Destiny

Author: HanaHeart

Beta: Mikawa

Fic Information & Disclaimer: See the Prologue

A/N: Fujima fans don't kill me, please 66

Chapter: Three

Next day…

Sendoh sighed as he watched the slaves from behind a crystal, searching for the raven-haired youth he was seeking. He had been searching for the young boy for two hours without any sign of him.

Sendoh took out the pendant from his pocket and looked at it. The memory of its owner's blue eyes gazing at him unfocusedly brought a soft smile to Sendoh's lips. Those dark-blue eyes had haunted his dreams ever since the day he saw them.

Sendoh shook his head, trying to clear his mind. He didn't have time to dwell on such thoughts. He had to find the boy as quickly as possible, before the time came for the slaves to return to the camps, or he would never be able to find him. But the mine was very big and he could not remember the exact place where he had seen the boy the last time.

The searching would be easier if Koshino or Aida was with him, but the two simply refused to join him. Koshino had a fit upon hearing his intentions to return and search for that boy. His loyal friend and servant had burst with rage and nearly strangled him. While Aida looked like he was at the verge of throwing up at the mere mention of the mine, though, he agreed to teach him the password to open the locks.

Sendoh sighed deeply, not really blaming his two friends. No one would like to return here after witnessing what happened. But Sendoh had a mission and he must complete it.

Taking another deep breath, Sendoh continued his search, walking along the ditch and peeking from time to time at the slaves.

Suddenly, he saw a group of guards ahead gathered around a slave. Carefully, he neared the group, trying to not to be seen. He saw a huge bald guard with other three guards forming a circle around a young slave with short brown hair and soft features lying on the ground.

Sendoh blinked several times, staring at the bruised face of the young man. Somehow, those child-like features looked familiar to his eyes despite the wounds and bruises on them. He was sure that he had seen that face somewhere.

Suddenly, the bald guard, whom Sendoh heard the other guards referred to as Murasame, jerked the head of the man up by pulling his brown locks. The slave yelled in the middle of the guards' laughter, reaching one hand weakly up to Murasame's clenched fist on his hair.

Sendoh widened his eyes in horror as he got a clear view of the youth's face. His heart almost stopped as his memory took him back two years ago.

FLASHBACK

Sendoh yawned in complete boredom as he watched some Lords and Ladies of his father's court dance and laugh in the center of the ballroom. A great ball was being held in the Imperial Palace, to celebrate the start of the spring season. But Sendoh hated attending such parties where false smiles, fake feelings, drunken people and boring conversations were the main events.

There was nothing interesting in them…

Suddenly, Sendoh's eyes caught the sight of Lord Hanagata Toru, Lord of Shoyo County, talking to another short man with short flax-brown hair styled in a clean cut that fell over his sky-blue eyes. Sendoh's eyes studied the young man carefully, noticing the thin pink lips set in a soft smile, the delicate child-like features and the lean yet muscular body.

Sendoh raised an eyebrow at the pair. They seemed to be engaged in a very happy conversation, barely noticing their surroundings.

"Hiro," he spoke to the boy, standing next to him; his eyes not leaving the other pair. "Who's the young man Lord Hanagata is talking to?"

"Aida said his name is Fujima Kenji." Koshino answered with a smirk. "He's Lord Hanagata's personal adviser and—" coughing discreetly, "—his official lover."

"Interesting!" Sendoh said. "Why haven't we seen him before?"

"He has never come to the capital before." Koshino said, handing Sendoh a glass of red wine. "This is his first trip outside Shoyo, I believe."

"I think Lord Hanagata is afraid to lose his lover," Sendoh said with a snigger. "Very thoughtful of him, I would say."

"Why?" Koshino asked playfully. "Are you thinking of stealing his lover, your highness?"

"Me? No way!" Sendoh said, taking a sip from his drink. "Lord Hanagata is one man I don't want to cross blades with." The two friends chuckled cheerfully.

"Come," Sendoh said, rising from his seat. "Let's go and talk to the couple of the year…" With a snigger, Koshino followed his Prince to where the Lord of Shoyo and his lover were standing.

"Lord Hanagata," Sendoh said, nodding in greeting. "It has been too long since we last saw you here."

"Prince Akira," Hanagata greeted quietly bowing. "Yes, it has been a long time. Shoyo is taking all of my time."

"My Lord," Fujima greeted in a low voice, bowing. "It's an honor to finally meet you."

"Your Highness," Hanagata said. "This is the head of my advisers, Lord Fujima Kenji."

