Can't Let You Go

PART ONE

He opened his eyes. The smell of bacon was too enticing. Yawning, he sat up, the details of the dream coming back to him.

It is a dream, isn't it? he wondered foggily. It had seemed so long and so tiring… he smiled. Hokage… interesting… The nightmare itself was not though. He had dreamed that Mifuyu died - murdered. Now, that was not interesting. Young Tokiya frowned. It was not something he would even dare to think of.

Then his mood lightened - he would share with his neesan about the 'girl' and the 'friends' in his dream, never mind that she would probably laugh her head off and call him silly. His mind paused at the unconscious thought of the girl, and tried to recall her features. His mental picture of her was blurred; the night's adventure had begun to slip from him already. All Tokiya remembered was that she looked a lot like Mifuyu…

She'll probably teased me with something embarrassing… Tokiya pouted.

He jumped out of bed and padded into the kitchen, the smell of bacon beckoning to him. He looked around at his home carefully, as if seeing it for the first time in a long while. Mifuyu was in the kitchen, back facing him, frying something that smelled like good breakfast. It was Sunday, the only day when life was slow at home, and Tokiya was free of homework.

Usually, Mifuyu would stay at home or bring him out to the amusement park. Tokiya liked that, although he only had the share of watching. They had no spare money for him to take rides. Whatever Mifuyu earned, they kept. Life was simple and thrifty, but Tokiya was contented with that. He was always satisfied when Mifuyu was happy. As long as there was a smile on her face, his life would be all right, his world would be in place.

"Ohayo, neesan!" He bounced into the kitchen, full of life. He hugged her from behind and took the chance to grab a slice of bacon from a nearby plate. He popped it into his mouth. "Nice cookin', sis."

"Give that back, brat!" his sister abandoned her frying pan and picked up a ladle to chase him around with. They scooted around the kitchen for a few rounds before Mifuyu caught up and held his brother in a headlock. "You jerk, that's MINE!"

"Geddit from my ass later on!" Tokiya replied cheekily and slipped out of his sister's grasp, running back to his bedroom. Mifuyu cursed something, but the effect was spoilt with her barely controlled laughter. She went back to the kitchen for her still-frying bacon.

Tokiya jumped onto his bed, swallowing his stolen breakfast. He grinned to himself. The right beginning to a day. He picked up a book from a worn shelf and settle down to read. He would have nothing until afternoon, when Mifuyu was most likely to take him out.

He did not know after how long after it was when a small knock sounded on his door, and it opened. Mifuyu stood there glaring at him, hands on her hips. Tokiya stuck out a tongue and shrugged, "Are we going anywhere today?"

"Hey, remember something? You stole my breakfast, brat." Mifuyu walked in, shut the door, and opened her wardrobe. She changed into a blue shirt and a matching skirt. Tokiya did a cat-call and pretended to shield his eyes. His sister threw a hanger at him.

She was rummaging in a drawer for something and young Tokiya was lazing on the bed when the rusty doorknob started to jiggle madly. Mifuyu looked up, surprised, then wary. "Tokiya, come here, shh, quiet!"

Tokiya obeyed for once, curious. Mifuyu grabbed an umbrella and approached the door cautiously. The unsteady lock gave way and the door burst open before she could get any closer. The sky outside darkened, so suddenly it was unnatural. A sense of foreboding crept into Tokiya's mind.

Then, there was the clinking of earrings.

Tokiya suddenly remembered where he had heard the noise before. His heart clenched.

A flash of silver.

His heartbeat quickened.

The knife came down.

He screamed.

The blood.

Silence.

---

Mikagami woke up.

Crying.

---

"Good morning, oh wonderful class of 2-1!" The teacher exclaimed enthusiastically.

"Sensei ohayo gozaimasu…" the class uttered back flatly. Mikagami sighed and continued reading his book.

"Hey hey! Life, people, have some life!" the teacher chided. "Right, on this wonderful day, I have wonderful news for you. Cheers, everybody! There will be a wonderful new student joining this wonderful class to be taught by me, your wonderful teacher, geddit?"

Half of the class brightened up a little. Hands began to shoot in the air.

"Guy or girl, sensei?"

"Tall or short?"

"Great looking? Where's this person from?"

"When's she coming?"

"No, I think it's a he. Another girl won't be fun."

"Girls…"

"Sensei, can we not have a new student?"

"Okay okay," the teacher hailed for silence. "Will everyone be wonderfully quiet?"

"What's he like, sensei?" another persisted.

"Hmm… good question. Wonderful me haven't met that student yet, to be wonderfully frank," the teacher scratched his head. The class tipped over.

"Fear not, oh wonderful class of 2 - 1, he'll be here in a second. *silence* Hey, in fact, he's late! The bell's long gone… now that is wonderfully wrong!" the young teacher exclaimed.

Mikagami sighed again. How long must put up with this Wonder Fool relieve teacher? He was starting to miss his wood-faced sensei, how that was possible was another wonderful mystery.

A knock sounded on the door. ("Ah! That must be the wonderful new student!") Followed by a loud thump. Which was in turn followed by a soft, "Ouch…"

The class sweatdropped. Even Mikagami looked up from the yellow pages of his book. The door slid open slowly and an SD face peeped in. Mikagami froze, unable to believe his eyes. A pale hand weakly pushed the door further and he stepped in, beaming feebly. He had long dark purple hair running down his back and wore a headband. Very familiar. The girls gasped and their eyes turned heart-shaped. BISHONEN!!! The guys looked unsure.

The newcomer glanced around the class then at the teacher. He bowed politely and scratched his head. "Anou… osokunatte, sumimasen, sensei."

The teacher fumbled for something to say. "Never mind. Er… what was that thump just now?"

The newcomer grinned vaguely. "My shirt got caught on the edge of the bulletin board and I fell."

"Erm… okay… right, now, wonderful newcomer, please tell the class your wonderful name, won't you?"

The young man walked to the front of the class and bowed, the smile never off his face. "Hajimemashite, watashi wa Raiha desu."

"Can you just please repeat that again, Mikagami-sempai?" Fuuko spoke slowly, unconsciously polite. "I shall blame my ears for the horror I mistook your speech for."

Mikagami sighed wistfully. "This may be the starting of another round of war with Kurei and the Uruha again."

