This chapter is unbeta'd due to impatience. I may edit it later if it proves necessary, and I hope that my mistakes don't distract from the story
"I told you, you are mine." He walked so that he was standing over her legs, pinning her ankles together with his. "That means that I get what I want from you, when I want it." Anakin could hear the sneer in his voice as he continued. "You might as well decide to enjoy it."
She held out a hand palm out, and Toril again went flying. This time though, smoke began to pour from his shirt before flames erupted from it. Anakin watched in a sort of horrified fascination as the man batted at the flames.
With the small fire out, he stared at Leika with enraged disbelief while she simply stared back impassively. "This isn't over," he warned, vaulting on the brown ryuu and rising quickly into the greenish sky.
"What was that?" Kenshin's groggy thought reached him.
"Leika," Aoshi replied, trying unsuccessfully to suppress his dread. "She went to meet Toril."
The hostility in his thoughts at the man's name apparently caught the other man by surprise, judging by the length of the silence that followed. "Do you think something happened?"
"I'm sure it did,"
Her flat tone told him it was much worse than she was saying. "Why would he attack you?"
Her eyes slid shut as she took a deep breath. "I'd rather not discuss it right now. It doesn't matter anyway. I got the information I was after."
Looking over at Anakin, he knew by his resolute expression that the young man wouldn't tell him either. He tried to keep himself calm, to not let the frustration he was feeling boil over, but some of it slipped out, causing his next words to sound harsh and accusing.
"I thought we had agreed not to block each other, yet here you are doing it again. I really don't know why I bother!"
"Shishio must be trying to get to her. But why?"
"That should be obvious," was her dry answer. "To get to you. But what I want to know is whether he's after the abilities still, or if it's simply revenge?"
He nodded, lost in thought. "We hopefully have time to figure out the whys of this, but now we need to figure out how to keep it from happening in the first place."
"We need to talk to at least Leika as soon as possible, the entire group if we can. I should let Okina and Hiko know as well, see what they can do that's not being done already."
They spent a little longer devising a plan before splitting up, agreeing to meet again just before sunrise at the Gather grounds. Kaitra walked wearily to her house, grateful that she would have some time to rest before the chaos would begin.
"Well, that should do it," the first man said, oblivious to the new arrivals as he scooted backwards before standing. "Grinder should be pleased."
The other man opened his mouth to speak as he stood, then froze as he glimpsed the redhead watching them. He was tapping his companion frantically to get his attention as he began backing away.
"Good evening gentlemen," Kenshin began in a friendly tone. "You're under arrest."
Shinomori offered a pained looking salute before turning stiffly on his heel and leaving at a rather brisk pace. "This will be interesting indeed," he said to no one before entering a comm code. The recipient answered almost at once.
"Okita," he said after the youth greeted him. "How would you like to go pick a fight?"
The young man smiled. "With whom should I pick this fight?"
Saito found his lip curling in amusement. "Black Sunshine."
Chapter 22: Bullet with Butterfly Wings
Aoshi sighed, his previous bad feelings of the coming events coalescing into a giant knot of worry that seemed to be constricting his entire body. Walking away from Saito, he was sure that the man had picked up on everything he was trying to hide about Leika. Damn him! It was extremely likely that he would use this to goad her during the meeting, possibly during her pick-up as well. And after last night, he doubted that she'd be able to restrain herself enough to avoid the consequences Saito had long been holding out on.
This was the last thing he needed to be worrying about right now! Not with the safety of the planet at stake!
He found one of the few vendors that were open at this hour, and proceeded to get his morning meal before sitting to peruse Saito's report. He forced himself to focus on nothing else as he scrolled through the text, though he already knew most of it thanks to Kenshin. The descriptions of those captured matched some of those from the group Leika had given him, and he began planning the direction his portion of the interrogation would go.
So absorbed was he that he failed to notice the two figures approaching his secluded table until one sat on either side of him. He looked up suddenly at the odd pair, his expression of surprise quickly replaced with one of respect.
"Gaiscioch Dorcha, Sehha Kaitra. I must admit that this is a surprise. What brings the two of you here?"
The two shared a grim glance before Kaitra spoke. "We need to speak with the group. How can we arrange that?"