"Pleasure to meet you, Lord Fujima." Sendoh said with a smile. "And this is my companion Koshino Hiroaki." He said, gesturing to Koshino who was standing beside him. The two boys nodded to each other in greeting.

Soon the four were engaged in a conversation about various things. Fujima was a good conversational partner with a great deal knowledge of different things in life, coupled with a gentle and polite personality. Sendoh was glad to gain such a unique and gentle friend.

END OF FLASHBACK

Cold sweat trickled down Sendoh's forehead.

That man was Fujima…

Lord Fujima Kenji…

Lord Hanagata's adviser and lover…

After the party that night, Fujima went missing. They woke up the day after the party to find the Shoyo adviser had disappeared...gone without any trace along with his personal horse and belongings as well.

Lord Hanagata was very shocked and heartbroken. Different theories and rumors had spread throughout the palace and beyond trying to explain the sudden disappearance of the Shoyo Lord's lover. Koshino had even informed him that some had seen and heard Hanagata and Fujima arguing in one of the corridors after the party and assumed that the brown-haired adviser had left for Shoyo after breaking up with his Lord. But Fujima wasn't found in Shoyo either. Two years had passed and many theories and rumors had been created…

Apparently, all those theories and rumors were wrong and no one had guessed what truly happened to Fujima.

For no one had guessed that he would be among the slaves. But why is he?

Sendoh gasped in horror, realizing something even more strangely. This Fujima Kenji did not have wings!

What happened to Fujima's wings?

Where and how did they disappear?

A yell escaped from Fujima's mouth as Murasame stomped on him, sending him back to the ground. Fujima tried to get up but Murasame turned him down with his foot.

"Well, well…what do we have here?" Murasame sneered, kneeling next to Fujima; one foot still on the youth's back. "Did you miss me, swine?" Fujima just whimpered in reply. "I think you do, whore." Murasame sniggered, sliding one hand underneath Fujima's tunic.

Fujima whimpered and tried to struggle away from the hand but his captor held him firmly in place.

"Now, now, slut…" Murasame sniggered. "Why the 'hard-to-get' attitude? Anyone would think that you aren't enjoying the attention!" he smirked, removing his hand then reaching inside his tunic and taking out a dagger. "By the way, how are your wounds, slave-lover? Did they heal yet?" with that, he removed his foot from above Fujima. He tore the slave's tunic with his knife, revealing Fujima's scarred back.

The two guards then held Fujima up so that his back was facing Murasame. The semi-conscious boy let out a weak moan.

Sendoh widened his eyes as he noticed two long noticeable scares, among many others, running along Fujima's back where his wings used to be. Suddenly, the terrifying truth became clear to Sendoh. Fujima's wings had been ripped away from his body!

Torn off!

Removed forever!

Sendoh didn't want to know why or how anymore.

"Good." Murasame smirked. "They have healed nicely. I think it's time to reopen them." With that, Murasame ran his knife along the tender skin of Fujima's wounds, drawing a horrible howl of pain from the young man.

Sendoh's blood froze in horror. He watched, terrified as the streams of blood ran along Fujima's back, staining his lower clothes.

"THAT'S ENOUGH, MURASAME!" a loud growl was heard throughout the whole cave. The guards froze in their places, dropping a nearly dead Fujima on the ground.

Sendoh forced his eyes to look away from Fujima towards the source of the shout.

A bulky giant man was making his way through the crowded slaves. His face was extremely threatening with his straight, thick eyebrows set in a frown and thick lips set into a straight line. He was wearing a dark blue tunic under a silver chest plate, leg armour, a leather black strip skirt -- a typical mine guards' uniform -- plus a waist-long black cape and a silver helmet on his head.

Sendoh stared in awe at the huge man as he neared the guards.

"Captain Uozumi," Murasame said, bowing his head politely.

"How many times do I have to repeat myself, Murasame?" Uozumi asked firmly. "I've ordered you not to lay a hand on him unless it was absolutely necessary. This the fourth time this week you disobeyed my orders."

/The fourth this week/ Sendoh thought in horror, staring at the motionless body between the guards' legs.

"I'm warning you, Murasame." Uozumi growled. "If this happens again, I will not overlook it."

"I'm sorry, captain," Murasame said, obviously not regretting it in the least. "It won't happen again."

Uozumi narrowed his eyes, staring deeply into Murasame's eyes. "You better keep that in mind, Murasame!" With that, Uozumi glanced at Fujima's motionless form before snorting in disgust and walking away.