He brooded silently to himself for five minutes, waiting for his teammates to recover from turning into stone. Recca was the first to break out of the hard exterior cover. He grabbed Mikagami's shirt and hollered into his face, "I HEARD EVERYTHING WRONGLY, MIKAGAMI, CAN YOU REPEAT WHAT YOU SAID? THANK YOU!"

The assaulted young man calmly took out a handkerchief and wiped the bullets of saliva off his face. "Kurei may have sent him to spy on us, or just to keep a lookout for any unusual activities."

"NOT THAT!!! WHO DID YOU SAY WAS IN YOUR CLASS???!!!" Domon roared, wetting Mikagami's handkerchief too. He immediately got a shoe in his face.

Mikagami fished in his magic pocket and came up with a Kills Bacteria Of Any Sort And Prevents Contagious Disease™ spray. Solemnly, he engulfed the three people around him in white, crystallize-able fumes. When everyone and the whole rooftop was in shining crystals, he stopped, and dropped the palm-sized can back inside his magic pocket. "It was Raiha. The Raiha with purple hair. I just scouted around the school a few minutes back. There were no signs of the other Uruha members, nor any more suspicious people. It's either Kurei decided it is time to get rid of us, or another enemy has appeared."

Recca, who had been trembling all the way through the small speech, raised a crystal-covered fist, opened crystal-covered lips, and screamed, "What did you do… that… FOR??!"

Mikagami quirked an eyebrow and remarked, bored, "I scout out the school for danger? Is that wrong?"

"NOO!!" Domon joined in. "What did you spray that insecticide for? To kill us?"

"Your opinion of yourselves seems lower than my own," Mikagami snorted and mused, "Insects… quite right… pests…"

"TEMEEEEE!!!" the two tried to get at Mikagami.

Author's kind note: We'll skip this very familiar process to around fifteen minutes later.

When everything calmed down, the foursome sat in silence on the stone floor. "Say something, Fuuko, your name's already safely down in the Guinness' World of Records for an invincible seventeen minutes shut-up span," Recca complained.

Fuuko looked at the cement ground in fascination.

"Fuuko honey?" Domon poked her shoulders.

"Ah?" she blinked. "Oh sorry…"

"Did you live on Planet Earth in the Milky Way for the last seventeen and a half minutes or have you moved to Mars? Recca complained yet again.

"I have a feeling the species of living organisms there would have more similarities with her than the average intellectual human being," Mikagami smirked.

Recca held Fuuko back from strangling their senior. "What's Raiha doing here, Mikagami?"

He closed his eyes and sighed silently. "Haven't I been talking about that since I stepped onto the roof? The pains of engaging in a cerebral conversation with a creature of zoology…"

Recca let that one go, probably because Fuuko had slammed her elbow into his face and knocked him unconscious. "MIKAGAMIIIIIII!!! SHI-NE!!!!"

Mikagami calmly sidestepped the charging Fuuko and let her momentum carry her forward into… well, he did not stay to see. He was down the stairs into the main school building with all the haughtiness that he employed to despise world with. Domon stared at his friends cluelessly. "Nani?"

Mikagami's footsteps fell silently on the corridor's hard cement floor. His head was bowed, deep in thought. An uneasy feeling was settling deep down in his guts; the appearance of an Uruha was never a good thing, with the exception of Koganei. The appearance of a former-Jyushinshyuu was even lesser of a positive omen.

What can he possibly want…? Mikagami wondered, rubbing his temples wearily. Not now… not another battle… just not now…

Something slammed into him, jerking him backwards. Mikagami scowled, regaining his balance easily. He finally looked up, and nearly jumped back in shock. A pair of deep amethyst eyes peered into his. Mikagami kept his cool but drew back despite himself. It was Raiha.

His face broke out into a big apologetic beam. "Ah… sorry about that… I didn't see you coming. Are you hurt?"

Mikagami narrowed his eyes, gave him a look, and walked away. Raiha looked at his retreating back quizzically, and called out, "Mikagami-san! I didn't mean that! Don't be angry with me, will you?"

Mikagami continued on his way, tuning out the voice, but keeping his senses alert in case the Jyushinshuu launched a surprise attack. None came, only sounds of light footsteps walking away. He mentally noted that down for later analyzing. He knew from Fuuko that Raiha had no intentions of killing her from their previous meetings. He wondered whether that privilege would extend to the rest of Hokage. The purple-haired enemy may pretend to be stupid, but Mikagami knew better. He could see that from his eyes.

Those were eyes of the ruthless, one who killed in cold blood. There was a dark element in those violet depths, revealing the cunning and merciless side to him. Mikagami smiled bitterly. He seemed to be describing himself. Two levels of personality… interesting…

---

Raiha frowned. That Mikagami was puzzling. He did already apologize… He shrugged, and put the smile back on his face. His day at 'school' had been enriching all right. He did not know 'school' could be that fun. It was great listening to the teacher talk; he found English the most interesting. They did not teach things like that in Uruha. Scratch that, they did not teach anything at all, except advanced techniques in fighting. But books were provided to those who asked for them. Raiha had, but it never occurred to him there would be weird subjects like Philosophy.

Raiha's smile grew wider. It was satisfying his day had turned out. And now, he was on his way to meet Fuuko-san. He did not look young enough to be in her class, much to his disappointment. Raiha did not know his age, but Kurei thought he was seventeen, so seventeen he was. Incidentally, the same age as Mikagami.

He went up the stairs leading to the rooftop and pushed open the door.

"TEMEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!! DIE, Mikagami!!!!"

Raiha blinked stupidly as something charged into him, yelling for blood. He was thrown back onto the door he was just about to close. All the breath was knocked out of him from that impact. His mind sharpened, reflexively summing up the situation. It was not long before he classified the current event into the 'Pretend to be Stupid' category.

"Wait! I'm not Mikagami!" Raiha held up his two hands as a sign of surrendering. But his attacker paid no heed. 'I should have used my two arms to block the assault instead': Raiha realized that too late. So it was he could do to accept the punches and not retaliate. He had realized who his attacker was.

"Fuuko-san! It's me! Your prince!!"

The pummeling ceased, then stopped. A pair of fire-lit eyes glared down at him. Raiha grinned weakly. "Kon… Konnichiwa, Fuuko-san…"

Recognition lit in those eyes. Life returned back. "You… you're Raiha, aren't you?"

"That's… what I've been trying to tell you…" Raiha rubbed the many bumps on his head.

