By Naoko Asakura.

Disclaimer: I don't own Samurai Champloo! Woo!

Author's Note: Wugh, you're going to kill me if I mess up, right? Hides her hands from being chopped off.

The summer evening air was heavy with moisture. One might think that every sound should have been muffled by the heat, but the cicadas and crickets bit through the night with their call like sharp knives through blocks of cold tofu. Accompanied by the sharp noises were the sounds of footsteps grinding against the dust path through nowhere.

"God, how long is it to this place!" A male grumbled irritably. His wooden geta stomped the ground, the force produced by his anger raising clouds in the path. Soon after his query was voiced, another voice replied. This time, it was a female's voice.

"Mugen, do you ever stop complaining about anything! We're almost there, and that's really all we know!" She ground out, mopping her sticky brow with the sleeve of her pink kimono. Her normally clean hair was frazzled and greasy from the long travel and the night air. Her companion leered at her, folding his arms across his chest.

"Shut up, bitch! It's your fault that we got separated from Jin in the first place! Your lucky we're not going to have to camp out in this shit weather… It's all because of me we heard about this place!" He further complained. He suddenly grunted and stripped himself of his ratty outer robe and slung it over his shoulder.

"Hmph!" The girl muttered, turning her head to look at the path ahead. Deep down, she wished that she could shed some layers like he did. Unfortunately, her modesty made her refrain from doing so. I cannot wait until we get there! She thought.

The two were blanketed in the almost silence again, and after a few minutes, the girl snuck a look over at her traveling companion.

He looked the same as always… Slender and haggard from the malnutrition and the wear and tear from battle. She couldn't help but stare in wonder at the curve of his long, tan neck and how although covered in scars, his skin looked soft. Her chest constricted when she saw his lips curl upwards in that age-old smirk, but then she was pulled back to attention when he opened his more and spoke.

"Hah! Finally!" He exclaimed gruffly, picking up his pace and going ahead of her. Her head turned to look down the path, and a smile lit up her face as well. Before them in the distance, she could see a small dark house on the edge of a small mountain range peppered with trees. With a short but triumphant laugh, she followed his suit and trotted down the path just behind him. She continued running when she realized something.

Mugen is a skilled swordsman… There's no way he runs as slow as I do... Is he slowing down for me? She thought, the force of her own footsteps and heartbeat thundering in tandem through her ears. Her cheeks warmed with a light pink, and she looked down. Not looking where she was going, she felt her right foot strike something large and hard, and she yelped in pain. As she tumbled to the dirty ground, she felt her ankle roll in a strange way and she landed on her stomach. She looked ahead of her, and though her vision was clouded with tears, she could see Mugen stop and turn around.

"Fuu! What the hell!" He shouted, jogging back to her with a peeved expression gracing his scruffy features. Fuu could only reply with a soft sniffle as she felt uncomfortably hot tears stream down her cheeks. Mugen's face contorted into something she couldn't really understand, but it was gone the moment he bent down and lifted her up in his arms bridal-style. "Stupid… You're too helpless!" He muttered gruffly as he thundered down the path. Even though she was crying, Fuu noticed that his speed was even greater than before.

Suddenly, Mugen stumbled and her limp leg bounced. Pain shot up her leg and her eyes slammed shut.

"OW! WATCH IT, YOU ASS!" She cried, whacking him on the back of the head. He glared at her sharply.

"I don't have to carry you!" He said, making her face burn with anger.

"Yes you do! If you leave me out here, I'll never forgive you!"

"Shut up!"

"No, you shut up!"