Aoshi frowned at the severe tone before answering. "I am not sure, as we already have a meeting this morning with Saito. Perhaps afterwards…" he trailed off in thought, picking up after a moments silence. "May I inquire as to the nature of this discussion?"
Another glance between them, then Teren answered from the shadows under the wide brim of his hat. "I have noticed several patterns of movement in the last few days that I believe is connected to the planned attack. There are other notes of interest that we wish to discuss as well."
He nodded as Kaitra continued. "I contacted Okina this morning to inform him and Hiko as well, and I believe they both plan on being in the area today, though they were still planning things on their end when I left."
That was enough to tell him the impact of their information, if the Leaders were mobilizing as well. "Do they know of your involvement in this?" he asked the large man on his left.
His eyes narrowed in annoyance, but it was Kaitra that answered. "Yes. And while they aren't pleased, they agree that the situation warrants cooperation."
Teren's scathing expression matched his next words. "Even they aren't stubborn enough to let the planet suffer over an old grudge."
The younger man nodded but remained silent for a long moment. When he did speak, it was to return to the original subject. "Would you be willing to attend the meeting with Saito? It would save us time by telling everyone who needs to know at once."
A thoughtful looked passed between the two, slightly blank indicating that they were discussing it over their link. This made him wonder if there was something else behind their request.
"That will suffice," Teren finally answered. "However, we wish to also speak to the group itself afterwards. There are some things that should stay with us."
"Agreed," Aoshi responded instantly, recalling their last conversation. "Does last night have any bearing on this?" he asked, sensing that Leika's midnight mental scream went farther than he'd initially believed.
"Aye, and we mean to find out what caused it." Kaitra's eyes held a determined gleam, the harsh quality of her voice betraying the underlying worry.
"Tell me," Teren suddenly broke the silence, tapping the nearly forgotten datapad Aoshi had been studying, "what else happened since we last spoke."
The scowls on both faces became more pronounced, though Kaitra's was mixed with concern. Both had heard the accounts of Gunsmoke, and recognized Bluesummers as a brutal adversary. The arrests of the previous night were a good sign, but they doubted that any real information would come from the interrogations. As he finished with the descriptions Leika had given him the previous night, he realized that it was nearing time for the meeting.
They left, walking silently through the growing crowd. Saito was just exiting the portable building when they approached, raising his eyebrow in his patented questioning look at the young man leading them.
"Sehh Saito," he began when they were nearer, "I would like to request the presence of my comrades at the upcoming meeting. They have come across additional information that may be vital to our efforts."
The Head of Security narrowed his eyes even further than usual as he took in the two standing behind him. There was a flicker of suspicious recognition as he looked over Teren, a second when his appraising gaze landed on the woman next to him. "And may I ask for introductions?" he asked in a carefully casual voice.
"Kadru Teren," the man behind Aoshi stepped forward, extending his hand which was briefly shaken by Saito. Though he would never admit it, Aoshi felt a small bubble of amusement begin at the sight of Saito having to look up at the other man, a sight very rarely seen before. It was quickly squashed by the calculating look crossing the sharp features when the next introduction was made.
"Kaitra Shinju," she said simply as she too stepped forward with extended hand. The closed expression on her face told him that she knew the problems her daughter had with this man, and was expecting the knowledge blooming in the man's dark eyes at her name to be used against her.
"Hajime Saito," he replied as all three stepped back to their original places. Looking back at the taller man, his expression became shrewd as he asked, "I dare say you are the one better known as Phenom, correct?"
Though Aoshi couldn't see the glare Teren was leveling at the Head of Security, he could feel it raising hairs on the back of his neck. His voice, however, was kept carefully measured. "That is correct."
Saito nodded, a quick gleam lighting his eyes before he spoke. "Very well." The hard gaze returned to Aoshi as he continued. "Yes, I will allow them to sit in the meeting. Himura and Kenobi have just arrived and the remainder of my men should be assembled upon my return." His voice then dropped to a goading tone as he added, "I have a pick-up to supervise."
It was the younger man's turn to scowl, his eyes turning to ice as he pursed his lips into nothingness as he resisted the urge to vocalize the scathing retort held behind his clenched jaw. He settled for a jerk of his head in place of a nod and led the others inside.