Fuuko blinked again, and frowned. Then the fire relived. "What do you MEAN by 'your prince'? Are you asking for death? HUH?"

Raiha jumped away from the punches, wailing, "Sorry! I didn't mean that!"

Fuuko finally calmed down after a while, and plopped herself down on the floor. The rest of the Hokage had gone, probably after Mikagami's life. She found it surprising that even Domon left her alone, but he probably did not want to bear the brunt of her anger when she woke up from her crash into the wall. So the unlucky one was one of the strongest of Uruha, the infamous and feared Raiha.

She frowned at the sudden quickening of her heart. Damn him. "What are you doing here?"

Raiha sat down beside her. "I'm going to be studying here for a short period of time. Kurei-sama wants some time alone with Neon, so he told me and Joker to… find our own amusements… for the time being. I think they went to Kurenai-sama's grave."

"Oh… so… why did you come here, anyway? There are plenty other places you can go. I mean, hey, this horrible place is called school, where they give horrible things called homework everyday, and horrible quizzes called Pop Quiz every week, and horrible papers called exams every term. I mean, you've gone nuts?" Fuuko stated loudly as she fell on her back, lying on the heated cement.

"How do I phrase this…?" Raiha mused aloud. "I have never been to school before, and I just want a taste of what it's like. It's great, actually, for me (^____________^). And of course, Fuuko-san studies here too!"

Fuuko turned away and pretended to roll her eyes. She knew she was blushing. Terribly. Damn him again. "Where are you staying now?"

"School hostel. I'm supposed to share a room with someone. I don't know… they haven't assigned me a room yet," Raiha shrugged.

"I see…" Fuuko mumbled.

At that moment, the door swung open loudly, and three girls barged in. They screamed at the sight of Raiha and made to take a step into the meeting place of Hokage. "Raiha-kuuuuuuunnnnnn!!!!"

Raiha fidgeted nervously. "Erm… they've been following me around since this morning…"

Fuuko casually turned her head around and fixed a stare on them. They halted their movements like someone had hit the 'pause' on the remote control. The one in front look at Fuuko in fright, then at their adored Raiha. She immediately turned and headed back down the stairs quietly, not daring to make a sound. Her two companions followed without a word, if not tripping over their own feet in their haste.

Fuuko turned back to face Raiha, "There, gone." She smirked lazily from her position on the floor.

Raiha raised an eyebrow. "Wow…" he mouthed.

Fuuko's smirk turned bitter. "Everyone's afraid of me here. More than they are afraid of a mongoloid like Domon. At least he doesn't go bashing up every person that offends him in the slightest. I have a good reputation for my unreasonable acts in this school."

Raiha's eyes softened. "But… you're not happy being this way?"

"Nope. I'm perfectly fine. They don't mess with me, I let them be," Fuuko closed her eyes.

Silence.

Fuuko opened an eye. "You should go now. It's almost the end of break."

"What about you?"

"I'm tired. I want to sleep," Fuuko flipped onto her side, not facing him. After a while, she asked, "So Kurei didn't send you?"

"No, Kurei-sama went off on a holiday. He's tired too," Raiha smiled softly. Then held up his hands. "I really mean no harm to Hokage."

"Right… buzz off now," Fuuko mumbled.

Raiha stood up and dusted himself down. "See you later then, Fuuko-san."

Fuuko kept her eyes shut until she heard the click of the door closing. She opened them and stared into space. "Nobody cares… everyone's scared… All the better."

---

Raiha shut the door softly, and leaned against it. "So… ka? Fuuko-san…"

---

Mikagami slid his key into the keyhole of his bedroom and opened the door. The day had been more tiring than usual; the appearance of Raiha had caused alarm bells in his head to ring. He supposed, no, he was certain he was the only one of Hokage who bothered to monitor Raiha's movements.

Recca and the rest had not taken the issue seriously. More so, Fuuko, who had even assured their leader that Raiha meant no harm, only 'taking a vacation'. Mikagami snorted. A fool could see that Fuuko had fallen hard for the purple-haired bishonen. Personally, he did not care, but if her foolishness threatened their safety, Yanagi's safety, he would have to take matters in his own hands. Which was not something he did often.

He slammed the door close and flopped onto his bed. The lights were not turned on. He flipped onto his back, and stared at the dark ceiling. The window was wide open, and a small draft wandered in, lifting the curtains. Soft moonlight accompanied it. A very beautiful night.

Like the night in which Mifuyu died.

Mikagami closed his eyes. The knife and blood surfaced immediately. His eyes snapped open again.

Bad mistake.

He rubbed his temples and managed to hold back the wince. Seven years… and the picture was as clear as ever. The blood had lost none of its color.

A lump formed in his throat. Mikagami shut his eyes tightly, trying to forget the tears. The urge to cry was gone after a while, but the pain remained, the picture remained. Maybe that was why he always felt like he was going insane. There was too much grief that his pride refused to release, all sloppily piled up inside him.

He had a feeling that he was already full to the brim. And when the water overflowed, it was going to be a tsunami. He would not have enough senses left to acknowledge that he had gone insane.

He opened his eyes. The room was still dark. The world was still turning. Mifuyu was still not there.

---

Raiha slung his backpack over his shoulder easily and thanked the teacher at the dormitory. He looked at the slip of paper given to him. Room 13.

He went down the corridor, in search of his room. It was at the end of the hallway, the last door, the same creamy white as the rest. He knocked softly before sliding his key into the lock. There was no sound inside. He hoped the occupant was not asleep. It would be really embarrassing to wake someone up and introduce himself as an unwelcomed roommate.

Pushing open the wooden door, he stuck his head in. it was all dark. Whoever it was, he was probably asleep. Raiha sighed and wondered whether to wake the person up immediately or wait until the morning. He canceled out the second option. It was better to get assaulted consciously than unconsciously.

He closed the door and dropped his backpack on the floor. Not bothering to turn on the lights, he padded softly over to the dark shape on the bed, and reached out a hand to touch the person. Before he had made contact, however, there was a swirl of blankets and Raiha found both his arms pinned behind his back, and a strong hand around his neck, fingers poised to crush his windpipe.

Snapping into battle mode, Raiha took a risk and forcefully wrenched his arms away from the painful grip. He was about to pull away the hand from his throat when the fingers tightened, and blocked his windpipe. A low voice whispered in his ears, "Don't move, or you die."

