She stood still for a number of seconds before finally taking a breath. I must be imagining things, she thought. God, this tournament was making her suspicious at everything and everyone. Just the other night she almost tackled down a man who snuck up behind her to ask for an autograph. It was a good thing Recca had stopped her. She would've flattened him sans the fuujin.
A pair of dark green eyes focused at Fuuko's now relaxed figure. He breathed a sigh of relief. That mischievous squirrel almost got him caught. Thankfully he had scared it away before it got even more agitated. Otherwise, the kazetsume would probably come flying in his direction now. Not that he was afraid of getting his neck slashed. That was never going to happen, as he would never allow it. He straightened up and took Fuuko's profile in view. She had been practicing with her fuujin for the past two hours, as long as he'd been there observing her. He admired her intense desire to win the Urabutousatsoujin. But that must not happen, he thought. Kurei wouldn't lke it, as Mori Kouran wouldn't either.
"There you are." Neon appeared from below the tree branch he was standing on. "Master Kurei is looking for you."
"I'll be there in a minute." he replied, not looking at Neon.
"You're spying on her again." she commented suspiciously. "Why am I beginning to think you're watching her for reasons other than to evaluate her fighting skills?"
"You're being paranoid, Neon." he dismissed her as he leaped down from his perch,"You know why I'm doing this. It's for the raijin..."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Your raijin versus her fuujin..." she sneered,"Liar."
Fuuko stood still, listening. She had a strong feeling somebody had been watching her, and she thought she heard voices from not so distant. But she could find no one. Kurei's spies, most probably. Recca's half-brother would do anything to get an edge over this tournament. But no way is that going to happen, she affirmed. The Hokages promised to protect Yanagi at all costs, and winning this tournament is the means to reach that goal. Win it, no matter what.
"Kazetsume!" she ordered the flying blades of the fuujin as they released from her madougu. The sharp blades swept across the thick forest, cutting through trees, bushes and every object that stood through its path. After wreaking havoc among a number of tress, the kazetsume returned to her, reinserting itself on her fuujin.
"Come out!" she turned to a clump of bushes, her kazetsume directed at them. "I know you're there. I don't know how long you've been watching me but I know you're spying. Reveal yourself, or taste the wrath of my kazetsume."
A tall figure in a dark purple ninja outfit appeared. The gentle breeze swept through his long, dark hair dishevelling it slightly. He approached her slowly, as if calculating. No trace of fear nor anger could be seen on his face but rather, a shy smile was painted on his handsome features, and his green eyes glowed with amusement.
"You're very good." he praised. "Not too many people find me. In fact, I think you're the first one to do so."
"I'm not like other people." she retorted stiffly. Her kazetsume still pointed at his advancing figure. "I don't like being spied on."
"Who's spying?" he shrugged. "I just happened to be practicing in the same vicinity as you. This is a free country, isn't it?"
"Yeah right, and my surname is Hanabishi. I'm not as stupid as you think." she said.
"Who said you were stupid?" he said as a matter-of-factly, "On the contrary, I think you're a very intelligent girl. You've outsmarted every competitor you've faced in the Urabutousatsoujin. You made fools out of every one of them. And to think they're all grown men."
"I aim to be the best, and I aim to win this tournament with my friends." she declared. "Tell that to your Master Kurei."
"I'm sure he doesn't need to be told." he shrugged. He took one step forward, narrowing the distance between them. His green stare met a pair of blue ones that stared back at him, burning with an almost frightening intensity. "Hey, relax. I'm not looking for a fight."
"You're going to find one if you don't stop spying on me." she warned. Fuuko tried hard not to swallow. This member of Kurei's clan was the least intimidating of them with his amicable features, and yet something about him was terribly disturbing. His mere presence set up warning signals inside her brain, and his closeness to her now was somehow unnerving. She hardened her voice before speaking, "Now leave me alone before I send you back to your master in shreds."