Murasame kicked Fujima's body with his foot before he and the other guards walked away.

As soon the guards were out of sight, several slaves gathered around Fujima and tried to lift him up. The wounded man let out an agonizing cry when his body was moved.

"Leave him." A tall, well-built and poised man, with short brown hair, hazel eyes and tanned skin, said as he made his way through the crowds of slaves to where Fujima was lying, followed by two other youths.

The slaves immediately complied and walked away, making space for the man and his friends.

"Everyone," the young man said, kneeling beside Fujima. "Back to work. We don't need another one to be beaten up to death." Again, the slaves complied without questions, leaving the brown-haired young man alone with his friends and Fujima.

"My dear goddess Hera!" Kogure exclaimed, examining Fujima's wounds. He took off his glasses, wiping the tears that gathered in his chocolate-brown eyes, before looking up at his two waiting friends.

"We must get him out of here, Maki," He said, addressing the young man. "He won't survive if he stays any longer without treatment. The healers must see him immediately." Kogure's voice was heartbreakingly pleading.

Maki nodded his head and looked up at the third man. "Ryo, go inform Mitsui. We're taking Fujima to the healers and then back to the camps."

Ryo just nodded his head before turning around and leaving.

Turning his attention to the other man, Maki said, "Come on, Kogure. Help me to lift him up." Kogure nodded and the two gently swung each of Fujima's arms around their necks and lifted him, while holding his belt to support his body. Fujima let out a soft moan.

"It's alright, Fujima." Maki said in a kind tone, steadying Fujima's body while being careful not to touch his wounds. "We're going to get you out of here."

Sendoh sat on the ground thinking of what had happened in front of his eyes. He was still shocked to find Fujima here in all of the places…and without wings…

What happened to Shoyo's adviser? And why his wings were ripped off?

/What is going around me/ he asked himself. Many questions formed in his mind but there weren't any answers. Sendoh sighed, wiping the sweat off his face. He came here looking for answers yet all he gained was more questions!

Sendoh shook his head. This wasn't getting him anywhere. Sitting here would only increase his confusion. He had to find that slave now. He had to find some answers to his questions.

Finally, he stood up and continued his way along the path. Lost completely in his thoughts; Sendoh wasn't focusing on his way. Suddenly, he tripped over something hard and fell, hitting the ground with a pained grunt. Upon sitting up dazedly, a painful blow made contact with his face.

"No one disturbs my sleep," a dangerously quiet voice said in annoyance.

When Sendoh looked up, his eyes met with the most beautiful blue orbs he had ever seen. His heart raced as he stared directly at the face of the youth he was seeking.

The two stared at each other quietly for a while.

"You're not a guard." Rukawa whispered softly.

"No, I'm not." Sendoh replied softly, still enchanted with the boy's beauty. The two sat in silence again, neither knowing what to say.

Rukawa stared at the crystal ground, wondering what had come over him. Questions of who the boy was and how he got in ran through his mind. He wasn't a guard, which means that he wasn't supposed to be here. The mines and the camps were forbidden places to the winged people unless they were guards.

"What are you doing here?" the two of them asked in union. Both of them stared at each other again.

"Sleeping." Rukawa finally replied.

"I came looking for you." Sendoh said.

"Looking for Me? Why?"

"I was hoping that you would tell me about this." With that, Sendoh revealed his pendant.

"That is mine." Rukawa exclaimed, reaching his hand up to take the pendant off Sendoh's neck but Sendoh quickly moved away from Rukawa's reach.

"Give it back." Rukawa said firmly.

"I'm sorry but you are mistaken." Sendoh said. "This pendant is mine. My mother gave it to me on my birthday. This one is yours." He took out the identical pendant from his pocket and offered it to Rukawa.

Rukawa took the pendant and examined its back. Seeing the crest carved into it, Rukawa nodded. "Yes, this is mine. But where did you find it?"

"Well," Sendoh said in embarrassment. "I took it from you."

"Huh?"

"Well, I was told that my pendant was one of a kind. So I was surprised the other day when I saw you wearing an identical one. I was curious so I took it to have a closer look. I'm sorry about that."

"I see." Rukawa said solemnly, thinking of something his uncle told him once about the pendant.

"You don't seem surprised to know that they were two of this pendant." Sendoh said. "Did you know that they were two of them?"

Rukawa was about to reply when suddenly a shadow fell on them. The two looked up and saw another boy with bright red hair leaning on the huge crystal rock that they were hiding behind it, showing them his back.

