AN: Bonjour my beautiful people! I know I've been gone for awhile, but here I am once again! :DD Thank you for the reviews, it really made my day.

I don't really feel like explaining my absence, but here's chapter five! Enjoy!

Thank you ChibiKagura!

33

Chapter Five: The One I Must Protect

Standing on the tree branches, a familiar boy with pale skin ran his fingers through his aquatic-blue hair. Pressing his back against the tree bark, he grinned sinisterly. Reflected in his icy eyes was a green-haired kunoichi standing on top of a giant, frog-like creature, ready to attack.

"It's always the quiet ones," he stated amusingly.

With a delighted sigh, the boy traveled his eyes towards the school. His eyes seem to be fixated on something in particular. His grin only grew wider.

"Better hurry up or she'll definitely lose it," he warned mysteriously.

*****************************************************

"Mai, Mai! Your boobs are glowing!"

"Mikoto! That's very inappropriate!"

"But Mai, they really are glowing. Look!"

Sensing the pigtailed girl's persistency, Mai looked down at her chest. She gasped, seeing a bright, orange glow coming from inside of her shirt. She placed her hand on her chest, and looked around the cafeteria table to at everyone (Natuski, Mikoto, Nao, Akane, Yukino, Haruka, Shiho). Sure enough, she wasn't the only one.

"Natsuki, your back!" Mikoto pointed out, standing up.

Sitting on the chair sideways, the blue-haired biker abruptly got on her feet and turned her head around as far as she could. Seeing that her back was glowing as well, she immediately looked back at everyone at the table. One by one, each HiME started to get that same, radiant glow from the different areas of their body where there HiME marks were located.

Mai suddenly brought her attention outside the window. Her instincts were strongly telling her to go to a specific direction.

"Come on," Natsuki motioned her hand towards the door, "I think we gotta check it out."

Nodding to her suggestion, the rest of the HiME's got up from their chairs and dashed out the door, leaving behind a lost-looking Yuuichi and Haruka.

"Ugh!" Haruka cried in frustration with her hands up in the air, "I don't understand! What is going on?"

Yuuichi responded with a shrug and continued to eat his lunch.

*****************************************************

Takumi couldn't take his eyes off of Akira. Not only were there weird swirls appearing on her back, but her child was three times bigger than before! He quickly glanced over to Naomi and Kyoko, who seem to be more in awe.

"H-HiME?" Kyoko whispered in distress, lowering her weapon.

Hearing the warrior uttering an unfamiliar word, Naomi gave Kyoko a questionable look. The guardian gave a little jump in surprise when she heard Takumi calling the ninja's name.

"Akira-chan!"

The HiME ignored the boy's pleas. "Gennai, ATTACK!"

Charging towards Kyoko, Gennai mouth opened to reveal a large, silver cannon. Realizing it was coming towards her, Kyoko leapt into the air. A huge blast sent several trees up in the air and made birds feverishly fly away. Once Kyoko landed on the ground, a sudden hard blow of a kick landed on her chin. Kyoko flew backwards, stabbing her weapon into the dirt to prevent herself from going too far.

"Akira, please stop this!" Takumi cried, reaching his hand out to her.

But the furious ninja didn't hear his pleas. Executing rapidly, Akira slammed her hands against each other.

"On!"

As she separated her hands, a double-bladed kunai made its appearance. Holding it up in an intimidating manner, Akira whispered another command. A blue fire erupted at both ends of the double-bladed weapon. Without hesitation, she swung it with immense force.

But it never reached Kyoko. In fact, the weapon went flying into another direction. Someone had countered Akira's attack. Who could have done that?

"Mai?" Akira asked, bewildered.

"Akira, what is going on?" Mai stammered, not believing what she's witnessing. Looking down at her hands, Akira noticed the gems on Mai's rings were a bright, scarlet color.

"Okuzaki, what the hell?" Nao shouted from a few feet away, "Don't you realize the trouble you're causing?"

Looking around the area, the rest of the HiME's appeared in a large circle. All were in awe at the sight of Akira's child's size and at Akira herself. However, the ninja noticed something as well.

"Why…why are you all glowing?"

"You are as well Akira," Mikoto stated, "It's on your back."