It was still dark when the padawan awoke, and deciding that he would be unable to return to sleep, had gone to relieve an initially reluctant Leika of guard duty. After he convinced her that she needed a break at the very least, he watched her walk into the camp hut, doubting that she would actually sleep. The strain of the day seemed etched into her features and her voice had been almost gravelly when she spoke. Though she continued to insist that she was fine, he remained unsure of whom she was actually trying to convince.
The sky was just beginning its nearly imperceptible lightening preceding dawn, and the youth could hear the quieting of nocturnal animals as they took shelter. No unnatural sounds reached his ears as the sky became colored in pastel shades, no warnings found their way through the Force, and soon his thoughts began to wander to the situation he had witnessed earlier.
She had refused to talk about it during their short conversation earlier, and he had been reluctant to push her. He understood how she must feel, having watched and, as he grew older, helped his mother deal with the aftermath more often than he wished to think about. But he also realized that this situation was vastly different for many reasons, and as such, he had no idea what he should do now.
Mulling over his thoughts as he was, Leika's arrival caught him by surprise and he embarrassed himself by jumping slightly when she spoke.
"We'll be leaving soon if you still need to get ready," she said as she moved to stand before him. "The pick-up time will be earlier than previously given, so we'll need to get moving."
He nodded and stood as well, dusting the seat of his pants as he took in her appearance for the day. Though the black outfit still highlighted her stunning figure, it seemed somehow more modest than the one from the day before. The top wasn't as low cut and the skirt was a bit longer as well, and the overall style was more conservative. *So, she's withdrawing,* he noted, not at all surprised.
Misao bounded out of the hut a moment later and Leika turned her attention to the girl, giving her the instructions for the day. "I don't know if anything will happen today, but it seems likely. I'll meet you at Tae's stand before Okubo's speech. First sign of trouble and you're outta here kid."
"Aww," Misao pouted, throwing the older girl a well rehearsed expression of indignant hurt. "I wanna help!"
"You'll help me a lot more if you follow your grandfather's orders," was the emotionless reply. "Now run along and stay out of trouble!"
Apparently Misao was used to Leika's odd moods, for she didn't seem concerned about her mechanical demeanor. "Always do," she called cheerfully over her shoulder as she scampered off.
"Ungrateful brat," Leika muttered under her breath before returning her gaze to him. "Does this mean you're ready?"
"It does," he confirmed.
"Then let's get this packed up and get out of here."
That was a rather quick job, and it wasn't long before they were heading towards the food booths. They had just enough time to grab a quick something to eat before a short teen near their age in a military uniform casually sauntered over.
"Well, well, if it isn't Black Sunshine," he drawled as he approached, openly letting his gaze travel the length of her body.
Anakin felt her tense beside him, and the low growl she used to reply voiced her displeasure. "Okita, my second favorite officer." Her sarcasm wasn't missed by either man as she folded her arms protectively across her chest, hands resting just below the edge of her sleeves. "Come by for a reason or just harassment as usual?"
"Now, that's just not a very nice thing to ask," he said in his falsely pleasant voice. "I just thought I'd come over and say hello to one of my favorite miscreants."
Her continuously narrowing eyes flashed at his final word but she remained silent as he finally seemed to notice the Jedi. "A new partner in crime? Where DO you keep finding them?"
She had not known ahead of time whom their pick-up would be, but she had warned him that there would probably be a fight of some type to 'justify' taking them in. He had heard about some of her previous encounters, and the young man now standing before them seemed to especially enjoy tormenting her. Which was likely why Saito seemed to use him more often than not for this purpose, Anakin thought sardonically.
"Hilarious," was her dry retort. "I do hope that Saito isn't keeping you around to provide comic relief, because I'd have had your arse fired a long time ago."
"I forgot how absolutely charming you were," was the sarcasm-laced reply, though the facade of pleasantness still dominated. Letting his gaze travel her form once again, he added, "It's such a shame that your personality isn't as nice as your body. I might actually consent to be with you in that case."
"As if I would ever want to be with the likes of you," she snarled, venom oozing from her in waves. "I suggest that if you don't have a reason for bothering me, you leave before you regret it."
Anakin watched apprehensively as the youth took several steps towards her, stopping way to close for comfort. He saw Leika shift her fingers and was sure that the kunai handles were now in her grasp, just itching to be drawn.