"Hey, Kitsune," the boy said in a hushed voice. "Are you still sleeping? Wake up now. I think Fukuda is starting to notice your absence."

"Do'aho," Rukawa replied in annoyance.

"Temee! You ungrateful fox!" the redhead growled. "I don't know why I even bother! It's all that Miccy's fault!" the boy left still mumbling to himself.

Rukawa sighed deeply before standing up.

"Hey wait,"

He looked behind in surprise. He had totally forgotten about other boy.

"I must go." Rukawa said simply.

"I have to see you again. You must tell me everything you know about our pendants."

Rukawa eyed the winged youth with suspicious. He knows that he shouldn't trust that stranger. He knows that he shouldn't see him or talk to him ever again…but, something in his heart told him otherwise. Something in his heart wanted to see that stranger again and talk to him more…and something in his memory told him that they had been close to each other once.

"Kitsune, come out!" Sakuragi's hissing voice from behind the rock snapped Rukawa to reality.

"Please." Sendoh said softly. "I want to see you again…tonight."

"North of the camps," Rukawa whispered softly. "Near the ruins of Hera's Temple, around midnight." With that, Rukawa left in a hurry.

Sendoh smiled warmly before leaving as well.

From the shadows, a small boy with golden hair and clear blue eyes smiled to himself as he hung his bow on his shoulder. Just one more step and the lives of the two boys would be forever bound.

Night had fallen swiftly on the land of Kanagawa that day, much to Sendoh's delight. He didn't know why exactly, but Sendoh found himself looking forward to his meeting with that slave. He wanted to see him, not because of the pendant, but for the mere sight of him, Sendoh realized.

So, when it was close to midnight, Sendoh flew out of his window, heading towards Shohoku Mountain where the Slaves' Camps were located.

Landing on a tree next to the camps' walls, Sendoh observed his surroundings. He looked around, trying to find a spot where he could fly into the camps without being spotted by the guards. He waited patiently until the guards cleared the area before him and went somewhere else, and then he quickly dashed, flying over the high wall. Sendoh landed on the ground then dashed behind the first tree he saw and hid behind it.

He waited a little then covered his wings with a black cloak, before peeking from behind the tree. He had landed in an empty area of the camps. There were some cottages around but they were far enough so that inhabitants would not see him. Sendoh took a deep breath as he gazed around him, trying to locate the ruins of Hera's Temple. Seeing nothing that might guide him, Sendoh decided to test his luck. He took another deep breath before turning around and walking away into the darkness, away from the direction of the slaves' cottages. Suddenly, his eyes caught a glimpse of small sparks coming from the right side. Curiously, he followed the sparks until he came to some ruins. He approached them slowly until he was standing in front of the entrance of the ruined temple. A gasp of amazement escaped his mouth when he saw the exact carving of Hera and Eros upon the entrance.

"You're here." Sendoh startled at the sudden voice and quickly looked behind him, reaching for the dagger that was hidden between the folds of his clothes. But upon seeing the newcomer, he relaxed.

"Yes, I am." He said, smiling nervously at Rukawa.

Rukawa stared at him then looked away. "I didn't think you would come."

"I told you." Sendoh said. "I want to know more about the pendant. You didn't seem surprised to know that there were two of them, which suggests that you knew about it and know story behind their existence."

"Why do you want to know about it?" Rukawa asked, sitting on one of the scattered stones.

"I'm curious," Sendoh said. "Since I was told that my pendant was one of a kind."

"Where did you get it?"

"It's an heirloom." Sendoh said, sitting on a nearby stone. "Where did you get yours?"

"The same…" Rukawa replied. Then the two sat in silence for a while until Sendoh spoke again.

"You haven't told me your name," he said, looking at the youth next to him.

"You haven't told me yours either." Rukawa responded, eyeing Sendoh suspiciously.

Sendoh laughed softly before saying. "Alright!" he chuckled. "I'll tell you my name then you have to tell me yours. After that, you're going to tell everything you know about the pendant. Agreed?"

But Rukawa didn't reply; he merely looked up to the sky.

Sendoh sighed deeply. He knew that he couldn't tell a slave his real name. Heavens know what would happen to him if anyone knew that he was the Crown Prince. Thus, a lie was in order.

"My name is Akira. Sonoda Akira." Sendoh said.

"Sonoda?" Rukawa asked, looking at Sendoh in surprise. "Are you sure it's Sonoda?" Somehow, the sound of the name didn't feel right in Rukawa's ears. It was as if he was expecting something else.