"Damn," a voice whispered in frustration. Akira's attention immediately turned to Kyoko. Blood was dripping from her nose and mouth.

Akira's rage instantly rose. Shurikens materialized in her hands. She pushed Mai out the way and prepared herself for another promising, deadly, blow.

"You're finished…"

"AKIRA!"

Instead of propelling into the air, the shuriken landed on the ground. A strong, physical force collided with Akira's body, causing her to lose her balance and fall over. She turned her head to the side just in time to see Takumi running towards her. He was the last person she saw before she blacked out.

From afar, the same boy from before still stood on the tree branch. He frowned; disappointed the show was already over. He had hoped a lot more action would take place. In a way, however, he was glad it ended the way it did, or else there wouldn't be anything to look forward too. Taking out a book from his pocket, the boy placed it over his head to block out the sun.

"Well, I can't complain. She certainly put on quite an act," he said to himself. He looked back to where the fight had taken place. Akira was lying on Takumi's lap, and the boy was frantically shaking her to wake her up. Behind them, Gennai slowly faded into a sudden green mist. The mist floated into the air for a moment and trailed its way towards Akira. It seemed to disappear into the ninja's heart. This only frightened Takumi more, as he thought the mist would harm Akira. The rest of the HiME's began to crowd around them. Just in the nick of time, Midori and Shizuru had arrived. Seeing the unconscious HiME, Midori quickly dialed a number on her phone and pressed it onto her ear.

The corners of the boy's mouth curved into an evil grin, "Until next time, princess."

Night had already taken over the day, and Akira still had not awakened. By her bedside sat Takumi, with an extremely concerned look on his face as he took Akira's hand in his. With his thumb, he gently began to caress her palm, hoping she would open her eyes. After several moments of looking outside the window, his eyes wandered over to her angelic face. Underneath her eye, there was a bandage. The cut was not big or deep, but it could've been worse if Mikoto hadn't pushed Akira out the way of Kyoko's failed attack.

Still, whether Takumi had known that Akira was going to be saved or not, he probably still would've cried out for her like he did. The thought of Akira getting hurt like that frightened him so much. He tightened his grip on the ninja's hand.

"Takumi . . ." a voice moaned. The boy instantly stood up.

"Akira! Are you okay?"

"Baka, don't yell. You're hurting my head," Akira complained, sitting up with her hand on her head.

Takumi smiled. "Thank god you're okay."

"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Cause you fainted," a voice answered from behind. Both teens looked towards the doorway to see Mai, followed by Natsuki. "We didn't know when you were going to wake up."

Instantly remembering the event that took place earlier, Akira asked, "What happened to me?"

Natsuki held up a dart which had purple liquid at the tip. "It's poison, type 059. When it penetrates into your body, the liquid drops your blood pressure. That's basically it, according to Naomi."

"Where is she?" Akira asked.

"Beats me. I haven't seen her since she carried you here."

"I hope she's okay," Mai said, taking a step forward and clasping her hands together, "When we came, she was clutching her chest in pain."

"She has a heart problem," Shizuru said, walking in the room. She carried a bowl of soup on a tray.

"A…heart problem?"

Shizuru nodded as she placed the tray on Akira's lap. "Heart failure, to be specific. Her heart is unable to pump enough blood."

"Poor thing," Mai responded sadly, "It must be tough on her."

Gazing over to Takumi, Akira could see the uneasiness behind his eyes. Having suffered from heart problems, he always felt guilty about his condition. He felt that because of him, Akira couldn't do the things she enjoyed. Even after explaining to him numerous times that it was no big deal, Takumi couldn't help but feel like a huge burden. Still, Takumi couldn't help but feel like a huge burden.

After reaching out to hold his hand, Akira gave Takumi one of her genuine smiles. The boy's cheeks turned into a rosy color.

"Well," Mai began awkwardly, "It's getting pretty late and I guess we all should go back to our rooms. Except for you Takumi! Since you already asked Shizuru to spend the night."

It was Akira's turn to blush, "Spend the night?"

"Yes. I trust Mr. Tokiha will take good care of you. Besides, nothing funny happened when you two were living together for two years, am I correct?" Shizuru teased.

"N-n-not at all!" Takumi replied nervously.