"And just how do you plan to accomplish that?" he asked, one hand reaching out as though to stroke her hip.
The second his hand made contact, time seemed to slow to a crawl. As Leika's arms swung out, the young officer suddenly jerked backwards as though a solid gut punch had been landed, flying back a short distance before landing hard on his back. A whoosh of air was heard coming from the fallen teen whose expression was furiously shocked. Leika stood glaring down at him, a kunai pointed menacingly at him from each hand. Taking a closer look at her shadowed face, Anakin could only hope to never have such a look of utter contemptuous spite aimed at him. Her features were twisted with the rage she was barely holding in, and he almost swore her eyes glowed red under her dark protective lenses.
Time suddenly reverted back to normal as Okita coughed from the ground as he began picking himself up. There was no mistaking the malicious scowl that began dancing across his face as he slowly rose to his feet and dusted himself off. All traces of his previous façade now faded, he met her eyes before growling, "You'll pay dearly for that one, Sunny!"
Her eyes narrowed until they were merely slits, the rest of her face morphing grotesquely as she snarled at him. Before Anakin could even decide to move, she had hurled the small blades at him, both just barely avoiding each side of his head.
No sooner had the blades passed then the youth charged her, drawing his sword and taking a vicious upward swing at her. She flipped back, calling her collapsible sword from her right boot as she landed. It was fully extended and in position in time to block his next move, a high swing aimed at her shoulders.
As their swords locked between them, Anakin grasped the hilt of his lightsaber, yet hesitated to fully withdraw it. A small crowd had begun to gather and he didn't want to compromise his identity as a Jedi. Leika had stepped back and twisted her sword around her opponents, hoping to tear the weapon from his grip. Her only success was that his grip was loosened momentarily, causing him to take a second step back to keep his balance.
Reluctantly he let go of his weapon and decided on the collapsible in his boot. He bent down to reach it, quickly standing with it still collapsed. In that time Leika had managed to back Okita against a nearby wall, where he was barely holding back the blade that was inching closer to his throat with his own.
Anakin approached cautiously, ready to extend his blade at any second. Okita's eyes darted frantically between him and the woman who held him pinned before calling on a hidden reserve of power to push her violently away, far enough that he was able to gather himself somewhat before she started to charge at him again. The padawan rushed forward, hoping to intervene in what was quickly becoming an even worse situation when suddenly Leika was knocked off her feet, sliding a good way along the dirt path she landed on before finally coming to a stop.
A low chuckle from behind him had Anakin spinning quickly around as he slid to his own stop. "Temper, temper little girl," Saito taunted as he walked past the Jedi to where Leika was now standing, all but snarling at him. "Wouldn't want to get into any more trouble, now would you?"
The snarling had evaporated into a hateful glare that was her only response, but apparently to the older officer it was enough. It was only then that Anakin became aware that Saito hadn't arrived alone. Spreading out around them were at least ten other officers, all ready to jump in should the need arise. Leika had apparently noticed this too, as he watched her push the desire to fight down and tried to appear somewhat relaxed as she responded.
"I have no idea what you are talking about," her barely controlled voice stated as she deftly re-collapsed her sword and returned it to her boot. "What kind of trouble could I possibly be in for simply defending myself?"
Watching the amusement dancing across the stern features gave Anakin an even worse feeling than he'd already had. "How is pinning my officer against a wall an act of defense? Or charging him shortly after?" the tall man asked casually as he strolled closer. "No, I'm afraid I don't buy that little story this time."
He stopped, watching her closely as various ugly emotions mutated across her face. Anakin could tell that she was aware she'd overstepped their established bounds and was searching for a way to smooth things over. Looking closer at the Head of Security's face though, the padawan was sure that this incident was just what the man was waiting for. An excuse to put the girl on some sort of restriction. His next words proved these thoughts true.
"I believe you have proven just how unstable you truly are," he said in a low smooth voice that Anakin could just barely hear, a predatory glint shining in his dark eyes. "Something will have to be done about it, don't you think?"
Her only response for a long moment was the hateful glare still in her narrowed eyes, her features settling into scowl. "Just make sure it's not something you'll later regret," she growled as her eyes met his.
Saito's left eyebrow rose in mock surprise. "Is that a threat?" he asked, sounding almost amused.