He smiled again, seemingly unaffected. "Keep your cool, Fuuko-sama. Like I said, I'm not looking for a battle." He shifted his attention to her fuujin. His voice turned into a more serious note, "I was merely observing if you have mastered the power of your madougu."
Fuuko moved back, "My fuujin is none of your business." she answered hardly, "But since you'd like to know, I have mastered it. It follows my every command. My fuujin and I are one in spirit."
"As should be." he nodded, befor meeting her eyes again, "You should be well-prepared when we come face to face in combat one day. Your fuujin versus my raijin. Wind against thunder. Those things conjure up a storm you know..." he said metaphorically.
Fuuko's eyes narrowed at the concieved meaning of his words. She crossed her arms on her chest. "I'll be more than ready when the day comes."
"I know you will." he affirmed. He took two steps back, "I'll be looking forward to that time, Fuuko-sama." He turned his back and began to walk away when she called him.
"Raiha." she said.
She looked at him square in the eye, "Don't call me Fuuko-sama."
He bowed slightly, "Whatever you say....Fuuko...sama." With that he disappeared quickly in the thicket.
Fuuko seethed. He wasn't annoying, but his presence bothered her. For what reason she couldn't fathom. He wasn't a pervert like most other guys who pestered her. Neither was he an airhead nor a freak. The truth of the matter was, he was a nice guy. He doesn't even appear to be a member of the Uruha Jyusshinshuu for his gentle demeanor. And yet he could kill in the blink of an eye, Kaoru had said of this man who had been his mentor. He looked as if he wouldn't hurt a fly, but deep within lied a man who would slay if it called for it. Fuuko shuddered. Maybe that was why he was so unnerving. He was a bit of an enigma. A savage wolf beneath a sheep's clothing. She knew she should be more cautious with those types than with the more obvious bad guys.
Still, that didn't seem to be the reason for her uneasiness.
Fuuko decided to leave the matter to rest. She turned her attention back to her practice.
Angrily, Raiha threw his sword aside to a nearby rock. The sharp blade sliced the rock into two. He isn't akin to getting mad quick, but his temper seemed to be becoming shorter these days. He slumped to a sit on the grassy floor and buried his face in his hands.
"You look upset." Neon noted as she came from behind some trees. "It's her, isn't it?" The red-haired Uruha assassin stood in front of her colleague, shaking her pretty head.
"Why?" he asked, "Why can't I stop thinking about her?"
Neon took a seat on one of the sliced rocks. "You could be thinking about that match your madougu is supposed to have with hers..." she answered, "Or...maybe you feel something about her and you just can't accept it." A smirk appeared on her lips, "I'll stake my life on the latter."
Raiha shook his head, "Don't bet on it, Neon." he denied, "That's not possible."
"It's not supposed to be possible." Neon said seriously. "You very well know she's the enemy. You can't allow yourself to feel anything for her other than a desire to eliminate her, as well as the Hokage Ninjas. Feeling likewise is equivalent to treason."
He looked at her straight in the eye, "You shouldn't question my loyalty to Uruha Jyusshinshuu." Raiha stood and walked forward, "I am faithful only to Kurei. You know that. Even if he has already passed away..."
"There are rumours that he might be coming back..." Neon said tentatively.
"Hopefully..." he nodded. "Maybe life will be kinder to him this time around."
Neon shook her head, "Not as long as Mori Kouran is alive. He makes it a point to make Master Kurei's life a living hell." she sighed, "And the fact that those Hokage Ninjas are still around isn't going to make his possible return a fairy tale."
For a couple of seconds, the two members of the Uruha Jyusshinshuu remained silent, as if in respect to their fallen leader. Only the whistling of the wind among the trees could be heard. Leaves of autumn flew around them. Even the birds seem to understand their grief as their merry chirping ceased.
"Forget about her, Raiha." Neon spoke, breaking the stillness. "It wouldn't be right. And besides..." she stood up to take leave, "Mori Kouran would probably have her killed if he found out that girl meant anything to you." Neon paused before continuing, "Just like he did with Mistress Kurenai."