"Well then it's settled. You may spend the night with Ms. Okuzaki. Naomi did tell you to check her pulse every 3 hours during the next 24 hours."

"Check my pulse?" Akira confusingly inquired.

"It's just until she comes back with the antidote, hun. Don't worry now. I'm sure she'll be back by morning."

Akira couldn't comprehend one detail of her situation. This type of poison wasn't suppose to last as long as it did and it wasn't supposed to be this effective. Checking the time on her nightstand, she estimated that she had been unconscious for a little over eight hours. There had to be something else in that dart for it to knock her out for such a long time.

'Or am I…getting weak?' she pondered to herself, clutching onto her bed sheets, 'is my body not strong enough to resist such enervated liquid?'

"Akira?…Akira?"

'If my body isn't strong enough, I have to get stronger. I can't rely on Gennai this time, even though his powers had greatly increased. I'll have to put myself on a strict training schedule from now on.'

"Akira-chan, is something wrong?"

'That way, I know Takumi's life won't be in jeopardy, and not only will he live, but then my father will be able to see that I'm not worthless after all. He will see that I'm capable of-'

"Akira-chan!"

Snapping back to reality, Akira felt two hands grappling her arms, shaking her frantically.

"Akira. Can you hear me?"

"Baka, I'm not deaf."

"Well, you seem to be really spaced out. Your soup is getting cold."

"I'm not really in the mood to eat it."

"Then why don't you take a bath? It's still a bit early," Takumi suggested, taking the tray off Akira's lap. "Wait till' I get back so that I can help you make your way to the bathroom."

"Is there a problem?" Akira raised her eyebrow suspiciously.

"Well, when you start walking, your vision will start to get a little blurry. It's one of the common side effects from the poison."

When Takumi left the room, Akira flopped her head back on the pillow. She closed her eyes, slowly recapping the moment when she was walking through the school's garden alone, basically talking to herself.

So Takumi thought she liked someone else? He didn't seem quite elated about it at all, which made Akira glad. Maybe there was something between them after all. But just like any other school girl with a crush, Akira was too shy to tell him her feelings. Was there a way to let him know without having to tell him herself?

"Okay," Takumi began, coming to Akira's side. "I want you to close your eyes. It'll be a lot less painful and you won't be as dizzy. Good, now put your arm around my shoulder."

Akira did what she was told to do. After she put her arm around him, Takumi's hand snaked around her waist, grasping it tightly. She couldn't help but to blush helped her out of bed.

"Damn," Akira cursed as they started to make their way to the bathroom. "My body hurts like hell."

"Warm water will help ease the pain. I already turned it on so it should almost be filled."

Akira couldn't believe how considerate Takumi really was. Never in her life had she met someone who took care of her the way Takumi did. He was always so kind, gentle, extremely helpful, generous, and so much more. Even though the activities he enjoys weren't exactly what she would call 'manly', they showed he wasn't afraid to express himself.

Perhaps those were the reasons why she fell for him.

"Akira-chan, do you think you might need help taking off your uniform and getting into the tub?" Takumi asked calmly.

Akira's eyebrow twitched. "What kind of question is that?"

Realizing his choice of words, he tried to explain. "I wasn't thinking of anything negative, I swear! I-I just didn't want you to have to struggle doing something so simple! Plus, you-"

"Save it. I don't want to hear it."

"But Akira—"

"Takumi, I'm just messing with you."

"Oh…"

Akira smiled in amusement. Even though her eyes were closed for her own protection, she could only imagine the embarrassed look upon his face. Takumi on the other hand, couldn't help but envision what it'd be like if he were to do either of the two. He mentally slapped himself for thinking such thoughts. When they reached the bathroom, he slowly sat her down on the toilet. Just as he promised, the tub was nearly full and it seemed warm enough.

"Just shout if you need anything. I'll be close by," Takumi said with a smile.

Akira opened her eyes. Before Takumi left her presence, she swiftly grabbed his hand.

"Akira, is something the matter?"

"I…I just want you to be careful, since I won't be next you. So please stay close. It'll be quite embarrassing if I ran out here…err…umm…"

"Naked?"

"Shut up."