"Simply a warning, not that you deserve one," was her stoic reply.
He stared hard at her for another moment before stepping back and motioning for two of his guards to come forward. "You," he said to the closest one, "will take her. You will take him," was his order to the second guard, waving his hand dismissively towards Anakin.
"He wasn't even involved," Leika immediately spat, lurching forward as the blond guard assigned to her grabbed her arm. She struggled as he reached expertly around to seize her left arm and bring both behind her back. During the struggle, Saito began speaking.
"He was advancing at the same time as you, and even if he meant no harm, just being with you makes him suspect enough." Saito smirked as she continued struggling, then added, "Use the Suppressors with them. There's no telling with this type what they may be willing to try."
Anakin had begun backing away as the burly, dark haired guard approached, not entirely ready to just go willingly. He was really starting to understand why Leika loathed this man so much, and his anger on her behalf was just barely still in the containable range. When the other man reached for his arm he jerked it away and stepped into a more combat-ready stance. He glanced questioningly over at Leika at the mention of Suppressors, and her suddenly pale face was all the confirmation he needed that they were indeed just what they sounded like.
His heart literally felt like it was plummeting when the officer quickly snapped one cuff over his left arm and he instantly felt the absence of the Force. It took only seconds for the officer to have his other arm behind him encased in the cuff on the other side. Dropping to his knees with his head flopping forward, he was caught by the officer grabbing the back of his neck.
It took the padawan several deep breaths before he could again stand, doing so only to see a very satisfied smirk on Saito's angular features. Apparently Leika hadn't faired any better, only now beginning to stand herself. As soon as she was steady and staring defiantly at him, he turned his back and begun walking, the remaining officers moving to flank the two 'prisoners' as they silently followed.
Leika was seething by the time they reached the building, as all her attempts at calming herself were thwarted by Saito's snide comments to the officers leading them. It wasn't like she wasn't aware of the trouble her temper had landed her in, nor that he was eagerly anticipating whatever sanctions her was about to put her under. No, she was perfectly well aware of how totally and completely she had messed up.
The rage that had been building since last night continued to bubble within her, begging for the release she could not give it. Not if there was any hope to salvage this situation and thwart the rebellion.
They were led to a small side chamber where the Suppressors were removed before a smirking Saito led the way into the larger, rectangular conference room. A long oval table sat in the middle, with a podium situated in the center of it. On the side farthest from the door were several Shinsengumi Officers, which came as no surprise given the events of last night. Once she was completely in the room and able to see the closer side, the final remnants of her anger turned to dread as she spied the last two she expected to see in a Government facility.
She came to a complete stop in the doorway, causing Anakin to run into her as he tried to enter. In her shock, all she could ask was, "What are you two doing here?"
A/N: I haven't given up on this story. Honest. It's just that last spring/summer started another transition period for me, and it's only been recently that things have settled somewhat. During this most recent upheaval, I managed to somehow lose ALL my notes for this story, or at least everything for the next couple chapters. So I had to go back and start it over. Not to mention that this was a very uncooperative chapter for some reason, and I had to rewrite it several times. But anywho…
I will make no promises on how long future chapters will take to write, Because everytime I do something goes wrong and it gets delayed even longer. If it's going to take more than a month, I will put an update on my profile for anyone who is curious.
I've had someone point out some "Sue-ness" concerning Leika, which is something that I've been working hard to avoid. Also some other characterizations from both universes have been questioned as well. I have my reasons for everything I have done with this story, and I have put much thought into both the characters and the planet itself. I will answer questions about this story if they are asked lol. All it takes is hitting that review button down there!
Also, I'd like to thank all those who have been reading, and especially those who have let me know it through alerts, favs, and the occasional review! You All Rock!
Story Alerts: Agent ERA, Anhk d'Aiath, Haissan, Jaded Scorpio,
Story Faves: Anhk d'Aiath, Aul, Failhammer, jeca75, LtMadden, vampirewitchcat, VexMaster, yenneffer
Fave Author/Alert: Anhk d'Aiath, Ducky'sgirl4ever
Reviews: Anhk d'Aiath, Sakiku, morning rush, Haissan
I realize that some of these thanks are way overdue, and I apologize. Thanks again!