Raiha ceased his struggling. His arms were pinned against his back again. This was a good opponent. If it was one of those silly assassins always on his tail, they would not even have been able to he the movement of his arms, less threaten him with his life. He was that quick.

Raiha realized he recognized the voice. "Mikagami?"

"And they said you were not out to finish us off…" there was a slight sneer in his voice.

"Mikagami-san," Raiha stated calmly. "I am indeed not here to harm any of you. I'm here under the identity of a transfer student, with completed and legal administration procedure documents, if you wish to view them. I'm been assigned to share this room with you, and I was about to wake you up to inform you of this-"

"-And Domon will actually have a three digit IQ," Mikagami finished for him smoothly.

"Don't condemn Domon-san so much, Mikagami-san. He has his own admirable side," Raiha smiled, not moving any other muscle.

"That is not our point of focus, Raiha. What did Kurei send you here for?" Mikagami tightened his fingers.

Raiha gritted his teeth, though not in anger. Breathing was getting harder. "How can I make you believe that Kurei-sama bears no responsibilities for my presence here?"

"Talk, Raiha. Believe me when I say I'm not as blind and gullible as Fuuko and Company."

A knock sounded at the door. "Are you getting on all right, Raiha-san? Comfortable with your roommate?"

"Yes, very much, thank you," Raiha called out politely.

Footsteps decrescendo-ed away. Raiha's shoulders sagged and waited for Mikagami to do something. They held their positions for a full minute before the door burst open and someone crashed in, flipping the light switch. "Mi-chan!"

Mikagami's eyes did not even show any acknowledgements in her sudden presence. He calmly asked, "What do you want, Fuuko?"

"Erm… what are you doing with Raiha?"

"What are you doing here?"

"What are you doing with Raiha?"

"What are you doing in the school hostels at this time?"

"What are you doing with Raiha?"

"What are you-"

"Fuuko-san… please help me convince Mikagami-san that I do NOT mean to assassinate him or anything like that. I am assigned to share a room with him, by the school's arrangements," Raiha interrupted, seeing that the crossfire of words (saliva?) would never end without help of some sort.

Fuuko look like them like they were two idiots fighting over a Shakespeare classic. Finally, she burst into laughter. The sound echoed in the hallway for several minutes, rousing several occupants of the other rooms. Fuuko rolled on the floor, trashing wildly with tears in her eyes, all the while pointing at the frozen duo.

They did not even shift their weight through her whole seizure of laughter, making her laugh even more. Finally, choking and catching a stitch, she stopped. She sat facing away from them, trying to calm herself down.

"Fuuko, if you're done. Come and tell him to get lost. I'll forgo this if he doesn't show up in front of us again." Mikagami demanded.

"Oh Mikagami, you're being so paranoid," Fuuko sighed good-humoredly.

"Oh?" Mikagami replied coldly. "And what prove do you have that I am? How do you know he isn't sent to kill us? Because you're blinded by the superficial factor of yourself? Or is it the teenage hormones?"

Fuuko's eyes narrowed and she raised her gaze to meet her teammate's. "Take that back."

"Tell him to get lost."

"Take that back, Tokiya Mikagami."

Mikagami carefully released his hold on Raiha's throat and backed away. He pointedly ignored Fuuko and said evenly, "I don't know what Kurei has in his mind, but I'm not going to let you hurt Yanagi." I'm not going to let you hurt Mifuyu.

Fuuko stepped forward and slapped him across the cheek.

Mikagami stayed silent for a moment.

Then he fixed his eyes on Fuuko's. His teeth grinding softly, he returned a slap, one twice as loud.

Raiha stepped between them before a fight could break out, holding his hands out as a gesture of peace. "Stop, Fuuko-san, Mikagami-san. I'll leave if you want, I'm sorry. Calm down, I'll leave."

He edged out between them, and picked up his backpack. However, before he could leave, Fuuko dragged him back by his collar and stormed out herself. Raiha looked back at Mikagami. He was already going back to the bed. "So… can I stay here?"

"No."

Raiha sighed. "There are some things about Meguri that I feel I need to tell you. Please give me the chance."

Mikagami's eyes darkened at the mention of his hated and loved master, but after a moment of hesitation, he turned his back on his visitor and went into the bathroom.

"Thank you," Raiha murmured, dropping his bag onto the floor. The room was rather big, but very plain. There were two beds lined by the two walls, in total white sheets and topped with a white pillow each. Beside the beds were two small brown shelves. There was a tiny wardrobe at the end of each bed. They were basically all the furnishings there were in the little room. There was a lack of cheerfulness somewhere…

Mikagami did not seem to have many belongings. There were no decorations or ornaments on his shelves, except for… Raiha's eyes dropped on a picture of Yanagi, framed in lily patterned clay. No… that looks more matured than Yanagi…

Raiha had heard from one of Kai's drunken ramblings that Mikagami had a deceased sister, murdered by his own master whom he had respected and loved for seven years. Raiha did not understand the meaning of betrayal, at least not emotionally. He had plenty of theoretical experience from Kurei. But although the Uruha taught not of fidelity, Raiha, Neon, Jisho and Joker had formed a kind of special bond with their master, and that bond was so hard to break, Raiha was sure he did not need to undergo any sort of actual experience of betrayal.

Therefore he knew the pain, but did not feel it.

He only hoped Mikagami would not react too forcefully after he heard the story he had to tell. Raiha sighed. He raked a hand through his hair. At that moment, the bathroom door opened and Mikagami stepped out, stopping in the doorway to stare stoically at his unwanted roommate.

Raiha nodded at the direction of the empty bed. "I'll sleep there…?"

"What do you have to say about Meguri-se… Meguri. What did he tell you?"

Raiha sat down on his bed, taking silence for acknowledgement. "He said this to me a few years ago… that was when I went to his dojo to deliver a message and some… things, for Kurei-sama. Sit down, won't you? This may be long."

Mikagami eyed him coldly then sat down on his own bed, opposite him.

Raiha smiled. "Yes… as you probably know, Meguri-san has another side to him, somewhat a… less kind side. It's not totally a split personality, maybe just lethargy boxed in, I don't know, but he's an Uruha." Raiha paused. "I've… heard from Kai… about Mifuyu-san."

Mikagami twitched.

"Maybe you may feel very strongly about his… betrayal, and think he… well, don't care about you. Hate you. Take you as a toy."