"Of course, it is." Sendoh said. "Do you think I don't know my family's name?"

"No. it's not that." Rukawa said. "It's just……." He let his voice trailed off, not really knowing how to describe it.

"So what's your name?" Sendoh asked after a moment of silence.

"Rukawa Kaede." Rukawa replied.

Sendoh felt his heartbeat racing upon hearing the name. He doesn't know why but the name sounded so familiar to his ears. Of course, he might have heard it when he went to the mine with Koshino and Aida but this wasn't the case. He felt as if the name actually meant something to him…something important.

The two sat in silence for a while, each lost in his thoughts.

"So," Sendoh said suddenly. "What do you know about the pendants?"

"Nothing much." Rukawa replied. "All I know that they were made as token of love between a winged person and a wingless." He took his pendant off his neck and looked at Hera's smiling face. "Rumors say that they used to meet here in Hera's temple, thus, the wingless carved the symbol of Hera's love, which is on the entrance of the temple, onto the pendants."

"You mean that a wingless made them?"

"Yes." Rukawa said. "And on the other side, the crests of their two families were carved."

"Are you saying?" Sendoh gasped in shock.

"Yes." Rukawa said. "The crest on my pendant belongs to my family, when the wingless were free and shared Kanagawa with the winged people. And the crest on your pendant belongs to your family, but surely, you already know that."

"Yes." Sendoh said, thinking of what he heard. His ancestor was in love with a wingless person. But what that has to do with the war? Why he would enslave the race of his beloved one? And what about Rukawa? He must be a descendant of that supposed lover…but what role does that have in his search for the past?

"I guess," Sendoh said. "Then our ancestors were in love in the past."

"Yes." Rukawa said quietly. "But how that would affect our lives, I wonder." Sendoh looked surprised at Rukawa. He was about to ask what did he mean but Rukawa kept talking, more to himself than to Sendoh. "I often hear people around me talking about how love connects people even after death and how one day, love would be given another chance to grow and redeem the scars of the past. Everyone looked at me with such hope and expectation, just because I own this pendant. Everyone looks at me as if I can make miracles, just because I own this pendant. They looked at my father that way once, and to my grandfather, and to everyone of my family who owned this pendant, but as soon as they fell in love and married, people stopped looking at them that way and looked forward to the next person who would own this pendant."

Sendoh listened quietly to Rukawa, wondering what that supposed to mean. He wanted to know what the connection was between all of this. He wanted to know the connection that linked him with Rukawa, the connection that linked his ancestor with Rukawa's. He wanted to know…but how could he ask?

From above a nearby tree, Eros smiled again to himself. Now, everything was completed and the two hearts of the prince and the slave were bound forever and wheel of time shall roll again.

Two hours later…exactly at Maki's small cottage…

Maki entered the cottage, careful not to make any sound. He crossed the house soundlessly to only bedroom present and entered.

He threw a look on the young man sleeping at one corner of the room, and then sighed deeply. He approached the sleeping man and checked his temperature.

No fever…

/Good./ Maki told himself before standing up and making his way to the small bathroom attacked to the room. He picked up the bucket of water and started to clean himself. Yesterday had been a very long day for everyone. Maki felt as if he was about to drop any minute. If only he had the luxury of sleeping for the rest of the day! But that would be impossible, wouldn't it? In few hours, the guards would come to wake the slaves up and drag them to the mines…

Maki sighed deeply, thinking of the man sleeping in the next room. Fujima was at the verge of death yesterday because of that bastard Murasame. He had lost too much blood and fell under a sever fever spell. Maki and the others really thought that he wouldn't make it this time.

After drying himself with a towel, Maki wrapped it around his waist and stepped out of the bathroom. He glanced at the sleeping man before taking out a nightshirt from his cabinet. He lay on his makeshift bed and stared at the ceiling.

It had been one year and a half since Fujima was brought here. He was thrown in the central area of the camps, half dead. Bruises and cuts covered every inch of his body.

Kogure had taken care of him for a whole month before Fujima regained consciousness then for another month before he actually managed to stand on his feet. But then, people treated him with suspicion and distrust, fearing that he might be a spy. Fujima from his side kept his distance from everybody. And when Maki offered to share his cottage with him, since he hadn't a place to sleep other than the medical house, Fujima accepted the offer but reminded distant, dwelling in his own pain. As the days passed, Maki and the others started to warm up to Fujima, especially after seeing the way the guards treated him. It wasn't something anyone could fake, they just knew it. Then one by one, Fujima started to open up to them and made friends with Maki, Mitsui and some other boys.

