously." he noted that the two of them appeared as if they didn't spent a night in the jungle. "Where did you two stay all this time?"
"In the house there." they turned to point at the enchanted little antique house behind them only to be taken aback. The lot behind them was empty, save for old abandoned remnants of what used to be a house. They shot each other a puzzled look, though the confusion was most evident on Raiha's face.
"Errr...are you two okay?" he asked tentatively. They must've eaten something wrong, he thought. Either that or they didn't get enough sleep. He had been to this area a number of times already and he had *never* recalled having seen anything in that spot other than the ruins of an old-style Japanese house.
An hour later, they were on the same boat they came in, only this time, Raiha was in charge of the wheel. He had tugged along the smaller boat he had brought in to look for them. He didn't have a hard time looking as he saw the S.S. Kurenai docked along the shoreline. Finding them wasn't that difficult either, as he was able to trace the path the Fukyo Waon had blown.
"You two are unusually quiet today," he noted, viewing his friends through the rearview mirror. Although the sat together, there seemed to be an invisible barrier between them neither one would breech. He had a sneaking suspicion that *something* had happened to them while at the island. But he wasn't the nosy type so he didn't open up the topic.
"I wont tell if you wont." Neon muttered under her breath.
"Uhhhmmm...I'll think about it." Joker kidded, "Wouldn't it be nice to know though..." he turned to Neon, smiling, revealing his fanged teeth, "I didn't know you were attracted to me Neon-han."
"Please..." Neon rolled her eyes upward, "Do you seriously believe all that old hag was saying?" It was her turn to look smug, "Though I wouldn't be surprised if you are attracted to me. You know you'll never find another one quite like me within an earth's radius."
"Don't flatter yourself Neon-han." he gloated, "I can't blame you for finding me irresistable."
Raiha smiled as he heard the two bantering, obviously reverting to their normal selves. Much as he was extremely curious on what happened to them on that lonely island, he chose to keep quiet. Knowing them like they do, they'll probably brag all about it when the time is right. Heck, it even may be sooner than he would hope for. Mysterious things have been reported to happen on the isolated place. Stories hundreds of years old about a cursed couple and their tragic love story. They say that whoever gets enchanted by this spell gets to relive the days of romance of one officer of the Japanese army and a lovely village girl.
I wonder, Raiha thought.
He drove the boat homeward bound with thougths of asking Fuuko on a date on the desolate beach.