Yajiro Kojima had been a kenshi for most of his life. Ever since he had learned to walk, he had honed his sword skills at various dojos, taught by the best instructors. The spiky haired seventeen year old had first hand knowledge of loss, violence, life and death. Fighting as a ronin, a soldier, and bodyguard for hire, he was ignorant of his growing reputation throughout the land. Few kenshi nowadays could survive encounters with senshi and live to tell about them. A gun man always had the upper hand against a swordsman for obvious reasons. Still, "The Tiger of the Rear Guard" had proved his quality, helping to suppress a coup within the capital city of Tento.

In the darkness of the balloon tent, he was well aware of the proximity to two other people. Usually, he slept outside under the stars in the open air, but the cooler, rainy weather had put an end to those ideas. They were on their way to the next city-state and there were no inns or houses to stay at along the way.

Their preteen companion, Mikan Kurenai was a marvel with her balloons; she had a seemingly endless supply and could substitute them for different things such as the tent, flotation devices, parachutes, hang gliders, and even clothing. Yajiro had purposely shifted onto his left side, his back to the two females. Rushuna Tendo was closer to him, her light breathing the only indication that she was fast asleep. The younger short haired girl lay to her right, nestled against her for warmth. The trio traveled light, not bothering to pack any blankets.

He tried to inch himself away from the blonde senshi, so she wouldn't unconsciously snuggle against him. It wasn't that he was disgusted by contact with her, he just didn't want to show a vulnerable side. Cuddling with someone like Rushuna, would lead down a road he wasn't ready to travel down. He had to maintain a certain distance from her, although it was a daily struggle.

Fuuka. A fellow rebel, she had been the last girl he cared about, much more than a comrade. Although no one else had suspected, he and the brown eyed beauty had shared something special. She had been a free spirit, the perfect Yin to his Yang. Try as he might to suppress his feelings, one look, a touch could melt his icy veneer. Though as deadly a fighter as he, she had a soft side that he came to love.

Kuso, mused the swordsman. He suddenly realized that Rushuna was similar. In a fight she was stone cold efficient. When he had been hurt by the Blade Bard Assassin, she had become the complete opposite of what she aspired to be. If she hadn't embraced Tenshi's ideals, there was no telling the amount of carnage she could cause.

His thoughts drifted back to Fuuka. It had been such a shock that she had managed to survive the original fall, when he had been unable to keep a hold of her hand as they dangled thousands of feet up off a precipice. Kaizen Doushi had snatched her from the jaws of death, transforming her into a more ruthless and deadly personage. The Enlightenment of Evil had kept her frail body living somehow. Yajiro had convinced her that Rushuna was innocent and together they defied the Jester. Then end result was that he lost her again, not being able to hold onto her a second time. The first scenario had been played out in his mind a million times; he relived that event in slow motion every seemingly wakening moment.

Her loss had more than numbed his heart, had made him want to never get closer to another woman. The pain of losing a lover was devastating. The Jester had seen through it all when he taunted him, asking whom would he choose between, Shirato or Tendo? Had it been that apparent or did Doushi possess a sixth sense?

"Yatchan," he heard her whisper in a soft, nurturing voice.

"What?" he uttered in feigned annoyance.

"You're shivering, let me warm you up," her soft hands reached for him, then pulled him closer to her. Shimatta, he felt her ample breasts against his back.

"Rushuna!" he hissed in protest as she nuzzled her chin against his neck and shoulder.

"Yatchan, it's better this way, we'll all be warmer," she insisted. Just like her, to be motherly.

Sighing, he nodded reluctantly then allowed himself to relax in her arms. Any minute now, he expected Mikan to interfere with her childish histrionics.

He thought back to when he was with Fuuka. In close quarters, they were huddled together for warmth, then one thing led to another, bodies intertwined. She had taken what they both had wanted for so long, and he had given as good as he had got. In the end, they lay gasping and exalting in shared intimacy. He longed for her touch, remembered how soft her skin felt against his own.

Another recollection came to mind, one of him being held by Rushuna in Tenshi's bath, their naked bodies pressed together. He half wondered what he'd do right now if Mikan wasn't in the tent with them.

Tempestuous thoughts raced through his head, but he soon drifted off to a sound sleep.