One day, Fujima found the courage to tell Maki about himself and his life before coming here. He told him about his lover, his life as an adviser, and the reason why he was accused of treason and sent here after having his wings cut off.

Maki sighed deeply as his thoughts drifted to that subject.

It was a legend passed among the slaves that a love once existing between a winged noble and a wingless had caused the enslavement of the wingless race, and a similar love would be reason of their freedom. The Light of Hera, that carried the Rukawa's Crest on the back, was the symbol of that love.

Thus, people often looked at the Rukawa heir as their possible savior but as soon as that heir fell in love with a wingless and got married, they turned their hopes into the next generation of the Rukawa family. Naturally, the winged guards had made lot of fun out this matter, humiliating anyone of the Rukawa line in front of others.

Maki shook his head. He didn't believe a word of that crap. Instead, he pitied the Rukawas who had to suffer more just because of that stupid legend and pendant.

"Especially that unfortunate Rukawa Kaede…" Maki said to himself.

"What about Rukawa Kaede?" Maki startled upon hearing the hoarse voice. Looking to his side, he saw Fujima laying on one side and looking at him.

"Fujima!" Maki said, sitting up. "Since when were you awake? Did I wake you up? How do you feel?"

"Relax, Maki." Fujima said softly. "I was awake before you even returned. I was trying to sleep but I failed miserably. I didn't want to worry you so I pretended to be asleep."

"How do you feel now?"

Fujima sighed. "My whole body still aches and my broken pride aches more." He paused a little before saying. "Why didn't you let me die, Maki? It would've been better if I died."

"Don't be ridiculous." Maki said, laying back. "I know that you don't mean it."

"I do mean it, Maki." Fujima said. "I'm tired of all the humiliation and suffering. I'm tired of fighting back."

"First, you can't be tired of fighting back, because you aren't fighting at all. You just stand in your place and accept whatever those bastards do to you." Maki said. "Secondly, which is the important thing, we all suffer from the same humiliation, but we learned to survive it, until the day comes when we become free."

"I wish I could be that optimistic." Fujima replied. "I wish I could believe that one day, I will return to Shoyo…to Toru."

"You will." Maki said positively. "I know that you will."

"So," Fujima said, trying to change the subject. "You didn't tell me what about Rukawa Kaede?"

"Nothing really." Maki said, looking at the ceiling. "I was just thinking of the rumors that surround that kid, that's all. I just pity him for the way people always look at him. It's just a harsh thing to put such burden on a diseased boy. And why? Because he's from the Rukawa line and bears the Light of Hera! That's ridiculous."

"But the legend is true." Fujima said.

"The love story maybe true and the entire enslavement thing," Maki said. "But that doesn't mean that Kaede would actually fall in love with a winged prince and because of that, we will be freed."

"You never know." Fujima said. "Maybe that what could happen at the end!"

"Please," Maki said with a snort. "That kid bears more than he could without knowing it. His illness is a quite burden on him by itself. No, I don't believe it. If we were to be freed then it would be by our hands. We can't ask him to make miracles. It just isn't right."

"You don't want to believe it because you're worried about him…not because you find the legend ridiculous or anything." Fujima stated.

"So what if I'm worried about him?" Maki said. "Rukawa Kaede, despite his cold attitude, is dear to everyone. His father was respected and admired by everyone. We lost him at the execution stand. We don't want to lose his only child as well."

Fujima chuckled softly. "You are contradicting yourself, Maki. You and the others care for Rukawa because he's a Rukawa…because of what that line means to all the wingless people…because of that legend."

"Are you saying that I care for Kaede only because he's a Rukawa?" Maki snapped.

"Well, maybe because he's also your fiancée's cousin." Fujima said teasingly. "Nevertheless, Rukawa's part in the wheel of fate has yet to be decided. He might not be the one who will free your people and the Legend might prove be a mere myth at the end. I do pray to all the gods that this would be the case, or at least he won't turn out to be the one. As you have said, Rukawa is a diseased boy. His ailed heart would not stand to be broken."

"Broken?" Maki asked.

Fujima just smiled at his friend then shook his head. "Let's get some sleep, Maki. It's better if we just forget about this matter. As you said, it's impossible."

With that, Fujima closed his eyes and surrendered to sleep. Maki stared at his friend for a while before closing his eyes as well.

T.B.C