A/N: I've been busy, extremely busy, so pardon me for the very very late update. My apologies to all that have been waiting.

The smell of gunpowder was strong.

It was stronger this time when I neared her room.

I stood outside, clamly, trays of stacked food within my grasp; wondering why I was treated differently from all other people that had once lived within the the embrace of Amaterasu.

Tokiha Mai…who are you?

I heard Natsuki's voice from outside, the sun was not yet up above the horizon and the rest of the shrine was fast asleep. The crickets were somehow silent and the bamboo forest that grew around was deathly still. The rustling of leaves were unheard of and I felt betrayed, nonetheless, by Amaterasu; where was her guiding radiance when I needed it so. Aren't I the preistess of the Grand Shrine of Ise? Do I not keep her house of worship clean and brimming with respect and glory?

Haven't I…not?

I hadn't knocked on her door but she knew I was standing outside her quarters, outside her prison. I was her captor from the truth…was I? No I was not, I did not do anything, it wasn't my fault that everything that has happened until now is bleak, unsettling and stained. It was never my fault to begin with.

It was never my fault.

The bamboo screen infront of me cracked open silghtly and Shizuru's dark eyes, so long known, looked into mine. The screen was pulled back further and she stepped aside silently, letting the suffocating hot air from within Natsuki's room to engulf me whole, her cracking, dying autumn eating at my presence. It seemed to suck at my aura, draining my sanity along with my role in this disturbing triangle. I cannot lose myself; I have come this far…

I stepped in, quietly, and darkness crept up my legs as I pushed myself further into her room. The air inside was still and my eyes shifted uneasily at the mess that surrounded me. Amaterasu had once hid herself from the world, letting darkness roam the earth. Now it seemed that I myself had ventured into the cave she hid herself in… Natsuki's once beige plastered coloured walls were now the colour of charcoal, like of her dark hair hapharzardly thrown across her face. Strecthed across her walls were her brush storkes, scratching it's once innocent surface with premonitions of her vile future, past and present.

It was never my fault.

Shizuru's presence was nothing like a doll should be, it seem to reciprocate Natsuki's well being…yet, isn't it natural for her to do so for aren't they tied together? However this biting presence behind me…it shouldn't be as strong as she once use to be. I kept my eyes fixed on the flooring, trying in vain to get use to the lurching shadows that loomed around, before I swept my gaze up uncomfortably to look at Natsuki.

Her skin was as black as ever, same like the last I had seen her in her room. This time round her neck was completely swallowed and the black stain gnawing at her face. Her emerald eyes still gleamed in the darkness, haunting like ghost and listless like the dead. She sat tiredly on her black stained futon and her hands weakly adjusting her lapels of her soiled yukata. Her hair was in a mess and I scrunched my nose at the stench that wrapped around her.

I know that stench

I know it so very well.

Shizuru kept the door open, but I realised that the sun had not raised her head above her brother. I grimaced inwardly and steadily lowered myself down beside Natsuki's bed matting. I was not afraid of her lashing temper for I had gotten her to kept silence at my presence; I do not simply lie without reason. However now, I needed Natsuki to speak, I needed her retorts, I needed to hear her say,

'What do you want Mai?'

I kept my face still and noticed sidelong that Shizuru had pulled herself down to sit slightly behind me. Graceful as she had ever been, she listened quietly and silently. Deathly silently as she once was…or was she?

It was never my fault.

'I want nothing.'

I was surprised at the smoothness of my execution; doubting myself that I was able to keep this throughout the conversation that was going to start. My eyes shifted slightly to follow Natsuki's movement and I watched her move to rest her head on her hand. She peered at me through her fringe, her glowering emerald eyes laughing at me,

'Nothing? You always have something to tell me when you come to me, Mai.' She paused and clicked her tongue, 'Cut the shit.'

I bit my lip, and I snapped my fingers soundly.

She gritted and out from her mouth, black liquid rushed out. Her teeth were gnashed together tightly and pushing against it, the thick black substance leaked out from her mouth. Shizuru from behind me immediately rushed to her side and held her heaving frame in her arms. Those crimson eyes met mine for a brief second before focusing soley on Natsuki and inside her, I could see nothing but the lingering soul of someone I once knew. But…

She is long dead.

Long dead, Natsuki.

Ink, was it not? That was running down like glass cracks down her chin? I pursed my lips, watched her cough out another bout and listened to the smooth hand that ran up and down her black back. The air was still still and I closed my eyes before opening them to the sound her a cracked voice, gurgling with ink,

'What did you do to me?!'

Shizuru's eyes too came against mine and I was taken aback, slightly, by the vivid red that suddenly glowed within her dark eyes. Isn't she already dead? I tilted my head to the side to meet emerald eyes that glazed over with disgust and I simply snapped my fingers once again. Natsuki doubled over and from her mouth once again, a steady flow of black ink streamed out.

'I am not doing anything.'

Her hand at her mouth turned into a shade darker at the liquid that gushed out and her emerald eyes were sealed shut before weakly opening again to try their best to glare at me. Shizuru was pulled into panic at the second turn; worry and concern were evidently scrawled across her face. Her lips were pursed together and I pressed my hands to the ground,

'The emperor is on his way here.'

As I pushed myself up from the floor, Natsuki's face paled and it grew ghastly in the darkness.

I paused, and continued,

'Ein has already left to accompany the convoy here.'

Her emerald eyes turned empty and her hand at her mouth dropped. I stood high above her form,

'I hope you are still able to carry out your duties as the paper doll maker.' I stopped once again to look down at her form that had started to tremble at my words, why was she not speaking?

'I did not call you here for a recollection. I called you here to perform your duties like your father had once done.'

'I am not my father.'

Impressive, that she was able to snap back in such a state, but I was waiting for her to speak. That was all I needed her to do, to confirm that she was still struggling to stay alive. I brought my hands together to rest infront of my body and I cut into her eyes,

'You have assumed his role; I did not say that you were Kuga-sama.'

She narrowed her eyes on me and I felt something creeping up from behind me, I continued despite anything,

'I pray that you recover as soon as possible.'

My eyes watched her body tense and I gestured to her politely,

'Then maybe, once you have recovered, we can play Go.' I averted my eyes to Shizuru who looked overwhelmed by my presence, 'Like we use to.'

Natsuki stilled and I turned around, waving the bamboo screens further open, the sun had still yet to rise. Have I been betrayed? I stepped out onto the veranda and Natsuki's strained and deep voice stopped me from turning off down the corridor,

'Maybe Mai…'

I peered back over my shoulder and found Natsuki struggling to get up from her futon, her hands keeping Shizuru's worried hands away from her frail body,


She struggled to stand,


I turned back, and waited,

'Maybe what, Natsuki?'

Her emerald eyes burned with radiance and I stepped back slightly at the glow that was could mirror mine; she breathed,

'Maybe when you realise…'

I kept silent for a while at her incomplete sentence and I turned back to turn to walk down the corridor when I realised she would go no further. I stopped midway on my way back to the main hall and looked at the red gate that stood tall infront of the courtyard. The sun had risen a long time ago, shining behind the dark grey clouds. I chewed onto my lip and hugged myself tightly.

It was never my fault.


Her lips were swollen and kept quiet when I asked out of curiosity.

She stayed up all night hugging herself and looked away from I approached her the next morning.

'I wish you could take my life away.'

Could I?

A/N: As a point of the infinite triangle, will Mai stray from her path?

I simply love Mai among all, as I have come to realise... Seemingly because she dances in the colour I adore. Thank you for your support and udying patience.

Then again, until when(?),