Mikagami was quiet.

"I don't want to forcefully change your feelings. I just want to tell you what I know, and hope, perhaps, you'll have a better opinion of your… master."

"Get straight to the point, Raiha," Mikagami snapped.

"The few years ago, when I visited him, I believe you were still in his hands. I saw you training in the backyard. He brought me in and we sat down to talk. Not that we have much in common. It's all about Uruha, Ura Uruha and Kurei-sama. Then I asked about you, and Kai. He didn't say much about your junior, but he did comment on you," Raiha shifted, and crossed a leg. "He said… you were very talented. You had the gift and physical attributes for Hyomon Ken, and learnt very fast. He said… the death of your sister probably sped up the will of learning."

Mikagami gritted his teeth silently.

"I'm against his actions, really. Your sister…" he shot the picture on the shelves a look. "She's… very pretty. And young."

"And he killed her," Mikagami stated impassively.

"I know… it's a pity…"

"What do you mean by a pity? What do you know about her?" Mikagami snarled. "What are you even doing here, telling me things I already know? Does the Uruha love suffering so much?"

Raiha lowered his gaze. "Maybe we're hypocrites. But he really does seem to show concern in your welfare. He told me… he considered not handing you to Uruha… after your training was over. He said… you're… you… mean something to him. Something more than a trainee."

"Do I?" the question mocked.

"And he said… he was proud of you… I believe he had wanted to tell you that personally. It was all in his eyes-"

"And you've forgotten he killed my sister."

Raiha's shoulders sagged. "I am not trying to make you forgive him…"

"I won't."

Raiha gazed at him out of a corner of his eye. "I think you know it too. I think you knew it long ago. You knew he cared for you."

"He doesn't."

"Then why did he release you from his 'captivity'? He let you depart from the dojo to hunt for your sister's murderer. He wouldn't have done that if he didn't care about you. He didn't want Mori Kouran to lay his hands on you! And guess what he did after that, of which you are blissfully oblivious? He sent Kai in your place to Mori Kouran. Kai, whose only goal is to defeat you. His life is so simple you can laugh. And then Kai met Kurei-sama, and became part of Uruha Kurenai. To his death, he was still under the control of Meguri's deceptive plotting. And all the while you live your own life, unaware that someone had died in your place. It could have been you, Mikagami… True to the core, the gold and the stone, isn't it?"

Mikagami's eyes narrowed, not showing the hole that the words had driven through his heart. "Your tone has changed, Raiha."

Raiha blinked in surprise. His words had become more cutting without his knowledge. It was rare that he lost control of his speech and courtesy. He supposed he also had a lethargic side that craved for blood, something that all of Uruha possessed, that few managed to conceal. "Sorry about that. I was just getting a little worked up."

"Do you have anything else to say?"

Raiha hesitated. "I… visited him once, after the Urabatousatsujin. I supposed he knew his fate. And he told me to convey you a message… if I… ever saw you."

Mikagami smirked, though it looked more like a snarl. "And what is it?"

"'Live on'. That was what he said."

"…"

"Do you want to believe my words?"

"No."

"As you wish, Mikagami-san. Oyasumi," Raiha said, and smiled at his new roommate before stripping out of his clothes and slipping under the blankets.

Mikagami stared at his pre-sleep profile. The lie was so pathetic Mikagami felt like laughing. He curled up in his own blankets and wondered if he really wanted to believe Raiha's words. Or rather, Meguri Kyoza's words.

'Live on'.

To believe or not to believe… that is the question… He smiled bitterly.

He wondered which hurt more.

---

Raiha stirred himself, and sat up. It was morning already. Eyes bleary, he looked around, and saw a neatly made bed at the opposite wall. There was no one else besides him in the room. Raiha shrugged to himself. He was a little surprised though. He had expected Mikagami to rouse him up in the morning and kick him out. That was why he had not unpacked anything. Easier to salvage in a pack.

He got out of bed and put on some fresh clothes. The turtleneck and jeans he had on the day before were chucked in a separate bag. It was early, around six thirty in the morning, and the sky was not yet fully lighted. It would be more than an hour before school would begin. He pulled out his School Uniform from his backpack. He had never put on a Uniform before. But it was nice - the standard clothes sort of gave the school a sense of unity. Raiha liked the prospect of unity. It was something they lacked in Uruha.

He went into the bathroom to freshen himself up. The night's sleep had been sweet, the best he had since… he forgot. It was ironic, Raiha thought, that he could sleep so well in the presence of someone who had the inclination to kill him.

Just as he stepped back into the room, the door opened, and Mikagami came in, in track pants and a T-shirt. He gave Raiha a Look, and then brushed past him to his side of the room. Raiha watched in amusement. The sword wielder looked tired, something he rarely did.

Mikagami retrieved a towel from his wardrobe and slammed the bathroom door. Raiha sighed and picked up his own towel. Then, he was out of the hostel room for a morning jog.

---

"What are you reading?"

Mikagami raised his line of sight and saw two smiley eyes peeping over his book. He brought his line of sight down again.

Raiha's smile did not falter a single bit. He walked around Mikagami's desk and peered over his shoulders at the black leather bound book in his hands. "Poems?"

"Elegies."

"I see… you like classics?"

"No."

"What about Shakespeare?"

"No."

"Then what's this elegy about? Raiha scanned through the words. His eyes softened. "Never mind. I can't understand this kind of literature anyway. And it's English, no less… See you later then?"

Mikagami did not reply. Raiha waved and slipped out of the class. Mikagami's eyes remained on his back for several seconds before going back to the book. It was worn and tattered from too many reads. The book was originally Mifuyu's; it was one of the things which she kept dear, and she often cried when she read through the works of the various writers. Especially the period just after their parents had died. He caressed the yellow pages with his finger.

The book was open at his favorite piece. Or rather, one that held special meaning to him.

"I often spin around with you and hear

the fragile music of a carousel.

My horse would gallop forward if I let him

But I prefer the swinging back to where we were,

Slow undulations round and back to identical place.

I prefer to see

Your black hands with mine on a crimson mane

Which will never be swept back by the wind."

He closed his eyes. It was the last stanzas that always made his heart wrench. The elegy talked about a child who had just lost his father, and recalled their times together on a carousel. The boy refused to let go of his childhood and all the times he missed, and prefer to go round and round, on the same memory, instead of living in reality.