He chuckled. "Well if it makes you feel any better, you have the option of me helping you into-"

"Ehh, on second thought, get out of here."

"As you wish, princess."

It only took Akira a split second to comprehend what came out of Takumi's mouth. Once again, before he was able to take a step, she grabbed a hold of his arm.

"Is there something wrong Akira?"

"I…Uhhh, I…"

"Was it something I said?"

Akira eyes widened for a short moment, but then she shook her head and tried to smile. "No, everything's fine."

"Are you sure? Akira, you know you can always tell me if something's bothering you."

"I know, I know."

"So there isn't anything you would want to share with me?" Takumi softly asked, kneeling in front of her, "There isn't anything you need to tell me?"

Akira wasn't able to think straight. The many secrets that she was keeping from him were suddenly racing through her head. She remembered earlier that day, when the other HiME asked her the same thing, she couldn't bring herself to worry them by telling them what was going on. If she told Takumi, she would not only make him worry, but rather make him fear for his own life. It's not something a girl should do to the person she cherished the most.

"No," Akira managed to answer, looking at him straight in the eyes, "I don't believe I have anything to tell you."

Sadly looking to the floor, Takumi took her hands in his. "I won't force you to tell me if you don't want me to know. You probably have a good, understanding reason anyways. You're a smart woman Akira, and I respect your decisions. The only thing I ask you to do is to be safe."

"Takumi, where is all this coming from?"

"The battle between you and Kyoko today. I admit, you did frighten me. I've never seen you so aggressive and determined to hurt someone. But please tell me," Looking up from the floor, he gazed directly into the kunoichi's eyes, "Why were you so angry?"

"Are you serious? That bitch said she was going to annihilate you! What was I suppose to do? I had to stop her! There was no way in hell she was going to lay a finger on you! I should have destroyed her for even letting those words come out of her mouth! I should've torn her apart —"

"Akira, calm down! You're letting your anger get the better of you."

Akira shot up from her seat. "I don't give a damn! She has no idea what she's going to get once I see her again! If she comes near you Takumi, I swear…I swear…"

Tears found their way into the kunoichi's eyes as she tightly held onto his hands. Her whole body shook in fury as she shouted out her next words, "I will never forgive her for hurting you!"

Temporarily paralyzed in awe, Takumi finally regained his composure when Akira suddenly lost her balance. She fell on her knees, bringing him down with her. She began to breathe heavily.

"Calm down," Takumi kindly advised, "I can tell your pulse is beating rapidly. Please, try and think about pleasant things."

He gently pulled her into a warm hug and began to stroke his fingers through her green hair. Her tears were soaking his shirt, but that didn't matter to him. She needed to calm down before she fainted again.

"I don't want to lose you," Akira muttered into his shirt. Takumi's cheeks instantly flushed as he looked down at the girl in his arms. Lifting her face up towards him, he could see that she was unconscious again.

"It's okay if she passes out once more. Knowing her, she's probably going to go ballistic about something. Just make sure that when she does, the lights are out and her body must be in warm water. Warm water will calm her body and it will ease the pain when she wakes up. Oh, and until I come back with the antidote, give her this."

Naomi tossed a small, solid container at Takumi, and it landed safely into his hands. He curiously opened it to find white and blue pills.

"What are these for?"

"It's so that the poison won't do anymore damage to her body. But don't worry about giving it to her while she's unconscious. They dissolve easily with saliva."

"But, hasn't the poison dropped her blood pressure? Isn't that bad enough?"

Before she could make it to the door, Naomi stopped. Takumi looked a bit surprise as she turns her head around to look at him.

"Is something wrong?" he inquired silently so that his sister and friends wouldn't hear.

Naomi took a few steps towards him and answered in a soft tone, "I hope you know that the poison was meant to be thrown at you."

Taking out the small container from his pocket, Takumi popped it open with his mouth. Remembering those last words made him feel guilty about Akira being in this condition.. He tightly embraced her body as one tear streamed down his face.

"Akira, I will find a way to protect you. Just please give me the chance to."

Tossing two pills into his mouth, he gently placed the ninja's head back. He took a moment to stare at her lips before lowering his head to hers.

*********************************

Eeeeek! Who screamed like a fangirl?? I know I did while I was writing the last scene. xD