Mifuyu had loved the piece too, and often said the 'black hands' referred to their father. Mikagami did not know. The deceased kin had left no memory in him; he was just some stranger Mifuyu spoke constantly about. But… he rather thought the elegy clicked well with his feelings. Neesan… neesan… tell Tokiya what to do now… He rubbed his temples, suddenly tired.

He had not slept the entire night. Not because of Raiha. There were worse horrors than a mere mortal, in the darkness. The past few nights had been restless, until finally he did not dare to sleep. The nightmares… they haunted him… Now that he had nothing to occupy his life, the bad bad images resurfaced easily and often.

And always, after his nightmare, he would wake up all sweaty and…crying.

He had never felt so useless before. Even after Mifuyu's death, he was still working, still striving, for a purpose in life. No matter how pathetic, he's life still had meaning. And now, all he could do was to waste away his time in school. Wake up, school, sleep. The Life Cycle.

And then, someday, The Life Cycle would end at 'sleep', and there would never be a tomorrow again. He was beginning to wish the day would come sooner.

The bell rang for start of class.

Mikagami sighed and kept the book. It was the 'school' part of the day again.

Raiha slipped in from the back door and into the seat beside him. Mikagami ignored his presence. Then the day continued…

Four hours later. Without realizing, the time flew, and it was an end to the period of 'school'. Mikagami gathered up his things. The classroom was considerably empty, and he was packing his bag. It would have been quiet and suitably lonely if there had not been…

"Mikagami-san, are you having your lunch in the cafeteria? Are you going out to eat? I'll be back at the hostel room early tonight. Is there a problem there? I can stay out late if you want. Can you-"

"Can you shut up?"

Raiha blinked. "Me?"

"Yes," Mikagami growled, his teeth clenched tight.

"Gomenasai!! (_) I'm sorry if I'm bothering you! But I'll be coming back early today!! Bye!!" Raiha rushed out of the room, as abrupt as usual.

Mikagami stared at his back, frowning.

In the corridor, Raiha slowed down and went down to the second floor to Fuuko's classroom. When he opened the door and peeped in, he saw no one in the class except for a lone shadow sitting completely still in a chair. Raiha walked up to her and commented, "You'll get cramps for not moving at all."

The girl immediately jumped and whirled around to face him. When she recognized the owner of the voice, she frowned like she had gotten one whole year of detention and scowled. "What did you do that for?"

Raiha smiled sheepishly. "I didn't know you'll be so startled."

Fuuko snorted and sat down again, mixed emotions raging inside her at the sudden entrance of the ninja into her thoughts. "What business do you have with me?"

Raiha's smile turned into a grin. "Nothing much, just wondering if you would like to… go somewhere with me."

Fuuko's breath caught in her throat. She asked, "Like…where?" She bated her breath. Is he asking for a date?? No, it can't be!

"Do you want to continue training? We can go to the mountains to fight again," Raiha ^^-ed.

Fuuko crashed into the floor.

"Fuuko-san!" Raiha cried, alarmed. "Please don't stress yourself so much! I take back my invitation, I won't invite you to the mountains with me."

Fuuko climbed back into her chair, an 'x' on her forehead. "I didn't mean that…"

"Then it's done!" Another big smile. "Shall I meet you after lunch? Yes? Then see you! Bye!"

Fuuko was left there sitting stupidly in the empty classroom. She smiled in resignation. Raiha was always that sudden and out of the blue. She wondered when her affection for him has started; it was probably from the first time she saw him, in the forest areas outside the arena of the Urabatousatsujin. That meeting too, had come out of nowhere.

And so forth. Then like everything, her infatuation just appeared. Splat. Right in the face. And now she was having trouble wiping it off. She smiled again, half disgusted with herself for feeling what she did. But she would never show it, never.

Lunch was with the Hokage, in the middle of the cafeteria, where Recca stood on top of a table and tried to demonstrate how noodles can be eaten through the nose. Yanagi was frantic and embarrassed, but did not do much. Mikagami again was not there. Fuuko was giving him the cold shoulder anyway. The slap had been an utter humiliation.

In the end, Fuuko herself had to whack Recca off the table because his shoes were shaking soil and mud into her bowl. It was their usual daily routine, but for once, Fuuko was glad her friends were so silly. At least, it helped to take her mind off things, like-

"Fuuko-san!"

-that.

Fuuko turned around, a little startled. Raiha stood directly behind her, giving her a little wave. The rest of Hokage turned and looked at him, and Recca tensed, extending an arm in between the purple haired ninja and his princess. Fuuko, uneasy, stood up and picked up her bag. "Guys, I'll be gone with Raiha for a while, enjoy yourselves…"

Then she scooted out of the place and Raiha followed, after bowing once to the surprised group of people.

"Wait a MINUTE! Where are they going??!!" Domon howled, and tried to follow. Recca and Yanagi tried to pull him back, but his strength was overwhelming for the two, and he went charging the way the duo had gone. Recca and Yanagi could only stare.

---

Mikagami approached the edge of the cliff and sat down, under the shade of a lone tree there. It was another of those days when he had to find someplace quiet, to sleep. The idea may seem funny to most, to sleep outside in the day, in bright daylight, but Mikagami knew that it was the only time when he could rest.

The night was too scary to sleep in. The daylight would keep the nightmares away. He sighed and leaned against the tree trunk. He often came here, to this spot, just to look at the scenery available from the cliff top. It was not in the least admirable. The cliff overlooked the busy city of Tokyo, where everything moved so fast and predictably. It was just a giant ant nest.

He brought his legs closer to him and hugged them, burying his face into his knees. And he was part of that ant nest… That made him wonder what his life was for, even if it had a purpose. He was just going to be like those people down there, repeating the same routine again and again everyday, until he died. That was a scary thought. The one time when we're given a mind, a will, and a body control, the once chance given to us to live, we go and waste it like this…

But then again, the ants below probably felt that life with their loved ones were enough. Mikagami hugged his knees closer. He would too, if he could… if he was given the chance.

With those thoughts, he was about to drift to sleep, again hoping that it would be his last. Every time, he wished, and every time, no one above listened or cared.

"OUCH!!"

"Fuuko-san!"

"Shit, no, don't move me."

Mikagami opened an eyelid, mind still in pieces after the silent grieving. He closed that eye again, too tired to care. Let the two find him if they wanted.

---

Fuuko eased her foot out of the deep hole in the ground, wincing. Raiha knelt by her, brushing the creepers away from her injured foot. Fuuko moved her ankle a little and squeezed her eyes shut at the pain.

"How is it?" Raiha inquired, not daring to touch her anymore.

"Just a twist. Who's this shit of a person who dug this hole? If I ever find him…"

Raiha sweatdropped as Fuuko continued her cursing into swearing. "I… don't think you can walk, Fuuko-san. What a pity, the cliff is just a little further… you can see it from here, can't you? The view is magnificent…"

"Some other day maybe, Raiha," Fuuko said, standing up and hopping on one leg. "When my foot is better. I don't think you'll want to carry me there."

Raiha immediately brightened up. "Yes, of course I can carry you there, how can I forget that? Come on, Fuuko-san." He squatted down to let her climb onto his back. Fuuko ground her teeth to try to control her blush.

"N-no, thanks. I can manage fine. The scenery will be there everyday, Raiha, there's no rush. So now, we'll just go back and I want to bandage my foot, okay?" Fuuko half-babbled.

"Oh… never mind then," Raiha smiled. But he did not get up.

"What are you still doing? I'm going now."

"I'll carry you down, of course. You can't walk all the way with a twisted ankle."

Fuuko hesitated for a while. She did not want excess physical contact with Raiha, but she herself knew her foot could not last her all the way. But again… carried by a man… That is what you call an utter insult… But the plus point was that it would be Raiha carrying her. FUUKO KIRISAWA!! What are you thinking about??!!"

Finally, she nodded. Raiha beamed and Fuuko leaned her weight onto his shoulders, and tried to sling her legs over his waist. It was fortunate that Raiha was not ticklish. After a few unsuccessful attempts and a lot of blushing, Fuuko stopped and muttered, "This won't work, Raiha, I'll just walk on my own."

Raiha sighed good-naturedly and stood up. Fuuko was relieved he had not made a fuss. Just as she was about to take a step forward, she felt herself being lifted off the ground. Amethyst eyes probed into her own green depths. Fuuko could only look away, but did not protest despite her I-will-squash-every-guy-who-dares-to-think-women-are-weak personality.

Warmth touched her lips. Her eyes darted back to Raiha's face, and found his eyes staring deeply into hers. She did not respond, possibly too stunned. The gentle kiss only lasted for two seconds, and then he was moving, walking down the hill with her in his arms, like she was everything.

---

Mikagami saw them out of the corner of his half-opened eyes. Must be nice to have someone who'll care for you… he smiled, feeling hot tears prick. He turned away from the couple as Raiha gently carried Fuuko down the hill.

He faced the sky again, the broad blue sky. He liked the sky, because in his heart, the cloudless blue had cracked and crashed long ago, and there was no one to fix it for him.

---

Two whole weeks had past and Mikagami still showed no signs of friendliness, or even acceptance, towards Raiha. The latter frowned cutely. Mikagami did not even dare to sleep in his presence, he knew, because every night, his roommate's eyes would be wide open, staring at the ceiling.

Raiha found it sort of creepy, because the eyes never seemed to blink, and it always looked like Mikagami was dead.

Like now… Raiha sighed in his mind. "Mikagami-san?"

The eyes did not even blink. "What?"

"Can't we just get along?" Raiha pleaded.

"I'm not Fuuko."

"I'm not talking about Fuuko-san…"

"Fuuko-san? I thought it should be Fuuko-koibito now?"

"Mikagami-san!" Raiha protested. He and Fuuko had gotten along quite well, he admitted. And the extent of their friendliness bad brought upon the ninja some other hulk's extreme hostility. Actually, Raiha would opt for the hostility if given the choice, because Mikagami's lack of emotion was unnerving him.

"…" Mikagami got up from his bed and popped a CD into his stereo set. Soft music played, loud in the silence of the room. He climbed back into his blankets.

Here sitting all alone
In the stillness of my room
Silence fills the space
Where I once held you
There's a breeze around me
A memory that chills me to the bone
And I wonder where you are
It's tearing me apart

My heart can't let you go
Though I try to break away
It haunts me every night
But the ghost of you won't fade
You've hypnotized my soul
My heart can't let you go

Raiha sighed again and kept quiet. He knew from experience that Mikagami did not like people bugging him. His mind shifted into a sleepier mode, and the music started its third verse. He turned his thoughts away from Mikagami and his coldness, to a much friendlier topic, for example, Fuuko. Raiha smiled. The dream that night would be good.

---

Where am I? Tokiya sat up and looked around. He was in a white room, on a white bed, covered with a white towel. He groaned. His chest hurt.

His eyes wandered to out of the window. It was raining. The scenery outside looked familiar. That's the school field, isn't it? He frowned. That means… THIS IS THE STAFF QUARTERS!!!

He started to panic.

What have I done this time? Have I gotten into a fight again? Shit, neesan will skin me for this…. Tokiya slipped out from under the blanket and looked around. It was probably the sickbay he was in, and the white door led to the staff lounge. He could escape from there, and then he need not explain to Mifuyu with an accompanying teacher spinning fables. Better to get fried in privacy.

He quietly opened the door and peered out cautiously. All clear…

He stepped into small room then tip-toed over the door leading out into freedom. He turned the knob and opened the door. Mifuyu stood outside. She glowered.

Tokiya swallowed.

"Neesan… wait, I can explain. I didn't provoke them! Believe me! It was only self-defense!" Tokiya pleaded, almost in tears.

Mifuyu stepped around him into the staff lounge, followed by Tokiya's teacher. He looked down at his student in contempt and disgust. "You won't get out of punishment this time, kiddo," he muttered.

Tokiya stuck a tongue out at him and followed his sister back inside. She sat tensely in a sofa, faced by his teacher directly across. Tokiya stood by her side, head hung, but fiercely swearing at his sensei in his head. Stupid froghead. If you dare to make neesan cry, I'll skin and fry your ass with lots of salt and onions.

The teacher cleared his throat importantly. "Mikagami-san, I'm sure you've heard a lot about your brother's misbehaving in school."

Mifuyu nodded.

"Well, I'll like to inform you that just approximately three hours ago, he got into another fight with two boys a year older than him. It is fortunate that he is not seriously hurt. However, I cannot say the same for the two other poor children. Both suffer fractures in their arms, and Tanaka-san's thumb is dislocated. As you can see, much more than they did to Tokiya."

Mifuyu's eyes widened. Mikagami groaned silently.

The teacher shifted, obviously happy at their reaction. "When I asked them about the fight, they told me Tokiya jumped at them from a dark corner and attacked them. I do not feel inclined to judge the affair just based on their verbal statement, but I'm afraid that your brother has too much of a reputation in school as a trouble maker."

"That's NOT true!" Tokiya hollered. "I didn't-"

"Now Mikagami-san, I wish to hear your opinion on this," the teacher ignored his student.

Mifuyu's fist tightened on her dress. She asked quietly. "Tokiya, what do you have to say?"

"I didn't do it, neesan! Do you want to believe me or that ox over there? I did hurt them but THEY started it first!"

Mifuyu's face clouded over. Then in the same quiet voice, she stated, "Sensei, I think I shall believe my brother. He never lies to me and I find no reason to distrust him now. I'll pay for the two children's medical fees, and remove Tokiya permanently from this school." She stood up. "Come on, Tokiya."

Tokiya stared at his sister in dismay. She wiped the tears from her cheeks fiercely and grabbed his hand, pulling him along with her. Tokiya ran to catch up. "Go-gomenasai, neesan…"

"Shh… if you're not lying, then it isn't your fault."

She reached out a hand to turn the doorknob. Before she could open the door, the silver metal in her hands started rattling. The sky outside darkened, like the fast forward of a tape from day to night. Mifuyu backed away. Tokiya shivered. The situation felt familiar.

He looked around. It was not the staff lounge anymore. He was in their house, in the bedroom he shared with Mifuyu. The door burst open.

Then, there was the clinking of earrings.

Tokiya suddenly remembered where he had heard the noise before.

A flash of silver.

His heartbeat quickened.

The knife came down.

He screamed.

The blood.

On his face.

---

Mikagami bolted up in bed. His breath came in puffs, and he looked around in fear. Where am I? Where is neesan? WHERE IS NEESAN!?

He scrambled up from the tangled bed sheets and tried to run. Run to where Mifuyu was. Neesan… neesan… don't die… please don't die… I didn't mean to make you angry. Where are you, neesan?!

He frantically searched for a door that led out of the small, enclosed space he was in. He did not recognize the room, and his body felt strange. Mikagami saw a door at the end of the bed he was in. His hands grabbed the metal knob and tugged futilely at it. It jiggled madly. He froze.

NOOOOOO!!! Not that noise, not that noise, not that noise… Mikagami backed away. Turn the knob, a voice said to him in his head.

He reached out a hand to touch the knob again. The door did not burst open. Mikagami's arm trembled, but he got a good grip and turned the round handle. The door swung open.

Mikagami stumbled in, and his knees buckled. He recognized the new place as a bathroom. Water… blood… he scrambled up from the cold tile floor and turned on the tap at the sink. The water sloshed out. Like the blood. Mikagami gasped in fright and backed away from the tap. He remembered the red that slapped him across the cheek. Mifuyu's blood.

Neesan…! He looked up from the running water in terror, suddenly remembering again. Where are you?!

He found himself staring into the mirror. At someone totally unlike him. That image in the mirror was not him. Mikagami clutched at his hair. The image in the mirror moved too. Scared, he screamed. He did not have long hair. His hair was cropped, not long, not long enough to be all over his shoulders. Nor was he that tall. He suddenly remembered that at his height, he should not be tall enough to look directly into the mirror. And… the blood was not on his face.

Silence.

Realization.

Mikagami leaned onto the sink, his knees giving way. He chuckled, then laughed. What was he thinking about? The blood on his face had been washed away seven years ago. His laughter grew louder.

Mifuyu's been dead for SEVEN YEARS, Tokiya Mikagami. He giggled, then wiped the tears away from his eyes. He put his face under the tap, nearly choking on the water in the midst of his laughter. The cold water washed away the dried tears on his face, together with the fresh ones, and the imaginary blood that was always there.

He raised his head and glared into the mirror. His reflection glared back at him. Then he burst into another round of laughter. The new tears mingled with the water on his face. Grinning widely, he raised a hand and punched the mirror.

The image shattered.

The older Tokiya Mikagami shattered.

The blood flowed fast from his cut up fist. He picked up a broken shard and saw his reflection in it. He was still a teenager with no sister beside.

Now I try and turn the page
I know I must move on
But I never get too far
It's you alone that I want
There's a touch that's missing
An emptiness that I've never known
And I don't know where to start
It's tearing me apart

His laughter dwindled into a smile, then that too faded into more tears. "Neesan… why did you leave me…?" His knees gave way and he fell onto the cold tiled floor. Sobbing, he curled himself into a tight ball and burrowed into a corner. The world suddenly felt colder than it already was.

Then a sudden thought occurred to him. He looked at the broken shard of mirror on the floor beside him, then at the image in it. The vision was blurred through the tears, but the little boy saw something that reassured his cut and bleeding soul. He slowly ifted his head and looked up at the space beside him, and his tears ceased, like his sister was there, beside him, again.

Then he smiled, with the innocence and hopes he had always rejected before.

"Don't worry, Tokiya will come and see you now. Tokiya won't have to cry anymore. Neesan will be with Tokiya."

For once, there was no pain or longing in those baby blue eyes. Because the little boy was happy, contented.

He picked up the shard of glass and slashed his wrist.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Well, it seems like Mikagami really broke big time. This fanfiction is dedicated to Raydance-sempai for her birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SEMPAI!!!!! It's supposed to be a one-shot but I can't fit everything into one chapter fast enough to be in time for her _ it's all basically crap this chapter. Next part, I promise a lot more romance and a lot more STORY. Okay, whatever kind of 'romance' I can come up with anyway. There will only be two parts. Oh yeah, Raydance-sempai, this fic is what you previously know as Crash and Burn.

Oh my gawd, what a pathetic thing for a birthday present…

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Can't Let You Go is an original piece of work copyrighted to saturn de wicked™. Characters in this fan fiction are adapted from Flame of Recca without permission from their creator and are copyrighted to their respective owners.

My Heart Can't Let You Go the song, from album Mikaila, is copyrighted to Mikaila and adapted without permission.

Carousel is a work of Lucinda Roy and adapted without permission.

© 2001 saturn de wicked™